Posts Tagged ‘Aristocracy’

The Tory Attitude to Mass Starvation: Let Them Eat Cake

August 4, 2020

Mike’s put up this evening on his blog a piece wondering if the reason the Tories launched their ‘Help Out To Eat Out’ scheme to encourage people to start going out to restaurants again wasn’t because they wanted to restart the economy, but simply stuff their faces at public expense. He’s put up a couple of pieces about the Tory MPs Nadhim Zahawi and the abomination formerly in charge of the NHS, Jeremy Hunt, both talking about how they used to scheme to get a free lunch. There’s a meme about Zahawi stating just how much he’s raked in on expenses and for working for an oil company, in addition to his generous salary as an MP. But he doesn’t feel that such largesse should be awarded to the disabled, and voted for a £30 cut in their benefits.

Mike’s blogged about this issue before. The scheme was never going to tackle the real problem of starvation, or ‘food poverty’ in this country, because the people afflicted by it can’t afford to go to restaurants. Many of them can’t afford to buy food, which is why there’s been such a massive expansion in food banks.

But the middle classes, and the rich Tories who represent them, can.

This all reminds of the expenses scandal back in 2004, when large sections of parliament were caught claiming as much as they could get their hands on in expenses, far beyond what was being awarded in pay for the rest of us mere mortals. They had also voted to cut the salaries of their staff. That blew up in their faces when it was exposed by the Torygraph, which may well have been the last time that wretched newspaper ever did anything right.

And now they’re doing it again while millions starve.

It all reminds me of the famous reply Marie Antoinette supposedly gave to the news that the French peasantry were starving because they had no bread.

‘Well, let them eat cake’.

That’s come to symbolise the grotesque self-indulgence and absolute complacency of the French aristocracy, an attitude that led to the Revolution, the execution of the monarchy and the mass murder of Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety.

This seems to be the modern, Tory British version. People don’t have food on the table, but blow them! Let them go to a restaurant instead, like the Tories and their rich friends from the Bullingdon Club and other centres of the self-indulgent, callous rich.

Was ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ really meant to help super-rich Tories get cheap meals at the taxpayer’s expense?

Sidney and Beatrice Webb’s Demand for the Abolition of the House of Lords

August 4, 2020

This weekend, our murderous, clown Prime Minister Boris Johnson added more weight to the argument for the House of Lords. At the moment the membership of the upper house is something like 800+. It has more members than the supreme soviet, the governing assembly of assembly of China, which rules a country of well over a billion people. Contemporary discussions are about reducing the size of this bloated monster, many of whose members do zilch except turn up in the morning in order to collect their attendance before zipping off to what they really want to do. Since Blair, it’s become a byword for corruption and cronyism, as successive prime ministers have used it to reward their collaborators, allies and corporate donors. The Tories were outraged when Blair did this during his administration, but this didn’t stop David Cameron following suit, and now Boris Alexander DeFeffel Johnson. Johnson has appointed no less than 36 of his friends and collaborators. These include his brother, who appears to be there simply because he is Johnson’s sibling, Alexander Lebedev, a Russian oligarch and son of a KGB spy, who owns the Metro and the Independent,  which is a particular insult following the concerns about Russian political meddling and the Tories’ connections to Putin; the Blairite smear-merchants and intriguers, who conspired against Jeremy Corbyn to give the Tories an election victory, and Claire Fox.

Fox has managed to provoke outrage all on her own, simply because of her disgusting views on Northern Irish terrorism. Now a member of the Brexit Party, she was a former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party which fully endorsed the IRA’s terrorism campaign and the Warrington bombing that killed two children. She has never apologised or retracted her views, although she says she no longer believes in the necessity of such tactics. But rewarding a woman, who has absolutely no problem with the political killing of children has left a nasty taste in very many people’s mouths. It shows very clearly the double standards Johnson and the Tories do have about real terrorist supporters. They tried smearing Corbyn as one, despite the fact that he was even-handed in his dealings with the various parties in northern Ireland and was a determined supporter of peace. Ulster Unionists have come forward to state that he also good relations with them and was most definitely not a supporter of terrorism. The Tories, however, have shown that they have absolutely no qualms about rewarding a real terrorist sympathiser. But even this isn’t enough for Johnson. He’s outraged and demanding an inquiry, because he was prevented from putting his corporate donors from the financial sector in the House of Lords.

Demands for reform or the abolition of the second chamber have been around for a very long time. I remember back c. 1987 that the Labour party was proposing ideas for its reform. And then under Blair there were suggestions that it be transformed into an elected senate like America’s. And way back in the first decades of the twentieth century there were demands for its abolition altogether. I’ve been reading Sidney and Beatrice Webb’s A Constitution of the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain, which was first published in the 1920s. It’s a fascinating book. The Webbs were staunch advocates of democracy but were fiercely critical of parliament and its ability to deal with the amount of legislation created by the expansion of the British state into industry and welfare provision, just as they were bitterly critical of its secrecy and capitalism. They proposed dividing parliament into two: a political and a social parliament. The political parliament would deal with the traditional 19th-century conceptions of the scope of parliament. This would be foreign relations, including with the Empire, the self-governing colonies and India, and law and order. The social parliament would deal with the economy, the nationalised industries and in general the whole of British culture and society, including the arts, literature and science. They make some very interesting, trenchant criticisms of existing political institutions, some of which will be very familiar to viewers of that great British TV comedy, Yes, Minister. And one of these is the House of Lords, which they state very clearly should be abolished because of its elitist, undemocratic character. They write

The House of Lords, with its five hundred or so peers by inheritance, forty-four representatives of the peerages of Scotland and Ireland, a hundred and fifty newly created peers, twenty-six bishops, and half a dozen Law Lords, stands in a more critical position. No party in the State defends this institution; and every leading statesman proposes to either to end or to amend it. It is indeed an extreme case of misfit. Historically, the House of Lords is not a Second Chamber, charged with suspensory and revising functions, but an Estate of the Realm – or rather, by its inclusion of the bishops – two Estates of the Realm, just as much entitled as the Commons to express their own judgement on all matters of legislation, and to give or withhold their own assent to all measures of taxation. The trouble is that no one  in the kingdom is prepared to allow them these rights, and for ninety years at least the House of Lords has survived only on the assumption that, misfit as it palpably is, it nevertheless fulfils fairly well the quite different functions of a Second Chamber. Unfortunately, its members cannot wholly rid themselves of the feeling that they are not a Second Chamber, having only the duties of technical revision of what the House of Commons enacts, and of temporary suspension of any legislation that it too hastily adopts, but an Estate of the Realm, a coordinate legislative organ entitled to have an opinion of its own on the substance and the merits of any enactment of the House of Commons. The not inconsiderable section of peers and bishops which from time to time breaks out in this way, to the scandal of democrats, can of course claim to be historically and technically justified in thus acting as independent legislators, but constitutionally they are out of date; and each of their periodical outbursts, which occasionally cause serious public inconvenience, brings the nation nearer to their summary abolition. Perhaps of greater import than the periodical petulance of the House of Lords is its steady failure to act efficiently  as revising and suspensory Second Chamber. Its decisions are vitiated by its composition  it is the worst representative assembly ever created in that it contains absolutely no members of the manual working class; none of the great classes of shopkeepers, clerks and teachers; none of the half of all the citizens who are of the female sex; and practically none of religious nonconformity, or art, science or literature. Accordingly it cannot be relied on to revise or suspend, and scarcely even to criticise, anything brought forward by a Conservative Cabinet, whilst obstructing and often defeating everything proposed by Radical Cabinet.

Yet discontent with the House of Commons and its executive – the Cabinet – is to-day  a more active ferment than resentment at the House of Lords. The Upper Chamber may from time to time delay and obstruct; but it cannot make or unmake governments; and it cannot, in the long run, defy the House of Commons whenever that assembly is determined. To clear away this archaic structure will only make more manifest and indisputable the failure of the House of Commons to meet the present requirements. (Pp. 62-4).

When they come to their proposals for a thorough reform of the constitution, they write of the House of Lords

There is, of course, n the Socialist Commonwealth, no place for a House of Lords, which will simply cease to exist as a part of the legislature. Whether the little group of “Law Lords”, who are now made peers in order that they may form the Supreme Court of Appeal , should or should not continue, for this purely judicial purpose, to sit under the title, and with the archaic dignity of the House of Lords, does not seem material. (p.110)

I used to have some respect for the House of Lords because of the way they did try to keep Thatcher in check during her occupation of 10 Downing Street. They genuinely acted as a constitutional check and wasn’t impressed by the proposals for their reform. I simply didn’t see that it was necessary. When Blair was debating reforming the Upper House, the Tories bitterly attacked him as a new Cromwell, following the Lord Protector’s abolition of the House of Lords during the British Civil War. Of course, Blair did nothing of the sort, and partly reformed it, replacing some of the peers with his own nominees. Pretty much as Cromwell also packed parliament.

The arguments so far used against reforming the House of Lord are that it’s cheaper than an elected second chamber, and that there really isn’t much popular enthusiasm for the latter. Private Eye said that it would just be full of second-rate politicos traipsing about vainly trying to attract votes. That was over twenty years ago.

But now that the House of Lords is showing itself increasingly inefficient and expensive because of the sheer number of political has-beens, PM’s cronies and peers, who owe their seat only because of ancestral privilege, it seems to me that the arguments for its reform are now unanswerable.

Especially when the gift of appointing them is in the hands of such a corrupt premier as Boris Johnson.

Revealed! Torygraph Readers Really Do Think the Aristocracy Are Biologically Superior

July 24, 2020

I’ve blogged several times about the Social Darwinism that underlies much of Conservatism. They share the Nazis’ belief that the upper classes are biologically superior to the rest of us, and so deserve their dominance in society, the economy and politics. Going through an old copy of Private Eye from 22 years ago, Friday 11th December 1998, I found a very revealing quote in their article ‘Readerwatch – The Daily Telegraph’ opposite the ‘Street of Shame’ column.

This was about 2/3 of a page of quotations from the Torygraph’s readers complaining about the state of the world. Much of this consisted of attacks on the decline in modern sexual morality, the EU and the Speaker wearing a white mackintosh to the Cenotaph at Remembrance Sunday. Oh yes, and Prince Charles showing ‘deplorable bad taste’ in inviting Peter Mandelson to his fiftieth birthday party. Which I think is fair comment.

But some of the most revealing comments are about Blair’s proposal to reform the House of Lords, which at the time included the abolition of the hereditary peerage. One of those outraged by this was Professor Richard Porter of Doncaster, whom the Eye quoted as follows

Professor Richard Porter of Doncaster attacks the Blairite fascist junta from a scientific angle. “Hereditary peers are most deserving of a vote in the Upper House. They embody the best of both nature and nurture. The extraordinary genes of some long forgotten ancestor may now be diluted, but those that remain must give them a slight edge over the rest of us.”

I’ve been haunted by that quote for years, and wondered where it was. It explains so much, like how the vile Toby Young could turn up at a eugenics conference at one of the London universities, rubbing shoulders with real Nazis and anti-Semites. It explains Dominic Cummings and the herd immunity, which simply regards the mass death of the elderly from Covid-19 as merely a cull. Or the same attitude towards the disabled, the long-term unemployed and those at the bottom of the economic and social pile. They’re ‘useless eaters’, as Mike reminds us the Nazis called them, ‘lebensunwertigen leben’ – ‘life unworthy of life’.

Unfortunately, the most visible counterargument to this pernicious, destructive, murderous entitlement is Jacob Rees-Mogg, the minister for the 18th century, who just about embodies every defect that comes from such privilege. But for some reason the Tory right loves him, which proves just how warped this country has become.

When You Pull Down Statues, Make Sure They’re of the Right People

June 10, 2020

Since Colston’s statue was pulled over and lobbed in the docks in Bristol on Sunday, others have called for the removal of similar statues and monuments to those connected to the slave trade. Down in Devon there have been calls for a statue of the Elizabethan explorer Francis Drake to be removed. At Oxford University demands have started up again for the removal of the university’s statue to the 19th century imperialist, Cecil Rhodes. And on Sky News’ The Pledge, Afua Hirsh managed to get LBC’s Nick Ferrari in a right tizzy for suggesting that not only should Rhodes’ statue be taken down, but also Horatio Nelson and Winston Churchill.

I can’t defend Rhodes. He seems to me to be have been a thoroughly ruthless character, who was intent only on grabbing as much land for himself and Britain on any pretext whatsoever. I might be wrong, but I’ve got a horrible suspicion he was one of the people behind the Anglo-South African or Boer War during which tens or hundreds of thousands of Afrikaner women and children died in concentration camps. He was also instrumental in the creation of Rhodesia’s colour bar.

Nelson and Churchill are going to be much more controversial. Most people only know of Nelson for his victory at Trafalgar during the Napoleonic War. This was to stop the French imperial domination of Europe, and Napoleonic forces had also invaded Egypt. I think most Brits will therefore take an attack on Nelson as an attack on a key figure, who kept Britain and Europe free. Yes, he’s a symbol of British imperial strength, but I doubt many people associate him with the oppression of Blacks and Asians. It’s going to look like a spiteful attack on Britain, rather than a gesture of Black liberation.

Ditto Hirsh’s other target, Winston Churchill. I’m absolutely no fan of Churchill myself. He was an authoritarian aristocrat, whose real reason for opposing Hitler was that he saw Nazi Germany as a threat to British interests in the North Sea, not because he was an opponent of Fascism. He sent troops in to shoot striking miners in Wales, and was all for calling them in during the General Strike. Stanley Baldwin, the Conservative prime minister at the time, wanted him kept well out of the way to avoid exacerbating the situation. As for Ireland, back in the 1990s there was an interesting little programme on BBC 2, The Living Dead, which was about the way Churchill’s heroic view of British history in his A History of the English-Speaking Peoples had influenced subsequent politics. One of the key offenders here was one Baroness Margaret Thatcher, who had been strongly influenced by the great war leader herself, and tried to invoke his memory at nearly every opportunity. The programme interviewed a former member of the Irish republican paramilitary group, the INLA. He said that it was easier to recruit members under Thatcher than under Ted Heath because of Thatcher’s celebration of Churchill. For Irish nationalists, Churchill was the monster, who sent in the Black and Tans. His sequestration of grain from the Bengal peasants during the War resulted in an horrific famine which killed something like 2-4 million people. This is comparable to the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis, and some senior British army officers saw it as exactly that. Churchill, however, declared it was all their fault for ‘pullulating’, or having too many children.

That is not, however, why Churchill is celebrated over here. He’s lauded because he, Roosevelt and Stalin together overthrew the Nazis and their allies. The War swept away Fascist Italy, and the other Fascist or Fascist-aligned regimes in Slovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Romania. It liberated Greece and Albania. Stalin was no angel either. He killed at least 30 million Soviet citizens during the purges and deported whole nations and ethnic groups to Siberia. Instead of letting the eastern European countries decide their future for themselves, he imposed a ruthless autocratic Communist dictatorship. I think Churchill would have liked those nations to have been free to decide for themselves. Back in the ’90s there was a radio series on Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at Yalta, the conference that would decide the post-War European order. It was called The Eagle and the Small Birds, from a quote from Churchill ‘The eagle should let the small birds sing, and care not wherefore they sang’. A Nazi victory would have been the stuff of nightmares, and I don’t know how many millions Hitler would have murdered had he been successful. What the Nazis did to the Jews, Poles, Ukrainians and Russians was horrific enough as it is.

Churchill isn’t the saint or the great molten idol the Tories claim he is by any stretch of the imagination, but he is one of the reasons why Hirsh and Black activists like her are able to make their criticisms of traditional British history and its heroes. If Hitler had won, or his mate Oswald Mosley had seized power in some kind of coup over here, Hirsh and her allies would not have been tolerated. The Nazis’ eugenics programme included not only the murder of the disabled, but also the sterilisation of the mixed race children of White German women and Black American soldiers from the post-First World War army of occupation. Mosley himself would have made Britain an apartheid state, with citizenship granted only to those who conformed to aryan British culture, if not physiology. The War and the horrors of the Nazi and Fascist regimes made eugenics and racism and anti-Semitism far less acceptable than they were before. I am very much aware how institutionally racist Britain is and has been. But it’s much better than what would have existed had Churchill been defeated.

But most of all, I’m concerned that the zeal for smashing statues and monuments may destroy those to abolitionists. Nearly 20 years ago, when I was doing voluntary work in the Empire and Commonwealth Museum here in Bristol, one of the books that found its way into the slavery archive and library was a little bit of local history by the Liverpudlian writer, Fritz Spiegel. Spiegel prides himself on being a ‘Dicky Sam’, the Liverpudlian equivalent of a ‘real Cockney sparrow’. The book was on the fascinating history of the abolition movement in that great city. If I remember rightly, it included not only White abolitionists, but also some of the Black people who also populated the city. It wasn’t just a piece of local history for its own sake, though. In his introduction, Spiegel explained that he moved to right it because, in their zeal to destroy monuments to the city’s slavers, some people had also vandalized those of innocent merchants and abolitionists.

I’m afraid there might be a danger of something similar happening in the current zeal for smashing statues commemorating Black oppression and slavery. There are good reasons for removing monuments like Colston’s. But let’s not confuse those with slavery’s opponents.

J.A. Hobson on Capitalism and Imperialism

May 18, 2020

One of the crimes for which Jeremy Corbyn was pilloried as an anti-Semite was that he had written a foreword for an edition of J.A. Hobson’s book, Imperialism. First published in 1903, Hobson’s book has become one of the classic critiques of imperialism. Hobson considered that the motive force behind imperialist expansion and overseas conquest was capitalism and the continual need to find new markets. The book influenced Lenin’s own analysis of imperialism, Imperialism: The Highest Form of Capitalism. Fifty years after the book was published it was praised by the great British historian A.J.P. Taylor, who said that ‘No survey of the international history of the twentieth century can be complete without the name of J.A. Hobson’ because he was the first to identify imperialism’s economic motives. Hobson has been accused of anti-Semitism.

Imperialism and the Anti-Semitism Smears against Corbyn

I think it’s because he believed that Jewish financiers were behind the Anglo-South Africa or ‘Boer’ Wars. I think the real force was the British desire to expand into the African interior,  retain the Afrikaners as imperial subjects and acquire the riches of the southern African diamond fields as well as Cecil Rhodes own megalomaniac personal ambitions. However, when the various witch-hunters were howling about how anti-Semitic Corbyn was for endorsing the book, others pointed out that it was a very well-respected text admired and used by entirely reputable historians. Yes, it was a bit anti-Semitic. A very small bit – there was only one anti-Semitic sentence in it. It was another case of the witch-hunters grasping at whatever they could, no matter how small, to smear a genuinely anti-racist politician.

Financial Capitalism, Imperialism and the Decline of Ancient Rome

There’s an extract from Hobson’s Imperialism in The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Protest, edited by Brian MacArthur (London: Penguin 1988). This is a collection various writings protesting against a wide variety of issues ranging from indictments of the poverty of Edwardian England, to various wars, including Vietnam, Civil Rights and anti-Racism, as well as feminism, gay rights, the power of television and the threat of nuclear war. Yes, there’s an extract from Hitler’s Mein Kampf, but there’s also a piece by the American Zionist rabbi, Stephen S. Wise, against the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany as well as other condemnations of Nazis and their horrific rule. The book very definitely does not endorse Fascism or the Communism of Stalin, Pol Pot and the other monsters.

The extract included in the book does identify financial capitalism and militarism as the force behind Roman imperialism, which led to the enslavement of Rome’s enemies abroad and the emergence of an immensely wealthy aristocracy, while impoverishing ordinary Romans at the other end of the social hierarchy, and compares it to the comparable development of the British imperialism of his own time. The extract runs

The spirit of imperialism poisons the springs of democracy in the mind and character of the people. As our free self-governing colonies have furnished hope, encouragement and leadership to the popular aspirations in Great Britain, not merely by practical successes in the arts of popular government, but by the wafting of a spirit of freedom and equality, so our despotically ruled dependencies have ever served to damage the character of our people by feeding the habits of snobbish subservience, the admiration of wealth and rank, the corrupt survivals of the inequalities of feudalism. This process began with the advent of the East Indian nabob and the West Indian planter into English society and politics, bring back with his plunders of the slave trade and the gains of corrupt and extortionate officialism the acts of vulgar ostentation, domineering demeanour and corrupting largesse to dazzle and degrade the life of our people. Cobden, writing in 1860 of our Indian Empire, put this pithy question: ‘Is it not just possible that we may become corrupted at home by the reaction of arbitrary political maxims in the East upon our domestic politics, just as Greece and Rome were demoralized by their contact with Asia?’

The rise of a money-loaning aristocracy in Rome, composed of keen, unscrupulous men from many nations, who filled the high offices of state with their creatures, political ‘bosses’ or military adventurers, who had come to the front as usurers, publicans or chiefs of police in the provinces, was the most distinctive feature of later imperial Rome. This class was continually recruited from returned officials and colonial millionaires. The large incomes drawn in private official plunder, public tribute, usury and official incomes from the provinces had the following reactions upon Italy. Italians were no longer wanted for working the land or for manufactures, or even for military service. ‘The later campaigns on the Rhine and the Danube,’ it is pointed out, ‘were really slave-hunts on a gigantic scale.’

The Italian farmers, at first drawn from rural into military life, soon found themselves permanently ousted from agriculture by the serf labour of the latifundia, and they and their families were sucked into the dregs of town life, to be subsisted as a pauper population upon public charity. A mercenary colonial army came more and more displace the home forces. The parasitic city life, with its lowered vitality and the growing infrequency of marriage, to which Gibbon draws attention, rapidly impaired the physique of the native population of Italy, and Rome subsisted more and more upon immigration of raw vigour from Gaul and Germany. The necessity of maintaining powerful mercenary armies to hold the provinces heightened continually the peril, already manifest in the last years of the Republic, arising from the political ambitions of great pro-consuls conspiring with a moneyed interest at Rome against the Commonwealth. As time went on, this moneyed oligarchy became an hereditary aristocracy, and withdrew from military and civil service, relying more and more upon hired foreigners: themselves sapped by luxury and idleness and tainting by mixed servitude and licence the Roman populace, they so enfeebled the state as to destroy the physical and moral vitality required to hold in check and under government the vast repository of forces in the exploited Empire. The direct cause of Rome’s decay and fall is expressed politically by the term ‘over-centralization’, which conveys in brief the real essence of imperialism as distinguished from national growth on the one hand and colonialism upon the other. Parasitism practised through taxation and usury, involved a constantly increasing centralization of the instruments of government, and a growing strain upon this government as the prey became more impoverished by the drain and showed signs of restiveness. ‘The evolution of this centralized society was as logical as every other work of nature. When force reached the stage where it expressed itself exclusively through money the governing class ceased to be chosen because they were valiant or eloquent, artistic, learned or devout, and were selected solely because they had the faculty of acquiring and keeping wealth. As long as the weak retained enough vitality to produce something which could be absorbed, this oligarchy was invariable; and, for very many years after the native peasantry of Gaul and Italy had perished from the land, new blood, injected from more tenacious races, kept the dying civilization alive. The weakness of the moneyed class lay in this very power, for they not only killed the producer, but in the strength of their acquisitiveness they failed to propagate themselves.’

This is the largest, planest instance history presents of the social parasite process by which a moneyed interest within the state, usurping the reins of government, makes for imperial expansion in order to fasten economic suckers into foreign bodies so as to drain them of their wealth in order to support domestic luxury. The new imperialism differs in no vital point from this old example. The element of political tribute is now absent, or quite subsidiary, and the crudest forms of slavery have disappeared: some elements of more genuine and disinterested government serve to qualify and and mask the distinctively parasitic nature of the later sort. But nature is not mocked: the laws which, operative throughout nature, doom the parasite to atrophy, decay, and final extinction, are not evaded by nations any more than by individual organisms. The greater complexity of the modern process, the endeavour to escape the parasitic reaction by rendering some real but quite unequal and inadequate services to ‘the host’, may retard but cannot finally avert the natural consequences of living upon others. The claim that an imperial state forcibly subjugating other peoples and their lands does so for the purpose of rendering services to the conquered equal to those which she exacts is notoriously false: she neither intends equivalent services nor is capable of rendering them, and the pretence that such benefits to the governed form a leading motive or result of imperialism implies a degree of moral or intellectual obliquity so grave as itself to form a new peril for any nation fostering so false a notion of the nature of its conduct. ‘Let the motive be in the deed, not in the event,’ says a Persian proverb…

Imperialism is a depraved choice of national life, imposed by self-seeking interests which appeal to the lusts of quantitative acquisitiveness and of forceful domination surviving in a nation from early centuries of animal struggle for existence. Its adoption as a policy implies a deliberate renunciation of that cultivation of the higher inner qualities which for a nation as for its individual constitutes the ascendancy of reason over brute impulse. It is the besetting sin of all successful state, and its penalty is unalterable in the order of nature.

(Pp. 15-18).

Financial Capitalism Operating to Exploit Former Colonies and Undermine Domestic Economy

While the British Empire has gone the way of Rome’s, the same forces are still operating today. The Iraq invasion was really to enable western multinationals to seize Iraq’s state industries, and for the American and Saudi oil industry to seize its oil reserves. They weren’t about bringing it democracy or freeing its citizens. Although our former African colonies are now free, they are still plundered through highly unfair trade agreements. At home manufacturing industry has declined because Thatcherite economics favours the financial sector. And the immensely rich now hoard their wealth in offshore tax havens or invest it abroad, rather than in domestic industry. Thus denying British industry investment and making millions of domestic workers unemployed. There’s a further parallel in that in the later Roman Empire, the senatorial aristocracy retreated to their estates rather than pay tax, and so the tax burden increasingly fell on the ordinary Roman citizen. This is the same as the way the Tories have given vast tax cuts to the rich, which have ensured that the tax burden must also be increasingly borne by the poor.

Conservatives have also drawn parallels between the fall of the Roman Empire and today’s west. This has mostly been about non-White immigration, which they have compared to the barbarian invasions. But as Hobson’s Imperialism showed, capitalism and imperialism were connected and together responsible for Rome’s decline and fall. 

But strangely they don’t talk about that!

 

 

Shaw’s Classic Defence of Socialism for Women Part Two

May 16, 2020

George Bernard Shaw, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism, foreword by Polly Toynbee (London: Alma Classics 2012).

Trade Unions

He discusses the unions, which he describes as ‘proletarian capitalists’. They are there to protect the workers, who have to sell their labour just as the businessman has to sell the product they create. Unions are there to ensure the workers are able to charge the highest price they can for their labour. He also discusses strikes and lockouts, including the violence of some industrial disputes. Scabs need police protection against being beaten, and angry workers will tamper with the equipment so that anyone using it will be injured. They will also place fulminate of mercury in chimneys to cause an explosion if someone starts up the furnaces.

Party Politics and Socialism

Shaw describes the class conflict between the Tories, representing the aristocracy, and the Liberals, who represented the industrial middle classes. These competed for working class votes by extending the franchise and passing legislation like the Factory Acts to improve working conditions. However, each was as bad the other. The aristocracy kept their workers in poverty in the countryside, while the middle classes exploited them in the factories. The laws they passed for the working poor were partly designed to attack their opponents of the opposite class.

He goes on to give a brief history of British socialism, beginning with Marx, William Morris’ Socialist League, and Hyndeman’s Social Democratic Federation. These were small, middle class groups, disconnected from the British working class through their opposition to trade unions and the cooperatives. It was only when British socialism combined with them under Keir Hardie and the Independent Labour Party that socialism became a real force in working class politics. The Fabian Society has been an important part of this, and has made socialism respectable so that the genteel middle classes may join it as Conservatives join their Constitutional Club.

Shaw believed that socialism would advance, simply because of the numerical supremacy of the working classes, and that soon parliament would be full of Labour MPs. However, he also recognised that many members of the proletariat were anti-Socialist. This is because they depended for their livelihood on the businesses serving the idle rich. He called this section of the working class the ‘parasitic proletariat’. The working class is also distracted away from socialism through lotteries and so on.

Democratic, Parliamentary Socialism and Nationalisation

Shaw argues strongly that socialism could only be established through democratic, parliamentary action. General strikes wouldn’t work, as the employers would simply starve the workers out. The strikes intended to stop the outbreak of the First World War had failed the moment the first bomb dropped killing babies. Violent revolutions were purely destructive. Apart from the human lives lost, they destroyed the country’s vital industrial and economic structure. Socialism needed to build on this, not destroy it. Similarly, confiscating the capitalists’ wealth, either directly through nationalisation without compensation, or by taxing capital, was also counterproductive. The capitalists would simply sell their shares or unwillingly surrender them. The result would be bankruptcy and mass unemployment. This would result in further working class unrest, which would end in a counterrevolution.

The only way socialism could proceed would be by long preparation. You should only nationalise an industry once there was a suitable government department to run it. Compensation should be given to the former proprietors. This did not mean robbing the workers to pay their former exploiters, as the money would come from taxing the upper classes so that the class as a whole would be slightly worse off than before, even though the former owners were slightly better off.  You can see here and in Shaw’s warning of the ineffectiveness of general strikes the bitterness that still lingered amongst the working class after the failure of the General Strike of the 1920s.

Nationalisation could also only be done through parliament. There were, however, problems with parliamentary party politics. If the socialist party grew too big, it would split into competing factions divided on other issues, whose squabbles would defeat the overall purpose. Party politics were also a hindrance, in that it meant that one party would always oppose the policies of the other, even though they secretly supported them, because that was how the system worked. We’ve seen it in our day when the Tories before the 2010 election made a great show of opposing Blair’s hospital closures, but when in power did exactly the same and worse. Shaw recommends instead that the political process should follow that of the municipalities, where party divisions were still high, but where the process of legislation was done through committees and so on parties were better able to cooperate.

Limited Role for Capitalism

Shaw also argued against total nationalisation. He begins the book by stating that socialists don’t want to nationalise personal wealth. They weren’t going to seize women’s jewels, nor prevent a woman making extra cash for herself by singing in public or raising prize chrysanthemums, although it might in time be considered bad form to do so. Only big, routine businesses would be nationalised. Small businesses would be encouraged, as would innovatory private companies, though once they became routine they too would eventually be taken over by the state.

It’s a great argument for a pluralistic mixed economy, of the type that produced solid economic growth and working class prosperity after World War II, right up to 1979 and Thatcher’s victory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shaw’s Classic Defence of Socialism for Women Part One

May 16, 2020

George Bernard Shaw, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism, foreword by Polly Toynbee (London: Alma Classics 2012).

Introduction

This is a great book. It’s the kind of book on socialism I was very much looking for in the 1980s when the papers were all praising Margaret Thatcher and alleged superiority of capitalism to the heavens. What I wanted then was a classic defence of socialism, which clearly showed the destructive nature and defects of capitalism, and how these would be removed for the better under a proper socialist government with a clear idea of what needed to be done and how it could be achieved.

This is a rather long review, so I’ve split up into four parts.

The book was written between 1924 and 1928, when it was first published. George Bernard Shaw is one of the great figures in British socialism. An Irishman, he was one of the founders of the Fabian Society along with Sidney and Beatrice Webb, and editor of its anthology of socialist writings, Fabian Essays. He’s best known for his play Pygamalion, about a linguist, Henry Higgins, who takes Eliza, a rough working class girl, and tries to mould her so she can pass as a lady of the genteel classes. It was filmed as the musical My Fair Lady, starring Rex Harrison.

Shaw wrote it between 1924 and 1928, when it was published, at the request of his sister-in-law, Lady Cholmondley. She had asked him to write a letter explaining socialism for women. Shaw looked into it, and discovered that amongst the masses of literature about socialism, there weren’t any books that realised that there were such creatures. And, he adds in his ‘Instead of a Bibliography’, very few that recognised the existence of men either. The book’s addressed to a female audience. The reader is a ‘she’ and the examples given are taken from women’s lives, jobs and experience. Shaw recognises that most women are occupied as wives and mothers, or shop girls and workers in the great weaving mills, the common female roles at the time. But he also recognises and fully supports the fact that more professions were being opened up to women in science, law, medicine and so on. If done badly, this approach by a male writer can seem patronising, but Shaw, as a great writer, manages to avoid it. And even though it’s aimed at women, I greatly enjoyed it, and would recommend it to other blokes.

Capital, Equality of Incomes and Imperialism

Shaw tries to present complex ideas about capitalism by simplifying them down to the level of ordinary people’s housekeeping or domestic economy. He defines capital as left over money. It’s the money you have left after spending your income on rent, food and so on. This is the money that the idle rich, the landlords, invest in industry. And money’s only real value is for the food and clothing that it will purchase. You cannot eat money, and the food it will buy must be eaten or else it will be spoilt. Which means that money must be invested and used, rather than stored up.

At the heart of Shaw’s view of socialism is the equalization of incomes. He believed that everyone should earn exactly the same amount. Capitalism had created vast inequalities of wealth. On the one hand there was a small minority of the idle rich, who had to invent pastimes and diversions in order to use up their wealth. On the other was the vast mass of the poor, living at or near starvation level. He begins by asking the reader how they would divide up the nation’s wealth, challenging the reader to think for herself rather than let him do her thinking for her. He then proceeds to argue that it is impossible to decide that one person should be paid more or less than another because of their personal morality or ability. He sharply criticises the quasi-feudal economy of his day, when 90 per cent of the country worked to support the gentry, who only comprised ten per cent of the country’s population. They do nothing for it, don’t benefit from it, as they can’t personally eat or drink more than anyone else. And instead of investing it, they simply take it out of the country to invest it or spend it abroad. He also attacks British imperialism for this same thing. It hasn’t benefited the peoples we have conquered nor British tradespeople, businessmen and workers. It has led to the exploitation of Blacks abroad, who can paid far less than their British counterparts. Thus Britain is flooded with cheap imports, and British companies are going bust and their workers laid off.

The Progress of Capitalism and Decline of the Businessman Owner

Shaw then describes how the middle class have their origins as the younger sons of the aristocracy, with a few acute remarks on the absurd gradations of class which meant that a wholesaler was socially superior to a retailer. His father was a businessman, who had been a member of the gentry. As such he looked down on the elite Dublin shopkeepers, even though they were richer and entertained the local Irish aristocracy, which he very definitely couldn’t. But business was changing. The age of the small businessman in personal possession of his business, was giving way to joint-stock companies owned by their shareholders and managed by professional, salaried staff. Under pressure from the unions, they were combining to  form monopolistic trusts. This made them ready for nationalisation.

Nationalisation and the Coal Industry

He presents the coal industry as particularly needing nationalisation. At the time he wrote, there were a number of different mining companies. Some worked poor mines and were close to bankruptcy, others very rich. However, miners wages were set at the level the poor mines could afford, which was near starvation. Coal prices were set for the rich mines, and so prices were high. The miners were thus being starved and the consumer overcharged. The mines should thus be nationalised so that the workers were paid a fair wage, and the consumer a fair price. Shaw advocated nationalisation so that costs and prices could be brought down and goods sold at cost price.

Banks and the Stock Market

He also discusses and explains finance capitalism, stocks and shares, debentures, futures and the stock market. He warns the reader against get-rich-quick scams, like the bucket shops which will charge his prices for very risky shares. If people want to invest, they should do so with the government or municipality. Their shares won’t provide a great yield, but they will be safe. He recommends that banks should be nationalised because of the problems the small businessman had acquiring capital. The big businesses rely on financiers, who certainly won’t lend the small businessman wanting a modest loan anything. Neither will the banks. He pointed to Birmingham as an example for the future, as it had established a municipal bank to serve the customers the big banks wouldn’t.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chief Rabbi Tells AIPAC Why He Told People Not to Vote for Corbyn

March 7, 2020

Unfortunately, Melanie Phillips wasn’t the only person this week violating the provisions of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism in Israel’s favour. So was Ephraim Mirvis, the world’s worst Chief Rabbi. Mirv appeared in the page of the wretched right-wing libel sheet, the Jewish Chronicle, talking about his speech to AIPAC explaining why he told the British Jewish public not to vote for Labour because of Jeremy Corbyn. AIPAC is one of the very largest pro-Israel lobbying organisation in America. The largest is Ted Hagee’s equally vile Christians United for Israel, but AIPAC is extremely influential. Leading American politicos, including presidential candidates like Hillary Clinton, have appeared before it, pledging their undying support for Israel and seeking the organisation’s endorsement. And its leaders include such charmless nerks as Sheldon Adelson. Adelson’s a casino billionaire, who has apparently made it public that his first loyalty is to Israel. The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism says it is anti-Semitic to accuse Jews of being more loyal to a foreign country. For the vast majority of Jews, this is undoubtedly the case – they’re loyal citizens and accusing them of such disloyalty would be anti-Semitic. But in Adelson’s case, apparently, it’s true.

Mirv’s Violation of IHRA Anti-Semitism Definition

Mirv declared that Prime Ministers of Israel and key Jewish leaders have been graciously and warmly welcomed at No. 10 under the Conservatives. As Mike points out in his article, they’ve also been welcomed by Labour leaders. One of these was Tony Blair, who received considerable backing from the Israel lobby, which is probably one of the reasons why the Blairites were able to make such an alliance with the Israel lobby in the Labour Party to attack Corbyn. He then went on to ask rhetorically “What would happen if the next incumbent was Jeremy Corbyn? What would the consequences be for Jews and Judaism and the State of Israel?” As Mike also points out, that also violates another stipulation of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism – that Jews should not be identified with Israel.

Unfortunately, Zionists do it all the time. Netanyahu passed a law nearly a decade ago making all Jews everywhere automatically citizens of Israel. Many Jews weren’t impressed. There are very many Israel critical and anti-Zionist Jews. These include ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jews, who believe it is their God-given duty to remain in exile and work for the good of the countries in which they live, until the Messiah comes to restore Israel. This cannot be the work of a secular state, which is an abomination. They’re a growing section of the British Israeli population. In a few years they will account for a third of it, and will have overtaken the United Synagogue as the largest section of British Jewry. Other Jews are critical of Israel from a belief in traditional liberal Jewish values, and despise the country for its barbarous ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. And these are also a growing part of the American Jewish population. An increasing number of American Jewish young people have no interest in Israel, or actively oppose it because of its treatment of the Palestinians. Enrollment in the heritage tours, which the Israeli state gives American school leavers so that they can visit Israel, is falling. One Jewish American, commenting on Netanyahu’s wretched citizenship law, said it was ludicrous that he, who had been born in Anchorage in Alaska, was a member of country he’d never been to, while his friend, a Palestinian, had no right to return to the country of his birth. And this opposition to Israel is shared by Jews, who have experienced genuine anti-Semitism.

Chief Rabbinate and Board of Deputies Not Representative of British Jewry

And then there’s the claim of the Zionist Jewish establishment to represent all of Britain’s Jews. Er, no, they really don’t. The Jews have never been a monolithic community. That’s a fantasy of anti-Semites. They’re as disparate and varied in their attitudes, opinions and values as every other ethnic or religious group. As Jewish bloggers like Tony Greenstein and David Rosenberg have pointed out, the Board of Deputies really only represents the United Synagogue. And its questionable how many of them it represents. Some synagogues don’t allow women to vote, others have sitting deputies whom they haven’t changed for years. And the Board’s constitution explicitly defines itself as a Zionist organisation, so non-Zionists need not apply. And needless to say, as they’re based on the synagogues, they don’t represent that third of British Jewry that is secular. But never mind. Once upon a time ’twas said that the Anglican Church was the Tory party at prayer. That was true at one time, as the Tory party stood for the monarchy, the established church and the landed aristocracy. But since Thatcher the Anglican Church has also criticised Tory policy on poverty, leading to disputes between the Tories and the Archbishop of Canterbury. It now seems that the Anglican Church is no longer such a staunch upholder of Conservatism. That role now seems to have been taken over by the United Synagogue, who can always be relied on to produce another anti-Semitism smear against Labour when the Tories are in trouble.

As for the Chief Rabbinate, as Mike has said on his blog, traditional Jewish theology and law stipulates that no rabbi’s opinion is any better than any other rabbi’s. And so when Mirvis speaks, it could be said that he speaks for himself alone, or rather, just himself and those who choose to share his opinions. The old retort Winston Churchill once gave a member of the House Lords therefore seems to apply to him: ‘The honourable member represents only himself, and I don’t like his constituency’.

Mirvis himself is a true-blue Tory, and welcomed the ascension of Tweezer as Prime Minister. He is also very much a Zionist thug. He and his predecessor, the noxious ‘Reform Jews are enemies of the faith’ Jonathan Sacks, both led British contingents to the annual March of the Flags in Jerusalem. That’s the unedifying occasion when ultra-patriotic Israeli boot-boys go marching through the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem, waving the Israeli flag around, vandalising Palestinian property and terrorising the locals. Sacks was requested by a liberal Jewish organisation not to go. He ignored them.

Jews Safe and Respected Under Corbyn

Not every Tory was happy about Mirvis’ decision to attack Corbyn. Simon Kelner wrote a piece in the I attacking it, stating that if Corbyn did win the election, nothing would happen to Britain’s Jews. There would be no riots, no pogroms. Now Kelner promoted the anti-Semitism smears as enthusiastically as all the other Fleet Street hacks. And in writing his piece he may well have been afraid that Corbyn would get in, and Mirv’s predictions of rampant Jew-hatred would have been exposed as the fearmongering it was. And as a consequence, the reputation of Chief Rabbinate would have been very badly damaged.

But Kelner would have been right. Nothing would have happened to Britain’s Jews under a Corbyn administration, because neither Corbyn nor his supporters are anti-Semites. Quite the opposite – Corbyn has always worked for the Jewish community. And he would have continued to do so. What would have happened is that Israel would have come under pressure to obey UN resolutions regarding the treatment of the Palestinians. And the ability of the Israel lobby to smear critics of Israel as anti-Semites would be severely damaged.

Jews Historically Indifferent or Opposed to Israel and Zionism

As for the relationship between British Jews and Israel, my guess is that the situation would have gone back to that pre-1969 and the launch of the Neo-Con project. William Kristol announced it in an American Jewish magazine as a method for encouraging Americans, and that included American Jews, to support Israel. Norman Finkelstein, that redoubtable Jewish American critic of Zionism, has pointed out that Kristol launched Neo-Conservatism because American Jews weren’t interested in Israel. They had no interest going to an unknown country, when they could make comfortable lives for themselves in America. David Rosenberg has said that until World War II, Zionism was a tiny minority in European Jewish opinion. Most Jews wished to remain in the nations of their birth, as equal citizens. The slogan of the Jewish socialist party, the Bund, was ‘Wherever we live, that’s our homeland!’. My guess is that British Jews have the same attitude. The Balfour Declaration was opposed by the British Jewish establishment, as they wanted Jews to be, and to be seen as, patriotic fellow Brits. They did not want to be accused of being foreign or having divided loyalties, and felt very strongly that the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine would lead to such anti-Semitic accusations. If British Jews migrated, my guess is that most of them would have gone to the same destinations as their gentile counterparts – America, or one of the White majority Commonwealth countries – Canada, Australia or New Zealand. Jews have been dinkum  Ozzies since the 19th century. In the 1870s Rabbi Davis of the Sydney Synagogue took part in a rally against the enslavement of the indigenous Polynesians along with his Christian compatriots in the Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian churches. According to Patridge’s Dictionary of Historical Slang, the Australian term ‘Cobber’ comes from the Hebrew ‘Cobar’, which means ‘comrade’. If Corbyn had got in, it’s possible that all that would have resulted is that more Jews would have become indifferent to Israel. An attitude that’s probably growing anyway.

Conclusion

Mike in his piece on Mirv’s wretched speech asks if the Chief Rabbi is more concerned about representing Israeli racism than Britain’s Jews. I don’t think Mirvis is able to distinguish between Judaism and Israel, so taken is he with the Zionist lie that the two are one and the same. And at present, the absolute, uncritical support he and the Board demand for Israel does mean supporting racism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

An increasing number of British Jews, including those who consider themselves Zionist, oppose this. But it seems that Mirvis really doesn’t represent them.

Is the UK’s Chief Rabbi more concerned with supporting Israeli racism than Jewish people?

 

 

 

Private Eye on Anti-Semitism Smear Merchants Suing their Accusers

January 9, 2020

Although the Eye has published a number of letters defending the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn in this fortnight’s issue, it’s still pushing the anti-Semitism smears. And the magazine’s journo who’s done most of this, ‘Ratbiter’ in reality Absurder hack Nick Cohen – has published another piece doing just this. Titled ‘Tribal-Libel News’, it runs

Leftists surveying five more years of Tory rule and a Labour party reduced to an embittered rump can console themselves with the thought that Jeremy Corbyn may not have been good for much, but at least he enriched lawyers.

Labour’s favourite solicitors, Howe & Co, and barrister, Anthony Hudson QC, have already made an estimated £500,000 from Unite’s disastrous decision to waste members’ money fighting a libel action from former Labour MP Anna Turley. There’s plenty more where that came from, as the viciousness of Labour politics sends writs flying.

John Ware, who presented a Panorama investigation into Labour’s cover-up of anti-Semitism, is suing after a Labour spokesman alleged in July that he was “engaged in deliberate and malicious representations designed to mislead the public”. Howe & Co is mounting Labour’s defence.

Panorama featured Sam Matthews, Labour’s former head of disputes, who said he had been pushed close to suicide by the tactics of Corbyn’s supporters, and Louise Withers Green, a disputes officer, who described how party officials minimised anti-Jewish racism. Labour accused them of having “personal and political axes to grind”. They are suing, and once again Labour has hired Howe & Co.

Meanwhile, in 2018, a video emerged of Corbyn sneering at “Zionists” who have “lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their … [but] don’t understand English irony.” Corbyn wasn’t talking of Zionists or Jews in general, he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr, just two “incredibly disruptive” Jewish activists.

Richard Millett, one of them, is suing. His claim to the court says Corbyn accused him of so disrupting meetings that Police wanted to arrest him, and of abusing the Palestinian ambassador. Howe & Co are Corbyn’s solicitors. Anthony Hudson is his QC.

To add to the fee fest, Countdown host and campaigner against Anti-Semitism Rachel Riley is suing Corbynista official Laura Murray after Murray accused her in March 2019 that Corbyn deserved “to be violently attacked” and adding that Riley was “as dangerous as she is stupid”. Howe & Co are representing Murray too.

Murray is from the Eye’s favourite dynasty of Marxist-Leninist aristos. Related to the earls of Perth, dukes of Norfolk and the royal house of Navarre, the family is so grand it could hire every libel lawyer in London. But others aren’t as loaded. Last month, when Turley successfully sued Unite and the “independent” left-wing news site Skwawkbox for claiming she had made a “false declaration” to join the union “on the cheap”, Skwawkbox’s editor admitted that Len McCluskey’s put-upon members were funding his defence. If an appeal next month fails, they must pay £75,000 in damages to Turley and mind-boggling costs of up to £2m.

A Unite spokesman told the Eye it wasn’t backing Corbyn or the Labour party in court, so it looks as if Labour members will take the hit if they lose. They should note that the judge in the Turley case, Mr Justice Nicklin, deplored the aggressive tactics of Labour lawyers. Their attack on Turley culminated in Hudson declaring she “was not fit to be an MP”. Nicklin upped the damages he awarded her, saying that “the defendants’ conduct during the trial has seriously aggravated the harm to [Turley’s] reputation and her distress.

Now that Hudson and Howe & Co. are taking on more of the left’s battles, socialists can be sure that, whatever happens, wealth will be redistributed in their direction.

A casual glance shows Ratbiter’s overt bias. Corbyn’s supporters are the villains here, smearing virtuous, anti-racists and Jews. And they are rich, as shown by Laura Murray’s aristocratic family. The reality is rather different.

The article does not, of course, mention the ordinary people in the Labour, including and especially Jews, who were smeared as anti-Semites for criticising Israel and supporting Corbyn. They were hauled up before kangaroo courts, denied proper representation and natural justice, and expelled. They have found it impossible to sue the party for a variety of reasons. But this is ignored by the mass media, including the Eye and Cohen.

Ware, Matthews and Green’s cases against the Labour party is probably not unconnected to the complaint against the Panorama programme for its massive bias and the film that has just been made about this. But there is no mention of that in the Eye’s article either. Mike and other left-wing bloggers and activists have published pieces detailing the inaccuracies, and it’s a list as long as your arm. It looks like those two are going on the offensive as a way of defending themselves against some very credible allegations.

This also seems to be the case with Millett. I can’t comment in his particular case, but Corbyn’s description of his demeanour is very credible. It’s clear from reading accounts of the behaviour of Zionist activists at pro-Palestinian meetings from bloggers like Martin Odoni and Tony Greenstein, that the Zionists are extremely disruptive. They do march around, scream and hurl abuse. One group had to be turfed out of a meeting by the police. One of the chief Zionist activists, Jonathan Hoffman, a former head of the Zionist Federation, was even given a court sentence for his weird behaviour. It might be that Millett is innocent, but there is certainly reason to doubt this.

As for Rachel Riley, she’s been so often mentioned for her litigiousness that her decision to sue Murray will come as no surprise. She’s a very rich media celeb, who comes across very much as a bully, using the threat of legal action to shut down any criticism of her beloved Israel.

In short, these cases seem to be just the Israel lobby and its supporters using lawfare to try and consolidate their hold on their Labour party and victory over the departing Corbyn. They are the real libellers and smear merchants, whatever the Eye claims.

But the Eye’s sympathy is definitely with them, not their victims.

Bullying, Starvation and Death in 19th Century Public and Boarding Schools

September 26, 2019

There’s a strong mood in the Labour party for the abolition of the public schools. Unlike in America, where the public schools are the state schools, the term over this side of the Atlantic mean the network of extremely expensive private schools educating the children of the aristocracy and the upper middle classes. It’s from them and their ethos that elite derive some of their power and sense of entitlement through the social solidarity and networks these schools provide. Private Eye in its review of a book on Eton in the 1980s commented acidly on a statement by one former Eton schoolboy, now an Anglican bishop, that looking at the numbers of other old Etonians now in leading positions in the government, civil service and society, he felt the whole world was Eton. Another said that if he found out a man hadn’t been to Eton, he wasn’t sure why, but for some reason he thought less of him.

But it wasn’t always like this. Before Matthew Arnold turned up at Rugby in the 1840s, the Public Schools had a very poor reputation. They were notorious for a very narrow curriculum that concentrated almost exclusively on the classics, vicious bullying and vain attempts to keep order among their charges through sadistic flogging. As well as immorality.

I found these passages, describing the abysmally low standards in them in Andrina Stiles, Religion, Society and Reform 1800 1914 (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1995).

Some of the endowed schools had begun to take boarders quite early on. Rugby for instance, which had originally been founded in the sixteenth century as a free grammar school for local boys, evolved in this way into the 19th century public school. Conditions before 1840 in public schools left much to be desired. A narrow classical curriculum, poor housing and food, harsh discipline and a low moral tone characterised life there. Violence and bullying were common. By the middle of the century the situation was improving and public school values were changing, for several reasons. One of these was the arrival of Thomas Arnold at Rugby in 1829.

(p. 74).

Nevertheless there was still disquiet about the narrow curriculum of the public schools a generation later in 1861:

No Latin or Greek may make Mast Jack a dull boy, but Latin and Greek without anything else go far towards making him a very dullard. Parents are beginning to feel this and to ask whether a skinful of classical knowledge with a little birching thrown in for nothing is worth the two hundred a year the pay for a boy at Eton.

A Royal Commission under Lord Clarendon was appointed to examine the revenues, management and curriculum in the nine chief public schools. Its report in 1864 was more favourable than might have been expected. It agreed though that there was still an undue emphasis on the classics and added that the schools ‘are in different degrees too indulgent to idleness, or struggle ineffectually with it, and consequently send out a large proportion of men of idle habits and empty uncultivated minds’. A number of reforms were suggested and some of these, mostly organisational ones, were incorporated in the Public Schools Act of 1868. The effects were limited for the schools were not made subject to government inspection and each remained virtually independent. As for broadening the curriculum, little was done.

(p. 75).

But if standards in the public schools were low, those in the middle class private schools were potentially lethal.

Many parents wishing to protect their boys from the dangers of the public school, or not able to afford the fees to send them there, turned to private boarding schools. These varied widely in competence, were often quite small, and had a more liberal curriculum than the public or grammar schools. The pupils were usually better supervised and better housed than in the public schools, though this was not always the case and some private schools were very badly run, with a high death rate among the pupils from disease, malnutrition and general neglect.

(p. 76).

With this history, it’s amazing that the private sector still has the social cachet to demand respect, and old Etonians like David Cameron and Boris Johnson hold them up for emulation from the state sector. One of those two charmers declared that they’d like every school to be like Eton. This was in a speech promising further privatisation of state education. Well, every school probably could become like Eton, if it had the amount of money spent on it Eton has from the fees it charges elite parents. But as its the state sector, they get nowhere near the funding and resources they need and deserve. If we really want to create a strong state education system that provides a good schooling for everyone, then the myth of private school excellence has to be disproven and their privileged place removed even if the schools themselves aren’t abolished.