Posts Tagged ‘Bologna’

New Labour’s Connections to Fascism

October 30, 2020

Yesterday the EHRC’s report into anti-Semitism in the Labour party was published, and was spun for all it was worth as confirmation that Jeremy Corbyn was anti-Semitic and so was the party under him. Except for all those brave, Zionist Blairites that spoke out and denounced him and his followers, of course. Followers that included large, vocal numbers of entirely self-respecting Jews, who were attacked and vilified as self-hating anti-Semites themselves.

One of those, who decided to put his oar into all this was Ed Balls, a former New Labour cabinet minister. As Mike has pointed out on his blog, this is very much a case of a man in a glass house throwing stones. Not only did Balls once turn up at a party dressed as a Nazi, he also presented a BBC programme a year ago in which he met real Nazis. Apparently he even said he liked them, and that they were nice. So there’s just a little touch of hypocrisy here.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/10/28/ed-balls-speaks-out-about-labour-anti-semitism-who-cares/

Now dressing up as a Nazi for a student party is obviously tasteless and offensive, but doesn’t necessarily mean that someone’s a Nazi. But some of the accusations of anti-Semitism used against Corbyn’s supporters were far less substantial than such pranks. For example, there was the lad, who posted an image of a Jobcentre with the slogan ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ on its sign. This was supposed to be anti-Semitic for disrespecting Jewish suffering in the Holocaust. But this ignores the fact that the slogan was used on all concentration camps, including those housing gentile political prisoners. And the slogan accurately describes the Tory mentality towards the disabled and long term sick. Iain Duncan Smith actually said so in an online article, before someone told him that quoting the Nazis approvingly doesn’t look good, and he removed the offending paragraph.

If you want a second example, consider the press feeding frenzy which occurred when Corbyn was seen to nod in agreement when Heijo Meyer, a Holocaust survivor, said that Israel was doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to him. Oh, the anti-Semitism! What foul perfidy and Jew-hatred! Except that Nazis don’t usually agree with Holocaust survivors. The Nazi strategy is to try to deny that the Shoah ever happened, or claim that it was somehow smaller than it really was. They don’t usually support Holocaust survivors, who speak about their experiences.

And there’s obviously a profound difference between Israel and Jews. The two definitely aren’t synonymous, and according to the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism which the Board of Deputies and the Chief Rabbi were so desperate to foist upon the party, it is anti-Semitic to confuse the two. Which is very obviously the case with Corbyn’s accusers. It isn’t anti-Semitic to criticise Israel for its crimes against the Palestinians, any more than attacking Saudi Arabia for its human rights record automatically means that you hate Arabs.

As for meeting Nazis and describing them as nice people, unfortunately, I can well believe that some of them are personally nice people. A German Jewish bloke, who infiltrated a neo-Nazi organisation leading to its exposure in the German media, said the same about some of them when he was interviewed. He said that amongst the Nazis he met were ordinary, otherwise decent Germans, who believed the Holocaust never happened. That’s part of the danger. Murderous, dangerous ideas can be held by otherwise entirely decent people. One of the Islamist scumbags who murdered Lee Rigby all those years ago put up a video telling the world that he was really a nice person, who would help old ladies up the stairs. And I dare say he was right. If all Nazis and jihadis were antisocial, ranting, bullying maniacs, nobody would join them or stay in their organisations for very long. They’d leave because of their noxious personalities. But unfortunately, Nazis and other murderous extremists don’t always behave like their stereotypes, and this does mean that they can appear plausible. That fact that Ed Balls personally liked some of them doesn’t mean that Balls is a Nazi. Just like the fact that because Corbyn appeared alongside Palestinian activists, who had terrible views on killing Israelis, doesn’t mean that Corbyn supported their views. But no such doubts were extended to the Labour leader.

It was almost to be expected that Balls or one of his New Labour colleagues was going to comment about all this. Not only was Balls a former cabinet minister under Blair and Brown, but like Blair and other members of the New Labour clique, he’s also an alumnus of BAP – the British-American Project for the Successor Generation, to give it its full title. This was a Reaganite scheme in which promising British politicos from all parties were sought out and given opportunities to work and study in America in order to cement the Atlantic alliance. After going on one of these BAP jaunts to meet American right-wingers, Blair returned to England convinced of the need to retain our nuclear deterrent, while previously he had believed in getting rid of it.

America supports Israel, and Blair and Brown were ardent supporters of America, and so it follows that they too would support Israel. Apart from the fact that they supported Israel anyway, for which Blair received funding from pro-Israel Jewish businessmen. This was garnered through the efforts of Lord Levi, who Blair met at a gathering at the Israeli embassy. And mentioning that doesn’t make you an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist either.

But Blair also had personal connections to Fascism. He was mates with Berlusconi, whose Forza Italia party was in coalition with the Alleanza Nazionale. The Allianza Nazionale were former Fascists, after the neo-Fascist party, the Movimiento Sociale Italiano or Italian Social Movement, was dissolved by its leader, Gianfranco Fini, and reformed as a centre-right Conservative party. The best comment I’ve seen on Fini was in the pages of a book I read on Fascism years ago. It showed a photo of Fini when the Fascists were discarding the black shirts and adopting business suits in an attempt to make themselves look respectably middle class. It was called ‘filofascismo’, presumably a portmanteau of the Italian for filofax and Fascism. Fini appeared in a suit and round-rimmed glasses with business jacket slung casually over his shoulder. The photo was captioned ‘Would you buy a used ideology from this man?’ The answer is, ‘No, no, I definitely wouldn’t. Not even dressed up as Conservatism’.

More sinisterly, David Mills, the husband of New Labour minister Tessa Jowell, was a lawyer engaged to defend a genuine Fascist. I got a feeling this guy was one of those responsible for the Bologna railway bombing in the late ’70s. This was a Fascist terrorist atrocity in which the squadristi bombed that Italian town’s railway station, killing and maiming something like 121 people.

This shows up New Labour’s hypocrisy and that of the Tories and their accomplices in the media even more. Corbyn, like other members of the Labour left, was smeared as a supporter of the IRA because of his concern for a just peace in Northern Ireland. He wasn’t, and various Ulster Loyalists have said that he was fair and perfectly civil and friendly towards them. But this was ignored in the scramble to vilify him as a supporter of Irish nationalist terrorism. But obviously, as David Mills’ example shows, it’s perfectly acceptable to the British right for the spouses of New Labour ministers to work for genuine Fascists responsible for killing and mutilation of over a hundred innocents.

And that should also raise genuine questions of anti-Semitism. The Italian Fascists originally hadn’t been anti-Semitic. Mussolini himself had ridiculed Hitler’s biological racism, but as Nazism took over from Italian Fascism as the more influential movement, Mussolini tried to ingratiate himself and his regime by adopting racism. In 1937 the Fascists published their manifesto on race and passed legislation defining the Italian people as Aryans, and banning Jews from certain professions. The Charter of Verona, which set out the ideology of Mussolini’s rump Fascist state in Salo, declared that Jews weren’t part of the Italian nation. And contemporary Italian Fascists, like Fascists everyone, are violently anti-immigrant and racist.

Considering Blair’s and co.’s connections to real Fascism, Balls has got absolutely no business accusing Corbyn and his supporters of anti-Semitism whatsoever.

An Argument for Industrial Democracy from the Mars of SF

November 5, 2018

I’m currently reading Blue Mars, the last of a trilogy of books about the future colonization of the Red Planet by Kim Stanley Robinson. Written in the 1990s, this book and the other two in the series, Red Mars and Green Mars, chronicle the history of humans on Mars from the landing of the First 100 c. 2020, through full-scale colonization and the development of Martian society to the new Martians’ struggle for independence from Earth. In this future, Earth is run by the metanats, a contraction of ‘metanational’. These are the ultimate development of multinational corporations, firms so powerful that they dominate and control whole nations, and are the real power behind the United Nations, which in theory rules Mars.

As the Martians fight off Terran rule, they also fight among themselves. The two main factions are the Reds and the Greens. The Reds are those, who wish to preserve Mars in as close to its pristine, un-terraformed condition as possible. The Greens are those on the other side, who wish to terraform and bring life to the planet. The Martians are also faced with the question about what type of society and economy they wish to create themselves. This question is a part of the other books in the series. One of the characters, Arkady Bogdanov, a Russian radical, is named after a real Russian revolutionary. As it develops, the economy of the free Martians is partly based on gift exchange, rather like the economies of some indigenous societies on Earth. And at a meeting held in the underground chamber of one of the Martian societies – there are a variety of different cultures and societies, reflecting the culture of various ethnic immigrant to Mars and the political orientation of different factions – the free Martians in the second book draw up their tentative plans for the new society they want to create. This includes the socialization of industry.

Near the beginning of Blue Mars, the Martians have chased the Terran forces off the planet, but they remain in control of the asteroid Clarke, the terminus for the space elevator allowing easier space transport between Earth and Mars. The Martians themselves are dangerously divided, and so to begin the unification of their forces against possible invasion, they hold a constitutional congress. In one of the numerous discussions and meetings, the issue of the socialization of industry is revisited. One member, Antar, is firmly against government interference in the economy. He is opposed by Vlad Taneev, a biologist and economist, who argues not just for socialization but for worker’s control.

‘Do you believe in democracy and self-rule as the fundamental values that government ought to encourage?’
‘Yes!’ Antar repeated, looking more and more annoyed.
‘Very well. If democracy and self-rule are the fundamentals, then why should people give up these rights when they enter their work place? In politics we fight like tigers for freedom of movement, choice of residence, choice of what work to pursue – control of our lives, in short. And then we wake up in the morning and go to work, and all those rights disappear. We no longer insist on them. And so for most of the day we return to feudalism. That is what capitalism is – a version of feudalism in which capital replaces land, and business leaders replace kings. But the hierarchy remains. And so we still hand over our lives’ labour, under duress, to fee rulers who do no real work.’
‘Business leaders work,’ Antar said sharply. ‘And they take the financial risks-‘
‘The so-called risk of the capitalist is merely one of the
privileges of capital.’
‘Management -‘
‘Yes, yes. Don’t interrupt me. Management is a real thing, a technical matter. But it can be controlled by labour just as well by capital. Capital itself is simply the useful residue of the work of past labourers, and it could belong to everyone as well as to a few. There is no reason why a tiny nobility should own the capital, and everyone else therefore be in service to them. There is no reason they should give us a living wage and take all the rest that we produce. No! The system called capitalist democracy was not really democratic at all. That’s why it was able to turn so quickly into the metanational system, in which democracy grew ever weaker and capitalism every stronger. In which one per cent of the population owned half of the wealth, and five per cent of the population owned ninety-five per cent of the wealth. History has shown which values were real in that system. And the sad thing is that the injustice and suffering caused by it were not at all necessary, in that the technical means have existed since the eighteenth century to provide the basics of life to all.
‘So. We must change. It is time. If self-rule is a fundamental value. If simple justice is a value, then they are values everywhere, including in the work place where we spend so much of our lives. That was what was said in point four of the Dorsa Brevia agreement. It says everyone’s work is their own, and the worth of it cannot be taken away. It says that the various modes of production belong to those who created them, and to the common good of the future generations. It says that the world is something we steward together. That is what it says. And in our years on Mars, we have developed an economic system that can keep all those promises. That has been our work these last fifty years. In the system we have developed, all economic enterprises are to be small co-operatives, owned by their workers and by no one else. They hire their management, or manage themselves. Industry guilds and co-op associations will form the larger structures necessary to regulate trade and the market, share capital, and create credit.’
Antar said scornfully, ‘These are nothing but ideas. It is utopianism and nothing more.’
‘Not at all.’ Again Vlad waved him away. ‘The system is based on models from Terran history, and its various parts have all been tested on both worlds, and have succeeded very well. You don’t know about this partly because you are ignorant, and partly because metanationalism itself steadfastly ignored and denied all alternatives to it. But most of our micro-economy has been in successful operation for centuries in the Mondragon region of Spain. the different parts of the macro-economy have been used in the pseudo-metanat Praxis, in Switzerland, in India’s state of Kerala, in Bhutan, in Bologna, Italy, and in many other places, including the Martian underground itself. These organization were the precursors to our economy, which will be democratic in a way capitalism never even tried to be.
(pp. 146-8).

It’s refreshing to see a Science Fiction character advocate a left-wing economics. Many SF writers, like Robert A. Heinlein, were right-wing. Heinlein’s The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, about a rebellion on the Moon, contains several discussion in which Heinlein talks about TANSTAAFL – his acronym for There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Lunch.

Praxis is the fictional metanational corporation, which supplies aid to the colonists against the rest of the terrestrial super-corporations. I don’t know about the references to Switzerland, Kerala, Bhutan or Bologna, but the Mondragon co-operatives in Spain certainly exist, and are a significant part of the country’s economy. They were set up by a Spanish priest during Franco’s dictatorship, but managed to escape being closed down as he didn’t recognize such enterprises as socialist.

I don’t know how practical it would be to make all businesses co-operatives, as there are problems of scale. Roughly, the bigger an enterprise is, the more difficult proper industrial democracy becomes. But co-operatives can take over and transform ailing firms, as was shown in Argentina during the last depression there a few years ago, when many factories that were about to be closed were handed over to their workers instead. They managed to turn many of them around so that they started making a profit once again. Since then, most of them have been handed back to their management, however.

But the arguments the Vlad character makes about democracy being a fundamental value that needs to be incorporated into industry is one of that the advocates of industrial democracy and workers’ control, like the Guild Socialists, made. And we do need to give workers far more power in the work place. Jeremy Corbyn has promised this with his pledge to restore workers’ and union rights, and make a third of the directors on corporate boards over a certain size elected by the workers.

If Corbyn’s plans for industrial democracy in Britain become a reality, perhaps Britain really will have a proper economic system for the 21st century, rather than the Tories and Libertarians trying to drag us back to the unfettered capitalism of the 19th.

Hope Not Hate on UKIP Chairman Member of Italian Far Right

May 3, 2015

There have been so many stories about the bigotry and hatred coming out of UKIP in the past fortnight that I really haven’t been able to keep up. It seems every day or so yet another Kipper says something deeply offensive and hate-filled. This seems to be overwhelmingly directed against gays or Muslims, overshadowing their general hatred and contempt for immigrants, equality for women, and the entire working class.

And despite Farage’s statement that they are a non-sectarian, non-racist party, and the party’s ban on people joining, who have previously been members of the Far Right, a number of Kipper’s have also been revealed as Fascists or former Fascists.

The latest of these is Francesco Lari. Hope Not Hate has revealed on their site that Lari, now the chairman of the East Midlands branch, used to be a councillor for the Liga Nord for the Italian town of Zola Predosa near Bologna. The Northern League were the right-wing Italian party, who wanted a separate state of Padania, formed from Italy’s northern provinces, in order to break away from what they saw as the lazy, corrupt, agricultural south. Which they termed ‘Egypt’.

They’ve now transformed themselves into an Italian nationalist, anti-immigration party. Hope Not Hate says that they have become even more right-wing under their leader, Matteo Salvini.

The article’s East Midlands UKIP Chairman Was Councillor With Italian Far Right Party. It’s at http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/ukip/east-midlands-ukip-chairman-was-councillor-with-italian-far-right-party-4437.

From what I understood, the only way the Liga Nord could be more right-wing is if they became more explicitly Fascist. In the 1990s they formed part of Burlesconi’s ruling coalition with the ‘post-Fascist’ Alleanza Nazionale and Burlo’s own Forza Italia. A little while ago I found a documentary on Youtube by an Italian journalist from the same decade, investigating them. Many of them were former members of Mussolini’s Fascists, and gathered in the cafes to sing their old marching songs, and reminisce about the old days shooting leftists.

The Kippers also have links to the native British Far Right in the shape of Britain First, and the Traditional Britain Group. Whatever they say to the contrary, UKIP is very much a form of Fascism-lite, formulated for the nastier sections of the British middle class.

‘Anatomia Theologica’: Dissection as Display of the Superb Divine Design of the Human Body

May 28, 2013

Another myth about the supposed religious opposition to Scientific advance is the belief that the Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages placed a ban on human dissection. In fact human bodies were dissected at Bologna University in 1275 by the surgeon William of Saliceto. His Chirurgia was the first topographical anatomy. It relied heavily on classical sources, but nevertheless also included Saliceto’s own observations. These included the damage to sustained by the internal organs of a man wounded in the chest. The University also carried out post-mortems to ascertain the cause of death. Mondino of Luzzi introduced regular public dissections at the university for teaching purposes when he became a professor there.

In the late 17th and early 18th centuries the argument from design for the existence of God also stimulated interest in human anatomy. For scholars such as Friedrich Hoffman, professor of medicine and physics at Halle, Georg Albrecht Hamberger of Jena, and the physicist and Lutheran theologian Johann Friedrich Wucherer, the intricate mechanism of the human body clearly pointed to the existence of a superbly brilliant Designer. This was clearly expressed in their works, which were written to show God’s amazing skill in shaping the human body, and the Almighty as a suitable subject for awe and worship. This argument from the immense intricacy of the human form was known as Anatomia Theologica. Although human dissection was permitted, there was nevertheless much opposition to it. It was believed that dissection of a person’s corpse would lead to that person being incomplete in the next world. As a result, such dissections were performed on criminals as a form of final humiliation. The elevated view of the human body as a demonstration of the Lord’s existence and superb skill in Anatomia Theologica challenged this hostility to dissection. For anatomists such as Lorenz Heister of Helmstedt and Albrecht von Haller believed that dissection could not be wrong if it served to reveal more fully God’s intricate craftsmanship. They therefore held public dissections to display God’s handiwork in the human form.

Thus Christian attitudes could lead to a hostility to human dissection, but this did not prevent academics using it to investigate and teach anatomy. It also served in Germany to promote anatomical science as further evidence of God’s superb design shown in humanity’s very fabric.

The Jesuits: Pioneers of Mathematics as University Subject

May 8, 2013

There were chairs of mathematics at the Italian Universities from the late fourteenth century onwards. There was a chair of arithmetic in Bologna in 1384-5. When Leo X reformed the University of Rome in 1514 he appointed two professors of mathematics. Pisa had a chair of mathematics in 1484. Galileo was appointed a ‘mathesis praeceptor’ at the University of Pisa in 1589 through the influence of Cardinal Francesco del Monte. Galileo’s own influence on the teaching of mathematics in Italian universities was immense. His pupils Benedetto Castelli and Bonaventura Cavalieri respectively held the chairs of mathematics at Pisa, the Sapienza in Rome, and Bologna. Evangelista Torricelli, one of Castelli’s pupils, succeeded Galileo as the court mathematician of the Dukes of Tuscany. Another of Castelli’s pupils, Giovanni Alfonso Borelli became the mathematics lecturer at Messina in 1635. Malpighi, Borelli and Borelli’s pupil Lorenzo Bellini introduced Galileo’s mathematical programme into biology.

It was the Jesuit Order, which made mathematics an explicit and integral part of the educational curriculum. The Order’s Constitutiones of 1556 stated that the Society’s aim was ‘to aid our fellow men to the knowledge and love of God and to the salvation of their souls’. The principal subject at the Jesuit universities was therefore theology, as the subject best suited to this. A wide range of other subjects were also taught in addition to it, including literature and history, classical and oriental languages, and the arts and natural sciences. These were included because they ‘dispose the intellectual powers for theology, and are useful for the perfect understanding and use of it, and also by their own nature help towards the same end’. St. Ignatius de Loyola himself stated that ‘logic, physics, mathematics and moral science should be treated and also mathematicss in the measure suitable to the end proposed’. The person, who was chiefly responsible for establishing Jesuit policy in mathematics and their achievements in the subject was Christopher Clavius. Clavius held the chair of mathematics at the main Jesuit university, the Collegio Romano from 1565 until his death in 1612. Clavius defended the role of mathematics at the University agains the doubts of other colleagues, establishing a school of mathematics at the Collegio. Clavius lamented the low value many pupils placed on maths and philosophy, noting that

‘Pupils up to now seem almost to have despised these sciences for the simple reason that they think that they are not considered of value and are even useless, since the person who teaches them is never summoned to public acts with other professors’. He also considered it a great shame and disgrace, that members of the order, who had little knowledge of maths, became speechless during conversations with leading men, who were much better educated mathematically. He artgued that a proper grasp of maths was necessary for understanding the rest of philosophy. He stated that

‘these sciences and natural philosophy have so close an affinity with one another that unless they give each other mutual aid they can in no way preserve their own worth. For this to happen, it will be necessary first that students of physics should at the same time study mathematical disciplines; a habit which has always been retained in the Society’s schools hitherto. Folr if these sciences were taught at another time, students of philsophy would think, and understandably, that they were in no way necessary to physics, and so very few would want to understand them; though it is agreed among experts that physics cannot rightly be grasped without them, especially as regards that part which concerns the number and motion of the celestical circles, the multitude of intelligences, the effects of the stars which depend on the various conjunctions, oppositions and other distances between them, the division of continuous quantity into infinity, the ebb and flow of the sea, winds, comets, the rainbow, the halo and other meteorlogical things, the proportions of motions, qualities, actions, passions and reactions etc. concerning which ‘calculatores’ wirte much. I do not mention the infinite examples in Aristotle, Plato and their more celebrated commentators, which can by no means be understood without a moderate understanding of the mathematical sciences…’

Clavius’ influence is strongly shown in the Jesuit ‘Ratio Studiorum’ – educational curriculum – of 1586 and 1599. This was strongly Aristotelian, except where Aristotle conflicted with Christian theology, and included the whole range of Aristotelian natural philosophy and mathematics. The section on mathematics in the Constitutiones argued it was included because

‘without mathematics our academies would lack a great ornament, iindeed they would even be mutilated, since there is almost no fairly celebrated academy in which the mathematical disciplines do not have their own, and indeed not the last, place; but much more because the other sciences also very much need their help, because for poets they supply and expound the risings and settings of the heavenly bodies; for historians the shapes and distances of places; for the Analytics examples of solid demonstrations; for politicians admirable arts for good administration at home and in time of war; for physics the forms and differences of heavenly revolutions, light, discords, sounds; for metaphysics the number of spheres and intelligences; for theologians the main parts of the divine creation; for law and ecclesiastical custom the accurate computation of times; not to mention what advantages redound to the state from the work of mathematicians in the care of diseases, in navigations and in the pursuit of agriculture.’

Dawkins and the other militant atheists have sneered at the idea of people of faith as teachers. But the great pioneers in teaching mathematics at university the level were the Jesuits, who taught it as a vital aid to faith, and as a vital and indispensible tool for the other sciences. They were certainly not unaware that improving the standards of maths teaching in the order would also raise their status in contemporary society. Neverthless, they did much to establish maths as a suitable and necessary subject for Christians to study. Some of these early Jesuit mathematicians were also friends of Galileo. They included Clavius’ pupil and successor at the Collegio, Christopher Grienberger. Despite the aim of the Society to promote Roman Catholic Christianity, Jesuit scientists also co-operated and corresponded cordially with Protestant people of science. Recent Jesuit historians have noted that the Jesuits in West Africa collaborated with their Dutch scientific counterparts in their exploration of the region’s wildlife, and contacted Scandinavian scientists in Norway or Sweden for the scientific information they had. Their science was still strongly aristotelian, but they were despite this able to make valuable contributions to science.

Source

‘Mathematics and Platonism in the Sixteenth-Century *Italian Univrsities and in Jesuit Educational Policy’ in A.C. Crombie, Science, Art and Nature in Medieval and Modern Thought (London and Rio Grande, Ohio: The Hambledon Press 1996).