Posts Tagged ‘Bookshops’

Book on Conservative, Anti-Left Bias at the BBC

August 24, 2017

The BBC: The Myth of a Public Service, Tom Mills (London: Verso 2016).

I managed to pick up a copy of this book, which came out last year, yesterday while poking around one of the secondhand book shops in Cheltenham. The BBC has become increasingly very blatantly biased against the Labour party, trade unions and the left in general. The Corporation has huffily denied this, but it’s been the subject of academic critiques by Edinburgh, Glasgow and Cardiff academics, who have concluded that there is a very real bias towards the Tories and business leaders, and against Labour MPs and trade unionists. According to the back flap of the dust jacket, Tom Mills is another academic – a lecturer in sociology and policy at Aston University, and a former co-editor of the New Left Project.

The blurb on the front flap states

The BBC is one of the most important institutions in Britain; it is also one of the most misunderstood. Despite its claim to be independent and impartial, and the constant accusations of a liberal bias, the BBC has always sided with the elite. As Tom Mills demonstrates, we are only getting the news that the Establishment wants aired in public.

Throughout its existence, the BBC has been in thrall to those in power. This was true in 1926 when it stood against the workers during the General Strike, and since then the Corporation has continued to mute the voices of those who oppose the status quo: miners in 1984; anti-war protesters in 2003; those who offer alternatives to austerity economics since 2008. From the outset much of its activity has been scrutinized by the secret services at the invitation of those in charge. Since the 1990s the BBC has been integrated into the market, while its independence from the government and big business has been steadily eroded. The BBC is an important and timely examination of a crucial public institution that is constantly under threat.

Barry and Saville Kushner have also pointed out how the Beeb and its journos unquestioningly accept the necessity of austerity, rarely inviting on their programmes anyone dares say otherwise. When they do, the interviewer promptly throws a fit and shouts them down. They heard one instance of this while listening to a radio interview on Radio 4 with a leading trade unionist, who was very abruptly stopped when he tried explaining that there was absolutely no need for it. See their book, Who Needs the Cuts.

The anti-Labour bias is acutely obvious in Laura Kuenssberg’s treatment of the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. It was also very evident with the reports on the Six O’clock news by John Pienaar and George Alagiah. Any number of people have complained about Kuenssberg’s flagrant bias, and got the same shirty treatment from the people in the media bubble. Those, who dare to complain, like Guy Debord’s Cat, get a haughty letter from one of its apparatchiks pompously informing them how the Corporations journalists are all scrupulously impartial, and they are mistaken. And the hackettes in the Groaniad immediately got on their high horses to claim that those criticizing la Kuenssberg were just doing it because they were sexist chauvinists, like the Bernie Bros in America. Which also didn’t exist, but were made up by Killary and her minions as a way of explaining why few people, including women, actually like this highly entitled, neoliberal, establishment figure, who befriends blood-soaked war criminals like Henry Kissinger.

And despite the Beeb’s protestations, several of their own journos don’t buy this rubbish either. Robert Peston, now the Beeb’s economics editor, was asked three years ago what he thought about the claims that it had a liberal bias. Peston replied that, on the contrary, the Corporation was ‘completely obsessed with the agenda set by newspapers’, naming the Heil and Torygraph. He added that it ‘quite often veers in what you might call a very pro-establishment, rather right-wing direction’. He forthrightly said that the claims that the Beeb is left-wing is ‘bollocks’. (p. 106).

But such claims have been around since the BBC was formally incorporated as a nationalized industry. When it was just a cartel of radio manufacturers and broadcasters, the Conservatives were accusing it of a Socialist bias. Glancing through the book reveals that there have been repeated attempts by the Tories to make it reflect their views. In 1947 Churchill launched one of these. Some of the most significant occurred in the 1970s with Keith Joseph and the other neoliberals around Maggie Thatcher. They got very upset in 1974 when the respected American economist, J.K. Galbraith, presented a series critiquing corporate power and the rise and crisis of industrial society, including Marxist and Keynsian perspectives, The Age of Uncertainty. This was too much for Joseph and the rest of the frothing mad Tory right. Galbraith was no liberal. He identified as Conservative, but had said the unsayable. Galbraith stated in the introduction to the ninth episode of that, ‘The Big Corporation’, that it was a myth that the consumer is sovereign and the corporation respond to their preferences, efficiently allocating society’s resources. The reality was that ‘corporations influence government, influence the consumer. Only the textbooks say otherwise.’ Joseph and Geoffrey Howe then organized a campaign to have another series set up, examination the question from a pro-Hayekian, free market perspective, presented by Milton Friedman. This was the Milton Friedman, who enthusiastically rejected democracy after realizing that his Chicago School would always been a minority. He therefore championed General Pinochet, who was also an enthusiastic Monetarist, when he overthrew the Marxist president of Chile, Salvador Allende, in a Fascist coup.

One of the most revealing sections is the chapter discussing how the Beeb’s massive pro-business bias was established about nine or so years ago, way back at the start of century around the year 2000. It was set up, and the treatment of business affairs expanded, by Greg Dyke. Dyke was a member of the Labour party, and a crony of Tony Blair. This explains why the Tories were constantly howling about how he was a dangerous Socialist, and there was a left-wing bias at the Beeb. In fact, Dyke had imbibed the same Thatcherite, neoliberal views as Blair, despite the continued whines that the Beeb had an ‘anti-industry culture’. It’s another example of how politicians on the nominal left, like Blair, took over and expanded the Conservatives’ neoliberal programme.

As for pro-Fascist bias, this even afflicted that great founder of the Beeb, Lord Reith. In 1933 Reith made a speech declaring that it was possible for someone to spread democratic values without being a democrat. Two years later, in 1935, he made a speech praising Mussolini. He personally believed the country needed a dictatorship. Fortunately, the rest of the Beeb’s governors and controllers didn’t, and forced him out.

This is interesting, as it’s an aspect of Reith’s life I hadn’t heard about before. There have been biographies of him – one of which was published in the 1990s, and, I think, reviewed by the Financial Times. However, from what I can remember, what was said about Reith’s personal failings was about his own puritanism, repressed homosexuality, and guilty infatuation with another man. I can’t recall any mention of Reith being a supporter of Fascist style dictatorship, although it should also be said that he despised the Fascists’ thuggery.

It would be too much to say that the corporation is pro-Fascist. They’re very proud of a quote made during the crisis of 1974, when one of the journos announced that the Beeb isn’t impartial – it’s strongly pro-democratic, and passionately feels this needs to be cherished. On the other hand, broadcasters tend to be Conservatives. And one aspect of the Conservative mindset is authoritarianism. See some of the pieces on YouTube discussing this by left-wing news sites like Democracy Now and so on. This would explain why they give more respect than they should to extreme right-wing movements like the BNP and UKIP. Guy Debord’s Cat has written about this over on his blog, if you want further information.

The book also places Mary Whitehouse, the moral crusader, who became the scourge of broadcasters from the 1960s onwards. Whitehouse is still a notorious figure today for her campaign against all manner of smut and filth on television with her group, the Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association. A year or so ago there was a book about her and her correspondence with the Corporation, Ban This Filth. Mills states that she is looked upon as an eccentric figure. Misguided, but essentially harmless. This isn’t quite the case.

Whitehouse was linked the Tories, and a friend of Maggie Thatcher. She and they thought that there was a plot by a left-wing elite to foist all this degeneracy and moral chaos on the British public. It’s a view that’s now become firmly established within the Right. And there was a very strong political dimension to her campaign. She believed that the liberal elite wanted to create sexual permissiveness and anarchy in preparation for a state of political anarchy, in which the fundamental institutions of British society would be torn down. And like many a bonkers conspiracy theorist, she was convinced that this was all being coordinated by Moscow. These days she’d probably be on Infowars with Alex Jones, along with nutters frothing about imaginary satanic paedophile rings operating out of Boston pizza parlours by Hillary Clinton, and those who think that the government is run by a secret cabal of aliens from Zeta Reticuli.

As for her views about political anarchism, this was also held by MI5, much to the amusement of the real anarchists in the Anarchist Federation. See one of the pieces on modern anarchism in the anthology of anarchist literature, Anarchism, edited by George Woodcock.

The book concludes that Reith’s vision of the Beeb’s role was the same as that as Matthew Arnold, the headmaster of Rugby, in his book Culture and Anarchy. The alienated laboring poor were to be incorporated into the culture and political structure of British society, but firmly under the leadership of the upper classes. The brief period when British society and the BBC had become more egalitarian due to rising affluence and the economic and social changes of the 1960s, has disappeared. This is partly due to the collapse of Communism. There is now no longer an exterior threat demanding that certain concessions be made to the working and lower middle classes, so that they don’t become too radicalized. Neoliberalism has increased poverty and jobs are precarious. At the same time, power has become more distanced and centralized amongst a powerful coterie of Oxbridge-educated managers. And just as this has occurred in industry and wider British society, so it as has also occurred in the Beeb.

This is an important study of the Beeb’s institutional right-wing, pro-Establishment bias. It’s another refutation of the Beeb’s repeated, and increasingly spurious claims of impartiality. Since Corbyn became leader, more people have become aware of how hypocritical and specious these claims are. It’s why more people are getting their news and information from the internet, and sites you can really trust. Sites like Vox Political, Tom Pride, Johnny Void, Another Angry Voice, DPAC, Kitty S. Jones, the Canary, the Squawkbox, Guy Debord’s Cat, Tony Greenstein and others too numerous to mention.

These people convey real news, and their under threat from the big corporations Google and Facebook, who only want you to view and read approved corporate, neoliberal propaganda. It’s why they’re demonetizing left-wing news shows like Democracy Now, The Young Turks, the David Pakman Show, Secular Talk and Sam Seder’s Majority Report, and changing the rules on Facebook to make it difficult for people to access the left-wing blogs.

Don’t let them get away with this. Support your favourite left-wing blogs and news shows.

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Wartime Conference on Science, Philosophy, Religion and Democracy

March 12, 2017

I found a copy of the 1942 book, Science, Philosophy and Religion: Second Symposium, over a decade ago now in a secondhand bookshop in Totnes in Devon. As the above title page states, this comes from a conference on science, philosophy and religion and their relation to the democratic way of life, held in New York in 1942. The conference was held at Columbia University and was the successor to the first symposium, held a year earlier. The book was a collection of papers by leading members of the above disciplines, edited by Lyman Bryson and Louis Finkelstein. These were intended to show how these areas of research and experience supported democracy against the advance of the totalitarian regimes in Europe.

The volume has the following contents

I Democracy’s Challenge to the Scientist, by Caryl P. Haskins;
II Democracy and the Natural Science, Karl F. Herzfeld;
III Some Comments on Science and Faith, Hudson Hoagland;
IV The Comparative Study of Culture of the Purposive Cultivation of Democratic Values, by Margaret Mead;
V The Basis for Faith in Democracy, Max Schoen.
VI Pragmatism, Religion and Education, John L. Childs;
VII Liberal Education and Democracy;
VIII A Philosophy of Democratic Defense, Charles Hartshorne;
IX The Role of Law in a Democracy, Frank E. Horack, Jr.
X Pluralism and Intellectual Democracy;
XI, Empiricism, Religion and Democracy, Charles W. Morris;
XII Philosophical Implications of the Prevalent Conception of Democracy;
XIII The Spiritual Basis of Democracy, by the Princeton Group;
XIV Thomism and Democracy, by Yves R. Simon.
XV Democracy and the Rights of Man, Paul Weiss.
XVI The Stake of Art in the Present Crisis, George Boas.
XVIII An Approach to the Study of History, William G. Constable;
XIX Literature and the Present Crisis, Joseph Wood Krutch.
XX How Long is the Emergency, Mark Van Doren.
XXI Democratic Culture in the Light of Modern Poetry.
XXII Democratic Aspirations in Talmudic Judaism, Ben Zion Bokser.
XXIII Democracy in the Hebrew-Christian Tradition; Old and New Testaments, Millar Burrows;
XXIV Christianity and Democracy from the Point of View of Systematic Christian Theology, Nels F.S. Ferre;
XXV Philosophical Foundations of Religion and Democracy, Willliam O’Meara;
XXVI The Patristic Christian Ethos and Democracy, Albert C. Outler.

There is also a section of addresses. These are

I The Faith and Philosophy of Democratic Government, A.A. Berle, Jr.
II The Function of Law in a Democratic Society, Charles E. Clark.
III The Artist and the Democratic Way of Life, Walter Pach.
IV Democracy in Our Times, M.L. Wilson.
V The Religious Background of Democratic Ideas, Simon Greenberg, Clarence Mannion, Luther A. Weigle.

I’ve dug it out again as I believe very strongly that this symposium and its wisdom is needed again with the current stagnation of democracy and the rise of Trump in America, UKIP in Britain and the parties of the extreme right in Europe. The basis of democracy in the West has been gradually undermined over the last 30-odd years, ever since the election of Thatcher and Reagan. Successive governments in Britain and America have been determined to work for the benefit of rich, corporate paymasters against the poor and middle class. There has been a massive redistribution of wealth upwards, as welfare services have been slashed and outsourced, industries privatised and closed down, and public utilities sold off. As wages have stagnated, the corporate elite have seen their pay grossly inflated. Their taxes have been cut, while those for the poor have actually been increased.

As a result of this concentration on the demands of corporate political donors, recent studies by Harvard University and the Economist have concluded that America is no longer a full democracy. It is a ‘flawed democracy’, or even oligarchy.

At the same time governments in Britain and America have also supported the massive expansion of the surveillance state under the pretext of countering terrorism. At the same time, the rights of workers to strike, and ordinary people to protest, have been curtailed. David Cameron’s Tory administration tried to introduce a series of reforms to block street demonstrations and protests under the guise of preventing residents for suffering the nuisance caused by them.

We also have Tory and Republican administrations that insist that only their view of history should be taught in schools. Michael Gove a few years ago made a ridiculous speech complaining about the ‘Blackadder’ view of the First World War taught in schools, while the educational authorities in Arizona withdrew studies of slavery and the civil rights movement from the school syllabus. Instead, pupils in that state were to be taught the speeches of Ronald Reagan.

Donald Trump’s administration is overtly anti-immigration, particularly of Latinos and Muslims. It includes members of the Alt Right, like Steve Bannon and Curtis Ellis, who hold bitterly racist views. Many of Trump’s supporters are White supremacists and Nazis. UKIP and Brexit in Britain have also led to an increase in racism and racist violence against ethnic minorities. At the same time, these movements have also promoted hatred towards gays and the transgendered. And similar movements are attempting to take power or increase their gains across Europe, from Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France, the Alternative Fuer Deutschland in Germany, Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement in Italy, Jobbik in Hungary, and other extreme right-wing parties in Switzerland, Austria and Scandinavia.

Democracy, tolerance, pluralism and the rights of the poor are under threat. The threat in America and western Europe isn’t as overt and violent as it was when the Fascists seized power from the 1920s onwards. But it is there, and desperately needs to be resisted.

Vox Political on Yet Another Anti-Semitism Smear against Jackie Walker

September 29, 2016

I was starting to think that maybe I wouldn’t have to write many more pieces about the anti-Semitism allegations in the Labour party after my last post, which reported that Mike has his book out, The Livingstone Presumption, which soundly refutes them. In the same piece in which he announces the publication of his book, Mike also discusses an article by Michael Segalov, who roundly denied that Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters were anti-Semites. Mr Segalov pointed out that the people, who put their lives and their bodies on the line time and again to protect Jews and their religion, were left-wingers, including Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters. He made the point that the real anti-Semites were the Nazis, who have no qualms of spouting their filth and making the Nazi salute right in your face. Smearing genuine anti-racists like Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters as anti-Semites devalues the word and its ability to protect Jews from those, who really wish them harm.

Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum against Real Nazism

This is all entirely correct. As I blogged yesterday, it’s been my experience too that the people, who took ant-racism very seriously and went on the marches and demos against racist and Nazi organisations were left-wingers like Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in Momentum. And there are all too genuine Nazi organisations in Britain today. One is National Action, which openly spouts conspiracist nonsense about the Jews trying to destroy the White race using Blacks, and whose members will make the Nazi salute and chant ‘Sieg heil!’ during their rallies. There’s also a miniscule National Socialist Party, who are exactly what their name suggests they are: Nazis. A few years ago there was a furore about their meeting in a pub near Bristol. Somehow the organisation had managed to book it to hold a meeting. I think they used a false name. On the day, they were there in full Nazi regalia, complete with flags. The neighbours were disgusted, properly made complaints, and the whole incident ended up on the local news. This included photos and footage of the event, showing the flags. And they were the proper, vile thing.

Jackie Walker Accused Yet Again of Anti-Semitism

Unfortunately, members of the Blairite Labour party hierarchy don’t seem to have got the message that Momentum and its members aren’t anti-Semites, and that the real threat is showing itself quite openly in the shape of National Action and the National Socialist Party. According to a story in today’s Guardian, Jackie Walker, the vice-chair of Momentum has faced calls to resign after she made ‘insensitive’ comments at a Labour party training day on anti-Semitism. She ‘incorrectly’ criticised Holocaust Memorial Day for commemorating only Jews, and is quoted as saying

“In terms of Holocaust day, wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust day was open to all people who experienced holocaust?”

She also took issue with the definition of anti-Semitism used at the training day, and is also accused of questioning the need for Jewish organisations, including schools to have so much security to protect them from attack. Walker has made a statement denying she said this, and apologising for any offence she might have given.

Definitions of Anti-Semitism

Mike in his comments on the case begins by stating that he also appeared at an event marking Holocaust Memorial Day, where he read a piece about the Shoah by the German playwright Peter Weiss. He states he makes an attempt at defining anti-Semitism in his book, but also gives a 7-point definition of it by David Schneider. Roughly summed up, this says that you might by an anti-Semite if you don’t make a distinction between Jews and Israel, hold Jews responsible for all the atrocities committed by Israel unless they explicitly say otherwise, and believe in the stupid conspiracy theories about the Jews having control of capitalism, the government and the BBC in order to control the world. Mr Schneider says of the latter that if they have control of the Beeb, no-one’s yet told him. Which makes me wonder if David Schneider is the actor and comedian, who has been a frequent star on a number of shows, such as the spoof news programme, The Day Today, and Alan Partridge, where he played the TV host’s boss.

Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone Not Anti-Semites

Mike also makes the point that Naz Shah’s suspension has been lifted, and only one of the tweets on which the accusation against her were made could reasonably be construed as anti-Semitic. As for Red Ken, they are based on ignorance of history and taking the original comments out of context. He also makes the point that Rhea Wolfson had her bid to join the NEC voted down by her constituency Labour party by Jim Murphy, because she was a member of Momentum, who were anti-Semites. Mike makes the point that it’s amazing how people could believe that an organisation full of anti-Semites would want to see Mrs Wolfson, a Jew, promoted to the party’s governing body.

Mike’s absolutely right. They wouldn’t. The real, Nazi anti-Semites are all about keeping Jews as far away from power as possible, following all that rubbish they believe of the Jewish conspiracy to destroy the Aryan race.

Wilhelm Marr and Anti-Semitism

If you want a short definition of anti-Semitism, try the one from the person, who first coined the term in the 19th century, Wilhelm Marr. Marr was an anti-Semite, and the founder of the Bund der Antisemiten, the League of Anti-Semites, if I recall correctly. He defined anti-Semitism as the hatred of Jews simply for being Jews, regardless of Judaism as a religion. The stupid conspiracy theories that have grown up around them are basically an elaboration of that, roughly based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious forgery drawn up by the Tsarist secret police, the Okhrana, to persuade Nicholas II to persecute the Jews more savagely in the Russian Empire.

Why Security in Britain?

Mike also makes the point that the Groan’s article does give the definition of anti-Semitism that was made at the event. He also says he is confused about the need for Jewish organisations here to have high security, as the reason given was the example of the attack in Toulouse. This is in France, and the French government has been criticised for failing to protect its citizens, not just Jews. And he also makes another, very good point, that Mrs Walker’s accusers have also shown their insensitivity in not considering the harm they’re doing.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/29/another-anti-semitism-row-that-completely-misses-the-point/

Another Politically Motivated Smear

I think Mike’s right when he observes that the paper doesn’t supply the definition of anti-Semitism the party used at its training day. In fact, I think there is a lot that this article isn’t telling us. And it seems to me that this is yet another attempt to smear Mrs Walker as an anti-Semite, which is itself part of a wider campaign to purge politically liberal Jews from positions of leadership as part of a Neocon agenda.

Israel’s Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinians

If you remember, Mrs Walker was accused of anti-Semitism previously, because she had dared to criticise Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and state, quite correctly, that other peoples had also experienced their own holocausts. Both of these statements are exactly true. Israel has been and is pursuing a policy of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians. It has been abundantly documented by courageous Jewish scholars like Ilan Pappe and Norman Finkelstein. I even found a copy of Pappe’s book on it, whose title calls it what it is, in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham.

The Holocaust and Other Genocides

As for other nations also having suffered their own genocides, the great Afro-American historian and one of the founders of the modern civil rights movement, W.E.B. Dubois, stated that the transatlantic slave trade had caused ‘a holocaust in central Africa’. The extent of the devastation inflicted on the African population by the slave trade is a subject of debate, and many historians of the slave trade would take issue with Dubois’ statement. But nevertheless, that is how many Blacks see the slave trade and its effects on Africa, not unjustifiably. And the campaigns to exterminate the First Nations of North and South America, beginning with the genocide of the Taino in the Caribbean, by European settlers is notorious. If you want to read about the genocide of the Amerindians in America, try the classic Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. There have also been campaign to wipe out Aboriginal Australians following the British invasion of that country, and a long string of other crimes against humanity, including the ethnic butchery following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans, culminating in the Armenian Massacres and the Day of the Sword against the Christian population in the Empire’s Middle Eastern territories. Not to mention the horrific persecutions after the Second World War, such as the invasion of East Timor, Pol Pot in Cambodia, the Rwandan genocide and Bosnia during the break up of the former Yugoslavia.

The Guardian article states that

Holocaust Memorial Day is intended to commemorate all victims of the Nazi Holocaust, and other genocides, including atrocities in Bosnia and Rwanda.

Neocon Attacks against Jews Universalising the Holocaust

I wonder if that attitude was being seriously followed at the Labour party training day. It’s certainly the attitude of the older, mainstream Jewish organisations, but more recently this universalising of the Holocaust has come under attack from the Neocon right. For example, one of the rightwing Canadian blogs is Five Feet of Fury, run by Kathy Shaidle. Shaidle’s blog is pro-privatisation. She attacked the 2012 British Olympic opening ceremony because it celebrate the NHS, which she and the other Republicans and High Tories desperately, and openly wanted to see sold off. She was rabidly anti-Muslim, and despite indigenous Canadians. She also hated Bernie Farber, the head of the main Jewish organisation in Canada, and those she derided as ‘official Jews’. In one of her rants against Mr Farber, she attacked him precisely because he had universalised the Holocaust. This was at the time of the Darfur massacres. Mr Farber and his organisation had launched a ‘Shabbat for Darfur’. This was a ‘sabbath’ in the sense of a day of fasting and prayer. Mr Farber and the other organisers explicitly connected the genocide now being suffered by the people of Darfur, with that of other victims of similarly massacres, and the Holocaust of the Jewish people in the Third Reich.

For most decent people, whether they’re Jews or not, Mr Farber’s stance was noble and honourable. He represented a victimised, persecuted people, standing up on behalf of all victimised peoples, to demand an end to the genocide of yet another suffering people. Shaidle, however, had nothing but scorn for Mr Farber, his organisation, and proposed Shabbat. She was outraged that the Holocaust was to be universalised. In her opinion, it was an event unique to the Jewish people, and should be regarded as such. She also sneered at Mr Farber and his organisation for concentrating on the threat to Jews from White Nazi organisations, and ignoring, or downplaying, the threat from militant Islam. The blog is also vehemently Zionist, regularly attacking the Palestinians as terrorists, and defending Israel’s annexation and occupation of the West Bank.

I don’t know how many readers Shaidle’s blog has. Possibly not many, but I don’t think she was alone in her views. The Tories over here definitely want to privatise the health service, as very many people have pointed out, including Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis in NHS-SOS, and I’ve also written my own pamphlet about it, Privatisation: Killing the NHS, which is available at Lulu. Similar attacks on Islam and the mainstream Jewish organisations have also been made by Ezra Levant, a journalist and presenter on a minor right-wing cable TV station in Canada.

The Manipulation of the Commemoration of the Holocaust by Zionism

One of Prof. Norman Finkelstein’s most controversial works is his The Holocaust Industry. Prof. Finkestein wrote it a few years ago, tracing the emergence of an industry exploiting the memory of this most heinous crime from Israel’s victories over the Arabs at the end of the 1960s. He makes the case that the Holocaust has been deliberately exploited by Zionist organisations as a way of creating public support for Israel. I’ll make it very plain here to avoid any misunderstanding: Professor Finkelstein is not a Holocaust denier. He is the son of parents, who managed to survive the horror. Hence, I think, his outrage at the way its memory has been exploited for narrow political gains and the ethnic cleansing of another people.

Using the Holocaust to Justify the Occupation of Palestine

There was an example of the kind of political exploiting Prof. Finkelstein describes about a week ago. Counterpunch wrote an article criticising Binyamin Netanyahu, after he made a speech declaring that he would not halt or recall the colonisation of the West Bank by Israeli settlers, because this would violate their civil rights. And he, or one of his cabinet, invoked the Holocaust once again to justify Israel’s colonisation of the Occupied Territories. It’s disgusting to see one of the most horrific crimes of the 20th century used in a piece of twisted rhetoric to justify the persecution and dispossession of another people.

This is what makes me suspicious that there is more behind this latest smear against Jackie Walker. Despite the Groan’s protestations, there are Zionists, who would like the Shoah seen as an exclusively Jewish tragedy and resent its extension to cover the victims of other, similar crimes against humanity. It looks to me that Mrs Walker has been censured, precisely because she did universalise it and has criticised its political use by the Israel lobby.

Jackie Walker’s Black, Jewish and Anti-Racist Heritage and Activism

As for her ‘insensitivity’, I give that the same about of credence I give to the allegations against her of anti-Semitism. Mrs Walker is half-Jewish. Her mother was a Black civil rights activist, who was thrown out of America because of her activism. Her father was a Russian Jew, and so therefore probably knew more than most about real anti-Semitic persecution. She has made it clear that she has always fought against racism and anti-Semitism, and with her heritage, I do not think there are any grounds for doubting her at all. She has also stated that her partner is Jewish, and said in an interview that their family had not spoken to her after the allegations were made. This must clearly have caused her distress, so I think her accusers should be called up on their insensitivity and the emotional distress they have caused her.

The Jews and Other Victims of the Nazis

As for Walker’s own ‘insensitivity’, from the sound of it, she asked a reasonable question at a time when at least some Zionists are trying to deny the universalisation of the Holocaust, and manipulate its memory to support their own ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. It’s a disgusting attitude that insults the memory of those who suffered and perished in the Shoah. And it wasn’t just Jews, who perished in the Nazi camps. The Roma – the Gypsies, who are even now persecuted in central and eastern Europe, were also targeted for extermination by the Nazis as untermenschen, subhumans. As also were the Slavic peoples of eastern Europe – the Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Czechs and Slovaks, who were to be reduced to illiterate peasants supplying the Reich with agricultural goods, when not forced off their homelands for German colonisation and worked to death as slave labourers. And historians of the Reich have pointed out that the Nazis began their extermination campaign against the Jews with their odious Aktion T4 ‘euthanasia’ programme against the disabled. I was taught at school that altogether 11 1/2 million people died in the Nazi camps. The majority of these – six million – were Jews, but in addition to these victims there were 5 1/2 others, who included not just the aforementioned peoples, but also political prisoners – Socialists, trade unionists, Communists, anti-Nazi Conservatives, such as Konrad Adenauer, West Germany’s first president after the War. It certainly should not be out of the question why these victims are also not given their due commemoration along with the Jews, with whom they were enslaved and perished.

More Hatred against Muslims than Jews in France and Britain?

I also don’t think Mrs Walker was at all out of order when she asked why Jewish organisations, including schools, needed so much high security. I am not complacent about anti-Semitic hate crime against them. The threat of Daesh is very real, as is the murderous buffoons of National Action and the National Socialist Party and related sects. But if the situation in France is comparable to that of England, then Jews are much less likely to suffer hate crime from mainstream British society than Muslims. One of the reasons the French government was keener to protect Muslims from hate crime than Jews, was because more French people considered the Jews to be French than felt that way about Muslims. In polls, only about 5 per cent of French people said that they did not consider Jews really French. While that’s clearly troubling, it’s also somewhat reassuring as it says that 95 per cent of all French people consider Jews to be French. The number of French people, who don’t consider Muslims to be French, is much higher. My guess is the situation in Britain is probably similar, and that more mainstream Brits consider Jews to be properly British than they consider Muslims.

Muslims Also Victims of Islamist Terrorism

Al-Qaeda and Daesh also do not limit themselves to killing only Jews. They kill and maim all Brits, including Muslims. That was abundantly shown in the 7/7 bombings. It was also shown earlier this week, when a young man, who had fallen under their influence, was found guilty of murdering the imam at his local mosque. The imam performed healing rituals using amulets. While this is common in parts of Islam, it is condemned by Daesh. The man was described as ‘self-radicalised’, and had come under their influence through the net. Motivated by the Islamic States sectarian intolerance towards other Muslims, he attacked and killed the imam. Just like Daesh are butchering other Muslims in Iraq and Syria, for having the temerity to hold different views about what it means to be a member of the ‘umma, the Muslim community. Muslims are as at risk from their attacks as the rest of British society.

High Security Imprisoning British Jews and Black Americans?

I think also think that Mrs Walker’s question was justified following remarks about the amount of security around Black schools in America. The left-wing internet news and politics show, The Young Turks, had a piece the other day comparing Black American schools with prisons because of the amount of security. Mrs Walker, as a woman of colour, may well have been worried that the Jewish community was also going to suffer from the same imprisonment behind walls of security designed to protect them. After all, the article states that she was particularly worried about schools, such as that attended by her daughter. While the reasons for the security are different for Black and Jewish communities – its their to protect Jews from attack by outsiders, while it’s present in Black schools to protect the children from the violent criminality that plagues many poor communities – Mrs Walker may well have been worried that the sociological and psychological effect would be the same. If that is the case, then she asked a reasonable question with only the best intentions at heart.

Jackie Walker Smeared; They Owe Us an Explanation

It is therefore my belief that the truly wronged party in this instance is Mrs Walker. This seems to be yet another attempt to smear her character as part of a campaign by the Israel lobby against the country’s critics. As I said, it looks like there is a concerted neocon campaign to make sure that only Zionists have ownership of the memorialisation of the Holocaust, to the exclusion of more liberal voices from the rest of the Jewish community. And I can understand Mrs Walker’s opposition to seeing the Jewish community and its schoolchildren walled off from everyone else behind high security. I feel dismayed by the amount of security schools generally have to maintain, with locked gates, though I well appreciate the need to protect our young people from those, who would do them harm.

I think rather than Mrs Walker being queried and investigated for anti-Semitism and ‘insensitivity’, it is the anonymous organisers of this training day, who deserve to give the rest of the Labour party, both Jews and gentiles, an explanation.

For Netanyahu’s grotesque invocation of ‘human rights’ to justify the ongoing colonisation of the West Bank, see the Counterpunch article ‘The Human Rights of the Settler’, by Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini, at http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/09/13/the-human-rights-of-the-settler/

Solidarity Pamphlet on Bolsheviks’ Destruction of Workers’ Control in Russian Revolution

September 24, 2016

bolsheviks-workers-control

Maurice Brinton, The Bolsheviks and Workers’ Control/ 1917-1921/ The State and Counter-Revolution (London: Solidarity 1970).

I picked this short book – 89 pages – in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham. Solidarity were a libertarian Communist group that believed that the workers should operate and manage the means of production. In their statement of beliefs at the back of the book, they state in point 9 ‘We do not accept the view that by itself the working class can only achieve a trade union consciousness.’ (p. 89). This is a direct contradiction of Lenin’s belief, firmly expressed in his 1905 pamphlet, What Is To Be Done?, that the workers could only achieve trade union consciousness, and needed to be led to Socialism by a group of dedicated revolutionaries. The book itself states that it is a work of history, which intends to show how the Bolsheviks betrayed the revolution of 1917 by suppressing the movement for workers’ control in the factories and the workers’, soldiers’ and peasants’ soviets.

The Revolution had begun when Russia’s working people rose up against Tsarism and the Kerensky government that replaced it. They formed factory committees which took over the management of the factories to various degrees in industry, and formed the soviets – councils – of working people across Russia, which formed a parallel system of popular government to that of the duma, the Russian parliament. Communist historiography has presented Lenin as fully behind these developments. He passed a decree stating that ‘workers’ control is established in the factories’ and praised the soviets, proclaiming the slogan, ‘All Power to the Workers’ Soviets’. The conventional historical view states that the workers were in fact unable to run industry, and so the government was forced to reintroduce the entrepreneurs, managers and technicians that the workers had previously turfed out of the factory gates in wheelbarrows.

This pamphlet shows that the opposite was true. From initially supporting them as a bulwark against the return of capitalism, and a necessary precondition for the nationalisation of industry, Lenin turned to active dislike and opposition, but was forced to support them for reasons of expediency. Lenin, Trotsky and their faction in the Bolsheviks really wanted Russian industry to be managed by a state bureaucracy, with a single person in command of individual factories and enterprises. Lenin adopted the slogan to present himself and his faction as fully behind the soviet revolution, while doing everything he could behind the scenes to reduce this to a mere slogan. Their practical strategy for destroying the factory committees involved incorporating them into the trade unions. These had always been under political control in Russia, partly through necessity as for most of the time they were illegal. The Bolsheviks in turn transformed these from popular organisations to campaign for better wages and conditions, to instruments of the Bolshevik party to discipline and organise Russian labour, so that it obeyed the state and the managers. It was the trade unions that set wages and determined working conditions. At the same time as they were being absorbed by the unions, the committees were gradually stripped over their powers until they were finally dissolved following the Kronstadt rebellion, which was intended to restore democracy to the Revolution by overthrowing Bolshevik rule. The Bolsheviks were also actively destroying democracy throughout the system of government and industrial management by gradually removing elections and replacing them with political appointments. As part of this, the trade unions could elect their members to the various Bolshevik political organs, but this became subject to the party’s veto. Candidates elected by the unions not approved by Lenin and his faction could be blocked.

This resulted in the construction of the totalitarian, monolithic Soviet state, while industry saw the removal of workers’ power and the return of the very industrialists and entrepreneurs, who had been overthrown. Indeed, after the failure of authoritarian ‘war communism’, with its forced requisitions of food from the peasantry during the Civil War, 1921 saw the limited return of capitalism itself in the establishment of a private sector as part of the New Economic Policy.

Not all of the Bolsheviks were in favour of this policy, and Lenin, Trotsky and their faction faced bitter opposition from a series of groups and individuals within the party, including Preobrazhensky, Osinsky, Bukharin and Alexandra Kollontai, in the ‘Democratic Centralists’ and ‘Left Communists’. Despite their efforts, theirs was a losing battle and in the end they were fighting a series of rearguard actions to preserve the last vestiges of the factory committees and the autonomy of the trade unions.

Outside the party, the Bolsheviks also faced opposition from anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists, who also wished to preserve the factory committees from attacks from the party and the trade unions. The booklet discusses the increasing mass arrests of these, and the closure of a range of anarchist newspapers and magazines, such as Burevestnik, Anarkhia and Golos Truda (Workers’ Voice). The final demands of the Left Communists for trade union autonomy and its management of industry was also denounced by Lenin as ‘anarcho-syndicalist deviation’.

Apart from its description of the way the Bolsheviks overturned the founding principles of the revolution, supplanting control and management by the workers themselves, with a system of control and management by the party, its functionaries, and returned capitalist businessmen in the name of the workers, the pamphlet’s also interesting for discussing the various literature produced by the revolutionaries and their plans for instituting practical system of workers’ control. For example, the Exploratory Conference of Factory Committees of Petrograd War Industries, convened on April 2nd, 1917, issued the proclamations that

From the Factory Committee should emanate all instructions concerning internal factory organisation (i.e. instructions concerning such mattes as hours of work, wages, hiring and firing, holidays, etc.) The factory manager to be kept notified…

The whole administrative personnel (management at all levels and technicians) is taken on with the consent of the Factory Committee which has to notify the workers of its decisions at mass meetings of the whole factory or through shop committees…

The Factory committee controls managerial activity in the administrative, economic and technical fields … representatives of the Factory Committee must be provided, for information, with all official documents of the management, production budgets and details of all times entering or leaving the factory … (p.2).

The Kharkov Conference of Factory Committees, held on May 29th that same year, declared that the committees should become

organs of the Revolution… aiming at consolidating its victories. The Factory Committees must take over production, protect it, develop it. They must fix wages, look after hygiene, control the technical quality of products, decree all internal factory regulations and determine solutions all conflicts. (p.4).

The Second Conference of Factory Committees of Petrograd, held at the Smolny Institute from the 7th-12th August, also stipulated that

‘All decrees of Factory Committees’ were compulsory ‘for the factory administration as well as for the workers and employees – until such time as those decrees were abolished by the Committee itself, or by the Central Soviet of Factory Committees’. The pamphlet states that

the committees were to meet regularly during working working hours. Meetings were to be held on days designated by the Committees themselves. Members of the Committees were to receive full pay – from the employers – while on Committee business. Notice to the appropriate administrative personnel was to be deemed sufficient to free a member of the Factory Committee from work so that he might fulfil his obligations to the Committee. In the periods between meetings, selected members of the Factory Committees were to occupy premises, within the factory, at which they could receive information from the workers and employees. Factory administrations were to provide funds ‘for the maintenance of the Committees and the conduct of their affairs’. Factory Committees were to have ‘control over the composition of the administration and the right to dismiss all those who could not guarantee normal relations with the workers or who were incompetent for other reasons’. ‘All administrative factory personnel can only into service with the consent of the Factory Committee, which must declare its (sic!) hirings at a General Meeting of all the factory or through departmental or workshop committees. The ‘internal organisation’ of the factory (working time, wages, holidays, etc.) was also to be determined by the Factory Committees. Factory Committees were to have their own press and were ‘to inform the workers and employees of the enterprise concerning their resolutions by posting an announcement in conspicuous place’. (pp. 8-9).

The Wikipedia entry on Solidarity states that the group was always small, but played a disproportionately large role in the industrial disputes of the 1970s and the campaign for workers’ control and management in industry. The system of complete workers’ control set up during the Russian Revolution is far too extreme to be popular in Britain, at least at present and the foreseeable future. Worker’s involvement in management has still been put back on the agenda, even if in a half-hearted way by Theresa May, no doubt as a calculated deception. The pamphlet itself remains a fascinating description of this optimistic movement in Russian revolutionary history, and its betrayal by the Communist party, and is an important corrective to the standard view that workers’ control was fully supported by them.

Vox Political: Cameron Wants £1.5 Million for his Memoirs

September 21, 2016

On Monday Mike put up a piece commenting on the news that David Cameron is expected to send off a synopsis of his book to the publishers later this week. He’s hope to get a cool £1.5 million for them. He was hoping to get £4 million, following on from Blair’s £4.5 million and Maggie Thatcher’s £3.5 million. However, he’s been told he’ll probably get much less because they had interest from America, while Cameron’s much less well-known over there. Plus Brexit has cast a shadow over his six years at Number 10. He expects the book to be out by autumn 2017. In the meantime, he is also set to rake in £50,000 an hour as an after-dinner speaker.

Mike comments that it’s good money for bad rubbish, and that he could write a better book on the former P.M. by stringing old Vox Political articles together. As for his after dinner speeches, Mike reckons that a whoopee cushion would be better value and more fun.

Cameron ‘to earn £1.5m from memoirs’? Good money for bad rubbish, I say

Private Eye has from time to time run an occasional column, ‘Remainders of the Day’, on their books pages. This is about books that have been massively overhyped, or their writers offered extremely generous advances, only to subsequently flop and end up in book sales or remaindered at far less than their authors and publishers were hoping for. Several of those were by front bench politicians, whose estimation of themselves weren’t matched by that of the general public. The magazine also covered the various other New Labour politicians, who were hoping to get massive advances and sales with their memoires after Blair published his. I think one of these was Peter Mandelson. However, they were all disappointed, as some of them had very little to add, and simply weren’t as interesting or held a sufficiently important post to make their account of life and politics worth reading.

And one of those, who has found that the public really aren’t at all interested in reading about her, is Hillary Clinton. Last weekend she published her book, which only sold 3,000 copies. I know for many struggling authors, 3,000 copies is a lot, but for the current contender for the presidency in a country the size of the US, it’s tiny. Secular Talks’ Kyle Kulinski commented that publishers expect sales of the book on the first weekend to form 1/3 of the total. Thus Shrillary is looking at selling 9,000 copies. So it’s probably fair to say that you can expect to see more of her book appearing in dump bins and bargain bookshops all over the Land of the Free and also Britain, when it comes out here. And I fully expect Cameron’s book will suffer the same fate.

Still, there may be some powerful political insights in Cameron’s memoirs, though these will undoubtedly be gained more from disregarding Cameron’s own judgement, and taking them as an example of what not to do when in power. How about calling it How I created Mass Poverty and Broke Up My Country?, in the same way that Dr. Strangelove was subtitled ‘How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’.

The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills

July 16, 2016

Body Economic Pic

By David Stuckler, MPH, PhD, and Sanjay Basu, MD, PhD (New York: Basic Books 2013)

This is another book I picked up in the £3 bookshop in Bristol’s Park Street the other day. Written by two American health researchers, it examines the way economic recessions and austerity affect people’s health from the Great Recession of the 1930s, the Fall of Communism, Greece and Iceland, and today’s recession, which began with the banking collapse in 2008. The authors are medical researchers, whose own experience of poverty and ill health has led them to examine its effect on entire societies. They conclude that while recessions often lead to high – frequently devastatingly high outbreaks of disease and mortality, what is really crucial is the state’s handling of them. In countries which have a strong welfare state, and are determined to invest into getting their citizens back into work, such as Denmark in the 1990s, public health may actually improve. And as public health improves, the economy begins to pick up. In countries where the opposite is true – where the state just cuts, and is intent on dismantling the welfare infrastructure, like Greece and Cameron’s (and May’s) Britain, the result is higher disease and mortality.

As well as giving the impersonal stats, they also illustrate the damaging effects of austerity on public health through personal case studies. These include ‘Olivia’, a little girl, who suffered terrible burns when her unemployed father tried to burn their house down in a drunken rage, and an elderly Greek man, Dimitris Christoulas. Unable to see any way out of his poverty, he publicly shot himself outside the Greek parliament building.

One of the victims of austerity mentioned in the very first pages of the book is Brian McArdle, a severely disabled man, who was nevertheless declared ‘fit for work by ATOS. Basu and Stuckler write

‘”I will never forgive them,” wrote thirteen-year-old Kieran McArdle to the Daily Record, a national newspaper based in Glasgow. “I won’t be able to come to terms with my dad’s death until I get justice for him.”

Kieran’s father, fifty-seven-year-old Brian, had worked as a security guard in Lanarkshire, near Glasgow. The day after Christmas 2011, Brian had a stroke, which left him paralyzed on his left side, blind in one eye, and unable to speak. He could no longer continue working to support his family, so he signed up for disability income from the British government.

That government, in the hands of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron since the 2010 elections, would prove no friend to the McArdles. Cameron claimed that hundreds of thousands of Britons were cheating the government’s disability system. The Department for Work and Pensions begged to differ. It estimated that less than 1 percent of disability benefit funds went to people who were not genuinely disabled.

Still, Cameron proceeded to cut billions of pounds from welfare benefits including support for the disabled. To try to meet Cameron’s targets, the Department for Work and Pensions hired Atos, a private French “systems integration” firm. Atos billed the government £400 million to carry out medical evaluations of people receiving disability benefits.

Kieran’s father was scheduled for an appointment to complete Atos’ battery of “fitness for work” tests. He was nervous. Since his stroke, he had trouble walking, and was worried about how his motorized wheelchair would get up the stairs to his appointment, as he had learned that about a quarter of Atos’s disability evaluations took place in buildings that were not wheelchair accessible. “Even though my dad had another stroke just days before his assessment, he was determined to go,” said Kieran. “He tried his best to walk and talk because he was a very proud man.”

Brian did manage to reach Atos’s evaluation site, and after the evaluation, made his way home. A few weeks later, his family received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions. The family’s Employment and Support Allowance benefits were being stopped. Atos had found Brian “fit for work”. The next day he collapsed and died.

It was hard for us, as public health researchers, to understand the government’s position. The Department for Work and Pensions, after all, considered cheating a relative minor issue. The total sum of disability fraud for “conditions of entitlement” was £2 million, far less than the contract to hire Atos, and the department estimated that greater harm resulted from the accidental underpayment of £70 million each year. But the government’s fiscal ideology had created the impetus for radical cuts. (Pp. 3-4).

I don’t know whether Mr McArdle was one of those, whose deaths has been commemorated by Stilloaks on his blog, or whether his case was one of those which Cameron and aIDS laughed at when they were read out in parliament. But is notable that such cases are coming to the attention of health researchers and medical doctors, and are a cause of serious academic and medical concern.

Stilloaks, Mike, DPAC, the Angry Yorkshireman and very many other disability activists have covered individual cases, and the way the ‘fitness for work’ tests have been fiddled by Atos and now their successors, Maximus, in order to provide the pretext for throwing the vulnerable off benefits. Mike’s called it ‘Chequebook Genocide’. Jeff3, one of the great long-term commenters on this blog, refers to it as the Tories’ Aktion T4 – the Nazi’s extermination of the disabled during the Third Reich. There have been about 490 cases in which people have died of starvation, neglect and despair thanks to be thrown off welfare. And according to mental health profession, about 290,000 or so people have seen their mental health deteriorate – sometimes very severely – due to the stress of these tests.

Books like this show how counterproductive such austerity policies are, as well as their purely destructive effects on human life. But this will not be heeded by the Tories, nor by the baying, right-wing rabble who blindly follow them. They want to grind the poor even further into the dirt, to create an impoverished, desperate working class willing to take on any kind of work, no matter how low-paid, not-paid – think of all the unpaid ‘internships’ – and degrading. All so they cut taxes and give more power to the rich, the bankers, big business and particularly the hedge funds and vulture capitalists.

And so the many are killed, all for the privileged few represented by Theresa May.