Posts Tagged ‘Brexit’

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown on the Economic, Academic and Social Costs of Brexit

January 16, 2020

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown issued another stinging attack on Brexit in the I yesterday. She sharply criticised the Brexiteers triumphalism, that made them demand the mass celebration of Britain’s departure from the EU with a ‘festival of Brexit’, churches ringing their bells up and down the country, street parties and ‘a big, fat, jingoistic party in Parliament Square on January 31st’. She compared the proposed celebrations with the forced, state-mandated festivities of North Korea, and quoted the Roman satirist Juvenal on how the rich distracted the plebs with bread and circuses while taking away their liberties. She also bitterly complained about the way Remainers were now seen as somehow treacherous for their rejection of this wave of jingoism despite the closeness of the vote in the referendum. But she also made very good points about the immense cost Brexit had already inflicted on our economy, education, and society. She wrote

According to a detailed report by ratings agency S&P, Brexit has already cost the economy £66bn. It calculates that the amount is more than we paid into the European Union for 47 years. The economy is stagnant. The Union  of the four nations may not hold. Migrants and black, Asian and minority ethnic Britons are experiencing more hostility. Complaints are met with increased hostility or disbelief. Universities are panicking about the potential loss of EU grants and the Erasmus+ scheme – a travel bursary for young people which enriched their lives.

Musicians and artists are losing essential EU connections. Care homes cannot get workers because EU citizens are leaving. Too many feel unwelcome or are discouraged by new, costly and unfair immigration rules. NHS workers from elsewhere are becoming disillusioned.

She then describes how an Asian friend, Priti, told her about the increasing racism she was experiencing.

My friend Priti, a nurse who came over from India five years ago, says: “This is not the country I came into. Not the place my parents loved when they studied here. It has become so impolite. Even when I am changing a bandage or putting drops in their eyes, some patients shout at me to go bac. My colleagues are great but I am going – I have a job in Dubai. They need us but don’t behave well.”

We need these foreign nurses and doctors, who do an excellent job caring for our sick. It’s disgusting that they should be treated with such contempt and abuse.

Brexit is wrecking our economy, placing the Union under potentially devastating stress, and impoverishing our education system, our arts and culture, and denying needed expertise and labour to the NHS. But somehow we are meant to celebrate all this as a victory for Britain.

Alibhai-Brown herself says that Remainers should follow Will Hutton’s advice, and light candles on 31st January before going back to Brexit. She says that we must, for the sake of the younger generation and the future of this once-formidable nation.

I don’t think we can reasonable go on opposing Brexit forever without isolating ourselves politically. But I think we should be trying to get the best possible deal with the EU and trying to forge lasting, beneficial links with it.

While pointing out that so far, it is a massive, astronomically expensive failure.

Sargon of Gasbag on How the Norf Went Tory

January 11, 2020

A few days ago Carl ‘Sargon of Akkad’ Benjamin put up a video, in which he presented his idea of why the north of England and the midlands went Tory. It was based on a cartoon from 4chan’s Pol Board, and so presented a very caricatured view of the north. Sargon is the extreme right-winger, who personally did much to destroy UKIP simply by joining it. This ‘classical liberal’ – meaning libertarian – with his highly reactionary views on feminism and racism was too much even for the Kippers. His home branch of Swindon wanted him deselected when the party chose him as the second of their two MEP candidates for south-west England, and the Gloucestershire branch closed down completely. And according to Sargon, the ‘Norf’ went Tory because Blair turned the Labour party from the party of the working class throughout Britain into the party of the liberal metropolitan elite, and turned its attention away from class issues to supporting Islam, refugees, radical feminism and gay rights. This conflict with the social conservative values of working people, and particularly northern working people. As a result, they voted for Johnson, who had the same values they had.

The strip depicts the northern working class as Norf F.C., a local football team. They have their counterparts and rivals in Sowf F.C., a southern football team, and in the Welsh and Scots. The north is presented as a region of fat skinhead football hooligans, poorly educated, and suffering from scurvy and malnutrition, but who love their families, their communities and their country. In the strip’s view, these communities were traditionally Labour. But this changed with the election of Tony Blair, an Oxford educated lawyer, who took over the party. Under his aegis, it no longer was the party of the working class, but instead had a lower middle class membership. These were over-educated officer workers, who turned it towards Communism with the election of Jeremy Corbyn. They supported racism witchhunts, gay rights and flooding White communities with coloured immigrants, and were pro-EU. They despised natural, healthy patriotism. The result was that when Boris appeared, despite being an Etonian toff they recognised themselves in him. He would do something about Brexit and immigration, and would attack the radical left who support Muslim rape gangs and wanted to chop off their sons’ genitals. And who would also put the ‘bum boys’ in their place. It led to the massive defeat of the Labour party, and in particular ‘Communists’ like owen Jones and Ash Sarkar of Novara media.

I’m not going to show the video here, but if you want to see it for yourself, go to YouTube and search for ‘How the Norf Went Tory’, which is his wretched video’s title.

To Sargon, Corbyn is a friend of Hezbollah and Hamas, and to show how threatening the feminists and LGBTQ section of the Labour party he shows various radical feminists with T-shirts saying ‘White People Are Terrorists’ and a trans-activist with a baseball bat and the tattoo ‘Die Cis Scum’, referring to cis-gendered people – those who identify with their biological gender. The over-educated lower middle class people he sneers at are graduates of gender studies, who work in McDonalds, or have submitted to what he describes as ‘office serfdom’.

It’s very much a simplistic view, but there’s much truth in it as well as great deal of distortion. Let’s go through it.

The UKIP View of the North

Firstly, it represents very much the UKIP view of events. The academic study of UKIP, Revolt on the Right,  found that its members were poorly educated, working class people in the north. They had socially Conservative views, hated the European Union, resented immigration, particularly Black and Asian, and felt abandoned by the traditional parties. He is also right in identifying the change from working class representation to middle class representation with Blair’s leadership. Blair didn’t like the working class. He wanted to get the votes of the swing voters in marginal constituencies. As Sargon’s video acknowledges, he supported the neoliberalism that had devastated the northern economy and which made so many northerners hate the policy’s architect, Maggie Thatcher. Within the party, Blair sidelined working class organisations like the trade unions in favour of courting and recruiting business managers.

The Labour party was keen to represent Blacks and other ethnic minorities, women and gays due to its ideological commitment to equality. This policy became particularly important after Thatcher’s victory in 1979, when it appeared to some that the White working class had abandoned the party. I’ve also seen books published in the ’70s lamenting the right-ward movement within the Labour party due to its membership becoming increasingly middle class, so this trend actually predates Blair somewhat. However, it acquired a new importance under Blair because of the emphasis his administration place on BAME rights, feminism and gay rights. In my view, this was partly as an attempt to preserve some claim to radicalism and progressive values while abandoning socialism and the working class.

Sargon Doesn’t Understand Class and Communism

Sargon also doesn’t understand either what Communism is. He seems to believe in the rantings of the contemporary right that it’s all about identity politics and changing the traditional culture from above. That’s one form of Marxist politics coming from the ideas of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. But traditional, orthodox Marxism emphasised the importance of the working class and the class structure of society. Marx’s theory of Dialectical Materialism held that it was the economic base of society that defined ideology, not the other way around. Once the working class came into power and socialised the economy, the ideologies supported and created by capitalism would disappear. Gramsci’s ideas about changing ideology and culture became fashionable in left-wing circles because it was believed that the working class was actually in decline as society changed. Demographers noted that increasing numbers of people were becoming lower middle class. Hence the movement on the left towards that sector of society, rather than the traditional working class.

Corbyn More Politically Committed to Working Class

Yes, Corbyn also supported anti-racism, feminism and gay rights, but these had been key values of the left since the 1980s. I remember then how the Labour party and leading figures like Michael Foot and Ken Livingstone were vilified as Communists and Trotskyites, and how the party was caricatured as standing for Black lesbians. There were all those stories circulating in the Scum, for example, about how radical teachers in London schools had decided that ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ was racist, and insisted children sing ‘Baa Baa Green Sheep’ instead. Corbyn does come from a privileged background, but his views and the Labour manifesto are far more working class in the sense that they represent a return to traditional socialist economic policies than Blair’s. And certainly far more than Johnson’s and the Tories.

I have to admit that I’m one of the over-educated officer worker types Sargon sneers at. But I never did gender studies, not that I’m sneering at it or those who studied it. My first degree is in history. And I am very sure that most of the legions of graduates now trying to get any kind of paid work have a very wide variety degrees. I also think that many of them also come from the aspirant working class, who went into higher education in order to get on. Also, if you were interested or active in working class politics in the 1980s, you were exposed and took over the anti-racism and anti-sexism campaigns. Ben Elton was notorious as a left-wing comedian in the 1980s, but he defended the working class and ethnic minorities against the Tories.  It was not the case that the White working class was viewed with suspicion as a hotbed of racism, although sections of it, represented by such grotesques as Alf Garnet, certainly were. But it was that section of the working class that the Scum and the Tory party addressed, and so it’s now surprise that they see themselves represented by Boris.

Their belief in Boris is ultimately misplaced, however. Boris will betray them, just like he has betrayed everyone else.

He isn’t going to get Brexit done. He is going to continue with his privatisations, including that of the NHS, and dismantlement of the welfare state. The people in the northern and midlands communities that voted for him are going to find themselves still poor, and probably much poorer, under him.

But the lessons for Labour should be that there should be no return to Blairism. 

David Rosenberg and many other left-wing bloggers have argued from their own personal experience that the way of winning working class voters back to Labour and away from the far-right is through the hard work of knocking on doors and neighbourhood campaigning. This is what Blairism didn’t do. Jones showed in his book Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class that it was Blair that turned away and demonised them, and simply expected them to continue voting Labour as they didn’t have anywhere else to go. And it was the Blairites and Tories, who viewed the White working class as racist and vilified them as such. Although it also has to be said that they also courted them by appealing to their patriotism and their feeling of marginalisation in an increasingly multicultural society. And the fact that Jones took the trouble to attack this refutes Sargon’s attempt to present Jones as a ‘Communist’, who was against their interests.

Yes, you can find the misandrists, and the anti-White racists and extreme gay and trans rights activists in the Labour party. But they’re an unrepresentative minority, who are going to be controversial even in their own small circles. Attempts by the Tories to magnify their influence are deliberately deceptive in order to stop people from believing that the Labour party means to do anything for ordinary working people. Just as Sargon has tried to do in his video.

Winning back the working class from Boris does not mean a return to Blair and attempting to turn the party into the Conservatives 2.0. But it does mean returning to working class activism, representation and continuing to support real policies to benefit the working class, whether Black, White or Brown, Christian, atheist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or whatever.

And that has to be a return to genuine socialism.

Letter in Private Eye Defending Labour and Corbyn Against Racism Accusations

January 9, 2020

This fortnight’s Private Eye also published the letter below from Peter Collins, refuting the accusations made by another reader in last fortnight’s edition that Labour lost partly because it was full of racists and anti-Semites. He also pointed out that while Labour isn’t, Boris Johnson and the Tories certainly are. Here’s the letter

Sir,

Re “Sneer and Loathing” (Letters, Eye 1512). Peter Kimpton and I certainly have different opinions on the EU, and he’s entitled to his of course. But his assertion that “rampant racism” has “taken hold of Labour” cannot go unchallenged. It will certainly come as news to the many black, brown, and, yes, Jewish members with whom I canvassed for several weeks before polling day, for I’m sure they would not have put their hearts and souls into trying to get such a party elected. I’m a white, middle-class, middle-aged man, but I would have nothing to do with a party that was rampantly racist and/or anti-Semitic. It’s not.

However, a great many people seem to ahve been happy to vote for someone who considers black people to be “picaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”, Muslim women to look like letterboxes, children of single mothers to be “ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate”, and gay men to be “bumboys”. That, of course, is simply Boris Johnson being Boris Johnson, and nothing to do with racism, Islamophobia, sexism and homophobia. And of course it is all to be forgotten in the glorious paradise that will be post-Brexit Britain. Keep up with what looks to me like your very even-handed work.

I’ve no doubt that the letters defending Corbyn will be followed by more from the Blairites, Tories and Israel lobby claiming that Labour is awash with anti-Semites. And it hasn’t stopped the Eye publishing in this edition a piece by the odious Ratbiter reporting that various Blairites and Zionists are suing Corbyn and his supporters for libel for stating that they were inventing incidents of anti-Semitism. One of those suing is our old friend, Rachel Riley.

But at least the Eye published some material defending Corbyn.

Letter Defending Corbyn in Private Eye

January 8, 2020

This fortnight’s Private Eye for 10th – 23rd January 2020 has a number of letters from annoyed readers defending the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn after slights from the Eye itself and letters from Tories in last fortnight’s issue gloating at Labour’s defeat. One of the letters is from Tim Mickleburgh of Grimsby, who writes

Sir,

Comments in your “Election Special” need to (Eye 1512) need to be challenged. First, 68 percent of the electorate didn’t reject Labour’s policies, rather they wanted to “get Brexit done”, being unhappy that Labour had reneged on their 2017 promise to accept the 2016 referendum. And Corbyn was right to claim Labour “won the argument” if not the election, for the Tories had moved away from the austerity policies of Cameron/Osborne, promising more for the NHS, 20,000 new policemen and to consider re-opening closed railway lines.

Just the opposite from 1997, when Tony Blair’s New Labour won a landslide majority but promised to continue with Tory spending plans and generally accept the Thatcherite agenda.

This is correct. The areas of the north and midlands that turned Tory were those that voted for Brexit, and Labour’s manifesto policies were actually supported, according to polls, by 69 per cent of the public. The Tories also had to compete with Labour in promising more for the NHS and other parts of the economy. That hasn’t and won’t stop them breaking those promises, but it does show that these are issues that will help Labour to win if the party tackles them properly.

It’s important to stress this now that Corbyn is resigning and the Blairites are struggling to come back, repeating the old lies that only by accepting Thatcherism and becoming the Conservative Party version 2.0 will Labour become electable.

Lib Dem Politico Bullied into Coming Out as Gay by Mail on Sunday

January 7, 2020

This is absolutely disgusting. I really do wonder how the alleged ladies and gentlemen of the scumbag British press sleep at night. Zelo Street this afternoon reported that Layla Moran, the MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, came out last week. She revealed that she was pansexual, and was in a loving, supportive relationship with another woman. Moran’s a contender for the Lib Dem leadership, and her announcement that she was gay was on ITV news. Moran says that their relationship started six months ago. So naturally, Zelo Street raises the obvious question: why is she telling us all this now?

It’s because, according to Hacked Off, the group representing the victims of press phone hacking, Moran was put under pressure by hacks from the Mail on Sunday.  The organisation said

 “Ms Moran has described how several reporters have been asking questions, door-knocking neighbours and even offering payment to a former partner seeking information about her personal life over the last few months. Ms Moran writes that the Mail on Sunday threatened to publish details relating to her sexuality last Saturday, and that she herself only decided to reveal her sexuality publicly last week because she feared the newspaper would go on to publish”.

She did so on social media, which really annoyed the MoS, who were reduced to running a piece about Mumsnet showing bitterly critical posts of her by its users. One of these accused her of ‘weaponising’ her relationship with the Lib Dems former head of media, Rosy Cobb.

The Street then quotes Nathan Sparkes of Hacked Off on the squalid cruelty the MoS has shown:

Newspapers have no business revealing an individual’s sexuality against their will, far less a politician who has devoted much of her career to date to furthering the cause of LGBT+ rights and equality … The decision of the Mail on Sunday … to publish an article attacking Ms Moran based on a handful of abusive tweets on a social media site speaks to the vindictiveness and cruelty of parts of our unregulated press”.

The Street concludes ‘Our free and fearless press’ attitude to sexuality stinks. And that has to change.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/01/layla-moran-bullied-into-coming-out.html

I think I saw something in the I written by Moran about her experience of ‘coming out’. It had the title ‘In the 21st Century Coming Out Shouldn’t Be An Issue’, or something along those lines. I didn’t read it because quite frankly I wasn’t interested. So many public figures have come out over the past decades – pop stars, sportsmen and women, actors, politicos – that you get used to it, even bored. With many public figures, whether gay or straight, who they’re romantically involved with is the least interesting aspect of their lives. What’s more interesting is their talent, or issues such as whether they have an unusual personal background, skill or medical condition. Such as, for example, whether they can speak an exotic language, have mastered an arcane science or intellectual discipline like quantum physics, or are able to fly an aircraft. Or have overcome personal misfortune or a medical condition like autism or depression. For a politician, what really matters is how hard they work for and represent their constituents, and their policy positions. Like where they stand on Brexit, the destruction of the welfare state, rising inequality, racism, the privatisation of the NHS and so forth. Provided that they’re not breaking the law and their partners are consenting adults, who they share their private lives with is their own business.

I grew up in the 1980s, when the gay rights organisations were aggressively outing politicians, who kept their sexuality hidden. I thought that this was pretty shabby, until a gay friend of mine told me that the politicos they targeted were hypocrites, who publicly opposed homosexuality and its toleration. There was a serious point to their actions. But there doesn’t seem to be anything like that here, just a simple desire to boost sales figures through scandal.

And unfortunately, the press has got plenty of previous in trying to bully people into revealing their sexuality in this way. Way back in the 1990s the ‘Street of Shame’ column in Private Eye carried a story about an attempt by one of the tabloids – something like the Scum or the News of the Screws – to blackmail one of the pop stars of the day into coming out in its pages. Wisely, he decided to thwart them by going to one of the other papers instead to make the revelation.

And stalking celebrities in order to find out if they’re gay or not is pretty squalid anyway. A few years ago there was a programme on how the Mirror got that story about George Michael going into a gay toilet in Beverley Hills or wherever. That was when it was edited by Piers Morgan, now adorning ITV’s breakfast news. The photographer was there for a week staking the place out waiting for a celebrity, any celebrity, to come and use it. The photographs he took from a car parked over the road were worth tens of thousands. Which itself shows the squalid morals of the newspaper business. I’ve no doubt his family and children were well fed, clad and educated by the profits of his job, but it’s not exactly something your children can boast about in school. After hearing from all the other children how their parents are builders, engineers, scientists, business people,  artists or whatever, what child really wants to answer the question ‘What does your mum/dad do?’ with the reply, ‘He/she hangs around gay toilets hoping to catch rock stars getting arrested by the rozzers’?

As for Mumsnet, they’ve been described as ‘4chan with prosecco’. From what I gather of 4chan, it’s an internet platform seething with racism, sexism and vicious trolls, so that’s hardly an endorsement.

The Mail on Sunday’s treatment of Moran, and the British press’ treatment of innocent people just trying to live their lives in peace is deeply shameful, and shows why it really does need to be subject to a press watchdog with teeth.

Jews Fleeing Britain Because of Right-Wing Anti-Semitism

January 5, 2020

This is disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. But it’s not going to be covered in the media, and especially not the establishment Jewish media, like the Jewish Telegraph or Jewish Chronicle, because they’re only interested in it when it’s a stick to beat the left. Tom Pride, of the ‘Pride’s Purge Blog’, has posted that he and his family are leaving Blighty because of the threat of rising right-wing anti-Semitism. Pride’s a left-wing blogger, who has been attacking the Tories and the forces of the right for years with intelligence, facts and statistics, and a caustic wit. Last Monday, 30th December 2019, he posted that he and his father are both leaving Britain. He is Jewish, and his grandfather a survivor of the Holocaust. His father came to Britain from Austria to escape the Nazis’ mass murder of European Jews. However, his father, that man’s son, has told Pride that he is washing his hands of the UK and moving to another, European country, because of the rise of the far right in Britain. This gentleman is in his 80s, and has said that he is frightened and will not set foot in the UK again. Pride is also leaving Britain, but as he’s a Brit born and bred, he isn’t completely turning his back on our country.

Pride states that anti-Semitism in Britain comes almost exclusively from the right. He backs up this statement with a mass of evidence, from stats showing that Tories made rather more anti-Semitic comments than Labour members, to profiles over some real anti-Semites. They were right-wingers who supported the Daily Mail and Brexit, and who also hated Muslims. They’re the real face of anti-Semitism in the UK. As for the people that harassed Luciana Berger, they were also far right stormtroopers. Berger claimed that she was leaving the Labour party because of anti-Semitic harassment. However, the man jailed for harassing her was Joshua Bonehill-Paine. Bonehill-Paine is a bizarre individual, who poses as a Nazi in order to troll both Fascists and anti-Fascists. Or so he has said on his blog.  He’s been arrested and convicted several times for harassing different women, breaking into a police station and defecating in the aisle of a supermarket. Pride also notes that over the Christmas and Hanukkah holiday this year, shops and supermarkets were scrawled with anti-Semitic graffiti. He also states very clearly that the anti-Semites whose odious activities he watches are right-wingers and loudly support Boris Johnson. One of the supporters of anti-Semitism is the loathsome Katie Hopkins, shown in a photograph posing with the anti-Semitic Peter Sweden, a Holocaust denier.

But although genuine anti-Semitism in the Labour party is minuscule, the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour ‘Centrists’ have done everything they can to convince the public that it all comes from the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn. They’ve done this to protect the interests of a handful of billionaires, which would have been under threat had the definitely not anti-Semitic Corbyn become Prime Minister. Pride says that while many ordinary people shared his information online, nobody in the establishment media did. Because it didn’t fit their agenda of smearing Corbyn and the Left.

https://tompride.wordpress.com/2019/12/30/while-antisemites-cheer-johnson-this-holocaust-survivors-family-is-fleeing-britain/

I’m sorry Tom’s leaving Britain. It wouldn’t surprise me if other Jews leave too. A few years ago I read a newspaper report that British Jews of German descent were taking out German nationality as a safeguard against Brexit. I also got the impression that Brits of Irish descent were also taking out Irish nationality, even if they were only partly Irish, for the same reason. And Brexit certainly has embolden the real racists, islamophobes and anti-Semites on the far right.

But we won’t hear of this from the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, the Jewish Leadership Council, the Board of Deputies or the Chief Rabbi, because they’re not interested in protecting Jewish Brits from real anti-Semitism. They’re only interested to preventing criticism of Israel and, as Tories, supporting the rich and powerful. They are not remotely interested in doing anything for the poor, which obviously includes Jews. Indeed, they have vilified those Jews, who did support Labour and Corbyn, or who criticised Israel, as anti-Semites themselves.

They’re disgusting liars, who have helped a greedy, incompetent racist in 10 Downing.

And now, partly thanks to their efforts, ordinary Jews are at risk from the real anti-Semites of the Fascist Right.

 

Tories’ and UKIP’s Nazi Anti-Immigration Imagery

December 31, 2019

Remember how UKIP and its head honcho, Nigel Farage, got into trouble a few years ago for their anti-immigration poster? This showed a long line of middle eastern immigrants stretching across the landscape trying to get into Europe and Britain. It was based on the Syrian and North African refugees that had made their way to the West up through the Balkans, a million of whom had been promised asylum by German chancellor Angela Merkel. It was another piece of Farage’s anti-immigration propaganda. The argument runs that unless we get out of Europe, EU law will force us to take in more extra-European immigrants. And particularly Muslims, who are now the specific object of right-wing suspicion and hatred.

As Mike’s shown, the argument’s nonsense. Britain’s not part of the Schengen immigration area, and so doesn’t have to take in immigrants from outside Europe, who have sought refuge in one of these countries. The laws demanding Britain take in asylum seekers are UN treaties governing the rights of refugees, which obviously have nothing to do with the EU and will still be in place when we leave.

But Farage also got into serious trouble with the post because it was almost exactly like one put up by the Nazis protesting against Jewish refugees from eastern Europe trying to enter Germany. And there are more recent images from British neo-Nazi rags which also express the same type of bitter anti-immigrant sentiments.

I found this piccie of the cover of the British Nazi rag, The White Dragon, in Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke’s book on modern Nazi paganism, Black Sun. It seems to be of Hindu worshippers in the Ganges, but has been taken out of context and captioned ‘Welcome to Dover’. It’s from 1999, but could have come from any time up to the present.

Farage’s poster caused a storm of controversy, but the recent Tory victory and their promises of getting Brexit done have emboldened the islamophobes and racists. So can we expect more anti-immigration posters like UKIP’s? And will the Scum, the Depress or the Heil put a photo like this on their front pages when they issue another rant about non-White immigration?

The Rise in Child Poverty Predicted for 2020

December 29, 2019

Vickie Cooper’s and David whyte’s book, The Violence of Austerity has a chapter on ‘Child Maltreatment and Child Mortality’ by Joanna Mack. It’s a deeply troubling subject which in itself should be an indictment of the Tories and their wretched austerity. Mack uses the horrific incidence of infant mortality in Britain to show how the Tories justify it as somehow inevitable, and that therefore it should therefore be considered an act of political violence, albeit carefully hidden. She writes

The UK infant (0 to 1 years) mortality rate, at around four deaths per 1000 births in 2014, is higher than all but two of the nineteen Euro area member states. About half of these deaths are linked to short gestation and low birth weight, both of which are highly associated with deprivation. The result is that babies born into poorer families in deprived neighbourhoods are more likely to die than children from richer families.

Allowing a pregnant woman to go without food in a cold, unheated home is to compromise her baby’s life chances. The World Health Organisation defines ‘child maltreatment’ as an action that in the context of a relationship of power results in ‘actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity.’ If an individual takes such action then they may be liable to prosecution. Yet if a political system results in such actions, it is seen as an inevitable, if unfortunate, by product of economic necessity. This is not overt violence but cover violence. (p. 89).

She then goes on to describe just how hollow Tweezer’s promises to end austerity and improve people’s life expenctancy in the UK actually are.

On becoming Prime Minister in July 2016, Theresa May tried to set a new tone, making bold promises about ‘a country that works for everyone’ and fighting the ‘burning injustice’ of those born poor dying earlier than others. Yet for all the talk of an end to austerity, all of the planned benefit cuts will go ahead. Largely as a direct result of these planned cuts, over half a million more children are set to fall below the 2010/11 poverty line in 2020/21 than did in 2015/16 while the percentage of children in relative income poverty is predicted to rise from 18 per cent in 2015/16 to 26 per cent in 2020/21. And these projections could prove optimistic given the economic uncertainties surrounding Brexit and the threats to turn the UK into a low tax haven with its inevitable consequence of a further rolling back of the welfare state. There are warnings of sharp falls to come to the real-terms incomes of the poorest, particularly those with children. (p.91)

She concludes

This makes a mockery of promises to fight the injustice of poverty. To do this, there would need to be a real commitment to the transfer of income and wealth from the rich to the poor. And that would challenge the very basis of the neoliberal ideology still underpinning the government – an ideology that embeds within it the violence of child poverty.

Well, Tweezer’s gone and been replaced by Boris, who will carry on the government’s neoliberal programme. If anything, he’ll ratchet it up.

And more children will fall into poverty and die in their first year.

Remember how Tweezer swanked onto the stage at the Tory conference to the tune of ‘Killer Queen’? From this perhaps a better track for her and all the other Tories should be Alice Cooper’s ‘Dead Babies’.

Fan of Rachel Riley Starts Troll Campaign against Owen Jones

December 23, 2019

More trolling from the darker parts of the internet. Mike reported on Saturday that a hashtag campaign had been started against left-wing journalist and author Owen Jones. The hashtag declared in crude language that Jones practiced the kind of solitary behaviour that tradition has it makes you grow hair on the palms of your hands and ruins your eyesight. It started after a group of Alt Right thugs shouted ‘Oi, you w*nker’ at him live on British TV. Jones himself said of the incident that if he could survive fascists chasing him on the street, then he could survive a hashtag campaign set up by people who need their hard drives checking.

Laura Murray told him that the person – and I use that term loosely – responsible for the troll campaign against him is the same individual, who posts pictures of her in a bikini in various positions in order to degrade and humiliate her. This person is one ‘Basil Brush/Bruscetta’, who is a massive fan of Rachel Riley. He endorsed a thread from Riley in which she attacked a certain 16 year old girl as an anti-Semite. Bruscetta’s website didn’t last, and was taken down. So his supporters linked it to one attacking their idol. Which apparently was done by members of the GnasherJew troll farm, David Collier and another odious jerk, Jack Silver. Collier was moaning that Twitter’s removal of the hashtag against Jones showed it to be a fake news site, as Jones is an anti-Semite and therefore akin to a Nazi!

Saaaaaay whaaaaat!

In what parallel world are this idiots living? Jones is no kind of Nazi. Indeed, he’s been criticised by Tony Greenstein – also definitely not a Nazi – for being too accommodating to the anti-Semitism smear campaign of which Riley, Collier and co. are a part against critics of Israel and supporters of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour party.

As Mike explains, the clip used to troll Jones was of the abuse screamed at him from right-wing pro-Brexit campaigners when he was being interviewed outside parliament in January. Riley also tried to attack Jones with smears and shockingly inaccurate comments about his coverage of Holocaust Memorial Day.

Mike concludes his article about this

She protested at the time that she is not a supporter of the far right. Maybe that’s true; I don’t propose to comment on it, one way or the other.

But questions need to be asked about why supporters of the far right seem so keen to link themselves with her.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/21/was-twitter-campaign-against-owen-jones-organised-by-supporters-of-rachel-riley-or-of-something-more-sinister/

There’s more that could be said about this. Much more. Alongside the comments about Jones’ supposed solitary practices was another line calling him a ‘Stalinist’. This obviously comes from the far right. In some ways it’s ironic. Stalin was a brutal dictator with a venomous hatred of the Jews. After the Nazis broke the pact they’d made for the occupation of eastern Europe with the former Soviet Union, Stalin lamented what the Soviet and Nazis could have achieved together. And one of the major figures in post-War American Nazism, Francis Parker Yockey – a bizarre figure who was very much like the Nazi playwright in Mel Brookes’ The Producers – was a supporter of the Soviet Union because he saw it as a bulwark of civilisation against the decadence caused by democracy. The real Alt Right have more in common with Stalin than they’d like to admit.

The hashtag campaign against Jones was also supported by Carl ‘Sargon of Akkad’ Benjamin, the man who broke UKIP. I think Sargon’s Jewish, and he has argued online with the Alt Right. But despite describing himself as a ‘classical Liberal’ – for which read ‘Libertarian’ – Sargon’s own politics are so close to that of the Alt Right that some have commented that he is a gateway to them. A soft introduction leading to the harder, more racist stuff further away from the mainstream.

Despite Collier and co.’s claim that they’re fighting anti-Semitism, they’re doing no such thing. Like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, they’re almost completely uninterested in real, right-wing anti-Semitism. They’re against anti-Zionism or simply criticism of Israel, which they deliberately conflate with anti-Semitism. And they attack it on the left for two reasons.

At the most superficial level, they do it because they’re bullies.

The people they attack, people like Mike, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone, Chris Williamson, Sally Eason and so on are decent people. They aren’t trolls, and so don’t response with the high level of abuse the real anti-Semites would. GnasherJew and Riley’s fan are not going to attack the trolls that post real anti-Semitic material, like those who consider the Holocaust a great joke, because their campaign of hate wouldn’t touch them. The trolls would just start making coarse comments on their sexuality, which would probably be homophobic and accuse them of being paedophiles. Further attacks on them by Riley’s fans and Collier and his fellow scumbags would just be treated with amusement, and provide them with further ammunition for trolling them. But the people on the Labour left GnasherJew and Riley attack instead aren’t like that. They can be bullied and cowed. And so they do.

And there’s no great mystery why racists like the Alt Right support Riley.

Tony Greenstein has observed that historically, Zionism’s allies have always been the Far Right. The Islamophobic right in Britain – Britain First and the English Defence League strongly support Israel because they hate Muslims. Tommy Robinson even boasted that if there was a war with the Palestinians, he’d fight for Israel. They also admire Israel because it’s the kind of ‘ethnostate’ they’d like to create in the West. Richard Spencer, the founder of the Alt Right, appeared on Israeli TV, where he declared himself to be a White Zionist. Just as Israel is a racial state in which the only true citizens are Jews, so Spencer and co. wish to create a White ethnostate in America, where only Whites will enjoy full civil rights and Blacks, Asians and Hispanics will have been ‘peacefully’ cleansed.

And the Alt Right also have an enemy in common with Israel’s supporters, at least on the Right.

They hate and fear genuine left-wingers. Which is why they were both determined to bring down Jeremy Corbyn. He was both a critic of Israel and determined to bring back the welfare state, strong trade unions and a mixed economy. All of which are abhorrent to those on the Far Right, like Spencer and Sargon, and the Blairites in the Labour party. Which is why you had the Blairites in the Labour party, like Joan Ryan of Labour Friends of Israel, sneering at Corbyn’s supporters in Labour as ‘Stalinists’, ‘Trotskyites’ and Communists.

I am not accusing Riley of being a Fascist or a member of the Alt Right. But she needs to think very clearly about the way she is supported by them, and do what she can to discourage it.

Otherwise some would be justified in calling her a hypocrite. If not worse.

The Labour, Pro-Working Class Arguments for Brexit

December 22, 2019

The decisive factor which swung 14 million people to vote Tory in the general election two weeks was Brexit. Labour’s programme of reforms was popular, despite the predictable Tory attacks on it as impractical, costly, too radical, Marxist and so on. 60 to 70 per cent of the public in polls supported the manifesto, and the party received a slight boost in popularity in the polls after its public. The areas in Labour’s heartlands in the midlands and north that turned Tory were those which voted ‘Leave’. Craig Gent in his article for Novara Media on the lessons Labour must learn from this defeat lamented this. By backing Remain, Labour had ceded Brexit to the Conservatives, allowing them to shape the terms of the debate and the assumptions underlying it. But Gent also argued that it could easily have gone the other way.

Indeed it could. Labour’s policy, before the right-wing put pressure on Corbyn to back a second referendum, was that Labour would respect the Leave vote, and try for a deal with the EU that would serve Britain the best. Only if that failed would Labour consider a general election or second referendum. This is eminently sensible. The referendum was purely on whether Britain would leave the European Union. It was not on the terms under which Britain would leave. Despite Johnson’s promise to ‘get Brexit done’, he will have no more success than his predecessor, Tweezer. The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has stated that the negotiations are going to take far long than the eleven months Johnson claimed. The people who voted for him are going to be sorely disappointed.

The right-wing campaign for leaving the EU heavily exploited racism and xenophobia. Not only had Britain lost her sovereignty to Brussels, but it was because of the EU that Britain was being flooded with immigrants taking jobs and placing a burden on the social and economic infrastructure. In fact, the Black and Asian immigrants entering Britain were permitted, as Mike showed on his blog, through UN agreements covering asylum seekers. Moreover immigrants and foreign workers were a net benefit to Britain. They contributed more in taxes and took less in benefits. But with this was drowned out, along with other, vital Remain arguments in the Tory rhetoric of hate.

But there was always a part of the Labour movement that also distrusted the European Union for democratic, socialist reasons. The late Tony Benn devoted an entire chapter to it in his 1979 book, Arguments for Socialism. One of his primary objections to it, as he outlined in a 1963 article for Encounter magazine, was

that the Treaty of Rome which entrenches laissez-faire as its philosophy and chooses its bureaucracy as its administrative method will stultify effective national economic planning without creating the necessary supranational planning mechanisms for growth and social justice.

Like right-wing Eurosceptics, Benn also objected to Britain joining the EU because of loss of national sovereignty and democracy through inclusion into a European superstate. He was also worried about the threat from Brussels to British industry. The European Union hated Britain’s nationalised industries, and Benn said that he was told by Brussels bureaucrats that investment, mergers and prices in the former British steel industry would have to be controlled by them. Every issue of state aid to British manufacturing industry would have to be subject to the European commission. He was very much afraid that British manufacturing would be unable to compete against the better financed and equipped European firms, and so close. And he also argued that membership in the European Union would create higher unemployment through the EU’s economic policy, which was exactly the same as that tried by Conservative premier Ted Heath’s first government. He believed that EU membership would leave British workers with a choice of either being unemployed at home, or moving to Europe to seek work. Only the directors and shareholders in European companies would profit. He then gives the statistics showing how much Britain was paying to the EU for policies like the Common Agricultural Policy, that penalised Britain’s highly efficient farming system in favour of that of the continent, and the disastrous effect EU membership had had on British industry and jobs. The devastation caused to some sectors of British industry and agriculture also formed part of Conservative attacks on the EU. The former Mail, now Times journo, Quentin Letts, bitterly criticises the EU in his book, Bog Standard Britain, for the way the common fisheries policy drastically cut back our fishing fleet to a fraction of its former size.

It also seems that Ted Heath also used some very underhand, dirty tricks to rig the initial referendum to give the result he wanted: that the British people agreed with him and wanted to join Europe. This was the subject of an article in the parapolitical/ conspiracy magazine, Lobster some years ago.

I’m a Remainer. I was as shocked by the Tories’ victory as everyone else on the Left. I expected that they would win because of the vast propaganda and media resources they had poured in to attacking Labour and Corbyn personally. But I was astonished by how large the victory was. I believed that the continuing failure to secure a deal with Europe would have made Brexit less popular, not more. The result of the original referendum was so narrow that I believed a second would reverse the decision. How wrong I was.

Some of the Eurosceptic arguments against Europe are overstated or simply wrong. The EU was a threat to our nationalised industries, but it seemed nothing prevented the French, Germans and Dutch from retaining theirs and buying up ours, as the Dutch firm, Abellio, was awarded the contract for some of our rail services. Britain’s entry into the EU did not result in us losing our sovereignty. We retained it, and all law passed in Brussels had to become British law as well. And I believe very strongly that leaving Europe, especially under a no-deal Brexit, will badly damage our trade and economy.

But understanding Brexit and the arguments against EU membership from the Left from people like Tony Benn, may also provide a way of winning back some at least of the support Labour lost at the election. Labour can show that it understands the fear some people in those communities have about the loss of sovereignty, and the effect EU membership has had on trade, manufacturing and employment. But we can also point out that the Tories are using the same set of economic principles as the EU, and that this won’t change so long as Boris is Prime Minister. And any trade agreement he makes with the Orange Generalissimo will be worse than staying in the EU. It won’t secure British jobs or support British industry, manufacturing or otherwise. Indeed, it will cause further damage by placing them at a disadvantage against the Americans.

A proper Brexit, that respected British workers and created a fairer, better society, could only be brought in by Labour. But the Thursday before last, 14 million people were duped into rejecting that. But Labour is learning its lesson, and people are getting ready to fight back.

Labour can and will win again, on this and other issues. Brexit may have got Johnson in, but it may also be the issue that flings him out.