Posts Tagged ‘Businesses’

Video of Israeli Mobs Attacking Arab Business in Tiberias and Bet Yam

May 12, 2021

This is another video from Middle East Eye that’s been posted on YouTube. It shows mobs of Israeli rioters attacking shops and businesses owned by Palestinians. You can see these thugs waving the Israeli flag. It’s an absolutely chilling sight, especially as it brings to my mind Nazi Germany’s Kristallnacht, when the Nazis attacked and smashed Jewish owned businesses. This is very much the kind of video the Board of Deputies of British Jews does not want you to see. Peter Oborne, a deeply principle journalist, who previously worked for the Torygraph, made a video over ten years ago for Channel 4’s Dispatches on the Israel lobby. He interviewed Alan Rusbridger, former editor of the Groan, and Avi Shlaim, an Oxford expert on the Middle East. Rusbridger described how, when his newspaper ran stories about Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians and their allies, the president of the Board would turn up with his pet lawyer in tow to complain that the story would increase anti-Semitism. The Board also denounced the Beeb as anti-Semitic because its highly respected correspondents on the Middle East, Jeremy Bowen and Orla Guerin, also reported Israeli atrocities, including the massacre of Palestinian refugees by their allies, the Christian Phalange. Shlaim stated that the Beeb’s reporting was actually overwhelmingly factually correct, although there were a couple of minor faults, according to an independent review body.

It is Israeli Fascist violence like this that Jeremy Corbyn opposes, not Jews. As have any number of pro-Palestinian Jewish activists – Jackie Walker, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, Tony Greenstein and veteran thesp Miriam Margolyes. Nearly ten years ago Margolyes condemned the attacks on Gaza as ‘a proud Jew, and an ashamed Jew’. It is because of their activism on behalf of the Palestinians that these people have been foully smeared and reviled as anti-Semites.

It’s time this stopped. Terrorism by anyone is wrong, and I don’t agree with the Palestinian attacks either.

But its time the Israeli attacks on Palestinians ceased, Netanyahu condemned for his barbarous treatment of the country’s indigenous Arabs, and the Board condemned for seeking to cover up such racist barbarity.

Book on Utopias from the 17th Century to Today

January 20, 2021

Ruth Levitas, The Concept of Utopia (Oxford: Peter Lang Ltd 2011).

I’m sorry I haven’t posted anything for several days. Part of that is because the news doesn’t really inspire me. It’s not that it isn’t important, or that the Tories have stopped trying to strip working people of their rights and drive them further into poverty and degradation. Or that I’m unmoved by Trump trying to organise a coup to keep himself in the Oval Office like just about every other tin pot dictator throughout history. Or that Brexit isn’t threatening to destroy whatever remains of British industry and livelihoods, all for the benefit of the Tory superrich and investment bankers like Jacob Rees-Mogg, who have their money safely invested in firms right across the world. Or that I’m not outraged by even more people dying of Covid-19 every day, while the government has corruptly mismanaged their care by outsourcing vital medical supplies and their services to firms that are clearly incompetent to provide them, because those same firms are run by their chums. Ditto with the grossly inadequate food parcels, which are another vile example of Tory profiteering. It’s just that however disgusting and infuriating the news is, there is a certain sameness about it. Because all this is what the Tories have been doing for decades. It’s also partly because I can’t say anything more or better about these issues than has been already said by great bloggers like Mike, Zelo Street and the rest.

But I’ve also been kept busy reading some of the books I got for Christmas, like the above tome by Ruth Levitas, a sociology professor at Bristol Uni. The blurb for this runs

In this highly influential book, Ruth Levitas provides an excellent introduction to the meaning and importance of the concept of Utopia, and explores a wealth of material drawn from literature and social theory to illustrate its rich history and analytical versatility. Situating utopia within the dynamics of the modern imagination, she examines the ways in which it has been used by some of the leading thinkers of modernity: Marx, Engels, Karl Mannheim, Robert Owen, Georges Sorel, Ernst Bloch, William Morris and Herbert Marcuse. Utopia offers the most potent secular concept for imagining and producing a ‘better world’, and this classic text will be invaluable to students across a wide range of disciplines.

It has the following chapters

  1. Ideal Commonwealths: The Emerging Tradition
  2. Castles in the Air: Marx, Engels and Utopian Socialism
  3. Mobilising Myths: Utopia and Social Change in Georges Sorel and Karl Mannheim
  4. Utopian Hope: Ernst Bloch and Reclaiming the Future
  5. The Education of Desire: The Rediscovery of William Morris
  6. An American Dream: Herbert Marcuse and the Transformation of the Psyche
  7. A Hundred Flowers: Contemporary Utopian Studies
  8. Future Perfect: Retheorising Utopia.

I wanted to read the book because so many utopias have been socialist or socialistic, like the early 19th century thinkers Karl Marx described as utopian, Saint-Simon, Fourier and Robert Owen, and was interested in learning more about their ideas. In this sense, I’m slightly disappointed with the book. Although it tells you a little about the plans for the reformation of society, and the establishment of a perfect state or political system, the book’s not so much about these individual schemes as a more general discussion of the concept of utopia. What, exactly, is a utopia, and how has the concept been used, and changed and developed? Much of this debate has been within Marxism, beginning with the great thinker himself. He called his predecessors – Owen, Fourier and Owen ‘utopian’ because he didn’t believe their particular schemes were realistic. Indeed, he regarded them as unscientific, in contrast to his own theories. However, Marx did believe they had done a vital job in pointing out the failures of the capitalist system. Marxists themselves were split over the value of utopias. The dominant position rejected them, as it was pointless to try to describe the coming society before the revolution. Nevertheless, there were Marxists who believed in their value, as the description of a perfect future society served to inspire the workers with an ideal they could strive to achieve. This position has been obscured in favour of the view that Marx and his followers rejected them, and this book aims to restore their position in the history of Marxist thought. This idea of utopia as essentially inspirational received especial emphasis in the syndicalism of Georges Sorel. Syndicalism is a form of radical socialism in which the state and private industry are abolished and their functions carried out instead by the trade unions. Sorel himself was a French intellectual, who started out on the radical left, but move rightward until he ended up in extreme nationalist, royalist, anti-Semitic movements. His ideas were paradoxically influential not just in the Marxist socialism of the former Soviet Union, but also in Fascist Italy. Sorel doesn’t appear to have been particularly interested in the establishment of a real, syndicalist utopia. This was supposed to come after a general strike. In Sorel’s formulation of syndicalism, however, the general strike is just a myth to inspire the workers in their battle with the employers and capitalism, and he is more interested in the struggle than the workers’ final victory, if indeed that ever arrived.

The book also covers the debate over William Morris and his News from Nowhere. This describes an idyllic, anarchist, agrarian, pre-industrial society in which there are no leaders and everyone works happily performing all kinds of necessary work simply because they enjoy it and find it fulfilling following a workers’ revolution. Apart from criticisms of the book itself, there have also been debates over the depth of Morris’ own socialism. Morris was a member of one of the first British Marxist socialist parties, Hyndman’s Social Democratic Federation, and the founder of another, the Socialist League, after he split from them. Critics have queried whether he was ever really a Marxist or even a socialist. One view holds that he was simply a middle class artist and entrepreneur, but not a socialist. The other sees him as a socialist, but not a Marxist. Levitas contends instead that Morris very definitely was a Marxist.

When it comes to the 20th century, the book points out that utopias have fallen out of fashion, no doubt due to the horrors committed by totalitarian regimes, both Fascist and Communist, which have claimed to be ideal states. However, the critic Tom Moylan has argued that utopias have still been produced in the SF novels of Joanna Russ, Ursula le Guin, Marge Piercy and Samuel Delaney. He describes these as ‘critical utopias’, a new literary genre. The heroes of this literature is not the dominant White, heterosexual male, but characters who are off-centre, female, gay, non-White, and who act collectively rather than individually. The book criticises some earlier utopias, like News from Nowhere, for their exclusive focus on the male viewpoint, comparing them with the Land of Cockayne, the medieval fantasy that similarly presents a perfect world in which everything is seemingly ordered for men’s pleasure. In contrast to these are the feminist utopias of the above writers, which began in the late 19th century with Harriet Gilman’s Herland. It also discusses the value of satires like Samuel Butler’s Erewhon, and dystopias like Eugene Zamyatin’s We, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984.

Levitas does not, however, consider utopianism to be merely confined to the left. She also considers Thatcherism a form of utopianism, discussing the late Roger Scruton’s Conservative Essays and citing Patrick Wright’s On Living in an Old Country. This last argued that the Conservative promotion of heritage was being used to reinforce old hierarchies in a markedly racist way. Some members of society were thus delineated as truly members of the nation, while others were excluded.

The book was first published in 1990, just before or when Communism was falling. It shows it’s age by discussing the issue whether the terrible state of the Soviet Union served to deter people dreaming and trying to create perfect, socialist societies. She argues that it doesn’t, only that the forms of this societies are different from the Marxist-Leninism of the USSR. This is a fair assessment. In Kim Stanley Robinson’s trilogy of books about the future colonisation of Mars, Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars, the colonists not only succeed in terraforming the planet, but also create socialist society in which authority is as decentralised as possible, women are fully equal and patriarchy has been overthrown and businesses run by their workers as cooperatives. At the same time, those wishing to return to a more primitive way of life have formed hunter-gatherer tribes, which are nevertheless also conversant with contemporary technology.

Further on, although the Fall of Communism has been claimed to have discredited not just Marxism but also socialism, recent history has shown the opposite is true. After forty years of Thatcherism, an increasing number of people are sick and tired of it, its economic failures, the glaring inequalities of wealth, the grinding poverty and degradation it is creating. This is why the Conservative establishment, including the Blairites in the Labour party, were so keen to smear Jeremy Corbyn as an anti-Semite, a Communist and Trotskyite, or whatever else they could throw at him. He gave working people hope, and as Servalan, the grim leader of the Terran Federation said on the Beeb’s classic SF show, Blake’s Seven, ‘Hope is very dangerous’. A proper socialist society continues to inspire women and men to dream and work towards a better world, and it is to stop this that the Blairites contrived to get Corbyn’s Labour to lose two elections and have him replaced by Keir Starmer, a neo-liberal vacuity who increasingly has nothing to say to Johnson and his team of crooks.

Back to the book, its discussion of the nature of utopia therefore tends to be rather abstract and theoretical as it attempts to describe the concept and the way it has changed and been used. I didn’t find this really particularly interesting, although there are nevertheless many valuable insights here. I would instead have been far more interested in learning more about the particular ideas, plans and descriptions of a new, perfect, or at least far better, society of the many thinkers, philosophers and authors mentioned.

Proposed Thatcher Idol to Be Attacked by Manic Egg Throwers – ‘I’ Newspaper

December 2, 2020

Ho ho! Here’s a bit a fun news, also from yesterday’s I, for Tuesday, 1st December 2020. Grantham, the home town of Margaret Thatcher, of late and reviled memory, wants to be put up a statue to their most famous daughter. Of course, it’s massively expensive – the article quotes a price tag of £100,000 – and so a slap in the face of people struggling through the Covid lockdown. The council’s well aware that it’s controversial, and are going to put it on a high plinth to stop vandalism. Some hope! The good peeps on the ‘net have started organising an egg-throwing contest against it. The article by Jane Clinton, ‘Hundreds plan to throw eggs at new Thatcher statue’, runs

More than 1,000 people have signed up to attend an “egg throwing contest” at the £100,000 unveiling ceremony of a statue of Margaret Thatcher.

Around 1,400 people said they would be at the “egg throwing contest” in Grantham, Lincolnshire, which was advertised on Facebook. Yesterday more than 8,000 people had responded to the event.

In an accompanying Facebook post the organiser of the event, Kasa Arif, said: “We have a special target… a beautiful statue of the Iron Lady.”

Members of South Kesteven District Council’s (SKDC) cabinet will be asked today to approve the £100,000 expenditure, with fundraising for the even potentially carried out by the public, businesses and others.

But Adam Brookes, a Market Deeping town councillor, said “There is no guarantee as to the level of outside funding that will be secured, leading SKDC funding any gap.”

Baroness Thatcher was born and brought up in Grantham. And while councillors say the £300,000 bronze statue, created by Douglas Jennings, will be a fitting tribute, many have been angered by the financial outlay during a time of hardship. The statue is to be placed on a 10ft-high plinth to prevent vandalism.

News of the unveiling ceremony has sparked hundreds of anty responses on social media.

Twitter user Sammy said: “If you have to put the statue on a 10ft plinth because everyone hates its may be consider not buying the statue.”

I contacted South Kesteven District Council for a comment.

I’ve called the statue an idol because, in my view, that’s precisely what it is. Thatcherism is now a cult, like that of Reagan in America. Their economics have failed massively, and free trade neoliberalism with its central dogma of privatisation and the destruction of the welfare state, workers’ rights and low wages, have wreaked incalculable harm and suffering on ordinary people everywhere in the world. It’s been rightly described as ‘zombie economics’, but it has made the 1 per cent colossally richer, and so the political and media class are pushing it with all their might. And no voice must be allowed to blaspheme against the woman Alan Bennett once described in his dulcet tones as ‘Our Lady of Monetarism’.

Over the decades many people and organisations have shown their hatred of Thatcher by refusing to put up monuments to her or defacing them when they were put up. I think Oxford Uni shocked the government and the political class in the ’90s by refusing to put up a statue of her, despite the fact that they a tradition of erecting statues and busts of former PMs. And then, later in the decade, a statue of Maggie did appear – I think it was at an art exhibition – it was beheaded by an angry member of the public. Which led Private Eye to compare it to the great poem about the shattered remains of similar monument from ancient Egypt, Shelley’s Ozymandias.

Well, they’re trying to protect it by putting it on a plinth, but as the old glam rock song goes, ‘You can’t stop the children of the revolution!’ Rock on!

Carl Vernon: MPs Feast While Children Starve

October 26, 2020

The Tories really do seem determined to turn as much of the British public away from them as possible through their obstinate refusal to give free school meals to hungry children during the school holidays. Of course they’ve started making up excuses. They’re claiming that the vouchers given for the meals are being spent on drugs and in brothels. This seems to be something that they’ve just pulled out of their rears. There’s no evidence for it, and the organisations and people dealing with Britain’s drug problem haven’t every encountered any drug dealer who has taken food as payment for their wretched wares.

I know from experience that drug addicts will rob homes and premises for food. My mother used to run a elderly people’s club in south Bristol. It was set up by the local council to give the elderly of that area a meal out and allow them to meet other people, play games and exercise themselves for a few hours. One day they found they’d been broken into, but what had been stolen was mostly food. They contacted the police, who came round and took a few details. The cops believed that the people responsible were drug addicts and had had experience of similar cases in the past. As for food vouchers being used in brothels, Cynthia Paine, the notorious ‘Madame Cyn’ of Personal Services infamy, accepted payment in luncheon vouchers from her clients. But she was very much at the top end of prostitution servicing MPs and the like. Or so she claimed. I’ve never heard of any house of ill repute accepting food vouchers. But this seems to show the fantasy land in which the Tories making these excuses seem to live.

They’re also trying to deflect blame away from themselves. They’re being abused as ‘scum’ by an outraged public, and this is all the fault of Angela Rayner for calling one of nastier Tory MPs the term when he was speaking to defend the government’s odious policy. Of course, it’s unparliamentary language and Rayner should apologise. But I don’t think the British public need any encouragement from Rayner to abuse the Tories, who voted against giving children free meals. To state the blindingly obvious, people are very protective of children. It’s why there’s such loathing and hatred of child abuse. The Tories’ policy harms children, and so people are naturally enraged.

And besides, the Tories have previous when it comes to abuse. Like Boris Johnson and his highly racist description of Black Africans and newspaper article describing women, who wear the burka as looking like ninjas and letter boxes. After he wrote that, the number of racist assaults on Muslims increased, including assaults on women wearing the burka. Labour MPs also received more than their fair share of abuse. Margaret Hodge infamously called Jeremy Corbyn ‘a f***king anti-Semite’ in the House of Commons. Black MPs seem to be particularly targeted for vilification. the majority of insults and threats sent to female MPs actually go to Diane Abbott, while there was massive abuse of Dawn Butler after she was stopped by the cops for driving while Black. The whines and wails from the Tories about insults and abuse is just gross hypocrisy in this matter.

Mike and others have pointed out just how much the Tories supporting this policy are paid. Tories like Boris Johnson are making tens of thousands from their MPs salaries and from other work, as well as corporate and private political donations. This is very much the obscenely rich deciding that the poor should starve. And to add insult to injury, MPs also enjoy subsidised food in parliament’s restaurants and bars.

This short video comes from Carl Vernon’s channel on YouTube. Vernon shares the general public disgust at the Tories’ decision. He states that we don’t live in a socialist country, and people do have a responsibility to feed their children. Absolutely, but people have pointed out before, those forced to use food banks and charity to feed their children do feel this responsibility like every one else. They’re just prevent from acting on it by decades of Tory and New Labour policies that have kept wages below the level on which many people can afford to feed and clothe themselves and their families and heat their homes. Quite apart from the destruction of the welfare state, so that hundreds of thousands of people, who should receive benefits, aren’t.

Vernon points out that MPs’ meals in parliament are subsidized, so they eat very well at cheap prices. He shows this with examples from parliament’s own menus. Here’s the video.

The British public, local councils and businesses have shown immense generosity stepped in to feed these children. And in return some Tory MPs have responded with contempt and insults. One of those complaining about insults from the other side of the chamber is north Devon MP Selaine Saxby. When local businesses stepped in to feed the children the Tory government wouldn’t, she announced on Facebook

 “I am delighted our local businesses have bounced back so much after lockdown they are able to give away food for free, and very much hope they will not be seeking any further Government support”. 

So much for Tory support for the hospitality and other industries struggling due to the Coronavirus emergency and the lockdown! But there, as Mike, Zelo Street and a multitude of other peeps are pointing out, the Tories don’t care about anyone except themselves personally. Only when it directly affects them do they feel any remorse or pangs of conscience.

This is a national disgrace. Last night the BBC news announced that ours is the only country, which isn’t feeding its children.

We stand shamed and humiliated on the world stage. This is an outrage. But as Zelo Street has also posted, it also shows that Nye Bevan, the architect of the welfare state, was right. Bevan stated that he had always had a burning hatred for the Tories because of the way they condemned decent people to semi-starvation. And so he called them

‘lower than vermin’.

And they’re proving him right once again.

And they have the audacity to complain that people are calling them ‘scum’!

See also:

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/10/selaine-saxby-another-tory-idiot.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/10/ben-bradley-stop-digging.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/10/drugs-for-food-tory-has-his-bluff-called.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/10/angela-rayner-attack-er-hello-tories.html

Paul Joseph Watson Refutes Black Lives Matter

October 14, 2020

Paul Joseph Watson is another right-wing Youtuber. He used to be bonkers conspiracy theory peddler Alex Jones’ British buddy on Infowars, before he split with him and returned to Blighty. Leaving Jones to peddle his overpriced quack health supplements and mad ideas about the globalists running the world on behalf of demonic aliens, Obama and Hillary Clinton being demonic alien cyborgs set on imprisoning Americans in FEMA camps alone. Like Carl Benjamin, he’s also responsible for breaking UKIP. He entered the party along with Mark ‘Nazi pub’ Meechan. And the rest of the party, who really didn’t want to look like a bunch of racists, left in response.

But despite his extreme right-wing views and his opposition to immigration, I really don’t think it’s fair to call Watson a racist. And he does have a point about Black Lives Matter. BLM is centred around the perception that Black people are more likely to be killed by the cops than Whites, and that the police are institutionally racist. But this isn’t born out by the statistics.

Five years ago in May 2015 Watson posted this video, ‘Racist Facts White People Daren’t Talk About’ on his YouTube channel. He cites official government, police, FBI and academic statistics to show that Blacks aren’t killed by the cops more than Whites. But they do have more encounters with the rozzers because they disproportionately commit more violent crime.

He begins the video by showing that half of the police officers responsible for killing Freddy Gray, which set up of the Baltimore riots, were Black. But this fact is ignored. Black Lives Matter is about exploiting White guilt while ignoring the real causes of confrontations between Blacks and police.

Blacks commit disproportionately more violent crime than Whites. Blacks constitute just 13 per cent of the American population but commit half of all homicides. Department of Justice statistics from 1980 to 2008 show that Blacks were responsible for 52 per cent of all homicides compared to 48 per cent by Whites. FBI statistics for 2013 show that Blacks committed 38 per cent of murders compared to 31 per cent of Whites. From 2011 to 2013 38.5 per cent of those arrested for murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault were Black. Young Black men between the ages of 15 to 34, who comprise just 3 per cent of the American population, are responsible for the proportion of these crimes from Black people listed above.

Whites, on the other hand, are twice as likely to be killed by the cops. Data from the Centre for Disease Control from 1999 to 2011 show that 2,151 Whites were shot by the police, compared to 1,130 Blacks. But as Blacks commit the same numbers of offences as Whites, then the numbers of Blacks shot should also be equal.

He also presents evidence to show that Blacks are far more like to commit crimes against Whites than the reverse. He claims that Blacks are eight times more likely to commit crimes against Whites than Whites are against Blacks. He cites FBI stats from 2007 that state that Black males were 40 per cent more likely to assault Whites as the reverse. And interracial rape is almost wholly Black on White.

He quotes the academics James Q. Wilson and Richard Herrnstein , who stated in 1985 that the higher rates of crime amongst Black Americans cannot be denied, even allowing for discrimination in the justice system. Every official statistic shows Blacks overrepresented people arrested and imprisoned for street crimes.

And Blacks are more likely to be involved in violent confrontations with the police. Here Watson makes the point that this does not justify police brutality, but it does refute the BLM allegation that the cops are racist or solely brutal towards Blacks.

This raises the issue of whether Blacks are unfairly targeted and framed by the police. This allegation is debunked by looking at offenders described as Black by the victims. The number of Blacks arrested correlates with the numbers of perps described as Black by their victims.

Watson also goes on to consider the factors responsible for the greater incidence of criminality in the Black community. Poverty is one factor responsible for disproportionately predisposing Blacks towards violent crime, exacerbated by family breakdown. But there is also the problem that there is an element in Black subculture that actively celebrates criminality. This is encouraged by the White liberal media. After the Baltimore riots the media justified the violence directed against Black owned businesses. This is racist, and it leads to more police brutality.

He states that police brutality is a problem in the US. But the real problem is the violent criminality in the Black community. But until this becomes part of the national conversation the real, underlying issues will not be resolved. He concludes that by keeping silent about this, Black leaders and White liberals are responsible for maintaining a vicious cycle of violence.

Obviously this is very controversial stuff. There have been complaints and campaigns for decades about the reporting of crimes committed by Blacks to prevent the automatic association of Blacks with criminality and violence. This has now got to the point where many people assume that a perp must be Black, if his race is not mentioned in any news reports as there are obviously no such delicacies about the reporting of crimes by Whites. 20 years ago this resulted in a reversal of racial prejudices. A poll of the British public taken about then found that White youths were the most distrusted section of the British populace.It’s undoubtedly true that Blacks have been the victims of massive discrimination and prejudice by Whites down the centuries. Highly discriminatory legislation was put in place to keep them down and segregated after the abolition of slavery in America. And there was considerable, vicious racism against them over here. I’ve Black friends, who’ve had terrible experiences.

Black Lives Matter’s assertion that police are prejudiced against Blacks also has a basis in fact. The police were, but I don’t think it’s true so much now. As I’ve said in previous articles, I’ve had relatives and friends in the police who very definitely weren’t. And this ingrained prejudice against the police has caused terrible misperceptions of intent when the cops have gone to help Black people. Years ago back in the 1990s I was on a sociology course as part of a postgraduate degree I wanted to do on British Islam. The lecturer told us that we had to be aware how our views of events didn’t necessary match those of others. One of these examples was a case in America, where a Black woman collapsed in the street. Two White cops went to help her, but other Blacks automatically assumed that they were attacking her and an angry crowd gathered. This was an instance where Black prejudice against the police, which I don’t doubt came from previous experience, was actively harming them by preventing the rozzers from helping that poor woman.

Watson has the attitude that the liberals and the media are keeping silent about the real reasons for Black confrontation with the police, as they wish to keep them dependent on the state. This is the usual conservative nonsense about welfare dependency. I think one of the reasons Britain did not have the same level of violent crime until the last couple of decades or so was because we had a functioning welfare state, or at least some semblance of one, which meant that in the absence of properly paid work people weren’t faced with the choice of robbing or selling drugs to keep body and soul together.

I’m not great fan of Watson, and certainly don’t share his arch-Tory, Brexiteer opinions. But I think that the facts are behind him in this case. And this does need to be recognised, because without it nothing will change.

Even if it discredits Black Lives Matter’s essential assertion that more Blacks are killed by police.

Is the End of Debtfare Forced Labour?

September 28, 2020

In his chapter ‘The Violence of the Debtfare State’ in Vickie Cooper and David Whyte, eds., The Violence of Austerity (London: Pluto Press 2017), David Ellis uses the term ‘debtfare’ to describe the dismantling of state welfare provision and its replacement by debt and credit. And I’m starting to wonder how far this can go before something like debt slavery arises. The Romans abolished debt slavery, but the punishment for debt was addictio, forced labour. People are being forced into mountains of debt through poverty created by austerity and the removal of living wages and proper unemployment and disability benefits. Students are also mired in it through tuition fees which now may amount to tens of thousands of pounds.

I am therefore left wondering at what point the various banks and other organisations offering credit will stop it and start demanding their money back or some other form of repayment. Clearly if people remain in debt, they can’t repay the money. The alternatives seem to be either that the banks keep on giving them credit in the hope that they’ll be able to repay something, or else write it off as a loss. But if the number of people in irrecoverable debt hits millions, what happens? If the levels of indebtedness actually starts to harm the banks and the other organisations, will they turn to the state to demand some kind of forced labour in order to make good their profits?

I’ve already pointed out the similarity of the workfare schemes to the forced labour systems of Stalin’s Russia. Stalin used slave labour from the gulags to industrialise the Soviet Union. Business managers would give the KGB lists of the kind of workers their enterprise needed, and the KGB would then have those with the appropriate skills and qualifications accused of anti-Soviet crimes and arrested. The workfare scheme now used to punish the unemployed doesn’t teach anybody any new skills, nor does it allow them to find employment. Indeed the stats a while ago showed that people on workfare were less likely to get a job than if they were left to their own initiative. But workfare does supply cheap, state-subsidised labour to the scheme’s backers and the parties’ business donors, like the supermarkets.

So if the number of people in grievous, irrecoverable debt, will the government simply write them off and let them starve to death, as so many disabled people have done already thanks to false assessments under the Work Capability Tests? Or will they decide they can still make some money for business by pressing them into compulsory labour in order to work their way out of it, as in the Roman system?

I’m not saying this will happen or even that it’s likely. But I do wonder if it’s a possibility.

Do These Russian Prison Camp Slang Terms Describe Boris?

September 21, 2020

Mike and I were fortunate enough to study Russian at school for our ‘O’ levels. A few years ago a friend of mine gave me a copy of the above book, Meyer Galler’s and Harlan E. Marquess’ Soviet Prison Camp Speech: A Survivor’s Glossary (Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press 1972). Boris is once again denying allegations that he and the Tory party are taking donations from Russian oligarchs, friends of the arkhiplut Putin himself, for political favours. I’ve therefore cast a glance through the book to see how many of the slang terms could apply to him. Warning: this is the language of prisoners in the Soviet gulags, so as you’d expect from the language of prisoners in British jails, it’s frequently obscene.

Arap, as in apravlyat'[ arapa, to brag.

Bardak, ‘all f***ed up’, said of a plan, a task or a place. Literally a whorehouse.

Baryga, a fence, a dealer in stolen goods.

Barizhnichat’, to be a fence, to deal in stolen goods.

Bakhnut’, bakhat’, to unload, to get rid of, to sell illegally.

Biksa – a whore.

Glotka, _ luzhyornaya, ‘tin-plated throat’, applied to someone who raises his voice to intimidate others.

Davalka, an easy lay, a willing sexual partner.

Davakha, an easy lay, a willing sexual partner.

Deshevka, a whore, an abusive term often applied to men.

Dukharik, a blowhard, a bluffer.

Zalivailo, a liar.

Kaliki-morgaliki, drugs, narcotics.

Kalym, bribe.

Kryuchok, byt’ v kryuchke, to be on somebody’s hook, to be corruptible.

Lapa, a bribe.

Lipa. 1. ‘Padding’, false data inserted into work reports.

2. False document.

Magarych. A bribe.

Mankirant, a shirker.

Mankirovat’, to shirk.

Mastyrshik, one who causes an infection’.

Mudak, a nut, a fool. Literally, testicle.

Minetka, sdelat’ minetka, to commit fellatio. From ‘Minetka’, a woman’s name used as slang for a prostitute.

There’s doubtless more, but this is as far as I’ve got for now. I used the terms for ‘whore’ and ‘willing sexual partner’ metaphorically to describe Boris’ willingness to sell the Tory party and this country for money. The bribes are obviously the corporate donations Boris takes from British and other businesses, not just Russian and I thought ‘fence’ described him, as well as the terms for to unload and sell illegally because of the way the he and the Tories have sold off our public utillities and are selling off the NHS.

I don’t know if Boris has taken drugs, but there was that photo of George Osborne at a party when he was younger sat next to a woman of easy virtue and with a few lines of coke on the table.

As for being someone who causes an infection, I thought that was particularly appropriate during this crisis. Because Boris’ incompetence and contempt for human life, and his refusal to implement an early lockdown has meant that he’s responsible for many more contracting and dying from the Coronavirus.

His government has also regular issued false data to claim that its all a splendid success, and so he and his government are definitely liars and braggarts. And he very definitely is turning this country into a bardak. Not that you’d know it from the Tory press and media.

I also found another term, which might describe the relationship between Boris and Putin, or indeed Trump and Putin: ‘batya’. It means ‘dad’ or ‘uncle’, and in Soviet prison camp slang referred to an older criminal. Given how corrupt Putin’s government is, you feel it’s how Boris should refer to the Russian president. If he spoke Russian, of course, and only did so behind Putin’s back.

If there was any justice, of course, Boris and his gang would be in prison, at least for their mass murder of the disabled. But there’s no chance of that, and so they’ll continue wrecking this country and impoverishing its citizens. All for their profit and that of their rich, corporate donors.

A British Utopia: The Webbs’ Constitution for a Socialist Britain

September 5, 2020

Okay, I’ve finally finished reading Sidney and Beatrice Webb’s A Constitution for the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain, first published in 1920 and then again in 1975 by the LSE and Cambridge University Press. It’s very dated and clearly shows how very different things were when it was written and today.

The Advance of Socialism

Firstly, it’s an optimistic book. Democracy had finally arrived in Britain and the mobilisation and state industrial planning introduced during the First World War seemed to the Webbs to show very clearly that capitalism was in retreat. One of their earlier books, cited in this text, was on the decay of capitalism. The vast increase in efficiency and the production and distribution of goods through the state management of the economy in the War years also seemed to them to provide a further demonstration that capitalist was a wasteful, inefficient system that was destined to be superseded by socialism. The industries and businesses taken into state, municipal or cooperative ownership would be able to produce goods more cheaply and affordably than capitalism with its class system and exploitation. The Webbs were not just impressed with the arguments for state ownership, but the way local authorities up and down Britain were also operating and managing local services, including medical care, electricity and gas companies. Another powerful motor driving the march of socialism and its transform of Britain was the cooperative movement and the trade unions. Millions of Brits belonged to their local coop store. The businesses handled millions of pounds, owning subsidiary companies and trading with other, similar businesses right across the globe. At the same time, the trade unions were resisting capitalism and, with the entry of working men into parliament, providing proof that the working class could manage industry and govern.

The Problems of the Cooperative Movement and Workers’ Control

There were problems with both of these latter movements, however. The coop’s managers and directors were unimaginative in the development of new goods and services, and as exploitative as capitalist business when it came to the treatment of their employees. The trade unions were divided with a hodge-podge of very different and often contradictory constitutions and frequently in conflict with each other and their leaders. Some times this conflict was physical, as when one group of trade unionists broke into their headquarters and physically removed their leaders from power. At the same time, against the syndicalists and Guild Socialists, the Webbs argued that the management of industry solely by the workers was always unsuccessful. When it had been tried, it had shown that the workers always managed their firms for themselves, so that they either became uncompetitive with conventional capitalist firms, and ignored the demands and requirements of the wider community.

Criticisms of Parliamentary System

At the same time, the traditional British parliamentary system was also inadequate to deal with the increase in political business created by the nascent welfare state and emergent state sector. The Webbs took seriously contemporary Conservative criticism about the decay of parliament. Their solution was to recommend the creation of two different, separate assemblies. One would be a political parliament, that would follow the traditional 19th century view of what constituted politics. This would deal with criminal law, defence, foreign relations and the Empire. The second would be a social parliament, that would manage the economy, industry and social and cultural matters, including education. The members of both parliaments would be elected, but, in contrast to the arguments of the syndicalists, this would be by geographical constituency, not by trade. The conventional system of government by cabinet ministers was also unsuitable and incapable of dealing with the demands of the new political and economic realities. Thus the Webbs instead recommended that the parliaments should operate under the system of committees used by local authorities.

Local Government

The book also shows the state of local government at the time it was written in its recommendations for that sector’s reform. This was a time when the functions of what would later become local councils was split between a number of different boards. There was one for the poor law, another for sanitation, and others for education, medical care and so on, each of whose members were separately elected. At the same time, local councillors themselves were unpaid volunteers, which meant that it was dominated by landlords and businessmen, who governed in their own interests. The Webbs therefore demanded what is now the obvious, established practice: the creation of local authorities which would absorb and carry out the functions of the various boards, whose elected councillors would be paid. At the same time, the local ward would be the basis building block of local democracy, and the local authorities would be free to unite in larger, composite organisations where this was suitable, even to the point where they could compete in the management of industry with the social parliament.

Nationalisation, State Control and Personal Freedom

The Webbs believed that nationalisation would actually involve very few industries. Only those that affected the nation as a whole, such as the mines, the railways and natural resources, that would need to be carefully protected and managed for the future, would be taken into state ownership. These would in practice be managed by individual industrial boards and organisations, not by the social parliament itself. This would confine itself to supervision and matters of general investigation and legislation. That was partly so that, if there was an industrial dispute, it would not be seen as an attack on the state requiring the intervention of the armed forces. At the same time the Webbs were keen to stress that the new system should take every step to preserve individual liberty. Legislation should be scrutinised to ensure that it did not take away personal freedom, and no-one should be compelled to use a socialised firm if they preferred a capitalist alternative. Local authorities would also set up a range of businesses and services for the benefit of their communities. Yet others would be owned and operated as cooperatives, including the press. This would solve the problem of its use to spread capitalist propaganda. While firms would continue to be managed by a salaried, professional staff, their boards would also include the representatives of the workers.

Active Public Involvement in Industry

At the same time, the Webbs were also keen to include the British public in the management of industry and conduct of politics. Consumers’ groups were to be encouraged and their suggestions for improved conduct and services should be taken seriously. In contrast with capitalism, where firms kept their operations very secret, the British public would have access to all the facts and figures about the management and conduct of industry and economy presented in government publications and reports from their own MPs and councillors. They were to be encouraged to take an active interest in government and the economy, and be ready to make their own criticisms and recommendations. At the same time professional and trade associations like the British Medical Association, law society and scientific and engineering associations, including the trade unions, would also be encouraged to develop high standards of morality and professionalism with their occupations.

Protection of Indigenous Peoples

They also recognised that there would be ethical problems with a socialist Britain trading with other countries, who remained capitalist, and with less developed countries. They therefore looked to the new League of Nations and other institutions as new guardians of a new international morality, who would protect the indigenous peoples of the world from capitalist exploitation.

Socialism Cutting Down on Capitalist Bureaucracy

They also take care to refute two particular objections to socialism. One is that it would be too bureaucratic. Instead, they argue that uniting different firms into a single industrial organisation, as would be done for the mines and railways, for example, would actually reduce bureaucracy. At the time they were writing these industries were split between a number of different companies all with their own separate management boards.

Socialism Means Expanding Private Property

The second is that socialists are totally opposed to private property. This is not so, declare the Webbs. They are not opposed to private property, and active want its expansion. What they are opposed to is the private ownership of industry. But they want people to have their own homes and gardens, and for an expansion of personal property as ordinary people are able to afford a wider range of goods and possessions which at present are only confined to the wealthy.

The Individual Professional in a Socialist Economy

The Webbs also believe that there will be a place in the socialist economy for some capitalist, private industry. This particularly includes individual professionals, who provide their professional expertise for a fee. They also look forward to an expansion of education. They believe that socialism will lead to rapid improvements in technology and industrial management, which will mean that some workers will become unemployed. Those workers will be retrained and taught new skills. Those unable to master these will not be allowed to starve, but will instead be given good pensions on which to live.

The Webbs’ Vision and Contemporary Reality

The Webbs’ vision is obviously more than a little Utopian. They have been proven right in their recommendations for the reform of local government, some of which they were actually responsible for. At the same time, they’ve been proven right in the expansion of education. At the time they were writing, most working people left school around age 12. Now the government wishes half of all school leavers to go on to university, which in their case means they complete their education at 21.

On the other hand, the cooperative movement has failed to transform British society and is now effectively just another retail chain. Parliament has also shown itself competent to deal with both the increased business and areas of government, like industry and the economy so that there is no need for a separate, social parliament. It’s just that it’s been a disaster that the country is governed by doctrinaire Tories, who have wrecked the economy, society and manufacturing industry, not to mention health and education, in favour of the free market. But there are still strong arguments for nationalisation and for the inclusion of the workers themselves in the management of their firms. As for the British Empire, it’s now long gone and has been transformed into the Commonwealth. However the neocolonial system of tariffs imposed by the developed world prevent their former colonies in Africa from developing their own manufacturing industries and have imposed a new system of capitalist exploitation.

Capitalism Creating Misery and Poverty

But conditions in the early 21st century also show that, if the socialist utopia hasn’t materialised, capitalism hasn’t fulfilled its promise either. The free market economy zealously promoted by Thatcher and Reagan is very definitely and obviously not bringing prosperity. Rather it is a just returning us to the poverty and misery of the 19th century, coupled with the threat of global climate change and the ecological crisis. The problems that the Webbs and other socialists believed could only be solved through socialism.

Conclusion

Socialism probably doesn’t have all the solutions. But it still has many of them. Even though it’s very dated, this book is still worth reading. At its heart is a vision of socialism which would lead to greater prosperity and for working people to be able to develop and improve themselves. At the same time, individual freedom and the rights of the individual would be secured. A state bureaucracy would govern the nationalised industries, that of the local authorities those under their control. But there would be a range of companies and industries created and managed through ordinary people themselves through cooperatives they would be encouraged to found. Instead of entrepreneurs being limited to a small class of individuals, the public as a whole would become business owners and managers, actively interested in their companies and enterprises. This would be too much for many. It’s arguable that most people in this country have little interest in politics or industry and are content to leave it to others. Hence the persistence of capitalism and the electoral success of the Tories.

The Webbs’ constitution is an attempt to provide an alternative system to capitalism and its failures. It’s dated, but still inspiring. And real socialist solutions are as necessary now as they were when it was written. I hope that more people discover it, as I have, and that it also inspires them.

Bristol’s Elected Mayor Supports Schools That Refuse to Open

May 30, 2020

Boris Johnson is desperate to get the children back to school as quickly as possible if he can, and has decided that schools will reopen next week for children of specific ages. Parents and teachers are naturally worried about this, especially as the public schools won’t reopen until September. It seems to be once again one law for the plebs and another for the entitled rich. And once again, Boris is utterly complacent about the health and welfare of ordinary people in his desire to get the economy moving once again. So long as the elite don’t get it, he’s not worried.

Mike has published a series of pieces about this, including the very strict regulations governing the movement of young children when they return to the classroom. Mike has commented that this seems less like schooling and more like a prison. The Tories have tried to justify this by pointing to Denmark, which has already allowed its children to return to school. This is not the first time the Tories have embarked on a disastrous policy and tried to justify it as just following the Danes. And that makes me wonder what else they aren’t telling us about our friends across the North Sea. Way back in the 1990s the Tories laid off a vast number of civil servants. This, they declared, would cut bureaucracy and reinvigorate the economy. The Danes had done it, and so boosted theirs. But they didn’t follow the Danish policy absolutely. It had worked in Denmark, I was told by a Danish friend, because their government had given its departing state bureaucrats very handsome final payments of about £40,000 or more, and encouraged them to set up their own businesses. The Tories didn’t do any of this. They just laid people off. This also had a knock on effect on the economy. I’ve heard that for every civil service job, there’s 1 1/2 jobs supported by it in the wider economy, as those employed by the state purchase goods and services. Which meant that when our civil servants were kicked out, they took an awful lot of other people in private industry with them. Now that the Tories are telling us that the Danes are sending their children back to school, I do wonder what it is that the Danes are doing right, which our benighted government isn’t and won’t tell us about.

Mike has also put up a piece on his blog examining the question of parental responsibility if a child contracts the Coronavirus or the Kawasaki disease from school. It seems very clear – in British law parents are held accountable if they send their child to a hazardous environment and as a result they become ill or injured. This is regardless whether they have been urged or told to do so by the government. Parents therefore have a very strong case for refusing to allow their children to go to school if they are afraid for their safety.

Civil disobedience: would parents be irresponsible to send their children back to school now?

These concerns are also shared by Bristol’s elected mayor, Marvin Rees, and his cabinent. Like many Bristolians I received an email last Wednesday from Rees discussing what he and his team were doing about the coronavirus. Rees particularly mentioned schools and stated that he supported those schools that would remain closed. Rees said

Our city’s teachers and school staff have been working even harder than ever to keep schools open for children who are vulnerable and whose parents are key workers. Rather than accepting the 1 June date from the Government, Councillor Anna Keen, a local schoolteacher and our cabinet member for education, and our education team have met regularly with head teachers. The government made the schools opening a binary debate by not discussing their announcement with unions but I am afraid this has been consistent with their continuing failure to engage with cities on decisions, throughout the crisis. 

We have also met with school leaders representing teaching and children across Bristol throughout the pandemic, listening carefully to their views and concerns. It was very clear that they did not want a blanket approach across Bristol – and the teaching unions in Bristol support this too.

Like other councils, our position is clear:  schools should stay closed until they can begin to reopen safely. We are 100% backing teachers to work with parents and communities to make decisions on how their schools return, as Anna’s blog set out on Wednesday.

We also backed the unions’ calls for scientific advice on child transmission to be published. From the start of last week, all parents and carers have begun receiving a letter from the council, via schools, to remind them that they do not have to send their children in and that they should not expect their school to open on a particular date, in a particular way.

The Tories and their pet press and media have done their best to portray those teachers and unions objecting to schools reopening as selfish and unconcerned with the welfare of their pupils. This is the opposite of the truth. I realise that there are bad, sometimes terribly bad teachers, but most teachers are very concerned about the performance and wellbeing of their charges. But the Tories have always hated teachers and demonised them as part of their campaign to break the unions, privatise education and indoctrinate them with approved Tory values. This latest attack on teachers worried for the health of their students is just more of this same rubbish.

I’m not a great fan of Rees. He’s made some decisions for Bristol that have been very foolish, and has alienated many people in south Bristol with his refusal to accept residents’ plans for housing development in Hengrove Park in favour of his own scheme, which was rejected by the regulator. But this time Rees is right.

He and Bristol’s school heads and teacher are worried about schoolchildren’s health and protection against the Coronavirus. Boris isn’t, and shouldn’t be believed whatever comes out of his mouth.

Right-Wing Americans Campaign Against Lockdown

April 19, 2020

Last night the Beeb reported that there were demonstrations in America against the Coronavirus lockdown, encouraged by presidential clown, Donald Trump, against the advice and desires of his own administration and its medical advisers.

The Beeb interviewed some of them. One was a man dressed in protective gear, holding up a sign saying ‘American worker’. He objected to the lockdown because he wanted to work. Other placards declared that ‘Liberty is God-Given’, and that ‘Health Is My Choice, Not the Governments’. The Beeb’s reported stated that the demonstrators felt that the lockdown was unconstitutional and was an attempt by the government to expand its powers. Meanwhile, Trump had been supporting the protesters by issuing a series of Tweets demanding that Virginia, Idaho and a number of other states should lift their lockdowns. This naturally did not go down too well with those states’ governors, such as Cuomo in New York, who was particularly scathing. It was leading to a constitutional crisis over just who had the right to lift the lockdown. And the states were insistent that it wasn’t Trump.

It’s easy to sympathise with them up to a certain extent. People in this country are worried about their businesses and jobs. We have a larger welfare state than America, which means we’re better cushioned against poverty. Even so, thanks to the Tory dismantlement of our welfare system and the gross inadequacies of their emergency legislation, millions of people are still wondering how they’ll feed and clothe themselves and their families, as well as pay the rent or mortgage. America has a much smaller welfare system, which does far less to stop people falling into destitution and poverty. There’s also a psychological dimension to this. Americans have more of the work ethic. If you’re on welfare, it’s through some fault of yours. You’re a moocher and a loser. And so the fear of unemployment, which is very much present in the UK, is much greater over the Pond.

But it also shows how the bonkers libertarian right have also created an extreme fear about the state. Any expansion of state power, even it is beneficial, is seen as a dangerous threat to American freedom, a threat that will eventually lead to the establishment of a Nazi-Communist-Atheist-Muslim dictatorship. A few years ago, when Alex Jones and Infowars were in full flood all over the internet and Obama was in the White House, Jones was screaming about emergency legislation that had been passed. Obama, he announced, would declare a state of emergency and force the American people into FEMA camps in order to deprive them of their freedom and establish the one-world Satanic state for the globalists. Or something like that. Others on the right said the same. The pastors on one right-wing church radio station blithely told their listeners that Obama was infused with a hatred of Whites, and was set on creating a dictatorship which would kill more people than Chairman Mao. Others considered that he was going to start a genocide of White Americans. Well, Obama has come and gone, and showed himself to be none of these things, and committed none of the predicted horrors. But that clearly has left a deep-seated terror of the state.

The emergency legislation would be a threat to liberty, if it wasn’t framed within the context of constitutional, democratic government. When governments enact, or activate such legislation, they do so with provisions that limit its duration and provide for its lifting. There were worries about legislation passed by Boris which gave him, the police and armed forces extraordinary powers for two years. But the legislation now in place, passed in the 1980s, which demands that the state of emergency be reviewed every so many weeks, strikes a far better balance in favour of personal freedom.

As for it being a personal choice what someone does about their health, in most cases that’s true. But not here. Because it’s not just the person that’s choosing whether or not to expose themselves to the virus who’s affected. Their choice affects the lives of others, and in too many cases it’s a matter of life and death. So for their sake the issue is taken out of the hands of the private citizen.

Human lives are more important than the economy, and a properly functioning welfare state enhances personal freedom, not detracts from it. The libertarians and organisations like the Freedom Association over here are flat wrong in their attacks on the welfare state and their demands for absolute privatisation and a minimal state.

Lives, and people’s businesses and jobs, are at threat from the lockdown, but this can be ameliorated by state aid and a properly functioning welfare state.

Unfortunately, this is what Trump, Murdoch and other right-wing media loudmouths, want to prevent. Because it’ll stop them getting richer.