Posts Tagged ‘Class’

Why Did British Public Opinion Turn Against the Empire?

August 10, 2022

The British empire and its history is once again the topic of intense controversy with claims that its responsible for racism, the continuing poverty and lack of development of Commonwealth nations and calls for the decolonisation of British museums and the educational curriculum. On the internet news page just this morning is a report that Tom Daley has claimed that homophobia is a legacy of the British empire. He has a point, as when the British government was reforming the Jamaican legal code in the late 19th century, one of the clauses they inserted criminalised homosexuality.,

In fact this is just the latest wave of controversy and debate over the empire and its legacy. There were similar debates in the ’90s and in the early years of this century. And the right regularly laments popular hostility to British imperialism. For right-wing commenters like Niall Ferguson and the Black American Conservative economist Thomas Sowell, British imperialism also had positive benefits in spreading democracy, property rights, properly administered law and modern technology and industrial organisation around the world. These are fair points, and it must be said that neither of these two writers ignore the fact that terrible atrocities were committed under British imperialism either. Sowell states that the enforced labour imposed on indigenous Africans was bitterly resented and that casualties among African porters could be extremely high.

But I got the impression that at the level of the Heil, there’s a nostalgia for the empire as something deeply integral to British identity and that hostility or indifference to it counts as a serious lack of patriotism.

But what did turn popular British opinion against the empire, after generations when official attitudes, education and the popular media held it up as something of which Britons should be immensely proud, as extolled in music hall songs, holidays like Empire Day and books like The Baby Patriot’s ABC, looked through a few years ago by one of the Dimblebys on a history programme a few years ago.

T.O. Lloyd in his academic history book, Empire to Welfare State, connects it to a general feeling of self hatred in the early 1970s, directed not just against the empire, but also against businessmen and politicians:

”Further to the left, opinion was even less tolerant; when Heath in 1973 referred to some exploits of adroit businessmen in avoiding tax as ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism’, the phase was taken up and repeated as though he had intended it to apply to the whole of capitalism, which was certainly not what he meant.

‘Perhaps it was surprising that his remark attracted so much attention, for it was not a period in which politicians received much respect. Allowing for the demands of caricature, a good deal of the public mood was caught by the cartoons of Gerald Scarfe, who drew in a style of brilliant distortion which made it impossible to speak well of anyone. The hatred of all men holding authority that was to be seen in his work enabled him to hold up a mirror to his times, and the current of self hatred that ran so close to the surface also matched an important part of his readers’ feelings. Politicians were blamed for not bringing peace, prosperity, and happiness, even though they probably had at this time less power – because of the weakness of the British economy and the relative decline in Britain’s international position – to bring peace and prosperity than they had had earlier in the century; blaming them for this did no good, and made people happier only in the shortest of short runs.

‘A civil was in Nigeria illustrated a good many features of British life, including a hostility to the British Empire which might have made sense while the struggle for colonial freedom was going on but, after decolonization had taken place so quickly and so amicably, felt rather as though people needed something to hate.’ (pp. 420-1).

The Conservative academic historian, Jeremy Black, laments that the positive aspects of British imperialism has been lost in his book The British Empire: A History and a Debate (Farnham: Ashgate 2015):

‘Thus, the multi-faceted nature of the British imperial past and its impact has been largely lost. This was a multi-faceted nature that contributed to the pluralistic character of the empire. Instead, a politics of rejection ensures that the imperial past serves for themes and images as part of an empowerment through real, remembered, or, sometimes, constructed grievance. This approach provides not only the recovery of terrible episodes, but also ready reflexes of anger and newsworthy copy, as with the harsh treatment of rebels, rebel sympathisers , and innocent bystanders in the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, an issue that took on new energy as demands for compensation were fuelled by revelations of harsh British policy from 2011’. (p. 235).

He also states that there’s a feeling in Britain that the empire, and now the Commonwealth, are largely irrelevant:

‘Similarly, there has been a significant change in tone and content in the discussion of the imperial past in Britain. A sense of irrelevance was captured in the Al Stewart song ‘On the Border’ (1976).

‘On my wall the colours of the map are running

From Africa the winds they talk of changes of coming

In the islands where I grew up

Noting seems the same

It’s just the patterns that remain

An empty shell.’

For most of the public, the Commonwealth has followed the empire into irrelevance. the patriotic glow that accompanied and followed the Falklands War in 1982, a war fought to regain a part of the empire inhabited by settlers of British descent, was essentially nationalistic, not imperial. This glow was not matched for the most recent, and very different, conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. These have led to a marked disinclination for further expeditionary warfare’. (pp. 421-2).

In fact the whole of the last chapter of Black’s book is about changing attitudes to the empire and the imperial past, which Black feels has been distorted. The British empire is seen through the lens of atrocities, although its rule was less harsh than the Germans or Italians. In India the view is coloured by the Amritsar massacre and ignores the long periods of peace imposed by British rule in India. He also notes that the cultural and international dominance of America has also affected British ideas of exceptionalism, distinctiveness and pride, and that interest in America has superseded interest in the other countries of the former empire.

Attitudes to the empire have also changed as Britain has become more multicultural., and states that ‘increasingly multicultural Britain sees myriad tensions and alliance in which place, ethnicity, religion, class and other factors both class and coexist. This is not an easy background for a positive depiction of the imperial past’ (p. 239). He also mentions the Parekh Report of the Commission on the Future Multi-Ethnic Britain, which ‘pressed for a sense of heritage adapted to the views of recent immigrants. This aspect of the report’ he writes, ‘very much attracted comment. At times, the consequences were somewhat fanciful and there was disproportionate emphasis both on a multi-ethnic legacy and on a positive account of it’. (p. 239). Hence the concern to rename monuments and streets connected with the imperial past, as well as making museums and other parts of the heritage sector more accessible to Black and Asians visitors and representative of their experience.

I wonder how far this lack of interest in the Commonwealth goes, at least in the immediate present following the Commonwealth games. There’s talk on the Beeb and elsewhere that it has inspired a new interest and optimism about it. And my guess is that much of popular hostility to the empire probably comes from the sympathy from parts of the British public for the various independence movements and horror at the brutality with which the government attempted to suppress some of them,, like the Mau Mau in Kenya. But it also seems to me that a powerful influence has also been the psychological link between its dissolution and general British decline, and its replacement in British popular consciousness by America. And Black and Asian immigration has also played a role. I’ve a very strong impression that some anti-imperial sentiment comes from the battles against real racism in the 1970s and 1980s. One of the Fascist organisations that founded the National Front in the 1960s was the League of Empire Loyalists.

This popular critique on British imperialism was a part of the ‘Nemesis the Warlock’ strip in 2000AD. This was about a future in which Earth had become the centre of a brutally racist, genocidal galactic empire ruled by a quasi-religious order, the Terminators. They, and their leader, Torquemada, were based on the writer’s own experience as a pupil of an abusive teacher at a Roman Catholic school. The Terminators wore armour, and the title of their leader, grand master, recalls the crusading orders like the Knights Templars in the Middle Ages. One of the stories mentions a book, published by the Terminators to justify their cleansing of the galaxy’s aliens, Our Empire Story. Which is the title of a real book that glamorised the British empire. Elsewhere the strip described Torquemada as ‘the supreme Fascist’ and there were explicit comparisons and links between him, Hitler, extreme right-wing Tory politicos like Enoch Powell, and US generals responsible for the atrocities against the Amerindians. It’s a good question whether strips like ‘Nemesis’ shape public opinion or simply follow it. I think they may well do a bit of both.

But it seems to me that, rather than being a recent phenomenon, a popular hostility to the British empire has been around since the 1970s and that recent, radical attacks on imperial history and its legacy are in many cases simply an extension of this, rather than anything completely new.

PoliticsJoe Video Showing the Sheer Dementedness of Liz Truss

August 7, 2022

PoliticsJoe posted this video on YouTube yesterday. Its title declares that its about ‘Just Liz Truss Being Fully Mental’, which I supposed is one way of describing some of the antics and pronouncements of this contender for the Tory leadership. It consists of a series of clips, not edited together to have her singing a stupid, satirical song about herself, as PoliticsJoe has done, but something just as damning: it shows some of her deranged political statements, together with her failing to answer tough interview questions about her broken promises and falsehoods from people like Andrew Neil. And mixed in with that is previous footage from years ago of her speaking at a Lib Dem conference when she was a young activist with them.

The younger Truss seems like a normal, sane, politically idealistic and passionate human being. She praises Paddy Ashdown and the political potential and right to self-government of the British people. A self-government that is being denied by the monarchy, whose abolition she demands. It’s a very radical proposal, and one which you tend to hear from those further left, such as the left-wing of the Labour party. But by the time she’s a Tory MP and cabinet minister, she’s been transformed. The eyes have got madder, though not nearly as bog-eyed as Nicky Morgan, and the voice has taken on a harsher edge, so that at one point she did sound a bit like Anne Widecombe. And instead of radical democratic change, she was wibbling on about having secured a prize deal for exporting pork to China. Just like she steered through a deal to export cheese to Japan, where most of the country is lactose intolerant. And other great results for Brexit.

What should really bring her down is her lies and broken promises. She’s asked by Neil how many of the 200,000 social houses she declared she was going to build were actually put up. She can’t remember. Neil tells her that it’s not hard to know how many: zero. And the end of the video shows her being patiently asked by a female journo about various promises she made when she was in office, one after another, all of which she broke.

This is the woman now trying to get her backside into No. 10, and in many ways a true protege of Boris Johnson and the Tory machine. A woman who ditched democratic idealism for class reaction, Brexit and just telling one lie after another, while gripping desperately at the tiniest success in the Brexit negotiations in order to show it as some kind of magnificent success for Britain.

The Tories are destroying the British economy, and have only succeeded in making this country’s great people desperately poorer. Brexit has actively damaged our industry, agriculture and even the financial sector, which the Tories and New Labour have favoured so much. And Truss has been a vital part of all that under Johnson and before.

Johnson out!

Truss out!

Sunak out!

Tories out!

Critical Race Theory, White Privilege and the Rhetoric of Ethnic Cleansing

August 2, 2022

As readers will have probably noticed, I have very strong objections to Critical Race Theory and particularly its concept of White privilege. Critical Race Theory is a postmodern revision of Marxism, dreamt up in the 1970s by Kimberle Crenshaw and a group of Black Marxist legal scholars in the 1970s. It replaces class as the instrument of oppression with race. ‘Whiteness’ is a bourgeois quality possessed by all Whites which guarantees them social, economic and political superiority to Blacks and other people of colour. Even if the individual White person is not racist. Racism, it also holds, has not declined, but is just better hidden. Whites must be made to know Black oppression and feel guilty about it. Much of the literature of Critical Race Theory and its activism is about deliberately humiliating Whites. For example, several years ago there were student riots at Evergreen College in Oregon. The college was very liberal, and there had been for decades since the 1970s an annual withdrawal of Black students during the summer months to mark the absence of Blacks during a critical phase in the civil rights struggle or so. By the middle of the last decade, this had changed into demands for the White students to absent themselves in favour of Blacks, in order to appreciate Black marginalisation. This was succeeded by a series of aggressive student demonstration in which Blacks and their White allies insisted on forcing Whites into inferior positions. At meetings, for example, Whites were required to sit at the back and not speak. Brett Weinstein, an evolutionary biologist with liberal views, describes it as ‘Black supremacy’. Not all Blacks supported this aggressive demonstration of racial vindictiveness, and one of Weinstein’s students, a young Black woman, shouted at the mob that she wasn’t oppressed. Students of whatever colour, who didn’t conform, were chased by the mob. Peter Boghossian, Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay also demonstrated the irrationality and vicious prejudice of this woke pseudo-scholarship in the spoof papers they sent to various woke, postmodern journals, which were eventually collected up and published as Grievance Studies. In one paper, they argued that White male students should be forced to sit on the floor in order to teach them about marginalisation and persecution. They believed this would be too much for the academic journal to which they had submitted it. Alas, no; it was accepted with a reply complaining that they didn’t go far enough: the young men shouldn’t just be forced to sit on the floor, but should be chained up as well.

Part of what worries me about the concept of ‘White privilege’ is that privilege is something usually said of rich minority groups, who haven’t worked for their position, such as the aristocracy. Or the half of the British business elite that has inherited the ownership of their companies, rather than having worked their way up. It also recalls the legal privileges that accompanied the European class system, particularly under feudalism, and the legal restriction placed on Blacks in Jim Crow America and in the White-ruled colonies, like Rhodesia, Malawi and South Africa, until the beginning of Black majority rule. For example, until the establishment of democracy in the 1920s in Britain, women were barred from voting and there was a property qualification on the franchise, so that the majority of working class men did not have the vote either. I also believe that there was a property qualification on serving on juries, which was only abolished by Woy, sorry, Roy Jenkins in his socially liberal reforms of the 1960s. Much of the ire directed at Jenkins from the right comes from his decriminalisation of homosexuality and his relaxation of the divorce laws. One splenetic right-winger- from the Daily Heil perhaps? – once described him as a destroyer of British society comparable to Stalin or some other totalitarian monster. Really? Just Jenkins on his own? With his ‘good claret expression’, to use the words of caricaturist Gerald Scarfe. The last time I looked, Britain’s buildings were all standing rather than reduced to rubble by the rampaging hordes, and Jenkins and the Labour party following him had sent a precise number of zero people to concentration camps or re-education centres. But a certain type of high Tory does want all this back. The Financial Times reviewed one such book, which looked forward to the return of the property qualification for juries so they would protect property rights, and the restoration of the old order before anti-discrimination legislation.

In fact there are very strong arguments against White privilege. For a start, east Asian such as the Chinese and Japanese, perform much better educationally and economically than Whites in America and Britain. In Britain the proportion of Asians in management positions, for example, is identical to Whites. In America, they earn more and occupy superior jobs. And while Blacks are sacked before Whites, Whites are sacked before east Asians. This isn’t because east Asians are superior in IQ. It’s because they seem to work harder and have a particular set of cultural skills that allow them to succeed. And in many instances, they earned their position through very hard work against prejudice and discrimination. One social study found that the Japanese in Canada were the most ‘privileged’ ethnic group. But Japanese Canadians had had a long struggle against punitive discrimination which was worse than that experienced by people of Japanese descent in the US. And immigrants to the US from the British Caribbean earn more on average not just to native Black Americans, but also to Whites. For Black conservatives like Thomas Sowell, Blacks are held back not by racial discrimination in the wider society, though he doesn’t deny this exists, but because the majority Black culture hasn’t acquired the necessary social and economic skills to uplift themselves And he is fiercely critical of multiculturalism because he believes it isolates and ossifies different ethnic groups into separate enclaves and cultural preserves, thus preventing from learning from and acquiring the skills of other, more successful groups. As for White privilege, it is hard to see what privilege a homeless White man possesses compared to tenured and respected Black academics and radicals like Crenshaw.

To me, Critical Race Theory and White privilege tackle the problem of Black poverty and marginalisation from the wrong end. Instead of seeing Black poverty as the anomaly which must be tackled, it sees White success as the anomaly, which must be destroyed if Blacks and people of colour are to take their rightful place in society. Thus White people must be brought down and Whiteness abolished. The Guardian, which promotes Critical Race Theory, as claimed that this doesn’t mean White people but Whiteness as the social quality that gives them their exalted place. But one of the writers anthologised in the collection of papers, Critical Race Theory, states that there is no difference between Whiteness and White people. And one of the fears of CRT’s critics is that after attacking Whiteness, the radicals will indeed move on to attacking Whites.

It seems to me that the Critical Race Theory and White privilege are essentially a continuation of the mindset that Whites enjoy their superior social position through mechanisms of power long after those legal mechanisms had been officially abolished and the ideology on which they were based was discredited. It’s an attempted to explain why, after the victories of the Civil Rights movement, the majority of Blacks are still poor. And the rhetoric of decolonisation over here seems to be a direct transference of the bitterness felt by indigenous Africans to privileged White settlers to mainstream British, White society. And that worries me, because of the brutality of the ethnic cleansing of the White farmers in Zimbabwe by Mugabe’s thugs at the beginning of the century. I also have to say that I’m worried about the trends in Afrocentric and other Black pseudohistory that claims that Blacks are the original inhabitants of the British isles. Simon Webb of History Debunked yesterday put up a post about the claims in a book on African and Afro-Caribbean communities in the UK, that there are folktales of Africans invading Britain before the Romans. Webb has his own racial biases and some the historical claims he makes are also false. But if he’s right about this, then the author of the book, Hakim Adi, a professor at Chichester university, is talking pure tosh. I am aware of no such folktales, not even when I was a member of the Society for Contemporary Legend Research back in the 1990s. The closest I’ve come to it was in the long-running and sadly missed Celtic warrior strip, Slaine, in the zarjaz SF comic 2000AD. This included a race of Black Atlanteans, the Rmoahals, described as giant aboriginals. The strip’s writer, Pat Mills, based them on a legend that the standing stones of the isle of Callanish in the Hebrides were built by Black-skinned giants who dressed in feathers. Aside from that, the only other source for this curious assertion may be a garbled memory of one of the waves of colonisation that swept over Britain and the continent during prehistory. The Neolithic reached Britain from the fertile crescent over two routes. One was directly across Europe itself, the other was across North Africa and then up from Morocco through Spain. But this occurred so long ago that it was lost to memory for millennia. Archaeologists have only now been able to reconstruct it by using genetic data. Has Adi heard a garbled version of this from within the Black community, from people who mistakenly thought this was a Black African invasion? It also reminds me of the claim made a few years ago that the ancient Egyptians settled in Birmingham before the Roman conquest. This appeared in the Independent, but has, I understand, since been discredited. It also seems to me to have a certain kinship to another piece of Black myth-making, that sailors from Mali discovered America before Columbus, but didn’t enslave the Amerindians. If this happened, it would be truly remarkable, as I’ve seen claims that the Malians didn’t have any ocean-going ships. And the Malinka were a powerful slaving nation, so if they did discover the Amerindians, there would have been nothing preventing them from enslaving them as well.

My fear is that this rhetoric and pseudohistory will cause Blacks, or a minority of Blacks, to see themselves as the oppressed, true inhabitants of Britain and attack the White British as colonialist oppressors. Even if, at present, they claim otherwise. When the Black Lives Matter movement broke out, its Bristol branch stuck up posters claiming that ‘We’ve always been here’ – which is hi8storically very debatable, although some Blacks have been present in Britain at various periods from the Middle Ages onwards. Claims of Black presence further back, such as the supposed Black skin colour of Cheddar man, are more conjectural. Webb has claimed that this reconstruction was based on a false interpretation and has since been retracted, but I have not seen him cite his source for this.

Marx himself held some extremely unpleasant racial views. He’s most infamous for his anti-Semitism, as shown by him sneering at his German rival, Ferdinand Lassalles, as ‘the Jewish ni++er.’ But he also had strong prejudices against European ethnic groups. He held that the Celts, Basques and the Slavs were backward peoples who had no intrinsic right to exist and national independence. When the 1848 Revolutions broke out, he was afraid that their bids for independence would stop the class revolution he wished to promote. In a chilling passage, he looked forward to the class war becoming a race war. This recalls the horrific ethnic cleansing and deportations Stalin inflicted on the national minorities in the USSR, including the Holodomor, the artificial famine in Ukraine which killed 7 million people.

Thomas Sowell in his book Conquests and Cultures talks about the ethnic cleansing by Muslim mobs of the Ibo people by Muslims in Nigeria and the horrific bloodbath of the Biafran war. The Ibos had previously been a minor, poor tribe but had seized the opportunities presented by western, Christian missionary education, which the northern Muslims had rejected as against their faith. As a result, Ibos were better educated and held better jobs and positions of responsibility even in the Muslim north. This was naturally resented, and the resentment grew into violence. Sowell notes that these tensions were heightened by the language each side used against the other. He writes

‘The problem was not simply that there were differences of opinion, but that there were not established and mutually respected traditions for airing those differences with restraint and accommodation. Vitriolic polemic in the press and in the political arena became the norm. Epithets like “fascist” and “imperialist stooge” became commo currency, along with unbridled expressions of tribal chauvinism.’ (p. 127). In the West there are respected means of airing such differences, but the insults sound very much like the language used by the woke, radical intersectional left against its opponents.

And there is anti-White racism and violence. Two decades ago the number of Whites killed in racist attacks was nearly the same as members of Blacks and other ethnic minorities. There have been armed attacks by Blacks on Whites in the past few weeks and months. One was when a man opened fire on the passengers on a subway. Another was when a Black man deliberately drove his car into a parade in a White community. He left behind a manifesto which made it very clear that this was an act of anti-White terrorism. But this was not treated as such by the Biden administration.

I am very pessimistic about the success of affirmative actions schemes in creating a sustainable Black middle class. As I understand it, this was originally intended to be only a temporary measure. Once Blacks had gained entry into education, the sciences, politics and business on a level comparable with Whites, these schemes were to be dismantled as they would no longer be needed. But forty years after the Runnymede Commission recommended ‘positive discrimination’ in which Blacks are to be favoured by offering places with lower grades to universities and colleges, and preferential job offers if they have lower qualifications, the mass of Black Britain still remains poor and marginalised. I don’t, however, know how bad the situation would otherwise be if these policies had not been implemented. It could be they would have been much worse.

Nevertheless I do fear that these policies will continue to fail and that, in their anger and desperation, some Blacks will begin pogroms against Whites, encouraged by the rhetoric and arguments of Critical Race Theory.

Toff Drunkenness, Vandalism, Snobbishness and Whoring – the Elite Thuggery of the Bullingdon Club

February 9, 2022

Brian Burden, one of the great commenters on this blog, has suggested that I should dig up material on the Bullingdon Club in response to Bozo’s repulsive smear of Stalin. Our clownish premier had declared that Stalin had deliberately refused to prosecute Jimmy Savile for his heinous crimes. It wasn’t true. Stalin refused to prosecute not because he had any sympathy with the gold-bedecked monster, but because at the time he didn’t think there was enough evidence to secure a conviction. Johnson’s been rightly criticised for his lie and at least one cabinet official has resigned as a result. But the smear has gained traction, and was one of those hurled at Stalin and David Lammy by a mob from the anti-lockdown group, Resistance GB. A simple Google search turned up this article on the Groaniad website from the Observer for 7th July 2019, written by Harriet Sherwood, ‘Sexism, vandalism and bullying: inside the Boris Johnson-era Bullingdon Club’. It reports the description of the club and its grotty activities by an unnamed woman who had the job of finding recruits in the 1980s. It begins

‘It is notorious for champagne-swilling, restaurant-trashing, “pleb”-taunting elitism. Now new light has been shed on the outrageous antics of the Bullingdon Club – the Oxford University group that may be about to produce its second British prime minister – by someone intimately connected to it during Boris Johnson’s membership.

A woman who acted as a scout for potential members of the Bullingdon Club in the mid-1980s has said that female prostitutes performed sex acts at its lavish dinners, women were routinely belittled, and that intimidation and vandalism were its hallmarks.

The woman, who has asked not to be named, is now an academic and regards her involvement with the male-only Bullingdon Club more than 30 years ago with extreme regret and embarrassment.

In her first week at Oxford in 1983, she was approached by a member of the club to identify potential recruits – a role she performed throughout her time as an undergraduate. She also had an 18-month relationship with a man who became a president of the club. In her final year at Oxford, she shared a house with Bullingdon members.

Her involvement with the club coincided with Boris Johnson’s membership and overlapped with David Cameron’s. She was not a close friend of Johnson but they had a number of good friends in common, she said. She has maintained contact with several former Bullingdon members over the past 30-plus years.

“I helped recruit for the Bullingdon, and advised [the president] on its activities,” she told the Observer. “I know very well what the patterns of behaviour were. When [her ex-boyfriend] was president, they had prostitutes at their dinners. They performed sex acts, sometimes at the shared dining table, and sometimes elsewhere on the premises.”’

She describes how the club’s culture was to get drunk and vandalise something. When someone was recruited, they had to wreck their room. In one incident, a recently refurbished wood-panelled room at Magdalen College was completely trashed and the wreckage piled up in the centre. They were also bullies, who liked to intimidate ordinary peoples. She said that they “found it amusing if people were intimidated or frightened by their behaviour. I remember them walking down a street in Oxford in their tails, chanting ‘Buller, Buller’ and smashing bottles along the way, just to cow people.” You probably won’t be surprised that at a party where they had to come as their alter ego, two of them turned up in Nazi uniform. And Boris Johnson was a major member. About our current Prime Minister she says “Boris was one of the big beasts of the club. He was up for anything. They treated certain types of people with absolute disdain, and referred to them as ‘plebs’ or ‘grockles’, and the police were always called ‘plod’. Their attitude was that women were there for their entertainment.” Johnson now says that he’s ashamed of his membership and the club’s antics, but she also remarks that there are strong generational links, close-knit ties, and that they think it’s in their power to confer office on anyone they choose. ‘They have a bond of loyalty’.

Since its heyday in the 1980s the club’s power and membership has dwindled. It now has only a handful of members, apparently, and in October 2018 Oxford Conservative Association banned its members from holding any positions in it. But despite Johnson’s professed shame at being a member, she did not want him to become PM:

‘“The characteristics he displayed at Oxford – entitlement, aggression, amorality, lack of concern for others – are still there, dressed up in a contrived, jovial image. It’s a mask to sanitise some ugly features.”’

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jul/07/oxford-bullingdon-club-boris-johnson-sexism-violence-bullying-culture

All of this rings absolutely true. Mike posted up a piece by one fellow who had the misfortune to meet Johnson in the bar while he was awaiting an interview to get into Oxford. The man comes from an ordinary background, so had to endure Johnson’s boorish sneers about him and everything about him for the amusement of his wretched, sneering, toff friends. And others have also stated that Johnson’s image as an amiable buffoon is very carefully contrived, right down to the messed hair.

It’s an indictment of the British class system that a former drunken, destructive yob should become Prime Minister simply because he’s an aristo.

Class Bias and Elitism in Afrocentrism

January 28, 2022

Howe’s book Afrocentrism also discusses the arguments of the movement’s Black critics that its values represent those of the Black middle class and ignores the different needs of the classes below them. He writes

In the eyes of some critics the4 patriarchal bias is closely linked to a class-based one. Ransby and Matthew make this point in passing, seeing Afrocentric rhetoric as implicitly invoking classic stereotypes of the dysfunctional Black ‘underclass’. The argument is more central, however, in polemics like that of the prolific black socialist scholar Manning Marable, who sees the real origins of Afrocentrism like this:

‘The black-nationalist-oriented intelligentsia, tied to elements of the new African-American upper-middle-class by income, social position and cultural outlook, began to search for ways of expressing itself through the ‘permanent’ prism of race, while rationalising its relatively privileged class position.’

Asante’s theories, in Marable’s view, represent the more scholarly and philosophically coherent version of such elite self-rationalization. More ‘vulgar’ Afrocentrists – among whom Marable includes Leonard Jeffries – not only espouse a cruder, more dogmatic racial essentialism shot through with anti-Semitic rhetoric, but express their elite biases more nakedly:

‘Vulgar Afrocentrists deliberately ignored or obscured the historical reality of social class stratification within the African diaspora. They essentially argued that the interests of all black people – from… Colin Powell… (and) Clarence Thomas, to the Black unemployed, homeless and hungry of America’s decaying urban ghettoes – were philosophically, culturally, and racially the same… As such, vulgar Afrocentrism was the perfect social theory for the upwardly mobile black petty bourgeoisie. It gave them a vague, hard, critical study of historical realities… It was, in short, only the latest theoretical construct of a politics of racial identity, a worldview designed to discuss the world, but never really to change it.” (281)

Howe agrees, stating

‘Given the evidence of wildly unscholarly statements from writers like Asante that we have documented, one may think that Marable is overstating a distinction between ‘scholarly’ and ‘vulgar’ Afrocentrists, but his overall judgement has considerable weight.’ (281).

I think the same criticism could be levelled at Critical Race Theory, which rejects class in favour of race and specifically ‘whiteness’ as the main instrument of oppression in western society. It therefore sees all Blacks as equally disenfranchised, even if they are extremely wealthy, and all Whites uniquely privileged even if they are poor.

More Racism from Starmer as He Cuts Money for Asian Women MPs Advisors

December 8, 2021

Mike put up a story yesterday that Keef Stalin, having managed somehow to blow all the money Labour had accumulated under Corbyn, has decided to start cutting money for MPs’ advisors. Corbyn was immensely popular with the Labour membership, and most of the money raised by the party under him came from members’ subscriptions. He was popular because he stood for traditional Labour values and policies – the nationalisation of utilities, a functioning welfare state that genuinely supported the poor, the disabled, the elderly and the unemployed, a fully-funded, nationalised NHS, powerful trade unions actively protecting and advancing the interests of working people, rights at work and decent wages. Everything that Starmer either doesn’t believe in, because he and his supporters are true-blue Thatcherites, or else he’s afraid to support them in case it puts off all those Tory voters he wants to attract. He doesn’t support traditional Labour policies or values and actively distrusts the core membership. Hence his desire to attract people to the party, who otherwise wouldn’t vote Labour and all the rules enacted at the party conference to consolidate his and his factions’ grip on the party. As a result, rank and file members are voting with their feet, taking their subscriptions and donations with them. The juicy donations Stalin is trying to win from industry ain’t happening, and so Stalin is having to lay off bureaucrats. And this week he told the Asian lady MPs Rosena Allin-Khan and Preet Gill that they’d have to raise their own money to pay for advisors.

To Mike and many others, this looks like racism. While Keef has made a lot of noise about rooting out anti-Semitism – which means in practise smearing and purging left-wing Jews who criticise Israel – he ignores other forms of racism within the party. Black and Asian MPs have been bullied, but no action taken, and 1/3 of the party’s Muslim members have reported suffering Islamophobic incidents. Labour has traditionally had strong support from the Black and Asian communities because of its emphasis of equality and anti-racism. But now Labour’s front bench is actually less diverse from the Tories. Which looks like racism. And now this decision to stop the funding for advisors for these Asian women politicos.

I wonder how far the Islamophobia is linked to Keef’s Zionism. Keef has declared himself to be ‘100 per cent’ Zionist, and the organisations determined to protect Israel from criticism for its barbarous treatment of the Palestinians seem to have a deep distrust and hostility towards Islam and Muslims. Tony Greenstein has reported that the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism declares on its website that most anti-Semites are Muslim. But it doesn’t seem to supply any information or stats to back this up. The Community Security Trust, a private police force that stewards Zionist rallies, has forcibly separated Jewish and Muslim protesters, because Heaven forbid that Jews and Muslims should ever unite in friendship against a state many Jews believe violates the fundamental liberal principles of Judaism. And sections on the media aren’t any better. GB News followed the rest of the political pack last week in declaring that Judaeonazi Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely had been chased off campus by Palestinians. And various other news outlets claimed that the protests against her visit to the LSE were organised by ‘Islamists’. Well, I’ve no doubt Palestinians were among the groups protesting against her. And they have good reason, as she supports pulling down their towns and villages to build Jewish settlements. I’ve also no doubt many Muslims were also present, as in my experience most Muslims bitterly resent the maltreatment of Palestinians. But there were also ordinary students and Jewish groups protesting as well. Mike in one of his pieces has a photo of a group from Na’amod, a British Jewish group which opposes Israeli occupation and apartheid. But they’re the wrong kind of Jews, the sort that aren’t featured on the news and who are actively being purged by Starmer.

But I also wonder if there isn’t something else going on with the withholding of money from Rosena Allin-Khan. If I recall correctly, she was one of the candidates for the party’s vice-presidency. I think she’s actually of mixed Polish and Pakistani heritage. But I’ve also got a feeling she’s a doctor. When I saw her at the hustings in Bristol, she spoke passionately about class and racial barriers, but also about the NHS.

And so I wonder if Stalin’s decision to do this isn’t just an attempt to silence two Asian women parliamentarians, but also one of the party’s most vocal defenders of the NHS.

Stalin is a Blairite, and Blair was fully behind the Thatcherite privatisation of the Health Service, though he also kept the Health Service fully funded. At the moment the Labour front bench is fighting the Tory privatisation, but I do wonder for how long. Because I feel that as soon as Starmer gets into office, and someone from Virgin Health, Bupa, Circle Health or any of the other private healthcare companies comes along with a nice, juicy cheque, he’ll ditch his commitment to keeping it nationalised.

It’s starting to seem to me that he’s starting on its supporters.

Right-Wing Belfield Rants about Foreigners Owning British Airlines, But Blame Thatcher for Privatising It

October 11, 2021

Alex Belfield got himself well and truly worked up today, and delivered an angry rant about British Airlines. This is because it has, in the name of diversity, decided not to address their customers as ‘ladies and gentlemen’. I have to say I’m not impressed either by this harmless, customary address being ditched in the name of what just looks to me like modish virtue signaling. I think the decision has been taken at BA because, a month or so ago, a person of indeterminate gender got upset and wrote an angry letter to one of the regional train companies because their station announcements included the phrase. This individual thought it excluded non-binary peeps like themselves. This individual also seems to be have been the LGBTQ+ officer for their local Labour party, so I think their letter was a piece of social activism rather than simply a piece of genuine personal affront. Or so it was painted by the right-wing Lotus Eaters in their determination to find anything to discredit the Labour party.

But Belfield’s rant then went on to include the terrible, overpriced food on the airline, and complained that it was no longer really British, as it had been bought by foreigners. Well yes, it has, along with all the other utilities that were privatised by Maggie Thatcher. They should have been kept in government – in our – ownership. But I suppose it’s too much for him to grasp that, as he seems to think that Thatcher was patriotic. His rant shows that clip of Thatcher wrapping a paper hanky round a model of a British Airlines plane’s tailfin to cover up the weird ethnic design that the company had decided to use to replace the union flag following the 1981/2 riots. Now I actually think Thatcher was right about the flag. It was British Airlines, and I see absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about in the British flag as our centuries old national symbol.

But however patriotic Thatcher was, or claimed to be, her privatisations have been ruinous and have harmed Britain ever since. In fact, I’d say that there were firmly unpatriotic.

But you could never get a staunch Tory like Belfield to admit that.

Oh yes, and Belfield begins his rant by saying that he wanted to be a pilot when he was young, but was only a kid from a pit village and never got the necessary school qualifications. One of the lads I grew up with is a pilot in America. He comes from an ordinary home and went to the local comprehensive. But it is difficult, as the British pilot training and exams including some very hard mathematics that other countries don’t. Maths that I’ve been told are only in there to make it hard for poorer students to pass as opposed to the rich.

If this is true, it’s pure class discrimination which really needs to go, never mind silly worries about the correct, gender neutral greeting for passengers.

Vox Political on the Real Face of Boris Johnson

August 5, 2021

It’s sad but true that many people have been taken in by Boris Johnson’s image as an affable buffoon. Whatever he does, no matter how inept or offensive, like reciting ‘The Road to Mandalay’ in Thailand’s holiest temple, coming back from talks in Moscow to ratchet up tensions with Russia rather than decrease them, the massive cronyism and corruption, the continuing destruction of the NHS, the tens of thousands whose deaths from Covid could have been prevented, there seem to be any number of people ready to ignore all those because of Johnson’s jovial persona. He’s a buffoon, yes, he’s bumbling, but he’s well intentioned and has the nation’s interests at heart. Yes, he went to Eton, but somehow, like that other scion of money and privilege Nigel Farage, he has managed to convince too many ordinary people that he’s somehow one of them. The American radical magazine Counterpunch once quoted a porter in one of the northern English fish markets as saying that Johnson was working class like him. The reality is, of course, far different. Johnson’s an aristo, and as Jeeves once said to Spode in an episode of Jeeves and Wooster all those years ago, he and the working classes are barely on nodding terms. Like his hair, which is normally neatly combed but which he deliberately messes for effect, all the bonhomie and the image of being a man of the people is a carefully crafted pose. Johnson is genuinely inept, but what is false is the image he projects of having any kind of regard for working people and their concerns.

Mike has put up a very revealing piece originally put up by Damian Furniss, about the real face behind the carefully constructed mask. And, as the Ferengi used to scream about anything they didn’t like on Star Trek, it’s ‘Ugly. Verreeee ugleeee.’ Mr Furniss had the misfortune to encounter Boris while having a pint in the bar while awaiting an interview to get into Oxford. The future Prime Minister then amused himself and his similar rich and snobby friends by sneering at Furniss, mocking everything from his speech impediment to his far humbler social background. Mike’s put up this quote from Furniss about Johnson’s nasty performance.

“Three years older than me, and half way through the second class degree in Classics he coasted through with the diligence he later applied to journalism and red box briefings, you’d have expected him to play the ambassador role, welcoming an aspiring member of his college.

“Instead, his piss-taking was brutal. In the course of the pint I felt obliged to finish he mocked my speech impediment, my accent, my school, my dress sense, my haircut, my background, my father’s work as farm worker and garage proprietor, and my prospects in the scholarship interview I was there for. His only motive was to amuse his posh boy mates.

“In short, he demonstrated all of the character flaws that make him unfit to be our Prime Minister. Nothing I see today suggests he has changed. He’s not Falstaff, he’s Faust. If you are an ordinary working person and think he has your interests at heart, think again.”

I can’t say I’m surprised by any of this. I’ve heard stories myself about how he was a vile bully at Eton, though that’s hardly anything extraordinary given the vicious bullying culture that’s run rampant there and in the other public schools. And for all his aristocratic background, it also shows a monumental lack of good breeding. At some of Bristol’s grammar schools, for example, the pupils were taught that they were to show the same respect to the gardener and the ancillary staff that they would to the teachers. It’s bad form for someone from such a privileged background to sneer at those further down the social hierarchy. But clearly, Boris and his noxious chums regard such morals as for grammar school oiks rather than such lofty personages as themselves.

Unfortunately, I doubt Mr Furniss’ piece will make much of a dent in the impressions of those who continue to be taken in by Johnson. Some of this is, no doubt, because they want to be deceived. They want to believe that somehow Johnson represents the working people of this country, in the same way that there were people more than willing to believe Tweezer when she said that she and her cabinet weren’t members of the ‘elite’, when every single one of them was a millionaire. It’s the other side of the Tories’ equally carefully constructed image of the left and especially the ‘woke’. Membership of the elite isn’t just a matter of wealth and social class, but also of values. The elite, as described ad nauseam by the Tories over here and the Republicans in America, are rich leftists who attack decent, working people with their assaults on national pride and aggressive attacks on racism, misogyny, homophobia and anything else they consider bigoted. Highly privileged individuals, who don’t share the concerns and values of ordinary working people. Unlike them, of course.

But this is all just right-wing rhetoric and propaganda. Johnson, Tweezer and the rest of the Tories are the real elite. They’re millionaires from extremely privileged backgrounds, unlike very many of the Labour party, and particularly the Labour left. There are many MPs from that side of the party, who do come from a real working class background, and whose socialism reflects their genuine concern with improving conditions for ordinary working people. This is despite the attempts by Blair and Starmer to turn Labour once again into a middle class party pursuing Conservative policies and voters.

Johnson and the Tories have nothing in common with the working class, for whom they have nothing but contempt. But they’re very good at manipulating their public image, and so have succeeded in persuading many working people that somehow they represent them.

But every so often the mask slips to reveal the seething mass of class hatred, greed and snobbery beneath.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2021/08/05/how-can-anyone-support-boris-johnson-knowing-the-contempt-he-has-for-them/

A French Historian’s Examination of Medieval Slavery

June 27, 2021

Pierre Dockes, Medieval Slavery and Liberation, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (London: Methuen 1982).

I got this book through the post yesterday from the secondhand book company, World of Books. I ordered it because it seems to me that there is too little awareness of the existence of indigenous White European slavery and serfdom. It very much seems that anti-racist and Black activists are presenting a false view of slavery as something that only White Europeans and Americans did to Black Africans. Its existence in ancient and medieval Europe, as well as in Africa and Islam, is deliberately ignored or downplayed. At the same time, the Tories are also intent on presenting their terribly simplified view of British history as a kind of ‘merrie England’ when everyone was free and prosperous, and the peasants lived happily under the benign rule of the aristocracy and factory masters. Dockes, the author of the above book, was professor of political economy at the university of Lyons. He’s described as a member of the Annales school of French historians. I was taught in the historiography part of the MA history course at UWE that the Annales school is, roughly, the French equivalent of History Today. In other words, mainstream academic history. He seems to be approaching the subject from a left-wing direction, as several sections concentrate on the role of class conflict and warfare.

The blurb for the book runs:

How and why did ancient slavery come to an end in the Middle Ages? In this study, Pierre Dockes, a controversial figure in the younger generation of Annales historians, approaches the question not only from the historian’s legitimate concern to understand the transformations of ancient societies but also out of the belief that slavery is more than merely a simple moment in the past. It is rather the primary relationship of exploitation, from which serfdom and wage-labour have stemmed.

Dockes criticises the deterministic accounts of ancient slavery and medieval liberation put forward by both bourgeois and Marxist scholars. He describes the organisation of the Roman villa and its place in the slaveholding society and in the formation of the imperial state, and goes on to show how it was ultimately slave revolts that erased this form of exploitation. Imperial society was reduced to two antagonistic classes and, the author argues, it was slaveholding which undermined the social base upon which Caesar’s and Augustus’s state was constructed.

The end of slaveholding took centuries to accomplish. Each resurgence of the power of the state meant the resurgence of slavery, which did not end until the late ninth century when slave revolts contributed to the breakdown of the Carolingian political order. Dockes concludes that imperialism and slavery are inextricably intertwined, and that even today, ‘after centuries of struggle, exploitation does indeed continue to exist. Only the form has changed.’

The book contains the following chapters and constituent sections.

Introduction

Definition of slavery

The Role of the Class Struggle

The Class Struggle and the State

Appendix: Note on the Determinism of the Productive Forces in History.

  1. The Villa, Society and the State

Genesis of the Villa Slave System

“Ends” of Slavery

Forms of Exploitation in the Early Middle Ages and Challenges to Them

The Elaboration of a “New” Feudal Mode of Production

Outline of the Following Chapters

2. Questions to Historians about Economism

The Question of the Rationality of the Great Slaveholding Landowner

The Question of Productivity

The Question of the Profitability of Slavery

Reproduction of the Work Force: Razzia and Breeding

Marc Bloch’s “Economic Conditions”

The Moral and Religious Factor

3. Productive Forces and Feudal Relations

The Collapse of the Slave Empire, or the Struggle of the Lower Classes

“Build the Material Foundations of Feudalism First”

“Large” Water Mills: Where Does Technological Progress Come From?

Appendix: The Banal Mill – Advantageous to the Peasant or Not?

Dues of the Banal Mill

The Time “Wasted” in Milling by Hand

Estimation of the Average Costs

A Calculation at the Margin

4. Class Struggles in Europe (Third to Ninth Centuries)

Slaves and the Struggles of Others

Slave Struggles and the State

5. Epilogue: By Way of Conclusion.

I’m sure that in the nearly forty years since its publication parts of the book have become dated. For example, Dockes states that slavery continued in England until the 13th century, while more recent books state that slavery had died out by the end of the twelfth century as serfdom became the predominant form of unfree labour. Nevertheless, I think it’s an extremely useful examination of medieval European slavery and the role of class warfare and struggle in its removal and transformation.

Radio 4 Comedian Next Sunday Discusses Working Class Male Culture

March 17, 2021

It seems that Radio 4 and the Beeb might be discovering working class men. On Sunday, 21st March 2021 at 7.15, the channel’s broadcasting Jacob Hawley: Class Act. The Radio Times blurb runs

Stand-up comedian Jacob Hawley, who grew up near Stevenage, dissects his journey from working-class banter boy to oat milk latte-sipping, inner-London feminist.

The additional piece about it on the facing page by Tom Goulding states

Having deftly touched the thorny issues of sex and drugs, Jacob Hawley returns ot the BBC with this politically charged comedy special. Class Act deals with another taboo subject: working-class male culture. Hawley charts his journey from banter boy to inner-London feminist and asks whether working class men have been dismissed as hopeless cases: excluded from the UK’s cultural discourse on topics as diverse as women’s rights and mental health. Hawley won plaudits for his On Drugs podcast, in which he interviewed friends and experts on the UK’s attitude towards recreational drug use. Here, he again proves capable of bringing a light touch to heavyweight subjects.

A few years ago the BBC broadcast a series of films on race, one of which asked the question of whether the White working class was being overlooked. It’s been reported that the most underprivileged group in the UK is actually White working class boys. UKIP’s core vote were White working class people who felt overlooked and ignored by the mainstream parties. This campaign by right-wing populists to capitalize and exploit White working class discontent continues. The right-wing New Cultural Forum has a video up on The Demonisation of the White Working Class. On the left, Owen Jones wrote a very good book on the subject a few years ago and the left-wing of the Labour party is consciously trying to appeal to White working class voters with policies that will benefit all of the working class as well as criticising the way the Tories are trying to divide them from Blacks. One of the serious points the Private Eye strip ‘It’s Grim Up North London’ made through its humour was the alienation of its north London heroes from the White working class. Aesthetes with a taste for the latest international fads, to them ordinary White working class Brits were an exotic species they didn’t understand and wondered at. In one cartoon the pair are seen in a cafe or pub listening with wonder at the exotic conversation of the two on the next table. In fact, they’re a pair of Geordies wondering what the two are doing staring at them. Following the series Tom Mayhew Is Benefit Scum, it looks like Radio 4 is rediscovering the British working class and its issues.