Posts Tagged ‘Class’

Mail Spikes Story about German Anti-Nazi Tennis Champ to Save Embarrassing Its Chiefs’ Grandfathers

June 14, 2018

This is another piece from Private Eye, which shows you once again how grotty the Daily Mail and its sister paper, the Mail on Sunday are, and their historic links with Fascism and anti-Semitism.

Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail, resigned last week to start a new job elsewhere in the company. He was succeeded by Geordie Grieg, who was previously the editor of the Mail on Sunday. This fortnight’s Private Eye for 15th-28th June 2018 therefore carried a special, two-page article paying suitable tribute to him and his editorship of the rag, on pages 8 and 9. On page 9, in the section ‘Good Sports Finally Agree’, the Eye describes how both Dacre and Grieg spiked a story about a 1930s German tennis player, Baron Gottfried von Cramm. Von Cramm was an opponent of the Nazis, and was imprisoned by them for having a gay affair. The Mail was considering running a story about this courageous and principled man, up to the point when one of its staff noticed a few lines in the article describing how he had been banned from participating in the 1939 Wimbledon tournament by the All England Club. One of those pushing for the ban was Harold, the first Viscount Rothermere. And so to avoid embarrassing the current Viscount Rothermre, the piece was spiked.

The story was then picked up the Mail on Sunday, which was also considering publishing it, until a hack dug up another connection between events then and the MoS’ editor. It turns out that the president of the All-England Club at the time von Cramm was banned was one Louis Grieg, Geordie Grieg’s grandfather. Who was also a member of Oswald Mosley’s January Club. And so the story was spiked again. This sorry tale was revealed, according to the Eye, in the ‘Mandrake’ column of the New European.

The Mail is infamous for the backing it gave Oswald Mosley’s legions with the headline ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’. One of the great left-wing bloggers, I think it was Tom Pride at Pride’s Purge, a few years ago posted up the various headlines and articles the paper had run in the 1930s raving about Adolf Hitler, the Nazis, Mosley and fulminating against Jewish immigration. This was after the Mail did a hatchet piece on Ed Miliband, the then head of the Labour party, which attacked him through his father. The article was headlined ‘The Man Who Hated Britain’, and sought to portray Ralph Miliband, a Jewish Belgian immigrant and an important Marxist thinker, as someone who despised his adopted country. Well, he certainly despised its class institutions, like the public schools and monarchy, but as Tom Pride’s piece revealed, Miliband senior did his patriotic duty like millions of other people, and served in the army fighting the Nazis.

This was in sharp contrast to Dacre’s father or grandfather, I can’t remember which, who spent the war as a showbiz or society correspondent. So, more hypocrisy from the Mail. This won’t surprise anyone, as the Mail’s always been hypocritical in its nasty attitudes.

With all these murky little family secrets about their predecessors’ extreme right-wing views, the editors of the Mail and Mail on Sunday have got no business libelling anyone on the Left as anti-Semites or Holocaust Deniers.

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Books ‘For A Worker’s Chamber’ and ‘Crimes of Empire’ Published with Lulu

May 11, 2018

This week I’ve working on publishing my books For A Workers’ Chamber and Crimes of Empire with the print on demand publishers, Lulu. This has now been done, and the books are now available, if anybody wants them.

For A Workers’ Chamber is my book arguing that as parliament is dominated by millionaires and company directors, to be really representative working people need their own parliamentary chamber within it. My blurb for it runs as follows

The book argues that working people need their own separate chamber in parliament to balance the domination of millionaire MPs holding directorships. It uses Marx’s analysis of the state as an instrument of class domination, and examines schemes for working people’s political autonomy from the Chartists, through anarchism, syndicalism, Fascism and the system of workers’ self-management in Yugoslavia, as well as the corporative management system adopted in post-War Europe. This set up negotiations between government, management and unions to settle industrial disputes and manage the economy.

It’s ISBN is 9780244386061.

Crimes of Empire is the book Florence suggested I write all that time ago, about how America and the West has overthrown generally liberal, socialist regimes, and replaced with them Fascist dictatorships when they have been an obstacle to western corporate or political interests.

The blurb for this runs

The book discusses the current wars fought by the West in the Middle East, and shows that these are not being fought for humanitarian reasons, but are part of a long history of American coups and political interference since World War II. These have been to overthrow regimes that have blocked or resisted American corporate or political interests. This policy is behind the Maidan Revolution in Ukraine, the invasions and attacks on Iraq, Libya and Syria, and conflicts with Russia and Iran.

It’s ISBN is 978-0-244-08662-6.

Lulu are at http://www.lulu.com/

These are the print versions of the books. For a Workers’ Chamber is £4.50 and Crimes of Empire £10.00. The prices are exclusive of tax. I am planning to make e-book versions of them, which should bring the price down further for people who want to read them on computer or Kindle.

Expelled Labour Anti-Racist Campaigner Marc Wadsworth Talks to Afshin Rattansi on RT

May 8, 2018

This is another great video from that notorious Russian propaganda outlet, RT, which shows exactly why we need the channel. It’s the only one allowing those smeared as anti-Semites from the Labour party to come on TV to give their side and their views.

In this clip, RT’s presenter for the ‘Going Underground’ programme, Afshin Rattansi, talks to Marc Wadsworth. Wadsworth is the veteran anti-racist campaigner, who was smeared as an anti-Semite by Blairite Labour MP Ruth Smeeth. He was then subjected to what can only be described as a kangaroo court, before being found guilty and thrown out.

Wadsworth here talks about how he formed the Anti-Racist Alliance in 1991, and how he helped the parents of the murdered Black teenager, Stephen Lawrence, meet Nelson Mandela. He states that this was a time when racism and Fascism were on the increase. Blacks and Asians had been attacked, the BNP had established a bunker, which they claimed was a bookshop, and then there was the murder of Stephen Lawrence. He was able to get Stephen Lawrence’s parents to meet Mandela through contacting expatriate members of the ANC, who were disgusted to find out that Black lives were just as cheap in London as they were in South Africa. The Anti-Racist Alliance itself had the support of MPs, Blacks, Asians and Jews, and was the largest Black led anti-racist organisation in Europe.

Rattansi then asks him about Amber Rudd, the deportations and his expulsion from the Labour party. Wadsworth states that his father was one of the Windrush generation. He was an RAF volunteer from Jamaica, who paid his own passage of here in 1944 to help Britain fight the Nazis. After the War, he then made his way back here, to help this country rebuild. Wadsworth says that his father’s dead now, but if he were alive, he’d be appalled at the way they were treated, and the way his son has been treated.

Rattansi then asks him how long he’s known Jeremy Corbyn. Wadsworth states that he’s known Corbyn since he was first elected as an MP in 1983, when he was a campaigning trade unionist. Wadsworth also discusses how he was one of those involved in the movement for Black sections in the Labour party, which led to the election of the first Black Labour MPs, including Bernie Grant and Diane Abbott. This was a landmark moment, as up till then parliament had been all White, as White as that of South Africa.

He and Rattansi also discuss how Wadsworth was influential in changing and drafting the law on racial harassment in concert with a member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. This was after a series of battles with the BNP on the Isle of Dogs after the election of Derek Beacon, when Jews were being attacked.

As for the kangaroo court that found him guilty of anti-Semitism, he states that his legal team had entirely disproved the charges against him, and that the court couldn’t even give him a definition of anti-Semitism, and had to take legal advice part way through. He found this very disturbing. He says he’s been overwhelmed by the support he’s received from thousands of people, and that polls show most people think he’s innocent. He states that this is the Blairites trying to hold on to power, and that if they get away with throwing him out, they’ll be able to throw out anybody. It could be Jackie Walker next, or Ken Livingstone.

Rattansi tackles him on why no Labour figures have publicly defended him. Wadsworth states that he had received the support of high-ranking Labour MPs, naming them. As for the reason they haven’t publicly come forward, this is because Jeremy Corbyn is under siege by the Blairites. 172 MPs signed a ‘no confidence’ motion against him, which is 95 per cent of parliamentary MPs. They’re afraid to speak out in case the right-wing press jump in and try to use their defence against them and the wider Labour party.

Rattansi mentions that Wadsworth isn’t just concerned with racial justice, but also with class. Wadsworth states that he left the Labour party because of the invasion of Iraq. He rejoined when Corbyn became leader. He states that we need to back Corbyn in this battle for the soul of the Labour party, if we wish to have genuinely socialist, internationalist, anti-war Labour party.

At the end of the programme their subtitles giving dates from a ‘Justice for Wadsworth’ tour, beginning in London. You may wish to stop the video at that and make notes of the dates.

Wadsworth is clearly a man of deep conviction and integrity, and it is an utter travesty that he has been so foully smeared as an anti-Semite when he is clearly very, very far from it. As are so many others.

As for his story about his father serving in the RAF, and then coming back to Britain after the War to help in our reconstruction, Wadsworth’s father was by no means the only one. The book Under the Imperial Carpet, which discusses various incidents in Black British history, has a chapter on the many West Indians, who, like Wadsworth’s father, came to this country during the War to help us. These people were so well received that they came back here after the War expecting the same treatment. Sadly, they weren’t, and found instead bitter racism and resentment. Rudd and Tweezer’s deportation of this generation and their children is another vile chapter in this story of hope, racism and disappointment and maltreatment.

Wadsworth and everyone else falsely accused of anti-Semitism should be cleared and reinstated as members of the Labour party immediately.

The deportations must stop now, and those deported returned to their homes and families in Britain. And Tweezer should resign or be thrown out for her role in drafting the legislation used to persecute them.

And Ruth Smeeth and the other Blairites are utterly despicable, and should be deselected.

Tony Crossland on the Oppressive British Class System

March 29, 2018

I found this devastatingly perceptive criticism of the British class system by Tony Crossland in 100 years of Fabian Socialism 1884-1984, edited by Deirdre Terrins and Philip Whitehead (London: Fabian Society 1984).

Class feeling, and general social malaise, still persist in England to a deplorable degree. The feeling among workers of an external and irreconcilable conflict between wages and profits, capital and labour: their feeling too of non-participation in the control of the firm for which they work, and so of non-responsibility for its well-being: the acute sense of class that goes with different accents: the knowledge that differentials in education mean differentials in opportunity – these are all signs that Britain still is, and feels itself to be, a class society.

The purpose of socialism is quite simply to eradicate this sense of class, and to create in its place a sense of common interest and equal status.

From ‘The Transition from Capitalism’, in New Fabian Essays, 1952.

The situation is arguably worse now than it was when he wrote in 1952. Despite successive governments’ push to get more young people into university, the result has not been greater social mobility for graduates, but the reverse. Young people with degrees are instead forced downward to take unskilled work, which in turn puts more pressure on less educated, unskilled workers, who really need these jobs.

Social mobility died under New Labour, and it has most definitely not revived under David Cameron and Tweezer. Rather the reverse. The gap between rich and poor is now greater than it has been in over a hundred years. And working people are most definitely denied any say in how their firms are run, through the decimation of the unions and the imposition of exploitative contracts, and the repeal of legislation protecting workers’ rights.

As for the class basis of the British parliament, which legislates in favour of the upper and upper middle classes, you only have to look at the stats which show that something like 77 per cent of MPs have at least one or more directorships. Dave Cameron’s administration was a cabinet of toffs. So is Theresa May’s, even though she opened one session with the statement that none of those present were members of ‘the elite’.

And so is the Tories’ current darling, young master Jacob Rees-Mogg, a very patrician aristo, who has voted consistently to take money away from the welfare state and the poor and disabled, while voting in tax cuts and subsidies for the rich like himself.

It’s time to stop this, vote out the Tories and the Blairites, and vote in Corbyn and a government which will actually do something for working people.

Gabriel Rockhill on the Myth of American Democracy

March 2, 2018

A few months ago, the Franco-American philosopher Gabriel Rockhill published a very interesting piece in Counterpunch arguing that, contrary to how the country sees itself, America isn’t and has never been a democracy. He notes that the British imperialists, who founded the Thirteen Colonies, weren’t interested in spreading rights or democracy, and that the Founding Fathers were also anti-democratic. They were like most of the other Enlightenment thinkers in that they were keen to defend to property from the mass of the propertyless, whom they associated with misrule and the mob. He points out that at the time the suffrage only extended to men of property, and excluded the poor, women, First Nations and slaves. The notion that the country was a democracy first appeared with Andrew Jackson, who styled himself as a democrat purely as an electoral pose without doing anything to extend the franchise. He writes

Second, when the elite colonial ruling class decided to sever ties from their homeland and establish an independent state for themselves, they did not found it as a democracy. On the contrary, they were fervently and explicitly opposed to democracy, like the vast majority of European Enlightenment thinkers. They understood it to be a dangerous and chaotic form of uneducated mob rule. For the so-called “founding fathers,” the masses were not only incapable of ruling, but they were considered a threat to the hierarchical social structures purportedly necessary for good governance. In the words of John Adams, to take but one telling example, if the majority were given real power, they would redistribute wealth and dissolve the “subordination” so necessary for politics. When the eminent members of the landowning class met in 1787 to draw up a constitution, they regularly insisted in their debates on the need to establish a republic that kept at bay vile democracy, which was judged worse than “the filth of the common sewers” by the pro-Federalist editor William Cobbett. The new constitution provided for popular elections only in the House of Representatives, but in most states the right to vote was based on being a property owner, and women, the indigenous and slaves—meaning the overwhelming majority of the population—were simply excluded from the franchise. Senators were elected by state legislators, the President by electors chosen by the state legislators, and the Supreme Court was appointed by the President. It is in this context that Patrick Henry flatly proclaimed the most lucid of judgments: “it is not a democracy.” George Mason further clarified the situation by describing the newly independent country as “a despotic aristocracy.”

When the American republic slowly came to be relabeled as a “democracy,” there were no significant institutional modifications to justify the change in name. In other words, and this is the third point, the use of the term “democracy” to refer to an oligarchic republic simply meant that a different word was being used to describe the same basic phenomenon. This began around the time of “Indian killer” Andrew Jackson’s presidential campaign in the 1830s. Presenting himself as a ‘democrat,’ he put forth an image of himself as an average man of the people who was going to put a halt to the long reign of patricians from Virginia and Massachusetts. Slowly but surely, the term “democracy” came to be used as a public relations term to re-brand a plutocratic oligarchy as an electoral regime that serves the interest of the people or demos. Meanwhile, the American holocaust continued unabated, along with chattel slavery, colonial expansion and top-down class warfare.

He then goes to argue that America today is also not a democracy. It has elections, but in fact the American people aren’t governing themselves, but merely choosing which members of a plutocratic ruling class they want to govern them. And his last point is that the anti-democratic nature of American politics is shown very clearly in how often America has interfered in the elections of foreign nations – either through manipulation, or by invasion – when those countries haven’t elected the leaders America wants.

The article’s well worth reading, and is at https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/12/13/the-u-s-is-not-a-democracy-it-never-was/

Douglas Adams made a similar point in his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. On one of the fictional worlds described by the Guide, there are two races. The planet’s society is stratified, so that one of the races is the ruling class, and the other their subordinates. But it is a democracy. Ever so often, elections are held, in which the subordinate race goes off to vote for whichever members of the dominant race they want in power. But the position of the dominant race and their right to rule is never questioned.

I don’t know whether this is one of the other Hitchhiker books, or if it was just in the radio series. But it’s a good satirical description of the way western class politics works. It’s probably more true now than it was in Adams’ time, as the Blairites and the Tories come from the same middle class, and promote the same free market, neoliberal policies, which the rest of us are expected to support uncritically. It’s time to break this class monopoly on power.

Kevin Logan on Milo Yiannopolis’ Editor’s Notes

December 29, 2017

I’ve been avoiding talking too much about politics this week as I simply haven’t had the strength to tackle the issues in as much detail as they deserve. Quite apart from the fact that the issues that have been raised in the media this week – the continuing running down of the NHS, the growth of food banks, homelessness and grinding poverty, all to make the poor poorer and inflate the already bloated incomes of the Tory elite, all make me absolutely furious. I’ve been feeling so under the weather that, quite simply, I couldn’t face blogging about them and making myself feel worse mentally as well as physically.

But this is slightly different.

Slate has published a piece about the guidance notes Alt-Right Trumpist cheerleader Milo Yiannopolis has got from his publishers at Simon and Schuster. In this short video, scourge of anti-feminists, racists and general Nazis Kevin Logan goes through the notes, and it’s hilarious.

There are pages and pages of them. And the more you read, the funnier it gets.

You remember Milo Yiannopolis? He was one of the rising stars of the Alt-Right. He’s anti-feminist, anti-immigration and in many peoples’ eyes, racist, although he’s denied that he actually has any Nazi connections. All this despite the fact that he was filmed in a bar getting Hitler salutes from a party of Alt-Right fans.

He was the IT correspondent for Breitbart, many of whose founders, managers and leading staff are racists, and have been described as such by the anti-racism, anti-religious extremism organisation and site Hope Not Hate. Yiannopolis has constantly denied that he’s racist or bigoted by playing the race and sexuality card. He’s half-Jewish, gay, and his partner is Black. And so he argues that he can’t possibly be prejudiced against people of different ethnicities and gays. Well, possibly. But he has said some extremely bigoted, racist and homophobic comments, quite apart from his anti-feminism.

He describes himself as ‘a virtuous troll’. Others just call him a troll. That’s all he is. He’s only good at writing deliberately offensive material, but is otherwise completely unremarkable. But he’s British public school elite, and so Americans, who should know much better, assume that somehow he’s more cultured, knowledgeable, better educated and insightful than he actually is. Sam Seder commented on Yiannopolis that if he wasn’t British, nobody would take any notice of him. I think it’s a fair comment. But it does show the snobbery that goes with class and accent. Incidentally, when I was a kid reading comics, my favourite characters were the Thing in the Fantastic Four, and Powerman, in Powerman and Iron Fist. And it was partly because of their accents. Stan Lee has a terrible memory, and to help him remember which character said what, he used to give them different voices, sometimes based on who was in the media at the time. He made the Thing talk like Jimmy Durante. He was a space pilot, but his speech was that of New York working class. I liked him because he was kind of a blue-collar joe, like my family.

The same with Powerman. He was a Black superhero, real name Luke Cage, who had been subjected to unethical medical experiments to create a superman by a corrupt prison governor after being wrongly convicted. I didn’t understand the racial politics around the strip, but liked the character because he was another lower class character with a working class voice. He also had the same direct approach as the Thing in dealing with supervillains. Whereas Mr. Fantastic, the leader of the Fantastic Four, and Cage’s martial artist partner in fighting crime, Iron Fist would debate philosophically how to deal with the latest threat to the world and the cosmos, according to the demands of reason and science in the case of Mr. Fantastic, and ancient Chinese mystical traditions, in Iron Fists’, the Thing and Powerman simply saw another megalomaniac, who needed to be hit hard until they cried for mercy and stopped trying to take over the world or the universe.

But I digress. Back to Milo. Milo was due to have a book published, but this fell through after he appeared on Joe Rogan’s show defending child abuse. Yiannopolis had been sexually abused himself by a paedophile Roman Catholic priest, but believed that he had been the predator in that situation. From what I understand, the victims of sexual abuse often unfairly blame themselves for their assault, so I’m quite prepared to believe that something like that happened to Yiannopolis. What was unusual – and revolting – was that Yiannopolis appeared to feel no guilt and regret at all about the incident.

Very, very many people were rightly disgust. He got sacked from Breitbart, along with a lot of other companies, his speaking tour had to be cancelled, and the book deal he had managed to finagle fell through.

Well, as Sergeant Major Shut Up used to say on It Ain’t ‘Alf Hot, Mum, ‘Oh, dear. How sad. Never mind.’ It couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke, and Yiannopolis got a taste of the kind invective and vitriol he poured on the ‘SJWs’ and the Left.

He appeared later on to ‘clarify’ his statement – not an apology – saying that he now knew he was the victim of child abuse, and stating that he didn’t promote or approve of the sexual abuse of children. But the damage was done.

Now it seems Yiannopolis’ book deal is back on, though Simon and Schuster really aren’t happy with the manuscript.

Comments include recommendations that he remove the jokes about Black men’s willies, doesn’t call people ‘cucks’, and stop sneering at ugly people. One of these is particularly hilarious, as his editor writes that you can’t claim that ugly people are attracted to the Left. ‘Have you seen the crowd at a Trump rally?’ Quite. I saw the front row of the crowd at BBC coverage of the Tory party convention one year, and they were positively horrific. It seemed to be full of old school country squire types, as drawn by Gerald Scarfe at his most splenetic.

The guidance goes on with comments like ‘No, I will not tolerate you describing a whole class of people as mentally retarded’, and then factual corrections. Like ‘This never happened’. ‘This never happened too.’ ‘No, you’re repeating fake news. There was no Satanism, no blood and no semen’. At one point the editor demands that an entire chapter be excised because it’s just off-topic and offensive.

Here’s the video.

There probably isn’t anything unusual in the amount of editing that Simon and Schuster require. Mainstream publishing houses often request changes or alteration to the manuscript. It happens to the best writers and academics. Years ago I read an interview with the editors of some of the authors of the world’s most influential books. One of them was Germaine Greer’s. Greer had sent in a manuscript about cross-dressing in Shakespeare. A fair enough subject, as there’s a lot of female characters disguising themselves as boys in the Bard’s plays. But she had the insight that Greer was far more interested in gender roles, and suggested she write about that instead. And the result was The Female Eunuch.

At a much lower level of literature, Private Eye had a good chortle about one of ‘Master Storyteller’ Jeffrey Archer’s tawdry epics. Apparently the gossip was that it went through seven rewrites. Ian Fleming’s editor for the Bond books, according to one TV documentary, was a gay man with a keen interest in dressing well. Which is why some of the sex in Bond was less explicit than Fleming intended, but also why Bond became suave, stylish dresser fighting supervillains in impeccably cut dinner suits.

No shame in any of this, then. But what makes it funny is that it’s happened to Yiannopolis, who seems to have been too much of an egotist to think that anything like it could ever really happen to him. Looking through the comments, it’s also clear that the editor really doesn’t like his bigotry, and the invective he spews against racial minorities and the disadvantaged. I got the impression that he or she really didn’t want to have anything to do with book, but has presumably been told they had to work with Yiannopolis because the publishers were going to put it out anyway, no matter what anyone else in the company felt.

And the editor’s clear dislike of his bigotry is a problem for Yiannopolis, because he’s a troll, and that’s just about all he does: pour out sneers, scorn and abuse, like a male version of Anne Coulter, another right-winger, who’s far less intelligent than she thinks she is. And I know that grammatically standards are a bit looser now than they were a few years ago, but when you have the comment ‘This is not a sentence’, it’s clear that Yiannopolis is failing at one of the basic demands of any writer from the editors of small press magazines to the biggest publishing houses and newspapers and magazines. They all insist that you should write properly in grammatically correct sentences. But Yiannopolis has shown that he can’t do that either.

As for the kind of literary snobbery that used to look down very hard on comics and graphic novels, while promoting opinionated bigots like Yiannopolis as ‘serious’ writers, my recommendation is that if you’re given a choice between going to comics convention or seeing Milo, go to the comics convention. You’ll be with nicer people, the comics creators on the panels are very good speakers, and themselves often very literate and cultured. I can remember seeing Charles Vess at the UKCAC Convention in Reading in 1990. Vess is a comics artist, but he’s also produced cover art for SF novels. He gave a fascinating talk about the great artists that have influenced him with slides. And one of the highlights was listening to the publisher of DC, Roy Kanigher, who was very broad New York. Didn’t matter. He was genuinely funny, to the point where the interviewer lost control of the proceedings and Kanigher had the crowd behind him all the way.

Which shows what a lot of people really know already: just because someone’s got a British public school accent, does not make them a genius, or that they’re capable of producing anything worth reading. Comics at their best can be brilliant. They open up children’s and adults’ imaginations, the art can be frankly amazing and quite often the deal with difficult, complex issues in imaginative ways. Think of Neil Gaiman, who started off as one of the writers at 2000 AD before writing the Sandman strip for DC. Or Alan Moore.

Yiannopolis is the opposite. All he does is preach hate, trying to get us to hate our Black, Asian and Latin brothers and sisters, despise the poor, and tell women to know their place. He has no more right to be published, regardless of his notoriety, than anyone else. And the editor’s demand for amendments show it.

Oh, and as regarding publishing fake news, he’d have had far less sympathy from Mike, if by some misfortune Mike had found himself as Yiannopolis’ editor. Proper journalists are expected to check their facts, which Mike was always very keen on. It was he was respected by the people he actually dealt when he was working as a journalist. The problem often comes higher up, at the level of the newspaper editors and publishers. In the case of Rupert Murdoch, I’ve read account of his behaviour at meetings with his legal staff that shows that Murdoch actually doesn’t care about publishing libellous material, if the amount of the fine will be lower than the number of extra copies of the paper the fake news will sale. Fortunately it appears that Simon and Schusters’ editors don’t quite have that attitude. But who knows for how long this will last under Trump. The man is determined to single-handedly destroy everything genuinely great and noble in American culture.

Times Accuses RT of Exploiting Grenfell Fire

December 13, 2017

More scaremongering from the right-wing press. This time it isn’t the tabloids, but the august Times. In this clip from RT, the station reports how the Times has accused them of exploiting the Grenfell fire to foment a class war, as well as misreporting some of the facts about the £10 million cladding. This provoked an angry response from George Galloway. Galloway states that this was a fire that killed 71 poor people in the richest borough in Britain. They died because the cladding used to coat the building also used arsenic, so that if people didn’t burn in the fire, they were poisoned. Galloway himself lives and works in the borough, and is a governor of one of the schools. Every day he sees the results of the fire, and indeed, smells it. He rightly describes it as ‘beyond offensive’ and ‘obscene’ to claim that people are angry about it because of Vladimir Putin.

He’s absolutely right. You only have to read Mike’s comments about the fire to realise that people were talking about it, and expressing their anger without reference to RT. Vladimir Putin has nothing to do with the anger people feel about the incident, and the way the Tories are constantly lying and fiddling around with the inquiry to avoid incriminating themselves and their fellows on the council.

But the British media and Conservative establishment is just following what Killary and the Americans are doing, and trying to blame RT and alternative media generally for their own failures. RT is a threat because an increasing audience is turning away from the Conservative press and media, and tuning into it, both here and in America. This is because the network is covering the issues that the mainstream media doesn’t like to show too much – the poverty, homelessness, debts and the crisis in healthcare caused by decades of Thatcherism/Reaganism, privatisation and welfare cuts. I’m not denying that the mainstream media don’t cover these, but they don’t do so in as much detail, nor tackle these issues from a left-wing perspective. And they really, really don’t want to tackle the unjust, illegal imperialist wars we’re fighting in the Middle East.

Once upon a time, when it was edited by Harold Evans in the ’70s, the Times was a genuinely respected newspaper. Then it was bought up, against the advice of people who knew better, by Murdoch. And it’s been a right-wing propaganda rag ever since. A friend of mine buys it, and whenever I’ve looked inside there’s always been at least one piece written by an entitled, upper-middle class windbag rubbishing Corbyn. ‘Cause he represents a real threat to Murdoch and the rest of the corporate elite causing mass poverty so they can enjoy more tax cuts and power over their workforce. The Times readership has fallen dramatically, to the point where, if it was a normal paper, it would have been wound up. But as it’s Britain’s ‘paper of record’, Murdoch keeps it going as it allows him a place at the table with Britain’s great and good in government.

And so it, and the rest of the press and mainstream media, feel threatened by RT and other alternative news outlets. Thus they try to combat them by spreading lies and smears about evil, subversive Russian influence. It’s not Russia that’s tearing this country apart, as Chunky Mark observed in his video on the Heil attacking social media. It’s them. And if you want a deeper view of what’s really going on in Britain, then you’re better off watching some of the material on RT than reading the Times, Torygraph or other right-wing news sheets, or watching the Beeb with its very blatant, pro-Tory bias.

As for ‘class war’, the best quote about that comes from Stanley Baldwin during the General Strike: it’s class war, and we started it. But you ain’t going to hear such a frank admission from this government or its shills in the media.

No, Toksvig, Sometimes Testosterone-Fuelled Jokes are the Only Appropriate Response

December 2, 2017

Sandi Toksvig, the presenter of Qi, former presenter of Radio 4’s News Quiz, and various game shows on BBC TV, was in the I last week. She and her same-sex partner, a BBC radio presenter or manager, are the founders of the Women’s Equality Party. She came out to say that there ought to be an equal number of women on panel shows to stop men telling ‘testosterone-fuelled’ jokes.

I didn’t read the article, just the headline, so I might be misjudging her. But I found it odd that she could say this, after she very publicly gave her endorsement in the elections last year to Hillary Clinton and Theresa May. Because they were both girls going after the top job. It didn’t matter that Killary has earned her nickname because she’s a vicious warmonger, who has never met a war she didn’t like, and fully backs the American imperialist machine. And if you want to see the kind of horrors that has inflicted on the peoples of the Developing World in the decades since the Second World, I strongly recommend you look at the videos Abby Martin has made about the subject over at The Empire Files.

But warning: you need a very, very strong stomach for some of this. It doesn’t dwell, but neither does it shy way from describing the sexual mutilation of women and men, and the rapes committed by the South American Death Squads trained by the American military at the base formerly called the ‘School of the Americas’.

Both Killary and May are, in terms of their policies, profoundly anti-woman. They have nothing to offer working people, except more poverty, exploitation and disenfranchisement. And women perform the lowest paid work, and so are at the sharp end of this. Both Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn actually have better policies for women, and are probably better feminists, despite both being men. Which is why Killary and his supporters in the Labour had to manufacture accusations of misogyny against them. As well as attacking women, who weren’t going to vote for their fave female candidates as ‘traitors’.

Which shows how much respect these self-proclaimed, middle class corporate feminists really have for women and their ability to make their own minds up.

If you want something closer to proper feminism, you could have voted for the Green Party. It’s presidential candidate was Jill Stein, a medical doctor. Part of her platform was Medicare For All. She made the point that women particularly needed it, and was seen discussing the issue with a group of ladies in one of her political broadcasts. I put it up here, so it should be on this blog somewhere.

Likewise the British Green Party. They were, briefly, the left-wing alternative to the Labour party when it was run by the Clintonite fanboys, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, then followed by Ed Miliband, who still adhered to their policy of trying to copy the Tories in the hope of winning over swing voters. The Greens are very hot on feminism and equality. I don’t whether it’s still true now, but they used to have a joint female-male presidency, where both a man and woman were in charge of the party together.

But this would have been a bit too radical for Toksvig and go. They want a nice, respectable type of feminism. A feminism that gives women access to the top jobs, but which otherwise leaves the class structure intact. A type of feminism that won’t frighten true-Blue Conservatives with terrible visions of boiler suited lesbians with degrees in sociology telling kids they should be bisexual. Or whatever stereotyped nonsense the Scum, Heil, Torygraph and Star are trying to push.

Now the argument that there should be a better gender balance on panel shows is a good one, and it can stand alone. It doesn’t really need a ‘because’. You can simply make the point that women are half the population, and so should be given half the places on these game shows. To support it, you need only to say that there are very many talented women, who are being passed over because of gender bias, or who provide a different, fresh point of view.

Toksvig’s statement that they’re needed on the panel shows to stop men telling ‘testosterone-fuelled’ jokes is in some ways strange, and actually rather reactionary. It’s misandrist, in that it sees men as being rather nasty, and who can only be restrained and civilised by women. It’s also very curiously old-fashioned, as if Toksvig hasn’t quite come round to understanding how women can also be lewd, crude and coarse.

In general, women do prefer a less coarse type of humour, though that’s true of a fair number of men as well. And I think that an awful lot of men, who don’t like that kind of humour being made in front of their wives also really object to it themselves, but as we’re supposed to be roughty-toughty blokes we aren’t supposed to show it. So we project it onto the memsahibs and use them as an excuse.

But women can also be very coarse. I’ve known women, who were far cruder than I was, and every bit as vulgar as any man. I’m not saying all women are like this. But it’s true of some. And there is the feminist argument that says that women should be free to do so, and talk explicitly about sex, without being condemned as whores.

And since the 1990s there have been any number of female comedians telling very sexually explicit jokes. Or further back, if you count Joan Rivers. The female led, and directed film Bridesmaids won critical acclaim the other year, but the crudity of its humour was remarked upon and did cause some controversy. I also remember a review of evening of stand-up comedy by the gay community in London. This feature a female comedian traumatising the men in the audience with a monologue about her cervical smear. Well, it was the 1990s, the age of Topless Darts and other crimes against television. You can also go and look at Absolutely Fabulous if you like. It’s witty, funny and very well done. But much of the humour is based about sex, and it doesn’t shy from talking about issues that would have Lord Reith spinning in his grave, like homosexuality. One of its heroines, Edina is a man-hungry, champaign-swigging selfish monster, while another of the characters, who runs a PR agency, uses the type of language that would make a docker blush. And when BBC 3 was still around, and orienting itself as da yoof channel, some of the programmes presented by women had coarse language in their titles. Like ‘F*ck Off, I’m a Hairy Woman’, which was presented by a female comedian attacking the beauty industry that demands women pluck and shave their bodies.

But there is also the argument that sometimes, very harsh, cruel, dark humour is the only appropriate response to a particular subject.

For example, there’s the late Bill Hicks, and Frankie Boyle, both known for their bitter political humour. Hicks’ humour was sexually explicit, and could be quite foul. There was an element of homophobia there, particularly when he told his audience that George Michael was gay, and if you ladies loved him, then you were too. But in coarser language. Some of it was simply about porn, the inauthenticity of contemporary rock stars, and getting drunk and stoned.

But he also used his vicious wit against Reagan’s super-patriotic America. In one monologue, he described Reagan’s Attorney-General Ed Meese as a serial killer, who would one day cut his wrists in the bath. Then they’d find the skins and clothes of all the children he’d murdered in his attack.

But Reagan was responsible for backing Fascist Death Squads in Central America, who committed horrendous atrocities. And so there was a point when he said that he’d pay ‘an extra nickel, just to have little brown kids not clubbed to death like baby seals’. It’s shocking imagery, but it was true. And he was one of the greatest protest voices in the media against such horrors in the ’80s. Channel 4 actually gave him his own show. I don’t think we’d be that lucky now.

Now on to Frankie Boyle. Boyle’s humour is too dark, extreme and tasteless for many people, irrespective of their gender or sexual identity. He was a member of Mock the Week, a satirical panel show presided over by Dara O’Briain, but was too extreme for the Beeb. But there was a point to his dark, vicious jokes. What got pulled from one episode was a joke he made about calling up the Ministry of Defence, and getting ‘the Department of N*gger Bombing’. I don’t doubt that this was pulled because it contained the ‘N’ word, which is highly offensive coming from Whites. But arguably, Boyle was quite right to use it, and right about the joke. He explained to Richard Osman at the Edinburgh Television Festival one year that he made it, because he had read about comments from British generals during the Empire’s heyday that said they were all about ‘bombing n*ggers’. He was factually correct. And it was a curt, but pithy remark on contemporary western imperialism under Bush and Blair. Or whichever mass-murderer was in power then.

It was offensive, but it was an accurate reflection of an even more offensive reality.

So while I can see where Toksvig is coming from with her comments, I think she’s wrong to condemn all dark, weird and brutal humour, simply because it offends her delicate sensibilities. Sometimes you need the extreme and tasteless to reveal and comment on an even more horrific reality. One that Toksvig, it seems, with her backing of Killary and May, wants to deny exists, or is perfectly comfortable with.

Guy Debord’s Cat on the Deceptive Charm of Jacob Rees-Mogg, and Fascist Entryism in the Tory Party

August 26, 2017

The current popularity amongst the Tories and their lackeys for Jacob Rees-Mogg is a particular concern of mine. Mogg is the highly privileged son of William Rees-Mogg, a titled member of the aristocracy, who wrote at various times for the Times and Independent. Rees-Mogg senior lived in one of the villages around Bath, if I recall correctly. His son is the Tory MP for north Somerset, just south of where I live in Bristol.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has somehow endeared himself to the Tories and part of the British public through his polite, aristocratic and anachronistic demeanour. He’s been called ‘the minister for the 18th century’. He now has a fan club, Moggmentum, in imitation of Corbyn’s support group of Momentum. He also has 25,000 followers on Twitter. One fan of his in Somerset is such a mad fan of his, that he had Mogg’s face tattooed on him, which became one of the evening’s news stories for the local news programme, Points West here in Bristol a few weeks ago. He’s so popular indeed, that he’s being touted as a possible successor to Theresa May.

This should terrify anyone, with any real idea of politics and the true state of this country. For his smooth, cultured and quiet-spoken politesse, Mogg’s own views are highly reactionary, and frankly horrific. He began his career as a politician campaign in Fife, where the major platform of his campaign was trying to convince impoverished fisherfolk that retaining an hereditary House of Lords was supremely important and beneficial. And as a blue-blooded aristo, he is convinced that the poor should be kept firmly in their place, serving and transferring whatever wealth they have to the rich and powerful. A little while ago Mike did a feature on him on his blog. He discussed the numerous instances in which Mogg had consistently voted down bills, which would improve conditions for the poor and disabled, and voted instead for cutting benefits and privatizing what’s left of the welfare state.

It probably isn’t too much to say that many of those, who vote for him either believe themselves to be of the same class as him, and so will also benefit by his efforts to restore aristocratic privilege. Or else they’re members of the lower classes, who have been convinced through repetition of the same claims down the generations that the aristocracy are the country’s natural rulers, and working people should know their place. Like the various servants Mum met while working in that part of Somerset, who voted Tory because that’s the way Master voted.

Guy Debord’s Cat has written a very good piece over on his site, describing just how vile Mogg and what he represents actually are. He writes

It’s a sure sign of the Conservative Party’s dearth of talent that Jacob Rees Mogg should be talked up as a possible successor to the hapless and utterly useless Theresa May. Many people find Moggy endearing. They love his plummy RP accent. They love his double-breasted suit jackets. They love his fustiness. They love his toffee-nosed demeanour and they love his apparently Waugh-esque wit. At Nowhere Towers we take a different view: we find him tiresome and representative of an ages old problem with Britain. Namely, he reeks of privilege and his accent and ‘eccentric’ charm masks a ruthlessness and cruelty that is common to many members of his class.

When it comes to loving one’s oppressor, the Brits have both rationalized and elevated their oppression a fine art. We love our posh bastards. Don’t we? Remember how people fawned over Bozza? I haven’t forgotten. Both of them went to Eton and Oxford. Both of them are seen as rather buffoonish, though for very different reasons. And both are seen as thoroughly British eccentrics. But that’s the problem: many people refuse to see through their media-constructed façades and choose to see oh-so-disarming posh twits instead. Please, wake up!

That Moggy should be touted by some Tories as a counterweight to Jeremy Corbyn’s soaring popularity speaks volumes about the parlous condition of his party and the dire health of our media.

He goes on to mention three articles taking apart Mogg, his highly deceptive appeal, exposing what he really represents, from Skwawkbox, the New Statesman and Victor Lewis-Smith. But he goes on to discuss an event the other articles don’t. This is the time in 2013 when Mogg went off to a formal, black tie dinner with the Traditional Britain Group. His article includes a photo from the evening, showing Mogg seated next to two truly horrific fixtures of the British Far Right, Jack Buckby of the Cultural Nationalists and the BNP, and Gregory Lauder-Frost.

The Traditional Britain Group itself, from what I’ve seen of it, is another xenophobic, anti-immigrant, racist group, which particularly despises Islam. They also want to restore the old class system and privatize the NHS. Gerry Gable of the anti-Nazi organization, Searchlight, warned Mogg not to attend. But he did. When he was exposed by the press, he made a gushing Mea Culpa condemning racism, distancing himself from them, and claimed he had been misinformed and acted in ignorance.

To me, this is less than convincing. As the French philosophical feline points out, most people if invited to attend a function by a group they know nothing about would try to know what it stood for first.

The article then goes on to discuss just how unpleasant Buckby and Lauder-Frost are. As well as founding the National Culturalists, which was banned on campus as a racist, Fascist organization by the Students’ Guild at Liverpool University, Buckby was also a member of the BNP. He was their candidate for the Batley and Spen bye-election, caused by the assassination of Jo Cox. Which shows this character’s complete lack of class. He was also press officer for Liberty GB. The Cat’s article states that it is anti-immigration. That’s true, but it’s also specifically against one ethnic group of immigrants: Muslims. It was founded as part of the Islamophobic ‘counter-jihad’ movement by many of the same people involved in the EDL.

Demonstrating Buckby’s personal nastiness, the Cat’s article has a clip of him being interviewed by Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Channel 4 News, along with an Irish expert on White supremacist and Fascist movements and a young Black woman from Black students’ group. Guru-Murthy makes it very clearly that he despises Buckby’s views, but has to interview him as part of the programme’s mission to investigate minority opinions. Buckby spends much of the interview vehemently denying that he is at all racist, while loudly declaring that we shouldn’t allow more Muslim immigrants into the country because of their inherently violent, criminal nature. When one of the two women argues against him, he replies by saying ‘I hope you don’t get raped.’ Because all Muslims are rapists, right?

Lauder-Frost, it seems, is a former member of the Monday Club, who used to chair their Foreign Affairs Committee, and is the Traditional Britain Group’s vice-president and treasurer. Before joining them, he was one of the steering committee of the Conservative Democratic Alliance, formed by disaffected members of the Monday Club. There’s also a clip of him being interviewed on Vanessa Feltz’s radio show. Lauder-Frost spends much of the interview sneering at Doreen Lawrence, whom he feels should not have been elevated to the House of Lords. Because she’s ‘a nothing’, who he claims hasn’t done anything for this country and despises it. It’s not hard to see behind his attitude a mixture of racism and sheer class snobbery. Doreen Lawrence is a Black woman, and not a member of the British aristocracy. Hence Lauder-Frost is utterly horrified at her taking a seat in the upper house.

Now it’s true that Doreen Lawrence has made statements where she has said she doesn’t have any love for this country. Or that’s how it’s been reported. It grates, but she has every right. Her son, Stephen, was murdered by a gang of racist thugs, who got off scot-free. The Met investigating his murder was corrupt and riddled with racism, and the thugs were the sons of notorious gang bosses. See the press coverage at the time, and also Private Eye passim ad nauseam. She then dedicated her life to trying to obtain justice for her murdered child. This is a far better reasons for being given an honour than simply being Dave Cameron’s hairdresser.

Lauder-Frost also waffles on about how immigrant groups don’t support this country at sports matches, which recalls Norman Tebbitt’s infamous comment about coloured immigrants not supporting Britain at cricket. He also recommends that we should go back to the Tory party’s 1970s promise for ‘assisted repatriation’ for coloured immigrants to go back to their countries of origin. Feltz is definitely not impressed, and pointedly asks him where she should go, as she’s Jewish, and one set of her grandparents came from Poland, while another of her antecedents was also not British. Lauder-Frost simply says that if he was a Zionist, he would say she should go to Israel. To cap it all, Lauder-Frost is also a massive fan of the Nazis. No wonder Feltz was unimpressed. As were no doubt every other decent person listening to the programme, regardless of ethnicity or religious beliefs.

The TBG was also invited to a dinner by the Bow Group, another outfit like the Monday Club on the extreme right of the Tories. The Cat cites Louise Haigh, the Labour politico, who managed to get the Nazi youth group, Britain First, banned, who states very clearly that Lauder-Frost’s comments about Doreen Laurence and assisted repatriation are racist, and that the Bow Group should not invited them to their functions.

The TBG’s other vice-president is Professor John Kersey, a traditionalist Roman Catholic clergyman, a professor at a right-wing university with branches in the Caribbean and West Africa, who is nostalgic for the old days of feudalism. If you follow the link on the Cat’s blog, you come to a site for the British followers of the Austrian Libertarian, Von Mises. Kersey is also the Director of Cultural Affairs of the Libertarian Alliance.

Other members of the Traditional Britain Group are Stuart Millson and Jonathan Bowden. Together these two charmers founded the Revolutionary Conservative Caucus. Millson was also a former member of the BNP and an officer in Western Goals, which the Cat describes as ‘semi-Fascist’. He’s not alone in this assessment. Western Goals also got into the pages of Lobster as a Far Right organization. Also in the Revolutionary Conservative Caucus was Mark Cotterill a former member of the NF. The Cat then describes how Millson joined the Tories despite being a member of the BNP and having had dinner with Jean-Marie Le Pen. The Tories refused to throw him out, and Millson only resigned after this was exposed by the Mirror.

The Cat’s article concludes

The Tories may deny it, but many of their members are sympathetic to groups like the TBG. Indeed, in the 1970s NF members joined local Conservative Clubs and were members of the Monday Club. Others are members of The Freedom Association, the faux libertarian pressure group that talks warmly about their idea of ‘freedom’, while working hard to deny it to others. Tories may complain about ‘entryism’ in the Labour Party, but for decades extreme-right entryists joined the party and they’re still joining.

Moggy’s antiquated views are only matched by his sartorial style. If you find him amusing or endearing, you might want to ask yourself this: what kind of friends are the TBG? Rees Mogg only apologised when he got caught by Liberal Conspiracy. If that had never happened, Moggy would have got away with it. Makes you wonder…

The Cat’s article also has a link to the original piece by the Liberal Conspiracy website.

For more information, see: https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2017/08/01/friends-like-these/

The Cat certainly ain’t wrong about Fascist infiltration of the Tory party. Lobster a few decades ago devoted several pieces to exposing this. And it’s something else you won’t see being reported by the Beeb. Way back in the 1980s the BBC was due to screen a Panorama expose, ‘Maggie’s Militant Tendency’, on the Far Right’s infiltration of the Tory. Maggie and the Tories, however, threw a strop and the BBC was forced to spike the programme.

As for the Libertarians, their definition of liberty is definitely reserved only for the upper classes. They hate socialism, trade unions and organized labour. I can’t remember which one of the libertarian organisations actually did it, but one of them invited the head of a central American death squad to their annual dinner. As for Kersey being a fan of feudalism, this adds a new dimension to Von Hayek’s book, The Road to Serfdom. Von Hayek thought it was socialism, but as subsequent events show, it’s really the far right-wing economics he advocated.

Libertarians have always denied being Fascists, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that’s exactly what they are. I’ve put up several pieces from the American YouTuber, Reichwing Watch, on how Libertarian not only shares many of the same tenets and attitudes of Fascism and Nazism, but that its adherents are beginning to admit this quite openly. One Black YouTuber, ‘That Guy T’, discusses and advocates ‘anarcho-Fascism’ on his vlog.

As for Mogg, while he denies sharing the Traditional Britain Group’s racism, he certainly shares their attitude towards aristocratic privilege, and keeping the poor and marginalized so. It shows how corrupt and class-ridden this country is that this man is at all popular, let alone an MP and possible successor to May.

The Privileged Class Background of BBC Staff, and the Problem of Oxbridge Public School Elitism

August 26, 2017

Earlier this week I put up a piece reviewing Tom Mills’ The BBC – Myth of a Public Service. This contributes immensely to the debate about the Corporation’s bias by showing how it consistently allies with the elite against the left and the working class.

And Mills makes a very strong case that, apart with the institutional methods of control the government exercises over the Beeb through the license fee and the appointment of its governors, the BBC also sides with the elite because of the elite, upper and very middle class origins of its managers and staff. Mills describes this background on pages 29 and 30. He writes

A 2014 report of the quasi-official Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission had no qualms about identifying these top BBC executives, and over a hundred other senior BBC managers, as members of ‘Britain’s elite’ – along with politicians, civil servants, the super-rich, FTSE 350 CEOs, newspaper columnists and other groups. The Commission’s survey of 125 BBC executives found that 26 per cent had attended private school (compared with 7 per cent of the population), 33 per cent had attended Oxbridge (compared with just 0.8 per cent of the population) and 62 per cent had attended one of the Russell Group of leading universities (compared with 11.4 per cent of the population) – figures which were comparable with those for other factions of Britain’s power elite, as the report shows. Senior BBC managers are also extremely well paid: in 2014/15, the seven executive members of the BBC’s Executive Board earned an average of over £424,000. Meanwhile, around eighty BBC executives are thought to earn over £150,000, even after policy measures were put in place to reduce executive pay following fierce criticism from the press. Among this executive cadre are around a hundred or so senior managers in editorial policy who on average earn just over £100,000, and the most senior of whom can earn two or three times that.

Below these senior editorial managers, we see similar patterns of privilege. In 2006, the Sutton Trust examined the educational backgrounds of 100 leading news journalists in the UK, of whom 31 worked at the BBC. It found that 54 per cent were privately educated and a remarkable 45 per cent had attended Oxbridge. Educational background is of course an indicator of shared class background. But it is also in itself a profoundly important basis for elite cohesion, forging along with other formative experiences, if not a shared set of ideas, then at least a shared demeanour and set of dispositions. Elitist recruiting practices – which are naturally justified in meritocratic terms, even if they are recognized to create serious problems in terms of legitimacy – thus create subtle forms of institutional and cross-institutional cohesion.

This bears out a comment made by one of the television directors Mike and I heard speak over two decades ago at a Doctor Who convention here in Bristol. He stated that it was very difficult to become a director at the Beeb unless you had been to Oxford or Cambridge. If you hadn’t, it was very difficult. If you had, on the other hand, it was very easy.

As for Oxbridge, I’m currently reading Gregory Benford’s SF novel Timescape (London: Gollancz 1980). The novel’s plot is split between the devastated Britain of 1998 and the optimistic California of 1963, as a group of scientists in Cambridge attempt to use tachyons to carry a message back to their counterparts in La Jolla to warn them of the coming ecological crisis which is gradually causing global civilization to collapse. Benford is an American, and one of the team of Cambridge scientists, Gregory Markham, also hails from across the Pond. The book therefore includes descriptions and meditations on Britain’s relationship to its past, compared with America, and the class structure of British society. On page 182, Benford comments on the educational segregation at Cambridge High Table.

He walked back towards the colleges, letting this feel of the press of time seep into him. He and Jan had been to High Table at several of the colleges, the ultimate Anglophile experience. Memorial plate that gleamed like quicksilver, and crested goblets. In the after-dinner room of polished wood, gilt frames held glowering portraits of the college founders. In the great dining hall Jan had been surprised to find de facto segregation: Etonians at one table, Harrovians at another, the lesser public schools’ alumni at a third, and, finally, state school graduates and everyone else at a motley last table. To an American in such a citadel of education, after the decades of ferocious equality-at-all-costs politics, it seemed strange. There persisted a reliance on inherited advantages, and even the idea that such a system was an inherited virtue as well.

This is not too far removed from the description of outright class snobbery Thackeray describes in his Book of Snobs. Casting his eye about England’s great, and at the time, only universities, he noted the way the class system affected even the type of gowns undergraduates wore:

If you consider, dear reader, what profound snobbishness the University system produced, you will allow that it is time to attack some of those feudal middle-age superstitions. If you go down for five shillings to look at the ‘College Youths’, you may see one sneaking down the court without a tassel to his cap; another with a gold or silver fringe to his velvet trencher; a third lad with a master’s gown and hat,, walking at ease over the sacred College grass-plats, which common men must not tread on.

Me may do it because he is a nobleman. Because a lad is a lord, the University grants him a degree at the end of two years which another is seven in acquiring. Because he is a lord, he has no call to go through an examination. Any man who has not been to College and back for five shillings [the price of the train fare to Oxford and Eton], would not believe in such distinctions in a place of education, so absurd and monstrous do they seem to be.

The lads with gold and silver lace are sons of rich gentlemen, and called Fellow Commoners; they are privileged to feed better than the pensioners, and to have wine with their victuals, which the latter can only get in their rooms.

The unlucky boys who have no tassels to their caps, are called sizars – servitors at Oxford – (a very pretty and gentlemanlike title). A distinction is made in their clothes because they are poor; for which reason they wear a badge of poverty, and are not allowed to take their meals with their fellow-students.(pp. 60-61).

One of the other, British characters in Benford’s novel, Renfrew, who has the idea of using tachyon radiation to transmit to the past, is also an outsider. He’s the son of a working class Yorkshireman, and because of this is also an outsider amongst the public schoolboys. At one point Renfrew remembers how, as an undergraduate walking down Oxford’s corridors, he passes another pair in gowns. One of these says very loudly in an Oxbridge drawl, ‘Oh God, not another oik come up on a scholarship!’

Oxford has been under considerable pressure to make its more democratic, and Robert Peston has said in his book, Who Runs Britain, that there’s an element of hypocrisy amongst some of the Scots universities, who tried to capitalize on the class scandals that have erupted over Oxbridge in recent years. Some of the Scots universities, particularly St. Andrews’, are even more elite and class-ridden.

It’s tempting to think of those days of class snobbishness as having vanished along with scholarships. However, as the Tories are intent are privatizing the British school system, and really, desperately, want to bring back grammar schools if they can get away with it, as well as cut away the last vestiges of the student grant to the poor, it’s likely that they’ll come back.