Posts Tagged ‘Clergy’

John Wycliffe’s Pacifist Theology

December 17, 2017

I’m sick of writing about the Christian right in this country and America – their hatred of the poor, their Zionism and their insanely dangerous millennialism, in which they look forward to the last, apocalyptic war between good and evil, personified as a conflict between the Christian West and Israel on the side of good, and Communism and Islam as the armies of Satan. Here’s a bit of more inspiring theology, at least for those on the Left, from one of the seminal influences on the Reformation.

John Wycliffe has been described as ‘the Morning Star of the Reformation’. He was a late 14th-century English vicar from Yorkshire, who proposed radical reforms to combat what he saw as the corruption of the Church in his day. He was against pluralities, in which clergy held many benefices, often in widely separated parts of the country, noting that this did nothing for the Christian cure of souls. It was set up, however, partly as a way of giving the lower clergy a reasonable income because of the poverty of parts of the church at that time. He argued that the Bible should be the only source of Christian truth, and that salvation was by faith alone, not works. He demanded an end to clerical celibacy, which he said acted ‘to the great prejudice of women’ and promoted homosexuality amongst the clergy. So, not a fan of gay priests then. He also went further in his criticism of the moral right of rulers to govern us when they themselves were guilty of sin. No-one had this right, and those rulers sinning had to step down or be removed. This has been widely criticised since, as it would have made government just about impossible. But it is a severe corrective to the moral double standards of the upper classes, who saw themselves as having an absolute right to rule, often committing heinous sins and crimes themselves, while claiming their right as Christian rulers to punish and uphold moral standards to those lower down the social ladder. This attitude continued into the 17th century, when the monarchists of the British Civil War defended the monarchy on the grounds that the king, as God’s representative on Earth, was above the law, but had the duty to expound it, and so could not be tried for its breach.

He also translated the Bible into English, radical act forbidden by law in England, though perfectly acceptable elsewhere on the continent, such as France. He was not a member of the Lollards, the early radical Protestant movement that grew up around his doctrines, though he was a powerful influence on them. It was the Lollards who produced the song attacking contemporary serfdom, ‘When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?’ In the 16th century, this was taken up and inspired the German peasants in their revolt against feudal overlordship: ‘Als Adam grub und Evan spann, wer war dann der Edelmann?’ Which is an exact translation.

I got the latest Oxbow books Bargain Catalogue through the post a few weeks ago. Among the books on medieval history and culture were two of Wycliffe’s. One was on the inspiration of scripture, the other was on his pacifist theology.

The book is John Wycliffe on War and Peace by Rory Cox. The blurb for the book in the Bargain Catalogue runs:

From the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo to the fifth century, Christian justifications of war had revolved around three key criteria: just cause, proper authority and correct intention. Using Wyclif’s extensive Latin corpus, the author shows how he dismantled these three pillars of medieval “just war” doctrine, demonstrating that he created a coherent doctrine of pacifism and non-resistance which was at that time unparalleled.

200 pages, Boydell and Brewer Ltd, 2014, 97080861933259, Hardback, was £50, bargain price £12.95.

I’m not a pacifist myself, as I believe that sometimes true evil can only be combated through violence. But I’m sick of the co-option of morality to justify the terrible greed and inhuman violence of colonialism and imperialism, especially in the latest attacks on the Middle East.

I realise that many of the readers of this blog have very different attitudes to my own on religion. I’m not trying to insult anyone else’s religious views here, particularly not Roman Catholics or the atheists, who read this blog. I am simply mentioning it as many Christians of radically different denominations and confessions have over the centuries come to pacifism in disgust at the horrors of war as organised violence. I fully recognise and endorse the contemporary Roman Catholic peace movement, which I’ve blogged about before.

I’ve posted it up the news of this book, as I thought it would interest and inspire the Christian readers of this blog, who share my opinions on war. And would also act as corrective to the militant bilge coming out of the American and British religious right and their aggressive, omnicidal militarism.

RT Video of Teachers’ Demonstration in Washington against Betsy DeVos

October 17, 2017

Betsy DeVos is Trump’s education secretary. She’s a multimillionaire member of the family behind the Amway pyramid scheme, who has never attended a public, that is, state school in her life, and as a bright red corporate Republican, hates them with a passion. She, like her master, Trump, wants to privatise them, and turn them into charter schools. This means that they will be able to circumvent the state legislation regulating teaching standards, the pay and conditions of teaching staff, just like Academies in the UK. And in the case of America, they will also be outside the legislation outlawing the teaching of religion in schools.

Teachers in America, like those in Britain, are extremely worried and angry. This is a video by RT America of a demonstration by public school teachers outside the Hyatt Regency Bellevue Hotel in the state of Washington last Friday, 13th October 2017. The assembled educators have placards proclaiming ‘Stop Fascism’, protesting the privatisation of the American school system, and demanding an end to the road from school to prison. I don’t know the particular symbolism, but some of the female demonstrators lined up to wear 17th/18th century dress with red capes, holding placards, which read out ‘This nightmare will end’.

Mike and I both went to Anglican church school in Bristol, and I have absolutely nothing against the teaching of religion in schools nor the state supporting faith schools. I’m not a secularist. Religious education in British schools hasn’t prevented the increasing secularisation of society. Religion, and more recently the attempts of secular philosophy to grasp with the deep issues of humanity’s existence, morality and meaning, have been part of human culture and identity for centuries, if not millennia. It can also be argued that we need proper teaching about each others’ religious beliefs as society has become more plural and multicultural, so that children do not get distorted or bigoted pictures of our fellow citizens and their religious beliefs or secular philosophies.

But I’m also aware that American society and educational tradition is different, and that there are quite legitimate concerns that what these schools will push is not education, but indoctrination. Just as there are concerns over here about the extremist agenda pursued by some of the new faith schools established in the UK.

Mine and Mike’s mother was a junior school teacher for many years, and I did my first degree at an Anglican teacher training college, and so have some understanding from the inside of what teachers face. Contrary to what the Republicans and Conservatives would have us all believe, teachers as a rule don’t want to indoctrinate children with lesbian feminist cultural Marxist propaganda, although they do want to make sure that girls as well as boys reach their academic potential, and they do have a statutory duty tackle prejudice, including homophobia. But most of all, teachers want to stand in front of a White board and teach. And those I know, who’ve done it state that it’s immensely rewarding. They want to see their pupils do well, and become bright, inquiring members of society. They want to pass on the interest and passion they have for the subjects they teach, whether English, maths, science, history, whatever to the children in their care.

I’m perfectly aware that there are some terrible teachers. But the good far outnumber the bad. Teachers in this country have been appallingly treated by successive governments ever since Margaret Thatcher, and the attempts to privatise, or part-privatise schools through their transformation into academies and charter schools threaten educational standards, as well as the pay and conditions of the teaching staff themselves. This country has suffered from wave after wave of qualified teachers leaving the profession as conditions have become worse, demands increased, and in some cases even dangerous. There have been cases where teachers are assaulted. At the same time, like other public sectors workers, pay has been cut or frozen. They have not been given the support they need by the authorities, and in the case of the Republicans in America and Conservatives over here, they’ve actually been demonised and vilified. Over the decades newspapers like the Scum, the Heil and even the Torygraph have run article after article trying to scare the British public with stories about how left-wing teachers are indoctrinating Britain’s children. Under Cameron, we had Michael Gove whining about history wasn’t being taught properly. It should be more patriotic, with children taught the approved Tory version of the First World War, rather than Blackadder. As Mike pointed out in a series of articles he put up about it, this would be to distort history for the Tories’ own benefit. As well as mistaking a comedy, based on history, with history itself.

In the 1980s, my mother felt so strongly about the threat to British education that she and the other teachers in her union took industrial action. As did very many others. This was not done selfishly to maintain their own privileges at the expense of their children. It was also because they were very much concerned that unless strike action was taken, the Tories would continue to run down the British education system. As they have, and Blairite New Labour as well.

The transformation of America’s public schools into charter schools is undemocratic, and hasn’t just been done by the Republicans. Obama also pushed for it. And like Blair in England, schools were often taken out of the state sector and made charter schools against the wishes of the community, parents, teachers, community groups, pastors and clergy. The Black community in particular has been threatened by the fall in educational standards that they represent. A year or so ago the veteran civil rights organisation, the NAACP, came out against them. There are books over here about the failings of academy schools. One of the pamphlets I’ve written is against them. If you want a copy, just let me know in the comments and I’ll get back to you.

But DeVos and the corporatists want a privatised school system both as a source of profit and because they would transform the school system from proper education, to a system of creating a passive workforce, who have enough knowledge to work for their corporate masters, but not enough to question, think for themselves, or even to be able to participate fully in art and culture. Art and music along with other humanities are being dropped from the curriculum in Britain as schools concentrate on the STEM subjects. And this is harming our children’s education.

C.P. Snow talked of the ‘two cultures’. He felt that there was a real gap between the arts and the sciences, so that the two formed distinct, separate cultures with little contact between each other. I think his fears, however true they were when he was writing, are somewhat exaggerated now. Science and mathematics has inspired much art down the centuries, as you can see from the weird paradoxes of Max Escher or the new scientific experiments that were painted during the 18th century by Wright of Derby. And scientists and science educators like the late Carl Sagan and even Richard Dawkins have expressed an extensive knowledge and keen appreciation of art.

This is why teachers are protesting against academies and charter schools: they want to preserve proper educational standards. They want to make sure that the poorest children have the same opportunity to achieve as the wealthiest. They want education to receive its proper status as a public good, not the preserve of the affluent, or simply another revenue stream for a grotty multinational like Murdoch’s. And although in Britain religion is taught, or supposed to be taught, in schools, there are safeguards and legislation against indoctrination. And teachers wish to preserve those as well.

So stand with your community teachers and teaching unions, and don’t let the Republicans in America or the Tories in Britain turn your school into an academy.

Credo! Pat Mills on 40 Years of Thrillpower!

September 14, 2017

Pat Mills is one of the great creators of the British comics industry. In this video from 2000 AD on YouTube, he talks to host Tony Esmond about his career in the comics industry, politics and his determination to give readers working class heroes. The interview was at the 40 Years of Thrillpower convention earlier this year (2017).

Mills is best known as one of the creative forces who seriously upset the establishment with Action before going on to reoffend with 2000AD. Before then he started off writing for the 1970s children’s comics, like Corr! The experience of writing for them was not happy for him. He states that the people behind them had no particular interest in them and very much had a production-line mentality to their creation. He describes how one writer once asked him how many stories he could write in a day. When he said about one every two or three days, the other writer boasted that he wrote three in a day. And then went on to say, probably quite truthfully, that he was making more money than the prime minister. Mills states that the writers at IPC were able to do this because they wrote very much to a formula. He preferred the stories their competitors at DC Thompson produced. Although their comics were also stuck in the past, the stories were better crafted. He describes one strip about a man going around the country having adventures with a horse. As a concept, he says it wasn’t even at the level of afternoon television. But it was well done. The IPC comics, on the other hand, were soulless. It depressed him so much, that, when he and John Wagner, who also later went on to become one of the founders of 2000AD, were writing in a garden shed, he wrote all his scripts on a roll of wallpaper so they formed a continuous strip and he wouldn’t have to go back and read them all again.

British comics in this period were very much stuck in the past, even as British society changed. This was a time when the German experience of the war was appearing in the books of Sven Hassel, reflected in Action’s strip, Hellmann of Hammer Force. But yet Mills found it impossible to launch a strip whose hero was Black. This was to be a strip about a Black boxer. He was told that it wouldn’t work. People would not accept a Black hero. They’d accept a Black supporting character or friend. But as the central character, never. He also thought of introducing one about a Black football player, and that would have been even more controversial. There was a Black football player in one of the London clubs at the time, and he had been treated with racist abuse from the balconies.

Politics and satire have always been an important element of Mills’ work. He says that at one point he became dissatisfied writing for 2000AD, as the management were trying to shift the comic away from its traditional satirical stance, and this very much went against Mills’ own nature. He and Esmond discuss at one point Mills’ memory that, when they launched 2000AD, the management told him that they should imagine a future that they would actually live in. And now, he states, they’re living in it with Donald Trump’s presidency of the US, which Mills compares to the infamous Judge Cal. Cal was the mad Chief Judge in Judge Dredd, modelled on Caligula, who appointed his pet fish as a judge, called in the alien Kleggs to suppress any opposition in Mega City 1, and had another judge pickled. Perhaps we need to be very glad that NASA hasn’t made contact with intelligent aliens yet.

Mills remarks on how very many of the heroes of British literature, from Sherlock Holmes to John Buchan’s Hannay, have been members of the upper and upper middle classes. There are too many of them, and too few working class heroes. He’s been actively trying to redress this imbalance in his strips. It’s why Marshal Law, in his alter ego, used to be unemployed, but is now a hospital orderly. He’s not even a nurse.

He states that as he grew up in the ’50s and ’60s, he read many the authors that were around then, like Dennis Wheatley and John Buchan, all of whom were members of the upper classes. And with some of them, it was actually quite sinister. Buchan was a major propagandist for the First World War, in return for which he was rewarded with the governorship of Canada. And he did it very well. Later on in the video, in response to a question from the audience he remarks on how there is a very definite campaign in this country to suppress anything with an anti-war message. He was asked what the research was for his story in Charley’s War about the British invasion of Russia in 1918-19. He states that there were only two books he was able to get hold of at the time, but since then he got hold of a very good book, which is a much fuller description. This describes how the British officers sent in to overturn the Russian Revolution behaved like absolute animals. This episode has largely been airbrushed from British history. He contrasts with the British media’s refusal to publicise anti-war stories with that of our cousins across le manche. Attitudes there are much different, and Charley’s War, which ran in Battle and was about the experiences of a working-class Tommy in the First World War, is more popular in France even than Britain. This bias against anti-war stories is why you didn’t see Blackadder Goes Forth repeated in the centenary year of the War’s outbreak.

Mills is also critical of the way the indigenous mythology and legend of the British Isles has been suppressed in favour of myths from further south – Greece and Rome, and ancient Egypt. Mills’ background, like Kevin O’Neill, was Irish, and his family were very patriotic. He grew up knowing all about Michael Collins, and his middle name is Eamon after the first president of Eire, Eamon de Valera. Yet it wasn’t until he started researching the Irish, as well as the Scots and Welsh legends, that he learned about any of those stories, and was shocked. Why didn’t he know about the warpspasm – the ultra-berserker rage that transforms the Celtic hero Slaine as he goes into battle? He also talks about how, in legend, London was founded by the Trojans as New Troy, and briefly mentions his treatment of this in the story he is or was currently writing for the Slaine strip. He states he wanted to produce a barbarian strip that was set in this country, complete with its grey skies and rain.

Mills has a deep admiration for these Celtic legends, but remarks on how they differ considerably from the other mythological tales. They don’t share their structure. If you read the Norse tales or Beowulf, there’s a structure there. But the Irish – which he uses to include also the Scots and Welsh stories – read like they’re on acid. He’s particularly impressed with the Tain, otherwise known as the Tain Bo Cualnge, or in English, The Cattle Raid of Cooley, and recommends the translation by Kinsella. He’s also particularly interested in finding the bits that were suppressed by the Christian clergy who wrote them down in the Middle Ages. He gleefully quotes one clerical writer, who says that the stories contain much that is true, much that is false, some lies, and some devilish invention, and some which is only fit to be read by idiots. Yeah! he shouts, that’s me!

He has the same mischievous joy when telling how he came to be persuaded to write the Invasion strip, in which Britain was invaded by a thinly disguised Soviet Russia. The management asked him if he wanted to write it. He said he couldn’t get up much enthusiasm. They urged him to read Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. So he worked his way as best he could through that. He still wasn’t enthusiastic. Then they asked him if he’d like to write a scene with Maggie Thatcher being shot by the Russians on the steps of St. Paul’s. His response: Yeahhh!

He also talks about how the brutal education he received at a school run by the De Lazare order inspired him to write the Nemesis the Warlock strip. The Terminators, and to a lesser extent Judge Dredd, were modelled on them. They were fanatical, and were quite sinister. He remarks that if you go on the internet you can find all sorts of tales about them.

He also talks about an abortive crossover story planned for Marshal Law and Batman. Marshal Law was a bitterly satirical, extremely violent and very funny strip published in the 1990s about a superhero in the devastated San Francisco of the early 21st century, who hates other superheroes. The superheroes in the strip were created for a Vietnam-like war in South America, and have come back disillusioned and traumatized by the conflict. As a result, they form violent street gangs, and Marshal Law is recruited by the police to clean them up. It was a very dark comic that relentlessly parodied superhero comics from a left-wing, feminist perspective. When DC announced they wanted to make the crossover, Mills thought that they weren’t really serious. But they were. So he and O’Neill decided that for the cover, they’d have the Marshal standing on a pile of bodies of the different versions of Batman from all across the alternative Earths of the Multiverse. Then DC’s management changed, and their story policy did too, and the idea was dropped.

Mills also discusses the various ways comics have been launched, only to be merged with other comics. With 2000AD the comic was merged with Tornado and then Starlord. It was a very cynical policy, as from the first these comics were intended to fail, but by merging them with 2000AD and other comics, the management presented it as giving their readers something new, even though it wasn’t, and they felt it was an intrusion. He also responds to another question about which comic he felt folded before its time. The obvious answer to this was Action, which upset the establishment so much that it was banned, before being sanitized and relaunched. Mills said that they knew the comic was doomed. The new editor, who was given control of it had previously edited – and this is almost unbelievable – Bobo the Rabbit – and so didn’t know what he was doing. Mills said that before then they had skated over what was just about unacceptable and knew just how far you could go. Because this new editor hadn’t had that experience, he didn’t, and the comic folded.

The comic that he really feels shouldn’t have folded, and could still have carried on today, was Battle. As for which comic he’d now be working on instead of 2000AD, if it had proved more successful, these were the girls’ comics, like Misty. They vastly outsold the boys’ comics, but ultimately folded because ‘the boys took over the sandbox’. The video ends with his answer to the question, ‘What is his favourite strip, that he wrote for?’ He thinks for a moment, before replying Nemesis the Warlock to massive cheering.

It’s a very interesting perspective on the British comics industry by one of its masters. Regarding Slaine, Mills has said before in his introduction to the Titan book, Slaine the King: Special Edition, that the achievements of our ancestors, the Celtic peoples, has been rubbed out of history in favour of the ‘stern but fair proto-Thatcherite Romans, who built the roads and made the chariots run on time’. I think part of the problem is that the legends Mills draws on – that of Gaelic Ireland and Scotland, and Brythonic Wales – are those of the Celtic peoples, who were defeated by the expanding Anglo-Normans, who made a concerted attempt to suppress their culture. As for the very frank admiration for the Romans, that partly comes from the classics-based education offered by the British public schools.

As for the very staid attitude of British comics in the 1970s, this was a problem. It was actually a period of crisis, when many of the comics were folding because they hadn’t moved with the times. Mills’ idea for a strip about a Black boxer is clearly modelled on Mohammed Ali, the great African-American athlete of the ring. Everyone knew Ali, and he was universally admired, even by kids like me, who didn’t understand or know much about the racial politics behind Ali’s superstardom. Ali said that he wanted to give his people a hero.

Even so, the idea of having a sympathetic Black supporting character was an improvement. Roger Sabin, in his book Comics, Comix and Graphic Novels: A History of Comic Art, published by Phaidon, notes just how racist British comics were in the 1960s. This was very controversial, as Black people naturally objected. Sabin cites one strip, in which the White hero uses two racial slurs for Blacks, and another abusive term for Gypsies. And showing the type of strips that appeared in the 1920s, there’s an illustration which shows the Black characters from a strip in one of D.C. Thompson’s comics, either the Dandy or Beano at the time. This was The Colony N*gs. Only they don’t use an asterisk to try to disguise the term.

As for his experiences with the monks running his school, unfortunately he’s not the only one, who suffered in this way. I’ve met a number of former Roman Catholics, who were turned off religion, and in some cases became bitterly against it, because of their experience being taught by monks and nuns. Several of Britain’s most beloved broadcasters from the Emerald Isle were also turned off religion because of this. Dave Allen, who regularly poked fun at religion, and particularly the Roman Catholic church, said that he became an atheist because of the cruelty and the way the priests tried to scare their young charges at his old school. And that mainstay of British radio, Terry Wogan, in a series he presented about Ireland and his life there, said exactly the same about the effect the hard attitude of the teachers at his old Roman Catholic school had on him.

The Roman Catholic church does not have the monopoly on the abuse of children, and I’ve heard some horrifying tales of the brutal behavior of some of the teaching staff – and prefects – in some of the British grammar schools. Dad has told me about the very harsh regime of some of the teachers at his old school – not Roman Catholic – in Somerset. He describes the teachers as sadists, and has a story about how one of the teachers, when one of the boys couldn’t answer a question, threw the lad out of window. Brutality seems to have been built into the British educational system, leaving mental scars and bitter memories.

I’ve very mixed feelings about the British force sent against revolutionary Russia. Perhaps if we’d succeeded, the forty million Soviet citizens butchered by Stalin would have been able to live out their lives, and the peoples of the Russian Federation free of the shadow of the KGB and gulags.

But that’s with hindsight. That’s not why British troops were sent in. The Bolsheviks were anti-democratic and determined to suppress all other parties and factions except their own, even when these were Socialist or anarchist, like the Mensheviks, the Trudoviks, the Socialist Revolutionaries the Left Communists, Anarcho-Communists and syndicalists. But we sent in troops because Britain and the rest of the capitalist world felt threatened by the emergence of a working class, aggressively socialist state. Britain had many commercial contacts with pre-Revolutionary Russia, and Lenin had argued in his pamphlet Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism that global capitalism depended on European imperial expansion. These nations enslaved and exploited developing nations like Russia. A socialist revolution in these countries threatened international capitalism, as it was here that the capitalist system was weakest. Hence the Bolshevik slogan, ‘Smash capitalism at its weakest link!’

Ordinary Russians, let alone the conquered nations of the Russian Empire, were oppressed and exploited. If you want an idea how much, and what ordinary Russians endured and struggled to overthrow, read Lionel Kochan’s book, The Russian Revolution, published by Paladin. This was the grotty system British troops were sent in to restore.

On a more positive note, one member of the audience in the video thanks Mills for encouraging him to read. The man says he was dyslexic, but it was the comics he consumed as a child that got him reading. He is now a teacher, who specializes in helping children with reading difficulties, and uses comics in his teaching.

This is really inspiring. Martin Barks in Comics, Ideology and Power, discusses how comics have always been regarded with suspicion and contempt by the establishment. They were regarded as rubbish, at best. At worst they were seen as positively subversive. I can remember how one of the text books we used in English at school included a piece of journalism roundly condemning comics as rubbish literature with bad artwork. And this was reprinted in the 1980s! My mother, on the other hand, was in favour of comics because they did get children reading, and used to encourage the parents of the children she taught to buy them when they asked her advice on how they could get their children to read if they wouldn’t read books. This shows how far comics have come, so that they are now respectable and admired.

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.

Jimmy Dore: Obama Voted against UN Resolution Condemning Nazism

August 26, 2017

This is very interesting. In this clip, the left-wing American comedian and his co-hosts discuss Barak Obama’s voted against a UN resolution last year condemning Nazism. The resolution was for ‘combating glorification of Nazism, Neo-Nazism, and other practices contributing to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance’. America was one of only three countries which voted against it. One of the others was Palau Palau, which I think is a Polynesian island nation.

The reason Obama gave for voting against it was that while his administration condemned all forms of racism and ethnic and religious hatred, they objected to it because it contravened free speech. As Dore points out, the right to free speech does not cover crimes such as libel and incitement to criminal activity. And these crimes surely cover being a Nazi, who wishes to exterminate others simply because of their race.

Reporting the vote, the newspaper USA News stated it was because America was afraid Russia would use the resolution to launch attacks on its neighbours. Dore states he doesn’t know how that would work, but suspects it has something to do with the Nazis in the Ukraine. He also concludes the piece stating that this is an issue to watch, as there is something else going on there behind the scenes.

He also makes the point right at the beginning of the clip that this incident is very interesting, considering that everyone is now criticizing Donald ‘Donnie Tiny Hands’ Trump for his highly equivocal comments about the White supremacists, racists and Nazis in Charlottesville. Trump says that there are ‘fine people on both sides’. There obviously aren’t, as being a hate-twisted Nazi clearly definitely makes you not a ‘fine person’.

Dore has already made the point many times in his videos that for all his fine talk about egalitarianism, racial and religious tolerance, fairness and so on, Obama was as ruthlessly corporatist as his predecessors, giving generous handouts to the banks and other corporations, and privatizing vital public services like America’s school system. This was often against the wishes of parents, the local community, the teaching staff and local clergy. Afro-Americans were particularly concerned about the changes and the damage this would do to their children’s education.

Dore has also made the point that Obama took the two wars Bush had started, and expanded them into seven.

One reason Obama got away with this was probably because of his colour. The election of an Afro-American to the White House was hailed as showing that racism was dead in America, and that the country was now ‘post-racial’. The Nobel Committee awarded him the Peace Prize even before he had actually done anything.

And yet under Obama, America became even more bitterly racist, and racially divided. Some of this was due to an extreme right-wing reaction, which saw Republicans and talk radio hosts claiming that the new president was filled with a burning hatred for Whites, and was a crypto-Communist-Nazi-Maoist-Muslim infiltrator, who was going to outlaw guns, put everyone in concentration camps, and kill more people than Mao or Stalin.

It’s possible that one reason why Obama did not vote for the UN’s condemnation of Nazism and its glorification is because Nazis and White supremacists in America have used the Second Amendment guaranteeing free speech to avoid prosecution for their own vile sputterings. Dore and The Young Turks have made the point that Obama delayed giving any money to the anti-racist, anti-Nazi group, Life After Hate, until the very end of his presidency because he was afraid of Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh’s a long-time feature of America Conservative radio, who’s been fouling the airwaves with his vitriolic hatred of the organized working class, Socialism, ethnic minorities, feminism, climate change and liberals since the days of Ronald Reagan. It’s possible that Obama was afraid of him and those like him on this issue too. Some members of the Right, which automatically hate and despise the UN as anti-American anyway, would automatically seize on any support Obama gave to the resolution as showing his determination to exterminate the White race. Even though Israel, which America wholeheartedly supports, had also voted for it.

But the real reason is undoubtedly what USA News said it was: the Americans were afraid Russia would use the resolution to launch attacks on its neighbours. Which also include Ukraine. The Maidan Revolution, which overthrew the previous, pro-Russian Ukrainian president and installed the present nationalist, pro-Western regime, was a carefully staged coup, partly orchestrated by Victoria Nuland, the American ambassador, and the American embassy, as well as pro-democracy organisations like those of George Soros and the National Endowment for Democracy. The NED is a quasi-governmental organization, which William Blum has shown in his books has taken over the CIA’s role of overthrowing awkward foreign government the Americans don’t like.

And the coalition now governing Ukraine includes real, unreconstructed Nazis, who are every bit as violent and vicious as those in the West. They proudly wear the uniforms of the auxiliary SS regiments in which many Ukrainian nationalists served during the Second World War. And the beat and persecute trade unionists, ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians, and real democrats.

Russian forces are in the Ukraine, but they are there very much to protect ethnic Russians from attack and persecution from the Ukrainian nationalists. It’s why they’ve stayed in the east of the country. If Putin was really set on reconquering Ukraine for a new, Soviet empire, he’d be in Kiev by now, rather than the Donbass.

I’m therefore very sure that this resolution was voted down by Obama, because of the threat it posed to American attempts to interfere with Ukraine, and contain or break Russia as a geopolitical power. And in so doing, Obama also gave a little more help to the Fascists that ran amok in Charlottesville the Friday before last.

Denis Curran, Head of Food Bank Charity, on Hunger due Welfare Sanctions

June 1, 2016

This is another piece I found on Youtube. It’s a charity worker for Loaves and Fishes, a food bank, before the Scots parliament way back in 2014, talking about his work delivering food to the absolutely poverty-stricken, hit by the government’s savage cuts and sheer exploitation by grasping employers. And it’s very powerful and moving stuff.

Mr Curran talks about people traipsing three or four miles from the town centre, just to get something to eat. A mother, who hasn’t eaten for three days, because she’s been trying to feed her children. And then there’s a man, who worked for two hours for a prospective employer, and, unbidden, cleaned up after himself, only to be told that ‘he wasn’t suitable’, and sent home without any pay for the two hours he’d put in. One man he saw had been sanctioned for eleven weeks. That’s eleven weeks without money. He talks about the rise in suicide from sheer desperation by the people hit by the cuts. He also talks about how some official agencies won’t store food, because their employees have left the room in a mess, and they don’t want to encourage it, or they fear cross contamination from the different types of food if they’re put together. Or they want it delivered, but they have to keep within their budgets, so there’s no help for it. Curran also states that he’s a pensioner, who uses two sticks and sometimes he can’t get about. But if he can’t make a delivery for a certain social work agency on a certain day, he’ll get told that he can’t make another delivery until Wednesday, because of the way that agency’s doing things. As a result, the family that needs it haven eaten up till then. He talks about people going to food banks to get baby clothes for a new baby. He states that the government see people on benefits as scroungers and layabouts, when this is not the case, and are penalising them for being poor. He describes how quickly the sanctions legislation was passed. They made the decision on a Thursday, and then five days later, the next Tuesday, it became law. He asks what would happen if MPs were forced to go without pay, their gas, water and electricity cut off, and their fridges emptied, so they were forced to use food banks. Not how they would cope financially, but how it would affect them mentally. He also states that he’s been coming to meetings like this since 1993, and the only thing changes is that he keeps coming to more meetings. And he expects to be coming to another one in 2016. He recalls that he and his wife grew up during the Second World War. And he criticises the government for making us a 21st century society, but with 1930s values. Back during the War they gave you a ration book. Now it’s vouchers for a food bank. ‘What’s the difference, eh?’

It’s powerful, angry stuff, from someone, who is on the frontline of trying to help people keep body and soul together. Mr Curran comes from East Kilbride, and describes how he travels about all over Scotland to deliver his food parcels. Listening to him, this viewer from south of the Border was reminded of Iain Patterson’s fictional Rab C. Nesbit and his acute observations on poverty, society and politics. Nesbit was a benefits’ scrounger, and the show was comedy, but it also took the opportunity to tell some very harsh truths about the attitude of the Jobcentres, smarmy politicians and clergy, who affected concern for the poor, but had little real understanding, as well as other manifestations of pomposity, meanness, stupidity and arrogance.

Unfortunately, this is all real. And its victims aren’t scroungers like Nesbit. And there’s nothing funny about this situation at all.

As for seeing how the MPs would survive mentally if you could off their household supplies, leaving them with only the food bank to rely on, it’s manifestly obvious that they couldn’t cope. And they know it. Thirty years ago when Thatcher started cutting benefits, Geoffrey Dickens was invited by Channel 4 to survive on the dole for a week. He couldn’t. By the end of the week, his water and electricity had been cut off, and the food cupboard was empty. But the Tories have learned their lesson. Unfortunately, what they’ve learned is not to take up such challenges. One Tory MP, it might have someone from IDS’ wretched department, was invited to take part in a similar experiment for television. He turned it down, saying it was just a stunt. He knew he couldn’t survive, and didn’t want to give the opposition and viewing public the opportunity to watch him have to eat his words, ’cause there was precious little else he had left. But that’s the only thing that’s changed. The rhetoric of reproach hasn’t. Mr Curran talks about how ministers accuse the poor of going to food banks because their lazy and scroungers, when the truth is far from that. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Edwina Currie has been saying, to give one example. When Panorama did a programme on the rise of food banks, she appeared on it to give her view that people were using them simply because they could, and they didn’t represent a rise in real poverty. Well, they are an indication of the grinding poverty and hunger that’s gripping Britain. And Currie’s a disgrace, along with all the other Tories, who claim otherwise, and especially Ian Duncan Smith and Stephen Crabb, Cameron’s heads of the DWP, who are responsible for the implementation of the cuts.

The Chartists’ Shops to Punish Opposing Shopkeepers

April 25, 2016

I spent this weekend reading up on the Chartists. This was the early 19th century movement, which roughly ran for the decade between 1837 and 1848, which campaigned for the vote for every working man. There were also female Chartist organisations, and some Chartists were so radical as to wish to extend the franchise to women. It had a very mixed membership ideologically. Some were Socialists, others supporters of Free Trade. Some wanted the repeal of the Corn Law, while some were for keeping them. Many were against the New Poor Law and the Workhouses, but some, like Francis Place, supported it. There were Christian Chartists and atheist Chartists. Some, like Richard Oastler, were Tories, others Liberal. It has been regarded as a kind of early Labour party. This view has since been challenged, but certainly the Labour party politicians, who won the 1945 General Election saw themselves very much as part of the same tradition of working class political radicalism, and the contemporary heirs of the Chartists, as well as Tom Paine, the author of the Rights of Man.

Some Chartists believed, like Marx, that ‘the emancipation of the working class should be the task of the working class’, and wished to avoid contaminating the movement with contacts with the middle classes, who they felt would betray them. Nevertheless, the movement did have many middle class supporters, including Anglican priests, Nonconformist ministers, factory masters, and so on. One of the tactics the Chartists used, which I found particularly interesting, was that they opened shops to compete with and punish those shopkeepers that opposed the extension of the franchise to the hoi polloi.

The British working and lower middle classes are again becoming disenfranchised in the 21st century. And some of this is through the tactics used by the rich supermarkets to drive the small shopkeeper out of business, screw their suppliers, and drive down wages for employees. Quite apart from the various businesses that exploit unpaid workers under the ‘workfare’ system.

I think it would be superb if someone could come up with a similar system of shops to compete and punish these businesses, but I’m not sure how it could be done at a time of depression, when 4.7 million of us are in ‘food poverty’, and the trade unions are fighting for survival. The anarchists have tried similarly tactics, and these generally have failed. But perhaps there is a way. If there is, then it’s one I’d like to see pursued.

Vox Political on Tory Outcry against RMT Chief for Stating They Should Be Killed for Murdering the Poor

February 3, 2016

Mike has this story over at Vox Political surrounding the outcry the Tories have raised against the comments by the senior assistant general secretary of RMT, Steve Hedley, on a debate on LBC hosted by Shelagh Fogarty: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/03/rmt-chiefs-demand-for-execution-of-tories-for-murdering-sparks-anger-against-him/. Hedley was justifiably outraged by the number of disabled people, who have died due to their welfare cuts. He declared the Tories were murdering them, and that for this they should be taken out and shot.

Mike makes the point that the ensuing outcry is the reason he won’t allow similar demands or recommendations of violence against the Tories on his blog, for the reason that the Tories would use it to drown out the main message – that their wretched welfare reforms are killing the disabled – and use it as an excuse to attack it.

He’s right. When faced with any really tough rhetoric, the Tories immediately claim victimhood and whine, bitch and moan. In their minds, they represent dignified civil discourse against the slovenly manners, fecklessness and hooliganism of the Great Unwashed. And they are always, always unjustly maligned by thuggish opponents. Even when the reverse is true. And their welfare benefits are killing people, and reducing those in genuine need to utter poverty. Mike on Vox Political, Stilloaks, Jayne Linney and other disability bloggers have catalogued the various deaths that have resulted.

I actually wonder how the Tories would react if they were faced with really forthright criticism. Such as, for example, from the pen of Hunter S. Thompson, the journalist and author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Thompson was the inventor of Gonzo journalism, and didn’t mince his words when it came to describing those politicos that aroused his hate and disgust. In his piece on Richard Nixon, he described the former president as ‘so crooked he had screw his pants on in the morning’. He also said that instead of giving him a land burial, they should have buried him at sea, or flushed him into the sewers with the other turds.

And the bile didn’t stop with the Watergate conspirators. He also expressed his utter contempt and loathing of the Oliver North, Pat Buchanan, Admiral Poindexter and the others in the Reagan administration responsible for the Iran/Contra affair. One of them was described as being ‘so crooked it took three Whitehouse aids to screw him into his pants’. He thought they should be shut in a bamboo cage to be poked with sharp sticks, and flogged all the way along Route 66. As for Ed Meese, Reagan’s equally crooked attorney general, he said that he should have been hung upside down from a lamp post.

Maggie Thatcher also disgusted him. In a piece he published, replying to a letter from his illustrator, Ralph Steadman, he called Thatcher a ‘denatured hog’, and said that Steadman’s delinquent son was quite right to smash windows. Any young person who didn’t want to smash windows in Thatcher’s Britain was probably brain-dead.

This is strong language indeed, especially in the American press, which is now very cautious and respectful. In Britain it would result in paroxysms of Tory fury, as any criticism, no matter how small, of the Blessed St Margaret of Grantham is regarded as the vilest blasphemy. The Conservatives – traditionally the party of the Anglican establishment – have no scruples about attacking the Archbishop of Canterbury, or indeed any other clergyman or woman, if they dare to speak out on their dreadful welfare policies. But the sanctity of Maggie Thatcher, the patron saint of monetarism and South American dictators, must be defended with all their might.

Mike’s quite right to be worried that comments urging violence would give them ammunition to ignore and distort what’s actually said on his blog. Their past masters at that. Hedley’s statement that they should be shot gave them all the material they needed to distort the debate. But they are monstrous thugs, whose policies are killing tens of thousands of people, and who can’t stand the kind of criticism their atrocities deserve.

Radical Balladry and Tunes for Toilers: The Agitator, Part 3

May 28, 2014

Ballad Seller pic

Last week, I posted the tune for the radical song, ‘The Agitator’, from Roy Palmer’s A Ballad History of England. As with nearly all the other tunes from that book, I hadn’t noted down the words. Jess kindly supplied further information on them, pointing out that it was written in the 1870s to support the Agricultural Labourers’ Union. She also supplied further background information about the Union and the songs written by its members in their campaign for recognition and better wages and conditions. See the post ‘Radical Balladry and Tunes for Toilers: The Agitator, Part 2’. Now she’s kindly supplied the lyrics for the song itself.

The Union’s founder, Joseph Arch, said

Of course I was called an agitator; so I was, because everyone, who stirs people up to do things is an agitator, but those who so named me attached a bad meaning to the word. I was agitating for the right and not for the wrong; I was no ‘Arch Apostle of Arson’, as some one chose to call me. The Bishop of Gloucester (Dr Ellicott) was one of my worst enemies in the early days of the movement. He wanted me, and those, like me, ducked in the horse pond. As to the parsons generally, I never expected them to have much sympathy with us. Their stock argument against the Union was that it was ‘setting class against class’. This was their poll-parrot cry. ‘Oh yes, said they, ‘the men have a perfect right to try and improve themselves, and we will help them; but the Union is setting class against class’.

According to Palmer and Pamela Horn, who wrote a biography of Arch in 1977, the National Agricultural Labourers’ Union was founded in 1872. He believes that ‘The Agitator’ was written the following year, 1873, by the Union’s secretary, Henry Taylor. Taylor was a carpenter, who was admitted to the Union because of his previous trade union experience. The farm labourers’ unions produced a great number of songs, which were collected into a pamphlet, Songs for Singing at Agricultural Labourers’ Meetings (London and Leamington). These proved to be popular. According to Harold Evans in his Radical Fights of Forty Years, the pamphlet sold 120,000 copies.

The lyrics go

The Agitator
Tune – The Nobby Head of Hair

A jolly, jolly ploughboy I am, as you may see,
But never mind, I always strive to live by honesty;
I’ve always done my very best, by hard work, fare, and sweat, –
To get about the winid, boys, but I’m never out of debt.

Chorus
So I’ll agitate, I’ll agitate, whatever folks may say,
Till all have joined the Union, and get a fair days’ pay.

We care not what the Parsons say, -though they’re the chaps to know,
They say that all who agitate, to their dark friend must go;
And if ’tis tru, ’tis very clear, themselves had best look out,
So milt their agitation is, they often get the gout.
We’ll agitate, etc.

The farmers say they can’t afford to pay us proper wage;
But still they keep their carriages, and follow fashion’s rage;
‘Tis true that some poor farmers have their necks beneath the heel
Of selfish Lords, and unjust laws, which soon we must repeal.
We’ll agitate, etc.

The ‘Lords’ complain their rent of land, per cent. enough don’t pay,
‘Political Economy’s’ a law we must obey,-
If so, they’ll very soon become defunct throughout the land,
For ‘mongst the People I’m quite sure, for Lords there’s no demand.
We’ll agitate, etc.

They say the Labourers are not Serfs, – that we have liberty;
With our wages and our perquisites, how happy we might be;
But if we join the ‘Union’ chaps, say nought of better wage,-
O what a flare-up all at once! don’t they go into a rage?
We’ll agitate, etc.

They turn us out of house and home, they sack us there and then,
But off we go to other jobs,- we’ll do it, boys, like men;
For if to be successful with our cause we are inclined,
Why, then, a little sacrifice, my boys, we must not mind.
We’ll agitate, etc.

Our cause will prosper in the end, for all th’oppressors might;
We’ll do our best to help ourselves – ‘God will defend the right’;
‘The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower’,
So let us all take heart again, and whilst we have the power,
We’ll agitate, etc.

Like very many of the other songs I’ve posted up here, it’s very much of its time. Nevertheless, also like the other songs, parts of it are still very relevant. People are being forced heavily into debt, and forced from their homes. And we are being led by an aristocratic government that keeps invoking economics to justify their attacks on the poor and working and lower middle classes. So let’s show them that, as the song says, there’s no demand for lords in 21st century Britain.

The Sansculotte Programme of 1793

April 22, 2014

French Revolution Book

D.G. Wright’s Revolution and Terror in France, 1789-1795 also contains the address the radical sections of the Sansculottes sent to the National Assembly on 2nd September 1793. The sansculottes weren’t all working class, nor were they Socialists, and the address was the closest they ever came to a programme of social and economic reform. Nevertheless, it shows a profound and extremely radical commitment to social equality and is marked by demands for limits to be placed on wealth in the interest of providing for the poor. It runs:

Mandatories of the People – Just how long are you going to tolerate royalism, ambition, egotism, intrigue and avarice, each of them linked to fanaticism, and opening our frontiers to tyranny, while spreading devastation and death everywhere? How long are you going to suffer food-hoarders spreading famine throughout the Republic in the detestable hope that patriots will cut each other’s throats and the throne will be restored over our bloody corpses, with the help of foreign despots? You must hurry for there is no time to lose … the whole universe is watching you; humanity reproaches you for the troubles which are devastating the French Republic. Posterity will damn your names in future if you do not speedily find a remedy. … You must hurry, representatives of the people, to deprive all former nobles, priests, parlementaires and financiers of all administrative and judicial responsibility; also to fix the price of basic foodstuffs, raw materials, wages, and the profits of industry and commerce. You have both the justification and the power to do so. To speak plainly! To talk of aristocrats, royalists, moderates and counter-revolutionaries is to draw attention to property rights, held to be sacred and inviolable … no doubt; but do these rogues ignore the fact that property rights are confined to the extent of the satisfaction of physical needs? Don’t they know that nobody has the right to do anything that will injure another person? What could be more harmful than the arbitrary power to increase the price of basic necessities to a level beyond the means of seven eighths of the citizens? … do they not realize that every individual in the Republic must employ his intelligence and the strength of his arms in the service of the Republic, and must spill his blood for her to the very last drop? In return, the Republic should guarantee to each citizen the means of sufficient basic necessities to stay alive.

Would you not agree that we have passed a harsh law against hoarders? Representatives of the people, do not let the law be abused … this law, which forces those with large stocks of foodstuffs to declare their hoard, tends to favour hoarders more than it wipes out hoarding; it puts all their stocks under the supervision of the nation, yet permits them to charge whatever price their greed dictates. Consequently the general assembly of the Section des Sans Culottes considers it to be the duty of all citizens to propose measures which seem likely to bring about a return of abundance and public tranquillity. It therefore resolves to ask the Convention to decree the following:

1. That former nobles will be barred from military careers and every kind of public office; that former parlementaires, priests and financiers will be deprived of all administrative and judicial duties.

2. That the price of basic necessities be fixed at the levels of 1789-90, allowing for differences in quality.

3. That the price of raw materials, level of wages and profits of industry and commerce also be fixed, so that the hard-working man, the cultivator and the trader will be able to procure basic necessities, and also those things which add to their enjoyment.

4. That all those cultivators who, by some accident, have not been able to harvest their crop, be compensated from public funds.

5. That each department be allowed sufficient public money to ensure that the price of basic foodstuffs will be the same for all citizens of the Republic.

6. That the sums of money allowed to departments be used to eradicate variations in the price of foodstuffs and necessities and in the cost of transporting them to all parts of the Republic, so that each citizen is equal in these things.

7. That existing leases be cancelled and rents fixed at the levels of 1789-90, as for foodstuffs.

8. That there be a fixed maximum on personal wealth.

9 That no single individual shall possess more than the declared maximum.

10 That nobody be able to lease more land than is necessary for fixed number of ploughs.

11. That no citizen shall possess more than one workshop or retail shop.

12. That all who possess goods and land without legal title be recognised as proprietors.

The Section des Sans Culottes thinks that these measures will created abundance and tranquillity, and will, little by little, remove the gross inequalities of wealth and multiply the number of proprietors. (pp. 118-20).

It’s very much of it’s time, but some of it is still relevant to today. There are struggling small farmers in Britain, who need support from the government if they are to survive. In the corporative 1960s and ’70s, the government did pursue and prices and incomes policy, to make sure that wages matched the price of goods. There is a problem where prices have risen while the government and industrialists have kept wages low and frozen, so that some families are finding it difficult to make ends meet. The same also applies to another necessity that didn’t exist in the late 18th century: electricity. The Labour party announced that if it won the election, it would freeze electricity prices. A few months or so ago one of the electricity companies also announced that they were not going to raise their prices due to the fact that there was so much indignation at the cost of electricity when people were finding it difficult to pay for it.

As for limits on personal wealth and the number of businesses one should own, even though governments wish to promote successful industries and businesses, the policies can still be justified. It is obscene that the pay for company directors, elite bankers and the extremely rich has risen colossally, while the majority of workers have either had their wages frozen or their pay actually cut. The Japanese have a law which expressly states that company directors and chairmen may only enjoy a salary at a set, maximum level above the average wages of their workers. Japan is now one of the very largest economies in the world, and in many respects it is a ruthlessly capitalistic culture. Yet Japanese culture also stresses the importance of harmony and consensus. The law setting a ceiling for managers’ salaries was deliberately introduced in order to create an orderly, middle-class, harmonious society with little extremes of wealth. It’s questionable whether this has been successful, given the rise in unemployment due to the massive Japanese slump, and the appalling conditions endured by outcast groups such as the ‘Village People’ and Japanese Koreans.

It’s also the case that the actual number of businesses trading in the high street is contracting as more and more local businesses are forced out or taken over by the big firms. In Stokes Croft in Bristol four years ago there were riots due to the opening of yet another branch of Sainsbury’s, which threatened to put the local grocers and supermarkets out of business. The increasing homogeneity of the high street has attracted media attention and discussion. There has even been discussion of laws to prevent too many of the same brand of supermarket from opening in the same area.

cameron-toff

If the Sansculottes were around now, this man would not be in government.

And finally, considering the present government, you can well sympathise with the Sansculotte proposal to exclude nobles and financiers from government. The present government is, after all, composed by aristos and financiers, working on behalf of aristos, financiers and big business against the poor.

As I said in my last post, we could do with rediscovering a little bit more of the Sansculotte commitment to genuine democracy and egalitarianism.