Posts Tagged ‘Council Housing’

Channel 4 Threatened by the Tories with Privatisation… Again

February 6, 2020

The ‘Viewpoint’ column in next week’s Radio Times, for the 8th to 14th February 2020, contains an article by Maggie Brown, ‘Saving Thatcher’s baby’, about the problems confronting Channel 4. It begins

In 2020, Channel 4 is facing a number of challenges. Its staff are scattered to the winds, Channel 4 News is under attack from the Government, and the threat of privatisation looms. Is the pioneering broadcaster, which was launched in 1982 by Margaret Thatcher, facing an endgame?

She then describes how the broadcaster has moved its headquarters out of London and into Leeds, with hubs in Glasgow and Bristol with more programmes filmed in the regions, such as Manchester and Wales, and changes to the broadcasting schedules with the introduction of new programmes. One of these will be Taskmaster, taken from the Dave digital channel. Brown comments that the programme’s acquisition by Channel 4 is an attempt to boost audiences, but is also ‘a symptom of the tricky compromises and tightrope that C4 has to walk.’ She continues

It is a public service broadcaster “funded by advertising, owned by you”. It must also rally support as an alternative public service broadcaster to the BBC in the face of a hostile Conservative government that is needled by its mischievous independence and most recent mockery (that melting ice sculpture after Boris Johnson failed to show up for a climate change debate).

But relations with Conservative governments have always been tense, with liberal Channel 4 News and tough current affairs programmes such as Dispatches the lightning conductors. After the climate change debate last November, privatisation was immediately threatened again: a knee-jerk response.

She ends the piece by stating that the broadcaster’s business team will remain in London. She sees this as an indication that the broadcaster will not only confound the pessimist’s predictions of its impending demise, but will actually thrive. The business team have the Thatcherite values of self-reliance, and it’s this quality that will allow the broadcaster not only to survive but flourish.

Hm. Possibly. My own feeling is that if Channel 4’s business team manages to save the broadcaster, it won’t be because of an nebulous ethos of ‘self-reliance’, but because it will reflect the views and demands of metropolitan business. The same businesses that fund the Tory party.

She is, however, right about the Tories having a persistent distrust of the broadcaster. Thatcher set Channel 4 up in order to be an alternative to BBC 2. It was to serve communities that the Beeb channel didn’t, like ethnic minorities. It was also to excel in news coverage, as well as alternative arts and sports. By the latter, Denis Thatcher actually meant yachting. What that meant in practice was that the programme broadcast opera, as well as Indian cinema, a serial of the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, a history of the madrigal, the pop show, The Tube, and a variety of comedy shows. These included Who Dares  Wins, a sketch show whose cast include Rory McGrath and Tony Robinson, the classic satirical puppet show, Spitting Image, and Desmond’s, which was set in a Black barbers, and launched a wave of Black comedian in Britain. It also had a history of Africa presented by the White afro-centric historian, Basil Davidson, and a news programme about the continent with Black presenters and reporters.  It also showed Max Headroom, which consisted of pop videos hosted by the eponymous Max, the world’s first computer-generated video jockey. Offsetting all the highbrow stuff were sexually explicit films and programmes, which was the closest teenage schoolchildren could get to viewing porn before the internet. It was the sexually explicit stuff that particularly annoyed the Daily Mail, who branded the broadcaster’s controller at the time, Michael Grade, ‘Britain’s pornographer in chief’. The Channel responded to this by broadcasting programmes for gays and lesbians. Amid the furore, one of the most sensible comments was made by the archdeacon of York. When they asked the good churchman what his view of the broadcaster showing a series about lesbians, he replied, ‘Well, who’s going to watch that if there’s Clint Eastwood on the other?’ Quite. Now I understand that one of the channels is bringing back The ‘L’ Word, a lesbian soap opera first shown at the beginning of this century. Quite apart from Channel 4’s own gay soap opera, Queer As Folk.

Private Eye seemed to regard Channel 4 back then as condescending and pretentious. Its literary reviewer sharply criticised a book by its then chief, Jeremy Isaacs, because he made it plain he wanted to bring the British public material like miner’s oral history and so on. When people complained that people didn’t want some of this, Isaacs replied that they had latent needs, needs they didn’t know they had, until someone showed them the material they’d been missing. It was this comment that particularly aroused the reviewer’s ire. But Isaac’s was right. Sometimes you don’t know if there’s a demand for a subject, until you offer people the chance of trying it. And Channel 4 really tried to expand, create and satisfy a market for culture. Oliver Letwin, the former sketchwriter for the Daily Mail and now the Times, actually praised the broadcaster for this in his book, Bog Standard Britain. The broadcaster’s programming always hit and miss. Amid the good stuff there was also much material that was rubbish. And while it had the reputation as rather left-wing, it also carried a programme of political discussion for Conservatives, Right Talk. On the other hand, its opera performances actually managed to reach a decently sized audience, showing that ordinary Brits wanted and would watch highbrow culture.

Its average audience, however, was tiny, and there was pressure on the broadcaster, like the Beeb, to produce more popular programmes to give the British public value for money. Hence the channel became much more mainstream in the 1990s. Its audience grew as expected, but the country lost out as the channel no longer tried to expand the public’s minds and tastes as it once had. And as I said, this was lamented by Letwin, among others, a supporter of the very party that had spent so much time decrying and criticising the channel for being too daring and alternative.

If I remember correctly, the Tories have privatised the channel before. There have been at least two part-privatisations, where the government has sold off some of its share in it. One was under Thatcher, when she was privatising everything. I think the other may have been under Major, who continued her programme. I have a feeling that the second privatisation may have been a cynical move by the Tories to try and work up some enthusiasm for the government. It was announced with the fanfare the Tories usually gave the privatisations, presenting them as some kind of exciting generous opportunity granted to Britain’s workers. Thatcher was trying to create a shareholder democracy, where ordinary people would own shares as participants in capitalism. That’s all died the death a long time ago. The shares given to the workers in the privatised industries have all been sold on, and are now in the hands of a few big businessmen. The council houses she sold off have been bought by private housing associations for profit, and there’s now a housing shortage. And the privatisations were never as popular as the Tories tried to make us all believe to begin with. Support for them, according to polls done at the time, never rose about fifty per cent.

Channel 4 news has a reputation for excellence. Which is undoubtedly why the Tories now despise it and are discussing privatisation again. Britain’s publicly owned broadcasters are under threat because they are obstacles to Murdoch, the Americans and the British private broadcasters, who fund the Tories, dominating British television. They also despise them because they’re supposed to be impartial, unlike the private networks, which would be free to have whatever bias their proprietors chose. And besides, as this week’s attempts to dictate to the media, who could and could not attend BoJob’s precious lobby briefings shows, the Tories want to impose ever more restrictive controls over the media. The end result of that process, if it goes on is, is the rigorous, authoritarian censorship of totalitarianism.

I dare say that if the Tories do go ahead and privatise the Beeb and/or Channel 4, it’ll be presented as some kind of great liberalisation. The British public will be freed from having to support them, and they will have to take their chances in the market place, according to the tenets of Thatcherism. But if that happens, public service broadcasting will have been destroyed along with what should have been cornerstones of media impartiality.

But considering how relentless biased the Beeb has been against Labour and in favour of the Tories, their news desk has done much to destroy that already.

David Rosenberg’s Refutation of Latest Corbyn Anti-Semitism Smears

November 8, 2019

As I said a few days ago, the Tories must be desperate. They and their allies in the press have fallen back to the old smears of anti-Semitism against Jeremy Corbyn. A Reform Rabbi, Jonathan Romain, wrote an article in last Friday’s Times warning its readers not to vote for Labour, because he was afraid of the terrible consequences of a Corbyn-led government for Britain’s Jews. And Stephen Pollard, the non-Jewish, goysplaining editor of the Jewish Chronicle, has written an article aimed squarely at gentile Brits, urging us not to vote for Corbyn because ditto.

David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialist Group has written another excellent reply to the latest round of smears. Rosenberg himself has been the subject of smear attacks and protests by ultra-rightwing Zionists. A few days ago Jonathan Hoffman, a former leader of the Zionist Federation, was doing his usual schtick of marching around screaming about anti-Semitism in protest at a talk Mr Rosenberg was given to the East London Humanists. Whom he also accused of anti-Semitism, because they’re militant atheists and are anti-Judaism. Well yes, they are. They are also anti-Christianity, anti-Islam, anti-Hinduism, and anti-religion generally. That does not mean that they stand for the persecution of Jews, or Christians, Muslims, Hindus or anyone else. As for Rosenberg being an anti-Semite himself, his piece, ‘Who’s Afraid of Jeremy Corbyn’, begins with him describing a journey he made as part of a group of sixty people on a four day educational visit to Poland. It was organised by Unite Against Racism and many of the people on it were trade unionists and members of the Labour party. They also ranged from sixth former to older people, including Holocaust survivors, some of whose terrible experiences he briefly describes. Rosenberg was a speaker at the event, but before he did, they were treated to a message by Jeremy Corbyn. It was not electioneering, but a private message, meant for the travelers alone. Rosenberg writes

But just before I spoke, we watched a video message that had been filmed in one of theScreen Shot 2019-11-06 at 17.22.31 busiest weeks of Jeremy Corbyn’s year. The election had only just been called but he found time to record a message to wish our group well on our visit. This was not electioneering. This was not a social media post to be broadcast by Labour’s Press Team for sharing far and wide. It was simply a private, personal, heartfelt message to our group, from someone who has spent their life confronting racism and fascism and posing an alternative to hatred.

“Your visit to Auschwitz,” Corbyn told us, “will be a poignant experience. I have been there myself.” He described antisemitism as an “evil cult that has to be destroyed in all forms.” He recalled a visit he made, in summer this year, “to a small Jewish museum in Romania next to a railway line, where hundreds of thousands of Jews were rounded up in 1944 and deported to their deaths.” He closed by calling on us to “unite as people to say we will not tolerate racism in any form in our society, be it antisemitism, be it Islamophobia, be it homophobia or any other kind of discrimination.”

Rosenberg goes on to criticise Romain’s article, which was part of the media’s general evidence-free argument against the Labour party. He also discusses how the Tories have been responsible for deliberately racist policies such as the Hostile Environment policy, and are now led by Boris Johnson and his vile remarks about ‘grinning picaninnies’ and women in hijabs. He also reminds voters thinking of switching from Labour to the Fib Dems because of the smears of racism just how racist the Lib Dems themselves are. They not only supported Tory austerity policies, which disproportionately affect ethnic minorities, they also supported the Hostile Environment. And they did some extremely racist campaigning themselves in Tower Hamlets. He writes

Some of us with longer memories might recall the role of the Liberal Democrats in Tower Hamlets in the early 1990s where Lib Dem leaflets linked the presence of Black and Asian people with the housing shortages, giving further credibility to the overtly racist BNP who were polling well. Other leaflets distributed by the Lib Dems accused Labour of diverting funds towards the area’s Asian communities. In the end the BNP won that seat, and the Lib Dems locally were widely seen as playing a despicable and racist role.

He also attacks the Torygraph article which quotes Conservative chairman James Cleverly that British Jews are preparing to flee Britain if Corbyn gets in. He notes that three years into Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party, fewer Jews than ever are actually leaving for Israel. But he also notes the anti-Semitic undertones of the Torygraph and Jewish Chronicle’s article. Both stereotype Jews as rich capitalists. He writes

But the more serious point contained in this suggestion is the not-so-subtle antisemtism of both the Telegraph and Cleverly.

In essence they argue that a Corbyn government will launch a vengeful attack on wealth. Those most committed to private enterprise fear being squeezed by a radical Labour government, and the suggestion seems to be that the Jewish community, often stereotyped as an overwhelmingly rich, business-orientated community, will especially feel that pinch. It is an argument that has been rehearsed by the very right wing Jewish Chronicle editor, Stephen Pollard, who gave space in December 2018 for an appalling article in his paper by Alex Brummer with a headline you might have expected to see in a fascist journal: “The thought of Jeremy Corbyn as PM has Jewish investors running for the hills”.

Three months earlier, Pollard himself, had attacked a tweet by Jeremy Corbyn in which Corbyn said that the people who caused the financial crash of 2008 “call me a threat. They’re right. Labour is a threat to a damaging and failed system rigged for the few.” Pollard tweeted: “This is ‘nudge, nudge, you know who I’m talking about don’t you? And yes I do. It’s appalling” In response I tweeted: “Stephen Pollard and Jeremy Corbyn. One of them seems to think all bankers are Jews. Clue: it is not Jeremy Corbyn.”

But when I read this drivel, stereotyping the Jewish community as capitalists, I think of the many Jews I know well who work in the health service and caring professions who will be boosted by the prospect of a Labour government that is committed to funding their sectors rather than selling them off. I think of the struggling Jewish single parents and pensioners I know, and unemployed Jews, who have every reason to welcome a Corbyn-led government that would boost welfare payments rather than cut them, and would undertake other serious anti-poverty measures. I think of Jews I know who are users of mental health services, whose provision has been cut to the bone by the Tories. I think of elderly Jewish acquaintances living in the East End for whom repairs to their council housing and a well resourced health service are very high on their agendas. These people need a Labour government to be returned on December 12th as much as as their non-Jewish counterparts.

Absolutely. I’ve met Jews, who’ve despised the Tories for what they’ve done to the Health Service because they’ve, or their parents, have worked in it.

He also gives more news that you won’t find in the lamestream media. Apparently here are two new initiatives by British Jewish young people to tackle the Tories. One is Vashti Media, which states that it is a ‘microphone for the Jewish Left’, and another is ‘Jews Against Boris’.

He also discusses a talk the group were given by a Polish socialist and anti-fascist, who talked about the current political situation in his country and the mobilisation of anti-Fascists to combat the recent nationalist marches through Warsaw. His article concludes by commenting on the way the Fascist and Nationalist right in Poland and eastern Europe are being supported by right-wing forces across the continent, including Britain’s Tories.

As we sat in a cab driving to the airport on Monday, we passed a wall graffitied with a crossed out Star of David in a circle. The populist right and far right in Poland, and other countries central and eastern Europe, have been drawing support from right wingers in Western Europe including Britain’s Tory Party. Those elements in Britain that are leading the false charge against Jeremy Corbyn, as if he were some sort of threat to Jews in Britain, need to stop playing dangerous factional political games and face up to where the threats are really coming from.

https://rebellion602.wordpress.com/2019/11/06/whos-afraid-of-jeremy-corbyn/

As Rosenberg and other, genuine anti-Fascist activists both Jewish and gentile have made clear, Jeremy Corbyn is not an anti-Semite. Since he’s been leader of the Labour party, the level of anti-Semitism has been at the lowest its ever been for years. Anti-Semitism, like racism generally, is always strongest on the right. And that means the very same Tories, who are trying to smear Corbyn as a Jew-hater.

 

Samuel Smiles’ Condemnation of the Evils of Laissez-Faire

September 26, 2019

Samuel Smiles was the author of Self-Help, a 19th century manual on how the working classes could escape poverty by helping themselves. He’s been seen as a cornerstone of Conservative values, to whom Maggie Thatcher harked back when she promoted her attack on the welfare state as giving people more self-help. Andrina Stiles’ discusses how Victorian philanthropy is seen by some historians as an attempt to create ‘a docile, subservient working class out of a large, ill-educated and potentially revolutionary mass of people’ and that ‘the whole basis of Victorian involvement in charitable enterprise as an exercise in social control based on Samuel Smiles’ teaching about self-help’ in her book, Religion, Society and Reform 1800-1914 (London, Hodder & Stoughton 1995). But she also states that this view has been challenged by other historians. These argue that while he moderated his views on laissez-faire in later life, he did not believe it adequate to tackle social problems. And she provides as proof a passage from Smiles in which he bitterly condemns it. She writes

But other historians now believe these views to be a travesty of Samuel Smiles’ teaching. Although his book Self-Help was not published until 1859, they point out that its contents had been delivered as a series of lecturers to working-class audiences in Leeds 14 years earlier at a time of social conflict; and that in those lectures Smiles was not preaching quiescence but radicalism. Although he later moderated his political views and came to agree with laissez-faire in economic matters, he never accepted it was the right policy in dealing with social abuses, writing passionately of the need for outside intervention where self-help by the poor was obviously an inadequate remedy:

When typhus or cholera break out they tell us Nobody is to blame. That terrible Nobody… Nobody adulterates our food. Nobody poisons us with bad drink… Nobody leaves towns undrained. Nobody makes thieves, poachers and drunkards. Nobody has a dreadful theory – laissez-faire – leave alone. When people are poisoned with plaster of Paris mixed with their flour ‘let alone’ is the remedy … Let those who can find out when they are cheated. When people live in foul dwellings, let them alone, let wretchedness do its work; do not interfere with death. (p. 98).

So much for Thatcherite ‘Victorian values’. They killed people in the 19th century, and they’re killing them now as the Blairites and the Tories make obtaining welfare benefits for the unemployed and disabled as difficult and humiliating as possible. The result is that over a quarter of a million people are only kept from starvation by food banks, tens of thousands of disabled people have died after being thrown off benefits due to being assessed as fit for work, and there is a chronic housing shortage through Maggie’s determination to sell off council housing and forbid the building of any more.

But the Tories and the Libertarians keep singing the old refrain. Things will be better with more self-help, less state reliance and regulation. Private enterprise and capitalism will make everything better. A few months ago Dave Rubin and Candace Owens of the American right-wing group, Turning Point, tried to convince Brits when they came over to push their vile, outmoded views on this side of the Pond. Libertarianism was devised by extreme right-wing businessmen, most notably the Koch brothers, in order to defend depriving working people of state support and trade union power, whilst enriching big business. It always was close to Nazism. In the 1970s the American Libertarian rag, Reason, even published an issue pushing Holocaust Denial. Over this side of the Atlantic, the Libertarian organisations, like the National Association For Freedom, or the Freedom Association as it became, used to support the South American dictators. This included Paul Staines, of the Guido Fawkes blog, who was a member of one of these societies. One year the guest of honour at their annual dinner was the head of one of Central American dictator Rios Montt’s death squads. When Staines wasn’t out of his head raving with the machine elves on psychoactive chemicals, of course.

Laissez-faire in its Conservative and Libertarian versions brings nothing but poverty, sickness and death to the masses. Smiles knew this and condemned it. But the Thatcherites are still pushing it, because it keeps the poor poor and very much under the control of the rich.

Giles Coren Racially Abuses Megan Markle

August 6, 2019

Just as the CST this weekend decided to smear 36 people as anti-Semites, largely because they supported Jeremy Corbyn, and hated the Tories, Rachel Riley, and Tom Watson, Times‘ columnist Giles Coren made his own racist comment about Prince Harry’s consort, Megan Markle. Harry had said that he intends to have only two children because of the the current environmental crisis. So Coren jumped in and declared that he really said it because Markle had ‘raised the drawbridge’ and it was really due to domestic squabbles between the royal couple. He then went on and declared that they had booked a meeting with a marriage guidance counselor, but had got Jane Goodall instead.

That’s Jane Goodall, the primatologist, who studied gorillas.

The good peeps on Twitter were not amused, and pointed out just how racist the tweet was. It’s the old sneer about Black people being subhuman monkeys. They also predicted that if Coren was taken to task for it, he’d immediately start trying to excuse it by saying he wasn’t being racist, honest, and then give out some remarks supporting him by his White friends, while issuing some kind of non-apology.

Zelo Street concluded his article on this nasty little piece of privileged racism

From Coren there has so far been silence. But he will have to say something, even if he attempts to cover his tracks by pretending he didn’t mean what he clearly did mean.
Attempts to normalise racism are worrying. Attempts to normalise racism coming from a supposedly quality paper are not just worrying – they are totally inexcusable.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/08/giles-coren-right-royal-racist.html

Coren is the Times’ restaurant critic, and like several other ‘slebs, he has quaffed deep of the well of mediocrity. It’s unlikely he would have got his job, and appeared on TV – he was one of the ‘Supersizers’ who every week looked back at the cuisine in different periods of the past with Sue Perkins – if he didn’t come from a privileged background.

He is also sadly not alone in his sneers and abuse at Markle. The I’s Yasmin Alibhai-Brown commented on it in her column in this morning’s edition of the paper. She noted the ugly racism hiding behind these sneers. They’re based on outrage at an American woman of colour with genuinely feminist views marrying into the royal family. How dare she! Especially after she edited Vogue to list the leading, most influential and inspirational women.

I’ve no doubt that part of the sneer also comes from part of the Tory right’s bitter hatred of environmentalism. The Daily Heil published a whole slew of articles a few years ago declaring global warming to be fake, because the Russians apparently said so. And Trump’s government is doing its level, horrendous best to close down and silence the Environmental Protection Agency for the Republicans’ supporters and donors in the petrochemical industry, like the notorious Koch brothers. I’ve got a feeling the Times is one of the other newspapers, whose columnists have tried to discredit climate change. I seem to remember one of the producers of the BBC science documentary series, Horizon, remarking at a talk at the Cheltenham Festival of Science a few years ago how he had been forced to put right gently another very well established journo, who didn’t believe in it.

I believe a number of members of the royal family are also patrons of the World Wide Fund for Nature, what used to be the World Wildlife Fund, and so do have an interest in conservation. Which would suggest that Harry’s statement on why he was having no more than two sprogs is entirely genuinely. One of the problems is overpopulation, although in the West birthrates are actually falling to or below replacement level, so that there may well be a demographic crisis due to this. Quite apart from all the nutters, who believe that it’s all part of the ‘Great Replacement’ in which the Jews are secretly destroying the White race to replace them with non-White immigrants.

This isn’t the first Coren has expressed noxious, right-wing views either. A little while ago he took it upon himself to sneer at people from council estates. I have no idea why, except perhaps just sheer snobbery. Now he’s found a new target in Megan Markle. And it’s an example of the racism, snobbery and reactionary anti-environmentalism that now permeates and shames the Tory press. And it shows just how nasty the Times has become under Murdoch.

 

The Spanish Civil War and the Real Origins of Orwell’s Anti-Communism

January 2, 2019

Orwell’s 1984 is one of the very greatest classic dystopian novels depicting a bleak future in which the state has nearly absolute, total control. It’s particularly impressed Russians and others, who lived through and criticized Stalinism. Some of these have expressed amazement at how Orwell could have written the book without actually experiencing the horrific reality of Stalin’s USSR for himself. After the War, Orwell became a snitch for MI5 providing the agency with information on the suspected Communists. It’s a sordid part of his brilliant career as an anti-imperialist, socialist writer and activist. Conservatives have naturally seized on Orwell’s 1984, and the earlier satire, Animal Farm, to argue that the great writer had become so profoundly disillusioned that he had abandoned socialism altogether to become a fierce critic of it.

This is unlikely, as the previous year Orwell had written The Lion and the Unicorn, subtitled Socialism and the English. This examined English identity, and argued that for socialism to win in England, it had to adapt to British traditions and the English national character. But it didn’t reject socialism. Instead, it looked forward to a socialist victory and a socialist revolution, but one that would be so in keeping with English nationhood that some would wonder if there had been a revolution at all. He believed this would come about through the increasing blurring of class lines, and pointed to the emergence of a class of people occupying suburban council housing, who could not be easily defined as either working or middle class.

This view of the necessity of developing of a particularly British, English variety of socialism was one of the fundamental assumptions of the Fabians. They said in the History of the society that

‘Fabian Essays’ presented the case for Socialism in plain language which everybody could understand. It based Socialism, not on the speculations of a German philosopher, but on the obvious evolution of society as we see it around us. It accepted economic science as taught by the accredited British professors; it built up the edifice of Socialism on the foundations of our existing political and social institutions; it proved that Socialism was but the next step in the development of society, rendered inevitable by the changes which followed from the industrial revolution of the eighteenth century.

In Lane W. Lancaster, Masters of Political Thought, Vol. 3, Hegel to Dewey (London: George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd 1959) 309.

George Bernard Shaw, in his paper ‘The Transition to Social Democracy’, also stressed that the movement towards socialism was a proper part of general developments in British society. He wrote of the Fabian programme

There is not one new item in it. All are applications of principles already in full activity. All have on them that stamp of the vestry which is so congenial to the British mind. None of them compel the use of the words Socialism or Evolution; at no point do they involve guillotining, declaring the Rights of Man, swearing on the alter of the country, or anything else that is supposed to be essentially un-English. And they are all sure to come – landmarks on our course already visible to far-sighted politicians even of the party that dreads them.

Lancaster, op. cit., p. 316.

Shaw was right, and continues to be right. Thatcher wanted to privatise everything because she was afraid of the ‘ratcheting down’ of increasing nationalization, and believed this would result in the gradual emergence of a completely socialized British economy. And the fact that so much British socialism was based on British rather than continental traditions may also explain why Conservatives spend so much of their effort trying to persuade the public that that Socialists, or at least the Labour left, are all agents of Moscow.

It appears to me that what turned Orwell into an anti-Communist was seeing the Communist party abandon its socialist allies and attack their achievements under Stalin’s orders in the Spanish Civil War. The Trotskyite writer Ernest Mandel discusses this betrayal in his From Stalinism to Eurocommunism (New York: Schocken Books 1978).

The switch to a defence of the bourgeois state and the social status quo in the ‘democratic’ imperialist countries – which implied the defence of private property in the event of severe social crisis and national defence in the event of imperialist war – was made officially by the Seventh Congress of the Comintern. It had been preceded by an initial turn in this direction by the French Communist Party (PCF) when the Stalin-Laval military pact was signed. The clearest reflection of this turn was the Popular Front policy; its most radical effects came with the application of this policy during the Spanish Civil War. In Spain, the Communist Party made itself the most determined, consistent and bloody defender of the reestablishment of the bourgeois order against the collectivisations spontaneously effected by the workers and poor peasants of the Republic and against the organs of power created by the proletariat, particularly the committees and militias, which had inflicted a decisive defeat on the miltaro-fascist insurgents in nearly all the large cities of the country in July 1936. (p. 18).

Others have also pointed out that the nightmare world of 1984 is a depiction of a revolution that has taken the wrong turn, not one that has failed, which is another tactic adopted by Conservative propagandists. Orwell was greatly impressed by the achievements of the Spanish anarchists, and anarchism is highly critical of state socialism and particularly the USSR.

It thus seems to me that what Orwell attacked in Animal Farm and 1984 was not socialism as such, but its usurpation and abuse by bitterly intolerant, repressive groups like the Bolsheviks. It was a view partly based by what he had seen in Spain, and would no doubt have been reinforced by his awareness of the way Stalin had also rounded up, imprisoned and shot socialist dissidents in the USSR. Orwell was probably anti-Communist, not anti-Socialist.

Pop Against the Tories: Cabinet of Millionaires’ ‘Theresa May’

December 26, 2018

Thanks to everyone, who liked my post wishing them a happy Christmas, and for all the messages of peace and goodwill. Greatly appreciated! I hope you all had a great Christmas Day, and are enjoying the season’s festivities. And now I’m going to ruin it by talking about politics!

On Monday Mike put up a piece reporting a pop song he believes should be the real Christmas number one, rather than Ladbaby’s ‘piece of tat’ ‘We Built this City on Sausage Roll’. This was ‘Theresa May’ by Cabinet of Millionaires. While Ladbaby’s song is just a piece of jolly holiday froth, ‘Theresa May’ is a bitter attack on the current Prime Minister for the massive poverty she had caused, her warmongering and the privatization of the NHS. And the band’s name is obviously making a point about the extremely rich background of the members of her cabinet.

Mike’s put their video up on his channel. This shows a homeless man trudging from place to place with a puppet of the Prime Minister. He puts up a card saying simply ‘Theresa May – Private Dancer – Will Dance for Money’, and then jiggles the marionette around. The sign’s clearly a reference to Tina Turner’s classic ‘Private Dancer’, but also to her amoral, mercenary politics. She’s only interested in enriching herself and her followers. The lyrics are simple but angry, attacking her for ‘selling arms for illegal wars’ and ‘selling the NHS’. Both of which are absolutely true.

The video also shows some, but obviously not all, of the hardship faced by the homeless. The character sits against the wall, huddling in his padded coat and blanket with another homeless man, as they’re ignored by the people around them walking pass. Or worse. Another man walks up to a piece of wall next to him and urinates against it, to his obvious discomfort and disgust. The film ends with the character finally giving up trying to get money with the puppet. He throws it in the bin and moves on.

As we should with the real May. Homelessness has increased massively under Tweezer by something like 127% and 459 rough sleepers have died on the streets. One of those was Hungarian fellow, whose patch was just outside parliament. The man had a job, but couldn’t afford accommodation. Which is the reality all too many face, thanks to the Tories refusal to build more homes and their attack on council housing. Building firms have been caught building less than the number of affordable homes that need to be built, and the term ‘affordable’ itself can be misleading. It’s defined as something like 80 per cent of the normal price of houses in an area. This means that the affordable homes in an area of expensive housing may be anything but.

And the Tories really don’t want to build more housing, because house prices have been tied into general economic performance. More homes means that the market forces Maggie worshiped will make house prices fall, and so the economy will take another hit. Quite apart from the fact that it will leave many people in negative equity – in other words, their houses will be worth less than they paid for it – and it could undercut the buy to let industry which the Tories and right-wing rags like the Heil did so much to encourage.

The result of this is that there are 300,000 people, who are technically homeless, living in bed and breakfasts, hostels or on friends’ sofas, as well as whole generation of young students, who will never be able to afford their own home.

This is the way the Thatcherite dream of a home-owning democracy has died.

And then there’s May’s privatization of the health service, which is destroying it for the corporate profit of the private health firms and insurance companies, Which is also killing people.

May’s not quite responsible for illegal wars – Blair and Cameron started that, but she’s continuing them, so that brave men and women are being killed, not for any reasons of national safety, but purely so that multinational corporations can once again loot their countries and particularly their oil.

Cabinet of Millionaires’ song musically is good, tuneful pop. It follows a series of musical attacks on the Tories, such as ‘Liar, Liar’, which was about May’s persistent lying, and ‘Nicky Morgan’s Eyes’. This last was by a group of teachers sending up the former education secretary and her wretched policies towards schools.

Thatcherism died long ago. It is now zombie economics, pushed and supported by an exploitative, profiteering industrial elite and lying media establishment. It’s time it was ended.

Get Tweezer and the Tories out, and Corbyn in!

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/12/25/should-this-be-the-real-christmas-number-one/

The Majority Report: British Journo Calls Theresa May ‘A Glum-Bucket’

May 31, 2017

Our liberal friends and cousins across the Atlantic have also picked up on the pessimism and desperation that the British media have detected in May’s campaign. In this clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, the host comments on a clip from British TV where the man interviewing May states that her campaign has been ‘low-key’ and that she’s ‘a bit of a glum-bucket’ compared to the dynamism of Boris Johnson.

The Majority Report’s anchor says that the take such an interest in British politics, as compared to it, American culture is ‘adolescent’. But he comments that you need to have 100 years of decadence and imperialism before you get to call the Prime Minister ‘a glum-bucket’. And, he adds, you have to be ‘frickin’ mad’ to want Boris as your leader.

Of course, May rebuts the remark, stating with the fixed, squinting, rictus smile she adopts whenever anyone even obliquely suggests that she is not the greatest thing since Margaret Thatcher walked this earth, that she is very optimistic.

But the blurb for the clip on YouTube says it has obviously got her rattled.

Well, of course she’s rattled. Her lead in the polls have been cut down to 5 per cent, far more people in England trust Labour with the NHS, most people don’t want the backdoor privatisation the Tories – and New Labour – have been sneaking in, and Labour has far more sensible polices on defence than the Tories. Such as actually restoring the strength of our police, border guards and armed forces, which the Tories cut.

And May is a ‘glum bucket’. She very obviously does not like meeting the public, as is shown by the fact that she only conducts her meetings with ordinary people behind closed doors, and often they’ve been carefully selected beforehand, so it’s invitation only.

When she does encounter crowds, they boo her and she is left scuttling back to whichever grim biotechnology lab under Tory Central Office spawned her. A few days ago she was forced to beat a hasty retreat from a council estate in Bristol. Possibly she felt that she’d find some loyal, Alf Garnett-style working class Tories. What she found instead was local people ground down by welfare cuts, stagnant wages and zero hours contracts, who were understandably angry.

Hence a swift walk back to the black limousines, which vanished off as quick as they could.

Any optimism she affects is painfully false. And the fear underneath the mask is showing as the wheels fall off the Tory battle bus.

Jimmy Dore: Stop and Search Policing Now Shown to Be Rubbish

July 11, 2016

This is another fascinating piece from the American comedian Jimmy Dore, who turns up regularly on The Young Turks internet show. In this video he discusses an article in one of the New York Papers, reporting a study that has shown ‘broken windows’ policing to be complete rubbish. ‘Broken windows’ policing is the name given to the police strategy of prosecuting people for minor offences – what are called ‘quality of life’ offences, like graffiti, riding your bike on the pavement and so on, in the expectation that cracking down on minor crimes will lead to a drop in major felonies. It includes ‘stop and frisk’ – what over here is called ‘stop and search’ – in which people are stopped and searched at random by the rozzers.

The ‘broken windows’ strategy takes its name from an official experiment, in which a car was left in the road with its bonnet up in two different neighbourhoods. One, I think, was a rough part of New York. Within hours, the car had been stripped. They then left a similar vehicle in an upmarket neighbourhood in California – Palo Alto. The car was left alone. So the experimenters broke one of its windows. It was only after they did that, that the car was gutted. And so they came to the conclusion that to cut down on major crime, you have to start with minor misdemeanours.

Except that it doesn’t. An official study shows that it has no effect. Dore and the others off camera describe how such arrests can wreck a person’s life in the US. If you’re arrested for a felony, you can’t get a student loan and you automatically lose your right to vote, along with other disastrous consequences. Stop and frisk policing is similarly false. 87 per cent of those stopped are Black or Latino in America, but in only six per cent of cases does this lead to an arrest, and only half of those result in a conviction. Meanwhile, as they point out, it’s a massive way to increase Black and Latino alienation from the cops. Dore mentions some of the many over-reactions of the police to perceived Black criminality. Like a case where a teenage boy was followed by helicopter, because he jumped a turn-style. Meanwhile, according to Dore, a CCTV camera elsewhere had recorded the cops choking a man to death.

‘Broken windows’ policing and stop and frisk also have no effect on crime, which has been declining in America for decades anyway. So there’s no reason why these policies, which are only punishing ethnic minorities unfairly, and driving them away from the police, should be continued.

I’m reblogging this, as although the study relates to America, it is clearly relevant to the situation over here. There have been complaints by the Black community in London against the police using ‘stop and search’ there. As for ‘broken windows’ policing, something similar has been advocated by members of the Conservative right, like Peter Hitchens. (In fairness, I should qualify that: Hitchens was not in favour of Thatcher’s sale of council housing, and does not support private prisons, both of which seem to be standard Tory, and New Labour, policies). In his Mail on Sunday column a few years ago, Hitchens cited the pattern of policing before the First World War as the reason for that time’s comparatively low rate of serious crime. This was a time when people were arrested and jailed for very minor crimes like drunkenness, sleeping rough and so on. I think Hitchens’ attitude is that if people are punished for ‘quality of life’ offences, they’ll acquire some self-respect and start to behave like responsible citizens. This shows that they won’t.

The Lying Farewells for David Cameron

June 25, 2016

One of the aspects of the immediate aftermath of the ‘Leave’ vote I found particularly nauseating was the praise the Tories heaped on their leader as he announced his resignation. Well, sort of. He’s going to go, but not for another couple of months. He says he’ll finally pack up and leave in November. So despite Cameron’s promises that he would depart the moment he lost the vote, in practice he’s in no hurry. There, and I can remember Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, getting very animated on Have I Got News For You about how Broon tried to hang to power by cutting a deal with Clegg and the Lib Dems. He would agree to a coalition, but only if he was allowed to remain in No. 10. Clegg disagreed, and the deal fell through.

Well actually, it didn’t, as Clegg had already made a deal with the Tories to enter the coalition with them. His negotiations with Broon were simply lies and verbiage. Nevertheless, it got Hislop very excited, who described as ‘Mr Limpet’ because of his way he was trying to hang on to power like a limpet sticks to rocks.

Now Cameron is doing exactly the same. It seems that there are a lot of limpets in British politics. Though it has to be said, No 10 is a very nice rock for such shellfish.

In his resignation speech – if you can call it that, when he hasn’t actually gone – Cameron of course declared that he had been determined to try to create a fair society, with success and opportunities for all. Well, he’s a PR spin merchant, and his entire political career has been based on telling the voting public these lies, while doing the exact opposite. And after he had finished trying to paint a positive picture of himself and his policies, it was left to his party colleagues to join in.

John Major turned up on the Six O’clock news to declare that Cameron had indeed been a ‘One Nation Conservative’, concerned to provide jobs, opportunities and prosperity for all. ‘One Nation Tories’ are how Conservatives describe themselves, who want to make you think that they’re in favour of the welfare state. It comes from Disraeli’s description of Britain as divided into two nations – the rich and poor, and how this decision needed to be healed. In all fairness, this did have some validity at certain points in the 19th century. Disraeli himself extended the franchise to the whole of middle class and the richer sections of the working class in the 1870s as an attempt to ‘dish the Whigs’. Much of the earliest 19th century legislation regulating factories and mine work came from the paternalist section of the Tory party.

But when this is applied to David Cameron, it’s pure rubbish. Cameron’s reforms have led to Britain becoming more divided than ever before. Social mobility had just about ceased under Blair, and this has continued under Cameron. If, in fact, he hasn’t actually made it worse. The majority of people forced to claim benefits are the working poor, whose wages no longer cover the cost of living. Rising house prices and a lack of affordable housing, and the sale of council houses have meant that there is now a generation that can never look forward to owning their own homes. Or indeed, in many cases, moving out of their parents’. Cameron and his cronies raised tuition fees, saddling even more students with massive debt, all the while proclaiming that they were keen to see more people enter higher education. Nick Robinson, one of Cameron’s cheerleaders in BBC News, went off enthusiastically about how you didn’t need to pay the debt back until you earned a certain amount, so that it was all ‘free money’. Well, as the SF writer Robert Heinlein used to lecture people in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, TANSTAFL: There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Lunch. A debt is still a debt.

And it’s when you get to the really poor – the long term sick, unemployed and disabled that the Tories’ policies have become positively lethal. Cameron, Osborne and his crew took over the welfare-to-work ideas of Blair’s New Labour, including the system of sanctions and fitness-to-work tests. As a result, people who have been literally dying have been declared fit for work and have had their benefit stopped. About 500 people have starved to death. Over a quarter of a million more have had their mental health impaired, sometimes seriously. Depression and anxiety has increased massively.

But all this is swept under the carpet, as Cameron and John Major have claimed that Major is a ‘One Nation’ Tory concerned with working peoples’ welfare. He isn’t, and never was. Just like he’s in no hurry to leave his rock.

Dennis Skinner’s Personal Recommendations for Improving Britain

May 31, 2016

The veteran Labour MP and trade unionist, Dennis Skinner, also makes some political recommendations of his own in his autobiographical Sailing Close to the Wind: Reminiscences, published two years ago in 2014. He summarises his plans, saying

So I’m fighting for a new Labour government to axe the bedroom tax, save the NHS, cut fuel bills, created jobs for the young and raise living standards. My personal manifesto will be to the left of that of the party but I’m committed 100 per cent to the election of Labour candidates across Britain. (p.313).

As for the proposals themselves, he writes (headlines in bold are mine)

I’ve a few suggestions of my own to boost Labour’s popularity and beat the Tories.

End Privatisation

To start the ball rolling we should end expensive privatisation instead of paying a fortune to contractors such as G4S, Serco and Capita that make a mess of services in the process. It’s time we got back to publicly run, publicly owned services provided in the public interest.

Nationalise the Railways

On the railways, the £900m surplus on East Coast trains, operated publicly after the private sector crashed twice, shows us the way ahead. Instead of boosting Richard Branson’s profits, a nationalised railway could make a profit and generate the cash to improve every station in Britain.

A ‘Robin Hood’ Tax on City Speculators

If we want extra money for the National Health Service and social care, we should levy a Robin Hood tax on speculators in the city. Directing the funds raised directly to health and care, including help for the mentally handicapped, rather than to the Treasury, would be immensely popular. We could start with a low rate and increase it when the tax proves to be popular, as I’m sure it will be, by emulating the one per cent National Insurance rise for the NHS when Gordon Brown was Chancellor.

Scrap Trident

Scrapping Trident would free up billions of pounds for a massive house building programme so everybody has a roof over their head and nobody is homeless. The position on council house sales has to change or local authorities won’t build houses if they know they must sell them cheaply after a few years.

End Nuclear Weapons, Restore Local Democracy

The savings from defusing nuclear weapons can also help save local democracy. Councils are being swamped by central government. Powers are either grabbed by Whitehall or transferred to unelected quangos. Ever since the Clay Cross rent rebellion, Whitehall has dictated to communities. We need to reverse the trend.

Nationalise the Utilities

On the question of the utilities – gas, electricity, water – this is the moment to start taking them back into public ownership. We took control after 1945 and right up to Wilson’s final government, when he nationalised aerospace with a majority of only three, public ownership was advanced. To cap energy bills is a good idea but a better plan is to control utilities by restoring public ownership in Britain of firms that are currently owned in France, Germany and almost every country on the globe.

Spend More on Education; End Privatised Schooling

Spending on education more than doubled under the last Labour government, which was impressive. let’s stop the growth of faith schools and misnamed free schools – tax payers fund them so they’re not free – by enhancing the powers of local authorities to champion the education of every single child.

Raise Minimum Wage

We need to end the pay freezes. The people that are carrying the burden of the bankers’ ramp are mainly workers at the bottom of the scale. The Living Wage shouldn’t be optional. Everybody should get it. But let’s not stop at £7.65 an hour outside London and £8.80 in the capital. The trade union campaign for 10 an hour should be Labour policy. A decent day’s work deserves a decent day’s pay.

Ban Zero Hours Contracts

We should introduce legislation to outlaw zero hours contracts and private employment agencies. Playing off worker against worker, ferrying into Britain cheap labour to undercut employees, is poisoning community relations. Sticking 10, 12 or 15 eastern Europeans into a house then deducting large sums form their earnings is in nobody’s interests except cowboy employers. Reasserting the role of Jobcentres as local labour exchanges will improve wages and conditions.

Increase Trade Union Rights

Trade union rights must be strengthened significantly, including the abolition of sequestration. Industrial action requires two sides to be involved in a dispute, yet it is union funds that are seized. Rebalancing employment rights in favour of workers and unions is essential if we are to build a fairer economy.

Abandon Tory Obsession with Fiscal Restraint

And we must escape the dumb economic mantra about balancing the books. There would have been no Spirit of ’45 if Clement Attlee’s goal was to balance the books. There would have been no NHS, new Welfare State, new council houses and unemployment wouldn’t have dropped to 440,000 in 1950, after only five years of the finest Labour government ever. In fact the finest government ever.

We need spending to get people to work and the economy growing. You don’t need a crystal ball to see where we should be going. We can find the way ahead by reading the history books. (pp. 309-12).

He states that they’re not just his ideas, but have been discussed for the last 10 or 20 years in the Bolsover constituency.

I have some caveats. I don’t like the attack on faith schools, having been to an Anglican faith school myself, and I don’t share his euroscepticism. But other than that, I think he’s absolutely right. Thatcherism has done immense damage to this country. Now, after thirty years of it, it is long past the time it should have been discarded.