Posts Tagged ‘Financiers’

After the Secret Flights to Deport Windrush Migrants, No-One Is Safe in Tory Britain

April 20, 2018

Mike in his articles attacking May and her truly foul decision to destroy the evidence needed for the Windrush migrants to show their right to live in our wonderful country also mentioned that poem by Martin Niemoller. Niemoller was one of the scandalously few Christians in Nazi Germany to oppose the regime. You know the poem. It’s become something of a cliché – It opens with the various groups the Nazis came for, with the refrain ‘I did not speak out, because I was not’ whichever group was being attacked. It ends with the line that when they finally came for him, there was no-one to stand up for him. This was the reality in Nazi Germany. The Nazis attacked group after group, not just Jews, but also Gypsies, Socialists, Communists, trade unionists, the disabled, and other political and religious dissidents. And it had an effect. The Catholic Centre Party, which could have voted against the Nazi seizure of power, actually voted for it because they were afraid that the Nazis would come and attack them and the Church. It didn’t help. The Nazis had no qualms about dissolving them, along with the other political parties. The only parties that voted against the Nazis were the SPD – the German equivalent of the Labour party, and the Communists.

The victims of Nazi persecution vanished into ‘Nacht und Nebel’ – ‘Night and Fog’. They were snatched from the homes, and vanished without trace, to be tried before special courts, in secret. The secrecy was quite deliberate. It was done to create fear and deter anyone else from protesting against the Nazi regime. Or in the case of Jews, Gypsies, and the congenitally disabled, simply being. One of Hitler’s most notorious comments is his line ‘The people need fear. A healthy fear is good for them’. Torquemada, the science-fictional galactic Fascist villain of the Nemesis of the Warlock Strip in 2000AD, said the same, except he dropped the ‘healthy’ bit. I’m sure the line was a deliberate quote by the writer, Pat Mills, and shows the research he did on the Third Reich that influenced the war stories in Battle and his other strips against racism and Fascism. ‘Nemesis’ was a fantasy, but based solidly in fact and addressing a real issue.

The knock on the door in the middle of the night and arrests by secret police weren’t unique to the Nazis. It was done in Stalin’s Soviet Union, and by authoritarian regimes across the world, right up to the present day. Like Communist China and Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians, to name just two. And I wonder how long it will be before the Fascist, anti-Semitic Fidesz government in Hungary starts doing the same, after their prime minister declared a list of 200 organisations to be subversive followers of George Soros. Who is, of course, a Jewish financier, exactly like the villains of Nazi conspiracy theory.

But we can’t be complacent. Blair tried to introduce secret courts in this country, and Dave Cameron and Nick Clegg did. These are special courts for those charged with terrorism, and where public disclosure of the evidence is judged to be harmful to that old chestnut, national security. Under the legislation, these trial may be held in secret. The accused and their lawyer may not know the identity of their accuser, or the evidence against them. Or even what the charge is.

It is exactly like the perverted judicial systems of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. And once again, literature got their first. Franz Kafka described all this in his novels, The Castle and The Trial. Kafka, however, had a peculiar sense of humour. He said once that these tales are meant to be funny, in an ironic way. I can remember being told at school that irony plays a big part in the German sense of humour – OK, Kafka was a Jewish Czech, but he wrote in German, and I guess he shared their sense of humour. But it wasn’t a joke under the Nazis and the other totalitarian regimes, and it far from a joke now.

The people unfairly deported were thrown out of this country on secret flights, often shackled in contraptions like leg and hip restraints. This follows the ‘secret renditions’, in which foreign nationals accused of terrorism offences were secretly flown out of this country to others as a way of evading our laws banning torture in interrogations. The Tories clearly felt that after doing it successfully to one group, they could do it to others. So from terrorist suspects, they moved on to entirely respectable people, who came here to work and make a better life for themselves. People who endured massive racism and shouldn’t have to put up with any more of it.

If the Tories can do it to one group, they will do it to others. Food banks are another example. They started out to help asylum seekers waiting for adjudication on their right to stay in the UK, who were banned from claiming benefits. But Ian Duncan Smith and his boss, David Cameron, expanded them to cover ever person thrown off benefits under their murderous sanctions regime.

The Tories start by picking on unpopular outgroups, like terrorists and coloured immigrants. And then they push their policies into the most vulnerable groups of mainstream society.

Remember, in the 1970s large sections of the Tory party really thought that Harold Wilson was a KGB agent and the Labour party was riddled with Communists taking orders direct from Moscow. And leading members of the establishment, including Times journo Peregrine Worsthorne, wanted a coup and the internment of those judged to be dangerous radicals. This included not only politicians, but also trade unionists and journalists. You can read about it in Ken Livingstone’s 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour.

You are not safe, no matter how long you’ve lived here. Even if your a tradition, White Brit. On this evidence, if the Tories continue with their arrests and secret deportations, they will eventually come round to making us vanish into their equivalent of ‘Night and Fog’. Just like the Nazis.

And if we don’t act against this and the other injustices, no-one will stand up for us. Just like no-one stood up for the Jews and the other victims of the Nazis in Niemoller’s poem and real life.

May and the Tories are a clear and present threat to democracy and the security of decent people. Racism and the persecution of immigrants is the start. Get them out, before they turn this country into something very close to Nazi Germany.

Viktor Orban Goes Conspiracy-Theorist Fascist about George Soros

April 13, 2018

Earlier this week, Mike put up a piece showing the Tories’ hypocrisy over the anti-Semitism smears. While happy to smear Corbyn’s Labour as full of Jew haters and Nazis and demanding the strongest possible action, the Tories are not so eager to do anything about the greater number of anti-Semites and racists in their own. And indeed, the party very frequently indulges in coded and overt racism, and has no problems congratulating some very nasty foreign heads of state, who are vehemently anti-Semitic.

Like Viktor Orban, the president of Hungary and head of the ruling Fidesz party. This is a far-right, Christian party with a very nasty line in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. A little while ago he spouting about how the invading Muslims hordes, or for the rest of us, brutalised refugees fleeing Syria would never be allowed into Hungary. He’s especially fixated with George Soros. Soros is, of course, an international financier, and the sponsor of several pro-democracy organisations and courses in Hungarian universities. He’s also of Hungarian Jewish descent, and because Soros is very definitely anti-Fascist, Orban naturally hates him with a passion. Mike’s article pointed out how Orban’s speech was very similar, and used all the tropes the Nazis and other Fascist groups since then have used about ‘Jewish bankers’.

This did not stop the Tories trying to cosy up to him. Boris Johnson sent him a message congratulating him on his election victory. Which shows you just how seriously the Tories really take anti-Semitism and real racism when it suits them. But I’m not surprised. The people making these accusations against Labour are massively hypocritical. The current Polish president is also the head of another anti-Semitic party. But this didn’t stop Stephen Pollard, of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, writing an article in the Groaniad claiming that he wasn’t, because he was ‘a good friend of Israel’. The Polish supremo had just signed a deal to buy a whole load of Israeli military jets. I’ve got a feeling that Orban’s Hungary has just done the same, or something similar. For the Israel Lobby, and its very Tory, establishment members, it’s only anti-Semitic if it criticises Israel. Otherwise, their perfectly happy with viciously anti-Semitic regimes.

Soros himself has a very good reason to despise Israel. He loathes Zionism because of the way Kasztner, the head of the Zionists in Hungary, allowed the Nazis to deport tens of thousands of Jews to the gas chambers, just so a few could be sent to Israel. But obviously, this isn’t an episode of Zionist history Pollard, Arkush, Goldstein and the rest of the Israel lobby want you to know about, or else they’ll throw another wobbly and accuse whoever tells them of being ‘anti-Semitic’.

But I digress. Now it seems, Orban has gone full Alex Jones, conspiracy-theory nutjob. One of the Hungarian magazines has apparently published an article, according to the I, in which he names 200 groups and individuals he brands as ‘mercenaries’ in the pay of George Soros. These include respected human rights organisations. We’re back to the Nazis and their claim that democracy is a ‘Jewish plot to enslave the Aryan man’. Okay, so in this case, it’s Hungarians, not Germans, but the reasoning is exactly the same.

Orban is repeating the lies and murderous conspiracy theories of the Nazis with his venomous fixation on Soros. Reading such stuff, you can almost go through it ticking off the similarities. It’s vile, terrifying stuff. But the Tory party and the Israel lobby will love him, defend and congratulate him, because, like the Polish premier, ‘he’s a good friend to Israel’. He might be, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a Jew hater. He’s a vile anti-Semite, and this shows their utter hypocrisy. And its high time the Tories and the Israel lobby were held to account for their own amoral attitudes supporting him and other Fascists.

Tories Suggest Changing Party Name to Take Votes from Labour, Just Like Nazis

October 5, 2017

You can tell the Tories are in trouble as they’re desperately trying to steal policies, and even change their name, to make themselves look a bit more like the Labour party. Robert Halfon, whose name reminds me of ‘Gag Halfrunt’, one of the characters in The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, has suggested that the Tories change their name to the ‘Conservative Working Party’. Well, Cameron suggested something similar a few years ago, when he and the Tories came out with slogans and speeches declaring that their party, not Labour, stood up for ‘working people’.

No, they don’t. Never have done. The Tory party has never stood up for what the Victorians called ‘the laboring poor’, except for a brief period in the early 19th century. They have always represented the aristocracy and big business. That is, the capitalists, the owners and senior management. They most definitely have not represented the interests of manual workers and lower middle class employees.

Mike points out that while people say that you shouldn’t compare them to the Nazi party, in this case the comparison is appropriate. They are exactly like the fiercely anti-Socialist Nazi party, the full name of which was the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/10/03/robert-halfon-suggests-new-name-for-the-conservative-party-weve-seen-this-tactic-before-somewhere/

Hitler inserted ‘Socialist’ in the title, against considerable opposition from the rest of the party, as a direct challenge to the democratic socialists of the SPD and USPD, the German majority Socialist parties. See Reichwing Watch’s video debunking contemporary right-wing attempts to claim the Nazis were Socialists. Reichwing Watch has an impeccable source for this assertion: Adolf himself. It’s in Mein Kampf.

It wasn’t only the Nazis, who tried this trick in order to win votes from the Socialists. Mussolini styled his newspaper, the Popolo d’Italia, the paper of ‘soldiers and producers’ in order to continue to appeal to the workers, as well as the rich businessmen he was also seeking to win over to support the nascent Fascist movement against socialism and the organized working class.

And Thatcher herself tried a similar trick when she appropriated the phrase ‘creators of wealth’. Previously that had been a part of Socialist and Communist ideology. The true creators of wealth, in Socialist doctrine, were the working class, the people who actually made things and did things. Hence the Communist slogan, ‘All Wealth to the Creators of Wealth!’ Under Thatcher it was appropriated to mean big business, and specifically the capitalists and financiers.

May started spinning that line at the Tory speech last night when she started very loudly praising ‘the creators of wealth’, by which she meant big business, senior management, financiers and so on, although she also mentioned ‘working people’. She could also have said, ‘daring entrepreneurs’, but that would really have let the Nazi cat out of the bag. It’s who the head of the neo-Nazi National Democrat Party in Germany declared in the late 1960s his party represented, among others.

More moderate right-wing parties have also tried to make themselves seem more socialist as well. Ken Livingstone in his book, Livingstone’s Labour, note how the German and Italian Christian Democrats tried to redefine their party to appear more socialistic, because capitalism and traditional right-wing politics had been tainted by their collaboration with the Nazis.

The Tories are very much aware that neoliberalism is not benefiting the mass of ordinary people in this country, regardless of the lies and propaganda spouted by May and the rest of the Tory faithful at this conference. They’re also aware that they are seen very much as the party of the rich. Hence the attempts to steal names and policies from Labour.

As for capitalism, there are indications that it’s doomed. The radical American journalist Chris Hedges said in an interview that the big financiers in the EU know the whole system is about to come crashing down, and are just trying to loot as much as possible before it does. And if capitalism ever does collapse, as predicted by Marxist theory, you can bet that May, or whoever else is in charge of the party by then, will desperately try to make the party of big business, aristocrats and banksters sound like the Communist Party.

In the meantime, I want the slogan ‘creators of wealth’ to return to the people it was really meant to describe: ordinary working people. Down with the Tories. All wealth to the creators of wealth! And all power to the Soviets!

Vox Political on the Return of Anti-Semitism Smears against Corbyn in the Graun and the Heil

September 11, 2016

Mike today has written another piece about the anti-Semitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. This time they’ve been regurgitated by pieces in the Grauniad and the Heil.

The first piece Mike deals with is entitled ‘Why Jews in Labour Place Little Trust in Jeremy Corbyn’ on the paper’s website by Joshua Simons. Simons is a former policy adviser to Corbyn, who used the usual rhetorical smears of the Israel lobby against the Labour leader. He identified Israel with the Jewish people throughout the world, stating that Israel’s very existence has been used by the far Left to stir up anti-Semitism against Jews in Israel in the wider world. Mike points out that this statement would exonerate Corbyn from the anti-Semitism charge, as he’s centre-left, not far left. Simons then brings in the stereotype of the Jews as bankers and financiers, which Mike also criticises as strange, as the various debates about anti-Semitism in the Labour party haven’t mentioned them. He states that anti-Semitism isn’t rampant in the Labour party, only to go on to contradict himself by saying that Jews are let down by a leader, ‘who some believe traded a peerage for a favourable report into anti-Semitism’. Again, Mike points out how contradictory this statement is, as he has already admitted that anti-Semitism isn’t rampant in the party. If it isn’t, there would be no need for Corbyn to bribe Chakrabarti to get a positive report. He concludes that Labour is only thought to be anti-Semitic because it is led by someone who has a visceral contempt for America and Israel. Mike responds to this assertion with the comments

But ill-feeling about Israel’s political decisions is not anti-Semitic, no matter how often or how loudly the more strident Zionists claim it is. Again he contradicts himself by adding: “It is not at all true that antisemitism exists because of the Jewish state” and “Young Jewish people in Britain should not give up their criticisms of Israel’s policies.”

More interesting, to me, was the fact that he is a former policy advisor. Why did he quit? Does he have an ulterior motive in resurrecting these claims?

The Heil on Sunday article is about Corbyn supposedly re-igniting the race row by purging the party of Michael Foster, the Jewish donor who criticised his leadership. Mike begins by pointing out that the very title is inaccurate, as Corbyn can’t and doesn’t purge anyone. Johanna Baxter, the NEC members behind the purge of many of the Corbynites, has stated that the decision to expel members is taken by three member panels. Corbyn doesn’t sit on any of them. The appearance of the two articles in their respective papers at the same time suggests to Mike that they’re part of an orchestrated campaign against Corbyn. Foster isn’t a financier – he’s a show business agent, but he did donate £400,000 to the Labour party. This might explain why Simons in the Graun felt he had to rant about Jews being equated with banking. The article then goes on to make more allegations of anti-Semitism against the Labour leader.

This story, complaining about the purge of a right-wing candidate, has been published at the same time as the Blairites are carrying out a mass purge of low-ranking left-wingers within the party, most notably the leader of Broxstowe council this weekend. This suggests to Mike that these articles are to mask and obscure the purge of low-ranking members by playing up the purge of a single, high-ranking member of the party. And Mike also points out the irony of a Jewish man complaining about anti-Semitism in the Labour party in a paper that explicitly supported Adolf Hitler and the BUF before the Second World War. Other bloggers, like Tom Pride, have also produced headlines from the Heil attacking Jews and Jewish immigration during the same period.

Mike discusses a comment on Twitter by Eoin Clarke, remarking on the large number of people, who have been purged, who were also going to be delegates at the Labour party conference. Mike adds that Labour First, another Blairite body, has been contacting like-minded Labour members to attend the conference, in the hope of replacing the Labour leaders’ policies with their own. This is being done in the hope that this will force him to leave, either by making it impossible for him to do his job as leader, or to make him vulnerable to criticism. This is being done as they realise that he’ll probably win the leadership election on Wednesday.

Mike concludes

This is the real dichotomy in the Labour Party at the moment.

Mr Corbyn may be accused of the most vile behaviour – falsely. Meanwhile, just look at the underhand tactics employed against him.

It isn’t what This Writer calls democracy.

See his article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/11/new-angle-on-an-old-lie-the-return-of-jeremy-the-jew-hater/

There are a couple more things that can be said about these articles. Let’s deal with Joshua Simons’ article first. Part of his resentment against Corbyn and Momentum is that he believes they have a ‘visceral contempt for America and Israel’. This marks Simon out as Blairite Neocon. The Blairites were strongly in favour of the Atlantic alliance, and were partly the products of the Reaganite political initiative, the British-American Project for the Successor Generation, which wanted to guide suitable British politicians and media leaders – one of BAP’s other alumni was an editor of the Times – into a suitably pro-American stance. Reagan’s America was strongly pro-Israel, partly as psychological compensation for the America’s signal failure to win the Vietnam War. To make up for their country failing to quash the Vietnamese Communists, the American Right turned to celebrating Israel’s victories against the Arabs. And there are good reasons for despising the foreign policies of both countries. Having contempt for America’s long history of overthrowing democratic, left-wing regimes and installing brutal Fascist dictators, and Israel for its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians does not automatically make someone either anti-American or anti-Semitic. Many of the people, who despise America’s politics, admire other aspects of the country, such as its popular culture and music. And very many of Israel’s critics have been Jews. These include Harold Pinter, who was a bitter and outspoken critic of the barbarity of America’s foreign policy. The great playwright also was certainly not reticent about robustly expressing his opinions about anti-Semitism. I heard from a friend that he once decked a man in queue he was in, after this fellow said something monstrous in favour of the Holocaust.

As for the automatic connection between Israel and Jews around the world, this has been repeated a number of times by the Zionists, including Netanyahu. But it’s not true, and the ties between Israel and the Jewish community in America are becoming weaker. Norman Finkelstein has talked about how there was very little support, or even interest amongst Jewish Americans for Israel until the 1970s, and a growing number of young Jewish Americans are increasingly indifferent and critical towards it. As for his complaint that opposition to Israel leads automatically to hatred of Jews in Israel, that’s a very careful way of trying to avoid the reality that Israel was set up as the Jewish state. In this case, it is easy for Simons to claim that hostility to Israel equals hostility to Jews in Israel, as Israelis are Jews. But talking about Jews in Israel is away of trying to avoid Israel’s own self-image and identity as the Jewish state, and present it as another pluralist nation, of whom Jews are only one section of the population, and not the dominant population for whom the state itself was founded. George Galloway has pointed out that it’s difficult to avoid criticising the Israeli people for the atrocities committed by their country, as unfortunately Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition have the support of the majority of Israeli citizens.

I am also very much aware that it is unfair to hold the whole nation accountable for what Netanyahu and his supporters are doing. There are many Israelis, who have shown great courage in supporting the Palestinians. These people are also under by Netanyahu and his cronies. There was a recent poll of Israelis, which found that a majority agreed with the statement that Israelis, who sided with Arabs, should deprived of their citizenship and civil rights. Such a finding should chill anyone, who believes in democracy, pluralism and tolerance. This also adds another twist to Simons’ contention that hatred of Israel is also leading to hatred of Jews abroad. If that poll is to be believed, a fair number of Israelis also hate Jews in Israel – the Jews that protest against nearly seven decades of injustice against the Palestinians, as well as the Mizrahim, the Arab Jews, who were recruited by the Israelis as a cheap labour force, and then rigorously segregated and discriminated against in order to make them discard their Arab culture.

As for Simons’ rant about bankers, I’ve seen that used by the Republicans in America to try and rule out of bounds the entirely justified criticisms of the bankers and financiers responsible for the global financial collapse. The argument runs that as much anti-Semitism centres around the perceived Jewish control of the financial sector, then criticism of the financial sector is anti-Semitic. It’s a false syllogism. The people, who despite the financial sector, do so regardless of the particular ethnic or religious origin of its members. They’re outraged because the current financial system has destroyed the world’s economy, forced billions around the world into poverty, including destroying the economies of whole nations, like Greece, and then have the temerity afterwards to continue demanding the same bloated bonuses and pay rises for its chief executives, while shifting the burden for clearing up their mess onto the poor. But Wall Street, along with the other major corporations, heavily donate to the political parties in expectation that the politicos will enact legislation favourable to them. Shrillary Clinton is a case in point. She’s taken millions from Wall Street in fees for speeches, and is a firm proponent of the ‘light touch’ regulation that resulted in the financial collapse. Here in Britain, New Labour launched its ‘prawn cocktail offensive’ in the 1990s, aimed at gaining financial sector support, again by promising a ‘light touch’ on regulation. With exactly the same results as occurred in America. Part of Simon’s rant may also reflect Lord Levy’s role in funding the rise of New Labour. He was the link for the supply of money to Blair and his crew from the Zionist lobby.

In short, Simons’ rant is an attempt to prevent criticism of the Neocons and corporatists of New Labour. It is not a genuine response to anti-Semitism, however hard Simon tries to insinuate that there is still rampant Jew hatred in the party. His rhetorical introduction to the accusation that Corbyn corruptly traded a peerage with Shami Chakrabarti in return for her clearing the party with the words, ‘some believe’, is an age-old Fleet Street device to get round a possible libel claim. It’s not being asserted as fact, merely as a belief, which is protected under law.

As For Foster’s hit piece in the Heil, I think Mike and Eoin Clarke are exactly right. And underlying it is the same fear that New Labour and its corporate and Zionist backers are losing their grip on the party. And so Foster is doing everything he can to smear their opponents – Corbyn and his supporters – as anti-Semites, even though they aren’t, and include many Jews and activists with a long history of combating racism and anti-Semitism.

Private Eye on Libel Judges and their Connection to the Tories

March 15, 2016

In their issue for the 2nd – 15th May 2014, Private Eye ran a piece on the way several prominent judges had been allowed to judge a libel case by the Tories against the Sunday Times exposing a lobbying scandal, when those judges were either themselves members of the Conservative party, or had close family members who were.

In the Courts
It’s a Family Affair

How many judges on the libel bench have family connections to the Tory party, and why don’t they declare them when hearing political cases?

The Eye asks because the libel action by former Tory treasurer Peter Cruddas against the Sunday Times is unearthing a family tree of judges’ brothers and sons who work for, stand for or give money to the Conservative party.

Cruddas sued after he med Jonathan Calvert and Heidi Blake, Sunday Times undercover reporters who were posing as agents of foreign financiers in 2012. The headline “Tory treasurer charges £250,000 to meet PM” followed their meeting.

Mr Justice Tugendhat hit the Sunday Times with a damning judgment. Blake had told the court she found it “quite shameful for the prime minister to tout himself to businesses who pay to have their photograph taken”. Tugendhat used her words to conclude that she had a motive to injure Cruddas.

The paper was guilty of libel and malicious falsehood for saying that Cruddas was a corrupt man, who offered opportunities to influence government policy through meetings with ministers in return for foreign donations, knowing that payment of the money would breach UK electoral law.

Tugendhat did not declare that his son, Tom Tugendhat, was committed Conservative, who has been selected to stand in Tonbridge and Malling, one of the safest Tory seats in the country. Nor did the judge mention that his brother, Christopher Tugendhat, is a Conservative peer and former MP. Nor did he declare that Michael Ashcroft, the former Tory chairman and a prominent supporter of Cruddas, had hired him when he was still a barrister and praised Tugendhat as “arguably the greatest legal expert in the country on privacy”.

The Sunday Times applied for the right to appeal. In November last year, Lady Justice Sharp refused to allow the application. The Sunday Times pressed on and asked for a hearing. Lady Sharp was due to hear the case last month, but just before it began, word spread among journalists and lawyers of Tugendhat’s family connections.

The day before the hearing, Lady Sharp contacted the paper and said it may want to know that, like Tugendhat, she also had a brother who was a prominent Conservative.

And so she does. Richard Sharp is a former head of private equity for Goldman Sachs. He is on the board of a right-wing think tank, the Centre for Policy Studies, which campaigns against a mansion tax for wealthy homeowners and in favour of zero-hours contracts for poor workers.

Last year, the Wall Street Journal estimated that Richard Sharp’s personal fortune was £90m. Sharp has personally donated tens of thousands to the Tory party and Tory politicians. Sharp has personally donated tens of thousands to the Tory party and Tory politicians. In 2007, he moved from Goldman Sachs to chair the lobbying and PR firm Huntsworth Plc, which also donates to the Tory party.

The chancellor, George Osborne, appointed Sharp to the Bank of England’s financial policy committee in 2013. Baroness Sarah Hogg was the Treasury’s representative at his interview. She is the wife of Douglas Hogg, a Tory MP, and was an adviser to Ken Clarke when he was Tory chancellor. Sharp is the first committee member in the Bank of England’s history to have been a party donor.

Richard Sharp and Dame Justice Sharp’s father was Eric Sharp, whom Keith Joseph, the then Conservative industry secretary, appointed as chairman of the newly privatised Cable and Wireless in 1980. The Thatcher government gave him a peerage in 1989.

Offering advice on when judges should stand down (“recuse themselves”) because of conflicts of interest, the appeal court said in 2006 that “if in any case there is real ground for doubt, that doubt should be resolved in favour of recusal”.

At the last minute, Sharp offered to stand down after she had already heard one appeal, an offer the Sunday Times gratefully acceped. Mr Justice Tugendhat never offered to stand down, and did not tell the Sunday Times about his family connections. No doubt he didn’t think he needed to under the law as it stands-which explains why many feel the law should be reviewed.

Instead of going before Sharp, the Sunday Times’ appeal was heard by Lord Justice Maurice Kay and Lord Justice Laws on 16th April. Laws said the Sunday Times had to persuade the court that Tugendhat “went wrong on the facts to a radical degree. That is a tall order on any view, and it is right to note that the trial judge in this case [Tugendhat] has a wealth of experience in the field of defamation.”

For all that, Laws found the Cruddas case “unusual and in some ways troubling”. There were “some singular features” about it.

It was clear that the journalists, posing as representatives of foreign financiers, made it plain their interest in approaching the respondent was entirely commercial, Laws said. He had “an uneasy sense” that Tugendhat might not, “despite his painstaking treatment of the case”, have confronted the realities of the exchanges between the journalists and Mr Cruddas.

The Eye’s artice states that the trial was continuing.

This article does indeed suggest that the Conservative party, or at least its individual members, are not above sitting in judgment in cases where there is a clear conflict of interest and their own political views may cause them to give an unjust judgment. This could be easily construed as another Tory attack on freedom of the press.

Apart from the libel case, there is also the matter of George Osborne’s appoint of a Conservative donor, Richard Sharp, to the committee of the Bank of England. If you’re looking for another parallel with Fascism, the Nazis set up vast corporations in order to control and ‘coordinate’ industry with Nazi policy. The boards included members of the Nazi party.

TV on Tuesday: Celebs in the Workhouse

May 17, 2015

The past five Tuesday evenings, the Beeb has been showing the series 24 Hours in the Past. This is pretty much a reality TV show with an historical slant. Instead of being thrown into a jungle and then made to survive, or compete against each other to produce the finest cakes or dishes, each week the programme’s cast of celebrities are required to go back to a certain period in history and do some of the nastiest, dirtiest or most unpleasant work from the period. It’s like Tony Robinson’s 2004 Channel 4, The Worst Jobs in History, but with a crew of six as the unfortunate Baldricks forced to labour and grub for their living like the inhabitants of Victorian slums. Or the rookeries of 18th century London. Or whatever.

This week, however, they reach the very nadir of poverty and desperation: the workhouse. The blurb for the programme states that the workhouse was partly intended to reform the corrupt and indolent character of its inmates. It’s therefore a kind of irony that Ann Widdecombe is so bolshie, that she finds herself placed in solitary.

The blurbs for it in the Radio Times state

As the six celebrities stroll up to an impressive redbrick institution for their final Victorian experience, Miquita Oliver reckons it looks like somewhere she’d go for a weekend spa. Hardly. It’s the workhouse, where there are no rewards, only punishments, explains Ruth Goodman. So immediately bolshie Ann Widdecombe is put in solitary confinement.

In order to “reform the moral character of the undeserving poor”, workhouse inmates were degraded,k overworked and mistreated, taking the time travellers almost to breaking point.

Tempers are definitely fraying but to give them credit, nobody shouts “I’m a celebrity … get me out of here”. It’s been a filthy, gruelling history lesson.

And

Hungry and penniless after stirring up a worker’s rebellion in the Victorian-era potteries, there’s only one place left for Ann Widdecombe, Zoe Lucker, Colin Jackson, Alistair McGowan, Tyger Drew-Honey and Miquita Oliver. Clad in rough uniforms and clumsy clogs they enter the harsh world of the workhouse – the 19th century equivalent of the benefits system – where they are immediately stripped of their belongings and indentities. Filthy and exhausted the celebrities must endure relentless graft and grind for their basic necessities. Will they rise to this most daunting challenge and prove they can work their way out of the workhouse and back to the comforts of the 21st century?

As left-wing bloggers like Tom Pride, the Angry Yorkshireman, Johnny Void, Stilloaks, Jayne Linney, Mike from Vox Political and myself have pointed out, the ethos underlying the workhouse – that of ‘less eligibility’ – has returned to 21st century Britain in the form of the various tests, examinations and ‘work related activity’ benefit claimants are forced to go through in order to show that they really are looking for work, if fit, and genuinely deserving of invalidity or sickness support if they cannot. And as the government has made it very plain it wants to cut down on welfare expenditure in order to shrink the state back to its size in the 1930s, conditions are being made as hard as possible so that increasingly few people are considered deserving of state support.

And although not confined within the prison-like environs of the workhouse, its drudgery has been brought back in the form of workfare and the other requirements to perform ‘work-related activity’. This consists in performing unpaid, spurious voluntary work for particular charities, or big businesses like Tesco and so boosting their already bloated profits.

So far, conditions have not become quite so appalling as the Victorian workhouse, but real, grinding poverty, including starvation and rickets has reappeared in Britain, brought about by the Tories’ and Lib Dems’ atavistic desire to return to the very worst of the ‘Victorian values’ lauded by Maggie Thatcher. So far, 45 people have starved to death due to the withdrawal of their benefits, but the true number is probably much, much higher, perhaps 50,000 plus.

And it’s significant that while celebs, including a former Tory MP, are prepared to participate in a programme like this, the Tories have most definitely refused to experience its modern equivalent for themselves. Iain Duncan Smith was invited to try living on the same amount as a job-seeker for a week. He flatly refused, declaring that it was just ‘a publicity stunt’.

Well, what did you expect from ‘RTU’ Smith, the Gentleman Ranker. He’s a wancel (hat tip to Maxwell for this term), whose cowardice in facing his policies’ victims has been more than amply demonstrated over and again. Such as when this mighty warrior, who, according to David Cameron, ‘can crack skulls with his kneecaps’, hid in a laundry basked to hide from demonstrators in Edinburgh. Or when he sneaked out the back of a Job Centre he was opening in Bath to avoid meeting the demonstrators there.

Now I’ve no problem whatsoever with history programmes showing how harsh conditions were the bulk of people in the past, who didn’t belong to small percentage that formed the aristocracy or the middle classes. It gives a more balanced idea of the past in contrast to those programmes, that concentrate more on the lives of the elite. These programmes can give an idealised picture of previous ages, in which social relations were somehow more harmonious, and the lower orders were properly grateful and respectful to paternal employers and aristocratic masters. There’s been a touch of this, for example, in the Beeb’s Sunday night historical drama, Downton Abbey.

For most people, life was not a round of glamorous society balls, or a glorious career in the armed forces abroad, or in parliament at home. Most people did not have the luxury of fine food, wines and spirits, with their wishes attended by legions of dutiful servants.

Rather, the reality for most of the country’s population in the past was hard work, grinding poverty, and the threat of a very early death through disease and malnutrition.

However, there is also a danger with programmes like this in that they can give the impression of continual progress and improvement. There’s always the risk that some will look at the hard conditions of the workhouse and Victorian Britain generally with complacency. Well, that was terrible then, but everything’s somehow much better now. Things have improved greatly since then, and we have nothing to worry about. Indeed, the standard Tory attitude is that conditions have improved too much, to the point where the ‘undeserving poor’ have returned and are living very well from the taxes of ‘hard-working people’ like themselves, and other aristocrats, financiers and bankers.

For others, however, the programme may provide a salutary object lesson in the kind of country ours will be come once again, if the Tories aren’t stopped. One of the commenters on either Tom Pride’s or Johnny Void’s blog dug out a ConDem proposal for something very much like ‘indoor relief’ – as the workhouse system was called – for the disabled in the form of special units to provide training and accommodation to the handicapped.

In actually fact, the workhouses weren’t just a feature of Victorian England. They lasted right up to 1947, when they were made obsolete under the new welfare state.

Now with the Tories trying to destroy state welfare provision completely, and sell off the NHS, there’s a danger that they’ll return. The Tories have already brought back unpaid labour and less eligibility. They just haven’t got round to putting everyone on them in a prison-like environment yet.

In the meantime, it should be very interesting indeed to see how six people from the 21st century fare in the harsh conditions of the 19th. And especially a former Tory MP, like Ann Widdecombe.

Fascism and Big Business on Man as Predator

February 23, 2015

Historians and political theorists have observed that one of the key features of Fascism is that it views human relationships very much as a kind of Hobbesian ‘war of each against all’, and sees humans really as another form of rapacious predator. Hitler and the Nazis were fond of Nietzsche’s celebration of the ‘blond beasts’, while at the same time censoring the other parts of the philosopher’s oeuvre that directly contradicted the foundations of the regime.

Critics of the Neo-Cons, such as the authors of the book Confronting the New Conservatism, also note that the Neo-Cons have an essentially Hobbesian view of humanity as a collection of alienated social atoms, each competing and struggling with the others. They also observe that the Neo-Cons extend this principle to foreign affairs. All countries are engaged in a struggle for supremacy, so there is little point in establishing international alliances. Rather, as superior civilisations, America and the West should be free to impose their will and standards by force.

Brady makes the same point in his book, The Structure of American Fascism. He makes the point that American businessmen have exactly the same views. This has resulted in the invasion and plunder of other countries, in which justification for the military action has been secondary.

The inner face of fascism considers man as a beast of prey. Scientists, artists, the rank and file of the people, may recoil from this doctrine: the leading figures in the business world of Italy, Germany, England, France, and the United States do not. In 1938, Spengler, then approved by the Nazis as a prophet of the New Germany, wrote:

“Man is a beast of prey. I shall say it again and again. All the would-be moralists and social-ethics people who claim or hope to be ‘beyond all that’ are only beasts of prey with their teeth broken, who hate others on account of the attacks which they themselves are wise enough to avoid. Only look at them. They are too weak to read a book on war, but they herd together in the street to see an accident, letting the blood and the screams play on their nerves. And if even that is too much for them, th4ey enjoy it on the film and in the illustrated papers. If I call man a beast of prey, which do I insult: man or beast? For remember, the larger beasts of prey are noble creatures, perfect of their kind, and without the hypocrisy of human morale due to weakness.”

In this view man is arrayed against man. The only code of behaviour which has any real meaning for the species is that “might makes right”. Where only strength counts, the strong are those who have taken; who have the power to have and to hold. The weak are those without holdings – of station, or property, or power. It is a doctrine that human society is nothing but organised “piracy”. Is there any fundamental difference in appreciation of human values or in general outlook on life between a stockbroker and a pirate? So far as the specific activity is concerned there is no difference, not even in the methods of sharing the spoils. What on the open seas is thought of as an outlaw and “piratical” raid of group on group, is in another setting played as a legitimate game in which each man is pitted against every other man for all he can “get by with” short of a snarl with criminal law.

That businessmen in the United States hold this view is beyond question. They hold it axiomatic in describing the character of their own kind, and they hold it to be valid for the human race at large. Anyone who has taken the trouble to interview stockbrokers, captains of industry and finance, advertisers, public relations counsellors, or other participants in, and apologists for, the business system will soon learn that this view of human nature governs their actions and their behaviour in practically all things, and that it is regarded as so obviously true as to require no comment, explanation, or justification.

Thus there is not the slightest objection to using all the armed forces of the state in a war on India, on Morocco, on Manchuria, on Abyssinia, on Nicaragua, Spain, or Mexico. If you are big enough, strong enough to take it, the rule is: take it. Take the country, take its resources, take its wealth, take the lives, health and happiness of all its inhabitants. “Realities rule”; the justification can be concocted later.

Nor, on the other hand, is there the slightest objection to using the troops against strikers, hunger-marchers, share-croppers, or any other group which for any reason whatsoever wants a little of what the insiders may have. All the emphasis on war, all the promotion of the army and the navy, of “national defence,” of that curiously bellicose frame of mind commonly known by the euphemistic term “patriotism,” is born of the same view of life, of human nature, of civilisation and culture.

And this same attitude is very much alive in modern politics. The invasion of Iraq took place not to oust Saddam Hussein as a dictator and threat to world peace. It was so that the Americans and Saudis could control the vast Iraqi oil industry. At the same time, western companies wanted to acquire Iraqi industries, which were to be privatised and sold to them. And the Neo-Cons wished to turn the entire country into a low taxation, free trade utopia. Even more sinister, the GM companies were also lined up to patent the rare crops indigenous to the country, as part of a scheme to force the Iraqi people to use their products.

Back in Britain, we have the Tories passing legislation banning protests and political lobbying close to elections. Just in case these sway the voters and the Tories lose the election. Tebbit has emerged again to urge the government to pick a fight with the unions. And Boris Johnson, the major of London, doesn’t have enough money to pay his firefighters, but he did have enough cash to buy two armoured cars for the police.

As for the character of the international business class, one of Lobster’s contributors wrote that he had asked one of his friends, who had attended a meeting of international financiers, what they were like. ‘Worse than you can possibly imagine’, was the reply.

Radical Balladry and Poetry for Proles

May 15, 2014

Ballad Seller pic

19th Century Illustration of a Ballad Seller

A few days ago I posted a few pieces on Rob Young’s history of the British folk revival and folk rock, Electric Eden (London: Faber and Faber 2010), and the radical and political folk songs protesting about the conditions of the poor and demanding workers’ rights, such as The Poor Man Pays For All from the 1630s. The Chartist and trade union movements in the 19th century also included poets and song-writers, who attempted to get their message of popular democracy and just treatment for the workers across in verse and music. They included Ernest Charles Jones, a British lawyer, who was born in Berlin in Germany from British parents. In 1845 he became a member of the Chartist movement, and was co-editor, with Feargus O’Connor, of The Labourer, and Northern Star. Not surprisingly, he became embittered and alienated after he was imprisoned in the two years from 1848-50 for inciting the British public to revolt. He was a friend and follower of Karl Marx from 1850 to 1855, whose ideas influenced Jones’ Notes to the People of 1850-1 and the early years of his People’s Paper. Beer in his History of British Socialism, gives an example of his poetry, the Song of the Lower Classes.

1.

We plough and sow- we’re so very, very low
That we delve in the dirty clay
Till we bless the plain – with the golden grain,
And the vale with the verdant hay.
Our place we know-we’re so very low
‘Tis down at the landlord’s feet,
We’re not too low – the bread to grow,
But too low the bread to eat.

2.

“Down, down we go-we’re so very, very low,
To the hell of deep-sunk mines,
But we gather the proudest gems that glow
When the crown of the despot shines.
And whenever he lacks – upon our backs
Fresh loads he deigns to lay:
We’re far too low to vote the tax,
But not too low to pay.

3.

“We’re low, we’re low – mere rabble, we know,
But at our plastic power,
The mould at the lordling’s feet will grow
Into palace and church and tower –
The prostrate fall – in the rich men’s hall
And cringe ata the rich man’s door:
We’re not too low to build the wall,
But too low to tread the floor.

4.

“We’re low – we’re low – we’re very, very low,
Yet from our fingers glide
The silken flow – and the robes that glow
Round the limbs of the sons of pride.
And what we get – and what we give
We know, and we know our share:
We’re not too low the cloth to weave,
But too low the cloth to wear”.

Other Chartist leaders in their poems urged a general strike and a worker’s revolution in order to achieve democracy. One of Thomas Cooper’s speeches in Staffordshire resulted in ‘serious disturbance’, arson and destruction of property. Cooper himself summarised them in the following lines, according to Beer, in his 1845 Purgatory of Suicides.

“Slaves, toil no more! Why delve, and moil, and pine,
To glut the tyrant-forgers of your chain?
Slaves, toil no more! Up from the midnight mine,
Summon your swarthy thousands to the plain;
Beneath the bright sun marshalled, swell the strain
Of Liberty; and while the lordlings view
Your banded hosts, with stricken heart and brain, –
Shot as one man, ‘Toil we now more renew,
Until the Many cease their slavery to the Few!
We’ll crouch, and toil, and weave, no more – to weep!’
Exclaim your brothers from the weary loom: –
Yea, now they swear with one resolve dread, deep –
‘We’ll toil no more – to win a pauper’s doom!’
And, while the millions swear, fell Famine’s gloom
Spreads from their haggard faces, like a cloud,
Big with the fear and darkness of the tomb:-
How ‘neat its terrors, are the tyrants bowed!
Slaves, toil no more – to starve! Go forth and tame the proud!

Britain’s mining and cloth industries may have been devastated, but the words are still resonant and very relevant. We are, after all, suffering under the class government of Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and their fellow financiers and aristos. And the lines ‘we’re too low to vote the tax/ But not too low to pay’ exactly describe the ‘Bedroom tax’.

Jess, one of the commenters on this blog, provided a bit more information. She writes

I forgot to mention, An Anthology of Chartist Verse has been published, not once, but twice.

It first appeared from Progress Publishers in Moscow in 1956,[As An Anthology of Chartist Literature] then largely reprinted by the Associated University Press in 1989. [As ‘An Anthology of Chartist Poetry’]. The second printing excised the Literary Criticism contained in the former edition [mostly reprinted from the Scottish Chartist Circular]

One version of the National Chartist Hymn Book can be viewed here;
http://www.calderdale.gov.uk/wtw/search/controlservlet?PageId=Detail&DocId=102253

This last is well-worth looking at as an example of the aspirations of working class Christian radicals for social justice. It would frighten the modern, ultra-capitalist Christian Right faster than you could say ‘Social Gospel’.

Apart from the Chartists, other radical Left-wing groups and parties also produced song-books. Jess mentioned the Fabian Song book of 1912, which partly drawn from the Carpenter’s and Progressive song books. The ILP also produced a song book and the American Syndicalist union, the International Workers of the World or the ‘Wobblies’, are especially known for their songs. Jess writes about these:

A version of the ‘Little Red Song Book’ can be found here;
http://pronoblem.com/iwwlrs.pdf

It’s last known printing in the UK was in the 1990’s and was done by Scottish Republican Socialists through Clydeside Press (who are still in business)

Another American ‘Socialist Song Book’ can be found here
http://www.mediafire.com/view/?o6tbi8b3qf6dgbw

The Pennsylvania ‘local’ who produced (I would guess around the 1930’s) patently drew on the ILP Songbook of c.1910, initially drawn up by Tom Anderson of Glasgow, but completed by the Glasiers [Anderson felt so annoyed at what they had done that he left the ILP for the Socialist Labour Party. For the latter organisation he produced a ‘Proletarian Songbook’ [primarily for use in his ‘Proletarian Schools’]
More on Anderson here;
http://www.radicalglasgow.me.uk/strugglepedia/index.php?title=Tom_Anderson ]
Songbook cover here;

Unfortunately, the only place you will find those Chartist Anthologies is in Research Libraries. The WCML certainly has the Moscow edition. (I was once told there are only 50 or so in the UK)

Ironically the American one is even scarcer, with probably no more than 10 copies in the UK [It was kept away from Europe due to potential copyright problems}

But I can easily get access to both, so if you have a query, or an interest, I will sort something out.

There is a very strong body of radical, Left-wing working class and folk literature, which is still very relevant. Jess notes that it’s been largely neglected by the Left, except for a very few aficionados and researchers, like Roy Palmer, the author of a Ballad History of England. She also recommended a number of other folk song researchers and experts:

I would recommend, if you can still get hold of it, the EFDSS CD collection of William Kimber. Parts of the interview it contains is fascinating, especially Kimber’s acceptance of the Women’s Morris.

Also worth seeking out are the recordings of Walter Pardon, who includes, on one of his albums, songs used by the Agricultural Labourers’ Union.

More recently, the Left has used songs to articulate its criticism of social injustice and promote its causes. I first came across Tom Lehrer’s satirical song about nuclear warfare, ‘And we’ll burn together when we burn’ in 1980s with the revival of CND in Thatcher and Reagan’s new Cold War. The same decade also saw Billy Bragg get onto Top of the Pops with his modern folk-song about the Miners, just when Thatcher was putting the boot into them. With this new attack on the poor and working class, it would be no bad thing at all if some of these songs were revived. It might even remind some of the Labour party’s leaders just whom they’re supposed to represent.

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.

The French Revolutionary Sansculottes, Their Attitudes, Ideology and Continuing Relevance

April 22, 2014

French Revolution Book

I have found this description of the Sansculottes, the radical Parisian republicans, in D.G. Wright, Revolution and Terror in France 1789-1795 (London: Longman 1974). They weren’t working class, but a mixture of people from across the working and middle classes, including wage-earners and prosperous businessmen. The majority of them were tradesmen, shopkeepers, craftsmen, small masters, compagnons and journeymen. Their membership reflected the structure of Parisian industry, which largely consisted of small workshops employing four and fourteen workers. Despite containing many members of the middle class, the Sansculottes believed strongly in manual work and direct democracy.

The ideal sans culotte, depicted in popular prints, wore his hair long, smoked a pipe and dressed simply: cotton trousers (rather than the knee-breeches, culottes, of the aristocracy and bourgeoisie), a short jacket and the bonnet rouge (the Phrygian cap of the freed slave in ancient times). Powdered wigs, scent, knee-breeches, buckled shoes, flowered waistcoats, bows and lorgnettes were dismissed as foppish and frivolous trappings of privilege, with overtones of sexual deviancy. Equally dismissed were the manners and deferent behaviour of the ancient regime: the good sans culotte took his hat off to nobody, used the familiar ‘tu’ rather than ‘vous’ and ‘citoyen’ rather than ‘monsieur’, and swore in the colourful Parisian slang of the Pere Duchesne. He tended to judge people by their appearance: those who wore fancy clothes, spoke in ‘posh’ tones, looked haughty, or failed to offer the fraternal kiss of liberty. Those who seemed to despise the honest working man were in trouble. A music dealer was arrested as a suspect for observing, at a sectional meeting, ‘It was disgusting to see a cobbler acting as president, particularly a cobbler who was badly dressed’.

‘Aristocrat’ and ‘moderate’ became interchangeable terms for those who opposed in any way the outlook and aspirations of the sans culottes or appeared to look down on them or ridicule them; they were also applied to those who seemed indifferent and lacking in the open enthusiasm of the good revolutionary. ‘Aristocrat’ could include those who refused to buy biens nationaux or to cultivate land or sell it at a fair price, or failed to find employment for labourers and journeymen, or refused to subscribe generously to patriotic loans, or to those dealt in gold rather than republican assignats or speculated on the Bourse or in joint stock companies. As the revolutionary crisis deepened in 1793, ‘aristocrat’ increasingly came to mean bourgeois property owner; in May an orator in the Section du Mail declared: ‘Aristocrats are the rich wealthy merchants, monopolists, middlemen, bankers, trading clerks, quibbling lawyers and citizens who own anything.’ Wealth always raised sans culotte suspicion, unless offset by outstanding political virtue. Hoarders and monopolists were seen as hand-in-glove with large merchants, bankers and economic liberals in a plot to starve the people and crush the Revolution; for sans culottes were ultra sensitive to the problem of food supply and the price of bread, while they lived in constant fear of plots and betrayal. Hunger, as well as democratic politics and puritanical moral views, was a cement holding the disparate sans culotte groups together. Hence pillage could be justified as ‘egalitarian’ and ‘revolutionary’ in that it fed the people and struck at the machinations of hoarders and speculators, the visible vanguard of counter-revolution. Sans culottes always tended to advocated immediate and violent political solutions to economic problems and, with brutal simplicity, assumed that spilling blood would provide bread.

Despite the fact that many sans culottes were small property owners, there existed a deep-rooted egalitarianism. They believed in the ‘right to live’ (‘droit a l’existence’) and in ‘the equality of the benefits of society (l’egalite des jouissances). A family should have enough to live on in modest comfort, especially sufficient bread of good quality flour. No rich man should have the power of life and death over his fellow men by his ability to monopolise food and other basic necessities. thus food prices and distribution should be controlled by law, while the government should take stern action against hoarders and speculators. Some of the more radical sans culotte committees demanded taxation of the rich, limitation of rents, restriction of the activities of large financiers, government-assisted workshops and allowances for widows, orphans and disabled soldiers. (pp. 52-4).

‘He was a fervent believer in direct democracy, a concept which stemmed ultimately from Rousseau and the Social Contract and filtered down into the sections through the revolutionary press, broadsheets and speeches, revolutionary songs and Jacobin Club pamphlets and propaganda. Authority could not be delegated, for the true basis of government was the people, sitting permanently in their evening sectional meetings, where they discussed laws and decrees. Deputies should be delegates rather than representatives and be constantly and immediately answerable to societies populaires. The latter had the right to scrutinise the laws of the Assembly, administer justice and the police, and help to run the war effort. Thus the sans culottes saw themselves and the ‘nation’ as synonymous. (pp. 54-5).

We don’t need the murderous bloodthirstiness of the sans culottes, some of whom took their children to public executions as part of their political education, and, as time wore on, became increasingly nationalistic and chauvinistic, to the point where they insisted on Parisian French as they only indicator of political reliability, and were hostile and suspicious of other languages spoken in France, such as the Breton Celtic tongue, and even other French dialects. And I don’t share their radical atheism and hatred of Christianity and Roman Catholicism. However, we do need a revival of other parts of their attitude and values: the radical egalitarianism, which despises and revolted against any attempt to sneer at someone because of their occupation as a worker or manual tradesman. Owen Jones in Chavs points to the way Kenneth Clarke once heckled John Prescott with the cry of ‘Here, barman’, because Prescott had once been a ship’s steward. And this government is indeed that of ‘Aristocrats … wealthy merchants, monopolists, middlemen, bankers, trading clerks, quibbling lawyers’ and the owners of vast property and industry. And monopolists, bankers and economic liberals are pursuing policies that penalise and push into grinding poverty the poorest and weakest sections of the society for their own profit.

Instead of a government by them, which benefits the rich alone, we desperately need instead a government of real egalitarians, that is not afraid to pursue policies that include the ‘taxation of the rich, limitation of rents, restriction of the activities of large financiers, government-assisted workshops and allowances for widows, orphans and disabled soldiers’ and more. Regardless of one’s attitude to religion, it’s about time we returned and revived their radical egalitarianism against a radically unequal, illiberal and thoroughly oppressive regime.

cameron-toff

David Cameron: He personifies the Sansculotte statement ‘Aristocrats are the rich wealthy merchants, monopolists, middlemen, bankers, trading clerks, quibbling lawyers and citizens who own anything.’