Posts Tagged ‘French Revolution’

Gracchus Babeuf and the Calls for a Welfare State in 18th Century France

January 21, 2023

Gracchus Babeuf was a French revolutionary, who tried to overthrow the Directory and establish a communist state during the French Revolution as the leader of the ‘Conspiracy of Equals’. He’s one of the founders of the European socialist and communist traditions. I’ve been reading Ian Birchall’s book on him and his legacy, The Spectre of Babeuf (Haymarket Books 2016), and it’s fascinating. Birchall discusses the influences on Babeuf, which included Morelly, the author of the Code de la Nature, which also advocated a communist system with a centrally planned economy, Nicolas Collignon, who wrote an 8 page pamphlet demanding the same, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In Collignon’s ideal state, the citizens were to be provided with free food and clothing, high quality housing, schools and healthcare. Like the Tories, he also believed in competition, so doctors would be graded according to their performance. Those that cured the most would be consequently paid more and get promotion, while those who cured the least would be struck off. Even before he devised his own communist plans, he was already discussing the need for collective farms. What he meant by this is not collective farms in the soviet sense, but farms run cooperatively by their workers rather than a single farmer with employees. And he was also in favour of creating a welfare state. In a book he authored on correct taxation, he wrote

‘That a national fund for the subsistence of the poor should be established. That doctors, apothecaries and surgeons should be psif wages out of public funds so that they can administer assistance free of charge. That a system of national education be established out of which all citizens may take advantage. That magistrates be also paid wages out of public revenue, so that justice can be done free of charge.’ (p. 29).

Birchall also attacks the view promoted by Talmon in his The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy that Babeuf was an authoritarian who prefigured soviet tyranny. Talmon was an Israeli Conservative writing at the beginning of the Cold War. But Babeuf himself, although a revolutionary, was also keen to preserve and expand democracy. One of his suggestions was that there should be a set of elected officials charged with making sure that delegates to the national assembly were representing their constituents properly. If they weren’t, the people had the right to recall them.

Regarding industrial organisation, he believed that the citizens in each commune should be divided into classes, each class representing a different trade. The members of these classes would appoint governors, who would set the work and carry out the instructions of the municipal government. It’s very much a command economy, and utopian in that money would be abolished.

I can’t say I find Babeuf’s full-blown communist ideas attractive, for the reason I believe in a mixed a economy and the right of people to do what they wish outside of interference from either the authorities or other people. And I really don’t see how such a state could last long without a money economy. Some Russians looked forward to the establishment of such an economy at the beginning of the Russian Revolution when the economy began to break down and trading went back to barter in some areas until the Bolsheviks restored the economy. And there is clearly conflict between violent revolution and democracy. But I respect his calls for a welfare state. He was also an advocate of equality for women and an opponent of imperialism, which he felt corrupted extra-European peoples with European vices. This view is clearly based on the 17th century ideas of the Noble Savage, in which primitive peoples are seen as better and more morally advanced than civilised westerners.

Demands for a welfare state are as old as socialism itself. We cannot allow the British welfare state and NHS to be destroyed by the Tories and Blairite Labour under Starmer.

Charles James Fox’s Solution to Social Unrest – Listen to the Protesters and Address Their Grievances

January 9, 2023

In his 1792 speech to the parliament in which he denounced the government’s closure of the various republican and democratic societies supporting the French Revolution and attempts to dictate British public opinion, Fox also stated what he would also do to solve the social unrest then breaking out. His recommendation was simple: actually listen to the protesters and do something to solve the issues against which they were protesting. Moreover, he stated that he believed strongly that every man should be able to approach parliament with their complaints. He said

‘But, it may be asked, what would I propose to do in times of agitation like the present? I will answer openly. If there is a tendency in the dissenters to discontent, because they conceive themselves to be unjustly suspected and cruelly calumniated, what would I do? – I would instantly repeal the Test and Corporation Acts, and take from them, by such a step, all cause of complaint. If there were any persons tinctured with a republican spirit, because they thought that the representative government was more perfect in republic, I would endeavour to amend the representation of the Commons, and to show that the House of Commons, though not chosen by all, should have no other interest than to prove itself the representative of all. If there were men dissatisfied in Scotland or Ireland or elsewhere, on account of disabilities and exemptions, of unjust prejudices, and of cruel restrictions, I would repeal the penal statutes, which are a disgrace to our law books. If there were other complaints of grievances, I would redress them where they were really proved; but above all I would constantly, cheerfully, patiently listen. I would make it known that if any man felt, or thought he felt, a grievance, he might come freely to the bar of this House, and bring his proofs: and it should be made manifest to all the world that where they did exist they would be redressed; where they did not, that it should be made evident. If I were to issue a proclamation, this should be my proclamation: ‘If any man has a grievance, let him bring it to the bar of the Commons’ House of Parliament with the firm persuasion of having it honestly investigated.’ These are the subsidies that I would grant to government.’

In Alan Bullock and Maurice Shock, The Liberal Tradition from Fox to Keynes, (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1956) 3.

Definitely a lesson for Rishi Sunak, who does not want to listen, let alone do anything to address the strikers’ complaints, except to make it difficult for them to strike.

Charles James Fox’s Denunciation of Government Attempts to Tell Brits What to Think

January 9, 2023

There are forces on both the left and right that are trying to limit and control free speech in this country. The Tories have always used the power of the right-wing press, of course, but this is coupled with laws designed to severely restrict strike and public demonstrations. This is coupled with the strong conservative bias of some internet platforms, which deliberately manipulate the algorithms governing what people searching the internet may see in order to bury left-wing blogs.

‘The great 18th century Whig politician, Charles James Fox, denounced the government’s attempts to close the various societies and clubs that supported the French Revolution and demanded constitutional change over this side of the channel, in a speech made before the house in 1792. This included the following stinging passage.

‘But what, Sir, are the doctrines that they desire to set up by this insinuation of gloom and dejection? That Englishmen are not to dare to have genuine feelings of their own; that they must not rejoice but by rule; that they must not think but by order; that no man shall dare to exercise his faculties in contemplating the objects that surround him, nor give way to the indulgence of his joy or grief in the emotions that they excite, but according to the instructions that they receive. That, in observing the events that happen to surrounding and neutral nations, he shall not dare to think whether they are favourable to the principles that contribute to the happiness of man, or the contrary; and that he must take, not merely his opinions but his sensations from his majesty’s ministers and their satellites for the time being! Sir, whenever the time shall come that the character and spirits of Englishmen are so subdued; when they shall consent to believe that everything which happens around is indifferent both to their understandings and their hearts; and when they shall be brought to rejoice and grieve just as it shall suit the taste, the caprice, or the ends of ministers, then I pronounce the constitution of this country to be extinct.’

In Alan Bullock and Maurice Shock, eds., The Liberal Tradition from Fox to Keynes (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1956) 1.

And I think Starmer could also learn a lesson from this about telling Brits what to think about events in foreign countries.

Correct, Not Political’s Fascism Becoming More Blatant with Livestream on ‘Freemasons and Moneychangers’

December 11, 2022

I got a notice on my phone this afternoon that ultra-right-wing nutters Correct, Not Political, are holding a livestream this evening on the subject of ‘Freemasons and Moneychangers’. As I’ve said, Correct, Not Political go around broadly left-wing protests and try to undermine them by engaging the protesters in conversation and trying to get them to question their beliefs. Usually. At other times, as when they protested against Drag Queen Story Hour outside the libraries which were holding them, they also chant accusations of paedophilia. At first glance they appear to be just right-wing, reactionary Tories. After all, sections of the Conservative party are against the militant trans and gay rights movements, as well as environmental protesters, pro-immigrant groups, socialist, ‘commies’ and the trade unions. You can find similar sentiments on GB News, TalkTV and mainstream, allegedly respectable papers like the Heil. But then they start their livestreams, and the mask slips. They’ve held a couple before, and they’ve begun with footage of Oswald Mosley and his wretched BUF marching, while exchanging fascist salutes with an adoring crowd. All while the Adagio for Strings from Platoon or is Full Metal Jacket plays. The impression is that the marchers are supposed to be some kind of ‘lost generation’, like the courageous men and women, whose lives were wasted in the battlefields of Flanders in the First World War. The BUF aren’t a lost generation. If Mosley had had his way, he would have destroyed our precious democracy and installed a totalitarian dictatorship similar to that of Mussolini’s Italy and Nazi Germany. And Jewish Brits would either have been expelled, barely tolerated or sent to the gas ovens. He also called for the indigenous east Africans to be cleared off their homelands so that they could be developed as White colonies.

I’ve always wondered if there wasn’t anti-Semitism lurking somewhere in the organisation. There are no blatant rants against the Jews, but the subject of this livestream is coming close. Fascists and other dictatorial groups and ideologies hate the Freemasons as subversive organisations. The Nazis banned them, they definitely wouldn’t be tolerated in the Communist bloc, and I think they’re also illegal in various Islamic states like Iran. As for ‘moneychangers’, well, fascism claims to be fighting the stranglehold of international finance capital. By which they usually mean the old nonsense about the Jewish banking conspiracy. This livestream seems to be taking it in the direction of religion and mysticism, as the subtitle was that Freemasonry was a form of kabbalah. The kabbalah is traditional Jewish mysticism. There was also the stupid Kabbala cult that Madonna got involved with, which involved people tying red ribbons to their wrists and buying massively overpriced copies of the Zohar. That cult seemed to be a money-making scam based on the older, and far more respectable Jewish tradition.

I’ve no idea whether Freemasonry is based on the Kabbalah or not. There were suggestions decades ago in books like Inside the Brotherhood that they worshipped a trinity of gods called Yah-Bul-On, who of whom was Baal. Or that they were Satanists, but unless you’re a very high level mason, you don’t know. And they’re not going to be telling. It’s possible that they were influenced by the Kabbala as it was taken up by a number of Christian mystics and occultists in the Renaissance, like Robert Fludd and John Dee, as the old Aristotelian philosophy was being questioned. Some historians of science have said that it was influential in the origins of modern science through being taken up by the first pioneers of the new natural philosophy. It therefore wouldn’t surprise me if Freemasonry wasn’t also influenced by it.

Correct, Not Political are, however, seem to be taking us back to the old conspiracy theories about a masonic plot to undermine the traditional Christian order, as when books like Proofs of a Conspiracy, published in the early 19th century, claimed that they were behind both the American and French Revolutions. Michael Pipes, in his book on conspiracy theories published in the ’90s, traces the origins of modern anti-Semitic ideas of Jewish plots to these early beliefs about the masons. At first the theories were only about the masons, then they included the Jews as the mason’s partners, and then finally it was the Jews who were the major forces behind these conspiracies. These ideas of Jewish conspiracies against the traditional, feudal European order have been around since the days of Nesta Webster and Rotha Orne Linton in the 1920s. Quite apart from better known works like the utterly fraudulent Protocols of the Elders of Zion. And today’s fascist blame mass immigration on the Jews, who are trying to use non-White immigrants to enslave and destroy the White race.

I might be wrong, but this seems to be the underlying beliefs of the people behind Correct, Not Political. I wonder how long it will be before they come right out with it and the banhammer comes down. I do wonder if they were trying this in Germany they’d be rounded up on charges of violating the Basic Law. This is one of the cornerstones of anti-Nazi legislation and forbids all organisations that oppose democracy. It was used several times in the ’60s and ’70s against the National Democrat Party and other extreme right-wing groups. I don’t know if it was repealed after the Fall of Communism, but if it’s still around it’ll almost certainly be used to prosecute the 25 nutters, who were arrested for trying to set up a coup this week.

Correct, Not Political should be glad that, however diminishing genuine free speech is in Britain, they have far more of it than Mosley would ever have allowed them.

Correct, Not Political Push Conspiracy Theories After Queen’s Death

September 9, 2022

This shows the utter lack of respect and class in parts of the hard right. Correct, Not Political, is a right- wing group who turn up to protest gay, environmental and left-wing rallies. Their channel on YouTube is full of their videos showing them turning up to protest against Drag Queen Story Hour, Pride marches, Extinction Rebellion demonstrations, with a section just called ‘Socialists and Commies’. For the most part their protests seem polite and largely respectful, as their form of counter protest seems to consist of them walking up to the protesters and engaging them in conversation, asking them awkward questions about their causes. And they definitely do not like being called extreme right or any implication that they’re Fascists. Yesterday they posted a video of them talking to Jolyon Rubenstein about various issues. At one point Rubenstein interpreted something their interviewer said to be about the ‘Great Replacement’. At which point there was a voiceover from their main man calling attention to how Rubenstein had supposedly called them Fascists. The video then continued with their interviewer putting Rubenstein right and protesting that they were no such thing.

Evidence that they are in fact hovering on the edge of the extreme right was presented today, when they put up a post in their community section listing the fundamental liberties we have supposedly lost during the reign of our dear, departed Queen. This, the post states, is due to Jesuits and ‘Mason Marxists’. And Uncle Tom Cobbley and all, no doubt. This is the classic conspiracy theory, in which different suspect groups are all lumped together as conspiring to bring down western civilisation. It goes back to the 18th century when the Freemasons were blamed for starting the French Revolution. In the 19th century reactionary French nobleman Joseph le Maitre was blaming what he dubbed ‘la secte’ for the Revolution and contemporary threats to western, Christian civilisation. These included masons, Protestants, Jews, democrats and liberals. And then with the rise of Fascism and Nazism there were the malign conspiracy theories principally blaming the Jews, but also including masons, democrats and Protestants in the case of far-right French groups like Action Francaise. And the list of British freedoms that we’ve supposedly had taken away from us was supplied to them, or taken from, Resistance GB, who are an extreme right-wing outfit.

Some of the issues they support seem quite reasonable. I think many people have doubts and reservations about Drag Queen Story Hour because of the various child grooming scandals. And support for the Pride parades has declined, partly because it has gone from something subversive to being entirely mainstream and corporate, as companies and organisations show off their credentials for being tolerant and gay friendly with logos and slogans of support. And some people have no doubt been turned against gay rights generally because support has become mandatory through equal rights legislation, and instances where it has been aggressively and intolerantly enforced, where even the minutest comment can become a major controversy and the person responsible vilified as a Nazi, reprimanded and even sacked. And the right has played on the intolerance the trans activists have displayed at these events towards traditional gays and lesbians who reject the inclusion of trans people in their spaces. A group of lesbians were thrown out of the Cardiff Pride march last weekend for holding a placard that said, in very forthright and biological terms, that lesbians were not sexually interested in biological men. This is a riposte to some of the biological men, who identify as lesbians, and have therefore demanded gay women accept them as lovers despite the women’s own aversion to the male body. Footage of the police talking to the lesbians and telling them to leave has been shown on various right-wing YouTube news channels around the world.

But behind this exterior of reason and politeness there’s the undercurrent of the populist far right. Be careful, and don’t be taken in.

Update

Correct, Not Political have put up another post showing their hatred of the Queen. This tells its readers to show respect to the Queen in a tone of heavy irony, as she was the head of state, mother to numerous paedophiles and a cousin to her husband. As far as I know, the only one of her children who has been accused of paedophilia is Prince Andrew. But if you look at the comments, they’re all about how she was preparing us for the Great Reset or some other takeover plan.

Update Supplemental

Mark Pattie, one of the great commenters on this blog, posted this remark:

‘Why do I get the feeling that these “Correct Not Political” (i.e. “not politically correct”) “YouTubers” have gone way down the pipeline and probably believe that nonsense about the Jews controlling the media (no, Rupert Murdoch does) and promoting mass immigration from Africa to destroy the “European race”. Which of course is utter BS considering the fact that Israel has one of the strictest immigration controls in the world- up there with Japan and S. Korea…’

This seems to be spot-on correct. I’d hoped otherwise after their interviewer got a bit stroppy with Jolyon Rubenstein for thinking he was talking about the Great Replacement and thus calling him a Fascist. But they’ve also posted up a piece with just the text ‘Shut it down’ and a picture of Prince Charles wearing a skullcap with a cross in a pew with Jewish guys in yarmulkas.

I think we can all guess what’s being implied. And it ain’t pleasant.

The Date of the End of Serfdom in Yugoslavia

August 2, 2022

One of the many problems I have with the debate over slavery is that with its concentration on Black transatlantic, and particularly American and Caribbean slavery, it ignores the fact that White Europeans were also subjected to various forms of unfreedom, from slavery to serfdom. In Britain, slavery had died out by the 12th century, hence Lord Mansfield was able to give his famous judgement on the Somerset case that slavery did not exist in English law. However, serfdom persisted until it finally withered away completely by the mid-17th century. A form of serfdom, or something very like it, continued in the Scots mining industry in the 18th and 19th centuries. Scottish miners were bondsmen, tied to working for their masters and were forced to wear neck rings bearing their names, just like Roman and medieval slaves. On the continent serfdom persisted until the Revolution in France, the early 19th century in Prussia, and the 1860s in Russia. This, however, was not the end of this form of unfreedom in the backward parts of Europe. Thomas Sowell, in the chapter on the Slavs in his book Conquests and Cultures, notes the geographical obstacles to development the Slavs and other eastern Europeans, such as the Hungarians, and Romanians, faced to their social, economic and technological development. These were a lack of navigable rivers, which tended to flow, in the case of Russia, into inland lakes or seas rather than the ocean, or else the flowed into the Baltic and were frozen and thus unusable for part of year. The result was that communication and the transport of goods was far more difficult and expensive than in the western part of the continent. In the Balkans these factors were exacerbated by high mountain ranges which cut communities off from each other. As a result of this and the long dominance of the Turkish empire, which cut the region off from western cultural advancements, the area remained very backward compared to the west. An example of this backwardness is the date when serfdom was abolished in Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina: 1919, a year after Yugoslavia had become an independent state. (p. 203).

I really do feel that the history of slavery and serfdom, and its long persistence in White European nations as well as in the rest of the world, should be better known in order to halt the grotesque distortion of history that appears to be held by some activists, which presents slavery as something White Europeans and Americans did to Black Africans.

French Radical Social Catholicism and its Demands for the Improvement of Conditions for the Working Class

May 16, 2022

The chapter I found most interesting in Aidan Nichols’ book, Catholic Thought Since the Enlightenment: A Survey (Pretoria: University of South Africa 1998) was on 19th century Social Catholicism. Social Catholicism is that branch of the church that seeks to tackle with social issues, such as working conditions and justice for the poor, women’s rights, the arms race, the problem of poverty in the global south and so on. It’s governed by the doctrine of subsidiarity, in which it is neither politically left or right. Nevertheless, there are some Social Catholic thinkers whose idea were very left-wing, at least for the 19th century. The chapter mentions two 19th century French writers, whose ideas could be considered socialistic.

One of these was Alban de Villeneuve-Bargemont, who retired from public life following for the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy, taking the opportunity to write a book on Christian political economy. He advocated state intervention, not only to relieve poverty and distress, but wanted it to ensure that workers could conduct their own economic activity aided by credit unions, mutual aid societies and other institutions. This was when the economy was still dominated by cottage industry and many workers were self-employed craftsmen.

Rather more radical was Philippe Benjamin Joseph Buchez, who wrote a forty volume history of the French Revolution, which was later used by the British right-wing anti-capitalist writer, Thomas Carlyle. In his treatise Essai d’un traite complet de philosophie au point de vue du Catholicisme et du progress and his journal l’Europeen, as well as his presidency of the French constitutional assembly during the revolution of 1848, called for the establishment of cooperatives for skilled artisans, the state regulation of working conditions and a minimum wage. (p. 92). The chapter also goes to note that other social Catholics favoured private initiatives and charity to tackle the problems of poverty. Others also went on to recommend a corporative solution to social problems, in which workers and masters would work together in decentralised self-regulating organisations based on the medieval guilds, very much like the corporate state as promoted, but not practised, by Mussolini’s Fascist Italy.

Villeneuve-Bargement’s and Buchez’s ideas ran directly counter to the laissez-faire economic doctrine of the 19th century and clearly anticipated some of the developments in the last and present centuries, such as the establishment of the minimum wage in Britain and America. While people can disagree with their theology, depending on their religious views, it seems to me that their ideas are still relevant today.

And I rather people looked to their Roman Catholic solutions to working class poverty and labour, than Iain Duncan Smith. Smith seems to use his Catholicism and his supposed concern with eliminating poverty as just another pretext to cut benefits and make the poor poorer.

So dump Smith, and return to 19th century French Social Catholic radicalism!

British Fascist Accusations of Corrupt Jewish Influence in Parliament

February 11, 2022

I’ve put up several pieces today commenting on far-right Labour MP Neil Coyle and his anti-Semitic tweet about members of Jewish Voice for Labour being ‘Communists’ with their ‘own parties to ruin’. I commented on how this is very close to Nazi rantings about ‘Jewish Marxism’ and power in the SPD and government generally. But it wasn’t just the German Nazis who held these vile beliefs. There were also in British Fascism from the very start. During the War radical right anti-Semitic groups accused Jewish Anglo-German businessmen, such as Alfred Mond, of secretly aiding Germany. The coalition government was reviled as the ‘Jewalition’, while the post-War Conservative Die-Hards were anti-Semitic, anti-Socialist and believed that there was a secret Jewish plot to bring down the Empire. This sounds highly relevant to me, despite the distance of time and space. The Blairites are also anti-Socialist, and Blair’s wars were another form of western imperialism, disguised as freeing countries from tyrants and giving them democracy. In fact it was about removing checks to Western dominance and, in the case of Iraq, looting the country of its oil and state industries. British anti-Semites like Rotha Orne Linton and Nesta Websta were bonkers conspiracy theorists, who believed that Jews and Freemasons were responsible for every revolution and every calamity that had befallen humanity from the French to the Bolshevik Revolutions. One of these ladies also claimed that Nudism was also part of this vast Jewish plot! These people really weren’t well. I can hear Frankie Howerd, the great comedian, who would almost certainly have been killed or put in a concentration camp because of his homosexuality, saying, ‘Oh don’t mock! It’s rude to mock the afflicted!’

I found this piece in Richard Thurlow’s Fascism in Britain: A History, 1918-1985 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell 1987) describing British Fascist denunciations of what they saw as the corruption of the British parliament dominated by Jewish interests:

‘Other members did not mince their words with regard to the British government. William Joyce attacked the ‘Slobbering, bastardised mendacious triumvirate’ of Churchill, Eden and Cooper and argued that conscription would bring into the army thousands of young fascists whose training should not be wasted. Elwin Wright, who up until 1937 had been secretary of a respectable Anglo-German Fellowship, advocated the shooting of Jews, called Neville Chamberlain a liar and a traitor and stated that Parliament was a ‘blackmailing corrupt body of bastards.’ For Commander Cole, the Palace of Westminster was full of dirty, corrupt swine and the House of Commons was a ‘house of bastardised Jews’. Cole’s extreme anti-Semitism had developed as a result of his exposure to the Protocols when he had been involved with allied help to the White Russians in the Civil War in the 1920s.’ (p.82).

One of the various Fascist magazines circulating in the early 1920s was The Hidden Hand, published by The Britons. This had originally been called Judentum Ueber Alles when it appeared in 1920, but changed its name in the September of that year. Judentum Ueber Alles – ‘Jewry Over Everything’, an obvious play on the German national anthem, Deutschland Ueber Alles. Perhaps that’s how we should refer to any announcement by Starmer or the Blairites of another purge of innocent, decent Jews, on the spurious pretext that they are somehow anti-Semitic, because they criticise Israel, or ‘communists’ because they’re socialists?

And there was another nasty, anti-Semitic publication, The Jews’ Who’s Who. Presumably this was a list of Jewish figures in parliament, industry, culture and the arts, and the gentiles who supported them. This reminds me of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and related groups, who apparently put together a map of the people they accused of anti-Semitism – who were naturally supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, including Jews – and where they lived. This resulted in one entirely blameless Jewish woman having her car firebombed.

We have gone very far through the looking glass here, folks, where anti-Semitism is dressed up as its opposite and racists use its accusation to smear genuine decent, anti-racists, especially if they’re Jewish.

If this carries on, will the next time Starmer speaks he’ll be met by a uniformed mob chanting ‘Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Starmer!’ Because if he isn’t, he should.

History Debunked Questions Johnson’s Britishness

January 12, 2022

Oh ho! This is very amusing. The Tory party has always positioned itself, at least since the 19th century, as the party of Britishness. If you listen to its supporters and propaganda, it’s the party of the British constitution and the union, protecting our ancient liberties and defending our great nation from plots and attacks by evil foreigners. Historically this largely meant the French, but today means the EU and Scots Nationalists. Under Maggie Thatcher this nationalism became particularly shrill. The 1987 Tory election broadcast showed Spitfires zooming about the sky while an excited voice told us that ‘We were born free. It’s our fundamental right’ and ended with ‘It’s great, to be great again!’ Political theorists who’ve read, or at least heard of Rousseau could correct the first statement. At the beginning of his book, The Social Contract, which became one of the founding texts of the French Revolution, Rousseau said: ‘Man was born free, but everywhere he is in chains.’ Which is probably not something Thatcher wanted said about her government. As for being ‘great again’, this was the period when Thatcher was selling our state industries off to foreign investors, destroying trade unions, cutting unemployment and other welfare benefits and trying to find ways to get people to take out private medical insurance instead of relying on the NHS. She would have liked to have privatised that, but was prevented by a massive cabinet rebellion. At the same time she was using her ‘strong state’ against striking miners and anyone else she thought was an evil Commie subversive while at the same time propping up truly evil Fascist dictators abroad. Like the brute General Pinochet, responsible for the murder and torture of 30,000 people in his native Chile. The country’s present grinding poverty and crumbling infrastructure are all a result of her policies. The identification of the Conservative party with Britishness was so loud and crass that, reviewing the election broadcast on Radio 4’s The News Quiz, the late, much-missed humourist Alan Coren referred to the planes as ‘the Royal Conservative Airforce’. I also remember one of the Observer’s columnists referring to the Tories as ‘the patriotic party’.

But now aspersions have been cast on the Britishness of the Tories’ leader and current head of the country, Boris Johnson. Simon Webb of the History Debunked YouTube channel put up a piece yesterday asking ‘How British Is Boris Johnson?’ This speculated that Johnson carries on the way does because, quite simply, he isn’t really British. He was born in New York, and is of mixed Turkish and American ancestry. He is also part Jewish, which is one reason why I’m not going to put the video up here. One of the elements of the genuine anti-Semitic conspiracies is the allegation that Jews aren’t really patriotic citizens because of their international connections and foreign ancestry and relatives. They have frequently been accused of being ‘rootless cosmopolitans’ with no real connection or loyalty to the gentile peoples among which they settle. It’s a poisonous allegation that has resulted in the murder of countless innocents and encouraged the formation and growth of Fascist organisations and parties like the Nazis. The vast majority of British Jews are as British as everyone else. And before the Second World War, the vast majority of Jews wished to remain in the countries of their birth, to be accepted as patriotic fellow citizens by their gentile countrymen. It’s why the leaders of the British Jewish community during the First World War actually opposed the Balfour Declaration. They did not want the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine nor anywhere else, as it could lead to the accusation that their loyalties were divided. And they weren’t. They were, and wanted to be seen as, patriotic Brits.

But there is a kind of irony in Boris Johnson, a pukka old Etonian, and true-blue Tory being accused of not being British enough.

And I think Webb has a point, though not in the sense he means. At the heart of the right-wing ranting and suspicion about the ‘globalists’, supposedly plotting to create an evil, Satanic one-world Communist state, there’s an element of truth. Regardless of their nationality or ancestry, it appears to me that the global superrich really are forming a separate international class whose loyalty is primarily to themselves and not to the people below them, even if these people are of the same nationality. You can see that in the way the Tory grandees and those like them move their capital around the world, investing in countries on the other side of the world while making pay and conditions worse over here and cutting benefits. As far as I know, Jacob Rees-Mogg is thoroughly British in his ancestry. He also projects a caricatured, right-wing image of Britishness very much like his nickname of ‘Lord Snooty’. He also backed Brexit, which was supposed to be another patriotic gesture in which Britain took back her sovereignty.

In fact Brexit has wreaked massive harm to our economy, disastrously cutting British firms off from continental markets and suppliers. The deals we’ve made, or are trying to make, with the Americans, Australians and New Zealanders are to our disadvantage, whatever the Tory mouthpieces say to the contrary. And the response of Rees-Mogg and the superrich like him amply demonstrate where their loyalties lie. Even before Brexit, Mogg had invested in companies in the far east. And when he was urging everyone to vote to leave the EU, he was moving his own financial interests to Eire. This was to pick up on all the EU business he would otherwise have lost if they’d remained centred in Britain. Which is, to me, another example of Tory hypocrisy.

Back in the 19th century Disraeli declared in his books Coningsby and Sybil that Britain was divided into two nations, the rich and poor, who had no knowledge or connection with each other, and demanded that this should be remedied. They’ve been talking about ‘One Nation’ Toryism every since. This is done by leaders like John Major, Michael Howard, David Cameron and so on, and is supposed to show that they are from that branch of the party that still has some paternalistic regard for those below them. The same people talk, or used to talk, about ‘caring Conservativism’. This is all the while doing what Tories always do – cut benefits, wages, and employment conditions and make it easier to sack people. All while manipulating the stats to persuade people that this is actually working and that they’re somehow better off.

Tony Benn in one of his books said something about the British ruling class regarding the lower orders as indeed like a foreign nation. Thinking about the Britannia Unchained mob, he had a point. This was the book written by a group of Tory MPs, including the smirking insult to decency, Priti Patel, that said that for Britain to compete in the global market, British workers must endure the same terrible conditions and wages as those elsewhere in the world, like India. A similar view was put forward by a former Lib Dem MP for Taunton Deane in Somerset. I’ve forgotten who he was, but I do remember his appearance on the local news. Introducing him, the interviewer stated that he came from a family of colonial administrators and governors. This strongly suggests to me that, deep down, he regarded British people of all colours in the same way his family had regarded the Africans and other indigenous peoples they governed.

And going back back to the 1920s, George Bernard Shaw attacked the Tory claim that they and the rich represented Britain and her interests in his book The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism by pointing out that the rich spent much of their time and money abroad, and preferred to invest in firms in the colonies using cheap indigenous labour. And this still remains absolutely true. One of the problems with Britain’s banking system is that its investment banks are geared to putting money into commonwealth rather than domestic industries.

At a fundamental level, Boris Johnson and the rest of the Tory elite really don’t have any connection to the Brits below them. It’s not because of their ancestry. In my view, they’re the same whether they’re completely British by descent. It’s because they are part, and see themselves as part of an international industrial and political class, who move their businesses and investments from one country to another without concern for how this affects their fellow countrymen. All the while trying to deceive the rest of us by yelling about their Britishness and British values.

Johnson and the Tories aren’t British patriots, except at the crude level of repeating nationalist slogan and anti-immigrant attitudes. Ordinary Brits are foreigners to them, like the low-waged workers in other countries they also seek to exploit.

Belfield Attacks Gemma Collins for Guzzling £700 Gold-Wrapped Steak

September 29, 2021

I’ve put up several pieces on this blog commenting on, and occasionally reblogging, videos from mad right-wing YouTuber Alex Belfield. I don’t share his right-wing political opinions, but he’s interesting for what he says about the attitudes of a certain type of working class Conservative. And occasionally he does say something worthwhile that people across the political spectrum can agree on. This morning he put up a video attacking Gemma Collins for eating a £700 steak in a very expensive London restaurant. Belfield states that the steak itself couldn’t have cost more than £50, and quotes the prices of steak available from your average supermarket that are much, much lower at about a tenth of that. He finds this kind of very ostentatious, massively expensive consumption on overpriced luxuries obscene when large numbers of Brits can only get their meals at food banks and those that aren’t are worried about how they’re going to pay for their next meal.

He also describes another similar obscene display of wealth when a group of Japanese businessmen came in to a restaurant and ordered £1,000 bottles of wine. Of which they only drank one glass before leaving. The restauranteur was not impressed by what Belfield describes, rather vulgarly, as ‘willy-waggling’ and so gathered he staff and treated them to the expensive steaks and wine the Japanese had left behind untouched.

Unfortunately, I can’t say I’m particularly surprised by these crass, offensive displays of wealth. I read a book on Japan years ago by a former Times journalist, who remarked that as many Japanese had become millionaires, they’d overtaken the Americans for vulgar displays of wealth. One example of this is a Japanese department store which served, for the equivalent of $100, tea containing gold flakes. This could be drunk in a special room set aside where the drinker could contemplate a print of Van Gogh’s ‘The Sunflowers.’ Then there’s the brand of Swizz vodka, Goldberg, which also contains gold flakes. In the case of the Japanese tea, I suspect there’s an influence there from Chinese alchemy. This differed from the western type in being focused on the quest for immortality. Chinese alchemists believed that this could be achieved by replacing the perishables materials of the human body with imperishable matter, and so slowly poisoned their clients by getting them to eat gold, pearls and so on. On the other hand, it could just be a display of tasteless vulgarity.

Of course, there are other ways in which the people Private Eye once described as the ‘futile rich’ flaunt their wealth in front of the poor. Grossly overpriced clothes has always been one favourite, like the £7,000 leather trousers Tweezer sported when she had her rear end in 10 Downing Street. And modern celebrity culture, unfortunately, is characterised by a very materialist attitude in which actors, sportsmen and pop stars frequently engage in tasteless demonstrations of their wealth. You think of all the jewellery sported by a certain type of pop star with the dollar sign, for example.

Gemma Collins and a number of other celebs is a frequent target of Belfield’s, along with Carol Vorderman, Katie Price and Marcus Rashford, amongst others. Some of these attacks seem based on little more than personal dislike. Others, such as his attacks on Diane Abbott, seem rather more for political reasons. But there’s a serious point behind his video on Collins and the gold-wrapped steak. Such displays of very conspicuous wealth are obscene and offensive when people are poor and starving, and always have been. It’s how revolutions start. The guzzling of such food and drink recalls Marie Antoinette’s inflammatory comment during the French Revolution. When told the starving masses had no bread, she supposedly said, ‘Let them eat cake’. The result of this contempt for the poor was the overthrow of the monarchy and the massacre of the aristocracy as enemies of the people.

Despite the right’s attempt to monopolise politics and discredit the left, some writers and academics are very much afraid that the increasing gulf between rich and poor will provoke an uprising. Watch out! When people are starving and desperate, eating £700 steaks is the kind of behaviour that will have the peasants picking up their pitchforks and the tumbrils once again rolling down the streets on the way to the guillotine.