Posts Tagged ‘John Stuart Mill’

The Lib Dems – So Progressive and Remainer, They’d Rather Have No-Deal Brexit than Corbyn

August 19, 2019

So much for the Lib Dems claims to be a progressive party standing for remaining in the EU. Last week Corbyn wrote to the various MPs in the House, declaring his intention of calling for a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson’s government in order to stop the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal on October 31st. This would mean that the Labour leader, as the leader of the opposition, would form a caretaker government for a few months before a general election was called.

A number of politicos have indicated their support for his plan, like the Welsh Tory Guto Bebb, and the leader of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon. There have been caveats – Sturgeon has said that she will only support Corbyn if he gets a majority in the House. A number of Lib Dems have also expressed cautious interest. But so far the official line from their oh-so-progressive, Remain leader, Jo Swinson and her buddies is flat refusal. They aren’t going to support Corbyn, because he won’t be able to command a majority, she says. Of course, the real reason is that Swinson and the Lib Dems aren’t progressive at all, no matter what they were saying at the council elections. Swinson voted for all of the policies and reforms demanded by the Tories when the Lib Dems were in Coalition with them. All of the policies cutting welfare benefits for the poor, the sick, disabled and unemployed, the tax cuts for the rich, and the privatisation of the NHS. Furthermore, she’s also run around demanding a statue be put up to Maggie Thatcher. Yes, Thatcher, the woman who ushered in this whole era of cuts, privatisation and more cuts. The woman, who took her monetarist economics from Milton Friedman, who influenced Chilean Fascist dictator General Pinochet. Who was also Maggie’s best friend. How very progressive!

Well, Swinson seems to have turned her back on the Liberal tradition, at least that part of it that came in with T.H. Greene and the other great thinkers of the ‘New Liberalism’ of the 1880s onwards. You know, the philosophers and other ideologues, who realised that state intervention was also compatible with individual freedom. Even necessary for it, as through state intervention the individual was free to do more than he or she could through their own unaided efforts. The kind of Liberalism that prepared the way for Lloyd George’s introduction of state pensions and limited state health provision through the panel system. But Swinson and her colleagues have turned their back on that, and have decided to support the absolute laissez-faire, free enterprise doctrines of the Manchester School of the early 19th century. The doctrines that didn’t work, and which successive governments challenged and rejected in practice while supporting in theory when they passed acts providing for better sanitation, limiting factory hours, and establishing free primary education for children, for example. Greene and the other leaders of the New Liberalism were interested in providing an intellectual, philosophical justification for what government was doing in practice. And they succeeded.

And it’s highly questionable how traditionally Liberal they now are. Liberalism’s fundamental, definitive text is John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. This is one of the great classics of British political philosophy, in which Mill thoroughly examined and lay the basis for modern British democracy and individual freedom. But one of the particularly dangerous policies the Lib Dems supported was the Tories’ introduction of secret courts. Under their legislation, if the government deems that it is warranted because of national security, a person may be tried in secret, with the press and public barred from the courtroom. They may not know the identity of their accuser, and evidence may be withheld from them and their defence. I’ve blogged about this many times before. This isn’t remotely in keeping with anyone’s idea of freedom, and definitely not Mill’s. It the twisted justice of Kafka’s novels, The Trial and The Castle, and the perverted judicial systems of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia.

And then there is Swinson’s whole claim that her party, and her party only, stands for ‘Remain’. That, supposedly, is why, or one of the reasons why, she won’t work with Corbyn. She has gone on to declare her support for Kenneth Clarke as the leader of an interim government, despite the fact that he’s a Brexiteer. He just doesn’t want a no-deal Brexit. And Corbyn has always said that he is willing to go back to the country if he is unable to secure a proper, beneficial Brexit, and hold a second referendum. Which means that if the country votes against Brexit, he won’t do it. But this isn’t enough for Swinson. She wishes to play kingmaker with her tiny band. They got 7 per cent of the vote, and only 10 MPs, whereas Labour got 40 per cent of the vote. She claims that she cannot work with Corbyn, and therefore he will have to go as leader of the Labour party. But this can easily be turned around. Corbyn is willing to work with Swinson, and the simple numbers say he should stay as leader, and she should go as the head of her party. After all, it’s her that’s preventing them from going into government with Corbyn, if the Labour leader should offer that opportunity to them.

Actually, there’s a suggestion that Swinson, like her predecessor Clegg, has already thrown in her lot with the Tories. According to Zelo Street, Natalie Rowe issued a tweet to Swinson demanding that she confirm that she had not been holding talks with BoJob from the 9th to the 12th of this month, August 2019.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/08/jo-swinson-speaks-with-forked-tongue.html

I don’t think Swinson’s issued any response, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she had. Clegg, remember, claimed that he was willing to join Labour in a coalition, but wouldn’t do so if Gordon Brown was leader. In fact he was lying. He had already made a pact with Cameron. And it’s a very good question whether Swinson hasn’t done the same. Even if she hasn’t, by her refusal to support Corbyn and his vote of no confidence, she’s shown that she’s no stout defender of this country against Brexit, and least of all a no deal Brexit, after all. So much for all the Lib Dem MPs in the European parliament, who all turned up grinning in matching T-shirts with the slogan ‘Bollocks to Brexit’.

Swinson isn’t progressive. She’s a Tory in the Lib Dems. She isn’t a defender of liberty after J.S. Mill. She’s its enemy. And she stands for Remain only when it suits her.

Lib Dem voters were fooled by their party once. Will they be fooled by them again? Remember the saying: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

If You Want to Stop the Spread of Fascism, Vote Labour Tomorrow

May 22, 2019

Mike’s put up a series of articles this week arguing that anybody really worried about the spread of Fascism in Europe should vote Labour at the European elections tomorrow. He’s based these on comments and an article posted by one of the great readers of his blog, and by a Groaniad journo. And his and their logic is impeccable.

The election tomorrow is not a re-run of the Brexit referendum. The responsibility for deciding whether Britain leaves the EU and how lies very firmly with parliament. Nothing the Lib Dems for the Remain side nor the Brexit Party does in the EU parliament will alter that. But European democracy, culture and human rights are under threat from a renascent Far Right. The Brexit party is part of that threat, and the Lib Dems are part of the underlying cause: the misery and increasing poverty caused by neoliberalism for the benefit of the European elites, and particularly the financial sector.

Let’s start with the Brexit Party. Whatever the Fuhrage says to the contrary, his is an authoritarian, racist, far right party. It only looks moderate because Batten’s recruitment of Sargon, Dankula, Paul Joseph Watson and Tommy Robinson has pushed the party further right, bordering on the real Fascism of the BNP. But the party was already stuffed full of racists, islamophobes and militant anti-feminists under Farage. And the Brexit party still contains them and draws on them for support. The song by Captain Ska that Mike’s put up this morning attacking Farage as a racist is spot on. He did put up anti-immigrant posters that used the image of a long line of immigrants almost identical to a Nazi one against the dangers of Jewish immigration. His party is a corporation, like that of Change UK, and there are very strong suspicions that it is funded by dark money from foreign powers. Which is illegal. Quite apart from the fact that he lied about it not being funded by Arron Banks when it clearly was. The Fuhrage’s personal style of leadership is extremely authoritarian. In Chester last week he had a member of the audience at a rally thrown out because the man had the temerity to ask a searching question. Rather than cry ‘Duce! Duce!’ along with the rest of the adoring masses. Now he has blocked Channel 4 from his rallies, for the same reason. This is extremely ominous, as it shows that, like his friend Trump, he would dearly love to get rid of the freedom of the press and speech completely. He would also like to privatise the health service and roll back the welfare state even further than the Conservatives.

He’s a threat to Britain, and to genuine European liberal values.

As is Vince Cable and the Lib Dems. People are voting for them apparently because of their clear Remain message, and they’re supposed to have overtaken Labour in the polls for this election. But let’s remember that the Lib Dems went into the coalition with the Tories, where they were quite happy to support the further privatisation of the health service, the bedroom tax, the increasing destruction of the welfare state, including IDS’ and McVey’s lethal sanctions of the unemployed and the disabled in the DWP. Thanks in part to the Lib Dems, a quarter of a million people now have to rely on food banks for their next meal, the majority of whom I think are now working people. And something like a quarter of all children are growing up in ‘food insecure’ homes. Or something like it. And students in particular have a very good reason not to vote for Cable or his gang of bandits. The massive hike in tuition fees was urged by Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader. Cameron would have given in and lowered or dropped them had the Lib Dems insisted. Our young people, the doctors, nurses, teachers, scientists, engineers, and professionals of tomorrow, are being sadly with tens of thousands of pounds in debt because Clegg and the Lib Dems thought they should. They are also a threat to democracy, because they decided to throw out John Stuart Mill and his resolute support of democracy to bring in secret courts. All in the interests of national security, of course.

But hey, the austerity they and the other centrists demand will bring prosperity eventually. 

The answer to this is no, it won’t. It hasn’t so far, and won’t ever. A few weeks ago I put up a video from the Canary which explained that everywhere austerity has been implemented it has produced nothing but poverty. And far from being massively popular, those parties promoting it have met with the absolute reverse.

And the Fascists know this, and are exploiting it.

Hope Not Hate on Monday, 20th May 2019, put up piece about a mass rally in Milan of the various European far right parties, organised by Matteo Salvini of Italy’s Lega Party. It was a kind of ‘Unite the Right’ of European Fascists, attended by

Marine Le Pen of France’s Rassemblement National and Geert Wilders of the Dutch Party for Freedom. Alternative for Germany (AfD), Belgium’s Vlaams Belang (VB), Estonia’s EKRE and the Danish People’s Party (DPP) had all sent their main MEP candidates and central party figures, Jörg Meuthen (AfD), Gerolf Annemans (VB), Jaak Madison (EKRE) and Anders Vistisen (DPP). Representatives from Slovakias Sme Rodina, Austrian Freedom Party, Finland’s True Finns, Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) from Czech Republic and Volya from Bulgaria also addressed the rally.

Hope Not Hate reported that

Welcomed by chants of his name from the crowd, Salvini said he wanted to “free the continent from the illegal occupation orchestrated in Brussels”, and that Europe had been betrayed by the “Merkels, the Macrons, the Soroses and the Junckers who built a Europe based on finance and uncontrolled migration.” The audience chanted “Matteo, Matteo, Matteo” in response.

Okay, Merkel is the leader of Germany’s centre right Christian Democrats, and Soros is the Hungarian-American billionaire financier. But the policies they are pursuing are the old shopworn neoliberalism and austerity. As are Macron’s, who’s supposed to be reviving French prosperity. And if you don’t believe that these people are Fascists, consider how close Geert Wilders’ comments that “We must secure the future of our land and children”. This is close to the infamous ’14 Words’ of the American neo-Nazis, which run something like ‘We must secure a White homeland and the future of White children’, although I’ve forgotten the right wording.

Salvini gathers leaders of the European far right in Milan

Europe desperately needs the return of genuine, socialist politics. Not just to restore its industries and people from decades of poverty, calculated neglect, privatisation and welfare cuts by its elites, but to save Europe and its tradition of democracy and human rights from a renewed Fascism. A strong vote for the Labour party in the elections will help them form a powerful bloc with the other European socialist parties. And it has always been the parties of the Left – the Socialists and Communists – who have been the most resolute and determined opposed of Fascism.

Don’t let Farage and Cable lead us into a Continent-wide new Fascist Dark Age. 

Vote Labour!

No Pasaran!

 

Democrapic: A Word to Describe the Independent Group

March 4, 2019

One of the most entertaining books I’ve read on the stranger or more remarkable items of the English lexicon is simply entitled Words, by the American author Paul Dickson (London: Arrow Books 1982). It’s subtitled ‘A Connoisseur’s Collection Of Old And New, Weird and Wonderful, Useful And Outlandish’ -. And one of the most useful political terms it records, in the chapter on ‘Neologisms’, is ‘Democrapic’. The book gives its definition as ‘Garson Kanin’s word for the expression of democratic beliefs by those who cannot tolerate democracy in action.’ (p.168).

It’s particularly appropriate at this time, as we heard a lot of democrapic last week from the Independent Group. They are the breakaway politicos from Labour and the Tories, who are so passionate about democracy and parliament, that they don’t want to hold bye-elections, don’t have any real policies, except opposition to Brexit – or at least, not any they want the public to know – and have registered as a private corporation so they don’t have to do what real parties do and reveal who their sponsors and donors are. Nor do they have any infrastructure to allow a mass membership that would decide party policy.

Of course, they have serious rivals in their use of democrapic by the Blairites in the Labour Party, the Lib Dems and the Tories. The Blairites maintain that they’re the true heart of Labour and stand for genuine inclusion, equality and diversity, while all the time trying to purge the real moderate and left-wing members of the party. At the same time, Tony Greenstein has noted that there’s also a very nasty racist undertone in the anti-Semitism smears, in that they’re targeted primarily at anti-Zionist Jews and anti-racist Black activists. The Lib-Dems are very democrapic since they effectively dumped John Mills’ On Liberty as their founding text determining the pursuit of real democracy to support David Cameron’s secret courts, where in the interests of national security, you may not know who your accuser is, nor the evidence or charge against you, and the whole trial will be held in secret. Pretty much like Labour’s Compliance Unit examining charges of anti-Semitism. And when you come to the Tories, there’s a whole mountain of democrapic coming from a party that despises the poor, the unemployed, the disabled, Blacks, Asians and Muslims, but make a lot of noise about how they stand up for British ideals of tolerance and democracy when anyone challenges them on all this.

Democrapic is a very useful term to describe this type of political hypocrisy. Just as the old slang term ‘gentleman ranker’, for a ruined gentleman reduced to serving as a private in the army, aptly describes Iain Duncan Smith. Who was rumoured to have failed the office course at Sandhurst and Returned To Unit.

IDS is now out of office, but sadly, not out of parliament. But I predict that ‘democrapic’ will remain intensely relevant, especially as applied to the Independent Group, who are particularly democrapic.

Vince Cable Shows Contempt for Democracy with Non-Aggression Pact with Independents

February 22, 2019

I caught the headline in the I today, stating that Vince Cable has decided to go into a ‘non-aggression pact’ with the so-called ‘Independents’. This means that the two parties won’t put up candidates against each other.

Apart from reminding me of the Liberal-SDP Alliance in the 1980s, it also shows Cable’s absolute contempt for democracy, and how far his party has fallen from the ideals of John Stuart Mill. Mill’s book, On Liberty, is one of the great philosophical examinations of freedom and democracy. It’s also the foundational text of political Liberalism. Until very recently, every leader of the Liberal party received a copy of it at his election to office.

However, when the Lib-Dems were part of the coalition with Dave Cameron’s Tories, they fully supported the legislation providing for secret courts. These were special courts, where cases would be tried in camera for reasons of ‘national security’. This meant that the press and public would be excluded, the identity of witnesses could be concealed, and evidence withheld from the defendant and their lawyers.

It’s the classic kangaroo court system Kafka described in his novels The Trial and The Castle, where the accused is arrested and tried without knowing what in fact he’s being charged with. It’s the judicial system every tyrant and despot has used since the days of the Roman emperors, and which returned in the 20th century with the horrors of the Nazi and Stalinist judicial systems.

And then there’s the anti-democratic nature of the Independents themselves. This is a group, who have incorporated themselves as a company rather than a political party. They have done this in order to avoid the electoral law that demands that political parties reveal who their donors are. It also allows them to evade the laws limiting expenditure on election campaigns.

Additionally, the group is determined not to call bye-elections, despite no longer being members of the parties that got them elected in the first place. Arguably, their constituents voted for them as members of the Labour or Tory parties, and should be given the choice of whether they want to re-elect them as Independents or choose someone else to represent them from their former parties instead. But despite all the sweet-sounding stuff about respecting democracy and parliament as the best method for representing the will of the British people, the Independents definitely do not want to hold bye-elections. For the simple reason that they’d lose.

We therefore have a party that supported anti-democratic secret courts, going into a ‘non-aggression pact’ – which sounds very much like the pact Nazi Germany signed with Stalin’s Russia before they invaded the latter – with a party that withholds the identity of its donors and refuses to hold bye-elections that would give the voters their opportunity to say whether they still want them in parliament or not.

This is an ominous warning. If these two parties are starting off together with such an open contempt for democracy, what would they be capable of doing if they were to get any kind of government?

Vince Cable Spread Anti-Semitism Smears to Boost Support for Lib Dems

April 6, 2018

More lies and smears, though from the Lib Dems this time, rather than the Tories. Vince Cable has declared that anti-Semitism is exceptionally severe in the Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn. And so his party will definitely not go into coalition with a Labour government.

A Lib Dem leader saying that he won’t go into coalition with a Labour government! Well, colour me surprised! as the late, great Bill Hicks used to exclaim ironically. Like the last time the Lib Dems refused to go into coalition with the Labour party, and instead got into bed – metaphorically – with Dave Cameron and the Tories. Mike states that Cable knows that this is rubbish. In fact, under Corbyn, anti-Semitism has actually decreased in the Labour party, while outside Labour in Britain generally it has actually risen. But like the Tories, the Lib Dems are showing that they see no need to spoil a useful lie with an awkward truth.

And somehow, I really don’t think this is the real reason the Lib Dems don’t want to go into partnership with Labour. After all, they lied about their reason for going into coalition with the Tories. According to them, it was because they didn’t want Gordon Brown to be the head of the Labour party. In reality, they’d already told the Conservatives they were going to go into coalition with them long before they publicly turned Labour’s overtures down, citing Brown’s continued leadership as their excuse.

The Lib Dems have been trying to turn themselves into another far right, Thatcherite party. The Orange Book of the Lib Dem right, which supplants John Stuart Mill’s classic On Liberty, takes its name from the colours of the 19th century Manchester school. The same Manchester school of economics that Mussolini boasted of supporting when he first took power in Italy. In other words, it’s complete laissez faire, free trade liberalism with as little state intervention as possible. The Lib Dem MP for Taunton Dean in Somerset wrote a book just before the last election making pretty much the same arguments as the noxious authors of Britain Unchained. You know the sort of thing: Brits must tighten their belts and work harder, have fewer welfare benefits and lower wages in order to compete with working people in being similarly screwed by neoliberalism in the Developing World. This came from a public schoolboy, who no doubt would have screamed blue murder had someone made the point many economists are now making, that western managers are vastly overpaid.

The simple reason is that Cable is another wretched Thatcherite neoliberal, who doesn’t want to go into coalition with a Labour party under Corbyn, because Corbyn wants to undo the Thatcherite consensus and return Britain to the social democratic arrangement which gave Britain jobs, a welfare state and prosperity from the end of the War to Thatcher’s election.

I also wonder how this will affect some of the members of his own party. A little while ago I came across a book promoting the anti-Semitism smears against Labour by Dave Rich, and leading member of the Israel lobby. This claimed that the left’s anti-Semitism began in the late ’60s with criticism of Israel, including by the left-wing of the Liberals. Which begs the question: is Cable now going to lead a purge of Lib Dems, who criticise Israel and its murderous ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, just like the Blairites have done in Labour?

And if we’re talking about racist violence, Cable himself was an economist with Shell, I believe, when that western oil company was hiring mercenary squads to murder and beat tribespeople in the Niger delta in Nigeria, who were protesting about the company’s pollution of their water supplies. Cable wasn’t responsible for the policy, but he clearly didn’t let it get in the way of working for them.

And I also recall reading in a Fabian pamphlet in the 1980s how one of the brutal South American Fascist regimes was also apparently a member of the international Liberal group of parties. In Germany in the same decade there was a massive scandal when it came out that the German Liberal party, the Freie Demokraten, or Free Democrats, were absolutely nothing of the sort, and had been heavily infiltrated by neo-Nazis. Alongside Liberalism’s veneration of John Stuart Mill and democracy, there’s a side that is every bit as nasty as the Tories. And this side seems to be dominant under Cable.

The founders of the Labour party were convinced that both the Liberals and Conservatives should be treated equally as enemies of the working class. The Liberals stood for the middle classes and business, while the Tories originally stood for the Anglican Church and the aristocracy. Neither of them represented the 95 per cent of the population, who in the 19th century constituted the working class. And it was the Liberals, not the Tories, who set up the workhouses under the New Poor Law. Lloyd George and the Liberals laid the foundations of the welfare state, which the Tories have been trying since Thatcher to destroy. And under Vince Cable, it seems the Lib Dems are trying to join them.

Cable clearly is quite happy with the continuing privatisation of the NHS, and a privatised electricity grid and railways, which offer substandard service at inflated prices for the benefit of their mostly foreign company directors. At the same time, he also wants to cut wages and state benefits, to make Britain’s working people even poorer. And I’ve seen no evidence that he wants to do anything about the welfare to work tests, which have seen tens of thousands of disabled people starve to death after being wrongly judged ‘fit for work’. He hasn’t condemned benefit sanctions, which do the same to unemployed generally. And he certainly hasn’t made any noises at all at reducing the debt burden on students. Labour brought in tuition fees, but they were increased immensely by Nick Clegg. He then claimed it was Cameron’s idea, when it was the opposite. Cameron apparently was prepared to concede their removals to the Liberals. But they were advocated by Clegg.

In the 1920s and ’30s, the Liberal party began to position itself as the centre ground between the Tories and Labour, and could thus appeal to both depending on circumstances. During the Lib-Lab pact in the mid-70s, they helped shore up a minority Labour government.

But those days are long gone, it seems. Now they’re doing their best to be indestinguishable from the Tories, just like New Labour tried to continue Thatcher’s policies.

There’s no reason for any working person in Britain to vote for them.
A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for the Tories.
Ignore the lies and smears, and vote for Corbyn instead.

Backlash to Judges’ Brexit Ruling Reveals Right-Wing Racism and Authoritarianism

November 8, 2016

Last week the Guyanese-born investment banker, Gina Miller, succeeded in her legal action to force the government to open up the decision on the start of the Brexit process to the rest of parliament. Three judges ruled in her favour, and the result has been a tide of right-wing hatred and vilification directed against the lady herself and the judges, who made the ruling. And Nigel Farage, the former leader of UKIP, has come out of the woodwork once more promising to lead a march against the decision.

Mike in his article on the original decision reports personal threats Miller received, including rape, and comments that she should ‘f*** off’ back to her own country, and people telling her that Brits were sick of foreigners telling them what to do. She has also been denounced as a traitor to democracy.

Miller herself hit back at her critics and those, who insulted and threatened her. Mike quotes the press report on this incident, in which she told the International Business Times

“Yes there has been a deluge of hatred and anger but this is because people were lied to in respect to the EU referendum, and because (of) irresponsible figures like Farage and tabloid media who lack any understanding of parliamentary democracy and the rule of law that is the bedrock of our civil society”.

See Mike’s article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/11/04/sad-state-of-britain-someone-stands-up-for-democracy-so-she-gets-racist-abuse/

The reaction of part of the Tory right, and the Daily Mail and Express has been hysterical. On the Beeb’s Question Time, Sajid Javid, who Private Eye suggested looks like The Claw, one of the villains from one of Gerry Anderson’s puppet SF series, went over the top, exclaiming that the ruling was an attempt ‘to thwart the will of the British people’.

The Express, never known for anything like statesmanlike restraint and diplomacy, declared that “Today this country faces a crisis as grave as anything since the dark days when Churchill vowed we would fight them on the beaches.”

See Mike’s article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/11/04/irrational-responses-to-brexit-high-court-ruling/

Not to be outdone in the ultra-patriotism stakes, the Daily Mail put photos of the three judges on its front page along with the screaming headline ‘Enemies of the People’. As Mike, Tom Pride and many others have pointed out, the Heil is never very far from Nazism, and this was another instance where the rag’s headline almost exactly reproduced the propaganda and stance of the Nazi party. The cartoonist Gary Barker put up the image of the Heil’s front page, along with a similar page from one the Nazis’ newspapers, denouncing a line of judges as ‘Volksverrater’. Barker translates this as ‘Enemies of the People: Get Out of the Way of the German People’s Will’. This isn’t quite right. A more literal translation would be ‘Betrayers of the People’ or ‘Race Traitors’ – the German word volk has an ethnic connotation, which the word ‘people’ doesn’t have. The sentence underneath reads something like ‘shoved out of the German racial community’. That’s roughly what the German Volksgemeinschaft means, rather than ‘common people’s will’. Volksgemeinschaft was obviously one of the key planks of Nazi domestic ideology. I don’t know where Barker got the page from, but it looks very much like the Nazi newspaper, Der Sturmer. On its own, Sturmer just means an impetuous fellow. The Nazi newspaper of the same name is infamous as the vehicle through which the Nazis, under the rag’s editor, Julius Streicher, demonised the Jews. Back in the 1980s the goose-steppers in the BNP or NF decided to launch their own version, The Stormer, which was similarly intended to spread hate against Jews and non-Whites. Mike in the title of his article on this appalling headline asks if it is proof that the UK is shifting towards Nazism. I’d say that it was. English doesn’t quite have a word for ‘racial community’ like the Nazis’ Volksgemeinschaft, but the ideology is certainly there on the Tory xenophobic right. Daniel Hannan, the Tory MEP for Devon, who’d like to privatise the NHS, has raved in his column on the Telegraph blogs about ‘the Anglosphere’, meaning the English-speaking world, and there certainly is a tendency in the American Libertarian Right to view this in racial terms. White Anglo-Saxons are inclined towards free trade and small government, according to them, while the Irish and Continental peoples are genetically determined to be the enemies of freedom favouring Socialism and big government. This is despite the fact that Adam Smith based his views on free trade as the foundation of the ‘Wealth of Nations’ on those of the French physiocrats. And the hostility of the Heil and Express to non-White immigration is notorious.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/11/06/is-this-proof-that-uk-politics-is-shifting-towards-nazism/

As for the Fuhrage’s declared intention to lead a mass demonstration of 100,000 outside the high court to protest against the judges’ ruling, Mike states in the title of his piece on it that ‘someone should tell Nigel Farage this is the UK, not Nuremberg’.

A mass rally to oppose democracy? Someone should tell Nigel Farage this is the UK, not Nuremberg

Mike has defended the democratic basis of the judges’ decision, pointing out that far from being traitors to democracy, the judges have upheld it. Their decision does not affect the Brexit decision, which has been settled by the referendum. It does, however, prevent Theresa May and her cabinet from deciding how it is to be implemented solely by herself, and then presenting it to the rest of us as a fait accompli. This, Mike quite rightly points out, would be despotic. He rebuts the Javid’s stupid comment by making the point that the judges merely upheld the sovereignty of parliament, which is enshrined by law. He shows how ridiculous it is to compare their lordships’ decision with the threat of Nazi invasion, as well as the homophobia in the Express’s article, which attacked one of the judges for being ‘openly gay’. As if the man’s sexuality had anything to do with the judicial soundness of his decision. And he rightly quotes the Angry Yorkshireman on the ridiculous bigotry and hypocrisy of the Heil’s attitude, who wrote:

“Thus anyone who doesn’t agree that Theresa May should be allowed to behave like a dictator by bypassing democratic accountability and making up the law as she goes along is an ‘enemy of the people’ (as decided by a bunch of right-wing hacks working for a billionaire sociopath who lives in Monaco to avoid paying British taxes!).”

The ranting of the Tory ‘Leave’ campaign on this shows the fundamental racism and authoritarianism which runs all the way through them. The Tory right are deeply undemocratic. They would far prefer that the issues were settled by a small coteries of elite, moneyed individuals in their favour. Parliament is grossly unrepresentative of the economic background of British society. Most MPs are millionaires, as Mike has shown again and again in the meme showing this fact. Even so, they represent a wider and more diverse circle than May and her cabinet. As for Gina Miller not being ‘British’, Guyana is a former British colony, and before Thatcher altered the immigration law in the 1970s, citizenship of a British colony or member of the commonwealth automatically granted the right to immigrate to this country and be considered a British citizen. This principle was held by an older generation of imperialists, including Winston Churchill. By their standards, she’s as British as the rest of us. You could even argue that as someone born in Guyana, she also has a perfectly reasonable right to bring her court action. One of the arguments of the ‘Leave’ campaign has been that if Britain leaves the EU, we will have greater freedom to develop trade links with our Commonwealth partners. As a lady born in one of those former colonies, she therefore has every right to make sure she and the other prospective trading partners are properly represented in these decisions.

The Tory attitude also contradicts one of the fundamental principles of democratic freedom articulate by John Stuart Mill. Mill was concerned that the views of the minority should always be protected and represented, even to the extent of being over-represented. He stated that if everyone in the country held the same political opinion, with the exception of one man, that one man should still be allowed to hold and express his views without suppression. But the Tories behind all this hysterical ranting clearly don’t believe that the views of the general public should be represented in the ability of parliament to vote and decide on this issue, rather than just May and her privileged cronies.

It’s also highly hypocritical. Remember when the Tories were complaining at how ‘presidential’ Tony Blair was, and how he was sidelining parliament? They were right – Blair was presidential. But this shows that their objections to a presidential style of British politics, in which power is concentrated in the hands of the Prime Minister in a manner more suitable to the American political system, was purely tactical. Once presidential power is in the hands of a Tory PM, all objections mysteriously disappear, and it is the defenders of the sovereignty of the British people and parliament, who are vilified as ‘enemies of the people.’ Perhaps, like the judges denounced by the Nazis, they’d like to see them shoved out of a British volksgemeinschaft.

This has to be stopped. Mike is quite right to recommend that people stop buying these dreadful right-wing rags, and vote out the Tories. They’re the real enemies of democracy and popular sovereignty here. Not the EU, and not the judges.

Review: The Liberal Tradition, ed. by Alan Bullock and Maurice Shock

November 6, 2016

(Oxford: OUP 1967)

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I picked this up in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham. I am definitely not a Liberal, but so many of the foundations of modern representative democracy, and liberal political institutions, rights and freedoms were laid down by Liberals from the 17th century Whigs onward, that this book is of immense value for the historic light it sheds on the origins of modern political thought. It is also acutely relevant, for many of the issues the great liberal philosophers, thinkers and ideologues argued over, debated and discussed in the pieces collected in it are still being fought over today. These are issues like the freedom, religious liberty and equality, democracy, anti-militarism and opposition to the armaments industry, imperialism versus anti-imperialism, devolution and home rule, laissez-faire and state intervention, and the amelioration of poverty.

Alan Bullock is an historian best known for his biography of Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, which remains the classic work on the Nazi dictator. In the 1990s he produced another book which compared Hitler’s life to that of his contemporary Soviet dictator and ultimate nemesis, Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives. The book has an introduction, tracing the development of Liberalism from its origins to the 1930s, when the authors consider that the Liberal party ceased to be an effective force in British politics. This discusses the major issues and events, with which Whig and Liberal politicians and thinkers were forced to grapple, and which in turn shaped the party and its evolving intellectual tradition.

The main part of the book consists of the major historical speeches and writings, which are treated in sections according to theme and period. These comprise

Part. Fox and the Whig Tradition

1. Civil Liberties.

Two speeches by Charles James Fox in parliament, from 1792 and 1794;
Parliamentary speech by R.B. Sheridan, 1810.
Parliamentary speech by Earl Grey, 1819.
Lord John Russell, An Essay on the History of the English Government and Constitution, 1821.
Lord John Russell, parliamentary speech, 1828.

2. Opposition to the War against Revolutionary France

Speeches by Charles James Fox, from 1793, 1794 and 1800.

3. Foreign Policy and the Struggle for Freedom Abroad

Earl Grey, parliamentary speech, 1821;
Marquis of Lansdowne, parliamentary speech, 1821.
Extracts from Byron’s poems Sonnet on Chillon, 1816, Childe Harold, Canto IV, 1817, and Marino Faliero, 1821.

4. Parliamentary Reform

Lord John Russell, parliamentary speech, 1822.
Lord Melbourne, parliamentary speech, 1831.
T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech, 1831.

Part II. The Benthamites and the Political Economists, 1776-1830.

1. Individualism and Laissez-faire

Two extracts from Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, 1776.
Jeremy Bentham, A Manual of Political Economy, 1798.

2. Natural Laws and the Impossibility of Interference

T.R. Malthus, Essay on Population, 1798.
David Ricardo, The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, 1819.

3. Free Trade

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations,
David Ricardo, Principles of Political Economy,
Petition of the London Merchants, 1820.

4. Colonies

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations.

5. Reform

Jeremy Bentham, Plan of Parliamentary Reform, 1817.
David Ricardo, Observations on Parliamentary Reform, 1824.
Jeremy Bentham, Constitutional Code, 1830.
John Stuart Mill, Autobiography.

Part III. The Age of Cobden and Bright.

1. Free Trade and the Repeal of the Corn Laws

Petition of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce to the House of Commons, 20 December 1838.
Richard Cobden, two speeches in London, 1844.
Cobden, speech in Manchester, 1846,
Lord John Russell, Letter to the Electors of the City of London (The ‘Edinburgh Letter’) 1845.

2. Laissez-Faire

Richard Cobden, Russia, 1836.
Richard Cobden, parliamentary speech, 1846.
T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech, 1846.
Joseph Hume, parliamentary speech, 1847.
John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy, 1848.

Education

T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech 1847.
John Bright, parliamentary speech 1847.

4. Religious Liberty

T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech, 1833.
John Bright, two parliamentary speeches, 1851 and 1853.

5. Foreign Policy

Richard Cobden, parliamentary speech, 1849;
Viscount Palmerston, speech at Tiverton, 1847;
Richard Cobden, parliamentary speech, 1850; speech at Birmingham, 1858; speech in Glasgow, 1858;
John Bright, letter to Absalom Watkins, 1854;
W.E. Gladstone, parliamentary speech, 1857;

6. India and Ireland

T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech, 1833;
John Bright, four speeches in parliament, 1848, 1849,1858, 1859;
Richard Cobden, speech at Rochdale, 1863.

Part IV. The Age of Gladstone

1. The Philosophy of Liberty

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859;
John Stuart Mill, Representative Government, 1861;
Lord Acton, A Review of Goldwin smith’s ‘Irish History’, 1862;
Lord Acton, The History of Freedom in Antiquity, 1877.
Lord Acton, A Review of Sir Erskine May’s ‘Democracy in Europe’, 1878.
Lord Acton, letter to Bishop Creighton, 1887.
Lord Acton, letter to Mary Gladstone, 1881;
John Morley, On Compromise, 1874.

2. Parliamentary Reform

Richard Cobden, two speeches at Rochdale, 1859 and 1863;
John Bright, speech at Rochdale, 1863; speech at Birmingham, 1865; speech at Glasgow, 1866; speech at London, 1866;
W.E. Gladstone, speech at Chester, 1865; speech at Manchester, 1865; parliamentary speech, 1866;

3. Foreign Policy

W.E. Gladstone, two parliamentary speeches, 1877 and 1878; speech at Dalkeith, 1879; speech at Penicuik, 1880, speech at Loanhead, 1880; article in The Nineteenth Century, 1878.

4. Ireland

John Bright, speech at Dublin, 1866 and parliamentary speech, 1868.
W.E. Gladstone, two parliamentary speeches, 1886 and 1888.

Part V. The New Liberalism

1. The Philosophy of State Interference

T.H. Green, Liberal Legislation or Freedom of Contract, 1881;
Herbert Spencer, The Coming Slavery, 1884;
D.G. Ritchie, The Principles of State Interference, 1891;
J.A. Hobson, The Crisis of Liberalism, 1909;
L.T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, 1911;

2. The Extension of Democracy

Herbert Samuel, Liberalism, 1902;
Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, speech at Plymouth, 1907;
D. Lloyd George, speech at Newcastle, 1909;
H.H. Asquith, speech at the Albert Hall, 1909.
L.T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, 1911.

3. Social Reform

Joseph Chamberlain, speech at Hull, 1885, and Warrington, 1885;
W.E. Gladstone, speech at Saltney, 1889;
Lord Rosebery, speech at Chesterfield, 1901;
Winston S. Churchill, speech at Glasgow, 1906;
D. Lloyd George, speech at Swansea, 1908;
L.T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, 1911;
Manchester Guardian, leading article, 8th July 1912;

4. The Government and the National Economy

H.H. Asquith, speech at Cinderford, 1903;
Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, speech at Bolton, 1903;
D. Lloyd George, speech at Bedford, 1913, and speech at Middlesbrough, 1913;
L.T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, 1911.

5. Imperialism and the Boer War

Sir William Harcourt, speech in West Monmouthshire, 1899;
J.L. Hammond, ‘Colonial and Foreign Policy’ in Liberalism and the Empire, 1900;
J.A. Hobson, Imperialism, 1902;
Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, speech at Stirling, 1901.

6. Armaments

Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, speech at London, 1905;
William Byles, parliamentary speech, 1907;
Sir E. Grey, two parliamentary speeches from 1909 and 1911;
Sir J. Brunner, speech at the 35th Annual Meeting of the National Liberal Federation, 1913.

7. Foreign Policy

House of Commons debate 22nd July 1909, featuring J.M. Robertson and Arthur Ponsonby;
Sir E. Grey, two parliamentary speeches, 1911 and 1914;
House of Commons debate, 14th December 1911, featuring Josiah Wedgwood and J.G. Swift MacNeill;
Manchester Guardian, leading article, 1 August 1914;

Part VI. Liberalism after 1918

1. The End of Laissez-faire

J.M. Keynes, The End of Laissez-Faire, 1926;
Britain’s Industrial Future, the Report of the Liberal Industrial Inquiry, 1928;
J.M. Keynes and H.D. Henderson, Can Lloyd George Do It? 1929,
Sir William Beveridge, Full Employment in a Free Society, 1944.

2. The League and the Peace

Viscount Grey of Fallodon, The League of Nations, 1918;
Gilbert Murray, The League of Nations and the Democratic Idea, 1918;
Manchester Guardian, leading article, 24th June 1919;
J.M. Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, 1919;
D. Lloyd George, speech at London, 1927;
Philip Kerr, The Outlawry of War, paper read to the R.I.I.A., 13 November 1928;
The Liberal Way, A survey of Liberal policy, published by the National Liberal Federation, 1934.

Epilogue

J.M. Keynes, Am I a Liberal? Address to the Liberal summer school at Cambridge, 1925.

In their conclusion, Bullock and Shock state that Liberal ideology is incoherent – a jumble – unless seen as an historical development, and that the Liberal party itself lasted only about seventy years from the time Gladstone joined Palmerstone’s government in 1859 to 1931, after which it was represented only by a handful of members in parliament. The Liberal tradition, by contrast, has been taken over by all political parties, is embodied in the Constitution, and has profoundly affected education – especially in the universities, the law, and the philosophy of government in the civil service. It has also inspired the transformation of the Empire into the Commonwealth. It has also profoundly affected the British character at the instinctive level, which has been given expression in the notion of ‘fair play’.

They also write about the immense importance in the Liberal tradition of freedom, and principle. They write

In the pages which follow two ideas recur again and again. The first is a belief in the value of freedom, freedom of the individual, freedom of minorities, freedom of peoples. The scope of freedom has required continual and sometimes drastic re-defining, as in the abandonment of laissez-faire or in the extension of self-government to the peoples of Asia and Africa. But each re-definition has represented a deepening and strengthening, not an attenuation, of the original faith in freedom.

The second is the belief that principle ought to count far more than power or expediency, that moral issues cannot be excluded from politics. Liberal attempts to translate moral principles into political action have rarely been successful and neglect of the factor of power is one of the most obvious criticisms of Liberal thinking about politics, especially international relations. But neglect of the factor of conscience, which is a much more likely error, is equally disastrous in the long run. The historical role of Liberalism in British history has been to prevent this, and again and again to modify policies and the exercise of power by protests in the name of conscience. (p. liv).

They finish with

We end it by pointing to the belief in freedom and the belief in conscience as the twin foundations of Liberal philosophy and the element of continuity in its historical development. Politics can never be conducted by the light of these two principles alone, but without them human society is reduced to servitude and the naked rule of force. This is the truth which the Liberal tradition has maintained from Fox to Keynes – and which still needs to be maintained in our own time. (pp. liv-lv).

It should be said that the participation of the Lib Dems was all too clearly a rejection of any enlightened concern for principle and conscience, as this was jettisoned by Clegg in order to join a highly illiberal parliament, which passed, and is still passing under its Conservative successor, Theresa May, legislation which is deliberately aimed at destroying the lives and livelihood of the very poorest in society – the working class, the disabled and the unemployed, and destroying the very foundations of British constitutional freedom in the creation of a network of universal surveillance and secret courts.

These alone are what makes the book’s contents so relevant, if only to remind us of the intense relevance of the very institutions that are under attack from today’s vile and corrupt Tory party.

Thomas Sowell on Marx and Engels’ Support for Democratic Socialism

July 6, 2016

Sowell Marx Cover

For just about everyone born after the Russian Revolution, and particularly after the horrors of Stalin, Chairman Mao, Pol Pot and a myriad other dictators, who have claimed to govern on behalf of the workers and peasants, Marxism has appeared quite contrary to democracy. Marx and Engels stood for violent revolution, and their theories provided the basis for oppressive, oligarchies ruling through mass arrests, terror and murder.

Marx on Democracy

Thomas Sowell in his brief book on Marx and his theories, Marxism: Philosophy and Economics (London: George Allen & Unwin 1985) shows that while Marx and Engels certainly did not disavow violent revolution, and despite his sneers about it, like his quip that democratic capitalism was merely a case of ‘deciding once in three or six years which member of the ruling class was to misrepresent the people in parliament’, took democracy very seriously, and believed that Socialism could be achieved mainly through the victory of Socialist parties at the ballot box. He writes

To the French workers in 1870, on the eve of the uprising that produced the Paris Commune, Marx advised against an uprising as a “desperate folly” and urged instead: “Let them calmly and resolutely improve the opportunities of Republican Liberty.” He closed with the motto: ” Vive la Republique.” A quarter of a century later, Engels wrote in a similar vein that “the government came to be much more afraid of the legal than of the illegal actions of the workers’ party, of the results of election than those of rebellion.” In Britain, according to Marx, “the gradually surging revolt of the working class compelled Parliament to shorten compulsorily the hours of labour.”

Democracy was seen as a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for freedom. (p. 142).

The Dictatorship of the Proletariat Does Not Justify Dictatorship

He warns the reader not to read back into Marx’s discussion about the dictatorship of the proletariat – the period in which the working class will govern society before the achievement of true Communism – the all too real dictatorships of Stalin and its counterparts in eastern Europe and Asia. Sowell writes further

The Communist Manifesto described “the first step in the revolution” as being “to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy.” In a preliminary draft for the Manifesto, Engels declared that a Communist revolution “will inaugurate a democratic constitution and thereby, directly or indirectly, the political rule of the proletariat.” the use of the phrase “dictatorship of the proletariat” – in Marx’s sense – is little more than a paraphrase of these statements

Between capitalists and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of one into the other. There corresponds to this also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.

In his correspondence, Marx asserted that “the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat, which in turn represents a “transition” to a classless society. How is this compatible with “winning the battle of democracy,” as mentioned in the Communist Manifesto? Because “the democratic republic,” as Engels explained, is “the specific form of the dictatorship of the proletariat.” Just as in a capitalist state “wealth exercises its power indirectly, but all the more surely”, so in a workers’ state the numerical superiority of the proletariat turns democracy in form to a class dictatorship. Marx’s contemporary, John Stuart Mill, agonised over precisely this point. The democratic republic under capitalism becomes the arena in which workers struggle to wrest political control from the capitalists. Once this is accomplished, then under socialism it is the workers’ state that exists as long as any state is necessary -i.e. until the “withering away of the state”. (p. 143).

The Revolution Could Be Peaceful

He notes that Marx admired the Paris Commune, because he believed it had universal suffrage, an open society, freedom of religion and separation of church and state, and a non-militaristic viewpoint. (p. 144).

On revolution, he quotes Engels as saying ‘the abolition of capital is itself the social revolution’, and later, at the end of his life, that ‘the bourgeoisie and the government came to be more afraid of the legal than of the illegal action of the workers’ party, of the results of lections than of those of rebellion.’ (p.148). Engels was also aware that it was extremely rare for civilian rebels to overcome an army in street fighting. (p.149). He also believed that violence was more likely to be started by the capitalists than by the workers.

The irony of world history turns everything upside down. We, the “revolutionists”, the “over-throwers”, – we are thriving far better on legal methods than on illegal methods and overthrow. The parties of Order, as they call themselves, are perishing under the legal conditions created by themselves … And if we are not so crazy as to let ourselves be driven to street fighting in order to please them, then in the end there is nothing left for them to do but themselves break through this fatal legality. (p. 149)

Democracy Draws the Working Class into Politics

He also quotes Marx as admiring democracy under capitalism for drawing the masses into politics and political discussion:

The parliamentary regime lives [according to Marx] by discussion: how shall it forbid discussion? Every interest, every social institution, is here transformed into general ideas, debated as ideas; how shall any interest, any institution, sustain itself above though and impose itself as an article of faith? The struggle of the orators on the platform evokes the struggle of the scribblers of the press; the debating club in parliament is necessarily supplemented by debating clubs in the salons and the pothouses; the representatives, who constantly appeal to public opinion, give public opinion the right to speak is real mind in petitions. The parliamentary regime leaves everything to the decision of majorities; how shall the great majorities outside parliament not want to decide? When you play the fiddle at the top of the state, what else is to be expected but that those down below dance?

Rejection of Terrorist Conspiracies

Marx and Engels contrasted the democratic nature of the Communist League, which had elective and removable boards, which ‘barred all hankering after conspiracy, which requires dictatorship, with revolutionary secret societies of Louis Blanqui and his followers. He stated that such conspiratorial small groups – such as those which Lenin would later advocate in his book What Is To Be Done? were “the fantasy of overturning an entire society through the action of a small conspiracy.” (pp. 150-1). He also notes that Marx did not see the workers as being automatically paragons of virtue from the very beginning, or would have to be led by a group of elite leaders. (p.151). Again, this is very in contrast to Lenin and his theories in What Is To Be Done? Engels said

The time of surprise attacks, of revolutions carried through by small conscious minorities at the head of unconscious masses, is past. Where it is a question of a complete transformation of the social organisation, the masses themselves must also be in it, must themselves already have grasped what is at stake, what they are going in for with body and soul. (p. 152).

He also notes that Engels did not abandon the possibility of armed revolution where the aims of the ‘workers’ party’ could not be achieved through democracy. And he also notes that Marx was quite happy for terror to be used against ‘hate individuals or public buildings that are associated only with hateful recollections’. Engels, however, had a much more critical attitude. He said

We think of this reign of people who inspire terror on the contrary, it is the reign of people who are themselves terrified. Terror consists of useless cruelties perpetrated by frightened people in order to reassure themselves. (p. 153). It’s advice that far too few self-confessed Marxist regimes put into practice.

What makes this particularly interesting is that Margaret Thatcher tried to have legislation passed to ban Marxists from having positions in academia. Furthermore, radicals like Noam Chomsky point out that America did have a tradition of working class, left-wing politics, under this was destroyed by the anti-Communist hysteria of the Cold War. In all fairness, Thatcher and the Cold Warriors had a point, in that the Communist Party founded by Lenin was based on the monopoly of power by a small, revolutionary coterie, who jailed and persecuted their enemies, with horrific brutality. But many Marxists actively opposed them. Rosa Luxemburg was bitterly critical of the Bolshevik coup and the suppression of political freedom in the USSR. So was Karl Kautsky, one of the leading figures of Austrian Marxism, who occupied the centre of the country’s Social Democratic Party, the main Socialist party, and which today roughly corresponds to the Labour party in Britain. Kautsky wrote pamphlets and articles attacking the Bolshevik coup, and supported the break-away Menshevik regime in Georgia.

There are very many problems with Marxism, ranging from its rejection of eternal, objective moral values, to its conception of history as based on the class struggle and the Hegelian dialectic, as well as its materialism. But it also provides material for a democratic socialism, as against totalitarian tyranny and mass murder.

Callousness and Class Cruelty: The Real Reason the Tory Euro Vote Hasn’t Dropped

May 4, 2014

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A few days ago I reblogged a piece from Mike over at Vox Political, in which he wondered why the Tory vote hadn’t also been significantly affected by their ruthless austerity policies. The Lib Dems have effectively been wiped out due to their participation in the Coalition. After Clegg’s debate with Farage about the EU, the number of people stating they will vote for the Lib Dems has fallen to 2 per cent. Other polls place them vying for fifth place in national elections with the Greens. In one local election, as reported by Tom Pride over at Pride’s Purge, they came behind Bus-Pass Elvis. This incarnation of the King stood on a platform of legalised brothels with a 30 per cent reduction for OAPs. Such decadence and immorality was clearly much more palatable to the local electors than the lies, hypocrisy and vicious attacks on the poor and underprivileged of the Lib Dems support for their Tories austerity programme. They are looking at political extinction. They deserve it.

The question remains, though. Why weren’t the Tories similarly affected?

The Lib Dems are, after all, only accomplices. Mike acknowledges that they may even be right in their assertion that they have held the Tories back from even more extreme policies. And the Tories are worse liars and hypocrites, and even more cruel, vicious and persecutory towards the working and lower middle classes. Before the 2010 election, they were posing as even more Left-wing than Labour. They went up and down the country engaging in stunts community activism, like trying to get funding for children’s play areas from the local Labour authority. They announced that they were ring-fencing money for the NHS. Osborne declared at one point that he was going to get rid of the PFI. Cameron’s mentor, Philip Blond, promoted an image of the party that he was extremely friendly to the organised working class, even citing the great anarchist, Peter Kropotkin, in his book, Red Tory. All this has been thoroughly discarded as the Tories push through the privatisation of the NHS, even more punitive policies towards the poor and working- and lower-middle class. And the PFI is still going strong under Osborne.

So why haven’t the electorate punished them, as they have the Lib Dems?

I think the answer lies in the type of people, who form the core Tory vote. The Tories have a reputation for being, in general, much more politically committed than Labour supporters. One of the Labour Prime Ministers, for example, was afraid of the effect the scheduling of a general election may have had on the number of people voting for the party, because it clashed with a popular TV programme. The fear was that the working class voters would stay home and watch that, rather than cast their vote at the polls. The turn-out for Euro elections is much lower than for British, and so only the most determined and committed parts of the electorate vote in them.

And in the case of the Tories, it seems those core voters are utter b****rds. Peter Snowden, in his book, Back from the Brink, discussing how the Tories managed to revive their electoral fortunes from the nadir of the Blair years, makes the point that Cameron’s attempt to position the Tories as more ‘Left-wing’ and competitors to Labour as social activists, met with only an indifferent response, if not outright hostility. The Tories simply don’t like community activism. And when Cameron stated at a publicity meeting that he was the heir to Blair, he was criticised by the editor of the Telegraph.

The number of people voting in general elections has declined considerably. Many are turning away from politics because of the apparent lack of any interest or appreciation of the hardships on ordinary working people that have been inflicted by the Neoliberal agendas now shared by all the main parties. Disgust at the greed, self-interest and hypocrisy of the political class has also had a highly corrosive effect on public confidence in them. The result is that membership of these parties has fallen to a rump of a few, very committed supporters, many of whom are tribal voters. In the case of the Tories, these voters appear to be arch-Thatcherites, motivated by a desire to return to a strongly hierarchical class system, and with a bitter hatred of state assistance for the poor and unfortunate.

The Lib Dems’ supporters, on the other hand clearly included many, who saw their party as far more moderate than the extreme Neoliberal organisation into which it has been moulded by Clegg. The ideological heritage of the Liberal party is that of John Stuart Mill – democracy, social justice and in the classic Liberal formulation, the achievement of individual liberty through collective action. In many areas where Labour is weak they are the opposition to the Tories. As a result, their followers feel the Coalition’s betrayal of their initial promises far more than the Tories, who seem largely content. And so they have abandoned the party in their droves. The Tores, however, propped up by class interest and Thatcherite greed, carry on as before.

And so Britain continues to suffer. It’s about time the Tories came to the same fate as the Lib Dems.

John Stuart Mill on the Right to Free Speech, vs. IDS and the Coalition

February 1, 2014

600_JohnStuartMill_StatueofLiberty

John Stuart Mill is one of the great founders of the modern concepts of political liberty, democracy and equality for women. His book, On Liberty, became the classic statement of Liberal ideology to the point where it was given to the leader of the Liberal party on his accession. He saw parliament as supremely important as the organ of government in which every opinion present in the country should be expressed and debated, so that politicians should form and adjust their policies accordingly. He wrote

‘In addition to this [i.e., the function of control], the Parliament has an office, no inferior … in importance; to be at once the nation’s Committee of Grievances, and its Congress of Opinions; an arena in which not only the general opinion of the nation, but that of every section of it, and as far as possible of every eminent individual whom it contains, can produce itself in full light and challenge discussion; where every person in the country may count upon finding somebody who speaks him mind well or better than he could speak it himself – not to friends and partisans exclusively, but in the face of opponents, to be tested by adverse controversy; where those whose opinion is overruled, feel satisfied that it is heard, and set aside not by a mere act of will, but for what are thought superior reasons, and commend themselves as much to the representatives of the majority of the nation; wh4ere every party or opinion in the country can muster in strength, and be cured of any illusion concerning the number or power of its adherents; where the opinion which prevails in the nation makes itself manifest as prevailing, and marshals its hosts in the presence of the government, which is thus enabled and compelled to give way to it on the mere manifestation, without the actual employment, of its strength; where statesmen can assure themselves far more certainly than by any signs, what elements of opinion and power are growing, and what declining, and are enabled to shape their measures with some regard not solely to present exigencies, but to tendencies in progress. Representative assemblies are often taunted by their enemies with being places of mere talk and bavardage. There has seldom been more misplaced derision. I know not how a representative assembly can more usefully employ itself than in talk, when the subject of talk is the great public interests of the country, and every sentence of it represents the opinion either of some important body of persons in the nation, or of an individual in whom some such body have reposed their confidence. A place where every interest and shade of opinion in the country can have its cause even passionately pleaded in the face of government and of all other interests and opinions, can compel them to listen, and either comply, or state clearly why they do not, is in itself, if it answered no other purpose, one of the most important political institutions that can exist anywhere, and one of the foremost benefits of free government. Such “talking” would never be looked upon with disparagement if it were not allowed to “doing”; which it never would, if assemblies knew and acknowledged that talking and discussion are their proper business, while doing, as the result of discussion, is the task not of a miscellaneous body, but of individuals specially trained to it; that the fit office of an assembly is to see that those individuals are honestly and intelligently chosen, and to interfere no further with them, except by unlimited latitude of suggestion and criticism, and by applying or withholding the final seal of national assent … Nothing but the restriction of the function of representative bodies within these rational limits will enable the benefits of popular control to be enjoyed in conjunction with the no less important requisites (growing ever more important as human affairs increase in scale and complexity) of skilled legislation and administration.’

He also made it very clear that he had some sympathy with Socialist aspirations for the improvement of humanity and the destruction of the class system. He stated

‘In short, I was a democrat, but not the least of a Socialist. We [i.e., he and his wife] were now [i.e., in the early 1850’s] much less democrats than I had been, because as long as education continues to be so wretchedly imperfect, we dreaded the ignorance and especially the selfishness and brutality of the mass; but our ideal of ultimate improvement went far beyond Democracy, and would class us decidedly under the general designation of Socialists. While we repudiated with the greatest energy that tyranny of society over the individual which most Socialistic systems are supposed to involve, we yet looked forward to a time when society will no longer be divided into the idle and the industrious; when the rule that they who do not work shall not eat, will be applied not to paupers only, but impartially to all; when the division of the produce of labour, instead of depending, as in so great a degree it now does, on the accident of birth, will be made by concert on an acknowledged principle of justice; and when it will no longer either be, or be thought to be, impossible for human beings to exert themselves strenuously in procuring benefits which are not to be exclusively their own, but to be shared with the society they belong to. The social problem of the future we considered to be, how to untie the greatest individual liberty of action with a common ownership in the raw material of the globe, and an equal participation of all in the benefits of combined labour …

… and we welcomed with the greatest pleasure and interest all socialistic experiments by select individuals (such as the Cooperative Societies) which, whether they succeeded or not, could not but operate as a most useful education of those who took part in them, by cultivating their capacity of acting upon motives pointing directly to the general good, or making them aware of the defects which render them and others incapable of doing so’.

So how does the Coalition measure up to these ideals? Not very well at all. Indeed, there is more than a little of a ‘democratic deficit’ at the heart of their conception of the value of parliament. The Coalition has just passed the gagging law, which means that unless you are an approved corporate lobbyist, you may not approach parliament to voice your opinions and concerns. Unless you’re a prospective Corporate sponsor, and there’s money and directorships in it, Cameron and Clegg really don’t want to hear what you think or have to say. They also don’t want to see you, either. Legitimate, democratic displays of protest can now be banned as a nuisance to the people down whose road you are marching. It’s particularly dangerous in London, as BoJo has decided that, while he can’t find the money to pay the firemen to stop your house or business burning down, he can afford to buy watercannon to train on protesters. It’s a German watercannon, so perhaps its a bit too repressive for them. Back in the 1960s and 1970s their use in the Bundesrepublik was extremely controversial, after a protester was killed by one during demonstrations by the ‘extraparliamentary opposition’. I’ve got a feeling that incident fuelled the conviction that all too many Nazis had escaped justice at Nuremberg, and were still holding lucrative posts in the police, armed forces and civil service. BoJo likes to present himself as man of the people against Cameron, but his instincts are definitely with their oppressors and the watercannons are just two more weapons in his armoury.

Not only does the Coalition not want to have to discuss any nasty, disturbing and possibly liberal ideas in parliament, or see them on the streets, they also don’t want to have to answer to parliament or keep the people informed of the consequences of their policies either. IDS dragged his feet until the very last minute before attending the Work and Pensions Committee. When he did, ‘RTU’ appeared surrounded by bodyguards and armed police officers, just in case the members of the public in attendance said something unpleasant about him. Or cause a serious, life-changing injury to his dignity by throwing a custard pie at him, like someone did to Murdoch. As for non-interference by parliament in the way the officials charged with executing their public policies perform their duty, well, once again IDS fails to make the grade. He tried to get one of his subordinates to take the blame for his own mistakes.

It’s not just RTU that hasn’t read his Mill. The Information Commissioner hasn’t either. FOI requests for information on the number of people, who’ve died after being judged fit for work by ATOS have been repeatedly turned down. Why? They’re vexatious. IDS’ DWP has also refused to release information about this and similar issues on the grounds that it would cause opposition to their policies, and prevent those policies from being implemented. So much for believing that political ideas need to be discussed in parliament, and held up for criticism. Or as someone once said, ‘Arguments are upsetting and sometimes cause you to change your mind’. Or words to that effect.

As for Socialism, the Tories have been an enemy of this ever since Maggie Thatcher declared it was a nasty, foreign import that she was going to destroy. At first Cameron’s localism agenda looks like it might be approved by Mill, for the way he wanted public institutions like libraries and so on to be staffed by volunteers. Mill also lamented the way modern society left increasingly few posts without pay, where they individual would have the honour for working for the public good without material reward. However, under the Coalition, as under Blair, politicians have been all too keen to enjoy material benefits – increased pay, and lucrative posts with industry. It’s only those, who can’t afford to that are expected to work for nothing, like the increasing ranks of the unemployed on workfare. As for the destruction of the class system, and the division of the world into the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, that had already increased under Labour and the gap is even wider under the Coalition.

So, despite their talk about democracy and accountability, the Coalition has consistently acted against some of the most fundamental principles of democracy articulated by Mill, perhaps its greatest British exponent. In some ways this isn’t surprising coming from the Conservatives, who traditionally stood for the privileges of the ruling classes. Clegg, however, must take his credit for the way he and the others supporters of the free-market ‘Orange Book’ have done so much to destroy Mill’s political legacy and the enduring Liberal traditions in which they were raised, and which they have betrayed.