Posts Tagged ‘Karl Marx’

Online Arise Event Tonight Asks If Marx Was Right

January 23, 2023

Just had this email notification come through from the Arise Festival of Left Wing Ideas.

1) ONLINE FORUM: The economic crisis – was Marx right?

TONIGHT. Monday January 23, 2023. Register here // share & invite here // retweet here to spread the word

Here in Britain and around the world the economic crisis is deepening. Join economist Michael Roberts for debate and discussion – was Nye Bevan right, wrong, or both when he said “Marxism put into the hands of the working class movement… the most complete blueprints for political action the world has ever seen?”

Labour Outlook forum as part of the Socialist Ideas series – kindly streamed by Arise – A Festival of Left Ideas.

I’m not going to attend it, but I thought I’d put it up here for anyone who was interested.

Calendar of Coming Left-Labour Events

January 17, 2023

I’ve had some of this blog’s great commenters wondering what the Labour left is doing to challenge Starmer’s stranglehold on the party and his determination to turn it into another version of the Tories. And not necessarily one further to the left. The Labour left is still around and organising events. I’ve had some emails about them, but didn’t put them up as they were in-person meetings in London, and so difficult to get to for people like me in the provinces, or they were about foreign politics, like Latin America, which I didn’t think many people would be interested in. Yesterday I had another email from Matt Willgress through the Arise festival of left ideas and the Labour Assembly against Austerity, giving details about events coming up in what remains of this month and February.

Let’s make 2023 the year of growing waves of resistance.

Read my article here // Retweet it here to spread the word // Register for Feb.1 here

Hello David

Last week, Tory ministers met numerous unions to discuss public-sector pay, but no movement was made, meaning that strike action is set to escalate, including with the PCS announcing 100,000 will be on strike on what is shaping up to be a major day of industrial and other forms of action on February 1st, the day of our #BuildingtheFightback rally.

The Tory refusal to budge on pay is the logical follow-on from locking-in austerity for years. On the Left we need to understand the scale of what we are up against politically, the extent of the crisis Britain is facing, and the nature of what is to come if the Tories aren’t forced out, including that this is an increasingly authoritarian Government.

We need to be organising resistance  right now – and we need to be backing those movements taking direct action and backing those workers taking industrial action. Let’s make 2023 the year of  growing waves of resistance to the Tories – join us at Building the Fightback on February 1 (details below) in solidarity with workers in struggle and to map out our next steps.

Yours in solidarity,
Matt Willgress, on behalf of the Arise volunteers.
 

RALLY: Building the fightback in 2023.

Online rally, 6.30pm, Wednesday February 1. Join us on to hear about & build on a day of action across the country!
Register here // Invite & share here // Retweet here.

Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary // Diane Abbott MP // Dave Ward, CWU GS // Richard Burgon MP // Helen O’Connor, GMB Southern Region & Peoples Assembly // Liz Cabeza, Acorn (Haringey) // Nabeela Mowlana, Young Labour // Holly Turner, NHS Workers Say No // Matt Wrack, FBU GS & more.

Join leaders of key industrial disputes – and who are at the forefront of fighting proposed anti-union laws – at this vital event! Now is the time to build the growing fightback, co-ordinate the resistance & popularise policies that put people before profit. 

Hosted by Arise – a Festival of Left Ideas. All other pages listed on social media are kindly helping to promote the event. 

OTHER 2023 DIARY DATES:

1) FORUM: The economic crisis – was Marx right?


Online. Monday January 23, 2023. Register here // share & invite here // retweet here to spread the word

Here in Britain and around the world the economic crisis is deepening. Join economist Michael Roberts for debate and discussion – was Nye Bevan right, wrong, or both when he said “Marxism put into the hands of the working class movement… the most complete blueprints for political action the world has ever seen?”


Labour Outlook forum as part of the Socialist Ideas series – kindly streamed by Arise – A Festival of Left Ideas.

2) CONFERENCE: The World At War – A Trade Union Issue

Register here. Saturday 21 January 2023, 10.30am, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BD (Nearest tube: Euston/Kings Cross). 

Jeremy Corbyn MP // Mick Whelan, ASLEF // Salma Yaqoob // Fran Heathcote, PCS // Alex Gordon, RMT // Ricardo La Torre, FBU & more.

Organised by the Stop the War Coalition.

3) DIARY DATE: A Society in Crisis – Building a Progressive Policy Platform.

Sat 11 Feb, 2023, 10:00am, Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London, WC1B 5DQ. Register here – Retweet here.

“The economic, social and environmental crises we face mean the need for a transformative policy agenda is more urgent than ever. For this reason, on February 11, I will be bringing together academics, think tanks, policy researchers and experts, campaigners and others to develop a progressive policy platform – and hope you can join us there.” – John McDonnell MP.

Organised by Claim the Future & Influencing the Corridors of Power’

It’s a pity the last meeting is in London, as this is what the left really need to challenge neoliberalism, in the Labour party as much as anywhere else. Perhaps they’ll release a video of it later on YouTube.

The Fascist Argument Against Free Market Capitalism

January 15, 2023

I notice that as the failure of contemporary free market capitalism becomes every more obvious, its right-wing supporters are out on the net telling everyone how wonderful capitalism is. Capitalism, according to them, has lifted more people out of poverty than any socialist state has ever done. You find this repeated by the Lotus Eaters, and I recent found yet another video on YouTube put up by a right-winger.

Now there is something to this. Marx in the Communist Manifesto was impressed by the global achievements of capitalism, and industrialisation and trade has produced development and prosperity in Britain, the West and elsewhere, and lifted people out of the poverty of agricultural subsistence economies. But this hasn’t been done by capitalism alone. Trade unions have also been part of the development of mass prosperity in the industrialised nations through demands for increased wages, better working conditions and so on, a fact ignored by the right. And working people in the west enjoyed their greatest period of prosperity when capitalism was regulated as part of the post-War consensus. In Britain this took the form of a mixed economy in which the utilities were owned and operated by the state. The privatisation of these utilities, the devastation of the welfare state and the deregulation of the economy has led to a massive transfer of wealth upwards, so that the poor have become colossally poorer and the wealth of the rich even more bloated and obscene. Properly regulated, capitalism does raise people out of poverty. But free market capitalism, of the kind frantically promoted by right-wingers like the Lotus Eaters, has done the reverse.

But let’s grant them that the 19th century was an age of industrial and agricultural expansion in which people enriched themselves. Mussolini expressed this view in his speech about the corporative state he was introducing into Italy. The fascist corporations were industrial organisations, one for each industry, which included representatives of the trade unions and the owners’ organisations. The Italian parliament was dissolved and reorganised into a Chamber of Fasces and Corporations, in which these organisations were supposed to debate economic policy. In fact, it just served as a rubber stamp for the Duce’s decisions. It was, however, important for propaganda purposes, to show that Mussolini’s regime had transcended capitalism and socialism.

The Fascists weren’t enemies of capitalism, far from it. Mussolini’s constitution made private industry the basis of the state and economic life, which is why I’m using it his critique of free market capitalism against the free marketeers. Mussolini had been a radical socialist, but when the Fascists seized power he declared them to be true followers of Manchester School capitalism. In other words, free trade. This was accompanied by a programme of privatisation. In Germany Hitler gave a speech to the German equivalent of the Confederation of British Industry, saying that capitalism could only be preserved through a dictatorship. He stated that he would not nationalise any company, unless it was failing. During the Nazi dictatorship industry was organised into a series of interlocking associations subject to state control. But they were not nationalised, and the leadership of the organisations was always given to private industrialists, not the managers of state industries.

Back to Italy, Mussolini described how this initial period had begun to decay. The old family run firms declined, to be replaced by joint stock companies. At the same time, firms organised themselves into cartels. In America, these cartels demanded intervention from the government. Mussolini announced that, if left unchecked, this would lead to the emergence of a state capitalism that was every bit as pernicious as state socialism. His solution was that capitalism needed to be more ‘social’. It would be subordinated to the state through the corporations, where workers and management would cooperate to make Italy a great power once more.

Something similar has happened over the past four decades. Under this new corporativism, representatives of private industry have entered government as advisors and officials, often in the departments charged with regulating their industries. At the same time, industry has received massive subsidies and tax breaks so that much of the tax burden has moved lower down on working people. Mussolini was correct about private industry demanding state intervention, however much this is denied and state planning attacked by free market theorists. And the result is corporativism, which the free marketeers denounce as not being true capitalism. But it’s been pointed out that the type of capitalism they believe in has never existed.

Free market capitalism is a failure. The solution is not a murderous dictatorship, but the old, regulated, mixed economy of the social democratic consensus. An economy that includes private industry, but which recognises that it alone does not create wealth, and which demands the inclusion of working people and their organisations in industrial negotiations and policies in order to create prosperity for working people.

Simon Webb’s Speech to the Traditional Britain Group: A Critique

December 29, 2022

One of the great commenters on this blog asked me the other day if I’d watched Simon Webb’s speech to the Traditional Britain Group, which has been posted up on YouTube. Webb is the man behind History Debunked, in which he criticises, refutes and comments on various historical myths and distortions. Most of these are against Black history, as well as racial politics. Occasionally he also presents his opinions on gay and gender issues. Like other YouTubers and internet commenters, you need to use your own discretion when watching his material. Sometimes, when he cites his sources, he’s right. At other times he’s more probably wrong. As much of his material is against mass immigration, particularly Black and Asian, and he believes that there is a racial hierarchy when it comes to intelligence, there’s some discussion of the man’s political orientation. He’s definitely right-wing, reading the Torygraph and attacking Labour as ‘high spending’. But it’s a question of how right-wing. Some people have suggested he’s English Democrat or supports a similar extreme right fringe party.

The other day he gave a speech at the Traditional Britain Group, which is a particularly nasty set of rightists within the Conservative party. There was a scandal a few years ago, you’ll recall, when Jacob Rees-Mogg turned up at one of their dinners. Mogg claimed he didn’t know how far right they were, but was shown to be somewhat economical with the actualite when someone showed that he’d actually been warned against associating with them. They are fervently against non-White immigration and some of them have a dubious interest in the Nazis and the Third Reich. I’ve also been told that their members include real Nazis and eugenicists, which is all too credible. They also want to privatise the NHS. I found this out after finding myself looking at their message board a few years ago. They were talking about how they needed to privatise the health service, but it would have to be done gradually and covertly because at the moment the masses were too much in favour of it. Which has been Tory policy for decades.

Webb’s speech is about half and hour long, and takes in slavery, White English identity and how Blacks have taken ownership of the subject so that it’s now part of theirs, White guilt over it and the industrial revolution and how White Brits are being made to feel ashamed of imperialism. He also blamed Tony Blair for mass immigration and claimed that it was due to this that the health service was collapsing.

The British Empire

He started off by saying that when he was young, everyone believed that the British Empire was a good thing and that we had brought civilisation to Africa and other parts of the world. I don’t doubt this. He’s older than me, and so I can believe that the received view of the Empire in his time was largely positive. Even the Labour party broadly supported imperialism. Its official stance was that Britain held these countries in trust until they were mature enough for self-government. This has changed, and there is a general feeling, certainly on the left, that it’s something we should be ashamed of. But this has come from historians and activists discussing and revealing the negative aspects of colonialism, such as the genocide and displacement of indigenous peoples, enslavement, forced labour and massacres. The end of empires tend to be particularly bloody, as shown in the various nationalist wars that ended the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans and the French possession of Algeria. Britain fought similar bloody wars and committed atrocities to defend its empire, as shown in the massive overreaction in Kenya to the Mao Mao rebellion. Jeremy Black, in his history of the British Empire, also argues that support for the empire fell away from the 1970s onwards as British youth became far more interested in America. I think the automatic condemnation of British imperialism is wrong and one-sided. It’s also somewhat hypocritical, as the same people condemning the British Empire don’t condemn other brutal imperial regimes like the Ottomans. It’s also being used by various post-colonial regimes to shift attention and blame for their own failings. But all this doesn’t change the fact that some horrific things were done during the Empire, which politicians and historians have to deal with. Hence the shame, although in my view there should be a space for a middle position which condemns the atrocities and celebrates the positive.

Britain and Slavery

He then talks about how slavery is now identified solely with Black transatlantic servitude. But he argues that the White English can also claim slavery as part of their identity. He talks of the first mention of the English in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, when pope Gregory the Great saw some English children for sale in the slave market in Rome. Asking who such beautiful children were, he was told they were Angles. At which Gregory punned, ‘Non Anglii, sed angeli’ – ‘Not Angles but angels’. At the time of the Domesday Book 10 per cent of the English population were slaves. And the mob that tore down Colston’s statue in Bristol were unaware that the city had been exported English slaves over a millennium before. These were shipped to the Viking colonies in Ireland – Dublin, Wexford and other towns – from whence they were then trafficked internationally. Slavery existed long before Black transatlantic slavery. The first record we have of it is from 4000 years ago in the form of document from the Middle East recording the sale of slaves and pieces of land. While they weren’t aware of transatlantic slavery at school, they knew slavery existed through studying the Bible. The story of Joseph and his brothers, and the Israelites in Egypt. But slavery has now become identified exclusively with Black slavery and is part of the Black identity. It’s because we’re supposed to feel guilty about slavery and feel sorry for Blacks that Black people over overrepresented in adverts, on television dramas and even historical epics, such as the show about the Tudors where half the actors were Black.

Webb is right about slavery existing from ancient times. There are indeed documents from the ancient near eastern city of Mari in Mesopotamia recording the sale of slaves along with land and other property, as I’ve blogged about here. One of the problems the abolitionists faced was that slavery existed right across the world, and so their opponents argued that it was natural institution. They therefore also claimed that it was consequently unfair and disastrous for the government to abolish it in the British empire. He’s right about Pope Gregory and the English slaves, although the word ‘Angli’ refers to the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that settled and colonised England with the Saxons and Jutes after the fall of the Roman Empire. Angles in Anglo-Saxon were Englas, hence Engla-land – England, land of the Angles, and Englisc, English. Bristol did indeed export English slave to Ireland. Archbishop Wulfstan preached against it in the 11th century. We were still doing so in 1140, when visiting clergy from France were warned against going for dinner aboard the Irish ships in the harbour. These would lure people aboard with such promises, then slip anchor and take them to Ireland. The Irish Vikings also imported Black slaves. One chronicle reports the appearance of a consignment of blamenn, blue or black men in Old Norse, in Dublin. David Olasuga has also claimed that they imported 200 Blacks into Cumbria. Bristol’s export of White English slaves is mentioned in a display about it in the city’s M Shed Museum, which also contains the statue of Edward Colston. I do agree with Webb that there is a problem with popular attitudes towards slavery. Its presentation is one-sided, so that I don’t think many people are aware of it and its horrors outside the British Empire, nor how White Europeans were also enslaved by the Muslim Barbary pirates. I very strongly believe that this needs to be corrected.

Black Overrepresentation on TV

I don’t think it’s guilt over slavery alone that’s responsible for the large number of Black actors being cast on television, particularly the adverts. I think this is probably also due to commercial marketing, the need to appeal to international audiences and attempts to integrate Blacks by providing images of multiracial Britain. Many adverts are made for an international audience, and I think the use of Blacks has become a sort of visual shorthand for showing that the company commissioning the advert is a nice, anti-racist organisation, keen to sell to people of different colours across the world without prejudice. At home, it’s part of the promotion of diversity. Blacks are, or are perceived, as acutely alienated and persecuted, and so in order to combat racism the media has been keen to include them and present positive images of Black life and achievement. There are organisations dedicated to this task, such as the Creative Diversity Network, as well as systems that grade companies according to how they invest in multicultural enterprises, such as television and programmes with suitably racially diverse casts. Webb has himself talked about this. He’s also stated that Blacks are disproportionately represented on television, constituting only 6 per cent of the population but a very large proportion of actors in TV programmes and adverts. This might simply be because other, larger ethnic groups, such as Asians, aren’t so concerned with entering the entertainment industry and so aren’t represent to the same extent. Hence, Blacks sort of stand in for people of colour as a whole. As for adverts, I’ve also wondered if some of this might be purely commercial – a concern to sale to an emergent, affluent, Black market, perhaps. It also struck me that it might also be a make work programme. As I understand it, there are too many drama graduates for too few roles. This is particularly going to hit Blacks and other ethnic minorities because Britain at the moment is still a White majority country. There have consequently been demands for colour blind casting, as in Armando Iannucci’s recent film version of Oliver Twist. A year or so ago one Black actor announced that there should be more roles for Blacks or else they would go to America. As for the casting of a Black woman as Anne Boleyn, this seems to follow the theatre, where colour blind casting has existed for years. I think it also follows the tacit demand to create an image of the British past that conforms to modern multicultural society rather than how it really was. And some of it, I think, just comes from the feeling that as modern Blacks are as British as their White compatriots, so they should not be excluded from appearing as historical characters who were White. I think these considerations are just as likely, or more likely, to be the causes of the disproportionate number of Blacks appearing on camera than simply pity for them as the victims of slavery.

Blair Not Responsible for Mass Immigration

Now we come to his assertion that Blair was responsible for mass immigration. When he made this declaration, there were shouts, including one of ‘traitor’. I don’t believe that Blair was responsible for it, at least, not in the sense he means. The belief that he was, which is now widespread on the anti-immigrant right, comes from a single civil servant. This official claimed that Blair did so in order to change the ethnic composition of Britain and undermine the Tories. But did he really? This comes from a single individual, and without further corroboration, you can’t be sure. In fact Blair seems to have tried to cut down on immigration, particularly that of non-Whites. In order to dissuade people from coming here, he stopped immigrants from being able to apply for welfare benefits. The food banks now catering to native Brits were originally set up to feed those immigrants, who were no longer eligible for state aid. I also recall David Blunkett stating that they were going to cut down on immigration. The Guardian also accused Blair of racism over immigration. He had cut down on non-White immigration from outside Europe, while allowing White immigration from the EU and its new members in eastern Europe. The right had also been concerned about rising Black and Asian immigration for decades, and in the 1980s Tory papers like the Depress were publishing articles about unassimilable ethnic minorities. This started before Blair, and I don’t think he was deliberately responsible for it.

But I believe he was responsible for it in the sense that many of the migrants come from the countries Blair, Bush, Obama and Sarco destroyed or helped to destroy in the Middle East, such as Libya, Iraq and Syria. Blair had made some kind of deal with Colonel Gaddafy to keep migrants from further south in Libya, rather than crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. This was destroyed when Gaddafy’s regime was overthrown by Islamists. The result has been the enslavement of Black African migrants, and renewed waves of refugees from North Africa fleeing the country’s collapse.

He also stated that the industrial revolution, which was something else that was traditionally a source of pride, is now considered a cause for shame instead. Britain had been its birthplace and given its innovations to the rest of the world. However, we are now expected to be ashamed of it through its connection to slavery. The cotton woven in the Lancashire mills came from the American slave south, while sugar came from the slave colonies of the Caribbean. We’re also supposed to be ashamed of it because it’s the cause of climate change, for which we should pay reparations.

The Industrial Revolution and Climate Change

Okay, I’ve come across the claim that the industrial revolution was financed by profits from the slave trade and that it was based on the processing of slave produced goods. However, this is slightly different from condemning the industrial revolution as a whole. You can lament the fact that slavery was a part of this industrialisation, while celebrating the immense social, technological and industrial progress itself. After all, Marx states in the Communist Manifesto that it has rescued western society from rural idiocy. The demand that Britain should feel ashamed about the industrial revolution because of climate change comes from Greta Thunberg. It is, in my view, monumentally stupid and actually shows an ignorance of history. It’s based on an idealisation of pre-technological societies and an idealisation of rural communities. It’s a product of European romanticism, mixed with contemporary fears for the future of the planet. But the agrarian past was no rural idyll. People in the agricultural societies before the urbanisation of the 19th century had very utilitarian attitudes to the environment. It was a source of resources that could be used and exploited. The nostalgia for an idealised rural past came with the new generation of urban dwellers, who missed what they and their parents had enjoyed in the countryside. And rural life could be extremely hard. If you read economic histories of the Middle Ages and early modern period, famine is an ever present threat. It still was in the 19th century. The Irish potato famine is the probably the best known example in Ireland and Britain, but there were other instances of poverty, destitution and starvation across the UK and Europe. Industrialisation has allowed a far greater concentration of people to live than would have been possible under subsistence agriculture. Yes, I’m aware that overpopulation is a problem, that industrial pollution is harming the environment and contributing to the alarming declining in animal and plant species. But technological and science hopefully offer solutions to these problems as well. And I really don’t want to go back to a subsistence economy in which communities can be devastated by crop failure.

The call for climate reparations, I think, comes from Ed Miliband, and in my view it shows how out of touch and naive he is. I have no problem the Developed World giving aid to some of those countries threatened by climate change, such as the Pacific islands which are threatened with flooding due to the rise in sea levels. But some countries, I believe, are perfectly capable of doing so without western help. One of these is China, which also contributes massively to carbon emissions and which I believe has also called for the payment of climate reparations. China is an emerging economic superpower, and I see no reason why the west should pay for something that it’s doing and has the ability to tackle. I am also very sceptical whether such monies would be used for the purposes they’re donated. Corruption is a massive problem in the Developing World, and various nations have run scams to part First World donors and aid agencies from their money. When I was at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum one of these was a scheme for a hydroelectric dam in Pakistan. The Pakistani government was calling for western aid to finance the project. Britain refused, sensing a scam, for which we were criticised. Other countries happily gave millions, but the dam was never built. All a fraud. I suspect if climate reparations were paid, something similar would also happen with the aid money disappearing into kleptocrats’ pockets. There’s also the problem of where the tax burden for the payment of these reparations would fall. It probably wouldn’t be the rich, who have enjoyed generous tax cuts, but the British working class through indirect taxes. In short, it seems to me to be a colossally naive idea.

But these ideas don’t seem to be widespread. When he announced them, there were shouts from the audience to which Webb responded that it was coming, and they should wait a few years. Perhaps it will, but I’ve seen no enthusiasm or even much mention of them so far. They were mentioned during the COP 27 meeting, and that’s it. Thunberg’s still around, but after all these years I think she’s somewhat passe. At the moment I don’t think these ideas are issues.

Mass Immigration Not the Cause of NHS Crisis

Now let’s examine his statement that it’s due to immigration that the NHS is in the state it’s in. This is, quite simply, wrong. He correctly states that while Britain’s population has grown – London’s has nearly doubled and Leicester’s grown by 30 per cent – there has been no similar provision of medical services. No new hospitals have been built. As a result, where once you could simply walk into your doctor’s and expect to be seen, now you have to book an appointment. And when it comes to hospitals, it’s all the fault of immigrants. He talks about a specific hospital in London, and how the last time he was in that area, he was the only White Brit in the queue. This was because immigrants don’t have GPs, and so go to the hospital for every problem. We also have the problem of sick and disabled people from the developing world coming to the country for the better services we offer. A woman from the Sudan with a special needs child will therefore come here so that her child can have the treatment it wouldn’t get in the Sudan.

I dare say some of this analysis is correct. Britain’s population has grown largely due to immigration. One statistic released by a right-wing group said that immigration was responsible for 80 per cent of population growth. It’s probably correct, as Chambers Cyclopedia stated in its 1987 edition that British birthrates were falling and that it was immigration that was behind the rise in the UK population. I don’t know London at all, and I dare say that many of the immigrants there may well not have had doctors. I can also quite believe that some immigrants do come here for our medical care. There was a case a few weeks ago of a Nigerian woman, who got on a flight to London specifically so that she could have her children in a British hospital. I think this was a case of simple health tourism, which has gone on for years, rather than immigration.

But this overlooks the fact that the problems of the NHS has been down to successive Thatcherite regimes cutting state medical care in Britain all under the pretext of making savings and not raising taxes. Thatcher closed hospital wards. So did Tony Blair, when he wasn’t launching his PFI initiative. This was supposed to build more hospitals, but led to older hospitals being closed and any new hospitals built were smaller, fewer and more expensive. Cameron started off campaigning against hospital closures, and then, once he got his backside in No. 10, carried on with exactly the same policy. Boris Johnson claimed that he was going to build forty hospitals, which was, like nearly everything else the obese buffoon uttered, a flat lie. And Tweezer, Truss and Sunak are doing the same. Doctors surgeries have also suffered. Many of them have been sold off to private chains, which have maximised profits by closing down those surgeries that aren’t profitable. The result is that people have been and are being left without doctors. If you want an explanation why the NHS is in the state it is, blame Thatcher and her heirs, not immigrants.

Conclusion

While Webb has a point about the social and political manipulation of historical issues like the slave trade and the British Empire, these aren’t the reasons for the greater appearance of Black actors and presenters on television. Blair wasn’t responsible for mass immigration, and it’s underfunding and privatisation, not immigration, that’s responsible for the deplorable state of the health service. But he’s speaking to the wrong people there anyway, as the TBG would like to privatise it.

I am not saying it is wrong to discuss these issues, but it is wrong to support a bunch of Nazis like the TBG, who will exploit them to recreate all the social inequality, poverty and deprivation of pre-modern Britain.

Giorgia Meloni – Conservative or Fascist?

September 27, 2022

I’ve been watching some of the videos posted by members of the British and America right about the new Italian prime minister, Giorgia Meloni. Meloni is head of the right-wing Brothers of Italy party, or to give them their Italian name, Fratelli d’Italia. I think ‘Fratelli’ means ‘little brothers’, but if so, then someone decided that it’s not impressive enough for the English translation of their name. She and they have been accused of being Fascists, and arch-conservatives like Matt Walsh, Simon Webb, the Lotus Eaters and Piers Morgan have rushed to defend her. Part of the controversy about her concerns her party’s slogan ‘God, family and nation’. She is proudly Christian and determined to defend the faith. She also stands for the traditional nuclear family and is against adoption and surrogacy for gays. She also rejects the modern ideology she believes is threatening motherhood as an identity, along with national identity, in order, so she says, to reduce people to anonymous consumers. And she is also anti-immigration. For the above pundits, these are all Conservative policies, not Fascist. The problem is that they were also Fascist policies. Her slogan ‘God, family and nation’ sounds like a reworked version of the old Fascist slogan, ‘Family, Faith and Fatherland’. Mussolini was anti-clerical atheist, but he made a deal with the Catholic church that allowed Roman Catholic religious education in schools in return for papacy recognising Italy as a nation, something the church had refused to do following Garibaldi’s forcible incorporation of the Papal states into the new Italy during the Risorgimento. The Italian Fascists were also determined to protect the traditional family against attack from Marxism. Marx and Engels had made it clear in the Communist Manifesto that Communism sought to abolish the family. This attitude was shared by some of the sociologists and ideologues that denounced marriage in favour of cohabitation and free love in the 1960s and 1970s and it continues in the programme of Black Lives Matter, which seeks to replace the nuclear family with a communal raising of children. There was also a huge uproar in Italy a few years ago when an Italian minister, a Black African woman, declared that she wanted polygamy legalised.

Her party’s flag has also been cited as further evidence of fascism. It contains a flame, which is supposed to refer back to the flame on Mussolini’s tomb. From what I saw, the party’s flag was the tricolour of Italy with the flame in the middle. It reminded me very much of the Tricolour Flame, the name of a ‘post-Fascist’ party which emerged after the break-up of the Missimi, or Moviemento Socialie Italiano, the Italian Social Movement, the main neo-Fascist party after World War II. Another party right-wing descended from the MSI was the Alleanzo Nazionali, led by Pierluigi Fini, which claimed to be centre right rather than far right. From this you could conclude that Meloni and the Brothers of Italy were Conservatives, albeit descendants of fascism and just a little further right of the majority of contemporary European Conservative parties. Their defence of the traditional nuclear family and rejection of some gay rights certainly contrasts with the socially liberal wing of the Tories and Dave Cameron’s introduction of gay marriage.

But some of her rhetoric certainly had my alarm bells ringing. In one of her speeches, she’s supposed to have referred to the Great Replacement, the belief that non-White immigration has been deliberately encouraged in order to replace the traditional White European population. And she’s also denounced financial speculators trying to destroy the nation state. Superficially, this sounds innocuous enough with an element of truth in it. Britain, Ireland, America and many of the European countries were hit hard by the banking crash of 2008, a crash that was caused by rampant, unregulated speculation of the type Liz Truss would like to return. As for the hatred of the EU, I was told by an Italian lady while I was at Bristol uni that when her country joined the single market, prices shot up. This caused massive anger to an extent that when she went back there, she didn’t feel safe. And after Italy’s economy collapsed, the European ‘troika’ took control and dictated the country’s economic policy. But it also sounds like the coded rightist nonsense about George Soros, whose various pro-democracy organisations in Hungary and elsewhere have been accused by Viktor Orban and others like him of seeking the destruction of traditional society. More sinisterly, it recalls the vicious, blatantly anti-Semitic conspiracies about international Jewish bankers.

Her rhetoric denouncing the reduction of people to consumers also needs analysis. At one level it recalls the left-wing concerns about the rise of consumerism and the destruction of traditional values that were voiced during the emergence of the affluent society in the ’60s and ’70s. But it could also reflect another aspect of fascist ideology – the celebration of humans as producers. After Mussolini broke with the Italian socialists he gave his paper, the Popolo d’Italia, the subheading ‘the paper of workers and producers’ to reflect the corporatist ideology which promoted both workers, management and proprietors.

As she stands, it looks very much like she is a centre-right conservative with elements of Fascist ideology. I haven’t yet seen anything about her followers marching about in black shirts and jackboots, nor about the proscription of other parties and a rigid control of the media. But then she’s in coalition with Berlusconi and his Forza Italia party. Much the same was said of him when he had Italy under his libidinous rule. There was evening a book written about it describing it as a form of fascism, written not by someone from the liberal media, but by a Times journo, as I recall. Talking about his book on Radio 4 one Saturday morning, he said that the reason Berlusconi didn’t have the authoritarian, paramilitary trappings of fascism was because he didn’t need it. For example, Berlusconi owned much of the private Italian media, and dictated the direction of the state-owned broadcaster so that all of the Italian media was practically in his hands.

Meloni may not be an overt fascist, but there’s enough fascist ideology in her conservatism to be of real concern.

A Black Conservative Call for Racial Uplift Based on Entrepreneurship not Political Power

March 3, 2022

Jason L. Riley, False Black Power (West Conshoshocken: Templeton Press 2017).

This is another book analysing the plight of Black America from a Black conservative perspective. According to the book, Riley’s a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, writes for the Wall Street Journal and contributes to Fox News. But the book does quote statistics and sources, which means it’s almost certainly more trustworthy than that news network. When academics from the American universities reviewed Fox’s content, they found that people who took no news at all were better informed about the world than the people who watched Fox. America is indeed being ‘dumbed’ and Murdoch’s part of it. But this book is absolutely fascinating and, if accurate, is a much needed refutation of some of the myths about Black American history.

The introduction starts with an attack on the idea that the decline of the Black American family was caused by slavery. It’s true that slavery did destroy Black family life, as slave families were frequently split up, with fathers separated from their wives and children, children separated from the parents and so on. This, so the argument goes, has made it difficult for Black men to develop the necessary feelings of attachment to form permanent, two-parent families. As a result, most Black American families are single-parent, headed by the mothers. But Riley cites Herbert Gutman’s 1976 book, The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925, examined a variety of sources to the show that the disruption of the slave family did not persist into emancipation. Looking at Confederate plantation records, the testimony of former slaves and the records of Black families in Buffalo and New York City, showed that from the second half of the 19th century to the 1920s, these communities were predominantly two-parent. In Buffalo between 1850 and 1920, the figure was 82 to 92 per cent. In New York in 1925 the figure was 85 per cent. (p. 5).

Riley’s argument is that the present poverty and misery experienced by many Black American communities cannot be blamed solely on racism and the legacy of enslavement. He and the authors he cites don’t deny that racism and discrimination exist, rather that the main cause of the present troubles of family breakdown, crime, unemployment and welfare dependency are due to the misplaced social programmes of the 1970s. Like Shelby Steele, he believes that Black Americans have taken the wrong road to uplift. Since the civil rights movement, they have concentrated on acquiring political power, resulting in the election across America of Black politicos, mayor and other officials. But these have not helped ordinary Blacks. He states at one point that Black politicians will ignore the underclass just to stay elected just as White politicos will, and cites a couple of scandals were Black politicians on their constituencies’ education boards were caught fiddling the exam results. He argues instead that Blacks should have followed the example of other impoverished communities, like the Chinese and Pennsylvania Germans, who eschewed acquiring political power in favour of economic uplift. He contrasts these groups with the 19th century Irish. These had political power, but nevertheless the Irish community itself remained poor and marginal.

Riley cites a number of other authors that show the explosion of Black entrepreneurialism after the end of slavery, as Blacks took over and entered a wide variety of professions. These scholars have argued that by the end of the 19th century Black communities also had their own business districts like White communities, as well as excellent schools. The 1913 Negro Almanac boasted of this achievement, comparing the capital accumulated by Blacks with that of the former Russian serfs. The former serfs had collectively $500 million in capital and a literacy rate of 30 per cent. Black Americans had $700 million and 70 per cent ‘had some education in books’. (74). In Chicago in 1885 there were 200 Black-owned businesses operating in 27 different fields. (75). And this trend continued, with the emergence in other areas of a small, but significant Black clerical class. At the same time, the number of Black Americans owning their own homes increased massively. Black prosperity increased during the years of the two World Wars,, when Blacks took on White jobs. They were still below that of Whites, but were catching up. As were Blacks in education. Blacks typically left school four years before Whites. But as the 20th century went on, this fell to two. Between 1950 and 1960 the number of Black doctors, lawyers and social workers expanded so that in 1953 a real estate journal called Blacks ‘the newest middle class’. (77). But this professional, educational and economic rise and expansion somehow came to an end in the 1970s.

At the same time, Riley cites the statistics to show that the American cops are not gun-happy racists bent on shooting Blacks. Rather, a study by Roland Fryer, a Harvard economist, found that Blacks are 23.8 per cent less like than Whites to be shot by the police. (63). As for New York’s stop and frisk policy, that was shown to stop Blacks 20-30 per cent below the appearance of Blacks in the description of suspects.(64). As for police shootings, these fell massively in New York from 1971 to 2015. In the former year, the cops shot 314 people, killing 93. In 2015 they shot 23 people, of whom 8 were killed. (65). He also notes instances where there was still friction between the Black community and police even when the town’s leaders and senior police officers were Black.

On a less serious note, he talks about the Barbershop films and their unsparing, humorous look into the condition of Black America. Set in a Black barbershop and with a majority Black cast, these films showed Blacks making jokes at the expense of revered leaders like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, decrying their kids’ fashion sense – trousers being worn low on the hips to expose the buttocks – and worrying about gangster culture and Black on Black violence. This upset Black activists like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, but Riley maintains that they nevertheless accurately reflected the way Blacks talk when Whites aren’t around. The same concerns are held by many other Blacks, including one mayor, Nutter, who gave a similar speech at a Black church. He advised people not to dress in a threatening manner if they wanted anyone, of any race, respect them, and called for the kids to work hard at school and pull their trousers up. The crowd gave him a standing ovation, chanting ‘Buy a belt! But a belt!’ But his speech was angrily attacked by Black liberals because it didn’t reflect their priorities of blaming everything on racism. Riley also described the way Obama was often pilloried for his outspoken comments about poor standards in the Black community, while playing the race card himself. Riley also argues that the decline in Black educational standards also has its roots in dysfunctional attitudes among Black youth. If you’re too nerdy or bookish in these communities, you’re going to pilloried for ‘acting White’. This is a controversial position, but, Riley argues, the evidence for it is convincing and solid.

Despite being written from a conservative viewpoint, there are aspects of the book that can also be embraced by those on the left. Firstly, the expansion of Black businesses, jobs, and professions after slavery demonstrate that Black America is as talented as every other racial group in America. I found it a convincing refutation of the genetic argument that states that Black poverty and lack of achievement is somehow because Blacks are, on average, biologically intellectually inferior to Whites and Asians. And the argument that Blacks achieved more when they had stable, two-parent families, would have strongly appealed to a section of the British Labour party. British socialism was influenced, it has been said, more by Protestant, Methodist nonconformity than Karl Marx. Years ago the Spectator reviewed a book on the reading habits of the British working class. They found that the favourite reading matter of a solid working class Welsh community in the teens or twenties of the last century was the Bible.

Much more questionable is the apparent link between the affirmative action programmes of the 1970s and the persistence of Black poverty. Riley doesn’t anywhere show why or how they failed, and correlation is not causation. Just because their introduction was in a period of economic decay and impoverishment for Blacks doesn’t mean that they caused it. And I wondered how much of the decline was due to general, structural changes in the American economy that have also badly affected Whites. For example, Bristol used to have a flourishing print industry. There still are printers in the city, but the industry has declined considerably from what it was and many of those skilled jobs have been lost, along with those in other industries. Many Brits and Americans were hit hard by the oil crisis of the 1970s and the consequent recession and unrest. Thatcher, and then Blair, favoured the financial sector over manufacturing, which destroyed many working class jobs. And then there’s the whole nasty complex of welfare cuts, outsourcing, zero-hours contracts and wage freezes that have kept working people in Britain poor. And the same situation is true in America. This impoverishment and economic restructuring is going to hit Blacks especially hard as the Black community is poorer and less affluent. And I don’t doubt for a single minute that there are problems causes unique to the Black community, of which racism is going to be one.

But this is nevertheless a fascinating and important book, and I think it should have its place in schools if they’re teaching Critical Race Theory. That pernicious doctrine holds that Blacks are being held back solely by White privilege, in which all Whites benefit. The government recently stated that teachers must present controversial ideas impartially and was duly denounced by activist groups and the left for doing so. But I believe the truth in this issue lies somewhere between both sides, and that, if these ideas are being taught, children should be exposed to both sets or arguments. And then make their minds up.

And then, after hearing a variety of viewpoints, we might be more successful in creating a more equal society and truly enabling Black achievement.

Rightwingers Outraged at Acquittal of the Four Who Toppled Colston’s Statue

January 7, 2022

As a Bristolian with long personal roots in the city, I feel I’ve got to tackle this. The four people responsible for pulling the down the statue of the 18th century slave trader and philanthropist in a massive Black Lives Matter protest last year were on trial for it this week. They were charged with criminal damage, and yesterday were found ‘not guilty’ by the jury. And the right has been predictably incensed. The story’s on the front page of the Daily Mail, which reports that the jury may have been placed under pressure to acquit by the defence, which urged them ‘not to be on the wrong side of history’. The prosecution is therefore planning to appeal the decision. Nigel Farage has released a video on YouTube about it. Mixed-race Tory commenter Calvin Robinson has appeared on GB News talking about it. And inevitably the Lotus Eaters have also released a video about it, with Callum and one of Sargon’s other mates expressing their poor opinion of the whole thing. The message from the right has been the same: this decision imperils every statue in Britain, because it legitimises attacks on them through an appeal to the emotions of the attacker regardless of the letter of the law. Calvin Robinson in his interview on GB News agreed with the two journalists, one Black, one White, that you had to be very careful about limiting people’s freedom of expression. However the decision to acquit was, he explained, based on a legal loophole in the criminal damage law. This permits such damage, if the property damaged or destroyed itself serves to promote a crime. The argument made by the accused in a feature about them in the Groan was that the statue constituted a hate crime against Black Bristolians. The right-wing critics of the decision have therefore argued that this makes every statue unsafe, as an emotional reason could be found for any attack on them. The person, who vandalised Churchill’s statue last year could get off because, despite defeating Fascism, Churchill was a racist and imperialist. They have also made the point that the decision also means that Conservatives also have a right to tear down Marx’s bust in London, as he was also racist and anti-Semitic, quite apart from the millions murdered under Communism. Darren Grimes, the repulsive spawn of the Guido Fawkes site, said that he could also therefore tear down the statue of Friedrich Engels in Manchester.

Jury Freedom and the Historic Acquittal of Guilty Murderers

Yesterday Simon Webb of History Debunked also joined the debate, comparing the decision to the jury’s acquittal of the attackers of three policemen during a riot in 1820s London. The cops had been stabbed, and one killed, but the jury acquitted their attackers because the cops had attacked in a particularly aggressive and provocative manner. Webb stated that back in the 17th and 18th centuries judges could and did send juries back to reconsider their verdict, and even imprison them if they didn’t give the right verdict as directed. It was, of course, a great improvement to allow the juries the freedom to judge themselves rather than according to the opinion of the beak. But this did raise problems in cases like this. Indeed. Juries won the right to judge freely according to their own judgement following arguments for such free trials by the Levellers and particularly when William Penn, a Quaker and the founder of Pennsylvania, was put on trial for preaching his radical views in Bristol. The jury repeatedly refused the judge’s order to find guilty, and were even imprisoned. They eventually won out, and the trial helped established true British justice.

Allegations of Bias against Witness David Olasuga

One of the other objections to the trial was that one of the witnesses was the historian, David Olasuga. whom the Lotus Eaters describe as a Black activist and who admitted that, had he been able, he would have joined the mob in toppling the status. There is indeed a problem with Olasuga as some of his historical interpretations are questionable. For example, he and Reni Edo-Lodge turned up in video by the Beeb laying a plaque in Liverpool to a victim of racist lynching. Except that Wootton, the lynched man, had been part of a gang of West Indians, who had launched an attack on a group of Swedes and Russians. When a cop intervened, the West Indians repeated stabbed and tried to slash his throat. They retreated to a house where someone, probably Wootton, shot three policemen, before he was chased down to the docks trying to escape. He was hardly an innocent victim. Olasuga has been one of the Black historians claiming that historically, Britain had a much larger Black community than it probably did. He claims that there were Blacks in Roman Britain. History Debunked has shown that this largely comes from one of the legions at Hadrian’s Wall coming from the Roman province of Mauretania. This has been confused with the present day country in West Africa. However, the Roman province of Mauretania was further north in Morocco. I think there are perfectly reasonable questions of bias in Olasuga’s testimony.

Political Bias in Prosecution of Vandals

And then have come the various commenters sneering and deriding Bristol. I’ve seen the usual rants about how it’s a ‘Communist’ or ‘left-wing’ shithole; it’s a lefty university town, and as terrible as Liverpool or London. Rather more interesting was one comment from a working class Bristolian, who had been having a meal at a cafe in the city, whose customers were largely Black West Indians. These people had all been solidly against the decision. I can well believe it. I don’t think the Black community Bristol or elsewhere in our great nation is a monolithic bloc. Just like other racial groups, like Whites, Asians or Jews aren’t either. As for the four defendants, they were White middle class liberal kids, who most likely didn’t come from Bristol. There was also speculation about what would happen if someone vandalised a statue to a Black personality, like Nelson Mandela. Would this be treated the same way? Not if the example of the vandalism done to a mural of Marcus Rashford was an example. Although the messages sprayed on it weren’t racist, it was nevertheless treated as a racist hate crime. Actually, you don’t have to look that far for a similar example. After Colston’s statue was torn down, a bust in one of Bristol’s parks of a Black writer and dramatist was vandalised and the cops were after those responsible.

Some Black Bristolians Genuinely Upset at Statue

As for the feelings of fear or outrage that the defendants claimed justified the attack, the Black interviewer on GB News and Robinson both questioned whether Black people are so emotional fragile that they would be upset simply walking past Colston’s statue. Some may well not be, but others definitely were. Asher Craig, Bristol’s deputy elected mayor, head of equalities and city councillor for St. George’s, was on Radio 4 last year giving her opinion about the statue and Bristol’s historic connection to the slave trade. The programme also talked to others about it, including one ordinary Black woman. She said that she felt physically sick having to walk past it on the way to work every morning. I understand and sympathise. I think her example was far better and more persuasive than the various political activists angrily demanding that it should be torn down. It was the voice of an ordinary, working-class woman, about how the statue affected her.

Arguments for the Preservation of the Statue

It also has to be stated that Black Lives Matter’s attack was deliberately against the wishes of Bristolians themselves. There had been several polls in the past about whether the statue should be taken down or not. The majority of people voted against it. Paul Stephenson, one of the organisers of the Bristol bus boycott in the 1960s against the bus company’s refusal to employ Blacks, gave his opinion on the issue in an interview with Philippa Gregory in the 1990s. Gregory had just had her novel, A Respectable Trade, about the Bristol slave trade adapted for television and there was an exhibition about the city and slavery then at the City Museum and Art Gallery. It has since been moved and is now on display, sans title, at the city’s excellent M Shed Museum. Stephenson has something of a mixed reputation. To some he’s a respected civil rights activists, while others regard him more a deliberate troublemaker. He declared to Gregory that Colston was a bloody mass murderer responsible for a ‘Holocaust in Africa’. This follows the statement of W.E.B. DuBois, the pioneering American Black rights activist, that slavery and the slave trade were a Black Holocaust. It sounds like hyperbole, a deliberately emotional exaggeration, but I believe it’s based on the accounts of 19th century anti-slavery activists about the fierce tribal violence generated by the slave trade, and the devastation of whole regions as a result. But Stephenson also said that he didn’t think the statue should be torn down. He believed it should remain standing with an additional note to remind people of his crimes. A similar argument was made by the Lotus Eaters, who felt that statues should be left standing, even though they may be to terrible people, because they’re history. And we need to learn from history if we are to move on.

It’s a perfectly good argument, and one advanced in the ’90s by radical anarchist band The Levellers. They took their name from the radical, proto-democrat, proto-socialist sect during the British Civil War. They also believed in ‘Godly reformation’ and so, along with the other merchandising at their concerts were copies of the Bible and Christopher Hill’s Marxist study of the British Civil War, The World Turned Upside Down. I particularly remember one of their songs that had the lines ‘I believe in justice, I believe in vengeance, I believe in getting the bastard’. But they also released a song protesting about the decision by Manchester’s Labour council to rename the town’s historic Free Trade Hall. They objected to it because it was the destruction of history and an attempt to rewrite the past. It’s strange and rather disconcerting that they should have the same view on this issue from a libertarian left perspective, as the Tories.

Lastly, it needs to be remembered that Colston was not honoured for enslaving Blacks. The statue was put up long after that was over. Rather it was because he was a great philanthropist, who gave much of his fortune away in charity. There were schools named after him and funded by his largesse. My old school used to celebrate Colston Day in his honour, when the children were given a few days off. A few were specially honoured and went to a special service at Redcliffe Church, where they were given a Colston bun.

Bristol Great City

Now for a few remarks on the decision and the views of the various right-winger, who have sounded off about it. Firstly, Bristol isn’t a shithole. It’s a large, great city with a proud history of trade, exploration, industry and invention with excellent museums and theatres. The Bristol Old Vic and its theatre school have a particularly excellent reputation and have produced some of the country’s great thesps. It has it’s problems. I believe that the Bristol’s Black community is one of the three largest in the country, along with Birmingham and London. It has its problems with marginalisation, lack of educational achievement, unemployment, drugs and violent crime, though this is by no means confined simply to Blacks. But it’s not particularly left-wing. Some areas, like Stokes Croft, have a reputation for radical politics. I’ve heard local people refer to it as ‘the people’s republic of Stokes Croft’. Other areas are Conservative, and all the shades of political opinion in between.

Academic Freedom and Marxist Indoctrination at Universities

As for the universities, the comment blaming them for the decision comes from the standard right-wing attitude that the unis are full of Marxists indoctrinating students. In fact, universities, courses and individual lecturers vary immensely. Some universities had a reputation, even in my day, for being hotbeds of left-wing activism, others were more Conservative. It also varies with the course you’re on. There hasn’t, traditionally, been much opportunity for far left-wing indoctrination in maths, science, medicine and engineering courses because of the nature of those subjects. Although it’s creeping in now in the form of ethnomathematics and the demands that the achievements of Black scientists and mathematicians should be particularly taught, it’s mostly been confined to the humanities. There have always been Marxist historians. These include the very well respected Christopher Hill, Eric Hobsbawm and E.P. Saunders, and there is a specific Marxist view of history. You are taught about this on the historiography courses in history at University, along with other forms of history, such as women’s history, social history, what Butterfield called the ‘Whig view of history’ and more conservative and Conservative views. I’ve been taught by lecturers with feminist or left-wing views. I’ve also been taught by people with far more traditional views. I also know lecturer who determined to keep their political views out of the classroom. University is supposed to be a place of free speech and debate, and it’s important that this is maintained. Students should be encouraged to read sources and the historical literature critically, and make up their own views. This means an engagement with Marxism as well as other ideologies. I think Bristol university has particularly come under fire because it’s rather more conservative and traditional compared to the newer universities. It received funding from the Colston charities when it was established early in the last century. Hence I believe the granting of a chair in the history of slavery to a Black woman. It also has relatively few Black students, which contrasts with the population of the city as a whole. This is partly because it has very high standards, and as a rule Blacks generally have poorer grades than other racial groups. It is also no doubt because when I was young, going away was seen as part of university education and so you were discouraged from applying to the local university. Hence the university is now trying to give greater opportunities to study to more Blacks and ethnic minorities.

Queer Theory, Critical Race Theory and the Marxist Attack on Western Culture

Now I largely agree that the acquittal of the four defendants has set a dangerous precedent because it allows people to attack public monuments they dislike or which are controversial. James Lindsay, one of the group with Peter Boghossian and Helen Pluckrose that has attacked postmodernist Critical Theory, has argued that ideologies like Queer Theory and Critical Race Theory are deliberate attacks on traditional western culture and Enlightenment values. They are aimed at destroying the past to create a Marxist future, just as Chairman Mao did during the horrors of the Cultural Revolution. One of the ancient monuments the Red cadres smashed as part of the campaign against the ‘Four Olds’ was the tomb of Confucius! This sounds like an idea straight out of loony right-wing paranoids and conspiracists like Alex Jones and the John Birch Society, until he backs it up by reading chapter and verse from the founders of such postmodernist Marxism, like Marcuse, Horkheimer and others. And yes, I can quite believe that vandalism to a monument to a Black politico or celebrity, like Nelson Mandela, would be treated far differently and as a terrible hate crime than the attack on Colston.

But regardless of the defence’s plea to the jury to ‘be on the right side of history’, I think there would always have been pressure on the jury to acquit. Colston was a slave trader and had been controversial for decades. They naturally wouldn’t have wanted to acquit people who attacked a monument on that score, rather than the philanthropy the statue commemorated. And the defendants make a good point when they say that ‘he no longer speaks for Bristol’. There were others in the city who opposed the slave trade. As well as the slavers and the West Indian planters, Bristol also had a large abolitionist movement. If you go a little way from the centre of Bristol into Redcliffe, you’ll find the Georgian church where Jeremiah Clarkson, one of the leading 18th century abolitionists, collected the testimony of Bristol’s slavers as part of his evidence against the trade.

Other Statues Not Vandalised

As for other statues, none of those in the surrounding area were touched. Not the statue to Edmund Burke, the politician and founder of modern Conservatism through his book, Reflections on the Revolution in France. The Lotus Eaters are offering it, or reading through it, as their ‘book of the month’. I wonder if they’ll mention that Burke’s statue was signally left untouched by the rioters. As was the statue of a monk in Lewin’s Mead, which had before the Reformation been a monastic complex. They also failed to destroy the statue of Neptune and a sailor on the docks. Queen Victoria was left untouched on nearby College Green. They also didn’t destroy the statue of John Cabot outside the Council House, sorry, ‘City Hall’ and the Central Library. This was despite various ‘spokesmen’ for the Black community claiming that the City’s celebration of his discovery of Newfoundland and America, following Columbus, was a celebration of slavery. There may well be similar defences used on similar attacks on other statues, but I think such attacks will be far more difficult to defend. Churchill was indeed a racist and an imperialist, as well as personally responsible for sending troops to gun down striking miners in Wales. But to the vast majority of severely normal Brits he was also the man, who helped save Europe and the world from Nazism and the Axis. And that would also count powerfully in the case against anyone who vandalised his monument.

Historians also Successfully Defend Controversial Statues

As for testimony from historians, this can work against the iconoclasts. The BLM fanatics trying to get the statue of Cecil Rhodes torn down at Oxford university claimed that he was somehow ‘South Africa’s Adolf Hitler’. Now Rhodes was a grotty character and an imperialist, but this goes too far. Rhodes’ biographer tackled this claim on social media, at which the BLM protesters making it went quiet. They couldn’t refute it, and so went silent.

I therefore do not feel that other statues are necessarily in a greater danger than previously because of the acquittal.

Then there’s the question of any possible statue to replace it. There are rumours that it could be a Black person. Well, if there is, it should be of a Black person, who actually had contact and lived in the city. One of Bristol’s sporting heroes way back was a Black boxer. One of my aunts was friends with his daughter. I’d say this gentleman would be a good candidate for such a statue, because as a sports hero he united everyone from left and right, as well as being a citizen of Bristol.

Nigel Farage has suggested a memorial to the British navy. Absolutely. The British West India squadron did excellent work patrolling the seas for slavers. And they were by no means all racist. Captain Denman, giving evidence on a massacre of 300 unsold slaves by one of the West African slaving states to parliament, made the point that ‘it is remarkable given the advances they have made in the arts of civilisation’. He clearly believe European civilisation was superior, but had been particularly shocked because the African peoples responsible for the massacre were also comparatively civilised. Africans serving or aiding the British navy were also given the compensation payments awarded to British tars when they suffered injury and loss of limbs.

We also patrolled the waters between east Africa and India to stop western and Arab slavers, and one antipodean historian has written that in the Pacific, the royal navy was the chief protector of its indigenous peoples against enslavement.

It also needs to be remembered that one of the reasons for the British invasion of Africa was to stamp out slavery and the slave trade. I’ve no doubt that the main, if not the real reasons were simple hunger for territory and resources, and to stop those areas falling into the hands of our European imperial rivals – France, Germany, Italy and Portugal. But some of the officer involved took their duty extremely serious, such as Samuel Baker and Gordon of Khartoum. The Mahdi, against whom Gordon fought, and his followers were slavers outraged at the British government’s ban on it and the enslavement of Black Sudanese. There are therefore excellent reasons for putting up a memorial to the British navy and armed forces.

And I would also support a statue to Jeremiah Clarkson for his work in the city bringing the horrors of the trade to light.

In the meantime, despite the right-wing outrage at this act of vandalism, I think we should view the attack on Colston’s statue as a special case.

Claims of a general threat to British history because of it may well be exaggerated.

One Struggle: The People Oppressing the Indian Farmers Are Also Donors to the British Tories

May 5, 2021

As I’ve mentioned previously, last Friday I went to a Virtual pre-May Day rally on Zoom, put on as part of the Arise festival of left Labour ideas. It lasted for nearly an hour and a half, and featured great speakers from across the world, including our own Jeremy Corbyn. The international guests included Daniele Obono, a Black socialist politician from across the Channel in France, and peeps from Ghana, India and Latin America. They spoke about how people everywhere had to fight against exploitation from their own national elites, as well as combating racism, colonialism and the legacy of slavery. One of the speakers graphically showed how the poor African countries are very much at the mercy of the big multinationals with a story about Kenya and Vodaphone. The Kenyan government had asked the phone company not to give its shareholders their dividends this year, because the pay out would bankrupt the African nation.

I was also very much interested in the talk by an Indian lady about the appalling policies of Modi’s Hindu Supremacist government. This is the Indian nationalist BJP, which is extremely right-wing and bitterly intolerant of Islam, Christianity and Sikhism, as well as liberal Hindus, who believe in a secular, tolerant, pluralist India. The BJP are trying to privatise the state purchasing mechanism for the agricultural sectors. This was set up to guarantee a fair price to India’s farmers. However, the BJP are neoliberals and so want to hand it over to private entrepreneurs. This will force down prices, sending millions of farmers into abject poverty. There have been mass demonstrations and strikes against it right across India. She said that it’s the biggest protest movement in the world, number 250 million people. And Modi and his crew have reacted brutally, sending the police in to break up the protests, beat demonstrators and arrest the journalists covering them.

And guess what? Some of the businessmen backing Modi’s privatisation are also donors to the Tories over here.

This also shows how multinational capital is operating across the globe to impoverish and exploit working people.

A few months ago we had as guest speaker at a Virtual meeting of my local Labour party here in Bristol a member of Sikh community to talk about Modi’s attacks on the Indian farmers. Most of the farmers affected are Sikh, and so there are Sikh charities in this country which are giving aid to their coreligionists in India.

But it’s also very clear that working people across the world also need to unite to tackle the poverty and oppression created by capitalism because of the impact of globalisation. I am very definitely not a Communist, but Marx made this very clear in the slogan on the Communist Manifesto.

We really do need the workers of the world to unite. Because if we don’t, we will be in chains.

Bristol South Labour Party Passes Motion of Solidarity with Indian Farmers

February 16, 2021

Bristol South CLP held its monthly meeting last Thursday, and passed a number of motions. Due to the Coronavirus, these are now held over Zoom, like many meetings up and down the country generally. A number of motions were debated and passed during the meeting, one of which was solidarity with the Indian farmers. Explaining the issues was a guest speaker, Dal Singh, from the Sikh community. According to Mr Singh, the central issue is the poverty caused by the BJP’s government’s privatisation of the state purchasing apparatus for agricultural goods. The Indian government had a state organisation that bought up the farmer’s produce, giving them a fair price. But now Modi is handing this process over to private entrepreneurs, who are paying starvation prices for the produce purchased. Singh said that as a result, the farmers are going to be in debt for the rest of their lives. The farmers affected and involved in the protests aren’t all Sikhs, but Sikhs form a majority of those affected. When asked what the attitude of the Sikh community was to it, Mr Singh seemed to indicate that they were more or less resigned to it. He called it a ‘genocide’ several times, and said that Sikhs regarded it as part of the long history of their people’s suffering going back to the horrors of the partition of India and the British occupation of the Punjab. He also described how the police and armed forces were being used by the Modi government to brutalize protesters and muzzle the press, with the arrest and beating of journalists covering the protests. As well as explaining the situation, Mr Singh also gave details of charities to which people could donate to help the affected farmers, though I’m afraid I’ve forgotten what they were.

I had absolutely no problem supporting the motion. Socialists are internationalists, as the Style Council song reminds us, and we have to stand in solidarity with working people around the world. ‘Workingmen of all countries, unite!’ as Marx and Engels said in their little Manifesto. I am very pleased that others agreed, and that the motion was passed.

Someone at the meeting commented that the Indian farmers were yet more victims of Neoliberalism. Absolutely. Around the world, working people are being pushed further and further into poverty as wages are slashed, hours increased, rights at work taken away, industries privatised and deregulated. The book Falling Off the Edge, which is a critical examination of this process, the poverty it’s causing, and the violence and terrorism that it engenders as a backlash, describes very clearly how its affecting the average Indian worker. And this poverty is the creation of Modi’s BJP Hindufascist government.

Hindufascist? Yes, absolutely. The BJP is a nationalist organisation, which actively persecutes non-Hindus like Christians, Sikhs and Muslims. One of Modi’s fellow BJP politicos was the governor of a province, which took absolutely no action when pogroms broke out against the Muslim population back in the 1990s. The BJP also have connections to the RSSS, a Hindu nationalist paramilitary outfit modelled on Mussolini’s Fascists. Not only has the BJP followed the standard Neoliberal policies of privatisation, deregulation and low wages, they’ve also been trying to abolish the affirmative action programmes intended to improve the conditions of the Dalits, the former ‘Untouchables’. Debt slavery was one of the forms of exploitation and servitude that afflicted many Indians, and Mr Singh’s comment that Modi’s privatisation will mean that farmers will not be able to get out of debt certainly makes you wonder if the scumbag is actively trying to bring it back.

It’s not only non-Hindus and the lower castes Modi is persecuting. The BJP, or at least parts of it, have a real, bitter hatred of Gandhi and his influence on Hinduism, because he preached tolerance and the inclusion of the Muslims rather than turning India into a Hindu state. The party also actively persecutes liberal Indian journalists and writers. Tony Greenstein, the long term campaigner against Zionism, racism and Fascism, has also rightly criticised Labour party leader Keir Starmer for supporting Modi. Yes, I know – India is now a global powerhouse. Yes, it’s a vital trade partner with this country. But the country’s prosperity should not come through the exploitation of its working people. Just like ours shouldn’t. But this seems lost on Starmer and the rest of the Blairites.

I am very glad, however, that my local Labour party has made this gesture of support for the Indian farmers, and hope this will give them strength in their struggle with a Fascistic, exploitative government.

Book on Utopias from the 17th Century to Today

January 20, 2021

Ruth Levitas, The Concept of Utopia (Oxford: Peter Lang Ltd 2011).

I’m sorry I haven’t posted anything for several days. Part of that is because the news doesn’t really inspire me. It’s not that it isn’t important, or that the Tories have stopped trying to strip working people of their rights and drive them further into poverty and degradation. Or that I’m unmoved by Trump trying to organise a coup to keep himself in the Oval Office like just about every other tin pot dictator throughout history. Or that Brexit isn’t threatening to destroy whatever remains of British industry and livelihoods, all for the benefit of the Tory superrich and investment bankers like Jacob Rees-Mogg, who have their money safely invested in firms right across the world. Or that I’m not outraged by even more people dying of Covid-19 every day, while the government has corruptly mismanaged their care by outsourcing vital medical supplies and their services to firms that are clearly incompetent to provide them, because those same firms are run by their chums. Ditto with the grossly inadequate food parcels, which are another vile example of Tory profiteering. It’s just that however disgusting and infuriating the news is, there is a certain sameness about it. Because all this is what the Tories have been doing for decades. It’s also partly because I can’t say anything more or better about these issues than has been already said by great bloggers like Mike, Zelo Street and the rest.

But I’ve also been kept busy reading some of the books I got for Christmas, like the above tome by Ruth Levitas, a sociology professor at Bristol Uni. The blurb for this runs

In this highly influential book, Ruth Levitas provides an excellent introduction to the meaning and importance of the concept of Utopia, and explores a wealth of material drawn from literature and social theory to illustrate its rich history and analytical versatility. Situating utopia within the dynamics of the modern imagination, she examines the ways in which it has been used by some of the leading thinkers of modernity: Marx, Engels, Karl Mannheim, Robert Owen, Georges Sorel, Ernst Bloch, William Morris and Herbert Marcuse. Utopia offers the most potent secular concept for imagining and producing a ‘better world’, and this classic text will be invaluable to students across a wide range of disciplines.

It has the following chapters

  1. Ideal Commonwealths: The Emerging Tradition
  2. Castles in the Air: Marx, Engels and Utopian Socialism
  3. Mobilising Myths: Utopia and Social Change in Georges Sorel and Karl Mannheim
  4. Utopian Hope: Ernst Bloch and Reclaiming the Future
  5. The Education of Desire: The Rediscovery of William Morris
  6. An American Dream: Herbert Marcuse and the Transformation of the Psyche
  7. A Hundred Flowers: Contemporary Utopian Studies
  8. Future Perfect: Retheorising Utopia.

I wanted to read the book because so many utopias have been socialist or socialistic, like the early 19th century thinkers Karl Marx described as utopian, Saint-Simon, Fourier and Robert Owen, and was interested in learning more about their ideas. In this sense, I’m slightly disappointed with the book. Although it tells you a little about the plans for the reformation of society, and the establishment of a perfect state or political system, the book’s not so much about these individual schemes as a more general discussion of the concept of utopia. What, exactly, is a utopia, and how has the concept been used, and changed and developed? Much of this debate has been within Marxism, beginning with the great thinker himself. He called his predecessors – Owen, Fourier and Owen ‘utopian’ because he didn’t believe their particular schemes were realistic. Indeed, he regarded them as unscientific, in contrast to his own theories. However, Marx did believe they had done a vital job in pointing out the failures of the capitalist system. Marxists themselves were split over the value of utopias. The dominant position rejected them, as it was pointless to try to describe the coming society before the revolution. Nevertheless, there were Marxists who believed in their value, as the description of a perfect future society served to inspire the workers with an ideal they could strive to achieve. This position has been obscured in favour of the view that Marx and his followers rejected them, and this book aims to restore their position in the history of Marxist thought. This idea of utopia as essentially inspirational received especial emphasis in the syndicalism of Georges Sorel. Syndicalism is a form of radical socialism in which the state and private industry are abolished and their functions carried out instead by the trade unions. Sorel himself was a French intellectual, who started out on the radical left, but move rightward until he ended up in extreme nationalist, royalist, anti-Semitic movements. His ideas were paradoxically influential not just in the Marxist socialism of the former Soviet Union, but also in Fascist Italy. Sorel doesn’t appear to have been particularly interested in the establishment of a real, syndicalist utopia. This was supposed to come after a general strike. In Sorel’s formulation of syndicalism, however, the general strike is just a myth to inspire the workers in their battle with the employers and capitalism, and he is more interested in the struggle than the workers’ final victory, if indeed that ever arrived.

The book also covers the debate over William Morris and his News from Nowhere. This describes an idyllic, anarchist, agrarian, pre-industrial society in which there are no leaders and everyone works happily performing all kinds of necessary work simply because they enjoy it and find it fulfilling following a workers’ revolution. Apart from criticisms of the book itself, there have also been debates over the depth of Morris’ own socialism. Morris was a member of one of the first British Marxist socialist parties, Hyndman’s Social Democratic Federation, and the founder of another, the Socialist League, after he split from them. Critics have queried whether he was ever really a Marxist or even a socialist. One view holds that he was simply a middle class artist and entrepreneur, but not a socialist. The other sees him as a socialist, but not a Marxist. Levitas contends instead that Morris very definitely was a Marxist.

When it comes to the 20th century, the book points out that utopias have fallen out of fashion, no doubt due to the horrors committed by totalitarian regimes, both Fascist and Communist, which have claimed to be ideal states. However, the critic Tom Moylan has argued that utopias have still been produced in the SF novels of Joanna Russ, Ursula le Guin, Marge Piercy and Samuel Delaney. He describes these as ‘critical utopias’, a new literary genre. The heroes of this literature is not the dominant White, heterosexual male, but characters who are off-centre, female, gay, non-White, and who act collectively rather than individually. The book criticises some earlier utopias, like News from Nowhere, for their exclusive focus on the male viewpoint, comparing them with the Land of Cockayne, the medieval fantasy that similarly presents a perfect world in which everything is seemingly ordered for men’s pleasure. In contrast to these are the feminist utopias of the above writers, which began in the late 19th century with Harriet Gilman’s Herland. It also discusses the value of satires like Samuel Butler’s Erewhon, and dystopias like Eugene Zamyatin’s We, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984.

Levitas does not, however, consider utopianism to be merely confined to the left. She also considers Thatcherism a form of utopianism, discussing the late Roger Scruton’s Conservative Essays and citing Patrick Wright’s On Living in an Old Country. This last argued that the Conservative promotion of heritage was being used to reinforce old hierarchies in a markedly racist way. Some members of society were thus delineated as truly members of the nation, while others were excluded.

The book was first published in 1990, just before or when Communism was falling. It shows it’s age by discussing the issue whether the terrible state of the Soviet Union served to deter people dreaming and trying to create perfect, socialist societies. She argues that it doesn’t, only that the forms of this societies are different from the Marxist-Leninism of the USSR. This is a fair assessment. In Kim Stanley Robinson’s trilogy of books about the future colonisation of Mars, Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars, the colonists not only succeed in terraforming the planet, but also create socialist society in which authority is as decentralised as possible, women are fully equal and patriarchy has been overthrown and businesses run by their workers as cooperatives. At the same time, those wishing to return to a more primitive way of life have formed hunter-gatherer tribes, which are nevertheless also conversant with contemporary technology.

Further on, although the Fall of Communism has been claimed to have discredited not just Marxism but also socialism, recent history has shown the opposite is true. After forty years of Thatcherism, an increasing number of people are sick and tired of it, its economic failures, the glaring inequalities of wealth, the grinding poverty and degradation it is creating. This is why the Conservative establishment, including the Blairites in the Labour party, were so keen to smear Jeremy Corbyn as an anti-Semite, a Communist and Trotskyite, or whatever else they could throw at him. He gave working people hope, and as Servalan, the grim leader of the Terran Federation said on the Beeb’s classic SF show, Blake’s Seven, ‘Hope is very dangerous’. A proper socialist society continues to inspire women and men to dream and work towards a better world, and it is to stop this that the Blairites contrived to get Corbyn’s Labour to lose two elections and have him replaced by Keir Starmer, a neo-liberal vacuity who increasingly has nothing to say to Johnson and his team of crooks.

Back to the book, its discussion of the nature of utopia therefore tends to be rather abstract and theoretical as it attempts to describe the concept and the way it has changed and been used. I didn’t find this really particularly interesting, although there are nevertheless many valuable insights here. I would instead have been far more interested in learning more about the particular ideas, plans and descriptions of a new, perfect, or at least far better, society of the many thinkers, philosophers and authors mentioned.