Posts Tagged ‘‘Leave’ Campaign’

Now Tories Troubled by Split

February 21, 2019

Yesterday, a group of three MPs, Sarah Wollaston, Heidi Allen and Anna Soubry, defected from the Tory party to join the Independent corporation, that had split from Labour.

At their press conference they gave three reasons why they had left. Heidi Allen said she was disgusted with the suffering the party had inflicted and its lack of benevolence. For Sarah Wollaston, it was the harm the Tories had done to the manufacturing industry. And for Anna Soubry it was the way her former party had wrecked the country with their massively inept handling of Brexit. Or it might have been Wollaston, who was most concerned about Brexit, and Soubry about the destruction of Britain’s manufacturing sector under the Tories. This is how the reasons for their departure was presented on one of the short videos on YouTube, although I got the impression from listening to Heidi Allen speaking on the 45 minute long video of their press conference put out by Channel 4 News that she was also concerned about Brexit and the attack on manufacturing, as she also ran her own manufacturing firm.

The Tories, who had previously been gleefully exploiting Chuka Umunna and company’s split from the Labour party, were left outraged in their turn. Hunt gave a speech saying how much he regretted the departure of such valued colleagues. Other Tory functionaries demanded that the Splitters should now call a bye-election. Just like the real supporters and activists in the Labour party have been demanding Umunna and his coteries of bitter Blairites do.

I don’t know how sincere Allen and her two colleagues are about the suffering caused by the Tory party. She made a number of speeches saying how upset she was by the suffering caused by her former party’s wretched welfare reforms, but voted for them all the same. So in her case it was, as Mike pointed out, a case of crocodile tears. She may be genuine, and that after years of dutifully following the party line her conscience has won at last. Or it may simply be that, like some other Tories, she’s just worried that the electorate will punish the Tories for the misery they’ve inflicted at the next election.

I think the three’s statement that they’re concerned about British manufacturing and the devastating effects of Brexit are rather more genuine. Margaret Thatcher and Blair in his turn ignored the manufacturing sector. One members of Thatcher’s cabinet, who was the only member in it from that sector of the economy, described how he couldn’t get Thatcher to understand that a strong pound would harm British manufacturing by making our products more expensive. She also uncritically accepted as an article of her neoliberal, free market dogma, that failing firms and industries should be allowed to go under, and should not be given government assistance. Which contrasted with Labour’s promotion of the National Enterprise Boards and state assistance for British industry, where the government would help firms acquire plant and equipment.

And as a good Thatcherite, Blair also adopted her destructive attitude to British industry. He was also quite happy to see British manufacturing collapse. Instead, its place at the heart of the British economy would be taken by the financial sector and the service industries. Deanne Julius, a leading official at the Bank of England, recruited from America, actually said that Britain should give up its manufacturing industry, and simply concentrate on the service industries.

The result has been that vast swathes of traditional British industry have been destroyed by Thatcherism, including mining. Which was done simply to destroy the miners’ union, so they could never overthrow a Tory government as they had Heath’s. However, as Ha Joon-Chang has shown in his book, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, manufacturing is still an extremely important part of the British economy. It looks weak simply because it hasn’t expanded as much as the other sectors of the British economy. But if it went, the British economy would collapse completely.

As for Brexit, the past few weeks have seen company after company leave the UK because of the Tory party’s incompetence. They’re leaving because we haven’t reached a trade agreement with EU, and so the tariff barriers that will be erected after Britain leaves will make it difficult for them to sell their products after our departure. The latest firm to announce it was closing down its British plant has been Honda in Swindon. When this goes, so do 3,500 jobs.

But I doubt that this will concern those in the Tory party demanding a hard Brexit, like the odious Jacob Rees-Mogg. The financial sector has also been hit, with various banks and international financial regulators announcing that they will leave Britain for Dublin, Paris and the Netherlands. But this doesn’t seem to dismay Mogg and his comrades. They seem to be all financiers, who make their money through investing in companies around the world. And so the destruction of the British manufacturing sector simply doesn’t affect them. They’ll get their money anyway.

The Tory party is seriously split over Brexit. It was to call the Eurosceptics’ bluff that Cameron called the referendum in the first place. He was so confident that people would vote ‘remain’ that he didn’t do any proper campaigning. The result was that he was astonished when the ‘Leave’ vote prevailed. But I gather that the Tories were on the edge of splitting years before, when Tony Blair was in power. Blair stole their policies, and indeed moved further right than the Tories had dared. The party was also split between the Tory paternalists and Thatcherites, and the rural sector, which believed that British agriculture and country communities were being ignored. I’ve heard it said that if Brown had won the 2010 election, the Tories would have collapsed completely, and would have tried to rebrand themselves instead as the English Nationalists. This has the ring of truth, as I do remember one opinion piece in the Heil actually recommending that the party thus rename itself.

I hope that the departure of Allen, Wollaston and Soubry will spark a series of other defections from the Tories and bring about the party’s much-need demise. It’s brought nothing but misery and poverty to Britain’s working people since Thatcher came to power in 1979. And even if the party doesn’t collapse completely, I want there to be so many defections that at the least it causes the collapse of May’s vile, malignant, destructive government.

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Private Eye on the Real Reason James Dyson Is Moving His Business to Singapore

February 8, 2019

A week or so ago I put up a number of posts reporting and commenting on the outrage James Dyson caused when he announced that he was moving his company’s HQ to Singapore.

Dyson has been given a great deal of support from this country, and in the West Country he was regarded, or at least presented by the local media as a local hero. But he’s done this before. A few years ago he demanded that Bath give him more land to expand his business. They refused, so he decided instead to expand in the Far East. He needn’t have done so. If there was no room at Bath, he could have happily gone to other south-western towns. He already has plants in Malmesbury and Bristol, for example. Or gone further afield, like Wales or the north, which would also have been glad to have him. But he didn’t.

It was especially hypocritical as Dyson was telling everyone within earshot a few years ago that we should have joined the Euro. Then he decided he was backing Brexit. Now it appears that he has gone to Singapore partly because they’ve signed a trade agreement with the EU, which would make it easier for him to export his goods to them from there rather than Blighty.

Private Eye has run two pieces on Dyson in this fortnight’s edition for 8th-21st February 2019. And they make it very clearly that he’s going for the same reasons every exploitative multinational is heading abroad due to neoliberalism: to take advantages of countries with low tax rates, where workers can be hired and fired almost at will. The first article, ‘Bye-Bye Suckers!’ on page 7, runs

So Sir James Dyson’s relentless bullishness about post-Brexit Britain was so much hot air. The man who will now move his HQ to Singapore evidently has little real faith that Brexit will unleash the potential he has long claimed.

Th benefits of Singapore are likely to go beyond the proximity to his Asian empire that Dyson claims. By moving east it will also be easier to reduce workers’ rights. As Dyson told the BBC’s Andrew Marr last year: “This is controversial, but since I don’t know what orders I’m going to get next month or next year, industry, manufacturing industry’s very volatile. Not being able to flex your workforce is another big reason why you wouldn’t start a manufacturing business or expand a manufacturing business.” Elsewhere, he agreed bluntly, it was easier to hire and fire.”

This is not the most generous response to what the UK has given Dyson. Since 2012 his group has sucked up around 100m pounds in tax credits, ie discounts on its corporation tax bill. IN 2011 the then chancellor George Osborne brought in a special tax break for buyers of “energy efficient hand-dryers”, which meant…Dyson airlades.

There’s more information in the Eye’s ‘In the City’ column, entitled ‘Singapore fling’ on page 41. This runs

What is it that so attracts billionaire inventor, entrepreneur and avid Brexiteer Sir James Dyson to Singapore? Last month he announced that his privately owned Dyson group was switching legal residence to the Far East city state for “commercial reasons” and “future-proofing”. This followed the decision to produce the Dyson electric car in Singapore from 2020.

The Dyson party line is that the imminent move is nothing to do with Brexit or tax – it will still pay UK tax on UK operations – but all to do with Singapore being a lot closer to China, its main market, than Wiltshire. Who knew? Dyson’s 2bn pound move from hairdryers and bagless vacuum cleaners into cars is his biggest gamble.

So what does Singapore have over a “no deal” Brexit Britain – which Dyson welcomed? What about:

* A recent free trade agreement with the EU, to go with ones with China and the United States, plus the Singapore Freeport;

* International companies who headquarter themselves in Singapore can see corporation tax (currently 17 per cent, compared with 19 per cent in the UK) fall to 10 or 5 per cent or even zero, thanks to lengthy tax breaks and generous incentives, especially for those who create jobs;

* No tax on dividends – the Dyson family could have paid 38 per cent on the 86m pound dividends for 2017 (down from 111m) from the parent Weybourne Group;

* No capital gains tax on a future sale or inheritance tax (IHT) (Dyson is 71);

* Less stringent corporate disclosure and governance requirements for private companies (a Dyson moan);

* Finally, no risk from a Corbyn government targeting the rich.

Dyson moved control offshore once before – to Malta in 2009 – then returned in 2013. He has also legitimately taken advantage of film tax schemes and IHT-efficient investments in agricultural land. Still, Singapore tax and access attractions clearly played no role in the move east by this latter-day Stanford Raffles, who assured Leave voters that no deal with the EU was no problem because “they’ll come to us”. Now it seems Dyson has decided to go to them.

Farage Ready to Launch New Brexit Party?

February 5, 2019

Buried in the pages of the I last week – I’m afraid I can’t quite remember when – was the news that Nigel Farage, the quondam Fuehrer of UKIP, is preparing a new party ready to fight for a proper Brexit. Or rather, what he sees as a proper Brexit, which is properly going to be quite different from most normal people’s idea. Farage declared that people were disappointed in the government’s handling of Britain’s departure from the EU, and he had a new party almost ready to enter the next election to fight for something better. The new party had nearly 7 million pounds of funding as well as legions of candidates ready to field.

This piece of earth-shattering non-news was reported in a small article dwarfed by much bigger reports of the government’s and Labour’s actions and policies on the same and facing page. Which is probably why it doesn’t seem to have caused much sensation. I haven’t really been looking for any news about it, but I haven’t seen anyone else on the blogs I usually follow, including Mike, talking about this latest promise to revitalize British politics.

And I’m not surprised. We’ve been here before. Remember all those years ago round about 2004 when Robert Kilroy-Silk announced he was a launching a new party to campaign against foreign immigration and demand Britain leave the EU? Which I think had the backing of Joan Collins, now living in France. Kilroy caused immense anger with his bigoted remarks about foreigners in general, and specifically about Arabs and Muslims. This in turn gave the British public immense amusement when a couple of rightly offended Muslims poured ordure over him as he was filmed opening his mouth to spout xenophobic bilge and leading questions. For all the outrage and controversy Kilroy caused, his party went absolutely nowhere. It fizzled out, and vanished without a trace. The same is likely to happen very soon with UKIP, and is almost certain to happen with the Fuhrage’s new outfit, whatever the former Kipper generalissimo may say to the contrary.

Farage, one of his books was titled Flying Free, departed UKIP claiming that it was now too racist for him. But under Farage the party was hardly a haven of multicultural tolerance and gender equality. It contained more than its fair share of racists and former members of the Fascist right, as well as homophobes, Muslim-haters and anti-feminists, if not out-and-out misogynists. And there were claims that Farage himself was just as bigoted, going right back to the time he was a public schoolboy. Anti-racists, LGBTQ activists and feminists didn’t just protest his party, but also him. Like on one occasion when a group of the above, including Muslims and drag queens turned up at a pub in which he planned to have a lunch time pint and began protesting against him. Which included the Muslims praying to show that they were no threat to anyone and were the victims of his and his party’s prejudice. Farage’s party won’t be treated any differently, if it every launches. Which is a very good question.

UKIP was always a single issue party. It stood for Britain’s departure from the EU. Other policies, like the bigotry and racism were simply additions, although I’ve know doubt that to many Kippers they were fundamental reasons for their joining. But the fundamental issue at UKIP’s core, its very raison d’etre, was simply Brexit. And that was achieved, more or less, when the Leave campaign won. The referendum was called by the Tories, who were then re-elected as the governing party – unfortunately – and who then began the consequent botched negotiations and stupid, self-interested politicking that has produced the current mess. UKIP had been given what they primarily wanted, and were shut out of the whole process. As a result, they started to decline. Rapidly.

And it’s because they’re irrelevant that Kipperfuehrer Batten has now lurched even further, or just most obviously, to the far right. He’s taken on veteran islamophobe, former BNP member and jailbird Tommy Robinson as his advisor on Islam and prison reform, Tommy Robinson, and right-wing YouTube personalities Mark ‘Count Dankula’ Meechan and Carl ‘Sargon of Akkad’ Benjamin because he thinks they’ll bring in more members. The unnamed Kipper official, who tried to dissuade Benjamin from joining in the leaked audio recording told him that they wanted Robinson in, because he was likely to bring with him also several thousand of his followers, who would take the whole process of campaigning and leafleting seriously. Unlike, it has to be said, Sargon, who was personally uninterested in actively campaigning for the party except for the content on his blog, and whose followers showed how seriously they took real political activism by getting smashed in a pub and shouting ‘Free Kekistan!’ out the window at passing cars. Sargon, Dankula and Robinson are notorious bigots, and I’ve put up a video of one, non-racist Kipper railing angrily against their joining, who made it very clear that Batten had destroyed the party for him and he wanted to leave. And somehow I don’t think for a moment that he’s alone.

Batten undoubtedly is going to lose members. But before the Kipper leadership resorted to appealing to extremists, they tried a more moderate approach. A year or so ago they were also claiming that Brexit wasn’t being delivered properly, and issued their demands for their view of how it all ought to be done. And no-one was remotely interested. Hence, presumably, Fuehrer Batten’s decision to try recruiting people even more openly extreme than many of the existing members. It’s a desperate tactic to halt the party’s dwindling membership and prevent its decline into total irrelevance and obscurity.

And I predict the fate of Farage’s proposed new party will be absolutely no different. Always assuming it ever gets launched, of course.

And speaking of electoral irrelevance and obscurity, what happened to this new, shiny centrist party that Blair was backing and which was supposedly ready to launch? You know, the one that was supposed to have rich corporate donors, and which was ready to accept all the right-wing Blairite Labour MPs ready to defy Corbyn and depart en masse from the party? The exciting new party that was later revealed to have no real policies and a miniscule membership, which got even smaller before it was ever launched when one of its disgruntled founders picked up his ball and walked out. It was supposedly all set and ready to go early last year, if not before. But now it’s February 2019, and we’ve not heard a dicky bird from them since. Though the right-wing Labour MPs are muttering once again about departing. But not, apparently, to that new party, which seems to have died the death before it ever got going.

Pretty much as we can expect Farage’s party to do.

250 + Companies to Leave UK for Holland Due to Brexit

January 25, 2019

According to yesterday’s I for Thursday, 24th January 2019, the Dutch are claiming that more than 250 firms currently based in the UK are planning to move across the North Sea to them due to Brexit. The article on page 10, entitled ‘More than 250 firms plan to relocate from UK to the Netherlands’ by Nigel Morris and Benjamin Butterworth began

More than 250 companies are looking to follow Sony by moving from the UK to the Netherlands because of Brexit, it emerged yesterday.

The Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA) said that scores of companies with UK headquarters had expressed interest in relocating, and the number was expected to rise.

Many business chiefs have been dismayed by Theresa May’s refusal to rule out leaving the European Union without an agreement, leaving Britain immediately operating on World Trade Organisation rules.

The article then goes on to list some of the companies moving. They were Sony, Panasonic, which moved last year, P&O, while the car maker Bentley was stockpiling parts.

It quote Michiel Bakhuizen of the NFIA as saying

“The number of businesses we are in contact with for a possible arrival is growing. At the start of 2017 it was 80. At the start of 2018 it was 150, and now it’s more than 250.

“This increase will continue and it is not strange, because there is great uncertainty at the moment in Britain. And if there’s one thing that’s bad for business, it’s uncertainty.”

One of Tweezer’s little minions said in reply that it was clear that companies around the world would continue to invest in Britain and its people. Against this was the Labour MP Rupa Huq, who backs a second referendum. She said

“This shows the shrinking appeal of Britain as a decision-making base for top companies as a result of Brexit.

“The Japanese were supposed to be a top ally for Brexit, but time and again they have been shocked at the scale of self-destruction.” The below the article was another which also listed other firms leaving the UK. These included the Japanese financial houses Nomura Holdings and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group; HSBC, which is moving its HQ from London to Paris; Barclays and Bank of America, which are moving to Dublin, MoneyGram, which is going to Brussels; the European Medicines Agency, which is going to Amsterdam; the European Banking Authority is going to move to Paris, while the German engineering company Schaefler is going to close two of its plants, in Plymouth and Llanelli.

Brexit is going to be a disaster for Britain. but it’s going to be great for rich financiers like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nigel Farage, because they can move their investments around the world without worrying about losing profits. It’s the rest of us, who depend on manufacturing and trade in goods for our jobs and businesses, who will take the real hit.

We were lied to by the leaders of the ‘Leave’ Campaign, who were chiefly members of the Tory right. Well, it’s high time to kick the Tories out of office and put in someone who really can clear up this mess: Jeremy Corbyn.

Raheem Kassam Knows Zilch about Fascism, Imperialism, Nationalism or Socialism. And Definitely not History

January 21, 2019

In my last piece, I discussed a twitter argument between Raheem Kassam, one of the most vehement leaders of the ‘Leave’ campaign, and James Melville on Twitter. The row had erupted when Kassam started moaning about how left-wingers were reporting his comments to Twitter in the hope of getting him thrown off social media. Melville had no sympathy for him, telling Kassam that he was reaping what he sowed after Kassam had put up a piece himself telling his supporters to pile onto Melville’s own account and hound him off the Net. And when Kassam put up a picture of Churchill in a yellow vest, Melville rhetorically asked him if he knew that Winnie had been an opponent of far right extremism. Which brought forth the following tirade from Kassam:

Lol now this guy who had a meltdown yesterday is going through my feed picking out tweets he thinks he can argue with. Churchill defeated imperialistic (opposite of nationalist) National Socialism (opposite of right wing) which wanted a united Europe under Germany (EU)”.

Which was followed by

“Fascism is an ideology. Conservatism is a philosophy. There’s your first problem in attempting to link the two. Fascism concerned itself with a corporate-state nexus (like socialism, and indeed our current pro-EU system does). Your understanding of philosophy is poor”.

Zelo Street commented on the relationship between Nazism and imperialism by pointing out that the Nazis were nationalists, far right and had zero relationship to the EU. Melville himself pointed out that Hitler and the Nazis were Fascists and right-wing extremists.

Kassam’s views on Nazism, the EU, Fascism and socialism are bonkers, but they’re a staple part of much Libertarian and ‘Leave’ campaign ideology. They follow Jonah Goldberg, the author of Liberal Fascism, in believing that the Nazis were socialists because, er, the Nazis said they were. Despite the fact that Hitler staunchly supported capitalism, did not want to nationalize any firms except in emergencies, smashed the trade unions and put their leaders and activists in the concentration camps along with leaders and members of the mainstream German socialist party, the SDP, the Communist KPD, and anarchists, as well as other political opponents. Kassam also doesn’t seem to realize, or doesn’t want to admit, that the Nazis and Italian Fascists were very much nationalists. The full name of the Nazi party was the National Socialist German Workers Party. And unlike the ‘socialist’ part of their name and programme, they took nationalism very seriously. Only ethnic Germans could legally be citizens. German industry, values and identity, or rather the Nazi version of them, were aggressively promoted.

The Italian Fascists were exactly the same, although they retained the trade unions, but incorporated them into the machinery of state government and control and made them subservient to the state and private industry. At the same time, private industry was aggressively promoted. The Fascists also aggressively pursued a policy of italianita – Italian national identity. Ethnic minorities within Italian borders, such as those communities which spoke German or one of the Yugoslavian languages were to be forced to become Italian and made to speak Italian. At the same time the party absorbed much of the ideology and finally the party of the Italian Nationalists, which was merged with the Fascists in 1922.

Kassam is right about Hitler wanting a united Europe under Germany. However, he did not want anything like the EU. The EU supposedly is a union of democratic states with equal status. It is not an empire nor an occupying power, although fanatics like UKIP have claimed it is. The claim that the Nazis were the founders of the EU is based on a piece of Nazi ideology devised later during the War when they were losing to Stalin and the Soviet Union. They weren’t enough blonde, ethnic Germans to fight the Russians, who were showing very clearly that they definitely weren’t the ‘subhumans’ of Nazi racial doctrine. So they tried to gain support from the occupied countries by spuriously claiming that Nazism stood for a united, capitalist Europe against the Communist threat. It was a piece of propaganda, nothing more. The real origins of EU lay in the 1950s with trade agreements between France and Germany and the establishment of the customs union between Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg – the ‘Benelux’ countries.

Then there’s Kassam’s claptrap about corporativism equals socialism. By corporativism they mean state control or regulation of capitalism. The hardcore Libertarians believe that only an economy absolutely run by private enterprise without any state regulation is really capitalist. But this situation has never existed. Governments since the Middle Ages have regulated industry to a greater or lesser degree, and industrialists, merchants and entrepreneurs have always sought state aid. For example, before Adam Smith wrote his Wealth of Nations promoting laissez faire free trade, the dominant commercial ideology in Britain was mercantilism. This was a system of regulations governing British international trade. This included tying the colonies in North America and the Caribbean into a very constraining relationship with Britain and each other in which their exports were rigidly controlled in order to keep them serving the commercial interests of Britain.

From the ’50s to the end of the ’70s there was also a form of corporativism in Britain, in which the economy was subject to state planning in which the government consulted with both the industrialists and the trade unions. It was somewhat like the Fascist version, but within a democratic framework and pursued by both Labour and Tory governments. The current form of corporativism, in which private industry dominates and controls Congress and elected politicians through political donations and sponsorship, in return receiving government posts and determining government policy, is very much in the sole interests of private industry and capitalism.

But I’m not surprised Kassam doesn’t know anything about this. He is, after all, a hack with the extreme right-wing news organization, Breitbart, and has appeared several times in articles by the anti-racist, anti-religious extremism organization Hope Not Hate because of his vicious islamophobia. As for his distinction between Conservatism and Fascism, this also doesn’t work. Fascism is notoriously fluid ideologically, and is therefore extremely difficult to define. In many ways, it was whatever line Mussolini thought was a good idea at the time. The Duce wrote a book defining it, The Doctrine of Fascism, but contradicted himself the next year by declaring that Fascism had no doctrine. It was a movement, not an ideology. As for Conservatism, while the Tory philosopher Roger Scruton in his 1980s book on it stated that it was largely ‘mute’, it is also ideological. As it stands now, it promotes private enterprise and attacks state involvement in industry and welfare provision. And a recent academic study quoted in the new edition of Lobster, issue 77, states that Conservative parties in the West are becoming more ideological and are increasingly resembling the authoritarian parties of the former Communist bloc.

Kassam is therefore utterly wrong. Socialism is not corporativism, and the modern form of corporativism is very definitely capitalist. The Nazis weren’t socialists, they were nationalists and imperialists, and were in no way the founders of the EU. But such distinctions clearly don’t matter to the extreme right-wing propagandists of Breitbart. And especially those, whose own islamophobia is shared by real, overt Fascists in the Alt Right.

For further information, go to the Zelo Street article at http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/01/raheem-kassam-fails-history-101.html

Adolf Hitler on the Capitalist Nature of Nazism

January 21, 2019

According to a piece on Zelo Street, Raheem Kassam, one of the leaders of the ‘Leave’ campaign and another fixture of the Libertarian extreme right, has been on Twitter arguing with James Melville arguing about the nature of nationalism, imperialism, Fascism, Nazism and Conservativism. Kassam had been complaining about left-wingers mass-reporting his tweets to the company to get his account closed down. Melville was entirely and rightly unsympathetic, stating that Kassam had tried to get his own followers to pile onto Melville’s twitter stream, and thus force him off twitter. It’s a strategy called ‘dog-piling’. He commented that Kassam was reaping what he’d himself sown. He also upset Kassam by criticizing a photo Kassam had put up showing Winston Churchill in a yellow vest, asking Kassam if he knew that Churchill fought against right-wing extremism. The annoyed Kassam responded

”Lol now this guy who had a meltdown yesterday is going through my feed picking out tweets he thinks he can argue with. Churchill defeated imperialistic (opposite of nationalist) National Socialism (opposite of right wing) which wanted a united Europe under Germany (EU)” and

“Fascism is an ideology. Conservatism is a philosophy. There’s your first problem in attempting to link the two. Fascism concerned itself with a corporate-state nexus (like socialism, and indeed our current pro-EU system does). Your understanding of philosophy is poor”.

Which as Zelo Street noted, shows that Kassam knows nothing about history and doesn’t know the difference between Fascism, socialism and corporativism.

Both Nazism and Italian Fascism had socialist elements, but they very quickly allied themselves with the nationalist, capitalist extreme right and served their interests against genuine socialism, trade unions and organized labour. I’ve written several pieces about the capitalist nature of Nazi Germany, and how the Nazi regime promoted private industry and privatization over state-owned enterprises. Hitler did define himself as a socialist, and a strong proportion of the Nazi party did take the socialist elements in the Nazi programme of 1925 seriously. But Hitler made his opposition to the socialization of German industry and his support for capitalism very clear in a debate with Otto Strasser, one of the leaders of the Nazi left. There’s an account of the debate between the two in Nazism 1919-1945: Vol 1 The Rise to Power 1919-1934, A Documentary Reader, edited by J. Noakes and G. Pridham (Exeter: University of Exeter 1983), pp. 66-7. Hitler makes his attitude towards the nationalization of German industry clear on page 67.

‘Let us assume, Herr Hitler, that you came into power tomorrow. What would you do about Krupp’s? Would you leave it alone or not?’
‘Of course I should leave it alone’, cried Hitler. ‘Do you think me so crazy as to want to ruin Germany’s great industry?’
‘If you wish to preserve the capitalist regime, Herr Hitler, you have no right to talk of Socialism. For our supporters are Socialists, and your programme demands the socialization of private enterprise.’
‘That word “socialism” is the trouble, said Hitler. He shrugged his shoulders, appeared to reflect for a moment and then went on:
‘I have never said that all enterprises should be socialized. On the contrary, I have maintained that we might socialize enterprises prejudicial to the interests of the nation. Unless they were so guilty, I should consider it a crime to destroy essential elements of our economic life. Take Italian Fascism. Our National Socialist state, like the Fascist state, will safeguard both employers’ and workers’ interests while reserving the right of arbitration in case of dispute.’
Hitler, exasperated by my answers, continued: ‘there is only one economic system, and that is responsibility and authority on the part of directors and executives. I ask Herr Amann to be responsible to me for the work of his subordinates and to exercise authority over them. Herr Amann asks his office manager to be responsible for his typists and to exercise his authority over them; and so on to the lowest rung of the ladder. That is how it has been for thousands of years, and that is how it will always be.’
‘Yes, Herr Hitler, the administrative structure will be the same whether capitalist or socialist. But the spirit of labour depends on the regime under which it lives. If it was possible a few years ago for a handful of men not appreciably different from the average to throw a quarter of a million Ruhr workers on the streets, if this was legal and in conformity with the morality of our economic system, then it is not the men but the system that is criminal.’
‘But that-‘ Hitler replied, looking at his watch and showing signs of acute impatience ‘that is no reason for granting the workers a share in the profits of the enterprises that employ them, and more particularly for giving them the right to be consulted. A strong state will see that production is carried on in the national interest, and, if these interests are contravened, can proceed to expropriate the enterprise concerned and takeover its administration.’

Hitler thus made it very clear that he was strongly opposed to nationalization, except for failing companies, and did not want the workers to receive a share in the profits of the firms for which they worked, nor to be consulted about its management. And when the Nazis seized power, they destroyed the trade unions and sent their leaders and activists to the camps, along with socialists, anarchists and other political dissidents. Hitler didn’t believe in laissez-faire free trade – under Nazism industry was controlled by a state planning apparatus like that of Soviet Union – but industry remained by and large very definitely in private hands.

As for the Strasser brothers, Otto and Gregor, who were two of the leaders of the Nazi ‘left’, Hitler had one of them murder in the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ along with the rest of the SA and the other fled to South America. Which shows how bitterly he despised those who took the ‘socialist’ parts of his programme seriously.

Whatever Hitler himself may have said about ‘socialism’, he was no kind of socialist at all.

Andrew Neil Loses Badly to Owen Jones and Carole Cadwalladr on Fascist Content of the Spectator

January 20, 2019

More fun at the expense of the right press! About a fortnight ago, left-wing journo and activist Owen Jones appeared on Andrew Neil’s current affairs show, This Week, and seriously upset him by reminding him of the Spectator’s dodgy far-right content. Neil and his guests had been supposed to talk about whether the media was assisting the rise of the far right. Just to show that people in glass houses shouldn’t raise topics they may find embarrassing, Jones reminded the world that the Spectator, of whose board Brillo is the distinguished chairman, had published an article praising Greek neo-Nazis. This was the rag’s long-time columnist, Taki, which praised the Golden Dawn as just good, patriotic Greeks. Well, they are patriotic in the same sense as the Nazis, Mussolini’s Fascists and the BNP. They’re a violent neo-Nazi group notorious for violent attacks on immigrants and asylum seekers. If I remember correctly, one of their members was also accused of murder of an opposition politician or journalist. As for Taki himself, he’s a snobbish Greek multimillionaire playboy, who has spent time at Her Majesty’s Pleasure in Pentonville for possessing cocaine. He’s also published articles in the Speccie which are anti-Semitic.

Brillo Pad tried to shut Jones up, talking over him and accusing him of persuing a personal vendetta against him. That sequence of his wretched programme ended with Brillo staring into the camera like an existentialist philosopher like Sartre or Camus contemplating the awful meaninglessness of the universe. It seems that the veteran newspaper editor was afraid Jones was trying to get him sacked, and the spat continued on Twitter. According to a piece put up on Zelo Street last Monday, Brillo was denying that the Spectator was a ‘facist’ magazine and repeated the claim that Jones was pursuing a personal vendetta. He was also upset because one of the magazine’s own columnists had compared him to Mussolini and another that he was a ‘Paisley Pleb’. Jones hit back, saying

“There is no personal vendetta. You are the licence payer funded BBC flagship politics interviewer, and the Chairman of a hard right magazine whose articles praise the Wehrmacht, claim black people have lower IQs than white people, and defend Greek neo-nazis. These are facts”.

Zelo Street, quoting Michael Walker on Twitter also said that Jones did not accuse the magazine of being Fascist, but of publishing and platforming Fascists. The website also added that Brillo has also published a piece from Rod Liddle, saying that there should be more islamophobia in the Tory party, and from Douglas Murray, who said that conditions should be made harder for Muslims right across the board. As for Brillo’s statement that instead of pursuing his personal vendetta on the Beeb, Jones should have first come to him with his complaint, Zelo Street pointed out that this would have been worthless, because of the way Brillo tried to shout him down.

http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/01/owen-jones-roasts-andrew-neil.html

Brillo was also roundly criticized by Observer journo Carole Cadwalladr, who rebutted Neil’s claim that he doesn’t interfere in the content of the Speccie. This is the journalist Neil had insulted as a ‘crazy cat woman’. After asking Neil on Twitter if he was sitting comfortably, she began with telling him that an ex-employee had said that

“The Spectator today is entirely made in Andrew Neil’s image. His constant presence in the building means that he looms over everything editorial … he shapes the agenda by his contempt for anyone and anything that challenges his right-wing, ultra-capitalist world-view. He wishes the Spectator was the Economist and that Margaret Thatcher was still Prime Minister. He has drained the magazine of gentleness and joy”. She also quoted another ex-Speccie journo, who said

The idea that Andrew is not responsible for content at the Spectator is…laughably false.’ … ‘The editors were frankly a little scared of Andrew.’

Zelo Street went on by reminding its readers that under Brillo Pad, the Sunday Times paid holocaust denier David Irving to write articles, as well as publishing pieces claiming that the HIV virus did not cause AIDS. It also lost Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli whistleblower, who was jailed for revealing that Israel had developed nuclear weapons. The article continues by stating that Neil has got away with flagrant conflicts of interests with his position at the Beeb, including running the Addison Club, an elite dining society which may have been responsible for Russian money finding its way into the Leave campaign. He also used his position at the Beeb to promote his own denial of climate change. The article concluded with the statement that he got away with all that, but one more callous insult could be the last straw.

http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/01/brillo-faces-cadwalladrs-revenge.html

Last time I looked, Neil was still on the Beeb and I really doubt that the corporation wants to fire him. But Neil’s own history of publishing extreme right-wing and unscientific articles in his newspapers clearly shows that he really can’t claim to be an impartial host, and lay the broadcaster open to further criticism.

Woohoo! Good News – Murdoch’s Scum Making Serious Losses

January 20, 2019

The past week hasn’t had much good news, not with May determined to wreck this country by clinging on to power to support herself and her failed Brexit deal and her government of murderers, crooks and exploiters pushing through more legislation to make life even more tough, miserably and dangerous for those at the bottom of society. But last Monday’s I, paper for 14th January 2019, carried a very interesting piece in its ‘Media on Monday’ column. Entitled ‘What future for the ‘The Sun’? Quality journalism is adapting better’ the piece revealed that the nadir of British print journalism is running up tens of millions of pounds in losses. The piece states that in print it has a circulation of 1.4 million, more than any other paid-for title, and that digitally it has a monthly audience of 29.5 millions. However, its publishers, News Group Newspapers, has declared a loss of 91.2 million pounds before tax for the year to 1st July. In the previous year it suffered a lost of 24 million, even after a 55 million pound tax rebate. And the year before that it managed to record a 62 million pound loss. The piece’s author, Ian Burrell, opened his analysis of the Scum’s perilous financial situation by stating that

The huge losses posted by the publishers of The Sun throw into question the long-term future of this country’s tradition of “red-top” popular journalism.

He then goes on to write about how the quality papers (ahem) with a lower circulation are actually adapting better to the changed media environment, and that British tabloids haven’t been hit nearly as hard as their American counterparts. In New York, the tabloid vendors are reduced to selling them with candy and soda. The New York Daily News, which used to have a circulation of 2.4 million, now sells only 200,000 copies, if that. Burrell states that the popular newspapers find it difficult to find subscribers, and that Scum’s losses are a further sign of the declining influence of Rupert Murdoch. It notes how the Scum has posted of its role in the success of the Leave vote, and how Donald Trump acknowledged its importance by giving it an exclusive interview. The article also described how the wretched rag has ‘made huge strides in digital media’ and has compiled a database of 800,000 previously anonymous print buyers, which will help it survive without subscriptions in the future. The article concluded, however, by warning that the Scum’s decline threatened the whole future of British popular journalism. It said

The revival of serious media is a good thing, but without a functioning popular press, the gulf between the informed classes and those deprived of news would be frightening indeed. (p.39).

Well, yes, it would be, if the Scum actually did any informing. It hasn’t. It has screamed, hurled abuse, libeled and misinformed, stoking up xenophobia and racism as well as getting the working people of this country to vote against their own best interests through pushing Thatcher and her wretched neoliberal legacy of welfare cuts, privatization, including that of the NHS and the outsourcing of British jobs. While at the same time hysterically blaming the unions, the unemployed themselves, anyone on benefits, and, of course, Blacks, Asians and particularly Muslims. In the first decade of this century Private Eye carried a piece in its ‘Street of Shame’ column following a press complaints regulator ruling that one of its cartoons was racist. This featured a line of pigs marching with banners objecting to the way they had been compared to Arabs. Not only was this racist, despite the Scum’s denials, but the Eye also revealed the newspaper had previous. Plenty of previous. At that time, the number of times the press regulator had upheld complaints of racism against Murdoch’s mighty organ was 19. I have no idea what the number is now, as I’ve seen zero evidence that the rag has become less racist and hateful.

As for what a future without the Scum would look like, I’m reminded of one of the few sketches on A Bit of Fry and Laurie which I actually found funny. This was a parody of the Jimmy Stewart classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. This was about a man contemplating suicide, who is rescued by an angel. He’s shown how much worse off his town and its folk would be without him. In the sketch, however, the man about to jump from the bridge, played by Hugh Laurie, is a newspaper magnate with an Australian accent. The angel, played by Stephen Fry, tries to stop him from ending it all by showing him the future without him. Unfortunately, however, in this future everything is much better: there’s more happiness, respect and general niceness. At one point Fry shows him a newspaper headline running ‘Niceness Up’ so many percent. They go into a boozer, and the angel asks the Ozzie newspaperman what he thinks about Blacks. ‘I don’t mind them’, the Murdoch parody says defensively. In this future, racism has declined significantly, and Black and White peeps are in there, drinking, talking and laughing easily together. The sketch ends with the Angel asking ‘Murdoch’ if he still wants to jump off the bridge. Of course not, he shouts joyfully, he now knows how much worse he make Britain and the lives of its people. At this point the angel does what many people have wished they could, and pushes him off.

The circulation of the print newspapers, and the audience for the news on the old media broadcasters is going down partly through the influence of the internet. This has alarmed the established, and establishment media, because it means that the consensus they push is declining as people take their news from the alternative news programmes they like, including those on the Left like The Canary and The Skwawkbox. Which terrifies the established press, as shown by the Groaniad’s attempts to stop the superb Kerry-Anne Mendoza giving this year’s lecture in honour of a pioneering Black journo, and Private Eye’s chortling about a press ruling about the bias in The Skwawkbox.

But I am definitely not worried at all by the fact that the Scum is making massive losses. As far as I’m concerned, the sooner it and similar far-right titles across the board, including the Sunday Times and the Torygraph go, the better.

Two Books By Tony Benn

January 4, 2019

I hope everyone’s had a great Christmas and their New Year is off to a good start. May the shadow of Theresa May and her wretched Brexit be very far from you!

Yesterday I got through the post two secondhand books I’d ordered from Amazon by that redoubtable warrior for socialism and working people, Tony Benn. These were Arguments for Socialism, edited by Chris Mullin (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1979) and Fighting Back: Speaking Out For Socialism in the Eighties (London: Hutchinson 1988).

The two books differ slightly in that one is written from Benn’s perspective at the end of the ’70s, while the other was written nine years later at the end of the 1980s. In both Benn tackles the problems of the day, and lays out his radical, democratic socialist plans to revitalise the British economy and industry, strengthen and broaden democracy, and empower working people.

The blurb of Arguments for Socialism simply runs

Tony Benn, the most controversial figure in British politics, outlines a strong democratic-socialist approach to the most crucial issues in our political life over the next decade.

It has an introduction, and the following chapters, subdivided into smaller sections on particularly topics. These are

Section 1., ‘The Inheritance’, is composed of the following
The Inheritance of the Labour Movement
Christianity and Socialism
The Bridge between Christianity and Socialism
The Levellers and the English Democratic Tradition
Marxism and the Labour Party
Clause IV
The Labour Movement.

Section 2. ‘Issues of the 1970s’
Labour’s Industrial Programme
The Case for Change
Opening the Books
Planning Agreements and the NEB
Public Ownership
Industrial Democracy
The Upper Clyde Work-In
The Worker’s Co-ops
The Lessons of the Workers’ Co-ops
Democracy in the Public Sector

3. ‘Energy’
North Sea Oil
The Debate over Nuclear Energy
Windscale
The Fast Breeder
A Future for Coal
Alternative Sources of Energy
Conclusion

4 ‘The EEC’
Loss of Political Self-Determination
Loss of Control over the United Kingdom’s Industry and Trade
Unemployment and the EEC
After the Referendum

5. ‘Democracy’
Technology and Democracy
The Case for Open Government
How Secrecy Is Maintained at Present
Leaks and How They Occur
Conclusion

6. ‘Issues for the 1980s’
The Arguments
The Argument in Outline
The Present Crisis of Unemployment
Adam Smith and the Birth Capitalism
Lessons from the Pre-War Slump
Three Remedies on Offer
1. Monetarism
2. Corporatism
3. Democratic Socialism

7. ‘Jobs’
The Pension Funds
New Technology
Growth
The Trade Union Role in Planning
Workers’ Co-ops
A New Relationship between Labour and Capital

8. ‘The Common Market’
Three Criticisms of the EEC

9. Democracy
Open Government
The Unions
The Armed Forces
The Media
A New Role for Political Leaders.

Fighting Back’s blurb runs

With crisis after crisis rocking the country throughout the Eighties, the formation of new parties, divisions with in the old, mergers, reconciliations – British political life is at a watershed.

Tony Benn, in speeches on picket lines, at Conferences at home and abroad, in broadcasts, in the House of Commons, has been a consistently radical campaigning voice: for equal rights, for democracy and for peace against the increasingly brutal politics of monetarism, militarism and self-interest.

Fighting Back brings together for the first time in one volume the best of Tony Benn’s speeches from 1980 to 1988. Few poeple will have heard more than brief snippets of proceedings in the House of Commons given by television, radio and the press, so the most important debates are included here – the Falklands War, Westland helicopters, Fortress Wapping, Zircon and Spycatcher – as well as some lesser known concerns, from the ordination of women, to the politics of singer Paul Robeson.

Throughout the difficult years in Opposition, Tony Benn has played a leading role in defending and regenerating the socialist tradition. But Fighting Back is more than simply a personal testament: it is also an exciting and accessible handbook to the turbulent Eighties, whatever one’s political convictions.

After the introduction, it has the following chapters and subsections:

1. The Stalemate in British Politics
-Fifty Years of Consensus Rule
-The Party and the Government
-From Defeat to Victory
-Parliamentary Democracy and the Labour Movement

2. Prophetic Voices
-Positive Dissent
-Thomas Paine
-Karl Marx
-Paul Robeson
-R.H. Tawney
In Defence of British Dissidents

3. Fighting Back
-The Falklands War (April 1982)
-The Falklands War (April 1982)
-The Falklands War (May 1982)
-The Falklands War (December 1982)
-The Miners’ Strike (June 1984)
-The Miners’ Strike (September 1984)
-The Miners’ Strike (February 1985)
-Gay Rights
-Fortress Wapping (May 1986)
-Fortress Wapping (January 1987)
-The Irish Struggle for Freedom
-After Eniskillen
-Privatisation of Gas
-Legal Reform

4. British Foreign and Defence Policy
-The Case for Non-Alignment
-Who is Our Enemy?
-A New Agenda for the International Labour and Socialist Movements
-Some Facts about Defence
-Towards a Permanent New Forum
-Paying for Apartheid

5. Work and Health in a Green and Pleasant Land
-The Unemployment Tragedy
-Trade Unionism in the Eighties
-Full Employment: the Priority
-The Common Ownership of Land
-The Case Against Nuclear Power
-Nuclear Accidents
-The Nuclear Lobby
-Evidence Against Sizewell B

6. The Arrogance of Power
-The Case of Sir Anthony Blunt
-The Belgrano-Ponting Debate
-Westland Helicopters
-Surcharge and Disqualification of Councillors
-The Ordination of Women
-The Zircon Affair
-Spycatcher
-Protection of Official Information

7. Disestablishing the Establishment
-Power, Parliament and the People
-The Civil Service
-The Crown, the Church and Democratic Politics
-A Moral Crisis
-The Disestablishment of the Church of England
-Television in a Democracy
-Televising the House

8. Light at the End of the Tunnel
-The Radical Tradition: Past, Present and Future
-Staying True to the Workers
-Aims and Objectives of the Labour Party.

The Books and their Times

Arguments for Socialism comes from a time when this country had nationalised industries, strong trade unions and an efficient and effective planning apparatus. It was also when unemployment and discontent were rising, and the country was facing the threat of Thatcher and her monetarist agenda. The speeches and articles in Fighting Back come from when Thatcher had seized power, was busy privatising everything not nailed down, smashing the unions and trying to silence any dissent. This included attempts to prosecute civil servant Clive Ponting for leaking documents showing that the Argentinian warship, the General Belgrano, was actually leaving the Falklands warzone when it was attacked and sunk. Thatcher also banned the publication of Peter Wright’s Spycatcher over here, because of the embarrassing things it had to say about MI5. This turned into a massive farce as the book was widely published elsewhere, like New Zealand, meaning that foreign readers had a better understanding of the British secret state than we Brits did. It was such a ridiculous situation that Private Eye’s Willie Rushton sent it up in a book, Spythatcher.

Benn’s Beliefs on Socialism and Democracy

Benn was genuinely radical. He believed that British socialism was in danger not because it had been too radical, but because it had not been radical enough. He wished to extend nationalisation beyond the utilities that had been taken into public ownership by Attlee, and give working people a real voice in their management through the trade unions. He also fully supported the workers of three firms, who had taken over the running of their companies when management wanted to close them down, and run them as co-ops. On matters of the constitution, he wished to expand democracy by bringing in a Freedom of Information Act, strip the Crown of its remaining constitutional powers and have them invested in parliament instead, and disestablish the Church of England. He also wanted to strip the office of Prime Minister of its powers of patronage and give more to MPs. He was also firmly against the EEC and for CND. Socially, he was on the side of grassroots movements outside parliament, fully embraced gay rights and the ordination of women within the Anglican Church.

Not the Maniac He was Portrayed by the Press

He was and still is vilified for these radical views. The press, including Ian Hislop’s mighty organ, Private Eye, presented him as a ‘swivel-eyed loon’, at best a mad visionary of hopelessly unrealistic ideals. At worst he was a Communist agent of Moscow ready to destroy this country’s ability to defend itself and hand it over to rule by the Soviets.

He was, it won’t surprise you to learn, anything like that.

He was very well respected by his constituents in my part of Bristol as a very good MP and brilliant orator, and was respected even by his opponents in the city. One of the leaders of Bristol’s chamber of commerce said that he was always rational and his opinions clearly thought out. I’m a monarchist and a member of the Anglican church, and so don’t share his views on the disestablishment of the Church of England. But his arguments there are interesting.

Disestablishment of the Anglican Church

Recent calls for disestablishment have come from atheists and secularists, and Benn does use the secularist argument that privileged position of various Anglican bishops to sit in the House of Lords is unfair to those of other faiths, Roman Catholics, Protestant Nonconformists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists. But this argument actually comes at the end of the main body of his pieces. His main points are that the bishops shouldn’t be there, because they’re unelected, and that parliament and the prime minister, who may not be Anglicans or even Christians, have no business appointing the denomination’s clergy or deciding doctrine. It’s an argument primarily from within the Anglican church, not from someone outside, jealous of its position.

The Prime Minister against the Church and Its Members

One example of how the Prime Minister abused their position to override or impose their views against the wishes of the Church itself was when Thatcher got stroppy with the-then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Robert Runcie. After the Falklands War, Runcie had preached a sermon saying that we should now meet the Argentinians in a spirit of reconciliation. This is what a Christian leader should say. It comes from the Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the peacemakers, and all that. We’ve heard it several times since by great leaders like Nelson Mandela and South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But Thatcher didn’t like it because she wanted something a bit more triumphalist. This section is also interesting because it has an interesting snippet you and I south of the Border have never heard of, except if you’re a member of the Church of Scotland. That august body at its synod overwhelmingly voted in favour of nuclear disarmament. I hadn’t heard anything about that before, and I doubt many other people outside Scotland had. And it obviously wasn’t an accident. The Tory media really didn’t want anyone else in Britain to know about it, in case they thought it might be a good idea.

It wasn’t just the Church of Scotland that were against nuclear weapons. So was a leading Roman Catholic prelate, Monsigner Bruce Kent, now, I believe, no longer a member of the priesthood. One of my aunts was a very Roman Catholic lady, who was also a member of CND. She found herself on one march next to a group of Franciscan friars. So kudos and respect to all the churches for their Christian witness on this issue.

CND, the Unions and Media Bias

On the subject of CND, Benn talks about the blatant bias of the press. All kinds of people were members of the Campaign, but when it was covered on television, what you got were a few shots of clergy like Monsignor Kent, before the camera zoomed in on the banner of the Revolutionary Communist party. CND were part of Russkie commie subversion! Except as I remember, they weren’t. The Russians didn’t like them either after they criticised their maneoevres in eastern Europe.

Benn states that the media’s bias is peculiar – its somewhere to the right of the Guardian, but slightly to the left of Thatcher. This was the attitude of the establishment generally. And it was extremely biased against the trade unions. He cites the work of Glasgow Media Studies unit, who looked at the language they used to describe industrial disputes. The language used of the trade unions always presented them as the aggressor. They ‘demanded’ and ‘threatened’, while management ‘offered’ and ‘pleaded’. He then asked hsi readers to turn the rhetoric around, so that a union asking for a pay rise of 8 per cent when inflation in 10 per cent is ‘pleading’.

The Ordination of Women

His stance on the ordination of women is equally interesting. He was obviously for it, but his arguments as you might expect were very well informed. He pointed out that women had been campaigning to be ordained in the Church since the 1920s, and that other Christian denominations, like the Congregationalists, already had women ministers. As did other Anglican churches abroad, like the Episcopalians in America. It was blocked here by the Anglo-Catholics, who fear it would stop re-union with Rome. But even here, he noted, this may not be an obstacle, citing movements for the ordination of women within Catholicism. Again, it’s an argument from within the Church, or from someone genuinely sympathetic to it, than from an outsider frustrated with the Church’s stubborn refusal to abide by secular social values, although that is also in there.

Government Secrecy

And back on the subject of government secrecy, the Zircon Affair was when Thatcher banned the transmission of an edition of the documentary programme, Secret State. I’ve put up that documentary series a few years ago on this blog, because it showed the extent to which Thatcher and others had been using the Official Secrets Act to suppress information that was embarrassing or uncomfortable. Like the fact that in a nuclear war, this country would suffer massive casualties and the obliteration of its major population centres.

The book actually contains any number of interesting snippets that definitely weren’t reported, or else were only given very tiny coverage, in the mainstream press. Like details of various incidents at nuclear plants that could have led to serious accidents. He also talks about the ‘Atoms for Peace’ programme. In this international project, we sent our nuclear material over to America, where, we were told, it would be used for peaceful purposes generating power in American reactors. Well, it was used in American reactors. They refined it into the plutonium, that was then put in American nuclear warheads and sent back over here to the US nuclear bases on British soil. He also pointed out that the agreements covering the use of Britain as a base by US forces in the event of a nuclear war also contravened our sovereignty.

Ted Heath and the EU

Loss of sovereignty was also a major part of his opposition to the EU. But he also makes the point that our entry into the Common Market was also undemocratic. Ted Heath simply decided the country was going in. Parliament was not consulted and did not vote on the issue. I do remember that there was a referendum afterwards, however.

Intelligence Agencies Smearing Labour MPs

The intelligence agencies are another threat to British democracy. He cites Peter Wright’s Spycatcher memoir on how MI5 was spreading rumours smearing the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, as a KGB spy. This, like much of the rest of the material in the books, has not dated. The problem of the security services smearing left-wing politicians is still very much with us, as we’ve seen from the Integrity Initiative. They’ve smeared Jeremy Corbyn as a Russian spy.

Books Still Relevant in 21st Century

I’ve only really skimmed the books so far, just reading the odd chapter, but so much of it is directly relevant now. I think if he were alive today, Benn probably would have voted ‘Leave’, but his arrangements for leaving the EU would have been far more sensible and beneficial to this country’s ordinary folk than that of Tweezer and her band of profiteers. And he is absolutely right when he writes about expanding democracy in industry. He states that the workers’ co-ops on the Clydeside and elsewhere were attacked in the press, because suddenly the British capitalist establishment were terrified because it showed that there was a genuine alternative to capitalism, and that workers could run companies.

The individual sections in these books chapters are short, and the arguments clear. He also gives point by point party programmes on particular issues, such as making this country more democratic.

Benn Democrat, Not Authoritarian Communist

And it’s this concern for democracy that most definitely marks Benn out as being a democratic socialist, not a Trotskyite or Communist. Those parties and their various sects were run according to Lenin’s principle of ‘democratic centralism’. Put simply, this meant that the party would hold some kind of open debate on issues until a decision was made. After that, the issue was closed. Anybody still holding or promoting their own opinions faced official censure or expulsion. And the Communist parties of eastern Europe would have been as frightened of Benn’s championing of democracy as the British establishment.

Conclusion

As I said, I take issue with Benn on certain issues. But his reasoning is always clear and rational, his points well argued and based in fact. Furthermore, he is impressed with the British radical tradition and how much British socialism is squarely based within it. We lost one of our greatest parliamentarians with his death.

His ideas, however, are still very relevant, and have been vindicated with time. He was right about monetarism and corporatism, about unemployment, about the need for unions, about media bias. His support of women priests and gay rights were ahead of their time, and have now become almost a commonplace, accepted by all except a few die-hard reactionaries. And he’s right about nationalisation and worker empowerment.

These are books I intend to use for my blog and its attack on Tweezer and the Tories. And I won’t be short of useful material.

Bakunin on the Sociological Origins of Crime

December 28, 2018

Here’s another passage from the anarchist Bakunin that’s still very relevant today, in Tory-run Britain. Bakunin was strongly impressed by sociology, and believed, like the French philosophes of the Enlightenment, that humanity and society were governed by laws. So strong was this belief, that he rejected free will completely. I very much reject this philosophical stance, along with his atheism and denial of divine providence, which he claimed made science impossible.

Humans do have free will and not just meat machines, running according to a set of biological or sociological imperatives, and while sociology is a powerful tool for investigating the basis of society and suggesting solutions to social problems, it’s very different from the natural sciences based on experiment and prediction. People are still responsible for their actions. Nevertheless, sociological influences are a powerful cause of crime. Bakunin discusses this in his piece ‘All Round Education’, quoting the stastician Lambert Queteler on the sociological origins of crime, which he believed were completely responsible for its incidence. Bakunin writes

A science of statistics is possible only because of this natural and social inevitability. This science is not satisfied with ascertaining and enumerating social facts but looks for their links to and correlation with the organization of society. Criminal statistics show, for example, that in a given country, in a given town, over a period of ten, twenty, thirty or more years, the same crime or misdemeanor occurs every year in the same proportion [to the total], if the fabric of society has not been altered by political and social crises. Even more remarkably, a given modus operandi recurs from year to year in the same proportion, for example, the number of poisonings, knifings, and shootings, as well as the number of suicides committed one way or another, are almost always the same. This led the famous Belgian statistician Quetelet to utter the following memorable words: ‘Society prepares the crimes while individuals merely carry them out.’

In Robert E. Cutler, Mikhail Bakunin: From Out of the Dustbin: Bakunin’s Basic Writings 1869-1871 (Ann Arbor: Ardis 1985), p. 122.

Now I can remember one of the postgraduate archaeological students at Bristol University making much the same point as Bakunin in a talk she gave explaining her research into the physical structure of one of Bristol’s historic hospitals. She said that the total number of prison and mental hospitals tends to remain the same, although the proportions of people going to one or the other changes. She went on to discuss the beneficial effects of natural light and contact with the natural world in healing hospital patients and reforming criminals. Despite pressures from government across the political spectrum to cut costs in the prison service and abolish them, prison farms have remained because of their demonstrably strong influence in reforming convicts.

At present, Britain is suffering a very high incidence of crime and suicide. The media has reported the shocking number of knife crimes in the capital. There has been a rise in hate crime, not just against ethnic minorities, including Muslims, but also against the disabled. Suicides have also increased, and as Mike, Stilloaks, Tom Pride and so many other left-wing and disability rights bloggers have pointed out, these have included disabled people, who were left in misery and starvation due to being thrown off their benefits. Several left notes explicitly stating that they were ending their lives due to sanctions by DWP, or being judged ‘fit for work’ under the Work Capability Tests.

Predictably, the Tories have held up their hands and claimed that there is no absolutely no link between their shabby, degrading and vicious welfare policies and the tragic deaths of these people.

This is a lie. The anti-immigration rhetoric and stance of many of the leaders of the ‘Leave’ campaign, and anti-EU parties and organisations like UKIP has led to an increase in racist hate crime. And the Tories are also responsible for stoking this hostility through their campaigns to get illegal immigrants to turn themselves, their attempt to deport the Windrush generation, despite the fact that they had a perfect right to stay in Britain, and the racist and islamophobic comments of many of their members. Like Boris Johnson and his wretch article describing women wearing the niqub as looking like dustbins and letterboxes. Only a tiny minority of Muslim women wear it, and many pro-Muslim political figures, like George Galloway are opposed to it. But Galloway also believed that women had a right to wear it, and condemned Johnson’s comments as racist. He was also bitterly critical of Johnson’s remarks along with many other people, including Mike on his blog, because after Johnson made them attacks on women wearing the burka increased. At least woman was killed. Despite this, the Tories concluded that BoJo’s article wasn’t racist, but ‘tolerant’ and ‘respectful’.

There have also been vicious attacks on the homeless and the disabled, again due to Tory policies and the rabid right-wing press, which demonizes the poor and the unemployed as scroungers and the disabled as malingerers. Thanks to rags like the Scum and the Heil, people believe that a quarter of all benefit claims are fraudulent, while the reality is that fake claims account for less than 1 one per cent of them.

The crime figures, and particularly the increase in hate crimes, clearly shows that the Tories have had a disastrous effect on British society, making it more suspicious, hateful and violent. Individuals are still responsible for the crimes they commit, but Quetelet’s and Bakunin’s views are correct. Society is a powerful influence in the amount of crime and suicide.

And the conclusion is undeniable: the Tories have prepared these crimes by deliberately creating a society where they are carried out, however much they scream and try to deny it. They have to be got out, before they cause any more attacks and deaths of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.