Posts Tagged ‘Lord Shaftesbury’

Sun’s ‘Red Tory’ Propaganda Shows Conservatives Scared of Corbyn

May 20, 2017

Remember when the Tories and their baying lapdogs in the press were all howling that Jeremy Corbyn was unelectable? They’re still trying to make this stupid and risible claim, but the increasingly hysterical puff pieces about Theresa May show that they really believe the opposite: They’re scared that he’s all too electable.

Looking through the newsagent’s yesterday, I glanced at the cover of the Scum. Its headline proclaimed that May’s manifesto showed that she was a ‘Red Tory’. They even hailed it as ‘Socialist’.

All lies of course. There’s nothing remotely ‘Socialist’ about it – it promises more privatisation, more cuts and more poverty and misery for the poor. Standard Tory policies. But it also shows that the Tories are very afraid of the Labour party manifesto and the return of real Socialism under Jeremy Corbyn.

The nonsense about May being a ‘Red Tory’ is just a rehash of the way David Cameron tried to rebrand his party in his campaign against Blair and Brown. It’s also the title of a book by his mentor, Philip Blond, which tried to argue that under Cameron, the Tories would be the true friends of the working class, citing episodes from the early 19th century when paternalist aristos like Lord Shaftesbury passed the Factory Acts and other legislation to improve conditions for workers in the mines and industry. He also spouted a lot about the Russian anarchist, Peter Kropotkin.

This was all part of Cameron’s campaign to present himself as being more left-wing than New Labour. He promised to ring-fence and protect funding for the NHS. He and the Tory faithful also went out and campaigned against hospital closures.

It was all a front, with absolutely no substance behind it, of course. Once in power, Cameron threw out all these promises, and did the exact opposite. He carried out with a programme of cuts and privatisation, including that of the NHS. This included Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act which removes from the secretary of state for health the obligation to provide healthcare, along with further legislation allowing the NHS to be broken up, sold off to private healthcare firms, and to charge for services.

Just as May is doing even now.

And to make sure that people didn’t remember how they’d been lied to, the Tories started removing their election pledges from their website, in a blatant rewriting of history, which would be familiar to anyone who’s read Orwell or knows a thing or two about Stalin.

Blair and Brown were easy targets for the ‘Red’ Tory approach, as they were neoliberals, who were also determined to privatise the NHS, and many of their policies were directly lifted from the Tories. Like the Private Finance Initiative to hand government infrastructure over to private firms to build and operate, including hospitals. It was easy for the Tories to pretend to be more left-wing than them, as the Tory ‘wets’ probably were. The Tories complained about Labour’s hypocrisy over these privatisations, stating quite correctly that they never dared to go so far when they were in power, as the Labour party would have bitterly and entirely rightly criticised them for it.

One in power, however, Cameron and the Tories changed their tune, and proved to be even more extremely right-wing than New Labour.

The return of this piece of shop-soiled propaganda under Corbyn conveys a rather different message, however. The Blairites and the Tory press were howling last year that Corbyn was a ‘Trotskyist’, leading dreaded Marxist radicals to infiltrate the party. The line is that his policies will lead us all back to the 1970s. And, in any case, Corbyn is ‘unelectable’. The British public don’t want his policies, and will prefer instead the neoliberalism that has kept them poor for the past forty years, as preached and followed by Thatcherite politicians like Tony Blair, Dave Cameron, and Theresa May.

But by trying to paint May as a ‘Red’ Tory with ‘Socialist’ policies, however risible this claim is, the Sun has tacitly admitted that they, and their Tory masters, are dreadfully afraid that Socialism and Jeremy Corbyn are genuinely popular, that neoliberalism is no longer popular as an economic and social policy, and that unless they try to paint May as somehow a ‘one-nation’ Tory, Corbyn is only too likely to get elected.

So let’s make their fears come true. Vote Labour on June 8th to end Tory rule and bring prosperity back to Britain’s real working people.

Richard Oastler, on Why the Poor Deserve to Keep Their Liberty from the Workhouse

April 22, 2016

I found this quote from Richard Oastler’s The Rights of the Poor to Liberty and Life of 1838 in the book Poverty and Public Health, by Rosemary Rees (Oxford: Heinemann 2001):

Remember, always that liberty – freedom from confinement as well as food and clothing – is the birthright of every Englishman, however poor. What, Sir, is the principle of the New Poor Law? The condition imposed upon Englishmen by that accursed law is, that man shall give up his liberty to save his life! That, before he shall eat a piece of bread, he shall go into prison. In prison, he shall enjoy his right to live, but it shall be at the expense of that liberty, without which life itself becomes a burden and curse.

Thank God, the law of the land does not yet say – though the Commissioners of the New Poor Law have dared to say – that poverty is a crime, by which an Englishman may be deprived of the blessings of liberty.

(p.99).

Bloggers like Johnny Void, the Angry Yorkshireman, Tom Pride and Mike over at Vox Political, and myself have repeatedly pointed out the similarities of the workfare system to slave labour. It’s also been pointed out, time and again, that a benefit claimant may spend longer on workfare than a criminal sentenced to community service. It doesn’t seem to me to be at all a stretch to apply this quote from Oastler about the ‘New Bastilles’ of the workhouses to workfare and the wretched sanctions regime.

Meme on the Good Old Days of Child Labour

January 13, 2016

This is another meme I found on the Tumblr site, 1000 Natural Shocks.

Meme Child Labour

In Britain, the first steps against child labour in mines and factories was taken by Lord Shaftesbury, who was a Tory. Credit where credit’s due. Philip Blond, Cameron’s mentor, cited him in his book Red Tory, as an example of Conservativism, which benefited the working class. Given the way so much of what he was forecasting about Cameron’s ‘Red’ Toryism has been proven to have been just rhetoric, it’s fair to say that Blond’s book was just propaganda. The Conservatives did pass many laws in the 19th century that benefited the working class, but they’ve always been solidly opposed to trade unions and organised labour. Disraeli told the 19th century Marxist leader, William Hyndeman, flat out that the Tories, business and the aristocracy would resist to the utmost any efforts by the working class to gain concessions for themselves.

So, regardless of what Lord Shaftesbury did, the Tories are trying their best to reintroduce the exploitative employment practices of the 19th century, of which child labour is only the worst and best known.

The Appropriation of Anarchist Doctrines in Fascist Italy and Cameron’s Conservatives: Philip Blonde, Kropotkin and ‘Red Toryism’

August 10, 2013

I’ve blogged previously about the way Cameron’s Conservatives have adopted Rothbard’s Anarcho-Capitalism but without its Libertarian basis as part of their campaign to create an extremely authoritarian, Neo-Liberal state. This parallels the way Mussolini also used the anarcho-syndicalist elements in the Fascist movement and party to create a totalitarian dictatorship, which actively oppressed the workers and violently attacked any kind of socialism. A further example of Cameron’s attempts to appropriate and utilise anarchist ideas is Philip Blonde’s ‘Red Tory’ ideology. Blonde is Cameron’s political mentor. In his book, Red Tory, Blonde is very positive towards the great 19th century Anarchist, Peter Kropotkin. Kropotkin was a Russian scientist, whose study of the flora and fauna in Siberia convinced him that Darwin’s idea of the ‘Survival of the Fittest’ (actually a term coined by Herbert Spencer), was wrong, and that co-operation between organisms was the driving factor in evolution. He was an Anarcho-Communist, who fundamentally believed in essential human goodness. One of the arguments directed against Kropotkin’s anarchism was that he was actually too optimistic about human nature. If humans really were as benign and co-operative as he believed, it was argued, then why would you need a revolution against the capitalist order. Blonde is similarly favourably inclined towards other, libertarian socialist movements in the 19th century. He also draws on the history of paternalistic Tory reformers, such as Lord Shaftesbury and the Factory Acts, to try to present a kind of left-wing Conservatism. This tries to show that the Tories can and will pass legislation that will benefit and protect the working class from exploitation.

This libertarian socialist strand of Conservatism was immediately contradicted by the coalitions own policies on taking power. Instead of showing themselves to have any real sympathy for the poor and working class, the Tories and Lib Dems immediately passed legislation curtailing welfare benefits, legal protection for employees, and the exploitation of the unemployed for the benefit of big business. The speed at which they put all this into practice suggests that for all the socialistic ideals presented in Red Tory, Cameron and Blonde were never serious about them. It was instead a propaganda move intended to win a section of the working class away from Tony Blair and New Labour.

Something of the kind still appears to be going on in parts of the Conservative party. Despite the Conservative’s attempts to limit and discourage union membership, one of the Conservatives, Carswell, appears to have embraced them as a potential force for Conservatism and possibly as the cornerstone of authentic working class culture. Less than half of trade unionists vote Labour, and Carswell has, apparently gone every year to various trade union events. At the same time, he is extremely hostile to state welfare provision. My guess is that he’s trying to co-opt the unions for the Tories in an attempt to further break the Labour party from divorcing them from their original base. Quite what he thinks the place of the trade unions are in a Conservative political system, I can only guess. In the early part of the last century the unions were hostile about the establishment of the welfare state because they handled part of the bureaucracy for the workers’ health insurance schemes. Carswell may well be thinking that he could sell Conservatism to the unions this way, by making them responsible for their members welfare, rather than the state. He may also wish to create a system of trade unions that were compliant with the orders of the factory masters, such as the ‘yellow’ trade unions in 19th century Germany and Austria, or the Conservative trade unions of the 1970s.

I think the unions would be extremely foolish, however, if they were taken in by his ideas. The Labour party was formed by the unions, in conjunction with the socialist societies, in order to promote legislation protecting the working class and the engagement with working class issues in parliament. The Conservatives have been consistently hostile to this with successive administrations from Edward Heath onwards passing legislation intended to break their membership and power. As regard the Conservative trade unions themselves, these were dissolved by Thatcher herself. Their leader was left embittered, and declared that the Tories were on the side of the industrial exploiters. Which is what his counterparts on the Left had been saying all that time.

Lord Shaftesbury on the Need for an Indian Factory Act 1879

July 23, 2013

In my last post I discussed the forthcoming Channel 4 drama, The Mill, set amongst the child labourers of the Industrial Revolution in Britain. I mentioned that similar conditions still exist in the Third World today, and that it is the world to which the Tory writers of Britannia Unchained look back, a world of misery, starvation, overwork and exploitation. I also mentioned that due to longer working hours being introduced in Britain and other parts of the West, the working days of the Developing World was also lengthening to inhuman proportions.
I found this speech by Lord Shaftesbury to the House of Lords from 1879 advocating the introduction of an Indian Factory Act, like that he had campaigned for in England thirty years earlier. It makes clear the horrific working conditions in both England and her Indian colonies, and the way industrialisation in both nations had similarly affected their workers. Here it is.

‘On what principle, or what theory, is India to be exempted from the duties and obligations of civilised society? Creed and colour, latitude and longitude, make no difference in the essential nature of man. No climate can enable infants to do the work of adults, or turn suffering women into mere steam-engines … But what say you, my lords, to a continuity of toil, in a standing posture, in a poisonous atmosphere, during thirteen hours, with fifteen minutes to rest? Why, the stoutest man in England, were he made, in such a condition of things, to do nothing during the whole of that time but be erect on his feet and stick pins in a pincushion, would sink under the burden. What say you, then, of children – children of the tenderest years? Why, they become stunted, crippled, deformed, useless. I speak what I know; I state what I have seen …

In Bradford, in 1838, I asked for a collection of cripples and deformities. In a short time more than eighty were gathered in a large courtyard. They were mere samples of the entire mass. I assert without exaggeration that no power of language could describe the varieties, and I may say the cruelties, in all those degradations of the human form. They stood or squatted before me in the shapes of the letters of the alphabet. This was the effect of prolonged toil on the tender frames of children at early ages. When I visited Bradford under the limitation of hours, some years afterwards, I called for a similar exhibition of cripples; but, God be praised, there was not one to be found in that vast city …

Forty-six years ago I addressed the House of Commons in a kindred appeal and they heard me; I now turn to your Lordships and I implore you in the same spirit, for God’s sake and in His name, to have mercy on the children of India.’

The Act was passed, but never enforced.

Nevertheless, it shows the acute social consciousness and relative lack of racial prejudice, at least in this issue, of Shaftesbury. Shaftesbury himself was an aristocrat, and an evangelical Christian at the time when that branch of Christianity stood for progressive social reform. He believed in a static society, with the aristocracy holding their natural place at its top. He also believed that people have a Christian duty to ameliorate the conditions of others during the time on Earth, and would have to answer for their lack of charity before the Lord after their death. It was this deep religious faith that prompted his campaigns against long working days for women and children.

I thought the speech was worth repeating because, as I said, it is all too contemporary with Conservatives, particularly the authors of Britannia Unchained, recommending lengthening working hours here to match the Third World. Shaftesbury’s speech describes the world we left. It also describes the world the authors of Britannia Unchained would have us return.

Source

Peter Vansittart, Voices 1870-1914 (New York: Franklin Watts 1985)

Historical Drama: The Mill on Channel 4, Sundays 8.00 pm

July 23, 2013

Channel 4 begins another historical drama, The Mill, this Sunday at 8.00 in the evening. In contrast to the medieval chivalry and power politics of BBC’s The White Queen on an hour later, The Mill is set amongst the factory slaves of the northern cotton mills during the Industrial Revolution. It’s based on the real history of Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire in the 1830s. This was the period when the new factory masters bought children from the workhouses to work amongst the machines in the mills. The working day was 13 hours long with accidents common. The apprentices were unpaid, and could only look forward to a few shillings if they completed their apprenticeship when they turned 18. The Mill dramatizes the events and controversy of 1833 when the government of the time attempted to introduce the 10 Hours Act, limiting children’s working day to those hours.

The blurb for The Mill on page 62 of the Radio Times runs as follows

‘A glowering, brutal mill foreman yells at a clutch of young female workers, women he’s frequently pulled from the dusty, hellish cauldron of the factory floor to indecently assault in a privy: “You’re apprentices, orphans, bastards! No one’ll listen to you, so say nothing!’ New Tricks it ain’t.

But if you like your dramas bleak, visceral and raw, sticky with the blood of dead and injured workers in the scarred and cauterised landscape of Britain during the Industrial Revolution, then The Mill will be your weekly treat. John Fay’s script is sweatily powerful as misery is piled upon misery. Children are frequently badly injured by unsafe, unguarded machinery and everyone works long hours in hideous conditions. And they are powerless and without hope.’

Two of the female stars of The Mill were talking about their roles in the series on breakfast TV on BBC 1 yesterday. Unfortunately I missed most of it. They did, however, mention that they ended up working 13 hours days shooting the series, and talked about the heat, noise and the dangers of the machines on which they were filmed. As lurid as it sounds, the series appears to be historically accurate. The evidence gather by contemporary reformers, such as Lord Shaftesbury, religious campaigners such as George Muller in Bristol, presented to the government’s commissions of inquiry and published in works like Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor, present a grim picture of appalling poverty, despair and degradation. In Britain and the rest of Europe, legislation was passed by successive governments first limiting their hours and then outlawing child labour. There are still concerns about child labour in Britain even now. Back in the 1990s the anti-slavery charity, Anti-Slavery International, published a pamphlet discussing violations of the child labour legislation in Britain. Even though it is carefully regulated in Britain, it is still used throughout the developing world, in conditions very similar to that of 19th century Britain.

This is the world the authors of Britannia Unchained are harking back to with their spurious complaints that Brits are too lazy and need to work longer hours. Greg Palast, the American radical journalist, attacked this claim in his book, Armed Madhouse. Palast found that rather than making the West more competitive, it encouraged Developing Nations to raise their working hours even more, until you reached the long hours and appalling conditions of Chinese forced labour camps.

Channel 4 as Radical, Alternative Broadcaster

I can’t say that I’ll watch The Mill. It’s going to be far too grim for me. I prefer television that’s much less visceral and more escapist. It is, however, important. Channel 4 has been criticised of late for broadcasting mass-market programming that could be shown on any channel in order to improve its ratings. The channel was originally set up to show material of minority interest, as a kind of alternative BBC 2. As a result it broadcast opera, foreign movies, and documentaries on left-wing or radical issues. Jeremy Isaacs, its first head, said he aimed to broadcast northern miners’ oral history, amongst other subjects. It also showed material aimed at racial minorities. This included All India Goldies, a series of Indian films, and a massive TV version of the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. Much of its output was also fairly sexually explicit. It also included programmes on homosexuality, before this became more acceptable. AS a result the Daily Mail regularly attacked it, and hysterically dubbed Michael Grade, its director-general of the time, ‘Britain’s pornographer-in-chief’. More recently, Quentin Letts, the political sketch writer for the Mail and very definitely a man of the right, has attacked Channel 4 for not keeping to its original raison d’etre. He points out that its opera broadcasts introduced the art to a mass audience, attracting hundreds of thousands of viewers. It’s also supposed to have confounded the Leaderene’s husband. Denis Thatcher thought that by ‘alternative programming’, Channel 4 would be screening things like yachting. Well, it’s been several decades, but it looks like Channel 4 might be trying to reclaim its position as the channel of intelligent, radical broadcasting.