Posts Tagged ‘Mark Steyn’

Vox Political on Boris Johnson’s Racial Slurs against Obama

April 23, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a piece criticising Boris Johnson for his racial slurs against Barack Obama. Obama yesterday made it very plain that he wanted Britain to remain in the EU. He told us up front that a Britain separate from Europe would be ‘at the back of the queue’ for a trade deal.

This has upset the Tousled Twit, who only the other week announced his support for Brexit, after he initially seemed to be in favour of remaining the in European Union. Johnson has claimed that Obama’s comments came from a personal animus against Britain. it’s all due to him being half-Kenyan, you see, so he has a personal grudge against his father’s country’s former imperial masters. Mike states that at the root of this comment was the movement of a bust of Winston Churchill somewhere in the White House.

I read over on Mark Steyn’s webpage years ago that his ancestral hatred of the British was signalled by the cavalier way he treated Gordon Brown’s gift of a copy of Winston Churchill’s A History of the English-Speaking Peoples. This rumours – that Obama has a personal hatred of Britain -has been going on for years. It comes from ultra-Right wing Republicans, like Steyn, who believe that the English political culture begins and ends with Adam Smith and the Wealth of Nations. It’s not an accident that Trump would like Britain to make some kind of trade deal with America. The Libertarian/ Neo-Con right would love us to do so, and join a free-trade, Atlanticist bloc. The Republicans a few years ago under Newt Gingrich wanted us to join NAFTA – the North American Free Trade Agreement, the trade bloc consisting of Canada, America and Mexico. Similar reasons are doubtless behind the Dorset Tory MEP, Daniel Hannan, and his campaign to have us leave the EU. He also wants us to go independent and develop closer links with what he describes as ‘the Anglosphere’. The economic reasoning behind it seems to be the same. He also wants the NHS to be dismantled and sold off. It’s more of the racial essentialist thinking which wishes to contrast ‘free-trade’ oriented England and the Anglophone world, with the collectivist politics of the Continental peoples. It’s a kind of remnant of the pseudo-scientific racism Count Gobineau, which arose in the 19th century, and which tried to claim that the perceived national characteristics of the various races, including the European nations, were all biological determined.

As for Obama’s comments, they’re a threat, as Mike points out, but they’re undoubtedly true. Britain probably would be at the back of the queue behind a united Europe for a trade deal with the US, if only for the simple reason that Europe is much larger, and so any deal with the USA offers them a much larger market for their goods and services.

It’s also not a break with American foreign policy. Lobster has run several pieces citing various senior British diplomats, who have written in articles and books on foreign policy that various American presidents told them to convey to our prime ministers that they wanted Britain to join the EU. Lobster has a strong Euro-sceptic slant, though it’s from a left-wing perspective, and is no friend of American imperialism. If the Lobster articles are true, then it bears out Charles De Gaul’s reasons for blocking British entry to the European Community in the 1960s. He was afraid that if he let us in, he’d be letting the Americans in through the back door. The whole point of the EEC as it was then was to create a united Europe that could compete and maintain its independence against domination by both America and the Soviet bloc. With Barack Obama telling us we should remain in Europe, it looks very much like De Gaul was right.

In the meantime, Mike and Mrs Mike are trying to think of a suitable nickname for BoJo. Mike favours variations on ‘Bore-Us’, while Mrs Mike thinks a better nickname is ‘Tw*t’. You decide.

Mike’s article can be read at:

If ‘part-Kenyan’ Obama may have ‘ancestral dislike’ of UK, what about part Swiss/Turkish/French Johnson?

Vox Political: Cameron Planning Internment Camp for British Radicals

February 17, 2016

This is a really scary piece Mike’s reblogged from the Canary. Apparently, Cameron and Gove are planning to isolate Muslim extremists in special secure unit to stop Muslim radicalisation in prison. This has been compared to Guantanamo Bay in America. Mike instead in his comments asks the extremely pertinent question of whether it’s actually instead something like a Nazi concentration camp, especially with the government’s establishment of secret courts. See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/17/cameron-wants-to-lock-radicals-in-a-single-place-like-a-nazi-concentration-camp/

Mike and so many, many others, like the Angry Yorkshireman, have blogged about the serious dangers these iniquitous courts pose to British justice and liberty. Under this system of, for want of a better term, special justice, the established standards of legal process may waived in the interests of ‘national security’. You may not see the evidence against you, nor know who your accuser is. Indeed, you may not be told what offence you have been charged. It tramples all over Magna Carta, and is exactly like something straight out of Kafka’s novels, The Trial and The Castle.

The motivation here appears to be the very rapid spread of Islam through the prison system through what looks like a very aggressive strategy of dawah, Islamic evangelisation. However alarmed some might feel about the spread of Islam in prisons, this proposal is should be more alarming. Firstly, there is difference between Islam and Islamism, and conversion to Islam does not necessarily lead to converts being set on an automatic path to extremism, at the end of which is ISIS or al-Qaeda. Indeed, the piece Mike’s reproduced from the Canary article states that the idea behind this special prison seems to be that Islamism is like an infectious disease, which isn’t the case.

The model for this special prison seems to be Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay. This was extensively criticised because of the illegality of the vast majority of the incarcerations their. The majority of those imprisoned would simply not have been convicted in ordinary courts of law because of the lack of evidence against them. With the addition of the Patriot Act, which provided for the arrest of anybody George Dubya and his cronies thought wasn’t sufficiently patriotic as a potential terrorist, the system’s critics saw Gitmo very much as the thin end of a totalitarian, Nazi wedge. Conservatives, like the right-wing Canadian cable/web TV host, Michael Koren and the British/Irish journalist Mark Steyn, resident in New Hampshire, have tried to justify Gitmo by arguing that normal standards of justice cannot apply in war. The conditions of battle are just too confused, they argue, for the same standards of reasonable proof to apply when assessing whether or not a suspect is guilty. The men and women interned at Gitmo are nevertheless extremely dangerous, and present a real threat to the public security if they are released. Hence their incarceration of what may be inadequate or flimsy legal grounds is justified. Despite this argument, the majority of those imprisoned at Gitmo have been released, and those still remaining seem to be there out of sheer bloody-mindedness by the authorities rather than any convincing legal reason.

I’m also worried about this, because it points to a long tradition of authoritarianism in the Tory Right. I’ve got a feeling Lobster ran pieces in the 1980s about Tory plans for internment camps in Northern Ireland, to be used against the IRA, modelled on the system of concentration camps the French had used in their campaigns against the indigenous peoples fighting for their freedom in what used to be Indo-China, out of which came the Vietnam War. These were dropped because whatever the threat of paramilitary violence in Ulster, it was felt that the British people would not tolerate other White Brits being rounded up and herded into concentration camps like Black Kenyans during the Mao Mao rebellion.

And the Tory need to incarcerate political and social ‘deviants’ raised its hideous physiognomy again when AIDS appeared in the 1980s. At the time there was a real fear that AIDS was so infectious and deadly, that it would wipe out the world’s population exactly as the population of Europe and Muslim North Africa had been decimated by the Black Death in the 14th century. In five years, that disease killed perhaps somewhere between a third and quarter of the European population, and a similar proportion North Africans in what is now the countries of Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria. Radical measures were being mooted to combat the disease. And this included the isolation of its victims. I can remember being chilled by an article in the Sunday Express that announced that the Swedes were considering building an ‘AIDS Island’ to isolate and treat the victims of the disease. British ministers were looking into the possibility of doing the same. Gay sex between men had only been legal since 1969, and much of society was extremely prejudiced against homosexuals, particularly the Tory party and the police. James Anderton, the extremely right-wing head of Manchester police force, stated that he believed that AIDS was God’s punishment for gays, and described homosexuality as a cesspool, or something similarly offensive. Margaret Thatcher passed legislation intended to ban the teaching that homosexuality was at all normal or acceptable in schools. In this environment, even at the time I wondered if this was an attempt to construct a secure medical facility, like the leper hospitals that were deliberately built on islands to isolate the victims of that terrible disease. Or if instead it was a prison camp to lock up gays, just as the Nazis had done during the Third Reich. Homosexuals were then sent to the concentration camps, and identified by pink triangles placed on their prison pyjamas. This part of the persecution of gays by the Nazis was portrayed in the harrowing play, Bent, starring one of the great gay British thesps. I’ve got a feeling it was Sir Ian Mackellan in the title role, but I could be mistaken.

This strikes me as being pretty much the same squalid, authoritarian instincts rising to the Tory surface yet again. If, indeed, it ever really went away. And the danger here is that once the Tories do it to once section of the community and get away with it, they’ll do it to all of us. Muslim radicals will be the first. Then it could be others suspected of terrorism, like radical nationalists – Irish Republican splinter groups, say. And then it’ll be extended to illegal asylum-seekers, trade unionists, Socialists, Anarchists and Communists. Same as it always has been. Just like Trump in America similarly threatens to introduce real Fascism if he wins the election. This has got to be very carefully watched indeed, if not banned altogether before it even begins.

And if they are considering a round-up of Islamist radicals and other suspects, when should we expect them to stage their own fake attack on parliament to justify it all, like the Reichstag fire?

Vox Political Attacks Islamophobic Survey in The Sun

November 23, 2015

Murdoch’s leading populist paper has been living down to its reputation again. It’s published the results of a survey, which it claims shows that 20 per cent of British Muslims support ISIS.

This is nonsense, and highly dangerous, malicious nonsense at that. Mike’s written an excellent article taking the survey apart at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/11/23/no-one-in-five-british-muslims-do-not-support-isis/. The article shows how the questions are too vague for anyone to draw that conclusion. It appears that the survey asked people whether they sympathised with Muslims fighting in the Middle East.

Mike rightly points out that you can sympathise with someone, without approving of what they’re doing. General De Gaul famously said that he understood why the Algerians were fighting for their independence. In that sense, he sympathised with them, and many patriotic Algerians thought that meant that he would end the war and negotiate a peace. But he didn’t, he carried on fighting until Algeria was lost completely.

Furthermore, the Middle East is now a cockpit of groups, sects and nations, all fighting each other. ISIS are merely one, albeit the nastiest. Sympathy for those fighting in the Middle East can mean sympathy for ISIS and other Salafist groups, like al-Qaeda. Or it could mean sympathy for those fighting for their homelands against ISIS, like Hamas, Hizbollah, the Shi’ah in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, or the Kurds. There have been reports on the news of western blokes, who have gone to fight against ISIS and the like in the Middle East. One of these was a Kurd; another was a White guy, who was horrified at ISIS’ butchery. Now most of ISIS’ victims are Muslims, and I’d say that it was highly likely this fellow had Muslim friends. If he has, then they presumably would respond that they sympathised with someone fighting in the Middle East. This would not, however, mean that they supported ISIS: quite the opposite. They would sympathise with someone who was actively fighting ISIS.

The Long History of Racism at the Sun

Now let’s put this into some kind of perspective. Unfortunately, it’s just about proverbial that the Sun is a nasty, vile racist rag. It’s got a long, long history of complaints about racism, including judgement against it from the Press Complaints Commission. This includes not just Blacks, but also Arabs. A decade or so ago, they ran a cartoon with the caption that ‘even pigs are complaining about being compared to Arabs’. That got them prosecuted by the Commission and an entry in Private Eye, which noted the number of complaints of racism against the paper that have been upheld. It was something like 25, and that, as I said, was nearly a decade ago.

And this is not casual racism either. The hatred being peddled here is part of a carefully crafted, political strategy to produce a Conservative consensus. It looks like the old Neo-Con trick of finding an enemy, who can be presented as the enemy of the West and so produce social solidarity at home. And in the case of the Neo-Cons, this was first the USSR and Communism, and now Islam, according to the Huntingdon thesis of the clash of civilisations.

It’s the old Nazi strategy of finding an outgroup you can demonise, in order to gain maximum approval for your party and their plans for social cleansing. Last week, Zelo Street put up an article attacking some of the columnists over at the Telegraph blogs for criticising Corbyn for not being sufficiently bloodthirsty over the death of ‘Jihadi John’. These included the usual right-winger, including Mark Steyn. Steyn is almost quintessentially Neo-Con. He is bitterly critical of Islam, and pushes the ‘Eurabia’ nonsense. This forecasts that in a few decades, Europe will be overrun by Muslims, with the indigenous, non-Muslim population pushed into ghettos. He is also extremely right-wing in his domestic policies, a true low-taxation, small-government Conservative, who has consistently advocated cutting tax and welfare in order to lower the budget deficit.

To my mind, this is pretty much the same direction the Sun’s article today is coming from. And it’s not just nasty, it’s actively dangerous. Mike points out in his article that attacks on Muslims has escalated by about 300 per cent since the Paris attacks. Most of these assaults have been on women and girls wearing traditional Islamic clothing.

That would be bad enough, but it becomes even more chilling when you consider the horrifying anti-Muslim policies now being mouthed by Donald Trump. Trump has apparently decided that he wants all Muslims to be registered and carry some form of identification.

And you’re right. This is exactly like the Jews – and other political, racial and religious groups in Nazi Germany. Somebody from NBC asked Trump this exact question – how did his policy differ from that of the Nazis?

And chillingly, Trump didn’t have an answer. He just kept on repeating, ‘You tell me. You tell me.’

This bigot is the Republican front-runner.

And this is how Nazism started. Not by overtly persecuting the Jews, but by beginning the discrimination quietly. And when they were taken to the extermination camps, the German people were told that they were being ‘resettled in the east’.

And just as the Nazis did that to the Jews, so they rounded up their political opponents, and forced them to wear identifying badges. Communists, trade unionists, Socialists, Liberals, even Conservative non-Nazis, like Conrad Adenauer, who became post-War Germany’s first president, were ‘taken into protective custody’, as the pretext went. The Nazis claimed they weren’t persecuting them, but taking them under arrest for their own protection.

This is terrifying stuff. I hope Trump doesn’t get in, or if he does, that the vast majority of decent Americans won’t stand for that nonsense and block it. But if he did, I can’t see Cameron or Osbo doing anything but copying it over here. Of course, at first it’ll be entirely voluntary, you know, for the Muslims’ own protection.

I don’t know whether the Sun wants Muslim to be compulsorily registered. It might be too much for them, but considering how frothingly extreme they’ve always been, I wouldn’t put it past them.

This is a nasty, dangerous, disgusting piece of hate, and the Scum should be properly vilified for it.

Vox Political On the Satirical Response to Fox News’ Ideas about Muslim Birmingham

January 12, 2015

As the piece I’ve reblogged from Pride’s Purge shows, Fox News has lived down to its reputation for accurate reporting. The channel of ‘fair and balanced reporting’ (copyright R. Murdoch) declared that Birmingham and many other British cities, are now ‘completely Muslim’ and ‘non-Muslims simply don’t go in’. This has produced an outcry across the social media, from the people of those cities. Apparently it’s also news to them that their cities are completely Muslim, and non-Muslims don’t live there or visit. Mike over at Vox Political has some of the highly amusing responses. The article’s ‘Fox News announces Birmingham is a ‘no-go zone’ for non-Muslims’ and it’s at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/01/11/fox-news-announces-birmingham-is-a-no-go-zone-for-non-muslims/.

And some of them are hilarious. Among some of the best is the joke that’The English City of Ba’ath is dedicated to the overthrow of the state of Israel. (Bernie Banter)’.

Across the North, people are holding up placards saying, ‘Je suis Benny’, (the much-loved character from the soap Crossroads).

Jasper Carrot is the Islamic theocratic rulers of Birmingham.

Mike also reports that there is now a petition calling on the Mayor of Birmingham and other British cities to let Non-Muslims back in. Mike comments on this “[edit: it’s a shame to have to add this bit, because it spoils the joke a bit – but for the avoidance of doubt, this is a satirical petition. I know that Birmingham is a diverse city and that everyone is welcome there as in all other cities in the UK. Fox News’ so-called ‘expert’ apparently does not.]”

There is a more sinister aspect to this. It could be suggested that, by making these claims on a major news channel, the Murdoch media is trying to stir up internecine unrest in the United Kingdom. This is, of course, illegal.

The Fox News report that so libelled Birmingham follows a series of articles by Right-wing, anti-Islamic journalists like Mark Steyn about the Islamification of European cities. Steyn on his blog has repeatedly commented on the majority Muslim state of Feyenoord in the Netherlands. According to him, the Muslim dominated town council issued an invitation to its non-Muslim inhabitants to convert to Islam. Steyn also believes and promotes the idea of ‘Eurabia’, the prediction that Muslim immigration and higher birth rates will soon result in a Muslim majority Europe.

There’s a geo-political aspect to this, as it looks to me less like an objective prediction of the future for Europe, and more like a piece of Israeli psy-ops designed to promote solidarity between Europe and Israel, and their programme of gradual isolation and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, as well as a more generally hostile attitude to the Islamic world. The Arab Israeli birth rate is slightly higher than the Israeli, and there are parts of Israel where already the Arab population is estimated to be the majority, such as the Negev. Moreover, Arabs dominate certain sectors of the economy, such as fruit-picking, where the wages are too low and conditions too poor to be attractive to Israeli workers. There was also a shock when 75 per cent of young Israelis responded ‘Yes’ in a questionnaire to the question, ‘Would you rather live in America, with Christian neighbours who like us, rather than Israel with Muslim neighbours who hate us?’ There is also political tension between the Israeli religious right, who wish to expand the Israeli state so that its borders match those when it was at its greatest extent at the time of the Bible. Other, more pragmatic politicians fear that this would overstretch the population and its resources, and that incorporating these new territories would have to be accompanied with the loss of areas, such as the Negev, with an Arab majority. On these problems facing Israel, see the chapter in the book edited by Albert Hourani on the history and contemporary situation in the Middle East.

It looks to me that the predictions of a coming Muslim-dominated Europe are based very much on the real demographic predicament of Israel. I also believe that the recent statements by various rabbis and Jewish authorities, that Jews are no longer safe in Europe and should move to Israel, are a part of this strategy to exploit the current victimisation of the Jewish population in Europe in order to solve some of Israel’s demographic problems through immigration. I am certainly not complacent about the severe threats to European Jews from the stormtroopers of the Right and militant Islam, especially after the murders of Jews in France and elsewhere. I think, however, that the real threat to their safety is being exaggerated by the militant Zionist Right.

Thus Fox News presents the idea that Muslims have completely dominated several British cities as objective fact, in order to promote the ideas of American exceptionalism. In their view, America and Israel both stand alone against the tide of Muslims threatening to overwhelm the West.

Thinking the Unthinkable: Move Parliament out of London

October 19, 2013

From Hell, Hull and Halifax, good Lord deliver us

-16th Century beggars’ prayer.

Last week The Economist recommended that the government cease trying to revive declining northern towns and leave them to die. The main example of such a town, where further intervention was deemed to be useless, was Hull, but the magazine also mentioned a number of others, including Burnley. The Economist is the magazine of capitalist economic orthodoxy in this country. Its stance is consistently Neo-Liberal, and the policies it has always demanded are those of welfare cuts and the privatisation of everything that isn’t nailed down. It has loudly supported the IMF’s recommendations of these policies to the developing world. Some left-wing magazines and organisation like Lobster have pointed out that the IMF’s policies effectively constitute American economic imperialism, citing the IMF’s proposals to several South and Meso-American nations. These were not only told to privatise their countries’ state assets, but to sell them to American multinationals so that they could be more efficiently managed.

The Economist’s advice that economically hit northern towns should be ‘closed down’ also reflects the almost exclusive concentration of the metropolitan establishment class on London and south-east, and their complete disinterest and indeed active hostility to everything beyond Birmingham. This possibly excludes the Scots Highlands, where they can go grouse shooting. It was revealed a little while ago that back in the 1980s one of Thatcher’s cabinet – I forgotten which one – recommended a similar policy towards Liverpool. Recent economic analyses have shown that London and the south-east have become increasingly prosperous, and have a higher quality of life, while that of the North has significantly declined. The London Olympics saw several extensive and prestigious construction projects set up in the Docklands area of London, intended both to build the infrastructure needed for the Olympics and promote the capital to the rest of the world. It’s also been predicted that the high-speed rail link proposed by the Coalition would not benefit Britain’s other cities, but would lead to their further decline as jobs and capital went to London. A report today estimated that 50 cities and regions, including Bristol, Cardiff, Aberdeen and Cambridge would £200 million + through the rail link. The Economist’s article also demonstrates the political class’ comprehensive lack of interest in manufacturing. From Mrs Thatcher onwards, successive administrations have favoured the financial sector, centred on the City of London. Lobster has run several articles over the years showing how the financial sector’s prosperity was bought at the expense of manufacturing industry. Despite claims that banking and financial industry would take over from manufacturing as the largest employer, and boost the British economy, this has not occurred. The manufacturing has indeed contracted, but still employs far more than banking, insurance and the rest of the financial sector. The financial sector, however, as we’ve seen, has enjoyed massively exorbitant profits. The Economist claims to represent the interests and attitudes of the financial class, and so its attitude tellingly reveals the neglectful and contemptuous attitude of the metropolitan financial elite towards the troubled economic conditions of industrial towns outside the capital.

Coupled with this is a condescending attitude that sees London exclusively as the centre of English arts and culture, while the provinces, particularly the North, represent its complete lack. They’re either full of clod-hopping yokels, or unwashed plebs from the factories. Several prominent Right-wingers have also made sneering or dismissive comments about the North and its fate. The art critic and contrarian, Brian Sewell, commented a few years ago that ‘all those dreadful Northern mill towns ought to be demolished’. Transatlantic Conservatism has also felt the need to adopt a defensive attitude towards such comments. The American Conservative, Mark Steyn, on his website declared that criticism of London was simply anti-London bias, but didn’t tell you why people were so critical of the metropolis or its fortunes. This situation isn’t new. At several times British history, London’s rising prosperity was marked by decline and poverty in the rest of the country. In the 17th century there was a recession, with many English ports suffering a sharp economic decline as London expanded to take 75 per cent of the country’s trade. The regional ports managed to survive by concentrating on local, coastal trade rather than international commerce, until trade revived later in the century.

It’s also unfair on the North and its cultural achievements. The North rightfully has a reputation for the excellence of its museum collections. The region’s museums tended to be founded by philanthropic and civic-minded industrialists, keen to show their public spirit and their interest in promoting culture. I can remember hearing from the director of one of the museum’s here in Bristol two decades ago in the 1990s how he was shocked by the state of the City’s museum when he came down here from one of the northern towns. It wasn’t of the same standard he was used to back home. What made this all the more surprising was that Bristol had a reputation for having a very good museum. Now I like Bristol Museum, and have always been fascinated by its collections and displays, including, naturally, those on archaeology. My point here isn’t to denigrate Bristol, but simply show just how high a standard there was in those of the industrial north. Liverpool City Museum and art gallery in particular has a very high reputation. In fact, Liverpool is a case in point in showing the very high standard of provincial culture in the 19th century, and its importance to Britain’s economic, technological and imperial dominance. Liverpool was a major centre in scientific advance and experiment through its philosophical and literary society, and its magazine. This tends to be forgotten, overshadowed as it has been by the city’s terrible decline in the 20th century and its setting for shows dealing with working-class hardship like Boys from the Black Stuff and the comedy, Bread. Nevertheless, its cultural achievements are real, quite apart from modern pop sensations like the Beatles, Cilla Black, Macca and comedians like Jimmy Tarbuck. The town also launched thousands of young engineers and inventors with the Meccano construction sets, while Hornby railways delighted model railway enthusiasts up and down the length of Britain. These two toys have been celebrated in a series of programmes exploring local history, like Coast. Hornby, the inventor of both Meccano and the model railway that bore his name, was duly celebrated by the science broadcaster, Adam Hart-Davis, as one of his Local Heroes.

And Liverpool is certainly not the only city north of London with a proud history. Think of Manchester. This was one of Britain’s major industrial centres, and the original hometown of the Guardian, before it moved to London. It was a major centre of the political debates and controversies that raged during the 19th century, with the Guardian under Feargus O’Connor the major voice of working class radicalism. It was in industrial towns like Manchester that working class culture emerged. Books like The Civilisation of the Crowd show how mass popular culture arose and developed in the 19th century, as people from working-class communities attempted to educate themselves and enjoy music. They formed choirs and brass bands. Working men, who worked long hours used their few spare hours to copy sheet music to sing or play with their fellows. The various mechanics institutes up and down the country were institutions, in which the working class attempted to educate itself and where contemporary issues were discussed. It’s an aspect of industrial, working class culture that needs to be remembered and celebrated, and which does show how strong and vibrant local culture could be in industrial towns outside London.

Back in the 1990s the magazine, Anxiety Culture, suggested a way of breaking this exclusive concentration on London and the interests of the metropolitan elite to the neglect of those in the provinces. This magazine was a small press publication, with a minuscule circulation, which mixed social and political criticism with Forteana and the esoteric, by which I mean alternative spirituality, like Gnosticism, rather than anything Tory prudes think should be banned from the internet, but don’t know quite what. In one of their articles they noted that when a politician said that ‘we should think the unthinkable’, they meant doing more of what they were already doing: cutting down on welfare benefits and hitting the poor. They recommended instead the adoption of a truly radical policy:

Move parliament out of London.

They listed a number of reasons for such a genuinely radical move. Firstly, it’s only been since the 18th century that parliament has been permanently fixed in London. Before then it often sat where the king was at the time. At various points in history it was at Winchester near the Anglo-Saxon and Norman kings’ treasury. It was in York during Edward I’s campaign against the Scots. In short, while parliament has mostly been resident in London, it hasn’t always been there, and so there is no absolutely compelling reason why it should remain so.

Secondly, London’s expensive. The sheer expensive of living in the capital was always so great that civil servants’ pay including ‘London weighting’ to bring it up to the amount they’d really need to live on in the capital, which was always higher than in the rest of the country. The same was true for other workers and employees. As we’ve seen, these inequalities are growing even more massive under the Tories, and there is talk of a demographic cleansing as poorer families are forced to move out of some of the most expensive boroughs in the capital. MPs and the very rich may now afford to live in luxury accommodation in the metropolis, but I wonder how long it will be before the capital’s infrastructure breaks down because so many of its workers simply cannot afford to live there. The government has declared that it is keen on cutting expenses, and public sector employees’ salaries have been particularly hard hit. The government could therefore solve a lot of its problems – such as those of expense, and the cost in time and money of negotiating the heavy London traffic – by relocating elsewhere.

Birmingham would be an excellent place to start. This has most of what London has to offer, including excellent universities and entertainment centres, such as the NEC, but would be much cheaper. Or York. During the Middle Ages, this was England’s Second City. It’s an historic town, with a history going back to the Romans. The excavations at Coppergate made York one of the major British sites for the archaeology of the Vikings. It also has an excellent university. One could also recommend Durham. When I was growing up in the 1980s, Durham University was considered the third best in the country, following Oxbridge. Manchester too would be an outstanding site for parliament. Apart from its historic associations with working class politics, it has also been a major centre of British scientific research and innovation. Fred Hoyle, the astronomer and maverick cosmologist, came from that fair city. While he was persistently wrong in supporting the steady-state theory against the Big Bang, he was one of Britain’s major astronomers and physicists, and Manchester University does have a very strong tradition of scientific research and innovation. British politicians are also keen to show that they are now tolerant with an inclusive attitude towards gays. Manchester’s Canal Street is one of the main centres of gay nightlife. If parliament really wanted to show how tolerant it was of those in same-sex relationship, it would make sense for it to move to Manchester.

Furthermore, relocating parliament to the north should have the effect of reinvigorating some of these cities and the north generally. The influx of civil servants and highly paid officials and ministers would stimulate the local economy. It would also break the myopic assumption that there is nothing of any value outside London. If the government and its servants continued to feel the same way, then they would have the option of actually passing reforms to improve their new homes by providing better road and rail links, improving local education, building or better funding theatres, orchestras and opera companies, investing in local businesses to support both the governmental infrastructure, but also to provide suitable work for themselves and their children, when they retire from the Civil Service. In short, moving parliament out of London to the midlands or the North would massively regenerate those part of England.

It won’t happen, because the current financial, political and business elite are very much tied to the metropolis as the absolute centre of English life and culture. They won’t want to leave its theatres, art galleries and museums, or move away from nearby sporting venues, like Ascot. They would find the idea of moving out of London absolutely unthinkable. But perhaps, as Anxiety Culture suggested twenty years ago, it is time that these ideas were thought, rather than the banal and all-too often ruminated policies of cutting benefits and penalising the poor.

The American Right’s Demographic Argument against the European Welfare State and Mussolini’s ‘Battle for Births’

August 7, 2013

One of the other arguments the American Right has used against the socialised medicine and the welfare state in America is the effect they believe it would have on the American birth rate. European birth rates are falling. Right-wing broadcasters and journalists, like Mark Steyn, have declared that this due to these nations’ extensive welfare policy. With the state to care for them in sickness, unemployment and old age, Europeans are no longer bothering to have the children, who would otherwise support them. This contrasts markedly with the competing nations in the Developing World with their large families. As a result, Europe would face the problems of an aging population, with increased state expenditure on their care and tax burden on the contracting younger population that would be required to pay for it.

This argument has a number of major flaws, not least the fact that birth rates are falling throughout the Developed World, regardless of whether they have a welfare state or not. Japan has been governed more or less continually by the Liberal Democratic Party since the Second World War. This is a Conservative party and there has been little state welfare provision in Japan. Despite this, the Japanese birth rate is also falling, to the point where one of the major Japanese newspapers back in the 1990s declared that if this situation was not reversed, in a thousand years’ time the Japanese people would be extinct. In some European countries this demographic decline appears to have begun long before the modern welfare state. The French and German birth rates appeared to have begun to fall some time around the First World War. The German writers Richard Korherr and Oswald Spengler also saw the declining European birth rate as part of its decadence, and these in turn inspired Mussolini to launch the ‘demographic campaign’ to raise the birth rate. Mussolini turned to the Fascist statistician and demographer, Corrado Gini, for information. Gini declared that the problem was symptomatic of the ‘old age of nations’, and due to the dominance of economics over patriotism. It was caused by the ‘calculated egoism’, ‘sedentary character’ and the growth in working class unrest. Mussolini himself went even further. He declared that it had been demographic decline that had caused the fall of the Roman Empire. Italy needed a high birth rate if it was to become a reinvigorated and dynamic nation. He argued that the low birth rate was the result of corrupt modern urban civilisation and its pernicious influences. This was contrasted with the countryside, where the virtues of peasant life resulted in large families. He therefore launched a campaign to depopulate the cities in favour of the countryside, and ban migration from it to the cities.

While Steyn and the rest of the American Right argue that state intervention and welfare policies are the cause of this decline, Mussolini demanded the exact opposite. The state launched a series of legislation to encourage its citizens to marry and have children. It also increased welfare provision to ensure the health of babies and their mothers. In 1925 it established the Opera Nazionale di Maternita ed Infanzia to ensure the health and welfare of women and their children. In 1929 it passed legislation granting maternity leave and birth insurance for working mothers, as well as a tax on unmarried men. From 1933 it passed further legislation providing for extra pay, and special loans, prizes and subsidies for families with a large number of children. Newlyweds were also to receive special loans from the state. The Italian population did rise during the Fascist period from 38,450,000 to 44,900,000. Historians of Fascist Italy, such as Philip V. Cannistraro, consider it very doubtful whether this was due to the government’s policies, except, perhaps, that increased welfare provision may have lowered infant mortality.

Socialised medicine and the welfare state cannot be used to explain falling birth rates in Europe and the Developed World. Far more likely is the simple fact that living standards have risen since the 19th century. The more educated, affluent sections of the population tend to have fewer children than the poorer, less educated. Living standards have improved, and there are greater leisure opportunities than available than in the Victorian era. In the 19th century much of working class social life revolved around the pub, though participation and involvement in sport, music and popular educational facilities like museums and libraries were also growing. Since then a wider range of commercial goods have become available, along with leisure activities and venues from sports facilities to music, theatre and the cinema. Moreover infant mortality has fallen from the horrific levels of the 19th century, so there isn’t the same necessity for parents to have large numbers of children in the hope that one, at least, might survive.

The converse of this is that the American Right, in their campaign against welfare benefits, Obamacare and decent working conditions are aiming to reduce their people to the kind of harsh poverty found in the modern Developing World and in the 19th century Europe and America, whose laissez-faire policies they idolise.

Sources

‘Demographic Policy’,’Fasci Femminili’ and’Gini, Corrado’ in Philip V. Cannistraro, ed., Historical Dictionary of Fascist Italy (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood 1982), pp. 162-4, 202-4, and 246.

Adrian Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power: Fascism in Italy 1919-1920, 2nde Edition (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1987.

Guns Will Make US Powerful. Obamacare Will Make Us Fat

August 7, 2013

The American Right has bitterly opposed Obama’s attempt to introduce a single-payer health service similar to those in Canada, Australia and Europe. The arguments used against it is that it has added increased bureaucracy to American healthcare. It is also claimed that American companies are also being penalised by the increased taxes needed to support it. The spurious claims that private American healthcare is superior to the socialised systems of Britain and Europe. Among the more emotive claims is that socialised medicine is somehow totalitarian, because the individual citizens in the countries that have it are supposed to be at the mercy of their government and their doctors. This argument runs that people no longer have any control over their lives, as governments and the medical profession demand that the adopt a healthy lifestyle and eating habits in order to keep medical costs low. This argument is itself specious, as it’s been a very long time since Americans have been free to ignore the advice of their own doctors. They are tied very much to the demands of the insurance companies that provide the cover for their healthcare.

One of the other arguments that the Right has used, and this is the one I intend to examine here, is that expenditure on Obamacare will critically endangers America’s military power and ability to defend freedom abroad. The Right-wing journalist and broadcaster Mark Steyn has particularly used this argument. Steyn used to write for a number of British papers, before he went to America to join Rush Limbaugh as one of the leading figures in American Right-wing journalism. The argument runs that at present, America is able to support a large military force, much of which is stationed overseas because its comparatively low government expenditure makes this affordable. During the Cold War and after 9/11, America’s forces have been actively defending the free world. This is in stark contrast to the military impotence of post-World War II Europe. Europe, according to Steyn, is crippled and decadent due to its commitment to maintaining a high level of expenditure on its welfare systems. They are therefore unable and unwilling to support military campaigns defending freedom across the world. This, warns Steyn and the Right, is what America will become unless Americans vote against President Obama, whom they deride as America’s first European president.

It’s an argument comparable to the quote from Goring about the desirability of military power over an increased food supply: Guns will make us powerful. Butter will make us fat. The only difference is that in this case, the American Right is demanding such sacrifices in order to defend democracy.

Now let’s examine the claim in more detail. First of all, many members of the present EU did not have much in the way of an overseas Empire. The main imperial nations were Britain, France, Spain and Portugal. Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Denmark also had imperial colonies overseas, but they were much smaller than those of the first four countries. Germany lost its African colonies after the First World War. Spain’s colonies in Latin America broke away during a series of wars for independence in the 19th century. Belgium’s own imperial adventure in the Congo became a major international scandal due to the enslavement of the indigenous peoples to work on the Belgian crown’s vast sugar plantations, in which truly horrific atrocities were committed. Italy was a latecomer to imperialism. Its attempts to establish an empire in Africa in the 19th century resulted in some humiliating defeats by the indigenous peoples, such as at Adowa. This resulted in the downfall of the democratically elected regime and its replacement, for a time, with a military dictatorship. Its greatest attempts to establish itself as a major imperial power came with Mussolini’s dictatorship. This was done with great brutality and the infliction of horrific atrocities. It has been estimated that between Italy’s conquest of the country in the 1920s and decolonisation in the 1950s, about a third of the Tunisian population was killed fighting their occupiers. Despite the regime’s attempts to settle Italian farmers in Libya, bitter resistance remained and Italians were unsafe except in the coastal cities.

All the European powers were left exhausted by the Second World War, which stimulated nationalism and the demands for independence in their subject territories. One African or Indian nationalist commented on the way the experience of fighting with the British destroyed in the First World War destroyed their image of invincibility. Before the War the British had appeared to be supermen. Now, seeing them injured, sick and suffering like their imperial subjects, convinced Africans and Indians that they were the same as them, and could be defeated. George Orwell in one of his piece of journalism records watching a parade of Black troops in French Morocco. He states that standing there, watching them pass, he knew what was going through the minds of every White man present: How long can we continue to fool these people? Writing in 1910, the leader of the German Social Democrats, Karl Kautsky, observed the increasing opposition to European imperialism in Asia and Africa and predicted the rise of violent nationalist revolutions against the European powers in the occupied countries.

‘The spirit of rebellion is spreading everywhere in Asia and Africa, and with it is spreading also the use of European arms; resistance to European exploitation is growing. It is impossible to transplant capitalist exploitation into a country, without also sowing the seeds of revolution against this exploitation.

Initially, the expresses itself in increasing complications, colonial policies, and in a growth of their costs. Our colonial enthusiasts comfort us, with regard to the burdens the colonies now impose on us, by referring to the rich rewards the future will bring. In reality, the military expenses required for the maintenance of the colonies are bound to increase constantly from now on – and this will not be all. The majority of countries of Asia and Africa are approaching a situation in which intermittent uprisings will become continuous and will ultimately lead to the destruction of the foreign yoke. Britain’s possessions in East India are nearest to this stage: their loss would be equivalent to the bankruptcy of the English state’.

(Karl Kautsy: Selected Political Writings, ed. and trans. by Patrick Goode (London: MacMillan 1983), p. 77.)

Historians now consider that the Empire was a drain, not a source of wealth, for Britain after 1900. Britain’s gradual departure from its colonies was also a condition for the military and financial aid given by its allies, America and the Soviet Union, during the Second World War. In a series of meeting held with the British authorities and the British Anti-Slavery Society, the Americans demanded the opening up of Britain’s colonies to American trade. The Russians also demanded access to British colonial markets and Britain’s gradual withdrawal from her colonies. By and large Britain’s decline as an imperial power was peaceful, as her colonies were granted independence one after another, beginning with India and Pakistan, from the late 1940s to the 1970s. Nevertheless, Britain did fight a series of wars to retain control of some her colonies in the face of rebellion by the indigenous peoples in Kenya and Malaya.

The establishment of the welfare state in Britain certainly did add greater expenses to the government. However, Britain was unable to support its Empire due to the immense costs of the Second World War on one side and the demands by the formerly subject people’s for independence on the other. Moreover Britain was unlike America in presenting a convincing claim to be defending freedom. America’s own attempts to establish an Empire was confined roughly to the period around 1900. Britain, however, remained a major imperial power and could not present an entirely convincing claim to be defending freedom while denying its subject people’s self-government.

Steyn’s view that the establishment of a welfare state results in military weakness and a reluctance to engage with military threats on the world stage also breaks down completely with some of the other European nations. The origins of Germany’s welfare system lie in Bismarck’s legislation providing German workers with old age pensions, sickness and unemployment insurance. This was several years before the late 19th century Scramble for Africa, which saw the Kaiser attempt to gain colonies there. Furthermore, the use of military force abroad is associated in the minds of the German public with the horrors and militant nationalism of the Third Reich. This is the reason successive German administrations have found it difficult sending troops abroad, even if they were to be used as peacekeepers preventing greater atrocities from being committed by other warring peoples, such as in the former Yugoslavia. As for Italy, the BBC’s foreign affairs programme on Radio 4, From Our Own Correspondent, stated that the country was unwilling to send further troops to support the coalition forces after 9/11 out of fears for the damage terrorist reprisals would inflict on its priceless artistic, architectural and cultural heritage. The small size of many European nations, such as Belgium, the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands, also prevents them from sending vast numbers of troops comparable to those of America or Britain abroad. In the case of Belgium, there is also considerable amount of guilt over the horrors of the atrocities in the Congo, and it has only been in the past few decades that the country is facing up to its history in this area. After the Second World War the country, so I understand, simply wished to forget the whole affair. I don’t know, but like Germany, this may well colour any attempts to interfere militarily in another nation with the Belgian people.

In short, Europe’s gradual military withdrawal from the wider world has far less to do with the expense of maintaining a welfare state than with the economic exhaustion and social and political disruption of two World Wars, and the demands of its former subject peoples for self-determination. The European experience does not suggest that American military power will decline with the introduction of Obama’s single-payer health service, and certainly should not be used to generate opposition to it.