Posts Tagged ‘Michael Gove’

Open Britain’s Reminder of Brexit Lies

March 14, 2017

I got an email from the anti-Leave group, Open Britain, asking me to remind people again of the multitude of lies the Brexit campaigners have told, and for me to share their graphic on Twitter or Facebook. I’m not on either of those, and for some reason my email won’t show accompanying graphics. But I’m more than happy to show the lies the people of this country have been told by the likes of Farage, Johnson and Gove, to get them to vote for Leaving the EU. Here’s the message from Open Britain.

The realities of what a hard Brexit could mean are beginning to collide with the breezy rhetoric of Leave campaigners. Already – before negotiations have even begun – totemic promises are being broken.
•We were told there would be £350 million more a week for the NHS, but Leave campaigners are desperate to run away from this promise, and borrowing estimates have risen by £58bn thanks to Brexit.
•We were told economic warnings were “scaremongering”, but prices have risen as the pound has fallen and car companies are speculating about shifting investment abroad.
•We were told the EU would bend over backwards to give us the deal we want, but Ministers are now talking up the prospect of leaving with no deal at all.
•And we were told our Union would be stronger, but today we see the SNP once again fostering grievance to threaten the break up of the UK.

If you’re as sick of their lies and falsehoods as I am, please feel free to reblog this or poste it up on your own Twitter and Facebook pages.

Wartime Conference on Science, Philosophy, Religion and Democracy

March 12, 2017

I found a copy of the 1942 book, Science, Philosophy and Religion: Second Symposium, over a decade ago now in a secondhand bookshop in Totnes in Devon. As the above title page states, this comes from a conference on science, philosophy and religion and their relation to the democratic way of life, held in New York in 1942. The conference was held at Columbia University and was the successor to the first symposium, held a year earlier. The book was a collection of papers by leading members of the above disciplines, edited by Lyman Bryson and Louis Finkelstein. These were intended to show how these areas of research and experience supported democracy against the advance of the totalitarian regimes in Europe.

The volume has the following contents

I Democracy’s Challenge to the Scientist, by Caryl P. Haskins;
II Democracy and the Natural Science, Karl F. Herzfeld;
III Some Comments on Science and Faith, Hudson Hoagland;
IV The Comparative Study of Culture of the Purposive Cultivation of Democratic Values, by Margaret Mead;
V The Basis for Faith in Democracy, Max Schoen.
VI Pragmatism, Religion and Education, John L. Childs;
VII Liberal Education and Democracy;
VIII A Philosophy of Democratic Defense, Charles Hartshorne;
IX The Role of Law in a Democracy, Frank E. Horack, Jr.
X Pluralism and Intellectual Democracy;
XI, Empiricism, Religion and Democracy, Charles W. Morris;
XII Philosophical Implications of the Prevalent Conception of Democracy;
XIII The Spiritual Basis of Democracy, by the Princeton Group;
XIV Thomism and Democracy, by Yves R. Simon.
XV Democracy and the Rights of Man, Paul Weiss.
XVI The Stake of Art in the Present Crisis, George Boas.
XVIII An Approach to the Study of History, William G. Constable;
XIX Literature and the Present Crisis, Joseph Wood Krutch.
XX How Long is the Emergency, Mark Van Doren.
XXI Democratic Culture in the Light of Modern Poetry.
XXII Democratic Aspirations in Talmudic Judaism, Ben Zion Bokser.
XXIII Democracy in the Hebrew-Christian Tradition; Old and New Testaments, Millar Burrows;
XXIV Christianity and Democracy from the Point of View of Systematic Christian Theology, Nels F.S. Ferre;
XXV Philosophical Foundations of Religion and Democracy, Willliam O’Meara;
XXVI The Patristic Christian Ethos and Democracy, Albert C. Outler.

There is also a section of addresses. These are

I The Faith and Philosophy of Democratic Government, A.A. Berle, Jr.
II The Function of Law in a Democratic Society, Charles E. Clark.
III The Artist and the Democratic Way of Life, Walter Pach.
IV Democracy in Our Times, M.L. Wilson.
V The Religious Background of Democratic Ideas, Simon Greenberg, Clarence Mannion, Luther A. Weigle.

I’ve dug it out again as I believe very strongly that this symposium and its wisdom is needed again with the current stagnation of democracy and the rise of Trump in America, UKIP in Britain and the parties of the extreme right in Europe. The basis of democracy in the West has been gradually undermined over the last 30-odd years, ever since the election of Thatcher and Reagan. Successive governments in Britain and America have been determined to work for the benefit of rich, corporate paymasters against the poor and middle class. There has been a massive redistribution of wealth upwards, as welfare services have been slashed and outsourced, industries privatised and closed down, and public utilities sold off. As wages have stagnated, the corporate elite have seen their pay grossly inflated. Their taxes have been cut, while those for the poor have actually been increased.

As a result of this concentration on the demands of corporate political donors, recent studies by Harvard University and the Economist have concluded that America is no longer a full democracy. It is a ‘flawed democracy’, or even oligarchy.

At the same time governments in Britain and America have also supported the massive expansion of the surveillance state under the pretext of countering terrorism. At the same time, the rights of workers to strike, and ordinary people to protest, have been curtailed. David Cameron’s Tory administration tried to introduce a series of reforms to block street demonstrations and protests under the guise of preventing residents for suffering the nuisance caused by them.

We also have Tory and Republican administrations that insist that only their view of history should be taught in schools. Michael Gove a few years ago made a ridiculous speech complaining about the ‘Blackadder’ view of the First World War taught in schools, while the educational authorities in Arizona withdrew studies of slavery and the civil rights movement from the school syllabus. Instead, pupils in that state were to be taught the speeches of Ronald Reagan.

Donald Trump’s administration is overtly anti-immigration, particularly of Latinos and Muslims. It includes members of the Alt Right, like Steve Bannon and Curtis Ellis, who hold bitterly racist views. Many of Trump’s supporters are White supremacists and Nazis. UKIP and Brexit in Britain have also led to an increase in racism and racist violence against ethnic minorities. At the same time, these movements have also promoted hatred towards gays and the transgendered. And similar movements are attempting to take power or increase their gains across Europe, from Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France, the Alternative Fuer Deutschland in Germany, Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement in Italy, Jobbik in Hungary, and other extreme right-wing parties in Switzerland, Austria and Scandinavia.

Democracy, tolerance, pluralism and the rights of the poor are under threat. The threat in America and western Europe isn’t as overt and violent as it was when the Fascists seized power from the 1920s onwards. But it is there, and desperately needs to be resisted.

Muslims Come to the Aid of Vandalised Jewish Cemetery

February 23, 2017

The election of Donald Trump in America and the Brexit vote in Britain last year has led to a massive growth in racial bigotry and intolerance in both countries. Mike has put up on his blog today a critique of the government’s statement that migration to the UK has gone down. He points out that this is hardly surprising, given that hate crime has risen by 41 per cent. This includes assaults, arson attacks and canine excrement thrown at doors or shoved through letter boxes. He wonders if any of the Tory and UKIP politicos – David Cameron, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson or Michael Gove are really worried about this. It is, after all, not them or their class that’s being attacked, but Johnny Foreigner. Mike reminds us that Jo Cox, a politician, was murdered in a racist attack by Thomas Mair, and notes that the Commons yesterday cheered a move to commemorate the anniversary of her murder with the Great Get-Together, an initiative intended to bring communities together.

But he also remarks that there’s a bit of hypocrisy in their support for it, saying that

It would be hypocritical for them to applaud a drop in net migration fuelled by the same hate that ended Mrs Cox’s life.

The fact that violence is the real reason net migration has fallen means this is not a success for the United Kingdom and Theresa May.

As a nation, we should be ashamed.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/23/of-course-immigration-fell-after-the-brexit-vote-hate-crime-has-increased-dramatically/

The Young Turks on Tuesday reported the anti-Semitic desecration of about 200 graves in a Jewish cemetery in University City near St. Louis. One elderly lady from the community states that she no longer feels safe after the attack. This is not the only Jewish community has been attacked. So far 54 Jewish community centres have been threatened this year, including 11 in the past week. Discussing the incident, the two presenters, Ben Mankiewicz and Ana Kasparian, make the point that this hate has partly been unleashed by Donald Trump and his rhetoric and campaigns against Muslims and other groups, with Kasparian mentioning the misogyny in his speeches. They make the point that it is no accident that Trump’s cabinet includes Breitbart’s Steve Bannon, an anti-Semite and White supremacist, and his supporters include Richard Spencer, the leader of the Alt-Right. Spencer was interviewed by the left-wing news host, David Pakman, on his show. While Spencer denies being a Nazi, he refused to denounce Adolf Hitler. He said instead that he wasn’t ‘going to play those games’. He did state that the Third Reich was a failure. Which is something, but not the same as condemning it or Nazism. They also note that in his speech for Holocaust Remembrance Day, Trump somehow forgot to mention the Jews. Despite his own denial that he is anti-Semitic, Trump was very reluctant to disavow the support of David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Mankiewicz and Kasparian make the point that the people listening to Trump’s hate, and who feel emboldened and encouraged by it, aren’t going to limit their own hatred and attacks merely to the groups he’s selected. So even though Trump has denied that he is anti-Semitic, pointing out that his son-in-law is Jewish, and his daughter converted to Judaism to marry him, Trump’s own racist campaigning is responsible for encouraging these attacks on Jewish communities.

Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, has drawn fire for her father’s opponents, as she has tweeted a statement condemning the attack, which points out, quite rightly, that America was founded on religious toleration, and that we need to defend each others houses of worship.

There have also been an attempt by one right-wing journalist to blame the Left for the attack. Wolf Blitzer claimed that the cemetery was desecrated by Progressives. This seems to me to be complete and utter bilge. The Left, by and large, is very anti-racist. This accusation just seems to me to come from that part of the Republican and Libertarian ideologies that think that the Nazis were Socialists, ’cause Hitler put ‘Socialism’ in their name. He did, but only to draw some supporters away from the parties of the Left, such as the Social Democrats, the German equivalent of the Labour party, by making it appear that they were socialists. See the appropriate page in Joachim C. Fest’s biography of the nauseating little man, Hitler. And Hitler had to overcome the resistance of the other, founding members of the Nazi party, who bitterly despised Socialism and very definitely did not want their party to be associated with it. It also seems to me that the smear also owes something to continuing attempts to attack the BDS campaign against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This is an anti-racist campaign, supported by very many Jews as well as gentiles. But the Zionist lobby have always responded to criticism of Israeli imperialism and racism by smearing their opponents as anti-Semites. Many progressives as doubtless involved in the BDS movement as part of their general campaign against all forms of racism. But for the Israel lobby and their journalistic supporters, the progressives involved in the BDS campaign and similar movements must be anti-Semites. And from their it’s only a short leap to claiming that Progressives must somehow be responsible for this and similar attacks.

More positively, a Muslim organisation has come forward and raised money for the cemetery’s repair. Linda Sarsour, a Muslim activist, and one of the four principal organisers of the Women’s March on Washington, set up a website to raise the money. She wanted to get $20,000. Instead she raised $71,000. This is more than is needed for the cemetery in St. Louis, so the money will also be used to help other Jewish communities that have suffered attacks. The website states that it was set up to send a clear message from the Muslim and Jewish communities against such intolerance.

The programme’s hosts, Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian state that this shows the best of America, and that people are coming together to defend other victims of intolerance, whether it is over skin colour or religion. Kasparian states that she feels that there isn’t enough coverage of movements and events like this, as quite often the focus is dominated by the negative things now happening. But this makes her feel more positive and hopeful.

I don’t think this is the only incident in which the members of one religion have reached out to aid those from others, which are in need. There have been cases like it in this country, one of the most recent examples being the decision of some Asian restaurants and takeaways in Britain to stay open on Christmas Day to supply meals for the homeless. The Get-Together campaign cheered in the Commons yesterday is only the latest and most prominent of these events and movements. And there will undoubtedly be more of them, as more people come together to tackle the intolerance and Fascism unleashed by Trump and Brexit.

The Young Turks on American Conservatives Setting Up Black List of Liberal Professors

December 6, 2016

Another attack on freedom of thought and speech in America, the Land of the Free. Yesterday I put up a piece about two articles from Counterpunch, discussing Obama’s failure to repeal the gross infringements of the US Constitution he inherited from his Republican predecessors, his plans to set up some kind of official body to tell Americans what sources they should believe on the internet, and an outrageous article in the Washington Post smearing dissenting journalists as treacherous purveyors of Moscow propaganda. The latter article appears to have come from the corporatist wing of the Democrat party trying to find scapegoats for Hillary Clinton’s failure to win against Trump, and the establishment media to clamp down on its liberal, new media rivals.

Now it seems the Republicans are also trying to get in on the act. This time it they’re coming for university and college professors. In this snippet from The Young Turks, the hosts John Iadarola and Ana Kasparian discuss a Conservative student organisation that has set up a website, Professor Watch List, which aims to expose 200 or so university lecturers, who deliberately target and victimise Conservative students. They claim that they are only publishing the identities of professors, who have already been in the news. However, analysis of their sources shows that these are fake news sites. They pretend to be by students, but in fact are by ‘very old Republican guys’. Iadarola and Kasparian state that they would have no problem with the website, if it honestly did what it claimed to do – protect students, who are being targeted for their political beliefs by their lecturers. But it’s not. It’s a partisan attempt to prevent lecturers presenting facts and arguments that Conservatives find uncomfortable, and which could lead to the lecturers themselves being disciplined or even fired.

Conservative students are also demonstrating against ‘safe spaces’ on campus. This includes setting up fake ‘safe space’ events, such as bake sales, and then waiting to see who turns up. They then lay out juice boxes, crayons and other children’s items to make the point that the people, who support ‘safe spaces’ are childish, in their opinion. The two presenters make the point that they are doing so by acting as children themselves. Ana Kasparian is particularly annoyed about this. She states she does not like safe spaces, as she only really learned things at college when her beliefs were being challenged. This is part of the experience of higher education. Having your beliefs challenged forces you to present evidence to defend them, or having to admit that you’re wrong if you can’t. She states clearly that what she believes is a bigger threat to academia isn’t some Conservative students feeling uncomfortable because of what is being taught by a Chicano studies professor, but the Koch brothers funding scientific laboratories in American universities so that they’ll push out spurious ‘research’ denying climate change. The Koch brother are multibillionaire oil magnates, and they have been responsible for getting meteorologists sacks, who have spoken out about climate change. Due to their influence independent climate science laboratories have been closed down, and replaced with institutions, funded by the Kochs, which have given them the propaganda about the non-existence of climate change they want.

John Iadarola also makes the point that the definition of ‘safe space’ is so wide, that it’s practically meaningless. It can mean something like a Black union, which doesn’t want White Supremacists coming in and distributing Nazi literature. Or it could mean a classroom, where the discussion of a particularly controversial topic is not permitted. They also make the point that refusing to allow a particular individual to speak on campus, because they’ve charged too high a fee, is not censorship. It’s a perfectly reasonable attitude. It only becomes censorship if the speaker is turned down, despite requesting a reasonable fee.

The two also make the point that no political ideology should have the monopoly on education. Academic freedom is too important for this. What is needed is more dialogue, as so far the differences in political opinion have become extremely polarised and people are no longer speaking to each other. There needs to be more dialogue, and integration.

This is an immensely important issue, as academic freedom is one of the cornerstones of democracy, as is preserving students’ own freedom of thought by protecting them against indoctrination. The Blair government passed legislation intended to prevent it in schools. Part of this stipulates that if a teacher is asked a question about a particular controversial issue in religion or politics, they may give an answer provided that they make it clear that it is just their personal belief. Obviously matters become far more complicated at the level of tertiary education as the discussion of the topics being taught is much deeper, and the conclusions drawn from the facts may be more subjective. But it also demands that students also act as adults, and are able to accept and deal with material that contradicts their own person viewpoints. Kasparian has said in a previous broadcast that she came from a very Conservative background, and only became a liberal when she was exposed to left-wing views and opinions at College. She’s also a college professor herself, and so this issue directly affects her.

Many people, who’ve been through college or uni, have had lecturers with very distinct academic views, both of the left and right. That should not prevent them from holding their jobs, provided they don’t penalise students simply for holding different opinions. This Professor Watch List isn’t about protecting students from indoctrination, however. It really does appear to be an attempt by Conservatives to use claims of indoctrination to close down contrary viewpoints. They aren’t really against indoctrination. They’re just outraged that students aren’t being indoctrinated with Conservatism.

I haven’t heard of any similar movement to this having appeared in Britain. Yet. But as the Tories have launched attacks on the way history is taught, as Conservative MPs like Michael Gove decided that the teaching of the First World War in schools wasn’t sufficiently patriotic. In fact, he went on a rant comparing it to Blackadder. I think the Union of Conservative Students has been closed down and merged with the Young Conservatives to form Conservative Future. But compiling a list of left-wing university tutors certainly seems like one of the stunts they would have done. And the National Front or BNP in the 1980s did encourage school pupils to send them the names of teachers, who were supposedly indoctrinating children with Communism, so they could beat them up. It also reminds very much of the way real totalitarian regimes, from Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China and Nazi Germany, have encouraged children to betray their parents and other adults, including teachers.

Freedom of thought is under attack from the corporatist Democrats and the Nationalist Republicans. This is a very dangerous time, and these trends need to be defeated and reversed, if our societies are to remain genuinely free.

Tariq Nasheed Corrects Alt-Right Fascist Lies about Black Civilisations

November 24, 2016

Yesterday I posted several pieces about Richard Spencer’s Nazi speech at the weekend, in which he celebrated Whites as a race of ‘strivers, explorers and conquerors’ whose civilisation and achievements keep improving. Spencer’s one of the founders and leaders of the Fascist Alt-Right, the Nazi nature of which was made chillingly explicit with the cries of ‘Hail Trump! Hail our race! Hail victory!’ with which he opened his vile little rant.

Spencer and his Nazi storm troopers, including another racist polemicist, Jared Tailor, claim that Blacks are inferior. Tariq Nasheed is a black blogger, who is clearly active attacking racism and pernicious claims against people of colour. In this video, he refutes Jared Taylor’s claims that Black people have invented nothing, and have a lower IQ than Whites. Taylor makes the claim that Blacks didn’t invent the wheel, and didn’t invent agriculture or domesticate animals. He also claims that Africans didn’t even have a calendar. This means that they are less intelligent than Whites. The White supremacists of the Alt-Right also maintain that Whites do not exploit Blacks and other ethnic minorities, and that they have benefited from contact with superior White civilisation.

Nasheed comprehensively trashes Taylor’s and his fellow Nazis’ claims that Blacks had no proper civilisation or achievements. He refuses to talk about the ancient Egyptian civilisation, which he feels strongly was Black, as this would be too easy. Instead, he talks about the lesser-known civilisations of West Africa. He mentions the work of Clyde Winters in documenting indigenous writing systems in the peoples of that part of Africa. Black people also very definitely had the wheel. Nasheed points to the rock pictures in the Sahara desert, which show Blacks driving chariots. The Black cultures in Africa also had agriculture and domesticated animals. They kept oxen, and their kings even had pet lions. As for buildings, they had houses and other structures that were two to three storeys tall. The Songhay empire had castles, and he rightly mentions, and ridicules, how the great fortress of Zimbabwe was so impressive, that its colonial discoverers tried to explain it as the work of space aliens. He also talks about the great university at Timbuktu, which was a centre of learning before Europe had universities. As for Black Africans lacking a calendar, he talks about how there is one monumental such device in Namibia.

He states that he’s offered to debate Taylor many times, but has never received an answer. His worry, however, is that now the Nazi Alt-Right have Donald Trump’s ear, Taylor, or an ignorant bigot like him, will get in charge of the educational system, and try to stop Black people learning about the achievements of their people in Africa.

Nasheed is also very much aware that many Whites also despise the Alt Right Fascists. He’s seen a group of White guys beat one of ’em up, and gives a shout out to Whites combating the Alt-Right.

I don’t condone unprovoked violence against the Nazis. They should have the same right not to be attacked as anybody else. But I’m well aware that they themselves are extremely violent, and have beaten and murdered people. I’m very aware that some people may have had to defend themselves, just as I’m also aware that their grotesque, vile opinions and racial insults may provoke others into violence against them, especially Blacks, Jews and others, who have been on the receiving end of their race hate and physical assault.

Nasheed is absolutely right about what he says, though I have some qualifications and additions to make. Black people certainly had the wheel. The rock paintings he mentioned are, I think, at Tassili N’Ajjer in the Sahara. They were painted when that part of the desert was green, many thousands of years ago. They show Whites from North Africa and Blacks from the south crossing and crisscrossing the desert, including people driving chariots. That said, convention historians believe that the wheel was probably invented somewhere in central Asia. So, not invented by Blacks, but arguably not invented by Whites either, or at least, not by Europeans. And yes, many Black nations and cultures certainly possessed agriculture, though again, the conventional explanation is that it spread to sub-Saharan Africa from ancient Egypt. As for the ancient Egyptians being a Black civilisation, they portrayed themselves as being lighter skinned than the peoples to their south, such as the Nubians, who are portrayed in ancient Egyptian papyri as being definitely Black. However, they were darker than their Greek and Roman conquerors. A few years ago New Scientist carried an article, which suggested that the seeds of ancient Egyptian civilisation was in a Black people from the south, whose religion centred around the worship of the cow. This was the ancestral version of Hathor, the Egyptian cow-goddess. These Black race migrated north, to what is now Egypt, as the Saharan desert dried out at the end of the last Ice Age, where they encountered and intermarried with White peoples.

The Songhay and Malinka peoples, who founded the great Muslim empire of Mali, were rich and powerful, and the university of Timbuktu was one of the major centres of Islamic learning and civilisation in West Africa. There have been documentaries exploring the priceless intellectual heritage preserved in the books from its library. Unfortunately, this has been threatened by Islamism. You may recall that a few years ago, Islamist barbarians allied to Daesh tried to set the university on fire in order to destroy its vast repository of the area’s indigenous Muslim culture. The Songhay did indeed have castles. They also had cavalry troops, who have been described in European textbooks as ‘knights of the Sahara’. And yes, in this part of Africa there are multi-storey buildings and extensive palaces. These are of mud brick, but then, so were ziggurats of ancient Babylon. The great Swahili civilisation of East Africa, however, built cities made from coral, which were coated with a lime wash made from burning the same substance. Their cities are as impressive and as richly carved as any others in Islam. The great fortress of Zimbabwe, which is also in east Africa, is also spectacular. It seemed such a contrast to the architecture of the indigenous peoples, who now live in wooden huts, that the Europeans who discovered it tried to explain it as the work of the Chinese, Arabs, or indeed, anyone other than indigenous Africans, including space aliens. In actual fact, its method of construction is very much the same type of building techniques as the mud huts of the local peoples. It seems it was built by the Razwe people, but then during some disruption in the 19th century, it was abandoned.

As for his statement that Black Africans didn’t have the calendar, he is most definitely, monumentally wrong. They definitely had the calendar, and from a very early period. There’s a piece of notched bone, found in a cave in South Africa by archaeologists, which appears to have been a counting device of some kind. The bone dates from 70,000 years ago, and it has been suggested that it may have been a portable calendar. This is about 40,000 years before modern men, Homo Sapiens Sapiens, moved out of Africa to colonise Europe. If it is true that this is a calendar, then clearly Taylor in this regard couldn’t possibly be more wrong.

Regarding Nasheed’s fears of the intellectual damage Alt-Right Fascism could do to the American educational system, I think Taylor and his squadristi will have severe problems if they true to impose a White supremacist curriculum at the universities. I think the liberal traditions of many American universities are simply too strong. No reputable historian, anthropologist or archaeologist specialising in researching African culture and heritage is going to stand for the denigration of African civilisation or the attack on their academic disciplines. I also anticipate considerable resistance from Black Studies professors and their students. And this is quite apart from professors, intellectuals and students, who wish to defend American academia as seats of genuine learning and liberal culture.

However, I recognise that there is a real danger that the Nazis will try to undermine this aspect of the American education system, either by depriving it of funding, or demanding that other courses be introduced to ‘balance’ it.

In my opinion, the real danger is much lower down the educational system, at school level. A little while ago one of the left-wing news shows I watch on YouTube reported that the state educational authority in Arizona decided that the existing school curriculum and its textbooks were too left-wing. I think they objected to them, because they didn’t just present American civilisation as absolutely wonderful, with no defects or shameful episodes. It taught students about slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, institutional racism and civil rights, as well as the other, better aspects of American history. So the right-wingers in power got rid of it.

What did they insist school students learn instead of the complexities, shame and achievements of American history? Ronald Reagan’s speeches.

I kid you not. Ronald Reagan’s speeches. Which weren’t even written by him. I think this should count as a crime against education. Mind you, I think the Tories over here would like to inflict something equally stupid and sinister on our youngsters. Remember when Michael Gove was ranting about children being taught the ‘Blackadder’ view of the Great War in history? He and his fellow Tories would like to do the same, presenting a sanitised version of British history consonant with turning our children into earnest Thatcherites. In fact, I’m surprised they aren’t demanding that school pupils aren’t learning her speeches, like the poor souls in Arizona’s classrooms.

The Alt-Right are a threat to Blacks and other people of colour, and a threat to genuine history and learning. They shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near power, or the young minds they want to poison and keep in ignorance.

Sandi Toksvig’s Public Schoolgirl Feminism and Support for Theresa May and Hillary Clinton

October 15, 2016

Sandi Toksvig, the comedienne, author, and host of Radio 4’s News Quiz in this week’s Radio Times. She is, apparently, due to take over from Stephen Fry as the host on QI. She and her partner also took time off the other year to launch the Women’s Equality party, and this is one of the topics covered in the interview. She particularly discusses her support for Hillary Clinton and, on this side of the Atlantic, Theresa May.

I have had very mixed feelings about Toksvig for a very long time. I’m not taking issue with her feminism – far from it. Women aren’t given the same status and opportunities as men, and there is widespread agreement that this is an issue that demands to be tackled. Moreover, while she is a lesbian feminist, she’s not the stereotypical misandrist. She makes it very clear in her general demeanour that she doesn’t hate men. She has a son, whom it is very clear she dearly loves, and indeed, she also talks about how her party has the support of many ‘wonderful men’.

On the other hand, I gave up listening to the News Quiz years ago for the same reason I stopped watching Stephen Fry on QI: I got heartily sick of the more or less constant sneering about religion every single week. And it is her endorsement of the above two politicians that I take issue with now.

Toksvig states that she believes that Theresa May is the right person for the job of Prime Minister. She claims that she was not responsible for the current economic crisis the country is in. She makes the point that the men, who were responsible all stabbed each other in the back, and then swam off as quickly as their blood loss would allow. it’s a lurid metaphor, but accurate for the way Boris, Gove and Cameron all betrayed each other over Brexit. She then goes on to state how she is not one of those people, who are immediately opposed to something because it’s Tory. Then she went on to talk about her support for Hillary Clinton.

Perhaps this shows my own narrow political views and prejudice, but it’s at this point that I gave up. Whatever their other merits, Theresa May and Hillary Clinton aren’t the right people for the job. Theresa May is a Tory, and she shares all the Thatcherite, neoliberal, corporatist views and policies of his male predecessors. This involves further cuts and privatisation, the dismantlement of the welfare state and the privatisation of the NHS. These are hurting, and in many cases killing, the poorest, most vulnerable sections of our society.

Ditto for Hillary Clinton. With Bill, she has also participated and backed government cuts on what little America has of welfare support. The anti-drug laws she introduced were devised by the right with the specific intention of targeting and incarcerating Blacks. She has also shown herself every bit as bloodthirsty and hawkish as her male colleagues, backing the Iraq invasion, and deliberately re-defining the coup in Honduras so that Obama’s regime could continue giving military aid to the military dictatorship running the country. This is a Fascist regime, that is imprisoning and murdering leftists, trade unionists and indigenous activists. She has also publicly endorsed and cosied up to Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s foreign policy advisor, who’s responsible for a whole raft of coups and genocides from South America to Asia. Among other horrors, Nixon and Kissinger backed General Pinochet’s Fascist coup in Chile, gave the nod and armaments to Pakistan’s massacre of about 3 million people or so in Bangladesh during their war of independence, and was responsible for the mass bombing of Vietnam and Cambodia in the Vietnam War. While Kissinger certainly didn’t back the Khmer Rouge, his bombing of Cambodia created the condition that thrust Pol Pot and his murderers to power. And there are others. Many, many others. Kissinger has been publicly told what he is – a war criminal – at demonstrations and protests by people like the young women from Code Pink, who disrupted a Democratic rally at which he was speaking. But this is the man Shrillary has publicly endorsed, who appears at her rallies to show his support for her, and with whom she and her husband have stayed.

Trump, of course, is certainly no better than Hillary. He’s a lecherous, sleazy, racist buffoon, who could easily bring America to the brink of a nuclear war. Clinton, by contrast, is a clever, calculating businesswoman, with a long record of public service. She is also a murderous butcher, outright Neocon, and could well bring to the point of nuclear war.

These are not the right people for the job. The right man for the job in the Democrat party was Bernie Sanders, who wanted to expand America’s welfare network and give the country the single-payer healthcare system over half of its people want, and which Hillary Clinton and her corporate backers vehemently oppose. He was stabbed in the back by a corrupt political establishment in the Democrat party led by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, just as Jeremy Corbyn was stabbed in the back, and is stabbed in the back, by a corrupt Blairite clique in the Labour party.

With Bernie gone, the best woman to run the country is Green Party leader Dr. Jill Stein. Not only is she an environmental activist, while both Trump and Clinton either deny climate change and environmental damage outright, or minimise the legislation against it on behalf of their corporate backers, but she’s also very involved in women’s and children’s health issues. She has also made it very clear that she backs a single-payer healthcare system, because America needs it. And like Bernie Sanders, she’s also shown an interest and solidarity with America’s indigenous peoples. Sanders would turn up on reservations to talk to First Nation communities about how their conditions could be improved, and the issues that matter to them. He did so when no, or very few other politicians did so. A few weeks ago, Jill Stein turned up to give her backing to the Sioux peoples in their campaign against the Dakota Pipeline, which threatens to destroy the water quality and the ecology of part of their tribal lands.

The fact that Toksvig backs these two shows the flaws and dangers in her brand of feminism. She wants women in power, and while that’s a noble aspiration in itself, it’s here coupled with an attitude that wants them in power, regardless of their personal suitability for the task. It’s a case of ‘my gender, right or wrong’.

On the other hand, there is also the possibility that the very qualities which make Theresa May and Shrillary Clinton absolutely repugnant candidates to anyone else with a sense of decency, are precisely those that appeal to Toksvig. Toksvig is an ex-public schoolgirl from a very elevated background. Privately educated, she’s the daughter of the Danish ambassador. Thus, despite some of the left-wing noises she made on the News Quiz with Jeremy Hardy and Francis Wheen, she’s very establishment. And from this is appears that she holds the very middle-class views the establishment wants everyone to hold: accept the wonders of privatisation, despite the fact that privatised services are rubbish and don’t work. Accept the privatisation of the health service and destruction of the welfare state, which will leave you faced with grinding poverty and a real danger of starvation, as well as sick, and receiving expensive, substandard treatment for your ailments. But the one per cent who run the big businesses want their tax cuts, and while it’s terrible for you, it’s what they want. And they make the rules, and are the only people that count. The rest of us don’t.

And so Toksvig is quite happy to back May and Shrillary, as they’re rich, establishment girls like herself, and they want to clear the way for further rich and establishment women in power. While at the same time keeping women from the lower and lower middle classes down, along with the rest of their class. And I’m sure that all the women in the countries America has invaded in the past few years, like Iraq, and those of the countries in the next war she starts will be terribly consoled when the bombs are raining down on them , and killing their daughters and sons, husbands, mothers and fathers, that the glass ceiling has been breached and there’s now a woman in the Oval Office. And all with the support of Sandi Toksvig and other media figures at the Beeb.

Because regardless of gender, it’s all about what the establishment wants.

Vox Political: Kipper and Conservative MP Douglas Carswell in Row with Scientists over Tides

September 20, 2016

This piece by Mike over at Vox Political is a real gem, as it encapsulates the profound anti-intellectualism and sheer bone-headed stupidity of the Tories and the Kippers. Mike has posted up a piece commenting on a report in the Independent that Douglas Carswell, the former Tory and now Kipper MP for Clacton, has got into a row with Britain’s scientists over the origins of tides. Conventional science holds that they’re caused by the Moon. Carswell, however, believes they’re caused by the Sun, and has challenged a top scientist at Sussex University’s Science Policy Research Unit over the issue.

The report also notes that this bizarre claim was made after Michael Gove declared that the British people were tired of experts after he failed to name one economist, who thought that Brexit would be good for Britain.

The title of Mike’s piece just about sums up the astonishment Carswell’s claim must cause in everybody, who has any idea about science: Both Tories and Kippers Have Made Douglas Carswell an MP. Read This and Asky Why?

Both Tories and Kippers have made Douglas Carswell an MP. Read this and ask: Why?

Quite. If you’re wondering whether the Moon does cause tides, Mike over in his piece has a clip of Brian Cox explaining the phenomenon.

I’ve a feeling that as far back as the ancient Greeks, it was known that the Moon caused tides. Certainly the great medieval philosopher and scientist Robert Grosseteste of Lincoln knew about it in the Twelfth century. As he was writing several centuries before Isaac Newton discovered the Law of Gravity, Grosseteste believed that they were caused by the Moon’s magnetism, rather than its gravitational effect on Earth. Still, you can’t expect too much of the people of that period, when science was still very much in its infancy. But it nevertheless shows the astonishing advances the people of the Middle Ages were capable of, simply using the most primitive of equipment, observation, and the power of their minds.

This simple fact, that the Moon causes the Earth’s tides, has been put in thousands of textbooks on astronomy and space for children since at least the beginning of mass education and popular science. Astronomy has been a popular hobby for amateurs since at least beginning of the 20th century, and I’ve no doubt probably as far back as the 19th. Generations of children have had the opportunity to learn that the Moon causes tides, along with other interesting and fascinating facts about space. Carswell, however, is clearly the exception, having rejected all that.

It all brings to my mind the conversation Blackadder has with Tom Baker’s bonkers sea captain, Redbeard Rum, in the epdisode ‘Potato’ from the comedy show’s second series. Trying to impress Good Queen Bess by sailing abroad as explorers, Blackadder, Percy and Baldrick plan to fake their expedition by sailing round and round the Isle of Wight instead until they get dizzy. They get lost instead as Rum believes it is possible to sail a ship without a crew. When they ask him if you really can, Rum replies, ‘Opinion is divided.’
‘So who says you don’t?’
‘Me.’
‘So who says you do?’
‘Everybody else.’
‘Bugger!’

Quite.

This exactly describes Carswell’s attitude to space physics. Everybody else believes the Moon causes the tides, except him. I can see this causing yet another panic amongst scientists and ‘science educators’. Way back around 2009, the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s Origin of the Species, various scientists like Richard Dawkins were running around demanding better science education because polls showed a majority of the British public didn’t believe in it. This was partly a response to the growth in Creationism and Intelligent Design, though both of these views of evolution have had a very limited impact over here in Britain. That controversy seems to have quietened down, though the issue of the continuing need for improved science education has carried on with the persistence denial of climate change and anthropogenic global warming by the Right in both America and Britain. One of the sceptics of global warming and climate change over on this side of the Pond is Nigel Lawson. He’s even written a book about it, which I found the other day in another of Cheltenham’s secondhand book shops. Now that Carswell’s made this statement about the tides, which flies in the face of everything scientists have known since blokes like Aristotle, it wouldn’t surprise me if today’s leading science communicators, like Dawkins, Robert Winston, Alice Roberts, Brian Cox and the rest of them started worrying about this issue as well. And I wouldn’t blame them if they did.

As for Gove’s comment that ‘People in Britain are fed up of experts’, this also reminds me another comment by the American comedian, Bill Hicks. ‘Do I detect an air of anti-intellectualism in this country? Seems to have started about 1980 [the year Reagan was elected].’

If you’re worried that the Tories and UKIP don’t understand science, and are going to take us back to the Dark Ages, be afraid: you’re right. And heaven help the rest of us with them in charge.

UKIP Disintegrates as 50,000 Members Flock to the Tories

September 17, 2016

It seems this has been the week for extreme right-wing parties collapsing. Hope Not Hate first reported that the NF looked like it was in terminal decline, with some of its old boot-boys demanding that it should now be wound up. Then, a few days later, they reported that the EDL company, English Footsoldier EDL Limited, had been compulsorily dissolved by the authorities after it failed to supply all the documents required of businesses under British law. And yesterday Mike posted a piece reporting that UKIP were also shedding members at a rate of knots.

Alexandra Phillips, one of the Fuhrage’s top aides, has defected to the Tories, along with another 50,000 kippers she claims have also joined the Tory party. The Tories have indeed increased their membership by this number, but as Mike says, this doesn’t touch the Labour party, who have seen their membership increase to 600,000, thanks largely to Jeremy Corbyn.

Mike points out that the defection of such large numbers to the Tories does refute the kipper claim, repeated by the party’s defenders on Mike’s blog and over here, that the party was somehow ‘left-wing’. It wasn’t. While many of the grass-roots members did believe in the nationalisation of public services, like railways and the utility industries, the party leadership was always right-wing Tory, and their policies reflected that. Mike points out as an example of this the fact that Phillips was denounced as a ‘Pinko’ when she advised Fuhrage not to talk about banning immigrants with HIV. Mike demonstrates that both the Tories and UKIP held identical policies with a handy graphic from Pride’s Purge. Mike ends his article by quoting David Whitley, who tweeted the suggestion that we should go back to treating UKIP like the BNP.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/16/mass-exodus-from-ukip-to-the-tories-whatever-happened-to-the-peoples-army/

Mike’s exactly right, as is the Guardian when it quotes Phillips as saying that the Tories are doing the ‘UKIP dance’ on Brexit, grammar schools and fracking. There should be no surprises there. UKIP’s leadership were the extreme right-wing, Eurosceptic branch of the Tory party. And the Brexit campaign was largely led by high-profile Tories – Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, for example. Not that you would have realised this from Theresa May. After the ‘Remain’ side lost, May started spinning the narrative that it wasn’t due to the Tories after all, but the Labour party. Working class Labour voters had been responsible for the narrow Brexit victory, while the nice, Tory voting middle classes had all voted for ‘Remain’. And like the rest of the establishment, she claimed it was all due to Jeremy Corbyn, because he wasn’t as enthusiastic about promoting the European cause as the rest of them. Including, Mike has shown, Theresa May herself. Despite all the complaints about Corbyn not pulling his weight during the campaigning over the referendum, Corbyn did put in his time and effort supporting ‘Remain’, much more than May herself. And the claim that, as the supporters of the Leave campaign were largely working class, they must have been Labour voters is similarly dubious. One book on the party, Revolt on the Right, which attempts a serious political analysis of the party, its programme and the sociological composition of the party and its supporters, has a few cases studies of typical UKIP voters and members. At least one of these was a working class Labour supporter, until Maggie Thatcher came along. They voted for her because they believed she represented the working class, despite the fact that she didn’t, and cordially despised them. The same person didn’t vote for Tony Blair, because he didn’t represent the working class. This is interesting in itself, as the only difference between the two was background. As a lawyer, Blair was rather more middle class than Maggie, though she was also middle class as the daughter of someone who owned his own grocery business. But this slight difference in background affected the way Blair was perceived by those working class voters, who were taken in by the all rhetoric about Maggie’s working class origins and how she lived above the shop and the rest of the guff.
The people, who voted for UKIP weren’t Labour supports, but working class Tories, the spiritual heirs of Alf Garnett. But this is too much for May to admit, and so she had to use their social class to smear Labour and Corbyn. As so many others were doing.

I’m also not remotely amazed that UKIP are now in a process of disintegration. They were a one-issue party. Their whole raison d’etre was to get Britain out of the EU. And now that’s been fulfilled -sort-of, if the powers that be ever get round to it – they’ve lost their purpose. And so the party is beginning to disintegrate, and its members returning to their real home in the Tories.

Smith Snipes at Corbyn from the Last Refuge of the Scoundrel

July 27, 2016

Smudger must be on the rocks, and seriously rattled. Mike today posted up a piece reporting that the Pontypridd Pratt was in the Mirror, claiming that Corbyn did not understand British, that is, Scots, Welsh and English patriotism. Instead, he claimed that he had a ‘liberal’, left-wing, ‘metropolitan’ perspective that is not part of the Labour tradition. By which Smiffy means that ‘nationhood, nationalism and patriotism aren’t really part of his makeup.’

Someone once said that patriotism was the last refuge of the scoundrel. And someone else declared that patriotism was the position of the man, who had nothing else to say. Corbyn is massively more popular than Smudger, and so Smiffy is revealed for what he is – an empty politico sniping at his rival from a last, desperate fallback position, trying to bang the nationalist drum to oust someone, who is both more popular and who has much more substance politically.

Corbyn’s Genuinely Patriotic Policies

Mike also points out that it’s not fair on Corbyn to claim that he’s unpatriotic, and includes a meme to show how patriotic he is. This is through real, substantial policies that will make a positive difference to the welfare of the country and its great peoples. It is not through empty gestures, like grovelling deference to the monarchy, or standing with your shoulders back, and your tie straight to sing the national anthem, as the departing, unlamented former occupant of No 10 told him.

Corbyn wants UK utilities to be owned by the British people through the British state. This is patriotic. Profits made in the UK, should be taxed for the benefit of the British people. Patriotic. British men and women should not be sent to fight in illegal wars. Hence his opposition to the bombing of Syria. This is, again, patriotic. It shows a concern for Britain’s children, her sons and daughters, who have to do the duty of fighting and dying. It is also patriotic in the sense that it is concerned with upholding morality and the British tradition of fair play. He believes in protecting British Steel. Patriotic. He does not want British companies to be taken over by US or other foreign firms. Patriotic. He wants to stop the privatisation of the NHS, so that it is run for the benefit of British patients, not US corporations. Very patriotic. And lastly, he feels that British trade should benefit us Brits, so he will veto the TTIP. Again, patriotic.

See Mike’s article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/27/on-jeremy-corbyns-patriotism-owen-smith-has-given-himself-another-shot-in-the-foot/

Tories and the Right Unpatriotic in Selling Off Britain

Jeremy Corbyn is thus, in terms of policy, far more patriotic than the Right. Thanks to Thatcherite neoliberalism and the craze for foreign investment, our utilities are in the hands of foreign countries, as is much of our industry, including the City of London, so dear to the heart of Thatcher, Cameron and the rest of the Tories, including Tony Blair and New Labour. Cameron wanted British nuclear power stations built by the Chinese, as well as new roads. The privatisation of the health service carried out by Blair and Cameron has been at the behest and benefit of American firms such as Unum and Kaiser Medical. Atos, who administered the work capability assessment, was French. Maximus, who have replaced them, are American. And the mega rich, who make their profits over here, are squirreling them all away offshore in places like the Cayman Islands or Luxemburg.

By this standard, the neoliberal administrations Smiffy admires – Thatcher, Major, Blair and Cameron, are definitely unpatriotic. In fact, downright treasonous. But they got away with it because, following Thatcher, the Tory party became the Patriotic Party. You couldn’t get away from her and her chorus of sycophants yakking about patriotism. She was bolstered in this through her use of the symbolism surrounding Winston Churchill, the Second World War, and indeed through her unrestrained militarism. She had to be patriotic, ’cause we won the Falklands War. Well, just about, thanks to the Americans and Chileans. See, there’s another invocation of Winston Churchill, the great war leader and iconographic figure of British patriotism and pluck under foreign aggression. And then there was all the images of Spitfires racing across the skies in the 1987 general election. This was so blatant that Alan Coren dubbed it ‘the Royal Conservative Airforce’ on the News Quiz on Radio 4.

And even there, Thatcher’s patriotism was much less than it seemed. She sold off Westland Helicopters here in the West Country to the Americans. She made massive cuts to the armed forces. The Falklands War was partly caused by the ship defending the islands being recalled by her defence minister, John Nott. The Argentinians seized their chance, and invaded. Then there were the celebrations in the Tory right over 1992, and the closer integration with Europe that came about in that year. That was being celebrated and anticipated even under Thatcher. I can remember that in the late 1980s, a wine bar opened on the Promenade in Cheltenham with that very date as its name: 1992. Denis Skinner in his autobiography makes the point that Thatcher was far less Eurosceptic than she appeared to be. Skinner also supports us leaving the European Union, but for left-wing reasons, rather than those of the ‘turbo-charged’ Tories, Nigel Farage and the rest of UKIP. He points out that while she constantly wrangled with them over our contribution to the EU budget, she never actually threatened to leave. And it was Ted Heath, who took us in. And then in the 1990s there was all the fuss about ‘globalisation’, which meant that capital became international, and the nation state was to be gradually dissolved as more companies established themselves around the world.

So by the standards of economic policies and the practical effects of their ideologies, the Tories weren’t patriots. They advocated selling Britain and its people off to whoever would give them money. They convinced millions of impressionable voters that they were doing the opposite through manipulating the pageantry of the monarchy and the iconography of the Second World War.

Why Socialists Distrust Patriotism

But let’s examine the wider problems of Smiffy’s criticism of Corbyn’s alleged indifference to ‘patriotism’.

Firstly, a supposed ‘liberal’, ‘left-wing’ indifference to patriotism and nationalism is very much a part of the Labour tradition. Or at least, parts of it. In line with the rest of the European Socialist parties, many members of the Labour party opposed the wars between European powers in the 19th century, because it was felt – and not just by Marxists – that the working class of all nations had more in common with each other than with their rulers in the middle and upper classes. Socialists from all over Europe objected to the prospect of a war in Europe, because they felt that it would be carried out for the profit of the industrialists and the feudal aristocracy. This was shattered when the First World War broke out, and most of the Socialist parties showed themselves only too eager to vote war credits in support of the conflagration. But individual Socialists, including members of the Labour party, did protest against it, along with their counterparts in France and the German SPD.

Looking along the magazine racks in the newsagents in Bristol’s Temple Meads Station last Friday, I found among the current affairs magazines the New Internationalist. I can remember copies of that lying around my sixth form common room when I was at school. From what I remember, it’s another left-liberal magazine devoted to international social justice, particularly in the Developing Nations. Back in the 1980s, it was firmly behind the Greenham Women. I also seem to recall one of Paul Weller’s songs having the refrain, ‘Internationalists’, although I can’t remember which one.

British patriotism has also been intimately connected to imperialism. From the 19th century one of the holidays celebrated was ‘Empire Day’. David Dimbleby in one edition of his art history series, The Seven Ages of Britain, dug out a Victorian children’s book called, The ABC for Baby Patriots. Under ‘E’, the book had ‘Empire’, for wherever the British citizen went, they would be safe and free. Except for the indigenes, who were expected to work for us. While that book expressed the attitude of the imperialists, the Labour Party in the 1920s passed resolutions committing itself to giving the colonies their independence. I even found it discussed in the autobiography of another Labour politician from that period, called Benn, though I don’t know if there was a connection to Tony. This particular Benn made it very clear he stood for granting the peoples of the British Empire the right to run their own countries. And George Orwell came to Socialism through his hatred of imperialism.

Smiffy also claims that working class patriotism is often socially conservative. He’s right, which is why so many left-wingers have been intensely suspicious of it. The national symbols it embraces are those of the ruling classes, such as the monarchy, the stately homes of the rich and powerful, and so forth. In the 1960s there was considerable controversy over a history programme called The World We Have Lost. Or rather, over its title. Some historians objected to it because it expressed a nostalgic support for the good old days of aristocratic rule, when proles and tradesmen knew their place. This kind of patriotism is bound up with Michael Gove’s view of history – that it should all be very Conservative, patriotic, and reinforce Tory values.

And what really worries left-wingers is the racism that can lurk underneath this kind of patriotism. Alf Garnett was a parody of working class Conservatives, people with dirty, broken windows, living in poverty, for whom the Tories had done absolutely nothing, but nevertheless doggedly supported them. As well as generally reactionary and ignorant, Garnett was virulently racist. Johnny Speight, the writer, intended the character to show up and lampoon that aspect of Conservativism. But he was dismayed by the failure of many viewers to see the joke, and there were all too many ready to agree with him about non-White immigration.

London is a multicultural world city, far more so than much of the rest of the country, although many cities nevertheless may have sizable populations of ethnic minorities. I feel uneasy when Smudger attacks Corbyn for being ‘too metropolitan’, because it suggests that he thinks Labour should reflect the growing racism and xenophobia of the Brexit campaign. One of the criticisms the political scientist Guy Standing makes of New Labour in his book, A Precariat Charter, is that they did try to harness the growing resentment of immigrants by pushing policies that increasingly denied them their rights, such as to welfare benefits and employment legislation. Smudger’s a New Labour neoliberal, and it seems to me that with his attack on Corbyn for his ‘metropolitan’ attitudes to patriotism, there’s a concealed racism and determinism to inflict more precarity on refugees and asylum seekers, the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.

Patriotism and Working Class Culture

But patriotism can also include left-wing elements, which would no doubt also horrify Smiff. If you think of Wales, for example, there’s not only Owen Glendower, and medieval Welsh kings like Hywel Dda, there’s also the images of working class radicalism – the Welsh miners, and their leaders like Nye Bevan. Scotland has Red Clydeside, Devon in England the Tolpuddle Martyrs, without forgetting the Yorkshire Miners. These are also part of British nationalism and national identity, along with heroes like Tom Paine, Thomas Spence, Keir Hardie, Feargus O’Connor and the Chartists, and other heroes and heroines of working and lower middle class history. The British folk revival of the 1950s was inspired by Black American blues music, much of which had been collected by researchers as part of F.D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. British musicians and musicologists began exploring their own traditional music, to find the traditional British counterparts to this American working class music. And it exists. Paine’s The Rights of Man was celebrated in song in the 18th century, and it can be found in sheet music even now. Thomas Spence and the Chartists also composed songs to put their message across. Chumbawumba did a version of at least one of these songs a little while ago. It’s on the Net, if you care to look. This is all part of our national identity and culture, but one which I suspect Smiffy isn’t easy with, and which Thatcher and the Tories positively wanted to suppress or dismiss. But these heroes and heroines did inspire Clement Atlee’s Labour party, when they one the 1945 election, and introduced the welfare state.

Conclusion

Smith’s comments about Jeremy Corbyn and patriotism are therefore both wrong, and potentially dangerous. Corbyn is patriotic in the matter that counts – doing your political duty to improve the lives of one’s fellow citizens. Thatcher and the neoliberals betrayed the British people, plunging them into poverty and selling off Britain, all while maintaining the illusion of British imperial power, and maintaining and expanding their class privileges. And Britain also has a rich, working class traditional culture, that also forms part of our national identity, in opposition to the approved culture promoted by Gove. And when Labour members and supporters were critical and uncomfortable with nationalism and patriotism, it’s because it all too often leads to imperialism and racism. A racism that it seems Smudger would like to harness once again, as part of New Labour policy.

A few years ago, Lobster published a unique and fascinating article by a southern Irish Roman Catholic Ulster Unionist. This particular contributor wanted working class radicals from both the Roman Catholic and Protestant communities to unite to do something positive for the working people of Northern Ireland as a whole, regardless of their faith or national loyalties. The piece also criticised Tony Blair for embracing the politics of culture. The author explained that this was dangerous, because in Ireland it usually meant there was a man with a gun behind it. It was a danger then, and I don’t think the danger has disappeared in the decade or so since that piece was written. And it shows how dangerous nationalism and patriotism can be at their most extreme.

Counterpoint on the Stupidity of Boris Johnson as Foreign Minister

July 23, 2016

Counterpunch, an American radical leftwing magazine and site, has put up a piece by Brian Cloughey on the utter stupidity of Boris Johnson’s appointment as Foreign and Commonwealth Minister. He describes the political machinations and manoeuvrings of Johnson and Gove as they jockeyed for power, how Johnson stabbed Cameron in the back over Brexit for no reason other than that he thought it would bring him to No. 10; the many lies Johnson has spun over his career, and the ignorant, bigoted and sheer racist comments that have made him at once a laughing stock to the rest of the world, and a danger to Britain’s peaceful relations with foreign nations.

Cloughey states that Johnson was sacked from the Times because he made up a quote. In 2004, the-then Conservative leader, Michael Howard, sacked him from his job as front bench spokesman for lying about his adulterous affair with Petronella Wyatt, whom he made to have an abortion. Cloughey describes Johnson as

clever and has a certain juvenile attractiveness for some people because his private life is colorful and chaotic while he has a certain facility with words and gives the impression that he could be all things to all men and to a certain number of women…

The trouble for Britain is that although Johnson is a twofaced, devious, posturing piece of slime who can’t be trusted to tell the time of day, he was most effective in capturing the public’s attention and helping persuade a majority to vote to leave the European Union.

He describes how he lied about the amount Britain contributed to the EU, and notes how after Gove’s betrayal of the treacherous Boris, the Tories ditched him and elected Theresa May instead. He considers Johnson, and the poisonous, racist rhetoric of the Leave campaign to be responsible for the increase in ‘hate speech’ and attacks and harassment of Blacks, Asians and Eastern Europeans which rose to 3,000 incidents in the weeks before and after the Referendum.

Cloughey remarks on the insulting comments Johnson has made about other leading foreign politicians and heads of state. He described Shrillary as having “dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital”, Obama was ‘downright hypocritical’, and Putin a ‘ruthless and manipulative tyrant’. As for Trump, he described the Donald as ‘out of his mind’ and suffering from ‘stupefying ignorance’.

He referred to the crisis in Turkey as ‘the crisis in Egypt’, declared that ‘Chinese cultural influence is basically nil, and unlikely to increase’. He also claimed that it was said that the Queen loved the Commnwealth “partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies.” He was no less sneering about the peoples of the Congo. When Tony Blair went off to visit the country, he declared “No doubt . . . the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird.”

Cloughey writes that Johnson has tried to excuse his comments by saying that they were taken out of their proper context, without actually saying what the proper context was. And although many people would agree with some of what he said about the various foreign leaders, they are hardly the kind of comments that you want in a foreign minister, part of whose job is speaking diplomatically and trying to establish a good relationship with those with whom he’s negotiating.

Cloughey concludes:

Britain’s prime minister would do well to reconsider her decision to appoint this gobbet of slime to a position of responsibility in her government. He will not serve Britain well.

Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon

Johnson is a clever man, if only in the way he has skilfully creating an entirely false image of a rather Billy Bunterish, lovable buffoon. But his comments about Black Africans and the Chinese are likely to cause offence, and really don’t bode well for Britain’s relations with the rest of the world. Apart from the dated, offensive terms used, like ‘picaninnies’ and ‘watermelon smiles’, the ignorance behind his dismissal of Chinese culture really is stunning. The contribution of the Chinese to science and technology is immense. You only have to open a text book on the history of science to find that many of the most fundamental scientific discoveries, from printing, to paper, to watermills, rockets and so on were made by someone in the Middle Kingdom. The influence of Chinese culture is rather less, but it is there.

Let’s deal with the very obvious modern Chinese influences in British society. One of the most obvious are Chinese takeaways, restaurants and cuisine. It may not be high art or great literature, but it is a very obvious Chinese cultural influence. Very many people in modern Britain like Chinese food, and Chinese restaurants and chip shops are a very common feature of our modern high streets. Then there’s the influence of Chinese cinema. A few years ago the Chinese won critical acclaim for a number of art films, but probably far more influential are the Hong Kong Chinese action and martial arts movies, like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, ever since Bruce Lee sprang into action in the 1970s. This encouraged generations of children to learn the eastern martial arts. Many of those taught are Japanese, but they include Chinese techniques too, such as Kung Fu. And then there’s the influence of Chinese literature and religion. In the 1970s and ’80s a generation of British schoolchildren were exposed to the Chinese classics The Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Wu Chen-Ang’s Journey to the West through the TV series The Water Margin and Monkey. There were even two translations of Chen-Ang’s classic novel issued, both abridged, one of which by Denis Waley. The influence of the Monkey TV show and the novel behind it have persisted to this day. The BBC promotional trailer for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 were very much based on Monkey, and made by the same company that made the videos for the Gorillaz pop group. And I noticed that the other night on Would I Lie To You, Gaby Roslin’s response to a stuffed monkey produced by one of the other guests, as to do a mock martial arts move, and intone ‘Monkey’ in the type of strangulated squawk that characterised some of the voices in that series.

Going further back, there was the craze in the 18th and 19th centuries for chinoiserie, Chinese art and porcelain. You only have to turn on one of the antique shows to see at least one of the experts talking about 18th century pottery, exported to Europe, examining pieces of jade, reproduction Shang bronzes, or 18th century wallpaper, depicted with Chinese designs, usually of people going about their business. Quite apart from the very stereotypical images of the country’s art, like the paintings of the two loves on the bridge.
China has also, naturally, had considerable influence on the culture of its neighbouring and other Asian countries. This is clearly an area for someone who knows far more about these nations’ histories and culture than I do. One example of the Middle Kingdom’s considerable influence is Japan. Buddhism was introduced by Chinese monks, and for centuries the Chinese classics formed the most prestigious part of Japanese literary culture. Further west, many of the people depicted in Persian painting have a distinctive Chinese look to their features. This was because of the cultural links and exchanges between those cultures during the Middle Ages.

In short, a moment’s thought reveals that Chinese cultural influence is certainly not negligible. Nor is it likely to remain so. The country has turned into an economic superpower, and has made considerable inroads into Africa. And way back in the ’90s, its space programme was so advanced that the Quantum Physicist and SF writer, Stephen Baxter, published an article in Focus magazine predicting that the first person to walk on Mars was very likely going to be Chinese.

Now clearly, British industrialists and financiers are very much aware of how powerful China now is. You can see it by the way they’re desperately trying to encourage the Chinese to invest, or buy up, British industry, just as they were a few decades ago with the Japanese. No-one wants potentially advantageous trade deals to be scuppered through a few tactless comments from the Foreign Minister.

And BoJo’s comments may very well cause offence. Johnson made much about his suitability for the role on the world stage, because of his position as one of the British team negotiating with the Chinese during the Beijing Olympics. But his comments also suggest that he could well have the opposite effect as well. The Chinese are, as a nation, a very proud people, and I gathered from working in one of the local museums here in Bristol that there is still a considerable feeling of humiliation about their defeat and occupation by Britain and the other foreign powers in the 19th century following the Opium Wars. Many of Britain’s former colonies are very sensitive to what they see as condescension. A few years ago there were diplomatic ructions when one of the Developing Nations – I think it may have been India – accused Britain of showing ‘colonialist and imperialist’ attitudes towards it.

Johnson with his comments about ‘picaninnies’ and ‘watermelon smiles’ uses the rhetoric and vocabulary of 19th and early 20th century racism. If he uses them when he’s foreign minister, he will cause offence, possibly starting another embarrassing diplomatic row. Let’s hope he keeps his mouth shut, and leaves the talking to others better informed.

And just to remind you, here’s the opening and closing titles from the Monkey TV show. Which, even though it’s now thirty odd years old, definitely has more style and class than Boris Alexander de Feffel Johnson.