Posts Tagged ‘Napoleon’

Ismahil Blagrove Criticises Mainstream Media

June 17, 2017

This is another short video showing the sheer anger of the community affected by the Grenfell Tower fire. It’s a short clip of Ismahil Blagrove telling the mainstream media exactly what he thinks of them for constructing the narrative that Jeremy Corbyn was ‘unelectable’. He states very clearly that he wants a revolution, and believes that one would break out if this horror occurred in any other country.

Warning: Contains very strong language.

I don’t believe we should have a revolution, as revolutions with very few exceptions result in mass bloodshed. And more often than not, they result in oppressive dictatorships which rule through terror and mass death. Think of the French Revolution, which promised liberte, egalite and fraternite, and which ended with the despotism of Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety, and the reactionary monarchy of Napoleon. Or the Russian Revolution, which swiftly degenerated into the autocratic rule of Lenin, and the brutal, genocidal dictatorship of Stalin, under which 30 million + soviet citizens ended their lives in forced labour camps.

But Blagrove is right to criticise the mass media. They did everything they could to smear and demonise Corbyn. And they’ve started demonising and smearing the crowds of people, who have spontaneously gathered to protest against the way people’s lives and property have been destroyed by Kensington council and the Tory government.

Mike in one of his posts yesterday reported that the Beeb has been describing the protesting crowds as ‘a mob’. They also falsely claimed that they were ‘rioting’. Mike reports that the opposite is true. You can see from footage taken by ordinary people, who were actually there, that no rioting is going on. They’ve also been claiming that the crowds are demanding money – they aren’t. And one of Mike’s commenters, NMac has also posted that the Torygraph claimed the protests had been taken over by ‘extremists’.

This is going to be absolute rubbish. It’s possible that the Socialist Workers Party are there, along with other far left groups. They’re there trying to pick up recruits wherever there’s even a vaguely left-wing issue. But they’ve always been a minority, and I’ve no doubt they’re a minority here.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/16/vox-political-was-wrong-britain-didnt-need-an-ignorant-toffs-comment-to-rise-against-the-tories-over-grenfelltower/

And the Beeb are the broadcasting establishment, a department of the British state. They’ve been cowed into line by threats of privatisation by the Tories and New Labour. But there’s also always been a right-wing bias in the domestic news. Academics at Edinburgh, Glasgow and Cardiff universities have found that the Beeb is more likely to interview businessmen and Conservatives over the state of the economy than trade unionists and Labour politicians. The authors Saville and Barry Kushner also made the point in their anti-Austerity book, Who Needs the Cuts, that the Beeb also swallowed and promoted absolutely uncritically the garbage that the slashing cuts made by the Tory party were necessary. Those who tried to refute this were simply not allowed on air. If, by some mischance, they did appear, they were cut off or sharply contradicted.

And the establishment has always feared the masses, and especially large public protests, as sources of disorder. You can see it in the legislation passed by monarchs and parliament down the ages. It started to change about the time of the Great Exhibition, when the respectable middle classes were surprised to find that the working class visitors to the displays, although poor, were not fanatics intent on overthrowing the established order.

But that suspicion and fear obviously hasn’t gone away. And so the Beeb and the Torygraph are busy spouting the propaganda that their very middle class masters, and in the case of the Torygraph, readers and advertisers, want to hear: that the crowds of people, who burst in on Kensington council to demand answers were the Great Unwashed of angry, criminal oiks and plebs, a threat to morality and public order.

They aren’t. They are angry, frightened and bewildered people, whose lives have been devastated by a terrible tragedy and who have every right to feel that way. And the media that smears them is a total disgrace.

Schools Display and Document Folder on the 1920s General Strike

March 13, 2017

The General Strike: Jackdaw No.l05, compiled by Richard Tames (London, New York and Toronto: Jackdaw Publications Ltd, Grossman Publishers Inc., and Clarke, Irwin and Company 1972)

I picked this up about 20 years ago in one of the bargain bookshops in Bristol’s Park Street. Jackdaw published a series of folders containing reproduction historical texts and explanatory posters and leaflets on variety of historical topics and events, including the Battle of Trafalgar, the slave trade, the voyages of Captain Cook, Joan of Arc, the Anglo-Boer War, the rise of Napoleon, Ned Kelley and Wordsworth. They also published another series of document folders on specifically Canadian themes, such as the Indians of Canada, the Fenians, Louis Riel, Cartier of Saint Malo, the 1867 confederation of Canada, the vote in Canada from 1791 to 1891, the Great Depression, Laurier, and Canada and the Civil War.

This particular folder is on the 1926 general strike, called by the TUC when the Samuel Commission, set up to report into the state of the mining industry, published its report. This recommended that the mines should be reorganised, but not nationalised, and although the miners were to get better working conditions and fringe benefits, they would have to take a pay cut. The folder included a poster giving a timeline of the strike and the events leading up to it, and photos of scenes from it, including volunteer constables practising self-defence, office girls travelling to work by lorry, the Conservative prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, and buses and train signal boxes staffed by volunteers. There’s also a Punch cartoon commenting on the end of the Strike. It also contains a leaflet explaining the various documents in the folder, along suggested projects about the issue and a short bibliography.

Poster and timeline of the Strike

Leaflet explaining the documents

The facsimile documents include

1. A leaflet arguing the Miner’s case.

2. Telegram from the Transport and General Workers’ Union to a local shop steward, calling for preparations for the strike.

3. Pages from the Daily Worker, the official paper of the T.U.C. during the Strike.

4. Notice from the Met calling for special constables.

5. Communist Party leaflet supporting the Strike.

6. Handbill giving the proposals of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the leaders of the Free Churches for an end to the Strike.

7. Handbill denouncing the strike as ‘The Great ‘Hold-Up’.
The accompanying pamphlet states that this was very far from the truth, and that it was a government lie that the T.U.C. were aiming at a revolution.

8. Emergency edition of the Daily Express.

9. Conservative PM Stanley Baldwin’s guarantee of employment to strike-breakers.

10. Contemporary Analysis of the causes of the Strike’s failure, from the Public Opinion.

11. The British Gazette, the government’s official paper, edited by Winston Churchill.

12. Anonymous letter from a striker recommending that the T.U.C. shut off the electricity.

13. Appeal for aid to Miner’s wives and dependents.

14. Protest leaflet against Baldwin’s ‘Blacklegs’ Charter’.

The General Strike was one of the great events of 20th century labour history, and its collapse was a terrible defeat that effectively ended revolutionary syndicalism and guild socialism as a major force in the labour movement. It left a legacy of bitterness that still persists in certain areas today.

The jackdaw seems to do a good job of presenting all sides of the issue, and the final section of the explanatory leaflet urges children to think for themselves about it. And one of the folder’s features that led me to buy it was the fact that it contained facsimile reproductions of some of the papers, flyers, letters and telegrams produced by the strikers arguing their case.

Looking through the folder’s contents it struck me that the strike and the issues it raised are still very much relevant in the 21 century, now almost a century after it broke it. It shows how much the Tories and the rich industrialists were determined to break the power of the unions, as well as the sheer hostility of the press. The Daily Express has always been a terrible right-wing rag, and was solidly Thatcherite and anti-union, anti-Labour in the 1980s. Since it was bought by Richard Desmond, apparently it’s become even more virulently right-wing and anti-immigrant – or just plain racist – than the Daily Heil.

The same determination to break their unions, and the miners in particular, was shown by Thatcher during the Miner’s Strike in the 1980s, again with the solid complicity of the media, including extremely biased and even falsified reporting from the BBC. It was her hostility to the miners and their power which partly led Thatcher to privatise and decimate the mining industry, along with the rest of Britain’s manufacturing sector. And these attitudes have persisted into the governments of Cameron and May, and have influenced Tony Blair and ‘Progress’ in the Labour party, who also bitterly hate the unions and anything that smacks of real working class socialism.

Vox Political on Clem Atlee’s Great Nephew’s Suspension for Satirical Cameron Meme

September 15, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has posted a piece commenting on the real reason behind the suspension of John MacDonald, Clement Atlee’s great-nephew, by the ‘Compliance Unit’. They told MacDonald that he’d been suspended because of a piece he put up on the 8th August. The trouble is, he hadn’t put up any post on social media on the 8th of August this year. He had, however, posted up a piece on the 9th, with Cath Atlee, urging everyone to vote for Corbyn as the only surviving relatives of Labour’s greatest prime minister, and one of the very greatest premiers this country has ever produced.

Now it appears that the real reason Mr MacDonald was purged was because of a meme he put up of Cameron as Adolf Hitler, along with a quote from the Fuhrer stating that the way you deprive a people of their freedoms is to take it away a little at a time, so that they don’t know you’re doing it. The New Labour apparatchiks in the Compliance Unit claimed that the meme was ‘abusive’. Mike puts them right by showing that it isn’t. It’s satire. It makes a very strong point, but in a humorous manner. He also points out that it doesn’t attack other members of the Labour party, and that the Tories are fair game for such comments, otherwise noted enemies of the Tories, like Dennis Skinner, would have been purged a long time ago. He also points out that rummaging around social media to support punishing someone for breaking a rule that is only a month old is insupportable. Mike concludes

The best outcome Labour’s NEC – in charge of the ‘compliance unit’ – can hope for is to restore Mr Macdonald’s vote to the count and issue an apology so grovelingly abject that we’ll all become so distracted by it that we won’t remember what it’s for. Good luck with that, folks!

Meanwhile, the rest of us can look forward to the day – not far away – when an inquiry is launched into the activities of this ‘compliance unit’, and action taken over the behaviour of its absurdly-overpaid members.

The article can be read at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/14/suspension-of-attlees-nephew-proves-labours-compliance-team-does-not-understand-satire/

There’s a lot more that can be said about this. Firstly, the meme makes a fair point. It isn’t abusive. If you want a real example of abuse, one of the instances that comes to mind was way back when William Hague was leader of the Tory party, and one of the Labour MPs sneered at him and compared him to a fetus. This shocked many people, and the MP had to apology. That’s abuse.

But Cameron has taken away people’s freedoms, gradually, all the while claiming to be protecting democracy, in a manner very much like that recommended by Hitler. Cameron and Nick Clegg passed legislation providing for secret courts from which the press and public are excluded in cases involving national security. In these cases, the accused may not know who his accuser is, or the evidence on which he is being tried, nor even what his crime is. These are all breaches of the fundamental principles of justice laid down in Magna Carta. Even in the Middle Ages, a criminal could only be tried if someone actually stood up in open court to accuse them. There were known malefactors, who the sheriffs, as the crown’s administrator and agent in the shires, had to arrest. Once they had them under lock and key in their dungeons, they then frequently appealed to a member of the public to accuse them of a crime so that they could be properly tried. It’s a peculiar situation when the Middle Ages starts to appear far more just than a piece of modern legislation passed by a supposedly democratic regime.

On a related point, one of the fundament principles of justice is that legislation cannot act retrospectively. You cannot arrest someone for doing something before it was made a crime. But this is what the Compliance Unit have done in this case, as in so many others. As Mike has pointed out.

Cameron, as part of the Tories’ ongoing attempts to destroy the unions, also wanted to pass legislation compelling strikers on a picket line to give their names to the rozzers. This was condemned as ‘Francoist’ by David Davis, one of the most right-wing of the Tories. Not that it’s particularly different from legislation the Tories briefly passed to stop strike action in the 1970s. Ted Heath also passed a law that would have banned strikes and seen wage claims passed to an industrial court. This was similar to legislation proposed a few years earlier by Barbara Castle in her paper, In Place of Strife. Heath went further, however, and included a clause, that would have allowed the authorities to identify who was responsible for calling the strike. As for the system of labour courts, that was introduced by Mussolini as part of his ‘Charter of Labour’ in Fascist Italy. The revival of similar legislation in supposedly democratic Britain convinced many political theorists that we were seeing the appearance of ‘Fascism with a human face’. That meant, Fascism without the strutting militarism and brutality of the archetypal right-wing dictatorships.

And Cameron was also very keen on expanding state surveillance, to keep us all safe from Muslim terrorists, or whoever. Again, very similar to the massive secret police and surveillance in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Franco’s Spain. Nazi Germany justified itself constitutionally as a response to political crisis, such as the attack on Germany by leftists in acts like the Reichstag fire. Every four years or so, Adolf Hitler had to go back to the Reichstag and pass a law stating that the crisis was not over, thus allowing him the constitutional power to go on ruling without the Reichstag for another four years. Again, like Cameron, the Fascist leaders claimed they were doing so to protect the public.

So the meme, while undoubtedly emotive, was perfectly justified. Cameron was, and Theresa May is, extremely authoritarian, and determined to chip away hard-won British freedoms in the manner described by Adolf. He’s also like another Nazi in his former profession. Cameron worked in PR, a profession not known for objective truth. Goebbels, Hitler’s ‘Minister for Public Enlightenment’ was a former adman, if I recall correctly.

The meme’s fair comment. Also, it’s pretty much to be expected that a politician, who is perceived to be dictatorial will be compared to Adolf Hitler. Just like they were compared to Napoleon before he arose. Such comparisons are so common, that unless they’re very unfair and say something monstrously untrue, they’re hardly worth censure. Those who do tend to make themselves look ridiculous, and furthermore seem to bear out the comparison.

And Mike’s right about other members of the Labour party having made similar comparisons. The classic example of such invective was Nye Bevan’s comment that ‘Tories are vermin’. It’s been used against the Labour party from time to time ever since. But that didn’t mean that Bevan didn’t have a right to say it. Bevan was Welsh coalminer, when there was grinding poverty in the Welsh coalfields. The Conservative government under Baldwin called in the British army to shoot strikers during one of the disputes in the 1920s. It might even have been during the 1926 General Strike. Accounts of the strike say that many of the miners were dressed in rags. In a situation like that, when men, who are starving are being shot down for daring to demand a higher wage, Bevan had an absolute right to hate the party that impoverished and killed them with all the venom that he did. Especially as the Tories in the First World War had demanded legislation that, in the words of one right-wing, would allow them to beat the unions like jelly.

I also wonder why the Compliance Unit should be so upset about a meme attacking David Cameron. Surely any decent opposition party should be attacking Cameron’s government for its assault on precious British freedoms. But not so those Blairites in the Compliance Unit. Perhaps they’re afraid it’ll bring back memories of similar legislation, also providing for secret courts, introduced by Blair and Jack Straw. Or perhaps they’re afraid it’ll offend all the Tory voters, whose votes they hope to steal by copying everything the Tories do, but promising New Labour will do it all better.

Either way, Mike’s right. It’s time the Compliance Unit and its bloated apparatchiks were wound up and investigated for their role in disrupting Labour party democracy and bringing the party into disrepute.

Hope Not Hate on the Disgusting Views of Kipper Lee Harris

June 21, 2016

As Britain tries to come to turns with the assassination of Jo Cox by a committed, Nazi, Lee Harris, the Kipper candidate for Shotton and South Hefton in the council elections last year, abandoned any attempt at maintaining a tactful silence. While expressing his own disgust at Cox’s murder, Harris posted on social media a strongly worded condemnation of everything Jo Cox stood for. He wrote on social media

Let us not forget that it is cultural Marxist, PC, Europhilic MPs like her we have to thank for the sorry state this nation is in.

Her ideology was cancerous to this nation, and now her comrades shamelessly milk her death in a desperate attempt to shame us into staying in a corporatist dictatorship.

I’m sure some will be offended by this post, and those who are, I know will be the virtue signalling SJW [Social Justice Warriors] that are milking her death in a last ditch attempt at shaming us into staying in the EU.

See: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/ukip/ukip-continue-their-overbearing-sensitivity-4925

This is pretty much typical of some of the verbiage and jargon coming from the extreme Right. Anti-racist activists and those on the genuine Left are attacked as ‘Social Justice Warriors’ and ‘cultural Marxists’. Right-wingers like Harris think that ‘cultural Marxism’ means the Frankfurt school and the tactics formulated by the Italian Communist, Antonia Gramsci, of attempting to change the nature of European and American capitalist society by attacking its culture. It isn’t. ‘Cultural Marxism’ was the term coined by British Marxists when Maggie Thatcher passed a law purging them from teaching in Higher Education. They got round this by making the fine distinction that they weren’t ‘Marxist’, but ‘Marxian’ – that is, they were Marxists by culture, not politics. It’s a very tenuous distinction, but it did manage to allow them to keep their jobs.

As for being called a ‘Social Justice Warrior’, while it is a term of contempt, the fact is that since that social justice – anti-racism, anti-sexism and attitudes to combat poverty and improve the circumstances of the working class, disabled and unemployed, are still under threat. There have been enormous strides made since the 1970s in tacking racism and sexism, but these are still extremely powerful issues where discrimination is very much present. As shown by the fact that Harris and many of the Brexiters haven’t been able to reconcile themselves to the fact that Cox was murdered by someone with a very long commitment to the Nazi Right.

Harris himself has a particular hatred of the Labour party. Hope Not Hate a few piccies of election pamphlets in the above article, in which he promises ‘to continue the failings of the Labour Party. It has let our communities down for too long!’ He also says, ‘Labour once stood for the working class, defending our way of life, defending our jobs, but now all they care about is pandering to big donors and big business. They are the party that started to privatise the NHS after all’.

This is a fair description of the greed and neoliberal economic policies at the heart of Blairite ‘New Labour’, but it doesn’t represent either Ed Miliband or the party’s new leadership under Jeremy Corbyn. As for the EU being a ‘corporatist dictatorship’, there’s a reasonable point mixed in with a gross lie. I’ve put up material discussing the massive power the EU constitution does give to corporations, and there are indeed several points in European commercial law that strongly protect and promote neoliberal economics. However, the EU is not a dictatorship, and it is a gross distortion to say that it is. This line seems to come from the old Eurosceptic idea that the EU is merely Napoleon’s Empire or Adolf Hitler’s Nazi-dominated Europe resurrected and marketed to Europe’s peoples in a more palatable form. It isn’t. It was set up by European statesmen, including Winston Churchill, after the War in the hope that by promoting European unity, such extreme nationalist movements and the drive by individual countries to conquer and dominate the country would be successfully combated. I don’t think it’s been entirely successful. Unfortunately, EU policy does represent too much the interest of the big EU nations, like France and Germany, at the expense of the smaller nations. But I do think that it has done much to promote international peace and reconciliation after the War, and so has done much to calm international tension, even if it has not succeeded in altogether eradicating it.

As for Harris’ comments about the Labour – if Harris was serious about them from a left-wing perspective, he could have joined a number of alternative Socialist groups and organisations. Buddy Hell, over at Guy Debord’s Cat, was so disillusioned with the Blairite takeover the Labour party that he joined Left Unity, if I recall correctly. I think one of the small, alternative Socialist parties was formed from all the trade unionists and Labour party members, who were thrown out of the Labour party because they did not back Bliar and Broon’s austerity campaigns.

But Harris hasn’t done that. Instead he’s moved to the Right, and shown how he despises much of the ideology of the Left with his attacks on ‘social justice warriors’. If you look through many of the classic statements of Socialism, several of them make the point that Socialists champion the working class in order to bring about a classless society, and as part of a general campaign to establish greater social equality. Marx, Engels and the early Fabians had some vile attitudes to what they considered to be less developed, backward nations, but as early as the 1920s the Labour party adopted a policy of granting the colonies their independence at the earliest possibility. Even when they were committed to the British Empire, such as in the book Empire, Your Empire, published by the Left Book club, they were critical of the way Britain’s imperial possessions around the world were being exploited. The author of that book wanted these countries developed, but in the interest of their indigenous peoples. As indeed did the veteran Socialist thinker and writer, G.D.H. Cole.

As for Labour privatising the health service, unfortunately, much of this was done by Bliar and Broon. But they were following policies established in the 1980s by Maggie Thatcher. Thatcher and Geoffrey Howe had looked at ways of abolishing the NHS and replacing it with a private medical service such as that in America. They didn’t, because they knew that it would lose them the next election. Also, Patrick Jenkin, the Health Secretary, reported just how awful American medical care was after he went on a fact-finding mission to the US. Nevertheless, she wanted more private medical care in and outside the NHS, including tax relief for people with private medical insurance. She also introduced further charges for hitherto free medical treatments in the NHS. One of these was eye tests at opticians. She stopped that, and then had one of her cabinet ‘vegetables’ try to con the nation into believing that after charges had been introduced, demand had actually gone up. It was Thatcher, who removed compulsory state funding for the elderly in nursing homes, with the result that many people now have to mortgage or sell their elderly relatives’ houses to pay for the tens of thousands of pounds it costs a year to keep them in such homes. She also picked a fight with the dentists, so that the majority left the NHS. And then Peter ‘I’ve got a little list’ Lilley introduced the Private Finance Initiative specifically as a way for big business to make money out of the health service under John Major. Bliar and Broon expanded this cruddy system, but they didn’t invent it.

Despite appealing to working constituents, Harris is, like the Kipper leadership, a Tory. He wants to capitalise on many people’s genuine disaffection from the Labour party due to neoliberal leadership of the Blairites. But he himself is very much a man of the right, and his stance is shown by the fact that he is not concerned with defending the NHS from its privatisation by Cameron and the Lib Dems. This has been going on for over half a decade now. Even last year he could not plead ignorance of it, not if he was serious about defending the NHS or his constituents against austerity and the cuts.

Barbara Castle Talks about Leading an Anti-Apartheid Demonstration during Commonwealth Summit

May 12, 2016

This is another clip I found of an historic Labour politician. Yesterday I found one of the Nye Bevan talking about the foundation of the NHS, which is even now being attacked and privatised piecemeal by the Conservatives. This is a clip of Barbara Castle, one of Britain’s most famous female politicos. Lobster published an article a few years ago about James Callaghan’s period as head of the Labour party and Prime Minister in the 1970s. The article said at one point that Castle was one of his rivals as head of the party, and could possibly have become Britain’s first woman prime minister. No-one really knows quite what would have happened, if something had occurred, despite the various ‘counterfactual’ history books informing us what could have happened if Hitler had one the War, or Napoleon won a particular battle. It’s possible that Castle would have been a better premier than Callaghan, had she won, and certainly she would have been much better for the country had she been the first female leader of Her Majesty’s Government. It would, at any rate, have taken away the Tory’s claim to be more progressive than they really are, because of Maggie’s leadership. Thatcher has been held up as a feminist pioneer, who should be admired and supported by every woman, despite the fact that Thatcher didn’t see herself as a feminist, and her policies largely hit women the hardest.

In this clip, Castle talks about her work in the early 1960s leading a 48 hour silent vigil outside Lancaster House in protest at the Sharpeville massacre of Black protesters by the South African government. She states that she spent two days in the basement of the House of Commons plotting it with Abdul Minty, the head of the anti-apartheid campaign. There was a Commonwealth meeting at the Lancaster House, and Castle and Minty organised the vigil to put pressure on the Commonwealth leaders to have South Africa thrown out. They organised the vigil to be carried out by people in two hours shifts, everyone just standing there in silence. Coffee and other refreshments were provided. She states that during the night, some journos came to see if they really would go all through the night with the protest. They believed it was just a hoax. They were wrong. ‘But’, she says, ‘we were there.’

William Penn on the Need for a European Parliament

March 26, 2016

I’ve probably blogged about this before, but as the issue is now of major importance once again, I’ll carry on talking about it.

The debate about whether Britain should leave the EU has been raised again, with both Boris Johnson and Ian Duncan Smith giving their support to the leave campaign. David Cameron, on the other hand, supports staying in, and has forced his cabinet to take an oath of personal loyalty to him about it. Actually, I wonder if this was the real reason IDS walked out of the cabinet, rather than any of the bunkum he spouted about working age people being hit too hard by Osborne’s benefit cuts. IDS has never voiced any opposition to cutting wages or benefits before. Indeed, he’s been frantically for them. And Tory opposition to the EU is focussed on the Social Charter, which guarantees European workers certain minimal rights. This seems far more likely as a reason for IDS choosing to walk out than him suddenly developing a social conscience. Though it might be that he was genuinely frustrated at not being able to vent his malevolence and hatred of welfare scroungers at the elderly.

Euroceptic attacks on the EU frequently argue that it’s a development of the policies of Napoleon and the Kaiser. Both of these monarchs wanted to create a free trade zone in Europe. However, the demands for a European parliament weren’t confined either to Napoleon, and can be traced back centuries earlier. Kant wrote a trace, On Perpetual Peace, arguing for a federation of states that would outlaw war, and Mazzini, the Italian patriot and revolutionary, also held the same views.

And one of the first pieces arguing for the benefits of a European parliament was written by the great Quaker writer and founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn, in 1693 pamphlet An Essay towards the Present and Future Peace of Europe, by the Establishment of an European Diet, Parliament or Estates.
This is divided into several individual sections, such as ‘1. Of Peace, and its Advantages’, ‘2.Of the Means of Peace, Which Is Justice Rather than War’, ‘3. Government, Its Rise and End of All Models’, ‘5. Of the Causes of Difference, and Motives to Violate Peace’, ‘6. Of Titles, Upon Which Those Differences May Arise’, ‘7. Of the Composition of these Imperial States’, ‘8. Of the Regulation of the Imperial States in Session’, ‘9. of the Objections that May Be Advanced against the Design’, ’10. Of the Real Benefits that Flow from the Proposal About Peace’, and a Conclusion.

It is the section ‘4. Of a General Peace, or the Peace of Europe, and the Means of It’, that contains Penn’s basic description of the European parliament he proposes to provide the means by which the various princes and leaders of the various European states at this time could settled their differences peacefully through negotiation. He wrote:

In my first section, I showed the desirableness of peace; in my next, the truest means of it; to wit, justice, not war. And in my last, that this justice was the fruit of government, as government itself was the result of society, which first came from a reasonable design in men of peace. Now it the sovereign princes of Europe, who represent that society, or independent states of men that was previous to the obligations of society, would, for the same reason that engaged men first into society, viz. love of peace and order, agree to meet by their state deputies in a general diet, estates, or parliament, and there establish rules of justice for sovereign princes to observe one to another; and thus to meet yearly, or once in two or three years at farthest, or as they shall see cause, and to be styled, the sovereign or imperial diet, parliament or estate of Europe; before which sovereign assembly, should be brought all differences depending between one sovereign and another, that cannot be made up by private embassies, before the sessions begin; and that if any of the sovereignties that constitute these imperial states, shall refuse to submit their claim or pretensions to them, or to abide and perform the judgement thereof, and seek their remedy by arms, or delay their compliance beyond the time prefixed in their resolutions, all the other sovereignties, united as one strength, shall compel the submission and performance of the sentence, with damages to the suffering party, and charges to the sovereignties that obliged their submission: to be sure Europe would quietly obtain the so much desired and needed peace, to her harassed inhabitants; no sovereignty in Europe, having the power, and therefore cannot show the will to dispute the conclusion; and consequently peace would be procured, and continued in Europe.

The full text of Penn’s work, and his other writings, can be found in William Penn: The Peace of Europe, the Fruits of Solitude and Other Writings, ed. Edwin B. Bronner (London: Everyman 1993).

Penn was writing in the late 17th century, after a series of terrible religious wars had raged across the continent, of which the British civil war was just one. The French in the 16th century had suffered the Wars of the Religion, while in the German Empire a fifth of the population had died of starvation as armies had raged across the country from the borders of France to Russia. As a Quaker, Penn was committed to peace, and saw the creation of a European parliament as the correct means through which peace could be achieved, and justice and prosperity return to the suffering peoples of Europe.

There’s a lot wrong with the EU, from bureaucratic wastefulness and corruption to the massive, economic mess that’s the Euro and the Troika ruling Greece, Italy and the other countries that have suffered severely from the economic effects of the single currency. But the idea of creating a single European community of nations, in which international disputes can be resolved without violence, and nation can truly speak peace unto nation, is the dream of centuries. It should not be thrown away, and especially not because IDS, BoJo and Priti Patel want to turn Britain into an unregulated sweatshop outside EU control.

Desperate Tories: Grant Shapps Attacks Miliband for not being Businessman

February 16, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has this story about the Tories getting testy over Ed Miliband’s plans to boost small and medium businesses, Perhaps the Tories have all caught ‘foot in mouth’ disease at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/02/16/perhaps-the-tories-have-all-caught-foot-in-mouth-disease/. Grant Shapps, the Tories’ chairman, has poured scorn on Ed Miliband’s ability to run the economy, because he has never run a business.

As Mike and the commenters on the BBC’s website have pointed out, this is a bit rich coming from Shapps. Shapps has indeed run his own business, but not necessarily under his own name. His trading names have included ‘Mr Green’ and ‘Mr Shepard’. This is, of course, fraud.

As George Osborne, before he was made Chancellor of the Exchequer, the scion of the Baronet of Ballymoney had the exciting, dynamic post of folding towels in Harrods.

So these two senior Conservatives ain’t prime examples of successful, reputable business then.

Obama Also Not Fit for Leadership, ‘Cause Not Businessman

As for the jibe, this isn’t original either. It first emerged, like much of the Tories’ vile policies, amongst the Republicans in America. It was a sneer aimed at Obama, when he ran against Rand Paul. The Repugs despised the Senator from Chicago because he was a ‘community organiser’. Rand Paul, on the other hand, was a businessman, and therefore far superior.

Social Darwinism and Class Prejudice

This actually tells you much about the Social Darwinist assumptions of modern American – and British – politics. The Nazis also praised and supported the business elites, as they were obviously biologically superior to the rest of the German population. Far below them were the biologically inferior, who included not only those considered racially inferior like Jews, Gypsies, Blacks, Poles and Russians, but also the disabled and the unemployed.

Now the British and American Social Darwinism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries did not recommend their extermination. It did, however, argue for the sterilisation of the disabled and mentally handicapped, as well as, at one point, the unemployed if they sought poor relief. The attitude was also used to block welfare and health and safety legislation by big businessmen, on the grounds that if workers suffered from illness or work-related sicknesses, it was down to poor heredity rather than the constitution of society.

The same attitude is very much on display here. Obama didn’t run a business – he just looked after deadbeats. Miliband can’t run the economy! He’s not a genetically superior member of the business class.

This Social Darwinist attitude to the inequalities of the British class system is very much alive. One of the most viewed pieces on this blog is a post I wrote about the weird eugenicist views of Maggie’s mentor, Sir Keith Joseph. Joseph looked set to become leader of the Tories until he caused a massive storm with a Social Darwinist rant about how unmarried mothers, and other members of the underclass, were a threat to the British national stock.

It was an extraordinarily offensive rant, made all the more surprising coming Joseph, who as a Jew should have been very well aware of the dangers of this kind of reductionist, pseudo-scientific biology.

The Biological Superiority of the House of Lords

The same class prejudices re-emerged again back in the 1990s when Blair was reforming the House of Lords. One of the reforms was the proposed abolition, or reduction in the number of hereditary peers. This produced a storm of outrage from Conservatives, one of whom argued that the hereditary peers should be left alone. They were, he argued, biologically superior to the rest of us proles and tradesmen, because centuries of breeding had prepared them for position in government, to which they were also best fitted through their education.

Now clearly, the good Tory, who made that argument, probably hadn’t seen, and certainly wouldn’t have liked, the 1970s British film, The Ruling Class. This starred Peter O’Toole as a mad lord, who believes he is Jesus. Toole’s character then becomes villainous when he is cured. At one point the character has an hallucination about going into the House of Lords. The members of the august House are shown as cheering, cobwebbed corpses and skeletons. It was an image that I can remember from my childhood, when it shown on Nationwide all those decades ago, when they were similarly debating the issue of the House of Lords.

Economy and Society Has Sectors, That Cannot Be Run for Profit

In fact, the argument about business leadership providing the best people for the government of the country falls down on simple facts that Adam Smith, the founder of modern laissez-faire capitalism, himself recognised. States provide services that are absolutely necessary, but don’t in themselves generate a profit. Like the judicial system and the transport network. You can’t run the courts like a business, no matter what bonkers Anarcho-individualists like Rothbard and the Libertarians believe. Nevertheless, you need judges, lawyers and courts to provide the security of property that makes business, and indeed civil society, possible.

It’s the same with roads. Roads were run for a profit at the time Smith was writing through the turnpike system. Nevertheless, Smith argued that roads could be a problem to run as a business, and therefore could be best left to the central government as the organisation best suited to maintain them. While they would be a drain on the nation’s resources, good roads were absolutely vital, and so the economy, and therefore British society as a whole, benefited.

Welfare Spending and Unemployment Relief Stimulate the Economy

Similarly, Obama may not have been a businessman, but his work as a community organiser clearly benefited his constituents, who had not been as well served by private enterprise as they needed. And by improving their material conditions through political action, the economy also benefits. This was one of the reasons FDR in the 1930s adopted the minimal provision of unemployment relief in America. If workers actually have enough money to help through unemployment, the amount they spend stimulates the economy still further and actually helps beat the recession.

The Nation of Shopkeepers, sacrificed to Big Business

Finally, you could also argue that Ed’s background outside of business actually makes him more, not less suitable to run the economy. It was Napoleon, who sneered at Britain as ‘the nation of shopkeepers’, and the retail sector is still one of the largest areas of the British economy. Thousands, if not millions, of Brits would love to run their own business. Maggie’s whole image as somehow ‘working class’, spurious as it was, was based on her being the daughter of a shopkeeper.

In sharp contrast to this, Tory policy has consistently favoured big business over the small businessman, making the dreams of hundreds of thousands of people, who aspire to be the next Arkwrights and Granvilles unrealisable.

Modern Big Business Practices Destructive

And the models the Tories have also adopted for big business have resulted in the destruction of much of the economy. Way back in the 1980s and 1990s, Private Eye ran a series about the multi-millionaires brought with much pomp to manage successful, blue chip companies, who then failed spectacularly. These superstar managers ran their businesses into the ground. In some cases, almost literally. Yet after decimating the companies and their share price, the managers were then given a golden handshake and sent packing. Only to be given a similar directorship at another company, and begin the whole process all over again.

As for privatised companies like the railways, they are now in receipt of vastly more public subsidies than British rail, and provide a worse service. The amount of rolling stock has been reduced and ticket prices increased, all so that a set of super-managers can enjoy a life-style of luxury, all while providing a service that is barely acceptable.

The scandals of the privately run care homes, which have been found guilty of appalling low standards of care, and the neglect and abuse of their elderly or handicapped residents, are also partly a product of the same commercial culture. Many were acquired by hedge fund companies, who have deliberately run up millions of pounds worth of debts for them as part of a tax dodge. The result has been a very parlous financial situation for the homes, resulting in little investment and bankruptcy.

Compared to this business culture, it could be said that Ed Miliband’s background outside it is a positive advantage, and gives him excellent credentials to run the economy.

Swedish Church Threatened for Supporting Muslims

February 13, 2015

Religious Freedom Card

French Revolutionary Card celebrating religious freedom.

There’s been a lot of alarm recently about the massive growth of the German anti-Islamic organisation, Pegida. The group’s name is an acronym for ‘Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West’, in German, Patriotische Europeaer Gegen der Islamisierung des Abendlandes. In Germany the groups boasts tens of thousands of members, and has staged mass demonstrations and marches across the country. These have provoked in their turn large counterdemonstrations from liberal Germans fearing a return of the xenophobia that plunged their country in the Third Reich and culminated in the genocide of the Jews and the projected extermination of other groups judged genetically or racially inferior, like the Slavonic peoples of eastern Europe, Gypsies and the disabled. Angela Merkel herself has denounced Pegida and its bigotry. Pegida is not content to confine itself to Germany, however. It is expanding across Europe and plans to stage a rally in Newcastle on this side of the North Sea.

This story comes from Christian Today, a Christian news website, from the 10th a few days ago. The pastor at St. Petri’s church in Malmo was so alarmed at a Pegida demonstration in his city, that he staged a service the previous night (the 9th) supporting the city’s diverse population and its Muslim citizens in particular. Andres Ekhem, the Pastor, stated that he wanted to express solidarity with them and also “express joy for our city and our Muslim friends”.

“There is strong support for diverse cultures in Malmö and it is important that the church is there to support that,” he said.

“You can choose to stay silent and let them give a voice to something you don’t accept. Or, we can choose to show what we believe in, which is a multi-religious society where everyone is given the freedom to preach their own religions.” Pastor Ekhem received some criticism for his service, including ‘more or less clear threats’, according to an interview he gave with Sydsvenkan.

Pegida’s Cant about Kant

One of Pegida’s slogans is Kant Statt Koran: ‘Kant instead of Qu’ran’, referring to the great 18th century German Enlightenment philosopher, Immanuel Kant. Kant is one of the most brilliant European philosophers, and his ideas are still very influential today. He was one of the first to suggest that the Earth and the solar system were formed by condensing out of a primordial gas, an idea that has been confirmed by contemporary science and the study of the evolution of stars. He also believed that the human conscience pointed to the existence of God. The pangs of conscience one felt, he argued, were like someone knocking at your door. The implication is that in the case of the human soul, that someone is the Almighty.

You wonder what Kant, a man of the Enlightenment, would think of Pegida. Many of Enlightenment philosophers were religious sceptics, either Deists, like Voltaire, or outright atheists, like Mably and Diderot. The philosophes were revolted by the horrors committed by the Wars of the Religion in the 16th and 17th centuries, which pitched Protestant against Roman Catholic, and the adherents of Protestant sects and denominations against each other. They strongly argued for religious freedom and toleration.

The philosophes’ hostility to revealed religion eventually led in turn to the abolition of Christianity and its vicious persecution in the name of the Goddess of Pure Reason during the French Revolution. When the Revolution broke out, however, its supporters believed it would usher in a new age of complete freedom of conscience. The new rights, liberties and virtues inaugurated by the Revolution was celebrated in a series of playing cards. These included the card right at the head of this article. It says ‘Liberty of Cults’, and includes some of the holy books of the great Abrahamic faiths. Along with the Christian Gospels, there is the Talmud for Judaism, and the Qu’ran for Islam.

This pack of cards was also way ahead of its time in celebrating racial equality. Both rationalist philosophes and evangelical and reforming Christians, like the Quakers, Methodists, and the evangelical wing of the Anglican Church, were revolted by the cruelty inflicted on Africans by the slave trade. The French Revolutionaries initially freed the slaves in their colonies, only for it to be put back by Napoleon. This card is entitled ‘Egalite des Couleurs’ – Equality of the Colours, and shows a Black man with a gun. Alongside is the word ‘Courage’. The message is clear. Far from being degraded savages, who deserved their enslavement, Black people were every bit as courageous and deserving of freedom as Whites.

Race Equality Card

These cards together show the new ideas of racial and religious liberty and equality, which were part of the intellectual ferment of Kant’s age. Looking at them, I doubt whether Kant would have had much time for the bigotry and xenophobia of groups like Pegida.

Radical Balladry: A Dream of Napoleon

May 16, 2014

Napoleon Pic

The Napoleonic Wars are one of the quintessential episodes of the British patriotic interpretation of history, when Britain and her allies faced down and defeated Napoleon. And long before Hitler, Napoleon was – and to a certain extent, still remains – the archetypal foreign dictator intent on world domination. Yet in his early days Napoleon was a hero to many British radicals, the champion of democracy and freedom against a corrupt, aristocratic order. It can come as a surprise that there were ballads written in Britain celebrating ‘Boney’ and his exploits. One of them, A Dream of Napoleon, was collected by Vaughn Williams. It appears to have been first printed in the late 1830s, though it may have been composed perhaps thirty years earlier, as the only battle it mentions is that of Marengo in Italy in 1800. It runs

One night sad and languid I went to my bed, but I
Scarce had reclined on my pillow, when a vision surprising came
into my head; methought I was traversing the
Billow, one night as my vessel dashed over the deep I
beheld a rude rock that was craggy and steep, The rock [where]
the willows now seemed to weep o’er the grave of the once famed Napoleon.

Methought that my vessel drew near to the land, I beheld clad in green this
bod figure.
With the trumpet of fame clasped firm in his hand, on his brow there was
Valour and vigour.
‘O stranger’, he cried, has thou ventured to me from the land of thy fathers
who boast they are free?
If so a tale I’ll tell unto thee concerning the once famed Napoleon.

‘Remember that year so immortal’, he cried, ‘when I crossed the rude Alps
famed in story
With the legions of France, for her sons were my pride, and I led them to
honour and glory.
On the plains of Marengo I tyranny hurled and wherever my banner the eagle
unfurled,
‘Twas the standard of freedom all over the world and the signal for fame’,
cried Napoleon.

‘Like a soldier I’ve been in the heat and the cold, as I marched to the trumpet
and cymbal,
But by dark deeds of treachery I have been sold, while monarchs before me
have trembled.
Now rules and princes their station demean, and like scorpions spit forth
their venom and spleen,
But liberty soon o’er the world shall be seen’, as I woke from dream, cried
Napoleon.

Source: Roy Palmer, ed., Bushes and Briars: Folk Songs Collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams (Llanerch 1999) 100-1.

Gove and 19th Century British Education Provision

March 29, 2014

The Conservative Party Annual Conference

Michael Gove contemplating the government’s destruction of British state education

Unreasoning nostalgia is a British disease,

– Jon Downes and the Amphibians from Outer Space

Earlier this week the NUT staged a one-day strike against the government’s reforms of British schools. As with the rest of Conservative policy, this essentially consists in preparing the system for further privatisation and lowering wages and conditions. They also have their sights set on lowering standards as well. Taking their cue from the assumption of ignorant bar-room bores everywhere, the Tories have the attitude that just about anyone, or almost anyone, can teach without actually needing to be taught how. They are therefore trying to pass legislation to allow graduates to teach in schools without needing to have a teaching qualification first.

I did my first degree at a teacher-training college that also took ordinary degree students. The trainee teachers I knew were conscientious and worked extremely hard, both academically on their specialist subjects, and in the class-room during teaching practice. Often they were put in front of classes that could be difficult, stopping fights between pupils and sometimes with the threat of violence from parents. While there’s a lot of debate just how much of the theory of teaching and child development is relevant – the theories of Piaget have been extensively critiqued and rejected – it is nevertheless not an easy profession by any means. Teachers certainly need good training in how to teach, as well as what. All this will be undermined by Gove’s reforms.

Modern Conservatism is based on the view that laissez-faire, private industry is always best, and so looks back with nostalgia on the 19th century, when Britain dominated the world, we had an empire and industry was expanding. It was also an age of poverty, hunger, disease and overcrowding. And rather than being great, Britain in this respect had one of the worst education systems in western Europe.

France

In France, plans had been drawn up for a national system of primary, secondary and university education as long ago as 1806 under Napoleon. In practice, the regime got only as far as founding the lycees, the boarding schools for the elite. Under the education act of !833 drawn up by the French minister, Guizot, an impressive system of primary education was established. All communes were required to set up schools, which would provide education for local boys free of charge. The communes that could not afford to do so were to be given funding from their department, or, failing, that an annual grant from the Ministry of Public Instruction. As a result, in the thirteen years from 1834 to 1847 the number of primary schools in La Patrie increased from 33,695 to 43,514. By 1849 there were 3 1/2 million children attending primary school. Girl’s schools received much less funding, but nevertheless a law 1836 extended the 1933 Act to provide for schools for girls.

The French educational system was further reformed in 1863 under Napoleon’s minister for public instruction, Victor Duruy. Duruy was the Republican son of a worker in the Gobelins tapestry factory. He proposed to Napoleon III a system for the effective abolition of illiteracy, funding increases for secondary education, and increases in teachers’ salaries. Primary education was made compulsory, and a broader curriculum introduced for secondary schools. In 1866 nearly 66,000 pupils attended secondary school. The state also spent large sums on teachers’ salaries and in establishing good school libraries. In Matthew Arnold’s words, the French education system after Guizot had

given to the lower classes, to the body of the common people, a self-respect, an enlargement of spirit, a consciousness of counting for something in their country’s action, which has raised them in the scale of humanity.

Germany

Prussia had a ministry of public instruction and a system of local school boards from 1817 onwards. By the mid-19th century throughout all the German states primary education was compulsory. In Saxony, Wurttemberg, Bavaria, Baden and Prussia after 1857 parents had to send their children to the local state school. The age when children started school varied from state to state from five to eight years. In some parts of Germany school attendance was compulsory for a further eight years, so that the school leaving age was the same a century later. Unfortunately, education suffered through the use of child labour and widespread poverty, which took children out of the class room.

By 1837 Prussia already had a system of 50 gymnasia, set up to teach the children of the elite from 16 to 19. The curriculum was broader than that in France, and included philosophy, history, geography, arithmetic and geometry, as well as drawing and playing a musical instrument.

Austria

Under the liberal prime minister Auersperg in 1869 education became compulsory for all children from six to fourteen years of age. It has been seen by Harry Hearder, in his Europe in the 19th Century, 1830-1880, as more advanced than the British educational system introduced a year later. (p. 386). The parts of Italy under Austrian rule also benefited from this increase in education. In 1856 Lombardy possessed 4, 427 primary schools.

Switzerland and the Netherlands

The best schools in Europe were those in Switzerland and the Netherlands. Primary education had been made compulsory in most Swiss cantons in the 1830s, and Matthew Arnold considered Swiss schools superior to the French, with the schools in Aargau the very best in Europe.

In the Netherlands a system of state supervision of education had been established in 1806. Dutch schools were hygienic, with well-trained teachers, industrious and happy children, complete religious toleration and no corporal punishment.

Britain

There were a number of schools giving some form of education. These included the Dame Schools, in which an old woman kept a class of children quiet while their parents worked and the charity and Sunday schools. These were essentially religious in nature, and although there were 1 1/2 million pupils in Sunday schools in the 1830s, their pupils were not taught to write or do sums. There result was that there were high rates of illiteracy. By 1851 the literacy rate for men was about 69.3 per cent, and for women 51 per cent.

Under Dr James Kay-Shuttleworth in 1840 schools receiving state grants were obliged to adhere to certain standards, and in 1856 the Department of Education was set up. Nevertheless, a national system of education did not exist until the education act of 1870.

The children of the upper classes attended the grammar and public schools. There was, however, no national system of universal secondary education until 1880, or really, before the 20th century.

University Attendance in England, France, Germany and German Austria

The English universities were intended to produce a small, educated elite, unlike those in France, Italy, German Austria and Germany, which aimed at producing a larger cultured or professional class. As a result, in the 19th century far fewer people in England had the benefit of a university education. In France 1 in 1,900 citizens attended uni. In Italy, this was 1 in 2,200. In Germany and German-speaking Austria, it was 1 in 2,600. In Britain less than half as many had a university education one in 5,800 men.

British Education Dominated by Conservative Aristocratic Bias

Hearder therefore says of the British education system that it suffered from a narrowly aristocratic attitude. If the English upper class was as well educated as that of any other in Europe, the rest of the population remained wretchedly ignorant and neglected. (p. 388).

This attitude still persists in contemporary Tory attitude to education. Cameron, Osborne and Clegg are Toffs, who seem intent on pricing higher education out of the grasp of the lower middle and working classes with their raising of tuition fees. The educational reforms seem designed to wreck state education, leaving it purely run for the profit of private companies and unable to compete with the private schools. This seems partly intended to allow the wealthy to continue to the enjoy their educational and social privileges without having to worry about competition from the poorer children of the state sector.

And supporting this assault on state education is the popular belief, at least amongst some of the electorate, that this must raise standards because private is automatically better, as demonstrated by British imperial and industrial greatness during the 19th century. Britain, however, does not compare well in the sphere of mass education during the 19th century. The state systems of many nations, especially France, appear far better. If we genuinely care about giving a good education to our children, we should be looking to them, not back to a mythical age of imperial glory that promotes an attitude of indifference or active hostility to genuine, popular, state education.