Posts Tagged ‘Nottinghamshire’

Benn, Livingstone, Tatchell and Scargill, Popular Socialists Not Communist Dictators

June 5, 2016

One of the aspects of press policy that comes across most strongly in Mark Hollingworth’s book on the hounding and vilification of left-wing politicians, the Greenham women and the miners in the 1980sThe Press and Political Dissent: A Question of Censorship, is the repeated tactic of concentrating on a particular politician, and trying to present them as crazed and dictatorial. I’ve described in a previous post yesterday how Tony Benn was compared to Adolf Hitler, complete with a retouched photo to show him with Adolf’s toothbrush moustache. This was very much despite the fact that Tony Benn had served as an RAF pilot during the War. The same tactic of smearing a brave man, who had fought for his country as a traitor was repeated a few years ago by the Daily Heil on Ed Miliband’s father, Ralph. They ran an article denouncing Ralph Miliband as ‘the man who hated Britain’. Miliband was indeed a Marxist intellectual, who hated the capitalist system and therefore much of the class-based structure and institutions of British society. But he also fought in the British army against Fascism during the Second World War.

Scargill and the Miners

Arthur Scargill was another working-class political figure the press smeared with comparisons to Hitler, and claimed was a dictatorial monster during the Miner’s Strike.

Maggie Thatcher in one of her rants had described Scargill and the NUM as ‘Red Fascists’, and so the press followed suit. On 19th April 1984 the Daily Express ran a piece by Prof. Hans Eysenck comparing Scargill and the striking miner’s to Hitler and the Nazis, entitled ‘Scargill and the Fascists of the Left – from the Man who Witnessed the Rise of Hitler: A Warning We Must Not Ignore’. The Sunday Express under its editor, John Junor, ran a similar piece.

Mr Arthur Scargill has clearly been flicked in the raw by suggestions that he has been acting like Hitler. But isn’t he? Hitler used his thugs to terrorise into submission people disagreed with him. Isn’t that precisely what is happening now at night in Nottinghamshire mining villages? Hitler had an utter contempt for the ballot box. By refusing the miners a right to vote, hasn’t Mr Scargill against invited comparison? There the serious similarity ends. For although Mr Scargill may be a stupid man, I do not think he is an evil one.
(pp. 275-6).

Peregrine Worsthorne, the editor of the Torygraph, compared Scargill to Oswald Mosley of the British Union of Fascists. The Daily Heil on the 1st April 1984 ran a piece with the headline, ‘Coal Boss Hits Out at Union ‘Nazis”. But it was the Scum that really went overboard with the accusations of Nazism. It ran headlines like, ‘Mods in Fury at “Adolf” Arthur’, showed a photo of Scargill with his right arm raised, greeting other miners, with the headline, ‘Mine Fuhrer’, and then ran another piece comparing Scargill’s determination to fight to the bitter end with Adolf Hitler in his bunker.

But Scargill personally was far from a dictator. Hollingworth points out that Scargill did not start the strike, but was simply following the directions of the union’s members quite democratically. Hollingworth writes

In fact, the dispute began in Yorkshire when mass pithead meetings were held at every colliery to decide whether to support the fight to oppose the closure of Cottonwood. A Yorkshire NUM Area Council meeting was then arranged which took the decision to sanction all-out industrial action. Scargill didn’t attend or speak at any of these meetings. Nor does he have a vote on the miners’ National Executive Committee. (pp. 272-3).

The miners themselves repeatedly told the press that they weren’t blindly following Scargill, and that the situation was in fact the reverse: he was doing what they told him. This was repeated by the Coal Board’s Industrial Relations director general, Ned Smith, stated ‘I don’t think Scargill has kept them out. That is nonsense. A lot of the areas have a great deal of autonomy. It’s simply not true to say it’s Scargill’s strike.’ (p. 273).

Hollingworth also notes that the press had a personal obsession with Red Ken. When he took over the GLC, the Scum declared ‘Red Ken Crowned King of London’. Hollingworth, however, describes how Leninspart was again, very far from a bullying egotist monopolising power. Bob Quaif in a published letter to the Evening Standard stated that he was a Liberal/SDP, supporter, but he was impressed with the pluralist and democratic terms in which Livingstone expressed his opinions. Moreover, the Labour group when it took power removed some of the patronage powers from the leader, and gave them to elected committees. Ken controlled overall policy, but real power was held by the Labour group which met every Monday. Livingstone himself said of his role

I act more like a chief whip, co-ordinator and publicist of the group. I go out and try to sell the message and to hold the group together… people really only come to me when there is a problem. I never know anything that’s going right. I only get involved in all the things that are going wrong. Committees run into problems with the bureaucracy and I come along and stamp on it. (p. 84).

Hollingworth goes to state that if Livingstone had been personally ousted from power in the Autumn of 1981, the council would still have had much the same policies under the leadership of Andy Harris or John McDonnell.

Livingstone, Scargill and Tatchell Smeared as Communists

Throughout all this, Livingstone, Arthur Scargill and Peter Tatchell were all smeared as Marxists and Communists. The Sunset Times described the miner’s strike as ‘Marxist inspired’, with Hugo Young declaring ‘Call Scargill a Marxist, and correctly identify members of the NUM executive as Communists, and you seem to have solved the entire analytical problem’. The Daily Express even published a piece entitled ‘Scargill’s Red Army Moves In’, ranting about the miner’s had been infiltrated by militant Marxists, determined to prevent changes to union rules which would make striking more difficult. The piece, written by Michael Brown, stated

The militant Red Guards responsible for most of the pit strike violence will attack against today when Arthur Scargill attempts to rewrite his union’s rules. A rabble of political activists plan to invade the streets of Sheffield to browbeat any opposition to a delegates conference designed to reduce the majority needed for strike action … It will be orchestrated by a ‘5th Column’ of political activists who have taken over the running of the miners’ strike. All are handpicked men, some with university training who have Communist, Marxist or Trotskyist backgrounds. They run the flying pickets and handle funds for paying them. (p. 266). There was absolutely no evidence for this, and the papers didn’t provide any.

The Sunday Express and the Scum also claimed that Livingstone was a Marxist, an accusation that lives on in Private Eye’s nickname for him as ‘Leninspart’. But again, Hollingworth states that there’s no evidence that he is either a Communist or Trotskyite. Roy Shaw, the moderate Labour leader of Camden council, who did not share Ken’s left-wing views and opposed him on many issues, stated of ‘Red’ Ken ‘He embraces Marxism if he thinks it will be of advantage to him. But he is certainly not a Marxist. He plays along with them and uses a lot of their methods, but he certainly is not one of them.’

The press also claimed that Peter Tatchell was a member of Militant Tendency, the Marxist group was that was allegedly trying to take over the Labour party. The Daily Mirror claimed Tatchell was linked to Militant and Tariq Ali. The Torygraph also claimed he was a member, as did the Daily Star, while the BBC on 2nd August 1982 on a late-night news bulletin called him ‘the Militant Tendency candidate for Bermondsey’. To their credit, both the Graun and the Absurder published interviews with members of the local Labour party, who said that Tatchell was most definitely not a member of Militant.

Hollingworth describes Tatchell’s politics views and how they differed, at times very dramatically from Militant, and states that he was merely part of the Bennite Left of the Labour party. Indeed, Militant itself did not like Tatchell, and backed him only reluctantly. Hollingworth writes

But Militant’s stance towards Tatchell’s candidature was based on clear ideological differences. On many issues, the two were diametrically opposed. Broadly speaking, Tatchell belonged to the radical Left of the Labour party which rallied round Tony Benn’s banner during the 1981 deputy leadership campaign. According to Michael Crick’s excellent book on Militant. The ‘Bennite Left’ are often described as ‘petty bourgeois reformists by Militant supporters. For Tatchell one of the major differences was on the structure of a socialist society:

I see socialism as being essentially about the extension and enhancement of democracy, particularly in the economic realm. Militant have a very centralised vision of command socialism. Mine is more decentralised and concerned with empowerment. In other words, giving people the power to do things for themselves. Militant take a Leninist view based on a vanguard centre.

On specific policies the discrepancies between Tatchell and Militant are also stark. For several years the Alternative Economic Strategy (AES) was Labour Party and TUC policy and Tatchell supported it fully. Import controls, one of the main proposals of the AES, was seen by Militant as ‘nationalistic’ and ‘exporting unemployment’. Other policies on wealth tax, planning agreements and industrial democracy are rejected by Militant as not going far enough.

When it came to social issues, Tatchell and Militant may as well have been in different parties. Tatchell supports ‘Troops Out’ of Northern Ireland, while Militant is against withdrawal. Positive action for women and ethnic minorities, backed by Tatchell, are seen as ‘bourgeois deviations from the class struggle’ by Militant. The issue of gay rights has only one been raised at the Labour Party Young Socialists conference since Militant took over Labour’s youth section in 1970. According to Michael Crick, Militant supporters are often hostile to gay Party members. (pp.158-9).

So while Scargill, Livingstone and Tatchell were certainly left-wing Labour, they weren’t dictators and definitely not Communists. It was all a smear. But it shows how the press and political establishment were convinced that any serious left-wing Socialist attack on the establishment had to be connected to Moscow. Hence Frederick Forsythe’s wretched little book, which has the British intelligence services battling a Communist plot to infiltrate the Labour party, ready to turn Britain into a Soviet satellite when Labour win the election. It’s says everything about Thatcher that she declared he was her favourite writer.

And Now Corbyn

And this type of abuse hasn’t stopped, either. The most recent victim is Jeremy Corbyn, who is again being smeared as a Communist. Hollingworth writes that it is an old tactic used against the radical Left – to single out a leader, and then go for the jugular. They couldn’t use it against the Greenham women, as they had a very decentralised and non-hierarchical ideology. There were no leaders, and those women, who did speak to the press, made it clear they were only articulating their own views. If they spoke to the press more than a certain number of times, they then refused to speak any more and directed the press to talk to someone else. In extreme cases they even left the camp.

They are, however, determined to use again and again. I found a book on Militant in the politics section of Waterstones recently, and on the back, with the usual approving quotes, was someone stating that the lessons from Militant were relevant once again with the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour party. This is just a smear, along with all the baseless smears against Livingstone, Scargill and Tatchell before him. It shows how little the tactics of the Tory press change in their campaign to discredit genuinely principled and democratic radicals.

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Vox Political: Police Considering Handing 999 Calls to G4S

November 12, 2015

Mike has posted a number of very important, ominous pieces about Tory reforms to the police force, reforms which will undermine the police as a public, state institution tackling crime, and deny those arrested of their fundamental right to legal representation and a fair hearing.

All this is being done in the name of private profit and cutting costs.

Last week Mike revealed the news that the government was considering putting 999 calls in the hands of G4S. Even without their record of incompetence, which has included letting prisoners escape while under their escort to the courts for trial, this would still be a matter for concern for corruption and conflict of interest. On of the company’s major shareholders is the husband of Theresa May, the current head of the Home Office.

See Mike’s story: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/11/08/police-forces-consider-company-part-owned-by-theresa-mays-husband-to-handle-999-calls/

The next day, Mike posted up this story, expanding on the news: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/11/10/more-cuts-mean-privatised-police-for-profit-theresa-may-call-it-what-it-is/

Not only are Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire police forces considering granting the operation of their 999 lines to the company, but Theresa May has announced that she intends to give G4S and other private security firms and government contractors like it police powers. This will be ‘when the time is right’, of course. Mike points out that this is truly policing for profit, whatever May says to the contrary.

The Tories have been floating the idea of privatising the police force for nearly a quarter of a century. In Christmas 1991 I recall the Mail on Sunday running a story about the wonderful, Minarchist Tory Britain that would be ushered in the majority of MPs were women. This included a privatised police force, hired by individual communities. It’s an idea ultimately lifted from Rothbard and the American Libertarians. It was put into a feature about a future parliament controlled by women, as the Daily Mail has always aimed at a female readership, despite having a highly reactionary attitude to feminism, and an attitude towards women that comes dangerously close, and at times has crossed over into misogyny. If you want an example, think about the various articles the Mail has run demanding that women return to their traditional roles in the home. Or the photographs of underage, teenage girls, accompanied by sexual captions commenting on their attractiveness.

The Mail was hoping with this story to capitalise on the support the party had received from women, partly due to the election of Margaret Thatcher. This was despite the fact that Maggie had no women in her cabinet, and most of her policies actually harmed them as women form the majority of workers in the low-paid sectors.

It was also about this time that they launched the old propaganda line about national economics being similar to budgeting for a household. The article claimed that women automatically knew to vote Tory, as they naturally have a better understanding of men through handling the household budgets. This is a bit of specious, condescending flattery, as running a household is not like running a national economy, even if the word ‘economics’ ultimately does come from the ancient Greek term for ‘household management’. And it doesn’t impugn anyone’s ability to run a home to point this out.

The story was run at the beginning of Major’s ministry, and much was made of his inclusion of women in his cabinet, like Virginia Bottomley and Edwina Currey. If I remember correctly, the article claimed that the privatisation of the police was a police particularly favoured by Bottomley. Now nearly a quarter of a century later, it’s being announced by another female politico, in this case Theresa May. I wonder if this is entirely coincidental, or if the Tories feel that this would look far better being announced by a woman. Perhaps they hope that by specifically appealing to women, they can make it look like some kind of neighbourhood policing, done by corporations that know the needs and requirements of their local communities, rather than what it is: the assumption of authoritarian powers of arrest and detention by a private corporation, acting only for the profit of its senior management and shareholders.

If they are trying to present it as such, which I recall the Daily Mail article attempting to do, then backing G4S and other government contractors seems to me to be a grave error of judgement. Apart from letting their prisoners escape, I also remember that one of them was involved in serious riots in a refugee detention centre, which employed them. The inmates had risen up in protest at a series of abuse committed by the centre’s wardens, who were not state screws, but security guards in one of these private firms.

I also wonder if the person, who dreamed up this idea, has also seen some of the same Science Fiction films I have. Like the Heavy Metal movie and Robocop. The Heavy Metal movie was an ’80s animated film, based on the adult comic of the same name, which was the Anglophone version of the French Metal Hurlant. It was an anthology based on the comic’s various strips, linked by a story in which a young girl is led to realise that she is a warrior woman with cosmic powers, dedicated to fight evil.

One of the stories is set in a decaying future, where the police act like a private detective agency. The victim comes in, reports the crime, and then is expected to pay for the costs and manpower of the investigation.

The other film is another flick from the ’80s, Robocop. This was set in a decay, near-future Detroit, where crime was rampant and the police force had been privatised and handed over to a private corporation, OCR, or Omni-Consumer Products. Beset by bad management and suffering from an appalling death rate at the hands of local criminal gangs, Detroit’s boys and girls in blue go on strike. Meanwhile, the company has been trying to crush crime by using robots. These are failures, the prototype malfunctioning lethal during a boardroom demonstration in which it fatally shoots one of the corporation’s executives pretending to be an armed villain.

So the company decides to try again, this time using a machine which will also be part human. They set a new, rookie policeman, Murphy, up to suffer a brutal shooting in order to supply a suitable subject for transformation.

Directed by Paul Verhoeven, it’s a fast-paced, ultra-violent action movie. One of my mother’s friends went to see it at the cinema when it came out, and left feeling physically ill because of the graphic violence. Despite this, it is a good movie, with a sympathetic treatment of the resentment and anger of the demoralised cops, and the central character’s own struggle to remember who he is and regain what little he can of his lost humanity. It also makes the point that what people need on the streets isn’t efficient machines, but real people with compassion and empathy towards the victims, as well as the aggression and determination needed to tackle offenders. In one scene, Murphy as Robocop saves a woman from rape by shooting her attacker in the crotch. The victim runs to him to offer her thanks. But the Robocop machine can only diagnose her as traumatise, and impersonally calls a rape crisis centre on her behalf before going on to his next assignment.

And just as Superman is powerless when his enemies wield Kryptonite, so Robocop also has a built-in weakness. His manufacturers have built into his programming a secret protocol that prevents him from apprehending or harming any of the corporation’s employees or management. It is only when the board chairman – the Old Man – sacks the villain that Robocop is finally able to get justice and avenge himself by shooting him.

Robocop is, of course, very definitely SF, though possibly not so far away from reality. I doubt that we will ever be able to create cyborg super-cops any time soon. Detroit was and is a declining city with a severe crime problem. Furthermore, the storyline’s partly based on the city’s privatisation of its services. It did not, mercifully, privatise the police.

Now a privatised police force in the system May and her bosses are advocating clearly wouldn’t charge individuals for investigating crimes. But they are going to charge the state for their services. And in order to make sure they remain profitable and give a dividend to their shareholders, they will have to economise and make cuts. Mike has already reported on the concerns by the police that Tory cuts to their budgets of up to 25 per cent will leave them unable to properly investigate and prevent crime, and arrest offenders. So it looks like handing over police powers to the likes of G4S will actually increase it, not cut down on crime.

And as with Robocop, there is the problem of corruption in the assumption of the state’s powers of arrest and punishment by a private corporation. There have been major scandals over corruption in normal police force, particularly the Met and the West Midlands forces. People have been wrongfully arrested and suspects beaten, as well as collusion between the police and criminal gangs. It has been hard enough bringing these cases to justice. I doubt very, very much that the task will be any easier if policing is handed over to private companies. How many private policemen or women would dare to risk arresting a manager or senior boardmember?

And finally, there is the matter of principle that justice should always be public, and only the state should have fundamental right and trust to arrest, detain and punish offenders. The Mail on Sunday’s Peter Hitchens, while in many respects a highly reactionary arch-Tory, has stated that he opposes private prisons on this exact point.

So just on considerations of efficiency, competence, and the philosophical foundation of the state as the public arbiter of justice, this is an appalling decision. But this all counts for nothing when the Conservatives see an opportunity to turn a quick buck from privatising a public utility.

I doubt very much, however, that they will go as far in their privatisation of the justice as Rothbard advocates. That would mean the privatisation of the courts themselves, so they could receive all the benefits of commercial competition in a free market economy. That’s anarchism, and whatever the Tories say they stand for in terms of personal freedom and free enterprise, they have always stood for a highly authoritarian society backed by the use of force against the lower orders. The very last thing they want to do is dismantle that. Rather, they are doing everything in their power to reinforce and strengthen it.