Posts Tagged ‘Novara Media’

Peter Hitchens on Tony Blair’s Stupidity

January 16, 2023

Yeah, I know this ad hominem, but it is funny. Novara Media’s Aaron Bastani interviewed Tory iconoclast Peter Hitchens the other day. The two don’t really have much in common, but Bastani justified the interview saying that if you want to be certain in your political views, you should test them by talking to people who hold the opposite. Hitchen’s is very much a man of the right, and some of his views are odd, if not barking. He believes, for example, that we shouldn’t have gone to war with Germany as it was not in our interests. Perhaps it wasn’t, but we had signed the defence pacts with France and Poland, And if we hadn’t gone to war, I think we would have still lost the empire sooner or later. Plus we would have been excluded from a continent under Nazi domination. And this is not to mention the carnage that would have been perpetrated by the Nazis, with the Jews and Gypsies becoming extinct in Europe, followed by the Czechs and the Slav populations enslaved as peasant farmers supplying produce to their German overlords.

On the other hand, Hitchens has said that he never supported Thatcher’s sale of the council houses or the privatisation of the prison system, because justice, as a principle, should be in the hands of the state. He also states in one of his books that he was shocked into an awareness of how fragile civilisation was after visiting one of the failed African countries as a journalist in the 1980s. The country had descended into vicious gang violence, but walking through its capital Hitchens saw everywhere grand architecture and all the signs of modern corporate development. I think this gives an insight into the basis of his own Tory views. I remember reading in the Spectator years ago that the right-wing philosopher Roger Scruton abandoned the left when he witnessed the rioting in Paris during the 1968 student and workers’ protests. He was alarmed by their ‘anti-civilisational rage’.

Back to the interview, Hitchens described Blair’s spin doctor, Alistair Campbell, as being frightening intelligent. He mentioned people, who really thought for the first few months of Blair’s regime that it was Campbell running the country. He joked that it was probably because of Campbell’s mighty intellect that he was kept away from voters, as he would probably frighten them all away.

But Blair, on the other hand, wasn’t terribly bright and Hitchens doubted that he could have run the country without Campbell. To illustrate his point, he told the story of how he briefly met Blair just before the 1997 election. Blair was in Oxford, travelling in his motorcade. Hitchens was following him by bike, but as the traffic was bad, he got to Blair’s destination before him. After Blair had arrived, he was immediately surrounded by a crowd taking pictures. Hitchens wanted to talk to Blair, and so, after the crowd had finished and dispersed, he walked up to the future Prime Minister. He decided to open the conversation by asking who the crowd were. Blair replied, ‘They’re Brazilians. I’m very popular down there.’

‘Oh, you should learn Portuguese then,’ replied Hitch.

‘What?’

It turned out that Blair thought they spoke Brazilian in Brazil. Hitchens concluded that what Blair really wanted to be was a pop star, and you didn’t need to ascribe any deep ideological motives to him.

There was, nevertheless, an ideological basis to his policies. He was a product of BAP, the British-American Project for the Successor Generation, which was set up by Reagan to influence the rising generation of British politicians from both the Conservatives and Labour. Blair had started out as a supporter of nuclear disarmament, but after going on a BAP-sponsored trip to America and hearing the views of various right-wing think tanks, he came back as an opponent. He was fervently Thatcherite, believing in the superiority of private industry and strongly influenced by the American political system. Private Eye ran several pieces about the American private healthcare and prison companies lining up to donate to New Labour in the hope of getting some of that nationalised action. He took over advisers and staff from private healthcare companies as well as other businesses, and pushed the privatisation of the NHS further than the Tories would have dared. As stupid as he may have been, he set the course for right-wing Labour, and Starmer shows every indication of returning to it.

Diane Abbott Slams Rishi Sunak’s Bogus Promise about Continuing Maths Education Until 18

January 5, 2023

Yesterday, our latest prime minister, Rishi Sunak, announced that as well as tackling the state of the NHS and channel migrants, he would make it compulsory for school students to continue to study maths until 18. This was, he announced, necessary to combat poor maths literacy. His speech has impressed precisely no-one, and has been extensively torn to shreds by commenters like Owen Jones and Novara Media. After all, it’s the Tory policies of underfunding, cuts and stealth privatisation that have created the mess the NHS is in, in the first place. As for the channel migrants, they’ve been unable to tackle that either, except with Patel’s plan to send them all to Rwanda, a country suffering serious human rights abuses. That plan was condemned by the public and also, I believe, various judicial authorities.

Abbott in a tweet stated that Sunak’s plan for continuing maths education until the school leaving age was bogus because the Tories had cut teacher’s pay, as well as underfunding education generally. She’s absolutely right, as I can remember from my schooldays when schools were increasingly decaying thanks to cuts to funds. Except for the academies, of course, which were given more far more than state schools. Critics have also wondered whether Sunak will even have time to implement this reform before the possibility that he and his wretched party are voted out at the next election.

There’s also been an interesting opinion piece in the Groaniad by a lecturer in mathematical biology. He argues that it’s unnecessary, as maths is already the most popular A Level subject, far outstripping its nearest rival, psychology. He also states that making it compulsory would further decrease the numbers of people taking arts and humanities subjects, as they’d have to give up them as well as choose another STEM subject to harmonise with the maths. He also makes the excellent point that making it compulsory might put people off it even more by forcing them to study a subject they hate.

To me, it just looks like Sunak trying desperately to look like he’s actually doing and standing for something, whereas in fact he stands for nothing except the worn out Tory policies that have driven the public services into the ground and working people to desperation. The fact that he has nothing to say was shown very clearly just before Christmas, when he, or one of the Tories, announced they wanted to meet the railway unions, but wouldn’t talk about wages. As wages are part of the issue, this negated the whole point of any meeting. Again, it was just an exercise in public relations. He wanted it to appear that he was doing something and prepared to negotiate while the reality was the complete opposite.

Sunak is flailing about with nothing to offer, and it’s obvious.

Video on Archaeology’s Challenge to Enlightenment Accounts of Origins of States and Inequality

December 8, 2022

This is a fascinating video I found on Novara Media’s channel the other day. In it, host Aaron Bastani talks to archaeologist David Wengrow about the origins of the state and the development of social inequality. Wengrow argues that the evidence from archaeology challenges assumptions that prehistoric and preliterate peoples were incapable of rationally deciding for themselves what kind of societies they wished to live in. He gives examples from prehistoric Europe and North and South America to show that ancient and indigenous peoples not only did decide on the kind of societies they wanted, but were perfectly capable of reversing trends in their societies towards authoritarianism. One of the examples of this, which I found truly jaw-dropping, was one of the city states the conquistador Hernan Cortes made alliance with against the Aztecs. Unlike the Aztec empire, that state city was a democratic republic. He also talks about the influence on Enlightenment critiques of western society of a Huron Indian chief in Canada, who was an intelligent conversationalist able to hold his own in conversations about the nature of society to such an extent that French, British and Dutch colonial authorities invited him to dinner to talk this matter over.

Wengrow starts off by stating that modern political theory about the origins of society, as taught in politics courses, is completely divorced from archaeological accounts. The theory is based on the speculations of foundational Enlightenment thinkers like Hobbes and Rousseau, who admitted that they were speculating. But these accounts are now taught as fact. Archaeological research, however, is overturning previous ideas about the origins of urban society. For example, it was believed that agriculture and urbanisation were linked and appeared together as part of the Neolithic Revolution. But this is not the case. Excavations of the ancient city of Catalhuyuk in Turkey show that while it was an urban centre, although Wengrow hesitates to call it a city, show that its people were still hunter-gatherers, living by foraging rather than agriculture. And the same is true of the settlement at Amesbury at the time Stonehenge was being built. The people then had given up agriculture, although they retained animal husbandry. It appears they had tried growing crops and then rejected it in favour of foraging.

He then goes on to talk about the Huron Amerindian chief. He inspired a colonist from New France, who had been expelled from the colony, to write a book based on the chief and his dinner conversation when the colonist was penniless in Amsterdam. This became a massive Enlightenment bestseller, and inspired other books by Voltaire and others in which Chinese, Tahitians and other outsiders criticise European society. Wengrow states that the Indian societies surprise western Europeans because they were much less hierarchical than they were, and contact with these societies and the indigenous critics of western civilisation did influence European political philosophy. We easily accept that Europe took over many material products from these nations, but are much less ready to accept the idea that they influenced our ideas, even though the Enlightenment philosophers said that they had.

He also talks about Cahokia, a great pyramid and city state in the Mississippi valley in America. This appears to be another example of a society, in which people rebelled or simply walked away from authority and hierarchy. It was also another indigenous monument that was ascribed to everyone else but the native peoples when it was first discovered, and is now disrespected by having a road driven through it. When it was constructed, the local society seems to have been hierarchical. At the top of the mound is a structure from which all of the city could be viewed. But sometime after its heyday it was abandoned. The traditional reasons are that the climate changed, but Wengrow finds that unconvincing. What seems to have happened instead is that people simply got tired of living in such a society and walked away.

Tenochtitlan, one of the great cities in ancient Mexico, is another example of a strongly hierarchical society that underwent profound social change and became more democratic. Wengrow states that it’s a massive state, and they owe a debt to the French scholar who produced detailed maps of it. When it first emerged, it was hierarchical but then the nature of society changed. People started living in high-quality, single-floor homes. These were so good they were originally thought to be palaces, but now it appears they were villas occupied by ordinary citizens. At some point, the people of Tenochtitlan decided that they wanted a more equal society, to the extent that some scholars believe that there was a revolution.

Then there is the case of the democratic city state Cortes encountered. This really was democratic, as there are accounts of the debates in its assembly. This astonished the conquistadors, as there was very little like it in Europe at the time, except some of the Florentine republics. This all challenges the notion that once society develops to a certain extent and becomes complex, inequality also emerges and is very difficult to challenge or remove. These cases show that indigenous peoples could and did. He also argues that the same may have been true of slavery. The only successful slave revolt that we know of is Toussant L’Ouverture in Haiti. But Wengrow suggests there could have been thousands of other successful slave revolts in prehistory of which we are unaware. Slavery came about, he argues, from the expense of laying out offerings for the dead. In order to leave food and drink for the dead, the bereaved had to have access to the foods themselves and so they became indebted and dependent on the people who owned those resources.

He also talks about the problems in describing some of these urban centres as cities. There are huge sites in the Ukraine, but archaeologists are hesitant about calling them cities with some preferring other terms such as ‘mega-sites’ because they aren’t centralised.

Bastani asks him at one point about the problem of pseudo-archaeology. I think this came up because Graham Hancock is currently fronting a series on Netflix claiming that way back in prehistory there was an advanced society, but that it was destroyed in a global cataclysm. Wengrow states that quite often pseudo-archaeology is based on old and discarded idea, such as Atlantis. The people involved tend not to be anyone who’s ever been on an archaeological dig, and view archaeologists as spending their lives trying to hide some momentous secret from everyone. But it can act as an entry for some people to archaeology, and he doesn’t really like the sneering attitude of some archaeologists towards it.

Wengrow himself is an interesting character. He didn’t want to be an archaeologist originally, but came to it from acting. He also worked in the BBC Arabic service. He decided at one point he wanted to get a degree, applied to the best university he could, Oxford, and sent reams of applications to its various colleges. They turned him down. Then he was told that he should apply for a place on a course that was just being set up. One of the colleges was just setting up an archaeology course, so he did. When it came to the interview, he told the interviewer that he had always wanted to be an archaeologist. At which point she held up all the previous letters he’d written. But they admitted him, and he has now had a career teaching and excavating in places like Egypt.

He states that sometimes the pseudoarchaeology about a period or culture misses the point about what’s really interesting about it. He talks about the idea that the Sphinx was constructed before the pyramids, and admits that it’s actually a reasonable question. But if you go back to the predynastic period a thousand years before the pyramids were built, you come to the burial sites of one of Egypt’s first kings. This is fascinating, although you wouldn’t know it from the dry way it has been discussed in conferences and museums like the Petrie Museum. Excellent though these are, they talk about highly specialised subjects like pot typography which is excruciatingly dull if you want to know the wider picture. The early king’s tomb is composed of room after room of the bodies of the people and occasionally the animals that were slaughtered to accompany the king into the afterlife.

The interview is based on a book Wengrow wrote with a colleague, The Dawn of Everything. Sadly, after spending a decade writing it, the co-author died just a few weeks after its completion. The book has been widely praised, and has even inspired artistic pieces. He talks about a French woman, who composed a piece of music based on it. He regrets he was unable to attend its performance thanks to jet lag coming back from somewhere, but later met the lady when she came to Britain.

I know a little about some of what he’s talking about to have no doubt that he’s absolutely right. One of the seminars in the archaeology department at Bristol, which I attended, was about how cities like Catalhuyuk were established before the appearance of agriculture. One of the huge Neolithic sites in the Ukraine is discussed in the La Rousse Encyclopedia of Archaeology. The great mound of Cahokia is also discussed in a book I bought years ago on North American Indian archaeology. I wasn’t aware that the people of Stonehenge had given up growing crops, nor of the democratic city states in South America and Mexico. This is fascinating stuff.

He’s right about archaeology contradicting the ideas of Enlightenment philosophers about the origins of society, though I’m not sure how much of a problem this is. The philosophers he discusses – Hobbes and Rousseau – were Social Contract theorists. Social Contract theory is the idea that the state and society were set up when men came together to select an authority under whom they would live, so that their lives and property would be protected. Thus the first kings. These princes are the representatives of the people, and so from the 17th century onwards the idea developed that sovereignty lay with the people, who could revoke the power they had delegated to the prince. This was the view of John Locke. However, subsequent philosophers showed that this was just conjecture, and that it could have happened like that as the people at the time were using concepts that only subsequently developed after the foundation of states and kingdoms. I thought Social Contract theory was dead, and he closest it had to a modern advocate was John Rawls in his Theory of Justice. Rawls argued that if people were just disembodied entities wishing to chose the kind of society in which they would care to live, they would choose one that had the maximum freedom and justice for everyone, as that would also include them. Away from centrist politics, the anarchists have been keenly interested in anthropology and those indigenous societies where there is no central authority.

I’m not sure how well some of this would go down with Sargon of Akkad and the Lotus Eaters. They’ve developed an interest in archaeology, recently posting a video discussing Homo Erectus, along with the Norman Conquest and ancient Rome. But Sargon is a huge fan of John Locke and describes himself as a classical liberal. I don’t know whether archaeology’s findings about the origin of early states would contradict his ideas or not.

Stop the War Coalition Holding Online Meetings Tomorrow on War in Ukraine and Yemen

March 25, 2022

I got this email from the Stop the War Coalition about changes to the meetings they were going to hold about the war in Ukraine and Yemen. The meeting about Ukraine was a teach-in, which was due to be held in London. However, Covid has meant that the event is being moved online, as is the meeting about the war in Yemen, solidly supported by our military-industrial complex. The email runs

Newsletter – 25/02/22

Ukraine Teach-In – Tomorrow!

Register Here

Our Ukraine teach-in is now taking place online due to a number of speakers having Covid. Tomorrow’s event will run from 11am-2.15pm and has an excellent panel of speakers of leading activists and experts, including anti-war speakers from both Ukraine and Russia.

It is an important opportunity to analyse the causes of the war, discuss some of the key controversies it has raised and examine its likely consequences.

There will be discussion of Ukraine’s history, NATO’s record, the threat of nuclear war, attacks on Russian culture and the issue of refugees.

Sign-up for the Zoom event now

Register Here

The War on Yemen: A 7 Year Long Crime

In January of this year over 400 civilians were killed or injured in airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition in their war on one of the poorest countries on earth – Yemen.

The war is approaching its eighth year. It’s a war in which British personnel produce the bombs, train the pilots, coordinate air strikes and gather intelligence. All while our government provides political cover and our media largely turns a blind eye.

Join us and Liberation on Zoom later in the day tomorrow to call for an immediate end to this horrendous British-backed war.

Register Here

I’m not planning to go to them myself, but I thought I’d post it up here for anyone else who might want to attend. I think holding it online actually might be better, as not everyone can go to London. Holding it on Zoom means people from across the country can attend simply by logging on, so they might have a bigger audience. The teach-in on Ukraine has a truly stellar cast of speakers, one of whom, if I recall correctly, is Novara Media’s Aaron Bastani.

As for the war in Yemen, our government is deeply implicated through selling the Saudis the armaments and providing them with military personnel and expertise in the first place. This is what all the ‘wonderful kit’ does, that Dave Cameron boasted about on his visit to an arms factory in Lancashire.

The idea behind the arms sales, apart from just sheer, amoral profit, is that they will act to encourage the countries buying them to purchase other British products. But they don’t. They just buy arms. Arms we shouldn’t be selling to deeply repressive, murderous despotism like Saudi Arabia.

Novara Media on Fascism in Ukraine

March 16, 2022

This video from Novara Media aims to set the record straight about the far right in Ukraine, refuting Putin’s lie that he is liberating the country from Fascism. Hosts Michael Walker and Aaron Bastani talk about the Maidan, or Orange Revolution, that saw the pro-Russian Ukrainian president ousted in favour of a pro-western, pro-EU candidate. The pair state that the revolution was completely democratic. Umm, possibly. In fact the revolution was overseen by Victoria Nuland for Hillary Clinton’s state department and the National Endowment for Democracy, which is the quango to which the American state delegated the job of regime change when they took it away from the CIA. Not that this means that Zelensky is an American puppet or that Putin’s invasion is at all justified. They make the point that it was a popular revolution, but that far right groups were also involved and talk about the attack on a trade union building. This was set alight, several trade unionists were shot and killed, and Nazi graffiti was scrawled on the building. However, the identity of the attackers is unknown.

The Fascist groups active in Ukraine include the followers of Stepan Bandera, who fought for the Nazis as an SS auxiliary during World War II before turning against the Nazis. The Ukrainian authorities caused outrage a few years ago when they honoured him as a national hero. His followers today also wear SS auxiliary uniforms. Then there’s the infamous Azov Battalion, whose uniform includes the SS ‘wolfsangel’ badge and who have been active fighting the Russian separatists in the east. Walker and Bastani state that they try to recruit western Fascists, and the film includes a brief interview with a Swedish Nazi who joined them. They’ve also turned up in this country to try and gather the bigoted and stupid here. They rocked up at one of the neo-Nazi demonstrations a few years ago along with a group of Italian Fascisti. The Azov Battalion run a Fascist summer camp for children, shots of which show school age kids doing exercises and learning to shoot. They also have a very slick recruitment video. This shows them marching about, ready to defend the fatherland with a voiceover boasting about their patriotic values and ending with ‘Join us’. Also in this toxic stew is the Right Sector. There are interviews with various members of these horrendous groups, who say, among other things, how attractive the idea of ‘one nation’, but deny that everyone in these organisations is a Fascist. One high-ranking member successfully sued a journalist for calling him a Nazi, despite the fact that Nazi ideology is very much what their wretched rants sound like. The video includes a clip of one of their leaders at rally ranting from a stage about homosexuality. It’s unnatural, and being promoted by a certain racial group. Gosh! I wonder who he could mean? Yeah, it’s the old Fascist anti-Semitism. Years ago The Young Turks discussed these bonkers Nazi conspiracy theories. Ben Mankiewicz, one of their guests, responded to them by saying that if there is a Jewish conspiracy, nobody told him. I’ve seen other videos attacking various anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in which other Jews and people of Jewish descent have said the same thing. And if the Jews were so keen to promote it, why does Miriam Margolyes need to work with an organisation for gay Jews dedicated to challenging prejudice in the Jewish community? I’m not saying that Jews are any more prejudiced against gays than anyone else. I merely mention it to show how stupid and wrong the accusation that they’re pushing homosexuality is.

Bastani and Walker state that Zelensky himself is a political moderate and Jewish. As for these Nazis, the most they got at an election was 10 per cent of the vote. That’s a lot, but not the same as Jobbik in Hungary, which got 20 per cent. From this high point their share of the vote has declined to 2 per cent. This is roughly the normal proportion of votes gained by Fascist groups across Europe, including the BNP and NF in this country. Under normal circumstances, Fascists aren’t popular. The problem in Ukraine is that these scumbags have been taken up and formed links with members of the political elite, including a judge. The Azov Battalion has also been merged with the Ukrainian army, which has led its apologists to claim that it’s no longer a Fascist organisation. Fuelling support for the far right is the decline in living standards. Over the last 30 years the Ukrainian population has shrunk by 8 – 10 million, and the life expectancy is now what it was in the 1960s. I have a feeling that’s another consequence of the collapse of communism. My guess is that the dismantlement of the Communist economy and its replacement with capitalism has led to the same kind of poverty, unemployment and the closure of businesses and factories that has occurred elsewhere in the former Communist bloc. Just as Yeltsin’s wholesale privatisations in Russia resulted in the complete meltdown of the Russian economy. Putin’s popularity among ordinary Russians is partly based on his restoration of economic stability after the chaos the old drunk caused. And I understand that depopulation has also been a factor in the rise of the Nazi right in Germany. According to an online conversation with a German anti-fascist posted by left vlogger Kevin Logan, the former east Germany has been hit particularly hard with the transition to capitalism. Many of the former country’s industries and businesses have been unable to compete, and so have closed down. As a result, whole towns and villages have been abandoned as their people have moved away to seek employment elsewhere. When you have an economic crisis like that, people start looking around for a scapegoat, and Fascism provides it in the shape of immigrants and Jews.

I also think that whatever popularity Fascism has is also partly due to its claim to be a third political alternative against socialism and capitalism. Communism failed, capitalism isn’t living up to its promise and so some may turn to Fascism as an alternative.

Walker and Bastani also point out that there are other political groups fighting the Russians, including anarchists, so it isn’t true that the Fascists are the only people defending the country apart from the regular army. They also make it clear that they feel that the regular Ukrainian deserves its support from the West. It’s just that this should not be given to the Azov Battalion and the rest of the Fascists.

Left Labour Message on How to Join Them and Speak Up for Peace

February 18, 2022

I got this message early this afternoon from the good peeps at Arise, the left Labour festival of ideas. It details their petitions, internet article and forthcoming protest against a possible war in Ukraine. It’s entitled ‘Speak Up For Peace – What You Can Do’, and it runs

‘Hello David

As much of the world hopes for de-escalation around the Ukrainian crisis, we are joining with the anti-war movement, Young Labour & others to oppose the UK’s Goverment’s sabre-rattling. Here are 3 things you can do:

  1. Sign the Stop the War Coalition statement against the war-mongering Tory Government here.
  2. Read the latest analysis from Kate Hudson (CND) here, Young Labour here and Andrew Murray (Stop the War) here on our media partner Labour Outlook.
  3. Join Jeremy Corbyn, Richard Burgon,  Jess Barnard (Young Labour), Sophie Bolt (CND) and Murad Qureshi (Stop the War) to discuss Why Labour Must Speak Up For Peace on March 5 at the Making Another World Possible: an internationalist agenda for the Left & Labour event (1-4.30pm), which will also feature sessions on The Global Struggle for Climate & Vaccine Justice Women for peace, global justice & socialism.

Labour Party Conference passed policies that show a clear alternative of how we can build a world of international justice, equality & peace. But too often the Party leadership is not offering this alternative to the Tories’ reactionary foreign policy agenda. Please support the anti-war movement and join us on March 5, which will be a key point to organise for an international agenda for justice, equality. Be there!

Yours in solidarity,
The Arise Volunteers Team.

Stop The War Coalition’s statement against our government’s warmongering over Ukraine reads:

‘Stop the War opposes any war over Ukraine, and believes the crisis should be settled on a basis which recognises the right of the Ukrainian people to self-determination and addresses Russia’s security concerns.

Our focus is on the policies of the British government which have poured oil on the fire throughout this episode. In taking this position we do not endorse the nature or conduct of either the Russian or Ukrainian regimes.

The British government has talked up the threat of war continually, to the point where the Ukraine government has asked it to stop.

Unlike the French and German governments, it has advanced no proposals for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, and has contributed only sabre-rattling.

Indeed, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has even accused those seeking a peaceful settlement of preparing “another Munich.”

Instead, the British government has sent arms to Ukraine and deployed further troops to Eastern Europe, moves which serve no purpose other than inflaming tensions and indicating disdain for Russian concerns.

It has also declared that Ukraine has a “sovereign right” to join NATO, when no such right exists to join it or any other military alliance.

Britain needs to change its policy, and start working for peace, not confrontation.

Stop the War believes that Russia and Ukraine should reach a diplomatic settlement of the tensions between them, on the basis of the Minsk-2 agreement already signed by both states.

It believes NATO should call a halt to its eastward expansion and commit to a new security deal for Europe which meets the needs of all states and peoples.

We refute the idea that NATO is a defensive alliance, and believe its record in Afghanistan, Yugoslavia and Libya over the last generation, not to mention the US-British attack on Iraq, clearly proves otherwise.

We support all efforts to reach new arms control agreements in Europe and to move towards nuclear disarmament across the continent.’

I’ve added my name to the statement because I am extremely worried about the way our government seems to want to take us to war there, and the Coalition are fundamentally correct in everything they say. NATO made an agreement with Gorbachev after the fall of communism that the former Warsaw pact countries would not join NATO and would remain neutral, with their security guaranteed by both parties. And then as soon as it could, NATO expanded in eastern Europe right up to Russia’s borders, thus stoking Russian fears of encirclement.

The invasion of Afghanistan had less to do with overturning a repressive Islamist despotism and creating a free and democratic state for its people, and far more to do with geopolitics and securing a vital oil pipeline. The overthrow of Colonel Gaddafy by rebels aided by western bombing has resulted in a divided country, one half of which is run by Islamists, who’ve dragged it back into the middle ages. Gaddafy was a dictator, but he believed in Africa as a continent and the equality of all its peoples, Black and White. But the Islamists don’t, and have reopened slave markets selling migrants from further south, who have struggled to reach Libya in their efforts to cross to Europe.

As for the Iraq invasion, that has been an object lesson in how right the British scientist, broadcaster and Fabian Socialist Jacob Bronowski was when he said ‘War is theft by other means’. Again, the war wasn’t about overthrowing a tyrant for the benefit of the Iraqi people. It was done so the American and Saudi oil cartels could steall their oil and western multinationals could still their state industries. I caught a bit of a talk about the invasion and its consequences in a recent Zoom meeting organised by the Labour left by an Iraqi gent. It’s heart-breaking and disgusting what has been done to the country. The American occupation government divided the state industries up into three categories – those that were to be privatised, though that were to be mothballed, and those that were to be simply closed down, thus helping to wreck the country’s domestic economy. And the Iraqi health service has been decimated. According to the gentleman, if you have a relative or friend in hospital now, there are no drugs to treat them. You have to run around outside trying to find someone who will sell them to you. But this was a country under Hussein that had a good healthcare system where treatment was free.

I think there are forces in the military and the Tory party that have been hoping for a confrontation with Russia for over half a decade. I think they were looking forward to a war between NATO and Russia in Lithuania in 2017. That year’s come and gone, and the theatre of war has moved south.

And I really do wonder what we are doing supporting the Ukrainian government when it has strong links with real Nazis. Novara Media put up a video this week discussing the story and photograph on the front page of the times. This was about a 78 year old women, who was undergoing training with some kind of paramilitary outfit in order to defend her homeland. Well, this would all be good if the paramilitaries involved were an ordinary patriotic defence group. But they weren’t. They were the Azov Battalion, a bunch of Nazis who have form for dressing up in the uniform of World War II SS auxiliaries and celebrating Nazi collaborators as national heroes. And it hardly needs to be added that they are definitely anti-Semites.

I don’t want to see a war in Ukraine. I don’t want to see it plundered and robbed, or destabilised for the benefit of big business, like Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq. And I am terrified that any confrontation will very swiftly become nuclear.

And so I fully support the demands for peace made by the Coalition, Arise and its multitude of supporters. Including Jeremy Corbyn, the greatest Prime Minister this country has had stolen from it.

A Thorough Demolition of Postmodern Anti-Liberal Social Justice Theories

January 21, 2022

One of the other books I’ve ordered from Amazon, and which I’m reading at the moment, is Helen Pluckrose’s and James Lindsay’s Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender and Identity – and Why This Harms Everybody (Swift Press 2020). Pluckrose and Lindsay are two thirds of the group, with Peter Boghossian, of academics that are actively seeking to lampoon and refute the various pseudo-academic disciplines that have emerged from Postmodernism and Critical Theory. These theories, Critical Race Theory, Postcolonial Theory, Queer Theory, Disability and Fat Studies, promise to help make society fairer, but instead are doing immense damage, including to the very groups they profess to want to help. They consciously reject the Enlightenment ideas of reason, evidence, science and the individual and universal. This is particularly clear in Critical Race Theory, which denounces as a failure the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s, with materialist Critical Race Theorists arguing instead for segregation. CRT, Postcolonial Theory and Intersectional Feminism also reject ideas of evidence and reasoned argument on the grounds that this is a discourse created by White men to keep everyone else down. Instead they promote myth, story and lived experience as authentic, non-White ways of knowing that should takes its place. Those advocating this nonsense include Novara Media’s Dalia Gebreal, who was one of the editors of Decolonising the University a few years ago. In the case of the Postcolonialists, their view of an irrational east is exactly the same as the western Orientalists they decry following Edward Said’s Orientalism. And the real social activists in India and elsewhere in the Developing World are very much aware of it. I’ve only read a few chapters so far, but from what I’ve seen, Lindsay and Pluckrose show again and again that these Theories are only making matters worse. Real progress for Blacks, gays and other marginalised groups has come from evidence, reasoned argument and universalism – the idea that there are universal human rights, which should apply to everyone regardless of race, creed, gender or sexuality/ gender identity.

In fact some of these ideologies are actively malign and reactionary. Postcolonialist activists, for example, do not lend their voice to activists in Saudi Arabia or India protesting the oppression of women and LGBTQ people in those countries and the Middle East. It’s because the ideology itself actively defends and promotes indigenous, non-Western cultures and their worldviews, which may vehemently reject modern ideas of feminism and sexual tolerance. They’re only interested in oppression in the non-Western world when this is due, or can be blamed on, colonialism. This is explains why Barbara Barnaby, the British head of Black Lives Matter, in her speech to a fringe Labour party meeting a few years ago, condemned the toppling of Colonel Gaddafy and the consequent enslavement of Black Africans, but had nothing to say about the revival of indigenous slavery further south, such as Uganda. Nor did she mention oppression by Black African and other non-Western regimes. Instead she demanded that refugees automatically be allowed into ‘Fortress Europe’ because ‘You oppressed us under colonialism’. But overt colonial rule in many countries ended sixty or so years ago, in the 1950s and 1960s. These nations achieved their independence, and the poverty, corruption and oppression these nations have experienced since then have been at the hands of indigenous rulers. A far better argument, for me, would be to say that, as former imperial subjects, refugees from these nations deserve to be given sanctuary in Britain, and some activists have used this argument. But Barnaby’s silence about oppression and violence by indigenous non-Western regimes is part of the general refusal of Postcolonial Theory to confront this brutal reality.

The book’s blurb runs

Cynical Theories argues that struggles for social justice are strongest when they are founded on respect for evidence, reason and free and open debate. It deplores the harm that closed-minded Social Justice ideologues, cancel cultures and social media pile-ons are doing to the cause of social justice and liberal democracy itself.

Pluckrose and Lindsay demonstrate that only through proper understanding of the evolution of these ideas can we challenge this harmful orthodox, and offer practical strategies to combat it.’

After the Introduction, it has the following chapters

  1. Postmodernism ‘A Revolution in Knowledge and Powers’
  2. Postmodernism’s Applied Turn ‘Making Oppression Real’
  3. Postcolonial Theory ‘Deconstructing the West to Save the Other’
  4. Queer Theory ‘Freedom from the Normal’
  5. Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality ‘Ending Racism by Seeing It Everywhere’
  6. Feminisms and Gender Studies ‘Simplification as Sophistication’
  7. Disability and Fat Studies ‘Support-Group Identity Theory’
  8. Social Justice Scholarship and Thought ‘The Truth According to Social Justice’
  9. Social Justice in Action ‘Theory Always Looks Good on Paper’
  10. An Alternative to the Ideology of Social Justice ‘Liberalism without Identity Politics’.

This book supplies a much-need critique of these thoroughly pernicious theories, which regrettably have gained considerable ground on the Left and in academia. Instead of bringing people together and actually helping those they purport to want to help, they are actually creating more division and hatred. James Lindsay, one of the book’s authors, recently described his experience of appearing on Dr. Phil, an American talk show, to confront various Critical Race Theorists on Benjamin Boyce’s YouTube channel. When they asked him what he would recommend instead to tackle racism, he replied that it should be colour-blindness, where people are rewarded on ability. He said they looked at him as if they’d sh*t themselves.

If we are to progress as a people and species, it can only come through reason, logical argument and a concern for objective truth, as well as genuine liberal universalism, which sees everyone as equally deserving of human rights.

And that means dumping these destructive and pernicious pseudo-ideologies.

Novara Hack Banned on Twitter for Being the ‘Wrong Kind of Jew’?

December 13, 2021

Perhaps I’m being too suspicious here, but I think there’s more to this than an overreacting algorithm. Novara Media put up a video today reporting that Rivkah Brown, a reporter and their commissioning editor, had had her account suspended on Twitter. Her crime was putting up the internet address of a sexual advice line run b by Novara and putting images of herself up. Apparently this violated the company’s rules against the posting of personal information, and Aaron Bastani, one of their anchors, also had his account suspended simply for talking about Brown’s. The images appear to have been harmless selfies, one taken at a party Brown was attending. In the video, Michael Walker and Bastani suggest that this shows that Twitter is moving in an increasingly authoritarian direction as a reaction to demands for greater action by the internet companies against real invasions of privacy and doxing. They also state that the far right have welcomed the move, as this means they can have videos of themselves and their noxious activities taken down. They consider that this comes because social media has become too effective at holding the powerful to account. They wonder if the footage of George Floyd being murdered by the cop in America would have been allowed on it today. Would the Arab Spring a few years ago happen in quite the same way? Bastani also describes how friends of his can’t put the names of their businesses on certain media platforms. One of these is a woman who deals in Persian tea. She can’t put the name of her business up, because it contains the word ‘Persian’. Others have had problems with ‘Syria’. He suggests that this censorship is done in favour of certain states in the global north.

Neither say it, but I wonder if there isn’t another issue here hanging unspoken. A quick glance through Google reveals that Brown is Jewish and the editor of Vashti, a magazine that aims to diversify Jewish opinion or media. She was also a critic back in February of Labour’s anti-Semitism panel. Now I might be wrong here, but I wonder if she was taken down following complaints from the usual suspects, who are determined to vilify and silence ‘the wrong kind of Jews’. You know, those awkward types, who refuse to obey Starmer and the Israel lobby by not supporting Israel or its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. The vast majority of people smeared and purged from the Labour party for anti-Semitism are Jewish, which should show anyone how stupid and mendacious the charge is. A little while ago Novara covered the case of another Jewish journo, Emily Wild, who got the heave-ho from her news company for telling it like it was about Israel’s attack on Gaza and the Palestinians instead of using the passive voice and making it all sound like a struggle between equals.

It really wouldn’t surprise me if this was an attempt by the ultra-Zionist fanatics to try to silence her using even this flimsy excuse about posting personal information as the only thing they had to hand.

Novara Media Discuss Mike Graham Telling Listeners Concrete Grows

November 1, 2021

Last week LBC’s right-wing mouthpiece, Mike Graham, provided the British public with some unintentional hilarity when he solemnly informed the world that concrete grows. Graham was interviewing a young man from Insulate Britain. He started off with a barbed comment, asking the chap what he was glued to. The man calmly replied that it was just his screen at the moment. Graham then asked him what he did for a living. As Zelo Street has already commented, Graham was clearly hoping the man was unemployed so he could give him a rant about getting off his backside and getting a job. This failed, because the chap did have a job: he was a carpenter, which uses wood, a sustainable material. Graham claimed that it wasn’t, because the trees were cut down. The carpenter replied that people planted more trees, which grew. Unlike other materials like concrete. It was at this point that common sense finally abandoned Graham’s skull, and he declared that concrete did, indeed, grow. This ended the interview, as the Insulate Britain man remained silent except for a tiny, almost imperceptible shake of the head. Graham then abruptly ended the interview, saying goodbye to him.

I realise that this bizarre incident has been covered several times elsewhere, such as on Zelo Street, but I thought my esteemed readers would want to see it for themselves. Here it is being discussed by Novara Media’s Michael Walker and Dalia Gebreal, whose minds are well and truly boggled by Graham’s ignorance. So boggled, in fact, that they play the clip of the short interview twice. Even more astonishing, LBC put the clip up on their Twitter page as an example of an Insulate Britain fail. Graham and LBC made monumental fools of themselves, and didn’t realise it! In fact, Zelo Street reported that Graham had gone on to another show to make the same stupid claim about concrete growing.

Now I’ve read SF stories in which buildings are grown using self-replicating nanomachines, but that’s far beyond our abilities at the moment. Not that I think Graham reads much SF. And concrete doesn’t grow at all.

But I think the main take-away lesson from this is what it shows about the level of knowledge of the people telling you that climate change isn’t happening.

Brexit Britain’s Collapse also Reveals Failure of Free Market Capitalism

September 26, 2021

I wonder sometimes if the Communists and Trotskyites didn’t throw in the towel too soon. They were always looking for the collapse of capitalism, and while that didn’t happen and probably won’t, they would have realised that Thatcherism, at least, isn’t working and made real efforts to make the British public realise it. Communism collapsed with the velvet revolution in eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s as the countries of the former Soviet bloc threw off their chains and embraced democracy and free market capitalism. Francis Fukuyama declared that it was ‘the end of history’. Liberalism in the broad sense of the mixture of liberal democracy and capitalism, had seen off its rivals and would now reign supreme and unchallenged as the global ideology bringing peace, freedom – both political and economic – and prosperity to everyone.

But it hasn’t worked out like that.

Thatcher’s privatisation of the public utilities here in Britain haven’t brought the necessary investment these sectors needed. As Ken Loach’s superb documentary, The Spirit of 45, makes very clear, the power, water and railway industries are natural monopolies that need national planning and support. This has been particularly shown time and again in the management of the railways. Major’s privatisation of British Rail in the 1990s and its breakup into separate companies resulted in a spate of horrendous train crashes. Insult was added to injury by the rail companies passing the buck and accusing each other of responsibility for the disasters. As a result, the company owning the railway network itself, Railtrack, had to be renationalised in 2002. Privatisation did not work. And it has continued to fail with the private railways companies. Several have had to be taken back into state administration after providing poor service. However, this has always been excused as a temporary measure and the government has insisted on finding some other private company to run those services afterwards. After a series of such failures, this strategy now looks more than a little desperate. It’s an attempt to fend off the obvious: that private enterprise isn’t providing a proper, decent rail service and the only way to run it properly is to renationalise it.

It is very much the same with the government’s part-privatisation of Britain’s schools. Declining standards in state schools led Thatcher to experiment with privately-run schools outside the control of Local Education Authorities. These were then called ‘city academies’. They were another failure, and her education secretary, Norman Fowler, was forced to wind them up quietly. Unfortunately, Tony Blair thought it was a wizard idea and it became a major part of New Labour education policy. Simply called ‘academies’, these schools would be run by private companies. Some of these would specialise in particularly subjects, such as Maths and science. Expertise from private industry would ensure that standards would be high, and they would provide a powerful incentive through their competition for the remaining state schools to improve their performance. Except that didn’t happen either. The academies don’t perform any better than ordinary state schools once the massive difference in funding is taken into account. An academy may receive tens of millions of funding compared to a fraction of million that the Local Education Authority receives to spend on all the schools it runs. Furthermore, many of the academies have only been able to maintain their high standards through being highly selective about their intakes. Pupils that may not reach the marks demanded by the schools, including those with behavioural problems or who come from poorer families, are often excluded and expelled. Educational performance and standards in many academies has been so abysmal that the chains managing them have collapsed and the schools once again taken into public administration. But private enterprise under the Tories cannot be allowed to fail, and so we had the grim spectacle a few years ago of Nicky Morgan, the Tory education secretary, repeatedly not answering the questions on the Andrew Marr show why the government was pushing ahead with turning schools into academies when just a little while ago 25 academies had had to be taken over by the government again.

Now, thanks to a mixture of Brexit and global problems elsewhere, the gas industry is in crisis. There are shortages of gas, a number of the smaller companies have already collapsed and customers are being faced with sharp price rises. Novara Media have even said that the government has admitted that if there are severe problems with the major gas suppliers, then they will have to be nationalised.

Gas, like electricity, should never have been privatised in the first place. When it was initially privatised, the company was not split up into separate, competing companies and so it was able to dominate the market as a private monopoly. Now some of those companies are suffering because they are unable to cope with free market conditions. This says to me very much that Jeremy Corbyn was right – that the public utilities need to be publicly owned and rationally managed as part of an integrated system. This is another point that Ken Loach’s documentary makes very well.

And Brexit has created further problems. The establishment of a customs border with Eire overturns one of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and so threatens to return Northern Ireland to sectarian violence and chaos. There is a shortage of CO2 as a result of which some foods and other goods may suffer shortages. And there may be further shortages, including petrol and other fuels, because Brexit has also resulted in fewer haulage drivers. Some are even now predicting a new ‘Winter of Discontent’, like that in 1979 that resulted in the defeat of the-then Labour government and the election of Maggie Thatcher.

I remember the petrol crisis of the ’70s, when OPEC suddenly raised oil prices and there were queues at petrol pumps. Just as I remember how Ted Heath’s dispute with the coal miners resulted their strike, the three-day week and power cuts. It got to the point that by the middle of the decade the right were expecting a Communist takeover and the end of civilisation as we know it. There were supposedly private militias being formed by bonkers right-wingers while parts of the establishment wanted to overthrow the minority Labour government in a coup to be replaced by a kind of coalition government composed of representatives from all the parties. Well, that was what the Times discussed in its articles. The security services, however, were forming plans to round up trade unionists and left-wing politicians and activists and intern them on a Scottish island somewhere. The editor of the Mirror went to Sandhurst to interest them in overthrowing the government but was met with a no doubt polite refusal. I think he, or one of the other plotters, even went as far as Paris to see if that old Fascist, Oswald Mosley, would be interested in leading the new government.

All that has been used in the Tory myth that socialism doesn’t work, and only creates the economic and political chaos that helped bring Britain to its knees. Chaos that was only ended by the glorious reign of Maggie.

Except that these problems look like they’re coming back, and this time the fault is Brexit and the free market.

I think Boris will be able to find temporary solutions to alleviate, but not cure, some of these problems. He has, for example, introduced new legislation to encourage lorry drivers from the continent to come over here. But the underlying structural problems remain. The only way to solve them is through nationalisation.

The Labour party is in an excellent position to drive this home, at least in the case of gas. Even if it doesn’t go that far, it should still be landing hard blows on Johnson and the Tories because of Brexit’s massive failures. But Starmer isn’t doing that. Instead, as Zelo Street pointed out in a piece published a day or so ago, the Labour leader is more intent instead on destroying democracy in his party as part of his war on the left.

Which is why I’m almost nostalgic for the old Socialist Workers’ Party. They’re still around, rebranded as ‘the Socialist Party’, but they’re nowhere near as active as they were. Whenever there was any kind of crisis or major issue you could count on them turning up with their megaphones and copies of their newspaper to harangue the masses and demand further action against the problem. Unfortunately, in many cases the Socialist Workers’ Party were the problem. They colonised left-wing issues in an attempt to turn protest groups into front organisations, which they could then use to produce further discontent. Rock Against Racism collapsed when the SWP took over the leadership of that organisation, formed to protest against the rise of Fascism. They were also busy infiltrating the Labour party and other left-wing parties here and abroad with the intention of radicalising them. I think the eventual hope was to create some kind of mass revolutionary movement. It didn’t work, and has only resulted in purges, such as that of Militant Tendency by Kinnock in the 1980s. In fact, the policy has helped strengthen the right in the Labour party, as they smeared Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters as Trotskyite infiltrators as the pretext for their continue purge.

The Trotskyites lived, however, in the firm belief that capitalism would eventually fail. Well, it isn’t doing that now, but it should be abundantly clear that Thatcherite free market capitalism isn’t working. The SWP would have realised that and tried to get the message across. The Labour left, which isn’t remotely Trotskyite, realises too that Thatcherism isn’t working. Their solution is simply a return to the mixed economy of the social democratic consensus. This wasn’t perfect, but it operated far better than the free market shambles we have now. And no, mixed economies are not ‘Communist’, ‘Trotskyist’ or ‘far left’. The real Communists and Trotskyists hated it as a form of capitalism, just as they hated reformist socialist parties like Labour.

But Starmer’s leadership is pledged to propping up the same wretched free market capitalism. Which is why I really feel there should be a mass movement driving home the point, again and again, that Thatcherism is ideologically and economically bankrupt. It is doing nothing but producing chaos in the economy and industry, and poverty and starvation to Britain’s working people. And this poverty will get worse. This is why I’m almost nostalgic for the wretched SWP, as they would have been determined to drive this home. And who knows? Perhaps if they behaved like a reasonable party, they might have gained further support and forced the Labour party to rediscover its socialist heritage in order to head off a challenge from real Communists.