Posts Tagged ‘Property Rights’

Rees-Mogg’s Book Savaged by Critics

May 21, 2019

Here’s an interesting piece from yesterday’s I for 20th May 2019. It seems that Jacob Rees-Mogg fancies himself as a literary gentleman, and has written a book about a number of eminent Victorians. And it’s been torn apart by the critics.

The article by Dean Kirby, ‘Rees-Mogg’s ‘silly’ book torn apart by critics’, on page 5 of the paper, reads

Jacob Rees-Mogg’s new book has been panned by critics as “staggeringly silly”. 

The work by the Conservative MP, The Victorians: Twelve Titans Who Forged Britain, tells the story of 12 figures from the era. 

But, writing in the Sunday Times, historian Dominic Sandbrook described the book as “so bad, so boring, so mind-bogglingly bad”. And in a Times review, A.N. Wilson said it was “staggeringly silly”. 

Rees-Mogg clearly has literary as well as political ambitions, and it looks very much like he’s using the one to boost the other. Boris desperately wants to be the leader of the Tories, and published a biography of Churchill a year or so ago. Presumably this was partly to show how he was a true Tory intellectual – if such a creature can be said to exist – and was somehow the great man’s spiritual and ideological are. Rees-Mogg is also angling for the Tory leadership, and he’s done the same, though in his case it’s a selection of the 12 great figures from the Victorian period that he feels have created modern Britain.

I’m not remotely surprised he’s chosen the Victorians, and even less surprised by the rubbishing its received from Sandbrook and Wilson. The Victorian period was an age when modern Britain began to take shape. It was a period of massive social, economic, political and technological change, as Britain moved from a rural, agricultural society to an urban, industrial one. New scientific ideas emerged, were debated and taken up, there was rapid technological innovation with the creation of the railways and the spread of mechanised factories. Overseas, the British Empire expanded massively to take in Australia, New Zealand, the Canadian West, parts of Africa and Asia. It’s a fascinating period, and Tories and Libertarians love to hark back to it because they credit Britain’s movement to global dominance to the old Conservative principles of free trade and private property, as well as Christian benevolence. It is a fascinating period, and certainly Christian philanthropy did play a very great part in the campaigns against the slave trade and other movements for social reform, such as the Factory Acts.

But it was also a period marked by grinding poverty, misery and social upheaval. Trade unions expanded as workers united to fight for better pay and conditions in the work place, Liberal ideology changed to keep up with the movement in practical politics towards state regulation and interference, and socialism emerged and spread to challenge the dominance of capitalism and try to create a better society for working people. The Victorian period also saw the emergence of feminism following the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman in the late 18th century. And the massive unrest in Ireland caused by the exploitation of the Roman Catholic Irish peasantry by absentee landlords, and the hostile reaction by some elements of the British establishment during the Potato Famine, has created a legacy of bitterness and violence that continues to this day. I doubt that Rees-Mogg or any of the other Tories are very enthusiastic about tackling or describing these aspects of Victorian history.

I’m also not surprised that the book’s been savagely criticised. Rees-Mogg supposedly read history at Oxford, but nobody quite knows what period he studied. And his ignorance of some extremely notorious events is woeful. Like when he claimed that the concentration camps we used against the Afrikaners during the Boer War were somehow benevolent institutions. In fact, they were absolutely horrific, causing tens of thousands of deaths from starvation and disease among women and children, who were incarcerated there. And which, again, have left as lasting legacy of bitterness right up to today.

I think any book on the Victorian period written by Rees-Mogg would be highly simplified, ridiculous caricature of the events and issues of the period. Like Boris’ book on Churchill, I doubt that it’s a serious attempt to deal objectively with all aspects of its subject, including the more malign or disturbing events and views, rather than an attempt to present the Tory view. An exercise in Tory historical propaganda, as it were.

What’s also interesting is that it’s been the right-wing press – the Times and Sunday Times – that’s savaged it. This seems to me to show that Rees-Mogg’s ‘magnificent octopus’, to quote Blackadder’s Baldrick, was too much of a travesty even for other Tories, and that there is a sizable body of the Tory party that doesn’t want him to be leader. Or at least, not Rupert Murdoch. And as the Tory party and the Blairites have shown themselves desperate to do whatever Murdoch says, this means there’s going to be strong opposition to a bid from Mogg to become Prime Minister.

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Pat Mills – Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave! 2000AD and Judge Dredd: The Secret History: Part Three

March 30, 2018

Although the comic has been revived and managed very successfully by Rebellion and its new editor for the past 15 or so years, some of the joy has gone. The close collaboration between writers and artists has disappeared, and the editor himself avoids close contact with the other creators. This is partly because of budget and time constraints. The attitude throughout the industry now seems to be one of diligent, quiet efficiency, rather than some of the fun-filled, boisterous meetings Mills and the others had, acting out what they wanted the characters to do in an atmosphere of playful fun. Not that it was always the case. Mills also worked hard, and as an editor he was often called up to deal with artists experiencing some form of crisis, including trying to stop one fellow from committing suicide. But the underlying cause of the decline in British comics remains unaddressed. This is the lack of ownership by the creators for their work. He states that this is the real reasons comics are declining, not computer games. They have those in France, but kids are still reading comics. He also talks about the immense fun he had over there with his Requiem: Vamnpire Knight strip, also available in English translation on the Net.

Mills also talks about some of the other strips he has worked on, which have influenced 2000AD, such as Battle, the notorious Action, Crisis and Toxic. Battle was a war comic, which Mills subverted with Charlie’s War, a First World War strip which had an anti-war message. Mills has come across a number of men, who joined the army through reading such comics. He’s very proud that Charlie’s War had the opposite effect, and after reading it one young lad decided he really didn’t want to after all. Mills is very political, and criticises British literature for its lack of working class heroes. He sees this as partly deliberate, as so many of the great adventure writers were connected to the Intelligence Services and the secret state. Names like John Buchan, Dennis Wheatly – who would have been gauleiter of London, had Hitler conquered Britain – and Ian Fleming. He describes how the script editor of Dr. who in the ’80s turned down a story he’d written, as it included a spaceship captain who was working class. The story has since been made into a CD adventure by Big Finish, and there have been absolutely no complaints.

Action was initially suspended, and then banned outright for its violence. It was also controversial as the first strip to feature a sympathetic, non-Nazi German hero in Hellman of Hammer Force. The comic was so hated by respectable society, that one of the presenters of Nationwide, a 70s current affairs magazine show pretty much like today’s One Show, tore a copy up on camera in front of one of the writers. After it returned, the violence because even more over the top to the point where it shocked Mills, leading to its eventual ban.

Mills is unhappy with SF as a vehicle for social comment, as he feels it is ducking the issue. And so he created Crisis and its Third World War strip, which was all about the exploitation of the Developing World and the politics of food. He’s particularly proud of one story about the scandal of Nestle’s baby milk. But this was completely beyond management’s ability to understand why he included this issue in a boy’s comic.

And Mills and his co-creators were also accused of anti-Semitism by the Board of Deputies of British Jews. They did a story about Palestinian, in which a militarised cop, or a member of the IDF, beats a protester so badly, that they break all his limbs, and he falls to the ground. The Board complained that the man’s broken body resembled a swastika, which shows they were reading things into it which weren’t there. The three other creators of the story were Jews, and Mills thought that the Board couldn’t accuse them all of being self-hating. The strip was published by Robert Maxwell, who told them where they could stuff their idea. He was a crook, who robbed the Mirror’s pension fund, but here he did the right thing. You can beat the Israel lobby if you stand up to them.

Mills is clearly a hard-working, passionate enthusiast for comics, and a determined supporter of his fellow writers and artist. He wishes the industry to go back and try to appeal again to young children, although he makes the point they’re ruder than the adult fans, with whom you can have interesting conversations at conventions. He admits that its much harder now to get published in 2000AD, but not impossible, and gives valuable, careful advice to aspiring writers and artists.

As well as a fascinating account of the rise and career of 2000AD, it was for me also quite a nostalgic read. I remember some of the strips Mills wrote for and created, including the comics Whizzer and Chips, Battle and Action. I have mixed feelings about Action. I enjoyed strips like One-Eyed Jack and Death Game 1999, based on the film Rollerball. I wasn’t so keen on Dredger, which did have some horrifying stories. One of these was a Russian dissident punished by having his brain gradually removed by surgery until he was vegetable, and another tale in which a foreign politician is murdered. Sulphuric acid is poured into his shower so that he literally goes down the drain. But the strip I really didn’t like was ‘Kids Rule UK’, set in a future where all adults had died, and Britain was run by violent kid’s gangs. I was bullied at school, and this was for me an all-too frightening concept. I also stopped reading 2000AD for a time, because the stories there were a bit too sadistic. Which was a pity, as I later found out, because I missed some great strips.

2000AD will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in a decade’s time, thanks to the inspiration of Pat Mills and his fellow creators. And I hope that afterwards the comic will go on to enjoy another fifty years under new, equally enthusiastic, committed and inspiring creators.

Splundig vur Thrigg, as the Mighty Tharg used to say.

Pat Mills: Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave! 2000AD and Judge Dredd: The Secret History: Part One

March 30, 2018

Pat Mills is the creator and founding editor of 2000AD, and this is history of the comic as he remembers it, although he recognises that others’ memories may be different and contradict his. It takes its title from the watchwords of his most popular villain: Torquemada, the ultimate Fascist Grand Master of Termight, in a feudal age of space travel, violence and magic far in the future. The book is divided into three sections, each named after one of Torquemada’s three commands. The slogan even turned up on the Berlin wall, which figures. The East Germans had been living under a dictatorship not too different from Torquemada’s. It was anti-racist and anti-Fascist, but still very much a police state, where the country was watched and dissent ruthlessly crushed. A friend of mine also told me that the slogan was used by Adolf Hitler in a speech he gave to the Bund Deutscher Madel, or German Maids’ League, the female equivalent of the Hitler Youth. Which also figures. Torquemada wanted to exterminate every intelligent alien race in the Galaxy, and was constantly making speeches exhorting humans not to ‘have truck with deviant, dally with the succubus’ and so on. In other words, no racial mixing. Which was definitely what the Nazis were trying to indoctrinate these girls with.

The book tells how Mills and John Wagner got sick of grinding out stories in a garden shed, lit by paraffin lamps, and moved to London to revolutionise British comics with creation of Battle, Action and 2000AD – the Galaxy’s greatest comic. At this stage of their career, Mills and Wagner were so poor that they couldn’t afford new typing paper after they ran out, and so at one point ended typing them up on tracing paper. The economics of writing stories was such that to make ends meet, you had to write several stories very quickly in a matter of days.

It is this attitude, and the British industry’s contemptible treatment of comics creators, that Mills returns to criticise throughout this book, making a very strong and convincing case that it is these attitudes that have caused the decline in comics in Britain in contrast to France, where they are flourishing. In Britain, comics creators do not own the rights to creations. They can be given to other writers and artists, and their creators are not paid royalties for them. In France, the reverse is true, and so comics creators spend years, decades, writing and drawing some of the greatest strips in the world. Think of such comic greats as Moebius, Caza, and Enki Bilal, and the rest of them, who came out of Metal Hurlant and les Humanoides Associes.

He also had to cope with the lack of interest in any reform from the old guard, who were quite simply just content to go on as they always had, until the industry finally collapsed and they were made unemployed or drew their pensions. They were shocked when Mills bought several books on science, because he was writing and editing a science fiction comic. This was too much for company management, who found the idea of doing research for a children’s comic ridiculous. And then there’s the issue of the studied contempt the management treated artists’ work. They used them on dartboards, or to plug drains. Several artists told Mills flatly that they weren’t going to work him as IPC was the company that closed down Frank Bellamy’s studio. Bellamy, along with Frank Hampson, was the awesome artist who worked on the classic Dan Dare. And his artwork was treated in the same contemptible fashion. As a result, much of it has been lost, although its still a massive favourite at fan conventions and when it comes on the market, rightly fetches high sums.

Mills tells the story of how he came to create favourite 2000AD characters like Judge Dredd, Nemesis the Warlock, Slaine and Finn. He champions the work of artists, who he feels have been unfairly neglected, or even vilified. They include Belardinelli for his contribution to the Slaine strip, which he is proud to have had put back into Titan’s reprints of the strip, as well as SMS, David Bircham, and Fay Dalton. SMS is a superb artist, whose work has appeared on the cover of Interzone, amongst others. He drew the ABC Warriors strip when they were trying to save Termight and the universe from destruction from an artificial black hole, created by Terra’s engineers to give them quick access to space and the Galaxy. One of the results was a whole city like the dimension-twisting drawings of the zarjaz Max Escher. Fay Dalton won a £1,000 prize in a competition to get more women into comics. She draws and paints in a retro style, looking back to the glamour of the 50s. She didn’t last long. It was too sexy for the puritanical Thargs. Then there was the sheer abuse some fans meted out to John Hicklenton, another awesome artist best known for his work on Nemesis the Warlock. Hicklenton was stricken with MS, and sadly ended his life in a Dignitas Clinic. His career and struggle with the condition was the subject of Channel 4 documentary a few years ago. His escape from this ‘medieval, terrorist disease’ was his art, and so it was particularly cruel that he should have subjected to often very coarse abuse.

Mills is also unhappy, and understandably so, about the way his then wife, and co-creator of Slaine, Angela Kincaid, was treated by the other writers and artists. She was the artist on the very first Slaine strip. This topped the reader’s polls that week, but she was very much excluded from the boy’s club of the other creators. No-one rang her up to congratulate her and she was ignored by them. This wouldn’t have occurred if she was a bloke.

Mills takes the time to correct a few myths. He was determined that it wouldn’t be a comic dominated by a main strip, which carried the others, like Captain Hurricane in Valiant. Instead, it was to be a comic of all main strips, including the revived Dan Dare, Mach 1, a superpowered secret agent based on The Six Million Dollar Man, and Shako. This was about a polar bear, who was being chased by the American army because it had swallowed a top secret, radioactive satellite that had crashed to Earth. He also talks about the creation of such fave strips as Ro-Busters, which became the ABC Warriors, and, of course, Nemesis the Warlock and the inspiration for Torquemada.

The evil Grand Master and Judge Dredd were based on two, viciously sadistic monks teaching at his old Roman Catholic school, and, he strongly hints, were paedophiles. One of them was yanked from teaching and sent to monastery in the Channel Islands to sort out his sexual appetites. He was later sacked, and returned briefly as a lay teacher, before being kicked again. The schoolboys made jokes about how the other monks on the island must be similarly depraved, and imagined what shipwrecked sailors would do. Coming up the beach to find the Brothers running towards them, they’d turn and head as quickly as possible back to the sea. But neither of the two were prosecuted. Other old boys have found literary outlets to express their pain and trauma at the hands of these monsters. Mills simply states that his is humiliating Torquemada.

Continued in Part Two.

Virgin Trains Bans the Daily Mail – Right-Wing Heads Explode!

January 15, 2018

Last week Virgin Trains announced that at least on one of the lines they operated, they would no longer carry the Daily Mail due to customer complaints. Immediately the Mail and its legions of followers started frothing at the mouth and complaining of censorship. But they don’t really have any basis for complaint, as the ban by Virgin is part of the very capitalism and privatisation that their heroine, Maggie Thatcher, promoted.

As a private firm, Virgin is under no obligation to anyone except to turn a profit for its shareholders and bloated paychecks for its board members. Thatcher deluded herself into believing that privatisation would lead to better services, due to the action of market forces and competition. But this didn’t happen. We’re paying more now in subsidies, for a worse service, than we did under British rail. But this hasn’t bother the Tories, whose ideological commitment is for private industry to run everything, even when this would produce a manifestly worse service, as it would if and when they decide to go all out and privatise the Health Service completely.

But as a private firm, ‘Beardie’ Branson can do whatever he likes with it. It’s his property. And so, by the nature of property rights, the Tories can’t argue against what he’s done. It is censorship, yes, but it hasn’t been done by the state. It’s been done by a private individual, whose right to do what he likes with his property has always been regarded by the Tories and the Republicans in America as absolutely inviolable. Branson is free to decide whatever magazines his trains will, or will not carry, in the same way that newsagents can decide which papers to stock. Way back in the 1980s I tried to order the English version of Pravda, which was then coming out, from my local newsagents in my part of Bristol. No such luck. I was told that Bristol had been divided up between the two national distributors. One operated to supply the newsagents in one half, while the other operated in my area. And the distributor that supplied the newsagents in my area wouldn’t carry it. So I had absolutely no choice whatsoever. Private enterprise had decided that where I was, I couldn’t obtain Pravda. Just as Branson has now decided that the Heil will be unavailable on his trains.

Yes, the decision makes a mockery of Thatcher’s constant mantra that privatisation and private industry would bring more ‘choice’. It hasn’t. But this has been the result of privatisation generally. People have been left with a plethora of companies, all actually providing a worse service than when the utilities were nationalised, and for many people choice is actually an illusion. It doesn’t matter who you go to, you’re still paying very large amounts for services that arguably aren’t worth it. If you want an example, think of the privatised dentists. Thanks to Thatcher’s decimation of the dental service back in the 1980s, there are now few dentists taking NHS patients. The dentists that have gone private charge fees that, for many, make going to them unaffordable. Yes, you can change dentists, looking around for a cheaper service, but unless you find an NHS dentist, you’re still going to be charge very high fees. So from that perspective, you don’t have a choice. And the same applies to the railways and other public services taken over by private contractors.

Secondly, Branson was responding to ‘market forces’. This was the other buzzword of the Thatcherites. The operation of the market was held to be good, just and a guarantee of commercial efficiency and success. Capitalism won over socialism, because socialism took no account of market forces. There’s some truth in that when it’s applied to completely socialised economies such as those of the Communist bloc. But as we’ve seen, various capitalist firms have since failed, and then had to be bailed out by the taxpayer. If you just have market forces as your guide, then these firms, which now include Carillion, should be allowed to go under because of their failure to respond to what the market wants. But instead the right demands that we bail them out, because it’s private enterprise and so can’t be allowed to fail. It’s why the corporatist capitalism ushered in by Reagan and Thatcher has been called ‘socialism for the rich’, as the state is always required to support them, while denying welfare services and healthcare to those genuinely in need.

As for Branson’s ban on the Heil, he was responding to market forces. People had complained about the Heil, and as the service provider, he responded to what his customers wanted. The Mail, which has vociferously and consistently fallen over itself praising Thatcher to the rafters, cannot complain. Thatcher stood for market forces, and market forces have dictated that Virgin’s customers don’t want the Daily Mail. So it’s just too bad for them that Virgin trains will no longer be carrying it. There’s also an element of hypocrisy here. If Virgin had said that they wouldn’t carry what remains of the left-wing press in Britain – the Mirror, the Groaniad or the I, the right-wing press, including the Heil, would be delighted. This shows that the great British public despise the left and its journalism, they would announce proudly. But now that the great British public, or at least that section of it that travels by train, have decided that they don’t want the Mail and its hate and bigotry travelling with them, the Tory press has been screaming ‘censorship’.

Yes, Virgin’s ban on the Daily Mail is censorship, but it’s been done because of the nature of capitalism, Thatcherite ‘choice’ and ‘market forces’. Except that in this case, they haven’t acted to empower the right, but attack it.

Workers’ Chamber Book: Chapter Breakdown

November 21, 2017

As I mentioned in my last post, a year or so ago I wrote a pamphlet, about 22,000 words long, arguing that as parliament was filled with the extremely rich, who passed legislation solely to benefit the wealthy like themselves and the owners and management of business, parliament should have an elected chamber occupied by working people, elected by working people. So far, and perhaps unsurprisingly, I haven’t found a publisher for it. I put up a brief overview of the book’s contents in my last post. And here’s a chapter by chapter breakdown, so you can see for yourselves what it’s about and some of the arguments involved.

For a Workers’ Parliamentary Chamber

This is an introduction, briefly outlining the purpose of the book, discussing the current domination of parliament by powerful corporate interests, and the working class movements that have attempted to replacement parliamentary democracy with governmental or administrative organs set up by the workers themselves to represent them.

Parliamentary Democracy and Its Drawbacks

This discusses the origins of modern, representative parliamentary democracy in the writings of John Locke, showing how it was tied up with property rights to the exclusion of working people and women. It also discusses the Marxist view of the state as in the instrument of class rule and the demands of working people for the vote. Marx, Engels, Ferdinand Lassalle and Karl Kautsky also supported democracy and free speech as a way of politicising and transferring power to the working class. It also shows how parliament is now dominated by big business. These have sent their company directors to parliament since the Second World War, and the number has massively expanded since the election of Margaret Thatcher. Universal suffrage on its own has not brought the working class to power.

Alternative Working Class Political Assemblies

This describes the alternative forms of government that working people and trade unionists have advocated to work for them in place of a parliamentary system that excludes them. This includes the Trades Parliament advocated by Owen’s Grand Consolidated Trade Union, the Chartists’ ‘Convention of the Industrious Classes’, the Russian soviets and their counterparts in Germany and Austria during the council revolution, the emergence and spread of Anarcho-Syndicalism, and its aims, as described by Rudolf Rocker.

Guild Socialism in Britain

This describes the spread of Syndicalist ideas in Britain, and the influence of American Syndicalist movements, such as the I.W.W. It then discusses the formation and political and social theories of Guild Socialism, put forward by Arthur Penty, S.G. Hobson and G.D.H. Cole. This was a British version of Syndicalism, which also included elements of state socialism and the co-operative movement. This chapter also discusses Cole’s critique of capitalist, representative democracy in his Guild Socialism Restated.

Saint-Simon, Fascism and the Corporative State

This traces the origins and development of these two systems of government. Saint-Simon was a French nobleman, who wished to replace the nascent French parliamentary system of the early 19th century with an assembly consisting of three chambers. These would be composed of leading scientists, artists and writers, and industrialists, who would cooperate to administer the state through economic planning and a programme of public works.

The Fascist Corporative State

This describes the development of the Fascist corporative state under Mussolini. This had its origins in the ideas of radical nationalist Syndicalists, such as Michele Bianchi, Livio Ciardi and Edmondo Rossoni, and the Nationalists under Alfredo Rocco. It was also influenced by Alceste De Ambris’ constitution for D’Annunzio’s short-lived regime in Fiume. It traces the process by which the Fascists established the new system, in which the parliamentary state was gradually replaced by government by the corporations, industrial organisations which included both the Fascist trade unions and the employers’ associations, and which culminated in the creation of Mussolini’s Chamber of Fasci and Corporations. It shows how this was used to crush the working class and suppress autonomous trade union activism in favour of the interests of the corporations and the state. The system was a failure, designed to give a veneer of ideological respectability to Mussolini’s personal dictatorship, and the system was criticised by the radical Fascists Sergio Panunzio and Angelo Olivetti, though they continued to support this brutal dictatorship.

Non-Fascist Corporativism

This discusses the way the British state also tried to include representatives of the trade unions and the employers in government, economic planning and industrial policies, and suppress strikes and industrial unrest from Lloyd George’s administration during the First World War. This included the establishment of the Whitley Councils and industrial courts. From 1929 onwards the government also embarked on a policy of industrial diplomacy, the system of industrial control set up by Ernest Bevin during the Second World War under Defence Regulation 58a. It also discusses the corporative policies pursued by successive British governments from 1959 to Mrs Thatcher’s election victory in 1979. During these two decades, governments pursued a policy of economic planning administered through the National Economic Development Council and a prices and incomes policy. This system became increasingly authoritarian as governments attempted to curtail industrial militancy and strike action. The Social Contract, the policy of co-operation between the Labour government and the trade unions, finally collapsed in 1979 during the ‘Winter of Discontent’.

Workers’ Control and Producers’ Chambers in Communist Yugoslavia

This discusses the system of industrial democracy, and workers councils in Communist Yugoslavia. This included a bicameral constitution for local councils. These consisted of a chamber elected by universal suffrage, and a producers’ chamber elected by the works’ councils.

Partial Nationalisation to End Corporate Influence in Parliament

This suggests that the undue influence on parliament of private corporations could be countered, if only partly, if the policy recommended by Italian liberisti before the establishment of the Fascist dictatorship. Those firms which acts as organs of government through welfare contracts, outsourcing or private healthcare contractors should be partially nationalised, as the liberisti believed should be done with the arms industries.

Drawbacks and Criticism

This discusses the criticisms of separate workers’ governmental organs, such as the Russian soviets, by Karl Kautsky. It shows how working class political interests have been undermined through a press dominated by the right. It also shows how some of the theorists of the Council Revolution in Germany, such as Kurt Eisner, saw workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ councils as an extension of democracy, not a replacement. It also strongly and definitively rejects the corporative systems of Saint-Simon and Mussolini. This part of the book recommends that a workers’ chamber in parliament should be organised according to industry, following the example of the TUC and the GNC Trades’ Parliament. It should also include representatives of the unemployed and disabled, groups that are increasingly disenfranchised and vilified by the Conservatives and right-wing press. Members should be delegates, in order to prevent the emergence of a distinct governing class. It also shows how the working class members of such a chamber would have more interest in expanding and promoting industry, than the elite business people pursuing their own interests in neoliberal economics. It also recommends that the chamber should not be composed of a single party. Additionally, a workers’ chamber may in time form part of a system of workers’ representation in industry, similar to the Yugoslav system. The chapter concludes that while the need for such a chamber may be removed by a genuine working class Labour party, this has been seriously weakened by Tony Blair’s turn to the right and partial abandonment of working class interests. Establishing a chamber to represent Britain’s working people will be immensely difficult, but it may be a valuable bulwark against the domination of parliament by the corporate elite.

I’m considering publishing it myself in some form or another, possibly through the print on demand publisher, Lulu. In the meantime, if anyone wants to read a sample chapter, just let me know by leaving a comment.

Vox Political on Thicky Nikki’s Plan to Stop People Protesting Against School Sell-Offs

March 19, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has also posted up a piece commenting on a report on the Politics.co.uk blog that the education minister, ‘Thicky’ Nikki Morgan, is introducing more legal reforms to make it difficult for parents and other interested local people to prevent their schools being taken over and transformed into academies.

I’m not surprised she’s done this. The Tories’ education reforms have never been about raising standards or empowering people, no matter how much hot air Thatcher spouted about it when she was trying to smash the control of Local Education Authorities in the 1980s. It’s always been about giving private education companies the right to make a good profit from them, regardless of quality. I can still remember how Thicky Nikki refused to answer Charlie Stayt’s questions on Breakfast TV when she was talking about Cameron’s renewed campaign to push more schools into becoming academies. Stayt asked her how many academies had had to be taken back into state management. The answer, if I recall correctly, was 25. Morgan didn’t answer, but just continued to bluster about how unfair it was that parents and pupils should continue to suffer from poor standards when their school was being blocked from becoming an academy. To his credit, Stayt carried on asking the question, and after she still didn’t answer, said, ‘You know how many.’ She does. That’s why she didn’t answer the question. And so do we.

And it’s exactly the same over in America. The equivalent of the academy system over there are the Charter schools. The Republicans hate the public school system with a passion, ostensibly because of its secularism. No religious worship or teaching is allowed in school, though I believe that the constitution also forbids the opposite: you can’t indoctrinate children with atheism either. But that’s not the whole reason they hate the public (state) school system. They hate it because it’s provided by the state, and not run for profit by a private corporation. I posted up a little while ago a video I found on Youtube reporting on how local authorities and private corporations in many American states had succeeded in privatising the local public schools in direct contravention of the wishes of the parents and community. There had been demonstrations against them by parents, teachers, and respected members of the community, including clergy. All to no avail. It’s happening in America, and Thicky Nikki wants more of it to happen over here.

Paradoxically, in this the Conservatives are far more right wing that D’Annunzio’s proto-Fascists at Fiume. Article 8 of the statelet’s constitution guaranteed citizens the right to state education, as well as range of welfare benefits, leisure activities and legal protections. It stated:

The Constitution guarantees to all citizens of both sexes: primary instruction in well-lighted and healthy schools; physical training in open-air gymnasiums, well-equipped; paid work with a fair minimum living wage; assistance in sickness, infirmity, and involuntary unemployment; old age pensions; the enjoyment of property legitimately obtained; inviolability of the home; ‘habeas corpus’; compensation for injuries in case of judicial errors or abuse of privacy.

I don’t know how seriously D’Annunzio’s government took all this. After all, the previous article, 7, began with a liberal statement promising freedom of conscience and association:

Fundamental liberties, freedom of thought and of the Press, the right to hold meetings and to form associations are guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution.

As this was the first to be violated when Mussolini took power, and D’Annunzio himself ended up keeping silent after Musso gave him a pension and various other privileges, I doubt that personal freedom rated very highly in his estimation either. Much of this was in any case inherited from the liberal Italian state Mussolini despised, and from Socialist doctrines of the regime’s enemies. Italy had been providing state education to its children from the early 19th century onwards, long before Britain did so, although few working class children were able to take it up due to poverty and the constraints of work. But it’s certainly an indictment of this government, that those liberties which even D’Annunzio’s storm-troopers had to recognise, are discarded by them.

Pitt’s Speech Demanding the Suspension of Habeas Corpus During the French Revolution

March 2, 2016

Also going through the book, Your MP, by the pseudonymous ‘Gracchus’, I found Pitt’s speech of the 16th May 1794, asking parliament to pass a bill suspending Habeas Corpus in order to allow the government to round up subversives during the French Revolutionary War.

Now I’ve written a number of pieces on this blog about the origins of democracy in certain strands of theology that stressed the need for representative assemblies and which permitted Christians to overthrow a tyrant. One of the criticisms of this type of history, however, is that it misrepresents how difficult and arduous the process by which democracy emerged in the West actually was. Instead of a being a smooth development in which democracy finally flowered from long, historic constitutional roots, at each stage of the process valuable constitutional freedoms had to be fought for, and were only painfully won. And historians have pointed out that for much of its history, Britain was an authoritarian state, which was all too ready to dispense with its citizens’ ancient freedoms when it suited the governing classes. The classic example of this was the 18th century, when fear of the Revolution across le Manche spreading over here moved the British government to suspend Habeas Corpus and pass range of legislation severely limiting free speech and banning a variety of ‘seditious combinations’, including the nascent trade unions.

Here’s Pitt’s speech:

The monstrous modern doctrine of the Rights of Man … threatens to overturn the government, law, property, security, religion, order and everything valuable in this country, as it has already overturned and destroyed everything in France, and endangered every nation in Europe …

That great moving principle of Jacobinism, the love of plunder, devastation and robbery, which now bears the usurped name of liberty … the arrogant claims of the same class of men as those who lord it now in France, to trample upon the rich, and crush all; the dark designs of a few, making use of the name of the people to govern all; a plan founded in the arrogance of wretches, the outcasts of society …

With some qualifications because of its florid 18th century, this has a peculiar contemporary ring about it. The attack on the ‘Rights of Man’ for example. If you replace that with the European convention on Human Rights, which is based on the French Revolutionary tradition of les droits du l’homme, (excuse my French), then the sense is more or less the same. As is the rant about the ‘arrogant claims of the same class of men as those who lord it now in France, to trample upon the rich.’ With a few alterations, you could put this in the pages of the Daily Mail today and no-one would notice. Really. A few years ago the Mail took it into its tiny collective skull to publish a rant against the French education system. It particularly attacked the elite state schools, which educated the French technocratic and governmental elite. They were nasty, horrendous, undemocratic, and excluded the French hoi polloi. Which is probably true, I dare say. It then started to compare them negatively with the British public schools, which were supposed to be better, and the mark of a freer society. Some of us would argue that it actually shows the alternative.

In fact before the introduction of democracy over here in the form of the acts finally extending the franchise to women and the rest of the working class, the doctrine of universal human rights really wasn’t widely adopted over here. The ruling classes thought it was too abstract, and too French. Instead, they linked political rights to property qualifications and the ability to pay certain levels of tax and rates. And you can see that today. It’s carefully hidden, but there is definitely an attitude that if you’re rich, you should have more rights than the rest of us. Willie Whitelaw in the 1980s said that business owners ought to have two votes, as they were responsible not just for themselves, but for their employees. One of the High Tories about twenty years ago wrote a book arguing that we should ditch all the horrendous reforms of the 1960s, and get back to a more stable age before gender equality, the legalisation of homosexuality, when there was better respect for property. He wanted the property qualification restored for jury service, so that people with a responsible attitude to the protection of property would fill the court rooms, passing guilty sentences on those caught infringing the country’s property rights.

So it really doesn’t come as a surprise, given the long history of suspicion by the ruling classes against any doctrine of equality and universal rights, that Theresa May now wants to extend the powers of the surveillance state. Or even that in the last parliament the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers passed legislation providing for secret courts and massively extending the length of time a suspect could be held for trial during their investigation.

Britain considers itself one of, if not the great founding nation of political liberty. Pitt’s speech, and the ominous rise of the surveillance state under Major, Bliar and Cameron, makes you wonder how true this really is.

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Farage Demands Abolition of Anti-Racism Legislation

March 12, 2015

The Generalissimo of Golf-Club reactionary bores has been in the news today. As I’ve already mentioned in previous posts, the Fuhrage has gone on record as telling Trevor Philips, the former chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, that the current legislation preventing employers from discriminating on the grounds of race, should be repealed. Philips was interviewing him for a Channel 4 documentary to be shown next week, Things We Won’t Say About Race That Are True. The Kipperfuhrer claimed that such legislation was no longer necessary, as Britain had moved past race.

The I also covered Farage’s remarks. It’s article reported him as saying

If we’d sat her 40 years ago, having this conversation, your point [on the need for laws preventing racial discrimination in the jobs market] would probably have been valid. I don’t think it is today.

If I did talk to my children about the question of race, they wouldn’t know what I was talking about.

The employer should be much freer to make decisions on who she or he employs. The situation that we now have, where an employer is not allowed to choose between a British-born person and somebody from Poland, is a ludicrous state of affairs. We have taken our relationship with Europe to a level that, frankly, has gone against common sense and certainly against self-interest.

He was also quoted as saying

I would argue that the law does need changing, and that if an employer wishes to choose, or you can use the word ‘discriminate’ if you want to, but wishes to choose to employ a British-born person, they should be allowed to do so. I think you should be able to choose on the basis of nationality, yes, I do.

When asked whether UKIP would retain the laws banning racial discrimination, he stated they wouldn’t, on the grounds that ‘We as a party are colour-blind’.

Say whaaaat? The Kippers have some of the most frothingly racist membership of any political party outside the openly Fascist parties like the BNP, NF, Britain First and the EDL. It seems that every week there’s yet another scandal in which one of their candidates or officials has been caught making racist, or otherwise offensive or bigoted comments. Like the female Kipper in Margate, who announced she couldn’t stand ‘negroes’, or ‘people with negroid features’. Or the laughing boys in the Kippers’ Bristol branch, who claimed they weren’t Fascists after they were caught were ‘liking’ comments by Britain First and the EDL on Facebook. Or the fact that Britain First have taken to protecting Kipper demonstrations in their armoured car. The list goes on.

Needless to say, anti-racism campaigners have been mightily unimpressed with Herr oberst’s claims. Labour’s shadow Justice Secretary, Sadiq Khan, who was also Britain’s first Muslim cabinet minister, stated

This is one of the most shocking things I have ever heard from a mainstream politician and demonstrates breath-taking ignorance. We have made huge progress in tackling racial inequality and discrimination in this country, partly because of Labour’s strong anti-discrimination laws, but things are still far from perfect.

The direct of the think tank, Britain Future, attacked the Fuhrage’s remarks as ‘quite a throwback’, saying ‘We can debate the content of anti-discrimination legislation, but there is a strong consensus that if you believe in equal opportunities then that means anti-discrimination legislation that gives everyone a fair chance.’

And that’s the point: Farage doesn’t want everyone to be given a fair chance. His party has attacked legislation going back to the Victorians protecting women, the working class and employees, giving them maternity leave, paid holidays and defending them from unfair dismissal.

The I in its report also comments that Farage’s claim conflicts with recent findings that 49 per cent of ethnic minorities have been unemployed for over two years due to the recession, a far higher proportion than White British.

Just this evening I reblogged a piece from The Young Turks show from American television, reporting the finding of the left-wing American magazine, Mother Jones, that Black Americans have been disproportionately affected by the recession, and that in economic downturns, White racism becomes more overt and acute. This is directly relevant to what’s happening over here. I even have Black friends, who’ve experienced the same kind of discrimination as that reported by the magazine of Black Americans.

And it isn’t just Blacks. Generally, British Muslims also suffer disproportionately from poor academic results and problems finding work. This isn’t just a problem for those, who did poorly at school. Even well-educated Muslims with degrees may find it harder than White graduates to find jobs. Economic problems are one of the factors behind Muslim disaffection in this country. It is not, by any means, the only factor. Nevertheless, its importance should not be discounted.

Farage is clearly lying about his party and its supposedly anti-racist stance. It appears to be another policy he’s copied from American Conservatives. The Repugs over the other side of the Atlantic have been trying to rewrite history in order to make the repeal of anti-racism legislation more acceptable. One notorious Canadian site, for example, pointed out that George Wallace, the notorious opponent of ending segregation, actually wasn’t personally racist. He was a member of NAACP, and de-segregated his department store before anyone else did. It’s just that as a supporter of property rights, he stood for the owner’s absolute right to dispose of his property and business exactly how he wished.

Similarly, Guy Debord’s Cat has blogged on the raft of Libertarian organisations and think tanks trying to rewrite the history of the American Civil War, so that it wasn’t about ending slavery, but about tariff reform.

The Fuhrage was a guest at CPAC last week, the big, hard-line Conservative conference in America, which features such devastating intellectuals like Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. He’s also a friend and associate of Rand Paul and other notorious right-wingers, who stand for privatising everything that ain’t nailed down and squeezing the poor for every penny they don’t have.

It’s all part of the Repugs’ ‘Southern Strategy’. This was a deliberate attempt to appeal to White voters in the South, who feared competition from Blacks through affirmative action. And they weren’t subtle about. One party political broadcast by the Repugs under Reagan featured a White man opening a letter telling him that he hadn’t got the job, while the voiceover announced that ‘you’ didn’t get it, ‘even though you worked for it’, and that it had gone instead to a Black person through racial politics.

Now British anti-racist legislation makes that kind of explicit approach illegal. Nevertheless, the Tories have also been trying to appeal to ‘angry White men’. The Spectator back in 2004 declared that there was only one part of the population that wasn’t welcome on the streets of inner London, and that was White men. And just like the Tories of the Speccie, the Kippers are trying to appeal to the same electoral base.

It’s a pernicious, dangerous policy. Much of the anti-racism legislation Fuhrage complains about was put in place to prevent racial unrest, like the riots that broke out all over the country in 1981/2. These were fuelled by the acute poverty and racism experienced by the Black population. It’s designed to prevent the kind of racial fears and violence that Mosley stoked up and tried to capitalise on against the Jews in the East End in his campaign to become Britain’s Duce. This legislation hasn’t been entirely successful. It’s still very controversial, and it has worked to make many working class Whites feel left behind and unfairly discriminated against. But despite these problems, Britain’s a better place because of them.

And what the Fuhrage hasn’t mentioned, is that the same laws which protect Blacks, Asians and other ethnic minorities, also protect Whites. There have been cases where White British have successfully sued an employer because they were discriminated against because of their colour. The same legislation that protects ethnic minorities protects all of us.

But Farage isn’t interested in that. He just wants to appeal to the racist and prejudiced, in order to create a far more hierarchical, more racist, and more unjust society. And his smooth claims to be non-racist are simply falsehoods to disguise that.

Going Back Down South: The Tories’ Plan to Strip Indians, Pakistanis and the Irish of the Vote

January 9, 2015

Yesterday I wrote a piece on the article by the Lib Dem blogger, Mark Pack, reporting a Times article that claimed that Liam Fox was pressing for the vote to be stripped from Indian, Pakistani, Irish and various other Commonwealth nationals resident in the UK. The reason for this is that Labour has more support amongst ethnic minorities, and the Tories are afraid that this will give them the edge in the general election.

‘No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs’

This is a truly chilling move. It shows the deep racism, and the willingness to sacrifice any kind of liberal or democratic principles simply for electoral advantage. And it recalls the days before the Civil Rights movement, where the Irish and Non-Whites were blatantly discriminated against. The most notorious symbol of this is the placards, which declared ‘No Dogs, No Irish, No Blacks’. There’s a campaign by the American extreme Right to claim that this was not nearly as prevalent as has been believed. One Right-wing Libertarian blogger claimed that at one period, only one card of this type is known from the whole of New York City.

I find that hard to believe. And whatever the situation was like in America, it certainly existed here.

One of my uncles is Irish. He’s a very skilled mason, and has been involved in some very prestigious building work in his time, such as the rebuilding years ago of Bristol’s Temple Meads Station. Once, when working away from home on a job, he had to find alternative accommodation for himself. The hotel, in which the other workers were staying, had a ‘No Irish’ policy. And it did not matter that he was the foreman. He was still refused entry.

As for Blacks, many Black British people recall the 1950s as the period of the ‘Cold Streets’, when they were definitely unwelcome in many areas. Some towns even had laws discriminating against them. Up until the 1950s there was a by-law in Cheltenham, which made it illegal for Blacks to walk on the main streets.

This is the world Liam Fox wishes to take us back to.

Attacks on the History Behind the Civil Rights Movement

The American Civil Rights movement is one of the most dearly held and justly most celebrated moments in Black History, when Black American men and women finally gained the legal right to be treated equally. It followed a century of disenfranchisement, blatant exploitation and discrimination. Not only is it of pivotal importance to Americans, it’s also been massively influential and inspirational to Blacks across the world. There’s even a museum to it in Birmingham, here in Britain. It contains waxworks of great leaders like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, and newspaper reports of the campaigns.

George Wallace: Property Rights vs. Racial Equality

Black equality in America is also under threat. The Republican Party, or parts of it, has also been attacking the legislation that demands businesses give equal treatment to Black and White customers, on the grounds that this infringes the citizen’s right to do whatever he wishes with his own private property. Part of the argument is the example of George Wallace, the notorious opponent of desegregation in the 1960s. Wallace, they point out, actually wasn’t personally racist. He was a member of NAACP, and gave his Black employees the same pay and perks as the Whites. But he didn’t want legislation to make such treatment mandatory for the above reason.

The Libertarian Attack on Black Rights as the Basis for the American Civil War

And the Libertarian Von Miles Society is busy trying to rewrite the history of the American Civil War, so that it was about tariff reform rather than about slavery. This is a major historiographical attack on the historic basis of the long campaign for equal rights for Blacks and other non-Whites in America.

The 14th Amendment and the Right of Blacks to Vote

After the victory of the North in the Civil War, the radical wing of the Republican party actively campaigned for Black suffrage under the 14th Amendment. This bill from 1866 shows just how unpopular this was.

Anti-Black Vote Bill

The establishment did its level best to prevent this from ever taking effect. Poll taxes were introduced to disqualify Blacks from voting. One Black man was shot and killed when he turned up at polling station at the 1868 elections to exercise his franchise as a free man. This was depicted by the cartoonist, Thomas Nash, in Harper’s Weekly, as shown below:

Dead Black Voter

The Continuing Claim by the Right to Protect the Poor against Blacks and the Rich

It’s another reminder of the vicious racism that the Tories and their Republican counterparts seem determined to return us.

And even the rhetoric hasn’t changed significantly in 150 years. The anti-Black franchise handbill has the legend:

‘They are rich, and want to make the Negro the equal of the poor White man, and rule them both’.

This is very much of the same type as the current Tory, Republican and Kipper claim to be representing the poor Whites, who are being victimised by policies introduced by the ‘liberal elite’, which favour Blacks and other ethnic minorities.

This is the ideology behind Liam Fox’s campaign and his determination to strip Indian, Pakistani and Irish residents of their right to vote.