Posts Tagged ‘Ruling Class’

No, Owen Smith, You and Neil Coyle are Not the Spiritual Heirs of Clem Atlee and Nye Bevan

September 18, 2016

Mike last week ran a couple of stories, which included amongst their other details the facts that Smudger and another Blairite, Neil Coyle, now seem to be trying to convince the public that rather than being neoliberal privatisers, they are really the spiritual heirs of Clement Atlee, Nye Bevan and ’45 Labour government that set up the welfare state and the NHS.

Last Friday, 9th September 2016, Mike commented on an article from Left Foot Forward commenting on how Smudger had been booed by the Corbynistas after he yet again invoked the memory of Nye Bevan, the architect of the NHS. Left Foot Forward commented that both sides were invoking this iconic statesman, but that their attempts to hark back to him were problematic because of the contradictory nature of his ideas.

Mike commented

Is it true that both sides of the current Labour debate will invoke the memory of Aneurin Bevan? I’ve only heard Owen Smith doing it – and inaccurately.

It seems more likely that Mr Smith wants reflected glory – he says he’s a fan of Mr Bevan so he must be okay as well – than to actually call on any of the late Mr Bevan’s political thought, which would be so far removed from the policies of Mr Smith’s strain of Labour that it would seem alien.

And concluded

You don’t see Mr Corbyn invoking Bevan at the drop of a pin, do you?

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/09/smith-compares-himself-to-bevan-because-he-seeks-reflected-glory-it-isnt-working/

Then Neil Coyle, one of the Blairites, started to bluster about how he was also a true, traditional member of the Labour party after he appeared in a list of 14 MPs Jeremy Corbyn’s followers wished to complain about for their abusive behaviour. Coyle insisted that he had been ‘defamed’ because the complaint was specifically against him for accusing Corbyn of being a ‘fake’. The trouble for Coyle was, he had indeed called Corbyn a fake, and been forced to apologise for it. He also accused Corbyn and his supporters of creating a victim culture, which must surely be a case of projection. This is, after all, what New Labour has been trying to do with its constant accusations of misogyny and anti-Semitism against Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum.

In his own defence, Coyle sputtered

“I am a Labour MP, joined Labour as soon as I could and will always be tribal Labour. I voted for a Labour manifesto commitment today based on decades of policy begun by Attlee and was in my manifesto last May. Couldn’t be more ashamed by fake Labour voting against internationalism, collectivism, security and jobs today. Time for a new leader who shares Labour values. Join now.”

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/15/neil-coyle-should-not-use-words-like-defamation-when-he-doesnt-understand-them/

Now as Mike points out in his article on Smudger and Nye Bevan, the NHS is an iconic institution with immense symbolic value, so naturally Smudger wants to identify himself with its founder. The trouble is, he and Coyle are polar opposites to what Atlee and Bevan actually stood for.

Both of them were classic old Labour. The 1945 Labour government had put in its manifesto that it was going to create the NHS, and nationalise the electricity, coal and gas industries, as well as the railways and other parts of the transport infrastructure. This was part of the socialist ideology that the workers’ should take into their hands the means of production, distribution and exchange. Bevan himself was a champagne socialist – he got on very well with the circles of elite businessmen in which he moved. But he despised the Tories as ‘vermin’, and his book, In Place of Fear, made it very clear that he felt alienated in Westminster because it was a palace created by the ruling classes to celebrate their power against working people. He was resolutely determined that the NHS should be universal, state-owned, and free at the point of service. It’s true that like some other politicians, he considered charging hospital patients a ‘hotel’ charge for taking up beds, but he dropped this idea. And the reason he left office was in disgust at the introduction of prescription charges.

This is in exact opposition to Blair and his ideological descendants in Progress, Saving Labour and Tomorrow’s Labour. Blair vastly extended the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS, quite apart from demanding the repeal of Clause 4, which committed the party to nationalisation. He and his followers, Smudger, Coyle and the like, stand for privatisation and the dismantlement of the welfare state. While Bevan wanted to remove the fear of want and destitution from millions of the working class, Blair and co have striven with the Tories to bring it back, through measures designed to ingratiate themselves with the Tory press. Such as the introduction of the Work Capability Test, which was launched after a conference in the early 2000s with the Labour party in consultation with insurance fraudsters, Unum, and which specifically assumes most disabled people claiming benefit are malingerers. And then there was the case of Rachel Reeves declaring that New Labour would be even harder on benefit claimants than the Tories. Quite apart from approving comments from New Labour apparatchiks about the wonders of workfare.

As for Coyle’s claim that he supports ‘internationalism and collectivism’, you to have to wonder when. For many on the left, who consider themselves ‘internationalists’, the term does not include imperialism and the invasion of other, poorer nations for corporate profit. But this is what Blair’s foreign policy – the invasion and occupation of Iraq consisted of, just as his successors, Cameron and May, are also imperialists. Mike states in one of his pieces that he doesn’t know how many of the 552 MPs, who voted for air strikes in Syria, were Labour; but he does know that two, who voted against it, were Corbyn and John McDonnell.

As for ‘collectivism’, it should be noted that this is not the same as ‘socialism’. Blair claimed to be a collectivist in making private enterprise work for the community as part of his vaunted Third Way. Which incidentally was the claim of the Fascists. In practice, however, this meant nothing more or less than the continuation of Thatcherism. This was shown very clearly by the way Blair invited her round to No. 10 after he won the election, and the favouritism he showed to Tory defectors.

So no, Owen Smith and Neil Coyle are not the spiritual heirs of Atlee and Bevan. Whereas the latter stood for the welfare state, socialism and improving conditions for the working class, Smith and Coyle have done the precise opposite, as have their followers. Mike also reported this week that in 2014 the Labour party conference voted down a motion to renationalise the NHS. This shows how far New Labour and its supporters have moved from Atlee’s and Bevan’s vision. They are Conservative entryists, who deserve to be treated as such, and removed from power before they do any more harm.

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Trump, Mad Magazine, and the Dangers of Political Clowns

December 12, 2015

I’ve put up a lot of material over the past few days criticising Donald Trump for his horrendous racism, and specifically his Nazi policies towards Muslims. Trump is facing a barrage of criticism, including from his own partners and backers in the Republican party, who find his stance too extreme and fascistic even for him. And his critics are sending him up like crazy. I’ve posted footage of Trump trying to pose for a photo with a clearly extremely irritated and cantankerous bald eagle. And who can blame it? Others have stuck his face onto toilet paper. And the other day Mad magazine also put him on their cover as the leading contender in their competition to find the person who has dumbed America the most over the past year. And to show just how stupid and darkish The Donald is, the magazine’s mascot, Alfred J. Neuman, is there too, sporting his haircut.

Trump Mad Cover

Now this is all very funny, but there’s a danger in treating racists like Trump simply as a joke. He is a joke, and his attacks on Mexicans and Muslims could come straight out of the mouth of one of British television’s greatest and most reviled comic creations, Alf Garnet, if Garnet had an American cousin. Garnet was the creation of Johnny Speight, and played by the Warren Mitchell, who was Jewish. He was a parody of working class Conservatives – dirt poor, but blindly loyal to a ruling class and social order that did nothing for them but keep them in poverty. He was the main character in the ’70s and ’80s comedies Till Death Us Do Part and In Sickness And In Health, a loud-mouthed, cockney paterfamilias, who subjected his longsuffering wife, daughter and son-in-law with bigoted, racist, homophobic and sexist rants. At the same time, he was passionately patriotic about his country and home city. Trump comes from completely the opposite end of the social spectrum: extremely rich, privileged, but with the same bigotry, seething resentment and absolute lack of anything resembling tact, restraint or social sensitivity.

Garnet was such a grotesque caricature that he’s become one of the most celebrated of British comic characters. But while he was an obvious figure of fun to many, others really didn’t see the joke. Speight complained that he was sometimes approached by people, who agreed absolutely with Garnet’s obnoxious comments and failed to find anything remotely ironic in them.

Garnet was fictional, and intended as a figure of fun, not to be taken seriously. I think part of his appeal was that he articulated attitudes that were still widely held, when society was changing and their genuine oppressive nature and real offensiveness was just being realised. He was the stereotypical right-wing curmudgeon, who was popular because he said the unsayable. Repeatedly and loudly.

No matter how perversely appealing and popular such characters can be in fiction, they’re deadly serious in reality. Part of what made Garnet funny was that he was a little man, who was a menace mostly to himself by irritating other people, who would otherwise be perfectly willing to help him. Like a Black repairman, who turns up in one episode simply to fix the family’s broke TV. And sometimes he simply wasn’t that bad, in spite of himself. In Sickness and in Health his other foil, apart from his long-suffering wife, was the gay Black orderly working at the centre he attended for the elderly. He had nasty views, yes, but he was harmless.

The problem comes when real, racist politicians are perceived in the same terms. Like Adolf Hitler in Germany before he took power. In addition to the many, who unfortunately and horribly did take the future Fuehrer and his ghastly views seriously, there were probably others, who may have looked on him simply as a camp joke. Some may have gone to his rallies simply to laugh at his rants at the establishment. There’s a record of one German saying that he was going to hear one of Hitler’s speeches, because he wanted to see who he was going to have a go at next. This suggests that not all of his audience took his attacks on Jews or anyone else entirely seriously. There was, after all, a widespread feeling amongst the German ruling classes that he couldn’t possibly mean everything he said, and that once he got into power he’d calm down somehow and act properly, like a real statesman. But he did mean what he said about getting rid of Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, gay men, Socialists, trade unionists and democrats. And he didn’t settle down, to govern in a more appropriate and restrained manner.

There’s a line in Bertolucci’s film, The Conformist, which reflects that attitude. The film’s set in Mussolini’s Italy, and is about a man, who joins the Fascist party after shooting the paedophile, who has attempted to molest him. He is then sent on a mission to assassinate one of the regime’s dissidents, a philosophy lecturer, who has fled to France. As such, it’s loosely based on the real assassination of anti-Fascist Italian philosopher, Matteotti, which threatened to bring down il Duce’s government. At one point in the film, one of the male characters says, ‘When I was in Austria, there was a man, who used to go round the beer halls, ranting. We all used to throw beer glasses at him. That man was Adolf Hitler.’

We’re at that point now with Trump. He’s a clown, whose views absolutely deserve to be mocked and lampooned. But he’s also dangerous. Despite his clownish demeanour, he needs to be taken extremely seriously. The consequences of him gaining power could be deadly.

Cameron Joins the Borg for the Sun

April 6, 2015

Star Trek’s Borg: The Future of the Conservative Party

On Saturday, I reblogged an edition of Russell Brand’s The Trews, where he takes apart a promotional video for David Cameron made by the Sun. Apart from the general horrendous bias of the video and its flagrant omissions of what Cameron has actually inflicted on the poor, sick and unemployed of Britain, it was also notable for the weird extremes its sycophantic tone took. It wasn’t enough to show Cameron’s working day, lobbing him soft questions, and trying to present the butcher of the poor and homeless as somehow warm, cuddly and caring.

David Cameron as Nature Documentary

No! They had to take viewer identification to a completely new level. They fixed Cameron up with the type of camera they usually fix on animals in nature documentaries, so you could experience what it was like to be him as he walked down 10 Downing Street’s hallowed corridors.

This presented the highly amusing spectacle of the prime minister being wired up in the same way the Beeb has put cameras on wild birds, seals and walruses, and, most recently, cats and dogs. There’s even a form of camera that can be purchased by ordinary members of the public, who want to put it on their pet to see what their pooch is doing. It was one of a number of doggy gadgets that Warwick Davis tried out on the One Show. This ended up with the nation’s favourite Ewok yelling down the computer screen as his canine best friend decided that it would take a dip in the house’s fish pond.

With Cameron similarly wired up to the TV, all that was needed was a voice-over by David Attenborough giving details of his territorial behaviour, nesting, and mating rituals.

There is a more serious side to this. The camera placed on Cameron to present his pov takes the whole exercise into the issue of cultural hegemony, the Fascist cult of the leader, and the potential loss of individuality and personal freedom through the internet.

Cameron’s Camera and Marxist Theory of Hegemony

Marx claimed that the ideologies informing and governing societies, such as religion, were constructed in order to disguise and legitimate the power of the economically superior ruling groups. This was developed by the Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci into his theory of hegemony, in which the ruling classes grip on culture and its manipulation is part of the process through which they rule.

Part of this involves the lower orders and subordinate groups taking over and viewing everything through the eyes of their social superiors. One of the problems in history is that frequently the only materials that survive from past ages, is that produced by the ruling class of aristocratic White males. Thus the view of the past can be skewed very much towards the viewpoint of the governing aristocracy. If you look at culture generally, it frequently, but not always, was made by members of the ruling classes, and so reflects and promotes their class interests.

This isn’t always the case, and there are severe flaws which have effectively discredited Marxist aesthetics, which puts everything down to class. Nevertheless, it is broadly true in many cases.

This exercise with Cameron’s personal camera took this to its ultimate extreme. Not only were you being asked to identify with Cameron’s worldview, but you were also being manipulated into identifying with him personally, as a real, embodied being walking the corridors of power. This is as close a personal identification you can get with modern technology, failing having galvanic stimulators strapped onto your body, so you can carry out every movement he does.

The Fascist Leader Cult

Absolute glorification and identification with the leader is also one of the central tenets of Fascism. The cult of a charismatic leader was supposed to bring the ordinary citizen into a more personal, dynamic relationship with their government than was possible in democracy, with its grey, stultifying, boring bureaucracy. In practice, the reverse was true, and the cult of the leader proved far more boring and bureaucratic than the democracy the Fascist leaders had overthrown. And particularly as the Fascist apparatchiks were generally mediocrities and non-entities, carefully selected for their lack of talent and charisma so that they would never challenge the authority of the Fuehrer or Duce.

This was partly the purpose of the Fascist spectacles – the speeches from balcony and rallies in Nuremberg Stadium: to reach out to the masses and propagandise them through the leader’s personal charisma and oratory. And Hitler in particular stressed his personal connection with ordinary Germans and the submerged masses. In one of his speeches, he declared ‘everything I am, I am through you. Everything you are, you are through me.’ People and Fuehrer thus in Nazi rhetoric and ideology were almost indissolubly linked, the one a personification of the other.

Cameron’s donning of the camera to present his personal view took that concept, and attempted to make it technological reality.

We are Borg. Your technological and biological distinctiveness are at an end. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

Remember the Borg in Star Trek? This was their answer to Dr Who‘s Cybermen. The Borg were a race of humanoids, who had taken cybernetics almost as far as it would go. They had become cyborgs, combining the organic and machine. This technology had made them so interconnected, that they had lost all individuality. Only the Borg queen had an individual identity. The rest were merely drones, serving the collective, which was itself a gestalt intelligence or hive mind, like a giant anthill.

Star Trek’s producers state that when they created the Borg, they did so deliberately to play on American fears of collectivist societies, like those of the Japanese. And, we might add, like Communism. But the part of the Western political scene now that has the most totalitarian ideology is that of the Conservative right. Through sanctions, workfare, work coaches, fitness to work assessments and so on, the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers have created an extensive bureaucracy of surveillance and control, which is intended to monitor almost every aspect of the benefit claimant’s life. It harks back to the utilitarians’ ideology of control in Jeremy Bentham’s prison design. These were to have panopticons, a watch room from where every corridor and the movements of all the criminals in the prison could be observed and monitored. This, it was believed, would allow the authorities complete control over the prisoners and facilitate their reform.

The same ideology now permeates the Tories’ views of the poor and benefit claimants. At the moment the personal cameras are just being used to get people to identify with their leaders. How long before someone wants to use them to monitor us in the next extension of totalitarian power from a party determined to ‘discipline and punish’?