Posts Tagged ‘Scientists’

If You Want to Stop the Spread of Fascism, Vote Labour Tomorrow

May 22, 2019

Mike’s put up a series of articles this week arguing that anybody really worried about the spread of Fascism in Europe should vote Labour at the European elections tomorrow. He’s based these on comments and an article posted by one of the great readers of his blog, and by a Groaniad journo. And his and their logic is impeccable.

The election tomorrow is not a re-run of the Brexit referendum. The responsibility for deciding whether Britain leaves the EU and how lies very firmly with parliament. Nothing the Lib Dems for the Remain side nor the Brexit Party does in the EU parliament will alter that. But European democracy, culture and human rights are under threat from a renascent Far Right. The Brexit party is part of that threat, and the Lib Dems are part of the underlying cause: the misery and increasing poverty caused by neoliberalism for the benefit of the European elites, and particularly the financial sector.

Let’s start with the Brexit Party. Whatever the Fuhrage says to the contrary, his is an authoritarian, racist, far right party. It only looks moderate because Batten’s recruitment of Sargon, Dankula, Paul Joseph Watson and Tommy Robinson has pushed the party further right, bordering on the real Fascism of the BNP. But the party was already stuffed full of racists, islamophobes and militant anti-feminists under Farage. And the Brexit party still contains them and draws on them for support. The song by Captain Ska that Mike’s put up this morning attacking Farage as a racist is spot on. He did put up anti-immigrant posters that used the image of a long line of immigrants almost identical to a Nazi one against the dangers of Jewish immigration. His party is a corporation, like that of Change UK, and there are very strong suspicions that it is funded by dark money from foreign powers. Which is illegal. Quite apart from the fact that he lied about it not being funded by Arron Banks when it clearly was. The Fuhrage’s personal style of leadership is extremely authoritarian. In Chester last week he had a member of the audience at a rally thrown out because the man had the temerity to ask a searching question. Rather than cry ‘Duce! Duce!’ along with the rest of the adoring masses. Now he has blocked Channel 4 from his rallies, for the same reason. This is extremely ominous, as it shows that, like his friend Trump, he would dearly love to get rid of the freedom of the press and speech completely. He would also like to privatise the health service and roll back the welfare state even further than the Conservatives.

He’s a threat to Britain, and to genuine European liberal values.

As is Vince Cable and the Lib Dems. People are voting for them apparently because of their clear Remain message, and they’re supposed to have overtaken Labour in the polls for this election. But let’s remember that the Lib Dems went into the coalition with the Tories, where they were quite happy to support the further privatisation of the health service, the bedroom tax, the increasing destruction of the welfare state, including IDS’ and McVey’s lethal sanctions of the unemployed and the disabled in the DWP. Thanks in part to the Lib Dems, a quarter of a million people now have to rely on food banks for their next meal, the majority of whom I think are now working people. And something like a quarter of all children are growing up in ‘food insecure’ homes. Or something like it. And students in particular have a very good reason not to vote for Cable or his gang of bandits. The massive hike in tuition fees was urged by Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader. Cameron would have given in and lowered or dropped them had the Lib Dems insisted. Our young people, the doctors, nurses, teachers, scientists, engineers, and professionals of tomorrow, are being sadly with tens of thousands of pounds in debt because Clegg and the Lib Dems thought they should. They are also a threat to democracy, because they decided to throw out John Stuart Mill and his resolute support of democracy to bring in secret courts. All in the interests of national security, of course.

But hey, the austerity they and the other centrists demand will bring prosperity eventually. 

The answer to this is no, it won’t. It hasn’t so far, and won’t ever. A few weeks ago I put up a video from the Canary which explained that everywhere austerity has been implemented it has produced nothing but poverty. And far from being massively popular, those parties promoting it have met with the absolute reverse.

And the Fascists know this, and are exploiting it.

Hope Not Hate on Monday, 20th May 2019, put up piece about a mass rally in Milan of the various European far right parties, organised by Matteo Salvini of Italy’s Lega Party. It was a kind of ‘Unite the Right’ of European Fascists, attended by

Marine Le Pen of France’s Rassemblement National and Geert Wilders of the Dutch Party for Freedom. Alternative for Germany (AfD), Belgium’s Vlaams Belang (VB), Estonia’s EKRE and the Danish People’s Party (DPP) had all sent their main MEP candidates and central party figures, Jörg Meuthen (AfD), Gerolf Annemans (VB), Jaak Madison (EKRE) and Anders Vistisen (DPP). Representatives from Slovakias Sme Rodina, Austrian Freedom Party, Finland’s True Finns, Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) from Czech Republic and Volya from Bulgaria also addressed the rally.

Hope Not Hate reported that

Welcomed by chants of his name from the crowd, Salvini said he wanted to “free the continent from the illegal occupation orchestrated in Brussels”, and that Europe had been betrayed by the “Merkels, the Macrons, the Soroses and the Junckers who built a Europe based on finance and uncontrolled migration.” The audience chanted “Matteo, Matteo, Matteo” in response.

Okay, Merkel is the leader of Germany’s centre right Christian Democrats, and Soros is the Hungarian-American billionaire financier. But the policies they are pursuing are the old shopworn neoliberalism and austerity. As are Macron’s, who’s supposed to be reviving French prosperity. And if you don’t believe that these people are Fascists, consider how close Geert Wilders’ comments that “We must secure the future of our land and children”. This is close to the infamous ’14 Words’ of the American neo-Nazis, which run something like ‘We must secure a White homeland and the future of White children’, although I’ve forgotten the right wording.

Salvini gathers leaders of the European far right in Milan

Europe desperately needs the return of genuine, socialist politics. Not just to restore its industries and people from decades of poverty, calculated neglect, privatisation and welfare cuts by its elites, but to save Europe and its tradition of democracy and human rights from a renewed Fascism. A strong vote for the Labour party in the elections will help them form a powerful bloc with the other European socialist parties. And it has always been the parties of the Left – the Socialists and Communists – who have been the most resolute and determined opposed of Fascism.

Don’t let Farage and Cable lead us into a Continent-wide new Fascist Dark Age. 

Vote Labour!

No Pasaran!

 

Video of Jacob Rees-Mogg as Greedy and Litigious Child

May 4, 2018

This little video comes from I Am Incorrigible on YouTube. It’s from one of the breakfast TV shows, where they’re discussing the embarrassment caused to the Tories of the publication of a letter from the twelve-year old Jacob Rees-Mogg. Mogg had been interviewed by the BBC, and was demanding payment. If the Beeb wasn’t going to satisfy him, they’d get a letter from his solicitor.

And then they play the clip of the interview, and it’s really depressing. It’s audio only, I’m afraid, but nevertheless it shows what Mogg was like then. He states he likes money, and if he has it, he either invests it, or spends it on antique silverwork. He also wants to be the head of GEC. He aims to be the head of General Electric when he’s thirty, replacing Lord Weinstock. That is, unless Labour and Tony Benn nationalise it. But the Tories would then get back, and set everything to rights.

This might be a distortion, but it sounds very much like the young Rees-Mogg is driven by greed for money and corporate ambition. And he doesn’t seem to have any of the normal wishes and desires of boys of the same age. Quite a lot of kids have ambitions to be something really exciting, like sportsmen, or pop stars, TV celebrities or else go into the army. I don’t know, but I think some might still dream of being astronauts or engine drivers. Or inventors. I can remember wanting to be an astronomer or a great scientist, before I became more interested in history. As for spending money, a lot of ordinary children spent their allowances on pop records, comics, and sports kit.

To be the head of GEC is quite an ambition, but it’s dully adult. The young Rees-Mogg seems to have had all the usual childhood dreams crushed or smothered in him, so that his whole ambition is to be a corporate chief. And this is apart from his willingness to resort to litigation. Depressing.

American Scientists Plan March against Trump

January 28, 2017

After the massive numbers of people involved in the women’s marches against Trump held around the world last weekend, American scientists are also planning to organise their own demonstration against the Orange Caudillo in protest at his disastrous environmental and health policies.

In this video, TYT Nation’s Jeff Waldorf discusses a report in Forbes’ discussing the formation of the new group of scientists planning this march. The group has it’s own internet page, and in five days its members grew from 200 to 200,000 +. The group says it will include non-scientists as well as scientists, and is intended to advocate the greater involvement of science in government. It’s purpose is to defend climate science, evolution, and alternative energy. Waldorf states that he too believes strongly that science should be more involved in government. He also quibbles with the phrasing in the Forbes’ article, taking issue with the magazine’s description of the scientists as ‘believing’ in the environmental damage caused by the fossil fuel industries. Waldorf argues that scientists’ in these areas don’t believe, because they have proof that oil pipelines, such as DAPL, can rupture, creating massive oil spills and environmental destruction.

Waldorf also argues that, although he understands why people in America’s coal country wish to retain the industry for as long as possible for the sake of their jobs, renewables are now becoming cheaper than oil for the first time. It’s time to move from the horse and buggy to the automobile, is the metaphor he uses. He also notes that 75 per cent of Trumps’ own supporters are also in favour of solar and wind power, and natural gas. Waldorf himself is not in favour of natural gas, as it’s still a fossil fuel, with the environmental problems that poses. At the moment, the movement is still in the planning stage, but hopes to issue a mission statement soon. In the meantime, they state that a government that sacrifices science to ideology is a threat not just to America, but also the world.

I wish the scientists the best of luck in their campaigns against Trump’s attack on climate change and green energy. I think, however, Waldorf has a rather too optimistic view of science. There’s quite a debate in the philosophy of science over what constitutes ‘proof’. In one view, articulated by the great philosopher of science, Karl Popper, science advances through falsification. You can’t prove a particular theory. What you do instead is show that other explanations are false. In many areas of science, the observable effects of experiments, may be tiny and ambiguous. This is why scientists have developed very sophisticated statistical methods for sorting through their observations in search of factual evidence that will support or disprove their theories. Thus, at the risk of nit-picking, it might be fairer to say that climate change and environmental damage by the fossil fuel industry is far better supported by the available evidence, than the minority view that no such change or damage is occurring.

I also think you have to be careful about relying too much on science to solve social problems. The British philosopher, Mary Midgeley, in one of her books pointed out that in some areas, what is needed is a social and industrial solution to a particularly issue, rather than scientific innovation. For example, it could be argued that in the struggle against world hunger, what is needed is not new, genetically engineered crops which produce vast yields, but better transportation methods and infrastructure to supply people with the food that has already been grown.

Despite these very minor quibbles, it is true that orthodox, respectable science in the above areas has been under attack for a long time to serve powerful interests in the fossil fuel industries. Trump this week imposed gagging orders preventing scientists and government workers in the Environmental Protection Agency from revealing their findings. Climate change is happening, and is a real danger to America and the globe. But this awareness frightens the Koch brothers and their wealth in the petrochemical industry. So they, and millionaires like them, are spending vast sums to keep the facts from ordinary peeps. America’s scientists are right to challenge this. Let’s hope their march in support of proper science goes ahead and is well-attended.

Conservatives Want Primary Schoolchildren to Be Taught To Work Not Live on Benefits

December 5, 2015

This is how desperate the Tories are to try to stop people claiming unemployment benefit. According to a couple of pieces in today’s I, the Tories want children in primary schools to be taught about work and careers in order to stop them claiming benefits. It says in the article on page two, Primary Children ‘to Attend Career Talks’ that

Ministers are considering proposals that would oblige children to attend careers talks before they finish primary school to help discourage them from claiming benefits in the future. The initiative will be particularly relevant in communities with high adult unemployment, but teaching unions feel careers talks at 11 could be “too much too soon”.

This was all outlined in a speech given by Sam Gyimah, the education and childcare minister, to the Westminster Employment Forum. The article, Children in Primary School ‘Should Learn about Work’, by Oliver Wright, gives further information, and begins

Primary school children are to be taught by the time they leave junior school at age 11 that “in the future they will work”, under new proposals being considered by ministers.

Information and talk about future careers will be included in the curriculum while at the same time teachers will be expected to act early make clear connections between reading, writing and arithmetic and decent jobs in the future. Ministers believe the new initiative will be particularly relevant in communities with high adult unemp0loyment as part of a wider effort to end the cycle of benefit dependency.

However, teaching unions have expressed some concern at the plan, qu4estioning whether careers talks at 11 are a case of “too much too soon”.

The newspaper also gives the criticisms of the proposal by Christine Blower, the general secretary of the NUT. The I states that she

said while she agreed that it was good for children to learn about work, she had concerns. “There is a danger of ‘too much too soon’ in what is proposed,” she said. “School should be a preparation for life, and there is no better means to achieve this than through a creative space in the curriculum for teachers to discuss issues about the outside world, including work.”

As if schoolchildren aren’t under enough pressure already to get good grades.

I also wonder where the Tories get their ideas from. Young children have always had some idea that they were going to work after leaving school, as well as generally idealistic dreams about the kind of jobs they want to do, like train drivers, scientists, police, firemen, hairdressers, pop stars, and, when the space programme was still glamorous, astronauts. I think some schools already do arrange for outsiders to come in to tell primary school children about the jobs they do. I do voluntary work at one of the local schools helping children with their reading. When I was going there the week before last, a number of children in the playground asked me if I was ‘the doctor’. I thought at first that they meant, The Doctor, and felt like saying that I might be ancient, but I’m not over a thousand years old, don’t come from a different planet, and, sadly, don’t have a TARDIS. It turns out that they meant an ordinary medical doctor. One was coming in that afternoon, along with other professionals, to tell them about the kind of work they did.

This isn’t just about preparing children for the world of work, though. It’s about getting them to internalise the Tory belief system that if you’re unemployed, then it’s all your fault. You should have studied harder at school. It also seems to be part of the belief that people are voluntarily unemployed, because they want to be scroungers. No matter how often that belief is attacked, how often it is refuted, it still doesn’t get through their thick, brutal heads. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, they still believe that the majority of people on the dole are there because they want to be there, because they’re lazy, or feckless.

Now it strikes me that the most powerful disincentive to trying anything at school is simply the lack of available jobs when you leave. To some children it may well seem that there is no point in working as hard as possible, if it will do them absolutely no good in the end. And the incessant testing schoolchildren are made to go through could also act as a disincentive. If you’re told you’re no good at reading, or mathematics, at a young age, it might stop some children trying to improve if they somehow get the impression that this will never happen. The school at which my mother taught also used to test children regularly, but this was intended to be diagnostic only, to show where the children needed more work in order to improve.

This latest proposal by Gyimah and other, unnamed ‘ministers’, is all about getting children to internalise Tory ideology. That the state will not provide jobs or welfare benefits, and unemployment is due purely to personal failure, not their disastrous handling of the economy based on an economic theory that deliberately sets an unemployment rate at 6 per cent. It should be thrown out, along with them.

The Young Turks: Low Paid Workers Have the Highest Death Rates

November 3, 2015

This is another video from The Young Turks. It does, of course, discuss an American problem, but it’s still relevant over here. And especially as the Tories have copied so much of their ideology from across the Atlantic.

In this video, The Turks discuss the findings of a survey showing that the least educated workers in the poorest paid, unskilled jobs, have shorter lives than their better educated, better paid co-workers. In some parts of America, the difference can be by as much as 33 years. Women, however, tend to live longer than men, which the Turks state is just about the only area in which women do better in the work place. I think the stats also show that Blacks and other racial minorities also have shorter life expectancies than Whites.

They identify the factors in the work place that have the largest influence on mortality. These are

Unemployment and layoffs
Lack of health insurance
Low job control
Job insecurity (for men)
Shift work (for women)

They recognise that some extremely highly paid groups, like bankers and lawyers, can also suffer stress, but point out that it’s not the same kind of stress as the low paid. Those groups, for example, are not under the same kind of pressure as a single parent with a child working two jobs simply to pay the rent and put food on the table.

One of the Turks’ panel, John Iadarola, did his Master’s degree on the way politics reflect deeply embedded ideas about morality in American culture. If you don’t do well at school, or have a low-paid job, it’s your fault, because you’re obviously lazy.

Here’s the video:

This is obviously acutely relevant over here, as the Tories have exactly the same ideas. Work is good for you. Hence the policies to kick everyone off benefits so that they get some kind of work, no matter how poorly paid, unsuitable, or simply impossible for some people, like the disabled or people with long-term health problems, to perform. There’s any numbers of Tories prattling about the ‘health benefits’ of work. One of them even started an opinion piece in one of the papers by going on about how true Auschwitz’s maxim of ‘Arbeit macht frei’ – ‘Work makes (you) free’ – was, before reality or the editor kicked in and that section was pulled. Obviously, somebody realized that perhaps quoting the Nazis approvingly, especially the slogan on their death camps, wasn’t a vote winner.

And the Tories have exactly the same kind of Victorian attitude towards poverty. If you’re poor, it’s not because of a genuine lack of ability on your part. Not everyone has the intellectual ability to be a financial whizzkid, or brilliant scientist or engineer, or entrepreneur or whatever. Just as clearly not everyone can be a skilled manual worker, like a carpenter or blacksmith, or have the physical prowess to be an Olympic sportsman or woman. But the Tories believe that if you don’t succeed at Uni or have a brilliant job, it’s because you’re lazy. Or feckless. Or whatever other word they want to use to stigmatise them as someone who has failed due to their personality defects or lack of suitable morals.

And in these days of mounting student and graduate unemployment, even being highly educated doesn’t not guarantee that you will have a good job, and be able to pay your bills. Social scientists have identified a new social group, the precariat. These are low paid workers, in precarious jobs. They’re on short-term or zero hours contracts. And they are often too highly educated for the work they do.

The American finds also confirm what has been known from the 1990s: that people at the bottom of the social hierarchy live shorter lives than their superiors, even if they’re not in particularly dangerous jobs. Part of the evidence for this is the records of civil servants’ lives and performance going right back to the first years of the last century. These showed, not surprisingly, that the lower clerks at the bottom died earlier than the mandarins at the top. Part of the reason for this was stress, the same stress the Tories want to pile on to the majority of working people.

The civil service stats show the Tories’ argument about work, any kind of work, being good for you is rubbish. This piece from The Young Turks adds further confirmation.

The Young Turks on Dick Cheney as the Incarnation of Eisenhower’s Fears

March 12, 2015

I’ve reposted quite a few videos from The Young Turks recently. This week I put up several of theirs, including today, about the Repugs trying to sabotage Obama’s efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the nuclear tension with Iran. While these videos are very much about America, they’re also extremely relevant to what’s happening over this side of the Pond. The Tories over here are saturated with extreme Republican, free-market ideology, as were Blairite New Labour. We joined America, along with a coalition of other nations, in the massively unjust invasion of Iraq. And like America, our countries are faced with the continuing problem of providing military support to Iraq and containing ISIS, while suffering from the threat of Islamist terrorism on the domestic front.

These wars have not been started to create a stable world where the Iraqi people could live in peace and freedom without the shadow of a dictator. They were launched to grab the country’s oil reserves, their state industries, and even the biological heritage of that nation in the form of the ancient varieties of crops that have been grown in that part of the Fertile Crescent since the Neolithic Revolution in 4,000 BC.

And the same people, who demanded we go to war to enrich the multinationals are the same people who are demanding that the American people sacrifice any kind of reasoned, peaceful settlement with Iran.

One of these is Dick Cheney, Bush’s grotesque vice-president. In this video from June last year, the Turks’ anchor, Cenk Uyghur, shows you why Cheney is the absolute embodiment of President Eisenhower’s warnings about the military-industrial complex. Cheney made a speech stating that America should concentrate on defence, not on building roads or feeding the poor.

Uyghur quotes Eisenhower, a Republican president, on how expensive this policy is in terms of health, education, roads, and other parts of the domestic economy that contribute to a truly prosperous and civilised nation. Even in basic foodstuffs, like wheat. Eisenhower stated clearly and eloquently that war and defence spending was bought with the sweat of the workers and the brains of scientists. Here’s the video:

Eisenhower was, of course, the president, who saw American through the Second World War. His warning about the military-industrial complex is another salvo in support of the maxim that the people, who are least likely to start a war are the people, who’ve actually been through one.

And Cheney? Cheney is a chickenhawk. He has said that he had his enrolment in the Vietnam War deferred 7 or 8 times ‘because he had better things to do’. So did a lot of patriotic Americans, who fought and died for their country anyway.

Bush, Cheney, Bliar and the rest of them were frauds, who led our nations into a devastating war. We should listen to Eisenhower instead.

Tolstoy’s Prediction of the First World War

April 27, 2014

As I’ve mentioned before, this is the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, and already the BBC has put on a season of programmes commemorating the conflict. I’ve blogged on Michael Gove’s criticism of the negative view of the First World War, which he feels denigrates the courage and patriotism of the soldiers. He attacked the Beeb’s comedy series, Black Adder Goes Forth, as an example of this, and compounded his argument with knee-jerk Tory anti-intellectualism by claiming that the view was promoted by ‘Left-wing intellectuals’. A number of bloggers have attacked this diatribe, including Mike over at Vox Political. It has also provoked a response from the creators of graphic novels, who are putting together several albums presenting the horrific reality of the conflict as a response to Gove’s Right-wing patriotic view of the War.

Many people in Europe in the late 19th and first decade of the 20th centuries were very much aware of the looming threat of world conflict. One of those who foresaw it and its mass carnage was the great Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy. As well as a writer, Tolstoy was a pacifist Anarchist. He hated the horrors of modern, industrial society and the state that oppressed the Russian poor. He saw the solution in the abolition of the state and traditional peasant society, to the point where he gave up much of his life style as a Russian aristocrat to live, dress and work like a peasant. As a young man, he had, like many other noblemen, been a soldier and had fought in the wars to conquer Chechnya and the Caucasus. He had been highly impressed by ideas of a Chechen Sufi leader, who, when his nations’ attempts to resist the Russians through armed force were repeatedly suppressed, rejected violence and advocated instead a policy of non-violent civil disobedience. Tolstoy himself rejected violence, and took up the Sufi leader’s ideas. In turn, Tolstoy’s advocacy of the policy influenced Gandhi in his own campaign against British rule in India.

Tolstoy also campaigned on behalf of the Doukhobors, a heretical Russian Christian sect, that also rejected violence. It was due to Tolstoy’s support and that of British Quakers that the sect emigrated from Russia to settle in Canada.

He promoted his Anarchist and pacifist ideals in a series of books, What Then Must We Do?, The Kingdom of God is Within You and The Restoration of Hell. They also influenced his magnum opus, War and Peace. This was written to show that history was not made by a few great men, but by the actions of millions of ordinary people. Lionel Kochan discusses Tolstoy’s ideas, his criticisms of contemporary society, and prediction of the coming War in his Russia in Revolution (London: Paladin 1970). Tolstoy attacked just about every aspect of contemporary society, including science, the press, religion, state education, and the state as a system of organised crime itself. Kochan writes:

Tolstoy, no doubt, showed little, if any, awareness of the deep-rooted complexity of the evils he stigmatized; no doubt, also, his positive doctrine was thin enough – the gospel of universal love, undogmatic Christianity, sexual abstinence, non-resistance to evil, the renunciation of tobacco and alcohol – for all that his later work constitutes an anarchist programme of profound strength. His unbridled criticism of society and its values, his corrosive and derisive scepticism, made him an anarchist more anarchic, a nihilist more nihilistic and a revolutionary more destructive than any whom Russia had yet brought forth – far more consistent and humanistic than Bakunin, far more hard-headed than Kropotkin.

What is science? He asked. Had it done anything of value to human life in determining the weight of Saturn’s satellites? What was universal suffrage? A means whereby the prisoners elected their own gaolers. Had industrialism raised the standard of living? Then look at the slums and doss-houses of Moscow. Tolstoy derided division of labour as a device for turning men into machines, book-printing as a medium for communicating ‘all the nasty and stupid things that are done and written in the world’, and reform for teaching people ‘that though themselves bad they can reform bad people’. What did the church do but maintain idolatry ‘in the most literal sense of the word – worshipping holy relics and icons, offering sacrifices to them and expecting from them the fulfilment of the worshippers’ wishes’? What did compulsory education do but ‘teach the savage superstition of patriotism and the same pseudo-obligation to obey the state’? What was the press but a means for ‘exciting feelings of mutual hostility between the nations’? What were the governments of the time, despotic and liberal alike, but – and her Tolstoy quotes Herzen’s phrase – ‘Genghis Khans with telegraphs’? The modern state was a mechanism so interlocked and interdependent that it became impossible to discriminate between the guilty and the innocent: ‘Some people demand the perpetration of a crime, others decide that it shall be done, a third set confirm that decision, a fourth propose its execution, a fifth report on it, a sixth finally decree it, and a seventh carry out the decree.’ Tolstoy’s apocalyptic vision of a state given over to destruction culminates in an anticipation of the imminent First World War:

‘The bells will peal and long-haired men will dress themselves in gold-embroidered socks and begin to pray on behalf of murder … The editors of newspapers will set to work to arouse hatred and murder under the guise of patriotism and will be delighted to double their sales. Manufacturers, merchants, and contractors for army stores will hurry about joyfully in expectation of doubled profits … Army commanders will bustle here and there, drawing double pay and rations and hoping to receive trinkets and crosses, stripes and stars, for murdering people. Idle ladies and gentlemen will fuss about, entering their names in advance for the Red Cross and getting ready to bandage those whom their husbands and brothers are setting out to kill – imagining they will be doing a most Christian work thereby.’

Kochan criticises Tolstoy for not understanding how enthusiastic and patriotic Russian servicemen initially were for the War. However, he then goes on to quote the great writer’s prediction of the condition of the soldiers in the War’s later stages, men who

‘will trudge where they may be driven, stifling the despair in their souls by songs, debauchery and vodka. They will march, freeze, suffer from hunger, and fall ill. Some will die of disease, and some will at last come to the place where men will kill them by the thousand. And they too, without knowing why, will murder thousands of others whom they had never before seen, and who had neither done nor could do them any wrong.’

For Tolstoy, the coming world war would ‘devour in a year more victims than all the revolutions of a century’. (pp. 157-8).
I strongly disagree with most of Tolstoy’s criticisms of contemporary society. He was, for example, wrong about science not benefitting humanity. it clearly has and had, most obviously in the improvements in medicine, that appeared in the 19th century. And printing and the press have increased knowledge and much good around the globe, despite the fact that they can often be used for evil. Having said that, he does have a point with the Sun, Daily Mail, and Express.

It will, however, be interesting to see if the BBC or anyone else, in their programmes on the Great War, mention Tolstoy’s prediction.

As a pacifist Anarchist, Tolstoy’s political views were strongly disapproved by Paul Johnson in the Spectator. In one of his articles in that journal he described the great novelists as somehow – I’ve forgotten quite what he wrote – being responsible for the Russian Revolution and Stalin’s tyranny. He never described how this was so. He simply asserted it, and went on. The only thing Tolstoy had in common with Stalin is that they were both radicals, who revolted against the Tsarist state. And possibly that they both had military careers. Apart from that, Tolstoy hated everything that Stalin stood for – militarism, an oppressive, coercive state, brutality and murder. And Tolstoy himself was far from unique in wishing to see a radical reform or overthrow of contemporary society. By 1905 the Tsar’s reluctance to establish any kind of constitutional reforms had pushed most sections of the Russian society in opposition. Even the Union of Unions, made up members of the liberal profession – doctors, lawyers, vets, scientists, engineers, teachers, university professors – not the usual bomb-throwing nutters – were advocating the use of violence if all else failed. There was another writer called, Tolstoy, Alexey, who survived into the Stalin era to write pieces praising the dictator. It looks like Johnson confused the two due to the same surname. But Leo Tolstoy would have been utterly opposed to the old thug.

Another Angry Voice on Cameron’s Failure to Honour Nuclear Test Victims

February 20, 2014

David Cameron Divisiveness Nuclear Test Veterans

The Angry Yorkshireman has posted up another excellent article, ‘David Cameron and Divisiveness’, on Cameron’s refusal to recognise and honour the sacrifice and suffering endured by the thousands of British servicemen, who took part in nuclear tests. The article begins

In February 2014 David Cameron outright refused to recognise the sacrifices made by some 10,000 British military personnel that were exposed to intense levels of radiation during the 1950s and 1960s.

These men were ordered to do things like watch nuclear detonations at close range, fly aircraft through mushroom clouds, handle radioactive materials and explore blast zones, all with no protective gear.

Many hundreds have died of cancer and other radiation related illnesses but this isn’t even the most horrifying legacy. Due to the genetic damage these men sustained, the families of many of these men have been affected by birth defects, meaning that the legacy of suffering is continuing down the generations.

Many other countries have begun to recognise the suffering inflicted on their military personnel due to radiation exposure, but the United Kingdom steadfastly refuses to offer recompense to our nuclear veterans.

A pressure group of victims and their families called Fallout has been calling for some recognition for the nuclear veterans and their families, but their concerns have been stonewalled by the government.

The Fallout campaign group have asked for the creation of a £25 million benevolent fund to help descendents that are born with genetic illnesses, a campaign medal for nuclear test veterans and a “thank you” from the Prime Minister.
The government have refused to engage with the group, and David Cameron has refused to even publicly thank the surviving veterans, perhaps out of fear that the the slightest hint of recognition would be the first step on the path to awarding these men compensation, which would hardly be unprecidented given that the United States government have been compensating their nuclear test veterans.

David Cameron’s excuse for refusing to acknowledge the nuclear test victims is teeth grindingly bad, even by his appalling standards. Here’s what he said:

“It would be divisive to offer nuclear test veterans this level of recognition for being involved in this project, when those who have undertaken other specialist duties would not be receiving the same.

The full article is at http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/david-cameron-and-divisiveness.html. It’s well worth reading.

This clearly is less of a reason than an excuse. The Irate Yorkshireman then goes on to show how it would not stop other servicemen, who have performed equally dangerous duties, from also demanding fair recognition for their sacrifices. He also states that Cameron’s statement is based on the same logic that saw the members of the Arctic Convoys to the Soviet Union during the War denied a medal for their great contribution to the war effort.

The Yorkshireman concluded:

The refusal to even thank these men, and David Cameron’s ludicrous “divisiveness” narrative are yet more demonstrations of the absolute contempt the Tories and the establishment classes have for the disposable “lower orders”.

This is undoubtedly at the heart of Cameron’s refusal to acknowledge their suffering – an aristocratic contempt for ‘commoners’ that sees them purely as cannon fodder, whose purpose is to obey without question their superiors, who must not be criticised for their mistakes, incompetence or indifference to the suffering of the men and women they command.

I also think there’s slightly more to it than that.

Opposition to Nuclear Power

Firstly, it strikes me that Cameron is probably afraid of reviving the remaining, smouldering anti-nuclear feelings. The nuclear industry is, after all, big business, and Cameron’s government has done its best to encourage further investment in nuclear energy and the construction of nuclear power stations. The French nuclear power company, that has been strongly supported by the British government in this, is due to start building another power stations at Hinckley point in Somerset, for example. The last thing the government wants is more protestors standing outside parliament, their council office and the power plants themselves waving placards and pointing to the possible health risks and dangers of nuclear power.

Fears of a CND Revival

Similarly, it also seems to me that Cameron is afraid of the lingering shadow cast by CND in the 1980s and 1950s, and the legacy of the women’s peace camp at Greenham Common. There is still considerable opposition to nuclear weapons despite the reduction in nuclear arms after the collapse of Communism and the ending of the Cold War. A little while ago there was some controversy when the government decided that it was going to acquire a few more, upgraded nuclear missiles for Britain’s defence. I doubt very much if Cameron and the rest of the Coalition want a revival of CND and more protestors camped outside British military bases.

Damage to Reputation and Wallets of British Government, Military and Civil Servants

Most of all, I suspect that what Dave and his party really fear is the possible damage to the reputation of past politicians and civil servants, and claims for compensation from the victims of the tests and their families. British officialdom’s culture of secrecy always appeared to me to have a very strong element of the ruling classes trying to protect themselves and their pensions from criticism and attack from the people their decisions have harmed. By acknowledging the sacrifice and suffering of these servicemen, it strikes me that Cameron is also afraid this would mean that the government accepts, if only partly, its responsibility for their legacy of health problems and the congenital diseases passed on to their children. This could lead to claims for compensation, possible prosecution of the politicians, civil servants and senior military staff behind the policy.

Polynesian Victims of Nuclear Tests

Such dissatisfaction and litigation would not just be confined to British servicemen. I believe that some of the Polynesian islands, where the British tested their nuclear bombs were inhabited before the tests. Their indigenous peoples were forcible removed from their homes. The intense levels of radioactivity left by the tests has meant that they cannot return. They are permanently exiled from their native soil and the land of their ancestors. It is possible that Cameron fears that if he acknowledges the debt the government owes its servicemen for their part in the nuclear tests, these indigenous peoples would also raise embarrassing and expensive demands from the British government for the suffering they have endured through displacement and exile from their destroyed island homes.

Unethical Nuclear Testing on Civilians in America and Possibly Oz

I also wonder if Cameron is also afraid that questions about the activities of the British military for experimentation on its servicemen would stop there. IN the 1990s when the American files on nuclear testing were fully opened to the public under the Freedom of Information Act, it also revealed some highly unethical and monstrous experiments by the American armed forces and their civilian masters on the poor and disadvantaged, including those from ethnic minorities. I remember reading an article in New Scientist about this, circa 1995. The article reported the case where an Indian woman was taken into what she believed was a specialist hospital for treatment for her condition. In fact it was a secret nuclear facility, and the scientists were actually injecting her with radioactive material in order to test its effect on the human body. I’ve also got a feeling that some of those involved in this project may, like so many other scientist, have come from the Third Reich. There were also allegations a little while ago in Australia that the British and Aussie authorities used severely mentally retarded people as test subjects during nuclear bomb tests Down Under. Others have looked into this and found that there is absolutely no evidence that these people were used in this way. Nevertheless, there is the lingering question of whether the British civilian and military authorities also carried on similar, unethical experiments in the general British population.

Germ Warfare at Porton Down

And not just nuclear experiments. Questions have also been raised about the biological warfare experiments conducted by Porton Down. These have included injecting servicemen with a potentially lethal disease, which the troops were told was merely influenza, in order to test the possible results of biological warfare. They have also released various strains of ‘flu into the general population in order to research the progress of germ weapons through the British population. At least one person may have died as a result. As with the victims of the nuclear tests, this raises issues of the morality of the experiments themselves, the ethical culpability of the scientists administering the tests and the military and civilian authorities responsible for them. The victims of these tests may also possibly be liable for compensation in the same way as the victims of the nuclear tests. They also raise the same questions about what other experiments went on under secrecy at Porton Down.

Acknowledgement of Soldier’s Role in Nuclear Tests Raises Doubts about Culpability of Entire Establishment in Nuclear and Biological Experimentation

This is what Cameron clearly fears is divisive: the possibility that, simply by acknowledging the sacrifice and suffering of the military victims of British nuclear testing and their families, he could be opening the door for further questions about the government’s wider nuclear policy for defence and energy, questions and possible claims for compensation and prosecution by the Polynesian peoples, whose homes and traditional way of life has been destroyed by imperialist militarism, as well as possible demands for the investigation of germ warfare experiments by Porton Down. And behind those is the issue of whether even further, darker, and completely immoral nuclear and biological experimentation has been carried out by the British government on its poor, disabled and non-White, as was done in America.

And worst of all, there would be immense damage to the reputation, careers and pensions of the senior military officers, civil servants and MPs responsible for this, as well as the commercial damage to the firms that manufactured these weapons. And in Cameron’s rarefied world of aristocratic and upper middle class privilege, that’s the real threat. We really can’t have the proles questioning their superiors and putting them on trial, can we?