Posts Tagged ‘Terry Wogan’

Does Anybody Really Believe that Alan Sugar Ever Really Supported Labour?

April 6, 2018

Alan Sugar, the multi-millionaire host of the British version of the Apprentice got himself into the news this week. He’s another one, who has joined the chorus of rich industrialists and Conservatives denouncing Corbyn as an anti-Semite. On Wednesday he put up on the Net a photoshopped picture of Corbyn riding in a limo with Adolf Hitler. Faced with a storm of criticism for this outrageous smear, Sugar took it down. But crucially, he didn’t apologise. Then yesterday he put up a nasty poem attacking Corbyn.

This little ditty was denounced by at least one female Corbynite as misogynist. And rightly so. In one of its stanzas, it describes Corbyn having sex with Diane Abbott, who ‘lies back and thinks of Russia’. Corbyn is supposed to have had an affair with Abbott. But as the female critic pointed out, it also shows the misogynist fixation with female sexuality, and discomfort at the fact that women are free to have sex with whomever they choose. In this instance, Sugar’s like the White supremacists of the Alt Right, who have a similar fixation with controlling women’s sexuality, as well as denying them the right to vote. There’s also a nasty undercurrent of racism in this as well. Most of the racist and sexist abuse sent to MPs is actually centred on Diane Abbott. She was one of the first Black MPs elected to parliament in the 1980s, and is notoriously concerned with combating racism. So much so, that the Scum quoted her in their infamous anti-Labour campaign during the 1987 election as saying that ‘All White people are racist’. I don’t know if she said it or not. If she didn’t, it wouldn’t be the first the Scum libelled someone. Not by a very long chalk.

As for thinking about Russia, this is just more of the Tory ‘Red Scare’ drivel that the party’s been running ever since the Zinoviev Letter in the 1920s. Labour is supposed to be full of Communists, ready to do Moscow’s bidding. Or, now that Communism’s fallen, Putin’s bidding. Sugar then goes on in the poem to rant about how Corbyn supports our enemies, listing them as the IRA, Hamas and Russia. All of which we’ve heard before, and despatched. He never supported the IRA, but recommended that the British government should talk to them. Which Margaret Thatcher was doing, all the time she was loudly denouncing the Labour party for daring to suggest that she should. Well, as someone once said, the Tory party is an organised hypocrisy. As for Hamas, I’ve seen allegations that they were either created, or helped into power, by the Israeli state, who thought that this would make it easier to control and disinherit the Palestinians. Corbyn isn’t an enemy of Israel, but he does want a just settlement for the Palestinians. Hence the outrage of the Israel lobby, who can’t bear anyone taking their side, even if they’re actually not opponents of Israel or anti-Semites.

He also claimed that Corbyn was the worse Labour leader ever. Well, I can remember the Tories making the same accusations, minus those of anti-Semitism, against Neil Kinnock in the 1987 election, and before that against Michael Foot and Harold Wilson in the 1970s. The CIA, MI5 and the Tories, including Maggie Thatcher, were convinced that Wilson was a KGB spy. He wasn’t, but they still smeared him.

As for Corbyn being extreme left, he stands for the renationalisation of the health service, a partial renationalisation of the electricity grid, and the renationalisation of the railways, as well as an end to the murderous benefit cuts. This is a return to something like the post-war social democratic consensus, and very far from the total nationalisation demanded by the genuine far left, like the Socialist Workers’ Party. Not that this bothers the Tories, who never let the truth get in the way of a good lie.

And I have always been uneasy about Sugar as a supporter of Labour. It never seemed quite genuine. There are, and always have been, businesspeople who supported the Labour party. But I don’t think Sugar was really one of them. I might be wrong, but I seem to remember Sugar appearing on Terry Wogan’s weekday talk show way back in the 1980s. He poured scorn on the idea that you needed an extensive education to become successful in business, and talked about how he’d begun his career aged fifteen selling things from the back of cars. Or something like that. I can remember my father looking at me, and remarking that he was the type who’d have children climbing up chimneys again.

Sugar left Labour three years ago, about the time Corbyn was elected leader, so he’s definitely no supporter of the current Labour leadership. It seems very much to me that he was one of the big businessmen Blair ingratiated himself with, and who were given seats in government in return for their support. Like David Sainsbury, who was another donor to New Labour, now departed. He’s basically another Tory, who was drawn to New Labour because Blair was continuing the Thatcherite programme of privatisation and benefit cuts, but was electorally more attractive than the Tory party itself under John Major.

His poem was basically another Tory screed of lies and hate, from someone, who only seems to have joined Labour out of political and commercial opportunism. There’s absolute no reason to take him, or his opinions seriously.

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

March 30, 2018

The brutal treatment inflicted by the two ‘Prefects of Discipline’ understandable left Mills with a hatred of the Catholic church. He isn’t alone there. The Irish comedian Dave Allen, and his countryman, the much-loved Radio 2 broadcaster and presenter Terry Wogan, also had no particular love of the church because of the similar sadistic discipline they’d also received as part of their Catholic education. And I’ve met many ordinary people since then, who have also fallen away from the church, and often against Christianity altogether, because of it. One of my uncles was brought up a Catholic, but never attended church. This was partly due to the brutality of the monks, who taught him at his school.

Mills also corrects the impression that Judge Dredd was immediately the favourite strip in the comic. The good lawman wasn’t, and it was months before he attained that position. And he also attacks Michael Moorcock for his comments criticising the early 2000AD in the pages of the Observer. Moorcock was horrified by Invasion, and its tale of resistance to the conquest of Britain by the Russians, hastily changed two weeks or so before publication to ‘the Volgans’. Moorcock had been the boy editor of Tarzan comic, and declared that in his day the creators had cared about comics, unlike now, when the creators of 2000AD didn’t. This annoyed Mills, and obviously still rankles, because he and the others were putting a lot of work in to it, and creating characters that children would like and want to read about. One of the recommendations he makes to prospective comics’ creators is that writers should spend four weeks crafting their character, writing and rewriting the initial scripts and outlines of the character in order to get them just right. And artists need two weeks creating and revising their portrayal of them. This was difficult then, as creators were not paid for what Mike McMahon called ‘staring out of the window time’, though Mills generally managed to find someway round that. It’s impossible now, with tight budget and time constraints.

I can see Moorcock’s point about the Invasion strip. It wasn’t Mills’ own idea, although he did it well. True to his beliefs, its hero was working class, a docker called Bill Savage. He didn’t initially want to work on it, and was only persuaded to by the then editor telling him he could have Maggie Thatcher shot on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral. But it is a right-wing, Tory fantasy. It appeared at the tale end of the ’70s, when MI5, the CIA and Maggie Thatcher had all been convinced that the Labour leader, Harold Wilson, was a KGB agent, and the trade unions and the Labour party riddled with Communists or fellow-travelers ready to do the bidding of Moscow. The strikes in the period led to various arch-Tories, like the editor of the Times, Peregrine Worsthorne, trying to organise a coup against the 1975 Labour administration. And ITV launched their own wretched SF series, in which a group of resistance fighters battle a future socialist dictatorship.

He also discusses the office hatred of the character Finn and the man it was based on. Finn was Cornish, driving a taxi round the streets of Plymouth by day. He was practising witch, and at night battled the forces of evil and against social injustice. The character was based on a man he knew, an ex-squaddie who was a witch. Mills has great affection for this man, who introduced him to modern witchcraft, and in whose company Mills joined in ceremonies at the Rollright Stones in Oxfordshire. But the management didn’t like him, and had him sacked. There was a persistent dislike of the character, which seemed to come from its basis in witchcraft, and Mills himself was the subject of lurid stories about what he was supposed to get up to at these ceremonies. This ended with the strip’s abrupt cancellation, without proper explanation. Mills states that he is very distantly related to one of the women executed for witchcraft at Salem, and so is very definitely down on people, who despise and malign witches.

I’m not surprised by either the rumours and the hostility to the strip. This was the 1990s, the heyday of the Satanism scare, when across America, Britain and Europe there were stories of gangs of Satanists abusing animals. Children were being conceived by abused women, used as ‘brood mares’, to be later used as sacrifices to Satan. It was all rubbish, but repeated by a wide range of people from Fundamentalist Christians to secular feminist social workers. And it destroyed many lives. You may remember the Orkney scandal, where forty children were taken into care following allegations of abuse. The minister at the local kirk was supposed to be a Satanist, who had an inverted crucifix hanging from his ceiling. It was no such thing. It was, in fact, a model aeroplane.

Much of this dangerous bilge came from a group of rightwing evangelicals at the Express. I’m not surprised. I can remember the Sunday Express repeating some of this drivel, including the ludicrous claim that CND was Satanic because of its symbol. This was declared to be an old medieval witchcraft symbol, based on a broken cross. I mentioned this once to a very left-wing, religious friend, who had been a member of the nuclear disarmament group. He looked straight at me and said levelly, ‘No. It’s semaphore’. The scare pretty much disappeared in Britain after a regular psychiatrist issued a report stating very firmly that such groups didn’t exist. There are several excellent books written against the scare. The two I read are Jeffrey S. Victor’s Satanic Panic and Peter Hough’s Witchcraft: A Strange Conflict. Victor is an American sociologist, and he takes apart both the claims and gives the sociological reasons behind them. Hough is one-time collaborator of ufologist Jenny Randles, and his book comes at it from a sympathetic viewpoint to modern witches and the occult milieu. He talks about the political beliefs of modern occultists. These naturally range all over the political spectrum, but the majority are Lib Dems or supporters of the Green Party and keen on protecting the environment. And far from sacrificing babies or animals, those I knew were more likely to be peaceful veggies than evil monsters straight from the pages of Dennis Wheatley or Hammer Horror.

The 1990s were also a period of crisis for the comic, which went into a spiral of decline as their best talent was stolen by DC for their Vertigo adult imprint. There was a succession of editors, who, flailing around for some way to halt the decline, blamed the remaining creators. They were increasingly critical, and seemed to be encouraging the abuse letters being sent to them from what seemed to be a small minority of fans. There were also plans to interest TV and Hollywood in developing 2000AD characters in film. Mills and Wagner were horrified to find they were giving away the rights dirt cheap – in one case as low as pound. The comic was close to collapse, but was eventually saved by Rebellion and its current editor.

Continued in Part Three.

Chunky Mark on Toby Young’s Attendance at a Eugenics Conference

January 11, 2018

In this short clip, Chunky Mark, the artist taxi driver, expresses his absolute disgust at a report that Toby Young, the grotty right-wing hack Theresa May put on the regulatory board for the universities, attended a secret eugenics conference recently at University College London. What, he asks pointedly, does this say about the Tory party? He points out that Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Jo Johnson, Fraser Nelson and Andrew Neil all defended Young, despite knowing about his foul and dangerous views on this subject.

Up to this video, I was prepared to give Young the benefit of the doubt on eugenics. Yes, he’s an obnoxious, right-wing snob, who’s published pieces sneering at the working class, disabled people and a variety of left-wing issues and causes. This includes the Welsh. I can remember him appearing on one of the TV shows a few years ago describing how he had to sneak out the back way when he appeared on Welsh radio in Cardiff. Young had previously described the Welsh as ‘swarthy, stunted trolls’ or something similar, and one of the station’s listeners had decided that he wasn’t going to put up with it, and had come in to sort the wretched hack out. So Young was forced to scurry down the back stairs to avoid him and a good hiding.

I knew from the various articles on Young, including those put up by Mike over at Vox Political, that he had published a piece arguing for eugenics. This is the pseudoscientific doctrine that some people are biologically unfit, and to maintain the purity and fitness of the race should be prevented from breeding. It was a part of Nazi policy during the Third Reich, when recidivist criminals and the congenitally disabled were sterilised, in order to prevent them passing on their bad biological heritage. It was also the rationale behind the murder of the disabled under Aktion T4, in which the mentally handicapped were taken to special hospitals and gassed by Nazi doctors under the direction of the SS. The Nazis based much of their eugenics legislation on contemporary laws governing biological heredity and disability in America, which provided for the forcible sterilisation of those considered ‘unfit’. Indeed, the Nazis boasted that in this regard, they had not invented anything. Similar views were held by a number of people over this side of the Pond, where eugenics was, in the early part of the 20th century, one of the popular topics among the chattering classes. The Nazis’ crimes against humanity and their mass sterilisation and murder of the disabled, as well as their attempted genocide of Jews, Gypsies, Slavs and other ethnic groups they considered subhuman, were no doubt powerful influences that turned popular and elite opinion against eugenics. Nevertheless, the subject continued to survive amongst a group of supporters. The ‘societies and clubs’ section of Whitaker’s Almanac for 1987 includes the Francis Galton Society, named after Darwin’s cousin, who first promoted the idea, and which existed to promote eugenics.
I’d assumed, however, that when he published the article, Young may not have been entirely serious.

I was wrong.

Young strikes me as little more than a troll, adopting deliberately offensive views and language, in order to upset people. Sort of like Milo Yiannopolis, but heterosexual and without the Jewish heritage. I did wonder if he was one of those Tories, who admire Auberon Waugh, who used to publish similar articles in Private Eye and then the Torygraph sneering at the left, in what was seen by his admirers as some kind of wit. In fact, precious little of what Waugh seemed to me to be at all witty. It mostly seemed to be just abuse. I particularly remember his sneers at teachers in the Torygraph, which in retrospect just followed the Tory line of blaming teachers for everything wrong with British education while screaming loudly about progressive education, left-wing indoctrination and the need to bring back grammar schools. He also appeared on Wogan’s chat show, where he also spewed hate at the Greenham Common female peace protesters, decrying them as ‘lesbians’. Which wasn’t even the most original insult, as just about everyone on the right was claiming they were. Some may well have been, but certainly not all. Especially as some of the early news reports described how many of the women had children, whom they were missing terribly, and so presumably also male partners. I’d assumed Young had adopted eugenics as just another extreme, right-wing pose in order to cause the upset and anger that he appears to thrive on.

But it’s clearly not the case. If he attended this conference, then he really does believe it. Which makes him a positive danger. From the article as it appears in the video, it seems that the report comes from Private Eye, and Chunky Mark states that he can’t even read about some of the things that went on at the conference. But Young was there, along with Nazis and other horrors. As for what it says about the Tory party and its leadership, there always has been a current of extreme right-wing attitudes and policies within the Tory party, and it’s certainly been no barrier to advancement in the Tory ranks. Way back in the 1970s Thatcher’s mentor, Keith Joseph, caused outrage when he declared that unmarried mothers were a threat to ‘our stock’, using the language and attitudes of eugenics. And there has been a fringe of the Tory party that admires and has had links with the Fascist right. Way back in the 1980s one of the Libertarian groups within the Tory party held an annual dinner at which the guest of honour was the head of one of the death squads then exterminating left-wingers in Central America. One of the members of that group, if I recall correctly, was Paul Staines, the founder of the Guido Fawkes blog.

Young has since resigned from his position on the universities’ board, despite being loudly supported by Theresa May. His appointment was, in any case, a calculated insult to students. Young was put in because he favours the privatisation of education, as shown by his promotion of free schools. As for his other, obnoxious views, I’ve no doubt that they appeal to the type of grassroots Tory, including those on the backbenches, who regularly cause a scandal by blaming crime on Blacks and immigration, and rant on about how wonderful Enoch Powell was. At a time when students are worried about paying off tens of thousands in debts and tuition fees, Young and his grotesque opinions were a calculated insult. They showed the Tory faithful the absolute contempt the party really had for these pesky students and their concerns over the quality of the education they were receiving, and the determination of May’s government to continue privatising education and stamping out any trace of perceived left-wing bias, regardless of the wishes of students, lecturers and educationalists themselves. All done so that universities, like schools, would indoctrinate students with the required Tory view of history and politics, as demanded by Michael Gove, amongst others.

Young’s appointment was met with a barrage of complaints and opposition, leading to his resignation. It’s significant that he was not replaced by Theresa May, despite considerable pressure to do so. Some of this may have been weakness on her part. Young was supported by Gove and Johnson, and she may have been afraid that if she sacked Young, those two would move against her, just as they intrigued against Cameron. But it also shows that May, and the rest of the Tory front bench, really don’t see anything wrong with Young’s opinions, even when they include such an inflammatory, dangerous ideology as eugenics.

Chunky Mark ends his video by stating that they should all resign. He’s quite right. This is a brutal, murderous government anyway. It’s policies of stripping away workers rights, enforcing low pay, and zero hours contracts, have forced millions in work into poverty. At the same time, their expansion of the sanctions system have resulted in nearly a quarter of a million people relying on food banks for their next meal, and has led to the deaths of almost a thousand or so disabled people, deprived of benefits after being declared ‘fit for work’. Left-wing commenters like Mike, and the commenters on his and my blogs have called the deaths ‘the genocide of the disabled’, and suggested that it does indeed come from a conscious eugenics policy by the Tories, targeting the disabled for death. But done quietly, so as not to alarm the general public. After reading about Young’s very real support for eugenics, you could be forgiven for wondering if this isn’t, after all, the literal truth.

The Tories are a danger to the working people of Britain, and particularly to the poor and disabled. They should be removed as quickly as possible, and never let back into power.

Producer of Radio 4’s ‘Today’ Programme Promises Guest Editor Will Be AI

September 30, 2017

Sarah Sands, the new producer of Radio 4’s Today current affairs programme got into the news this week because of the controversy over her intention to expand the range of topics the programme covers. Sands has plenty of experience in the arts, but little as a political journalist. She’s already expanded the programme so that its coverage includes the arts, science, culture and fashion. The programme’s got 7 million listeners, and there are fears that she’s dumbing the show down. The I quoted John Humphries as complaining that she was filling it with ‘girls’ stuff’, as well as a fashion designer or journalist, who described how, when he interviewed her, it was clear he had no understanding or interest in the subject.

Sands has also said that she intends to line up a series of guest editors for the show, one of which will be an A.I. This was followed by a quote from her where she said that it was certain that Artificial Intelligence would outstrip human intelligence as sure as night follows day, but should humans bow to the superhumans?

Despite repeated assertions by computer scientists that next year, or perhaps the year after, no, wait, by the mid 2020s, or sometime soon at any rate, computers will be more intelligent than humans, I remain unconvinced. They’ve been saying that ever since I was at school in the 1970s and 80s. And even before then. The philosopher Hubert L. Dreyfus wrote a book, What Computers Still Can’t Do: A Critique of Artificial Intelligence, detailing the repeated failures of the attempt to recreate human-level intelligence in machines. One edition of his book was published 20 years ago in the 1990s, but I’ve still got no doubt that nothing much has changed in the intervening years. And looking round Waterstone’s a little while ago I saw a similar book on the shelves, with the title Humans Are Seriously Underrated.

So I really don’t see computers overtaking human journalists any time soon.

And then there’s the question of who this automated editor will be. Somehow I don’t it will be the great, computer-generated vid jockey, who appeared on Channel 4 in the 1980s: M-M-M-Max … Headroom!

Yes, the AI presenter with the big hair, big suits with massive shoulderpads, and an ego to go with it, as well as a fixation with golf and S-S-Severiano Ball-ll-ll-osteros. And also a massive electronic stutter.

Max was one of the biggest things on TV at one point, talking to Terry Wogan, David Letterman, and had his own chat show, whose guests included Boy George and Rutger Hauer.

Here’s a reminder from YouTube what the big guy was like.

This should be the only AI to guest edit, and front, the Today programme.

And yes, I realise it was actually Matt Frewer in rubber mask, suit, and wig, and the only thing that was really computer generated were the patterns behind him. But even so, he had style. And if you can bring back Elvis by hologram, you should be able to do the job for real and generate Max properly on computer this time.

Credo! Pat Mills on 40 Years of Thrillpower!

September 14, 2017

Pat Mills is one of the great creators of the British comics industry. In this video from 2000 AD on YouTube, he talks to host Tony Esmond about his career in the comics industry, politics and his determination to give readers working class heroes. The interview was at the 40 Years of Thrillpower convention earlier this year (2017).

Mills is best known as one of the creative forces who seriously upset the establishment with Action before going on to reoffend with 2000AD. Before then he started off writing for the 1970s children’s comics, like Corr! The experience of writing for them was not happy for him. He states that the people behind them had no particular interest in them and very much had a production-line mentality to their creation. He describes how one writer once asked him how many stories he could write in a day. When he said about one every two or three days, the other writer boasted that he wrote three in a day. And then went on to say, probably quite truthfully, that he was making more money than the prime minister. Mills states that the writers at IPC were able to do this because they wrote very much to a formula. He preferred the stories their competitors at DC Thompson produced. Although their comics were also stuck in the past, the stories were better crafted. He describes one strip about a man going around the country having adventures with a horse. As a concept, he says it wasn’t even at the level of afternoon television. But it was well done. The IPC comics, on the other hand, were soulless. It depressed him so much, that, when he and John Wagner, who also later went on to become one of the founders of 2000AD, were writing in a garden shed, he wrote all his scripts on a roll of wallpaper so they formed a continuous strip and he wouldn’t have to go back and read them all again.

British comics in this period were very much stuck in the past, even as British society changed. This was a time when the German experience of the war was appearing in the books of Sven Hassel, reflected in Action’s strip, Hellmann of Hammer Force. But yet Mills found it impossible to launch a strip whose hero was Black. This was to be a strip about a Black boxer. He was told that it wouldn’t work. People would not accept a Black hero. They’d accept a Black supporting character or friend. But as the central character, never. He also thought of introducing one about a Black football player, and that would have been even more controversial. There was a Black football player in one of the London clubs at the time, and he had been treated with racist abuse from the balconies.

Politics and satire have always been an important element of Mills’ work. He says that at one point he became dissatisfied writing for 2000AD, as the management were trying to shift the comic away from its traditional satirical stance, and this very much went against Mills’ own nature. He and Esmond discuss at one point Mills’ memory that, when they launched 2000AD, the management told him that they should imagine a future that they would actually live in. And now, he states, they’re living in it with Donald Trump’s presidency of the US, which Mills compares to the infamous Judge Cal. Cal was the mad Chief Judge in Judge Dredd, modelled on Caligula, who appointed his pet fish as a judge, called in the alien Kleggs to suppress any opposition in Mega City 1, and had another judge pickled. Perhaps we need to be very glad that NASA hasn’t made contact with intelligent aliens yet.

Mills remarks on how very many of the heroes of British literature, from Sherlock Holmes to John Buchan’s Hannay, have been members of the upper and upper middle classes. There are too many of them, and too few working class heroes. He’s been actively trying to redress this imbalance in his strips. It’s why Marshal Law, in his alter ego, used to be unemployed, but is now a hospital orderly. He’s not even a nurse.

He states that as he grew up in the ’50s and ’60s, he read many the authors that were around then, like Dennis Wheatley and John Buchan, all of whom were members of the upper classes. And with some of them, it was actually quite sinister. Buchan was a major propagandist for the First World War, in return for which he was rewarded with the governorship of Canada. And he did it very well. Later on in the video, in response to a question from the audience he remarks on how there is a very definite campaign in this country to suppress anything with an anti-war message. He was asked what the research was for his story in Charley’s War about the British invasion of Russia in 1918-19. He states that there were only two books he was able to get hold of at the time, but since then he got hold of a very good book, which is a much fuller description. This describes how the British officers sent in to overturn the Russian Revolution behaved like absolute animals. This episode has largely been airbrushed from British history. He contrasts with the British media’s refusal to publicise anti-war stories with that of our cousins across le manche. Attitudes there are much different, and Charley’s War, which ran in Battle and was about the experiences of a working-class Tommy in the First World War, is more popular in France even than Britain. This bias against anti-war stories is why you didn’t see Blackadder Goes Forth repeated in the centenary year of the War’s outbreak.

Mills is also critical of the way the indigenous mythology and legend of the British Isles has been suppressed in favour of myths from further south – Greece and Rome, and ancient Egypt. Mills’ background, like Kevin O’Neill, was Irish, and his family were very patriotic. He grew up knowing all about Michael Collins, and his middle name is Eamon after the first president of Eire, Eamon de Valera. Yet it wasn’t until he started researching the Irish, as well as the Scots and Welsh legends, that he learned about any of those stories, and was shocked. Why didn’t he know about the warpspasm – the ultra-berserker rage that transforms the Celtic hero Slaine as he goes into battle? He also talks about how, in legend, London was founded by the Trojans as New Troy, and briefly mentions his treatment of this in the story he is or was currently writing for the Slaine strip. He states he wanted to produce a barbarian strip that was set in this country, complete with its grey skies and rain.

Mills has a deep admiration for these Celtic legends, but remarks on how they differ considerably from the other mythological tales. They don’t share their structure. If you read the Norse tales or Beowulf, there’s a structure there. But the Irish – which he uses to include also the Scots and Welsh stories – read like they’re on acid. He’s particularly impressed with the Tain, otherwise known as the Tain Bo Cualnge, or in English, The Cattle Raid of Cooley, and recommends the translation by Kinsella. He’s also particularly interested in finding the bits that were suppressed by the Christian clergy who wrote them down in the Middle Ages. He gleefully quotes one clerical writer, who says that the stories contain much that is true, much that is false, some lies, and some devilish invention, and some which is only fit to be read by idiots. Yeah! he shouts, that’s me!

He has the same mischievous joy when telling how he came to be persuaded to write the Invasion strip, in which Britain was invaded by a thinly disguised Soviet Russia. The management asked him if he wanted to write it. He said he couldn’t get up much enthusiasm. They urged him to read Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. So he worked his way as best he could through that. He still wasn’t enthusiastic. Then they asked him if he’d like to write a scene with Maggie Thatcher being shot by the Russians on the steps of St. Paul’s. His response: Yeahhh!

He also talks about how the brutal education he received at a school run by the De Lazare order inspired him to write the Nemesis the Warlock strip. The Terminators, and to a lesser extent Judge Dredd, were modelled on them. They were fanatical, and were quite sinister. He remarks that if you go on the internet you can find all sorts of tales about them.

He also talks about an abortive crossover story planned for Marshal Law and Batman. Marshal Law was a bitterly satirical, extremely violent and very funny strip published in the 1990s about a superhero in the devastated San Francisco of the early 21st century, who hates other superheroes. The superheroes in the strip were created for a Vietnam-like war in South America, and have come back disillusioned and traumatized by the conflict. As a result, they form violent street gangs, and Marshal Law is recruited by the police to clean them up. It was a very dark comic that relentlessly parodied superhero comics from a left-wing, feminist perspective. When DC announced they wanted to make the crossover, Mills thought that they weren’t really serious. But they were. So he and O’Neill decided that for the cover, they’d have the Marshal standing on a pile of bodies of the different versions of Batman from all across the alternative Earths of the Multiverse. Then DC’s management changed, and their story policy did too, and the idea was dropped.

Mills also discusses the various ways comics have been launched, only to be merged with other comics. With 2000AD the comic was merged with Tornado and then Starlord. It was a very cynical policy, as from the first these comics were intended to fail, but by merging them with 2000AD and other comics, the management presented it as giving their readers something new, even though it wasn’t, and they felt it was an intrusion. He also responds to another question about which comic he felt folded before its time. The obvious answer to this was Action, which upset the establishment so much that it was banned, before being sanitized and relaunched. Mills said that they knew the comic was doomed. The new editor, who was given control of it had previously edited – and this is almost unbelievable – Bobo the Rabbit – and so didn’t know what he was doing. Mills said that before then they had skated over what was just about unacceptable and knew just how far you could go. Because this new editor hadn’t had that experience, he didn’t, and the comic folded.

The comic that he really feels shouldn’t have folded, and could still have carried on today, was Battle. As for which comic he’d now be working on instead of 2000AD, if it had proved more successful, these were the girls’ comics, like Misty. They vastly outsold the boys’ comics, but ultimately folded because ‘the boys took over the sandbox’. The video ends with his answer to the question, ‘What is his favourite strip, that he wrote for?’ He thinks for a moment, before replying Nemesis the Warlock to massive cheering.

It’s a very interesting perspective on the British comics industry by one of its masters. Regarding Slaine, Mills has said before in his introduction to the Titan book, Slaine the King: Special Edition, that the achievements of our ancestors, the Celtic peoples, has been rubbed out of history in favour of the ‘stern but fair proto-Thatcherite Romans, who built the roads and made the chariots run on time’. I think part of the problem is that the legends Mills draws on – that of Gaelic Ireland and Scotland, and Brythonic Wales – are those of the Celtic peoples, who were defeated by the expanding Anglo-Normans, who made a concerted attempt to suppress their culture. As for the very frank admiration for the Romans, that partly comes from the classics-based education offered by the British public schools.

As for the very staid attitude of British comics in the 1970s, this was a problem. It was actually a period of crisis, when many of the comics were folding because they hadn’t moved with the times. Mills’ idea for a strip about a Black boxer is clearly modelled on Mohammed Ali, the great African-American athlete of the ring. Everyone knew Ali, and he was universally admired, even by kids like me, who didn’t understand or know much about the racial politics behind Ali’s superstardom. Ali said that he wanted to give his people a hero.

Even so, the idea of having a sympathetic Black supporting character was an improvement. Roger Sabin, in his book Comics, Comix and Graphic Novels: A History of Comic Art, published by Phaidon, notes just how racist British comics were in the 1960s. This was very controversial, as Black people naturally objected. Sabin cites one strip, in which the White hero uses two racial slurs for Blacks, and another abusive term for Gypsies. And showing the type of strips that appeared in the 1920s, there’s an illustration which shows the Black characters from a strip in one of D.C. Thompson’s comics, either the Dandy or Beano at the time. This was The Colony N*gs. Only they don’t use an asterisk to try to disguise the term.

As for his experiences with the monks running his school, unfortunately he’s not the only one, who suffered in this way. I’ve met a number of former Roman Catholics, who were turned off religion, and in some cases became bitterly against it, because of their experience being taught by monks and nuns. Several of Britain’s most beloved broadcasters from the Emerald Isle were also turned off religion because of this. Dave Allen, who regularly poked fun at religion, and particularly the Roman Catholic church, said that he became an atheist because of the cruelty and the way the priests tried to scare their young charges at his old school. And that mainstay of British radio, Terry Wogan, in a series he presented about Ireland and his life there, said exactly the same about the effect the hard attitude of the teachers at his old Roman Catholic school had on him.

The Roman Catholic church does not have the monopoly on the abuse of children, and I’ve heard some horrifying tales of the brutal behavior of some of the teaching staff – and prefects – in some of the British grammar schools. Dad has told me about the very harsh regime of some of the teachers at his old school – not Roman Catholic – in Somerset. He describes the teachers as sadists, and has a story about how one of the teachers, when one of the boys couldn’t answer a question, threw the lad out of window. Brutality seems to have been built into the British educational system, leaving mental scars and bitter memories.

I’ve very mixed feelings about the British force sent against revolutionary Russia. Perhaps if we’d succeeded, the forty million Soviet citizens butchered by Stalin would have been able to live out their lives, and the peoples of the Russian Federation free of the shadow of the KGB and gulags.

But that’s with hindsight. That’s not why British troops were sent in. The Bolsheviks were anti-democratic and determined to suppress all other parties and factions except their own, even when these were Socialist or anarchist, like the Mensheviks, the Trudoviks, the Socialist Revolutionaries the Left Communists, Anarcho-Communists and syndicalists. But we sent in troops because Britain and the rest of the capitalist world felt threatened by the emergence of a working class, aggressively socialist state. Britain had many commercial contacts with pre-Revolutionary Russia, and Lenin had argued in his pamphlet Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism that global capitalism depended on European imperial expansion. These nations enslaved and exploited developing nations like Russia. A socialist revolution in these countries threatened international capitalism, as it was here that the capitalist system was weakest. Hence the Bolshevik slogan, ‘Smash capitalism at its weakest link!’

Ordinary Russians, let alone the conquered nations of the Russian Empire, were oppressed and exploited. If you want an idea how much, and what ordinary Russians endured and struggled to overthrow, read Lionel Kochan’s book, The Russian Revolution, published by Paladin. This was the grotty system British troops were sent in to restore.

On a more positive note, one member of the audience in the video thanks Mills for encouraging him to read. The man says he was dyslexic, but it was the comics he consumed as a child that got him reading. He is now a teacher, who specializes in helping children with reading difficulties, and uses comics in his teaching.

This is really inspiring. Martin Barks in Comics, Ideology and Power, discusses how comics have always been regarded with suspicion and contempt by the establishment. They were regarded as rubbish, at best. At worst they were seen as positively subversive. I can remember how one of the text books we used in English at school included a piece of journalism roundly condemning comics as rubbish literature with bad artwork. And this was reprinted in the 1980s! My mother, on the other hand, was in favour of comics because they did get children reading, and used to encourage the parents of the children she taught to buy them when they asked her advice on how they could get their children to read if they wouldn’t read books. This shows how far comics have come, so that they are now respectable and admired.

Vox Political: If We Pay to Stay in Single Market, What’s the Point of Brexit?

December 2, 2016

Another interesting article Mike put up yesterday questioned the reasons behind Brexit after David Davies announced that to get the best deal out of the EU, we should pay for access for the single market. Mike makes the point that the leave campaign was all about removing the protections in EU legislation for British workers. He also makes the very good point that big business won’t pay the bill for making sure they still have access to the single market. Ordinary Brits will. And he urges us to write to our MPs to state that we don’t want to pay just so big business can make big bucks from exploiting us.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/01/if-the-uk-is-willing-to-pay-to-stay-in-the-single-market-why-leave-the-eu-at-all/

Mike’s absolutely right. This is what the ‘Leave’ campaign and Tory euroscepticism is all about. It has precious little to do with opposition to the Common Market. I can remember back in the late 1980s or early 1990s Terry Wogan had a Conservative MP as a guest on his chat show. This was the EU and Britain’s contribution was a matter of heated controversy under Thatcher, as were the proposals for the European Union to be established in 1992. This particular politico was very much in favour of the Common Market, but very definitely against the European Social Charter. That’s the part of the EU’s constitution that protects the rights of workers, women and ethnic minorities. And his opposition shows the real reason the Tories resented the EU, and were so desperate to have us leave.

Behind all the rubbish about taking back our sovereignty and combating immigration is the reality that the Tories saw it as an obstacle to further impoverishing and disenfranchising this country’s working people. That’s the reality behind David Davies’ and his colleagues’ stance against the European Union.

Trade Unions and Works Councils in Britain and the Continent

May 8, 2016

I’ve posted up a number of pieces describing and arguing for a system of works councils in Britain similar to those in Germany, Austria and Sweden, which give workers in companies representation on the boardroom and at other levels, including the factory floor. I found a description of them and how they work in Colin Crouch’s Trade Unions: The Logic of Collective Action, published by Fontana in 1982. Crouch’s book is a sociological study of trade unions, which amongst other issues examines the question of when and how trade unionists decide to go on strike and the entire decision-making process around industrial disputes, trade union membership – why some people join unions while others don’t, government policies towards the unions and so on. Of workers’ councils, he writes

But some industrial relations take a different form. Instead of confronting each other ‘across the table’ with demands and threats of sanctions, seeing their interests in conflict, managers and union representatives may tackle what they see as common problems, with a mutual interest at stake. The belief that such an arrangement can provide either a supplement or an alternative to bargaining has often led various social actors to establish joint committees, works councils and other devices for consultation and worker participation which will embody the idea. After the First world War a committee of the House of Commons chaired by the Speaker, Mr Whitley, proposed the establishment of consultative committees on these lines throughout Britain in order to reduce the prevailing intense conflict between employers and workers. The plan collapsed as, during the depression, most employers decided that they need not bother with such devices since high unemployment was doing enough to make their workers forget conflict. However, the idea persisted within the public services, where ‘Whitley councils’ still exist today, though they have become normal collective-bargaining channels. A similar initiative followed the Second World War; committees for ‘joint consultation’ were established in many industries and it was generally agreed that this provided a second limb of British industrial relations, equal in importance to, but quite distinct from collective bargaining. This gradually faded in importance as shop stewards in an increasing range of firms and industries extended collective bargaining to cover many of the issues supposed to be dealt with by joint consultation, though there has been some evidence of a revival during the current recession, signification as shop stewards’ movements have been weakened (Department of Employment Gazette, 1981).

Elaborate consultation schemes involving representatives of management of employees, usually called works councils, exist in some British firms, most noticeably in ICI Ltd, but in most Western European countries these exist as a legal requirement in factories over a certain size, and employers are required to consult the workforce within this forum on certain prescribed issues. More ambitious schemes for involving workers’ representatives in non-conflictual participation are those involving worker-representation on company boards, such as was proposed for Britain, though without practical effect, in the report of the Bullock Committee (Bullock, 1977). In West Germany such a scheme has existed since the 1950s, being strengthened in 1976: worker-representatives comprise up to 50 per cent of the supervisory boards of all companies over a certain size. In that country and in Austria there are also work councils (Betreibsrate) which differ from those found elsewhere in Europe in that they comprise worker-representatives alone, not workers and managers; these councils have some signification powers of veto over aspects of management policy, and rights to consultation the receipt of information over many others.

In each case these participative or consultative forums, to which I shall refer generally as concertation, exist alongside normal collective bargaining. While the latter deals with wages and conditions and is assumed to involve conflict, the former tackle various issues of company policy, especially those affecting employment and workers’ welfare, and are supposed to be free of conflict.

It is an interesting issue of debate whether concertation constitutes a further step along the road towards even more institutionalization of conflict. In terms of Dahrendorf’s theory, I think one has to answer no; rather than institutionalizing conflict, these devices try to exclude it, at least from those areas which are seen ripe for consultation or participation rather than bargaining. Worker-representatives with a works council are not empowered to back their demands by strike threats; German Betriebsrate are required by law to co-operate with management and are not permitted to call strikes. In Dahrendorf’s study of German (1965), which is largely a criticism of that country for its continued fear of conflict, he used the preference for Mitbestimmung (that is, co-determination, the principle embodied in both Betriebsrate and worker membership of supervisory boards) as evidence of devices for conflict avoidance rather than institutionalization.
(Pp. 109-111).

He provides a few further details of the responsibilities of these councils on page 150, where he writes

A more formalized sharing in control is found in German industry. There, works councils consisting entirely of worker-representatives have a legal veto over several areas of plant- and company-level decision-making (such as overtime working, dismissals, certain working conditions) and a right to share control with management over other issues (such as redundancies and future employment policy). Further, in larger German companies workers have up to one half representation on the supervisory board of the company, with the same rights as other directors to information and decision-making. On a different model again, it is possible for workers to own and control firms themselves, without either a capitalist entrepreneur or the state intervening. This form of ownership is called producers’ co-operatives, and is found in many different countries, though usually only as a very small component of the total pattern of employment. (P. 150).

So instead of opting for confrontation, the Germans chose to include workers in factory management, though hedged about with certain legal restrictions against calling strike action. My guess is that such councils have probably played a part in the ‘social peace’ that has contributed to the German wirtschaftswunder. It also contrasts very strongly with the Thatcherite desire to remove as many rights as possible from workers, and grind them down as far as possible in order to have a compliant, and fearful workforce.

And I wonder how far the existence of such councils and similar power-sharing organisations and arrangements across Europe have stoked the fears about Europe underlying the Brexit campaign. Despite Farage’s rhetoric about immigration, one of the major unspoken cause of Tory hostility to the EU is the Social Charter. This grants European workers some basic rights. One Tory politico, who appeared on Wogan back in the 1980s openly stated that he liked the EU when it was the ‘Common Market’. This was a good thing. But the drafting of the Social Charter was a Bad Thing that should be got rid of. UKIP and the Tories hope that by leaving Europe, they can force an already prostrate working class to accept further degradation and impoverishment that would be unacceptable in the European Union, in order to make us a sweatshop economy like those in the Developing World.

Vox Political: Alan Johnson Claims Pressure from Labour Party Stopped Cameron Giving Away Workers’ Rights in European Deal

February 21, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has posted a piece from the LabourList. Labour’s Alan Johnson has claimed that it was pressure from the Labour party that stopped Cameron trading away the rights of British workers as part of the recent negotiations in Brussels. Alan Johnson then goes on to make the point that the Labour party is united and shall be campaigning to keep us in. See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/20/labour-stopped-cameron-trading-away-workers-rights-says-johnson-labourlist/

I see absolutely no reason to disbelieve this. The chief Tory objection to the EU, apart from the current immigration crisis, is the Social Charter. This is the part of the EU constitution that guarantees certain rights for European workers. It’s this they hate with a passion. I can remember being very unimpressed way back in the 1980s when a Tory politico appeared on Wogan’s talk show. He was in favour of the EC as a ‘common market’, as it was called in the 1s970s, but made no secret that he thought the Social Charter was bad, and that Maggie should try and get it repealed.

This is the motivation behind much of the Tories’ hatred of the EC. Don’t let the debate over immigration sidetrack you. Yes, the Tories genuinely hate immigration. But they really hate the Social Charter. That also really sticks in their collective gizzards. But you aren’t going to hear about that from Laura Kuenssberg and her fellow Tory apparatchiks and collaborators at the Beeb and in the rest of the media.

Kipper Bill Etheridge Wants Return of Caning in Schools

March 20, 2015

This is another meme from the Hope Not Hate Facebook page, The Real UKIP, I found over at the SlatUKIP site.

Etheridge Corporal Punishment

UKIP’s candidate for the West Midlands, Bill Etheridge, amongst his other bizarre and reactionary views, wishes to see the return of corporal punishment in schools.

He isn’t the only one. A lot of people of a certain age get misty-eyed and nostalgic for the old days of corporal punishment. ‘I got the cane’, they say, ‘and it never did me any harm.’ In their view, only the threat of corporal punishment will solve the problem of the lack of discipline, disruptive and even violent behaviour in schools.

This is a real problem, and you can hear some horrifying stories of teachers that have been physically attacked, sometimes suffering serious injury, by aggressive and violent pupils. There have even been notorious cases where a teacher has been murdered by one of their pupils.

To add insult to injury, teachers are further demoralised by the lack of support given by their headmasters and politicians. One teacher, who wrote about his experiences spending a year as a supply teacher in some of the poorest performing schools, described how demoralising it was, when, after complaining about a violent or aggressive pupil, the headmaster called them into examine the situation. Rather than disciplining the pupil, the head teacher simply took the approach that the teacher must some how have been also wrong.

And when the authorities have been asked how teachers are supposed to deal with disruptive pupils when the only sanctions they have against them are suspension and expulsion, their response has simply been to say something on the lines of ‘Be better teachers.’

This is simply not good enough.

Corporal punishment, however, probably isn’t the answer. If you also talk to member of the older generation, you can also hear some grim stories about what it was like at school in the mid-twentieth century, when teachers had the power to strike and beat their charges. My father went to one of the better schools in Somerset, and he describes some of the teaching staff there as violent sadists. Apart from caning and blows for even the most minor infraction, he also describes how one teacher, exasperated by one pupil’s lack of understanding in the French class, threw the lad out of a window.

The great Irish comedian, Dave Allen, was an atheist, who was very critical at times of the Roman Catholic church. He once explained his dislike of the Church came from his experience of the extremely strict discipline he’d endured as a pupil at one of the Church’s schools in Ireland. Hence remarks like, ‘The nuns – God’s stormtroopers.’

Other TV personalities have had the same experience. Terry Wogan, one of Britain’s favourite broadcasters, was on cable/ satellite TV this week in a half-hour programme about his home country. He was touring the land of Ireland, from Eire to Ulster, in a taxi, taking in Dublin, Limerick, Galway, Londonderry/Derry, and Belfast. In one episode, he returned to his old school, meeting up with his old school friends, and chewing the fat about their experiences. Like Dave Allen, he described how the school, in the person of Fr. McGlochglan, tried to put the fear of God into their students. He stated that, rather than strengthening his faith, it left him with no great love for the Church and its teachings. Later, talking to a priest, who he used to have on his radio show in Ireland, El Tel said he was an atheist.

I’ve heard much the same from members of my own family. One of my uncles was lapsed Roman Catholic. Although technically a member of the Church, he never practised because he had been put off by the viciousness of the monks, who taught him at school.

And it wasn’t just the Roman Catholic church. One of my friends had the dubious benefit of being privately educated. I can remember being surprised by his views on corporal punishment when I was talking about the issue one day at College. My friend is certainly no rebellious firebrand by any stretch of the imagination, yet he was firmly against the return of corporal punishment because of the sadistic behaviour of his headmaster. The man would can children for even the slightest fault, such as having a tie that wasn’t straight.

There is a problem with disruptive behaviour and violence in schools, but the solution isn’t corporal punishment. There’s a lot of pressure on schoolchildren already, with the requirement to do well at their sats and the other tests, which successive governments have seen fit to burden them. But apart from teaching them to pass exams, the goal of education should be to develop their talents. Stephen Fry attacking the Tories’ education policies under Maggie or John Major cited the Latin root of the word e-ducere: to lead out. The aim of education should be to lead out and develop the child and his or her talents and interests. Every good teacher not only wants to teach their subject, but to see their pupils actively enjoy it.

Corporal punishment and the vicious, sadistic discipline inflicted on past generations of children doesn’t do this. It has made too many children hate school, and the teachers and institutions that inflicted it. Bill Etheridge is simply wrong. On the other hand, if you want a new generation of beaten, brutalised, twitching and resentful ex-school kids, then he’s clearly the man for the job.

Farage: Leading the Party from the Saloon Bar

March 6, 2015

I found this satirical piccie of the Fuhrage from Hope Not Hate on the SlatUKIP page.

Pub Farage

It comes after Farage appeared the other day on ITV’s Loose Women. They asked him if he had any regrets about his beer and cigarettes image, to which he gave the answer shown above.

This just about confirms what many comedians and satirists have been saying already: that UKIP make up all their policies in bar room of men-only golf clubs.

Other comments Farage made on the programme didn’t go down to well with its female audience either. Discussing the lack of women in the boardroom, he denied that this was due to sex discrimination. The hedge fund generalissimo declared that women were indeed equal to men, and that a woman could rise to a position of senior management. However, they were held back by taking time off work to have families. This prevented them from moving with the rest of the ‘pack’, and so when they returned they earned less. He recognised that there were more men leaving work to raise the children, but said it was quite natural that women earned less when they came back to work. Those women, who did manage to break the glass ceiling to get to boardroom level were those, who didn’t have children and chose to concentrated on their career.

This had various female politicians asking the vital question on Twitter whether Farage was ‘for real’. I’m afraid he is.

The lack of women in positions of senior management is another point of contention at the moment. It’s been widely debated in business circles, and some Conservatives have supposedly mooted more measures to allow more women to gain seats on the board and create a ‘female-friendly’ business environment. A few years ago there was a drama on either BBC 3 or BBC 4, about a woman in a financial company, who finds herself the victim of a campaign of sexist and misogynist abuse after she return to work to concentrate on her career after having children. The programme was designed to raise awareness of the problem, and those women I know, who saw it were left seething at such injustice.
Farage’s comments about women in the boardroom will have done very little to endear him to women concerned at this unfair situation.

It is, however, of a par with the Kipper’s attitude towards women generally, which is deeply sexist. For example, if the Kippers get in, one of their policies will be to end maternity leave, along with a whole other raft of workers’ rights legislation going right back to the Victorians.

There is absolute no reason why any woman, or indeed anyone from the working and lower middle classes generally, should vote UKIP. Indeed, there are more than enough reasons to vote against them.

As for spending five or six hours a day in the pub, you actually wonder what Farage is doing in there. Someone pointed out on Terry Wogan’s weekday talk show back in the 1980s that the real movers and shakers of politics tend to drink very little. Maggie Thatcher was a case in point. They want to keep a clear head so they know exactly what’s going on around them, and can make the right decisions. I doubt Farage is really any different, for all the beer and ciggies blokey image.

Of course, he might be different, in which case if the Tories don’t win again, and choose them as their coalition partners, we can expect the country to be run from the inside of a pub by people stumbling around, getting maudlin drunk and saying to each other, ‘You’re my best mate, you are. You know what we ought to do? Give the workers a good kicking and boot the foreigners out! I’ll get the next round in.’