Posts Tagged ‘Vaccination’

Shaw’s Classic Defence of Socialism for Women Part Four

May 16, 2020

George Bernard Shaw, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism, foreword by Polly Toynbee (London: Alma Classics 2012).

Conclusion

While this a great book I immensely enjoyed, it also very much the product of its time. Shaw is unrealistic and more than a little sectarian himself in his advocacy of the equalization of incomes. He regards it as the real, fundamental goal of socialism and that unless they too believe in it, others advocating nationalisation aren’t real socialists. But the Soviets and various other socialist groups have tried the equalisation of incomes, and it didn’t work. But nevertheless, even if wages shouldn’t be exactly the same, the differences in wealth should very definitely be far less than they are now.

Similarly, I don’t entirely agree with his views on the unions. Now other socialists also struggled with the problems they posed for working class power. Trade unions by themselves aren’t socialist organisations. Their role is to fight for better wages and conditions for the workers, not to replace capitalism, and Lenin himself pondered how workers could go from ‘trade union consciousness’ to socialism. In the 1980s it was found that trade unionists often voted Tory, because of the improved quality of life they enjoyed. But the unions are nevertheless vital working class organisations and are rightly at the heart of the Labour party, and have provided countless working class leaders and politicians.

Shaw was right about the coal mines, and his description of the results of the great differences in viability between them and the comparative poverty or wealth of the mining companies was one of the reasons they were nationalised by Labour under Clement Attlee.  He’s also right about nationalising the banks. They don’t provide proper loans for the small businessman, and their financial shenanigans have resulted, as Shaw noted in his own day, in colossal crashes like that of 2008. He is also right about the rich sending their money abroad rather than contributing to the British economy. In his time it was due to imperialism, and there is still a hangover from this in that the London financial sector is still geared to overseas rather than domestic investment. It’s why Neil Kinnock advocated the establishment of a British investment bank in 1987. Now, in the early 21st century, they’re also saving their money in offshore tax havens, and British manufacturers have been undercut and ruined through free trade carried out in the name of globalisation.

His arguments about not nationalising industries before everything has been properly prepared, and the failures of general strikes and revolutions are good and commonsense. So is his recommendation that capitalism can drive innovation. On the other hand, it frequently doesn’t and expects the state to bail it out or support it before it does. I also agreed with Shaw when he said that companies asking for government subsidies shouldn’t get them unless the gave the government a part share in them. That would solve a lot of problems, especially with the outsourcing companies. They should be either nationalised or abolished.

I can’t recommend the book without qualifications because of his anti-religious views. Shaw also shows himself something of a crank when it comes to vaccination. As well as being a vegetarian and anti-vivisectionist, which aren’t now anywhere near as remarkable as they once were, he’s against vaccination. There are parts of the book which are just anti-vaxxer rants, where he attacks the medical profession as some kind of pseudo-scientific priesthood with sneers at the religion of Jenner. He clearly believes that vaccination is the cause of disease, instead of its prevention. I don’t know if some of the primitive vaccinations used in his time caused disease and death, but it is clear that their absence now certainly can. Children and adults should be vaccinated because the dangers of disease are far, far worse.

Shaw also has an unsentimental view of the poor. He doesn’t idealise them, as poor, ill-used people can be terrible themselves, which is why poverty itself needs to be eradicated. In his peroration he says he looks forward to the poor being exterminated along with the rich, although he has a little more sympathy for them. He then denies he is a misanthrope, and goes on to explain how he likes people, and really wants to see people growing up in a new, better, classless socialist future.

While I have strong reservations about the book, it is still well-worth reading, not least because of Shaw’s witty turns of phrase and ability to lampoon of capitalism’s flagrant absurdities. While I strongly reject his anti-religious views, his socialist ideas, with a few qualifications, still hold force. I wish there were more classic books on socialism like this in print, and widely available so that everyone can read them.

Because today’s capitalism is very much like the predatory capitalism of Shaw’s age, and becoming more so all the time.

 

 

 

Kate Maltby Smears Corbyn and his Supporters as Conspiracy Theorists

August 25, 2019

Last Thursday, 22nd August 2019, Kate Maltby decided to give us all the benefit of her views on Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and the ‘Trumpification of British politics’ in the pages of the I. She opined that both BoJo and Corbyn were like the megalomaniac manbaby over the other side of the pond. She was also irritated by the fact that the similarity between Corbyn and Trump hadn’t been picked up by the public in the same way the similarity between Johnson and Trump had. She then went on to whine that both Trump and Corbyn’s politics were based in conspiracy theories undermining western democratic politics, conspiracies which she thought came straight from Putin and the Kremlin. She wrote

Yet to those of us hwo have followed Corbyn’s rise closely, the sight of him comparing any other politician to Donald Trump felt like an act of such shamelessness that it might only be matched by the Ponzi President himself. If there is a single line running through Tump’s politics, it is the practice of rule by conspiracy theory. Yet it is from those who believe that the existing democratic order is essentially a conspiracy that Corbyn also draws his base. As researcher Peter Pomerantsev writes in his superb new book, This Is Not Propaganda, “we live in a world of mass persuasion run amok, where the means of manipulation have gone forth and multiplied”. The digital imprint of the Russian state has been particularly successful in undermining the confidence of voters in western democracies in our own democratic norms and even our ability as voters to understand our political realities.

The analyst Ben Nimmo has summed up the Russian approach to disinformation as “dismiss, distort, distract, dismay”. Hence, the birth of a whole new online culture populated by voters who don’t even share a basic epistemology with existing “elites”. Johnson and the Brexit campaign benefited most clearly from this crisis of trust, but so does their fellow Eurosceptic, Jeremy Corbyn. Track the pro-Corbyn and pro-Trump networks online, and you’ll find a commitment to anti-vax theories that tell you the Government wants to make your children ill. Johnson, to his anti-Trumpist credit, has just announced a campaign to counter this particular theory.

Both are surrounded by supporters who trade in conspiracy theories about Jews. While Corbyn’s party is under formal investigation for anti-Semitism, only this week Trump was manically R’Ting the conspiracy anti-evangelical Wayne Allyn Root, who attacked Jewish Democrats for not supporting him.

She then goes on to take Corbyn to task for not coming down hard enough on the Russians about the Skripal poisoning, and for using the memory of the lies over the Gulf War to cast doubt on the Russian’s guilt.

This is all shameless bilge and propaganda itself. The I also reviewed Pomerantsev’s book, and declared that while it was very good on the subject of Russian propaganda, there was very little material about how the West also manipulates information.

And manipulate it the West certainly does. The conspiracy magazine Lobster has been showing since the beginning of the 1980s how the British and American secret state and other covert organisations have manipulated information and worked secretly to influence state policy to their advantage. During the Cold War there was an entire department, the IRD, or Information Research Department set up within the British state to counter Russian and other enemy propaganda. It also tried to undermine the Labour party by producing disinformation and fake texts linking Labour politicians with the IRA and Soviet espionage. And we’ve seen this campaign start up again under the Tories in the form of the Integrity Initiative, with its extensive links to British intelligence and the cyberwarfare division of the SAS producing smears trying to link Corbyn to the Russians. When various right-wing loons and shameless liars haven’t been trying to claim that Corbyn was somehow an agent for the Czechs.

That the British secret state has also done its best to undermine democracy is solid fact. Britain’s disinformation campaign against its foreign enemies is the subject of a book, Disrupt and Deny: Spies, Special Forces, and the Secret Pursuit of British Foreign Policy, by Rory Cormac, (Oxford: OUP 2018). The blurb for this reads

It has long been an open secret that British leaders use spies and special forces to interfere in the affairs of others-as discreetly as deniably as possible.

Since 1945, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, has spread misinformation designed to divide and discredit targets from the Middle East to Eastern Europe and Northern Ireland. It has instigated whispering campaigns and planted false evidence on officials working behind the Iron Curtain, whilst GCHQ now uses the internet to undermine terrorist recruiters. MI6 has tried to foment revolution in Albania, and to instigate coups in Congo, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran. It has sabotaged ships to prevent the passage of refugees to Israel, secretly funnelled aid to insurgents in Afghanistan, and launched cultural and economic warfare, not only against Cold War enemies such as Communist Czechoslovakia, but also NATO allies.

Through bribery and blackmail, Britain has rigged elections as colonies moved to independence. It has fought secret wars in Yemen, Indonesia, and Oman-and discreetly used special forces to eliminate enemies, from colonial Malaya to Libya during the Arab Spring. This is the world of covert action: a vital, though controversial tool of statecraft and perhaps the most sensitive of all government activity. If used wisely, it can play an important role in pursuing national interests in a dangerous world. If used poorly, it can cause political scandal-or worse.

In Disrupt and Deny, Rory Cormac tells the remarkable true story of Britain’s secret scheming against her enemies, as well as her friends. He uncovers a world of intrigue and manoeuvring within the darkest corridors of Whitehall, where officials fought to maintain control of this most sensitive and seductive work. A fascinating tale of covert operations in its own right, it is also the story of Britain’s attempt over the decades to use smoke and mirrors to mask its decline as global power.

As readers of this blog will be aware, it’s blatantly untrue that Corbyn and his supporters, or at least the vast majority of them, have conspiracy theories about Jews. What they are aware of is the way accusations of anti-Semitism have been levelled at Corbyn and the Labour left for purely political reasons. The Right, including the Blairites in the party, like Tom Watson and John Mann, are using it to try to maintain the Thatcherite status quo. And the Israel lobby is doing it simply to smear and discredit anyone critical of that nation’s apartheid system and its slow-motion ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

I am at a loss, however, to know where Maltby got the idea that Corbynists are opponents of vaccination. The American anti-vaxxers, from what I’ve seen, tend to be on the political right, Conservatives and Libertarians. The kind of people who watch Alex Jones’ InfoWars and have the same bizarre ideas of ‘Purity Of Essence’ as the mad American general Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War satire, Dr. Strangelove. The type of people, who think putting fluoride in the water is a globalist plot, and any kind of welfare state is a horrendous Commie assault on democracy. Definitely not the kind of people, who support Jeremy Corbyn. In fact, it looks like the accusation is simply a shameless invention of Maltby herself.

I’m not surprised that Maltby has come out with this lying screed. Along with her CV, in which she informs us she’s written for The Financial TimesThe Spectator, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The TLS, The Times, and The New Statesman, and appeared on various TV and radio programmes, she also declares that

Much of what I’ve gleaned about the workings of Westminster I’ve learned from my time on the team behind Bright Blue, the liberal Conservative pressure group and think tank. 

See: http://www.katemaltby.com/about-me/

She’s a Tory, and the only difference I can make out between ‘liberal’ and right-wing Tories, is that the ‘liberals’ are less open in their hatred of the poor and disabled, and their determination to punish, humiliate and kill them. Oh yes, and their better at deceiving the Tory rank and file that they don’t want to destroy the welfare state and privatise the health service.

She’s just another right-wing hack, upset and irritated by the fact that an increasingly media-savvy public are aware of how much the lamestream media is manipulated by corporate and right-wing political interests. And she’s just following a well-worn media path by trying to link Corbyn and his supporters to anti-Semitism, conspiracy theories and the Russians. It’s time she, and the various shameless hacks like her, were given the boot. Then people might start believing in their politicians and their media.

 

Private Eye’s Biased Reporting of Power Struggle in Socialist Health Association

March 1, 2019

This fortnight’s Private Eye, for 22nd February – 7th March 2019 ran an article by ‘Ratbiter’ about a messy power struggle for struggle of the moribund Socialist Health Authority. This blamed its current leader, Dr Alex Scott-Samuel, for taking it to the point of death. Dr Scott-Samuel was described as a conspiracy theorist, who appeared alongside anti-vaxxer Andrew Wakefield on a show broadcast on David Icke’s forum and had unjustly attempted to get one of his Association’s employees, its director Martin Rathfelder, sacked.

The article, ‘Socialist Malaise’ ran

The once respected Socialist Health Association is looking peaky. If not dead, it’s certainly in a coma. 

The Association campaigned for the creation of the NHS in 1948 and has fought to defend free healthcare at the point of use ever since. But it hasn’t published a policy statement since 2017, and calls to its office are likely to go unanswered since it sacked its only staff member last year. Who could have brought a proud campaign group to the brink of death? Step forward Dr Alex Scott-Samuel, chair of Liverpool Wavertree Labour party.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell assured worried Labour supporters that Scott-Samuel and his comrades were drying to get Luciana Berger MP deselected (prior to Berger leaving Labour of her own accord) not because they were anti-Semites, but because of “other issues”. These honeyed words became harder to swallow when it became clear Scott-Samuel had made comments promoting a “Rothschild” conspiracy theory that led Liverpool University to emphasise last week that it no longer employed him.

Scott-Samuel’s arrival at the Socialist Health Association was part of a wider move by Jeremy Corbyn supporters into Labour’s 20 affiliated socialist societies. They have a seat on the party’s national executive committee (NEC), which is handy as Labour fights its civil wars. More significantly, the societies have impressive voting rights in local Labour parties. A minimal presence in a constituency gives the Socialist Health Association the right to send five delegates to the local Labour party and help purge the sitting MP and councillors, should they so desire.

Martin Rathfelder, the association’s direct, told the Eye that “everything changed” when Scott-Samuel and friends took over the association in 2017. As a neutral officer, Rathfelder said his job was to encourage doctors and nurses to stand for election. “They really didn’t like that,” he said. “They saw it as me threatening their control.”

Scott-Samuel saw his chance to strike when Rathfelder lost his temper with a YMCA worker in Crewe who was refusing to let members into a hall the association had booked. He sacked Rathfelder for “being abusive” and encouraging “candidates to run against a sitting officer”. The purge ended in fiasco. Unison was appalled and withdrew its funding from the association. Rathfelder appealed and secured a very generous settlement-so generous that the association has been unable to hire a replacement.

Even though it is now a moribund organisation, surely Scott-Samuel can still defend public health in a personal capacity as a good socialist must? He had that chance in his latest appearance on The Richie Allen Show (broadcast on conspiracist David Icke’s forum) when he was on air alongside a supporter of discredited anti-vaxxer Andrew Wakefield. Once upon a time the Lancet, Private Eye and most of the national press took Wakefield’s claims that the MMR vaccine might cause autism seriously-but now every sensible person accepts Wakefield is a fraud. Not so Scott-Samuel. When presented with a chance to warn parents that listening to the anti-vaxxers could put their (and other) children’s lives in danger, he ducked it for fear of offending his fellow conspiracists.

At a time of mounting concern about mental illness, social care, obesity and measles epidemics, the Socialist Health Association is now not only useless, but also dangerous. (p.10).

Now I don’t know what the facts behind this article’s account of these events really are. It’s possible that Dr Scott-Samuel really is a raving anti-Semite, who believes in an odious conspiracy theory about the Jews centred on the Rothschilds. And if he didn’t speak out against the anti-vaxxer’s nonsense, then he was seriously, dangerously wrong not to. There is indeed a surge in the diseases Ratbiter mentions, especially in America amongst predominantly right-wing communities that are against vaccination. But Private Eye also has its own biases, that cast serious doubt on parts of the narrative as told here.

Firstly, as you can see, the story is very anti-Corbyn and determined to push the view that he, or his supporters, are Jew-haters. And Ratbiter is one of those involved in pushing it in Private Eye. I think I can remember an article by the redoubtable and definitely Jewish Tony Greenstein on his blog, where he revealed who Ratbiter was. Or the identity of one of the people behind the pseudonym. As we’ve seen, Wavetree wished to deselect Luciana Berger, but I’ve seen precious little evidence that genuine anti-Semitism is involved. Berger has suffered some horrendous anti-Semitic abuse, but she’s pointed her finger in the wrong direction when it comes to culprits. There’s no evidence that anyone in the Labour party or who supports the Labour party has ever sent her anything anti-Semitic. The local party wanted her out because she’s a lazy, entitled Blairite – she was parachuted into this very safe constituency when she was in a liaison with Blair’s spawn, Euan. Who was rumoured to be the new leader of the Centrist party a few months ago.

Going on to Scott-Samuel’s views on the Rothschilds, the banking dynasty is indeed the centre of any number of conspiracy theories about the Jews trying to take over the world, and enslave and destroy White gentiles. They also figure in more sanitised versions in which the culprits aren’t the Jews, but the New World Order or Illuminati, or there is a distinction made between good Jews, those murdered by the Nazis, and evil Jews, like the Rothschilds and other elite bankers. But the Rothschild’s are hardly innocent or above suspicion. During the 1930s and ’40s they did lend money to the Nazi regime, even when it was persecuting and murdering Jews in the death camps. Recently Mike mentioned on his blog the case of a female Labour supporter/member, who was accused of anti-Semitism after a Tweet or Facebook post she made about the Rothschilds. But Mike made the point that the Rothschilds are immensely rich and powerful, and asked why they should be exempt from criticism or their power and influence from legitimate questioning. I don’t know, but Scott-Samuel’s case could be another like this.

And lurking behind these events and machinations is the article’s bias about the SHA itself. This, we are told at the start, is an organisation that campaigned for the NHS and for free healthcare ever since. But I remember a few years ago, when Blair was still a power in the land, the Eye ran a story about a socialist health organisation – it might be the SHA, or it might be the Socialist Medical Society – which complained that it had been taken over by the Blairites and turned into a mouthpiece for their privatisation campaign. This organisation was also described, if I recall correctly, as almost on its last legs. If this was the SHA, then the Blairites cannot complain about being displaced by Corbyn supporters in their turn. Well, they can, but they’d be hypocrites. Which definitely wouldn’t stop them.

And note another unspoken assertion in the article: the Blairites in the Labour party apparat – the party bureaucracy – are the victims, who rightfully hold their position, while Corbyn’s supporters are invading, disruptive supporters. But the opposite is almost certainly the case. Blair’s supporters within the Labour party are numerically small, and they hold control of party’s bureaucracy against the wishes of the majority of party members. Whom they have been desperately trying to purge, using their positions. And it would only make the party more democratic and accountable if they were forced out. They were put in place by a firmly centralising Labour administration, determined to make sure that no-one was appointed to any position of authority within the party without the express permission of Blair. And in the case of the student union, that meant that the system of election by the students themselves was removed and replaced with appointment from above. By Blair.

Ratbiter’s Private Eye article is thus, whatever the truth about its allegations of Dr Scott-Samuel’s conduct and views, just another piece of Blairite anti-Corbyn propaganda. It is designed to preserve the Labour party as the exclusive property of wealthy, entitled neoliberals like Luciana Berger, keen to carry on Blair’s noxious and destructive policies of privatisation and the destruction of the welfare state. And as inveterate enemies of Corbyn, the Eye is more than willing to give ample space to Ratbiter’s and the other Blairites’ lies and smears.