Posts Tagged ‘Winston Churchill’

End Workfare Now! Part 1

June 20, 2017

This is the text of another pamphlet I wrote a year or so ago against the highly exploitative workfare industry. As the pamphlet explains, workfare, or ‘welfare to work’, is the system that provides industry with cheap, unemployed temporary labour under the guise of getting the jobless back into work by giving them work experience. If the unemployed person refuses, he or she is thrown off benefit.

These temporary jobs go nowhere, and it’s been proven that the unemployed are actually far better off looking for jobs on their own than using workfare. And it’s very similar to other systems of supposed voluntary work and forced labour, such as the labour colonies set up in Britain in 1905, the Reichsarbeitsdienst in Nazi Germany, and the use of forced labour against the ‘arbeitscheu’ – the ‘workshy’, as well as the compulsory manual labour required of all citizens in Mao’s china during the Cultural Revolution, and the Gulags in Stalin’s Russia.

Mike over at Vox Political has blogged against it, so has Johnny Void and the Angry Yorkshireman of Another Angry Voice, and many other left-wing bloggers. It’s another squalid policy which New Labour and the Tories took over from Reagan and Bill Clinton.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised to get rid of the work capability tests. I hope also that under him, the Labour party will also get rid of this vile policy, so that big corporations like Poundland and supermarkets like Tesco’s will have to take on workers and pay them a decent wage, rather than exploiting desperate and jobless workers supplied by the Thatcherite corporate state.

End Workfare Now!

Workfare is one of the most exploitative aspects of the contemporary assault on the welfare state and the unemployed. It was advocated in the 1980s by the Republicans under Ronald Reagan in America, and in Britain by Thatcher’s Conservatives. In 1979 the Tory party ranted about the need to ‘restore the will to work’. Geoffrey Howe, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, declared that ‘The Government and the vast majority of the British people want hard work and initiative to be properly rewarded and are vexed by disincentives to work’. At its heart is the attitude that the unemployed should be forced to work for their benefits, as otherwise they are getting ‘something for nothing’. Very many bloggers and activists for the poor and unemployed, including Vox Political, Johnny Void, Another Angry Voice, and myself have denounced it as another form of slavery. It’s used to provide state-subsidised, cheap labour for big business and charities, including influential Tory donors like Sainsbury’s. And at times it crosses the line into true slavery. Under the sanctions system, an unemployed person is still required to perform workfare, even if the jobcentre has sanctioned them, so that they are not receiving benefits. Workfare recipients – or victims – have no control over where they are allocated or what jobs they do. The government was challenged in the courts by a geology graduate, who was forced to work in Poundland. The young woman stated that she did not object to performing unpaid work. She, however, had wanted to work in a museum, and if memory serves me correctly, had indeed got a place at one. She was, however, unable to take up her unpaid position there because of the Jobcentre’s insistence she labour for Poundland instead. A young man also sued the government, after he was sanctioned for his refusal to do 30 hours a week unpaid labour for six months for the Community Action Programme. The High and Appeal Courts ruled in the young people’s favour. They judged that the government had indeed acted illegally, as the law did not contain any stipulations for when and how such work was to be performed.

Iain Duncan Smith, the notorious head of the Department of Work and Pensions, was outraged. He called the decision ‘rubbish’ and said, ‘There are a group of people out there who think they are too good for this kind of stuff .. People who think it is their right take benefit and do nothing for it – those days are over.’ This is rich coming from IDS, who was taking over a million pounds in farm subsidies from the EU. Eventually, Smith got sick of the criticism he was taking for the government’s welfare policies, and flounced off early in 2016 moaning about how unfair it all was that he should get the blame, when the notorious Work Capability Tests inflicted on the elderly and disabled were introduced by New labour.

Those forced into workfare are in no sense free workers, and it similarly makes a nonsense of the pretense that this somehow constitutes ‘voluntary work’, as this has been presented by the government and some of the participating charities

The political scientist Guy Standing is also extremely critical of workfare in his book, A Precariat Charter, demanding its abolition and making a series of solid arguments against it. He states that it was first introduced in America by the Republicans in Wisconsin, and then expanded nationally to the rest of the US by Bill Clinton in his Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. It was part of his campaign to ‘end welfare as we know it’. Single parents receiving social assistance were required to take low-paying jobs after two years. Legislation was also passed barring people from receiving welfare payments for more than five years in their entire lives.

David Cameron, unsurprisingly, was also a fan of the Wisconsin system, and wanted to introduce it over here. In 2007 he made a speech to the Tory faithful at the party conference, proclaiming ‘We will say to people that if you are offered a job and it’s a fair job and one that you can do and you refuse it, you shouldn’t get any welfare.’ This became part of Coalition policy towards the unemployed when they took power after the 2010 elections.’ Two years later, in 2012, Boris Johnson, speaking as mayor of London, declared that he was going to use EU money from the Social Fund to force young adults between 18 and 24 to perform 13 weeks of labour without pay if they were unemployed. In June that year David Cameron also declared that there was a need to end ‘the nonsense of paying people more to stay at home than to get a job – and finally making sure that work really pays. Ed Miliband’s Labour party also joined in. Liam Byrne, the Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, declared that

Labour would ensure that no adult will be able to live on the dole for over two years and no young person for over a year. They will be offered a real job with real training, real prospects and real responsibility … People would have to take this responsibility or lose benefits.

This was echoed by Ed Balls, who said

A One Nation approach to welfare reform means government has a responsibility to help people into work and support for those who cannot. But those who can work must be required to take up jobs or lose benefits as such – no ifs or buts.

Forced Labour for the Unemployed in History

Standing traces the antecedents of workfare back to the English poor law of 1536 and the French Ordonnance de Moulins of twenty years later, which obliged unemployed vagabonds to accept any job that was offered them. He states that the direct ancestor is the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, the infamous legislation that, under the notion of ‘less eligibility’, stipulated that those receiving support were to be incarcerated in the workhouse, where conditions were deliberately made much harsher in order to deter people from seeking state
support, rather than paid work. This attitude is also reflected in contemporary attitudes that, in order to ‘make work pay’, have demanded that welfare support should be much less than that received for paid work. This has meant that welfare payments have become progressively less as the various measure to make the labour market more flexible – like zero hours contracts – drove down wages. The workhouse system was supplemented in 1905 by the Unemployed Workmen Act, supported, amongst others, by Winston Churchill. This directed unemployed young men into labour, so that they should not be ‘idle’ and be ‘under control’. Nor were leading members of the early Labour party averse to the use of force. Sidney and Beatrice Webb, two of the founders of the Fabian Society, were also in favour of sending the unemployed to ‘labour colonies’, chillingly close to the forced labour camps which became such as feature of the Nazi and Communist regimes. Weimar Germany in the 1920s and ’30s also developed a system of voluntary work to deal with the problems of mass unemployment. This was taken over by the Nazis and became compulsory for all Germans from 19-25 as the Reicharbeitsdienst, or Imperial Labour Service It was mainly used to supply labour for German agriculature. Because of its universal nature, the Reicharbeitsdienst had no stigma attached to it, and indeed was seen as part of the new, classless Germany that was being created by Hitler. In a speech to the Service’s workers, Hitler declared that there would be no leader, who had not worked his way up through their ranks. Much harsher was the Nazi’s treatment of the serially unemployed. They were declared arbeitscheu – the German word, which forms the basis of the English ‘workshy’. These individuals were sent to the concentration camps, where they were identified with a special badge on their pyjamas, just like those marking out Jews, gay men, Socialists and trade unionists, and so on.

Liam Byrne also harked back to the Webbs to support his argument for workfare as Labour party policy. He stated

If you go back to the Webb report, they were proposing detention colonies for people refusing to take work … All the way through our history there has been an insistence on the responsibility to work if you can. Labour shouldn’t be any different now. We have always been the party of the responsibility to work as well.

The Workfare Scheme

The result of this is that many unemployed people have been placed on the Mandatory Work Activity – MWA – scheme, which requires them to perform four weeks of unpaid work for a particular company, organisation or charity. The scheme also includes the disabled. Those now judged capable of performing some work are placed in the Work-Related Activity group, and required perform some unpaid labour in order to gain ‘experience’. If they do not do so, they may lose up to 70 per cent of their benefits.

This has created immense fear among the unemployed and disabled. Standing quotes one man with cerebral palsy, who was so afraid of being sanctioned for not performing the mandatory work, that he felt physically sick. Mental health professionals – psychiatrists and psychologists, have also released reports attacking the detrimental effect the stress of these tests are having on the mentally ill. So far they have estimated that upwards of a quarter of a million people with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety have had their condition made worse – sometimes very much worse – through the stress of taking these tests.

The system also affects those in low-paid part-time jobs or on zero hours contracts. These must prove that they are looking for more working hours or a better paid job. If they do not do so, they may lose benefits or tax credits. In 2013 the Tory-Lib Dem government made it even harder for people to claim tax credits by raising the number of working hours a week, for which tax credits could not be claimed, from 16 to 24.

Counterpunch: Manchester Terror Attack Blowback from Western Imperialist Recruitment of Salafi Terrorists

May 29, 2017

I’ve mentioned several times over the past week or so the hypocritical smears the Tory press – the Torygraph, Scum and Heil – have published claiming that Jeremy Corbyn was a supporter of IRA terrorism, and, by implication, of the Manchester terror attack last Monday. Corbyn wasn’t. He did support attempts to find a peaceful solution to the Troubles through negotiation, something Thatcher and the Tories loudly denied they were doing, but did anyway. Both the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish Times have hailed the Labour leader as a man, who strove for the best for the people of Ireland and Ulster. Ian Paisley’s wife even said that Corbyn was courteous and polite.

So, not quite the fanatical supporter of Irish nationalist terrorism these papers wanted to smear him as.

And the Tories, under Thatcher, did their own supporting of terrorist violence in Ulster. Peter Taylor’s 1999 documentary, Loyalists, featured interviews with leading Ulster Loyalist politicos and terrorists, one of whom admitted that they were getting information from British intelligence in the late 1980s allowing them to kill members of the IRA and other Republicans.

And that hasn’t been the only incident, where terrorists supported by the British state have committed atrocities. The last one was just a week ago. In Manchester.

Jim Kavanagh writing in Counterpunch has a piece pointing out that the family of the suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, were members of a Libyan Islamist terrorist group, who were given sanctuary in Britain as part of NATO’s recruitment of such terrorists in their campaign to overthrow Colonel Qaddafy. He attacks the racist double standards of the western media, for giving massive attention to attacks like this in the West, while paying much less attention to the other victims of Islamist violence in Africa and elsewhere in the world. Such as Mali, where 100 people, mostly Russians, Chinese and Africans, were butchered by two Islamist terrorists at the Bamako hotel a few years ago.

He reminds his readers that, despite Qaddafy’s own political posturing, Libya was a secular state with the highest standard of living in Africa. And Qaddafy himself hated and persecuted the Islamists. The late ‘mad dog of the Middle East’ and his son, Saif, even tried to warn Blair, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that if he was killed, the terrorists would move on to attack Europe and there would be a massive influx of refugees into the continent.

Kavanagh also reproaches American liberals for believing that you can be politically liberal, and still support western imperialism. He states that Barack Obama and Killary, whose gloating over the death of the Libyan dictator was particularly repulsive, have so far presided over more carnage than Donald Trump. American liberals are deluded if they believe that they can unleash and then contain the Islamist terrorists they have recruited, armed and trained at will. He compares terrorist atrocities like that committed in Manchester to the film ‘Groundhog Day’, whose hero is doomed to go through the same day again and again. And this, he feels, will continue until something immeasurably more horrific finally wakes Americans up to the horrific reality.

He states

Last Monday, jihadi suicide bomber Salman Abedi blew himself up at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, killing 22 people. Salman grew up in an anit-Qaddafi Libyan immigrant family. In 2011, his father, Ramadan Abedi, along with other British Libyans (including one who was under house arrest), “was allowed to go [to Libya], no questions asked,” to join the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an al-Qaeda-affiliate, to help overthrow Qaddafi. In Manchester, as Max Blumenthal puts it, in his excellent Alternet piece, it was all “part of the rat line operated by the MI5, which hustled anti-Qaddafi Libyan exiles to the front lines of the war.” In Manchester, Salman lived near a number of LIFG militants, including an expert bomb maker. This was a tough bunch, and everybody—including the cops and Salman’s Muslim neighbors—knew they weren’t the Jets and the Sharks. As Middle East Eye reports, he “was known to security services,” and some of his acquaintances “had reported him to the police via an anti-terrorism hotline.”

Could it be any clearer? The Abedi family was part of a protected cohort of Salafist proxy soldiers that have been used by “the West” to destroy the Libyan state. There are a number of such cohorts around the world that have been used for decades to overthrow relatively prosperous and secular, but insufficiently compliant, governments in the Arab and Muslim world—and members of those groups have perpetrated several blowback attacks in Western countries, via various winding roads. In this case, the direct line from Libya to Mali to Manchester is particularly easy to trace.

‘The jihadi attackers in Mali and the jihadi bomber in Manchester were direct products—not accidental by-products, but deliberately incubated protégés—of American-British-French-NATO regime change in Libya, a project that was executed by the Obama administration and spearheaded by Hillary Clinton.

Before the glorious revolution, Libya under Ghaddafi had the highest standard of living of any country in Africa, according to the UN Human Development Index. Before the jihadi onslaught backed by NATO bombing campaign, Ghaddafi’s Libya was an anchor of stability in North Africa, as even the U.S. and British governments knew and acknowledged, per a 2008 cable from American foreign service officer Christopher Stevens, published by Wikileaks:

Libya has been a strong partner in the war against terrorism and cooperation in liaison channels is excellent…Muammar al-Qadhafi’s criticism of Saudi Arabia for perceived support of Wahabi extremism, a source of continuing Libya-Saudi tension, reflects broader Libyan concern about the threat of extremism. Worried that fighters returning from Afghanistan and Iraq could destabilize the regime, the [government of Libya] has aggressive pursued operations to disrupt foreign fighter flows, including more stringent monitoring of air/land ports of entry, and blunt the ideological appeal of radical Islam.

The US-British-French-NATO humanitarian intervention put an end to that by overthrowing the Libyan government under entirely phony pretexts, in contravention of fundamental international law, and in violation of the UN resolution they claimed as a justification. The executioners and beneficiaries of that aggression where the jihadis who have been rampaging from Mali to Manchester. It’s a bright, clear line.

Ghaddafi himself warned Tony Blair that “an organization [the LIFG].has laid down sleeper cells in North Africa called the Al Qaeda organization in North Africa.” Ghaddafi’s son, Saif, warned that overthrowing Libya’s would make the country “the Somalia of North Africa, of the Mediterranean” and “You will see millions of illegal immigrants. The terror will be next door.”’

Manchester is the latest iteration of a scenario we’ve gone through so many times now, like some groundhog-day dream. At the end of my post two years ago, I was urging and hoping that Americans would wake up. But a lot of American liberals and lefties, including Berniebots, still like to imagine there’s a political space they can inhabit called Progressive Except Imperialism. There isn’t. Imperialism with Social Security and Medicare and Obamacare—even single-payer healthcare—is imperialism, and it’s reactionary and supremacist. Equal-opportunity imperialism is imperialism. African-American, women, Latinx, or LGBTQ presidents, generals, and drone operators do not make it any less criminal, or dangerous, or any less inevitably erosive of all those cherished progressive domestic programs.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/29/no-laughing-matter-the-manchester-bomber-is-the-spawn-of-hillary-and-baracks-excellent-libyan-adventure/

The recruitment of Islamist terrorists goes back further than Blair, Bush, and Obama and Killary, right back to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher gave sanctuary in this country to Islamist terrorists as part of the proxy war against the Russians in Afghanistan. She and Ronnie celebrated them, because they were anti-Communists fighting against ‘the Evil Empire’. And the Russian ambassador told the Americans that once the Salafists had finished with them, they would come for America.

And this came horribly true on 9/11. Having defeated the Soviet Union, the Saudi-backed terrorists believed they could bring down the other superpower, America.

As for Thatcher, one of the terrorists she gave asylum to in Britain was a monster, who blew up a plane-load of schoolchildren flying to Moscow in order to kill the Soviet officers also on board.

And the same Islamists she settled in Britain became part of the wider underground of radicalised Islamist discontent.

Corbyn never supported terrorism. But Thatcher, and her New Labour protégé, Tony Blair, certainly did. And the results were Loyalist terrorists acting as Thatcher’s death squads in Ulster, and Islamist terrorism in Britain.

And Theresa May made it all easier for the Manchester bomber and those like him by cutting the numbers of the police force, armed forces and border guards. And when members of Her Majesty’s finest tried to warn of her of this danger, she sneered at them.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised to reverse all this. Which, despite all the Tory screaming and posturing, trying to portray them as the party of great war leaders since Churchill, Corbyn and the Labour party represent this country’s best hope of peace and security.

Vote Labour on June 8th.

Schools Display and Document Folder on the 1920s General Strike

March 13, 2017

The General Strike: Jackdaw No.l05, compiled by Richard Tames (London, New York and Toronto: Jackdaw Publications Ltd, Grossman Publishers Inc., and Clarke, Irwin and Company 1972)

I picked this up about 20 years ago in one of the bargain bookshops in Bristol’s Park Street. Jackdaw published a series of folders containing reproduction historical texts and explanatory posters and leaflets on variety of historical topics and events, including the Battle of Trafalgar, the slave trade, the voyages of Captain Cook, Joan of Arc, the Anglo-Boer War, the rise of Napoleon, Ned Kelley and Wordsworth. They also published another series of document folders on specifically Canadian themes, such as the Indians of Canada, the Fenians, Louis Riel, Cartier of Saint Malo, the 1867 confederation of Canada, the vote in Canada from 1791 to 1891, the Great Depression, Laurier, and Canada and the Civil War.

This particular folder is on the 1926 general strike, called by the TUC when the Samuel Commission, set up to report into the state of the mining industry, published its report. This recommended that the mines should be reorganised, but not nationalised, and although the miners were to get better working conditions and fringe benefits, they would have to take a pay cut. The folder included a poster giving a timeline of the strike and the events leading up to it, and photos of scenes from it, including volunteer constables practising self-defence, office girls travelling to work by lorry, the Conservative prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, and buses and train signal boxes staffed by volunteers. There’s also a Punch cartoon commenting on the end of the Strike. It also contains a leaflet explaining the various documents in the folder, along suggested projects about the issue and a short bibliography.

Poster and timeline of the Strike

Leaflet explaining the documents

The facsimile documents include

1. A leaflet arguing the Miner’s case.

2. Telegram from the Transport and General Workers’ Union to a local shop steward, calling for preparations for the strike.

3. Pages from the Daily Worker, the official paper of the T.U.C. during the Strike.

4. Notice from the Met calling for special constables.

5. Communist Party leaflet supporting the Strike.

6. Handbill giving the proposals of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the leaders of the Free Churches for an end to the Strike.

7. Handbill denouncing the strike as ‘The Great ‘Hold-Up’.
The accompanying pamphlet states that this was very far from the truth, and that it was a government lie that the T.U.C. were aiming at a revolution.

8. Emergency edition of the Daily Express.

9. Conservative PM Stanley Baldwin’s guarantee of employment to strike-breakers.

10. Contemporary Analysis of the causes of the Strike’s failure, from the Public Opinion.

11. The British Gazette, the government’s official paper, edited by Winston Churchill.

12. Anonymous letter from a striker recommending that the T.U.C. shut off the electricity.

13. Appeal for aid to Miner’s wives and dependents.

14. Protest leaflet against Baldwin’s ‘Blacklegs’ Charter’.

The General Strike was one of the great events of 20th century labour history, and its collapse was a terrible defeat that effectively ended revolutionary syndicalism and guild socialism as a major force in the labour movement. It left a legacy of bitterness that still persists in certain areas today.

The jackdaw seems to do a good job of presenting all sides of the issue, and the final section of the explanatory leaflet urges children to think for themselves about it. And one of the folder’s features that led me to buy it was the fact that it contained facsimile reproductions of some of the papers, flyers, letters and telegrams produced by the strikers arguing their case.

Looking through the folder’s contents it struck me that the strike and the issues it raised are still very much relevant in the 21 century, now almost a century after it broke it. It shows how much the Tories and the rich industrialists were determined to break the power of the unions, as well as the sheer hostility of the press. The Daily Express has always been a terrible right-wing rag, and was solidly Thatcherite and anti-union, anti-Labour in the 1980s. Since it was bought by Richard Desmond, apparently it’s become even more virulently right-wing and anti-immigrant – or just plain racist – than the Daily Heil.

The same determination to break their unions, and the miners in particular, was shown by Thatcher during the Miner’s Strike in the 1980s, again with the solid complicity of the media, including extremely biased and even falsified reporting from the BBC. It was her hostility to the miners and their power which partly led Thatcher to privatise and decimate the mining industry, along with the rest of Britain’s manufacturing sector. And these attitudes have persisted into the governments of Cameron and May, and have influenced Tony Blair and ‘Progress’ in the Labour party, who also bitterly hate the unions and anything that smacks of real working class socialism.

Is Trump Barely Able to Read?

February 6, 2017

My thanks to Joanna, one of the long-time commenters on this blog, for posting this in one of her comments.

In this piece from the David Pakman Show, Pakman and one of his producers, Pat, discuss the considerable evidence that Trump is functionally barely literate. There are clips of Mark Fisher, an American journalist, discussing how he asked Trump if he was preparing for the presidency by reading the biographies of the great American presidents. Trump said something about reading one about Nixon, and another, but Fisher himself doubted he had ever read a book from cover to cover. Trump also said that he had never read a biography, but regretted this. Visitors to Trump have remarked that there weren’t any books on his desk, or on the shelves at his home or indeed anywhere else. Jeffrey Schwartz, who ghost-wrote Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal, stated that he didn’t believe Trump had ever read a book since he was in school. Washington insiders have said that The Donald actually has difficulty reading the documents and executive orders placed in front of him. He usually just scans the first page. Further evidence for this comes from clips from a court case, in which the opposition lawyer asks Drumpf to read a lease. Trump’s own lawyer objects to it, and Trump looks it over, remarks on its length, and then proceeds to give a summary of what’s on the page. Apparently, he doesn’t even send his tweets himself. He dictates them to a secretary in the next room, and she sends them for him. There’s also a clip with the writers from the comedy show, Saturday Night Live, in which they talk about how Trump had difficulty reading the scripts when he was guest host. And it’s also been said that the reason why Trump watches so much television, and gets so much of his information from it, is because he can’t or doesn’t read books and papers. There’s also a clip, which shows Trump very obviously not using a teleprompter at one of his rallies. Pakman argues that this isn’t because he’s particularly keen to speak ad lib. It’s because he has difficulty reading what’s on there.

Pakman’s producer, Pat, finally makes the point here that what’s shocking isn’t Trump’s inability to read, but his lack of intellectual curiosity. He doesn’t even send away for talking books, so he can hear things read to him.

This is truly astonishing. And frightening. People have been making jokes since forever and a day about the stupidity of politicians, but many have been people of real intellectual distinction. Churchill wrote his History of the English-Speaking Peoples. JFK apparently could write a sentence of Latin with one hand while writing a sentence in Greek with the other. Even Nixon was no intellectual slouch. He was crooked and a monstrous imperialist thug, whose regime was responsible for the deaths of untold millions in the Vietnam War and Fascist coups across the world, and he really wasn’t intellectually capable of being president. But he wasn’t thick either. Bill Clinton was far from stupid, though he was also responsible for some of the worst policies passed by an American president, such as gutting further what remained of the American welfare system after Reagan, quite apart from highly questionable foreign policy decisions.

On the other hand, there are a long line of chiefly Republican presidents, who have been suspected of being thick and incompetent. Like Ronald Reagan, even before the poor fellow was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Not The Nine O’clock News sang songs about his epic stupidity. There was a long-running sketch on Spitting Image, in which his aides go in search of his missing brain. Then in the early part of this century, he was followed into the Oval Office by George Dubya, who had been an illiterate drunk smashed out of his skull on recreational chemicals. Dubya at least gave up the booze and drugs, and was credited as reading. He still struck everyone as being so stupid, that when one person made up the rumour that he only had an IQ of 85, it was widely believed. And at one point it looked like America would get a female vice-president in the shape of Sarah Palin, who has a reputation for monumental stupidity. One American commenter described his candidacy for the presidency or vice-presidency to a ‘post turtle’. What’s a post turtle? He explained that if you go to the Deep South, ever so often on the roads you see a turtle stuck on a fence post. The turtle’s got no right to be there, doesn’t know how it got there, and you don’t know what moron put it there. And that summed up Palin’s bid for supreme power.

And now we have Donald Trump, a sexist, misogynist, islamophobic Fascist, a narcissistic megalomaniac, who seems unable to read or comprehend the documents put in front of him.

He is massively unfit for office, and the fact that he’s in it points to a deeply troubling strand of anti-intellectualism in the Republican Party. The late comedian Bill Hicks used to joke that there was a streak of anti-intellectualism in America, and that it began the same year Reagan was elected. He had a point. Reagan got into power by presenting the image of a down-home ordinary bloke, offering his folksy wisdom in place of the complicated and simply wrong ideas offered by those affecting to be cleverer than the rest of us. And this is a powerfully attractive approach. No-one likes the feeling that they’re being condescended to by someone impressed with their own intelligence, or being treated with contempt. And the right, both in America and in Britain, try to capitalise on this anti-intellectualism. You think of all the times the Tories have tried to persuade the public that you don’t need to know about fancy economic theories to understand the economy, just commonsense household management. Left-wing economists have tried to point out that, in fact, you do need to understand economics as it is definitely not like balancing a household budget. But still they carry on, using the metaphor of household budgeting to justifying cutting services and privatising the NHS.

And now Trump, who appears to be barely literate, is in the White House. Pakman points out that it seems that Trump spoke at the level of a fourth grade schoolboy, not because he was trying to talk to ordinary Americans at their level, but because his reading level is that of a fourth grade schoolboy. It’s been said that politician is the one job that doesn’t require qualifications. Well, intelligence doesn’t guarantee that someone will make the right decisions. But in a complex world, in which power relationships between countries are so delicate that a misstep could start an international incident or even another war, we do need intellectual ability in our leaders and their advisers. We need politicos, who have the ability to obtain the knowledge of world affairs they need, not just from the broadcast news, but from foreign policy documents, even simply from reading the papers.

Trump seems incapable of this, and it puts us all in danger. He really does need to go.

Backlash to Judges’ Brexit Ruling Reveals Right-Wing Racism and Authoritarianism

November 8, 2016

Last week the Guyanese-born investment banker, Gina Miller, succeeded in her legal action to force the government to open up the decision on the start of the Brexit process to the rest of parliament. Three judges ruled in her favour, and the result has been a tide of right-wing hatred and vilification directed against the lady herself and the judges, who made the ruling. And Nigel Farage, the former leader of UKIP, has come out of the woodwork once more promising to lead a march against the decision.

Mike in his article on the original decision reports personal threats Miller received, including rape, and comments that she should ‘f*** off’ back to her own country, and people telling her that Brits were sick of foreigners telling them what to do. She has also been denounced as a traitor to democracy.

Miller herself hit back at her critics and those, who insulted and threatened her. Mike quotes the press report on this incident, in which she told the International Business Times

“Yes there has been a deluge of hatred and anger but this is because people were lied to in respect to the EU referendum, and because (of) irresponsible figures like Farage and tabloid media who lack any understanding of parliamentary democracy and the rule of law that is the bedrock of our civil society”.

See Mike’s article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/11/04/sad-state-of-britain-someone-stands-up-for-democracy-so-she-gets-racist-abuse/

The reaction of part of the Tory right, and the Daily Mail and Express has been hysterical. On the Beeb’s Question Time, Sajid Javid, who Private Eye suggested looks like The Claw, one of the villains from one of Gerry Anderson’s puppet SF series, went over the top, exclaiming that the ruling was an attempt ‘to thwart the will of the British people’.

The Express, never known for anything like statesmanlike restraint and diplomacy, declared that “Today this country faces a crisis as grave as anything since the dark days when Churchill vowed we would fight them on the beaches.”

See Mike’s article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/11/04/irrational-responses-to-brexit-high-court-ruling/

Not to be outdone in the ultra-patriotism stakes, the Daily Mail put photos of the three judges on its front page along with the screaming headline ‘Enemies of the People’. As Mike, Tom Pride and many others have pointed out, the Heil is never very far from Nazism, and this was another instance where the rag’s headline almost exactly reproduced the propaganda and stance of the Nazi party. The cartoonist Gary Barker put up the image of the Heil’s front page, along with a similar page from one the Nazis’ newspapers, denouncing a line of judges as ‘Volksverrater’. Barker translates this as ‘Enemies of the People: Get Out of the Way of the German People’s Will’. This isn’t quite right. A more literal translation would be ‘Betrayers of the People’ or ‘Race Traitors’ – the German word volk has an ethnic connotation, which the word ‘people’ doesn’t have. The sentence underneath reads something like ‘shoved out of the German racial community’. That’s roughly what the German Volksgemeinschaft means, rather than ‘common people’s will’. Volksgemeinschaft was obviously one of the key planks of Nazi domestic ideology. I don’t know where Barker got the page from, but it looks very much like the Nazi newspaper, Der Sturmer. On its own, Sturmer just means an impetuous fellow. The Nazi newspaper of the same name is infamous as the vehicle through which the Nazis, under the rag’s editor, Julius Streicher, demonised the Jews. Back in the 1980s the goose-steppers in the BNP or NF decided to launch their own version, The Stormer, which was similarly intended to spread hate against Jews and non-Whites. Mike in the title of his article on this appalling headline asks if it is proof that the UK is shifting towards Nazism. I’d say that it was. English doesn’t quite have a word for ‘racial community’ like the Nazis’ Volksgemeinschaft, but the ideology is certainly there on the Tory xenophobic right. Daniel Hannan, the Tory MEP for Devon, who’d like to privatise the NHS, has raved in his column on the Telegraph blogs about ‘the Anglosphere’, meaning the English-speaking world, and there certainly is a tendency in the American Libertarian Right to view this in racial terms. White Anglo-Saxons are inclined towards free trade and small government, according to them, while the Irish and Continental peoples are genetically determined to be the enemies of freedom favouring Socialism and big government. This is despite the fact that Adam Smith based his views on free trade as the foundation of the ‘Wealth of Nations’ on those of the French physiocrats. And the hostility of the Heil and Express to non-White immigration is notorious.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/11/06/is-this-proof-that-uk-politics-is-shifting-towards-nazism/

As for the Fuhrage’s declared intention to lead a mass demonstration of 100,000 outside the high court to protest against the judges’ ruling, Mike states in the title of his piece on it that ‘someone should tell Nigel Farage this is the UK, not Nuremberg’.

A mass rally to oppose democracy? Someone should tell Nigel Farage this is the UK, not Nuremberg

Mike has defended the democratic basis of the judges’ decision, pointing out that far from being traitors to democracy, the judges have upheld it. Their decision does not affect the Brexit decision, which has been settled by the referendum. It does, however, prevent Theresa May and her cabinet from deciding how it is to be implemented solely by herself, and then presenting it to the rest of us as a fait accompli. This, Mike quite rightly points out, would be despotic. He rebuts the Javid’s stupid comment by making the point that the judges merely upheld the sovereignty of parliament, which is enshrined by law. He shows how ridiculous it is to compare their lordships’ decision with the threat of Nazi invasion, as well as the homophobia in the Express’s article, which attacked one of the judges for being ‘openly gay’. As if the man’s sexuality had anything to do with the judicial soundness of his decision. And he rightly quotes the Angry Yorkshireman on the ridiculous bigotry and hypocrisy of the Heil’s attitude, who wrote:

“Thus anyone who doesn’t agree that Theresa May should be allowed to behave like a dictator by bypassing democratic accountability and making up the law as she goes along is an ‘enemy of the people’ (as decided by a bunch of right-wing hacks working for a billionaire sociopath who lives in Monaco to avoid paying British taxes!).”

The ranting of the Tory ‘Leave’ campaign on this shows the fundamental racism and authoritarianism which runs all the way through them. The Tory right are deeply undemocratic. They would far prefer that the issues were settled by a small coteries of elite, moneyed individuals in their favour. Parliament is grossly unrepresentative of the economic background of British society. Most MPs are millionaires, as Mike has shown again and again in the meme showing this fact. Even so, they represent a wider and more diverse circle than May and her cabinet. As for Gina Miller not being ‘British’, Guyana is a former British colony, and before Thatcher altered the immigration law in the 1970s, citizenship of a British colony or member of the commonwealth automatically granted the right to immigrate to this country and be considered a British citizen. This principle was held by an older generation of imperialists, including Winston Churchill. By their standards, she’s as British as the rest of us. You could even argue that as someone born in Guyana, she also has a perfectly reasonable right to bring her court action. One of the arguments of the ‘Leave’ campaign has been that if Britain leaves the EU, we will have greater freedom to develop trade links with our Commonwealth partners. As a lady born in one of those former colonies, she therefore has every right to make sure she and the other prospective trading partners are properly represented in these decisions.

The Tory attitude also contradicts one of the fundamental principles of democratic freedom articulate by John Stuart Mill. Mill was concerned that the views of the minority should always be protected and represented, even to the extent of being over-represented. He stated that if everyone in the country held the same political opinion, with the exception of one man, that one man should still be allowed to hold and express his views without suppression. But the Tories behind all this hysterical ranting clearly don’t believe that the views of the general public should be represented in the ability of parliament to vote and decide on this issue, rather than just May and her privileged cronies.

It’s also highly hypocritical. Remember when the Tories were complaining at how ‘presidential’ Tony Blair was, and how he was sidelining parliament? They were right – Blair was presidential. But this shows that their objections to a presidential style of British politics, in which power is concentrated in the hands of the Prime Minister in a manner more suitable to the American political system, was purely tactical. Once presidential power is in the hands of a Tory PM, all objections mysteriously disappear, and it is the defenders of the sovereignty of the British people and parliament, who are vilified as ‘enemies of the people.’ Perhaps, like the judges denounced by the Nazis, they’d like to see them shoved out of a British volksgemeinschaft.

This has to be stopped. Mike is quite right to recommend that people stop buying these dreadful right-wing rags, and vote out the Tories. They’re the real enemies of democracy and popular sovereignty here. Not the EU, and not the judges.

Vox Political on Tory Claim that He Was Approached by 3 Anti-Corbyn Plotters

August 21, 2016

Mike’s also put up another piece commenting on an article in today’s Torygraph by Kate McCann. This reports the claim by the Tory MP, Andrew Bridgen, that he was approached by three Labour MPs, who support his demand for a snap general election. They hope that Labour will lose the election, and this will give them they excuse they need to oust Corbyn as leader. Mike reports that none of the MPs are named, so the article could well be the product of McCann’s fevered imagination. As for Bridgen, Mike’s article has a picture of him, which was clearly taken at some posh function. It shows him in a dinner suit with another, similarly dressed young man in the background, standing in the kind of pose politicians adopt when they’re trying to be a Churchillian ‘man of destiny’. It’s the kind of posture Jim Hacker used to adopt in Yes, Minister, when he was consciously trying to be a statesman of similar Churchillian proportions. It looks pompous, and Bridgen himself appears in the photo to be, er, ‘tired and emotional’, as Private Eye put it to avoid libel suits.

Mike states

The possibility that any Labour MP would stoop so low as to try to sabotage their own party – and doom the UK to another five long years under Conservative rule – to rid themselves of a leader who stands for Labour values is nothing short of an abomination.

Perhaps it would be best to try to kill it before it can be put into operation.

If you have a Labour MP, please contact them (preferably by Twitter so their answers are public) and ask if they would rather have Labour “wiped out” in an election than accept him as democratically-elected leader.

The rest of the article also claims that around 6,000 Labour party members have been reported to the NEC for on-line abuse, anti-Semitism and supporting other political parties. This quotes an unnamed ‘senior source’, claiming that the party is no longer safe for women or Jews. Mike notes that the source isn’t named, and the official investigation concluded that the Labour party was no better or worse in that regard than the Tories or even, for that matter, the Torygraph. He also makes the very good point that the article does not say from which section of the party these 6,000 come from. If they even exist. As the Eye might say, ‘Perhaps we should be told!’

See Mike’s article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/21/how-can-anyone-try-to-have-labour-wiped-out-at-an-election-and-still-claim-to-be-acting-in-labours-interests/

This clearly comes after three Lambeth councillors were caught in the week writing emails to Tories and Lib Dems, trying to get them to join the party to oust Corbyn. This gives Bridgen’s claim some verisimilitude. Or it could simply be that it supplied the basis for a deliberately destabilising lie. This is, after all, the Torygraph, the newspaper that told its Tory readers to join the Labour party and vote for Corbyn, in order to render the party unelectable. Now they’re claiming that unnamed Labour MPs are approaching
Tories to make the party unelectable, and so oust Corbyn. There’s a variation on a theme here.

As for the anti-Semitism claims, so many of them have been made against Jews and avowed anti-racists – Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein, Red Ken Livingstone, Rachel Nesbitt, to name only a few, that many of them lack any validity. It’s just the boy crying ‘wolf!’ by the Israel lobby, in order to smear and destroy its opponents. Israel’s founders, Chaim Herzog, David Ben Gurion and others had absolute contempt for the Jews, who preferred to stay in their traditional European homelands, and adopt a highly racist policy of segregation against the Mizrahim, Arab Jews. They were European cultural supremacists, who were afraid that their superior western culture would be diluted by contact with these culturally inferior orientals. And so Arab Jews were kept away from European Jews, given the lowest, worst jobs. And there’s also a scandal currently unfolding in Israel about the theft of Mizrahi babies after Israel’s establishment, who were given to childless European Jewish couples to raise, in order to make sure the children had the approved cultural upbringing. As Counterpunch pointed out, this is exactly what was done to indigenous children in America, Canada and Australia. It was also done to the children of political prisoners during Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’, and to the Poles by the Nazis. The Israel lobby has absolutely no business accusing anyone of racism.

Quotations from New Labour Supporting Workfare

August 14, 2016

One of the many vile policies which have been inflicted on the unemployed in this country is workfare. It was introduced in America by Bill Clinton, who took it over from the Republicans. It became public policy over here in 2010 when David Cameron thought it was a good idea. Well, the Tories under Maggie Thatcher were raving about way back when I was at school in 1983, so it was almost inevitable that they’d eventually put it into action.

But New Labour weren’t far behind in their support for it. This follows the general Blairite trend of watching closely what the Tories are doing – privatisation, welfare cuts, destruction of the NHS, and so on – and then claiming that they can do it better, all the while mouthing platitudes about ‘social inclusion’ and guff about ‘One Nation’. Guy Standing gives a number of quotations from two of the leading figures in New Labour, Liam Byrne, and Ed Balls, who advocated this disgusting policy in his book A Precariat Charter.

In 2013 Liam Byrne, then Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions announced

Labour would ensure that no adult will be able to live on the dole for over two years and no young person for over a year. They will be offered a real job with real training, real prospects and real responsibility … People would have to take this opportunity or lose benefits. (p. 267)

At the same time, Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, also declared

A One Nation approach to welfare reform means government has a responsibility to help people into work and support for those who cannot. But those who can work must be required to take up jobs or lose benefits as a result – no ifs or buts. (ibid).

Workless Camps

What is really disgusting is the shameless way Byrne referred back to the labour colonies advocated by Sidney and Beatrice, in which the long-term unemployed were put to work in order to teach them to be hard-working, independent members of society.

If you go back to the Webb report, they were proposing detention colonies for people refusing to take work … All the way through our history there has been an insistence on the responsibility to work if you can. Labour shouldn’t be any different now. We have always been the party of the right to work, but we have always been the party of the responsibility to work as well. (p. 268).

This chills the blood. It was Jess, another of the great commenters here, who first informed me about the labour colonies, which were incidentally also supported by the great champion of freedom and democracy, Winston Churchill. I’ve considerable respect for the Webbs. They worked hard, and their report on the state of the health services, such as they were, argued for a unified system of state health care decades before the Beveridge Report. But they and the other Fabians were authoritarians, who uncritically accepted Stalin’s propaganda of the Soviet Union as a happy, prosperous, and well-fed workers’ utopia while the reality was mass starvation through enforced collectivisation, state terror and the industrialisation of the country through forced labour camps – the gulags. There are also very strong parallels between their labour colonies, and the Nazis’ concentration camps. Among those interned in them were long-term unemployed, dubbed arbeitscheu, which was translated into English as ‘workshy’.

Now the Blairites are trying to present themselves as the unthreatening, moderate alternatives to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour left. The reality is quite different. They are highly authoritarian, with a real contempt for the working class, and a vicious, punitive attitude to those unfortunate enough to lose their jobs.

Guy Standing’s Arguments against Workfare: Part 1

August 8, 2016

Workfare is one of the most exploitative aspects of the contemporary assault on the welfare state and the unemployed. It was advocated in the 1980s by the Republicans under Ronald Reagan in America, and in Britain by Thatcher’s Conservatives. At its heart is the attitude that the unemployed should be forced to work for their benefits, as otherwise they are getting ‘something for nothing’. Very many bloggers and activists for the poor and unemployed, including Mike over at Vox Political, Johnny Void, the Angry Yorkshireman, and myself have denounced it as another form of slavery. It’s used to provide state-subsidised, cheap labour for big business and charities, including influential Tory donors like Sainsbury’s. And at times it crosses the line into true slavery. Under the sanctions system, an unemployed person is still required to perform workfare, even if the jobcentre has sanctioned them, so that they are not receiving benefits. Workfare recipients – or victims – have no control over where they are allocated or what jobs they do. The government was challenged in the courts by a geology graduate, who was forced to work in Poundland. The young woman stated that she did not object to performing unpaid work. She, however, had wanted to work in a museum, and if memory serves me correctly, had indeed got a place at one. She was, however, unable to take up her unpaid position there because of the Jobcentre’s insistence she labour for Poundland instead. A young man also sued the government, after he was sanctioned for his refusal to do 30 hours a week unpaid labour for six months for the Community Action Programme. The High and Appeal Courts ruled in the young people’s favour. They judged that the government had indeed acted illegally, as the law did not contain any stipulations for when and how such work was to be performed.

Iain Duncan Smith, the notorious head of the Department of Work and Pensions, was outraged. He called the decision ‘rubbish’ and said, ‘There are a group of people out there who think they are too good for this kind of stuff .. People who think it is their right take benefit and do nothing for it – those days are over.’ This is rich coming from IDS, who was taking over a million pounds in farm subsidies from the EU. Eventually, Smith got sick of the criticism he was taking for the government’s welfare policies, and flounced off early in 2016 moaning about how unfair it all was that he should get the blame, when the notorious Work Capability Tests inflicted on the elderly and disabled were introduced by New labour.

They are in no sense free workers, and it similarly makes a nonsense of the pretense that this somehow constitutes ‘voluntary work’, as this has been presented by the government and some of the participating charities.

The political scientist Guy Standing is also extremely critical of workfare in his book, A Precariat Charter, demanding its abolition and making a series of solid arguments against it. He states that it was first introduced in America by the Republicans in Wisconsin, and then expanded nationally to the rest of the US by Bill Clinton in his Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. It was part of his campaign to ‘end welfare as we know it’. Single parents receiving social assistance were required to take low-paying jobs after two years. Legislation was also passed barring people from receiving welfare payments for more than five years in their entire lives.

David Cameron, unsurprisingly, was also a fan of the Wisconsin system, and wanted to introduce it over here. In 2007 he made a speech to the Tory faithful at the party conference, proclaiming ‘We will say to people that if you are offered a job and it’s a fair job and one that you can do and you refuse it, you shouldn’t get any welfare.’ This became part of Coalition policy towards the unemployed when they took power after the 2010 elections. Two years later, in 2012, Boris Johnson, speaking as mayor of London, declared that he was going to use EU money from the Social Fund to force young adults between 18 and 24 to perform 13 weeks of labour without pay if they were unemployed.

Ed Miliband’s Labour party also joined in. Liam Byrne, the Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, declared that

Labour would ensure that no adult will be able to live on the dole for over two years and no young person for over a year. They will be offered a real job with real training, real prospects and real responsibility … People would have to take this responsibility or lose benefits.

This was echoed by Ed Balls, who said

A One Nation approach to welfare reform means government has a responsibility to help people into work and support for those who cannot. But those who can work must be required to take up jobs or lose benefits as such – no ifs or buts.

Standing traces the antecedents of workfare back to the English poor law of 1536 and the French Ordonnance de Moulins of twenty years later, which obliged unemployed vagabonds to accept any job that was offered them. He states that the direct ancestor is the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, the infamous legislation that, under the notion of ‘less eligibility’, stipulated that those receiving support were to be incarcerated in the workhouse, where conditions were deliberately made much harsher in order to deter people from seeking state support, rather than paid work. This attitude is also reflected in contemporary attitudes that, in order to ‘make work pay’, have demanded that welfare support should be much less than that received for paid work. This has meant that welfare payments have become progressively less as the various measure to make the labour market more flexible – like zero hours contracts – drove down wages. The workhouse system was supplemented in 1905 by the Unemployed Workmen Act, supported, amongst others, by Winston Churchill. This directed unemployed young men into labour, so that they should not be ‘idle’ and be ‘under control’. Nor were leading members of the early Labour party averse to the use of force. Sidney and Beatrice Webb, two of the founders of the Fabian Society, were also in favour of sending the unemployed to ‘labour colonies’, chillingly close to the forced labour camps which became such as feature of the Nazi and Communist regimes. Liam Byrne also harked back to the Webbs to support his argument for workfare as Labour party policy. He stated

If you go back to the Webb report, they were proposing detention colonies for people refusing to take work … All the way through our history there has been an insistence on the responsibility to work if you can. Labour shouldn’t be any different now. We have always been the party of the responsibility to work as well.

The result of this is that many unemployed people have been placed on the Mandatory Work Activity – MWA – scheme, which requires them to perform four weeks of unpaid work for a particular company, organisation or charity. The scheme also includes the disabled. Those now judged capable of performing some work are placed in the Work-Related Activity group, and required perform some unpaid labour in order to gain ‘experience’. If they do not do so, they may lose up to 70 per cent of their benefits.

This has created immense fear among the unemployed and disabled. Standing quotes one man with cerebral palsy, who was so afraid of being sanctioned for not performing the mandatory work, that he felt physically sick.

The system also affects those in low-paid part-time jobs or on zero hours contracts. These must prove that they are looking for more working hours or a better paid job. If they do not do so, they may lose benefits or tax credits. In 2013 the Tory-Lib Dem government made it even harder for people to claim tax credits by raising the number of working hours a week, for which tax credits could not be claimed, from 16 to 24.

Smith Snipes at Corbyn from the Last Refuge of the Scoundrel

July 27, 2016

Smudger must be on the rocks, and seriously rattled. Mike today posted up a piece reporting that the Pontypridd Pratt was in the Mirror, claiming that Corbyn did not understand British, that is, Scots, Welsh and English patriotism. Instead, he claimed that he had a ‘liberal’, left-wing, ‘metropolitan’ perspective that is not part of the Labour tradition. By which Smiffy means that ‘nationhood, nationalism and patriotism aren’t really part of his makeup.’

Someone once said that patriotism was the last refuge of the scoundrel. And someone else declared that patriotism was the position of the man, who had nothing else to say. Corbyn is massively more popular than Smudger, and so Smiffy is revealed for what he is – an empty politico sniping at his rival from a last, desperate fallback position, trying to bang the nationalist drum to oust someone, who is both more popular and who has much more substance politically.

Corbyn’s Genuinely Patriotic Policies

Mike also points out that it’s not fair on Corbyn to claim that he’s unpatriotic, and includes a meme to show how patriotic he is. This is through real, substantial policies that will make a positive difference to the welfare of the country and its great peoples. It is not through empty gestures, like grovelling deference to the monarchy, or standing with your shoulders back, and your tie straight to sing the national anthem, as the departing, unlamented former occupant of No 10 told him.

Corbyn wants UK utilities to be owned by the British people through the British state. This is patriotic. Profits made in the UK, should be taxed for the benefit of the British people. Patriotic. British men and women should not be sent to fight in illegal wars. Hence his opposition to the bombing of Syria. This is, again, patriotic. It shows a concern for Britain’s children, her sons and daughters, who have to do the duty of fighting and dying. It is also patriotic in the sense that it is concerned with upholding morality and the British tradition of fair play. He believes in protecting British Steel. Patriotic. He does not want British companies to be taken over by US or other foreign firms. Patriotic. He wants to stop the privatisation of the NHS, so that it is run for the benefit of British patients, not US corporations. Very patriotic. And lastly, he feels that British trade should benefit us Brits, so he will veto the TTIP. Again, patriotic.

See Mike’s article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/27/on-jeremy-corbyns-patriotism-owen-smith-has-given-himself-another-shot-in-the-foot/

Tories and the Right Unpatriotic in Selling Off Britain

Jeremy Corbyn is thus, in terms of policy, far more patriotic than the Right. Thanks to Thatcherite neoliberalism and the craze for foreign investment, our utilities are in the hands of foreign countries, as is much of our industry, including the City of London, so dear to the heart of Thatcher, Cameron and the rest of the Tories, including Tony Blair and New Labour. Cameron wanted British nuclear power stations built by the Chinese, as well as new roads. The privatisation of the health service carried out by Blair and Cameron has been at the behest and benefit of American firms such as Unum and Kaiser Medical. Atos, who administered the work capability assessment, was French. Maximus, who have replaced them, are American. And the mega rich, who make their profits over here, are squirreling them all away offshore in places like the Cayman Islands or Luxemburg.

By this standard, the neoliberal administrations Smiffy admires – Thatcher, Major, Blair and Cameron, are definitely unpatriotic. In fact, downright treasonous. But they got away with it because, following Thatcher, the Tory party became the Patriotic Party. You couldn’t get away from her and her chorus of sycophants yakking about patriotism. She was bolstered in this through her use of the symbolism surrounding Winston Churchill, the Second World War, and indeed through her unrestrained militarism. She had to be patriotic, ’cause we won the Falklands War. Well, just about, thanks to the Americans and Chileans. See, there’s another invocation of Winston Churchill, the great war leader and iconographic figure of British patriotism and pluck under foreign aggression. And then there was all the images of Spitfires racing across the skies in the 1987 general election. This was so blatant that Alan Coren dubbed it ‘the Royal Conservative Airforce’ on the News Quiz on Radio 4.

And even there, Thatcher’s patriotism was much less than it seemed. She sold off Westland Helicopters here in the West Country to the Americans. She made massive cuts to the armed forces. The Falklands War was partly caused by the ship defending the islands being recalled by her defence minister, John Nott. The Argentinians seized their chance, and invaded. Then there were the celebrations in the Tory right over 1992, and the closer integration with Europe that came about in that year. That was being celebrated and anticipated even under Thatcher. I can remember that in the late 1980s, a wine bar opened on the Promenade in Cheltenham with that very date as its name: 1992. Denis Skinner in his autobiography makes the point that Thatcher was far less Eurosceptic than she appeared to be. Skinner also supports us leaving the European Union, but for left-wing reasons, rather than those of the ‘turbo-charged’ Tories, Nigel Farage and the rest of UKIP. He points out that while she constantly wrangled with them over our contribution to the EU budget, she never actually threatened to leave. And it was Ted Heath, who took us in. And then in the 1990s there was all the fuss about ‘globalisation’, which meant that capital became international, and the nation state was to be gradually dissolved as more companies established themselves around the world.

So by the standards of economic policies and the practical effects of their ideologies, the Tories weren’t patriots. They advocated selling Britain and its people off to whoever would give them money. They convinced millions of impressionable voters that they were doing the opposite through manipulating the pageantry of the monarchy and the iconography of the Second World War.

Why Socialists Distrust Patriotism

But let’s examine the wider problems of Smiffy’s criticism of Corbyn’s alleged indifference to ‘patriotism’.

Firstly, a supposed ‘liberal’, ‘left-wing’ indifference to patriotism and nationalism is very much a part of the Labour tradition. Or at least, parts of it. In line with the rest of the European Socialist parties, many members of the Labour party opposed the wars between European powers in the 19th century, because it was felt – and not just by Marxists – that the working class of all nations had more in common with each other than with their rulers in the middle and upper classes. Socialists from all over Europe objected to the prospect of a war in Europe, because they felt that it would be carried out for the profit of the industrialists and the feudal aristocracy. This was shattered when the First World War broke out, and most of the Socialist parties showed themselves only too eager to vote war credits in support of the conflagration. But individual Socialists, including members of the Labour party, did protest against it, along with their counterparts in France and the German SPD.

Looking along the magazine racks in the newsagents in Bristol’s Temple Meads Station last Friday, I found among the current affairs magazines the New Internationalist. I can remember copies of that lying around my sixth form common room when I was at school. From what I remember, it’s another left-liberal magazine devoted to international social justice, particularly in the Developing Nations. Back in the 1980s, it was firmly behind the Greenham Women. I also seem to recall one of Paul Weller’s songs having the refrain, ‘Internationalists’, although I can’t remember which one.

British patriotism has also been intimately connected to imperialism. From the 19th century one of the holidays celebrated was ‘Empire Day’. David Dimbleby in one edition of his art history series, The Seven Ages of Britain, dug out a Victorian children’s book called, The ABC for Baby Patriots. Under ‘E’, the book had ‘Empire’, for wherever the British citizen went, they would be safe and free. Except for the indigenes, who were expected to work for us. While that book expressed the attitude of the imperialists, the Labour Party in the 1920s passed resolutions committing itself to giving the colonies their independence. I even found it discussed in the autobiography of another Labour politician from that period, called Benn, though I don’t know if there was a connection to Tony. This particular Benn made it very clear he stood for granting the peoples of the British Empire the right to run their own countries. And George Orwell came to Socialism through his hatred of imperialism.

Smiffy also claims that working class patriotism is often socially conservative. He’s right, which is why so many left-wingers have been intensely suspicious of it. The national symbols it embraces are those of the ruling classes, such as the monarchy, the stately homes of the rich and powerful, and so forth. In the 1960s there was considerable controversy over a history programme called The World We Have Lost. Or rather, over its title. Some historians objected to it because it expressed a nostalgic support for the good old days of aristocratic rule, when proles and tradesmen knew their place. This kind of patriotism is bound up with Michael Gove’s view of history – that it should all be very Conservative, patriotic, and reinforce Tory values.

And what really worries left-wingers is the racism that can lurk underneath this kind of patriotism. Alf Garnett was a parody of working class Conservatives, people with dirty, broken windows, living in poverty, for whom the Tories had done absolutely nothing, but nevertheless doggedly supported them. As well as generally reactionary and ignorant, Garnett was virulently racist. Johnny Speight, the writer, intended the character to show up and lampoon that aspect of Conservativism. But he was dismayed by the failure of many viewers to see the joke, and there were all too many ready to agree with him about non-White immigration.

London is a multicultural world city, far more so than much of the rest of the country, although many cities nevertheless may have sizable populations of ethnic minorities. I feel uneasy when Smudger attacks Corbyn for being ‘too metropolitan’, because it suggests that he thinks Labour should reflect the growing racism and xenophobia of the Brexit campaign. One of the criticisms the political scientist Guy Standing makes of New Labour in his book, A Precariat Charter, is that they did try to harness the growing resentment of immigrants by pushing policies that increasingly denied them their rights, such as to welfare benefits and employment legislation. Smudger’s a New Labour neoliberal, and it seems to me that with his attack on Corbyn for his ‘metropolitan’ attitudes to patriotism, there’s a concealed racism and determinism to inflict more precarity on refugees and asylum seekers, the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.

Patriotism and Working Class Culture

But patriotism can also include left-wing elements, which would no doubt also horrify Smiff. If you think of Wales, for example, there’s not only Owen Glendower, and medieval Welsh kings like Hywel Dda, there’s also the images of working class radicalism – the Welsh miners, and their leaders like Nye Bevan. Scotland has Red Clydeside, Devon in England the Tolpuddle Martyrs, without forgetting the Yorkshire Miners. These are also part of British nationalism and national identity, along with heroes like Tom Paine, Thomas Spence, Keir Hardie, Feargus O’Connor and the Chartists, and other heroes and heroines of working and lower middle class history. The British folk revival of the 1950s was inspired by Black American blues music, much of which had been collected by researchers as part of F.D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. British musicians and musicologists began exploring their own traditional music, to find the traditional British counterparts to this American working class music. And it exists. Paine’s The Rights of Man was celebrated in song in the 18th century, and it can be found in sheet music even now. Thomas Spence and the Chartists also composed songs to put their message across. Chumbawumba did a version of at least one of these songs a little while ago. It’s on the Net, if you care to look. This is all part of our national identity and culture, but one which I suspect Smiffy isn’t easy with, and which Thatcher and the Tories positively wanted to suppress or dismiss. But these heroes and heroines did inspire Clement Atlee’s Labour party, when they one the 1945 election, and introduced the welfare state.

Conclusion

Smith’s comments about Jeremy Corbyn and patriotism are therefore both wrong, and potentially dangerous. Corbyn is patriotic in the matter that counts – doing your political duty to improve the lives of one’s fellow citizens. Thatcher and the neoliberals betrayed the British people, plunging them into poverty and selling off Britain, all while maintaining the illusion of British imperial power, and maintaining and expanding their class privileges. And Britain also has a rich, working class traditional culture, that also forms part of our national identity, in opposition to the approved culture promoted by Gove. And when Labour members and supporters were critical and uncomfortable with nationalism and patriotism, it’s because it all too often leads to imperialism and racism. A racism that it seems Smudger would like to harness once again, as part of New Labour policy.

A few years ago, Lobster published a unique and fascinating article by a southern Irish Roman Catholic Ulster Unionist. This particular contributor wanted working class radicals from both the Roman Catholic and Protestant communities to unite to do something positive for the working people of Northern Ireland as a whole, regardless of their faith or national loyalties. The piece also criticised Tony Blair for embracing the politics of culture. The author explained that this was dangerous, because in Ireland it usually meant there was a man with a gun behind it. It was a danger then, and I don’t think the danger has disappeared in the decade or so since that piece was written. And it shows how dangerous nationalism and patriotism can be at their most extreme.

Counterpunch on NATO’s Preparations for War with Russia

July 9, 2016

Okay, I’ve already blogged about one Counterpunch article today, by Garikai Chengu tracing the history of British imperial domination in Iraq. This is another article from the same magazine that needs to be read. It’s about the NATO conference yesterday and today, and the continuing build up of NATO forces along the borders with Russia. NATO troops, including British squaddies, are being sent to reinforce Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, against possible Russian aggression.

The 1980s Cold War

This was on the BBC news yesterday, which reported that there were fears about a possible Russian threat following Russian attempts to fly military aircraft over Estonian airspace. This is all extremely frightening, as it is all too much like the Cold War those of us, who are now middle aged, grew up under in the 1980s. It was a time when Thatcher and Reagan were ranting about the Soviet Union being ‘the evil empire’, and the world really was on the edge of nuclear war. It dam’ well nearly broke out too, on at least three occasions. On one of these, it was only through the very clear thinking of a Russian officer, who insisted on visual confirmation of a nuclear attack after the Soviet defence computers malfunctioned and signalled a false alarm, that we’re all here, alive today.

Reagan himself nearly started another nuclear showdown with a stupid joke. He opened a Republican rally with the quip that ‘Congress has passed legislation against the Soviet Union. Bombing begins in ten minutes’. While the Republican faithful cheered wildly, a Soviet nuclear missile base in Siberia went on red alert for half an hour. Some people should really know when to keep their gobs shut. And another nuclear incident was started by a technician dropping his spanner down a missile silo. And there no doubt have been others, too many others.

The children of my generation were left traumatised with the threat that any second we could be vaporised and our planet reduced to dead, smouldering ash, just as our parents’ had been during the Cuban missile crisis. We hoped, prayed and rejoiced that everything might be different when Communism fell. The Soviet Empire dissolved, nations threw off the yoke of tyranny, and people from the east and west could finally meet and mix, to work and set up businesses in each others’ countries. The Iron Curtain Churchill described was gone. And the spectre of nuclear holocaust was lifted from that part of the Eurasian landmass.

Now it all looks like it’s all coming back.

Cloughley on the Failure of the Campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya

Brian Cloughley, the author of the Counterpunch piece, is a former NATO soldier, whose duties included serving with an NATO atomic missile regiment. He discusses the irony of Poland hosting the NATO conference just when the Chilcot report had condemned Tony Blair for his lies and crimes in the Iraq invasion. The article describes the failures of the NATO invasions and actions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, all of which are now in a worse state than before. And despite the overwhelming numerical and technological superiority of NATO forces in Afghanistan, we still have not subdued the Taliban, who are little more than a bunch of tribesmen with only the most basic equipment. As well as increased instability and conflict in all of these conflicts, and the growth of Islamism and massive human rights abuses, the attack on Libya has also worsened the migrant crisis, as hundreds of thousands from elsewhere in Africa flood into the country, seeking a better life across the Med in Europe.

Russia No Threat

Cloughley also talks about the bloated financial nature of NATO, as it consumes a large part of its member countries’ taxes in expenditure on American arms and support that they can often ill afford. Its lavish expenditure can be seen in the fact that it has just opened a new palace in Brussels, the cost of which has escalated to $2 billion. And now NATO is strengthening its forces on its eastern borders against a supposed Russian threat, using terms like ‘forward presence’, which, despite official denials, suggest that they are preparing for a war. However, General Petr Pavel, Chairman of NATO’s military committee, has stated that Russian “aggression is not on the agenda and no intelligence assessment suggests such a thing.”

The German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier has also warned against exacerbating the situation with further military posturing. He has said “What we should not do now is inflame the situation with saber-rattling and warmongering. Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance’s eastern border will bring security is mistaken. We are well-advised not to create pretexts to renew an old confrontation.” This comes from someone, whose country for over four decades was on the very front line of any possible war between NATO and the Warsaw pact.

Putin himself has told his diplomatic corps that this is all about western aggression, about NATO trying to justify itself. He said “NATO seems to be making a show of its anti-Russian stance. NATO not only seeks to find in Russia’s actions pretexts to affirm its own legitimacy and the need for its existence, but is also taking genuinely confrontational steps.”

Cloughley is convinced that there is no military threat from Russia, and this is really just the West and NATO preparing for yet another unprovoked war, selling it to its peoples on the lies that intelligence really has shown the Russians are building up their forces to invade.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/07/08/nato-prepares-for-war-confrontation-and-insanity/

Russian Threat in 1980s and Now Non-Existent

This is terrifying, and, frankly, a damning indictment of the Continent’s leaders. It looked for a few decades that the spectre of nuclear war between Russia and the West had gone forever. Now it’s come back. I really am not sure how much of a military threat Russia is. The Beeb reports mention overflights of Estonia by Russian planes. But they attempt to do that to Britain, and have done since the 1980s and possibly long before. What usually happens is that we send up a few RAF planes just as they’re approaching Scotland, at which point they scarper back to Russia. It’s been going on for decades. My guess is that the Russians are trying something similar in Estonia. It is a deliberate attempt to intimidate, to prod us, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Russian spends vast amounts on its arms, but even then, it’s much less than American military expenditure. And Lobster has published more than one article taking apart the lies my generation were told about the military threat from the Warsaw Pact in the ’70s and ’80s. We were told that the Soviet forces were massive, their troops eager and well-trained, and well equipped. They were poised to invade Europe at any moment. They weren’t. Their military equipment, including tanks, were inferior to the West. And more importantly, by the 1970s, the USSR simply wasn’t interested. Rather than dedicated Cold Warriors bent on exported Communism, the Nomenklatura – Communist party functionaries and officials – at home were to busy enjoying their own privileges, and trying to get abroad to buy good quality western goods they could sell on the black market back home.

Ukrainian Government and Nazis; Persecution of Russians and Democrats

As for the Russian threat to the Ukraine, from what I’ve seen and reblogged here, everything suggests that rather than being the aggressors, the Russian minority is the victims. They are being persecuted, subject to nationalist violence, and prevented by physical force from exercising their right to vote. Rather than being genuine democrats, the Ukrainian government looks like your bog-standard set of post-Soviet oligarchs, and corporate stooges, comparable to their counterparts in Britain and the US. The government also contains genuine, unreconstructed Nazis from the ‘pravy sektor’ – the Right Sector. These are groups which wear the insignia and uniforms of the auxiliary SS units which collaborated with the Nazis in their invasion of the US, and truly horrific pogroms against Soviet Jews. They are ultra-violent thugs, who have carried out horrific attacks on genuine Ukrainian democrats and trade unionists. In the demonstrations that overthrew the pro-Soviet government a few years ago, they shot at and attacked the peaceful demonstrators on their own side, while trying to make it look like it came from the Russians.

I’ve also seen footage on YouTube in which Russian soldiers capture a masked soldier, who then announces that he’s an America. I don’t know whether this is propaganda, or footage of a genuine event. Either is possible. But I certainly don’t discount the possibility that some of the supposedly Ukrainian troops include American special ops forces.

Europe Pushed to Brink of War for Corporate Profit

Putin is a thug. His assassination of his political opponents in Russia and beating and intimidation of journos, who refused to follow his line, is ample proof of that. But I don’t believe he is planning to invade Poland or the Baltic States. I am most dreadfully afraid that this time, Europe is being pushed into war with Russia on false pretexts, for the corporate profit of international capital. And it will be us proles, from America, England, France, Germany, and right across Europe into Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic and Russia, who will pay the bloody price.