Posts Tagged ‘Yorkshire’

John Wycliffe’s Pacifist Theology

December 17, 2017

I’m sick of writing about the Christian right in this country and America – their hatred of the poor, their Zionism and their insanely dangerous millennialism, in which they look forward to the last, apocalyptic war between good and evil, personified as a conflict between the Christian West and Israel on the side of good, and Communism and Islam as the armies of Satan. Here’s a bit of more inspiring theology, at least for those on the Left, from one of the seminal influences on the Reformation.

John Wycliffe has been described as ‘the Morning Star of the Reformation’. He was a late 14th-century English vicar from Yorkshire, who proposed radical reforms to combat what he saw as the corruption of the Church in his day. He was against pluralities, in which clergy held many benefices, often in widely separated parts of the country, noting that this did nothing for the Christian cure of souls. It was set up, however, partly as a way of giving the lower clergy a reasonable income because of the poverty of parts of the church at that time. He argued that the Bible should be the only source of Christian truth, and that salvation was by faith alone, not works. He demanded an end to clerical celibacy, which he said acted ‘to the great prejudice of women’ and promoted homosexuality amongst the clergy. So, not a fan of gay priests then. He also went further in his criticism of the moral right of rulers to govern us when they themselves were guilty of sin. No-one had this right, and those rulers sinning had to step down or be removed. This has been widely criticised since, as it would have made government just about impossible. But it is a severe corrective to the moral double standards of the upper classes, who saw themselves as having an absolute right to rule, often committing heinous sins and crimes themselves, while claiming their right as Christian rulers to punish and uphold moral standards to those lower down the social ladder. This attitude continued into the 17th century, when the monarchists of the British Civil War defended the monarchy on the grounds that the king, as God’s representative on Earth, was above the law, but had the duty to expound it, and so could not be tried for its breach.

He also translated the Bible into English, radical act forbidden by law in England, though perfectly acceptable elsewhere on the continent, such as France. He was not a member of the Lollards, the early radical Protestant movement that grew up around his doctrines, though he was a powerful influence on them. It was the Lollards who produced the song attacking contemporary serfdom, ‘When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?’ In the 16th century, this was taken up and inspired the German peasants in their revolt against feudal overlordship: ‘Als Adam grub und Evan spann, wer war dann der Edelmann?’ Which is an exact translation.

I got the latest Oxbow books Bargain Catalogue through the post a few weeks ago. Among the books on medieval history and culture were two of Wycliffe’s. One was on the inspiration of scripture, the other was on his pacifist theology.

The book is John Wycliffe on War and Peace by Rory Cox. The blurb for the book in the Bargain Catalogue runs:

From the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo to the fifth century, Christian justifications of war had revolved around three key criteria: just cause, proper authority and correct intention. Using Wyclif’s extensive Latin corpus, the author shows how he dismantled these three pillars of medieval “just war” doctrine, demonstrating that he created a coherent doctrine of pacifism and non-resistance which was at that time unparalleled.

200 pages, Boydell and Brewer Ltd, 2014, 97080861933259, Hardback, was £50, bargain price £12.95.

I’m not a pacifist myself, as I believe that sometimes true evil can only be combated through violence. But I’m sick of the co-option of morality to justify the terrible greed and inhuman violence of colonialism and imperialism, especially in the latest attacks on the Middle East.

I realise that many of the readers of this blog have very different attitudes to my own on religion. I’m not trying to insult anyone else’s religious views here, particularly not Roman Catholics or the atheists, who read this blog. I am simply mentioning it as many Christians of radically different denominations and confessions have over the centuries come to pacifism in disgust at the horrors of war as organised violence. I fully recognise and endorse the contemporary Roman Catholic peace movement, which I’ve blogged about before.

I’ve posted it up the news of this book, as I thought it would interest and inspire the Christian readers of this blog, who share my opinions on war. And would also act as corrective to the militant bilge coming out of the American and British religious right and their aggressive, omnicidal militarism.

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Videos of People’s Assembly Demonstration against Budget

November 25, 2017

I found this on the channel of someone describing themselves as ‘Loveofpeace’. On Thursday, just before Philip Hammond released his vile, abysmal budget, the People’s Assembly organised a mass demonstration in front of 10 Downing Street, in which they piled up a small mountain of food, which they would later deliver to a real food bank. They did this to call attention to the mass starvation the Tories’ austerity policies are causing.

This is just a series of short snapshots of the demo, but it shows the workers piling on the food. There’s also a performance poet attacking the media for colluding with the government. It shows the signs up demanding an end to austerity, the sacking of the Tories, and defending the NHS. There’s also a banner from one of the Marxist parties or groups, and another sign saying ‘Migrants welcome here’.

There are now something like a quarter of a million people forced to use food banks. 7 million in ‘food insecure’ households, where they don’t know if this meal will be their last. And that liar Philip Hammond had the utter gall to appear on the Andrew Marr Show last Sunday and claim there were no jobless in Britain. He was wrong: Marr quoted the figure of 1.25 million. I don’t believe that, as the figures are fiddled so that they’re meaningless. I think the real figure is probably 4 million. Quite apart from the fact that most of the poor in Britain are actually in work. But they’re not making money because of low wages, zero hours contracts and all the other fiddles employers are using to not have to pay real wages. And Mike put up another piece about some female Tory from Yorkshire, somebody Pow, who claimed that people had thousands in the bank and the Tories had made them richer.

Well, they have made some people richer. Those, who were rich already. The top 25 per cent. Either this woman really doesn’t know any poor people – which is possible – or she’s suffering from serious cognitive dissonance, and actually believes what her party says – or she’s a liar. Either way, she’s telling porky pies, and is totally unsuited to government.

Get her, Hammond, May and the rest of the Tories out. Now. Before more people die from starvation.

The Privileged Class Background of BBC Staff, and the Problem of Oxbridge Public School Elitism

August 26, 2017

Earlier this week I put up a piece reviewing Tom Mills’ The BBC – Myth of a Public Service. This contributes immensely to the debate about the Corporation’s bias by showing how it consistently allies with the elite against the left and the working class.

And Mills makes a very strong case that, apart with the institutional methods of control the government exercises over the Beeb through the license fee and the appointment of its governors, the BBC also sides with the elite because of the elite, upper and very middle class origins of its managers and staff. Mills describes this background on pages 29 and 30. He writes

A 2014 report of the quasi-official Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission had no qualms about identifying these top BBC executives, and over a hundred other senior BBC managers, as members of ‘Britain’s elite’ – along with politicians, civil servants, the super-rich, FTSE 350 CEOs, newspaper columnists and other groups. The Commission’s survey of 125 BBC executives found that 26 per cent had attended private school (compared with 7 per cent of the population), 33 per cent had attended Oxbridge (compared with just 0.8 per cent of the population) and 62 per cent had attended one of the Russell Group of leading universities (compared with 11.4 per cent of the population) – figures which were comparable with those for other factions of Britain’s power elite, as the report shows. Senior BBC managers are also extremely well paid: in 2014/15, the seven executive members of the BBC’s Executive Board earned an average of over £424,000. Meanwhile, around eighty BBC executives are thought to earn over £150,000, even after policy measures were put in place to reduce executive pay following fierce criticism from the press. Among this executive cadre are around a hundred or so senior managers in editorial policy who on average earn just over £100,000, and the most senior of whom can earn two or three times that.

Below these senior editorial managers, we see similar patterns of privilege. In 2006, the Sutton Trust examined the educational backgrounds of 100 leading news journalists in the UK, of whom 31 worked at the BBC. It found that 54 per cent were privately educated and a remarkable 45 per cent had attended Oxbridge. Educational background is of course an indicator of shared class background. But it is also in itself a profoundly important basis for elite cohesion, forging along with other formative experiences, if not a shared set of ideas, then at least a shared demeanour and set of dispositions. Elitist recruiting practices – which are naturally justified in meritocratic terms, even if they are recognized to create serious problems in terms of legitimacy – thus create subtle forms of institutional and cross-institutional cohesion.

This bears out a comment made by one of the television directors Mike and I heard speak over two decades ago at a Doctor Who convention here in Bristol. He stated that it was very difficult to become a director at the Beeb unless you had been to Oxford or Cambridge. If you hadn’t, it was very difficult. If you had, on the other hand, it was very easy.

As for Oxbridge, I’m currently reading Gregory Benford’s SF novel Timescape (London: Gollancz 1980). The novel’s plot is split between the devastated Britain of 1998 and the optimistic California of 1963, as a group of scientists in Cambridge attempt to use tachyons to carry a message back to their counterparts in La Jolla to warn them of the coming ecological crisis which is gradually causing global civilization to collapse. Benford is an American, and one of the team of Cambridge scientists, Gregory Markham, also hails from across the Pond. The book therefore includes descriptions and meditations on Britain’s relationship to its past, compared with America, and the class structure of British society. On page 182, Benford comments on the educational segregation at Cambridge High Table.

He walked back towards the colleges, letting this feel of the press of time seep into him. He and Jan had been to High Table at several of the colleges, the ultimate Anglophile experience. Memorial plate that gleamed like quicksilver, and crested goblets. In the after-dinner room of polished wood, gilt frames held glowering portraits of the college founders. In the great dining hall Jan had been surprised to find de facto segregation: Etonians at one table, Harrovians at another, the lesser public schools’ alumni at a third, and, finally, state school graduates and everyone else at a motley last table. To an American in such a citadel of education, after the decades of ferocious equality-at-all-costs politics, it seemed strange. There persisted a reliance on inherited advantages, and even the idea that such a system was an inherited virtue as well.

This is not too far removed from the description of outright class snobbery Thackeray describes in his Book of Snobs. Casting his eye about England’s great, and at the time, only universities, he noted the way the class system affected even the type of gowns undergraduates wore:

If you consider, dear reader, what profound snobbishness the University system produced, you will allow that it is time to attack some of those feudal middle-age superstitions. If you go down for five shillings to look at the ‘College Youths’, you may see one sneaking down the court without a tassel to his cap; another with a gold or silver fringe to his velvet trencher; a third lad with a master’s gown and hat,, walking at ease over the sacred College grass-plats, which common men must not tread on.

Me may do it because he is a nobleman. Because a lad is a lord, the University grants him a degree at the end of two years which another is seven in acquiring. Because he is a lord, he has no call to go through an examination. Any man who has not been to College and back for five shillings [the price of the train fare to Oxford and Eton], would not believe in such distinctions in a place of education, so absurd and monstrous do they seem to be.

The lads with gold and silver lace are sons of rich gentlemen, and called Fellow Commoners; they are privileged to feed better than the pensioners, and to have wine with their victuals, which the latter can only get in their rooms.

The unlucky boys who have no tassels to their caps, are called sizars – servitors at Oxford – (a very pretty and gentlemanlike title). A distinction is made in their clothes because they are poor; for which reason they wear a badge of poverty, and are not allowed to take their meals with their fellow-students.(pp. 60-61).

One of the other, British characters in Benford’s novel, Renfrew, who has the idea of using tachyon radiation to transmit to the past, is also an outsider. He’s the son of a working class Yorkshireman, and because of this is also an outsider amongst the public schoolboys. At one point Renfrew remembers how, as an undergraduate walking down Oxford’s corridors, he passes another pair in gowns. One of these says very loudly in an Oxbridge drawl, ‘Oh God, not another oik come up on a scholarship!’

Oxford has been under considerable pressure to make its more democratic, and Robert Peston has said in his book, Who Runs Britain, that there’s an element of hypocrisy amongst some of the Scots universities, who tried to capitalize on the class scandals that have erupted over Oxbridge in recent years. Some of the Scots universities, particularly St. Andrews’, are even more elite and class-ridden.

It’s tempting to think of those days of class snobbishness as having vanished along with scholarships. However, as the Tories are intent are privatizing the British school system, and really, desperately, want to bring back grammar schools if they can get away with it, as well as cut away the last vestiges of the student grant to the poor, it’s likely that they’ll come back.

The ‘I’: People Want Increased Taxes, Trust Labour More than Tories on NHS

May 31, 2017

It’s no wonder that the biased BBC was crowing about its supposed victory on Woman’s Hour yesterday, when Jeremy Corbyn forgot the figures for Labour’s promise on free childcare. A YouGov poll for the Times concluded that the gap between Labour and the Tories in the polls was only 5 per cent, and that Labour were set to take eight Tory seats, with Tories unable to take any from Labour.

Hence John Pienaar’s excited yelling that Labour needed to convince more people in the marginals, and the Beeb’s footage of two Midlands ladies praising Theresa May to the rafters. They had to. May’s popularity is plummeting, and in some areas the Tories are actually way behind Labour.

Yesterday’s I carried a story by Dominic Kirby, ‘Voters Back Tax Rise to Fund Improved NHS’, which showed that not only were the people of this great nation prepared to put up with more taxes for the health service, but also that Labour were trusted more than the Tories with it. The article read:

More than half of people in every region of Britain say they believe NHS services have worsened over the past three years, according to a survey for I.

The figure rose to 67.2 per cent in Yorkshire and the Humber, and fell as low as 54 per cent in Scotland, according to a poll of more than 8,300 people in partnership with Google Surveys.

It also suggested most people in all regions felt the private sector should have no role in running the NHS, with the highest opposition in the North-east, at 74.3 per cent.

There was also widespread support for the Lib Dem policy of putting an extra penny in thre pound in income tax to raise an estimated £6bn a year for the NHS.

The strongest support was in the south-west of England, where 81.5 per cent of respondents said they would be prepared to pay the extra.

But even in the region with the lowest support – the south-east of England, 72.l per cent said they would pay.

Labour is the most trusted party when it comes to the NHS in every region apart from Scotland, the survey says. As many as 67.9 per cent gave the party their backing over health in some parts of the north.

Even in the English region where Labour did worst – the south-east – it was still the party most trusted on the NHS, ahead of the Conservatives.

English voters were offered a choice of four parties – the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party – and asked which one they trusted most with the future of the NHS.

In the north-west, some 67.9 per cent went with Labour, compared with 21 per cent for the Conservatives, 6 per cent for the Lib Dems and 5.1 per cent for the Greens.

In the north-east, Labour was the choice of 63.7 per cent and the Tories 25.5 per cent, while in Yorkshire and the Humber the split was 63.3 per cent Labour and 23.6 per cent Conservative.

The highest levels of support for the Tories were found in the south-east and east of England.

In the south-east, 33.3 per cent said they trusted the Tories most with the future of the NHS – but 48 per cent said they trust Labour most.

In the east, 35.1 per cent went for the Conservatives, while 48.2 per cent for Labour.

It was a different story in Scotland, where voters were asked to choose between the SNP, the Conservatives, labour and the Liberal Democrats. There, 42.9 per cent said they trusted the SNP most with the health service, while 32.4 per cent went for Labour, 19.;5 per cent the Conservatives, and 5.2 per cent the Lib Dems.

So, no wonder that the I paper is reporting that May is falling back on personal attacks on Corbyn as her lead in the polls collapses. It also explains perfectly why she’s now fallen back on plugging herself as the best person for Brexit, and why one of the Tory papers today is claiming on its front page that Labour has a secret plan to increase migration.

The fear amongst May and the Tories is so great, you can practically smell it.

Vox Political: Teen Bullied by DWP Commits Suicide; DWP Staff enjoy £140 million Bonuses

December 7, 2016

Mike today also posted a couple of stories today, which together show how disgraceful and corrupt the DWP is. Apparently, over the last three years the DWP has awarded £140 million in bonuses to its civil servants, of which £124.37 million went to the Department’s senior managers.

Mike is understandably outraged by this, and asks if this includes money awarded through schemes like the ‘Space Invaders Game’ set up in one office for getting people of benefits, or the Sheriff’s Stars, which Johnny Void stated were set up to reward clerks, who sanctioned people in others.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/06/almost-140-million-in-bonuses-for-dwp-staff-for-sanctioning-people-off-benefits/

These bonuses have been awarded for the bullying of claimants either to get a job, or stop claiming benefit. Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people, have died of desperation, neglect and starvation after being sanctioned by the DWP. They have included a diabetic ex-serviceman, an elderly couple, and a young woman, who killed herself and her infant child. Stilloaks has compiled a list of the people, who’ve been killed. Johnny Void has also in his blog published an extensive list of the DWP’s victims. And now it seems the DWP has claimed another one.

Mike today also reported that an 18 year-old man, David Brown, from Eston in North Yorkshire, committed suicide after being belittled by Job Centre Staff. He was looking to get an apprenticeship in welding, but the Job Centre put him on pressure to find a job. An inquest was told that before he killed himself, he told his mother

“The way the Jobcentre treat people, it is no surprise people commit suicide.”

Mike comments that it seems harsh, but the question has to be asked: who received the bonus for getting him off the DWPs books.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/07/teen-committed-suicide-after-being-belittled-by-job-centre-staff/

These are more vile policies that can be traced back to Maggie Thatcher and John Major. It was Maggie and Major who, in my experience, introduced ‘performance related pay’ into the civil service. And I got the distinct impression it was done as part of a policy to keep the staff working as hard as possible for little pay. Instead of a proper pay rise, there was just the promise that if you worked hard, you might get a bonus. Might. In fact, the bonuses were always going to go to the bosses, just as the captains of industry constantly award themselves massive pay rises as ‘bonus-related pay’ for closing down factories and shops and laying people off. And it was the same with the DSS and Benefits Agency. That came in when Anderson Consulting decided that the Benefits Agency and Inland Revenue should be rationalised, so that local offices would be closed down, and all the decisions concentrated in regional centres instead. Which is a good reason why ordinary civil servants should hate and despise Anderson Consulting, or whatever it now describes itself.

As for the deaths of humiliated and sanctioned benefit claimants, this all comes from the principle of ‘less eligibility’. This is the ‘Victorian value’ of the workhouse, which was taken over by Maggie Thatcher, then by Blair, and his successors Cameron, Clegg and May. The idea is that you make welfare so humiliating, that it acts as a deterrent – people are supposed to want to do anything to find a job and avoid the hardship. And people are suffering from it. Apart from those, who’ve died, I know many people personally, who’ve been very reluctant to sign on because of the way they’ve been picked on and abused by DWP staff.

There has been talk about prosecuting the DWP for such cases. I don’t know if you can do it, but this seems to me to be a clear case where the Department was guilty of culpable negligence, possibly even breach of a duty of care towards a clearly vulnerable young man. But I don’t know for sure. Except that this vile system needs to ends now, and those responsible punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Respect! Vox Political and Another Angry Voice Mentioned on Newsnight

August 24, 2016

Congratulations to Mike over at Vox Political and the Angry Yorkshireman. Both these two gents, along with Media Diversified and Novara Media, were mentioned by Kerry-Ann Mendoza, the woman behind the pro-Corbyn blog, The Canary, when she appeared on Newsnight. Mendoza contrasted the fresh approach and perspective of these blogs and news sites, with the dullness and conformity of mainstream media political reporting. She stated that the journalists on these sites all graduated as being either six inches to the left or six inches to the right of each other. So, well done, lads!

And Mendoza herself has caused a stir. Her blog is clearly considered important enough by Private Eye and its squad of Blairites and outraged Tories to be targeted regularly for criticism by the satirical magazine. And someone on its staff is very clearly an outraged Tory, as the magazine was very scornful about the story of David Cameron inserting himself into a pig’s head when he was at Oxford. The Eye considered this an horrendous slur. It probably was, but for the rest of us, who’ve been hit hard by his wretched policies of privatisation and austerity – but only for the poor – it was highly amusing. The Eye clearly sees Mendoza and her championing of Jeremy Corbyn as a threat to the continued security of British Thatcherism that must be attacked at every opportunity. So she’s very definitely doing something right!

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.

Vox Political: BNP Accusing Jo Cox of Aiding Potential Muslim Terrorists

June 30, 2016

Racism, and racist incidents in Britain has increased as a result of the Brexit campaign, and it seems the BNP is trying to do its best to capitalise on this. It’s particularly trying to exploit the assassination of Jo Cox, who was killed after holding a constituency surgery in Birstall. She had particularly angered the racists and Islamophobes in West Yorkshire for her work supporting immigrants and anti-racist campaigns. And now, after her death, the BNP are trying to smear her.

According to Mike over at Vox Political, Paula Sherriff, the Labour MP for Dewsbury, has complained about leaflets shoved through her constituents doors by the stormtroopers. This accuses Cox of taking ‘misguided action’ by helping Muslims, who may then go on to join ISIS. She also states that it includes other vile claims. She also has complained that many of her constituents have also been racially abused. She mentions in particular a case where a seven year old girl was told by someone that the Leave vote ‘was the best day of my life’ and that the girl and people like her should all go home. Actually, those weren’t the exact words used, as Sherriff was taking out the expletives so it could be decently repeated in the House.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/06/30/bnp-posts-jo-cox-muslim-slur-through-neighbours-letterboxes-as-racist-attacks-soar/

It’s almost predictable that the BNP would try something to smear Cox and try to promote itself on the back of her murder. This also shows how desperate the BNP are. The party’s been the subject of various splits and leadership disputes, with former Fuehrer Griffin having been ousted. He is now running around eastern Europe trying to get the squadristi there to give him free meals and publicity. The far right in this country has shrunk down to a very few, split between a number of squabbling grouplets, all desperate to steal each others’ members. This looks like a sordid attempt by the BNP to show it can take the lead and still has some relevance in the politics of hate. It also shows how vile and pathetic the group has become, now it’s fallen from the threat it was eight or so years ago. This is it’s true face – racist, mean-spirited, slanderous and desperate. Their leaflets are only fit to be slung in the bin, as is the party itself.

Vox Political: Thomas Mair due to be Tried for Terrorism in November

June 23, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has also put up this piece, reporting that Thomas Mair has appeared before Mr Justice Saunders at the Old Bailey via video link. Mair is accused of murdering the MP, Jo Cox, last Thursday. The date of his trial is set as 14th November, and he has been charged with terrorism. At least this time he has had the decency to give a proper answer when asked what his name was. When he appeared before the beak last week, he claimed it was ‘Death to Traitors, Freedom for Britain’.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/06/23/terrorist-trial-of-thomas-mair-to-take-place-in-november/

Now it’s important to remember that Mair is innocent until proven guilty. But the evidence against him seems very conclusive. That hasn’t stopped the Kippers, Brexiters and other members of the racist right from trying to claim that he is somehow innocent. Hope Not Hate and other bloggers and organisations, include Vox Political, have reported and commented on the stupid conspiracy theories that sprung up like poisonous mushrooms after Cox’s murder. According to these, it wasn’t Mair, but a false flag operation to muster support from the Remain camp. This was according to Francois Asselineau, a conspiracy theorist with form for this kind of stupid, right-wing pronouncements over in La Patrie across the Channel. The man, who actually saw him carrying out the attack has an Arab name, and so was derided as a ‘lying Muslim’. Actually, in his clothes, demeanour and accent the witness looked as Yorkshire and British as anybody else. Not that it should have made any difference if he had worn a kaftan, skull cap and traditional Asian trousers.

I’ve also been amazed at the attempts to blame the attack on Mair’s poor mental health, rather than his membership of extreme right-wing organisations, like the pro-Apartheid Springbok club, the London Swinton Circle, and contacts with the National Alliance, the main American Nazi organisation. Instead it’s because he suffered from depression, or OCD -Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It’s not a convincing excuse, and neither of those conditions, on their own, will provoke someone to murder.

Let’s take depression. I think Mike put up a piece yesterday from a neuroscientist, who said that in her medical experience, depressives don’t have the energy to murder anyone. The unfortunates who suffer from the condition have all the energy drained out of them. That’s true. I’ve come across people with the condition, who have done nothing but lie in a darkened room when they’ve been suffering from an attack. Many depressives, and obsessive-compulsives, for that matter, simply take to sleep to try and get away from the thoughts and ruminations that are troubling them. They neither have the energy nor inclination for violence.

As for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, many of those who suffer from it, don’t do anything but feel forced to carry out repetitive rituals, such as washing themselves over and over again, in case something terrible might happen. At their most severe, these rituals can take up someone’s entire day, and affect not just their lives, but the lives of their families. But people, who spend hours checking to make sure they’ve properly locked the doors and windows, despite knowing that they have, don’t usually entertain thoughts of killing anyone.

Of course, part of the illness is that thoughts that cause anxiety may be dwelt upon, and for those hostile to immigration, that will include thoughts about the threat posed by immigrants. Now I think it’s fair to say that there is a danger of this, not just because of the emotive nature of the immigration debate, but also because of the genuine threat of Islamist terrorism. But again, having those thoughts doesn’t necessarily mean you have to act them out. If someone is so ill with depression and anxiety, that they seek medical help, then they know they’re ill. Which means that they can also recognise that their anxieties and the terrible ideas and fears running through their minds don’t necessarily correspond to reality. One antidote to fears about immigrants and immigration is simply thinking about the many decent people, who’ve come to this country over its history. Simply taking a trip on the bus, where you can see ordinary people of all races and backgrounds talking about banal, everyday matters like the weather, problems with the car and the awful track, what a prat the boss is, the cost of living and the footie, should help to allay any fears that Blacks or Asians are terrible monsters threatening the White race.

And backing this up is the knowledge of how vile the real Nazis are. As shown by the Holocaust, which is enough to depress and strike fear into anybody. But you don’t even have to go that far. Just the ordinary thuggery of the NF is sufficient for most people. Some of the Conservative politicians, who initially supported the National Front in the 1970s dropped them when they realised just what a violent outfit the NF was, and especially its policy of recruiting football hooligans and bootboys to attack non-Whites and left-wingers.

Mair doesn’t seem to have done any of this. He doesn’t seem to have tried to challenge his own racism by dwelling on the horrors of the concentration camps, or the unremarkable decency of ordinary folk. Nor was he determined by the far-right’s violence. In fact, his purchase of $600 worth of books on how manufacture home-made guns and ammunition from the publishing branch of the National Alliance, shows he was all too prepared to be involved with it.

Mental illness alone didn’t motivate Mair to kill Jo Cox, if indeed it was him. Sheer, vicious racism and a bitter hatred of those he considered ‘race traitors’ did.

Jo Cox on How Brexit Won’t Solve the Immigration Problem

June 19, 2016

I was sent this little piece, the last article Jo Cox wrote, by Will Straw of the Stronger In Campaign, who would like people to share it. In it, Cox states clearly that leaving the EU will not lead to lower immigration. In fact, it could raise it as the Brexit leaders want immigration controlled by business, who want cheap labour, and so will try to introduce more foreign workers into Britain. She makes the point that Australia, which Gove, Farage and the other Brexit leaders admire for its immigration policy, actual has double the amount of immigration than Britain, thanks to their points system. She also states that the Labour party has been trying to cut down on the welfare benefits which supposedly encourage immigration and are working with communities affected by it. She also makes the excellent point that immigrants actually make a net contribution to our economy, our industries, including the NHS, and the welfare state. Here’s the piece.

With many voters still making up their minds about a decision that will shape the future of our country, Oxford University’s Migration Observatory offered a stark warning that despite offering the world, the Leave campaign cannot guarantee what would happen to migration if we left.

Most voters recognise that our country has reaped many benefits from immigration, from the brilliant doctors in our NHS to the skilled workers helping our economy to grow. Yet across the country, people face everyday worries about job security, school places and GP appointments. In the last days of the campaign, voters should know that despite these legitimate concerns, Brexit is not the answer. Here’s why:

First, Brexit doesn’t guarantee that migration will come down. In fact, a more liberal approach to non-EU immigration – as advocated by the Leave camp – could actually see it increase.

Australia – whose points-based system is so admired by Outers – has twice as many migrants per person than we do.

The whole purpose of their system is to allow businesses to control who comes into their country. For us, this would lead to an increase in cheap labour, bringing down wages and doing nothing to ease voter concerns about insecure employment.

Voters also need to know that the free movement of EU citizens to Britain will not automatically stop if we left.

The only way to do that is to leave the single market – an act of economic self-destruction that would be catastrophic for businesses and jobs across the country.

Second, we can do far more to deal with the pressures caused by migration from inside the EU.

Labour has long pushed for an end to the payment of benefits to people who don’t live permanently in this country, and for a major extension of the time EU migrants have to wait before being able to claim benefits – a commitment secured by the Prime Minister as part of the renegotiation deal.

We can also help communities facing the greatest pressure from migration.

Since 2001, EU migrants have contributed £20 billion more to our economy than they’ve taken out in benefits.

This money must go quickly to areas where migrants are living, to fund schools and health services.

This will ensure that people come to this country knowing they need to play by the rules and work hard, and will reassure Britons that we have a fair, under-control system that works for everyone.

And finally, the overall benefits of EU membership are massive. From businesses in Yorkshire to the President of the United States – and pretty much everyone in between – there is an unprecedented consensus that leaving the EU would hurt our economy and hit our pockets.

We cannot allow voters to fall for the spin that a vote to Leave is the only way to deal with concerns about immigration. We can do far more to address both the level and impact of immigration while remaining in the EU.

I very rarely agree with the Prime Minister, but on this he’s right: we are stronger, safer and better-off in.