The desperation is not quite as evident as I would like in Mr. Sarkozy’s voice when he bleats about the mandate he was awarded in the French Presidential elections. Tensions run high in France with an anti-strike protest on Sunday week ago and strikes now concluding their seventh day.
French Unions, once vaunted for their efficacy in breaking the spine of any government which crossed the red lines drawn around special pensions and such measures, have only managed to bring out between 30 and 60% of the workforce. Estimates differ, as one might expect, according to who is giving them – SNCF says 30%, others say higher. This is not uniform according to region – I’ve heard tell that in some parts of the Paris region the strike is scoring even higher still.
Having spoken with a friend who is himself a railway worker in France, it seems a lot of mixed signals are being given by the labour leadership, leading to confusion in the ranks and less than full support. One union – the CFDT – has even urged workers to resume work as they feel the strike is losing support.
In contrast to this, the support for Sarkozy’s government is also ebbing according to the BBC, which shows approval down to 50% and disapproval up to 40% amongst the French electorate. Of those workers who are on strike, the attempts of union leaders to put the brakes on the strike have been met with fierce resistance. Sarkozy has a disapproval rating that Bernard Thibault must envy.
The government forces have not been resting on their laurels either. Amid news of solidarity phone calls passing between students of universities who are currently on strike, French riot police were sent to deal with a protest outside Nanterre University. Propaganda has been forthcoming all the while.
Unaided by Union leadership, the rank and file have been setting up strike committees and attempting to consolidate the strike. Criticism has been expressed that the Union leaderships collectively couldn’t find their bums with both hands and a map. Concern has been mounting that recent union-backed protests have only been organised at the last minute.
Mr. Sarkozy has not yet had his de Villepin moment – and no one who knows what is happening at the moment in France can dare say the unions there are weak. They can only say that Sarko may have more allies than he initially counted on having.
Quite some time ago, revisionist historian David Irving was billed to speak at the Oxford Union. With the recent publicity surrounding a new invitation – which has also been extended to fascist leader Nick Griffin, I thought it would be interesting to write an article on this. It might also interest people to know that I was personally involved in defending the “No Platform to Fascists” line whilst at Oxford.
Allow me to provide some context to the whole discussion.
The Unions of Oxford and Cambridge are old and distinguished organisations, benefiting from great wealth and prestige within their respective universities. Such is their importance that no few Fleet Street hacks have graduated from student journalism at Oxbridge to real jobs by publishing scoops on different comings and goings tied to these institutions. In theory the Unions are debating clubs, though in practice they also serve as a social networking avenue for many Tories and no few Labourites.
In 2007, a pair of poncey DJ’s from the Oxford University student radio station decided to invite Nick Griffin to speak on air. The President of the Student’s Union, in line with what Student Council had voted, pulled the plug on the interview. The student radio station, based on SU property and run with SU money, was told to cancel the interview. Myself, as a member of OUSU Executive, and Liv Bailey, also an OUSU exec, led the campaign to defend “No Platform to Fascists” to the general Oxford student body.
The curious nature of Oxbridge politics bears some comment at this point. In Oxford, the Students’ Union is not a powerful institution. It can be hamstrung by the Common Rooms of the different colleges – and there are two Common Rooms affiliated in most colleges – a junior one, for undergraduates, and a middle one, for postgraduates. Within the Common Rooms, a vast mass of self-publicising, grasping, ideologically devoid bumpkins hold most of the reins – with several notable exceptions.
Seemingly fortuitous, the JCR Presidents began jumping on to the anti-OUSU bandwagon. The “No Platform to Fascists” issue was political cover to most of these people who resent having to contribute money from what would otherwise be their private entertainment fund to communal resources. The issue was merged and conflated with a whole bundle of other complaints – about the role of a VP Women on OUSU exec and so forth.
Fast forward a few months and the President of the Oxford Union has decided to attempt to upstage the largely Labour(ish)-dominated OUSU by sidestepping the “No Platform to Fascists” policy. As Oxford Union premises are privately owned, the Student’s Union has no say over who is invited etc.
The utter corruption of this move can be seen if one considers some of the pronouncements of Nick Griffin from previous years. My favourite is the one in which he declares that foreigners will not be welcome at Oxford University should his party ever win power. The student body has in many ways reacted in horror to the decision – I’ve heard threats of violence and I’ve read quite a few letters to the student papers in Oxford.
In justification, the same old arguments are advanced; silencing Griffin is illiberal itself, it puts multiculturalism before democracy and so forth and so on. Yet I wonder how the under-represented and often mute ethnic minorities of Oxford will feel if they see Griffin arrive at the Union accompanied by the various henchmen who, over the years, have acquired long criminal records. The depoliticised environment of Oxford University will probably mean most of them won’t care – but they should.
They should care because in truth Oxford student politics is run by a very narrow elite – mostly male and mostly white. The invitation to Oxford for Griffin, as for Irving, is a victory for that uppity little clique – as such, it is a disgrace.
A recent BBC op-ed contends that historical distortion in Hollywood films doesn’t matter all that much. I know people will think that I’m being much too stuffy about history but this is something with which I really must disagree. In schools, we use history to teach moral lessons – SMSCD as the short form has it. Spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is integral to the National Curriculum. As far as I’ve ever been concerned, this involves direct personal engagement with history, to consider what the actors must have gone through and to determine one’s own orientation vis a vis historical events.
Just as we have recently been having the debate on monarchy through this website, so the other week I was teaching one of my year 7 classes about the results of 1066. The class was set up to represent the barons of the Witan, the council of Saxon nobles; since the King had just died, they were set the task of proclaiming a new king.
This moves on to more theoretical questions such as how the state is underpinned by force – though they aren’t taught it in that way. As far as many of them are concerned, all it means is that there’s going to be a bloody great battle or two. At least the foundation is there should they ever wish to return to it.
The aim of this is so that when confronted with the issues of the present, they can see them both as obstacles to be overcome and in their wider historical context. A goal not helped by the cheap plundering of the tapestry of history for spoils which shouldn’t belong to whatever lazy writer and lazy director end up with them.
One of the things that particularly irritated me about the op-ed was the author’s declaration of admiration for Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of Elizabeth I. That is not enough in itself to bother me – personally I thought both Elizabeth films were dry and lacked a certain je ne sais croix but each to his own. What really annoyed me, galled me in fact, was that this admiration is apparently evinced because the author of the op-ed piece didn’t have the imagination and confidence to define the ‘spirit’ of the Elizabethan age for herself.
I have described this is an awkward fashion, so allow me to clarify. Poring over documents, the author laments that she could not get to grips with the emotions of the participants. Thus she excuses the expropriation of history by screen writers because they can do for her what she declares she was not able to do for herself.
Personally I think this amounts to laziness. The reason I became an historian is because I do get caught up in the emotional whirlpool of the societies I study. I do not look down on anyone else who cannot engage so deeply with their subjects – but I would expect anyone to admit that the truth is often more stirring than the fiction. One of the examples I’ve given when this subject has come up in the past is the stand of the three hundred Spartans at Thermopylae.
Admittedly this sounds like the ramble of a disgruntled octogenarian, irritated that his pet subject is being played with outside his supervision. Believe me, that is not what this. Truthfully I enjoy many historical narratives remade by Hollywood, despite their departure from the truth. What concerns me is that the moral elements which I can see and discard at my choice are presented with the full force of history to other people. These people might not be so able to see the incongruity of the narrative and the morals Hollywood has displaced in time and space.
At least in a classroom, there is an environment in which discussion is positively encouraged and the moral can be challenged. This happened today. In a class on the early Nazi programme, the teacher was playing fast and loose with the definition of socialism and one of the pupils pulled him on it – and the two competing narratives were displayed side by side for the rest of the class to see, each attached to different arguments.
The might of Hollywood admits of no competitor in this regard.
Today must be a strange day for the Socialist Workers’ Party. The national conference of the RESPECT coalition takes place on the same day as a “RESPECT renewal conference.” The latter is hosting George Galloway, Ken Loach and several other people prominent on the left. The national conference will be forced to content itself with German, Rees and the usual faces of the SWP.
It reminds me of something I overheard a long time ago. Someone asked, “Where are all the comrades now?” It’s a fair question. The days of the Second International saw alliances between parties with membership in the millions. Those must have been heady days when the revolutionary emigré community would furtively flit from imperial capital to imperial capital, printing their newspapers and disseminating them.
The great Transport strike brought London to a halt and the Miners made a British Prime Minister burst into tears on the floor of the House of Commons. Even after the slaughter of the First World War, Germany had gone through a revolution that removed the Kaiser and the nation had a socialist President. In Austria, the barricades were up. In Russia, Bolshevik workers triumphed against Kornilov and then overthrew the criminal, Kerensky.
Where did it all go so wrong?
We know, or think we know, the answer to that. From the disillusioned former student radicals to the proponents of a post-modern world, everyone seems to have an answer.
I do not accept inevitability as a valid historical judgment. Despite that, if I were asked to pick the point at which the world went down the wrong path, it would be the decision to hold on to the gains of the October Revolution at the expense of proletarian democracy. That decision led to the victory of the Stalinist bureaucracy over the Old Guard of the Party, the Old Guard which Lenin and Trotsky had sought to rely on, to protect the revolution between that time and the time when the more developed European working classes would move back to the offensive.
Yet hindsight is, as ever, 20/20. Had I been Trotsky or Lenin, I do not doubt that I would have made the same decision as they did.
Why is any of that relevant to an article entitled “Socialism in the 21st Century?” The change in character of the Soviet Federation, later Soviet Union, caught up the left in the disintegration of the Third International until that international was little better than Stalin’s political pawn – proof of which was given when, to extract concessions from the British and Americans, Stalin ordered the Comintern to be wound up.
As a result of this, socialists today do not simply contend with “the bourgeoisie.” As any ful kno, the midget little sects contend with one another too. From the AWL to the SP, from the SWP to the RCP(M-L). Why? Because history stands between them.
Arguments over what the USSR turned into, what China was or is, whether or not to support sides during the Korean War…these arguments broke and twisted all the socialist organisations that were independent of Stalin’s Comintern. Those organisations not independent of the Comintern had an altogether different problem which is not relevant to this discussion.
The names of all the famous Marxists of the 20th Century, after the death of Trotsky, are synonymous with the splits that they led. Max Schactmann, Tony Cliffe, Ernest Mandel, Ted Grant…all names well known amongst the left, all led splits. The argument from this has been that the extreme left is simply prone to splits – and, one must admit, the prima facie evidence is compelling when coupled to some damning but comedic indictments of this tendency.
Splits, as often as not, were the result of cults of personality outgrowing the personality that spawned them. They were the results of personal disagreement. Some were even differences over tactics. Clearly splits aren’t a feature liable to disappear from far left politics any time soon – as the comic lockout of the SWP from the national headquarters of RESPECT proves.
Is there a solution to all of this? The Socialist Workers’ Party, the Socialist Party and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty probably stand as the largest of the far left groups – and repeatedly all three sides devote ink to denigrating the positions of the others. One could rationalise and trace out the differences between the SWP and SP over the USSR, or between the AWL and SP over entryism and so on – but the truth is much simpler I sometimes think.
Each Party commits the same sin that the Labour leadership commits, the one all of us denounce it for – the one that these three parties denounce it for incidentally. That sin is one of sacrificing principle for the sake of position. This is done within the trade unions – whether on the CWU or TGWU, where broad left members of the SP or elected executives of the SWP and so forth simply do not give the lead to workers that they should be giving.
Beyond that, these parties act like sects rather than parties. They engage in repeatedly revisionist history – trying to write rivals out of their part in previous movements. They are often aggressive with members of the other parties. I’m not saying Labour is better of course; Labour and many unions have often done as much as possible to expel communists, close down irksome trades’ councils and generally deaden the voices of radical democracy.
At least I can go along to a Labour branch meeting and get normal conversation from people. The school teachers, the civil servants…workers generally are more likely to attend Labour gatherings than anything remotely associated with the anoraks and misfits who seem to characterise the far left. When they’re not anoraks or misfits, they seem to be politically naive in the extreme or else out to use these groups for their own purposes – as the SWP have recently learned to their cost.
Now might be considered an appropriate time to call for the resurrection of that tired banner, “left unity” – but the truth is, the last thing I want is for these groups to merge and/or join Labour. We don’t need to return to the debates of the Fourth International on what the Soviet Union was, and whether or not Eastern Europe was capitalistic or a series of deformed workers’ states. We don’t need six verses on who-was-right-and-who-was-wrong in the recently demised Socialist Alliance.
What I think we do need is stability. What we need is a clear programme. What we need is the freedom to debate ideas – from whatever part of the left they come. It is my view that the SWP and SP are particularly problematic in these regards. The AWL is the group, ironically, which I know least and will not presume to speak on.
Can these things be obtained within the context of the Labour Party? The Labour Representation Committee was founded in 1900 by the trades unions, to which affiliated the young ILP. It was a political movement owing something to the Owenites, to the Fabians, to guild socialism, to Christian pacifism and even to Marxism. It was formed in such a way that disparate groups could unite behind a common banner and argue their own platform with other members.
The historical context of the Party suggests that these things can be obtained within Labour – though that founding principle has been seriously challenged over the years, with repeated expulsions and proscriptions of many groups. I do not think we have democracy within Labour – but that is something we can work towards, even if it means abolishing the trade union block vote. This is one of the two reasons why I am a member – the other is that I support this party because even in the here and now, the party can still exact gains for the working class, regardless of whether or not it challenges capitalist principles to do so.
That is not an illusion in social democracy or in capitalism; I have illusions in neither and seek the overthrow of capitalism and the creation of a dictatorship by the working class through democratic councils of workers. Yet to abandon concrete gains in the here and now is an insult to millions of workers for whom life would be that bit more difficult without a Labour government.
I have been told that I have no place within the Labour Party because of my views – but I will not renounce them. They are views which many Labour voters and Labour members have held down the years, since the formation of the party. Whenever someone tells me that I shouldn’t be a member of Labour, that person is without fail a supporter of the current leadership and terrified of change.
By now, I hope the relevance to “Socialism in the 21st Century” is abundantly clear. Socialists stand in a difficult position. As if fighting the power of the property-owning classes was not enough, we have to contend with people on our own side who maintain illusions in groups that bottle it all too easily when the going gets tough. Beyond those, we have to face the unceasingly hostile bureaucracy of the Labour Party itself, willing to use draconian measures to preserve some mythical purity in the party ranks.
Once these things have been overcome, we’re still only at the beginning of the struggle. The only way to win against the matters already mentioned is to organise ourselves, so that we have stability, a freedom of discussion and an agreed programme – on that basis we can appeal to the masses and win support fairly and honestly. Even then, with the majority of the working class on our side, the battle with the bourgeoisie is still left unfought.
The Socialist Workers’ Party may engage in all the popular or united fronts that it wishes – but that will not disguise the gaudy colour of that party; it will not cover up the checkered history of the SWP, nor the cheapness of its political analysis. They have themselves to blame for their current predicament – just as the SP’s Campaign for a New Workers’ Party has itself to blame for the quagmire in which it currently resides.
For myself, I’m quite happy to discuss my views with comrades within the Labour Party and with workers outside it. I’m quite happy to do my bit campaigning for the Party without giving up my right to an opinion, and my right to canvass support for that opinion. I will happily post leaflets and glad-handle doorbells in exchange for the right to criticise the leadership of my own Party, without fear of reprisal. That is what Socialism in Britain in the 21st Century should be about. Socialism is not dead; it just hasn’t been reborn yet.
This is a subject which all socialists think about sooner or later. It is one that has been pushed to the fore recently by members of the Metropolitan police in response to their chief, Sir Ian Blair, and his seeming affiliation to Labour.
I’m not naive; these allegations come from a former police officer who has something to gain from making them. He is the Lib-Dem candidate for London Mayor, Brian Paddick. If Paddick had any friends amongst the Met, having them mention to a friendly reporter that Sir Ian is ‘too close to Labour’ would create just the right odium to help his election campaign, so don’t be surprised at seeing more of these allegations come out in the future.
For all that, I still believe the allegations to be accurate. The government – the ruling party of the day – are the ones handing out promotions. Within the party itself, I’ve heard rumours that several key police officers were phoned by politicians in order to get their support for the 90-day detention limit in the lead up to the Commons’ vote a few years ago. The same Commons’ vote which resulted in a bloody nose for the government, thankfully.
Pressure was certainly put on the senior ranks by Sir Ian Blair’s office. Emails demanding support for the 90-day detention limit were sent out during the debate just mentioned. However, the political independence of the police though is much smaller even than this individual can demonstrate for us. We shouldn’t forget that the law is a political weapon and that the judiciary are far from being the wise, impartial old men we might wish them to be.
The use of armoured cars to break the Miners’ pickets and the High Court injunctions declaring flying pickets illegal…these were political decisions. The police became a tool of the war a right wing government was fighting with its own people. When the executive met in Sheffield to discuss a motion to ballot nationally, 1,500 policemen stood outside, surrounding the 2,500 miners who had shown up to support Scargill’s decision. Which was upheld by the national executive, incidentally – for all the air time given to views that the strike was undemocratic.
More recently, police involvement in enforcing the protest zone around parliament, the arrest order for Chris Eubank, the riot police out whenever there’s a march…for all their shows of power, the police still can’t catch the drug barons and such. When one compares the matter in that way, a concentration on politically motivated infractions of the law by otherwise law abiding, respectable people as set against the real criminals who still walk free, surely the amount of ridicule called upon the law should be great?
I’m writing this post in response to a comment on my first post by a poster named Jon. Jon offers several critiques of my first post, that I think I can sum up in the question, “Why Manism?” Let me begin by addressing Jon and say that you responded to my post with about twice the length, so let me apologize if you’ve criticized things I haven’t covered, because, well, I haven’t gotten to it yet.
A lot has been said in certain circles about this character Hastilow, a Tory parliamentary candidate who said that Enoch Powell was right in his ‘rivers of blood’ speech. Hastilow’s comments were made a few weeks following widespread praise for David Cameron and the ‘de-racialisation’ of Conservative politics.
I am not sure what Cameron has done to deserve such praise from the head of the Equality quango, Trevor Phillips. His speech on decreasing immigration, justifying it by declaring that it puts pressure on things like housing, struck me as either spurious or false logic. I will deal more with that in a bit.
What I want to consider is, allegations of racism aside, what did Enoch Powell say and was he right? This interest arises for a few reasons. The two uppermost in my mind are these; few Marxist groups that I have seen dedicate much resources to actually analysing racism. The other is that yesterday I was chatting to a colleague, a fellow Classicist, who had actually met the man while visiting the site of the Battle of Hastings.
Powell, in the famous speech, attacked immigration. He likened allowing immigration at the then-levels to heaping the nation’s own funeral pyre. He justified racist discrimination in employment practices. All people should be equal before the law but, ‘this does not mean…that [the citizen] should be subjected to an inquisition as to his reasons and motives for behaving in one lawful manner rather than another.”
Those who supported anti-discrimination laws were denounced as having attempted to blind the eyes of Britain to the danger before it in the 1930′s.
Powell’s ultimate justification for his anti-immigration ran thusly;
“For reasons which they could not comprehend, and in pursuance of a decision by default, on which they were never consulted, they found themselves made strangers in their own country.
They found their wives unable to obtain hospital beds in childbirth, their children unable to obtain school places, their homes and neighbourhoods changed beyond recognition, their plans and prospects for the future defeated; at work they found that employers hesitated to apply to the immigrant worker the standards of discipline and competence required of the native-born worker; they began to hear, as time went by, more and more voices which told them that they were now the unwanted.
On top of this, they now learn that a one-way privilege is to be established by Act of Parliament; a law which cannot, and is not intended to, operate to protect them or redress their grievances, is to be enacted to give the stranger, the disgruntled and the agent provocateur the power to pillory them for their private actions”.
It fills me with suspicion and disgust to hear David Cameron’s speech on immigration praised by someone in charge of ensuring equality, when it mirrors in some respects what Enoch Powell said. On the other hand, for the lowly parliamentary candidate, pressure is great for him to resign. It is hypocrisy of the highest order.
Largely I think it is agreed that Powell’s assessment of equal rights laws was incorrect. Ethnic minorities do not get special treatment – the only institutional benefits they receive correct pre-existing disadvantages. The ‘white man’ is far from being a stranger in his own country – indeed if one looks at Parliament itself, the white man is still very much in the majority. Even women are underrepresented in that august institution and of ‘Black and Asian’ MP’s, there are a mere 15.
I am grateful to Enoch Powell; he is an insight into the minds of the traditional ruling elite of the Conservatives such as we are rarely afforded today. He was of that generation of politicians who could denounce anyone of vaguely left wing views as traitors working for the Soviet Union. Anything that threatened the concept of the nation-state, his generation of Conservative politicians were innately hostile to. That characteristic hasn’t changed – the current generation of Conservatives simply have no Soviet Union to use as a spectre, no militant trade unions to denounce as communist traitors.
Powell was, first and foremost, a nationalist. This is important. Regardless of political stripe, nationalism is a creed with a powerful pull. It is the siren song of unreason, of irrational loyalty. Racism, antisemitism and a host of other discriminations are an inescapable correlative of nationalism. Nationalism requires a line in the sand so that an individual can stand on one of two sides. In reality the sand is utterly ephemeral and amorphous and the line is a myth.
In their nationalism of whatever strain, the entire Conservative Party, most of the Labour Party and most Liberal Democrats are united. All of these parties draw a line in the sand. Labour, like Cameron has done, attempts to disguise it by declaring that our national infrastructure would be imperiled by the demands placed on it because of immigrants. The onus is transferred from the character of the immigrants to the economic ‘realities’ of health care, housing, social welfare and so forth.
That all of these reflect in some part what Enoch Powell declared is never mentioned.
Anti-immigration stances are transformed from being overtly racist policies to being sound economic judgment – that invariable and powerful appeal to the homo economicus postulated by liberalism.
It would be simplistic to call people advocating anti-immigration policies racist. I don’t doubt that many of them do what they do because they believe it to be in the best interest of the citizens of this country, whom they are elected to serve. In the trade union movement, I am sure that there are no few trade unionists who resent immigrant workers because they depress wages. That doesn’t of itself make these trade unionists racist. In 1968, following the speech, some thousand dockers marched in protest at Powell’s sacking and were full-throated in their attacks upon the Labour MPs representing their constituencies when those MPs refused to countenance calling for reinstatement.
I think it bears reminding, however, how easily one mindset runs into the other. The example of the dockers involves placards which carried the slogan “Back Britain, not Black Britain.” In Rochester I know that a local preoccupation is with the allegedly crime-prone Polish immigrants. All too easily do people ascribe a trait to a particular race and leave it at that, without probing further into the matter. Populist politicians can adapt themselves to that shortcoming and make a living attacking immigration. Given the intrinsic populism of the right wing press, the cause of immigrants is not helped by a government that all too often fudges its own opinions.
To me attacking immigration for these reasons makes as much sense as the trade unionist opposing immigration. It strikes me that the matter is posed upside down and needs to be set to rights. With regard to the trade unionist, the answer is increasing militancy – aggressive campaigns to unionise immigrants and a readiness to break the back of any management that will not recognise the right of those people to be represented by a union. There are an enormous number of cases of companies which won’t recognise unions – so many that one might be forgiven for thinking we live in the early 1900′s and not the early 21st Century.
Aggressively unionising immigrants might do wonders for crime as well. A hundred years ago, it was the poor who were routinely blamed for crime by the literate classes. The poor blamed the immigrants. In many ways the same situation holds, but after a century of trade union struggle and political activism, the poor are relatively better off. The unquenchable crime of British slums is a memory despite our modern problems. There is no reason why immigrants, availing themselves of the same route, could not do the same thing.
Indeed, given that immigrants are among the lowest paid workers, their militancy might be our only hope for sustaining the benefits won by organised labour.
As to the drain on the social resources of the state, politicians have been under-investing in housing for years, tying the building of new houses up in so much red tape. Politicians have been messing with the structure and efficiency of the health service for years, in order to provide a choice that no one except private health care providers need. It has privatised transport, electricity and water, so they cost more and have not increased much in efficiency. I have little sympathy when Cameron claims that immigrants will put a strain on these state-provided resources – resources which he seeks to cut anyway. Equally, I have little sympathy when Labour comes forward with the same argument.
So, as I have shown, in many ways what Enoch Powell said reverberates in Britain today. Even the debate over cultural integration has come up again in the context of the war on terrorism. The National Curriculum has been forced into that particular fray and been turned to (in my view) rather devious and probably counter-productive use in order to uphold British culture and a definition of ‘being British’ – whatever that means.
Powell declared of cultural integration that it was a myth and that the preservation of immigrant culture would be the means of an immigrant ruling class establishing itself. In many ways, this prophecy has proven correct. Canada is a good example; recently Dalton McGuinty has been accused of racism and others of Islamophobia for attempting to assert that ultimately all religious arbitrations must be subject to secular jurisprudence. Religious arbitration, in the Muslim example, means use of Sharia Law.
Sharia law enshrines the dominance of women by men and its acceptance allows for the creation of a caste of clerics and their wealthy backers – much as existed in Catholic circles in Ireland and Northern Ireland in former days and even today to some extent.
Again I say that the Powell’s answer is found standing on its head. Rather than oppose immigration, we should oppose the self-promulgating elite on the basis of a common class interest. Workers, white, black or turquoise, have a common interest in bettering their living conditions, in securing their children a positive future and in creating a system in which decision makers are directly accountable for each decision, in which society is organised and planned rationally rather than left to anarchic market forces which might mean boom for Britain one moment and bust the next, leaving thousands and hundreds of thousands starving.
That is my dream – one in which the accusation of racism, far from finding political traction, is rendered totally irrelevant to political discourse, where the nation-state ceases to have any meaning beyond the sentimental and where regardless of race, all workers have an equal hand in the management of society.
Tonight, David Cameron revealed how at some function, hosted by some rich people for some other rich people, Kate Moss thought he was a plumber. Cameron confessed, “No one I told this pointless anecdote to found it amusing.”
Some pundits think Kate Moss’ snub of the future ex-Leader of the Conservative Party was a result of Mr Cameron mistaking her for a coat rack upon his entrance to the soirée.
In other news today:
Rich people want to pay less tax
Defecation in woods attributed to bears.
Whilst every effort is being made by the government to extend the powers of the state in regard to search and arrest, detention limits, security at airports and so forth, you’d think that someone would mention the amount of money flowing to British Muslim extremists from Saudi Arabia.
We recently entertained the king of said country – where the crucifix and bibles are still banned by the way – and we are told to believe that because Saudi Arabia is allowing wider access to the internet that this king should be regarded as a reformer. Judging on the progress of China in that regard, where internet giant Google has already self-censored in order to secure Chinese contracts, I have no doubt that internet access will mean little for Saudi Arabia.
This government has also trumpeted the £70 million that is being paid to so-called progressive Muslim groups to try and balance out the oppression which Muslims feel is visited upon them by the state simply due to the colour of their skin. Well, we’ve come a long way from the dream of a secular state!
I’m actually in the privileged position of having read the Koran as well as the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him, before I get blown up). It is in many ways like reading the Bible. It has some astounding, selfless requirements within it…but it condemns the unbelievers, contradicts itself and so forth – like all religious texts end up doing. The point I am driving at is this, on probability there are still going to be people taking the more extreme parts to heart. As a result, we shouldn’t be funding any religion.
Moreover, instead of entreating with Saudi Arabia – a nation which has singularly failed to prosecute all those terrorist financiers whom the UK and US have helpfully named and provided evidence about – we should reject the monarchy in total. We really should have nothing to do with them. Under no definition can they be considered ‘good’ or even ‘lesser evil.’
Whether one agrees with the war in Iraq or not, it is indisputable that the Saudi Arabian government has permitted the death of thousands of Iraqis and many British and American soldiers into the bargain. They allow the extremist, fatwa-declaring clerics to pedal their calls for suicide bombings and they allow the volunteers to slip across the border into Iraq. Saudi Arabian oil wells fund Al-Quaeda affiliates all across the world.
I’m so sick and tired of the fuss made about the Muslim Council of Britain. We shouldn’t be engaging with Muslims on the basis of their religion. We should be engaging with them on the same basis as we would engage with anyone. As workers, as people who want a better life, as fathers and mothers who have sons and daughters in the firing line.
All these NGOs are ultimately meaningless and maybe we’ll realise that whenever one of the young people groomed for suicide bombing, cited by the Times last week, actually succeeds in blowing himself up. Again.
I’ve spent the last two weeks engaged in a wrestling match with the fluidity of truth, as advocated by postmodernists. Specifically this involved the field of historiography. This is a subject which has stimulated thinkers from Plato to Descartes to Marx to Popper. It takes in, in some form or another, every evolution in philosophy. Even in science, authors like Kuhn have not let the matter rest.
Yet it is truth of a different type which I wish to mention. I was today pulled from the sophistic clouds on which I was sitting by the accidental appearance of a particular book on a Google search. This book is called “The Marketing of Evil” and it is by an editor of WorldNetDaily, David Kupelian. Allow me to quote at length from what the book’s cover says about itself.
“Americans have come to tolerate, embrace and even champion many things that would have horrified their parents’ generation—from easy divorce and unrestricted abortion-on-demand to extreme body piercing and teaching homosexuality to grade-schoolers…
The Marketing of Evil reveals how much of what Americans once almost universally abhorred has been packaged, perfumed, gift-wrapped and sold to them as though it had great value. Highly skilled marketers, playing on our deeply felt national values of fairness, generosity and tolerance, have persuaded us to embrace as enlightened and noble that which all previous generations since America’s founding regarded as grossly self-destructive—in a word, evil.”
The book apparently ‘debunks’ the gay rights debate as a movement created by a liberal elite, rather than a grassroots movement resultant from years of oppression. It dismisses Alfred Kinsey as a psychopath who advocated paedophilia. It discusses how abortion was ‘sold’ to the American public by PR campaigns which relied on ‘lies and fabrications.’
When you search this book on Amazon, all the usual titles come up – plenty of books by Ann Coulter, a book entitled “The ACLU vs America” and so on.
Where the story gets even better is when one looks up WorldNetDaily online. There is an article entitled “Good news about nuclear destruction” which claims that post-apocalyptic nuclear war scenario, survival is possible. Well, NASA disagrees. In a 1983 report on the atmospheric consequences of several scenarios of nuclear exchange, the West-vs-Soviets (10,000 megaton) model predicted that the decrease in sunlight would go beyond the point of photosynthesis – not to mention drop the average temperatures by some 50 Kelvin. This is further reinforced by a recent report of the American Geophysicists Union.
Further down the list of ‘news,’ a book recommended by the site is “Islam Rising” which apparently demonstrates that over the last 1300 years, Islam has sought control of the world much ‘like Nazism and communism.’ I imagine any meaningful contribution on how Christianity has sought to control the world much like capitalism will be lacking.
This is all, of course, the tip of the iceberg. In short, if one read these books and these blogs, one could very well end up believing that American liberals aren’t interested in intellectual freedom, that the world is controlled by corporations who want your children to grow up, consume their pre-constructed diet of adolescent MTV culture, have abortions and become homosexuals.
It is genuinely worrying that these blogs are permitted to continue spewing this bile without any reference to the truth. Inevitably, this begs the question, “What is truth?”
I don’t wish to entertain an epistemological debate at this moment. My views are pretty plain; as regards to objective facts, the achievement of truth is not an impossibility. If you accept the correspondence theory of truth, you believe that ‘truth’ increases and decreases relative to how a statement corresponds to the actual state of affairs. My problem with a lot of the media, particularly the tabloids, is that their reportings can all too often be demonstrated as utterly unfounded in the actual state of affairs.
The book “Marketing Evil” and the website from which it is spawned fall into this trap. In fact they are hypocrites. They accuse other sections of society, the political elite and the media of exactly this crime. The aforementioned nuclear war debate is one such example. They attack CND and like groups for lying to the public about the survivability of a nuclear war, and say that CND et al do this because it increases the pressure to disarm.
I have covered other examples at length, including the “Wayne Rooney” phenomenon in The Sun newspaper, wherein over successive days the newspaper declared definitively that Rooney would and would not play in the 2006 World Cup. More recently, the Madeleine McCann debacle has brought this tendency to the fore in almost every British tabloid in respect to the guilt or innocence of the parents.
This type of reporting has huge repercussions for politics; if people are permitted to formulate theories and propose solutions without reference to the actual state of affairs, without even an attempt at such a reference, then implicitly we are justifying the existence of anti-semitism, racism, homophobia and other similar sentiments as valid.
Why not ascribe national ills to a minority? Why not bring back the death penalty? Why not remove the genitals of paedophiles? If we do not have to make reference to the actual state of affairs, then my view that the death penalty deters crime is no less worthy than your view that it brutalizes society and does not deter crime. It doesn’t matter if you have evidence to support your argument because I can shout louder than you.
The pessimist inside me worries that this is what truth boils down to in our society.
An obvious and somewhat disingenuous answer is for the other person to shout louder still – but this is not merely a battle between individuals. This is a subject which sweeps up the whole of society and concerns every institutional and structural aspect of that society. From the government, political parties, the media and organised religions right down to golf clubs and academic journals, a lie repeated often enough does seem to become truth.
Education is probably the answer; if people understand what the actual state of affairs is then they are less likely to be swayed by populist campaigns about the purported abolition of Christmas or criminalisation of Christianity. Yet this is not a definitive escape; more money can be invested in newspapers by the powerful and rich than by people seeking to combat convenient lies on the part of that elite. Newspapers these days are loss making, by and large.
On the internet, there are thousands of websites owned by individuals who, in their own way seek to explore the opinions of others, to discuss and dispute, to arrive at a more robust understanding of the truth. Yet above these the professionally-run websites tower, with their fancy coding, slick advertising, their book revenues and such like. Both have the potential to be equally immune from ‘truth’ but at least with the website of individuals, there is some degree of accountability.
Even with the more advanced, more popular blogs, from Dave’s Part to Conservative Home, argument across the comments section is frequent. With sites like WorldNetDaily and so forth, there is no balance. It is simply bilge pouring into the ocean of the internet – and though it is small when compared to that ocean, if it converts even one person with its unmitigated tripe, then that is one person too many.
Similarly on television, programmes such as Bill O’Reilly on Fox News are totally unbalanced, inviting ‘weak’ proponents of other arguments on to the show in order to be steamrollered. This is something to which former staff of the Fox News corporation have openly attested.
I do not herein attempt to draw a distinction between right and left, though with the right it is all the more evident because they, for obvious reasons, have the support of the capitalist establishment and no few religions, to name just two structural features of our current system. On the left, I am sure that there are equally people who would prefer that inconvenient facts could simply be ignored.
If this is a democracy, wherein the people have the power to decide, shouldn’t we have some ability not to control or even regulate opinion but to control the flagrant flouting of journalistic duty? Every single person carries with them a stock of bias; my major problem is when any person ceases to measure their opinions and thus their bias against the ‘actual state of affairs.’ That is what I see all too often and it pains me.