Tag: #fascism

Greens: the myth of the “new left” debunked

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Introduction.

This article is in part an exploration of the tension between environmentalism, human rights, equality and social justice. This is an important issue, because how political ideologies are translated into policy often has profound and far-reaching social consequences. I also challenge assumptions and criticise the Green Party for a lack of clarity regarding policy and intent – there’s a lack of connection – integrity  – beneath some of their key policies. There are no explicit connections made in the Green Party manifesto between ideas, policy, context and consequences.

I explore the environmentalism and “blood and soil” philosophy underpinning the Volk and Nazi movements, the Nazis being an exemplar of the problematic issues I raised. I also examine Malthus’s ideas on population growth and the finite nature of resources. I link some of the Green philosophy and policies with Malthus’s ideas.

The important point here is that it is not the ideas in themselves that are problematic: it is the context, the application, the way those ideas are translated via policy and the subsequent social consequences that warrants some discussion.

Malthus’s ideas both informed and were informed by a context of Social Darwinism, eugenics, laissez faire capitalism, competitive individualism, all of which were the basis of a dominant paradigm at that point in our history. One consequence of that was the terrible Poor Law Amendment Act in 1834, which saw the introduction of the dreadful, punitive workhouses.

Just to clarify further, I do not at any point claim “the Greens are Nazis,” or “are like Nazis”  as some have tried to claim. The discussion of Nazism and environmentalism is used to highlight the problematic tension between green ideas, human rights and to challenge assumptions made about social equality.  scroll2
There is a strand of Green Party narrative with philosophical roots that may be traced back to the thinking of the Reverend Thomas Malthus. He was a political economist who believed that the decline of living conditions in nineteenth century England was because of three elements: the overproduction of children; the inability of resources to keep up with the rising human population; and the irresponsibility of the lower classes. Malthus’s narrative in the nineteenth century fueled the rise of Social Darwinism; the eugenics movement and resulted in the extremely punitive Poor Law Reform Act of 1834, which included the introduction of workhouses for the poor.

The Green Party have the following listed amongst their aims regarding population:

In the short-term, to promote debate on sustainable population levels for the UK. In the long-term, to achieve consumption and population levels that are globally sustainable and respect carrying capacity – the term used to describe the population that can, according to the Green Party,  be sustainably supported in any given region. In theory it varies, depending on consumption patterns.

However, during times of greater social equality and prosperity, rather than the population growth predicted by Malthus, families actually reduced the numbers of children they had, with the emergence of the small nuclear family unit. Families and households got smaller throughout the 20th century. Women in the late nineteenth century gave birth, on average, to 4.6 children during their lifetime. Having ten or more children was not uncommon. By the 1950s the average had fallen to 2.19 children.

Data released by the government in the General Lifestyle Survey shows that the number of children in the average household has become smaller. In 1971, there were 2.91 persons in the average family whereas in 2011, this number has shrunk to 2.35 persons.This means that almost half of families in the UK have just one child. Malthus was wrong. Prosperity, equality, social development and growth contribute to population reduction and greater resources.

Environmentalism is widely seen as a caring, strictly left-wing concern, and it’s been linked with what are now fairly tacit assumptions about the Green Party’s credentials regarding equality, rights and political partisanship. The Green Party have tried to position themselves as “the new party of the left”, and have invested heavily in an aggressively negative campaign strategy that has involved outright lies about the Labour Party’s proposed policy intentions.

But the claims made by the Party and assumptions drawn from grassroots supporters have no historical verification whatsoever. In fact history refutes the claims.

Just because people have environmentalist concerns, we cannot infer from that – it does not automatically follow – that the same people will have concerns about inequality, social justice and human rights.

The German Volk and Nazi movements marched beneath the banners of “Nature” and the “organic.” Environmentalist ideology  was a fundamental part of National Socialism (which wasn’t socialism at all, on the same  basis, we wouldn’t say that the German Democratic Republic was a flourishing democracy, either), Green ideas were at the core of Nazi thinking. The Germans idealised Nature.

Whilst the Holocaust took place, German army comrades were also busy establishing bird sanctuaries, nature walks and planting trees. The Nazis conducted horrific experiments on men, women and children but at the same time, they banned medical experiments on animals. The Nazi perpetrators of crimes of unimaginable  brutality and horror against fellow human beings also advocated conservation, vegetarianism, homeopathic healthcare, organic agriculture and forest preservation. It’s a myth that environmentalism and ecological concern go hand in hand with a concomitant respect and concern for the well-being of all people, too.

In The Destruction of Reason, written in 1952, the marxist Georg Lukács proposed that the idealisation of “nature” and the “organic” was, from the very beginning a political narrative. It was an attempt to defend “natural” feudal privileges. He said:

“Biologism in philosophy and sociology has always been a basis for reactionary philosophical tendencies … it cannot permit of any essential change, let alone progress …. Oppression, inequality, exploitation and so forth were presented as “facts of nature” or “laws of nature” which, as such, could not be avoided or revoked.”

This is an essentially right-wing perspective: that society is naturally hierarchical – a pseudo-biological defence of class privileges.

The Green Party, with their uncritical embrace of environmentalism, have focused on the idea of a scarcity of natural resources. They promote the idea that there are natural limits on how many people may live on the planet and constraints on how much we can produce and consume. That is essentially a Malthusian position.

And we tend to think of fascism strictly in terms of its oppression, so that we lost sight of the fact that Nazism began as a movement by appealing to the working classes and campaigning against capitalism.

One famous National Socialist election poster shows a social-democratic winged “angel” walking hand in hand with a stereotyped banker, with the curious slogan: “Marxism is the Guardian Angel of Capitalism.”

The Left and the Labour Movement grew from of an overwhelming social need to challenge the idea of a “natural order”, limits and the idea that human potential and aspirations must be constrained to preserve some kind of natural order. Karl Marx condemned the ideas of the miserabilist Thomas Malthus and the Social Darwinists, he would condemn the Green Party for the same reasons. Marx described Malthus’s ideas as a “libel on the human race” because they promoted the idea that human beings “cannot abolish poverty, because poverty has its base in nature.”

Nature is truly a many-splendoured thing, but three essential socialist principles will not be found anywhere in nature: democracy, rights and equality. This is an example of the is/ought distinction: regardless of what we may think “human nature” is, our moral decisions regarding how we ought to organise as a society are distinct- there’s a difference between what we are and who we are.

Sylvia Pankhurst summed up socialism as follows: “It means plenty for all. We do not preach a gospel of want and scarcity, but of abundance … We do not call for limitation of births, for penurious thrift, and self-denial. We call for a great production that will supply all, and more than all the people can consume.”

The Greens are proposing exactly the opposite of what Pankhurst and most socialists have called for, historically. The Greens call for scarcity, not abundance. They propose a limitation on births, always insisting that the world is overpopulated and resources are being diminished.

The Green party’s manifesto argues for zero, or even negative growth and falling levels of personal consumption. This would lead to recession; families would become materially poorer each year. After centuries of growing global connectivity, the Greens want to see greater national self-reliance. And whilst Labour prioritise job creation, the Greens argue that government policy should make paid work “less necessary”, with people making their living from the home-based “informal economy”. That is anti-progressive.

The Left is progressive and has an expansive, generous view of humanity, faith in our potential and holds a vision of a plentiful future. The Greens, by contrast, are in favour of adapting to austerity – incorporating a social philosophy of thrift, parsimony and self-denial.

The Left aim to liberate humankind from poverty , the Greens aim to encourage us to accommodate it.

In Brighton where the Greens have power in the council, they have been cutting services, disastrously, for the least well-off and caused a refuse collection strike when they clashed with the GMB union over pay – as chronicled by Labour Peer Lord Bassam.

Earlier this year the Green Party leadership in Brighton and Hove was defeated in its efforts to impose council tax increase of five per cent by a coalition of opposition parties, including Labour. The increase will affect the poorest the most.

After losing a vote of no confidence in the leadership, the Council was threatened with Whitehall humiliatingly stepping in if a budget could not be agreed. This is not the sort of responsible leadership that households in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis deserve.

As my friend Neil Schofield informs us, for a second year running, the Greens are proposing a substantial increase in Council Tax – next year of 5.9% – that would require the approval of a referendum.  And the arguments are largely the same; that an increase of this magnitude is needed to offset the effects of austerity. He says:

“And the same arguments against such a rise apply this year too: that it is an entrenchment of austerity, using legislation designed to reduce the power of local authorities and to reduce them to hollowed-out commissioning bodies of a skeleton level of local services, provided by the lowest bidder; that it avoids the responsibilities that Councillors are elected to take; that it will make no real difference to the cuts faced by the city; it will hit hardest those who on low incomes who have seen their real incomes fall dramatically, in a city with some of the highest living costs in Europe; and that it is more about gesture politics than about effecting real change. “

The Green Party do not have an underpinning ideology that can be described as left-wing at all. Some of the historical and ideological links with far-right and fascist ideology are very worrying, because the links highlight a tension that needs to be addressed between environmentalism, social equality and justice.

This doesn’t imply the Green Party are fascists, but rather, it indicates a need to examine underpinning philosophies and explore how they may translate into social policies, and what the implications of those policies may be. It cannot be assumed that caring for the environment is automatically equated with caring for all human beings, as history has taught us.

The fact that the Greens have themselves chosen to regard the Labour Party as their “enemy” means that they don’t see a potential ally, yet they manage very well in coalition councils, working amicably side-by-side and cooperatively with Tory and Liberal Democrats.

If they did see the Left as a natural ally, they would join us and lobby for green policies through SERA, Labour’s green affiliate. Instead, the Green Party have chosen to aggressively campaign using a negative strategy, shamefully lying about Labour’s policies and proposals, all of which are costed and evidenced, in an attempt to bolster their own credibility. That in itself is a right-wing tactic, which ought to be raising alarm amongst supporters. The deeper implications of policies are also cause for concern.

Another worry is that one of the Green party’s key policy proposals – the universal basic income (or “citizen’s income”) – will adversely affect the poorest, and would in fact create more, not less, inequality and poverty.

The Citizen’s Income Trust (CIT), which has given advice to the Green party and been repeatedly cited by the Greens, has modelled its scheme and discovered it would mean 35.15% of households would be losers, with many of the biggest losers among the poorest households.

The trust’s research shows that for the two lowest disposable income deciles, more than one-fifth would suffer income losses of more than 10%, something one of the most left-wing parties in the election is unlikely to want to advocate.

The Green Party have already failed the people of Brighton and Hove. Don’t let them fail the people of Britain by voting Green next year and allowing the Tories to remain in government another five years. People are suffering and dying as a consequence of Tory austerity, we need to ensure that ends.

Related

Waste your vote on the Green Party – or choose a green Labour government – Sadiq Khan

Brighton’s Greens, Council Tax and a disgraceful act of moral blackmail – Neil Schofield

The Green Party’s women problem – Neil Schofield

A few words about respect – Mike Sivier

The moment Ed Miliband said he’ll bring socialism back to Downing Street  

Ecofascism: Deep Ecology and Right-Wing Co-optation  

Green Fascism and the Greening of Hate – Derek Wall

“Paradoxically, while Greens argue for social justice and other left themes, environmentalism is often linked to the right. Hitler believed in a politics of hatred ordained by iron ‘laws of nature'” Darker shades of green. Derek Wall traces the thread of ecofascism through the Green movement’s history. Derek is a member of the Green Party’s Anti-Fascist and Anti-Racist Network, author of Green History (Routledge 1994).

He notes the same tension as I do, between environmentalism and social justice/human rights. He discusses the environmentalism of the Nazis and the influence of Malthus’s ideas.

 

The disgruntled beast

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Miliband doesn’t pander to populism, and upholds the inclusion, equality and diversity principles that are embedded in policies which Labour pioneered. He aims to address and curtail exploitative employers, which of course is a real problem, rather than migrants, who are being exploited in the same way that “nationals” are. We have workfare, analogous to slavery and counterproductive in decreasing unemployment, which is universally exploitative, and absolutely nothing to do with the poor migrants, and everything to do with profit-driven greed, and a government that has encouraged that greed to thrive and flourish at such catastrophic expense to others.

Miliband knows that Britain is not divided by race and culture, it’s divided by wealth inequalities fuelled by the Tory-led Coalition’s austerity policies. Blaming the unemployed, the sick and disabled and immigrants for the failings of the government has fuelled misperceptions that drive support for the far-right. People complain they can’t get council houses, and the only really honest question an honest politician ought to ask is: “Why aren’t there more council houses?”

And when there are large numbers of people receiving unemployment benefit or tax credits, then the only honest question to ask is: “Why is the economy failing to provide enough jobs, or pay adequate wages?”

Miliband’s emphasis on equality is bothering the Tories, because their entire ideology is founded on Social Darwinism: to the Tories, inequalities are an inevitability, because of their emphasis on competition between individuals for resources in the “free market.” Miliband’s social democracy program provides an alternative that challenges the established right-wing neoliberal consensus.

The media and the government have stigmatised vulnerable social groups as a justification of cruel and punitive policies aimed at those least able to fight back, as an explanation of the failings of this government to be fair and honour a degree of legislation to reflect public needs – the public they are meant to serve.

As a society that once promised equality and democracy, we now preside over massive inequalities of wealth: that’s a breeding ground for racism and other vicious resentments.

It’s awoken the disgruntled beast within people, the one that feeds on anger, demoralisation, fear, resentment and uncertainty.

And wherever antipathy and a degree of enmity exist, the far-right have always tried to perpetuate, exploit and increase rancour. The fascism of the 20s and 30s gained prominence because it played on wider public fears, manipulating them, and deflecting attention, as ever, from those who are truly to blame for dire social conditions: the ever-greedy elite. There’s a well-established link between political extremism, economic hardship and recession and social cleavages, with the far-right “anti-system” parties deceitfully winning the support of those who would never previously have thought of themselves as extremists.

Such extremism and rancour feeds the disgruntled beast. The political right have always sought to divide sections of the poor and middle class and set them to fight one against the other; to have us see enemies in our midst which do not exist, so that we see economic policies – the Tory-rigged “free market” competition – as the solution rather than the cause of our problems.

And here we are again. A Tory government, another rigged recession, and the politics of fear, despair and micro-managed discontent.

Fascism plays a specific role for the ruling class: it is a weapon against civil unrest during social crises caused by recession. It redirects public anger from the government to scapegoats. To build such a movement, fascists have to delve into the “lower classes” using a mixture of crude economic radicalism and racism. Oswald Mosley also started out as a Tory and he was a rich aristocrat. His tactic was “street politics”, rather like Farage’s appeal to woo “ordinary people.” Mosley cut himself adrift from the mainstream ruling class when in early 1934, he launched a campaign for street supremacy in key working class areas.

Farage is comparable with Mosely: he also tried to entice the working class, and those blue collar defectors who don’t feel solidarity with anyone except their “own kind” need to ask themselves how a fascist party would better reflect their interests, because fascists aren’t just fascists when it comes to your preferred target group – in this case migrants – fascists are fascists, full stop. And most migrants are working class, too.

Fascists are not known for being big on unions and worker’s rights either, Hitler smashed the unions, Mosely fought them too. But fascists do like to use the oppressed to oppress others.

Mosely was defeated by working class solidarity – Jews, communists, socialists, the labour movement, and the middle classes, who all stood side by side in Scotland, Newcastle, in the Valleys, Yorkshire, at Olympia and on Cable Street. Unity and regard for the rights and well-being of others was their greatest strength.

That community spirit and solidarity is precisely what we need to find again. The disgruntled beast is divisive, and it feeds on demoralisation, alienation, feelings of isolation and a lack of regard for others.

Identity politics and the faultlines of division

Lynton Crosby, who has declared that his role is to destroy the Labour Party, rather than promote the Conservatives, based on any notion of merit, is all about such a targeted “divide and rule” strategy. This is a right wing tactic of cultivating and manipulating apostasy amongst support for the opposition. It’s a very evident ploy in the media, too, with articles about Labour screaming headlines that don’t match content, and the Sun and Telegraph blatantly lying about Labour’s policy intentions regularly.

One major ploy has been to attempt to rally the disgruntled working classes behind the flag of identity politics – aimed exclusively at the most disgruntled, very purposefully excluding other social groups. It also sets them against each other, for example, the working class unemployed attacking migrants – it really is divisive, anti-democratic, and flies in the face of labour’s equality and diversity principles. It also enhances the political myth of convenience – the “out of touch/allthesame MPs”, some of those stoked-up disgruntled blue collar workers have defected to UKIP.

There’s an immediate danger that if the far-right succeed in colonising the anti-mainstream vote, as they are aiming to, and developing party loyalty, it will block the development of an independent working class politics capable of defending our conditions and challenging the status quo.

UKIP (and the Tories) first and foremost are traditionalists and defenders of property, with the socially paranoid ideology of the hard right. A dominant theme is a conspiratorial view of the EU as a sort of “socialist plot”, with the Eurocrats encouraging mass immigration, stifling small businesses with legislation and fuelling the welfare state. And working class cultural imperialism – some blue collar workers and working class supporters have disgruntled beasts that respond to the populist, “anti-establishment”, Islamophobic agenda. The wealthier middle class supporters who were traditionally Conservative want to force the Tories further to the right.

Thanks to the persistent propaganda work of the government and the media, the tendency is to see the far-right’s behaviour as merely the justified reaction to the provocation of socially stigmatised groups – the sick and disabled, the unemployed, Muslims and immigrants. This is the climate in which UKIP and its allies thrive. As a result, there is an urgent need to shift toward a wider cultural and political offensive against prejudice more generally. Again. The only party concerning itself with that, as ever, is Labour.

UKIP supporters manifestly don’t care about prejudice directed at others. At the very least they are not repelled by racism, sexism, disablism and homophobia, they seem unsentimental about the types of alliances they find themselves in. Yet working class UKIP supporters are cutting off their own noses to spite their faces, as UKIP are Thatcherites: neoliberal white trash. Fascists don’t support the working class –  they never have and never will. No matter how much they say otherwise.

I’ve talked about UKIP, here, but they are not the only party drawing on the propaganda of the right. I have seen Left Unity, the Greens, the SNP, and a range of so-called socialist groups utilise right-wing myths about the Labour Party, too. This means we end up repeatedly fighting to clarify truths amongst ourselves instead of simply fighting the injustices and lies of the Tories.

It also struck me that we have a raft of writers loosely writing about the Labour Party that don’t seem to promote achievements and positive policies, which is at the very least as important as the negatively weighted “critical” analyses of the last Labour government, for balance and for providing a framework for those perpetually disconsolate readers that tend to feed their pet disgruntled beasts from buzz phrases and glittering generalities for the perpetually unhappy orthodoxy obsessed narxists – like “working class disenfranchisement”, “New Labour”, “Progress”, “Blairite”, “weakened unions”, “blue labour” and so forth. Many narxists have a peculiar elitist and very  non-inclusive obsession with what socialism ought to be.

Ticked boxes and pressed disgruntle buttons.

It was mostly the disgruntled blue collar workers that found UKIP’s inverted elitism – anti-intellectualism, anti-middle-classism and a few other prejudices more appealing, and defected, in a false conscious moment of supreme nose-cutting and spited faces. I don’t see anything to be gained in fueling their discontent, propping up populism, and its irrational response – a nod in the direction of fascism from people claiming they are excluded from mainstream politics – so they defected to a party that is founded on the rhetoric of exclusion.

There are contradictions between UKIP’s ultra-Tory policies and the instincts and interests of its working class supporters. So, not quite “breaking the mould of British politics” then.  UKIP demagogically and disingenuously attack Labour for abandoning white workers, but they also focus on attacking David Cameron for not being Conservative enough.

Farage implies he has some sort of superior social knowledge and wisdom compared with the rest of the mainstream political class, and that he understands “ordinary people”, but he speaks fluently in the language of anti-progression, the fact that anyone at all is listening is indicative of an internalisation of the national right wing prejudice toward a profound anti-intellectualism.

And of course anti-intellectualism is to be expected from the Conservatives, who have historically used the repression of critical thinking as a way of deflecting scrutiny, and as a means of ensuring a compliant, non-questioning workforce to exploit. From the working class, however, it’s just the politics of resentment, and another disgruntled face of bigotry. So much for class consciousness. And solidarity.

It’s worth remembering that Marx and Engels were hardly working class, and they most certainly were intellectuals. Left wing UKIP supporters have no fig leaf to hide behind.

It’s one thing to be opposed to traditional elites, but to show support for a party so vehement in its hostility to democracy, trade unionism, socialism, human rights, our NHS and the welfare state because someone speaks with a pint and a ciggie in their hands, indicates the need for some responsible critical thinking, paying attention to details, less resentment, superficiality and disgruntled grunting.

Fascism always presents itself as your friend, it extends a cozening arm of camaraderie around your shoulder with a sly smile, a malicious grin with far too many teeth.

It’s a disgruntled beast that loves disgruntled beasts, but this public school boy and ex-Tory with offshore tax havens isn’t one of the lads from the shop floor. Farage didn’t take any lessons from the school of hard knocks, that’s for sure.

But many of us have membership in more than one oppressed group, surely its possible at least to recognise in principle the validity of other struggles against oppression, it’s important to recognise that these struggles are not in a zero-sum relationship with one another. They are complementary and cumulative. I believe the collectively oppressed are natural allies in a larger fight for justice, and create a whole greater than the sum of its parts, and this kind of intersectionality and solidarity undermines the ruling-class’s “divide and conquer.”

I think the divisions are what happens when you just feed the disgruntled beast.

That’s the problem with identity politics: it tends to enhance a further sense of social segregation, and it isn’t remotely inclusive. Of course it also enhances the myth of  “out of touch/ allthesame” politics. It’s a clever strategy, because it attacks Labour’s equality and inclusive principles – the very reason why the Labour movement happened in the first place – and places restriction on who ought to be “included”. Think of that divisive strategy  1) in terms of equality. 2) in terms of appealing to the electorate 3) in terms of policy. Note how it imposes limits and is reductive.

The Tories set this strategy up in the media, UKIP have extended it further and the minority rival parties, including the Green Party have also utilised the same rhetoric tool. Yet we KNOW right wing parties have NO interest in the working class. And those amongst the working class that have.

The Tories do not offer up public critical analysis of themselves. Indeed the anti-Labour bias on display by the Murdoch-owned news empire has never been more apparent. That’s not just because of ideology, it’s because Miliband stood up to Murdoch. But Tories don’t collectively and painfully self-scrutinise or soul search, and certainly not in public sight: they self promote. They speak with unfaltering conviction, and from that platform they control public debate and that’s despite their continuing assault on public interests.

So, where is our fully informed pro-labour spokesperson in the media? Where are the articles that inform people – the ones about what Labour do, rather than what they ought to do? Because the implicit message over and over from undoubtedly well-meaning left-leaning writers is that Labour constantly get it wrong and need advice on how to get it right, whilst their policies are not being publicly promoted, analysed, and their progress and achievements remain hidden from view. What gets attention is myth reduced to populist pseudo-critical soundbites.

The media and the message

That means, potentially, many people don’t know enough on balance to make informed choices. Disgruntled defectors often take the medium to be the message, unfortunately, and with no balance, no genuine pros and cons, just a perpetual party wish list, that reads as a list of deficits, many are fueling an often misinformed, unreasonable, hungry disgruntled beast. You present the policies from source that fill the cited alleged deficits, and dear lord, people actually get angry and abusive.

A few months ago, a well-known left wing commentator wrote a “critical” article about Labour that was based on inferences drawn from a very suspiciously muffled recording of Jon Crudass, which was a couple of minutes long, and which ended, somewhat dubiously, in mid-sentence. The recording was very well-utilised by the right wing, too.

At the time, having heard it, I challenged the writer concerned regarding the references to that very dodgy recording, and the inferences he had drawn from it, which echoed those of the Tories. I was ludicrously and condescendingly told I was being “anti-democratic”, in my “blind and uncritical” support for the Labour Party. From where I’m stood, it certainly isn’t me that is being anti-democratic, here.

It seems to be almost trendy to try and undermine Labour’s credibility and completely regardless of the accuracy of any “criticism” used. Since when was it anti-democratic to want to tell the truth, supported with facts? Why is it that people have such objections to a person being supportive of the Labour Party, anyway? That doesn’t make me undemocratic, “blind” or “uncritical” at all. I’m discerning, and the truth actually matters to me, in all of its detail. I put a lot of work in researching to ensure that I’m well-informed. And why is any of this a reason for people to direct condescending and disgusting abuse and nastiness? Yet somehow, this behaviour has become normalised and acceptable.

One response I’ve seen frequently is: “oh, but people are disillusioned with Labour”. Yeah? Well stop writing inaccurate commentaries that create disillusionment and alienation, then. Perhaps it’s time people learned to research facts for themselves, anyway, rather than allowing their apathy and disgruntledment to be fed by willing, earning authors or propaganda merchants and Tory/SNP/UKIP/Green shills and trolls on Facebook.

The Tory press operation had handed the Daily Telegraph and the BBC the transcript of that same recording of Jon Cruddas, who was approached in the foyer at the Fabian summer conference at the Royal College of Surgeons in London.

A note from the Conservatives accompanying the transcript made clear that the recording had been made by researchers posing as students, according to the account on the BBC website.

The Labour Party is considering referring the transcript of the remarks to the Press Complaints Commission, and the former standards watchdog Sir Alistair Graham has accused the Tories of entrapment. It was a dirty trick. Why on earth would someone on the left take advantage of such chicanery pulled by the Tories? 

No party is above criticism, and quite rightly so. But the criticism needs to be balanced, fair, accurate and based on informed analysis and fact. And not on any old bullshit that’s masqueraded as “criticism.” Or on secretly recorded partial conversations. If debates are not open and honest, and if criticism of parties and their policies are not based on facts, that isn’t actually debate you’re engaged in: it’s a propaganda campaign.

Surely by now we all know the media lies and excludes anything important; that it’s under authoritarian Tory control? That Iain Duncan Smith “monitors” the BBC for “left wing bias”, that the Guardian’s occasional forays into truth are stifled by jackbooted officials marching into their office and smashing hard drives? Does anyone REALLY imagine that such a government spokesmedia will do any justice to reporting about the positive intentions and actions of its opposition? It won’t. Not one bit.

Yet I see people running around hysterically clutching at cherry-picked, distorted media spun soundbites, as if the media is somehow suddenly credible when it talks of the opposition, and when you actually read what was said and proposed at the unspun initial source, it bears no resemblance at all to the media tale of the unexpected. If you trouble yourself to investigate these things, the crap being published and broadcast doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. But it does feed the disgruntled beast.

And when the media resort to personal smears – like they did last year about Ralph Miliband – you KNOW they are worried about being defeated. And behold their disgruntled beast.

It’s a crucial time when we need to make sure we know the difference between truth and propaganda, fact from fiction. It’s up to us to discern – please. We are each responsible for what happens next. It mustn’t be 5 more years of the same neo-feudalist rulers.

The nitty gritty

The Right are engaged in an all out war. The disgruntled Right know that Miliband has edited their script, abandoning the free-market fundamentalist consensus established by Thatcherism in favour of social democracy.

The right-wing media barons who set the terms of what is deemed politically palatable in Britain have never forgiven Ed Miliband for his endorsement of Leveson, which they believe is an unacceptable threat to their power.

And they know Labour under Ed Miliband will probably win the 2015 election.

This is a war, and the Tories think that chucking an avalanche of lies at the opposition is enough. It isn’t. Where are their positive, supportive, life-enhancing policies for the citizens of the UK? The Tories have NOTHING but increasing poverty and pain to offer most of us, and no amount of smearing Labour and telling lies will hide that fact. And they will do all they can to make sure Labour don’t get space in the media to tell you about their own positive social democracy program, based on tackling the inequality and poverty that Tories always create.

We simply can’t tolerate another 5 years of the terrible consequences of New Right Conservatism.

Some on the left also need reminding that there is far more at stake than tiresome debating about what “real” socialism entails. I can tell you categorically that socialism isn’t about feeding your own pet disgruntled beast at the expense of concern and care for comrades who are suffering, living in absolute poverty and dying, because of the policies of this authoritarian regime. We need to address the current crisis, the sociopolitical dysfunction, and escape Cameron’s vision of a feudal dytopia before we can even begin to design our utopia, based on orthodoxy or otherwise.

The outcome of the general election, and the future of this country, and the well-being of is our citizens is what is important, please let’s not lose sight of that.

Because when you feed only the disgruntled beasts, you just end up with beasts.

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Thanks to Robert Livingtone for the excellent memes

Tory Fascist Lie Machine The Daily Mail Has Met Its Match

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In the 1930s, Theodor Adorno offered cogent criticism of the mass media, stating that it gave rise to ideology by standardising and stereotyping cultural “goods”, and it weakened people’s capacity to think in an autonomous and critical manner. Everyday life becomes  the ideology of “its own [notable] absence”. Put another way, the “news” constitutes a reification of an extremely narrow range of our human experience.

Adorno and the Frankfurt Institute of [Critical] Social Studies generally proposed that this had rendered the public more susceptible to the ideology of Nazism and fascism. The media is simply a way of transmitting ideology, and is a mechanism by which dominant and powerful social groups are able to diffuse ideas which promote their own interests. Louis Althusser regarded the media as an integral part of the ideological state apparatus.

So I had wondered when the right-wing media bullying, character assassinations and lie campaigns against Ed Miliband would begin. Miliband  has previously boldly demanded the breakup of Rupert Murdoch‘s media empire over the phone-hacking scandal. Today Ed Miliband has stood up to Paul Dacre, the most corrosive Fleet Street editor. This is a bold and direct challenge from Miliband to the propaganda of an established status quo, of course.

After the Mail  attempted to claim that Miliband’s late father “loathed Britain” on the basis of one adolescent diary entry, Miliband points to his immaculate record of service in the Royal Navy, mentioned only in passing by the paper:

He arrived, separated from his mother and sister,  knowing no English but found a single room to share with my grandfather. He was determined to better himself and survive. He worked as a removal man,  passed exams at Acton Technical College and was accepted to University. Then he joined the Royal Navy”.

In a thoroughly decent, balanced response in the Daily Mail,  Miliband takes a steady aim at the paper for running a loathsome virulent gutter attack on his father, Ralph, under the despicable headline “The man who hated Britain”. Miliband writes:

It’s part of our job description as politicians to be criticised and attacked by newspapers, including the Daily Mail. It comes with the territory. The British people have great wisdom to sort the fair from the unfair. And I have other ways of answering back.

But my Dad is a different matter. He died in 1994. I loved him and he loved Britain. And there is no credible argument in the article or evidence from his life which can remotely justify the lurid headline and its accompanying claim that it would “disturb everyone who loves this country”.

Many politicians have seen members of their families traduced by the Mail  but few, if any, have responded as Miliband has. He has taken a decisive and brave path; yet another defining moment of his leadership, and a verification of his integrity and skill in handling malicious right -wing media rhetoric. He says:

When I was growing up, he didn’t talk much about the Holocaust years because it was a deep trauma for both sides of my family. But he did talk about his naval service. The Daily Mail’s article on Saturday used just a few words to brush over the years my father spent fighting for his adopted country in the Second World War. But it played a bigger part in his life than that”.

But whilst defending his father against the Mail’s  alleged charges, he also uses his article to open a wider debate about much needed press standards and ethics. Here are the important closing paragraphs:

Britain has always benefited from a free press. Those freedoms should be treasured. They are vital for our democracy. Journalists need to hold politicians like me to account – none of us should be given an easy ride – and I look forward to a robust 19 months between now and the General Election.

But what appeared in the Daily Mail on Saturday was of a different order all together. I know they say ‘you can’t libel the dead’ but you can smear them.

Fierce debate about politics does not justify character assassination of my father, questioning the patriotism of a man who risked his life for our country in the Second World War, or publishing a picture of his gravestone with a tasteless pun about him being a ‘grave socialist’.

The Daily Mail sometimes claims it stands for the best of British values of decency. But something has really gone wrong when it attacks the family of a politician – any politician – in this way. It would be true of an attack on the father of David Cameron, Nick Clegg, or mine.

There was a time when politicians stayed silent if this kind of thing happened, in the hope that it wouldn’t happen again. And fear that if they spoke out, it would make things worse. I will not do that. The stakes are too high for our country for politics to be conducted in this way. We owe it to Britain to have a debate which reflects the values of how we want the country run.

With this clear and well-measured response, Miliband has set a standard, drawn a line in the sand, signalling that unlike previous leaders, he will not tolerate press abuses for fear of political retribution. I say bravo.

In the particularly notable section on “leadership and character” in his conference speech last week, Miliband declared:

The real test of leadership is not whether you stand up to the weak, that’s easy; it’s whether you stand up to the strong and know who to fight for”.

Today, Miliband has certainly demonstrated that he is prepared practice what he preaches. It’s remarkable that a newspaper which has previously condemned commentators for “speaking ill of the dead” when Baroness Thatcher died suddenly sees fit to put aside it’s faux scruples for this all out attack on the deceased Ralph Miliband, with the sole intention to discredit his articulate, decent and honest son, who has truly become a big thorn in the side of all things conservative.

And regardless of whether readers share his politics (and the comments section of the Mail’s  website suggests many readers take a more favourable view of Miliband’s proposed energy price freeze than their paper), Mail readers will respect the decency of a son defending his father. Milband’s article is yet another plain indication of what a powerful and open kind of leader he is. That’s a shot in the foot to you, there, Dacre.

A Labour spokesman said: “Ed Miliband wrote his right to reply article because he wanted to state clearly that his father loved Britain. He wanted the Daily Mail to treat his late father’s reputation fairly. Rather than acknowledge it has smeared his father, tonight the newspaper has repeated its original claim. This simply diminishes and exposes the Daily Mail further”.

It will be for people to judge whether this newspaper’s treatment of a World War Two veteran, Jewish refugee from the Nazis and distinguished academic reflects the values and decency we should all expect in our political debate”.

This comes at a sensitive time as the privy council decides this month whether to accept a royal charter proposed by leading newspaper groups or by the three main political parties.

So the Daily Mail is opening up opportunity to discuss, not to mention, re-write history. Let’s explore this further. I seem to recall that the Mail has notably disseminated fascist ideology on many previous occasions.

On 6th February, during his first cross-examination in the Leveson Enquiry, Dacre openly admitted that the Mail  had used the private detective Steve Whittamore, who was jailed in 2005 for illegally accessing information, but Dacre claimed that the rest of the British press had done so too. Oh, right, let you off then.

Peter Wright, now a former editor of the Mail on Sunday, had said in his Leveson examination that the paper continued using Whittamore for 18 months after his conviction, which Dacre effectively confirmed.

Dacre’s many hate-filled and nationally divisive headlines following the imposition of the Tory-led barbaric benefit cuts that promote an ideological pre-Victorian regressive separation of our fellow citizens into the categories of deserving and undeserving poor, demonstrates plainly that this is a person without morals, compassion or the capacity for critical evaluation and telling the truth.

Here are some critically evaluative, truthful citations from the Mail during the 1930s, and they may explain why the Mail  has been so strangely and uncharacteristically silent when it comes to championing its own “glorious” past. Never mind, I shall speak to fill the notable absence of comment on the matter.

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Some history: Viscount Rothermere, of Hemsted in Kent, is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1919 for the press Lord Harold Harmsworth, 1st Baron Harmsworth. He had already been created a baronet, of Horsey in the County of Norfolk, on 14 July 1910, and Baron Rothermere, of Hemsted in the County of Kent, in 1914. Every holder of the titles has served as Chairman of Daily Mail and General Trust plc. As of 2009, the titles are held by the first Viscount’s great-grandson, the fourth Viscount, Jonathon Harmsworth, who succeeded his father in 1998 (see above.)

Current Mail Corporate directors are:

  • Lord Rothermere
  • Peter Williams
  • Paul Dacre
  • Padraic Fallon
  • Charles Dunstone
  • Nicholas Berry

Lord Rothermere and the Mail were editorially sympathetic to the [then] Tory Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists (BUF). Rothermere wrote an article entitled “Hurrah for the Blackshirts” in January 1934, praising Mosley for his “sound, common sense, Conservative doctrine”. This support ended only after violence at a BUF rally in Kensington Olympia, which rather forced the issue later that year.

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This headline appeared on the front page of the 8th July 1934 edition, and accompanied a piece on Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists that read, in part:

If the Blackshirts movement had any need of justification, the Red Hooligans who savagely and systematically tried to wreck Sir Oswald Mosley’s huge and magnificently successful meeting at Olympia last night would have supplied it”.

Subsequent articles emphasised the paper’s unwavering support, and on 15th January 1934, the BUF was described as: “a well-organised party of the right ready to take over responsibility for national affairs with the same directness of purpose and energy of method as Hitler and Mussolini have displayed”.

This parallels the Mail’s similar enthusiasm for Fascist parties elsewhere in Europe, especially Adolf Hitler’s burgeoning Nazi movement: “The sturdy young Nazis are Europe’s guardians against the Communist danger”.

On 24th September, 1930 Lord Rothermere, wrote:

These young Germans have discovered, as I am glad to note the young men and women of England are discovering, that it is no good trusting to the old politicians. Accordingly they have formed, as I would like to see our British youth form, a Parliamentary party of their own. […] The older generation of Germans were our enemies. Must we make enemies of this younger generation too?”

On 10th July 1933, Rothermere continued:

I urge all British young men and women to study closely the progress of the Nazi regime in Germany. They must not be misled by the misrepresentations of its opponents. The most spiteful distracters of the Nazis are to be found in precisely the same sections of the British public and press as are most vehement in their praises of the Soviet regime in Russia. They have started a clamorous campaign of denunciation against what they call “Nazi atrocities” which, as anyone who visits Germany quickly discovers for himself, consists merely of a few isolated acts of violence such as are inevitable among a nation half as big again as ours, but which have been generalized, multiplied and exaggerated to give the impression that Nazi rule is a bloodthirsty tyranny”.

On 7th December 1933, Hitler wrote to Rothermere in person:

I should like to express the appreciation of countless Germans, who regard me as their spokesman, for the wise and beneficial public support which you have given to a policy that we all hope will contribute to the enduring pacification of Europe. Just as we are fanatically determined to defend ourselves against attack, so do we reject the idea of taking the initiative in bringing about a war. I am convinced that no one who fought in the front trenches during the world war, no matter in what European country, desires another conflict”.

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Hitler and the Viscount Rothermere

Lord Rothermere had friendships with Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, and directed the Mail’s editorial stance towards them in the 1930s. Rothermere’s 1933 leader “Youth Triumphant” praised the new Nazi regime’s accomplishments, and was subsequently used as propaganda by them. In it, Rothermere predicted that:

The minor misdeeds of individual Nazis would be submerged by the immense benefits the new regime is already bestowing upon Germany”.

Stan Cohen’s “Folk Devils and Moral Panics” outlines a clear explanation of the way in which the media and those in a position of political power define a social group as a threat to societal values and interests. Fanned by screaming media headlines, Cohen demonstrates how this leads to such groups being marginalised and vilified in the popular press and public imagination, inhibiting rational debate about solutions to social problems that those marginalised groups are being scapegoated and blamed for creating.

Furthermore, he argued that moral panics serve to identify and expose the very fault lines of power in society. There is no consensus, only a constant attempt to superficially justify and maintain a corrupt system of gross power imbalances and crass politically created inequalities.

Conservative by name, and regressive by nature. We must continue to challenge and dismantle the Tory-directed media monologues.

And if you have any doubts about the right-wing stranglehold on the media, just go ask the Guardian editor-in-chief what happened to the hard drives that held Edward Snowden’s very informative disclosures.

Yes, that’s the unmistakable sound of jackboots approaching.

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With many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his continued and valuable efforts to expose this Government via his brilliant pictures.

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Update from Mike Sivier, 11th March, 2014: Naughty, naughty Daily Mail! Miliband story creates torrent of complaints