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Beer Mats of the 1970s

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 28/06/2020 - 9:11pm in

The pubs have reopened. Here is a selection of 1970s beer mats from the Scarfolk council archives. Collect them all!

The Reasons for the Toppling of the Statues of Columbus and King Leopold of Belgium

It isn’t just in Bristol that people are pulling down the statues of those, who were racist, imperialist or connected to slavery. In America protesters have pulled down more statues of Confederate generals. According to the Beeb, they also pulled down a statue of Christopher Columbus. Back across the Pond in Belgium, a statue of King Leopold II was also attacked.

Columbus and the Genocide of the Amerindians

Many people are no doubt surprised and shocked that Columbus should be the centre of such controversy and anger. Again, this is because most people largely don’t know much about him. All most people are taught are that he discovered America, as in the rhyme ‘In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue’. He was an Italian in the service of the king of Spain. Many may also believe the myth begun by Washington Irving, that until Columbus found the New World, everyone believed that the Earth was flat and you’d fall off the edge if you sailed far enough. In fact people at the time had know perfectly well that the world was round, and had done since at least late antiquity and the early Middle Ages. Columbus himself was seeking a new route to the wealth, and particularly spices, of India and China. The overland trade routes had been blocked by the Turkish conquests, so Columbus was seeking a new route to these countries by sailing around the world. In doing so, he failed to realise that the world was actually larger than he believed. When he landed in the Caribbean, he thought he had landed in Asia. It was only towards the end of his career that he began to suspect that he hadn’t, and had discovered an entirely different, new continent instead.

Although it opened up a whole new world for Europeans, and especially the Spanish, it was a catastrophe for the indigenous peoples. Columbus described the Caribbean peoples he met as ‘gentle and mild’, and they welcomed their strange, new visitor. After Columbus returned to Spain, the situation changed with the Spanish conquest. The indigenous peoples – the Taino, Arawak and Caribs were enslaved and worked to death mining the gold that the Spanish and Europeans craved. If they failed to produce enough gold for their European masters, they were killed and mutilated. One of the contemporary sources for the conquest of the New World states that one of the punishments was to amputate their hands, and then hang them around the victim’s neck. Indigenous women were raped and sexually exploited. Indigenous populations were also devastated by the diseases Europeans brought with them, such as smallpox. The population of the Americas had reached several million before Columbus’ arrival. I forget the estimated number – it might be something like 8 million. That number had dropped considerably after the European conquests. The Spanish pushed further, overthrowing the Aztec and Inca empires and conquering the Mayan city states. And across the continent the indigenous peoples were devastated by disease and war, and enslaved on the vast estates carved out by the conquistadors. Other Europeans followed them, who were equally brutal – Portuguese, French, Dutch and ourselves.

The carnage of the European conquests means that Columbus is very definitely not a hero to the New World’s indigenous peoples, nor to the Black populations who succeeded them. Transatlantic slavery emerged because Europeans replaced the Indian workers they’d exterminated with African slaves. Nearly thirty years ago, in 1992 there were demonstrations and denunciations by indigenous Americans and Blacks at the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America. For the Amerindian peoples, the festivities were a celebration of their genocide and enslavement. Black Americans also condemned them as a celebration of slavery, an accusation that was repeated by Black Britons three years later when this country celebrated John Cabot’s discovery of Newfoundland.

Leopold of Belgium and the Congo Atrocity

Centuries later, at the end of the 19th century, Leopold was also responsible for genocide on a scale comparable to the Nazis in Zaire, the former Belgian Congo. He’d acquired the area as his own personal property, and decided to exploit his new territory through rubber production. He set up his own, private police force, the Force Publique, and forced the indigenous peoples to cultivate and produce it. The indigenous Congolese were given quotas, and if they failed to produce the set amount of rubber, they were beaten, mutilated and killed by the thugs of his private police. Tony Greenstein in an article he has published on his blog a few days ago estimates the number of killed at 10 million. I don’t know if that’s the generally accepted number, as it seems he prefers the upper end of the estimates of European genocide. But it wouldn’t have been far off. There’s a very good popular book on slavery produced by Buffalo Books. I think it’s called just Slavery, and covers all of its forms, including the infamous Coolie Trade in Indian indentured migrants and the enslavement of Pacific Islanders to serve on the plantations of Fiji and Queensland. This also covers the Congo atrocity. It’s profusely illustrated with contemporary pictures, cartoons and photographs. I came across the book when a copy was given to the Empire and Commonwealth Museum, where I was doing voluntary work cataloguing the Museum’s holdings on slavery. One of the photographs was of a Congolese man forlornly looking at his severed feet. Slavery is an horrific subject, and there were a number of very graphic illustrations. But that was one that definitely made me feel ill.

The horror stopped because of the public outcry created by its exposure by several brilliant, crusading European and American journos. The Belgian government took it out of Leopold’s hands and turned it into a state colony. For many years the whole subject was something most Belgians wished to forget. However, in the late 1990s or early part of this century, Belgium began reexamining its relationship with its colonial past. There was an exhibition at the country’s national museum around the exhibits from the Congo. This included new works from contemporary artists and performers about the exhibits and the issues they raised.

Conclusion

For most ordinary people, at least in Britain, the attacks on these statues are astonishing. They’re yet another example of the violent iconoclasm and assault on history and White identity of the BLM movement. I doubt many people in Britain know enough about Leopold and his personal crimes against humanity to care what happens to his statue. But there are good reasons why Blacks, the American First Nations and their sympathisers should hate these statues and want their removal. Columbus and Leopold were monsters, and like Colston brought suffering to unimaginable millions. The attacks are shocking because we aren’t taught about the consequences of the European conquests in school history, although it is certainly not hidden or covered up. You can read about the Spanish conquests and the genocide of the Amerindians in books on South American history, as well as the classic treatment of the dispossession and genocide of the North American peoples, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

It’s why the BLM and Black and Asian activists are justified in calls for the dark side of British and European imperialism to be taught in history.

 

Author Interview: Q and A with Dr Kari Nixon on Kept From All Contagion: Germ Theory, Disease and the Dilemma of Human Contact in Late Nineteenth-Century Literature

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 10/06/2020 - 9:15pm in

In this author interview, we speak to Dr Kari Nixon about her new book Kept From All Contagion: Germ Theory, Disease and the Dilemma of Human Contact in Late Nineteenth-Century Literature. She discusses why the growing public awareness of germ theory between 1870 and 1900 makes for a fruitful period of study, how ‘Biopolitical Resistance Literature’ in the period responded to some of the anxieties that emerged, how these literary works might help us think about the challenges of the current COVID-19 pandemic and the value of the humanities for examining the implications of contagion and disease.

Q&A with Dr Kari Nixon, author of Kept From All Contagion: Germ Theory, Disease and the Dilemma of Human Contact in Late Nineteenth-Century Literature. SUNY Press. 2020.

Q: Kept From All Contagion focuses on the period between 1870 and 1900 when germ theory had ‘gone viral’. How did germ theory mark such a dramatic change in scientific and social thinking on disease and why is this such a fruitful period of study?

I love answering this question! Germ theory was the first moment in history when Western society became aware that most human diseases were contagious. It’s important to note that this was not the first moment humans were aware that contagion existed at all. Things like the bubonic plague were simply obviously contagious when they occurred. Diseases such as the bubonic plague and smallpox had visible dermatologic signs of illness and quick incubation periods. So, when Cousin Mary visits a shopkeeper who has buboes on his body and who dies the next day, it is pretty obvious that, three days later, when Mary develops identical buboes and dies in a similar manner, the disease is contagious. So contagion as a concept was not new. It was a new idea that most diseases were contagious, and that very particular microscopic particles caused each specific disease. What was also new with germ theory was the idea that particular people could give you a disease. The former theory was miasma theory, which held that certain unsanitary places might cause disease.

For me, this mixture of realising that most diseases are caused by specific particles harboured by people has undeniably profound effects on the way humans interacted with one another. Obviously this would make you look at your family — your own children, your spouse, your siblings, your parents — differently than you had 30 years prior. That distinctive tubercular cough that your father has always had now has implications for you, not just for him. I’m fascinated with exploring what people did with that knowledge. Did they choose community in spite of its risks? Or did they decide to opt out of interpersonal connection, because the danger was too great? To have an entire ‘slice’ of time in which everyone is grappling with this question makes it an exceptionally fruitful period of study.

Q: Your book offers a literary history of germ theory, but you look particularly at ‘Biopolitical Resistance Literature’ – including works by Charlotte Brontë, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Thomas Hardy, Henry James and others – that challenged the social attitudes provoked by germ theory. What were some of the views and fears that these writers were contesting?  

Well, the general attitude I noted in this period is the knee-jerk human reaction to avoid, avoid, avoid. None of us wants to die of plague, after all! I saw this ‘avoidant’ attitude in fiction, nonfiction, periodicals, medical products — there was a pervasive idea that if microbes were dangerous, the best thing to do was to attempt to avoid or cleanse all microbes and to create a germ-free life for humans. This seems rather natural, I think. We’ve seen it with COVID-19, too. We’ve each struggled with the question of, ‘how much bleach is enough? When have I gone too far with trying to cleanse that doorknob? How much handwashing is a problem of diminishing returns?’ Therefore, what really piqued my interest was a handful of authors I noticed not doing this. Instead of saying, ‘yes, sanitise to your heart’s content and stay away from others,’ I saw these authors depicting, say, a woman kissing a tubercular man because, in the height of their love, she doesn’t care if she gets tuberculosis from him — in the fictional space of the novel, an author can use a situation like that to say, ‘hey, maybe some relationships are worth some risk.’

Q: Your book stresses the importance that these writers gave to ‘risk encounters’ and what we might lose in the pursuit of a mythical purity: as you put it, ‘to reject risk is to risk real connection with others’. This might feel a difficult idea to grapple with in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Do these works help us navigate the dilemma we are currently facing between protective retreat and the impact of isolation on social bonds – or should we be wary of drawing too many parallels?

I was just about to make my perennial caveat about COVID-19. I do think my book has important and vast implications for life in the time of COVID, but it’s important to me that people don’t misapply my findings. Giorgio Agamben, for instance, whose work I used in my introduction to distinguish between preservation of ‘bare, biological’ life and a meaningfully enriched existence in community, has claimed that the social distancing efforts now underway constitute another form of losing our emotional and social life for the sake of our bare biological life. This was a bad take, and my argument cannot be applied this way.

The sort of aversion/avoidance I note in the 1880s was much more individualistic — akin to a ‘prepper’ mentality in which one protected themselves and had no concern for others. The sort of global social distancing we’re seeing now is immensely community-minded — we are separating so that we may again come together after we have protected as many of us as we can. In fact, far from this form of social distancing being the same type of ‘self-protective isolation’ that I note in my book, I rather think it demonstrates so beautifully what the authors of Biopolitical Resistance Literature urged: we must look out for one another, or we truly have nothing, for no person is an island. The sadness and loneliness many of us have felt in quarantine also demonstrates this sense.

A second point I’d like to make, however, now that I’ve got the chance to make it carefully and in print, is I am increasingly concerned at what I see as a quarantine-catalysed total risk aversion that does remind me of what I saw between the 1870s and 1900. I believe the global social lockdown was absolutely necessary — we were facing a great crisis of maxing out hospital capacity, and it was incredibly important that we protect as many people as we could. However, I see a lot of people saying now that they don’t want to lift restrictions until things are perfectly safe. Now, of course no one actually phrases it this way, but this is the sense I get from the broad swath of statements I’ve observed. Things will never be perfectly safe. Things never were. I don’t claim to know when or exactly how things should open up — and I’m frankly glad I’m not in charge of such decisions. But I do know that people’s perceived sense of risk seems to have been opened up by COVID-19, particularly as it has made the Western world have to face the fact that we, too, are still vulnerable to infectious disease. But with this burgeoning awareness of shared risk has come a concomitant unwillingness to encounter this risk. As my book makes clear, I don’t think that’s a viable way to live either. At some level, each of us has to think critically about what risk we’re willing to accept, how and why, and move forward. What I see around me now is a vague sense that no level of risk is acceptable, and that’s not realistic or sustainable.

Q: Your book discusses how the subject of contagion gave women authors the opportunity to explore women’s intimate relationships with other women, particularly through literary treatments of tuberculosis. How do these writers navigate the gendered implications of isolation and its particular harms for women in the period?

It is well-known that women bear the brunt of the burden of emotional labour in households. It is my absolute contention that women have struggled more than men in trying to simultaneously raise kids and keep their jobs while working at home. While women’s roles have obviously changed a lot since the 1880s, at this earlier time responsibility for the cleanliness and sanitation of the home fell to women. Working-class women were hired to actually do this cleaning, and middle- and upper-class women were seen as responsible for hiring competent employees to do this work. If illness befell a family, it was seen as due to a woman’s recklessness. Though this may function in more insidious ways today, through such concepts as emotional labour (knowing when a family is running low on bleach, making sure children wash their hands, etc), I very much believe this burden is still at play.

Q: Your book explores how fiction and drama illuminate and challenge the epidemiological understandings that emerged between 1870 and 1900 and their social consequences. What is the value of the humanities when thinking about the socio-political implications of contagion and disease? 

One thing I think COVID-19 has revealed is the value of the humanities as a field of study. When the outbreak first began, I saw the typical STEM-heavy emphasis in the news; people wanted data and facts. Of course, I always try to encourage my students to realise that when dealing with disease, the data and facts we are demanding are always about people first and foremost. As the pandemic grew, and particularly as global communities faced quarantine and lockdown, I saw people more broadly recognise that data wouldn’t help us understand what we were experiencing emotionally or interpersonally. Then, I was glad to see a renewed desire for humanities-based perspectives, and for the arts generally. As much as we may want things to go back to normal, this is one of many things that I hope won’t return to normal. I hope people remember how much the arts and humanities helped them cope during this time.

Note: This interview was conducted by Dr Rosemary Deller, Managing Editor of the LSE Review of Books blog. This interview gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 

Banner Image Credit: Image by fernando zhiminaicela from Pixabay.

Feature Image Credit: Cropped image of a booklet advertising Peps tablets for coughs and colds. Sensational cover (orange and blue) of a skull-faced Death in a swirling dark cloud over a city from which terrified inhabitants are fleeing on foot, in cars, bicycles and horse-drawn carriages. Refers to deaths during heavy fogs in cities, bronchial asthma, bronchitis, colds, cough, sore throat, pulmonary tuberculosis, influenza, pleurisy, pneumonia and factory cough (Wellcome Collection CC BY 4.0).

 


Boris Sentences More People to Death from Coronavirus

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 03/06/2020 - 11:43pm in

On Monday our murderous clown Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, casually sent more people to their deaths from the Coronavirus. Ignoring all the scientific advice to the contrary, he has decided to lift some of the lockdown restrictions. He’s insisting that some schools should reopen, and has allowed some nonessential business to do the same, provided they observe some measures on social distancing.

It’s far too early in this country for the lockdown to be raised, even partially. Both Mike and Zelo Street have published articles showing how Boris’ decision is yet another catastrophically wrong move in his halfhearted and utterly inept attempt to deal with the disease. Mike in his article reported that, according to the DEFCON type scale Johnson had invented for dealing with the disease, we were still at level 4. This means that the virus is not contained, the R level – the rate at which the virus is infecting new people – is above 1 in some regions, but hospitals aren’t overwhelmed. However the recommendation is still that the lockdown should be maintained. But as he points out, Boris is behaving as if we’ve reached level 1 and the crisis is over and everything can be reopened. But this won’t happen until a vaccine has been developed.

Mike’s put up a series of Tweets from people condemning his decision. One Tweeter, TheLockdownHeron, contrasts the situation in Spain and Britain. In Spain, 96 new cases were reported. In Britain, we had 8,000. But Spain is still determined to keep their lockdown in place, while we lift ours. Zelo Street’s article quoted Derek James, who tweeted that Spain had also had only fourdeaths from Covid-19 in the previous three days. Britain had had over 1,000. And the country was massively behind the rest of Europe as well. Bryan Smith tweeted out these figures for other European nations and his comments on them:

“Deaths yesterday across Europe: Spain 2 … Italy 87 … Germany 24 … France 52 … Turkey 28 … Belgium 42 … Sweden 84 … Portugal 14 … Ireland 6 … Poland 13 … Romania 13 … Hungary 8 … Netherlands 28 … UK … 324 … There’s no way we are ready to ease lockdown & open schools”.

Professor John Edmunds, a member of the SAGE advisory group, stated that the decision to ease the lockdown was political and that many scientists would have preferred the incidence of the disease to have declined to lower levels before doing so. His colleague on the committee, director of the Wellcome Trust Jeremy Farrar said that the disease was spreading too fast for lockdown measures to be lifted.

Of course Boris’ decision to raise the restrictions is political. He has never liked them, and put off imposing the lockdown for as long as possible in order to ‘get Brexit done’ and preserve the economy, all while indulging in lethal, eugenicist fantasies about the British people acquiring herd immunity. His poll ratings have plunged, so that Labour’s Keir Starmer has an approval rating of +21 while BoJob’s is -1. Labour’s also risen five points in the polls and the Tories had dropped four, so that from a lead of 15 points ahead they were down to six.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/05/lockdown-boris-versus-experts.html

Some parts of the British public are already chafing at the bit, hoping for some return to a semblance of normality. That was shown by masses of people heading off to the coast at the weekend to enjoy the summer sun. BoJob and the Tory media are trying to defend his decision partly by pointing to some of the foreign countries lifting their restrictions, like Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany. But these all have much lower incidences of the disease. When France tried it, there was a spike in about 90 new cases across la Patrie. And many people in this country are afraid of the same when the second wave of infection hits. Another of the Tweets Mike shows on his page is this ominous prediction:

Sarah 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿🏍@Frecklechops

 · 

Who else thinks we’ll have a second wave in a few weeks and be back in full lockdown in July?

BLACK LIVES MATTER@socialistbangrs

Second wave but no lockdown, they just let it kill everyone it will kill and infect everyone as originally planned because they’re Tories

Absolutely. Cheltenham hospital is already sending its routine cases to Gloucester in preparation for a new wave of Coronavirus.

As for the Tories, Black Lives Matter is right: the Tories will let it kill and infect everyone because it is destroying the ‘useless eaters’, who use the NHS and are supported by the welfare state, two institutions they want to dismantle for the sake of themselves and their wealthy donors.

Johnson does not care about people’s health, only about corporate profit. And so by passing this decision, he has condemned countless people to an unnecessary death.

Have I Got News For You Totally Dominated by Dominic Cummings Scandal

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/05/2020 - 7:51pm in

Much of the news this week has been taken up with Dominic Cummings and his decision to leave London with his four-year old son to drive up to Durham thus breaking the lockdown rules. Cummings said that it was because his wife had the Coronavirus, and he was hoping that his parents or relatives up there would look after the child. They didn’t. While he was there, he drove thirty miles and back to Barnard Castle, in order to test his eyesight as he was worried it wasn’t good enough for him to drive back himself. He also appeared to have made at least two, and possible three trips in breach of the regulations. These journeys and his account of them flatly contradict what his wife was writing in his defence in the Spectator. And in the words of the irate newsreader in Broadcast News, people are ‘as mad as hell’ and ‘not taking it any more’.

To the vast majority of the population, Cummings’ behaviour and his boss’ refusal to sack him is a massive insult and display of flagrant hypocrisy and double standards. The British people have made great sacrifices in order to maintain the lockdown and prevent the spread of the disease. People haven’t been able to be present at the deaths of their loved ones, or attend their funerals because of the restrictions. And they have been very definitely prevented from driving anywhere as far as the 240 miles it is from London to Durham, except for the workers that haven’t been furloughed. It’s very definitely one law for the rich and politically connected, and another for the rest of us.

The result has been that Boris’ personal popularity has taken a nose dive. Last Tuesday, the same day that Britain booed the malignant buffoon, Zelo Street put up a piece about an article in the Independent. In the four days from the previous Friday to then, Boris had plunged in the polls from a rating of +19 to -1. It had dropped 35 points since the start of May, and 48 points from its peak on 8th April. Starmer’s ratings had fluctuated from +35 to +3. It was then at 12. And the government’s overall approval rating was at -2.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/05/boris-no-longer-popular.html

It’s a massive embarrassment to Boris, who is, like Trump, colossally vain. Boris wants to be loved and popular, like Winston Churchill (who certainly wasn’t as universally popular as the hagiographers try to make out). And so the Tories have been trying to redirect attention away from this affair through working up bogus stories in the press about the EU and Michel Barnier. Gove and the Attorney General Suella Braverman have been wheeled out to give their support to Cummings. In the case of Braverman, this has violated he duty to remain impartial, and is properly a matter for her resignation. Which, as a good Tory aiding her boss, she won’t do.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/05/brexiteers-wibble-at-barnier-letter.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/05/polecat-broke-rules-braverman-is-bust.html

And now Boris is doing his best to silence any questioning or criticism of the matter. Emily Maitlis was censured by the BBC for her absolutely reasonable comments about it on Newsnight after a complaint from Downing Street. She was then replaced the following day by Kate Razzall. It’s another clear breach of the Beeb’s duty of political impartiality in favour of the Tories, following so many cases of bias against Labour by other Beeb news people like Andrew Neil and the odious Laura Kuenssberg.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/05/bbcs-shameful-surrender.html

And at a press meeting Bozo stopped the media from asking the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientific Officer, questions about Cummings’ conduct on the grounds that they were political, not medical or scientific. But they were medical and scientific, because Cummings had placed other people’s health and lives in jeopardy. He also stopped Laura Kuenssberg from asking a follow-up question about Cummings. As Zelo Street remarked, this is conduct worthy of a dictatorship like Kim Jong-il’s Korea.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/05/press-briefing-bozo-channels-kim.html

And that boiling popular anger all came out last night on Have I Got News For You. Nearly the entire programme was taken up with the issue. Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, was particularly irritated. When asked by host Martin Clunes how his week had been, he replied that he’d been busy trying not to get too angry, and had been getting masses of letters from angry people, with whom he agreed. And the programme went on to tear gaping, bloody shreds off Polecat Dom and his tale. They asked how credible it was that Cummings could take a four year old child on a journey of that length without the lad wanting the toilet, as well as the obvious point that if you’re blind, you shouldn’t be driving. And they also brought up the Durham dialect term, ‘Barnard Castle’, as meaning a pathetic excuse. Given how swiftly the Beeb caved in to Boris’ complaints against Maitlis, this programme probably won’t have pleased Lord Hall-Hall. But I think it may well reflect how some Beeb programme makers and news crew feel about the scandal and the way Maitlis was treated, whatever she, Razzall and the producers may say to the contrary.

Everyone I know despises Cummings for this breach of the public’s trust, including Tories, who feel he’s let BoJob down. Well, there’s no danger of that, because BoJob’s standards are so low anyway only Britain’s few remaining miners and underground railway engineers can find them.

Cummings is making Johnson more unpopular by the day. And the longer it goes on, the worse it’ll get. Which is good news for Britain!

Boris Isn’t Churchill, He’s Neville Chamberlain

Okay, it’s finally happened. I think people have been expecting this, but were hoping that somehow it wouldn’t come true. But it has. Mike today has put up a piece reporting that the death toll from the Coronavirus has hit 62,000. 51,000 people are known to have died, according to some of the people, whose tweets about this tragedy Mike has reproduced in his article. That’s more than those killed during the Blitz.

How do I feel about this? Absolutely furious and bitterly ashamed. Britain is one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, but we now have the second worst death rate from this foul disease in the world. And it can all be put down to our leaders’ incompetence, their doctrinaire pursuit of neoliberalism and private industry at the expense of the res publica, the commonweal, the public good. And their willingness to sacrifice the health, safety and lives of the great British people for the sake of their corporate profits and the narrow interests of their own class.

Mike, Zelo Street and a host of other left-wing bloggers and activists have published article after article minute describing the Tories’ culpable negligence. They were warned in advance by scientists and medical experts that a fresh pandemic was coming sometime. As you know, I despise New Labour, but Blair, Brown and the rest nevertheless took the threat seriously. They prepared for it, setting up appropriate government and NHS departments. What did the Tories do? Shelve all these plans, because they were committed to austerity and they didn’t think the money spent on these precautions were worth it. 2016 the government wargamed a flu pandemic, and this pointed out all the problems we’ve subsequently experienced with the Coronavirus. And what happened after that? Zilch. For the same reasons the plans were shelved and weren’t updated and the specialist departments closed down.

And the Tories’ commitment to austerity also meant they prevented the NHS from being adequately prepared for the outbreak. It had too few intensive care beds, the supplies of PPE were too small, and underlying it is the plain fact that the NHS has been criminally starved of proper funding for years. Because, for all that they’re praising it now, the Tories are desperate to sell it off and have a private healthcare system like the one that works in America. You know, the one country that now has a worse death toll than ours.

Austerity has also exacerbated the impact of the disease in another way. It hits the poor the hardest. Which is unsurprising – the poor often suffer worse from disease, because they don’t have such good diets, jobs, housing and living conditions as the rich. In this case, poorer people do jobs that bring them more into contact with others, which leaves them more exposed to infection. I really am not surprised, therefore, that Blacks and Asians are therefore far more likely than Whites to contract Covid-19. There are other factors involved, of course – ethnic minorities as a rule tend to live far more in multigenerational households than Whites, which increases the risk of infection. But Blacks and some ethnic groups also tend to do the worse, most poorly paid jobs and that’s also going to leave them vulnerable.

And Boris is personally responsible for this debacle. He was warned in November that the Coronavirus was a threat and January and February of this years the scientists were telling him to put the country into lockdown. But he didn’t. He was too preoccupied with ‘getting Brexit done’. He also didn’t want to put this country into lockdown, because it would harm the economy, which meant that the big businesses that donate to him and his scummy party would take a hit. And he and Dominic Cummings and certain others also subscribe to the Social Darwinist view that the disease should be allowed to take its toll on the weakest, because they were useless eaters holding back all the biologically superior rich businessmen the party idolizes. It was a simply just culling the herd, nothing to worry about. And apart from that, Boris was just personally too damn idle. He doesn’t like to read his briefs, he didn’t turn up to the first five meetings of Cobra, and rather than working shot off back home at the weekends. And he was also far too interested in pursuing his relationship with his latest partner.

Johnson fancies himself as Winston Churchill. A few years ago he published a book about the great War Leader, that was so execrable it was torn to shreds by John Newsinger over at Lobster. In this, the Blonde Buffoon resembles Jim Hacker from the Beeb’s comedy series, Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. Whenever Hacker had some grand idea that would raise him or his administration above mediocrity, he’d start posing and speaking like Churchill. Boris hasn’t quite done that, or at least, not in public. But he certainly shares Hacker’s vanity in this respect.

But he isn’t Churchill. He’s Churchill’s predecessor, Neville Chamberlain. Churchill hated Nazi Germany and was determined to destroy it. Chamberlain, on the other hand, wanted to avoid war. Hence he came back from Munich waving a worthless piece of paper, which he proclaimed as ‘peace in our time’. He was thus absolutely unprepared for Hitler’s invasion of Poland. But the Tories got rid of him, and replaced him with Churchill.

Johnson was unprepared for the Coronavirus. He should have been removed long ago and replaced with someone, who could do something about it. But that would mean replacing the entire Tory party, as none of the Prime Ministers since Brown have been serious about preparing for this threat.

And thanks to them, more people have now died than in the Blitz.

What an under, damnable disgrace!

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/05/20/uk-coronavirus-deaths-hit-62000-no-wonder-johnson-only-appears-for-pmqs/

 

Shaw’s Classic Defence of Socialism for Women Part Four

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Starmer Throws Away Corbyn’s Popular Socialist Labour Policies

I really shouldn’t be surprised at this whatsoever. It was inevitable, and everyone saw it coming the moment Starmer entered the ring in the Labour leadership contest. But I hoped against hope that he would still have some sense of honour and remain faithful to his election pledges. But he hasn’t. He’s finally taken his mask off and revealed his true, Blairite neoliberal face. And in the words of Benjamin J. Grimm, your blue-eyed, ever-lovin’ Thing, ‘What a revoltin’ development’ it is.

On Monday Mike put up a piece reporting that Starmer had given an interview to the Financial Times in which he blamed his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, for last year’s election defeat. He claims that Corbyn’s leadership was the chief topic of debate. That’s probably true, but only up to a point. The long, venomous campaign against Corbyn certainly did whip up a vicious hatred against the former Labour leader amongst a large part of the electorate. Some of the people I talked to in my local Labour party, who’d been out campaigning, said that they were shocked by the vicious, bitter hatred the public had for him. One woman said that it was as if they expected him to come up the garden path and shoot their dog.

But Starmer was also one of the reasons for Labour’s defeat. It was due to Starmer’s influence that Labour muddled its policy on Brexit by promising a second referendum. Johnson’s message of getting Brexit done was much simpler, and more popular. It’s almost certainly why Labour lost its historic strongholds in the north and midlands. These were areas which voted heavily for Brexit. But obviously, as the new leader of the Labour party, Starmer doesn’t want to mention that.

Then he goes on to blame the defeat on Labour’s policies. He claims Labour had overloaded its manifesto with promises to nationalise several utilities, issue £300 billion of shares to workers and promising another £83 billion in tax and spending. However, these policies, contrary to what the habitual liars and hack propagandists of the Tories and Lib Dems claim, had been properly costed.

Now I don’t doubt that the manifesto was overloaded by too many promises. When analysing what went wrong in the local constituency meeting, some felt that it was because the manifesto was too long, contained too many such promises and felt that they were being made up on a daily basis as the election progressed. But the central promise of renationalising the electricity grid, water and the railways were genuinely popular, and had been in the previous election in 2017. And Starmer promised to honour the policy commitments made in last year’s manifesto.

And now he’s shown in this interview that he has no intention of doing so.

He’s also demonstrated this by appointing as his shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Bridget Phillipson, another Blairite, who attacked Labour’s 2017 manifesto for offering too much to voters. Mike also reports that a leaked letter from Phillipson to other members of the shadow cabinet shows her telling them that from now on any policies that involve spending must have the approval of both Starmer and the shadow Treasury team before they’re even put in the planning stage.

Mike comments

Clearly, Starmer wants an “out-Tory the Tories” spending policy of the kind that led to then-Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves promising to be “tougher than the Tories” on benefits, in just one particularly out-of-touch policy from the Miliband era.

Absolutely. He wants to show Tory and Lib Dem voters that Labour stands for responsible fiscal policy, just like it did under Blair, who was also responsible for massive privatisation and a further catastrophic dismantlement of the welfare state.

Blair also made a conscious decision to abandon traditional Labour policies and its working class base in order to appeal to Tory voters in swing marginals. And the first thing he did was to recruit former Tory cabinet ministers, such as Chris Patten, to his own to form a Government Of All the Talents (GOATS). Starmer’s trying to make the same appeal. And it’s shown glaringly in the choice of newspaper to which he gave the interview. The Financial Times is the paper of the financial sector. Way back in the 1990s it was politically Liberal, although that didn’t stop one of its writers supporting workfare. According to Private Eye, the newspaper was losing readers, so its board and director, Marjorie Scardino, decreed that it should return to being a Tory paper. It has, though that hasn’t helped it – it’s still losing readers, and has lost even more than when it was Liberal. Starmer’s trying to repeat the Labour Party’s ‘prawn cocktail’ offensive, begun under Neil Kinnock, in which it successfully tried to win over the banking sector.

The rest of Mike’s article is a dissection of Starmer’s promises to stop landlords evicting their tenants because of the Coronavirus crisis. These look good, but will actually make housing scarcer and actually increase the problems renters have finding rent. Critics of Starmer’s policy see him as protecting landlords, rather than tenants.

Please see Mike’s article at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/05/11/keir-betrayal-starmer-rejects-policies-that-made-him-labour-leader/

Starmer’s policy does seem to be succeeding in winning Tory and Lib Dem voters.

According to a survey from Tory pollster YouGov, Starmer has an approval rating of +23, higher than Johnson. People were also positive about his leadership of the Labour party. 40 per cent think he’s done ‘very well’ or ‘well’ compared to the 17 per cent, who think he’s done fairly or very badly.

When it comes to Tories, 34 per cent think he’s doing well compared to 25 per cent, while regarding the Lib Dems, 63 per cent think he’s doing well compared to 53 per cent of Labour people.

Mike states that this is humiliating for Starmer, as it comes from people, who have a vested interested in a duff Labour leader.

Starmer gets approval rating boost – courtesy of Tory and Lib Dem voters

And Starmer has been duff. He’s scored a couple of very good points against Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions, but he’s largely been conspicuous by his absence. This has got to the point where the Tory papers have been sneering at him for it, saying that Piers Morgan has been a more effective opposition. It’s a point that has also been made by Tony Greenstein. See: https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/05/if-labour-wants-to-win-next-election.html

Even if these stats show that Tory and Lib Dem voters are genuinely impressed with Starmer, that does not mean that he has popular mandate. Tory Tony Blair won over Conservative voters, but that was at the expense of traditional Labour voters and members. They left the party in droves. It was Corbyn’s achievement that he managed to win those members back, and turned the party into Britain’s largest.

But Starmer and the Blairites despise the traditional Labour base. As shown by the coups and plots during Corbyn’s leadership, they’d be quite happy with a far smaller party without traditional, socialist members. And Starmer was part of that. He was one of those who took part in the coups.

Starmer is once again following Blair’s course in wanting to appeal to Tories and Lib Dems instead of working class voters, trade unionists and socialists. He wishes to return to orthodox fiscal policies, which will mean more privatisation, including that of the NHS, and completing their destruction of the welfare state.

He wants it to become Tory Party no. 2, just as Blair did. And for working class people, that means more poverty, disease, starvation and death.

 

 

7 Recommended Reads for Contextualising Covid-19

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 10/05/2020 - 6:45pm in

In the present crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic, there are a number of accessible historical works and websites that can provide background and information on the disease as it unfolds. Since the disease is so recently emergent, there are as yet no reliable books dedicated directly to the topic. There are, however, works that provide … Continued

Scarfolk Death Statistics (1975)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/05/2020 - 10:46pm in

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