fascism

The Fascist Politics of the Pandemic

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 25/05/2020 - 9:00pm in

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Democracy, fascism

Jair Bolsonaro. Photo credit: Marcelo Chello / Shutterstock.com There is nothing like a pandemic to bring out the fascist ideology...

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Brave New Normal – Part 2

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/05/2020 - 9:30pm in

My columns haven’t been very funny recently. This one isn’t going to be any funnier. Sorry. Fascism makes me cranky. I don’t mean the kind of fascism the corporate media and the fake Resistance have been desperately hyping for the last four years. God help me, but I’m not terribly worried about a few hundred white-supremacist morons marching around with tiki torches hollering Nazi slogans at each other, or Jewish-Mexican-American law clerks flashing “OK” signs on TV, or smirking schoolkids in MAGA hats. I’m talking about actual, bona fide fascism, or totalitarianism, if you want to get technical

Brave New Normal (Part 2)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/05/2020 - 3:20am in

My columns haven’t been very funny recently. This one isn’t going to be any funnier. Sorry. Fascism makes me cranky.

I don’t mean the kind of fascism the corporate media and the fake Resistance have been desperately hyping for the last four years. God help me, but I’m not terribly worried about a few hundred white-supremacist morons marching around with tiki torches hollering Nazi slogans at each other, or Jewish-Mexican-American law clerks flashing “OK” signs on TV, or smirking schoolkids in MAGA hats.

I’m talking about actual, bona fide fascism, or totalitarianism, if you want to get technical. The kind where governments declare a global “state of emergency” on account of a virus with a 0.2% to 0.6% lethality (and that causes mild, flu-like symptoms, or absolutely no symptoms whatsoever, in over 97% of those infected), locks everyone down inside their homes, suspends their constitutional rights, terrorizes them with propaganda, and unleashes uniformed goon squads on anyone who doesn’t comply with their despotic decrees.

I’m talking about the kind of totalitarianism where the police track you down with your smartphone data and then come to your house to personally harass you for attending a political protest, or attack you for challenging their illegitimate authority, and then charge you with “assault” for fighting back, and then get the media to publish a story accusing you of having “set up” the cops.

I’m talking about the kind of totalitarianism where the secret police are given carte blanche to monitor everyone’s Internet activity, and to scan you with their “surveillance helmets,” and dictate how close you can sit to your friends, and menace you with drones and robot dogs, and violently pry your kids out of your arms and arrest you if you dare to protest.

I’m talking about the kind of totalitarianism that psychologically tortures children with authoritarian loyalty rituals designed to condition them to live in fear, and respond to absurd Pavlovian stimuli, and that encourages the masses to turn off their brains and mechanically repeat propaganda slogans, like “wear a mask” and “flatten the curve,” and to report their neighbors to the police for having an “illegal” private party … and to otherwise reify the manufactured mass hysteria the authorities need to “justify” their totalitarianism.

Yeah, that kind of stuff makes me cranky.

And you know what makes me really cranky? I’ll tell you what makes me really cranky. It is people who publicly project themselves as “anti-authoritarians” and “anti-fascists,” or who have established their “anti-establishment” brands and “dissident” personas on social media, or even in the corporate media, either zealously cheerleading this totalitarianism or looking away and saying nothing as it is rolled out by the very authorities and media propagandists they pretend to oppose. I don’t know exactly why, but that stuff makes me particularly cranky.

I’ll provide you with a few examples.

The militant “Portland anti-fascists” who the corporate media fell in love with and made famous for bravely fighting off the Trump-loving Putin-Nazi Menace over the course of the last four years, as soon as the Corona-Totalitarianism began, did what all true anti-fascists do when the state goes full-blown fascist … no, they did not “smash the state,” or “occupy the streets,” or anything like that. They masked-up and started making vegan hand sanitizer.

Popular Internet “anti-imperialists” started accusing everyone opposing the lockdown of being part of some far-right Republican plot to “promote mass death under the banner of freedom” or to “normalize death” to benefit rich people, or being members of a “death cult,” or something. Celebrity socialists took to Twitter to warn that we would “shortly have the blood of thousands of people on our hands,” and call us “anti-vaxxers” and “flat earth fucks.” Indie political and military analysts patiently explained why governments needed to be able to pull people out of their homes against their will and quarantine them. Anarchist anthropologists averred that the lockdown wasn’t damaging the productive economy; it was only damaging the “bullshit economy,” and those complaining about being out of work were people whose work is “largely useless.”

Others simply looked away or sat there in silence as we were confined to our homes, and made to carry “permission papers” to walk to work or the corner grocery store, and were beaten and arrested for not “social-distancing,” and were otherwise bullied and humiliated for no justifiable reason whatsoever. (We are talking about a virus, after all, that even the official medical experts, e.g., the U.K.’s Chief Medic, admit is more or less harmless to the vast majority of us, not the Bubonic Fucking Plague or some sort of Alien-Terrorist-Death-Flu … so spare me the “we-had-no-choice-but-to-go-totalitarian” rationalization.)

My intent is not merely to mock these people (i.e., these “radical,” “anti-establishment” types who fell into formation and started goose-stepping because the media told them we were all going to die), but also to use them as a clear example of how official narratives are born and take hold.

That’s somewhat pertinent at the moment, because the “Brave New Normal” official narrative has been born, but it has not yet taken hold. What happens next will determine whether it does.

In order to understand how this works, imagine for a moment that you’re one of these people who are normally skeptical of the government and the media, and that you consider yourself an anti-authoritarian, or at least a friend of the working classes, and now you are beginning to realize that there is no Alien-Terrorist-Death-Flu (just as there were no “WMDs,” no “Russian hackers,” no “pee-tape,” etc.), and so it dawns on you that you’ve been behaving like a hysterical, brainwashed, fascist minion of the very establishment you supposedly oppose … or at the very least like an abject coward.

Imagine how you might feel right now.

You would probably feel pretty foolish, right? And more than a little ashamed of yourself. So … OK, what would do about that? Well, you would have a couple of options.

Option Number One would be admit what you did, apologize to whomever you have to, and try like hell not to do it again. Not many people are going to choose this option.

Most people are going to choose Option Number Two, which is to desperately try to deny what they did, or to desperately rationalize what they did (and in many cases are still actively doing). Now, this is not as easy at it sounds, because doing that means they will have to continue to believe (or at least pretend to believe) that there is an Alien-Terrorist-Death-Flu which is going to kill hundreds of millions of people the moment we stop locking everyone down, and forcing them to “social distance,” and so on. They will have to continue to pretend to believe that this Alien-Terrorist-Death-Flu exists, even though they know it doesn’t.

And this is where that Orwellian “doublethink” comes in. People (i.e., these “anti-authoritarians,” not to mention the majority of the “normal” public) are not going to want to face the fact that they’ve been behaving like a bunch of fascists (or cowards) for no justifiable reason whatsoever. So, what they are going to do instead is desperately pretend that their behavior was justified and that the propaganda they have been swallowing, and regurgitating, was not propaganda, but rather, “the Truth.”

In other words, in order to avoid their shame, they are going to do everything in their power to reify the official narrative and delegitimize anyone attempting to expose it as the fiction that it is. They are going to join in with the corporate media that are calling us “extremists,” “conspiracy theorists,” “anti-vaxxers,” and other such epithets. They’re going to accuse those of us on the Left of aligning with “far-Right Republican militias,” and “Boogaloo accelerationists,” and of being members of the Russian-backed “Querfront,” and assorted other horrible things meant to scare errant leftists into line.

Above all, they are going to continue to insist, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that we are “under attack” by a “killer virus” which could “strike again at any time,” and so we have to maintain at least some level of totalitarianism and paranoia, or else … well, you know, the terrorists win.

It is this reification of the official narrative by those too ashamed to admit what they did (and try to determine why they did it), and not the narrative or the propaganda itself, that will eventually establish the “Brave New Normal” as “reality” (assuming the process works as smoothly as it did with the “War on Terror,” the “War on Populism,” and the “Cold War” narratives). The facts, the data, the “science” won’t matter. Reality is consensus reality … and a new consensus is being formed at the moment.

There is still a chance (right now, not months from now) for these people (some of whom are rather influential) to stand up and say, “Whoops! I screwed up and went all Nazi there for a bit.” But I seriously doubt that is going to happen.

It’s much more likely that the Brave New Normal (or some intermittent, scaled-down version of it) will gradually become our new reality. People will get used to being occasionally “locked down,” and being ordered to wear masks, and not to touch each other, and to standing in designated circles and boxes, like they got used to the “anti-Terrorism measures,” and believing that Trump is a “Russian asset.” The coming economic depression will be blamed on the Alien-Terrorist-Death-Flu, rather than on the lockdown that caused it. Millions of people will be condemned to extreme poverty, or debt-enslaved for the rest of their lives, but they’ll be too busy trying to survive to mount any kind of broad resistance.

The children, of course, won’t know any better. They will grow up with their “isolation boxes,” and “protective barriers,” and “contact tracing,” and they will live in constant low-grade fear of another killer virus, or terrorist attack, or Russian-backed white supremacist uprising, or whatever boogeyman might next appear to menace the global capitalist empire, which, it goes without saying, will be just fine.

Me, I’ll probably remain kind of cranky, but I will try to find the humor in it all. Bear with me … that might take a while.

#

CJ Hopkins
May 20, 2020
Photo: Twitter – Vanessa Beeley

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DISCLAIMER: The preceding essay is entirely the work of our in-house satirist and self-appointed political pundit, CJ Hopkins, and does not reflect the views and opinions of the Consent Factory, Inc., its staff, or any of its agents, subsidiaries, or assigns. If, for whatever inexplicable reason, you appreciate Mr. Hopkins’ work and would like to support it, please go to his Patreon page (where you can contribute as little $1 per month), or send your contribution to his PayPal account, so that maybe he’ll stop coming around our offices trying to hit our staff up for money. Alternatively, you could purchase his satirical dystopian novel, Zone 23, or Volume I of his Consent Factory Essays, or any of his subversive stage plays, which won some awards in Great Britain and Australia. If you do not appreciate Mr. Hopkins’ work and would like to write him an abusive email, please feel free to contact him directly.

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.

 

 

 

Shaw’s Classic Defence of Socialism for Women Part Three

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

Socialism and Marriage, Children, Liberty and Religion

Shaw also discusses what socialism would mean for marriage, liberty, children and the churches, and these are the most problematic sections of the book. He looks forward to marriage being a purely voluntary commitment, where people people can marry for love instead of financial advancement. This will produce biologically better children, because people will be able to choose the best partners, rather than be limited to only those from their class. At the same time incompatible partners will be able to divorce each other free of stigma.

He defines liberty in terms of personal freedom. Under socialism, people will be freer because the amount of time they will have for their personal amusement and recreation will be greater. Legislation might go down, because the laws currently needed to protect people will become unnecessary as socialism is established and society advances. Shaw also believes that greater free time would be enough to attract the top brains to management positions in the absence of the usual inducement of greater pay. Shaw realised that not everyone could run industries, and that it was necessary to hire the very best people, who would be a small minority. Giving them greater leisure time was the best way to do this, and he later criticises the Soviet government for not equalising incomes.

But this is sheer utopianism. The Bolsheviks had tried to equalise incomes, and it didn’t work, which is why they went back to higher rates of pay for managers and so on. And as we’ve seen, socialism doesn’t necessarily lead to greater free time and certainly not less legislation. The better argument is that socialism leads to greater liberty because under socialism people have better opportunities available to them for careers, sport, entertainment and personal improvement than they would if they were mere capitalist wage slaves.

Religious people will also object to his views on religion and the churches. While earlier in the book Shaw addressed the reader as a fellow Christian, his attitude in this section is one of a religious sceptic. The reader will have already been warned of this through the foreword by Toynbee. The Groaniad columnist is a high-ranking member of the both the Secular and Humanist Societies, and her columns and articles in just about every magazine or newspaper she wrote for contained sneers at religion. Shaw considers the various Christian denominations irreconcilable in their theologies, and pour scorn on orthodox Christian doctrines such as the Atonement, that Christ died for our sins. Religion should not be taught in school, because of the incompatibility of the account of the Creation in Genesis with modern science. Children should not be taught about religion at all under they are of the age of consent. If their parents do teach them, the children are to be removed from their care. This is the attitude of very aggressive secularists and atheists. Richard Dawkins had the same attitude, but eventually reversed it. It’s far too authoritarian for most people. Mike and I went to a church school, and received a very good education from teachers that did believe in evolution. Religion deals with ultimate questions of existence and morality that go far beyond science. I therefore strongly believe that parents have the right to bring their children up in their religion, as long as they are aware of the existence of other views and that those who hold them are not wicked simply for doing so. He also believed that instead of children having information pumped into them, the business should be to educate children to the basic level they need to be able to live and work in modern society, and then allow the child to choose for itself what it wants to study.

Communism and Fascism

This last section of the book includes Shaw’s observations on Russian Communism and Fascism. Shaw had visited the USSR in the early ’30s, and like the other Fabians had been duped by Stalin. He praised it as the new socialist society that was eradicating poverty and class differences. He also thought that its early history vindicated the Fabian approach of cautious nationalisation. Lenin had first nationalised everything, and then had to go back on it and restore capitalism and the capitalist managers under the New Economic Policy. But Russia was to be admired because it had done this reversal quite openly, while such changes were kept very quiet in capitalism. If there were problems in the country’s industrialisation, it was due to mass sabotage by the kulaks – the wealthy peasants – and the industrialists. He also recognised that the previous capitalist elite were disenfranchised, forced into manual labour, and their children denied education until the working class children had been served. At the same time, the Soviet leaders had been members of the upper classes themselves, and in order to present themselves as working class leaders had claimed working class parentage. These issues were, however, gradually working themselves out. The Soviet leaders no longer had need of such personal propaganda, and the former capitalists could reconcile themselves to the regime as members of the intellectual proletariat. And some of the industrialisation was being performed by criminals, but this was less arduous than the labour in our prisons.

Shaw is right about the NEP showing that nationalisation needs to be preceded by careful preparation. But he was obviously kept ignorant of the famine that was raging in the USSR through forced collectivisation and the mass murder of the kulaks. And rather than a few criminals in the gulags, the real figures were millions of forced labourers. They were innocent of any crime except Stalin’s paranoia and the need of his managers for cheap slave labour. It’s believed that about 30 millions died in Stalin’s purges, while 7 million died in the famine in the Ukraine.

Shaw’s treatment of Fascism seems to be based mostly on the career of Mussolini. He considers Fascism just a revival of the craze for absolute monarchy and military leadership, of the kind that had produced Henry VIII in England, Napoleon, and now Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, the Shah of Iran and Ataturk in Turkey. These new absolute rulers had started out as working class radicals, before find out that the changes they wanted would not come from the working class. They had therefore appealed to the respectable middle class, swept away democracy and the old municipal councils, which were really talking shops for elderly tradesmen which accomplished little. They had then embarked on a campaign against liberalism and the left, smashing those organisations and imprisoning their members. Some form of parliament had been retained in order to reassure the people. At the same time, wars were started to divert the population and stop them criticising the new generalissimo. Industry was approaching socialism by combining into trusts. However, the government would not introduce socialism or truly effective government because of middle class opposition. Fascist regimes wouldn’t last, because their leaders were, like the rest of us, only mortal. In fact Mussolini was overthrown by the other Fascists, who then surrendered to the Allies, partly because of his failing health. That, and his utter military incompetence which meant that Italy was very definitely losing the War and the Allies were steadily advancing up the peninsula. While this potted biography of the typical Fascist is true of Mussolini, it doesn’t really fit some of the others. The Shah, for example, was an Indian prince.

Anarchism and Syndicalism

Shaw is much less informed about anarchism. He really only discusses it in terms of ‘Communist Anarchism’, which he dismisses as a silly contradiction in terms. Communism meant more legislation, while anarchism clearly meant less. He should have the articles and books on Anarcho-communism by Peter Kropotkin. Kropotkin believed that goods and services should be taken over by the whole community. However, rather than a complete absence of government and legislation, society would be managed instead by individual communities and federations.

He also dismisses syndicalism, in which industry would be taken over and run by the trade unions. He considers this just another form of capitalism, with the place of the managers being taken by the workers. These would still fleece the consumer, while at the same time leave the problem of the great inequality in the distribution of wealth untouched, as some industries would obviously be poorer than others. But the Guild Socialists did believe that there should be a kind of central authority to represent the interests of the consumer. And one of the reasons why nationalisation, in the view of some socialists, failed to gain the popular support needed to defend it against the privatisations of the Tories is because the workers in the nationalised industries after the War were disappointed in their hopes for a great role in their management. The Labour party merely wanted nationalisation to be a simple exchange of public for private management, with no profound changes to the management structure. In some cases the same personnel were left in place. Unions were to be given a role in management through the various planning bodies. But this was far less than many workers and trade unionists hoped. If nationalisation is to have any meaning, it must allow for a proper, expanded role of the workers themselves in the business of managing their companies and industries.

The book ends with a peroration and a discussion of the works that have influenced and interest Shaw. In the peroration Shaw exhorts the readers not to be upset by the mass poverty and misery of the time, but to deplore the waste of opportunities for health, prosperity and happiness of the time, and to look forward and work for a better, socialist future.

His ‘Instead of a Bibliography’ is a kind of potted history of books critical of capitalism and advocating socialism from David Ricardo’s formulation of capitalism in the 19th century. These also include literary figures like Ruskin, Carlyle and Dickens. He states that he has replaced Marx’s theory of surplus value with Jevons‘ treatment of rent, in order to show how capitalism deprives workers of their rightful share of the profits.

 

 

Shaw’s Classic Defence of Socialism for Women Part Two

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

Trade Unions

He discusses the unions, which he describes as ‘proletarian capitalists’. They are there to protect the workers, who have to sell their labour just as the businessman has to sell the product they create. Unions are there to ensure the workers are able to charge the highest price they can for their labour. He also discusses strikes and lockouts, including the violence of some industrial disputes. Scabs need police protection against being beaten, and angry workers will tamper with the equipment so that anyone using it will be injured. They will also place fulminate of mercury in chimneys to cause an explosion if someone starts up the furnaces.

Party Politics and Socialism

Shaw describes the class conflict between the Tories, representing the aristocracy, and the Liberals, who represented the industrial middle classes. These competed for working class votes by extending the franchise and passing legislation like the Factory Acts to improve working conditions. However, each was as bad the other. The aristocracy kept their workers in poverty in the countryside, while the middle classes exploited them in the factories. The laws they passed for the working poor were partly designed to attack their opponents of the opposite class.

He goes on to give a brief history of British socialism, beginning with Marx, William Morris’ Socialist League, and Hyndeman’s Social Democratic Federation. These were small, middle class groups, disconnected from the British working class through their opposition to trade unions and the cooperatives. It was only when British socialism combined with them under Keir Hardie and the Independent Labour Party that socialism became a real force in working class politics. The Fabian Society has been an important part of this, and has made socialism respectable so that the genteel middle classes may join it as Conservatives join their Constitutional Club.

Shaw believed that socialism would advance, simply because of the numerical supremacy of the working classes, and that soon parliament would be full of Labour MPs. However, he also recognised that many members of the proletariat were anti-Socialist. This is because they depended for their livelihood on the businesses serving the idle rich. He called this section of the working class the ‘parasitic proletariat’. The working class is also distracted away from socialism through lotteries and so on.

Democratic, Parliamentary Socialism and Nationalisation

Shaw argues strongly that socialism could only be established through democratic, parliamentary action. General strikes wouldn’t work, as the employers would simply starve the workers out. The strikes intended to stop the outbreak of the First World War had failed the moment the first bomb dropped killing babies. Violent revolutions were purely destructive. Apart from the human lives lost, they destroyed the country’s vital industrial and economic structure. Socialism needed to build on this, not destroy it. Similarly, confiscating the capitalists’ wealth, either directly through nationalisation without compensation, or by taxing capital, was also counterproductive. The capitalists would simply sell their shares or unwillingly surrender them. The result would be bankruptcy and mass unemployment. This would result in further working class unrest, which would end in a counterrevolution.

The only way socialism could proceed would be by long preparation. You should only nationalise an industry once there was a suitable government department to run it. Compensation should be given to the former proprietors. This did not mean robbing the workers to pay their former exploiters, as the money would come from taxing the upper classes so that the class as a whole would be slightly worse off than before, even though the former owners were slightly better off.  You can see here and in Shaw’s warning of the ineffectiveness of general strikes the bitterness that still lingered amongst the working class after the failure of the General Strike of the 1920s.

Nationalisation could also only be done through parliament. There were, however, problems with parliamentary party politics. If the socialist party grew too big, it would split into competing factions divided on other issues, whose squabbles would defeat the overall purpose. Party politics were also a hindrance, in that it meant that one party would always oppose the policies of the other, even though they secretly supported them, because that was how the system worked. We’ve seen it in our day when the Tories before the 2010 election made a great show of opposing Blair’s hospital closures, but when in power did exactly the same and worse. Shaw recommends instead that the political process should follow that of the municipalities, where party divisions were still high, but where the process of legislation was done through committees and so on parties were better able to cooperate.

Limited Role for Capitalism

Shaw also argued against total nationalisation. He begins the book by stating that socialists don’t want to nationalise personal wealth. They weren’t going to seize women’s jewels, nor prevent a woman making extra cash for herself by singing in public or raising prize chrysanthemums, although it might in time be considered bad form to do so. Only big, routine businesses would be nationalised. Small businesses would be encouraged, as would innovatory private companies, though once they became routine they too would eventually be taken over by the state.

It’s a great argument for a pluralistic mixed economy, of the type that produced solid economic growth and working class prosperity after World War II, right up to 1979 and Thatcher’s victory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shaw’s Classic Defence of Socialism for Women Part One

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

Introduction

This is a great book. It’s the kind of book on socialism I was very much looking for in the 1980s when the papers were all praising Margaret Thatcher and alleged superiority of capitalism to the heavens. What I wanted then was a classic defence of socialism, which clearly showed the destructive nature and defects of capitalism, and how these would be removed for the better under a proper socialist government with a clear idea of what needed to be done and how it could be achieved.

This is a rather long review, so I’ve split up into four parts.

The book was written between 1924 and 1928, when it was first published. George Bernard Shaw is one of the great figures in British socialism. An Irishman, he was one of the founders of the Fabian Society along with Sidney and Beatrice Webb, and editor of its anthology of socialist writings, Fabian Essays. He’s best known for his play Pygamalion, about a linguist, Henry Higgins, who takes Eliza, a rough working class girl, and tries to mould her so she can pass as a lady of the genteel classes. It was filmed as the musical My Fair Lady, starring Rex Harrison.

Shaw wrote it between 1924 and 1928, when it was published, at the request of his sister-in-law, Lady Cholmondley. She had asked him to write a letter explaining socialism for women. Shaw looked into it, and discovered that amongst the masses of literature about socialism, there weren’t any books that realised that there were such creatures. And, he adds in his ‘Instead of a Bibliography’, very few that recognised the existence of men either. The book’s addressed to a female audience. The reader is a ‘she’ and the examples given are taken from women’s lives, jobs and experience. Shaw recognises that most women are occupied as wives and mothers, or shop girls and workers in the great weaving mills, the common female roles at the time. But he also recognises and fully supports the fact that more professions were being opened up to women in science, law, medicine and so on. If done badly, this approach by a male writer can seem patronising, but Shaw, as a great writer, manages to avoid it. And even though it’s aimed at women, I greatly enjoyed it, and would recommend it to other blokes.

Capital, Equality of Incomes and Imperialism

Shaw tries to present complex ideas about capitalism by simplifying them down to the level of ordinary people’s housekeeping or domestic economy. He defines capital as left over money. It’s the money you have left after spending your income on rent, food and so on. This is the money that the idle rich, the landlords, invest in industry. And money’s only real value is for the food and clothing that it will purchase. You cannot eat money, and the food it will buy must be eaten or else it will be spoilt. Which means that money must be invested and used, rather than stored up.

At the heart of Shaw’s view of socialism is the equalization of incomes. He believed that everyone should earn exactly the same amount. Capitalism had created vast inequalities of wealth. On the one hand there was a small minority of the idle rich, who had to invent pastimes and diversions in order to use up their wealth. On the other was the vast mass of the poor, living at or near starvation level. He begins by asking the reader how they would divide up the nation’s wealth, challenging the reader to think for herself rather than let him do her thinking for her. He then proceeds to argue that it is impossible to decide that one person should be paid more or less than another because of their personal morality or ability. He sharply criticises the quasi-feudal economy of his day, when 90 per cent of the country worked to support the gentry, who only comprised ten per cent of the country’s population. They do nothing for it, don’t benefit from it, as they can’t personally eat or drink more than anyone else. And instead of investing it, they simply take it out of the country to invest it or spend it abroad. He also attacks British imperialism for this same thing. It hasn’t benefited the peoples we have conquered nor British tradespeople, businessmen and workers. It has led to the exploitation of Blacks abroad, who can paid far less than their British counterparts. Thus Britain is flooded with cheap imports, and British companies are going bust and their workers laid off.

The Progress of Capitalism and Decline of the Businessman Owner

Shaw then describes how the middle class have their origins as the younger sons of the aristocracy, with a few acute remarks on the absurd gradations of class which meant that a wholesaler was socially superior to a retailer. His father was a businessman, who had been a member of the gentry. As such he looked down on the elite Dublin shopkeepers, even though they were richer and entertained the local Irish aristocracy, which he very definitely couldn’t. But business was changing. The age of the small businessman in personal possession of his business, was giving way to joint-stock companies owned by their shareholders and managed by professional, salaried staff. Under pressure from the unions, they were combining to  form monopolistic trusts. This made them ready for nationalisation.

Nationalisation and the Coal Industry

He presents the coal industry as particularly needing nationalisation. At the time he wrote, there were a number of different mining companies. Some worked poor mines and were close to bankruptcy, others very rich. However, miners wages were set at the level the poor mines could afford, which was near starvation. Coal prices were set for the rich mines, and so prices were high. The miners were thus being starved and the consumer overcharged. The mines should thus be nationalised so that the workers were paid a fair wage, and the consumer a fair price. Shaw advocated nationalisation so that costs and prices could be brought down and goods sold at cost price.

Banks and the Stock Market

He also discusses and explains finance capitalism, stocks and shares, debentures, futures and the stock market. He warns the reader against get-rich-quick scams, like the bucket shops which will charge his prices for very risky shares. If people want to invest, they should do so with the government or municipality. Their shares won’t provide a great yield, but they will be safe. He recommends that banks should be nationalised because of the problems the small businessman had acquiring capital. The big businesses rely on financiers, who certainly won’t lend the small businessman wanting a modest loan anything. Neither will the banks. He pointed to Birmingham as an example for the future, as it had established a municipal bank to serve the customers the big banks wouldn’t.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shaw on Imperialism: Exploitation Abroad, Poverty and Unemployment at Home

As I may have already said, I’ve been reading George Bernard Shaw’s The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism. It’s a brilliant book, in which the great Fabian playwright attacks and exposes the contradictions, flaws, poverty and inequality in capitalism and argues for a gradual, socialist transformation of society through nationalisation and the equalisation of incomes. Although it was written between 1924 and 1928 some of the topics Shaw covers are still acutely relevant. He argues for the nationalisation of the banks because private bankers have caused massive financial problems and concentrate so much on big business that small businessmen and women suffer through lack of funds. He also shows how the extremely wealthy should have their incomes reduced, because instead of doing anything genuinely productive with their money they simply hoard it. And that means sending it overseas. This is an acute problem now, with the super-rich hoarding their money unspent in offshore tax havens, instead of properly paying their fair share to build up the country’s health service and infrastructure.

Shaw is also acutely critical of imperialism for the same reason. He is not against imperialism per se. Indeed, he states that it would be admirable if we really had taken over the different lands of the empire for the benefit of the indigenous peoples. But we hadn’t. We’d taken them over purely for the enrichment of the capitalists through the exploitation of their non-White inhabitants.

The process, according to Shaw, began with the arrival of a single British trading ship. This was fine on its own, but others also arrived. Soon a trading post was set up, and then the merchants behind the trade demanded the entire country’s annexation. Capitalism preferred to fund socially destructive enterprises, like gin, rather than the socially useful, like lighthouses, which had to be set up and managed by the government. The market for gin had been saturated, and so the capitalists had proceeded to look abroad for more profits for the gin trade. And once a country was conquered and incorporated into the empire, its Black inhabitants were forced into commercial labour unprotected by legislation, like the Factory Acts, that protected British workers.

These overworked, underpaid, exploited colonial workers were able to produce goods that undercut those of domestic, British manufacturers. As a result, British businesses were going bankrupt and British workers laid off, except for those in the service industries for the extremely wealthy. The great mill and factory towns of the north and midlands were declining in favour of places for the genteel rich, like Bournemouth.

Ordinary working people couldn’t starve, as the capitalist class had grudgingly allowed the establishment of the dole following the mass unemployment that followed the First World War. But there weren’t any jobs for them. This was why the British government was encouraging them to emigrate, promising to pay £12 of the £15 fare to Australia if the worker would provide £3 him- or herself.

Now Shaw’s description of the foundation and expansion of the empire is obviously over-simplified, but nevertheless contains more than a grain of truth. Both Fiji and New Zealand were annexed because they had suffered an influx of White settlers through trading ships. The people arguing for their annexation, however, did so because they were opposed to the indigenous peoples’ exploitation. The White settlers in Fiji were aiming to set up a government for Whites with an indigenous king, Cakobau, as puppet ruler to give it a spurious legitimacy. More enlightened colonists therefore persuaded Cadobau and his government to approach Britain and ask for annexation in order to prevent the dispossession and enslavement of indigenous Fijians. In New Zealand the request for annexation was made by Christian ministers, who were afraid that the country would be conquered for Roman Catholicism by France on the one hand, and that the whalers and other traders who had already settled there would destroy and exploit the Maoris through alcohol, prostitution and guns.

And the enslavement and exploitation of the indigenous peoples certainly occurred. Apart from enslavement and dispossession of the Amerindians and then Black Africans in the first phase of British imperialism from the 17th century to the end of the 18th, when the British empire expanded again from the early 19th century onward, it frequently did so under the pretext of destroying the slave trade. However, once we were in possession of those territories, indigenous slavery was frequently tolerated. Moreover, British colonists often used forced labour to build up their plantations and businesses. This occurred around about the time Shaw was writing in Malawi. When slavery was outlawed in the British empire in 1837, the planters replaced it with nominally free indentured Indian labourers, who were worked in conditions so atrocious in the notorious ‘coolie trade’ that it was denounced as ‘a new system of slavery’.

The British government had also been encouraging its poor and unemployed to emigrate to its colonies as well as the US in what historians call social imperialism from about the 1870s onwards.

Reading this passage, however, it struck me that the situation has changed somewhat in the last 90 or so years. Britain is no longer exporting its surplus labour. All the countries around the world now have strict policies regarding emigration, and the developed, White majority countries of Canada, New Zealand and Australia are busy taking in migrants from the developing world, like Britain and the rest of the West.

But the super rich have found a way to surreptitiously go back on their early policy of providing welfare benefits for the unemployed. Through the wretched welfare reforms introduced by Iain Duncan Smith and other Tory scumbags, they’ve torn holes in the welfare safety net with benefit sanctions, fitness to work tests and a five week waiting period. The result is that the unemployed and disabled are starving to death. And those that aren’t are frequently prevented from doing so only through food banks and private charity. This has been changed somewhat with the expansion of welfare payments for workers on furlough and food packages for the vulnerable during the lockdown, but this is intended only to be a temporary measure.

I can remember when globalisation first began in the 1990s. It was supposed to lead to a new era of peace and prosperity as capital moved from country to country to invest in businesses across the globe. But the result for Britain has been mass unemployment. And while developing nations like India have massively profited, it has been at the expense of their own working people, who are now labouring for lower pay and in worse conditions than ever.

The empire has gone to be replaced by the commonwealth. But what Shaw said about it and the exploitation and poverty it caused is true of today’s neoliberal global economy.

Except instead of encouraging emigration, the Tories and the rich have found ways to starve to death Britain’s surplus workers.

BBC World Service Programme Next Tuesday on Scientists Generating Electricity from Leaves

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/05/2020 - 2:49am in

This sounds completely bonkers, like the academy discussing ways to generate sunlight from cucumbers in Swift’s great satire, Gulliver’s Travels, but apparently is real science. According to the Radio Times again, next Tuesday, 19th May 2020, the BBC World Service programme, People Fixing the World, is about how scientists have found a way to generate electricity from leaves. The blurb about the programme by Tom Goulding on page 120 of the Radio Times runs

Money might not grow on trees, but scientists in Italy might have discovered the next best thing: leaves that generate electricity when they touch one another on a windy day. This process, enough to power 150 LED lights, is one of several remarkably simple ways of producing energy that scientists are just beginning to understand. In this optimistic documentary, reporter Daniel Gordon investigates some age-old ideas that could finally become viable renewable energy sources with new technology, such as the interaction between fresh and salt water at estuaries and a 5 km well being dug to extract untapped heat in Iceland.

The programme is on at 3.05 in the afternoon.

This sound really awesome, though it reminds me a little of the ‘treeborg’, a cyborg tree aboard a spaceship in a Matt Smith Dr. Who story, and also somewhat of the Matrix films, in which the robots have risen up and enslaved humanity. Unable to use sunlight after humanity wrecked the planet’s whether and created permanently overcast skies, the machines turned instead to growing us all in bottles and using the electricity generated from our bodies. Fortunately, I don’t think that’s a viable option. After the movie came out, people naturally wondered whether that could actually work. And the answer is, that it doesn’t. The amount of electricity generated by the human body is way too small. Nevertheless, reading this in the Radio Times makes you wonder if someone couldn’t harness it to provide useful power, nonetheless. Should the producers of this programme be giving them ideas?

Going on to geothermal power, I can remember in the 1970s watching items about it in Iceland on the popular science programmes’ Tomorrow’s World on the Beeb and Don’t Ask Me on ITV. That was the programme that gave the viewing public the great science broadcasters Magnus Pike and David ‘Botanic Man’ Bellamy.

I haven’t heard of electricity being generated by the interaction between fresh and salt water before, but I was amazed at how long ago tidal power has been around as a possible power source. Turbine wheels were put in the Thames estuary in the 16th century to provide power for mills. George Bernard Shaw also mentions tidal power in his book, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism. As an example of the type of wrangling that goes on in parliamentary democracy, he asks the reader to imagine the type of fierce debate that would occur if someone suggested putting up a tidal barrage in one of Britain’s great rivers. There would be a fiery contingent from Wales arguing that it should be on the Severn, and an equally fierce body of proud Scots declaring it should be on one of their rivers. I don’t think he need have worried. There have been debates about building a barrage on the Severn since I was at secondary school, and it’s no nearer being built because of concerns over its ecological effects.

But this programme sound amazing. I thinks there’s a simple science experiment for children, in which electrodes are stuck into a lemon or potato, and connected together to turn on an electric lightbulb. Will we be doing something similar in our gardens in a few years’ time, just as people are now putting solar panels on their rooves?

 

Lobster on the Prosecution of Craig Murray and Mountbatten, Mosley and the Abortive 1968 Coup Against Wilson

Robin Ramsay, the head honcho of the parapolitics site Lobster, has just updated the ‘News from the Bridge’ section of the current issue, no. 79, with some very interesting little snippets. One of these is about the current prosecution by the Scots authorities of Craig Murray for contempt of court.

Craig Murray and the Possible Framing of Alex Salmond

Murray’s crime is that he commented online about Alex Salmond’s trial while it was happening, stating that he believes that Salmond was framed by the Scottish state. Murray also knows four other people, also supporters of Scots independence, who have similarly been visited by the cops from the ‘Alex Salmond’ team, because they also blogged or posted about the case. Murray says, as quoted by Lobster,

The purpose of this operation against free speech is a desperate attempt to keep the lid on the nature of the state conspiracy to fit up Alex Salmond. Once the parliamentary inquiry starts, a huge amount of evidence of conspiracy which the court did not allow the defence to introduce in evidence during the criminal trial, will be released. The persecution of myself is an attempt to intimidate independent figures into not publishing anything about it.The lickspittle media of course do not have to be intimidated. To this end, I am charged specifically with saying that the Alex Salmond case was a fitup and a conspiracy in which the Crown Office was implicated. So I thought I would say it again now:

The Alex Salmond case was a fit-up and a conspiracy in which the Crown Office was implicated, foiled by the jury. If Scotland is the kind of country where you go to jail for saying that, let me get my toothbrush.’ (emphasis in the original)

I honestly don’t know how credible this allegation is. Unfortunately, powerful men do take sexual advantage of the women around them, as the Harvey Weinstein scandal has glaringly showed. But Salmond was acquitted because he was able to show that he was not where he was alleged and with the women he was accused of assaulting at the time the attacks were supposed to have been committed. The suggestion that Salmond was framed by the Scots state, presumably to prevent Scotland gaining independence, does seem to pass beyond the limits of credibility. It looks like a conspiracy theory in the pejorative sense of the term.

Unfortunately, the British state does smear opposition politicians. IRD did it in the 1970s when they falsified all manner of documents and manufactured fake reports, published in various newspapers and magazines, that Labour politicians like Tony Benn were IRA or Communist sympathisers and agents of the Soviet Union when they definitely weren’t. We’ve seen the same tactics revived just last year, when they were used by the Democracy Initiative and its parent body, the Institute for Statecraft, against Jeremy Corbyn and other European politicos and public figures, who were deemed too close to Putin. And far from being a private company, the Democracy Initiative had links to MI5 and the cyberwarfare branch of the SAS.

The Beeb also played its part in broadcasting disinformation about Salmond and Scots independence. Remember the way the Corporation successively edited the answer Salmond gave Nick Robinson to a question about how it would affect the Edinburgh financial sector. Robinson asked him if he was worried that the big financial houses in the Scots capital would move south if Scotland ever became independent. Salmond gave a full reply, stating that this would not be the case. This was edited down during the day so that first it appeared that Salmond didn’t give a proper reply, before it was finally edited out altogether. Nick Robinson then claimed in the final report about it that Salmond hadn’t answered the question.

Britain has also intervened in other countries to remove politicians that were deemed an obstacle or a threat to British interests. These were mostly interference in the elections and politics of former colonies and independent states in the Developing World, like the coup that overthrew Iran’s Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq in 1953. But the British governor of Australia was also persuaded by the Tories to remove Gough Whitlam from office in the 1970s in an overt display of British power.

Scottish independence is a threat to the continued existence of Great Britain as a state. It also has powerful implications for Britain as a global power. Mike or one of the great left-wing bloggers has stated that if Scotland did become independent, Britain would no longer be large or populous enough to hold a position on the UN security council. While a covert campaign to frame and discredit Salmond seems incredible to me, I honestly don’t think it can be fairly discounted.

Mountbatten and Mosley as Figureheads for an Anti-Wilson Coup

The other snippet that I found particularly interesting ultimately comes from Andrew Lounie’s new e-book The Mountbattens. The books follows a number of others in stating that in 1968 the former viceroy of India was approached by the chairman of the Mirror group, Cecil King, to help overthrow Harold Wilson and form a government of national unity. This is similar to the proposals for other coups against Wilson made in the middle of the next decade, the ’70s. See Francis Wheen’s book, Strange Days Indeed. What boggles my mind, however, is that before King approached Mountbatten, he’d gone to Paris to ask Oswald Mosley if he’d be interested. How anyone could ever believe that a Fascist storm trooper like Mosley could ever be an acceptable leader of any kind of British regime, or that a country that had interned him and fought against the political order he represented during the War would ever accept him, is frankly incredible. Mountbatten had met King with the government’s scientific adviser, Solly Zuckerman. When King mentioned that he’d met Mosley, Zuckerman walked out followed by Mountbatten. This is the standard version of the event. Lounie’s book differs from this by claiming that Mountbatten didn’t particularly object to becoming the head of such a junta, and was even taken with the idea.

The book also claims that Mountbatten was bisexual, and recklessly pursued younger men. He was also, it is alleged, supplied with boys from the Kincora Boys’ Home.

I hadn’t read before that King had tried to interest Oswald Mosley in leading a British government after a military coup. This is significant in that it shows that some elements of the British media establishment were more than willing to install a real Fascist as leader rather than tolerate a democratically elected socialist government under a leader they despised, like Wilson. 

See:https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster79/lob79-view-from-the-bridge.pdf

and scroll down to find the snippets ‘Craig Murray under attack’, and ‘The Mountbattens’.

 

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