Italy

J.A. Hobson on Capitalism and Imperialism

One of the crimes for which Jeremy Corbyn was pilloried as an anti-Semite was that he had written a foreword for an edition of J.A. Hobson’s book, Imperialism. First published in 1903, Hobson’s book has become one of the classic critiques of imperialism. Hobson considered that the motive force behind imperialist expansion and overseas conquest was capitalism and the continual need to find new markets. The book influenced Lenin’s own analysis of imperialism, Imperialism: The Highest Form of Capitalism. Fifty years after the book was published it was praised by the great British historian A.J.P. Taylor, who said that ‘No survey of the international history of the twentieth century can be complete without the name of J.A. Hobson’ because he was the first to identify imperialism’s economic motives. Hobson has been accused of anti-Semitism.

Imperialism and the Anti-Semitism Smears against Corbyn

I think it’s because he believed that Jewish financiers were behind the Anglo-South Africa or ‘Boer’ Wars. I think the real force was the British desire to expand into the African interior,  retain the Afrikaners as imperial subjects and acquire the riches of the southern African diamond fields as well as Cecil Rhodes own megalomaniac personal ambitions. However, when the various witch-hunters were howling about how anti-Semitic Corbyn was for endorsing the book, others pointed out that it was a very well-respected text admired and used by entirely reputable historians. Yes, it was a bit anti-Semitic. A very small bit – there was only one anti-Semitic sentence in it. It was another case of the witch-hunters grasping at whatever they could, no matter how small, to smear a genuinely anti-racist politician.

Financial Capitalism, Imperialism and the Decline of Ancient Rome

There’s an extract from Hobson’s Imperialism in The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Protest, edited by Brian MacArthur (London: Penguin 1988). This is a collection various writings protesting against a wide variety of issues ranging from indictments of the poverty of Edwardian England, to various wars, including Vietnam, Civil Rights and anti-Racism, as well as feminism, gay rights, the power of television and the threat of nuclear war. Yes, there’s an extract from Hitler’s Mein Kampf, but there’s also a piece by the American Zionist rabbi, Stephen S. Wise, against the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany as well as other condemnations of Nazis and their horrific rule. The book very definitely does not endorse Fascism or the Communism of Stalin, Pol Pot and the other monsters.

The extract included in the book does identify financial capitalism and militarism as the force behind Roman imperialism, which led to the enslavement of Rome’s enemies abroad and the emergence of an immensely wealthy aristocracy, while impoverishing ordinary Romans at the other end of the social hierarchy, and compares it to the comparable development of the British imperialism of his own time. The extract runs

The spirit of imperialism poisons the springs of democracy in the mind and character of the people. As our free self-governing colonies have furnished hope, encouragement and leadership to the popular aspirations in Great Britain, not merely by practical successes in the arts of popular government, but by the wafting of a spirit of freedom and equality, so our despotically ruled dependencies have ever served to damage the character of our people by feeding the habits of snobbish subservience, the admiration of wealth and rank, the corrupt survivals of the inequalities of feudalism. This process began with the advent of the East Indian nabob and the West Indian planter into English society and politics, bring back with his plunders of the slave trade and the gains of corrupt and extortionate officialism the acts of vulgar ostentation, domineering demeanour and corrupting largesse to dazzle and degrade the life of our people. Cobden, writing in 1860 of our Indian Empire, put this pithy question: ‘Is it not just possible that we may become corrupted at home by the reaction of arbitrary political maxims in the East upon our domestic politics, just as Greece and Rome were demoralized by their contact with Asia?’

The rise of a money-loaning aristocracy in Rome, composed of keen, unscrupulous men from many nations, who filled the high offices of state with their creatures, political ‘bosses’ or military adventurers, who had come to the front as usurers, publicans or chiefs of police in the provinces, was the most distinctive feature of later imperial Rome. This class was continually recruited from returned officials and colonial millionaires. The large incomes drawn in private official plunder, public tribute, usury and official incomes from the provinces had the following reactions upon Italy. Italians were no longer wanted for working the land or for manufactures, or even for military service. ‘The later campaigns on the Rhine and the Danube,’ it is pointed out, ‘were really slave-hunts on a gigantic scale.’

The Italian farmers, at first drawn from rural into military life, soon found themselves permanently ousted from agriculture by the serf labour of the latifundia, and they and their families were sucked into the dregs of town life, to be subsisted as a pauper population upon public charity. A mercenary colonial army came more and more displace the home forces. The parasitic city life, with its lowered vitality and the growing infrequency of marriage, to which Gibbon draws attention, rapidly impaired the physique of the native population of Italy, and Rome subsisted more and more upon immigration of raw vigour from Gaul and Germany. The necessity of maintaining powerful mercenary armies to hold the provinces heightened continually the peril, already manifest in the last years of the Republic, arising from the political ambitions of great pro-consuls conspiring with a moneyed interest at Rome against the Commonwealth. As time went on, this moneyed oligarchy became an hereditary aristocracy, and withdrew from military and civil service, relying more and more upon hired foreigners: themselves sapped by luxury and idleness and tainting by mixed servitude and licence the Roman populace, they so enfeebled the state as to destroy the physical and moral vitality required to hold in check and under government the vast repository of forces in the exploited Empire. The direct cause of Rome’s decay and fall is expressed politically by the term ‘over-centralization’, which conveys in brief the real essence of imperialism as distinguished from national growth on the one hand and colonialism upon the other. Parasitism practised through taxation and usury, involved a constantly increasing centralization of the instruments of government, and a growing strain upon this government as the prey became more impoverished by the drain and showed signs of restiveness. ‘The evolution of this centralized society was as logical as every other work of nature. When force reached the stage where it expressed itself exclusively through money the governing class ceased to be chosen because they were valiant or eloquent, artistic, learned or devout, and were selected solely because they had the faculty of acquiring and keeping wealth. As long as the weak retained enough vitality to produce something which could be absorbed, this oligarchy was invariable; and, for very many years after the native peasantry of Gaul and Italy had perished from the land, new blood, injected from more tenacious races, kept the dying civilization alive. The weakness of the moneyed class lay in this very power, for they not only killed the producer, but in the strength of their acquisitiveness they failed to propagate themselves.’

This is the largest, planest instance history presents of the social parasite process by which a moneyed interest within the state, usurping the reins of government, makes for imperial expansion in order to fasten economic suckers into foreign bodies so as to drain them of their wealth in order to support domestic luxury. The new imperialism differs in no vital point from this old example. The element of political tribute is now absent, or quite subsidiary, and the crudest forms of slavery have disappeared: some elements of more genuine and disinterested government serve to qualify and and mask the distinctively parasitic nature of the later sort. But nature is not mocked: the laws which, operative throughout nature, doom the parasite to atrophy, decay, and final extinction, are not evaded by nations any more than by individual organisms. The greater complexity of the modern process, the endeavour to escape the parasitic reaction by rendering some real but quite unequal and inadequate services to ‘the host’, may retard but cannot finally avert the natural consequences of living upon others. The claim that an imperial state forcibly subjugating other peoples and their lands does so for the purpose of rendering services to the conquered equal to those which she exacts is notoriously false: she neither intends equivalent services nor is capable of rendering them, and the pretence that such benefits to the governed form a leading motive or result of imperialism implies a degree of moral or intellectual obliquity so grave as itself to form a new peril for any nation fostering so false a notion of the nature of its conduct. ‘Let the motive be in the deed, not in the event,’ says a Persian proverb…

Imperialism is a depraved choice of national life, imposed by self-seeking interests which appeal to the lusts of quantitative acquisitiveness and of forceful domination surviving in a nation from early centuries of animal struggle for existence. Its adoption as a policy implies a deliberate renunciation of that cultivation of the higher inner qualities which for a nation as for its individual constitutes the ascendancy of reason over brute impulse. It is the besetting sin of all successful state, and its penalty is unalterable in the order of nature.

(Pp. 15-18).

Financial Capitalism Operating to Exploit Former Colonies and Undermine Domestic Economy

While the British Empire has gone the way of Rome’s, the same forces are still operating today. The Iraq invasion was really to enable western multinationals to seize Iraq’s state industries, and for the American and Saudi oil industry to seize its oil reserves. They weren’t about bringing it democracy or freeing its citizens. Although our former African colonies are now free, they are still plundered through highly unfair trade agreements. At home manufacturing industry has declined because Thatcherite economics favours the financial sector. And the immensely rich now hoard their wealth in offshore tax havens or invest it abroad, rather than in domestic industry. Thus denying British industry investment and making millions of domestic workers unemployed. There’s a further parallel in that in the later Roman Empire, the senatorial aristocracy retreated to their estates rather than pay tax, and so the tax burden increasingly fell on the ordinary Roman citizen. This is the same as the way the Tories have given vast tax cuts to the rich, which have ensured that the tax burden must also be increasingly borne by the poor.

Conservatives have also drawn parallels between the fall of the Roman Empire and today’s west. This has mostly been about non-White immigration, which they have compared to the barbarian invasions. But as Hobson’s Imperialism showed, capitalism and imperialism were connected and together responsible for Rome’s decline and fall. 

But strangely they don’t talk about that!

 

 

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.

 

 

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?

 

April 1945: Perspectives and Directives of the Internationalist Communist Party

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/05/2020 - 9:45am in

image/jpeg iconbattaglia_1945.jpg

As the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe approaches and the British ruling class is trying to use the occasion to stoke patriotic fervour, when we are once again being told we must suffer in the ‘national interest’ due to the coronavirus pandemic and the economic crisis, it’s a timely reminder that even in the most extreme of circumstances, the brutal imperialist slaughter of World War II, the Communist Left stood for the principle ‘no war between nations, no peace between classes’.

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Mauro Stefanini (9 January 1948 - 2 May 2005)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 04/05/2020 - 8:03am in

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Italy

image/jpeg iconmauro2020.jpg

Today (02/05/20) is the fifteenth anniversary of the death of our unforgettable comrade Mauro Stefanini. We are not great fans of formal rituals or commemorations (neither was he) but by way of acknowledging our debt to him we publish this short introduction to the volume of his work our comrades of the Internationalist Communist Party (Battaglia Comunista) published five years ago under the title Le radici spezzate – Il percorso ideologico della controrivoluzione in Italia (Broken Roots – The Course of the Counter-Revolution in Italy).

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Infrastructure that Helps Wildlife Migrate

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/04/2020 - 6:10am in

Welcome to The Fixer, our weekly briefing of solutions in the news. This week: critical corridors for migrating wildlife gain new urgency in an era of climate change. Plus, schooling on lockdown is changing Italy’s approach to education, and a debate over the merits of capturing methane from cow dung.

Crossing the lines

The Washington Post has a gorgeous interactive that allows the reader to follow the paths of wildlife fitted with radio collars as they navigate major highways. Biologists are working to aid these migrations with a network of bridges, tunnels and other structures that allow the animals to cross highways in the American West. Such crossings have existed for years, but are more urgent than ever in an era of climate change, as animals seek cooler places to spend the summer months. So scientists are tracking migratory routes and looking for ways to give wildlife new pathways to higher elevations, allowing them to find cooler air without requiring hundred-mile journeys.

The crossings are premised on research showing that, over the next 100 years of warming, only 41 percent of species will be able to seek out their preferred temperatures. If properly designed wildlife corridors are put in place to help animals get where they’re going, however, that number jumps to 65 percent. Some of this success is already visible. The 2,000-mile “Yellowstone to Yukon” corridor has allowed grizzlies and wolverines to move more freely, which has helped preserve species diversity as they breed with far-flung peers.

Read more at the Washington Post

A remote chance

Around the world, an outbreak of lockdown-prompted remote learning is upending educational techniques (not to mention exhausted parents’ lives). A report in the Guardian details some of the takeaways in Italy, which, despite being the birthplace of Montessori, takes a traditional approach to education that is now giving way to innovation. 

Italy’s lockdown could lead to long-term changes in the way it approaches education. Credit: Nenad Stojkovic

Teachers in Italy have been abandoning test-based learning — which doesn’t work well via video chat, since it’s easy for kids to cheat — for more unorthodox endeavors. One teacher reports that his students are getting their families involved in presentations, changing the dynamic from rote instruction to collaborative creativity. “I’ve got a 13-year-old, the son of two ex-offenders, who has produced some diaries of extraordinary depth,” said another. Still others have found that “the intimidation of the pack” has diminished, prompting participation from kids who might normally be too meek to speak up.

The article concludes that this extended period of remote education could transform Italy’s teaching techniques in lasting ways. “It makes you understand that we need a very varied form of education,” said a primary school teacher in Milan.

Read more at the Guardian

Feeder’s digest

Recently, we reported on the question of whether real meat, sustainably sourced, could be better for the planet than the fake stuff taking the fast-food world by storm. A similar debate forms the foundation of a new article at Civil Eats, which examines whether converting animal waste from methane into energy is really good for the environment, or simply enabling unsustainable farming practices.

dairyA dairy digester that can generate 1.5 megawatts of electricity. Credit: Puget Sound Energy

The article focuses on California, which subsidizes the construction and operation of such “dairy digesters” as part of its statewide efforts to reduce emissions. California has spent nearly $200 million on over 100 digester projects, mitigating thousands of tons of agricultural greenhouse gases. But some green groups, like the Center for Food Safety, think that promoting the technology is misguided. They say that because of the expense involved, most digesters are only built for dairy farms with more than 2,500 cattle, which encourages the kind of industrial farming that harms the environment. “It all sounds very good, but it’s not a clean fuel,” said one advocate. “We want dairies to move to more sustainable solutions and we support the state incentivizing that.”

Read more at Civil Eats

The post Infrastructure that Helps Wildlife Migrate appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Boris Johnson: Britain’s Chairman Mao

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/04/2020 - 1:07am in

Boris Johnson finally returned to work this Monday. As he did so, he gave us the benefit of his thoughts in a speech to the nation. This was at 9 O’clock in the morning, when some people furloughed from work may have been asleep.

Mike was one of those who watched it, and assured those who had slept through it that they weren’t missing much. It was mostly just flannel and platitudes. Johnson did manage to say something sensible. In comparing the current situation to an attack by an assailant, Johnson warned people that although we had got on top of the situation, this was no time to relax the lockdown. Even if you had your attacker on the ground, he was still dangerous and you wouldn’t take your hands off him to allow him back up in case he returned to the attack. It was the same with the lockdown and the virus.

That wasn’t what struck Mike about Johnson’s peroration, however. What he noticed, and which justifiably left Mike outraged, was our clown prime minister’s statement that we were successful in tackling the virus. What? Successful! How? The death toll is at 21,000, excluding those in care homes and at home. We have the worst death toll in Europe, above Italy and Spain, the two countries worse hit. We have our front line medical and care workers dying of this wretched disease because they don’t have the right PPE. They’re going to work in bin bags. And this is because Johnson and his cronies didn’t take the pandemic threat seriously, didn’t want to update the plans and preparations previous administrations had made for such an eventuality, and prioritised Brexit and the economy over actually shutting the country down as soon as possible to save lives. Far more could have been done, especially if Johnson had got off his well-padded, Eton-educated rear end and attended a few more Cobra meetings and actually did some work at weekends.

But the Tories and their fawning media lackeys have been falling over themselves to hail the great man’s return to health and work. Yesterday Zelo Street put up an article comparing this outburst of praise and good wishes for Boris with the official praise and acclamation given by the Chinese to Mao Zedong. Chairman Mao was hailed by his supporters as ‘the great helmsman’, and Johnson too was being lauded by the Tories in similar terms. Zelo Street reproduced a series of Tweets from the Tories stating how wonderful it was to have Boris ‘back at the helm’. Zelo Street did this to make the point that, despite claims to the contrary, this country was capable of a cult of personality similar to Communist dictatorships like North Korea and China.

Precisely, but we’ve seen it before, of course. Thatcher over here and Ronald Reagan in America have cults among their parties which can easily be compared with the Soviet cults of Lenin and Stalin. As for Mao, he was responsible for the Cultural Revolution during which 60 million Chinese died, many of them from famine caused by the party’s failed policies.  In the ten years of their government, the Tories have killed over a hundred thousand people through benefit sanctions and work capability tests, and thrown a quarter of a million people on to food banks to feed themselves. More children are growing up in poverty, homelessness has got worse and a record number of Brits are faced with the choice of whether they eat or heat their homes, ’cause they can’t do both.

And at least 21,000 people have died because of the virus, assisted by Johnson’s mistakes, complacency and sheer, bloody idleness.

So Boris certainly is Britain’s Chairman Mao in cult of personality and in the number of deaths he and his wretched party have caused.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/boris-is-new-mao-zedong.html

This is what Boris Johnson calls winning: the second-worst Covid-19 death rate in the world

 

Coronavirus Fact-Check #4: “Why are so many healthcare workers dying?”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/04/2020 - 2:00am in

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Italy, NHS, UK

Although we hear a lot of anecdotal evidence, and see a lot of headlines, we have no data suggesting an excessive impact on healthcare professionals. A recent statistical study published in the Health Services Journal (HSJ) provides some important facts and context.

Bad Taste Movie Alert! Charles Band’s ‘Corona Zombies’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 27/04/2020 - 8:32pm in

Readers of this blog will know that I have a taste for Science Fiction, and some Fantasy and Horror, as well as movies that are so spectacularly bad or trashy that they’re hilarious or simply weirdly entertaining. It’s a type of cinema that’s been dubbed ‘Badfilm’ or ‘psychotronic’, and consists largely of low budget B-movies and their imitators. In recent years there have been a number of SF, Fantasy and Horror comedies that have deliberately parodied these films. Enough people love horrendously bad movies to have made The Room into a hit film despite it being judged one of the worst films of all time.

Half the world is in lockdown because of the Coronavirus crisis, but this hasn’t stop the masters of schlock horror producing their wares. I am therefore very pleased to inform you that the master of low budget ‘Orror’, Charles Band, has released his latest masterpiece of bad taste: Corona Zombies. I found a review of it and a trailer on the excellent website, Moria, which is an encyclopaedic collection of reviews of SF, Fantasy and Horror films.

It’s plot is very simple. A young woman, Barbie, comes back to her home in a trailer park to put on the news, where she learns that a special police unit, Corona Squad, has been formed to investigate the hijacking of a consignment of toilet paper. In the course of doing their duty, they’ve been attacked by a horde of ravening zombies. The film was completed in the very short space of a month, and the original footage shot for this epic only has three actors – the woman playing the heroine, a bloke who appears at various points in makeup as a zombie, and another woman, who’s just a voice at the end of the telephone when Barbie phones the authorities wondering what’s happened. The rest of the movie – 75 per cent of it – is made up of old footage from the 1980 Italian horror movie, Zombie Creeping Flesh. Which has been taken by Band and redubbed to give it deliberately silly dialogue. Band also recycles a few pieces of footage from one of his movies, Zombies vs Strippers.

Band first appeared in the 1980s when he formed Empire Pictures and then Full Moon. He’s responsible for a string of low budget schlock flicks, such as Ghoulies. However, Empire were also responsible for a couple of excellent ’80s horror movies by Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna, Re-Animator and From Beyond. Loosely based – and very loosely at that – on short stories by the cult SF/Horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, these had very good creature effects and went in for over the top splatter, so that they didn’t take themselves too seriously. Both Re-Animator and From Beyond have become classics of ’80s Horror. Re-Animator was praised by critics at the time for its wry humour. It starred Jeffrey Coombs as mad scientist Herbert West, who has discovered a serum to reanimate the dead. In one scene West makes a deadpan joke about getting parts as injects a severed head and its former body.

Band himself, however, doesn’t seem to have risen to these cinematic heights, and simply continued to grind out his low-budget epics, often using old footage from his previous movies. He’s not alone in this. Roger Corman used to do it. So did Herschel Gordon Lewis and Samuel Z. Arkoff. I think it was Arkoff, who used to buy up foreign language European movies, edited and re-dubbed them, and then released them to unsuspecting American public as completely new movies. I’ve got a feeling one of his works of staggering genius was Billy the Kid Versus Dracula. He was certainly responsible for Sign of the Gladiator. This was originally an Italian sword and sandal epic set just after the fall of Rome. It had nothing to do with gladiators, but movies about them were in vogue at the time and one of the characters had been a gladiator. So he bought it, changed the title, did a bit of editing, and behold! Another masterpiece to wow the paying public. Band here seems to have followed their methodology.

Lewis and Arkoff released their movies as serious films, but Band is different here in that the film’s meant to be funny. There are apparently a lot of jokes about toilet paper shortages, as well as the new vocabulary that’s come in with the crisis, such as ‘flattening the curve’ and ‘social distancing’. The Coronavirus crisis itself isn’t funny, but it is important that people all over the world keep morale up. It’s why there’s a short film in between the programmes on the Beeb most nights in which an unseen narrator recites a poem about how we should all keep our spirits up, while inspiring images of ordinary British life, including Dad’s Army, flash by. It’s one of the reasons why every Thursday we’re all out on our doorsteps clapping for the NHS. We can keep our spirits up by laughing. And one of the ways we can do that, is through trashy films in deliberately bad taste. Like Corona Zombies.

Moria gave this splendid example of American cinema a single star, meaning that it’s rubbish, and warned that although it was the first of such movies, it wouldn’t be the last. Which to aficionados of badfilm is probably an endorsement of a promise of lots of similar horrific goodies to come. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Unfortunately all the cinemas are close, so I have no idea where you’d see it. On DVD or streaming service, perhaps.

The Morie review of this work of cinematic genius is at:

Corona Zombies (2020)

The Left, Still Clinging onto Gramsci

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 17/04/2020 - 3:28am in

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Italy, Academia

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If we take this opportunity to criticise Gramsci’s "thought", it is because it is back in fashion with layers of intellectuals dedicated to reworking socio-political "categories" that Gramsci's idealism left as a legacy to his followers.

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