Marxism

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Book on Revolutionary Trade Unionism, Fascism and the Corporative State

David D. Roberts, Syndicalist Tradition & Italian Fascism (University of North Carolina Press, 1979).

Syndicalism is a form of revolutionary socialism that seeks to overthrow the liberal state and replace it with a society based on the trade unions in which they run industry. It was particularly strong in France, and played a major role in Catalonia and the struggle against Franco during the Spanish Civil War. It has also been a strand in the British labour movement, and produced a peculiar British form, Guild Socialism, whose leaders included the great socialist writer and former Fabian, G.D.H. Cole.

Fascism Mixture of Different Groups

Fascism was a strange, heterogenous mixture of different, and often conflicting groups. These included former syndicalists, radicalised veterans from the First World War, ultra-conservative Nationalists and the Futurists, an aggressive modern artistic movement that celebrated war, speed, violence, masculinity, airplanes, cars and the new machine age. Some of these groups shared roughly the same ideas. The war veterans were deeply impressed with the corporative constitution drafted by Alceste de Ambris for D’Annunzio’s brief regime in Fiume, the Carta de Carnaro. Superficially, the Fascist syndicalists shared the same goal of creating a corporate state to govern industrial relations and run industry. However, they approached this from very different directions. The Nationalists, led by Alfredo Rocco, were ultra-Conservative businessmen, who attacked liberal democracy because of the corruption involved in Italian politics. At the same time they feared the power of the organised working class. As Italy modernised, it underwent a wave of strikes. In response, Rocco recommended that the state should take over the trade unions, using them as its organ to discipline the workers, keep the masses in their place while training them to perform their functions efficiently in the new, industrial Italy. The syndicalists, on the other hand, wanted the trade unions to play a role in industrial management and at the same time draw the working class into a fuller participation in politics. The working class had been excluded from the liberal state, but through their economic organisations, the unions, they could play a much fuller role as these governed their everyday lives. They saw the corporations and the corporate state as a means of increasing democracy and popular participation, not limiting it.

Fascist Corporativism

The corporations themselves are industrial organisations rather like the medieval guilds or trade unions. However, they included both the trade unions and employers organisations. There were already nine of them, but by the end of the regime in 1943 there were 27. Under Rocco’s Labour Charter, the Carta del Lavoro, strikes and lockouts were forbidden in the name of industrial peace and class collaboration. The corporation were required to settle labour disputes. However, if management and the unions were unable to reach agreement, then the dispute was to be referred to labour magistracy for settlement in special labour courts. Mussolini also reformed the Italian parliament, transforming the Chamber of Deputies into a Chamber of Fasces and Corporations. In practice the corporate state never amounted to very much. It never won over real working class support, and the corporations were never given real legislative power. It merely added another layer of bureaucracy and acted as nothing more than a rubber stamp to pass the policies Mussolini had already made. And he seems to have used it as ideological window dressing to give the impression that here was more to Fascism than his personal dictatorship.

The Unification of Italy and Political Alienation

The book argues that the corporate state was a genuine attempt to solve the deep problems of Italian unification left over from the Risorgimento. At the same time, it was also a radical response to the crisis, breakdown and revision of Marxist socialism and the failure of Marxist syndicalism in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The process of unification has produced an attitude of deep alienation from the state and politics amongst Italians, and Fascism was partly a response to this. This alienation isn’t confined to Italians, but it is particularly acute. Social studies in the 1970s showed that Italians are less likely than Americans, Brits or Germans to become politically involved. They regard the state as distant with little interest in them. At the same time, there is also an expectation that the bureaucrats in Rome will help them.

Like Germany, Italy was unified by military force and the invasion of the other, constituent states. However, for reasons of speed and a determination to preserve the new nation’s fragile unity, the other Italian states were simply annexed by Piedmont to be governed from there. There was supposed to be a constituent assembly in which the other states were to have their say in the creation of the new Italy, but this simply didn’t happen. At the same time, the industrialisation promoted by Italian liberals was concentrated in the north, so that the south remained backward and agricultural. The franchise was extremely restricted. It excluded illiterates, so that originally only 2 per cent of the population could vote. This was later extended to 7 per cent. At the same time, Italy’s leaders prevented the formation of proper political parties by taking over individuals from different parliamentary factions in order to form workable governing majorities. At the same time there was discontent and widespread criticism of the protectionism imposed to help the development of Italian heavy industry. Middle class critics believed that this unfairly benefited it at the expense of more dynamic and productive sectors of the economy. This led to the belief that Italy was being held back by class of political parasites.

This backwardness also led to an acute sense of pessimism amongst the elite over the character of the Italian people themselves. The Americans, British and Germans were disciplined with proper business values. Italians, on the other hand, were lazy, too individualistic and defied authority through lawlessness. This meant that liberalism was inadequate to deal with the problems of Italian society. ‘This English suit doesn’t fit us’, as one Fascist said. But this would change with the adoption of Fascism. One of Mussolini’s minions once declared that, thanks to Fascism, hard work and punctuality were no longer American, German and British values.

Syndicalism, Marxism and the Revision of Socialism

By the 1890s there was a crisis throughout Europe in Marxist socialism. Marx believed that the contradictions in capitalism and the continuing impoverishment of working people would lead to eventual revolution. But at this stage it was evident that capitalism was not collapsing. It was expanding, wages were rising and the working class becoming better off. This led to the reformist controversy, in which socialist ideologues such as Bernstein in Germany recommended instead that socialist parties should commit themselves to reforming capitalism gradually in order to create a socialist society. The syndicalists were originally Marxists, who looked forward to the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. However, they became increasingly disenchanted with Marxism and critical of the leading role of the working class. They originally believed, as with the French syndicalist Georges Sorel, that the class-conscious workers would be a new source of values. But they weren’t. They also believed that this would only be achieved through a long process of education through general strikes. They were horrified by the biennio rosso, the two years of strikes and industrial unrest that came after the end of the war, when it seemed that the Italian labour movement was going to follow the Russian Bolsheviks and create a revolution for which Italy and it working class were not ready.

At the same time, they came to reject Marxism’s doctrine that the political was determined by the economic sphere. They believed that Italy’s political problems could not be reduced to capitalism. Hence they believed that capitalism and private industry should be protected, but made subordinate to the state. Work was a social duty, and any industrial who did not run his company properly could, in theory, be removed and replaced. They also sought to give the workers a greater role in industrial management. This led them to go beyond the working class. They found a new revolutionary group in the Italian war veterans, who were radicalised by their experiences. These would have joined the socialists, but the latter had been strongly neutralist and as a result rejected and ridiculed the former soldiers for their patriotism. These found their ideological and political home with the syndicalists. At the same time, the syndicalists rejection of Marxist socialism led to their rediscovery of other, non-Marxist socialist writers like Mazzini, who also rejected liberalism in favour of a tightly knit Italian nation. Their bitter hatred of the corruption in Italian politics and its parasites led them to join forces with anarchists and other sectors of the Italian radical tradition. They believed that for Italy truly to unite and modernise, the workers should join forces with properly modernising industrialists in an alliance of producers.

Syndicalist Opposition to Mussolini’s Rapprochement to the Socialists

Looking at the development of Italian Fascism, it can seem that there was a certain inevitability to the emergence of Mussolini’s dictatorship and the totalitarian Fascist state. But this argues that there was nothing inevitable about it, and that it was forced on Mussolini in order to stop his movement falling apart. When Mussolini entered parliament and took over as prime minister, he seemed to be transforming what was originally a movement into the very type of party that the Fascist rank and file were in revolt against. Fascism was reconstituted as a party, and when the future Duce met the kind, he wore the top hat and frock coat of an establishment politician. Worse, Mussolini had started out as a radical socialist, and still seemed determined to work with them and other working class and left-wing parties. He signed a pacification pact with the Socialists and Populists, the Roman Catholic party, stopping the Fascist attacks on them, the trade unions and workers’ and peasants’ cooperatives. This horrified the syndicalists, who saw it as a threat to their own programme of winning over the workers and creating the new, corporatist order. As a result they pressurised Mussolini into rescinding that pacts, Mussolini and Fascism moved right-ward to ally with the capitalists and industry in the destruction of working class organisations.

Syndicalists and the Promotion of the Working Class

But it seems that the syndicalists were serious about defending the working class and giving it a proper role through the corporations in the management of industry and through that, political participation in the Italian state. Left Fascists like Olivetti and Ugo Spirito believed that the Italian state should operate a mixed economy, with the state running certain companies where appropriate, and the trade unions owning and managing cooperatives. Some went further, and recommended that the corporations should take over the ownership of firms, which would be operated jointly by management and the workers. This never got anywhere, and was denounced by other left syndicalists, like Sergio Pannunzio, one of their leaders.

From Internationalism to Imperialism

The book also raises grim astonishment in the way it reveals how the Syndicalists, who were initially quite internationalist in outlook, came to support Fascist imperialism. They shared the general Fascist view that Italy was being prevented from developing its industry through British and French imperialism. The two powers blocked Italy from access to trading with their colonies. They were therefore also critical of the League of Nations when it was set up, which they saw as an attempt by the great powers to maintain the international status quo. The Nationalists, who were formally merged with the Fascists, went further and demanded that Italy too should have an empire to benefit its industry, but also to provide land for colonisation by the surplus Italian population. Without it, they would continue to be forced to emigrate to countries like America and Britain, where they would become the lowest and most despised part of their working class. The syndicalists were also acutely aware of how low Italians were regarded and exploited in these countries, even by other members of the working class.

The syndicalists during the war and early post-war years criticised the Nationalists for their militarism and imperialism. Instead of looking forward to perpetual war, as the Nationalists did, they wanted to see instead the emergence of a new, federal European order in which nations would cooperate. This new federal state would eventually cover the world. They also looked forward to a new, equitable arrangement over access to the colonies. Pannunzio did support colonialism, which he believed was bringing civilisation to backward areas. But he also believed that colonies that were unable to become nations in their own right should be taken over by the League of Nations. Pannunzio declared ‘Egotism among nations is a material and moral absurdity; nations … cannot lived closed and isolated by must interact and cooperate’. This changed as time went on and Mussolini established the corporate state. This was always fragile and tentative, and accompanied by concessions to other sectors of Fascism on the right. In order to defend their fragile gains, the syndicalists gave their full backing to the Second World War and its imperialism, which they saw as a crusade to bring the corporate state, the great Italian achievement, but a backward world.

Workers Should Have a Role In Government, But Not Through Totalitarianism

I have to say I like certain aspects of the corporate state. I like the idea of trade unionists actively involved in the management of industry and in a special department of parliament, although as Sidney and Beatrice Webb point out in their Constitution for the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain, there are severe drawbacks with it. But any such corporatist chamber would have to be an expansion of liberal democracy, not a replacement for it. And I utterly reject and despise Fascism for its vicious intolerance, especially towards socialism and the working class, its rejection of democracy, and especially the militarism, imperialism and racism. Like Nazism it needs to be fought everywhere, in whatever guise it arises.

And the book makes very clear that the corporate state was an exaggerated response to genuine Italian problems, problems that could be solved within liberal, democratic politics.

Perhaps one day we shall see the return of trade unionists to parliaments reformed to allow them to play their proper role in government and industry. I make this recommendation in my booklet, For A Worker’s Chamber. But it should never be through any kind of autocratic, totalitarian regime.

To Fight the Tories and the Racists, Labour Should Platform More White Working Class Speakers

This is not by any means a criticism of the Labour party’s great Black and Asian MPs, activists and ordinary members and supporters, like Dawn Butler and Diane Abbot. It is simply a case of effectively mobilising White working class support for Labour, which necessarily and rightly includes non-White politicos and supporters to combat Tory propaganda.

Much Conservative rhetoric aimed at winning over White working class support presents the Labour party as profoundly, traitorously anti-British. BAME anti-racist activists, like Diane Abbot, are criticised and abused by the right, and particularly the far right, as people who actively hate traditional British culture and wish to see it destroyed. This nasty rhetoric was ramped up several notches a few weeks ago with the controversy over the Beeb’s supposed ban of ‘Rule, Britannia’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ at the Last Night of the Proms. This was to show that the Beeb was run by anti-patriotic lefty liberals. In fact it was nothing of the support. It was simply a response to the regulations imposed by the Coronavirus lockdown. Although they have been eased, they still prohibit public singing. It’s why those churches, which have reopened, now use recorded music while the congregation remains silent. In one way, it’s almost like a return to the Middle Ages, when it was only the clergy who participated in the ritual of the mass while the congregation heard it. I’m not surprised that the ban did cause controversy. There have been allegations before, including by Private Eye, that the Prom’s producers at the Beeb are acutely uncomfortable with the performance of the two classic pieces, and would like to stop their performance. But that wasn’t the case this year. Also, ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ is much more than a jingoistic ditty. It’s lyrics include lines about ‘justice and equality’, civilised values that should be at the heart of liberal society.

And I’m afraid this rhetoric and the xenophobic nationalism is going to increase with the failure of Brexit. It now looks like Britain is going to exit the EU without a deal. So much for all the Leaver talk from Johnson, Gove etc about oven ready deals and that making trade arrangements with the EU would be so simple, they weren’t worth worrying about. The EU would be so desperate to make one, they’d come running to us. Anybody who said otherwise was being un-patriotic and trying to terrify the British public unnecessarily with ‘Project Fear’.

But the Remoaners, as the Brexiteers have dubbed them, have been amply proved right. Boris and his cohorts told businesses that they wouldn’t have to worry about complex paperwork to carry on trading with the EU. Everything would be simple and straightforward. But our industry is suffering because Johnson and the rest haven’t provided clear guidance for them. In addition, we now have two tariff borders, one in the Irish Sea, and another in Kent. A no-deal Brexit means that we could be faced with shortages of food and medicines. The Tories are desperately trying to negotiate a deal with America, but this will mean lowering our food hygiene standards to their abysmal levels. This will do preciously little for the economy, but it will harm our farmers.

Brexit will increase poverty, despair and starvation.

There were genuinely left-wing, anti-racist peeps, who voted ‘leave’, and with entirely understandable reasons. Our farmers and fishing industry was hit by the EU. The Common Agricultural Policy was designed for small scale, peasant agriculture such as practiced in France and Germany. It did not suit highly mechanised farming employing relatively few people, which is the case in Britain. And the opening up of British waters to foreign fishing decimated our own fishing fleet. Tony Benn and others in the Labour party foresaw this. It’s why they opposed our entry into the EU at the time of the 1970s referendum.

But many Brexiteers are racist, and Brexit was presented as a way of stopping further immigration. Apart from the furore over the Proms, there has also been very vehement criticism of the numbers of asylum seekers crossing the Channel from France. The numbers involved are trivial compared to those who legally immigrate here. The people crossing the Channel in flimsy, makeshift boats and dinghies do so because other, legal means of entering Britain have been closed. But you wouldn’t know that from arch-Tory right-wingers like Alex Belfield. They are attacked as illegal immigrants, a potential threat to the communities in which they are housed, and the left blamed for encouraging them to cross, which puts the migrants themselves in danger. Belfield would like them intercepted by the navy, or deterred from crossing altogether. The liberals and left-wingers defending the migrants wish to have proper legal channels opened up for these migrants, so that they wouldn’t have to risk their lives crossing the Channel.

At the same time, Belfield and other right-wing opponents of immigration present the left as very middle class, out of touch and actively hostile to the White working class. Belfield in his videos rants about how the BBC is dominated by Guardian reading, chinos wearing, latte sipping lefty snowflakes, who all, of course, eat avocado toast. Right-wing organisations like the New Culture Forum and hacks like Douglas Murray have put videos up on YouTube about the demonization of the White working class. The working class, including the White working class, has been demonised, but by the Conservative, Thatcherite elite. As Owen Jones, who himself has received any number of vicious personal attacks, showed in his book Chavs.

With Brexit about to fail, I think we can be sure that the Tories and the Brexiteers will now increase their attacks on immigration and ethnic minorities, because it’s the only way they have of maintaining any kind of support for it.

I think here Labour should learn from a campaigning trick of the Nazis. I’ll make it clear that I have nothing but contempt and disgust for Hitler and his squalid dictatorship. They ruled by terror and violence, and were responsible for the horrific deaths of millions. 11 1/2 million were murdered and died of starvation and overwork in the concentration camps. Six million were Jews, and 5 1/2 million assorted non-Jews, including political prisoners, the long term unemployed, the disabled and Roma. The Nazis also intended to cleans a stretch of land from Poland to the Ukraine and Russia of its indigenous people in preparation for German colonisation. The surviving population would become poorly educated, depressed peasant farmers and labourers to serve the colonists.

Nazism and Fascism are truly horrific movements, that need to be fought everywhere.

But unfortunately Hitler and the Nazis were terribly effective political campaigners. Although they described themselves as ‘socialist’, they despised ‘Marxist’ socialism, which included reformists like the SPD, the German equivalent of the Labour party, and the organised working class. They smashed the trade unions and sent their leaders and activists to the concentration camps. As social Darwinists, they saw the aristocracy and business elite as biologically superior with an absolute right to their social position and authority.

But at the same time, the Nazis were determined to win over the working class. While they stressed class collaboration, with Hitler declaring that ‘the class conscious worker is as unwelcome in our movement as the race conscious Jew’, the Nazis also claimed that they wished to create a genuine classless society. In the new volksgemeinschaft (people’s/ ethnic community) all were to be looked upon as equals. The only difference was supposed to be social function. And Nazism was going to be meritocratic. Any ethnic German would be able to rise socially, no matter how humble his origins, provided he had the talent.

To show that they were serious about this, the Nazis conspicuously put working class speakers on their platforms along with those from the middle and upper classes.

I believe that Labour needs to do the same with White working class speakers.

The people, who are serious about improving conditions for the White working class are, as I have said, the Labour left. They will do so because they’re committed to the working class as a whole. The Jewish anti-racist, anti-Fascist bloggers and activists Tony Greenstein and David Rosenberg have pointed out again and again that the only way of effectively fighting Nazi scumbags like the National Front and BNP is through actively working to improve conditions for all the working class.

Very many of Labour’s great BAME politicos and members are working class. I think Abbot is. And the anti-immigrant right have also included in their attacks on Dawn Butler statements that they’re tired of hearing how working class she is. They’re aware that the Black and Asian targets of their ire are working class, but that doesn’t count as they’re not White working class. And indeed they see them as actively anti-White.

Which is why I believe they need to be partnered on their platforms with White working class speakers. I’m aware that this is already very likely to be the case. But it needs to be so obvious, that the racists will find it difficult to minimise or deny it. It needs to be done to show the racists, and those inclined to listen to them, that BAME politicos like Abbot and Butler are not anti-White and have White working class support.

I also believe that something similar but vice versa may have to be done for Black MPs so that they are obviously given support by White speakers. Under Starmer, Labour has been haemorrhaging not only its traditional Labour voters and supporters in general, but particularly its Black members. This has partly been due to Starmer’s dismissive and mercenary attitude towards Black Lives Matter, but also his utter failure to take any action on the right-wing ‘centrists’ responsible for the racist bullying of respected Black MPs and activists like Abbot, Lammy and so on. Labour needs to show that it is still genuinely committed to improving conditions for Blacks and other ethnic minorities. And that this doesn’t mean being anti-White.

Whatever their colour, working class Brits need to stand together and support each other. Because the racists and Tories will try to divide us to push through their policies.

Which will hurt all of us, regardless of our creed or skin colour.

In Times of Lockdown: How to Contact and Work Towards Joining the CWO

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

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Marxism

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If you like our output, if you read our articles and think we are saying sensible things, then please, consider opening up a dialogue with us. You can contact us in many different ways.

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Gramscism or Marxism?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/10/2020 - 11:43am in

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Italy, Marxism

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The following is our foreword (with additional footnotes) to the book Gramsci between Marxism and Idealism by Onorato Damen, which we translated and published last year. The book is still available to order, but you can now download the PDF of it for free HERE.

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Desperate BoJob Repeats the Tories’ Broken Promises

The signs are definitely increasing that Boris may be on his way out. His personal popularity has plunged to the point where a poll of Tory party members has rated him the second most unsatisfactory member of the cabinet. A poll a few weeks ago found that he was less popular than Keir Starmer, the duplicitous leader of the Labour party, who seems far keener on finding reasons to purge the party of genuine socialists and supporters of Jeremy Corbyn than opposing the Conservatives. Rishi Sunak, the current Chancellor of the Exchequer, according to a similar poll a few weeks or so ago is actually far more popular. Zelo Street has published a series of articles speculating that as Boris shows himself to be ever more clueless and incompetent, the Tories and the press are starting to consider his removal and replacement. The Murdoch press has published a series of articles criticising him, while the Heil joined in to give him the same treatment they dished out to Corbyn and Ed Miliband. The rag published an article about Tom Bower’s latest book, which happens to be a biography of BoJob’s father, Stanley. This claims that he once hit BoJob’s mother so hard that he sent her to hospital with a broken nose. Bower’s last book was a biography of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, which cast various aspersions on him. Of course, the Mail has more than a little previous when it comes to attacking politicians through their fathers. It published a nasty little piece a few years ago smearing Ed Miliband’s father, Ralph, as ‘the man who hated Britain’ when Miliband junior was leader of the Labour party. Ralph Miliband was a Marxist intellectual and I think he was Jewish Belgian, who immigrated to this country. He despised the British class system and its elite public schools, but nevertheless joined the army to defend his new homeland during World War II. Which is far more than could be said for the father of the Heil’s former editor, Paul Dacre, who spent the war well away from the front line as the paper’s showbiz correspondent. Reading between the lines of an interview one of the Tory rags published with Michael Gove, Zelo Street suggested that Boris’ former ally was possibly being considered as his successor. But if Johnson does go, it’ll have to be through a coup like that which ousted Thatcher. Former speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow is undoubtedly right: no matter how unpopular Johnson becomes, he won’t leave voluntarily because he’s unaccountable.

So with things looking ominous and the vultures circling, Johnson today gave an upbeat speech in which he promised to build 40 new hospitals, more houses and increase the amount of power generated from green and renewable sources. Mike in his piece about Johnson’s falling popularity includes a Tweet from ‘Russ’, who helpfully points out that Johnson also made the same promise to build 40 hospitals a year ago. And hasn’t done it. He’s allocated £3 billion for their construction, although the real cost of building them is £27 billion. As for his promise to have a greater proportion of this country’s power generated by renewables, like more wind tunnels out in the Severn, we’ve also heard this before. Remember how dodgy Dave Cameron told the British voting public that his would be the greenest government ever and stuck a little windmill on the roof of his house? That lasted just as long as it took for Cameron to get both feet into No. 10. As soon as he was over the threshold he very definitely went back on his promise, giving his support to fracking while the windmill disappeared. Johnson’s promise is no different. It’s another lie from the party of lies and broken electoral promises. Like when Tweezer told everyone she wanted to put workers in company boardrooms. It’s like the Tories’ promises on racism and racial inequalities. After the Black Lives Matter protests, Johnson promised to set up an inquiry into it. Just like Tweezer did before him. All lies, empty lies that the Tories never had any intention of honouring.

And then there was his promise to build more houses. This was fairly bog-standard Thatcherite stuff. Johnson declared that he was going to build more houses so that more people would be able to own their own homes. But this wouldn’t be done by the state. He would do it by empowering people, who would be able to paint their own front doors.

Eh? This seems to make no sense at all. It does, however, repeat some of the points of Thatcher’s rhetoric about homeownership from the 1980s. Thatcher aimed at making Britain a home-owning nation of capitalists. She did by selling off the council houses and passing legislation forbidding councils from building new ones. This was supposed to allow everyone, or at least more people, to own their own homes. Many council tenants did indeed buy their homes, but others had them bought by private landlords. A few years ago Private Eye published a series of articles about the plight of these former council tenants, whose new landlords were now raising the rents to levels they couldn’t afford, or evicting them in order to develop the properties into more expensive homes aimed at the more affluent. And one of the reasons behind the present housing crisis is the fact that many properties are simply too expensive for people to afford. This includes the so-called ‘affordable housing’. This is set at 80 per cent of the market value of similar houses, whose price may be so high that even at this reduced price the affordable houses may be well beyond people’s ability to purchase. Thatcher’s housing policy needs to be overturned. Not only do more houses need to be built, but more genuinely affordable properties and council houses for those, who can only rent. Johnson isn’t going to do any of that. He just repeated the usual Thatcherite rhetoric about people owning their own homes and empowering them against the state. Just as Thatcher said that there was no society, only people and the Tories talked about rolling back the frontiers of the state.

It’s just another set of empty promises. In the clip I saw on the news, Johnson didn’t say how many he’d build, nor who would build them if the state wasn’t. Like the promises to build the hospitals and increase green energy, it’s another promise he doesn’t even remotely mean to keep. Just like all the others the Tories have made.

See also: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/10/06/johnsons-popularity-hits-record-low-but-bercow-says-he-wont-quit-as-hes-not-accountable/

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/10/bozo-gets-miliband-corbyn-treatment.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/09/murdoch-abandons-bozo.html

The Ecological Marx and Engels.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 05/10/2020 - 8:47am in

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Marxism, Science

MECW. [A]

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote a lot. To give you an idea: the Marx and Engels Complete Works (MECW) the most complete  – in the sense of collecting their discovered writings between 1835 and 1895) –  compilation of their written opus, numbers 50 volumes, each one between 600 and 800 pages long.

Even excluding introductions, content pages, appendices and endnotes, that’s plenty of writing: published and unpublished books and pamphlets, drafts and research notes for future work, newspaper analyses, public addresses, private and official letters to family, friends and associates, political or otherwise, communiqués. The variety of subjects they treated in those documents at least matches the variety in the kind of documents they produced: from philosophy, history, economics, sociology, politics, down to the kind of news one sends to one’s relatives and friends.

Much more importantly, however, is that scholars and academics in all those fields – plus many others –  have found inspiration and insight there.

But Marx and Engels not only wrote a lot, they also read a lot. An amusingly ironic anecdote, told by the late Christopher Hitchens, illustrates: “Oh Mr. Marx, yes, to be sure. Gave us a lot of work ’e did, with all ’is calls for books and papers …” – a retired British Museum’s reading room librarian reminisced for the BBC, early 20th century. After that, the librarian added, nobody ever heard of Mr Marx again.

They – on top – not only thought long and hard about what they read, they also observed the world they lived in (modern opinion-makers – or opinionators, depending on your perspective – would be sensible to follow their example: we know you can write, the doubt is whether you can read). 

Marx and Engels, in other words, did their homework: they learnt.

So much so, in fact, that careful readers, approaching their writings from different backgrounds, can identify insights surprisingly relevant to our own times.

And although Marx and Engels were not scientists in the modern sense of the word – nor did they ever claim otherwise – they read about science as well … (something economists and opinion-makers alike, negatives notwithstanding, seldom do nowadays).

Image Credits:
[A] Marx and Engels Collected Works. Author: Ben Sutherland. Source: WikiMedia. File licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. My usage of the file in no way suggests any endorsement from the file's author.

Without further ado

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What Karl Marx has to say about today's environmental problems Green Marx. Montecruz Foto/Flickr, CC BY-SA Ted Benton, University of Essex

…all progress in capitalistic agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the labourer, but of robbing the soil; all progress in increasing the fertility of the soil for a given time, is a progress towards ruining the lasting sources of that fertility.

– Karl Marx, Capital vol 1

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and an economic shift in China it seemed that capitalism had become the only game in town. Karl Marx’s ideas could safely be relegated to the dustbin of history. However the global financial crash of 2008 and its aftermath sent many rushing back to the bin.

For good or ill, the German philosopher’s ideas have affected our world more profoundly than any other modern social or political thinker. Yet on Marx’s recent 200th birthday, discussion of his continuing relevance was still dominated by “traditional” understandings of Marxism. Commentators, whether hostile or sympathetic, focused on his critique of the exploitation and inequality of capitalism and imperialism, and the struggle to transform society in a socialist direction.

Sadly, there was little – far too little – on Marx’s thinking on the relations between humans and nature.

After all, the steady but accelerating destruction by modern capitalism of the very conditions which sustain all life, including human life, is arguably the most fundamental challenge facing humanity today. This is most widely recognised in the shape of one of its most devastating symptoms: climate change. But there is much more to it, including toxic pollution of the oceans, deforestation, soil degradation and, most dramatically, a loss of biodiversity on a geological scale.

‘The history of nature and the history of men are dependent on each other so long as men exist’ – Karl Marx. Stephen Bonk / shutterstock

Some will say that these are new problems, so why should we expect Marx, writing more than a century ago, to have had anything worthwhile to offer to us today? In fact, recent scholarship has demonstrated that the problematic, often contradictory relationship between humans and the rest of nature was a central theme in Marx’s thinking throughout his life. His ideas on this remain of great value – even indispensable – but his legacy is also quite problematic and new thinking is needed.

Alienation – from nature

Marx’s early philosophical manuscripts of 1844 are best known for developing his concept of “alienated labour” under capitalism, yet commentators hardly ever noticed that for Marx the fundamental source of alienation was our estrangement from nature.

This began with enclosure of common land, which left many rural people with no means of meeting their needs other than to sell their labour power to the new industrial class. But Marx also talked of spiritual needs, and the loss of a whole way of life in which people found meaning from their relationship to nature.

Enclosure turned common land into private property and, Marx argued, helped England move from feudalism to capitalism. Cristian Teichner / shutterstock

The theme running through his early manuscripts is a view of history in which exploitation of workers and of nature go hand-in-hand. For Marx, the future communist society will resolve the conflicts among humans and between humans and nature so that people can meet their needs in harmony with one another and with the rest of nature:

Man lives on nature – means that nature is his body, with which he must remain in continuous interchange if he is not to die. That man’s physical and spiritual life is linked to nature means simply that nature is linked to itself, for man is a part of nature.

In these writings Marx makes vital contributions to our understanding of the human-nature relationship: he overcomes a long philosophical tradition of viewing humans as separate from and above the rest of nature, and he asserts the necessity for both survival and spiritual well-being of a proper, active relationship with the rest of nature. At the same time he recognises this relationship has gone wrong in the capitalist epoch.

The problem is capitalism – not humanity

In his later writings Marx develops this analysis with his key concept of “mode of production”. For Marx, each of the different forms of human society that have existed historically and across the globe has its own specific way of organising human labour to meet subsistence needs through work on and with nature, and its own specific way of distributing the results of that labour. For example, hunter-gatherer societies have usually been egalitarian and sustainable. However feudal or slave-owning societies involved deeply unequal and exploitative social relations, but lacked the limitlessly expansive and destructive dynamic of industrial capitalism.

Marx talked of ‘primitive communism’ in ancient societies. Anton_Ivanov /Shutterstock

This concept of “modes of production” immediately undermines any attempt to explain our ecological predicament in such abstract terms as “population”, “greed” or “human nature”. Each form of society has its own ecology. The ecological problems we face are those of capitalism – not human behaviour as such – and we need to understand how capitalism interacts with nature if we are to address them.

Marx himself made an important start on this. In the 1860s he wrote about soil degradation, a big concern at the time. His work showed how the division of town and country led to loss of soil fertility while at the same time imposing a great burden of pollution and disease in the urban centres.

Modern writers have developed these ideas further, including the late James O’Connor, the sociologist John Bellamy Foster, who identified an endemic tendency of capitalism to generate an “ecological rift” with nature, and those in the UK associated with the Red Green Study Group.

I suggested above that Marx’s ideas were indispensable but also problematic. There are places where he appears to celebrate the huge advances in productivity and control over the forces of nature achieved by capitalism, seeing socialism as necessary just to share the benefits of this to everyone. Recent scholarship has challenged this interpretation of Marx, but historically it has been very influential. It is arguable that the disastrous consequences of the Stalinist drive for rapid industrialisation in Russia came from that interpretation.

But there is another point. The newer ecological marxists argue, rightly, that capitalism is ecologically unsustainable, and that socialism is necessary to establish a rational relationship to the rest of nature. However, to build a movement capable of transforming society in this way, we need to recall Marx’s early emphasis on both the material and spiritual needs that can be met only by a fully rewarding and respectful relationship to the rest of nature: in short, we need a Marxism that is green, as well as ecological.The Conversation

Ted Benton, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Essex

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Anarchist Centralism?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 01/10/2020 - 3:48am in

Tags 

anarchism, Marxism

image/jpeg icon1920px-Совет_народных_комиссаров_(Ленин,_Штейнберг,_Комков,_Бонч-Бруевич,_Трутовский...),_1918.jpg

A response to a C4ss article arguing for Anarchist centralism.

[i][b]the reality is that centralist social structures are basically incompatible with any kind of egalitarian socialism[/b][/i]

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How Does the Ban on Teaching Anti-Capitalist and Extremist Materials Affect Mainstream Textbooks?

Yesterday, Gavin Williamson, the secretary of state for education, issued his departments guideline informing schools what they could not teach. This included materials from organisations determined to end capitalism, as well as anti-Semitic material, opposition to freedom of speech and which approves of illegal activity. The Labour Party’s John McDonnell pointed out that this would mean that it’s now illegal to teach large sections of British history and particularly that of the Labour Party, trade unions and socialism, because all these organisations at different times advocated the end of capitalism. He is, of course, right. In 1945 or thereabouts, for example, the Labour Party published an edition of the Communist Manifesto. He concluded

“This is another step in the culture war and this drift towards extreme Conservative authoritarianism is gaining pace and should worry anyone who believes that democracy requires freedom of speech and an educated populace.”

The economist and former Greek finance minister, Yanis Varousfakis, who has also written a book, The Crisis of Capitalism, also commented this guidance showed how easy it was for a country to lose itself and slip surreptitiously into totalitarianism. He said

“Imagine an educational system that banned schools from enlisting into their curricula teaching resources dedicated to the writings of British writers like William Morris, Iris Murdoch, Thomas Paine even. Well, you don’t have to. Boris Johnson’s government has just instructed schools to do exactly that.”

Quite. I wonder how the ban affects even mainstream textbooks, which included anti-capitalist or other extremist literature. For example there are any number of readers and anthologies of various political or historical writings published by perfectly mainstream publishers for school and university students. Such as the one below, Critics of Capitalism: Victorian Reactions to ‘Political Economy’, edited by Elisabeth Jay and Richard Jay, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) 1986). This collects a variety of writings authors such as John Francis Bray, Thomas Carlyle, Marx and Engels, John Stuart Mill, John Ruskin, Matthew Arnold, Thomas Hill Green, William Morris and George Bernard Shaw. These texts obviously document and illustrate the reactions to the rise of economics as an academic subject in the 19th century, and several of the authors are titans of 19th century British culture, literature and political philosophy, like the art critic Ruskin, the socialist, writer and artist, William Morris, the playwright George Bernard Shaw, the liberal political philosophers John Stuart Mill and Thomas Hill Green, and Matthew Arnold, the headmast of Rugby, the author of Culture and Anarchy. This is quite apart from Marx and Engels and John Francis Bray, who was a socialist and follower of Robert Owen. Carlyle’s now largely forgotten, but he was a philosopher and historian who was massively influential in his day.

Clearly this is an entirely respectable text from a very respectable publisher for history students. But, thanks to the government’s new guidelines, you could well ask if it’s now illegal to teach it in schools, thanks to its anti-capitalist contents.

The same question also applies to very respectable histories by respectable, mainstream historians and political scientists, of extremist movements and ideologies like Fascism, Nazism, Communism and anarchism. For example, one of the books I used while studying the rise of Nazism at college was D.G. Williamson’s The Third Reich (Harlow: Longman 1982). It’s an excellent little book published as part of their Seminar Studies in History range. These are short histories of various periods in history from King John and the Magna Carta to the origins of the Second World and the Third Reich, which include extracts from texts from the period illustrating particularly aspects and events. Williamson’s book is a comprehensive history of the Nazi regime, and so includes extracts from Nazi documents like Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Goebbel’s diaries and as well as eyewitness account of Nazi war crimes and individual acts of heroism and resistance. It presents an objective account of Hitler’s tyranny including its horrors and atrocities. There is absolutely no way it, nor other books like it, could remotely be considered pro-Nazi or presenting any kind of positive assessment of Hitler’s regime.

But if schools are now forbidden from teaching anti-capitalist, anti-Semitic, racist and anti-democratic material, does this mean that they are also forbidden from using books like Williamson’s, which include the writings of the Nazis themselves to show the real nature of the regime and the motivations of the men behind it. I hope not, and Owen Jones in his tweet attacking the new guidelines quotes them. From this, it should be possible to make a distinction between texts produced by extremist organisations and extracts from them in mainstream histories or editions from mainstream publishers. According to Jones’ tweet, the guidelines state

Schools should not under any circumstances use resources produced by organisations that take extreme political stances on matters. This is the case even if the material is not extreme, as the use of it could imply endorsement or support of the organisation. Examples of extreme political stances, include, but are not limited to

  1. a publicly stated desire to abolish or overthrow democracy, capitalism or end free and fair elections.

2. opposition to the right of freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, or freedom of religion and conscience.

3. the use or endorsement of racist, including anti-Semitic language or communications.

4. the encouragement or endorsement of illegal activity.

5. a failure to condemn illegal activities in their name or in support of their cause, particularly violent actions against people and property.

Responding to Jones’ tweet, Jessica Simor QC asks this very pertinent question

Do the fourth and fifth bullet points mean that schools should not accept Government money?

Good point.

I also have no doubt that the vast majority are going to be extremely careful about which organisation’s materials they use because of the danger of using extremist or otherwise inappropriate material.

But I can also how sometimes it may also be necessary for schools to use such materials in order to criticise them and educate their pupils about their dangers. For example, in the 1980s the BNP or NF tried to appeal to schoolchildren by launching a comic. Other extremists have also turned up at the school gates on occasion. When I was at school in Bristol during the ’81/2 race riots, a White agitator with a beard like Karl Marx’s turned up outside the school entrance with a megaphone trying to get the kids to join in. We ignored him and the headmaster next day in assembly said very clearly that any child who did join the rioting would be expelled.

Nazis are also known for lying and deliberately distorting history. If some Nazi group, for example, produced a pamphlet aimed at schoolchildren and teachers found it being passed around the playground one of the actions they could take, as well as simply banning it and punishing any kid who tried to promote it, might be for a suitably qualified teacher to go through it, pointing out the deliberate lies. When Hitler himself seized power, one Austrian university lecturer embarrassed the fuhrer by showing his students how Hitler took his ideas from the cheap and grubby neo-Pagan literature published in the back streets of Vienna. One of these pamphlets claimed that the ancient Aryans had possessed radio-electric organs that gave them superpowers like telepathy. I think it was highly unlikely that anyone listening to this professor’s lectures on Hitler ever came away with the idea that Hitler had some deep grasp of the essential forces of human biology and and natural selection.

I see absolutely no point to this legislation whatsoever. Teachers, parents and educators are already careful about what is taught in schools. In the past few years most incidents of this type have come from fundamentalist religious schools. These have mostly been Muslim schools, which have been caught teaching their students to hate Christians, Jews and non-Muslims, but there was also a Jewish school which became the centre of controversy for its opposition to homosexuality. In the 1980s Thatcher and the right-wing press ran scare stories about Communist teachers indoctrinating students with evil subversive subjects like peace studies. I am not aware that anyone with extreme left-wing, Communist or Trotskite views has been trying to indoctrinate children. But there are concerns about Black Lives Matter, which I have heard is a Marxist organisation. If that is the case, then the guidelines seem to be an attempt to ban the use of their materials. BLM did produce materials for a week of action in schools, which was thoroughly critiqued by Sargon of Gasbag, aka Carl Benjamin, the sage of Swindon and the man who broke UKIP. Sargon has extreme right-wing Conservative views himself, though I honestly don’t believe that he is genuinely racist and his criticisms of the BLM school material was reasonable. Williamson’s guidelines look like a badly thought out attempt to stop them being used without causing controversy by tackling the organisation’s anti-racism or its critique of White society.

But it also marks the growing intolerance of the Tories themselves and their determination that schools should be used for the inculcation of their own doctrines, rather than objective teaching that allows children to come to their own. Way back in the 1980s Thatcher tried to purge the universities of Marxists by passing legislation making it illegal for them to hold posts in higher education. They got round it by making a subtle distinction: they claimed to be Marxian rather than Marxist. By which they argued that they had Marxist culture, but weren’t actually Marxists. It’s a legal sleight of hand, but it allowed them to retain their teaching posts.

These new guidelines look like an extension of such previous legislation in order to preserve capitalism from any kind of thorough critique. Even when, as the peeps Mike quotes in his article, show very clearly that it is massively failing in front of our eyes.

Schools are now for indoctrination, not education, as teaching of non-capitalist ideology is forbidden

Hobson, and the Liberal explanation of Imperialism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 29/09/2020 - 9:02pm in

By the late 1890s, he became convinced that the “new” imperialism, unfolding mainly in Africa and Asia, represented an overriding danger to British democracy. It threatened “peace, economy, reform, and popular self-government,” catalyzing instead militarism, reaction, and jingoism. Imperialism presented a multicausal explanation for the emergence of the “earth hunger” that had gripped the imperial powers since roughly 1870. Its “leading characteristic” was competition between great capitalist empires.

The main stimulus was investment. Oversaving among capitalists and underconsumption by the masses meant that the rich could not invest their money profitably in the domestic market. In search of a high rate of return, they pushed for the opening of foreign markets, which in turn required territorial acquisitions. This system benefitted the few—chiefly financiers and their allies in the political establishment—at the expense of the many. The “business interests of the nation as a whole are subordinated to those of certain sectional interests that usurp control of the national resources and use them for their private gain.” Employing a common radical trope, he argued that imperialism was “irrational from the standpoint of the whole nation,” although “it is rational enough from the standpoint of certain classes in the nation.” Using various forms of manipulation and misleading propaganda, this profit-driven imperialism was disguised as necessary government policy; it was a “calculating, greedy type of Machiavellianism” wrapped in the evocative language of “national destiny” and the spread of “civilization.” Like Hobhouse, he warned against the corrupting effects of disingenuous language.--Duncan Bell (2009) "Hobson, Hobhouse, Liberalism" in (2016) Reordering the World: Essays on Liberalism and Empire, 356-357 (emphasis added) [HT Chris Brooke]

I was directed to Hobson by the following remark by Perry Anderson (recall) in his famous (2019) NLR review of Adam Tooze's Crashed: "Durand’s answer [in Fictitious Capital] is that they represent an updated version of Hobson’s vision of the future at the start of the twentieth century: namely the extraction of high levels of profit from investment in production in zones of cheap labour on the periphery of the system, above all in Asia. If this is so, the ‘enigma of profits without accumulation’ would dissolve, because firms are indeed investing; not in their domestic economies, where growth, employment and wages stagnate, but in overseas locations, where they have secured very high rates of return." In Anderson's argument the mention of Hobson is, at first sight, a mere aside. 

In Durand's Fictitious Capital (2017; originally appeared as Le capital fictif in 2014), Hobson's concerns about the rise of a "new financial aristocracy" in light of (now quoting Durand) China's insertion into the circuits of world capitalism, are presented as "strangely prophetic" (140-141). Durand, in turn, is explicitly echoing Lenin (see here), whom he cites as his source on Hobson. Now Durand -- who is a trained economist -- goes on to summarize Hobson as follows:

The World Hobson describes is characterised by three elements: 1) ‘a financial oligarchy’ dominates the rich countries; 2) the workers of these countries are employed in ‘personal services’ or ‘minor industrial services’; 3) the centre draws a ‘tribute’ from the peripheral countries in the form of both profits and industrial and agricultural products. We can translate this system of relations into contemporary terms: the financial profits that feed the upward concentration of income in the rich countries are founded on the exploitation of industrial labour and natural resources in the countries of the global South. Industrial activities that have become redundant in the countries of the centre are reduced to their bare bones, with the result that workers in such areas find themselves limited to support or service activities with little added value (personal services in particular), which cannot be traded at the level of international commerce. Durand's Fictitious Capital, p141 (emphasis added)

Now, Bell and Durand give a good sense of Hobson's overall argument. And neither of them can be said to misrepresent Hobson's (1902) Imperialism.1 Even so, I think they both end up failing to convey Hobson's underlying argument. (I return to Lenin below)

For, the existence of a "financial oligarchy" that oversaves, and a mass of workers that under-consumes, is for Hobson not a natural fact as it might be taken to be if one thinks it is the ordinary effect of monopoly capitalism. But Hobson is quite clear that such over-saving, "which is the economic root of Imperialism is found by analysis to consist of rents, monopoly profits, and other unearned or excessive elements of income, which, not being earned by labour or by head or hand, have no legitimate raison d'étre." In particular, as he explains on the previous page, such monopoly profits are not themselves the effect of market-forces, but the consequence of "trust[s] or other combine[s]." (Quoted from Chapter VI) In addition, monopoly profits are fueled by tariffs; this is why, for Hobson it is axiomatic that "Imperialism repudiates Free Trade, and rests upon an economic basis of Protection." (Quoted from Chapter V) Why does this matter?

So, rather than seeing Imperialism as a natural outgrowth of the ordinary development of capitalism, Hobson takes imperialism to be the effect of a political corruption of capitalism: it's the imposition of tariffs and the failure to secure proper antitrust law* that create the economic conditions for imperialism.** For, without tariffs and other anti-competitive policies, profits would be lower and wages higher. (Hobson's argument is entirely Smithian.) Once the state has been captured by protectionist interests, which generates high profits, but underconsumption, a military-financial-evangelical complex (a parasatic class) can easily promote Imperialism. Lenin sums up Hobson's point very nicely, "in its economic essence imperialism is monopoly capitalism.... monopoly arose out of the concentration of production at a very high stage. This refers to the monopolist capitalist associations, cartels, syndicates, and trust." (Lenin, 1916 Imperialism, Chapter 10. I return to Lenin below.)

Now, for Hobson imperialism is the effect of political decisions that are reversible if only Great Britain returned to Liberal projects. He thinks that in reversing imperial projects, the working poor of Great Britain will be wealthier, resources for public investment (in a public education, public goods, and perhaps a welfare state) will be opened up; the nation much richer, and also that it would open the door to less dangerous forms of nationalism, even the possibility of pacific international federation. (Something I return to soon.) I don't mean to suggest that Hobson has no interest in colonial (as distinct from imperial) projects or that he is free from an interest in racism/anti-semitism and eugenics--there are plenty of passages that may well have him canceled today. But at bottom Hobson's economic analysis of imperialism is rooted in political economy of a sort that anticipates the ORDO-liberal interpretation of the political dangers of economic concentration.

As I noted, Lenin does justice to Hobson's analysis. But at one point he differs, and I think this helps explain the reception of Hobson I started this post with. After Lenin writes:

At the beginning of the twentieth century, monopolies had acquired complete supremacy in the advanced countries, and although the first steps towards the formation of the cartels were taken by countries enjoying the protection of high tariffs (Germany, America), Great Britain, with her system of free trade, revealed the same basic phenomenon, only a little later, namely, the birth of monopoly out of the concentration of production.   

For Lenin monopoly capitalism just is the natural byproduct of being economically "advanced." And rather than being the exception, Great Britain, with its history of free trade, confirms the rule by also exhibiting monopoly capitalism despite having a different starting point. From Lenin's perspective this is converging evidence. So, if one takes the Leninist diagnosis for granted one need not mention the political conditions that generate a "financial oligarchy" that oversaves, and a mass of workers that under-consumes; it just is the natural condition of developed capitalist economies!

My interest here is not to settle the debate between a putatively Marxist and putatively liberal interpretation of the rise of imperialism. Rather, from my skeptical liberal position, what the confrontation shows, is that there is a challenge, one that has not gone away, that one might formulate toward the liberal position: how does one prevent anti-competitive state capture that serves already existing, powerful economic interests, if these interests benefit or are enriched from such capture? For, it is no good to say that normatively desirable liberalism would not generate imperialism, if really existing liberalism cannot prevent it.+ 

 

1. I have read a 1911 Spelman edition, which I think is based on a 1905 revision. 

*The claim about antitrust law is not explicit, but it follows naturally from his argument.

**Hobson also thinks that inherited aristocratic land privilege is a problem. But his (more Georgist) argument seems to me distinct from the one I am presenting here.

+Hobson himself seems to suggest it was due to elite failure.

Complaint by German Socialists and Democrats of Nazi Bullying in Schools

Donald Trump in America and the Tories over here have started their attack on our countries’ education systems. Trump has set up a commission to make American schooling more patriotic and teach American schoolkids that they are part of an exceptional nation. Over here, Johnson and his clown cabinet have ruled that it is illegal for schools to teach criticisms of capitalism or use anti-capitalist materials, along with materials attacking democracy or which are anti-Semitic. This seems to be a reaction to Black Lives Matter, which is a Marxist organisation that criticises American society from a Marxist as well as Black anti-racist perspective. Trump has already banned the teaching of Critical Race Theory to federal institutions. In my opinion, Trump was quite right to do so. Critical Race Theory states quite openly that all Whites are racist, and any institutions created by Whites must automatically also be racist and oppressive to Blacks and other people of colour.

Trump’s demand for patriotic American education is different, and it was compared to the Hitler Youth, although I put up a piece a few days ago making the case that it was much more comparable to the Italian Fascists’ reforms of the Italian school curriculum.

The Nazis also reformed their school history syllabus in order to teach their twisted view that capitalism, democracy, socialism and all Germany’s economic and political woes were down to the Jews and would be solved by Hitler and his band of thugs. Johnson has rejected anti-Semitism, but there are many real, vicious anti-Semites as well as anti-Black and anti-Asian racists in his party, so perhaps it’s only time before Boris introduces a racist element into the curriculum.

In addition to the Hitler Youth, the Nazis also introduced a Nazi pupils’ league for grammar school boys and a students’ league for the universities. The kids in these leagues went around beating up and bullying the children of socialists and democrats. I found this complaint about their attacks in J. Noakes and G. Pridham, eds., Nazism 1919-1945, Vol 1: The Rise to Power 1919-1934 (Exeter: University of Exeter 1983).

To the Oldenburg Ministery for Churches and Schools, 21 November 1930

The Committee of the Oldenburg branch of the Reichsbanner Black-Red-Gold submits the following matter to the State Ministry with a request for a prompt comment:

Leaflets have recently been distributed in the playgrounds of the schools of the city of Oldenburg and its vicinity, inviting people to join a National Socialist Pupils’ Association. We enclose one of these leaflets.

A number of pupils have already followed the appeal to join this pupils’ association. These consider themselves pledged, in the spirit of the leaflet, to bully those who disagree with them. In the playground these pupils join together and sing National Socialist combat songs. Children of Republicans are called names, their satchels are smeared with swastikas, and they are given leaflets with swastikas or ‘Heil Hitler’ or ‘Germany awake’ written on them. In the school in Metjendorf the son of a Republican was beaten up during the break by members of the pupils’ association so badly that he had to stay at home for over a week. Grown-ups who are known to be members of a Republican party are called names by the pupils when they pass by the school. In one case this even happened out of the window of a classroom.

Since the children of Republicans are unfortunately in a minority in secondary schools they cannot defend themselves against these combined attacks. With an effort they preserve their self-control, but as soon as the child gets home, this too collapses. He then seeks refuge in tears and complaints. The parents find that lessons following breaks in which their child has been molested by his class mates are useless because he is too preoccupied with the events of the break. Sometimes teachers, not knowing the reason for the child’s inattention, punish him as well. The same state of mind influences his homework, which therefore cannot be of a standard which a child in a good, cheerful mood would normal achieve. Again this has its effects at school.

It might be answered that parents and children have the right to make a complaint. This is true and yet at the same time not true. It must unfortunately be said that apart from a group of teachers who would treat such a complaint objectively, there are a number from whom this cannot be counted on and to whom one does not turn because they too are National Socialists or are active in other right-wing associations;. The relationship of trust necessary between teachers and parents and their children has completely gone.

Since we have heard that some headmasters have already declared that they are not in a position to deal with these incidents as required, since they have received no instructions from the Ministry, we request that such instructions should be issued as soon as possible. We can presumably be sure that the Sate Ministry will admit an attitude which does justice to all concerned and will decree tha tpupils’ associations of political organisations are forbidden.

Yours faithfully,

The committee of the Oldenburg Branch of the Reichsbanner Black-Red-Gold. (p. 79)

The Reichsbanner Red-Black-Gold was a paramilitary organisation set up in 1924 by the German Socialist party and other democrats to defend the Weimar republic against the right-wing paramilitaries.

Is this the future of the British school system? Are the Tories going to go further and found right-wing pupils and students’ associations to enforce proper patriotic and pro-capitalist teaching by school staff and the correct patriotic attitudes amongst other pupils? Various right-wing American organisations, like Turning Point, have a university professor watch or something of that name, which compiles lists of left-wing university professors with the aim of getting them fired for teaching their doctrines. Incidentally, the BNP/NF did something similar in British schools in the 1980s. They encouraged schoolchildren to monitor their teachers in case they were teaching Communist ideas, and report to them. Then the storm troopers would come for them and beat them up. Boris hasn’t introduced that, but that’s a natural development of this process of political censorship.

This legislation is also completely unnecessary. There has been legislation banning the indoctrination of children in schools since at least the 1980s, when Maggie Thatcher and the right-wing press ran a similar scare campaign about Communist teachers and the introduction of Peace Studies as a subject. Further legislation was introduced over a decade ago by Tony Blair. These laws stipulated that teachers could not present their own personal political or religious views as fact. If they were somehow required to state their views, they had to make it clear that it was only what they believed. As for prohibiting children from studying material which attacks democracy or promotes anti-Semitism, apart from it rather obviously makes studying the Nazis difficult, I believe that schools are already required to teach British values. Which are democracy, tolerance, diversity and so on.

This new legislation seems to me to have absolutely nothing to do with protecting vulnerable and impressionable minds from indoctrination by extremists. It seems to me to be a deliberate attempt to use the fears generated by Black Lives Matter and its Marxist, anti-capitalist ideology to sneak in Tory, establishment indoctrination instead.

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