middle class

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Starmer Returning Labour to Blairite Corporatism, Cronyism and Corruption

On Monday Mike put up a piece commenting on a report in the Groan that after corporate donations to the Labour party had almost dried up under Corbyn’s leadership, the fat cat rich were once again giving their cash to the party. This was welcomed by former Blairite fundraiser, Lord Michael Levy, who declared that it was important that the party should be funded by people, who believe in the cause.

As Mike and the various peeps he cites from Twitter, like Jackie Walker, Tory Fibs, Ian Byrne MP, Kam Sandhu and James Foster point out, Corbyn’s leadership proved that big money donations weren’t needed. The party was funded by its members’ subscriptions and it became the biggest socialist party in Europe. And it was in the black. This is an achievement to be proud of. Now all this is imperilled, as Mike points out. The party is haemorrhaging members at the rate of 2,000 a day. Corbyn’s party was about the people, but the influx of the corporate donors threatens this. Mike asks the obvious question of whether they’re doing this because they ‘believe in the cause’ or whether they’re seeking to influence party policy.

He concludes:

It also indicates that “big money” wants to support Starmer’s appeasement of those staffers who are accused of sabotaging the Corbyn project, of racism, misogyny and in some cases anti-Semitism. Because it makes Corbyn look bad without actually proving anything either way?
This is a very bad look for Starmer’s new New Labour.
We already have evidence that indicates around 2,000 people are leaving the party every week.
This may multiply that outward flood into a deluge.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/08/09/is-keir-starmer-re-installing-corruption-into-the-labour-party-with-the-wealth-of-private-donors/

There’s no question about any of this, and the return of Michael Levy as fundraiser says much, all of it negative. Blair met Levy at a meeting at the Israeli embassy, and Levy was instrumental in getting Blair’s office funding from pro-Zionist Jewish businessmen. This allowed Blair to be independent of union funding, and so pursue his modernisation agenda of turning Labour into the Tory party mark 2. It was also a major factor in the creation of viciously persecutory pro-Israeli establishment within the Labour party that has seen critics of Israel’s barbarous maltreatment and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians smeared and purged as anti-Semites simply for reasoned criticism of a racist, colonialist state.

As for these donors wanting to influence party policy, of course they do. New Labour was corporatist through and through. In return for donations from big business, the corporations were allowed to influence government decisions at every level, with senior management advising and serving in government boards and departments. This is extensively described by George Monbiot in his book, Captive State, and by the satirists and impressionists Rory Bremner, John Bird and John Fortune in their book, You Are Here. These were the same corporations that donated to the Tories, and Blair’s Labour was also sponsored and hosted the same think tanks that advised them.

As the peeps from Twitter have pointed out, it was government for the few, not the many.

As a result, Blair’s Labour party became a byword for sleaze and corruption, far in excess of John Major’s government, which had also been notorious for this. And it is utterly disgraceful, but deeply symptomatic, of the Guardian to try to present the return of private corporations in such a positive light. As for Lord Levy’s words, the corporate donors don’t believe in the cause. Or if they do, it’s simply the Blair project of giving them more power. The Labour party was not founded for them. It was founded as a coalition of trade unions and socialist groups and societies to represent ordinary people – the labouring poor. And their interests were not being served by the other parties. The Tories represented the interest of the Anglican aristocracy, while the Liberals were definitely middle class. More democratic, certainly, than the Tories  – the first working class members of parliament were the ‘Lib-Labs’, trade unionists who entered parliament as members of the Liberals, but ultimately committed to free trade and business at the expense of working class interests.

And corporativism is actively harming democracy, both here and in America. A report by Harvard University a few years ago concluded that the USA was no longer a functioning democracy but a corporate plutocracy because of the corporate funding of parties and political candidates. And even some Republicans are fed up with it. One Republican businessman in California wanted to have a law passed that would force politicos to wear the names of the corporations that had sponsored them on their jackets, like sportsmen. The left-wing surge in the Democrat party was also at the beginning very much a revolt against the corporate corruption represented and led by the Clintons.

But Trump is now in the White House, representing the cesspool of corporate politics over the other side of the Pond. And the Blairites have had their way, toppled Corbyn, sabotaged Labour’s elections and are back to reinstalling the corporations they admire at the centre of government.

Which means more privatisation, including that of the NHS, frozen wages, attacks on the welfare state and the privatisation of the NHS. It means mass starvation and more grinding poverty. 

But never mind: the corporations will be in power, exploiting welfare to work schemes, and Israel won’t have to worry about any more pesky criticism about its crimes against the Palestinians.

 

The Tory Attitude to Mass Starvation: Let Them Eat Cake

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/08/2020 - 5:05am in

Mike’s put up this evening on his blog a piece wondering if the reason the Tories launched their ‘Help Out To Eat Out’ scheme to encourage people to start going out to restaurants again wasn’t because they wanted to restart the economy, but simply stuff their faces at public expense. He’s put up a couple of pieces about the Tory MPs Nadhim Zahawi and the abomination formerly in charge of the NHS, Jeremy Hunt, both talking about how they used to scheme to get a free lunch. There’s a meme about Zahawi stating just how much he’s raked in on expenses and for working for an oil company, in addition to his generous salary as an MP. But he doesn’t feel that such largesse should be awarded to the disabled, and voted for a £30 cut in their benefits.

Mike’s blogged about this issue before. The scheme was never going to tackle the real problem of starvation, or ‘food poverty’ in this country, because the people afflicted by it can’t afford to go to restaurants. Many of them can’t afford to buy food, which is why there’s been such a massive expansion in food banks.

But the middle classes, and the rich Tories who represent them, can.

This all reminds of the expenses scandal back in 2004, when large sections of parliament were caught claiming as much as they could get their hands on in expenses, far beyond what was being awarded in pay for the rest of us mere mortals. They had also voted to cut the salaries of their staff. That blew up in their faces when it was exposed by the Torygraph, which may well have been the last time that wretched newspaper ever did anything right.

And now they’re doing it again while millions starve.

It all reminds me of the famous reply Marie Antoinette supposedly gave to the news that the French peasantry were starving because they had no bread.

‘Well, let them eat cake’.

That’s come to symbolise the grotesque self-indulgence and absolute complacency of the French aristocracy, an attitude that led to the Revolution, the execution of the monarchy and the mass murder of Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety.

This seems to be the modern, Tory British version. People don’t have food on the table, but blow them! Let them go to a restaurant instead, like the Tories and their rich friends from the Bullingdon Club and other centres of the self-indulgent, callous rich.

Was ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ really meant to help super-rich Tories get cheap meals at the taxpayer’s expense?

Private Eye Shows Blatant Pro-Starmer Bias in Review of Ernest Bevin Biography

I’ve blogged many times about the vicious anti-Corbyn bias Private Eye shares with the rest of the media. Like the rest of the country’s corrupt and mendacious press and broadcasting establishment, Private Eye has consistently pushed the smears and lies against the former Labour leader. It has vilified him as an anti-Semite and, some kind of Commie or Trotskyite infiltrator. Even now that Corbyn is no longer head of the party, the attacks continue. This fortnight’s edition, for 31st July – 13th August 2020 contains an article rejoicing over the threats to sue Corbyn and the party by the Blairite intriguers and anti-Semitism smear merchants for libel. The anti-Semitism smears always were politically motivated. They were mobilised by the Zionist Jewish establishment – the chief rabbinate, Board of Deputies of British Jews and the various Friends of Israel parliamentary organisations in order to rebut criticism of the Israeli state’s 70 + years of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. The wider British political establishment used them in order to protect Israel as an outpost of British and western power in the Middle East. And the Blairites used them from a mixture of political expediency and genuine political conviction. Blair, Mandelson and the rest were strong supporters of Israel anyway, and Blair had obtained his financial independence from the unions he despised through donations from pro-Israel Jewish businessmen through Lord Levy. And the anti-Semitism allegations were another way of discrediting Corbyn after he and the traditional Labour moderates gained control of the party.

Well, Starmer is now head of the party, and is continuing the campaign to maintain Blairite control through purging the party Left, all under the pretext that he is just clearing out the anti-Semites. This is while real, anti-Black racists are allowed to thrive and fester in the party as many of them appear to be the Blairite intriguers, who conspired to undermine the party’s election campaign.

But there is also an ideological as well as a tactical campaign being fought by the Blairites in their attempts to win control. According to Private Eye’s literary column, this includes a new biography of Ernest Bevin by New Labour’s Andrew Adonis, Ernest Bevin: Labour’s Churchill. This is reviewed in the magazine’s recent issue as ‘Ernest toil’.

Bevin is a major figures in Bristol and Somerset labour history. He was a Somerset agricultural worker, who was instrumental in forming the union for this part of the rural workforce. He then moved to Bristol, where he became a major figure in trade union and Labour party politics, helping to found the Transport and General Workers’ Union. During World War II he served Churchill as Minister of Labour, and then under Clement Attlee as Commonwealth Minister.

The Eye’s review of Adonis’ biography is deeply critical. It notes that there are already several excellent works on the great man, on whom Adonis’ own work is very strongly based. Adonis has conducted no deeper research into Bevin – the book draws very heavily on the previous biographies. Adonis doesn’t bring any fresh insight to his subject either, and the book is stylistically marred by the use of contemporary management-speak and 21st century jargon. So why has it been written?

For the Eye, the answer is that Adonis is attempting to use Bevin as an ideological bolster for the Starmerite faction in the Labour party. Adonis is impressed by Bevin’s embrace of Keynsian economics and proclaims that the stood for a ‘liberal socialism’ apart from nationalisation and the unregulated free market. This is the position of Starmer and his faction, whom the Eye gives absolutely no doubt should have the leadership of the party. Their anonymous reviewer writes

So what is Adonis up to? Well, like the Imperialist burghers of late-Victorian Bristol busily erecting statues to Edward Colston a century after his death, Gordon Brown’s former transport secretary is keen to harness the past to the somewhat shaky equipage of the present. According to this assessment, Bevin is worth reading about now not only for the startling achievements of his ascent through life – he was an orphan boy from the West Country sent out to work in the fields at the age of 11 – but for what he has to tell us about the politics of 2020.

Item one on Adonis’ list is Bevin’s friendship with John Maynard Keynes and his enthusiasm for the latter’s plan to borrow money to fund better public services. Item two is the touting of something called “liberal socialism”, in which, quoting Keynes, “the solution lies neither with nationalisation nor with unregulated private competition; it lies in a variety of experiments, of attempts to get the best of both worlds.” Item three, naturally, is Bevin’s lifelong quarrel with the Left, exemplified by his wiping th floor with the Labour party’s pacifist leader George Lansbury at the party conference of 1935.

Bevin, you see, was not only a visionary politician (although this being 2020, Adonis has to take up several paragraphs apologising for his unreconstructed ideas about “Empire”), he was also an old-style Labour bruiser able to stitch up the right-wing trade union vote in the service of the parliamentary front bench. Clearly, what we need right now is a sensible, moderate Labour party with a raft of policies that will encourage social justice without scaring off big business and the middle classes while doing to the Jeremy Corbyn’s o this world what Bevin did to Lansbury.

“Britain needed Bevin once,” Adonis signs off. “Now we need his kind again.” If this isn’t a piece of semaphoring in the direction of Sir Keir Starmer, I don’t know what is. Will Lord Adonis play a part in making sense of our post-coronavirus world an emergency by the way, “of a kind Bevin relished”). We can only hope and pray. (My emphasis)

I’ve got a biography of Ernest Bevin on one of the bookshelves here, because of his importance to national history and that of Bristol’s working class. But the policies Starmer supports and wishes to impose seem just to be standard ‘Third Way’ Blairism. It’s just more Thatcherism and neoliberalism. We’ve seen again and again that the privatisation of the public services, the utilities and the NHS, have been an absolute failure. They haven’t improved performance. Far from it – they’ve made it worse. And thanks to the piecemeal privatisation of the NHS pushed through by Blair and Brown as well as the Tories, there is a real danger that this country will get a private healthcare system as disastrous and malign as America’s, and run by much the same firms. We desperately need to renationalise gas, electricity, water and the NHS. While the Tories, Blairites and the media succeeded in turning the public against Corbyn, these policies were still immensely popular with the public. My guess is that they still are, and would put Starmer and the party in an excellent place for power if he bothered to promote them. But Starmer won’t, because as a Blairite he believes absolutely in the primacy and success of private industry, even when its failure is obvious to anybody else.

Contrary to the rubbish put out by the right-wing political establishment, Corbyn really was never a radical. His programme for the renationalisation of the NHS and the utilities is simply a return of the old social democratic consensus that gave Britain growth and prosperity from 1948 to Thatcher’s miserable election victory in 1979. By traditional Labour standards, Corbyn’s actually a centrist. But after 40 years of free market Thatcherism, even this moderate position is viewed as dangerously radical by the self-appointed guardians of political orthodoxy.

And that orthodoxy is shared uncritically by Private Eye, even though the magazine has consistently revealed its failure, particularly in the Private Finance Initiative. But it’s the ideology adopted by what passes as the left-wing media set. It’s been pushed by the Groaniad, for example, whose hacks are now in a screaming rage that the left-wingers they’ve been sneering at and gaslighting all these years are abandoning their wretched rag. Sales of the Groan are disastrous and massive job cuts on the way. And the magazine has only itself to blame.

My guess is that Private Eye shares some of the same assumptions as the hacks at the Groan, or at least the left-wing members of the magazine’s staff. Britain’s newspaper hacks, with certain exceptions, seem to come from the same class and my guess is that much of Private Eye may also come from the same journos in the rest of the press, published anonymously.

And so we have the spectacle of the Eye openly revealing its own partisan bias in support of Starmer. Which confirms just how fake the anti-Semitism smears were. The real issue was always the Blairite’s fear of a genuine socialist Labour party that would genuinely empower the working class. The Eye’s anonymous reviewer, through their hopes and prayers for Starmer’s leadership, as just made that very clear.

 

Dan Hodges Lies about Liberal Left Hating White Working Class

Yesterday I put up a piece attacking ‘Celebrity Radio’ host Alex Bellfield, who had falsely claimed that ‘lefties’ had done nothing about the sweatshops in Leicester. As I explained in my piece, the problem wasn’t with the left. The Labour MP for Leicester East, Claudia Webbe, had talked about the problems with the area’s sweatshops in a Zoom online meeting on Saturday afternoon organised as part of the Arise festival of the Labour Left. Webbe made it very clear that she and others had tried to get the authorities to act about the appalling conditions and low pay in the city’s garment industry, but they were ignored.

Now another right-wing hack is also spreading lies about the ‘liberal left’. Yesterday a video appeared on my YouTube page from Talk Radio. This one had had the title ‘Dan Hodges – Liberal Left View White Working Class as the Enemy’. Hodges is a writer for the Daily Mail. Such is the quality of his journalism that readers of Zelo Street know him as ‘the celebrated Blues artist Whinging Dan Hodges’. It’s an old chestnut. The Tories have been pursuing this line for years. Way back in 2003/4 the Spectator was publishing pieces like ‘Blackened Whites’ about how anti-racist activists were maligning the working class. These articles contained lines such as ‘there is only one minority not welcome under Labour on the streets of central London – White men’. They also opined about how the Left despised working class Whites because of their patriotism, amongst other values.

This is a flat-out lie. It was another one that was shown as such by the speakers at Saturday’s conference. The first of these was Black Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy. She gave a superb speech making it clear that Labour stood for the working class in all its diversity, and that we should not allow the working class to be divided. It was a theme repeated again and again by nearly all the speakers there, including, I believe, Corbyn’s deputy, John McDonnell.

Owen Jones, the bete noir of the rabid right, made the same point in his brilliant book Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class. He dispels accusations of racism made against the unions during a strike. I’ve forgotten the precise details, but the media presented it as if it had been caused by White workers refusing to work alongside Blacks and Asians. In fact the reverse was true. The strike had been called by the union partly because of the exploitation of BAME workers. There is racism in the working class,  and a feeling of marginalization. The latter has its roots in the way New Labour turned its back on the working class in order to chase middle class Tories. This created a constituency of White, low-skilled, working class people in their fifties for UKIP. See the excellent study of that particular piece of populism when it was led by the Fuhrage, Revolt on the Right.

I don’t believe Black Lives Matter has helped this situation. Although the demonstrators have repeatedly stressed that they are not against Whites – I’ve mentioned the meme of the cute little Black girl holding a placard spelling this out – and there was another placard with the slogan ‘We’re Not Trying to Start a Race War – We’re Trying to End One’, unfortunately that is the impression some BLM protests make. The right-wing put up another video a few days ago about a group of BLM protesters demonstrating against White privilege in Birmingham. The photograph for that video showed a White middle-aged women waving a placard with the slogan ‘Use your White Privilege for Good’. This is particularly tin-eared. Whites and ethnic minorities are not homogenous communities occupying distinct places in the social hierarchy. While Whites generally have higher status, better jobs and education, and are more prosperous than Black, this is certainly not uniformly the case. Some ethnic groups, such as the Chinese, outperform Whites. Indians are only slightly behind Whites in society as a rule. Muslims and Blacks are at the bottom, but nevertheless there are many Whites who are as poor or poorer than parts of those ethnic groups. And the worst performing group at school are White working class boys. By waving such placards, the protesters appear to show that they are indeed elite middle-class Whites with a hatred of the working class. But if they do, those protesters do not speak for all left-liberals.

The Labour left support the White working class, just as they support all the disparate communities of the working class. The Tories don’t. They only appear to in order to garner votes, fostering racial antagonism in a very cynical policy of divide et conquera. As we’ve seen over the past ten years of Tory rule, they have cut welfare benefits, frozen pay and introduced mass unemployment and job insecurity to Whites as well as Blacks and Asians, while at the same time lying to them in the pages of the Scum, the Heil, Torygraph and Spectator that they are really defending them. It’s a classic piece of misdirection that the racist elites have done for centuries. In 17th century America the colonial rulers after Bacon’s rebellion found a way to prevent White indentured labourers joining forces in revolt with Black slaves: they simply defined Whites legally against Blacks, but gave them no extra rights nor privileges. White indentured labourers were as exploited as before, but it worked. Whites felt themselves to be superior and no longer joined Black revolts quite as they did. Although many White working people, as well as liberal Whites further up in the social hierarchy could still have considerable sympathy for Black slaves. James Walvin in one of his books on slavery has a passage from a 19th century article stating that in Scotland, the women who demand slave emancipation are working class.

The likes of Hodges have been lying to Black and White for a long time. It’s time we stopped listening and exposed this lie for what it is. Working people of all colours unite – you have nothing to lose but your chains, as Marx could have said.

 

80s Space Comedy From Two of the Goodies

Astronauts, written by Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, 13 episodes of 25 minutes in length. First Broadcast ITV 1981 and 1983.

I hope everyone had a great Bank Holiday Monday yesterday, and Dominic Cummings’ hypocritical refusal to resign after repeatedly and flagrantly breaking the lockdown rules aren’t getting everyone too down. And now, for the SF fans, is something completely different as Monty Python used to say.

Astronauts was a low budget ITV sitcom from the very early ’80s. It was written by the two Goodies responsible for writing the scripts for their show, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, and based on the personal conflicts and squabbling of the American astronauts on the Skylab programme six years earlier. It was about three British astronauts, RAF officer, mission commander and pilot Malcolm Mattocks, chippy, left-wing working-class engineer David Ackroyd, coolly intellectual biologist Gentian Fraser,and their dog, Bimbo,  who are launched into space as the crew of the first all-British space station. Overseeing the mission is their American ground controller Lloyd Beadle. Although now largely forgotten, the show lasted two seasons, and there must have been some continuing demand for it, because it’s been released nearly forty years later as a DVD. Though not in such demand that I didn’t find it in DVD/CD bargain catalogue.

Low Budget

The show’s very low budget. Lower than the Beeb’s Blake’s 7, which often cited as an example of low budget British science fiction. There’s only one model used, that of their space station, which is very much like the factual Skylab. The shots of their spacecraft taking off are stock footage of a Saturn V launch, the giant rockets used in the Moon landings and for Skylab. There also seems to be only one special effects sequence in the show’s entire run, apart from outside shots. That’s when an accident causes the station to move disastrously out of its orbit, losing gravity as it does so. Cheap matte/ Chromakey effects are used to show Mattocks rising horizontally from his bunk, where he’s been lying, while Bimbo floats through the bedroom door.

Class in Astronauts and Red Dwarf

It’s hard not to compare it with the later, rather more spectacular Red Dwarf, which appeared in 1986, three years after Astronaut’s last season. Both shows centre around a restricted regular cast. In Red Dwarf this was initially just Lister, Holly and the Cat before the appearance of Kryten. Much of the comedy in Red Dwarf is also driven by their similar situation to their counterparts in Astronauts – personality clashes in the cramped, isolated environment of a spacecraft. The two shows are also similar in that part of this conflict from class and a Conservative military type versus working class cynic/ liberal. In Red Dwarf it’s Rimmer as the Conservative militarist, while Lister is the working class rebel. In Astronauts the military man is Mattocks, a patriotic RAF pilot, while Ackroyd, the engineer, is left-wing, Green, and affects to be working class. The three Astronauts also debate the class issue, accusing each other of being posh before establishing each other’s place in the class hierarchy. Mattocks is posh, but not as posh as Foster. Foster’s working class credentials are, however, destroyed during an on-air phone call with his mother, who is very definitely middle or upper class, and talks about going to the Conservative club. In this conflict, it’s hard not to see a similarity with the Goodies and the conflict there between the Conservative screen persona of Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie’s left-wing, working class character.

Class, however, plays a much smaller role in Red Dwarf. Lister is more underclass than working class, and the show, set further in the future, has less overt references to contemporary class divisions and politics. The humour in Red Dwarf is also somewhat bleaker. The crew are alone three million years in the future, with the human race vanished or extinct with the exception of Lister. Rimmer is an ambitious failure. For all he dreams of being an officer, he has failed the exam multiple times and the B.Sc he claims is Batchelor of Science is really BSC – Bronze Swimming Certificate. Both he and Lister are at the lowest peg of the ship’s hierarchy in Red Dwarf. They’re maintenance engineers, whose chief duties is unblocking the nozzles of vending machines. Lister’s background is rough. Very rough. While others went scrumping for apples, he and his friends went scrumping for cars. The only famous person in his class was a man who ate his wife. The three heroes of Astronauts, however, are all competent, intelligent professionals despite their bickering. Another difference is that while both series have characters riddled with self-loathing, in Red Dwarf it’s the would-be officer Rimmer, while in Astronauts is working class engineer Ackroyd.

Britain Lagging Behind in Space

Other issues in Astronauts include Britain’s low status as a space power. In a speech in the first episode, the crew express their pride at being the first British mission, while paying tribute to their American predecessors in the Apollo missions. The Ealing comedy The Mouse on the Moon did something similar. And yet Britain at the time had been the third space power. Only a few years before, the British rocket Black Arrow had been successfully launched from Woomera in Australia, successfully taking a British satellite into orbit.

Personal Conflicts

There are also conflicts over the cleaning and ship maintenance duties, personal taste in music – Mattocks irritates Ackroyd by playing Tubular Bells, publicity or lack of it – in one episode, the crew are annoyed because it seems the media back on Earth have forgotten them – and disgust at the limited menu. Mattocks is also shocked to find that Foster has been killing and dissecting the mice he’s been playing with, and is afraid that she’ll do it to the dog. Sexism and sexual tension also rear their heads. Mattocks fancies Foster, but Ackroyd doesn’t, leading to further conflict between them and her. Foster, who naturally wants to be seen as an equal and ‘one of the boys’ tries to stop this by embarrassing them. She cuts her crew uniform into a bikini and then dances erotically in front of the two men, before jumping on them both crying ‘I’ll have both of you!’ This does the job, and shames them, but Beadle, watching them gets a bit too taken with the display, shouting ‘Work it! Work it! Boy! I wish I was up there with you boys!’ Foster also objects to Mattocks because he doesn’t help his wife, Valerie, out with the domestic chores at home. Mattocks also suspects that his wife is having an affair, which she is, in a sort-of relationship with Beadle. There’s also a dig at the attitudes of some magazines. In the press conference before the three go on their mission, Foster is asked by Woman’s Own if she’s going to do any cooking and cleaning in space. Beadle and his team reply that she’s a highly trained specialist no different from the men. The joke’s interesting because in this case the butt of the humour is the sexism in a certain type of women’s magazine, rather than chauvinist male attitudes.

Cold War Espionage

Other subjects include the tense geopolitical situation of the time. Mattocks is revealed to have been running a secret espionage programme, photographing Russian bases as the station flies over them in its orbit. The others object, and Ackroyd is finally able to persuade Beadle to allow them to use the technology to photograph illegal Russian whaling in the Pacific. This is used to embarrass the Russians at an international summit, but the questions about the origin of the photos leads to the espionage programme being abandoned. The crew also catch sight of a mysterious spacecraft in the same orbit, and start receiving communications in a strange language. After initially considering that it just might be UFOs, it’s revealed that they do, in fact, come from a lonely Russian cosmonaut. Foster speaks Russian, and starts up a friendship. When Mattocks finds out, he is first very suspicious, but then after speaking to the Russian in English, he too becomes friends. He’s the most affected when the Russian is killed after his craft’s orbit decays and burns up re-entering the atmosphere.

Soft Drink Sponsorship

There are also digs at commercial sponsorship. The mission is sponsored by Ribozade, whose name is a portmanteau of the British drinks Ribeena and Lucozade. Ribozade tastes foul, but the crew nevertheless have it on board and must keep drinking it. This is not Science Fiction. One of the American missions was sponsored by Coca Cola, I believe, and so one of the space stations had a Coke machine on board. And when Helen Sharman went into space later in the decade aboard a Russian rocket to the space station Mir, she was originally to be sponsored by Mars and other British companies.

God, Philosophy and Nicholas Parsons

The show also includes arguments over the existence or not of the Almighty. Mattocks believes He exists, and has shown His special favour to them by guiding his hand in an earlier crisis. Mattocks was able to save them, despite having no idea what he was doing. Ackroyd, the sceptic, replies that he can’t say the Lord doesn’t exist, but can’t see how God could possibly create Nicholas Parsons and Sale of the Century, one of the popular game shows on ITV at the time, if He did. As Mattocks is supposed to be guiding them down from orbit, his admission that he really didn’t know what he was doing to rescue the station naturally alarms Foster and Ackroyd so that they don’t trust his ability to get them down intact.

Red Dwarf also has its jokes about contemporary issues and politics. Two of the most memorable are about the hole in the Earth’s ozone layer being covered with a gigantic toupee, and the despair squid, whose ink causes its prey to become suicidal and which has thus destroyed all other life on its world in the episode ‘Back to Reality’. Other jokes include everyone knowing where they were when Cliff Richard got shot. Red Dwarf, however, is much more fantastic and goes further in dealing with philosophical issues, such as when Rimmer is incarcerated in a space prison where justice is definitely retributive. If you do something illegal, it comes back to happen to you. This is demonstrated when Lister follows Rimmer’s instruction and tries to set his sheets alight. He shortly finds that his own black leather jacket has caught fire.

Conclusion

Red Dwarf is able to go much further in exploring these and other bizarre scenarios as it’s definitely Science Fiction. Astronauts is, I would argue, space fiction without the SF. It’s fictional, but based solidly on fact, including generating gravity through centrifugal force. But critically for any comedy is the question whether its funny. Everyone’s taste is different, but in my opinion, yes, Astronauts is. It’s dated and very much of its time, but the humour still stands up four decades later. It had me laughing at any rate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shaw’s Classic Defence of Socialism for Women Part Two

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

Trade Unions

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

Party Politics and Socialism

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

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

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

Democratic, Parliamentary Socialism and Nationalisation

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

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

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

Limited Role for Capitalism

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shaw’s Classic Defence of Socialism for Women Part One

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

Capital, Equality of Incomes and Imperialism

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

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

The Progress of Capitalism and Decline of the Businessman Owner

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

Nationalisation and the Coal Industry

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

Banks and the Stock Market

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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