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Sargon of Gasbag on Black Lives Matter’s Material for Schools’ Day of Action

I’m no doubt going too far in some people’s eyes by reblogging this. After all, this is Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad, the Sage of Swindon and the man who broke UKIP. Sargon’s a true-blue Libertarian Tory. He supports Boris Johnson’s Tories, Donald Trump and was formerly a member of UKIP. He passionately supports Brexit, capitalism and doesn’t believe that the Tories are privatising the NHS on the grounds that he thinks no-one would buy it. Although he is anti-racist and has debate the Alt Right, his own nationalist views are so extreme that he himself has been accused of racism. He has very conservative views on women and gender. When he was adopted by the Kippers as one of their candidates in a Euro election a few years ago, it became a national scandal. There were protests against him when he tried speaking in Bristol and Cornwall. People threw milkshakes and buckets of fish over him, and he was banned from a local restaurant here in Bristol. There were letters of protest against his candidacy from the other Kippers. The Gloucestershire branch dissolved itself in disgust, and a very large proportion of the party’s membership resigned.

I don’t share his political views and strongly disagree with him about Brexit. It’s destroying Britain. As is Johnson’s free trade Thatcherism. And the NHS is most definitely being privatised.

But I’m reblogging his post about the materials Black Lives Matter had put together for a proposed day of action in schools this summer because I believe that while he misses the point and is wrong about many of the issues BLM raise with their teaching materials, there are others that he is right to tackle and criticise.

Someone leaked the school syllabus Black Lives Matter had put together onto the web, and Sargon makes it clear that it’s a full-one attempt to indoctrinate children. He then goes on to critique some of BLM’s proposals one by one.

He begins with BLM’s call for a week of action in schools. This declares itself to be a national uprising that affirms the lives of Black students, teaches and families. This week centres classroom lessons on structural racism, intersectional Black identities, Black history and anti-racism through the thirteen guiding principles of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Sargon declares that this is an attempt to indoctrinate children with a one-sided view of history, politics and moral philosophy without their parents’ presence or even knowledge, in order to turn them into activists. Sargon naturally states that this not something he would like them to do to his children.

He then goes through Black Lives Matters’ Guiding Principles. They are

Restorative Justice: We intentionally build and nurture a beloved community that is bonded together through a peaceful struggle that is restorative, not depleting. This strikes Sargon as like a cult, like some of those he read about a while ago, where they interrogated each other in order to form a tightly-knit community in which they were emotionally connected in a weird and unfriendly way.

Diversity: We respect and acknowledge differences and commonality. Sargon doesn’t comment on this, but this seems to be the standard attitude now being taught in schools and promoted as the norm throughout society.

Empathy: We practice empathy. We engage comrades with intent to learn about and connect with their contexts.

Loving Engagement: We embody and practice justice, liberation and peace in our engagements with one another.

Queer Affirming: We foster a queer-affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual unless s/he or they express otherwise. Sargon doesn’t comment on this either, but at one level it’s also unremarkable. Schools have also come under pressure to tackle homophobia and promote gay tolerance and equality. There are problems with this when it comes to what is age appropriate. Homophobia is certainly not confined to the Black community, but it does seem to be particularly strong there. A few years ago back in the 1990s BBC Radio 4 broadcast a documentary, The Roots of Intolerance, in which the Black British gay presenter went across Britain and the Caribbean seeking to understand where the deep hatred of gays in Black society came from. This was a particular issue at the time, as there was a spate of extremely homophobic songs emerging from Black artists. That controversy has now died down somewhat, but I don’t believe the situation has altered in the past 25+ years. I disagree with this part of BLM’s manifesto because the attack on heteronormativity is too extreme and should not be taught and encouraged.

Transgender Affirming: We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women, who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence. We particularly make space for transgender brothers and sisters to participate and lead. Sargon states that if he caught a school teaching his children this, he would take them out. He even says he’d send them to a Catholic school – and he was a militant atheist. This radical stance is aimed particularly at the Black community, but seems to be part of the general trend throughout American and British society. Trans activists are campaigning for this to be taught in schools. Again there are problems with what is age appropriate, and also the indoctrination of the vulnerable. Some children are being taught by the medically unqualified that they are transgender, while in fact they may simply be mentally ill. There is particular concern that those convinced that they are transgender may be simply autistic. Girls are being particularly affected, and so some opponents of the radical trans movement feel that it is an anti-feminist ideology.

Unapologetically Black: We are unapologetically Black in our positioning. In affirming that Black Lives Matter we do not need to qualify our position to love and desire freedom and justice for ourselves is a prerequisite for wanting the same for others. Sargon makes the point that this also validates the idea that White lives matter as well. In fairness, Black Lives Matter has never said that they didn’t, although some of their members, like Sasha Johnson, almost certainly don’t believe they do. But Sargon also argues that their statement about being unapologetically Black means that their opponents can also argue that they are unapologetically White. Their stance legitimates White nationalism. The only way they can combat this is by adopting Robin Di Angelo’s tactic of stating ‘it’s rules for me but not for thee’.

Black Women: We build a space that affirms Black women and is free of sexism, misogyny and environments in which men are centred. Sargon doesn’t mention it, but this seems to be just another approach Black Lives Matter shares with other radical groups and which reflects the anti-sexism campaigns in general society.

Black Families: We make our spaces family-friendly and enable parents to fully participate with their children. We dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work double shifts so they can mother in private even as they participate in public justice work. This confuses Sargon as he says that he thought patriarchy wanted women in the home, barefoot and pregnant. But I think he’s failed to reaslise that this section appears to written for those poorer families, where the absence of a father means that the children aren’t supported by the second income that is now required to support a family. This situation is particularly acute among the Black community, but certainly isn’t unique to it. It is also found among the White poor.

Black Villages: We disrupt the western prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and villages that collectively care for one another, especially our children to the degree that mothers, parents and children are comfortable. Sargon states that this is a fantasy world.

He has a point in that it appears to be a racialised view, that idealises the African model of communal childcare. For example, in many traditional African cultures the women of the village also breastfeed each other’s children. And then there’s that supposed African proverb about it taking a village to raise a child. But no-one has ever been able to find such a saying in traditional African lore.

However, there is a general principle here that is perfectly acceptable. When my parents were settling down to raise us, they had the support of relatives and neighbours. People at that time did look out for each other, giving poorer friends items they had no longer use for, doing each others’ shopping and looking after each other’s children in sickness and emergencies. That hasn’t completely vanished, but it was done much more than is now common. That sense of community has been damaged by the extreme individualism that is atomising society.

Globalism: We see ourselves as part of a global Black family and we are aware of the different ways we are impacted or privileged as Black people who exist in different parts of the world. This seems to follow the pattern of much Black activism. Black civil rights campaigners have seen the struggle of western Blacks as part of a general, global struggle of Black nations for independence from White domination since at least W.E.B. DuBois, who moved to Ghana after it gained independence.

Intergenerational: We cultivate an intergenerational and communal network free from ageism. We believe that all people, regardless of age, show up with the capacity to lead and learn. Sargon believes that this erases children, but thinks this is good for the kind of people this would attract. This is wrong. The statement simply means they value older people. Again, it’s in line with the general, mainstream attack on ageism.

Collective Value: We are guided by the fact that all Black Lives Matter regardless of actual or perceived sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, economic status, ability, disability religious beliefs or disbeliefs, immigration status or location. This, Sargon declares, is the endpoint of the radical left’s thinking in race. Or it could be an attempt to create a united Black community with its own sense of pride in order to combat some of the real issues plaguing the Black community, like drugs and Black on Black violence.

Sargon on BLM’s ‘Talking to Young Children

Sargon then moves on to the section about Talking to Young Children about the Guiding Principles of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Sargon states that this section uses phraseology, that could only be by people who don’t have children. He then singles out the sections on ‘diversity’, ‘globalism’ and ‘transgender-affirming’. The last says that ‘everyone get to choose their own gender through listening to their heart and mind. Everyone gets to choose whether they are a girl or a boy or both or neither or something else, and no-one gets to choose for them’. Which Sargon sarcastically warns will leave children rather confused. And I believe that is one of the dangers of adopting such a radical stance when it comes to gender identity. I don’t doubt that some people do feel that they are in the wrong body, and that after very careful thought and medical advice they should be able to transition. But this is something rather more complicated than saying people choose their own gender identity.

‘Collective value’ – Sargon thinks this is the same as individual value.

‘Unapologetically Black’. This section states that there are lots of different kinds of people and one way that we are different is through the colour of our skin.’ Sargon believes that this highlights the issue of race, and will turn children into a generation of racists. The section goes on ‘It’s important to makes sure that all people are treated fairly, and that’s why we, and lots of other people all over the country and the world, are part of the Black Lives Matter movement.’ This tells children that they are going to be a race warrior for the Black Lives Matter movement. But this section also connects with what the movement was saying in their thirteen principles about also valuing people from other races, but that it had to start with Black people’s own first. It therefore does not mean that they necessary disparage other races.

Plans for Week of Action

He then goes on to critique their plans for a week of action, which is a week of activism. This is simply to train children how to be activists. The programme includes sections like ‘Show Solidarity’, ‘Post on Social Media’, ‘Teach a Lesson’, ‘Attend an Event’, create things. He believes this document is real, because it has too many graphics to be otherwise. He points out the contradiction between their statement that they embody and practice justice, liberation and peace in their engagements with each other with a raised fist, a representation of violence.

The materials also include abstracted posters that can be used. Sargon believes that the consistency of the messages shows that this was planned in a central committee. He then goes on to discuss their suggestions for what should be taught at elementary school. Which includes youth activism. The plans for their week of action include ‘Day 1 kick-off: using your voice for a cause; Day 2: past and present youth activism’; guiding questions like ‘what is a cause?’, ‘what does it mean to use your voice for a cause? ‘, ‘why is it important to stand up for what you believe in?’, ‘what are the different ways we can create change?’, ‘home issues and the home community’, a project day. Sargon criticises this on the grounds that they are training children who are unable to think critically about what they are being taught, nor do they know any of the facts of the matter behind it. Sargon does not assume that they will give them a fully informed picture either. He calls it indoctrination.

Postmodernism and Afro Futurism in High School

Moving on to the material for high school, he says that this is where it gets really good. Like ‘Afrofuturism’ and ‘Postmodern Principles’. Sargon asks rhetorically whether he wants a group of radical race warriors, who consider everything about our society racist, to indoctrinate his children into a postmodern education? He says ‘No’, and adds that it’s only because he doesn’t want his child to come out of school believing that the world around him into which he’s been born and raised is evil and that he has to do everything in his power to tear it down. And that he himself, as a White person, is going to be part of the problem. And that every Black person he meets is some kind of inferior species, that needs his help and guidance to be saved. He doesn’t agree with that kind of worldview at all, nor with postmodernism as the kind of lens to view things with.

Sargon is absolutely right about Postmodernism. I extensively criticised it earlier when this blog was centred on Christian Apologetics. Postmodernism and cultural relativism are entirely inadequate as the basis for morality because of their rejection of the idea that it is objective. This was also the attitude of the Italian Fascists and Nazis. Mussolini took over Nietzsche’s idea that there was no objective morality, and the Nazis believed that morality and philosophical values differed from nation to nation according to race and ethnicity. Hence the Nazis’ insistence on Aryan science, maths and other racist nonsense. But the idea of racial and gender equality, for example, demands an objective morality that applies to all humans and is universally valid. Postmodernism, despite its pretensions to do this, actually doesn’t support such universal and objective values.

He believes this comes out in the section on Afro Futurism. This begins with a section on ‘Utopia’, which defines it as ‘an imagined place where everything is perfect, and asks the reader to define their utopia.’ It asks people to dream about their perfect place, a consistent theme throughout the documents. It asks the students what problems they could solve with their superpowers and what they would look like in this imaginary world. Sargon responds with ‘Who cares? You live in the real world’ and points out that they have limited resources at hand and limited options. So they should stop talking about an imaginary freedom of the will, as if the will is something separate to the physical world and gets to decide everything for it. He doesn’t want them thinking about superpowers, but asking how they can get good grades, how can they get a good job, how can they be healthy and stable, how can they raise children of their own, how can they form a family and be a healthy person.

This is a fair criticism. From what I can see, Afro Futurism simply means Black science fiction and particularly the imagining of Black advanced technological societies, like Wakanda in the film Black Panther, based on the Marvel comic books. There’s nothing wrong with such dreams, but schools should be teaching more immediate and achievable goals and aspirations to their students.

High School Materials

From this he moves on to the high school section, where there is more interesting stuff. Like ‘the BLM High School: the Black Panther Party’; ‘Social Justice Mathematics Materials’; ‘Black Lives Matter Haiti’, ‘Chicago Race Riots’, all of which Sargon describes as full-on Black Lives Matter propaganda. Sargon states that this doesn’t mean that they’ll get the opportunity to pump this out, but the fact that they’ve prepared it shows that there is time, money and materials behind it and it will get somewhere.

Then on to their reading materials. These include the Black Panther’s Apologia. This is the Panther’s 10 point programme, which were:

  1. We want freedom. We want the power to determine the destiny of our Black and oppressed communities.
  2. We want full employment for our people. They believed that the federal government had the responsibility and obligation to give everyone either a job or a guaranteed income. Sargon shows his libertarianism here by saying that it shows that they believed that they were the serfs of the state. This part of their manifesto is certainly radical. If you read it, it says that if businessmen are not willing to provide employment, the technology and means of production should be taken away from them and placed in the hands of the people, so that they can do so. It’s certainly a communist demand. But at the time this was written, in Britain the social democratic post-war consensus was still governing British politics. This meant that the government believed it had the responsibility to create full employment. This was through a mixed economy and state economic planning. Attlee only nationalised a very small number of industries, and so it did not necessarily mean that the state would employ everyone, only that it would help create the economic framework for everyone to be able to get a job. As for a guaranteed income, this could just mean proper unemployment benefit. This was part of the minimum welfare provision set up by Roosevelt’s New Deal, but I don’t know how far it extended. Like the British unemployment benefit before the creation of the welfare state, it may have only reached certain sections of the working class. In which case the Panther’s demands are entirely reasonable.
  3. We want an end to the robbery by the capitalists of our Black and oppressed communities. Sargon questions this by stating that if they believe the state is robbing them, why do they want it to provide them with a job, as they wouldn’t be free. This section goes back to the old promise of 40 acres and two mules. Sargon asks what they would do with this if they were dumped in the middle of the Midwest. They wouldn’t be able to take care of two mules. He knows he wouldn’t know what to do with them, and that they wouldn’t know either. Again, if you actually look at what they’re proposing, they also say they would accept the monetary equivalent. They’re talking about reparations for slavery, and for the slaughter of 50 million Black people they believe America has committed worldwide.
  4. We want decent housing, fit for human beings.
  5. We want decent education for our people. This also includes the statement that it should expose the true nature of decadent American society. They want to be taught the true history of their people and role in present-day society. Which looks like the origin of Black History Month.
  6. We want completely free healthcare. Sargon reads this out, but makes no comment. But it’s a reasonable request, and is behind the NHS in Britain, now under attack from the same forces of capitalism that the Panthers saw as oppressing Black Americans.
  7. We want an end to police brutality and murder of Black people, and all other people of colour, all oppressed people inside the United States. From what little I know of the Black Panthers, it was the casual police killing of Blacks that provoked the rise of the Panthers in the first place. They believed the only way they could protect Black people was to take up guns and shoot back. Hence Sasha Johnson’s bizarre fantasy of setting up a Black militia here in the UK, despite this country’s rather different history.
  8. We want an immediate end to all wars of aggression. This was obviously written during the Vietnam War, but it’s still applicable now.
  9. We want freedom for all Black and oppressed people. Sargon skips over this, omitting that it’s about freeing people in jail, and that they also want trial by a jury of peers for everyone charged with so-called crimes under the country’s laws. This is a central cornerstone of western justice.
  10. We want bread, housing, education, justice, peace. Sargon declares that these are flights of fantasy that sound like radical communist agitation, and for the Black Panthers, a militant, murderous party. Certainly the Panthers do seem from this to have been very radical left, and influenced by communism. But the demand for decent housing, full employment and free healthcare could be solved simply through a social democratic mixed economy welfare state. Horrifyingly radical to Americans, but the norm in Britain at the time.

Social Justice Maths

Sargon goes on to other topics, which he thinks are very weird. Like materials for social justice mathematics, a copy of Oakland police statistics for 1st July 2013, and Stanford university’s big study of racial disparites, and the stats for New York police’s stop and frisk.

Sargon’s Concluding Criticisms

Then there’s the Teaching Tolerance Guide, subtitled ‘Discussing Race, Racism and other Difficult Topics with Other Students’. There are also videos. Sargon once again describes it as a social justice package – which is quite correct – and states that the same talking points are repeated over and over again throughout it. He states that it is to present a one-sided narrative on all these points in order to construct the belief that American and other societies are uniquely evil, encouraging children to go into flights of fantasy about what might be, instead of being pragmatic, responsible and trying to build a better world one step at a time.

Sargon says that this should be resisted at all costs. If you’re a parent, you should enquire at your local school if they have any Black Lives Matter teaching materials that they will be teaching your children and request a copy of them. And if they don’t, you should kick up a stink, threaten to pull your child out and tell other parents to do so, because this is racial indoctrination. He even says that you could send the other parents this video to show what these materials look like.

He then ends the video by plugging his merchandising, based on Orwell’s statement that in a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. And with Black Lives Matter we have entered that time of deceit. Our societies are not evil. They are good societies. Black Lives Matter is a malign cult, which he believes has spread through our societies because they are good, decent and people do not want to be racist. This is partly right. Black Lives Matter exists because society does treat Black people unfairly, but it has spread because people do not want to be racist as the mixed race crowds of their protests show. He believes it has spread through a postmodernist education establishment with a deconstructionist agenda which says that if things are looked at in a certain way, White societies are uniquely evil when they aren’t.

Here’s Sargon’s video.

The materials Sargon analyses and critiques in this video seem to show that in many ways Black Lives Matter is unremarkable. It has much in common with other left-wing movements demanding racial and gender equality and promoting gay and now trans rights. It also seems to follow much previous Black activism in connecting the deprivation of Blacks in the west with White western imperialism and colonialism. I don’t dispute either that its view that Blacks are particularly disadvantaged in America is due to institutional racism, as certainly legislation has been used to disqualify Blacks from opportunities, jobs and services, including welfare provision, that has been reserved for Whites.

This is not the whole story, however, and such a view should not be taught in school. What is appropriate as voluntary community activism becomes dangerous indoctrination when taught in the classroom. The idealisation of the Black Panthers is a particular problem. While much of their demands were reasonable and entirely justified, they were a violent paramilitary terrorist organisation. It’s intoxication with the Panthers and their violence that has inspired Sasha Johnson to style herself as a Black Panther and try to set up her own, similar Black paramilitary organisation.

I also share Sargon’s objections to teaching children that western society is uniquely evil and persecutes Blacks, who always require particular assistance. And that Whites are responsible for this, and somehow intrinsically racist unless taught otherwise. This is only part of the story, and the reality can be far more complex.

Despite its careful wording about tolerance and diversity, the materials for BLM’s proposed day of action would only create more racial hostility, division and resentment. They should definitely not be taught in schools.

The Republican Narrative

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/07/2020 - 3:35am in

The Republicans’ ideology is also making it impossible for them to deal with the economy. Continue reading

The post The Republican Narrative appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

‘In these difficult days [we] must and shall choose the path of social justice … the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.’ Franklin D Roosevelt.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 05/07/2020 - 10:06pm in

Construction worker or engineer in newly-built railway tunnelPhoto by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

From Boris Johnson’s earlier reincarnation as Churchill in the pre-Brexit era, he has now been reborn as FDR, or at least likes to think so. According to the Conservative website, taking on FDR’s mantle Johnson has set out his plans to put jobs, skills and infrastructure investment at the heart of the UK’s economic recovery post-coronavirus. He claimed in his speech that his plans were ‘positively Rooseveltian’ and suggested that ‘It sounds like a new deal. All I can say is that if so then that is how it is meant to sound and to be because that is what the times demand. A government that is powerful and determined and that puts its arms around people at a time of crisis.’

As a speech, much of it sounded just like many speeches politicians make, just more rhetoric designed to carry the populace along but with little backbone to the words. Certainly, once dissected, it shows little evidence of truthfulness or desire for real change. And ‘putting its arms around the people’ seems just a tad overdone given the last 10 years, even if the spending taps have now been turned on.

Whilst the Times hailed it as a ‘spending spree’ that was as ‘bold as Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal,’ in the post-analysis phase it has become clear that the speech’s promises were anything but and indeed were not only less than truthful but also a signal that it’s back to the usual Tory business. As pointed out by a political commentator ‘not much of the announcement was new and it wasn’t much of a deal’.

The promised paltry £600bn turned out to be worth £5bn, as much of the spending had already been announced by the Chancellor. That equates to less than £100 per capita across the UK or 0.2% of GDP. In fact, Roosevelt’s New Deal investment amounted to 40% of US GDP at that time, which was 200 times larger than Johnson’s.

It will prove nowhere near enough to dig the UK out of the economic hole it has in fact been excavating since 2010 through unnecessary cuts to public sector spending which have left our public and social infrastructure in tatters and least prepared to deal with the coming economic fallout as a result of Covid-19. Neither will it be enough to deal with the coming climate disaster that faces us without an even bigger spending programme designed to stabilise the climate and deliver a more sustainable world. The closest Johnson got in his speech was planting more trees! It’s going to need a lot more than that!

We need to examine who the real beneficiaries of this spending will be although the clues are already staring us right in the face.

As an article in Open Democracy described it this week, it is nothing but a ‘new deal for rentiers’. It noted that Roosevelt, in his first inaugural address in 1933, had declared the cause of unemployment and economic distress was not scarcity but rather that ‘the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetency’ (although the word incompetency might be disputed in today’s world).

Roosevelt made it clear that his political enemies were ‘business and financial monopoly, speculation and reckless banking’ (much as they are ours still today). The article also makes the point that the New Deal was not just about investing to create jobs, it was about rebalancing power away from rentier capital and towards working people

With just a quick read through Johnson’s speech, it becomes clear that his modus operandi for bouncing back is just more of the same. He emphasised that ‘levelling up’ did not mean ‘launching some punitive raid on the wealth creators’ and added that ‘yes, of course, we clap for our NHS, but under this government, we also applaud those who make our NHS possible: our innovators, our wealth creators, our capitalists and financiers; because in the end, it is their willingness to take risks with their own money that will be crucial to our future success.’

Those few words indicate very clearly which path the government is intending to follow as it continues to peddle the myths about how we owe a successful economy to the wealth creators, when the truth is that it is exactly the opposite. It has been generally accepted that the wealth creators, through their efforts, generate tax payments which then fund public services without which difficult decisions would have to be made about their continuing affordability. Indeed, that ruse has been used by politicians on numerous occasions to justify punitive cuts to spending.

Thus, in economic downturns, as tax revenues become smaller it proves the perfect opportunity to sell the narrative that we need to downsize public services or outsource or sell them off to private profit on the basis that they will be more efficient and provide better value for taxpayers. Or so the story goes. Except that it is not true.

As GIMMS has pointed out many times before, our NHS or other public services are not dependent on a healthy economy. They are instead dependent on a well-functioning public and social infrastructure upon which the businesses and corporations depend, in turn, for their success. This includes such things as education and health, public transport networks and good national and local governance.

It is also vital to challenge the notion that the government needs that tax before it can spend. It categorically doesn’t. In making affordability a key demand, it is in truth less about whether the government has the money (which it always does) and more about delivering political ideology related to who should run public services.

As we have seen, vast sums of public money have already been shovelled into private profit to deliver public services with no sign of abating. Indeed, under cover of Covid-19, the process seems to have speeded up and we have seen a huge rise in the number of contracts being dished out by government even to companies that have no assets or employees as revealed only this week.

The power of the nation-state to direct the economy in the nation’s interests has been much undervalued in recent years as global interests have dominated public policy. But with the power of the public purse, the government can determine who will be the beneficiaries of its policies and spending. As we have seen over the last decade, instead of focusing on promoting the well-being of the nation which should be its primary goal, the government has focused on lining the pockets of corporations with public money and thus ensuring their own wealth and security through the revolving door. At a huge cost to working people’s lives and the public services on which they depend.

Johnson’s claim this week that government had overseen a reduction in child poverty and that 400,000 fewer families were living in poverty now than there were in 2010 was called out this week by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England. His claim is symptomatic of the massaging of data by the government which, like snakes, try to slither their way through the lies and dissimulation to present a positive view of their economic record.

A quick look at this week’s news is instructive and demonstrates that all is not as it seems or as it has been promised. It was revealed that half of school leaders still have not received the promised laptops for disadvantaged children. Whilst government clattered on about the importance of getting disadvantaged children back to school, it has failed to do the very thing that would have helped those children while in lockdown. It has failed over a decade to improve the life chances of poorer children by addressing the fundamentals – decent housing, well-paying jobs and access to decent services – all of which are in a state of decay.

And, as Johnson invites people to spend, spend, spend and talks about a grand ‘new deal’ many people can barely afford to eat. Over this decade and more the nation has accepted the presence of food banks as a necessary feature of British life, as if somehow the government could not have avoided that growth through its own policy and spending decisions.

According to food bank providers during the Covid-19 crisis, there has been a surge in demand in some areas of around 300%. As Marcus Rashford so clearly highlighted in his campaign to force the government to continue providing funding for free school meals over the summer holidays, over the coming months the need will grow. Do we really want to see children going hungry when the government could avoid that scenario with a simple instruction to the central bank to spend the money into existence to alleviate the temporary disruption?

And yet that is only half the story.

The combination of the damaging consequences of existing low incomes, precarious employment, a benefit system which is not fit for purpose and years of austerity with the damaging economic fallout from Covid-19 which is likely to get much worse in the coming months should provoke outrage. That the government, instead of addressing the fallout of their previous policies, think that shovelling more money into the pockets of the ‘wealth creators’ and reinforcing a rotten political and economic system is the way forward. They dress their speeches with soothing words about compassion and levelling up and then act to enable the maintenance of the status quo.

Much is revealed by the government’s approach to hunger. Instead of dealing with the fundamental reasons why children are hungry, it chooses to fund food banks and other organisations to deal with the consequences rather than through its policies. The charitable sector and volunteering are replacing government provision.

Government has the tools to ensure that no child goes hungry, by setting the rules and supporting employment policies designed to ensure full employment as prerequisite, through the implementation of a job guarantee offering public service work at a living wage, which in turn drives good wages and security in the private sector.

That is what will make the difference between an economy on its knees and one which prospers. Instead, it has given in to global pressures to compete and denied its power to address these issues. It has shifted the responsibility downwards praising the role of the charitable sector and voluntary organisations in the delivery of public services.

The main thrust of Johnson’s spending plans is a capital infrastructure programme. However, this was as Chris Packham, the naturalist and campaigner, rightly noted not about building a green economy but building more roads and more concrete to continue with a carbon-based future. The one small concession he observed was planting more trees and a miserly £40m towards kickstarting a greener economy. Not exactly radical and not nearly enough.

No mention was made either of the need to invest in better public services or to ensure that there is a pool of well-trained labour to service that infrastructure programme. More hospitals and schools are all very well but without the nurses and doctors to work in them, such construction could become an enormous white elephant. Capital and day to day spending are intimately connected, not stand-alones.  It seems that it’s all money for their business friends but no substantial investment in the things that count and make people’s lives better.  An opportunity squandered.

Instead of telling people to ‘spend, spend, spend (which in the current economic uncertainty is unlikely to stimulate the required response and anyway do we really want to continue along the path of mindless consumption?) the better mantra would be ‘jobs, jobs, jobs but not any old jobs. A job guarantee would not only provide public service jobs creating real value to society, a liveable income and security for the coming days as employment rises but could also assist in enabling a just transition towards a more sustainable world, as old jobs become redundant and new ones develop to take their place.

Whilst it is true that currently there doesn’t seem to be any desire by the established powers to embrace a new economic paradigm, it is vitally important that we keep the fires burning for change and raise public awareness of what an understanding of modern monetary reality could do in terms of delivering a fairer distribution of wealth and to address the key challenges we face.  We have as a nation to decide what we want. To continue as we are and all that implies for the future, or take a different route to a fairer and more sustainable planet? What shall it be?

You can find out more here:

https://gimms.org.uk/mmtbasics/

https://gimms.org.uk/job-guarantee/

 

 

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The post ‘In these difficult days [we] must and shall choose the path of social justice … the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.’ Franklin D Roosevelt. appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

The Great Depression, Coronavirus Style

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/05/2020 - 2:57am in

Many economists believe that a recession is already underway. So do millions of Americans struggling with bills and job losses. While the world has certainly experienced its share of staggering jolts in the past, this cycle of events is likely to prove unparalleled. Continue reading

The post The Great Depression, Coronavirus Style appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Fighting for the Four Freedoms

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/05/2020 - 2:43am in

Historian Harvey J. Kaye talks to Bill about why FDR's "Four Freedoms” -- freedom from fear and want and freedom of speech and religion -- are more important now than ever. Continue reading

The post Fighting for the Four Freedoms appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

When Politics Becomes Professional: From the Obamanauts to the New Deal

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 31/07/2019 - 11:17pm in

The historian Josh Freeman has an excellent review of Michael Walzer’s Political Action, which came out in 1971 but has been reissued by NYRB Books. Freeman compares Walzer’s short pamphlet to the Manual of Practical Political Action, another how-to political guide, prepared in 1946 by the labor movement’s National Citizens Political Action Committee (NCPAC), one of the first modern PACs. Both texts were written at moments of political deceleration, when the velocities of change were about to alter dramatically or already had.

But here’s what Josh says about that earlier moment that’s relevant for today:

For NCPAC…organizing requires strategies that are not inherently progressive. Somewhat apologetically, the Manual suggests borrowing techniques from commercial advertising, presenting detailed guidance, much of it derived from standard business practices, about newspaper advertising, radio spots, and direct mail. The Popular Front from which it had emerged well understood the mechanics of persuasion, with one foot in working-class movements and another in the creative professions, from theater to cinema to advertising and the graphic arts. The idea of organizing as a politically neutral enterprise requiring specialized knowledge has had a long afterlife. Perhaps its most influential reincarnation was through Saul Alinsky and his many followers. Glimpses of it can be seen in Barack Obama’s account of his community organizing days in Dreams from My Father.

But, of course, technique goes only so far. For all its meticulous cataloging of knowledge needed for effective organizing, from billboard advertising rates in thirty different cities to how to use skits to enliven meetings (include ones written by Arthur Miller about inflation and civil rights), NCPAC got creamed in the 1946 congressional elections. The Republicans, campaigning against the New Deal, organized labor, prices increases, and the ineptitude of the Truman administration, won control of both houses of Congress for the first time since 1930. Among other things, the Democratic defeat opened the door to the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, the beginning of a rollback of labor power that has continued ever since.

How quickly and easily a Popular Front-inspired left-wing cultural politics got turned into, and ultimately reduced to, a Madison Avenue-style campaign of political advertising!

Radical organizers always know that the work they’re doing is not simply political; it’s also ideological and ultimately cultural. They really are transforming people in fundamental ways. (This fall, I’m teaching Plato’s Republic for the first time in many years, and it’s hard to think of a more concrete instance of the kind of soulcraft that Plato describes there than the labor movement in its heyday.) In the case of the left wing of the New Deal, that cultural politics had an additional side to it: left-wing cultural producers in Hollywood, on the radio and TV, and on Madison Avenue (of which there were more than a few) saw themselves engaged in a task of radical transformation, changing souls through the popular arts.

(For a wonderful look back on this moment from a different vantage, read this interview Josh Cohen just did with the economist Samuel Bowles, whose father, Chester Bowles, was in the Roosevelt Administration. After the war, Bowles wrote an economic pamphlet that sought to popularize and explain Keynesianism to a mass audience. Bowles, too, had his origins in Madison Avenue, and he sought to use all the skills of persuasion he learned there on behalf of a consumer’s republic.)

But like all politics, cultural politics has its ebbs and flows. The entire left got creamed in and after 1946—not just the Democrats in Congress but also the hundreds of thousands of strikers who launched one of the most massive strike waves in American history that year, only to see their efforts ultimately met by Taft-Hartley and the general repression of the McCarthy era. But in the case of cultural politics, we see demolition and winnowing, an efflorescence turned inward, the sprawling movements that connected labor to Hollywood to Madison Avenue reduced to professionalized advertising.

I’ve just finished a lengthy piece on the memoirs of the Obama administration, and one of the most striking elements of those reminiscences is how fluidly and fluently the Obamanauts channel the activist traditions of the 1960s into the professional (neo)liberal politics of the Democratic Party since the 1980s. That translation had already begun in the 1970s, with the election of black mayors and other black officials. Back then, however, there was more awareness that the electoral turn was a diminution (perhaps necessary but nonetheless a diminution) of the mass movement in the streets. As one representative publication of black activists put it: “The marching has stopped.” Professional politics was what replaced it. By the time of Obama’s election, that awareness of diminution had been completely lost. His election was viewed as simply another step forward.

If you read the Obamanauts too quickly, theirs can seem to be a story exclusively about race and the civil rights movement and politics since the 1960s: how the motifs of the black freedom struggle are translated into the election of the first black president. But read against the arc of the New Deal, the Obama neoliberal story comes to seem part of something larger and longer. The labor movement, the Popular Front, the left—they all had a similar moment of professionalization.

To be clear: all movements need leaders, elected officials, bureaucrats, and, yes, professionals. While bureaucracies and leadership get a lot of shit from the left for shutting down radicalism, there’s a strong argument to be made (and that I largely agree with) that bureaucracies and leadership help sustain radical activism at its most powerful moments and that they help preserve the fruits of that activism long after it has died down.

The tragedy of the stories Freeman tells and I’ve read in the Obamanaut memoirs is how easy it is to forget the radical origins and roots of those bureaucracies and leaderships, how once the work of repression (and other political factors) is done (often with the help of those leaders and bureaucracies, as we saw during the McCarthy era), all we’re left with is a professionalized political class, who can’t even mix memory and desire, who have not even the wish, much less capacity, to stir dull roots with spring rain.