There may be a a small number of racist morons in the LP but that is absolutely NOT what the anti-Semitism crisis was/is about.

There may be a a small number of racist morons in the LP but that is absolutely NOT what the anti-Semitism crisis was/is about.

It is all about the fact many on the left believe that the Palestinians have been treated unjustly by the state of Israel, not by ‘Jews’ as a race or creed but by the sovereign state of Israel and some Jews and certainly the state of Israel regards support for the Palestinians across the world as a clear and present threat to its survival as ‘Jewish only state’ and its ability to expand its borders into a very broad area of the Levant and to erase the very idea of a ‘Palestinian people’ from history.

Serious concern has been expressed by Jewish communities on both sides of that debate. “Jews’ are not united on this issue and the idea that they could or should be is in fact an anti-Semetic trope! All Jewish communities are obviously opposed to anti-Semitism as am I and every Socialist I have ever met or read, but not all seek to characterise criticism of Israel as de facto anti-Semitism. Corbyn couldn’t “deal, efficiently and effectively, with a small number of racist morons in his own party” because that wasn’t and still isn’t the issue.

There is literally no evidence that the LP is facing a crisis of anti-Semitism apart from the accusation that it is facing such a crisis by some right wing Jewish community leaders. There is absolutely NO evidence of people in LP meetings made or are using overtly anti-Semetic hate speech, nor indeed of such hate speech taking place in private or in smaller meetings. Over the whole three years of this contrived crisis there have been only half a dozen incidents of LP members being discovered expressing unequivocally anti-Semetic sentiments and they were dealt with promptly and without equivocation by expulsion. Almost everyone else who has been expelled or suspended for anti-Semitism has been because they posted on social media or have spoken publicly in favour of the cause of the Palestinians and in doing so have criticised the actions of the state of Israel.

It is true that some of these, but only some, question the legitimacy of the state of Israel as a religious state in which only Jews have full citizenship but even that is not anti-Semetic in and of itself. Western, secular democracy is based upon the idea that all citizens should have equal rights regardless of their race, creed or religion. Indeed, Western, secular Liberal democracy arose from centuries of religious wars and was an attempt to stabilise society by making religious tolerance the constitutional bedrock of society. The concept of “equal rights’ was in fact first expressed with reference to the right to worship as you wished without interference from the state. Thus for Western liberal democrats ANY state in which full citizenship is based fundamentally on religious identity is illegitimate. The brutal 2000 year history of the Jews in Christian Western Europe and culminating in the horrors of Nazi Germany do make Jewish identity and the state of Israel understandably emotive and it is not hard to understand why some Jewish people perceive criticism of Israel as being potentially dangerous but the plight of the Palestinians is also real and needs to be addressed by all of us. To vilify as racist people who are merely trying to support an oppressed minority fighting for their very survival is to descend into a Kafkaesque rabbit hole where a moral compass has no chance of operating.

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Does anyone else on the left care about freedom of speech?

I grew up during the Cold War (b.1956) and right up until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989,  ‘freedom of speech’ really mattered. A common refrain in public discourse was the phrase, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” attributed to Voltaire by Evelyn Beatrice Hall.

The narrative was that the Nazis and the Soviet Union were brutal totalitarian systems that used torture and violence to narrowly restrict what was sayable in public spaces and that they did so in under to maintain control by eradicating anyone who disagreed with what the regime’s rulers were doing.

This was contrasted with Karl Popper’s idea of the ‘open society’ illustrated by the Western democracies that allowed free speech and thus prospered both economically and morally. The idea was that a free society was dependent upon free speech.; that no institutional power or social group had the right to decide which things were sayable and which were not; that free speech was the single most important moniker of freedom itself; that the right to openly express your political, economic, moral and scientific ideas without legal or social restriction IS freedom.

It was also argued that freedom of speech had pragmatic, instrumental benefits that arose from the diversity of voices and ideas that inevitably arose in a society allowing free speech. New ideas are often confusing, disruptive, controversial, socially transgressive and threaten the established power structures, and the normal response of those in control of human societies is to try to prevent the spread of these new ideas. Thus a healthy society tolerates the expression of ideas that initially make us uncomfortable because that is how progressive change comes about. If what is sayable at any given time in history had always been determined by the existing power structures and/or by the existing social norms, then we’d all still be living in caves and worshipping the sun.

It was however also acknowledged that there is a paradox implicit in the classic liberal expression of free speech, which is that ‘free speech gives freedom to the enemies of freedom to express their ideas freely. ‘Free speech’ gives people the right to argue and campaign against free speech.

In the Seventies this paradox led some to argue that the enemies of freedom should not be allowed a ‘platform’ to spread their anti freedom ideas. I was always uncomfortable with this idea because I could see that for every person that thought the fascist right should be silenced there was another person who thought the communist left should be silenced… and I was of the left. I could see that my right to express to my non-mainstream, left-wing,  political ideas was actually dependent upon the right of the NF to express their filthy right-wing ideas. This is what is meant by the phrase “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” It means that freedom of speech has to apply to all or it applies to none. As soon as we start to ban certain types of speech then free speech no longer exists and we move into a situation where we are only arguing about the extent of the restrictions and who should make them… and before you know it we are back to a world in which only certain ideas can be expressed.

And that is indeed the world we live in today. A world in which people can lose their livelihoods and be publicly vilified because they express ideas that are unpopular with some other people.

We live today under a sort of liberal, cultural totalitarianism. The cultural wars that so many on the alt-right bang on about are unfortunately actually real. What is sometimes called “political correctness gone mad” is in fact a reality. The almost entirely admirable desire to rid our public discourse of the sexist and racist discrimination and prejudice that was so common in the post war era has flipped into a form of extreme liberal intolerance… a paradox if there ever was one… and I speak as a lefty who has fought all my life against sexism and racism and all forms of prejudice and oppression.

But it is manifestly obvious today that political correctness has gone mad. A few months ago an Australian sportsman lost his place on his national team because he expressed his personal values regarding same-sex marriage and homosexuality. The ideas that he expressed have been mainstream in the Western world for at least 2,000 years and were based on the religious text of the world’s most widespread religion. Our own country is constitutionally connected to this religious text because the UK is constitutionally a Christian country with the Church Of England being the established religion of the country.

Now don’t get me wrong I regard the statements of Israel Folau about same-sex marriage and homosexuality as ludicrous. They are based on a Bronze Age religious text and are neither rationally or morally defensible. But in a supposedly free country like Australia should he lose his job because he holds such views? If so then to what extent can Australia be called a ‘free’ country? In my view it obviously can’t because if the expression of certain social, political, economic, religious and moral ideas is forbidden they contradict liberal ideas of diversity then it is not open or free it is a liberal totalitarian state.

I regard the social and political ideas of Nigel Farage, Steve Bannon, Marine Le Penn, Matteo Salvini, Trump, Johnson,  Katie Hopkins, Israel Folau  et al, as irrational and hateful. But they I am sure would say the same about my beliefs. Who is to adjudicate between us? What public or institutional body could possibly have the legitimacy to say that my ideas are sayable but Katie Hopkins are not or vice versa? And it is the vice versa that is crucially important here.

My right to express my beliefs is dependent upon Katie Hopkins right to express her beliefs. And if you are on the left and doubt what I say, think about McCarthyism in 1950’s USA where the expression of even mildly social democratic views could result in blacklisting and the ending of a career. Or closer to home think about what has happened to those of us who support the Palestinian cause. There has been a concerted, and currently successful, attempt to brand any and all criticism of Israel as being antiSemitic, i.e. racist. This has resulted in many life-time warriors in the battle against racism being vilified as racists and being removed from political posts and having their livelihoods taken from them. All because they criticised the way a government of Western European immigrants treats an indigenous people! This is the dark flip side of the fight against prejudice and oppression. Any campaign for tolerance and diversity that is intolerant of alternative views is self-defeating because it cannot in any meaningful way claim to uphold its own core values of tolerance and diversity.

We have laws in place to punish those who incite violence and/or hatred. We have laws in place to punish violence, verbal abuse, rape and sexual assault. We have laws in place that outlaw discrimination based on age, disability, gender, sexuality, creed or religion. These laws have widespread public support and have been approved by elected governments and are both justified and legitimate. If anyone is found to break these laws they can and often do,  receive the strictest appropriate sentence. But should simply expressing views that some of us regard as obnoxious result in public shaming and loss of livelihood?

And this paradoxical liberal intolerance has contributed hugely to the political shambles the UK is currently experiencing. Millions of people who hold views they regard as the very signifiers of their moral virtue (patriotism, duty, church attendance, abiding by the rules, social cohesion, adherence to traditional sexual codes of conduct) find themselves vilified on a daily basis as being ignorant, sexist, racists. During the Brexit cultural wars Remainers relentlessly portrayed anyone who expressed even vaguely Eurosceptic views as being ignorant, racists. Expressing scepticism about the EU was regarded by Remainers as an indicator of a hidden racism even when it was not expressed in racist terms. (Just as many Jews ‘read’ any criticism of Israel as indicating an underlying anti-Semitism even when that criticism is not anti-Semitic).

When lives, relationships and careers can be destroyed merely on the basis of an accusation then we have descended into a form of liberal Stalinism. Innocence until proven guilty is as important as freedom of speech and although I despise the views of men and women like Katie Hopkins and Israel Folau but I absolutely defend their right to express those views.

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Proud to be a Corbynista

So democratic socialism is defeated for at least another generation. Brexit will be ignored and the right will paint this as a failure of the Left. Just as the presence of the SDP has been forgotten in the history of the 8O’s.

The figures are clear. It is Brexit and specifically the role of the Brexit Party that has delivered the Tory landslide and that shifting Labour to an

increasingly Remain position since 2017 has been disastrous. Something many of us have been warning of since the Referendum result.

But none of this will matter to the centrist Remainers who hated Corbyn. The story will be that it is ‘the Left’ who were the problem and that ‘never again’ can a left slate be put forward by a Labour Party.

And maybe they are correct. Maybe the billionaires media will never allow a party advocating what was once regarded as moderate social democratic policies to ever again be elected in the U.K. Maybe it is true that sufficient numbers of the English have become xenophobes and ultra-competitive ‘dog eat dog’, look after your own and screw everyone else, capitalists, and that only a pro-US, pro-capitalist, anti-European, nationalist government can ever be elected in England. Maybe that is so. In which case the career politicians of the LP will do whatever it takes to get elected and good luck to them, I hope they will be able to at least mitigate some of the terrible human suffering that will inevitably result from this new nationalist, neoliberalToryism.

For myself I am proud of the political, social and moral values of compassion, equality and freedom that I stand for. My own values are all I can live by. They have been forged through the lived reality of mental illness, addiction and failure and informed by a lifetime of research, reading and thought. I know where I stand and why.

Thus regardless of this devastating election result I am proud to stand against the brutal sociopathic power of corporate capitalism. I am proud to stand in opposition to the managerialist totalitarianism of the contemporary work place. I am proud to stand against the bureaucratic abuse of state power. I am proud to stand beside the oppressed and brutalised of the world whether that be in the UK, USA, Myanmar or Palestine. I am proud to stand in unity with the all the queers, queens, lesbos, blacks, Asians, Jews, Poles, eccentrics, odd balls, addicts and nutters of England and in opposition to the unthinking, intransigent, domination of a neurotypical ‘normality’ which actually only exists in TV adverts and yet which we must all abide by or be excluded, shamed and ridiculed.

I am proud to have stood by Corbyn in pursuit of those values and to have stood against the cynical moral corruption at the heart of the Labour Party machine.

I will proudly fight with my comrades in defiant opposition to the oncoming destruction of what is left of the Welfare State and the purposeful transformation of the NHS into a profit-making machine for already rich people.

Perhaps this struggle is hopeless, perhaps I am in an increasingly alienated minority, perhaps the political, social and moral values I believe in will never again receive popular support in England. Perhaps so but they are my values and I am proud to stand by them even in the face of such an overwhelming defeat. In solidarity.

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Your Slavery is their Freedom | George Monbiot

This is very good on the neoliberal capitalist framing of the word ‘freedom’. If the rich and powerful are ‘free’ to do anything they wish with their power and money where does that leave the rest of us?

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Is it time for a campaign of social disobedience to refuse payment of the BBC licence fee?

These days the BBC are not even attempting to disguise their partisan centrist, liberal, metropolitan, establishment, political bias.

Many on the left, including me, have traditionally been strong supporters of the idea of a collectively owned ‘people’s broadcaster’ that could provide us with impartial political and economic information in a world where all other media is owned and controlled by the wealthy and the powerful.

The social contract that justifies the imposition of the BBC licence fee has always been based on the BBC’s democratic function expressed primarily through it’s legal duty to provide British citizens with impartial political  information in order for us as democratic citizens to make informed and rational political choices.

If the BBC is unwilling or unable to fulfil that democratic function, then we have to ask what can possibly justify the compulsory licence fee and whether it is time for the left to collectively refuse to partake in this sham and to en masse refuse to pay the licence fee? Continue reading

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The deserving rich and the undeserving poor…


Saw this the day after I wrote this

And then this

So now rich people in the USA are now openly claiming that they are healthier than poor people because they are morally superior!

This idea that the rich are rich and healthy because of their wisdom, talent and, above all, hard work, and that the poor are poor, uneducated and unhealthy entirely because of their own ‘choices’, is of course at the heart of all conservative and neocon politics. Without it conservative politics is brutal, cruel and heartless. With it conservative politics is entirely justifiable because if this idea is true then the welfare state is not only expensive and inefficient it is in fact morally wrong, as it ‘rewards’ lazy, morally corrupt idiots at the expense of hard-working, ‘good’ people.

The idea that the rich ‘deserve’ their wealth and the poor ‘deserve’ their poverty is the moral justification of ALL conservative thought and policy.
Yet it is as true now as it has ever been that the single most important important determining factor in whether you will die rich or poor is whether you were born rich or poor. Almost all people born rich will die rich. Almost all people born poor will die poor. Statistically ‘social mobility’ is almost non-existent, and what limited social mobility there is occurs within the middle class and between the upper middle class and the super rich.
Richard Branson was the son of a Barrister. Rupert Murdoch and Trump were the sons of millionaires. Sir Philip Green is the son of a successful property developer and retailer. Mike Ashley grew up in Burnham in Buckinghamshire and went to Burnham Grammar School. Only Alan Sugar can genuinely claim to have climbed the greasy pole from the depths of poverty to extreme wealth.
Indeed, the only time when ‘social mobility’ had any real meaning in the UK was during the post war social democratic consensus when the grammar schools (which I attended) did open up the elite institutions of Oxbridge, the Civil Service, medicine, Law, the arts etc to a more diverse selection of candidates. But remember in 1976 when I went to University only 7% went to University with a further 8% into higher education of other kinds, including Polytechnics and conservatoire arts schools. So even this limited social mobility only applied to 15% of us.
The reality is that “it’s not what you know but who you know” is more true now than it was 50 years ago and the Public Schools (which in the UK perversely means the elite fee-paying private schools) are now one of the very few gateway’s to the elite.
Poverty is not the result of ‘bad choices’ it is the cause of them. And conversely the privilege of the wealthy gives them far more choices to choose from and enables them to ‘choose’ more successfully. Poverty is a more significant barrier to social mobility than race, sexuality, disability or gender.
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The Emperor’s New Constitutional Crisis

Can you imagine the press narrative if it was a Labour Party that refused to call a GE in the current circumstances?

Imagine if a LP government without an overall majority, that had failed in a defining international negotiation, that had perhaps fatally split the both party and the country, that had fallen to third place in national elections and in a key by-election, and was nonetheless refusing to call a GE and seeking to elect a new leader of the party who would become PM without a national vote despite the political crisis?

The words ‘constitutional crisis’ would be all over the media. References to Hitler and Stalin and a ‘socialist coup that is destroying democracy’ would be filling our media. Continue reading

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