Notes On The News
by Gwydion M Williams
- Failed Britannia
- Lower England Says Sod It All.
- Labour Losers Trying to Oust Corbyn
- Failed Conspiracies?
- Angry Baby Boomers in the Great Recession
- What next?
- After Brexit, President Trump?
- China No Longer Impressed
- A Warmer Wilder World
- Ukraine – Orange Fascism
- Talking Peace With Russia?
Little England has successfully revolted against a ruling elite that had let them down. Brexit is all about a failed social movement looking for something outside itself to blame. People who mistakenly think that things are so bad for them, they can’t get worse.
Brexit tapped into the malaise in civilisation that the New Right have created, but for which they have shifted the blame. Shifted it enough so that the poor and discontented think that Europe and Immigration are the main problems. Were unaware of how far the European Union has protected them from an abusive Tory Party a lot of them keep voting for. Think they were valiant rebels, when they were being led by the nose by one faction among the elite.
“I love fake revolts of the underclass: I’m a veteran of them. At secondary school, we had a revolt in favour of the right to smoke. The football violence I witnessed in the 1970s and 80s felt like the social order turned on its head. As for the mass outpouring of solidarity with the late Princess Diana, and by implication against the entire cruel monarchic elite, in the end I chucked my bunch of flowers on the pile with the rest.
“The problem is, I also know what a real revolt looks like. The miners strike; the Arab spring; the barricade fighting around Gezi Park in Istanbul in 2013. So, to people getting ready for the mother of all revolts on Thursday, I want to point out the crucial difference between a real revolt and a fake one. The elite does not usually lead the real ones. In a real revolt, the rich and powerful usually head for the hills, terrified. Nor are the Sun and the Daily Mail usually to be found egging on a real insurrection.”[A]
The author seems muddled about the key difference between a working class and an underclass. An underclass is poor and also detached from productive society. The working class is productive society, and properly speaking should include elements traditionally classed as middle-class. But until Corbyn, the British working class was disconnected from Labour, its traditional voice.
There is an astonishing lack of Labour MPs from either the hard core of the working class or from the newer occupations that are non-manual, get paid monthly and can easily be persuaded that they are superior middle-class persons. Looking for notable working-class MPs, there was only John Prescott, a former ship’s steward who in practice amounted to little.
Lower England Says Sod It All.
Imperial Britannia was built by an oligarchy that liked Representative Government but was hostile to democracy. (Only in the 1880s did a majority of adult males in the British Isles get the vote.[B]) Nowadays they manipulate the voters by cultivating a vast mass of narrow-minded poor people hostile to change and to foreigners.
The problem was, Imperial Britannia didn’t share the values of this ‘Lower England’. It could only rule Britannia by invoking its authority to keep Lower England under control.
This time round, the majority factions of the elite offered nothing but smugness and contempt. Rather than saying that Brexit would make little difference on immigration, they said ‘no, stupid, immigration is good for you’. It was a message from the people doing very nicely for those sinking into poverty. They failed to realise how badly Lower England was worried for its jobs and its rather narrow culture.
Lower England also doesn’t realise that England no longer has the weight in world affairs it once had. Reduced to England and a reluctantly dependent Wales, things could easily get worse very quickly. With the pound losing its value, food prices are very likely to rise. It is quite possibly that in a few months time, public opinion will have shifted enough to make it serious to call for a second Referendum.
With some suitability, a European Cup in which England initially came second to Wales was followed by a 2-1 defeat of the English team by Iceland.
Labour Losers Trying to Oust Corbyn
Brexit was lost in traditional Labour areas in the north of England. MPs who blame Corbyn failed to deliver their own constituencies; yet remain convinced that Labour can only win elections as Tory-lite.
They believe this because media dominated by rich tax-evading owners tell them that this is so. The raw facts are otherwise, but get ignored.
Scotland, with the SNP similar to Labour before Blair, voted 2 to 1 to remain. London was solid for Remain: Corbyn’s Islington by 3 to 1; Hackney by nearly 4 to 1. Oxford voted 7 to 3 to Remain; Cambridge 74 to 26.
Corbyn’s lukewarm support for Remain still delivered those areas where Labour voters were in tune with him. Blairite sabotage may well have backfired: traditional Labour voters in England and Wales were doubtful about Corbyn and the chance of a future Labour government. Voted Brexit in a mood of despair.
Kirklees, the West Yorkshire region that includes the Batley and Spen constituency of murdered MP Jo Cox, voted 54.7 to 45.3 in favour of Leave.[C] Local politicians were shocked, since the area is predominantly Labour.[D] But it was part of a much wider pattern. Maybe a follow-on from Labour’s loss of Scotland to the SNP.
Corbyn put his finger on why the vote was lost: “One clear message from last Thursday’s vote is that millions of people feel shut out of a political and economic system that has let them down and scarred our country with grotesque levels of inequality.”[E]
The murder of Jo Cox may have tilted the vote a little towards Remain. Polls from 8th to 16th June mostly favoured Brexit. After the murder on June the 16th, they were mostly against.[F]
British politicians don’t murder each other. But some right-wing financier or hedge-fund manager might have thought it a good idea to win the vote at the expense of someone they’d anyway dislike. They needed an English assassin to discredit Brexit, and maybe had several going, with only one working out.
I have heard that the home-made gun was surprisingly expensive for a poor and marginal crank to have made. And details of his Far-Right links, but not the Ulster Loyalist connection, came to light with surprising speed.
Angry Baby Boomers in the Great Recession
The old, the poor and the badly educated were much more likely to vote Leave. There were also more Leave votes in areas with a low percentage of foreign-born residents.[G]
People who are old today would have been young in 1975, when the vote was 2 to 1 for Remain.[H] If that vote had the same age bias, the shift has been really massive.
It is an incoherent response, but understandable. Immigration played a part – it wasn’t really an issue in 1975, when most recent immigrants were from outside of Europe. But there has also been a massive loss of economic security. The fault is Thatcherism, but Labour has been feeble about that message. So Europe was blamed.
There is plenty wrong with the European Union. But it’s mostly because the rich employ professional lobbyists to put their case. (And have a range of nice well-paid jobs for current and retired politicians who are on their side.)
Consider how subsidies are given to farmers:
“As much as 80% of the funds are harvested by the richest 25% of recipients. The poorest farmers are excluded: you cannot claim subsidies unless you own or lease at least five hectares. A report by the European court of auditors reveals that the EU has no useful data on farm incomes, and therefore no knowledge of whether farm subsidies serve any social purpose…
“You don’t have to produce any food to receive them. Your land just has to look agricultural, which means bare. Among the ‘ineligible features’ listed in Westminster’s version of the European rules are ponds, wide hedges, regenerating woodland, reedbeds, thriving salt marsh and trees sufficient to form a canopy. The common agricultural policy is a €55bn incentive to destroy wildlife habitats and cause floods downstream…
“This dog that hasn’t barked exposes the real agenda of the leading Brexiteers. They denounce the transfer of public money from rich to poor; they are intensely relaxed about the transfer of public money from poor to rich. It also challenges those who wish to remain.”[I]
The system subsidised land rather than farmers. It’s worth keeping a residuum of small farmers, who get more output per acre than large farmers.
After Brexit, President Trump?
The victories of Donald Trump show the discontent of the old poor but white core of the USA. He’s no more suitable to run the country than Donald Duck would be. But his voters are angry self-defeating people who know that history has passed them by.
But Trump is not a professional politician. Not smart enough to avoid remarks that alienate voters he needs to win the Presidency, as distinct from the Republican nomination:
“Trump has been mired in controversy after asserting that the federal judge presiding over a lawsuit against him is biased because he is ‘Mexican’. The comments have been called racist by many in his own party, including House speaker Paul Ryan…
“While Trump has been trying to downplay his comments, saying earlier on Friday ‘freedom of any kind means no one should be judged by their race or their color or the color of their skin’, he reopened the controversy by repeatedly calling Warren ‘Pocahontas’ in an attempt to insult her for saying that she has Native American heritage. The epithet was accompanied by Indian war whoops from the crowd. Several minutes afterwards, Trump then insisted he was ‘the least racist person’.”[J]
Only a weak man feels the need to randomly insult women, as Trump has. They may of course be weak and dangerous. Trump isn’t dangerous to individual women, but he would be dangerous as US President. With luck he would wreck the USA’s global hegemony without doing too much ‘collateral damage’, but all sorts of things are possible.
Multi-party elections are sold as a system whereby you get what you want. Actually it gives power to the voting majority: protestors should think carefully about whether this voting majority is closer to their own views than the regime they are protesting about. There was a total failure to do so in Egypt. No intelligent reaction when the electorate predictably gave a clear majority to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The other problem is that in the real world, elected representatives are often bad at delivering what the voting majority wants. Often get elected on false promises, even if the candidates believed those promises.
Trump has sold himself as a business genius who also shares the feelings of ‘ordinary folks’. In fact he inherited a vast fortune from his father, a genuine business genius and also a racist bigot. Trump has played many games with his inherited money, but without great success:
“While the sheer range of businesses Trump has been involved with over the years — real estate development, casinos, suits, reality television, steak, water, a ‘university,’ books, presidential politics — may offer the superficial appearance of a broad range of mastery, the story of Trump’s adventures in Atlantic City reveal something else.
“Across these ventures Trump has mastered essentially a single skill — structuring deals to be financially beneficial to him personally regardless of whether the underlying business is successful. Rather than creating wealth for his business partners, Trump took advantage of investors who believed in him in order to benefit himself personally — just as he did years later with the ‘students’ at Trump University.”[K]
China No Longer Impressed
Back in the 1990s, the USA should have spent several trillions to give Russia a smooth and comfortable transition from the Soviet system. Instead they indulged themselves in fantasies of a Pure Capitalism that had never been tried, and in fact did not work. Wasted several trillions on futile wars, with no benefit except short-term gains for well-connected private enterprises.
Having abused Russia, they lost Russia, and lost whatever chance they had of winning China. It is now definite that China won’t drop the overall supervisory role of the state, nor have a massive sale of state assets of the sort that wrecked Russia. And there is also a hard ideological crackdown, fairly popular after the Chinese have seen what Westernisation did to Iraq, Libya and Syria.
The Economist is predicting immanent trouble for China – but this too is normal:
“While it’s understandable that The Economist might miss a single elephant, it’s hard to grasp how it missed an entire herd: China’s economy. Why has it continued to be wrong about the world’s biggest economy? Since 1975 The Economist has predicted 56 ‘hard landings’ for the Chinese economy. None happened, of course, yet the magazine kept repeating this prediction every few months, decade after decade.”[L]
A Warmer Wilder World
“May was the 13th month in a row to break temperature records according to figures published this week that are the latest in 2016’s string of incredible climate records which scientists have described as a bombshell and an emergency.”[M]
That’s the global average. Britain had quite a mild May.[N] But then in June, wild weather hit the south-east:
“Torrential downpours and flooding have swamped parts of London and the south-east in the early hours of EU referendum day, leading to the fire brigade being inundated with more than 300 emergency calls.
“Red ‘immediate action’ flood warnings were issued for parts of south-east London and Essex as parts of the capital were expected to see a month’s rainfall in a matter of hours.
“London fire brigade said it received a day’s worth of calls in just an hour and a half to reports of weather-related incidents, including lightning striking property, flooded homes and businesses, and rising waters trapping vehicles.”[O]
Of course wild weather has always happened. But it was predicted that Climate Change would produce more extreme events. And careful statistical studies have confirmed that there are indeed more extremes than there used to be.
Ukraine – Orange Fascism
“Amid a divisive debate in Ukraine on state honors for nationalists viewed as responsible for anti-Semitic pogroms, the country for the first time observed a minute of silence in memory of Symon Petliura, a 1920s statesman blamed for the murder of 50,000 Jewish compatriots.
“Kiev will soon name a street for two other Ukrainian nationalists — Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych — who are widely believed to be responsible for lethal violence against Jews. Another street is to be named for Janusz Korczak, the pen name of Henryk Goldszmit, a Polish Jewish teacher who was murdered in Auschwitz.
“Bandera and Shukhevych collaborated with Nazi forces that occupied what is now Ukraine and are believed to have commanded troops that killed thousands of Jews. Once regarded by Ukrainian authorities as illegitimate to serve as national role models because of their war crimes against Jews and Poles, Petliura, Bandera and Shukhevych are now openly honored in Ukraine following a revolution spearheaded by nationalists in 2014.” (Times of Israel)[P]
Unlike the supposed outbreak of anti-semitism in the British Labour Party, you’ve probably not heard of this from the British media.
Talking Peace With Russia?
“Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian helicopter pilot who spent more than a year in a Russian jail, has issued a surprise call for direct dialogue with the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk ‘people’s republics’.
“Savchenko was sentenced to 22 years in jail in March but released as part of a prisoner swap last month. She returned to Kiev a hero and has taken up the parliamentary seat she was given while jailed.
“Savchenko, who served in a Ukrainian volunteer battalion prior to her arrest, was expected to take a hard line on the conflict in the east, but instead said direct dialogue was required, in addition to keeping up international diplomatic pressure on Russia.”[Q]
Probably her time in a Russian jail made her aware that almost all Russians support Putin’s line. Say that if Ukraine wants to cut its historic ties with Russia, it can’t also expect to hang on to territories that are more Russian than Ukrainian. The eastern end of what was ‘New Russia’ under the Tsars, which was united with the much more solidly Ukrainian ‘Little Russia’ by the Bolsheviks to help keep the entire ‘Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic’ attached to Moscow.
Why Everyone Sees Their Case as Unique
I’ve been commenting wherever I can on the mess in Ukraine. And was accused of not understanding the real situation: virtuous Ukrainians brutally attacked by vicious Russians.
To me, Ukraine looks remarkably like dozens of similar communal conflicts all round the world. In each case, most members of each particular community are certain that their community is wholly virtuous and a victim.
They can’t all be right, obviously. Mostly each has an exaggerated view which helps fuel the conflict.
Muslims Against Daesh Ignored
A deafening silence has greeted a London protest by Muslims against the self-styled Islamic State (sometimes called ISIS, but better labelled Daesh).[R]
The trouble, I suppose, is that Muslims will not agree that partisan fighters like Hezbollah and electorally-strong protests movements like Hamas should be lumped with terrorism.
God Facing Redundancy
“The number of people who say they have no religion is escalating and significantly outweighs the Christian population in England and Wales, according to new analysis.
“The proportion of the population who identify in NatCen’s British Social Attitudes survey as having no religion, referred to as ‘nones’, reached 48.5% in 2014, outnumbering the 43.8% who define themselves as Christian – Anglicans, Catholics and other denominations. In 2011 the BSA survey found 46% identified as having no religion. The 2011 census gave a much lower figure of 25%, but phrased the question differently.”[S]
Previous Newsnotes can be found at the Labour Affairs website, https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/past-issues/. And at my own website, https://longrevolution.wordpress.com/newsnotes-historic/.
[D] http://www.examiner.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/watch-kirklees-votes-leave-eu-11518511, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirklees#1997_to_date