The Tragic Failures of Spontaneous Politics
by Gwydion M Williams
Tragedies and the Tragedy of the Commons, Little Man Lost, Star Wars: the Nordic Generation, Prawns But Not Honeybees?, Two Brothers or Eight Cousins, Please Be Spontaneously Obedient, The Bank That Broke The Man, Defeating Nazism, US Acts of Abandonment, A War For Democracy?, The Man Who Broke the Banks, The Last Days of US Hegemony, The Cause of the New Right, Covid-19 – Liberation from Awkward Truths?, Restraining the Adventurous Rich, The Next Nine and the Damaged Majority, New Labour, New Foolishness, Mainstream Subversion of Family Values, Leninists Against Sex?, The Mythistan Road Traffic Death Squad, The Official Restoration of Capitalism.
Tragedies and the Tragedy of the Commons
“The tragedy of the commons is a situation in a shared-resource system where individual users, acting independently according to their own self-interest, behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting or spoiling the shared resource through their collective action. The theory originated in an essay written in 1833 by the British economist William Forster Lloyd, who used a hypothetical example of the effects of unregulated grazing on common land (also known as a ‘common’) in Great Britain and Ireland. The concept became widely known as the ‘tragedy of the commons’ over a century later.”
That’s the Wiki summary. And the article has a lot about ‘non-governmental solutions’ as a way of avoiding it.
Vast amounts have been written on these, and I have read many.
I find them generally foolish and unrealistic.
‘Non-governmental solutions’ work sometimes. But mostly when individuals have been shaped so that certain types of thinking are suppressed. And they are unready to see these as limits on freedom. Only unfamiliar constraints are seen as oppression.
In all modern societies, a strong state machine guided by a determined government have done most of the constraining and suppression. Our supposedly free Anglo tradition is entirely based on it.
English settlers in North America brought these limits with them and the new United States re-imposed them on fringe Frontier elements who had lapsed. And in New England, Puritans for a time ran a much harsher set of limits that England imposed after the failure of Cromwell’s experiment.
But what existed after Cromwell was markedly different from what existed before. And both before and afterwards, the state was able to overturn local customs in a way that didn’t happen in Continental Europe until the French Revolution.
The English originally had a way of life imposed on them by the Wessex state that fought off the Norse invasion. A state which was made much more authoritarian by the Normans. The English ruling class – at that time not hampered by any important share in power by ordinary English people – then imposed a version of it on the Welsh and Irish.
When ordinary English people did get power, their thinking had already been shaped to a particular set of values. Compared to past versions of Englishness, it is more different than most people born since 1970 are aware. More different than most Baby Boomers will now admit – I am in a minority in insisting that there was drastic changes. And that many of them were due to Baby Boomers getting selfish as they gained prosperity and power.
In 2015, I wrote a study arguing that 1930s Conservatism had far more in common with 1930s Italian Fascism than it has with Conservatism as of 2015, or even 1990. It has changed further since then, moving away from Thatcherism but remaining selfish and tricky.
But for all that, this British consensus covers a fairly small range of the actual extent of human possibilities.
Most of the world knows of our way of life, though partly in the USA’s modified version of it. Most play football, and those once part of the British Empire generally value cricket. English has become the language everyone learns to speak with anyone else from a different language tradition. Yet increasingly, they are reviving their own customs and respecting their own past. Including things that Anglo left-liberals see as infringements of freedoms. Rights that they are baffled to see other humans not accepting as natural or desirable.
Dumping the Westminster System into an alien society fails, because those societies have not had centuries of a ruling class defining a particular way of life for them. So Japan remains alien. India and Turkey and even Poland and Hungary go off in un-English directions despite a decent operative version of this Westminster System. China, which ignored it after a pathetic failure of their version after their 1911-12 Revolution, is now much less alien in the actual way the society works.
Were China suddenly given the chance to directly elect a President, the victor might well be the grandson of Mao. This would match the rest of Asia, where very large numbers of recent or current leaders are the offspring of previous leaders. And matching the unexpected triumph of Napoleon the Third to replace France’s Second Republic.
The Westminster System is also not a system that guaranteed fairness or democracy or harmony. The Catholic Irish after centuries of being crushed remained different enough to want their own state, and to fight and die for it. But what exists now is obviously very different from what Gaelic Ireland might have evolved into had it modernised as other European states have modernised.
In Scotland, it was Normans who had married into Scottish families who fought off a conquest by the English monarchy. But Scotland had similar values, based mostly on Saxon settlers who became Lowland Scots. Who were otherwise similar to other Saxons and Angles who became English thanks to the expansion of a state originally based in Wessex.
Scotland was also entirely unable to settle, killing far more of its monarchs than the English ever did. James the 6th of Scotland was the first of a series of Kings called James to reach old age. One of a minority of Scottish kings not to die a violent death. And it was also Scots neglected by his son Charles the First who tipped the balance in the so-called English Civil War.
People mostly assume that their own cultural constraints are ‘natural’ and not imposed. Just as they assume their own use of language is ‘natural’, and get confused when others misuse it, or use a valid but unfamiliar dialect. Or speak some completely different language.
I’ve done a detailed study of how native English speakers apply a whole host of complex rules that they would be unable to describe in terms a foreigner could follow. You’d speak of ‘a large blue lorry’, rather than a ‘a blue large lorry’, because to you it feels natural and inevitable. But other languages are often quite different. I’ve done a very detailed study, The Muon and the Green Great Dragon, showing how very different this is from the laws of physics.
In the modern world, spontaneous organisation works within a secure society where individuals have lots of spare time. The Wiki is one such, and I’ve been a regular contributor. Likewise Quora. But my work on these has been made possible by a secure working life in which unemployment was unlikely. In which I got a nice pension from my employer, in a generous scheme that was closed to new employees soon after I joined in 1991.
I was born in 1950, part of the Baby Boomer generation. generation. And we didn’t ‘waste the world’s wealth and leave nothing for the kids’, as some young people now think.
It is no accident that they have been taught to think this. Almost anything to hide the basic truth that the richest 5% in the West have got most of the extra wealth made since the 1980s. And most of that has gone to the richest 1%.
The world’s wealth has not diminished: we increased it massively. We also noticed the threats to the environment that older generations had mostly missed.
We also greatly extended the range of sexual freedoms, on most matters. A much harsher view is now taken of under-age sex and sexual harassment, which are freedoms for the aggressors but not the victims.
But seeking liberty, we left it open to the rich to grab an unfair share of the wealth that we all helped create. And most of my generation now vote Tory. They seek to deny to later generations the benefits my generation had. And just the same in the USA.
The obsession of 1960s radicals was to remove the risk of State Oppression. Which was real enough, on sexual matters where we are now happy with a wider area of freedom. And on drugs, which was probably an error. But we Boomers gave later generations freedoms that most seem unaware of. Tolerance and now near-equality for homosexuals was secondary: it followed logically from the wider freedoms that the heterosexual majority chose to give themselves. Particularly equal sexual freedom for women as for men, which isn’t entirely established, but has advanced enormously.
We massively under-estimated the danger of the rich and greedy running out of control. Failed to realise that weakening state authority gives most long-term gains to the rich, the greedy and the unscrupulous.
Little Man Lost
People were sold the fantasy of a self-regulating economy. An economy that is ideal for wealth-creation. On this basis, commercial profits are exactly what the individual merits. Taking it by tax is robbery.
But this is not what actual New Right governments have tried to create. Partly because it actually could not work, in my view. But also because political parties need funding. MPs can legitimately grow prosperous if the rich approve of them and may wish to co-opt them.
Even within the limits of the possible, it has always been the interest of the rich that get favoured at the expense of the much-voiced needs of the ‘Little Man’.
Should I have said ‘Little Person’? Not really. Partly because it is an idea I aspire to sink, rather than update to a modern version. But the defenders of ‘economic freedom’ were mostly resisters of female equality. Socialists and in particular communists and fringe anarchists did most of the hard work and unpopular pioneering work.
But I was talking about economics. In the real world, New Right governments never have acted as if they believed their nominal creed. Note the repeated failures to ensure that rich companies pay money they owe, which ruins many hopeful start-up ventures.
Both in Britain and the USA, big corporations are mostly being rescued in the Covid-19 crisis. Small businesses are mostly being allowed to collapse.
Will they be fooled again?
You could break your heart trying to make them see things differently. Many well-meaning people have done just that. I consider it a waste of time. I am as likely to influence them by scorning them as anything else. And assuredly they will not break my heart.
To expect some intelligent politics to emerge to defend the small producers is to ignore 300 years of Anglo history in which this repeatedly failed to happen. Elements of it were genuinely present in Fascism, but mostly went along with ignorant racism and an enthusiasm for conquest and warfare.
European Christian Democracy, founded by authentic anti-Fascists but taking in many ex-Fascists, managed some sort of defence up till the 1970s. Have had it eroded since then, but the traditions have not died. They have not been as bad over Covid-19.
New Right governments also show complete belief in the power of the state to run the economy when the rich might get hurt. There was a vast surge in public spending in the half-forgotten crisis of 1987, which those born since 1980 will probably be unaware of.
The ruling elite make sure that most of you remain unaware of it. People are free to tell the true version, but in a world flooded with attention-grabbing options they are seldom noticed.
Historic facts that don’t suit the current elite get repressed in practice, without any formal ban. One recent incident is a film called The Young Karl Marx. In Britain it didn’t get the art-house showing that most such films get. And if an English-speaker orders it on DVD, they need to be careful to get a version with English subtitles, which are mysteriously absent from some of the versions sold through Amazon.
One example out of many.
Most people also don’t know that the Soviet Union was very successful economically from the 1930s to 1960s.
Most people don’t know that the Second World War was largely won by the Soviet military. That it could not have been won by the USA unless they’d been willing to sacrifice several million of their young men, rather than less than half a million as actually happened.
In the 2008 crisis, Obama was persuaded that giving money to banks rather than ordinary people would let them magically multiply it and benefit everyone. This was a garbled version of Fractional-reserve banking, and not relevant when the banks and hedge funds risked collapse. But it happened. The rich retained their wealth. Vast numbers of small businesses collapsed, sometimes killed by banks defending their balance-sheets and the value of their shares.
Nationalising the banks would have defended the accounts of ordinary people, and dumped the cost on the very rich, who had caused the crisis by speculating. But the ideology had been sold to vast numbers of trusting people. It still has a grip on their mind.
For more on the actual success of tax-and-spend, I’ve done a long study: Feed-the-Rich Economics. Explaining how the Mixed Economy won the Cold War, and then was denounced when the rich felt safe.
Note that when such ideas got applied from the 1980s, vastly more money went to the very richest, but the economy did not grow any faster. Maybe slower.
And on social matters, most people failed to realise how many useful things had been done without the big bad state oppressing it. Often being helpful.
I vividly remember an office conversation between people about 20 years younger than myself, wondering if it could be true that there was once a stigma in Britain about couples living together. There was, and if you get DVDs of programs made in that era you ought to notice how far it was questioned. You might even encounter the now-obsolete phrase ‘living in sin’, which meant a man and a woman living together and having sex just with each other, but not married. Something now viewed as boringly normal, but it was a shift from older attitudes.
There was also once a whole class of jokes about the Wedding Night, assumed to be the first time the newly married couple would have sex. If you view the 1970s series Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, a woman about to be married is only semi-open to a close female friend about already having had sex with her future husband.
Step back to the mid-1960s original, The Likely Lads, and it is different again.
And that was Britain, at that time more tolerant about sex than the USA, and much more so than the Irish Republic. As a young man, I heard a lot from my Irish friends about how solidly conservative it was. As indeed it was, on my first visits, though it seems even this was softened from what it once was.
Had I suggested in the 1960s and 1970s that Ireland in the first two decades of the 21st century would not just legalise homosexuality but vote strongly for gay marriage, no one would have believed me. Likewise no one would have expected an openly gay Prime Minister, though a non-white man with a foreign-born father would have seemed more plausible.
(For those unfamiliar with Ireland, this was Leo Varadkar, PM from 2017 to 2020. And perhaps PM again some time, since he still leads one of the big Irish parties.)
In fact I said no such thing, and I admit to being slow to accept equality either for gays or for women. I like to think about basic social values, rather than being a dedicated follower of fashion. And when I do change, I like to put it on record that it was a change and not a newly discovered truth about Unchanging Human Nature. Not something that the fashion-follower ‘always knew’, even if their recorded words unfortunately said otherwise.
‘Unchanging Human Nature’ isn’t what it used to be.
I mentioned earlier my brief summary of how many things changed just in 20th century Anglo Norms, calling it Reinventing Normality in the 20th century. Noting that most of these were pushed by the left – centrists and rightists mostly practiced freedom selfishly until it became safe to be open.
Moderation in all things, including social justice .
I believed at that time that Spontaneous Politics was the answer. But what’s happened since has made be re-think extensively.
It has not made me scuttle back to conventional thinking, which happens for some ex-leftists. I can see some merits in the Old Order, but many more faults.
If they say ‘was it so bad?’ I would answer ‘yes, it decidedly was bad!’. Especially if you were not a white male able-bodies heterosexual who matches the admired Nordic type. I happen to be all of these things, but can also empathise with those who were once shut out. Who are still not fully admitted.
There is also no surviving functional conservativism in Anglo culture. Just a bunch of right-wing nihilists. Thatcher was a silly loud-mouth who did immense damage to all of the things she quite genuinely wanted to save.
I was hopeful in the 1960s and 1970s that Spontaneous Politics would fix it all. In the decades since, I have had to conclude it is not so easy.
Star Wars: the Nordic Generation
Improvements happen. But the convention is to play this down.
Star Trek was a 1960s breakthrough. It looked to a better future, though admittedly one rather similar to the 1960s USA. A vision similar to the works of Arthur C. Clarke, with a collectivist economy under a very mild and tolerant state system.
Star Wars was a 1970s breakthrough. But though it appears to be our own future, and may have been so in early drafts, it actually rejects this in favour of a struggle for virtue in an unchanging universe. Has princesses and sword-like weapons. And each film begins with the words “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”.
Flash Gordon was an influence. One of many that mixed imagery from the past and the expected future.
Star Wars had a much more modern vision of the future.
But it also began as an all-white adventure.
I tried asking on Quora if anyone had done a study of how the Star Wars franchise had moved from Ideal Nordics as heroes to something more modern. Everyone who replied seemed baffled by the question, which I take as an indication that the culture has successfully stopped most people from thinking about the changes since the 1970s. But in the first film, the line-up of heroic rebel pilots is entirely Nordic and Leia is the only female seen to fight, rather than be a political leader. And she never seems to be very effective, mostly needing one of the Leading Men to save her.
It is still all-white Nordic rebels in The Empire Strikes Back¸ and the major non-white character they add is a shifty person with unwelcome designs on Princess Leia. Only in Return of the Jedi does it become somewhat like the racial mix in the USA, and with aliens as pilots and in command. Also Leia is still the only female fighter: only in films made later did women and alien females get more combat roles.
Star Trek did start out with something like the USA’s racial mix – not at all what a future world might be like, but it was progress. It also gave a role to women that was good for the time. Lieutenant Uhura looks much more sexually available than women in later series, and she is also virtually Captain Kirk’s Receptionist. Yet this small advance turned out to be a great inspiration.
I will also admit that I didn’t really see it at the time. I had nothing against women and non-whites having commanding roles. If asked, I’d have said fine. But I don’t recall making any sort of protest about it. Or backing those who occasionally did.
As a first-year student, I made a good impression on other students by saying that people are responsible for their inactions, as well as their positive actions. It was a good insight, but saying it is much easier than applying it consistently.
The battleground for equality is not just Star Wars. You’d find similar stuff in a host of mainstream series that are largely forgotten. Star Trek was a pioneer, but still had one foot in the past.
A rejected first pilot with a Captain Pike rather than Captain Kirk featured a bossy female ‘Number One’, who got a negative reaction. And in one episode in the dismal Third Season, a woman seeking to be Captain is treated as an aberration. When they finally had a real one with Captain Janeway, they were careful to emphasise her feminine side. Janeway had been planning to marry and we see her pain when she makes a necessary command decision to be exiled far from home.
They also kept changing Janeway’s hair-style, which irritated Kate Mulgrew who played her. Mulgrew also didn’t get along with Jeri Ryan who played Seven of Nine, and still plays her in the new Star Trek: Picard. But Mulgrew did wish for a homosexual or bisexual character to appear in Voyager, and would have played the role herself. It actually only happened with other actors and in Deep Space Nine. And mostly in the Mirror Universe, where everyone was supposed to be disapproved of.
Captain Pike and ‘Number One’ were re-created in Star Trek: Discovery with new actors. (And I now follow the new convention of just saying ‘Actors’ and not segregating females as Actresses.) We are now promised a new series centred on them and the young Spock.
Star Trek: Discovery was notable for having the top jobs initially held by two non-white females. And was bitterly hated by some fans. I liked it, but noted that when the East Asian lady was replaced by a version of her from the malignant Mirror Universe, this was a sly and ruthless character, a female Fu Manchu. Still, it is all progress.
Progress paralleled by real-life space ventures. I also notice how it nicely parallels the pattern of actual humans in space. The early NASA line-up was solidly Nordic and male. No black faces, even though there were plenty of non-white pilots by then. It was the Soviet Union that sent up the first women. And also the first Jew, Boris Volynov, though that was probably just a coincidence. No more significant that than both fatal Space Shuttle accident had a Jew among the crew. And that’s too weird even for conspiracy theorists, I’d suppose.
It is also a sad fact that the Soviet union from the 1960s went off in an anti-progressive direction. Messed up their economy with a weird system of state-controlled market incentives, which just caused confusion. Did not send a second woman into space for nearly 20 years, and probably just because NASA was finally going to do this. Increasingly looked like the past rather than the future.
A multi-racial and near-sexually-equal society didn’t just happen. It happened after decades of pressure, including stuff called Cultural Marxism by those indignant at being crushed by it. And it happened with governments mostly using the state machine to force such changes.
The sharp rise in overt racism with the election of Donald Trump is noted as a fact by left-liberals, but they mostly resist thinking about what it means. They are naturally keen to recapture the state machine, but mostly resist putting it so.
The hash that left-liberal forces made of the West’s dominance in the 1990s paved the way for Trump, who is at least trying to get the USA free of wars that should never have been started. And 1990s errors were deeply tied to an unreasonable belief in the power of Spontaneous Politics.
In a complex society where people can think freely, they also need binding rules. Preferably binding rules chosen by the will of the majority, but that condition did not apply till the last few centuries. Was not even very popular. And people in China accept their system of one-party rule. See it as doing at least as good a job as the West in implementing the wishes of the majority.
We cannot return to tribalism. And if we look at what tribalism mostly was, we should not wish to.
Tribal customs certainly work, because most tribalists would feel emotional pain at the thought of breaking them. Might also fear bad luck, or a bad afterlife, or both. This gets confused with a voluntary and rational decision that looking after the ‘common’ is the right thing to do.
Prawns But Not Honeybees?
All of us are constrained by our culture. As a typical Anglo, I’d be disgusted by the thought of eating bees in honey. Yet some cultures count this and other insects a delicacy. And I am fond of honey with the insects out of sight and out of mind. I eat prawns, even though I am aware that they feed on what is politely known as ‘detritus’.
Why do we get ‘tragedies of the Commons’? Because in the real world, a ‘voluntary and rational decision to look after the common interest’ is not the same as actually doing it.
It depends on what it costs you to stick to rules you agree with.
Or what you can gain by doing something you’d see as wrong.
Most of us are guilty on occasions. Including me.
It would be nice if we could have a happy and peaceful world without either a state with harsh enforcement or a culture that enforces controls that are not automatically part of Human Nature.
It would also be nice if no one died before they had their full three score and ten years of generally healthy life.
I see the one as no more likely than the other.
And how could it be done?
If there were some simple mental conditioning that would cure paedophiles without particularly harming them, I’m sure there would be overwhelming support for using it. Almost as much for enforcing it on anyone who had offended. And some for screening the entire population and curing potential criminals.
What about ‘curing’ those who are transsexual or transgender? A lot more controversial.
Or homosexuality? Treating it as a condition needing cure would be beyond the pale nowadays. But in the past, Anglo society supported the use of Behavioural Therapy, and some homosexuals volunteered for it.
It turned out to be entirely useless: cures for drinking or gambling sometimes worked, but changing basic sexual orientation didn’t. And meantime cultural values were shifting.
Supposed cures claimed by religious extremists are probably just cases of bisexuals who somehow discovered their homosexual side first, perhaps by being shy of the opposite sex. You do get ‘latent heterosexuals’: people who start off with their own sex but then unexpectedly find love and successful intercourse with someone of the opposite sex.
Looking more widely, it is an interesting thought that if it were possible to change homosexuals into heterosexuals, it would also be possible to change the entire population into bisexuals. Or even confirmed homosexuals, perhaps to reduce the population if climate change got really bad.
It probably will become technically possible, within the next 50 or 100 years. And another option might be to make everyone Polyamorous: free with either sex and without jealousy or exclusiveness.
Or abolish sexual desire altogether. Let both sexes mature with minimal sexual development, and use medical means to make babies. Have children raised in wider communities untroubled by the common disputes caused by sexual desire, or the lack of it.
I have no idea what the human race will do when this becomes possible. Quite possibly fragment into different groups doing it their own way. And if by then we have space colonies, which seems likely, people with different life-styles could safely live apart.
And I am rather glad that it won’t be my problem.
Confident that you’d get violent disagreements if you started a debate on these issues among people who claimed to be firm believers in Spontaneous Politics.
There is a big difference between thinking enforcement would be a good idea, and doing something about it.
This applies to law-and-order issues, as well as to sex.
A few years back, I had an issue about my possible personal obligation for preventing crime. The late Christopher Tolkien was giving a private reading of a short unfinished piece called “The New Shadow“, at a gathering called Oxonmoot. Its existence was long rumoured, but it had not previously been available even to members of the Tolkien Society, at that time very close to the family. This unfinished work would have been a sequel to The Lord of the Rings, but might have disappointed. You can freely read it now in a collection called The Peoples of Middle-earth, but then it was confidential. And I noticed someone covertly recording the reading of the unpublished work with a video camera hidden in a briefcase.
I saw and I disapproved and I did nothing. I did not want to disrupt a happy gathering. Nor to harm a person who probably would deserve it.
I could not see that anyone would be hurt much by this illegal recording.
I’d never be a good law enforcer. I sympathise. I think about moral issues, without being sure of the answer.
One thing I thought about was the much-debated Trolley Problem. This is an argument about whether it would be proper to intentionally kill one person in order to save the lives of five others. It is not usually put like that, and I found a striking lack of reaction when I made a detailed argument about it in an amateur philosophy magazine. I called it Critique of Pure Murder, and I have recently posted it for anyone interested.
I’d never be a good law enforcer. But I am very glad that I live in a society where good law enforcers exist.
I assume that good law enforcers are not troubled by the complex thoughts I keep having. I am also below average at reading people: someone who’d not spot a policeman unless they were wearing a blue uniform. Nor a criminal, unless they were making a display, and some displays are just that. It is not something that fits me.
My own involvement is hardly needed.
And I don’t call them necessarily bad for being tough on enforcement.
They also see the victims, a point I saw made in a book by an ex-policeman. Crime caper films mostly avoid showing victims, or else nothing very bad happens.
The Tolkien case I mentioned is one of just two where I actually might have had a role. The other was a car behaving oddly at the time of the IRA bombs in London: I take it personally when places I know get bombed. And it probably was a plain-clothes policeman ignoring traffic rules, but I felt obliged to report it to uniformed police officers, just in case.
Beyond that, nothing. If some of my Irish friends have done things the police would be interested in, no one has told me anything specific.
But why do we have such feelings?
Two Brothers or Eight Cousins
J B S Haldane once said
“‘I would lay down my life for two brothers or eight cousins’. He was referring to the fact that our siblings on average share 50% of our genes. That our cousins would on average share 12.5%.”
Or at least it’s said he said it, though only in a pub conversation. And apparently the exact maths can be disputed.
But it is a neat summary of something known as Kin Selection. The reason why biology has produced species where individuals help each other without clear return. Sometimes even die for each other.
And to get technical, the maths suggest that yourself and two brothers should be counted as being of equal value, assuming that you have no sense of your self-identity. Which appears true of insects and other simple animals. True for all plants, fungi, microbes, and bacteria, as far as we know.
Among humans, a man who calculated that he had a 97% of dying along with a 98% chance of saving 2 brothers or 8 cousins should do it. And there are people, mostly right-wing economists, who do solemnly perform such calculations for humans. Do so under the impression that this is some Deep Truth. And are useful fools for the Greedy Rich.
Haldane put it as sacrificing yourself for others. Less often mentioned is that the logic of Natural Selection also means a man should be ready to sacrifice three cousins for one brother. Or many strangers for just one cousin.
This is not unlike what real humans generally do when under pressure. And are particularly likely to do in societies where there is blood vengeance rather than an external and coercive system of law.
You can find a nice account in the Icelandic Sagas, historic novels written in early mediaeval times and based on real family histories. The Christian Church seems to have supressed most such literature, when it was trying to eliminate actual blood-feuds. The survival of Beowulf may well be due to it being about monster-killing rather than feuds between humans. A similar bias was probably present in the two collections of stories in Welsh that are available in English as The Mabinogion, though these do include brutal feuds and also rape and some most peculiar sex.
There have not been many popularisations of the Icelandic Sagas, nor anything much good that I’ve come across. I’d rate Hrolf Kraki’s Saga by SF writer Poul Anderson as the best for anyone who can’t tackle the complex and confusing sagas themselves. But I feel a lot better could be done.
Feel also that our culture resists seeing the past patterns of irregular state-free violence as they actually were.
Kin Selection has shaped our nature. But humans can do better. We have done better, but have a long way to go.
Kin Selection also got twisted out of all recognition by Professor Dawkins in his famous book, The Selfish Gene.
Twisted to make it appear to favour selfish New Right ideas rather than socialism.
If you imagine genes as selfish entities, then their motivation would include pushing us to acts that we class as unselfish.
Except that Professor Dawkins would not seriously argue that genes had motivation. No biologist would seriously believe this, though you do find them sometimes slipping into thinking like that. Such as asking why a particular type of Green Algae went to immense efforts to develop new organs and become our familiar land plants. Natural Selection says that there was no motivation and no foresight. The door was open, and one group of green algae mindlessly blundered through it.
We can be confident that it was just one, because all land plants retain an odd system of sex and reproduction:
“’Alternation of generations’ in the life cycle is thus between a diploid generation of sporophytes and a haploid generation of gametophytes.”
We and most other animals are diploid, two sets of genes. Our eggs and sperm are haploid, but don’t have a life of their own. But a few animals and all land plants have them as independent organisms.
Mosses have the gametophyte dominant. For ferns it is the sporophytes, but there is a little dependant plant that is the gametophyte. For more familiar plants, the gametophyte is not visible, and was found only when botanists investigated in detail.
If you imagine humans reproducing in the manner of ferns, adults would produce tiny mouse-like creatures, both male and female. These would find each other, fuse and produce a new baby.
There might be alien intelligent species that do something like that, and it would make a good SF story.
And if you ask why plants use this bizarre system, it was a feature of the group of algae that blundered through the open door that led to land plants. And similar things exist elsewhere. A group called the cnidaria and which include jellyfish have a basic pattern of swimming medusae and sessile polyps.
There is also a strange creature called the ‘Portuguese man o’ war’. It is actually a collection of individual creatures acting as one. Three types of medusas and four types of polyps. If these had brains, the creature would have an identity crisis.
If your weather-forecaster spoke of angry thunderstorms, you’d not see this as very rational. And yet to think of thunderstorms as dangerous but useful makes sense. You need the rain. It is a good actual predictor of how you should view thunder. Whereas Dawkins merely misleads.
Selfishness is something that simply does not exist except for organisms that live socially. It is not the same as being asocial: the rare condition in which an individual genuinely does not see why they should care about others. A category invented by the Nazis, sadly, but it has now gained neutral status. But it arose when they were rounding up everyone they disapproved of, and trying to change those they counted as Nordic enough to be possibly redeemable for their New Germany. And found that some of them really did not care.
The Wiki says “Asociality refers to the lack of motivation to engage in social interaction, or a preference for solitary activities.” It distinguishes it from someone who is anti-social, seeking to do harm. The Oxford English Dictionary treats the two as overlapping, but I find the Wiki more reasonable on this.
Both are distinct from sociopathic types, who absolutely have to interact but also seek to selfishly dominate. Sociopaths are mostly OK for as long as they can dominate.
And none of this has anything to do with genes. The asocial individual usually understands what social duties are, but does not wish to be part of them. The selfish person also understands, but chooses which duties to respect and which to ignore, based in part on a desire not to pay the cost of being seen as selfish. But all of that implies a conscious mind. Science insists that genes merely give the impression of choice, based on Natural Selection.
Dawkins would not say otherwise. So in his later books, he tried arguing that when he said ‘selfish genes’ he meant something else.
But ‘selfish’ is an emotionally loaded word. And one that was calculated to boost the politics of the New Right.
Just imagine someone claiming that all Tories are cannibals, and then tried excusing it by saying that their policies consumed the lives of others. Admitted that there was no evidence that Tories were particularly likely to devour human flesh, but still felt that it was true ‘in a sense’.
It would be interesting if some Experimental Psychologist should try this as an exercise. Do it for one of two imaginary and otherwise neutral political parties in some imagined countries. Present the cannibal slur, freely say that it was biased, but then record opinions on the imagined parties. Compare it to another group given exactly the same details without the slur.
I am confident that a strong bias would be found. Also that those who had been biased would deny it – the slur was known to be false.
Or you could use a media trick. ‘Several leading Tory politicians are reported to have been guilty of cannibalism, though this has also been denied’.
Similar tricks are often floated in the real-life media. Float an unproven and perhaps unlikely story as ‘reported’, but only if it suits the ends of the rich individuals who own most of the media.
Another cultural bias: one of Dawkins’ books is called A Devil’s Chaplain, based on a remark made privately by Charles Darwin:
“What a book a devil’s chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low and horridly cruel works of nature!”
This feeds into the idea that predatory capitalism is somehow natural. An idea that also suited Darwin, whose family was rich from investments based on an oppressive factory system that they were comfortably distanced from.
And it’s the wrong analogy. Just as bad as Selfish Genes or Angry Thunderstorms.
If you wanted to put Natural Selection into human form, you’d need to think of it as The Japes of a Callous Jester. Not intentionally cruel but also not avoiding cruelty and injustice. Producing horrors, jests and also great beauty and harmony
Nature rambles and the moon don’t care. That’s how I see it.
Also why we need a state machine that enforces the duty of care. Individual human virtue is excellent, but in itself it is never enough.
Please Be Spontaneously Obedient
I did it my way.
They did it their way.
No one could agree.
No one liked the outcome.
Everyone blamed somebody else.
This is what normally happens when freedom-loving people form a spontaneous movement on the shared slogan of liberation.
Current orthodoxy says it must all be spontaneous and leaderless.
Current orthodoxy is foolish.
Lynch mobs are often spontaneous and leaderless.
Graffiti are a mix of vanity, racism and crude sexual slurs. Admirable graffiti are very much the exception.
Human communities work by living with a consensus that can be enforced on important matters. Expecting the vast majority to do a single thing is a hope that fails most of the time.
Where it succeeds in its immediate aims, as with the various Colour Revolutions, you should suspect Hidden Hands behind everything that looks spontaneous and leaderless.
Safely predict that the Long Result will not be what the spontaneous protestors were spontaneously hoping for.
And sadly foresee that they may then bitterly blame people just slightly different from themselves, with civil war a possible outcome.
In Ukraine, the President elected with great enthusiasm in 2014 after the Second Orange Revolution was thrown out with disgust in the 2019 election.
Much the same as happened after the First Orange Revolution.
The Western media downplay the awkward fact that a clear majority in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine refused to be ruled from a Kiev government. That a majority living there dislike and fear people who make heroes of right-wing Ukrainian Nationalists. People who began and ended the war fighting for Hitler, even though they also fought him in the middling period.
Those who complain about a messy referendum in Crimea stop short of asking for a second and decisive vote. They must sensibly assume this would be lost. That it would undermine all of the fog and darkness spread by the Western media. Media with selective support for just those popular uprisings that look likely to produce a government more obedient to the Anglosphere.
That is the reality of ‘spontaneous action’.
Legality was ignored in the removal of the Ukrainian President who had been duly elected by voters disheartened by mediocre outcomes from the First Orange Revolution. It broke Ukraine’s own constitution. They had a proper Impeachment Process, and it did not allow removal by a simple majority in the legislature. But this was whitewashed by the Western media.
It was also a foolish rule to copy. The rule that keeps Trump in office. And his election needed a bizarre ‘Electoral College’ that gave him victory despite Hillary Clinton getting nearly three million votes more than him. That had previously empowered Bush Junior, despite oddities in voting in Florida and the confirmed fact that Al Gore won the popular vote by more than half a million.
And liberal opinion in the USA is much less vocal about this than you’d expect. Had they constantly mocked Trump as ‘elected in defiance of normal democracy’, pressure for change would have built up. But perhaps ‘centrists’ who’d count as right-wing in most Western societies see the present system as a lesser evil.
Both the USA and Britain have resisted any form of Proportional Representation. Almost every other country with multi-party democracy has it. But the lack of it makes the pro-establishment Centrists more powerful.
Radicals tend to overlook electoral reform. They hope that it will all be won by spontaneous action.
Embarrassingly, Trump’s supporters are just as much a case of spontaneous action.
Trump is a traditional US White Racist, not a Fascist. But Fascism was a right-wing reaction to real failures.
When the Establishment has a toxic and failed answer, this does not mean that ‘The People’ will suddenly See It All and demand a better world.
Many will opt for the Far-Right, and make things worse.
Fascism did succeed with its peacetime economics. It was also socially regressive, and might have successfully rolled back the values of the European Enlightenment.
Rolled them back as happened in Iran after the Shah fell. Rolled them back in the chaos the West inflicted on Arab countries by overthrowing secular autocratic regimes. Rolled back by the unwelcome spontaneous will of the majority in democratic elections in Turkey and in the Republic of India.
Fascism might have worked. It killed itself in Germany and Italy by a false belief in war as ennobling. And the Nazi delusion that they might have still won World War One had there not been a rebellion on the Home Front. Germany in 1918 had managed a last grand offensive after making peace with Soviet Russia, but the delayed arrival of huge US forces turned the tide and they could not have lasted long.
But vast numbers of Germans believed otherwise. And spontaneously believed that it was down to Jews, with right-wing Jewish Capitalists and bitter left-wing rivals in the Socialists and Communists all secretly working together.
Spontaneous means that people do things their way. Which need not be your way.
Yet the idea is seductive. It plays on things we would like to believe.
The Bank That Broke The Man
There was a popular song about ‘The Man Who Broke The Bank at Monty Carlo’.
No songs about ‘The Bank Which Broke The Man’, because that is all too familiar.
It is anyway a spoof. Monty Carlo uses an odd system that allowed it:
“The expression ‘breaking the bank’ is used when a gambler wins more money than the reserve held at that particular table in the casino. At the start of each day, every table was funded with a cash reserve of 100,000 francs – known as ‘the bank’. If this reserve was insufficient to pay the winnings, play at that table was suspended while extra funds were brought out from the casino’s vaults.
“In a ceremony devised by Francois Blanc, the original owner of the casino, a black cloth was laid over the table in question, and the successful player was said to have broken the bank. After an interval the table re-opened and play continued.”
I take it to be one of many tricks that help make losers feel like winners.
I’d like to criminalise gambling. Having it run by crooks is a much lesser evil than having it legal. Less harmful than making it easily accessible by people who’d show a sensible caution about mixing with criminals.
Likewise drugs, though maybe Marijuana Clubs for licensed use would be a solution. Oblige them to look after their members, which would limit the problems some users get.
And I’m all for free supply to existing addicts. Accept that not all will ever cure themselves, so avoid a lot of suffering and crime by letting them stay mired in chemical dependence. But stop it spreading.
Yes, it is a limit on freedom.
But so are all other possible social arrangements. It is unfair to single out the Soviet system.
The big error of Western socialism is to think that something ‘went wrong’ in the Soviet Union. And that the ‘errors’ began with Stalin.
What actually happened was that Lenin grabbed unlimited power in the spontaneous chaos produced by an unexpected Revolution that overthrew the Tsar.
People now sometimes admire the February Revolution, because it produced no positive results that anyone can complain about.
Incidentally, that spontaneous revolution was ‘February’ because it began on February 23rd by the Russian Orthodox calendar, which hung onto the imperfect reform of the Pagan Roman calendar made by Julius Caesar. It was 8th March by a system introduced by Ugo Boncompagni, Pope Gregory the 13th. A system that is now the global standard, and is in line with the apparent position of the sun in the skies of Earth.
Lenin’s October Revolution – actually November by the global standard calendar they soon adopted – had some justification in ignoring a Duma that had been elected in 1912. Elected by a system rigged to give most power to the rich. And votes to men only, of course, but that was the norm everywhere that had voting back in 1917. Britain in 1917 still had a system giving votes to just 60% of men in the British Isles, and probably a minority in Ireland. None to women. No significant powers for the non-white inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent, or anywhere else where there was not a clear majority who would be classed by racists as part of the Superior White Race.
But Lenin ignored the normal socialist aim of producing a fully democratised version of Western parliamentarianism. No intention of allowing a system he could not dominate. When the Constituent Assembly gave a clear majority to the incoherent Social-Revolutionary Party, he had the Assembly dissolved after meeting for just 13 hours.
Defying the Will of the People? The vote was overwhelmingly for some sort of socialism. Liberals got about 5%, including most of the Jewish votes, despite the spectacular presence of many Jews in the Bolshevik leadership. But Lenin preferred to rule in the name of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, where Bolsheviks obedient to Lenin had a comfortable majority. A majority helped by an electoral oddity that had urban delegates elected by a smaller number of voters than the regions used for rural votes.
If there was a tragedy, it was the later uprising against this multi-party Soviet system, which might have made a fine and open system of government. Under pressure, Lenin increasingly criminalised all political opposition.
The importance of the suppression of the Kronstadt rebellion gets exaggerated: most of the revolutionaries of 1917 were elsewhere and most accepted the need to suppress the revolt. The uprising was by their replacements. But it was part of a suppression of spontaneous action within the Russian Revolution.
A decision to become a sometimes-squalid success, rather than yet another heroic failure.
Trotsky went along with this at the time. Was continuously authoritarian, until it became clear that the Party would not accept him as its leader after Lenin’s death. He then adopted the language of spontaneous democracy, but without apologising for his actual behaviour when in power. A double-mindedness and dishonesty that has infected his political heirs.
Stalin was Lenin’s genuine heir. Very good at achieving sometimes-squalid success.
Notably the defeat of Nazism. The USA had the wealth and industrial strength to do it without the Soviets, but not a willingness to sacrifice millions of their young men for a foreign cause.
The USA lost 419,400, 0.32% of their population, in a war that was clearly being won after the first few difficult months. Britain lost 450,900, 0.94%, not counting the Empire. Finland lost 2.62% after a series of changes of alignment that did save them as an independent state. Austria lost 5.56%. Germany (1937 borders) lost 8.23%. And the Soviet Union lost 13.7%: 10 million military and another 16 million from Nazi massacres and abuse.
I don’t think the USA would have accepted many more deaths in a foreign war, particularly if Nazi Germany had conquered as far as the Urals and gained vast new supplies of food and raw materials.
To justify my belief that the USA would not have suffered very much more than they actually did suffer, I made an estimate of what the USA lost in other wars, using data from the Wiki:
|Census||Population||War Deaths||Per Million||Percent|
|American War of Independence||1780||2,780,400||82,000||29,492.2||2.9492|
|War of 1812||1810||7,239,881||15,000||2,071.9||0.2072|
|US Civil War||1860||31,443,321||1,000,000||31,803.3||3.1803|
|Indian Wars (1811–1924)||1880||50,189,209||6,596||131.4||0.0131|
|World War One||1920||106,021,537||116,708||1,100.8||0.1101|
|World War Two||1940||132,164,569||419,400||3,173.3||0.3173|
|First Gulf War||1990||248,709,873||292||1.2||0.0001|
|War in Afghanistan||2000||281,421,906||2,419||8.6||0.0009|
|Second Gulf War||2000||281,421,906||238||0.8||0.0001|
|Occupation of Iraq||2010||308,745,538||4,491||14.5||0.0015|
For wars before the 20th century, the Wiki had high and low estimates. I used the high, since it was worse for the case I was making. No doubt better estimates could be made, but the overall picture would be unlikely to change.
What’s notable is how much more willing to suffer the inhabitants of North America were, when it was their own immediate future that was being decided. In the 1780s and 1860s, it was not a war you could go home from. It was the fate of that home that was the issue.
But their ‘Civil War’ could also be seen as a failed War of Independence for the South. There were some in the North who wanted to say ‘Depart In Peace, Erring Sisters’. Who thought there was a right of secession, even though most disliked slavery.
The North always had the option of ending the war with the core of the Confederacy left as an independent and slave-holding state.
According to ‘History Wall Charts’, the Confederacy had a population in 1861 of just over nine million, but the free population was just 5,582,205. These suffered 94,000 killed in action, and another 164,000 died of sickness – a total of 254,000. 5.2% casualties. (And I’d suppose that ‘sickness’ includes those who died of the long-term effects of wounds.)
The Union after secession had 22 million, including a few slaves in slaves states that did not secede. A free population of 21,650,993. 110,070 killed in action and 250,152 died of sickness – a total of 360,222. That is a mere 1.66%.
In the Union, there was all along a large body of opinion that wanted some sort of peace short of total victory. Many historians think that had Grant not captured Vicksburg, gaining complete possession of the Mississippi and cutting the Confederacy in two, Abraham Lincoln would have lost the 1864 election. That some sort of compromise would have been made.
US citizens tend to be brave in the face of immediate danger. And can stick with a war that is clearly being won. But in Korea, and much more clearly in Vietnam, they showed that they would not stick with a war that cost them lives and seemed to be going nowhere.
Had not the Soviet Union been driving the Nazi forces back and back on the Eastern Front before Allies forces landed in Western Europe, the war could easily have bogged down. That’s even assuming that the Allies could have got a foothold without two-thirds of the German Army fighting on the Eastern Front through to the bitter end.
Without the Soviet Union doing most of the dying, it is hard to see how the USA could have defeated Nazi Germany without maybe 4 million casualties, just over 3% of the population as it then was. Nearly ten times their actual losses.
It is very unlikely they would have endured pain on that scale.
US Acts of Abandonment
It’s a confirmed historic fact that the USA abandoned South Vietnam, and the right-wing Khmer Republic they had created. Resisted various earlier schemes for a compromise peace that would have been obviously less than a US success.
Until the bitter end, most US citizens could not accept the notion that they could actually lose a war. Even critics of the system often evade it. Thus in Joe Haldeman’s 1974 military science fiction novel ‘The Forever War’, we are told that the Vietnam War ‘faded away’, which would have been a limited success like Korea, with the USA saving their half of a divided country. And in his 1994 Vietnam War novel ‘1968’, he insists on seeing the Tet Offensive as a failure for Hanoi.
Japan and Nazi Germany were probably not wrong in thinking that the USA’s capacity for suffering was less than theirs. They just underestimated it, and also underestimated US military efficiency once they got used to war.
Ho Chi Minh accurately assessed both.
The leaders of the USA also preferred to let their discarded allies suffer, rather than conciliate Vietnam and the restored Cambodia by offering them aid if US associates got decent treatment. They found various pretexts to sit back and let atrocities happen, which they could afterwards make good propaganda about. Something to sell to the voters, who are less callous and therefore are continuously deceived.
In World War Two, the right-wing Polish underground got out accurate reports of the Death Camps in Occupied Poland. Bombing the rail links to the Death Camps would certainly have hampered mass extermination. The leaders of both the USA and the British Empire decided it would be too much trouble.
Churchill as leader of the British Empire also decided to let millions of Bengalis starve in 1943. And did not expect this to lead to the actual collapse of loyalty by Indian subjects who had supposed that it was an Empire they were part of.
World War Two was largely a victorious war for the USA, unlike Britain and most of Europe. They did suffer a string of defeats by the Japanese, beginning with the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. But the Battle of Midway in June 1942 reversed the balance. And the Guadalcanal campaign from August 1942 was the first of a series of almost unbroken US advances against what Japan then held.
Now imagine that the Soviet Union had collapsed or capitulated within a few months of the June 1941 invasion, as was widely expected. Germany now has the oil of the Caucasus. It also has plenty of other raw materials and food. It might allow a puppet Russian state in Siberia, or perhaps more widely. Regardless, it now has land communication with Japan, which had long held Manchuria. German troops could be sent across Asia to help Japan conquer China, where the Kuomintang might anyway be more inclined to surrender. And that is assuming that Britain still has the will to fight on and keep Germany’s large fleet out of the Atlantic.
Or if the war in the Soviet Union just stagnates, as did Japan’s invasion of China, it would still have needed a much deeper commitment from the USA than any previous war to have actually defeated Hitler. No country has an unlimited willingness to suffer, and nor did any ever ‘fight to the last man’. Apart from the wars on its own soil to determine their own future, the USA did not otherwise lose more than one in two hundred. (0.5% or 5000 per million.)
The Wiki shows 290,000 Confederate military dead, of whom 26,000–31,000 died in Union prisons. On the Union side, with four times the population, 25,000–30,000 of these died in Confederate prisons, according to the Wiki. Both sides ran their prisoner-of-war camps badly.
Another odd detail – their Civil War initially had captured troops exchanged one for one, for soldiers of the same rank. This broke down because the Confederates refused to return Afro-Americans fighting for the Union.
“Lacking means for dealing with large numbers of captured troops early in the American Civil War, the Union and Confederate governments both relied on the traditional European system of parole and exchange of prisoners. A prisoner who was on parole promised not to fight again until his name was “exchanged” for a similar man on the other side. Then both of them could rejoin their units. While awaiting exchange, prisoners were briefly confined to permanent camps. The exchange system broke down in mid-1863 when the Confederacy refused to treat captured black prisoners as equal to white prisoners. The prison populations on both sides then soared.”
Given their smaller numbers, this was one of numerous blunders they made on wider matters. Only in purely military matters were they superior, in part because mostly Southern officers had been favoured before the Civil War, probably because the mostly-Southern leadership knew it might come to Civil War.
I’d see it as part of the same errors shown with Trump and Covid-19. Cause and effect are illusions. We do the right thing, and God will give us immediate material rewards.
This makes perfect sense, if you believe in the sort of Interventionist God that religions traditionally claimed to represent. Which is why I am an atheist. Why I see the mass of lukewarm believers as people on the road to atheism, and getting there slowly.
If some Higher Being chose to create the known universe more than 13,000,000,000 years ago, Thatself evidently left it to run itself ever since.
Or if there was some Will of God that prevented the worse sort of errors, as some like to believe, then Stalin’s role would have to be accepted as part of that Will.
A War For Democracy?
World War Two was a victory for democracy.
A victory that would not have happened without the Soviet Union.
Current Western histories of World War Two play down the Soviet Role. And play up the role of the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact in starting it.
Almost everyone agrees that Hitler was determined to start a war, one way or another.
Historians also mostly agree that he wanted Poland as an ally in conquering the Soviets, if they would just be reasonable and give him the overwhelmingly-Germany city of Danzig. This mostly gets left out of popular accounts, but after extensive reading I have not found anyone who would actually deny it.
It was one of many things that might have happened, or at least seemed possible.
A more modest man than Hitler would have realised that it was hopeless to expect Poles to accept your notion of ‘reasonable’ if their own sense of Polishness said otherwise.
He could have delayed the issue, and hoped to solve it later as part of a wider deal that gave Poland land in the Ukraine that had been Polish in the 18th century.
Instead he offered Stalin an unexpected lifeline, at a time when he must have been worried by the prospect of all the enemies of the Soviet Union combining against it.
Hitler was an arrogant fool, but also came close to succeeding. The West turned out to be much weaker than it seemed on paper. Poland collapsed with astonishing speed, thanks to new methods of tank warfare invented by Britons but rejected by most senior commanders.
He was anyway likely to start some sort of war in the next few years. Had Stalin not accepted Hitler’s unexpected decision to first risk a war with the West, the likely outcome would have been a war much less favourable to the Soviet cause.
Much less favourable to the gigantic shift to the left that occurred after the war. The winding-up of colonial empires and several decades of improved social welfare and economic security. An improvement now almost written out of history by the New Right, and also by Trotskyists and others who like to downplay success by rivals on the left.
Actual democracy was not well advanced in Europe before World War Two. The rituals of multi-party electoral politics were carried through in a number of countries, but mostly failed to meet the actual wishes of those living there. And most of them ruled huge non-white populations, denied democracy and generally classed as Racial Inferiors.
Even within Europe, there were vast inequalities of class, mostly inherited. And a widespread view among ordinary people that they were Lower Classes and ought to trust the Ruling Class to rule. This was weaker in the USA, but still very strong by modern standards. US voters in the 1950s would not have considered electing anyone other than a White Male, and mostly confirming to the norms of what was seen as the superior Nordic Branch of the Superior White Race.
This was weakening but still significant in the 1960s, with the Catholic faith of John F. Kennedy a real issue. And is visible in imagined worlds presented in early versions of science fiction like Star Trek and Star Wars, as I detailed earlier.
Would this have happened without the Soviet Union being first an admired ally, and then a feared rival? While there were people who genuinely wanted to be nice to women and non-whites and to free Asian peasants in non-Communist Asia from the burdens of landlordism, I am sure there were many more who acted out of fear of losing the Cold War.
Let’s suppose that Hitler’s surprise push through the Ardennes had been anticipated and ended with a German defeat, rather than the Fall of France. Most likely Hitler would have been overthrown and replaced by a right-wing military government, the people who tried overthrowing him near the end of the war. German Jews would have survived, and perhaps got back some civil rights. Poland might have been restored as a smaller nation and without the Polish Corridor. But it would not have been a victory for democracy. Most of Europe east of Berlin had some sort of right-wing dictatorship, including Poland, which was also hostile to Jews who would not covert.
Democracy advanced after 1945, only because the war went otherwise.
The actual war saw the bulk of the fighting done by the Soviet Union. And much of the rest by the USA, which was at the time a left-wing influence on the British Empire. It was only after Britain and much of the rest of Western Europe had moved a long way left that the USA became a defender of surviving right-wing values.
Western Europe moved left because the Soviet Union was there as a grand alternative. Popular among intellectuals in Britain. Popular and with gigantic pro-Moscow Communist parties in many countries, notably Italy and France.
The French Communist Party peaked at 28.6% in 1946. It could still get a fifth of the votes as late as 1978.
The Italian Communist Party peaked at 31% in 1948, and got just over a quarter of the vote in 1987. Dissolved itself and then its successor parties declined after the Soviet collapse.
Those looking back at the ‘golden years’ or relative stability and social justice in the 1950s and 1960s mostly don’t credit it to sheer fear by the capitalists of a global alternative that Moscow-Centred Leninism offered. Yet the raw facts suggest just that.
But the world changed. The Soviet Union lost its way and its friends fell away. And in line with the revival of Ideological Capitalism and Anti-Socialism, people were subtly persuaded that it had mostly been the USA that won the war.
Could Hitler have been defeated if the Soviet Union had not been toughened and industrialised by Stalin? The USA had the flesh and the metal to do it, certainly. But the ‘flesh’ had views of its own: a majority in the USA might have grown weary had the war dragged on.
Nor was it a matter of socialism somehow winning despite Stalin’s errors. Socialists are mostly not good at warfare, and few can point to any success at waging it. Apart from the Lenin-Stalin tradition, the only successes I can think of are movements like the IRA, where nationalism is the main motivator.
In 1945, the USA was much more distant from Soviet values than they were by 1989.
Part of the reason for the Soviet collapse was that it was not clear why they were maintaining the authoritarian party system that Lenin had invented as a way of overthrowing Tsarist Russia. And that he decided to make a global model after the immense destruction of World War One.
You could think of Leninism as a militarised version of socialism. Justified for the world it had to operate in originally. But whereas Chinese Leninism relaxed when it was safe to do so, Moscow prevented a similar relaxation when it was possible in the 1960s and 1970s. Lost much of its credibility by invading Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968.
Had Moscow shifted to a more relaxed authoritarian system, as China did, the Soviet Union might still be fast-growing and flourishing.
The Man Who Broke the Banks
Without the Soviet Union, and without the ruthless industrialisation and tricky politics that Stalin opted for, a Nazi victory would have been almost certain. Or at best, a compromise peace that left Nazi Germany intact and dominating Continental Europe.
The European Parliament recently declared the Soviets guilty of World War Two, for having made a brief non-aggression pact with the Nazis. A pact which happened after years of the West letting Nazi Germany grow strong. Hitler was weak when he re-militarised the Rhineland, and would have backed down if challenged.
And the Soviets suspected this was all to make a Nazi Germany strong enough to destroy the Soviet Union. So Stalin countered to shape another sort of war.
He was the man who broke the banks, in as far as this has ever been achieved in the real world. The banks and bankers later came back, but that was after his heirs made the weird decision to bad-mouth the man who had created their state. Or to leave the status of Stalin as a matter on which thought was forbidden, after Brezhnev and his colleagues overthrew Khrushchev.
Gave credibility to a fading Trotskyist movement. One that then absorbed many of the best minds of 1960s radicalism, but failed to do anything useful with them. Remained marginal, whereas organisations like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth grew to vast influence.
Would-be revolutionaries who fail have made a habit of blaming those who dare to succeed. Put enormous efforts into arguing that every successful left-winger was actually a brutal bungler who made things worse.
And then are surprised when they themselves fail.
They let the 1930s Western Establishment look much better than it should, by not recognising what Stalin and mainstream Communism were actually up against.
In Problems 42 – Britain’s Pro-Fascist Past, I show in detail how the Tories tried to use Hitler against Stalin. How they then hoped to keep Fascist Italy neutral or even fighting with them once they were finally fighting Hitler. Only when these options failed did it become an anti-Fascist war.
I’ve yet to see anyone outside of Neo-Nazi circles dare to argue that Hitler would have kept the peace indefinitely, had Stalin not made that non-aggression pact. For certain, it shaped the war in a way that gave the Soviet cause the best hope of survival.
And in fact shifted world politics a long way to the left.
On many issues, the USA in World War Two occupied the middle ground between the British Empire and the Soviet Union. They demanded a new world: a world somewhat like the world we got. A world very unlike the world of the 1930s.
And then in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s?
For as long as the Soviet Union was a strong challenger, left-wing spontaneous action was allowed many victories in the West.
Many people mistook this for something inevitable.
The Last Days of US Hegemony
The Anglo core of Western civilisation drew all of the wrong lessons from the weakening of the Soviet Union in the 1970s.
And from the opening-up of People’s China in the same era.
The Soviet collapse was actually a triumph for the Mixed Economy and Welfare State. It should have been credited to the semi-socialist measures that the West had adopted in the 1940s.
Adopted because Classical Capitalism had failed. Had proved inferior to both Fascism and Leninism, until it absorbed many of their ideas about welfare and economic controls.
The West managed to do this without any unusual amount of repression, because it was mostly done during war or under the threat of war.
People cite Orwell a lot, and seem never to read his wider writings. Or read him with their brains switched off, as Christopher Hitchens did.
On issues like racial equality and equality for women, Orwell had a much more old-fashioned attitude than his enemies in the British Communist Party.
Orwell was often on the wrong side in the fight to create the modern world. But he did recognise that the old order had failed. He insisted it would have to take in a lot of socialism to survive.
In his well-known wartime essay The Lion and the Unicorn, he says:
“What this war has demonstrated is that private capitalism – that is, an economic system in which land, factories, mines and transport are owned privately and operated solely for profit – does not work. It cannot deliver the goods. This fact had been known to millions of people for years past, but nothing ever came of it… The lords of property simply sat on their bottoms and proclaimed that all was for the best. Hitler’s conquest of Europe, however, was a physical debunking of capitalism. War for all its evil, is at any rate an unanswerable test of strength.”
He wrote that in February 1941, well before the invasion of the Soviet Union. Initial Nazi success in that invasion was down to them having had several years experience of war of a wholly new sort. But once the Soviet army had adjusted, the Soviet system proved much stronger.
Orwell preferred to see it otherwise. Later in 1941, he said clearly that he saw it as a confirmed new world despite a government still dominated by Tories:
“If there is one thing in the world that is certain, it is that capitalistic democracy in its present form cannot survive…
“When I am writing for a predominantly socialist public, I hardly need to point out the structural weaknesses of capitalist democracy that will force it to change or perish. I prefer to insist on certain weaknesses which are inflicted on us by the hedonistic principle, and by the fact that in a democracy people are called on to vote upon things which in practice they know nothing about.”
I’ve always insisted that what came back after World War Two was not capitalism but the Mixed Economy. It did allow malignant capitalist elements to flourish, but within limits.
There was also no inherent reason why it should have moved on from the White Racism and Male Dominance of the 1950s. Little pressure to do so, if it had not faced the massive global challenge of the Soviet Union.
You might well say, wasn’t the Soviet Union also guiltyof White Racism and Male Dominance? And I’d agree, yes, very imperfect compared to what existed later. But would the later superior forms have existed, without a Soviet threat and the threat of Communism becoming more popular?
The Soviets were still on what we now see as ‘the correct side of history’, until the 1970s.
It was only after the West closed the gap and the Soviet Union supressed its own radicals that it began to decline. But sympathy for the Soviet Union for the decades when it was the main supporter of progressive values was correct.
A certain type of left-winger will say ‘never mind who is less guilty: I will denounce it all’, and feel wonderfully virtuous.’
A certain type of left-winger keeps being surprised that they lose. That public opinion often moves in the wrong direction, mistrusting the socialism that they denounced in versions other than their own. They lose, and never look to the correct answer.
In the same spirit, in the 1970s most socialists vehemently denounced the Mixed Economy as Capitalism. They blocked all left-wing attempts to improve and restart it with Incomes Policy and Workers Control.
They were utterly astonished when Thatcher then won elections by saying that Capitalism was a good thing after all.
The Cause of the New Right
In the 1970s, the Mixed Economy had run into problems. But it was still working much better than Classical Capitalism ever had. Yet the people with both the will and the power to change things were the New Right, who had an ideological fervour against socialism. They were determined to prove that actual Western success in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s was a series of near-catastrophes from which only the marginalised survivals of True Capitalism had saved us.
Classical philosophy is a wonderful storehouse of methods to hide unpleasant truths. To justify rubbish. And the New Right certainly made use of it.
Plato and Aristotle were philosophers of the Classical Greek decline. The change from free City-States dominated by small property-owners into vast kingdoms dominated by the very rich. And it seems to me that they were cheer-leaders for this, under a cover of Higher Morals. Aristotle trained Alexander the Great and most of his generals, after all.
I have never felt they were good sources of workable wisdom. But they remain popular with the right, and some on the left as well.
Plato helped wreck the hopeful development of the Greek city-state of Syracuse, which might have produced a better version of the wider political order that was later created first by Macedonia and then Rome. He also managed to convince himself that disasters created by pupils of his were somehow not his fault. That it was down to reality being unfit to be the vehicle of his Superior Wisdom.
Socrates wrote nothing. The account of his beliefs we get from Xenophon and others differs markedly from Plato. But the same evasion of Off-Message Facts is always there.
From the 1960s, there have been many Off-Message Facts that Western thinkers mostly prefer to dodge.
To seek to roll back history and abolish a successful Mixed Economy system was foolish. But abuse of language was widespread, including on the left.
Lapsed leftists who migrated to the Centre-Right brought with them tremendous confusion of thinking.
They did vastly more damage to the Anglo Hegemony when trying to serve it, than they ever had as leftists seeking to reform or overthrow it.
Years back, I tried to summarise the incoherent thinking behind the slick propaganda:
“The New Right view of 20th century history might run as follows:
“Capitalism, expanding from its original base in Britain, was liberating humanity up until 1914, when it suffered from an inexplicable outbreak of Trench Warfare.
“It bounced back, but then a fairly normal economic slump at the end of the 1920s caused unjustified panic and capitalism was in the 1930s replaced by capitalism.
“After World War Two, in excessive admiration for the Soviet Union after it had merely saved the West from Nazism, there were still more drastic change and capitalism was replaced by capitalism.
“But in the 1980s, Thatcher and Reagan rescued us by replacing capitalism with capitalism. Of course there is still much more that needs to be done to replace capitalism with capitalism in the West.
“China, while owing all of its successes to capitalism, faces all sorts of disasters unless it urgently replaces capitalism with capitalism.
“They don’t put it like that, obviously. But the label ‘capitalist’ is stuck onto almost all of the various political-economic systems that the West has had in the 20th century. It is also applied to the post-Mao system in China, which has actually been changing continuously and has always been massively dominated by central, regional and local government.”
If you start using different names – even calling it ‘Capitalism A’, ‘Capitalism B’ etc., it becomes obvious that it was the versions further from the abstractions of Adam Smith that delivered the best results during the 20th century.
We in the Ernest Bevin Society moved in the 1970s from hard-line Leninism to support for further radical reform within a system that we saw clearly as a useful Mixed Economy.
For us, Incomes Policy and Workers Control were the next steps forward. We felt that the bulk of the left was being suicidal in opposing these.
We didn’t exactly foresee Thatcherism. But when it appeared, we were not hugely surprised. Were in touch with some of her ideologists, who hoped to win us over. One or two individuals defected, but most of us stuck to the original vision.
Nor did we mistake Thatcherism for Real Capitalism. That was the disastrous error of Tony Blair and New Labour, which we also warned against.
It isn’t in fact true that knowledge is power.
Knowledge without power is mostly a set of lost opportunities.
If it is specific hidden knowledge about dangerous people, it can also be fatal. Or lead to a blighted career, if the targets prefer to avoid violence.
More often being ahead of your time counts for little, except that in the future you might be noted as someone who got there ahead of most people. And even that assumes your ideas win out in the long run.
But Power linked to Lack of Knowledge is mostly ruinous.
False Knowledge is even worse. Someone who admits not knowing will seek expert advice. But False Knowledge lets you denounce those who knew what to do at critical moments.
There has been a lot of this with the global Covid-19 crisis. The World Health Organisation gave good advice from early on. Trump ignored them, and then denounced them for not advising him when his blunders became clear. And he could yet get re-elected despite this.
And Trump is just an extreme of what began in the 1980s.
The Thatcher / Reagan line has proved disastrous. The promise of Low Tax and Small Government has not been delivered. All they’ve done is boost the share taken by the rich, in economies that grew rather more slowly overall after their ‘reforms’.
Whatever they intended, Feed-the-Rich has been the reality.
But the abrupt Soviet collapse seemed to vindicate them. Saved them, when the massive economic crisis of 1987 might have led to a quiet move away from New Right dogma.
The 1987 crisis has almost vanished from memory, even though it was cured by massive state spending and a return to the logic of the Mixed Economy. As indeed was the 2008 crisis.
And the Soviet collapse was the failure of the successors of Stalin, not a failure of socialism for all times and all places.
The Soviet Union failed, because Khrushchev and Brezhnev let the planned core of a Wellsian World State decay into a thinly-disguised Russian hegemony .
And because they stagnated on social equality. The West overtook them on sexual equality and equality for non-whites. And decriminalised homosexuality, which they never did.
They had inherited a very strong economy from Stalin. But made the strange decision to replace a coherent economic overall plan with a series of pseudo-markets that were intended to work better.
These actually worked much worse.
There was visible disintegration in the 1970s. But since total socialist planning had worked in previous decades, there was no obvious reason why it should have been abandoned.
Mao’s China with its ultra-collectivised economy also matched the world average, despite hostility from both Superpowers. Western books insinuate otherwise, but never dare give a figure for overall growth. The generally-agreed figures show that growth was healthy despite the errors following the Great Leap Forward. Indeed, those errors happened because of over-confidence after success that had previously seemed impossible for mere Chinese.
The West’s Cold War triumph was down to avoidable errors by Khrushchev and Brezhnev – not least the 1956 invasion of Hungary and 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.
People’s China, which did not make such blunders, is now on course to replace the US as the strongest single power.
And apparently wise enough to realise that a Chinese hegemony is not a serious option. Its culture is unfamiliar to most of the rest of the world. Its spoken language confusing and its written language incomprehensible, without a long and difficult process of learning.
Meantime we face a virtual certainty that the US Hegemony will not survive the current Covid-19 crisis.
But what replaces it might well be worse. That issue still hangs in the balance.
Covid-19 – Liberation from Awkward Truths?
Like a stopped clock that manages to be right twice a day, Donald Trump was largely correct in seeing the USA’s military bid for Global Hegemony as a burdensome failure.
And has a point that Globalisation has hollowed out the real US economy. Damaged a working class that in the USA fancied itself as part of the Middle Class.
But that’s no more than Common Sense of the sort normal among business people. And there is plenty of evidence that Trump is a good self-publicist but a mediocre businessman. A lot of his ventures have failed, and produced losses for those who trusted him. His repeated refusal to disclose his real wealth suggests he owes his position to a vast fortune inherited from his bigoted but brilliant father.
Trump’s persistent resistance to showing his tax returns make sense if they would reveal he has overall diminished his inheritance.
His refusal to recognise the perils of Climate Change is losing the USA credibility all over the world.
And under his leadership, the USA has made a worse hash of the Covid-19 pandemic than almost any other government.
As I said earlier, Power linked to Lack of Knowledge or False Knowledge is mostly ruinous.
When the Covid-19 crisis began, the current Overclass thought they could retreat into their Safe Havens and let the rest of us quietly suffer.
Almost right. In a crisis, the short term reaction is to rally round existing leaders.
If you mapped Covid-19 cases and Covid-19 deaths against strength of belief in New Right values, you’d find a very close match.
It would be nice to call it a right-wing failure and a left-wing success. But it would also be a simplification. Japan and Taiwan, though right-wing, are dominated by traditional right-wing thinking that accepts social responsibilities. That respects expert and scientific opinion, except occasionally on things that contradict religious beliefs in Japan. And the same right-wing Australian government that denied Climate Change and did badly in the recent wave of fires showed a welcome conversion to wisdom when it came to the pandemic. Of course they are right next to Indonesia, which has just the same dangerous mix of live and dead animals in ‘Wet Markets’ as China had. Most of South-East Asia is as bad.
There are also complexities with figures. Back in May, the excellent Worldometer data showed the Vatican City as 3rd worse Cases Per Million, but with zero deaths. This is actually just 12 individuals out of 801 who count as citizens of that micro-state.
But as at 31st September, the USA stands 10th in number of cases per million, and 11th by numbers of deaths.
Sweden, which rejected lockdown, stands 9th by deaths per million on the Worldometer, and 6th on a site called Information is Beautiful.
Brazil and India stand second and third in total number of cases. The USA is first, though it also has the third largest total population.
Allowing for all the complexities, it is very much a New Right pandemic.
Restraining the Adventurous Rich
H G Wells in his Short History of The World describes how the original Roman ‘Republic of Farmers’ was replaced after the First Punic War by a ‘Republic of the Adventurous Rich Men’.
And this in turn by the ‘Republic of the Military Commanders’, which led on very naturally to the rule of Emperors. Which began as the Princeps system, created by Octavian Augustus from his initial advantage as chosen heir of Julius Caesar, greatest of the Military Commanders.
Despite lacking much that archaeology and foreign translations has since taught us, I rate Wells’s Short History of The World very highly. Not good on world history beyond Europe and its colonies, but much the best quick summary of where the Western World came from. It could be usefully consulted by those who make comparisons between the end of the Roman Republic and various leaders they see as destroying democracy.
It helps to understand that Rome was never a real democracy. Its electoral system always gave a gigantic advantage to the rich. Much more weight than the poor in a complex voting system. And vast power for the Senate, where the rich dominated and it was a job for life. And where some senators were in debt to the richer ones, who resisted the reforms that Julius Caesar and Augustus had to force through by sheer intimidation and authoritarianism.
Wells says – and I agree – that it was the Adventurous Rich Men who did the real damage. They undermined the independent farmers who had been the basis for Rome’s original greatness. Allowed the creation of a city-dwelling population that was happy to look to military commanders to protect them from the rich.
He also says that Julius Caesar has been hyped: he was just the culmination of the era of Military Commanders and the start of the transition to Early Empire.
Independent military commanders are not an option for developed countries in the modern world. They are an option in newly independent ex-colonial countries, where the military are often the most coherently modern thing. But Wells notes that the lack of Electoral Representatives to transmit the popular will in Rome was fatal to popular power. And Representative Democracy is absolutely and unavoidably part of the Western system.
But in the modern West, the Adventurous Rich – not all of them men – have been doing vast damage from the 1980s. Undermined the moderate prosperity that a majority had from the 1950s to 1970s.
It turns out that the Adventurous Rich do more good for the society when there is an authoritative state sitting on them and keeping control.
That ‘capitalism’ does best when it is not really capitalism. Or not capitalism by the New Right definition when it comes to economic ‘reforms’.
Their views do not match reality.
Even if you ignore ecology and welfare and look just at growth in material wealth, the pre-1980s version of the Mixed Economy did better.
What we have had since then remains Mixed Economy, despite repeated promises to change and despite Privatisation. Privatization has always needed state regulations, so it remains a Mixed Economy. But it has been a Feed-the-Rich version.
Most of us have our freedom limited by lack of money.
By the need to do work that is not our first choice. The need to earn money under conditions that are not of our choosing.
Or being unable to get a job at all.
Before the 1980s, ordinary people in the West had to be pretty hopeless not to get a job. Or to be living in an unemployment black spot, and they could always move.
Letting the Adventurous Rich have an unfair share of freedom took away a lot of real and functional freedom from the rest of us.
The Next Nine and the Damaged Majority
Economic thinking mostly avoids making a clear distinction between ‘making money’ and ‘taking money’.
A useful new industry often flourishes by their innovation taking money from others.
A supermarket takes from small shops
And now on-line shopping is destroying some of the larger stores.
It is not just what they call ‘Rent Seeking’. Which in their definition is just the rich in countries they don’t like. It seems not to include actual unproductive rents of the sort collected by characters like the Duke of Westminster. Indeed, thanks to loopholes favoured by the New Right, he was also able to legally evade most death duties on the enormous wealth of his family.
I’ve called it Feed the Rich, because that’s what it is. The supposed principles of Libertarianism are mostly disregarded by the actual rulers when they don’t suit the rich.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve done a long study: Feed-the-Rich Economics.
As well as detailing the damage to the actual growth in material wealth, I also emphasised that the pre-Thatcher system did give excellent rewards to actual talent and hard work.
I did not go along with the crude 1% versus 99%. Such arguments enthuse the Far Left, but annoy the Centre-Left and fail to win over the Bewildered Centre.
I’m a very visual person. For me, a graph can tell more than 10,000 words – which is also the amount of computer storage they typically use. And I noticed that the ‘Next Nine’, the people in the top 10% but outside the 1%, were not actually losing.
I noticed that in the USA and Britain, they had broadly kept their share of national income. Or maybe those nearest the 1% have gone up a little and those furthest have gone down a little. But it was the remaining 90% who had lost significant income and wealth. Lost it to the 1% in what was a simple us-or-them, what they call a Zero Sum Game.
Or something worse than Zero Sum. The decades from the 1980s have been an Economic Miracle for the 1%, and especially the richest 0.1% and 0.01% and 0.001%. But the claim that there would be ‘Trickle-Down’ if more freedom was given to the Adventurous Rich has proved untrue.
In Britain and the USA, the success of the 1950s and 1960s has never been recovered. And the decades 1980 to 2020 are not clearly superior even to the despised 1970s.
For the rest of the West, including Japan, there has been a sharp deterioration. ‘Reforms’ slowed economies that had been doing nicely before New Right ideas were imposed.
But as far as I know, those countries have also seen an Economic Miracle for the 1%, and especially the richest 0.1% and 0.01% and 0.001%. And they use their power to persuade voters that socialism failed.
The gains of the 1% are ridiculous. Bill Gates was bright enough to score 1590 out of 1600 on the USA’s Scholastic Aptitude Tests, and qualified to study mathematics at Harvard. But it would be interesting to check out the fates of others who were his classmates at the time.
For all measurable qualities other than income or wealth, the 1%, 0.1%, 0.01%, and 0.001% are not superior to the Next Nine.
Nor indeed to many in the 90%, which is a mix of all levels of ability. Highly talented and useful people are found there. But saying that is easier than proving it, even though we can point to past cases of people who died in poverty and are now famous. For those determined to love the super-rich, I cannot prove that this is still the case, though I would expect future decades to find exactly that. But seeking to win over those uncertain on the matter, I concentrate on the case of the Next Nine. A case which I see as glaringly obvious.
The super-rich are not superior to people earning three to five times the average wage. An advantage like that may be necessary to encourage people to train and work hard. Or to develop those talents that the society currently chooses to reward. But what’s the need for the extra?
My answer would be, no need at all. And that it is all about power. People who can decide their own ‘slice of the cake’. Or with talents or reputation that can make a huge immediate difference to those with the power.
And a lot of it is not earned at all. It is inherited.
Had the New Right been sincere in their official creed, they would have strengthened existing rules that limited what people could get just for being born, or for hooking a rich wife or husband. You could say that no one should inherit more than five times the average national wealth – an incentive to work without being excessive.
The very opposite has happened. As I said, the real belief of those with power has always been Feed-the-Rich. And that the rich are such enormously superior people that their children must have Superior Genes and should have an easy life.
There used to be rich people who rejected it. Noticing, among other things, the poisonous family feelings that vast inherited wealth often produced.
But the whole trend has been the other way.
A very successful US campaign was waged against the weak limits that once existed.
IT IS TAXING DEAD PEOPLE! CRUEL AND WICKED!
Amazingly, this fooled US Democracy. A common-sense view would be that the dead are beyond Earthly taxation. That the issue was unearned income for heirs. But this was shoved aside.
The rise of the New Right was a political swindle.
Fronted by Thatcher, who was almost certainly sincere, in as far as a Prime Minister who wants to succeed can ever be sincere.
And by Ronald Reagan, who was mostly performing the greatest role in an otherwise mediocre acting career, but who probably believed it all.
But I doubt that the people in the Think Tanks were ever sincere. I doubt they expected to save Traditional Morality, which most of them rejected for themselves and generally did not want to impose on others.
I also doubt they saw any merit in secure small businesses. I’d suppose that in their view, small businesses should either be stepping stones to enormous wealth, or else deserved to perish.
Ordinary voters were sold the ideas of Small Government and Liberation by Private Rebellion.
Sold an anti-government delusion.
Reagan hurt the USA by pushing policies that would suit the short-term aims of the rich. Run down welfare, but build up the military machine. And change the rules to suit business interests. And he and Thatcher boosted each other by being in broad agreement.
I’ll concentrate on British failures:
“Home ownership has collapsed for adults in their prime working age, according to official figures that show those in their mid-30s to mid-40s are three times more likely to rent than 20 years ago.
“In a reflection of surging house prices and a lost decade for wage growth since the financial crisis, the Office for National Statistics found that a third of 35- to 44-year-olds in England were renting from a private landlord in 2017, compared with fewer than one in 10 in 1997.”
I’m sure Mrs Thatcher was sincere in seeking a property-owning democracy with a vibrant economy and a revival of traditional economy. But on each of these aims, she and her heirs have entirely failed
“UK productivity slowdown worst since Industrial Revolution…
“The slowdown in Britain’s productivity growth over the last decade is the worst since the start of the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago, a dismal track record that is holding back gains in living standards across the country.
“Research from academics at the University of Sussex and Loughborough University shows that the productivity growth slowdown since the 2008 financial crisis is nearly twice as bad as the previous worst decade for efficiency gains, 1971-1981, and is unprecedented in more than two centuries.
“Growth in productivity – a measure of economic output per hour of work – has failed to rise in Britain at anywhere near the rates recorded prior to the banking crisis, with severe consequences for living standards. Economists believe productivity growth is vital for lifting GDP and higher wages.”
New Labour, New Foolishness
Blair in Britain and Clinton and Obama in the USA thought they needed to accept the new values introduced by Thatcher and Reagan. Just moderate them a little.
It didn’t work.
Moderation Isn’t Working.
Or not apart from undermining the morality that Thatcher definitely believed she was heroically saving.
Feed-the-Rich is causing bad decisions on many issues. Climate denialism from the 1990s, when scientific opinion moved overwhelmingly to agree that Carbon Dioxide levels were high and rising. That the Earth was heating even though heating from the sun was actually declining a little.
Belief that protestors are ignorant and that it’s the sun rather than humans is surprisingly widespread. This even though the sun ceased to be in step with global temperatures in the 1960s. Even though the separation between the two is now massive and obvious. There is even a nice account of it from NASA, What Is the Sun’s Role in Climate Change? But even people broadly hostile to the New Right have somehow been persuaded it is Green Foolishness.
Isaac Asimov, a scientist as well as science populariser and SF writer, once said:
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
And not only in the USA.
This is not just the New Right, but they have helped make it worse.
Both the 90% of ordinary people and the moderately privileged Next Nine have reasons to wish the General Interest to be looked after. And no inherent reason to sneer at the role of the State Machine, when it seems to be doing a good job.
Or no reason except Dogmatic Liberalism – the State Machine must do harm even when it tries to do good, just by virtue of being the State Machine.
This makes sense from a New Right world-view. Much less from a liberal-left viewpoint, but plenty of Dogmatic Liberals are to be found there.
And the 1% have good reason to encourage it, and perhaps also believe in it. When the General Interest is looked after by the State Machine, it limits some of their grand business plans.
And the New Right told them that looking after their own selfish interests would somehow be miraculously successful.
I have looked at the idea in detail. It would certainly need something supernatural for it to work.
But it’s not working.
On narrow matters of economics, it does seem that mainstream commentators are shifting. Thus an Opinion piece in the New York Times recently said:
“Milton Friedman’s free-market ideas found favor in a free-love era and helped redirect the country toward the right. The aftershocks of his radical arguments are still being felt today…
“Until the 1960s, when Milton Friedman was in his 50s, pretty much the only people who’d heard of him were other economists and a few of his fellow right-wingers…
“When Goldwater lost the presidency by a historic landslide to the social-democrat Democratic incumbent, Lyndon Johnson, the takeaway was that these Chicago-school dead-enders’ anachronistic ideas had been definitively rejected by the American people.
“But the great zeitgeist shift of the 1960s was dawning and would soon destigmatize libertarianism (and libertinism) of every variety, including Milton Friedman’s. The decade of free speech and anything-goes outlandishness made his previously outlandish economic ideas seem worthy of discussion in respectable circles. Opening the gates to such a figure made liberal gatekeepers feel more exquisitely, magnanimously liberal. Newsweek hired Friedman as a columnist in 1966, and by the end of the decade he, along with John Kenneth Galbraith and Paul Samuelson, was one of America’s small handful of celebrity economists.”
Saying what I’ve been saying for years.
But I’d suppose that the New York Times would like to throw away the Economic Libertarians and keep the excessive power and wealth gained by the rich since the 1980s.
My views are much more radical.
Many of the present problems with the Internet could be solved with a generally accepted Internet Passport. No one disputes that you need a passport to physically cross from one state to another. So why not the same for intruding electronically on other societies?
It would of course be awkward for anyone planning acts of trickery for good ends. But I don’t see these as a good idea.
Such things work in Hollywood movies. Likewise the hero can always outpunch any number of enemies. And people driving fast in cities hardly ever run over innocents: even the villains mostly avoid this. End up crashed and humiliated but mostly still alive.
All of this is fantasy. On the surface, people know it. But deeper down in the mind they have been misled. See irregular acts of violence and trickery as better than nasty State Authority.
Irregular acts of violence and trickery are more authoritarian than any real-world State Authority.
And very nice when they get the outcome you want. I might possibly hire some experts in the field if a relative of mine were murdered and there was no likely legal sanction. But I’d also not complain if I were caught. My relatives are anyway not the sort of people who are likely to get murdered. And I am quite definite that it is a good idea to discourage it for everyone else.
That such vengeance might be applied sincerely but mistakenly to the wrong target.
Or applied for ends I disagree with.
Spontaneous actions include the old English custom of ‘Queer-Bashing’. I’m sure left-liberals and the more decent right-wingers would like to drop such things into a totally separate category from the instances of irregular violence or trickery that they approve of. But logically, how could you?
An Internet Passport, even as a voluntary system, would ruin ideas of rebellion and subversion using the internet. But these have already failed where the state is strong and coherent. And produced no good outcome in the Arab Spring. And I correctly forecast that Liberation-by-Internet was an unrealistic hope, back in the year 2000 when it was very widely believed in.
Spontaneity is at all levels an overrated method. And prejudices against authority are excessive.
The historic truth is that Stalinist Planned Economies worked better than Classical Capitalism. And that the Mixed Economy worked better than either.
The historic truth is that attempts to restore Classical Capitalism have failed. That no Supernatural Economics is needed. That a purely materialist explanation works fine.
Or if you prefer, you can say that the supernatural exists, but not in the economic sphere. Were someone to write a solumn study entitled The Role of the Archangel Gabriel in Determining Long-Term Interest Rates, this would be taken to be a spoof, or else sheer lunacy. And you could believe this while still accepting that such a being as Gabriel actually existed.
Believe in religion, if it makes you a better person or a happier person. But you should at least accept that the supposed Miracle of the Market was never real.
A machine needs its gears oiled. Greed and private profit can do that, which explains the increased growth rates in post-Mao China. But if you then conclude that the gears are not needed and that just the oil would be fine, you are no longer dealing with reality.
Mainstream Subversion of Family Values.
The late Diana Rigg, who has regrettably just died but had a very satisfactory life to the age of 82, seems to me to have been a marker for the changes since the 1960s.
I doubt that anything would be much different in an Alternate World in which Diana Rigg had remained a stage actress. In which Elizabeth Shepherd kept the role of Emma Peel that she was originally given, and failed to make an impact.
But in history as it actually occurred, Diana Rigg was a marker for a gigantic shift in the whole nature of family and social life in the West.
“In the 1960s, Rigg lived for eight years with director Philip Saville, gaining attention in the tabloid press when she disclaimed interest in marrying the older and already-married Saville, saying that she had no desire ‘to be respectable’.”
Not in private life, or on the screen either.
In the 1960s, it was risky for a woman to freely admit to ‘living in sin’. Just about acceptable for an actress, in days when it would have been unthinkable for both sexes to be covered by a genderless use of ‘actor’. When it would have been almost unthinkable for Britain or New Zealand to have a Prime Minister openly practicing sex outside marriage. Boris Johnson is currently waiting for a previous marriage to be wound up. Jacinda Ardern is quite happy to be an unmarried mother, despite having a regular partner.
That’s how much things have changed. Partly by pressure from the Left. And partly by right-wing media characters going for anything that would get them a big audience.
The 1960s British series The Avengers stood out in having a female co-star in a series of improbable action stories. Originally just one of several assistants to the main character, the conventional and rather old-fashioned John Steed, Cathy Gale as played by Honor Blackman rose to be the main attraction in an interesting partnership. Became popular in part due to her outfits:
“She wore knee-high boots, tailored leather suits and a trench coat at a time when such outfits were only seen in porn magazines and fetishist outlets.”
This was breaking down normal barriers, long before Punk Rock did it. She also had a brief hit with a song called Kinky Boots. I did see one commentator claiming that ‘kinky’ at the time did not have its later meaning: that is not how I recall it.
When it touches the real world, the Avengers franchise had a right-wing flavour. But its actual role was subversive. Not just sadomasochistic overtones. It was also an heroic unmarried woman with perhaps many sexual relationships, though the program-makers always kept this hazy.
She was not the only one. But the one film made of the highly popular Modesty Blaise novels was feeble and unpopular. The scriptwriters were out of tune with the original author’s notions, including the close but asexual relationship between Modesty and henchman Willie Garvin. A partnership which of course left them free for whatever fantasies the reader or viewer might care for. Much as for Steed and Emma Peel, or Cathy Gale before her.
The Modesty Blaise books had potential, and the conversion of one of them into a film was inept. It did not generate a franchise.
Honor Blackman went on to play the part of lesbian Pussy Galore in the Bond film Goldfinger – but she is not explicitly lesbian in that film. And was herself twice married And oddly enough, she too died this year, back in April and at the age of 94.
Diana Rigg as Emma Peel took over the Cathy Gale role, and expanded it. Helped by a switch from black-and-white to colour.
It was her breakthrough role. She was much more conventional in her later roles, as far as I know. As routine as would be plausible for the daughter of a gangster in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. An exception among Bond Girls in being murdered after being briefly married to James Bond, in line with the book. And a victim and rather helpless in the 1982 version of Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun. And had a polite, easy and chilling exit in Game of Thrones, which was otherwise full of torture and gruesome deaths.
For those who never watched it, The Avengers avoided gruesome deaths. But it very frequently had Emma Peel imprisoned, tied up and sometimes elegantly tortured. Tied to a beam serving as a Ducking Stool and with her body nicely on display while her head was held under water in Murdersville, for instance.
This was ordinary television, seen by people who would probably have avoided anything overtly pornographic.
It is also stuff that would no longer be allowed in mainstream film and television. A 1998 remake avoided them, and was also a muddle of several potentially good stories. It deservedly was a damp squib. But what’s shown barely matters, since a basic shift in attitude has occurred.
Class and sex also comes into it. After her initial success, Diana Rigg complained that she was getting less per week than the camera man. I can’t see why a skilled worker should not get high pay. And that she got much less than her male co-star was typical and not often challenged in that era.
A few commentators expressed surprise that her relatively small role in Game of Thrones got such attention when her death was reported. But I suspect that most people under 40 would only have seen her in that role. Would confuse her Avengers series with the more recent comic-book and cinema series.
Leninists Against Sex?
As I said earlier I doubt that anything would be much different in an Alternate World in which Diana Rigg remained a stage actress. But she was a marker for important changes.
Shifts in values that probably did just as much to win the Cold War as Western economic success.
The Late Soviet Union came to be a rather unlikely defender of traditional working-class family values.
China has been wiser, quietly shifting its values, including a little-publicised decriminalisation of homosexuality.
This last was so little mentioned that I was unaware of it, despite taking a strong interest in Chinese matters. Overlooked by me until I noticed a strange omission in a denunciation of China by parliamentary-politics-and-gay-rights activist Peter Tatchell. Why was he not denouncing their harsh treatment of gays? I knew that homosexuality had been tolerated, along with sexual slavery and abuse of the under-age of both sexes, in traditional China and pre-Mao Republican China. Mao did push it underground and had it harshly punished, as part of his general clean-up. This – and discouraging polyandry in Tibet, which I think still holds – was the flip-side of a very necessary reform. It was typical Leninism. And since the post-Mao leadership concentrated on the economy and had much less concern with imposing their own version of Public Morals, they quietly decriminalised homosexuality.
One concern may have been a desire to win back clever emigrants. In every known culture, there are disproportionate numbers of gay and lesbians among the highly creative. And while China has not so far allowed public or overt displays of homosexuality, public displays could be implicitly gay without being punished. And it was also a place much safer from violent attacks than most of the West.
A Chinese would be very unlikely to beat up a complete stranger for having a life-style they disliked. They’d see it as the job of the police. Or if the police chose to be tolerant, it would be unwise to offend them by doing otherwise.
Another case of Spontaneous Politics, and its general weakness in China.
Mao tried letting Spontaneous Politics run with the Cultural Revolution, perhaps responding to unexpected enthusiasm from school children when he signalled disagreement with the Party Machine over a minor cultural matter. And the uprising happened at the same time as the Western Youth Revolt.
I am sure that this will cause vast offence to people who either do not know that Maoism was very much part of 1960s Rebel Culture, or who hate anyone who mentions Off-Message Facts. An unwanted truth for former rebels now keen to hide the past, or perhaps self-deceiving. But many at the time saw it as a single global revolt. Including perhaps even Ursula Le Guin – I wish I had got the chance before her death to ask her if the heroic Odo in her novel The Dispossessed was a strange hybrid of Mao and Emma Goldman.
Le Guin definitely admired Emma Goldman, which I do not. I’d rate Emma Goldman as someone who’d be much safer to have as an open enemy than a supposed friend. She certainly ruined the cause of Trade Union strikers she had no connection with, by getting her lover Berkman to try unsuccessfully to murder the chief employer. It undermined public support for the union and prompted the final collapse of the strike.
Regardless of what Le Guin thought at the time, or how this links with her later pseudo-China in her novel The Telling, the link between 1960s rebels in the West and China was real.
Being offended by Off-Message Facts is not a useful strategy.
There’s an old saying, those who can’t be foolish, never will be wise. Which is real enough, but far too many of the heirs of the Radical Sixties have managed to evade wisdom and remain foolish.
Or migrate to an Alternative Foolishness that lacks the sincere good intentions of the original.
So while I do not needlessly offend people, I do quite often see the need.
I am sure I also caused vast offence by suggesting for a second time that ‘Queer-Bashing’ might fit the general category of ‘Popular Self-Organisation’ – assuming you even noticed that I did this. Suspecting many will not, I point it out now. And if you think about it coolly, you ought to realise in time that I am correct.
Irregular acts of violence and trickery are the most authoritarian system of all.
Like other authoritarian systems, the end is sometimes things I approve of. Or at least the intention was, or the good aim had some unfortunate ‘collateral damage’, but one might still see it as positive.
Unlike state power, you can imagine it going just as you want.
In the real world, it seldom does so.
People enthuse about irregular acts of violence and trickery, or are appalled by them, only after placing them in separate categories. Separate depending on whether they like the intent, as if the world was centred on them.
Different individuals sort them differently, and they get extremely offended by different views on the matter.
I am trying to correct a widespread set of false beliefs that are causing much suffering. If undermining pleasant illusions gets me resented or even hated, so be it. They can’t be aware of me sufficiently to hate me without also having been influenced by me.
If Tatchell had said something positive about the real advance for gay Chinese, I would have decided that he was definitely ill, or having a mental breakdown. He is one of a vast class of activists and protestors who avoid anything positive. Who do sincerely see it as a form of betrayal.
I’ve summarised it as ‘don’t take yes for an answer’.
It works fine when the elite are privately on your side and keen to see popular prejudices eroded. For everything else it is usually a disaster.
The Mythistan Road Traffic Death Squad
Do I want limits on freedom?
Of course I do.
And so do you.
The trick normally is to hive off unwanted instances of freedom as not being really freedom. This gets rid of unwanted freedoms like drug abuse, gun ownership for Britons, free commerce with currently unpopular counties, under-age individuals who feel they are ready for sex, and much else.
It used not to include legality for male homosexuals, or tolerance for lesbians. (Lesbianism was not actually illegal in Britain, but if known it was heavily discriminated against.)
Rights to drive fast, park where you like and smoke in public places used to be part of ‘freedom’. I am old enough to remember bitter fights about those changes.
And I agree with all of the current limits, apart from the countries targeted by current limits on commerce. I don’t see China as wishing to interfere with other countries beyond their recognised border. (Which includes Tibet, and include excellent claims to the various disputed territories.) And this is a dispute about fact, not principles. I wasn’t against economic and cultural action against the Soviet Union when it genuinely was trying to swallow the entire world.
Agreeing with a particular limit on freedom makes it tempting to say that this is really a defence of freedom (nice). Not at all a limit on freedom (nasty). But this is intellectual trash. And temptations are things that should be resisted.
‘Yielding to temptations’ was a quick-and-dirty method of evading traditional Christian rules on sex without openly saying that you wanted to overturn traditional Western sexual values. It was not honest, but it was successful, as I detailed earlier.
Had the side-effect of allowing the Adventurous Rich to get a lot more freedom of action, as I detailed earlier.
Born as a white male Briton in 1950, and also turning out heterosexual, I had a lot of freedoms that an identical person born in 1980 would lack. I got a free education and free health care. It was taken for granted that there would be a choice of decent jobs when I was old enough, and a decent pension when I was old.
In the 1980s, people of my generation were sold a lie called Trickle-Down. This was soon discarded when it became clear it was untrue.
It might have been false even if the unleashed swarm of Adventurous Rich really had boosted the British economy beyond its achievements in the 1950s and 1960s. Simple logic should tell you that a larger slice of a smaller cake might or might not be better than a smaller slice of a larger cake. But what 90% of Britons actually got was a smaller slice of a smaller cake.
But the left let the Tories discard Trickle-Down with far too little fuss. A labour leader who actually wants to win an election should never stop mentioning it. They might also usefully borrow my phrase about this being Feed-the-Rich Capitalism.
I’m not expecting them to be so radical as to accept my rejection of liberal notions of freedom. A system where freedom is both treated as absolute and subject to arbitrary cut-offs.
Subject to ‘Rule of Law’, they would say.
But not ‘Trust Me, I’m a Lawyer’.
It is taken for granted that lawyers can try all sorts of dishonesty, to serve the best interest of their client.
The standard British formula is to give your client the best possible legal defence. I’d sooner see it changed to stop your client being treated unfairly, but also not twist what you see as untrue or unfair. But I doubt it will happen soon
But law is defined by judges, surely?
Yes. But judges are lawyers who get promoted after many years playing such games.
Judges are generally impartial for individual justice. They show class and race bias and may bend the rules to defend tradition.
When it comes to Constitutions, judgements are often ridiculous.
Still, it is hard to see how Western societies could easily replace them. I don’t think we should be trying to impose our very imperfect system on China. And I note that the West has been losing the battle to impose them elsewhere, after its appalling and incompetent behaviour in the 1990s. But the Chinese system would not be acceptable in Europe or North America, even if there were a party competent to run it.
I say ‘Europe or North America’ rather than ‘the West’, because similar systems to China exist and are popular in both Japan and Singapore, which are commonly listed as Western despite geography and race. There are free elections, but the dominant party wins comfortably in Singapore, and has done so with one brief break in Japan.
Britain before it democratised did have a brief attempt with the Utilitarians. They tried, citing ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’ as an idea. And failed, with their ideas being consolidated into standard political thinking by John Stuart Mill, son of one of the leading Utilitarians.
I have said elsewhere what I think wrong with his work. But elements of Utilitarianism are found in the supposed rationalism of the New Right. So I thought of a way to bust it.
Imagine adding the nation of ‘Mythistan’ to the real and rather authoritarian countries for former Soviet Central Asia. Have it dominated by the Church of Reformed Manichaeism and speakers of a Tocharian language, neither of which currently exist in the real world. But might exist in some world where history went a little differently.
In reaction to the high number of road traffic deaths, the government authorises the Mythistan Road Traffic Death Squad. These stop a random selection of dangerous drivers. If the person is not a doctor, law enforcer, government official or well-connected business person, they are beheaded. Their severed heads are then displayed at petrol stations, as a stark warning to other drivers.
The weird thing is, this would almost certainly work. It would save far more lives than it took.
It does fit the Utilitarian rule, ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’.
But it is also blatantly unjust.
And checking back using the Wiki, I found that Utilitarians had their own version of the meaningless mathematics that New Right economists use to disguise their nonsense as rational. Jeremy Bentham developed a fancy ‘felicific calculus’. And if the Wiki summary is accurate, it wholly omits the matter of fairness.
John Stuart Mill justified the elitist rule of the East India Company, which till almost the end excluded non-Whites from power, even though some of them had fully mastered Western culture. That’s typical of liberals ancient and modern – always twisting fine-sounding principles to serve the powerful.
In the real world, there will never be a Road Traffic Death Squad. The people with power are much more sympathetic to those who cause accidents than to the typical victim. ‘Pedestrian’ used to be an insult, though this is one of many technocratic attitudes now unpopular. But penalties for road accidents are much milder than those for other forms of violent crime.
I’ll probably cause offense by calling it violent crime, which is fine by me, since I am factually correct.
The real-world Death Squads were exclusively for the defence of the rich. Some victims were law-abiding individuals whose protests annoyed the privileged.
The Official Restoration of Capitalism
The Labour Party needs to start saying that Thatcherism never met its promises.
The doctrine was that Britain in the 1980s needed an Official Restoration of Capitalism, with all elements of socialism declared wrong.
If it was sincere, it ceased to be so during the 1987 economic crisis. This has been mostly forgotten, since the Soviet collapse that began in 1989 suddenly made all forms of socialism look bad.
What had actually happened was a Soviet failure in the 1960s and 1970s. This saved bad Western economic policies that were supposedly a restoration of freedoms lost since 1914.
The thinkers mostly intended the Official Restoration of Middle-Class Morality to be a sham. They wanted open sexual freedom, not just privately for themselves as most of the politicians did.
The trend was already that way The society relaxed on most issues, but had a sharp reaction against under-age sex. People felt differently when they realised their own children might be at risk.
As far as I know, there are no moves yet to relax on incest or on polygamy or polyandry.
But on economic issues, if the thinkers did believe in Libertarian nonsense, they always backed down in the face of power.
Tax-and-spend remains the norm, but the tax burden is born more by ordinary people. A lot of the benefits go to the rich and to big corporations.
Small businesses are supposed to either grow big or perish.
They allow harassment and luring through advertising. And are astonished when this produces a degraded society.
I don’t use words lightly, or with intent to mislead. When I say ‘degraded’ I mean just that.
But there are also reasons for hope. Socialism didn’t fail, it just ran into more complications than were expected.
Instant Virtue does not happen in the real world.
Gradual improvement can and does.
This is from Problems 43, October 2020. Other issues at https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/problems-magazine-past-issues/. And the whole magazine is available as a PDF at https://labouraffairsmagazine.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/problems-43-tragedy-and-ai.pdf
 For details and sources, see West Ignoring VJ Day, when Imperial Japan surrendered (https://www.quora.com/q/pwgwxusqvnzzrlzm/West-Ignoring-VJ-Day-when-Imperial-Japan-surrendered).)
 See https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/problems-magazine-past-issues/post-liberalism/being-an-aboriginal-european/ for details of how false the notion is.
 There are actually several different estimates – see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties_of_the_Soviet_Union. I used the one from the same Wiki page as the others, as at 30th August 2020.
 Data mostly from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_history_of_the_United_States. Since population did not have to be exact, I used from the 10-year census data for the year nearest to or most relevant to the war. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographic_history_of_the_United_States. Also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casualties_of_the_Iraq_War..
 See https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/problems-magazine-past-issues/. An on-line version will be available from April 2021.
 See Privatising Orwell, https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/m-articles-by-topic/m99-topic-menus-from-long-revolution-website/44-fascism-and-world-war-2/45-1-more-on-fascism-the-world-wars/491-2/
 The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius. Page 409 of Volume XII of Orwell’s Collected Works. The second paragraph of Part II of the essay, for those with other editions. Emphasis original.
 Culture and Democracy. Page 69 of Volume XIII of Orwell’s Collected Works.
 See Socrates and the Abuse of Reason. https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/problems-magazine-past-issues/whats-wrong-with-socrates/
 Just What Do We Mean by Capitalism?, https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/m-articles-by-topic/m99-topic-menus-from-long-revolution-website/48-economics/replacing-capitalism-by-capitalism-the-new-rights-muddled-ideas/
 See Workers Control – the Lost Chance of the 1970s, https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/problems-magazine-past-issues/problems-magazine-older-issues/.
 See Common Ownership & Popular Administration, https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/very-old-issues-images/magazines-037-to-048/magazine-045-not-yet-scanned/clause-4-and-common-ownership/. Also The Origins of Clause Four, https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/very-old-issues-images/magazines-037-to-048/magazine-045-not-yet-scanned/labours-original-clause-4-public-ownership/.
 The Mixed Economy Won the Cold War, https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/problems-magazine-past-issues/the-mixed-economy-won-the-cold-war/
 See https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/the-soviet-past/market-socialism-in-the-soviet-union/ and https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/the-soviet-past/market-socialism-in-the-soviet-union/. The latter is also available as a PDF, https://labouraffairsmagazine.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/stalinseconproblparttwo.pdf.
 Was the Soviet Union an Economic Failure?, https://www.quora.com/q/mrgwydionmwilliams/Was-the-Soviet-Union-an-Economic-Failure.
 China 1949: Fixing a Broken Society.
 https://informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/covid-19-coronavirus-infographic-datapack/ as at 28th May.
 See https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/problems-magazine-past-issues/how-chinese-communism-fixed-a-broken-society/. Another of the things Western ‘experts’ can’t deny but are generally careful not to mention.