2020 08 – Newsnotes

Notes on the News

By Gwydion M. Williams

No Statues of Neville Chamberlain;   Past Sins;   “Only My Life Matters”?;   Small Property Loses Again;   Feed-The-Rich Triumphs;   China Defying Western Power;   Snippets;   Above The Law?;   Ireland Within Europe;   Britain Losing Status;   Losing Scotland;   “I’m Too Macho For That Virus”;   Caused By China?

No Statues of Neville Chamberlain

To put up a statue is not the passive recording of history.  Museums do that, though not all are neutral.  But statues are all about approval.

Neville Chamberlain was an important Prime Minister. Also an embarrassing failure.

Public statues hold up people seen as admirable.

Bristol was expressing approval of a slave-owner who spent a lot on the town.

Edward Colston was anyway buying status in his native town, having made his money elsewhere. He had no heir, but became MP for Bristol after his massive charitable donations.

I don’t approve of crowds deciding who should and should not be honoured. But our cities are full of statues praising people who do not merit it. Moving these to museums and putting up new statues to worthier people would be excellent.

But who should go?

Churchill doesn’t merit the common adulation.  His enthusiasm for Mussolini’s original Fascism has been almost forgotten.[1] The bulk of the British Left has let it be forgotten, preferring to bitch about left-wing rivals.

Churchill is correctly called a racist and imperialist.  Even guilty of genocide: he allowed more than two million Bengalis die in the Bengal famine of 1943.[2]  George Orwell as a BBC propagandist seeking Indians support for the war backed the cover-up, denying that the famine was anything special.[3]

But if there were ever a popular vote on it, I’d let Churchill to keep his statues.  He could have created a much more formidable British Fascism in the 1930s than Oswald Mosley managed.  He helped save democratic politics.  As Prime Minister, he stopped the Tory majority in the House of Commons from making peace with Hitler after the Fall of France. 

Or do so if you find the notion of a 1940 peace with Hitler unacceptable, as most Britons do.  That depends on what you think would have happened next.  The mass killing of Jews only happened later – but massive deportation or death for Poles of any religion was planned, to clear the region for German settlement.  The invasion of the Soviet Union was partly to grab resources which Germany could no longer get from overseas with the British blockade.  But given a 1940 peace, he might have invaded the Soviet Union a few years later and from a stronger position.  He wanted Ukraine for further German settlement,

Much is uncertain.  So let him still be honoured.

Likewise the USA should keep Andrew Jackson.  Slave owner and killer of Native American, certainly.  But also the man who gave the USA real democracy, if only for white males.

Actual democracy and an actual right of political opposition came about by stages.  European feudalism gave a right of political opposition to the nobles, and sometimes to commoners.  Britain in the 1830s extended this right and voting rights to the middle classes –one man in seven.  Jackson established not just that all white males could vote, but that they should dominate.  That they were just as good as the rich and educated. 

Britain only gave votes to a majority of white males in the 1880s.  The persistence of Tory governments dominated by the elite shows that democracy in Britain has a long way to go.

There is nothing natural about democracy.  Most of Europe lived happily without it until the 19th century.  Most of the human race only picked up the notion in the 20th century.  Many then decided that Western Parliamentary Democracy did not work.  Most Chinese think that a Communist Party they can’t vote out of power serves their actual needs and desires, at least as well as several rival dishonest parties with a pattern of failing.

But Leninism is a relatively new creed.  One that built on top of Jackson’s insistence that ‘the common man’ was just as good as the elite.  But it was Leninism that did the main work to insist that women and non-whites ought to be equal, even if in practice they aren’t always.  Nice liberals might say it but then favour moderation in all things, including social justice.

Jackson’s statue symbolises the breakthrough in the USA for mass democracy.  The first major example of such a system lasting and running successfully.

So honour Jackson, despite his faults.

Past Sins

Industrial society started in Britain in the 18th century, after scientific thinking emerged in Europe in earlier centuries. 

It began a persistent leftward advance in politics. 

One clear instance: equality for women was fringe-left in the 18th century.  Rejected by most radicals in the French Revolution.  Not seriously considered in the USA till much later.  Then pushed mostly by socialists, especially Communists.  And now it is mainstream in principle, if not always in reality.

Improved welfare and more state planning grew continuously till the 1980s.  I’m hoping the reversal since then will prove to be a blip, caused by a shift in radical energies to various forms of Personal Liberation.

Personal Liberation flourishes in most places.  The Islamic World is an exception, thanks to the New Right’s foolish policy of destroying brutal but effective secular regimes.

If you can’t fix it, don’t break it.  That’s a lesson that needs to be remembered. 

In the West, the liberal-left’s ‘Poor Little Oppressed Me’ narrative obscures just how much has been won for people who used to be economically privileged but socially oppressed.  Still sometimes in danger of violence and even murder, but certainly better off than they were.

“Culture wars risk blinding us to just how liberal we’ve become in the past decades…

“Nine out of 10 Britons, it showed, would be happy for their child to marry someone of another ethnic group. Just 3% thought someone had to be white to be ‘truly British’. ‘The British public,’ the pollsters observed, ‘have become avowedly more open minded in their attitudes towards race.’

“There is a similar puzzle in America. Two months ago, had you asked academics or commentators about the consequences of American cities burning in the wake of protests over the killing of a black man by a white policeman, most would probably have agreed that polarisation would be exacerbated and Donald Trump strengthened. The opposite has happened. The president seems more politically isolated and even demographic groups seen as significant to the Trump base, those without higher education, for instance, show sympathy towards Black Lives Matter…

“From one perspective, liberals have already won the culture wars. Attitudes on race, gender and sexuality have changed so much over the past 40 years that we’ve almost become blind to that transformation. Between 1989 and 2019, the proportion of the population that thought that gay relationships were wrong fell from 40% to 13%; the numbers opposed to abortions halved, as did those who thought it wrong to have a child outside of marriage. When the first British Social Attitudes Survey was published in 1983, more than 50% of whites would not countenance a spouse of a difference race, a figure that barely declined throughout that decade…

“The complexity of the response is not surprising. The public has become more liberal and less racist. Immigration has, however, also become symbolic of unacceptable change. Working-class lives have in recent decades been made more precarious through the stagnation of wages, the rise of the gig economy and the imposition of austerity. The power of labour movement organisations has eroded, the Labour party has drifted away from its traditional constituencies.”[4]

“Only My Life Matters”?

A majority of the public now reject racism.  But it is deeply part of Anglo society. Particularly in law enforcement.

“Police enforcing the coronavirus lockdown in England and Wales were almost up to seven times more likely to issue fines to black, Asian and minority ethnic people than white people, figures show.”[5]

Worse in the USA.  The nice idea of ‘local control’ means police forces that are largely a law unto themselves:

“One reason for that complexity is that, unlike policing in most European countries, American policing is mostly local. There are almost 18,000 law-enforcement agencies, most of them small, only 65 of them federal. All told, they employ around 800,000 officers. Chiefs appointed by mayors head most big-city departments. Elected sheriffs head most county forces.

“Also unlike most police forces elsewhere, American police patrol a heavily armed country. That can make their job dangerous—between 2000 and 2014, 2,445 died on duty, compared with just 25 in Britain. But police also return fire, killing around 1,000 people each year. African-Americans are nearly three times likelier than whites to be killed by police. In fact, being killed by police is now the sixth-leading cause of death for young black men. African-Americans are likelier to be convicted, and serve longer sentences than whites convicted of the same crime; they comprise 13% of the adult population, but 33% of the imprisoned population.”[6]

Britain had the Windrush scandal – trying to throw out elderly people who came as children and lacked the right paperwork.  Lacked because arrival records were mysteriously destroyed a few years earlier.

Unlike the US Republicans, the British Tories have some non-white faces in top jobs.  But those people most keep defending what is an obviously racist system. 

A case of ‘Only My Life Matters’?

Thatcherism was built on a general attitude of Only My Life Matters.  Society did not exist.  If the government withdrew, all would be well.

All is not well.

Small Property Loses Again

“US big business gets help first but who needs it most?

“To avoid the mistakes of 2008, focus on individuals and smaller enterprises…

“Their ranks include not only private equity giants, but also airlines, which spent the majority of their copious free cash in recent years on buybacks, though may not survive even with federal aid. These are joined by manufacturers such as Boeing, Big Oil, the cruise industry, hotels, hospitals, casinos, pork producers, drug companies and drone manufacturers.

“Many large companies and financial institutions have received all the credit and funds they need, with no Fed time limits on payback. Large technology companies such as Uber, that employ mainly gig workers rather than full-time staff, have been able to offload the cost of unemployment benefits to taxpayers.

“Small businesses that represent the majority of all job creation have been able to tap a $660bn loan scheme. But disbursements have been slow and disorganised, say some SMEs, activists and others. Many small enterprises have found themselves ineligible for loans for bureaucratic reasons, or held to higher employment standards than some bigger businesses…

“All this smacks of the same old Washington rescue story, circa 2008/2009 — one in which large businesses and well-connected individuals get unlimited support, and others are left on their own.

“This is bad economics and worse politics. It risks repeating the moral hazard problems and political polarisation after the 2008 meltdown, when banks needed bailing out to prevent a depression.

“Back then, the strongest banks went on to thrive, becoming richer and more concentrated than they were before the crisis. Corporate concentration looks likely to increase amid coronavirus too. Meanwhile, millions of Americans lost their homes because they could not make mortgage payments. Many of these were in turn bought cheaply and flipped for massive profits by the same private equity groups now asking for handouts.”[7]

The reaction to the 2008 was a massive success for New Right politics.  People in the West believed them despite their clear failure.

From the rich it was a triumph, not a mistake.

It is not a failure in the system.  It is the system.

In 2012, many wanted Bernie Saunders. The Democratic establishment imposed Hilary Clinton, dedicated to Feed-the-Rich policies.[8]  And Trump won.

This time, the electorate were more timid.  Bob Done won.  If he wins, it will be Feed-the-Rich again.

Feed-The-Rich Triumphs

“Why Isn’t the Stock Market Reading the Room?

“The nation is in crisis, but it’s not the market’s job to care…

“The stock market is not the economy. In fact, as a wise person on TikTok once said, it’s more of a graph of rich people’s feelings. But that raises the question: Why are rich people feeling so optimistic?…

“The stock market is inherently amoral. It does not and cannot measure the country’s health — politically, socially or even economically… ‘Its sole function, as wonky as it may sound, is to quickly, accurately and unemotionally tabulate investors’ consensus view about the health and prospects of publicly traded companies… The market has rarely been good at accounting for anything else.”[9]

What’s not said is that rich people control of Western politics, and make sure that they are looked after.

Many small businesses will fail.  Meaning long-term gains for most of those large enough for a stock exchange listing.

“Why the Stock Market Just Doesn’t Care

“Civil unrest, racial inequality, pandemic, recession, severe unemployment? No problem.”[10]

“Bumper CEO stock awards dwarf salary sacrifice…

“When the chief executive of  Dick’s Sporting Goods said in March that he would temporarily relinquish his $1.1m salary, Edward Stack became one of hundreds of US executives to signal they would share the pain the coronavirus shutdown was inflicting on employees…

“Mr Stack received more than 950,000 stock options, which he can exercise in stages over the next four years. The initial value of the award on paper was calculated based on the depressed share price in March, but by June 9 it had rebounded by 133 per cent, or $21.5m in potential gains — far outstripping the sum he had sacrificed in salary.”[11]

“How to Avoid a ‘Rich Man’s Recovery’

“The economic legacy of the pandemic threatens to be an extraordinary new concentration of wealth…

“When the United States experienced the collapse of the financial sector in 2008, the federal government took measures that saved banks and stabilized the economy, but it left behind too many others, creating a resentment that festers to this day. Now, amid an even more severe crisis, the Trump administration is making the same mistake, offering programs that may seem neutral and necessary on their face, but which disproportionately aid the wealthy.”[12]

That’s the New York Times, traditional liberalism.  Not saying that politics dominated by the selfish rich was the norm from the 1980s.

China Defying Western Power

“China not wanting a new world order, it wants this one.”[13]

More exactly, China wants the current system with rules applied more honestly.  Not massively biased to suit selfish US interests. 

They must know that China could never have the global cultural dominance that the Anglosphere won through successful imperialism and general creativity.

And it’s absurd to say that the West’s real motive is democracy.  During the Cold War, the USA caused the destruction of more multi-party democracies than any other state in history.  With Indonesia a notable case, where the USA helped and encouraged the mass murder campaign that local right-wingers carried through.

They were still doing it in Venezuela when the left was a clear victor in elections, before the present impasse.

For functional democracy, China with its one-party rule is better at giving its citizens what they actually want than India, Indonesia or most of them. 

Including now the USA, where an unfair Electoral College system means that most of the Presidential wins for Republicans happened with a minority of the popular vote.

Bush Junior in 2004 was the last US Republican to have a popular majority.  And before that, Bush Senior in 1988.


Above The Law?

“The Trump administration has launched an economic and legal offensive on the international criminal court in response to the court’s decision to open an investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan carried out by all sides, including the US.

“The US will not just sanction ICC officials involved in the investigation of alleged war crimes by the US and its allies, it will also impose visa restrictions on the families of those officials. Additionally, the administration declared on Thursday that it was launching a counter-investigation into the ICC, for alleged corruption.”[14]

They’ve always insisted US citizens should not be judged by foreigners.  But punishing those who dare question it is new.


Ireland Within Europe

“Paris to Berlin in just four hours on proposed European ultra-rapid train network…

“Paris to Dublin – from Paris to Brest, taking the Brest-Cork ferry then running from Cork to Dublin. The report describes this route as ‘taking on an additional significance in the context of Brexit’.”[15]


Britain Losing Status

“UK universities suffer worst-ever rankings in world league table

“Asian universities enjoyed their best-ever showing. Twenty-six universities in China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan now feature in the top 100.”[16]


Losing Scotland

“Scots now back independence

“A growing majority of Scots now support independence, according to a new poll.

“It reveals that 54% would vote to leave the rest of the UK, while 46% would want to stay, in the event of another referendum.”[17]

Helped by massive failures over Covid-19.


“I’m Too Macho For That Virus”

Thanks to the militant ignorance of Trump etc., the pandemic trend is up again. 

It is not purely a right-wing error.  They failed to learn from Australia, where a right-wing government has been foolish over Climate Change, but smart about the Pandemic.

But it has been a horrible and costly error.

“If 80% of Americans Wore Masks, COVID-19 Infections Would Plummet, New Study Says”[18]

“Only three out of 53 countries say US has handled coronavirus better than China.”[19]

Someone should produce a facemask with photo of protestors and ‘Free the Covid 19?

Or a spoof version of ‘I’m Too Sexy’, which this comment references.


Caused By China?

Experts have warned for years that there were a host of dangerous viruses out there.  Found in wild animals, notable bats.  But liable at any time to adapt to humans:

“In the last 20 years, we’ve had six significant threats – SARS, MERS, Ebola, avian influenza and swine flu … We dodged five bullets but the sixth got us.”[20]

And many more to come.


Old newsnotes at the magazine website.  I also write regular blogs – https://www.quora.com/q/mrgwydionmwilliams

[1]              https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/m-articles-by-topic/m99-topic-menus-from-long-revolution-website/44-fascism-and-world-war-2/why-churchill-admired-mussolini/

[2]              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bengal_famine_of_1943

[3]              The Complete Works of George Orwell, Volume XV:  Two Wasted Years.  Page 332.

[4]              https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/21/culture-wars-risk-blinding-us-to-just-how-liberal-weve-become-in-the-past-decades.  The survey itself is at https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/attitudes-race-and-inequality-great-britain

[5]              https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/17/police-in-england-and-wales-six-times-more-likely-to-fine-bame-people-in-lockdown

[6]              https://www.economist.com/united-states/2020/06/04/how-to-fix-american-policing

[7]              https://www.ft.com/content/ae732940-9048-11ea-bc44-dbf6756c871a

[8]              https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/problems-magazine-past-issues/the-mixed-economy-won-the-cold-war/

[9]              https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/09/opinion/stock-market-coronavirus.html

[10]             https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/05/business/why-the-stock-market-just-doesnt-care.html

[11]             https://www.ft.com/content/f6f61677-745a-4afc-b3de-3c68fd45a50e

[12]             https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/18/opinion/covid-economic-recovery-inequality.html

[13]             http://iht.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/iphone/homepage.aspx#_articleabc69a69-18e2-4cd0-8510-2519e7aa90bf

[14]             https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/11/trump-icc-us-war-crimes-investigation-sanctions

[15]             https://www.thelocal.com/20200619/paris-to-berlin-in-just-four-hours-on-proposed-european-ultra-rapid-train-network

[16]             https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/jun/10/uk-universities-suffer-worst-ever-rankings-in-world-league-table

[17]             https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/poll-growing-majority-scots-now-back-independence-2890692

[18]             https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/05/masks-covid-19-infections-would-plummet-new-study-says

[19]             https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/15/only-three-out-of-53-countries-say-us-has-handled-coronavirus-better-than-china

[20]             https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-52775386#