The 16 November was the UN’s International Day for Tolerance. Sounds highly desirable but then I think it also sounds arrogant. It’s like that old tag-line for the 1960s – ‘the Permissive Society’. Who has the right to tolerate or permit another’s existence or behaviour? According to my dictionary, tolerate comes from the Latin word ‘tollere’, meaning to lift up. That’s fine if someone asks to be lifted up but more often they’re demanding not to be held down.
Whether it’s race, religion, caste, class, income, gender or sexuality, our world is riven by divisions with those on top consciously or unconsciously bearing down on those lower in the hierarchy than themselves. Asking them to ‘tolerate’ their poorer or weaker neighbour is not what’s needed. Nor should those lower in the pile tolerate their supposed superiors. They have a right to their intolerance but not by categorising all those who seem to oppress them as enemies. Sometimes education and understanding (or ‘overstanding’ for the Rastas) are enough. Sometimes, however, a fight is necessary.
This obscenity is found on war memorials, often in Latin: ‘Pro Deo, Rege et Patria’. I call it an obscenity because the majority of those servicemen and women did not die for those fictions but either because they had no choice in the matter or to save their comrades. Lying on the battlefied with his legs blown off, a soldier was more likely to be calling for a medic or his mother than any so-called deity, even if he believed in one. Still less for his monarch – it was centuries since any king had been anywhere near a battle, let alone the front line. On the other hand a fair few of those ‘fallen’ may have fought to defend their country, however they envisioned that, from invasion and destruction by the enemy. So we’re talking about patriotism. This term is touted as the ‘decent’ form of nationalism, in that it should not imply any superiority over other nations. But a cursory glance at the history of war, imperialism and sport shows the lie in that. It has to be endlessly invoked because it’s a relatively new phenomenon – the idea of nation states is barely five hundred years old and much less in most parts of the world. Most people’s loyalty is to groups much nearer to them – their family, their tribe, their work mates, their football team, their community, if there is one, their co-religionists. Their traditional enemies are likewise mainly closer to them. So, at times of war and other international conflicts, patriotism/nationalism has to be revived and reinforced and the enemy dehumanised – ‘The only good Indian/German/ Jap/etc is a dead one’. The problem for the rulers is that these false emotions are hard to control when they’re trying to be on good terms with the Indians/ Germans/Japs/etc. Then ‘patriotism’ becomes extreme nationalism, which the right wing make a show of deploring, while using it to their advantage wherever possible. As someone said long ago, “What’s moderate racism?” So what’s moderate nationalism? Another set of blinkers to stop us seeing clearly.
On the 16th November 1917, Lenin is reported as stating at the Congress of Peasant Assemblies (Soviets) that anyone who attacked the soviets was a counter-revolutionary. He wasn’t lying, he was a counter-revolutionary and it only took 2 years until, under Trotsky’s direction, the Bolsheviks took over all the soviets, put the army and navy under the command of officers, often previously Tsarist ones, and the trade unions under military control in the guise of necessary measures to win the civil war. The soviets never regained their autonomy, the armed forces and unions stayed under Party control. It took only another 9 years until the peasants lost ownership of their lands under forced collectivisation. Whether Lenin would have agreed with this is debatable … for what that’s worth.
As for socialist, it’s another word, like Christian, that’s been tortured out of any resemblance to its founders’ teachings. “Are you, or have you ever been, a Communist?” – every Christian should answer “Yes!” if they understood the meaning of either word. If we invent new words, they’ll get twisted too. Give up attacking labels and go for those people who misuse them to hurt other people.
The dictatorship of the proletariat
Another lie – it means the dictatorship of the Party. The Bolsheviks broke the first rule of revolutionaries – not to substitute yourself for the class. Marx called for ‘self activity’. This happened in Russia in March 1917, was crushed by the Party and all memory erased by Stalin. No wonder they’re in the shit now.
What’s in a name?
Democratic = Stalinist or a quasi-monarchy as in North Korea
People’s = ‘Communist’ Party, aka Stalinist
Freedom = Fascist
Christian* = Fascist or at least extreme conservative [* substitute a religion of your choice]
It didn’t because we’ve never seen it exist for more than brief periods and then only under extreme internal and external pressures. Communism does not mean what was practised in the USSR, China and Eastern Europe. Nor is it what the paranoiacs in the USA mean by the term – any movement that opposes or tries to limit US imperialism or the domination of US businesses. Fidel Castro, for instance, wasn’t a communist but was forced to seek support from the USSR because Washington refused to recognise the justice of the revolution and wanted to keep looting the Cuban economy. As envisioned by Marx and Engels, communism should mean socialism-max – ie, not just common ownership of the means of production, etc, but also control of it and achieved by what Marx called ‘the self-activity of the proletariat (the working class)’. The Communist Party may have preached communism but it never practised it. Instead what they created was state capitalism under centralised, militarised police-state control. This was called the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, which meant in effect the dictatorship by the party hierarchy*. That’s not what Marx and Engels had in mind, though they may have been persuaded to go along with it, if they’d still been around – Marx, at least, was a politician. That doesn’t mean that all Party members were in agreement with this. There have been many, many genuine communists in the Party, but those who weren’t murdered by the bosses’ death squads and police in the West, were executed or destroyed in the camps in the East. Any survivors became cynical and born-again right-wingers or transferred their allegiance to Trotskyist groups. A truly communist world – that is one where everyone’s needs are provided for fairly, where there’s no more exploitation and where everyone really does have a voice and a choice in the running of public affairs – is the only hope for the long-term survival of the human race. The worst crime the so-called Communist Parties have committed is to make the word poisonous for those who need to hear it.
[* These became known as the ‘namenklatura’ and were, in effect, a baby bourgeoisie who appeared in their full glory when the USSR collapsed.]
This is used as a ‘scientific’ justification for unbridled competition and ascribed to Darwin. In fact he didn’t say it, that was Thomas Huxley in support of Darwin. What those who repeat this line overlook is that Darwin was talking about species, not individuals, and success in reproduction, not the Olympics or the market.
The fact is it’s never had the chance to, that is beyond small communities and businesses. On the level of a nation state we’ve only ever had partial attempts that tried to co-exist with a capitalist economy or worse, as in one-party/one leader dictatorships like the USSR under Stalin or the Chinese Peoples’ Republic under Mao Zedong. Socialism does not mean nationalisation and total state control. However, like christianity, the movement was taken over by power junkies as soon as it showed promise and the term became tainted with their policies. The best description of what it could be is in the famouse Clause 4 of the Labour Party’s constitution that was dumped by ‘New Labour’: ‘To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.’ Written by Sidney Webb, one of the original right-wingers in the party, this was long regarded by most members as Labour’s ‘bucket list’ at best. ‘Common ownership of the means of production’ became nationalisation, though that’s not the only possible meaning – the co-operative movement had another, ‘workers’ control’ is another. The slogan of socialism became ‘evolution not revolution’, which overlooks the fact that evolution proceeds by revolutionary jumps and no fossils of intermediate species (ie giraffes with longer and longer necks) have ever been found. It’s also rarely mentioned that the first people to call themselves social democrats were Marx and Engels’ organisation (I bet someone corrects that) and so did Lenin, Trotsky & Co – the Communist Party came later.
RA May Day 2017
Some people keep grinding this out like they know what they’re talking about, but I dare anyone to say what they want in its place. ‘Call a spade a spade’? Well, say it in the right place and see what the reaction is.
I’ve heard a slightly different version of its origin recently but prefer the one I first read, that it was a put-down by reactionaries to attempts by students at the University of California to stop people using racist language freely as if it were protected under ‘freedom of speech’. As far as I’m concerned it wasn’t, or shouldn’t have been, intended to ‘purify’ the language but rather a consciousness-raising way of realising who you’re insulting and the effect it has on them. If you still think it’s OK to use an old term for people of colour then say it out loud, or try the phrase “All Muslims are ..”, in a situation where you’re outnumbered by members those different groups. See how brave you are.
No-one is saying you can’t be critical of someone of a different ethnicity or religion or ideology, just be careful you’re not ‘tarring everyone with the same brush’, to use another old racist phrase. It’s not just impolite or bad for your health, it’s untrue.
Gordon Brown (remember him?) has suggested a compromise solution to the argument over the SNP’s demand for another referendum about independence for Scotland to make it a federal partner of the UK instead. Seems an idea worth considering but a big no-no for the Tories under Thatcher was becoming part of a federal Europe. This feeling among the idiots in British politics resurfaced in the EU referendum last year. It seems to have escaped their notice, however, that we already live in what is really a federal state. I know it’s called a union, but that’s increasingly becoming a misnomer as the different parts seek even more independence than they had before and don’t forget that Scotland had different education and legal systems and its own currency long before devolution, while Northern Ireland even had its own parliament. In fact England began life as a federation of separate states and regions before the Normans invaded and those differences didn’t disappear overnight. So there’s nothing to be afraid of in getting closer to other peoples or in giving them more autonomy to govern themselves. ‘Sovereignty’ is a fiction in a world dominated by global capitalism. It only becomes real when you claim your own and join with like-minded folk to assert it.
With Trump’s latest ravings and Brexit ringing in our ears and the sounds of drawbridges being raised across Europe and elsewhere, there are two things we don’t hear and should be restated every time this issue is discussed. One is the fact (not opinion) that we, British, French, Italians, Portuguese, Dutch and Germans, forcefully immigrated into many parts of the world without the residents’ consent and thus created much of the world we see today with all of its mess. This hypocrisy is not lost on some people, see: theindigenouspeoples.com . The second is that, under current globalisation, capital (ie money) is free to wander the globe as its peddlers choose, taking workers’ jobs from under them as the industries they built are relocated to places where labour is cheaper. The only way to level out that playing field is if labour (ie workers) is allowed the same freedom of movement. If people are moving into your country, then chances are that your country has their money and they’re looking to get some back. It’s only fair. The other reason people come is, of course, as asylum seekers – that’s because the thieves and murderers, who control those cheaper economies and are currently living off the profits of our exported wealth, use the weapons provided by our arms industries and the services of our ‘security companies’ to threaten their lives if they protest or try to improve things. Nothing about this is particularly new, except that a hundred years ago, we would accept these refugees, whether economic, political or social, without restrictions. Now our own thieves and murderers use them as scapegoats to fool you. The sound of pots and kettles is deafening, so wake up and listen.
Has been in the news a lot recently and big deals have been on the table – TTIP between the US and the EU, CETA between Canada (as a cover for US corporations) and the EU and TPPA between the US, Australia, Japan and others that Trump has just dumped. It’s going to be interesting how big business reacts to this. However free trade has never existed in modern times. It was the slogan of 19th century liberals who wanted to get rid of the protectionism of the big land-owners which kept food prices high. When they had achieved this goal the aristocracy lost their grip on power and were removed, as in France, or had to accommodate the bourgeoisie into the ruling class, as in the UK. The idea that ‘free trade’ meant on equal terms was always false. It means the freedom of the powerful – whether states or corporations – to set the terms of the deal to their own advantage at whatever cost to the other parties. Now we have the USA, the most protectionist country on the planet, with a new protectionist President, offering ‘free trade’ deals with the UK and whoever else, despite calling time on those treaties listed above. Clearly the game goes on but DT wants it just with his rules. Same old, same old … And don’t forget that smuggling, piracy and black marketeering are just as much part of ‘free trade’ as so-called legitimate businesses.
Those who voted to leave the EU in order to ‘reclaim’ the UK’s ‘independence’, and not just that bunch of clowns in UKIP, have clearly not been told that the UK has not been independent since WW2, when it was sold to the USA in return for some of their hardware to fight off the Germans. Technology sharing – began in 1940 with the British Technical and Scientific Mission that handed over most of the advanced research done in the UK, including into nuclear weapons and jet engines. While this was supposedly a one-off deal, there is little reason to suppose it ended there, particularly in the areas of cryptography, surveillance, nuclear technology and new materials. Traffic the other way is limited at best. So many UK companies are owned or controlled by US corporations, that any idea of their independence is nonsense. Then there are UK firms, like BAE Systems, with US subsidiaries that are governed by US nationals under the Special Security Agreement, which allows them to operate in the States, while “The British members of the corporate leadership, me included, get to see the financial results; but many areas of technology, product and programme are not visible to us…” (a quote by a British board member). Intelligence ‘sharing’ – 1943 the British–U.S. Communication Intelligence Agreement, BRUSA, that connected the signal intercept networks of the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) at the beginning of the Cold War. NSA still has a ‘first peek’ option on all the intelligence that GCHQ obtains. Nuclear weapons – any idea we can use our ‘independent deterrent’ independently of the US is fairyland – they control the buttons. Then again there’s the media – most of ours now controlled by a megalomaniac Ozzie pornographer with US citizenship who wants to take over even more of our TV viewing, especially the news. As for finance, the USA effectively controls the IMF and US-based credit ratings agencies control the value of our currency, as well as that of the UK’s stock and bond markets. ‘Brexit’ has delivered us even more firmly into their hands and any ‘free trade deals’, whether TTIP, CETA, TiSA, or separate ones with the USA, will sew up the whole package completely. As puppets go, Pinocchio had more independence than the UK.
It never stopped being great – Great Britain is just the name of the island that comprises most of England, Wales and Scotland. It’s a geographical term to distinguish it from little Britain (Bretagne) in north-west France. So, sorry you Northern Irish Unionists, you’re not British – check your passport! Why the hell else would everyone else in Europe translate Great Britain into their own language? They don’t all think we’re so wonderful.
… and other hallucinations. This personification of the ‘land’ is common with politicians and most often with those of a nationalist tendency. The fact is that, in the case of the EU Referendum, 75% of the electorate voted and those votes were divided almost half and half. Yes, there was a slight majority for leaving but, if you factor in those who didn’t vote, their silence implies as much their acceptance of the status quo as agreement to leave. That the government didn’t insist on a 2/3 or ¾ majority, as most organisations do for significant changes to their rules, shows their rank stupidity. So, while we watch and wait for the conclusions of this farce to unwind, the next time ‘the country’ is called on to speak, make sure it’s been listening more carefully.
This will be an ongoing feature which lists and decodes words and phrases that are commonly used, especially by journalists, in total, and often deliberate, ignorance of their true meaning. You may disagree; you may wonder if I’m right. Best thing is to go look for yourself and find out. They are in no particular order – just as they come to me or seem appropriate to the current headlines. If you can think of any more, please let me know.