The ‘New’ Anti-Semitism

The row about anti-semitism in the Labour Party has broken out again: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/18/labour-party-to-take-action-against-mp-who-called-corbyn-a-racist; and with no more reason or judgment behind it than was displayed when it was last aired a few months ago – see my earlier posts. Here is an excellent demolition of it published recently: https://www.opendemocracy.net/antony-lerman/why-turning-to-jewish-exceptionalism-to-fight-antisemitism-is-failing-project. That really ought to nail it. By any objective reading, conducted on the basis of a reasonable and objective definition of anti-semitism, and not one, for example, founded only on the opinions of Jews (that’s the most intellectually disreputable suggestion of the ‘New’ anti-anti-semites), Labour is the least  anti-Jewish of any British political party in recent British history. Corbyn has always stood strongly against racism of any kind. To tar him with this brush is a quite appalling slur. (It has to do of course with hostility to him as a socialist and pro-Palestine.) It’s almost enough to turn one anti-semitic. Of course I can and will resist this; but many radicals may not be able to.

Back to Sweden tomorrow, by boat and train. (We both dislike flying, and the cost at this time of year is not very different. Plus we live in a ferry port.) So, there’ll probably be another gap before my next post.

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Diplomacy Trump Style

Apparently Trump’s ‘tough advice’ to Theresa May, which she rejected, was to stop negotiating with the EU and ‘sue’ it instead: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/15/theresa-may-donald-trump-told-me-to-sue-the-eu. That’s the aggressive businessman speaking. But in any case, how does a nation ‘sue’ an alliance of which it is part? I look forward to his suing NATO.

Note also that, on being asked about the protests against him in Britain, he replied ‘Some of them are protesting in my favour, you know that? There are many, many protests in my favour.’ Sheer delusion. Most observers counted only about six pro-Trump placards.

I rather like John Cleese’s explanation of this. Trump is ‘pronoid’. Pronoid is the opposite of paranoid. A paranoiac is someone who thinks everyone is out to get him or her, without any basis in reality. A pronoiac is someone who thinks everyone loves them, without any basis in reality. (See https://twitter.com/JohnCleese/status/1017753969416921088.)

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Trump in London

Yesterday’s disastrous visit of the American President must enormously weaken the hand – or at least the argument – of the Brexiteers among us. They were relying on a trade deal with the USA to compensate for our lost ‘free trade’ with the remaining countries of the EU. That was always a flawed ambition, with any prospective British-American trade amounting to only a fraction of the trade we will have lost with our present European partners, and subjecting us to poorer standards than we can now insist on: American ‘chlorinated chicken’ is the example usually given. Within the EU, of course, we can insist on higher quality food (and other things) than we would be able to do if we relied on free and unregulated trade of the kind the Americans would like. Trump’s now notorious interview in yesterday’s Sun newspaper, where he claimed that Theresa May’s current Brexit proposals would, by adhering still to EU standards, rule out any trade deal with him, at any rate, spelled this out more clearly than perhaps he realised. He obviously thought he was strengthening the hands of the Brexiteers, and particularly of his new British buddy Boris Johnson, who had just resigned over May’s plan.

He then added insult to injury by telling the Sun that May’s rival Boris would make a ‘great prime minister’. (Take that, Theresa!) His affection for him seems to be entirely due to the fact, as he said, that ‘he’s been very nice to me, he’s been saying very good things about me as president. I think he thinks I’m doing a great job. I am doing a great job, that I can tell you, just in case you hadn’t noticed.’ So that’s the way to get round him: flatter his narcissistic streak, which appears not to be founded in any great self-confidence, if it needs to be continually stroked like this.

Later, at Chequers, having clearly been told by his advisers of the harm these remarks had done, he tried to make up for it by heaping oleaginous praise on poor Theresa (I never thought I’d feel such sympathy for her!), and claiming that the Sun’s report of the interview had been ‘fake news’ – even though it had been recorded and shown to be accurate. How can you deal – or do business – with this man? Best to scuttle back under Europe’s wing.

If he needs to be flattered, he won’t have felt much affection towards the UK in view of the enormous – 250,000? – demonstrations against his visit that filled London and other major cities yesterday, and are the most newsworthy aspects of the whole event. Today’s Daily Mail paints these as the usual rent-a-crowd Lefty snowflakes, but they clearly represented far more than this. They literally filled the streets from the BBC to Trafalgar Square, and beyond that to Parliament Square: young and old, white and black, men and women (the separate Women’s march that fed into the main one was particularly impressive), Left and moderate Right. Apart from showing how thoroughly despised Trump is by most Britons, they also illustrated the creativity of the new generation of protesters in Britain today, with some bitingly humorous placards (my particular favourite was ‘Free Melania!’), and of course that wonderful baby-Trump dirigible.

This whole affair was unprecedented. Although the demos were kept well away from him, with all the meetings being held outside London – fancy a foreign leader having to be quarantined to this extent! – and despite the fact that the government put on a show of military pomp and circumstance of the kind he apparently likes in order to pander to his vanity, he must have been aware of the far more significant protests beyond his sight and hearing. Fox News must have covered them. That won’t warm him to us, or consequently do much for Britain’s chances of surviving alone in the wider world, when we’re cut off from the Continent. Brexiteers claim we are a ‘colony’ of Europe right now. Believe me, existence as a dependent ‘trading partner’ of America, on her terms, will feel far more ‘colonial’. (And I write as a historian of ‘imperialism’.) That’s one of the things the EU was supposed to protect us against.

He’s now in Scotland, at one of his ghastly golf resorts. Kajsa and I were in Edinburgh without our laptops this last week (hence the brief silence), where opinion is even more anti-Trump, despite his maternal roots on the island of Lewis, and his claim that everyone loves him there. He made the mistake – yet another one – of claiming that Scotland had voted for Brexit. It didn’t. Another reason why it shouldn’t be dragged out of Europe on England’s coat-tails.

I may blog about Scotland later. In the meantime, enjoy your chlorinated chicken.

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Blood and Loyalty

Well, that was quite a nail-biter, wasn’t it? (England’s penalty shoot-out against Colombia, for anyone who’s been off-planet for the past 24 hours.) I was surprised how thrilled I was, having told everyone that I’ve backed Sweden to win the World Cup final this year. (At 150:1. If I win it will enable us to buy a new boat.) That’s mainly out of political principle, of course, and in anticipation of my being granted Swedish citizenship shortly.

But perhaps blood really is thicker than any of these things. Mine – on my father’s side – is illiterate East Saxon peasant through and through, and for centuries so far as I and my family-history expert friend Sylvie can find out; although with poor Essex having been continually raped and pillaged by those Viking bastards (some from Sweden, I’m sure) a thousand years ago, I shouldn’t be surprised if I have some Nordic blood too. (I can imagine a sweet innocent little rosy-cheeked Saxon ancestor of mine being taken advantage of by a hunky Dane.) I must take one of those DNA tests to see.

On the other hand, it has been pointed out several times that the English team is a very multi-ethnic one, which means that at least I’m not being racist, or Ukippy, by supporting it. Here are some examples: https://www.facebook.com/TheDailyPolitik/photos/a.982535205202005.1073741830.959780427477483/1609791952476324/?type=3&theater. – That’s my England! A great vibrant mix of peoples. Always has been, ever since the dastardly Danes.

It remains to be seen which team I’ll be supporting more when England meet Sweden on Saturday in the next round. I’ll let you know.

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Porkies

But he assured us, faithfully, cross-his-heart-and-hope-to-die, that the British Secret Services had no part in or knowledge of American torture of prisoners during the Iraq War. Only ‘conspiracy theorists’ thought otherwise.

‘He’ was the Director-General of MI5, speaking at a meeting of ‘intelligence’ historians in Cambridge a few years ago, held under ‘Chatham House Rules’ (look it up): which means that I shouldn’t really be telling you this.

And now we learn this, officially: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jun/28/uk-role-torture-kidnap-terror-suspects-after-911-revealed.

You mean to say he was fibbing?

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Swedish Holidays

Nearly 23 years in this country and I still forget basic things about Swedish society. ‘Holidays’, for example. In Britain we regard holidays as times to relax, sit on the beach with a good book and a beer, do absolutely fuck all for a week or two, come back nice and brown, and refreshed for work. For Swedes holidays are not like that at all. For a start they have more of them: five weeks, fully paid, established by law, in addition to their frequent ‘public’ holidays, supposedly one day each, but usually stretching to two or three. It must puzzle Americans, who seem to regard holidays as non-productive, as to how Sweden can be such a prosperous society without working everyone to death.

But there’s more to the difference than that. Swedes don’t see holidays as relaxing. They spend them doing things: messing around with boats, mainly, or building summer-houses. Yes, building them. Even if they have perfectly serviceable stugor already, they have to extend them, repaint them, dig up the drainage, fix winter-water, scrape their rowing-boats’ bottoms, and mend their flakmopeder. (A flakmoped is a little three-wheeled motorbike with a platform at the front to carry luggage and grandchildren.) They’re not allowed just to sit around. If you’re not spending your time hammering nails into something, you’re ostracised by your neighbours. (I have a recording of hammering I place by me when I’m sitting in my deckchair. It generally fools them.) You have to have a project. That’s what their ‘holidays’ are: essentially projects.

Which is just by way of explaining why I haven’t been blogging recently. I had hoped to be able to this last week, which we spent in our sommarhus in the Stockholm Archipelago. I was also hoping to get into a huge book I have to review – about Gandhi: it looks terrific, but it’s 1000 pages long, and unlike many reviewers I feel I have to read every word. But no chance. The project comes first.

Back in Stockholm now. Hence this first (trivial) blog entry for a while. We’re all very excited about the football here. Apparently England might meet Sweden later on. A friend asks me about where my loyalties will lie in that event. I’ve told him there’s no contest. I’ve bet £10 on Sweden winning the World Cup; the bookmaker thought I was mad, but the odds were 150/1.  £1500 will buy us a new – smooth-bottomed – boat. As I pointed out to Phil: we live in a capitalist society. There’s no place for ‘loyalty’ there.

Still, I made a patriotic effort last night, from our bedroom window. It didn’t do any good: England 0, Belgium 1. But apparently that’s the result that may bring us up against the Swedes. (Those who aren’t immersed in their building projects.)

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Concentration Camps

Just to be clear: ‘Concentration Camps’ is the exact right term to describe the cages into which Trump is herding ‘illegal’ immigrant children on the Texas-Mexican border, after separating them from their parents. They were invented by the British during the Boer War (1899-1902) – or perhaps copied from the Spanish – in order to incarcerate, allegedly for their own protection, the womenfolk and children of their enemy. They were appallingly unhealthy places, with a high mortality among the inmates, and on these grounds provoked a substantial protest movement in Britain at the time (google ‘Emily Hobhouse’); but this wasn’t part of their original purpose. Unfortunately for the British Empire’s historical reputation, the term later became applied to Nazi extermination camps, which is why it sounds so bad in both the British and the modern American contexts. But it’s literally and historically accurate. ‘Concentration Camps’ exist to concentrate elements of a population. (John Field will bear me out here.)

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Nigel Back-Tracking

So, Nigel is getting his retaliation in early! Finally admitting that Brexit is going to be a disaster, he’s blaming it on the way it’s being implemented by the government. Brexit was a brilliant idea originally, but is currently being messed up by Theresa May and Co. Rather than accepting their version – whether ‘hard’ or ‘soft’, we assume: we don’t know yet – he’d rather we stayed in the EU. It looks like a volte-face, but really it’s just another variation of the ‘stab in the back’ theory; and one that allows him, whatever happens with Brexit, to carry on being the loud, complaining saloon-bar bore he always was.

http://www.itv.com/news/2018-06-15/nigel-farage-may-should-be-sacked-over-ludicrous-brexit-plans-which-will-leave-uk-worse-off-than-before-referendum/

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Kings Over the Water

If Trump is removed soon, as by rights he should be, he’ll earn eternal glory in some quarters as a martyr, and attract a regiment of followers even after his death. The same fate will probably befall Farage, Johnson and all our own (UK) loonies if Brexit doesn’t go through. The familiar myths about great dead rulers who are merely sleeping in their caves waiting to lead their peoples back to glory when the Call comes will re-emerge: Frederick II, King Arthur, Owen Glendwyr, Margaret Thatcher in her mountain fastness outside Grantham, and of course Jesus. Trump’s refuge, I imagine, will be his ‘Tower’.

That’s the danger in killing off popular heroes. Their failures and even deaths are no bar to their spiritual potency thereafter, especially if it’s reckoned that they were cut off in their primes, perhaps through treachery: the post-World War I ‘stab in the back’, or Geoffrey Howe’s turning on Thatcher, or Judas Iscariot. The effect on politics can be poisonous. So perhaps we should wait a little while before getting rid of Trump and the others, until they’ve thoroughly disgraced themselves. Though how much more it would take to discredit the Donald is difficult to imagine. Perhaps putting children into cages might finally do it?

I’m off back to our Swedish island tomorrow, and for most of the summer. Years ago if you went abroad you could cut yourself off from all the nonsense back home. (I remember saying to friends on a flight back from Austria in the late 1960s that Britain could have had a revolution while we were away. It turned out she had. Martin Peters had been transferred from West Ham to Spurs.) Today there’s no chance of that, with the internet and smartphones, and Swedish TV employing a special London correspondent to mock our imbecilities. There’s no escape. But there should be plenty of sun, sea, a relatively sane and polite politics, and meatballs; which might take my mind off Trump and Brexit for a while.

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The End Time

Of course ‘it’s the economy, stupid!’ – to echo Bill Clinton’s famous response in 1992 to the question of what mostly affects elections. Except it’s not ‘the economy’ in the sense of GNP, the Dow Jones or FTSE Indexes, prices, or even figures for wages and employment. Behind all these lie the economic systems that determine these indicators to a great extent, but also do more.

The system we’re living under now, of course, in most parts of the world, is capitalism, and a late version or ‘stage’ of capitalism to boot. This explains everything, at bottom. Only the surface details – politics, the press, religion, Brexit – vary according to other factors. They are – today – the visible and local manifestations of the slow and uneven, but still inexorable, shuffle of the great capitalist leviathan towards its self-destruction; and whatever may follow that. I’m sorry to sound so Marxist here; but Karl was a wise old bird. (He wasn’t sure what would follow the Götterdämmerung, either.) In fact I’ve taken it mainly from my dear old doctoral subject, the mild but immensely influential JA Hobson, who called himself a Liberal. I don’t pretend to have the maths or the grasp of theory which would enable me to prove this, but only my ‘History’, with which it all seems to ‘fit’.

Here’s my very broad take on the history of the last couple of hundred (British) years. The beginning of that period saw the establishment of industrial capitalism first in Britain, and then in Europe and America. In Britain it stimulated a huge increase in production, a surplus of population which helped to keep wages low, and a great boost to her overseas trade, partly in the search for raw materials, and partly to offload the surplus goods – and later capital – which the domestic market, partly because of the low wages, couldn’t soak up. As a result she came to depend on those markets, and on their potential expansion, now in competition with other newly-industrialised nations; which was the main factor behind nineteenth century British, European and American imperialisms and the clashes they gave rise to. By around 1900, with nearly all the ‘virgin’ markets in the (‘third’) world having been taken over by the industrialised economies, expansion became more and more difficult, without the expansionary powers bumping into one another. Hence the succession of wars that marked the twentieth century, which – whatever their immediate motives – had the gruesomely welcome effect of expanding Britain’s and the USA’s overseas markets; partly by winning new ones, and partly through the destruction wrought by them, which eased the ‘over-production’ crisis by requiring stuff to be replaced. That extended capitalism’s life a little longer. Another extension was achieved by the establishment of ‘welfare states’ in Britain and other countries of Europe, which cushioned the ‘people’ against the full and natural repercussions of a struggling capitalism: namely the social privations that today go under the name of ‘austerity’. They might seem to imply – and persuaded many of us non-Marxist Leftists at the time – that Karl had been wrong, and a capitalist Götterdämmerung was not  ‘inexorable’. With some modifications at the edges, we could save the best parts of the free enterprise system without its leading us all to destruction. That’s what kept us from ‘communism’. But then came Thatcher.

Well: not Thatcher personally, who was merely the tool of ‘History’, together with Pinochet and Reagan over the pond. It turned out that the Welfare State created its own tensions, especially for the propertied classes, who were unwilling to pay for it out of their ill-gotten gains, which they spirited away to ‘tax havens’; and who had the Daily Mail, lots of money, a propensity for amoralism, and a quiverful of seductive but mean and reactionary arguments to hurl at the ‘socialists’ (so-called). Hence the ‘Great Reaction’ – my neologism, but it would be nice if it caught on – of the 1980s onwards; a natural outcome of ‘late’ capitalism, which is still determining so many aspects of the world around us today. The commodification of universities is the one I’m best acquainted with; but there are many others: from the language of capitalism which is now almost universal (railway ‘customers’ in place of ‘passengers’, for example; ‘human resources’ replacing ‘personnel’ departments); to the privatisation of even ‘public’ utilities, and the dreadful things that have happened to the Premier League. Most of the things that people complain about today have their roots in this late – and hopefully final – ‘stage’ of capitalism. If only more people were aware of it; rather than blaming their woes on the targets the Daily Mail directs them towards: like foreign immigration, ‘scroungers’, ‘socialism’, the Guardian, and those elitist and ermined ‘enemies of the people’ at the top.

I’m thinking of writing a short book on this, if I can summon up the energy. If I call it ‘The End Time’, I hope people won’t think it’s about the ‘Rapture’. An alternative might be Götterdämmerung; q.v. George Bernard Shaw’s Marxist interpretation of The Ring. Come to think of it, both Wagner and modern eschatological theology could be seen as products of late-stage capitalism.

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