Carole Cadwalladr

Forget for the moment Assange, Snowden and Manning, important as they are, and worth defending at almost any cost. Their revelations have been priceless, in revealing dirty deeds done by governments and other agencies all over the world, but hitherto kept secret in order to prevent public criticism. The hope is that these revelations will enable publics to come to more critical political decisions in the future. That’s all to the good.

The more conventional journalist Carole Cadwalladr, however, has gone a step further. What her painstaking investigations into the world of the internet – too complicated for most of us to understand, especially us oldies – have done is to reveal one important brand-new means by which opinion is being manipulated, usually by the Right, in what purport to be ‘democracies’. It started, so far as the broadsheet-reading public is concerned, with her sensational revelations about ‘Cambridge Analytica’ and its relations with social media engines like Facebook and Google, in connexion with the Brexit referendum of 2016. That has now broadened into an in-depth inquiry into the way democracy itself is being ‘subverted’ by these new magicians of the web. Here’s a good account of this by Cadwalladr herself in today’s Observer: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/apr/21/carole-cadwalladr-ted-tech-google-facebook-zuckerberg-silicon-valley.

In one way this is nothing new. We’ve long known how public opinion can be misled and distorted by ‘propaganda’. ‘Cambridge Analytica’ is just the most recent example. There’s a whole global industry – called ‘advertising’ – that has been founded on this assumption for over a century. (Read Vance Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders, 1957; and even before that, HG Wells’s 1909 novel Tono-Bungay.) People are easily fooled, and they don’t need to be stupid to be vulnerable; especially when their manipulators alight on new methods of fooling them as clever and hidden as Cadwalladr has revealed.

Clearly we need to find means of countering this, which may be difficult without encroaching on ‘freedom of opinion’. (That’s what stands in the way of ‘policing’ far Right ‘lies’ on Facebook.) Efforts such as Cadwalladr’s are a beginning, pre-warning us about how modern technological propaganda works. Beyond that, I still think that education could help, if school kids were given lessons or even courses on rational thinking, logic, criticism, the importance of checking sources and so on. Ultimately this will be the only way of keeping the wilful liars and misleaders – Boris is the obvious example – in check.

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Blocking Oxford Street

I’d be there if it weren’t for my distance from London, my age and my arthritis. Or are these just convenient excuses? (Sorry, can’t go to ’Nam; I have these bone spurs in my foot.) In principle, I’m all in favour of direct action in these world-critical circumstances, and supportive of the current ‘Extinction Rebellion’ in particular (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/19/extinction-rebellion-reports-hundreds-of-people-signing-up). The fact that it inconveniences commuters and shoppers is a further point in its favour, to my mind. People need to be materially inconvenienced, and indeed shocked. Mere publicity has achieved little.

At present the shocking appears to be coming from two directions: from the very old, i.e. the saintly David Attenborough, whose BBC1 programme the other night on Climate Change made the case powerfully; and the very young, represented by the astonishing 15 year-old Swede Greta Thunberg with her ‘School Strike for the Climate’ movement, who features in the Attenborough film, and is hoping to join the Extinction Rebellion in London sometime this weekend. Apparently Theresa May has refused to meet her. (Isn’t it interesting, by the way, that the ‘Thatcher generation’ between David and Greta is less well represented? We oldies remember what it was like before her. And youngsters have forgotten her, and so can still dream.)

But I also get the message. Support ‘in principle’ is not enough. Everyone has responsibility for the current parlous state of the world, and should do everything he or she can on an individual level to put it right. Every little helps. So, what can do?

Some things are easy. On a political level, of course one should vote for parties that don’t carry climate change-deniers (like the Conservatives – Lawson – and the Republicans – Trump), and which reject the neo-liberal, growth-before-everything, devil-take-the-hindmost form of modern capitalism which has led us into this mess. That means the Greens if you don’t mind wasting your vote, or Corbyn’s Labour party if you really want to get somewhere. I’m of course happy with that.

But then there are the everyday things. Some of those are quite easy too. I’ve stopped using unrecyclable plastic. I even bought a wooden toothbrush the other day. (It’s not very good.) I heat my house by gas, but will be happy to switch to electricity, even if it costs more, so long as I can be sure that it isn’t ultimately produced from fossil fuels. (There are two coal-burning power stations just up the river from me; but also some wind generators, and a great forest of them planned soon for the estuary.) I might look into solar panels, though I suspect my roof faces the wrong way. Kajsa has geo-thermal, boring down into the Swedish bedrock; but I’m not sure that that will work on the muddy east coast of England. I don’t have a car, which means that I use buses and taxis more, but they’ll all be environmentally powered soon, won’t they? The same I assume with trains.

My greatest environmental sin is flying. As a British Swede (now), with a beloved sambo living in Stockholm, and with both of us having commitments (and family) in our native countries, I fly to and from Sweden – as does she – far more frequently than is healthy for the globe. I’d go by boat if I could. I dislike flying anyway; and I assume that, in view of the numbers they carry, boats emit less nasties per person than planes. Am I right? In England I live, conveniently, in a ferry port, which used to service Gothenburg (I think; if not, then somewhere further up the coast), but now only goes to Zeebrugge and Rotterdam. A friend has found that there are cabins for passengers on container ships from Immingham, which is just over the river from me, to Gothenburg; but costing £700 each way. (And I don’t fancy being carried in a box.) A lot of the more convenient cross-North Sea routes were axed as flying got so ridiculously cheaper. (I can fly from Gatwick to Arlanda for less than the train fare from my home to Gatwick.)

North Sea Ferries are OK. From Rotterdam you can get a train through to Stockholm with two or three changes, which is pleasant – cabaret on the boat, comfortable German trains, a pleasant stopover in Amsterdam, a less pleasant one in Hamburg in the middle of the night – but takes about 48 hours, and can be expensive. We’ve done it a couple of times. But it really would help if the old ferry routes could be restored. Then I’d feel I could look Greta in the eye, if I ever bumped into her in Stockholm.

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My Beloved Notre Dame

I literally wept when I saw those pictures of Notre Dame de Paris in flames yesterday. I’ve never done that for calamities – shootings, bombs – which only hurt or destroy human beings. Is that bad? Does it make me cold and inhuman? Of course I sympathise with the victims of terrorist atrocities, and am shocked and angry at their plight. But that doesn’t get me as emotionally involved as the destruction – we hope not for ever – of an inanimate building, made of stone and wood. I really am deeply upset by yesterday’s events.

If I had to explain my reaction, if not to excuse it, I’d have to refer to my deep and lifelong love of Gothic architecture, and especially of French cathedrals, which are the flowers of that particular style. (Forget the ridiculous Ruskin’s Venetian Gothic; mere plasterboard by comparison.) Paris and northern France were at the heart of the mediaeval Gothic movement, beginning with the church of St Denis in a Paris suburb; and from where it spread into England – usually in the hands of French master masons – though rarely in a perfect form. Notre Dame was never my favourite French cathedral; but it was (is) the most perfect of them, especially in its proportions, which are essential in any style of architecture; probably because it was all of a piece: built in the relatively short period – for a mediaeval cathedral – of 200 years. And it is so compact! (See Pevsner’s Englishness of English Art to see how this distinguishes it from contemporary English versions of cathedral Gothic.) And then there are those wonderful flying buttresses: evidence of the sophistication of the Parisians’ understanding of structural engineering – ‘thrust’, and so on – which was not improved upon for centuries. Thereafter the ‘science’ of architecture fell away. French Gothic churches are the greatest cultural, artistic and also, therefore, technological achievements of the Middle Ages; justifying, or at least compensating for, all the horrors that are rightly associated with that period: wars, cruelty, tyranny, disease, religious fanaticism and poverty. They could even be said to justify the Catholic church, whose faith and ill-gotten wealth gave men and women the opportunities to express their finest human aspirations in material forms. In the shadow of one of these great cathedrals – we visited Amiens last year – all the dark sides of the 12th and 13th centuries melt away.

I’m afraid that’s how I think of ‘art’ generally: as justifying human society in a way nothing else quite does. Occasionally, in my lowest moments, I think forward to the inevitable demise of our planet as a dying sun swallows us up. I desperately hope that by that time we’ll have figured out how to spread, as a species, into other galaxies, to replicate and save the best of our human culture. People  I’m not too bothered with – they can be replaced, after all; but I can’t bear to think that great and unique human achievements, like Notre Dame and her sisters, some of the great Buddhist temples, Shakespeare, Botticelli and Bach (these are just a sample) should ever cease to be. So get to work on those spaceships, you clever scientists, in order to preserve Mozart among the stars; and even Notre Dame, stone by stone, or perhaps holographically. Then I can dry my eyes.

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A Second Referendum

A new Brexit referendum would be democratically unexceptionable, whatever the Leavers say, and could well reverse the 2016 vote. This is because there’s more solid evidence now on which to base a judgment; the cheating and manipulation that dogged the first referendum can probably be prevented now that we’re aware of it; and the electoral demographics will have shifted in favour of ‘Remain’. So bring it on.

This seems to be looking rather more likely now, if only to break the deadlock created by our MPs (bless them). Jeremy Corbyn’s cunning plan, to leave it ‘on the table’ until all other alternatives are seen to have failed, is looking more sensible by the day. The later it’s left – i.e. the decision to hold a referendum – the more likely it is that even some of the ‘you lost, get over it’ mob will accept it. Let’s hope that the other alternatives – i.e. May’s deal, or the cross-party talks going on just now – do fail; or else incorporate a ‘referendum’ stipulation themselves.

If not, then there’s always Corbyn’s other alternative, which is a general election. He would prefer that, because it would open up the possibility of the radical reforming programme that the country so desperately needs just now. As he has always maintained, and as he repeated in a speech recently, the real divide today isn’t between people who voted leave or remain, but between the powerful rich and the powerless poor. From his point of view, Europe is a distraction from this. If there were  a general election, Labour would probably win, whatever mud the Conservatives might sling at Corbyn. Surely people have seen through all that by now? This of course is why the Conservatives are so a-feared of the prospect.

Its advantage for those of us for whom Europe is a higher priority than it is for Corbyn, and who might prefer a referendum, is that a new Labour government would probably – would have to, surely – hold a second referendum of its own. So we will get what we wanted either way. For the first time in this whole ridiculous tunnel of ignorance, deception and madness I espy just the slightest flicker of light.

Then of course we’d still have the ‘mob’ to deal with, led by a khaki-clad Farage with his rifle (https://alternativebristol.com/are-we-going-to-see-a-brexit-insurgency/), who for weeks have been trying to intimidate Remainers with threats of civil war if their ill-gotten prize is snatched from their hands. But we can handle that when it comes. And also the ominous rise of proto-fascist opinion and action that this whole affair has stimulated. A new Labour government with radical economic and social policies might well be the best antidote to that.

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Dying

Pulled. Sorry. But not before a comment was added: below.

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Amritsar

Yesterday marked the centenary of the Amritsar Massacre. I’ve written about this, of course, in my Empire histories; and also in a review of a biography of the villain of the piece for the TLS, afterwards republished in my Empire Ways (2016), which I’m reproducing here.

Incidentally, the fashionable way the event is being treated today is as typifying the British Empire, which it didn’t. Atrocity may have been a characteristic of the Empire – that is, there are many similar ones featured in the Empire’s history – but not typical – i.e. a predominant and defining characteristic. Her Empire was not  Britain’s equivalent of Nazi Germany, as it is sometimes presented now. (I feel I need to whisper this, for fear of being accused of being an imperialist, or an empire-denier, or a nostalgic reactionary, or even a fascist, myself.) If you’re interested in what it really was, may I recommend my British Imperial: What the Empire Wasn’t (also 2016). Among other things, what you’ll learn there are (a) that the most harmful repercussions of British imperialism were more often the results of good intentions than of bad (viz. Tony Blair); and (b) that Britain didn’t invent ‘imperialism’ (of course not), but did invent anti-imperialism. No, not colonial nationalists, nor the American revolutionaries, who were only concerned to throw off their own imperial chains (in the Americans’ case in order to colonise others), rather than opposing imperialism per se. This was a strong tradition in Britain, side-by-side with the imperialist one. That’s why the Amritsar massacre provoked so much shock and opposition there, especially on the Left, which is usually not credited. On the origins of anti-imperialism in Britain, you’ll need to go to another of my books: Critics of Empire (1968/2008). Sorry for all these self-references; but I don’t want to repeat myself.

Here’s my TLS piece on Amritsar.

The Butcher of Amritsar

The Amritsar massacre of 13 April 1919 is the most notorious atrocity in British imperial history. Lord Birkenhead – no bleeding-heart anti-imperialist, he – believed it was unique ‘in all our long, anxious and entirely honourable [sic] dealings with native populations.’ Churchill thought it stood ‘in sinister isolation’. Confronted with a large crowd of peaceful Indian protesters in the Jallianwala Bagh, General ‘Rex’ Dyer ordered his (‘native’) troops to fire into it, and didn’t stop them until their ammunition ran out. He gave no warning. The people were already fleeing as he opened fire, scrambling to get out through the narrow exits; most were shot in the back. Afterwards Dyer made no effort to aid the wounded, and forbad the Indians to return to the square to help their own. Hundreds lay there, bleeding, until the next day. At least 379 died, including children, one a baby of six weeks. That was followed by wholesale floggings of suspected malefactors, and an infamous ‘crawling order’, whereby Indians were forced to shuffle on their bellies along a narrow street. Sometimes this penalty was imposed by Dyer for not ‘salaaming’ him as he drove through the town.

Immediately afterwards Dyer claimed he had opened fire because, in the heat of the moment, he feared an attack by the crowd. That might furnish some kind of excuse for him: like many soldiers in such situations, he panicked. Later on, however, he modified this line. He could have dispersed the crowd peaceably, he admitted; or even prevented the meeting. (It was illegal.) But he didn’t want to. He wanted the demonstration to go on, in order to be able to fire at it, and kill as many people as he could. If he’d had more ammunition, he said, he would have killed more. So it was all premeditated. It was meant as a ‘lesson’, to ‘nip’ what Dyer was convinced was an incipient re-run of the 1857 Mutiny ‘in the bud’. It was this extraordinary admission that ruined him. It set the Government of India against him; every member of the British cabinet; the House of Commons; all the native Indian papers (of course), and most of the metropolitan press. He was drummed out of the Army, and only escaped court-martial for homicide because of a technicality. Unfortunately he also had some vociferous supporters: most of the Anglo-Indian community, especially women and Christian ministers; the Morning Post and Daily Telegraph (later to merge); most of the Army, including many of his own ‘sepoys’, especially Sikhs; the usual right-wing reactionaries in Britain; and the House of Lords – who were generally more pro-Dyer the more lordly they were. These seem in retrospect a pretty unrepresentative bunch of people, but their blimpish defence of Dyer had a drastic effect on opinion in India. This whole affair turned Gandhi, for example, from an imperial reformer, content to work for Dominion status, into an out-and-out enemy of the British connection. It is arguable that it was the turning point against the British raj. In his excellent new biography of Dyer, The Butcher of Amritsar (Hambledon, 2005) Nigel Collett doesn’t go this far, but believes that when the time came to hand over power in 1947, Amritsar made it impossible for Britain to do it ‘with honour and with the affection or respect’ of the Indians. That would have tortured Dyer, whose main motive on 13 April 1919, he claimed (surely sincerely), was to save the empire for Britain; and whose underlying personal insecurity, as Collett paints it, made him crave ‘affection and respect’.

Collett’s picture is a convincing one, despite the lack of personal evidence about Dyer (he left no papers), for which he compensates with some well-researched reconstructions of the milieus in which he lived and worked. (Hence all the ‘he will haves’ and ‘must haves’ and ‘probablys’ on almost every page.) Collett is hugely helped here by his own background as a commander of Gurkhas: so he knows the Army and Indian aspects inside out. Dyer was clearly a problematical character. The son of a brewer, and so without social status; sent away to a very minor school in Ireland when he was eleven; not seeing his parents again for twelve years; awkward and unsocial, ‘a fish out of almost every water’ he swam in; hot-tempered; probably rather stupid; with a Boy’s Own Paper approach to soldiering and the empire; dangerously chivalric (the ‘crawling order’ was to avenge an assault on a woman missionary); impatient of orders; loathing politicians; depressed at the signs of imperial decline all around him (in Ireland as well as India); but also – on the more positive side – strong, hard-working, brave, loved by his ‘men’ (they cheered him as he left India for disgrace in Britain), racially tolerant in a paternalistic kind of way (he resigned from a club that refused to admit ‘native’ officers), a bit of an inventor (a new range-finder), and with some real military achievements to his credit (though his annexation of eastern Baluchistan, which he wrote a Boy’s Own Paper-style book about, was against orders, and had to be undone): all this tells us an enormous amount about the man, and, by extension, the event.

Perhaps the key factor, however, was Dyer’s total immersion in the Anglo-Indian community from birth. He was born and brought up in India, and mainly served there: initially, as it happens, on stations with powerful Mutiny resonances. His occasional trips to England, on furlough or for training, were when he felt most out of water. He was like Kipling in this regard. One person who met him there noticed that there were even some English words he didn’t know. He certainly imbibed all the authoritarian prejudices of the Anglos in India. It was probably to this gallery that he was playing when he made all those damaging admissions about his motives at Amritsar. He knew his own people would approve of his ‘terrorist’ methods (the word used at the time). None of this, of course, was bound to lead to atrocity. But it may explain why Dyer’s atrocity was, in Churchill’s opinion – it was his reason for regarding Amritsar as sui generis – so essentially ‘un-British’. (We may not agree.)

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What Will Sweden Do?

Well, it would let the British government off the hook (https://www.theguardian.com/media/2019/apr/12/give-priority-to-julian-assange-claim-home-secretary-urged?. If they give priority to the Swedish extradition request over the American, as these MPs are requesting, they will avoid a much more politically sensitive row involving free speech, whistleblowing, the rights of journalists, the quality of US justice, and – ultimately – Trump. It will also give them credit among the ‘Me Too’ sisterhood for prioritising (alleged) sex crimes against women over matters of national security. At one bound, our Home Secretary will be free!

I’m not sure, however, whether it would be so welcome to the Swedes. I’ve written about their rôle in this affair in previous blogs. (Search ‘Assange’.) It is curious – to say the least – in many ways. It’s my suspicion that the Swedish legal establishment, and possibly the government, were not too upset at the collapse of their case six years ago. It was, after all, largely their fault. If Assange had been tried in Sweden then it would have thrown a searchlight on the whole dodgy process, and even on some of the deficiencies of the Swedish legal system. (I wrote about these too.) For Assange it would offer him a chance to plead his innocence, in the full glare of international publicity; and even if he were convicted the worst that could befall him would be a few months in a very comfortable Swedish prison. (I’ve visited one; better than some hotels I’ve stayed in.)

If, that is, he were not then extradited from Sweden to the United States; which would then involve Sweden in the same political controversy that Britain is threatened with currently. The Swedish authorities might not want that. Will they take on this poisoned chalice? – As a Swedish-Brit now, I’ll be following this closely.

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Another Boris Fib

Boris Johnson has been caught out yet again – maintaining in his Daily Telegraph column that ‘No Deal’ – that is, crashing out of the EU blindly – is the most popular of all the options relating to Brexit among voters. (See https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/apr/12/daily-telegraph-forced-correct-false-brexit-claim-boris-johnson?CMP=fb_gu&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR0k5ewDqBW-NMpdCfr1Ec2G3JYQc5fxhpKQgpbge7e9fia4I48DuplN4Lo#Echobox=1555065848.)  That’s an utter lie, of course. The Telegraph has published a retraction, but also excuses him on the grounds that he was ‘entitled to make sweeping generalisations based on his opinions’; and that anyway they should not be taken seriously as the piece ‘was clearly comically polemical, and could not be reasonably read as a serious, empirical, in-depth analysis of hard factual matters’. But isn’t that the whole problem with Boris: that he is merely  ‘comically polemical’, and not to be trusted? And this is the man tipped to become our new prime minister when Theresa has fallen on her sword.

The trouble is that very few people seem to be bothered by this kind of dishonesty, as we have seen recently in Trump’s America. (Boris of course is a great fan of the Donald.) This seems to be the way politics and even everyday discourse is going just now, at least in the Anglo-American world. ‘Facts’ are valuable not for what they tell us, but for how they can be used. This indicates a fundamental and amoral irrationality in possibly the majority of people – call it ‘stupidity’ if you like, but that will only make you appear ‘élitist’ – which makes one fear for ‘democracy’; and probably explains the success of Brexit, as well as of Trump. It’s why democracy requires to be moderated, as I suggested in an earlier post (https://bernardjporter.com/2019/03/31/the-mob/); and also bolstered in its foundations by an education that encourages thinking; and by a genuinely free press. That’s the hard task before us ‘rational democrats’, of all political hues. (Lefties can be as careless of the truth as Conservatives.)

(Incidentally: I learned recently that the Swedish newspaper press is subsidized by the State, in order to prevent its monopolization by rich owners. That includes an excellent left-wing daily (Monday-Friday) called DN-Etc, with a full staff of editors and reporters, priced at just 10 kronor a day. We could do with something like that in Britain, to balance things up. Do I need to repeat that, according to most international surveys, Britain has one of the least ‘free’ presses in the world?)

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The other thing that annoyed me today was the judge (magistrate?) in Assange’s bail-jumping hearing labeling him a ‘narcissist’. He may well be; but it’s no part of a judge’s function to come to this sort of judgment about him, and almost certainly indicates prejudice on his part. (Though obviously Assange was guilty of this  charge.)

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Assange Arrested

The Julian Assange story rolls on. His arrest this morning at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he was granted asylum six years ago, is the latest chapter. I blogged quite a lot about him at the beginning of his case, being professionally interested in ‘secret services’, and personally acquainted with Sweden, whither he was originally supposed to be extradited before Ecuador took him in. Here’s the first of my posts on the subject: https://bernardjporter.com/2015/01/09/julian-assange-and-the-european-arrest-warrant/. Several more followed.

In the intervening years a number of developments have taken place. One is, obviously, that the Ecuadorians have become fed up with him; or – possibly – more susceptible to outside pressure. A second is that the original ‘rape’ charges on which his extradition to Sweden was sought have now been dropped. (They were pretty dodgy anyway.) The charge on which he has just been arrested is of refusing to appear at his extradition hearing back in 2014. He’s clearly guilty of that, even though the original extradition application will no longer stand.

His objection to being extradited then had little to do with the ‘rape’ charges, but more with his fear that, once sent to Sweden, he would be re-extradited to the United States to face (potentially capital) treason or espionage charges. We know that this is what the US government wanted. A third development is that the US and indeed most of the world have become more right-wing since 2015, making his chances of avoiding extradition slightly less favourable than they were. Trump won’t be on his side. So he must be worried.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of him now. He’ll be found guilty of skipping bail. But what then? With our Home Office in the mood it’s in just now, I imagine they’ll want to get rid of him. But to where? Surely not to the USA, against the liberal outcry that would provoke around the world, and in the face of interminable legal proceedings. Other more generous countries intimated five years ago that they might grant him asylum, but would they still? He’s an Australian citizen; would the Australians want him back? Could they legally exclude him?

I have to say that I don’t approve of everything Assange and Wikileaks have done, and I doubt if I’d take to him personally. But there are principles at stake. It will be interesting to see how the story develops from here on; that is, if our papers aren’t too bored with him, or too taken up with the Brexit mess, to cover it.

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12.50 p.m. – This is a rapidly developing story, of course!  In the hour since I posted this, It has been announced (a) that Sweden can and might well re-open their case against Assange – that’s a surprise to me; and (b) that, as was more predictable, the arrest followed a new USA extradition warrant against him, albeit on a lesser charge than ‘treason’. Still, it shows he wasn’t being paranoid, as some claimed. Can we trust our government to resist? Nowadays, probably not. (See Philip Cassell’s comment, below.) The ‘Great Reaction’ again…

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The Great Reaction

The current crisis is more than about Brexit. Indeed, in my opinion, voiced from the very start of the process – https://bernardjporter.com/2016/06/16/is-it-really-about-the-eu – it was never really about Brexit at all. That was simply the issue which the Right and their plutocratic and reactionary backers decided to launch their fight against the centre-left, mainly because they judged that the electorate would follow them if they persuaded them that their ills were caused by foreigners. And they were right. ‘Europe’ has been made the scapegoat for all the ordinary people’s sufferings and frustrations under ‘austerity’ and, if you like, late-stage capitalism. If Brexit is successful the reactionaries are going to be able to sail off into their neo-liberal havens, unhampered by Brussels bureaucracy, and unaffected by the harm, in terms of jobs, prices, self-respect, freedom of movement and most other things, that the new dispensation is likely to bring to lesser folk. By the time the harm has struck, it will be too late to go back on the nation’s decision; and there will be opportunity for a new scapegoat to be found to distract people from its true source. Who knows, this time it could be the Jews. That’s been done before. It’s perhaps what the British Jewish community should be on the lookout for just now; not Corbyn, for pity’s sake.

That the Brexit lobby is mainly a Right-wing one on most issues is confirmed by a recent survey of Leave voters’ domestic priorities, in which a return of the death penalty, the resumption of corporal punishment in schools, and letting people smoke in pubs again, among other similar views, score higher than in the average population, placing Brexiteers firmly in the ultra-reactionary camp. (See https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-poll-leave-voters-death-penalty-yougov-results-light-bulbs-a7656791.html.) – Even more alarming is the recent report from the highly reputable Hansard Society noting a steep decline among the British recently in their respect for democracy and its agencies; with, for example, a remarkable 54% agreeing with the statement that ‘Britain needs a strong ruler willing to break the rules’, and only 23% disagreeing. (See https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/apr/08/uk-more-willing-embrace-authoritarianism-warn-hansard-audit-political-engagement?CMP=share_btn_tw.) Now there’s an opening for an authoritarian dictator if ever there was one. Some are speculating that Boris Johnson is the likeliest one for the role. He’s certainly ambitious and cynical enough to fit it, although the ridicule in which he is widely regarded might be a problem for him. But wasn’t Hitler ridiculed in his time? And – to give what perhaps is a fairer comparison – Donald Trump; whose great fan Bojo has declared himself to be?

Of course this isn’t only a British phenomenon. The rise of the Right all over Europe and the Americas is a much remarked-upon feature of world politics today; hinting perhaps at an underlying world cause. That could be a failure of democracy, or of some of the forms of democracy, especially in Britain and the USA; or ‘capitalism in crisis’ (my own preference); or an international conspiracy of, say, bankers and Russian chess masters (no, not the Jews); or a judgment of God for some sin or other; or simply the old Adam in us all.

How to stop it? In Britain we have powerful forces ranged against us: the money power, the Tories, the Press, the Israel lobby (no, again not the Jews per se), one or other wing of the Labour Party (take your pick), ignorance, stupidity, apathy…. In the face of all this, our chances must seem a bit like Watford’s against Manchester City in the upcoming FA Cup Final. But the final whistle hasn’t been blown yet.

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