25 May 2012

Shades of Grey

Which was the 48th episode, and the final episode of the Second Season of Star Trek: The Next Generation,  and essentially consists of about 10 minutes of new footage involving one of the actors lying on a bed in a set interspersed with Clips from previous episodes. It's widely considered one of, if not the worst episode in the entire Star Trek pantheon. I was moved to write by the latest offering from the already mentioned Owen Jones, who, having left the sanctity of the Guardian to move across to the other fount of predictable idiocy The Independent has, in the face of strong competition, produced what has to be the most idiotic article I think I have ever read in any supposedly 'respectable' newspaper.

The articles byline is 'If Socialists really did run the show then working people would benefit' and as already stated the sheer number of inaccuracies and calumnies within an article is, I think unsurpassed in the history of 'quality' journalism. There's probably too many to list not to make this the longest article in the site's history, but I'll do my best:

'When I glanced at the Telegraph's front page later that day – which revealed that multi-millionaire Tory donor Adrian Beecroft had accused Vince Cable of being a socialist – I realised it must have been Karl Marx spinning violently in his Highgate Cemetery grave. The great man shouldn't take it to heart:'

In fairness, it's questionable whether a man should be held to account for crimes committed in his names after his death but I am moved to quote the late Lewis Namier, who was moved to inquire of the brilliant philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin, when informed that the latter intended to compose a treatise on Marx as to why he was studying such a Poor thinker and one so blinded by class and racial hatred. However, given how influential (Disastrously) his ideas have been, to describe him as a 'Great man' (in the sense that Possibly Hitler and Stalin were 'Great men') is not beyond the realms of possibility.

'....it does demonstrate how "socialist" is regarded as the ultimate insult by much of our wealthy elite, who have been in a virtually uninterrupted triumphalist mood since Margaret Thatcher defeated their political opponents in the 1980s'

From reading this you might think (as indeed my co-blogger might well argue) that Thatcher gained her victory through franchise restriction and use, possibly of paramilitary forces to vanquish her and, by definition 'The elite's political opponents'. Never mind she won thumping victories both in 1983 and 1987, winning a majority of voters in the C1 and C2 Sociological demographics,two strata referred to quite frequently (and witheringly, for the most part) by The Guardian as 'Thatcher's children'. I can only assume that from Jones' perspective, these people, often amongst the early self-employed, small businessmen or employees in parts of the Public Sector where Union Leadership had had their restrictive practices curtailed by the Employment reforms of Norman Tebbit , would not be classified according to his eccentric world-view as 'Working people'

'In what was fortunate timing for Thatcher's acolytes, the Soviet empire began disintegrating as her project reached its climax. Although almost all socialists abhorred Stalinist totalitarianism (by the 1980s, at least), these were regimes that described themselves as "actually existing socialism". Their collapse was portrayed as the final discrediting of socialism, and the ultimate vindication of capitalism.'

Given that even the most Conservative estimates of the extent of Warsaw Pact influence within the Public Sector, Civil Service and other prominent parts of British civic life puits the number of COMECON country agents at around 15,000, it is something of a stretch to make the statement that 'Almost all Socialists abhorred Stalinist totalitarianism'. Besides which 'Uncle Joe' had been dead for almost three decades by the time Thatcher came to power. If my blanket use of the terms 'Soviet sympathiser' and 'Sino/north Korean agent' is to be disproved (and I apologise to readers as they have been over-used) then at least one should distinguish between the Stalin, Kruschev and Brezhnev eras. As is so often the case with Journalists of the Left, the absence of historical context is truly shaming and shocking.

'Beecroft's use of "socialism", then, relates to a theory called the "Overton window", which describes what is seen as politically acceptable at a given time. Rather than having to engage in a debate over the merits of bosses being able to dismiss their workers at will, an opponent can be dismissed as a "socialist", which – for Beecroft – is code for "extremist" or "someone with views outside of what is politically acceptable".'

A theory which is used regulaly in debates by (not Jones himself, curiously, which is to his credit) journalists of the Left to circumscribe debate on a whole raft of issues, most prominently race or sexual orientation - almost any mainstream politician daring to question the status quo that we need to do something to put limits in immigration into the UK has to lace such a statement with caveats and platitudes about ' the contribution diversity has made to the country' lest he be branded 'racist'. Similarly on the issue of Climate Change (Or Anthropogenic Global Warming), currently under severe pressure, the term 'Climate Change denier' is regularly bandied about. The issue being that unlike Socialism, neither 'Racism' nor 'Climate Change Denial' can put 90 million dead across two countries in their debit column. Forget Al Gore's vapid meanderings on the state of the planet. This is the real 'Inconvenient truth' that the Left would like airbrushed out of history.

'If socialists really were running the show in Britain, they would be building a society run by, and in the interests of, working people. Our banks – propped by the British people – would be taken under genuine democratic control, forcing them to operate in the interests of society as a whole. Our booming wealthy elite would be forced to pay a fair share of tax (or, in some cases, any tax whatsoever)....'

Again here, he hits on a partial truth - the banks shouldn't have been baled out by the taxpayer, for if markets are to work, however imperfectly, then there has to be the possibility of failure. Sadly it was the previous administration, by firstly propping up Northern Rock for heavily political reasons, then intervening in the difficulties of HBOS and RBS who set in tow the kowtowing to the Banks, who know that whatever their misjudgements, the taxpayer will now act as backstop.

I also like the idea that the Banks under state control would 'act in the interests of society as a whole' - And just who decides what that interest is? Are we going to have referenda on interest rates (for example?) Which well-paid coterie of bureaucrats will decide 'the popular interest'?

'After the disastrous failures of market economics, real socialists would be taking our utilities – such as the railways and rip-off energy companies – into social ownership: not old-style, statist nationalisation, but democratically run by workers and consumers. They would bring down welfare spending, not by kicking people at the bottom, but by building social housing, introducing a living wage, and creating jobs. And they would be reversing the scandalous lack of rights that workers have in the workplace, which is what ensured that wages were declining for many before the crash had even happened...'

What I find amusing here is that Jones (I suspect) is too young to remember the situation in the 1970s, and certainly too young to remember the 1945 to 51 government - which was a genuinely impressive administration, easy to knock with the benefit of hindsight but filled with ministers who had served patriotically during the warf, and with a genuine concern for working conditions and familiar with pre-war deprivation which the modern LEft have, frankly zero familiarity with. The Industries were taken into Public ownership with the intention of running them 'democratically'. That was quickly hijacked by the Unions themselves, who took over acting in the interests of producers, rather than consumers. A quick look at the scene today sees (for example) the London Underground, which is already partly in Public ownership, and under 'Workers control' - a scenario meaning a job that for the most part mechanisation should already have removed is paid a base salary of £59K. Is Jones saying that's the kind of wage levels he wants across the economy? It sounds like a rekindling of Tony Benn's laudable but ludicrous idea of a 'siege economy' to prevent Britain being battered by the then relatively nascent Capital markets, or at worst, something like the reaction of Apartheid South Africa in the face of global economic sanctions - Build up our own industries heedless of what is going in the outside world.

As I said in the previous post on Murphy, I wouldn't normally consider either party worthy of such detailed comment, but as these are two intellectual scions of the Ed Miliband Labour Party, I think it's worth seeing the level of intellectual rigour and total failure to understand historical context or even take a cursory look at history before coming out with suggestions. Ironically one thing both contributors lack is the realisation that things aren't always black and white - and in between, there are many Shades of Grey....

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