Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Turns out it Wasn't Jezza's Fault After All


Yes it seems that Brexit wasn't the fault of Jeremy Corbyn or decades of scaremongering about immigrant hordes. No the real culprit here was..... Gay Marriage!

Well according to the Daily Mail anyway,

The proposal, which had not been in the Tories’ 2010 election manifesto, was vehemently opposed by about half of his parliamentary party — who happened also to be the most Eurosceptic — and appalled countless members of local Conservative associations.
This was seized on by Nigel Farage. I had lunch with Ukip’s leader at that time and I recall two things above all from it.
First, how disgusted he was that I did not want to have a drink before sitting down; and second, how gleeful he was at the way the gay marriage row was sending shire Tories in droves to switch to Ukip membership. 
Though Farage himself is a libertarian, and definitely no moralist, he exploited this to the full.

This and the full part of the article is in a word bollocks. The only part of the narrative being peddled by Charles Moore that's even remotely accurate is that Same sex marriage was divisive within the Tory party. Everything else is simply misrepresented.

For starters David Cameron had already taken steps to appease his Eurosceptic base before Same sex marriage became a talking point in 2013. In 2009 back when Cameron was just a party leader he took the Conservative party out of the European Peoples Party, the EPP is the main coalition of right wing parties in the European Union. Many of whom like Germany's CDU are staunchly pro EU, and the group as a block opposed a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty which the Conservative party were campaigning for. Instead he took the Tory's into a coalition called the European Conservatives and Reformists, working together with parties such as the homophobic Law and Justice Party in Poland, the National expansionist Bulgarian National Movement which is hostile to minorities and dreams of a "Greater Bulgaria" annexation of other territories like Macedonia.

This was clearly a move designed to appease the Eurosceptics as it diminished the Conservative parties influence in the EU and allied them to some very strange and extreme parties. At the same time the Tory party was also building up opposition to the Lisbon treaty, though it was ratified in parliament.

But what about 2016 and Brexit/Bremain? Well its true that the same sex marriage vote split the Conservative party who voted 126 for to 134 against, but that doesn't mean that same sex marriage killed the UK's EU membership. All this shows is that the issue widened a rift within a party, we're currently seeing the same thing happening in the Labour party over Jeremy Corbyn. There were many options open to Cameron, including give a referendum on the EU and fight a winning campaign. What cost Cameron his job and his victory were his own failings.

The victorious leave campaign was based on two platforms, immigration, and austerity, remember the £350 million going to the EU that could go the NHS slogan? The one leavers have already backtracked on, IDS, and Farage. Both problems were the governments making, Cameron's government's spending cuts and refusal to either take steps to lower immigration, or educate the population on the realities of migration other six years gave his opposition free movement to whip up the mood against him. Hell he announced this referendum in 2013, that's three years head start he gave himself, and squandered.

Hell this one combines both slogans

Gay marriage wasn't even a bullet point on the leave list.

So no Gay marriage did not kill Britain's EU membership and Cameron's "legacy", he did with his own poor decisions and inability to fight a winning campaign.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows: Karl Marx and the Young Republican Party

Sadly this is a mock up I found on the web, but it neatly illustrates the topic.

History is full of strange occurrences, chance meetings and weird common interests. The Paris Commune for example united for a time the Anarchists (under the Proudhon faction) the Communists (Under the leadership of Blanqui's supporters) the lefty republicans and the Free Masons.

Here's another strange coincidence in the life of Karl Marx. Marx after leaving the University of Berlin with a background in philosophy he wandered for a bit ultimately becoming a journalist in Cologne.

He had also written some play scripts and even a comedic novel. But his main source of work and income in the early 1840's was journalism writing for and editing the Rhineland News. The News was explicitly political and of a left wing persuasion mainly criticising the Rhineland Diet. While writing for the Newspaper Marx started corresponding with German exiles in France and learned about their new socialist ideas taking root in French working class districts. One of those ideas went by the name of Communism a name popularised by Auguste Blanqui and of course would be taken up by Karl Marx. Communism soon supplanted Karl Marx's early German republicanism though not immediately, it seems the suppression of the Rhineland News in 1843 pushed Karl to make his break with constistutionalism. 

In 1847 the first Communist party, the Communist League* was established with Marx and his close friend and collaborator Friedrich Engels as major members. The Manifesto of the Communist Party was written on behalf of the Communist League and was an explanation of the groups beliefs, strategies and actions. Marx and the League also published a new paper in the Rhineland under the name of New Rhenish News but that didn't last very long either.

The Revolution of 1848 swept over Prussia and the smaller German states, the Communist League was supportive but unable to play any effective role. Though that didn't stop the League and Marx getting a lot of blame for causing it anyway.

Marx was exiled in 1843(he would return to Cologne in 1847) after the collapse of the Rhineland News and moved to Paris were he again found work co-editing a Leftist newspaper The German-French Annals. He and his wife and children had to keep moving around western europe until the fall out of the 1848 Revolutionary wave forced his family to seek shelter in London where he spent the rest of his days.

Whilst in London Marx ran out of money, and was desperately in need of work. An offer of work came from a surprising source, a newspaper published in New York, known as the New York Daily Tribune. The Tribune was founded in 1841 by Horace Greeley as a pro Whig party publication. In October 25th 1851 the paper boasted of acquiring some new foreign correspondents of great knowledge and insight

“a letter from Madame Belgioioso, upon the daily and domestic life of the Turks, and another upon Germany by one of the clearest and most vigorous writers that country has produced—no matter what may be the judgment of the critical upon his public opinions in the sphere of political and social philosophy.”
The clearest and most vigorous writer of Germany (even though it wouldn't exist for another twenty years) was Karl Marx, his first article was on the aftermath of 1848

 “The first act of the revolutionary drama on the Continent of Europe has closed...The ‘powers that were’ before the hurricane of 1848, are again the ‘powers that be.’ ”
 This relationship would continue for nine years until 1861. For his services Karl Marx was paid an average of $5 a week, which was just enough to keep his family in home, but not much beyond that. He would become the paper's global correspondent writing on events and conditions all over the world.  It wasn't a happy relationship, the paper refused all requests for a pay increase and Engels had to assist the Marx family financially from time to time. However the steady payments and research conducted for the Tribune would pay off for Marx's passion the development of his political understanding. Without the Tribune Marx probably would not have finished the first volume of Capital (some of his articles were reproduced in it) or any of his other post 1840's work.

So where does the GOP come into this? Well the Tribune supported the Whig party, however the Whigs collapsed in the 1850's with most members and supporters joining the newly created Republican Party. Horace Greeley was one such new member and he took his newspaper with him. This means that for several years Karl Marx's political ideas were being subsidised by the main journalistic arm of the Republican party. How's that for strange bedfellows?

But it goes a bit deeper Karl Marx was well aware of the American political developments and preferred the Republican party to the Democratic party. When the Civil War broke out Marx backed the Union, one of his last articles for the Tribune was about the public opinion of England (Britain) to the political instability in January 1861 (open war wouldn't happen until April) and warning and criticism of the Cotton importers and textile mill owners whom were trying to pressure the British Empire to side with the rebelling south.

The only war meeting convened on the arrival of the La Plata, in the cotton salesroom of the Liverpool Stock Exchange, was a corner meeting where the cotton jobbers had it all to themselves. Even at Manchester, the temper of the working classes was so well understood that an insulated attempt at the convocation of a war meeting was almost as soon abandoned as thought of.

And in 1864 the International Working Men's Association, of which Marx was a leading member wrote a letter congratulating him on his re-election and upon his resistance to the slave power of the Southern plantation owners. Marx was on of the signatures.

We congratulate the American people upon your re-election by a large majority. If resistance to the Slave Power was the reserved watchword of your first election, the triumphant war cry of your re-election is Death to Slavery.
From the commencement of the titanic American strife the workingmen of Europe felt instinctively that the star-spangled banner carried the destiny of their class. The contest for the territories which opened the dire epopee, was it not to decide whether the virgin soil of immense tracts should be wedded to the labor of the emigrant or prostituted by the tramp of the slave driver?

When an oligarchy of 300,000 slaveholders dared to inscribe, for the first time in the annals of the world, "slavery" on the banner of Armed Revolt, when on the very spots where hardly a century ago the idea of one great Democratic Republic had first sprung up, whence the first Declaration of the Rights of Man was issued, and the first impulse given to the European revolution of the eighteenth century; when on those very spots counterrevolution, with systematic thoroughness, gloried in rescinding "the ideas entertained at the time of the formation of the old constitution", and maintained slavery to be "a beneficent institution", indeed, the old solution of the great problem of "the relation of capital to labor", and cynically proclaimed property in man "the cornerstone of the new edifice" — then the working classes of Europe understood at once, even before the fanatic partisanship of the upper classes for the Confederate gentry had given its dismal warning, that the slaveholders' rebellion was to sound the tocsin for a general holy crusade of property against labor, and that for the men of labor, with their hopes for the future, even their past conquests were at stake in that tremendous conflict on the other side of the Atlantic. Everywhere they bore therefore patiently the hardships imposed upon them by the cotton crisis, opposed enthusiastically the proslavery intervention of their betters — and, from most parts of Europe, contributed their quota of blood to the good cause.

While the workingmen, the true political powers of the North, allowed slavery to defile their own republic, while before the Negro, mastered and sold without his concurrence, they boasted it the highest prerogative of the white-skinned laborer to sell himself and choose his own master, they were unable to attain the true freedom of labor, or to support their European brethren in their struggle for emancipation; but this barrier to progress has been swept off by the red sea of civil war.

The workingmen of Europe feel sure that, as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American Antislavery War will do for the working classes. They consider it an earnest of the epoch to come that it fell to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working class, to lead his country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world. 

Signed on behalf of the International Workingmen's Association, the Central Council:
Longmaid, Worley, Whitlock, Fox, Blackmore, Hartwell, Pidgeon, Lucraft, Weston, Dell, Nieass, Shaw, Lake, Buckley, Osbourne, Howell, Carter, Wheeler, Stainsby, Morgan, Grossmith, Dick, Denoual, Jourdain, Morrissot, Leroux, Bordage, Bocquet, Talandier, Dupont, L.Wolff, Aldovrandi, Lama, Solustri, Nusperli, Eccarius, Wolff, Lessner, Pfander, Lochner, Kaub, Bolleter, Rybczinski, Hansen, Schantzenbach, Smales, Cornelius, Petersen, Otto, Bagnagatti, Setacci;
George Odger, President of the Council; P.V. Lubez, Corresponding Secretary for France; Karl Marx, Corresponding Secretary for Germany; G.P. Fontana, Corresponding Secretary for Italy; J.E. Holtorp, Corresponding Secretary for Poland; H.F. Jung, Corresponding Secretary for Switzerland; William R. Cremer, Honorary General Secretary.

Honestly now can you imagine such a thing happening today?

Further reading:


* By which I mean an explicitly Communist political party. Prior to the leagues founding early Communists were either members of other radical parties usually Republican, or like Blanqui's followers a clandestine network of supporters.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Metropolis and Yellow Socialism

One of my favourite films is Metropolis, I'd seen a grainy version of it as a kid on a soggy morning while watching the Sci Fi channel. Like most viewers it left an impression on me with herds of workers marching, and of course the introduction of the robot Maria. It would be over ten years before I saw it again.

I read in a magazine that they'd found a mostly intact cut of the film in Argentina and were busy restoring it. I grabbed the DVD as soon as it was released and watched it that very night. It's simply a joy to watch, the effects the music, the plot are all interesting and attention grabbing. Though the film has a pretty dark agenda and I don't mean the scheming of the factory boss dad.

SF Debris has reviewed the film, its very informative and quite meaty, both on the film and the background of early German cinema. However there's a very serious flaw within it. At around the 12 minute mark of part one (below) Chuck talks about the films writer Thea von Harbou and her influences when drafting both the script and the novelization. Chuck states correctly that Thea von Harbou became sympathetic to the Nazi party, he then incorrectly states that this prompted her to build the script around Socialist themes.

This is incorrect on three counts; first the Nazi party would not care for Socialist themes in the film since they attacked and destroyed Socialist and Communist films and influence in German media because they believed them to be a source of cultural corruption. Two, Metropolis doesn't actually contain any socialist themes at all, quite the opposite in fact. While Metropolis isn't a Manifesto the politics it does push are Fascist Class Collaboration, not Socialist Class Conflict.

A "Red" reading of Metropolis is uncommon but not unheard of. Chuck actually goes onto explain the root cause of this nonsense unwittingly. He calls it a film about the decadence of a capitalist pig* and the plight of the workers. And yes there are many scenes about systemic violence against the workers of this future city like:

The march of the downtrodden and oppressed

And in the scene where Freder sees the factory for the first time, he hallucinates that he's in hell.

But all you convey when you show economic misery like this is that you don't agree with that kind of treatment. That is not in and of itself Socialism, plenty of staunch capitalists have expressed regret and disagreement with extreme uses of labour. The abolitionist Frederick Douglass even went so as to accept that the concept of wage slavery was real and that it could get fairly close to conditions of chattel slaves in extreme circumstances. Dickens too was a famous campaigner for reforms and improvements for the poor, but in his novel Hard Times he attacks socialism even the concept of Unions alongside the Capitalists.

 If you watch Metropolis and don't feel sympathy for these abused Proles regardless of your own political views then I'm honestly shocked, it lays it on pretty thick. What would make Metropolis a Socialist film is if these images of brutality and desperation were used to agitate for a Socialist critique or solution i.e. revolution. But that just isn't the case in Metropolis, the uprising of the workers is lamented not celebrated. The critique and solution presented such as they are, are Fascistic.

The repeated message of the film is that the workers and the wealthy are the same family, Maria takes a group of workers children to the pleasure gardens, and literally points at the rich kids and says just that. "Das sind Eure Brüder!" "These are your brothers - your sisters!"

Young Freder the idealistic rich boy who goes where he shouldn't is appalled at what he witnesses,but he specifically says that the source of his sympathy is that these workers are his brothers

"Ich wollte den Menschen in die Gesichter sehen, deren kleine Kinder meine Brüder, meine Schwestern sind ..." [I wanted to look into the faces of the people whose small children are my brothers and sisters ...]

So what's the problem here? Well from the Socialist view its false conciousness i.e. nonsense, the employing class and the labouring class have nothing in common. Indeed according to Socialism all other distinctions, race, nation, sex, religion, are artificial and the only real dividing line is class. A Geordie Joiner from Newcastle has more in common with a Thai seamstress in Bangkok then he does his own boss even if his boss is his best mate and neighbour for more than twenty years.

From the Preamble to the Constitution of the Industrial Workers of the World.

The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.
Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.

But shortly after Freder has declared his familial bond to the Proles he angrily takes his dad to task for what he's been doing.

 "Es waren ihre Hande, die unsere Stadt aufgebaut haben, Vater." "It was their hands that built this city of ours, father." 

This is exchange between father and son has a bit more going on but it still doesn't meet the criteria for socialism. All young Freder is doing is chastising his father for his unfairness and ingratitude to his employee's. Had he ended his moralising with "They built the city, so they should own and run it for themselves" that would be socialism. But this is just moral tongue lashing. He does end with these statements from Young Freder.

"I am going to prove to my father that the world is not made for one man - nor for a thousand - but for all Mankind." 

  "I will not live any longer on the sweat of other men." 

 "I have far to go today - alone, into the depths - to my brothers." 

 "Ich habe heute einen weiten Weg vor mir. Ich will hinunter zu meinen Brüdern." 

Again, this may seem like socialism to some, but all that's been stated here is a belief that's actually quite common to many different views on the political spectrum, and a declaration that Young Freder is dropping out of the Capitalist class and intending to live off his own labours. A sentiment which is common to socialists, but also to Ayn Rand style capitalists, and of course survivalists. The first statement "for all mankind" could be found in a socialist pamphlet or on a poster but it would have to have more added to it. Socialists do not just beleive that the world was built for all mankind, but for all mankind in common ownership and mutual responsibility.

A Liberal could make the same statement (and many did in the days when Monarchies dominated the globe) but mean that everyone has the same inalienable rights. A Conservative could say the same thing and mean a right to life and participation. Indeed of all the political currents I know of the only groups that wouldn't say something like this in any context (well except lying) would be Feudalists and those strange eugenicists.

Skipping ahead to the very end, after a fight between Rotwang and Young Freder on top of the Cathedral, we have a scene that is literally a Fascist economics slogan. Freder goes up to his father and Grot the foreman of the workers, the representatives of Capital and Labour, takes both men's hands linking the two through him, and then for the finale makes them join hands, themselves in kinship.

Freder the son of the wealthy and friend to the workers, with experience and knowledge of both is linking the two groups. He is the personification of mediation, the cornerstone of Fascist economics, under the concept of mediation the Fascist party balances between the two classes, able to look beyond the two's "sectional" interests for the greater good of the nation and achieves greater harmony through a rational middle or third way. Indeed when Fascism was created it propagandise on the claim that it was a compromise between communism and capitalism, that's how important this concept to Fascism, its at the very core of the ideology.

Hitler decreed a law bringing an end to collective bargaining and providing that henceforth "labour trustees", appointed by him, would "regulate labour contracts" and maintain "labour peace". Since the decisions of the trustees were to be legally binding, the law, in effect, outlawed strikes. Ley promised "to restore absolute leadership to the natural leader of a factory - that is, the employer... Only the employer can decide."
Of course in reality the Fascist mediators often sold out to the employers, and only gave into workers demands when the workers continued resisting, or when World War II broke out and the Nazi's feared poor living standards would provoke internal unrest, as it did in World War I.

The intertitle before this scene even calls Freder a Mediator.

And this is the final screen before THE END card.

Oh and speaking of Head and Hands

Indeed it's rather telling that the films capitalist is described as the "Head" the nickname for workers who use their intellectual capacity e.g. teachers, researchers, etc. That simply isn't done in Socialist agitation, the word for a capitalist is Parasite, not head or brain. To quote Solidarity Forever the anthem of the global labour movement:

They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn
But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn

If Freder were really a representation of Socialism, then this scene would have ended with  him holding his fathers arms behind his back, while the workers (not Grot who was a spy and a sell out) force him to agree to turn over control of the city. But of course if the film really were about socialism Metropolis would have been paralysed by a general strike and Robo-Maria would have been sidelined for a strike committee.

*Not really,  the city master and factory boss is brutal and controlling, but he does seem to devote every waking hour to his work, if anyone's being decadent and flippant it would be Young Freder and he's portrayed very sympathetically.

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