Hypothetical Questions

At last, and after much hostile criticism, the Guardian has begrudgingly endorsed Jeremy Corbyn and called for a Labour vote on Thursday, concluding the editorial on Saturday with

 
…Mr Corbyn has shown that the party might be the start of something big rather  than the last gasp of something small. On 8 June Labour deserves our vote.

 

Well done, Guardian! It must have hurt to print this after so much carping ; but perhaps it has dawned on them at last that, as good as their arts and sports coverage is, much of their readership has been despairing at their politics and won’t put up with much more of the same.

The transformation is not, of course, total. In the same edition, in the Review Section, one Stephen Poole criticises Jeremy Corbyn’s reluctance to answer hypothetical questions. The example given was Paxman’s question on whether he, Corbyn,  would order a drone strike on a suspected terrorist. This, of course, was a simple ‘got you both ways’ ploy by Paxman: no possible answer can satisfy the questioner.

The trick in asking a hypothetical question is to imply one set of assumptions and then re-define them in the light of the response. It is the oldest trick in the book and Paxman should be ashamed for indulging his masters by resorting to it. To ask a hypothetical question fairly, the assumptions have to be both stated and comprehensive. Here’s an example of how one question put several times to Jeremy Corbyn should be linked with the assumptions surrounding it.

Question: Would you authorise nuclear retaliation – i.e. push the nuclear ‘red button’?

Assumptions: You are Prime Minister and have survived an attack on Britain with nuclear weapons. Tens of millions of people have been killed. The country is in flames and most of the surviving population are dying of injuries and radiation poisoning. Your military advisors tell you it’s obvious who launched the attack, but, as the first casualty of war is the truth, you cannot be completely sure of this. Similarly, you do not know the purpose of the attack. It could be accidental. You do know, however, that if you retaliate against the nations identified by your military advisers, millions of innocent people will be killed and the resulting nuclear winter will probably render all human life extinct in a matter of years.

Answer : Yes – this indicates you are either a psychopath or lying.

Answer: No – this indicates that you are sane.

But as you won’t have the assumptions stated before the question is asked, the best course of action is to refuse to answer hypothetical questions. Well done, Jeremy Corbyn!

Meanwhile, the best (albeit utterly chilling) advice on what to do following a nuclear attack is contained in the Introduction to Martin Amis’s 1987 book Einstein’s Monsters. There’s a copy to be found here but readers of this blog are recommended to buy a copy of the book which is still available in paperback (Penguin, ISBN 0-14- 010315-5).

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Bring it on

Having jumped the gun last week and been recalled to the starting line, Angela Eagle finally left the starting blocks today in her bid today to oust Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Leader. If the intention of those behind the unrest in the Parliamentary Labour Party really is to replace Jeremy with someone more “electable”, they could hardly have found anyone less suitable. Their real motive is, of course, money. The plotters fear that Corbyn won’t deliver the needs of Big Business, on whom the careerists in the Labour Party depend and whose interests they represent. If Corbyn cannot be kept off the ballot paper (an issue that may be resolved by the NEC tomorrow) and the ballot cannot be rigged, their Plan B will be to form an SDP Mark 2 comprising Labour MPs, managed by the existing Labour office staff and funded by Big Business. This new party will, however, require a more “electable” leader than the hapless Angela.  Whatever the outcome, her leading role is likely to be very temporary.

The outcome of the EU referendum came as a surprise to many commentators and has been blamed by the plotters on Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to join Project Fear, the Tory led attempt to frighten electors into voting to stay in the EU. The conspicuous absence of a similar strategy to block Theresa May from becoming Tory Leader and, by default, Prime Minister, on similar grounds is significant. The difference between Mrs May and Jeremy Corbyn is that the former will act in the best interests of Big Business and the latter cannot be relied on to do so.

What the referendum vote to leave the EU actually reflected was the growing gulf between the middle classes and the working class. This gulf has been growing apace under ‘austerity’, the policy pursued by the Tories and, until Corbyn was elected leader, by Labour. Under austerity social spending benefitting the working class and the taxes paid by Big Business are both cut. That this is the explanation for the significant working class vote for exit has escaped much of the liberal intelligentsia. Their spokespersons – the likes of Will Self and the hacks at the Guardian – have not blamed Corbyn  – instead they  have turned on the working class itself, attributing their support for Exit on endemic racism.

What the liberal intelligentsia overlook is that it is easy to be liberal about the free movement of labour when you gain from the arrangement. For the middle classes it provides lots of well paid jobs for UK graduates and professionals across the EU. Together with a rather woolly feel-good attitude about European togetherness, the EU also provides them with cheap building labour, cheap, unchavvy nannies and cheap fruit picked in the UK by sweated labour. If, on the other hand, you are not a member of the middle class and are denied access to further education, or can acquire it only at the cost of incurring crippling debt, the glittering job opportunities in Europe are irrelevant. The attractions of cheap, unskilled labour are also diminished when it’s you who have to compete for the zero hours jobs on offer. If you are in a trade union, the EU’s failure to recognise and respect collective bargaining and its opposition to trade union solidarity is also a major concern. To be told by those who are unaffected by these issues that you are racist is insulting. There is nothing inherently anti-racist or honourable in supporting the free movement of labour when you happen, personally, to gain from it at the expense of your fellow citizens; and there is nothing inherently racist or dishonourable in opposing the free movement of labour when it damages the collective interests of your class. The liberal intelligentsia need to wake up to these facts and, like the Communist Party, show the working class some respect.

The liberal intelligentsia could also usefully follow the Communist Party in rallying to the defence of Corbyn. This does not mean that the CP is going to indulge in mass entryism which, according to the Guardian today, Labour HQ claim to fear. This is simply scare tactics on their part. Had Labour HQ ever read the Communist Manifesto, they would know that communists “disdain to conceal their aims and views”. What was true in 1848 is true today: communists don’t do entryism. We will, however, openly and defiantly campaign, shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in the trade union movement, including those represented by Croydon TUC, with ordinary Labour Party members and in the pages of our newspaper, the Morning Star, to see Jeremy Corbyn re-elected. Bring it on.

 

Can we have our votes back please?

Interviewed yesterday on Channel 4 News, Naom Chomsky identified global warming and nuclear war as the two greatest threats to humanity and criticised the presidential contenders in the US for ignoring both. While I’d be inclined to add two more – growing inequality and the threat to humanity posed by the potential collapse of anti-biotics – it has to be pointed out that these concerns did not feature in our last general election either. The only election I can recall where they were raised was that for Labour Leader, won decisively by Jeremy Corbyn. He, however, faces an uphill struggle to persuade the Parliamentary Labour Party. Most Labour MPs and many of their elected counterparts in local government cannot wait to unleash a coup to topple him, and to hell with the members and supporters who so decisively elected him.

The recent mayoral election in London was largely about personalities and race, not policies. The successful Labour candidate, Sadiq Khan, promised to freeze fares and build more affordable homes. Neither appeared very likely, but the significant number of left inclined voters in London voted for him anyway on the grounds that he wasn’t Zac Goldsmith, the millionaire Tory candidate; and, if he failed to get elected, the Parliamentary Labour Party would use it as an excuse to try and unseat Jeremy Corbyn.

Having won on Corbyn’s coat tails, there were some immediate signs of trouble ahead. At his inauguration Khan cold shouldered Corbyn and, in his public statements then and thereafter, showed little understanding of why he had been elected. His acceptance speech was full of self-congratulation for his personal achievement as the “son of a bus driver” for having risen so far. He was now, he told us,  “living the dream”. He has, however, waited until today to reveal in the Guardian his true colours. He wants Labour to return to the policies Blair and Brown. In other words, he sees war, growing inequality, privatisation and protecting the rich as a fair price for a Labour victory at the next general election and the further personal advancement that appears to mean so much to him. He has fired the starting gun for the campaign to topple Corbyn.

The Guardian should be ashamed for giving him a platform for this act of treachery. He should have been politely directed to the Daily Mail or The Times where his true audience awaits. Meanwhile, can we have our votes back please?

 

General Election Blues

No one should be in any doubt that the outcome of the general election last month was anything other than a defeat for the Left and progressive forces in Britain. The SNP managed to obliterate Labour in Scotland by positioning itself to the left of Labour but, given our first-past-the-post voting system for parliamentary elections, it succeeded only in strengthening separatist tendencies in Scotland and entrenching the forces of reaction elsewhere. The Tories secured the votes of less than a quarter of the electorate but enough to give them a comfortable overall majority. We should, however, not cling to the illusion that a Labour government under Ed Miliband would have been able to deliver the goal of greater equality – now identified by Miliband’s critics inside the Labour party as Labour’s mistaken dominant electoral message. How strange that we, the electorate, didn’t notice this at the time!

So where are we now? According to Martin Kettle writing in the Guardian today (Friday, 5 June), we should take Cameron’s claim to head a one-nation government supporting blue collar workers seriously. According to Kettle, even our concerns about the NHS under the Tories are unfounded. He says that Jeremy Hunt is not repeating the mistakes made by his predecessor, Andrew Lansley: according to Kettle, the NHS will “still be there in 2020”. Complacency? With more anti-trade union legislation promised in the Queen’s speech, if that’s not clinging to illusions, I don’t know what is.

Croydon TUC, supported by the communists on its Executive Committee, has long taken a more realistic view about what we could expect following the General Election whoever won. That is why it formed well in advance of the General Election the Croydon Assembly as a way for the trade unions to reach out to the wider community beyond the boundary of organised labour to raise awareness and to encourage people to organise against austerity, privatisation, growing inequality and cuts in public services. CTUC took the view that these would continue whoever won the election. Given the apparent inability of the left within the Labour Party to summon up a mere 30 Labour MP’s to nominate a left candidate to stand as Leader, who can argue that this assessment was incorrect?

The Croydon Assembly reconvenes tomorrow, 6 June, 10.30 am to 4.30 pm, at Ruskin House, 23 Coombe Road, Croydon CR0 1BD.  There is a stellar cast of speakers including Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of PCS, Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the FBU, Philippa Harvey, President of the NUT, and John McDonnell MP but much of the day will be given over to discussion by those who attend. If you can get there, forget the General Election Blues, come along and join in.

THE SPARK?

Writing in the Guardian today (Saturday, 6 December), Ian Jack writes that he had thought the New Era estate outrage could spark a London revolution but has now sadly concluded that the apparent acquiescence of the public has meant it would not. The estate which comprises 96 flats and a dozen shops in Hackney has been acquired by a US private equity firm who plan to cash in on the London property boom by jacking up the rents, evicting the tenants and selling the properties to those rich enough to own them. Our legal system provides no protection for tenants to stop them doing just that.

Why no outrage? Why are the foundations of City Hall and the Palace of Westminster not shaking? Partly, of course, it is because our newspapers are, with the exception of the Morning Star, owned by the same interests who stand to gain from exploiting ordinary working people in this way. The other mass media are either similarly owned or, in the case of the BBC, deeply cowed and compromised. Partly it is because our trade unions are in shackles due to the anti-trade union laws and their former political voice, the Labour Party, no longer speaks for them, having been penetrated by the same class interests who will benefit from the New Era rip off. Why else would Labour be about to embark on the general election by offering the electorate oa programme of austerity similar to that of the Tories  and without even the remote possibility of abandoning one of its supports, the Titanic that is now the EU? This act of madness would surely qualify as “the longest suicide note in history”, not their 1983 election manifesto. Telling us there is “no alternative” might have worked for Thatcher, but it isn’t going to work again for Labour. They need to say they will tax the rich and expropriate the exploiters – it’s as simple as that.

There are, of course, other reasons why the New Estate outrage has not provided the spark for revolution. Lenin summarised them brilliantly his paper in 1915 on the Collapse of the Second International   https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1915/csi/ii.htm. We have to note, however, that only two years after writing this paper, it happened in Russia. Capitalists, do not sleep easy in your beds.