Bumper June Editorial:
Rale Brutannia! A Very Brutish Curbing of Rough Sleeping:
“Not a Hand Up, But a Spike Up!”
or, Every Little Spike Helps!
D-Déjà vu/ Newark Spikes the Purpleshirts/ What Next from the Home Office? ‘Go Home-a Roma’?/ Tenant’s Manifesto/ Not a Hand Up, But a Spike Up!/ 'Red-Top' Ed/ The Welfare Famine: Below the Breadline and Breadline Kids/ Hortatory Horton: Towards a Mightier Morning Star
Sometimes writing these polemical editorials isn’t good for my blood pressure; in the thick of summer, too much time spent on them also exacerbates the fatigue already induced by my sun-sensitivity. But, I suppose, there are also some cathartic aspects to writing them. And so to another roundup of the latest trans-satirical absurdities of ever-degenerating English politics –absurdities which if they were not quite so morally iniquitous, would simply be laughable.
First up was the political non-event of the Coalition’s last Queen’s Speech, which, although generally quite unremarkable, was however peppered with some typically acetate Tory spices, perhaps the most heinous and transparently unscrupulous of which was a little number about freeing-up the ‘fracking’ market so that unaccountable private companies can eviscerate the very ground beneath peoples’ houses whenever and wherever their gas-tapping dousing rods should decide to droop. So much for the old axiom “an Englishman’s home is his castle” –not any more: now every English person’s home is a potential shale gas plant.
Then we had the D-Day celebrations, taking place in Normandy in homage to the legendary landings that led to the liberation of Europe from the Fascist yoke. But the esprit de corps on this occasion was rather spoilt by the geographical propinquity of a very recent electoral victory –25% of the French national vote!– for Jean-Marie Le Penn’s neo-Fascist French National, in the European elections. A bit of a damper on the pomp and ceremony all said; as was the still raw wound of another deeply worrying electoral triumph in the Euros, for the Hungarian fascists of boot-stomping Jobbik. Oh, and not forgetting the very poorly timed hostilities in Ukraine (please excuse the unintentional flippancy, I'm attempting to be satirical).
Further irony with regards to the D-Day celebrations is the fact that at this time the dominant political discourse in the UK is preoccupied with the Right’s intransigent obsession with scooping us out from the European Union, which was of course originally, in part, formed in order to preclude any future resumption of Continental hostilities! Okay, so the cracks are beginning to show now anyway with vicissitudes in Ukraine, as well as the sporadic fractiousness and political polarisations of the most austerity-pelted Southern European countries such as Spain (Los Indignados etc.) and Greece (Syriza versus Golden Dawn), where perfectly understandable anti-austerity riots against the kleptocratic mallet of the Troika have generally been met with water canon, tear gas and rubber bullets. But of course, historically, we know the pattern: capitalism in crisis dissipates into fascism.
We can however at least genuinely celebrate the Euro electoral conquests of the Socialist Left in Spain and the Marxist Syriza in Greece –even more so given just how much critically darker things might have been in both countries had history, for the first time in several years, not suddenly decided to deviate –in relation to these two countries– from its otherwise near-identical route to that of the 1930s. Spain, undoubtedly, knows better than any other nations, bar Germany and Italy (where the governing centre-left Democrat Party also triumphed), the social cataclysm of ascendant fascism, having of course been torn apart by a Civil War (1936-39) sparked by an ultimately victorious Fascist coup against its’ democratic Republic, and subjected thereafter to 36 years of Censorship under dictator Franco.
Given all this, the recent abdication of King Juan Carlos seems ambiguously symbolic. Although proclaimed by Franco in 1969 as his ‘successor’ as head of state (no doubt pushed by the dictator’s former Civil War allies, the royalist Carlists), the accession of Juan Carlos, who reigned for a subsequent epic 39 years, has been, perhaps singularly in the history of European politics, segued in the minds of the people/‘subjects’ as inextricably linked to the truncation of totalitarianism and the resumption of democracy: Spain’s 1975 marked both a return to ‘nominal’ monarchy and to representative democracy and free universal suffrage (hence the Carlist anticipation of a return to absolute monarchy spectacularly backfired).
In these senses, Juan Carlos was long looked upon as an unlikely regal liberator of the Spanish from the yoke of dictatorship. But it is another indication of just how deeply Europe has been traumatised by six or so years of remorseless and frequently brutal capitalist austerity that on Juan Carlos’ abdication, and the annoucement of the succession of his son, Felipe, many Spaniards –particularly those on the Left– are now calling for a dissolution of the monarchy and a return to a Republic. This is mainly due to the public opprobrium heaped on the aging ex-King for being seen to indulge in a lavish lifestyle while his ‘people’ were enduring the most volatile and iniquitous social and economic misery since, ironically, those cataclysmic 1930s. Juan Carlos’ reputation as Spain’s monarchic caretaker of democracy had long receded as his habits and attitudes sank into the customary insouciant decadence of most European royalty.
So, in spite of a significant spillage of ‘barbarians’ through the ‘gates’ of the EU –UKIP, France National, Jobbik et al., all intent on dismantling the entire apparatus from within– the bigger story of the European elections is that the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament (the S&D) took 25.30% of the Continental vote, increasing its MEPs to 190! Granted, the centre-right Group of the European People’s Party (EPP), of which Angela Merkel’s German Christian Democrats are members, still have the most MEPs (221/ 29.43%); but the point is, the overwhelming European Opposition is now the anti-austerity Left. Thus considerable renegotiations with regards to pace and extent of Troika-inflicted ‘fiscal fascism’ on the poorer Southern European nations such as Greece and Spain are now almost inescapably on the cards. And that can only be a good thing.
But all this is not, of course, to endorse any remote complacency at this time, since the ‘other’ facts are that the Far Right is –albeit incipiently– on the rise again in Europe, as it always is at times of economic depression, as we saw, again, most alarmingly of all in France, as well as Hungary and Finland. It is symbolic of considerable political polarisation of today’s Europe that its largest nation state, France, currently has a centre-left democratic socialist Government under President Hollande, but, contrapuntally, a neo-Fascist majority in the European Parliament under Madame Le Penn!
No doubt even the permatan of IMF head Christine Lagarde flushed imperceptibly paler on the triumphs of the anti-austerity Left in Greece and Spain (and probably marginally less at the victories of the fascist parties), whose democratic sovereignties and national assets have been ruthlessly fleeced by hers and the Troika’s kleptocratic auspices for the past four or so years. In a recent interview, the sanguine Lagarde chicly brushed off suggestions that she might soon be flattered into the role of European President, while affecting a diplomatically choreographed moment of “regret” for the suffering of millions of ordinary people throughout the Continent under the interminable austerity siege dictated by the unelected and democratically unaccountable ‘markets’, in which remorseless regime she has been a primary protagonist (also, not long ago, from the vantage-point of her gratuitously enriched and enthroned plutocratic status, notoriously berating the impoverished Greeks for complaining about their circumstances by disingenuously reminding them of the even worse privations of the Third World!. This, from someone who would no doubt regard a deficit in caviar as a form of relative poverty!).
Beguilingly chaise-lounged as she may be on the surface, when it comes to fiscal policy, Madame Lagarde is very much the embourgeoised Madame de Guillotine of her day: what she so glibly alludes to as ‘hardship’ or ‘suffering’ among the poorer European populace under her auspices amounts to hundreds of thousands of devastated lives, including tens of thousands of deaths due to destitution, extreme poverty, depletion of medical supplies (particularly in Greece), and economically induced suicides. But of course, as with the UK DWP’s apparently non-existent ‘portfolio’ recording suicides among those unemployed and sick and disabled claimants following their benefits being stripped on specious pretexts by Atos (whose atomistic name will no doubt eventually conflate with ‘atrocity’ to form the neologism ‘atosity’), apparently –and conveniently– no official records have been kept on the European suicide rate since 2011 –so the issue of mass administrative vicarious manslaughter has been neatly brushed under the proverbial carpet, no doubt in part so the likes of Lagarde can sleep more easily in their boudoirs.
But what perhaps disturbs those such as Lagarde, albeit no doubt unconsciously, with regards to the sharp rise in Far Right movements throughout the austerity-spattered Continent, is not simply their fiscal complicity in creating something of a new “1930s moment” in Europe (ironically a potent phrase once used by way of a (self-?) ‘warning’ by Lagarde herself), but also the gradual realisation that those fiscal hawks such as themselves have effectively been at the helm of a newer and just as insidious form of fascism: fiscal fascism, the last-gasp stage of collapsing capitalism.
The only real difference between fiscal fascism and outright fascism are the methods of deadliness: while the latter simply goes on the rampage publicly and terrorises, kills and maims those it deems ‘unfit’, the former uses fiscal instruments to vicariously victimise and even destroy those people it deems ‘economically unfit’ –both fascism and capitalism being two sides of the same Social Darwinian coin. Anarcho-capitalists, or ‘fiscal fascists’, rarely have to even leave their desks to execute their machinations, except for the odd spot of pontificating at a podium; they spatter whole populaces with the silent artilleries of spending cuts, cutting off all escape routes for the poor and unemployed, until many of them end up abjectly impoverished, destitute, or committing suicide. Fascists use metal and lead; capitalists use paper and plastic (and rubber: for bullets –missiles which plant plastic shrapnel in protesting peasants).
Nevertheless, and in spite of a plutocratic conspiracy to suppress information on the European suicide rates during austerity, a very instructive paper published by that hive of revolutionary activism, the Vienna University of Economics and Business (hardly ‘Red Vienna’!), The Impact of Fiscal Austerity on Suicide: On the Empirics of a Modern Greek Tragedy by Nikolaos Antonakakis and Alan Collinsarticle, available as a pdf download here: http://epub.wu.ac.at/4116/1/SuicideGreece_SS&M_Final_ePub.pdf
This apposite work of investigative sociology was promptly rebutted by US business magazine Forbes, its findings and general thrust clearly pricking the sleeping conscience of Corporate America.
Whatever the true statistical facts, one fact remains: austerity resuscitates the collapsing lungs of capitalism at the expense of cutting off the fiscal air supplies of the poor.
Newark Spikes the Purpleshirts
On the home front, the Newark bi-election has to be the one and only time in my memory that I’ve actually almost breathed a sigh of relief at a Tory victory: this is because if the blues hadn’t retained the seat, then Nigel Farage’s ‘Purpleshirts’ (phrase copyright: Kevin Maguire of the enormously improving Daily Mirror) might well have nabbed it and thereby secured its first British MP. And seeing as ‘Pink Blancmange’ Labour were highly unlikely to get near to absorbing the seat, the best tactical outcome for those of us on the Left of politics was –with scarring irony– the ‘Eton Mess’ Tories’ retention of the blasted place.
I say ‘tactical’, since I, like many at this time, am considerably worried about the upsurge in support for the anti-immigrant ultra-capitalist blimps of UKIP whom, if they get so much as a fistful of seats in 2015, will not hesitate in trying to “hold the balance of power” with the Tories on pain of brokering a deal on leaving the EU (which in such circumstances won't be difficult to negotiate). Mark my words, no matter what laughing plum-faced Farage claims, the Purpleshirts will gang up with the Bullingdon Bullies in Blue in the blink of an eye if that’s the only way for both parties to prevent a Labour Government (possibly with a bit of help from the Greens, should they get at least one or two more MPs next year –hope springs eternal, and The Recusant will be supporting the Green Party in the general election). Therefore, the less –or preferably complete absence of– UKIP MPs in 2015, the better.
Regarding the Greens, it is extremely encouraging to see them make considerable gains now both in the European and Local elections, and at Newark: with the Yellowbellies now in chronic decline, it seems the Green Party is rapidly becoming the official fourth party of British politics –a position which, in any case, given their already having an MP in the excellent Caroline Lucas, and a Green Council in Brighton and Hove, for the past few years, has long been their right to claim, in spite of the media’s sensationalist wish-fulfilment to have the ‘good copy’ that is UKIP in said place, and the Laughing Farage as the de facto future prime minister. Shame on our so-called ‘democratic’ media to attempt to rewrite political realities just to suit its own appetites for headline-grabbing outbursts from Farage’s ‘People’s Army’ of tweedy inbred xenophobes.
What Next from the Home Office? ‘Go Home-a Roma’?
Back in the real world, which doesn’t make as ‘good copy’ as Fantasy Politics, a very different type of fantasist, a Malthusian fantasist, Herr Iain Duncan Schmidt, head of the Department for War on the Poor (DWP), has dipped into the current Westminster vogue for whipping up prejudices against ‘Roma’ (commonly euphemised as ‘Romanians’) by announcing a clampdown on illegal immigrants masquerading as legitimate Big Issue sellers, most of these foreign inveiglers being, according to the ever-diplomatic IDS, “Roma”, and most of whom are, according to his Aladdin’s Cave of a grasp on reality, in the UK for a spot of “benefit tourism”! (This wretched remark was also echoed punctually by Fleet Street’s favourite poverty-stigmatising tabloid, the Daily Express, with one of its customary front page slices of specious social fascism declaring in elephantine lettering that “benefit tourism” among –particularly Romanian– immigrants is approaching something of an epidemic –by which they probably mean that one of their hack undercover reporters has eavesdropped on a handful of people who “look a bit foreign” gleefully cashing in their giros at a post office!).
Customary stereotyping and stigmatising of our political and newspaper establishments aside, if such ‘illegal immigrants’ were indeed smuggling themselves into this country to willingly ‘tour’ our belligerent and punitive ‘benefits system’, then the only conclusion can be that some fundamental cultural factor of difference in custom is being overlooked: that Roma, sorry, ‘Romanians’, must be social masochists!
Why? Because the oh-so-“generous” British welfare system currently –thanks to Mongol-sweeping Tory cuts– pays the unemployed in ‘benefits’ less than half the basic amount paid to the unemployed in the Eurozone! Evidence of such Beveridge-deviating mass-pauperisation of the unemployed is, by the way, fairly ubiquitous these days in the form of food banks in every city and town, in case any British readers hadn’t yet noticed such new cultural symbols. If any alleged illegal immigrant “benefit tourists” were discovered to have inveigled the ranks of Big Issue sellers in England, we can only assume this is simply by way of a brief-as-possible stopover on the way to Ireland, where the rate for out of work benefits, as with the rest of Europe (possibly including Romania and Bulgaria!?) is over double what it is in the UK.
So, apart from the constant anti-immigrant rhetoric from the British political establishment, and those odious ‘Go Home or Go to Jail’ vans (almost like mobile xenophobic Monopoly slogans) sent cruising round the most multicultural areas of East London by the Home Office, the decimation of the welfare budget by this ethical carbuncle of a Government alone is enough to repel an upsurge in immigrants and/or so-called “benefit tourists” (and what a truly despicable phrase that actually is the more one dwells on its implications!)…
On the subject of the Home Office, is it not quite breathtaking that, yet again, seemingly unsackable Home Secretary Theresa May has dumped on one of her civil servants, letting her ‘special adviser’ take the wrap for the latest of her department’s muck ups with regards to the alleged Islamist infiltration of a 'free' school in Birmingham. Swift to step up and feebly attempt deflecting attention from May’s incompetence, Toby Young managed to contradict himself in magnificent style, even by his own dialectically inchoate standards: first he accused Labour of “making a cheap political point” in requesting May to answer to the Commons, thereby making a cheap political point himself; and secondly, while he is one of the champions of free schools, he saw no contradiction in arguing that the free school in question shouldn’t have been allowed to rule out art and music from its’ curriculum, while a free school on his board he himself sits is perfectly entitled to be free to impose compulsory Latin in its curriculum –hair-splitters might say this is the difference between ‘positive’ and ‘negative freedom’, while most others would simply say Young is just ‘changing the goalposts’ as it suits his in any case laughably disingenuous ‘argument’. Young Jnr really should have listened more to his father, the brilliant left-wing dialectician Michael Young (of The Rise of the Meritocracy fame -ironically, in many ways a warning against the possible elitism of overly meritocratic educational 'selection', which Young Jnr. appears to have misread more as a template), rather than rebelling against him seemingly just for the sake of it.
…This is why the European Parliament politely ordered our Tsarist Government not long ago to double out of work benefits in accordance with European levels –a fantastically quixotic crie de Coeur, of course, given that this is the Government which has so athletically made the point of eviscerating its welfare budget in order to socially cleanse the poorest communities of the UK off the face of map –not only a deeply convoluted and counterintuitive “moral mission” of the Tories overlords, but also, given that most of the unemployed, sick and disabled are far more likely to vote Labour in 2015 –not least because of their enforced Diaspora– a kind of eugenics-inflected gerrymandering (of the old Shirley Porter pedigree!).
Let us not forget that after just four years of Tory-led government, around 50,000 sick and disabled claimants have DIED within six weeks of being stripped of their benefits by the DWP’s corporate Rottweiler Atos, while it’s estimated over 2 million families –both unemployed and working poor– are currently living in food and fuel poverty and dependent on food banks! When invertebrate Lib Dem Minister Ed Davey claimed some credit after the Queen’s Speech for his party’s contribution to ‘one of the most radical governments in modern British political history’, he might reflect in the future that he shouldn’t have been quite so impatient to throw away the key from the big Orange Albatross already permanently chained round the necks of himself and fellow opportunistic accomplices. The Recusant is also inclined to point out to Mr Davey that the kind of ‘radical’ he is referring to is actually spelt ‘f-a-s-c-i-s-t-i-c’, and pronounced very differently too. At which point precisely does ‘radical’ become ‘fanatical’?
We were relieved that at least Big Issue founder John Bird, whose ‘politics’ is something of an ‘Eton Mess’ in itself (he once described himself on Question Time as some bizarre combo of ‘Left-Wing Conservative Marxist Libertarian’!!!??), spoke out against Herr Duncan Schmidt’s latest Nazi-esque rhetoric by arguing that Roma number a very small per cent of current Big Issue vendors, while, however, not actually addressing the far more disturbing point that mainstream political discourse should be preoccupying itself so blatantly with a casualised singling-out of one particular racial minority! Nevertheless, the Big Society Issue’s mantra still remains the very Smilesian/Thatcherite-sounding “A hand up, not a hand out” (grotesquely ironic given that the Big Issue was originally set up to bring attention to the unprecedented epidemic in street homelessness that was the ‘social price’ that was paid for the ‘I’m All Right Jack’ economic one-upmanship of Thatcherism.
On which note, right-wing Tory backbencher Dominic Grieve had the sheer unreconstructed Thatcherite-elitist effrontery, after defending Michael Gove’s latest Philosopher King proposal (one of many, including ‘punishing’ parents of ‘disruptive children’, which has attracted comparisons with the Gestapo: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-4f87-Goves-Gestapo#.U5Xfr3JdUxY) that our nation’s top private and public schools should offer free places to the most able schoolchildren from poorer backgrounds, to suggest, when asked how this would be funded, that yet MORE monies from the already grotesquely bone-shaken welfare budget be used to subsidise this!
'Grabber' Grieve seriously suggested that the welfare cap, already perilously low at only £26k per family, should be lowered EVEN MORE to free up some funds to help a tiny percentage of less advantaged families see their children taken up in the raptures of the great public schools! Apart from the patronising sop to the aspirational proles that such a policy would procure, it would also of course amount to a cherry-picking by public schools of the ‘brightest’/ most academically ‘gifted’ children from the state sector.
'Grabber' Grieve couched his suggestion in the straw argument that it’d be better to encourage selective meritocracy/social mobility in a further bid to move society away from the “bad old handout culture”! He then, inevitably, trotted out the ‘pull your socks up’ motto of our times: “A hand up, not a handout”. Isn’t it deeply ironic that, given the ‘charitable status’ of our top public schools, the very institutions that educate only 7% of our children but which produce 50% of our judges, business leaders, Churchmen and prime ministers –i.e. the props to plutocracy– are themselves part of an unspoken ‘handout culture’, since their prestigious auspices are propped up by tax-exemption and other associated gratuities! You really couldn’t make it up!
Whereas, unfortunately for all of us, not least Romanian immigrants, a hazardously sizeable portion of the British electorate seemingly did ‘make up their minds’ to put their crosses by the UKIP box in the European and Local elections in what smelt of something a bit more piquant than simply a protest vote. Is sleepy old England kipping its way into a new unprecedented era of ‘gentrified fascism’? A hyperbolic question? Many would have thought similar of Jeremiahs warning of the potential for the future political rise of a ranting Austrian immigrant in Germany during the late Twenties, and we all know what –to the detriment of millions of lives – happened in the end. Okay, so Farage is hardly a likely Hitler (indeed, who is?), but he certainly has a fair bit in common with the views and attitudes of Enoch Powell, and even the British Fuhrer-pretender Oswald Mosley, which should be warning enough.
Are the British –more particularly, British politicians– so utterly insouciant as to the ricochets of history’s dire warnings with regards to the dangers of generating ill-feeling towards racial minorities that they believe, naively many would argue, that somehow our national character (arguably at its most socially intolerant and antipathetic today as it has ever been before) is somehow immune to the amoral allure of fascism? Just because Mosley’s Blackshirts didn’t get their way back in the Thirties (in spite of the best efforts of Rothermere’s Daily Mail to promote them at the time!), does that mean that by some historical grace, Britain, or rather, its’ most engrained right-wing leading nation, England, will never fall prey to a government of the Far Right?
A pertinent feature by John Ellison in today’s (9 June 2014) Morning Star highlights the chilling parallels between Mosley’s 1930s Blackshirts and today’s march-happy boys of the Britain First brigades (with some choicest snippets relating to Lord Rothermere’s :
This date is barely a fortnight after a tiny uniformed group of Britain First fascists, sinisterly escorted by an armoured Land Rover, marched past a mosque in London’s Brick Lane, echoing in chilling fashion the 1930s antics of hereditary baronet Sir Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists.
The Olympia meeting was intended to mark the escalation of influence of Britain’s fascists and to be a stepping stone towards their acquisition — aping developments in Italy and Germany — of political power.
Instead, the anti-fascist movement, through courageous vocal interventions at the price of many injuries, showed up the fascists for the thugs they were.
It caused them to lose allies, facilitating the construction of a stronger anti-fascist movement — which was to lead to the historic victory over the Mosleyites at the battle of Cable Street in 1936.
Mosley’s rally occurred against a frightening international backcloth.
Italy was under the heel of fascist leader Benito Mussolini. Still more dangerously, Germany — having much greater industrial power — had been nazi Germany since the early spring of 1933.
In both countries socialist and trade union organisations had been suppressed and dissent outlawed.
Ernst Henri’s book Hitler Over Europe put the finger on the nazi plan — already evidenced by rearmament at a dramatic pace — for Germany’s territorial expansion through war.
“The Jews”, he wrote, “are the nazis’ best catchword for agitation purposes and their cheapest scarecrow.”
On March 7 1934, the US ambassador to Berlin visited Hitler at a moment when in New York arrangements were being made for a mock trial of the nazi dictator.
Hitler, wrote ambassador Dodd in his diary, “broke in frequently with such expressions as ‘Damn the Jews’ and insisted that if agitation continued in the outside world he would make an end of all Jews in Germany.”
In April 1934, ominously, Jews in Germany were banned from national and local public office.
The war danger extended far beyond Europe. Japan’s imperial and militaristic government had substantial forces in Manchuria since unprovoked intervention there in September 1931. It had more of civil-war-torn China in its sights.
Britain’s “national” government, however, since 1931 headed by renegade former Labour leader Ramsay MacDonald, was paying scant regard to the growing menace to peace, preferring to contemplate fascist governments as sensible negotiating partners, who would be propitiated by being thrown bones in the form of territories in Africa, China, the Soviet Union or anywhere else that seemed convenient.
On July 1 1933 a thousand of Mosley’s Blackshirts marched in London, and in that same month John Strachey — a power house publicist for socialism and anti-fascism at that time, whatever became of him later — produced The Menace Of Fascism.
This influential work suggested that only Italy’s weakness had preserved peace in Europe to date.
“Fascism,” he wrote, “is a blood transfusion for capitalism.” It was “merely the militant arm of the largest property owners.”
During 1933 intimidation of Jewish people in London and elsewhere by the British Union of Fascists (BUF) became common, while the police were providing safe escort for fascist speakers and marchers. Mosley, rich himself, was receiving substantial financial support from wealthy backers.
Support of all kinds was boosted in January 1934, when Lord Rothermere’s Daily Mail declared itself an enthusiast for the BUF.
In late April his Sunday Dispatch invited readers to compete for tickets to the Olympia rally by sending in postcards explaining “Why I like the Blackshirts.”
Large and secret donations were arriving from Mussolini — £20,000 in January with much more to follow.
On April 22 Mosley addressed 10,000 supporters in London’s Albert Hall — “exiles from empire outposts, disgruntled Conservative women, hard-faced beribboned ex-servicemen and young toughs from the shops and the banks.” Mosley’s speech pleased them: “No surrender to India. No surrender to Ireland … Jews, international financiers and Communist leaders will be dealt with.”
On this occasion there were no hecklers inside the building. But outside it, opposition was loud.
About the beginning of June, anti-fascists delivered a large “postcard” to Rothermere’s newspaper building carrying a message of why they disliked the Blackshirts, accompanied by shouts of “All Out Against the Blackshirts next Thursday.”
Britain’s Communist Party had taken the lead in calling for a counter-demonstration at Olympia and was working together with Independent Labour Party activists, while the Labour Party and TUC leadership had adopted a policy of standing virtuously aloof.
Integral to the anti-fascist cause was leftwinger Dorothy Woodman, who was secretary of the Union of Democratic Control and joint secretary of the Committee for the Relief of Victims of Fascism. Her solidly researched book Germany Re-Arms was soon to appear.
She added to other preparations for the Olympia meeting by entering the BUF’s headquarters suitably attired as a Conservative lady, armed with a false double-barrelled name and seeking confidential information.
At risk of exposure and assault, she escaped intact, undiscovered and better informed.
The June 7 rally was guarded by a couple of thousand Blackshirts. Enough anti-fascists had obtained tickets — some by submitting bogus postcards as to their “liking” for the Blackshirts — to enable orchestrated heckling, such as “Hitler and Mosley mean hunger and war.”
The Daily Worker — the Morning Star’s predecessor — reported what happened to the hecklers: “We were involuntary witnesses of wholly unnecessary violence inflicted by Blackshirts on interrupters.
“Men and women were knocked down, were still assaulted and kicked on the floor.”
The BUF’s savage behaviour brought about a public outcry, extending well beyond those on the political left.
In July’s Labour Monthly, editor Rajani Palme Dutt — later also Daily Worker editor — whose alarm-call, Fascism And Social Revolution had just been published, summed up: “The anti-fascist counter-demonstration at Olympia has shown the true path of the fight against fascism.
“The anti-fascist demonstrators, by their courage and at the cost of their own bodies, have opened the eyes of millions to the real character of fascism.
“It is solely thanks to their stand against fascism that the present universal outcry against fascism has developed, where before there was silence or indifference or amused toleration (‘Laugh, and Fascism Will Die,’ as the Daily Herald said).
“But let none mistake the outcry for the fight. The anti-fascist demonstrations at Olympia have shown the united front in action and have laid the foundations for a broad anti-fascist front throughout Britain, which can sweep fascism out of existence.”
A Co-ordinating Committee for Anti-Fascist Activity was elected in late July, including the legendary Bert Papworth of the Busmen’s Rank and File Movement, with Strachey as secretary.
It was to prove powerfully effective in leading the charge against fascism.
In October 1936, the anti-fascist front in numbers sensationally blocked the BUF’s police-protected march through east London in the battle of Cable Street.
This did not end fascism in Britain. But it was thrown so much on the back foot that it never recovered its earlier momentum.
Tragically, the world war whose image was visible as early as 1934, and which featured the cold-blooded nazi slaughter of six million Jews, was another matter — the responsibility of the Hitler government and of its friends in London and Paris who enabled it to become a monster of aggressive militarism.
Now, in 2014, uniformed fascism is again on our streets, fuelled by mass unemployment, underemployment, housing shortages and government-imposed extreme poverty — in short, by the consequences of Thatcherism adapted to conditions of prolonged economic slowdown.
Blame is thereby poisonously redirected away from out-of-control capitalism and its feather-bedded elites towards migrant workers and, with especial venom, towards Muslims.
The task remains as self-evident and vital as ever it was — to stand up to nazis…
…or rather, to stand up to Nazis and Nasty parties (the proverbial ‘Blue Meanies’ presently in power, and their xenophobic purple stalking-horses at UKIP). The increasingly chilling parallels between today’s post-Crash austerity culture and social attitudes and those of the post-Crash Thirties have been very much at the forefront of this writer’s mind during the past year or so through extensive reading of much Thirties literature (mostly via old Left Book Club editions salvaged from sundry second-hand bookshops, including, most importantly, Wal Hannington’s The Problem of the Distressed Areas) towards informing his epic poem-in-progress on these themes, Odour of Devon Violet (still not finished, but available at its own slightly satirical website: http://www.odourofdevonviolet.com).
[Note: The Recusant isn’t quite sure what’s going on with the de-capitalising of ‘Nazi’ to ‘nazi’ in the MS these days –we’ve never come across this before anywhere else, though are aware most newspapers have their occasional style-guide quirks; for instance, The Guardian always calls itself ‘the Guardian’ (i.e. with the ‘the’ in lower case) in its own copy, even though, we understand, the normal grammatical rule is for all newspaper/magazine titles consisting of only one word should normally be preceded by a capitalised ‘The’ and italicised along with the title (e.g. The Guardian, The Observer, The Times, The Spectator etc.) and those with more than one word to their names, with a de-capitalised ‘the’ (e.g. the Morning Star, the Daily Mirror, the New Statesman etc.). Funnily enough, this editor made the same error when originally referring to this webzine as ‘the Recusant’, but has since rectified this: we are now emphatically The Recusant (and emphatically not, incidentally, to be confused with the online ginger group of Conservative Catholics of the same title)].
Many of us have been arguing for the past four years that at many levels –particularly those of social policy and welfare– we already have a Government which might reasonably be called ‘far right’, or ‘fiscally fascistic’, at least. But now with the political climate heating up even more toxically in terms of a continuing rightward shift in social attitudes, driven by Farage’s UKIP, such distant trumpets of extremism are today sounding chillingly closer.
Against such a backdrop, the symbolism of the D-Day celebrations has been bitterly tinged this year, coinciding with the contrapuntal rise of the hard-right anti-immigrant UKIP on the domestic front, a party which is happy to fly the St. George Cross or the Union Jack in memory of our nation’s sacrifices in World War II, while simultaneously campaigning to bring the UK out of the EU –a move which has the potential to set in motion a domino effect throughout the Continent whereby it becomes once more vulnerable to possible future internecine conflicts between its nation-states (as we’re already seeing happen in the Ukraine). But more importantly, if UKIP had been around in the late 1930s, and gained power by the outbreak of the Second World War, it would almost undoubtedly have played the same appeasement card as Neville Chamberlain, but, crucially, would have stuck to such a position in spite of the German invasions of its neighbours.
The last thing any fantasy ‘Faragists’ of the 1940s would have agreed to is the military involvement of the UK in the ‘foreign affairs’ of the Continent, and they’d have argued something along the lines that not ‘one drop of English blood was fit to be shed on French soil’. A UKIP Britain in the 1940s would have been protectionist, at the very best neutral, and at the worst, and, to my mind, most likely, would have maintained a truce with Hitler. The only thing which would have stopped them from going all in on the Nazi side would have been their intransigent patriotic Nationalism and addiction to capitalism. Otherwise, as Mosley wished for himself, a Forties Farage would have tried to assume the role of a British Fuhrer, albeit a much more approachable and gentrified type than the fulminating Austrian-born German dictator.
But today, when we sees a story such as the following in a British newspaper –even if the Morning Star is the only authentically left-wing newspaper in the country and hence most primed to prepare us for the worse while the centre-right media does its utmost to distract us– the proverbial alarm bells really should start to ring:
‘Anti-Roma Racism Is On The Rise’
As the far-right make strides across Europe, Derek Wall [international coordinator for the Green Party] argues that we must take up arms against the routine demonisation of its most discriminated-against minority our friend Michael came to stay with us recently. We got on to the subject, as one does, of grandparents.
Michael’s grandparents lived in Bethnal Green, and were butchers during the 1930s. He told us that his grandfather carried a hammer with him because as a Jew he feared physical assault by anti-semites.
Mosley’s British Union of Fascists were politically active in the East End of London. This rather stark image reminded me of the waves of racism than have scarred British history.
Before the first world war, the British Brothers’ League were also active in the East End and also targeted the Jewish population.
They were formed in 1902 by Captain William Stanley Shaw and a local Conservative MP, Sir William Eden Evans-Gordon.
The League was apparently not at first anti-semitic but opposed all Eastern European migration to East London.
In the 1950s Afro-Caribbean communities bore the brunt as Mosley tried to win votes with his Union Movement in Notting Hill.
Promoting the slogan Keep Britain White, Mosley’s agitation encouraged Teddy Boys to attack the local black population.
Anti-semitism is once again on the rise.
For example, we have seen recently the horrific killings in Belgium, where on May 24 a gunman killed four people in Brussels’s Jewish Museum.
Racism against a range of groups continues.
Racism often functions as a device used by populist politicians to gather votes. In tough economic times, like the 1930s depression and the current ongoing austerity, racism can be electoral gold for the unscrupulous.
If troubles can be blamed on an identifiable group, the racism can be nurtured and made to grow into deep-seated and enduring hatred.
While a wide range of ethnic identities are targeted, the demonisation of the Roma stands out. Nigel Farage stated in his LBC interview that individuals might be uneasy about living next to Romanians.
Ukip have stressed that Romanians and Bulgarians are likely to arrive in Britain increasing numbers.
Romanian is, however, a code word, it seems — not for the population of that country but to a specific group who are, of course, the Roma.
Farage’s remarks follow an avalanche of tabloid media stories, particularly from the Daily Express, about Roma gangs.
The Roma face racism right across eastern and western Europe and have been subject to hate campaigns in Romania too.
Racism against the Roma is, apparently, more acceptable than racism directed at other ethnic groups.
Tabloid newspapers that in the 1970s conjured up the mugging crisis, demonising Afro-Caribbeans as more likely to commit crime, hammer away at the message that Roma are a source of crime.
Statistics are neither here nor there. Emotive imagery has an effect, irrational fears are stoked up and take hold.
Challenging racist populism is not easy.
I guess we all risk discriminating against a perceived “other.”
From football to religion, there are many examples of dislike of another group.
I can joke with Newcastle fans about the bitter conflict with my team of choice, Sunderland.
However an innocent game of football has been known to lead to violent conflict in north-east England.
The examples of religion as a source of identity and extreme conflict between groups, whose theology is apparently identical to others, gives rise to persecution in every continent of the world.
There are no easy solutions to fears, hatreds and resulting prejudices but political organisations need to openly campaign against racism.
I am glad to say that the political party to which I belong happens to have a leader who works to challenge racism, Natalie Bennett.
Up for re-election this summer, Natalie is robust in presenting our Green Party policies on migration and migrants. She’s a powerful voice in campaigns against racism and all forms of scapegoating.
Natalie happens to be from another country, Australia. In recent years our party has worked hard to point out that diversity provides many benefits and that racism is a poison.
I think challenging the demonisation of the Roma is especially important.
There are a range of campaigns and groups promoting Roma rights. In particular we need to work to educate people about the Roma Holocaust.
Not only did Hitler and his allies attempt to exterminate Jews, they also worked to wipe out Roma, Sinti and other travelling communities.
While we don’t face the same kind of threat today, it is sobering that racist rhetoric elected politicians in the 1930s who went on to kill millions.
The Roma Holocaust is not well known — and, of course, during the 1940s it was difficult to convince the allied forces of Hitler’s extermination of Europe’s Jews, people like my friend Michael’s grandparents.
Some estimates suggest that 25 per cent of continental Europe’s Roma were exterminated by Hitler and his allies.
The anti-Jewish Nuremberg Laws of 1935 were amended to cover Gypsies and it is thought that other than the Jewish community, traveller communities suffered more than any other group from genocide.
Nobody is really sure how many died but estimates suggest at least 250,000 Roma were killed.
When politicians and tabloids raise fears about the Roma, we should remind them of where such fears led in the past. Fear leads to prejudice, prejudice leads to hate, hate leads to violence.
It is never ever justified. Saloon-bar banter needs to be countered with some stark presentation of the facts about where such banter led in the last century.
Roma communities, as the Economist has noted, are Europe’s “most marginalised ethnic minority.”
They suffer the worst health, education and economic prospects in Europe today.
Populists, as we know, pick on those with the worst problems in their immoral pursuit of easy electoral success. We must shame them and the tabloids when they do so.
In tough times we may have legitimate concerns about wages being driven down.
The solution is, of course, to work for stronger trade unions and effective minimum and living wages.
Incidentally the same arguments around migration have been used to oppose women working in particular sectors of the economy.
Migrants, particularly in the form of the Latin American Workers Association, have been at the forefront of campaigns for better pay, in their case for university cleaners as part of the 3 Cosas campaign.
Crime figures are dressed up to link crime to ethnicity, the ethnicity changes with the fashions of popular racism but it is false to associate crime with some supposed genetic or cultural manifestation of ethnicity.
White Europeans have a historical reputation for forming gangs, travelling to other parts of the globe and violently taking property from others.
From the Australian aborigines to Canada’s First Nations to the Iroquois of New York state and African nations, many have been victims of this crime wave.
It is of course described by the words colonialism and imperialism. However, there is nothing innate or enduring about a supposed European connection with imperialism.
The mechanisms and motives that led to racism need to be demystified and a good example of where racism has borne particularly bitter fruit is the Roma Holocaust.
It is vital that we make this example better known.
And who do we have to thank for this parlous state of affairs in the England of the twenty-first century? Our old loveable silver-spooned backwoodsman of British fringe politics, ‘Good Laugh’ Farage, pint-in-hand, pluming away and laughing all the way back to Brussels at his re-igniting of racial tensions beyond the dreams of Enoch Powell.
On a more optimistic note, the daily antidote to the scabrous nepotisms of our culture and times, the Morning Star, led with a hugely significant front page this weekend, on plans for a new Tenant’s Manifesto:
New manifesto unites public and private-sector renters in bid to solve shameful homes legacy
TENANTS across Britain announced plans yesterday to join forces to ramp up the campaign for sweeping changes to end the country’s housing crisis.
Campaign group Defend Council Housing (DCH) is set to bring together trade unions, politicians and tenants groups to launch a new tenants’ manifesto.
DCH chairwoman Eileen Short told the Star: “We are hoping to unite and galvanise tenants and put politicians under pressure to turn words into action to build the houses that we need.”
The policy document confronts the Con-Dem government and its class-war policies head-on, demanding an end to the bedroom tax, welfare caps and the criminalisation of squatting.
South-east London private renters’ group Southwark Tenants welcomed the project.
“We are particularly interested in the expropriation of properties owned by bad landlords to allow the extension of council stock,” spokesman Tom Gann told the Star.
Mr Gann added that it was important to highlight the issues facing both public and private tenants.
At the core of the manifesto is the demand for a “new generation” of council homes.
“Most people now know they cannot rely on the market when it comes to getting a house,” added Ms Short.
DCH argues that all public land should be used to build “100 per cent publicly owned” accommodation.
Long-standing campaign backer the GMB union echoed the sentiment.
“Many GMB members will not be able to buy due to the wages they get and the increasing cost of housing,” said general secretary Paul Kenny.
“We need to cut out the middle man, the housing agents, and we need to build the council houses our members require.”
The policy document will be finalised at a Britain-wide event on June 28 at the GMB offices, 22 Stephenson Way, London NW1 from noon to 5pm.
The campaign also urged activists to flock to the People’s Assembly march against austerity in London on June 21.
A TENANTS’ MANIFESTO
Bring all existing and new council and other rented housing up to highest energy efficiency standards
Investment for existing and new council housing development and write off historic debts to clear way for councils to build more
Regulation of private-rented sector (PRS) to include repair standards and rents and an end to unfair fees and charges by letting agents
Councils to have necessary powers and resources to apply regulation of PRS, including powers to take over housing that fails to meet standards, to be improved and let as council housing
Powers to enforce the occupation of empty properties needed to meet housing need — squatting and occupations must be decriminalised
All new housing development to include 50 per cent really affordable housing for rent
All public land used for housing to create 100 per cent publicly owned, really affordable housing
The Recusant would also suggest adding a clause to call for the ending of the evermore ubiquitous ‘No DSS’ clause (not even a correct acronym anymore either, which is all the more symbolic of this very historied prejudice), a permissible form of blatant discrimination by private landlords for decades now, but which in the past four years particularly has reached near-epidemic ubiquity (especially in the South-East), courtesy of the rampant ‘scroungermongering’ of Tories and red-tops in their efforts to whip up sufficient contempt towards the unemployed as to justify their fanatical welfare ‘reforms’. The propaganda has been so effective that today we have a state of affairs where in some towns and cities landlords and letting agents operate an embargo on allowing any benefit claimants of any kind to rent their properties. This includes the sick and disabled, and many who are in work but who still need to claim some Local Housing Allowance to top up their inadequate wages to cover rent shortfalls! Not much of “A Hand Up” is it? And there are of course other seemingly ‘acceptable discriminations’ landlords can dictate in their adverts, which amount to a kind of ‘social profiling’: ‘No pets. No smokers. No children’ and so on.
Most important in our opinion is the call for a reintroduction of private rent controls. To which, Caparison is tempted at this time to consider planning towards a third protest e-anthology in the near future, which will provisionally be called The Rent Book – A Poetry Petition for Private Rent Controls. This editor has been thinking about this project for some time now but has been waylaid himself in recent times with various vicissitudes –one, with crowning irony, having been the frantic search for a new flat to move to with as affordable a rent as possible (a futile cause in buy-to-let built-up Brighton)– and numerous literary projects outside of The Recusant, that he has not yet found time to focus on this. But all being well, and with sufficient support, he hopes that by the early 2015, he may find the time to start putting something in motion.
The other demand for a decriminalising of ‘squatting’ specifically in relation to empty properties is also something The Recusant fully supports, since the bottom line is, what is of greater importance, property rights or human rights? Well, of course, we know that in post-Thatcherite society property has long commanded superior rights to dispossessed and homeless human beings, but that is brutal and immoral cultural meme and must be overturned once and for all if British society is to ever again be in a position to claim that it is a compassionate one (as our morally illiterate prime minister staggeringly claims it still is! While his past comments that ‘the Big Society’ is one which Christ would recognise is actually quite true, though in the completely opposite sense to how he implies: Jesus would indeed recognise in our society today many of the iniquities He experienced at first hand under Herod and the Romans’ regime in first century Judea: grotesque inequality, abject poverty, attitudinal intolerance of ethnic and social minorities, the worship of property, power and money above the rights of ordinary people, and a Pharisaic hypocrisy lording it at the top).
Not a Hand Up, But a Spike Up!
The latest symptom of increasing Tory-and-tabloid-driven social intolerance and dearth of human compassion comes with the sudden appearance of some metal studs welded to the concrete ground in a sheltered entranceway to a luxury block of flats in Southwark, London, which are designed to prevent rough sleepers from trying to bed down there at night out of the elements. This is yet another symbol of just how inhumane and uncompassionate British attitudes are becoming under atomistic Tory influence, and begs the question, are we now more the Brutish than the British? Certainly we are rapidly becoming a society which the likes of once-respected past cultural commentators of the post-war consensus as E.P. Thompson, Raymond Williams, Richard Hoggart, Cyril Connolly, Michael Young, would barely recognise if they were still around today.
This latest vicissitude of ‘anti-homeless spikes’ –something almost out of an Aldous Huxley or J.G. Ballard dystopian novel!– demonstrates once again how far post-Thatcherite Britain has moved away from the old ‘Good Samaritan’ ethos, but has instead gone more in the ‘No Room at the Inn’ direction. The thoroughly antipathetic and short-sighted NIMBY-ish attitude that believes in simply ‘moving the problem on’, in this case, to other porch ways which may well ended up similar studded in future. Britain in the twenty-first century is not so much une nation de boutiquiers, “a nation of shopkeepers”, as Napoleon once famously quipped, as ‘a nation of innkeepers’! No room at the Inn! A Hand Up, Not a Hand Out! cry today’s British Bumbles.
This attitude seems to be the culmination of the incremental empathy seepage of British society cemented into the cultural fabric through the attitudinal revolution of Thatcherism; so thorough its effect on society that it has since remained as a permanent moral stain that has yet to be washed out. It is the ‘religion’ of ‘It’s not my problem’. But the one ‘problem’ that can’t be so easily ‘moved on’ is that of the moral bankruptcy and self-dehumanisation of such a reprehensible cultural attitude. Sooner or later such NIMBY-minded individuals will have to confront themselves.
Street homelessness in London has increased by a staggering 75% in the last three years of Tory rule, a direct result, of course, of the cumulative pincer-movement of benefits caps, bedroom taxes and legal aid cuts, all imposed while private rents have escalated to obscene levels (one recent example being a photo of a ‘flat’ in London costing £162 rent a month, which was literally just a kitchen with a bed in it!). So when the Tories harp on about how Labour governments always leave the country in debt, it’s important to remember, by contrast, that Tory governments always leave the country with thousands more people sleeping on the streets! Which is the worst legacy: budgetary debt, or mass human abandonment? That is, of course, a rhetorical question.
Nevertheless, even British society still has its pockets of diehard ‘bleeding hearts’ (thank God!), and it is heartening that as soon as these ‘anti-homeless spikes’ were spotted by a Twitterer called ‘Ethical Pioneer’ (Lord knows we could do with more ethical pioneers in today’s ‘Kicking the Beggar’ culture) who promptly posted a photo of the offending studs on his Twitter account with the apposite message/‘tweet’: ‘anti homeless spikes homeless treated like pigeons do much for community spirit’. Quite right –while another Twitterer remarked that the homeless are being treated as ‘vermin’, just as the unemployed, those proverbial “scroungers”, have be attitudinally and rhetorically treated in the right-wing red-top rags over the past few years (most heinous of all being the Daily Express). Here is the article from the Channel 4 News website:
Crisis, which seeks to help the homeless, said they deserved better after it was claimed that the spikes, inch-long studs driven into in the ground, were similar to measures used to deter pigeons. And one resident of the flats said homeless people were being treated "like animals".
The charity said that homeless people "might have suffered a relationship breakdown, a bereavement or domestic abuse".
Katharine Sacks-Jones, its head of policy and campaigns, said: "They deserve better than to be moved on to the next doorway along the street. We will never tackle rough sleeping with studs in the pavement. Instead we must deal with the causes."
She added: "It is a scandal that anyone should sleep on the streets in 21st century Britain. Yet over the last three years rough sleeping has risen steeply across the country and by a massive 75 per cent in London.
"Behind these numbers are real people struggling with a lack of housing, cuts to benefits and cuts to homelessness services to help them rebuild their lives.
There was widespread disgust after pictures of the spikes outside a block of flats in Southwark, south central London, appeared on Twitter. They were posted by Andrew Horton, 33, from Woking, in Surrey.
People living in the flats said the metal studs were installed two weeks ago after homeless people were seen sleeping there.
It's like treating these homeless people like animals.
Emi Takehara, local resident
One resident, who asked not to be named, told the Daily Telegraph: "There was a homeless man asleep there about six weeks ago.
"Then about two weeks ago all of a sudden studs were put up outside. I presume it is to deter homeless people from sleeping there."
A couple, who also asked to remain anonymous, said: "It's because of the homeless. The spikes have only been there very recently, less than a month."
A man looking around the flats told the paper that the spikes would not put him off. The man, who only gave his name as Peter, a lawyer, said: "But would you want homeless people outside your door?"
Emi Takehara, who lives in the flats, told Sky News: "I feel really uncomfortable having these spikes in front of my home. It's like treating these homeless people like animals."
Southwark Council denied it was responsible for installing the spikes. In a statement, the council leader Peter John said: "The council can look into health and safety or planning concerns that are reported to us.
"With regards to people sleeping rough, the council has a dedicated officer who works closely with organisations like St Mungo's [a homelessness charity], who have a 'no second night out' policy to ensure rough sleepers are found shelter and support."
The piece also included the following insert:
Are spikes the best way to deal with homelessness?
The head of Homelessness charity St Mungo's Broadway, Howard Sinclair, said it is not unusual to implement measures to prevent people sleeping rough in a particular location on a regular basis in order to stop them "adopting a street lifestyle".
He said the metal spikes found in London appeared to be a "rather brutal way of doing just that".But he said that preventative measures alone are not enough.
"The aim is to help people move in, not just move on."We need to harness that to help people on the streets now, but also to prevent more people ending up there in the future.
"If you are concerned about somebody sleeping rough, please contact Streetlink, the national referral line, so they can connect local services with them."
Contact StreetLink online or call 0300 500 0914.
All The Recusant can say is, “There but for the grace of God, go I”, particularly in the ‘Big Society’”…
And just in: the revelation that, surprise, surprise, these metal studs aren’t a one-off sadistic whim of the occupants of a single luxury apartment block in Southwark, but are now being spotted throughout the Capital, always, of course, directly under any construct that might provide a shelter for rough sleepers (breakingdownthenews.blogspot.co.uk) –some have even been pictured (as one our front page) studding the sheltered ledges outside high street shops. Thanks to the ever-peripatetic London-based Shamanic Bard Niall McDevitt for posting this information on his Facebook page and sharing the link with us (even though I don’t use Facebook, or Twitter –I haven’t the time!– I still get messages and links sent from various associates who do) –as ever, a pertinent aphorismic McDevittism accompanies it: ‘Instead of building homes for the homeless our society builds them beds of nails’. This brings a whole new meaning to the architectural term ‘Brutalist’; indeed, the British really are becoming the Brutish.
Surprisingly, blimpish uber-right-wing London Mayor Boris Johnson himself as spoken out today about the deeply disturbing, almost ‘overnight’ ubiquity of these reprehensible metal studs throughout the Capital –as reported by Josh Halliday and Haroon Siddique in The Guardian:
Boris Johnson has called for anti-homeless spikes outside a luxury block of London flats to be removed immediately, describing them as "ugly, self-defeating and stupid".
The mayor of London urged the owner of the private block of deluxe apartments to remove the inch-high metal studs, which triggered outrage when a picture of them was posted online at the weekend.
He tweeted on Monday: "Spikes outside Southwark housing development to deter rough sleeping are ugly, self defeating & stupid. Developer should remove them ASAP.
"We've spent £34m on the likes of 'no 2nd night out' [which aims to ensure no one spends more than one night on the streets], reaching 3/4s of rough sleepers, but must do more. Spikes are simply not the answer."
The spikes, which are thought to have been installed in the last month and have been compared to those used to keep birds away from buildings, are in a sheltered alcove opposite a hostel for homeless people with mental health problems on Southwark Bridge Road.
About 5,000 people have signed a petition calling for the spikes to be removed and several people have lodged complaints with Southwark council about the studs, which have been described by homelessness charities as inhumane.
Katharine Sacks-Jones, head of policy and campaigns at Crisis, said people "deserve better than to be moved on to the next doorway along the street. We will never tackle rough sleeping with studs in the pavement. Instead we must deal with the causes".
A spokeswoman for Southwark council said it was investigating but that there was little it could do unless there had been a breach of planning regulations.
To Johnson’s credit, this is the second occasion he’s spoken out against the nastier manifestations of British Malthusianism in recent years, cue his particularly potent –and, for once, wholly apposite– remark with regards to the effects of welfare caps in the Capital that he’d “have no Kosovo-style social cleansing” on his “watch” (nonetheless, he of course did end up having precisely that –perhaps he went to sleep while ‘on watch’!). And here, another piece from The Observer by Josh Halliday:
Council chiefs are being urged to launch an investigation after metal spikes were installed outside a luxury block of London flats to deter homeless people from sleeping in the doorway.
The inch-high studs in the main entrance to the deluxe privately owned apartments in Southwark Bridge Road have provoked outrage as homelessness charities slammed the "inhumane" practice.
The spikes, which are thought to have been installed in the past month, are in a sheltered alcove opposite a hostel for homeless people with mental health problems.
Controversy grew over the weekend after a picture of the metal spikes was posted online, sparking outrage from people who compared them to the spikes used to keep birds away from buildings. David Wells said on Twitter: "These Anti-homeless studs are like the spikes they use to keep pigeons off buildings. The destitute [are] now considered vermin."
By Saturday night a petition to remove the studs was approaching 1,000 signatures and several people had lodged formal complaints with Southwark council.
Katharine Sacks-Jones, head of policy and campaigns at homelessness charity Crisis, said: "It is a scandal that anyone should sleep on the streets in 21st-century Britain. Yet over the last three years rough sleeping has risen steeply across the country and by a massive 75% in London.
"Behind these numbers are real people struggling with a lack of housing, cuts to benefits and cuts to homelessness services to help them rebuild their lives. They might have suffered a relationship breakdown, a bereavement or domestic abuse. They deserve better than to be moved on to the next doorway along the street. We will never tackle rough sleeping with studs in the pavement. Instead we must deal with the causes."
A spokeswoman for Southwark council said it would look into any official complaints but that there was little it could do unless the studs were in breach of planning regulations.
Councillor Peter John, leader of the council, said: "Southwark council is aware of concerns raised regarding the installation of spikes outside a privately owned building on Southwark Bridge Road to prevent rough sleeping.
"The council can look into health and safety or planning concerns that are reported to us. With regards to people sleeping rough the council has a dedicated officer who works closely with organisations like St Mungo's [a homelessness charity], who have a 'no second night out' policy to ensure rough sleepers are found shelter and support."
However, were 'Boris' not also a robust cheerleader for the City, apologist for the bankers, and also simultaneous to his apparent 'opposition' to anti-homeless spikes, not currently purchasing water canon on the cheap to repel potential protestors should there be a resurgence in riots in the Capital in the near future (and God knows if the Tories got in again next year then there almost definitely will be!), The Recusant might have felt more convinced of his sincerity. But as things stand, this is probably more to do with the London Mayor's canny grasp of 'PR' -i.e. wishing to maintain his 'loveable Boris' image- rather than any genuine conviction. (How do we know, for instance, that those water canon might not be tested out on the street homeless? Under the socially intolerant Tories, nothing would surprise us).
The Recusant urges all readers to please sign the following petition to have this blight of ‘anti-homeless spikes’ removed: https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/mayoroflondon-liferesproperty-remove-the-anti-homeless-spikes
What next, one wonders? Metal studs in public telephone boxes so any rough sleepers attempting to kip in them end up permanently indenting themselves as if spending the night in a blunt Iron Maiden? Or street homeless to be taser-stunned on sight? The prolific street children of Brazil have been used by secretively instructed marksmen for target practice for decades. As Channel 4 News showed us this evening (9 June 2014), 23,000 children in Brazil are currently sleeping rough on filthy blankets on the streets of the country’s major cities, numbing out their abject destitution by inhaling glue fumes from plastic bottles! Is that perhaps the way it’s going to go for some of our British children further down the line?
All this, plus the perfectly understandable social unrest and protests (one of which, by exploited underground workers, was met with tear gas by police today!) against the millions being squandered on the imminent FIFA-affiliated World Cup in Rio, which has some of the worst poverty on the planet, none of which is going to reap any of the benefits of the tournament, since FIFA will be hiving off its massive profits straight to Switzerland (native home of the FIFA’s corruption-pickled President, ‘Sepp’ Blatter), rather than, say, as a ‘goodwill gesture’, contributing so much as a penny towards rejuvenation of the city’s slums (Blatter-on-a-platter anyone…?).
It almost seems that when capitalism fails to successfully sweep out of view those millions of people it pauperises and renders street-homeless, then more aggressive methods are resorted to: it’s then they bring out the tasers, water canons, rubber bullets, and, of course, these latest torture implements, metal spikes. Whatever method used, it’s all about punishing the poor for being poor, and ‘sending out a clear message’: poverty will not be tolerated in public –it must be either disappear of its own volition, or we will take measures to ensure it disappears. Anything to actually taking the only measures that can ensure poverty disappears: living wages, private rent controls, affordable housing, more social and council housing, regulated energy suppliers, and, well, a complete reversal of the welfare caps and bedroom tax, and of pretty much every other policy scorched into our national fabric by this Satan’s brood of a Government.
[Stop Press: The Recusant is delighted to learn today (13 June 2014) that following a prompt and considerable public backlash against the 'anti-homeless spikes', including some prominent 'Homes not Spikes' protests outside various offending locations, Harriet Wells' 100,000-strong signatured online petition (linked on this site), and a punctual campaign by Left Unity, the latest torture installations for our nation's street homeless are now being removed, most notably from outside various Tesco stores (Every Little Spike Helps!), who are no doubt more concerned about their public image than their grotesque moral transgression (it's also staggeringly contradictory of Tesco that while it has been allowing food bank charities to ask its customers if they can donate tins of food from their daily Tesco shop, the supermarket giant has simultaneously installed the offending spikes on the ledges outside some of the same stores to repel rough sleepers, themselves likely to be among the most regular food bank users! Again, this is quite typical of the very English attitude of almost begrudgingly aiding the disadvantaged but on the proviso that they then clear themselves up from their doorsteps. Some Tories recently claimed, risibly, that one of the characteristics of 'Britishness' or 'Englishness' is 'sympathising with the underdog' -well no doubt that was once the case (particularly between 1945 and 1975), but in Toryland today it's much more a case of 'kicking the underdog', and, what's more, of actually socially engineering an entire new breed of them to boot (excuse the pun)!)].
Anyway, coverage on the flight of the spikes is here at The Guardian:
On the subject of the World Cup, a special issue of The Sun celebrating it through the prism of promoting some ill-defined notion of 'Englishness' -replete with Sgt. Pepper-esque front cover montage of all the various chancers and 'celebrities' of the 'Big Society'- which apparently will be posted free to all 'English' households (bar that principled oasis of Liverpool), was brandished by none other than Ed Miliband in a photo-op which has instantly -and understandably- thrown him into opprobrium among Labour supporters and most particularly Liverpudlians (with regards to the recent revelations of the rag's publicity-collusion with police and state at the time of the Hillsborough tragedy), including an outraged missive from the City's Labour Mayor reprimanding the Labour Leader for his risible PR stunt. Miliband has since apologised, but the damage is done. As one commentator put it, it's not so much as a case of 'Red' Ed as 'Red-top Ed' now (we're sure we've also employed that term on TR in the past). Most interesting in terms of phraseology was The Sun's own response to this controversy: '
The Sun wants to thank Ed Miliband for having his picture taken and cheering on England to DoUsProud in Brazil. The free edition of the Sun [now even a tabloid is at the 'lower case definite article' game!] an unashamedly positive celebration of Englishness, and it should come as no surprise that politicians on all sides are happy to get behind our uplifting message. This project has shown once again why the Sun is the nation's biggest newspaper and at the forefront of innovative journalism that delights, entertains and employs hardworking people across the country.
What jingoistic drivel! We're only surprised that there wasn't a disproportionately large image of Nigel Farage superimposed over the other faces on the front cover -or a strapline saying 'Sponsored by UKIP' -or, given the emphasis on 'Englishness', the EDL (certainly The Sun shares the same colours and many of the views of the latter 'party'). But note that emphatic Tory tone at the end: 'entertains and employs hardworking people...'! In other words, 'The Sun isn't written for "scroungers", least of all foreign ones!' And the phrase 'at the forefront of innovative journalism' is a world-beater of self-blind hyperbole -unless one argues that the rag's 'journalism' is indeed so 'innovative' that it isn't actually journalism at all, but just plain and simple philistine hackery and right-wing propaganda...!?].
The Welfare Famine: Below the Breadline and Breadline Kids
The Recusant also directs readers to another, namely Oxfam’s campaign to relieve the scandal of food poverty on our own doorsteps in Brutain: apparently food banks have had to accommodate a 54% rise in food poverty in just the last year alone, 2013/14, bringing the latest astronomical figures to 20 MILLION British families now in food poverty! As one commentator puts it: 'It feels like we’re going back in time. The welfare reforms are causing a sort of famine – because people are struggling' (Melissa, Manchester). We do indeed seem to be heading into what might be termed a ‘Welfare Famine’. This campaign coincides with a new report from Oxfam, the Trussell Trust and Church Action Against Poverty, called Below the Breadline: The relentless rise of food poverty in Britain, a sample of which can be downloaded here: http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/below-the-breadline-the-relentless-rise-of-food-poverty-in-britain-317730
This follow up to 2013’s government-ignored Walking the Breadline, basically sets out the facts that the reality-denying Tories and their red-top cheerleaders will no doubt promptly denounce in the coming days, but the gist of which is recapitulated on the Oxfam website:
People in the UK are going hungry - how can this be happening?
More and more people with homes and jobs have been plunged into poverty because of a 'perfect storm' of stagnant incomes, rapidly rising prices, unfair working practices, and benefit cuts. Increasing numbers of people are going hungry and being forced to rely on food banks to feed their families.
We can do something about it
Things need to change to stop the divisions between rich and poor in this country growing even wider and more people suffering hunger and hardship. Politicians have it in their power to bring in policies that benefit everybody, not just the privileged few.
the government to provide a social security system that acts as a safety net for vulnerable people instead of driving them into poverty.
all parties to set out plans to address food poverty and commit to raise the National Minimum Wage to the Living Wage by 2020.
the government to FULLY review zero-hours contracts and social security sanctions because of their impact on hardship and hunger.
Here’s the link to email your MP:
An accompanying Channel 4 Dispatches tonight (9 June 2014), Breadline Kids, was a heart-rending viewing experience but one which is long overdue and The Recusant just hopes that its considerable length (1 hour) and depth of insight into the utterly unacceptable pauperisation of hundreds of thousands of families under Tory-driven ‘selective’ austerity might just have melted a few of the harder hearts out there hitherto perfectly happy with the Tories’ dismantlement of the most basic safety nets in the welfare system that now sees over 300,000 children of both unemployed and working poor families being fed by food banks and ‘breakfast clubs’!
But for some hard-hearted individuals today, we hold out little hope for moral and human redemption: it is highly unlikely that the likes of the David Cameron, George Osborne, Iain Duncan Smith, ‘Lord’ Freud, Esther McVey and all their friends at the Taxpayers’ Alliance, if any of them happened to watch this documentary evidence of a new Dickensian England, will lose any sleep tonight –because those whose consciences are permanently asleep are usually sound sleepers, while the 300,000 British children currently going to bed hungry are much more likely to be light-sleepers owing to the rumbling and gnawing of their empty stomachs.
Among many iniquities, the documentary featured an unemployed single mother of two children who is seemingly so acutely aware of the stigmatisation of going on benefits that she’s opted instead to market herself as ‘an adult worker’, her clients actually visiting her in her bedroom in the family council flat when her kids at school! It is a testament to the efficacy of the despicable “scrounger” rhetoric of government and tabloid of the past few years that now what is effectively prostitution is seen as something more commensurate to maintaining one’s sense of pride and self-respect than claiming benefits! The Recusant wonders whether this kind of ‘occupation’ might be being tacitly encouraged by IDS’s Department for Whiphands and Punishments, in preference to expecting taxpayers to contribute a microscopic amount in tax to help the poorest sustain a rudimentary human level of existence…?! What next one thinks, Jobcentreplus pimps?
The question rears itself again: are the ‘Barbarians’ now within the ‘Gates’ of ‘Great’ Britain; are they, in actual fact, running the shop? Should we British now just change our tribal name to the Brutish?
[Latest: Rumours are afoot that one of Iain Duncan Smith's DWP deputies has threatened to "shut down" the Trussell Trust, the main provider of food banks, a charitable auspice one would have assumed the Prime Minister and his cohorts would have celebrated as evidence of the 'Big Society' in action. But seemingly not so, since the Trust is also highly critical of the Government's welfare reforms which it sees quite rightly as directly linked to epidemic food bank dependency. The Tories see this is a 'political stance' and they don't like it. They don't want the providers of food to those hundreds of thousands they have thrown into abject poverty to be undermining Tory anti-welfare propaganda. The Tories have also accused Oxfam of being 'political' for having co-written the Walking the Breadline report with the Trussell Trust and Church Action on Poverty -while the latter, no doubt some time soon, will be accused by the Tories of being too 'Christian'! But as far as The Recusant understands, a government cannot just 'shut down' a charity, least of all one which is a prime operator in the mass mopping up of the 'Eton Mess' of a welfare state made by the Tories. But if we needed any further evidence of the Government's Malthusian plan to pretty much wipe out whole sections of the underclass, this latest revelation is another to add the lengthening list].
Hortatory Horton: Towards a Mightier Morning Star
But, briefly, returning again to the weekend’s MS. There was also an excellently couched rallying cry from Bernadette Horton to all MS readers to buy up shares in the newspaper’s reader-owned cooperative with view towards its further vital expansion:
Working-class people like you and me are bombarded by right-wing newspapers dishing out their vile rantings about “scroungers” on a daily basis.
These papers presume that all we want to read about is how well England are doing at football and how many pints Nigel Farage and his Ukip cronies have downed at the pub on their jaunt around Britain trying to sound like “one of the lads.” Stockbrokers like Farage try to pull the wool over our eyes while they spew forth their bigoted, sexist agendas. No thanks.
So we turn to the only paper where we can read the truth of how banker-created austerity is affecting our lives. In the Morning Star we can read about the struggle to feed our families, how working people are turning to food banks, how Michael Gove is wrecking our kids’ education with his grammar school curriculum nonsense and news from other working-class communities throughout the world like Venezuela and Cuba.
Morning Star reporters tell us about a wide range of diverse issues and campaigns that are happening in our communities, not who Katie Price’s latest husband is or what Victoria Beckham is wearing on a daily basis.
From the Morning Star we get the truth about what this vicious coalition government is up to every day. News of how comrades across the world are fighting back against austerity, and even features like the great recipes from our own Commie Chef, theatre and music reviews that never see the light of day in the right-wing papers, and sport coverage for all, not the few.
However, The Morning Star has no huge corporation of capitalists behind it, pumping in money on a daily basis. But it does have you and I. People own shares in the Morning Star — ordinary people not rich bankers. It is a reader-owned co-operative.
The downside is that it takes thousands of pounds to keep the Morning Star running six days a week, 12 months of the year and it struggles to fund the paper continuously.
The paper has just launched its Summer of Heroes campaign with some success but it wants to expand to become a true mass-owned paper by thousands or even millions of ordinary people.
It’s not asking for big unaffordable amounts. To become a paper owned by thousands of its readers the paper is asking for a £1 donation if you can afford it. If you have more to spare, even better — any donation would be gratefully received of course. But just think if 50,000 people gave £1 each? The paper has plans to invest in new technology and raise awareness of the Morning Star, increase its circulation so more people can read the news you passionately care about. A paper owned by workers, mums and dads, carers, the disabled, the self-employed, the unemployed — a vast army of ordinary people who own shares in their own newspaper.
So could you spare £1 to take the Morning Star forward and be part of a mass movement of people who care what they read everyday and value getting the truth out to a wider audience to counteract the right-wing tabloids?
A working-class hero is indeed something to be. Please donate your £1 by any of the methods below or more if it is possible and make the Morning Star a newspaper owned by the very people the paper writes about.
Your paper must raise: £133,718
How to support us:
Send cheques payable to PPPS Ltd — Fighting Fund to: Morning Star Heroes, 52 Beachy Road, London E3 2NS
By phone on (020) 8510-0815 between 10am-5pm Monday to Friday
By Paypal at our website www.morningstaronline.co.uk, where you can also check for updates in the Summer of Heroes campaign over coming weeks
[Note: we're not entirely sure why the MS isn't putting Ukip all in upper case, since it is an acronym (lest we be allowed to forget, for UK Independence Party), so should presumably all be in upper case. Having said this, we've also noted a similar de-capitalisation of the acronym in tHE gUARDIAN too!].
It goes without saying that The Recusant couldn’t recommend a more worthy newspaper to support –the only newspaper, in our opinion, which truly offers an alternative narrative, a people’s narrative, of our austerity days, and beyond. The Morning Star is, quite simply, the most imperative newspaper of our time, the continuation of which is absolutely fundamental to the survival of what vestiges still remain of our embattled social democracy.
A.M. 8-9 June 2014