Politicians and the Objective Truth
I cherish the illusion that there might have been a time when a few politicians could be said to have subscribed to The Truth—which has something to do with absolute integrity and commitment to facilitating a Good Life for all human beings. This would rule out all those politicians with a vested interest in feathering their own nests—in this category I would place the moneyed classes and their supporters on what is described as the Right—by which I understand the Wrong. Right-wing is the Wrong-wing.
After the last bout of ‘reciprocal destruction’ in 1945 there was a brief period when politicians of what is described as the Left—by which I understand ‘the Right’—the Left-wing is the right wing to be on—were not afraid to talk about Socialism—the commitment to facilitating a Good Life for all human beings—as a sane response to the unemployment and calculated misery of the Thirties and the devastation of the War Years . Any viewer who is prepared to be totally objective can see all this in a brilliant new documentary film by Ken Loach (The Spirit of 45) and, when still awake, observe the way in which human vision and purpose have gradually been systematically dismantled by the forces of Capitalism, as represented by Old Ma Thatcher, T Bliar, D Cameron and the Condems under the lie of Inevitable Progress.
There remain a few politicians in whom one can trust as defenders of the original Socialist vision: for example, Michael Meacher, Brenda Jackson, Dennis Skinner and Tony Benn who retired from Parliament, so he said, in order to be able to participate in politics.
But one has to go back to that short period between 1945 and 1952, when a vision of how life ought to be was enacted, to find a few honest people who could be trusted to tell it like it is. Michael Foot, intellectual giant from this period, survived for a long time (d 2010).
‘There are three forces active in society: they are private property, poverty and democracy…’ (Aneurin Bevan in Freedom from Fear 1952) And there you have it. Nothing more to be said except to work out the ramifications and come up with a resolution. The alternative is to capitulate to dishonest rat-race Capitalism.
Bevan pointed out that poverty is ‘the general consciousness of unnecessary deprivation which is the normal state of millions of people in modern industrial society, accompanied by a deep sense of frustration and dissatisfaction with the existing state of social affairs…’
It’s no use saying that things are better than they were; we live in the present not the past and present calculated squalor is where we’re at. Growing poverty of proper public services is the result of deliberate Governmental policy.
‘Discontent arises from a knowledge of the possible as contrasted with the actual. There is a universal and justifiable conviction that the lot of ordinary man & woman is much worse than it need be…’ It’s as simple and straightforward as that; nothing much has changed in sixty years. And why is that? Because the Power Possessors—those with the wealth—make sure it stays the way that suits them.
Political democracy was supposed to put power into the hands of ordinary folk but who runs the organs of democracy? The Power Possessors, the arrogant wealthy with a plum in their mouths, 4×4’s and gated estates. They are not likely to give anything away.
Bevan summarises the nature of the problem facing human-beings suffering under Capitalism: ‘…either [those in poverty] will use democracy to win the struggle against [those with] property or [the latter], in fear of those in poverty, will destroy democracy. Of course, the issue never appears in such simple terms…’
What has changed in sixty years is that the supporters of the Capitalist system have learned to be far more devious in the way they present themselves; they now conceal their destructive beliefs within an air of benevolence and a pretence of ‘trickle down’. Their leaders—the 500 or so Masters of the Universe—have enrolled them in a global conspiracy to defraud humanity of the Good Life by means of Cut-backs in welfare. Meanwhile they have invested heavily in Bread and Circuitry to keep the populace happy with football, telly, apps and computers. You can observe this in action when current proposals are that 5 year-olds be trained to become computer programmers (July 2013)… When minds are in thrall to such things there is no freedom, otherwise people would refuse to put up with preventable poverty.
‘Poverty, great wealth and democracy are ultimately incompatible elements in any society…’
The Right—I mean the Wrong—in its thorough studied deviousness has worked really hard to persuade those in poverty ‘…to use their political freedom to keep wealth in power…’ This, says Bevan, with considerable prescience, was ‘…the whole art of Conservative politics in the Twentieth Century…’
Political democracy brings the welfare of ordinary men and women on to the agenda of political discussion and demands its consideration. Fascism and all forms of authoritarian government take it off the agenda again.
Sixty years on, the Global Capitalist Conspiracy is mounting a concerted attack on the daily welfare of folk, rolling back the advances made in provision for human well-being across at least the whole of Europe under the pretence of ‘reducing the Deficit’, whatever that might mean.
When the UK can toss away £6million to send a man into space, as reported in May 2013, the myth of The Deficit is exploded. There are many other examples of pointless expenditure.
The political high-priests of wealth-privilege are acutely conscious of the unbridgeable antagonism between private wealth and political democracy… Their job as they see it is to beguile democracy into voting wealth back into power at each election. For this they adapt their language and shape their plans. When people behave as they wish them to behave, they say complacently, “ The British people are sound at heart…” When people look like [turning nasty on them] they begin to see the defects of democracy as a permanent system of government… When we do as they want us to do it is called freedom. When we suit ourselves it is called licence…
I’ve often thought how interesting it would be to be able to catch the high-priests of wealth-privilege talking in the pub about the lower orders and they way they’ve been hood-winked into acceptance or, worse, in the expectation of getting a slice or two of the cake, support.
In fact, we are conned into imagining that the House of Commons is where it all happens. Endless authoritative opinionating in the media are perhaps carefully designed to present the impression of important things being discussed and resolved there ‘… but it is an elaborate conspiracy to prevent the real clash of opinion which exists outside from finding an appropriate echo within its walls. It is a social shock absorber placed between privilege and the pressure of popular discontent…’
Listen to the smug exchanges on ‘the floor of the house’, if you can bear it—not much better than our local Parish Council—notice how they are elevated to the status of dignified rhetoric by the media (in spite of the braying and air of general facetiousness and ill-feeling in equal measure); put yourself in the position of this ‘…class of so-called exceptional people or [in the position of] a leader who is assumed to have the virtues [the ordinary person] is supposed to lack…’ You will soon be able to realise that they are, for the most part, simple souls making things up as they go along to suit their own agendas without regard for anybody else.
In old age I have discovered the pleasure of baiting your political ‘representative’ with letters of complaint only to bin the standardised half-baked replies which never tackle the issue you’ve raised.
It’s mostly a collection of words acquired and put together in the manner of a contribution to a Sixth Form Debating Society; submit them to linguistic analysis and they crumble like cow pats baked in the summer sun. Parliamentary speeches are made by a bunch of parrots hoping that any stray listener will assume that they mean something by what they say.
How politicians rejoice when they can devote some parliamentary space to the idea of imposing ‘democracy’ on some alien territory by force where people won’t know a ballot box from a crate of apples; it gives them the heaven-sent opportunity to use all the old words of war & politics that convey the impression that they are great leaders.
We should always be on our guard against the old words for, says Bevan
…words persist when the reality which lay behind them has changed. It is inherent in our intellectual activity that we seek to imprison reality in our description of it. Soon, long before we realise it it is we who become the prisoners of the description. From that point on our ideas degenerate into a kind of folk-lore which we pass to each other fondly thinking we are still talking of the reality around us…
Abstractions like ‘free enterprise’, ‘Capitalism’, ‘democracy’ become divorced from what really happens, actions, in the world. As Bevan said: ‘It is the verb that matters, not the noun…’
Things will not change until human thinking changes to incorporate that concept.
…If this is not understood, we become symbol worshippers. The categories we once evolved and which were the tools we used in our intercourse with reality become hopelessly blunted. In these circumstances the social and political realities we are supposed to be grappling with change a reshape themselves independently of the collective impact of our ideas…
Politicians of the Right are especially out of touch with the way things really are; they are disqualified from representing the working classes ‘tied to reality by the nature of their work’ because they can have no concept of what that work is. At the head of the current UK government sits a bunch of millionaires cutting and slashing and actively promoting fear in the minds of ordinary folk.
The first function of a political leader is advocacy. It is he who must make articulate the wants, the frustrations, and the aspiration of the masses. Their hearts must be moved by his words, and so his words must be attuned to their realities. If he speaks in the old false categories they listen at first and nod their heads, for they hear a familiar echo from the past. But, if he persists, they begin to appreciate that he is no longer with them. He is not their representative any longer in the true meaning of that much abused term.
A representative person is one who will act in a given situation in much the same way as those he represents would act in that same situation. In short, he must be of their kind. They may not know the facts as he knows them. Indeed, they cannot expect to do so. In our complicated society there must be division of labour, but that division will operate in an atmosphere of confidence only if those working it are of like mind. Thus a political party which begins to pick its personnel from unrepresentative types is in for trouble. Confidence declines.
But politicians of the Right, including those who pretend to be on the Left, out of touch with ordinary people, have learned a different strategy for these benighted times: use posh language and speak quickly with an authoritative tone, make general pretence of being ‘born to rule’ and develop rhetorical verbal gestures like ‘everybody knows’, ‘we all agree’, ‘the country rejoices…’ ‘the feel-good-factor’ and suchlike sleight of mouth devices. We are conned by false categories because we are not quick enough to recognise them for what they are and they are repeated so often on the air-waves that the inclination is to mistake Repetition for Truth.
Old words, false categories—passed down by tradition, acquired in an other-than-conscious fashion without question.
How Does One Escape?
How did I escape? Always assuming that I did and am not just dreaming… Having attended a minor public school established in around 1100AD and refounded by the first Queen Elizabeth, I should have been sucked into all the standard beliefs of the upper classes. Why wasn’t I? It could be that my teachers hadn’t quite got it all together after the 1945 war; when I sit at the back of one of their classes with my teacher trainer hat on now, I can see that their teaching was a mess; they come over to me as a charming collection of eccentrics (often saying & doing very odd things) whom I frequently feared but whose words came from another world to hit my very ordinary suburban upbringing with a generous swipe.
Another reason might be that during my early years I was left to my own devices and learned to do things on my own in my very own way, my father being off in India to contend with the Japanese invasion while my mother was distracted by my sister’s illness—and so I learned all the advantages of making up my own mind about what was going on in the world. Accuracy of learning was just a matter of holding on to certain key ideas, as ANWhitehead said, and constantly reading around them, collecting evidence, sifting through patterns that would recur and recur—in novels, poems and works of philosophy & politics right down to the present day…
…To those whose lives are a progression from preparatory school to public school and from there to university, it is not easy to understand the process of self-education. The self-educating naturally seize on the knowledge which makes their own experience intelligible. It is not so much that they look for immediately useful knowledge. In that they are less utilitarian than the university student who has to acquire the knowledge that enables him to pass examinations. That is why, I suppose, the self-educating cling to what they learn with more tenacity than the university product. The self-educated person learns only what interests her and interest is the begetter of intelligence. As a general rule she learns only what has significance in her own life. The abstract ideas which ignite her mind are those to which her own experience provides a reference…
I didn’t go from Kingston Grammar School into University; there was a gap of ten years before I was in full-time education again and by then my own eccentricity was rampant.
Instead of coming out of somebody else’s idea of a formal curriculum my learning in those ten years came piecemeal and randomly with accidental connections that eventually provided me with the generalisation that making connections was a valuable activity in itself. ONLY CONNECT. And some time later the virtual question that’s always at the front of my mind: How can I connect this with that…? A question I now realise has been one that I’ve worked with all along; it clears the buffers.
Jefferies, Belloc, Bourne, Germinal, Moby Dick, Wells, Henry Williamson, Lawrence, Woolf (To the Lighthouse—oh, the shock & shudder when you find that Mrs Ramsay died in the night…
Referring to his reading of Karl Marx, Bevan wrote: ‘The relevance of what we were reading to our own industrial and political experience had all the impact of a divine revelation. Everything fell into place. The dark places were lighted up and the difficult ways made easy.
In those ten years, the relevance of what I was reading to my own sense of being was revelatory; things I had been feeling & thinking for fifteen years just fell into place. I did not grasp it all sufficiently to make it work for me immediately in the ways of the world—I persisted in rambling from thing to thing, achieving nothing very much; I did not claim anything as mine; nor did I assert anything about what I was beginning to understand; but at least some of ‘the dark places were lighted up and the difficult ways made [relatively] easy…’
Perhaps it could be said that in my modest teaching ‘career’ it was something of an advantage that I did not claim anything special for myself—this would have been to own up to dogma. I did envy those who seemed to really know what they were talking about so eloquently and without pausing for thought—but maybe I did not feel it worth modelling on them because I sensed that to assert a particular line meant that you had to cut yourself off from other possibilities. I always want the other possibilities…
Constantly checking the connections between what I was thinking and how I might be able to put it into practice—what I thought I was thinking and how I could make it work in life seemed to me always to be the thing worth doing; then ideas would live an adventure all of their own and whatever you did would be bound to have some basis in an overall evolving conceptual framework. This did not help me much to avoid catastrophes but at least I knew them for what they were for the most part.
Thus action and thought go hand-in-hand in reciprocal revelation. The world of concrete activity renovates, refreshes and winnows the ideas he gets in books. The world of abstract thought rises from strong foundations of realised fact, like a great tree, whose topmost leaves move in obeisance to the lightest zephyr, yet the great trunk itself issues the final command.
Rather than the trunk of a tree, Magnetic Centre—4th Way metaphor—worked for me: something there was in me that caused patterns of thinking to stick like iron filings to a magnet.
After the random adhesions of First Education there were these ten crazy years during which I was adrift in my own sea, mad time during which I accumulated bits & pieces of odd learning. For example, springing to mind, there was a chap in Bermondsey Income Tax office who told me about the experience of a ‘fit of summer sadness’. I’m not sure what the context was or what it meant to him but the concept certainly resonated with me as an all year round experience: in summer the sadness was that blue skies swimming with swifts could not last and in winter sad it was to remember the swifts scything the evening air. Thus I acquired a pattern of thinking—just one small example!
And then I stumbled upon a four-year absence from the ‘Real World’ learning the art of teaching; this helped me to put what I had acquired into a new order…
Bevan sums up his thoughts on self-education thus: ‘…I must not be thought to be extolling the virtues of self-education against those of trained instruction. Trained instruction often make for a wider mobility, both in thought and action. But what the self-educated learn they hold, and what they hold is an illumination of their own experience…’
Exactly! The question is—How could conventional education be re-fashioned to teach just that? That what you hold yourself can become an illumination of your own experience, like ANWhitehead’s making inert ideas into your own living possession… I think that since around the age of 17 I’ve always held to this. Given an idea, how can I make it my own?
So from Germinal I learned what Bevan says—that ‘…in the absence of political freedom, civil war and revolution [remain] the only hope of emancipation for the masses and must still appear to be the only hope where similar conditions exist…’ The problem now is that Divide & Rule has worked its sinister way into the mind of the masses: various thought viruses have been spread into the communal blood-stream by the power of TV which everybody is apparently glued to. ‘By the alchemy of Capitalist finance, Bombay [has] been brought nearer to London than Bradford…’ Bread and Circuitry…
Capitalism Rules—Parliament is Irrelevant
People have no use for an institution which pretends to supreme power and then does not use it. If economic power is left in private hands, and a distressed people ask parliament in vain for help, its authority is undermined. Its role is reduced to that of a public mourner for private economic crimes…
For a few years Socialism was able to assert itself. 1945-1951. Six years with a Socialist vision of a better land. Now ‘privatisation’ is the global Capitalist response and Parliament becomes once more its enabler.
The true Socialist ‘… asserts the efficacy of State action and of collective policies. The failure is the failure of Parliamentary initiative. If that happens, where can the anxious citizen turn? Back to private enterprise, which has already failed him? This is a dangerous dilemma full of sinister possibilities for democratic institutions…’
Democratic dismay works itself out as an individual feeling of utter hopelessness and withdrawal from policy & principle. Nothing is done out of commitment. Apathy & skullduggery results. Or wanton destruction & riots in the streets and the rise of Fascism masquerading as UKIP.
On the contrary, ‘…Boldness in words must be matched by boldness in deeds or the result will be universal malaise, a debilitation of the public will, and a deep lassitude spreading throughout all the organs of public administration. Audacity is the mood that should prevail among Socialists as they apply the full armament of democratic values to the problems of the times…’
A universal malaise—a debilitation of public will. Deep lassitude in the face of the Global Capitalist Conspiracy which is very bold in its demolition job.
These things have come about in part because of the thick fog of abstractionism that’s been gathering around influences on individual Being for centuries.
Bevan points out that before the industrial revolution ‘…relations with physical nature were immediate and direct…’ Artefacts, such as they were, resulted from a hand & mouth struggle with the forces of Nature and the abstraction ‘social forces’ meant nothing because all sense and sensibility could be assessed, summarised and contained in a casual stroll around your neighbourhood…
Floods, famines, fires, crop failures, the majestic immensity of the heavens and the overpowering violence of storms, all drove home the lesson that by comparison [we were]… pigmies grudgingly permitted a brief life, a fleeting smile and then oblivion…
Now we fancy we are above Nature, that we can do just what we like with our bulldozers and JCB’s; we can move the earth to wreck and pollute the environment and it won’t matter as we become mere pawns in a societal game. We are first ‘creatures of society’ and only secondarily of Nature. The more we are told the lie that local people have a real say in what happens in their neighbourhood [in the UK] the more Society is placed way beyond our reach.
We are just vaguely aware of the way it may be affecting us but most of it is managed by an insane conspiracy of the Rich & Powerful.
We are also aware that things could be so different if only the system could be somehow fundamentally challenged and overthrown; if things were shared out equally according to some scientific principle.
If the individual is to make a home for him [her etc] self in the Great Society, he [she etc] must also seek to make the behaviour of social forces reasonably predictable. The assertion of anti-Socialists that private economic adventure is a desirable condition stamps them as profoundly unscientific. You can make your home the base for your adventures, but it is absurd to make the base itself an adventure. Yet this is the claim made by anti-Socialists. The digging for coal, the making of steel, the provision of finance, the generation and distribution of electricity, the building and siting of factories and houses, the whole complete structure of the Great Society is, for the anti-Socialist, a great arena for private economic adventure. The greater the degree of unpredictability the greater the adventure, and, in theory at least, the more precious the prizes. That is why anti-Socialists shudder at the very name of planning and why planners and planning are the daily butt of reactionary newspapers.
Nor is this difficult to understand. Their principal proprietors made their fortunes not by owning newspapers (these they bought to protect their fortunes and enlarge their personal power,) but by successful speculation in industry and finance. They laid in wait for the unwary and then leapt upon them from the financial undergrowth. They are pouncers, not planners.
For the great mass of the people the case is wholly different. They are the victims who are preyed upon. It is they who are stalked and waylaid, harried and tormented, their lives made a nightmare of uncertainty. To the extent that this is no longer so in Britain [1945 – 1952] and in some other advanced countries, it is because the economic adventurers have been curbed and controlled in one sphere of social activity after another. Life has been made more tolerable by their defeat, not by their ascendancy.
That was, of course, in 1952. Now the anti-planners have been allowed to regain the ascendancy and Cameron’s lie of the so-called Big Society has masked the Big Conspiracy against the lowly.
Here’s Chomsky (called ‘the great American Crackpot’ by the idiot Right):-
Many other parallel things happened. The whole economy changed in significant ways to concentrate power, to undermine workers’ rights and freedom. In fact the economist who chaired the Federal Reserve around the Clinton years, Alan Greenspan—St. Alan as he was called then, the great genius of the economics profession who was running the economy, highly honored—he testified proudly before congress that the basis for the great economy that he was running was what he called ‘growing worker insecurity’. If workers are more insecure, they won’t do things, like asking for better wages and better benefits. And that’s healthy for the economy from a certain point of view, a point of view that says workers ought to be oppressed and controlled, and that wealth ought to be concentrated in a very few pockets. So yeah, that’s a healthy economy, and we need growing worker insecurity, and we need growing student insecurity, for similar reasons. I think all of these things line up together as part of a general reaction—a bipartisan reaction, incidentally—against liberatory tendencies which manifested themselves in the 1960’s…
A reminder that Bevan’s book is called Freedom from Fear... He talks about the fear of unemployment, the deliberate stimulation of that fear, as being a method of control of workers. ‘The kiss of material wealth for the successful; the whip of poverty for all the others…’
Efficiency & Competition now rule in theory—as though such abstractions could ever make things better for ordinary human lives, ‘…as though loving, laughing, worshipping, eating, the deep serenity of a happy home, the warmth of friends, the astringent revelation of new beauty and the earthly tug of local roots will ever yield to such a test…’
The manufacture of scarce resources is the pre-condition for the making of huge profit. With a state of engineered scarcity it is neither feasible nor necessary to engage in competition—the rich can just enjoy getting richer.
Science works for predictability; capitalist society is profoundly unscientific: it proceeds upon no rational hypotheses—that would imply a consistently human order of values…
Get Rich Quick—the Prevalent Value
The rise of the Global Capitalist Conspiracy has entailed the loss of a general human-value-driven system of any kind. The ‘just-do-it’ mentality that was supposed to get the individual to chance their arm, take a reasonable risk and face the consequences has evolved into ‘never-mind- the-point-of-it-just do-it’—death of reason and value.
Having a human-value-system is actually very straightforward; Godwin said it long ago: never do anything that will result in harm for another person; it’s as simple as that. Unequal distribution of rewards deprives and therefore harms another. ‘When material reward is accepted as the prime motivator in society then that is an individual prompting, acting by itself and obeying no generalised moral intention…’
In a state of irrationality such as exists when the world is administered by the Global Capitalist Conspiracy ‘…analysis is what people want to avoid because that would lay bare the divisions that led to tensions in the first place…’ It’s an offence to attempt to look at detail; the enemy is sought without so that the glow of unity can be maintained, The Yellow Peril, the Red Menace, the War on Terror, Militant Islam—this long succession of manufactured threats from outside disguises the fact that the enemy is always within; meanwhile the bankers and Power Possessors continue to collect their huge bonuses. Meanwhile, the struggle for survival continues.
The accumulation of material possessions is no compensation for the rupture between the individual and society that is characteristic of competitive society. Those who succeed in the struggle equally with those who fail are invaded by the universal restlessness. The virtues of contemplation and of reflection are at a discount. Æsthetic values attend upon the caprice of the financially successful. The price ticket is displayed upon the Titian and the Renoir, and they are bought more for their prospective appreciation in capital value than for their intrinsic merit. The millionaire loots the world of its artistic treasures and then buries them in his private home, where he can display them to a few choice friends, whose eyes glisten with avarice rather than with appreciation of the loveliness and craftsmanship contained in them.
The Virtues of Contemplation and Reflection
Withdrawal from the world while still being in it—in it but not of it—rejection of the world’s concerns or A Influences, as Gurdjieff called them. Getting to the still centre of the turning world—how often have I contemplated that idea and stood myself on its needle point to find out what it feels like to be there in reflection?
The accumulation of wealth as a commodity is an A Influence. I am privileged enough to have a sufficiency but I just would not know what to do with a First Division footballer’s return for kicking a bit of leather about for 90 minutes.
Once more it is as it was in Victorian times: wealth has to flow through private hands before the Power Possessors hope that it will be meted out in acts of philanthropy ‘to support the arts’ let’s say. At the same time ‘…public spending [is] seen as an interference not only with the right of the individual, but as an enemy of the process of capital accumulation. This is still [in 1952] orthodox Conservative opinion…’ In 2013, in line with other countries in the Global Capitalist Conspiracy, they’ve invented something called a ‘Deficit’ which becomes a deft excuse to chop back public spending and allow money to flow even more readily through the hands of the already very rich.
‘Communal need and private greed [are] in constant war with each other…’ It is a class war.
How long will people tolerate these divisions? How long will cheerful acquiescence in the rule of money persist? Cheerful acquiescence by the middle classes—“It’s the Deficit, you know, old chap…” Sullen fearful submission to alien values by the less well-off.
So long as the function of progressive accumulation remains the field of private initiative, the individual will never be able to make society conform to any permanently commendable pattern… Public spending is presented as an extravagance; private spending as a justifiable economy…
And nobody has the guts to say, “Here is a certain amount of money produced by communal sweat of brow or muscle—how should it be disposed of in order to provide the greatest good for the greatest number” Nobody asks the question—or if they do they are dubbed ‘crackpot’.
The rich are too busy holding on to what they’ve got while the poor are too busy trying to make impossible ends meet… Then there’s the mass in the middle who don’t give a damn either way—pococurantes who occasionally, when their ire is got up over some diversionary issue like the question of Europe, vote for some deviant party without in the least understanding its ‘policy’ but simply out of a little niggle that they ought to keep up with the fashion of ‘public opinion’…
What is the Communal Pot to be Spent On?
What are the most worthy objects on which to spend surplus productive capacity? For the sake of simplicity I am accepting the existing pattern of production and consumption, although by no means do I agree with it. After providing for the kind of life we have been leading as a social aggregate, there is an increment left over that we can use as we wish. What would we like to do with it?
If there were regular a regular People’s Assembly set up to assess in a rational manner how money ought to be distributed, human misery might well be eliminated. There is manifestly plenty of money sloshing about in the system but ‘… in the Competitive Society [an open] question [about what to do with it] is never asked. It is not a public question at all. It cannot be publicly asked with any advantage because it is not capable of a public decision which can be carried out. Therefore in this most vital sphere, the shaping of the kind of future we would like to lead, we are disenfranchised at the very outset. We are unable to discuss it because the disposal of the economic surplus is not ours to command…’
Sticks & stones, mud & rocks, coal & oil, forests & mountains are all so easily shifted about but the thing is
…that whereas we consider the world of nature capable of being subordinated to our will, society is left uncharted and therefore unpredictable. Where society is to go from here does not lie with the competence of any assembly of statesmen, in any part of the capitalist world, so long as the assumptions of competitive capitalism remain unchallenged. The surplus is merely a figure of speech. Its reality consists in a million and one surpluses in the possession of as many individuals. Political economy is a study of how the surpluses have been disposed of, and consequently of how they are likely to be dealt with in the future. It is not a science of what should happen to them. That belongs to the world of morals.
This very neatly helps the Tory spokesperson side-step the issue with a Joadish ‘it all depends what you mean by…’ The world of morals is shrouded in abstractions—the Good, Equality, Fairness, Sharing—things you could never put in a wheelbarrow, things you can’t give a shape to or handle, even with kid gloves.
There are all kinds of unscrupulous individuals making choices about the way things are done in your locality; decisions are made by the rich & powerful with no regard for the rest of us.
It’s the case that
…the kind of society that emerges from the sum of [their] individual choices is not one which [can ever] commend itself to the generality of men & women. It must be borne in mind that the successful were not choosing a type of society. Theye were only deciding what they thought could be bouthg & sold most profitably. Nothing was further from their mind than making a judgement about the kind of society that mankind should live in…
The practical measure of unfairness is when the top executive of a company receives a bonus of £100,000 a year on top of a very large salary. What are they playing at? How do they imagine that they can deceive us into thinking they are in any sense ‘worth it’? How can they imagine that any of us can believe it’s even possible to spend such a large sum of money?
… Rewards are not in keeping with social worth—the consciousness of this, both among the successful and the unsuccessful will simmer and bubble, blowing up into geysers of political & social disturbance in times of economic stress… If effort alone is enough to justify great wealth, a burglar is on the same basis as a millionaire. What matters is the social utility of the effort, not the effort itself. The subjective consciousness of exertion is no test of objective merit…
Capitalism thrives on stimulating fear about the threat of unemployment—just enough fear to keep people guessing, not so much as to cause the social fabric to break down; resentment against preventable poverty has to be stage-managed; the depersonalisation of the individual worker has to be compensated for by a surfeit of telly & football & access to e-tackle and the offer of shares in the company; war which stimulates the economy has to be carefully drummed up.
The threat of war and in recent years the threat of terrorism on the street and the invention of a ‘War on Terror’, played on by the media like wind in an organ pipe, have been enough to provide enough fear to keep us cowed.
Evidence that there’s plenty of money swilling about comes from a recent survey which points out that the war in Afghanistan has cost Britain at least £37bn and the figure will rise to a sum equivalent to more than £2,000 for every taxpaying household. Since 2006, on a conservative estimate, it has cost 15m a day to maintain Britain’s military presence in Helmand province. The equivalent of £25,000 will have been spent for every one of Helmand’s 1.5 million inhabitants, more than most of them will earn in a lifetime. By 2020, the author of a new book says, Britain will have spent at least £40bn on its Afghan campaign, enough to recruit over 5,000 police officers or nurses and pay for them throughout their careers. It could fund free tuition for all students in British higher education for 10 years.
Deficit? What Deficit?
Fifty years ago Bevan wrote: ‘There are those who prophesy starvation for two thrids of the human race and at the same time the West pours torrents of wealth into the creation of a vast war machine…’ Since nobody ever asks how the surplus should be disposed of the waste of money continues and continues…
I remember my parents telling me just post-war that sharing out in equal proportion all available wealth would not make much difference to the poor. They were well brain-washed by the good old Tory lie: ‘…even a successful rebellion could not serve to mitigate the rigours of toil by anything much that could be measured…’ This way quietism—better to let those born to rule make all the decisions.
Above all, Bevan promoted the National Health Service in line with values that are in essence Socialist. He had to fight the Tories in 1948. It’s being covertly slashed by the (‘NHS-safe-in-our-hands’) Tories in 2013.
Bevan: ‘No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means…’ When people know that they have access to free medical care when ill, ‘…society becomes more wholesome, more serene and spiritually healthier…’
In 2013 Society is Sickness Itself
Right-wing agitation about foreign nationals taking advantage of free treatment was there at the very beginning of the NHS; it’s now used as an argument to slash benefits and destroy the NHS bottom up. Despair and fear stalk the streets.
Critics of the NHS in 1948, like Churchill, said that free facilities simply invited abuse. There was a short period when costs did go up, ‘especially on dentistry & spectacles [but this] was the result of past neglect…’ After a year things settled down.
One wonders what the nation’s teeth are like now when one can be asked to pay £400 for tooth restoration. The NHS was in part set up when it was discovered that jaws were full of rotten teeth through the 1930’s.
A free Health Service is a triuphant example of the superiority of collective action and public initiative applied to a segment of society where commercial principles are seen at their worst…
Bevan asserted that ‘…no government that attempts to destroy the Health Service can hope to command the support of the British people…’ In 2013 this is being put to the test. But the forces of Capitalist evil have learned new tricks: constant media advertising of shortcomings in the NHS creates the illusion that it is failing and would therefore be better off in private hands. In fact the evil pantomime plan is to surreptitiously starve the NHS of funds and then claim that it is failing to do what it ought to be doing (if it had enough funds…)
In Europe unemployment is about to top 20 million. That suits the Capitalist; it instils fear & uncertainty in the mind of workers. Keeps them passive. ‘Security of employment and the competitive society is a contradiction in terms…’ The massive street protests across Europe do not appear in the UK media. They might be catching.
The conflict between the demands of public spending and the general class of taxpayer is further aggravated by the knowledge that many are able to escape their just share of taxes…
And so the Tories have fed into the public mind the phrase ‘fair to taxpayers’. There’s no conception of what this might mean but it sounds good. Such a simple ruse enables them to justify the cutting back of public expenditure on the grounds that it will somehow be fair to the taxpayer…
Bevan: ‘…The power and prosperity of tax evaders thwarts one of the main aims of Socialism: the establishment of just social relationships…’ This is why, in spite of assertions to the contrary, the Right will never act to curb tax evaders.
Again the question is never asked—How should social affairs be managed to ensure maximum satisfaction for all? What ought a healthy state to look ? The assumption is simply that things should be chopped back to satisfy the Capitalist, to line the pockets of the already more than rich.
It just ought never to have been allowed to get like that! We have been sleep-walking for 500 years.
Meanwhile ‘…Capitalism builds up its own capital at the expense of exhaustible natural capital and calls its myopic prodigality ‘the success of private enterprise’… Private economic adventure will continue to burn up the dwindling supplies of precious metals with the same regardlessness for the future as was formerly shown by the destruction of forest lands and the riches of the surface soils…’
Always the question uppermost in the mind of the Capitalist is—How much money can I take home with me? Never mind the consequences. What the Capitalist makes is supposed to ‘trickle down’ to us. That’s the Biggest Lie of the System of which we are the inheritors.
The Big Question, yet another one that is never asked, is—What values and beliefs would enable us to define and then take action to achieve a system of moral and social priorities that would operate for the benefit of all?
But the Capitalist enemy is still one step ahead. ‘The real enemies of society are those who us popular slogans to deflect the attention of the masses from an objective study of the social and political issues of the day…’
Watch for the slogans, the mantras, the repeated phrases mouthed by puppets on radio & TV everyday of the week.
Popular slogans you can hear repeated by ordinary people in the street; sneaky repetitions of mechanical catch-phrases (‘promoting a fair society’ is one I heard this very morning—when all they’re doing is feathering their own nests…); a chaotic series of initiatives to divert the simple-minded away from the real issues, from what they’re really doing to destroy the welfare of all—these things have taken the place of what might once have been called The Truth.
Thought viruses… What is the antidote?