Wednesday 22 August 2012

The unpatriotic left fallacy

Would you call it patriotic behaviour to attack your
fellow countrymen as "the enemy within"?
Or would you call it divisive and unpatriotic?
Read the comments below any left wing blog post and it probably won't take you long to find some right-wing shit-stirrer claiming that "the left" is somehow unpatriotic.

Their argument usually goes along the line of "lefties" are unpatriotic because they have no respect for "British values" and that it is somehow unpatriotic to take industrial action. A recent example of this can be seen in the official government response to threats of transport and Border Agency strikes during the 2012 Olympics, when an official spokesman for the Prime Minister claimed that industrial action during the games would be "completely unacceptable and unpatriotic".

In terms of "British values" it is true that a larger proportion of left-wing people would like to see the abolition of the monarchy than those with right-wing sympathies, however this can hardly be seen as unpatriotic. There is nothing unpatriotic in wanting to see Britain become a properly democratic republic. In fact calling for the removal of the anti-democratic powers and privileges held by a family of German and Greek origin could actually be seen as more patriotic stance than blindly supporting the status quo. The attitude that agitators for change are somehow unpatriotic is an extremely reactionary position that relies on very conservative definitions of "Britishness" and "British values".

Another classic complaint against the "unpatriotic left" is that left-wingers are much more likely to protest against British wars. Accusations of unpatriotism have been made against dissenters throughout history. Quakers and other conscientious objectors were vilified and imprisoned during the two World Wars, and anti-war protesters at the biggest public demonstration in British history in 2003 were maligned as unpatriotic traitors by elements of the press and even dereided as Saddam Hussein supporters by then Prime Minister Tony Blair (please don't even dare try to claim that Blair wasn't right-wing).

Returning to the concept that taking industrial action is somehow "unpatriotic", this accusation is frankly laughable. It is difficult to see how demonstrating solidarity with your fellow workers and fellow countrymen could be seen as inherently "unpatriotic". The right-wing critic of trade unionism will try to dress up their bias in emotive language by claiming that strike action is "holding the country to ransom", however this is an extremely one-sided way of viewing strike action. Isn't it just as fair to say that employers are "holding the country to ransom" when they undermine the wages and working conditions of their employees to such an extent that they refuse to work?

Even if you don't accept that undermining the wages and working conditions of your fellow countrymen so much that they openly revolt could be considered to be unpatriotic, right-wing elements of British society have a long history of unpatriotic behavior.

Lord Sempill; a Tory and a proper British traitor.
Inspired by the rise of fascism in the 1930s dozens of Tory party politicians and other establishment figures became involved in unpatriotic and anti-semitic activities. Whilst the Tory Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was busy appeasing Nazi Germany, scores of Tories joined secretive far-right organisations such as the pro-Nazi Anglo-German Link organisation and the disgustingly anti-semitic (and largely forgotten) Right Club, which had the stated purpose of ridding the Tory party of Jewish influence. One extremely notable member of the Right Club was the Tory traitor Lord Sempill who spent the 1920s and 1930s as a paid spy for Japan and continued to aid the Japanese even after Britain and Japan were at war.

Winston Churchill was one of the notable exceptions to this rise in Nazi sympathising within the Tory party. For years he was considered an extremist and a fear-monger by his Tory peers for speaking out against the rise of Fascism. Eventually Churchill was proved right and became our wartime Prime Minister, however he still used his influence to protect his Tory colleague Lord Sempill from being exposed as the traitor he certainly was. The Tories were not alone in embracing fascism in the 1930s, many Labour MPs defected to join Oswald Moseley's British Union of Fascists, but the Labour Party themselves never openly embraced fascism to the same extent as the Tories.

After the war, the Tory party embraced one-nation Conservatism and for a few glorious decades the old class divides were diminished as Britain rebuilt and regained her prosperity. In this post-war consensus mixed economy period every sector of society benefited, the rich became richer, the poorest too, and everyone else in between. The people of Britain were rewarded for their suffering and endeavour during the war with improved pay and working conditions, the creation of the welfare state to help them in old age and infirmity and a massive campaign to improve the standards of British housing. The Tory Prime Minister Harold MacMillan once boasted that "you've never had it so good" and he was right, because at that time, the majority of British people were actually working together to create prosperity for all. This period (often referred to as "the Golden Age of Capitalism") came to an end in 1979 when a new breed of Conservativism, driven by neoliberal pseudo-economic theory, began another period of deeply unpatriotic right-wing behaviour which has continued until the present day.

One of the core tactics of the Thatcher regime was the divide and rule strategy, where sections of society were set against each other in order that they didn't stand together in solidarity against the common enemy, the profoundly unpatriotic Tory party. The treatment of industrial workers during the Thatcher regime was indicative of this divide and rule strategy. To use terms such as "the enemy within" to describe the hard working industrial workers who had provided the backbone of Britain's prosperity from the industrial revolution onwards, was an absolutely clear demonstration that Tory interests were at odds with the interests of vast swathes of the British population.

The Tory party obsession with unpatriotic neoliberal pseudo-economic
dogma has created the absurd situation where British built nuclear reactors
like Hartlepool are now owned and operated by the French state via EdF.
The whole ideology of neoliberalism that has dominated British politics since Thatcher came to power in 1979 is extremely unpatriotic. Small state conservatism is in effect a policy of destroying the British state from within, in order to distribute power to the wealthy, whether they are British or not.

Countless core services that were built up at the expense of the British taxpayer were sold off for a pittance, often to foreigners.

Take the eight nuclear facilities that were privatised for the astonishingly small fee of £2.1 billion in 1995. These taxpayer funded facilities eventually fell into the hands of the French company EdF. What makes this French ownership of British nuclear facilities so remarkable is that EdF is 85% owned by the French state.

The Tory small-state ideology has led to the absurd situation where the British state is derided as inherently incapable of running it's own nuclear facilities efficiently, providing the justification to sell them off, only for them to be taken over by the French state in the guise of EdF. This is far from the only example of British taxpayer funded industries being sold off to foreign interests. The Tory ideological obsession with globalisation and privatisation has led to the situation that loads of formerly taxpayer owned British industrial and service sector infrastructure has fallen under foreign ownership; from power stations (France) to rail franchises (France, Germany, Netherlands); from mains water supplies (France, Germany) to steel factories (India); and from many of Britain's biggest airports (Spain) to HMRC tax offices (Bermuda).

The fire sale of British infrastructure on the grounds that the British state is inherently inefficient, is unpatriotic because if vital British infrastructure falls into the hands of foreign companies, the underlying case for sale is completely and totally undermined if that company happens to be owned by a foreign state.

It is hard to imagine a clearer case of unpatriotic behavior than allowing foreign states to seize control of British taxpayer funded infrastructure on the grounds that the British state is "inefficient".

As if selling off British infrastructure to foreign corporations and governments wasn't enough, the Tories also signed away large areas of British sovereignty by signing the ESA treaty in 1985, joining the ERM in 1990 (which eventually led to Black Wednesday) and then ratifying the Maastricht treaty in 1992. Even after the Tories were booted out in 1997, the centre-right Neo-Labour party continued the strategy of signing away British sovereignty to the unelected anti-democratic EU technocrats.

Another area in which the right-wing have a long tradition of unpatriotic behavior is tax-dodging. A great number of extremely wealthy right-wing people do everything they can to minimise the social contribution they make through taxation.

There are so-called "lefties" who doge tax too of course (Ken Livingstone for example) but the right-wing can count many more serial tax dodgers amongst their numbers. The Tory party played an instrumental role in creating this tax-dodging bonanza by abolishing capital controls in the 1980s.

The Tories have also gathered many tens of millions of pounds in donations from serial tax-dodgers such as Michael Ashcroft, Phillip Green and George Robinson; The Tory Prime Minister David Cameron inherited a fortune from his father's tax dodging empire; the Chancellor George Osborne snuck a regulatory reform into the 2012 budget to facilitate British companies in their tax dodging exploits; and even the celebrity Tory supporter Gary Barlow is a blatant tax-dodger. Tax-dodging is nothing but the unpatriotic evasion of social contributions to your own country, inspired by pure self-interest.

Take the super-rich and the financial sector elite who donate so generously to the Tory party, what do they do if there is any talk of regulating their industry or increasing taxation on the super rich? They immediately threaten to leave the country. This is yet another example of the rich establishment elite putting their own interests above the interests of their fellow countrymen. Recall the Tory government claims that striking union workers are "holding the country to ransom". How exactly is the threat to leave the country altogether, taking their money and businesses with them if they don't get their own way, not a much more blatant case of trying to "hold the country to ransom"?

Take Aidan Burley's comments about the Olympic opening ceremony. He hated it because it celebrated the NHS and multiculturalism, which, like it or not, are now fundamental parts of modern British life. Take the Daily Mail's racist rant about mixed-race families and their accusations that several of Britain's most successful Olympic athletes (Bradley Wiggins, Mo Farah, Laura Bechtolsheimer) shouldn't be considered as British, since they happened to be born abroad.

Whilst the majority of Britain celebrated the successes of our diverse band of athletes, the right-wing continued churning out their divisive and deeply unpatriotic bile.

The unpatriotic attitude of the right-wing press isn't just limited to the world of sport. The Daily Telegraph ran an excruciating article in which their columnist Janet Daley attempted to defend bankers and capitalists by laying blame for the neoliberal economic meltdown squarely at the door of ordinary working British people by claiming that "the real British disease [is] unseriousness, lack of rigour, ill-discipline, failure to attend to detail and inadequate follow-through".

As if deriding your own countrymen like that is not unpatriotic.

According to Daley the reason that Britain is going through a prolonged recession has nothing to do with the type of wealthy capitalist and financial sector billionaire who threatens to flee the country altogether if they don't get everything their way, it is due to her own countrymen being somehow less serious, less rigorous, less disciplined and less likely to do their jobs properly than workers in other countries!

Tory MPs Patel, Skidmore and Raab call British workers "lazy",
I call people that make up lies in order to attack their fellow
countrymen "profoundly unpatriotic".
You do have to read between the lines to see the point that Daley was making to defend the corporatist-neoliberal economic model. However a group of "bright young things" in the Tory party have written a book called Britannia Unchained in which they made exactly the same kind of claims but in much more explicit terms.

In the book co-authored by Tory MPs Pritti Patel, Kwasi Kwarteng, Chris Skidmore, Elizabeth Truss and Dominic Raab, the extraordinary claim is made that “Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world... we work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor.” The idea being of course that pay and labour conditions must be attacked and the retirement age must be raised in order to raise productivity. The problem is that the whole argument is based upon lies. The average full-time worker in the UK works longer hours than the average worker anywhere else in the EU aside from Austria and Greece, and the average age of retirement in the UK is one of the highest in the OECD. To make up lies and disparage you fellow countrymen as inherently "lazy", simply in order to justify an agenda to undermine their labour rights and working conditions, is a stunningly clear case of unpatriotic behaviour from the right-wing.

Right-wing people love to wrap themselves in the flag and claim that they alone are the true patriots, but their behaviour betrays their real contempt for Britain, British industry and British workers. They supported fascism in the 30s; they repeatedly signed away our sovereignty to the anti-democratic technocrats at the EU; they repeatedly hand our industries over to foreign interests; they use tax-dodging scams to evade their social contributions; they threaten to leave the country if they don't get their own way; they hate their own countrymen if they happen to have the wrong skin colour, the wrong social background, the wrong political orientation or the wrong birth certificate; and they make up lies about British workers being inherently "lazy" to justify their unpatriotic right-wing political agenda.

It is difficult to imagine how these people manage to hate so much about Britain and their fellow British countrymen and engage in such openly unpatriotic behaviour, yet continue to claim to be patriots. I believe the answer lies in the fact that they insulate themselves in a world of wealth and privilege. A world where the barmy neoliberal ideology of greed-is-the-highest-virtue is gospel; a world where the processes of privatisation and giving tax cuts to the wealthy are unquestionable; a world where anyone who opposes their pseudo-economic ideology is an "enemy"; a world where this greed-worshiping ideology has supremacy over all other ideals, even patriotism.

George Osborne, the embodiment of the warped right-wing
"British values" that allow massively underqualified people
to assume hugely important positions through
privilege and entitlement alone.
It is precisely because they hide themselves away in this establishment cocoon of privilege and greed-worship that they can only recognise the establishment itself as "properly British".

This establishment attitude seems to be that the only "true Brits" are people from privileged backgrounds and the only "lower orders" who are ever allowed to join them are the ones who openly embrace their orthodox neoliberal ideology. Anyone else (no matter how British they actually are) can then be dismissed as unpatriotic or an "enemy within" if they dare to criticise the behaviour of the wealthy establishment.

The problem of course is that the establishment practices of entitlement and neoliberal orthodoxy are exactly what are creating the low productivity they complain about.

These right-wing "British values" allow massively under-qualified people to be parachuted into hugely important jobs simply because they have the right old school ties and connections, and allow crazy neoliberal fanatics to asset strip the country and instigate class warfare between the workers and the ruling elite by undermining labour rights, attacking working conditions and running media demonisation campaigns against immigrants, the unemployed and public sector workers in order to divide the people who should be standing in solidarity in opposition to the ideological agenda of the establishment.

This warped right-wing idea of "Britishness", built upon foundation stones of entitlement, greed-worship and social division is the real reason that the UK can't compete with Germany, not the pathetic right-wing fantasy that everyone else is to blame but those who are actually in charge of the economy.

In conclusion, there are some unpatriotic people on "the left". However before they start making lazy generalisations about other ideologies being somehow inherently unpatriotic the "right" really should get their own house in order, given that their warped and extremely unpatriotic version of "British values" celebrates the culture of entitlement and remains subordinate to the ideology of greed.

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