Friday 15 February 2013

Mark Hoban's totalitarian tendencies

As anyone that is familiar with my work will know, I'm not the kind of writer that chucks around accusations of fascism lightly. Having said that, I'm beginning to have serious concerns about the totalitarian tendencies of the Tory MP Mark Hoban, who is the current Minister of State for Employment in the Coalition government.

In January 2013 I became aware of the fact that Mark Hoban (or one of his lackeys) was routinely censoring his Facebook page to remove any signs of criticism. It didn't matter how politely written the message, if it criticised or questioned Hoban or Tory policy in any way it would be routinely deleted. I pointed out this censorship strategy to the followers of the Another Angry Voice Facebook page, who then gleefully "Facebombed" Hoban's page with polite criticism and questions about his attitude towards censorship. Other Facebook groups such as the excellent Atos Miracles directed their followers in a similar manner. After several days of mass censorship, Hoban took the step of deleting his Facebook page entirely to silence the debate once and for all (if only Hoban could be deleted from the Houses of Parliament as easily as he was from Facebook!).

I don't see the removal of Mark's Facebook page as any kind of victory, the intention wasn't to chase him off social media, he has as much right to be there as anyone. The idea was to test his censorship policy by posting polite questions and criticism. The fact that he mass deleted all of those comments then deleted his page rather than respond to people's legitimate and (in the main part) politely worded concerns is a sad indictment of his attitude: If you can't win the debate, then simply delete it; censor it out of existence.

Just a couple of weeks later Hoban was thrust into the spotlight when one of the Tory flagship unemployment policies (forcing the unemployed to work for no pay, often for months at a stretch for profit making corporations) was declared unlawful by the Court of Appeals. In response to this, Hoban came out with one of the most absurd political statements I've ever seen. Here's what he said:
"The court has backed our right to require people to take part in programmes which will help them get into work"

Lets just gloss over the fact that Hoban is trying to paint a catastrophic defeat of Tory Workfare (Corporate Welfare Scrounging) schemes at the Court of Appeals as some kind of victory and his absurd misuse of the word "help" to describe the process of stripping people of their labour rights and deliberately undermining the statutory minimum wage, to move straight on to his fascistic use of the concept of "rights".

Hoban's statement clearly demonstrates that he believes that it is his right, as a member of the government, to force people to work for no wages on his Corporate Welfare Scrounging schemes (in breach of their right to earn the statutory minimum wage for their labour). This is a clear cut demonstration that he believes that any rights that the public have are secondary to his rights as a government minister; that ministerial rights supersede human rights. Essentially he is expressing the fascist sentiment that:
The public has a duty to serve the government, not that the government has a duty to serve the public
Lets also consider the nature of the schemes he spends so much of his time defending; Workfare, the Work Programme, the Atos WCA disability regime. They all have one thing in common, which is that they are government policies enforced by private sector companies. The use of outsourcing companies such as A4e (that made 100% of their 2011 turnover of £180 million from lucrative government contracts) to administer the functions of the state is a classic example of corporatisation. The parallels with fascist Italy are easy to draw. The Fascist leader Benito Mussolini was an adherent of the corporatist ideology and is often quoted as having said "fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power".

There is another parallel with Fascist Italy: In the mid 1920s Mussolini dismantled virtually all constitutional and conventional restraints on his power. The February 2013 Workfare Court of Appeals ruling found that the Tories had "exceeded their powers because any such mandatory work schemes must first be "authorised by Parliament". The schemes Hoban spends his time defending are quite clearly unlawful for this reason, but instead of giving up on them, Hoban and the Tories have stated their intention to simply redraw the rules and bypass the judgement. Like Mussolini, the Tories running the DWP have absolutely no intention of allowing themselves to be restrained by the rule of law.

As I said in the introduction, I refuse to bandy the word fascist around as an insult. Using it as a "bad word" to hurl at someone with whom we disagree is firstly a pitiful debating technique, but also a huge insult to all those that suffered and died as a consequence of 20th Century fascism. However, in this case I don't believe I'm doing that, I'm presenting Hoban's words and actions as evidence that if he isn't consciously a fascist sympathiser, he is at least displaying an awful lot of fascistic tendencies.

Just to recap:
  • Hoban clearly has contempt for the concept of open debate, demonstrating a totalitarian attitude towards dissent on his Facebook page. Instead of engaging in debate and political discourse, he simply censored out of existence all signs of criticism (never a good strategy on social media) until the page became untenable. Then he deleted it completely to silence public debate over government policy
  • Hoban effort to paint the catastrophic Court of Appeals defeat as a victory and a vindication of unlawful Tory policies demonstrates that he is not averse to using the black art of propaganda
  • Hoban statement on government rights displays the fascistic sentiment that government right to dictate supersedes public rights such as the right to earn the statutory minimum wage in return for labour.
  • Hoban's work at the DWP involves implementing and defending the corporatisation of the state.
  • Hoban's statements that the government will simply redraw the rules to allow these unlawful schemes to continue is a clear demonstration of his determination to dismantle or bypass all restraints on his power.

Given all of this one is left wondering what the much admired opponent of fascism and Tory Prime Minister Winston Churchill would make of Mark Hoban and the current state of the Tory party. Not only that the Tory party would welcome such an individual, but that they would actually make him a government minister. I believe Churchill would have been appalled. Churchill was famously sharp-witted and eloquent, and just about the nicest thing I've heard anyone say of Hoban's performance after the Court of Appeals ruling was "you know when you have a friend who knows fuck all apart from what hes been told? Hoban was just like that".

In the mid 1930s Churchill was actually an outspoken figure within the Tory party as an overt critic of fascism. At the time huge numbers of Tory MPs and Lords were joining revolting Fascist organisations like the Anglo-German Link (which fostered links between the Tories and the Nazi government in Germany) and the vile anti-semitic Right Club (dedicated to ridding the Tory party of Jewish influence). Churchill was a marginalised and outspoken figure in the Tory party because of his calls for re-armament and an end to appeasement of Nazi Germany. One can be fairly certain that had Hoban been around in the mid-1930 he wouldn't have been standing at Churchill's side as a critic at the margins of a Tory party which had become dangerously fixated on the allure of fascism and anti-semitism.

One would have thought that given the shocking history of fascism within the Tory party, they would be very keen to weed out those that demonstrate anything resembling fascist sentiments, but this has clearly not been the case with Hoban.

Even if Hoban isn't actually an overt fascist sympathiser, he certainly has many of the attributes the are necessary in order for fascism to thrive; a lack of intellect, a totalitarian contempt for debate, an fervent belief in the corporatisation of the state, a tendency to resort to propaganda and an ideological stance that relies on the idea that "the rights of the government supersede the rights of the public".

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