Tag Archives: historical materialism

Telegraph Comment of the Week (#26)

Every so often, the Lyin’ King produces a blog about the American Civil war in which he muses over what it would have been like if the war never happened. All of Hannan’s blogs on this subject are, more or less, grandiloquent attempts at historical revisionism: they tend to play to a particular constituency of reader who sees the Civil War as the end of a golden era and any attempt to say otherwise is part of an huge conspiracy by the “Feds” to deceive you.

Hannan’s view of the American Civil War is perfectly aligned with the neo-Confederalist movement in the United States. This movement is, as I have written elsewhere on this blog, intellectually supported by the Ludwig von Mises Institute, which produces all manner of revisionist stuff about the war and of the role it played in the abolition of slavery. On this latter point, the neo-Confederates can’t quite come to terms with the fact that slavery is, fundamentally, an evil enterprise. Instead, what we see from them is the continual production of articles that support and justify the institution of slavery as a noble enterprise that proceeds, albeit ahistorically, in a fine epoch’s old tradition.

Today Hannan asks “Could the American Civil War have been avoided”? The short answer to that question is: no, it was inevitable. Yet, we find with the Lyin’ King and the neo-Confederates that such things as historical materialism are despised and, in their eyes,  it is much better to fantasise about an alternate world in which the southern states are still practising slavery and the slave-owners are a uniquely noble form of human being who really care about their chattel. In this dystopian fantasy world, everyone knows their place.

This doesn’t stop Hannan from dreaming of what might have been:

Might slavery have been abolished without bloodshed? It’s hard to say. The ban on the import of new slaves would eventually have finished the institution, but at a price of decades of suffering for those already in bondage. Peaceful manumission, as had happened much earlier in Britain, was the obvious alternative, but the slave-owners were in no mood to sell. Then again, had they been able to foresee the future, they would surely have grabbed at compensated abolition.

Hannan claims that the import ban on slaves would have finished the institution. What he doesn’t dare mention are the slave-breeding farms of Virginia and Maryland, the internal slave trade in the Southern states, or the plan to seize Cuba from Spain and use that island as a slave state should the South be forced to relinquish slavery.  The capitalists, in this case the slave-owners, are compensated, but the victims – the slaves themselves – are considered unworthy of reparations; they’re just human capital in the minds of the hard-nosed, hard-faced capitalist, who only sees the world in terms of profit.

I’ve seen Hannan claim, like the LvMI claim that the American Civil War was a “tariff war”. It’s a feeble attempt at a economic rationalization of the war. The war and its causes were much more complex and a major part of the reason for war was the issue of slavery. Hannan would do well to read up on the slave revolts, John Brown, Bleeding Kansas and the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

Now to our comment of the week. “Jim Blane” has already graced this series and so, once again, we find he’s come to give us the benefit of his knowledge deficit. He justifies chattel slavery by claiming that “Slavery has been practiced for thousands of years by all races and civilizations”. All “races and civilizations”? Laughable. But because it existed in history is no excuse for it to exist today. Moreover, the kind of slavery that existed thousands of years ago was not based on what Fanon called “melanism”, it was predicated on the idea that the vanquished should be enslaved because they had been defeated in battle.

Dim Blame

Here “Dim Brain” claims that the first slave owner in “North America” was a “Black African”. This is fictitious. Notice how he doesn’t actually provide any evidence for this assertion. The right despises evidence as much as it despises the working class and they only accept history as long as it’s been airbrushed first.

The level of ignorance in this comment is shocking. Nowhere does our dim friend make a distinction between the nature of chattel slavery and the forms of slavery that were practised before its introduction by the Spanish and Portuguese. The entire point of this comment is to claim that white people are superior to other ‘races’. Notice how he begins his comment with “Educating White Guilt Ego Glow Peddlers”. What does that mean? If he’s setting himself up as an educator, then it’s no wonder these people are so dim. Then there’s his claim that “The White man was the first to ban slavery . and if he had not it would still be going on in Africa and Asian today” (sic). Nonsense. Slavery continues to this day in the so-called developed countries as well as parts of Africa and Asia.

“Dim Brain’s” last point is an exercise in how to write white nationalist drivel. He claims that ” Only the White race has served up an indictment for crimes against humanity upon all of it’s children’s children for all eternity as a way for White middle /upper class progressives to insaiate their insataible greed for moral supremacy” (sic).  Put down the crack pipe, matey.

Related blog

Life on Hannan World (Part 8)

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Filed under Ideologies, Media, Racism, Telegraph Comment of the Week, Tory press

Today’s UCU strike at UEL and the importance of solidarity

Picket line at UEL's Docklands Campus

I was on the picket line at UEL today and I was appalled by the numbers of students – presumably all of them members of the National Union of Students – who crossed the line. Even the self-styled, but disqualified president of UEL’s Student Union,  Godwin Odusami, crossed the picket line.  On that basis alone he should be disqualified, but I will save his other misdeeds for another blog. But let’s put it this way, anyone who hopes to be president of the Student Union needs to act in solidarity with members of those unions that are on strike. There is no excuse.

I managed to convince a couple of students that it was in their interests not to cross the line, but those who decided to do so came out with the most bizarre list of excuses that I have ever heard in my life. Some of the reasons given weren’t even logical. Many of them claimed that they were going to the library. Which reminds me, where were the library staff? Had they scabbed?

There is a serious lack of critical understanding of industrial action and the purpose and function of a picket line in the minds of many young people in this country. This is due, in no small part, to the constant lies told about unions and strikes in the Tory-dominated press. For these people, strikes are an “inconvenience to the public”. One student asked me “Why can’t you organize a petition”?  Since when did a petition change anything? Another remarked on the apparent ineffectiveness of strike action but such questions are best met with a cool rebuttal that is based on historical materialism. Women’s suffrage, for example, would not have been possible without people taking action to change things. Slavery and Jim Crow laws might still be in place in the southern half of the United States.

I am always mystified by those people who cross picket lines during Tube strikes. They wait on lonely platforms for hours on end and for what? To say that they “defied the bolshie unions”? Their energies would have been better spent at home or doing the things that they wouldn’t ordinarily do while at work.

When unions go on strike in France, the majority of the media is often behind the striking workers. There is a clear understanding of why people resort to industrial action and why it is a legitimate political activity. In this country, the reverse is true and the media will present a narrative of individualism; how it affects you, the consumer, and how it impinges upon ‘your’ freedom. But such freedoms are imagined and when they are weighed against your right to collective bargaining in the workplace, they come in at a very poor second place.

There needs to an effort to educate many young people of the need for trade unions together with a drive to ram home the importance of solidarity. If we don’t, the only image of the picket line will be that of a grainy black and white photograph with the caption, “How we used to do things”.

I felt like reciting this to all those students who crossed the picket line

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

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Filed under Cuts, Education, Government & politics, London, Society & culture, Trade Unions, workers rights