WeeklyWorker

08.10.2020
Not in front of the children

Ministry of Truth

Outlawing anti-capitalism in schools is the thin end of the wedge. Boris Johnson’s government is shifting ever further to the right, warns Eddie Ford

There is no question that in Britain we have a very rightwing Tory government that puts the Thatcher years to shame. That can be seen not only in the figure of Boris Johnson - a cut-down Donald Trump with public school affectations - but by many of the decisions and policy choices they have openly discussed.

So at one stage they were seriously talking about appointing the notoriously reactionary Lord Charles Moore of Etchingham to be the new part-time chairman of the BBC - a job that comes with the power to fire the organisation’s director general. The Tories are, of course, congenitally hostile to the liberal BBC, constantly attacking it for being the “Bolshevik Broadcasting Company”, anti-Brexit, too metropolitan, and so on. A big section of the media is not particularly enamoured by the BBC either, because it is subsidised and therefore can compete with commercial stations ‘unfairly’. Rupert Murdoch and other capitalists, of course, want a free market in the media - that is, one controlled by them that will doubtlessly offer up a rightwing mono-culture even more dull and conformist than most of the content delivered by today’s BBC.

Who is Lord Moore? He is a former editor of Britain’s biggest circulation ‘quality’ conservative newspaper, The Daily Telegraph - or as it is commonly known, ‘The Torygraph’. I have to say, I am not alone in being absolutely shocked by the contempt that its editors must have for their readership - telling them a pack of total nonsense on stilts. There again, who does not enjoy having their prejudices confirmed? Giving you a rich flavour of his political opinions, in a 1992 article for the Spectator magazine Moore wrote that “the Korean sets up the grocery store, which the black then robs” - that is “the caricature which modern America recognises”. One explanation for this supposed phenomenon, according to Lord Moore, is that “there really is something different about blacks, or at least about black men, or at least about young black men”. Dog-whistling away, he went on to write that people in the UK and US “detect in black youths an aggression and defiance and indifference to normal moral and social constraints which frightens them”. All this proves that if “some races - the Jews are the obvious example - are highly enterprising and talented, it may also be true that some are the opposite”. Moore has also argued that Muslim immigration brings “more political disturbance, more communal tension, more intolerance of other faiths (and of non-faiths) and more terrorism”. He also compared the legalisation of gay marriage to allowing one “to marry one’s dog”, and supported gay ‘conversion therapy’.

Making him the perfect man for the job of BBC chairman, he has a long history of hostility to the organisation. In 2010, Moore was fined £262 for failing to have a TV licence after he refused to pay the fee until the BBC sacked Jonathan Ross for his ‘Sachsgate’ prank telephone call with Russell Brand - regarding the episode as part of an ongoing “pathology” at the BBC instead of an isolated incident by two idiots. Like many of his stripe, he has complained that the BBC hardly ever airs “sceptical” opinions on climate change - claiming that such scepticism is the view of the “great majority” in the country, showing yet again that “our self-righteous national broadcaster is woefully detached from voters’ real lives”.1 Instead, the company promotes “alarmism” and gives a regular platform to “doomsday cultists”.

By all accounts, Moore was Boris Johnson’s favourite for the job, with his appointment “virtually a done deal” - bringing joy to the hearts of reactionaries everywhere. However, he has ruled himself out of contention for the position, apparently asking for £280,000 a year, as opposed to the £100,000 currently paid to Sir David Clementi, the current chair. There is now speculation about the government giving the job to George Osborne - the former chancellor under David Cameron, whose intellectual background lies in Ayn Rand and the libertarian right.

Even more bizarrely, there is still talk about appointing Paul Dacre as chairman of Ofcom - which monitors TV, radio and virtually the whole electronic media to ensure compliance with ‘proper’ standards. Dacre used to be editor of the Daily Mail, Britain’s other main Tory newspaper. If you think The Torygraph is bad, try reading the Mail - it is totally off the wall. The websites of most papers allow you to peruse their back issues, going back many decades - but not the Mail, of course, because that would be too shameful and embarrassing, given its sordid history. The Mail not only supported Hitler into power, but also backed Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists - thus the infamous headline back in 1934, “Hurrah for the Blackshirts!”

True, The Times and other papers also have a shameful history when it comes to the rise of fascism, but none of them became the actual voice of the British Union of Fascists, as the Mail did under Lord Rothermere. The paper regularly ran competitions inviting readers to tell you how wonderful the Blackshirts were, the best entry getting a prize.

For those who know Dacre and his methods, he subjects his underlings to “verbal abuse” and “a drill sergeant’s delight in public humiliation”.2 An expletive volcano, Dacre himself believes that “shouting creates energy, energy creates great headlines” - no place for snowflakes. In the memorable words of the novelist Andrew O’Hagan, the Mail is a “bubbling quagmire of prejudice posing as news, of opinion dressed as fact, and contempt for that portion of the world’s population that doesn’t live in Cheam”.

It almost goes without saying that Dacre has attacked the BBC’s “cultural Marxism” and two years ago predicted that a “right-of-centre TV network will one day take root in this country” - something that is already coming to pass with the launch fairly soon of GB News - a 24-hour rolling TV channel, which will have Andrew Neil as its face and chairman.3

The fact that such a man as Paul Dacre could possibly administer the standards of the British media is an indication of the Tories’ ‘commitment to impartiality’.

Harmful

Hand in hand with these threatened appointments, the department for education recently issued lengthy authoritarian guidance to schools.4 We learn the following:

Schools should not under any circumstances use resources produced by organisations that take extreme political stances on matters. This is the case even if the material itself is not extreme, as the use of it could imply endorsement or support of the organisation (my emphasis).

We further discover that this prohibition on extremist organisations and ideas includes those that have expressed any sort of anti-capitalism. Well, organisations that would immediately fall under that category would be the British version of Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion - when it comes to the latter, some Tory backbenchers have already called for it to be banned. Earlier this year, the south-east division of Counter Terrorism Policing placed XR on a list of “extremist ideologies” that should be reported to the authorities running the Prevent programme - though that document was later rescinded.

In fact, it might even include the Labour Party up to Tony Blair when he scrapped the old clause four. After all, from 1918 up to the Blair years, the party was committed to replacing capitalism with some sort of vaguely defined “socialism” - surely putting the Labour Party beyond the pale if you are the DfE. It could also include some of the oldest trade unions in Britain, such as the GMB, whose rules - partially written by Eleanor Marx and which still stand - state that the aim of the union is socialism; the same goes for the RMT and other unions. The resources of such unions and protest movements - let alone parties like the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Socialist Workers Party - are presumably now forbidden in schools. Only one viewpoint is allowed – that of the mainstream establishment. Welcome to the Ministry of Truth.

Anyway, in the words of the guidance, examples of “extreme political stances” are “a publicly stated desire to abolish or overthrow democracy, capitalism, or to end free and fair elections”; opposition “to the right of freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of assembly or freedom of religion and conscience”; the “use or endorsement of racist, including anti-Semitic, language or communications”, the “encouragement or endorsement of illegal activity” and a “failure to condemn illegal activities done in their name or in support of their cause, particularly violent actions against people or property”. Furthermore, more “extreme positions” are those “teaching that requirements of English civil or criminal law may be disregarded, whether for political or religious reasons or otherwise”; “engaging in or encouraging active or persistent harassment or intimidation of individuals in support of their cause”; and “selecting and presenting information to make unsubstantiated accusations against state institutions” (my emphasis).

It is hard to see how the Suffragettes and their campaign, for instance, would not be classified as the “encouragement or endorsement of illegal activity” and a “failure to condemn illegal activities done in their name or in support of their cause”. Does that mean that schools are no longer allowed to use materials produced by the Suffragettes themselves? After all they advocated and practised terrorism. Ireland’s two main political parties certainly fall foul. They have their origins in Sinn Féin and the armed struggle for Irish independence. The guidance even warns against “promoting divisive or victim narratives that are harmful to British society”. What about people from the West Indies whose great-grandparents were slaves - would mentioning that fact be promulgating a ‘victim narrative’?

Most obscenely of all - which is a problem with the left as well unfortunately - the DoE guidance equates capitalism with democracy. Hence those attacking or criticising capitalism are automatically attacking democracy. QED. But any half-decent student of the 19th and 20th centuries will immediately tell you that the extension of the vote was an achievement of the working class movement. True, back in the 1830s the bourgeoisie were threatening revolution if they did not get the vote. But we also know that, once the bourgeoisie got the vote, they did nothing to extend it to the working class - not a chance. Hence it was down to the Chartist movement, whose militant left wing announced that we should fight peacefully if we can, forcefully if we must. Leftwing Chartists also developed a social charter, which went beyond the slogan of simply calling for one man, one vote - democracy had to have a social content. Karl Marx thought that if the Chartists won, that would mean the rule of the working class. Clearly, the bourgeoisie were never allies of the working class in the fight for democracy.

eddie.ford@weeklyworker.co.uk


  1. telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/10176199/Why-does-the-impartial-BBC-not-tell-the-story-of-the-great-majority.html.↩︎

  2. theguardian.com/media/2005/oct/17/dailymail.mondaymediasection.↩︎

  3. itv.com/news/2020-09-25/andrew-neil-announces-24-hour-gb-news-channel-to-rival-bbc-and-sky.↩︎

  4. schoolsweek.co.uk/cancel-culture-gender-stereotypes-and-extreme-political-stances-what-new-dfe-guidance-says-about-rse.↩︎