Monday, 19 October 2009

Out of Touch

I read, without much surprise, the following headline on the BBC news website a few minutes ago: "Tories could 'rip up' BBC charter". That the Tories are even more blatantly in the pocket of the Murdoch Empire than has become the norm for British politicians is hardly news and the same goes for the fact that they are ideologically opposed to the corporation*, so I almost didn't bother to read further. But I did. And I'm glad that I did because I found this gem:

"...Jeremy Hunt told the Financial Times that the corporation was "out of touch with the hard times the rest of the electorate is going through"..."

This struck me as interesting because I knew that Jeremy Hunt is a Surrey M.P and "Jeremy Hunt" does not exactly sound like a working class (or even lower middle class) name. After a few minutes seaching my suspicions were confirmed.

It occurs to me that the Charterhouse-and-Oxbridge-educated, multi-millionaire M.P for one of the richest parts of Britain is less than entirely familiar with "the hard times the rest of the electorate is going through" himself.

*Consider for a moment the implications of this. The BBC is, in most respects, a fairly conservative institution (though perhaps "establishment liberal" would be more accurate) and the Tories, our next government alas, are ideologically opposed to it. From the right.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Hypothetical Question

Let us suppose that after the next election Labour swings far further to the left than anyone sane would predict and in the process becomes strongly anti-E.U (a hilariously improbable scenario, I know. But stay with me here). Let us suppose that the party's new anti-European stance placed it at odds with the other parties in the S&D group. Let us suppose that Labour were then to pull out of S&D and join the EUL-NGL group... along with unrepentant Leninist parties such as the KKE, the KSČM, the PCF and the PCP, along with the likes of Die Linke and along with Sinn Fein. Now then. What, exactly, would the reaction from the Tories and the right-wing media be like?

Monday, 12 October 2009


Given that I do not like to call myself a Marxist*, given the popularity of liberalism and related ideologies on the internet and given the increasing (and disturbing) tendency imported from America to equate "left-wing" and "liberal",a quick explanation of why there is an the anti-liberal aspect to this blog (presuming that it gets off the ground) is probably necessary. This post will, regrettably, deal in generalisation and simplification. But as this is a theme that I shall return to (repeatedly) I don't think this is a serious concern.

1. On one level I'm not actually anti-liberal at all; that is, to the extent that democracy, freedom of speech and other such basic rights can be considered as being "liberal". They sometimes are and, to an extent, with good reason. This is an important caveat, I think. My anti-liberalism lies elsewhere.

2. But one of my major problems with liberalism is actually its (fundamental and foundational) emphasis on rights and on liberty. Ultimately, liberalism holds that something is "good" if it maximises "freedom" and "bad" if it reduces or restricts it. Divisions within liberalism are largely concerned with the definition of "freedom" of "rights" and of "liberties" rather than anything more complex: compare New Liberalism (and its grandchildren), with its emphasis on "positive liberties" with the crazy world of American internet "libertarianism". They have apparently little in common (and in terms of public policy are often diametrically opposite - you only have to observe much of the opposition to the current administration in America to see that) but share common foundational assumptions and make judgements based on the same sort of critera). Liberalism does not, cannot, consider the possibility that restrictions on certain human behavior might sometimes be appropriate. Inevitably, liberal attempts to deal with this "problem" often reek of the worst sort of paternalism and double standards.

3. Which brings me to another issue I have with liberalism - its insufferable elitism. Liberalism is hardly alone in this respect (what was early Fabianism if not elitist
? Are delusions of a "vanguard party" anything other than profoundly elitist ?) but of all ideologies with a universalist bent, it is clearly the worst offender historically (liberal opposition to universal sufferage was not exactly rare) and currently. Given that liberalism is an ideology of the Enlightenment (even to the extent of being an ideology of supposed enlightenment - there's a reason for the traditional liberal emphasis on the importance of education beyond altruism and the needs of capitalism) this is perhaps inevitable. I find this objectionable not just for the predictable issues that the son of a manual worker might have with elitism, but because contempt for ordinary people is, in my opinion, anathema to Socialism.

4. It must also (and finally for now) be recognised that liberalism is, above all, an individualist ideology and individualism is ultimately opposed to collectivism**. This may seem like an obvious point, but it's one that seems to be increasingly forgotten by much of the intellectual Left these days. It matters because there is no way that society can be significantly changed in a positive direction as a result of policies designed by an individualist thought process (another basic and totally obvious point, I hope) and because collective rights are ultimately incompatible with an ideology that places the rights and the liberty of the individual before everything else.

There is more to say, of course. But that can be left for later.

*Which isn't to deny being influenced by Marx and Marxism to an extent - though often as a reaction against it. Also, given the lack of knowledge of Marxism possessed by the average professed "Marxist ", "I do not like to call myself a Marxist" made more sense to write than "I am not a Marxist" as many, probably a majority, of self-identified Marxists cannot seriously be considered as such.

**Which isn't to say that collectivism must always deny the existence and rights of an individual. Still, individualistic ideologies seem to be as prone to do that as collectivist ones these days...

Sunday, 11 October 2009


This blog has been created for a single purpose - to advance* a particular (and perhaps peculier) worldview that could be described as sort of romantic, moralistic, anti-liberal** Socialism or perhaps as a form of Socialism that rejects the idea of progress. It will largely be concerned with politics, culture, society (and related issues) and history, though other subjects will doubtless crop up from time to time. Besy, the transliteration of the Russian title of Dostoyevsky's great anti-revolutionary novel, might seem like an unusual title for an ostensibly Socialist blog but may make more sense to readers (if there ever are any) with time.

Al Widdershins is, of course, a pseudonym. And the profile picture isn't of me... it is, instead, a picture of someone who appears to have looked amusingly similar to me (Alexandre Benois). I find that amusing, others might not.

And with that little formality over with...

*Or to at least try. I'm not expecting much success.
**But democratic, all the same.