Let’s Be Honest: Margaret Thatcher was NOT the ‘Greatest British Prime Minister’

Monday 8th April saw media outlets across all continents of the world reporting on the breaking news that Margaret Thatcher had passed away; some making spectacular blunders amongst the mass media frenzy to report the news first:

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The BBC reported that Margaret Thatcher had ‘died following a strike‘… How ironic that would have been. (Source: Yahoo/Twitter)

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Taiwan’s CTi Cable showed footage of the Queen when covering Thatcher’s death (Source: Yahoo/Twitter)

The world has seen the media depict Lady Thatcher as the ‘Greatest Prime Minister’, with relatively few reports revealing the darker side of her time in power. Labour Leader, Ed Miliband, also stood by the traditional moral of de mortuis nil nisi bonum (“Of the dead say nothing but good”), while Tony Blair condemned the street parties celebrating the death of Baroness Thatcher, and the Labour mainstream has attempted to distance itself from hardliners’ celebrations.

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Several hundred people gathered in South London to celebrate Margaret Thatcher’s death (Source: The Guardian)

I, for one, most certainly did not rejoice at Margaret Thatcher’s passing, and I find such celebrations of her death utterly distasteful. Such celebrations bare an unappealing similarity with the media images of people dancing on the fallen statues of dictators, when Britain has no such dictatorial institutions and practices.

However, whist I do not rejoice at the demise of Thatcher, I also refuse to remain silent.

Although I had initially decided against writing this post, I ultimately decided it was time to post an honest perspective, after feeling nauseated by all the comments of those who are too afraid to be honest, and biased articles that serve no purpose other than pandering to the Right. Such re-writing of history misleads the younger generations into falsely believing Thatcher was a “strong leader”,  and a role model to follow.

Whilst one would normally be mindful of the grief of another’s family and friends, in the case of such a prominent and controversial political figure, I feel that the judgement about such an individual’s legacy should be an honest one, whether one agrees with her policies or not. Why must a person always be automatically be granted the “privilege” of every member of society suddenly respecting them, solely in virtue of their being dead?

As Glen Greenwald reported in the Guardian, “the demand for respectful silence in the wake of a public figure’s death is not just misguided but dangerous.” Greenwald pertinently states that:

“Those who admire the deceased public figure (and their politics) aren’t silent at all. They are aggressively exploiting the emotions generated by the person’s death to create hagiography… Demanding that no criticisms be voiced to counter that hagiography is to enable false history and a propagandistic whitewashing of bad acts, distortions that become quickly ossified and then endure by virtue of no opposition and the powerful emotions created by death. When a political leader dies, it is irresponsible in the extreme to demand that only praise be permitted but not criticisms.”

The fact is, Margaret Thatcher was **not** the greatest ‘Prime Minister’ at all. She was uncompassionate, uncompromising, destructive, prejudiced, and manipulative. She pressed forward policies that were primarily only of benefit to herself and those in her elite group, whilst she punished the working-classes, disregarded their human rights, and disdainfully, and famously, branded them “The enemy within”.

Ironically, she was the daughter of a greengrocer. This was a woman who came from humble roots, and who climbed the social ranks after marrying a millionaire. It was her husband who subsequently financed her political career.

Whilst I am aware that my views will be criticised by Tory supporters, Thatcherites, and those influenced by the propagandistic right-wing media spin, Thatcherism was without a doubt a national disaster.

Many areas of Britain still remain trapped by Thatcherite policies to this day. Indeed, Thatcher’s former Chancellor Geoffrey Howe once stated: “Her real triumph was to have transformed not just one party but two, so that when Labour did eventually return, the great bulk of Thatcherism was accepted as irreversible.” It is no coincidence that all three great economic crises since the Second World War have occurred since Thatcherism. Much of it has roots in the Thatcher’s free market experiment, which annihilated much of Britain’s industrial base in favour of a deregulated financial sector.

Many Thatcher supporters still claim her policies were “necessary”, and whilst I agree that coal mines would have eventually needed phasing out when other power sources became more common-place, it was not necessary to create such mass industrial closures, nor to push unemployment so high. It also was not necessary to raise interest rates so high, or to push up the value of the pound. Thatcher’s only purpose was monetarism: a superficial logic, adopted from American economist Milton Friedman, of keeping inflation low by restricting the money supply. Whilst it did not comply in the true sense of Friedman monetarism, Thatcher adopted a looser version of monetarism when the economy crashed in the early eighties, was radically successful at disregarding the unemployment it created.

Today, there is much anger about social security in Britain, which is focused on the idea that people are “scrounging” off state benefits, whilst the poor are demonised by society. The fact is, there is more unemployment in Britain today than there was 40 years ago – A consequence of Thatcherism devastating mining villages and industrial towns, thus stripping communities of millions of secure industrial jobs for skilled workers, from which Britain has never really recovered. Even when the British economy was supposedly booming, old industrial areas still had high levels of unemployment and economic inactivity.

Modern day “chav” culture has stemmed from Thatcherism. The working-class have now become today’s unemployed. With the loss of industries which provided employment, apprenticeships, and opportunities for young people, many living in working-class societies now feel they have nothing to work towards or look forward to. Many are unable to provide for their families. Many turn to drugs believing “Where there’s no hope; there’s dope”, as was suggested in this documentary on a once thriving small Welsh town that has since been crippled by Thatchersim, and the subsequent economic downturns.

It would seem no coincidence that Wales now has the highest suicide rate in the United Kingdom.

Much of modern day intolerance of working-class people has stemmed from the right-wing media spin on the Miners’ Strike and Riots that subsequently followed. Having grown up in a community devastated by Thatcherism and witnessed the destruction, I grew up hearing stories of police brutality during the Miners’ Strike of 1984-1985; stories that were never revealed by the media at the time. The nation were shown only the footage of the miners defending themselves from the police who had instigated the violence, leaving an entire nation believing the discriminatory view that the working-class are “thugs”. It lead society to believe that Thatcher’s policies were deserved and necessary.  It was, in fact, a conspiracy and an unprecedentedly savage smear campaign, and it is only in recent years that the truth has begun to emerge. Author Seumas Milne has revealed the astonishing lengths to which the government and its intelligence machine were prepared to go to destroy the power of Britain’s miners’ union. It has since been revealed that the government used bogus bank deposits, staged cash drops, and forged documents; whilst agents provocateurs, M15 and police Special Branch were set out to discredit trade unionist Athur Scargill, and other miners’ leaders. Planted tales of corruption were seized on by the media.

Although more evidence is emerging, it is now too little, too late. The damage has been done, and the working-class will never rid themselves of the images portrayed by the media and the Tory government. Even today, the supporters of Thatcherism still hail at the crippling of the trade unions that were shattered by Thatcher’s anti-union laws, crushing defeats of strikes, and mass unemployment. With no unions to stand their corner, workers’ have been left with poorer work conditions and living standards, and are often held to ransom at the mercy of their bosses.

An article in the notoriously right-wing newspaper, The Telegraph, crows that Thatcher ‘saved the economy’. The fact is, she did not, and Thatcher’s battle with the miners’ union was economically irrational. GDP growth did *not* increase by more that 2.2%, and as Andrew Gamble documented in ‘The Free Economy and the Strong State’ (second edition (1994), p192), her battle cost Britain £2.5-Billion. Furthermore, between 1980 and 1983 the capacity in British industry fell by 24 percent, leading to an unemployment figure topping 3 million (Christopher Johnson, The Economy Under Mrs Thatcher (1991), Appendix Table 1, Economic growth trends, 1950-89). Instead, as Andrew Gamble noted in his book The Free Economy and the Strong State (second edition (1994), p193.), Thatcher permanently shut down much of British manufacturing, turning instead to banks and the City.

We need only look at the banking crisis of 2008 to figure out how well that worked…!

Ian Gilmour (Dancing With Dogma (1992), p124), has revealed that the overall tax burden rose from 39 percent in 1979 to 43 percent in 1989. Gilmour also points out that Thatcher cut taxes for the wealthy (a policy we have seen repeated by David Cameron’s government), with a top rate of tax of 83% when Thatcher came to power, and only 40%, whilst the poorest were hit by VAT that was just 8% percent prior, and 15% after Thatcher gained power. Furthermore, the poorest fifth of the population accounted for around 10% of after-tax income in 1979. By 1989 their share had fallen to 7 percent, whilst the wealthiest fifth rose from 37 percent to 43 percent, thus making the wealthiest people richer, and the poorest people poorer.

The more one delves into the facts, the more evident it becomes that Thatcher was not only fighting the miners – she was, in fact, fighting an entire class of people; discriminating against the most vulnerable class, stripping them of their jobs and financial stability, and driving them into the ground, almost like a form of clandestine eugenics by the back-door.

Today, five million people have their names on social housing waiting lists, while billions of pounds of housing benefit line the pockets of private landlords, swindling people with rip-off rents. The vulnerable are often forced to live in slum housing such as sheds and garages. The scarcity of housing turns communities against each other and we are witnessing increasing racial tension as immigrants, or anyone deemed “less deserving” are scapegoated for receiving housing before a British-born national. The root of the problem lies with the Thatcherite policy which gave private landlords the right-to-buy council houses, whilst failing to replace the social housing that had been privately sold.

I have witnessed a number of people on social media turning a blind eye to the destruction I have mentioned, in an attempt to “respect the dead”; instead choosing to comment on Thatcher being the last Prime Minister to “stand for what she believed in” and that “she stood up for democracy”. It would appear that there is a major confusion, whereby many people are duped into believing that a single minded leader who is not de-railed by unpopularity, is more important than the catastrophic policies they advocate. As we have seen, standing up for what she believed in (see her famous “The Lady’s not for turning” speech), has lead Britain into a major economic crisis. Furthermore, Thatcher did not “stand up for democracy”. We need only look back to her act of racial discrimination in opposing sanctions against apartheid. She called Nelson Mandela a “terrorist”, whilst she supported the murderer and torturer Augusto Pinochet in Chile, and gave support to the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

As Glenda Jackson, the MP for Hampstead and Kilburn stated in her refreshingly honest parliamentary speech,  Thatcher may be “the first Prime Minister of female gender…  But a woman? Not on my terms.”

Ms Jackson delivered her speech from an almost empty Labour bench, as dozens of Labour MPs  from the constituencies most adversely affected by Thatcherism, chose not to attend as a form of protest to Thatcher’s tribute.

Allister Heath wrote in The Telegraph: “Far more miners lost their jobs, and far more mines were shut, in the 1960s and 1970s than during Thatcher’s time in office. Britain is suffering from a bout of collective amnesia.” – No, Mr. Heath. Supporters of the Right are suffering from collective propagandistic brainwashing. Please get your facts in order, because your claim that more mines were shut in the 1960s and 1970s, is false. In fact, it is an outright lie.

Today, the current Tory coalition government has picked up from where Thatcher left off, privatising the NHS, whilst thrashing state welfare – literally laughing as they did so.

Thatcher may be dead, but the aftermath of her civilization eroding policies and destruction, continues to live on.

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Fascist Britain?

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An anti-immigration protest by the English Defence League (The Guardian)

The newspapers have readily reported that Britain’s economy has sunk into the longest depression for 100 years, claiming the slump is worse than the Great Depression. Regular publications are produced by NIESR which also suggest that Europe’s recovery is already behind where it was in the 1930s during the Great Depression. Indeed, NIESR’s latest quarterly forecast (published 5th February 2013), projects growth of 0.7 per cent per annum this year and 1.5 per cent in 2014.

Following the 2008 global financial crisis, British Labour MP, Ed Balls, stated in 2009 that he feared the economic crisis could spark a resurgence in the Far Right politics of the 1930s and the rise of fascism. His warning initially came after a trade union baron warned that Far Right parties were trying to misinterpret and hijack the slogan “British jobs for British workers” – A poorly worded phrase coined by Gordon Brown during his first speech as leader to the Labour Conference in 2007, intended to express Gordon Brown’s vision of getting British people lacking basic skills, or the long-term unemployed, back into the British employment market.

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The British Jobs phrase from Gordon Brown’s speech is regularly off-quoted by Nationalist movements.

Today, the row over foreign workers continues to gather momentum, with the implication that the in-coming Romanians and Bulgarians are ill-educated benefit tourists, and reports of the UK Government’s negative ad campaign in an attempt to deter Romanians and Bulgarians from moving to Britain.

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Tongue-in-cheek Anti-Britain ad campaigns published in The Guardian

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A witty ‘Why don`t you come over?’ ad campaign was designed by the online Romanian newspaper,Gandul , in response to numerous reports in the British media about the government initiative to launch a negative ad campaign discouraging Romanians and Bulgarians from coming to work in Britain.

We have also witnessed escalating Euroscepticism (discussed in my previous blog post); the rise of the UK Independence Party, and increasing British nationalism has seen the British National Party (BNP) celebrating their first ever secured European Parliament seats for leader Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons in 2009. This was the same year that saw the formation the extreme Far-Right group, North West Infidels, and an Islamophobic Far-Right street protest movement – the English Defence League, who exploit concerns about sex-grooming gangs to fuel its anti-Islam agenda and forge networks with far-right groups across Europe. Last year saw the perturbing revival of the National Front, whilst yet another Nationalist party, calling themselves The British Democratic Party, has recently arisen out of the rubble of the BNP. A further indication that we should not get too complacent is the result of a Searchlight poll, conducted last February, which revealed that a staggeringly high number of voters stated they would be prepared to vote for party of the Far-Right, if it renounced violence.

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Recent Daily Express headlines

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The question is whether Ed Balls was right in suggesting we may be heading towards a return to the fascist Far-Right politics that prospered in the Great Depression of the 1930s?

There are, admittedly, some parallels, and one thing history has revealed is that the Right thrives on economic crisis.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Britain saw the Labour Party almost wiped out, with Labour winning only 52 seats in the 1931 election, allowing the Conservatives to rule with a formidable majority. The situation was even bleaker in the rest of Europe as fascism annihilated democracy and the Left. Italy fell first, with Leftists languishing in Fascist jails from the 1920s. Germany’s labour movement was the strongest in the world, but Nazism shut it down virtually overnight and was upping the persecution of the Jews. A military uprising against Spain’s reformist government in 1936 plunged the country into a nightmare Civil War that ended in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Leftists and the victory of Far-Right dictator General Francisco Franco. The only glimmer of hope for the Left was France’s Popular Front, a coalition of Socialists, Communists and Radicals. Alas, it was an unwieldy government that lasted only two years, and the right were growing ever more aggressive and militant.

The majority of British people like to think that we are above that sort of thing, and like to believe fascism is more exclusive to “excitable foreigners”, who they seem to believe enjoy wearing uniforms. However, it is worth considering that parliamentary democracy was once believed to have been secure in most of the Western world in the 1920s, yet it collapsed quickly enough once the Slump came. Even emphatically anti-fascist Britain adopted its own version of a corporatist state, forming a national government in which almost all the parties were in power, and vastly extended state control with the Public Order Act which came into force 1st January 1937. Britain also saw Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts, supported by the likes of the Daily Mail, loudly agitating for a fascist government on the European model. If one was a true Democrat in 1937, there was most certainly a cause for concern, given the lack of hindsight and far right’s complacency of the atrocities occurring in Europe.

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A 1933 printed poster advertising four meetings of the British Union of Fascists (Library of Museum of London)

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The British Union of Fascists

Even during the other major economic crisis seen during the 1970s, when the ‘oil shock‘ of 1973 signalled the end of the ‘Golden Age of Capitalism’, both Left and Right abandoned the post-war consensus in favour of a renewed radicalism. Like with the period prior to the more recent 2010 election, it was unclear which side would win for a while, and indeed for long periods prior to the economic downturn, it appeared the Left was in the ascendancy. The historically unprecedented post-war boom came to an abrupt end, leading to a period of poor economic growth and rampant levels of inflation. Again, the economy had stagnated, but the New Right saw a surge in prosperity with politics beginning to swing to the Right across Europe, first with British Thatcherism. This was soon followed by American Reaganism. Thatcher was so successful in 1979 that even by the time she was succeeded by John Major, the traditional Left had been all but vanquished as a political force. This time round, there appears to be no real alternative for the Right to defeat, as the Left has never really recovered from being virtually smothered out of existence. It has been victim to the rise of the New Right, neo-liberal globalization, and the repeated defeats suffered by the trade union movement.

Above all, it can be argued that it was the aftermath of the collapse of Communism that has seen the subsidence of the Left. As US neo-conservative Midge Decter once stated: “It’s time to say: We’ve won. Goodbye.” From the British Labour Party to the African National Congress, Left-wing movements across the world have shifted their policies to the Right in an almost synchronised fashion, and although we now live in an age of revolt, there still remains no true Left to give it direction and purpose. Even in the “Left-wing” governed US, Obama may have been elected US President, but a newly resurgent Right lead by the Tea Party has seized the House of Representatives and is clearly setting the political agenda. As the Economist has boasted, the Left has been smashed across Europe, and indeed, the British National Party won its first seats in the European parliament not because its supporters are all racist, but because many voters feel insecure and let down by the main parties. The British National Party now use such views to their advantage to rally support, thus playing on the claim that their Far-Right party is “a socialist party… and probably the closest thing to old Labour”, at a time when there is no true Left to provide Britain with direction.

The recent rise of the UKIP could also be an issue for concern, particularly as recent ComRes polls have placed the UKIP in 3rd position, ahead of the Liberal Democrats.

Whilst a benign view of the UKIP by many might be that they are simply small-nation nationalists standing up against an oppressive suzerainty, and are not a fascist party; a darker perspective might be that some UKIP supporters have a more deep-seated antagonism to our current constitutional settlement, one they share with a quiescent sector of our society, that might develop into a poisonous xenophobia.

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A UKIP anti-immigration poster

Indeed, data from a study by Matthew Goodwin, Robert Ford, and David Cutts has revealed that intolerant views were somewhat more common among UKIP supporters than any of the three mainstream parties. However, while only a minority of UKIP supporters were found to be racist, the majority are not, and the UKIP were found to hold fewer intolerant views than the BNP. Yet, UKIP supporters were more likely to support a complete ban on immigration, to support government efforts to deport immigrants, in addition to being less tolerant of Muslims, and less tolerant of homosexuals. Recent statements by a UKIP candidate for parliament has described gay adoption as a form of child abuse, and the survey revealed 41% of UKIP supporters opposed civil partnerships, which is higher than all the mainstream parties and nearly twice the sample average. The study also found that all parties of the Far Right are also more likely to falsely attribute negative behaviour to immigrants as a group; holding them responsible for ‘most crime’ and agreeing with the view that they ‘jump the queue for council housing’; and UKIP supporters were more likely to agree that ‘Islam poses a serious danger to Western civilization’ and a report by Matthew Goodwin and Jocelyn Evans has revealed that 84% were bothered by the construction of a mosque in their neighbourhood. Furthermore, 4 in 10 UKIP supporters are unwilling to put up with its existence, or to offer legal recognition to a group with different views or behaviour from their own.

If we compare the 2012 London Manifestos:

UKIP on immigration:

  • Create more jobs for Londoners by saying ‘No’ to open-door immigration.
  • Priority for Londoners – whatever their ethnic origin – for jobs and housing, over migrants and asylum seekers.
  • Until the Government gets a grip on our borders, put a cap on the number of immigrants allowed to settle in London.

BNP on immigration:

  • London is already overcrowded. We will NOT give amnesty to illegal immigrants.
  • All the other political parties will let in more – we’ll shut the door!
  • While immigration policy is determined primarily by the EU (a key reason for our opposition to Britain’s membership) and central government, we will take all measures within the Mayor’s power to protect and advance the interests of indigenous Londoners and members of legally settled minorities who contribute to the common good.

Both parties use the same door open/shut metaphor in reference to to immigration, and both refer to prioritising Londoners. BNP emphasise that ethnic minorities, who are legally settled, will be included in their ‘shut the door’ policy, while the UKIP specifically refers to migrants and asylum seekers. Note that the UKIP do not refer to whether their policy includes migrants who are legal or not, nor the status of an asylum claim. Both state on their websites that they will deport all illegal immigrants.

In a 2010 document titled ‘Restoring Britishness‘, the UKIP refers to combating the Islamisation of Britain, which is also a key BNP concern:

‘Multiculturalism is another tenet of the politically correct class and has been just as toxic to Britain. In simplified form, it is broadly the belief that people from different ethno-religious and ethno-linguistic backgrounds can live together in the same society and that the state is legally obliged to respect all of their cultural mores. The notion that there is, or that there should be, a common unifying culture is denounced as ‘exclusionary’, and calls to integrate are typically met with accusations that the state is issuing ultimatums to ethnic and religious minorities. UkIP fundamentally disagrees.

Ukip will end multiculturalism and promote an all-embracing uniculturalism, one which demands integration, assimilation and a commitment to British values for all UK citizens.’

The UKIP clearly state their opposition of multiculturalism, and this would suggest they oppose ‘the belief that people from different ethno-religious and ethno-linguistic backgrounds can live together in the same society.’ There are constant references to a Marxist influence in British politics, particularly in using Ed and David Miliband’s “Trotskyite” father Ralph as an example.

The BNP have their roots in far more extreme origins through its founder, John Tyndall, and his involvement with the affirmably fascist National Socialist Movement and League of Empire Loyalists. Their members have been involved in far more extreme acts of outright violence such as the notorious nailbombs attacks by David Copeland.

Yet, both the UKIP and BNP advertise themselves specifically as “non-racist”. If both parties need to constantly refer to their lack of racism in their campaign material, perhaps they have something of a guilty conscience?

Should we be worried?

As I revealed in a previous post, it is clear that David Cameron is being swayed into a somewhat fascist direction by the increase in UKIP popularity, and the increase in Eurosceptism in Britain. In addition to David Cameron’s xenophobic speech, there is increasing pressure from Conservative backbenchers to find ways to deter Romanians and Bulgarians from moving to Britain.

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Look at the early signs: demands for protectionism; “British jobs for British workers”; blatant xenophobia; the scapegoating of capitalists; nationalisation; the surge in state spending; the contempt for parliamentarians. Is Britain really immune from fascism?

To get the issue into perspective, the BNP have been around for a long time, yet have never managed to make a serious breakthrough. Intolerant views towards immigrants and ethnic minorities is clearly an issue in Britain, but the UKIP votes are more likely to be protest votes during a time of increasing dissatisfaction with the coalition government. With such a loss of public confidence in parliament, growing nationalism and alarm at terrorism, this is a time when one might have expected votes to flow to the BNP. History has revealed that a loss of confidence in parliamentary institutions is characteristic of a time that fascists have come to power, and whilst the election of two BNP MEPs is a very depressing development, the BNP are not doing especially well. Whilst the UKIP are currently ahead of the Liberal Democrats in ComRes Polls, and came 2nd in the Eastleigh By-election, recent opinion polls place Labour in the lead.

We should also be concerned about what is occurring across Europe, where Right-wing populism is on the rise – The Eurozone crisis has seen emergence of the neo-nazi movement, Greece’s Golden Dawn; neo-fascists in France and Hungary making electoral gains; the continued success of anti-Muslim parties in Holland and Belgium; “nativist” movements such as Finland’s True Finns, not to mention the conspiracy theories cited by the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik.

Societies that preside over massive inequalities of wealth, but also promises its people democracy, equality and freedom, are breeding grounds for resentment. Wherever such resentments exist, the Far Right will try to exploit them to gain political support. Today the Far Right use Islamophobia and the hatred of migrants, because it already exists in our society, just as the Nazis played upon antisemitism, because it already existed in German society.

However, the fascism of the 1920s and 30s was a revolutionary movement asserting a violent imperialism and promising a new social order. By contrast, today’s Far-Right parties are solely based on fear of immigration, fear of aliens, fear of being Europeanised. They have no real political agenda, no vision of a new social order, nor can they legally campaign for the replacement of a democratic government by an authoritarian regime. The fear and hatred they incite, may lead to public furore, but I do not believe it will play a part in politics to the extent that we will see a Far-Right party elected into the British Government any time soon.

Nevertheless, we should still remain cautious. Presenting the Human Rights Convention to the Assembly in 1949, Schuman’s colleague, French lawyer, Pierre-Henri Teitgen, said:

An honest man does not become a gangster in 24 hours. Infection takes time. In thought and in conscience, he has to let himself be drawn into temptation. He gets used to the fault before he commits it. He descends the stairwell step by step. One day, he finds evil has beaten him and he has lost all scruples. Democracies do not become Nazi countries overnight. Evil progresses in an underhand way, with a minority operating to seize what amounts to the levers of power. One by one, freedoms are suppressed, in one sphere then another. Public opinion is smothered, the worldwide conscience is dulled and the national conscience asphyxiated. And then, when everything fits in place, the Führer is installed and this evolution continues right on to the deadly gas ovens of the crematorium.’

 

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If you really do love Britain, stop the fascists, the racists, the xenophobes, and the homophobes, etc.

Anti-Fascism merchandise is available to buy here

A Happy Hypocritical Easter!

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Easter is a tradition celebrated across the world, which Christians believe to be in honour of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, on the third day after his crucifixion at Calvary.

Secularists and atheists, will instead celebrate the spring equinox, taking advantage of the fantastic range of delicious chocolate eggs and cakes, that modern day Easter commercialism presents so wonderfully to us.

“Hypocrisy”, some may cry. However, the Christians amongst you may be surprised to learn that Easter, is in fact, a Pagan festival, and is not really about Jesus at all. Has it never struck Christians as being somewhat odd, that rabbits and chocolate eggs are associated with Christ’s Resurrection?

It would appear that the bible has caused Christians some confusion with the following passage from Act 12:3: ‘This was during the days of Unleavened Bread’, which is where The New Testament Church observes the feast days described in Leviticus 23. Acts 12:4 states: “And when he [Herrod] had seized him [Peter], he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people.” Some translations of the bible, such as this 21st Century King James edition, have translated the word ‘Passover’ to ‘Easter’.

However, the mistranslation of the word Easter has come from the Greek word ‘pascha’ – derived from the Hebrew word pesach. As there is no original Greek word for Passover, for this reason, a Hebrew word is used in the Greek New Testament. The word has only one meaning: Passover (Account found at Exodus 12). It does not mean Easter.  Thus, the verse does not endorse Easter, and is instead an indication that the Christian Church observed the Jewish Passover ten years after the supposed death of Christ. More importantly, there is no other mention of the word Easter anywhere else in the bible. There are no verses anywhere in the Bible, that authorize or endorse the keeping of Easter celebration. The Bible also makes no mention of Lent, eggs, egg hunts, Easter bunnies, etc. It does, however, mention hot cross buns and sunrise services as abominations, which God condemns.

It would appear that the mistranslation of Acts 12:4 may have been an attempt to insert a Pagan festival into biblical scripture for the purpose of authorising it as a Christian tradition. Verse 14 goes on to state that the Passover ceremony was commanded by God to be an annual memorial feast to be kept by Israel “forever”. This command is repeated in Leviticus 23:5. Exodus 12:15 introduces the seven-day festival called the Days of Unleavened Bread (also repeated in Leviticus 23:6-8), which was to immediately follow the Passover feast each year. This is why Acts 12:3 states, “This was during the days of unleavened bread”, before mentioning the Passover in the next verse.

Despite the biblical command listed in Leviticus 23, that Passover should still be kept by Christians today (Acts 2:1; 12:3; 18:21; 20:6; I Cor. 5:7-8; 16:8), how ironic that almost no Christian who professes to worship Jesus Christ, observes the Passover as commanded.

Thus, as there is no specific instruction to observe Easter in the Bible (although the permanent command to observe Passover, is), from where did Easter originate?

Origins

Easter has most likely originated from before the Hebrew feast of Passover. The earliest reference to a similar holiday comes from Babylon, 2400 BCE. Ancient Babylonians would mark the beginning of Spring with a gala celebration honoring the resurrection of the god, Tammuz, who was killed by a wild boar. Tammuz was returned to life by his mother/wife, Ishtar with her tears. Ishtar was actually pronounced “Easter”.

Celebrating the beginning of spring may be among the oldest holidays in human culture; a tradition that would occur every year during the spring equinox. Biologically and culturally, it represents for northern climates the end of a “dead” (winter) season and the rebirth of life (spring), as well as the importance of fertility and reproduction.

The city of Ur also had a celebration dedicated to the moon and the spring equinox, which was held during our months of March or April. On the spring equinox, Zoroastrians continue to celebrate “No Ruz”, the new day or New Year. This date is commemorated by the last remaining Zoroastrians, and probably constitutes the oldest celebration in the history of the world.

Exchange of eggs is an ancient custom, celebrated by many cultures. Hot cross buns are also very ancient, and the Old Testament mentions Israelites baking sweet buns for an idol, and religious leaders trying to put a stop to it. The early church clergy also tried to put a stop to sacred cakes being baked at Easter. In the end, in the face of defiant cake-baking Pagan women, they gave up and blessed the cake instead. Jeremiah 7:18: ‘The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead dough to make sacrificial cakes for the queen of heaven. And to offend me all the more, they pour out drink offerings to foreign gods’.

It is interesting that Christians seem to have adopted all the fun things about Easter from Paganism, including the tradition of Easter Bunnies, which are a leftover from the pagan festival of Eostre, a great northern goddess whose symbol was a rabbit or hare.

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Spring festivals honouring Eostre, the great mother goddess of the Saxons, were also held hundreds of years before the documented birth of Christ. The name Eostre was fashioned after the ancient word for spring, Eastre. The goddess Ostara was the Norse equivalent whose symbols were the hare and the egg, which began the modern tradition of celebrating Easter with eggs and bunnies. Several goddesses were associated with the practice:

  • Aphrodite from ancient Cyprus
  • Ashtoreth from ancient Israel
  • Astarte from ancient Greece
  • Demeter from Mycenae
  • Hathor from ancient Egypt
  • Ishtar from Assyria
  • Kali, from India
  • Ostara a Norse Goddess of fertilityphoto(6)

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    Goddess Ishtar

In the Mediterranean region, there was a pre-Christian spring celebration centered around the vernal equinox that honoured Cybele, the Phrygian goddess of fertility. Cybele’s consort, Attis, was considered born of a virgin and was believed to have died and been resurrected three days later. Attis derived his mythology from even earlier gods, Osiris, Dionysus, and Orpheus, who also were supposed to have been born of a virgin and suffered death and resurrection as long as 500 years before Christ was born. The death of Attis was commemorated on a Friday and the resurrection was celebrated three days later on Sunday. (Does this story not sound familiar…?)

It would thus appear that the name of Easter and the traditions surrounding it are deeply rooted in Pagan religion.

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A Pagan march through the streets…

Other “borrowed” Easter traditions, that are Pagan in origin, include Easter lilies being revered by the ancients as symbols of fertility and representative of the male genitalia, whilst the ancient Babylonian religions had rituals involving dyed eggs, as did the ancient Egyptians. Note that the origin of the Easter egg is based on the fertility lore of the Indo-European races, with the egg being a symbol of spring. Conversely, in Christian times, the egg became a symbol of religious interpretation, which symbolised the rock tomb out of which Christ emerged to the new life of his resurrection. Thus, another example of a pagan custom being “Christianised”, to deceive—as well as making Christians feel better about why they are following a custom that is not in the Bible.

Ironically, Christians seem to believe the sunrise services (yet another ancient pagan practice, which welcomes the sun on the morning of the spring equinox) is a “beautiful”, “moving”, and “religious” tradition. Yet, the Bible at Ezek. 8:13-18 states something very different: 

‘There, at the entrance to the Lord’s temple, between the porch and the altar, were twenty-five men facing toward the east with their backs to the Lord’s temple. They were bowing to the sun in the east… Isn’t it enough that the house of Judah has observed here all these detestable things? They have filled the land with violence, and they continue to provoke my fury. Look at them! They even put the branch to their noses!  I will certainly respond with wrath. I won’t spare or pity anyone. Even though they call out loudly to me in my hearing, I won’t listen to them.’

Thus, observing sunrise services is so serious, Ezek. 9 documents that God would ultimately destroy all who persisted in it.

Nice.

Deuteronomy 12:28-32 also confirms that Christians should never mix Pagan traditions with God’s commands. The Passover was commanded; not Easter.

Christians: Do bear in mind the following as quoted from Matt. 15:6-7: ‘So you do away with God’s Law for the sake of the rules that have been handed down to you. Hypocrites!…’

Therefore, if Christians continuously choose to disregard the wishes of their beloved God, year after year, then why should atheists, such as myself, feel “left out” of the loop? Atheists also enjoy celebrating what has now become a commercialised festival, and the opportunity to devour a substantial amount of chocolate. Surely, that can only be good for the economy…? Mass public spending within the food industry, subsequently followed by mass public spending in the diet and pharmaceutical industries…

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Happy Easter, everyone!

The Hypocrisy of Saint David’s Day (Rhagrith Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant)

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Atheist author, Professor Richard Dawkins, recently congratulated the people of Wales after the 2011 census revealed that nearly a third of people living in Wales follow no religion, stating that people in Wales were ‘ahead of the rest of the UK’.

Statistics from the latest UK Census 2011, released on 11th December 2012, revealed that 32% of people in Wales consider themselves non-religious, against an overall UK figure of 25%.

The census found that 1.5% of the Welsh population were Muslims, 0.3% were Hindus or Buddhists, Sikh or Jewish took up 0.1%, and 0.4% stated other faiths. Prof. Dawkins reportedly dismissed the figures for people saying they were a Jedi Knight, or that heavy metal music was their religion.

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Yeah… My religion is METAL, man!

Yet, despite these figures, I do sometimes marvel at the hypocrisy of the entire nation lavishly celebrating Saint David’s Day – a day which has its roots in Catholicism. It is all the more ironic when one considers that Wales has been a predominantly Protestant country since the Welsh Bible was published in 1588, following the Protestant Reformation; not to mention the above mentioned Census figures. Nevertheless, it did not prevent cross-party political support, when the National Assembly for Wales voted unanimously to make Saint David’s Day a Welsh public holiday in 2000, along with 87% of Welsh people supporting the call (which was ultimately rejected by former Prime Minister, Tony Blair in 2007).

My Facebook newsfeed, as predicted, is literally plastered with photos of my former school friends’ children, dressed up in rather ridiculous traditional Welsh (peasant) costumes; photos of peoples’ homemade Welshcakes; status updates exclaiming that people were making Cawl (A Welsh stew containing lamb and leeks which is traditionally consumed on St. David’s Day); ghastly gif and jpeg banners that read ‘Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant Hapus’ (Happy St. David’s Day); all of which gives some insight into the feigned optimism that seems to span across the nation for one day every 1st March, disguising the chilling reality that depression and suicide is reportedly on the increase in Wales.

St. David’s Day is invariably celebrated in Wales, and by Welsh societies, throughout the world with dinners, parties, and Eisteddfodau (recitals and concerts). Parades take place, with food festivals, and street parties in bigger cities. Most schools traditionally have an unofficial day off, by participating in all-day school Eisteddfodau, with the main activities being recitation, singing, and traditional Welsh folk dancing. The main search page on Google.co.uk features a special St. David’s Day “Google Doodle” to commemorate the day, and despite the fact that Saint David abstained from drinking and advised others to do the same, a number of Welsh breweries make special St. David’s Day ales. British pub, J.D.Wetherspoon even run a St. David’s Day Ale Festival. Even more bizarre, is that Disney’s Mickey and Minnie adopt a Welsh identity for the Disneyland Paris St David’s Day Festival!

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A Saint David’s Day Street Parade (Copyright: Andrew Hazard)

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The Archdruid withdraws a sword from its sheath three times at a Welsh Eisteddfod

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The Saint David’s Day “doodle” featured on Google’s search engine page.

Do not get me wrong. I love Wales, and I am inherently proud of my Welsh-Irish heritage (Predominantly Welsh!). Wales is a beautiful country, with a rich cultural heritage – it is famously known for being the “Land of Song”, in addition to being famous for its stunning natural scenery and coastline, and its world famous rugby team. In fact, Rhossili Bay in South Wales, has been ranked 3rd Best Beach in Europe, and the Welsh always give visitors a warm welcome… If you’re not an English person visiting during rugby season! I must admit, that my ancestral roots also give me an excuse to join in with the atheist hypocrisy of celebrating a Saint, as I use the day as an excuse to make, and gastronomically demolish, a substantial number of homemade (vegan) Welshcakes.

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Rhossili Bay, Gower, Wales

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A Welsh lady with a plate of Welshcakes… The girl behind isn’t looking so impressed.

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The Harp is the traditional instrument of Wales

The biggest hypocrisy of all, is that few people in Wales actually seem to know who St. David actually was, or that the day has its roots in religion. For those of you who are wondering who is this St. David chap is, and why everyone now seems to fanatically celebrate annually on 1st March, I shall explain.

Dewi Sant, or St David, is the patron saint of Wales. According to the Museum of Wales, what little is known about him is based on a Latin manuscript written by Rhigyfarch, towards the end of the 11th century.

Rhigyfarch accounts that Dewi died in the year 589. He was a scion of the royal house of Ceredigion, and founded a Celtic monastic community at Glyn Rhosyn (St. Davids) on the western headland of Pembrokeshire, at the spot where St David’s Cathedral stands today. From the 12th century onwards, Dewi’s fame spread throughout South Wales, Ireland, Brittany, and the West of England, where it is believed he founded religious centres such as Glastonbury and Croyland. He continued with a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he was made archbishop. St David’s Cathedral became a popular centre of pilgrimage, particularly after Dewi was officially recognised as a Catholic saint in 1120. From this period on, he was frequently referred to in the work of medieval Welsh poets such as Iolo Goch and Lewys Glyn Cothi.

According to Rhigyfarch, many ‘miracles’ have been attributed to Dewi, the most “incredible” of which, was when he caused the ground to rise underneath him, so that he could be seen and heard by all when he was preaching at the Synod of Llanddewibrefi. Now before the Christians amongst you get excited by the story of a rising floor, consider the irony that Rhigyfarch was the son of the Bishop of St David’s. It is, therefore, believed that the account was written as propaganda to establish Dewi’s superiority, and thus defend the bishopric from being taken over by Canterbury and the Normans.

In 1398, it was decided that Dewi’s feast-day was to be held by every church in the Province of Canterbury, and Saint David was recognised as a national patron saint at the height of Welsh resistance to the Normans. Although the feast of Dewi as a religious festival came to an end with the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, St. David’s Day was celebrated by Welsh diaspora from the late Middle Ages., and became a national festival during the 18th century.

Interestingly, however, the 17th-century diarist Samuel Pepys noted how the Welsh St. David’s Day celebrations in London would spark wider counter celebrations amongst their English neighbours. Life-sized effigies of Welshmen were reported to have been symbolically lynched; and according to Jacqueline Simpson and Steve Roud in the Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore, the custom had arisen in the 18th century of confectioners producing “taffies”, which were gingerbread figures baked in the shape of a Welshman riding a goat— on Saint David’s Day. This perhaps gives us some further insight into the rivalry between the Welsh and English, which unfortunately, still exists to a lesser extent today.

Previous resistance to England can be seen in the poem Armes Prydain, composed in the early to mid-tenth century AD, in which an anonymous author prophesies that the Welsh people will unite and join an alliance of fellow-Celts to repel the Anglo-Saxons, under the banner of Saint David: A lluman glân Dewi a ddyrchafant (And they will raise the pure banner of Dewi).

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Facsimile of a page from the Book of Taliesin (folio 13 recto), showing the last lines of the poem Cad Goddeu and the beginning of the poem Mabgyfreu Taliesin (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Now, I must facetiously bid my English readers, “twll dîn pob sais”, as I hypocritically devour my Welshcakes – cakes which were once traditionally baked on a cast iron griddle for hungry Welsh Coal Miners (along with a staple diet of Cawl, and a type of meatball called Faggots). The Welsh peoples’ love of Welshcakes is something neither the English (or the rest of the world) will ever quite understand. I suppose one could describe it as the Welsh equivalent of the English’s penchant for scones with jam and cream.

Happy Saint David’s Day everyone! (Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant Hapus pawb!)

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And since I was once so cute, this is me in a traditional Welsh lady costume, aged 6.