Thursday 30 July 2009

Favourite Blogs

If polls in such things had any real credibility (Clark managed to win his category on a mere 26%, 1,100 votes or so, in the poll for 2007) mine would be:

1. Dave's Part
2. Harpymarx
3. Shiraz Socialist
4. Stroppyblog
5. Adam MacQueen
6. Normblog
7. Oliver Kamm
8. Harry's Place

Other blogs I read, are not really recommendable, though Socialist Unity manages to avoid being an apologist for dictatorships some of the time, Lenin's Tomb contains the odd nugget and Peter Hitchens is worth it for the entertainment value.

The most ridiculous for me, no he is merely appalling, is surely this gent from deepest County Durham.

Monday 27 July 2009

Neil Clark and Aldous Huxley

A passage from yesterday's entry on Neil Clark's blog is an absolute classic:
[Aldous] Huxley also believed that modern marketing techniques, advertising and other forms of brainwashing used by the ruling elite to maintain their control would pose a far greater threat to human freedom- and humanity in general than the ‘old-style’ dictatorships that relied on terror.
Dictatorships relying on terror are still around, and Clark defends quite a few of them. Quite why he finds "modern marketing techniques" worse than "‘old-style’ dictatorships", when his rather naff and populist tastes are a product of them, is inexplicable.

Apparently Clark agrees with Huxley "that intelligence and kindness are inextricably linked"...

Thursday 23 July 2009

The death penalty in Iran and Neil Clark

An excellent piece by Peter Tatchell on the use of this form of state power, unaccompanied by any form of evidence, is on The Guardian's 'Comment is Free' site.

Neil Clark, a supporter of the death penalty and an opponent of Amnesty International's campaign against the practice, wrote the following in 2002:
If we know anything at all about moral issues, it is that they are extremely difficult to resolve, are inevitably marked by disagreement, and that different cultural premises lead to startlingly different moral conclusions. Understanding this is important, as it underlies the whole idea of self-determination by societies, cultural groups or nation states. Only these groupings can determine what political structures they take to be moral and what privileges they acknowledge as rights.
Clark is inclined to dismiss open societies two page earlier, in his attack on Human Rights Watch, so this is really another of his defences of dictatorship, quite apart from being an example of moral relativism. He transposes absolutist assumptions onto his opponents of a kind which he endlessly displays himself.

In an article the previous year, advocating a return to the death penalty, Clark had this to say:
Inevitably, miscarriages of justice did occur when Britain had the death penalty, but their number was tiny and must be set against the considerably larger number of people saved from violent death by the much lower homicide rate. [Hardly as convincing as he thinks.] Now, though, there is the very real breakthrough of DNA-testing, which narrows the odds of wrong conviction to one million to one. That still may not be good enough for Paul Foot and Ludovic Kennedy, but it is for me and, I expect, for most other people.
Obviously not the case in Iran, where 'beyond a reasonable doubt' is not the criteria for executions. Clark objects to a universalist stance on human rights, but 'divide and rule' methods, as Tatchell is basically arguing is the case in Iran, were hardly alien to the Milosevic regime of which Clark is a particularly notorious apologist.

So the likelihood he will cease his advocacy of Ahmadinejad's cause and embrace the abolition of the death penalty is rather remote. The rest of us can therefore continue to question his dubious attitudes.

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Now the BNP turn inventive

What a pity Richard Barnbrook of the BNP, a London Assembly member since May last year, has managed to evade a hearing over bringing his office into disrepute. A tribunal has been presented with evidence that Barnbrook, also a councillor on Barking and Dagenham council, claimed three knife related murders had occurred over a three week period in the outer London borough and knew this to be false at the time. His inability to provide any defence against a complaint made last September looks like an admission of guilt.

A ghastly person with no integrity whatsoever.

Monday 20 July 2009

Peter Hitchens and Bob Ainsworth's Trotskyist past

Peter Hitchens was attacking the new Secretary of State for Defence in yesterday's Mail on Sunday for being a 'candidate member' (provisional so to speak) of the International Marxist Group in the early 1980s. Particularly making my Wikipedia acquaintance spit with fury was the IMG's support for the IRA. The IMG was a wholly legal organisation, even if the IRA was not, like the International Socialists (now SWP) of which Hitchens was a member between 1969 and 1975. But what I find in an official 1975 history of the group by Ian Birchall, under the heading "1969-1970: Towards a Workers’ Party", is the following: "IS’s position was always one of unconditional support for the IRA in the struggle against imperialism".

Oh dear!

Wednesday 15 July 2009

Neil Clark, the universal franchise and the BNP

This is a very serious post, and it seems appropriate to drop the tag previously applied to Neil Clark.

He might attack New Labour for ignoring the wishes of a majority of the electorate over the war in Iraq. More generally, he might point out the apparent contradiction between polling data in which the public favour the reintroduction of the death penalty and it is resisted by parliamentarians. Despite his claim to be a "democratic socialist", Clark's own commitment to the universal franchise can be doubted. His socialism is actually non-existent.

Not once voicing any criticism of the BNP in his First Post article of June 8 2009, he claimed:
Since the 1960s, as European Left parties have gradually become more middle class, they have gradually lost their link with their indigenous working-class voters.
So the main party of the Left in the UK should not have identified with people of overseas descent who, naturalized or born here, also have the vote? Now constituting about 8% of the population, often in urban seats which Labour will need to hold onto in the 2010 general election, or to whom the Conservatives will need to appeal if they are to form a government, Clark blithely ignores a section of the population which a genuine 'leftie', unreconstructed or otherwise, would not do.

Perhaps he thinks ethnic groups are second class citizens who should not be allowed to vote. This is a fair conclusion to draw as we shall see. Clark supports the attitude peddled by the BNP that it "[combines] traditional left-wing anti-capitalist and anti-globalist economic policies, with unequivocal opposition to mass immigration". This is quite wrong. For 'old Labour', immigration was an economic policy. The British Nationality Act 1948, which allowed the right of settlement, was passed during a labour shortage.

Clark’s opinion of his readers is so low he assumes we will not do some digging, or remember what he has written. He writes uncritically of the Hungarian ‘Jobbik’, as an example of a party reconnecting with the working class. He complains that the self-styled 'Movement for a Better Hungary', is denounced as "'neo-fascist'" by its opponents, and implying the left should be more like this party, wrote that it “attacked finance-driven globalisation and the 'unpatriotic' pro-globalist elite, in a way which clearly resonated with ordinary people”. In fact, it is denounced as "neo-fascist" because there are good grounds to sustain the label. It is an organisation with a paramilitary wing, supposedly being wound up under government order, which is actually being recreated under a new name. It virulently attacks ‘Roma’ in Hungary and also denounces Jews. In a visit to London in May, representatives of the party met Nick Griffin (dubious link) of the BNP. Apparently “similarities between the two parties and their aims are a promising start for co-operation between the BNP and Jobbik in the future.” Since then, according to a report on Channel Four News, relations have cooled and the two parties will not sit in the same group in the European Parliament.

What difference left-wing parties might have from those of the right is unclear, if indeed anything should really separate them at all. So we have a supposed leftist, suggesting means for left-of-centre parties to regain voters, who identifies his politics with a blatantly far-right party, but hopes no one notices. For a long time, Clark has had difficulties with political labels; in order to sustain his argument in favour of the death penalty, he once had to classify Paul Foot, the journalist and revolutionary socialist, as a “left-liberal”. It is about time Clark stopped burning his candle at both ends and dropped his pretence. It is obvious where he is on the political spectrum, and astonishing the Morning Star and the New Statesman are still prepared to publish his copy.

Update: After posting this article, I toned it down slightly to avoid comments which might be difficult to sustain and fearful of libel. I need not have bothered. Clark has an article on the 'Jobbik' website, a reprint of a First Post article on Hungary is here.

Tuesday 14 July 2009

According to "Comrade Neil Clark", Ahmadinejad might be an ally

Well Clark would see a holocaust denier as a potentially reliable ally wouldn't he?

As it happens, I agree with Clark on the Iraqi elections in 2005, but someone who once wrote what amounts to a defence of the one party state (de facto or actual) is adopting a stance of "political contingency" over elections now. In 2002, Clark commented in of all places, The Spectator magazine:
After the signing of the Helsinki Accords in 1975, the US was understandably keen to use the issue of human rights as a way of weakening the Soviet Union and its control over Eastern Europe. Human Rights Watch, set up in 1978 as Helsinki Rights Watch by the publishing tycoon Bob Bernstein, was to be the vehicle for achieving this. Over the next ten years the organisation was to play a key role in publicising human-rights breaches behind the Iron Curtain and helping dissident groups there to organise and eventually grow into opposition parties. Vaclav Havel, the Czech President, recognises the debt that he and many others owe to the organisation, and is on record as stating that without Human Rights Watch there would have been no Velvet Revolution in his country.
No doubt the conservative Spectator finds it useful to keep a 'left-wing' autocrat on its roster of contributors from time to time. Just to remind its readers of the worst attitudes the 'left' can come up with.

Update: Plagiarism by Clark in yesterday's First Post article.

Wednesday 8 July 2009

The latest humbug of "Comrade Neil Clark"

I might have to rename this blog "Neil Clark Watch" at some future juncture.

At The First Post Clark defends the comments of Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone in his recent Times interview, in which Ecclestone defended despotism, spoke positively of Adolf Hitler and disparaged democracy. A self-proclaimed "socialist", Clark sides with a billionaire:
The procedure is usually works like this [sic]: a public figure expresses opinions to which the New McCarthyites take exception. The public figure, fearing his livelihood will be threatened by the whipped-up hysteria his comments have generated, is pressurised into making an embarrassing - and completely unwarranted - apology for what they have said.
For Clark then it alright to make positive comments about Hitler, and no one can say anything in response. Clark, in this case and Bryan Ferry's comments two years ago, is rather exercised by Jewish groups and individuals expressing an opinion. Clearly people Clark disapproves of, like Denis MacShane and Greville Janner, should shut up. Particularly people "outside the UK" who dare to criticise a British national in charge of companies with an international reach.

Perhaps someone who came close to defending the assassination of Zoran Djindjic or the potential murder of Iraqi translators had himself in mind when he typed the following:
Democracy should mean encouraging people to voice opinions freely and without fear. And it certainly shouldn't mean only being allowed to express opinions which the political elite or certain lobbies and pressure groups deem to be 'acceptable'.
So who stopped Ecclestone from expressing his nonsense? The Times published it. The First Post website publishes Clark. The man protests too much. Clark needless to say is totally incapable of tolerating criticism of himself.

Following the European Parliamentary elections last month, when the British National Party gained two MEPs, Clark the "socialist" identified some of his own hobby horses with the other side:
It's clear that a large percentage of working-class protest votes across Europe have gone to populist parties of the 'far-Right', [note the scare quotes as though Clark disputes the tag] who combine traditional left-wing anti-capitalist and anti-globalist economic policies, with unequivocal opposition to mass immigration and an uncompromising stance on law and order.
Clark in practice advocates that the Left should be like the Right, and proposes his own version of Blairite 'triangulation':
If the European Left is to claw back working-class votes from the far-Right, it not only needs to oppose the neo-liberal model of globalisation, but to jettison its politically correct approach to issues like immigration and law and order and adopt policies which are popular with its core constituency - the working class.
Note how Clark projects his bigotry on to a large section of the population; we are still talking about a small minority who voted BNP. Mixed-origin couples are disproportionately from lower income groups

Clark continues:
Since the 1960s, as European Left parties have gradually become more middle class, they have gradually lost their link with their indigenous [ie, white] working-class voters. ... [The Left] has to acknowledge the innate social conservatism of most working-class voters and drop its aggressively liberal approach to social issues which anger so many.
Well Neil Clark and contributors to the Conservative Daily Mail and the Conservative Daily Telegraph anyway. But in reality this is another case of Clark's capacity for projection. A report in The Times last month gave an encouraging indication of how public attitudes to homosexuality are changing for the better.

Clark might condemn neo-conservative lies, but he is quite capable of his own deceit in backing the worst kind of elite discourse.

Update July 9: I posted the following on Clark's comment page yesterday evening: "Has anyone suggested Ecclestone & co. belong in a police cell? Now who, claiming 'harassment', has advocated his critics belong in custody?" Clark has now allowed the first comments to the posting of his First Post article on Ecclestone, with my submission unsurprisingly omitted, as is his right as blog moderator. He has issued threats of a "police cell" in copy and paste responses at 3:41 PM (comments to 20 May post) and 3:32 PM (comments to 26 May post). Charming man. While Clark may well have suffered unjust abuse, the law on harassment he cites relates to the stalking of individuals, and not at all to the internet.

Looking over the article just now, I found the earlier First Post article had not been directly cited. This has been corrected; two minor changes over last night's posting have also been made.

Norman Geras on Sarkozy's proposed burqa ban

I touched on this subject a fortnight ago, but Norman Geras has an excellent piece on the basic illiberality of the proposal.

Wednesday 1 July 2009

"Comrade Neil Clark" and his neocon doubles

Clark writes on David Cameron and the coterie around him at The First Post. Being effective as a journalist rather depends on having cleaner hands than those one attacks, and in this article Clark advocated his own form of "shock and awe".