British Values – is there any such thing really as Britain?

British Values – is there any such thing really as Britain?

Great Britain started in 1704 with the Union of England with Scotland .This was done in a time honoured British way of bribing the Scottish nobility with lands and titles. This was challenged fairly quickly with two Jacobite rebellions. This provoked the British Government to bring British values to Scotland by means of the ‘Highland Clearances ” an act of brutal cleansing lead by the “butcher” Duke of Cumberland, affectionately known as Sweet William” in England and “Stinking Billy” in Scotland. This way clans and crofters were forcibly evicted, many murdered in the process by the “British” army full of “British values”. This was in fact the imperialist conquest of Scotland by England

Of course there’s India – colonised by a private company – the East India Company with its own army. Clearly allowing a private company to brutalise and exploit for the sake of private property is a key British value. When the Indians got fed up of it and rebelled, this was then “nationalised” by sending the regular army in – another key British value – use public money to protect private property.

Then there’s the Act of Union with Ireland. The English conquest of Ireland began with Henry II who encouraged a surplus of Norman no nobility to carve out estates for for themselves.

When the Irish resisted an army was sent to kick the Irish off their own land and plant English people there instead. This British example was repeated when the British Government told the Zionists they could do the same in Palestine. So kicking people off their own land and occupying it is a key British value.

Later followed the rising by the United Irishmen whose programme had a long history from the Levellers ( very British English losers) to the French Revolution. This cemented another principle- British values has nothing to do with equality. The Irish famine in 1848 demonstrated this British value once again. While millions were starving, the Anglo Irish landowners were exporting Irish wheat etc for profit. So once again the basic British value of protection of profits came to the fore. I could go on to the slave trade and the scramble for Africa but I’m tired of British values and it’s time the whole lot were stuck up Boris Johnson’s and the rest of the British Tory Party and most of the Labour Party’s collective arse.


The Horse Collar

The horse collar was one of the few important technical feudal innovations. I believe the Avars among others used it. It did not come into general use in Europe until 11th – 12th centuries. It’s impact was massive since the previous yokes or harnesses had decreased the pulling power of a horse to little more than an ox. This collar enabled the horse to use its full strength without choking. This meant that horses could pull a much heavier plough. The heavy plough produced much better crops and Europe enjoyed an increase in population generally as more land was put under cultivation. The increase in production led to greater surpluses as the growth in trade and towns and everything that went with it ( the 12th century “ renaissance “).

This growth came to a sudden halt because of the plague ( the Black Death). Because of the increased demand for labourers it also led ( particularly in England) to the undermining of feudal serfdom because lords were willing to poach peasant labourers by offering cash wages as increasing rates. This tendency increased after the Black Death because of the shortage of labour. So indirectly the horse collar led to the growth of capitalism.


What is Morality?

There’s no absolute morality god given. Morality in every society is the result of needs of that society, the balance of forces and so on. It’s a complex issue.

War disrupts that profoundly what was morally good or bad on the day before the war gets completely turned upside down.

In Britain on the day that war was declared on Germany every German human being became the enemy of every British human being. The moral code that said that killing is a crime became suspended if the the human being in question was a German.

A soldier, previously a law abiding citizen, is taken out of normal society and placed in a new military environment, given a lethal weapon, trained how to use it and a new moral virtue becomes that soldier’s imperative to show courage and bravery in being able to do what was previously a criminal act – to deliberately take the lives other human beings.

Attempts to prescribe humane rules of warfare – not killing civilians, looting and rape have always had little effect ( not no effect) in the face of the massive switch in moral values about the taking of human life.

So hypocrisy and contradiction will abound. The British prided themselves on how humanely we treated prisoners of war while at the same time dropping colossal numbers of bombs on those prisoners ‘ families in Germany.

The enemies of the state have to be downgraded as subhuman monsters the minute war breaks out. How else would you get a normal human being to murder another one?

in Germany the work had begun when the Nazis came into power. Political enemies went first, then the Jews were downgraded to the level of vermin and all Slavs designated at inferior.

This meant that no morality or law protected the Jewish population or those in Slavic countries. Crimes in Germany on German citizens were not crimes if committed on Jews or conquered populations. Released from normal morality a society of soldiers develop their own. One they would be horrified at in civilian life, yet are compelled by peer pressure and with the tacit support of their commanders.

This happens quickly. I remember when Thatcher launched her Falklands War on Argentina. Within days the media were talking about killing “ Argies” . It’s important to give the enemies a horrible nickname so you don’t have to consider them as humans any longer. Thatcher had no moral problem in sinking a ship ( the Belgrano) with 1000 young conscripts on board, each with a family who would grieve at their death.

In Vietnam the enemy were “ gooks” and so on and the atrocities young law abiding Americans inflicted on a population that was in now way threatening them at home beggars belief when it’s all over and returned to “ peacetime” morality.

I hope a future society will never see other human beings as dehumanised enemies and believe that war can resolve anything. The question was about rape. From a moral standpoint murder was a bigger crime than rape in civilian society, so if you can murder why shouldn’t you rob, loot and rape?

The criminals in my view are that ruling class who decide that a whole country is an enemy, tell people that a different and opposite morality applies and send young ordinary ( mostly) men to kill other ordinary human beings.


Personality and The USSR

Answers to this question that concentrate on the personalities of the people involved at top are not really historical nor true. To describe Trotsky “as a great ideas man but easily bored“ or as “ annoying “ is laughable. This was the man who planned the execution of the October Revolution and then built and headed the Red Army To victory over the Whites and their 14 western allies.

The revolution in Russia was always regarded by the Bolsheviks at that moment as nothing more than a stepping stone. Lenin reflected this view by his frank assessment in 1920 that the Soviet Union was capitalist state with communists in charge. Unless revolution became international, the rocky alliance between two antagonistic classes, workers and peasants would fail. The state he noted was actually administered by the Tsarist bureaucracy.

Not only that, by 1921, the working class who had carried through the revolution had virtually ceased to exist. The only way forward in the wake of this was NEP, as a holding policy to enable Russia to recover by allowing the capitalist market, regulated carefully, to resume to encourage the peasantry to grow and market food. A holding policy because the key to the revolution’s success lay not in Russia but in the capitalist world, initially Germany.

However, with absence of a vibrant working class, to sustain it , the Bolshevik Party itself was decaying. Some old Bolsheviks, particularly Stalin, who had played an insignificant role in the revolution and Zinoviev and Kamenev who had actually opposed the October revolution were tending towards an unmarxist position that socialism could be achieved within the Soviet Union. A socialist island in a capitalist world.

Great Russian bully is how Lenin described Stalin over the “ Georgian affair”. So a rift was developing. The Party took over the state in the name of the working class. Now the Tsarist bureaucracy was slowly taking over the Party.

It is worth recalling that in July 1917, the Bolsheviks had to share support In Petrograd, with another powerful left organisation – the Mezrayhontsy, the Inter District organisation. Not a catchy name, but in it were Trotsky,Rykov, Rakovsky, Lunacharsky, the great economist Preboensky, Radek and many others. It was Lenin who went in person to negotiate with this group on an amalgamation with the Bolsheviks. Most of these dominated the Central Committee after the union of the two parties was agreed.

Moreover after the revolution the Mezrayhontsy took all the major positions in the first Council of People’s Commissars – the government. Stalin, a mediocre and unnoticed figure was given the Workers and Peasants Inspection. It was through this channel and via his party position of general secretary that state bureaucrats with no Marxist understanding or background were recruited in ever greater numbers into the Communist Party. These people would have a nationalistic outlook one which Stalin himself was heading. Whereas in 1917, the Bolsheviks headed by Lenin and Trotsky and their left supporters could always call on popular support against the conservatism of the Old Boldheviks.

In 1926 when the struggle between left and right of the party was played out, the Left now joined by Zinoviev and Kamenev found that there was no mass working class who could support them. The Soviets themselves, in 1917 and 1918 vibrant organs of working class democracy were by 1923 empty shells filled with placemen and party hacks. The workers were either dead in the war, become party men or had become apathetic.

Before his final stroke, in 1922 Lenin had recognised how bad things had got and planned with Trotsky an assault on the Party bureaucracy in the 1922 Congress. A few day before it he suffered a stroke that paralysed him.

The Joint Opposition in 1926 laid out an extremely coherent plan ( Zinoviev and Kamenev had joined Trotsky) countering the horrific tendency towards the nonsensical concept of “ socialism in one country”. They failed as they were bound to. The Soviet population was politically supine. The peasants had their land, that’s all they wanted, the organised working class had gone. Who was to prevent Stalin using the bureaucratic mechanism of state control to defeat the Opposition.

The tragedy is, these great, humanitarian socialist thinkers Radek, Rykov, Rakovsky, Yoffe, Lunacharsky met their end at the hands of anti socialist bureaucratic police regime headed by Stalin. Only Trotsky survived, too big to kill, because in the popular mind at that time he was still closely associated with Lenin and the revolution.

The Bolsheviks failed and the Soviet Union collapsed into a murderous state capitalist bureaucratic nightmare because their principal failure was the failure of the revolution in Europe. The idea that the Soviet Union proves that Communism doesn’t work is nonsense, it has yet to be tried. The Russian revolution was the first step, but capitalism proved to be too strong. It won’t always be the case.


Religion is a form of Political Expression

Islam in Saudi Arabia is the means by which that ruling class expresses its political justification for exploiting and repressing its people. Any tolerance of any other view undermines it.

Christianity played the same role in Europe until quite recently. Where class ideology is expressed only in religious terms opposition will be expressed in those terms too – look at the English Civil War.

Protestant Christianity played the same role in Ireland – so Catholicism was seen as an political expression of opposition to British rule. Catholicism played a similar role in Poland under Stalinism. I’m sure the influence of the Church is waning now it’s ceased to be a focus of political opposition.

But as an opposition in 20 th century terms it couldn’t compare to proper working class movements like Solidarnosc for instance. Islam in Europe and America is not the expression of class rule like it is in Saudi, it’s either a cultural heritage of a particular community or for a minority it’s become a political expression of opposition to western imperialism.

The trouble is all religions are based on magic and myths are utterly useless as a political programme. In the early 20’s there were large unions organised – even soviets for a while in Iran for instance. We have a long way to go to get back to that.

Now we are seeing the repression of trade unions in Palestine – one has to wonder if Hamas is connected to this. It’s easy to understand why the Israeli govt wants to repress Palestinian trade Unions – but why is the Palestinian Authority doing this? We still tolerate religious control of schools in this country using public resources. No religion should be allowed to have any part whatsoever in public education.

In my view the left has been at best dithering on this question by confounding racism with “Islamophobia ” a term coined by the left itself. A religious political programme is always nostalgic, hailing some mythical golden age of the past. Isis calling themselves a “Caliphate” exemplifies this – a return to the golden times of the 9th century when Islam was on the march. The Diggers of the Civil war were similar hailing a golden age of pre Norman England. The people who are most similar today are Le Pen and Farage, hailing another mythical golden age of Colonial empire.

Religious extremism will lead to terrorism- if you are only accountable to some god it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, even if everyone is against you. The trouble is terrorism does what it says on the tin – it does provoke fear and terror – the result is a wave of revulsion that governments can and will ride on to take measures against everyone- especially those even remotely connected to the perpetrators. It will be counterproductive to their cause – but they won’t care because they are doing god’s work.

history Matriarchy socialism

Personality in History – Stalin vs Trotsky

We are dominated by film and tv drama when talking about politics especially around important events in history.

We forget that these struggles are simply the tip of the iceberg and these figures represent grassroots social forces.

Let’s take Trotsky vs Stalin for instance.

In 1905 the first Russian Revolution or attempted revolution occurred. This centred on St Petersburg ( later Leningrad) and industry that was rapidly growing. During this revolution the working class themselves with no input from any socialist thinkers or theorists came up with brand new democratic formation that was an advance on all previous ideas of what democracy was. This became known as the soviet .

The soviet was different being a council consisting of representatives of workplaces and workshops rather than geographical districts. In normal elections politicians promise everything and deliver very little, simply because once elected they serve a term and then spend the final period electioneering.

Representatives in the soviet were not elected for a fixed period and were recallable and replaceable at any time.

The important point here is that the Bolsheviks and most of the socialist parties at the time did not recognise it or understand it and were reluctant to get involved.

Trotsky, however, understanding Marxism, not as a bible but as a way of thinking realised that workers themselves had invented their own democracy. He went to St Petersburg and although he was a bourgeois highly educated scholar, workers of St Petersburg recognised his ability not only to articulate their demands and grievances but also to plan the way forward. For that reason he was elected President of the Soviet.

He was not a Bolshevik, his following in Party terms was a small group but he had a massive following among the unaligned workers of St Petersburg. So much so he was not afraid in 1907 to tell the workers of St Petersburg that Tsarism at this stage had proved too strong and for the workers to return to the factories under their capitalist bosses and to plan for the future.

No Lenin or Stalin or any other Bolshevik acquired support from ordinary working people in this way.

It was hardly surprising therefore that when he returned to Petrograd as it now was, he was immediately elected as President of the Petrograd Soviet. He was not a Bolshevik, his group, the Mezrayhontsy consisted of a large group of highly dedicated and advanced socialist thinkers. They had a very large following among the workers. The leaders of the Bolsheviks, with the exception of Lenin were opposed to the idea of a further revolution to overthrow Kerentsky’s government. Like Trotsky Lenin realised that the key was winning a majority in the Soviets now springing up everywhere. The Soviets at this stage truly represented the workers and soldiers in the towns and cities.

For this reason Lenin approached the Mezrayhontsy in July 1917 and proposed an amalgamation with the Bolsheviks. In the first Council of People’s Commissars ex Mezrayhontsy members dominated the the government with the exception of Lenin, Zinoviev and Kamenev.

After the revolution and the civil war Russia stood in a perilous situation. To run the country the Tsar’s massive government bureaucracy down to grassroots local government still carried on administering the country. This bureaucracy, conservative, nationalist was a social force in itself. This is where Stalin comes in. A secondary figure in the revolution and civil war but an effective administrator was given the job of co ordinating government departments. He became the bureaucracy’s political expression through his party position of general Secretary he recruited into the party massive numbers of the people. So much so that by 1926, he was able to oust Zinoviev from his position as the virtual chief of the Leningrad party.

The struggle between Stalin and Trotsky was not a game of chess or checkers but a struggle between the weakened working class represented by Trotsky ( and Zinoviev and Kamenev who came over in 1926 to Trotsky’s side) and the state bureaucracy represented by Stalin’s centrist group. The intellectual abilities of the participants was secondary to the social/political struggle taking place as to whether the country was going to follow the socialist/ internationalist agenda or the conservative nationalist programme represented by Stalin.

The bureaucracy won and the Bolsheviks lost. Trotsky personally had such a following that putting him on trial was unthinkable he was exiled in 1929 with the official account being that he had voluntarily fled the country to side with the USSR’s enemies. Zinoviev and Kamenev who had “ betrayed” Stalin by joining Trotsky’s Opposition in 1927 were seemingly forgiven but then subjected to a Show Trial in 1936.

But one has to remember that although Trotsky himself was exiled he represented a powerful social / political current in Russia and many thousands of Oppositionists and anyone connected with them were murdered or sent to labour camps.

So a comparison between the cleverness of Trotsky with the cunning boorishness of Stalin is really a secondary issue.


Was the USSR Communist?

Marx & Engels

1 Revolutionary class the working class. China revolution based on the peasantry. Russia 80% peasantry in 1917.

2 So in China feudalism overthrown – read Marx what overthrows feudalism ? A bourgeois revolution.

3 The peasantry – an inherently conservative class. Once they have their own patch of land – that’s it.

3 Internationalism – the capitalist system is global no one can escape from it. Unless the revolution spreads into industrial countries it will fail. “ Socialism in one country” an un Marxist formulation disguising nationalism. Nationalism is a bourgeois concept.

4 The Workers State – Marx – a temporary stage where the workers take over the means of production then the state withers away to communist society where exploitation ceases to exist, instruments of the state, police, army disappear too. Russia and China ? Totalitarian police states exploiting the workers for profit State capitalism. Nothing whatever to do with Marxism. Lenin in 1919 “ This is a capitalist state that happens to be run by Communists” .

Trotsky Permanent Revolution and Lenin’s April Theses said the same thing, the bourgeois and socialist revolutions had to be carried out at the same time – the success of the latter depended on the revolution becoming international. Stalin’s triumph over the actual Bolsheviks represented by the Opposition in 1927 was a victory of the Tsarist bureaucracy over the barely existing working class. A victory of nationalism over communism. A counter revolution. China’s revolution was a destruction of feudalism – a bourgeois revolution.

The proof. The Soviet regime fell without a whimper. The state capitalists KGB became regular capitalists by simply dividing up the state’s assets between them. It remains a totalitarian police state.

China is a global player in world capitalism, imperialising and exploiting, lending money at a profit. Another totalitarian police capitalist state. Nothing whatever to do with socialism or Marxism.


Why is there Religion?

This is an introduction to the series of posts that overall seek to answer this question.

I am an atheist and a Marxist and I would argue that only an atheist can seek to answer this question. If I was ha was a believer in any religion the answer to the question, “Why is there Religion ?” is very brief. God or maybe gods / goddesses created the earth and everything in it including us and that is that.

Someone I am sure will say that Marxism is a religion. That is nonsense Marxism is a philosophy – a way of thinking. I have no time, a neither did Marx himself, for charlatans who treat Marx,Engels, Trotsky’s writings as biblical texts containing absolute “ truths”. See my post

I start with religion’s origins. The history of humankind is the history of human society. So I begin with the earliest form of human society hunting and gathering. The the next stage of human development came with agriculture. I deal with this in Ancient Matriarchal Society. With end of this also came the end classless “ communist” society and beginning of class domination and exploitation. I explore the origins of Christianity which is I hope to show a hybrid of patriarchal and matriarchal religion ideally suited to a society which itself was hybrid of patriarchal class structure while maintaining the base matriarchal economy.

“Religion exists, how shall we explain it? Well, by man’s need of religion. Domination exists, why? Simply because man has a desire for domination. Is this not similar to ‘explaining sleep as a force that puts to sleep’? Can anything be explained in this way? By the use of this method, everything in the world can be explained without turning an eyelid: the state is explained by the desire for a state; art by the desire for art the circuit by the desire for the circus.

“The love of liberty is an inherent tendency in every man. Nothing could be further from the truth! Was the ‘love of liberty’ an inherent tendency in Nicholas II or his class? When we have understood this, we are faced with the next question. Why do certain men have this tendency while others do not? And then – oh horror – we must get back to the conditions of their existence etc.” (N.I. Bukharin, Historical Materialism. p. 230)

Human beings do not just live on earth, we are the earth, a part of the earth that can move about, and think and do things, neither are we alone in doing this – but each individual is really nothing more than a lump of earth nonetheless.

“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

That much of Genesis I agree with. Society is therefore part of the earth. When we talk of human beings ruining or wrecking the earth, of course this cannot be true. We cannot ruin the earth any more than the trees can. This is all a matter of the Earth’s changing equilibrium.

Religious belief is part of the society we live in. Nobody believed in Jesus Christ in ancient Egypt nor could any one have been a Christian 200 years ago in Japan or China. Christian beliefs have only spread through different parts of the world through the invasion of western society. Islam, a religion stemming from a similar root, likewise spread eastwards and westwards by invasion, sometimes direct and military, sometimes through colonial penetration.

Religions are an aspect of material society therefore, the spiritual element exists through imaginative emanation from the material world. There is a saying amongst the Blacks of South Africa.

‘The white man came and told us about Christ, he told us to close our eyes and pray. When we opened them, he had stolen our land.’

The European colonialists invaded South Africa, undermined its society and restructured it according to the way most beneficial to themselves. Society was changed and so was religion.

As Marx says “man created god in his own image”. True enough, but God is constantly being recreated. Religions believe they own the absolute truth but the absolute truth changes constantly, this called “discovering God’s word”.

So yesterday, God was definitely opposed to homosexuality, in the Catholic Church, he still remains its enemy, but I sense a weakening of resolve – no weakening in Islam however. The C of E God does now not quite approve wholeheartedly, but is not opposing any more. If there is only one God, someone has got it wrong. Maybe it is western society that is changing its general view of homosexuality? God is reluctantly plodding on behind.

The Zionist God however, is far more materialistic. Sexuality takes second place to God’s concerns about land distribution. God chose Palestine to be the home of the Jews – no argument. The wall, downright brutal oppression, murders, victimisation, imprisonments, destruction and settlements – God said this shall be 2000 years ago, so the Palestinians do not have argument or a defence – after all, who can argue with God?

In the eighties and nineties it was becoming more popular to say that all religions that exist are really aspects of one religion, that Christ, Allah, Buddha and so on are merely aspects of the same god. ‘We all find our own way to salvation.’ This belief is still one aspect of modern society – all societies today are enmeshed or entwined into a single ‘world economy’ and daily grow more dependent and more alike to each other.

The idea that Christ was the same as Allah was rejected in mediaeval times and nothing could appease the difference between western society and its expansion and eastern society also attempting to expand, the religious conflict, there, was equally as violent.

If we take Northern Ireland as an example. It was the only places in the world where there still existed Protestant/Catholic conflict. Is it the religious belief that caused the struggle? Is it convincing to think that the IRA was fighting so that the Pope could rule the whole of Ireland? Was it Paisley’s belief really that the North would be run by Catholicism? The religious ‘conflict’ such as it was only a vehicle for political conflict.

It may be said that religions have a lot in common, they do, and this is because societies have a lot in common. With very few exceptions, nearly all religions in the world today are based on one simple principle – domination and submission.

God (whichever one) is the Lord and dominates, we submit to him. This principle exists because every society existing (with one or two tiny exceptions) is built on the same principle of domination and submission.

There is a ruling class that dominates and other classes which submit. Each society is like this and inside each there is a ranking order – a hierarchy. You submit to those above you, you dominate those below you and most religions embody this principle.

What about the question, why are we here? This question sounds very deep, it’s the trump card of religious belief – without God we have no reason to be here and without God we have no purpose.

Translate the question into the every day world. Why do we make cars – a factory work might ask – the answer the people need them. The bosses know that, that is why they are bosses. In religious terms

You are here to do as you are told. God has a purpose but that is not for you to question, you serve his purpose by submission to his will, exactly as you serve your boss’s purpose by submission to his.

Religion, therefore, tries to tell us that we are here for a purpose but that purpose is a mystery – its in the head of God but by carrying out the laws and statutes of God we are fulfilling God’s purpose whether that purpose means famine, starvation, war disease, oppression on any scale he knows why it is done.

So Why Are We Here?

Religion also seeks to answer that question. Unlike the first question whose answer never changes and never will while one class of humans force others to submit to their will, this answer changes all the time as human society changes.

If we had lived 200 years ago and looked at the world around us the thing that would have struck us first would have been the beautiful planning of it all, the Hand of God appears everywhere. Everything would seem to fit so perfectly. Flowers attract bees, bees fertilise flowers. Every species perfectly fitted for its environment, every environment with its perfectly fitted plants and animals. The human body also, as God created it perfect in every respect, organs for seeing, noses for smelling, breathing, working reproduction,, and child rearing – a monumental piece of planning. Every thing perfect in every respect – except human society itself -, which was full of misery, starvation, oppression, disease.

Religion explained all that. God made and planned everything, every animal, every plant as it was on the day it was created. Then he created man to be ‘Lord of Creation’ over all the other things. As a model he used his own self. But he went and gave man and woman free will, so what did they do? Man wrecked (it through the agency of woman) by wanting to know too much, not minding their own business – sneaking a bite from the tree of knowledge.

Thus humans, though made in the image of God are rotten and sinful, God therefore introduced the miseries of life to test us. The job of human society is to submit and find perfection through the exercise of free will.

However, as society emerged out of feudal darkness, these explanations became inadequate. They did not suit the will of the new industrial ruling class who had shaken society up – wrench power from the old landlords of the aristocracy. If the old patriarchal society could plunge into oblivion, to be wiped out and replaced by a new one so could religious explanations as to society’s origins and purpose

Darwin explained – he was a product of this new society – that life is not perfect. The plants and animals are not as they were created and have been far from perfect. Indeed millions of species have died out because they were not perfectly adapted. Evolution meant that change is going on all the time. Creatures that are suited live and reproduce, creatures that are not die.

In the changing world, in a world of competition between species, those that are the ‘fittest” survive, the others die out. Darwin could only think like this because he lived in a world where society was changing and he lived in a world where competition both inside society and between societies was daily more bitter. Malthus, a political economist who reasoned that society was a bitter competition for resources and the excess number, opened his eyes to nature and the weakest would die. His views became to be accepted by society for the same reason.

The religious part of society had to adjust. The church had to accept that part of the Word of God, hitherto an absolute truth – the creation – is an ignorant human myth and not actually the word of God at all.

Yet they maintain that God ordained evolution without mentioning it in the scriptures. Despite this glaring error, the parts of the word referring to the magical resurrection of Christ are still ‘fact’, the ‘proof’.

Today, evolution as the source of absolute truth has mostly been incorporated into official religion. There are pockets of dogged “creationists” hanging on in there. The world is not now being ‘created’ perfect but is ‘evolving’ towards the Kingdom of God.

Today God has to be more of a scientist, he no longer creates things out of ‘dust’ as before but must be equipped with a complete knowledge of atomic physics. He’s a lot less embodied, no longer a sort of Father Christmas in the sky but a force spreading out to the galaxies. He must have set off the Big Bang (who else?). One wonders why such a God would be interested whether someone eats pork or not, or who lives in which tiny bit of the cosmos as opposed to another.


Why did the Byzantine Empire last so long?

Gibbon described the Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire in the 18th century he meant the Empire until it’s final fall in 1453.

One big problem in interpreting history is that it is always approached from the standpoint and using the values of the historian’s own day and society. Often these values are ones that the people only perceive to be of their own day.

To the average person the Roman Empire fell in 5th century and was followed by the “ dark ages”.

This was the western centric view. The Empire that carried on in the east was redesignated by 19 th century historians as the “ Byzantine” Empire – something very foreign and rather exotic. They were not proper Romans because they spoke Greek. Western rulers were very keen to emulate what they thought the ancient Greeks and Romans to be. The American constitution includes a Senate, an upper house of wisdom, Capitol Hill itself is a tribute to the Romans. Napoleon saw himself as the Caesar of a new Roman Empire. The British thought that Parliament was like classical Athens, the Spartans – a more successful state in many ways – were crude by comparison. Palmerston’s marathon speech to the House of Commons summed it up with the subject of “Pax Britannica”. Britannia herself, symbolises Britain is depicted as a Roman goddess. While western society loved the ancient Greeks, as the foundation of modern culture – actual Greeks, the ones were regarded as Eastern, untrustworthy and lacking culture not even to be trusted with ancient monuments – Elgin clearly regarded Britain as in the inheritor of Graeco Roman culture – not the modern Greeks, so long under Turkish rule.. This is why Roman Empire was Latin and not Greek. The “real” Roman Empire was Latin and ended in 427, the rest became Byzantium, a Medieval Greek Empire.

But the actual history is different. When you look at a map of the Roman Empire at its greatest extent it’s eady to see that the major cities, the main ports are in the east, Corinth, Ephesus, Antioch, Nicaea, Byblos, Caesarea, Jerusalem, Alexandria among the main ones. All through the Middle Ages the mightiest City of all, with a population at its height in the 8th & 10th centuries exceed 1,000,000 was Constantinople . Excepting towns in Provence, towns in West were trifling. Throughout the history of the Empire the balance of trade and production was in the east. Anatolia and Egypt were the bread baskets of the Empire. Everywhere in the east Greek was spoken as the lingua franca. Rome itself became too remote, too peripheral. The decision by Constantine I to move Rome to the small Greek village of Byzantium. So the new Capital was called New Rome, after his death, it was designated “ The New Rome that is called Constantinople”. After Justinian, who had built the wondrous Hagia Sophia, Latin ceased to be language of government. From that time onwards the government language was Greek. But they were Romans, for them Roman meant civilisation, it meant the known world. The last Emperor Constantine XI who died defending the city on the walls of Constantinople in 1453 was designated “ Roman Emperor “.

However, looking from a people’s point of view, the Roman Empire was fundamentally a slave economy – the foundation of which was the high productivity ( relatively) in the Eastern half. While trade – as far as China and Sri Lanka flourished, this enabled cities like Constantinople, Antioch, Adrianople etc to become very large. As it shrank because of growth of Islamic states on the one hand and Western Europe’s ( particularly Italy) slow emergence from feudalism, together with the continued movement of peoples fro east to west, it became more petrified into feudal like structure.

All class based economic systems have contradictions that eventually bring their destruction. Slavery has one major one, the impossibility of increasing per capita production beyond a fairly low limit.

Slaves are in constant opposition to their owners. They may not show it, but slave revolts happened from time to time. But usually they expressed it by doing the minimum work they could get away with. Likewise the owners provided them with the minimum sustenance they could get away with. It was pointless trying to introduce more efficient instruments of production. Slaves would misuse any innnovation as far as they could. This meant that production could only be increased by the expanding the empire and capturing more slaves. But this meant increased need for resources to spent on defence – more legions. The East of the empire had better more productive resources – Anatolia and Egypt for food for instance. The better production provided surpluses which enabled trade to develop. The west however, with reductions in population through plague, constant and increasing incursions from Germanic peoples moving westward simply did not have the economic resources. The slave system eventually gave way to feudalism. A system based on landholders rather than owning people. There was limited incentive to innovate in that system, although in theory a static and closed system it produced greater surplus product that slavery. The single invention of horse harness, for instance, led to the heavy plough and more land came under cultivation. This produced enough surplus produced, especially in the 11th and 12th centuries, for the seeds of capitalism to develop in the bowels of the feudal economy. This brought Western Europe back to equality and eventually superiority ( economically speaking) withe East. Its ideological claim to rule over all the old Roman Empire ended in 1071 with the Great Schism Western economic superiority was exemplified by the taking of Constantinople by the so called 4th Crusade. The Eastern Roman Empire ended then really, but continued in a shadowy and weaker form until 1453. The Eastern Roman Empire lost its monopoly of Mediterranean trade to a revived Italy in the shape of Venice and Genoa. It was no longer able to withstand constant Turkish and Slavic incursion as well as the struggle with the Arab Islamic states.



On Patriarchy
On the question of gender it is difficult to be neutral, but not impossible, I hope to be reasonably objective. I am male, so therefore someone is going to say, “a man would say that”, but I hope not.
My concern in this article is to rehabilitate the term “patriarchy” so that it can return to serving an actual historical function. It has, in my view, a very distinctive meaning and by using it in the way that is currently used, it blurs the understanding of the present and makes understanding history particularly difficult.
Patriarchy, as it is understood today is little more than a synonym for “male domination”. It is always used in context as a contrast to its opposite, “feminism”. It this respect it used by feminists, probably to mean a more traditional and old fashioned prejudice against women in favour of the “superiority” of men. Except in extreme instances, it rarely used in connection with the term “matriarchy” – another important historical term.
It is a descriptive term in the sense, that it generally does not describe a system of social organisation, unless, one is seeing it from a more “radical” feminist standpoint so as to argue that society has been unchanging for thousands of years and is, always has been patriarchal. There some who would subscribe to this I am sure. However, I do not want in this article, to open a debate of that kind, not yet anyway.
The best way to illustrate my standpoint is through a specific historical example. A few years ago I read an article in published by the Women’s Press (Arlen House), called “Women in Irish Society (the Historical Dimension)” by Doncha O’Corrain and edited by Margaret MacCurtain.
Using the evidence of changes in law and custom around marriage, property and children, the author traces the evolution of the position of women in Irish society from the 7th to the 12th century.
Briefly her thesis is that women in 7th century Ireland were oppressed by a “patriarchy” but between then and 12th century they rose to achieve and “honoured” position in Irish society by 12th century. This was all lost again in the 12th century by the Norman invasion and the imposition of English laws and customs on Ireland.
However, apart from explaining the changes in the marriage customs, she does not really explain how or why these changes took place, or how they fitted into changes in the economic or social structure of Irish society.
The author describes early 7th century society as “patriarchal” in that women were dominated by the father or husband, but there is no mention of how property was held or whether there was any class structure in Irish society in which we could understand how women’s position was structured in Irish society. She says early on p1
“Early Irish society was patriarchal: the legal and political life was run by men.”
Such a definition of patriarchal may suit some, but to me it merely confuses. A patriarchal society is not simply a society where women are “governed” by men. A patriarchal society is one where the instruments of production, upon which the whole economic and social structure of society is built is owned by families. In the feudal system, which she alludes to indirectly as the “English customs and laws”, the instrument of production is the land itself.
The families who own these instruments of production are all governed, male and female alike by one “father” or one man – the patriarch. Patriarchy has two forms historically, the first is the “familia” of the slave economy, typical of ancient Rome and Greece etc. and feudalism and its kindred forms.
Patriarchy does not describe the tribal “clanna” of early Ireland, which might have been male dominated but not patriarchal. The simple understanding enables us to see therefore how is it that women became “liberated” in medieval Ireland and became subjugated again.
The author says later,
“in the course of time, the position of a woman was made equal to a man in many respects and this change took place fairly rapidly. It is not at all easy to explain.”
If we were not get waylaid by the notion of patriarchy it there should be an explanation for this.
Early Irish society was still mainly based on tribes. The actual structure of the clanna and the “sept” are not crucial except that the tribes in territorial terms were not settled in any way, territories were still ill defined. This means that Irish society was still in a transition stage of emerging from a nomadic, and therefore pastoral past, into a more settled agricultural society. Its recent nomadic, hunting/gathering or pastoral structure would have tended to make it a male dominant society, certainly, but not a patriarchal one.
Male domination in hunting or pastoral societies stems from the division of labour where men control primary production, that is to say they do the hunting. Hunters have to become warriors because of competition from other tribes. The tools of production for hunters are also the weapons of war. Women are involved exclusively in these society in the processing side of the tribe’s productivity, the turning of the hunted animals into food, clothing etc. In these societies there is no class structure as such, property cannot really exist except that which is tribally owned. There may be a pecking order, in a warrior society there will be, but that is not the same as a property owning ruling class.
Territorial competition either between the tribes themselves or from invaders like the Vikings never disappeared so therefore, the warrior caste could not either.
Despite the fact that Irish society was developing into an agricultural society, with the corresponding changes in the division of labour, therefore the rising role of women, territorial competition prevented it from evolving into an actual matriarchal structure, of the kind that existed in Catal Huyuk in Anatolia in 7th century BC or in pre Hellenic Greece. The evidence of the marriage customs shows that it was on the way towards matriarchy in many respects – at least up to the Norman invasion. The legend of Queen Maeve of Connacht seems to lend itself to this interpretation.
The development of the “Lanamnas comthincuir” appears to indicate as the author says, “marriage in which both parties jointly contribute to the marriage goods” Given that the old primary/secondary division of labour was eroding, this arrangement would make sound economic sense. The later type of custom “lanamnas fir bantinchur”, where the woman made the major contribution, and therefore appears to be in a primary role in the division of labour indicates an evolution towards a matriarchal structure brought about by a non class based agricultural society. I would hazard a guess to say that that various forms of marriage existed at the same time as the evolution in different areas would not be the same. Different economic situations would prevail where tribes on poorer agricultural land would seek to compete with better endowed neighbours, this giving rise to conflict and throwing the emphasis back onto a retention of a warrior caste.
Given a clan structure now based on agriculture, given the equality of labour in such a society and the need to have more children to engage them in production, it is hardly surprising that divorce became a simple matter for either party. If the clan maintained the land as whole community, individual partnerships were less crucial economically. Therefore it would become an economic necessity for a woman to divorce an impotent man, or a man who was cruel to her. Such a man may well have been expelled from the house. It was also important that moveable instruments such livestock; sheep, cattle etc. should not leave the clan. The man’s grounds for divorce equally point to the still pervading existence of outside completion, for instance the betrayal of a man to another clan.
This not to say than within the clan there was some form of hierarchy, some partnerships may have deemed as more important than others. The continued existence in some tribes of polygamous marriages still points to the fact that the redevelopment of matriarchy in its ancient form was still a long way off. This probably explains virtual nil effect Christianity had on marriage customs. In the end it was not the imposition of English law that brought the Catholic ideology into marriage, but the development, through the Norman invasion of the feudal economic and class structure. The new feudal landholders progressively undermined tribal structures.
Today’s society is not feudal, it capitalist, it governed by those who own capital, through which the capitalist owns all the means of production. It is true that the majority of capital is owned by men, but the majority of men are not capitalists. If it comes about that an equal amount of capital or even the majority of capital is owned by women, then little would change for the ordinary worker. The pursuit of profit, the growth of profit, is the rule of the capitalist system, it is a competitive system that gives rise to war and poverty. The gender of those being driven by these rules isn’t relevant to the running of the system, exploitation would be no different if all the capitalists were women. Capitalism does not actually need male domination to work, it is there because it’s antecedent was the feudal system. However, the aspirations inherent in feminism are completely encompassed by socialism, true liberation for women, in my view, lies down the same route as liberation for all from the oppression of capitalism.

27 January 2014