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July 20, 2006

Neal Lawson

We should make it impossible to separate society from state.

What a truly horrible and disgusting idea. The state is simply that which we hire to do collectively what cannot be done individually. As the Boy Dave said, there is such a thing as society, it just isn’t the same as the state. The insistence that they are the same, that they should be indivisible, is the bedrock of fascism.

July 20, 2006 in Politics | Permalink


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neal lawson is a truly ludicrous man, it has to be said. he claimed a few weeks ago that the rise in street crime was attributable to the reality that so many people felt sad that they were left behind by 'turbo-consumerism' ... it's a thoroughly depressing state of affairs when someone as intellectually lazy as lawson becomes the primary intellectual voice of the left. gah.

Posted by: kimmitt | Jul 20, 2006 10:26:01 AM

Tim - I heartily agree. Some incline to invoke the notion of "society" whereas I'm inclined to share Mrs T's unease about using the term and tend to ask those who like flourishing it how many societies we have in Britain and how can we tell? Curiously, I've had much difficulty in getting coherent answers let alone in discerning a consensus.

Having recently engaged in a fractious online debate elsewhere about the consequences of the current military actions of the Israeli state, it was noticeable how criticism of the Israeli state is instantly construed by some as indicating antisemitism.

All very strange: Charles Fox and Edmund Burke consistently and persistently argued the cause in Parliament of the colonial rebels during the American war of independence. Lord Aberdeen, Britain's prime minister at the time of the Crimean War (very sensibly) disapproved of that war and was eventually obliged to resign. Similarly, Lord Salisbury, the PM at the outbreak of the Boer War, disapproved of that war too. History texts report that at the respective outbreaks of war, both the Crimean War and the Boer War were greeted by popular celebrations in Britain.

The war poets Robert Graves, Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon were notably critical of WW1 as a result of their experiences in the trenches. Lord Russell was a conscientious objector and fined, imprisoned and deprived of his teaching post at Cambridge in consequence.

By many reports of polls, about half the recent polling samples in America and Britain report disapproval of the current engagement in the war in Iraq.

Are we to seriously believe that all those dissenters were/are anti-British? On reflection, the very question seems ludicrous yet some persist in regarding criticism of the Israeli state as amounting to antisemitism. Double standards is perhaps the charitable way of describing that.

Posted by: Bob B | Jul 20, 2006 11:29:45 AM

no such thing as societal?

Posted by: Tom | Jul 20, 2006 1:26:43 PM

What need I do to discover whether, and in what circumstances, there is such an attribute as "societal"? Is my perception of "societal" the same as yours? These are rather fundamental questions which are exceedingly difficult to get answers for, which is the reason I feel so insecure about the use of such terms.

Posted by: Bob B | Jul 20, 2006 1:53:44 PM

He's repeating just what was meant by "totalitarianism" when the word was introduced by the Fascists. (N.B. fascists, not Nazis.)

Posted by: dearieme | Jul 20, 2006 2:32:31 PM

That could explain a lot. When Blair's Third Way first showed up on the political radar c. 1998, someone online posted a claim that had a provenance going back to Mussolini. Surely not, I thought but since I knew little detail about Mussolini, it seemed wise to check.

The second book I picked up, Martin Clark on: Modern Italy 1871-1995 (Longman, 2nd ed. 1996) p.250, where he writes about the policies of Mussolini's fascist government, there is the line: "They seemed to offer 'a third way', between capitalism and Bolshevism, which looked attractive in the Depression. . . "

The author is an academic historian at Edinburgh and the book was published before the 1997 election which brought New Labour to power so the connection is hardly a retrospective observation. Besides, the Third Way academic gurus who emerged from the woodwork would have surely checked on the provenance, wouldn't they? Mind you, it's always possible Blair didn't quite know what he was going on about. I can't resist the temptation to post this link to today's press:

"RORY BREMNER must feel like giving up. For years he’s done his best to parody George Bush’s strangled syntax and Tony Blair’s White House poodle act, yet here he is, on the night, completely outclassed by the guys themselves. The Bush-Blair cross-talk, picked up by a lurking microphone at the G8 summit in St Petersburg, was beyond satire. . . "

The really terrifying insight is that these guys, with their limited faculty for comprehension, are making war and peace decisions affecting thousands of lives.

Posted by: Bob B | Jul 20, 2006 3:31:19 PM

Strangely enough Bob, the reality is that Blair and Bush cut to the chase as to the current situation in the ME. It's the tranzi's such as Annan who are hopelessly bogged down in wishful thinking. If Syria told Hizbollah to stop 'this shit' the situation is indeed all over.

Posted by: Andrew Paterson | Jul 20, 2006 6:17:19 PM

Andrew - I too feel sure that if all the Palestinians and the neighbouring states of Israeli shut up and stopped complaining about the land grab, the ethnically segregated colonies on the West Bank and the long history of Israeli atrocities there would be peace in our time - to borrow a memorable phrase.

Remember the terrorist bombing of the King David Hotel in July 1946, organised by Menachem Begin, who went on to become PM of Israel 1977-83? So much for terrorists not succeeding.

How about Deir Yassin in 1948 when nearly 200 Palestinians were murdered?

What of that special unit raid on Qibya in 1953 under the command of Ariel Sharon?

Then there were the massacres in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in 1982:

"The Kahan Commission, an Israeli inquiry into the massacre established by the Israeli government, found that while the Phalangists alone, and no Israelis, were directly responsible for the massacre, the conduct of the political and military echelon was flawed, and named then Israeli Defence Minister (and future Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon, among several prominent Israelis, as bearing 'personal responsibility' for the events."

Try the report in November 2000 of that US-based group, Physicians for Human Rights, on Evaluation of the Use of Force in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank

The Khiam Prison in south Lebanon:

"Khiam prison was a detention and interrogation centre during the years of the Israeli occupation in Southern Lebanon. From 1985 until the Israeli withdrawal this May [2000], thousands of Lebanese were held in Khiam without trial. Most of them were brutally tortured - some of them died."

The atrocities are well documented in independent sources for those who care to search with an open and inquiring mind.

One excellent source is Avi Shlaim: The Iron Wall (Penguin Books). The author, who holds joint British and Israeli citizenships, is professor of international relations at St Anthony's College, Oxford.

Try this speech in Parliament in 2002 by Gerald Kaufman:

Posted by: Bob B | Jul 20, 2006 8:57:09 PM

Erm thanks Bob for that ludicrously one-sided account of ME history. None of the contents relate to the fact however that Syria and Iran effectively control Hezbollah, and perhaps foolishly commited them to penetrating the Israeli border to commit an attack, which triggered this crisis. Hezbollah has now shot its bolt, and any international solution can't possibly permit Hezbollah to carry on in a position of military power in the South of Lebanon. In my view this was a huge strategic error, as Iran's proxy army has been commited now, rather than at a hypothetical time in the future when their military intent to destroy Israel may be close to a realistic possiblity.

Anywho there's plenty of blogs for this conversation. Let's leave Tim's for economics and erm scandium.

Posted by: Andrew Paterson | Jul 20, 2006 11:11:42 PM

The Party's slogan is: "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."
George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-four

Andrew - As I learned years ago, officially history always tends to start about a month or so after the repercussions of the last Israeli atrocity have petered out. That is why upsurges in the state of hostilities are always the fault of the Palestinians. It's some variation of Newthink as in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four. Take the current situation: it all started with the abduction of the corporal by Hamas in Gaza or the pair of soldiers abducted by Hezbollah on the Israel-Lebanon border. Right? What of this report on 24 June 2006?

"Israeli soldiers have seized two Palestinian men in an overnight raid into the southern Gaza Strip. The Israeli military said the two brothers were members of the militant group Hamas and were planning attacks on Israel."

All together: Israeli abductions good, Palestinian abductions baaad.

Try reading Avi Shlaim's The Iron Wall and note that Britain abstained in the UN debate on the future of Palestine in November 1947 warning that partition would lead to continuing conflict and so it has proved.

I can see this going on for at least another 50 years.

Posted by: Bob B | Jul 21, 2006 1:26:39 AM

Bob, thank you. I did not realize that the kidnapped Israeli soldiers were planning attacks on Lebanon. That was not reported over here. Appreciate your cluing us in.

Posted by: John Fembup | Jul 21, 2006 2:10:37 AM

Just pointing out that the Israeli abductions of two Palestinians preceded the abduction of Corporal Gilad Shalit by Hamas on June 25:

Curiously, the official news agencies of Israel, the US and Britain have been pumping out claims that the series of abductions were initiated by Hamas and Hezbollah. Those claims are patently false on the evidence of this BBC report of 24 June:

Btw I'm indebted to an anonymous American for the link to that BBC report.

Whatever Bush and "Oi, you Blair" are saying, the best I can gather is that mainstream international opinion is on the line that the ongoing Israeli military operations are grotesquely disproportionate with over 300 killed in Lebanon, mainly civilians, and half a million people displaced.

Posted by: Bob B | Jul 21, 2006 9:40:38 AM

Mmmm and the constant rocket attacks from Gaza and Southern Lebanon that Israel has been suffering pretty much since their withdrawals from those areas? Not well reported but quite an important fact one would think.

Posted by: Andrew Paterson | Jul 21, 2006 10:10:11 AM