Tuesday 16 December 2014

Poking, sneering, moralising and despising - the defining character of Fabianism


Let's get one thing out of the way. I'm not sure I agree with limiting child benefit to two children but there does need to be a debate about said benefit and whether it is the best way to support children and especially children who live in what we've defined as poverty. After all a significant chunk of child benefit is paid to mothers who have no need for it (again this isn't to say the benefit isn't welcome but that no-one will lack for basics by its absence).

So I understand Iain Duncan Smith's point:

The work and pensions secretary hinted the move was being examined by his party despite previously being vetoed by Downing Street over fears it could alienate parents.

Asked about the idea on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme, Duncan Smith said it could also “help behavioural change” in what appeared to be a suggestion that it could discourage people struggling with their finances from having more children.

Leaving aside that the Guardian is putting words into IDS's mouth, this idea probably has significant support amongst the population.  There is a widespread view (that I don't share) that having more than two children is somehow irresponsible and that child benefit provides either a reward or an incentive for such foolishness.

However, to describe what IDS has said as 'eugenics' is stretching the point well past breaking point. Yet - in a typical piece of bravado nonsense - this is what Polly Toynbee does:

Some themes deep in the heart of Toryism just never go away. Up they pop, over and over. Control the lower orders, stop them breeding, check their spending, castigate their lifestyles. Poking, sneering, moralising and despising is hardwired within Tory DNA.

The problem with this is that these days most of the proposals for controlling the lower orders come from the left-wing establishment, from the sort of people Polly approves of.

It was a Labour government that introduced the Anti-Social Behaviour Order as a way to criminalise things that aren't criminal. It is use to enforce a sterile environment that, in effect, permits the police supported by the magistracy to arrest anyone for any reason.

It is great figures from the left - H G Wells, J M Keynes and, most recently, Jonathan Porritt and David Attenborough who have been advocates of enforced population control, of eugenics. It is the people that Polly has dinner with who enthused about communist China's one child policy and socialist India's bribes for vasectomies.

It is the left with their moralising about debt and lending that wants to check the spending of the working class. It left-wing writers like Naomi Klein who put about the patronising lie that ordinary people are manipulated by corporations into something called 'over-consumption'.

And it's the left - including the last Labour government - who led the charge against people's lifestyles. Banning smoking in the pub, whacking a duty escalator on beer (while exempting wine and champagne), imposing planning restrictions on fast food takeaways and trying to ban gambling. It's the left that want taxes on fizzy drinks, bans on added sugar and salt, restrictions on portion sizes, the ending of multibuy offers and a host of other nannying interventions in people's lifestyle choices.

My party is not immune from these problems - you only have to look at Tracy Crouch and Sarah Wollaston to see this - but despising the worker is not 'hard wired' into Tory DNA. It people like Polly Toynbee who patronise and exploit ordinary people so as to prosecute their disturbed and disturbing political opinions. Political opinions we can trace back to that great Fabian socialist, H G Wells:

...the ethical system of these men of the New Republic, the ethical system which will dominate the world state, will be shaped primarily to favour the procreation of what is fine and efficient and beautiful in humanity - beautiful and strong bodies, clear and powerful minds, and a growing body of knowledge - and to check the procreation of base and servile types, of fear-driven and cowardly souls, of all that is mean and ugly and bestial in the souls, bodies, or habits of men. To do the latter is to do the former; the two things are inseparable.

And that equally renowned Fabian socialist, G B Shaw:

...If people are fit to live, let them live under decent human conditions. If they are not fit to live, kill them in a decent human way. Is it any wonder that some of us are driven to prescribe the lethal chamber as the solution for the hard cases which are at present made the excuse for dragging all the other cases down to their level, and the only solution that will create a sense of full social responsibility in modern populations?"

Or the ever so progressive Margaret Sanger:

 "... Degeneration has already begun. Eugenists demonstrate that two-thirds of our manhood of military age are physically too unfit to shoulder a rifle; that the feeble-minded, the syphilitic, the irresponsible and the defective breed unhindered; ... that the vicious circle of mental and physical defect, delinquency and beggary is encouraged, by the unseeing and unthinking sentimentality of our age, to populate asylum, hospital and prison. All these things the Eugenist sees and points out with a courage entirely admirable"

Eugenics was always a ghastly creed. But is was a creed - along with directing and controlling the lives of workers - that was at the very heart of Polly's Fabian socialism.



joe said...

It's true that eugenics was an important part of early Fabianism- but the article ignores the point that eugenics was accepted by essentially all British mainstream political movements- due to a mixture of dodgy science and convenience. So it seems odd to not also mention that Winston Churchill wrote in a letter in 1899 that 'The improvement of the British breed is my aim in life'. If he meant this, doesn't what Polly says have some grain of truth?

I'm not saying this to imply that Tories are evil. What I'm saying is that eugenics was essentially apolitical, say, as the ideas of terrorism and democracy are nowadays.

It seems disingenuous to fail to acknowledge this, and instead only focus on one side of the spectrum.

So following the logic of this article might not Toynbee be

Simon Cooke said...

Mind you, Joe, Churchill wasn't a Tory in 1899!

Miguel Madeira said...

Churchill was a Tory before 1904 and since 1924