This is the last article you can read this month
You can read more article this month
You can read more articles this month
Sorry your limit is up for this month
AS usual, while the Tory conference in Manchester had a backdrop of very serious issues for working people, it wasn’t itself a serious occasion. It was essentially a large gathering of lobbyists, looking for sinecures and contracts.
While attacks on the “woke” peppered the conference, this too has become a joke term, used to signify anything Tories don’t like, which is most things apart from profit and exploitation.
Boris Johnson’s speech on the last day was no exception, best characterised as not very good light entertainment, containing lines like “Hereward the Woke.”
Even so, Johnson did use it to flag a few points that the Tories will continue to press on, not least their ideological culture wars.
Given that the culture secretary is now Nadine Dorries, a best-selling writer of pulp fiction, socialists might reasonably think there are more important things to focus on.
However the culture war, particularly its historical department, can have consequences.
Johnson said that he was “minded to ignore” those who claim Winston Churchill was a racist
He went on: “But as time has gone by it has become evident that this isn’t just a joke — they really do want to rewrite our national story … We really are at risk of a cancel culture, know-nothing iconoclasm.”
He concluded that the Tories would defend “Our history … not because we are proud of everything, but because trying to edit it now is as dishonest as a celebrity trying furtively to change his entry in Wikipedia.”
The reality is that racism was part of Churchill’s worldview and that is well documented, although there is much else that can also be said historically about him and Johnson, among others, has done so.
Johnson, who did not mention that October is Black History Month, struck entirely the wrong note about British history — and he did so deliberately.
Yet while this may seem objectionable but hardly unexpected from the Tories, there is a sharply practical side.
Official threats to reduce support for the National Trust and other heritage organisations because they want to look at the realities of Britain’s imperial past continue.
While Johnson continues the mantra that statues of historical figures, no matter how racist, must stay up, the constant refrain of Oliver Dowden, now Tory Party chairman, no statues marking figures who stood up against racism have appeared.
One depicting Betty Williams, the first black headmistress in Wales, was erected in central Cardiff recently, but that was under the auspices of the Welsh Labour government.
In Wales black history is on the school curriculum, but not, of course, in England.
The impact of the disgraceful cut to universal credit is more pressing, but an understanding of British history remains important because it reflects not only the imperial society that the country was but, depending on how it is told, the kind of country Britain is now and will become.
There is a specific Tory purpose to all this. If black and ethnic minority people, working-class women, LGBT people, the disabled and others have no place in British history, then there is a delegitimisation in the present too.
In short, the Tories are trying to write people not just out of history but out of the future too.
It is Johnson who wants to cancel the bits of British history he finds inconvenient.
Socialist historians are in favour of telling the whole story and there is a good deal of research still required to do that, including the real history of black and ethnic minority people in Britain stretching back at least to the Tudors.
Keith Flett is a socialist historian.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by joining the 501 club.
Just £5 a month gives you the opportunity to win one of 17 prizes, from £25 to the £501 jackpot.
By becoming a 501 Club member you are helping the Morning Star cover its printing, distribution and staff costs — help keep our paper thriving by joining!
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by become a member of the People’s Printing Press Society.
The Morning Star is a readers’ co-operative, which means you can become an owner of the paper too by buying shares in the society.
Shares are £1 each — though unlike capitalist firms, each shareholder has an equal say. Money from shares contributes directly to keep our paper thriving.
Some union branches have taken out shares of over £500 and individuals over £100.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by donating to the Fighting Fund.
The Morning Star is unique, as a lone socialist voice in a sea of corporate media. We offer a platform for those who would otherwise never be listened to, coverage of stories that would otherwise be buried.
The rich don’t like us, and they don’t advertise with us, so we rely on you, our readers and friends. With a regular donation to our monthly Fighting Fund, we can continue to thumb our noses at the fat cats and tell truth to power.
Donate today and make a regular contribution.