Hundred years war


Annoyingly can’t find my copy to check (why is it that you can always find all the other books except the precise one you want, whichever that one is?) but there is a moment in “The Longest Day” which is relevant to the politics of the day. All day on June 6 1944 fighting has raged on the beaches of Normandy, and up the frighteningly steep cliffs. By the end of that long day a few of the allied troops have got past the last line of German coastal defences and have emerged on to the farm land at the top of the cliffs. They pause, exhausted, and then an officer calls them to move on out and into France. The battle in effect is over, and what comes now is the consolidation, the digging of defensive positions, the establishment of infrastructure to get the heavy equipment moving, planes landing, communications working.

Was reminded of this the other day when Obama, some three years late, gave a speech in which he suggested that since America’s budget problems were in no small part the result of the slashing of taxes for the rich begun by Reagan and continued by his disciples, it would be good if, pretty please, the rich could begin paying just a little bit more of their obscenely bloated wealth for the common good of the country. Just a little bit you understand, nowhere near what they had been happily paying in Reagan’s time.

The response was both outraged and depressingly predictable, Obama, said the mouthpieces of the super rich, was engaging in “class warfare” …

… Had to pause at that point, get my breath back, taken away by the astonishing audacity and hypocrisy of that response.

Right, back now.

The period since that June day has been marked by new battles in two phases. In the first phase the kind of world that the American, British and Canadian soldiers; and, on other battlefields, Australian and New Zealand soldiers, had fought for, was gradually brought into being. As I’ve written before, there were moves to better support the old and the poor, provide better health and education services for all, do something about the degrading environment, develop a society in which the disparities of wealth were not as great as they had been.

Think of it, if you can (since I am forced into a topsy turvy world here by my stubbornness in sticking with my original, poorly chosen, metaphor), as the German Army invading France, introducing good German customs into a country needing social reform. The German Army, in this Looking Class (sorry, Glass) War, being the good guys.

But now the Allies (bad guys remember) have landed on the beaches. Have brutally pushed back social, economic reforms in America, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. Forced the progressive back up the cliffs pushed through the last defences, emerged triumphant on the cliff tops. Now for the digging in and consolidation of their gains.

So now we see nonsense like the “class warfare” tag, applied by the super rich 1% against the poorer 99% and accepted, unquestioningly, as a valid talking point by the media, their heavy equipment rolling across the countryside in support. We see court cases to destroy plain packaging in cigarettes, deposits on bottles; we see massive advertising campaigns to prevent action on coal seam gas, poker machines, mining resource taxes, carbon price; we see push back on progressive taxation, club opening hours, labelling of alcohol, national parks, workplace laws, public education and health, voting rights, and so on. The rich officer class and their willing foot soldiers are trying to make sure that they will hold this ground forever, make it impossible for progressives to fight back, lock in place the most regressive policies seen in 100 years.

It’s been a long day, but they seem to have won.