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Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Richard Drayton, we salute you

With thanks again to JPG for the link, here is something you should watch when you have the time - even if the sound quality is a bit rubbish.  It's the first of four clips.

Historian on the Edge salutes Prof. Drayton for putting his knowledge to fine use in the public good.  It's a great example of living up to the ethical and political demands of being an historian.  The opening section is fabulous.  What's really historical here though is not the simple deployment of facts and figures, effective though that is, but the desire to question the dominant terms of the debate and the 'facts' we are being fed; the lies we are told.  History is not simply about the acquisition of facts.  That's just chronicling or antiquarianism; history is about questioning, critical thinking and investigation.  So, as historians I suppose we'd really need to know more about those graphs, but obviously that was no part of this lecture.

So, I hereby co-opt Prof. Drayton into that motley, rag-tag band of maverick resisters, the H.o.t.E. History Justice League, to which he will bring his economic historical talents and powers of explaining graphs, to set alongside my own highly prized skills of being shouty and offensive.

This sort of thing does really need to be circulated as widely as possible, as it is grounded in what people might call 'economic reality', it has what people might call 'real facts and figures' and as such it exposes the myth behind the ConDem cuts and that their economic 'argument' is indeed just so much ideological eyewash.  They need to respond to this.  Labour needs to make them respond to it, and therein lies the point, made by Johann Hari, that Labour must break its habit of constantly playing within the Tory discursive framework, of being perpetually responsive, of chasing after every hare that the Tories put up.  It needs to forget all that and go on to the attack on terrain of its own choosing. 

Here is a little story (as usual, from my military history hobby) by round-about way of an analogy.  After the battle of Balaklava (1854) a British army surgeon was treating a British heavy dragoon with a serious head wound.  Now, the British cavalry was trained with the sword by learning a series of cuts and appropriate parries.  "This is a nasty cut.  How did you come by it?" asked the surgeon.  "Well", replied the trooper, "I had just cut four [which I think is a diagonal cut to the body] and the damn fool didn't parry at all.  He just hit me over the head."

What the Labour Party needs to do is to stop parrying the cuts* according to some Tory/Tory media set of fencing rules, and just hit the buggers over the head! Metaphorically speaking, obviously.

* See what I did there?