“The age of experts is over” proclaimed the Morning Star’s front page headline, in huge capitals, on Monday 26 November. It turns out that the headline was a reference to something that shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon had said during an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show the previous day: Marr had argued that Labour’s demand for an election was highly unlikely to succeed, given that to do so would require the support of 100 Tory MPs, to which Burgon replied by pointing out that “experts” have got a lot of predictions wrong in recent political history. Which is fair enough as far as it goes, I suppose (though it doesn’t change the parliamentary arithmetic).
But the Morning Star’s gleeful front page promotion of Burgon’s off¬the¬cuff response to Marr goes deeper. It’s a shocking celebration of ignorance and an obvious reference to Michael Gove’s philistine remarks during the referendum campaign. The fact that the story beneath that headline referred to the “elite” and “Establishment bigwigs” (terms that Burgon himself did not use in the Marr interview) marks a further degeneration by the Morning Star into populism. It may or may not be a coincidence that the same edition of the paper carried a semi-literate article by Kevin Ovenden (former SWP leader, then aide to George Galloway) objecting to the term “populism” as a being used by “capitalist elites” to dismiss “the massive opposition to those elites” as in (and this is Mr Ovenden’s chosen example) “the current French fuel protests.”
That day’s editorial was the usual anti-EU rant that included advocacy of leaving without a deal and trading on WTO terms — dismissing concerns about this (though diplomatically not mentioning the major manufacturing unions and the Labour leadership) as “Project Fear”.
I write to the Morning Star quite frequently and they sometimes even publish my letters. They haven’t published this one:
The first proper job I had was in a large, solidly unionised factory where I had the privilege of encountering a number of well-read working class intellectuals, some of whom were members of the Communist Party, others members of Trotskyist groups. What they all taught me was to critically read and analyse the best bourgeois thinkers and then to draw my own, independent, analysis of where the interests of our class lie. As I understand it, this was the method of Marx himself.
So I was shocked to see the Morning Star front page headline (November 26) “The age of experts is over” — surely a conscious reference to Michael Gove’s philistine statement that “people have had enough of experts”. The fact that the headline was a quote from shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon does not excuse it: Burgon must answer for his own glorification of ignorance and backwardness, but the Morning Star need not approve.
I also note that the same front page uses the populist terms “elite” and “Establishment” — words that were never used by Marx, and for good reason: they do not refer to class but to a conspiratorial, sub-sociological view of the world. This glorification of anti-Marxist conspiracism and ignorance is only rendered more profound by Kevin Ovenden’s article in the same issue, denying the relevance of the term “populism”: all this represents a serious regression into ignorance and philistinism. My old autodidact teachers in the factory would recoil in horror."