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Leon Trotsky is alive and well and living in Strathclyde

Leon Trotsky’s views on the role of arts were well known. He argued that art in all its forms existed to convey political messages to the masses and that any other use of the arts was bourgeois nonsense. The idea that it was acceptable for the arts exist to express the personal views of some artist or to simply ‘entertain’ in a non-political sense (not that anything is really non-political to a statist) was just preposterous to Trotsky. Thus if the state wished to advocate or depreciate something, it was the role of the arts to assist with that process. A modern day example of this would be, say, the relentless demonization of smoking.

Which brings us to the views of the Orwellian sounding Centre for Tobacco Control. This group of lobbyists is infuriated that their calls for smoking to be censored by the British Board of Film Classification (who were once simply known as the Film Censors) has been rejected.

The board’s cautious mention of smoking for the first time falls far short of demands that smoking scenes, particularly in any film likely to be seen by children, should be banned in Britain and consigned to the cutting room floor. Professor Gerard Hastings, director of cancer research at the UK’s Centre for Tobacco Control, said: “If the BBFC doesn’t accept its moral responsibility, it might as well pack up and go home.”

And so we discover that this lobby thinks is the ‘moral responsibility’ of the state to impose standards on entertainment to make them more in accordance with the wishes of our technocratic betters (them, of course). Not only do they wish to make it as difficult as possible for you to make your own non-coerced choices as to what stresses and chemicals you expose your body to, they wish to prevent you seeing images which do not conform to the message they wish to indoctrinate you with. I would be curious to know if Professor Hastings also supports forcing people to take favoured chemicals?

19 comments to Leon Trotsky is alive and well and living in Strathclyde

  • toolkien

    an article such as this is right in the libertarian wheelhouse and has been beaten to death by the commentariat. But I am (naively?) moved to ask the basic question is why are there still so many people who believe they can change the world when the world hasn’t changed much in a few thousand years?Every ‘gain’ has a cost at the macro-level (i.e. the collective). Why do the masses of people continue to look outward for basic meaning that they will place faith in It’s so basic a question, but it is important for libertarians in that, without knowing why superstitions can’t seem to wrung from the masses, libertarians can’t ever make real headway against the rise of all forms of Statism.

    Like a pearl, new layers of Statism meld every year on the calcified structure of the previous years’. Every year new rules are piled on the old, and the old never go away. Some of the old rules may be functionally voided by the new rules, but there is always a net addition to the statutes. Taxes, fees, and credit confiscation only creep upward.

    Where does one start to try and end this? The grandiose schizophrenics who believe they can lead the masses, or those who must feel they need to led around by a hoop in the nose? When we explore the symptom of a Ministry of Culture (or equivalent), the disease has already been eating away well before this. Resenting those who would try and co-opt and coerce those who create art and entertainment is all well and fine, but the disease runs much deeper. The culture is already rotted. How can the rot be cured?

  • Bruce Hoult

    Newsflash! Centre for Tobacco Control says the British Board of Film Classification should “pack up and go home”.

    Who am I to argue against that?

    (p.s. I have no objection to “classification” and providing warning labels for the guidance of viewers, if that is *all* they are doing)

  • the Orwellian sounding Centre for Tobacco Control

    Wouldn’t an Orwellian sounding name be something like the “Centre for Tobacco Freedom”?

  • Call me a cockeyed optimist, but every year also seems to bring developments that make individual freedom of expression more possible, such as the blogosphere and streaming video. The death of the collectivist media would be a major step forward in human freedom. Today it’s only wounded, but it may not be long before groupthink is unthinkable.

  • Julian Taylor

    Unfortunately censorship on smoking and alcohol has been in force for some time at the likes of MTV UK, The Box and other music video stations. What can and what can not be shown on these stations is now getting to the point of being so complex that we often now have to check with a lawyer before starting to edit a video.

  • ernest young

    If the general public, and the opinion forming media in particular, chose to deride, or otherwise mock the ‘experts’ who make these narrow minded pronouncements, then we may halt the flow of twittery from these so-called ‘think-tanks’ or other privately funded institutions. If Prof. Hastings saw his name listed under the heading of ‘Fool of the Week’, or some such title, – in some, even mildly popular newspaper, it may well embarrass him enough to hold his tongue in future.

    When yet another edict is issued from one of these pseudo academic sources, it is reported as being of some consequence and merit, when, in fact, it is no more worthy than any other opinion offered by a drunken moron in any ‘local’. Admitted, he is probably not drunk on alcohol, but he is certainly drunk on the sense of his own importance…That these statements are usually issued around fund renewal time is no coincidence.

    Please note the title of this organisation is; Centre for Tobacco Control Research, not ‘cancer control’ – but tobacco control research,- as though tobacco was the sole cause of cancer, and lung cancer was the only cancer. So imbued with a sense of their own importance, they fail to see the irony of their chosen title…but then, fascists tend to be ‘irony blind’.

    While on the subject of spurious organisations with strange, and officious sounding names, the core organisation behind all this is Cancer Research UK, formerly Cancer Research Campaign, a charity that has been around for decades, panhandling for funding from anyone who believed in their scare stories. With the many billions of pounds collected,, one would have thought that they may have gleaned something from all of that expensive ‘research’, some ‘wonder’ breakthrough, but no, it seems that while the much maligned pharmaceutical companies do all the research, and find the answers, these pompous little ‘muck-a-mucks’, continue to plead for yet more contributions and funding to keep them in the manner to which they have become accustomed, all the while bleating about those big, bad drug companies.

    I would be very surprised if any research, sponsored, or directly funded by these charlatans over decades, has yielded any significant information to the body of knowledge on the treatment of cancer. Why do I think this? – because these non-proft organisations are run by fund-raisers and accountants, and other assorted scallywags, the qualified medical staff having little control over expenditure, ( or should I say distribution), of the funds available.

    There is no ‘bandwagon’, or fear, that is too trivial for these people to latch onto, as long as it can be exploited to extract the maximum cash from the system. It is a pattern, now well established, – get some second-rate academic or physician to make a pronouncement or two, and then leave it to the fund raisers. They are the real experts, – at milking any holy cow!

  • D Anghelone


    Sorry to offend but don’t you display much the same attitude as a Trotsky? Try reading your post as an argument against the efficacy of markets.

  • Julian Taylor

    ernest young,

    Cancer Research UK was formed February 2002 as a merger of Imperial Cancer Research Fund and The Cancer Research Campaign. To say that ICRF and CRC are “a charity that has been around for decades, panhandling for funding from anyone who believed in their scare stories” is a very, very misinformed comment to make, given that the real cancer research carried out in the UK is actually funded by them and not the people who should be doing it, i.e. the government.

    Prior to Blair the British CCC system, which deals with cancer treatment and functions almost as if it were a separate health system from the rest of the NHS, would get you into an extremely advanced cancer treatment system almost within days of diagnosis. Now under the appalling Reid and his pathetic employer Blair we have seen 70% of cancer cases having to wait anything up to 2 years for treatment and within less than 8 years of “Socialism” we have seen cancer relapses increase by over 30% due to the “redirection” of funds from the CCC system. The only thing holding together most people suffering from this disease is the care and support you are given by groups funded almost solely by Cancer Research UK and The MacMillan Fund organisations.

    Personally speaking when I had treatment I experienced none of the “usual” side effects of hairloss, constant nausea, sweating etc., as a consequence of the advanced treatments that hospitals like the Royal Marsden are able to offer, directly as a result of funding from Cancer Research UK.

    Charlatans? I think not.

  • ernest young


    Apologies for giving offence, really quite unintentional.

    I was so incensed at the title, and the purpose, of the organisation that Prof. Hastings represented, that I must admit to getting a bit carried away. Just what we need, yet another activist inspired ‘watchdog’.

    That Cancer Research UK feels that it has to fund such groups as the Centre for Tobacco Control is beyond comprehension, their remit seems to have little to do with actual research, and more to do with censorship and social engineering.

    It is the camp followers, and fellow travellers such as Prof. Hastings that I was riling against, those sort of folk would get anyone a bad name… and unfortunately most NGO’s and quangos seem to be ‘top heavy’ with their ilk. To compare them to ‘privatised’ politicians, would not be too far from the mark, they are just as unprincipaled, dictatorial, and bombastic as the elected version.

    Once again, my apologies to those ‘at the front line’, who really do care, and who do make a difference, and thank you for the very civilised upbraiding of my careless writing…

  • Euan Gray

    That Cancer Research UK feels that it has to fund such groups as the Centre for Tobacco Control is beyond comprehension

    Not really, when you consider that the most effective single thing that could be done right now to reduce cancer deaths is to stop people smoking tobacco, and therefore some funding of lobby groups to achieve such an end is entirely sensible from an anti-cancer point of view.


  • Julian Taylor


    No problem. I take the point that a scattergun approach to funding, if you have the funds and the means to be able to do this, can ultimately be the wrong thing to do. As many people know cancer is now loosely termed as a “lifestyle illness”, i.e. it can affect you if your diet is imbalanced, if you smoke, drink heavily or even just be susceptible to inherited carciogenic genes. Cancer Research can’t fund everything, the primary defence is through education – something upon which the current UK government has yet again apparently failed.

  • ernest young


    I could possibly agree with you, — if, smoking was the major cause of cancer, it may well be in the case of lung cancer, and even that is doubtful, but there are many other forms of the disease, notably leukemia, which has nothing whatsoever to do with cigarettes….likewise with skin cancer. But then, who do you sue in those instances?

    When you consider the air pollution before the Clean Air Act of 1950, or whenever, it is really no big surprise that there was so much lung cancer about, those London smogs were really something diabolical, also in them thar’ days, nearly everyone smoked the most potent and evil smelling cigarettes, and yet most folk still mananged to live to a ripe old age.

    Not that I am condoning smoking – I hate the idea, but I do wonder if cigarettes really were the evil that the activists claim. I get the feeling that a sizeable minority were anti-smoking in the first place, and that gave the ‘banners’ and litigators enough leverage to wage war on tobacco.

    Strange that the pro-cannabis group seem to have a lot in common with the anti-tobacco group, both claim to have medical opinion on their side.

    All this talk raises the question of just how far will this war on lifestyle induced illness’ go. We are seeing the opening rounds in the war on obesity, what next – alcohol? – just as deadly as smoking, if not more so, but somehow it does not seem to be a candidate. Then there is that ‘Sword of Damocles’, the grandaddy of STD’s, but I can’t see a war on that going along the same route as the anti-smoking campaign, do you? It all makes me doubt the motives of these ‘activists’, do they really have the general welfare at heart, or are they just a bunch of ‘do-gooders’, who get their kicks out of being so dictatorial…

  • Euan Gray


    I see your point, but what I was trying to get at was the practicality of stopping smoking from a cancer prevention point of view.

    Medically, there is no real debate that cigarette smoking is the major cause of lung cancers. It is absolutely not “doubtful.” Not the only cause, of course, but by far the most significant. It is also a significant risk factor in cancers of the throat, stomach and mouth, but these can be easier to treat. It takes several years for the damage to be done, and so one would not expect an increase in lung cancer cases for two or three decades after cigarettes became popular. This is, in fact, what happened.

    It should also be noted that the incidence of lung cancer has increased at the same time as the general level of atmospheric pollution has decreased, and that there is no significant correlation between industrial pollution and lung cancer in the general population (there is in some specific cases, however, due to highly localised pollution of a pernicious nature), even allowing for the time lag.

    I recall reading about a group of medical students being required to attend the dissection of a corpse, the cause of death being lung cancer. They were told this was so incredibly rare they would probably never see it again in their careers – this was about the time of WW1, or 10-20 years after cigarettes became popular. It is now THE leading cause of cancer deaths in the western world.

    It is worth noting that the incidence of lung cancer among pipe and cigar smokers seems to be not much greater than in the non-smoking population, and it is reasonable to infer that cigarettes – or rather some of the many additives in them – are the problem. Stopping people smoking the things is probably the best, easiest and cheapest way of reducing the number of people dying from cancer.

    I think you might misjudge the cannabis issue. Many doctors agree that cannabinoid compounds may have beneficial medical effects, BUT few of them suggest smoking marijuana is a sensible way of taking the stuff. Smoking dope is even worse than smoking cigarettes in terms of some of the carcinogens and tars one inhales. It might also be noted that nicotine is not without its own benefits, but taking it by means of smoking cigarettes is really not wise.

    In any public health matter, there will be zealotry and intolerance. No doubt there are many health fascists involved in the anti-smoking lobby groups, and no doubt they would also like us to become teetotal vegans living in recyclable caves. However, in the case of smoking, I think they are right.

    And I smoke.


  • ernest young


    Thank you for replying to my ‘Devil’s Advocate’ comment…:-)

    You are, of course, quite correct re cigarettes and cancer, but I am not quite sure which I dislike the most – the possibilty of getting cancer or the certainty of having to listen to the continual nagging and harangueing of pompous, self-righteous little pricks like that Hastings fellow, – and I don’t even smoke….I am sure that given time I could prove that you can get cancer just from listening to these ‘oh so well meaning’ types, probably of the incus or whatever it’s called, or at least that there are instances of death by boredom from listening to them…

  • Leon Trotsky

    That’s one weird headline you have there.

    Back in the real world Leon Trotsky wrote:

    What the worker will take from Shakespeare, Goethe, Pushkin, or Dostoyevsky will be a more complex idea of human personality, of its passions and feelings, a deeper and profounder understanding of its psychic forces and of the role of the subconscious, etc. In the final analysis, the worker will become richer. At the beginning, Gorky was imbued with the romantic individualism of the tramp. Nevertheless, he fed the early spring revolutionism of the proletariat on the eve of 1905, because he helped to awaken individuality in that class in which individuality, once awakened, seeks contact with other awakened individualities. The proletariat is in need of artistic food and education, but that does not mean to say that the proletariat is mere clay which artists, those that have gone and those that are still to come, can fashion in their own image and in their own likeness.

    Communist Policy Toward Art, 1923

    Really, he did. You can read it here. Of course I may have missed some “well known” place where Trotsky opposed the line for which he is famous, in which case I will happily stand corrected. But he argued the same thing repeatedly.

    Good luck with your campaign against controls on tobacco. But posting this sort of thing about Trotsky just makes you look ridiculous.

  • Luniversal

    Euan: You seem to be well informed, maybe you can help me. I am in my mid-50s, in excellent health, and I am thinking of taking up smoking for the first time in my life, partly so I can jab something at idiots like Evelyn Waugh and cock a snook at the health Nazis in public places. I fancy big, fat cigars as being more provocative than weedy little fags, also I like the smell better. I could afford one a day. Would there be much risk of my dying of cancer before some other disease of old age got me?

  • Euan Gray

    Would there be much risk of my dying of cancer before some other disease of old age got me?

    Probably not, if you’re in your mid-50s and start smoking cigars.

    If you want to cock a snook at the health nazis, why would you even consider asking the question? Presumably you think their arguments are wrong and/or silly, and your opposition to them indicates that you don’t take them seriously. In which, it is unlikely you would be deterred by the fact (not argument) that smoking is a pretty unhealthy thing to do.

    Do it if you want. I think it’s stupid, expensive, unpleasant and actively harmful, and I wish I’d never bloody started. However, I am not you.


  • Luniversal

    Thanks, Euan. Think I’ll start soon. I hear the most delightful reports of the pleasures of cigars.

  • Hi,
    Leon Trotsky’s views about smoking is good but ciggrate is not only reason of lungs cancer. There is many reason for lungs cancer.