The teenage toff killed by a bear: the “politics of envy”?

The Socialist Wankers Party has been in the news again. What for now, you may ask. The SWP   were once the biggest party to the left of Labour but in the past decade they have been in free-fall – riven by splits and a scandal involving female members being sexually abused by a leading apparatchik.

Trotskyists used to be considered a danger to Parliamentary democracy but nowadays they are seen more like a cult or just a bunch of sad losers. However a bit of the old tabloid fury has returned from the likes of the Mail and the Express. This time, though, it has nothing to do with a threat to capitalism, more to the SWP’s sick sense of humour.

Last week the inquest began into the death of 17 year old Horatio Chapple who was mauled to death by a polar bear while on a trip to the Arctic. He was a posh Eton boy and the Socialist Worker’s Troublemaker column, titled “Eton by bear? The inquest begins”, concluded by saying: “Troublemaker has long supported campaigning for the environment. Now we have another reason to save the polar bears”.

Personally I think the title is amusing and displays a sense of humour normally found lacking in Trots. In fact it reminds me of the sort of headline Class War would’ve been proud of. Ian Bone and his crew would’ve loved that and I can just imagine a cartoon of Cameron, Osborne and Johnson being eaten alive by a fearsome beast adorning the cover.

Bone himself has been strangely quiet on this story though. Not usually able to miss an opportunity to cock a snook at the ruling class, it hasn’t been mentioned on his blog as far as I can tell. But that hasn’t stopped him being the target of Owen Jones, the poster boy for the left wing of the Labour Party.

In his Guardian column today, Jones lashes out at the SWP for displaying “the worst politics of envy” and also includes Bone and Class war who on a recent march had a banner with a picture of Jones clutching a bottle of champagne that said: “Fuck off back to Oxford!” While admitting he found it amusing, Jones states: “This background baiting unites Bone with the vitriolic right, many of whom remain silent about class privilege until it becomes a convenient means to attack a leftwinger.”

Never one to resist a slanging match, Bone has accused Jones on his blog of being a media tart, “hoovering up every media opportunity which otherwise might have afforded a debut opportunity for the shelf stacker” – referring to Jones’ statement that the left should be a megaphone for “the otherwise ignored: the supermarket shelf stacker, the nurse, the young black man.”

Jones is often to be found on programmes such as Newsnight portrayed as the acceptable face of the left. He has also joined the Labour Party – despite once believing that a more radical alternative is needed – and so presumably he agrees with taking away JSA from young people who won’t do training and a cap on benefits payments.

What riles me about Jones is that he wrote a very good book a few years ago called “Chavs: the demonization of the working class” in which he ruefully discussed how the poor have been turned into hate figures or humiliated in the media. The ruling class are so on top that no-one thinks twice about denigrating benefit claimants on shows such as Benefits Street, whereas there would be howls of protest if that happened to ethnic minorities or gay people.

In that case, then, what is wrong with a bit of toff baiting and getting our own back on the Eton-educated elite who govern us and make life such a misery for so many? Jones says the Socialist Worker column is “socialism with the heart cut out, devoid of the humanity and compassion.” In fact all it is a bit of revenge laced with humour. It may be tasteless (no pun intended) but it is amusing as is Ian Bone’s blog from time to time when he puts the boot into lefties like Jones.

If there is any sympathy it should be with the poor animal who was shot, not the teenager or his family. A post mortem revealed it had bad teeth which meant it couldn’t hunt properly and was thin and emaciated with an empty stomach. A statement read out at the inquest said “the pain and the hunger is assumed to have influenced the bear’s behaviour significantly.”

What’s more safety procedures weren’t followed properly. Despite bear footprints being discovered days before the attack, no-one was on watch. Had there been the animal could probably have been frightened away.

Pity the bear and others like it, victims of climate change whose environment is being destroyed and who are facing extinction, not rich kids who get in their way and suffer the consequences.

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