Friday, February 08, 2008

'Squire' Bywaters - meet Ned Ludd

Last week, the Glossop Chronicle covered another of our scoops. Yes, they had news that Stephen Greenhalgh has left the Highways Agency team in charge of the Bypass. and that Alex Bywaters has taken over.

The Chronicle has a most unlikely quote from a Highways Agency official, who states that Greenhalgh has been asked to take on other 'new schemes' in the Agency. We'll do our best to keep our eye on this, it should provide a laugh if nothing else.

But Bywaters has a pedigree. It seems he was leader of the 'North Team' which has presided over moves to widen the M1 motorway. This is a scheme that has met fierce resistance, with the police employing methods worthy of the Gestapo against those opposed to it. It's also been notorious as swallowing huge amounts of money - the Observer reported that the scheme was costing £21 million per mile last year (perhaps we need a new counter in the side column to illustrate how similarly expensive our bypass is?).

Regular readers know how much we love the contradictions that are often thrown up by the whole bypass issue. But here's one that relates specifically to Bywaters. We can reveal* that he is the 'squire' of a troupe of Morris Dancers called Slubbing Billys, based in West Yorkshire. The symbolism they use consciously references the huge social and economic upheavals brought about by the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th & early 19th centuries. The symbolism is that of the Luddites - too often portrayed as merely reactionary, anti-technologists. But enlightened radicals (and not necessarily those on the left) know they represented the militant wing of a popular struggle against early industrial capitalism. They - correctly - identified technology as having a far from 'neutral' role in industrial relations and the rise of capital. They were fighting to retain a degree of control over their living and working conditions, and by extension their lives - from relative autonomy to an utter dependence upon the mill owners (in such huge numbers that the British State employed more soldiers to fight them than Napoleon). Technology facilitated the capitalists' designs of comparative enslavement. Technology was not - and is not - neutral. And it remains a legitimate target.

So Bywaters belongs to a group that pay homage to Luddites, whilst working for the Highways Agency. The Car Industry is to modern capitalism what the spinning and weaving machines were to early industrial capitalism. No doubt that one has passed him by...

Our message to Bywaters is clear - now that Greenhalgh has gone, you're next. The folk of Lancashire will once again sing the achievements of General Ludd!

They said Ned Ludd was an idiot boy
That all he could do was wreck and destroy, and
He turned to his workmates and said: Death to Machines
They tread on our future and they stamp on our dreams...

* we have absolute verification of this fact, but you'll have to take our word for it for now...

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