What Michael said #2

(Or more precisely: “What Sid said Michael said”).

One of the knee-jerk reactions of neo-liberals to anyone that expresses left-of-centre views is to consider them as ‘commies’ and to point out that communism didn’t work.

Of course most sensible people realise that ‘left-of-centre’ encompasses a spectrum of views that is just as wide as the spectrum of right-of-centre views. Not every conservative is a fascist and facism didn’t really work either, did it?

Which is why, once again, I reach for a quote from my favourite fishery scientist of the past, Michael Graham, a former Director of the Lowestoft fisheries research lab, this time on the distortion of political ideals by extremists.

As recalled by Sidney Holt, Graham wanted all his scientists, of whatever grade, to be called naturalists, to spend the same amount of time at sea on research vessels as each other working for the common good and not as an individuals on their own research projects, and … for everyone to be paid the same! (The pay thing wasn’t allowed – this is the hierarchical UK Civil Service of the 1940s and 50s we’re talking about).

Anyway, as also reported by Holt:

Graham came from a farming background, Quaker family in Northwest England, and had socialist tendencies – Fabian style. “Then“, he said to me, after we had been talking about Engels’ The Dialectics of Nature, “Lenin came and f***** it all up”. Until then I didn’t know that respectable middle-class intellectuals used that sort of language, and presumed he must have picked it up from the fishermen, who hardly used any other sort of language“.

(I must have picked up my occasional use of intemperate language from the same source!)

Postscript: Graham, true to his beliefs, spent his sadly short retirement helping restore deprived areas in Salford into urban green spaces. Sidney Holt tells of this and much more in an online essay entitled “Three lumps of coal“; a good read for anyone interested in the political influence of American scientists on the misdirection of generations of fishery scientists into the fruitless pursuit of fisheries’ holy grail, the so-called maximum sustainable yield.

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😎 - Former scientist, now graduated to a life of leisure. - Family man (which may surprise the family; it certainly surprises him). - Likes cycling and old-fashioned B&W film photography. - Dislikes greasy-pole-climbing 'yes men'. - Thinks Thea Gilmore should be much better known than she is. - Values decency over achievement.

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