Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Afrocentrism Avoids Discussion of the Real Issues Affecting Africa and the African Diaspora

January 28, 2022

Howe in his book on Afrocentrism powerfully states that, rather than actually confronting and tackling the real issues besetting Africa and Black Americans, it actually avoids them. He writes

In the end, indeed, I believe that most of the arguments about the racialisation of scholarship, proposed in recent years from a wide range of perspectives, are an evasion or distraction from serious political issues in relation to Africa and its diaspora, as much as for anywhere else. To observe that scholarly perspectives on Africa and diasporic societies have been massively influenced by racial ideology is one thing, and is obviously true. To analyses these histories of racialized scholarship and to trace the ways in which writers’ own ethnic origins have influenced their views, are important and fascinating tasks. But it is quite another thing to believe that such analyses offer significant aid in solving contemporary political or economic problems – let alone to think that the erection of counter-myths about African racial superiority or unitary, transhistorical ‘black perspective’ does so. At the height of the bitter battles in the American African Studies Association (battles which play a walk-on part in the story told here) Pierre L. van den Berghe pointed out – overgeneralizing in his anger, but with, I believe, an essential powerful truth – that

‘The African peasant does not care one whit whether his oppressor is white or black. Rightly,, he does not consider ‘race’ relevant. It should be a matter of deepest shame to us ‘intellectuals’ that we still talk as if it were relevant.’

If anything, that is even more true today than it was over twenty-five years ago.’ (Afrocentrism, 6).

I don’t think this is quite so true as Afrocentrism has been linked and superseded by the equally racist Critical Race Theory and demands for affirmative action, but Critical Race Theory in its turn will not criticise traditional forms of oppression non-Western societies, as it’s only interested in White colonial oppression.

And so ignores some of the genuine problems of Africa and its peoples, and Black Americans in the US.

Cheikh Anta Diop, the Victorians and Adolf Hitler on the Fundamental Importance of Race

January 28, 2022

Yesterday I put up review of Stephen Howe’s excellent Afrocentrism: Mythical Pasts and Imagined Homes, which traces the history of the movement and examines its ideas and the major figures within the movement. Afrocentrism considers that the ancient Egyptians were Black, and that their civilisation was the basis for western culture, which Whites stole. They also believe that there are major psychological differences between Whites and Blacks. Africans are also believed to have a single philosophy, and to have been able to make great advances in science, religion and politics through their distinct racial constitution. Race is held to be of fundamental importance affecting all aspects of life, culture and civilisation. Cheikh Anta Diop, one of the major figures in the movement and one whom Howe respects, despite his views, stated

‘All of humanity’s historical and social relations, from the beginnings of time right up to the nineteenth century, were ethnic relations, founded in phenotype…. humanity has been governed essentially in its development by these ethnic confrontations.’ (171).

Howe makes the point that Afrocentrism is strongly influenced by 19th century views of ancient Egypt and Africans. These were themselves the products of colonial administrators and anthropologists steeped in 19th century anti-Black racism. It’s just that they reverse this racism so that Blacks, instead of Whites, are the superior race. He points out that much Afrocentric writing has a curiously old-fashioned ring. Diop’s statement above is an example of this, as it is very much in line with the attitudes of 19th century White imperialists. For example, Benjamin Disraeli said ‘No man will treat with indifference the principle of race. It is the key to history’. ( Peter Vansittart, Voices 1870-1914 (Jonathan Cape 1984) 81).

Hitler believed that all civilisation and culture had been created by White ‘Aryans’. He therefore stated in Mein Kampf that ‘It is the duty of the national State to see to it that a History of the World is eventually written, in which the question of Race occupies a prominent position’. (Adolf Hitler, My Struggle (London: The Paternoster Library 1933) 166).

As for the exaggerated and grotesquely distorted claims made by the Afrocentrists and other Black activists about the importance and achievements of Black scientists, these are also comparable to Hitler’s own ideas about science and race. He also wrote in Mein Kampf

‘The national State will look upon science as a means for increasing national pride. Not only world-history, but also the history of civilisation, must be taught from this point of view. An inventor should appear great not merely as an inventor, but even more so as a fellow-countryman. Admiration of any great deed must be combined with pride because the fortunate doer of it is a member of our own nation. We must extract the greatest from the mass of great names in German history and place them before the youth in so impressive a fashion that they may become the pillars of an unshakable nationalist sentiment.’ (168)

Thus a movement that has the laudable ambition of challenging racism merely becomes another form of it.

A Thorough Critique of Afrocentric Pseudo-History, Psychology, and Science

January 27, 2022

Stephen Howe, Afrocentrism: Mythical Pasts and Imagined Homes (London: Verso 1998)

This is another excellent book I’ve been reading lately. I first came across in it an excellent review by the Black British writer, Caryl Phillips in the Financial Times at the time it was published, though it’s only now I’ve actually got round to ordering a copy and reading it. Afrocentrism is a set of inter-related, pseudo-academic disciplines based on the claim that the ancient Egyptians were Black and are the unacknowledged source of White western culture, which was stolen from them. Not only were the Egyptians themselves Black, but they may also have derived their culture and achievements in turn from the peoples further to the south, the Nubians and Ethiopians. Some Afrocentrists claim that Greece, Rome and Carthage were originally Black ancient Egyptian colonies and that the original peoples of the British isles were also Black. Some push this claim of Black African primacy even further, claiming that ancient Egyptians travelled to the Americas before Columbus, where they founded the Olmec culture. The ancient peoples of Asia too, the Indians, Thais, Chinese and Japanese were also Black. At the same time ancient Egypt expanded to colonise Africa, where it was also responsible for the major cultural, artistic and architectural achievements. Where these coexisted with alleged brutality and barbarism, as in West Africa, which had a highly sophisticated art alongside human sacrifice, this was due to biological degeneration from the original Egyptian herrenvolk.

Black Americans are held to be part of a single Black race and culture with Black Africans, and Afrocentric scholars are active trying to trace authentic African survivals in the speech, culture and psychology of Black America. There is supposed to be a single Black character and psychology and a distinct Black philosophy. At the same time, ,Afrocentric scholars believe that the Egyptians were masters of political theory and science, which can similarly be grotesquely exaggerated. Some of them claim that the ancient Egyptians knew about quantum physics and gravity and that the Tanzanians had semi-conductors. At the same time they are active researching and promoting various Blacks figures they believe were great scientists. Again, these figures, who could, like Benjamin Banneker, be genuinely impressive in their real lives, and their achievements are often wildly exaggerated.

Unsurprisingly there’s much racism mixed up with this. There’s a bitter hatred of Whites, as well as, Jews and Arabs. One Afrocentric writers claims the latter has been attempting to destroy African civilisation and enslave its peoples for 5,000 years. Which is quite incredible, considering that I think the Muslim Arabs only conquered north Africa in the 7th/8th century AD. There’s also a bitter hatred of homosexuality and strong rejection of feminism. In the early 1960s one Afrocentric group insisted that female members should show their submissiveness by crossing their arms and lowering their heads when one of the men passed them. There’s also an insistence on traditional family structures. At the same time, some believe that Blacks are intellectually and emotionally superior to Whites because of the greater amount of the melanin pigment in their brains.

At their heart, this is an attempt to compensate for the massive racial oppression and disparagement Blacks and their civilisations have suffered over the centuries, far more than any other ethnic group. Yet much Afrocentric scholarship is based on the severely dated writings of 19th and early 20th century European colonial officials and anthropologists, as well as other White writers, who definitely believed that Blacks were inferior. For example, Afrocentric scholars assert that, while Whites and Europeans are logical and rational, Blacks are emotional and intuitive. Which is very much like the old imperialist claim that Blacks were inferior because they weren’t rational and logical. The claim that ancient Egyptians were responsible for the colonisation of Africa and every advance made by the peoples of the continent also derives from 19th and early 20th century White sources. The only difference is that those writers believed that the Egyptians were part of a superior, ‘Hamitic’, White civilisation. And also mixed up with it are various occult, Masonic and New Age ideas. Some of these derive from Albert Churchward, a freemason, who believed that there was a war going on between freemasonry and socialism, and only the former could defend civilisation from the Red Menace. Other figures in the New Age part of the Afrocentric movement include Credo Mutwa, a genuine Zulu shaman, honest guv, and apologist for the South African apartheid state.

Howe’s book traces the history of these ideas, some of which have been around for longer than I thought. I was aware that the claim that the ancient Egyptians were Black and therefore equal to or superior to White civilisation began in the 19th century. I was surprised, however, to find that Black Americans, largely clergymen, were making the claims as early as the 1820s. He carefully distinguishes between those writers, like the Senegalese mathematician and nuclear physicist Cheikh Anta Diop, who, while wrong, nevertheless were diligent researchers and produced significant insights, and others who were far less impressive. Some of the latter can only be described as cranks, like the female Afrocentrist who claims that nearly everything, including Christmas trees, are representations of the Black male genitals. Some of the most virulently anti-White racist material comes from White writers, such as the assertion that Whites are inferior because we’re all descended from the Neanderthals, who are given a whole series of unpleasant traits. Some Afrocentrists seem to have set up their own Stalinist ‘cult of personality’. Molefi Asante, for example, has his own academic department and institute, who members and scholars always pay generous tribute to him for guiding them on their intellectual quest, and largely don’t say anything that wasn’t already said by the master. Quite a number give themselves impressive African names, meaning things like ‘Bearer of Enlightenment’, and a number have also claimed to have been African princes or holy men. Their real identities and backgrounds, however, tend to be much more prosaic. He also notes the connection and major differences with other major figures in Black scholarship and anti-racist campaigning, like Franz Fanon and W.E.B. DuBois, and the French Caribbean Negritude movement.

There are some significant difference between the scholars discussed here. Cheikh Anta Diop believed that ancient Egypt was the source of western culture and I think he wanted Greek and Latin replaced as languages by ancient Egyptian. But while his thinking was highly racialised, he wasn’t a racist. He wanted Blacks to join the global community of peoples as equals. He also believed that civilisation was cyclical, and that as Europeans supposedly took their ideas from Africa, so Africans should now learn from Europeans. Others were definitely racist, such as the speaker at the first Black History Month in 1986 who seemed to advocate shooting Whites, although he couldn’t tell his audience when, where and whom. In the case of Marcus Garvey’s son, this went into pure Black Nazism. When Jamaica celebrated Garvey’s birth in the 1970s, his son called for Garvey’s movement to become a Black National Socialism, because Africa also needs its lebensraum.

Among the researchers and writers examined and critiqued is Martin Bernal, the White author of Black Athena. This caused a major stir when it was published in the 1980s, possibly because, as Bernal himself suggested, he was White. Bernal was able to assemble a massive amount of information and was extensively criticised at the time. But he was also controversial because he believed that ancient Greece was also strongly influenced by the Semitic peoples, specifically the Phoenicians and the Jews. This was in fact based on contemporary Israeli scholarship, and was itself highly controversial. As a result, some of the criticisms of him and his work have a very nasty element of anti-Semitism.

The book is a thorough examination and demolition of Afrocentric scholarship with considerable sympathy for the genuine achievements of Black scholars, some of whom have made very trenchant criticisms. One Ghanaian or Nigerian philosopher lampooned the claim that there is a single, African philosophy based around a transcendent life force. In a spoof article he argued that the English, and therefore all westerners, venerated the mystic force ING, because English verbs often ended in ‘ing’, like ‘doing’ or ‘being’. In fact the claim that there is a single African philosophy comes from Tempels, a Belgian Roman Catholic priest, who only researched a single Bantu tribe, and the anthropologist Griaule and his Dogon informant, Ogotommeli. The latter two have become notorious because of their books’ claim that the Dogon had an advanced knowledge of astronomy. They knew that the planets circled the Sun in ellipses, and that Sirius had an invisible companion star. For R.K.G. Temple in the 1970s, it was because they’d been visited by aliens. For the Melanists, it was because they had intuitive knowledge of it through their pineal gland. Howe suggests that Ogotommeli probably knew about it from visiting colonial officials with an interest in the subject, and made the claim that all this was known to the Dogon as a way of pulling this arrogant colonial anthropologist’s leg.

The book also argues that Afrocentric views of Africa are themselves also damaging. They present the continent as a static, unfied culture, which has never suffered war and conflict between its peoples before the advent of Europeans. In fact it’s a continent of many different peoples and cultures. There’s no evidence that it was ever colonised by the ancient Egyptians. Only six ancient Egyptian artefacts have been found outside Egypt and Nubia. And rather than the ancient Egyptians introducing agriculture to the rest of Africa, there is evidence that it was independently discovered in six different places on the continent. As for the assertion that ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs are the source for various African writing systems, such as the Vai of Liberia, some of these are known to have been invented by specific individuals in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some African peoples are happy to promote the idea that they are descendants of the ancient Egyptians, while others very definitely are not. The problem here is that Afrocentrist claims of Egyptian primacy are obscuring the real achievements of Africa and its peoples.

As for the question of the racial origins of the ancient Egyptians, the book notes that this is a subject of near to Zero interest to professional, mainstream Egyptologists. A number of academics books and journals he surveys make no mention of it. When one does, it is simply to say that it is a distraction from the real issues Egyptologists want to examine. Genetic and craniological examination, however, suggest that the ancient Egyptians were racially identical to other peoples in that part of Africa. They show genetic links to the peoples of Neolithic Europe, the Middle East and India, and lesser genetic connections to the peoples further south. The Egyptian scholars themselves, however, see themselves as racially mixed and there was an argument at a conference in Cairo when the Black Americans insisted that they were Black. I also find some of the Afro-centrists’ concern to establish the racial identity of the Nubians rather odd. One Afrocentric writer hoped that one day science would be able to reconstruct the features of the Nubian pharaoh Taharqa from its skull fragments, and that these would show he was Black. I found this quite puzzling, as I’ve always assumed that the Nubians were Black. In fact I’ve never seen anything said to the contrary. When TV documentaries refer to Egypt’s Black pharaohs, they usually refer to the period when the country was conquered and ruled by Nubian kings. I honestly don’t know who these people are that assert that the Nubians were White, unless it’s some of the White writers the Afro-centrists have discovered in their search for suitable sources.

This pseudo-scholarship is spreading massively. The book notes the large number of university departments teaching it, as well as college and private schools and the torrent of books published, some of them also aimed at schools. It’s alarming that such pseudo-scholarship has become so widespread. And rather than liberating, as Afrocentric scholars believe, he makes the point that the subject is deeply racist, drawing on the same sources as White racists.

But rather than be angered by it, he finds it immensely sad.

Medieval Arab Writers on the Effects of the Sun on the Black Temperament

January 26, 2022

I put up a post the other day stating that we need to have more research into extra-European and non-White racial prejudice, as the situation is more complex than simply White hatred of people of colour. I mentioned the fact that 3rd century AD Chinese writers believed that people in the west, with blond hair and green eyes, were descended from monkeys. According to Stephen Howe’s Afrocentrism, they also had similar views about the Japanese. Some of the bigoted writers decided that the Japanese were descended from Chinese criminals who interbred with monkeys. Howe also notes in the above book that medieval Arab writers also had their own prejudices when it came to Black Africans, citing a 1992 article by Aziz al-Azmeh, ‘Barbarians in Arab Eyes’ in Past & Present. These writers believed that there was a distinct Black temperament and personality caused by the heat of the tropical sun. Howe writes

‘As Aziz al-Azmeh shows, numerous medieval Arab writers, drawing on a theory of climatic zones whi8ch seems originally to have been proposed by the Greeks, saw black Africans as suffering from a mental deficiency resulting from life in excessive heat and dryness: ‘Negroes therefore tended to be given to erratic behaviour, to levity, to prodigious sexuality, and to be much disposed to dance and rhythm, all because of the afore-mentioned effects of the sun’.’ (274). He also notes other books which discuss Arab racism, some of which deal with the Arab slave trade. This suggests that the Arab trade in Black slaves also had the effect of promoting ideas of Black inferiority. I can remember coming across a book on Arabic, which informed the reader that the word for ‘Blacks’ literally meant ‘the slaves’, but this was not held to be derogatory. This was in the 1980s, nearly forty years ago. Now in the 21st century real slave markets have opened in Libya, and Arab Sudanese enslaved Blacks during the civil war in the Sudan in the 1990s, that attitude, if it still exists, should be discarded.

Stephen Howe on the Extent of Slavery in African States

January 25, 2022

One of the falsehood’s Stephen Howe’s book, Afrocentrism, tackles, is the denial by Afrocentric writers and activists of chattel slavery in indigenous African societies. And when they do acknowledge it’s existence, they claim that it was somehow more benign than European chattel slavery. This is, quite simply, wrong, and the proportion of the indigenous population that was enslaved in Africa could be quite high. It varied from people to people between 30 per cent to as much as 75 per cent of the population. Howe writes

‘A further major theme in Afrocentric historical fantasy should also be noted: the tendency to deny, against all the evidence, that chattel slavery existed in precolonial Africa – or to insist that, if it did, it was a marginal, small-scale and benign phenomenon. One might set against this romanticisation Orlando Patterson’s estimates of the scale of precolonial African slavery, in the fullest comparative global study of slavery ever attempted, Patterson suggests that in the major early states of West Africa – Islamic Ghana, Mali, Segou and Songhay – slaves constituted 30 per cent of the population. In the states of the central Sudan and the Hausa city-states, it was between 30 and 50 per cent. In the Fulani kingdoms established after the jihad of the eighteenth century, between 30 and 66 per cent of the people were enslaved, while in the state of what are now Senegal, Gambia, Sierra Leone and Ghana, figures ranged from 30 to 75 per cent. Among the precolonial Yoruba, from a third to a half of the population existed in servile status, while in many of the states of Central Africa – among the Kongo, Luvale and Lozi, for instance – the figure was over 50 per cent.

Internal African slavery and slave-trading were undoubtedly on a very significant scale, and long predated the advent of European slave-raiding: though it remains quite possible – indeed, likely – that their growth was greatly stimulated by the effects of European demand, so that African slavery in its later, most extensive and many of its harshest forms can reasonably be ‘blamed’ in part on Europe. One estimate has it that the number of people enslaved within Africa, across the sweep of modern history, equally the number exported across the Atlantic and Red Sea trades. Important aspects of intra-African economic interchange, like trans-Saharan trade routes, included or were even pioneered by the trade in human beings. Nor is it true that slavery within Africa was largely ‘domestic’ and therefore, by implication, relatively benign: large scale plantation slave labour systems were introduced in several parts of the continent, albeit probably most often under at least indirect European or Arab influence.’ (149-50).

This does not excuse European slaving, and I think most historians of African slavery consider that African slavery expanded massively in the 18th century due to European demand. But it does place it in context. Unfortunately, I really do feel that contemporary anti-racism activists are trying very much to deny that indigenous African slavery existed, and place all the blame for it, and the subsequent problems of western Blacks and Africa, on Europeans. This is explicitly the case with Postcolonial and Critical Race Theory, which won’t tackle the genuine problems and oppressive aspects of indigenous societies, but simply concentrate instead on the faults and horrors of European colonialism.

The Experiences of Enslaved Africans in the Past and Today

January 24, 2022

One of the extremely positive features of Sean Stillwell’s Slavery and Slaving in African History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2014) is that includes short descriptions and quotations from slaves, slavers and slave masters in Africa describing their careers and situation. There was a striking variety of slave systems in Africa. In some societies, slaves were acquired for use and soldiers and could rise to high social rank through their connections to powerful chiefs., One of these was the Sokoto royal slave Dan Rimi Nuhu. The book states

‘At the end of the nineteenth century, during a civil was in Kano (located in what is now northern Nigeria) Emirate of the Sokoto Caliphate, Dan Rimi Nuhu, a powerful royal slave official, soldier, and titleholder, crowned the rebel pretender, Yusufu, as emir. Nuhu had long supported Yusufu’s cause and claim. Nuhu was a well-known and powerful slave i8n the palace, but he had joined the war camp of Yusufu early on in the struggle. When Nuhu arrived on horseback, Yusufu said, “Our trip is successful, our trip is successful since Nuhu has joined us, he has joined our camp!” Thereafter, Nuhu transformed Yusufu’s military camp into the proper seat of a rival emir. He gave Yusufu the royal regalia and insisted that he follow Kano court protocol. With Nuhu’s support the rebels later took the Kano throne. Afterward, the royal slaves and their families who supported the new emir gained a substantial amount of power.’ ( pp.89-90).

Others were not so well treated.

‘Msatulwa Mwachitete grew up in Chitete, located in central East Africa, to the west of Lake Malawai, in the house of his father, who had twelve wives. Their home was attacked numerous times by Mkomas of the Inamwanga, who regularly carried off women and children into slavery after setting fire to surrounding villages. During one such attack, Msatulwa was captured, along with his mother and brother. He was taken some distance from his home and given as a slave to Mitano. Msatulwa was forced to grind corn, cut firewood, cook, hoe fields, and fetch water, but was eventually given to another person, who treated him better. In the end Msatulwa found his way home after running away.’

Horrifically, slavery isn’t a thing of the past. The Islamists that have seized power in one part of Libya after the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafy have reopened the slave markets, selling the Black migrants who have travelled north in the hope of reaching Europe. Slave markets have also reopened in Uganda. The book also gives the testimony of Ahok Ahok, an enslaved Dinka woman, given to Anti-Slavery International. She was captured and forced into slavery during the Sudanese civil war in the ’90s.

‘Our family was captured about six years ago [i.e., about 1994] when we were already fleeing north and had crossed into the North into Kordofan. I was captured with my son, Akai, and my two daughters, this one called Abuk … who was about eight at the time, and a younger one, about two. We were taken by a tribe called Humr [i.e. Misseriya Humr], who split the three of us up. The man who took me subsequently sold me on to some other nomads to look after cattle, for about 130 Sudanese Pounds. I had to look after their cows and spent about six years with them before I managed to escape to Makaringa village…. Meanwhile my three children had been taken by others. For six years, until I reached Makaringa village, I had no news of them. When I reached the village, my son Akai heard where I was and joined me there. He is with us at this CEAWC centre. We then contacted the Dinka Committee and they were able to find my daughter Abuk, who had been renamed Khadija. She had initially been put to work looking after livestock, but had got into trouble when some animals had escaped – she was too little to look after them. After that she was employed as a domestic servant. She hardly speaks any Dinka language now, only Arabic… I still have no news of my youngest daughter and am still hoping to find her.’ (211-2).

The book also gives the names of some of the African organisations set up to help slaves. These include Timidria in Niger, the Dinka Committee in Sudan; El Hor (Free Man), set up in the 1970s by former slaves in Mauretania; and SOS-Esclaves, set up in 1995. These organisations face continuing difficulties to fight slavery and improve conditions for former slaves, as shown by an additional piece of testimony:

‘It is uphill work…. Some of their members have been imprisoned. Seeking help through the courts is usually useless. Sharia courts maintain that slavery is legal. Since no laws have been passed, laying down penalties for enslavement or detailing the rights of slaves, other courts and local officials maintain that they have jurisdiction if slaves bring cases for custody of their children or try to establish their right to remain on the land they farm. Former owners may claim the property even of freed slaves when they die.’ (213).

These slaves are not going to get any help from the western advocates of Postcolonial and Critical Race Theory, because these disciplines are exclusively focused on White racism and the horrors of White colonialism. I’ve mentioned that feminists in India and the Middle East have been bitterly critical about the refusal of the activists and scholars supporting these forms of Critical Theory to criticise the treatment of women and LGBTQ folk in these countries. Indeed, Indian progressives have attacked these postmodern ideologies for giving support to the most reactionary elements of these societies on the grounds that, as they are part of these societies’ traditional structures and not the product of western colonialism, they are exempt from criticism. And you could see the attitude in a speech given by Barbara Barnaby, the head of the British branch of Black Lives Matter to a fringe meeting of the Labour party last summer. She criticised the resurgence of slavery in Libya, because this was a product of Blair’s colonialism. But she didn’t condemn it elsewhere in Africa, where it is the product of indigenous forces. Her demand that Britain and the other European countries was based on the abuse of the peoples of the global south during colonialism, but made no mention or criticism of the tyranny, corruption and poverty of African rulers and regimes that is behind much of the migration to Europe.

This isn’t, as Kate Maltby tried to claim in the I a few years ago, an attempt to avoid being diverted from the campaign for equality and social justice in the west into criticism and activism against non-European slavery. It is the product of a profoundly racist ideology that sees slavery and other human rights abuses as only worth fighting if they are committed by Whites.

Barnaby, Black Lives Matter and similar organisations may have the best intentions, but their exclusive focus of White racism is actively hindering real anti-racism and campaigns to eradicate modern slavery.

Did Farrakhan Get His Ideas about White Origins from Fu Manchu Novels?

January 23, 2022

I’ve also been reading Stephen Howe’s history and critique of Afrocentrism, Afrocentrism – Mythical Pasts and Imagined Homes (London: Verso 1998). Afrocentrism is a pseudo-historical movement that claims that the ancient Egyptians were really Black, and that their ideas are really at the centre of European civilisation as they were passed on or appropriated by the Greeks and Romans. The book shows that it began in the early 19th century, and different Afro-centrists had different views of this glorious imagined past. Some believed that the real, great civilisation had been the ancient Ethiopians, who colonised ancient Egypt. Others claimed that the original ancient Greeks and Romans, as well as the Carthaginians, had been Black, civilising the White European savages. And there was considerable difference of opinion about the ancient Egyptian’s Blackness. Some Afrocentrists considered that the Egyptians were a mixture of Black African, White and Semitic races, and so while not White, and would have suffered under the segregation legislation, weren’t exactly purely negro either. This seems about right to me. They clearly depicted themselves as darker than the Europeans they were in contact with. Ancient Egyptian art commonly portrays Egyptian men as having reddish-brown skin, and women as yellow. The Minoans, however, are painted pink, while the darker-skinned people further south are portrayed as Black. And the rock paintings of Tassili n-Ajjer in the Sahara show that, thousands of years ago when the desert was green, groups of Blacks and Whites crossed and lived in it. It would be perfectly natural for these groups to have mixed and intermarried.

But the most bizarre ideas about racial origins seem to come from Louis Farrakhan’s branch of the Nation Islam. This holds that Black people were the original human race, and came originally from the Moon via Mecca. They also believe that White people are the creation of an evil Meccan scientist, Shaitan, to destroy the purity of the White race. Howe, in one of his footnotes, states that this idea is remarkably similar to one of Saxe Romer’s infamous Fu Manchu novels, The Island of Fu Manchu. Which leaves you wondering about Farrakhan’s choice of reading matter.

A Thorough Demolition of Postmodern Anti-Liberal Social Justice Theories

January 21, 2022

One of the other books I’ve ordered from Amazon, and which I’m reading at the moment, is Helen Pluckrose’s and James Lindsay’s Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender and Identity – and Why This Harms Everybody (Swift Press 2020). Pluckrose and Lindsay are two thirds of the group, with Peter Boghossian, of academics that are actively seeking to lampoon and refute the various pseudo-academic disciplines that have emerged from Postmodernism and Critical Theory. These theories, Critical Race Theory, Postcolonial Theory, Queer Theory, Disability and Fat Studies, promise to help make society fairer, but instead are doing immense damage, including to the very groups they profess to want to help. They consciously reject the Enlightenment ideas of reason, evidence, science and the individual and universal. This is particularly clear in Critical Race Theory, which denounces as a failure the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s, with materialist Critical Race Theorists arguing instead for segregation. CRT, Postcolonial Theory and Intersectional Feminism also reject ideas of evidence and reasoned argument on the grounds that this is a discourse created by White men to keep everyone else down. Instead they promote myth, story and lived experience as authentic, non-White ways of knowing that should takes its place. Those advocating this nonsense include Novara Media’s Dalia Gebreal, who was one of the editors of Decolonising the University a few years ago. In the case of the Postcolonialists, their view of an irrational east is exactly the same as the western Orientalists they decry following Edward Said’s Orientalism. And the real social activists in India and elsewhere in the Developing World are very much aware of it. I’ve only read a few chapters so far, but from what I’ve seen, Lindsay and Pluckrose show again and again that these Theories are only making matters worse. Real progress for Blacks, gays and other marginalised groups has come from evidence, reasoned argument and universalism – the idea that there are universal human rights, which should apply to everyone regardless of race, creed, gender or sexuality/ gender identity.

In fact some of these ideologies are actively malign and reactionary. Postcolonialist activists, for example, do not lend their voice to activists in Saudi Arabia or India protesting the oppression of women and LGBTQ people in those countries and the Middle East. It’s because the ideology itself actively defends and promotes indigenous, non-Western cultures and their worldviews, which may vehemently reject modern ideas of feminism and sexual tolerance. They’re only interested in oppression in the non-Western world when this is due, or can be blamed on, colonialism. This is explains why Barbara Barnaby, the British head of Black Lives Matter, in her speech to a fringe Labour party meeting a few years ago, condemned the toppling of Colonel Gaddafy and the consequent enslavement of Black Africans, but had nothing to say about the revival of indigenous slavery further south, such as Uganda. Nor did she mention oppression by Black African and other non-Western regimes. Instead she demanded that refugees automatically be allowed into ‘Fortress Europe’ because ‘You oppressed us under colonialism’. But overt colonial rule in many countries ended sixty or so years ago, in the 1950s and 1960s. These nations achieved their independence, and the poverty, corruption and oppression these nations have experienced since then have been at the hands of indigenous rulers. A far better argument, for me, would be to say that, as former imperial subjects, refugees from these nations deserve to be given sanctuary in Britain, and some activists have used this argument. But Barnaby’s silence about oppression and violence by indigenous non-Western regimes is part of the general refusal of Postcolonial Theory to confront this brutal reality.

The book’s blurb runs

Cynical Theories argues that struggles for social justice are strongest when they are founded on respect for evidence, reason and free and open debate. It deplores the harm that closed-minded Social Justice ideologues, cancel cultures and social media pile-ons are doing to the cause of social justice and liberal democracy itself.

Pluckrose and Lindsay demonstrate that only through proper understanding of the evolution of these ideas can we challenge this harmful orthodox, and offer practical strategies to combat it.’

After the Introduction, it has the following chapters

  1. Postmodernism ‘A Revolution in Knowledge and Powers’
  2. Postmodernism’s Applied Turn ‘Making Oppression Real’
  3. Postcolonial Theory ‘Deconstructing the West to Save the Other’
  4. Queer Theory ‘Freedom from the Normal’
  5. Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality ‘Ending Racism by Seeing It Everywhere’
  6. Feminisms and Gender Studies ‘Simplification as Sophistication’
  7. Disability and Fat Studies ‘Support-Group Identity Theory’
  8. Social Justice Scholarship and Thought ‘The Truth According to Social Justice’
  9. Social Justice in Action ‘Theory Always Looks Good on Paper’
  10. An Alternative to the Ideology of Social Justice ‘Liberalism without Identity Politics’.

This book supplies a much-need critique of these thoroughly pernicious theories, which regrettably have gained considerable ground on the Left and in academia. Instead of bringing people together and actually helping those they purport to want to help, they are actually creating more division and hatred. James Lindsay, one of the book’s authors, recently described his experience of appearing on Dr. Phil, an American talk show, to confront various Critical Race Theorists on Benjamin Boyce’s YouTube channel. When they asked him what he would recommend instead to tackle racism, he replied that it should be colour-blindness, where people are rewarded on ability. He said they looked at him as if they’d sh*t themselves.

If we are to progress as a people and species, it can only come through reason, logical argument and a concern for objective truth, as well as genuine liberal universalism, which sees everyone as equally deserving of human rights.

And that means dumping these destructive and pernicious pseudo-ideologies.

History Book on Slavery in Africa

January 20, 2022

Sean Stillwell, Slavery and Slaving in African History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2014)

I ordered this book from Amazon and got it through the post yesterday. I’ve done no more than skim it, but it appears to be an excellent history of slavery and slaving in Africa from its origins in the ancient past to the transatlantic slave trade and today, when, horrifically, Africans are still being enslaved. The blurb for the book states

‘This book is a comprehensive history of slavery in Africa from the earliest times to the end of the twentieth century, when slavery in most parts of the continent ceased to exist. It connects the emergence and consolidation of slavery to specific historical forces both internal and external to the African continent. Sean Stillwell pays special attention to the development of settled agriculture, the invention of kinship, “big men” and centralized states, the role of African economic production and exchange, the interaction of local structures of dependence with the external slave trades (transatlantic, trans-Saharan, Indian Ocean) and the impact of colonialism on slavery in the twentieth century. He also provides an introduction to the central debates that have shaped current understanding of slavery in Africa. The book examines different forms of slavery that developed over time in Africa and introduces readers to the lives, work, and struggles of slave themselves.’

Africa isn’t a single nation, but a continent with many different cultures and peoples, and the forms slavery took are similarly varied. In some cultures, slaves could rise through their relationship to their masters to high social positions, often in preference to their masters’ own sons. Some states used slaves as soldiers, arming them with guns. These slave soldiers appear largely to have been satisfied with their position and were unlikely to revolt. This reminded me of the episode in the British Caribbean when, faced with the threat of invasion from Napoleonic France, the British reluctantly armed their slaves. I’m not sure, but I got a feeling that this infused the enslaved peoples with pride. After the American Revolution, Black loyalists were also settled in the Caribbean. They were described as living under military discipline, with their own colonels and officers and to be largely satisfied with their condition. I think this says something about the importance of combat and militarism to masculine self-worth.

One positive feature of the book is that includes testimony and statements from slavers, slave masters and the enslaved themselves. Again, it’s important, as all too rarely the enslaved speak for themselves, although, of course, there are a number of books and literature from former slaves like Frederick Douglas and Olaudah Equiano denouncing slavery and demanding its abolition. The final chapter, which also discusses the persistence of slavery in Africa, also includes statements and testimony from former slaves. It also discusses the various anti-slavery organisations that have emerged recently in Africa, many of them led or founded by former slaves.

Part of the rationale behind the British invasion of Africa was to combat the slave trade at its source. Unfortunately this goal, and the hope of many enslaved Africans, was frustrated by the colonial authorities. These sided with slaveowners and existing power structures. Runaway slaves could find themselves returned to their masters, and obstacles, like higher taxes, placed in the way of slaves seeking to gain their emancipation. Lord Lugard is a prime offender in this, and there’s a quote from him where he states clearly that the people at home would go berserk if they knew what he was doing. But in some areas the arrival of the British was initially welcomed by the enslaved population as liberators. When we conquered Kano, in what is now modern Nigeria, the slaves were desperate to touch the British flag, because they believed this would secure their freedom. They sang the following song:

A flag touching dance

Is performed by freeborns alone.

Anybody who touches the flag,

Becomes free.

He and his father [master].

Become equals.

It is one of the injustices of colonialism that, for many slaves, this was not realised, and it is disgusting that slavery has persisted on the continent, so that slave markets have reopened in Uganda and Libya.

Lobster Reviews Book on Six British Fascists

January 14, 2022

It’s a new year, and a new issue of the online magazine on parapolitics and genuine conspiracies, Lobster. In issue 83 they have a fascinating review by John Newsinger, professor emeritus of history at Bath University, of Graham Macklin’s Failed Fuhrers: A History of Britain’s Extreme Right, published by Routledge at £24.99. The book’s actually a collection of biographies of six infamous British Fascists, Arnold Leese, Oswald Mosley, A.K. Chesterton, Colin Jordan, John Tyndall and Nick Griffin. Newsinger states that it is a book to read and keep for reference for the information it provides. He will never forget that Colin Jordan, of NF infamy, was arrested in the ’70s for stealing women’s underwear from Tesco’s. The Scum mocked him as a panty-thief, which must be one of the few times when the vile rag actually did something anti-racist. Jordan himself, as with all the grotty sawdust Caesars examined in the book, was a massive anti-Semite. He claimed he was innocent and it was all part of a Jewish conspiracy. Right. So he thought that the same people he believes have absolute secret control of media, politics and the economy, would feel the need to frame him for such a squalid petty crime. It shows both how paranoid the real Nazis are, and how ridiculous and absurd their stupid ideas about a secret Jewish global conspiracy get. Newsinger’s review summarises the careers of these real anti-Semites and Nazis.

Arnold Leese

was, the book claims, a pivotal figure in the development of British race nationalism. He was a poisonous anti-Semite who believed the Jews were the enemies of the White race secretly conspiring about Britain. They were to be first segregated and then exterminated. He founded the Imperial Fascist League. He was briefly interned during the War. After which he founded the racist magazine, Gothic Ripples, with its vile column, ‘Nigger Notes’. After a period of disillusionment with Hitler, he returned to praising him as one of the greatest statement produced by Europe. He blamed the war on the Jews. You hardly need to add that he was also a holocaust denier. His statement about it in Gothic Ripples sums up the whole mentality behind Holocaust denial: the people who do deny do so out of embarrassment, but would have absolutely no objection to it at all. Leese claimed that it didn’t happen, but if it had, his only objection would have been that too few Jews were murdered. Provided it was all done humanely. There is no way you can commit mass murder humanely. Leese also Lord Haw-Haw as a hero, and was jailed in 1947 for trying to help two Dutch SS officer escape to Argentina. Leese, unfortunately, wasn’t just influential in Britain, but also Europe and America.

Oswald Mosley

was the notorious leader of the BUF and the subject of an earlier biography by Macklin, which charted his career after the War. Mosley was an anti-Semite, although he constantly denied it despite all the plentiful evidence to the contrary. It’s therefore ironic, then, that Leese hated him because he thought that, as a member of aristocracy, Mosley’s own racial purity had also been compromised through intermixture with the Jews. ‘Cause Britain’s wannabe great dictator had a Jewish uncle on his mother’s side. In 1963 three members of his Union Movement, the post-war successor to the BUF, were jailed for bombing the offices of the Daily Worker. He managed to rehabilitate himself after the War, appearing on TV shows despite having condemned the Nuremberg trials and blaming the Jews for the Second World. War. I didn’t know about the bombing, and it explains why the authorities appear to be more afraid of White right-wing terrorism than Islamist.

A.K. Chesterton

was a relative of novelist and Christian apologist G.K. Chesterton. He was a member of Mosley’s BUF and editor of its magazine, The Blackshirt. He later broke away from the BUF, but continued as an extreme right-wing activist. Another grotty anti-Semite, he told the Nordic League that Jews should be hanged from lamp posts. He briefly served as a British officer in Kenya and Somaliland. But he’s also interesting for the way he and his followers also crossed over into the Tory party. He wrote for the Conservative magazine, Truth, which published his anti-Semitic screeds. He was even planning to run an article on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He also contributed articles to the magazine of the Royal United Services Institute, as well as the Daily and Sunday Express and the Evening Standard. He also ghost wrote Beaverbrook’s biography, before launching his own rag, Candour and founding the League of Empire Loyalists. He hated the Common Market and regarded those who supported it as traitors. Many grassroots Tories were also member of the LEL. When a Conservative MP accused League members of following a Fascist, it was pointed out to him that the chair of the meeting, the MP Jocelyn Lucas, was a former member of the BUF. The League firmly supported White rule in Africa. He also wrote the anti-Semitic book, The New Unhappy Lords, which claimed that the Jews were conspiring to enslave the west and incorporate it into a one-world superstate. Now we know the origin of that particular conspiracy theory and all those rantings about ‘globalists’. The National Front was former from a merger of the League with the Race Preservation Society, and served as the new organisation’s president until his death.

Colin Jordan

was another Nazi and member or founder of the National Socialist Movement. However, like Mosley he turned to anti-Black racism after the way, loudly supporting the ‘Keep Britain White’ movement. He also exploited the Notting Hill riots to promote racial hatred. He staged a series of tasteless racist stunt to stop the Labour candidate, Gordon Walker, getting elected. These involved his followers appearing in blackface and monkey costumes. After a Jewish cabby refused to accept his wife, Francoise Dior, the poor fellow was forced to flee to Israel after his home was firebombed. The NSM’s magazine hailed it as ‘the Second Expulsion of the Jews’. Two groups of NSM members firebombed ten synagogues and more in London. Jordan denied knowing about it beforehand, but had no qualms about posing with the accused outside the courthouse. He also hoped to get funding from the United Arab Republic and had schemes for a racist, offshore pirate radio station. I doubt it would have been a success. Not against Radio Caroline. He was also obsessed with Rudolf Hess, and wanted him awarded the Nobel Peace. It’s grotesque, but when you consider that they later awarded it to Henry Kissinger it starts to seem all too reasonable. However, the rest of the Far Right thought he was an embarrassment because he was too open about the Nazism they all held.

John Tyndall

was secretary of Jordan’s grotty NSM, praising the SS and the Holocaust in the pages of its magazine and calling for the creation of an SS state. He broke with Jordan to join the NF, taking over as leader. He was another anti-Semite who turned from attacking the Jews to racism against Blacks and immigrants. He also had connections to the American Far Right, helping them to resist the extradition James Earl Ray, suspected of the assassination Martin Luther King, from London. He was also a friend of William Pierce, author of the Turner Diaries, helping to sell his wretched Vanguard newspaper in London. The NF’s membership was boosted by Idi Amin’s expulsion of the Ugandan Asians, even though Amin was another anti-Semite and fan of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Well, Black and White, unite and fight – against racists and anti-Semites whatever their colour. After the NF’s electoral failure in 1979, Tyndall went back to Nazism before founding the fifth incarnation of the BNP. As leader of the NF, he was in some kind of power struggle with Martin Webster, who called it a gay organisation. I think that’s because Tyndall was gay, and had gay toleration written into its constitution.

Nick Griffin

claimed to have read Mein Kampf when he was just thirteen, and joined the NF when he was 15. The NF viewed some of the Middle Eastern countries as allies in the struggle against the Jews. He welcomed Iran’s reprinting of the Protocols and ardently supported Gaddafi’s Libya. After 9/11 he exploited Islamophobia,, but when debating Abu Hamza he found that his and the terrorist supporter’s views converged, with Abu Hamza telling the audience to support the BNP. And what a surprise, hem-hem, I do not think, as Nigel Molesworth would sa, he was yet another Holocaust denier. He then started playing down the anti-Semitism so that the BNP even had a Jewish councillor elected in Epping. Well, one of left-wing Jewish bloggers I follow – I can’t remember if it was David Rosenberg or Tony Greenstein, noted that the Jewish Conservative MP for somewhere around Islington or Tower Hamlets used to hobnob with the local Nazis at elections, complaining that the division between the BNP/NF and the Conservatives also meant the nationalist vote was divided. And the very respected Jewish historian Geoffrey Alderman got into a bit of hot water with the Board of Deputies of British Jews when his history of the British Jewish community stated that two per cent of British Jews voted for the NF because of anti-Black racism. The BNP’s peak came with the election of over 50 councillors and two MEP, of whom Griffin was one. He also liked Vladimir Putin, hailing him as an enemy of European liberalism and saviour of Christianity. He also supported Assad’s regime in Syria, even appearing on Russia Today to do so.

British Fascism’s Influence on Front National

Newsinger also notes that the book also claims that the NF also influenced the French Front National, now National Reveille. He wonders how this could be so, considering that British Fascism’s history is one of failure. My guess would be that Marine Le Pen looked at what they were doing, and then did the opposite. Her tactics are more like that of the founder of Italy’s post-Fascist party, Fini and his Alleanza Nazionale. Fini wound up the explicitly neo-Fascist MSI, and positioned the new party as centre-right. Le Pen has done something similar with the former Front National. Not that there isn’t a precedent in French Fascist history. The Croix de Feu were a ’30s French Fascist organisation, combing far right politics with their enthusiasm for cars. They also originally had a Fascist uniform, but their greatest electoral victories came when the dumped it and started trying to sound more like ordinary Conservatives.

This book’s important, because apart from the light it sheds on the history of British Fascism, it also shows where the vast majority of anti-Semitism really comes. And no, the real anti-Semites aren’t Corbyn and his supporters, let alone with sincere anti-racist peeps, especially Jewish, whom the British establishment has libelled and smeared. The real, poisonous anti-Semitism nearly always comes from the Far Right. And they are a real terrorist menace. I didn’t know British Nazis had bombed the Daily Worker and ten synagogues in the 60s, though I knew about the street fights between them and anti-Fascists. In the ’80s the NF were successfully prosecuted for holding paramilitary ‘self-defence’ training out on a farm somewhere. Part of the evidence they were planning to commit a terrorist outrage was that a can of weedkiller in a garden shed had the word ‘weed’ crossed out and replaced with Jew. Then there was the lone Nazi in the 90s who nail-bombed three pubs, including a gay bar. And this is quite apart from the assassination of Jo Cox and genuine Nazi outfits like the banned National Action. Simon Webb over at History Debunked has questioned the jailing of White Nazis as terrorists, when they have done nothing but look at Nazi material on YouTube, unlike the Islamists, who have committed real terrorist atrocities. I think the answer is that the authorities fear that they will start committing genuine acts of terrorism like those in the ’60s, as well as exploiting racism and the immigration crisis.

The six men profiled by the book are failures, but they continue to exert a malign influence and there is always a danger that their ideas will inspire real terrorism while persecuting and murdering innocents ’cause they’re the wrong religion or race.

For further information, see: https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster83/lob83-failed-fuhrers.pdf