Archive for the ‘Algeria’ Category

Richard Coughlan Refutes the Claim that Muslims Will Outbreed White Europeans

September 23, 2017

This is another excellent video from the vlogger and stand-up comedian, Richard Coughlan. In this one he utterly destroys the video that has been going around, and been promoted by the far right, that within a few years Muslim immigrants will outbreed the traditional western European inhabitants of Europe. This is part of the general ‘Eurabia’ scare, again heavily promoted by the racist and Islamophobic right, that due to the massive disparities between White European and Muslim birthrates, Muslims will soon become the dominant ethnic group in Europe, with Whites a minority in their own countries.

Coughlan goes through the statistical claims made in the video, and refutes them with the real statistics. At one point he shows that instead of Muslims immigrants to France having eight children for every one White French child, the real figure is much lower. Most Muslim immigrants to France come from Algeria, where the birthrate is actually 2.1, which isn’t far off the European average birthrate of 1.6 or whatever.

He also demolishes the claim that Muslims will soon outbreed ethnic Germans. The video does this by cherrypicking bits from an official demographic report compiled by Herr Rademacher of the German statistics department. Rademacher’s now joined the EU statistics department, and has made a statement about the abuse of his statistics in the video. He states that the real figures are much less, and that there is absolutely no chance of Muslims overtaking Germans. He is also understandably quite angry about his figures being so abused.

He also makes the point that rather than having just arrived in Britain fifty years, Muslims have been around for a very long time. He states that the first record of a Muslim in Britain dates from the 8th century.

Coughlan’s an atheist, and concludes the video by pointing to the video’s own ending, where it urges its viewers to share the Gospel. It is, according to him, a piece of fundamentalist Christian propaganda. He does this to attack those right-wing atheist vloggers and pundits on YouTube, that have promoted it, and criticizes them for using such a Christian piece of religious propaganda to support their anti-Muslim bigotry. As an atheist, he considers one equally as bad as the other.

I am very definitely not an atheist, and have absolutely no problems with any Christian wishing to share the Good News. However, this video is not about spreading the Gospel. It’s about creating a sense of impending panic and racial fear, a fear that can only lead to more extreme nationalism amongst White Europeans, religious and ethnic friction and violence.

I have therefore put this video up, because these pernicious demographic lies have been circulating for several years now, and are at the heart of much EDL and BNP propaganda. Both of these groups have claimed that due to the rise in the European Muslim populations, there will be a race war in the next decade as the Muslims seek to impose their dominance on the country by force. At the last election one of the Kipper politicos in Wiltshire had to resign because he repeated this vile lie.

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‘Bomber’ Fallon and the Merchants of Death Arms Fair in London

September 17, 2017

Mike today has put up a piece over at Vox Political commenting on Michael Fallon’s speech yesterday at the DSEI arms fair in London. Fallon, who earned the monicker ‘Bomber’ because of a speech in which he declared that Britain had a moral duty to bomb the peoples of the Middle East, now went on to say that, thanks to Brexit, Britain’s future as the world’s leading arms exporter looked good. And that we should try to sell armaments to anyone in the world, regardless of morality.

Mike makes the point that Fallon’s comments are insensitive, coming as they do when Britain is selling arms to Saudi Arabia, which is using it to kill innocent civilians, including children in schools and madrasas, in Yemen. And Saudi Arabia has no qualms whatsoever against using such armaments against us. 17 of the 19 people involved in the 9/11 hijacking were Saudis, and the trail of responsibility for that atrocity goes right up to the top of the Saudi government itself.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/09/17/warmonger-fallon-wants-the-uk-to-sell-arms-to-anyone-who-wants-them/

This weekend’s Counterpunch also carries an article by Michael Dickinson, ‘Stop the London Death Fair’, about the DSEI trade fair and its dealings with some of the world’s most evil and repressive governments. It begins

Roll up! Roll up! Ballistic missiles and hand grenades! Drones, helicopters and warships! Rocket launchers, tanks and assault rifles! Welcome to the biennial London Arms Fair! Showing now until 15th September at the Excel Centre in Docklands, the Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEI) – “a world-leading event that brings together the defence and security sector to innovate and share knowledge” – presents one of the world’s biggest arms bazaars, displaying the latest high-tech arms and surveillance technology, crowd control and weaponry. This year the exhibition is split into five key zones: air, land, security and joint, all showcasing the latest equipment and systems. DSEI is organised by Clarion Events, with extensive cooperation from the British government.

Military personnel, politicians, private defence contractors and consultants mingle as they shop. Countries accused of war crimes and human rights abuses, Algeria, Angola, Colombia, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Pakistan, Turkey, the UAE, and Ukraine are among the invited. Although not an official guest, the Israeli arms industry has special pavilions at the venue, where over 34,000 visitors are expected to view the latest in killing weaponry for sale, exhibited by more than 1,600 arms companies, including the US and UK giants Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and BAE Systems.

With authoritarian regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and Azerbaijan among the official UK government guests in attendance, this year’s keynote speakers at the opening day conference included British Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and many of the top brass in the UK military establishment. Fox said that overseas governments had an inaliable right to defend themselves and that if they could not buy the equipment they required from developed countries with effective controls, like the UK, they would look elsewhere. Last year Britain’s arms export industry turned over 3 billion pounds.

Andrew Smith, a spokesman from the activist group Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) said: “DSEI is one of the biggest arms fairs in the world. It exists purely to maximise arms sales. Prime Minister Theresa May and her colleagues may talk about promoting human rights but DSEI could not happen without the full support of government. A lot of the regimes in attendance have been linked to terrible human rights abuses, and events like DSEI only make them more likely in future. It is vitally important to spread as much awareness as possible of this terrible arms fair taking place. ”

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/09/15/stop-the-london-death-fair/

Conservative governments, including Margaret Thatcher’s, keenly supported the British arms industry, and this policy was taken over, along with just about everything else, by Tony Blair and New Labour. It’s hardly surprising. George Orwell remarked when he finally gave up his anti-War stance in the face of the Nazi threat, and went to work for the BBC writing anti-Nazi and pro-war material, that if you’re a member of the British upper and upper middle classes, you’re bred for war. This has always been true, ever since the modern armed forces emerged from the military aristocracies of the Middle Ages. The officer elite has always been solidly middle class, although there has been some efforts to make it more diverse.

The government has tried to defend its massive support for the arms industry by arguing that arms sales open up foreign markets to British industry generally. After buying some of that ‘wonderful kit’ David Cameron enthused about, foreign nations would go on to buy other British products and services. But they don’t. They buy British weapons, tanks and other pieces of hardware, and nothing else.

And the British ruling class, its politicians and senior civil servants, also stand to benefit personally from the arms trade. Private Eye for decades has exposed the revolving door between the MOD and British defence ministers, and the arms industry, in which British generals and officials find very lucrative places on the boards of defence contractors and arms manufacturers once they retire or leave office.

As for the private military contractors, previously known as mercenaries, that the British government has supported, these have been used by the Tories to give unofficial support to regimes, where it would have been otherwise embarrassing for Britain to send in the regular army. Like Sri Lanka.

It hardly needs stating that the arms industry is a deeply immoral trade, and that by lauding Britain’s role in it Fallon has shown the complete absence of any kind of moral consideration for the victims of these weapons and a complete indifference to the nature of the regimes he intends to sell them to.

As far as he’s concerned, war is a business. And business is good.

Close down the arms fair, and kick out Fallon and the rest of his vile government.

William Blum’s List of American Foreign Interventions: Part 1

February 15, 2017

Yesterday I put up a piece about American hypocrisy in the allegations that Putin was blackmailing Donald Trump, when the Americans themselves interfered in the Russian elections in 1996 in order to secure Boris Yeltsin’s election as Russian president. This was, however, hardly the first time America had intervened in the domestic politics of a foreign country. William Blum devotes two chapters to this in his book, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower. In one he lists the various interventions America has made in other countries, including invasions and military coups, and in the other cases where America has interfered with the conduct of elections in order to secure a win for their favoured candidates.

Both of these are very long and ignominious lists. Here’s part 1 of a list of foreign interventions by the US.

American Interventions

China 1945-51
Aiding Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang against Mao’s Communists.

France 1947
Backing French Socialist party against the Communists, using Corsican mobsters to attack Communist party and Communist-aligned trade unionists.

Marshall Islands 1946-58
Indigenous people of Bikini Atoll removed from the island in order to make way for nuclear tests.

Italy 1947-1970s
Backing Conservative Christian Democrats to keep the Socialists and Communists out of power.

Greece 1947-9
Backing neo-Fascists and creating intelligence unit for them in the civil war against the Communists.

Philippines 1945-53
Military actions against the left-wing Huk forces.

Korea 1945-53
Korean War. However, afterwards US backed Conservatives, who had collaborated with the Japanese, and Fascist dictators, also committed atrocities against fleeing civilians.

Albania 1949-53
Backing anti-Communist guerillas, most of whom were collaborators with the Nazis and Italian Fascists.

Eastern Europe 1948-1956
Head of CIA Allen Dulles deliberately heightened paranoia in the eastern bloc, causing hundreds of thousands of imprisonments, purge trials and murders by the Communist regimes.

Germany 1950s
Lengthy campaign of terrorism, dirty tricks and sabotage against East Germany.

Iran 1953
Prime Minister Mossadegh overthrown by CIA and British led coup, as dared nationalise what is now British Petroleum oilfields.

Guatemala 1953-1990s
CIA backed Fascist coup against democratic socialist Jacobo Arbenz for nationalising plantations owned by American company, United Fruit. Result: forty years of terror, with 200,000 people murdered.

Costa Rica mid-1950s and 1970-1
Attempted assassination of liberal democratic president, Jose Figueres, because considered too soft on the left, and for making his nation the first in Central America to establish diplomatic links with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and questioning American foreign policy, like the invasion of Cuba.

Middle East 1956-58
Attempts to overthrow the Syrian government, shows of force in Mediterranean against opposition to US-backed governments in Jordan and Lebanon, landing of 14,000 troops in Lebanon, and attempts to overthrow and assassinate Egyptian president Gamal Nasser.

Indonesia 1957-8
Attempts to manipulate elections, assassinate, blackmail and start a civil war to overthrow President Sukarno. Sukarno neutral in Cold War, went on trips to China and USSR, nationalised private property of Dutch colonialists, and did not crack down on the Communist party, which was then engaged on electoral path to power.

Haiti 1959
Trained troops of notorious dicator Papa Doc Duvalier, and destroy attempted coup against him by Haitians, Cubans and other Latin Americans.

Western Europe 1950s-1960s
Granting of American money through charities and so on to various groups and organisations in pursuit of American anti-Communist, anti-Socialist policies.

British Guiana/Guyana 1953-64
Attempts to force out of office democratically elected socialist premier, Cheddi Jagan by America and Britain.

Iraq 1958-63

Long campaign against nationalist leader General Abdul Karim Kassem after he overthrew the monarchy and established a republic. USA and Turkey drew up plan to invade; this dropped in favour of arming Kurds, as well as assassination attempts. Kassem helped set up OPEC and created nationalised oil company. Kassem was finally overthrown in a Ba’ath coup, which also led to a clampdown on the Communist party, which was backed by both America and Britain.

Soviet Union 1940s-1960s
Cold War campaigns of espionage, propaganda and sabotage, backing of resistance movements against USSR.

Vietnam 1945-73
Vietnam War.

Cambodia 1945-73
Overthrow of Prince Sihanouk enabling Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge to gain power.

Laos 1957-73
Armed insurrection and bombing against reformist left, led by Pathet Lao party.

Thailand 1965-73
Armed forced against insurgents.

Ecuador 1960-63
Overthrow of president Jose Maria Velasco for not clamping down on left and not following US policy against Cuba.

Congo/Zaire, 1960-65, 1977-8
Overthrow of Patrice Lumumba in favour of dictator and mass-murderer Mobutu Sese Seko.

France/Algeria 1960s
Backed French military coup in Algeria to stop country becoming independent. Also hoped repercussions would overthrow De Gaulle, who was blocking American attempts to dominate NATO.

Brazil, 1961-64
Backed military dictatorship which overthrew President Joao Goulart for being too independent and friendly towards Communists, despite the fact that Goulart millionaire devout Roman Catholic.

Peru 1965
Military action against leftist guerillas

Dominican Republic 1963-5
Overthrow of liberal president, Juan Bosch.

Cuba 1959-Present
Attempts to overthrow Communist regime.

Indonesia 1965
Overthrow of Sukarno and bloody suppression of Communists by successor, General Suharto.

Ghana 1966
Overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah

Uruguay 1969-72
Dirty War against Tupamaro leftists guerillas.

Chile 1964-73
Long campaign against democratic Communist, Salvador Allende, culminating in Fascist coup of General Pinochet.

Greece 1967-74
Intervention against liberal Greek president George Papandreou, as he wanted to take Greece out of NATO and declare Greek neutrality in Cold War. Overthrown in the Fascist coup that inaugurated the rule of the Colonels.

South Africa 1960s-1980s
Assistance to South African apartheid government against African Nationalist Congress, which, amongst other things, led to the arrest and imprisonment of Nelson Mandela.

Bolivia 1964-75
Military campaign against President Victor Paz for supporting Cuba.

Australia 1972-5
Operations to have Gough Whitlam, the leader of the Aussie Labor party, removed by America and British, ’cause he was opposed to Vietnam.

Iraq 1972-5
CIA backed Kurds, not for them to get autonomy, but to distract Iraqi army and make sure they didn’t overthrow the Shah of Iran.

Portugal 1974-76
comprehensive series of measures, including shows of force by NATO warships, against radical policies proposed by the army officers, who overthrew the previous Fascist dictatorship of General Salazar.

East Timor 1975-99
Backing of Indonesian invasion, which killed 1/3 of the island’s population.

Angola 1975-1980s
Angolan civil war, which was basically proxy war between US, China and South Africa on one hand and USSR and Cuba on the other.

History Today on the UN, the Holocaust, and Post-1945 Genocides

October 12, 2016

I found the definition of Genocide according to the UN’s Genocide Convention, and a list of genocides that have occurred since 1945 in an article by Ronnie Landau, ‘Never Again?’ in the March 1994 issue of History Today, pp. 6-8. Landau was the head of Humanities at the City Literary Institute, and the author of The Nazi Holocaust, published by I.B. Tauris in 1992. Her article traces the origins of the word and the concept of genocide, coined by the international jurist Raphael Lemkin in 1943, examining and criticising the repeated failure of the international community to stop genocides recurring and to bring the perpetrators to justice. The article is worth discussing here, as it deals with many of the issues involved in the latest anti-Semitism smears against Jackie Walker.

Landau notes in the article that Lemkin was concerned not just with the punishment of existing crimes against humanity, but also with prevent further atrocities. The UN responded three year later, in 1946, by setting up a committee to consider drafting a convention on such crimes. The committee’s provisional definition of genocide declared it to be ‘deliberate acts committed with the intent to destroy a national, racial, religious or political group on grounds of the national or racial origin, religious belief or political opinion of its members.’ This led to the final Convention, which left out the references to economic and political groups. (p. 6).

The UN Convention on genocides states that

Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnical racial or religious group, as such:

A) Killing members of the group;
B) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
C) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
D) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
E) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Landau goes on to describe how various nations attempted to eviscerate this convention. The Soviets did so by stating that genocide, like the Holocaust, was the result of decaying imperialism and implied that the convention would be inapplicable in the future. In the Soviet bloc, the Holocaust was considered part of the wider crimes by the Nazis against the peoples of eastern Europe. Furthermore, the UN caused massive popular outrage around the world by failing to invoke the Convention against Pol Pot and the vile Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. This has resulted in many believing that the UN has lost its right to be regarded as a serious preventative force against such mass murders.

The article goes on to list the post-1945 atrocities, which may be defined as genocide according to the UN Convention as follows:

The Bengalis, 1971;
the Hutu of Burundi, 1972;
Ache Indians of Paraguay, 1968-72;
Kampucheans, 1975-79;
East Timor Islanders, 1975-present;
The French against the Algerians, 1945-62;
Governing Sudanese against Black Christians in South Sudan, 1955-present;
Post-Sukarno regime against Indonesian Communists, 1965-70;
General Pinochet in Chile against political opposition 1965-67;
Nigerian army against Ibo people in Biafra, 1966-70;
Guatemalan army against Mayan Indians, 1980-present;
Ethiopian regime against Tigre and Eritreans, 1980-present;
Iraqi government against Kurds, 1988 and 1991;
Pakistan, later Bangladesh, against Chittagong Hill Tract tribes, late 1940s-present;
Brazilian and Paraguayan governments against Ache and other Amerindians, 1960s-present.
Communist China against Tibet, 1959-present;
Indonesia against West Papua, 1969-present.
Stalin’s regime against the Communist party and selected elements of the population, up to 1953;
Macias government of Equatorial Guinea, 1968-79;
Idi Amin against the Ugandans, and particularly the Ugandan Asians, 1972-85;
the Argentinian junta against the ‘Left’, 1978-79. (p. 7).

The article then discusses the issue of whether aging Nazis should be tried for their complicity in the Holocaust, especially as those responsible for other horrors, such as Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein et al have never been hunted down or punished. It also notes that the Nuremberg Trials were remarkable in that they were ever held at all. When Landau was writing, there had been no further international trials either of Nazis or other genocides. She also states that there is a clear difference between the treatment of homicide and genocide. Those responsible for individual murders know that this is a crime, and that the police and other authorities will attempt to arrest and punish them. This is in contrast to genocides, who, as people in authority, rarely feel remorse, or are found guilty and punished.

She also discusses the difficulties in treating each genocide as equally serious, and not privileging the extermination of one group over others. She states

How can the international community show even-handedness i9n their investigation of such monstrous crimes, and thus avoid the construction of a hierarchy of suffering which condemns some genocides and atrocities to virtual oblivion, while others remain at the forefront of our consciousness? While preserving the distinctiveness and unique character of each genocide, are we prepared to make ‘connections’ between different genocides- identify common features – which may enable us to establish early warning systems to prevent the continuing abuse, persecution and destruction of groups, and the possible obliteration of cultures? (p. 8).

She goes on to discuss some of the features common to genocides, which may allow for its effective prosecution and prevention.

She also raises the question of whether it is possible to formulate a new code, based on previous conventions and what has been learned from the Nazi Holocaust, to set up systems for the international monitoring of potential genocides, with, if necessary, the deployment of UN forces. She then goes on to criticise current international inactivity over the war crimes in Bosnia, and compares it to the dilatory stance the international community took to the Holocaust, which led to the deaths of 6 million Jews and 5 1/2 million other innocents before the Nazi regime was wiped from the Earth.

The Holocaust, Jackie Walker and the Anti-Semitism Allegations

This article is acutely relevant to the latest smear against Jackie Walker, the former vice-chair of Momentum. Walker was accused and dismissed from her post because she had behaved ‘insensitively’ at a Labour party training day on Holocaust Memorial Day, because she had raised the issue of why it should not include other Holocausts. The organisers have claimed that it does, but this is refuted by the fact that it does not cover genocides committed before 1945. The definition of anti-Semitism they used also considers as anti-Semitic criticism of Israel, because of which it is not generally accepted. Furthermore, her Jewish supporters in Momentum have pointed out that the Israeli authorities and academics consider the Holocaust to be an experience unique to Jews. This list shows that this is clearly not the case, and that Walker was quite right to question the unique focus on the Jewish Holocaust.

This sole focus of the Israelis on the Jewish Holocaust also raises the issue of whether Israel can be considered an enabler of genocide. Israel is certainly guilty of the mass murder of Palestinians, and has followed a policy of ethnic cleansing of its indigenous Arab population since its foundation. In that sense, it would be guilty of genocide. But as Landau notes, the formulation of the whole concept of genocide by Lemkin was intended to prevent it from recurring. In this, the Jewish experience of the Holocaust was seen not just as unique in itself, but also an example of the horrors perpetrated against multitudes of others. By stressing the uniqueness of the Shoah, the Israeli authorities are undercutting part of the historical framework for the prosecution of other, similar crimes.

Finally, the initial smear against Jackie Walker as an anti-Semite came from a very selectively argued complaint about a conversation she was having on Facebook several months previously with two others. There she discussed Jewish complicity – but crucially, not complete responsibility – in the slave trade. But her point was to do exactly what Landau also raised in her article – make the point that there should be no ‘hierarchy of suffering’ which privileges some groups over others.

Tony Greenstein, one of the others, who was suspended from the Labour party by the Blairites for unspecified thoughtcrimes, has written an excellent article in the Weekly Worker demanding that Walker should be reinstalled as Momentum’s vice-chair and criticising Lansman, Momentum’s leader, for caving in to the Zionists. Mike over at Vox Political has reblogged Mr Greenstein’s article, with his own comments. He notes that Mrs Walker has a case for prosecuting those involved in the smears for libel and invasion of privacy under the data protection act. And as I’ve mentioned in a previous piece, far from being anti-Semitic, Mrs Walker’s discussion of the involvement of some Jews in the slave trade is certain not unique. Other historians have also, including several mentioned by Mrs Walker herself in her statement clarifying her comments.

The Israel lobby, as I have said before, are smearing decent people as anti-Semites, simply because they dare to criticise Israel and its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. In doing so, and insisting on the Holocaust as an experience unique to Jews, they are obstructing its application as a template of what constitutes genocides to other cases, and are therefore weakening the ability of the international community to protect other groups. This is to be resisted, as is the smearing of individuals.

Vox Political: Cameron Planning Internment Camp for British Radicals

February 17, 2016

This is a really scary piece Mike’s reblogged from the Canary. Apparently, Cameron and Gove are planning to isolate Muslim extremists in special secure unit to stop Muslim radicalisation in prison. This has been compared to Guantanamo Bay in America. Mike instead in his comments asks the extremely pertinent question of whether it’s actually instead something like a Nazi concentration camp, especially with the government’s establishment of secret courts. See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/17/cameron-wants-to-lock-radicals-in-a-single-place-like-a-nazi-concentration-camp/

Mike and so many, many others, like the Angry Yorkshireman, have blogged about the serious dangers these iniquitous courts pose to British justice and liberty. Under this system of, for want of a better term, special justice, the established standards of legal process may waived in the interests of ‘national security’. You may not see the evidence against you, nor know who your accuser is. Indeed, you may not be told what offence you have been charged. It tramples all over Magna Carta, and is exactly like something straight out of Kafka’s novels, The Trial and The Castle.

The motivation here appears to be the very rapid spread of Islam through the prison system through what looks like a very aggressive strategy of dawah, Islamic evangelisation. However alarmed some might feel about the spread of Islam in prisons, this proposal is should be more alarming. Firstly, there is difference between Islam and Islamism, and conversion to Islam does not necessarily lead to converts being set on an automatic path to extremism, at the end of which is ISIS or al-Qaeda. Indeed, the piece Mike’s reproduced from the Canary article states that the idea behind this special prison seems to be that Islamism is like an infectious disease, which isn’t the case.

The model for this special prison seems to be Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay. This was extensively criticised because of the illegality of the vast majority of the incarcerations their. The majority of those imprisoned would simply not have been convicted in ordinary courts of law because of the lack of evidence against them. With the addition of the Patriot Act, which provided for the arrest of anybody George Dubya and his cronies thought wasn’t sufficiently patriotic as a potential terrorist, the system’s critics saw Gitmo very much as the thin end of a totalitarian, Nazi wedge. Conservatives, like the right-wing Canadian cable/web TV host, Michael Koren and the British/Irish journalist Mark Steyn, resident in New Hampshire, have tried to justify Gitmo by arguing that normal standards of justice cannot apply in war. The conditions of battle are just too confused, they argue, for the same standards of reasonable proof to apply when assessing whether or not a suspect is guilty. The men and women interned at Gitmo are nevertheless extremely dangerous, and present a real threat to the public security if they are released. Hence their incarceration of what may be inadequate or flimsy legal grounds is justified. Despite this argument, the majority of those imprisoned at Gitmo have been released, and those still remaining seem to be there out of sheer bloody-mindedness by the authorities rather than any convincing legal reason.

I’m also worried about this, because it points to a long tradition of authoritarianism in the Tory Right. I’ve got a feeling Lobster ran pieces in the 1980s about Tory plans for internment camps in Northern Ireland, to be used against the IRA, modelled on the system of concentration camps the French had used in their campaigns against the indigenous peoples fighting for their freedom in what used to be Indo-China, out of which came the Vietnam War. These were dropped because whatever the threat of paramilitary violence in Ulster, it was felt that the British people would not tolerate other White Brits being rounded up and herded into concentration camps like Black Kenyans during the Mao Mao rebellion.

And the Tory need to incarcerate political and social ‘deviants’ raised its hideous physiognomy again when AIDS appeared in the 1980s. At the time there was a real fear that AIDS was so infectious and deadly, that it would wipe out the world’s population exactly as the population of Europe and Muslim North Africa had been decimated by the Black Death in the 14th century. In five years, that disease killed perhaps somewhere between a third and quarter of the European population, and a similar proportion North Africans in what is now the countries of Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria. Radical measures were being mooted to combat the disease. And this included the isolation of its victims. I can remember being chilled by an article in the Sunday Express that announced that the Swedes were considering building an ‘AIDS Island’ to isolate and treat the victims of the disease. British ministers were looking into the possibility of doing the same. Gay sex between men had only been legal since 1969, and much of society was extremely prejudiced against homosexuals, particularly the Tory party and the police. James Anderton, the extremely right-wing head of Manchester police force, stated that he believed that AIDS was God’s punishment for gays, and described homosexuality as a cesspool, or something similarly offensive. Margaret Thatcher passed legislation intended to ban the teaching that homosexuality was at all normal or acceptable in schools. In this environment, even at the time I wondered if this was an attempt to construct a secure medical facility, like the leper hospitals that were deliberately built on islands to isolate the victims of that terrible disease. Or if instead it was a prison camp to lock up gays, just as the Nazis had done during the Third Reich. Homosexuals were then sent to the concentration camps, and identified by pink triangles placed on their prison pyjamas. This part of the persecution of gays by the Nazis was portrayed in the harrowing play, Bent, starring one of the great gay British thesps. I’ve got a feeling it was Sir Ian Mackellan in the title role, but I could be mistaken.

This strikes me as being pretty much the same squalid, authoritarian instincts rising to the Tory surface yet again. If, indeed, it ever really went away. And the danger here is that once the Tories do it to once section of the community and get away with it, they’ll do it to all of us. Muslim radicals will be the first. Then it could be others suspected of terrorism, like radical nationalists – Irish Republican splinter groups, say. And then it’ll be extended to illegal asylum-seekers, trade unionists, Socialists, Anarchists and Communists. Same as it always has been. Just like Trump in America similarly threatens to introduce real Fascism if he wins the election. This has got to be very carefully watched indeed, if not banned altogether before it even begins.

And if they are considering a round-up of Islamist radicals and other suspects, when should we expect them to stage their own fake attack on parliament to justify it all, like the Reichstag fire?

Berman on the Nazi Origins of Modern Militant Islamism

January 11, 2016

Berman Flight Intellectuals

Yesterday I posted up a very informative piece by Michelle Thomasson, on the origins of modern militant Islam, based on McHugh’s book, A Short History of the Arabs. This sees the origins of modern Islamic militancy in the work of the Muslim reformer, Rashid Rida, and the alliance of Muslim religious and political leaders with the Nazis following the foundation of the state of Israel during the British Mandate in Palestine.

The left-wing American journalist and writer, Paul Berman, says much the same in his book, The Flight of the Intellectuals (New York: Melville House 2010). This is partly an investigation into the career and ideas of the contemporary French Muslim writer and philosopher, Tariq Ramadan. Ramadan’s a highly controversial figure, as while many have found him an admirable spokesman for interfaith dialogue and on social questions like poverty, others consider that far from being a liberal modernist, Ramadan instead preaches a very hard-line, intolerant Islam concealed under a veneer of liberal verbiage. He has, for example, been championed by Ian Buruma of the New York Times, who sees his philosophy, based on traditional, universal Muslim values, as offering an escape from violence. Many of Ramadan’s opponents are liberal Muslims and women, shocked at what they see as his anti-feminism. Another of his opponents is the Lebanese historian, Antoine Sfeir. In addition to stirring up intellectual controversy, Ramadan has also been investigated by the Spanish authorities for possible terrorist connections.

Ramadan’s grandfather, Hassan al-Banna, was the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the leading organisations in the modern Islamic revival, and a nationalist campaigner against the French and British occupying powers. The Muslim Brotherhood taught discipline, obedience and adulation of al-Banna as their Supreme Leader. It also aimed at throwing out the British and other European colonialists, and reviving the former Islamic empire and caliphate. this would include all the nations and countries ever conquered and ruled by Islam, including modern peoples, who had also converted. Al-Banna’s ideas spread from his native Egypt to Palestine, Syria, Sudan and North Africa. They were introduced into Iran in Shi’ite form by the Ayatollah Khomeini and Ali Shariati. They were then exported from Iran to the Shi’a in Lebanon, and then into India and Pakistan by Abul Ala Mawdudi. In Palestine, the Muslim Brotherhood became Hamas, a political party which has used suicide bombers against the Israelis, although al-Banna’s supporters have always defended him from accusations of terrorism. The Muslim Brotherhood has also produced a number of splinter groups, one of which is al-Qaeda. Ramadan has written books presenting his grandfather as a democrat wanting to create a genuine national assembly free of British influence. However, some of his writings suggest he really wanted to create a theocracy, in which Egypt would be governed by Islamic scholars, though after consulting the general public. Other Muslim scholars also believe that al-Banna wanted the establishment of an authoritarian, anti-democratic state. These include Bassam Tibi, a German-Egyptian liberal Muslim, and the Iranian scholars Ladan and Roya Boroumand. Tibi sees al-Banna as the creator of a modern totalitarianism at variance with the traditional teachings of Islam.

Critical in the creation of modern Islamic anti-Semitism was Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. al-Husseini was at various times the head of the Supreme Muslim Council in Palestine, and chairman of the Arab Higher Committee. He was one of the leading figures in the resistance against the foundation of the nascent Jewish state. In the 1920s, he organised several attacks against both Zionist settlers from the West, and traditional, indigenous Jewish Palestinians, culminating in a pogrom in 1929. He was also partly responsible for Rashid Ali al-Gaylani’s pro-Axis coup in Iraq in 1941, and the launch of a Farhoud, or pogrom, against the Jews in Baghdad. He met with Mussolini and proposed the creation of an Arab Fascist state comprising Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Trans-Jordan.

And in 1941 he met the Nazis, including Ribbentrop, Hitler, Heinrich Himmler and Goebbels. He set up the Handzar, or ‘Sabre’ division of the SS, to fight against the Serbs and the anti-Fascist partisans in the former Yugoslavia, as well as exterminate Bosnian Jews. The Nazis employed al-Husseini and Rashid Ali in their Revolutionierungspolitik, or policy of stirring up internal revolutions in order to bring down their enemies from within. The most famous example was during the First World War when Germany sent Lenin into Russia on the sealed train with large sums of money to spark the Bolshevik revolution. The Mufti was charged with translating the Nazis’ anti-Semitism from Europe to Islam. He therefore combed the Islamic scriptures to present a Muslim version of the stupid and murderous conspiracy theories about the Jews circulating in Europe. He therefore created a vast conspiratorial view of Muslim history, in which the Jews had been trying to destroy Islam and the Arabs from the very beginning of Islam to the 20th century.

The Jewish state was initially extremely small, and Berman argues that there was little support for it in the Jewish populations of the Islamic world, except here and there in small pockets. Nevertheless, in al-Husseini claimed that the Zionists were aiming to create a gigantic Jewish homeland that would stretch from British Palestine to Egypt and the Persian Gulf. He also claimed that this new Jewish state would also include the north African Arab nations of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Or they were going to create two homelands, one of which would be the former north African Arab states. These would be colonised by the Jews. The second Jewish homeland, in north Africa, was to be established through the efforts of America, which was already dominated by the Jews. This homeland was to be colonised by Jews and Blacks from America. Britain was also under Jewish control, and, as with Nazism, the Jews were blamed for the creation of Communism. In their propaganda broadcasts on the radio, the Mufti and his followers urged the Arabs to rise up and kill the Jews and their children. Al-Husseini was personally responsible for sending 20,000 Jews to the gas chambers when Himmler wanted to release them as a publicity stunt. The Nazis were also planning the extermination of Egypt’s Jews if Rommel had won. Mercifully, he didn’t, and Montgomery stopped him.

Berman also states that traditionally, Western Jews regarded Islam as being far more welcoming and much less oppressive than Christianity, and cites Graetz’s history of the Jews of c.1900 of such scholarship. He notes that this view has been challenged more recently by others, who have seen the Islamic world as just as hostile to Jews as the Christian West. Other scholars consider that, while there has been anti-Semitism in traditional Islamic society, it was not as severe as in Christianity. In this case, contemporary Islamism and its poisonous anti-Semitism is essentially the creation of al-Banna, al-Husseini and the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s simply a Muslim version of Nazism, with the irony that the Nazis also regarded the peoples of the Islamic world, the Arabs, Turks and Persians, as racially inferior. Hitler even referred to them in one of his speeches as ‘painted apes who long for the whip.’

If there is ever to be peace, then this poisonous, last reflection of Nazism must also be tackled and destroyed.

Review of Book on Corruption in Afghanistan and the War on Terror in Lobster

January 3, 2016

The parapolitics/ conspiracy magazine, Lobster, has a fascinating review of Sarah Chayes’ Thieves of State (London: W.W. Norton 2015) in the issue, no. 70, for winter 2015. Chayes was an official, who arrived in Afghanistan in 2001, and later joined the International Security and Assistance Force. Working in Afghanistan, she witnessed the massive growth in corruption under the post-war regime installed by the West, including the government of Hamid Karzai. She describes the Afghan government as

best understood not as a government at all but as a vertically integrated criminal organization – or a few such loosely structured organizations, allies but rivals, coexisting uneasily – whose core activity was not in fact exercising the functions of a state but rather extracting resources for personal gain.

Under the regime, political posts are on sale, with the successful purchaser expected to make back his losses through bribery, drug deals and embezzlement. The head of the counter-narcotics ministry, Daoud Daoud, was a notorious drug baron. Karzai’s election campaign was marred by blatant fraud, and his declared intention to clean up his country’s politics was hollow. When he made it, he had standing next to him his two vice-presidents, men, who were notorious war criminals. It was a tacit statement that in fact he had no such intention of doing anything about the corruption whatsoever.

Chayes was convinced that the corruption needed to be tackled as it was a ‘force multiplier’ for the terrorists. She found many of those who joined the Taliban and the insurgents did so as they believed that the Taliban were only force capable of rooting out the corruption. She approached two of the American commanders, Dan McChrystal and David Petraeus, in the hope that they would concur and act accordingly. McChrystal didn’t wish to alienate the ruling Northern Alliance, and Petraeus, although he did agree with her, didn’t act either.

Chayes blames much of the corruption on the influence of the CIA. Karzai’s half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, was so horrendously corrupt that he was hated by three provinces. Nevertheless, the US supported him because he was a CIA asset. Karzai himself is also on the Agency’s payroll, while Petraeus went on to become its head.

Chayes’ book also discusses other kleptocratic regimes facing Islamist rebellions – in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Nigeria and Iraq. The decline of America as a geo-political force means the country can oust regimes, but not successfully install their successors. And globalisation means that the kleptocrats can invest their money in Dubai, Switzerland and Britain, or, more properly, the City of London, and can move anywhere in the world to escape Islamist attacks if this becomes too dangerous. Chayes is also pessimistic about the West, as she feels that this too is moving towards becoming a series of kleptocracies.

I thought I’d blog about the book and its review because, like the research showing that recruits to ISIS are motivated primarily by politics rather than by religion, this also shows the secular issues that are moving many Afghans into the arms of the Taliban. The invasion of Afghanistan has made the situation in some ways worse for the ordinary people, though the Taliban was a bloody and intolerant regime that fully deserved its overthrow.

As for the West becoming increasingly kleptocratic, we’ve seen the massive influence of money pouring into politics from big business and the multinationals to influence official policy. The revolving door between the arms industry, government and civil service is also notorious, not just in America but also over here in Britain where it has been repeatedly attacked by Private Eye. And public services are now more expensive and less efficient after being privatised than they were when they were publicly owned. And the massive greed and apparent immunity from punishment or prosecution of the banking and financial sector is a continuing scandal.

The review is at http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster70/lob70-thieves-of-state.pdf Go and read it for more information.

Vox Political Attacks Islamophobic Survey in The Sun

November 23, 2015

Murdoch’s leading populist paper has been living down to its reputation again. It’s published the results of a survey, which it claims shows that 20 per cent of British Muslims support ISIS.

This is nonsense, and highly dangerous, malicious nonsense at that. Mike’s written an excellent article taking the survey apart at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/11/23/no-one-in-five-british-muslims-do-not-support-isis/. The article shows how the questions are too vague for anyone to draw that conclusion. It appears that the survey asked people whether they sympathised with Muslims fighting in the Middle East.

Mike rightly points out that you can sympathise with someone, without approving of what they’re doing. General De Gaul famously said that he understood why the Algerians were fighting for their independence. In that sense, he sympathised with them, and many patriotic Algerians thought that meant that he would end the war and negotiate a peace. But he didn’t, he carried on fighting until Algeria was lost completely.

Furthermore, the Middle East is now a cockpit of groups, sects and nations, all fighting each other. ISIS are merely one, albeit the nastiest. Sympathy for those fighting in the Middle East can mean sympathy for ISIS and other Salafist groups, like al-Qaeda. Or it could mean sympathy for those fighting for their homelands against ISIS, like Hamas, Hizbollah, the Shi’ah in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, or the Kurds. There have been reports on the news of western blokes, who have gone to fight against ISIS and the like in the Middle East. One of these was a Kurd; another was a White guy, who was horrified at ISIS’ butchery. Now most of ISIS’ victims are Muslims, and I’d say that it was highly likely this fellow had Muslim friends. If he has, then they presumably would respond that they sympathised with someone fighting in the Middle East. This would not, however, mean that they supported ISIS: quite the opposite. They would sympathise with someone who was actively fighting ISIS.

The Long History of Racism at the Sun

Now let’s put this into some kind of perspective. Unfortunately, it’s just about proverbial that the Sun is a nasty, vile racist rag. It’s got a long, long history of complaints about racism, including judgement against it from the Press Complaints Commission. This includes not just Blacks, but also Arabs. A decade or so ago, they ran a cartoon with the caption that ‘even pigs are complaining about being compared to Arabs’. That got them prosecuted by the Commission and an entry in Private Eye, which noted the number of complaints of racism against the paper that have been upheld. It was something like 25, and that, as I said, was nearly a decade ago.

And this is not casual racism either. The hatred being peddled here is part of a carefully crafted, political strategy to produce a Conservative consensus. It looks like the old Neo-Con trick of finding an enemy, who can be presented as the enemy of the West and so produce social solidarity at home. And in the case of the Neo-Cons, this was first the USSR and Communism, and now Islam, according to the Huntingdon thesis of the clash of civilisations.

It’s the old Nazi strategy of finding an outgroup you can demonise, in order to gain maximum approval for your party and their plans for social cleansing. Last week, Zelo Street put up an article attacking some of the columnists over at the Telegraph blogs for criticising Corbyn for not being sufficiently bloodthirsty over the death of ‘Jihadi John’. These included the usual right-winger, including Mark Steyn. Steyn is almost quintessentially Neo-Con. He is bitterly critical of Islam, and pushes the ‘Eurabia’ nonsense. This forecasts that in a few decades, Europe will be overrun by Muslims, with the indigenous, non-Muslim population pushed into ghettos. He is also extremely right-wing in his domestic policies, a true low-taxation, small-government Conservative, who has consistently advocated cutting tax and welfare in order to lower the budget deficit.

To my mind, this is pretty much the same direction the Sun’s article today is coming from. And it’s not just nasty, it’s actively dangerous. Mike points out in his article that attacks on Muslims has escalated by about 300 per cent since the Paris attacks. Most of these assaults have been on women and girls wearing traditional Islamic clothing.

That would be bad enough, but it becomes even more chilling when you consider the horrifying anti-Muslim policies now being mouthed by Donald Trump. Trump has apparently decided that he wants all Muslims to be registered and carry some form of identification.

And you’re right. This is exactly like the Jews – and other political, racial and religious groups in Nazi Germany. Somebody from NBC asked Trump this exact question – how did his policy differ from that of the Nazis?

And chillingly, Trump didn’t have an answer. He just kept on repeating, ‘You tell me. You tell me.’

This bigot is the Republican front-runner.

And this is how Nazism started. Not by overtly persecuting the Jews, but by beginning the discrimination quietly. And when they were taken to the extermination camps, the German people were told that they were being ‘resettled in the east’.

And just as the Nazis did that to the Jews, so they rounded up their political opponents, and forced them to wear identifying badges. Communists, trade unionists, Socialists, Liberals, even Conservative non-Nazis, like Conrad Adenauer, who became post-War Germany’s first president, were ‘taken into protective custody’, as the pretext went. The Nazis claimed they weren’t persecuting them, but taking them under arrest for their own protection.

This is terrifying stuff. I hope Trump doesn’t get in, or if he does, that the vast majority of decent Americans won’t stand for that nonsense and block it. But if he did, I can’t see Cameron or Osbo doing anything but copying it over here. Of course, at first it’ll be entirely voluntary, you know, for the Muslims’ own protection.

I don’t know whether the Sun wants Muslim to be compulsorily registered. It might be too much for them, but considering how frothingly extreme they’ve always been, I wouldn’t put it past them.

This is a nasty, dangerous, disgusting piece of hate, and the Scum should be properly vilified for it.

BBC 2 On Why Britain Voted Against Churchill after WW II

May 25, 2015

BBC 2 at 9.00 O’clock tonight is showing a documentary on how Britain rejected Churchill for the Labour party in the 1945 general election.

The blurbs for it in the Radio Times state

Surprise election results are nothing new. As this documentary explores, a few weeks after celebrating VE Day in 1945, Britons went to the polls for the first general election in a decade. The Conservatives were widely expected to win, a grateful nation rewarding Winston Churchill’s wartime leadership. Instead, Labour won by a landslide and set about creating the Socialist welfare system Churchill had warned against.

As historians relate, there were good reasons the electorate delivered a humiliating snub to their wartime hero. And we’ve forgotten how unpopular he was with sections of the public: striking footage shows crowds jeering a perplexed Churchill at Walthamstow stadium. “Most people saw him as a Boris Johnson-type figure,” claims one contributor. “A buffoon.”

And

Just weeks after VE Day, Winston Churchill went to the polls confident that the nation would reward him for his leadership through the dark days of the Second World War and re-elect him prime minister. In the event, he suffered a humiliating defeat by Labour under Clement Atlee. Historians including Max Hastings, Juliet Gardiner and Antony Beevor explore what prompted the nation to reject its great war leader in such vehement fashion.

This will no doubt annoy the Churchill family, who have been effectively living off the great man’s legacy since the War. They got very stroppy a few months ago with Paxo, for daring to state that Churchill was not some kind omniscient, super competent superman.

In fact, Churchill was and still is bitterly despised by certain sections of the working class, despite his status as the great hero of World War II. His own career in the armed forces effectively ended with the debacles of the battle of Jutland and he was widely blamed for Gallipolli. He fervently hated the trade unions and anything that smacked of socialism and the welfare state. Originally a Liberal, he crossed the floor to join the Tories when Balfour’s government introduced pensions and state medical insurance based on the model of contemporary Germany. ‘It was Socialism by the backdoor’, he spluttered.

This continued after the War, when he fiercely attacked Labour’s plan to set up the NHS and unemployment benefit. Because the latter meant that the state become involved in the payment of NI contributions by the employer, he denounced it as a ‘Gestapo for England.’

He is widely credited with sending in the army to shoot down striking miners in Newport. According to the historians I’ve read, he didn’t. Nevertheless, this is still widely believed. It’s credible, because Churchill did have an extremely aggressive and intolerant attitude towards strikes. During the 1924 General Strike he embarrassed the Tory administration by stating that the armed forces would stand ready to assist the civil authorities, if they were called to do so. This effectively meant that he was ready to send the troops in. When it was suggested that he could be found a position in the Post Office, the then Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, readily agreed on the grounds that it would keep him out of the way. The hope was that without Churchill’s militant intransigence, the Strike could be settled peacefully.

And despite the mythology of the country uniting under a common foe during the War years, there was still considerable working class disaffection. Indeed, according to one programme, there were more strikes during the War than hitherto. I don’t find this remotely surprising, given that the sheer requirements of running a war economy meant rationing, shortages and, I’ve no doubt, the introduction of strict labour discipline.

Nor was Churchill a particularly staunch supporter of democracy and opponent of Fascism. Orwell wrote in one of his newspaper pieces that the spectre of war was doing strange things, like making Churchill run around pretending to be a democrat. According to the historian of British Fascism, Martin Pugh, Churchill was an authoritarian, who actually quite liked Franco and his brutal suppression of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. His opposition to the Nazis came not from a desire to defend democracy from tyranny – in that respect, Eden was a far better and more convinced anti-Fascist – but from the fear that a re-armed and militarised Germany would be a danger to British power and commercial shipping in the North Sea and the Baltic. He did, however, have the decency to consider privately that Mussolini was ‘a swine’, and was not impressed when the Duce declared that his Black Shirts were ‘like your Black and Tans’ when he visited Fascist Italy.

The British working class therefore had every reason to reject Churchill and his reactionary views after the War. And scepticism towards Churchill and his legacy was not confined merely to the working class. Nearly two decades later in the 1960s Private Eye satirised him as ‘the greatest dying Englishman’, and attacked him for betraying every cause he joined. Churchill was all for a united Europe, for example, a fact that might surprise some supporters of UKIP. He just didn’t want Britain to join it.

Even now there are those on the Right, who still resent him. Peter Hitchens, the arch-Tory columnist for the Daily Mail, has frequently attacked Churchill for bringing Britain into the War. His reason for this seems to be his belief that if we hadn’t gone to War against the Axis, we’d still have an Empire by now. This is moot, at best. Writing in the 1930s about a review of Black soldiers in Algiers or Morocco, Orwell stated that what was on the mind of every one of the White officers observing them was the thought ‘How long can we go on fooling these people?’ Orwell came to Socialism through his anti-imperialism, and so represents a particularly radical point of view. Nevertheless, he wasn’t the only one. When the British authorities set up the various commercial and industrial structures to exploit Uganda and the mineral wealth of east Africa, Lord Lugard cynically stated that they now had all the infrastructure in place to pillage the country for a few decades before independence. Despite Hitchens’ nostalgia and wishful thinking for the glories of a vanished empire, my guess is that many, perhaps most of the imperial administrators and bureaucrats out there knew it was only a matter of time before the British Empire went the way of Rome and Tyre.

In his book attacking atheism, The Rage Against God, Hitchens also attacks the veneration of Churchill as a kind of ersatz, state-sponsored secular religious cult. It’s an extreme view, but he’s got a point. Sociologists of religion, like Clifford Geertz, have a identified the existence of a ‘civil religion’, alongside more normal, obvious forms of religion, like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism, for example. This civil religion is the complex of beliefs and values that shapes civil society as a whole. In America, this is a belief in democracy, centred around a veneration of the Constitution. In Britain, you can see this complex of beliefs centring around parliament, the Crown, and also the complex of ceremonies commemorating the First and Second World Wars. Including Churchill.

The programme looks like it could be an interesting counterargument to the myth of Churchill as the consummate politician, the great champion of British freedom and democracy. He deserves every respect for his staunch opposition to the Nazis, regardless of the precise reason for doing so, and his A History of the English-Speaking Peoples is one of the main texts that have created the belief that the British are uniquely freedom-loving. Nevertheless, he was also deeply flawed with some deeply despicable authoritarian attitudes. AS the blurbs for the programme point out, the British were quite right to vote him out at the post-War elections.

John Brunner on the 1979 SF Book Show, Time Out Of Mind

May 4, 2015

‘I have seen the future, and it doesn’t work!’

I found this edition of the BBC series, Time Out of Mind, over on Youtube. Broadcast in 1979, the series looked at four SF authors, who were either British, in the case of Ann McCaffrey, an American based in Ireland. Apart from John Brunner and McCaffrey, the other authors featured were Arthur C. Clarke, and Michael Moorcock and M. John Harrison. The fifth and final programme in the series was on that year’s SF convention in Brighton.

I vaguely remembered the series from the trailers running earlier in the evening, though I never watched it myself as I was probably too young. I’ve got a feeling it was broadcast long after my bed time.

Stand On Zanzibar

Brunner’s particularly interesting, as he’s known for writing very dystopian, near-future SF, such as his books The Shockwave Rider, The Sheep Look Up and Stand on Zanzibar. All of these are rightly classics of the genre, and I think Stand On Zanzibar has been republished under the Gollancz colophon as an ‘SF Masterwork’. It is indeed, though I think it’s also one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read. It’s very much a product of its time, which was the late 1960s-’70s concern about the ‘population bomb’ and the massive problems faced by an overpopulated world. It’s set in a near future, c. 2020, if I remember properly, in a massively overcrowded world, where living space is in short supply. The result is endemic domestic terrorist violence, and ‘muckers’ – frenzied spree killers. These are ordinary citizens, who’ve finally snapped under the strain of such oppressive conditions. They’ve taken their name from quite literally ‘running amok’.

In order to curb the population explosion, the government has passed eugenic legislation preventing those with genetic defects or inheritable diseases, like haemophilia, from having children. Recreational cannabis, on the other hand, is legal, but still vulnerable to the interest of organised crime.

Far more sinisterly are the attempts by the various government to find ways to control the population using genetic engineering. This includes the research of an Indonesian scientist, who the Americans send a special agent to extract.

Brunner, CND and Environmentalism

Brunner was politically active for a time in his life. He was a member of CND and attended their meetings and marches. The programme shows how he even took part in an exhibition of the horrors created by the bomb, and how this influenced him. He states on the programme that when he turned to writing near future SF, he didn’t have to do much research. While it was harder to write than stories set in the far future, where the imagination could run freely, he found that much of the nightmarish conditions he describes in his works have already happened. This includes the dangers of chemical pollution on the environment and agriculture in The Sheep Look Up.

The ‘New Wave’ and Literary Modernism

Brunner’s like Moorcock and the other members of the British ‘New Wave’, in incorporating the techniques of literary modernism into his work. Moorcock in the programme dedicated to him said he wanted to use the techniques of such avant-garde literary authors as James Joyce. He was bitterly disappointed when his literary aspirations were rejected by the rest of the SF milieu, who considered these models to be pseudo-intellectuals.

Brunner acknowledges that in creating the background for the world on Stand On Zanzibar, he took John Dos Passos as his model, and included clippings from newspapers, even poetry. These clippings also show how rooted the book was in present-day reality. Several of the clippings explaining the ‘muckers’, for example, are taking from 1960s reports of real spree killers. As for the ‘partisans’ and their terrorist campaigns in America, this looks like it was based very much on the urban terrorists that emerged in the late 1960s and ’70s, like the various paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, the Baader-Meinhof gang, the various French Maoist rebels and the Weathermen, Black Panthers and Symbionese Liberation Front in America.

America as Dystopia

The show also makes the point that although Brunner’s British, he’s popular in America, partly because he speaks with a mid-Atlantic voice. Brunner is shown talking to friends and his publisher in the US. But Brunner was also very critical of the US. He says that he took America as his model for the dystopias he created, as much of what he describes in his books has already happened there. He follows this with the statement I’ve quoted at the top of this piece ‘I have seen the future, and it doesn’t work’.

Folk Music and Dancing

I also found the episode interesting, as Brunner was a folkie, who lived in the small town of South Petherton in Somerset. He and his wife were the organisers of the town’s folk festival. I found it rather incongruous that an author, who was concerned with the future and the problems that it would throw up, should also be a fan of, among other things, such very traditionally English pastimes as, um, Morris dancing. Brunner and his wife are shown opening the festival, and watching a group of Morris men dancing with the white flannels, handkerchiefs and bells.

Here’s the video:

Population Explosion or Population Crash?

While Stand On Zanzibar is a classic, it’s also somewhat dated. Europe and America don’t have the teeming, claustrophobically overcrowded cities of books like Stand On Zanzibar, or Harry Harrison’s depiction of similarly terribly overpopulated world, Make Room! Make Room!, filmed as Soylent Green. Indeed, birth rates around the world are falling, and in some parts of the West, China and Japan they’re actually below replacement level. Some demographers are talking of a ‘population crash’, and the problems this will cause. This in its turn has created its dystopian prophetic fiction in the film Children of Men, with Clive Owen and Thandie Newton. This imagines a world where humanity has become sterile. No children have been born for 18 years. The result is political instability, violence and ruthless control by a Fascist state. The only hope in this dystopia is presented by an immigrant woman, who has become pregnant.

Spree Killers and Religious Violence

We also don’t have intelligent, supercomputers cooled in liquid helium, like Shalmaneser. Other predictions are so accurate, as to be actually prosaic, such as influence of the media and the emergence of the pop video. Unfortunately, so are the ‘muckers’ – such as the maniacs, who walk into schools, restaurants or cinemas with guns and begin shooting. The book’s also accurate in that some of the crazed killers are religious fanatics. In the book the religious violence is carried out by Christians. This is true of part of the American extreme Right, as shown in the Militia movement and their fears of an atheist government, which will begin sending Christians to death camps run by FEMA as part of the establishment of a one-world global dictatorship.

The Pieds-Noirs and the Legacy of Algeria

Other predictions look dated, but contain a kernel of truth that has been subsequently hidden, but still remains a powerful influence in contemporary politics. Two of the characters, for example, are a brother and sister, Pieds-Noirs – former French-Algerian settlers, who have been forced out of the colony after independence. Despite the decades that have passed since France lost its war against its former colony, Pieds-Noirs still suffer from considerable stigmatisation because of the atrocities the former colonial overlord committed. Now, nearly five decades or so later, there is little special shame attached to the Algerian War. Nevertheless, it has influenced French politics in that many of the Arab, Muslim population of France are the descendants of Algerians, who chose to emigrate to the former colonial power. These have formed an immigrant underclass, who have suffered racism and discrimination. Much of the political disaffection French Muslims come from this background of emigration, dislocation and resentment by the host society.

The Corporate Take-Over of the Nation State

One of the most extreme of the novels predictions, and one which mercifully hasn’t occurred yet, it the literal corporate takeover of entire states. Another of the characters is the president of a small, west African nation. Unable to improve conditions for his people through normal politics and democracy, he literally signs it away to an American corporation. In return, that company promises to invest in his nation, develop it economically, and provide jobs and training for its people. It also, as Brunner makes clear, condemns them to corporate slavery.

This hasn’t quite happened like that yet, but there are some close parallels. The Socialist government of Alfredo Benz in Guatemala in the 1950s was overthrown by a CIA-backed coup, after Benz nationalised the banana plantations of the United Fruit company, an American corporation. Similarly, Mahmud Mossadeq, the Prime Minister of Iran, was overthrown by the Americans in the 1950s after his government nationalised the oil industry, including British-Persian Oil, which then became BP.

And the TTIP, if launched, will allow multinationals to sue national governments if they dare to pass legislation, which threatens to harm their business. Veolia has used similar legislation to sue the Egyptian government, after it raised the minimum wage for Egyptian workers.

The Psychological Legacy of Slavery and the Experience of Black Politicians

Another part of Brunner’s novel, that still retains its contemporary relevance, is that one of his characters is a Black American politician. This isn’t quite so novel as it was when the book was written, coming when Blacks in America were still very much fighting for their civil rights. America now has its first Black president in Obama. Nevertheless, the issues of racism, Black alienation from what they see as White power structures, and the psychological legacy of slavery, still remain a powerful presence. Although physically fit and able-bodied, the Black politician suffers from a psychological weakness in one of his arms, due to being told about how one of his slave ancestors had his amputated as a punishment by his owners. The organiser of a recent campaign against an exhibition on the White exhibition of Africans as subhuman others, staged a year or so ago by one of the Museums, stated that amongst her reasons for opposing it was a concern for the psychological health of Black people. She pointed to studies of young western Blacks, who have suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder through material showing or discussing the sufferings of their slave ancestors.

Ambiguous Endings and Political Message

Brian Aldiss, discussing Brunner’s work in his study of the history of SF, The Trillion Year Spree, criticises him for failing to take an explicit stance. Despite being a very political novel, Brunner doesn’t take a party-political stance. There’s one incident, for example, in which an elderly lady is forcibly moved out of the home she has lived in for most of her life by the local authorities. This can be read in two ways. It can be seen as council busybodies, enforcing bureaucratic red tape and over-regulation, regardless of the harmful effect this has on the lives of ordinary people. Or it can be read in the opposite view, as local authorities blindly committed to corporate interests and commercial redevelopment.

Brunner also leaves the final results of his characters’ actions on the wider society ambiguous. One of the last sections of Stand On Zanzibar is entitled ‘And See Which Seed Will Grow’, taken from the line in MacBeth which about peering into the sands of time. He hints at their being two possibilities for the world and its millions: either pacification through specially engineered food introduced into its peoples’ diet. Or the possibility of genetically engineering humans themselves, as presented by the Indonesian biologist.

At the end of The Shockwave Rider, the authorities organise a plebiscite, which will hopefully liberate humanity from tyranny. This asks them to vote between two statements. These seem to offer strikingly different alternatives, but when read closely, don’t actually mean very much, and actually say pretty much the same thing. The book then concludes ‘Which way did you vote?’

Again, as in Stand On Zanzibar, the final result, the choice made by humanity, is never shown. There’s the possibility of hope, or a little more hope. But it doesn’t end with a total solution that will automatically improve everything, and the outcome is decidedly mixed.

Warning: 70’s Fashions on Display

I think Brunner died a little while ago. This documentary gives provides an insight into the life and views of one of Britain’s great writers of dystopian SF. As I said, his book’s don’t make an explicit party-political statement, but in his anti-nuclear activism, environmentalism and critiques of corporate power, Brunner does share many of the concerns of the Left.

You should be warned, however, that as the documentary was made in 1979, it shows it in some truly horrendous ’70s fashions.