Archive for the ‘Anarchism’ Category

My Video for Self-Published Book on a Parliamentary Chamber for the Workers

June 1, 2022

One of the great commenters on this blog paid me a wonderful compliment the other day by saying how great it would be if I put up a YouTube channel to combat some of the claims made by a certain internet historian. But as this particular individual puts up two a day, this would be too great a task. Now I did put up two YouTube channels under my own name, David Sivier. The first simply deals with replica musical instruments I’ve made for myself and cardboard models I’ve made of various archaeological monuments and artefacts. Unfortunately, I tried getting the channel to accept images from my mobile, with the result that it no longer recognises me as the channel’s owner and so I have been able to put up anything more on it. Hence the launch of the second David Sivier YouTube channel. I’ve put up a couple of pieces of music there, as well as some political stuff. I may also have put up political material on the first David Sivier channel. One of the videos I put up was for my self-published book arguing that as millionaires and the heads of companies now dominate parliament – about 77 per cent of MPs are businessmen – we should have a separate chamber composed of workers, elected by the workers. The book examines the idea from the 19th century Chartists, who set up their own ‘parliament of trades’ in one of their meetings, through the anarchists and Utopian socialists like Saint-Simon, the German council revolution of 1919, and the corporatism of Fascist Italy to the self-management experiment of the former Communist Yugoslavia, where the local councils had a chambers for the workers.

A few weeks ago I found a launch video for Red Line TV, a left-wing YouTube channel based on the left-wing Labour Briefing. It’s put up a number of videos discussing topics like women’s rights, racism and the trans issue. In the launch video, they were appealing for subjects to discuss and inviting people to come on. I fancied sending them a copy of the book and suggesting they might like to talk about that as something different, and as provocation to get Labour actually representing working people again. Unfortunately, There doesn’t seem to be anywhere on their site you make such suggestions or contact them, except to become a member. I did find something about contacting them elsewhere, but this seemed to be through Twitter, and I don’t have it and don’t want it. I’ve therefore stymied in that department. If there are any other left-wing vloggers who’d be interested n talking about it, let me know.

Anyway, here’s the video:

Yiddish Revolutionary Song – ‘In Ale Gasn’

May 6, 2022

I’ve also put up one or two videos of left-wing Jewish songs in English and Yiddish, like ‘The March of the Jobless Corps’. That song reflects the reality of unemployment in Britain and America today, as well as recalling the National Union of the Unemployed, set up by the Communists in Britain during the great recession of the ’30s. But these songs are also a challenge to the Blairites in the Labour party. They show that contrary to Starmer’s attitude to Jews and socialists in the party and that of the various Zionist organisations and the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Chief Rabbinate, Jewish working people formed a strong part of the international working class movement, including anarchism, socialism and Marxism. But their modern left-wing and genuinely socialist counterparts are ‘the wrong kind of Jews’ for the current wretched Labour leadership. And so we’ve had the nasty spectacle of the genuinely anti-racist Jeremy Corbyn smeared as an anti-Semite, and also his Jewish and gentile followers. And part of this is because he was supported by left-wing Jewish organisations and people, critical of Israel and its persecution of the Palestinians. And so there have been attacks on Jewish Voice for Labour and its leader, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, while Corbyn was attacked for spending a Passover Seder with Jewdas at their invitation. These people are ‘the wrong kind of Jews’, and as a result, 4/5 of the people smeared and expelled from the party for such ideological deviation are Jewish. Which very clearly shows that all these claims of combating anti-Semitism are pure, malignant nonsense.

This song celebrates the overthrow of the Tsar, and is from Jack Ross’ channel on YouTube. The description accompanying the piece states that it was attributed to the anarchists, but was also popular in the Bund, the main eastern European Jewish socialist party in the Russian Empire. It’s almost entirely in Yiddish, but there is a chorus in English.

Many of the Bolsheviks and other Russian revolutionaries were Jews, as well as members of other nationalities in the Russian empire. They were oppressed by the tsarist state. Jewish settlement was limited to ‘the pale’ and there were restrictions on what jobs they could do. The tsars also used conscription into the army as a form of forced conversion. Nicholas II was particularly anti-Semitic, and believed firmly in the old, vile myth of the blood libel. He tried, unsuccessfully, to prosecute a young lad, Bielis, for it, which was so bonkers it actually embarrassed the secret police. It’s therefore not remotely surprising that socialist Jews would celebrate the tsar’s fall and give their loud support to the Revolution.

Glasgow Council Report Criticises Statues of Livingstone, Peel and Gladstone for Slavery Links

April 5, 2022

GB News and the Heil carried reports a few days ago attacking Glasgow council for a report compiled by a highly respected Scottish historian about the city’s historic involvement in the slave trade and its statues commemorating figures connected with it. The council felt that, unlike Liverpool and Bristol, and the city had not faced up to its history as one of the other major British centres of the slave trade. It compiled a list of seven statues that were particularly questionable because of their subjects’ links to the trade. These included the missionary and abolitionist, David Livingstone, Robert Peel and William Ewart Gladstone. The reports concentrated on the criticism of Livingstone, as the man was a fervent abolitionist and it demonstrates how ridiculousness the iconoclasm by the anti-slavery activists is. According to reports by GB News, the Heil and the Glasgow Herald, it’s partly because Livingstone started work at age 10 in factory weaving and processing slave-produced cotton from the West Indies. They make the point that as a child worker, Livingstone had absolutely no control over what the factory did. I doubt very much that he had much control, as someone who could be called a ‘factory slave’, over his choice of employment either. Later videos from GB News and further down in the articles from the Herald and the Heil is the statement that he also defend the cotton masters, believing that they were paternalistic. He may well have done so, but this hardly discredits him because of his life’s work in Africa.

Livingstone had a genuine, deep hatred, as many British Christians had at the time, of slavery. He travelled to Africa to spread Christianity and to combat slavery as its sources. He was also a doctor, and had worked hard after work to educate himself. One of the guests on the GB News debate about it was a right-wing historian of Africa. He pointed out that Livingstone is still very much loved in Africa, and there are plaques to him in Malawi, Zambia, Tanganyika and three other African countries. I have no doubt this is absolutely true. A few years ago I took out of Bristol’s central library a history of Malawi. The book was even-handed and objective. It did not play down massacres by the British army committed when we annexed the area during fighting with the slaving tribes. It described how, under imperialism, White Malawians tended to look down on the indigenous peoples and the dissatisfaction with imperial rule that resulted from the use of forced labour. But neither did it omit or play down the enslavement of indigenous Africans by the other native peoples. These included the Yao, Marganja, Swahili and Arabs, who preyed on the other tribes for the Arab slave trade, sending their captives to Zanziba, Kilwa and across the Indian ocean. To gain their victims’ trust, they’d settle down with them for a year, working alongside them as friends before finally turning on them. They also set up a series of forts to defend the slave routes. One of these, set up by Zarafi, one of the most infamous slavers, had a palisade on which were impaled 100 severed heads. As for the akapolo slaves used in the local economy, they were made very much aware of their status. They had to work with broken tools, and eat their meals off the floor. The chiefs, meanwhile, seemed to have spent much of their time relaxing and having their hair done.

Livingstone, whatever his faults, hated all this and his settlement became a refuge for runaway slaves. As did many of the other settlements he or his followers founded for this purpose. These settlements have since expanded to form some of Malawi’s towns.

William Ewart Gladstone was the leader of Britain’s Liberal party, serving as prime minister, in the latter half of the 19th century. The scandal here is that Gladstone’s family got its money from slave estates in the West Indies. I know Conservatives who genuine hate slavery, who despise Gladstone because of this. So it isn’t just ‘leftists’ that have issues with the Grand Old Man, as Gladstone’s supporters dubbed him. But Gladstone is immensely important because of the social legislation he enacted. He was an Anglican, who, in the words of one historian, ‘became the voice of the Nonconformist conscience’. He wanted the disestablishment of the Anglican church at a time when Christian Nonconformists were still required to pay it tithes and other duties that left them disadvantaged. He also wanted to give Ireland home rule. Of course this faced immense opposition, and I think it was one reason why he failed to win elections as the century wore on. But it seems to me that if he had been able to enact this policy, then perhaps Ireland’s subsequent history may not have been quite so bloody. One of the surprising facts about Irish history is that there was in the 18th century an alliance between Roman Catholics and Protestant Nonconformists. This was before Roman Catholic emancipation, which legalised it and granted Roman Catholics civil rights. At the same time Protestant Nonconformists were tolerated, but still suffered deep political disabilities. As a result, one of Ulster’s historic Roman Catholic churches was build with donations and subscriptions from Ulster nonconformist Protestants. This surprising fact was included in a BBC Radio 4 series, Mapping the Town, which traced the history of British and UK towns through their maps.

I don’t know much about Robert Peel, except that he introduced free trade as a policy for the Conservatives, or a section of the Conservatives. But what he is primarily known for is founding the metropolitan police force. I’ve got a feeling he might also have been responsible for reducing the 100-odd crimes that carried the death penalty to three. These included murder and treason. It might be because of Peel that we’re no longer hanging people for stealing a loaf of bread or impersonating a Chelsea pensioner. But long before Glasgow council decided he was problematic, there was also a demonstration by masked protesters in London demanding that his statue should be removed. And last year the right were also getting in a tizzy because one of Liverpool’s universities was removing him as the name of one of their halls. The student union replaced him with a Black woman, who was a Communist and teacher. She is, no doubt, perfectly worthy of commemoration, but hardly in Gladstone’s league.

Part of the problem is that iconoclasts want to judge everything by a very strict, modern morality. Slavery and the slave trade was an abomination and was rightly abolished. Good people have been continuing the struggle against global slavery since then. But not everybody, who was connected to the trade, is such a monster that they should be blotted out of history in the same way Stalin’s historians removed all mention of his opponents.

One of the things you are taught, or at least were taught, in history at university level is not to play ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ with historical figures. There is no set outcome to the historical process. If events had been different in the past, then modern society would also be different. If, horribly, Wilberforce and the abolitionists had lost, then slavery would still be unchallenged today. At the same time, you need to use the historical imagination to understand why people in the past behaved as they did, and why good people by the standard of their times were capable of attitudes that are deeply morally repugnant to us.

The great British philosopher, Sir Isaiah Berlin, was an admirer of the 17th-18th century Italian historian Vico. Vico believed, as Berlin later did, that there were no objective moral values. He noted how they changed over time, and that to properly understand a past epoch, you needed to understand also its art and culture. I don’t think he was a cultural relativist, however. Berlin certainly wasn’t – he believed that while there were no objective moral values, there were certainly those which acted as if they were. He was fiercely anti-Communist, partly because his family were Lithuanian Jews, who had seen their logging business seized by the Bolsheviks and had fled the Russian Revolution. He was a major figure during the Cold War in establishing western contacts with Soviet dissidents like Nadezhda Mandelstam, who wrote moving accounts of her experience of the gulags under Stalin.

I don’t share Berlin’s Conservatism and strongly believe in the existence of objective moral values. But I strongly recommend Berlin’s books. He wrote a series of potted intellectual biographies, including on the early Russian revolutionaries like the 19th century anarchist, Bakunin. Even though he hated what they stood for, his books are notable for his attempts to see things from his subjects’ point of view. So much so that some people, according to Berlin, though he was pro-Communist. They’re fascinating and highly readable, even if you don’t agree that someone like the French utopian socialist Saint-Simon was ‘an enemy of freedom’.

There are statues of slavers and the people connected with the trade that deserve to be torn down. There had been calls for Colston’s statue to be removed since the 1980s. It was highly controversial all those decades ago, though many Bristolians would have defended it because he gave away most of his money to charity. But other historical figures deserve to be still commemorated despite their connections to the ‘abominable trade’ because of their immense work that has benefited both Britain and nations like Malawi. And I believe that some of those, who find figures like Gladstone objectionable, could also benefit from reading Vico and Berlin. In the meantime, it should be noted that Glasgow council has no plans to tear any statues down.

Slavery is a great moral evil. But historic slavery should not considered so grave and unforgivable, that it is used to blot out the memory of figures like Livingstone, Gladstone and Peel, whose work has so helped shape modern Britain for the better.

Rightwingers Outraged at Acquittal of the Four Who Toppled Colston’s Statue

January 7, 2022

As a Bristolian with long personal roots in the city, I feel I’ve got to tackle this. The four people responsible for pulling the down the statue of the 18th century slave trader and philanthropist in a massive Black Lives Matter protest last year were on trial for it this week. They were charged with criminal damage, and yesterday were found ‘not guilty’ by the jury. And the right has been predictably incensed. The story’s on the front page of the Daily Mail, which reports that the jury may have been placed under pressure to acquit by the defence, which urged them ‘not to be on the wrong side of history’. The prosecution is therefore planning to appeal the decision. Nigel Farage has released a video on YouTube about it. Mixed-race Tory commenter Calvin Robinson has appeared on GB News talking about it. And inevitably the Lotus Eaters have also released a video about it, with Callum and one of Sargon’s other mates expressing their poor opinion of the whole thing. The message from the right has been the same: this decision imperils every statue in Britain, because it legitimises attacks on them through an appeal to the emotions of the attacker regardless of the letter of the law. Calvin Robinson in his interview on GB News agreed with the two journalists, one Black, one White, that you had to be very careful about limiting people’s freedom of expression. However the decision to acquit was, he explained, based on a legal loophole in the criminal damage law. This permits such damage, if the property damaged or destroyed itself serves to promote a crime. The argument made by the accused in a feature about them in the Groan was that the statue constituted a hate crime against Black Bristolians. The right-wing critics of the decision have therefore argued that this makes every statue unsafe, as an emotional reason could be found for any attack on them. The person, who vandalised Churchill’s statue last year could get off because, despite defeating Fascism, Churchill was a racist and imperialist. They have also made the point that the decision also means that Conservatives also have a right to tear down Marx’s bust in London, as he was also racist and anti-Semitic, quite apart from the millions murdered under Communism. Darren Grimes, the repulsive spawn of the Guido Fawkes site, said that he could also therefore tear down the statue of Friedrich Engels in Manchester.

Jury Freedom and the Historic Acquittal of Guilty Murderers

Yesterday Simon Webb of History Debunked also joined the debate, comparing the decision to the jury’s acquittal of the attackers of three policemen during a riot in 1820s London. The cops had been stabbed, and one killed, but the jury acquitted their attackers because the cops had attacked in a particularly aggressive and provocative manner. Webb stated that back in the 17th and 18th centuries judges could and did send juries back to reconsider their verdict, and even imprison them if they didn’t give the right verdict as directed. It was, of course, a great improvement to allow the juries the freedom to judge themselves rather than according to the opinion of the beak. But this did raise problems in cases like this. Indeed. Juries won the right to judge freely according to their own judgement following arguments for such free trials by the Levellers and particularly when William Penn, a Quaker and the founder of Pennsylvania, was put on trial for preaching his radical views in Bristol. The jury repeatedly refused the judge’s order to find guilty, and were even imprisoned. They eventually won out, and the trial helped established true British justice.

Allegations of Bias against Witness David Olasuga

One of the other objections to the trial was that one of the witnesses was the historian, David Olasuga. whom the Lotus Eaters describe as a Black activist and who admitted that, had he been able, he would have joined the mob in toppling the status. There is indeed a problem with Olasuga as some of his historical interpretations are questionable. For example, he and Reni Edo-Lodge turned up in video by the Beeb laying a plaque in Liverpool to a victim of racist lynching. Except that Wootton, the lynched man, had been part of a gang of West Indians, who had launched an attack on a group of Swedes and Russians. When a cop intervened, the West Indians repeated stabbed and tried to slash his throat. They retreated to a house where someone, probably Wootton, shot three policemen, before he was chased down to the docks trying to escape. He was hardly an innocent victim. Olasuga has been one of the Black historians claiming that historically, Britain had a much larger Black community than it probably did. He claims that there were Blacks in Roman Britain. History Debunked has shown that this largely comes from one of the legions at Hadrian’s Wall coming from the Roman province of Mauretania. This has been confused with the present day country in West Africa. However, the Roman province of Mauretania was further north in Morocco. I think there are perfectly reasonable questions of bias in Olasuga’s testimony.

Political Bias in Prosecution of Vandals

And then have come the various commenters sneering and deriding Bristol. I’ve seen the usual rants about how it’s a ‘Communist’ or ‘left-wing’ shithole; it’s a lefty university town, and as terrible as Liverpool or London. Rather more interesting was one comment from a working class Bristolian, who had been having a meal at a cafe in the city, whose customers were largely Black West Indians. These people had all been solidly against the decision. I can well believe it. I don’t think the Black community Bristol or elsewhere in our great nation is a monolithic bloc. Just like other racial groups, like Whites, Asians or Jews aren’t either. As for the four defendants, they were White middle class liberal kids, who most likely didn’t come from Bristol. There was also speculation about what would happen if someone vandalised a statue to a Black personality, like Nelson Mandela. Would this be treated the same way? Not if the example of the vandalism done to a mural of Marcus Rashford was an example. Although the messages sprayed on it weren’t racist, it was nevertheless treated as a racist hate crime. Actually, you don’t have to look that far for a similar example. After Colston’s statue was torn down, a bust in one of Bristol’s parks of a Black writer and dramatist was vandalised and the cops were after those responsible.

Some Black Bristolians Genuinely Upset at Statue

As for the feelings of fear or outrage that the defendants claimed justified the attack, the Black interviewer on GB News and Robinson both questioned whether Black people are so emotional fragile that they would be upset simply walking past Colston’s statue. Some may well not be, but others definitely were. Asher Craig, Bristol’s deputy elected mayor, head of equalities and city councillor for St. George’s, was on Radio 4 last year giving her opinion about the statue and Bristol’s historic connection to the slave trade. The programme also talked to others about it, including one ordinary Black woman. She said that she felt physically sick having to walk past it on the way to work every morning. I understand and sympathise. I think her example was far better and more persuasive than the various political activists angrily demanding that it should be torn down. It was the voice of an ordinary, working-class woman, about how the statue affected her.

Arguments for the Preservation of the Statue

It also has to be stated that Black Lives Matter’s attack was deliberately against the wishes of Bristolians themselves. There had been several polls in the past about whether the statue should be taken down or not. The majority of people voted against it. Paul Stephenson, one of the organisers of the Bristol bus boycott in the 1960s against the bus company’s refusal to employ Blacks, gave his opinion on the issue in an interview with Philippa Gregory in the 1990s. Gregory had just had her novel, A Respectable Trade, about the Bristol slave trade adapted for television and there was an exhibition about the city and slavery then at the City Museum and Art Gallery. It has since been moved and is now on display, sans title, at the city’s excellent M Shed Museum. Stephenson has something of a mixed reputation. To some he’s a respected civil rights activists, while others regard him more a deliberate troublemaker. He declared to Gregory that Colston was a bloody mass murderer responsible for a ‘Holocaust in Africa’. This follows the statement of W.E.B. DuBois, the pioneering American Black rights activist, that slavery and the slave trade were a Black Holocaust. It sounds like hyperbole, a deliberately emotional exaggeration, but I believe it’s based on the accounts of 19th century anti-slavery activists about the fierce tribal violence generated by the slave trade, and the devastation of whole regions as a result. But Stephenson also said that he didn’t think the statue should be torn down. He believed it should remain standing with an additional note to remind people of his crimes. A similar argument was made by the Lotus Eaters, who felt that statues should be left standing, even though they may be to terrible people, because they’re history. And we need to learn from history if we are to move on.

It’s a perfectly good argument, and one advanced in the ’90s by radical anarchist band The Levellers. They took their name from the radical, proto-democrat, proto-socialist sect during the British Civil War. They also believed in ‘Godly reformation’ and so, along with the other merchandising at their concerts were copies of the Bible and Christopher Hill’s Marxist study of the British Civil War, The World Turned Upside Down. I particularly remember one of their songs that had the lines ‘I believe in justice, I believe in vengeance, I believe in getting the bastard’. But they also released a song protesting about the decision by Manchester’s Labour council to rename the town’s historic Free Trade Hall. They objected to it because it was the destruction of history and an attempt to rewrite the past. It’s strange and rather disconcerting that they should have the same view on this issue from a libertarian left perspective, as the Tories.

Lastly, it needs to be remembered that Colston was not honoured for enslaving Blacks. The statue was put up long after that was over. Rather it was because he was a great philanthropist, who gave much of his fortune away in charity. There were schools named after him and funded by his largesse. My old school used to celebrate Colston Day in his honour, when the children were given a few days off. A few were specially honoured and went to a special service at Redcliffe Church, where they were given a Colston bun.

Bristol Great City

Now for a few remarks on the decision and the views of the various right-winger, who have sounded off about it. Firstly, Bristol isn’t a shithole. It’s a large, great city with a proud history of trade, exploration, industry and invention with excellent museums and theatres. The Bristol Old Vic and its theatre school have a particularly excellent reputation and have produced some of the country’s great thesps. It has it’s problems. I believe that the Bristol’s Black community is one of the three largest in the country, along with Birmingham and London. It has its problems with marginalisation, lack of educational achievement, unemployment, drugs and violent crime, though this is by no means confined simply to Blacks. But it’s not particularly left-wing. Some areas, like Stokes Croft, have a reputation for radical politics. I’ve heard local people refer to it as ‘the people’s republic of Stokes Croft’. Other areas are Conservative, and all the shades of political opinion in between.

Academic Freedom and Marxist Indoctrination at Universities

As for the universities, the comment blaming them for the decision comes from the standard right-wing attitude that the unis are full of Marxists indoctrinating students. In fact, universities, courses and individual lecturers vary immensely. Some universities had a reputation, even in my day, for being hotbeds of left-wing activism, others were more Conservative. It also varies with the course you’re on. There hasn’t, traditionally, been much opportunity for far left-wing indoctrination in maths, science, medicine and engineering courses because of the nature of those subjects. Although it’s creeping in now in the form of ethnomathematics and the demands that the achievements of Black scientists and mathematicians should be particularly taught, it’s mostly been confined to the humanities. There have always been Marxist historians. These include the very well respected Christopher Hill, Eric Hobsbawm and E.P. Saunders, and there is a specific Marxist view of history. You are taught about this on the historiography courses in history at University, along with other forms of history, such as women’s history, social history, what Butterfield called the ‘Whig view of history’ and more conservative and Conservative views. I’ve been taught by lecturers with feminist or left-wing views. I’ve also been taught by people with far more traditional views. I also know lecturer who determined to keep their political views out of the classroom. University is supposed to be a place of free speech and debate, and it’s important that this is maintained. Students should be encouraged to read sources and the historical literature critically, and make up their own views. This means an engagement with Marxism as well as other ideologies. I think Bristol university has particularly come under fire because it’s rather more conservative and traditional compared to the newer universities. It received funding from the Colston charities when it was established early in the last century. Hence I believe the granting of a chair in the history of slavery to a Black woman. It also has relatively few Black students, which contrasts with the population of the city as a whole. This is partly because it has very high standards, and as a rule Blacks generally have poorer grades than other racial groups. It is also no doubt because when I was young, going away was seen as part of university education and so you were discouraged from applying to the local university. Hence the university is now trying to give greater opportunities to study to more Blacks and ethnic minorities.

Queer Theory, Critical Race Theory and the Marxist Attack on Western Culture

Now I largely agree that the acquittal of the four defendants has set a dangerous precedent because it allows people to attack public monuments they dislike or which are controversial. James Lindsay, one of the group with Peter Boghossian and Helen Pluckrose that has attacked postmodernist Critical Theory, has argued that ideologies like Queer Theory and Critical Race Theory are deliberate attacks on traditional western culture and Enlightenment values. They are aimed at destroying the past to create a Marxist future, just as Chairman Mao did during the horrors of the Cultural Revolution. One of the ancient monuments the Red cadres smashed as part of the campaign against the ‘Four Olds’ was the tomb of Confucius! This sounds like an idea straight out of loony right-wing paranoids and conspiracists like Alex Jones and the John Birch Society, until he backs it up by reading chapter and verse from the founders of such postmodernist Marxism, like Marcuse, Horkheimer and others. And yes, I can quite believe that vandalism to a monument to a Black politico or celebrity, like Nelson Mandela, would be treated far differently and as a terrible hate crime than the attack on Colston.

But regardless of the defence’s plea to the jury to ‘be on the right side of history’, I think there would always have been pressure on the jury to acquit. Colston was a slave trader and had been controversial for decades. They naturally wouldn’t have wanted to acquit people who attacked a monument on that score, rather than the philanthropy the statue commemorated. And the defendants make a good point when they say that ‘he no longer speaks for Bristol’. There were others in the city who opposed the slave trade. As well as the slavers and the West Indian planters, Bristol also had a large abolitionist movement. If you go a little way from the centre of Bristol into Redcliffe, you’ll find the Georgian church where Jeremiah Clarkson, one of the leading 18th century abolitionists, collected the testimony of Bristol’s slavers as part of his evidence against the trade.

Other Statues Not Vandalised

As for other statues, none of those in the surrounding area were touched. Not the statue to Edmund Burke, the politician and founder of modern Conservatism through his book, Reflections on the Revolution in France. The Lotus Eaters are offering it, or reading through it, as their ‘book of the month’. I wonder if they’ll mention that Burke’s statue was signally left untouched by the rioters. As was the statue of a monk in Lewin’s Mead, which had before the Reformation been a monastic complex. They also failed to destroy the statue of Neptune and a sailor on the docks. Queen Victoria was left untouched on nearby College Green. They also didn’t destroy the statue of John Cabot outside the Council House, sorry, ‘City Hall’ and the Central Library. This was despite various ‘spokesmen’ for the Black community claiming that the City’s celebration of his discovery of Newfoundland and America, following Columbus, was a celebration of slavery. There may well be similar defences used on similar attacks on other statues, but I think such attacks will be far more difficult to defend. Churchill was indeed a racist and an imperialist, as well as personally responsible for sending troops to gun down striking miners in Wales. But to the vast majority of severely normal Brits he was also the man, who helped save Europe and the world from Nazism and the Axis. And that would also count powerfully in the case against anyone who vandalised his monument.

Historians also Successfully Defend Controversial Statues

As for testimony from historians, this can work against the iconoclasts. The BLM fanatics trying to get the statue of Cecil Rhodes torn down at Oxford university claimed that he was somehow ‘South Africa’s Adolf Hitler’. Now Rhodes was a grotty character and an imperialist, but this goes too far. Rhodes’ biographer tackled this claim on social media, at which the BLM protesters making it went quiet. They couldn’t refute it, and so went silent.

I therefore do not feel that other statues are necessarily in a greater danger than previously because of the acquittal.

Then there’s the question of any possible statue to replace it. There are rumours that it could be a Black person. Well, if there is, it should be of a Black person, who actually had contact and lived in the city. One of Bristol’s sporting heroes way back was a Black boxer. One of my aunts was friends with his daughter. I’d say this gentleman would be a good candidate for such a statue, because as a sports hero he united everyone from left and right, as well as being a citizen of Bristol.

Nigel Farage has suggested a memorial to the British navy. Absolutely. The British West India squadron did excellent work patrolling the seas for slavers. And they were by no means all racist. Captain Denman, giving evidence on a massacre of 300 unsold slaves by one of the West African slaving states to parliament, made the point that ‘it is remarkable given the advances they have made in the arts of civilisation’. He clearly believe European civilisation was superior, but had been particularly shocked because the African peoples responsible for the massacre were also comparatively civilised. Africans serving or aiding the British navy were also given the compensation payments awarded to British tars when they suffered injury and loss of limbs.

We also patrolled the waters between east Africa and India to stop western and Arab slavers, and one antipodean historian has written that in the Pacific, the royal navy was the chief protector of its indigenous peoples against enslavement.

It also needs to be remembered that one of the reasons for the British invasion of Africa was to stamp out slavery and the slave trade. I’ve no doubt that the main, if not the real reasons were simple hunger for territory and resources, and to stop those areas falling into the hands of our European imperial rivals – France, Germany, Italy and Portugal. But some of the officer involved took their duty extremely serious, such as Samuel Baker and Gordon of Khartoum. The Mahdi, against whom Gordon fought, and his followers were slavers outraged at the British government’s ban on it and the enslavement of Black Sudanese. There are therefore excellent reasons for putting up a memorial to the British navy and armed forces.

And I would also support a statue to Jeremiah Clarkson for his work in the city bringing the horrors of the trade to light.

In the meantime, despite the right-wing outrage at this act of vandalism, I think we should view the attack on Colston’s statue as a special case.

Claims of a general threat to British history because of it may well be exaggerated.

Indian Newsreader Ponders the Coming Collapse of American Democracy

January 6, 2022

I found this grimly fascinating video on the YouTube channel for Gravitas, which I think is the news programme of the Indian WION – World Is One – network. The anchor woman considers the prediction by a Canadian academic that American democracy is in crisis and that the country will have a right-wing dictator by 2030. This will follow a period of civil disturbances in 2025. America is becoming more polarised. 64 per cent of Americans believe democracy is in crisis, according to polls, and 66 per cent of Republicans that the last election was rigged. 70 per cent of Americans also believe that democracy is failing. And 66 per cent believe that violence against the government is justified. These views explains the attack on Congress by Trump’s supporters last year, and there’s a prediction that the Orange Buffoon will return in 2024. At the same time, White nationalism is on the rise. She states that democracies dies through a deeply polarised society and distrust of government. She also claims that White supremacy is rising in the US army, aided by legislation that does not forbid squaddies from joining Fascist organisations like the Klan. She is careful to say, however, that she is not claiming soldiers are joining these organisations.

She also notes that last year America was put on a list of different nations as a ‘backsliding democracy’. If the attempted invasion of congress that occurred precisely a year ago, on 6th January 2021, had happened in west Asia (the Middle East) or Latin America, the US would, she claims, have sent in the CIA and a couple of thousand marines ‘to restore democracy’. She goes on to say that for decades, democracy has been whatever America says it is. There are many examples of this American arrogance. One report says that the US tried to topple Latin American regimes 41 times in the 20th century. The US funded juntas and plotted assassinations,. Another example is the CIA-funded overthrow of the last democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadeq, in 1953, backing the Shah. No-one asked them to do it, certainly not the Iranian people, ‘but that’s what America is for you’. America interferes because it can. It overthrew the Taliban in 2001, which was great, but their next step was to impose their presidential system on a country with more than a hundred ethnicities taking no account of tribal loyalties. The problem is the attitude that the American system suits all peoples ‘but democracy doesn’t work that way’. She concludes ‘So this prophecy of American collapse is karma, plain and simple.’

It’s a blistering attack on post-Trump division and the emerging far right in America, as well as American imperialism from the perspective of the Developing World. And she is absolutely correct. The late, long-term critic of American imperialism, William Blum, lists all the countries, whose governments the US has overthrown and in whose elections they have interfered in his books. The list and its brief descriptions of American meddling, take up two whole chapters each. America, and also Britain, did overthrow Iran’s prime minister, Mossedeq in the 1953 because he nationalised the oil industry. This was then owned and controlled by foreign companies, like BP, which employed Iranian workers on much lower wages and with poorer conditions than westerners. As for Afghanistan, the country, like others in the region, is a mosaic of different tribal and ethnic groups. It has no tradition of western-style democracy, and the president the Americans and the west back, Hamid Karzai, was massively corrupt. And the corruption reached all the way down through his regime and the new state to exploit and alienate ordinary Afghans. The result was the rapid collapse of Karzai’s government and the seizure of power by the Taliban almost as soon as American troops departed. In Iraq too George W. Bush and the other Neo-Cons had absolutely no idea about the society they had invaded and were trying to remodel. They believed the lies of Ahmed Chalabi, that he led a massive resistance movement against Hussein and that he and the American troops would be welcomed with flowers as liberators. Worse, the Neo-Cons actively resented and removed officials and senior military leaders, who attempted to tell them they were wrong. General Zilli, the head of the Middle East section of the Pentagon, was given the boot because he dared to do so.

As for the type of democracy the Americans wanted to introduce into Iraq, this was a very narrow version governed by Neo-Con doctrine. The government was to be democratic, but it was to be constitutionally prevented from interfering in business or private industry. It was democracy, but only as far as big business and American corporate interests allowed it.

As for the assertion that the collapse of American democracy and the emergence of a right-wing dictator is karma, I think left-wing political commenters like Noam Chomsky and the peeps at the radical magazine and website, Counterpunch, have said that America is suffering from imperial blowback. The tactics it has used to destabilise foreign regimes are now coming back to be used against America’s own citizens. And because of the powerful corporate influence on American politics, Harvard University several years ago described America, not as a democracy, but as an oligarchy.

There are deep divisions in current American politics between Trump’s supporters on the right, who include White supremacists, and the radical left, as shown in the rise of Black Lives Matter. Some of the BLM protests and demonstrations have degenerated into destruction and rioting, and in the most extreme example an anarchist community rejecting the American state emerged, only to collapse into violent anarchy in the pejorative sense and be retaken by local law enforcement. This has created a sense of crisis on the American right, while the invasion of congress looks very much like an attempted coup, comparable to Mussolini’s March on Rome. I am not surprised that many Americans feel their democracy is failing.

I don’t want American democracy to collapse. I believe that Fascism and dictatorship has to be fought everywhere in the world, and an America dominated by a dictator would be horrific, not just for the country but also for the rest of the world. American democracy needs to be supported.

It just shouldn’t impose dictatorships or its very contrived version of democracy on everyone else.

James Lindsay on Post-Modern Marxism and the Indoctrination of Children in Sex Education

December 31, 2021

This is one of the serious videos I want to post and discuss. What Lindsay says is alarming and should leave any decent person deeply concerned about the direction sex education is taking in America and increasingly over here. Because he argues that the recent inclusion of real pornographic material as educational tools and very detailed discussion of different sexualities and gender identities isn’t by accident, nor is it done, as it claims, to help gay or transgender students. Rather it’s a deliberate ploy by a noxious coalition of post-modernist Marxists and MAPs – Minor Attracted Persons, or paedophiles to the rest of us – to destroy childhood innocence. The intention is not to help children properly understand their developing sexuality and anatomy, but to increase their anxiety and unhappiness in order to create socially disaffected young people alienated from their parents and society, ready to start the revolution.

Conspiracy theories like this have been going round the Conservative right for donkey’s years, usually ascribing this to ‘cultural Marxism’, the Frankfurt School and the Italian Communist, Antonio Gramsci. I didn’t give them much credence, especially as the term ‘cultural Marxism’ is derived from the Nazis ‘Kulturbolschevismus’, ‘Cultural Bolshevism’, and was part of their noxious anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. It sounds so bonkers and extreme, that if it appeared in the pages of Daily Heil, I would have quite happily disregarded it. But Lindsay is an American mathematician and part of the group, with Peter Boghossian and Helen Pluckrose, that has taken on postmodernist Critical Theory and its offshoots – Queer Theory, Critical Race Theory, Postcolonial Theory, to show how pernicious and destructive these ideas actually are. He’s familiar with the literature, although he states his knowledge of it isn’t perfect and he needs to do more reading. But he cites the lead thinkers to back up this argument.

Lukacz and the Destruction of Childhood Innocence

For Lindsay, this all started with George Lukacz, one of the leaders of the 1919 Communist Revolution in Hungary. Lukacz started sex education in Hungarian schools with the deliberate intention of fomenting radical dissent amongst the students against traditional, Christian society and morality. He introduced pornographic material similar to what is now being promoted in American schools. There was a outrage a few weeks ago about one of the Young Adult books now being recommended as part of American Sex and Social Development Education. This was explicitly about the character’s exploration of queer sexuality and included a scene where one individual has oral sex with a girl wearing a strap-on dildo. He also introduced notions of different sexual identities. This is because Lukacz, and later postmodern Critical Theorists, hate the idea of childhood innocence. They see this as part of a mechanism by repressive capitalist society to repress children’s sexuality in order to redirect it towards capitalist work. They also have similar ideas about ‘White innocence’. They don’t like people growing up in environments where race is not an issue and where folks value each other for what they are, rather than the colour of their skin. This is another function of repressive, exploitative capitalism. Only Whites are racially innocent, as Blacks and other ethnic minorities have to live with the reality of a very racialised society. Lindsay states that this is nonsense, as the attacks on White culture over the past 30 years have shown.

Bela Kun’s Communist government was overthrown, and Lukacz fled to Germany, where he met the Frankfurt school of Marxist scholars, including Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Horkheimer and Felix Weil, who bankrolled the movement. These took up his ideas and later imported them into America after the rise of the Nazis in Germany. Also influential in this movement was Gramsci and his ideas of cultural hegemony. Gramsci turned the Marxist doctrine of the economic base determining culture on its head. Faced with the failure of the working class to rise up and overthrow capitalism, he theorised that what was needed was to change the prevailing culture. Lukacz and the others saw five main obstacles to spreading Marxism in Europe. One of these was religion. They also hated the natural bond between parents and their children, which also acts as a stabilising influence. According to Lindsay, they see sexuality and people as an ‘identity without essence’. They don’t have a fixed identity, and so Critical Theory deliberately tries to destabilise this even further, to create more confusion and discontent, and break the bond between children and parents as part of a wider campaign to discredit traditional culture. Lindsay compares this with Mao’s Cultural Revolution, its attack on the ‘Four Olds’ and the use of children to inform on and persecute their parents. These ideas were behind the far left discontent on the 1960s. Capitalism had produced rising living standards, and the working class were no longer interested in overthrowing capitalism. Marxist intellectuals were therefore determined to find a new revolutionary class, and so began looking towards other social groups like gays. The sexual radicalism of the 60s was part of a wider Marxist attack on traditional social mores.

Capitalism’s Suppresson of the Libido

Lindsay recognises that the monogamy the Queer Theorists despise is difficult for humanity. People aren’t good at it. Nevertheless, he believes that there is a human sexual morality and that traditional Christian morality roughly approximates to it, but not perfectly. I think Lindsay is an atheist/ Humanist. He is also aware that Christians have persecuted gays. But Queer Theory isn’t about solving those problems, and the Marxist sexual radicals have promoted paedophilia. In the 1980s Judith Butler, one of the founders of Queer Theory, wrote a book defending paedophilia. He also talks about a book by Herbert Marcuse which tried to mix Freud and Marxism to challenge what he saw as capitalism’s suppression of the libido and redirection into capitalist work. This also aimed at destabilising the personalities of the young minds, which were to be indoctrinated with this teaching, but felt they would emerge as ideologically ‘mature’ individuals. Lindsay notes that this is about spreading political awareness amongst children. Marcuse’s use of ‘mature’ rather than adult is deliberate.

Most Teachers Want to Teach, Not Indoctrinate

Lindsay has nothing but loathing and contempt for these ideas and their promoters. He states at one point that they should be in jail, which is fascistic but understandable if he’s right about what’s going on. If this is being done to normalise paedophilia and to exploit young people’s discomfort about their emerging sexuality, it it’s not about genuinely helping gay and transgender children but about making their confusion and maladjustment worse, then it has no place in schools. In contrast to the scare stories about Commie teachers indoctrinating students, most teachers are severely normal people. They don’t wish to indoctrinate students but simply stand in front of a class and teach their subject. And these are boring, traditional subjects like maths, science, history, geography, whatever. I don’t know what the situation is in America, but in Britain Tony Blair brought in very strict legislation banning indoctrination in schools. All that is needed to stop the extremists doing it in Britain is simply to discipline and sack them according to the law. But I do agree that anyone deliberately promoting paedophilia to children should be banged up behind bars.

Mobilising People against Queer Theory

I think Boghossian, Lindsay and Pluckrose are people of the left, not Conservatives. Pluckrose now defines herself as a liberal rather than a socialist, although she says her actual political ideas haven’t changed. Lindsay wants a coalition of people from left and right, Republican and Democrat, Black and White, to challenge and attack these ideas. People should be aware of what their children are being taught in schools. And if their kids are being fed literature like that wretchedly explicit book, they should confront the school board, film it and then try and place the video on YouTube. It won’t be accepted, because the platform will view it as pornography. Case proven.

Older Marxists Not Sexual Radicals

If Lindsay is correct, which he seems to be, then the right’s attack on ‘cultural Marxism’ is actually right, and definitely needs to be fought. But this doesn’t mean that anything else the right says – about free markets bringing prosperity, for example, is correct. The 60s were an era of prosperity partly because government was strongly involved in business and economic growth. And the Critical Theorists’ view of sexual morality is strongly contrary to the life styles and views of many of the older generation of working class Marxists. Instead of believing in free love, most of them believed in marriage and the family. When Andre Breton, the Pope of Surrealism, gave a lecture on free love to the French railwaymen’s union in the 1920s, his solidly Communist audience were very definitely not impressed.

What Lindsay says about the influence of Marxist critical attacks on traditional sexuality and its influence on 60s radicalism is important, if true. The attack on marriage and promotion of free love went far beyond Marxism into anarchism, situationism and similar movements, and I’d always assumed it was due to ideas that predated Marx and which were held across the radical left. In many cases, I think that’s true. But there does seem to be a definite Marxist strategy there as well. It explains why so many revolutionaries of that period were also rebelling against traditional sexual morality.

There is a danger here of starting a new McCarthyism in which anything vaguely left-wing is suddenly smeared as ‘Communist’, like the Right tried to do with Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in Labour.

But Queer Theory does seem to be utterly pernicious and really needs to be fought.

History Debunked Defends Man Jailed for Hamas T-Shirt

December 21, 2021

This is a very provocative video from Simon Webb’s History Debunked. In it he defends the man, who was jailed last week or so under the anti-terrorism legislation for wearing a T-shirt supporting one of the Hamas paramilitary brigades. Webb has put up several pieces attacking what he regards as the infringement of the right to free speech under the hate crime and anti-terrorism laws. A little while ago he put up another video objecting to the jailing of another man for terrorism. The man was a Nazi, and the crime for which he was jailed was simply that of looking at Neo-Nazi material. Webb states that his views are vile and was clearly not happy at defending him. But his point was that terrorism should actually mean trying to kill people for political purposes, not merely simply holding extremist views. I think his argument in that video was this man, and a number of other White males, were being jailed for terrorism to even up the statistics when it came to the racial composition of terrorism offenders so that the majority weren’t Muslims. And the only way to do that is to start jailing people for holding extremist views and reading extremist material and not just for shooting people, planting bombs and so on.

In this video he talks about how, since 2002, it has been illegal to possess a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook, a nasty little publication that shows the reader how to make various weapons. He points out that it’s been around since the 1970s, and at one time you could buy it perfectly legally in high street bookshops. He himself used to have a copy. I remember people talking about it in the 1990s without anyone actually wanting to try it out to harm anyone. There’s a similar book in America, written by someone rejoicing in the name Ragnar Redbeard. That book similarly tells the reader how to make various weapons, which is very definitely illegal even under American law and the constitutional right to bear arms. According to the online human magazine, Cracked, however, it’s publication is perfectly legal under the constitutional right to free speech, and defended on the grounds that if the wretched book were banned, it would show that this fundamental right was under threat.

He goes on to talk about the case of the man jailed for his Hamas T-shirt, and compares it to the one he wears in the video. This has a motto in Hebrew. It’s taken from the Hebrew Bible, and is the motto of the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad. It was given to him by his wife as a bit of a joke as he spent several years living in Israel. Yes, the Hamas paramilitary brigade on the bloke’s T-shirt is a terrorist organisation. But then, so is Mossad. This is strong stuff, as I don’t doubt there are plenty of people who would claim the opposite, not least because Mossad is an official department of the Israeli state. I can imagine that the same people, who screamed ‘anti-Semitism!’ whenever Jeremy Corbyn, Jewish Voice for Labour or the Electronic Intifada criticised Israel for its atrocities against the Palestinians being equally outraged at this description of Mossad. But Mossad has behaved like a terrorist organisation. It has carried out kidnappings and assassinations, and so the description, while controversial, has a certain validity.

Actually, the real object of Webb’s polemic is at the end of the video, where he talks about the arrest of Piers Corbyn for supposed terrorism. Piers Corbyn is a notorious critic of the Coronavirus lockdown, which he feels is a terrible infringement on the British public’s personal liberty. He’d been asked what ordinary people should do. He replied by telling them they should go round an MP’s house or constituency office, and, well, he didn’t know what, but suggested burning it down. Which is what got him arrested.

In my opinion, Piers Corbyn is a dangerous crank. His entire scepticism towards the Coronavirus and the lockdown reminds me very strongly of the other sceptics, who all refused to take the vaccine because they didn’t believe it really existed or wasn’t that bad. And then showed how lethal the disease could be by catching it and dying. As for his comments about burning down MPs’ homes or offices, well, it may be that Simon Webb is right and that he didn’t mean it literally. I think the judge may also have agreed with this view, and released him. But it’s still monumentally stupid. Unfortunately, MPs have been assassinated – David Amess by an Islamist, Jo Cox years ago by a White Fascist. And there’s the Liverpool suicide bomber. I dare say that none of these were caused by an unguarded inflammatory comment, but there is a danger that some nutter will hear casual remarks like P.C.’s and act upon them.

As for the Hamas T-shirt, I don’t like paramilitary organisations and terrorists no matter who they are. But there is a problem of selective enforcement. For example, Tony Greenstein has remarked several times on his blog about a couple of fervent Zionists, who turn up at every Zionist rally or anti-Palestinian organisation wearing T-shirts with the Kach symbol on them. Kach is another terrorist organisation, designated so by the Israelis themselves. It was founded on the teachings of the extreme right-wing Israeli rabbi, Meir Kahane, who really did believe that the Palestinians should be expelled at gunpoint from Eretz Israel. If you’re going to jail someone for wearing the symbols of a Palestinian paramilitary organisation, then rightly those supporting Kach should also face time in the slammer. You can also go further, and ask why the members of Sasha Johnson’s wretched Black militia haven’t been arrested. Before she was shot in the head by a gang apparently aiming for her partner, Johnson had been trying to found this organisation. There was footage of her standing in front of ranks of black-attired people in stab vests, all of whom were themselves Black. This was supposedly to protect Black people from being killed by the cops, whom she decried as the KKK, which is a grotesque comparison. According to legislation passed in the 1930s with the express intention of banning paramilitary groups like the BUF or the Nazis, it is illegal for an organisation to have a paramilitary uniform. But this is, arguably, what Johnson’s Black militia had and were. Despite calls by the mad right-wing YouTuber Alex Belfield for the police to come and arrest them, as far as I know they were allowed to go free. I suspect the authorities believed that some of its members would be only too glad to get into a fracas with the police and were afraid of playing into their hands. As for the Kach supporters, I suspect that if someone did try to have them arrested, it would either be ignored or be denounced as another instance of anti-Semitism by Israel’s militant supporters.

I have to say that I have no problem with jailing Nazis and real political extremists. But there are issues of free speech involved and the correct, uniform enforcement of the legislation. Because what should be illegal for one set of extremists and supporters of terrorism, should be illegal for all.

Two people wearing Kach T-shirts at a pro-Israel rally.

Cartoonist Kayfabe on Trashman, 60s Underground Comix Anti-Hero

November 30, 2021

Here’s another video from YouTube comics creators and YouTubers, Jim Rugg and Ed Piskor, in which the two discuss one of ‘Spain’ Rodriguez’s best-known and most notorious characters, Trashman. Rodriguez was one of the major talents in ’60s underground comics. The two state he was first published by Evo and the East Village Other, and was part of a group of underground comix artists and creators called the Berkeley Tribe. Spain was fully part of the ’60s counterculture and Trashman was an explicit expression of that decade’s political radicalism and youth revolt. The Kayfabers remark that stylistically Spain appears influenced by mainstream comic artists, like the legendary Jack Kirby and John Romita at Marvel, he’s far removed from them in politics and content. Because Trashman was an agent of the ‘6th International’, gunning down the enemies of the people. The comic, The Collected Trashman, has the date ‘1969’ on it, but this doesn’t mean it was actually published them. Even so, it deals with the decade’s topics of distrust of the government, Vietnam, drugs, free love and hippies. There’s a lot of sex in it, so be careful about watching it at work. The two also compare Trashman to later heroes like Mad Max and Judge Dredd. Trashman careers about an urban environment in a souped-up car, to which armour and a set of tank tracks have been added, rather like one of the bizarre, demented vehicles in Mad Max: Fury Road. It might also be because of the mixture of automotive mayhem, extreme violence and urban dystopia that’s behind the Kayfaber’s comparison to Judge Dredd.

Rather more problematic to contemporary readers is Spain’s highly sexualised view of women. A number of underground comix creators were accused of sexism and misogyny, such as Robert Crumb, and I think Rodriguez may have been another one. But the Kayfabers argue that Rodriguez was doing it when feminism was emerging, and so was probably trying to get more publicity through notoriety.

It’s an interesting look at one of the best-known and remembered of the decade’s underground heroes. I don’t know if such a comic would be possible now. Certainly the decades of terrorism that followed the 60s from groups like the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany, the various radical terrorist groups running amok in Italy, and the IRA and the loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland would probably make such a character deeply unappealing to large sections of the public, quite apart from the Fall of Communism. Trashman was going to be controversial even in the 1960s, with the rise of terrorist groups like the Weathermen and the violence at the Democratic National Convention. There’s even a story in the comic in which Trashman shoots that up.

Nevertheless, there are still students sticking posters of Che Guevara on their walls and the rise of Black Lives Matter and strong initial support for former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in Britain and Bernie Sanders in the US shows that a sizable section of the British and American electorate want far more radical change than the right-wing cliques that have seized control of the Labour party in Britain and Democrats in the US are prepared to give them. Not that either Corbyn or Sanders ever remotely endorsed terrorism and violence, despite the vilification of the former by the British political and media establishment.

One of the complaints among some comics creators and fans is that Marvel and DC, the two main comics companies in the US, have moved too far leftward. Instead of producing good, enjoyable stories with strong plots and characters, the two are instead concentrating on explicit statements about social issues and promoting characters based solely on their gender, race or sexuality. This is putting readers off, and as a result American comics are in decline as people turn instead to Japanese manga, which eschews these issues. This is the view of Ethan van Sciver and the Comicsgaters. I can see their point of view, although the Guardian pointed out in an article a few years ago that comics have always dealt with political and social issues. That’s quite true. One episode of the Superman radio series in the 1940s was applauded by NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League as the Man of Steel had gone after the Klan. In the 1970s both Marvel and DC dealt with racism and the collapse of American self-esteem following Watergate. There were several issues of Captain America in which the Captain forswore his patriotic identity to call himself ‘Nomad’ following his own, brief loss of faith in his country. There were also a number of Hulk stories which showed a very strong critical attitude to the military, doubtless influenced by the unpopularity of the Vietnam War. However, Stan Lee, the man responsible with artists like Kirby and Ditko, for so many of Marvel’s most iconic heroes, also said in an interview that he was careful not to let the political content alienate those readers who didn’t agree with it.

The Kayfaber’s state that Trashman is a product of its times, though it can also be seen as a period piece set in that decade because of its timeless quality. Back in the 1990s the Heil went berserk at a similar radical, underground comic on sale in the shops. This was an anarchist version of Tintin, in which the boy detective was shown joining the struggle against the cops and the state. Of course, the book had absolutely no connection to anything Herge actually wrote or did. However, the rise of the internet has provided would-be comics creators with an opportunity for launching their own comics without the hindrance of the mainstream comics publishing industry. It’s therefore possible that as Thatcherite neoliberalism continues to collapse and show itself corrupt and bankrupt, underground comix heroes like Trashman may rise to stick it to oppressive capitalist authority once again. And especially if less radical ways of changing the system or expressing dissatisfaction are suppressed by Blairites and Thatcherite Labour leaders like Keir Starmer.

Belfield Attacks Facial Recognition Systems as Part of the Emerging Surveillance Society

September 30, 2021

I’ve put up several pieces already this week commenting on and critiquing some of the videos put up by mad internet radio host Alex Belfield. Belfield is very much a man of the right, who rails against ‘namby-pamby pinko liberal Guardian-reading lefty-twirlies’ and entitled ‘whippersnappers’ in just about every one of his videos. I very much do not share his political views, especially when he demands the privatisation of the NHS. But sometimes he says something with which I agree and believe to be absolutely correct.

This is one of them. In his piece below, Belfield expresses his concerns about the police’s announcement that they will be increasing the use of computer facial recognition systems. Belfield’s worried about the privacy issue here. He points out that it will be used to track you on the motorway, and that it is also being used in some of the cashless stores now being trialled. In these stores, you are watched by the CCTV cameras and the machines make note of your purchases. You walk out of the store without handing over cash, but simply use your card to pay. As Belfield points out, the police can use the information from facial recognition systems and CCTV footage to reconstruct your day, including where you went and what you bought. And it’s not just adults being targeted. Critics have attacked plans to introduce CCTV surveillance in schools.

These are real, pressing issues that have been around for a long time. Back in the late 90s at the beginnings of Blair’s reign I read a book I’d taken out of the library which criticised the use of CCTV cameras and the electronic bourse. This was supposed to be the new form of cashless payment. Everyone would have a card which contained their biometric details and money, which would be used to pay for everything from groceries to trips on the bus. Tory Tony Blair was very much interested in forcing a biometric ID card on us all. The book and organisations such as Privacy International argued that this would lead to a surveillance state. A recent edition of Panorama, ‘Are You Worried Yet, Human?’, examined dangerous developments in AI. These included computer systems that could pilot jets remotely so that they performed better than when they were flown by human pilots. But most of the programme concentrated on the threat posed by computer surveillance. The Chinese are building computer systems and centres to gather data so that their citizens are constantly monitored. The programme spoke to Chinese dissidents who had been arrested and detained using such computer-collected footage.

This is exactly the type of totalitarian society depicted in Science Fiction dystopias. The first season titles of the classic BBC SF series, Blake’s 7, started with a CCTV camera followed by a black-suited soldier, faced hidden by helmet visor and gas mask. This was a trooper of the Federation, the totalitarian galactic empire against which Blake and his crew of former criminals fought. Comics legend Alan Moore has expressed his own worries about CCTV surveillance. He has said in interviews that he deliberately put them in the Fascist Britain he depicted in V For Vendetta in order to scare readers. What worries him is that these cameras have now become completely accepted. Moore’s an anarchist, but Tory Niall Ferguson has said the same thing. He recalls coming back from China and being shocked to find CCTV surveillance being used here, but ignored and accepted by everyone.

Belfield says that these systems and cashless electronic payment are being used to track us, and to keep records of what we’ve bought by companies so they can sell us stuff. That’s only part of the story. Another reason the electronic payment is being pushed instead of cash is so that governments can use it to track what we’re purchasing and seeing if we’re doing anything illegal. Privacy International was dedicated to combating such threats to our liberty. But I’m not aware that this is anything more than the viewpoints of a small number of individuals at present. Blair was prevented from introducing biometric ID cards, but the increased use of facial recognition systems and the push towards cashless payment suggests that the people who were calling for its introduction 20 years or so ago really haven’t gone away.

Belfield is absolutely right to point out that this is a threat to our liberty. It’s just a shame that he is one of the small number of people who are doing so.

Rob Ferguson on Anti-Semitism against Left-Wing Jews

August 9, 2021

Last month the noxious Blairite MP Neil Coyle put up a tweet calling for the expulsion of Jewish Voice for Labour, an organisation of left-wing Jews, which supported Jeremy Corbyn and his socialist policies. Unlike the Jewish Labour Movement, the right-wing ultra-Zionist outfit, formerly called Paole Zion, JVL members had to be both Jewish and members of the Labour party, although non-Jews could be associate members. JLM members don’t have to be either, and at one point it seems that 60 per cent of their members weren’t actually Jewish. But Jewish Voice for Labour have terrified the Labour leadership and the Conservative political and media establishment by supporting a return to the Labour policies that would have empowered this country’s great working people and criticising Israel and its murderous persecution of the Palestinians. As a result, the woefully misnamed Jewish Labour Movement is somehow hailed as the true voice of the party’s Jews and given the responsibility for providing anti-Semitism training to prospective party workers and politicians. Jewish Voice for Labour, on the other hand, are continually being denounced by the Blairite witch-hunters like Coyle as ‘Communists’ and anti-Semites. This is despite the fact that they are decent, self-respecting Jews, many of whom have suffered real anti-Semitic abuse and assault.

In response to Coyle’s tweet, JVL have put up a couple of pieces on their website by David Rosenberg and Rob Ferguson respectively, noting that anti-Semitism has historically taken the form of a specific fear of left-wing Jews. In his piece, Ferguson notes that even the British publisher of the infamous Tsarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, distinguished between good, loyal British Jews and the Jewish Communist, anarchist and socialist radicals he was convinced were working to destroy Britain. It was a view also shared by Winston Churchill. Ferguson’s piece is well-worth reading, and so I’m including it here, as edited by JVL for publication on their site.

The Labour Party and Jews: the return of antisemitic animosity

A couple of days ago, David Rosenberg posted a comment on the call by Neil Coyle MP that Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) be added to the list of proscribed organisations (just agreed by the NEC as I write). David observed that Coyle was effectively calling for the expulsion of hundreds of Jews from the party and called out Coyle’s antisemitism.

David incurred responses on Facebook and Twitter from some on the left, insisting he was mistaken – that JVL was only being targeted because they were left wing, not because they were Jews. They are wrong. In demanding the expulsion of specifically left-wing Jews, Coyle is manifesting a form of antisemitism with a long pedigree, including within the Labour Party itself.

The half-decade long weaponisation of the charge of antisemitism against the left in particular and the promotion of the “new antisemitism” narrative in general, has dangerously degraded how antisemitism is understood. (And I do mean dangerously).

David’s critics misunderstand, or choose to ignore, a core dynamic of historic and contemporary antisemitism. Hatred of left-wing Jews has always acted as a key driver of antisemitic ideology. This is not simply one other element of antisemitic prejudice. Working-class movements constitute the primary foe of fascists, and far right reactionary movements. This bestows an instrumental significance to the hatred and demonisation of the left-wing Jew.

This prejudice does not arise in isolation. It is not, as is commonly conveyed, simply a bizarre manifestation of Nazi ideology. [Paul Hanebrink has written usefully on this]. The Nazis and others built on a commonly held prejudice against Jewish revolutionaries and socialists that encompassed wide layers of Europe’s ruling classes, including in Britain.

It is true that Nazi ideology explicitly cast “Judeo-Bolshevism” as in essence a racial characteristic; the dominant antisemitism of the western European establishment however tended to make an important distinction between “loyal”, “patriotic”, “national” Jews and socialists, anarchists and revolutionaries. David points to the example of Churchill’s vicious antisemitic tract of 1921 Zionism versus Bolshevism which precisely draws this distinction.

However, Churchill was expressing a very common view. Even the virulent antisemite, HA Gwynne, editor of the “Morning Post” and publisher of the Tsarist forgery, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, made this distinction, writing: “A certain section of the Jews in the world are engaged in a mighty attempt to destroy the established rule in many countries and, to bring this world into communistic brotherhood”. Gwynne then continued, “But it would be downright wicked to ascribe to Jewry as a whole this mad and dangerous policy” arguing this would be “hideous antisemitism” and that fault lay not with “honest, patriotic Jews” but with “the revolutionaries of their race.”

These prejudices were reflected in some sections of the Labour movement including on the right of the Labour Party and even some elements of the trade unions, particularly during the first world war. This resurfaced on the Labour right in east London in the wake of Communist Phil Piratin’s victory in 1945 in Mile End; Stepney’s Labour leader, JC Lawder, declared that the Communists had won “in that part of the borough where people of alien origin predominate and where regard for the hoary institutions of British traditionalism is weak”.

A vile undercurrent of animosity towards left-wing, internationalist Jews is now re-emerging on the Labour right. Coyle’s call to expel Jewish members who criticise or oppose Israel is simply an explicit reflection of a deeper phenomenon. The right’s support for Jews is not unconditional. It rests on “loyalty” to the British state and imperialist interests. It is not a defence of Jews as Jews. Behind it stirs an old antisemitic animosity to left-wing Jews.

It is an animosity facilitated by the witch hunt, the conflation of Jewish identity with Zionism, and an IHRA definition that has hollowed out the meaning of antisemitism. It is in this context that Labour right-wingers like Coyle, are left free to express their vehement loathing of the Jewish left. I for one have been shocked at the virulence with which this has been expressed, not just by right wing “commentators” outside Labour, but inside the party.

In the early decades of the twentieth century liberal Jewry across Europe insisted that “Bolshevik” Jews were not real Jews. Right-wing Zionists have today picked up the baton.

Then as now, far from shielding Jews from antisemitism, this can only fuel it. It offers the far right antisemite legitimacy … and a sheild; if the Labour Party casts radical, left-wing Jews as antisemites … who are they to argue? And contempt for left-wing Jews never ends there…”

See: https://www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/article/a-call-for-jvls-expulsion/

A few days ago Mike published an extract from the Morning Star reporting that, according to Jewish Voice for Labour, Starmer’s purge of alleged anti-Semites has resulted in the expulsion of hundreds of left-wing Jews from the party. Jews are being disproportionately affected, demonstrating that this is in itself an anti-Semitic attack on left-wing Jews in the party. As David Rosenberg has argued, and Rob Ferguson’s article shows particularly clearly, this is absolutely correct.

Jewish Voice for Labour and left-wing Jews in the party, people like Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, Martin Odoni and so many others, are decent people. They are not anti-Semites. The real anti-Semites are those on the right, using the age-old fear of Communist Jews to terrify the public with stupid, vicious conspiracy theories to justify their own anti-Jewish persecution.