Archive for the ‘Asia’ Category

Klan Jokes Show Racism Far Stronger in Tories

March 29, 2019

I realise that this is a few days old, and that blogs like Zelo Street, Tom Clarke and Mike have already commented on it, but I really can’t let this one go without putting my ha’pence in. A few days ago, Laura Kuensberg tweeted that the members of the right-wing eurosceptic European Research Group had, according to her anonymous sources, been calling themselves ‘Grand Wizards’. This, as any fule kno, is one of the grade in the Ku Klux Klan. Outrage naturally erupted, at which point Kuensberg showed her true colours – deep Tory blue – by rowing back on her claim. She’d only heard it from two people, who were anonymous, and the ERG didn’t know about its Klan connotations when they started using it.

A likely story, as my grandmother would say when presented with tall tales of this magnitude. Firstly, as Tom Clarke and Zelo Street have pointed out, much news comes to journalists through anonymous sources. And with some stories the individuals providing the information may have their identities hidden by journalists, even when that person is known to them. Like in the various stories where information or comments are credited to unnamed ministers, civil servants or other anonymous ‘official sources’. And as the above blogs also point out, does anyone really believe that Rees Mogg, Boris Johnson, Steve Baker, David Davis and Iain Duncan Smith didn’t know that Grand Wizard was a Klan term? No, I don’t either.

I dare say that Boris or one of the others could probably huff and puff and try to make it all sound very innocent by referring back to one of Lloyd George’s nicknames: the Welsh Wizard. The Tories at the time had other words for him, such as ‘the little bounder’ and worse. Or they could try saying that it was just a bit of fun and meant in the spirit of the peeps who play Dungeons and Dragons and other Fantasy role-playing games. I think the Fantasy card game, Magic: The Gathering, is produced by a company called the Wizards of the Coast. But here’s the point. The ERG weren’t simply calling themselves wizards. No-one would be bother if they called themselves the ‘Wizards of Westminster’, in the same way that no-one is bothered when someone’s described as a wizard at maths, finances or whatever. It’s the fact that they called themselves ‘Grand Wizards’.

The Klan, their robes and their jargon are grotesque, and have generated a great deal of laughter after their expense. One anti-fascist described them as sounding like a Nazi party set up by D&D fans. But this hides a very grime, terrible reality: they’re White supremacists, who’ve killed thousands. They’re a secret society, who were set up to terrorise the Black liberated by the American Civil War. The full, pompous title is ‘The Invisible Empire of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan’. And the violence and terror they caused was and is horrific. Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks described in one of their videos how his eyes were opened to right-wing racist violence in the US when he went into a Black Museum while passing through the South. This had a display on the lynchings, which revealed just how extreme the terror was. A wrong word or gesture could result in an angry mob surrounding a Black man, who would then be beaten, mutilated, or set on fire, and then hung from the trees. What is really disturbing is that the White mobs and onlookers would also see this as some kind of occasion for a party, holding picnics and breaking pieces off the bodies to take home as souvenirs. Not all the victims were Black. Tariq Ali on one of his shows pointed out that in Louisiana more Italians were lynched than Blacks. But it is truly horrific, and makes you wonder about how civilised the people and communities that committed, or simply acquiesced in these lynchings were. Uygur stated that if this was done by Muslims, then people here would automatically see it as more evidence of Muslim barbarism.

I am also honestly not surprised that the ERG decided to refer to themselves by such a loaded, disgusted monicker. There’s always been a section of the public school educated, Tory far right, that’s thought it absolute top hole and boffo to dress up as Nazis and goose-step around as Fascists, even when they’re not actually members. It was, after all, back in the 1980s when Paul Staines of the Guido Fawkes blog was hobnobbing with real south American Fascists and their supporters. It was the time when the denizens of the Tory students union were singing, ‘We Don’t Want No Blacks or Asians’ to the tune of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and demanding the death penalty for Nelson Mandela, ’cause he’s a terrorist. IDS was Cameron’s mate when Dodgy Dave decided that he was going to modernise the Tory party by severing its link with the Monday Club and clearing out members, who had connections to the Far Right. But this shows how superficial this was. And if IDS was one of those, who liked the ‘Grand Wizards’ nickname, then he’s nothing but a hypocrite. But this is pretty clear from his vile treatment of the poor, the unemployed, sick and disabled anyway.

And the fact that Kuenssberg was desperately trying to cover up this scandal after she revealed it also shows how biased the Beeb is. If this had been Labour, the scandal would have been played up  and magnified, with various hacks and pundits, including probably the Zionist Jewish establishment, all bleating about how it shows the racism at the heart of the Labour party, and that Corbyn hasn’t done enough to stamp it out. But if it’s the Tories, the story’s quickly buried, and everything is done to try to reassure the public that they are the natural party of government where racism is minimal and swiftly dealt with.

This shows that the opposite is true. It extends to the highest levels, but they and their media puppets are desperate to cover it up.

 

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Tony Greenstein on the Abuse of Anti-Semitism to Silence Criticism of Israel

March 24, 2019

This video was put on YouTube two years ago, in March 2017, by Brighton BDS, the local branch of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and oppression of the Palestinians. It’s one of two videos from that meeting, in which Greenstein and Jackie Walker respectively tell of how accusations of anti-Semitism are used to stifle justified criticism of Israel. Both Greenstein and Walker are Jewish critics of Israel, and despite their being firm anti-racists and anti-Fascists, have thus been smeared as anti-Semites.

Greenstein begins his speech by welcoming his audience, and congratulating them in that they are going to see two anti-Semites for the price of one. He explains that the accusations of anti-Semitism have nothing to do with real anti-Semitism. They’re the method used to silence critics of the unjustifiable, like Israel’s destruction of a Bedouin village in the Negeb desert to make way for a Jewish village. And Administrative Detention, where the only people detained without trial are Palestinians. It is also difficult to justify a law which retroactively legalises the theft of Palestinian land, and the existence of two different legal system in the West Bank, one for Palestinians and the other for Jews. He states that in most people’s understanding of the word, that’s apartheid. It’s certainly racist. And it’s easier to attack critics as anti-Semitic, than deal with the issues concerned.

And Israel doesn’t operate in a vacuum. It receives more aid from the United States than every other country in the world combined. Israel is defended because it’s a very important partner of the West in the Middle East. It’s critics do single out Israel, because it’s the only apartheid state in the world, the only state that says one section of the population – Jews – will have privileges, while the other section won’t. He states that there are many repressive states in the world, but there is only one apartheid state. The Zionists then reply that there’s only one Jewish state. Greenstein responds to that by pointing to 1789 and the liberation of the Jews in France during the French Revolution, the first people to be granted such emancipation. The French Revolution established the principle that the state and religion should be separate. This is also a cardinal principle of the American Constitution, but it doesn’t exist in Israel. Greenstein states that he has the right to go to Israel, claiming citizenship, and get privileges like access to land because he’s Jewish, while Yasser – a member of the audience – has no such rights, despite being born their and having a family there, because he’s not Jewish. You can’t say it’s not racist and unjust, and so they accuse people, who criticise it, of anti-Semitism.

He makes the point that it’s like the British in India. They didn’t claim they were going there to exploit the natural wealth of India, and pillage and rape it. No, they justified it by saying they were going there to civilise it by getting rid of Suttee, the burning of a man’s widow on his funeral pyre. He cites Kipling’s metaphor as the Empire as a burden on the White man’s back. It was the Empire on which the sun never set, which was because, as some people said, God didn’t trust the British. It wasn’t just the Conservatives, but also the Labour party, who justified British imperial rule in these terms. The Labour Party justified it as trusteeship. Britain held the lands in Africa and Asia in trust for their peoples until they came up to our standard of civilisation.

It’s the same with Israel today. When Britain and America support Israel, they don’t do it because it’s colonisation, or because Jewish mobs go round Jerusalem every Jerusalem Day chanting ‘Death to the Arabs’, utter anti-Muslim blasphemies and their other actions, which mean Arabs have to stay in their homes to avoid being attacked by thousands of settler youths. It’s because of anti-Semitism and some vague connection with the Holocaust. But opposing Israel is in no way anti-Semitic. He states that the definition of anti-Semitism is simple. It is ‘hostility to Jews, as Jews’. He states that a friend of his, the Oxford academic Brian Klug, worked that out years ago. He then talks about how the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism was devised in 2004 to connect anti-Semitism with Israel by the European Monitoring Commission. It met much resistance, and was opposed by the University College Union, the National Union of Students opposed it along with other civil society groups. In 2013 the EUMC’s successor took it down from its website and it fell into disuse. It was then revived as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism. This then emerged a few months previous to the meeting, when a Home Affairs Select Committee report, apart from attacking Jeremy Corbyn and Shami Chakrabarti for tolerating anti-Semitism in the Labour party, came up with this new definition. This takes 500 words to say what could be said in 50.

One of these is accusing Jews of being more loyal to each other than their own nation. He shows that definition is nonsense by stating that if he received a pound for every time he was called a traitor because he was an anti-Zionist, he’d be quite rich. The essence of Zionism is that Jews owe a dual loyalty, and their main loyalty is to Israel. Israel defines itself as the Jewish state, not just for its own citizens, but for Jews everywhere. This is unique, as most countries have a citizenship based on that country, to which everyone belongs, and a nationality. Britain has a British nationality. That nationality applies to everyone who lives in a particular place. If Scotland became independent, as the SNP made clear, then everyone living in Scotland would have Scots nationality. The same with France and Germany. But in Israel there is no Israeli nationality, although it says so on the Israeli passport. But the Hebrew translates as ‘citizen’ not ‘nation’, but the Israelis assume most people are too stupid to notice the difference. There are hundreds of nationalities in Israel, primarily Jewish, but also Arab, Islamic, Christian and those of other religions. But the only nationality that counts is Jewish, and it applies not only to Jewish citizens and residents, but also Jews wherever they live. He states that this is the foundation stone of Israeli racism, that some people – Jews- are returning, because their ancestors were there 2,000 years ago. This is one of the many racist myths that abound.

He then goes on to another definition, ‘Denying the Jews the right to self-determination’. He states that he asked Joan Ryan, the Labour MP and chair of Labour Friends of Israel, when she was wittering on about how anti-Semitic to oppose the Jewish right to self-determination about it. He wrote her a letter, to which she never replied, which asked her when precisely Zionism talked about the Jewish right to self-determination. It’s only very recent. If you look back at Zionist documents, like The Jewish State, by the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, it talks about colonisation. The first Zionist congress, held in 1897, was a result of the publication of Herzl’s pamphlet. The Zionists never talked about Jewish self-determination, they talked about colonisation and did so for most of their history. But with the change in zeitgeist they changed it to Jewish national self-determination. But this means that Jews are not citizens of the country where they live. He compares Jews to Roman Catholics, as the idea that all Roman Catholics form the same nation is clearly a retrogressive step. In many ways it’s an anti-Semitic step, as it says that Jews do not belong in the countries in which they live, as they’re all one and the same. 

He goes on to talk about Herzl himself, and encourages his audience to Google him, if they haven’t already. Herzl was a Viennese journalist, who operated in Paris. His diaries are particularly interesting, as if you read all four volumes of them, you find he talks about anti-Semitism as having the divine will to good about it. In other words, there would be no Zionism without anti-Semitism, which provides the propulsion for Jews separating out of their own nations and going on for what he hoped would be a Jewish nation. Herzl traveled around Europe trying to create an alliance between Zionism and one of the imperial powers of the time. Eventually in 1917 they reached an agreement with the British imperialists, Lloyd George’s war cabinet, the Balfour Declaration, in which Britain granted them the land of Palestine over the heads of the Palestinians, who were not asked for their opinion.

When Herzl was going around the European princes, he met the Kaiser’s uncle, the Grand Duke of Baden, who told Herzl that he agreed with him and supported him. This was because Herzl told him that Zionism would take the revolutionary Jews away from the socialist movement and move them to a pure national ideal. The Grand Duke said he had no problems supporting Zionism except one. If he supported Zionism, which was at that time very small, only a handful of Jews supported Zionism up to 1945, then people would accuse him of being anti-Semitic. Most Jews at the time considered Zionism to be a form of anti-Semitism. Greenstein asks how many people know that on Lloyd George’s war cabinet, the one member who opposed the Balfour Declaration was its only Jewish member, Sir Edwin Montague, who later became the Secretary of State for India. He accused all his fellows of anti-Semitism, because they didn’t want Jews in Britain, but wanted them to go to Palestine. And he states that is what they’re opposing today. The opposite is true when they accuse Israel’s opponents of being anti-Semitic. It is the Zionist movement that has always held that Jews do not belong in these countries  and should go to Israel. We see it today in the election of Donald Trump. There has been an outbreak of anti-Semitism, and the Zionist movement has no problem with it, because Trump is a good supporter of Israel. And the appointment of Steve Bannon was welcomed by the Zionist Organisation of America, who invited him to speak at their annual gala in New York. He didn’t attend because there was a large demonstration of leftists and anti-Zionists. He concludes that if someone today tells him he doesn’t belong in this country, they’re either a Zionist or an anti-Semite.

Greenstein thus exposes the real agenda behind the anti-Semitism accusations and the utter hypocrisy of those making them, as well as the real anti-Semitism that lies at the heart of Zionism itself. It’s to silence critics like Greenstein and Walker that they, and so many other decent anti-racists, have been accused of anti-Semitism while the real anti-Semites, like Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, have been given enthusiastic welcomes by the Israeli state.

However, the decision by many Democrat politicos not to attend the AIPAC conference this weekend may indicate that there’s a sea change coming in the American people’s tolerance for this nonsense. Hopefully it won’t be too long before Israel’s critics like Greenstein and Walker are properly recognised as the real opponents of racism and anti-Semitism, and the people who smeared them held in contempt for their lies and vilification.

Lobster Review of Book Revealing Very Different View of the Crisis in the Ukraine

March 6, 2019

Lobster has posted a very interesting review by their long-term contributor, Scott Newton, of Richard Sakwa’s book on the current geopolitical tensions over Ukraine, Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands (London: I.B. Tauris). Sakwa is the professor of Russian and European Politics at the University of Kent.  In this book, he tackles and refutes the story peddled to us by the mainstream media that the current confrontation between NATO and Russia and the civil war in Ukraine are due to Russian imperialism under Putin.

Sakwa is under no illusions how brutal and corrupt Putin’s regime is, but the book argues that in this instance, Russia is the victim. He argues that at the heart of the crisis is a conflict between two forms of Ukrainian nationalism. One wants a strong, united Ukraine centred firmly on Kiev, with Ukrainian as the sole official language, looking to the EU and the West, with its economy based on free trade and private industry. This form of Ukrainian nationalism is hostile to Russia, which is particularly resents because of the Holodomor, the horrific artificial famine created by Soviet collectivisation in the 1930s. The government is roughly liberal, but includes Fascists. The second form of Ukrainian nationalism is popular in the south and east, which are predominantly Russian-speaking, whose families and businesses have links with Russia, and which is dominated by heavy industry and reliant on trade with Russia. This wants a federal Ukraine, with both Ukrainian and Russian as the official languages.

The review discusses the origins of the Maidan Revolution, directed against the corrupt regime of Viktor Yanukovych, who had just signed a trade agreement with Russia. The nationalist regime which replaced him, led by Petro Poroshenko, was of the first, pro-western, anti-Russian type, was strongly influence by the Far Right, whose squads massacred anti-Maidan demonstrators. This regime set about demolishing Soviet-era monuments, establishing Ukrainian as the country’s only official language, and repudiating the agreement allowing Russia to station its ships in Sebastopol until 2042. As a result, Russia seized the Crimea, which had been Russian until 1954 and the Russian-speaking areas in the south and east seceded and split into different autonomous republics. Kiev responded by sending in troops, but this has led to a stalemate so far. The West supports Kiev, seeing Putin’s support of the Ukrainian separatists as the Russian president’s attempt to undermine the political order which emerged after the collapse of Communist in 1991.

Sakwa instead views Putin as reacting purely to preserve Russia from possible NATO aggression. This is the based on the original agreement with former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand into eastern Europe. Gorby also hoped to create a new international system in which the world would not be dominated by a single superpower, but there would be a number of different leading states, whose cultures and economic and political systems would differ. These difference would be respected, and they would all work together for international peace. This has been violated by the West, which has expanded eastward into Ukraine, which has also signed the Lisbon agreement with the EU. Putin’s response, which you don’t hear about, is to call for a federal, pluralist, non-aligned Ukraine, which cooperates with both Brussels and Moscow, and whose security is guaranteed by both sides.

There is also an economic dimension to this. The West wishes to promote laissez-faire capitalism. But this didn’t work when it was introduced into Russia by Yeltsin. This type of capitalism has been rejected, and 51 per cent of the Russian economy is owned by the state. Sakwa also notes that Putin has been active building up an alternative political and economic system across the globe, in eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Syria, and Cuba and Venezuela, as well as a system of alliances with the BRICS economies, as well as a Eurasian Economic Union with the former Soviet republics of central Asia. It is also cooperating with the China on the new silk road. The result has been that Russia has created a ‘second world alliance’ system with its own financial institutions and systems of international government.

Newton says of the book that

Sakwa’s argument that the Ukrainian crisis results from the destabilization of the country by forces committed to militantly anti-Russian nationalism, egged on by former Soviet bloc countries and external interference by the United States and the European Union, propelled by a dogmatic and triumphalist liberal universalism, is highly persuasive. 

This is how it appears to me, from reading previous discussions of events in Ukraine from Lobster and other, alternative news sources. As well as the fact that if Putin really did want to conquer all of Ukraine, he surely would have been able to do so, and not stopped with Crimea and the east.

Newton also wonders why we haven’t seen Sakwa, with his impressive command of Russian and eastern European history, in the media.

There can be very few academics now operating who possess Richard Sakwa’s expertise in modern Russian (including Soviet and post-Soviet) international history. Why, then, do we not seen more of him in the mainstream media, both broadcasting and print? He has been on RT, discussing the Skripal poisonings amongst other things (no doubt leading 
some to suspect him of being an apologist for Putin, which he certainly is not). But I have never seen him on (for example) BBC or Channel 4 (this does not of course mean he has never been interviewed there but it does suggest that any appearances have been somewhat limited). Why? Is this an accidental oversight, or are his opinions deemed by news and current affairs editors to be ‘unhelpful’?

That’s a very good question. My guess, given how the anti-Putin view is just about the only one accepted and promoted by the media, including Private Eye, is that current affairs editors really do see him as ‘unhelpful’. And this amounts, as Newton discusses at the beginning of his review, to fake news and fake history. 

For more information, go to:

https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster77/lob77-frontline-ukraine.pdf

 

 

Democrapic: A Word to Describe the Independent Group

March 4, 2019

One of the most entertaining books I’ve read on the stranger or more remarkable items of the English lexicon is simply entitled Words, by the American author Paul Dickson (London: Arrow Books 1982). It’s subtitled ‘A Connoisseur’s Collection Of Old And New, Weird and Wonderful, Useful And Outlandish’ -. And one of the most useful political terms it records, in the chapter on ‘Neologisms’, is ‘Democrapic’. The book gives its definition as ‘Garson Kanin’s word for the expression of democratic beliefs by those who cannot tolerate democracy in action.’ (p.168).

It’s particularly appropriate at this time, as we heard a lot of democrapic last week from the Independent Group. They are the breakaway politicos from Labour and the Tories, who are so passionate about democracy and parliament, that they don’t want to hold bye-elections, don’t have any real policies, except opposition to Brexit – or at least, not any they want the public to know – and have registered as a private corporation so they don’t have to do what real parties do and reveal who their sponsors and donors are. Nor do they have any infrastructure to allow a mass membership that would decide party policy.

Of course, they have serious rivals in their use of democrapic by the Blairites in the Labour Party, the Lib Dems and the Tories. The Blairites maintain that they’re the true heart of Labour and stand for genuine inclusion, equality and diversity, while all the time trying to purge the real moderate and left-wing members of the party. At the same time, Tony Greenstein has noted that there’s also a very nasty racist undertone in the anti-Semitism smears, in that they’re targeted primarily at anti-Zionist Jews and anti-racist Black activists. The Lib-Dems are very democrapic since they effectively dumped John Mills’ On Liberty as their founding text determining the pursuit of real democracy to support David Cameron’s secret courts, where in the interests of national security, you may not know who your accuser is, nor the evidence or charge against you, and the whole trial will be held in secret. Pretty much like Labour’s Compliance Unit examining charges of anti-Semitism. And when you come to the Tories, there’s a whole mountain of democrapic coming from a party that despises the poor, the unemployed, the disabled, Blacks, Asians and Muslims, but make a lot of noise about how they stand up for British ideals of tolerance and democracy when anyone challenges them on all this.

Democrapic is a very useful term to describe this type of political hypocrisy. Just as the old slang term ‘gentleman ranker’, for a ruined gentleman reduced to serving as a private in the army, aptly describes Iain Duncan Smith. Who was rumoured to have failed the office course at Sandhurst and Returned To Unit.

IDS is now out of office, but sadly, not out of parliament. But I predict that ‘democrapic’ will remain intensely relevant, especially as applied to the Independent Group, who are particularly democrapic.

Marc Wadsworth Speaking at LAW’s ‘Justice4Marc’ Event

March 2, 2019

This is another great video from Labour Against the Witchhunt, a group formed to defend decent Labour party members, who have been suspended, expelled and smeared as anti-Semites, amongst other lies. It was filmed on 15th May 2018. Marc Wadsworth is the Black Labour party anti-racist activist, who was smeared as a Jew-hater by the vile Ruth Smeeth, because he embarrassed her by commenting on her passing information to a journo from the Torygraph at a press event. He was prevented from getting a fair hearing partly because a group of White Labour MPs and Zionist smear merchants descended on the tribunal to pressure them into giving a ‘guilty verdict’.

Hew begins by thanking the audience for turning up, and the people who organised the event, Tina Workman, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Moshe Machover, and others. He states that they have been ratcheting up the party passing reinstatement motions. This is going really well. Ealing North and Luton South have passed resolutions, as well as places he hasn’t even heard of, like Stroud in Gloucestershire. All around the country there is a great upsurge of anger, of rage, at an injustice. And it isn’t about him, as Alexei [Sayle] has said. It’s about an attack and turning back the tide of having a socialist for the first time as leader of the Labour party, and all his allies, like myself, Tony [Greenstein] and Jackie [Walker] are collateral damage because they’ve dared to defend him and, in a sense, take a bullet for him. That’s what he was doing when he spoke out at the Shami Chakrabarti report on the 30th June 2016. He says that they will remember the fraught political atmosphere that surrounded that meeting with people, who the organisation he then belonged to, Momentum Black Connections, described as ‘traitors’, the 172 who signed a motion of ‘No confidence’ in Corbyn. They included an individual he personally got into trouble for. He’s not going to big them up any more, and give them fame from his name, but his audience knows who they are. This is a battle that has been lost. But they are fighting a war, and they will win, but they will throw everything at them.

He then say what a spectacle it was when the 18,19,20 – they say 40 or 50, but he can count, and it wasn’t that many – of white MPs, led by Wes Streeting – and they have to think of a nickname for him – marching on his hearing, against one Black man, to influence the outcome of that NCC kangaroo court. He’s free to call it that now, as that’s what it was. He faced a panel of that famous left-wing from the GMB, Maggie Cousin, and the wingman, Douglas Fairbairn, from the steelworkers’ union – never says a word, just nods every time Maggie says something. And he’s says he’ll leave the name of the Unite member out of it for now, as he’s a member of Unite and a very loyal person, but he can’t help what others may find out as a result of doing due diligence. He quotes Chris Williamson, who said it was a perverse decision. The hearing took two days. People like Graham Batch put in a witness statement, Mike Kushman, David Rosenberg, Naomi Winborne-Idrissi. Fantastic Jewish support. This is not Black people versus Jewish people. This is Jewish people and Black people fighting side by side for justice on a cause. And let them never divide us, for that is what they seek to do! He says that he’s not an anti-Semite, his audience knows he’s not an anti-Semite, and the MP who accused him knows he’s not an anti-Semite. In fact when she went out of the room and put that statement out attacking Corbyn, he was just collateral damage. She didn’t have a clue who he was. He was just some Black awkward bugger, who’d called her out doing something she didn’t ought to with the Daily Telegraph, another Labour supporting paper.

It’s interesting, he says. You can judge people from the company they keep. On the one side you have Kevin Schofield, the former Sun journalist, who’s now running PoliticsHome. You’ve got Richard Angel, director of Progress, I can’t remember whether he was on the left or the right, but it doesn’t matter as he’s very much on the right, Jennifer Gerber, director of Labour Friends of Israel. That was the little crew that was out that day to get Corbyn. And don’t forget that the Chakrabarti report was against anti-Semitism and all forms of racism. So he had every right, didn’t he? – to talk about the underrepresentation of African, Caribbean and Asian people in that room, and among the staff and the journalists? All of that was lost as the journalists, who turned on him as one of their number, had no interest in the report and its issues. They were out to get Corbyn that day. They were like a pack of wolves, and he has never seen anything like it in forty years of journalism. They were rabid. He then mentions that Tina Godshaw, from the press office of the National Union of Journalists was present, and that they’ve worked very closely together at Lambeth Momentum. And so they were on a mission.

But he’s slowly rowing back. He’s got a rebuttal strategy. He’s taken on the Jewish Chronicle. It’s been settled by IPSO and 14 stories have been corrected. They had to take the word ‘abuse’ out of those stories, as he did not abuse that MP. He says he was heckled in the meeting ‘How dare you! How dare you! How absolutely dare you!’ A Black man daring to speak up at a nearly all White meeting about Black representation. ‘How dare I!’ Perhaps, he muses, that’s the slogan for a future T-shirt.

But they’ve made progress. A poll of nearly 3,000 people, ordinary members of the public, came out more than 94 per cent against his expulsion. Expulsion revulsion! There’s been an outcry. The Black community is stirring. He was on a radio station. He was supposed to be on for half an hour, they wouldn’t let him go after an hour. He identifies the station as Genesis Radio, and points out Jennifer Lee, who was the programme’s presenter that night, and who would be speaking later. Nana Asante of the Black Labour Movement has run a fantastic petition campaign, which is on Change.org. Sometimes as Black people, they’re slow to stir – a sleeping giant – but when they get on the move, you saw the Civil Rights movement, the anti-apartheid movement, the Panthers and the Black Power movement. They are mighty. Small but tallowa, as they say in Jamaica. Small but mighty. And they’re beginning to stir. The Voice newspaper carried a story supporting the campaign. Last week it was the story that had the most views. It’s beating stories about Black American celebrities, like Megan Markle in terms of hits.

How do they go forward? London is just the beginning. This is just a springboard to a national tour, where he will be able to talk directly to the public, as some people have raised questions. Like after watching a fifty-five second video clip that’s online of him talking at the Chakrabarti meeting, they ask ‘Surely he can’t have been chucked out of the party at that meeting because of what he said? There must be more.’ Well, there is no more. In the hearing over two days they played that clip about 15 times and dissected it, every bit of it. And there is no more. There were two charges of which he was found guilty. One is the incident in the video, and the second charge was that he dared defend himself in an article in The Voice and on his own website, The Latest.com, and retweeted a few of Tony Greenstein’s sage offerings online and some others. And so he is guilty in some way of exacerbating the original charge. So it’s just nonsense. He has a brilliant team of lawyers, about four of them at the last count, and they’re putting together a case, on Monday the Labour party will get a very heavy-duty letter from his lawyers, who have said that he has substantial grounds for the Labour Party having breached its own rules on contract, on human rights, and there’s a small issue of defamation. There are a few individuals he may have to go after.

‘Let me,’ he says, ‘leave you with this insight into the hearing’. When his fantastic barrister Althea Brown of Doughty Street, a great Black woman, challenged the Party to give a definitive definition of what it had adopted as its version on anti-Semitism, they couldn’t answer. They had to call an adjournment. And they accused Walker of daring to say in that private JLM meeting, which she thought was a safe space to have a debate about all matters Jewish and anti-Semitism, when she asked for a good working definition of anti-Semitism. The party themselves couldn’t come up with that definition. They couldn’t. Was it the I.H.R.A.? Was it the I.H.R.A. couple of sentences? Was it the I.H.R.A. couple of sentences plus examples, seven of which are about Israel? They didn’t know. They had to call an adjournment, and they came back into the room with four lawyers, all disagreeing with each other and saying well, maybe they can take into account the examples. But that’s not party policy, is it? That’s making it up as you go along.

So we’ve got a problem. And the problem isn’t pockets of anti-Semitism in the party, it’s the fact that certain unscrupulous right-wing individuals have weaponised false accusations of anti-Semitism and that must be fought against. ‘I am totally and utterly opposed to anti-Semitism,’ he concludes, ‘and all forms of racism, bigotry and prejudice, and I’ve fought them all my life, and I will continue to fight them side by side with Jewish sisters and brothers. Thank you for coming today. Thank you very much indeed.’ 

YouTube Video for My Book on Slavery in the British Empire, ‘The Global Campaign’

February 18, 2019

This is the video I’ve just uploaded on YouTube about my two volume book on slavery, its abolition and the campaign against it in the British Empire, The Global Campaign, which I’ve published with Lulu.

The video explains that it grew out of my work as a volunteer at the former Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, helping to catalogue the archive of government documents that they had been granted by the Commonwealth Institute. I was busy summarizing these documents for a database on materials on slavery the Museum wanted to compile. Going through them, it became clear that the long process of its abolition in the Caribbean was just part of a wider attempt by the British to suppress it right across our empire, from Canada and the Caribbean across the Cape Colony, now part of South Africa, the Gold Coast, now Ghana, Sierra Leone, founded as a colony for freed slaves, central Africa, and what are now Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda, Egypt, the Sudan and the North African parts of the Turkish Empire, to India, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Java and Malaysia, and into the Pacific, in Fiji, Australia and the Pacific Island nations. Legislation in one section of the Empire, for example, the Caribbean, was also passed elsewhere, such as Cape Colony, Mauritius and the Seychelles. The British were aided in their campaign to stamp out slavery in Egypt, the Sudan and Uganda by the Egyptian ruler, the Khedive Ismail. They also signed treaties banning the slave trade from East Africa with the Imam of Muscat, now Oman, the ruler of Zanzibar and Pemba and the suzerain of some of the east African coastal states. There was also an invasion of Abyssinia, now Ethiopia, in retaliation for their raiding of the neighbouring British territories for slaves.

As well as trying to suppress the enslavement of Africans, the British were also forced to attack other forms of slavery, such as the forced kidnapping and sale of indentured migrant labourers from India and China in the infamous ‘Coolie Trade’, and the similar enslavement of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific for labour on the sugar plantations in Fiji and Queensland.

I also explain how one of the first English-speaking countries to ban slavery was Canada, where enlightened governors and judges twisted the interpretation of Canadian law to show that slavery did not officially exist there.

The video’s about ten minutes long. Unfortunately, I don’t say anything about the role Black resistance to slavery, from simple acts like running away, to full scale rebellions had in ending it, or of colonial governors and legislatures. But the book does mention them.

Here’s the video:

Yay! My Book on Slavery in the British Empire Has Been Published with Lulu

January 30, 2019

On Monday I finally got the proof copies I ordered of my book, The Global Campaign, which I’ve just published with Lulu, the print on demand service. The book’s in two volumes, which have the subtitles on their first pages The British Campaign to Eradicate Slavery in its Colonies. The book’s in two volumes. Volume One has the subtitle The Beginnings to Abolition and the British Caribbean, while Volume Two is subtitled Africa and the Wider World.

My blurb for the book runs

British imperialism created an empire stretching from North America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, much of whose population were slaves. Global Campaign tells how slavery in the British Empire arose, the conditions and resistance to it of the peoples they enslaved, and the steps taken to end it by the abolitionists across the Empire and the metropolitan authorities in London.

The first volume of this book, Volume 1: The Beginnings to Abolition and the British Caribbean describes the emergence of this Empire, and the attempts to end slavery within it up to end of apprenticeship in 1838.

Volume 2: Africa and the Wider World describes how the British tried to end it in their expanding Empire after 1838. It describes how abolition became part of the ideology of British imperialism, and spurred British expansion, annexation and conquest.

The two volumes also discuss the persistence of slavery after abolition into the modern world, and its continuing legacy across continents and cultures.

The contents of vol. 1 are an introduction, then the following:

Chapter 1: the British Slave Empire in 1815
Chapter 2: From Amelioration to Abolition
Chapter 3: Abolition, Apprenticeship and Limited Freedom, 1833-1838.

Vol. 2’s chapter are

1: Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast and Lagos
2: India, Ceylon, Java and Malaya,
3: The Pacific, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji
4: West Africa and the Gold Coast, 1874-1891
5: The Ottoman Empire, Egypt and Sudan
6: East and Central Africa
7: Zanzibar and Pemba
8: Legacies and Conclusion

Both volumes also have an index and bibliography. I also drew the cover art.

Volume 1 is 385 pages A5, ISBN 978-0-244-75207-1, price 12.00 pounds.
Volume 2 386 pages A5, ISBN 978-0-244-45228-5, price 12.00 pounds. Both prices exclusive of VAT.

The books are based on the notes and summaries I made for the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum of some of the official documents they’d acquired from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on slavery. I also supplemented this with a mass of secondary reading on slavery, the slave trade and the British Empire. It’s a fascinating story. I chose to write about slavery in the British Empire as a whole as I found when I was looking through the documents that slavery certainly wasn’t confined to the Caribbean. It was right across the world, though most of the published books concentrate on slavery in the US and the Caribbean. There has been a recent book on slavery and abolition in British India and Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, and I remember seeing a book on the British campaign against slavery in the Pacific, published, I believe, from one of the antipodean publishers. I doubt very many people in Britain are aware that it existed in India and Sri Lanka, and that attempts to outlaw it there date from c. 1798, when the British judge of the Bombay (Mumbai) presidency ruled that it was illegal. Similarly, general histories of slavery do mention the infamous ‘coolie trade’ in indentured labourers from India and China. They were imported into the Caribbean and elsewhere around the world in order to supply cheap labour after the abolition of slavery in 1838. However, they were treated so abysmally in conditions often worse than those endured by enslaved Blacks, that it was dubbed by one British politician ‘A new system of slavery’. There’s an excellent book on it, with that as its title, by Hugh Tinker, published by one of the Indian presses.

General books on slavery also discuss the enslavement of indigenous Pacific Islanders, who were kidnapped and forced to work on plantations in Fiji and Queensland in Australia. But again, I doubt if many people in the UK have really heard about it. And there are other episodes in British imperial history and the British attempts to curb and suppress slavery around the world which also isn’t really widely known. For example, abolition provided some much of the ideological impetus for the British conquest of Africa. Sierra Leone was set up in the late 18th century as a colony for freed slaves. But the British were also forced to tackle slavery and slaving in the Gold Coast, after they acquired it in the 19th century. They then moved against and conquered the African kingdoms that refused to give up slaving, such as Ashanti, Dahomey and the chiefdoms around Lagos. It’s a similar story in east Africa, in what is now Tanganyika, Zambia, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Malawi. The British initially wished to conquer the area as part of the general European ‘Scramble for Africa’, and their main rivals in the region where the Portuguese. But the British public were also aware through the missionary work of David Livingstone that the area was part of the Arabic slave trade, and that the indigenous peoples of this region were being raided and enslaved by powerful local African states, such as the Yao and the Swahili as well as Arabs, and exported to work plantations in the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba off the east African coast. At the same time, Indian merchants were also buying and enslaving Africans from that area, particularly Uganda.

The British were also concerned to crush slavery in Egypt after they took control of the country with the French. They encouraged Khedive Ismail, the Egyptian ruler, to attempt to suppress it in Egypt and then the Sudan. It was as part of this anti-slavery campaign that the Khedive employed first Colonel Baker and then General Gordon, who was killed fighting the Mahdi.

At the same time, Stamford Raffles in Singapore and Raja Brooke of Sarawak justified their conquest and acquisition of these states as campaigns to end slavery in those parts of Asia. The British also took over Fiji at the request of the Fijian king, Cakabau. White Americans and Europeans had been entering the country, and Cakabau and his advisors were afraid that unless the country was taken under imperial control, the settlers would enslave the indigenous Fijians. Indeed, Cakabau had been made king of the whole of Fiji by the colonists, though he was acutely aware of how he was being used as a figurehead for effective White control of his people. At the same time, the White planters were also forming a White supremacist group. So he appealed to the British Empire to takeover his country in order to prevent his people’s enslavement.

British imperial slavery started off with the British colonies in the Caribbean and North America. I’ve ignored slavery in the US except for the period when it was part of the British Empire. The Canadians ended slavery nearly two decades before it was formally outlawed throughout the British Empire. It was done through enlightened governors, judges as well as abolitionists outside government. The country’s authorities did so by interpreting the law, often against its spirit, to show that slavery did not legally exist there. There were attempts by slaveowners to repeal the legislation, but this was halfhearted and by the 1820s slavery in Canada had officially died out.

After the British acquired Cape Colony at the southern tip of Africa, the very beginning of the modern state of South Africa, they were also faced with the problem of ending the enslavement of its indigenous population. This included the indigenous Khoisan ‘Bushmen’, who were being forced into slavery when they took employment with White farmers. At the same time, the British were trying to do the same in Mauritius and the Seychelles after they conquered them from the French.

The British initially started with a programme of gradual abolition. There was much debate at the time whether the enslaved peoples could support themselves as independent subjects if slavery was abolished. And so the abolitionists urged parliament to pass a series of legislation slowly improving their conditions. These regulated the foods they were given by the planters, the punishments that could be inflicted on them, as well as giving them medical care and support for the aged and disabled. They also tried to improve their legal status by giving them property rights and the right to be tried in ordinary courts. Special officials were set up, the Guardians and Protectors of Slaves, to examine complaints of cruelty.

This gradualist approach was challenged by the female abolitionists, who grew impatient with the cautious approach of the Anti-Slavery Society’s male leadership. They demanded immediate abolition. I’ve also tried to pay tribute to the struggle by the enslaved people themselves to cast off their shackless. In the Caribbean, this took the form of countless slave revolts and rebellions, like Maroons in Jamaica, who were never defeated by us. At the same time a series of slaves came forward to accuse their masters of cruelty, and to demand their freedom. After the Lord Mansfield ruled that slavery did not exist in English law in the late 18th century, slaves taken to Britain from the Caribbean by their masters presented themselves to the Protectors on their return demanding their freedom. They had been on British soil, and so had become free according to English law. They therefore claimed that they were illegally kept in slavery. As you can imagine, this produced outrage, with planters and slaveowners attacking both the anti-slavery legislation and official attempts to free the slaves as interference with the right of private property.

This legislation was introduced across the Empire. The same legislation that regulated and outlawed slavery in the Caribbean was also adopted in the Cape, Mauritius and the Seychelles. And the legislation introduced to ensure that indentured Indian and Chinese labourers were treated decently was also adopted for Pacific Islanders.

Slavery was eventually abolished in 1833, but a form of servitude persisted in the form of apprenticeship until 1838. This compelled the slaves to work unpaid for their masters for a certain number of hours each week. It was supposed to prepare them for true freedom, but was attacked and abandoned as just another form of slavery.

Unfortunately slavery continued to exist through the British Empire in various forms despite official abolition. The British were reluctant to act against it in India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Java and Perak in what is now Malaysia because they were afraid of antagonizing the indigenous princes and so causing a rebellion. In Egypt they attempted to solve the problem by encouraging the slaveowners as pious Muslims to manumit their slaves freely as an act of piety, as the Prophet Mohammed urges them in the Qu’ran. In the Caribbean, the freedom the former slaves enjoyed was limited. The British were afraid of the plantation economy collapsing, and so passed legislation designed to make it difficult for the freed people to leave their former masters, often tying them to highly exploitative contracts. The result was that Black West Indians continued to fear re-enslavement long after abolition, and there were further riots and rebellions later in the 19th century. In British Africa, the indigenous African peoples became second class citizens, and were increasingly forced out of governmental and administrative roles in favour of Whites. Some colonies also conscripted African labourers into systems of forced labour, so that many came to believe that they had simply swapped one form of slavery for another. The result has been that slavery has continued to persist. And it’s expanded through people trafficking and other forms of servitude and exploitation.

The book took me on off several years to write. It’s a fascinating subject, and you can’t but be impressed with the moral and physical courage of everyone, Black and White, who struggled to end it. I chose to write about it in the British Empire as while there are many books on slavery across the world, there didn’t seem to be any specifically on the British Empire. Studying it also explains why there is so much bitterness about it by some people of West Indian heritage and how it has shaped modern politics. For example, before South Sudan was given its independence, Sudan under the British was effectively divided into two countries. In the southern part of the country, the British attempted to protect the indigenous peoples from enslavement by banning Arabs. They were also opened up to Christian evangelization. In the Arab north, the British attempted to preserve good relations by prohibiting Christian evangelism.

I also attempt to explain how it is that under the transatlantic slave trade, slavery became associated with Blackness. In the ancient world and during the Middle Ages, Whites were also enslaved. But Europeans started turning to Black Africans in the 14th and 15th centuries when it became impossible for them to buy Slavs from eastern Europe. So common had the trade in Slavs been that the modern English word, slave, and related terms in other languages, like the German Sklave, actually derive from Slav.

It’s been fascinating and horrifying writing the book. And what is also horrifying is that it persists today, and that new legislation has had to be passed against it in the 21st century.

Antony Gormley Presents Programme on Stone Age Art

January 25, 2019

According to the Radio Times for 26th January to 1st February 2019, tomorrow, Saturday, 26th January, Antony Gormley will be presenting a programme on the origins of art way back in the Stone Age. As well as trotting round the world looking at various Paleolithic sites, he also meets and talks to the modern practitioners of this ancient art, Aboriginal Australians. The programme’s entitled ‘Antony Gormley: How Art Began’, and the blurb for it on page 52 of the Radio Times runs

One of Britain’s most celebrate sculptors travels back in time and journeys across the globe to piece together how art began. Once we believed that it all started with the cave paintings of Ice Age Europe, but new discoveries are overturning that idea. Deep inside the caves of France, Spain and Indonesia, Gormley finds beautiful, haunting and surprising works of art. The creator of the Angel of the North asks what these images from millennia ago tell us about who we are.

There’s rather more information about the programme by David Butcher on page 50, which says

Yes, it’s a documentary about prehistoric cave art. How often over the years have we seen an arts presenter in torchlight, sighing about the ineffable power of cave painting?

But this is different. This is Antony Gormley, one of our great artists, who by lucky chance is also a better talker about art than most presenters, making a pilgrimage not just through the French caves that he first visited on his honeymoon (we see a holiday snap) but also venturing further afield to Indonesia and Australia, looking for the first stirrings of human creativity.

“This is a cathedral of joy in living things,” he says in a cave called Les Combarelles. “I think we’ve found a Palaeolithic Picasso,” he jokes in Niaux. And in an extraordinary scene at Pech Merle, with its 28,000-year-old paintings of horses, a local expert demonstrates how they were made, by chewing up charcoal and delicately blow-spitting on the rock.

The ancient cave paintings of northern Spain and southern France are superb, extremely naturalistic depictions of the creatures roaming that part of the Mediterranean during the Old Stone Age 28,000 years ago. Some of them seem to have been deliberately painted on distinctly shaped pieces of rock, so that if you come into the part of the caves where they are they appear to move. When Picasso saw them over a century ago, he was so utterly astonished at their superb quality that he declared ‘We have invented nothing!’

At the turn of the Millennium 18 years ago, Hugh Quarshie, one of the actors in Casualty, presented a programme on the art and artefacts of the Stone Age on New Year’s Eve. One of the speakers he interviewed about them was a director of Horror flicks – I’ve forgotten whom. But he made some very interesting points about the parallels between Palaelithic art and his type of movie. They were both initiatory experiences which you viewed in darkness.

There seems to have been a definite religious/ritual purpose to their production. Most of them are found in chambers deep in the cave systems, which are extremely difficult to reach. To get to one of them you literally have to squeeze through on your stomach. There was very probably an aural component to their painting as well. Quite often the rocks near them have musical properties. Their lithophones which produce musical tones when struck. It therefore seems that some of them were being played while the artists worked producing these amazing pieces of work.

No-one quite knows why these wonderful paintings were made. It’s been suggested that they may have been made to secure success in hunting, or for fertility. Others have suggested that they were produced as part of shamanic rituals, in which the painters attempted to pass through the membrane between this world and that of the spirits. Whatever the reason they were created, they’re superb. I’m not a fan of Gormley’s work, but this looks well worth watching.

Anthropologist, TV presenter and former member of Time Team Alice Roberts also talked about the ancient cave paintings of Europe this week in the last edition of her The Incredible Human Journey, the series in which she traced humanity’s emergence and spread out of Africa tens of thousands of years. This week she talked about some of the very earliest human remains found in Europe, including those of modern Homo Sapiens from around 30-40,000 years ago from a cave in Romania. A forensic artist then reconstructed what one of them may have looked like from one of the skulls found. Roberts and the artist remarked on the person’s absence of any distinct racial characteristics. It was a definite human face, but it was neither Black, White or Asian, although they pointed out that we believe the people at this time had dark, Black skin. But it comes from a time before the development of modern racial characteristics.

They also reconstructed the face of a Neanderthal from about this time. They were stocky, powerfully built people with big noses and strong brow ridges. Although they died out, some of them interbreed with the invading modern humans, so that the DNA of modern people outside Africa contains about 3%-9% Neanderthal genes. The reconstruction didn’t have any hair. Contemplating it Roberts said that although Neanderthal women probably found modern human men very handsome, and that human women obviously found something in Neanderthal males, she wouldn’t have fancied mating with them. Well, each to his or her own taste. Looking at the reconstructed Neanderthal head, it reminded me of nothing so much as that of Beeb TV presenter and former felon, Dom Littlewood.

She also covered the ancient cave paintings, talking to a French artist who worked using the same techniques. He was shown blowing charcoal on to the rock behind his hand trying to create a stenciled handprint, just like those left by the ancient artists. Like the article in the Radio Times, Roberts said that it had to be made using a distinct technique. You couldn’t take it all into your mouth and just spit it out. Instead the artist blew it out in a constant stream of spitting, leaving his hand black with charcoal. It’s quite a time consuming process, and Roberts and the artist said that some works could take as long as week.

The art of the palaeolithic is fascinating and enigmatic. We’re learning more about it and the people who produced it, but so much still remains lost in the mysteries of time.

Woohoo! Good News – Murdoch’s Scum Making Serious Losses

January 20, 2019

The past week hasn’t had much good news, not with May determined to wreck this country by clinging on to power to support herself and her failed Brexit deal and her government of murderers, crooks and exploiters pushing through more legislation to make life even more tough, miserably and dangerous for those at the bottom of society. But last Monday’s I, paper for 14th January 2019, carried a very interesting piece in its ‘Media on Monday’ column. Entitled ‘What future for the ‘The Sun’? Quality journalism is adapting better’ the piece revealed that the nadir of British print journalism is running up tens of millions of pounds in losses. The piece states that in print it has a circulation of 1.4 million, more than any other paid-for title, and that digitally it has a monthly audience of 29.5 millions. However, its publishers, News Group Newspapers, has declared a loss of 91.2 million pounds before tax for the year to 1st July. In the previous year it suffered a lost of 24 million, even after a 55 million pound tax rebate. And the year before that it managed to record a 62 million pound loss. The piece’s author, Ian Burrell, opened his analysis of the Scum’s perilous financial situation by stating that

The huge losses posted by the publishers of The Sun throw into question the long-term future of this country’s tradition of “red-top” popular journalism.

He then goes on to write about how the quality papers (ahem) with a lower circulation are actually adapting better to the changed media environment, and that British tabloids haven’t been hit nearly as hard as their American counterparts. In New York, the tabloid vendors are reduced to selling them with candy and soda. The New York Daily News, which used to have a circulation of 2.4 million, now sells only 200,000 copies, if that. Burrell states that the popular newspapers find it difficult to find subscribers, and that Scum’s losses are a further sign of the declining influence of Rupert Murdoch. It notes how the Scum has posted of its role in the success of the Leave vote, and how Donald Trump acknowledged its importance by giving it an exclusive interview. The article also described how the wretched rag has ‘made huge strides in digital media’ and has compiled a database of 800,000 previously anonymous print buyers, which will help it survive without subscriptions in the future. The article concluded, however, by warning that the Scum’s decline threatened the whole future of British popular journalism. It said

The revival of serious media is a good thing, but without a functioning popular press, the gulf between the informed classes and those deprived of news would be frightening indeed. (p.39).

Well, yes, it would be, if the Scum actually did any informing. It hasn’t. It has screamed, hurled abuse, libeled and misinformed, stoking up xenophobia and racism as well as getting the working people of this country to vote against their own best interests through pushing Thatcher and her wretched neoliberal legacy of welfare cuts, privatization, including that of the NHS and the outsourcing of British jobs. While at the same time hysterically blaming the unions, the unemployed themselves, anyone on benefits, and, of course, Blacks, Asians and particularly Muslims. In the first decade of this century Private Eye carried a piece in its ‘Street of Shame’ column following a press complaints regulator ruling that one of its cartoons was racist. This featured a line of pigs marching with banners objecting to the way they had been compared to Arabs. Not only was this racist, despite the Scum’s denials, but the Eye also revealed the newspaper had previous. Plenty of previous. At that time, the number of times the press regulator had upheld complaints of racism against Murdoch’s mighty organ was 19. I have no idea what the number is now, as I’ve seen zero evidence that the rag has become less racist and hateful.

As for what a future without the Scum would look like, I’m reminded of one of the few sketches on A Bit of Fry and Laurie which I actually found funny. This was a parody of the Jimmy Stewart classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. This was about a man contemplating suicide, who is rescued by an angel. He’s shown how much worse off his town and its folk would be without him. In the sketch, however, the man about to jump from the bridge, played by Hugh Laurie, is a newspaper magnate with an Australian accent. The angel, played by Stephen Fry, tries to stop him from ending it all by showing him the future without him. Unfortunately, however, in this future everything is much better: there’s more happiness, respect and general niceness. At one point Fry shows him a newspaper headline running ‘Niceness Up’ so many percent. They go into a boozer, and the angel asks the Ozzie newspaperman what he thinks about Blacks. ‘I don’t mind them’, the Murdoch parody says defensively. In this future, racism has declined significantly, and Black and White peeps are in there, drinking, talking and laughing easily together. The sketch ends with the Angel asking ‘Murdoch’ if he still wants to jump off the bridge. Of course not, he shouts joyfully, he now knows how much worse he make Britain and the lives of its people. At this point the angel does what many people have wished they could, and pushes him off.

The circulation of the print newspapers, and the audience for the news on the old media broadcasters is going down partly through the influence of the internet. This has alarmed the established, and establishment media, because it means that the consensus they push is declining as people take their news from the alternative news programmes they like, including those on the Left like The Canary and The Skwawkbox. Which terrifies the established press, as shown by the Groaniad’s attempts to stop the superb Kerry-Anne Mendoza giving this year’s lecture in honour of a pioneering Black journo, and Private Eye’s chortling about a press ruling about the bias in The Skwawkbox.

But I am definitely not worried at all by the fact that the Scum is making massive losses. As far as I’m concerned, the sooner it and similar far-right titles across the board, including the Sunday Times and the Torygraph go, the better.

Jon Downes and the Amphibians from Outer Space: Land of Dopes and Tories

January 5, 2019

Jon Downes and the Amphibians from Outer Space were a local band in Devon. Downes was into cryptozoology, the study of unknown animals, and, with others, ran the Centre for Fortean Zoology. Back in the 1990s they published a small magazine, Animals and Men, which covered developments in zoology ranging from recent discoveries in paleontology and dinosaurs, the new species then being discovered in South East Asia, and creatures like the Yeti and other ape creatures and the Loch Ness monster, whose existence is very definitely not accepted by mainstream scientists. His band was also unsurprisingly steeped in Fortean high weirdness, hence its bizarre name. One of the songs on their album was about the Mad Gasser of Mattoon, a mysterious figure who stalked American suburbia around the 1940s. The Mad Gasser got his name because he was believed to be responsible for knocking people unconscious with some kind of anaesthetic gas. Despite the panic he caused and an intense police search, no-one was ever caught and the Mad Gasser is thus one of those mysterious figures of urban folklore like Spring-Heeled Jack in Britain.

Downes’ lyrics often included explicit social and political comments. ‘God Bless Amerikkka/Petsurfing’ contained references to the Beach Boys as well as bitter comments on Reagan’s America and the Vietnam War. It’s lyrics ran

The Beach boys in the Whitehouse took the president out dancing
took in a drive-in movie threw a frisbee with Charles Manson.
The American dream was sweet sixteen and no-one gave a damn
and thousands of asshole students were praying for their very own Vietnam.

“Give me Liberty or Give me Death” give me concepts I can see
“Give me Librium or Give me Meths” it’s all the same to me,
God Bless America!
(I don’t mean to annoy ya as you drown in Paranoia got no reason to destroy ya in the land of the brave).
God Bless America!
(You’ve got to catch that one last wave!)

The western world just genuflects and licks its paltry leavings
so three stupid generations have got something to believe in
now style over content is the way they measure worth,
and a grinning fool has just become the most powerful man on earth.

The cretin culture faced the wall and found it couldn’t win against it
the peasants in the jungle or the troops of Ho Chi Minh,
the profit motive is a joke when there isn’t any money,
there’s no point to a joke like that, it really isn’t funny.

It also struck me that his track ‘The Stranger (L’Etranger)’ is also partly a comment on Thatcher and the British secret state, while the title is a reference to Camus’ existentialist classic.

She’s got half a mind to kill you if you don’t agree with her programme
she’s got half a mind to stop you in your tracks.
She’s got a 10% dead army, she’s got heroes ten a penny,
she’s got men she’d pay to stab you in the back.

There’s a new ideal on the night-time breeze,
(won’t you wait a while till midnight?)
There’s a new man coming through the trees,
(won’t you watch him dance by lamplight?)

In the darkness at the edge of town there’s a stranger with a knife,
and he swears he’s going to stop her with his life.
She knows he won’t forgive her, (and that he never wanted to live there),
but she still thinks he loves her like his wife.

In her mind she’s built a castle and peopled it with fear,
if you look too hard you know that it will all disappear,
she’s so lonely in her madness, it’s so lonely at the top,
If you got that far it’s really hard to stop.

The most explicitly anti-Tory lyrics in the album are in Part Two of his song, ‘English Heritage’. The song was about the government’s privatization of Stonehenge to English Heritage, who then surrounded it with a wire fence, put up a souvenir shop and charged an entry fee. The second part of the song was an explicit attack on Tory patriotism, ‘Land of Dopes and Tories’, and was an obviously parody of Elgar’s ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. It ran

Land of Dopes and Tories, gameshows and TV,
the land our fathers fought for don’t seem the same to me.
Something’s subtly different, something must have changed,
‘cos England’s now just a refuge for the terminally deranged.
Land of Dopes and Tories, land of the living dead,
land where the hope and glory only lives on in my head,
land of idiot violence where innocent blood is shed,
land where only the assholes heard what Mosley said.
Land of Dopes and Tories I don’t see the point,
Anarchy and Freedom is everything I want.
Anarchy and Freedom is everything I want.

The sleeve notes explain that the line about Mosley refers to his comment that whoever won the Second World War, Britain would be ruined as a world power.

Time and the world have moved on since the album came out, and the ’90s ended nearly two decades ago. Reagan is gone, and we had another grinning fool enter the White House in the shape of George ‘Dubya’ Bush. He’s now been succeeded in his turn by another maniac, Trump, who doesn’t grin but glowers and struts like Mussolini. Over here, Maggie also passed from power to be succeeded by John Major, the grey man who handed Stonehenge and other ancient sites to English Heritage, and who was succeeded in his turn by Blair and his sickly grin. Blair has also left government, and instead we’re run by Tweezer. Who would like us all to believe that she’s Maggie Mark 2. And she does have men ready to kill people. Not just the staff at the DWP, who are determined to throw people off benefits to starve and die at the slightest excuse – she’s also put legislation in place to put 3,500 troopers on the streets in case of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. And British television and popular culture in the shape of the right-wing press is doing its best to distract people from how dire and desperate the situation is for very many people, not least by smearing and misrepresenting Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party. And like Maggie Thatcher, Tweezer’s also using the secret state to smear and lie on her behalf.

Maggie, Reagan and their era are gone, but Tory and Republican tactics and policies are carrying on. It’s time they were utterly discarded, and genuinely left-wing, progressive governments voted in under Jeremy Corbyn here in Britain and Bernie Sanders in the US.