Archive for the ‘Asia’ Category

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:

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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.

Windrush and EU Nationals – Tories Moving to Nazi Ideas of Citizenship

December 31, 2018

In my last post I discussed the virtual identity of some of the Libertarians’ ideas of citizenship and those of Hitler and the Nazis. Some of those on the Libertarian right, including Republicans in the US and Kippers over here, admire the ideas about suffrage and the right to vote of the SF writer Robert A. Heinlein in his book, Starship Troopers.

This is set in a future where Earth has been united into a global, highly militarized state in which the right to vote is confined only to those, who have served in the armed forces. You hear the same ideas echoed by some of the Libertarians, who openly talk about their admiration for the book. Hitler also believed in the same principles. In Mein Kampf he stated that in the Nazi ‘national state’ only those, who had done their national service and were certified healthy, meaning eugenically sound, would become citizens. Women would acquire citizenship only through marriage or becoming involved in business.

What is also shocking about Hitler’s ideas of citizenship is how close the Tory party is also approaching them with their actions in the deportation of Windrush migrants and now the compulsory registration of EU citizens and their children. The registry states that the government has the right to share their details with other public and private organisations, but will not say who. Mike has already posted up two pieces about it, commenting that it looks very much like the Tories are preparing them to be another minority they can persecute. People are understandably extremely worried about this. One Jewish man in response to the Tories’ latest plans posted up the tattoo of his identity number foisted on him for the Nazi camps.

In the chapter ‘Citizens and Subjects of the State’ in Mein Kampf, Hitler rails against how foreigners could become German citizens simply by living there, even if they were children of Blacks, and praises America for legislation banning the immigration of certain races and individuals on eugenics grounds. Hitler wrote

The institution which to-day is wrongly named “the State” only knows of two kinds of individual: State citizens and foreigners. State citizens are all those who, either by birth or naturalization, enjoy the rights of State citizenship; foreigners are those who enjoy similar rights under other States.

Nowadays these rights are acquired, in the first place, by the fact of being born within the frontiers of a State. Race and nationality play no part in it. The child of a negro who once lived in a German protectorate and now is domiciled in Germany is automatically a citizen of the German State.

The whole procedure of acquiring State citizenship is not very different from that of becoming a member of an automobile club for instance.

I know that that this is unwelcome hearing; but anything crazier and less thought out than our present laws of State citizenship is hardly possible to conceive. But there is at least one State in which feeble attempts to achieve a better arrangement are apparent. I, of course, don’t mean our pattern German Republic, but the United States of America, where they are trying, partially, at any rate, to include commonsense in their councils. They refuse to allow immigration of elements which are bad from the health point of view, and absolutely forbid naturalization of certain defined races, and thus are making a modest start in the direction of a view which is not unlike the conception of the national state.

Adolf Hitler, My Struggle (London: Paternoster Row 1933) p. 174.

The Windrush migrants Tweezer and her collaborators tried to deport illegal were Black Britons, who were born in our colonies. Often they had lived over here since they were children. They thus parallel the Black Germans against whose citizenship Hitler rants in the above passage. And now it seems the Tories are keen to begin a new process of victimization against EU migrants.

Hitler also made it clear that he believed that members of certain European races – the Slavs – could not become Germans for the same reason he excluded non-Whites from German citizenship. On pages 153-4 he wrote

It was truly distressful to see how, during the last hundred years, people holding these opinions – in all good faith, most of them – played with the word “Germanize”. I remember how in my own youth this term led to amazingly false conceptions. In Pan-German circles one heard it suggested that with help from the Government, Germanization of the Austrian Slav population might be successfully carried out.

It is hardly imaginable that any one should think that German could be made out of, say, a negro or a Chinaman, because he has learned German and is ready to talk it for the rest of his life, and to vote for some German political party.

The process would mean a beginning of bastardization of our race, and in our case not Germanization but destruction of the German element.

Since nationality, or rather race, is not a matter of language but of blood, it would only be possible to talk about Germanization if the process could alter the nature of the blood of the person subjected to it. That, however, is impossible. It would have to take place, then, by mixing the blood, and that would mean lowering the level of the superior race.

A few years ago I found a book on race and immigration in the Central Library here in Bristol. It was a collection of articles from the Tory and right-wing press, including the Spectator and Salisbury Review arguing essentially the same point: that most British people, in contrast to contemporary official attitudes, regard race as the defining feature of nationality. This is certainly how Tweezer and the Tories see it.

The Tory party is very keen to present a modern, anti-racist face, even since David Cameron took over, cutting links with the Monday Club and expelling those with connections to the BNP and racist Right. But no matter how many BAME members of the cabinet there are, there is still a very nasty racist attitude underneath. This says that Blacks, Asians and other ethnic minorities can never truly be British. They should always be considered foreigners without the same rights as traditional White Brits, and can be arbitrarily deported or discriminated against.

I am not saying that the Tories want to round them up into concentration camps, or sterilize or exterminate them. But they do have ideas on citizenship that are increasingly similar to those Hitler laid out in Mein Kampf. Ideas that have to be resisted.

The Real News on the Polish Government’s Collaboration with Fascism

December 2, 2018

This is another video from the Boston-based Real News network. It’s a report on the steady march towards the extreme right by the Polish government’s Law and Justice party, and their collaboration with Fascism and Holocaust revisionism. The country’s a member of the EU and NATO, and is bitterly hostile to Russia, from whom it has requested America provide protection. Donald Trump is thus considering building a new NATO base there, named after himself. Naturally.

The video discusses the march through Warsaw last month, November, 2018, to commemorate the centenary of Poland’s independence. 200,000 people attended. The march was, however, initially organized by the Far Right, and attended by extreme right-wing groups from all over Europe. The march was then co-sponsored by the government, and the president, Andzrei Duda, marched in front of a number of explicitly Fascist organisations.

The programme talks about this with Dr. Dovid Katz, an academic specializing in the rise of Fascism in eastern Europe, who is rightly alarmed by these developments. He states that Fascism exists in many countries, but it bodes badly for democracy when the government partners with it. He describes how the Polish government has been increasingly taking the country towards Fascism. Katz says that this is ‘so sad’ because Poland was the first major country invaded by Hitler, with no disrespect to Czechoslovakia. It’s thus particularly alarming to see Nazis marching on Poland’s hallowed national day, along with the president and thousands of other, non-Nazi people, who nevertheless felt comfortable marching with the Far Right. He pays tribute to the mayor of Warsaw, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, who tried to prevent the march from going ahead, but was overruled by the rest of the council. As well as leading politicians, the Groaniad reported that the Polish armed forces also marched side by side with Fascist organisations like the National-Radical Camp, or ONR, the successor to a pre-War anti-Semitic organization, as well as the Italian Fascist organization, Forza Nuova.

Gronkiewicz-Waltz apparently came from the Centrist party, but her attempt to ban the march was overturned by Duda, who announced that it would go ahead as the Rightists had originally planned. A court also overturned the ban, effectively combining the government and Fascist marches. The government put a cordon of military police between the two marches, but Katz argues that this really did nothing to distance the government from the Fascists. Katz states that the governments collaborating with the Far Right, such as those in the three Baltic states, use similar tactics, but they don’t morally make any difference. He makes the point that on this sacred day, the government is showing that it’s in solidarity with people who believe in Aryan purity, who hate Jews, Blacks, Roma and gays. In other words, all the same people the Nazis hated.

The documentary notes that the Law and Justice party began as a nominally centre right party with a strong Christian orientation. Since taking power in 2015 it has moved further right. This year, 2018, it purged the supreme court of a third of its members, and reappointed their successors in October, provoking protests. It has also become increasingly nationalistic. Katz states that as centre-right party, it was ostensibly like the British Tories and American Republicans. But its far-right character has been revealed by its neutralization of democracy through the attacks on the independence of the judiciary. He states that it’s to Poland’s credit that there is a vibrant opposition which has led to the situation being covered, unlike similar events in the Baltic states.

But parallel to the attacks on democracy is the rise of ethnic nationalism and an emphasis on the racial purity of the Polish people. This has also come with a rise in anti-Semitism. The video shows a clipping from a newspaper report about a hostel that declared that it was only for Poles, Jews were forbidden. This is despite the majority of Polish having been either killed or fled during the Holocaust. In February this year, Duda passed a law criminalizing the mention of Polish complicity in the Holocaust. This effectively made Holocaust revisionism mandatory, and anyone who discussed the reality of Polish complicity in the Holocaust could be jailed for up to three years. Katz states that it is important to recognize that most Poles aren’t anti-Semites and never were. In the case of the Holocaust, a quarter of the Righteous Gentiles, the rescuers of Jews, in Europe during the Nazi era came from Poland. He also states that for hundreds of years, the Polish kingdom and then the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth provided a haven for Jews and other minorities. But these new Fascist forces are tapping into the worst forms of Polish nationalism and Roman Catholicism, which also had a deep anti-Semitic theological tradition built into them, which the Nazis were easily able to exploit. And the term ‘Christian’ here is being used as a dog-whistle for ‘ethnic Poles’. Katz states that Poland is a very ethnically homogenous country. There is no challenge to Polish ethnic identity. It’s the Far Right attempt to create and exploit problems, which don’t exist. And the real victims of this attempt to create a Fascist state are the Poles.

Katz goes on to say that Poland was different from the Baltic states and western Ukraine, in that it was the victim of the Nazis, and so has nothing to fake history about. The law banning any discussion of Polish involvement in the Holocaust was also expressed in blatantly anti-Semitic terms. In the Baltic states, however, the wording of similar laws is much more deceptive. The equivalent law in Ukraine talks about equal evaluation of totalitarian regimes. Which means that if someone says that only the Nazis committed genocide, and that the Soviet crimes, as horrific as they were, don’t constitute genocide, then they can be sent to prison. In Latvia this is five years, 2 years in Lithuania, three in Hungary and 10 in Ukraine.

The international outcry that followed the passage of Poland’s Holocaust law forced the government to amend it to make it less severe and remove the jail sentences. But this problem isn’t confined to Poland. Katz is a member of the web journal, Defending History, which tracks Holocaust revisionism in eastern Europe. They stress that Fascism is appearing elsewhere in eastern European NATO member states. The anti-Semitism in the Baltic isn’t overt – the government sponsors Jewish plaques, conferences and memorials, but there is still the Fascist emphasis on ethnic purity and the desire to falsify the history of the Holocaust.

Katz is an excellent speaker, who clearly has a deep respect for Poland and its people. He’s also right about Poland providing a refuge for the Jews during the centuries of persecution. And there are monuments in Poland to those, who helped the Jews in the Holocaust.

Poland was the victim of genocide and ethnic cleansing under the Nazis. Hitler himself said that the war against the Poles would be one of extermination. Of the gentile Christians, who were persecuted by the Nazis, the majority were Polish Roman Catholics. The Nazis despised the Slavonic peoples of eastern Europe as non-Aryan subhumans. The handbooks issued to the Hitler Youth urging them to keep themselves racially pure had diagrams showing the typical features of the peoples of Europe. Those of the Slavic peoples, beginning with the Poles, are shown has becoming increasingly east Asian, with high cheekbones and slanted eyes, until they finally merge into those of the peoples of China and the other Asian countries.

Nevertheless, there is a deep strain of anti-Semitism and xenophobia in these countries that is being exploited. I wonder how much of the trend towards Fascism in Poland is being driven by the same economic and psychological forces behind the rise of the Far Right in Hungary. Poland’s another state that had to fight for its independence against domination by the German, Austiran and Russian Empires, and was threatened by the Turkish conquest of the Balkans and expansionism from the 15th to 17th centuries. I’m left wondering if the Polish people also suffered through the collapse of Communism, like those of Russia and Hungary. And if they also, like Hungary, were badly hit by the 2008 financial crash.

And despite their affected concern with defending Jews from anti-Semitism, Israel and its lobbyists in Britain will not attack the Polish government. Because Poland, like Ukraine and Hungary, has bought Israeli arms. Thus Stephen Pollard, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, appeared in the pages of the Guardian to deny that the Law and Justice Party was anti-Semitic, because they were good friends of Israel.

One of our uncles was Polish, a man who worked his way across Europe from Germany to France until he came to Britain. He was a decent man, who worked hard to support his family. It’s horrifying that his country is going down the same path towards Fascism, and that Nazism is rising again in eastern Europe with connivance of these nations’ governments.

Everyone in the West has to join together to fight it, before it undermines all of western civilization.

Video of Fascist North West Patriots Being Driven Out Of Liverpool

November 6, 2018

This is a short video from RT UK showing the reception the North West Frontline Patriots got when they tried to march in Liverpool. They were met by crowds of people waving anti-Fascist placards from a variety of organization, chanting ‘No Pasaran’. The groups shown demonstrating against them include Merseyside Anti-Fascist Action, Stand Up To Racism, and Unite Against Racism.
I don’t think they got out of the station before they were forced back and had to take the next train home.

The video features Liverpool councilor Anna Rothery, the mayoral lead for equality, who says,

Well today we’ve had the North West Patriots trying to come to the city to spread their hate, they have come in through Moorfields Street station or attempted to, but because we’re such a strong city and we are so against these people coming here they didn’t make it out once again.

Paul Sillet of Unite Against Racism says

The likes of Steve Bannon and many others of his ilk are directly influencing and helping to channel large funds into people like Tommy Robinson’s pockets, and now you have internationally, they are building – Greece, Italy and elsewhere as I mentioned Germany and so on, these people are building. It is going to be a challenge for us, but I have every confidence because of things like today we can stop them.

All of this is true. The Fascists are growing across Europe, and they are being encouraged and supported by Steve Bannon and other members of America’s extreme right. But it’s great that the Left is able to mount successful counterdemonstrations and drive them away, humiliated.

As for the ‘Patriots’ themselves, this is a new organization I really don’t know anything about. But I heartily and strongly dispute their right to call themselves patriots. A few weeks ago the anti-Fascist, feminist blogger Kevin Logan put up a video which, amongst other things, attacked the Far Right for appropriating the Remembrance Day poppy.

Britain was aided in both World Wars by troops from around the British Empire, including Black and Asian countries. These men and women gave their lives for Britain, and it was only a few years ago that a monument was put up commemorating the contributions of these brave men and women. Way back at the beginning of this century, when I was still doing voluntary work at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum, it ran an exhibition on the Great War and the contribution of non-White Commonwealth troops. One of the photos was a magnificent picture of a Black trooper, chest festooned with medals, proudly hoisting the Union Jack. The people I was working with at the time commented that it was a great picture, and a very powerful refutation of the Far Right’s attitude that Blacks and Asians aren’t British, and only White racists themselves are patriotic. As well as ordinary infantry troopers, there was even a Black RAF pilot in World War II. Quite apart from the Chinese, who served in the First World War as labourers for the army.

Many of the Black and Asian squaddies were so impressed by the warm greeting they had experienced from us during World War II, that they came back here as immigrants. Only to be faced with hostility and racism. Attitudes like those of Fascists like the North West Patriots.

Surveys have shown that typically immigrants are more optimistic about Britain than the traditional White community. Fascists like the North West Patriots have absolutely no right to call themselves such, and deserve to be driven out. Very definitely ‘No Pasaran!’.

Latest Train-Wreck Idea from Hunt: Recruit Business Leaders as Ambassadors

November 1, 2018

I hope everyone had a great Hallowe’en yesterday. I can remember going to Hallowe’en parties as a child, and enjoying the spooky games and dressing up as witches, wizards, ghosts and goblins and so on. At the time, it was good, harmless fun, based on children’s fantasy stories. Adults had their own parties, of course, and there was also something in keeping with the season on TV or the radio. One year, the Archive Hour on Radio 4 looked back on the history of horror stories on the wireless, going all the way back to Valentine Dyall and The Man in Black, and Fear on Four. Actually, I think the only really frightening part of a genuinely traditional British Hallowe’en were the stupid section of the trick or treaters, who threw eggs and flour at your front door, and Carry on Screaming on the TV. This is the Carry On team’s spoof of Hammer Horror movies, in which Fenella Fielding appeared as the vampire Valeria. Fielding died a month or so ago. She was a very accomplished actress, but sadly got typecast because of her appearance in the movie. She was also a staunch Labour supporter, in contrast to her brother, who was a Tory MP. The film was a spoof, but it terrified me when I was in junior school. One critic of such movies once reckoned it was more horrific than anything Hammer produced. All good fun in its time, but I completely understand why some Christians and churches prefer to ignore it.

The Tories, however, chose yesterday to announce something equally ghastly. Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, has decided that he wants to create a thousand more ambassadorial posts. And he’s looking to fill at least some of these with business leaders.

Mike reported on this latest bad idea, and put up a few Tweets from Andrew Adonis. Adonis was a minister for New Labour, and he was very scathing about the idea. In one of them he said

we have 20 yrs experience of recruiting Trade Ministers from ‘business.’ Each of them have lasted about a year, having bagged the peerage & achieved little if anything. Think Digby Jones.

He also challenged Hunt to name one business leader who has been a successful ambassador, pointing out that they are different skill sets. It is, he said, the difference between being a successful foreign secretary and a student politician.

Mike also reminded everyone how the Tories tried a similar scheme with their free schools project. They decided to release free schools from all that stifling legislation the requires them to hire properly qualified teachers. The schools hired unqualified staff, and standards plummeted.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/10/31/hare-brained-hunt-wants-to-hire-business-leaders-as-ambassadors-remember-when-free-schools-hired-untrained-teachers/

It’s not hard to see that Michael Gove’s plan accomplished for schools, Hunt’s wheeze will do for British diplomacy. Ultimately, it comes from the peculiar social Darwinism the Tories share with their Republican counterparts over in the US. They consider businessmen the very best people to run everything, including essential state functions and services. Adam Curtis ripped into this idea, which was developed by the Libertarians in the 1990s, in one of his documentaries. This featured a clip of a Libertarian declaring that, in contrast to politicians, business leaders were better suited to running society because they knew what people wanted and were eager to give it to them through the profit motive. It’s a complete falsehood, as you can see from the way public services and the NHS have deteriorated thanks to Tory and New Labour privatization. Its part of the corporate takeover of the state, which has seen important posts in government go to businessmen and women, a process that has been extensively described by George Monbiot in his book, Captive State.

It also doesn’t take much intelligence to realise that not only are the skill sets involved in business and diplomacy different, but that the appointment of businesspeople in government leads, or can leads, to conflicts of interest. Trump caused controversy when his daughter attended him during talks with the Japanese. This was unethical and inappropriate, as she was the head of a business which could gain a material advantage over its competitors from the information she gained at these talks. Trade negotiations have always been a major part of diplomacy, with ministers and foreign office staff flying off to different parts of the world in the hope of achieving a trade agreement. It really isn’t hard to see how business leaders would be tempted to use their position as ambassadors to enrich themselves and their businesses.

And its also blindingly obvious that this situation will also lead to some deeply unethical foreign policy decisions. Just about the first story in this fortnight’s Private Eye is about how the government’s connections to the arms industry has kept them selling arms to the Saudis despite the butchering of civilians, including women and children in Yemen. Human rights activists and opposition groups have been calling for an end to the war and arms sales to Saudi Arabia. However, Private Eye notes that

The final decision on licensing falls to international trade secretary Liam Fox. His priority is business at any cost, and his department is judged on exports and investment into the UK.

See ‘Flying Fox’ in Private Eye, 2nd-15th November 2018, p.7).

Which shows you the Tories’ priorities in these cases: trade and business first, with Human Rights a very long way behind. But it will stop the government suffering embarrassments from ambassadors, who get concerned at the way the British government is propping up foreign dictators simply for the sake of profitable business deals. Like Craig Murray, who was our man in one of the new, central Asian states that emerged after the fall of the Soviet Union. He was appalled at the way Britain was doing just that with the local despot, spoke out, and was sacked and smeared for doing so.

It’s also a move which seems squarely aimed at preventing further social mobility. A few years ago, the government had a policy of recruiting ambassadors and staff from suitably capable people of working class background. I don’t know if the policy is ongoing. Somehow I doubt it, given the nature of this government. In theory, as currently ambassadorial staff are part of the civil service, anyone from any background can apply, provided they have the necessary skills and qualifications. In practice, I’ve no doubt most of them come from upper middle class backgrounds and are privately educated. But the ability of working class people to get these jobs will become much harder if they’re handed over to business leaders. A little while ago the newspapers reported that about half of the heads of all businesses had inherited their position. Also, by definition, working people don’t own businesses, though many aspire to have their own small enterprises, like shops or garages. But these posts are very definitely aimed at the heads of big business, and definitely not at the aspiring Arkwrights of these isles.

Hunt’s decision to start recruiting ambassadors from the heads of business will lead to the further corporate dominance of British government and politics, less social mobility for working people, more corruption and conflicts of interests. And Britain continuing to sell military equipment to despotic regimes that don’t need them and which use them to murder civilians in deeply immoral wars. But it’s a Tory idea, so what else can you expect.

Al-Jazeera on the First Test Flight of India’s Space Shuttle

September 19, 2018

In this short clip, just over two minutes long, from Al-Jazeera, posted two years ago in 2016, Tariq Bezley reports on the first test flight by the Indian Space Agency of their space shuttle. The shuttle was launched into space on top of a rocket fired from India’s launch facility north of Chenai. The craft separated from the rocket at an altitude of 70 km and re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere, which heated it up to 2,000 degrees.

A female scientist speaking for the Observer Research Foundation, Rajeswari P Rajagopalan talks on the video about how it was necessary to test the shuttle’s heat shield.

Besley states that so far only the US, USSR, Japan and Europe have launched reusable shuttles. He states that NASA’s Space Shuttle flew 135 missions in 30 years before it was finally decommissioned. It has been replaced by the US air forces X-37B test vehicle. This unmanned vehicle was on its third mission, and had been up there for a year. However, the secrecy surrounding its missions have provoked speculation that it is a spy satellite, or is being tested to deliver weapons from space.

He then goes on to discuss the Dreamchaser, the spaceplane being developed by the private Sierra Nevada firm to service the International Space Station. Its first flight is planned for 2019. India’s space shuttle is in a much earlier stage of development, and it’s estimated that it’ll be 10 or 15 years before it is ready to fly.

Besley also discusses how India successfully put a spacecraft in orbit around Mars in 2014, becoming the first Asian nation to do so.

Rajagopan states that China has flourishing military space programme, which is a direct challenge to India, and India has to respond if it is not to be left lagging behind.

Further tests will be carried out on the Indian spacecraft, including on the supersonic scramjet engine which the Indians hope will one day power the spaceplane. The Indians say that their Mars mission cost a tenth of that of other missions to the Red Planet. Besley concludes that if their space shuttle can achieve the same savings, space travel will become much more affordable for all.

A number of countries have developed plans for different spaceplanes. The Russians had their own version of the Space Shuttle, Buran, which looked exactly like the American. It has been mothballed since the Fall of the USSR and has never flown. The French designed a small spaceplane, Hermes, which was to go on top of their Ariane rocket in the 1990s. This was very much like the American Dynosoar spaceplane proposed in the 1950s, but never actually built. The Germans also designed a spaceplane, Sanger, named after one of their leading rocket scientists. This would consist of two craft, a larger plane acting as a first stage, which would piggy-back a second plane into orbit.
And then there was the British HOTOL project of the 1980s which also used airbreathing ramjet engines to take the plane into space. This was never completed because of problems with those same engines. The technology has since been perfected, and a new British spaceplane, Skylon, has been developed. It has been forecast that it will come into service sometime in the next few years, possibly flying from spaceport launch sites in Cornwall or Scotland.

The video shows how sophisticated India’s space programme is, and I’ve no doubt that their entry into space will lower launch costs significantly. While the American shuttle was an amazing piece of engineering, it was massively expensive. It only became competitive as a launch vehicle against Ariane and the other rockets because it was heavily subsidized by the American government.

I look forward to the development of India’s spaceplane and that country joining the US and Russia in launching manned space missions. Perhaps if more countries develop reusable spacecraft, humanity will at last enter a real age of crewed space exploration and colonization.