Archive for the ‘Brazil’ Category

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

October 12, 2016

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

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

The UN Convention on genocides states that

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Holocaust, Jackie Walker and the Anti-Semitism Allegations

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

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

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

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

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

Shirley Williams on Milton Friedman and the Failing of Free Market Capitalism

May 25, 2016

SWilliams Book Pic

The supposed benefits of free market capitalism and deregulation are at the heart of the ‘New Right’ doctrines expressed in Thatcherism and Blairite New Labour. Thatcher took her credulous adulation of the free market from the American Chicago school of economics, most notably von Hayek and Milton Friedman. These doctrines became New Labour orthodoxy under Tony Blair following Labour’s defeat in the 1987 general election. Despite Gordon Brown, Blair’s successor, having lost the 2010 election, and the rise of Jeremy Corbyn from the Old Labour Left as leader of the party, Thatcherite ideals are still espoused and promoted by the Blairite faction in the Progress ‘party-within-a-party’ in Labour.

Yet even at the time Thatcher was implementing the free market reforms that have devastated the British economy and society, it was obvious to the majority of people on the Left that the free market simply didn’t work. Shirley Williams, the right-wing Labour MP, who left to form the SDP with David Owen, now merged with the Liberals, was one of them. In her book, Politics Is For People (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1981), she makes the following remarks and criticisms of Friedman’s grand notions of the effectiveness of the free market.

Professor Friedman, however, overstates his case – often to a ludicrous extent. There are many needs the market is incapable of meeting, because they are collective needs – for clean water, clean air, public health, a good transport system. The market is geared to individual demands and to individual purses; in meeting them, it does not count social costs or social consequences. Furthermore, there are individual demands that cannot be made effective because the individual cannot afford to satisfy them, typically, treatment for serious illness, chronic invalidism, care in old age. The market is a mechanics ill-adapted to the cycles of an individual’s life history, which move from dependence through independence back to dependence again, and also to the cycles of the economy. In his recent book, Free to Choose, Professor Friedman asserts: ‘Sooner or later, and perhaps sooner than many of us expect, ever bigger governments will destroy both the prosperity that we care for in the free market and even the human freedom proclaimed so eloquently in the Declaration of Independence.’ In an obvious sense, the Professor must be right. Total government, controlling the whole economy, would indeed be likely to destroy both prosperity and human freedom. But again his case is hopelessly overstated. In many European countries public expenditure constitutes 40 per cent or more of the gross national product. yet who is to say that Sweden or Denmark or the Federal Republic of Germany are less prosperous and less free than Spain, Argentina or Brazil, in which a much smaller proportion of the gross national product goes into public expenditure? Indeed the extremes of income and wealth characteristic of societies dominated by free market capitalism are not conducive to human freedom or to democratic political systems. Men and women without access to decent working conditions, education, housing and health do not fully share in their society. They are not accorded the human dignity that is intrinsic to the democratic process. their opportunities and their choices are crippled by the unequal distribution of resources. Even if such as country has some form of election, ostensibly based on a universal and secret franchise, the great disparities in economic power will influence the many who are weak to bow to the wishes of the few who are strong. (PP. 16-7).

And this is exactly what has happened. Britain has become much less democratic. Our leaders are rich and middle class elitists, isolated from the mass of the working poor in their own, sealed enclaves. The poor have become much poorer, and are increasingly seeing what few rights they have left stripped from them through Cameron’s reforms of the judicial system, trade union legislation and his assault on workers’ rights. Two decades ago there was a storm when someone announced that Monetarism had failed. Friedman’s free market economics are also an abject failure. They survive only because they sustain and empower a parasitical managerial class, ruling through elite privilege and toxic capitalism. It’s high time Friedman’s discredited ideas were very firmly dumped.

The Young Turks on Corporate Coup against Brazilian President

May 14, 2016

The leftist Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, has been impeached and removed from office on charges of corruption and breaking electoral rules on expenditure. In this piece from The Young Turks, their anchor, Cenk Uygur, argues strongly that the charges are merely a specious pretext for what is essentially a coup against the Left by Brazil’s rich and corporate elite.

Rousseff was in a coalition with a centrist party, led by Michel Temer. After her removal, Temer took over the reins of power. But unlike Rousseff, Temer is massively unpopular. In polls, he has a popularity rating of 1 per cent. Which is probably as low as you can get for someone in government. Even Jeremy Hunt hasn’t reached that nadir yet, though he’s still going. And he’s hardly Mr Clean either. Temer is embroiled in a series of massive corruption scandals, far more than Rousseff. However, he’s been put in place because the elites love him.

Uygur argues that the coup has been arranged by the country’s financial backers. The big corporate media has been running campaigns against Rousseff. Those investing in the country include Goldman Sachs and the IMF, who are now demanding that the Brazilian government embarks on a programme of austerity – meaning more welfare cuts and tax reform, which will no doubt mean that the tax burden is once more transferred away from the rich to the poor. Oh yes, and they also want greater ‘labour fluidity’, which is corporate-speak for cuts to workers’ rights to make it easier to sack people. This was also a big favourite of Bliar and Broon.

As for the substance of the allegations against Rousseff, Uygur states that there may well be something there. But she’s nowhere near as corrupt or as unpopular as Temer. He quotes the very conservative magazine, the Economist, as saying that the allegations are unwarranted. Even Temer himself scoffed at the idea that she should be impeached.

Uygur concludes that this is how the corporate elite and the rich move against left-wingers once they’re in power. As soon as they start doing things for the poor, they find some arrangement to remove them, and replace them with the people, who will do what they want.

It’s not hard to see the reflection of what’s going on in American politics in this as well. Bernie Sanders was massively more popular with ordinary voters than Shrillary, but Bernie was for the blue-collar Joes and Joannas and against the corporate elite that fund the political machine. So the superdelegates, the party heavyweights, whose votes count for many more than the ordinary Democrat voters, back Shrillery instead. Who doesn’t represent anyone except Wall St. You can also see the same machinations in the EU with the Troika and their demands for the austerity regime in Greece and Italy and so on. Or in Honduras, where the Corporate elite, including Shrillary, backed a military coup that overthrew the president, Manuel Zelaya. Why? Zelaya had made terrible attacks on western capitalism by providing the poor with a minimum wage, and free education and electricity, amongst other things. The country’s corporate elite and Shrillary couldn’t permit this, and so once again, America backed a coup. Brazil’s coup is different, because it’s basically a peaceful change of government personnel, rather than a military takeover. But it’s a coup, nonetheless.

It shows the power of the transnational corporate elites, and how much they really despise lower classes, genuine working people, and just how far they will go to keep them from power.

The Immense Popularity of the Beveridge Report, and its Reception by Labour and the Tories

March 11, 2016

A week or so ago I had a debate on here with a critic, who objected to my crediting Aneurin Bevan with the creation of the NHS. He asserted that the Beveridge Report, on which the NHS is based, was a policy of the wartime National Government, and also had Conservative support.

This is true. However, the Beveridge Report was based on the work of Sidney and Beatrice Webb and the Socialist Medical Association, who had been demanding a free medical service for decades. Indeed, a free health service had been Labour party policy since the 1930s. And while the Tories in the Coalition government also supported Beveridge’s outline of the welfare state, it had particularly strong support in the Labour party.

Pauline Gregg in her book, The Welfare State, describes the massive popularity the Beveridge Report enjoyed with just about all parts of the British population on pages 19-20.

On November 20, 1942, only seventeen months after the appointment of the Committee, it was ready and signed. On December 2, it was made available to the public, and seen at once to go even beyond the expectations of The Times. Though called, simply, Social Insurance and Allied Services, it was an eloquent cry to end poverty, disease, and unemployment, and purported to supply the means of doing so. Its appeal was instantaneous. Queues besieged the Stationary Office in Kingsway. Not only the Press but BBC news bulletins summarized the Report. Brendan Bracken, the Minister of Information, needed only a few hours in which to perceive its enormous propaganda value, and soon it was being trumpeted across the world in many languages. At the cost of 2s, the then normal price of a government White Paper, it immediately became a best-seller at home and abroad, the subject of leading articles, letters to the Press, speeches and discussions at every level of society. Beveridge himself explained his Plan to millions on the radio and on the cinema screen, as well as addressing countless meetings. In twelve months 256,000 copies of the full Report were sold, 369,000 copies of an abridged edition, 40,000 copies of an American edition. Permission was given for translation into Spanish, Portuguese, and German. Translations were published in Argentina, Brazil, Portugal, Mexico, and Switzerland. Parts 1 and VI were translated into Czech, the abridgement into Italian and Chinese.

The Trades Union Congress and the Co-operative Party gave it their blessing. the National Council of Labour, representing all the bodies of organized Labour, called for the legislation necessary to implement the Report at an early date. The Liberal Party supported it, and through Geoffrey Mander welcomed the general principles of “that momentous report”. A group of young Tories tabled a motion in the House of Commons requiring the Government “to set up forthwith the proposed Ministry of Social Security for the purpose of giving effect to the principles of the Report”. “We believe”, said Quintin Hogg, who sponsored this motion, “the keynote of the restatement of political controversy after the war to be practical idealism.” The Beveridge scheme, said another Tory Member of Parliament, “touches the individual life of every man, woman and child in the country and reaches deep down into the homes of the people”. The Labour Party made the Report peculiarly its own. “It expresses”, said Sydney Silverman at its Conference in 1943, “the basic principle of this Party, the only thing which entitled us at the beginning and entitles us now to regard ourselves as fundamentally different from all other parties.” The Report, wrote The Times, had changed the phrase “freedom from want” from a vague though deeply felt aspiration into a plainly realizable project of national endeavour. “Sir William Beveridge and his colleagues have put the nation deeply in their debt, not mere for a confident assurance that the poor need not always be with us, but far a masterly exposition of the ways and means whereby the fact and the fear of involuntary poverty can be speedily abolished altogether.” The Report, it concluded, “is a momentous document which should and must exercise a profound and immediate influence on the direction of social changes in Britain.

Gregg notes on page 23 that in the House of Commons, when it came to a vote only a minority voted for the immediate implementation of the policy. In the end the Labour Party tabled an amendment calling for the early implementation of Beveridge’s plan as a test of Parliament’s sincerity. She also notes on page 25 that many Tory MPs voted against the motion as a reaction against the Plan’s support by Labour.

Meanwhile the Labour amendment was put to the House of Commons. “The Beveridge Plan”, said James Griffiths, moving it, “has become in the minds of the people and the nation both a symbol and a test. It has become, first of all symbol of the kind of Britain we are determined to build when the victory is won, a Britain in which the mass of the people shall ensured security from preventable want. Almost … every comment that has been made in the Press and on the platform since the Report was issued, the widespread interest taken in it and in its proposals, and the almost universal support given to it, are clear indications that the Report and the plan meet a deep-felt need in the minds and hearts of our people.”

But the effect of calling upon a Labour amendment was to unite the Tories against it, in spite of their own speeches, and Griffiths’ amendment was lost by 335 votes to 119, leaving the original non-committal motion to stand. It was a regrettable position. After the welcome and the publicity given to Beveridge’s proposals, and the high hopes raised, the Report was accepted by then sent to another Committee at Whitehall, who spent nearly two years considering it. Further consideration of details had, indeed, been assumed by its author. But the impression given was of shelving the Report, of wriggling out of the proposals. “This”, said Griffiths after the counting of the votes in the House of Commons,” makes the return of the Labour Party to power at the next election an absolute certainty.”

(My emphasis).

The commenter also found my story, about how the pharmacist father of one of my mother’s friends declared he was going to vote Labour because so many people needed the NHS ‘absurd’. This was presumably because he couldn’t accept the idea of a true-blue Tory businessman ever voting Labour. But this paragraph shows this was pretty much what did happen, and the government knew it the moment the Tories voted against the Labour motion.

As for Sydney Silverman’s statement that support for the welfare state is what makes the Labour party fundamentally different from all other parties, it’s a pity that this wasn’t taken on board by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown when they decided to continue Thatcher’s programme of dismantling the welfare state and privatising the NHS. And it’s a pit that it isn’t recognised by Bliar’s successors – Liz Kendall and now Dan Jarvis.

Private Eye: MI6 Killed Congo President, Patrice Lamumba

February 6, 2016

Away from it’s cover spoofing Trump, there’s a rather more serious, and very interesting little article, Killing Times, on page 20 of this fortnight’s Eye. It’s about the American’s refusal to get drawn into supporting Britain’s denunciation of Putin for ordering the assassination Litvinenko. The Eye ascribes this to the Americans recognising that if they did so, Putin would respond by reminding them of their own sordid history in these matters. Such as the various CIA assassination attempts on Fidel Castro, and a 1960 plot, instigated by President Eisenhower, to kill the first democratically elected president of the Congo, Patrice Lamumba. The article goes onto inform it’s readers that it wasn’t just the Americans, who wanted to kill the African premier. The article goes on:

The British would never sanction such “uncivilised behaviour”, of course. Except, er, they did. In September 1960 Howard Smith of the Foreign Office’s Africa department wrote a memo to senior Whitehall officials and the Lord Privy Seal, Edward Heath, advocating a “simple way to stop Congo’s PM getting too friend with the USSR – “ensuring Lumumba’s removal from the scene by killing him. This should in fact solve the problem.” Was Smith instantly dismissed for his illegal proposal? He later became ambassador to Moscow and then head of MI5.

Soldiers from Belgium, the old colonial power, were present at the eventual murder of Lumumba in January 1961. But Britain did its bit. In 2013 the Labour peer Lord Lea revealed in the London Review of Books that three years earlier, shortly before her death, he had discussed Lumumba with Daphne Park-fellow peer, MI6 stalwart and British consul in Leopoldville at the time of the killing. “I mentioned the uproar surrounding Lumumba’s abduction and murder and recalled the theory that MI6 might have had something to do with it.’ We did,’ she replied, ‘I organised it’.”

See that, Mr Putin? That is how truly civilised countries behave.

This is interesting and important. America and the CIA are notorious for organising a series of assassinations and coups throughout the developing world. The various attempts to kill Castro are perhaps the best known, along with the overthrow of President Allende in Chile by General Pinochet and the coup against Benz in Guatemala. But in fact you can add a long string of other nations, including Brazil and Iran. In a speech I reblogged, the Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, criticised this history of political murder and made it clear that for the sake of peace it should be abandoned.

You hear much less about British involvement in these matters, and you could be forgiven that we don’t do any such thing. This piece from the eye show how wrong this assumption is. Britain was involved with the coup against Mossadeq in Iran in 1953. Lobster has also covered in its pages a plot against Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe in 1979 or so, as well as what seems to have been the assassination of Republican leaders by death squads deep within the British army in Northern Ireland. But that’s it. Mostly such pieces are confined to Lobster, which gets its information from bits and pieces released in the press, and tucked away in books about foreign policies, or the memoirs of former spies, ministers and civil servants. This secret history isn’t as well known as America’s. My guess is that the main reason for this is, unlike America, the ruling class were better over here at maintaining the cloak of secrecy. We didn’t have a Freedom of Information Act until Tony Blair, and that was rather milder than the American version. And unlike America, Britain hasn’t suffered the trauma of seeing a head of state impeached and put on trial, like Nixon at Watergate. The lives and reputations of the politicos and mandarins, who may have organised atrocities like Lamumba’s assassination have been preserved, because the British public have been kept – and most likely are still being kept – from finding out about them.

The Young Turks Critique Trump’s Political Ads

January 7, 2016

Okay, it’s started. Donald Trump has bought $2 million of campaign ads, which he’s screening in Iowa and New Hampshire, two of the most critical states in the presidential primaries. Apparently it was screened over 60 times this week in once of those states already.

It sets out Trump’s policies – put a temporary stop to Muslim immigration into the US, build a wall with Mexico, and make the Mexicans pay for it, cut the head off ISIS and take their oil. I know that Trump has already said all of this stuff, but seeing him actually campaign on it on film as a set election pledge makes it all the more chilling. It’s no longer a piece of random rhetoric he’s spouted out at his town hall meetings just to sound good or see which buttons in the American psyche he can press.

In this video, The Young Turks analyse the ads, and show up the glaring falsehoods and misrepresentations he makes. Just on a point of imagery, the ad’s offensive as when it mentions his declaration to decapitate ISIS, it goes straight from pictures of Obama and Hillary to the San Bernadino shooters, as if Obama and Mrs Clinton are somehow connected to or responsible for those terrorists. Let’s have no illusion about what Trump is doing here. This isn’t just coincidence. There are Americans, unfortunately, who really do think that Obama is a secret Muslim installed in the White House, who is part of a clandestine Muslim Brotherhood plot to undermine American democracy. There’s a whole conspiracy literature about this on the Counter-Jihad net, if you want to look.

And the claims about Mexico are also misleading. For the first time in decades, there is a net loss in the number of Mexicans coming to the US. More Mexicans are leaving than coming to America. And the image Trump uses to illustrate his factoid is also mendacious. This shows crowds of people swarming towards a border post. But the footage isn’t actually from the Mexican border. It’s from Morocco, and was taken by an Italian news agency. Trump got hold of it, removed the identifying marks, and then put it in his ad to mislead the American public. And when he was caught out with the lie, his people simply admitted it, and tried to excuse themselves by saying that they did so to make people think about the scale of immigration, if this was to the US. They’re blatant, and unapologetic about lying.

And what is really worrying is the complete silence of American journalism about these lies, with a few honourable exceptions. They just run these ads, and what comment there is, is simply about how effective they are. No critique of the factual content of the ads, or its lies and deceptive imagery.

Hispanic immigration to the US has been a highly contentious topic for about three decades now. I can remember in the 1980s the Republicans ran one ad, rhetorically asking Americans what language their children would be learning in the future. It was clearly aimed at stirring up racial fears about being swamped by Spanish-speaking immigrants.

It’s hard not to feel sympathy for some of them, at least. Earlier this year, British TV screened a series in which the Irish comedians Dara O’Brien and Ed Byrne travelled from American into Central and South America along the Pan-American Highway, marking the journey made in the 1930s by the American entrepreneur, who created the road, as he set off to interest the American and Central American governments in this venture. O’Brien and Byrne touched on the subject of the migrants heading north when they stopped at a border post next to a railway, full of hopeful emigrants. They stated that these migrants are travelling to avoid terrible war, poverty and persecution in the homelands. They are also desperately vulnerable, literally risking everything to get into the US. O’Brien and Byrne pointed out that the maras, the Latin American gangs, would also get onto the trains and buses, and rob the migrants of everything, including literally the clothes of their backs, leaving them naked and penniless in a foreign country. Always assuming, they didn’t simply kill them.

If the US wanted to do something about the mass immigration from the south, then it could start by tackling some of the causes. Many, perhaps most, of South and Central Americas problems are beyond direct American control, but US diplomacy certainly hasn’t helped. From the 1950s to the ’70s and ’80s America overthrow genuinely progressive regimes in Guatemala, Chile and Brazil, backing a string of Right-wing dictators and guerrilla movements in Nicaragua and El Salvador in order to protect American business interests and stop the spread of Communism. Well, that’s how it was sold to the American public. Except that the Brazilian regime they overthrew was actually Liberal, and Benz’s government in Guatemala was democratic Socialist. After Benz was overthrown, the CIA carefully arranged a photoshoot with American journalists and politicians, including Richard Nixon, in which they displayed the Communist literature they’d carefully planted around Benz’s office.

And the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which Mexico joined, along with Canada, has also harmed the Mexican economy. Lobster has stated that about 200,000 or so Mexican jobs have been lost through the deal. Over the border in the North, jobs have also been lost in the US, as manufacturers and firms have moved south to take advantage of cheap labour. So both sides have actually lost. But everything’s okay, as for the first time Coca-Cola has managed to make inroads into the land of the Aztecs. Before then, Mexico was one of the few places on Earth, where Coca-Cola didn’t sell. The Mexicans preferred their own soft drink, a kind of fizzy apple juice.

America could therefore do much to help cut down on immigration to the US by sponsoring genuinely democratic governments devoted social justice and raising their people’s quality of life and standard of living. But this would mean radically altering the whole orientation of American politics away from laissez-faire individualism and government for the benefit of the corporations rather than the citizens. It’s what Bernie Sanders, one of the Democrat contenders, would like to do. It’s also what the right-wing of the Democrats and the Republican party as a whole hate and fear.

Promoting genuine prosperity abroad and at home doesn’t sell well to the American public, it seems. Too wishy-washy liberal. Best to just show images of rampaging immigrants and terrorists and clamp down on immigrants, while doing nothing about the causes pushing them north and west into America.

Bernie Sanders’ Speech Attacking US Coups of Foreign Governments

December 29, 2015

This is a superb speech from Bernie Sanders, the Democrat’s presidential candidate. In it he states that his goal is to strengthen America at home and not concentrate on its goals abroad. He does not want to send the country’s young men and young women out to fight wars without end. He also attacks America’s history of organising coups to topple foreign regimes they do not like. He specifically mentions Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Mossadeq in Iran, the 1964 coup against a liberal government in Brazil, the overthrow of Benitez in Guatemala, and Allende in Chile in the 1970s. Such actions are wrong; they have unforeseen consequences and ‘they do not work’.

Everything Senator Sanders said in this clip is absolutely correct. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq has just destabilised the country, and facilitated the rise of ISIS and other groups hostile to America and the other regimes in the region. The CIA’s overthrow of premier Mossadeq in Iran led to the assumption of absolute power by the Shah. His regime was so brutal it was ultimately overthrown by Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution. And it need not be stressed how anti-American that regime is. And Britain can’t be smug about this sordid piece of US foreign policy. Britain was also complicit in the overthrow, as Mossadeq had just nationalised British petroleum. This was the raison d’etre for the CIA’s coup.

This does not mean that Sanders is complacent about ISIS or the rise of other extremist groups and regimes. He states that his foreign policy will be to create an international situation that will prevent their emergence. Well, Bush’s War on Terror was supposed to stop that. It didn’t. But with Sanders, we might stand more of a chance.

Sanders describes himself as a ‘democratic Socialist’, which no doubt has the Repugs spitting teeth and raving about Communism. But it looks, at least from this side of the Pond, that he’s the man to restore America as a genuine moral and industrial force in the world. American industry and the country’s middle class have been devastated by three decades of Reaganomics, just as three decades of Thatcherism have done so much to wreck our fair nation over here. And in both America and Britain the poor have got poorer. Welfare programmes are being cut, and the unemployed, the sick, the homeless and disabled demonised or simply erased from public consciousness. If the world does need American leadership, then it needs American leaders like Sanders.

Pax Christi and Christian Anti-War Groups

December 27, 2015

Several of my relatives are Roman Catholics. I was at their parish church yesterday, as I’d been invited to join them for a special family service. Looking around one of the stalls in their church carrying the church’s religious and devotional literature, I found several newsletters from Pax Christi. They’re the official Roman Catholic peace movement, and are part of a broader Christian organisation, the Network of Christian Peace Organisations. The other Christian peace groups in the Network include the following:

Anglican Pacifist Fellowship
Baptist Peace Fellowship
Campaign Against Arms Trade Christian Network
Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Christian International Peace Service
Church and Peace
Community of Reconciliation
Congregational Peace Fellowship
Fellowship of Reconciliation England
Franciscan Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation
Martin Luther King Peace Committee
Methodist Peace Fellowship
Northern Friends Peace Board
Pax Christi
Quaker Peace and Social Witness
Student Christian Movement
United Reformed Church Peace Fellowship.

Pax Christi in Britain publishes a monthly newsletter, Justpeace. The April 2015 edition gives a brief history of Pax Christi International and an overview of their activities across the world. According to the newsletter, it was

founded in France in March 1945 as Catholic movement for peace and reconciliation following World War II, Pax Christi International is now a network of 115 member organisations on five continents with over a hundred thousand members worldwide.

Recognised by Pope Pius XII as the official Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi has also always been autonomous, with members of the hierarchy, clergy and laypeople working together as equals for peace and reconciliation in situations of violence and war around the world. The presidency of Pax Christi International, for example, is shared by a bishop, Bishop Kevin Dowling from South Africa, and a lay woman, Marie Dennis from the United States, both of whom were elected by Pax Christi member organisations.

Pax Christi International has held consultative status at the United Nations since 1979 and is working at the UN in Geneva, New York, Vienna and Paris. It is also officially represented at the African Union and the Council of Europe and has regular access to the European Parliament, the European Commission and NATO.

Among its activities across the world, Pax Christi is involved in

* a multi-year strategy to address deep-seated racism in the United States

* dynamic ‘sports for peace’ programs in South Sudan and Haiti

* strategies to integrate former combatants back into their own communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo

* courses in preventive reconciliation using the principles of haikido in the Philippines.

* efforts to address destructive mining practices in Colombia and Peru;

* advocacy and campaigning at a national and international level for the abolition of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons; for a meaningful arms trade treaty; for an end to the use of depleted uranium in weapons.

* ‘peace week’ initiatives, many of them annual, in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, the African Great Lakes region, Kosovo, Russia, Croatia, the Philippines and Colombia.

* collaboration with local partners to support active nonviolence in southern Mexico.

* excellent grassroots peace education programs in Lebanon and Philippines.

* exchanges of experience between civil society from the Middle East and from Central Europe on their role in bringing about nonviolent social change

* work with the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), our partner in Brazil, in response to growing conflict over land – and

* ongoing work with civil society groups in Syria, Iraq and Palestine.

The Network of Christian Peace Organisations and Trident at the General Election

The NCPO also produced a General Election Briefing for this last year’s election in order to promote disarmament and specifically to tackle the government’s intention to introduce Trident. Their very short – four page! – pamphlet outlined the way Christians and church groups could work to promote peace, and had short sections on the issues of Military Spending and Human Security, Renewal of Trident, the UK Arms Trade , the UK Armed Drones Programme and Britain’s Role in the World. It included questions and requests that should be asked of politicians respecting these issues. The pamphlet also carried details of other organisations dealing with those specific issues and their websites.

Pax Christi and Atomic Weapons

Pax Christi also produced a little pamphlet outlining their opposition to nuclear weapons. This included statements by the Church, including papacy, condemning them. Pope Francis last year (2014) declared that ‘Nuclear deterrence cannot be the basis for an ethics of solidarity and peaceful coexistence among people and states’.

His predecessor, Benedict XVI, in 2007 was much stronger in his condemnation. He said, ‘What can be said, too, about those governments which count on nuclear arms as a means of ensuring the security of their countries?… that nuclear weapons have any place in civilised society, is not only baneful but also completely fallacious. In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims’.

The Vatican II Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World in 1965 states in article 80 that

Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities and or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and humanity. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.

This is all enough to have Pat Robertson and the right-wing American evangelicals start screaming ‘Social gospel! Social gospel!’ at the top of their lungs, before launching into a long tirade about how ‘cultural Marxism’ is undermining society. And just to show you how ‘Christian’ some of these right-wingers are, a few of them flew into a rage this past year when Pope Francis said something rather left-wing. They like Christianity, but only when it appears to support their prejudices and policies.

I’m not a member of Pax Christi or any of the other organisations. But if you’re a Christian and would like to join their witness for peace, their address is:

NCPO, c/o Pax Christi,
St Joseph’s, Watford Way,
London NW4 4TY

and their website is http://www.ncpo.org.uk

Pax Christi is also on the web. Their address is http://www.paxchristi.net.

May God bless them and their work.

Lobster Reviews Ulf Schmidt on British Human Medical Experiments

October 17, 2015

Experimental Human Animals Art

A page of classic comics art depicting humans as experimental animals. I got it from the 70s Sci-Fi art page on Tumblr. Not quite the image IDS wants to project with his comments about the disabled as ‘Stock’.

This is another book review, which reveals something of the dark history of human medical experimentation by the military in this country. It’s a review of Secret Science: A Century of Poison Warfare and Human Experiments, by Ulf Schmidt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015) £25, h/b. This is the type of book the Daily Mail really hates. As their blustering against the Brazilian human rights rapporteur shows, one of the many irritants that really send the Mail into a xenophobic screaming fit is when foreigners dare to criticise Britain’s increasingly poor human rights record. Their usual response is to accuse the foreign critic, whether judge, human rights activist, whatever – of hypocrisy, and to try to smear them by pointing out the human rights abuses in their countries.

That won’t work here, for the simple reason that Mr Schmidt is professor of Modern History at the University of Kent, and has been Wellcome Trust’s Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at St. Anthony’s College, Oxford. He has also published several works on Nazi experimentation on humans during the Third Reich, such as Medical Films, Ethics and Euthanasia in Germany, 1933-1945 (2002), Justice at Nuremberg (2004), and Karl Brand: The Nazi Doctor: Medicine and Power in the Third Reich (2007). He is clearly very definitely both a senior, respected academic and someone, who has not been afraid to confront his country’s Nazi past, and the experimentation on humans there that would make most civilised people sick. Also, as an academic text, the book is far outside the type of book the Daily Mail and its readers are likely to read or review. And so you can be quite sure that the Tory press are very definitely going to ignore it.

Much of the book is about the experiments on humans to judge the effect of chemical and biological weapons. Although the book includes America and Canada, much of its focus is on Britain and the research carried out by Porton Down. Schmidt acknowledges that the soldiers upon whom the experiments were carried out were volunteers, but raises the awkward question of whether they were properly informed of the possible consequences of the experiments. Several squaddies have died and many left seriously disabled. He mentions the case of one serviceman, Leading Aircraftman Ronald Maddison, who died after being exposed to Sarin in 1953. If the death alone was not scandalous, there is the fact that it took his family fifty years to find out the true circumstances of his death. He also notes that the Americans were interested in the resistance of different racial groups to mustard gas, and that Porton Down released a ‘plague-like bacterium’ on to the underground in 1963.

The review also states that the book also has a lot of loose ends and opportunities for further research. Like the case of British officers, who were sent to investigate Nazi medical experiments and the gassing of the Jews for Nuremberg. Nobody, however, seems to know what they did with the information and there remains a strong possibility for an ‘Operation Paperclip’, in which the Nazi doctors involved were recruited by their former enemies. He also discusses how Porton Down followed America in pursuing research into the military application of LSD, like the US’ MKULTRA. One of the doctors involved was an American, who sought other human guinea pigs amongst the mentally ill shut up in America’s psychiatric wards. The book’s reviewer, Frewin, discusses the possibility that some of the British doctors mentioned in the book seems just as shady. He raises the possibility that one of two of them were conducting similar experiments over here.

It’s interesting that, just as this book’s been published, Points West, the Beeb’s local news programme for the Bristol, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire are did a feature on Porton Down and its history. It seems the facility had been making some kind of public outreach, which looks like a bit of PR to allay possible public fears. Rather more disquieting is the way Ian Duncan Smith referred to disabled people as ‘stock’, and suggested that the poor could make money by offering themselves for medical experimentation. Mike over at Vox Political pointed out that his was very close indeed to the attitude of the Fascist doctors experimenting on humans in the dystopian future Britain of V for Vendetta.

There’s a problem here in pursuing research into human experimentation in Britain by the massively secretive nature of the British political establishment. Americans were informed about the true extent of their nation’s experimentation on service personnel, the poor and disadvantaged racial minorities with the passage of the Freedom of Information Act by Clinton in the 1990s. This resulted in the release of a torrent of declassified documents revealing a very dark history of drug and nuclear experimentation, frequently on people, who had no knowledge of what was being done to them. One of the documents revealed how an Indian woman was regularly injected with radioactive material at a nuclear facility, which she was led to believe was a hospital and the doctors were treating her for cancer. It’s secret history that forms the basis for American conspiracy culture and the massive suspicion many Americans feel towards their own government, from Alex Jones and Info Wars to the type of people portrayed in the X Files in the form of the Lone Gunmen.

The problem is that, for all America’s faults, they are a much more open society than Britain. Possibly because of its origin in aristocratic political discourse, where important decisions were to be kept to responsible gentlemen in smoky rooms, and the proles kept at arms length, the British state has always been very reluctant to divulge any kind of potentially embarrassing information. It might upset confidence in the Establishment, as well as cause some ex-public schoolboy various other ministers and civil servants went to school with to lose his pension and his career. It was, for example, only a few years ago that Britain acknowledged the true extent of the terror tactics it employed to quell the Mao-Mao rebellion in Kenya. Blair’s passage of a British version of the Freedom of Information Act has done much to make the British states less secretive, more open and transparent. This is, however, now being undermined by the Tories and their collaborators in this from New Labour, like Jack Straw. So we probably don’t know the true extent of human experimentation over here. Another factor that makes me wonder if we ever will is that at the time some of these experiments were performed, Britain still had an Empire and the tests were done in some of our former colonies. Nuclear weapons, for example, were tested on south sea islands. So many of the victims may well now be the citizens of independent nations, and so considered less important and more easily ignored than British citizens.

Hope Not Hate on Government Blocking of Anti-Slavery Legislation

March 25, 2015

The anti-racist, anti-Fascist and anti-religious extremism organisation, Hope Not Hate, has this important piece about the Coalition’s stance on migrant slavery in the UK today, Which side of history will Britain be on slavery? Today is the International Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, but the article also reminds us that there are 36 million people in slavery around the world today, including, odiously, 13,000 migrant servants living here in the UK.

The article discusses how the Coalition voted out the Lords’ amendments to the Modern Slavery Bill. These included the rights for migrant domestic workers to leave the employers. Four years ago this same coalition refused to ratify the International Labour Organisation’s Convention, which would also have allowed migrant servants to leave their employers. Karen Bradey, the government’s minister for modern slavery and organised crime last week again refused appeals for the government to ratify it.

Last year, Hope Not Hate, Justice 4 Domestic Workers, KALAYAAN, and UNITE the Union handed in a petition and postcards to David Cameron requesting him to end the slavery of domestic migrant workers in Britain. He has not done so.

The article concludes with the following appeal:

16,000 people are now asking for justice to be done and for parliament to bring back HOPE for domestic workers turned modern day slaves in the UK.

Today, the Modern Slavery Bill bounces back to the Lords for consideration of Commons’ unforgivable changes. If not today, on the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery, then when will this government decide to be on the right side of history and put their deeds where their words are?

Please take to social media and remind Conservative and Liberal Democrat members of both houses that you would not want to be #ChainedToYourBoss and thus help migrant domestic workers in the UK regain their freedom and HOPE.

The article can be read at: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/nick/which-side-of-history-will-britain-be-on-slavery-4343.

This is a vitally important issue. The commemoration of slavery and the slave trade is a contentious and controversial topic. It is one that has strongly demanded by Black and civil rights activists, who were horrified and disgusted by what they saw as the British’ failure to confront this aspect of the country’s past. Many towns have organised displays and exhibitions charting their involvement in the slave trade. Liverpool Museum had a gallery devoted to it, and in 1995 Bristol Museum held an exhibition, A Respectable Trade, about Bristol’s participation. It took it’s name partly from the title of a book by the writer of historical fiction, Philippa Gregory, then being shown as a Sunday night drama series on the Beeb. Other countries apart from Britain have also put own their own slavery exhibitions. Nantes in Britanny also put on an exhibition on their part in the French slave trade, called ‘L’Annees du Memoire’.

The problem of slavery in the modern world was also the subject of a book published in the 1990s, Disposable People. This covered the various types of bondage across the world, from Brazil, Mauretania in Africa, the logging camps and mining towns in Thailand and south-east Asia, and Arab countries. The author pointed out that slavery was often disguised as long-term indentured contracts. Those caught in it including labourers, miners, loggers and prostitutes. The book was called ‘Disposable People’, because that was the attitude of the slavers to the people they owned and exploited. They were there to be used, and then discarded without a qualm when they had no further use for them. And their lives are very, very cheap. There are sections in the book where you need a very strong stomach.

And slavery has crept back into Europe through legislation that binds domestic workers – servants – to their masters when they come to Britain. Under this legislation, the servants come under their masters’ passports, and thus are bound to them. As a result, thousands of domestic servants have found themselves kept as virtual slaves by their employers. They have no rights or control over their conditions, and may be beaten and abused as their masters please. The book describes the cases of a number of migrant domestic workers, who found themselves forced into slavery through this system in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, giving the estimated number of slaves thus kept in Paris.

William Wilberforce, the 18th century campaigner for the abolition of the slave trade, is something of a cause celebre amongst some Tories. He was an evangelical Christian, whose great faith moved him to campaign tireless against the brutalisation and exploitation of African slaves. He was also a High Tory, who believed in laissez faire capitalism. He thus appealed to them as an example of Conservative humanitarianism. One of the former members of John Major’s cabinet wrote a biography of Wilberforce a few years ago, though I can’t remember which one.

The Coalition’s stance on outlawing modern slavery in the UK shows just how far their sympathies with Wilberforce’s campaign really extend: not very. And the rise in the numbers of people enslaved around the world is alarming. When Disposable People was written, there was an estimated 20 million people in slavery. According to the Hope Not Hate article, it’s now risen to 36 million. Previous works on slavery in the modern world, while not being complacent, had considered that it was gradually dying out. One of the presidents of Nigeria, according to one book I read, had a particular type of facial scarring that in tradition Nigerian society indicated slave status. Similarly, the hereditary slaves in traditional forms of bondage, such as in Mauretania, were likely to be the best treated and valued, compared to the labourers trapped in more modern forms. It’s revolting and horrifying that slavery has returned, including the sale of women and girls for sex slavery by the jihadis of ISIS.

It’s clearly going to be a long time, and require a great deal of international effort, before slavery is ever truly eradicated and all of Earth’s people can stand together as free men and women. There’s only so much that can be done by one country. But Britain can start by breaking the chains of migrant domestic workers. They can and should be allowed to leave abusive masters.

Karen Bradey, the minister, who turned down this legislation on behalf of Cameron and Clegg’s government, used to be one of Sir Alan Sugar’s two supervising minions on The Apprentice. She made a speech a little while ago talking about the struggle women have to be taken seriously in business. She’s right, but her speech was a bit rich coming from her. She started her career working for the porn and press baron, and former owner of Channel 5, Richard ‘Dirty’ Desmond. Clearly her demand for respect for women in business doesn’t extend to those further down the scale, and their male colleagues, who wish to escape abuse.