Archive for the ‘Brazil’ Category

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.

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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.

The Feral Children of the Upper Classes

July 23, 2014

I was reading A Gay Mentalist’s blog a little while ago, and a term he used to describe the middle classes struck me. He called them ‘feral’. It’s not a word that usually applied to the upper ranks of society. Usually it’s given to the underclass and their children, the type of people, leading bleak lives of deprivation and pointless moral squalor. The type of people with no jobs, and no self-respect, whose chief and often only activities seem to be drunkenness, drug dealing, violence and sexual promiscuity. The type of people who provide the raw fodder for Jeremy Kyle, as they slouch onto his show to present their sordid tales of domestic abuse and accuse each other of stealing each other’s partners.

It does, however, also perfectly describe the attitude of the middle classes, and particularly the hysterical ranting of the middle market tabloids and the vicious, punitive attitude of the Tory front bench. ‘Feral’ implies savage, wild, extremely aggressive, vicious and untameable. You apply it to animals, like feral dogs infected with rabies, and vicious creatures like wolverines and pole-cats. It’s applied to creatures that most definitely stand outside the safe, decent and civilised, like the notorious ‘rat boy’, who got into the news a few years ago. This was a small boy, who already had racked up a long list of offences despite his extreme youth. He got his name because he used to disappear down the various service pipes lying about his estate to escape from the police.

The Murderous, Middle Class Persecution of the Poor, Disabled and Unemployed

Yet ‘savage’, ‘vicious’ also describes the Tory attitude to bullying the weakest members of society – the unemployed, the disabled, asylum seekers, everyone, who got on to the Tories’ wretched little list of people they want to persecute. The violence isn’t necessarily physical. They haven’t quite descended to the level of the Nazi party just yet in sending stormtroopers in to beat and murder benefit claimants, but it’s there nevertheless. Think of all the people Mike, Johnny Void, Kittysjones, Stilloaks, Glynismillward, Tom Pride, the Angry Yorkshireman, Untyneweare and so many others have blogged about, dying in hunger and squalor due to benefit sanctions. It’s the result of a vicious, murderous attitude to those they deem below them every bit as vicious and unrestrained as the type of gang hatreds you can see acted out on street corners in the sink estates. Fuelling it is a palpable sense of threat and status anxiety – that the working class and the unemployed are somehow a threat to middle class society and its precarious norms – every bit as vehement as that of the local thug or bully, who declares that he just wants a bit of ‘respect’.

Eton and Public School Bullying

It also accurately describes the culture of bullying and violence that pervades private, and particularly elite, education. The bullying in public schools is notorious. A friend of mine, who came from such a background, told me that in the public schools you were bullied horrifically in your first year, only for this to stop and you to become a bully in your term in the second. And some of the bullying truly is horrific. Way back in the 1980s Private Eye reviewed yet another book on Eton, and said that the accounts of the bullying there were so extreme and revolting, that if they occurred in state education it would result in a public outrage and demands for the school closed down or placed in special measures. One example of the type of bullying that went on came from one old Etonian, who said there was one boy, who forced others to eat ice cream mixed with human excrement. The bully is not named. It was, however, stated that he was now a prominent lawyer. And some of the bullying was sexual. Given the sexual nature of some of the cruelty, it’s probably not surprising that the elite covered up the paedophile activities of their members for so long. Exposure to that kind of bullying at public school may well have inculcated a kind of indifference to it, in the same way it is argued that too much exposure to porn or extreme violence in the movies will habituate viewers to even more extreme and depraved acts in normal society.

Physical Attacks on the Poor by Public School Children

And the children of the rich are violent too. A friend of mine once told me that ‘Eton Rifles’ was about a gang fight in which a group of public school boys beat up a group of lower class lads. It also affects the security measures some local businesses adopt to protect their property and customers from assault from the rich and privately educated. A little while ago I went on a tour of East Anglia and the Fen Country with a group of friends. One of the hotels we stayed in, a magnificent inn dating back to the Middle Ages, had various measures up to stop people causing trouble. They weren’t particularly intrusive, and I can’t remember now what they were, only that they were there. They weren’t imposed to stop the usual drunks and thugs starting fights in the bar. They were actually aimed at protecting the premises, customers and staff from the pupils at the private school nearby. At the end of the school year, or the term, these children would leave school to start fights and smash up the shops in the time. Presumably they felt entitled to this as their parents were rich enough to pay the £40,000 a year school fees.

The Public School Gun-Nuts of Snapchat and Pistolero Violence in the Developing World

You can see some of that same attitude on the story I reblogged this week about Snapchat, the Facebook site for public schoolchildren. This featured them showing off their wealth and contempt for the rest of the society in the most offensive ways possible. Among them were using £20 and £50 notes as toilet paper, and waving around guns. These, they claimed, were to protect their estates from ‘the peasants’.

Let’s examine the double standards going on here. If a Black lad or someone from the White underclass put up a photograph of themselves waving a gun around, trying to be ‘gangsta’ or mouthing off about protecting his ‘manor’, there would be angry and excited columns in the Mail and other papers screaming about ‘gun crime’ Britain. And not without reason, either. Gun crime and gang shootings are a problem in many British cities. You could also compare it, and the attitude underpinning it, to the right-wing gun-nuts in America. They’re affluent, but not necessarily rich, and the image tends to be of rural red-necks announcing that the government will only be able to take their guns away from ‘their cold, dead hands’. They’re as much objects of ridicule and contempt as seen as a threat.

No such opprobrium seems to be applied to these children, probably because the upper classes have always had a fascination with guns and shooting. Orwell remarked that the aristocracy and middle classes were brought up for war and battle. Which makes them sound like Dr Who’s Sontarans: bred for war. The stereotype is of aristocratic families, who have supplied a long line of soldiers and generals since the founder first came over with William the Conqueror, and who list various antecedents who fought at Agincourt, conquered India under Clive, and then did their patriotic duty at various battles in the Napoleonic, First and Second World Wars. The Combined Cadet Force frequently formed part of their education, training them for further service and leadership in the armed forces.

Now there are certainly parts of the world where, if you’re rich, you most certainly do need armed protection. There’s some extremely grisly photos around the web of the White farmers, who were killed by armed robbers in South Africa. In other parts of the Developing World, it’s historically been the other way, and the poor have most definitely needed protection from people like the gun-crazed youngster on Snapchat. In many parts of the Developing World the rural poor were kept in serfdom by the masters of the estate, who hired guns to intimidate and kill anyone who stepped out of line. Way back when I was at school about thirty years ago, the BBC screened a series, Brazil, Brazil covering that country and its history. This covered that aspect of Brazilian society, the owners of massive estates in their haciendas, and the pistoleros, the gunmen they employed. They talked to the peasants, who’d been threatened and attacked by these men for asking for wage rises or otherwise daring to challenge the absolute domination of their lives by their masters. Now you can conclude from this that the rich kids now showing off their guns on Snapchat and ranting about protecting their property from peasants are just reacting to the real violence against the wealthy in many parts of the world. Or they’re simply rich brats, with a feudal sense of entitlement, who really do believe that the lower orders are peasants, who should be kept down with armed force, exactly like their public school friends in Latin America do with the peons on their plantations. Considering the way Priti Patel and the other authors of Britannia Unchained believed that Britain should follow the exploitative employment practices of developing nations like India, this is a real possibility.

In short, A Gay Mentalist is exactly right: there is a culture of vicious, feral violence amongst the middle classes. It’s shown in the horrendous bullying for which the public schools have been notorious since the publication of Tom Brown’s Schooldays. It’s shown in the violent contempt so many have for the lower orders. And its there in the need to humiliate, persecute and kill the working and lower middle classes, the unemployed and the disabled, as expressed in the system of benefit sanctions, and physical testing now being used to decimate the welfare state. It’s there to satisfy the sadistic cruelty of RTU, Fester McLie and latest upper middle class thugs now taking up residence and valuable office space in the DWP. And its present in the terrible sense of threat clearly felt by the Daily Mail, the Express and every right-wing newspaper, not excluding the Torygraph and the Times in their editorials and their need to drum up further hatred against the poor, marginalised and underprivileged.