Archive for the ‘Caribbean’ Category

Kenneth Surin on Brexit and May’s Corporate Attack on the Poor

April 20, 2017

On Tuesday, Counterpunch published a long piece by their contributor, Kenneth Surin, on Theresa May’s plans for Brexit, and how this will inevitably harm the poor and the working people of this Sceptred Isle. And it’s what you’re already expecting, if you’ve read the Groaniad, those bits of the I newspaper that are still even remotely genuinely liberal, and bloggers like Mike over at Vox Political, the Canary, Another Angry Voice, The Void and so on. May, he predicts, will talk a hard Brexit in order to counter some of the opposition from the Tory Right, but will leave some room for a soft Brexit. She, Boris Johnson, and the other vicious grotesques currently infesting the halls of power, want to use it to turn Britain into a tax haven. So he predicts that the City of London and its connections to some very dodgy individuals – he has a paragraph giving the names of some of them – will get even murkier. But, as he points out, Britain already is a tax haven through the Channel Islands.

He states that we are likely to be given a very hard deal by the EU. He states that there was friction between Britain and the European Union as while the EU represents the power of corporate capital, it draws a line on their direct influence in government. The lingering Social Democratic tradition in these countries, like France, Germany, and the Scandinavian nations, means that the government governs for industry, but is not run like an industry. Unlike the Neoliberal vision, exported to Britain from the US, which wants government to be run exactly like a business.

He also predicts that May and her grotty team will inflict further misery on the poor, because that’s what appeals to the right-wing British press, like ‘the foreigner Murdoch’ and the ‘tax-dodging, Nazi-supporting Rothermere family’. The Tories will follow Farage, and privatise the NHS, just as the are already privatising services and levying charges for them.

He also rebuts May’s feigned concern for those ‘Just About Managing’, or the JAMs. Despite all the crocodile tears she and her cronies shed, she has done absolutely nothing for them. Wages are still stagnant, the opportunities to upgrade one’s skills are similarly being cut, as are welfare services to support the poor and unemployed.

Surin begins his article also by pointing out that when it comes to the day, the vote on Brexit is likely to be influenced by factors and issues that aren’t really relevant. He also talks about the way May has already shot herself in the foot by trying to promote Brexit using images of places, which have actually benefitted from the EU. Like the northern shipyards, which were given a million pound grant.

Surin begins his piece

“So at this moment of change [Brexit], we must respond with calm, determined, global leadership to shape a new era of globalisation that works for all”.

— Theresa May

“My plan for Britain is not just a plan to leave the EU but a plan to build a stronger economy and a fairer society, underpinned by genuine economic and social reform. To make Britain a country that works for everyone, not just a privileged few”.

— Theresa May

The UK’s Brexit roll-out is a constantly evolving project, zig zagging along because the Tories in charge of it, like everyone else, have no real idea of how it will culminate. So far it has been ad hockery all the way, though one or two of the project’s connecting threads are starting to be visible.

One week, Theresa “the woman without qualities” May, who voted against Brexit, is in favour of a “hard” Brexit (basically one involving no deal of any kind with the EU regarding the single market and immigration), the next she softens her tone and hints that a more placative agreement with the EU, amounting to a “soft” Brexit, might be welcomed in whatever hoped-for way.

Nothing was more symbolic of this chaos and muddled-thinking than the most recent pro-Brexit television broadcast by May, which showed her against the background of ships moving in the Scottish port of Aberdeen.

Oops– the port of Aberdeen was granted a €258 million loan from the European Investment Bank on 20 June 2016, just 3 days before the UK voted to leave the EU!

It all seems to depend on how much heat the pro-Brexit right-wing of her party, citing that chimerical entity “sovereignty”, can turn on her.

Her predecessor, “Dodgy Dave” Cameron, weary of feeling this heat, called the Brexit referendum to cool down his party’s right-wing, absolutely confident in his nonchalantly patrician way that Brits would consider themselves better-off by remaining in the EU.

Such referenda, although purportedly on a single-issue, tend invariably to have outcomes determined very much by the mood of the electorate, which is affected by a plethora of considerations having nothing specifically to do with the issue officially on the table on referendum day.

***

May’s calculation requires her to “talk” a hard Brexit, to neutralize the right-wingers who ended her predecessor’s political career, and to gain the support of the right-wing press– owned by the foreigner Murdoch, the Nazi-supporting and tax-dodging Rothermere family, Richard “Dirty Des” Desmond (the former head of a soft porn empire), the tax-dodging Barclay brothers, and a Russian oligarch.

This overseas-domiciled and tax-dodging (in the cases mentioned) crew have set the low-information agenda for those inclined towards Brexit, so May’s strategy, if we can call it that, has been accommodating towards their hard Brexit stance, while leaving things vague enough for loopholes to enable a “softish” Brexit if needed.

May, craving electoral success, has to cater to all sides and eventualities. The results are likely to be calamitous for the UK.

Why is this?

May’s primary objective is to convey the impression that Brexit will “work for all”.

Alas there is no evidence for this claim.

***

The UK’s pro-Brexit movement, in the absence of anything resembling a Lexit, is not going to be shackled by this or that constraint previously imposed by the EU.

For instance, the UKIP leader Nigel Farage, Trump’s non-American sycophant par excellence, though a minimal figure, has always advocated the privatization of the NHS. And this is exactly what the Tories have been pursuing by stealth since 2010.

***

May has already said she “stands ready” to use Brexit as an opportunity to turn the UK into a tax haven, or as the financial press euphemistically puts it, “a low-tax financial centre”. It is already one of course (this being the primary function of the islands of Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man, and Gibraltar).

What May clearly means is that London’s financial sector, which is already awash in murky water, will become an even muddier swamp able to match similar swamps in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Panama, Hong Kong, Singapore, and so forth. Dwellers of these swamps include assorted drug dealers, human traffickers, gun runners, owners of illegal gambling syndicates…

***

In addition to May desiring this state of affairs for the City of London, it is clear from the composition of the team put together by the secretary of state for international trade Liam Fox to negotiate post-Brexit trade deals, that Brexit UK is going to pursue a thoroughgoing pro-corporate agenda.

***

This corporate bonanza will probably be accompanied by a weakening of environmental regulations, since most of the leading Brexiteers are climate-change deniers or supporters of fracking (and in most cases, both).

Pro-Brexit climate-change deniers include Farage, Michael Gove (who tried to ban climate change from the school curriculum when he was education minister), the foreign minister Boris “BoJo” Johnson, Thatcher’s finance minister Nigel Lawson, and the above-mentioned Liam Fox.

***

This hugely attractive and compassionate bunch (sic) are not going to be too concerned about pollution, biodiversity, natural habitats, animals abused by industrial farming, climate change, the prohibition of lethal pesticides, declining fish stocks, the international trade in endangered species, and the use of GMOs, when the agribusiness corporations howl about environmental regulation being a burden to them.

There will be no remotely green agenda under this ghastly crew.

***

May prates on about her deep concern for “just about managing” families (JAMs), but the austerity agenda passed on by the disastrous former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is being implemented with only a slight cosmetic tweak here and there.

The UK economy has grown since 2010, but, according to the Guardian, 7.4 million Brits, among them 2.6 million children, live in poverty despite being from working families (amounting to 55% of these deemed poor) — 1.1 million more than in 2010-11.

The report cited by the Guardian, produced by the reputable Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), shows that the number living below the Minimum Income Standard – the earnings, defined by the public, required for a decent standard of living – rose from 15 million to 19 million between 2008/9 and 2014/5. The UK’s population is 65 million.

These 19 million people, or just under 1/3rd of the UK’s population, are its JAMs.
***

Social care is becoming increasingly unaffordable for them, the NHS is starting to charge for treatment as it undergoes a backdoor privatization, they have fewer opportunities for upskilling in order to raise their incomes, and so on. This while their wages are stagnant even as the cost of living is increasing for them.

***

Such important and pressing issues need to be addressed as a matter of urgency, but they are not.

The Tories pro-corporate Brexit agenda has become the proverbial tail wagging the dog.

***

Many have a name for what is really and truly going on in the UK and US: class warfare.

The bastards have the underprivileged by the throat. All the mainstream political parties are terrified of offending them, if they haven’t already thrown their lot in with the bastards.

What is desperately needed, for the dispossessed and disadvantaged, is a reversal of this situation, in which many firm hands turn round and grasp the throats of those responsible for the misery of tens of millions of people.

Is there anyone in the almost moribund Labour party, torn apart by infighting caused by its still significant Blairite remnant, capable of saying any of the above unequivocally?

Go read the rest of the article at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/18/the-calm-determined-stronger-fairer-uk-brexit-zig-zag/

In answer to Surin’s final question, yes, there are plenty of people in the Labour party willing to point all this out. They’ve tried to do so ad infinitum. But the Blairites and the Tory media are doing their best to stop that message getting out. They never report what they say about the detrimental attacks the Tories and Blair have made on the welfare state, the NHS and the economy, but selectively quote them in order to make it all fit the narrative that Corbyn and his wing of the party are ignoring these issues. And it’s done deliberately to fit the narrative of Corbyn as a Trotskyite entryist.

It’s why I’m afraid that the next two months will be a very hard struggle for everyone desperate to save Britain from the corporatist swamp created by the Thatcherites and their media lickspittles.

Jimmy Dore on the MIT Professor Showing Trump Wrong about Sarin Gas Attack in Syria

April 18, 2017

As well as appearing on Counterpunch’s website, Theodore A. Postol also appeared on RT, and his analysis of the Sarin gas attack in Syria was also covered by Jimmy Dore. Postol is the emeritus professor of Science, Technology and National Security at MIT. He concluded that, contrary to what the American government and Syrian rebels were saying, the poison gas that killed the people of Khan Shaykhun was not dropped as a bomb from a plane, but was released from an improved ground-based weapon, about 12 cm long. Trump and the American media have claimed that the attack was the responsibility of Assad, and launched an attack by Tomohawk missiles on the air force base, from which the attack was supposedly launched, in reprisal.

In this video, Dore savagely critiques the statements of Trump, Sean Spicer and other members of the White House. He makes the point that the American government is simply interested in regime change in Syria. They are not interested in protecting civilians, as is shown by the American military’s own cavalier indifference to the number of civilian deaths their strikes have brought about in Syria and Iraq. Nor are they against chemical weapons. The American armed forces have used depleted uranium, which has caused birth defects in Iraq.

He also points out that the White Helmets, the rescue team that moved into treat the survivors, are hardly an impartial source. They are allied with the Islamist rebels – al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, ISIS and the western forces seeking to overthrow Assad. This is ignored by the American media, who don’t have reporters in the country. And those reporters that have been there, such as Eva Bartlett, who has appeared on Dore’s show, have been dismissed.

Dore also criticises the American media for their complicity in promoting every war since Reagan’s invasion of Grenada in the 1980s. The reporters on these programmes, such as CNN, MSNBC, and so on, earn $30,000 a day and are not willing to do anything that might jeopardise their position. If they do, they’re sacked. This is what happened when Phil Donohue opposed the Iraq Invasion on his show, stating clearly that all the pretexts for it were false. The broadcaster immediately took him off the air. They claimed that it was because of low ratings, a lie, as he had the highest ratings on the network. A little while later an internal memo surfaced stating that the real reason he was sacked was because the network did not want someone who was against the invasion, and therefore appeared unpatriotic, to front their network.

Dore urges his viewers not to believe CNN, MSNBC and the other news networks, nor Rachel Maddow, Jake Tapper, Wolf Blitzer and other celebrity broadcasters, as they are also lying to support the war. Nor should the mainstream newspapers, like the New York Times also be believed, as they too have published nothing but lies and propaganda for the various wars. As are the corporate, establishment Democrats. This is all about what Chomsky called ‘manufacturing consent’. He shows a clip of Postol on RT stating his conclusions and that the report claiming the attack was launched from the air is so poor, that none of the intelligence analysts he knew would have signed off on it. Dore states that this evidence will be dismissed, despite the professor’s immense expertise, because he’s only a professor and he contradicts what the government and media are saying. He also points out that the American establishment has also been trying to close RT down, just as YouTube is trying to close down the alternative news outlets on their platform, both left and right, because they’re producing better, more objective news than corporate television. YouTube has blocked adverts on these news shows, so that they don’t get the advertising revenue they need. Nevertheless, Dore vows that he’ll continue making these programmes.

Dore points out the similarities to the 2013 poison gas attack, which again was a false flag operation designed to draw America into the war by the rebel forces. He also makes the point that it is like the Iraq war all over again. While he doesn’t know quite what form the government will take if the rebels win, he believes it will probably be a Sunni theocracy where women have no rights, just like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who are pushing this war. As for the rebels themselves, these so-called moderates beheaded a child on a roundabout, but this was glossed over by the American media.

Bernie Sanders: Our Revolution – A Future to Believe In

April 2, 2017

London: Profile Books 2016

Bernie Sanders is the ‘democratic socialist’ senator for Vermont, who ran against Hillary Clinton last year for the Democratic presidential nomination. He didn’t get it. Although he had more grass roots support than Killary, he was cheated of the nomination through the intervention of the Democrat superdelegates, who massively favoured her. He is the man, who should now be occupying the White House, rather than the gurning orange lump of narcissistic Fascism now doing his best to drag the country back to before the Civil War. The polls show that Bernie could have beaten Trump. But he wasn’t elected, as Bernie’s far too radical for the corporate state created by the Republican and mainstream, Clintonite Dems.

How radical can be seen from this book. It’s part autobiography, part manifesto. In the first part, Sanders talks about his youth growing up in Brooklyn, how he first became interested and aware of politics as a student at Chicago University, his political career in Vermont, and his decision to run for as a presidential candidate. This part of the book also describes his campaigning, as he crisscrossed America holding rallies, talking at town hall and union meetings, appearing on TV and social media trying to get votes. A strong feature of the book is Bernie’s emphasis on his background as one of the country’s now threatened lower middle class. His father was a Jewish immigrant from Poland, who worked as paint salesman. He and his family lived in a rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn, where conditions were cramped so that they often slept on couches. He freely admits that his parents were also relatively affluent and had more disposable income than others.

After having left uni, he began his political career in Vermont in 1971 when he joined and campaigned for the senate in the Liberty Union party, a small third party in the state. During the same period he also ran a small company producing educational films on the history of Vermont and other states in New England. Finding out that none of the college students he spoke to had ever heard of Eugene Victor Debs, he went and brought one out on the great American labour leader and socialist politician. On the advice of a friend and college professor, Richard Sugarman, Sanders ran for election as mayor of Burlington. He won, introducing a number of important welfare, educational and municipal reforms he called ‘socialism in one city’, a play on Stalin’s slogan of ‘Socialism in One Country’. He was strongly opposed by the Democrats. A few years afterwards, however, he was elected to Congress as an Independent, where, despite some resistance from the Democrats, he was finally admitted to the Democratic Caucus. In 2006 he ran for senator, contested the seat vacated by the Republican, Jim Jeffords, who had retired. By 2013 he was being urged by his supporters to campaign for the presidential nomination. To gauge for himself how much support he was likely to receive, Sanders went across America talking to ordinary folks across the country. After this convinced him that he had a chance, he began to campaign in earnest.

At the beginning of his campaign for the nomination, Sanders was very much the outsider, getting 15 per cent of the votes polled to Clinton’s 60 per cent. Then he started winning, climbing up the ladder as he took something like seven out of eight states in a row. The corporatist wing of the Democrats did everything they could to block his rise, culminating in the theft of the nomination through the intervention of the superdelegates.

Sanders is a champion of the underdog. He garnered much support by going to communities, speaking to the poor and excluded, often in very underprivileged neighbourhoods where the police and security guards were worried about his safety. He spoke in a poor, multiracial community in New York’s South Bronx, and to poor Whites in rural Mississippi. The latter were a part of the American demographic that the Democrats traditionally believed were impossible to win. Sanders states that actually speaking to them convinced him that they were way more liberal than the political class actually believe. During a talk to a group of local trade unionists, Sanders asked why people in such a poor area voted Republican against their interests. This was one of a number of counties in the state, that was so poor that they didn’t even have a doctor. The union leader told him: racism. The Republicans played on Whites’ hatred of Blacks, to divide and rule the state’s working people.

Sanders makes very clear his admiration for trade unions and their members, and how frequently they know far better than the politicians what is not only good for their members, but also good for the industry, their customers, and their country. He praises the nurses’ unions, who have endorsed his campaign and backed his demand for a Medicaid for all. He similarly praises the workers and professionals maintaining America’s infrastructure. This is massively decaying. 25 per cent of American bridges are, according to surveyors, functionally obsolete. Towns all over America, like Flint in Michigan, have had their water poisoned by negligent water companies. The electricity grid is also unspeakably poor. It’s ranked 35th worst in the world, behind that of Barbados. Yep! If you want to go to a country with a better electricity network, then go to that poor Caribbean country.

He describes how the poor in today’s America pay more for less. Drug prices are kept artificially high by pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer, so that many poor Americans can’t afford them. In one of the early chapter, he describes leading a group of women from Vermont over the Canadian border, so that they could buy prescription drugs cheaper. These same companies, like the rest of the big corporations, do everything they can to avoid paying tax. In some cases, these big corporations pay absolutely none. This is because of the corruption of American politics by donations from big business. As a result, the country’s politicians don’t represent the ordinary voters. They represent big business. He makes it clear he respects Hillary Clinton, but ran against her because you can’t combine representing ordinary people with taking money from the corporate rich. And at the heart of this corruption is the Koch brothers, oil magnates with a personal wealth of $82 billion and a corporate wealth of $115. They are not, explains Bernie, small government conservatives, but right-wing extremists. Their goal is to dismantle taxation completely, along with Medicaid and what little the country has of a welfare state. All so that the 1 per cent, who own as much as the poorest 90 per cent of the American population, can get even richer.

Sanders goes further to describe the massive inequalities that are now dividing American society, including the racism and sexism that ensures that women, Blacks and Latinos are paid less than White men. The notorious drug laws that have ensured that more Blacks are jailed for marijuana and other drugs than Whites. The crippling debt that faces more and more Americans. 48 million Americans are in poverty. 24 million have no health insurance. Many of these are people, who are in work, and frequently working their rear ends off just to make ends meet. He describes talking to a charity worker, who purchases just out of date food to give to the local food bank. According to the young man he spoke to, 90 per cent of the people using the bank are working Americans, whose jobs pay so little that they literally can’t afford to eat. In this section of the book he quotes a letter from a woman, who states that she and her husband are work 2 and 3 jobs each, but still can’t make a living. As a result, the young can’t afford to buy their houses, or go to university. He contrasts this with the situation in the 1950s. It wasn’t utopia, and there was still massive inequalities in wealth according to race and gender. But the economy was expanding, more people had the prospect of good, well-paying jobs, owning their own homes, and sending their children to college. This America is disappearing. Fast.

Sanders has given his support to women’s groups, and is a very staunch anti-racism campaigner. Amongst those who backed his campaign were Harry Belafonte and Dr. Cornel West, among other Afro-American intellectuals, performers and politicians. He also received the support of a number of Hollywood celebrities, including Seth MacFarlane and Danny DeVito. And comic book fans everywhere with genuinely progressive values will be delighted to here that his campaign manager ran a comic book store in Vermont. Presumably this guy is completely different from the owner of the Android’s Dungeon in The Simpsons. Sanders talks about his support for the Civil Rights movement, and Selma march, paying due tribute to its heroes and heroines, including Dr. Martin Luther King. He’s also a keen supporter of Black Lives Matter, the Black movement to stop cops getting away with the murder of Black people. As part of his campaign against racism, he also actively supports the campaign against the demonization of Muslims and rising tide of Islamophobia in America. When he was asked whether he would support this by a Muslim American, Sanders replied that he would, as his own father’s family were Jewish refugees from Poland.

Sanders is also strongly opposed to the current wars in the Middle East. He was not in favour of Gulf War 1 in the 1990s, and has attacked the invasion of Iraq under Bush for destabilising the country and region, and causing massive carnage. But he was no supporter of Saddam Hussein, and is also a staunch supporter of veterans, adding his political clout to their campaigns to stop the government cutting their benefits. He points out that the blame for these wars lie with the politicos, not the soldiers who had fight.

Bernie also takes worker ownership very seriously. Among the policies that he recommends for saving and expanding the American middle class are strengthening workers’ cooperatives and allowing workers to purchase their companies. One of the measures he states he will introduce will be to establish a bank to lend funds to American workers so that they can buy their own companies. He also wants to end the ‘too big to fail’ attitude to the big banks and start regulating them again. And as part of his campaign to strengthen and expand American democracy, he is a very harsh critic of the various laws the Republicans have introduced in states across America to stop Blacks, Latinos, the poor and students from voting. He also asks why it is that European countries can afford free medical care, but America can’t. And why Germany can provide college education free to its students, while Americans are faced with a mountain of debt.

Sanders is a genuine American radical in the tradition of Eugene Debs. It’s no wonder that the rich and the powerful now trying to pull the country back into the colonial era, when it was ruled by coterie of rich White men. He states that his country is now an oligarchy, and even a ‘banana republic’. He’s right, and right about the ways these issues can and should be tackled.

The Republicans have also tried to deter people from voting for him based on his apparent lack of interest in religion. They couldn’t attack him for being Jewish – although with those monsters Spencer and Gorka in the White House, I don’t know how long that will hold – so insinuated that he was an atheist. Well perhaps. But Sanders does have religious supporters. His friend and support Richard Sugarman is an Hasidic Jew and Sanders himself several times states how impressed he is with Pope Francis’ support for the global poor. He also made it clear in a speech he gave to the very Conservative Liberty University that he was impressed with the good in all religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, whatever. So he’s secular, but not anti-religious. Just anti-bigotry, and the way the right is trying to use religion to divide America.

It’s also remarkable that Sanders was the focus of a popular phenomenon far beyond his own campaign team. He states in the book that he wanted to control the campaign, and not have a SuperPAC telling people what he didn’t or didn’t believe. But he also found that up and down America, people at the grassroots were organising independently of his campaign team to support him. Unlike the astroturf fake populist campaign the Republicans and Libertarians have set up, Bernie’s genuinely popular with a growing number of American working people.

America desperately needs him. And so do we in Britain. The predatory, parasitical capitalism at the heart of American society has also been exported over here by the Conservatives. Just like the Americans need Bernie, we need Corbyn. And we need the two together, because if Bernie can do anything to stop the current political degeneration in America, it will also help stop the process over here.

Incidentally, Bernie has a personal connection with Britain. His brother is a member of the Green party in Oxfordshire, and campaigns against the privatisation of the NHS. Sanders also has a strong interest in protecting the environment and promoting renewable energy.

I also recommend this book to aspiring young politicos because of the chapters in which he talks about running a campaign, funded by your own supporters, not corporate backers, and what you need to do when running about the country. Like making sure you can get there in time and aren’t double-booked. It’s good advice, and although the latter seems obvious, he talks about a number of incidents in which he disastrously failed to follow it.

Sanders talks about the way people are being turned off politics in America, thanks to the massive corporate corruption. This also reaches into corporate media. Sanders also has a few ideas how they can be reformed. He himself was the subject of a media blackout, as the TV and news companies definitely did not want to cover him, and very much favoured Killary. Hopefully Bernie’s book will reach more of the alienated folk now being excluded from American politics, and show them that there is someone actively fighting for them. And so encourage them to get involved for themselves.

Archaeology Confronts Neoliberalism

March 5, 2017

I got the latest catalogue of books on archaeology and history from Oxbow Books, an Oxford based bookseller and publisher, which specialises in them, a few days ago. Among the books listed was one critical of neoliberalism, and which explored the possibilities of challenging it from within the profession. The book’s entitled Archaeology and Neoliberalism. It’s edited by Pablo Aparicio Resco, and will be published by JAS Arquelogia. The blurb for it in the catalogue states

The effects of neoliberalism as ideology can be seen in every corner of the planet, worsening inequalities and empowering markets over people. How is this affecting archaeology? Can archaeology transcend it? This volume delves into the context of archaeological practice within the neoliberal world and the opportunities and challenges of activism from the profession.

This isn’t an issue I really know anything about. However, I’m not surprised that many archaeologists are concerned about the damage neoliberalism is doing to archaeology. 15 years ago, when I was doing my Masters at UWE, one of the essay questions set was ‘Why do some Historians see heritage as a dirty word?’ Part of the answer to that question was that some historians strongly criticised the heritage industry for its commodification of the past into something to be bought, sold and consumed. They placed the blame for this squarely on the shoulders of Maggie Thatcher and her Tory government. Rather than being an object of value or investigation for its own sake, Thatcherite free market ideology saw it very much in terms of its monetary value. They contrasted this with the old Conservative ethos, which saw culture as something that was above its simple cash value.

Social critics were also concerned about the way Thatcherism was destroying Britain’s real industries, and replacing them with theme parks, in which they were recreated, in a sanitised version that was calculated not to present too many difficult questions and represented the Tory view of history. One example of this was a theme park representing a mining village. It was on the site of a real mining village, whose mine had been closed down. However, other pieces of mining equipment and related buildings and structures, which were never in that particularly village, were put there from other mining towns and villages elsewhere. It thus showed what an imaginary mining village was like, rather than the real mining community that had actually existed. It was also a dead heritage attraction, a museum, instead of a living community based around a still thriving industry.

There were also concerns about the way heritage was being repackaged to present a right-wing, nationalistic view of history. For example, the Colonial Williamsburg museum in America was originally set up to present a view of America as a land of technological progress, as the simple tools and implements used by the early pioneers had been succeeded by ever more elaborate and efficient machines. They also pointed to the way extreme right-wing pressure groups and organisations, like the Heritage Foundation, had also been strongly involved in shaping the official, Reaganite version of American ‘heritage’. And similar movements had occurred elsewhere in the world, including France, Spain and the Caribbean. In Spain the concern to preserve and celebrate the country’s many different autonomous regions, from Catalonia, the Basque country, Castille, Aragon and Granada, meant that the view of the country’s history taught in schools differed greatly according to where you were.

Archaeology’s a different subject than history, and it’s methodology and philosophy is slightly different. History is based on written texts, while archaeology is based on material remains, although it also uses written evidence to some extent. History tends to be about individuals, while archaeology is more about societies. Nevertheless, as they are both about the investigation of the human past, they also overlap in many areas and I would imagine that some of the above issues are still highly relevant in the archaeological context.

There’s also an additional problem in that over the past few decades, the Thatcherite decision to make universities more business orientated has resulted in the formation of several different private archaeological companies, which all compete against each other. I’ve heard from older archaeologists that as a result, the archaeological work being done today is less thorough and of poorer quality than when digs were conducted by local authorities.

I haven’t read the book, but I’m sure that the editor and contributors to this book are right about neoliberalism damaging archaeology and the necessity of archaeologists campaigning against it and its effects on their subject. By its very nature, the past needs to be investigated on its own terms, and there can be multiple viewpoints all legitimately drawn from the same piece of evidence. And especially in the case of historical archaeology, which in the American context means the investigation of the impact of European colonisation from the 15th century onwards, there are strongly emotive and controversial issues of invasion, capitalism, imperialism, the enslavement of Black Africans and the genocide of the indigenous peoples. For historians and archaeologists of slavery, for example, there’s a strong debate about the role this played in the formation of European capitalism and the industrial revolution. Such issues cannot and should not be censored or ignored in order to produce a nice, conservative interpretation of the past that won’t offend the Conservative or Republican parties and their paymasters in multinational industry, or challenge their cosy conception that the free market is always right, even when it falsifies the misery and injustice of the past and creates real poverty today.

William Blum’s List of American Foreign Interventions: Part 2

February 15, 2017

Jamaica 1976
Various attempts to defeat Prime Minister Michael Manley.

Honduras 1980s
Arming, equipping, training and funding of Fascist government against dissidents, also supporting Contras in Nicaragua and Fascist forces in El Salvador and Guatemala.

Nicaragua
Civil War with the Contras against left-wing Sandinistas after the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship.

Philippines 1970s-1990
Support of brutal dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos

Seychelles 1979-81
Attempts to overthrow country’s leader, France Albert Rene, because he tried to turn his nation and the Indian Ocean into nuclear free zone.

Diego Garcia late 196-0s to Present
People of the largest of the Chagos islands forcibly relocated Mauritius and Seychelles so that Americans could build massive complex of military bases.

South Yemen, 1979-84
CIA backing of paramilitary forces during war between North and South Yemen, as South Yemen government appeared to be backed by Russia. In fact, the Russians backed North and South Yemen at different times.

South Korea
Support for military dictator, Chun Doo Hwan, in brutal suppression of workers’ and students’ uprising in Kwangju.

Chad 1981-2
Political manipulation of Chad government to force Libyan forces of Colonel Gaddafy to leave, aided Chadian forces in the Sudan to invade and overthrow Chadian government installing Hissen Habre as the ‘African General Pinochet’.

Grenada 1979-83
Operations against government of Maurice Bishop, and then invasion when Bishop government overthrown by ultra-leftist faction.

Suriname 1982-4
Abortive plot to overthrow Surinamese government for supporting Cuba.

Libya 1981-89
Attempts to overthrow Colonel Gaddafy.

Fiji 1987
Prime Minister Timoci Bavrada of the Labour Party overthrown as neutral in Cold War and wanted to make Fiji nuclear free zone.

Panama 1989
Overthrow of Manuel Noriega, long-term American ally in Central America for drug trafficking. The real reason to was intimidate Nicaragua, whose people were going to the elections two months later and stop them from voting for the Sandinistas.

Afghanistan 1979-92
Backing of Mujahideen rebels against Soviet-aligned government then Soviet forces.

El Salvador 1980-92
Backing of right-wing dictator and death squads in country’s civil war against dissidents, after first making sure the dissidents got nowhere through democratic means.

Haiti 1987-94
US government opposed reformist priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, aiding Haiti government and its death squads against him. However, after he won the 1991, they were forced to allow him back in. They then extracted a promise from him that he would not aid poor at expense of the rich and would follow free trade economics. Kept army there for the rest of his term.

Bulgaria 1990-1
Massive campaign by the US through the National Endowment for Democracy and Agency for International Development to aid the Union of Democratic Forces against the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the successor to the Communists.

Albania 1991
Another campaign to keep the Communists out, in which the Americans supported the Democratic Party.

Somalia 1993
Attempts to kill Mohamed Aidid. The motive was probably less to feed the starving Somali people, and more likely because four oil companies wished to exploit the country and wanted to end the chaos there.

Iraq 1991-2003
American attempts to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Colombia 1990s to Present
Aid by US to suppress left-wing guerillas.

Yugoslavia 1995-99
Campaigns against Serbia government during break up of the former Yugoslavia.

Ecuador 2000
Suppression of mass peaceful uprising by indigenous people of Quito, including trade unionists and junior military officers on orders from Washington, as this threatened neoliberalism.

Afghanistan 2001-to Present
Invasion and occupation of country after 9/11.

Venezuela 2001-4
Operations to oust Chavez.

Iraq 2003-to Present
Invasion and occupation.

Haiti 2004
President Aristide forced to resign by Americans because of his opposition to globalisation and the free market.

For much more information, see the chapter ‘A Concise History of United State Global Interventions, 1945 to the Present’ in William Blum’s Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, pp. 162-220. I realise that many of the Communist regimes Washington sought to overthrow were hardly models of virtue themselves, and often responsible for horrific acts of repression. However, the US has also sought to overthrow liberal and Socialist governments for no better reason than that they sought to improve conditions for their own peoples against the wishes of the American multinationals. And the regimes Washington has backed have been truly horrific, particularly in Latin America.

So it’s actually a very good question whether America has ever really supported democracy, despite the passionate beliefs of its people and media, since the War.

David Davis’ Sexual Assault of Diane Abbott, and the Hypocrisy of Harriet Harman

February 12, 2017

Mike and the Skwawkbox have this week posted a series of articles reporting and commenting on David Davis’ unwelcome attempt to foist his attentions on Diane Abbott, and the complete failure of Harriet Harman to stand by her alleged feminist and egalitarian beliefs and actually stand up for her.

Davis is the minister in charge of Brexit. On Wednesday, Abbott voted to support the Article 50 bill, so that evening Davis mockingly showed his appreciation by hugging her and allegedly trying to kiss her in the Strangers’ Bar in the House of Commons. For which Abbott rightly told him to ‘F*** off.’

Mike’s article quote Niamh Ni Mhaoileoin in Left Foot Forward, who commented on the lack of condemnation of Davis’ actions by the Tories shows how they believe sexual assault is still acceptable. She makes the point that if an MP like Abbott can be assaulted with impunity, then younger women in more junior positions are that much more vulnerable. She wrote

“His behaviour is offensive and disrespectful to Abbott — who has repeatedly been a target for sexism and racism — but it also raises serious questions about Davis’s attitude to women generally, and his treatment of younger, more vulnerable women he encounters.

“For those young women, who put up with sexism for fear of losing out professionally if they complain, the message this gives is that there’s no level of success that will shield them from the lecherous and powerful men of Westminster.

“One of parliament’s longest sitting members? Doesn’t matter. Shadowing on of the great offices of state? Doesn’t matter. There will always be someone who’s willing to humiliate you then ‘walk off laughing’.”

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/09/did-david-davis-sexually-harass-diane-abbott/

Yesterday, Mike reported that Young Labour Women and Labour Students Women have also condemned Davis’ actions and the way they have been treated. In their view, this has not only been misogynist, in that Davis’ harassment has been viewed by the media as a jolly jape, but is also racist. Abbott’s understandable outrage at his assault has been deliberately misrepresented to conform to the stereotype of the ‘angry black woman’. They therefore called upon Theresa May to launch an investigation into the incident, and show that the government will not turn a blind eye to such abuse.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/11/where-is-the-tory-party-investigation-into-david-daviss-harassment-of-diane-abbott/

Davis denies trying to kiss her. But he did embrace her, and then sent offensive texts afterwards to one of his Tory colleagues in which he made jokes about not being blind. This has been reported in the Mail, so Mike advises us to make up our own minds whether it is true. This is part of their article quoted by Mike:

‘I whispered in her ear ‘Thanks for your vote’ hence the ‘F off’. I am not blind.’ Davis’ friend responded: ‘Ha! Ha! Thank god you aren’t blind. Great week for you and Brexit!’

Davis: ‘Actually it would make a good Optical Express advert… Yes, a reasonable success.’

His last text appears to be a reference not to Optical Express but another opticians, Specsavers, whose TV adverts feature hilarious mix-ups caused by bad eyesight, followed by the slogan: ‘Should’ve gone to Specsavers.’

His line about not being blind seems to be a reference to Miss Abbott’s appearance.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/12/misogynist-david-davis-now-accused-of-sexist-texts-after-trying-to-embrace-diane-abbott/

The assault was part of a week of bullying of Abbott, including one incident in which a Tory councillor, Pearmain, called her ‘an ape’. However, the Skwawkbox noted that Harriet Harman, who has been touring promoting her new book, A Woman’s Work, and other female Labour MPs, who were ready to denounce the attacks on Angela Eagle for sexism, have said absolutely nothing about Davis’ assault on Abbott. The Skwawkbox wrote

The first ever minister for women and a former Secretary of State for women and equality, Ms Harman is considered a prominent campaigner on behalf of women’s rights and equality, so of course she would be quick to jump into the fray on Ms Abbott’s behalf, right?

Wrong. Ms Harman’s Twitter feed is active, for that of a busy politician. She found plenty of time for tweets to promote her new book. She found time to tweet in praise of Jess Phillips, a Labour MP and Chair of the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party, who infamously bragged about telling Ms Abbott to ‘f*ck off’ and laughed as Abbott was mocked by a TV impressionist.

But a message of support and solidarity with a mistreated female colleague, or to condemn the racism of Councillor Pearmain or the misogyny of David Davis?

Nope.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/10/dianeabbott-called-ape-by-tory-assaulted-by-tory-wheres-outrage-from-harman-and-co-the-skwawkbox/

and follow the link to the original article.

This really shows the threadbare feminism and supposed anti-racism of Harman and her camp. Harman is fiercely ambitious – she’s been going around telling everyone what a great leader of the Labour party she’d make, and presents herself as a feminist firebrand. So much so that at least one Tory organ has called her ‘Harriet Harperson’.

Last week, Guy Debord’s Cat wrote a piece criticising the bizarre behaviour not just of Harman, but one of her supporters, Helen Lewis, one of the hacks on the New Statesman. Lewis sent a tweet declaring that Harman was a person, who had really stood up to the ‘establishment’.

Wrong. Like many of the anti-Corbyn lobby, Harman is the establishment. She supported the government’s anti-welfare bill, and ordered other Labour MPs to do the same. Then she told Southwark News a few weeks later that she’d oppose it.

Then both Harman and Lewis issued messages calling on Corbyn to quit. The reason for this is that Corbyn imposed a three-line whip on the Article 50 vote. This is the first stage in the process, but as the Cat has pointed out, it’s been misrepresented by the media as the last stage. So Harman and Lewis have been trying, once again, to oust Corbyn.

See https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2017/01/29/the-crazy-upside-down-world-of-helen-lewis/

In the article, the Cat reminds us that both Lewis and Harman come from privileged backgrounds, and therefore represent the Establishment. They are certainly not against it. He writes

In the last few weeks, the media has paraded a series of Orwellian neologisms like “post truth politics” before us. Can we therefore regard Lewis’s Tweet as “post-reality”? Let’s remember that Lewis herself comes from a privileged background and is, for all intents and purposes, like Harman, a member of the establishment. So it’s unlikely that she possesses the ability to identify anti-establishmentarianism and is more likely to characterize it as something else.

Harman’s feminism and alleged anti-racism is all about getting nice, middle and upper class women into power, while keeping the proles down. It’s the same kind of faux feminism mouthed by Hillary Clinton. Her supporters also made much about the supposed misogyny of the ‘Bernie Bros’ – who didn’t exist – who criticised her campaign. But Clinton is an extremely rich woman from a privileged background, who has been responsible for some the actions of the US government which have harmed women both in America and the Developing World. It was Killary who voted with her husband, Bill, to continue destroying the American welfare system after Reagan. It was Killary, who passed the anti-drugs legislation which has resulted in so many Black men being slung into jail, even though the same proportion of Blacks and White use drugs. It was Killary who talked about ‘superpredators’, when this term referred almost exclusively to young Black men. And it was Killary who made sure that US support went to the military junta in Honduras when they overthrew the previous, liberal president.

Clinton has always supported corporate power, including taking massive payments from Wall Street. Over half of Americans now recognise the need for a single-payer healthcare system. They also want education to be free. But Clinton blocked this, telling Americans that it was ‘utopian’.

This has not stopped her supporters presenting her as some kind of feminist radical. Madeleine Albright, who has been responsible for extolling and promoting some of America’s worst foreign policy atrocities, declared that there was a ‘special place in hell for women, who do not support [her]’. It was a view that many American women rejected, on the reasonable grounds that Hillary’s election to the presidency, while a historic feminist victory, actually wouldn’t make any material difference to the worsening conditions they and their families find themselves in.

And Harman’s the same. A woman from a privileged background, who stands for the corporate control of the Labour party, which Blair introduced, who despises the working class, who appears to be entirely comfortable with the privatisation of the NHS. Which was again continued after Thatcher and Major by Tony Blair.

In considering her feminist credentials, I’m reminded of a line from the American comedy Frasier. There was one episode where Niles’ estranged wife, Meris, was accused of stealing a piece of art from the Vatican. Niles thought that it was most unfair that she should be so accused, and so exploded ‘Rich, white women just aren’t getting their fair whack!’ Or words to that effect.

As for the Tories, their feminism has always been cosmetic. Margaret Thatcher did not see herself as a feminist, and her cabinet was repeatedly attacked by feminists because it had no female members. The Tory press, particularly the Scum, the Express and the Mail, have always been extremely anti-feminist. Over the years the Mail has run endless articles arguing that women’s places is back at home in the kitchen, and certainly not at work. And all of them have attacked legislation promoting racial and sexual equality, and outlawing the kind of assault Abbott has suffered, as ‘political correctness gone mad’.

They also have a cavalier attitude to sexual assault, regardless of the gender and sexual orientation of the perp and the victim. Remember when one Tory politico was acquitted of trying to rape a male colleague? Even though that gentleman was found not guilty, he had still tried to force his attentions on the man, and the incident showed an atmosphere in parliament where aides, both female and male, were regularly groped by the politicians.

So no, Harman and her colleagues aren’t going to stand up for Abbott. She’s too left-wing and too Old Labour, which puts her well outside the circle of privileged women Harman wants to promote. And as well as being deeply sexist and racist, whatever Cameron claims to have done, the Tory party seem to think that sexual assault is just one of those things the proles and new bugs have to put up with from their superiors. No doubt it all comes from the culture of bullying, including sexual assault, that went on at Eton and the other public schools.

It’s disgusting, and it’s high time Harman put her act in order to back Abbott on this point, and for May to show that her party is genuinely committed to protecting people of all backgrounds from sexual harassment. But I’m not holding my breath.

‘In the Shadow of Mary Seacole’: Review

October 20, 2016

Tuesday evening, at 10.40 ITV broadcast a documentary, ‘In the Shadow of Mary Seacole’, in which the actor David Harewood went on a journey from Britain to Jamaica and the Crimea tracing the life of Mary Seacole. Seacole was one of the Victorian heroines that have been forgotten with the march of time. In her forties, she went to Crimea to open a hotel to serve the troops, as well as going on to the battlefield to try to heal them with traditional Jamaican herbal remedies. She was at one time as popular as Florence Nightingale, and her memory has been preserved by Black historians and activists. Amongst those Harewood spoke to about her, were a group of mainly Black, but with one or two White ladies, who had formed a society to commemorate her. These ladies had succeeded in their campaign for a monument to be erected to her. As Harewood traced Seacole’s physical journey around the globe, so he also followed the story of the her statue from the initial design as a maquette, or scale model, to the completion of the final, 3 metre tall statue and its installation outside one of London’s hospitals.

Apart from Harewood himself and the ladies of his commemoration society, the other speakers in the programme included Diane Abbott, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, the comedian Jo Brand, a Black actress, a White woman, who had written a biography of Seacole, and a biographer of Florence Nightingale. The latter was very critical of Mary Seacole. He felt that, in contrast to Nightingale, Seacole’s achievements in nursing had been blown out of proportion. He declared that there was no evidence she had saved thousands of lives. He felt she was only being commemorated due to ‘political correctness’ – the need to find a Black counterpart to Nightingale. He stated he had no objection to a statue being put up to her, but did object to where it was to be sited: outside the very hospital associated with Nightingale. Harewood correctly commented that she continued to divide opinions today.

He began the programme at the side of the lakes in Birmingham, where he and his brother used to play as children. He said that at the time he was growing up in the 70s, there were no major figures of his skin colour, and no women. Mary Seacole had been a particular heroine of his. Seacole had been born in Jamaica in 1805, the illegitimate daughter of a free Black woman and a Scots soldier. Her mother ran a boarding house, and it was from her mother that she also learnt her knowledge of Jamaican herbal medicine. She later on married a White Englishman, Horatio Hamilton, who claimed to be the illegitimate son of Horatio Nelson and Lady Hamilton. The marriage unfortunately only lasted nine years. Hamilton was sickly, and Seacole nursed him through his final years before his death. With the outbreak of the Crimean War, Seacole used her own money to journey to Crimea to construct a hotel. There she was known for serving good food, as well as dispensing ‘liquors’ to the troops. Her hotel was particularly patronised by the officer class.

Harewood explained that the purpose of the War had been to quell fears that the Russians were going to expand southward. The Crimea, then as now, was home to the Russian fleet. And so the British invaded and besieged the town of Sebastopol. After several years of fighting, the British managed to break the Russians, who retreated, sinking their own ships as they did so. The sequences showing the Crimean War were illustrated by clips from a Russian movie made in 1912.

Mary’s fortunes were not so successful, however. She came back to Britain in debt. A banquet was held in her honour, in order to raise money for her, supported by several of the soldiers. Although the banquet was a success, it did not raise any money for her, and she died penniless, eventually to be all but forgotten. She had, however, left an autobiography, a modern edition of which Harewood was shown reading.

The sculptor showed Harewood the model he had made. This would show Seacole as the strong, purposeful woman she was, striding forward with her clothes swirling around her. Behind would be a metal disc, which would bear the imprint of the ground from Crimea. It was designed to be lit up from below at night. To illustrate this, the sculptor showed Harewood the intended effect using the light from his mobile phone. His intention was not only to show Seacole herself, but that the shadows of the people admiring the statue would also be cast onto the disc behind her, so that for a brief moment they too would share her space.

The sculptor stated that there were a lot of photographs showing Seacole’s face from the front, but he wanted to know what she looked like from all sides. Thus he asked Harewood to go to the archives in Jamaica to see what material they had on her. The British archivist there produced a bust of the heroine, in reddish-brown clay, that was made by one of the army surgeons. It was, he said, one of the rarest of its type in the archives and easily the most valuable. Harewood duly photographed the bust from all angles.

Also in Jamaica, Harewood spoke to a former pharmacist, a doctor, who had given up her career in orthodox medicine for one in complementary healing. She explained that Seacole didn’t have any formal medical training, but would have been a ‘doctress’. This meant that she had a knowledge of herbal lore, which she used to treat and heal. It was this knowledge that she used to treat the wounded squaddies on the frozen battlefields of the Crimea.

This led to Harewood and the sculptor, back home in England, discussing Seacole’s features. There’s a debate and a little controversy over how ‘Black’ Seacole was. She was clearly a woman of African heritage, but the sculptor also felt that there would have been some elements in her appearance from her White heritage. Her features, he believed, would have been a little narrower from other Black Jamaicans as a result. He then sent Harewood on to the next stage of his journey of discovery, to the Crimea to find suitable ground from which to take the impressions for the statue’s metal disc.

At the Crimea, he met a local historian, a mature lady, who guided him to some of the battle sites. He looked over the ‘Valley of Death’ through which the Light Brigade charged to spike the Russian guns, celebrated in Tennyson’s poem, and illustrated in a painting from the period. Poring over maps, he traced the site of Seacole’s hotel, and was delighted to discover that there were still relics of her stay littering the ground. These included some of the wine and alcohol bottles she had stocked. Looking at the shards of glass, Harewood and the historian discussed how the British used to shoot the tops off the bottles. Harewood was accompanied on his journey by the technician, who was going to take the impression of the ground. While Harewood and the historian discussed Seacole’s hotel and its remains, he went off to find a suitable rock formation. This was scanned using a laser, which the technician held up to shoot its rays at the rock face, slowly building up a three dimensional computer model of its surface.

The Black actress commented on what a strong, modern woman Seacole would have been. She had travelled on her own across the world without a husband, something which was extremely rare at the time, and which few women did today.

Back in England, Harewood returned to see the immense metal armature the sculptor had constructed, which would serve as the three-dimensional framework for the clay from which the statue would be made. The sculptor trowelled a few pieces of clay into place before inviting Harewood to join in. Harewood did so, but not unsurprisingly found stirring and getting the great gobs of clay from the bucket onto his trowel, and then on to the frame hard work. It struck me that this part of the statue’s construction was not so much like the image of sculpture everyone has, with delicate fingers moulding pliant clay, so much as like a navvy laying down mortar on a brick wall.

Harewood then said that there were a few more things that needed to be done to the statue, with footage of it being covered with various other substances, one of which looked like rubber, before it was due to be taken to be cast into bronze. The programme showed the statue being driven to the foundry on the back of an open truck, securely fastened with tarpaulin and ropes. Once there, the programme showed the molten bronze being poured from a crucible into the mould formed from the clay statue. This was the moment of truth, and the sculptor described it as a form of alchemy.

The statue was being cast in pieces, and the sculptor took Harewood to see some of the pieces that had already been cast, which included her head. At this stage of the process, the bronze was a bright, coppery colour. The pieces would be assembled and welded together. The welding marks would then be removed, before the statue was finally put in place. There was a little footage of this being done. When completed, the statue was a much darker colour.

The programme showed the ceremony for the statue’s installation. Amongst those speaking were Diane Abbott, and the sculptor himself. He said in his speech that there were plenty of statues of White men, mostly monarchs and generals, but only 15 per cent of the statues in Britain were of women, and very few Black people. It had therefore been his privilege to try to redress this. Back in the studio, Jo Brand paid tribute to Seacole, saying that she was a woman of immense compassion. Her biographer answered the criticisms of Nightingale’s biographer by saying that the comments about her going to run a hotel there were meant to disparage her accomplishment by pointing out that there was also a commercial motive. But this did not detract from her achievements. She also answered the criticism that Seacole didn’t have formal medical training by pointing out that nursing as a distinct, respected profession didn’t exist at the time, and was only created by Nightingale after the War. Harewood himself also commented, stating that there were few, if any, statues of people of his colour. But it was important to have them, to show that people of colour had been a part of this country’s history for a very long time.

It was an interesting glimpse into the life of a determined woman, who was rightly celebrated in her day. I don’t think you could quite make her Nightingale’s equal – Nightingale herself was an expert mathematician, who added much to statistics, and whose achievements included the invention of the pie chart. And Nightingale is the genius behind the creation of modern nursing. Nevertheless, she played her bit providing comfort to the wounded in during the horrors of the Crimean War. Brand at one point said she must have been an immense comfort to some poor, teenage soldier dying far away from his mother. And the troops also doubtless appreciated the alcohol she brought on to the battlefield. So, while may be not as great a figure as Nightingale, she certainly deserved her statue.

One other thing also struck me about Seacole and her unofficial status as ‘doctress’. While this may strike people today, used to modern, professional scientific medicine, as something close to magic, it would have been immediately familiar to the ordinary troopers from working class or rural poor backgrounds. Before it was applied to African spiritual healers and practitioners, the term ‘witchdoctor’ originally meant the white witches and wizards of rural Britain, to whom the poor turned to heal their illnesses. Professional doctors before the establishment of the NHS and the welfare state were rare in rural areas, and expensive. Unofficial healers with a knowledge of herbalism were therefore the only people available to the poor, whether they were White British or Black Jamaicans. Professional doctors also had a reputation as rapacious quacks, whose treatments were more likely to kill you as cure you. The rank and file squaddies in the British army were thus probably more prepared to trust her as the type of healer they had grown up with at home, than the properly trained medical men. And clearly, the army surgeon, who had sculpted the bust respected her courage and professionalism, otherwise he would not have tried to preserve her image in clay.

And Harewood is right: Black people have been in Britain since the Romans. It is thus only right that Seacole should have a statue in her honour.

Radio 2 Programme with Trevor McDonald on the British West Indies Regiment

October 18, 2016

Another programme on Black history is also on the radio tonight. This is Huge and Mighty Men of Valour, in which the ITV newsreader and the 21st century’s answer to Alan Whicker, Trevor McDonald, talks about the history of the British West Indies Regiment. the blurb for this in the Radio Times runs

Trevor McDonald presents the untold story of the West Indies role in the British Empire’s war effort. Until 1915 the War Office was reluctant to recruit West Indian troops but heavy losses changed their perspective and thousands of young men willingly signed up for the newly formed British West Indies Regiment. Such was their physical fitness and readiness to work that they were dubbed “huge and mighty men of valour” . But racism and poor conditions at the end of the War resulted in a mutiny and the radicalisation of many troops who, upon their return home, helped sow the seeds of self-determination, which rattled the colonial powers.

This is on tonight, Tuesday 18th October 2016, at 10.00 pm on Radio 2. If you miss it, I should think it’ll be available on BBC iplayer.

ITV Programme on Black Victorian Heroine Mary Seacole

October 18, 2016

mary-seacole-pic

ITV tonight are broadcasting a documentary about Mary Seacole, one of the Victorian heroines you don’t hear about. The blurb in the Radio Times for the documentary runs

In the Shadow of Mary Seacole

The contribution of Mary Seacole, a Jamaican nurse of Scottish and African descent, to caring for wounded British soldiers during the Crimean War has been increasingly acknowledged over recent years. Actor David Harewood embarks on a highly personal journey of discovery as he follows the creation of a statue of the woman who has always been a heroine to him.

The programme’s on at 10.40 today, 18th October 2016.

Seacole was as big a heroine in her time as the nurse everyone’s heard of, Florence Nightingale. There were mass petitions and crowds gathered to see her honoured, and it’s a very sore point with many Black activists that she has been so comprehensively forgotten. They see it as being due to racism, while I think that part of it may also be due to Nightingale having been the better self-publicist.

Regardless of this issue, she is one of Black Britain’s greatest heroines, and indeed one of this country’s greatest irrespective of colour, and it’s only right that her story should also be brought back to public memory and respect.

Vox Political: Jackie Walker’s Response to Anti-Semitism Smears on ‘Free Speech on Israel’

October 4, 2016

Mike has put up another important piece about the anti-Semitism smears against Jackie Walker. Mrs Walker has written a long piece explaining her attitude and comments on the website Free Speech on Israel, to which Mike’s attention was directed by one of the people he was talking to on Twitter.

In the pieces Mike has reposed, Mrs Walker explains her comments linking the Jews to the transatlantic slave trade. She states that she was trying to make the point that there are no hierarchies of genocide, and that her people were involved in both sides of the slave trade. She is Black and Jewish, and noted that the Jews also played a role in financing the slave trade, hence the number of early synagogues in the Caribbean. She also makes the point that it was the Christian rulers of Spain and Portugal, who massacred and expelled the Jews from their kingdoms, and that it was overwhelmingly Christian kingdoms and empires that profited from the kidnap, enslavement and murder of Africans. She states that she is perfectly happy to correct the different impression her Facebook comments made. She also makes the important statement

“The shame is, at a time when antisemitism has been weaponised and used against certain sections of the Labour Party, nobody asked me before rushing to pin the racist and antisemitic label on me.”

She says that she is perfectly willing to change her views if they are shown to be wrong in future. But she did not state, as the Jewish Chronicle claims she did, that Jews played a disproportionate part in the slave trade. She makes the point instead, quoting the historian Arnold Wiznitzer, that at that time and place the Jews were also involved in financing the sugar and slave trade. She also quotes the historians Kagan and Morgan as describing the Jews as a stateless minority within the European empires, but who also played a key role in expanding them. She also cites Jonathan Israel on the peculiar position of the Jews as both the victims and agents of empire.

Mike’s quotes from her conclude with this paragraph:

“This was the point I was attempting to make on Facebook, in a comic-strip, abbreviated, inadequate, deficient sort of conversational way. This was my point, as the Israel Advocacy Movement could see even as they decided to weaponise my words. No peoples have a monopoly of suffering or virtue. No peoples are special or free of the complexity of history. That is as true in the Middle East now as it ever was anywhere, in all places, with all peoples, across the diversity of our globe and so it will remain until, and unless, we achieve the goal of all internationalists – the liberation of humanity.”

Mike states in his comments that ‘certain…elements’ have tried to claim that Mrs Walker’s comments on the Jews and slave trade came from those of the head of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan. Farrakhan made speeches in the 1990s claiming that the slave trade was basically the fault of the Jews. Mike has challenged those claiming that Walker’s views are the same as Farrakhan’s to show him how they are linked. Mike notes that they have not done so.

The article’s at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/10/03/jackie-walker-responds-to-accusations-of-antisemitism-free-speech-on-israel/

Please go and read this article. Mrs Walker clearly is very well-informed about the slave trade and Jewish involvement in it, as well as the complex nature of European imperialism, and the historiography of both. It is a fact that the global European empires also frequently used subaltern peoples as part of the mechanism of imperial expansion and exploitation. The slave trade was immensely profitable, and so it not only involved White Europeans, but Muslim Arabs and Black Africans. Recognising this should not be considered anti-African, anti-Arab or islamophobic, any more than noting that some Jews were involved in the transatlantic slave trade, should make one an anti-Semite, provided that this is kept within the bounds of historical fact. And Jackie Walker has done just that. She has not done what Louis Farrakhan, and which some White Nazis and members of the At Right do, and made Jews, or Africans, or Muslims solely responsible for the slave trade, or accused them of playing the major role in it.

She is clearly not an anti-Semite. Rather, she has shown that she possesses a critical intelligence, which is not satisfied with facile simplifications of complex issues. And that makes her a danger. She has been targeted, in my view, because she is like the very many Jews and people of Jewish heritage, who do not accept the simplistic message promoted by the Israel lobby that the immense suffering of the Jewish people in the Holocaust and throughout history justifies their brutalisation and oppression, in turn, of the Palestinians. Authoritarian regimes of all shades, from Fascists and Nazis to the Stalinist Communists, cannot stand people, who dare to think for themselves. This is why free speech, and the ability to say things that others might consider offensive, is so vital for genuinely humane, democratic societies. The Right likes to attack politically correct speech codes, saying ‘No-one has the right not to be offended.’ They will also quote Orwell on the importance of telling truths people don’t want to hear. Both of these statements are correct, if you’re telling the truth. They trivialise both of these aphorisms, because they take them as giving them licence to sneer at women and ethnic minorities, and insist on traditional hierarchies of race and gender. But those two comments go much further than that. Orwell, for all his hatred of totalitarianism and Communism, was an anti-imperialist and Socialist. During the Spanish Civil War he fought for the non-Marxist Socialist faction, POUM, and was strongly impressed by the achievements of the anarchist movement, which he described in Homage to Catalonia. The Young Turks have pointed out time and again that for all their sneering at political correctness and ‘safe spaces’, it is the Right, who are the worst at invoking political correctness to silence speech that is offensive to them.

And this is what the Likudniks of the Jewish Labour Movement and the Israel lobby have tried to do to Mrs Walker. Like the American Right with its shouts of ‘Political correctness’ and denunciations of laws against ‘hate speech’, they are hypocritically using perceived offensiveness to try to silence and stifle genuine historical and political debate, in order to present a simplistic, carefully sanitised and politically useful view of history.

This is to be resisted, and resisted to the utmost. The distorters of history, who use carefully crafted falsifications to justify their own brutality, cannot be allowed to win, regardless of who they are and who they claim to represent. We need to be supporting Jackie Walker, and those like her, who are not satisfied with the easy answers of totalitarian propaganda, and who stand for genuine Socialist internationalism against militaristic nationalism posing as its opposite.