Archive for the ‘Central America’ Category

Bristol’s Left Certainly Does Care About All Slavery, Not Just Historic Black

April 7, 2022

As a proud Bristolian, I felt I had to post something about this. A day or so ago History Debunked posted a short video arguing that the left in Bristol had no knowledge of the slavery in the city before or after the transatlantic slave trade. Instead, they were solely concerned with historic Black slavery. They were not aware that Anglo-Saxon Bristol exported enslaved children and seemed unconcerned with the conviction a few days previously of two Slovakians for holding smuggled migrants in effective slavery. Such exploitation isn’t called slavery, but ‘people trafficking’. The thumbnail to his video shows the toppling of the statue to Edward Colston by the BLM mob last year.

Now I have put up some of Simon Webb’s material when it has been about fake history presented as factual Black history. But he does have some deeply troubling opinions. He seems to believe the Bell Curve nonsense, that Asians are more intelligent than Whites who in turn are brighter than Blacks. He feels Enoch Powell has been smeared and misrepresented and put up a video about 1968 as the year everyone was talking about repatriation. This is apart from videos attacking what he describes as ‘the disability scam’. He’s also made some mistakes when talking about African history. He’s said before now that when Europeans reached Africa, they found its people in the Bronze Age. Not so: iron working in West Africa began about a thousand years before it emerged in Europe because of the presence of easily worked bloom near the surface. I can only assume he believes they were in the Bronze Age because of the Benin bronzes, the bronze sculptures made as shrines to the king’s lifeforce. I got the distinct impression that all of Africa’s peoples were using iron before European contact, with the possibly exception of one of the Khoi-San hunter-gatherer peoples in South Africa. So, like many YouTubers across the political spectrum, it’s worth checking his content for yourself.

He’s right about Bristol being a centre of the slave trade in the Anglo-Saxon period. In the 11th century the Anglo-Saxon cleric, Bishop Wulfstan, preached a sermon in the city against it that put an end to it. This is established historical fact, and is included with the display of Colston’s statue at the M Shed museum in the City. In the city continued to be a centre of the slave trade into the 12th century, when a part of visiting clergy hoping to raise money for one of the French cathedrals were warned not to have dinner aboard the Irish ships then in dock. These had a habit of luring the unwary aboard and then slipping off to sale them in the Emerald Isle. David Harris Sacks in his book, The Widening Gate: Bristol and the Atlantic Economy 1450-1700 (Berkeley: University of California Press 1991) also notes that in the 17th century White children in Bristol were also kidnapped by ‘spirits’ for sale as indentured servants in the Caribbean colonies. I got my copy of the book when I visited the ‘Respectable Trade Exhibition’ then on display at the City Museum about the city’s historic involvement in the slave trade.

As for the contemporary enslavement of Whites, the local news for the city and the surrounding region has called it what it is: slavery. A few years ago a farmer in Gloucestershire was found guilty of enslaving migrant workers, and there have been other instances of this, including cases where the victims have been people with learning difficulties. In all those cases they’ve been rightly described, at least on the news reports, as slavery.

What is now called ‘people trafficking’, at least as it involved forcing migrant European women into prostitution, was referred to as ‘White slavery’ in the late 19th and early 20th century. Looking through the government reports held in the archives of the former Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, I found one government document from the first years of the 20th on an international police conference held in London about the issue. It was interesting because it contains many parallels to contemporary people smuggling and sex slavery. Many of the young women smuggled into Britain and then forced to work in brothels today are from eastern Europe. Back in 1904 or thereabouts, the parliamentary report noted that the victims were ‘German’ girls – really Slav women from the territories then ruled by Germany and Austria. There were differences with today as well. These women were mostly smuggled to service migrants to the Latin American nations, which were then experiencing an economic boom. Today Britain seems to be the destination of the women trafficked here, rather than further afield. Also it would be incorrect to describe all of today’s enslaved women as White, as many seem to come from outside Europe, such as Asia.

As far as I am aware, the mainstream left haven’t ignored the plight of such enslaved women. I can’t remember the details, but I have the strong impression that many of the female MPs in the Labour party were very much concerned with the sexual exploitation of smuggled women, at least when it became a national issue a few years ago.

Black Lives Matter, it is true, has an exclusive focus on historic Black slavery. This is because the organisation, along with many anti-racists,, believes that the modern poverty, poor educational performance, marginalisation and racism experienced by western Blacks is due to the transatlantic slave trade. Hence the call for reparations. How far this is true is open to question. The Black American Conservative Thomas Sowell has argued that slavery did not result in the breakdown of the Black family. Indeed, according to him, marriage rates among Blacks following emancipation were slightly above those of Whites as families separated by the slavery masters sought to find each other and solemnise their relationships through the formal marriage. Other Black conservatives have cited statistics to argue that, despite segregation and Jim Crow, the years from emancipation to the 1960s were a time of professional and economic expansion for Black America. They were moving into more jobs, establishing businesses and were catching up on Whites in the years spent in school. Of course, this is part of an ideological assault on affirmative action and state aid, which they believe has acted instead to reverse these gains. The point, however, is that BLM are not interested in slavery as an issue in itself, but only as far as it is responsible for the current problems of western Blacks.

Now I doubt that Black Lives Matter and movements like them are aware of the broader history of the slave trade outside of the enslavement of Black Africans. They’re also not concerned when it’s done by Black Africans to other Africans. Barbara Barnaby, the head of the British branch of Black Lives Matter, condemned the new slave markets opened in Libya. But she did so as part of a general attack on the new western imperialism,, and didn’t mention the other slave markets that have opened in Uganda. The impression I have is that BLM is strongly based on Critical Race and Postcolonial Theory, which are solely concerned with White racism and ignore it and as well as other oppressive practices in non-western societies.

Black Lives Matter does enjoy widespread support among parts of the left, although I think its popularity is waning as time wears on. It’s been hit in America by a series of scandals, must notably surrounding the disappearance of donated money to the tune of millions and the use of some of it by its former president to buy herself five upmarket homes. Several of the protests were in fact riots, in which Black-owned businesses were also attacked and looted.

Black Lives Matter, although highly visible now, is only part of the broad left. And while I believe its members and supporters should be far more aware of slavery as an issue, and that it also involved the enslavement of Whites, BLM does not represent the whole of the left.

I believe very strongly that many on the left in Bristol are aware of its history as centre of the slave trade before it moved into transatlantic, Black slavery, and are definitely still active campaigning against contemporary forms of enslavement, such as people trafficking. Even if it is no longer called ‘White slavery’.

Video on Black American Jewry and Its History

April 1, 2022

Unpacked are a YouTube channel that specialises in short documentaries on the Jews and their history. This fascinating video below explores the history of Black American Jews, presented by a Jewish lady of colour. The video begins by explaining that while the stereotypical image of a Jew is a White person, the Jewish community has always been diverse and included people of many different races. there were Black Jewish communities, like the Bet Israel in Ethiopia, in Africa and that some of the enslaved Africans taken to America may have come from these communities. There are very few records, but some of the enslaved Africans had Jewish names and so were probably enslaved Jews. As slavery expanded, slaves took over their masters’ religion. This was largely Christianity, but it also included Judaism where the masters’ were Jewish. She also talks about how many Blacks after emancipation moved closer to Judaism after being inspired by the line in the Psalms that speaks about a people coming from Egypt, and Ethiopia lifting its arms to the Almighty. These founded Black Jewish sects, but many of their members then made the passage to traditional Judaism. She also talks about how many Blacks in the 20th century converted to Judaism because they were struck by the parallels between the Black and Jewish experiences. One of these converts was the Hollywood film star Sammy Davis Junior, whose parents were Baptist and Roman Catholic. He was led to convert to Judaism through his friend, the comedian Eddie Cantor.

However, not all Black Jews are converts by any means. Many are the children of marriages between White Jews and people of colour. About 20 per cent of the present Jewish American population is non-White, comprising a number of ethnicities including Latino. She lists the various organisations that have been founded to defend and advance the rights of Black Jews in America. And while many Black Jews supported Black Lives Matters, she regrets that the organisation is critical of Israel and Zionism, which has led to a conflict in the identity of many Black Jewish Americans. She also discusses a number of prominent Black Jewish entertainers, including Drake and Lenny Kravitz. She ends by celebrating Jewish racial diversity and the efforts to bring peoples of all races together.

I was particularly interested in this because one of the insults hurled at Jackie Walker after she was expelled from Labour for ‘anti-Semitism’ is that, as a woman of colour, she couldn’t possibly be Jewish. This video puts the lie to that. Walker herself is the product of a mixed marriage – her mother was a Black civil rights worker from Georgia, her father a Russian Jew. They met during a Communist party event. Jews were particularly sympathetic and involved with Blacks during the civil rights campaign. Many of the teachers in Black schools, as well as social workers and other professionals working in Black communities were Jewish, and so shared the concerns of the people they were working with. Regarding Blacks finding commonalities between their experience and those of Jews, the Black British writer Caryl Philips said in the pages of one of the British literary magazines back in the ’90s or so that he was impressed by these similarities to the extent that he sometimes thought he was Jewish. He was criticised for this by Hilary Mantel, the author of the prize-winning Wolf Hall, who said that the Jewish experience was unique. That’s true, but both Jews and Blacks have a shared history of exile and persecution, and I think this is what has drawn some Blacks and Jews together. As for Latin American Jews, there was a book a few years ago tracing the history of the Pereira family, Sephardic Jews from Spain who settled in Latin America. After the expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian peninsula, many of them settled in north Africa while others emigrated to the Spanish and Brazilian colonies in Latin America. Black Lives Matter does present a problem for Black Jews wishing to support both their own racial liberation and Israel and Zionism. But there is a genuine problem in that Israel is a White settler colony, that is subjecting the indigenous, Palestinian population to apartheid and expulsion. It was the awareness of this that prompted Jackie Walker to protest against Israel as well as apartheid South Africa, and which today is causing an increasing number of western, including American Jews, to turn away from Zionism. This is shown very much in the demographics of the people expelled by Labour’s witch hunters for alleged anti-Semitism. Four-fifths of them are Jewish, which shows that this is all about enforcing support for Israel and absolutely nothing to do with genuine Jew hatred.

This is an excellent little history of this part of the Jewish diaspora, clearly demonstrating that people can indeed be Black and Jewish against the sneers and abuse of bigots.

Leaked Applebee’s Memo about Using the Cost of Living Crisis to Exploit Employees

March 25, 2022

A few days ago the Chris Hedge’s Fan Club posted a leaked memo from Applebee’s which definitely shows that in the current economic crisis, we are definitely not ‘all in it together’. Chris Hedges is a powerful left-wing American journalist and broadcaster. I think he might be an ordained Presbyterian minister. Certainly his father was, before he was thrown out by his congregation for backing gay rights. This was obviously at a time when the gay rights movement was just beginning and still massively controversial. Hedge’s himself was one of the few journalists to cover the wars in Central America in the 1980s from the front line, and he has talked about the atrocities committed by Fascist groups like the Contras in Nicaragua. This were the same Fascist death squads and torturers to whom Reagan sold arms and provided other aid, while allowing them to finance their campaigns of terror by exporting cocaine to America. Where it helped further devastate desperately poor Black Americans. The same butchers Reagan declared were the ‘moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers’. Some patriotic Americans could feel their country was being insulted. Other left-wingers might be more worried that it’s true.

A few days ago the YouTube channel devoted to him and his analysis of capitalism and contemporary politics got hold of a leaked memo from Applebee’s. We don’t have it in this country, but I gather that it’s a chain of restaurants across the Pond. The memo talked about using the current crisis, with petrol prices rising and inflation expected to explode generally, as an opportunity for treating people badly. ‘Because their desperate’.

This is grubby, and I realise that not all businesses are like it. But this is the predatory face of capitalism, and unfortunately it’s companies like this that are bankrolling the political parties on both sides of the Atlantic. The right regard capitalism as patriotic, but there is nothing patriotic about this. It’s anti-social profiteering, pure and simple.

We need to end corporate donations in politics, and drive through legislation to protect workers and consumers from such cynical exploitation.

Sting Reprises 80s Anti-Nuclear Song against War in Ukraine

March 14, 2022

A few days ago I put up the YouTube video of Punk legends Toyah Wilcox’s and Robert Fripp’s song of support for Ukraine against Putin’s invasion. Sting has also posted on YouTube a version of his 80s hit ‘Russians’ as a protest against Putin’s bloody invasion of ‘a peaceful and unthreatening neighbour’. It’s dedicated not just to the Ukrainians but also to the many Russians protesting against the war, and is once again a plea for our children and our common humanity.

Sting released ‘Russians’ right in the middle of the new Cold War under Thatcher and Reagan, when it seemed all too possible that a nuclear war would erupt to end humanity and destroy our lovely and beautiful planet. It was partly based on a theme from Prokofiev and urged everyone to protect their children against the nuclear threat. One of its lines is ‘How can I protect my little boy/ From Oppenheimer’s deadly toy?’ with the refrain ‘Believe me when I say to you, do the Russians love their children too?’ It also reminded both sides that ‘We share the same biology regardless of ideology’. It was a powerful, heartfelt song that reflected the deep fears and hopes of millions across the world at the time.

Sting states that he hasn’t really played it since because it wasn’t really relevant. Horrifically, it is now, with Putin threatening to launch nukes if NATO gets involved. I find Sting’s piece profoundly moving, but I’m also furious with the way geopolitics has gone in eastern Europe in the forty or so years since this was written. Reagan was an arch-reactionary who supported every bloody Fascist dictator that disgraced Latin America in his campaign against Communism. But together he and Mikhail Gorbachev ended the Cold War. Communism fell and the former Soviet satellites went their own way. And in the former Soviet Union, Gorbachev did his best to transform the Stalinist Communism of the Soviet state into something genuinely good and progressive. He wanted to introduce democracy and multiparty elections, ended the persecution of religion, and wished to create a mixed economy in which state and private enterprise existed alongside each other. But he also wished to create a new class of genuine cooperatives, where the workers would hire and fire management. He wanted Russia to join the rest of the world in the Green movement and tackling environmental issues as well fully support human rights. And as the Berlin Wall came down, thousands of people from the former eastern bloc came over here to work and run businesses.

Terrible things were still being done across the world, including the first Gulf War, which was also really about oil rather than freeing Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. But the Fall of Communism and the end of the Cold War made it that bit better. For all the claims that socialism was dead and that free market capitalism would now reign unchallenged at the ‘end of history’, it was still an optimistic time. It looked like the world had finally put that part of the nuclear threat behind us and that we could look forward to a future without any more fears of another Cuban missile crisis or similar armaggeddon.

And now I feel that all that hope and promise has been squandered through great power interference and Putin’s warmongering. Well, damn this! I want the world to go back to how it was before all this erupted.

Bring back Gorbachev!

Love and peace to everyone protesting against the war, and especially to those in Russia. May peace come soon.

Arise Festival Online Events against Blair and NHS Privatisation

February 4, 2022

I got an email today from the Arise Festival of Labour Left Ideas about a number of forthcoming online events. Two were about Latin America and Cuba, but the two that really interested me were against Blair’s knighthood and NHS Privatisation.

The brief notices about these events ran:

“1) FORUM: No to Blair’s Knighthood – No Return to Blairism

Thursday 10 February, 18:30. Register here // Share & invite here // Retweet here to spread the word.

With: Steve Howell (Deputy Director, Strategy & Communications for Jeremy Corbyn in 2017) , Rachel Garnham (Campaign for Labour Party Democracy) & Sami Ramidani (Iraqi anti-war campaigner.)

Tony Blair’s knighthood has provoked a massive backlash – come & find out more about Blairism – & what it represents & means today. With plenty of time for questions & discussion.

Hosted by Labour Outlook. Kindly streamed by Arise – A Festival of Left Ideas.

2) DIARY DATE: Ending NHS Privatisation – For a National Care Service.

Monday, 21 February 2022, 7pm  Register here 

The Second of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs online policy seminars being organised throughout 2022 – in partnership with the Labour Assembly Against Austerity and Momentum – looking at the key policies we need to be raising and how we build the movements to win these policies.”

I haven’t registered for them yet, but I think I probably will as I strongly support both these causes. Blair took us to war against Iraq on a lie, a lie intended to justify the plundering of Iraq’s oil and state industries for the benefit of the American and Saudi oil conglomerates and American multinationals. There’s footage of Gorgeous George Galloway angrily telling one of the New Labour women who cheered and organised the Labour benches for this war that she’s responsible for the deaths of a million people in Iraq. I’ve got mixed feeling about the Glesgae bruiser. Sometimes he says things that are absolutely brilliant, at other times he acts like a self-centred publicity seeker. This time I think he was spot-on. Innocent people died, including our best and bravest in the armed forces, not to defend our great nation from a real threat to be get the already bloated rich even richer and more bloated. It destroyed what was, by middle eastern standards at least, a relatively secular welfare state. A society where women could safely pursue careers outside the home. It created a monstrous society instead where Sunni and Shia Muslims had to be separated in Baghdad by peace walls, as in Northern Ireland. There were sectarian deaths squads running amok with the connivance of the American proconsuls running country, and the mercenaries brought in as peacekeepers ran drugs and prostitution rings. Oh yes,, and they killed ordinary Iraqis for sport. The situation was so dire that one American diplomat went home and gave public interviews denouncing the occupation.

A million or two severely normal Brits marched against the invasion. I think it was the biggest mass protest ever. One of those was one of my parish priests at the time. The satirists Bremner, Bird and Fortune attacked the warmongering prior to the invasion. The Tories opposed it, which was a first. I suspect this was simple opportunism, but in some cases it was genuine. The right-wing journalist, Peter Hitchens, continued to attack Blair for wasting the lives of British servicemen and women. A friend of mine even read the Spectator for a time because of its anti-invasion stance.

And Blair ignored it all. The result was a wrecked country, which allowed the expansion of Iranian influence there and, with the rest of the Neo-Con policy in the Middle East, created the conditions for the emergence and expansion of Daesh and their campaign against civilisation.

Millions of people have either died or been forced to flee their homes, contributing to the migrant crisis. The economy was destroyed, people thrown out of work, women forced back into their traditional role and businesses destroyed. But Starmer wants to bring Blairism back, telling everyone that it’s going to be a vote winner.

It ain’t. Blair’s popularity at the time declined and its suffered even worse in the intervening years as more people have woken up to how harmful so many of his policies were. Not just in Iraq, but on the economy, industry and the NHS. Because Blair shared the Tory desire to privatise the health service.

If this country is ever to have a government that genuinely respects and cares for ordinary people, and which pursues a sane, just, humane policy in the Middle East, it’s only going to be through genuine socialist values and the vision of Jeremy Corbyn.

The Tories must go, and Blairism must be consigned to the dustbin.

Academic Article on ‘Brown’ Third World Racism against Blacks

January 29, 2022

I’ve said several times that I believe that there should be more research and awareness that racism simply isn’t a matter of Whites hating and oppressing Blacks. Prejudice knows no racial or religious boundaries and there are various forms of indigenous, traditional racism against different ethnicities all over the world. But research and action in this area is largely absent or actively discouraged from fears of activists like the Labour MP, Diane Abbott, that action against prejudice and conflict among BAME groups will be used by ‘them’ to ‘divide and rule’. Googling the subject yesterday, I was able to find one academic article on the ‘Brown’ racism of the lighter-skinned Asian countries against people of African descent. The article is ‘Brown Racism and the Formation of a World System of Racial Stratification’, by Robert E. Washington, published in the International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, vol. 4, no. 2., 1990. The article’s on JSTOR, the academic internet archive and network. Unless you have membership through your university or library, you have to pay. And it’s not cheap, so I’ve been able to do no more than read and copy the first page of the article.

This reads

‘Probably no problem of race relations in the contemporary world has been more mysteriously insulated – and thus, in as strange sense, free – from critical scrutiny than the phenomenon I term brown racism. I use the term “brown” here not in the literal but in the figurative sense, as a reference to the neither white white nor black but colored peoples of the third world (the Chinese, East Indians, Filipinos, Mestizos, etc.). These people occupy an intermediate position along the black-white spectrum of color classification. By brown racism, I refer to the prevalence of prejudice among these fair complexioned colored groups and societies towards blacks, especially those groups or individuals of African ancestry.

‘Studies of racism have tended to focus on only one patter, white racism towards nonwhites. This emphasis is understandable-given the major historical impact of white racism throughout the world; nevertheless, the virtual silence about brown racism is not only curious; it is also harmful. That is because it conduces to the persistence of both brown and white racism. In what follows I hope to draw long overdue attention to the problem of brown racism, to explain the condition effecting its development, and to indicate its ramifications in the modern world.

‘Brown racism is commonplace throughout the third world, though only its most dramatic manifestations are like to gain the notice of the media. Several years ago, in Egypt, for instance, a scheduled telecast of an American movie dramatization of Anwar Sadat’s life was cancelled because a public outcry arose when itwas learned that the slain Egyptian leader would be portrayed by a black American actor (Newsweek, 1984: 37). In China, the government….’

I remember reading an Observer report on an anti-Black riot in China, and since then there have been numerous instances of anti-Black prejudice there. The Chinese movie poster for the Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, was altered to remove or play down the Finn character, who was Black. The Covid pandemic has also led to some Chinese restaurants refusing to serve, or behaving with exaggerated cleanliness, towards Blacks because they are somehow seen as more likely to spread the disease. And this is apart from the genocide of the Uyghurs. Back in Britain, there have been riots in Birmingham and elsewhere, not between Whites and Blacks, but between Blacks and Asians. As the Asian fellow who asked Abbott what she was going to do about racism between ethnic minorities shows, this problem hasn’t gone away.

But appallingly, because of these political pressures, I don’t see there being the necessary research into it and attempts to combat it.

To see the JSTOR article, go to https://www.jstor.org/stable/20006991.

Indian Newsreader Ponders the Coming Collapse of American Democracy

January 6, 2022

I found this grimly fascinating video on the YouTube channel for Gravitas, which I think is the news programme of the Indian WION – World Is One – network. The anchor woman considers the prediction by a Canadian academic that American democracy is in crisis and that the country will have a right-wing dictator by 2030. This will follow a period of civil disturbances in 2025. America is becoming more polarised. 64 per cent of Americans believe democracy is in crisis, according to polls, and 66 per cent of Republicans that the last election was rigged. 70 per cent of Americans also believe that democracy is failing. And 66 per cent believe that violence against the government is justified. These views explains the attack on Congress by Trump’s supporters last year, and there’s a prediction that the Orange Buffoon will return in 2024. At the same time, White nationalism is on the rise. She states that democracies dies through a deeply polarised society and distrust of government. She also claims that White supremacy is rising in the US army, aided by legislation that does not forbid squaddies from joining Fascist organisations like the Klan. She is careful to say, however, that she is not claiming soldiers are joining these organisations.

She also notes that last year America was put on a list of different nations as a ‘backsliding democracy’. If the attempted invasion of congress that occurred precisely a year ago, on 6th January 2021, had happened in west Asia (the Middle East) or Latin America, the US would, she claims, have sent in the CIA and a couple of thousand marines ‘to restore democracy’. She goes on to say that for decades, democracy has been whatever America says it is. There are many examples of this American arrogance. One report says that the US tried to topple Latin American regimes 41 times in the 20th century. The US funded juntas and plotted assassinations,. Another example is the CIA-funded overthrow of the last democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadeq, in 1953, backing the Shah. No-one asked them to do it, certainly not the Iranian people, ‘but that’s what America is for you’. America interferes because it can. It overthrew the Taliban in 2001, which was great, but their next step was to impose their presidential system on a country with more than a hundred ethnicities taking no account of tribal loyalties. The problem is the attitude that the American system suits all peoples ‘but democracy doesn’t work that way’. She concludes ‘So this prophecy of American collapse is karma, plain and simple.’

It’s a blistering attack on post-Trump division and the emerging far right in America, as well as American imperialism from the perspective of the Developing World. And she is absolutely correct. The late, long-term critic of American imperialism, William Blum, lists all the countries, whose governments the US has overthrown and in whose elections they have interfered in his books. The list and its brief descriptions of American meddling, take up two whole chapters each. America, and also Britain, did overthrow Iran’s prime minister, Mossedeq in the 1953 because he nationalised the oil industry. This was then owned and controlled by foreign companies, like BP, which employed Iranian workers on much lower wages and with poorer conditions than westerners. As for Afghanistan, the country, like others in the region, is a mosaic of different tribal and ethnic groups. It has no tradition of western-style democracy, and the president the Americans and the west back, Hamid Karzai, was massively corrupt. And the corruption reached all the way down through his regime and the new state to exploit and alienate ordinary Afghans. The result was the rapid collapse of Karzai’s government and the seizure of power by the Taliban almost as soon as American troops departed. In Iraq too George W. Bush and the other Neo-Cons had absolutely no idea about the society they had invaded and were trying to remodel. They believed the lies of Ahmed Chalabi, that he led a massive resistance movement against Hussein and that he and the American troops would be welcomed with flowers as liberators. Worse, the Neo-Cons actively resented and removed officials and senior military leaders, who attempted to tell them they were wrong. General Zilli, the head of the Middle East section of the Pentagon, was given the boot because he dared to do so.

As for the type of democracy the Americans wanted to introduce into Iraq, this was a very narrow version governed by Neo-Con doctrine. The government was to be democratic, but it was to be constitutionally prevented from interfering in business or private industry. It was democracy, but only as far as big business and American corporate interests allowed it.

As for the assertion that the collapse of American democracy and the emergence of a right-wing dictator is karma, I think left-wing political commenters like Noam Chomsky and the peeps at the radical magazine and website, Counterpunch, have said that America is suffering from imperial blowback. The tactics it has used to destabilise foreign regimes are now coming back to be used against America’s own citizens. And because of the powerful corporate influence on American politics, Harvard University several years ago described America, not as a democracy, but as an oligarchy.

There are deep divisions in current American politics between Trump’s supporters on the right, who include White supremacists, and the radical left, as shown in the rise of Black Lives Matter. Some of the BLM protests and demonstrations have degenerated into destruction and rioting, and in the most extreme example an anarchist community rejecting the American state emerged, only to collapse into violent anarchy in the pejorative sense and be retaken by local law enforcement. This has created a sense of crisis on the American right, while the invasion of congress looks very much like an attempted coup, comparable to Mussolini’s March on Rome. I am not surprised that many Americans feel their democracy is failing.

I don’t want American democracy to collapse. I believe that Fascism and dictatorship has to be fought everywhere in the world, and an America dominated by a dictator would be horrific, not just for the country but also for the rest of the world. American democracy needs to be supported.

It just shouldn’t impose dictatorships or its very contrived version of democracy on everyone else.

History Debunked on Black Hero, Racist and Crook Marcus Garvey

October 7, 2021

Marcus Garvey is a towering figure in Black history, starting up one of the earliest Black rights organisations, the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Black History Month was launched in Britain in October 1987 to mark the centenary of his birth. There are monuments, streets and parks to him in various towns in the UK and in New York. A few months ago a Black writer published a piece in the Radio Times calling for him to be taught in schools. History Debunked has marked Black History Month with a series of video showing that in reality, many of the heroes being commemorated are actually much less impressive. Garvey was very definitely one of these.

The video states that he was born in 1887 and apprenticed to a printer, but didn’t take to it, and spent some time instead travelling around Central America and Britain. He returned to his homeland, Jamaica, where in 1914 he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association, whose aims included inspiring Black brotherhood and the civilisation of the backward peoples of Africa. This ran into trouble, as many Jamaicans dislike the word ‘Negro’ as, in my experience, many West Indians still do. More seriously, he was suspected of using the association’s funds to support himself personally. So he moved to Harlem in New York where he set up his organisation there. This again was massively controversial. Garvey was a racial separatist who hated racial intermixing and Blacks, whose skins were lighter than he is. He became even more unpopular amongst Black New Yorkers by going off to meet the head of the Klan. They got on like a house on fire, as Garvey assured the White racist that they both had the same objective. He wanted Blacks to go back to Africa, while the Klan wanted a White America. But what really brought Garvey down was his attempt to found a Black shipping company, the Black O Line. He was prosecuted for fraud as he was caught selling shares in a ship that didn’t actually exist. Both the judge and the prosecution in the trial were Jewish, as were two members of the jury, or so he claimed. He then made an anti-Semitic rant which blamed the Jews as well as the White authorities for his prosecution. And there the video ends.

I think Webb has been rather selective in the video, choosing some of the worst episodes of Garvey’s career. I understood he was forced out of Jamaica by the authorities, who regarded him as a subversive. Not that it doesn’t mean that he wasn’t also unpopular there for the reasons Webb suggests. Webb does mention that in New York he invented various bizarre uniforms for himself and his followers. The image for the video shows Garvey in one of those uniforms, a hat which makes him look a bit like Napoleon. When I was working at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum one of the boxes of items donated to the Museum contained pamphlets from Garvey’s organisation. And they were weird. One of them seemed to be for some kind of rally and listed a whole series of paramilitary ranks and organisations, such as head of the armoured division. It reminded me of the White British Fascists, who invented grandiose names and titles for themselves but have at most a handful of members. The type of people lampooned in the Jeeves and Wooster books in the shape of Spode and his Blackshorts, who seemed to be always going off to address the Eagle battalion in Minchinhampton. Garvey emigrated to Britain, and certainly wasn’t ashamed of the weird Fascist nature of his organisation. He said in an interview with a British magazine in 1938 that Hitler and Mussolini took everything from him. I don’t think they did, and you would have thought that by that time Garvey would have wanted to keep any similarity between his outfit and Fascism very quiet. But he didn’t.

He also seems to have fancied himself as the self-appointed leader and saviour of Africa. In New York he declared himself to be president of the continent, and he and his lieutenants were the government in exile. This was without any input from the African themselves. He carried on calling for himself to be made the Africans’ leader when he emigrated to England. He made repeated request to the Colonial Department to be made its head. The video doesn’t mention that. Nor does it mention that Garvey also joined the Conservative party after he moved here. As I think Webb himself is a Telegraph-reading Tory, I don’t think he wishes to remind people how Garvey entered the party.

A few months ago I drew this cartoon of Garvey to express what I consider to be real Fascist elements in BLM and some of the other, supposedly anti-racist movements. Here it is.

I don’t think he was ever a supporter of the Nazis, but the parallel between his organisation and White Fascism is so close that he is features in books on Fascism, including Mark Christian Thompson’s Black Fascisms (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press 2007).

Garvey is an important figure in the history of Black Liberation. The Rastafarian religion grew out of his Negro Improvement Association. But it’s questionable whether he should be celebrated. I suspect there are far worthier figures waiting to be discovered and promoted, who people haven’t heard of.

Man Arrested Outside Conference for Placard Denouncing Priti Patel – A Sign of Real Fascism to Come?

October 6, 2021

Mike’s just put up a short piece this afternoon commenting on the fact that a protester was arrested by the rozzers for holding a placard up outside the Tory party conference calling Priti Patel and nasty name. No, it wasn’t anything racist or personally vicious. It was just a comment on her politics. The placard just said ‘Priti Fascist’. Nadia Whittome has posted this Tweet aptly summing up Patel’s policies:

To summarise her conference speech, Priti Patel wants to:

– push back boats of refugees, risking lives

– make our asylum system even harsher

– further criminalise peaceful protesters

– penalise people with drug addiction issues.

A brutal, authoritarian vision for our country.

As Mike says, the demonstrator was right. Patel is a Fascist. Quite so, but she’s not as far down the line to real goose-stepping Nazism as some would like. Yesterday mad right-wing YouTube Alex Belfield in one of his videos reported that the French cops had shot at the channel migrants with rubber bullets. He felt we should be doing the same, and mocked the lefty snowflakes who would complain if we did. Simon Webb of History Debunked put up a piece stating that the Polish army had been stationed at their border to repel unwanted migrants after 1,000 had tried to enter the country illegally. Why can’t we do the same, he opined.

I think there are a number of reasons why such highly authoritarian behaviour is more acceptable in Poland but not over here. England hasn’t been conquered since William the Conqueror and the Normans in 1066. Britain went on from the sixteenth century onwards to conquer an empire in the Americas, Africa and Asia. Even after decolonisation, we see ourselves as historically the conquerors and imperial rulers, not as the subjects. It’s because of this history that demands for action against racism and the remains of colonialist attitudes have been successful.

Poland doesn’t have that history. Following the reign of Jan Sobieski, who defeated the Turks at the siege of Vienna in the 17th century, Poland was conquered and divided between Prussia, Austria and Russia. The Russians had a policy of russification. Polish was not taught in schools. If it was, it was taught as a foreign language. The country only gained its independence following the First World War. It was conquered again by the Nazis during the Second World and its people subjected to horrific atrocities. Poles, like all Slavs, were regarded as subhuman. They were rounded up to be used as slave labourers and racist laws put in place to prevent them marrying or having sexual relations with Aryan Germans. At the same time, the SS looked for Aryan bloodlines in the Polish population. Children with blonde hair were stolen and given to German Nazis to raise because of their assumed Aryan racial heritage. Polish villages were razed ready for German occupation and settlement. After the war Hitler planned to destroy their educational system and professional and intellectual classes and reduce them, along with the other Slavonic peoples like Russians, Ukrainians and Belorussians, to peasant farmers producing agricultural goods for the German settlers and overlords. After the Jews, the Poles formed the largest proportion of Nazi victims in the concentration camps.

After the War Poland was again under Russian domination as a satellite of the USSR. Stalin was brutal in his treatment of them and the other subjects of his new empire. Anyone who had been to the West was rounded up and massacred or sent to the gulags. There is also the infamous Katyn massacre. Initially blamed on the Nazis, this was the slaughter of Polish troopers by the KGB preparatory to the Soviet conquest. Stalin also deliberately held his troops back from liberating Warsaw so that the Nazis could finish putting down the uprising there.

Given this experience of foreign rule and conquest, I’m not surprised that the Polish government, which is extremely right-wing, reacted with such intolerance towards illegal immigration. Which, of course, doesn’t make it right.

My fear is that, with everything else the Tories are doing to erode and destroy British democracy, the approval of the use of such military force will lead, but by bit, to the establishment of real Fascism in Britain.

As for the arrest of someone simply for holding up a placard calling her one, I fail to see how that constitutes any kind of offence. He wasn’t violent nor did the placard incite anyone to violence. I don’t even think you can call it libellous, as people with intolerant, authoritarian personalities are called Fascists and Nazis all the time. This is shown very well in Godwin’s Law, the saying that every debate on the internet will always end with someone from one side or the other comparing their opponent to the Nazis. Unless someone made a serious claim that someone was a real member of a Nazi group, like the NF, BNP, British Movement, Column 88 or such like, I really wouldn’t have thought it qualifies as libel. And I certainly concur with Mike. In the case of Priti Patel it’s fair comment.

It seems to me that the arrest of this man for nothing more than expressing a reasonable opinion on a viciously intolerant Tory minister is itself an act of Fascism.

Alexander Bogdanov, Soviet SF Writer and Originator of Fully Automated Luxury Communism

September 18, 2021

One of my friends gave me a copy of A.M. Gittlitz’s I Want to Believe: Posadism, UFOs and Apocalypse Communism, for which I’m really grateful. It’s fascinating! Posadism is a weird Trotskyite sect, founded by Posadas, the nom-de-guerre of Homero Cristalli, an Argentinian Marxist. They were hardline Marxists, joining other Communist and Trotskyite guerrillas fighting a war against capitalism and Fascist oppression across Latin America and Cuba. From what I remember from an article about them in the Fortean Times, they also looked forward to an apocalyptic nuclear war that would destroy the capitalist nations and allow the workers of the world to seize power. This is frightening, as any such war would have destroyed the planet or at least killed countless billions and sent the survivors hurtling back into the Stone Age. Unfortunately, it was also shared by Chairman Mao, who really couldn’t believe why Khrushchev hadn’t launched a nuclear attack on America during the Cuban missile crisis. Khrushchev was certainly no angel. During Stalin’s reign he was responsible for organising purges of dissidents in Ukraine and when in power led a brutal crackdown on religion that sent thousands of people of faith, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, shamanists to the gulags. He was also responsible for creating the system of curtained shops which served only members of the Communist party. But in refusing to start a nuclear war, Khrushchev helped save the world and showed himself a far better man than Mao.

But Posadas also had some other, rather more eccentric views. He believed in establishing contact with intelligent aliens and also believed dolphins were another intelligent species with whom we should establish real, meaningful contact and understanding. A college friend of mine told me that they wanted to make contact with aliens because of their belief in the inevitable victory of Marxism. If there were alien civilisations, they reasoned, they would have achieved true, Marxist socialism and could therefore help us do the same. It sound completely bonkers, but they took their views on dolphin intelligence from the scientist and psychologist John Lilley. Many others shared their views. I have a feeling that dolphins feature in several of Larry Niven’s novels as intelligent creatures with whom humans have a relationship as equal species. To help them interact with us, they have been given artificial arms and mobile pods containing the water they need to support them.

There was a brief resurgence of Posadism on the Net in 2016, and the book contains amongst its illustrations a number of memes posted by them. One contrasts the despair and defeatism of capitalism and the mainstream socialist parties with Posadism. It features a grey alien looking on accompanied with slogans like ‘Solidarity with the space comrades’ – not ‘space brothers’, note, like the old-fashioned UFO contactees talked about, but Marxist aliens determined to overthrow capitalism. Other slogans included ‘It’s Communism, Jim, but not a we know it’, clearly a parody of the famous line from Star Trek, ‘It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it’. And there’s also a parody of one of the famous sayings of the Space Prophet himself, Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. The Posadist meme reworked this as ‘Dialectical Materialism so advanced as to be indistinguishable from magic.’ They are also in favour of fully automated luxury communism. This is the doctrine, embraced by Yannis Varoufakis amongst others, that mechanisation will make most workers redundant. To prevent the immense harm this will do, the only choice will be for the state to take over industry and run it so that everyone has free access to goods and services. This got reworked in one of the Posadist memes as ‘Fully automated luxury gay communism.’ I have to say this sounds distinctly unappealing. Not because I’m opposed to gay rights, but because it sounds like only gays will be allowed into the new utopia. I hope if it comes, it will benefit everyone, whatever their sexuality.

In fact the idea of fully automated luxury communism and alien contact goes back a long way in Marxist history. Alexander Bogdanov, an early rival to Marx, wrote an SF novel, Red Star. Inspired by Tsiolkovsky, the Russian rocket pioneer, and H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, this was about a revolutionary from the 1905 anti-Tsarist uprising, who is abducted to Mars. Martian society is advanced both technologically and socially. All the factories are automated, so that goods are plentiful and money is obsolete, as everyone has access to all the goods and services they need or want. As a result, Martians share their possessions. What work remains is entirely voluntary, but done idealistically for the good of society. This includes young Martians donating blood to increase the lives of the elderly. (see page 5 of the above book).

As the Bard says in The Tempest ‘Oh brave new world that hath such people in it!’

Posadas was an eccentric with some extremely dangerous views, but some of his ideas aren’t so daft. If mechanisation proceeds, then I feel that fully automated luxury communism, or something very like it, will have to come into existence. It’s the only humane alternative to the grind mass poverty and despair depicted in dystopian SF stories like 2000 AD’s ‘Judge Dredd’, where 95 per cent of the population of Megacity 1 is unemployed and films like Elysium, where the world’s masses live in shanty towns, workers are exploited and disposable, and the rich live in luxury orbital colonies.

And serious scientists are still looking for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence, following American astronomer Frank Drake and scientist and broadcaster Carl Sagan. Interestingly, the book states that Sagan, a Humanist and left-wing activist, denied being a Marxist. But he and his wife Anne Druyan smuggled copies of Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution, so that Soviet citizens could read its real, suppressed history. I think most SETI scientists believe that real aliens would probably be so different from us that their political and institutions may well be inapplicable to us. Nevertheless advocates of SETI believe that aliens may nevertheless be able to give us vital scientific information, including the cure of disease and how to extend our lifespan. It probably won’t be Marxism, but if the aliens do have something like it or Fascism, then these ideologies will become popular on Earth after contact.

Communist aliens sounds like a ridiculous idea, but until we make contact, we won’t know if there are or aren’t any.

As for the Martian society of Red Star, the absence of a money economy, the abolition of scarcity and work as a purely voluntary activity sound very much like the Federation in Star Trek. Thanks to contact with the Vulcans and other aliens, humans had overcome racism, poverty and starvation. People didn’t need to work, but they did so in order to better themselves. It should be said, though, that the series never openly advocated socialism. It simply said that ‘the economics of the future are different’ and implied that both capitalism and socialism had been transcended. Nevertheless, the parallels are so close that the far right, like Sargon of Gasbag and his fellow Lotus Eaters, have been moaning that Star Trek’s communist. I doubt it, not least because the actress who plays Seven Of Nine is married to a Republican politico. I think Star Trek is broadly liberal and presents an inspiring utopian society. One of the complaints about Star Trek: Picard is that it has now abandoned this utopian optimism in favour of portraying the Federation as a standard SF dystopia and that it’s liberal slant has become too shrill and intolerant at the expense of good stories, plots and characterisation. Utopias are unattainable, but we need them to inspire us, to show us that ‘another world is possible’ and that, in the words of The Style Council, ‘you don’t have to take this crap/ You don’t have to sit back and relax’. Or work yourselves to death to increase the profits of already bloated big business elites.

Apart from this, the book is also a fascinating look at the history of Marxism in Argentina and Latin America, and I intend to review on this blog when I finish it.

As for aliens, well, I’d rather we made contact with benign Space Comrades than the little Grey buggers that haunt our nightmares of UFOs, abductions and malign conspiracies at the moment.

And yes, the title very definitely is taken from the poster of a UFO hanging in Fox Mulder’s office in the X-Files.