Archive for the ‘Coal’ Category

Bristol’s Real Steampunk Car: The 1875 Grenville Steam Carriage

May 26, 2017

And now, a bit of fun before I return to hammering the Theresa May and the Tories for their seven years of misgovernment, malice, and general misery.

Steampunk is the subspecies of Science Fiction, which wonders what would have happened if the Victorians had invented computers, flying machines, space travel and so on. One of the founding texts of the genre is William Gibson’s and Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine (London: Victor Gollancz 1990), which imagines what Britain might have looked like if Charles Babbage’s pioneering mechanical computer, the Difference Engine, had actually been built and use by the British government. It’s set in an alternative history in which the Duke of Wellington and the Tory government of 1829 have been overthrown by a party of Industrial Radicals, led by Lord Byron. Instead of government by the landed aristocracy, the country is instead ruled by a scientific elite. Foremost of these is Byron’s daughter, Ada Lovelace, who wrote the first computer programme for the machine. Apart from the Difference Engine itself, which is used by various government departments to solve not only statistical and technical problems, but which also records images and information like a modern computer, the streets are packed with steam carriages, and the British army also uses steam driven armoured cars to carry troops to suppress industrial unrest.

In fact, as I’ve blogged about previously, a number of steam carriages and cars were built throughout the 19th century before the emergence of the internal combustion engine and the modern car.

R.N. Grenville in the steam carriage with his family and servants outside Butleigh Court c. 1895.

One of these vehicles, the Grenville Steam Carriage, was designed in 1875 by Robert Neville Grenville of Glastonbury in Somerset. He was aided by George Churchward, who later became the chief mechanical engineer of the Great Western Railway. After taking part in the 1946 London Jubilee Cavalcade in Regent’s Park, it was presented the following year to the City Museum in Bristol by Grenville’s nephew, Captain P.L. Neville. Over twenty years later the Museum’s Technology Conservator, F.J. Lester, carried out an overhaul of the vehicle with the ship repairers, Messrs Jefferies Ltd. of Avonmouth. It took part in the Lord Mayor’s Jubilee Procession in Bristol in 1977, before being displayed in the Industrial Museum in Bristol.

The City Museum published a leaflet about the vehicle, written by the director of the Industrial Museum, Andy King, the Curator of Technology, P. Elkin, and with a drawing of the carriage by F.J. Lester.

The leaflet states that Grenville and Churchward had been engineering pupils together at the workshops of the South Devon Railway in Newton Abbott, and remained friends throughout their lives. Most of the carriage was probably built at Grenville’s home in Butleigh Court in Glastonbury, where he had an extensive workshop. Some parts of it, such as the wheels, may have been made under Churchward’s supervision at the G.W.R.’s workshops in Swindon. Although the vehicle was designed in 1875, it was actually built over a period of 15 years, as components were adapted and altered according to a lengthy process of trial and error.

The carriage itself was more similar to the railway engines of the time than horse-drawn carriages. The boiler, engine, shaft-bearings, rear spring brackets and front suspension were supported by a frame of 4″ x 2″ girders. It had three wheels, composed of sixteen section of teak banded with an iron tyre. This was the same as the ‘Mansell’ wheel used in railway carriages from 1860 to 1910.

It possessed the same type of vertical boiler used in the steam fire engines of the time. It was believed that this was made by one of the companies that made them, Shand Mason & Co. The steam carriage also had one of these boilers after it was renovated. The boiler was supplied with water from a tank slung underneath the carriage by an injector.

The carriage was originally powered by a single cylinder engine mounted on the boiler. This was later replaced by a twin-cylinder engine.

Photo from The Garage & Motor Agent showing the steam carriage and an 1898 Benz in the 1946 Jubilee Cavalcade of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

The carriage was operated by a crew of three – the driver, brakeman and a fireman, and there were also seats for four passengers. The driver steered the vehicle using a tiller system, as on ships; he also controlled the throttle, cut off levers and a whistle, which he worked with a pedal. The law stipulated that vehicles like the steam carriage had to carry a brakeman, who sat on the right-hand side of the driver and controlled the brakes, which were wooden blocks. The fireman also had his own small seat in the engine compartment.

The car consumed five gallons of water and 6 pounds of coal per mile, and on the flat could reach the astonishing speed of just under 20 miles an hour on the flat.

Grenville probably lost interest in the steam carriage just to its poor performance. It appeared at the same time as more efficient steam cars were being built in America, and the modern cars, driven by petrol and the internal combustion engine also appeared.

Before it was acquired by the City Museum, the carriage was used from 1898 to 1902 as a stationery engine to drive a cider mill at Butleigh Court. It was lent after Grenville’s death in 1936 to John Allen & Sons of Cowley in Oxfordshire, who rebuilt it, replacing the boiler and rear axle.

Next week on Radio 4 there’s a programme discussing the lack of people studying engineering, and asking what could be done to inspire more students to take up the subject.

I wondered if part of the solution might be to harness the immense interest the public has in cars, motorbikes and other motor vehicles as well as steam punk enthusiasts. Many proud owners of cars and bikes spend hours caring for and repairing their vehicles as a hobby, quite apart on the volunteers who give their labour and support to organisations like the former Industrial Museum helping to restore historic vehicles and other machines. There’s quite a large community of people, who design and make their own steampunk SF costumes and machines. And some of them have already built their alternative steam punk cars as a hobby. It might be possible to encourage more budding engineers and inventors of the future by showing some of the amazing machines built by the Victorians, which have formed the basis for this genre of Science Fiction and the worlds of wonder its writers have imagined.

The Industrial Museum was closed long ago, and its site is now that of Bristol’s M Shed, which has many of the old exhibits from its predecessor. I don’t know if the Grenville Steam Carriage is one of them, but it may well be, either on display or in storage.

Zionist Collaboration with Nazi Germany: Tony Greenstein’s Refutation of Anti-Semitism Smears against Livingstone

May 24, 2017

Back in April, Tony Greenstein wrote a series of articles about Zionist collaboration with the Nazis in support of Ken Livingstone. Livingstone, along with too many others, including Mike, has been smeared as an anti-Semite because of his criticisms of Israel and Zionism. Livingstone when he was leader of the GLC was notoriously anti-racist, and his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour, not only shows his very firm support for ethnic minorities, it also heartily condemns the British state’s recruitment of former Nazis and Nazi collaborators as part of their strategy to undermine and contain Communism during the Cold War. Those given sanctuary in Britain, often in the mining industry, were men, who had actively participated in the Holocaust and the pogroms against the Jews in eastern Europe. They had committed some of the most heinous and sickening crimes against humanity.

But no matter. Livingstone was smeared as an anti-Semite, because he had dared to say that Hitler had briefly supported sending Jews to Israel.

He had. This was the Ha’avara agreement. It was an early pact with the Zionist leaders in Palestine to smuggle Jews there as part of their efforts to build the future Jewish state. Hitler only supported it from expediency. He was never a Zionist, but he did want to expel the Jews from Germany using any means he could.

Nevertheless, the Ha’avara agreement is a documented historical fact. And Greenstein in the article below shows that it was a hardly a secret. The Nazis had a medal struck to commemorate Baron von Mildenstein’s diplomatic visit to the Zionist authorities in Palestine. Von Mildenstein was head of the Jewish desk of the Gestapo, the infamous Nazi intelligence agency. The medal bore the legend

‘Ein Nazi Faehrt Nach Palastina Und Erzaehlt Davon in Angriff’.
This roughly translates as ‘A Nazi Travels to Palestine and Tells the Story about it in the Angriff. Angriff, which means ‘Attack’ in German, was one of the Nazi newspapers, along with the vile Der Sturmer.

On their side, the Zionist press ran a cartoon of a depressed Adolf slumped at his desk, drunk, and with a gun in front of him. One of his brown shirts is seen bursting into the room, waving a piece of paper. The caption, in Hebrew, reads ‘Don’t worry Hitler, the Jews of Palestine are helping you’.

Greenstein’s article also shows the cover and discusses the contents of a book on the Ha’avara agreement, The Transfer Agreement: The Dramatic Story of the Pact Between the Nazis and Jewish Palestine, by the right-wing Zionist historian, Edwin Black.

He also shows up the hypocrisy of the Daily Express attack on Livingstone as an anti-Semite, when that paper, along with the Daily Mail, was venomously pro-Hitler. There’s a photograph of the front page from 1933 with the vile headline ‘Judea Declares War on Germany – Jews of all the world unite in action’. This laid the blame for the Nazi persecution of the Jews firmly on the victims themselves, and was repeatedly used by the Nazis in their propaganda, citing it as proof that they were attacking the Jews for reasons of self-defence.

Much of the article is devoted to refuting the claims of Professor Rainer Schulze, a German historian, who had weighed in against Livingstone a year earlier on this issue. Schulze claimed that Zionism and Nazism did not share the same goals. But as Greenstein shows, they certainly shared some.

For example, the Zionist newspaper, Judisches Rundschau carried an article on its front page supporting the infamous Nuremberg Laws, which stripped Jews of German citizenship. He also notes how prominent Zionist organisations, including Mapai in Palestine, and Jewish organisations that had been dominated by them, such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews, actively campaigned against the trade boycott of Nazi Germany. Greenstein also quotes other historians of the Third Reich, and even Reinhard Heydrich, writing in the SS newspapers, Die Schwarze Korps, that the Nazis were keen to promote Zionism amongst German Jews.

Moreover, in June 1933 the German Zionist Federation sent this memo to Hitler claiming that that they and he had similar interests. This said

On the foundation of the new state, which has established the principle of race… fruitful activity for the fatherland is possible. Our acknowledgement of Jewish nationality provides for a clear and sincere relationship to the German people and its national and racial realities. Precisely because we don’t wish to falsify these fundamentals, because we too are against mixed marriages and are for maintaining the purity of the Jewish group…. Boycott propaganda… is in essence fundamentally unZionist, because Zionism wants not to do battle but to convince and to build.

He also quotes other Zionist leaders, like David Ben-Gurion, who stated very clearly that they only supported the emigration of Jews from Nazi Germany if they came to Palestine. As for the transfer agreement, by which Jews were allowed to send their finances to Israel, the Zionists made it very clear that this was about securing investment for the future Jewish state. The survival of the people, who sent it, was much less of a priority.

Greenstein also refutes the Zionist claim that describing Israel as a colonialist settler state is somehow horribly anti-Semitic, simply by showing how the Zionist leaders described it as such themselves. Herzl described it as such in a letter to that most notorious of British colonialists, Cecil Rhodes. And Vladimir Jabotinsky also described the Jewish settlement of Palestine, and the consequent forcible expulsion of the indigenous Palestinians, as ‘colonial’.

Greenstein concludes

There isn’t even one instance of any reference to a ‘national liberation movement’ in the writings of the founders of Zionism. Zionism only became a national liberation movement when colonialism got a bad name! Today’s Zionists have decided to disguise what even the Zionists themselves used to admit was a colonialist movement in the apparel of the oppressed in order to deceive the innocent. Rainer Schulze’s history lessons are in reality an act of deception.

Rainer Schulze finished his article by indulging in a piece of straw man rhetoric:

‘Any claim that Nazis and Zionists ever shared a common goal is not only cynical and disingenuous, but a distortion of clearly established historical fact.’

That is, of course, true. But no one has claimed that they shared common goals. Clearly the Zionists didn’t support the mass genocide of European Jewry. Marshall Petain collaborated with the Nazis but that doesn’t mean he supported the aims of the Nazis. He collaborated because he didn’t want a Nazi occupation of France. When a weaker party collaborates with a stronger party they rarely if ever share the same goals. Unfortunately Professor Schulze, having very little knowledge or understanding of the topic he wrote about decided to engage in an old debating tactic. Attack something your opponent hasn’t said!

http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/ken-livingstone-faces-labours-star.html

This effectively refutes the main charge of anti-Semitism against Ken Livingstone, though the terror of Maggie Thatcher and the Jewish Labour Movement has said other things since, which are not supported by historical fact.

It also helps to clear Mike of the libel against him, as Mike also did not say that Hitler was a Zionist. In fact, the woefully misnamed Campaign Against Anti-Semitism itself tacitly recognised that fact in its article against Mike, as it deliberately misquotes him and accuses him of saying things he never said.

Mike, and those he defended, are not anti-Semites. They were decent men and women. Some of them were Jews, and the gentile friends of Jews, who had dedicated their careers to fighting racism in all its forms, including anti-Semitism. Many of them had suffered real, anti-Semitic attacks themselves, or had close family who had.

It is a disgrace and complete travesty that these people should be so smeared. It is not Mike and people like Livingstone, Jackie Walker, and many, many others, who have lied and misused history. It is the Zionists of the Jewish Labour Movement and their allies in the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. They are the real hate-mongers in this.

Vox Political: Theresa May Has Called Army In, But Only Because She Cut the Police

May 24, 2017

The papers this morning were full of the story that May has put the army back onto Britain’s streets in the aftermath of the terror attack in Manchester last night. However, as Mike reports, this isn’t because the threat is one that can only be combated by the army. It’s simply because May has cut the numbers of the police so low that there simply aren’t enough of them to protect the public during this crisis.

Mike reblogs a piece from Harvey John Brown discussing an interview with a security expert on Radio 4 that morning. The security expert stated that the army was being called in, but would only be deployed in certain key points, and would be under the control of the cops. This was to free up the police for other duties.

The interviewer then drew the obvious conclusion that the army had been called in because of a shortage in available police officers. Which the security expert confirmed.

Mr Brown was very unimpressed with this, posting

Troops on the street is not because the threat level has been raised to critical but because the then-Home Secretary, the PM who now wants your vote, has cut police numbers to a level that puts the people she wants to vote for her in danger.

Strong and Stable? .. More a danger to me and my family.

Mike also concludes

Yes. Theresa May is a danger to us all. So is any Conservative government.

The only way back to sanity is to vote Labour on June 8.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/24/theresa-may-endangered-every-one-of-us-by-cutting-police-numbers/

There’s another dimension to this scandal, quite apart from the fact, which has been point out above, that May has endangered British lives and property through her wretched cuts to the police force.

It is that it flatly refutes one of the standard lies that the Tories regularly trot out: that they are the party of law and order, and that only by voting Conservative will you have a strong enough government capable of tackling any terrorist threat.

Maggie Thatcher, remember, was the Prime Minister who really loved the ‘strong state’ as she called it. By which she meant not state control and provision of essential services, the NHS and the welfare state. No! She wanted to get rid of those for the profit of her friends and paymasters in big business.

The ‘strong state’ she raved about and wished to strengthen even further were the security services, the armed forces and the police. She poured resources into the cops at the same time she used them to crush the miners. Anyone of any influence on the left was spied on by MI5, or smeared as an agent of Moscow.

And she did everything possible to play up the threat of the IRA, the British victory in the Falklands conflict, and the Second World War. The Tory election broadcast for 1987 showed footage of Spitfires careening across the sky, while the voiceover yelled that ‘man was born free’ before ending with ‘It’s great – to be great again’.

This was too much for Alan Coren, the former editor of Punch, who joked about the Battle of Britain being fought by the Royal Conservative Air Force on the News Quiz.

At the same time, Thatcher’s real support for the police and armed forces was always a matter of expedience. Once they had served their role in the Tory destruction of the unions, the benefits she had granted the cops were cut along with the numbers of coppers on the beat. The armed forces have also been cut, and cut again, with squaddies often thrown onto the streets with little preparation or support for their new lives as civilians. After Gulf War I there were serious concerns about the rise in poverty and homelessness amongst former squaddies, who had lost their careers in the services due to Maggie’s and the Tories’ cuts.

As for the Falklands War, which the Tories used to whip up support for Maggie as the great Churchillian war leader, that broke out because Maggie and the Tories were actually cutting back Britain’s armed forces. The naval ships guarding the Falklands were withdrawn, even though it was known that the Argentinians were build up their forces in the areas just opposite the Islands.

And we very nearly lost. We only won because we were aided by that butcher Pinochet in Chile, and because Maggie persuaded Ronald Reagan to support us. There’s a story going round that he originally wanted her to hand the Falklands over to the Argentinians, until she gave him an earful. If that’s true, and if Reagan had refused American aid, the result would have been a repeat of Suez under Anthony Eden – complete humiliation for us.

And as very many people, including myself have pointed out, the Tories are massively hypocritical in their attacks on Jeremy Corbyn for his support for open talks with the IRA in the 1980s, as they were doing exactly the same in secret. But publicly they maintain a face of stout resolution against dealing with terrorists, while also using the SAS as undercover death squads to assassinate leading Republicans in Ulster.

Mike has put up another post about the way the Tories are now using fear to try to boost their falling popularity and get votes through putting the armed forces on our streets, justifying this as necessary to provide security.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/24/now-theresa-may-is-using-fear-to-win-the-election/

In fact, the Tories’ cuts to the armed forces and the police, carried out by David Cameron and now Theresa May, have made Britain less secure, and more vulnerable to crime and terrorist attack.

The image of the Tories as great warriors, bravely defending this green and pleasant land from all enemies, domestic and foreign, is the purest bilge.

Don’t be taken in.

Vote for genuine peace and security.
Vote Labour June 8th.

Lobster on the Real Reason Britain Didn’t Deport Nazi War Criminal to the Soviet Union in ’70s

March 14, 2017

I found this little snippet in Lobster 41 for Summer, 2001, on reason Britain refused to deport Anton Gecas, a Nazi collaborator and war criminal, to the Soviet Union in the 1970s: he was a British intelligence and Special Branch spy during the 1974 miners’ strike. Here’s the article.

Gecas and Special Branch

A wonderful example of the reach and power of intelligence connections was provided in January. Why did the British state refuse to extradite Anton Gecas, the WW2 Lithuanian war criminal, to the Soviet Union in 1976? Turns out not only had Gecas worked for SIS at the end of WW2, he’d worked for Special Branch in the 1970s, snitching on the miners during the miners’ strike of 1974!

A report in the Edinburgh daily paper, the Scotsman (15 January):

‘Although Gecas was named by the Nazi-hunting organisation the Simon Wiesenthal Centre as the most wanted Nazi war criminal alive, a two-year investigation by the Special War Crimes Unit concluded that there was insufficient evidence. The decision, announced by the Crown Office in February 1994 caused many people to suspect that Gecas was enjoying protection. According to a source close to the inquiry, investigators were perturbed to discover that witnesses who had freely given evidence against Gecas in the defamation trial [brought by Gecas in 1992] were reluctant to testify in a criminal court or claimed they had forgotten much of the detail of the alleged atrocities. The source said: “I have absolutely no doubt that someone or something got to them before we did” (emphasis added).

‘Red’ Ken Livingstone devotes a couple of chapters in his 1987 book, Livingstone’s London, to describing and condemning the recruitment of Nazi war criminals by British and US intelligence as part of their campaign against Communism. He discusses how many of them were given jobs in the mining industry, where naturally there was friction, not least because the Nazis’ SS and other Third Reich tattoos were clearly visible in the pithead showers.

The Leninist newt-fancier was loudly denounced by the Blairites last year as an anti-Semite, because he dared to state the historical fact that the Israelis and Nazis initially collaborated in Jewish emigration to Palestine, then under the British mandate. As his book shows, the man Private Eye calls ‘Leninspart’ is very far from an anti-Semite. He was right about Zionist collaboration with the Nazis, as amply demonstrated by John Newsinger in Lobster. And he’s right about the British and American spooks’ recruitment of Nazis. They were here, in England, and spying on decent Socialists and trade unionists.

Schools Display and Document Folder on the 1920s General Strike

March 13, 2017

The General Strike: Jackdaw No.l05, compiled by Richard Tames (London, New York and Toronto: Jackdaw Publications Ltd, Grossman Publishers Inc., and Clarke, Irwin and Company 1972)

I picked this up about 20 years ago in one of the bargain bookshops in Bristol’s Park Street. Jackdaw published a series of folders containing reproduction historical texts and explanatory posters and leaflets on variety of historical topics and events, including the Battle of Trafalgar, the slave trade, the voyages of Captain Cook, Joan of Arc, the Anglo-Boer War, the rise of Napoleon, Ned Kelley and Wordsworth. They also published another series of document folders on specifically Canadian themes, such as the Indians of Canada, the Fenians, Louis Riel, Cartier of Saint Malo, the 1867 confederation of Canada, the vote in Canada from 1791 to 1891, the Great Depression, Laurier, and Canada and the Civil War.

This particular folder is on the 1926 general strike, called by the TUC when the Samuel Commission, set up to report into the state of the mining industry, published its report. This recommended that the mines should be reorganised, but not nationalised, and although the miners were to get better working conditions and fringe benefits, they would have to take a pay cut. The folder included a poster giving a timeline of the strike and the events leading up to it, and photos of scenes from it, including volunteer constables practising self-defence, office girls travelling to work by lorry, the Conservative prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, and buses and train signal boxes staffed by volunteers. There’s also a Punch cartoon commenting on the end of the Strike. It also contains a leaflet explaining the various documents in the folder, along suggested projects about the issue and a short bibliography.

Poster and timeline of the Strike

Leaflet explaining the documents

The facsimile documents include

1. A leaflet arguing the Miner’s case.

2. Telegram from the Transport and General Workers’ Union to a local shop steward, calling for preparations for the strike.

3. Pages from the Daily Worker, the official paper of the T.U.C. during the Strike.

4. Notice from the Met calling for special constables.

5. Communist Party leaflet supporting the Strike.

6. Handbill giving the proposals of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the leaders of the Free Churches for an end to the Strike.

7. Handbill denouncing the strike as ‘The Great ‘Hold-Up’.
The accompanying pamphlet states that this was very far from the truth, and that it was a government lie that the T.U.C. were aiming at a revolution.

8. Emergency edition of the Daily Express.

9. Conservative PM Stanley Baldwin’s guarantee of employment to strike-breakers.

10. Contemporary Analysis of the causes of the Strike’s failure, from the Public Opinion.

11. The British Gazette, the government’s official paper, edited by Winston Churchill.

12. Anonymous letter from a striker recommending that the T.U.C. shut off the electricity.

13. Appeal for aid to Miner’s wives and dependents.

14. Protest leaflet against Baldwin’s ‘Blacklegs’ Charter’.

The General Strike was one of the great events of 20th century labour history, and its collapse was a terrible defeat that effectively ended revolutionary syndicalism and guild socialism as a major force in the labour movement. It left a legacy of bitterness that still persists in certain areas today.

The jackdaw seems to do a good job of presenting all sides of the issue, and the final section of the explanatory leaflet urges children to think for themselves about it. And one of the folder’s features that led me to buy it was the fact that it contained facsimile reproductions of some of the papers, flyers, letters and telegrams produced by the strikers arguing their case.

Looking through the folder’s contents it struck me that the strike and the issues it raised are still very much relevant in the 21 century, now almost a century after it broke it. It shows how much the Tories and the rich industrialists were determined to break the power of the unions, as well as the sheer hostility of the press. The Daily Express has always been a terrible right-wing rag, and was solidly Thatcherite and anti-union, anti-Labour in the 1980s. Since it was bought by Richard Desmond, apparently it’s become even more virulently right-wing and anti-immigrant – or just plain racist – than the Daily Heil.

The same determination to break their unions, and the miners in particular, was shown by Thatcher during the Miner’s Strike in the 1980s, again with the solid complicity of the media, including extremely biased and even falsified reporting from the BBC. It was her hostility to the miners and their power which partly led Thatcher to privatise and decimate the mining industry, along with the rest of Britain’s manufacturing sector. And these attitudes have persisted into the governments of Cameron and May, and have influenced Tony Blair and ‘Progress’ in the Labour party, who also bitterly hate the unions and anything that smacks of real working class socialism.

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.

Vox Political on the Tory DWP Chiefs Forcing Paraplegic Miners to be Continually Reassassed

December 21, 2016

Yesterday Mike also put up a story about a protest by Alan Cummings, the secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, against the DWP’s insistence that two miners should reapply for their ESA benefit. The two men had been made paraplegic in mining accident 25 years ago, and had not worked since. Nevertheless, the DWP still wanted them to fill in ‘a labyrinth of forms’, according to Mr Cummings, who accused the Department of acting like Scrooge.

Mike states that a spokesperson for the Department has tried to fend off these criticisms by claiming that Personal Independent Payment is a ‘dynamic’ benefit, which needs to reassessed as claimants needs change.

Mike makes the point that this statement is inapplicable, as they were claiming ESA, not PIP. Furthermore, the men had not worked for 25 years, and so were obviously extremely unlikely to find work now.

The spokesperson also announced that the government was going to make sure that in the most serious cases, people receiving ESA would no longer be required to be continually reassessed. Further details would be announced in due course.

Mike concludes that this looks like another case of official harassment to deter the former miners from receiving benefit, before the new legislation was brought in which would prevent this.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/21/tory-dwp-chiefs-know-paraplegic-miners-cant-work-but-still-make-them-take-reassessments/

This follows all the previous cases in which the DWP has harassed and hounded severely disabled and terminally ill people with demands that they be reassessed for their benefit. Such as the incidents where amputees have been asked when they expect their missing limbs to grow back, as if they were the shed tails of lizards. Or found people in comas, dying of cancer, ‘fit for work’.

As for this new legislation, which will exempt the most extreme cases from reassessment, I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for it. The Tories have shown themselves to be inveterate, shameless liars, always making promises they have absolutely no intention of keeping. Such as Cameron’s claim that NHS spending would be ‘ring-fenced’ against cuts. Or May’s promise to put employees in the boardroom. Or all the lies about not privatising the NHS. I think this statement is another lie, and that the Tories have absolutely no intention of exempting anything from their policy of harassing people to deter them from claiming benefit.

Vox Political on the Continuing Relevance of Kirsty MacColl

December 18, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has written a short piece, remembering how it was 16 years ago today that the world heard the sad news of the death of the singer and songwriter, Kirsty MacColl. Mike states that listening to the lyrics of her 1989 track, Free World, it seems that very little has changed, and that we need more singers like her.

See his article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/18/kirsty-maccoll-died-16-years-ago-today-but-her-music-is-as-relevant-as-ever/#comment-92400, where there’s a video of her singing this.

I’m not surprised that MacColl was politically engaged, as I think her father was the folk musician, Communist and conscientious objector Ewan MacColl. And Mike’s right – we do need more musicians like her. The 1980s were a very bleak time, with Maggie in No. 10 shutting hospitals and schools, among too many other closures. But it was also a time of very politically engaged music by the very talented musicians that emerged in the decade. UB40 took their name from the unemployment benefit form. There was Billy Bragg, singing his ‘urban folk’ songs about the miners during the Miner’s Strike. And Joanna, one of the commenters on Mike and this blog, also notes in her comment that the Style Council’s ‘Walls Come Tumbling Down’ is also acutely relevant, as song of resistance to everything Thatcher and the Tories represent. That had the lyrics

‘You don’t have to take this cr*p,
You don’t have to sit back and relax
You can try and change it…
Lights go out,
Walls come tumbling down’.

Here’s a video of Paul Weller explaining why he puts his politics into music, and the band playing that same track.

The Young Turks: Germany Shows Renewable Energy Not Only Possible, but Extremely Effective

October 1, 2016

This is simply amazing, and really inspirational. In this piece by The Young Turks’ anchor Hasan Piker, they discuss how the Germans a few years ago proved that renewable energy from solar power, wind and biomass generators, can provide an extremely effective, cost-efficient and highly competitive alternative to fossil fuels. Germany is the third largest economy in the world. It is the economic powerhouse of Europe, and consumes more energy than most European countries. But it seems on one day a few years ago, Green energy provided for a few hours 87 per cent of the country’s energy. For a few moments, energy prices actually went negative, meaning that the power companies were actually paying citizens for consuming it. The Germans were able to achieve this, as they have massively invested in solar power and wind energy. The country aims to achieve 100 per cent reliance on Green energy, instead of fossil fuels, by 2050, and is well on its way there.

Mr Piker cites an academic study that says that America could also achieve the same, but Green energy in the US is held back through the massive subsidies given to the fossil fuel industries. Coal and oil are at the moment vastly cheaper in America than their renewable alternatives, which obviously discourages uptake. And also Green energy is at a massive disadvantage because of the power of the fossil fuel lobby.

Mr Piker ends on an optimistic note, stating rather mischievously that America has beaten Germany once before, while behind him plays footage of Nazis from World War II. And with the future of the whole human species at stake, America can do so again.

No, Owen Smith, You and Neil Coyle are Not the Spiritual Heirs of Clem Atlee and Nye Bevan

September 18, 2016

Mike last week ran a couple of stories, which included amongst their other details the facts that Smudger and another Blairite, Neil Coyle, now seem to be trying to convince the public that rather than being neoliberal privatisers, they are really the spiritual heirs of Clement Atlee, Nye Bevan and ’45 Labour government that set up the welfare state and the NHS.

Last Friday, 9th September 2016, Mike commented on an article from Left Foot Forward commenting on how Smudger had been booed by the Corbynistas after he yet again invoked the memory of Nye Bevan, the architect of the NHS. Left Foot Forward commented that both sides were invoking this iconic statesman, but that their attempts to hark back to him were problematic because of the contradictory nature of his ideas.

Mike commented

Is it true that both sides of the current Labour debate will invoke the memory of Aneurin Bevan? I’ve only heard Owen Smith doing it – and inaccurately.

It seems more likely that Mr Smith wants reflected glory – he says he’s a fan of Mr Bevan so he must be okay as well – than to actually call on any of the late Mr Bevan’s political thought, which would be so far removed from the policies of Mr Smith’s strain of Labour that it would seem alien.

And concluded

You don’t see Mr Corbyn invoking Bevan at the drop of a pin, do you?

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/09/smith-compares-himself-to-bevan-because-he-seeks-reflected-glory-it-isnt-working/

Then Neil Coyle, one of the Blairites, started to bluster about how he was also a true, traditional member of the Labour party after he appeared in a list of 14 MPs Jeremy Corbyn’s followers wished to complain about for their abusive behaviour. Coyle insisted that he had been ‘defamed’ because the complaint was specifically against him for accusing Corbyn of being a ‘fake’. The trouble for Coyle was, he had indeed called Corbyn a fake, and been forced to apologise for it. He also accused Corbyn and his supporters of creating a victim culture, which must surely be a case of projection. This is, after all, what New Labour has been trying to do with its constant accusations of misogyny and anti-Semitism against Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum.

In his own defence, Coyle sputtered

“I am a Labour MP, joined Labour as soon as I could and will always be tribal Labour. I voted for a Labour manifesto commitment today based on decades of policy begun by Attlee and was in my manifesto last May. Couldn’t be more ashamed by fake Labour voting against internationalism, collectivism, security and jobs today. Time for a new leader who shares Labour values. Join now.”

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/15/neil-coyle-should-not-use-words-like-defamation-when-he-doesnt-understand-them/

Now as Mike points out in his article on Smudger and Nye Bevan, the NHS is an iconic institution with immense symbolic value, so naturally Smudger wants to identify himself with its founder. The trouble is, he and Coyle are polar opposites to what Atlee and Bevan actually stood for.

Both of them were classic old Labour. The 1945 Labour government had put in its manifesto that it was going to create the NHS, and nationalise the electricity, coal and gas industries, as well as the railways and other parts of the transport infrastructure. This was part of the socialist ideology that the workers’ should take into their hands the means of production, distribution and exchange. Bevan himself was a champagne socialist – he got on very well with the circles of elite businessmen in which he moved. But he despised the Tories as ‘vermin’, and his book, In Place of Fear, made it very clear that he felt alienated in Westminster because it was a palace created by the ruling classes to celebrate their power against working people. He was resolutely determined that the NHS should be universal, state-owned, and free at the point of service. It’s true that like some other politicians, he considered charging hospital patients a ‘hotel’ charge for taking up beds, but he dropped this idea. And the reason he left office was in disgust at the introduction of prescription charges.

This is in exact opposition to Blair and his ideological descendants in Progress, Saving Labour and Tomorrow’s Labour. Blair vastly extended the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS, quite apart from demanding the repeal of Clause 4, which committed the party to nationalisation. He and his followers, Smudger, Coyle and the like, stand for privatisation and the dismantlement of the welfare state. While Bevan wanted to remove the fear of want and destitution from millions of the working class, Blair and co have striven with the Tories to bring it back, through measures designed to ingratiate themselves with the Tory press. Such as the introduction of the Work Capability Test, which was launched after a conference in the early 2000s with the Labour party in consultation with insurance fraudsters, Unum, and which specifically assumes most disabled people claiming benefit are malingerers. And then there was the case of Rachel Reeves declaring that New Labour would be even harder on benefit claimants than the Tories. Quite apart from approving comments from New Labour apparatchiks about the wonders of workfare.

As for Coyle’s claim that he supports ‘internationalism and collectivism’, you to have to wonder when. For many on the left, who consider themselves ‘internationalists’, the term does not include imperialism and the invasion of other, poorer nations for corporate profit. But this is what Blair’s foreign policy – the invasion and occupation of Iraq consisted of, just as his successors, Cameron and May, are also imperialists. Mike states in one of his pieces that he doesn’t know how many of the 552 MPs, who voted for air strikes in Syria, were Labour; but he does know that two, who voted against it, were Corbyn and John McDonnell.

As for ‘collectivism’, it should be noted that this is not the same as ‘socialism’. Blair claimed to be a collectivist in making private enterprise work for the community as part of his vaunted Third Way. Which incidentally was the claim of the Fascists. In practice, however, this meant nothing more or less than the continuation of Thatcherism. This was shown very clearly by the way Blair invited her round to No. 10 after he won the election, and the favouritism he showed to Tory defectors.

So no, Owen Smith and Neil Coyle are not the spiritual heirs of Atlee and Bevan. Whereas the latter stood for the welfare state, socialism and improving conditions for the working class, Smith and Coyle have done the precise opposite, as have their followers. Mike also reported this week that in 2014 the Labour party conference voted down a motion to renationalise the NHS. This shows how far New Labour and its supporters have moved from Atlee’s and Bevan’s vision. They are Conservative entryists, who deserve to be treated as such, and removed from power before they do any more harm.