Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Anti-Fascist Songs by Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly

February 19, 2017

I think my political views and biases have made an impression on the search engines on YouTube, as these came up in the ‘recommended’ and ‘you may also like’ bars. Not that I mind – they’re classic, American working class folk and jazz. The machines decided that I might like Woody Guthrie’s Tear the Fascist Down, and All You Fascists Bound to Lose, as well as Mr. Hitler by the Blues/Jazz legend Huddie William Leadbetter, or Leadbelly.

Here’s Tear the Fascist Down

All You Fascists Bound to Lose

Mr. Hitler

It’s a bitter fact of history that at the time Leadbelly was singing this, Blacks were still very much treated as second class citizens with Segregation in the south. Still, he was absolutely right to lampoon and attack Hitler. I also think that popular music had a strong role in bringing Blacks and Whites together to challenge racism. The Nazis hated Jazz. They regarded it as ‘Negro music’, whose raw sexuality was corrosive of White culture and would corrupt virtuous White youth. But it and Blues very swiftly became popular amongst Whites as well as Blacks, and produced numerous ‘White Negroes’ like ‘Mezz’ Mezzrow, who not only listened to Black music, but were highly sympathetic to the people and their sufferings, which produced it. And the same thing happened later when Rock ‘n’ Roll emerged from the fusion of Black barrelhouse Jazz and White Country music. A few years ago I was watching a rock documentary, which mentioned Little Richard. One of the speakers was a Black musician, who remembered how the crowd at dance halls were divided before Little Richard came along. The floor of the dance hall was clustered with Black people dancing, while the Whites tended to cluster around the edges. ‘White spectators, we called ’em’, he recalled. Then when Little Richard came along, the Whites joined the Blacks on the dancefloor. ‘And so we had integration before Dr. Luther King’, the muso concluded.

Absolutely. And the very best popular has been entertaining, uplifting and drawing people together ever since.

William Blum’s List of American Foreign Interventions: Part 1

February 15, 2017

Yesterday I put up a piece about American hypocrisy in the allegations that Putin was blackmailing Donald Trump, when the Americans themselves interfered in the Russian elections in 1996 in order to secure Boris Yeltsin’s election as Russian president. This was, however, hardly the first time America had intervened in the domestic politics of a foreign country. William Blum devotes two chapters to this in his book, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower. In one he lists the various interventions America has made in other countries, including invasions and military coups, and in the other cases where America has interfered with the conduct of elections in order to secure a win for their favoured candidates.

Both of these are very long and ignominious lists. Here’s part 1 of a list of foreign interventions by the US.

American Interventions

China 1945-51
Aiding Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang against Mao’s Communists.

France 1947
Backing French Socialist party against the Communists, using Corsican mobsters to attack Communist party and Communist-aligned trade unionists.

Marshall Islands 1946-58
Indigenous people of Bikini Atoll removed from the island in order to make way for nuclear tests.

Italy 1947-1970s
Backing Conservative Christian Democrats to keep the Socialists and Communists out of power.

Greece 1947-9
Backing neo-Fascists and creating intelligence unit for them in the civil war against the Communists.

Philippines 1945-53
Military actions against the left-wing Huk forces.

Korea 1945-53
Korean War. However, afterwards US backed Conservatives, who had collaborated with the Japanese, and Fascist dictators, also committed atrocities against fleeing civilians.

Albania 1949-53
Backing anti-Communist guerillas, most of whom were collaborators with the Nazis and Italian Fascists.

Eastern Europe 1948-1956
Head of CIA Allen Dulles deliberately heightened paranoia in the eastern bloc, causing hundreds of thousands of imprisonments, purge trials and murders by the Communist regimes.

Germany 1950s
Lengthy campaign of terrorism, dirty tricks and sabotage against East Germany.

Iran 1953
Prime Minister Mossadegh overthrown by CIA and British led coup, as dared nationalise what is now British Petroleum oilfields.

Guatemala 1953-1990s
CIA backed Fascist coup against democratic socialist Jacobo Arbenz for nationalising plantations owned by American company, United Fruit. Result: forty years of terror, with 200,000 people murdered.

Costa Rica mid-1950s and 1970-1
Attempted assassination of liberal democratic president, Jose Figueres, because considered too soft on the left, and for making his nation the first in Central America to establish diplomatic links with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and questioning American foreign policy, like the invasion of Cuba.

Middle East 1956-58
Attempts to overthrow the Syrian government, shows of force in Mediterranean against opposition to US-backed governments in Jordan and Lebanon, landing of 14,000 troops in Lebanon, and attempts to overthrow and assassinate Egyptian president Gamal Nasser.

Indonesia 1957-8
Attempts to manipulate elections, assassinate, blackmail and start a civil war to overthrow President Sukarno. Sukarno neutral in Cold War, went on trips to China and USSR, nationalised private property of Dutch colonialists, and did not crack down on the Communist party, which was then engaged on electoral path to power.

Haiti 1959
Trained troops of notorious dicator Papa Doc Duvalier, and destroy attempted coup against him by Haitians, Cubans and other Latin Americans.

Western Europe 1950s-1960s
Granting of American money through charities and so on to various groups and organisations in pursuit of American anti-Communist, anti-Socialist policies.

British Guiana/Guyana 1953-64
Attempts to force out of office democratically elected socialist premier, Cheddi Jagan by America and Britain.

Iraq 1958-63

Long campaign against nationalist leader General Abdul Karim Kassem after he overthrew the monarchy and established a republic. USA and Turkey drew up plan to invade; this dropped in favour of arming Kurds, as well as assassination attempts. Kassem helped set up OPEC and created nationalised oil company. Kassem was finally overthrown in a Ba’ath coup, which also led to a clampdown on the Communist party, which was backed by both America and Britain.

Soviet Union 1940s-1960s
Cold War campaigns of espionage, propaganda and sabotage, backing of resistance movements against USSR.

Vietnam 1945-73
Vietnam War.

Cambodia 1945-73
Overthrow of Prince Sihanouk enabling Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge to gain power.

Laos 1957-73
Armed insurrection and bombing against reformist left, led by Pathet Lao party.

Thailand 1965-73
Armed forced against insurgents.

Ecuador 1960-63
Overthrow of president Jose Maria Velasco for not clamping down on left and not following US policy against Cuba.

Congo/Zaire, 1960-65, 1977-8
Overthrow of Patrice Lumumba in favour of dictator and mass-murderer Mobutu Sese Seko.

France/Algeria 1960s
Backed French military coup in Algeria to stop country becoming independent. Also hoped repercussions would overthrow De Gaulle, who was blocking American attempts to dominate NATO.

Brazil, 1961-64
Backed military dictatorship which overthrew President Joao Goulart for being too independent and friendly towards Communists, despite the fact that Goulart millionaire devout Roman Catholic.

Peru 1965
Military action against leftist guerillas

Dominican Republic 1963-5
Overthrow of liberal president, Juan Bosch.

Cuba 1959-Present
Attempts to overthrow Communist regime.

Indonesia 1965
Overthrow of Sukarno and bloody suppression of Communists by successor, General Suharto.

Ghana 1966
Overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah

Uruguay 1969-72
Dirty War against Tupamaro leftists guerillas.

Chile 1964-73
Long campaign against democratic Communist, Salvador Allende, culminating in Fascist coup of General Pinochet.

Greece 1967-74
Intervention against liberal Greek president George Papandreou, as he wanted to take Greece out of NATO and declare Greek neutrality in Cold War. Overthrown in the Fascist coup that inaugurated the rule of the Colonels.

South Africa 1960s-1980s
Assistance to South African apartheid government against African Nationalist Congress, which, amongst other things, led to the arrest and imprisonment of Nelson Mandela.

Bolivia 1964-75
Military campaign against President Victor Paz for supporting Cuba.

Australia 1972-5
Operations to have Gough Whitlam, the leader of the Aussie Labor party, removed by America and British, ’cause he was opposed to Vietnam.

Iraq 1972-5
CIA backed Kurds, not for them to get autonomy, but to distract Iraqi army and make sure they didn’t overthrow the Shah of Iran.

Portugal 1974-76
comprehensive series of measures, including shows of force by NATO warships, against radical policies proposed by the army officers, who overthrew the previous Fascist dictatorship of General Salazar.

East Timor 1975-99
Backing of Indonesian invasion, which killed 1/3 of the island’s population.

Angola 1975-1980s
Angolan civil war, which was basically proxy war between US, China and South Africa on one hand and USSR and Cuba on the other.

American State Censored TV Programme on American Nerve Gas Atrocity in Laos

February 13, 2017

I’ve blogged before about the way the Thames TV documentary, Death On the Rock, about the killing of an IRA terror squad by the SAS in Gibraltar, angered Maggie Thatcher so much that she destroyed Thames. The documentary presented evidence that the British army knew about the group’s movements, and could have picked them up peacefully at any time. They deliberately chose not to. The shootings were therefore a targeted assassination, with the SAS acting as a South American-style death squad.

This was, of course, too much for Maggie. She had Thames’ broadcasting licence removed, and they were replaced by Carlton. This is something to remember the next time John Humphries or anyone else at the Beeb tells you that she never interfered with the state broadcaster, and that this only began under Blair. I’m not arguing that Tory Tony didn’t interfere or throw his weight around with the Beeb. And there’s plenty of evidence that Maggie also had programme censored. She had the documentary, ‘Maggie’s Militant Tendency’, produced by Panorama, censored because it argued that the Conservatives had been infiltrated by card carrying neo-Nazis, just like the Labour party had been infiltrated by Militant. Perhaps in Humphries’ case, the Conservatives didn’t interfere with the news coverage, because they didn’t need to. It already reflected their own bias.

Such censorship isn’t confined to Britain. It also happened in America. William Blum, a very long time critic of US foreign policy, has a section describing the censorship of a documentary on American television in 1998 in his book Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (London: Zed Books 2014). The company aroused the ire of the political, economic and media elite because it dared to tell the truth about a US gas attack in Laos that resulted in the deaths of civilians and American servicemen. He writes

In September 1970, American forces in Laos, acting under “Operation Tailwind”, used aerosolized Sarin nerve agent (referred to also as CBU-15 or GB) to prepare their entry in an attack upon a Laotian village base camp, with the object of killing a number of American military defectors who were reported to be there. The operation succeeded in killing in excess of 100 people, military and civilian, including at least two Americans. How many died before the attack from the gas and how many from the attack itself is not known.

Sarin, which was developed in Germany in the 1930s, can kill within minutes after inhalation of its vapor. A tiny drop of it on the skin will do the same; it may even penetrate ordinary clothing. It works by inhibiting an enzyme needed to control muscle movements. Without the enzyme, the body has no means of stopping the activation of muscles, and any physical horror is possible.

When the invading Americans were making their getaway, they were confronted by a superior force of North Vietnamese and communist Pathet Lao soldiers. The Americans called for help from the air. Very shortly, US planes were overhead dropping canisters of sarin upon the enemy. As the canisters exploded, a wet fog enveloped the enemy soldiers, who dropped to the ground, vomiting and convulsing. Some of the gas spread towards the Americans, not all of whom were adequately protected. Some began vomiting violently. Today, one of them suffers from creeping paralysis, which his doctor diagnoses as nerve-gas damage.

This story was reported on June 7, 1998, on the TV programme “NewsStand: CNN & Time”, and featured the testimony of Admiral Thomas Moorer, who had been Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1970,, as well as lesser military personnel, both on and off camera, who corroborated the incidents described above.

Then all hell broke loose. This was a story too much in conflict-painfully so-with American schoolbooks, Readers Digest, the flag, apple pie and mom. It was damage-control time. The big guns were called out-Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, Green Beret veterans, the journalistic elite, the Pentagon itself. The story was wrong, absurd, slanderous, they cried. CNN retracted, Moorer retracted, the show’s producers were fired…lawsuits all over the place.

Like the dissidents who became “non-persons” under Stalin, Operation Tailwind is now officially a “non-event”.

Notwithstanding this, the program’s producers, April Oliver and Jack Smith, put together a 78 page document supporting their side of the story, with actual testimony by military personnel confirming the use of the nerve agent. (pp. 139-141).

This is truly Orwellian. Orwell, of course, based 1984 on Stalin’s Russia, and the way party functionaries rewrote history to suit the needs of the party and Stalin. The most famous example of this was the way the regime turned Trotsky from a hero and co-author of the Revolution with Lenin, to its arch-enemy and betrayer.

This incident shows how the American military-industrial complex and its puppets and paid shills in the media are quite prepared to do the same, and vilify and expel anyone who commits the same cardinal crime of exposing state lies and atrocities.

Cockburn and Sinclair in their book, End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate, describe the way the American military and media have managed news reporting to support the Iraq invasion, up to and including the killing of journalists. Now the situation seems ready to get worse under Fuhrer Trump. But this would have been under Bill Clinton’s presidency. And Blum’s book shows that the corruption goes back further than that, right back to the Second World War.

It really makes you start to wonder how free the American press and media is, or if it ever was.

Yoav Litvin on How Jews Must Fight Against Anti-Semitism and Zionism

February 11, 2017

Yoav Litvin, one of the long time contributors to Counterpunch, has written an excellent article, ‘To Oppose Trump, Jews Must Join the Fight Against Fascism and Zionism’. Litvin notes the rise in anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic incidents under Trump, and the presence of anti-Semites and Nazis like Steve Bannon and Richard Spencer amongst Trump’s supporters and his cabinet. He also shows how, despite this, Israel is doing little or nothing to criticise Trump, because Trump is a very vocal supporter of Israel.

He notes the similarity between the White racism of Trump and his Fascist supporters in the Alt-Right, and the ethno-nationalism behind Zionism. He also comments on the way Zionists and the Israel lobby, particularly Alan Dershowitz, have particularly smeared as anti-Semites liberal Jews, with traditional cosmopolitan values who oppose Zionism as another form of racism. As for Trump, he and his allies hide behind the specious argument that because they have Jewish friends, they can’t be anti-Semites. Mr Litvin writes

One would logically expect the American Jewish community to unite around vocal opposition and resistance as a response to the new Republican administration’s fascist tendencies and ties to White nationalists and neo-Nazis. Though some rabbis have come out in protest over Trump’s Muslim travel ban, the American Jewish community’s response to the new administration has been weak and split, with one main reason – Israel. Trump and his gang have capitalized on the inherent contradiction between liberal cosmopolitan Jewish values and an ethical emphasis on human rights, and the unjust nationalist policies of Israel towards indigenous Palestinians.

This contradiction was highlighted in a recent debate between Rabbi Matt Rosenberg and Richard Spencer, in which the latter justified the creation of a white “ethno-state” by using the example of the exclusionary Zionist ideology and practices of the state of Israel. The rabbi was left speechless. Accordingly, the term “white Zionism” has been used to describe “alt-right” ideology.

In line with widespread support for Trump in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu has been very favorable, even jovial at the prospects of the new Republican administration. With Donald Trump as their champion, the Tea Party represents tribal, misogynist and nationalistic attitudes that are championed by Jewish right-wing Zionists like Netanyahu. In fact, the very idea for the “alt-right” Breitbart news website was conceived in Israel and it has faithfully served as an outlet for the Tea Party, anti-Semitic and Zionist agendas. On a personal level, Trump and Netanyahu are mirror images of each other in their corruption, extravagance and talent in manipulating the press.

But this is nothing new. Zionists and anti-Semites have historically shared mutual interests. While anti-Semites have wanted to get rid of Jews, Zionists have concentrated their efforts on attracting them to Israel’s shores, i.e. Judaizing Israel as a means to fight the “demographic threat” posed by native Palestinians.

Litvin states that there are positive aspects to Israel and Zionism. The country has served as a model for nation-building, revived Hebrew as a living language and created a new, confident Jewish people, who fight for their rights, work the land and have pride in themselves. But these achievements are offset by the terrible suffering and persecution inflicted on indigenous Palestinians:

However, as with all settler-colonialist and exclusivist projects, the indigenous population has paid the price. As a result of political Zionism and Israeli policies, Palestinians have undergone a process of ethnic cleansing and genocide to make room for non-native Jewish settlers.

As the blooming relationship between the Trump administration and Israeli politicians and apologists shows, the ethno-centric character of Israel shares many attributes with- and has been a source of inspiration for- American White nationalism, now embodied in Trump’s administration.

In order to effectively fight this new administration and protect community members against the growing tide of anti-Semitism, American Jews need to recognize these parallels, come to terms with the failure of political Zionism and renounce collaborators such as Alan Dershowitz and David Friedman.

To counter Trump it is essential that American Jews fight against all ethno-centric, exclusivist forces, including fascism, White supremacy and Zionism. The long history of trauma and persecution must guide Jews in a quest to vanquish these forces alike toward a vision of justice, freedom and equality for all.

Read the whole article at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/02/10/to-oppose-trump-jews-must-join-the-fight-against-fascism-and-zionism/

Litvin’s precisely right, and this is the crime for which left-wing Labour members like Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker and Naz Shah were smeared as anti-Semites by the Israel lobby: they did treat Zionism as another form of racism. None of them were anti-Semites. Livingstone in his book Livingstone’s Labour denounced anti-Semitism as another form of racism, along with anti-Black racism and hatred of the Irish. He also specifically discusses in the book the way Nazis responsible for horrific crimes against the Jewish people and humanity generally were recruited by the Allies after the War as part of the global campaign against Communism.

But he was smeared because he dared to make the historically accurate point that the Zionists had collaborated with the Nazis over immigration to Israel. It’s the same point Litvin makes in his article.

And many members of the anti-Zionist movement are Torah-observant Jews and people of Jewish heritage. Jackie Walker’s father was a Russian Jew, her partner’s Jewish, and her daughter goes to a Jewish school. Both she and her parents were and are very active campaigners against racism, including anti-Semitism. But this made no difference. She had placed the Holocaust, as terrible as it was, in context as one genocide amongst the others that have disgraced human history down the aeons, including Black slavery. She also stood up for the rights of the Palestinian people, and discussed how Jewish merchants had also been involved in the slave trade, even though the overall responsibility lay with the Christian empires in which they lived and whose monarchs they served. This was a perfectly reasonable point, which is discussed by Jewish historians.

But the Zionists saw it as a terrible threat to their own interests, and so they smeared her.

I think Litvin’s right in that Israel and Zionist lobby’s silence over the genuine anti-Semites behind Trump should lead to more Jews becoming aware of the racism at the heart of modern Zionism, as well as discrediting Zionism amongst decent Americans generally.

After all, Trump’s friendly relationship with Israel and Netanyahu, despite, or because of the Nazis in his cabinet, blatantly and flagrantly bear out what Walker, Livingstone and the others are saying about Zionism as another form of Fascism.

Is Trump Barely Able to Read?

February 6, 2017

My thanks to Joanna, one of the long-time commenters on this blog, for posting this in one of her comments.

In this piece from the David Pakman Show, Pakman and one of his producers, Pat, discuss the considerable evidence that Trump is functionally barely literate. There are clips of Mark Fisher, an American journalist, discussing how he asked Trump if he was preparing for the presidency by reading the biographies of the great American presidents. Trump said something about reading one about Nixon, and another, but Fisher himself doubted he had ever read a book from cover to cover. Trump also said that he had never read a biography, but regretted this. Visitors to Trump have remarked that there weren’t any books on his desk, or on the shelves at his home or indeed anywhere else. Jeffrey Schwartz, who ghost-wrote Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal, stated that he didn’t believe Trump had ever read a book since he was in school. Washington insiders have said that The Donald actually has difficulty reading the documents and executive orders placed in front of him. He usually just scans the first page. Further evidence for this comes from clips from a court case, in which the opposition lawyer asks Drumpf to read a lease. Trump’s own lawyer objects to it, and Trump looks it over, remarks on its length, and then proceeds to give a summary of what’s on the page. Apparently, he doesn’t even send his tweets himself. He dictates them to a secretary in the next room, and she sends them for him. There’s also a clip with the writers from the comedy show, Saturday Night Live, in which they talk about how Trump had difficulty reading the scripts when he was guest host. And it’s also been said that the reason why Trump watches so much television, and gets so much of his information from it, is because he can’t or doesn’t read books and papers. There’s also a clip, which shows Trump very obviously not using a teleprompter at one of his rallies. Pakman argues that this isn’t because he’s particularly keen to speak ad lib. It’s because he has difficulty reading what’s on there.

Pakman’s producer, Pat, finally makes the point here that what’s shocking isn’t Trump’s inability to read, but his lack of intellectual curiosity. He doesn’t even send away for talking books, so he can hear things read to him.

This is truly astonishing. And frightening. People have been making jokes since forever and a day about the stupidity of politicians, but many have been people of real intellectual distinction. Churchill wrote his History of the English-Speaking Peoples. JFK apparently could write a sentence of Latin with one hand while writing a sentence in Greek with the other. Even Nixon was no intellectual slouch. He was crooked and a monstrous imperialist thug, whose regime was responsible for the deaths of untold millions in the Vietnam War and Fascist coups across the world, and he really wasn’t intellectually capable of being president. But he wasn’t thick either. Bill Clinton was far from stupid, though he was also responsible for some of the worst policies passed by an American president, such as gutting further what remained of the American welfare system after Reagan, quite apart from highly questionable foreign policy decisions.

On the other hand, there are a long line of chiefly Republican presidents, who have been suspected of being thick and incompetent. Like Ronald Reagan, even before the poor fellow was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Not The Nine O’clock News sang songs about his epic stupidity. There was a long-running sketch on Spitting Image, in which his aides go in search of his missing brain. Then in the early part of this century, he was followed into the Oval Office by George Dubya, who had been an illiterate drunk smashed out of his skull on recreational chemicals. Dubya at least gave up the booze and drugs, and was credited as reading. He still struck everyone as being so stupid, that when one person made up the rumour that he only had an IQ of 85, it was widely believed. And at one point it looked like America would get a female vice-president in the shape of Sarah Palin, who has a reputation for monumental stupidity. One American commenter described his candidacy for the presidency or vice-presidency to a ‘post turtle’. What’s a post turtle? He explained that if you go to the Deep South, ever so often on the roads you see a turtle stuck on a fence post. The turtle’s got no right to be there, doesn’t know how it got there, and you don’t know what moron put it there. And that summed up Palin’s bid for supreme power.

And now we have Donald Trump, a sexist, misogynist, islamophobic Fascist, a narcissistic megalomaniac, who seems unable to read or comprehend the documents put in front of him.

He is massively unfit for office, and the fact that he’s in it points to a deeply troubling strand of anti-intellectualism in the Republican Party. The late comedian Bill Hicks used to joke that there was a streak of anti-intellectualism in America, and that it began the same year Reagan was elected. He had a point. Reagan got into power by presenting the image of a down-home ordinary bloke, offering his folksy wisdom in place of the complicated and simply wrong ideas offered by those affecting to be cleverer than the rest of us. And this is a powerfully attractive approach. No-one likes the feeling that they’re being condescended to by someone impressed with their own intelligence, or being treated with contempt. And the right, both in America and in Britain, try to capitalise on this anti-intellectualism. You think of all the times the Tories have tried to persuade the public that you don’t need to know about fancy economic theories to understand the economy, just commonsense household management. Left-wing economists have tried to point out that, in fact, you do need to understand economics as it is definitely not like balancing a household budget. But still they carry on, using the metaphor of household budgeting to justifying cutting services and privatising the NHS.

And now Trump, who appears to be barely literate, is in the White House. Pakman points out that it seems that Trump spoke at the level of a fourth grade schoolboy, not because he was trying to talk to ordinary Americans at their level, but because his reading level is that of a fourth grade schoolboy. It’s been said that politician is the one job that doesn’t require qualifications. Well, intelligence doesn’t guarantee that someone will make the right decisions. But in a complex world, in which power relationships between countries are so delicate that a misstep could start an international incident or even another war, we do need intellectual ability in our leaders and their advisers. We need politicos, who have the ability to obtain the knowledge of world affairs they need, not just from the broadcast news, but from foreign policy documents, even simply from reading the papers.

Trump seems incapable of this, and it puts us all in danger. He really does need to go.

Trump Wants to Publish List Immigrant Crimes, Just Like Nazis Did to Jews

February 5, 2017

Here’s another step towards real Fascism by the Trump administration. In this clip from Democracy Now! anchor Amy Goodson and her co-host talk to Andrea Pitzer about yet another policy of Trump’s, which is very close to the Nazi vilification of the Jews. Pitzer is the author of One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps. She and the Democracy Now! team discuss Trump’s proposal to publish official lists of crimes committed in sanctuary cities – those towns where the officials are unwilling to comply with Trump’s deportations of illegal immigrants. They point out that this is exactly what the Nazis did in the pages of their ‘newspapers’ Der Sturmer and Das Neues Volk with the Jews. Der Sturmer had a column called ‘Letterbox’, in which its readers were encouraged to send it stories about crimes committed by Jews. The Nazi life-style magazine, Das Neues Volk, which was mostly about wonderful Aryan families and their beautiful homes, also carried stories about crimes supposedly committed by Jews, or Jewish-looking people. This section of the clip illustrates the point by showing covers of the rags with their illustrations showing the blood libel – the anti-Semitic smear that Jews ritually kill gentile, Christian children, along with other vile charicatures.

They also point out that in America some newspapers have also used the same tactic of vilifying ethnic minorities. Before Japanese internment during World War II, the San Francisco Chronicle used to run stories about how the Japanese minority were unassimilable, and how they were also responsible for crime. More recently, Breitbart ran a ‘Black Crimes’ list, and their CEO, Steve Bannon, is now one of Trump’s closest advisors in the White House.

The show points out that immigrants to America have a lower crime rate than those committed by members of the host population. Some of this is possibly to avoid drawing attention from the immigration authorities. However, they also point out that detailing crimes committed by immigrants without providing any context is very dangerous, and it serves to place them in a simplistic ‘good’ versus ‘evil’ view of immigration. And this is particularly dangerous, as this view has the official imprimatur of a government document.

They also briefly discuss another of Trump’s proposals, that immigrants should hand over their cell phone information. Pitzer points out that totalitarian government is impossible without a secret police. Even with the resources of the Nazi state, it was still difficult for them. Himmler apparently used to complain about not having enough men. But you don’t need quite so many staff with the massive expansion of the American surveillance state and its powers and abilities to spy on the electronic communications of American citizens. This is far more than the Nazis had.

This is very frightening, and should concern everyone who’s genuinely concerned about racial justice and personal freedom on either side of the Atlantic. Over here in Britain, Black and ethnic minority campaigners bitterly objected to the way the British right-wing press misrepresented them as being disproportionately responsible for crime. The issue became particularly controversial after the 1981/2 ‘race riots’, when the newspapers became blatantly racist in equating Blacks with crime and anti-White racism. And sections of the Tory press are notoriously ready to run stories about immigrant criminality today, such as the Daily Heil and the Scum. If Trump goes ahead with this, and it is not successfully challenged, it will emboldened UKIP and very large sections of the Tory party to do the same, as well as encourage rags like the Mail, the Sun and the Express to become even more racist in their equation of Blacks and other ethnic minorities with criminality.

A Treasury of Ancient Mathematical Texts

February 4, 2017

Henrietta Midonick, The Treasure of Mathematics: 1 (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1968)

ancient-mathematics-cover

I realise that the history of mathematics is an arcane subject, that few people will have much interest in, having struggled enough with the subject at school. But with Black History Month, there is immense interest amongst scholars of Black and Asian history about restoring Black and Asian scientists and mathematicians to their rightful place in history.

I picked up this book in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham about a year or so ago. It’s a collection of ancient and medieval mathematical texts from Ancient Egypt, Babylon, China, India, Islam, the Jews and, of course, the ancient Greeks. The blurb for it runs

Mathematics is the only true international language. men can communicate more directly, precisely and logically in pure mathematics than in any other tongue. Moreover we have much to learn from the achievements of past civilizations in this field: even modern computers have not fathomed all the intricacies of Stonehenge. In this fascinating collection of original sources (many of them published in a popular edition for the first time) Henrietta Midonick shows individual mathematicians grappling with varied problems – some practical, such as architecture, money valuation, mechanics, astronomy and calendar calculation; others verging on philosophy, such as the existence of zero and the concept of infinity. Her arrangement also demonstrates the growth of key ideas in geometry, arithmetic, logic and calculus.

Volume 1 documents the growth of mathematical science in the civilizations of Babylon, Ancient Egypt, the Mayas, India and China, and assesses the revolutionary discoveries of Plato, Archimedes and Euclid in classical antiquity.

Among the various extracts are pieces on Babylonian mathematics; four geometrical problems from the Moscow Papyrus, which dates from Ancient Egypt, c. 1850 BC; the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, again from Egypt, c. 1650 BC; the Bakhshali Manuscript, from 4th century AD India; the Mayas – discussing their system of numbers, the calendar, arithmetic and chronology, and the Quipu, the method of keeping statistical records using knots, used by the ancient Incas in South America.

Chinese mathematicians include Wan Wang, from the 12th century BC, Chou Kung, c. 1100 BC; Chang Tsang, died 152; Liu Hui, 3rd century AD; Sun-Tsu, from the same century; Hsia-Hou Yang, 6th century AD; Wang Hs’iao-T’ung, 7th century AD, Li Yeh, c. AD 1178-1265; Ch’in Chiu-Shao, c. AD 1250; Yang Hui, c. AD 1275; Chu Chi-Chieh, c. AD 1300.

The Indian scholars collected include Aryabhata the Elder, c. AD. 476; Brahmagupta, AD 598; and Bhascara Acharya, AD 1114-c. 1185.

It also includes the Algebra of Mohammed ben Musa al-Khowarismi, who founded much of modern algebra, including giving it its modern name.

The two Jewish mathematicians collected include the Mishnat ha-Middot of Rabbi Nehemiah, from c. AD 150; and the Method of Division of Immanuel Ben Jacob Bonfils, c. AD 1350.

The ancient Greeks include Hippocrates of Chios, 5th century BC; an extract from Plato’s Dialogues; the Elements of Euclid of Alexandria, c. 300 BC; Apollonius of Perga’s Conic Sections, from the same period; Archimedes’ On Spirals, Mechanical Problems, and Quadrature of the Parabola, Pappus, c. AD 300, and Proclus, AD 410-485.

babylonian-multipilication-table

Ancient Babylonian Multiplication Table for X 10.

For the non-mathematician like myself these texts aren’t easy reading. There are diagrams to help, but many of them, as the pioneering works of their time, are trying to express difficult mathematical ideas without the modern language of Maths, and so it can be difficult understanding what they are trying to describe. Nevertheless, this is an important collection of some of the classic texts of ancient mathematics on which the structure of modern maths has been built.

The Young Turks on the Real, Anti-Capitalist Radical Martin Luther King

February 4, 2017

In my last post, I talked about how contemporary scholars were re-examining MLK’s life and political thought to show that far from being a moderate, Dr Luther King was a radical who opposed not just racism, but the capitalist exploitation of the poor, the Developing World and the Vietnam War. These aspects of the man have been airbrushed out of his to make him more palatable to the right-wing mainstream.

In this video from The Young Turks’ ‘Aggressive Progressives’, Jimmy Dore, Steve Oh and Malcolm Fleschner discuss a recent article by Zaid Jilani in the Intercept, in which he tears apart what Dr Cornel West has called ‘the santaclausification’ of MLK. In one of his speeches, Dr Luther King refuted the lie that America was built on the Puritan values of hard work. He said

“Again, we have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifice. The fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of Black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor, both Black and White, both here and abroad.”

Steve Oh talks about how Cenk Uygur, himself and others go on trips during MLK weekend. One trip they made was to Charleston, South Carolina. This was the richest city in America in 1850, and its economy was built on slavery – through slave produced cotton, rice farming and the sale of human beings. He makes the point that although chattel slavery has vanished from America, it is in a sense still with us in the form of the economic slavery, which now affects all poor Americans. He mentions one of the White people they interviewed, who talked about the destruction of his community by the anti-working class, anti-welfare policies and the elite. These policies affect Blacks and Latinos disproportionately, but all poor Americans, regardless of their colour, are suffering.

Oh makes the point that while King now is seen as a consensus builder and fighter for racial justice in the Segregated South, he was a radical like Malcolm X, although his approach differed from the other Civil Rights leader. He talks about how MLK’s teachings were beautiful, and for all Americans, and how he spent the last year of his life, before his assassination in 1968 battling against the Democratic party. Other Civil Rights leaders had warned King not to alienate the Democrats with his condemnation of the Vietnam War. MLK responded to this by giving a speech at Riverside Church in New York City, in which he denounced the American government as the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, the napalm bombing of cities and its support for the puppet government in South Vietnam. He called for a complete re-examination of American foreign policy, including the capitalist exploitation of the Developing World.

Dore makes the point that the same problems affect American radicals now. Bernie Sanders is also fighting for economic justice for the American working man and woman. But he’s also being opposed by a corporate, Democrat elite, who want to privatise schools, parks, education and definitely the healthcare system, as the state system is so much better.

There’s much more that could be said here. I know many people, who don’t like MLK because they see him as being too much of an ‘Uncle Tom’. This presents the opposite view, and with luck should help encourage more people to rediscover MLK’s legacy of radicalism and anti-capitalist protest.

Trump Opens Black History Month, But Doesn’t Know Who Frederick Douglass Was

February 4, 2017

I think this month over in the US is Black History Month, which is when teachers, historians and educationalists try to bring to mainstream attention the numerous Black figures, who have contributed to the shaping of modern America. Trump went on TV to announce it this week, and paid tribute to great figures of the Abolitionist and Civil Rights movement Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. However, he didn’t seem to know quite who Douglass was. He described him as someone, who has done great work, and is increasingly being recognised. Which makes it sound as though Drumpf thought he was an historian of the Black contribution to America. Douglass wasn’t. He was one of the major figures of the 19th century Abolitionist movement. His autobiography is one of the classics of Abolitionist and Black American literature. One of his most controversial and inspiring speeches was ‘What To The Slave Is the Fourth of July?’, in which he pointed out how hollow and meaningless the rhetoric surrounding Independence Day, with its talk of resisting tyrants and slavery, for America’s Black people, who were still held in servitude.

In this clip from The Young Turks, John Iadarola and Ana Kasparian discuss Trump’s apparent ignorance. They give him due credit for recognising the contribution of the above Black leaders, and the millions of other Black people in business and politics, which Trump also mentions. They make the point that his apparent ignorance shows the need for Black History Month, as Douglass was an obscure figure until Black scholars rediscovered him. They take issue with the opposition some people have to the Month. Some object to it on the grounds that a separate period for Black history shouldn’t be necessary, and historically marginalised figures like Tubman, Parks, Douglass, MLK et al should be incorporated in general history. They don’t dispute this. They do attack the claim that there simply shouldn’t be Black history month, or there should also be a White History Month, on the grounds that White history is taught every year, throughout the year, from January to December. And they point out too that teaching Black history is necessary, as some schools in very right-wing states have deliberately removed Black leaders and figures like MLK from the curriculum, in order to teach right-wing political figures like Phyllis Schlafly. In an earlier video, The Young Turks reported, if I recall correctly, how the schoolboard in Arizona had stopped teaching the pupils there about slavery, and replaced that part of the school curriculum with Reagan’s speeches. Which very much bears out their point. As for Phyllis Schlafly, she was a Conservative activist, who was anti-feminist and very much anti-UN.

Trump in his speech also takes the time to correct the rumour that he does not treasure the bust of Martin Luther King and had it removed from his office. This, he says, is wrong. He states that it is his most treasured object. This is interesting, as it shows how MLK has been ‘whitewashed’ so that even a Conservative like Trump can approve of him. Those, who’ve studied MLK and his work have pointed out that the man was much more radical than is commonly recognised. He’s seen now simply as standing up for Black equality and racial reconciliation between White and Black. Which is true. But he also bitterly hated capitalism for its exploitation of the poor, whether Black or White, denounced the US’ attacks on Cuba and was very firmly opposed to the Vietnam War, for exactly the same reasons Mohammed Ali did. I dare say Trump would have been shocked to know any of that. It definitely wouldn’t have made MLK one of his favourite Black leaders, as the great man would have despised everything that Drumpf, and indeed recent American presidents, including Obama, stand for regarding the bombing and wars in the Middle East.

Trump also pays due to tribute to his Black staff members and co-workers, especially for taking him into areas, he didn’t know anything about and had not visited before. Iadarola and Kasparian give Trump credit for not going on about the problems of Black inner city ghettoes, which is the prism through which Drumpf usually views the Black community. They also note at one point, Trump characteristically turns it around so that he is, once again, talking about himself and his campaigning, rather than the issue at hand.

If you’re interested in following up Frederick Douglass’ life and work, his autobiography most certainly has been republished. I think it’s in print both individually, as a part of anthologies of American slave writings. There are very many history of slavery and the slave trade. One that’s particularly useful for American history is Harry Harmer’s, The Longman Companion to Slavery, Emancipation and Civil Rights (Harlow: Pearson Education Ltd 2002). This has separate chapters on slavery in different regions and periods, such as in South America, North America and so on. It also presents the most important points as bulleted facts, and as its title says, continues the story into the Civil Rights period.

Steve Bannon Forecasts War with China in ‘Five to Ten Years’

February 4, 2017

Here’s another example of American militarism and belligerence to frighten you. In this clip from Majority Report, the host, Sam Seder, and his team discuss Steve Bannon’s prediction in March last year that in five years’ to a decades’ time, America would be at war with China. Bannon is a notorious alleged anti-Semite and White supremacist, who is now an important adviser to Trump. In March last year, he was talking to Lee Edwards of the right-wing Heritage Foundation on Breitbart Radio. The two were discussing the Fall of Communism before moving on to China’s increasingly aggressive stance regarding the islands in the South China Sea. The two stated that the 89 million members of the Chinese Communist party still adhered to Mao’s belief that power grows out of the barrel of a gun. This is why they were occupying and fortifying the islands under the pretext that these were ancient Chinese territories, actions Bannon considered to be a direct, ‘throw-down’ challenge to the US, when the Chinese come over here. It was then that Bannon predicted that war would break out within the next decade.

Unfortunately, this belligerence really isn’t confined to Trump and the Republicans. Counterpunch also published several articles about the way Hillary Clinton also seemed determined to start some kind of conflict with China over the same disputed territories. I don’t believe, however, that you have to go back to Chairman Mao or Communism to find the causes of China’s aggressive pursuit of its territorial claims to these islands. I gather that China still feels bitter resentment and humiliation, after all well over a century, to Britain and the West for our acquisition of Hong Kong during the Opium War, and the western conquest and domination of the country in the late 19th century. No matter what the ruling ideology is, China as a country is more or less a capitalist economy, and it’s determined to play a major role as a world power. This might be based partly on Mao’s ideas, but Maoism as an economic movement is highly respected, but more or less obsolete.

This is a terrifying prediction, as China also has nuclear arms, and any armed conflict with America could easily escalate into nuclear Armageddon. Let’s hope this prediction is utterly false, and that a more peaceful approach to solving these issues prevails.