Archive for the ‘Hungary’ Category

A Study of the Ideology Behind 1960s French Revolutionary Radicalism

June 1, 2023

Richard Gombin, The Origins of Modern Leftism (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1975)

The late 1960s saw a wave of radical ferment and agitation erupt in America and France. In America, the Students for a Democratic Society and other groups campaigned against the Vietnam War and for a radical reform of American society, while Black civil rights activists like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X demanded the end of segregation and improved conditions for Black Americans. This radical agitation was marked by race riots and left-wing terrorism by groups like the Weathermen. I think that most people on this side of the Atlantic are probably more familiar with the American situation than the French through the close ties between Britain and America in the Special Relationship. But France also experienced a wave a radical unrest beginning with the occupation of the Sorbonne by radical students in 1968. These then established contacts with ordinary workers, who struck in sympathy, and there was a wave of wildcat strikes. By the end of the decade and the early 1970s, sections of the radical left were turning to kidnapping and terrorism. Although the French revolutionary activism of these years may be less-well known, it has nevertheless impressed itself on British memory and culture. The left-wing French director, Jean-Paul Godard, produced a film about the agitation and unrest around Jagger and the Stones preparing to record ‘Sympathy for the Devil’. The Sex Pistol’s manager, Malcolm McLaren, spuriously claimed to have been a member of the Situationists, one of the radical groups involved in the unrest. And the ideas of ideologues like Guy Debord have found a readership and supporters among the British left. Way back in the 1980s there was a volume of revolutionary texts from 1968 published, I think, by the Socialist Workers Party. And the radical unrest and its turn to terrorism is covered by Guardian columnist Francis Wheen in his book on ‘70s paranoia.

Gombin was an academic attached to the Centre de la Recherche Scientifique. His book isn’t a history of the revolutionary movement of the late 60s in France, but an examination of its ideology. He calls this ‘Leftism’ and contrasts it with ‘extremism’, which is how he terms radical Marxism. This is the extreme left-wing Marxism, often Trotskyite, which approaches or has some of the ideas and attitudes of the Leftists, but does not go as far as them by rejecting Marxism. And ‘leftism’ itself could be described instead as post-Marxism. Gombin explains that Marxism came late to France, and as a result the gap of a quarter of century or so until French intellectuals and activists caught up with the radical experiments and revision of Marxism carried out by the German, Hungarian and other eastern European Communists and radical socialists in the council and communist revolutions of 1919 and the early 1920s. The revelations of the horrors of Stalin’s brutal dictatorship in the USSR, the gulags and the purges, came as a shock to left-wing intellectuals in France and elsewhere. The Communist party had uncritical accepted the lie that the former Soviet Union was a workers’ paradise. In response to these revelations, some Marxist intellectuals like Sartre condemned the purges and gulags, but otherwise remained faithful to the Communist party. Others went further and joined the Trotskyites. But a few others were moved to use Marx’s critical methods to examine Marxism itself, and rejected many of its central doctrines.

The revolutionary movement was led by a number of different groups, such as Socialism ou Barbarie, Rouge et Noire, the Situationists and radical trade unions like the CFDT, which had originally been set up a social Catholic organisation separate from the socialist trade unions. There seems to have been no overarching ideology, and indeed the radicals explicitly rejected any ideology that sought to dictate the course of the revolution. Nevertheless, there were a set of key ideas and attitudes shared by these groups. This rejected all hierarchies, those of modern, capitalist society, the trade union leadership and the patriarchal family, as well as the education and university system. They adopted wholeheartedly Marx’s slogan that the emancipation of the working class should be done by the working class, while also creating new ideas responding to the new welfare state and affluent society.

The viewed Marxism and trade unionism as a response to the conditions of the 19th century, when the working class had to concentrate on winning concessions from the capitalists and authorities in order to survive. However, the establishment of the welfare state had removed the threat of death and deprivation, and so the workers could now move on to the task of reforming society itself. The expanded Marx’s doctrine of alienation so that it didn’t just cover capitalism’s alienation of the worker from the goods he produced, and the latter’s fetishization, but also the alienation created by the affluent society. People’s real needs and desires were suppressed, and false needs created instead. Work should be playful, but instead the worker suffered boredom.

They also considered that there was a fundamental similarity between the capitalist west and the Soviet bloc, which resulted in them calling the USSR’s brand of state socialism ‘State capitalism’ in contrast to the ideal socialism in which society would be run by the workers. Communist rule in Russia had not liberated the workers, but instead created a new governing class. Unlike western capitalism, the Communist bureaucracy did not own the properties and industries they directed, but otherwise held the same power and privilege that in the west was held by the capitalist elites and industrialists. Changes in capitalism had also resulted in a cleavage between those who owned the companies, and those who directed and managed them. As a result, the struggle in the west was between workers and directors, not workers and owners. Soviet Communism was dubbed state capitalism as it was held the bureaucratic socialism of the USSR resembled that of western capitalism, the difference being that in the Soviet bloc all industries were owned by the state rather than private capitalists. One ideologue, Burnham, considered that Fascism and Communism were both examples of ‘state collectivism’, with the difference between the two being that private industry was retained under Fascism. Burnham was a vicious anti-Semite, and had previously urged the workers to unite with the Fascists against the Jews.

The radicals also rejected critical Marxist doctrines like dialectal materialism and its claim to have produced a science of capitalist development. In his later writings, Marx had believed that he had uncovered the sociological laws that would lead capitalism inevitably to give way to socialism. The Leftists rejected this because it was removed the voluntarist element from revolutionary activity. Instead of revolutionaries deliberately setting out to overturn capitalism and usher in the new socialist society, this attitude instead that all they needed to do was wait for it all to happen on its own. In their view, this attitude was closer to the evolutionary socialism of Bernstein than the Marxism of 1848. They rejected Lenin’s doctrine of a centralised party of active revolutionaries, because the workers on their own could only attain trade union consciousness. This, according to the Leftists, had resulted in a bureaucratic class that ruled over the workers, and was certainly not the vanguard of the working class as it was declared to be by Lenin. They did, however, believe in some kind of central party or organisation, but this would only be to guide and suggest possible ideas and actions, not to dictate a revolutionary programme. And all revolutionary ideas and policies should be subjected to the rigorous test of whether they worked in practice. If they did, they were true. If not, they were ‘ideology’, used in the same sense of Marx’s ‘false consciousness’. The revolutionary could only be carried out by the conscious will of the workers, as they became aware of their mission to reform society, independent of any ideas of social progress or objective historical conditions. There was therefore a radical subjective aspect to their conception of revolutionary activism in opposition to Marx’s ideas of historical progress according to object material conditions. Some of them also challenged Marxism-Leninism’s materialism, in which consciousness arose from matter and was merely matter reflecting itself. This got them attacked as ‘Idealists’ by the Communists.

They rejected the patriarchal family as an institution which brought up and trained the worker to accept hierarchical authority and his position in society as a worker, as well as the sexual repression that resulted from the prohibition of extra- and premarital sex. In fact, the student revolt that sparked the ferment started with a question about this by a student at the Sorbonne to a visiting government minister, who come to open the university’s swimming pool. The student also queried him about the university’s rules against male students entering the women’s halls. Well, as the poet once said, sexual intercourse was invented in 1963.

As for the institutions that should be used by the workers to govern politically and manage industry, there seems to have been a difference of ideas. Some, like the Dutch astronomer and Marxist Pannekoek, argued for worker’s councils like the German Raterevolution of 1919. Others refused to speculate, except to state that they should be created by the workers in response to the conditions of the time and the situations they were faced with. Regarding the conduct of the strikes, these were carried out through workers’ meetings on the shop floor, who would then elect a strike committee that would then take their grievances and demands to management. Some observers felt that this harked back to France’s native socialist and revolutionary traditions that predated Marx. The shop floor meetings were, in their view, related to that of the sections during the French Revolution.

Apart from these political and industrial ideas and aspirations, there were also a set of revolutionary ideas about the proper reform of the arts. These looked back to the attacks on official art by the Dadaists and Surrealists, but felt that they had failed in their mission to create an anti-art. They therefore looked forward to a new, revolutionary society in which everyone would be an artist or a poet.

Well, the revolutionary agitation passed with the sixties and first years of the 1970s. Wheen seems to suggest that it ended when one group was about to bomb a millionaire’s yacht but finally drew back. Nevertheless, the terrorism carried on over this side of La Manche with the IRA in Northern Ireland and in Britain by the Angry Brigade, an anarchist group. In France the anarchists, syndicalists and Anarcho-Syndicalists were largely excluded from the revolutionary movement. Some of this was due to the antagonism between anarchists and Marxists and to the isolation of the anarchist groups themselves. By 1968 these had declined in membership and largely confined themselves to keeping the flame alive and commemorating great anarchist revolutionaries of the past, such as the Ukrainian Nestor Makhno.

The revolutionary movement of 1968 is now over fifty years in the past, overtaken in Britain and America by Reagan and Thatcherism. These two started a political counterrevolution aimed at preventing such a situation ever happening again. The right-wing, if not reactionary philosopher, Roger Scruton, said in an interview in the Spectator that he had been a socialist. But he was in France during the revolutionary movement, and was horrified by their ‘anti-civilizational rage’. The ideologues of the period still have an influence in the radical left. People are still reading and gaining inspiration from Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle, for example. I think they also exerted an influence on the anti-capitalist movement of the ‘90s and noughties. Their protests had a deliberate carnivalesque aspect, with costumed marches, puppets and so on, which seems to have drawn on the ideas of the Situationists and other revolutionaries.

I strongly believe, however, that the leftist rejection of the family has had a profoundly negative effect on western society. The Tory right loathes Roy Jenkins because of the socially liberal legislation he introduced in the late 60s Labour government. This decriminalised homosexuality and made divorce easier. Jenkins was certainly not as socially radical as the revolutionaries across the channel. In 1982 he, Shirley Williams and David Owen left the Labour party to form the SDP on the grounds that the party under Michael Foot was now too left wing. Still, the Daily Heil once denounced him as the man who had ruined Britain. Jenkins probably had completely different motives for his legislation than the Revolutionaries. In Britain the movement for the legalisation of homosexuality had started, or at least had the support, of Winston Churchill. Churchill had been worried about the danger of gay ministers, civil servants and others establishment figures being blackmailed by the Soviets because of their sexuality. As for divorce, I think this came from the humane desire to stop people being trapped in unhappy, loveless marriages, especially to brutal, violent partners. John Mortimer in his one-man show in the ‘90s recalled that before Jenkins’ reforms, the only cause for divorce was adultery. There was one man, who was so desperate to divorce his wife, that he came home in different hats so that people would think she was being unfaithful.

Unfortunately, there were radical activists, hostile to the institution of marriage and the traditional family. I can remember a pair who turned up on an edition of the lunchtime magazine programme Pebble Mill in the 1970s to present their views, much to the disgust of many of the programmes’ viewers. The result has been a rise in fatherless families. I am very much aware than many unmarried mothers have done an excellent job of raising their children, but the general picture is grim. Children from fatherless homes perform less well at school and get poorer, lower-paid jobs. They are more likely to turn to crime, do drugs and engage in promiscuous sex. Many Black activists are particularly concerned about this and the way these issues are especially acute in their community.

As for workers’ control, I would love a degree of it introduced into industry, but not to the exclusion of parliamentary democracy. And while the radicals have a point in that trade unions hierarchies have frequently acted to stifle revolutionary activism by the workers, trade unionism as a whole was tarnished by the wildcat strikes that broke out against the wishes of the union leadership. It’s resulted in the caricature of union activism presented by the Tories in which Britain was held hostage to the union barons and its economy and industry weakened by their strikes. We desperately need a revival of trade union power to protect workers, especially with Sunak and the rest of them preparing to scrap the EU legislation protecting workers’ rights.

And with an ever-growing number of people in Britain relying on food banks to stave off starvation, because the Tories have wrecked the welfare state, we’ve gone back to the early conditions of the 19th and early 20th centuries, when trade unionism and other forms of working class activism are very much a matter of survival.

On the plus side, I think the revolutionary movement has left a tradition of radical working class activism, which is no longer confined to either left or right. French working people seem much less willing to put up with government dictates than Brits, as shown in the Yellow Vest protests and the marches and riots against Macron raising the official retirement age. This has been admired by many Brits, including YouTube commenters and people on talk show phone-ins. We really need some of that spirit over this side of the Channel.

There is no doubt, from the position of democratic socialism, that the radicals went too far. Nevertheless, the continue to inspire members of the radical left with rather more moderate aims now protesting against predatory, exploitative capitalism, the exploitation of the environment, and racism, although this is not an issue that the book considers. Nevertheless, it was there, at least in the views and campaigns of post-structuralist Marxist activists.

My Email to Black Activist Shola Mos-Shogbamimu about Slavery Reparations

May 26, 2023

I gather that she’s been in today’s Guardian, where she’s written a piece about the death of Tina Turner. Turner was one of the greatest soul singers, even appearing as Auntie Entity, the ruler of Bartertown, in the film Mad Max 3, for which she also sang and performed a theme song. Shola’s piece lamented the fact that the singer had died before Blacks had received their proper compensation for their historic enslavement by White Europeans and Americans. She’s an intensely controversial figure. Some people feel that she is anti-British and I believe there was 38 Degrees petition launched by someone to stop the TV companies using her as a guest on their shows when debating racism and related topics. I feel that the issues of Black compensation for slavery raises questions about such compensation that crosses racial and national boundaries and which may affect Shola herself. Slavery was practised for millennia across the globe. Black Africans were enslaved by other African nations, as well as Muslim Arabs and Turks, as well as Indians, Persians and Afghans. Odiously, slavery still persists in Africa and the global south, and has been revived in Islamist-held Libya and Uganda. At the same time, Europeans were held in bondage as serfs until into the 19th century in parts of Europe, and were also enslaved by the invading Turks and pirates from Morocco, Algiers and Tunisia. This rises the issue that if compensations is to be paid to enslaved Blacks, then the same principle should mean that the victims of these forms of slavery should also receive compensation from those, who historically enslaved them.

I’ve therefore sent her this message via the message box on her website. I’ll let you know if I get an answer

‘Dear Shola,

I was struck by your article in today’s Guardian about the death of the great soul singer, Tina Turner, and lamenting the fact that she died before Black people had received reparations for slavery. The question of slavery reparations raises issues extending beyond western Blacks, including the complicity of African aristocracies, the enslavement of Blacks by other nations, including Islam and India, as well as indigenous White European forms of bondage and their enslavement by the Barbary pirates and the Turkish empire. As the granddaughter of an African prince, I would be particularly interested in your perspectives on these issues.

Regarding indigenous African complicity in the slave trade, I’ve doubtless no need to tell you about how generally Black Africans were captured and enslaved by other Black African peoples, who then sold them on to White Europeans and Americans. The most notorious slaving states were included Dahomey, Benin and Whydah in west Africa, while on the east coast the slaving peoples included the Yao, Marganja and the Swahili, who enslaved their victims for sale to the Sultan of Muscat to work the clove plantations on Zanzibar. They were also purchased by merchants from India, and then exported to that country, as well as Iran, Afghanistan and further east to countries like Sumatra. It has therefore been said that reparations should consist of Black Africans compensating western Blacks. Additionally, Black Africans were also enslaved by other Muslim Arabs in north Africa and then the Turkish empire. What is now South Sudan was a particular source of Black slaves and one of the causes of the Mahdi’s rebellion was outrage at the banning of slavery by the British. This raises the issue of whether Turkey, Oman, India and other north African and Asian states should also compensate the Black community for their depredations on them.

The complicity of the indigenous African chiefs in the slave trade has become an issue recently in Ghana and Nigeria. I understand that the slavery museum in Liverpool was praised by campaigners and activists from these nations for including this aspect of the slave trade. I would very much like to know your views on this matter. Forgive me if I have got this wrong, but I understand you are of the Igbo people. These also held slaves. I would also like to know if you could tell me a bit more about this, and how this may have affected your family’s history. Your grandfather was, after all, a chief, and this raises the awkward question of whether your family owned slaves. If they did, how were they manumitted and did your family give them reparations for their enslavement?

There is also the question of the enslavement of Whites both under conditions of domestic servitude and by the Muslim powers of the Turkish empire and Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Serfdom in England died out in the 16th and 17th centuries, but it continued in European countries into the 18th and 19th centuries. Prussia only liberated its serfs in 1825 and the Russian serfs were only freed in 1860. Serfdom is considered a form of slavery under international law, as I understand. If Blacks are to be granted compensation for their enslavement, then as a general principle the descendants of White European serfs should also be compensated for their ancestors’ servitude.

In Britain, a from of serfdom continued in the Scottish and Northumbrian mining industries. Miners were bondsmen, whose contracts bound them to the mining companies and who were metal identity collars to prevent them running away exactly like slaves. I would be grateful if you would tell me whether their descendants should also receive compensation for their forefathers’ virtual enslavement.

Over a million White Europeans and Americans, mostly from southern European countries such as France, Spain and Italy, were enslave by the Barbary pirates. This only came to an end with the French conquest and occupation of Alegria. If people are to be compensated for their ancestors’ enslavement, then presumably America and Europe should also receive compensation from these nations for this. The Turkish conquest of the Balkans in the 14th century by Mehmet II resulted in the depression of the indigenous White Christian population into serfdom as well as the imposition of slavery. When Hungary was conquered, the Turks levied a tribute of a tenth of the country’s population as slaves. When one of the Greek islands revolted in the 1820s, it was put down with dreadful cruelty and the enslavement of 20,000 Greeks. Do you feel that the descendants of these enslaved Balkan Whites should also receive compensation from their former Turkish overlords?

There is also the fact that after Britain abolished the slave trade, she paid compensation to the former African slaving nations for their losses as part of a general scheme to persuade them to adopt a trade in ‘legitimate’ products. This was believed to benefit both Britain and the African nations themselves. How do you feel about the payment of such compensation? Do you feel that it is unfair, and that these nations should pay it back to us, or that they should pay it to the descendants of the people they enslaved?

Finally, slavery still persists today in parts of Africa and has even revived. The Islamist terror groups that have seized control of half of the former Libya have opened slave markets dealing in the desperate migrants from further south, who have made their way to the country in the attempt to find sanctuary in Europe. At the same time, slave markets have also opened in Uganda. Slavery is very much alive around the world today. I would be greatly interested in your perspectives on this issue, which is affecting people of colour in the global south. How do you feel it should be tackled? Are you working with anti-slavery organisations, such as Anti-Slavery International and the various organisations by former African slaves to combat this? If not, I would be very grateful if you could tell me why not, when you are obviously motivated by a human outrage at the plight of the historic victims of western slavery.

I hope you will be able to provide me with answers to these questions, and very much look forward to receiving your reply.

Yours sincerely,

David Sivier

The Smuggling of the Hungarian Crown Jewels to America: the Archetype for the Later Crash Retrieval Stories?

March 9, 2023

Just watched a very interesting talk from ASSAP, a paranormal study group, on Zoom tonight about the 1977 ITV UFO hacking. This was an incident in which someone hacked into ITN news at 5.10 on a Saturday evening purporting to be an alien delivering a message of peace and warning us against using our weapons. Viewers saw the customary newsreader, but the audio was replaced by this message from Ashtar, Villon, or Gillon of Space Command. The hack was confined to a part of the Southern Television ITV network, so only people in Dorset and Hampshire saw it, although obviously it was national news the next day. The Independent Broadcasting Authority stated it was a hoax, but obviously there were questions about how they could know. The theories were that it was done by Ufologists trying to make people interested in their subject, or just hoaxers who knew a little bit about it. They’ve now tracked down the probably hoaxer, Bob Tomalski, a ‘gadget guru’ who certainly did know his way around broadcasting engineering, but who believed passionately in broadcasting freedom and had been involved in pirate radio. It was an open secret amongst his friends that he was responsible.

But the speaker, Neil Nixon, warned that the incident showed how technology could be used to fake paranormal events and you have to be sceptical about some of the evidence presented. And the military and intelligence services are not above spreading false stories about UFOs. The examples he gave were of Richard Doty, a secret agent responsible for sending Paul Bennewitz insane. Bennewitz was a military contractor, who believed he was seeing UFOs flying in and out of Kirtland Air Force Base. In fact he was seeing top secret research craft, and Doty was one of two agents sent to curtail his interests by spinning stupid yarns and giving him falsified information about UFOs before telling him that it was all fake.

The other example was the smuggling of the crown of St. Stephen, part of the Hungarian crown jewels, out of the country to America in 1956. The servicemen involved were told, however, that it was the engine and wings of a UFO. The speaker argued that if formed the classic pattern for later crash retrieval stories, in which special troops from the army or air force recover a downed UFO and bring it back to a secret base for study. In the case of the crown of St. Stephen, it went to Fort Knox.

A really interesting tale, but I think the archetype of the later crash retrieval accounts was the Roswell incident, regardless of whether you believe it to be a genuine crashed alien spacecraft or a mogul spy balloon.

History Debunked Suggests We Need Nazi ‘Heroic Mother’ Policies to Halt Demographic Decline

January 25, 2023

This is a response to a video Simon Webb put up some days ago. I meant to review it earlier, but there’s only so much fascism you can take, especially in today’s miserable economic situation and the Tories telling one lie after another. Webb’s video was prompted by a speech from the Japanese premier declaring that there was an existential crisis facing the Japanese the people. If they didn’t have more babies, they would die out. Webb notes that in the Beeb report about this, they stated that it could be solved by the Japanese importing people like other countries, but that the Japanese were firmly against this.

The Japanese have been worried about this for a very long time. Back in the 1990s the-then Japanese prime minister announced that if the country didn’t halt its declining birth rate, then they would be extinct in a thousand years’ time. That really is looking at the long term picture. To solve this problem, successive Japanese governments have suggested and embarked on various policies. One was that husbands should spend more time with their families in order to develop a closer relationship with their wives, with the unspoken implication that this would lead to more babies on the way. This provoked sharp criticism from one housewife, who complained that marital relations wouldn’t improve simply because the husband was at home more. The Japanese government has also set up a state dating agency to bring men and women together.

I suspect Japan’s demographic problems are partly due to particularly Japanese problems. There is, or was, a high rate of divorce among Japanese pensioners. This is caused by the Japanese work ethic, in which men work all the hours that God sends in order to support their families and make their country prosperous. The result is that they barely see their wives and families. When they retire, they find out that they have nothing in common and divorce. It’s a theme that was reflected in Japanese business novels. These featured loyal, hardworking sararimen, whose lives fall apart. They’re laid off by the companies they’ve loyally served and their families break up until they end up left behind running a small shop somewhere, lamenting that they’ve missed out on seeing their children grow up.

There’s also a trend among young Japanese not to date and have children. There was a Radio 4 programme, which I sadly missed, discussing this issue. It reported that this aversion was so severe that many young people even find the act of love itself repulsive. I wondered if this was a reaction to Japanese sex education and whatever Japanese youth is taught about sex outside marriage. If the attitudes against it are too harsh and the insistence on purity so strong, then it’s possible that this could lead to some impressionable people developing such a strong revulsion to sex. I remember from my schooldays that the sex education we were exposed to, with its clinical description of physical development and reproduction, as well as fears about the rising divorce rate, could almost have been calculated to put kids off sex. I also wonder if it’s due to the unavailability of contraception in Japan. This isn’t due to moral scruples, as in Roman Catholic Ireland. It was demanded by the Japanese medical complex, in order to protect the doctors that made money from performing abortions. Buddhism and Shinto have a series of three gods or kami, who preside over the souls of dead children. According to the anthropologist Dr Nigel Barley in his study of cultural attitudes to death and the dead across the world, Dancing with the Dead, the shrine to these gods are particularly supported by women, who’ve had abortions. I’m not criticising women’s right to abortions here, just noting that in previous decades over here the lack of contraception and the strong societal disapproval to births out of wedlock was a very strong disincentive to people, and especially women, having premarital sex.

In fact birth rates are declining across the world, mostly significantly in the developed west, but also elsewhere. One demographer interviewed a few decades ago in New Scientist predicted that in the middle years of this century the world would suffer a demographic crash. This is in stark contradiction with the 70s fears about the population explosion and ‘population bomb’. In many European countries the birth rate is below the level of population replacement.

Webb suggested that we might try to copy the Nazis, who gave medals to women who had large families. There were different medals award according to how many children they had. In fact, all the totalitarian states had similar policies. The Russians had their Heroic Mother awards, duly covered by Pravda, and Musso had a similar policy in his ‘Battle for Births’ campaign. If reproduction is a battle, it means people are doing it wrong. And if it’s a real physical battle, then it’s rape. But I think Musso meant it metaphorically, as everything was a battle in Fascist Italy. The campaign to increase cereal yield in agriculture was labelled ‘the Battle for Grain’. But Musso included in his policies to increase the birth rate various welfare benefits to make it easier and support women, who chose to have large families.

Webb has been followed in this by Laurence Fox, who gave a sermon on GB News yesterday, about his instinct that society was coming to an end because of the low birth rate in the west. This was breaking the social link Edmund Burke had said existed between the past, present and future generations. Of course, as a man of the right he has no sympathy for people demanding expanded welfare rights, accusing them of being ‘entitled’. They’re not. They’re people on the breadline demanding not expanded welfare provision, but proper welfare provision restored to adequate levels.

Plastic priest Calvin Robinson similarly discussed demographic decline in another piece for GB News. He was much more open about the provision of proper welfare support for families, arguing that Britain should follow the lead of Poland and Hungary. And then comes the element of racism. Because if we did this, like those countries we would not have to import people from outside.

And this is part of the problem.

Underneath these fears of demographic decline is the particular fear of White demographic decline. Other ethnic groups have larger families. Hence the stupid, malign conspiracy theories about ‘Eurabia’, that Muslims would outbreed Whites in the west and so eventually take over society. The French National Front let the cat out of the bag in the 90s. This was the mayor of one of the southern French cities, who had set up a system of welfare payments to encourage his citizens to have more babies. Except that this was a racist policy that applied only to Whites. Blacks, Asians and Muslims not allowed.

It’s why such a system would also have severe problems being introduced over here. And rightly so, as while I dare say that some members of ethnic groups don’t want to integrate or adopt British culture, others identify very strongly with it and see themselves as English, Welsh, Scots whatever. Such people shouldn’t be excluded from receiving these welfare payments simply because of the colour of their skin, whatever else one thinks of race relations and immigration.

Of course, the right blames the demographic crisis squarely on feminism and the way modern women are encouraged to pursue careers rather than raise families. Hence the Lotus Eaters put up a piece commenting on a report that half of all women are childless at thirty. To be fair, some left-wing feminists have also complained that feminism, for all its good intentions, has also denigrated the vital role of motherhood in society. But traditional attitudes towards gender roles may be part of the problem. In the New Scientist article I talked about earlier, it was noted that the countries with lowest birth rates had the most traditional attitudes towards childrearing, in which it was seen as primarily the responsibility of the mothers. This extended across cultures, from Italy in Europe to Japan. The countries which had the highest birth rates in the west were the Nordic countries, where men were being encouraged to help their wives with domestic chores and raising the sprogs.

That, and welfare policies designed to help working parents, seem far better solutions to the crisis than simply doling out medals based on the attitudes of totalitarian regimes.

Reform Party Promising to Protect British Freedoms against the Government, the EU and Unelected Organisations

January 20, 2023

Okay, I just found a brief video on YouTube, posted eight days ago, on Nick Buckley’s channel. Buckley’s a former police officer and campaigner against knife crime, who’s appeared a couple of times on the Lotus Eater’s channel. I wasn’t surprised then, when he posted this video interviewing Richard Tice about Reform’s ‘Eight Principles’. In the video, however, he only talks about four of them. These are largely about protecting British democratic rights against the threat of the state and unelected organisations and quangos. According to Tice, Brits are aware that they’re born free and have inalienable rights unlike in the EU. Thus, Brits are able to whatever they like unless prohibited, while in the EU they can only do whatever the EU tells them to.

The irony about this is that the idea that humans are born free comes from a continental philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau has been condemned as one of the founders of totalitarianism. One Conservative American group made Rousseau’s The Social Contract one of the most evil books of all time alongside Marx and Engels’ The Communist Manifesto. The philosopher Isaiah Berlin included him among his Six Enemies of Freedom and the Lotus Eaters have also put out videos attacking him. But Rousseau’s book begins with the words, ‘Man was born free yet everywhere he is chains.’ The idea that you should be free to do whatever you want unless the law says otherwise, I think comes from John Locke a century before, and is the foundation of modern liberal ideas of freedom. However, other European philosophers also had views similar to Locke’s, that the state should be limited to the role of a night watchman, in the sense say that it should protect its citizens’ lives and property, but otherwise not interfere. This is the view expressed by the German philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt in his Grenzen Der Wirksamkeit der Staat – ‘Limits of the Effectiveness of the State’. I don’t know what the underlying philosophy of government of the European Union is. I suspect there isn’t one beyond harmonising various trade and other regulations between member states and allowing for the movement of labour and capital. The original intention was to create a united trading bloc to preserve western European economic independence from America or communist eastern Europe. The Eurosceptic right has frequently ranted about the EU being some kind of totalitarian state with comparisons to Nazi Germany and communism, but I’ve seen no evidence to support it. And rather than limiting freedom, I think the EU believes it is actively creating and nurturing freedom in its member states. Such as when it condemns Poland and Hungary for their legislation banning homosexuality and gay rights.

Now let’s go through the principles as explained by Tice and Buckley in the video.

  1. The state is our servant not our master.

I don’t believe any believer in liberal democracy, whether of the left or right, would challenge this. The only people who would are either Fascists, following Mussolini’s pronouncements that the individual is nothing before the state, followers of Hegel’s dictum that ‘the state is the divine idea as it exists on Earth. We must therefore worship the state’ and supporters of Soviet Communism before Gorby’s brief reforms. However, in the context of Reform, a party of the right, it seems to me that this is yet another bland statement intended to justify further privatisation and the expansion of the power of private industry and the destruction of the welfare state against working people, the poor, the unemployed and disabled.

2. Lend us your power and we’ll give you back your freedom.

This could be said by just about any political party, even those which were real enemies of freedom. Hitler, in one of his rants at Nuremberg, declared ‘Everything I am, I am through you. Everything you are, you are through me’. The Nazi party anthem, the Horst Wessel song, also has lines about German freedom. Hitler also talked about preserving freedom through separating the different spheres of party and state and preserving private industry, though in practice under the Nazi regime the party and state apparatus were intermeshed and private industry ruthlessly subordinated to the state. Mussolini also made speeches about how the freedom of the individual wasn’t limited under fascism, except in certain ways, all of which was equally rubbish.

3. People are free.

This means, as he explains, that people naturally hold certain rights and liberties that should always be protected and defended. These include freedom of speech, religion and conscience. This does not mean that certain types of speech have no consequences. I interpret this as meaning that he feels that people can say what they want, but people are also free to express outrage and take action against others for offensive or dangerous speech that is not otherwise banned by law. Tice goes on to say that in practice, while people believe in this principle, they negotiate to give up a certain amount of this freedom with the state.

I think here he means particularly the legislation on hate speech, which in his view prevents proper criticism of certain protected groups in order to combat racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and so on. He has a point, as opponents of gay rights, who have made their opposition very clear in speeches, often quoting the Biblical prohibition against it, have been arrested. In Scotland Maria Miller, a gender critical woman, was arrested for hate speech simply for putting up stickers with the slogan ‘Scots Women Won’t Wheesht’, meaning that they wouldn’t be silent, in her campaign against the proposed gender recognition legislation north of the border. In my opinion, arresting someone for saying that goes beyond a concern about stirring up hatred against trans people into active attempts to police thoughts and opinions about trans rights.

But there are good reasons behind the legislation banning hate speech. In the case of racism, it’s to prevent Nazi groups stirring up hatred against vulnerable minorities like the Jews, people of colour and gays, all of whom have been or are targets of abuse and physical assault.

4. National Sovereignty

This means protecting British traditions, institutions and culture from enemies both external and internal. The external foes include the EU. The internal threats to British tradition and democracy are unelected pressure groups and organisations. These include big tech and companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook. This is a fair point. These organisations can and do censor material posted on their platforms. The right have been complaining about their posts disappearing or the algorithms governing their availability in searches being altered so that they become invisible, but the same censorship is also inflicted on the left. If Tice and his crew get the chance, I’ve no doubt they’ll demand greater freedom of speech for their supporters while maintaining or even strengthening the censorship against their opponents on the left.

Other threats, unsurprisingly, are the European Union, while among the unelected organisations wielding power he puts the environmental groups Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth and the gay rights organisation Stonewall. Tice states that a few years ago Greenpeace published their manifesto for Yorkshire, which was a diatribe against the car, and therefore, in his view, an attack on the automobile industry in west Yorkshire. One of the accusations the extreme right is throwing at environmental groups is that they wish to ban cars and private transport as part of their plan to establish Green Communism. He also includes Stonewall and the massive influence it wields, although no-one has elected it. There is a problem with Stonewall in that the advice it has been giving to companies, the government and the civil service has been wrong. They deliberately gave a wrongful interpretation of the legislation covering trans issues which was very much what they wanted it to say, not what the law actually did. As a result, a number of groups cut their connections to the organisation.

But unelected groups like Greenpeace, Stonewall and so on acquire their power through possessing, or being perceived to express, expertise and competence in particular issues. In the case of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, it’s the environment. Amnesty International is respected because of its thorough investigation and documentation of human rights abuses, even though governments may pay no attention to its findings. Stonewall is taken notice of because it speaks, or claims to speak, for Britain’s gays and articulates their concerns and recommendations to combat prejudice.

Even in the 19th century governments had to pay attention to popular protest organisations, such as the massive abolitionist campaign against slavery, the Anti-Corn Law League set up by Cobden and Bright to have the corn laws repealed so that the price of grain would fall and working people able to feed themselves. There was also the anti-war protests against the Crimean War led by John Bright and others. There are problems with unelected groups exercising power beyond their competence or suitability, but modern governments have always had to deal with organised groups. Tice’s singling out of the environmental groups and Stonewall seems to me to be as much to do with a hatred of their views – the Brexiteers are full-scale behind the right of private industry to trash this country’s green and pleasant land – than with their supposed power outside of the formal sphere of elections. I doubt that Reform would ever go as far if they were in power, but it reminds me more than a little bit of Mussolini’s statement that there should be ‘nothing outside the state, nothing against the state’, and similar bans on private quasi-political organisations in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

But what you’ll also notice is that these principles tell you absolutely nothing about how Reform as a party intends to act on them, except by reading the lines. What does Reform intend to do about the health service? Not said. I suspect, in fact, that as a party of the right they’ll want to privatise even more of it. What about the welfare state and the scandal of millions of people using food banks? No answers there, either. I suspect, however, that in practice you’d get more mantras of encouraging people to be independent, find work and so on, coupled with rants about welfare scroungers. What about industry? Again, the reality is almost certainly that they want more deregulation. Well, we’ve had four decades of Thatcherite privatisation and deregulation, and the result is the mass poverty and failing economy we’re now experiencing. Industry should be acting for the good of society and its employees and not just shareholders and senior management. This means limiting economic freedom, but as the Liberal journalist J.A. Hobson said, in order for the mass of people to be free you need to limit the freedom of the rich. Which is obviously toxic to the Conservatives and other parties of the right.

To sum up, what Reform seems to be doing with these principles is to try to position themselves as defenders of traditional British liberties against the threat of the evil EU and pesky Green and gay groups. But this hides an illiberal ideology that views such groups as somehow subversive, would probably remove the obstacles against real, dangerous expressions of racial and other prejudice, and which would promote the interests of private industry against ordinary Brits.

We can’t afford to be taken in by sweet words hiding their true intentions.

Sketch of Astronomer Heather Couper

December 3, 2022

This is quite an obscure one, but I’ve drawn her because she was an important pioneer and science populariser in her way.

The Wikipedia page on her begins with this potted introduction to her life

Heather Anita CouperCBE FInstP FRAS[1] (2 June 1949 – 19 February 2020) was a British astronomer, broadcaster and science populariser.

After studying astrophysics at the University of Leicester and researching clusters of galaxies at Oxford University, Couper was appointed senior planetarium lecturer at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. She subsequently hosted two series on Channel 4 television – The Planets and The Stars – as well as making many TV guest appearances. On radio, Couper presented the award-winning programme Britain’s Space Race as well as the 30-part series Cosmic Quest for BBC Radio 4. Couper served as President of the British Astronomical Association from 1984 to 1986, and was Astronomy Professor in perpetuity at Gresham College, London. She served on the Millennium Commission, for which she was appointed a CBE in 2007. Asteroid 3922 Heather is named in her honour.[2]

The online encyclopedia states that she was encouraged in her career after writing a letter to Patrick Moore about it when she was 16. He replied, ‘Being a girl is no problem’. She studied astronomy and physics at Leicester University in 1973, where she met her long-term collaborator, fellow astronomy student Nigel Henbest. The two formed a working partnership, Hencoup enterprises, devoted to popularising astronomy. She then carried out postgraduate research as a student of Linacre College, Oxford, in the university’s Astrophysics department. She became the senior lecturer at the Caird Planetarium at Greenwich. In 1984 she was elected president of the British Astronomical Association. She was the first female president and second youngest. I can remember her appearing on Wogan and playing down the fact that she was the first woman to become president, far preferring to be noted as the youngest. She also served as the President of the Junior Astronomical Society, now the Society for Popular Astronomy. In 1988 the London Planetarium invited her to write and present its major new show, Starburst. In 1993 she was appointed professor of astronomy at Gresham college. She was the first woman to hold the position in 400 years and remained professor until her death.

She wrote and co-wrote with Henbest over 40 books, as well as writing articles for a range of magazines such as BBC Sky at Night, BBC Focus and Astronomy. She also presented a lecture on the solar eclipse in Guernsey in 1999, and led expedition to view other eclipses in Sumatra, Hawaii, Aruba, Egypt, China and Tahiti. She also made numerous public appearances and talks about the cruise liners Arcadia, Queen Mary 2, and Queen Victoria. She was aboard Concorde when it made its first flight from London to Auckland. She also appeared and spoke at various science festivals, including Brighton, Cheltenham, and Oxford. She also spoke at corporate events for British Gas, Axa Sun Life and IBM.

She also presented a number of programmes and series on astronomy on the radio. These included Starwatch and The Modern Magi on Radio 4. She also presented an Archive Hour programme on the same channel on Britain’s Space Race, for which she received an Arthur C. Clarke award. She also appeared on Radio 2, and Radio 5Live, as well as making other appearances on Radio 4. She also presented a series of thirty 15-minute episodes on the history of astronomy. Her shows for the BBC World Service included A Brief History of Infinity, The Essential Guide to the 21st Century, and Seeing Stars, which was co-hosted by Henbest.

She made frequent appearances as the guest expert on various TV programmes, mostly on Channel 4. She made her first TV appearance on The Sky at Night, In 1981 she presented the children’s TV programme, Heaven’s Above, on ITV with Terence Murtagh. I think I remember watching this when I was about 14 or so. She then presented the series The Planets for Channel 4, which was followed by The Stars. She also presented the ITV show Neptune Encounter, the Horizon episode ‘A Close Encounter of the Second Kind’, and Stephen Hawking: A Profile on BBC 4.

Couper, Henbest and the director of her series, The Stars, founded a production company, Pioneer Productions. The Neptune Encounter, which covered Voyager 2’s flyby of the planet, was its first programme. She was also the producer for the Channel 4 shows Black Holes, Electric Skies and Beyond the Millennium. She later left the company to concentrate on more general radio and TV appearances.

In 1993 she was appointed a member of the Millennium Commission. Of the nine commissioners appointed, only she and Michael Heseltine continued until it was wound up.

Outside her work on astronomy, she was also a guest presenter on Woman’s Hour, as well as the John Dunn programme and Start the Week on the radio. She was also interested in local history and literature, and so appeared on Radio 4’s With Great Pleasure and Down Your Way. She also appeared on Radio 3’s In Tune selecting her ‘pick of the proms.’ She was also the narrator on a number of other factual programmes, including Channel 4’s Ekranoplan: The Caspian Sea Monster, and Raging Planet on the Discovery Channel.

So, a huge science populariser, but probably one whose achievements are obscured by other, more prominent, celebrities.

As well as the children’s astronomy programme, I also once saw her speaking on about Mars and the question of life on the Red Planet at the Cheltenham Festival of Science. She had a rather mischievous sense of humour. There’s a real possibility that life in some form has existed on Mars and may exist now, but if it does, it’s almost certainly at the level of microbes. At the time, however, various individuals who had spent too long looking at photos of the planet claimed to have seen much larger lifeforms on the planet. There was a programme on Channel 4 in which a Hungarian astronomer appeared to describe how he believed there were massive mushrooms growing there. People also thought the saw giant ‘sand whales’ crawling about its surface, like the sandworms in Dune. These were, in fact, geological features left by some of the dune’s slumping, which created a trail that looked like the segmented body of a worm. One of the peeps taken in by this was the late Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke rang her up from Sri Lanka, asking her if she’d seen them and telling her that he really didn’t know what to make of it. She commented that for a moment she thought he’d gone mad, then covered her mouth like a naughty child caught saying something she shouldn’t.

For all that she played down her importance as a female pioneer in astronomy, I think she did prepare the say for more women to enter it and become television presenters. There’s now a drive for more women in the hard sciences, and we’ve science had a Black woman presenter, Aderin-Pocock, on the Sky At Night, and female astrophysicists and mathematicians appearing on the radio and TV.

Giorgia Meloni – Conservative or Fascist?

September 27, 2022

I’ve been watching some of the videos posted by members of the British and America right about the new Italian prime minister, Giorgia Meloni. Meloni is head of the right-wing Brothers of Italy party, or to give them their Italian name, Fratelli d’Italia. I think ‘Fratelli’ means ‘little brothers’, but if so, then someone decided that it’s not impressive enough for the English translation of their name. She and they have been accused of being Fascists, and arch-conservatives like Matt Walsh, Simon Webb, the Lotus Eaters and Piers Morgan have rushed to defend her. Part of the controversy about her concerns her party’s slogan ‘God, family and nation’. She is proudly Christian and determined to defend the faith. She also stands for the traditional nuclear family and is against adoption and surrogacy for gays. She also rejects the modern ideology she believes is threatening motherhood as an identity, along with national identity, in order, so she says, to reduce people to anonymous consumers. And she is also anti-immigration. For the above pundits, these are all Conservative policies, not Fascist. The problem is that they were also Fascist policies. Her slogan ‘God, family and nation’ sounds like a reworked version of the old Fascist slogan, ‘Family, Faith and Fatherland’. Mussolini was anti-clerical atheist, but he made a deal with the Catholic church that allowed Roman Catholic religious education in schools in return for papacy recognising Italy as a nation, something the church had refused to do following Garibaldi’s forcible incorporation of the Papal states into the new Italy during the Risorgimento. The Italian Fascists were also determined to protect the traditional family against attack from Marxism. Marx and Engels had made it clear in the Communist Manifesto that Communism sought to abolish the family. This attitude was shared by some of the sociologists and ideologues that denounced marriage in favour of cohabitation and free love in the 1960s and 1970s and it continues in the programme of Black Lives Matter, which seeks to replace the nuclear family with a communal raising of children. There was also a huge uproar in Italy a few years ago when an Italian minister, a Black African woman, declared that she wanted polygamy legalised.

Her party’s flag has also been cited as further evidence of fascism. It contains a flame, which is supposed to refer back to the flame on Mussolini’s tomb. From what I saw, the party’s flag was the tricolour of Italy with the flame in the middle. It reminded me very much of the Tricolour Flame, the name of a ‘post-Fascist’ party which emerged after the break-up of the Missimi, or Moviemento Socialie Italiano, the Italian Social Movement, the main neo-Fascist party after World War II. Another party right-wing descended from the MSI was the Alleanzo Nazionali, led by Pierluigi Fini, which claimed to be centre right rather than far right. From this you could conclude that Meloni and the Brothers of Italy were Conservatives, albeit descendants of fascism and just a little further right of the majority of contemporary European Conservative parties. Their defence of the traditional nuclear family and rejection of some gay rights certainly contrasts with the socially liberal wing of the Tories and Dave Cameron’s introduction of gay marriage.

But some of her rhetoric certainly had my alarm bells ringing. In one of her speeches, she’s supposed to have referred to the Great Replacement, the belief that non-White immigration has been deliberately encouraged in order to replace the traditional White European population. And she’s also denounced financial speculators trying to destroy the nation state. Superficially, this sounds innocuous enough with an element of truth in it. Britain, Ireland, America and many of the European countries were hit hard by the banking crash of 2008, a crash that was caused by rampant, unregulated speculation of the type Liz Truss would like to return. As for the hatred of the EU, I was told by an Italian lady while I was at Bristol uni that when her country joined the single market, prices shot up. This caused massive anger to an extent that when she went back there, she didn’t feel safe. And after Italy’s economy collapsed, the European ‘troika’ took control and dictated the country’s economic policy. But it also sounds like the coded rightist nonsense about George Soros, whose various pro-democracy organisations in Hungary and elsewhere have been accused by Viktor Orban and others like him of seeking the destruction of traditional society. More sinisterly, it recalls the vicious, blatantly anti-Semitic conspiracies about international Jewish bankers.

Her rhetoric denouncing the reduction of people to consumers also needs analysis. At one level it recalls the left-wing concerns about the rise of consumerism and the destruction of traditional values that were voiced during the emergence of the affluent society in the ’60s and ’70s. But it could also reflect another aspect of fascist ideology – the celebration of humans as producers. After Mussolini broke with the Italian socialists he gave his paper, the Popolo d’Italia, the subheading ‘the paper of workers and producers’ to reflect the corporatist ideology which promoted both workers, management and proprietors.

As she stands, it looks very much like she is a centre-right conservative with elements of Fascist ideology. I haven’t yet seen anything about her followers marching about in black shirts and jackboots, nor about the proscription of other parties and a rigid control of the media. But then she’s in coalition with Berlusconi and his Forza Italia party. Much the same was said of him when he had Italy under his libidinous rule. There was evening a book written about it describing it as a form of fascism, written not by someone from the liberal media, but by a Times journo, as I recall. Talking about his book on Radio 4 one Saturday morning, he said that the reason Berlusconi didn’t have the authoritarian, paramilitary trappings of fascism was because he didn’t need it. For example, Berlusconi owned much of the private Italian media, and dictated the direction of the state-owned broadcaster so that all of the Italian media was practically in his hands.

Meloni may not be an overt fascist, but there’s enough fascist ideology in her conservatism to be of real concern.

The Date of the End of Serfdom in Yugoslavia

August 2, 2022

One of the many problems I have with the debate over slavery is that with its concentration on Black transatlantic, and particularly American and Caribbean slavery, it ignores the fact that White Europeans were also subjected to various forms of unfreedom, from slavery to serfdom. In Britain, slavery had died out by the 12th century, hence Lord Mansfield was able to give his famous judgement on the Somerset case that slavery did not exist in English law. However, serfdom persisted until it finally withered away completely by the mid-17th century. A form of serfdom, or something very like it, continued in the Scots mining industry in the 18th and 19th centuries. Scottish miners were bondsmen, tied to working for their masters and were forced to wear neck rings bearing their names, just like Roman and medieval slaves. On the continent serfdom persisted until the Revolution in France, the early 19th century in Prussia, and the 1860s in Russia. This, however, was not the end of this form of unfreedom in the backward parts of Europe. Thomas Sowell, in the chapter on the Slavs in his book Conquests and Cultures, notes the geographical obstacles to development the Slavs and other eastern Europeans, such as the Hungarians, and Romanians, faced to their social, economic and technological development. These were a lack of navigable rivers, which tended to flow, in the case of Russia, into inland lakes or seas rather than the ocean, or else the flowed into the Baltic and were frozen and thus unusable for part of year. The result was that communication and the transport of goods was far more difficult and expensive than in the western part of the continent. In the Balkans these factors were exacerbated by high mountain ranges which cut communities off from each other. As a result of this and the long dominance of the Turkish empire, which cut the region off from western cultural advancements, the area remained very backward compared to the west. An example of this backwardness is the date when serfdom was abolished in Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina: 1919, a year after Yugoslavia had become an independent state. (p. 203).

I really do feel that the history of slavery and serfdom, and its long persistence in White European nations as well as in the rest of the world, should be better known in order to halt the grotesque distortion of history that appears to be held by some activists, which presents slavery as something White Europeans and Americans did to Black Africans.

Sultan and Khan Attack the Islamic Preachers of Jihad and Slavery

April 12, 2022

One of the books I’ve been reading recently was Jonathan A.C. Brown’s Slavery and Islam. I did so partly to see whether there was any truth in the accusation by the islamophobic right that the Muslim grooming gangs were rooted in Muslim sex slavery. They aren’t. They’re just evil men with a racist attitude to Whites, who wanted to rape and degrade young girls. Brown states in his introduction that his book was a response to the shock he and the overwhelming majority of Muslims the world over felt when ISIS revived sex slavery. His book is also partly an attempt to answer the question why, if slavery is such a monstrous crime, did it take so long for Christians, Muslims and other religions and philosophies to ban it. His conclusion is that slavery wasn’t condemned but regulated by religions like Christianity and Islam because it was too much a part of everyday life for previous civilisations to consider outlawing it. Not even rationalist philosophers like Aristotle argued against it, because they felt it was too indispensable. Aristotle apparently said that it could only be banned ‘when looms drive themselves’. Brown therefore concludes that abolitionism arose in the west when a series of social and technological changes showed that society could still survive and prosper economically without slavery. Part of his argument is that it survived so long in Islam because Muslim slavery was more benign than western chattel slavery and even the western treatment of free workers. It was heavily regulated, slaves had rights, most could expect to be manumitted in 8-10 years and female slave concubines could rise to become powerful women, the mothers of Ottoman emperors and caliphs.

Brown’s a White American convert to Islam and a professor of the religion at one of the American universities. He amasses a wealth of information and sources to prove his point. At the same time, it strikes me that he’s producing a biased account of Islamic slavery intended to impress the reader with its comparative mildness. Others have produce much more critical studies to Islamic slavery. The White European and American victims of the Barbary pirates complained of constant beating by their masters. They were given meagre rations and expected to make money for their masters. They lived in particular fear of being pressed into the pirates’ galleys. As oarsmen they were kept chained to their benched night and day, fed little and deprived of sleep. Many were driven to ‘strange ecstasies’ – madness. Another fear was that, if their relatives and friends back home could not raise the money to ransom them, their masters would sell them on to the big Ottoman slave market at Constantinople, and they would be lost among the enslaved masses of the Ottoman empire for ever.

Nevertheless, despite the book’s bias, Brown chronicles the process of abolition in the Islamic world and the attempts by Muslims themselves to abolish slavery. Sometimes this was by sincere reformers, who felt that Muhammed had intended slavery to be banned eventually, but circumstances prevented him from doing so in his own time. Sometimes the bans were simply for reasons of diplomatic expediency. Islamic states and rulers wanted to make treaties with western nations. These wanted to ban slavery around the globe, and so their Islamic partners did so. Brown notes the existence of radical Muslim groups we haven’t heard about in the West, because their radicalism is that of left-wing opponents of racism, sexism and homophobia in the West. These include movements like the Progressive Muslims.

But unfortunately, despite the hard work put in by Islamic abolitionists, the fanatics are coming back to preach aggressive jihad and the enslavement of the kufar.

Harris Sultan and Nuriyeh Khan are two ex-Muslim atheists with their own channel on YouTube, which attacks religion in general and Islam in particular. They are very concerned about the rising intolerance in the Islamic world, like Pakistan where people have been murdered on the mere accusation that they have committed blasphemy. A few days ago they discussed a recent case in which a schoolteacher was murdered by three of her pupils, because one of them apparently had a dream in which the teacher blasphemed against Islam. It’s sheer, mindless fanaticism, though there’s also the suspicion that there may have been more mundane motives for the killing. They’ve also attacked similar trends among extreme right-wing Hindus in India and also among the Sikhs. and recently they’ve put up a couple of videos showing Muslim preachers calling for or defending aggressive jihad and the enslavement of non-Muslims.

One was an Indonesian preacher on Zakir Naik’s PeaceTV. Naik’s a Muslim anti-Christian polemicist. This delightful preacher told his congregation that in 50-60 years, Muslims would be strong enough to make war and invade the non-Muslim world. If non-Muslims allowed them to take over their countries without struggle, they would be allowed to keep their homes and property. If, however, they fought back, or continued with un-Islamic practices like nightclubs after they allowed Islam to take over their countries, they would be conquered by military force and enslaved.

The other day they put up another video of a female professor of Islam at one of Islam’s most prestigious universities, al-Uzzah, as recorded and translated by Memri TV. This woman attacked the treatment of the Palestinians by the Israelis. But she was in favour of Muslims enslaving non-Muslim women as sex slaves, because this would humiliate them. This particularly shocked Nuriyeh Khan. As a modern, liberated woman she found it deeply distressing and incomprehensible to hear another woman advocating such vile treatment of the members of her own sex. Sultan also made the point that the Israelis weren’t enslaving Palestinian women for sex. If they did, this would be a crime against humanity and would be condemned by the international community. This is probably true, but condemnations by the UN haven’t stopped the decades long process of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians by the Israeli state, the erection of a system of apartheid or the imprisonment and torture of Palestinian children.

To show what these policies meant in practice during Ottoman history, they show clips from a Hungarian TV series about Magyar, Serb and Croat girls, who are carried off into slavery by Ottoman raiders. These kill the girls’ fiances and husbands. At the slave market they are stripped and humiliated with their breasts and buttocks prodded by prospect male buyers. This is historically accurate. Under the sharia the only legitimate source of slaves was prisoners of war, and so Muslim states were engaged in warfare and raiding for slaves to supply the slave markets. And Brown states in his book that female slaves were treated like this.

Now this TV series raises a number of issues. There’s a bitter hatred of Muslims in Hungary and the Balkans. These countries were invaded and conquered by the Ottomans. The Turks only succeeded in conquering two-thirds of Hungary, and it was later reconquered by the Austrians, hence the Austro-Hungarian empire. But Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania and Greece, for example, spent five hundred years as provinces of the Ottomans. Most of the hatred, though, dates from atrocities committed by the Muslim forces during these nations’ wars of independence. A revolt on one of the Greek islands was put down with terrible massacres in the 1820s, after which 17,000 + Christian Greeks were enslaved. It should be noted too that the Christians were also capable of committing atrocities of their own against Muslims, but this received much less publicity in the west. During the Second World Bosnian Muslims united with the forces of Croatian Fascist leader Ante Pavelic to perpetrate appalling massacres on the Serbs. The Fascists wanted to have 1/3 of the Serbs converted to Roman Catholicism, a third forced in slavery and another third simply wiped out. Concentration camps like those for Jews in Nazi Germany were set up. Captured Serb women and children were thrown off mountains to kill them.

It was memory of these horrors that spurred the Serbs in their turn to commit horrific atrocities against Bosnian Muslims during the War in Yugoslavia in the 1990s. One of the paramilitary groups responsible, under a particular vicious brute called Arkan, had taken part a few years earlier in a re-enactment of the Battle of Kosovo Polje at the end of the fourteenth century in which the Ottoman forces defeated the Christian armies and conquered Serbia. However much based in fact the Hungarian TV series is, it worries me that it has the potential to inspire a similar genocidal hatred of Muslims. Hungary has attracted international criticism from the EU amongst other for refusing to admit Muslim asylum seekers. I also seem to recall that Serbia also refused to let the mass caravan of migrants from Syria and the Middle East pass through their country on the way to western Europe in 2012. But I might be wrong. At the moment Britain is going through a period of post-imperial guilt because of the enslavement of indigenous peoples during the empire. But I wonder how tolerant we would be, if we had not been the conquerors but the conquered.

But the Hungarian TV series also raises questions about TV series about the enslavement of Blacks in America and Europe, such as Alex Haley’s landmark book, Roots in the 1970s. Since then there have been a number of films, TV shows and documentaries about the enslavement of Blacks by westerners, such as Amistad and 12 Years A Slave. These are partly a response to the poverty, racism and marginalisation experienced by many western Black communities which it is argued have their basis in their enslavement. But if it is not only permissible but laudable to produce such historical dramas about transatlantic Black slavery, why shouldn’t series about the enslavement of Whites by Muslims also be shown? I doubt that any mainstream western European or American TV station would want to show such a series like the Hungarians because of the fear that it would promote islamophobia. But nevertheless, this occurred, and its legacy is felt in Orban’s Hungary and other parts of the Balkans.

But it’s also frightening to see that, after ISIS shocked decent people across the world, the preachers of hate in the Dar al-Islam by picking up their ideas and calling for jihad and sex slavery.

I wish the heirs of the great Islamic abolitionists every success in combating these intolerant fanatics, and the continuation of an international order marked by peace, respect and dignity for everyone, regardless of their colour or religion.

I haven’t posted the videos by Harris and Sultan here, because they make harsh comments about Islam as a whole. I’m not an atheist and genuinely don’t wish to upset Muslim readers of this blog. This is a time when the Conservatives are forcing working people of all religions into ever greater poverty. European Muslims are, in general, the most impoverished group after Blacks. See the book The Crisis in Islamic Civilisation. It shouldn’t matter what our individual religious faiths are or their absence thereof. We all need to stand together against genuine intolerance wherever it is found, and the Tories’ and neo-liberals to drive us further into poverty and despair.

If you want to see their videos, please look for them on YouTube. Their titles are

Sheikh Assim Al-Hakeem unveils the GRAND plan of Islam

Female Islamic scholar says Muslim men have a right to humiliate infidel women

Just remember, these monsters don’t speak for all Muslims.

Capitalism and Property Rights in the West and Islam

March 25, 2022

Private property is very much at the heart of modern Conservatism. Conservative intellectuals, politicians and activists maintain that private industry is more efficient and effective, and has raised more people out of poverty than alternative economic systems. It’s also a fundamental right, a mainstay of western democracy that has prevented Europeans and Americans from tyrannical government, whether absolute monarchies or soviet-style communist dictatorships. It’s also supposedly the reason why Britain and the West currently dominate the rest of the world. The Times journo Niall Ferguson wrote a book about this a few years ago, which accompanied a TV series. In his analysis, Britain was able to out-compete Spain as a colonial power because British democracy gave people a stake in their society, while the only stakeholder in Spain was the king.

This can be challenged from a number of directions. Firstly, early modern Britain wasn’t democratic. The vote was restricted to a small class of gentlemen, meaning people who were lower than the aristocracy, but nevertheless were still able and expected to live off their rents. At the same time, although the power of the monarchy was restricted by the constitution and parliament, it still possessed vast power. Kings could go for years without calling one. As for Drake and the Armada, we were also saved by the weather. There was a ‘Protestant wind’ which blew apart and disrupted the Spanish fleet. As for capitalism, more recent books like The Renaissance Bazaar have shown that the new capitalist institutions that were introduced in Italy and thence to the rest of Europe during the renaissance were based on those further east in the Islamic world. And far from western global domination being inevitable, in the 15th century Christian Europeans feared that they would be conquered by Islam. The Turks had blazed through the Balkans and took 2/3 of Hungary. One fifteenth century German soldier and writer, de Busbecq, feared that the Ottomans would conquer Christendom because of the meritocracy and professionalism of their armies. The Ottomans, along with other Muslim states, recruited their armies through enslavement. It’s the origin of the Mamlukes in Egypt and the slave dynasties in Delhi. But these slaves were given an intensive military training, as well as education in Islam and the Turkish language, and promoted on their merits. Jonathan A.C. Brown in his book, slavery & Islam, how further back in Islamic history Black African slaves had been appointed the governors of parts of Iraq. The result was that while the European armies were feudal, led by aristocrats who had been born to their position and held it despite their ability or lack thereof, the Ottoman’s were manned and led by well-trained soldiers who held their commands by merit. We had better armour than the Ottomans, but they were able to defeat us because they were simply better soldiers.

Property rights have been a fundamental part of western political theory for a very long time. The social contract theory of government held that the primordial human community had elected kings to protect their lives and property. But Islam also maintained that property was a fundamental human right. According to Jonathan A.C. Brown’s Islam & Slavery, from the 700s AD Muslim jurists discussed the issue of human rights – huquq al-‘Ibad, or the rights of (God’s) slaves, i.e. humans, or huquq al-Adamiyya, or Adamic rights, or human rights. These were held to be the rights possessed by all humans, whether Muslim or not. Under the great Islamic theologian al-Ghazzali, these were expanded into five universals: protection for the integrity of life, reason, religion, lineage and paternity and property. He concludes that ‘The Islamic rights of physical inviolability and property can be seen as counterparts or perhaps forerunners of these aims.’ (pp. 299-300). I’ll admit this came as something of a surprise to me, because unless you study Islam at a higher level, you don’t hear about it. And you definitely don’t hear about it from the conservative right, who seem to believe that property rights and virtuous capitalism are something that only the Anglo-Saxon peoples invented. Remember George W. Bush’s famous, ludicrous sneer at the French that they had ‘no word for entrepreneurship’. Well,, they have, as attested by the word ‘entrepreneur’.

And property rights are not automatically intrinsic to modern concepts of freedom and democracy. They arose long before the expansion of the franchi8se in the 19th century and the emergence of universal adult suffrage in the early 20th century. Over much of western history, property rights meant the rights of the property owning upper classes against the working masses. And slaves could not own property, as legally, following the precedent of Roman law, they were property. Anything they had automatically belonged to their masters. Property rights were also regularly invoked to defend slavery. That’s very apparent when you read the protests against the British government’s attempts to regulate and then finally abolish slavery in the 19th century. The slaveowners were incensed by what they viewed as a tyrannical governmental interference in their property rights.

Now I agree people do have a right to private property, though private enterprise in many spheres is certainly not adequate to provide decent services. These are the utilities, education and healthcare. I also believe that, following Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, the west was able to gain ascendancy through technological and scientific advances, particularly military. I think the development of western capitalism also played a part in creating a mass, industrial society that was more efficient and advanced than the craft economies of the Islamic world. But this does not mean capitalism, or at least its antecedents, were absent from Islam or that Islam had no conception of property rights.

Perhaps, before we go to war with these countries to liberate them for multinational corporations, we should stop listening to Conservatives and listen more to those academics and experts, who actually know something about Islam.