Archive for the ‘Ireland’ Category

We Own It’s Campaign to Get MPs to Oppose the Tories’ Privatisation of the NHS

July 10, 2021

Mike this morning has put up an excellent piece pointing out that the latest proposed legislation from Boris Johnson and his cronies, that will allow private healthcare companies onto NHS boards and run NHS services, will not end the privatisation of the NHS but simply open it up further. We Own It are an organisation that firmly opposes the privatisation of this vital British institution, and have launched a campaign to get people to write to their MPs to get them to oppose the bill when it is discussed on Wednesday. I got this email from them on Thursday.

‘The NHS Corporate Takeover Bill is here, and on Wednesday 14 July MPs will vote on whether to take the bill forward.

If we can get all opposition MPs and even a few Conservative MPs to oppose the bill, it will scare the government into taking a good look at this bill. Please write to your MP now.

Write to your MP now: pledge opposition to this Bill

You may have written to your MP about concerns before, and maybe the outcome wasn’t what you hoped for.

But the reality is all MPs listen to the local mood and to what lots of their constituents are writing to them about, even Conservative MPs. They may not appear to feel the pressure but they do.

We’ve adapted our draft letter to MPs based on what they’re likely to be concerned about in this bill.

And there is a lot to be worried about. 

Our NHS will have private companies making decisions about our care if this goes ahead. 

Our NHS will be under tight financial controls and more contracts could be given to the likes of Serco without any process if this goes ahead.

And they will deregulate NHS professions so you won’t necessarily be seen by a doctor or nurse anymore.

Your email will get MPs to stand up and listen, and we hear widespread opposition is possible.

So your email could tip them over the edge.

No matter where you live in the UK, your MP speaking out against this legislation and for our NHS is further proof that this is of huge concern. Can you email your MP now?

I’ll email my MP on the pledge to protect our NHS

Although this Bill currently affects England, they do set a worrying precedent of privatisation that could have repercussions in the devolved nations. We know that (many) opposition MPs in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are opposed to the corporate takeover bill, and their pressure can have a real impact in influencing the govt’s decision. So please email them to get them to pledge their opposition!
As Nye Bevan said, ‘the NHS will last as long as there’s folk with faith left to fight for it’, and you writing to your MP is part of a long term plan to build a movement for our NHS.
We are building our power bit by bit, and we must keep going if we’re going to stop the privatisation of our beloved NHS.
Thank you for all you do. 
In solidarity,
Cat, Zana, Johnbosco, Chris, Alice and Pascale – the We Own It team 

If you follow the links, you come to a form letter that they’ve already prepared. All you need do is add your name and address. I’ve had absolutely no hesitation in using it and I hope you will too.

The NHS and people’s lives and health are too precious to become simply a source of profit for Boris and his profiteers.

We Own It’s Public Zoom Meeting Monday Against NHS Privatisation

June 25, 2021

We Own It is an organisation campaigning for the renationalisation of public industries. It is particularly against the Tories’ ongoing privatisation of the NHS. I got this email from them yesterday about a public zoom meeting they’re organising on Monday against the Tories’ decision to hand over a number of doctor’s surgeries to Centene, a private healthcare company. This is going to be the thin end of the wedge, leading to further GP’s surgeries being privatised unless stopped. The email runs

“Our NHS turns 73 this year. 

As part of this year’s NHS birthday, a coalition of NHS campaign groups – including We Own It – is organising a public meeting on stopping the private takeover of NHS GP surgeries. 

Can you join the online (ZOOM) public meeting at 6pm on Monday, 28th June?

Sign up to attend the public meeting

You may know, David, that Centene, an American healthcare corporation, recently took over 49 NHS GP surgeries. 

This kind of takeover of our NHS GP surgeries shows that the government is intent on putting our NHS into the hands of profiteers. 

This would explain their lack of action to get Centene out.

At the public meeting you will learn more about the danger these takeovers pose to our NHS and also how you can be part of the fightback.

Please join the public meeting whether you are in England, Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland.

At the meeting you will hear from:

  • Jeremy Corbyn – MP for Islington North (his constituency has a Centene surgery)
  • Dr. Louise Irvine – Keep Our NHS Public
  • Richard Buckwell – Chair Nottingham & Notts Keep Our NHS Public
  • Cllr. Rabina Khan – Tower Hamlets Councillor (Liberal Democrats)

There will also be a speaker from Spain to speak about the effects of Centene in their country.

I want to attend the public meeting
Our NHS was founded on the principle of equality: equal access to healthcare for everyone – from the rich to the poor. 
That is why the NHS was established as a public healthcare system, free at the point of use and funded through general taxation.
Our local GP surgeries are the first point of contact with the NHS for over 80% of us.
But with companies like Centene now getting their hands on our NHS GP surgeries, many of them risk being closed if they are not profitable.
Centene has already closed surgeries in Harlow (Essex), Leicester and Camden for not being profitable. 
And by doing so, they are depriving the communities access to readily available care.
It is so important that we continue to fight back and stop these takeovers.
Sign up to attend the public meeting

As we celebrate the 73rd anniversary of our NHS, your involvement in events like this, David, is so valued. The truth is that without the fight that you have put on over the years, there may no longer be an NHS.

Please sign up to attend the public meeting to stop Centene’s takeover of NHS GP surgeries.

Thank you so much for the incredible work you’ve been doing to protect our NHS.

Cat, Alice, Pascale, Chris, Zana, Johnbosco – the We Own It team

PS: You still have an opportunity to fund action and campaigning against the government’s plan to allow private companies, like Virgin, to sit on ICS boards. Integrated Care Systems (ICS) boards will make decisions about how NHS budgets are spent in our local areas. Sign up to donate £5 a month or whatever you can afford. Every penny helps in the fight to stop this privatisation of our NHS.

Of the speakers, Jeremy Corbyn needs no introduction as the former, and vilely maligned leader of the Labour party, but it will be interesting to hear from a medical doctor, Louise Irvine, and the Spanish speaker about how Centene is wrecking their country’s healthcare system, all in the name of profit.

I haven’t donated to the organisation, but I do intend to go to the Virtual meeting. I think the time is 6.00 – 7.30 pm on Monday, 28th June 2021. If you feel the same, you may also want to do the same to protect this most vital of British institutions.

History Debunked on the White Slaves of Early Modern Scotland

June 21, 2021

This is another video from History Debunked’s Simon Webb. I’ve put up a number of his videos because they seem to contradict and refute some of the falsehoods deliberately being told about slavery and the maltreatment of Blacks in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests. I’ve made it very clear that I despise Black Lives Matter, but I fully recognise the reasons behind their anger. As a community, Blacks do suffer from poor educational achievement, poverty, a lack of career opportunities, drug abuse and the violent criminality that goes with it. I know from talking to Black and Asian friends and relatives that there is real racial discrimination out there, including the threat of genuine Nazi violence. What I object to is some of the glib assertions and false history that has been added to genuine fact and the one-sided presentation of these problems. It’s simply an historical fact that slavery has existed in very many societies right across the world. It existed in Africa, and the Black slaves we acquired during the days of the transatlantic slave trade were purchased from powerful African slaving states like Dahomey, Whydah and a number of others. Black Africans were also enslaved by Muslim Arabs, Turks, as well as Indians and were exported from east Africa as far as modern Sumatra and Java. One historian of slavery has remarked that it has been so prevalent across the world, that what is remarkable is not that White Europeans practised it, but that White Europeans and Americans abolished it. But slavery is increasingly being presented as something that only White Europeans and their colonies did to Blacks.

In this video Webb talks about a form of slavery practised in Britain from the late 17th century to the end of the 18th century, which I doubt few people know about. It was the enslavement of White Scots people to work in their country’s mines and salt pans. The law, Anent Colliers and Salters, was passed in 1660 and was designed to stop shortages of labour in the coal mining and salt-making industries. The salt was produced through boiling seawater in vast pans. These were large parts of the Scots economy at the time, and the law was intended to stop workers in those industries going off and seeking gainful employment elsewhere. The law bound the miners and salters to their masters, who were given the power to beat them, whipping those who refused to work, as well as the right to sell them to other owners. They could not look for other jobs or even leave the area. In 1661 the law was extended so that the masters could forcibly conscript into their employment tramps and vagabonds. And there were harsh punishments for runaway miners. When one owner put up a mine for sale, as occasionally happened, the men were listed alongside equipment and livestock like the pit ponies. In 1701 Scotland passed what was dubbed ‘the Scots Habeas Corpus Act’, which prevented Scots from being imprisoned without cause. But it specifically excluded the workers in the above industries. In 1775 legislation was passed emancipating colliers and salters, but it applied only to new workers. It contained a ‘grandfather clause’, specifically excluding previous workers. It was only in 1799 that a law was passed freeing all miners and salt workers north of the border. He explicitly states at the end that the moral of all this was that slavery was not something that was done solely to Blacks. It was also done to Whites and continued until a few decades before the emancipation of all slaves.

As with all of his videos, I think you have to be aware of his personal bias. He seems to be a Telegraph-reading Tory, and some of what he says is incorrect. He has said that Britain never advertised for Caribbean workers, but this has been contradicted by several of the great commenters here, who remember just such appeals. In my understanding, he is wrong in what he says about the Mansfield judgement banning slavery in Britain. The judgement was issued by Lord Mansfield on a case brought before him by the Abolitionists on behalf of a slave, James Somerset. Somerset had been sold to another master, who wanted to take him abroad, which Somerset didn’t want to do. It’s like the later Dredd Scott in America. Webb claims that the judgement did not rule against slavery, only that slaves couldn’t be taken out of the country, because Mansfield had no power to pass judgement outlawing existing forms of British slavery such as that of the miners and salters.

This is wrong. In every book I read it is stated that Lord Mansfield ruled that slavery did not exist under English law. This is correct. Slavery had died out in England by the end of the 12th century as the Normans banned it. The former slaves instead became villeins, serfs. The mass of English peasants were unfree. By law they could not leave the manors on which they were settled, their property was technically that of their lords, and they had to pay a fine compensating the lord for his loss when their daughters married. In addition to working on their own plots of land, they were also required to do labour service on their lords’ demesnes. Their property reverted to their masters on their deaths, so that their widows and children had to appeal to the lord to get it back. Meanwhile, the parish priest had the rest to take the deceased peasant’s best beast, meaning his best cow, ox or bull. It’s not as severe as chattel slavery, and serfs have certain rights, which slaves don’t. But sometimes, especially in the Russia as the tsars, the distinction between serfdom and chattel slaves is a fine one. Serfdom was abolished in France during the French Revolution. Other states, like Denmark and the German states, abolished it in the decades following and during the 19th century, as did Russia under tsar Alexander II.

In school we’re taught, or given the impression, that serfdom died out because of an acute labour shortage following the death of between a third and half of the European population during the Black Death in the 14th century. In fact what happened is that the Black Death commenced a long period in which serfdom began withering away as landlords began to compete amongst each other to persuade peasants to settle on their estates and commute labour services into money rents. But the process was a long one. The last serf died in 1645, I believe. In one of her programmes in which she visits various historic towns, Dr Alice Roberts, a former female star of Time Team, medical doctor, anthropologist and Professor for the Public Engagement with Science at Birmingham university visited one of the great cities of Norfolk. She learned there about a battle in the 16th century when the local peasants revolted against attempts to turn them back into bondsmen – serfs.

Furthermore, even if slavery was formally abolished in England and serfdom had withered away, it was still customary to purchase certain types of human being. Time Team’s Tony Robinson, also known as Blackadder’s Baldrick, described the appalling conditions suffered by 18th and 19th century mill workers in his series, The Worst Jobs in History. He trembled with raw, justified outrage when he told how millowners would to workhouses and orphanages to buy the children left there to use as their workers. Wives were also seen as the property of their husbands, and the traditional form of divorce amongst British peasant and working class communities was to take them to market to sell. It happened up and down the country, including Bristol, where you could get a reproduction of an advertisement for such a sale down at the Central Library. The transportation of certain criminals also acted as a form of slavery. The Monmouth rebels in the West Country, who supported the illegitimate Duke of Monmouth against James II, if they escaped hanging by Judge Jefferies were transported to Barbados, where they were sold to the planters for sacks of sugar. Irish rebels were also treated the same way. A friend of mine at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum, who was a staunch anti-slavery activist with a mixed-race African wife, told me how you could still see the former cabins occupied by the White Irish amongst those of the Black plantation labourers in Barbados and the Caribbean. The Irish cabins were patriotically decorated with shamrocks.

I think the Mansfield judgement only applied to English law. Scots law is different, because until the Act of Union in the early 18th century England and Scotland were different countries with separate parliaments and different legal systems. Since the 12th century, English law includes custom and precedent. A judgement passed on one case acts as the model for others in similar cases. Scots law is based on Roman law. As I understand, a judgement passed in one case is not automatically binding for similar cases. It can be used as the basis for a similar decision, but the judge is also free to disregard it and make his own judgement. Lord Mansfield’s judgement probably only affected English, and not Scots law. Nevertheless, it was highly influential in that during the 1820s and ’30s before the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, Black slaves in the Caribbean used it as the basis for their own efforts to gain their freedom. There were a series of slaves, like Grace James of Antigua, who had been brought to Britain, or English overseas territories like Gibraltar, by their masters. On their return home, they presented themselves to the Guardian and Protector of Slaves, the official charged with protecting the slaves from brutality and maltreatment, as free people of colour illegally held in slavery. Their owners naturally objected, claiming they were being robbed of their property. The colonial authorities appealed to the home government for guidance, and the diplomatic correspondence, as printed in the government’s blue books, included copies of the Mansfield judgement.

I also believe that the conditions for miners in the north of England was similar to those in Scotland. I think it may have been on Bargain Hunt, one of the Beeb’s early evening antique shows, or perhaps Great Railway Journeys with Michael Portillo, that they were in County Durham. The presenter was shown around the miner’s hall, the grand headquarters of the local trade union. He was told about the horrendous, oppressive conditions contained in the contract that traditionally had to be signed by every miner binding him to his master. These were only successfully fought and finally overturned thanks to union opposition in the 19th century. Which is another demonstration why we need strong, effective unions.

There was considerable sympathy for enslaved Blacks amongst working people, and particularly in Scotland. It’s been claimed that one reason for this was because of the enslavement of White, Scottish mineworkers. Thus the authorities and slave masters complained that there was too much sympathy for runaways among ordinary Scots, who were hiding and protesting them.

I think that possibly too little is known about serfdom and the traditional enslavement of Whites in Britain and Europe. Some of this might simply be due to the fact that most history is ‘history from above’, the actions of monarchs and great statesmen and politicians, rather than social history, or ‘history from below’. Another factor may well be the myth most Brits have grown up with – that Britain is the country from which freedom and good government flows. What isn’t appreciated is that every one of the freedoms we enjoy, and which are being stripped from us by the Tories, were hard won through the blood, sweat, toil and tears of ordinary folk and their champions.

It has led to a distorted view of history, the myth of ‘merrie England’ in which everything was somehow better in the old days, when lords ruled and the hoi polloi knew their place. It’s a view that the right do want to bring back. But a lack of understanding of traditional forms of British forced labour, that applied to Whites, has also contributed to the equally distorted view that slavery and forced labour is very much something that Whites inflicted on Blacks or other people of colour.

Both are wrong, and need to be fought.

Bristol South Labour Party’s Motion Demanding Action and Leadership from Starmer and Dodds

June 19, 2021

Mike has put up a chilling post this morning revealing a hidden truth about the recent Lib Dem by-election victory in Amersham and Chesham. They won not because there is actually a revival in that awful party’s fortunes, but because of tactical voting and the almost complete collapse of the Labour vote. Labour got only 622 votes, 1.6 per cent of the total, and lost their deposit. And I don’t doubt for a single minute that it’s because of Keir Starmer’s abysmal leadership. He has spent all his time and energy as leader persecuting the left, all under the specious pretence of fighting anti-Semitism. He has broken every one of the promises he made to support Labour’s genuinely popular manifesto commitments. These were for nationalised utilities, a renationalised NHS, a proper welfare state, and strong unions and workers’ rights. He showed his contempt to the party’s Black members through his offhand, lacklustre support for Black Lives Matter and by refusing to investigate or punish the bullies responsible for the racist abuse and treatment of Diane Abbott and other Black MPs and activists. And more significantly, he has done precious little to attack the Tories and hold Boris Johnson accountable for the deaths resulting from his bungled Covid policy, the corruption which has seen the Etonian fraud grant government contracts to his friends’ companies, the continuing assaults on democracy and free speech, the absence of any genuinely beneficial trade deals for Britain as a result of Brexit, and the descent into rioting and unrest in Ireland.

All of these issues are open goals. But I’ve seen precious little comment from Starmer on any of them. One internet commenter has already posted that Cummings seems to be doing more damage to the Tories than him. And I agree.

As a result, Bristol South Labour party passed a motion Thursday night to invite Anneliese Dodds down to the constituency to hear our concerns about the lack of leadership. It’s an amended motion. The original explicitly called upon Starmer to make his presence felt and start showing that Labour had good, viable policies. This was altered because some members felt that Starmer was already doing something towards this with his policy review.

“Social Change Motion

The dark days of WW2 exposed a desperate need for radical social change in Britain.  The Labour Party took on the challenge and delivered the miracle of our Welfare State.

Most of the years since then have seen a Tory hegemony; the last decade in particular has brought about a devastating erosion of all our public services; the crisis today is scarcely less urgent than that of 1945. Just as during the war, the Covid pandemic has thrown into harsh light how grievous the levels of need have become – in health, education, housing, social care and now, of course, climate change.  The whole country is witnessing this and is desperate for signs of future hope and change.

Hope can come only from a Labour Government in power with a bold and radical agenda for change.  We know, however, that to achieve this will require extraordinary action – not only an inspired and inspiring manifesto but an imaginative co-operation within the parties of the Left.  Clearly. some form of PR will be necessary if the Tories are to be held in check in the long term.  Equally clear is the need for Labour to stop its factional infighting and concentrate on winning the next election.  

Our Leadership’s current policy of holding the Government to account for its handling of Covid and for its many other failings is right and necessary but it is nowhere near sufficient to the country’s needs.  The time for radical change is now.  The country is ready to listen now and it is high time for it to hear what the Labour Party stands for.

The path to victory in 2024 must be opened up without delay.  This branch therefore calls upon our Leadership to set aside their present caution – and reliance on focus groups -and respond to the country’s urgent needs.

Action: to invite Annelise Dodds** in her role in co-ordinating the NPF consultation to a Bristol South CLP meeting to hear and address the concerns expressed above.

Amendment to add: Action: Invite Annelise Dodds** in her role in co-ordinating the NPF consultation to a Bristol South CLP meeting to hear and address the concerns expressed above.”

The motion shows the depth of concern Bristol South CLP has with the lack of action and leadership on Starmer’s part. Some of those who actively campaigned during the council elections said they were told by people on the doorsteps that they were voting Green, because they didn’t know what Labour stood for. The party has some excellent Green policies, but these haven’t been sufficiently communicated to the public.

I honestly don’t know what would come of inviting Dodds down to hear the concerns of the constituency party. Given the highly authoritarian and dictatorial leadership style, precious little. It seems that Starmer’s and the party bureaucracy’s response to criticism is to suspend the critics. But they and Starmer are leading the party to disaster. He can’t blame Corbyn, or the continuing power of the left. Labour’s poor showing in the elections is due to him and him alone.

He should now either start showing real leadership and demonstrably oppose Johnson, or he should leave and make way for those who will.

Labour suffers worst by-election result in party’s history. Will Starmer accept the blame? | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Two Fairy Sightings from 20th Century Britain

June 7, 2021

My last blog post was about a video I found on YouTube from Irish television in 1966. They were covering the attempt by an Irish docker, Tim Hayes, to spend 101 hours buried underground near a fairy fort in order to disprove the existence of the ‘Gentlemen’ or ‘Good People’. The film included a brief interview with a local man, who said he would definitely not want to interfere with the fairy fort, and would be extremely upset if anyone else were to do so or interfere with the field in which it lay. The film testifies to the continuing power of real belief in the fairies, despite the onward march of rationalism.

But it isn’t only in Ireland or the Celtic countries that belief in the fairies still persists. People are also still seeing them in England too. I found these two accounts from the 20th century in Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain, (London: Reader’s Digest 1973), p. 121.

All dressed in green

‘… When we were on holiday in Cornwall, my daughter and I came down a winding lane, and all of a sudden there was a small green man – all in green with a pointed hood and ears. We both saw him … we were cold with terror and ran for the ferry below.’ A 20th century description by a man from Shropshire.

A fairy guide

‘… It was on the Berkshire Downs, and we’d lost our way, and didn’t know what track to take. When I looked round, there was small man in green standing at my elbow. “You’ll be all right,” he said, “You take that one; you’ll be all right.” Then he didn’t disappear, but he just wasn’t there any more’. Described in 1962 by a Somerset farmer’s wife.

And sightings continue to the present day. I went to a folklore/ paranormal conference a few years ago here in Bristol on the fairies, which included people who very firmly believed in them. And when I was studying for my archaeology Ph.D. at Bristol university, I went to a seminar on fairies presented by the epic Ron Hutton. Hutton opened by singing the theme to the Southern vampire TV series, Tru Blood, before describing a sighting of a fairy one evening by a young man and a women in Glastonbury. Well, where else? The couple saw this strange light bouncing along the ground. One of them asked the other what on earth it could be, and got the reply ‘It’s a fairy. What else could it be?’

Having said that, you have to be careful of jokers. My mother had an old friend from college down in Cornwall. She went down there one year to visit her. They were out on a trip somewhere, and she, the friend, my father and the friend’s mother went on to wherever they were going, leaving the friend’s father behind to have a sit down and rest. When they returned they found that he’d been talking to an American woman. This was at a time when there was a spate of fairy sightings. The American had asked the old fellow if he’d seen any. Oh yes, he replied, he certainly had. They were at the bottom of his garden. That wasn’t remotely true, and when they challenged him on it, he replied, ‘Well, it’s what she wanted to hear.’ Sometimes that smiling old rustic telling you of his supernatural encounters may not be the naive, horny-handed son of toil in touch with the supernatural you believe him to be.

But in the spirit of this post, here’s another video I found on YouTube. It’s the folk-rock band Steeleye Span playing ‘Wee Wee Man’ about a fairy from the 1970s.

Irish Docker Is Buried Alive in a Fairy Fort to Prove There Are No Fairies

June 7, 2021

I found this remarkable piece of news film on the channel CR’s Video Vaults on YouTube. It’s from 1966, and is about a dock worker, Tim Hayes, from Wexford, who spent 101 hours underground in a fairy fort to disprove the existence of the wee folk. His stunt was to open the village fete at Ballymore, but the other villagers didn’t want to dig his grave. The video begins with an old man telling the interviewer that he would definitely not wish to dig into or disturb a fairy fort, and he would be greatly upset if anyone else were to do so, or disturb the field in which it’s situated.

Then it goes to the docker himself at his work place, who explains he’s determined to show that there are no such things as fairies. He describes as ‘a yarn’ a letter he received from a woman in Douglas, who said she saw a fairy 30 years ago and hasn’t had any luck since. He was buried underground in a coffin with a ventilation tube to allow him to breathe, as well as telephone to speak to people outside. He also took a couple of books down there to read, one of which was Dracula. He also tells the interviewer that he’s spent much of his time thinking about people who’ve died – well, you would, wouldn’t you? – and when asked about toilet facilities, states that there’s no problem at all in that department. The film also shows him being dug up, and the men rescuing him putting warm woollies on to protect him from the colder air above ground.

His mother is one of the onlookers. When asked how she feels about her son, she tells the interviewer that she’s ‘died a thousand deaths since he went into the ground’ but that ‘he’s marvelous’ and she’s very proud of him.

When asked if he’s worried about others trying to outdo him, he has the attitude that they can try and last 100 hours underground and that he’ll come back and do it again.

I think this comes from a time when these kinds of endurance feats were all the rage. There have been Indian yogis, who’ve had themselves buried alive. I think one lasted for two weeks underground – an impressive feat, if true. Back in the late 1970s-early 80s the Fortean Times reported crowds gathering in one of the African countries after the return of an African holy man from a sojourn buried alive. He did so to prove the truth of indigenous African religion, and the crowd believed he had actually returned from the dead. More recently, in calls to mind the antics of David Blaine in the 90s, which was sent up on Jonathan Creek. In that episode, Klaus, Creek’s slimey partner, has himself buried alive. But there’s a passage down to a glass plate in the coffin so that people can see him. Unfortunately, Klaus has to be dug up and face the beak because the vibrations from the underground trains cause him to judder and twitch himself. Two women visitors saw him do this, and have accused him of, er, pleasuring himself.

Belief in the fairies always has been strong amongst the Irish and the other Celtic peoples. A century ago the American anthropologist and Theosophist, Evans-Wentz, wrote his classic study, The Fairy Faith in the Celtic Countries. Although Ireland is now as rationalist and secular as any other western country, or almost so, the fairy faith still remains strong amongst some Irish people. Way back in the 1980s, when DeLorean wanted to open a car factory in Northern Ireland, they wanted to pull down a fairy tree growing on the site. The workers refused and threatened to go on strike if the tree or bush was disturbed. The company had to back down.

A decade later in the 1990s one of the British papers – I think it must have been the Daily Heil – reported that a Sinn Fein councillor in one of the Ulster villages had asked an archaeologist if he could investigate the local fairy fort, as some of his constituents had seen things.

I read years ago that the fairy forts are in reality early medieval Danish forts left over from the period of the Viking invasions. However, the word rath means an ancient enclosed farmstead. These commonly consist of a circular raised bank, which have held a fence or palisade, inside which were the houses and other buildings of the occupier. They can date from as far back as the Bronze Age, but most date from the early Christian period 300 AD to 1100. They’re not scheduled, as there are about 30 – 40,000 of them in the island of Ireland.

I do wonder how delicately the archaeologist phrased his reply. Archaeology as a science can’t prove the supernatural, though I don’t believe it’s within its competence to disprove it either. All it can do is uncover the remains of past ritual and religious belief, which may include magical objects and practises. See books such as The Materiality of Magic, edited by Ceri Houlbrook and Natalie Armitage (Oxford: Oxbow 2015). I wonder how the archaeologist told the good councillor that if he did excavate – which could be illegal if it was scheduled ancient monument – all he would be able to say was that it was a monument of a particular type, probably dating from such and such a period, and that he probably wouldn’t find any trace of the Little People.

It also struck me that if this had happened over this side of the Irish Sea, it would have been excellent material for the type of comedies Ealing was pumping out at the time. These were about small communities faced with some kind of bizarre threat or other event, frequently at odds with modernity. Or later in the 1980s with the great Scots film, Local Hero. Perhaps here’s a suitable subject for the Irish film industry. It would make a break from all the episodes over here of Mrs Brown’s Boys.

The Irish Nationalists on Multinational Agribusiness Land Clearances in Africa

June 3, 2021

Two of the many great commenters on this blog, Brian Burden and Gillflowerblog, are concerned about my watching too many videos from the far right. As they have pointed out, the danger with it is that it can turn you a Tory after a night of bad, troubled dreams. Just like the hero of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis turns into a beetle after a similar disturbed night. I’ve no time for Fascism or the far right. The horrors of the Nazi and Fascist tyrannies are so enormous and vile that no sane, decent person can ever support them. The most infamous of those is the murder of 6 million Jews, and 5 1/2 million assorted gentiles in the Nazi death and concentration camps, but it also includes the atrocities by the Ustashe regime in the former Yugoslavia and by the Italian Fascists against the Arabs and Ethiopians. But it seems that amid the racism and xenophobia the Irish far right are uncovering some very disturbing facts about the actions of multinational corporate capitalism in sub-Saharan Africa that could very easily form part of a liberal critique and politics of international protest.

For some reason YouTube’s put up for my viewing a series of videos from the Irish Nationalist Party, despite the fact that I’m not Irish and definitely not a member of the far right. But they are interesting because of what they show about the issues now driving the rise of the nationalist right in Eire. From what I’ve seen in these videos, the Nationalists are against the EU, mass immigration, gay and trans rights and multinational finance capitalism. Their attacks on finance capitalism are superficially entirely reasonable. They hate the way Ireland and its enterprises have been parcelled up and sold off to foreign owners through offshore holding companies and tax havens. They’re right. This is also what has been done over here in Britain, and is still being done by the Tories. They rightly criticise the government for bailing out the banks responsible for the 2008 financial crash and the austerity that was consequently imposed on the Irish people. Just as over this side of the Irish Sea, our government bailed out the banks and rewarded the people responsible for the crash, while at the same time using it as an excuse to impose cuts on the welfare state, state expenditure on education and the NHS and low wages for everyone not a multimillionaire. And part of their hatred of the EU seems to come from the European Union’s role in imposing this austerity as well as other, socially liberal policies which go against traditional, conservative Irish morality.

In one of their videos, they compare the offshore financial houses and the EU to the absentee landlords that oppressed the Irish peasantry during the 19th century, and whose predations and exploitation was a major cause of the grievances that finally produced the Irish Revolution. But underneath the liberal, reasonable critique of multinational finance capitalism, there’s something far more intolerant. In one of the videos I watched, the speaker talked about how there needed to be research into the role of international finance capitalism in the Cromwellian invasion. This sounds to me to be the old anti-Semitic nonsense about the Jewish banking conspiracy. The nonsense spouted by the Tsarist forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and which inspired Adolf Hitler and the other architects of the Holocaust.

They also hate the Irish government and the country’s mainstream parties, as well as the EU, for mass immigration, which they claim is taking Irish jobs from Irish workers and making Irish people homeless as accommodation which should go to them is given instead to immigrants. It’s standard far right stuff in many ways.

But one of their speakers at a local rally said something very interesting about what the multinational agricultural firms and the EU are doing in Africa. He claimed that they were destabilising the continent through purchasing vast areas of land and then clearing them of the indigenous, local people in order to turn them into vast farms. One of these estates being set up in Niger is, according to him, 5,000 square miles in extent. These firms are building huge walls around these estates, which have created tension and conflict. It’s the reason why so many military age men from the continent are seeking asylum on this side of the Mediterranean. They’re fleeing the wars and conflicts this is fuelling.

Now I don’t know how true this is. But it sounds horrifically plausible. Way back in the ’90s some of the creators of 2000AD put out a very political comic strip, World War Three, about a future war in Latin America driven by the big agricultural firms. I got the impression that this was based on fact and reasonable predictions. It was SF as the ‘literature of warning’. Now it sounds like something very similar is really happening, but this time in Africa.

I’m sure this is being discussed elsewhere, but I’m unaware that it has been covered in the mainstream media or by the mainstream parties. I wonder if this is a consequence of the embrace of neoliberalism by the European left. I very much doubt that Tony Blair and his successors in the Labour party want anyone noticing that free market, international capitalism in its genuine sense rather than as a code for ‘Jews’ brings nothing but wage slavery, poverty, misery and death. The Fascists and the far right, however, are left free to mention it. They are, after all, at the moment numerically small in Ireland and Britain and so few people will take any notice. And decent people will ignore it, because it comes from such a contaminated source.

Odiously, we have now got into a situation where reasonable criticisms of multinational capitalism are being shut down by the rightists under the pretext of combatting anti-Semitism in the Labour party. And instead they’re being embraced by people, whose solution is the ‘socialism of fools’ described by August Bebel.

We need real socialism, and a politics of tolerance and internationalism to protect working people across the world, whether Africa, Ireland or Britain.

I’m not going to show the video or link to it, but if you want to see it on YouTube, it’s title is: Ciarán McCormack – “The UN, the EU and the World Bank are destabilising Africa.”

Simon Webb Claims that Reni Eddo-Lodge and David Olusoga Stirred Up Racial Hatred with Fake History of Liverpool Lynching

May 31, 2021

I’ve posted up a number of videos from Simon Webb’s History Debunked channel on YouTube. Webb’s a Torygraph-reading right-winger, and his channel largely attacks what he considers to be the fake history pushed by Black activists, anti-racist academics and researchers and the BBC. He’s the author of a series of history books himself, and frequently cites his sources. Some of his claims need to be taken with a pinch of salt, as in one video I put up he stated that the British government had not invited the Windrush immigrants to come to Britain. Several of the great commenters on this blog have contradicted this, stating that they remember organisations like Birmingham council advertising in the Caribbean for bus drivers. Two of the commenters, Gillyflowerblog and Brian Burden, are alarmed at my paying attention to people like him, and fear that it will turn me Tory. They have recommended instead that I watch David Olasuga’s history of Black Britain.

Now I’ve watched and enjoyed some of Olasuga’s documentaries, such as a House Through Time. But in this video Webb lays out the case against one of the claims of lynching made by Olasuga and Reni Eddo-Lodge, which were repeated by the Guardian and the Beeb. This is that Charles Wootton, a Black sailor, was lynched in Liverpool docks in 1919 as a kind of British counterpart to the lynchings in America. The BBC had made a short film in which young Black Brits spoke about their anger at this having happened, as well they should if the event happened as Eddo-Lodge and Olasuga claim. Olasuga claimed in a feature in the Groan and in his children’s book, Black and British, that Wootton, a Black sailor, had been chased to the docks by an angry White mob, where he either fell in or was pushed. Olasuga calls it a ‘lynching’, as does Eddo-Lodge in her book, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. But the truth seems to be that Wootton was a thug involved in attacks on Scandinavian sailors, who was chased to the docks because he had already shot two policemen.

Webb claims he knows something about the events because of his 2016 book, 1919 – Britain’s Year of Revolution. He says that there were frequently riots and disorders at ports between Brits and foreign sailors because of competition for jobs, exacerbated because foreign sailors would work for less. In Liverpool there was tension between Swedish, Danish, Russian and Black sailors. The violence started on June 4th of that year, when a Danish sailor in a pub asked a Black matelot for a light. He was refused, and attacked the Black guy. The next night, the Black sailor’s friends ambushed a group of Scandinavians, attacking them with knives and cut-throat razors. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported that a cop tried to put an end to it, and in his turn was badly slashed about the face and back in an attempt to cut his throat. The Blacks then moved on to the Scandinavian men’s lodgings and attacked the first man they saw. Police reinforcements were called, and the Blacks retreated to their own lodgings followed by a crowd of Scandinavians, Irish and Russians. According to the Liverpool Watch Committee, the organisation responsible for the police, the crowd was starting to drift away when instructed to by the rozzers. When the police banged on the door, a Black man leaned out of the upstairs window and began shooting. Two cops were hit. Charles Wootton, who was suspected of being the perp, then tried escaping out the back. He made for the docks, followed by an angry crowd, where he either fell in or was pushed. 13 Blacks were later charged with attempted murder.

Webb states that Olasuga and Eddo-Lodge were aware of these details, but have deliberately edited them out in order to misrepresent Wootton’s death as a lynching. He also states that over the year as a whole, more Whites than Blacks were killed, and describes the riots in Cardiff which ended in the deaths of 2 Blacks and 2 Whites from the racial violence.

Now I share Brian’s and Gillyflower’s concerns about Tory bias. But here Webb cites his sources and urges people to look at them, rather than take his word for it. And if he’s right, this is a serious charge, because Webb claims that by doing so Eddo-Lodge and Olasuga are deliberately stoking up racial tension. Now Olasuga has suffered racial abuse himself. There was an interview with him in the Radio Times where he talked about having suffered racist bullying as a child. I wonder if the story about Wootton’s lynching is just a cherished Black myth, which is now so ingrained that it can’t be contradicted without provoking outrage from a Black community which believes in it wholeheartedly. Rather like the myth down here in Bristol that the local council has been covering up Bristol’s involvement in the slave trade. I also wonder if Eddo-Lodge and Olasuga edited out the details of Black violence because they were convinced that this was just the invention of biased White journalists. If Webb is correct, then it should cast real doubt over anything Eddo-Lodge and Olasuga have to say about race.

Now I’m very much aware that the Tories are trying to gain White working class support by turning them against Blacks. But the Black Lives Matter movement and Black historians and activists are making grotesque, racist claims about White history, identity and Whiteness. Peter Church, one of the critics of the idea of White fragility, in an interview with the American academic Benjamin Boyce, said he was concerned that the next step would be to move from attacking Whiteness to attacking Whites.

Apart from this, there is the general principle that history is important and you need to get the facts absolutely right, even if they run against received myths and ideas. The Black community in Britain does suffer from marginalisation, poor educational performance and job opportunities. But if the situation is ever to be corrected, it needs to be done with a respect for historical accuracy.

Even when, instead of a cosy narrative of Black victimhood, the reality is a more complex one of Black thuggery and violence.

Book Setting British Empire and the Debate in Its Historical Context

May 31, 2021

Jeremy Black, The British Empire: A History and a Debate (Farnham: Ashgate 2015)

This is another book I got through the post the other day after ordering it from a catalogue. Jeremy Black is, according to the book’s potted biography, Professor of History at Exeter University, and the author of over 100 books. He’s also written for the Journal of Military History, RUSI, which is the journal of the Royal United Services Institute and History Today. The list of other publications about the British Empire lists another book edited by him, The Tory World: Deep History and the Tory Theme in British Foreign Policy, 1679-2014. From this, it might be fair to conclude that Black’s a man of the right.

I read his book, Slavery: A Global History a few years ago when I was writing my own book on the British Empire and slavery a few years ago, and really enjoyed it. Instead of dealing with the British transatlantic slave trade in isolation, it showed how slavery was widespread right across the world and described how the British imperialists tried to end it in their subject territories. I bought this because, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, British imperialism has once again become a matter for heated debate and violent denunciation. The motives of the people behind some of these denunciations and demands for justice seem more than a little suspect to me. For example, a month or so ago one of the speakers in an Arise Festival online meeting was the head of the Black Liberation Movement, the British branch of Black Lives Matter. In her speech she declared that Britain should take asylum seekers ‘because you oppressed us under colonialism’. The short answer to that is that this was supposed to be corrected when the former colonies were granted their independence. Instead, many of them very swiftly degenerated in horrific, murderous dictatorships, like Idi Amin’s Uganda and Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. There was a very deliberate decision in her speech to ignore and gloss over post-colonial misgovernment and oppression, no doubt because it doesn’t fit the narrative she wants to present of Britain being responsible for all her former colonies’ woes.

I am also not impressed by the very loud demands for Oxford University to remove Cecil Rhode’s statue. Don’t get me wrong, he was a blackguard. He’s supposed to have said that the people he liked to employ were greedy sycophants, or something like that. Some critics have also said that his imposition of the colour bar in Rhodesia was particularly hypocritical, as he didn’t personally believe in it. But pre-colonial east Africa was hardly some idyllic Wakanda. Many of the indigenous peoples practised slavery themselves, and were preyed on by Arab, Swahili, Marganja and Yao slavers. And you can argue that, as horrendous as White rule was, it was far better than Mugabe’s genocidal dictatorship. The people calling for the statue’s removal seem to me to be Black African nationalists, butthurt over what they see as a slight to their racial and national dignity. But I also wonder if some of its also motivated by a consciousness of their nations’ failures post-independence.

I bought the book as it promised to discuss the debate surrounding the British Empire as telling its history. Black states that it needs to be seen in its historical context and not judged by the standards of the present day. This is actually what I was taught in my first year of studying history at College. You’re not supposed to create ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ of history, because if things had turned out differently, our standards and culture would have been different.

The blurb for the book runs

What was the course and consequence of the British Empire? The rights and wrongs, strengths and weaknesses of empire are a major topic in global history, and deservedly so. Focusing on the most prominent and wide-ranging empire in world history, the British Empire, Jeremy Black provides not only a history of that empire, but also a perspective from which to consider the issues of its strengths and weaknesses, and right and wrongs. In short, this is a history both of the past, and of the present-day discussion of the past, that recognises that discussion over historical empires is in part a reflection of the consideration of contemporary states.

In this book Professor Black weaves together an overview of the British Empire across the centuries, with a considered commentary on both the public historiography of empire and the politically-charged character of much discussion of it. There is a coverage here of social as well as political and economic dimensions of empire, and both the British perspective and that of the colonies is considered. The chronological dimension is set by the need to consider not only imperial expansion by the British state, but also the history of Britain within an imperial context. As such, this is a story of empires within the British Isles, Europe, and, later, world-wide. The book addresses global decline, decolonisation, and the complex nature of post-colonialism and different imperial activity in modern and contemporary history. Taking a revisionist approach, there is no automatic assumption that imperialism, empire, and colonialism were ‘bad’ things. Instead, there is a dispassionate and evidence-based evaluation of the British Empire as a form of government, an economic system, and a method of engagement with the world, one with both faults and benefits for the metropole and the colony.

Black states that criticism of British imperialism is also a criticism of capitalism, which in many cases is very definitely and obviously true. However, he also criticises Kwesi Kwarteng’s history of the British empire for its denunciations of British colonial oppression in some of the colonies, like Nigeria. And while British imperialism may well have brought some benefits, much of it is still indefensible by modern standards. Like the plantations in Ireland, the genocide and dispossession of indigenous peoples, like aboriginal Australians and the American Indians, the seizure of native land in Africa and so on. He notes that the most successful colonies are White settler nations like Australia, Canada and New Zealand, but this hardly outweighs the disastrous consequences of the White invasion for the indigenous peoples.

I haven’t read it yet – I’m still making my way through a number of other books – but I hope to do so, and will probably blog about it in the future to give my views and conclusions about what looks like a timely and provocative book.

Clannad: Caisleain Oir

May 28, 2021

Here’s another bit of folk music I really like. Back in the 1990s I was into the Irish folk/folk rock group Clannad. They come from Gweedore (Gaoth Dobhair) in Donegal in Eire. They first came to prominence over this side of the Irish Sea in the 1980s with the haunting theme for the ITV drama, Harry’s Game, about a British secret agent who infiltrates the IRA in Ulster. They then followed this up with the theme and incidental music for another ITV series, Robin of Sherwood. This was a pagan reworking of the Robin Hood legend, with Robin and his outlaws worshipping an ancient woodland spirit, Herne the Hunter. The programme starred Michael Praed and then Jason Connery as Robin, and was hit Saturday evening TV. Even now, nearly 40 years later, I think it’s better than the later versions that came after it, even if it did mess with the legend by introducing the pagan mysticism.

The song’s in a mixture of English and Gaelic, and apparently the band have also sung in Latin and Mohican. Despite trying to teach myself the language back in the 1990s, I can’t speak Gaelic at all and really don’t know what the Gaelic lyrics means. I just like it because it’s a beautiful, haunting piece of music. ITV or Channel 4 also made a documentary about them back in the 1990s. This revealed that they’d got the nickname ‘the Gaeltacht hippies’, which sort of boggles the mind. Surely, hippiedom can’t be that unique in Irish Gaelic culture!

I found the video over on An Ghaoth Anair’s channel on YouTube, who also provides a bit more information about the band.