Archive for the ‘Languages’ Category

How Many Indigenous Jews Are Emigrating from Israel?

April 11, 2019

One of the major issues confronting the survival of the indigenous Christian community in Israel is emigration. Christians constitute one of the best educated and most skilled sectors of Palestinian society and economy. Historically they have provided much of the area’s political leadership, serving as mayors, village headmen and in important positions in the P.L.O., and have also been active running businesses, particularly tourism, and providing for the Palestinian people’s welfare through charity. But their numbers have been decimated through pressure from the state of Israel on the one hand, and Islamic fundamentalism on the other, which views them as collaborators with the Israeli state. Before the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, Christians comprised about 1o per cent of the Palestinian population. Now it’s down to about 1 per cent. Unable to find suitable jobs in Israel and the Occupied Territories to due the system of Israeli apartheid, and with their businesses and farms heavily squeezed by the mass of regulations and legal obstacles put in the way of all Palestinians, many are emigrating to America, Europe and Australia.

But it’s not only the Christian community that has sought better opportunities elsewhere. I found this fascinating reference to indigenous Jewish emigration from Israel in a passage discussing Christian emigration from the Holy Land in Robert Brenton Betts, Christians in the Arab East (London: SPCK 1979) on page 76 discussing the problem of obtaining the correct figures for emigration from the Israel:

No sectarian emigration figures are available for Israel (largely because they government does not wish to acknowledge publicly the large number of Jews, especially from the Sephardim, who are emigrating as well)….

The Sephardim, or Sephardic Jews are the descendants of the medieval Spanish Jews, who were expelled from the country by Ferdinand and Isabella in the Fifteenth century with the Muslim Moors. Their vernacular language is Ladino, a form of Old Spanish. After their expulsion, many found sanctuary under Islam in North Africa and the Middle East. Israel claims to be the nation state of all Jews, everywhere, something which is denied by non- or anti-Zionist Jews, whether secular, Liberal, Reform or Orthodox. Historically Reform Judaism rejected Zionism because they felt that their future lay as equal citizens in their traditional European homelands. And many Orthodox Jews reject Zionism because they believe that Israel can only be restored by divine action through the Messiah. Until then, they believe that their duty as devout Jews is to remain in exile as commanded by the Almighty.

But the emigration of indigenous Jews from Israel raises further issues challenging the supposed identity of the state of Israel and the Jewish people. For anti-Zionists, Israel isn’t a restoration of ancient Israel, but a White settler state like the other colonies established by Europeans at the expense of the indigenous peoples in the Americas, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. They point to Israeli racism against non-White Jews, such as those from Ethiopia, as well as the persecution of the Mizrahim, Arab Jews. The Zionist pioneers initially were reluctant to admit them, calling them, amongst other derogatory epithets, the ‘dust of the Earth’. They were held to be biologically inferior to White, European and American Jews. The labor shortage due to the lack of White colonists from the West eventually forced the Zionist authorities to admit them, but they were heavily discriminated against. They were given the worst and lowest paid jobs and housing and were educated in separate schools from the Ashkenazim. As a result, many of them have become even more racist and intolerant than mainstream Israeli society. In the 1960s, tens of thousands of Arab Jews were expelled from Israel because they were culturally indistinguishable from Arabs, or so I understand. And from reading this, it appears that many Sephardic Jews, who had lived in Palestine for centuries, also left of their own accord.

Which would appear to confirm that Israel really isn’t the ‘nation state of the Jews’, whatever Benjamin Netanyahu and the other racial nationalists in his coalition say, because clearly there has been a sector of the indigenous Jewish population that has not welcomed the establishment of Israel, or been properly treated and respected by Israeli society and its authorities.

Persecution and discrimination are not confined just to Christians and indigenous Jews. All Palestinians have been brutally maltreated by Israeli expansion and colonization, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim, and Christian Palestinians have been at pains to point out that they are persecuted because they are Palestinians, and to show solidarity with their Muslim compatriots. But there’s also a story here of the persecution of the indigenous Jewish community, who have also sought refuge in emigration. And it’s been hidden in order to maintain the stance that Israel is the state of all Jews, everywhere, world-wide. The emigration of the Sephardim strongly indicates that, at least as far as these emigrants go, this definitely isn’t the case.

 

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The Rights’ Conflation of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Capitalism and the Erasure of Left-Wing Jewish History

March 19, 2019

Just as the Jewish Chronicle may have itself been guilty of anti-Semitism by denying that one of the signatories to the letter of support for Corbyn and the Labour party sent to the Sunday Times, so other members of the right may also be aiding anti-Semitism by their repeated use of the conspiracy theory that the Jews are the real force behind capitalism.

Three days ago, on 16th March 2019, David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialist Group, an ardent campaigner himself against racism, anti-Semitism and thus Zionism, put up on his blog an article discussing this very point, which had been published that day in the Morning Star. He began by commenting on the statement by Blairite Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh to John Humphrys on Radio 4 that ‘anti-capitalist politics are at the root of anti-Semitism’. Rosenberg states that it’s an appalling slur against everyone fighting against the poverty and inequality of Tory Britain, but it also revealed that the Right, even those, who think they are pro-Jewish, still believe anti-Semitic stereotypes, as McDonagh obviously thinks that Jews are rich capitalists.

He goes on to discuss how this is at the heart of the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that sees the Jews as using their wealth to control the banks and governments. A theory that was pushed by Henry Ford, an Episcopalian Christian and founder of the car manufacturer that bears his name, in his paper the Dearborn Independent. Ford believed that the Jews caused World War I, and published the infamous Tsarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. And someone else who believed this poisonous nonsense, and was Ford’s biggest fan in Europe, was one A. Hitler.

Rosenberg goes on to discuss how there are Jews, who identify the Jewish community with capitalism, banking and property and so accuse the anti-capitalist left as anti-Semites. He then cites Richard Mather, who claimed in an article in the Jerusalem Post that ‘the Labour party’s call for the seizure of property’ was part of ‘anti-Semitic class warfare’, and pieces written by the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard, and one of his journos, Alex Brummer, who both claimed that Corbyn was an anti-Semitic threat to Jewish capitalists, with Pollard harking back to Corbyn’s attack on the bankers that caused the financial crash ten years ago. Rosenberg tweeted in response to this nonsense that of Pollard and Corbyn, one of them thought all bankers were Jews. And it wasn’t Corbyn.

Rosenberg goes on to say that

In my 61 years I’ve never met a Jewish banker. I’ve met unemployed Jews, Jewish decorators, post-office workers, van drivers, taxi drivers, shopworkers, social workers, secretaries, teachers, pharmacists, and several comedians.

He reinforces this point by describing how Arnold Brown, a Jewish comedian, who came from a poor background in Glasgow, tore up the floorboards at his home one day after the other schoolkids told him that all Jews were rich. He also makes the point that the racist Right use the stereotype of the rich Jewish capitalist to divert popular anger away from capitalism to particular Jewish figures, who are supposed to be responsible for its ills, such as Rothschild and Goldman Sachs to George Soros today, demonised by Trump and a slew of extreme right-wing regimes because he funds agencies for migrants and refugees and anti-government demonstrations.

But he also makes the point that this stereotype also erases the strong history of Jewish left-wing anti-capitalist activism, writing

When McDonagh, Mather and Pollard repeat stereotypes of Jews as capitalists, they not only feed these conspiracy theories, but also erase an outstanding tradition of Jewish anti-capitalism. People know the famous Jewish revolutionaries, like Marx, Trotsky, Rosa Luxemberg, Emma Goldman, but it was in mass Jewish workers’ movements such as the Bund, and among the Jews so numerous in socialist and communist parties over the last 120 years, that anti-capitalism was ingrained. In 1902, a Russian Jewish bookbinder, Semyon Ansky, wrote a Yiddish song to honour the Bund’s struggles for social justice. The movement adopted it as its anthem. One powerful verse translates as:

“We swear to the heavens a bloody hatred against those who murder and rob the working class. The Tsar, the rulers, the capitalists – we swear that they will all be devastated and destroyed. An oath, an oath, of life and death.”

He goes on to say that he is going that day to march and speak with the Jewish Socialist Group on a national demonstration in London against racism and Fascism, including the anti-Semitism that is rising in central and eastern Europe and Trump’s America with the Pittsburgh shooting.  He concludes

At street level, far right organisations concentrate physical attacks more frequently on Muslims, Roma, migrants and refugees, but when they want to explain to their supporters who they believe holds power in the world they fall back on Jewish conspiracy theories as surely today as they did in the 1930s. The fight against antisemitism, Islamophobia and anti-migrant propaganda are absolutely linked and we must combat them together.

See: https://rebellion602.wordpress.com/2019/03/16/the-anti-antisemitism-that-actually-promotes-jew-hating/

Absolutely. Rosenberg’s blog is particularly fascinating for the pieces he publishes about the Bund, the socialist party of the eastern European masses in the Russian Empire. It’s a history that I doubt many non-Jews know about, as the Yiddish-speaking communities the Bund represented were murdered by the Nazis. If people outside the Jewish community know about it at all, it’s probably because of the movement’s connection to the Russian Socialist movement. The Bund were, with the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, part of the Russian Social Democratic Party, the parent organisation of the Russian Communists. It was their withdrawal from the party conference in 1909, when Lenin demanded that there should be no separate organisation for Jewish socialists, that made the Bolsheviks the majority faction and gave them their name, from ‘Bolshe’, the Russian word for bigger.

But the articles by David Rosenberg and other left-wing Jewish bloggers and vloggers reveal a rich, lost history of Jewish anti-capitalist struggle. One of the remarkable consequences of the anti-Semitism smears is that this history is being rediscovered and brought to public attention as Jewish Marxists and socialists refute these smears. Jon Pullman’s film, The Witchhunt, attacking these smears and particularly the libelous hounding of Jackie Walker, includes a brief mention of the Bund, including black and white footage of their demonstrations and banners. If Channel 4 had kept to its original charter as an alternative BBC 2, the Bund and its legacy would be a very suitable subject for a documentary. It could also easily be screened on BBC 4. But I doubt that this will ever happen because the stereotype of the rich Jew is too important a weapon against the anti-capitalist left for it to be refuted by such a thing as actual history.

And if left-wing Jewish history, like that of the Bund, is being forgotten, some contemporary works on the Jewish community may inadvertently reinforce the stereotype of the rich Jew. Back in the 1990s an aunt gave me a book about the Jewish community in Britain, The Club. It was a mainstream book by a very respectable mainstream publisher, but from what I can remember about it, it was about the elite section of British Jewish society, the top 100. I think it was written from an entirely praiseworthy standpoint – to celebrate Jewish achievement, and to how how integrated and indeed integral Jews were to British society and culture. But books like it can give an unbalanced picture of Jewish society in Britain by concentrating on the immensely wealthy and successful, and ignoring the ordinary Jewish folk, who live, work and whose kids go to school and uni with the rest of us, and whose working people marched in solidarity with us.

It’s fascinating and necessary that the history of Jewish socialism is being rediscovered, and that activists in the Bund’s tradition, like Rosenberg, continue to write, demonstrate and blog against racism and anti-Semitism as part of the real struggle by working people.

 

 

Lobster Review of Book Revealing Very Different View of the Crisis in the Ukraine

March 6, 2019

Lobster has posted a very interesting review by their long-term contributor, Scott Newton, of Richard Sakwa’s book on the current geopolitical tensions over Ukraine, Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands (London: I.B. Tauris). Sakwa is the professor of Russian and European Politics at the University of Kent.  In this book, he tackles and refutes the story peddled to us by the mainstream media that the current confrontation between NATO and Russia and the civil war in Ukraine are due to Russian imperialism under Putin.

Sakwa is under no illusions how brutal and corrupt Putin’s regime is, but the book argues that in this instance, Russia is the victim. He argues that at the heart of the crisis is a conflict between two forms of Ukrainian nationalism. One wants a strong, united Ukraine centred firmly on Kiev, with Ukrainian as the sole official language, looking to the EU and the West, with its economy based on free trade and private industry. This form of Ukrainian nationalism is hostile to Russia, which is particularly resents because of the Holodomor, the horrific artificial famine created by Soviet collectivisation in the 1930s. The government is roughly liberal, but includes Fascists. The second form of Ukrainian nationalism is popular in the south and east, which are predominantly Russian-speaking, whose families and businesses have links with Russia, and which is dominated by heavy industry and reliant on trade with Russia. This wants a federal Ukraine, with both Ukrainian and Russian as the official languages.

The review discusses the origins of the Maidan Revolution, directed against the corrupt regime of Viktor Yanukovych, who had just signed a trade agreement with Russia. The nationalist regime which replaced him, led by Petro Poroshenko, was of the first, pro-western, anti-Russian type, was strongly influence by the Far Right, whose squads massacred anti-Maidan demonstrators. This regime set about demolishing Soviet-era monuments, establishing Ukrainian as the country’s only official language, and repudiating the agreement allowing Russia to station its ships in Sebastopol until 2042. As a result, Russia seized the Crimea, which had been Russian until 1954 and the Russian-speaking areas in the south and east seceded and split into different autonomous republics. Kiev responded by sending in troops, but this has led to a stalemate so far. The West supports Kiev, seeing Putin’s support of the Ukrainian separatists as the Russian president’s attempt to undermine the political order which emerged after the collapse of Communist in 1991.

Sakwa instead views Putin as reacting purely to preserve Russia from possible NATO aggression. This is the based on the original agreement with former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand into eastern Europe. Gorby also hoped to create a new international system in which the world would not be dominated by a single superpower, but there would be a number of different leading states, whose cultures and economic and political systems would differ. These difference would be respected, and they would all work together for international peace. This has been violated by the West, which has expanded eastward into Ukraine, which has also signed the Lisbon agreement with the EU. Putin’s response, which you don’t hear about, is to call for a federal, pluralist, non-aligned Ukraine, which cooperates with both Brussels and Moscow, and whose security is guaranteed by both sides.

There is also an economic dimension to this. The West wishes to promote laissez-faire capitalism. But this didn’t work when it was introduced into Russia by Yeltsin. This type of capitalism has been rejected, and 51 per cent of the Russian economy is owned by the state. Sakwa also notes that Putin has been active building up an alternative political and economic system across the globe, in eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Syria, and Cuba and Venezuela, as well as a system of alliances with the BRICS economies, as well as a Eurasian Economic Union with the former Soviet republics of central Asia. It is also cooperating with the China on the new silk road. The result has been that Russia has created a ‘second world alliance’ system with its own financial institutions and systems of international government.

Newton says of the book that

Sakwa’s argument that the Ukrainian crisis results from the destabilization of the country by forces committed to militantly anti-Russian nationalism, egged on by former Soviet bloc countries and external interference by the United States and the European Union, propelled by a dogmatic and triumphalist liberal universalism, is highly persuasive. 

This is how it appears to me, from reading previous discussions of events in Ukraine from Lobster and other, alternative news sources. As well as the fact that if Putin really did want to conquer all of Ukraine, he surely would have been able to do so, and not stopped with Crimea and the east.

Newton also wonders why we haven’t seen Sakwa, with his impressive command of Russian and eastern European history, in the media.

There can be very few academics now operating who possess Richard Sakwa’s expertise in modern Russian (including Soviet and post-Soviet) international history. Why, then, do we not seen more of him in the mainstream media, both broadcasting and print? He has been on RT, discussing the Skripal poisonings amongst other things (no doubt leading 
some to suspect him of being an apologist for Putin, which he certainly is not). But I have never seen him on (for example) BBC or Channel 4 (this does not of course mean he has never been interviewed there but it does suggest that any appearances have been somewhat limited). Why? Is this an accidental oversight, or are his opinions deemed by news and current affairs editors to be ‘unhelpful’?

That’s a very good question. My guess, given how the anti-Putin view is just about the only one accepted and promoted by the media, including Private Eye, is that current affairs editors really do see him as ‘unhelpful’. And this amounts, as Newton discusses at the beginning of his review, to fake news and fake history. 

For more information, go to:

https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster77/lob77-frontline-ukraine.pdf

 

 

Herzl’s De Judenstaat and the Rhetoric of Fascism

March 6, 2019

One of the points Tony Greenstein, a determined opponent of all forms of racism and Fascism makes against Zionism is that it’s a Jewish version of anti-Semitism. Instead of believing that Jews and gentiles can live together in harmony, peace and friendship, it is based on the terrible view that this is impossible, and Jews must therefore have their own state. It’s a concession to gentile anti-Semitism, and Greenstein supports this arguments by quoting passages from modern Zionism’s founder, Theodor Herzl. Herzl believed that gentile resentment of Jews for emerging from the ghetto and joining and competing with them in wider society was natural. At one point in his writings he even talks about he came to ‘forgive’ anti-Semitism in Paris. And Greenstein also makes the point that some of the rhetoric Herzl used when arguing for a Jewish state is anti-Semitic.

In a post on the 10th January 2019, Greenstein wrote a piece illustrating just how anti-Semitic Herzl’s rhetoric could be with excerpts from Herzl’s text, Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State). This contrasted the wretched condition of modern, diaspora Jewry with the brave, new Jewish type that would come into being with his projected new state. Modern Jewry was represented by the ‘Y*d’, small, ugly, dark, cringing. The future citizen of the Jewish state, on the other hand, was the ‘Hebrew’, who was everything fine and noble: tall, strong, beautiful, proud. Now Herzl was clearly trying to improve the condition of the Jews, who were oppressed in eastern Europe. Herzl had originally been in favour of Jews integrating into wider, gentile society. But he turned against the idea after the ferocious pogroms of the 19th century which forced many eastern European Jews to flee abroad – to England and the United States, for example. But clearly the language used to describe contemporary eastern European Jews, the Yiddish-speaking masses of Poland, Ukraine, Romania and Russia, is very much that of the anti-Semites.

But it’s also similar to the rhetoric used by later Fascists – by Mussolini in Italy and Adolf Hitler in Germany – to express the contempt they also felt for their compatriots and their perceived failings, in contrast to the new Fascist type into which they wished to mould them. Mussolini several times rejoiced when conditions became harder for Italians, because it would, he believed, improve them by toughening them up. For example, he was very pleased at the cold winter of 1939-40, commenting ‘This snow and cold is very good. In this way our good-for-nothing Italians, this mediocre race, will be improved. One of the principal reasons I wanted the Apennines because it would make Italy colder and snowier.’ And when there was a coal shortage in January 1940, he was happy again, because it was good for them to be put to tests that would shake off their centuries-old mental laziness.

See Noel O’Sullivan, Fascism (London: J.M. Dent & Sons 1983) 66.

Mussolini blamed every failure in the War on the national character of the Italians, who were ‘a soft and unworthy people’, or a ‘people made flabby by art’. And when Speer told Hitler in March 1945 that the War was lost, both economically and militarily, Hitler declared ‘The nation has proved itself weak, and the future belongs solely to the stronger eastern nation.’

O’Sullivan, Fascism, 80.

O’Sullivan also has this to say about the Fascist project of creating a new breed of human:

The fascist ideal, by contrast, involved nothing less than the creation of an entirely new kind of man. The character of this man would be martial and heroic, with a will which recognised no obstacles. For that reason, Marxism, in fascist eyes, was no better than liberalism. It offered, that is, only one more materialist ideal, and by its stress upon the laws of history it deprived the will of its potential creative power. For the Nazis, racial theory implied that the new man was in fact already in existence, but lay buried by a mass of corrupt liberal, democratic and materialist values, which had therefore to be destroyed in order to reveal the Aryan prince hidden beneath them. For the Italian Fascists, on the other hand, the new man had still to be created.

O’Sullivan, op.cit., 74.

That monster, Heinrich Himmler, the leader of the SS who supervised and implemented the industrial murder of 11 1/2 million innocents – 6 million Jews and 5 1/2 million non-Jews in the concentration camps, was determined to bring the new type of Aryan German into existence through a creation of a special breeding programme, the creation of a different, Nazi society and the colonisation of the territories conquered from Poland and the USSR. The German historian of Nazism, Joachim C. Fest, thus describes his vile plans

It was his conviction that by systematically pursuing his policy, ‘on the basis of Mendel’s Law’, the German people could in 120 years once more become ‘authentically German in appearance’. To this end he put forward and partially implemented an alteration in the marriage to do away with monogamy. He had various plans for establishing a privileged SS caste, eliminating traditional standards of value and working out a system of limited educational and developmental opportunities for subjugated peoples. Within the national frontiers pushed three hundred miles to the east, towns were to be pulled down and that ‘paradise of the Germanic race’ created, of which splendid visions were continually conjured up by the Reichsfuhrer of the SS, and those of his followers who enjoyed his special confidence. A widespread network of defensive villages was also envisaged, not merely to make it possible for the members of the Order, the ‘New Nobility’ to maintain tehir dominant position by force and government, but also to re-establish the ancient contact with the soil.

Fest, The Face of the Third Reich (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1970) 175-6.

I am not claiming that Herzl was a Fascist or a Nazi. He was a secular democrat, who seems to have genuinely believed that the indigenous peoples of the area in which the new Jewish state was to be established could be peacefully removed from their ancient homeland. And I haven’t seen any evidence whatsoever that Herzl envisaged any kind of eugenic breeding programme, like that dreamed of by Himmler and the rest of the Nazis.

But Herzl was a nationalist, and like the revolutionary nationalists of the various eastern European nations struggling to gain their independence from the great empires in the 19th century, he demanded a radical break with the existing political order. And like the Future Italian Fascists, he saw the state as creating the nation. Mussolini declared of the relationship between state and people

It is not the nation that guarantees the state, as according to the old nationalistic concept which served as the basis of the political theories of the national State of the nineteenth century. Rather the nation is created by the State, which gives to its people, unconscious of its own moral unity, a will and therefore an effective existence.

O’Sullivan, ibid, 173.

The similarity between Mussolini’s attitude to the state and that of Herzl’s, even if the latter did not articulate it in so many words, is due to the similarity between the Italian and Jewish peoples. Italy had been forged through the conquest and amalgamation if different states, whose peoples had, it was believed, different national characteristics and who spoke different dialects. In 1911 the Italian Nationalist, Corradini, complained that there was as yet no national Italian language and literature. The new Italian people had also to be created by the national Italian state. Similarly, it can be argued that there is no single Jewish people. The Ashkenazi Jews of eastern Europe spoke Yiddish, a language derived from the middle Franconian dialect of medieval German. Sephardic Jews, on the other hand, speak Ladino, a language descended from Old Spanish. And this is quite apart from the Jews, who naturally spoke the national languages of the countries in which they had lived for centuries. Zionism’s opponents were keen to point out that Jews weren’t a nation, but a religion. In Britain they stated very clearly that like their non-Jewish countrymen, they were Brits. It was simply the religion that was different, not nationality.

Herzl wasn’t a Fascist, and it would be an anachronistic distortion to say so. Nevertheless, he shared certain attitudes with them, derived in part from their similar positions as radical nationalists, seeking in part to mould their peoples into a higher national type through state action. He shared Hitler’s and Mussolini’s contempt for their own peoples, which in Herzl’s case is expressed through language that is shockingly anti-Semitic.

And perhaps this is why Jewish anti-Zionists suffer so much harassment and truly vile abuse from the Israeli lobby. They are diaspora Jews defying this extreme nationalism to support a state to which they have no desire to emigrate, and which to them is often a terrible distortion of what they see as the true nature of Judaism and Jewish people. It’s a sharp reproach to Herzl’s ‘Hebrews’: the despised ‘Y*ds’, who should, when they’re not cringing and kowtowing to their gentle masters, be desperate to join their ranks with all the fervour of the ultra-nationalist. But they aren’t, and worse: they’re talking back.

Two Photos of Bristol’s King David Hotel

February 26, 2019

At the corner of one of the streets leading off Park Row to Bristol’s BRI hospital is the King David Hotel. I was heading up to the hospital this morning, and took these two photos of it. It’s a fascinating and very attractive building, as you can see. It’s in yellow and red brick, and recalls some of the other buildings in Bristol in the Venetian Gothic style of architecture. I don’t know when it was built, or even if it’s still used as a hotel. I don’t think so, because, as you can see, the main door has been sealed. I suspect that like many of the buildings around Clifton, it’s been converted to offices.

It shares its name with that other King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which was notoriously bombed by the Irgun as part of Israel’s war of independence against the British. My guess is that Bristol’s King David Hotel may have been built about the time the Jerusalem hotel was in its heyday, and was the place to stay for visitors to the Holy Land. I also think that it probably has some connection to Bristol’s Jewish community. Jews have been living in Bristol since the Middle Ages. Back in the 1990s or so archaeologists discovered the remains of a miqveh, a Jewish ritual bath, with an inscription in Hebrew, zaklim, meaning ‘flowing’ on Jacob’s Wells Road. In the 1820, when by law only members of the Anglican Church were supposed to serve in local and national government, two Jews and a number of Protestant Nonconformists were recorded sitting in Bristol’s corporation. And Park Row did have a very beautiful synagogue. It was cut into the hillside, and had huge Hebrew characters carved on its facade. This was, if I recall properly, carved to look like an ancient Hebrew temple. I’ll have to try and look this all up, but it seems to me that the Hotel may have been built by someone with connections to Jerusalem, and may have been a member of the synagogue’s congregation. Whatever the building’s history, it’s a fascinating piece of Bristol’s historic landscape, showing the city’s religious and ethnic diversity and its global connections.

 

No! Asking if the Labour Splitters Are Funded by Israel Is Not Anti-Semitic!

February 21, 2019

With the departure of the Maleficent Seven, as they’ve been dubbed by left-wing vlogger Gordon Dimmack, the witch-hunters for anti-Semitism in the Labour party have been in full cry. Not only have they, and their most recent addition, Joan Ryan, been lying about there being a culture of bullying and anti-Semitism in the Labour party, but Margaret Hodge took it upon herself to accuse another Labour MP, Ruth George, of anti-Semitism.

Why?

Because George suggested that Umunna, Berger, Gapes, and co. could be funded by Israel.

George had posted this on Facebook:

Support from the State of Israel, which supports both Conservative and Labour ‘Friends of Israel’, of which Luciana [Berger] was chair, is possible and I would not condemn those who suggest it, especially when the group’s financial backers are not being revealed.

It’s important for democracy to know the financial backers for any political group or policy.

She later apologized, saying that she had not meant to invoke a conspiracy theory.

The incompetent, foul-mouthed and mendacious Margaret Hodge had appeared on Radio 4’s PM programme to denounce it as an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. This was at the prompting the interviewer, Evan Davies, who said, ‘Raising questions about finance and Jews is the no-no here?’. Furthermore, Hodge also claimed that criticizing America was also anti-Semitic, because of the power of the Israel lobby there. Which caused one of Mike’s fine commenters’ Jaws to gape open in absolutely astonishment.

But as Mike pointed out in his article on it, there was no anti-Semitism in George’s statement. She did not repeat the classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the Jews, or a cabal of Jews, being the secret power behind world politics, or controlling the press, Hollywood, international finance or communism. She spoke simply about Israel. And Mike quotes the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism, which says that accusations of anti-Semitism can only be made about Jews, not the state of Israel.

He also makes the point that the Independent Group have formed themselves as a company, so they can avoid the electoral laws which demand they identify their backers. So Mike concludes that it is perfectly reasonable question whether the state of Israel is funding them. And we won’t know, and won’t be able to trust them, no matter who is funding them, until the Independent group actually open their books to show who their donors are.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/02/19/deplorable-behaviour-over-claim-that-independent-group-is-funded-by-israel/

But it’s also a good question for another reason. Gordon Dimmack, a left-wing broadcaster on YouTube, has pointed out in one of his videos that Luciana Borgia, sorry, Berger, was head of the Labour Friends of Israel. And the other six were all members. And the Israel lobby has form in interfering in British politics. Al-Jazeera filmed Shai Masot of the Israeli Embassy in their documentary, The Lobby, plotting with a Tory functionary about deciding who should be a member of the Tory cabinet. They wanted Alan Duncan out, because he’s a critic of the Israeli state’s brutal maltreatment of the Palestinians. Instead, he wanted him replaced by Boris Johnson, who was an absolute disaster as Foreign Secretary.

Many have people have pointed out that the campaign to smear the critics of Israel in the Labour party looks very much like hasbara, the Israeli term for their civilian propaganda. One of those was Cyril Chilson, a British citizen, who was formerly an Israeli. Chilson is Jewish, his mother was a Holocaust survivor, and his father a member of the Red Army, who participated in the Soviet liberation of the death camps. Mr Chilson served in the IDF, including part of their propaganda department. This man, who in no way should be regarded as an anti-Semite, recognized the accusations for what they were: Israeli psy-ops. And because he called it precisely what it was, the anti-Semitism smear machine swung into action, and called this son of heroic Jewish parents an anti-Semite.

Dimmack also goes further in one of his videos, and accuses the media people claiming that George’s question was anti-Semitic, of anti-Semitism in their turn. This includes Channel 4 News’ Krishnan Guru-Murthy. Murthy was one of those, who replied to George’s post claiming, or suggesting that she was an anti-Semite. But Dimmack points out that it is anti-Semitic to claim that all Jews share the same qualities or opinions. Murthy’s comment suggested that all British Jews were supporters of Israel, if he genuinely believes that criticizing Israel is anti-Semitic. But all British Jews very definitely don’t. The Jewish long-term critic of Israeli racism and general avowed foe of Fascism, Tony Greenstein, and other Jewish bloggers have made the point, over and again, that many Jews don’t support Israel. Many Orthodox Jews don’t, because they believe that Israel can only be refounded by the Lord through the Messiah, and until then they, as the Lord’s servant nation, are commanded to remain in exile. The Yiddish-speaking Jewish masses of eastern Europe, who backed the Bund, the Jewish Socialist party, followed its slogan of ‘Wherever We Are, There’s Our Homeland’. They wanted to remain in Poland, Lithuania and elsewhere as equal citizens with their gentile fellow-countrymen.

And the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which has also joined in with the hysterical accusations of anti-Semitism, also doesn’t represent all Jewish Brits. It doesn’t represent Orthodox Jews, or the third of the Jewish community in Britain which is secular. It only represents the United Synagogue. And even there, it’s questionable who it represents. Its members are elected by their synagogues. But some of them don’t hold regular elections, as they have sitting members, while others don’t allow women to vote. And the Board explicitly defines itself as a Zionist organization in its constitution, so anti-Zionist Jews can’t become members.

George asked a perfectly reasonable question, and one to which she, and the rests of us are entitled to an answer. She wasn’t being anti-Semitic. But the real anti-Semitism comes from claiming that all Jews are supporters of Israel, with its accompanying accusation that those Jews, who don’t, are also self-hating anti-Semites. Repulsive!

Yay! My Book on Slavery in the British Empire Has Been Published with Lulu

January 30, 2019

On Monday I finally got the proof copies I ordered of my book, The Global Campaign, which I’ve just published with Lulu, the print on demand service. The book’s in two volumes, which have the subtitles on their first pages The British Campaign to Eradicate Slavery in its Colonies. The book’s in two volumes. Volume One has the subtitle The Beginnings to Abolition and the British Caribbean, while Volume Two is subtitled Africa and the Wider World.

My blurb for the book runs

British imperialism created an empire stretching from North America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, much of whose population were slaves. Global Campaign tells how slavery in the British Empire arose, the conditions and resistance to it of the peoples they enslaved, and the steps taken to end it by the abolitionists across the Empire and the metropolitan authorities in London.

The first volume of this book, Volume 1: The Beginnings to Abolition and the British Caribbean describes the emergence of this Empire, and the attempts to end slavery within it up to end of apprenticeship in 1838.

Volume 2: Africa and the Wider World describes how the British tried to end it in their expanding Empire after 1838. It describes how abolition became part of the ideology of British imperialism, and spurred British expansion, annexation and conquest.

The two volumes also discuss the persistence of slavery after abolition into the modern world, and its continuing legacy across continents and cultures.

The contents of vol. 1 are an introduction, then the following:

Chapter 1: the British Slave Empire in 1815
Chapter 2: From Amelioration to Abolition
Chapter 3: Abolition, Apprenticeship and Limited Freedom, 1833-1838.

Vol. 2’s chapter are

1: Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast and Lagos
2: India, Ceylon, Java and Malaya,
3: The Pacific, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji
4: West Africa and the Gold Coast, 1874-1891
5: The Ottoman Empire, Egypt and Sudan
6: East and Central Africa
7: Zanzibar and Pemba
8: Legacies and Conclusion

Both volumes also have an index and bibliography. I also drew the cover art.

Volume 1 is 385 pages A5, ISBN 978-0-244-75207-1, price 12.00 pounds.
Volume 2 386 pages A5, ISBN 978-0-244-45228-5, price 12.00 pounds. Both prices exclusive of VAT.

The books are based on the notes and summaries I made for the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum of some of the official documents they’d acquired from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on slavery. I also supplemented this with a mass of secondary reading on slavery, the slave trade and the British Empire. It’s a fascinating story. I chose to write about slavery in the British Empire as a whole as I found when I was looking through the documents that slavery certainly wasn’t confined to the Caribbean. It was right across the world, though most of the published books concentrate on slavery in the US and the Caribbean. There has been a recent book on slavery and abolition in British India and Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, and I remember seeing a book on the British campaign against slavery in the Pacific, published, I believe, from one of the antipodean publishers. I doubt very many people in Britain are aware that it existed in India and Sri Lanka, and that attempts to outlaw it there date from c. 1798, when the British judge of the Bombay (Mumbai) presidency ruled that it was illegal. Similarly, general histories of slavery do mention the infamous ‘coolie trade’ in indentured labourers from India and China. They were imported into the Caribbean and elsewhere around the world in order to supply cheap labour after the abolition of slavery in 1838. However, they were treated so abysmally in conditions often worse than those endured by enslaved Blacks, that it was dubbed by one British politician ‘A new system of slavery’. There’s an excellent book on it, with that as its title, by Hugh Tinker, published by one of the Indian presses.

General books on slavery also discuss the enslavement of indigenous Pacific Islanders, who were kidnapped and forced to work on plantations in Fiji and Queensland in Australia. But again, I doubt if many people in the UK have really heard about it. And there are other episodes in British imperial history and the British attempts to curb and suppress slavery around the world which also isn’t really widely known. For example, abolition provided some much of the ideological impetus for the British conquest of Africa. Sierra Leone was set up in the late 18th century as a colony for freed slaves. But the British were also forced to tackle slavery and slaving in the Gold Coast, after they acquired it in the 19th century. They then moved against and conquered the African kingdoms that refused to give up slaving, such as Ashanti, Dahomey and the chiefdoms around Lagos. It’s a similar story in east Africa, in what is now Tanganyika, Zambia, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Malawi. The British initially wished to conquer the area as part of the general European ‘Scramble for Africa’, and their main rivals in the region where the Portuguese. But the British public were also aware through the missionary work of David Livingstone that the area was part of the Arabic slave trade, and that the indigenous peoples of this region were being raided and enslaved by powerful local African states, such as the Yao and the Swahili as well as Arabs, and exported to work plantations in the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba off the east African coast. At the same time, Indian merchants were also buying and enslaving Africans from that area, particularly Uganda.

The British were also concerned to crush slavery in Egypt after they took control of the country with the French. They encouraged Khedive Ismail, the Egyptian ruler, to attempt to suppress it in Egypt and then the Sudan. It was as part of this anti-slavery campaign that the Khedive employed first Colonel Baker and then General Gordon, who was killed fighting the Mahdi.

At the same time, Stamford Raffles in Singapore and Raja Brooke of Sarawak justified their conquest and acquisition of these states as campaigns to end slavery in those parts of Asia. The British also took over Fiji at the request of the Fijian king, Cakabau. White Americans and Europeans had been entering the country, and Cakabau and his advisors were afraid that unless the country was taken under imperial control, the settlers would enslave the indigenous Fijians. Indeed, Cakabau had been made king of the whole of Fiji by the colonists, though he was acutely aware of how he was being used as a figurehead for effective White control of his people. At the same time, the White planters were also forming a White supremacist group. So he appealed to the British Empire to takeover his country in order to prevent his people’s enslavement.

British imperial slavery started off with the British colonies in the Caribbean and North America. I’ve ignored slavery in the US except for the period when it was part of the British Empire. The Canadians ended slavery nearly two decades before it was formally outlawed throughout the British Empire. It was done through enlightened governors, judges as well as abolitionists outside government. The country’s authorities did so by interpreting the law, often against its spirit, to show that slavery did not legally exist there. There were attempts by slaveowners to repeal the legislation, but this was halfhearted and by the 1820s slavery in Canada had officially died out.

After the British acquired Cape Colony at the southern tip of Africa, the very beginning of the modern state of South Africa, they were also faced with the problem of ending the enslavement of its indigenous population. This included the indigenous Khoisan ‘Bushmen’, who were being forced into slavery when they took employment with White farmers. At the same time, the British were trying to do the same in Mauritius and the Seychelles after they conquered them from the French.

The British initially started with a programme of gradual abolition. There was much debate at the time whether the enslaved peoples could support themselves as independent subjects if slavery was abolished. And so the abolitionists urged parliament to pass a series of legislation slowly improving their conditions. These regulated the foods they were given by the planters, the punishments that could be inflicted on them, as well as giving them medical care and support for the aged and disabled. They also tried to improve their legal status by giving them property rights and the right to be tried in ordinary courts. Special officials were set up, the Guardians and Protectors of Slaves, to examine complaints of cruelty.

This gradualist approach was challenged by the female abolitionists, who grew impatient with the cautious approach of the Anti-Slavery Society’s male leadership. They demanded immediate abolition. I’ve also tried to pay tribute to the struggle by the enslaved people themselves to cast off their shackless. In the Caribbean, this took the form of countless slave revolts and rebellions, like Maroons in Jamaica, who were never defeated by us. At the same time a series of slaves came forward to accuse their masters of cruelty, and to demand their freedom. After the Lord Mansfield ruled that slavery did not exist in English law in the late 18th century, slaves taken to Britain from the Caribbean by their masters presented themselves to the Protectors on their return demanding their freedom. They had been on British soil, and so had become free according to English law. They therefore claimed that they were illegally kept in slavery. As you can imagine, this produced outrage, with planters and slaveowners attacking both the anti-slavery legislation and official attempts to free the slaves as interference with the right of private property.

This legislation was introduced across the Empire. The same legislation that regulated and outlawed slavery in the Caribbean was also adopted in the Cape, Mauritius and the Seychelles. And the legislation introduced to ensure that indentured Indian and Chinese labourers were treated decently was also adopted for Pacific Islanders.

Slavery was eventually abolished in 1833, but a form of servitude persisted in the form of apprenticeship until 1838. This compelled the slaves to work unpaid for their masters for a certain number of hours each week. It was supposed to prepare them for true freedom, but was attacked and abandoned as just another form of slavery.

Unfortunately slavery continued to exist through the British Empire in various forms despite official abolition. The British were reluctant to act against it in India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Java and Perak in what is now Malaysia because they were afraid of antagonizing the indigenous princes and so causing a rebellion. In Egypt they attempted to solve the problem by encouraging the slaveowners as pious Muslims to manumit their slaves freely as an act of piety, as the Prophet Mohammed urges them in the Qu’ran. In the Caribbean, the freedom the former slaves enjoyed was limited. The British were afraid of the plantation economy collapsing, and so passed legislation designed to make it difficult for the freed people to leave their former masters, often tying them to highly exploitative contracts. The result was that Black West Indians continued to fear re-enslavement long after abolition, and there were further riots and rebellions later in the 19th century. In British Africa, the indigenous African peoples became second class citizens, and were increasingly forced out of governmental and administrative roles in favour of Whites. Some colonies also conscripted African labourers into systems of forced labour, so that many came to believe that they had simply swapped one form of slavery for another. The result has been that slavery has continued to persist. And it’s expanded through people trafficking and other forms of servitude and exploitation.

The book took me on off several years to write. It’s a fascinating subject, and you can’t but be impressed with the moral and physical courage of everyone, Black and White, who struggled to end it. I chose to write about it in the British Empire as while there are many books on slavery across the world, there didn’t seem to be any specifically on the British Empire. Studying it also explains why there is so much bitterness about it by some people of West Indian heritage and how it has shaped modern politics. For example, before South Sudan was given its independence, Sudan under the British was effectively divided into two countries. In the southern part of the country, the British attempted to protect the indigenous peoples from enslavement by banning Arabs. They were also opened up to Christian evangelization. In the Arab north, the British attempted to preserve good relations by prohibiting Christian evangelism.

I also attempt to explain how it is that under the transatlantic slave trade, slavery became associated with Blackness. In the ancient world and during the Middle Ages, Whites were also enslaved. But Europeans started turning to Black Africans in the 14th and 15th centuries when it became impossible for them to buy Slavs from eastern Europe. So common had the trade in Slavs been that the modern English word, slave, and related terms in other languages, like the German Sklave, actually derive from Slav.

It’s been fascinating and horrifying writing the book. And what is also horrifying is that it persists today, and that new legislation has had to be passed against it in the 21st century.

Protests in Edinburgh against Steve Bannon Speaking to the European Broadcasting Union

November 19, 2018

This is a report from RT, broadcast last Thursday, 15th November 2018, about the protests in Edinburgh against Steve Bannon’s address to the European Broadcasting Union.

Bannon, you will remember, was another Far Right activist and member of Trump’s cabinet, before the Orange Generalissimo gave him the heave-ho. He was interviewed in Edinburgh by journos from the Beeb. The video has a clip of Bannon’s speech, in which he states that present media coverage at the White House is at the level of playground gossip. There is no real coverage of the issues, partly because of economics but also because of a lack of investigative journalism.

The report states that he was met with protests from anti-racism demonstrators, which include United for Grenfell. The protesters chant ‘Stop Trump’, hold placards with the slogan, ‘Ban Bannon: Racists Never Welcome’ and ‘No To Racism, No To Trump’. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, withdrew from the even in protest, and the anti-racism group, Stand Up To Racism, has asked those involved in the interview to complain to the BBC.

There’s a clip of the joint head of Stand Up To Racism, Sabby Dahlu, explaining that they don’t agree with him being given a platform and treated as a normal journalist. He isn’t. He may have had links with Far-Right websites like Breitbart, but he was also Donald Trump’s chief of staff, and chief political strategist. He was sacked, but is now building a Far Right political movement across Europe, including Britain. Bannon has met Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Tory right, and funding the Fascist Free Tommy Robinson campaign. She therefore questions why the Beeb is presenting him as a respectable journalist when he isn’t. And the real danger is that if people like Stand Up To Racism don’t speak out, organisations and individuals like them will be treated as normal. And that is how Nazism started.

The European Broadcasting Union said it had a duty to present all views and give him a platform. They said that he was a key influencer in the rise of populism, one of the dominant political trends of our time. He was invited to News Xchange this year because his views are relevant to today’s society at large and therefore to the media industry. They also said it was their journalistic responsibility to scrutinize and share a variety of relevant viewpoints in the framework of balanced debate.

The Beeb defended their decision to be part of this with a statement that

Good journalism in a world of fake news and disinformation is more vital than ever. Journalism is about asking tough questions and understanding what is happening in the world and why. A conference designed to analyse the big issues impacting that world isn’t an endorsement of anyone or anything – it is a function of what journalism is.

In fact, this isn’t the first time that the Beeb and the British media has chosen to interview a Fascist, not by a very long chalk. Some of us can still remember the controversy the Beeb caused when they invited Nick Griffin, the-then head of the BNP, to appear on Question Time. And Buddy Hell has made the point over at Guy Debord’s Cat that the media is always soft when it comes to interviewing the Far Right, illustrating this with an interview with John Tyndale, the head of the National Front, in the ’70s.

And Sabby Dahlu’s right: there are real dangers to this approach. The number of people voting for the Nazis in Weimar Germany was derisory, comparable to the number of people voting in Britain for the BNP and the other bizarre Fascist grouplets today. One of the factors which aided their rise to power until they became a mass movement with a membership in the millions was that influential members of German society took them up and promoted them.

And there are real questions too about the impartiality of Edinburgh council. One protester was arrested on a charge of breach of the peace for holding a placard saying ‘Nae Nazis in Edinburgh’. Tony Greenstein pointed out that under Scots law, this isn’t a minor offence. It can carry an unlimited sentence. He also wondered what was so offensive or dangerous about the placard that the man holding it was arrested.

Bannon is a White supremacist and a real menace to civilized European society, and to its ethnic minority citizens. A week ago, on the 12th, Hope Not Hate put up a report about a mass march in Warsaw organized by the Fascist National Radical Camp or ONR, named after a viciously anti-Semitic organization in the 1930s, and All-Polish Youth, another Far Right outfit that is also militantsly homophobic as part of the celebrations commemorating the centenary of Poland finally gaining its independence in 1918. The march also included foreign fascists like the Italian Forza Nueva, a group of British skinheads, the Canadian Alt-Right YouTube personality Stefan Molyneaux, and Tommy Robinson and a group of his stormtroopers. 200,000 people attended the march.

See: https://www.hopenothate.org.uk/2018/11/12/fascism-march-warsaw/

Jewish anti-racist activist David Rosenberg has also described this procession in a moving article about a tour of Auschwitz and a tour of Kazimierz, the Jewish quarter of Krakow, which he was involved in organizing. He notes that as well as the Nazis, anti-Fascists also made their presence felt. He writes

But the spirit of anti-Fascist resistance was also present in Warsaw as progressives held an alternative march and anti-fascist rave. This march was led by two banners in Yiddish and Polish held side by side, translating to “For your and our freedom”. This slogan was first used in a Polish rising against the Tsarist Empire in 1831, then revived in the Spanish Civil War by the Botwin Company of the Dombrowski Battalion, and later by Bundists in the Warsaw Ghetto resistance.

https://rebellion602.wordpress.com/2018/11/16/sadness-and-rage-auschwitz-2018/

Fascism is on the march again, and Bannon is a part of it. And if you want to see what real Fascism does, contrary to all the nonsense Richard Spencer has spouted about a ‘peaceful ethnic cleansing’, all you need to do is look at Auschwitz. Or simply read the rest of Rosenberg’s article above.

Fascism and Nazism aren’t simply just another political movement. They are a direct threat to democracy and the lives and dignity of millions of people. Their leaders should never be given a platform from which to spread their vile doctrines.

Jai Singh’s Observatory in India: A Great Location for Dr. Who

November 18, 2018

Maharaja Jai Singh’s observatory in Jaipur, as photographed by the Archaeological Survey of India

Last week on Dr. Who, the Doctor and her friends traveled back seventy years to the partition of India to uncover the secret of Yas’ grandmother’s marriage. Yas is surprised to find that the man her gran, a Muslim married, was a Hindu. And as nationalism and ethnic tensions surged on both sides, her groom was murdered by his own brother as a traitor. Yas’ gran survived, and held on to the watch her husband of only a few hours had given her as a treasured token of their doomed love.

It was a story of family history, doomed romance set against the bloodshed of the Partition, which resulted in 4 million Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs being slaughtered in bloody massacres. And its central theme was the inevitability of history, as Yas could do nothing to save her gran’s first husband. It was similar in this respect to the Classic Star Trek episode, ‘The City on the Edge of Forever’. Written by Harlan Ellison, this had Spock, Kirk and McCoy travel back to Depression-era America. There Kirk falls in love with a woman running a soup kitchen. But she’s an opponent of America entering the war in Europe, who dies in car accident. If she lives, America will not enter World War II, and humanity will never go to the stars. Kirk is thus faced with the terrible necessity of letting the woman he loves die in order to preserve history.

It’s a good story, though I would have preferred one with a bit more science in it. The two aliens that appear, who the Doctor first believes are assassins and responsible for the murder of the Hindu holy man, who was to marry the happy couple, turn out instead to have reformed. Returning to find their homeworld had been destroyed, the two now travel through the universe to witness the deaths of those who pass unnoticed. They reminded me of the Soul Hunters in Babylon 5, an alien race, who travel through the universe to extract and preserve the souls of the dying at the moment of death. They are interested in ‘dreamers, poets, thinkers, blessed lunatics’, creative visionaries whose genius they want to preserve against dissolution.

Dr. Who has a tradition of the Doctor going back in time to meet important figures of the past. One such influential figure in India was Maharaja Jai Singh of Jaipur, who constructed great observatories in Jaipur and Delhi. As you can see from the piccy at the top, the measuring instruments used in astronomy at the time were built out of stone there. To my eyes, the observatories thus have the shape of the weird, alien architecture portrayed by SF artists like Chris Foss, as if they were monuments left by some strange future extraterrestrial civilization.

B.V. Subbarayappa, in his ‘Indian Astronomy: an historical perspective’, in S.K. Biswas, D.C.V. Mallik and C.V. Viveshwara, eds., Cosmic Perspectives: Essays dedicated to the memory of M.K.V. Bappu pp.41-50, writes of the Maharaja

In this respect, special mention needs to be made of Majaraja Sawai Jai Sing II (1688-1743) of Jaipur, who was not only an able king but also a skilled astronomer and patron of learning. He built five observatories in different locations in Northern India. The observatories now standing majestic and serene in Jaipur and Delhi bear testimony to his abiding interest in astronomy and to his efforts for augmenting the astronomical tradition with an open-mindedness. The observatory at Jaipur has a large number of instruments – huge sun-dials, hemispherical dial, meridian circle, a graduated meridianal arc, sextants, zodiacal complex, a circular protractor (which are masonry instruments), as well as huge astrolabes. Sawai Jai Singh II meticulously studied the Hindu, Arabic and the European systems of astronomy. He was well aware of Ptolemy’s Almagest (in its Arabic version), as also the works of Central Asian astronomers – Nasir al-Din at-Tusi, Al-Gurgani, Jamshid Kashi and, more importantly, of Ulugh Bek – the builder of the Samarqand observatory. In fact, it was the Samarqand school of astronomy that appears to have been a great source of inspiration to Jai Singh in his astronomical endeavours.

No less was his interest in European astronomy. In his court was a French Jesuit missionary who was an able astronomer and whom Jai Singh sent to Europe to procure for him some of the important contemporary European works on astronomy. He studied Flansteed’s Historia Coelestis Britannica, La Hire’s Tabula Astronomicae and other works. He was well aware ot he use of telescope in Europe and he spared no efforts in having small telescopes constructed in his own city. In the introduction to his manum opus, Zij Muhammad Shahi, which is preserved both in Persian and Sanskrit, he has recorded that telescopes were being constructed during his lifetime and that he did make use of a telescope for observing the sun-spots, the four moons of Jupiter, phases of Mercury and Venus, etc. However, in the absence of a critical evaluation of his treatise, it is rather difficult to opine whether Jai Singh was able to determine the planetary positions or movements with the help of a telescope and whether he recorded them. No positive evidence has yet been unearthed.

The principal court astronomer of Jai Singh II was Jagganatha who was not only well versed in Arabic and Persian but also a profound scholar of Hindu astronomy. He translated Ptolemy’s Almagest and Euclid’s Elements from their Arabic versions into Sanskrit. The Samrat Siddhanta, the Sanskrit title of the Almagest, is indeed a glorious example of the open-mindedness and generous scientific attitude of Indian astronomers. (pp. 36-8).

It would be brilliant if there was a Dr. Who story using this fascinating, historic location, but as it’s almost certainly a prized national monument, I doubt very much the Beeb would be allowed to film there. Still, perhaps something could be done using CGI and a lot of imagination.

The Nazis’ Promotion of Private Business and Businessmen as the Elite

November 17, 2018

Robert A. Brady provides further evidence of the capitalist nature of Nazism in his book, The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism (London: Victor Gollancz 1937) by pointing out how the Nazis promoted private industry and businessmen as part of the biological elite, who were entitled to positions of leadership. They also embarked on a campaign of privatization of state enterprises, and promoted to positions of leadership in the economic direction of the state private businessmen, even when the majority of enterprises in that particular sector of the economy were state owned. And finally, the German law the Nazis used to promote their management of industry was that which recognized the management of private property for public use, as against proper socialized or nationalized industry.

Brady points out that the businessmen and functionaries who joined the Advisory Council of the National Economic Chamber had to take an oath to serve the Fuhrer and National Chancellor, which meant Hitler in the two offices he occupied, the goals of the National Socialist party, the Third Reich and the construction of the people’s community. (p. 265). But he also quotes Hitler’s economics minister, Hjalmar Schacht, who declared that businessmen were indispensable to the Nazi system, as was free competition.

“We cannot dispense with the economic willing of individual business leaders and workers,” Schacht said. To do so, he held, would be to destroy “the creative power” of the people. The function of business enterprise is to release this creative power on behalf of the nation. “Under no circumstances,” he continued, “shall we destroy the multifarious individual character of our economic system. For all time to come we shall need the independent employer who, for better or worse,, is connected with his enterprise.” In other words, businessmen in the new Germany are to be given free rein to function as before, except now they must be “honest” in the sense that they must not resort to “unfair” tactics to achieve corporate ends. (pp. 265-6).

He further quotes Schacht as saying, “We cannot get along without an honest struggle of competition”. (p. 266).

He makes it also clear that the German business community were also able to name the Nazi functionaries appointed to lead the various state planning organisations controlling private industry. He writes

Since the whole Nazi philosophy necessarily calls for this apotheosis of bourgeois and capitalistic virtues, it is only natural that when they were presented with an opportunity to shape organization more nearly after the pattern of their hearts’ desire the business men should also be able to name their controlling staff of “Leaders.” And such has been the case. In all the literature published by business organisations, and of all the dozens of businessmen personally interviewed in Germany, regardless of their industrial, trade, or financial origin, not a single criticism has been found of the type of “Leaders” placed in command. There is a great deal of complaint about individuals and policies, but there are uniformly the pleadings of minority groups who are being discriminated against, or else against the specific incidence of policies which economic facts compel them to endorse.

Further, the leadership has been entirely that of men enjoying the confidence of the business community. This holds for the Chambers of Industry and Commerce, the Provincial Economic Chambers, the various National, Economic, and Functional (or Trade) Groups, and the National Economic Chamber and its various subdivisions. The first Leader, Schmitt, was a well-known German business man, and thoroughly acceptable to the business community at large. The second Leader, Dr. Schacht, has been so completely acceptable, and his dicta so readily enforced throughout the country, that he is commonly known as the “economic dictator of Germany.” Under the leadership of these men, the appointment and removal of inferior “leaders” through the system has been, with minor exceptions, entirely to the satisfaction of the business communities affected. (p. 290).

He also describes how private industry, and privatization, were promoted against state industries.

The same picture holds for the relations between the National Economic Chamber and the organs of local government. As Frielinghaus has put it, “The new structure of economics recognizes no differences between public and private economic activity…” Not only are representatives of the various local governments to be found on both the national and regional organs of the National Economic Chamber, but it is even true that local government is co-ordinated to the end that economic activities pursued by them shall enjoy no non-economic advantages over private enterprise.

The literature on this point is perfectly explicit, being of a nature with which the general American public is familiar through numerous utterance of business leaders on the “dangers of government competition with private enterprise.” Under pressure of this sort the Reich government and many of its subsidiary bodies have begun to dispose of their properties to private enterprise, or to cease “competition” with private enterprise where no properties are at stake. Thus the Reich, the states, and the communes have already disposed of much of their holdings in the iron and steel industry notably the United Steel Works), coal, and electric power. Similarly, support is being withdrawn for loans to individuals wishing to construct private dwellings wherever private enterprise can possibly make any money out of the transactions. True, the government has been expanding its activities in some directions, but mainly where there is no talk of “competition with private enterprise,” and with an eye to providing business men with effective guarantees against losses. (pp. 191-2).

A little while ago I posted up a piece from Maoist Rebel News on YouTube, which also cited articles from economic history journals to show that both the Nazi and Italian Fascist regimes engaged in massive privatization programmes beyond those of other industrialised western nations at the time.

Brady also points that, while three quarters of the German electrical industry was state-owned, it was private businessmen who were placed in charge of it.

Nothing could show more clearly the intent of Nazi control in economic affairs than the make-up of the active management of this organization. Despite the fact that better than three-fourths of all German electric power is owned or controlled by public bodies, the directing heads of the National Electric Power Supply Federation are drawn almost exclusively from the ranks of private enterprise. Its first Board of Directors was presided over by two chairmen, both representative of private power companies: Hellmuth Otte, General Director of the Hamburg Electric Works, Inc. (controlled by the Siemens-Schuckjert combine, largest manufacturers of electric equipment and supplies in Germany), and Dr. Wilhelm Luhr, member of the Board of Directors of the Gesellschaft fur Elektrische Unternehmungen-Ludwig Lowe & Co. A.G. (the largest holding company in the private German electric-power industry, the company likewise controls several electrical supply manufacturing concerns).

This is very similar to the corporatist system in Britain and America, in which businesspeople have been appointed to government posts overseeing the economy. This has been done both by the Republicans and Democrats in America, and by the Tories and Blair’s New Labour over here. George Monbiot described the situation in Britain very thoroughly in his book, Captive State.

He also makes it very clear that Nazi economic planning is based very much on private enterprise, going back to a distinction made between private property for public use and socialized property in German law.

From what has been said above it is perfectly clear that “planned organization” should be understood not as social-economic planning in the socialist sense of the term, but as “business co-ordination” with a view to exercise of monopoly powers. There is nothing in the literature which permits a discerning reader any other interpretation. By the same token, the expression – interlarded through the endless stream of propaganda and explanatory newspapers, brochures, books, and reports-Gemeinnutz geht vor Eigennutz, requires transliteration into English patois in order to be understood properly. Gemein means “common,” or “public”, or “general”; nutz means “fruits,” or emoluments.” or “returns.” The expression Gemeinnutz as used by the Nazis, means “return to the community,” or, more precisely, “service to the community.’ Eigen on the other hand, means “individual” or “own.” Eignenutz thus means “returns to the individual,” or “profits”. The exact meaning of the whole expression is “services to the community before profits to the individual”; the American wording is “profits through service.”

This interpretation is in line with an old distinction, running back through several generations of German economic and business literature, between privatwirtschaft and Gemeinwirtschaft, on the one hand, and Gemeinwirtschaft and Sozialwirtschaft on the other. Privatwirtschaft has always been taken to mean an economy of private enterprise in the English, liberal, laissez-faire sense. Gemeinwirtschaft was used to mean a profits economy from the public point of view, or, in other words, a profit economy supplying a service tot he community. Sozialwirtschaft, on the contrary, has long meant socialization. All the Nazi literature emphasizes the present economic system as a Gemeinwirtschaft. (pp. 319-20).

It is thus very clear that the Nazi economy was very definitely capitalist. It celebrated the private businessman as a member of the economic and social elite, and promoted private enterprise and its leaders against state-owned industry, which it also privatized as far as possible. And it made very clear in law that the economy was a private enterprise supplying a public service and not a socialized economy.

Those who claim that Nazism was a form of socialism are wrong, and arguing so in order to try to discredit socialism and the Left through guilt by association. But the Nazis promotion of private enterprise, business interests and management also make it extremely similar to contemporary corporate capitalism, as advocated by the Republicans, Corporate Democrats, Tories and Blairite New Labour.