Archive for the ‘LIterature’ Category

NHS Privatisation: Do You Want to Pay the Equivalent of $200 to See a Doctor?

September 20, 2021

This comes from a video on YouTube I was watching the other day. It wasn’t about health services except that at one point the person talking mentioned that where she was – America – you have to pay $200 simply to see a doctor. And that’s before he treats you or gives you medicine.

At a very rough estimate, that’s about £130 or so. Very roughly, and I might be wrong.

But it used to be like that over here as well before the establishment of the NHS by the 1945 Labour government. And people suffered and died because they couldn’t afford to pay for it. I’ve been watching Ken Loach’s excellent film on the establishment of the British welfare state, The Spirit of ’45. This is another flick I fully intend to blog about in due course and highly recommend it to anyone interested in the origins not just of the welfare state, but of the mixed economy that gave us jobs and prosperity for thirty years before the election of Thatcher. And it clearly shows as well how and why capitalism is failing but still being pushed, and why we must never allow the NHS to be privatised. It mixes archive footage from the period, including speeches by Clement Atlee, Nye Bevan, George Lansbury and others with filmed interviews with politicians, activists, writers, union representatives and ordinary working men and women. These include not only the awesome Tony Benn, but also Jacky Davis, a consultant radiologist who co-edited NHS: SOS against the privatisation of the NHS with Ray Tallis. Doctors appearing in the film explain that before the NHS was established, you had to pay half a crown simply to see the doctor. Very poorly paid workers, like agricultural labourers, could be paid five shillings a week. If they fell ill, one of those shillings would be taken in doctor’s fees. And doctors employed debt collectors to get money owing from patients, who’d paid on credit.

This is what is going to happen if Johnson and his jackals privatise the NHS.

I mention this because there was a news report last week that more people are taking out private health care. This is not by accident. It is a deliberate Tory policy. Thatcher would have liked to have privatised the NHS, but she was prevented by a cabinet revolt. Patrick Jenkin, her private secretary, had visited America and was shocked by the American private healthcare system. Unable to get her way, Thatcher instead aimed to get a certain percentage of the British public to take out private health insurance.

As Mike has pointed out again and again, the way the right prepares industries for privatisation is by starving them of funding until they are near collapse and then claiming that privatisation will provide more investment and improve services.

And this is what the Tories have been doing since they got into power eleven or so years ago. The NHS is in crisis with cancelled operations and treatment due to priority being given to combating the Coronavirus. But the Tories never waste a crisis, and they are using it to demand further privatisation. The mad internet radio host, Alex Belfield, released a video last week yet again demanding the privatisation of the NHS because of the crisis and the suffering it was causing his listeners, some of whom had relatives die as a result.

I have every sympathy for them. But the truth is that people are suffering and dying not because of any inherent fault of the NHS but because it is deliberately being run down so the Tories can privatise it.

Boris and his cronies would like to take us to a completely private healthcare system, financed through private health insurance. And if that happens, people will once again have to pay money simply to see a doctor.

And so we come back to the question: do you have the equivalent of $200 to see a doctor? Because this is what it’s going to cost you if Johnson and the private American healthcare companies that want a bit of NHS action get their way.

Anti-Semitism Smear Merchant Spedding Facing Expulsion by Starmer’s Labour

September 20, 2021

Oh, what delightful irony! What goes around, comes around. And it’s come around to hit Gary Spedding. Spedding’s one of the ultra-Zionists who took it upon himself in 2018 to join Kieron Monks and the fake anti-racism outfit, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism in smearing Mike as a Jew-hater and holocaust-denier.

Mike had critiqued a piece by Monks that appeared in Prospect claiming that there was an anti-Semitism in the Labour party. Prospect is a moderate, left-wing political magazine very much like Encounter was in the ’60s and 70’s. This magazine was later revealed to have benefited from CIA funding, and there are suspicions amongst the watchers of real conspiracies and the covert activities of the intelligence agencies, like Lobster, that Prospect is similarly a conduit for secret state propaganda.

Mike briefly questioned whether Tony Blair had been influenced by a secret Jewish cabal, but the subtleties of his prose escaped, or, more likely, was wilfully misinterpreted by the anti-Semitism smear merchants. They claimed that Mike had claimed that Blair was influenced by such a cabal, and that this constituted a form of the old anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Jews secretly controlling events and politics. Mike was hauled up before the NEC and then thrown out. The lies against him were leaked by person or persons unknown in that august body to the Sunset Times. And in an argument with Mike on the web, Spedding repeated the smears, libelling Mike as an anti-Semite and holocaust-denier.

As has been abundantly demonstrated over and again, Mike is neither. He couldn’t afford to prosecute Spedding for libel, but he was able to clear his name by IPSO. As for the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, it is in my view nothing but an ultra-Zionist front organisation. It was founded in 2012 by Gideon Falter, who was outraged that severely normal Brits didn’t back Israel during the bombardment of Gaza. It has made so many fake accusations of anti-Semitism that I feel it should really have a new name. Perhaps ‘the Campaign Against Truth?’ Or may be, as so many victims of the anti-Semitism smear campaign are Jews, ‘the Campaign for Anti-Semitism’ or ‘Campaign Against Jews’?

Further confirmation that the Israel lobby and ultra-Zionists in Labour were behind the anti-Semitism smears against Mike and the other victims is shown in one of the other names that crop up in Monks’ tweet: Dave Rich. Rich wrote a book a few years ago claiming that Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour left was deeply anti-Semitic. Rich, however, was the head of a Zionist organisation, which indicates to me that he was pushing the smears to defend Israel against a Labour leader, who had been a very strong opponent of the country’s brutal oppression of the Palestinians.

Now Spedding himself is facing expulsion on the trumped-up charge of having disseminated material from the Green party during the Hartlepool by-election. Now he is complaining about the unfair and brutal treatment of people like him by Starmer. But Starmer gained the leadership precisely because of people like Spedding. And Spedding now wants to ‘join in the solidarity with the other victims’. Mike therefore doubts his motivations considering his past conduct.

Spedding is asking for an apology from Starmer, so Mike asked him if he would care to apologise to him. He was brusquely refused with the curt reply ‘Why would I apologise to you?’

Which shows very clearly that he’s still convinced of his lies and libels. Mike states that he’s toxic and so doesn’t deserve a minute of anyone’s time.

Quite. Until Spedding acknowledges that the accusations against Mike and the other victims of the anti-Semitism witch hunt are false, there can be no real solidarity between them and him.

Alexander Bogdanov, Soviet SF Writer and Originator of Fully Automated Luxury Communism

September 18, 2021

One of my friends gave me a copy of A.M. Gittlitz’s I Want to Believe: Posadism, UFOs and Apocalypse Communism, for which I’m really grateful. It’s fascinating! Posadism is a weird Trotskyite sect, founded by Posadas, the nom-de-guerre of Homero Cristalli, an Argentinian Marxist. They were hardline Marxists, joining other Communist and Trotskyite guerrillas fighting a war against capitalism and Fascist oppression across Latin America and Cuba. From what I remember from an article about them in the Fortean Times, they also looked forward to an apocalyptic nuclear war that would destroy the capitalist nations and allow the workers of the world to seize power. This is frightening, as any such war would have destroyed the planet or at least killed countless billions and sent the survivors hurtling back into the Stone Age. Unfortunately, it was also shared by Chairman Mao, who really couldn’t believe why Khrushchev hadn’t launched a nuclear attack on America during the Cuban missile crisis. Khrushchev was certainly no angel. During Stalin’s reign he was responsible for organising purges of dissidents in Ukraine and when in power led a brutal crackdown on religion that sent thousands of people of faith, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, shamanists to the gulags. He was also responsible for creating the system of curtained shops which served only members of the Communist party. But in refusing to start a nuclear war, Khrushchev helped save the world and showed himself a far better man than Mao.

But Posadas also had some other, rather more eccentric views. He believed in establishing contact with intelligent aliens and also believed dolphins were another intelligent species with whom we should establish real, meaningful contact and understanding. A college friend of mine told me that they wanted to make contact with aliens because of their belief in the inevitable victory of Marxism. If there were alien civilisations, they reasoned, they would have achieved true, Marxist socialism and could therefore help us do the same. It sound completely bonkers, but they took their views on dolphin intelligence from the scientist and psychologist John Lilley. Many others shared their views. I have a feeling that dolphins feature in several of Larry Niven’s novels as intelligent creatures with whom humans have a relationship as equal species. To help them interact with us, they have been given artificial arms and mobile pods containing the water they need to support them.

There was a brief resurgence of Posadism on the Net in 2016, and the book contains amongst its illustrations a number of memes posted by them. One contrasts the despair and defeatism of capitalism and the mainstream socialist parties with Posadism. It features a grey alien looking on accompanied with slogans like ‘Solidarity with the space comrades’ – not ‘space brothers’, note, like the old-fashioned UFO contactees talked about, but Marxist aliens determined to overthrow capitalism. Other slogans included ‘It’s Communism, Jim, but not a we know it’, clearly a parody of the famous line from Star Trek, ‘It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it’. And there’s also a parody of one of the famous sayings of the Space Prophet himself, Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. The Posadist meme reworked this as ‘Dialectical Materialism so advanced as to be indistinguishable from magic.’ They are also in favour of fully automated luxury communism. This is the doctrine, embraced by Yannis Varoufakis amongst others, that mechanisation will make most workers redundant. To prevent the immense harm this will do, the only choice will be for the state to take over industry and run it so that everyone has free access to goods and services. This got reworked in one of the Posadist memes as ‘Fully automated luxury gay communism.’ I have to say this sounds distinctly unappealing. Not because I’m opposed to gay rights, but because it sounds like only gays will be allowed into the new utopia. I hope if it comes, it will benefit everyone, whatever their sexuality.

In fact the idea of fully automated luxury communism and alien contact goes back a long way in Marxist history. Alexander Bogdanov, an early rival to Marx, wrote an SF novel, Red Star. Inspired by Tsiolkovsky, the Russian rocket pioneer, and H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, this was about a revolutionary from the 1905 anti-Tsarist uprising, who is abducted to Mars. Martian society is advanced both technologically and socially. All the factories are automated, so that goods are plentiful and money is obsolete, as everyone has access to all the goods and services they need or want. As a result, Martians share their possessions. What work remains is entirely voluntary, but done idealistically for the good of society. This includes young Martians donating blood to increase the lives of the elderly. (see page 5 of the above book).

As the Bard says in The Tempest ‘Oh brave new world that hath such people in it!’

Posadas was an eccentric with some extremely dangerous views, but some of his ideas aren’t so daft. If mechanisation proceeds, then I feel that fully automated luxury communism, or something very like it, will have to come into existence. It’s the only humane alternative to the grind mass poverty and despair depicted in dystopian SF stories like 2000 AD’s ‘Judge Dredd’, where 95 per cent of the population of Megacity 1 is unemployed and films like Elysium, where the world’s masses live in shanty towns, workers are exploited and disposable, and the rich live in luxury orbital colonies.

And serious scientists are still looking for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence, following American astronomer Frank Drake and scientist and broadcaster Carl Sagan. Interestingly, the book states that Sagan, a Humanist and left-wing activist, denied being a Marxist. But he and his wife Anne Druyan smuggled copies of Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution, so that Soviet citizens could read its real, suppressed history. I think most SETI scientists believe that real aliens would probably be so different from us that their political and institutions may well be inapplicable to us. Nevertheless advocates of SETI believe that aliens may nevertheless be able to give us vital scientific information, including the cure of disease and how to extend our lifespan. It probably won’t be Marxism, but if the aliens do have something like it or Fascism, then these ideologies will become popular on Earth after contact.

Communist aliens sounds like a ridiculous idea, but until we make contact, we won’t know if there are or aren’t any.

As for the Martian society of Red Star, the absence of a money economy, the abolition of scarcity and work as a purely voluntary activity sound very much like the Federation in Star Trek. Thanks to contact with the Vulcans and other aliens, humans had overcome racism, poverty and starvation. People didn’t need to work, but they did so in order to better themselves. It should be said, though, that the series never openly advocated socialism. It simply said that ‘the economics of the future are different’ and implied that both capitalism and socialism had been transcended. Nevertheless, the parallels are so close that the far right, like Sargon of Gasbag and his fellow Lotus Eaters, have been moaning that Star Trek’s communist. I doubt it, not least because the actress who plays Seven Of Nine is married to a Republican politico. I think Star Trek is broadly liberal and presents an inspiring utopian society. One of the complaints about Star Trek: Picard is that it has now abandoned this utopian optimism in favour of portraying the Federation as a standard SF dystopia and that it’s liberal slant has become too shrill and intolerant at the expense of good stories, plots and characterisation. Utopias are unattainable, but we need them to inspire us, to show us that ‘another world is possible’ and that, in the words of The Style Council, ‘you don’t have to take this crap/ You don’t have to sit back and relax’. Or work yourselves to death to increase the profits of already bloated big business elites.

Apart from this, the book is also a fascinating look at the history of Marxism in Argentina and Latin America, and I intend to review on this blog when I finish it.

As for aliens, well, I’d rather we made contact with benign Space Comrades than the little Grey buggers that haunt our nightmares of UFOs, abductions and malign conspiracies at the moment.

And yes, the title very definitely is taken from the poster of a UFO hanging in Fox Mulder’s office in the X-Files.

Helen Pluckrose on Combating Postmodernism and Critical Race Theory on GB News

September 15, 2021

As Zelo Street and others have pointed out, GB News appears to be heading down the tubes fast. Andrew Neil has departed and viewing figures continue to be dire, despite the broadcaster taking on Nigel Farage. They have tried and failed to entice Piers Morgan to join them, and are considering taking on Ann Widdecombe and Martin Daubney, both from the Brexit party, and the Conservative blogger Mahyar Tousi. The Street points out this is hardly likely to inspire more people to start watching, as Widdecombe is a joke and Daubney ‘a dishonest whacko’. The channel also seems to be losing younger staff, who wanted it to be a mainstream channel with a right-wing slant not the British equivalent of Faux News. These employees are particularly upset that GB News has been discussing culture war topics. I have to say that I’m in two minds about the channel’s demise. I’m not particularly unhappy that the right-wing alternative to the ‘woke, wet’ BBC looks like it’s in terminal decline. On the other hand, it is providing a valuable service by tackling the culture war and issues like Critical Race Theory and the trans ideology. At the moment its one of the very few people willing to broadcast interviews with Graham Linehan, the writer of Father Ted, the IT Crowd, Big Train and co-creator of Black Books, and allow him to explain why the trans ideology is so dangerous and harmful. Much of the media is determined to deny him and other gender critical activists space, or smear them as ‘TERFS’ and transphobes. It similarly appears to be one of the few British broadcasters willing to interview Helen Pluckrose, a feminist scholar who is a bitter critic of Postmodern ideologies like Queer Theory, which underpins the trans movement, and Critical Race Theory. Yesterday I found this video of an interview of Pluckrose by presenter Andrew Doyle.

Pluckrose’s background is in medieval literature. She first became alerted to the damage Postmodernism was doing to genuine academic research and scholarship when she was studying 14th century women’s religious writing. She was interested in how medieval women used the Christian narrative to empower themselves. However, her approach conflicted with that of her supervisors, who wished to see her pursue a postmodern approach to the topic. She also encountered the same opposition when trying to study Shakespeare. There is considerable interest amongst some academics in searching the Bard for racism. But she points out that the 17th century was the period when colour racism was only just emerging. Shakespeare, whom she considers to have been a Humanist with Roman Catholic elements, was behind the times. He belonged to an age when religion was still more important than race. She got into particular trouble when discussing why Desdemona was attracted to Othello. She believes it was because the Moor was a hero. She was, however, told that she couldn’t say that, because it would offend certain Black religious communities in America. So much for trying to see the past on its own terms.

As Pluckrose describes it, Postmodernism is a form of philosophy which rejects empirical science and debate in favour of viewing the world through the use of language. There is no objective truth, and what is considered knowledge is socially constructed, expressing and maintaining power relationships. Hence western science is fundamentally about maintaining the social status of elite White men. It’s based on the philosophy of Foucault, although she states that Foucault would not have been a fan of what his successors have made of his theories. She discusses intersectionality, and how it sees power in terms of the privileged relationships between distinct groups. Intersectional postmodernists, for example, would see her as possessing heterosexual privilege against Doyle, who I presume is gay. At the same Doyle has male privilege over her. Critical Race Theory developed from legal scholarship and sees race relations through the same lens. As I understand it, it sees White people as privileged and racist, without exception. These new forms of Postmodernism emerged with a new generation of activist scholars in the 1980s.

She describes the real intolerance at the heart of Critical Race Theorists like Robin di Angelo and Ibrahim X. Kehindi. These two see the world purely in black and white terms. You’re either racist or anti-racist. Anti-racist means you agree with them. If you’re race neutral, you’re still racist. You’re also racist if you disagree with them. And from what I heard here, some of their doctrines seem designed to cause racism rather than cure it. In one of her wretched books, for example, di Angelo claims that White people being nice to Blacks is also a form of racism. Doyle looks astonished and says, ‘She can’t mean we must be…’ He is met with a silent, rueful nod from Pluckrose. Pluckrose goes on to describe how, when she was reading the book in which di Angelo argues this nonsense, she found herself checking herself when she met a Black woman and her little girl out walking. The little girl was lovely, and so Pluckrose smiled at her. She then started worrying about that simple gesture of ordinary humanity in case she was perpetuating racism. I realise Black people have complained about being patronised by Whites expressing friendship, but attitudes like di Angelo’s make genuine good relations between people of different races extremely difficult.

At the same time, the Postmodernists’ concern with language also causes difficulty. They don’t regard something as existing before a word was invented to describe it. Thus, despite the existence of bisexuality in ancient Greece, they don’t believe homosexuals existed until the word was coined sometime in the 19th or 20th centuries. They are also extremely fragile and do everything they can to silence their critics rather than engage with them, and react with extreme rage to any criticism. Pluckrose states that it is because they really do believe that counterarguments are a form of violence comparable to physical attack. Doyle states that he has had personal experience of this. When he was debating someone from one of the Postmodernist groups they burst into tears, complaining that by advancing his arguments Doyle somehow wished to harm them.

Pluckrose herself has founded an organisation to help people, who have become victims of this nonsense, and describes how it can be combated. She describes herself as a liberal, who wishes issues to be settled by the Enlightenment methods of science and rational debate. She wants Postmodernists to engage with liberals, who believe in individualism, science and universalism, as well as Marxists. But they won’t. She’d like there to be a conversation between trans activists and gender critical feminists, but this isn’t happening. While she’s not aligned with the extremists on either side, she is more worried about the gender critical feminists as they are being denied their right to speak. She also talks about the fundamental disagreement between the two groups. Gender critical feminists see everything as determined by biological sex. The trans activists stress gender, socially constructed sexual identity. Thus the two aren’t talking about the same thing when it comes to debate, hence part of the failure to find a common ground for agreement. When it comes to racism, she advises her viewers on the way to reply to any communications from HR departments about being put on anti-racist courses. She believes that one of the reasons Critical Race Theory has made such deep inroads is because most people genuinely don’t want to be, or to be seen to be, racist. At the same time, anti-racist activists have become more intolerant because the legislation designed to combat racism is unable to remove other forms of racism. She genuinely wants to see racism and other forms of bigotry fought, and objects to Critical Race Theory and Postmodernism because it is actually extremely poor at doing so. She advises her viewers that if they get any messages about anti-racism training from their employer, they are to reply congratulating them about doing something to tackle racism. However, they are to follow this up with other messages asking for assurances that this training will not require Whites and Blacks to feel a particularly way. In the case of Whites, this is guilt for their institutional privilege and racism, and in the case of Blacks, to feel they are victims of White privilege and racism.

This is important, as the BBC, NHS, Oxfam and various big companies have all bought into Critical Race Theory, while it also seems supported by left-wing newspapers like the Guardian. Oxfam and the NHS have demanded their workers fill questionnaires about how they see White privilege, for example. And some of those promoting Critical Race Theory could themselves be seen as racist. They discuss Priyamvada Gopal, a professor of colonial and post-colonial literature at Oxbridge. Gopal talks much about ‘Whiteness’, but its clear that sometimes she’s not talking about ‘Whiteness’ but about White people. A few months ago she tweeted that ‘White lives have no value’ adding underneath ‘as White lives’. They state that she maintains she wasn’t being racist, but she would have been well aware how her comments would have been interpreted. At one level, Critical Race Theory’s assumption that all Whites are racist is nothing new. My mother was told she had to be racist back in the 1980s by a group of anti-racism activists sent in to her school. She must be racist, she was told, because she was White and middle class. This says volumes about the unacknowledged racism of these activists.

Postmodern doctrines like Critical Race Theory are seriously damaging real scholarship while at the same time propagating their own forms of racism and intolerance. Pluckrose and her fellows are to be applauded for doing what they can to combat them. And while GB News really is a terrible right-wing broadcaster, it is actually doing immense good by providing an opportunity for the critics of such irrationality and intolerance to speak.

Howard Jacobson Cartoon

September 15, 2021

Here’s my drawing of British author Howard Jacobson. I’ve read that it was Jacobson, who came up with the slogan ‘For the Many, Not the Jew’ to promote the anti-Semitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party when he was living in New York. Way back in the 1980s he wrote a parody of the Book of Genesis, which Private Eye reviewed. This was at the same time militant Muslims were demanding Salman Rushdie’s head over the Satanic Verses. The Eye said that Jacobson’s novel showed the difference between Jews and Muslims, because if Jews were at all similar to them, Jacobson would have to move in with the other author. The other year Jacobson won a literary award for his The Finkler Question. From the very, very little I’ve read about it seems to be a tale of adultery in Jewish suburbia. This makes him sound like a kind of Jewish male version of Jilly Cooper with literary pretensions.

For some reason the late Clive James seems to have been a fan of his, and I did have some respect for him a few years ago. Jacobson describes himself as a Humanist, but disliked the New Atheists, as many old school atheists did, for their intolerance and abuse. But that vanished when I read that he was responsible for the slogan parodying Corbyn’s ‘For the Many, Not the Few’. Jacobson’s wretched slogan helped keep in power the Tories, who are determined to privatised the NHS and inflict further cuts on the welfare state at the expense of Britain’s working people. A working class, that has always included Jews. It’s also assisted in the seizure of the Labour leadership by Starmer and his crew, who are using anti-Semitism as an excuse to purge the party of socialists and critics of Israel. And their victims have been particularly Jews. All to protect the Israeli state from a possible Labour administration that would have tried to help the Palestinians gain justice and equality, instead of empty words and toothless condemnations of Israel.

I thought of Jacobson’s wretched slogan, and it seemed to me that you could also alter it, beginning with the names of the organisations pushing the anti-Semitism smears: the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jewish Labour Movement, Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and then

‘For Israel

For the Rich

Against the Poor

Against the Jew’

Because the people behind the smears seem to me to be Tories and Thatcherites determined to help the rich get even richer and drive the poor even further into poverty. And those poor also include Jews, who worry along with everyone else about the way the NHS is being run down, the cuts to state services, how they will pay for the social care their elderly relatives need and suffer from the government and management freezing their wages so they also take a cut in salary in real terms.

Articles on Bristol’s Jewish Community

September 11, 2021

I found a couple of very interesting articles on Bristol’s Jewish community in Max Barnes’ Bristol A-Z: Fascinating Stories of Bristol through the ages, published by the Bristol Evening Post c. 1970. Bristol has had a Jewish community for centuries. There was a Jewish quarter in the city in the Middle Ages. Way back in the 90s a miqveh, a Jewish ritual bath, with the Hebrew inscription, ‘Zacklim’, ‘flowing’, was found on Jacob’s Wells’ Road. They were expelled by Edward I along with the rest of England’s Jews, but returned after Oliver Cromwell once again opened the doors to Jewish immigrants. They were certainly present in the 18th century, when one Bristolian, looking for a doctor, said that he had no objection to a Jewish doctor, provided he claimed to believe in Christianity. In the 1820s one outraged commenter complained that the city’s corporation included not just Anglicans, but also Protestant non-Conformists and even Jews! There was also a very imposing synagogue in Park Row. This had giant Hebrew characters over its entrance and seemed to be cut into the very rock of St. Michael’s Hill. I haven’t seen it recently, so I wonder whether it’s still around, or if it’s simply the case that more recent building work has covered up the Hebrew inscription.

The article ‘Jews’ in the book runs

The first Jews settled in a confined area between St John’s Gate and St. Gile’s Gate. As Jews they were banned from living inside the walled town itself.

Their sole business was money lending. Like Jews down through the ages they suffered a lot of persecution. Once their houses were pillaged and burned by a mob led by William Giffard, a man who had had many financial dealings with the Jews and in 1275 took this brutal course to destroy the records and clear his debts.

Another Jew who refused to pay heavy ransom money to King John was hauled off to Bristol castle.

The king’s torturers pulled out one of his molar teeth each day. He had lost seven teeth before he paid up.

I think it was the poor man’s daughter who persuaded him to pay the money before he lost all his teeth. I think money lending was the only trade Jews in this country could legally pursue. Giffard’s pogrom against them was, I think, part of a number of anti-Semitic attacks and riots led by members of the aristocracy. The real reason behind them was that aristocracy at the time was in debt to Jewish moneylenders, and this was their way of getting out of it.

There’s another article on the Jewish author, Israel Zangwill, who also apparently was educated in Bristol. I doubt many people have heard of him today except experts in modern Jewish literature, but from reading the article he seems to have been a powerful force in the development of modern Jewish literature. The article says

Novelist and playwright (1864-1926) went to school in Bristol.

He was the son of a Russian Jewish refugee who escaped from Russia in 1848 from a death sentence for a military offence. Zangwill was known as a richly gifted but outspoken humanist. He was a champion of unpopular causes. His novel “Children of the Ghetto” was dramatised in 1899 and played in Yiddish and English in New York.

Imperial Russia had a policy of conscripting Jews into the army. It was used as a method of forced conversion, with Jewish troopers singled out for bullying and beating. I suspect that Zangwill’s father may have not taken the abuse, hence the death sentence for some kind of military offence. More recent victims of such maltreatment in the Russian army included Seventh Day Adventists and Pentecostalist Christians under Communism. I can’t remember which one, but one of these sects was persecuted because they’re pacifists who reject military service. And the Pentecostalists were subjected to the persecution under the guise of all kinds of stupid conspiracy theories. They’re abstainers, refusing to touch tobacco and alcohol, and as a result tended to be wealthier than ordinary Russians. As a result, there was a story propagated that accused them of receiving money from the CIA through a ship that landed annually at a secret location. It’s the same kind of stupid, murderous rumour about treachery as the source of secret wealth that has been used against our Jewish brothers and sisters.

Bristol’s Jewish community seems to have had a fascinating history, and its monuments are part of the city’s rich architectural heritage.

And real persecution and conspiracy theories are wrong and dangerous, whether levelled against Jews, Christians, Muslims or anyone. They are not things to be cynically used to expel left-wing peeps and non-Zionist Jews from Labour.

Lobster on Islamophobia of Extreme Right-wing Pro-Israel Author David Rubin

September 10, 2021

Lobster have also published a very interesting review by John Newsinger, a historian at one of Bath’s universities, of the latest work by American right-winger David Rubin, ‘Confronting Radicals: What America Can Learn from Israel’. Rubin has published a number of works claiming that America and the West are under threat from Islam and the left. Rubin’s Jewish, but his books are aimed at the Christian right, arguing that America can only be saved if it returns to Biblical, Judaeo-Christian values and securely allies itself with Israel against Islam. Although Rubin’s Jewish, his books are addressed to right-wing Christians because American Jews overwhelmingly vote Democrat and despite the alliance between the right and Israel. Newsinger begins his review by discussing Rubin’s book, The Islamic Tsunami: Israel and America in the Age of Obama, which came with an endorsement from David Horovitz and notorious right-wing Christian preacher, Pat Robertson. It’s an all-out, shockingly vitriolic attack on Islam, which among other things, compares Mohammed to Hitler. But what I found really shocking is his recommendations for dealing with Islam in America. He wants an end to Islamic immigration, bans on certain forms of Islamic observance and limiting the size of Muslim families. Oh yes, and he wants an end to hate speech legislation. Newsinger writes

Rubin puts forward a plan for how to defeat this attempted Muslim takeover. Among his recommendations are an immediate ban on all Muslim immigration into the United States; encouraging Muslims already in the country to use birth control and to limit the size of their families; banning the call to prayer and Muslim dress; and the expulsion of ‘actively hostile Muslims’, a category that includes all those Muslims who do not embrace ‘Judeo-Christian’ values. He makes clear earlier in the book that he does not really believe that it is possible for any Muslim to become a genuine American. It is also vital to oppose hate speech legislation ‘which in practice will be used as a big brother technique to curtail the free speech of those who dare to speak out against Islamic ideology’. More generally, it is necessary to assert the values of ‘Judeo-Christian civilization’ throughout the education and legal systems, and a return to ultra-patriotism ‘based on the American biblical tradition and the religious
values promoted by the Founding Fathers’. The maintenance of a close partnership with Israel is also obviously essential. He even considers whether or not it would be a good thing if the United States actually took over Syria and Iran
. Would, he asks, ‘a little old-fashioned American
“colonialism” [ . . . .] be so terrible’? The answer is, of course, yes
.

This is terrifying stuff. Now I think he has point about hate speech legislation. It is being used to stop reasonable debate about race and immigration as well about the trans ideology and whether transwomen should be allowed into women’s spaces. And I think there are real problems within British and western Islam. There does seem to be a section of the Islamic community in Britain which has active hostility towards Christianity, Judaism and the secular values of the west, and which does regard western, non-Muslim women with contempt because of the sexual freedom they enjoy. But clearly, this does not mean all western Muslims. As for the restrictions he wishes to place on Islam in the west, this resembles the legislation passed by the Spanish crown during the Reconquista which finally culminated in the expulsion of the Moors by Ferdinand and Isabella. It also brought to mind some of the restrictions placed on Jews in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I think they were also subject to restrictions on marrying and having families. And obviously, there’s the shadow of the race laws the Nazis introduced against the Jews before the Introduction of the Holocaust.

It’s also worth quoting Newsinger’s comments on the way American Jews reject views like Rubin’s, and the reasons behind Rubin’s venomous denunciation of Barack Obama. Rubin seems to see the former president as some kind of closet Muslim or ally backing the nefarious schemes of Islam and the Left to bring down America:

Two points need to be made here. First, The Islamic Tsunami was not n any way targeted at American Jews. Its audience was the US Christian Right, i.e. white evangelical Christians. The overwhelming majority of American Jews actually voted for Obama, both in 2008 and in 2012. He got 78% of the Jewish vote in 2008 and 69% in 2012. Moreover, Hillary Clinton got 71% of the Jewish vote when she ran against Donald Trump in Indeed throughout Trump’s Presidency, of all religious groups, it was American Jews who gave Trump his lowest approval rating, and in
2020 they voted overwhelmingly for Joe Biden. The great majority of American Jews are Democrat in sympathy and completely reject the Israeli alliance with the Republican and Christian Right. And as for Obama being hostile to Israel, it is worth noting that his administration provided more military aid to Israel than any previous administration, and in 2016 ‘concluded a new ten-year agreement providing a total of $38 billion in military aid to Israel, which the White House described as “the largest single pledge of military assistance in U.S. history”’. Rubin’s quite outrageous assault on Obama was not motivated by his supposed hostility to Israel, but by his refusal to endorse the expansionist agenda pursued by Benjamin Netanyahu and the Zionist Right.

This bears out what has been said elsewhere that American Jews are turning away from Zionism, or at least the ultra-Zionism of Benjamin Netanyahu and his fellows. The largest Zionist organisation in America in terms of membership is Ted Hagee’s Christians United for Israel. It also sheds more light on the way the anti-Semitism witch-hunters specifically target Jews and Jewish critics of Israel.

Views like Rubin’s, with his endorsement of Islamophobic politicians like Gert Wilders are frightening. At the moment they’re fringe, but there is the possibility that if the ultra-Zionists gain strength, they will take America and the west down the route of real, jackbooted Fascism in their determination to stamp out the radical left and Islam.

See: https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster82/lob82-confronting-radicals.pdf

History Debunked on Black African Complicity at the Beginning of the European Slave Trade

September 7, 2021

This is another provocative video from History Debunked’s Simon Webb. In it he describes how the modern European trade in African slaves began in 1442 with the Portuguese explorer, Antao Goncalves and a Black slave, Adahu. Goncalves, whom Webb calls Anton, had been commissioned by the Portuguese king, Prince Henry ‘the Navigator’ to acquire seal skins and oil. Eager to ingratiate himself with his royal master, Goncalves raided west Africa for slaves. One of those captured was Adahu, who spoke Arabic. Adahu explained that he was a chief and if he was set free, he would help the Portuguese acquire as many slaves as they wanted as he knew the local slave markets. Goncalves took him back to Portugal, where he impressed the king, and he and Goncalves went into partnership slaving. Although the Portuguese had acquired slaves through seizing foreign vessels before, and the Arabs had imported Black slaves into the Iberian peninsula for centuries before the beginning of the European trade in Black slaves, this marked the beginning of the modern slave trade.

Webb also points out that both Europeans and Africans attempted to cheat each other. Europeans attempted to pass off broken or substandard goods, like broken muskets to their African partners, while Africans adulterated the gold they used to purchase goods from the Europeans. Webb points out that this isn’t a popular view now, as it conflicts with the image of Africans as helpless victims. But he argues that the simple logistics of operating a mass slave trade means that Europeans had to have African assistance. They simply couldn’t have enslaved and carried off the large numbers they did if they had carried on capturing them directly, as they earlier had done. He also states that it is similarly mistaken that it was Europeans who brought slavery to America. Both the Aztecs and Maya enslaved their enemies, while in modern Alaska the Haida and Tlingit did the same so that about a quarter of the indigenous population may have been slaves.

I’ve said before that Webb is a man of the right, and that some of his facts may need to be checked. But as far as I can tell, he is correct. Hugh Thomas describes how Goncalves captured Adahu in his The Slave Trade, who says on page 55:

“These new captives included a local chief, Adahu, who spoke Arabic. He negotiated his own release, and that of a boy from his own family, on the understanding that if he were taken back to where he had been found he would deliver some black slaves in exchange.”

Black African involvement in the transatlantic slave trade has been mentioned in museums and documentaries. The exhibition on the city’s involvement in the slave trade at Bristol’s city museum in the 1990s, entitled ‘A Respectable Trade’, included it, and there was a documentary about it in the same decade on Channel 4. More recently a programme on the history of that part of Canada and America also discussed slaving by the Tlingit and gave the same proportion of the enslaved indigenous population in that part of north America at the time.

However, I do think there is a very strong drive to place the blame for slavery solely on White Europeans. I don’t think many Black Brits are now aware how their ancestors were enslaved by other Africans and there does seem to be a reluctance to state just how massively some African princes did profit from the trade.

George Monbiot on the Media’s Responsibility for the Disastrous War in Afghanistan

September 7, 2021

This is a really excellent video from Double Down News, which shows you why the left-wing, alternative news and comment channels and blogs on the Net give you a better idea of what’s going on than the mainstream news. Not least because, as author, Guardian writer and green campaigner George Monbiot shows here, the mainstream media are conscienceless propagandists.

He points out that while Biden and Raab are taking the blame for the west’s collapse and withdrawal in Afghanistan, they aren’t the politicos primarily responsible for it. Yes, Raab is useless and shouldn’t have been on holiday when it all happened, and as for Biden, well, there’s no good time to lose a war. But the real responsibility for this debacle lies with the men who started it: George Dubya Bush and Tony Blair. And the media was solidly behind them. This wasn’t just the right-wing media, like that owned by Rupert Murdoch, but also the left. People like him who spoke out against the war were reviled and denounced as somehow on the side of the Taliban in an atmosphere that resembled the war fever of the First World War. He discusses the reasons why this was so, as well as attempts to present the war as somehow a war of liberation on behalf of Afghan women. And it covered the war without really showing the effects and destruction it was wreaking on the country’s people. One reason the media went along with it was because of their links to the military-industrial complex. But much of it is because the media thrives on spectacle, and war, with its lights and explosions, is a powerful one. The media’s attention is also short-term. It promotes one cause for a short while or one issue before dropping it and moving on to the next one. Monbiot states very clearly that we were lied to about the invasion of Afghanistan and the media was instrumental in the promotion of these lies.

Stylistically this resembles some of the great documentaries produced by Adam Curtis in the 1990s and 2000s. It contains much archive footage, including film from the First World War, as well as of ordinary Afghans in their damaged and wreaked homes. It also has shots of Murdoch and some of the other TV journalists celebrating the war for all they were worth. Thus there’s that infamous piece of footage where Geraldo Rivero raves when a bomb is dropped on the Taliban, and another piece where CNN anchors watch a bomb explosion through plane gunsights, proclaiming it to be the sight of ‘freedom’. One former member of The Young Turks really tore into that journalist for his glorification of death and suffering.

And Monbiot is exactly right when he says that the left-wing media were also complicit in the warmongering. They were. The Groaniad backed the war, and one of its hacks wrote a book promoting the new, nation-building imperialism. But, as Monbiot points out, they are now strangely silent about the role in the creation of this tragedy.

Blair seems to be trying to make a comeback, giving his opinions on everything from Brexit to Jeremy Corbyn over the past few years. I caught a glimpse of a piece on the internet newsfeed today which suggested he’d been giving his informed views on the dangers of extremism and islamophobia. Islamophobia is on the rise, and a large part of it was the strains and tensions created by Blair’s war. Some parts of the Islamic community became radicalised as they believed it was a war against Islam, while many ordinary Muslims simply became disaffected because of the invasions of their homelands. And as Monbiot also points out in the video, Blair and Bush hardly understood the country they were invading and had no exit strategy. Indeed there were claims that it would all be over by Christmas, just like the First World War. No-one should take anything Blair says remotely seriously ever again. Blair lied, people died.

And with very few exceptions, he was helped by the mainstream media. The people who are not telling you that the responsibility is also anyone’s except theirs.

Cartoonist Kayfabe on the US Army’s Guide to Cartooning

September 7, 2021

Face front, true believers, as Stan ‘the Man’ Lee used to say at Marvel. Here’s a bit of fun I found on the Cartoonist Kayfabe channel on YouTube. In it, comics creators Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg look at a little curiosity from the past. Back in the middle of World War II, the US army produced a booklet intended to teach squaddies the basics of cartooning.

The booklet was part of a series of such manuals intended to teach basic craft skills to wounded and shell-shocked troopers when they were recovering in hospital. It was also to give them skills that would help them find a job when they were finally demobilised. These booklets weren’t long. They were deliberately made short enough so that a trooper could have one in a pocket or in his kit bag. Other manuals in the series included leatherwork, knot-making and carpentry.

Although short, the booklet does cover all the basics of cartooning, such as proportion, perspectives, drawing action, the need to observe the wrinkles in clothes and so on, including tips on drawing noses and ears. Unfortunately, it also contains a section on ‘racial symbols’ – basically drawing national stereotypes, which includes two racist caricatures. One of these is of a Jew, which is especially distasteful given the nature of the regimes the US and its allies were fighting at the time.

The booklet’s own artwork is very fine and is stylistically similar to many of the great comics’ artists who were emerging at the time. The two speculate whether it was done by Art Spiegelman, the creator of Maus, a metaphor about the Nazi persecution of the Jews, or Stan Lee. Although both were in the army at the time, both were actually occupied on other projects. In the case of Lee, it was working on pamphlets about the VD. The pair also note that the booklet doesn’t say anything about sequential storytelling. It’s intended to teach single panel cartooning, the type published in newspapers at the time and which was massively popular.

I’ve got a feeling it was US army course on cartooning that produced the great American SF novelist, Harry Harrison. I think he trained as a cartoonist and started working in comics and from there found his way into writing SF short stories and novels. Harrison is probably best known for his comic SF novel, The Stainless Steel Rat, about a reformed criminal, ‘Slippery’ Jim diGriz, who works for a galactic detective bureau staffed with similar ex-crims to catch the villains, tyrants, murderers and general menaces to society that the ordinary police can’t. One of his other novels is Bill the Galactic Hero, which is a satire on the army and militarism, as well as spoofing Asimov and some of the other leading SF authors of the time. It was written, along with a number of other novels by various SF writers, as a reply to Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and its glorification of war and the armed forces. In the book, the captains of the space navy aren’t the six-foot good-looking guys that appear in the films. Those are all actors. They’re members of the galactic aristocracy, and so are terribly inbred with low IQs. The aliens they are fighting against aren’t the aggressors as portrayed in the army’s propaganda, but are an otherwise peaceful race, the victims of human attack. When Bill finally meets one, who explains this to him shortly before it escapes, he asks it why they’re fighting them then. The alien replies that it doesn’t know, but ‘we think you like it’. When Bill is finally allowed some leave, he travels down to the nearest planet with a group of other squaddies. One of them is a man, who has had half of his face shot away and replaced with cybernetics. Another man wires himself into a saline drip that feeds him a mixture of alcohol and glucose so he can be flat out unconscious drunk for the duration. And at the end of the book Bill meets the Biblical Cain, here described as the first soldier, who gives him tips on how to be successful and survive as a squaddie.

Bill the Galactic Hero isn’t biting satire. It’s tone, like the Stainless Steel Rat, is largely light. But that doesn’t stop it making some very serious points about the lunacy of the armed forces and the hell of war amongst the jokes. I think it’s significant that Harrison had served in the war, while Heinlein was rejected as unfit for active service. It’s been said that the people who are least likely to start a war are those, who have actually fought in one.

And if Harrison did come into literature through the US’ army training on cartooning, there’s an irony in that it launched the career of one of SF’s great satirists of the military, along with just about everything else.