Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Would Jewish Emancipation Activist David Friedlaender Be Considered an Anti-Semite Under the I.H.R.A. Definition

November 23, 2020

David Friedlaender is one of the major figures of the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment. This was a movement of the 18th and 19th centuries in which Jews strove to reconcile their religion and ethnicity with contemporary western culture in order to take their place alongside their gentile fellow countrymen as full and equal citizens. According to the entry on him in John Bowker, ed., The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions (Oxford: OUP 1997) Friedlaender (1750-1834) was

A forerunner of Reform Judaism. Through his marriage he became part of a distinguished Prussian family of Court Jews and he was one of Moses Mendelssohn’s circle. He believed the Jews were ‘destined from time immemorial to guard and teach by example the pure doctrine of unity and sanctity of God, unknown to other people.’ He argued that prayers for friends and country should be substituted for the messianic hope, and that secular law should be studied rather than Talmud. He also was tireless in his efforts for Jewish political and civil rights in Prussia. (p. 359.

Reform Judaism is a particularly radical reformulation of Judaism, which took over some features of Protestant Christian worship. In contrast to more traditional forms of Jewish worship, such as Orthodox Judaism, prayers are held in the vernacular rather than Hebrew and include choirs. The movement originally believed strongly that Jews should work to become full members of the countries in which they lived, and rejected Zionism. Reform Judaism’s essential doctrines in the US were stated in 1885 in Pittsburgh, when the rabbis there declared

We recognise in the modern era of universal culture of heart and intellect the approach of the realisation of Israel’s great Messianic hope for the establishment of the kingdom of truth, justice and peace among all men … We recognise in Judaism a progressive religion, ever striving to be in accord with the postulates of reason … We accept as binding only the moral laws and maintain only such ceremonies as elevate and sanctify our lives, but reject all such as are not adapted to the views and habits of modern civilisation.

This suggests that instead of viewing the Messianic hope as the appearance of a Messiah to redeem Israel, they saw it as the inauguration of the new era of peace and justice throughout humanity. Their views on tradition and mdoern culture were modified at a meeting in Columbus and 1937, and the movement has since discarded its anti-Zionism. In Germany the movement accepted changes in the liturgy while remaining theologically conservative.

The article on them in The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions also says

Reform congregations are united in the World Union for Progressive Judaism, and rabbis are trained at the Hebrew Union College in the USA and Leo Baeck College in the UK. Reform Judaism has no official status in Israel (though it has a few congregations and kibbutzim), because only Orthodox rabbis are recognised; and the Orthodox repudiate such Reform organisations as the ordination (semikhah) of women as rabbis. (p. 809.

This hostility undoubtedly explains why the late Jonathan Sacks, when he was Chief Rabbi, declared that Reform Jews were ‘enemies of the faith’. This was the language of religious bigotry, the type of statement made by the fanatically intolerant before beginning their persecution and violence against their religious enemies.

As for the ordination of women, one American Jewish community made the news last year through their ground-breaking step of ordaining a Black woman as rabbi. Which should be a riposte to the racists out there who claimed that Jackie Walker, one of the peeps smeared as an anti-Semite by the fanatics in the Israel lobby, couldn’t be a Jew because of her skin colour.

The I.H.R.C. definition of anti-Semitism permits reasonable criticism of Israel, but claims that denying Jews their national right to a homeland is anti-Semitic. This is highly questionable for a number of reasons. There are a number of other nations, who at the moment don’t have their own state despite their aspirations. These include the Basques and Catalans in Spain, and the Scots in Britain. Yet there is no international declaration that states that refusal to recognise their aspirations for a homeland constitutes a form of racism.

There have also been different movements in Judaism, that rejected Zionism. On the one hand there are the ultra-traditional Haredi, who reject Israel on the theological grounds that it can only be founded by divine action through the Messiah. On the other there were Reform Jews and their predecessors, who rejected Zionism because the saw the Jews’ real homelands as the current countries in which the lived. Jewish anti-Zionist bloggers such as David Rosenberg and Tony Greenstein have pointed out that Zionism was very much a minority position amongst European Jewry before the horrors of the Second World War. In America there was little interest in Israel among Jews until the late 1960s and the emergency of Neo-Conservatism. Greenstein and the Israeli historian and critic of his country’s barbarous maltreatment of the Palestinians, Ilan Pappe have shown that rather than being pro-Jewish, Zionism has been itself tinged with anti-Semitism. Many gentile Zionists supported the movement as a way of removing Jews from their countries. It’s why Hitler initially signed the Ha’avara agreement with the Zionist leaders to permit and encourage Jewish emigration to Palestine. Pappe in his book Ten Myths About Israel includes an episode that clearly demonstrates this link between anti-Semitism and Zionism. In the 1920s Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, approached a German nobleman for his support. He noted that the man had taken an interest in it, and asked him why he didn’t support it. The aristo replied that he hadn’t, because he didn’t want people to think he was an anti-Semite.

And many of the opponents of Israel’s persecution and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, both Torah-observant and secular, are self-respecting Jews. But they’re smeared as self-hating and anti-Semitic by the country’s fiercely intolerant defenders.

But the example of David Friedlaender shows that if denial of Jewish nationalism is defined as anti-Semitic, then some of Jewry’s most ardent and tireless workers for emancipation, dignity and equality, who believed passionately in their religion and their people’s destiny and witness to the God of their ancestors, are Jew-haters. Which is ridiculous and absurd, or so it seems to my non-Jewish eyes.

I’m sure that some criticism of Israel is undoubtedly anti-Semitic. That of real Nazis, for example. Their hatred of Israel is part of a general, virulent, genocidal hatred of Jews. But the rejection or just simple criticism of Zionism by self-respecting Jews and their gentile allies, who genuinely despise anti-Semitism along with other forms of racism and Fascism, is clearly very different.

It strikes me that the inclusion of anti-Zionism in the I.H.R.A.’s definition of anti-Semitism is simply sectarian bigotry. Some Jews are supporters of Israel, others, who may be no less Jewish, aren’t. Just as some of the gentile critics and opponents of Zionism may the Jews’ most committed defenders and supporters.

A far better definition of anti-Semitism, and one that needs no examples to clarify it, is the simplest. It’s hatred of Jews as Jews, regardless of religion or ideology. That was definition used by the man who coined the term ‘anti-Semitism’, Wilhelm Marr, founder of the Bund Antisemiten in 19th century Germany.

The Board of Deputies, Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, Chief Rabbinate and other Zionist organisations have no business trying to foist such a partisan and highly discriminatory definition on the Labour Party or anyone, whether Jew or gentile.

Starmer Throwing Out Corbyn’s Policies to Gain Support of Business

November 6, 2020

Mike and many other left-wing bloggers have put up a number of articles showing that, despite his promises at the Labour leadership elections, Starmer is getting rid of Corbyn’s policies which were included in the party’s manifesto. Starmer’s a Blairite, and so it was to be expected that he’d try to remove Corbyn’s policies, just as he is doing his best to purge or push out members of the Labour left from the shadow cabinet and the party generally. He’s taking the party back towards Thatcherism, replacing traditional Labour policies of a strong welfare state and trade unions, workers’ rights, a fully nationalised NHS and mixed economy, with the welfare state’s dismantlement, privatisation, including that of the NHS, and the further destruction of employment rights designed to make workers easy and cheap to hire and fire. This is all being done to win over Tory swing voters and the right-wing political and media establishment.

A few weeks ago Starmer showed exactly where his priorities lay when he announced that Labour was now perfectly willing to accept donations and funding from industry. This was a sharp break with Corbyn, who had restored the party’s finances through subscriptions from the party’s membership. A membership that had expanded massively because, after Blair, Brown and Ed Miliband, there was a Labour leader at last who genuinely wished to do something for the working class and represented and promoted traditional Labour values and policies.

Starmer’s turn instead to corporate funding is a return to Blair’s policies, in which the Labour leader sought support from business. Under Blair, the party lost members despite its electoral success. The only reason it won elections was because the Tories were far less popular. And in return for corporate donations, Blair gave the chairmen and senior management of big companies places in government, and passed legislation that would benefit them, but very definitely not Britain’s working people nor the self-employed and small businesspeople.

Further proof that Starmer’s going down this path was provided a few days ago on Tuesday. According to an article in that day’s I by Hugo Gye, ‘Starmer courts business leaders’, for the edition of 3rd November 2020, Starmer announced at a meeting of the CBI that he was going to drop some of Corbyn’s policies to make the party more acceptable to industry. The article runs

Sir Keir Starmer has distanced himself from the Jeremy Corbyn era, suggesting he will drop some of his predecessor’s most radical policies as he positions Labour as the party of business.

Speaking to the annual conference of the CBI business group, Sir Keir said he wanted to lead “an active, pro-business government”. He added: “When a business is failing it is often because the management is failing. The Labour party is now under new management. We recognise that businesses with high standards are the only way to create a good economy.” Asked if he would keep left-wing policies Sir Keir replied: “In 2019 we suffered a devastating loss in the election.

“It’s important you don’t look at the electorate and ask: ‘What on earth were you doing?’ you ask: ‘What on earth were we doing?”‘ He has previously said he would seek to return to the 2017 manifesto rather than the more radical offering at last year’s general election. He also took aim at Rishi Sunak. He said: “The impact on business and jobs will be severe. The Chancellor’s name is all over this.”

This is twaddle. Labour’s policies weren’t unpopular. Indeed, quite the opposite. That’s one of the reasons the Labour right, the Tories and the media spent so many years and so much energy trying to smear Corbyn as a Communist and then anti-Semite. And the pro-business policies Starmer wants to replace Corbyn’s with won’t do anything for the country. It’s been said many times that business actually does better under Labour than under the Tories. And economists like Ha-Joon Chang have pointed out that privatisation hasn’t worked. It hasn’t provided the necessary and expected investment in the utilities. A traditional, social democratic mixed economy would therefore be far better. Thatcherism is, in the words of an Australian economist, Zombie economics. It’s dead, but still stumbling about.

As for asking what Labour did wrong, the answer is that Starmer himself was partly responsible for Labour’s defeat. He and the Labour right demanded that Labour should commit itself to a second referendum on Brexit, when the majority of the public – admittedly a slim majority – were all in favour of it. Corbyn’s initial position of respecting the Brexit vote, and only going back to hold a second referendum if they were unable to get an acceptable deal from Europe, was actually popular. But this popularity began to evaporate when Starmer and his colleagues demanded this should be changed.

Starmer’s leadership of the Labour party so far has been disastrous. He’s been using the anti-Semitism smears to purge the party of left-wingers and supporters of Corbyn, the party is losing Black membership and support thanks to his refusal to take BLM seriously, and many members generally are leaving the party because of return to Blair’s hoary, Tory policies, to paraphrase an old ’80s song.

Starmer isn’t leading the party to victory, but defeat. HIs policies won’t benefit working people, but as they are intended to enrich big business leaders, the British political establishment, of which he’s a part, aren’t going to be worried about that.

‘I’ Obituary for Stage Magician and Sceptic James Randi

October 26, 2020

Last Tuesday, 20th October 2020, the stage magician and sceptic James Randi passed away at the age of 92. Randy was a controversial. After starting out as a stage magician, Randi turned to exposing fake psychics. He was a prominent member of the Sceptics’ organisation CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims Of the Paranormal, along with scientist and broadcaster Carl Sagan and the mathematician Martin Gardner. CSICOP’s founders were alarmed at the growth of interest in the occult. Sagan, a Humanist, published his attack on the supernatural in the Demon Haunted World. He seemed to be frightened that we were entering a new Dark Age of superstition, where science and rationality would be forgotten, and in which people would begin their day by poring over their horoscopes.

The I published this obituary of Randi in their weekend edition for 24th-25th October 2020, reprinted from the Washington Post. It runs

James Randi, who has died aged 92, was an internationally acclaimed magician and escape artist who spent much of his career debunking all things paranormal – from spoon bending and water dowsing to spirit channelling and faith healing.

Randall James Ham Hamilton Zwinge was born in Toronto in 1928. A child prodigy, he was shy and often lonely. Bored by rote classroom learning, he sought refuge in the library. At a young age, he developed an interest in magic, and at 17 he dropped out of high school, turned down several college scholarships and joined a travelling carnival as junior magician.

He overcame a stammer and fear of speaking in public, affected a turban and goatee, and honed his illusionist skills under a series of stage names, including Zo-Ran, Prince Iblis, Telepath and the Great Randall.

After a stint at faking clairvoyance, in which many took his prophecies seriously – he correctly predicted the winner of baseball’s World Series in 1949, for example – he said he was unable to persuade believerss that his powers were strictly terrestrial. He said he “couldn’t live that kind of lie” and returned to conventional magic as The Amazing Randi.

He also became an escape artist and held Guinness world records for surviving the longest time inside a block of ice (55 minutes) and for being sealed the longest in an underwater coffin (one hour and 44 minutes), breaking a record set by Harry Houdini.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s Randi’s many appearances on television made him a fixture of prime time entertainment. In 1973 he toured with heavy metal rock star Alice Cooper as an executioner simulating the beheading of the singer at each performance.

Randi cheerfully described himself as a “liar” and “cheat” in mock recognition of his magician’s skills at duping people into thinking they had seen something inexplicable when it was, in fact, the result of simple physical deception. He was equally dismissive of psychics, seers and soothsayers. “The difference between them and me,” Randi told The New York Times in 1981, “is that I admit that I’m a charlatan. They don’t. I don’t have time for things that go bump in the night.”

Randi and the research organisation he helped found in 1976, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, offered payouts ranging up to $1m (£77,000) to anyone who could demonstrate a supernatural or paranormal phenomenon under controlled conditions. While he had many takers, he said, none of them earned a cent.

In 2010, at the age of 81, Randi publicly announced he was gay. He married a Venezuelan artist, Deyvi Pena in 2013. The following year, film-maker Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein released An Honest Liar, a documentary of Randi’s life.

I first became aware of Randi in the early 1980s, when he appeared in the pages of the Absurder attacking Doris Stokes. Stokes was a medium, who was then in news, much like Derek Acorah and other celebrity psychics a few years ago. Randi showed that much of her comments and remarks when she was supposedly getting in touch with the dead were ‘bunkum statements’. They sounded true and unique to the reader or listener, but they were actually vague and described the way most people felt. Her descriptions of the deceased and the questions she asked her audience were also so vague that they would apply to someone there, who would then become convinced that Stokes was genuinely in contact with a dead friend or relative.

Several times Randi’s own outspoken comment about those he judged to be frauds landed him in legal. In one case, he was sued for libel by a man he claimed was called by the police ‘the shopping mall molester’. Er, not quite. The target of Randi’s wrath had been arrested for sexually assaulting a 12 or 13 year old girl in a shopping centre. But he hadn’t been charged with the offence, as it was dropped due to plea bargaining. And because he hadn’t been charged with it, Randi’s comments were technically libel.

He also got into similar trouble with Uri Geller. He called him a fraud, at which Geller sued him in every country in the world. This resulted in Randi settling out of court with the notorious spoon-bender.

Actually, I think Randi is probably right here. Geller’s most famous trick of bending spoons has been around since at least in the 18th century. It’s mentioned in a book of such amusements from that time, Rational Recreations. Geller was also successfully sued in the 1970s or so by an Israeli engineering student for misleading advertising. Geller’s publicity claimed his act presented overwhelming proof of the paranormal. The student went to see it and wasn’t impressed. He sued, claiming that all he’d seen was standard stage magic. The beak concurred, and judged in his favour.

There was also a scandal a few years ago when it turned out that Randi’s partner was actually an illegal immigrant, who was living in the US under an identity he’d stolen.

Randi was a colourful figure, but I was never a fan of his. While I agree that fake psychics and mediums certainly exist, and should be exposed because of the way they exploit the grieving and vulnerable, I don’t share his dismissal of the supernatural. I think it’s genuine, but that its very nature makes scientific verification extremely difficult, if not impossible. CSICOP also came off as arrogant, smug and vindictive in their attacks on the paranormal and its believers and practitioners. So much so that they were seen as a kind of scientific witch hunt by their victims. A few years ago the organisation changed its name to CSI, which stands for the Committee for Scientific Investigation. And not Crime Scene Investigation. The name change was not occasioned because there was a cop drama with that acronym as its title playing at the time.

So RIP James Randi. He was a colourful character, who entertained millions, particularly in his bust-up with Geller. Gray Barker, the former Ufologist who began the Men In Black myth with his book They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, took great pleasure in Randi’s antics, calling him ‘the Amusing Randi’. But I leave to the reader to decide for themselves whether the paranormal exists. And not everybody who believes in it deserves sneers and ridicule.

No Flesh Is Spared in Richard Stanley’s H.P. Lovecraft Adaptation.

October 20, 2020

Well, almost none. There is one survivor. Warning: Contains spoilers.

Color out of Space, directed by Richard Stanley, script by Richard Stanley and Scarlett Amaris. Starring

Nicholas Cage … Nathan Gardner,

Joely Richardson… Theresa Gardner,

Madeleine Arthur… Lavinia Gardner

Brendan Meyer… Benny Gardner

Julian Meyer… Jack Gardner

Elliot Knight… Ward

Tommy Chong… Ezra

Josh C. Waller… Sheriff Pierce

Q’orianka Kilcher… Mayor Tooma

This is a welcome return to big screen cinema of South African director Richard Stanley. Stanley was responsible for the cult SF cyberpunk flick, Hardware, about a killer war robot going running amok in an apartment block in a future devastated by nuclear war and industrial pollution. It’s a great film, but its striking similarities to a story in 2000AD resulted in him being successfully sued by the comic for plagiarism. Unfortunately, he hasn’t made a major film for the cinema since he was sacked as director during the filming of the ’90s adaptation of The Island of Doctor Moreau. Th film came close to collapse and was eventually completed by John Frankenheimer. A large part of the chaos was due to the bizarre, irresponsible and completely unprofessional behaviour of the two main stars, Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer.

Previous Lovecraft Adaptations

Stanley’s been a fan of Lovecraft ever since he was a child when his mother read him the short stories. There have been many attempts to translate old Howard Phillips’ tales of cosmic horror to the big screen, but few have been successful. The notable exceptions include Brian Yuzna’s Reanimator, From Beyond and Dagon. Reanimator and From Beyond were ’80s pieces of gleeful splatter, based very roughly – and that is very roughly – on the short stories Herbert West – Reanimator and From Beyond the Walls of Sleep. These eschewed the atmosphere of eerie, unnatural terror of the original stories for over the top special effects, with zombies and predatory creatures from other realities running out of control. Dagon came out in the early years of this century. It was a more straightforward adaptation of The Shadow Over Innsmouth, transplanted to Spain. It generally followed the plot of the original short story, though at the climax there was a piece of nudity and gore that certainly wasn’t in Lovecraft.

Plot

Color out of Space is based on the short story of the same name. It takes some liberties, as do most movie adaptations, but tries to preserve the genuinely eerie atmosphere of otherworldly horror of the original, as well as include some of the other quintessential elements of Lovecraft’s horror from his other works. The original short story is told by a surveyor, come to that part of the American backwoods in preparation for the construction of a new reservoir. The land is blasted and blighted, poisoned by meteorite that came down years before. The surveyor recounted what he has been told about this by Ammi Pierce, an old man. The meteorite landed on the farm of Nahum Gardner and his family, slowly poisoning them and twisting their minds and bodies, as it poisons and twists the land around them.

In Stanley’s film, the surveyor is Ward, a Black hydrologist from Lovecraft’s Miskatonic University. He also investigates the meteorite, which in the story is done by three scientists from the university. The movie begins with shots of the deep American forest accompanied by a soliloquy by Ward, which is a direct quote from the story’s beginning. It ends with a similar soliloquy, which is largely the invention of the scriptwriters, but which also contains a quote from the story’s ending about the meteorite coming from unknown realms. Lovecraft was, if not the creator of cosmic horror, then certainly its foremost practitioner. Lovecraftian horror is centred around the horrifying idea that humanity is an insignificant, transient creature in a vast, incomprehensible and utterly uncaring if not actively hostile cosmos. Lovecraft was also something of an enthusiast for the history of New England, and the opening shots of the terrible grandeur of the American wilderness puts him in the tradition of America’s Puritan settlers. These saw themselves as Godly exiles, like the Old Testament Israelites, in a wilderness of supernatural threat.

The film centres on the gradual destruction of Nathan Gardner and his family – his wife, Theresa, daughter Lavinia, and sons Benny and Jack – as their minds and bodies are poisoned and mutated by the strange meteorite and its otherworldly inhabitant, the mysterious Color of the title. Which is a kind of fuchsia. Its rich colour recalls the deep reds Stanley uses to paint the poisoned landscape of Hardware. Credit is due to the director of photography, Steve Annis, as the film and its opening vista of the forest looks beautiful. The film’s eerie, electronic score is composed by Colin Stetson, which also suits the movie’s tone exactly.

Other Tales of Alien Visitors Warping and Mutating People and Environment

Color out of Space comes after a number of other SF tales based on the similar idea of an extraterrestrial object or invader that twists and mutates the environment and its human victims. This includes the TV series, The Expanse, in which humanity is confronted by the threat of a protomolecule sent into the solar system by unknown aliens. Then there was the film Annihilation, about a group of women soldiers sent into the zone of mutated beauty and terrible danger created by an unknown object that has crashed to Earth and now threatens to overwhelm it. It also recalls John Carpenter’s cult horror movie, The Thing, in the twisting mutations and fusing of animal and human bodies. In the original story, Gardner and his family are reduced to emaciated, ashen creatures. It could be a straightforward description of radiation poisoning, and it indeed that is how some of the mutated animal victims of the Color are described in the film. But the film’s mutation and amalgamation of the Color’s victims is much more like that of Carpenter’s Thing as it infects its victims. The scene in which Gardner discovers the fused mass of his alpacas out in the barn recalls the scene in Carpenter’s earlier flick where the members of an American Antarctic base discover their infected dogs in the kennel. In another moment of terror, the Color blasts Theresa as she clutches Jack, fusing them together. It’s a piece of body horror like the split-faced corpse in Carpenter’s The Thing, the merged mother and daughter in Yuzna’s Society, and the fused humans in The Thing’s 2012 prequel. But it’s made Lovecraftian by the whimpering and gibbering noises the fused couple make, noises that appear in much Lovecraftian fiction.

Elements from Other Lovecraft Fiction

In the film, Nathan Gardner is a painter, who has taken his family back to live on his father’s farm. This is a trope from other Lovecraft short stories, in which the hero goes back to his ancestral home, such as the narrator of The Rats in the Walls. The other characters are also updated to give a modern, or postmodern twist. Gardner’s wife, Theresa, is a high-powered financial advisor, speaking to her clients from the farm over the internet. The daughter, Lavinia, is a practicing witch of the Wiccan variety. She is entirely benign, however, casting spells to save her mother from cancer, and get her away from the family. In Lovecraft, magic and its practitioners are an active threat, using their occult powers to summon the ancient and immeasurably evil gods they worship, the Great Old Ones. This is a positive twist for the New Age/ Goth generations.

There’s a similar, positive view of the local squatter. In Lovecraft, the squatters are barely human White trash heading slowly back down the evolutionary ladder through poverty and inbreeding. The film’s squatter, Ezra, is a tech-savvy former electrician using solar power to live off-grid. But there’s another touch here which recalls another of Lovecraft’s classic stories. Investigating what may have become of Ezra, Ward and Pierce discover him motionless, possessed by the Color. However, he is speaking to them about the Color and the threat it presents from a tape recorder. This is similar to the voices of the disembodied human brains preserved in jars by the Fungi from Yuggoth, speaking through electronic apparatus in Lovecraft’s The Whisperer in Darkness. Visiting Ezra earlier in the film, Ward finds him listening intently to the aliens from the meteorite that now have taken up residence under the Earth. This also seems to be a touch taken from Lovecraft’s fiction, which means mysterious noises and cracking sounds from under the ground. Near the climax Ward catches a glimpse through an enraptured Lavinia of the alien, malign beauty of the Color’s homeworld, This follows the logic of the story, but also seems to hark back to the alien vistas glimpsed by the narrator in The Music of Erich Zann. And of course it wouldn’t be a Lovecraft movie without the appearance of the abhorred Necronomicon. It is not, however, the Olaus Wormius edition, but a modern paperback, used by Lavinia as she desperately invokes the supernatural for protection.

Fairy Tale and Ghost Story Elements

Other elements in the movie seem to come from other literary sources. The Color takes up residence in the farm’s well, from which it speaks to the younger son, Jack. Later, Benny, the elder son tries to climb down it in an attempt to rescue their dog, Sam, during which he is also blasted by the Color. When Ward asks Gardner what has happened to them all, he is simply told that they’re all present, except Benny, who lives in the well now. This episode is similar to the creepy atmosphere of children’s fairy tales, the ghost stories of M.R. James and Walter de la Mare’s poems, which feature ghostly entities tied to specific locales.

Oh yes, and there’s also a reference to Stanley’s own classic film, Hardware. When they enter Benny’s room, glimpsed on his wall is the phrase ‘No flesh shall be spared’. This is a quote from Mark’s Gospel, which was used as the opening text and slogan in the earlier movie.

The film is notable for its relatively slow start, taking care to introduce the characters and build up atmosphere. This is in stark contrast to the frenzied action in other, recent SF flicks, such as the J.J. Abram’s Star Trek reboots and Michael Bay’s Transformers. The Color first begins having its malign effects by driving the family slowly mad. Theresa accidentally cuts off the ends of her fingers slicing vegetables in the kitchen as she falls into a trance. Later on, Lavinia starts cutting herself as she performs her desperate ritual calling for protection. And Jack and later Gardner sit enraptured looking at the television, vacant except for snow behind which is just the hint of something. That seems to go back to Spielberg’s movie, Poltergeist, but it’s also somewhat like the hallucinatory scenes when the robot attacks the hero from behind a television, which shows fractal graphics, in Hardware.

Finally, the Color destroys the farm and its environs completely, blasting it and its human victims to ash. The film ends with Ward contemplating the new reservoir, hoping the waters will bury it all very deep. But even then, he will not drink its water.

Lovecraft and Racism

I really enjoyed the movie. I think it does an excellent job of preserving the tone and some of the characteristic motifs of Lovecraft’s work, while updating them for a modern audience. Despite his immense popularity, Lovecraft is a controversial figure because of his racism. There were objections last year or so to him being given an award at the Hugo’s by the very ostentatiously, sanctimoniously anti-racist. And a games company announced that they were going to release a series of games based on his Cthulhu mythos, but not drawing on any of his characters or stories because of this racism. Now the character of an artist does not necessarily invalidate their work, in the same way that the second best bed Shakespeare bequeathed to his wife doesn’t make Hamlet any the less a towering piece of English literature. But while Lovecraft was racist, he also had black friends and writing partners. His wife was Jewish, and at the end of his life he bitterly regretted his earlier racism. Also, when Lovecraft was writing in from the 1920s to the 1940s, American and western society in general was much more racist. This was the era of segregation and Jim Crow. It may be that Lovecraft actually wasn’t any more racist than any others. He was just more open about it. And it hasn’t stopped one of the internet movie companies producing Lovecraft Country, about a Black hero and his family during segregation encountering eldritch horrors from beyond.

I don’t know if Stanley’s adaptation will be to everyone’s taste, though the film does credit the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society among the organisations and individuals who have rendered their assistance. If you’re interested, I recommend that you give it a look. I wanted to see it at the cinema, but this has been impossible due to the lockdown. It is, however, out on DVD released by Studio Canal. Stanley has also said that if this is a success, he intends to make an adaptation of Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror. I hope the film is, despite present circumstances, and we can look forward to that piece of classic horror coming to our screens. But this might be too much to expect, given the current crisis and the difficulties of filming while social distancing.

To Fight the Tories and the Racists, Labour Should Platform More White Working Class Speakers

October 19, 2020

This is not by any means a criticism of the Labour party’s great Black and Asian MPs, activists and ordinary members and supporters, like Dawn Butler and Diane Abbot. It is simply a case of effectively mobilising White working class support for Labour, which necessarily and rightly includes non-White politicos and supporters to combat Tory propaganda.

Much Conservative rhetoric aimed at winning over White working class support presents the Labour party as profoundly, traitorously anti-British. BAME anti-racist activists, like Diane Abbot, are criticised and abused by the right, and particularly the far right, as people who actively hate traditional British culture and wish to see it destroyed. This nasty rhetoric was ramped up several notches a few weeks ago with the controversy over the Beeb’s supposed ban of ‘Rule, Britannia’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ at the Last Night of the Proms. This was to show that the Beeb was run by anti-patriotic lefty liberals. In fact it was nothing of the support. It was simply a response to the regulations imposed by the Coronavirus lockdown. Although they have been eased, they still prohibit public singing. It’s why those churches, which have reopened, now use recorded music while the congregation remains silent. In one way, it’s almost like a return to the Middle Ages, when it was only the clergy who participated in the ritual of the mass while the congregation heard it. I’m not surprised that the ban did cause controversy. There have been allegations before, including by Private Eye, that the Prom’s producers at the Beeb are acutely uncomfortable with the performance of the two classic pieces, and would like to stop their performance. But that wasn’t the case this year. Also, ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ is much more than a jingoistic ditty. It’s lyrics include lines about ‘justice and equality’, civilised values that should be at the heart of liberal society.

And I’m afraid this rhetoric and the xenophobic nationalism is going to increase with the failure of Brexit. It now looks like Britain is going to exit the EU without a deal. So much for all the Leaver talk from Johnson, Gove etc about oven ready deals and that making trade arrangements with the EU would be so simple, they weren’t worth worrying about. The EU would be so desperate to make one, they’d come running to us. Anybody who said otherwise was being un-patriotic and trying to terrify the British public unnecessarily with ‘Project Fear’.

But the Remoaners, as the Brexiteers have dubbed them, have been amply proved right. Boris and his cohorts told businesses that they wouldn’t have to worry about complex paperwork to carry on trading with the EU. Everything would be simple and straightforward. But our industry is suffering because Johnson and the rest haven’t provided clear guidance for them. In addition, we now have two tariff borders, one in the Irish Sea, and another in Kent. A no-deal Brexit means that we could be faced with shortages of food and medicines. The Tories are desperately trying to negotiate a deal with America, but this will mean lowering our food hygiene standards to their abysmal levels. This will do preciously little for the economy, but it will harm our farmers.

Brexit will increase poverty, despair and starvation.

There were genuinely left-wing, anti-racist peeps, who voted ‘leave’, and with entirely understandable reasons. Our farmers and fishing industry was hit by the EU. The Common Agricultural Policy was designed for small scale, peasant agriculture such as practiced in France and Germany. It did not suit highly mechanised farming employing relatively few people, which is the case in Britain. And the opening up of British waters to foreign fishing decimated our own fishing fleet. Tony Benn and others in the Labour party foresaw this. It’s why they opposed our entry into the EU at the time of the 1970s referendum.

But many Brexiteers are racist, and Brexit was presented as a way of stopping further immigration. Apart from the furore over the Proms, there has also been very vehement criticism of the numbers of asylum seekers crossing the Channel from France. The numbers involved are trivial compared to those who legally immigrate here. The people crossing the Channel in flimsy, makeshift boats and dinghies do so because other, legal means of entering Britain have been closed. But you wouldn’t know that from arch-Tory right-wingers like Alex Belfield. They are attacked as illegal immigrants, a potential threat to the communities in which they are housed, and the left blamed for encouraging them to cross, which puts the migrants themselves in danger. Belfield would like them intercepted by the navy, or deterred from crossing altogether. The liberals and left-wingers defending the migrants wish to have proper legal channels opened up for these migrants, so that they wouldn’t have to risk their lives crossing the Channel.

At the same time, Belfield and other right-wing opponents of immigration present the left as very middle class, out of touch and actively hostile to the White working class. Belfield in his videos rants about how the BBC is dominated by Guardian reading, chinos wearing, latte sipping lefty snowflakes, who all, of course, eat avocado toast. Right-wing organisations like the New Culture Forum and hacks like Douglas Murray have put videos up on YouTube about the demonization of the White working class. The working class, including the White working class, has been demonised, but by the Conservative, Thatcherite elite. As Owen Jones, who himself has received any number of vicious personal attacks, showed in his book Chavs.

With Brexit about to fail, I think we can be sure that the Tories and the Brexiteers will now increase their attacks on immigration and ethnic minorities, because it’s the only way they have of maintaining any kind of support for it.

I think here Labour should learn from a campaigning trick of the Nazis. I’ll make it clear that I have nothing but contempt and disgust for Hitler and his squalid dictatorship. They ruled by terror and violence, and were responsible for the horrific deaths of millions. 11 1/2 million were murdered and died of starvation and overwork in the concentration camps. Six million were Jews, and 5 1/2 million assorted non-Jews, including political prisoners, the long term unemployed, the disabled and Roma. The Nazis also intended to cleans a stretch of land from Poland to the Ukraine and Russia of its indigenous people in preparation for German colonisation. The surviving population would become poorly educated, depressed peasant farmers and labourers to serve the colonists.

Nazism and Fascism are truly horrific movements, that need to be fought everywhere.

But unfortunately Hitler and the Nazis were terribly effective political campaigners. Although they described themselves as ‘socialist’, they despised ‘Marxist’ socialism, which included reformists like the SPD, the German equivalent of the Labour party, and the organised working class. They smashed the trade unions and sent their leaders and activists to the concentration camps. As social Darwinists, they saw the aristocracy and business elite as biologically superior with an absolute right to their social position and authority.

But at the same time, the Nazis were determined to win over the working class. While they stressed class collaboration, with Hitler declaring that ‘the class conscious worker is as unwelcome in our movement as the race conscious Jew’, the Nazis also claimed that they wished to create a genuine classless society. In the new volksgemeinschaft (people’s/ ethnic community) all were to be looked upon as equals. The only difference was supposed to be social function. And Nazism was going to be meritocratic. Any ethnic German would be able to rise socially, no matter how humble his origins, provided he had the talent.

To show that they were serious about this, the Nazis conspicuously put working class speakers on their platforms along with those from the middle and upper classes.

I believe that Labour needs to do the same with White working class speakers.

The people, who are serious about improving conditions for the White working class are, as I have said, the Labour left. They will do so because they’re committed to the working class as a whole. The Jewish anti-racist, anti-Fascist bloggers and activists Tony Greenstein and David Rosenberg have pointed out again and again that the only way of effectively fighting Nazi scumbags like the National Front and BNP is through actively working to improve conditions for all the working class.

Very many of Labour’s great BAME politicos and members are working class. I think Abbot is. And the anti-immigrant right have also included in their attacks on Dawn Butler statements that they’re tired of hearing how working class she is. They’re aware that the Black and Asian targets of their ire are working class, but that doesn’t count as they’re not White working class. And indeed they see them as actively anti-White.

Which is why I believe they need to be partnered on their platforms with White working class speakers. I’m aware that this is already very likely to be the case. But it needs to be so obvious, that the racists will find it difficult to minimise or deny it. It needs to be done to show the racists, and those inclined to listen to them, that BAME politicos like Abbot and Butler are not anti-White and have White working class support.

I also believe that something similar but vice versa may have to be done for Black MPs so that they are obviously given support by White speakers. Under Starmer, Labour has been haemorrhaging not only its traditional Labour voters and supporters in general, but particularly its Black members. This has partly been due to Starmer’s dismissive and mercenary attitude towards Black Lives Matter, but also his utter failure to take any action on the right-wing ‘centrists’ responsible for the racist bullying of respected Black MPs and activists like Abbot, Lammy and so on. Labour needs to show that it is still genuinely committed to improving conditions for Blacks and other ethnic minorities. And that this doesn’t mean being anti-White.

Whatever their colour, working class Brits need to stand together and support each other. Because the racists and Tories will try to divide us to push through their policies.

Which will hurt all of us, regardless of our creed or skin colour.

‘I’ Report on Conviction of Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn as Criminal Gang

October 9, 2020

First a piece of good news. Yesterday’s I for 8th October 2020 reported that a Greek court had convicted the Golden Dawn of being a criminal organisation. This was the Golden Dawn that’s a neo-Nazi outfit responsible for violent attacks on immigrants, left-wing activists and the murder of rap singer, not the Golden Dawn, which was an early 20th century occult society. Although the latter did briefly have Aleister Crowley, the Beast 666 and the ‘wickedest man in the world’ as a member.

The ‘I’s report on page 25, by Derek Gatopoulos, runs

A Greek court has ruled that the far-right Golden Dawn party was operating as a criminal organisation, delivering a landmark verdict in a marathon five-year trial.

The court ruled that seven of the party’s 18 former legislators, including party leader Nikos Michaloliakos, were guilty of leading a criminal organisation, while the others were guilty of participating in one.

As news of the guilty verdicts broke, cheers and celebrations erupted among the crowd of more than 15,000 people gathered in an anti-fascist rally outside the Athens courthouse.

A small group among the crowd threw Molotov cocktails and stones and police responded with tear gas and water cannon.

The marathon trial had been assessing four cases rolled into one: the 2013 fatal stabbing of Greek rap singer Pavlos Fyssas, physical attacks on Egyptian fishermen in 2012, and on left-wing activists in 2013, and whether Golden Dawn was operating as a criminal organisation.

The 68 defendants included the 18 former legislators from the party that was founded in the 80s as a neo-Nazi organisation and rose to become Greece’s third-largest.

Prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the verdict “ends a traumatic cycle” in the country’s public life.

The three-member panel of judges also delivered a guilty verdict against Giorgos Roupakias for the murder of Mr Fyssas. prompting applause in the courtroom and among the crowd.

Roupakios had been accused of being a party supporter who delivered the fatal stab wound to Mr Fyssas. Another 15 defendants – none of them former legislators – were convicted as accomplices.

Outside the courthouse, Mr Fyssas’s mother, Magda, who had attended every session over five years, raised her arms and shouted: “Pavlos did it. My son!” All five people accused of attempted murder against the fishermen were also found guilty, while the four accused of attempted murder in athe attacks against left-wing activists were found guilty of the lesser charge of causing bodily harm.

“Today marks a huge victory for justice and respect for Greece and the entire world,” said Eva Cosse of Human Rights Watch. “It sends a strong message that hate crimes are not and should not, be tolerated in a democratic society.”

There was never any real doubt that the Golden Dawn were a neo-Nazi organisation, although they denied it. They took as their symbol the angular design used in ancient Greek friezes which resembles a series of interlinked swastikas. Whenever they were asked about it and its similarity to the Nazi symbol, they claimed instead, quite rightly but disingenuously, that it was an ancient Greek design. They also celebrated the ancient Spartans. They were the ruling Herrenvolk of the Greek city state of Sparta, a society geared to war. Babies were examined after their birth to make sure that they had no physical defects or malformities. Those who failed the test were brutally disposed of by being thrown into a nearby cavern. Archaeologists have chillingly discovered the bones of a large number of infants, presumably the victims of this cruel custom. Beneath the Spartans themselves were the Helots, the state slave class, the descendants of the city’s original inhabitants whom the Spartans had conquered and enslaved. One day each year normal laws were suspended to allow the Spartans to treat the Helots however they liked, up to and including murder. In its militarism, enslavement, eugenics and racism it very much resembles the Nazis and their horrific Third Reich.

One of the internet news organisations a few years ago made a documentary about the Golden Dawn. They interviewed the Egyptian fishermen and other extra-European immigrants, who’d been attacked by them. I don’t doubt that the austerity imposed on Greece by the EU contributed to the organisation’s rise. We were taught at in Geography at school, when we studied the Third World as part of the ‘A’ Level course, that extreme poverty leads to political extremism and racial and ethnic conflict as different groups fight over resources. Apart from attacking immigrants themselves, the Golden Dawn also attacked and tore down their stalls in the local markets. They also gave out food parcels, but only to ethnic Greeks. It’s excellent that the organisation and the murderous thugs running it have been successfully prosecuted.

Zelo Street put up a very good piece about the Golden Dawn’s conviction, pointing out that it poses something of an embarrassment for the Spectator, its editor, Fraser Nelson, and board chairman Andrew Neil. Because the magazine, itself heading rapidly towards the far right, published a piece by Greek playboy and jailbird, Taki, praising the Nazis. Way back in 2013 Takis had written in his column that

Golden Dawn came into being because of PC, poor Greeks at times getting fewer benefits than African illegal immigrants. Then GD became very popular with certain poor Greeks while it defended them from being mugged by Albanian criminals and drug dealers, and for safeguarding older folk after bank withdrawals”.

He also claimed that they weren’t Nazis, but just good, patriotic Greek boys who were just rough. No, I think it’s quite clear they really were Nazis. And murder and violent assault goes far beyond being a little rough.

When people complained about Taki’s article, Nelson responded by saying

Our readers like diversity and well-written pieces that they disagree with. We have no party line”. This prompted Sunny Hundal to ask if they had any limits at all. Could they write pieces praising Hitler? Well, they haven’t so far, but Taki did write another piece stating that the real heroes of D-Day were the German soldiers, who fought to the death against overwhelming numbers. This is particularly remarkable considering the brutality and atrocities committed by the Italian Fascists and the Nazis during their occupation of Greece. Nelson defended this piece by arguing that “People like reading well-argued pieces with which they might disagree”. Well, you wonder. You wonder if the problem is that actually, at least part of the Speccie’s readership do agree.

The Street wondered how Nelson can defend publishing such stuff praising the Golden Dawn and excusing their violence, while claiming any complaints about it simply came from the PC brigade and invoking free speech. The Street concluded

‘After the verdicts were handed down in Athens today, Fraser Nelson should have stopped and thought. And then he should have resigned his post. But he won’t.

Because that would require principle. And he hasn’t got any. I’ll just leave that one there.’

Well, yes. It should at least have given Nelson pause. But it won’t stop him. He’s been publishing Taki for years, despite frequent complaints about his anti-Semitism. And doubtless Nelson will continue printing pieces by him. The Spectator’s a Tory magazines, and the publication of such pieces by Taki suggests that many of the rag’s readers have the same attitude towards Blacks, Muslims and Jews as those the blogger Jacobsmates found on internet sites for supporters of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson.

But remember, there’s supposed to be no problem with racism and anti-Semitism in the Tory party, who deal with it promptly, unlike Labour.

YouTube Trailer for New Series of Spitting Image

September 27, 2020

After over two decade’s absence, the satirical puppet show Spitting Image is coming back to TV. A new series is going to be screened by Britbox, the channel of past shows created by the Beeb and ITV. I found this trailer for the new series on YouTube and it shows that, like its predecessor, the show is very definitely not going to pull its punches sending up politicos, religious figures and other celebrities.

The trailer satirises Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, Angela Merkel, Kanye West, the Pope, Gwynneth Paltrow, Kim Kardashian and various sports stars, as well as Vladimir Putin. Warning: some of the humour is very coarse, such as the last sketch in which a naked Putin beats up Johnson and Trump, also naked, in a sauna. This contains full frontal puppet nudity. Which in itself is enough to boggle the mind.

Here it is, in it all its grotesque splendour and horror. Enjoy!

Bristol’s Colston Hall Changes Name to Bristol Beacon

September 25, 2020

My fair home city of Bristol was in the news yesterday. One of its premier music venues, the Colston Hall, is changing its name. This is obviously a consequence of the pulling down of Colston’s statue on the town centre not far from the Hall a month or so ago by Black Lives Matter activists. The Hall’s been debating for a long time whether or not to change its name, and the decision has been hastened as it and other places try to distance themselves from the slaver and his legacy. Colston Tower, an office block on or near the centre, is also being renamed. And there was mention on the news a little while ago that Colston Girls’ school was also considering changing its name.

The item I saw about this on the national news showed one of the journos walking along Pero’s Bridge. It’s an eccentric structure crossing Bristol’s docks, as it has two horn-like structures either side of it at one point. It takes its name from one of the few slaves in the city, whose name is actually known. Then there was a brief interview with Dr. Edson Burnett, one of the leading historians of the Bristol slave trade. He said that the some people were afraid that the renaming of some of landmarks was an attack on history and an attempt to rewrite, but instead it was an attempt to uncover other histories that had been hidden or neglected.

He’s right, and David Olusoga was also correct when he pointed out in an article in the Radio Times the other week that none of the other historic statues in the area were attacked when the BLM protestors took down Colston’s and threw it in the docks. However, it still needs to be pointed out over and over again that Bristol’s involvement with the slave trade has never been covered up. It was mentioned in history textbooks for the city’s schoolchildren. Pero’s Bridge was put up in the 1990s, as was an exhibition, ‘A Respectable Trade’, at the City Museum and Art Gallery, and there is a gallery on it in Bristol’s M Shed.

As for the Colston Hall’s change of name, I don’t think it’ll make any difference. The debate has been going on for some time now, as have demands to have Colston’s statue removed. They were controversial, but now they’ve happened I don’t think it’ll make much difference. I think most Bristolians will simply shrug and get on with better things to do and think about.

And the Bristol Beacon is a great name for one of the city’s most historic and outstanding concert halls.

Gorbachev’s Final Programme for the Russian Communist Party

September 22, 2020

Robert V. Daniels’ A Documentary History of Communism in Russia from Lenin to Gorbachev (Burlington, Vermont: University of Vermont Press 1993) contains the last party political programme Gorbachev. This was put forward at the last party plenum in 1991 before Communism finally collapsed. It’s an optimistic document which seeks to transform the totalitarian party and the Soviet Union’s command economy into a democratic party with a mixed economy. Gorbachev also cites as the principles underlying the transformation not just the values of the Communist party, but also the wider values of democracy, humanism and social justice.

The extract’s several pages long, and so I won’t quote it in full. But here some passages that are particularly interesting, beginning with Gorbachev’s statement of their values.

  1. Our Principles

… In its political activity the CPS will be guided by: – the interests of comprehensive social progress, which is assured by way of reforms…

-The principles of humanism and universal values.

-The principles of democracy and freedom in al ltheir various manifestations…

-The principles of social justice…

– The principles of of patriotism and internationalism…

-The interests of integrating the country into the world economy.

Section III, ‘Our Immediate Goals’ declares

… The CPSU stands for the achievement of the following goals:

In the political system. Development of the Soviet multinational state as a genuine democratic federation of sovereign republics;

setting up a state under the rule of law, and the development of democratic institutions; the system of soviets as the foundations of the state structure, as organs of popular rule and self-administration and of political representation of the interests of all strata of society; separation of powers – legislative, executive and judicial…

In the area of nationality relations: Equal rights for all people independently of their nationality and place of residence; equal rights and free development of all nationality under the unconditional priority of the rights of man…

In the economy. Structural rebuilding (perestroika) of the national economy, re-orienting it toward the consumer;

modernization of industry, construction, transport and communications on the basis of high technology, overcoming our lag behind the world scientific technical level, and thinking through the conversion of military production.

transition to a mixed economy based on the variety and legal equality of different forms of property – state, collective and private, joint stock and cooperative. Active cooperation in establishing the property of labour collectives and the priority development of this form of social prosperity;

formation of a regulated market economy as a means to stimulate the growth of economic efficiency, the expansion of social wealth, and the raising of the living standards of the people. This assumes free price formation with stage gains to needy groups of the population, the introduction of an active anti-monopoly policy, restoring the financial system to health, overcoming inflation, and achieving the convertibility of the ruble.

working out and introducing a modern agrarian policy; free development of the peasantry; allotment of land (including leaseholds with the right of inheritance) to all who are willing and able to work it effectively; state support of the agro-price parity in the exchange of the products of industry and agriculture;

comprehensive integration of the country in the world economy, and broad participation in world economic relations in the interest of the economic and social progress of Soviet society.

In the social sphere. Carrying out a state policy that allows us to reduce to a minimum the unavoidable difficulties and expenses connected with overcoming the crisis in the economy and making the transition to the market…

Averting the slide toward ecological catastrophe, solving the problems of [Lake] Baikal, the Aral Sea, and other zones of ecological impoverishment, and continuing the liquidation of the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster.

In education, science and culture. Spiritual development of the people, impoving the education and culture of each person, and strengthening morality, the sense of civic duty and responsibility and patriotism…

IV. Whose Interest the Party Expresses

… In cooperation with the labour movement and the trade unions we will defend the interests of the workers, to secure: due representation of the working class in the organs of power at all levels, real rights of labour collectives to run enterprises and dispose of the results of their labour, a reliable system of social protection…

We stand for freedom of conscience for all citizens. The party takes a respectful position toward the feelings of believers…

… We are against militant anti-Communism as a form of political extremism and negation of democracy that is extremely dangerous for the fate of society…

V. For a Party of Political Action

Communists are clearly aware that only a radically renewed party – a party of political action – can successfully solve new tasks.

The most important direction of renewal for the party is its profound democratization. This assumes the independence of the parties of the republics that belong to CPS, and space for the initiative of local and primary organizations.

… Guarantees must be worked out in the party so that its cadres never utilize their posts for mercenary interests, never speak contrary to conscience, and do not fear a hard struggle to achieve noble ends.

The renewal of the party presupposes a new approach to the understanding of its place in society and its relations with the state, and in the choice of means for the achievement of its political goals. The party acts exclusively by legal political methods. It will fight for deputies’ seats in democratic elections, winning the support of voters for its electoral platform and its basic directions of policy and practical action. Taking part in the formation of the organs of state power and administration, it will conduct its policy through them. It is ready to enter into broad collaboration wherever this is dictated by circumstances, and to conclude alliances and coalitions with other parties and organizations in the interest of carrying out a program of democratic reforms. In those organs of power where the Communist deputies are in the minority, they will assume the place of a constructive opposition, standing up against any attempt at infringing with the interests of the toilers and the rights and freedoms of citizens. Collaborating with other parliamentary groups, Communist deputies will manifest cooperation toward positive undertakings that come from other parties and movements…

The CPSU is built on the adherence of its members to the ideas of certain values. For us the main one of these is the idea of humane, democratic socialism. Reviving and developing the initial humanitarian principles of Marx, Engels and Lenin, we include in our arsenal of ideas the entire richness of national and world socialist and democratic thought. We consider communism as a historic perspective, a social ideal, based on universal human values, on the harmonious union of progress and justice, of the free self-realization of the individual.

(pp.379-82).

It’s an inspiring document, and if it had been passed and Communism and the Soviet Union not collapsed, it would have transformed the Communist party into a modern, centre-left party, committed to genuine democracy, religious freedom, technological innovation and development, tackling the ecological crisis, rooting out corruption within the party and standing with other groups to defend workers’ rights. I do have a problem with its condemnation of extreme anti-Communism. You would expect this from a leader who still wanted the Communist party to be the leading political force in the Soviet Union. It could just refer to groups like the morons who set up various Nazi parties and organisations in the 1980s. They had absolutely no understanding of what Nazism stood for, just that it was anti-Communist. But that clause could be used against other, far more moderate groups demanding radical change. I was impressed, however, by the statement that the Communists should be prepared to take a back seat in opposition. This completely overturns the central Communist dogma that the party should always take the leading role, even when in a coalition with other parties. It’s how Stalin got them to win democratic elections, before purging and dissolving those parties and sending their members to death or the gulag.

Ultimately the programme failed. One reason is that Gorbachev really didn’t understand just how hated the Communist party actually was. When I was studying the rise of Communist and Fascist regimes at college in the mid-80s, one of the newspapers reported that there were underground pop groups in the USSR singing such ditties as ‘Kill the Commies and the Komsomol too.’ The Komsomol was the Communist party youth organisation.

Daniel Kalder in his book Dictator Literature: A History of Despots through their writing (Oneworld: 2018) that Gorby’s project was undermined by the release under glasnost of Lenin’s suppressed works. Gorbachev had based his reforms on a presumed contrast between a democratic, benevolent Lenin, who had pledged Russia to a kind of state-directed capitalism in his New Economic Policy, and Stalin with his brutal totalitarianism, collectivisation of agriculture and the construction of the Soviet command economy. But Lenin frequently wrote for the moment, and his writings contradict themselves, though there is a central strand of thought that is consistent throughout. More seriously, he himself was viciously intolerant and a major architect of the Soviet one party state through the banning of other parties. The newly republished works showed just how false the image of Lenin as some kindly figure was, and just how nasty he was in reality.

But even after 30 a years, I still think Gorby’s proposed reforms are an excellent guide to what socialism should be. And his vision was far better than the bandit capitalism and massive corruption of Yeltsin’s administration, when the Soviet economy melted down. And its anti-authoritarianism and intolerance of corruption makes it far better than the regime of the current arkhiplut, Vladimir Putin. Although it has to be said that he’s done much good restoring conditions after Yeltsin’s maladministration.

And it’s also far better than the neoliberalism that has infected the Labour party, introduced by Tony Blair in Britain and Gerhard Schroder in Germany. I think we need something like Gorbachev’s vision here, in the 21st century Labour party, instead of further Thatcherism under Starmer.

Mike Names the Tory September Brexit Criminals

September 16, 2020

‘November Criminals’ was the insulting name the Nazis gave to the German socialist president, Fritz Ebert, and the other democratic politicos who signed the armistice finally ending World War I. They hated them for the humiliating peace that the Treaty of Versailles imposed on Germany and the creation of a the new, democratic Weimar republic.

Rigorous press censorship meant that ordinary Germans were not informed of the country’s defeats. Not even the Kaiser himself was told. His generals had a policy that he should only be given the good news. As a result Germany’s defeat was a complete shock. It led to the vile conspiracy theories about the Jews that ultimately led to the Nazi seizure of power – that they had stabbed Germany in the back. It was a total lie. Jews were amongst the most patriotic of the German population, and as a percentage constituted a larger proportion of German recruits than other groups. The captain who put up Adolf Hitler up for his Iron Cross was Jewish.

The defeat led to the complete collapse of traditional parliamentary government and its replacement in the German Council Revolution of 1919 with workers’, soldiers and peasants’ council rather like the soviets of Communist Russia. In fact it seems that many of these councils, far from dominated by the extreme left, were moderates simply taking over the governmental functions that had collapsed. The Kaiser himself raved about leading his army as their warlord back to reconquer Germany with steel and poison gas until one of his leading generals pointedly asked ‘What army? What warlord?’

Ebert himself had lost several of his sons in the War, and was no radical. It may be due to him that Weimar Germany was a democratic republic. The KPD – the German Communist party were about to declare Germany a republic. Ebert heard about it, and narrowly managed to head off their proclamation by hurriedly announcing it himself. He was also responsible for using right-wing paramilitary units – the Freikorps – to crush the council republics that had been set up throughout Germany. This led to the murder of Bavarian president Kurt Eisner, and earned the SPD the nickname ‘social fascists’ by the German left.

And however humiliating the terms of the Versailles Treaty was, it was actually no worse than the peace of Brest-Litovsk the Germans had imposed on the defeated Russians. And they planned similar crippling reparations on England, France and the allies if they had been victorious.

But if the term ‘November Criminals’ is a grotesque slur on the democratic politicos that ran Germany during the Weimar republic, ‘September Criminals’ is an apt description for the 340 Tory MPs who trooped through the lobby to support Boris Johnson’s Internal Markets Bill. This tears up the previous agreements made with the EU. It is illegal, and a stream of senior lawyers and former prime ministers, including John Major, David Cameron and Gordon Brown, have condemned it. It will mean that Britain will lose the trust of other nations, vital as we need to make deals with them after we leave Europe. Brexit is threatening to tear apart the Union of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which has persisted for three centuries. It is threatening to return Ulster to sectarian bloodshed and violence through its breach of the Good Friday Agreement. It also seems that Boris and his clique are deliberately aiming for a No Deal Brexit that will ruin Britain’s industries, because this will benefit the hedge funds that are now the chief donors to the Tory party.

The Tory press and media has smeared Remainers and critics of Brexit as traitors. But it more accurately describes the Tories themselves, and the way they are ruining this country. All while trying to convince its sheeple that they’re the real patriots through waving the flag and demanding the singing of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and ‘Rule, Britannia’ at the Last Night of the Proms and demonising asylum seekers as invaders.

Way back in the 1940s members of the British left wrote the pamphlet The Guilty Men, fiercely attacking the members of the Tory party, whose collaboration with the Nazis they believed was responsible for the War. Another, pseudonymous book was published by the Left Book Club which similarly denounced the Tory MPs, who were blocking the legislation that would set up the National Health Service. Which the Tories have also been trying to destroy for the last 40 years since Maggie Thatcher.

It’s time to turn the tables on the Tories. They are the real traitors, and the 344 Tories supporting Johnson’s lawbreaking bill deserve to be called ‘September Criminals’. I don’t want them to receive abuse, death threats or worse like the Nazis inflicted on their victims.

But their names should live in infamy, like the Guilty Men who betrayed us and the other European nations to the Nazis, and the Tories, who tried to block the creation of the NHS. Remember their names, and kick them out!

For the full list of their names, go to: