Archive for the ‘Roman Catholicism’ Category

French Radical Social Catholicism and its Demands for the Improvement of Conditions for the Working Class

May 16, 2022

The chapter I found most interesting in Aidan Nichols’ book, Catholic Thought Since the Enlightenment: A Survey (Pretoria: University of South Africa 1998) was on 19th century Social Catholicism. Social Catholicism is that branch of the church that seeks to tackle with social issues, such as working conditions and justice for the poor, women’s rights, the arms race, the problem of poverty in the global south and so on. It’s governed by the doctrine of subsidiarity, in which it is neither politically left or right. Nevertheless, there are some Social Catholic thinkers whose idea were very left-wing, at least for the 19th century. The chapter mentions two 19th century French writers, whose ideas could be considered socialistic.

One of these was Alban de Villeneuve-Bargemont, who retired from public life following for the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy, taking the opportunity to write a book on Christian political economy. He advocated state intervention, not only to relieve poverty and distress, but wanted it to ensure that workers could conduct their own economic activity aided by credit unions, mutual aid societies and other institutions. This was when the economy was still dominated by cottage industry and many workers were self-employed craftsmen.

Rather more radical was Philippe Benjamin Joseph Buchez, who wrote a forty volume history of the French Revolution, which was later used by the British right-wing anti-capitalist writer, Thomas Carlyle. In his treatise Essai d’un traite complet de philosophie au point de vue du Catholicisme et du progress and his journal l’Europeen, as well as his presidency of the French constitutional assembly during the revolution of 1848, called for the establishment of cooperatives for skilled artisans, the state regulation of working conditions and a minimum wage. (p. 92). The chapter also goes to note that other social Catholics favoured private initiatives and charity to tackle the problems of poverty. Others also went on to recommend a corporative solution to social problems, in which workers and masters would work together in decentralised self-regulating organisations based on the medieval guilds, very much like the corporate state as promoted, but not practised, by Mussolini’s Fascist Italy.

Villeneuve-Bargement’s and Buchez’s ideas ran directly counter to the laissez-faire economic doctrine of the 19th century and clearly anticipated some of the developments in the last and present centuries, such as the establishment of the minimum wage in Britain and America. While people can disagree with their theology, depending on their religious views, it seems to me that their ideas are still relevant today.

And I rather people looked to their Roman Catholic solutions to working class poverty and labour, than Iain Duncan Smith. Smith seems to use his Catholicism and his supposed concern with eliminating poverty as just another pretext to cut benefits and make the poor poorer.

So dump Smith, and return to 19th century French Social Catholic radicalism!

The 19th Century Social Catholic Warning Against Bozo

May 10, 2022

This morning I had the misfortune to hear the Queen’s Speech, actually given in her absence by Prince Charles. This obviously lays out the intentions of Johnson’s wretched government, and how nauseating they were. I’m still very weak with a dodgy stomach from the Covid booster, and this announcement of Bozo’s policies didn’t improve my condition. Johnson has pledged to remove the legislation he claims is restricting industry and so hindering economic growth, will repeal EU-inspired human rights legislation, and pass further law allowing the state to clamp down on ‘disruptive’ protests such as Extinction Rebellion’s.,

We all know where this is going. The removal of more workers’ right so that they can be hired and fired at will, as well as restrictions on planning permission and other laws preventing companies from trashing the environment. Meanwhile, the Tories will take away the right to protest for everybody on the grounds that it’s causing a nuisance.

One of the books I’ve been reading is Aidan Nichol’s Catholic Thought Since The Enlightenment (Pretoria: University of South Africa 1998). This is a short guide to the rich intellectual history of the Roman Catholic Church since the 17th century as it attempted to tackle issues such as the rise of atheism and scepticism, the competing claims of the national churches against the papacy, historical scepticism, the conflict between French Revolutionary attempts to destroy Christianity and particularly the Roman Church, as well as purely metaphysical issues. These latter, which involve complex arguments about ontology, epistemology – the theory of knowledge – and psychology rather go over my head. But I’ve been very interested indeed in the chapter on Social Catholicism. Social Catholicism is that branch of Roman Catholic theology and pastoral care directed at social issues, such as alleviating poverty, questions of political pluralism, protecting the rights of Roman Catholics in non-Catholic societies, and combating the poverty created amongst working people through modern industrial capitalism.

One of the founders of the Social Catholic tradition was Adam Heinrich Muller (1779-1829), a north German convert to the faith. Muller defended the family, respect for the traditional institutions that had developed under Christianity, such as the estates and corporations that focussed loyalties, duties and organised decision-making. Here he was influenced by Burke, the founder of modern Conservatism. From one perspective he’s a conservative. But he gave a speech to the Saxonian diplomatic corps warning against the dangers of liberal economics and absolutist government.

Liberal economics and absolutist government sounds precisely like Johnson’s dream.

I realise that what he was talking about then isn’t going to be the same as the current political situation. He was speaking at a time when democracy largely didn’t exist anywhere in Europe except Switzerland, and was feared by many, Roman Catholic and Protestant, because of the carnage caused by the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. But nevertheless, there’s still a point here for contemporary politics.

Johnson is the type of politician Muller warned us about.

Faye Hallam Plays Dave Allan Theme at Jazz Club – Nice!

April 27, 2022

Here’s a bit of fun for a Wednesday morning. I’m a great fan of the late Irish comedian Dave Allan. He is, to me, one of the very greatest of the television funny men. His style was that of a bar room philosopher, sat on a bar stool taking the occasional sip of whisky, cigarette smoking quietly away in an ashtray, while he made his wry observations on the absurdities of human nature and the world. Mixed with this on his series on the Beeb were sketches, some of which were just jokes, such as the tourist who brings down Stonehenge like a string of dominoes simply by leaning on one of the trilithons. Others were a kind of morality play, like the one about a man who spots a tenner trapped under a car wheel. He goes into a cafe to wait until the car moves off and he can grab the money, only to find that everyone else in the cafe was had the same idea. Religion was a frequent target of his humour. He hated the Roman Catholic church in particular because of the brutal discipline at his old Catholic school, a situation which I know has resulted in many Catholics lapsing. He was also no admirer of Ian Paisley at the time, for keeping the murderous sectarian bigotry in Ulster alive from the Protestant side. This was decades before the Good Friday agreement and the warm friendship between Paisley and Gerry Adams, which resulted in the two getting the nickname, the Chuckle Brothers. Some of his jokes and sketches were based around sex, and got very ‘near the knuckle’, as the saying goes. But mostly it was good humoured and simply fun. Allan died a few years ago, but there are a selection of his sketches and monologues on DVD, and, of course, on YouTube. He’s much missed by his legions of fans. The show’s theme was written by Alan Hawkshaw, who also wrote, among other TV themes, that for Grandstand. There are videos of him playing this and his other compositions also on YouTube.

Sultan and Khan Attack the Islamic Preachers of Jihad and Slavery

April 12, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sheikh Assim Al-Hakeem unveils the GRAND plan of Islam

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

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

Government Bans Gay, But Not Trans, Conversion Therapy

April 12, 2022

Last week the government finally came to a decision about banning gay and transgender conversion therapies, and the result has predictably been controversial. Gay conversion therapies were outlawed, which is what LGBTQ+ groups wanted. But trans conversion therapies weren’t, which was very much what the gender critical movement wanted but definitely not welcomed by the mainstream gay organisations like Stonewall. The government had intended to put on a gay conference attended by members and representatives of the various gay organisations in the UK, but a large number of these have pulled out in protest. The decision itself follows a consultation process with the British public which was also controversial. It was initially going to be short, spurring fears amongst the gender critical that the government had already made up its decision to ban trans conversion therapies and that the process was deliberately being kept short to prevent people opposed to a trans conversion ban having their say. Then, after pressure and criticism, the government lengthened the consultation period.

I filled out the consultation document online. The link and web address was provided by my local Labour party in concert with one of the gay organisations. There was also a request or a directive telling us to vote for a ban on both types of conversion therapies. In fact I filled out the form stating that I was in favour of banning gay conversion therapy, but not trans. I’ll explain why.

Gay conversion therapy is horrendous. As gay people have explained, back in the past it involved the use of aversion therapy, giving gays electric shocks or drugs to make them sick, and worse, in order to destroy their sexual attraction to their own sex. Pat Mills, one of the titans of the British comics industry and a man of very left-wing opinions, tells how the Roman Catholic church in Belgium in the 1950s had a group of 15 young gay men castrated in order to cure them. Way back in the teens and the twenties of the last century, the Italian Futurists attacked a contemporary Italian scientist for advocating the same thing. Clive Simpson, a gender critical gay YouTuber, has made the point that such treatments are illegal and would not be used today. This was in response to an article in the Pink Paper by a transgendered person stating that he had been subjected to such terrible medical treatment back in the 1960s. The Lotus Eaters have weighed in on the issue in one of their videos, citing statistics that showed that only a tiny percentage of gay and trans people had been subjected to conversion therapy. The therapy itself, they stated, was mainly attempts to talk them out of their sexual orientation and was consensual.

I’m not entirely convinced this is the case.

Some of the readers of this blog may recall an episode of South Park where the adults misinterpret comments by Butters as indicating that he’s bisexual. Butters isn’t, but he’s sent to a centre to cure him of his perceived bisexuality. I think the place is run by Christians, who believe they can ‘pray the gay away’. In actual fact, it’s a hellish place whose inmates are made to feel humiliated, worthless and hopeless because of their sexuality. There are jokes about the terrible amount of suicide in the centre, with the officials running the place shocked and alarmed as yet another gay youngster takes his or her own life. The comedy’s black, as in just about all South Park episodes, but there’s a point to it. But there’s a serious point to the satire. Eventually Butters is released by his family, who find themselves no longer caring if he’s a little bit bicurious, just so they can have him back.

I think the type of institution South Park was satirising is largely an American phenomenon, but Private Eye has raised the alarm about similar places over here. I recall that a little while ago there was an article in the ‘In The Back’ section about a similar centre in Wales, and the suffering it inflicted on the young people sent there. I believe some of the inmates may have tried to harm themselves or commit suicide, and there were fears for safety of a young girl, who’d been sent there. It was definitely a case where the ‘cure’ was far worse than the ‘disease’. I am also unsure how consensual such treatment is. The young people that go there may well have given their formal consent, but I suspect they would have been under great pressure from their families to do so. It’s because of all this that I have absolutely no hesitation in demanding gay conversion therapy be banned.

Trans conversion therapy, however, raises a number of different issues.

I gather that historically aversion therapy has been used to treat people, who are now classed as trans. I think Han Eysenck used it to cure a transvestite trucker, and the trans soul who wrote the piece in the Pink Paper claimed it had been used on him in the early ’60s. As Clive Simpson said, this wouldn’t be used now. I believe others have described going through a process of counselling like the gay conversion therapy, which similarly left them feeling degraded and hopeless. If this was all that was involved, then I would have cheerfully voted for a ban on trans conversion therapy as well. But it’s more complicated than that.

Traditionally the process of transition has been lengthy and subject to stringent medical supervision. Those changing sex have been required to live as a member of the opposite sex for two years and are continually asked if this is what they really want. As it should be for such radical, life-changing surgery. I’m sure that the sexual reassignment surgery is appropriate and beneficial in many cases. But there’s a real danger of misdiagnosis. The gender critical activists have noted that quite often people with severe mental health problems and autism have been diagnosed as transgender when they very probably aren’t. And there is a large a growing number of detransitioners, former transpeople who are attempting to return, as far as possible, to their birth sex because they have found that the transition hasn’t worked out for them. Clearly you need to be as sure as possible in such cases that you are doing the right thing, and that may involve deterring people who have become mistakenly convinced that they’re trans.

The danger is, therefore, that any ban on trans conversion therapy would prevent this, so that the affirmative care model is the only treatment permitted.

This is predicated on the assumption that the individual always knows what is best for him- or herself, and that their desire to change gender must therefore be supported. This has resulted in gay and trans activist teachers over the other side of the Pond claiming the right to ask small children as young as four what their gender, as opposed to their biological sex, is.

Which in my view is highly dangerous.

If there was a way to distinguish quack and pseudo-scientific trans ‘cures’ that just lead to despair and humiliation from serious medical advice intended to deter the genuinely mistaken from going down a surgical path they would later regret, then I would be all for it. But at the moment this doesn’t seem to be the case. I therefore conclude that I fully agree with both the ban on gay conversion therapy and the decision not to ban it for the transgendered.

One of the strict requirement of the Hippocratic Oath that doctors were required to take since the development of rational medicine in ancient Greece was ‘First, do no harm.’ I am terribly afraid that a ban on trans conversion therapy, especially in today’s ideological climate where trans identification seems to be encouraged for ideological reasons, would do exactly that.

Glasgow Council Report Criticises Statues of Livingstone, Peel and Gladstone for Slavery Links

April 5, 2022

GB News and the Heil carried reports a few days ago attacking Glasgow council for a report compiled by a highly respected Scottish historian about the city’s historic involvement in the slave trade and its statues commemorating figures connected with it. The council felt that, unlike Liverpool and Bristol, and the city had not faced up to its history as one of the other major British centres of the slave trade. It compiled a list of seven statues that were particularly questionable because of their subjects’ links to the trade. These included the missionary and abolitionist, David Livingstone, Robert Peel and William Ewart Gladstone. The reports concentrated on the criticism of Livingstone, as the man was a fervent abolitionist and it demonstrates how ridiculousness the iconoclasm by the anti-slavery activists is. According to reports by GB News, the Heil and the Glasgow Herald, it’s partly because Livingstone started work at age 10 in factory weaving and processing slave-produced cotton from the West Indies. They make the point that as a child worker, Livingstone had absolutely no control over what the factory did. I doubt very much that he had much control, as someone who could be called a ‘factory slave’, over his choice of employment either. Later videos from GB News and further down in the articles from the Herald and the Heil is the statement that he also defend the cotton masters, believing that they were paternalistic. He may well have done so, but this hardly discredits him because of his life’s work in Africa.

Livingstone had a genuine, deep hatred, as many British Christians had at the time, of slavery. He travelled to Africa to spread Christianity and to combat slavery as its sources. He was also a doctor, and had worked hard after work to educate himself. One of the guests on the GB News debate about it was a right-wing historian of Africa. He pointed out that Livingstone is still very much loved in Africa, and there are plaques to him in Malawi, Zambia, Tanganyika and three other African countries. I have no doubt this is absolutely true. A few years ago I took out of Bristol’s central library a history of Malawi. The book was even-handed and objective. It did not play down massacres by the British army committed when we annexed the area during fighting with the slaving tribes. It described how, under imperialism, White Malawians tended to look down on the indigenous peoples and the dissatisfaction with imperial rule that resulted from the use of forced labour. But neither did it omit or play down the enslavement of indigenous Africans by the other native peoples. These included the Yao, Marganja, Swahili and Arabs, who preyed on the other tribes for the Arab slave trade, sending their captives to Zanziba, Kilwa and across the Indian ocean. To gain their victims’ trust, they’d settle down with them for a year, working alongside them as friends before finally turning on them. They also set up a series of forts to defend the slave routes. One of these, set up by Zarafi, one of the most infamous slavers, had a palisade on which were impaled 100 severed heads. As for the akapolo slaves used in the local economy, they were made very much aware of their status. They had to work with broken tools, and eat their meals off the floor. The chiefs, meanwhile, seemed to have spent much of their time relaxing and having their hair done.

Livingstone, whatever his faults, hated all this and his settlement became a refuge for runaway slaves. As did many of the other settlements he or his followers founded for this purpose. These settlements have since expanded to form some of Malawi’s towns.

William Ewart Gladstone was the leader of Britain’s Liberal party, serving as prime minister, in the latter half of the 19th century. The scandal here is that Gladstone’s family got its money from slave estates in the West Indies. I know Conservatives who genuine hate slavery, who despise Gladstone because of this. So it isn’t just ‘leftists’ that have issues with the Grand Old Man, as Gladstone’s supporters dubbed him. But Gladstone is immensely important because of the social legislation he enacted. He was an Anglican, who, in the words of one historian, ‘became the voice of the Nonconformist conscience’. He wanted the disestablishment of the Anglican church at a time when Christian Nonconformists were still required to pay it tithes and other duties that left them disadvantaged. He also wanted to give Ireland home rule. Of course this faced immense opposition, and I think it was one reason why he failed to win elections as the century wore on. But it seems to me that if he had been able to enact this policy, then perhaps Ireland’s subsequent history may not have been quite so bloody. One of the surprising facts about Irish history is that there was in the 18th century an alliance between Roman Catholics and Protestant Nonconformists. This was before Roman Catholic emancipation, which legalised it and granted Roman Catholics civil rights. At the same time Protestant Nonconformists were tolerated, but still suffered deep political disabilities. As a result, one of Ulster’s historic Roman Catholic churches was build with donations and subscriptions from Ulster nonconformist Protestants. This surprising fact was included in a BBC Radio 4 series, Mapping the Town, which traced the history of British and UK towns through their maps.

I don’t know much about Robert Peel, except that he introduced free trade as a policy for the Conservatives, or a section of the Conservatives. But what he is primarily known for is founding the metropolitan police force. I’ve got a feeling he might also have been responsible for reducing the 100-odd crimes that carried the death penalty to three. These included murder and treason. It might be because of Peel that we’re no longer hanging people for stealing a loaf of bread or impersonating a Chelsea pensioner. But long before Glasgow council decided he was problematic, there was also a demonstration by masked protesters in London demanding that his statue should be removed. And last year the right were also getting in a tizzy because one of Liverpool’s universities was removing him as the name of one of their halls. The student union replaced him with a Black woman, who was a Communist and teacher. She is, no doubt, perfectly worthy of commemoration, but hardly in Gladstone’s league.

Part of the problem is that iconoclasts want to judge everything by a very strict, modern morality. Slavery and the slave trade was an abomination and was rightly abolished. Good people have been continuing the struggle against global slavery since then. But not everybody, who was connected to the trade, is such a monster that they should be blotted out of history in the same way Stalin’s historians removed all mention of his opponents.

One of the things you are taught, or at least were taught, in history at university level is not to play ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ with historical figures. There is no set outcome to the historical process. If events had been different in the past, then modern society would also be different. If, horribly, Wilberforce and the abolitionists had lost, then slavery would still be unchallenged today. At the same time, you need to use the historical imagination to understand why people in the past behaved as they did, and why good people by the standard of their times were capable of attitudes that are deeply morally repugnant to us.

The great British philosopher, Sir Isaiah Berlin, was an admirer of the 17th-18th century Italian historian Vico. Vico believed, as Berlin later did, that there were no objective moral values. He noted how they changed over time, and that to properly understand a past epoch, you needed to understand also its art and culture. I don’t think he was a cultural relativist, however. Berlin certainly wasn’t – he believed that while there were no objective moral values, there were certainly those which acted as if they were. He was fiercely anti-Communist, partly because his family were Lithuanian Jews, who had seen their logging business seized by the Bolsheviks and had fled the Russian Revolution. He was a major figure during the Cold War in establishing western contacts with Soviet dissidents like Nadezhda Mandelstam, who wrote moving accounts of her experience of the gulags under Stalin.

I don’t share Berlin’s Conservatism and strongly believe in the existence of objective moral values. But I strongly recommend Berlin’s books. He wrote a series of potted intellectual biographies, including on the early Russian revolutionaries like the 19th century anarchist, Bakunin. Even though he hated what they stood for, his books are notable for his attempts to see things from his subjects’ point of view. So much so that some people, according to Berlin, though he was pro-Communist. They’re fascinating and highly readable, even if you don’t agree that someone like the French utopian socialist Saint-Simon was ‘an enemy of freedom’.

There are statues of slavers and the people connected with the trade that deserve to be torn down. There had been calls for Colston’s statue to be removed since the 1980s. It was highly controversial all those decades ago, though many Bristolians would have defended it because he gave away most of his money to charity. But other historical figures deserve to be still commemorated despite their connections to the ‘abominable trade’ because of their immense work that has benefited both Britain and nations like Malawi. And I believe that some of those, who find figures like Gladstone objectionable, could also benefit from reading Vico and Berlin. In the meantime, it should be noted that Glasgow council has no plans to tear any statues down.

Slavery is a great moral evil. But historic slavery should not considered so grave and unforgivable, that it is used to blot out the memory of figures like Livingstone, Gladstone and Peel, whose work has so helped shape modern Britain for the better.

Video on Black American Jewry and Its History

April 1, 2022

Unpacked are a YouTube channel that specialises in short documentaries on the Jews and their history. This fascinating video below explores the history of Black American Jews, presented by a Jewish lady of colour. The video begins by explaining that while the stereotypical image of a Jew is a White person, the Jewish community has always been diverse and included people of many different races. there were Black Jewish communities, like the Bet Israel in Ethiopia, in Africa and that some of the enslaved Africans taken to America may have come from these communities. There are very few records, but some of the enslaved Africans had Jewish names and so were probably enslaved Jews. As slavery expanded, slaves took over their masters’ religion. This was largely Christianity, but it also included Judaism where the masters’ were Jewish. She also talks about how many Blacks after emancipation moved closer to Judaism after being inspired by the line in the Psalms that speaks about a people coming from Egypt, and Ethiopia lifting its arms to the Almighty. These founded Black Jewish sects, but many of their members then made the passage to traditional Judaism. She also talks about how many Blacks in the 20th century converted to Judaism because they were struck by the parallels between the Black and Jewish experiences. One of these converts was the Hollywood film star Sammy Davis Junior, whose parents were Baptist and Roman Catholic. He was led to convert to Judaism through his friend, the comedian Eddie Cantor.

However, not all Black Jews are converts by any means. Many are the children of marriages between White Jews and people of colour. About 20 per cent of the present Jewish American population is non-White, comprising a number of ethnicities including Latino. She lists the various organisations that have been founded to defend and advance the rights of Black Jews in America. And while many Black Jews supported Black Lives Matters, she regrets that the organisation is critical of Israel and Zionism, which has led to a conflict in the identity of many Black Jewish Americans. She also discusses a number of prominent Black Jewish entertainers, including Drake and Lenny Kravitz. She ends by celebrating Jewish racial diversity and the efforts to bring peoples of all races together.

I was particularly interested in this because one of the insults hurled at Jackie Walker after she was expelled from Labour for ‘anti-Semitism’ is that, as a woman of colour, she couldn’t possibly be Jewish. This video puts the lie to that. Walker herself is the product of a mixed marriage – her mother was a Black civil rights worker from Georgia, her father a Russian Jew. They met during a Communist party event. Jews were particularly sympathetic and involved with Blacks during the civil rights campaign. Many of the teachers in Black schools, as well as social workers and other professionals working in Black communities were Jewish, and so shared the concerns of the people they were working with. Regarding Blacks finding commonalities between their experience and those of Jews, the Black British writer Caryl Philips said in the pages of one of the British literary magazines back in the ’90s or so that he was impressed by these similarities to the extent that he sometimes thought he was Jewish. He was criticised for this by Hilary Mantel, the author of the prize-winning Wolf Hall, who said that the Jewish experience was unique. That’s true, but both Jews and Blacks have a shared history of exile and persecution, and I think this is what has drawn some Blacks and Jews together. As for Latin American Jews, there was a book a few years ago tracing the history of the Pereira family, Sephardic Jews from Spain who settled in Latin America. After the expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian peninsula, many of them settled in north Africa while others emigrated to the Spanish and Brazilian colonies in Latin America. Black Lives Matter does present a problem for Black Jews wishing to support both their own racial liberation and Israel and Zionism. But there is a genuine problem in that Israel is a White settler colony, that is subjecting the indigenous, Palestinian population to apartheid and expulsion. It was the awareness of this that prompted Jackie Walker to protest against Israel as well as apartheid South Africa, and which today is causing an increasing number of western, including American Jews, to turn away from Zionism. This is shown very much in the demographics of the people expelled by Labour’s witch hunters for alleged anti-Semitism. Four-fifths of them are Jewish, which shows that this is all about enforcing support for Israel and absolutely nothing to do with genuine Jew hatred.

This is an excellent little history of this part of the Jewish diaspora, clearly demonstrating that people can indeed be Black and Jewish against the sneers and abuse of bigots.

Clive Simpson Video on the Nazi Persecution of Gays

March 25, 2022

I’ve been debating putting up something about a video Clive Simpson posted on YouTube. Simpson’s a gay YouTuber and critic of the trans movement. He was annoyed by what he saw as the appropriation of the pink triangle, the badge the Nazis made gays wear in the concentration camps, by a transgender group. I was in two minds about writing about it because I know that some of the great commenters to this blog have strong pro-trans views, and I didn’t want to start another debate about the trans issue. But Simpson’s video is valuable because he discusses the Nazi persecution of gay men, the numbers incarcerated in the concentration camps and how they were treated by the Nazis.

He states that they were subject to human experimentation and castration. I don’t doubt him. Castration as a ‘cure’ for homosexuality seems to have predated the Nazis and persisted after the overthrow of the Third Reich. The Futurists, who were allied with the Fascists but had a much more liberal attitude to sex and sexuality, in one of their manifestos attacked a doctor who claimed that castration was a cure for same-sex attraction. Pat Mills, the creator of 2000AD and one of Britain’s greatest comics writers, is a bitter critic of the Roman Catholic church. Much of this comes from his experience of sadistic abuse by a teacher at his old school, which was run by monks. In his book about his Celtic hero, Slaine, he talks about how in the 1950s the Roman Catholic church in Belgium had 15 youths castrated because they were gay. This was at the time when homosexuality was still illegal in England and much of the rest of the world. The legal punishment for gayness in Britain could also be nasty. Alan Turing committed suicide because the judge had ordered him to take female hormones and this had caused him to grow breasts.

Simpson’s video is also good in that it contains film footage of imprisoned gays in the concentration camp uniform, which provides a depiction of the human reality behind the discussion of the issue and the suffering caused.

Despite his controversial opinions on the people he calls ‘genderoids’ I felt I had to say something to recommend his video after the news the other day that Eric Zemmour, the French far-right candidate for the presidency, was facing legal action by six gay groups. Zemmour had been talking to another rightist, who denied that gay men had been deported from occupied France. This isn’t true, and understandably these organisations representing gay French people aren’t amused. I’m therefore recommending Simpson’s video here simply because it shows the reality of Nazi persecution, which Zemmour and his mates seem to want to deny when it involves France.

I’m not putting it up here out of respect for those commenters with pro-trans views. But if you want to get proper information on the Nazi persecution of gay men – they didn’t persecute lesbians because they believed they could turn straight at some point – then please Google ‘Genderoids Appropriate the Pink Triangle’.

A quick Google search on YouTube also throws up a number of other videos about the Nazi persecution of the gays. They include:

The Story of the Gay Holocaust, running time 1hr 12, posted by James Somerton.

How the Pink Triangle Came from Nazi’s to Pride, at 3 minutes 32 seconds, posted by Powered by Rainbows

and Rudolf Brazda, Last of the pink Triangles, tells his story, post by yaggtv, 11 minutes 20.

There are very good reasons why decent people, regardless of their sexual orientation, ought to be worried and infuriated by his denial of the deportation of French gay men to the camps.

As with Holocaust denial, it disgusting and in many European countries illegal because it seems very much that the people who deny it ever happened would very much like to do it again.

No pasaran for Nazis and murderous bigots.

Stephen Howe’s Refutation of Nation of Islam Book on Jews and the Slave Trade

January 26, 2022

Stephen Howe’s book Afrocentrism also includes discussion and refutation of the vicious anti-Semitism in parts of the movement. This anti-Jewish prejudice is particularly notorious in the case of the Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan’s assertion that Jews were responsible for the transatlantic slave trade. Howe attacks and refutes this assertion as it appears in the Nation of Islam’s anonymously published boo, The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews. Howe writes

‘The book is credited to the ‘Nation of Islam Historical Research Department’, an entity which has had no traceable existence or publications apart from this work. Under the guise of a scholarly treatise, and utilizing (though often misquoting or otherwise abusing) a very wide range of sources, this is in reality a violently anti-Jewish tract. It massively exaggerates the role of various Atlantic Jewish communities in slavery – a role which was in reality minuscule, with the partial exception of Jewish investors in the Dutch West India Company (Jewish investment here having been estimated at different times between 0.5 per cent and 10 per cent of the total, while the company itself controlled, at its peak, a maximum 16 per cent of the Atlantic slave trade, a handful of Jewish plantation owners in Surinam (Dutch Guiana), and a not precisely quantifiable number of Portuguese Marranos (Christians of actual, alleged or partial Jewish ancestry, who formed a significant portion of Portugal’s and her colonies’ populations after the Inquisition).

More revealing still of the book’s real nature is the repeated suggestion that Jewish involvement in slavery (no less and no more blameworthy than the far greater Christian and Muslim embroilment, and hugely overstated by mis-citation and innuendo) stems from some uniquely evil racial-religious characteristic, and has subsequently been concealed by all the all-too-predictable conspiracy of media and financial power. Yet The Secret Relationship is afar cleverer work of propaganda than its critics seem to assume. An impressive amount of research – albeit almost entirely in secondary sources – has gone into its compilation, however egregiously the results are then misused. It does not directly claim, as responses from the Anti-Defamation League and elsewhere asserted, that Jews are ‘genetically predisposed towards the exploitation of blacks; though the unwary reader might easily draw such a conclusion from it, and that, no doubt, was the anonymous author’s intention. It draws attention dozens of times to instances across the centuries and the continents when Jews were accused of rapacious and dishonest business dealings. It never quite directly says that such accusations were true, or that they reflect a noxious, invariant pattern of Jewish racial behaviour. Nor, of course, does it say that they were not true. It just leaves the reader to conclude that such multifarious and insistent charges must be solidly based.’ (276-7)

This is a good point, as unfortunately not all Fascists are clowns, and anti-Semites, whether White, Black or whatever, can dress their poisonous assertions up to make them apparently rational and historically grounded. You have to be careful not to be caught by such rhetoric.

In footnote 3 to that chapter, Howe recommends the following books giving scholarly overviews of Jewish participation in the slave trade. These are David Brion Davis’ ‘ The Slave Trade and the Jews’, published in the New York Review of Books, 22nd December 1994; Seymour Drescher, ‘The Role of Jews in the Transatlantic Slave Trade’, Immigrants and Minorities 12, 1993; and Harold Brackman’s Farrakhan’s Reign of Historical Error: The Truth behind The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews (Los Angeles 1992). Howe describes this last book a polemical with a touch of ethnocentrism itself.

I thought it worth posting Howe’s passage demolishing Farrakhan’s nasty little book, as I think these poisonous assertions are still being made. The sensitivity over this issue has also been used by the witch-hunters to smear entirely respectable historians and academics like Jackie Walker as genuine anti-Semites. Walker’s real crime in the eyes of groups like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism is that she opposes the Israeli state’s persecution of the Palestinians and the system of apartheid it has erected to keep them very securely as second-class citizens. However, they smeared her as an anti-Semite with a comment with two colleagues discussing Jewish involvement in the slave trade, in which she stated clearly that the Jews were ‘her people’. As a Jewish woman of colour, whose father was a Russian Jew, practises the religion herself, and whose partner is Jewish and whose daughter attended a Jewish school, there should be no doubt that Walker is not any kind of anti-Semite. But because of some ill-guarded words in her post, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism were able to smear her as such.

A Rock Legend Passes – Meat Loaf Dies Aged 74

January 21, 2022

One of the big stories today, which isn’t about the military build-up around Ukraine and Boris Johnson and his wretched parties, has been the death of Meat Loaf. One of the things that surprised me in the news items about him was that he was in 65 or so films. I was aware that he played Eddie, a zombie in the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I’d also seen him as a man suffering from testicular cancer who joins the underground boxers in the 1990s film Fight Club, based on the book by Chuck Palahniuk. But I wasn’t aware of any others, and certainly not that he’d been in so many.

He’s best known, however, for Bat Out Of Hell, which is now a Rock classic. I can remember the exciting amongst the rockers and metal freaks I was at school with when it came out. It even got played at a school assembly by one of the teachers. He wasn’t disapproving, just using it to illustrate some point about different moods in music. Bat Out Of Hell, in contrast to other, more soothing pieces, was pure, raw aggression. It was, but not violence. It was loud, fast, melodic rock. His co-writer, Jim Steinman, appeared on a Beeb rockumentary a few years ago. The interviewer commented on the operatic quality of the piece. Steinman agreed, and said that it was because he was listening to a lot of opera at the time.

Bat Out Of Hell came out just as the Satanism scare was beginning, and the real-life modern witch-hunters went to absurd lengths to claim that there was a terrible Satanic conspiracy to corrupt American youth. Dungeons and Dragons was supposed to include real spells and was turning young people to crime, sex, and suicide. I’ve friends who were into it, and that very definitely wasn’t the case. D&D was an imaginary Tolkienesque world of goblins, orcs, giants and wizards, but these were the staple characters of children’s fantasy. For the vast majority of youngsters, it was just a great way to spend a couple of evening with your friends. Rock music was particularly singled out for condemnation. Now there are metal bands, which I think genuinely are aggressively anti-Christian. But for many, it’s just theatre, as Satanic as a Hammer Horror flick. Bat Out Of Hell got some of this, because the album cover showed a motorcycle erupting out of a grave watched by a demon. This was occult imagery. It is, but again, it’s fantasy occult imagery. You could and can see pretty much the same kind of imagery on any genre horror, fantasy or sword and sorcery paperback. And there’s absolutely no mention of the occult or the Devil in the track itself. I bought the sheet music awhile ago and I’ve played it. What it tells me is that Meat Loaf liked the dark imagery of rock, and had a taste for awesome motorbikes. As for groups labelled Satanic, back in the ’90s the accusation was levelled at the American band Ossuary. Or it was until they issued a statement explaining that they were all good children of the Roman Catholic church, and their songs attacked the preachers who were bringing the church into disrepute. Then someone had the idea of checking with their parish priest, who confirmed what they said.

But to me, one of the most memorable of Meat Loaf’s appearances on British TV was when he outwitted Clive Anderson. Anderson had his own chat show, Clive Anderson Talks Back, in which he made light banter poking fun at his guests. Sometimes he went too far, and offended them. He did that to the Bee Gees. There’s a clip of them walking off, one by one, after he told them their music was rubbish. Anderson was left with his mouth hanging open, looking pleadingly at them. Finally only one was left, and as he turned to go, Anderson said to him, ‘You’re not going as well, are you?’ ‘Sorry,’ the pop musician replied, ‘but I don’t do lone interviews.’ That never happened to Meat Loaf, but he did think of a getting a few chuckles from his name. ‘What should I call you – Meat? Mr Loaf? What do your children call you?’ Meat Loaf had answer to that: ‘Mostly they call me ‘Dad’.’ as Jazz Club would say on the Fast Show ‘Grrreat.’

Farewell, Big Guy. You will be missed, and rock is poorer without you.

The sheet music for the album Bat Out Of Hell, which was written and composed by Steinman, arranged for piano with guitar tablature and lyrics, has been published by International Music Publications Ltd. Apart from the title track, it has ‘You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night), Heaven Can Wait, All Revved Up With No place to Go, Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad, Paradise by Dashboard Light and For Crying Out Loud’.

The cover image was dreamed up by Steinman, and painted by fantasy artist and comics legend Richard Corben.

Way back in the ’90s there was a slew of tribute bands – the Bootleg Beatles, Elton Jack and so on. Meat Loaf did not escape. His was called ‘Fat Out Of Hell’.

May he, like Elvis, keep ’em rocking.