Archive for the ‘Scotland’ Category

My Message for We Own It Against NHS Privatisation

June 11, 2022

My last post was about the email I received earlier today about We Own It’s campaign today against the government’s intention to place private healthcare companies on the boards of the NHS. Among their activities they were asking people to write the following message on a piece of paper “Dear [*write the name of your town here*] NHS leaders, let’s rebuild our local NHS together and keep private companies out”, then take a selfie of you with the message and tweet it or, if you’re not on Twitter or in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, email it to them at nfo@weownit.org.uk .

I’ve done this, and here’s my piccie with the message below.

Yeah, I know it’s faint and hardly legible, but I hope it still makes the point.

We Own It on Their Day of Action Against NHS Privatisation Today

June 11, 2022

I got this message this morning from the pro-nationalisation, anti-NHS privatisation organisation We Own It stating that today is their day of action against the Tories’ plans to put private companies on NHS boards. Amongst the forms of protest they’re organising is a photo campaign in which people take photos of themselves with a message on a piece of paper addressed to their local NHS manager stating their opposition of this new phase of Tory privatisation. The email runs

‘Dear David,

Today is your Day of Action  – can you help ramp up the pressure on your local NHS chair to put people before profit as they prepare to reorganise the NHS in England on the 1st of July?

Even if you do just one of these three actions, you can have a HUGE impact today:

1. Send a message directly to your local NHS chair in 3 easy steps:

  1. On a plain sheet of paper, write out the message: “Dear [*write the name of your town here*] NHS leaders, let’s rebuild our local NHS together and keep private companies out”
  2. Take a selfie with your message.
  3. Click the button below to use our tool to tweet your picture (or email it to us at info@weownit.org.uk if you don’t use Twitter, or if you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland!)

2. Join a local action near you today. Find out where actions are happening below.

3. Distribute leaflets by yourself or with friends and family on your local high street. This action is only for people who have received leaflet deliveries from us.

Tweet your picture

Find out if there’s a group action near you

8 local NHS chairs have now come out and pledged that they will BAN private companies on their boards.

When you started this campaign a month ago that number was a grand total of 1.

This happened because 20,500 of you emailed your ICS chairs, or boosted the numbers by sharing the action if you live outside of England. 

Your actions have an impact. By doing even just one of the actions today, you will help protect your local NHS from greedy private companies

1. Send a message directly to your local NHS chair in 3 easy steps:

  1. On a plain sheet of paper, write out the message: “Dear [*write the name of your town here*] NHS leaders, let’s rebuild our local NHS together and keep private companies out”
  2. Take a selfie with your message.
  3. Click the button below to use our tool to tweet your picture (or email it to us at info@weownit.org.uk if you don’t use Twitter, or live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland – your photos will show that people across the UK oppose private companies making decisions about our healthcare!)

2. Join a local action near you today. Find out where actions are happening below.

3. Distribute leaflets by yourself or with friends and family on your local high street. This action is only for people who have received leaflet deliveries from us.

Tweet your picture

Find out if there’s a group action near you

We are working with Keep Our NHS Public and Unite Community to make sure local NHS chairs feel the heat today. 

As they prepare to reorganise local NHS’ across England on the 1st of July, you can remind them that you want the NHS to work for people not profit.

This reorganisation currently only impacts the NHS in England, but it sets a precedent that will have repercussions for the NHS in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. By taking a stand and showing resistance to private companies sitting on boards in England, you will help stop this setting a dangerous new normal for healthcare in the UK. 

NHS leaders need to know that profiteering private healthcare companies cannot be allowed to have a role in our healthcare.

Send them a simple message today by doing one of the three actions below:

1. Send a message directly to your local NHS chair in 3 easy steps:

  1. On a plain sheet of paper, write out the message: “Dear [*write the name of your town here*] NHS leaders, let’s rebuild our local NHS together and keep private companies out”
  2. Take a selfie with your message.
  3. Click the button below to use our tool to tweet your picture (or email it to us at info@weownit.org.uk if you don’t use Twitter or live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland)

2. Join a local action near you today. Find out where actions are happening below.

3. Distribute leaflets by yourself or with friends and family on your local high street. This action is only for people who have received leaflet deliveries from us.

Tweet your picture

Find out if there’s a group action near you

his campaign is already getting results because people like you are standing up and taking action. Thank you so much for all you do to protect our NHS. 

Cat, Alice, Jack, Matthew, Kate, Johnbosco – the We Own It team’

I realise that this is very last minute, but I’ve put it up here for those who want to be involved.

There are protests right across England, but the one in Bristol is run by Bristol Protest our NHS at 60 High Street, Hanham, BS15 3DR, and its running from 3-4 this afternoon..

Convict Transportation to America and Penal Slavery

June 6, 2022

When most people think of the transportation of convicts, they probably think of Australia. But before Britain started sending its convicts there, the destination in the 17th and 18th centuries was America. There’s a ballad lamenting the fate of such criminals, ‘The Lads of Virginia’, in Roy Palmer’s A Ballad History of England From 1588 to the Present Day (London: B.T. Batsford 1979), p. 67. The section discussing the policy on the previous page, 66, taken from A.G.L Shaw, Convicts and the Colonies, (Faber 1971) gives a short description of the history of the trade and the way the British government paid merchants to carry it out. It also suggests that once in America, the convicts were sold to the plantation masters. The extract runs

‘For most of the seventeenth century, merchants trading with the plantations were willing, and often anxious, to carry out the relatively few convicts who were sent; bu8t as time went on they found some, particularly women or bad characters, who were difficult to dispose of, and they became reluctant to take them… After the [Transportation] Act of 1718 the Treasury let regular contracts for the job, first for £3 a head from London and £5 from ‘other parts’ but after 1727, £5 for all; when added to the sale price this allowed a good profit, even taking into account losses through sickness or death on the voyage.

The ‘trade’ grew as the years went by. Between 1729 and 1745 the two contractors for London and the Home Counties sent out an average of 280 a year, which suggests that about 500 a year were sent from all England. In 1753 there were nearly 800. During the Seven Years’ War, 1756-63, fewer were transported, for many convicts were sent to the army, the navy and the dockyards… After 1763 transportation to America increased again, and between 1769 and 1776 about 960 convicts a year were sent out. The demand for convict labour in the plantations was so high that in 1772 the Treasury was able to stop paying its £5 subsidy, though contractors were for a time still able to persuade local authorities to pay…. Between 1719 and 1772, the years of the subsidy payments, 17,742 were sent from London and the Home Counties, and perhaps 30,000 from the whole of England. At least two-thirds went to Virginia and Maryland, and very probably more.

Was it an effective punishment? Sir John Fielding, magistrate and penal reformer, thought it was, though in 1766 Mr Justice Perrott declared that for common offenders it was no punishment at all….’

Those Monmouth rebels, who Judge Jefferies didn’t hang, were also transported to the new world and sold, though they were taken to the Caribbean colonies and sold to the planters for sacks of sugar. The transported convicts also included Irish rebels, and I’ve been told that you can still tell which of the slave cabins they occupied on the plantations by the shamrocks they painted on them.

I have to say that while I was aware of convict transportation, I wasn’t aware that once there they were sold, except in the case of the Monmouth rebels. This makes the practice look like penal slavery, which existed in ancient Rome and early medieval Europe. This punished certain types of criminals by selling them as slaves. I feel that the similarity between convict transportation and penal slavery also somewhat complicates the issue surrounding transatlantic African slavery, as it shows that certain punishments inflicted on Whites also approached a form of slavery or unfreedom. Back in Britain, the Scots miners at the time were also unfree. They were bondmen, who were effectively the property of the mine owners and even had to wear something like a slave collar around their necks. It also raises issues when it comes to the payment of reparations for slavery. If reparations are to be paid to the Black community for their abduction, exploitation and brutalisation during the era of the slave trade, it can also be argued that other groups, who suffered a similar fate like the transported criminals and rebels to America and the West Indies, and Scots mining communities in Britain for the enslavement of their ancestors.

Question Time Platforms Extreme Right-Wing Anti-NHS Group without Telling Viewers about Them

May 27, 2022

A day or so ago I put up a piece discussing how the right-wing Lotus Eaters on YouTube have decided that healthcare isn’t a right, thus showing their opposition to the basic principle underlying the NHS. But they’re not the only right-wingers, who despise the NHS in the name of absolute free trade and private enterprise. Another of these is the Institute of Economic Affairs, which has been promoting these policies since the 1970s. Northern Irish YouTuber Maximilien Robespierre posted this little video on his channel exposing how Emily Carver, a representative of the IEA, was a guest on Question Time. However, the Beeb did not deign to tell its viewers who the IEA was or what they stood for. And in fact, as the video shows, the IEA are very secretive about both their members and the organisation itself. They’re on a list of political organisations and think tanks ranked according to their transparency. And the IEA are in the red marked ‘highly opaque’.

Carver and her organisation’s secrecy was called out by the panellist representing the SNP. He pointed out that he and the other politicians on the show, from the Lib Dems and Labour, had no need to explain what their parties represented as everyone knew already. But Carver and the IEA were just introduced as ‘a think tank’. Carver blustered some rubbish in her defence about being willing to reveal their members’ identities if necessary, but were really just taking care to protect them. Robespierre also goes on to reveal just what the IEA stands for by showing their entry on Wikipedia. He also shows Carver’s own extreme private enterprise stance with a couple of articles she authored, including one asking if people were finally waking up to how dreadful the NHS was.

In fact the Beeb has form when it comes to platforming right-wing organisations on their news programmes without telling people about their connections. A few years ago a friend of mine pointed out how the right-wing Taxpayers Alliance were frequently invited onto the news to give their opinions on government spending and presented as an independent organisation. This is technically true, but the leadership were all members of the Conservative party, making them effectively a Tory front organisation.

Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis have an entire chapter in their book, NHS SOS discussing the way the Beeb’s coverage of the health service is biased and supportive of its privatisation. Academics from Glasgow and Edinburgh universities showed a few years ago that the BBC was biased towards the political right, though the Tories and their supporters continue to brand it as left-wing and liberal. The inclusion of the IEA without informing the public of what they stand for is just more proof of the Beeb’s right-wing bias and the supporting someone in the Corporation is giving to the NHS’ privatisation.

Trailer for Matt Walsh’s ‘What Is A Woman?’ Documentary

May 21, 2022

Matt Walsh is a conservative American YouTuber, and fierce critic of the trans ideology. He has made a documentary intended to expose not only the ideology, but also the activists and medical professionals promoting it, and uncovering the immense danger and real physical and mental harm that it represents to vulnerable people. The film will be premiered on the right-wing internet site and channel, the Daily Wire.

The trailer for the film shows him going around asking various individuals the simple question, ‘What Is A Woman?’ Of course, the simple answer is that it means ‘adult human female’, as per the dictionary definition that has become one of the slogans of Kelly-Jay Kean’s gender critical movement. But politicians and officials don’t want to say this, because of the trans dogma that your real sex is not biological, but dependant on your psychological identification. A person is whatever sex they feel they are, even if this conflicts with their biological sex. Hence there has been the spectacle over here of politicians, mostly from the Labour party, evading or running away from the question when asked.

The trailer shows Walsh talking to professionals, who tell him that a man can have a vulva and a woman a penis, but who get uncomfortable and end the interview when challenged. A group of young women on a feminist march tell him that you have to support women to be on the march when he asks them. He asks the same question of a trans supporter on the street, who tells him that gender is in the mind. When Walsh asks if this would apply if someone believed they were a cat, the supporter simply walks off down the street.

Walsh also talks to gender critical people, like Scott Newgent and Jordan Peterson. Newgent is a transman, but states that he’s a woman, who has been surgically altered to resemble a man, but he will never be a man. He makes it very clear that the trans ideology is destructive and dangerous. ‘It got me at 42. Your children don’t have a chance’. This is in direct contradiction to one of the ideology’s supporters, who states that she thinks that only a very small part of the massive explosion in people being diagnosed trans is due to it becoming a social contagion. Jordan Peterson makes the point that there are feminine boys and masculine girls, and asks rhetorically ‘What are we supposed to do? Cut them up?’ This is one of the fears of the gender critical activists, particularly gays and lesbians. They are afraid that boys and girls are being forced to transition because their parents are afraid that they’re refusal to conform to established gender norms means that they’re gay. In their eyes, the medical transition of these young people is a form of gay conversion therapy. Feminists are also concerned about the challenge this attitude presents, as it also seems to reinforce traditional norms of gendered behaviour rather than challenge them.

I am very definitely not a conservative, and definitely won’t be signing up to the Daily Wire. But I do believe that Walsh is making a good point in this instance, one that very much needs to be heard. There are surgeons performing mastectomies on girls as young as twelve. And while I’ve no doubt that medical transition may be needed and entirely appropriate for some, this is not always the case. There’s an online community of about 20,000 detransitioners. These are people who underwent transition, only to regret it and who are now trying, as far as possible, to return to their birth sex.

And accuracy of language and description is particularly necessary in medicine. There have been a number of pieces put up on TV and YouTube about men being pregnant and giving birth. In fact these are transmen, who have taken the transition to a certain extent where they resemble born men in their upper bodies, but who have retained their female reproductive organs in order to conceive a child. A little while ago a number of gender critical YouTubers criticised an article from a Scottish midwifery journal, which stated that men could get pregnant and give birth. This mostly covered transmen, but at places it also seemed to state that biological men could also do so. This is simply wrong. Biological men simply can’t do so, and a transman giving birth needs the attentions of doctors, obstetricians and midwives, who are all trained the treatment of women, even if this fact is now being obscured by the trans rhetoric..

Walsh states that he has gone all over the world in the documentary asking this question. The film shows him asking it of a group of Maasai in Africa. They tell him they don’t believe a man can change into a woman, and at the end of the trailer tell him they don’t want to go to America, presumably because of the confusion that has been created over the simple question of biological reality.

Once again I want to make the point that I don’t believe anyone should be discriminated against, persecuted or abused simply because they wish to present themselves as a member of the opposite sex. But I do believe that the trans ideology is doing great harm, and needs to be challenged.

Stop the War Coalition’s Day of Action Tomorrow

May 6, 2022

I got this email just this afternoon from Stop the War Coalition giving the details of the protests and demonstrations they’re holding against the war in Ukraine tomorrow. They’re almost entirely in England, but there is one in Glasgow for any Scots, who may wish to join in and another in Cardiff for the people of Wales. The email states

Tomorrow: International Day of Action for Peace in Ukraine

Towns and cities across the UK will be alive with anti-war activity tomorrow as part of the International Day of Action for Peace in Ukraine.

We are calling for the withdrawal of Russian troops in Ukraine, an end to the military escalation by NATO countries and for all efforts to be focused on finding a negotiated solution to the horrific war in the country.

A Scotland-wide demonstration is set to march through Glasgow and protests will also be taking place in Bournemouth, Brighton, Manchester and Newcastle.

Stalls and speak-outs have also been organised in over 30 locations. Find yours below…

BathBath Abbey, 11:30am – 12:30pm

Bournemouth: Protest – Bournemouth Square, 2pm

BrightonProtest – Brighton Clock Tower, 2pm

Cardiff: Queen St (near M&S), 2pm

Essex – Colchester: Stop the War Stall @ Climate Jobs Trades Council Event, Headgate Theatre, Chapel Street North, 11:30am-4pm

Essex – Harlow: Obelisk, Harlow Town Centre, 1-2pm

Hastings: Hastings Town Centre, 12-1pm

Huddersfield: Street stall and protest. Market Cross, Huddersfield Town Centre, HD1 2AA, 12.30 pm

Glasgow: Stop the War in Ukraine – Scotland National Demonstration, Assemble: 11:30am @ Blythswood Square

Leeds: Outside body shop, Briggate, 1:30-3:30pm

Lewes: Top of Cliff High Street, 12pm

London – Ealing: Ealing Broadway, Lloyds Bank, 12:30 – 2pm

London – Enfield: Enfield Town, Barclays Bank, 12pm

London – Hackney: Narrow Way, 2pm

London – Islington: Highbury & Islington Station, 12 – 2pm

London – Kentish Town: Kentish Town Station, 12 – 1:30pm

London – Lewisham: Lewisham Clock Tower, 11- 1pm

London – Newham: Opposite St John’s Church, 12-1:30pm

London – Walthamstow: Walthamstow Town Square, 1pm

Liverpool – Top of Church Street, 2-4pm

Milton Keynes- Outside M&S/opposite Civic Offices, 12pm

Manchester – Piccadilly Gardens, M1 1RN, 11am-1pm

Newcastle – Protest: Assemble, Grey’s Monument, 12 noon

Norwich: Speak Out: Haymarket, 2pm

Oxford: Bonn Square – Stall/Vigil/Mass Leafletting, 12-4:30pm

Portsmouth: Palmerston Rd Precinct, Southsea, 12pm

Plymouth: Sundial, Armada Way, 12pm

Sheffield: Sheffield Town Hall, 1pm

ShrewsburyPride Hill, 10:30am, 12pm

Southampton: The Bargate, High Street, 1-2pm

Swansea: Swansea Centre, 11:30-12:30pm

York: Shambles, York Town Centre, 12pm

Share the List of Events

We are asking all activists involved to upload pictures to social media and tag us @STWUK or use the hashtag #PeaceForUkraine

Please can you also email pictures to us at office@stopwar.org.uk if you would like your event included in the end of day report.

Do write to us and let us know how you get on!’

The email also includes notice of forthcoming protests in support of the Palestinians on the 14th May, and against the siting of nuclear weapons at Lakenheath on the 21st.

Protest for Palestine – Saturday 14 May

Join us on Sat 14th May to call for an end to Israel’s oppression and to assert the right of the Palestinian people to live in freedom with justice and equality.

The Palestinian people need our solidarity now more than ever.

Click Here for Full Details

Stop Nukes Coming to Lakenheath – 21st May

It has been revealed that Britain is to become the sixth country in Europe to host US nuclear weapons. The expected location: RAF Lakenheath, a US Air Force base in Suffolk – 70 miles from London.

Creating the conditions for siting American nuclear weapons in Britain puts us on the front line of a nuclear war. It is tantamount to painting a target on the back of everyone in this country.

We’re joining the CND protest at RAF Lakenheath on Sat 21 May. Transport is being organised from across the country. If you’d like to join us click the button below. 

Find Your Nearest Transport

Chumbawamba Sing Their Farewells to Maggie Thatcher

May 6, 2022

Okay, I’ve put up a series of left-wing and socialist music videos over the past couple of days laying into the Tories and other right-wing pundits and blowhards like Piers Moron and ‘Depeche Toad’ Farage. The results of the council elections are coming in, and it seems the Tories haven’t done terribly well. Not as disastrously as I’d like, but they’ve lost several councils to Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens. And I thought I’d rub it in a bit further with this musical reminder that Maggie is no longer with us. This is a performance by the pop band Chumbawamba singing their song anticipating Thatcher’s death, ‘In Memoriam – So Long So Long’ at a concert in Bedminster, one of Bristol’s suburbs, way back in 2009. It was put up on Random Planet’s channel on YouTube in 2013.

The song was written and performed before Thatcher’s death and the band were going to release it as an EP. Hence they ask people not to put it up on YouTube just yet, and also give instructions on how you can order it directly from them. As the performance is over a decade old, it’s doubtful this arrangement is still working. You can, however, hear the full EP on YouTube as well. This includes a short piece in Spanish which is supposed to be General Pinochet’s regards from beyond the grave, as well as Frankie Boyle’s joke that when Thatcher dies, the Scots are going to dig a hole so deep they’ll be able to hand her over to Satan personally. It’s an interesting piece musically. It’s jazz-inflected and actually really laid back, for all that it’s celebrating Thatcher’s demise.

Thatcher’s long gone, but unfortunately Thatcherism still remains a force in British politics as zombie economics – a doctrine long shown to be dead and useless, but which is still propped up into a kind of ghastly semblance of life by right-wing politicians and the media. It’s about time it was laid to rest as well.

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.

Bonded Miners, Indentured Servants and the Victorian Labour Laws

March 17, 2022

I’ve been reading Jonathan A.C. Brown’s Slavery & Islam (London: Oneworld Academic 2019), and it is fascinating. Brown’s a White American convert to Islam, and he ties in the debate about slavery in Islam to the contemporary American debate about slavery and its legacy in American and western society. He also begins the book with the question of definition and the problem presented in forming a universal and transhistorical definition of slavery that applies in all circumstances. This is because under different types of slavery, the slave could have more power and respect that nominally free people. For example, the viziers of the Ottoman Empire were slaves, but they ran the Ottoman Empire, had bodyguards, who were also slaves, often married the sultan’s daughter and were clearly men of immense power and respect. At the same time, slavery existed in Chinese society but wasn’t defined as such, for the simple reason that there was no such thing as a ‘thing’ in Chinese law.

But he also discusses certain types of servitude and unfreedom in British and American history. This includes the indentured servants who were used to populate the British colonies in North America. He states that it’s difficult distinguishing them from slaves. He writes

‘The division between slavery and indentured service can similarly b e hard to pin down. Indentured servants from Britain, who made up two-thirds of the immigrants in British North America before 1776, could be sold, worked to exhaustion and beaten for misbehavior. They could not marry and, in Virginia at least, could be mutilated if they tried to escape. In Maryland the punishment was death. Slavery in colonial America was worse, but only in that it was permanent.’ (p.49).

He also notes that the bonded miners in Scotland had to wear a ring on their necks with their master’s name on,, and he includes the ‘master/servant’ relationship on a list of various forms of servitude. He writes of this form of service

‘when serfdom disappeared from Western Europe, it was replaced by the relationship between the laborer and the landowner/employer. Unlike our modern notion of a worker’s contract, however, failing to live up to this contract was a criminal offense. Only in the British colonies in North America did a notion of free labor eventually appear in the 1700s, and this did not make its way back to Britain until 1875.'(p.,48.) Earlier, Brown gives the example of a shop worker in 1860. If he didn’t turn up for work, he was guilty of theft under British law, and could be imprisoned. (p.30).

The current debate over slavery and its legacy doesn’t include those aspects of British or western society that also approached slavery as they affected Whites, although there is now a debate about the ‘Irish slave trade’ – the trade in indentured servants from Ireland. The similarity between White indentured servitude and slavery is closer when you consider that originally the Dutch limited the period of slavery to 25 years. This was more than three times the length of the usual contract for indentured service, and slavery soon became permanent. But it also explains how indentured servants also frequently took part in slave uprisings and even intermarried with slaves.

I knew that the Scots miners were also unfree, bonded to their masters. I think it was one of the reasons Scots working people had great sympathy with Black slaves, to the extent that the slaves’ masters grumbled about them helping them to escape. The neck ring is the classic thrall ring, also used in the middle ages and Roman Empire to mark slaves out as property.

I wasn’t aware, however, that the Victorian labour laws could have you imprisoned for not turning up for work. It’s not quite slavery, but does come close.

And given the current lot of exploiters in government, it wouldn’t surprise me if there were people in the Conservatives who’d dearly like to bring it back.

Clive Simpson on Diane Ehrensaft and the Satanic Panic and Trans Movement

February 18, 2022

Clive Simpson is a gender-critical gay man, who vlogs against the trans ideology and its promoters. His videos are good, but I’ve avoided putting them up here because I know some of the great peeps who comment on my blog differ from me about this issue, and I don’t want to offend them gratuitously. But in the couple of videos below he touches on an issue that ripped apart families and destroyed people’s lives and reputations. This was the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare. This held that there were real Satanic covens across America, Britain and elsewhere, in which children were raped and abused as part of its worship. Young women remembered being raped by the cultists. After they gave birth, their children were seized and sacrificed to the Devil.

It was all nonsense. A report by Jean La Fontaine concluded, as had the FBI, that there was no evidence such cults existed. The supposed memories on which the accusations were based were false, confabulated either from the witch hysteria itself or from spurious psychological techniques like regression hypnosis, the use of play puppets to bring out further testimony and leading questions from the investigators. Members of New Age sects, like the Wiccans, suffered public suspicion and hostility. Wicca considers itself the survival of the medieval witch cult, but this has been extensively critiqued by Bristol University historian Ron Hutton in his book Triumph of the Moon, This is a history of the modern occult and pagan revival from its origins in the 19th century. There’s no unified cult or authority in Wicca, but it’s really about Earth Mother Goddess worship and the Horned God. There’s a lot of ecological consciousness and concern in it, or there was, so they’re far more likely to be involved in a protest against climate change rather than anything like human sacrifice. The late Anton La Vey’s Church of Satan did apparently hold ‘human sacrifices’, but this was toned down to a spanking in which the victim wore a pair of padded trousers and was entirely voluntary.

Simpson has produced two videos which are part of trilogy looking at the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare and the links between it and the trans craze with the involvement of Diane Ehrensaft. In the first video he discusses the origin of the craze with the publication of the book Michelle Remembers. This was co-written by the woman and her psychiatrist, and based on her weird and horrific memories. She remembered not only being abused, but also Satan himself turning up along with Christ, Our Lady and one or two other saints to fight over her soul. I don’t dismiss religious experiences, but I think that it’s highly unlikely that such events as ‘Michelle’ remembered actually occurred.

Michelle Remembers set off a craze, and its publication was followed by the McMartin preschool scandal. This started with the allegation that one little boy may have been abused. The police mishandled the investigation by sending letters to all the parents of children at the school, telling them they were investigating allegations of child abuse and asking for further information while urging them not to discuss it among themselves. Which is, of course, what they naturally did. This resulted in large numbers of the children being examined for signs of abuse. One of the methods the investigators used to get them to talk was using dolls and puppets. The children were asked to show with the puppets how they had been abused. The investigators also asked leading questions like, ‘Are you going to be bright, or are you going to be dumb’. As a result, the kids came up with more false memories of terrible abuse.

In his second video, Simpson talks about another notorious incident across the pond, this time at a US army child care facility in its Presidio quarter in San Francisco. One of the accused was a male assistant at the facility, who seems to have been targeted because he was a gay man. The accusations were stoked by a Christian minister, and ended up with one of the supposed victims, a little girl, accusing Michael Aquino, a Lt. Colonel, and his wife of being the other people in the cult who abused them. Aquino is, or was, the head of a genuine Satanic organisation, the Temple of Set. Now he has performed some tasteless stunts. He once visited Heinrich Himmler’s Wewelsburg castle, which the Nazi leader intended to be the headquarters for the SS. Despite allies the stories and speculation about Nazi occultism and was Hitler a black magician and so on, the evidence is that very few of the Nazi party with one or two exceptions took it seriously. Hitler said he was initially sympathetic to them, but had the neo-Pagan sects banned because he feared they would divide Germany. Himmler was one of the exceptions. He seemed to have seen the SS as some kind of Teutonic pagan elite and had the castle’s basement remodelled so that he and the SS could perform occult rituals down there. Way back in the 1990s Aquino went there to perform his own occult rites in the basement. It’s grotesque and at the very least, massively tasteless but I don’t doubt that Aquino and his wife are innocent of the charges of child abuse. And in this instance, apparently, they didn’t stack up because Aquino had a cast-iron alibi. He really was somewhere else at the time.

Unfortunately it seems that some of the child abuse was all too real. On examination, four of the children seemed to have suffered sexual molestation. But as Simpson states, this was probably at the hands of their parents. This was literally unthinkable to the witch hunters, who found it far easier to believe in lurid tales of evil Satanic rites.

I well remember the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare and the immense harm it did. In Scotland it resulted in something like 75 children from different families being separated from their parents and taken into care in the Orkneys. One of the accused was the local minister, who was supposed to have an inverted crucifix in his home. No, what he had was a model airplane hanging from his ceiling when he was investigated. There are some very nasty individuals, who have killed and mutilated animals and people in the guise of Satanic worship. But sociologists and criminologists call this ‘pseudo-Satanic’ crime, because often they’re just sick individuals doing it for kicks and add the Satanism to give it all an extra bit of excitement. Some of them may also be really mixed up kids from repressive Christian households, who’ve become convinced that evil is stronger than good.

And there is a danger that, despite the scare having been largely disproven, the witch hunters haven’t gone away. They’re still meeting, and every now and then Private Eye reports their latest shenanigans in its ‘In the Back’ section. I don’t know who Ehrensaft is, and eagerly await the third part of the video series. I have said before that I do not wish anyone to be persecuted or discriminated against because of their sexuality or gender presentation. I think that there are people, who have been helped by transitioning into the sex with which they identify. But I believe that the massive expansion of the numbers of people claiming to be trans gender is a psycho-social contagion, in which vulnerable young women and men have been falsely led to believe that they are the wrong sex through an aggressive ideology and the greed of private gender clinics who have sought to exploit this craze for their own gain.

If Ehrensaft was a part of the Satanic Abuse Craze, using techniques that were accepted at the time but have now been utterly disproven to get the testimony the witch hunters wanted, then it may cast serious doubt on the legitimacy of her views on the trans gender phenomenon. Obviously depending on what it’s like, I’ll put up Simpson’s third video on this topic in due course.

In the meantime these videos are an excellent reminder of the origins of the abuse and how destructive it was.