Archive for the ‘Singapore’ Category

YouTube Video for My Book on Slavery in the British Empire, ‘The Global Campaign’

February 18, 2019

This is the video I’ve just uploaded on YouTube about my two volume book on slavery, its abolition and the campaign against it in the British Empire, The Global Campaign, which I’ve published with Lulu.

The video explains that it grew out of my work as a volunteer at the former Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, helping to catalogue the archive of government documents that they had been granted by the Commonwealth Institute. I was busy summarizing these documents for a database on materials on slavery the Museum wanted to compile. Going through them, it became clear that the long process of its abolition in the Caribbean was just part of a wider attempt by the British to suppress it right across our empire, from Canada and the Caribbean across the Cape Colony, now part of South Africa, the Gold Coast, now Ghana, Sierra Leone, founded as a colony for freed slaves, central Africa, and what are now Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda, Egypt, the Sudan and the North African parts of the Turkish Empire, to India, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Java and Malaysia, and into the Pacific, in Fiji, Australia and the Pacific Island nations. Legislation in one section of the Empire, for example, the Caribbean, was also passed elsewhere, such as Cape Colony, Mauritius and the Seychelles. The British were aided in their campaign to stamp out slavery in Egypt, the Sudan and Uganda by the Egyptian ruler, the Khedive Ismail. They also signed treaties banning the slave trade from East Africa with the Imam of Muscat, now Oman, the ruler of Zanzibar and Pemba and the suzerain of some of the east African coastal states. There was also an invasion of Abyssinia, now Ethiopia, in retaliation for their raiding of the neighbouring British territories for slaves.

As well as trying to suppress the enslavement of Africans, the British were also forced to attack other forms of slavery, such as the forced kidnapping and sale of indentured migrant labourers from India and China in the infamous ‘Coolie Trade’, and the similar enslavement of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific for labour on the sugar plantations in Fiji and Queensland.

I also explain how one of the first English-speaking countries to ban slavery was Canada, where enlightened governors and judges twisted the interpretation of Canadian law to show that slavery did not officially exist there.

The video’s about ten minutes long. Unfortunately, I don’t say anything about the role Black resistance to slavery, from simple acts like running away, to full scale rebellions had in ending it, or of colonial governors and legislatures. But the book does mention them.

Here’s the video:

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Private Eye on the Real Reason James Dyson Is Moving His Business to Singapore

February 8, 2019

A week or so ago I put up a number of posts reporting and commenting on the outrage James Dyson caused when he announced that he was moving his company’s HQ to Singapore.

Dyson has been given a great deal of support from this country, and in the West Country he was regarded, or at least presented by the local media as a local hero. But he’s done this before. A few years ago he demanded that Bath give him more land to expand his business. They refused, so he decided instead to expand in the Far East. He needn’t have done so. If there was no room at Bath, he could have happily gone to other south-western towns. He already has plants in Malmesbury and Bristol, for example. Or gone further afield, like Wales or the north, which would also have been glad to have him. But he didn’t.

It was especially hypocritical as Dyson was telling everyone within earshot a few years ago that we should have joined the Euro. Then he decided he was backing Brexit. Now it appears that he has gone to Singapore partly because they’ve signed a trade agreement with the EU, which would make it easier for him to export his goods to them from there rather than Blighty.

Private Eye has run two pieces on Dyson in this fortnight’s edition for 8th-21st February 2019. And they make it very clearly that he’s going for the same reasons every exploitative multinational is heading abroad due to neoliberalism: to take advantages of countries with low tax rates, where workers can be hired and fired almost at will. The first article, ‘Bye-Bye Suckers!’ on page 7, runs

So Sir James Dyson’s relentless bullishness about post-Brexit Britain was so much hot air. The man who will now move his HQ to Singapore evidently has little real faith that Brexit will unleash the potential he has long claimed.

Th benefits of Singapore are likely to go beyond the proximity to his Asian empire that Dyson claims. By moving east it will also be easier to reduce workers’ rights. As Dyson told the BBC’s Andrew Marr last year: “This is controversial, but since I don’t know what orders I’m going to get next month or next year, industry, manufacturing industry’s very volatile. Not being able to flex your workforce is another big reason why you wouldn’t start a manufacturing business or expand a manufacturing business.” Elsewhere, he agreed bluntly, it was easier to hire and fire.”

This is not the most generous response to what the UK has given Dyson. Since 2012 his group has sucked up around 100m pounds in tax credits, ie discounts on its corporation tax bill. IN 2011 the then chancellor George Osborne brought in a special tax break for buyers of “energy efficient hand-dryers”, which meant…Dyson airlades.

There’s more information in the Eye’s ‘In the City’ column, entitled ‘Singapore fling’ on page 41. This runs

What is it that so attracts billionaire inventor, entrepreneur and avid Brexiteer Sir James Dyson to Singapore? Last month he announced that his privately owned Dyson group was switching legal residence to the Far East city state for “commercial reasons” and “future-proofing”. This followed the decision to produce the Dyson electric car in Singapore from 2020.

The Dyson party line is that the imminent move is nothing to do with Brexit or tax – it will still pay UK tax on UK operations – but all to do with Singapore being a lot closer to China, its main market, than Wiltshire. Who knew? Dyson’s 2bn pound move from hairdryers and bagless vacuum cleaners into cars is his biggest gamble.

So what does Singapore have over a “no deal” Brexit Britain – which Dyson welcomed? What about:

* A recent free trade agreement with the EU, to go with ones with China and the United States, plus the Singapore Freeport;

* International companies who headquarter themselves in Singapore can see corporation tax (currently 17 per cent, compared with 19 per cent in the UK) fall to 10 or 5 per cent or even zero, thanks to lengthy tax breaks and generous incentives, especially for those who create jobs;

* No tax on dividends – the Dyson family could have paid 38 per cent on the 86m pound dividends for 2017 (down from 111m) from the parent Weybourne Group;

* No capital gains tax on a future sale or inheritance tax (IHT) (Dyson is 71);

* Less stringent corporate disclosure and governance requirements for private companies (a Dyson moan);

* Finally, no risk from a Corbyn government targeting the rich.

Dyson moved control offshore once before – to Malta in 2009 – then returned in 2013. He has also legitimately taken advantage of film tax schemes and IHT-efficient investments in agricultural land. Still, Singapore tax and access attractions clearly played no role in the move east by this latter-day Stanford Raffles, who assured Leave voters that no deal with the EU was no problem because “they’ll come to us”. Now it seems Dyson has decided to go to them.

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

January 30, 2019

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

My blurb for the book runs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vol. 2’s chapter are

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dyson Claims Not Leaving Britain Because of Brexit; Still Hypocrite Though

January 25, 2019

There was outrage a few days ago when James Dyson announced he was shifting his company headquarters from Malmesbury to Singapore. Dyson was one of the leading voices for Brexit, claiming that it would allow us to trade with the rest of the world outside the constraints of Europe. Now that this has actually happened, Dyson isn’t so keen. And people have been understandably furious.

So furious in fact that Dyson has issued a statement denying that he’s leaving the UK because of Brexit. No, according to him, the decision was taken months ago. It’s all because he was afraid that the ten hour time difference between Britain and Singapore would make running the Singaporean plant from the UK difficult. Mike over at Vox Political found this story unconvincing, and he’s right. Mike asked

Isn’t it more feasible that he just wants to avoid having to pay increased import-export tariffs, and wants to avoid increased taxes that are likely if Brexit harms the economy in the way the experts expect?

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/01/24/im-no-hypocrite-says-dyson-of-singapore-move-does-he-expect-us-to-believe-him/

Someone else who didn’t believe all this spin and horse sh*t was Zelo Street, who reminded their readers that 18 years ago, Dyson told the Beeb that he would leave the UK for the Far East unless we joined the European single currency. Yep, the single currency that has bankrupted Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece. And Andrew Adonis tweeted another reason, quoted by Zelo Street: Singapore signed a free trade agreement with the EU three months ago, so if Dyson moves his HQ there, he has more access to European markets. Zelo Street concludes

“Dyson urged Britain to walk away, even to the extent of not securing a deal with the EU, while all the time he was planning to move his HQ somewhere which would secure him access to … the EU. As the saying goes, you couldn’t make it up.

Do as I say and not as I do, says James Dyson. There speaks another phoney patriot.”

See: http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/01/james-dyson-eure-hypocrite.html

But that is not all. As I’ve said before, Dyson’s a big, molten god of industry here in the West Country, and there was a report about this on the local Beeb news programme, Points West. Dyson, pictured wearing his ‘Harry Potter’ glasses, once again denied that he was leaving Britain because of Brexit, and said he would continue to maintain his plants in Malmesbury, Hullavington and Bristol. The piece interviewed a lady from the town’s chamber of commerce, who said they had absolute faith in him, and talked to some of the people there. It’s fair to say they had mixed opinions. Some were convinced that he’d honour his commitment to the town, while one lady was less sanguine, and said it made her furious.

I’m not convinced either. Dyson has repeatedly shown how little faith and commitment he has in Britain. As I said in an earlier article, he demanded that Bath give his firm more land a few years ago. When they were unable to, he upped and moved to the Far East. He could have remained in the UK, even bringing jobs to depressed areas like the north. He didn’t. He followed the usual neoliberal logic and jumped ship to take advantage of the Developing world.

He’s a hypocrite and a liar and I have zero confidence in his continuing commitment to the people of Britain and particularly the West Country.

Hypocrite Brextremist James Dyson Abandons Britain for Singapore

January 23, 2019

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a piece reporting that James Dyson, the multimillionaire inventor of the vacuum cleaner that bears his name, has abandoned Britain for Singapore after strongly promoting Brexit. He was one of the leading industrialists in Britain supporting the ‘Leave’ campaign, and when they won, he told the rest of us that leaving the EU’s single market would liberate the UK’s economy and allow us to make other trade deals with the rest of the world. He also said that we should leave the EU without worrying about an interim deal, because ‘uncertainty is opportunity’, and that they would come to us if we just walked away.

Dyson has shown how much faith he has in the British economy now that they’re due to leave the EU and the possibility of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit is unfortunately all too strong: he’s decided to abandon his present headquarters in Malmesbury for Singapore. He hasn’t any, and Mike’s article on this has a series of tweets from people criticizing him for his decision. One of those is ‘Shop Steward’, who tweeted

“The thing is he’s a multimillionaire so he could stay here and still make a profit In fact he could stay here, improve workers pay & conditions, and still make a profit …but greed won’t allow that. No, profit must be maximised at all costs because enough is never enough.”

Quite. Another commenter, Paul Bernal, asked how many other Brexiters have to leave the UK, either personally or just their businesses, before voters realise they were being conned. Gavin Esler, who I remember was the name of one of the Beeb’s foreign journalists, reported that P&O has just re-registered its UK fleet to Cyprus before Brexit.

Deeply Unhelpful Shelly responded to this with the observation that are probably very many others, who won’t make it public because they fear being attacked by the ladies and gentlemen of the media. Mike also observes that while P&O didn’t promote Brexit, they are sending a message to other businesses that they should get out while they can.

As for Dyson, Mike says

Dyson is on record, not just as a Brexiteer but as a Brextremist, and his decision reeks of the worst kind of hypocrisy.

He supported Brexit; he influenced other people to support it; and now he is abandoning us to the consequences while he scarpers, taking his business and any benefit it has for the economy with him.

Make no mistake: This man is toxic.

He has helped inflict economic ruin on the UK, both by encouraging us into Brexit and by taking his business out of the country before it happens.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/01/23/taking-vac-control-how-many-brextremist-bosses-will-leave-before-we-realise-weve-been-conned/

I’m not surprised that Dyson has run off to Singapore. He has previous on this. Here in the West Country, Dyson was regarded as one of the great molten gods of local business. Following the success of his vacuum cleaner, he appeared several times on the local news programme in the Bristol/ Somerset/Gloucestershire/Wiltshire are, Points West, whenever there was an item about local authority initiatives to boost business. But as I reported in a previous article, Dyson has moved his business out of Britain before. A few years ago he demanded that Bath council should allow his factory in the area more space to expand. The council told him they couldn’t. So Dyson picked up his ball like a grumpy child unable to get its way, and went elsewhere. I think he moved his business to Indonesia, or somewhere else in the Far East.

He didn’t have to do that. His business was perfectly profitable here in the UK. If there wasn’t enough space for it to expand in the area around Bath, he could have moved it elsewhere in the West Country or Britain. There would have been plenty of other places in Britain which would have been delighted to have him bringing work and jobs, particularly in the depressed areas of the North.

But Dyson didn’t take that option. He went to the Far East, where he knew he could make even bigger profits through exploiting the lower wages and poorer working conditions in the Developing World. This is the logic of neoliberalism. It’s done to allow capital to move their businesses around the world in order to reduce wages and take advantage of lower taxes in these countries. Just as Jacob Rees-Mogg has part of his money invested in Far Eastern companies through his capital management firm. And you can bet that the wretched authors of Britannia Unchained, who also believe that Brits should work longer hours for less pay in order to compete with the Developing World, are likewise also ready to run out on Britain the moment it suits them.

Dyson is a massive hypocrite, but he’s just one of many rich, Brexiteer businessmen, who promise that Brexit will bring prosperity and jobs to Britain, but realise only too well that it won’t. They’re now running off to the real low wage, low tax havens in the rest of the world, whose people they really want to exploit.

He’s toxic, and so are the rest of them. And they’re determined to wreck Britain. His attachment to Britain and the West Country was always questionable. We’ve lost nothing by his departure, but we should never have listened to him and those like him in the first place.

Radio 4 Programme Next Week on Press Censorship and Election Rigging

October 30, 2018

According to the Radio Times for 3rd to 9th November 2018, next Monday’s edition of Radio 4’s ‘Analysis’ is about the increasing destruction of democracy. Entitled ‘How to Kill a Democracy’, for blurb for the programme runs

Matt Qvortrup examines how democracies around the world are being dismantled through the silencing of the press and manipulation of elections.

The programme is being broadcast, appropriately enough, on the 5th November at 8.30 pm.

This has been going on for years. The Groaniad’s John Kampfner wrote a book about it years ago, Democracy For Sale, about how government across the world were trying to make a pact with their peoples by giving them prosperity at the expense of genuine political freedom. The countries discussed included not only Lee Kwan Yew’s Singapore and Putin’s Russia, but also Sarkozy’s France, Berlusconi’s Italy and Britain under that well-known ‘centrist’, Tony Blair.

But the curbs on free speech and publication aren’t just extending to the press. They’re also attacking the internet under the pretext of protecting us all from ‘fake news’. Facebook recently took down 800 pages, mostly of left-wing and oppositional sites, including those critical of the government. The Real News has recently posted up a report showing that this was done under the supervision of a Neocon American politico, who was gloating that this was just the beginning. I’ll post that one up later.

Democracy and free speech and press are under attack right across the globe, including here in the UK. It’ll be interesting to hear what the Beeb has to say about all this, and whether they’ll mention the corporate assault on the Net. This could be a dodgy issue for the Beeb, as more people are turning away from them and other established and establishment news sources for the Net. And groups on the internet, like the circle of new news media journalists Mike, the Canary, the Skwawkbox and Another Angry Voice belong to. As the Beeb can’t mention Corbyn without a sneer or depicting him as a wild, anti-Semitic extremist, I can see the programme shying well away from the subject of internet censorship.

The Western Myth of Buddhist Tolerance Blinding the World to Its Persecution of Muslims

December 17, 2017

The clip below is a grim report from The Young Turks about the methodical rape of Rohingya women in Myanmar by the Buddhist armed forces. This comes from a report from the Associated Press with 29 women and girls, who had fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh. Some of these testimonies are very disturbing. In one instance, a woman was nine months pregnant, when she was caught by the soldiers and raped. She couldn’t get away because of her condition. Nevertheless, her husband, who sounds like a scumbag himself, is blaming her. She didn’t run fast enough. He, however, had already scarpered. In another interview, one woman told of how she and her husband were both caught, and her other half was tied to a tree while the Myanmar storm troopers gang raped her in front of him. When he began to scream and cry at what was being done to his wife, they stabbed and killed him.

Savagery, brutality and violence are part of the human condition, and are found in people of every race, creed and political ideology. Buddhism is no different from any other religion or ideology in this regard. But M. Reza Pirbhai published an article in Counterpunch in September this year, 2017, arguing that the world’s failure to respond adequately to the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar was partly due to the western, liberal myth that Buddhism is uniquely tolerant. He begins his article by arguing that the silence and reluctance to condemn the atrocities is partly due to western imperialist perceptions of Islam as uniquely evil. He then goes on to argue that the positive image Buddhism has as a uniquely tolerant religion was created in the 19th century by disaffected western intellectuals. Alienated by the sectarianism and bigotry of their own Christian culture, they turned to the Buddhist east, and so created an entirely false image of the religion as uniquely peaceful and tolerant. He writes

Academia is in fact rife with examples of scholarship that touts the tolerance and inclusiveness of Buddhists and the general argument is nothing new. According to Thomas A. Tweed, Professor of History at Notre Dame University, increasing awareness of religious diversity due to colonial expansion and Christian missionizing led Euro-American Enlightenment intellectuals repelled by Christian sectarianism to consider Buddhism to fit the bill of the “natural religion” (or “perennial philosophy”) they sought, one that exuded “tolerance” toward people of different faiths and was amenable to scientific progress. So convinced were they that some, such as the nineteenth century German-American scholar Paul Carus, even chastised Asian Buddhists when they launched polemical assaults on Christian missionaries, accusing the Asians of using language the “Buddha certainly would not…” So was born the pervasive myth, characteristically articulated by the early twentieth century Swedish-American Theosophist Herman Vetterling, that Buddhism is “a religion of noble tolerance, of universal brotherhood, of righteousness and justice,” and that in its growth as the religion of a global community it had not “caused the spilling of a drop of blood.”

Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Michael Jerryson, picks up where Tweed signs off to show that the tendency to associate Buddhism with tolerance did not die in the early twentieth century or remain bound in an ivory tower. In the wake of World War II, it found its way into the writings of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, marching further forward in time with such works as Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and by the 1980s assumed political dimensions in the form of the Free Tibet Movement. And finally, who can forget (even if you want to) Keanu Reeves in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Little Buddha.

Social history, however, tells a different tale than Orientalists and popular culture. For every instance of forbearance, history also provides examples of violent intolerance legitimated by Buddhist doctrines and conducted by practitioners. As many ancient Jain and Brahmanical texts speak of persecution at the hands of Indian Buddhists, as Buddhists accuse their South Asian competitors of the same. And consider Jerryson’s examples of the sixth century Chinese Buddhist monk Faqing, who promised his 50,000 followers that every opponent they killed would take them to a higher stage in the bodhisattva’s path. Or recall that with the advent of nationalism, Buddhist monks rallied to the cause as with Japanese Rinzai support for the military campaign against the Russians in 1904-5, or Zen and Pureland Buddhist justifications of the Japanese invasions of China, Korea and Singapore during World War II. Buddhism has been corrupted in these places, they argued, and violence is necessary to insure that ‘true’ Buddhism is restored and preserved. The same rhetoric – of some fundamental Buddhism under threat – also underwrites the more recently nationalized bigotry and violence that Buddhist monks and laypersons have unleashed on non-Buddhists in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and, last but not least, Myanmar.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/09/13/rohingya-and-the-myth-of-buddhist-tolerance/

It isn’t just Muslims, who are in a perilous position in Myanmar. So too are the country’s Roman Catholics, who are also under the threat of Buddhist persecution. This explains why the Pope was very careful not to describe the Rohingya as indigenous Burmese when he decried the violence against them the other week. He was afraid of upsetting the authorities too much, and calling down persecution on the country’s Christian population. At least according to another article in Counterpunch.

Pirbhai’s article notes that Buddhist priests, laymen and armed forces have also carried out atrocities against those of rival or different religions elsewhere, including Sri Lanka. In May 2013 Tariq Ali also published a piece about rising Sri Lankan Buddhist fundamentalism. This was during the conflict between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamils, who wanted a separate state and union with India. The Sinhalese are Buddhists, while the Tamils are Hindu, although the Tamil Tigers, the revolutionary force fighting for independence, were Marxists and therefore atheists. The civil war resulted in horrific atrocities, for which the Sri Lankan army was condemned, but little action taken by the West. And Muslims there were also the victims of Buddhist intolerance. Ali wrote:

Four years after the brutal assault on the Tamil population and the killing of between 8—10,000 Tamils by the Sri Lankan army, there is trouble again. The saffron-robed fanatics, led by the BBS—Bodu Bala Sena: the most active and pernicious of Buddhist fundamentalist groups that have sprouted in Sinhala strongholds throughout the island— are on the rampage again. This time the target is the relatively small Muslim minority. Muslim abattoirs have been raided, butchers shops attacked, homes targeted. Terrified kids and adults in Muslim areas are living in fear. The police stand by watching passively while the Sri Lankan TV crews film the scenes as if it were a school picnic.

A few weeks ago, Buddhist monks led some hoodlums and attacked the car sales room of a Muslim-owned company (Emerald Trading) in Pepliyana. Reason? An employee was stepping out with a young Sinhala woman and her father had complained to a local monk. A journalist on The Sunday Leader (a courageous broadsheet whose editor Lasantha Wickramatunga had, four months ago, denounced President Rajapaksa for corruption, predicted in print that he would be killed as a result and was) reported on 2 April that, ‘Following the complaint, an eye-witness saw a monk leaving one of the temples in Pepiliyana followed by a group of youths, mostly under 25 years of age. The group carried stones and, people were later to discover, kerosene…’

As if the anti-Tamil pogroms were not enough to satisfy the blood-lust, a BBS blogger explained the ‘reasoning’ behind the targeting of Muslims in the Colombo Telegraph (6 March 2013):

“Muslims have been living in this country since 7th century and now only they want to have Halal food in Sri Lanka. Population wise they are only 5%. If we allow Halal, next time they will try to introduce circumcision on us. We have to nip these in the bud before it becomes a custom. We should never allow the Muslims and Christians to control anything in Sri Lanka. What is Halal to Muslims is Harem to Sinhala Buddhists. Slaughtering cow and eating beef should also be banned in Sri Lanka. Instead, we should promote pork. We are glad that the parliament has re-introduced pork in their menu. Hijab, burqa, niqab and purdah should be banned in Sri Lanka. The law and the legislature should always be under the control of the Sinhala-Buddhists and our Nationalist Patriotic president. After all, Sri Lanka is a gift from Buddha to the Sinhalese.”

Difficult to imagine how circumcision could be ‘nipped in the bud’ even by a buddhist, or how the percentage of the Muslim population could have decreased from 9.7 percent in 2011 to 5 percent today. It has undoubtedly gone down but demographers doubt it could have done so by more than one or two percent at the most. The decline is obviously a direct result of unchecked harassment and persecution. It has gone down over the last few decades. The Tamils did their bit. Muslims in Tamil-majority areas were harassed and effectively driven out by ethnic purists from both the communities. They regret what they did now because it has been done to them on a much larger scale.

If it were only the BBS mouthing this nonsense, it would be one thing. But many within Sinhala political-military mainstream pander to rhetoric of this sort. In Pottuvil in the Ampara district, for instance, where the Muslims are a majority, the uniformed soldiers have been collaborating with the local monks and monasteries to erect Buddhist statues and inflaming the region in noise pollution via loudspeakers which start early with Buddhist hymns and a nightly replay. Local women who own land are being driven off it: the monasteries steal as the army provides protection.

The 1911 consensus revealed, as has always been the case, that the Buddhists compose a huge majority (70.2 percent), followed by the Tamil Hindus (12.6), Muslims (9.7) and Christians (7.4). Nobody threatens the Buddha or his followers except fanatics from within.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2013/05/03/on-buddhist-fundamentalism/

Ali ends his article with a report of Buddhist sectarian attacks on Muslim fishermen in Myanmar.

And will talk of Burma joining the Commonwealth be nipped in the bud? Buddhists have clashed with a tiny Muslim minority and driven them out of their villages, though the cause in this case appears to be material rather than ethno-religious Puritanism. The Buddhists wanted the land for themselves. A macabre confrontation resulted in, of all places, an Indonesian refugee camp where the Burmese Muslims had been provided with shelter. Eight Burmese Buddhist fisherman whose vessel had foundered in nearby waters were also rescued by the Indonesians and taken to the same camp. That night the two sides battled and all the fishermen apart from one were killed. Muslim casualties were two dead, and seven wounded.

It was an ominous precursor of the mass violence against the Rohingya that broke out a few years later.

Pirbhai ends his article by noting no religion has the monopoly on violence. But the myth of Buddhism as uniquely peaceful and tolerant is blinding Americans to the savagery that Buddhists, as humans, are capable of committing.

“No religion has a monopoly on ‘violent people’,” Jerryson astutely concludes, “nor does any one religion have a greater propensity for violence.” All religions are vast complexes of thought and institutions and devotees of each can always find legitimacy for hostility or hospitality toward the other depending on mundane needs or wants. It is for this very reason that the apparent disconnect between historical Buddhism and the sustained Euro-American myth of its tolerance is as malignant as the perpetual dehumanization of Islam and Muslims is cancerous. These Buddhists have long been the good guys and those Muslims the bad in this lore. Each is a necessary fiber in the liberal fabric of Euro-American imagination that veils the gaze of international law when it comes to the murder and displacement of the Rohingya.

Kenneth Surin on Brexit and May’s Corporate Attack on the Poor

April 20, 2017

On Tuesday, Counterpunch published a long piece by their contributor, Kenneth Surin, on Theresa May’s plans for Brexit, and how this will inevitably harm the poor and the working people of this Sceptred Isle. And it’s what you’re already expecting, if you’ve read the Groaniad, those bits of the I newspaper that are still even remotely genuinely liberal, and bloggers like Mike over at Vox Political, the Canary, Another Angry Voice, The Void and so on. May, he predicts, will talk a hard Brexit in order to counter some of the opposition from the Tory Right, but will leave some room for a soft Brexit. She, Boris Johnson, and the other vicious grotesques currently infesting the halls of power, want to use it to turn Britain into a tax haven. So he predicts that the City of London and its connections to some very dodgy individuals – he has a paragraph giving the names of some of them – will get even murkier. But, as he points out, Britain already is a tax haven through the Channel Islands.

He states that we are likely to be given a very hard deal by the EU. He states that there was friction between Britain and the European Union as while the EU represents the power of corporate capital, it draws a line on their direct influence in government. The lingering Social Democratic tradition in these countries, like France, Germany, and the Scandinavian nations, means that the government governs for industry, but is not run like an industry. Unlike the Neoliberal vision, exported to Britain from the US, which wants government to be run exactly like a business.

He also predicts that May and her grotty team will inflict further misery on the poor, because that’s what appeals to the right-wing British press, like ‘the foreigner Murdoch’ and the ‘tax-dodging, Nazi-supporting Rothermere family’. The Tories will follow Farage, and privatise the NHS, just as the are already privatising services and levying charges for them.

He also rebuts May’s feigned concern for those ‘Just About Managing’, or the JAMs. Despite all the crocodile tears she and her cronies shed, she has done absolutely nothing for them. Wages are still stagnant, the opportunities to upgrade one’s skills are similarly being cut, as are welfare services to support the poor and unemployed.

Surin begins his article also by pointing out that when it comes to the day, the vote on Brexit is likely to be influenced by factors and issues that aren’t really relevant. He also talks about the way May has already shot herself in the foot by trying to promote Brexit using images of places, which have actually benefitted from the EU. Like the northern shipyards, which were given a million pound grant.

Surin begins his piece

“So at this moment of change [Brexit], we must respond with calm, determined, global leadership to shape a new era of globalisation that works for all”.

— Theresa May

“My plan for Britain is not just a plan to leave the EU but a plan to build a stronger economy and a fairer society, underpinned by genuine economic and social reform. To make Britain a country that works for everyone, not just a privileged few”.

— Theresa May

The UK’s Brexit roll-out is a constantly evolving project, zig zagging along because the Tories in charge of it, like everyone else, have no real idea of how it will culminate. So far it has been ad hockery all the way, though one or two of the project’s connecting threads are starting to be visible.

One week, Theresa “the woman without qualities” May, who voted against Brexit, is in favour of a “hard” Brexit (basically one involving no deal of any kind with the EU regarding the single market and immigration), the next she softens her tone and hints that a more placative agreement with the EU, amounting to a “soft” Brexit, might be welcomed in whatever hoped-for way.

Nothing was more symbolic of this chaos and muddled-thinking than the most recent pro-Brexit television broadcast by May, which showed her against the background of ships moving in the Scottish port of Aberdeen.

Oops– the port of Aberdeen was granted a €258 million loan from the European Investment Bank on 20 June 2016, just 3 days before the UK voted to leave the EU!

It all seems to depend on how much heat the pro-Brexit right-wing of her party, citing that chimerical entity “sovereignty”, can turn on her.

Her predecessor, “Dodgy Dave” Cameron, weary of feeling this heat, called the Brexit referendum to cool down his party’s right-wing, absolutely confident in his nonchalantly patrician way that Brits would consider themselves better-off by remaining in the EU.

Such referenda, although purportedly on a single-issue, tend invariably to have outcomes determined very much by the mood of the electorate, which is affected by a plethora of considerations having nothing specifically to do with the issue officially on the table on referendum day.

***

May’s calculation requires her to “talk” a hard Brexit, to neutralize the right-wingers who ended her predecessor’s political career, and to gain the support of the right-wing press– owned by the foreigner Murdoch, the Nazi-supporting and tax-dodging Rothermere family, Richard “Dirty Des” Desmond (the former head of a soft porn empire), the tax-dodging Barclay brothers, and a Russian oligarch.

This overseas-domiciled and tax-dodging (in the cases mentioned) crew have set the low-information agenda for those inclined towards Brexit, so May’s strategy, if we can call it that, has been accommodating towards their hard Brexit stance, while leaving things vague enough for loopholes to enable a “softish” Brexit if needed.

May, craving electoral success, has to cater to all sides and eventualities. The results are likely to be calamitous for the UK.

Why is this?

May’s primary objective is to convey the impression that Brexit will “work for all”.

Alas there is no evidence for this claim.

***

The UK’s pro-Brexit movement, in the absence of anything resembling a Lexit, is not going to be shackled by this or that constraint previously imposed by the EU.

For instance, the UKIP leader Nigel Farage, Trump’s non-American sycophant par excellence, though a minimal figure, has always advocated the privatization of the NHS. And this is exactly what the Tories have been pursuing by stealth since 2010.

***

May has already said she “stands ready” to use Brexit as an opportunity to turn the UK into a tax haven, or as the financial press euphemistically puts it, “a low-tax financial centre”. It is already one of course (this being the primary function of the islands of Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man, and Gibraltar).

What May clearly means is that London’s financial sector, which is already awash in murky water, will become an even muddier swamp able to match similar swamps in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Panama, Hong Kong, Singapore, and so forth. Dwellers of these swamps include assorted drug dealers, human traffickers, gun runners, owners of illegal gambling syndicates…

***

In addition to May desiring this state of affairs for the City of London, it is clear from the composition of the team put together by the secretary of state for international trade Liam Fox to negotiate post-Brexit trade deals, that Brexit UK is going to pursue a thoroughgoing pro-corporate agenda.

***

This corporate bonanza will probably be accompanied by a weakening of environmental regulations, since most of the leading Brexiteers are climate-change deniers or supporters of fracking (and in most cases, both).

Pro-Brexit climate-change deniers include Farage, Michael Gove (who tried to ban climate change from the school curriculum when he was education minister), the foreign minister Boris “BoJo” Johnson, Thatcher’s finance minister Nigel Lawson, and the above-mentioned Liam Fox.

***

This hugely attractive and compassionate bunch (sic) are not going to be too concerned about pollution, biodiversity, natural habitats, animals abused by industrial farming, climate change, the prohibition of lethal pesticides, declining fish stocks, the international trade in endangered species, and the use of GMOs, when the agribusiness corporations howl about environmental regulation being a burden to them.

There will be no remotely green agenda under this ghastly crew.

***

May prates on about her deep concern for “just about managing” families (JAMs), but the austerity agenda passed on by the disastrous former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is being implemented with only a slight cosmetic tweak here and there.

The UK economy has grown since 2010, but, according to the Guardian, 7.4 million Brits, among them 2.6 million children, live in poverty despite being from working families (amounting to 55% of these deemed poor) — 1.1 million more than in 2010-11.

The report cited by the Guardian, produced by the reputable Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), shows that the number living below the Minimum Income Standard – the earnings, defined by the public, required for a decent standard of living – rose from 15 million to 19 million between 2008/9 and 2014/5. The UK’s population is 65 million.

These 19 million people, or just under 1/3rd of the UK’s population, are its JAMs.
***

Social care is becoming increasingly unaffordable for them, the NHS is starting to charge for treatment as it undergoes a backdoor privatization, they have fewer opportunities for upskilling in order to raise their incomes, and so on. This while their wages are stagnant even as the cost of living is increasing for them.

***

Such important and pressing issues need to be addressed as a matter of urgency, but they are not.

The Tories pro-corporate Brexit agenda has become the proverbial tail wagging the dog.

***

Many have a name for what is really and truly going on in the UK and US: class warfare.

The bastards have the underprivileged by the throat. All the mainstream political parties are terrified of offending them, if they haven’t already thrown their lot in with the bastards.

What is desperately needed, for the dispossessed and disadvantaged, is a reversal of this situation, in which many firm hands turn round and grasp the throats of those responsible for the misery of tens of millions of people.

Is there anyone in the almost moribund Labour party, torn apart by infighting caused by its still significant Blairite remnant, capable of saying any of the above unequivocally?

Go read the rest of the article at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/18/the-calm-determined-stronger-fairer-uk-brexit-zig-zag/

In answer to Surin’s final question, yes, there are plenty of people in the Labour party willing to point all this out. They’ve tried to do so ad infinitum. But the Blairites and the Tory media are doing their best to stop that message getting out. They never report what they say about the detrimental attacks the Tories and Blair have made on the welfare state, the NHS and the economy, but selectively quote them in order to make it all fit the narrative that Corbyn and his wing of the party are ignoring these issues. And it’s done deliberately to fit the narrative of Corbyn as a Trotskyite entryist.

It’s why I’m afraid that the next two months will be a very hard struggle for everyone desperate to save Britain from the corporatist swamp created by the Thatcherites and their media lickspittles.

Black Civil Rights Organisation Wants Moratorium on Academy Schools in America

August 18, 2016

The Black civil rights organisation, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) has attacked charter schools and demanded a moratorium on them. In this video from the Real News, the anchor, Jaisal Noor, talks to Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig, a teacher, educationalist and blogger, who’s the head of the leadership in education programme at one of the American universities about the NAACP’s call for a ban. The charter schools are the American equivalent of our academy schools. They were introduced in 2001, and began to expand massively after Obama’s election in 2008 as part of his ‘Race to the Top’ education programme. The NAACP object to these schools on the grounds that they remove public control, enforce segregation and have punitive educational regimes. They also draw a comparison between the proliferation of these schools and the predatory sub-prime mortgage market which was partly responsible for the near collapse of the banking system in 2008.

This isn’t the first time the NAACP has criticised charter schools. In 2010 they made a statement that rather than promoting the expansion of these schools, more money should be given to improving existing public (state) schools in urban America serving Black communities. In 2014 the NAACP further condemned charter schools as part of the privatisation of education of education, and the wider privatisation movement. The demand for the moratorium on these schools was passed this year by a meeting of more than 2200 of the organisation’s delegates. Heilig states that this is a very reasonable position as when they were first introduced, charter schools promised more freedom and more accountability. They have instead gained more freedom and less accountability.

Noor responds by stating that for many Black parents in cities like New York and Baltimore, charter schools represent some hope of improving their children’s education over the dire state schools in their areas, but there are long queues of people trying to get in. He quotes a Black Democrat politician, Shivar Jefferies of Democrats for Education Reform as stating that they should be concentrating on fixing what is broken, and expanding what works. Heilig states that he has offered to debate Jefferies about charter schools in California or New York. Jefferies first accepted, and then declined. Heilig states that when you examine the statistics, the supposed advantages of charter schools melt away. He does agree with Jefferies, however, on the wider point that society has failed Black, Latino, Native American and other poor students deliberately. He states that American society has decided that ‘inequality is OK’. Where Heilig and Jefferies differ is in the way this is to be tackled. He points out that there are big corporations, like Wall Street, the Gates Foundation, the Walton Foundation and many more behind the private control of education. Heilig says that this is where he differs with Jefferies. He and the others in NAACP would like community schools, and community-based charters, district charters and intergovernmental charters. He points out that people are upset with the creation of charter schools, because the free market system they are trying to use to improve schools – he gives the example of the ‘better house you buy, the better the school’, is the very system that has damaged the educational system in the first place.

He states that the key to change and improvement is offering more democratic control for parents in their local schools through community-based programmes. Heilig makes the point that if you look at the polls of what people want, they want less testing, higher quality teachers, and better courses. Those require resources. But the Supreme Court in Texas, however, decided that the $25,000 differences between classes for rich and poor is acceptable at school. This means millions of dollars in difference at the district level.

Noor also asks him about the statistics showing that children at charter schools perform extremely well, and so therefore charter schools are an educational improvement that should be further implemented. Heilig points out that there are some state schools that are also doing a great job. He also makes the point that the 2009 Credo study showed that 89 per cent of students at public schools performed exactly the same as those in state schools. Shivar Jefferies and the others in favour of charters schools don’t like that study, and prefer to quote another Credo study from 2015. This study, however, showed that in charter schools Latinos do 0.008 per cent better in reading, and Black 0.05 per cent. He states that the difference in performance is almost negligible. Furthermore, there are other methods in improving performance that are far more effective. These methods, which include reducing class size, can improve educational performance by between 1000 to 4000 per cent. He states that there’s no secret to what works, and you don’t need to go to countries with high standards in education, like Finland and Singapore to see that. You only have to go ‘across the tracks’ to rich neighbourhoods to see what resources are given to their schools, to see the kind of improvements that have to be made to the schools in poor neighbourhoods.

I’ve reblogged this because this debate is clearly very relevant to what’s happening over here with the academies Blair set up and which Thicky Nicky Morgan wanted to make universal. The system’s critics over here have pointed out that they are a part privatisation of education. The backers in Britain, however, tend to be second-rate businessmen. The leading businesses don’t want to touch them because they’re divisive. They are also very highly selective. A much larger proportion of students are expelled, or effectively expelled, from these schools, often for very trivial reasons. These frequently tend to be the poorer, or less intelligent students, the children the school would have problems with getting them through the exams. So they try to get rid of them by expelling them for supposed infractions of school rules. And discipline is also extremely strict. A few years ago a television documentary on the Vardy schools, set up by an evangelical Christian businessman, had humiliated pupils by refusing them to go to the toilet, even when they were in desperate need, and not allowing the girls to leave to change their sanitary towels. And there are also concerns that they’re socially divisive, especially as many of them are now under the control of the church or religious organisations.

Britain tends to look across the Atlantic to try to see what the Americans are doing in certain issues. This demand by the NAACP for a moratorium on charters/ academies, so that society can take stock of their impact, might have an effect in encouraging Black educationalists over here to follow and further demand a halt to their expansion in Britain. This would not only improve conditions for Blacks, but also for the poor White students that are also falling behind.

John Kampfner on the Growth of the Surveillance State in France under Sarkozy

March 7, 2016

It isn’t just in Britain where the powers of the state to monitor and imprison its citizens have been massively expanded. John Kampfner in his book, Freedom for Sale describes not only the growth of authoritarian government not just in Britain, and in the traditionally closed societies of China and Russia, but also in the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, India, Berlusconi’s Italy and France under Sarkozy.

He states that in France Sarko introduced a series of measures expanding the surveillance and intelligence gathering powers of the secret police and authorising the preventative arrest of terrorist or criminal suspects. His Socialist opponents have compiled a ‘black book’ of attacks on liberty by Sarko’s government since 2007.

For example, in November 2008 anti-terrorist police arrested twenty people in the small village of Tarnac. There was little real evidence against them. They were arrested because they were suspected of writing a book, The Coming Insurrection, and of being members of the ‘ultra-left’.

In June 2008, Sarko created EDVIGE, a feminine-sounding acronym that stands for Exploitation documentaire et valorisation de l’information generale. It’s a database of groups, organisations and individuals, which the state considers a threat, or possible threat. The database includes not just known criminals, or criminal suspects, but also the people, who associate with them. The EDVIGE database also includes information on their jobs, marriage status and family history; their former and present addresses, phone numbers and email addresses; their physical appearance, including photographs, and descriptions of how they behave. It also includes their identity papers, car number plates, tax records and legal history.

Gay organisations have been worried and criticised the database because it will also store information on people’s sexual orientation and health, as a means of keeping track of AIDS. It has also been condemned by the French magistrates’ union, which declared that it was ‘undemocratic’ and would ‘inform the government on politically active people’. Even the establishment newspaper, le Monde criticised it, commenting ‘A state governed by the rule of law cannot accept the penalisation of supposed intentions’.

Sarkozy’s government stated that much of the database’s function is to keep track on teenage gangs in the suburbs of the major cities. As part of this, the database will include information on children as young as thirteen. This followed the declaration of the Interior Minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, that there had been an increase in teenage delinquency. The French public responded by making her the winner of the tenth Big Brother Awards. The judges decided she deserved the award based on her distinguished contributions to violations of privacy, her love of video surveillance, and ‘immoderate taste for putting French citizens on file’.

The government has also set up a drone programme, ELSA, or Engins legers de surveillance aerienne, creating and testing robot aircraft equipped with night vision cameras to observe criminal and anti-social behaviour from above.

Sarko also used his personal influence to get troublesome journalists either to fall into line. If they didn’t, he got them sacked. When he was Interior Minister, he had the veteran prime-time newsreader, Patrick Poivre d’Arvor sacked from the private station, TFI, after he described Sarko at the G8 summit as ‘looking like a little boy in the big boy’s club’. Alain Genestar was sacked as editor in chief of Paris Match, after he published pictures of his then wife, Cecilie Sarkozy in New York with the man, who later became her husband. He also had another story spiked in Le Journal du Dimanche about Cecilie not voting during the presidential election. When he married his next wife, Carla Bruni, the two were hailed by the newspaper as ‘the Star Couple’.

He also passed a series of legislation strengthening government control over television. In 2009, parliament approved a set of laws gradually phasing out advertising on the state television stations. Instead, the stations would be funded by the state. Furthermore, the Chief Executive of France Televisions would be nominated directly by the president, not by the broadcast regulator.
He was also called ‘le telepresident’ because of the way he orchestrated political events like a reality TV show.

Le Monde describe Sarko as having created ‘a new model of media control’, which fell somewhere between Berlusconi’s and Putin’s style of autocratic government. The newspaper noted that much of Sarko’s control of the press was informal. It observed that unlike Berlusconi, he didn’t have to own newspapers and the media in order to censor and control them. His friends in charge of them did that. (pp. 179-82).

All over Europe and the world, government are becoming increasingly dictatorial and autocratic. This has to be stopped before freedom dies and is replaced across the globe with the jackboot and the fist of the police state.