Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

Bristol South Passes Motion of Solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn

November 20, 2020

As Mike has reported in his piece about Jeremy Corbyn calling in m’learned friends, Bristol South has passed a motion of solidarity with the former Labour leader. This was one of four motions, one of which commented on the EHRC report on anti-Semitism in the party.

Bristol South is my local Constituency Labour Party, and I was at the meeting. Due to the lockdown, it was held on Zoom and was packed. It was a long meeting, partly because of problems some members had accessing the meeting and the polling system with their machines.

The current secretary, David Evans, has issued a diktat stating that it was ‘not competent business’ for local Labour parties to repudiate the EHRC report or comment on the disciplinary proceedings against members. Hence the meeting was very rigidly controlled in order to prevent people unfortunately breaking those rules. The four motions were present to the members, who were called on to suggest amendments. However, because of the danger of transgressing Evans’ decrees, people were not allowed to discuss them. This was naturally resented by many members, but the local party leadership made it clear that they were not going to change their rules for the evening.

One of the motions was, I think, passed unanimously or almost so. This was presented by the CLP’s LGBTQ+ officer. It noted that there was rising levels of prejudice and abuse against other minority groups, such as Blacks, Asians and ethnic minorities, gay and transfolk, and the disabled as well as Jews. It called for the party to treat hate and discrimination against them as seriously as anti-Semitism, for officers dealing with cases to receive special training.

The first motion commented on the EHRC and there was some bitter opposition to it and to the motion of solidarity with Corbyn from those members, who I assume are members of the party’s right-wing or have been taken in by the lies of the establishment smear merchants. These members wished the motions to be altered to omit a number of clauses. One of these was a condemnation of the political interference now being done by the leadership, because it was bringing the party into disrepute, just like the political interference in the anti-Semitism cases condemned by the EHRC in their report. Others stated that it was a pity that the EHRC had not waited until the party’s own reports into the handling of anti-Semitism cases had been published before publishing theirs. The motion also contained a clause requesting the party issue clear guidance on how anti-Semitism cases should be handled. Despite very strong opposition, the proposed amendments to remove them failed and the clauses remained in the motion.

A young man tried to amend the motion of solidarity with Corbyn so that it removed all reference to him and became instead a pledge of unity that the party would go forward to combat racism, Fascism and anti-Semitism. This chap clearly believed that Corbyn was a terrible anti-Semite, but his motion was also defeated. It’s noxious for a number of reasons. The most important of these is obviously that Jeremy Corbyn is not and never has been an anti-Semite, despite the screaming lies by the right-wing British establishment. Secondly, the reason why Corbyn and his supporters have all been grossly libelled as anti-Semites is because Corbyn is an opponent of Israel’s barbarous treatment of the Palestinians. The supporters of the current Israeli government have tried to defend the indefensible by decrying the country’s critics as anti-Semites. They’ve been doing that since the 1980s, which is why one Jewish critic of Israeli racism, Norman Finkelstein, has called the Israel lobby a machine for manufacturing anti-Semites. Thirdly, you cannot pick and choose which racism you oppose if you are serious about combating racism. You cannot, say, denounce and fight anti-Black racism or Islamophobia while ignoring anti-Semitism. At the same time, you can’t oppose institutional racism against Blacks while defending the Israeli apartheid system which viciously discriminates against the Palestinians. This is why Jackie Walker, a Jewish Black woman, came to become an opponent of Israeli apartheid. She had been a member of the movement against South African apartheid in the 1970s, and somebody asked her how she could oppose that, but not Israeli discrimination against their indigenous population. She couldn’t, and so became an opponent of Israeli racism along with the other noxious varieties. This is why the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Labour Movement took it upon themselves to smear her as an anti-Semite, as they have done so many Jewish critics of Israel, despite her Jewish heritage, marriage and faith.

I am very glad that these motions have been passed, and fully appreciate the reasons for the very tight restrictions the local party leadership placed on their debate. As the secretaries made clear, these are very emotive issues, quite apart from the fact that it has been made clear that any breach of Evans’ rules would result in disciplinary action.

I hope the current leadership will take these motions on board and reinstate Jeremy Corbyn fully, restore the whip to him and adopt the recommendations of the other motions in order to make the party more just and fair in dealing with cases of prejudice and discrimination.

How Genuine Are the Feelings of Hurt Claimed by the ‘Jewish Community’ over Labour Antisemitism?

November 2, 2020

I know this is a provocative question, but it needs to be asked. Yesterday Mike put up an excellent piece about the hypocrisy and moral cowardice of the Labour leadership. Angela Rayner had admitted that Jeremy Corbyn was right when he said that the amount of anti-Semitism in the Labour party was exaggerated. Nevertheless, it was right to suspend him because of the hurt they caused. Mike points out in his article that Rayner has effectively admitted what the victims of the anti-Semitism smear campaign have known for years – that Labour will expel people who tell the truth about it. He also says

“Hurt” and “distress” are irrelevant if they are not based on facts. And how do we know that the people saying they were “hurt” and “distressed” actually were? There are a lot of liars out there.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/11/01/labour-expels-members-for-quoting-facts-about-anti-semitism-deputy-leader-admits/

Quite. As the old saying goes, ‘truth hurts’. And it seems from this that the self-proclaimed ‘Jewish community’ that claims to be so hurt, simply can’t or won’t handle the truth. But then, they don’t represent the Jewish community, and they aren’t really hurt by anti-Semitism.

Organisations behind Anti-Semitism Smears Unrepresentative of Britain’s Jews

How dare I say these terrible things, which I dare say some people could twist to sound anti-Semitic. Easily, because the facts are on my side. The people behind the accusations and smears that Jeremy Corbyn and the party he led were anti-Semitic most certainly don’t represent all of the Jewish community, but Zionist sectarians. Tony Grenstein and other great, self-respecting Jewish anti-racists and critics of Zionism have pointed out again and yet again that these accusations come from Zionist organisation. The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism was founded in 2012 or thereabout specifically to combat the rising hostility to Israel provoked by the bombing of Gaza. Labour Against Anti-Semitism are pretty much the same type of people in the Labour party. The Jewish Labour Movement used to be Paole Zion, Workers of Zion, and is the sister party to the Zionist Israeli Labour Party. In my view, both of these groups are deceptively and deliberately misnamed. The Campaign Against Zionism should be renamed the Campaign For Anti-Semitism, as it exists solely to manufacture accusations of Jew-hatred. As for the Jewish Labour Movement, it’s been shown that you don’t have to be Jewish or a member of the Labour party to join. It’s really a Zionist infiltration group, but obviously ain’t going to describe itself as such. And they will probably accuse you of spreading the anti-Semitic trope of Jewish conspiracies if you do. Nevertheless, it’s the truth. And the truth ain’t racist or anti-Semitic. It just is.

Chief Rabbis Sacks and Mirvis Ultra-Zionists

As for Chief rabbis Jonathan Sacks and Ephraim Mirvis, or ‘Mirv the Perv’ as I think he should be known, both of these gentlemen are, in my opinion, racist ultra-Zionists. Yes, I realise that over here they talk the language of anti-racism and interfaith dialogue. But Mirv spent years learning the Torah in one the hardline Israeli settlements. The settlers, or at least a very large majority of them, believe that all of Eretz Israel should belong to the state of Israel, and the Palestinians expelled and their lands colonised by Jews. Sacks and Mirvis also took contingents of British Jews to the March of the Flags in Jerusalem, despite pleas from British Jewish organisations not to do so. What’s the March of the Flags? It’s the day when the Israeli equivalent of Fascist boot-boys march through the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem waving the Israeli flag and vandalising Palestinian property. Palestinian kids are told not to go out on that day for fear of assault by these thugs. I see no difference between it and the Orange Marches through Roman Catholic areas in Northern Ireland. Or indeed through the attempted marches of Oswald Moseley and the British Union of Fascists through the East End of London and other Jewish areas in the 1930s.

Board of Deputies Zionist and Sectarian

Then there’s the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which sounds like it should represent the whole Jewish community. It don’t. It doesn’t represent secular Jews, who comprise a third of all British Jews. They also don’t represent the Orthodox, who have their own, separate organisation. And they really don’t represent Haredi Jews, who reject Israel because it’s a secular state. For the Haredi and Jews like them, Israel can only be restored by the Almighty through the Messiah. Until that time, the Children of Israel are required to remain in galut – exile – and pray for the health of the city, just as their ancestors did in exile in Babylon. Haredi Jews are viciously persecuted by the Israeli state because they refuse to recognise it. From what I gather, they are due to overtake the United Synagogue as the main Jewish sect in Britain in a few decades. And they have particular respect for Jeremy Corbyn for the efforts he and Diane Abbott have made on behalf of their community.

Tony Greenstein and others have pointed out that the Board of Deputies is, by its constitution, a Zionist organisation. So it obviously doesn’t represent non- or anti-Zionist Jews. These range from religious Jews, like the Haredi, to politically liberal and secular Jews, who object to the Israeli ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Whether religious or secular, these Jews believe that by doing so, Israel is violating the central tenets of traditional Jewish morality. As someone once said, ‘To be a Jew is always to side with the oppressed, never the oppressors’. In fact, the Board really only represents the United Synagogue. And probably not all of them, as some have sitting representatives where there hasn’t been an election for years. Other synagogues won’t allow women to vote. And the fact that it is the United Synagogue driving these smears is shown very clearly in many of the articles the I has published smearing Labour as anti-Semitic. Alongside the name of the author of so many of these hit pieces was the statement that they were a member of the United Synagogue. The Board is therefore a sectarian organisation, that no more speaks for the whole of the Jewish community than the Archbishop of Canterbury speaks for all British Christians, who are also divided into a number of different sects and denominations.

Corbyn Not Anti-Semitic

As for the hurt these mamzers claim to have felt, it’s a peculiarly selective kind of hurt. The South African Jewish politico, Andrew Feinstein posted a video this weekend showing very clearly that Corbyn wasn’t an anti-Semite. This includes footage of the former Labour leader denouncing it and all other forms of racism in a fiery speech in 2002 and of him meeting and being warmly greeted by members of the Jewish community, including a rabbi. Feinstein showed stats from a 2015 survey showing that Labour had the second-lowest incidence of anti-Semitism in British political parties. Two years later, another survey showed that Labour was the joint lowest.

Feinstein’s arguments should carry particular weight, as he has personal, family experience of real, murderous anti-Semitism. His mother’s family is a holocaust survivor, who lost 39 members of her family in Auschwitz. Feinstein has not only been to Auschwitz, but has also lectured there. I believe he was also subjected to anti-Semitic abuse by a real Fascist, which is where the vast majority of real anti-Semitism lies.

Hypocrites Behind Smears Not Concerned with Greater Anti-Semitism in Tories and Fascism

I believe the same stats showed that there was more anti-Semitism in the Tory party. And certainly the internet fan groups for BoJob and Jacob Rees Mogg the blogger Jacobs Mates dug up includes among their vicious racists and Islamophobes anti-Semites, who believe that non-White immigration is an evil plot by the Jews to exterminate the White race. Labour was placed under immense pressure to adopt the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism in full, complete with examples. But no such pressure was placed on the Tories, who haven’t. It’s a peculiar kind of hurt, that has no objection to anti-Semitism in the Tories, but like Violet Elizabeth Bott in the Just William books ‘thcweems and thcweems’ until it’s sick at its much lower incidence in Labour.

Anti-Semitism Smears Weapon to Defend Israel against Criticism

Of course the Jewish organisations accusing Labour of anti-Semitism aren’t doing it because of real anti-Semitism. They’re doing it because they want to defend Israel. Israel’s behaviour towards the Palestinians is indefensible on rational, factual grounds, so all they can do is smear critics as anti-Semites. As Norman Finkelstein, another leading Jewish critic of Israel has said, the Israel lobby is a machine for manufacturing anti-Semites.

And Jews like Andrew Feinstein are horrified and sickened by the cynical, political use of such accusations, not least because it cheapens the deaths of the six million, who were murdered by the Nazis.

Jewish Critics of Israel Victims of Anti-Semitic Ultra-Zionist Smears

But this is precisely what the people behind the anti-Semitism smears are doing. And many of the people they smear are self-respecting Jews, who as critics of Israel can, like Shraga Stern, a Heredi supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, justly claim to have been victims of sectarian anti-Semitic abuse and vilification.

Conclusion

The Jewish organisations claiming to have been hurt by Labour anti-Semitism are liars, both about the incidence of anti-Semitism in the Labour party and their motives for denouncing it. They were protected and supported by a lying Labour party bureaucracy, and are now by a lying Labour leadership. And these smears were spread by a lying British political and media establishment terrified of a revived Labour party that would actually do something for working people. Who of course include Jews. Always have done, always will do, ever since it was founded.

‘Hurt’ nonsense! This is a nasty pack of lies that smears decent people, cheapens real victims of anti-Semitism and desensitizes people to the real anti-Semites in the Fascist fringe. How utterly, utterly contemptible!

Thunderfoot Attacks Black South African Student Who Claims Western Science Is ‘Racist’

October 27, 2020

Thunderfoot is another YouTube personality like Carl Benjamin aka Sargon of Akkad, the Sage of Swindon, whose views I categorically don’t share. He’s a militant atheist of the same stripe as Richard Dawkins. He’s a scientist, who shares Peter Atkins’ view that science can explain everything and leaves no room for religion or mysticism. He’s also very right wing, sneering at SJWs (Social Justice Warriors) and attacking feminism. So he’s also like Sargon on that score. But in this video, he does make valid points and does an important job of defending science against the glib accusation that it’s racist.

Thunderfoot put up this video in 2016 and it seems to be his response to a video circulating of part of a student debate at the University of Cape Town. The speaker in this video, clips of which Thunderfoot uses in his, is a Black female student who argues that western science is racist and colonialist. It arose in the context of western modernity and excludes indigenous African beliefs, and if she had her way, it would be ‘scratched out’. One of the African beliefs it excludes is the fact, as she sees it, that sangomas – African shamans – can call lightning down to strike people. She challenges her debating opponent to decolonise their mind and explain scientifically how the sangoma is able to do that. Her interlocutor is not impressed, and laughs out loud at this assertion, which gets a sharp response from the moderator who claims that the debate is supposed to be a circle of respect and they should apologise or leave. The anti-science student states that western science is totalizing, urges her opponent to decolonize their mind, and calls for an African science. She also rejects gravity because Isaac Newton sat on a tree and saw an apple fall.

Thunderfoot answers these assertions by pointing out, quite rightly, that science is about forming models of reality with ‘predictive utility’. It is the ability of scientific model to make useful predictions which shows that the model is an accurate description of reality. Science’s discoveries are true for everyone, regardless of whether they are male or female, Black or White. He shows a clip of militant atheist Richard Dawkins talking to another group of students, and explaining that the proof that science works is that planes and rockets fly. The equations and scientific models describing them have to, otherwise they don’t. Dawkins is another personality, whose views I don’t share, and this blog was started partly to refute his atheist polemics. But the quote from Dawkins is absolutely right. Thunderfoot goes on to say that if African shamans really could call lightning down on people, then surely someone would have used it for military purposes. And to demonstrate, he shows a clip of Thor getting hit with a lightning bolt from an Avengers movie.

As for African science, he then hands over to another YouTuber, who talks about an attempted scam in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. A women claimed that she had a rock which produced refined diesel oil, and called on the government to see for themselves. Which they did. If the woman’s claim was genuine, then Zimbabwe would be entirely self-sufficient in diesel. However, such hopes were dashed when it was revealed that the rock had a hole bored into it from which diesel was being pumped.

The video goes on to make the point that such ‘science denialism’ is dangerous by pointing to the claim of the former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, that HIV didn’t cause AIDS. He tried to stop people using the retroviral drugs used to treat HIV in favour of herbal cures that didn’t work. As a result, 300,000 people may have lost their lives to the disease.

Thunderfoot concludes that this is the situation this student would like to create: an African science which rejects gravity, asserts shamans can strike people with lightning, and in which hundreds of thousands of people die unnecessarily from AIDS. Here’s the video.

Racism and the Rejection of Conventional Science

Thunderfoot is right in that one current view in the philosophy of science is that science is about forming models of reality, which can make predictions. This is the view I hold. He is also correct in that science’s findings are valid regardless of where they are made and who makes them. And I’d also argue that, rather than science, it is this young Black woman, who is racist. She rejects science on the racist grounds that it was created by White Europeans. This is also the genetic fallacy, the logical mistake that a statement must be wrong because of the nature of the person who makes it. The Nazis, for example, made the same mistake when they rejected Einstein’s Theory of Relativity because Einstein was Jewish. They also believed that science should reflect racial identity, and so sacked Jewish mathematicians and scientists in an attempt to create a racially pure ‘Aryan’ science.

Science and the Paranormal

I don’t believe, however, that science automatically excludes the supernatural. There are very many scientists, who are people of faith. Although it’s very much a fringe science – some would say pseudoscience – there is the discipline of parapsychology, which is the scientific investigation of the paranormal. Organisations like the Society for Psychical Research and ASSAP have existed since the 19th century to carry out such investigations. Their members do include scientists and medical professionals. I don’t think it would be at all unreasonable for parapsychologists to investigate such alleged powers by indigenous shamans, just as they investigate appearances of ghosts, psychic powers and mediumship in the west. And if it could be demonstrably proved that such shamans had the powers they claim, then science would have to accommodate that, whether it could explain it or not.

On the other hand is the argument that science shouldn’t investigate the paranormal or supernatural, not because the paranormal doesn’t exist, but because it is outside the scope of scientific methodology to investigate it as different field altogether. Thus science can ignore the general question of whether tribal shamans are able to conjure up lightning bolts as outside its purview and more properly the subject of metaphysics or theology. In which case, it’s left up to the individual to decide for themselves whether these shamans are able to perform such miracles.

Muti Witchcraft and Murder

Thunderfoot and his fellow YouTuber are also right to point out the harm that bad and fraudulent science can do. And there are very serious issues surrounding the promotion of indigenous African magic. Years ago a South African anthropologist defended African muti at an academic conference here in Britain. Muti is a form of magic in which someone tries to gain success and good luck through acquiring amulets made of human body parts. These include the fingers and the genitals. It’s believed they are particularly powerful if they are cut off the victim while they’re still alive. There’s a whole black market in such body parts and amulets in South Africa, with prices varying according to the desired body party. Way back in 2004-5 the police found the remains of a human torso in the Thames. It had been wrapped in cloth of particular colours, and it was believed that it had belonged to a boy, who’d been killed as part of such a ritual.

Indigenous Beliefs and the Politics of Apartheid

Years ago the small press, sceptical UFO magazine, Magonia, reviewed a book by the South African shaman Credo Mutwa. This was supposed to be full of ancient African spiritual wisdom. In fact it seems to have been a mixture of South African indigenous beliefs and western New Age ideas. The Magonians weren’t impressed. And one of the reasons they weren’t impressed was Mutwa himself and the political use of him and other African shamans by the apartheid government.

Before it fell, apartheid South Africa had a policy of ‘re-tribalisation’. This was the promotion of the separate identities and cultures of the various indigenous peoples over whom the White minority ruled. This included the promotion of traditional religious and spiritual beliefs. These peoples had intermarried and mixed to such an extent, that by the 1950s they had formed a Black working class. And it was to prevent that working class becoming united that the apartheid government promoted their cultural differences in a policy of divide and rule. Mutwa was allegedly part of that policy as a government stooge.

Attacks on Science and Maths for Racism Dangerous

I’ve put up several videos now from Sargon attacking the assertion that western education and in particular mathematics is racist and somehow oppressed Blacks. I’m putting up this video because it does the same for the assertion that western science is also racist.

Not only are science and maths not racist, it is also very definitely not racist to reject some forms of African magic. Killing and mutilating people for good luck is absolutely abhorrent and should be condemned and banned, and those who practise it punished, regardless of its status as an African tradition. At the same time it does need to be realised that the South African government did try to keep Black Africans down and powerless partly through the promotion of indigenous spiritual beliefs. It’s ironic that the young woman shown arguing against science does so in an apparent belief that its rejection will somehow be liberating and empowering for Black Africans. And Thunderfoot has a chuckle to himself about the irony in her arguing against science, while reaching for her ipad, one of its products.

Belief in the supernatural and in the alleged powers of indigenous shamans should be a matter of personal belief. Disbelieving in them doesn’t automatically make someone a racist bigot. But this young woman’s rejection of science is racist and potentially extremely dangerous, because it threatens to deprive Black South Africans like her of science’s undoubted benefits. Just like Mbeki’s rejection of the link between HIV and AIDS led to the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of desperately ill men, women and children.

Conclusion

What is particularly irritating is that this young woman and her fellow students are affluent and, as students, highly educated. If the woman was poor and uneducated, then her views would be understandable. But she isn’t. Instead, she uses the language and rhetoric of postmodernism and contemporary anti-colonialism. It does make you wonder about what is being taught in the world’s universities, arguments about academic freedom notwithstanding.

In the past, there has been racism in science. Eugenics and the hierarchy of races devised by 19th century anthropologists as well as the Nazis’ attempts to create an Aryan science are examples. But attacks on conventional science and mathematics as racist, based on no more than the fact that modern science and maths have their origins in contemporary western culture is also racist and destructive.

Glib attacks on science by people like the young student in the above video not only threaten its integrity, but will also harm the very people, who most stand to benefit. They should be thoroughly rejected.

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

October 20, 2020

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

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

Nicholas Cage … Nathan Gardner,

Joely Richardson… Theresa Gardner,

Madeleine Arthur… Lavinia Gardner

Brendan Meyer… Benny Gardner

Julian Meyer… Jack Gardner

Elliot Knight… Ward

Tommy Chong… Ezra

Josh C. Waller… Sheriff Pierce

Q’orianka Kilcher… Mayor Tooma

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

Previous Lovecraft Adaptations

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

Plot

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

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

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

Other Tales of Alien Visitors Warping and Mutating People and Environment

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

Elements from Other Lovecraft Fiction

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

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

Fairy Tale and Ghost Story Elements

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

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

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

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

Lovecraft and Racism

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

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

Sasha Johnson Thrown off Twitter for Calling for Enslavement of Whites

September 9, 2020

For some reason, all the posts I found about this came from either right-wing or apolitical journalists and bloggers. In my admittedly cursory search for information on it, I didn’t find any criticism from the left. But the left has to criticise this and call it out. It’s pure, genocidal race hatred, and if it doesn’t, it hypocrisy and double standards. It sends a message that you can be bitterly racist, so long as you’re black and anti-White.

It seems at the end of last month, Sasha Johnson, who claims to be one of the leaders of Black Lives Matter Oxford, got banned by Twitter after posting this disgusting Tweet:

It’s a bit blurry, and if you can’t read it, Johnson says

The white man will not be our equal but our slave.

History is changing

No justice no peace

#BLM #Brixton #BLMUK

If you don’t know who Sasha Johnson is, she got quite a lot of attention from Conservative and far right White bloggers and Youtubers a few months ago for a video of her making a speech at a rally in Brixton. She declared that the police were like the Klu Klux Klan, which is obviously and astonishingly wrong. There is problems with racism in the cops, though all the police I know have been very good, conscientious officers who very definitely weren’t. If our cops were like the Klan, then she wouldn’t be around to say that. She’d be hanging from a tree somewhere or otherwise murdered. She’s also videoed calling for the foundation of a ‘Black militia’, surrounded by her own private Black army, who were shown all wearing stab vests and some kind of paramilitary uniform. This is to protect Blacks, probably from the police she hates and reviles. She also dismissed Black and Asian politicos like David Lammy, Sadiq Khan and Priti Patel as ‘tokenistic’, who would do nothing for Britain’s non-White minorities. On the Million Person march, whose name is clearly intended to hark back to Louis Farrakhan’s Million Man march on Washington in the 1990s, she declared that she was founding a Black political party. Whites would be denied positions of leadership. This would have the monicker The Taking The Initiative Party. She declared  “We are tired of being let down by Labour, Conservatives, and Lib-Dem and all of them. We want our own political party, one that reflects the multicultural nation that we have become.”

Guy Birchall on Johnson’s Anti-White Racism

Then she got thrown off Twitter for adding to her profile the noxious Tweet about enslaving Whites. Guy Birchall, a journo for the Scum and Spiked Online, wrote a piece for RT. Black Lives Matter have not condemned her, and he contrasts this apparent acceptance of her vicious racism with the universal condemnation shown to White supremacists and racists, like the EDL, BNP and assorted Nazis, Islamophobes and Fascists. He writes

There is little doubt that had the roles been reversed, and a prominent member of the EDL or Britain First had tweeted that black people would be “slaves,” the Old Bill would have been knocking on their door the second they hit send. Johnson is a black supremacist and is apparently finding it increasingly hard to disguise her disgust for white people and “race traitors” from the black community. The fact that Black Lives Matter UK has not denounced her blatant racism and inflammatory language does the movement no favours. 

He concludes:

The left can try and argue that racism is about systems and power structures all they like, but the rest of us know it is hatred of another race. Johnson plainly hates white people and the mere fact that she is black should not give her a free pass. She can dress up as Che Guevara all she likes, but in reality, she’s nowhere near as glamorous as the Argentine revolutionary; she’s a black, female Nick Griffin with even less charisma.

See: https://www.rt.com/op-ed/499628-sasha-johnson-blm-oxford/

Black Anti-White Racism

Now Johnson’s undoubtedly reflecting the anti-White racism that exists in parts of the Black community. The Nation of Islam is a separatist organisation that wants an independent Black state carved out of five of the southern states of the US. In the 1960s they used to hold joint rallies with the American Nazi party. The deal was that the Blacks could have the Atlantic seaboard, and the Whites the rest of the US. It’s present leader, Louis Farrakhan, believes Whites are albinistic mutants created by an evil Meccan superscientist, Shabazz, to bring down the advanced Black civilisation that existed tens of thousands of years ago. There’s an even more extreme Black Muslim group, Ansaru Allah, who also believe that Whites are literally demonic. They consider White skin colour and features similarly abhorrent, and their leader thinks Whites are Amalekites, the ancient enemies of the Hebrews, who tried to wipe them out when they passed through their territory on the way to the Promised Land. And before all this the Rastafarians also declared that White people were literally devils.

White Enslavement from the Middle Ages to 19th Century

Johnson probably thinks she doing something daringly novel by demand the enslavement of Whites. She isn’t. Starting long before the Atlantic slave trade, Whites were also enslaved by Muslims. In the Middle Ages, Arab merchants bought White Frankish slaves from what is now France and other parts of Europe. They also raided France and Italy as part of their jihad against Christendom. This was followed by the Barbary pirates of the 16th onwards from North Africa. These also raided Britain and as far afield as Iceland for White European slaves. The Turkish Empire also enslaved Whites. Following the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans by the Sultan Bayezit, ‘the Lightning’ in the 15th century, the White Christian population was reduced to peasant serfs bound to the estates of their new Turkish masters. This continued well into the 19th century. Around 1820 or so the Greeks on Chios rebelled. This was put down with great ferocity by the Ottomans. Many were massacred. I’ve read that 23,000 Greeks were also enslaved by the Turks. These atrocities inspired the French artist, Delacroix, to paint his Massacre at Chios.

Delacroix’s Massacre at Chios. Does Johnson approve of its subject, the massacre and enslavement of Whites?

19th century Egypt had two slave markets and two separate guilds for the slavers, one for the dealers in Black slaves and another for those in Whites. British and American ships were also raided for slaves, and the south-west of England was particularly vulnerable. The executioner in one of the north African states was a former butcher from Exeter, and ships from Bristol were also taken. The parish records from the 18th century for the Gloucestershire village of St Briavels show donations given to a man collecting for money to ransom enslaved Christians. Algiers was a notorious centre for this Islamic piracy. There was a very short war in the 1820s when a British gunboat shelled the palace of the Dey of Algiers, liberating many of the White Christians forced into servitude aboard the pirates galleys. The slave raiding finally stopped with the French invasion and conquest, which led to the creation of Algeria.

Dictators also Murder their own People

At the moment Sasha Johnson is a joke, like some of the murderous fantasists of the White far right. Her Black militia was compared to Live Action Role-Players, and reminds me of nothing more than the mighty armies of storm troopers imagined by the leaders of White Nazi groups while they hold their rallies above a pub or in their front rooms. Mighty dictators in their own imaginations. But if she had power, she’d be a menace. It’s clear that she wants to persecute Whites, but like every would-be dictator she’d also kill and murder her own people and supporters. It’s been said that ‘Revolutions, like Saturn, eat their children’. The French revolutionaries murdered other French Revolutionaries in factional disputes. Hitler launched the Night of the Long Knives against the SA. Stalin killed 30 millions Soviet citizens in the purges, the artificial famine in the Ukraine and the collectivisation of agriculture, and the deportations of whole nations to Siberia. In Africa, Idi Amin, the butcher of Uganda, styled himself the conqueror of the British Empire, particularly in Africa, and claimed to be the king of Scotland. He was carried around in a litter by White businessmen. But the people he tortured and massacred most were other Black Ugandans. Robert Mugabe in the 1990s and early part of this century beat, massacred and evicted his country’s White farmers. But he started his infamous career as dictator and mass-murderer by massacring the Ndebele and other tribes, who were the traditional enemies of his Shona people.

The Black Militia – Another Mandela United Terror Organisation?

Sasha Johnson has shown an extremely aggressive, violent side in her relations with Black critics. There’s another video clip of her racially abusing a Black man and challenging him to a fight simply because he disagrees with her. She shows precisely how low she is when she calls him a ‘coon’. I think if she had any real power, she’d start trying to persecute Whites, but she’d also attack her rivals in the Black community. I can imagine her sending round her Black Militia to sort out her Black critics. Just like Winnie Mandela terrorised South African Blacks with her Mandela United football team. This was a disguised private army, responsible for numerous beatings and murder, including that of the much-admired teenage activist, Stompie Mkhetzie. And that army is certainly breaking laws passed against Fascist organisations. In the 1930s the wearing of paramilitary uniforms for political purposes was banned, a piece of legislation targeting Oswald Mosley’s British Union Fascists and other Nazi and Fascist organisations. People didn’t accept the BNP/NF when they openly strutted around in Nazi uniforms, and Johnson’s Black Militia, which she has clearly modelled on the Black Panthers without any understanding of the difference between the UK and US, shouldn’t be acceptable either.

David Olasuga on White Support for BLM

Of course, many Black members and supporters of Black Lives Matter don’t share her anti-White hatred. The Black historian and TV presenter, David Olasuga, wrote a piece in this week’s Radio Times in which he declared how heartened he was by so much White support for the movement, and the interest in Black affairs and Africa by young Whites. He noted particularly how four books on Africa had reached the top of the bestseller lists, partly due to White interest.

Black Critics of BLM and Black Anti-White Racism

And Black Lives Matter has some of its fiercest critics among Black Americans. I found a video by a right-wing Youtuber showing a number of Black Americans making it very clear why they despised it. These were men and women who had White friends and mixed-race relatives. The violence and threats they had personally experienced had come, not from Whites, but other Blacks. One of the voices was the American Conservative vlogger, YoungRippa. He warned his White viewers and listeners that Black Lives Matter wanted Blacks to hate them. I don’t share his Conservatism nor hatred of the welfare state, but unfortunately there are Black radicals who do have a bitter hatred of Whites that have emerged in the wake of the BLM movement. One of these was a hack styling herself ‘FeministaJones’, and who claims to have written for a number of respectable, mainstream magazines including Time. She put up a piece on her blog arguing that Blacks shouldn’t accept White support, because Whites would never endanger their children with the violent revolution America needs.

What! This is arrant, dangerous nonsense! No-one should be talking about putting their children in danger and demanding violent revolution. Not Blacks, not Whites, not anybody. I’ve friends and relatives, who’ve seen their businesses trashed and have fled their homes during riots here in Bristol. For all its faults, America is a democratic country. it has elected Black leaders and legislators, passed affirmative action laws, that have undoubtedly improved conditions for Blacks. Even if Blacks are still faced with poverty and institutional racism, democratic America has shown itself a world leader in this, and is admired and copied here in Britain.

Will the University and Students Treat Johnson like White Nazi Students?

It will be interesting to see how Oxford University and whatever student union, guild or association handles Johnson. I say ‘Oxford University’, but I’ve heard it suggested that she really belongs to Oxford Brookes, the former polytechnic. Either way, it remains to be seen how her uni and student body reacts to this. I remember the controversy back in the 1980s when students at his university or college turned their backs on Patrick Harrington, one of the fixtures of the BNP/NF. They made it clear that they didn’t want him in their university. The NUS passed rules making it a ‘no platform’ for ‘racists and Fascists’. And rather more recently, Hope Not Hate reported that one of the odious members of one of the Nazi organisations was expelled from his university after complaints from students about his racist views.

The same should happen to Johnson. I recognise that the long history of persecution of Blacks in the West has led to some Blacks hating Whites with some justification. But this is unacceptable. It’s racial supremacy with a Black face. And such genocidal racism is always and everywhere an affront to humanity, no matter what complexion it has.

Sasha Johnson is a Nazi. Remember the old slogan against the NF: ‘Black and White, Unite and Fight!’ That needs to apply to her. And if Black Lives Matter and the student organisations stay silent about her, they are hypocrites and tacit racists too.

History Debunked Refutes Ethnomathematics/Rehumanizing Mathematics

September 8, 2020

This is another video from History Debunked. In it, youtuber and author Simon Webb attacks Ethnomatics, sometimes also called Rehumanizing Mathematics. This is a piece of modern pseudo-scholarship designed to help Black children tackle Maths. The idea is that Blacks perform poorly compared at Maths compared to other ethnic groups. This is held to be because Maths is the creation of White men, and this puts Blacks off studying and mastering it.

The solution has been to scrutinise African societies for their indigenous Maths, especially the Dogon of Mali. They have been chosen as the chief model for all this, as they possessed extremely advanced astronomical and mathematical knowledge. In the 1970s there was a book, The Sirius Mystery by Robert K.G. Temple, which claimed that they owed this advance knowledge to contact with space aliens. Apparently this claim was subsequently dropped 10 – 15 years later, and the claim made instead that they were just superlative astronomers and mathematicians themselves. But Dogon Maths is held to be different from White, western Maths because it’s spiritual. History Debunked then goes on to demonstrate the type of pseudo-scientific nonsense this has lead to by providing a link to an Ethnomathematics paper and reading out its conclusion. It’s the kind of pretentious verbiage the late, great Jazzman, Duke Ellington, said stunk up the place. It’s the kind of postmodern twaddle that Sokal and Bricmont exposed in their Intellectual Impostures. It’s deliberately designed to sound impressive without actually meaning anything. There’s a lot of talk about expanding cognitive horizons and possibilities, but History Debunked himself says he doesn’t understand a word of it. And neither, I guess, will most people. Because it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just there to sound impressive and bamboozle the reader into thinking that somehow they’re thick because they don’t, while the fault is entirely the writers.

I think History Debunked is a man of the right, and certainly his commenters are Conservatives, some with extremely right-wing views. He’s produced a series of videos attacking the pseudo-history being pushed as Black History, and apparently Seattle in America is particularly involved in promoting this nonsense. But he expects it to come over here in a few years. Given the way Black History month has jumped the Atlantic, I think he’s right.

There’s been a particular emphasis on find ancient Black maths and science for some time I know. For a brief while I got on well with a Black studies group when I was a volunteer at the slavery archives in the former Empire and Commonwealth Museum. That was before I read their magazine and got so annoyed with it and its attitude to Whites that I sent them a whole load of material arguing to the contrary, and pointing out that in places like the Sudan, Blacks were being enslaved and oppressed not by White Europeans, but by the Arabs. I also sent them material about the poor Whites of South Africa, who also lived in grinding poverty thanks to Apartheid. This was stuff they really didn’t want to hear, and I was told that if I wanted to talk to them further, I should do so through someone else. They were also interested in finding examples of Black maths and science. I sent them photocopies and notes I’d made of various medieval Muslim mathematicians. These were Arabs and Persians, like al-Khwarizmi, who gave his name to the word algorithm, Omar Khayyam, best known in the west for his Rubayyat, but who was also a brilliant mathematician, al-Haytham, who invented the camera obscura in the 12th century and others, rather than Black. But they were grateful for what I sent them nonetheless, and I thanked me. This was before I blotted my copybook with them.

I’m reposting this piece because, although it comes from the political, it is correct. And you don’t have to be right-wing to recognise and attack this kind of postmodern rubbish. Sokal and Bricmont, the authors of the book I mentioned early attacking postmodernism, were both men of the left. Sokal was a physicist, who taught maths in Nicaragua under the left-wing Sandinista government. They wrote the book because they took seriously George Orwell’s dictum that writing about politics means writing clearly in language everyone can understand. And even if you believe that Black people do need particular help with maths because of issues of race and ethnicity, Ethnomathematics as it stands really doesn’t appear to be it. It just seems to be filling children’s heads with voguish nonsense, rather than real knowledge.

I also remember the wild claims made about the Dogon and their supposed contact with space aliens. Part of it came from the Dogon possessing astronomical knowledge well beyond their level of technology. They knew, for example, that Sirius has a companion star, invisible to the naked eye, Sirius B. They also knew that our solar system had nine planets, although that’s now been subsequently altered. According to the International Astronomical Association or Union or whatever, the solar system has eight planets. Pluto, previously a planet, has been downgraded to dwarf planet, because it’s the same size as some of the planetoids in the Kuiper Belt. Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince discuss this in one their books,The Stargate Conspiracy (London: Little, Brown & Company 1999), which claimed that the American intelligence agencies were secretly preparing a fake UFO landing in order to convince everyone that the space gods really had arrived, and set up a one-world dictatorship. This hasn’t happened, and I’ve seen the Fortean Times and other weird magazines trying to explain their book as a high-level hoax which people took too seriously. I don’t believe this, as they seemed very serious at the time. The Dogon believe that the first human ancestors, and some of their gods, came from the sky. Hence Temple’s claim that they were contacted by space aliens. Picknett and Prince, however, sided with sceptics like Carl Sagan. They argued instead ithat the Dogon owed it to a French priest, anthropologist or colonial administrator, I’ve forgotten which, who visited them in the 1920s and who was extremely interested in astronomy. This seems to me to be far more likely than that they either got it from space aliens or that they far better mathematicians and astronomers than they could have been at their level of development.

The Dogon are fascinating as their homes and villages are laid out to be microcosms of the male and female human body and the universe. The book African Mythology by Geoffrey Parrinder, London: Hamlyn 1967, describes the layout of a Dogon house thus:

The shape of the Dogon house is symbolical. The floor is like the earth and the flat roof like heaven. The vestibule is a man and the central room woman, with store rooms at her sides as arms. The hear at the end is her head. The four posts are the man and woman entwined in union. So the family house represents the unity of man and woman and God and the Earth. This is accompanied by the elevation and ground plan of a typical Dogon house. (p. 49).

There’s also this diagram of an idealised Dogon village:

The caption for the diagrame reads:

Like the house, the Dogon village represents human beings. The smithy is at the head like a hearth in a house. The family houses in the centre and millstones and village represent the sexes. Other altars are the feet. (p. 51).

Truly, a fascinating people and I have no problem anybody wanting to study them. But it should be in anthropology, ethnography or comparative religion, not maths.

But it struck me that if teachers and educators want to enthuse and inspire young minds with what maths Africans were studying, they could start with ancient Egypt and the great Muslim civilisations of the Sahara and north Africa, like Mali. Aminatta Forna in one of her programmes on these civilisations was shown an ancient astronomical text from the medieval library of one of these towns, which she was told showed that Muslims knew the Earth orbited the sun before Copernicus and Galileo. I doubt that very much. It looks like a form of a combined helio-and geocentric system, first proposed by the ancient Greeks, and then taken up by some medieval astronomers not just in Islam, but also in Christian Europe. In this system, all the other planets when round the Sun, which orbited the Earth. Close to the modern system, but not quite. But it showed that the Black citizens of that civilisation were in contact with the great currents of Muslim science, and that they would have had learnt and taught the same kind of Maths that was being investigated and researcher right across the Muslim world, from India to Morocco and further south to Mali. One of the Black educationalists would like to translate one of these books from Arabic, the learned language of Muslim civilisation, and use it as an example of the kind of maths that was also taught in Black Africa.

Or you could go right back to ancient Egypt. Mathematical texts from the Land of the Nile have also survived in the Moscow and Rhind mathematical papyri. These have various maths problems and their solution. For example, problem No. 7 of the Moscow papyrus is about various calculations for a triangle. This runs

Example of calculating a triangle.

If you are told: A triangle of 2 thousands-of-land, the bank of 2 of 2 1/2;

You are to double the area: result 40 (arurae). Take (it) 2 1/2 times; result [100. Take its square root, namely] 10. Evoke 1 from 2 1/2; what results is 2/5. Apply this to 10; result 4. It is 10 (khet) in length by 4 (khet) in breadth. From Henrietta Midonick, The Treasury of Mathematics: 1 (Harmondsworth: Pelican 1965) p. 71.

It’s amazing to think that the boys at the scribal school were being taught all this millennia ago. It gives you a real sense of connection with the ancient schoolkids reading it. You can imagine them, hunched over with their pen and ink, busily cudgeling their brains while the teacher prowls about them. The Babylonians were also renowned as the pioneers of early mathematics. They even uncovered a school when they excavated Ur of the Chaldees in the 1920s, complete with the maths and other texts the schoolboys – female education didn’t exist back then, but I’m willing to be corrected – were required to learn. As a schoolboy character in the Fast Show used to say: ‘Brilliant!’ You don’t need to burden modern African societies like the Dogon with spurious pseudo-history and pseudo-science, when the real historic achievements of ancient Egypt and medieval Africa are so impressive.

It struck me that even if you don’t use the original Egyptian maths texts to teach maths – which would be difficult, as their maths was slightly different. Their method of calculating the area of a field of four unequal sides yields far too high a figure, for example – you could nevertheless inspire children with similar problems. Perhaps you could do it with assistance of a child or two from the class. You could bring them out in front of everyone, give them and ancient Egyptian headdress, and then arranged the lesson so that they helped the teacher, acting as pharaoh, to solve it. Or else pharaoh showed them, his scribes, and thus the class. This is certainly the kind of thing that was done when I was a kid by the awesome Johnny Ball on the children’s maths and science programme, Think of a Number. And every week, as well as showing you a bit of maths and science, he also showed you a trick, which you could find out how to do by dropping him a line. It was the kind of children’s programme that the Beeb did very, very well. It’s a real pity that there no longer is an audience for children’s programmes and their funding has subsequently been cut.

Here’s History Debunked’s video attacking Ethnomathematics. He also attacks a piece of ancient baboon bone carved with notches, which he states has been claimed is an ancient prehistoric African calendar. He provides no evidence in this video to show that it wasn’t, and says its the subject of a later video. If this is the one I’m thinking of, then that is a claim that has been accepted by mainstream archaeologists and historians. See Ivor Grattan-Guinness, The Fontana History of the Mathematical Sciences (London: Fontana Press 1998) p. 24.

If you want to know more about ancient and medieval maths, and that of the world’s many indigenous cultures, see the book Astronomy before the Telescope, edited by Christopher Walker with an introduction by the man of the crumpled suit and monocle himself, Patrick Moore (London: British Museum Press 1998).

This has chapters on astronomy in Europe from prehistory to the Renaissance, but also on astronomy in ancient Egypt, Babylonia, India, Islam, China, Korea and Japan, North and South America, traditional astronomical knowledge in Africa and among Aboriginal Australians, Polynesia and the Maori. It can be a difficult read, as it explores some very technical aspects, but it is a brilliant work by experts in their respective fields.

FT Review from 2000 of Three History Books on the British Empire

July 19, 2020

Another clipping I’ve kept is a review by the Financial Time’s David Gilmour, ‘World in the Pink’, of three history books on the British Empire. The books reviewed were The Oxford History of the British Empire: The Nineteenth Century, edited by Andrew Porter, The Oxford History of the British Empire: The Twentieth Century, edited by Judith M. Brown and Wm Roger Louis; and the Oxford History of the British Empire: Historiography, edited by Robin W. Winks. The review was in the FT’s weekend edition for February 19/20 2000. I’m putting it up here as some readers might find it useful, as after the Black Lives Matter protests the history of the British empire is going to come under debate once again. The review runs

Once upon a time the British Empire was an easy subject to teach. Pupils stood in front of the schoolroom map, identified two red dots in the middle, and were encouraged to gaze with wonder at the vast expanse of similarly coloured spaces stretching from Canada at the top left to New Zealand at the bottom right. If suitably awestruck, they could then learn about these places (and how they came to be red) in the novels of Henty and Rider Haggard and in the poems of Tennyson, Kipling and Newbold.

Stout histories were also available for serious pupils to study the process of conquest and dominion, the spread of civilisation and prosperity, and, in some cases, the splendid bestowal of certain freedoms. From them students would learn that “the British Empire existed for the welfare of the world”, a belief held by many but expressed in these particularly terms by Gandhi. Guided by Providence and Queen Victoria, Britain had assumed a grandmaternal role, the mother of Dominion daughters, the “mother of parliaments” and, even more stirringly, “mother of the Free”.

The uniformity of the vision – red is red whether in Canada or Ceylon – may have been useful for the schoolteacher and the recruiting officer. But the men sent out to administer different systems all over the globe understood its limitations. The appearance of theses impressive books, the last in the five volume Oxford History of the British Empire, demonstrates that historians, after a long time-lag in the first half of the 20th century, have caught up with them.

The previous attempt at a comprehensive survey, the Cambridge History of the British Empire (published in nine volumes between 1929 and 1959), retained the anglocentric approach of earlier works, as well as their assumptions of a noble imperial purpose. Without entirely demolishing those assumptions (indeed the editor-in-chief, Roger Louis, specifically endorses some of them), the Oxford History offers more cautious and rataher more sophisticated assessments of the imperial experience. As Louis points out, these volumes do not depict it as “one of purposeful progress” nor concentrate narrowly on “metropolitan authority and rule”; nor do they see its demise as “steady decline and fall”. Their emphasis is on diversity, on a “constantly changing territorial empire and ever-shifting patterns of social and economic relations”.

The chief inspiration behind this approach is the work of the late historian Jack Gallagher and Ronald Robinson, who compared the empire to an iceberg, the visible section being the red-painted colonies and the submerged bulk representing the “imperialism of free trade”, a vast “informal empire” based on naval supremacy and economic power which extended into places such as China, Latin America and the Middle East.

Many of the contributors to the Oxford volumes apply this view to their own areas. In south-east Asia, stresses A.J. Stockwell, the demarcation between Britain’s formal empire and its neighbours was indistinct: “‘British pink’ seeped over the whole region: nearly indelible in some areas, it merely tinged other parts and elsewhere faded fast.”

The scope of these books is so large that there were bound to be gaps: Malta and Gibraltar are barely mentioned, sport and the “games ethic” are ignored, and almost nothing is said about training administrators to do their job. Yet the overall achievement is undeniably impressive. Under the magisterial guidance of Louis (a distinguished American academic whose appointment as editor raised predictable insular howls in the UK), a vast array of of historians has produced a solid monument of contemporary scholarship. Some of the contributions, such as those by E.H.H. Green on political economy and David Fitzpatrick on Ireland’s ambivalence towards the empire are brilliants – subjects that would justify individual volumes distilled into concise and lucid essays.

Naturally there can be neither a common view nor a uniformity of tone among the hundred contributors to these volumes. The assembled historians are certainly not apologists for imperialism but nor, in general, are they too apologetic about it. Several remind us of its humanitarian dimension, and Louis may have confounded his fogeyish detractors with his view that Kipling was “perhaps the greatest poet of the age”. In addition, while appropriate genuflections are made to all those contemporary “studies” (area, gender, cultural and so on), the faddish preoccupation with “discourse” (in its postmodernist and post-colonial contexts) is restricted.

Yet the work has some of the defects as well as most of the merits of current historical writing: too much drab prose, too heavy a reliance on tables and statistics, a sense (especially in Historiography) of colleagues complimenting each other while disparaging their predecessors. Few contributions show real historical imagination: several leave an aroma of seminars and obscure historical quarterlies.

The great historian Richard Cobb used to say that a good deal of French history could be walked, seen and above all heard in cafes or buses or on park benches in Paris and Lyon. But most of the academics in these volumes do not seem to share his view that history is a cultural and creative subject as well as an academic one. However diligent their research may have been, they do not write as if they have ever sat in a Delhi rickshaw or a cafe in Calcutta. Robin J. Moore directs readers to all his own books, but neither he nor any of his colleagues cite a work published in an Indian language.

Yet if these volumes have little feel for the imperial setting and its personal impact, they manage to convey the sheer scope of the enterprise, the scale of the endeavour, the means by which those little dots reddened a quarter of the map. More importantly, they demonstrate the need to study the empire’s history, not in order to glorify or denigrate, but in order to understand the centuries of interaction between the dots and their formal and informal empires.

Perhaps this history, the first to be written since the territorial dismantlement, will mark a new stage not just of reassessment but of acceptance of the empire’s importance, for good and for bad, in the history of our planet. The topic is unfashionable in Britain today – Bristol’s excellent British Empire and Commonwealth Museum has not received a penny of public money – but it might now, thanks to Louis and his collaborators, emerge as something more than a sterile debate between those who regard it as a cause for sniggering and those who see it as a reason to swagger.

Bristol’s Empire and Commonwealth Museum is no more, unfortunately. It packed up and left Bristol for new premises at the Commonwealth Institute in London, where it died the death. I believe its former collection is now housed in the Bristol’s M Shed museum. The Empire is going to be acutely relevant now with the debate over racism, social justice and what history should be taught in schools. There are parts of British imperial history that are indefensible – the conquest of the Caribbean, slavery, the extermination of indigenous Australians, the concentration camps of the Boer War, the Bengal Famine and the massacres in Kenya. Niall Ferguson in a discussion about the British empire on a programme on Radio 4 a few years ago admitted its dark side, but said that it was a benevolent institution, although he qualified this. I think he said something to the effect of ‘just about’. For a short history of the negative side of the British empire – its domination, exploitation and massacre, see John Newsinger’s The Blood Never Dried. But it was also responsible for bring modern, western science, education and medicine to distant parts of the globe.

And it did try to stamp out slavery worldwide, not only where it had established and exploited it, but also indigenous slavery and forms of servitude around the world. That shouldn’t be forgotten either.

Grimes and Starkey Get Racist Discussing Slavery and British Imperialism

July 3, 2020

Yesterday the ever-reliable Zelo Street put up a very revealing piece about one of the videos Darren Grimes had put up on the Reasoned YouTube channel. Reasoned is yet another Conservative astroturf organisation set up by the group Media and Activism, the same people who brought you Turning Point UK. That’s the Turning Point UK which is the British subsidiary of the American conservative youth movement, Turning Point. It was officially opened by Dave Rubin and Candace Owens, who immediately showed her lack of historical knowledge by denying that Hitler was a nationalist, even though he said he was and it’s in the Nazis’ name. Worse, she said that she thought that Hitler’s actions would have been all right, if only he had stuck to Germany. Which obviously suggests she thinks the dismantlement of democracy, the imprisonment of political prisoners, and the mass murder of Jews, Gypsies and the disabled would have been a-OK if it had been confined to Germany. I really don’t believe she meant to say that, but it illustrates how some people, especially on the right, really need to engage their brains and do some reading before their open their mouths.

Grimes should have avoided such massive historical illiteracy with his guest in the video Zelo Street discussed. This was Dr David Starkey, the expert on Queen Elizabeth I and the Tudors, who has himself presented and appeared on many history programmes. Grimes, who really looks like he should be in school studying for his ‘O’ levels rather than pumping out extreme right-wing propaganda for the Tories, had Starkey on to discuss British history. The video’s title was about BLM delegitimating (sic) British history. By which Reasoned presumably meant British imperial history. And the discussion became a car crash.

The pair debated the question of whether slavery was a genocide. This is a claim made by many Black activists, and it ultimately comes from the great American civil rights leader W.E.B. DuBois. DuBois had argued that it was, drawing on the descriptions of the devastation to African communities by the depredations of the slavers. Starkey denied that it was, on the grounds that the Black population had not only survived, but expanded. This is also true, and has been used by many historians and academics as an illustration of how human populations can recover quickly after they’ve been massively reduced.

You could also argue that slavery wasn’t a genocide on the grounds that, like Stalin’s purges and the deportations of whole ethnic groups in the Soviet Union, the point wasn’t to exterminate but to enslave and exploit. Back when I was doing my Ph.D. at Bristol uni, I went to a seminar in the History department given by a lad on what officially counts as a genocide. There are a number of conflicting definitions. Atrocities that count as genocide under one are excluded under another. The only mass murder which fits all the definitions is the Holocaust. The speaker’s attitude was that historians and human rights campaigners should step back from trying to make precise definitions because they actually do more to obscure rather than illuminate. Instead there should be a commonsense approach, where people knew it when they saw it without worrying too much about quibbling details.

If this attitude is taken, then yes, slavery does count as genocide because of the destruction and death inflicted on African communities through slave raiding, and the very high death rate among the enslaved as they were taken across the Atlantic – 25 per cent of slaves died during the journey – and then put to work. Time Team a while ago conducted an excavation of a plantation, including the slave village, on one of the Caribbean islands. In the programme, Tony Robinson announced that the average life expectancy on the plantations was three years. This was regardless whether someone was one of the slaves or not. Life expectancy presumably improved, as it became the custom for the slaveowners to ‘season’ their slaves, letting them rest and recuperate for a year before setting them to work. But there was a debate over how hard slaves should be worked. Some planters recommending working them literally to death to get as much out of them as possible, and then simply buying more replacements. And the birthrate among slaves is always low. This has been true throughout history, from the Romans to the Caribbean and Americas. It’s why the British government started to try to ameliorate slave conditions of slaves owned by the crown in 1816, twenty years before slavery was officially abolished.

But it wasn’t so much Starkey’s denial that slavery was a genocide that was the problem, but the way he denied it. Starkey declared “Slavery was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain, would there? An awful lot of them survived”. The emphasis was Zelo Street’s, who said that here Starkey sounded like an apologist for apartheid South Africa c. 1980 but without the accent. He also said that “The honest teaching of the British Empire is to say quite simply that it is the first key stage of world globalisation. It’s probably the most important moment in human history, and it’s still with us,” adding, “Its consequences are still on … and in most ways, actually fruitful”. The Street comments “Not sure what the reaction to that would be in many of those countries that were given the benefit of this less than benign phenomenon, along with the brutal militarisation, enforced famines, and free trade that was only free if it suited the colonial power.” This is also true. The campaign for the independence of the Caribbean countries began in the 1930s with nationalists upset at the way their trade was hampered through its ties to Britain. They wished to develop their economies and sell goods to other nations, like America. And there were artificial famines across the empire produced and exacerbated by a rigid adherence to free trade. Starving populations were refused free or artificially subsidized, cheap grain because this would violate the principles of free trade. See the book Late Victorian Holocausts. And present-day globalisation is still creating misery for the world’s working people from the developing world to the west.

Starkey’s overall conclusion is wrong, but it has to be admitted that the British Empire also did some good. The expansion into Africa in the late 19th century was partly motivated from a desire to crush slavery and the slave trade, although this also led to establishment of systems of forced labour inflicted on the indigenous peoples on behalf of the European colonists. But what was offensive was obviously not so much what he said, but how he said it: ‘so many damn Blacks in Africa or in Britain’.

It’s at this point that you also wonder what Grimes and the video’s director and producers thought they were doing. If the video was being recorded rather than broadcast live, they should have stepped in and told Starkey that he couldn’t say that, then gone back and reshot the piece. But they didn’t. Nor did Grimes look uncomfortable as Starkey said it. Others would have pulled a face or shown some disapproval, but apparently Grimes cheerfully nods along. This resulted in one of the peeps on Twitter putting up a clip of him nodding in agreement to one of Adolf’s rants.

Zelo Street concludes that this should effectively terminate Grime’s and Starkey’s careers. He states

‘From here there should be no way back for either Starkey or Grimes, although Brendan O’Neill will no doubt be along soon to excuse the whole affair, blaming any criticism on “leftists”, “wokeism”, or some other excuse that allows him to pretend to understand George Orwell. Darren Grimes is fronting a racist endeavour.

Will broadcasters now think better of inviting Dazza on? Don’t hold your breath.’

It should, but it won’t. Not unless far more people see and comment on it so that any appearance by either of them is immediately greeted with strong objections and complaints. As it stands, however, I think Starkey is far too established as a TV personality and popular historian to suffer much from this, while it seems that no matter how noxious Grimes and the rest of the Paul Staines massive can be, they still seem to be feted as legitimate journalists.

Once upon a time Starkey bridled if someone accused him of racism. Now on this video, he seems to have shown that he is. And Grimes and his backers are too. And worse, they’re unashamed. If this isn’t checked, the racism will only get more overt and worse.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/07/darren-grimes-fronts-racist-endeavour.html

Tony Greenstein’s Review of Exhibition and Talks by Pro-Palestinian Arab/Israeli Artist Gil Mualem-Doron

July 1, 2020

Yesterday Tony Greenstein put up a piece about an art exhibition on the plight of the Palestinians by an Arab/Israeli artist, Dr. Gil Mualem-Doron. Titled ‘Cry the Beloved Country’ after a 1953 article in the Israeli paper Maariv by its editor, Ezriel Karlebach. This compared the new legislation then passed against the Palestinians to the infamous Nuremberg laws the Nazis passed against the Jews. The article took its title in turn from the 1948 book by the South African artist Alan Paton on the rise of that country’s apartheid regime. The exhibition also features a conversation between the Palestinian historian Dr Salman Abu Sitta, Mualem-Doron, Eitan Bronstein Aparicio, the founder of the NGO Zochrot, somebody called Decolonizer and the exhibition’s curator, Ghazaleh Zogheib. It includes photographs of some of the ‘present refugees’ – Palestinians, who fled or were forced off their land during the Nakba of 1948, and who are officially regarded as foreigners in their own country among other photographic and artistic installations. There is also a screening of the film To Gaza and Back Home, by Aparicio and Decolonizer about the Arab village of Ma’in and its destruction. It was due to open on the 2nd April, but this was impossible due to the lockdown. It’s now showing online until sometime in September, probably the 27th, when it will open at the P21 Gallery in London.

Tony’s article quotes the exhibition, which says that

“Cry, the beloved country” is a nightmarish series of room installations and photography works dealing with the links between Great Britain, Israel and Palestine and depicting the catastrophic results of this unholy conundrum.  Built as a journey into “the heart of darkness” the exhibition is intended to negate many Israelis and Zionists supporters’ view of Israel as a “villa in the jungle”.

The photographs include several of an actor dressed in KKK robes, a Jewish prayer shawl and waving an Israeli flag, saluting Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square. It was taken in 2017 during the centennial celebrations of the promulgation of the Balfour Doctrine, in which Britain backed the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. This was very much against the wishes of the British Jewish community, who did not want their Britishness questioned through the foundation of a state for which they had no loyalty and no desire to live in.

This is obviously an extremely provocative piece. I have no doubt that the very people and organizations, who scream ‘anti-Semitism’ at any criticism of Israel, no matter how reasonable and justified, would go berserk about this. It comes very close to one of the IHRA’s examples of anti-Semitism: the comparison of Jews to Nazis. But it is a reasonable comment on the Israeli state and its present government, composed of Likud and various parties from the Israeli religious right. Groups of settlers do launch attacks on Palestinian villages, like the Klan lynched Blacks in America. Those campaign for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians similarly claim a religious basis for their crimes, just like the Klan claimed to be defending White, Protestant Christians from Jews, Blacks, Roman Catholics and Communists. And Tony himself has shown all too often how the present Israeli government and British Zionist activists have very strong links to the real far right groups. Jonathan Hoffman, who has frequently protested and demonstrated against pro-Palestinian exhibitions and meetings over here, shouting anti-Semitism, has done so in the company of Paul Besser, the former intelligence officer of Britain First, and members of the EDL. The event’s supported by Arts Council England and the Hub Collective. I think they should be commended for supporting such an important exhibition, despite the abuse and demands for cancellation the organizers of similar events receive.

The Israelis were due to begin their annexation of 1/3 of the West Bank today, in blatant contravention of international law. The Likud regime is zealously pursuing its persecution and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians with the active support of right-wing American Christian groups like Ted Hagee’s Christians United for Israel. It does so against the wishes and passionate efforts of very many Jews and Jewish organisations in America, Britain and Israel itself. The latter includes the veterans’ group, Breaking the Silence, which works to reveal the atrocities in which its members have personally participated, and the Zionist humanitarian group, B’Tsalem. The supporters of this ethnic cleansing, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Chief Rabbinate, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the various ‘Friends of Israel’ groups in the political parties, are doing their best to present Israel as synonymous with Judaism. This is in breach of the IHRA’s own guidelines, which state that it is anti-Semitic to claim that Jews are more loyal to another country, or hold them responsible as a whole for Israel’s actions. As these atrocities continue, more young Jewish people are becoming critical of Israel and the Zionist organisations themselves were frightened by the British public’s disgust at the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. Hence the foundation of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the revival of Paole Zion, now renamed the Jewish Labour Movement, in the Labour Party. It was all to promote public support for Israel and quash reasoned, justified criticism.

It is why exhibitions like this continue to remain important and necessary, whatever the witch-hunters do to shout them down and silence them.

For more information on the exhibition and the individual pieces, go to:

https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/06/visit-cry-beloved-country-palestinian.html

Book on Slavery Around the World Up To the Present

June 23, 2020

Jeremy Black, Slavery: A New Global History (London: Constable & Robinson 2011).

One of the aspects of the contemporary debate over slavery is that, with some exceptions, it is very largely centred on western, transatlantic slavery. This is largely because the issue of slavery has been a part of the controversy over the status of Blacks in western society and the campaigns for improving their conditions and combating anti-Black racism since the abolitionist movement arose in the 18th and 19th centuries. But it ignores the crucial fact that slavery is a global phenomenon which was certainly not confined to the transatlantic slavery of the European empires. One of the arguments marshaled by the slaveowners was that slavery had existed since antiquity. Both the Romans and the ancient Greeks had possessed slaves, as had ancient Egypt. It still existed in Black Africa, the Turkish empire, the Arab states and India. Hence slavery, the slaveowners argued, was a necessary part of human civilisation, and was impossible to abolish. It was ‘philanthropic’ and ‘visionary’ to demand it.

This was partly the reason why, after the British had abolished slavery in their own empire, they moved to attack it around the world. This meant not only freeing the slaves in the West Indies and their South American colonies, but also at Cape Colony in South Africa, Sri Lanka, India, Hong Kong and further east in the new territories of Malaya, Fiji and the Pacific Islands, and Australia.  Most histories of slavery focus on transatlantic slavery. However, Jeremy Black’s book discusses it as existed around the world.

The book’s blurb concentrates on European slavery in the Americas. It runs

The story of slavery – from the ancient world to the present day

In this panoramic history, leading historian Jeremy Black explores slavery from its origins – the uprising of Spartacus and the founding of the plantations in the Indies – to its contemporary manifestations as human trafficking and bonded labour.

Black reveals how slavery served to consolidate empires and shape New World societies such as America and Brazil, and the way in which slave trading across the Atlantic changed the Western world. He assesses the controversial truth behind the complicity of Africans within the trade, which continued until the long, hard fight for abolition in the nineteenth century. Black gives voice to both the campaigners who fought for an end to slavery, and the slaves who spoke of their misery.

In this comprehensive and thoughtful account of the history of slavery, the role of slavery in the modern world is examined and Black shows that it is still widespread today in many countries.

But Black begins his introduction with the case of Hadijatou Mani, a Niger woman, who was sold into slavery at the age of 12 and subsequently beaten, raped and prosecuted for bigamy because she dared to marry a man other than her master. She successfully brought her case before the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States, which ruled in her favour and fined her country. She stated that she had brought the case in order to protect her children. Slavery is officially outlawed in Niger, but the local customary courts support the custom by which the children of slaves become the property of their masters.

Black then describes how slavery was truly a global phenomenon, and the treatment of slaves at Cape Coast in Ghana resembles the treatment of Christian slaves taken by the Barbary pirates. And its history extends from the ancient world to the Nazi genocide of the Jews. He writes

The mournful, underground dungeons at Cape Coast Castle and other bases on the low, watery coastline of West Africa where African slaves were held from the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries prior to shipment to the New World are potent memory of the vile cruelty of slavery, and notably of the approximately 12.5 million Africans forced into this trade and transported on about 35,000 transatlantic voyages, yet these dungeons are not alone and should not crowd out other landscapes where slavery was carried on and the slave trade conducted. Nicholas de Nicolay’s mid-sixteenth-century account of slave dealers parading their captives naked to show that they had no physical defects, and so that they could be examined as if they were horses, with particular reference to their teeth and feet, could have referred to the world of Atlantic slavery, but actually was written about Tripoli in modern Libya, where large numbers of Christians captured from Malta and Sicily by the Barbary pirates of North Africa were sold.

Indeed, the landscapes of slavery span the world, and range from the Central Asian city of Khiva, where the bustle of the slave market can still be visualized in the narrow streets, to Venice, a major entrepot for the slave trade of medieval Europe albeit not one noted by modern tourists. The range is also from Malacca in modern Malaysia, an important centre for the slave trade around the Indian Ocean, especially under the Muslim sultans but also, from 1511, under, first their Portuguese and, then, their Dutch successors, to the few remains of the murderous system of labout that was part of the Nazis’ genocidal treatment of the Jews. The variety of slavery in the past and across history stretched from the galleys of imperial Rome to slave craftsmen in Central Asian cities, such as Bukhara, and from the mines of the New World to those working in spice plantations in east Africa. Public and private, governmental and free enterprise, slavery was a means of labour and form of control. (p.2).

The book has the following chapters

  1. Pre-1500
  2. The Age of Conquest, 1500-1600
  3. The Spread of Capitalist Slavery, 1600-1700
  4. Slavery before Abolitionism, 1700-1780
  5. Revolution, Abolitionism and the Contrasting Fortunes of the Slave Trade and Slavery, 1780-1850
  6. The End of Slavery, 1830-1930?
  7. A Troubled Present, 1930-2011
  8. Legacies and Conclusions.

I feel very strongly that the global dimension of slavery and the slave trade needs to be taught, and people should be aware that it isn’t simply something that White Europeans forced on to Black Africans and other indigenous peoples. British imperialism was wrong, but the British did act to end slavery, at least officially, both within our empire and across the world. And odiously slavery is returning. After Blair’s, Sarkozy’s and Obama’s bombing of Libya, the Islamist regime in part of the country has allowed slave markets selling Black Africans to be reopened. Sargon of Gasbag, the man who broke UKIP, posted a video on YouTube discussing the appearance of yet more slave markets in Uganda. He pointedly asked why none of the ‘SJWs’ protesting against the racism and the historical injustice of slavery weren’t protesting about that. Benjamin is a member of the extreme right, though I would not like to accuse him personally of racism and the question is a good one. As far as I know, there are no marches of anti-racist activists loudly demanding an end to racism in countries like Uganda, Niger, Libya and elsewhere. Back in the ’90s the persistence and growth of slavery was a real, pressing issue and described in books like Disposable People. But that was over twenty years ago and times have moved on.

But without an awareness of global history of slavery and existence today, there is a danger that the current preoccupation with western transatlantic slavery will just create a simplistic ‘White man bad’ view. That White Europeans are uniquely evil, while other cultures are somehow more virtuous and noble in another version of the myth of the ‘noble savage’.

And it may make genuine anti-racists blind to its existence today, an existence strengthened and no doubt increasing through neoliberalism and the miseries inflicted by globalisation.