Archive for the ‘South America’ Category

A Democratic Marxist Condemnation of the Soviet Regime

January 18, 2023

A few days ago I put up a post about the 18th century communist Morelly. He had some interesting ideas, although I made it clear that I am not a supporter of communism because of the tyranny, poor economic performance and poverty of the Soviet regime. One of the great commenters here remarked that describing the USSR as a tyranny probably wouldn’t go down very well with the Socialist Workers Party, now renamed the Socialist Party. I’m not sure, as the Socialist Workers were, in their day, a Trotskyite party, and therefore opposed to the communism of the USSR over the issue of Stalin’s dictatorship. The impression I had was that the Trotskyite parties wanted a communist society, but one where the workers themselves would hold power through soviets, rather than controlled by the communist bureaucracy.

As well as the Trotskyites, there were democratic Marxists in the west, who believed that socialism should be achieved democratically and rejected violent revolution and the dictatorship of the USSR. Karl Kautsky, an Austrian Marxist and one of the leaders of European Marxism, took this position. Another was the French Marxist, Lucien Laurat, who made the following scathing condemnation of the Soviet tyranny in Russia in his Marxism and Democracy, published by the Left Book Club in 1940.

‘In the fascist countries we can still observe the existence of capitalist characteristics, where as in Russia these characteristics have been radically destroyed as a result of the absolute seizure by the State of all the means of production and distribution. Although the Russian economic system has often been called “State capitalism”, and although the term “State slavery” employed by Karl Kautsky seems to us a more appropriate designation in our opinion, the present Russian regime is not slavery, or serfdom, or capitalism, but something of all three. It is related to slavery and serfdom by the absolute and total suppression of all freedom for the workers, who are tied by domestic passports to their places of residence, and often to their places of employment, like the feudal serf to the glebe. It is related to capitalism by the preservation of a great number of economic categories and legal forms. However, it is fundamentally different from any of these systems.

With more reason, and, of course, with all those reservations proper to such historical comparisons, we may rather compare the present Russian regime with the social and economic regime of the Incas, who dictatorially governed Peru before the discovery of America: an authoritatively controlled economic system strongly marked by numerous communist traits, but with a division of society into classes. No one can say how and toward what this curious social system might have developed had not a brutal and rapacious conqueror brought it to a sudden and premature end. It is quite certain, however, that on an infinitely larger scale, with an incomparably higher mass culture, and provided with all the achievements of twentieth-century science, our modern Incaism over what is called “one-sixth of the globe” reproduces from the social and and political point of view the most characteristic traits of Peruvian Incaism of four hundred years ago.

Just as the Russian State disposes absolutely over the material elements of the economic process, so it disposes dictatorially over the human element also. The workers are no longer free to sell their labour-power where they like and how they please. They no longer enjoy freedom of movement in the territory of the U.S.S.R. (domestic passports) The right to strike has been suppressed, and if the workers expressed even the slightest desire to oppose the methods of Stakhanovism, it would expose them to the severest punishments.

The Russian unions, strictly under the orders of the governing party, are merely organs charged with the execution in their own province of the political instructions of the Government. The instruments destined to defend the working class against the directive organism of the economic system have become instruments in the service of these organisms. The working class thus finds itself subjected to the discretionary power of a bureau-technocracy identical with the State apparatus.’ (Pp. 200-2).

There, and if you only listen to the Libertarians, you would think that only von Hayek believed that communism was slavery, although in his case he all meant all forms of socialism. Not that I think he had any hatred of right-wing dictatorship. He served in Dollfuss’ Austro-Fascist regime, which ended with the Nazi invasion and supported the various fascist dictatorships in South America. This, too me, shows how far Libertarians really believe in freedom.

Graham Hancock – A Crank, Possibly, But Definitely No Racist

December 9, 2022

My discipline, archaeology, has been massively going after Graham Hancock this week. Hancock’s ah, um,, ‘maverick thinker’, I suppose you’d say, who’s been presenting a series on Netflix arguing that thousands of years ago there was a highly advanced civilisation that perished in a cataclysm, but passed on its secrets to other ancient civilisations around the world. This has understandably annoyed archaeologists and a number have put up videos, some of them lengthy and quite detailed, disproving him. Hancock’s been promoting this idea for some time now. Going back two decades and more, he had a series on Channel 4 with the title ‘Water World’ or something like it, also arguing that there was a global advanced civilisation, whose monuments have been covered up by a flood, as recorded in the Bible and other ancient religions. Now I’m sure that Hancock is wrong, and the criticisms of his dodgy history and archaeology are right. But I take exception to one of the other accusations levelled at him, which is that he is racist.

This accusation is partly based on his false ascription of the achievements of indigenous cultures around the world to this putative prehistoric civilisation. It denies those people the credit for their achievements. But the accusation is also that it’s similar to the ideas of some bonkers White supremacist groups, who are using Hancock’s ideas to promote themselves. One archaeologist posted a video saying that Hancock should have disavowed the use of his ideas by these fascists. It also criticised him for being friends with Joe Rogan and Jordan Peterson. There are fair criticisms to be made of both of these men. Peterson’s an arch-conservative and anti-feminist, but hardly a Nazi. Rogan was pushing anti-vax nonsense and is an advocate for some mind-expanding drugs. A few years ago people were accusing him of being a ‘gateway to the Alt-Right’. Possibly, but he also talks to people from the left, who are otherwise denied a platform by the lamestream media. Journalists like Abbie Martin, who talked about Israeli propaganda against the Palestinians and how she found, when she visited the beleaguered Arab nation, that the reality was nothing like the picture painted by the Israeli state. He’s also talked to biologists and journalists exposing the lies of the trans ideology. This is not Alt-Right, no matter what groups like Mermaids, Stonewall, Antifa and the rest say. The people criticising the gender ideology tend to be radical feminists, many from the socialist left. Part of their opposition against it is that it reduces masculinity and femininity to traditional, stereotypical sex roles. One of the feminist vloggers interviewed one of the leading activists against the trans ideology, who was furious that people like her were being presented as right-wing. Another feminist activist criticised Matt Walsh for misrepresenting feminists as uniformly in favour of trans ideology, and then criticising them for it. Rogan gives a voice to people outside the mainstream. Sometimes it’s rubbish, and sometimes it’s immensely valuable. He has also interviewed a number of Black celebs, so again, not a Nazi.

The White supremacist ideas being referred to seem to me to be the Traditionalist ideology of Giulio Evola. Evola was an Italian Fascist and occultist, who was a major ideological influence on the scumbuckets behind the Bologna railway bombing in the 1970s. A fascist group bombed the station, killing and maiming over a hundred people. Evola believed that there was a strongly hierarchical, ‘Aryan’ civilisation in Hyperborea in the arctic, which was responsible for all the subsequent cultural achievements of the civilisations around the world. This is twaddle. But Hancock’s ideas are also similar to those of others, which don’t come from people in the fascist fringe. A couple of years ago I picked up an old book, Colony Earth, which had been published in the 1970s. This claimed that Earth may have been an extraterrestrial colony, whose advanced civilisation was destroyed in a nuclear war. The pyramids may have been fall-out shelters, as were the megalithic tumuli in Britain. It’s an interesting read, but certainly wrong. I think Charles Berlitz, who started the Bermuda Triangle myth, also believed in this, supporting it in one of his books with artefacts from Aztec tombs that look like aircraft. Berlitz is someone else, who I’m fairly certain has absolutely no connection to fascism whatsoever.

And I don’t believe Hancock is either.

When he was travelling the world on his Channel 4 series he was accompanied by his wife, who is Sri Lankan. Now, White supremacists do not, as a rule, marry dark-skinned people from outside Europe. If they do, they’re angrily denounced as ‘race traitors’. In one edition of this earlier series, Hancock reported on the mysterious ruins of ancient city found off the coast of the Bay of Bengal. He was shown talking respectfully to an Indian gent, who told him how such findings tie in with Hindu ideas of the antiquity of civilisation and ancient Indian legends of flooded cities. Again, this isn’t quite behaviour you’d expect from a genuine White supremacist. He also travelled to South and Central America, where he proposed the old theory that the Mayans, Aztecs and other ancient Amerindian civilisations must have learned how to build their pyramids from someone else. I think this was once again ancient Egypt. But who brought that knowledge to the New World? Black Africans. He pointed to an Olmec bas relief of a warrior’s head, and declared its features to be ‘proudly African’. If this is racism, then its Afrocentrism rather than White supremacy. As for the ancient race behind these monuments, Hancock doesn’t say what colour they are. In this, he breaks with some of his predecessors, who say they must have been White because the legends of numerous Amerindian peoples state that vital parts of their culture were brought to them by White gods. Hancock is therefore less racialised in what he says than his predecessors.

I disagree profoundly with Hancock’s ideas, but he has a right to say them like everyone else. And if it piques people interest in these ancient cultures so that they want to find out what they were really like, that’s all to the good. But I do think it’s profoundly wrong to accuse him of racism. That just further cheapens the word and weakens it as a weapon against the real thing.

Video on Archaeology’s Challenge to Enlightenment Accounts of Origins of States and Inequality

December 8, 2022

This is a fascinating video I found on Novara Media’s channel the other day. In it, host Aaron Bastani talks to archaeologist David Wengrow about the origins of the state and the development of social inequality. Wengrow argues that the evidence from archaeology challenges assumptions that prehistoric and preliterate peoples were incapable of rationally deciding for themselves what kind of societies they wished to live in. He gives examples from prehistoric Europe and North and South America to show that ancient and indigenous peoples not only did decide on the kind of societies they wanted, but were perfectly capable of reversing trends in their societies towards authoritarianism. One of the examples of this, which I found truly jaw-dropping, was one of the city states the conquistador Hernan Cortes made alliance with against the Aztecs. Unlike the Aztec empire, that state city was a democratic republic. He also talks about the influence on Enlightenment critiques of western society of a Huron Indian chief in Canada, who was an intelligent conversationalist able to hold his own in conversations about the nature of society to such an extent that French, British and Dutch colonial authorities invited him to dinner to talk this matter over.

Wengrow starts off by stating that modern political theory about the origins of society, as taught in politics courses, is completely divorced from archaeological accounts. The theory is based on the speculations of foundational Enlightenment thinkers like Hobbes and Rousseau, who admitted that they were speculating. But these accounts are now taught as fact. Archaeological research, however, is overturning previous ideas about the origins of urban society. For example, it was believed that agriculture and urbanisation were linked and appeared together as part of the Neolithic Revolution. But this is not the case. Excavations of the ancient city of Catalhuyuk in Turkey show that while it was an urban centre, although Wengrow hesitates to call it a city, show that its people were still hunter-gatherers, living by foraging rather than agriculture. And the same is true of the settlement at Amesbury at the time Stonehenge was being built. The people then had given up agriculture, although they retained animal husbandry. It appears they had tried growing crops and then rejected it in favour of foraging.

He then goes on to talk about the Huron Amerindian chief. He inspired a colonist from New France, who had been expelled from the colony, to write a book based on the chief and his dinner conversation when the colonist was penniless in Amsterdam. This became a massive Enlightenment bestseller, and inspired other books by Voltaire and others in which Chinese, Tahitians and other outsiders criticise European society. Wengrow states that the Indian societies surprise western Europeans because they were much less hierarchical than they were, and contact with these societies and the indigenous critics of western civilisation did influence European political philosophy. We easily accept that Europe took over many material products from these nations, but are much less ready to accept the idea that they influenced our ideas, even though the Enlightenment philosophers said that they had.

He also talks about Cahokia, a great pyramid and city state in the Mississippi valley in America. This appears to be another example of a society, in which people rebelled or simply walked away from authority and hierarchy. It was also another indigenous monument that was ascribed to everyone else but the native peoples when it was first discovered, and is now disrespected by having a road driven through it. When it was constructed, the local society seems to have been hierarchical. At the top of the mound is a structure from which all of the city could be viewed. But sometime after its heyday it was abandoned. The traditional reasons are that the climate changed, but Wengrow finds that unconvincing. What seems to have happened instead is that people simply got tired of living in such a society and walked away.

Tenochtitlan, one of the great cities in ancient Mexico, is another example of a strongly hierarchical society that underwent profound social change and became more democratic. Wengrow states that it’s a massive state, and they owe a debt to the French scholar who produced detailed maps of it. When it first emerged, it was hierarchical but then the nature of society changed. People started living in high-quality, single-floor homes. These were so good they were originally thought to be palaces, but now it appears they were villas occupied by ordinary citizens. At some point, the people of Tenochtitlan decided that they wanted a more equal society, to the extent that some scholars believe that there was a revolution.

Then there is the case of the democratic city state Cortes encountered. This really was democratic, as there are accounts of the debates in its assembly. This astonished the conquistadors, as there was very little like it in Europe at the time, except some of the Florentine republics. This all challenges the notion that once society develops to a certain extent and becomes complex, inequality also emerges and is very difficult to challenge or remove. These cases show that indigenous peoples could and did. He also argues that the same may have been true of slavery. The only successful slave revolt that we know of is Toussant L’Ouverture in Haiti. But Wengrow suggests there could have been thousands of other successful slave revolts in prehistory of which we are unaware. Slavery came about, he argues, from the expense of laying out offerings for the dead. In order to leave food and drink for the dead, the bereaved had to have access to the foods themselves and so they became indebted and dependent on the people who owned those resources.

He also talks about the problems in describing some of these urban centres as cities. There are huge sites in the Ukraine, but archaeologists are hesitant about calling them cities with some preferring other terms such as ‘mega-sites’ because they aren’t centralised.

Bastani asks him at one point about the problem of pseudo-archaeology. I think this came up because Graham Hancock is currently fronting a series on Netflix claiming that way back in prehistory there was an advanced society, but that it was destroyed in a global cataclysm. Wengrow states that quite often pseudo-archaeology is based on old and discarded idea, such as Atlantis. The people involved tend not to be anyone who’s ever been on an archaeological dig, and view archaeologists as spending their lives trying to hide some momentous secret from everyone. But it can act as an entry for some people to archaeology, and he doesn’t really like the sneering attitude of some archaeologists towards it.

Wengrow himself is an interesting character. He didn’t want to be an archaeologist originally, but came to it from acting. He also worked in the BBC Arabic service. He decided at one point he wanted to get a degree, applied to the best university he could, Oxford, and sent reams of applications to its various colleges. They turned him down. Then he was told that he should apply for a place on a course that was just being set up. One of the colleges was just setting up an archaeology course, so he did. When it came to the interview, he told the interviewer that he had always wanted to be an archaeologist. At which point she held up all the previous letters he’d written. But they admitted him, and he has now had a career teaching and excavating in places like Egypt.

He states that sometimes the pseudoarchaeology about a period or culture misses the point about what’s really interesting about it. He talks about the idea that the Sphinx was constructed before the pyramids, and admits that it’s actually a reasonable question. But if you go back to the predynastic period a thousand years before the pyramids were built, you come to the burial sites of one of Egypt’s first kings. This is fascinating, although you wouldn’t know it from the dry way it has been discussed in conferences and museums like the Petrie Museum. Excellent though these are, they talk about highly specialised subjects like pot typography which is excruciatingly dull if you want to know the wider picture. The early king’s tomb is composed of room after room of the bodies of the people and occasionally the animals that were slaughtered to accompany the king into the afterlife.

The interview is based on a book Wengrow wrote with a colleague, The Dawn of Everything. Sadly, after spending a decade writing it, the co-author died just a few weeks after its completion. The book has been widely praised, and has even inspired artistic pieces. He talks about a French woman, who composed a piece of music based on it. He regrets he was unable to attend its performance thanks to jet lag coming back from somewhere, but later met the lady when she came to Britain.

I know a little about some of what he’s talking about to have no doubt that he’s absolutely right. One of the seminars in the archaeology department at Bristol, which I attended, was about how cities like Catalhuyuk were established before the appearance of agriculture. One of the huge Neolithic sites in the Ukraine is discussed in the La Rousse Encyclopedia of Archaeology. The great mound of Cahokia is also discussed in a book I bought years ago on North American Indian archaeology. I wasn’t aware that the people of Stonehenge had given up growing crops, nor of the democratic city states in South America and Mexico. This is fascinating stuff.

He’s right about archaeology contradicting the ideas of Enlightenment philosophers about the origins of society, though I’m not sure how much of a problem this is. The philosophers he discusses – Hobbes and Rousseau – were Social Contract theorists. Social Contract theory is the idea that the state and society were set up when men came together to select an authority under whom they would live, so that their lives and property would be protected. Thus the first kings. These princes are the representatives of the people, and so from the 17th century onwards the idea developed that sovereignty lay with the people, who could revoke the power they had delegated to the prince. This was the view of John Locke. However, subsequent philosophers showed that this was just conjecture, and that it could have happened like that as the people at the time were using concepts that only subsequently developed after the foundation of states and kingdoms. I thought Social Contract theory was dead, and he closest it had to a modern advocate was John Rawls in his Theory of Justice. Rawls argued that if people were just disembodied entities wishing to chose the kind of society in which they would care to live, they would choose one that had the maximum freedom and justice for everyone, as that would also include them. Away from centrist politics, the anarchists have been keenly interested in anthropology and those indigenous societies where there is no central authority.

I’m not sure how well some of this would go down with Sargon of Akkad and the Lotus Eaters. They’ve developed an interest in archaeology, recently posting a video discussing Homo Erectus, along with the Norman Conquest and ancient Rome. But Sargon is a huge fan of John Locke and describes himself as a classical liberal. I don’t know whether archaeology’s findings about the origin of early states would contradict his ideas or not.

2000AD and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Artist Kevin O’Neill Dies Aged 69

November 9, 2022

I was saddened to learn of the death on Monday of Kevin O’Neill, one of the great British comics artists behind many of the favourite strips in 2000AD over here and DC Comics and other publishers in America. O’Neill was the co-creator, with writer Pat Mills, of the Robusters, ABC Warriors and Nemesis the Warlock strips in 2000 AD, the galaxy’s greatest comic. Robusters was about a robot disaster squad, led by Hammerstein, an old war droid, and Rojaws, a foul-mouthed sewer robot, who formed a kind of double act. The squad was owned by the dictatorial Howard Quartz, alias ‘Mr 10 Per Cent’, because after some kind of disaster, only ten per cent of him – his brain – was still human, housed in a robot body. The penalty for failure or simply upsetting the boss was destruction, and the pair were always on the verge of being pulled apart by the sadistic but thick robot bulldozer, Mekquake. ABC Warriors was a continuation of Hammerstein’s adventures, first in a world war against the Volgan Republic, and then on Mars and a far future Earth, as the leader of an elite squad of robots dedicated to fighting evil. Nemesis the Warlock was a weird sword and sorcery strip set in the far future. The surface of the Earth had become a devastated wasteland and humanity had retreated underground. Renamed Termight, short for ‘Mighty Terra’, it was a medieval society ruled by an evil order of warriors, the Terminators, that hated and feared intelligent alien. Led by their Grand Master, Torquemada, Earth regarded such aliens as demonic and waged a war of extermination against them. O’Neill’s art, which is angular and geometric, was suitably Gothic and horrific, creating a nightmare variety of alien creatures. His art was so horrific, in fact, that later, when he was working on the Green Lantern Corps, a superhero comic for DC, it put the wind up the Comics Code Authority. This had been founded in the 1950s during the moral panic over comics. It was supposed to judge whether or not a comic was suitable to be read by children. Although it was supposedly voluntary, in fact all children’s comics had to be submitted to the Authority as otherwise the mainstream newsagents over there wouldn’t carry them. The writer, Alan Moore, who also created the cult strip about a future Fascist Britain, V For Vendetta, took the unusual step of contacting the Authority. Would the comic get approved if various changes were made? No, they replied. It wasn’t the strip’s story; it was the artwork. It was totally unsuitable for children. This became something of a source of pride and amusement to O’Neill and the other creators at 2000 AD. So grim was his art that rumours started circulating that he had an occult temple in his basement and drew only at night. These were completely false. On the other hand, a fan once told his fellow 2000 AD artist, Dave Gibbons, that O’Neill’s art gave him nightmares which he could only cure by looking a Gibbons. When O’Neill wasn’t traumatising people with his serious strips, he made them laugh with Dash Descent, a parody of the old Flash Gordon serials. He also drew the Tharg’s Future Shocks strip which a court later ruled had been plagiarised by the film maker Richard Stanley for the film Hardware. This was set in a decaying city in which a scavenger in the radiation deserts finds and brings back the remains of an experimental war robot, the B.A.A.L. His artist girlfriends reassembles it and it then goes off on a frenzy of killing. Hardware is a cult film, which stands up even now, three decades after it was made. Highlights include cameo appearances by Lemmy, as a water taxi driver, and the voice of Iggy Pop as a radio announcer. It’s just a pity Stanley didn’t work out a deal with 2000 AD first. He also contributed in other, minor ways to the comic. He created the look of Tharg, the comic’s alien editor from the star Betelgeuse, and introduced the credit cards telling readers who the writer, artist and letterer were, quite against the publisher’s policy. But this allowed the people, who actually created the strips, to gain the proper recognition and respect for their work.

O’Neill left 2000 AD for work with the American comics companies. He and writer Pat Mills created Metalzoic for DC. This was another robot strip, set on a far future Earth where an ecology of robot animals had developed and taken over, and followed the adventures of a tribe of robot ape men and the human woman they had rescued. It still is one of my favourite strips, but sadly flopped, though it was later reprinted in 2000 AD. O’Neill was far more successful with the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, written by Alan Moore. This had the idea that the great figures of 19th and early 20th century SF, Fantasy and Horror – Alan Quatermaine, the Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll/Mr Hyde, Captain Nemo and Dorian Grey – had formed a kind of superhero group. It was filmed with Sean Connery as Quatermaine. Back to causing gleeful mayhem, O’Neill and Mills created the violent, nihilistic Marshal Law. This was an adult comic set in a near future San Francisco. Devastated by an earthquake, the city was renamed San Futuro, and plagued by warring superhero gangs. The superheroes had been created to fight in a war in South America. As a result, many of the survivors had returned to America mentally and physically scarred, some turning to violent crime. Law was the member of a small anti-superhero squad, moved by a deep hatred of superheroes. He uttered phrases like ‘They say I hate superheroes. They’re wrong. Hatred is far too bland a word for the way I feel about them’ and ‘I’m hunting heroes. I haven’t found any yet’. Mills hates superheroes and has very left-wing politics and poured that into the strip. It commented on recent developments in genetic engineering and the patenting of GMOs, insane CIA plans to overthrow Fidel Castro and other South American left-wing regimes and how America trained the sadistic torturers for the continent’s Fascist dictators. There was also an overt feminist critique of the genre and the fictional glamorisation of the real horrors of war. The Marshal’s opponents were vicious parodies of various superheroes. Despite its grim premise, it was a hilarious strip, although the humour was pitch-black. It was too much for one publisher, however, and moved from one to another. It has now been collected into a single album, although sadly without the crossover strip featuring the Marshal fighting Pinhead from Hellraiser.

Outside of comics, O’Neill apparently published his own fanzine, Just Imagine: The Journal of Film and Television Special Effects. I also remember him being credited in Starlog for designing the aliens in the Disney film, Return to Witch Mountain.

I met O’Neill extremely briefly at the UKCAC 90 comics convention, 32 years ago. From what I can remember, he was a short, slightly built chap in a T-shirt championing solidarity with Nicaragua, whose left-wing regime was under attack by the brutal Contras funded by Reagan and Thatcher. He was drawing people’s favourite characters for them on badges supplied by the convention’s organisers. But he was an amazing artist, producing very high-quality drawings in a blur of speed. There are a series of videos of him speaking at various comics conventions about Nemesis, Marshal Law and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where he appears as short, jolly fellow with a great sense of humour, chortling over the daft incidents he’s experienced during his career.

In a separate interview, also on YouTube, Alan Moore commented on his art, praising him as one of the greatest British artists of all time. Moore remarks that O’Neill’s celebrated for his robots and aliens, but not for his humans. But Moore considers that he is brilliant depicter of humans as grotesques, and in that sense is one of the best artists since Hogarth. It sounds like something that should go in Private Eye’s ‘Pseud’s Corner’, but in my opinion it’s absolutely correct. Particularly as Hogarth produced sequential art himself as the kind of precursor of comics. I strongly believe that comics artists, or at least the very best, are insufficiently appreciated. I think they can be as good as serious fine artists. Way back in the 90s I submitted a piece to one of the art magazines arguing that comics artists like O’Neill and Jack Kirby were artists, whose styles meant that they should receive the same appreciation as those of the Soviet austere style, Francis Bacon and H.R. Giger. The Nemesis the Warlock strip had scenes of pure body horror. In one of the two precursor strips that launched the character, Killerwatt, Nemesis and Torquemada chase each other down the teleport wires, in which people are transported electrically similar to the telephone. At one point they have to cross the Sea of Dead Souls, a nightmare morass caused when a gooney bird, a massive mechanical bird, sat on the wires. Those unfortunate enough to be there when it happened are turned into a mass of hugely distorted body parts, such as giant feet with eyes. It resembles the scene of the ‘shunt’ in the 80s horror movie, Society, where members of America’s elite class are portrayed as predators who can twist and distort their bodies into any shape whatsoever. The Shunt is an orgy in which they melt down into a similar morass of bodies to feed off tramps and other members of the lower orders. Society’s a great film if you like that kind of ‘orror, but came out a few years after Mills and O’Neill got there first.

There have been a number of great obituaries for him at Bleedingcool and on 2000 AD’s website. These give the reactions and messages of grief and appreciation from the other comics creators. The 2000 AD page gives a full potted biography and examples of his truly amazing artwork.

RIP great man. May your art continue to shock, amaze, amuse and inspire.

Kevin O’Neill 1953 – 2022

https://bleedingcool.com/comics/kevin-oneill-the-man-the-comics-code-tried-to-ban-has-died-at-69/

In Memoriam: Comic Artist Kevin O’Neill 1953 – 2022

Open Letter by Brown American Professionals Denouncing Robin Di Angelo’s Racism

November 2, 2022

James Lindsay is, with Peter Boghossian and Helen Pluckrose, one of the most determined and fiercest critics of the new postmodern doctrines of Critical Race Theory, Postcolonial Theory, Queer Studies and so on. These promise tolerance and liberation from prejudice, but, in reality, they just create further hate and discrimination. Critical Race Theory does this by defining Whiteness as a bourgeois property that gives White people privilege and automatically makes them oppressors, even if they are personally non-racist. Two years ago, on June 20, 2020, Lindsay posted this on his YouTube channel. It’s an open letter by Brown American professional people criticising Robin di Angelo for her anti-White racism in such books as White Fragility. It attacks her for poisoning people’s, especially children’s, minds by making them obsess about race and thinking about how people are complicit in a racist system. They state that America wasn’t built by White, or any particular people, but by people of all colours and walks of life striving for happiness, community, freedom and a better world. They state that they are not going to shut up while everything their ancestors worked for is torn down by a woman who can’t handle her own racism or by the White children who have been bamboozled by it. They don’t sign their names, but simply say that they are Brown professionals who worked their way up in a free country. They aren’t going to give their names, because of what would happen if they did.

This is one of the peculiar turns of events that has occurred in the controversy over Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory. There are now Black intellectuals, activists and YouTubers defending Whites against their demonisation by Critical Race Theory. Many of them are conservatives, like Candace Owens and Amala Ekpunobi. Owen’s posted a video a few days ago claiming that she was thanked when in the southern US by a White woman with tears in her eyes. Others are ordinary Blacks who feel that the anti-White racist rhetoric is not only racist but diverting attention away from the real problems in the Black community caused by Blacks themselves. And these Black activists and commenters complain about the racial hatred and abuse they receive, with people calling them ‘Uncle Toms’ and other slurs I can’t use. And while I suspect that Lindsey is a man of the right, Helen Pluckrose is a woman of the left. She also had a piece published on Linsey’s site stating that the struggle against CRT and the other postmodern ideologies weren’t a case of either left or right but should concern everyone who supports rational argument based on evidence, individuality and freedom of speech, the key values of western civilisation introduced by the Enlightenment.

The letter runs:

‘To Robin DiAngelo:

We address you specifically, not because you act alone, but because you stand now as a figurehead of a movement, a representative of a particular school of thought—one among a few others, to be sure. We want to say we recognize that you are racist, and we’re ready to forgive you for it.

You proudly proclaim your racism in your writings, as so often racists do. We have read your work and can see the racism dripping from every page. We think you might be right, though. Maybe it wasn’t your fault. Maybe you were “socialized” into it. That’s not true of all of us, though, and saying so isn’t fair, and it isn’t right.

We understand the impact your work is having. You would turn us against each other by teaching us to see how we’re all “complicit” in a “system” of racism. You would have our children become obsessed with racism and poisoned with it. You do this so that you will not feel so alone. And for this crime against us and our children, we would like to sit down and have a word with you.

Many of our children have been led astray, taught to obsess over race, to attempt to see it all around them in every interaction and every object around them. This has only happened in recent years under the “educational” direction of “anti-racism” advocates such as yourself. We’re terrified. Those who have fully embraced this poison may be lost, possibly forever. They’re our children, and they’re already turning on us. Imagine for a moment how that must feel for every parent, every sibling experiencing this right now.

We write this in the pale hope of saving them, not to save you, and to stand in true solidarity with one voice—brown, white, and even black—to deliver a very simple message to you.

You are wrong.

The United States of America was not built for white people, and it most certainly was not built by white people, as you, yourself, seem to know so very well. But it was also not built by people of African descent, or Latino, or Asian, or by men, or women. The United States of America, was built by all of us. All of us striving as best we could for a common dream that seemed impossible to achieve, as our founders, whose memories are being trashed for it now under tutelage like yours, fought valiantly to bring about. The United States of America was built so that all people could live free; so that every individual could strive for happiness, community, freedom, and a better world for their own children.

This American journey was built brick by brick, law by law, for hundreds of years in this country, and it was built even over thousands of years long before any such country existed. It is deeply rooted in the history of all peoples, as we made mistakes, survived hardships, and tried to answer the questions of how we could best live. And from this history, these mistakes, these hardships, and these answers, we learned. From this knowledge rose a nation—more importantly an idea. We built this, all of us, together, and we can enjoy it, together. We’ll take the good and the bad, along with that of our ancestors from every corner of this planet, and we’ll keep striving, like Americans, to do better.

So, the message we want to say to you, Robin, is simple. No.

No. We will not sit in our homes in terror as everything our parents and their parents before us worked so hard to build gets torn down. We will not let your racism infect us all and tear us apart. We will rise up and say in one unified voice: NO.

We reject any world that fosters nothing but hate and division and seeks to destroy the legacy which was handed down to us, which our people—all of our people—built and grew into together. We reject your attempts to steal our voices and redefine racism through your white, or now brown, fragility lens. We forgive you for your racism even as we reject your racist language used against us, when we attempt to object. We can see how you treat us, telling our white spouses to hate us and us to resent them, making them suffer, making them believe they are oppressors who oppress us, who they love. We can see the blatant racism in all of this, and your word games can not hide it. We’re not so stupid as you seem to think.

We want you to know, that we see the harm caused by these racist ideas and we say, NO.

We will not shut up; we will not be silenced; we will not be intimidated by white children bamboozled by the insane racist ramblings of a woman who can’t handle her own racism; and we will not accept your racism being projected onto all of us. You may have to live with your racism, but no one else does.

To each of you that hears us, it is up to you to decide what to do now. You are an individual, but we should remember that we are all in this together.

Signed,

A group of professional brown Americans (if you must know) who worked their way up in a free country. We cannot sign our right names because, thanks in some significant part to you, we know what will happen if we do. Those who feel they can, can add theirs in the comments.’

The letter can be read at: https://newdiscourses.com/2020/06/open-letter-robin-diangelo-anti-racism/

Tariq Ali on His Book on the Times and Crimes of Winston Churchill

October 14, 2022

Here’s a very provocative little video I found on the YouTube channel for left-wing publisher Verso. It’s a 27 minute long talk by 60’s radical Tariq Ali about his book, Winston Churchill, His Times, His Crimes. It’s entitled ‘The Churchill Cult Is Out of Control: Tariq Ali on Winston Churchill’. Ali explains how he was initially reluctant to write about the great war leader, not least because he didn’t want to waste his time reading what Churchill himself wrote, until he was finally persuaded by another historian. He states that the students at Oxford protesting for decolonisation, demanding that Churchill college change its name and who poured paint over his statue were quite right. Churchill, by his own admission, was a racist and White supremacist. He supported Mussolini in Italy and General Franco in Spain. In fact, Franco’s three greatest supporters in Europe were Hitler, Mussolini and Churchill. He talks about Churchill’s imperialist wars around the world against non-Whites, but also his atrocities in Ireland during the Irish revolution when he was Home Secretary. Churchill is also bitterly resented in Wales for sending in the troops during the Tonypandy strike. According to Ali, when there was a collection for him on his death, not one Welsh council contributed. He also states that it is a complete lie that the experience of the Second World War changed him. It didn’t. After the war, in the 1950s, when the Tories were discussing what slogan they should adopt for their election campaign, Churchill responded, unprompted, with ‘Keep Britain White’.

He also hated the Labour movement. He sneered at Clement Attlee for beating him in an election. The only Labour politician he did like was Ernest Bevin, who was a nationalistic, and jingoistic as he was, and anti-Semitic to a certain extent. Churchill was also unpopular in the Conservative party for being very right-wing and changing parties when it suited him. Talking about his crimes, Ali mentions the Bengal Famine but also a very obscure incident that he says is only mentioned in one book. Churchill was behind the British expeditionary force sent in to topple the Bolshevik revolutionaries. But Churchill wanted to go even further and use chemical weapons against Bolshevik villages and territories. There was a mutiny in the force, which resulted in the court martial of a South African officer. Churchill was also proud of the overthrow of the democratic regime of Prime Minister Mossadeq in Iran. He also says that Britain was hampered during the War by the very class-bound nature of the officer corps. He gives the comparison of Rommel, one of the Nazi’s great generals, and quotes one authority who said that if Rommel had been British, he wouldn’t have risen above sergeant. The class-bound nature of the officer corps was recognised by the junior officers.

Churchill was also responsible for the brutal suppression of the Greek resistance movement because it was led by the Communists. One of the tactics of the British forces was to decapitate their enemies, put their heads on poles and carry them around outside prison camps. This was justified with the statement that it was the only thing they would understand.

Ali states that Churchill was not as popular as he is now, when he is the centre of what Ali calls a cult, until the 1980s and the Falklands. He quotes from a 1970s play by a radical British playwright, in which two soldiers carrying his coffin talk about how horrible the great man was. Churchill then bursts out of his coffin waving a union jack and with an unlit cigar, his face a mask. Ali considers that most of South America and the world considered the Falkland Islands to be properly Argentina’s and states that the islands were defended by the alliance between Thatcher and General Pinochet. Churchill’s image was part of the propaganda movement for the war, which the British Labour party under Michael Foot supported.

Ali believes the cult of Churchill has arisen because the British political establishment and ruling class, including Labour, are still fixated on the empire. This has partly been done in order to retain some small independence against the Americans. After the War the European empires fell, or were taken over by the Americans, as in Vietnam. Churchill was saddened, but cheered that they were going to another, White, Christian power. The special relationship was also his creation, because he was half-American. Other countries, such as Scandinavia, have been able to find a role after the War, but Britain is still obsessed with the empire. He states that what emerged after the war was a form of social democratic planning, as well as the NHS and the nationalisation of the mines, which was a particularly sore point. The miners’ leaders wondered why it had been left for so long. This wasn’t particularly socialist, and other countries were doing the same. The ruling class has persisted in Britain because they were able to co-opt Labour and the trade unions. The cult around Winston Churchill is very much an English phenomenon. It doesn’t exist in Wales and hardly exists in Scotland. If Wales leaves, then the Churchill cult will form the heart of an English nationalism. The Churchill myth will continue for some time, but all myths eventually fall, and the British people will eventually turn against this one.

DuneInfo Shows Cover of Imaginary Album of Music by Dune Character

October 2, 2022

This is a bit of trip into the world of postmodernism. Duneinfo is a YouTube site about Science Fiction book Dune and its film, graphic novel and other adaptations. A few days ago, they put up this piccie on their community page of a non-existent album of music by Gurney Halleck. Halleck is a character in Dune, a warrior troubadour, whose instrument is the ballaset, a type of futuristic lute. In David Lynch’s 1985 film, he was played Patrick Stewart and the ballaset used in the film was based on the stick, a new musical instrument developed from the electric guitar. The fake record sleeve, showing Stewart as Halleck was created by the artist John Bergin. It looks like a real vinyl record sleeve of the type that was knocking around back then in the days when K-Tel were advertising their records on TV.

It also reminds me more than a little of some the literary games played by Polish SF master Stanislaw Lem. Lem was very much an eastern European intellectual. He wrote some excellent science fiction but also sneered at the genre. He was very much into experimental literature, particularly that of the South American magic realist writer Borges, as well as the SF writer Philip K. Dick. Lem produced a several books consisting of reviews and blurbs for books that didn’t exist. One of these books was called A Perfect Vacuum, which I think is a literary jest, a way of saying that it doesn’t exist, because the books it reviews don’t. This fake record cover looks like the musical and pictorial equivalent.

DuneInfo captioned this: ‘Another great imagined (but sadly fake) #Dune item from John Bergin – “The Ballads of Gurney Halleck” – almost all copies of which were destroyed due to the mistaken credit of “The Sting”! 🤣 ‘ Which is a joke about Sting appearing in the movie as one of the villains, Feyd Rautha.

To see the original, go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmkVsAdYNiyQG9ZJR6P9FjA/community?lb=UgkxEOVBKmx9zCluGQGj8DF4-t-oUq2h-CYy

A Slavery Document from Nuzi of the Ancient Near East

September 23, 2022

I’ve got the impression that many of the people talking about the various issues connected with the British enslavement of Africans and its continuing legacy don’t actually realise that slavery existed long before the rise of Black transatlantic slavery in the European conquest and colonisation of the Americas. But the supporters of slavery were very much aware of it and used it as part of their polemic against the abolitionists. Slavery had existed in the ancient world, not just in ancient Rome, but also in Egypt, Persia and the other ancient civilisations. It also formed part of the social systems of present-day non-Western societies like the Ottoman Empire. This formed part of their argument that slavery was somehow natural, and that it was unfair for Britain to ban it when other nations and peoples all over the world still kept people in bondage.

As an example of just how ancient slavery was, there’s this document from ancient Nuzi, one of the city states of ancient Iraq. Twenty thousand clay tablets illustrating everyday life in the city c. 1500 BC were excavated by the University of Pennsylvania, the American Schools of Oriental Research, the Harvard Semitic Museum and the Iraq Museum from 1925-1931. This was when Nuzi was under the control of the Hurrians. The tablets themselves were written in Akkadian, the language of the Assyrian empire.

Tablet JEN 845 documents the sale of a female slave by Ziliya, Sukriya, Tehip-sarri, and Silahi, the sons of Silwa-Tesup to Hut-arraphe son of Tisam-musini in return for movable goods that they’ve received.

See Ernest R. Lachman and Maynard P. Maidman, Studies on the Civilization and Culture of Nuzi adn the Hurrians, vol *: Join Expedition with the Iraqi Museum of Nuzi VII, Miscellaneous Texts (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns 1989) 40, 268. This needs to be taken into account in any discussion of western slavery to counter the tendency to present it as something that only Whites did to Blacks. It also needs to be included in order to gain a proper appreciation of the difficulties the abolitionists had combating a system that was both global and ancient.

Simon Webb Asks ‘What’s Wrong with Fascism?’

September 16, 2022

Well, it looks like Simon Webb of History Debunked has finally gone full Mosley. And you never go full Mosley. He’s put up a piece today asking, ‘what’s wrong with fascism?’ He argues that fascism is viewed negatively because it’s confusion with Nazism. But socialism has also committed horrible atrocities and run death camps. In contrast to this, he points to the Portugal of the dictator Salazar in the 1960s, which was prosperous and had kept out of the Second World War. And fascism, he explains, is neither communist nor capitalist.

No, I’m not going to put the video up here. Because he’s arguing for fascism after all. Now he’s got a point in that some political scientists and historians do make a distinction between Nazism and Fascism. Nazism is at its heart a form of biological racism and has its own origins unique to Germany, while Italian Fascism was a form of militaristic nationalism which included elements of both socialism and capitalism. However, Italian Fascism was also imperialistic, calling Italy a ‘proletarian nation’ that had been unjustly deprived of colonies by the great powers of Britain and France. It invaded Greece, Albania and Yugoslavia, as well as Tripolitania in north Africa and Ethiopia. In nearly all these countries the Fascists committed horrendous atrocities. They also developed racial policies similar, but not as harsh as the Nazis, defining Italians as Aryans as contrasted with the Jews, who were expelled from various professions. Both Nazism and Fascism supported and protected private industry, but the economy was centrally planned by the state. Germany was a complete dictatorship under Hitler, in which the Reichstag was only called once a year to sign the act stating that Germany was still in a state of emergency and so Hitler’s dictatorship could legally continue, In Italy Mussolini let the Italian parliament continue for a few years until he replaced it with a chamber of Fasces and corporations. A corporation in this case was an industrial organisation, one for each industry, that contained both management and the unions. By the 1930s there were 27 of these. They were supposed to run the various industries, but in practice they served just to rubber stamp the decisions Mussolini had already taken.

I’ve read some of the comments that have been left on the video. Some of them are rants against Tony Blair’s period in office and complaints that it was supported by a biased media. Well, one paper stood against him – the Daily Heil. And you can wonder who had the real power in Blair’s relationship with the media, as he was always worrying whether his policies would meet the approval of one Rupert Murdoch. And Blair was a Tory in all but name. Thatcher, remember, regarded him as her greatest achievement. I’ve also notice that several of the commenters can’t spell Nazism. They’ve spelled it ‘Natzim’.

Of course, it hasn’t just been the association with the Nazis that has tarnished Italian Fascism. It’s also the various brutal dictatorships that have appeared across the world that committed horrendous atrocities, like the various military dictatorships in Latin America, the most famous of which is General Pinochet’s in Chile, as well as Greece under the Colonels. You can also attack his argument by pointing out he deliberately confuses socialism with communism. Communism is a form of socialism, but it is not the definitive form. For most British Labour supporters and politicians before Blair and his stupid, Thatcherite ‘Third Way’, socialism meant democratic socialism, which supported and included parliamentary democracy, and a mixed economy. This was the type of socialism practised by the reformist socialist parties of western Europe, like the German Social Democrats. And this form of socialism was keen to support human rights and democracy to a greater or lesser extent, as shown in the various people who joined anti-apartheid and anti-racism movement and gave Khrushchev a hard time when he visited the country about the imprisonment of socialist dissidents in the USSR.

I’ve left this comment on Webb’s video. I wonder if anyone will reply.

‘Salazar is probably best viewed as a reactionary Catholic like General Franco, rather than a pure Fascist. His books apparently are pretty much about Roman Catholic dogma, rather the secular ideas which informed Italian Fascism. And Fascism wasn’t just nationalism or dictatorship. Would your readers want definitive features of fascism like a state-directed economy, even if it is done through private industry and the corporate state, in which parliament is replaced by a chamber representing industries, each corporation including management and unions, which is charged with running the economy?’

Broadside Ballad: ‘The Poor Man Pays For All’

August 20, 2022

This is just a video of me reading the lyrics for a ballad written in 1630, lamenting that ‘The Poor Man Pays For All’ and playing the tune accompanying it. It’s a bitter attack on the exploitation of the poor by the rich of various professions, including usurers, courtiers, lawyers, pub landlords, brewers, candle-makers, bakers and maltsters. It was written during a period of high inflation caused by the influx of gold from the Spanish colonies in South America. This caused the poor to become poorer, while benefiting enterprising landlords, yeomen farmers and merchants. So like today’s cost of living crisis, the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.

Words and music from Roy Palmer, A Ballad History of England from 1588 to the Present Day (London: B.T. Batsford Ltd, 1979)