Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

The Real News on Israel’s Arming of the Fascist Azov Battalion in Ukraine

July 9, 2018

This is something that won’t surprise critics and opponents of Israel such as Tony Greenstein. But I doubt you’re going to find it reported any time soon in the mainstream news, because, according to the Israel lobby, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, reporting or repeating any of Israel’s well-documented historical connections to real, genuine Fascism and Nazism is ‘anti-Semitic’. The show notes that the mainstream press are beginning to cover Fascism in the Ukraine. But even so, it’s going to be a very long time before they cover this.

In this edition of the Real News, host Ben Norton talks to the journalist Max Blumenthal about Asa Winstanley’s article in the Electronic Intifada revealing that the Israelis have sold arms to Ukraine’s Azov Battalion. The sales were uncovered by human rights lawyers in Israel, and the guns themselves shown off by the Azov Battalion itself on their own website. These are tavor rifles, very distinctive weapons issued to Israeli squaddies. They replaced the Uzi, and were used against some of the protestors in Gaza.

Blumenthal and Norton talk about the Azov Battalion, which adopts the Wolfsangel insignia of the WW2 SS auxiliaries. It was founded by Biletsky, as part of the National Patriot movement, which was itself part of the Social Nationalist Party. Members of the Battalion also wear SS tattoos, and have been photographed giving the stiff right arm Nazi salute. The organisation runs paramilitary training camps, including for children. They are anti-Semites, islamophobic and White supremacist. They have launched attacks on Roma and Jews. The organisation has now been incorporated into the Ukrainian armed forces, which gives Israel some plausible deniability, in that they can claim they are giving aid to Ukraine, not neo-Nazis. But it’s a very specious, thin defence.

Biletsky himself has said that he intends to restore the honour of the White race. He declared that if he got into power, he would abolish the Ukrainian parliament. The ethnic cleansing of Ukraine is the first step in their campaign of ‘Reconquista’, bring the race war to the rest of Europe in order to cleanse them of Jews, Roma and non-Whites. Monto, a western Fascist was arrested when tried travelling to Ukraine to join the Battalion. He intended to return to France to launch attacks on synagogues and mosques.

The Azov Battalion has also been given aid by the Canadians. They recently sent a military attache over there to hold talks with the Battalion’s leaders. When questioned on this, they said it would increase plurality and personal tolerance. Blumenthal points out that the current Canadian foreign minister, Freeland, is a Ukrainians, whose father was a Fascist collaborator, who was recruited over here during the Cold War. When three Russian diplomats had the temerity to point it out, Justin Trudeau expelled them, rather than remove Freeland.

Blumenthal also suggests that the Israelis in this case may be just proxies for American itself. He describes how, in the 1980s, Congress tried to halt arms sales to South American Fascists, such as the Contras in El Salvador and Nicaragua, and the Fascist regime in Guatemala, by demanding that the president personally sign any order to do so. As a result, Reagan’s regime turned instead to using the Israelis to convey arms to them. And the South American Fascist were hugely appreciative. Rios Montt, one of the leaders of these truly genocidal regimes, declared fulsomely that his regime and its death squads were full participants in the ‘spirit of Israel’ and went on to praise the Israeli state.

This is the reason, Blumenthal concludes, why he is not surprised that Israel should now be sending arms to a violently anti-Semitic Nazi organisation, despite the way it purports and postures as the defenders of Jews everywhere.

Here’s the clip:

It’s been the argument of Tony Greenstein and the other principled critics of Israel, like Asa Winstanley, that Israel has never cared about defending Jews from Fascism, except when there is a possibility that some would move to Israel. There are numerous statements from the earliest Zionist leaders stating that if all the Jews in Europe moved to England to escape the Holocaust and survived, they would far prefer it if only half survived and the rest moved to Israel. During the Second World War, Kasztner, the leader of the Zionists in Hungary, made a deal to send tens of thousands of Jews to the death camps in order that the Nazis would send some few to Israel.

This is the shameful history the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, the Jewish Labour Movement and the rest of the Israel lobby are trying to hide when they smear decent people, who dare to talk about it. Like Red Ken and his comments about the Haavara Agreement.

The Azov Battalion and the regime it serves are Nazis. As well as Jews and Roma, they are also attacking pro-Russian Ukrainians and ethnic Russians in the east of the country. And it looks like they’re being used as proxies in a war against Putin.

Putin is a thug, no question. But these guys are worse. They’re true Nazis. And no regime or organisation that genuinely respects human rights, and cares for the safety of Jews, Muslims, Gypsies, blacks or any other ethnic minority, should be giving them any form of aid or succour.

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Shameless Tory Press Continues to Promote the Policies That Are Killing the Health Service

July 8, 2018

This year is the 70th anniversary of the greatest achievement of Clement Atlee’s government: the creation of the NHS. This was to be a system of socialised medicine, which was to be universal and free at the point of delivery. And the Tory right has hated it ever since.

The BBC has been commemorating the NHS’s birth with a series of programmes, including A People’s History of the NHS. The series’ name recalls the book, A People’s History of the United States, which looked at the history of the US from the point of view of ordinary Americans, including women, Blacks and other minorities, who have had to struggle to gain their freedoms, rather than the elite White men who framed the Constitution. These last were rich patricians, who feared real American democracy because it would lead to attacks on their privileged social position. Needless to say, the book has not been popular with Republicans.

At the same time, the NHS is in acute crisis due to the massive funding cuts inflicted by Cameron’s and Tweezer’s Tory administrations. Tweezer has declared that she will put so many billions into the NHS by 2022, but her estimations still fall short of what is actually required. Besides, regarding the NHS, the Tories cannot be trusted on anything. Remember how David Cameron promised he was going to ringfence NHS spending so that it would not be affected by his austerity programme? The first thing he did when he got in No. 10 was wind up his campaign against Labour’s hospital closures, starting closing them himself, and cut funding to the NHS. And then resume the Thatcherite programme of dismantling it through piecemeal privatisation.

So what has been the attitude of the Tory press to the current NHS crisis? Well, the Spectator, Telegraph and various other right-wing rags have decided to go on as usual, promoting the same policies that are destroying this most precious of British institutions. They’ve declared that extra money isn’t needed, just more cuts to eliminate waste, and that rather than the Tories reforms destroying it, they’re needed more than ever.

Neither is remotely true. The cuts imposed by the Tories have manifestly not led to any improvements. The only thing they have done is lifted the tax burden for the extremely rich. At the same time, the privatisations the Tories and their predecessor, New Labour, have insisted upon have not increased efficiency either. They’ve actually led to closures of hospitals and GPs’ surgeries as the private companies running them have sought to increase their profits. Far from being more efficient, private healthcare is actually more expensive and wasteful than state healthcare, as private firms have advertising and legal departments and must show a profit for their shareholders. Private hospitals, whatever Jeremy Hunt may rave about them, are typically smaller than their NHS counterparts. About forty percent of the expenditure in private healthcare firms may be in administration, a much higher percentage than that of the nationalised NHS.

Private healthcare is wasteful and inefficient. Which is why the Tory and New Labour businessmen and politicos with links to it want to remove the NHS and give private medicine instead state support.

And those voices, demanding that the NHS be privatised through more free market reforms, are shouting in the Speccie and Torygraph. And I’ve noticed that these are the pieces that are being reprinted in the I’s opinion matrix column, which selects pieces from elsewhere in the press. To my knowledge, the column has not included any newspaper pieces demanding that the NHS be renationalised. Because that’s one of Corbyn’s dreadful Trotskyite policies, obviously.

This shows the real contempt the hacks and management at both the Spectator and the Torygraph, as well as the other Conservative rags that share their views on NHS reform, have for the people of this country. They want the NHS to be privatised, and so British people’s health to suffer catastrophically, just to create more profits for the private healthcare firms, on whose boards they serve, and give more tax cuts to the already obscenely rich, while the poor are forced further into poverty.

Get them out, and Corbyn in for a government that really cares about the NHS.

Clive James on Nixon’s Interview with Henry Kissinger

July 7, 2018

One of the books I was reading in hospital was Clive James’ The Crystal Bucket (London: Picador 1981). As I said in a previous blog post, James was the TV critic for the Observer. He started out on the radical left, and ended up a Conservative, writing for the Torygraph. During the 1980s and 1990s, he had his own show, first on Channel 4 with Sunday Night Clive, and then on the Beeb with Monday night. In these, he zoomed up and down the information superhighway to bring you satirical comment on the news and interview stars like Peter Cook, William Shatner, and Sylvester Stallone’s weird and highly embarrassing, at least for him, mother.

James could be witty and intelligent, and in The Crystal Bucket he reviewed some of the programmes then being shown on the serious issue of the time. Like old Nazis and Fascists like Albert Speer and Oswald Mosley talking about Nazi Germany or their career as Fascists, without once admitting that they were genuinely persecutory anti-Semites, responsible or in Mosley’s case, criminally supporting a regime that murdered people in their millions for no other crime than their ethnicity or political orientation.

James also reviewed David Frost’s interview with Richard Nixon, in which America’s most notorious president until Trump tried to sound repentant for the horrors of his foreign policy, while actually not denying or repudiating them at all. This was the interview that was recently filmed as Frost/Nixon.

Frost also interviewed the man responsible for Nixon’s genocidal foreign policy, Henry Kissinger. Kissinger brought chaos, torture and death across the globe from the overthrow of Allende in Chile to the support of another Fascist thug in Pakistan. Of whom Nixon himself said that this thug was ‘a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch’. Kissinger’s massive bombing campaign was responsible for the rise in power of the Khmer Rouge, who became the leading opposition group against the Americans. And after they seized power came the genocides and massacres of Pol Pot’s Year Zero, in which 1-2 millions died.

The review’s particularly interesting for this passage. James was not a total opponent of the Vietnam War, and seems to have believe that the Americans were right to fight against the Viet Cong because of the horrors they would inflict on the rest of the country when they gained power. He criticised Frost, because he thought Frost had bought the whole anti-Vietnam War argument, and states that the Americans were justified in bombing North Vietnamese bases in Cambodia. They were just too brutal, as was Kissinger’s foreign policy generally, and his overthrow of the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende, was criminal.

James wrote

Indeed Frost’s questioning, though admirably implacable, was often wide of the mark. Frost had obviously bought the entire ant-war package on Cambodia, up to and including the idea that the North Vietnamese had scarcely even been present within its borders. They were there all right. There was considerable military justification for US intervention in Cambodia, as even some of the most severe critics of Nixon and Kissinger are prepared to admit. ‘Now jusd a minude,’ fumed Kissinger, ‘with all due respecd, I think your whole line of quesdioning is maging a moggery of whad wend on in Indo-China. ‘

Well, not quite. Nixon and Kissinger might have had short-term military reasons for their policy in Cambodia, but the ruinous long-term consequences were easily predictable. Nor, despite Kissinger’s plausible appeal to international law, was there anything legal about the way he and his President tried to keep the bombing secret. In fact, they conspired to undermine the United States Constitution. Kissinger’s personal tragedy is that his undoubted hatred of totalitarianism leads him to behave as if democracy is not strong enough to oppose it.

Unfortunately his personal tragedy, when he was in power, transformed itself into the tragedy of whole countries. The most revealing part of the interview was not about South East Asia, but about Chile. It transpires that a 36 per cent share of the popular vote was not enough to satisfy Kissinger that Allende had been democratically elected. Doubtless remembering Hitler, who had got in on a comparable share of the total vote, Kissinger blandly ascribed Allende’s electoral victory to a ‘peculiaridy of the consdidution’. But Margaret Thatcher is Prime Minister of Great Britain by the same kind of peculiarity, and presumably Kissinger, if he were still ruling the roost, would have no plans to topple her. By what right did he topple Allende?

Kissinger couldn’t even conceive of this as a question, ‘Manipulading the domesdig affairs of another goundry’, he explained, ‘is always gombligaded.’It is not just complicated, it is often criminal. The Nixon-Kissinger policy in Chile was an unalloyed disaster, which delivered the population of that country into the hands of torturers and gave Kissingers’ totalitarian enemy their biggest propaganda boost of recent times. You didn’t have to be Jane Fonda to hate the foreign policy of Nixon and Kissinger. all you had to be was afraid of Communism.
(‘Maging a Moggery’, pp.226-228, 4th November 1979).

This shows up two things. Firstly, the sheer murderousness behind Hillary Clinton. Posing as the ‘woman’s candidate’ in the Democratic presidential election contest, and then again in the elections proper against Trump, she showed none of the deep feminine, and feminist concerns for peace and humanity, which have seen women across the world lead marches and protests groups against war and Fascism. Like the women in Chile who formed a group campaigning for the release of information on the victims of Pinochet’s coup who ‘disappeared’. I remember Sinead O’Connor singing ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ back in the 1990s as part of a programme celebrating them and protesters like them. Hillary, instead, has shown herself every bit as much a military hawk and anti-democrat as the generals she surrounded herself with. I’ve no doubt that if she had won the election, we would now be at war with China and Russia. She’s also the woman, who glowingly boasted how she went on holiday with Kissinger, something that did not impress Bernie Sanders in the presidential debates.

It also shows up the Times. A few weeks ago, I posted up a bit I found in a book on the right-wing bias of the British media. This was an extract from the Times, in which one of their lead writers declared that Pinochet’s coup was entirely justified, because Allende only had 36 per cent of the vote and he couldn’t control the country.

Well, Thatcher had the same proportion of the vote, and there was widespread, determined opposition to her in the form of strikes and riots. But instead, rather than calling for her overthrow, the Times celebrated her election victory as a return to proper order, economic orthodoxy and the rest of the right-wing claptrap.

It shows just how thuggish and hypocritical Murdoch’s Times is, and just how much Hillary certainly didn’t deserve the support of America and its women. She’s been whining about how she’s been the victim of left-wing ‘misogyny’ ever since. But if you want to see what she really represents, think of Nixon, Chile’s disappeared, it’s campaigning women and Sinead O’Connor’s performance. O’Connor herself, in my opinion, is no saint. But she’s the better women than Hillary.

Out of Hospital for Myeloma Treatment

July 7, 2018

Way back on the 18th of last month I posted that I was going into hospital for 2 1/2 weeks for the intensive dose therapy for myeloma. Myeloma is a type of blood cancer, which causes anaemia, loss of calcium, and attacks the bones and kidneys. Since about a decade ago it’s been treated with a number of drugs, which avoid the side-effect of traditional chemotherapy. I was diagnosed with the disease last September.

However, after that phase of the course of treatment has finished, they then call you in for a more intense course of treatment to drive the disease further back into remission. Your own stem cells are removed, ready to be returned to you to jump start your own immune system. You are also called into hospital and put in isolation. In Bristol’s BRI you are given your own room. You have a piccline inserted running from your bicep to almost to your heart, through which they administer the drugs. They then give you a dose of malophan, the drug that they originally used to treat the disease.  The next day, they also give you back your own stem cells, and a few days later they also give you back the platelets they removed.

Throughout the whole period you are carefully monitored, given drugs, both in pill form and in infusions to deal with the effects of the cancer treatment. The doctors see you every day to see how you’re coping. If you have problems eating, you may also a nutritionist, while a physiotherapist will also visit to advise you on gentle exercises if you are weak.

I shudder to think how much all this would cost under the private insurance system in America, which the Tories  and New Labour so much admire, even while they’re prating about how much they ‘treasure’ the NHS.

They released me yesterday, and it’s good to be home. The treatment has, however, left me as weak as the proverbial kitten, with a sore mouth, and diarrhoea. I’ve been prescribed and given mouthwashes and drugs for some of these effects. The booklets for the treatment state that it may be 2/3 months, or even 5-6 months, before you make a complete recovery. So don’t expect very much energetic blogging!

I cannot fault the treatment given by the medical and the ancillary staff. They were professional, friendly, courteous and reassuring. I found the treatment very difficult, but they were at pains to say, ‘This is not the ‘new you’. You will recover.’ And it can be very interesting talking to the ancillary staff, some of whom were non-White immigrants, and hearing their stories and perspectives. The NHS certainly has benefit from the skills and dedication brought to it by its medical professionals and ancillary staff from across the world, whether Asia, the Caribbean, Africa, or eastern Europe. And the health service is suffering because many of these are being forced to return home, or look elsewhere for work, because of Tweezer and Brexit.

I’m afraid I haven’t been blogging very much while in hospital, despite my best intentions. Their wifi system simply wouldn’t let me. The hospital wifi system was insecure, so that anyone geographically near me could see my passwords if I went to a site that require them. So the system simply refused to let me on after I posted up those couple of pieces to the blog about George Galloway winning his libel battle against the Torygraph, and New Labour’s desperate policy to stop NHS hospitals owning and operating their own MRI scanners, as opposed to leasing them from private firms. So I spent my time in bed trying to read an SF novel by the awesome Paul McAuley, and re-reading a few old copies of Private Eye and Clive James’ The Crystal Bucket. This last is a collection of James’ old TV reviews from the 1970s from the Observer. James started out as a radical socialist, and then move right, eventually ending up in the Torygraph. An intellectual, with a tendency to show off, he nevertheless took trash culture very seriously, at a time when many intellectuals did dismiss television. One of the jokes about it used to be ‘Why is television a medium? Because it’s neither rare nor well done’. Which is true of a lot, but not all. And James stated that heartfelt trash culture was worth far more than bad high art, like Michael Tippet’s A Child Of Our Time. The ’70s were also the  decade of the Vietnam War and the horrors of the CIA coup in Chile, George Kissinger’s support of genocidal, murderous dictators across the world as part of the campaign against Communism, Watergate, and TV dramas about the Holocaust, all of which he reviewed, along with Star Trek, Dr. Who, Miss World, the World Disco-Dancing Championships, the footie and the athletics. Quite apart from more highbrow productions of Shakespeare, intense dramas, and the horrors of the classic BBC series, I, Claudius, set under the deprave reign of Caligula.

He also reviewed an interview with the old Fascist, Oswald Mosley. Mosley was the leader of the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s, and a series of successive Fascist movements after the Second World War. He was very definitely persona non grata for many years, until he partly rehabilitated himself with the publication of his autobiography, My Life.  He then got a job doing book reviews for the Telegraph. Mosley was a fan of Mussolini and then Adolf Hitler. When Mussolini was overshadowed by Hitler as the great Fascist dictator, Mosley changed the name of the BUF to the ‘British Union of Fascists and National Socialists’. He corresponded very amicably with the Nazis, although claimed during the War that in the event of an invasion of Britain he would not serve as this country’s Quisling, the traitor leader of Norway. And in the interview the old thug constantly denied being an anti-Semite, claiming that the attacks and violence were instead all the fault of the Jews. All the while making it clear that he still identified them with the ‘money power’, which was secretly ruling from behind the scenes. James said of him that he didn’t so much proclaim anti-Semitism as embody it. There’s much to blog about in James’ TV criticism from this period. I especially want to do a piece about this interview with Mosley to show the difference between real anti-Semites, and those decent people, who have been smeared as such by the Israel lobby, New Labour and the Tory press. People like Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone, mike, my brother, Tony Greenstein and so many, many others. Absolutely none of whom are in any way, shape or form anything like the real Nazis and anti-Semites, like Mosley or the characters now crawling out into public view from the Alt-Right and Libertarians.

I spent part of yesterday evening trying to answer the various comments that had built up on this blog over the past few weeks. I really appreciate all the messages of support and encouragements to get well and get blogging soon! It was really great and encouraging to read. I feel fortunate that I have people like you all following my blog.

I’m still quite ill at the moment, but I hope to pick up and carry on blogging as far as I can. And I hope you all are enjoying good health, and haven’t suffered too much from the heat these past weeks. With luck, it shouldn’t be too long before it’s business as usual. I hope.

 

 

Dimbleby Resigns as BBC Propagandist on Question Time

June 18, 2018

Yesterday, Mike put up a piece commenting on the resignation of former Bullingdon boy David Dimbleby as the host of Question Time. The man Private Eye dubbed ‘Dimblebore’ has been presenting the show for 25 years, and now considers it the right moment to leave. Dimbleby is another BBC presenter, who is very biased towards the Conservatives. Mike’s photograph of him accompanying his piece shows him raising two fingers, with the comment that it’s probably to a Socialist. Mike also cautions against feeling too good about Dimblebore’s resignation, as we don’t know what monster’s going to replace. He wonders whether the secret of human cloning has been found, and whether the next biased presenter of the programme will be Josef Goebbels.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/06/17/if-david-dimbleby-is-leaving-the-bbcs-question-time-what-horror-will-replace-him/

Last week Dimblebore was off in Russia, presenting a documentary about the country under Putin ahead of the footie there. He wasn’t the only, or even the first person to go. The comedian Frankie Boyle got there over a week earlier, presenting a two-part show about the country, it’s people and football on Sunday evening. Dimblebore was rather more serious in tone, presenting Russia as a country in the grip of a repressive autocrat, and mired in corruption which was strangling the economy.

Dimbleby first explained that Putin was most popular with young people, the generation that everywhere else is rebelling against autocrats, dictators and tyrants. He puts this down to Russians’ experience of economic collapse under Yeltsin. Yeltsin ended communism and dismembered the economy of the Soviet Union, privatising whatever he could. The result was chaos, and massive employment. At one point it got so bad that some factories were paying their workers in the goods they produced. Putin has restored order and economic stability to the country, and so has the support of the younger generation.

He spoke to a great of young professionals, an advertising branding team who were supporters of Putin, working to promote him through images and slogans. He stated that most of the media was controlled by the Russian president, with a few exceptions. He then went to speak to someone from RT’s Moscow branch. Dimbleby explained that some of the staff were British, and asked one of the Brits there whether he was presenting propaganda. The man denied it, said that there was no one watching over him, telling him what to do, and that his conscience was clear. Dimblebore then gave a knowing smirk into the camera.

He then talked to a female presenter on one of the few dissident broadcasters Putin had allowed to remain open. She said that she had not received any threats, but she knew that she could be killed for what she did. But she was still determined to carry on.

He then talked about how those, who criticised the government were arrested and jailed, interviewing a human rights lawyer, who defended them. When asked what people could be arrested and jailed for, the lawyer explained that it could be criticism of the government, or a non-traditional understanding of the Second World War. The other year Putin passed a law criminalising the view that Stalin was partly responsible for the Nazi invasion of eastern Europe and Russia through the Nazi-Soviet pact. From what I remember, I think you can also be arrested for promoting gay rights.

He then spoke to a woman, who was protesting her treatment by the state. She had already been jailed for criticising Putin, but was determined to do so again. She had not been able to get a permit to organise a protest, and so held her own, one-woman demonstration outside the court. This is permitted under Russian law. If you can’t get a permit for a demonstration, you can still protest, so long as there is only one person involved. As she stood with her placard, she was joined by an increasing number of counter-protesters determined to disrupt her protest, and possibly send her to jail. They moved closer to her, and she moved away, telling them to keep their distance. They kept coming, and their numbers kept increasing. Then the cops turned up, and started filming things as they’d been told foreigners were involved. And someone else from one of the TV companies materialised to film the protest as well. Eventually it all ended, and the police and counter-protesters disappeared.

Dimbleby then did a piece about the police’s brutal suppression of dissent, complete with footage of the cops beating what looked like a feminist protester from Pussy Riot.

He also touched on gender roles. He talked to a hairdresser, while having his haircut, who told him that Russia still had very traditional gender roles, in which women wanted a strong man to provide for them.

Putin has also succeeded in reversing the declining Russian birthrate. Instead of falling, it is now rising, with medals and benefits given to couples who have large families. He showed one woman and her husband, who were being presented a medal by Putin for having ten children.

He also went off to talk to a youth organisation, that was set up to get children, including boys of junior school age, interested in the army. The group’s name translates as ‘Net’, and is run by army officers. The children there wear combat uniforms and learn to shoot using air rifles, which they are also taught how to strip down. They were shown blazing away at targets, and competing with each other over who could reassemble a gun while blindfolded the quickest, with Dimblebore cheering the winner. And it wasn’t all boys. One of the youngster there looked like a girl. Dimblebore asked them if they wanted to join the army, to which they gave a very enthusiastic ‘Yes’.

He then went off to speak to a prelate from the Russian Orthodox Church about its support for Putin, where he described Putin as an autocrat attacking human rights and threatening peace in Europe. The prelate responded by saying that there were those, who did not agree with his view. And that was that.

He then went off to discuss the massive corruption in Russia, and how this was undermining the economy as more and more investors and companies left the country because of it. Russia has 144 million people, but it’s economy is 2/3s that of Britain, or about the size of Italy’s, and is declining.

Now all of this is factually true. John Kampfner, in his book Freedom For Sale discusses Russia as another state, where the population has made a deal with its leader. They have absolute power, in return for which they give their people prosperity. Except that, according to Dimbleby, living standards and wages are declining. Putin has passed laws against the promotion of homosexuality, there are massive human rights violations, including the jailing of the type of people, who would have been called dissidents under Communism. Journalists, who haven’t toed the Archiplut’s line have been beaten and killed.

Other aspects of the Russian state, as revealed by this programme, would have been immediately recognisable to the generation raised by Communism. Like the corruption. It was rife under Communism. The Bulgarian journalist, Arkady Vaksberg, wrote a book about it, The Soviet Mafia. And Gogol took a shot at official corruption under the Tsars back in the 19th century in his play, The Government Inspector. So no change there.

As for the Russian Orthodox Church supporting Putin, it was always the state church under the tsars, to which it gave absolute support. The watchword of the tsarist regime was ‘Autocracy, Orthodoxy and the People’. And its support of autocratic leadership didn’t begin under Putin. After the restrictions on religion were lifted in the 1990s, the BBC journalists interviewed some of its clergy on their shows. And the clergy had the same preference for absolute state power and total obedience from the people. Putin made the relationship between the Church and his government closer by granting them a sizable share of Russia’s oil.

The youth groups designed to get children interested in joining the army are also little different from what already went on under the Soviet system. Secondary schoolchildren did ‘military-patriotic training’ to prepare them for national service as part of the school curriculum. It was led by retired army officers, who were often the butt of schoolboy jokes. They were taught to handle weapons, complete with competitions for throwing grenades the furthest.

And let’s face it, it also isn’t much different from what used to go on over here. I’ve known young people, who were in the army and naval cadets. And the public schools used to have the CCF – the Combined Cadet Force – which the Tories would dearly love to bring back. And boys, and some girls, do like playing at ‘War’, so I’ve no doubt that if something like the Russian group was set up in this country, there would be many lads and girls wanting to join it.

Russia has also too been a very masculine society with very traditional ideas about gender and masculinity, despite the fact that most engineers were women, who also worked as construction workers and many other, traditionally masculine areas. One of the complaints of Russian women was that the men didn’t do their fair share of standing in queues waiting to get whatever groceries were in store.

And the medals and rewards to the women, who gave birth to the largest number of children is just another form of the Heroic Mother Awards under the Soviet Union. Putin’s Russia continues many of the same aspects of the country’s society from the age of the tsars and Communism, although Dimblebore said the country was going backward.

I’ve no doubt it is, but the programme annoyed me.

What irritated me was Dimblebore’s knowing smirk to camera when the guy from RT denied that he broadcast propaganda. Now I’m sure that RT does. There’s videos I’ve seen on YouTube from RTUK, which could fairly be described as pro-Russian propaganda.

But what annoyed me was Dimblebore’s hypocrisy about it.

The Beeb and Dimbleby himself has also broadcast it share of propaganda supporting western foreign policy interests, including imperialism. Newsnight has finally got round, after several years, to covering the Fascists running around the Ukraine under the present government. But the Beeb has emphatically not informed the British public how the pro-western regime which was put in power with the Orange Revolution, was created by the US State Department under Obama, and run by Hillary Clinton and Victoria Nuland. Far from being a grassroots movement, the revolution was orchestrated by the National Endowment for Democracy, which has been handling the US state’s foreign coups since they were taken away from the CIA, and one of George Soros’ pro-democracy outfits.

Putin is also presented as the villainous aggressor in the current war in the Ukraine, and some have compared his annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine to the Nazi annexation of the Sudetenland. But Crimea had been a part of Russia before 1951, when Khrushchev, a Ukrainian, gave it to that state. And Putin is not looking to take over the country either. The population of Russia is 144 million. Ukraine’s is a little over a third of that, at 52 million. If Putin really had wanted to annex it, he would have done so by now. And under international law, as I understand it, nations are allowed to intervene in foreign countries militarily to defend members of their ethnic group that are being persecuted. That was the pretext for the Nazi annexation of the Sudetenland, and it’s also the reason why Putin’s invaded eastern Ukraine. But it’s legal under international law. And I don’t doubt for a single minute that Russians, and Russian-speaking Ukrainians, were being persecuted by the new, pro-Western government.

In his documentary, Dimbleby met a very angry, patriotic Russian, who told him that the British had tried to invade Russia three times in the past three centuries. Once in the 19th century during the Crimean War; then in 1922 during the Russian Civil War. And now we were preparing to do the same. He angrily told us to ‘get out!’. Dimbleby looked shocked, and said to him that he couldn’t really believe we were ready to invade.

This was another continuation of the Soviet paranoia and hostility towards the West dating from the Communist period and before. Russia has always felt itself encircled by its enemies since the tsars. But the man has a point. We did invade Russia in 1922 in an effort to overthrow the Communist regime. Pat Mills has talked about this in his presentation on comics he gave to the SWP a few years ago. He tried to get a story about it in Charlie’s War, the anti-war strip he wrote for Battle. This is another piece of history that we aren’t told about.

And when Gorbachev made the treaty with Clinton pledging the withdrawal of Soviet troops from eastern Europe after the collapse of Communism, Clinton in turn agreed that these state would not become members of NATO. He broke his promise. They now all are, and NATO’s borders now extend to Russia. At the same time, western generals and NATO leaders have been predicting a war between Russia and NATO. One even wrote a book about it, 2017: War with Russia. Thankfully, 2017 has been and gone and there has, so far, been no war. But with this in view, I can’t say I blame any Russian, who is afraid that the West might invade at any moment, because it does look to me like a possibility.

And there are other matters that the Beeb and the rest of the lamestream news aren’t telling us about. They’re still repeating the lie that the invasion of Iraq was done for humanitarian reasons, whereas the reality was that western corporations and the neocons wanted to get their hands on Iraqi state industries and privatise the economy. And the American and Saudi oil industry wanted to get their mitts on the country’s oil reserves.

The civil war in Syria is also presented in simplistic terms: Assad as evil tyrant, who must be overthrown, and Putin as his bloodthirsty foreign ally. Assad is a tyrant, and one of the causes of the civil war was his oppression of the Sunni majority. But we are constantly being told that the rebels are ‘moderates’, while the fact is that they still have links to Islamists like the al-Nusra Front, the former Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, and ISIS. Nor have I seen the Beeb tell anyone how the Syrian rebels have also staged false flag chemical weapons attacks against civilians in order to draw the west into the war.

And objective reporting on Israel is hindered by the pro-Israel lobby. Any news item or documentary, which shows Israel’s horrific crimes against Palestinian civilians is immediately greeted with accusations of anti-Semitism from the Israeli state and the Board of Deputies of British Jews. I’ll be fair to the Beeb. Some of their presenters have tried to give an objective reporting of events, like Jeremy Bowen and Orla Guerin. But they’ve been accused of anti-Semitism, as was Dimblebore himself when he tried to defend them. In this instance, the bias isn’t just the fault of the Beeb. But it is there, and newsroom staff have said that they were under pressure from senior management to present a pro-Israel slant.

Domestically, the Beeb is very biased. I’ve discussed before how Nick Robinson in his report on a speech by Alex Salmond about Scots devolution carefully edited the SNP’s answer, so it falsely appeared that he had been evasive. In fact, Salmond had given a full, straight answer. Salmond’s reply was whittled down further as the day went on, until finally Robinson claimed on the evening news that he hadn’t answered the question.

And numerous left-wing bloggers and commenters, including myself, have complained about the horrendous bias against the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn in the Beeb’s reporting. Dimblebore himself has shown he has a very right-wing bias on Question Time, allowing right-wing guests and audience members to speak, while silencing those on the left. Not that he’s alone here. Andrew Marr has done exactly the same on his programme on Sundays.

Dimblebore is, quite simply, another right-wing propagandist, with the Beeb backing current western imperialism. His smirk at the RT journalist’s denials of doing the same is just gross hypocrisy.

BBC Director of News Warns Young Turning Away from Beeb

June 18, 2018

Last Friday, 15th June 2018, the I newspaper carried an article reporting a warning about the Beeb’s future given by Fran Unsworth, the Corporation’s Director of News and Current Affairs, at the Women on Air conference. Young people are increasingly turning away from the Beeb, and if this continues, it will threaten the Beeb’s future as it no longer has an audience.

The article, under the title, Youth Exodus from News ‘Threatening BBC’s Survival stated

The BBC’s existence is under threat if it cannot encourage more younger viewers to watch its news services, a senior executive warned.

Fran Unsworth, BBC director of news and current affairs, said the corporation was playing a “deadly serious” version of The Generation Game. She told the Women On Air conference: “The most significant challenge facing the BBC is how we reach younger audiences. Less and less are under 35. Our very existence might be called into question.”

Recent BBC figures showed that 16-24 year-old spend more time watching Netflix in a week than with all of BBC TV, including the BBC iPlayer. The sizes of audiences tuning in for scheduled news bulletins is declining rapidly, the Digital News Report, published yesterday, found. (P. 9)

The remainder of the article dealt with the issue of getting more female experts on television news. Unsworth stated this was right, but they couldn’t just sack people.

Okay, I’m not the best person to explain why young people under 35 aren’t watching the Beeb, as it’s well over a decade since I was that age. I can’t really talk about changes in entertainment tastes, as I don’t share many of them. Or at least, I’m not interested in some of the programmes that excite the reviewers in the media, like the various TV dramas about detectives hunting down deranged serial killers, and uncovering a web of lies and corruption. Or equally tense dramas about child abuse. My taste in detective television basically extended to Columbo and Van Der Valk, when he was last on back in the 1990s.

But I can make a good guess why young – and older – people aren’t tuning into BBC news. And it’s because of the Beeb’s appalling pro-Tory bias. Young people are the section of the British public in which support for Jeremy Corbyn is strongest. And the Beeb’s coverage of Corbyn and his supporters in the Labour party has been overwhelmingly, and very blatantly biased. And it’s become very, very obvious. The Corporation no longer has the same strong position as Britain’s trusted news broadcaster it once had. People are able to get their news now from a wider variety of sources through the internet, as well as the Corporation’s competitors on the commercial channels. And these news shows, such as RT, Democracy Now, Telesur English, Al-Jazeera, and in America The Young Turks, Secular Talk, Sam Seder’s Majority Report, the David Pakman Show and so, present a very different picture of what’s going on in the world. While the Beeb runs the establishment propaganda that our invasions and interventions in the Middle East and elsewhere are all for humanitarian reasons, these show how the real motivation is simply western corporate imperialism. They will also show just how the Israeli state is oppressing and viciously persecuting the Palestinians, and how the US – and Britain- has sponsored coups in Latin America, Iran and elsewhere, which have overthrown liberal and socialist regimes and installed Fascist dictators. All to protect US and British corporate interests, of course.

The Beeb, however, is very much part of the establishment, and its broadcasting is very much aimed at the corporate and political elite on the one hand, where it reflects their interests and concerns, and on the other aimed at getting the rest of us to accept it. There isn’t anything particularly unique about this. The Corporation’s bias against Labour is shared by the rest of the lamestream media and press. But they’re also increasingly under pressure from these alternative news sources.

If the Beeb really wants to get young people, and a large part of the older generation, back watching the news, then they should change their bias and start reporting Corbyn and the Labour party objectively and truthfully, as well as stop repeating flag-waving establishment propaganda about the wars in the Middle East. But this would be too radical a change, I fear. It would mean clearing out all the various Tories in the Beeb’s news teams, like Laura Kuenssberg and Nick Robinson, or telling them to do their job properly. And so the Beeb is stuck as the voice of a right-wing, Tory, imperialist establishment, while more and more people take their news from elsewhere.

Noam Chomsky Refutes the Statement that Anti-Zionism Is Anti-Semitism

June 17, 2018

I found this very useful little video on Chomsky’s Philosophy channel on YouTube yesterday. It’s about two and a half minutes long, and seems to come from a conference in 2014 about supporting the Palestinians. One of the women present asks the great philosopher and linguistic scholar how he would respond to the charge that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.

Chomsky replies by explaining the origins of this belief. He states that it began 45 years ago in an article by Albert Evan, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations in Congress, a magazine aimed at the liberal wing of American Jewry. Evan declared that Jews had to spread the idea that anti-Zionism, in the case of gentiles, was anti-Semitism. In the case of Jews, it was neurotic self-hatred. And he gave two examples. One was I.F. Stone, and the other was Chomsky himself. Chomsky states he doesn’t blame the Zionists for making this argument. They’re just doing what they can to defend their country from criticism. But anti-Zionism isn’t anti-Semitism. It is criticism of Israel’s criminal actions against the Palestinians.

I realise that Chomsky is very much a controversial figure. I know people on the left as well as the right, who don’t like him because he denied the genocidal actions of Pol Pot, or some of the other Communist maniacs in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. But his criticisms of western imperialism, and the military-industrial complex are accurate. And he’s also absolutely correct about the way the media works to suppress domestic dissent.

Anti-Zionism isn’t anti-Semitism. Zionism is a movement, an ideology, not a race. The largest Zionist organisation in America is a fundamentalist Christian organisation. Criticism of Israel might be anti-Semitic, if the only reason for it was because Israel is a Jewish state. And it’s true that historically some of the critics of Israel were Nazis or Nazi sympathisers. However, left-wing anti-Zionists and critics of Israel don’t object to the country because of its Jewish origins. They object to it because it is western colonial apartheid state, which has been engaged in a 70-year long campaign of massacre and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous

Trial of Alleged Members of National Action for Terrorism

June 12, 2018

I got this message this afternoon from the anti-racism, anti-Fascism and anti-religious extremism organisation, Hope Not Hate. Six people, alleged to be members of the banned terrorist group National Action, are on trial for terrorism, including the notorious Jack Renshaw. Hope Not Hate said

Hi David,

We wanted to share some important news with you.

A trial started this morning at the Old Bailey of six alleged members of National Action, a banned terrorist organisation. One of the six, Jack Renshaw, has pleaded guilty to preparing an act of terrorism by plotting to murder Labour MP Rosie Cooper, and threatening to kill a police officer, Vicky Henderson. Another is charged with assisting in that plot. All six deny the charges of membership of National Action.

This trial has come about, and the evidence against Jack Renshaw, was brought to the attention of the authorities due to the direct work of HOPE not hate. Our CEO, Nick Lowles, our Head of Research, Matthew Collins, and one of our informants will be key prosecution witnesses.

This trial is serious. National Action is a dangerous nazi group, banned as a terrorist organisation in 2016. They have their roots in the BNP’s youth wing. They’ve conducted harassment campaigns, and had a slick social media operation. They have long talked publicly about being ready to commit acts of violence.

Because of some strict legal restrictions, there is a limit on what we can say publicly during the trial. We will try and update you all as much as we’re allowed to over the next weeks and hopefully we will be able to tell the full story once the trial is over. In the meantime, we’ve set up a page on our website so you can follow how things pan out.

Thanks for all of your support,

-The HOPE not hate team

The web page is at https://www.hopenothate.org.uk/2018/06/12/update-important-trial-old-bailey/, and adds this piece of information

This court case has come about because of the great work of our research team and the courage of a young man who operated inside National Action and has stepped forward to testify about their activities, the centrepiece of which was a plot to kill Labour MP Rosie Cooper and a police officer.

This trial of alleged NA members is expected to last for several weeks. Although the case can be reported on by the media, HOPE not hate staff are under strict restrictions to remain silent until they have given evidence in court. We will be updating hopenothate.org.uk regularly with what’s happening in court.

At the end of the trial we’ll be free to tell the full story of how National Action was stopped in its tracks – and what the government must do to defeat the growing threat of far-right terrorism.

Far Right Watch Explain Why Tommy Robinson Is Not a Martyr for Free Speech

June 12, 2018

Last month, Tommy Robinson, or to give him his real name, Steven Yaxley Lennon, was arrested and jailed for contempt of court. Robinson is the former leader of the Islamophobic EDL, and has also been a member of PEGIDA UK, as well as the BNP. He’d been covering the trial of a group of Pakistani Muslims in Leeds on the internet outside the court. Robinson already had a suspended sentence for doing the same thing about a year ago in Canterbury. The rozzers swooped, Robinson pleaded guilty, and is now enjoying a holiday at her majesty’s pleasure.

His supporters have gone berserk, claiming that he’s been persecuted for his beliefs and that this is a serious breach of free speech by the multicultural establishment to protect Muslims. They’ve also been on the internet claiming that this is all part of the establishment’s campaign to make Whites extinct through immigration and racial mixing. The Islamophobic Dutch politician, Gert Wilders, who is himself no stranger to prosecution for racism, has condemned Robinson’s arrest and imprisonment. As has Pauline Hanson, the head of the minuscule Australian anti-immigration party, the One Nation Party. Hanson runs a fish and chip shop in Western Australia, and she’s made herself president for life of her outfit, so there are definitely no overtones of Fascist dictatorship there.

Last Sunday, 4th June 2018, Robinson’s supporters held a rally in London demanding his release. This has alarmed anti-racist activists and organisations. Hope Not Hate have released a video telling the truth about Robinson and what he really stands for and why he was jailed. As have Kevin Logan, the male feminist and anti-Fascist, and Far Right Watch. RT also covered the demonstration, and their short clip shows some of Robinson’s supporters trying fighting or attempting to fight the police.

Far Right Watch are an unpaid, volunteer group of nine people dedicated to exposing Fascism and the Far Right on the internet. In this video, which is about 28 minutes long, they answer five questions about Robinson and bust seven myths about him.

They start out by making the point that Robinson is a racist, and has been a member of a series of racist organisations, including the BNP. He’s also a criminal, having been convicted 12 times of various offences, including fraud. They go into great detail, including citing the official court document explaining to Robinson why he is being jailed, showing that his arrest is certainly not political censorship but was done as part of the ordinary legislation designed to give defendants a fair trial.

They point out that under English law since the 13th century, a person is innocent until proven guilty. This is unique to English law and the legal systems that are derived from it, and it’s a cornerstone of British justice. Robinson broke that in his coverage of the case, because his commentary on the trial assumed that the men being tried were guilty.

This is serious because it threatened to prejudice their trial, meaning that if the judge considered that the accused couldn’t get a fair trial because of Robinson, the trial would be abandoned or the accused acquitted. And if the accused were guilty of the heinous crimes with which they were charged, it would be a serious miscarriage of justice. Hence the mass of legislation surrounding the reporting of criminal cases which bind real journalists.

Robinson also violated accepted journalistic procedures by broadcasting live. When the professional broadcasters cover cases from outside a courthouse, it’s always recorded, and the report is then examined by legal experts to make sure that it complies with the law. Robinson did not none of that. He had no control over what was occurring, and was simply filming events as they happened. Furthermore, there were other people also coming to court for their trials, and his cavalier contempt for the law could have placed their cases in jeopardy.

His followers have also claimed that Robinson was all right to present his commentary on the case, as it was over. This video reveals that it wasn’t. The case Robinson was covering was only one of a number of trial, which were ongoing. They have also claimed that the ruling of contempt of court doesn’t apply to him, because he was outside the courtroom. That isn’t the case. The documents state that Robinson was still subject to the laws about contempt of court because he was still in the precincts of the court. Mike, who is a professional journalist, and who knows the law, told me that the precincts of the court are wherever the judge decides they are. So that excuse for him doesn’t hold up.

As for Robinson’s swift arrest, it’s so fast because he was given a 13 month suspended sentence for doing the same thing in Canterbury last year, which he didn’t contest. This sentence would immediately have started the moment Robinson broke the law again, regardless of any additional sentence he would be given for this offence. And while the speed of his arrest is unusual, it’s not unknown. Plus the fact that Robinson actually pleaded guilty to contempt when he was tried for it, so there’s absolutely no reason for the whole process to be prolonged with a lengthy trial and prosecution.

The video also makes the point that Robinson’s own interest in the trial was cynically racist. He wasn’t interested so much in the welfare of the children these people are accused of violating and exploiting. He was only interested in it as a way of generating further hatred against Muslims. He hadn’t covered a string of similar trials up and down England and Wales, for the simple reason that the paedophile gangs being tried in these cases were all White. Just like he also wasn’t interested in talking about Jimmy Savile or the allegations against the former Tory leader, Edward Heath.

As for Wilders and Pauline ‘President for Life’ Hanson fulminating against his arrest and sentencing as a travesty of British justice, or words to that effect, the same laws against contempt of court are in force everywhere, including the Netherlands and Australia. So if Robinson had broken the law in those countries, as he has here, he’d still have been jailed.

In short, Robinson is in no way a martyr for free speech, as the document outlining the reasons why he has been jailed states very clearly. This wasn’t about politics. It was about justice, giving the accused a fair trial, under laws which go all the way back to the Middle Ages. It was definitely not about protecting Muslim paedophiles, or the elites advancing the cause of ‘White genocide’ or any of the stupid and vile conspiracy theories that the Far Right may choose to believe or make up about it. And Robinson himself is hardly a high-minded, principled political activist. He’s a convicted criminal and a racist, who knowingly violated the law in order to generate more anti-Muslim hatred.

Mars as Communist Utopia in Pre-Revolutionary Russian SF

June 7, 2018

I thought this might interest all the SF fans out there. One of the books I’ve started reading is Lost Mars: The Golden Age of the Red Planet, edited by Mark Ashley (London: The British Library 2018). It’s a collection of SF stories written about the Red Planet from the 19th century to just before the Mariner and then Viking probes in the ’60s and ’70s showed that rather than being a living planet with canals, vegetation and civilised beings, it was a dead world more like the Moon. It’s a companion volume to another book of early SF stories from about the same period, Moonrise: The Golden Age of Lunar Adventures, also edited by Mike Ashley. The Martian book contains stories by H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury – from The Martian Chronicles, natch – Marion Zimmer Bradley, E.C. Tubb, Walter M. Miller, and the great novelist of dystopias and bug-eyed psychopaths, J.G. Ballard. It also contains pieces by now all but forgotten Victorian and early Twentieth writers of Scientific Romances, W.S. Lach-Szyrma, George C. Wallis, P. Schuyler Miller and Stanley G. Weinbaum.

Both books are also interesting, not just for the short stories collected in them, but also for Ashley’s introduction, where he traces the literary history of stories about these worlds. In the case of the Moon, this goes all the way back to the Roman satirist, Lucian of Samosata, and his Vera Historia. This is a fantasy about a group of Roman sailors, whose ship is flung into space by a massive waterspout, to find themselves captured by a squadron of Vulturemen soldiers from the Moon, who are planning an invasion of the Sun.

The history of literary speculation about Mars and Martian civilisation, is no less interesting, but somewhat shorter. It really only begins in the late 19th century, when telescopes had been developed capable of showing some details of the Martian surface, and in particular the canali, which the Italian astronomer Schiaparelli believed he had seen. The Italian word can mean ‘channels’ as well as ‘canal’, and Schiaparelli himself did not describe them as artificial. Nevertheless, other astronomers, like Percival Lowell of Flagstaff, Arizona, believed they were. Other astronomers were far more sceptical, but this set off the wave of novels and short stories set on an inhabited Mars, like Edgar Rice Burrough’s famous John Carter stories. I remember the Marvel adaptation of some these, or at least using the same character, which appeared as backing stories in Star Wars comic way back in the 1970s.

It’s also interesting, and to contemporary readers somewhat strange, that before H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, the vast majority of these stories about Mars assumed that the Martians would not only be far more scientifically and technologically advanced, but they would also be more socially and spiritually as well. Just like the Aetherius Society, a UFO new religious movement founded by George King in the 1950s, claims that Jesus was really as Venusian, and now lives on that world along with Aetherius, the being from whom they believe they receive telepathic messages, so there were a couple of short stories in which Christ was a Martian. These were Charles Cole’s Visitors From Mars, of 1901, and Wallace Dowding’s The Man From Mars of 1910.

Other utopias set on the Red Planet were more secular. In Unveiling a Parallel, by Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant, of 1893, the Martians are handsome and intelligent, and their women totally liberated. Another feminist utopia was also depicted by the Australian writer Mary Moore-Bentley in her A Woman of Mars of 1901.

And in Russia, the writer Alexander Bogdanov made Mars a Communist utopia. Ashley writes

While the planetary romance theme was developing there were other explorations of Martian culture. The Red Planet became an obvious setting for a communist state in Krasnaia Zvesda (‘Red Star’, 1908) and its sequel Inzhener Menni (‘Engineer Menni’, 1912) by Alexander Bogdanov. Although reasonably well known in Russia, especially at the time of the revolution in 1917, and notoriously because of its reference to free love on Mars, it was not translated into English until 1984. Kim Stanley Robinson claimed it served as an influence for his own novel, Red Mars (1992), the first of his trilogy about terraforming the planet. Although the emphasis in Bodganov’s stories is on the benefits of socialism, he took trouble to make the science as realistic as possible. The egg-shaped rocket to Mars is powered by atomic energy. His Mars is Schiaparellian, with canals that have forests planted along their full length, explaining why they are visible from Earth. He also went to great lengths to explain how the topography of Mars, and the fact that it was twice as old as Earth, allowed social evolution to develop gradually and more effectively, with planet-wide communication and thus a single language. (Pp. 11-12).

So five years before the Revolution, Mars really was the ‘Red Planet’ in Russian literature. I’m not surprised it wasn’t translated into English until the 1980s. British publishers and censors probably disliked it as a piece of Communist propaganda, quite apart from Anglophone western Puritanism and the whole issue of free love. No naughtiness allowed on the side of the Iron Curtain, not even when it’s set on Mars. Russian cinema also produced one of the first SF films, also set on Mars. This was Aelita (1922), in which Russian cosmonauts travel to the Red Planet to start a revolution, though at the end it’s revealed that it’s all been a dream.

Meanwhile, Mars as a planet of mystery continues in the French SF series, Missions, shown at 10.00 Thursdays on BBC 4. This has French spationauts and their American rivals landing on the Red Planet, only to find a mysterious altar constructed from lost Atlantean materials described by the Romans, and Vladimir Komarov, a Soviet cosmonaut, who has been turned into something more than human with three strands of DNA. In reality, Komarov died when the parachutes on his spacecraft failed to open when it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere. Tragically, Komarov knew it was a deathtrap, but went anyway because Khrushchev wanted another Russian space achievement to show up the Americans, and Komarov did not want his friend, and first man in space, Yuri Gagarin to go. It’s a tragic, shameful waste of human life on what was a purely political stunt, and Komarov is, because of his desire to save his friend, one of the great heroes of the space age.

But Missions shows not only how much people really want us to travel to Mars – to explore and colonise – it also shows how the Red Planet still remains the source of wonder and speculation about alien civilisations, civilisations that may not be hostile monsters intent on invading the Earth ‘for no very good reason’, as Douglas Adams described the motives of those aliens, who wanted to take over the universie in The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. One of the French spationauts, Jeanne, has dreamed of going to Mars since being shown it through a telescope by her father when she was a little girl. Electromagnetic scans of the area, when developed, give a picture of her face, and ‘Komarov’ tells her he has been waiting millions of years for her, and she is the true link between Mars and Earth.

Yes, it’s weird. But different. And it shows that Mars is continuing to inspire other forms of SF, where the Martians aren’t invaders – or at least, not so far-but benevolent guides waiting for us to come to them and make the next leap in our development. Just like Bogdanov in 1912 imagined that they would be ahead of us, and so have created a true Communist utopia.