Archive for the ‘Yugoslavia’ Category

The CIA and the Assassination of Zairean President Patrice Lamumba

October 5, 2021

Brian Burden, one of the great commenters on this blog, posed this question on my review of History Debunked’s video about the real brutality and evil of the hero of the film Hotel Rwanda:

“My question is, what did the UN actually do to stop the massacres? Sod all, it seems. They did not even do the obvious thing and dynamite the radio-station which was pouring out non-stop incitement to the Hutus to go out and murder Tutsis. There is a pattern here. In 1960(?) UN peacekeepers, called into the Congo by elected leader Patrice Lumumba to quell a rebellion by the Civil Guard, confiscated their weapons on arrival, but shortly afterwards, on orders from above, handed them back! When UN representative Conor O’Brien took serious steps to end the illegal secession of mineral-rich Katanga, he was promptly recalled. Next, UN “peace-keepers” stood by while Katangese troops seized and beat Lumumba – the man who had called the UN in in the first place – and then took him away and murdered him. According to a report in the Sunday Express, UN troops riding in an open truck at the back of a passenger train they were supposed to be protecting, sat tight while rebels stopped the train and massacred the passengers. In 1967, UN peace-keepers occupying the border area between Israel and Egypt withdrew without a demur when Nasser ordered them out so that he could launch an attack on Israel. No thanks to the UN that Israel resisted and prevailed. Has there ever been a conflict where UN peace-keepers have justified their title? Were they in former Yugoslavia facilitating the bloodshed, I wonder? Can’t be bothered to check!”

This is deep question, one that probably needs a whole book to itself. I don’t think the Peacekeepers facilitated the horrors in the former Yugoslavia, but there certainly were occasions when they did absolutely nothing to stop them. The massacre of Srebrenica, which was supposed to be a safe haven, is an example of this. From what I gather UN forces simply left and let the Serbs enter and massacre at will. I have come across a book by a Muslim author suggesting that the UN and British presence in Yugoslavia is part of a covert plot to guard the oil pipeline coming up through the Balkans. The same book also suggests, however, that the 7/7 bombings were also a false flag operation by the intelligence services to provide a pretext for the various invasions, but I don’t really believe this.

However, Susan Williams’ book, White Malice, shows that Patrice Lamumba of Zaire was overthrown and murdered by the CIA. Zaire was the supplier of the type of uranium used in the Manhattan Project which created the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Americans were desperate to retain control of the mines producing the uranium and had Lamumba killed because he was felt to be too close to Communism.

Lobster quotes Williams’, showing that the Americans were operating secretly in the Congo with the CIA’s predecessor, the OSS.

“The OSS station in the Belgian Congo had a unique, top-secret mission: to protect the export of uranium from the Congo to America and to keep it out of enemy hands. Congolese ore was essential for the Manhattan Project, which produced the world’s first atomic weapons and was led by the United States, with some assistance from Britain and Canada. This uranium was used to build the first atomic bomb to be tested: the Trinity test in New Mexico, in July 1945, which launched the atomic age. It was also used to build the atomic bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki the following month—on 6 August and 9 August, respectively.

The source of the ore was the Shinkolobwe mine in Katanga, the southern province of the Congo. Shinkolobwe produced uranium that was far richer than any other uranium in the world: it assayed as high as 75 per cent uranium oxide, with an average of 65 per cent. By contrast, ores of marketable quality from the Colorado Plateau in the US and from Canada contained two-tenths of 1 per cent . . . .’ (pp. 30/31)”

The review states

“In retrospect it is obvious that any African leader in the Congo who didn’t swear allegiance to the American embassy and promise to let the US control the uranium was going to be disposed of. Patrice Lumumba, the nationalist Congolese leader at the time, didn’t understand this or didn’t care (which of
those isn’t clear to me) so he was ousted and killed. Williams devotes 250 pages to the Congo and the death of Lumumba. The events, military, political and diplomatic, preceding that murder are detailed day by day, sometimes even hour by hour. To justify the killing of Lumumba and the installation of an
American puppet, the CIA duly invented a ‘communist plot’.”

Lamumba is only one of a whole string of foreign politicians and heads of state, who have been assassinated or overthrown in American-backed coups. William Blum devotes a whole chapter to these in one of his books, and another chapter to US secret interference in foreign elections.

See: https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster82/lob82-cia-africa.pdf

The Guardian on the Failure of the West’s Occupation of Afghanistan

August 16, 2021

Simon Jenkins, one of the columnists at the Groan, has written a very interesting piece about the end of the west’s occupation of Afghanistan and the government it has protected. Jenkins begins his piece by stating that the invasion itself was absolutely unnecessary.

“The US had no need to invade Afghanistan. The country was never a “terrorist state” like Libya or Iran. It was not at war with the US; indeed the US had aided its rise to power against the Russians in 1996. The Taliban had hosted Osama bin Laden in his mountain lair through his friendship with the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar. At an immediate post-9/11 “loya jirga” in the southern city of Kandahar, younger leaders pressed the mullah to expel Bin Laden. Pakistan would probably have forced his surrender sooner or later. After the 2001 invasion the US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld demanded that George Bush “punish and get out”.

Yet neither Bush nor Tony Blair listened. Instead they experienced a rush of blood to the head. They commandeered Nato, which had no dog in the fight, and began “nation building”, as if nations were made of Lego. It would be an age, said the political scientist Joseph Nye, of the “velvet hegemon”. For reasons never fully explained, Blair declared a “doctrine of international community” and pleaded for Britain to be in the first bombing run over Kabul. He then sent Clare Short as the minister for international development to stop the Afghans growing poppies. Afghan poppy production soared to an all-time high, spreading from six to 28 provinces, probably Britain’s most successful farm product of all time. Opium floated the Taliban back to power.”

He goes on to describe the totally misguided optimism among the western forces when he visited the country in 2006, when he was told that the Taliban were all but defeated. Seven years later the Taliban had defeated us, and have now gone on to defeat the Americans. As a result, the soldiers, interpreters, academics, journalists and aid workers are seeing friends threatened and killed. The occupation has been colossally expensive. The Americans have supposedly spent a trillion dollars. It has cost Britain £37 billion.

He concludes that this demonstrates the complete failure of imperialism, and that the proper thing to do now is to establish good relations with the new regime in Afghanistan and its neighbours Pakistan and Iran. Even though Boris still wants to play at Britain being a great imperial power.

“How many times must it be drummed into British heads that the British empire is over? It is dead, finished, outdated, not to be repeated. Yet Boris Johnson has just sent an aircraft carrier to the South China Sea. Britain has no need, let alone right, to rule other countries, to “make the world a better place”. No soldier need die for it, let alone 454 British soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan. The best Britain can now do is establish good relations with a new regime in Afghanistan – in liaison with Kabul’s neighbours Pakistan and Iran – to protect at least some of the good it has attempted to do this past 20 years. The world is not threatening Britain. Terrorism does not need state sponsors, nor will it be ended by state conquest.”

See: https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/other/it-has-taken-20-years-to-prove-the-invasion-of-afghanistan-was-totally-unnecessary/ar-AANnrpv?ocid=msedgdhp&pc=U531

It’s a good article, but I’d dispute Jenkin’s assumption on the continuing popularity of imperialism amongst the British public. When Blair invaded Iraq a few years later, two million people in Britain marched in protest. I think it was the biggest public protest ever at the time in Britain. I even recall that the Spectator and various Tory politicos were against the invasion, even though Niall Ferguson had previously raved about the new western imperialism in Afghanistan in the pages of the Heil. The British public weren’t given a choice about either invasion. The invasion of Afghanistan was sold to Britain and America as the justified reprisal for 9/11. The west wasn’t there to occupy the country, but to transform it into a modern, democratic state governed by western notions of human rights. Ditto with Iraq. It seems to me to have been mainly the opponents of these ventures, who recognised what this was really about and described it as such. There was an article in the conspiracy magazine, Lobster, calling Blair a ‘Gladstonian imperialist’ for example. I think some Guardian or Independent journos also described it as a kind of imperialism, but were also in favour of it because of New Labour support for the neo-con agenda. But there was supposed to be a difference between this new kind of imperialism and the old sort. Britain and America were to act as the world’s policemen, preventing tyrannical governments from engaging in genocide and other human rights atrocities, just as the US had intervened in the war in Yugoslavia and there had been calls for western intervention during the genocide in Rwanda. This was supposed to be very different from the conquests, occupations and annexations that had occurred in previous centuries. This means that many Brits probably didn’t see the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as imperialist.

But both were. And the real reasons were deliberately kept hidden from the British and American public. I’ve said before that the real reason for the Afghanistan invasion was the construction of a strategically important oil pipeline that the Taliban government had refused to build in collaboration with the US. William Blum, the late veteran critic of US imperialism, discusses this in some of his books, as does Michael Moore, the ‘capped crusader’, in his documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. The Iraq invasion was intended to acquire the country’s oil industry and reserves for the American and Saudi oil companies, and the country’s state enterprises for American multinationals. The neo-Cons also had the dream of turning Iraq into the kind of low tax, free trade economy they wanted for America. They lowered import tariffs, so that immediately the rest of the world dumped their excess products in Iraq. Iraqi business couldn’t compete, there was a wave of bankruptcies and unemployment shot up to 60 per cent. All this is described by Greg Palast in his book, Armed Madhouse.

I also wonder if the Guardian really wants the British public to know how Blair lied to them. As their demonisation of Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters showed, the Groan is thoroughly Blairite. One of the sources Private Eye used for its hit pieces on Corbyn and the anti-Semitism smears, according to the redoubtable Tony Greenstein, was a named Groaniad hack. The newspaper also wants to reassure the public that conspiracy theories are just fantasies and that governments, big business and other political actors don’t really engage in plots and secret plans. Hence David Aaronovitch has appeared several times in its pages to tell its readers that they don’t exist. I might, however, be wrong about this, and that Aaronovitch has published his views dismissing conspiracy theories in the Independent. Either way, what passes for the British left wing press has been extremely reluctant to admit that there was any kind of ulterior motive behind the invasions of these two countries.

But there was. The primary goal was to conquer them for the oil industry and big business. The result has been 20 years of war and chaos, and in the case of Iraq, the destruction of a whole country. The new imperialism of the neo-Conservatives has been a costly, bloody failure. It’s high time it was abandoned.

But I’m afraid that the same people who pushed these wars are still around and regrouping, as the speakers at an online left-wing Labour party rally against imperialism and colonialism described several months ago. I’m afraid they’ll come back, and push for another middle eastern war, most likely against Iran. All to protect Israel and liberate its people from the Islamic theocracy, of course.

And absolutely nothing to do with revenge for the Islamic revolution and the country’s nationalisation of its oil industry.

The Irish Nationalists on Multinational Agribusiness Land Clearances in Africa

June 3, 2021

Two of the many great commenters on this blog, Brian Burden and Gillflowerblog, are concerned about my watching too many videos from the far right. As they have pointed out, the danger with it is that it can turn you a Tory after a night of bad, troubled dreams. Just like the hero of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis turns into a beetle after a similar disturbed night. I’ve no time for Fascism or the far right. The horrors of the Nazi and Fascist tyrannies are so enormous and vile that no sane, decent person can ever support them. The most infamous of those is the murder of 6 million Jews, and 5 1/2 million assorted gentiles in the Nazi death and concentration camps, but it also includes the atrocities by the Ustashe regime in the former Yugoslavia and by the Italian Fascists against the Arabs and Ethiopians. But it seems that amid the racism and xenophobia the Irish far right are uncovering some very disturbing facts about the actions of multinational corporate capitalism in sub-Saharan Africa that could very easily form part of a liberal critique and politics of international protest.

For some reason YouTube’s put up for my viewing a series of videos from the Irish Nationalist Party, despite the fact that I’m not Irish and definitely not a member of the far right. But they are interesting because of what they show about the issues now driving the rise of the nationalist right in Eire. From what I’ve seen in these videos, the Nationalists are against the EU, mass immigration, gay and trans rights and multinational finance capitalism. Their attacks on finance capitalism are superficially entirely reasonable. They hate the way Ireland and its enterprises have been parcelled up and sold off to foreign owners through offshore holding companies and tax havens. They’re right. This is also what has been done over here in Britain, and is still being done by the Tories. They rightly criticise the government for bailing out the banks responsible for the 2008 financial crash and the austerity that was consequently imposed on the Irish people. Just as over this side of the Irish Sea, our government bailed out the banks and rewarded the people responsible for the crash, while at the same time using it as an excuse to impose cuts on the welfare state, state expenditure on education and the NHS and low wages for everyone not a multimillionaire. And part of their hatred of the EU seems to come from the European Union’s role in imposing this austerity as well as other, socially liberal policies which go against traditional, conservative Irish morality.

In one of their videos, they compare the offshore financial houses and the EU to the absentee landlords that oppressed the Irish peasantry during the 19th century, and whose predations and exploitation was a major cause of the grievances that finally produced the Irish Revolution. But underneath the liberal, reasonable critique of multinational finance capitalism, there’s something far more intolerant. In one of the videos I watched, the speaker talked about how there needed to be research into the role of international finance capitalism in the Cromwellian invasion. This sounds to me to be the old anti-Semitic nonsense about the Jewish banking conspiracy. The nonsense spouted by the Tsarist forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and which inspired Adolf Hitler and the other architects of the Holocaust.

They also hate the Irish government and the country’s mainstream parties, as well as the EU, for mass immigration, which they claim is taking Irish jobs from Irish workers and making Irish people homeless as accommodation which should go to them is given instead to immigrants. It’s standard far right stuff in many ways.

But one of their speakers at a local rally said something very interesting about what the multinational agricultural firms and the EU are doing in Africa. He claimed that they were destabilising the continent through purchasing vast areas of land and then clearing them of the indigenous, local people in order to turn them into vast farms. One of these estates being set up in Niger is, according to him, 5,000 square miles in extent. These firms are building huge walls around these estates, which have created tension and conflict. It’s the reason why so many military age men from the continent are seeking asylum on this side of the Mediterranean. They’re fleeing the wars and conflicts this is fuelling.

Now I don’t know how true this is. But it sounds horrifically plausible. Way back in the ’90s some of the creators of 2000AD put out a very political comic strip, World War Three, about a future war in Latin America driven by the big agricultural firms. I got the impression that this was based on fact and reasonable predictions. It was SF as the ‘literature of warning’. Now it sounds like something very similar is really happening, but this time in Africa.

I’m sure this is being discussed elsewhere, but I’m unaware that it has been covered in the mainstream media or by the mainstream parties. I wonder if this is a consequence of the embrace of neoliberalism by the European left. I very much doubt that Tony Blair and his successors in the Labour party want anyone noticing that free market, international capitalism in its genuine sense rather than as a code for ‘Jews’ brings nothing but wage slavery, poverty, misery and death. The Fascists and the far right, however, are left free to mention it. They are, after all, at the moment numerically small in Ireland and Britain and so few people will take any notice. And decent people will ignore it, because it comes from such a contaminated source.

Odiously, we have now got into a situation where reasonable criticisms of multinational capitalism are being shut down by the rightists under the pretext of combatting anti-Semitism in the Labour party. And instead they’re being embraced by people, whose solution is the ‘socialism of fools’ described by August Bebel.

We need real socialism, and a politics of tolerance and internationalism to protect working people across the world, whether Africa, Ireland or Britain.

I’m not going to show the video or link to it, but if you want to see it on YouTube, it’s title is: Ciarán McCormack – “The UN, the EU and the World Bank are destabilising Africa.”

The Quilliam Foundation, Set Up By the Spooks

April 16, 2021

Hat tip to Zelo Street for posting about this story. And it’s the type of stuff the conspiracy/ parapolitical magazine Lobster was set up to investigate and publicize: the covert shenanigans and dodgy activities of the British, American and western security services. Earlier this week the Quilliam Foundation, an organisation set up to counter Islamist religious extremism, went under. Its demise, as Zelo Street noted, raised the questions of why it had been wound up, considering all the millions had that been spent on it all these years, why its founder Maajid Nawaz had started deleting all his tweets about it, and what was the role of the security services in all of this. Ian Cobain, a former hack with the Groan knew, and told all.

Quilliam had been set up by the Home Office’s Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism. He knew this, as the OSCT had told him. The government initially planned to fund it covertly. It would ostensibly be funded by benefactors from the Middle East, but this would be a cover for its real source of income, MI6. However, the government then decided that it should be openly funded by the government, but that this would not publicised. This is now seen as a mistake. It should have been funded by the security agencies, who do it all the time apparently without anyone finding out.

Solomon Hughes also noted that its links to the security services seemed pretty open when it was founded, as early staff included Special Forces Captain Ed Jagger, and a ‘journalist’, who goes by the pseudonym ‘James Brandon’. Both of these men now work private security/ intelligence companies. This was all exposed six years ago by Nafeez Ahmed in an article in the Middle East Eye, ‘The Circus: How British Intelligence Primed Both Sides of the Terror War”. Ahmed revealed that the Quilliam Foundation was set up by Ed Husain and Nawaz with funding from the British government. And this, according to Ahmed, was why it failed, as neither of its founders were actually jihadis.

Perhaps the biggest problem with Husain’s and Nawaz’s claim to expertise on terrorism was that they were never jihadists. Hizb ut-Tahrir is a non-violent movement for the establishment of a global ‘caliphate’ through social struggle, focusing on the need for political activism in the Muslim world. Whatever the demerits of this rigid political ideology, it had no relationship to the phenomenon of al-Qaeda terrorism”.

Hizb-ut-Tahrir spawned a terrorist-supporting offshoot, al-Muhajiroun, which has also, like HuT, been banned in Britain as terrorist organisation. I think it was al-Muhajiroun, which was openly campaigning for donations to go to al-Qaeda from British Muslims at the time of the 9/11 terror attack. If I recall correctly, a couple of these jokers made the mistake of doing so in the street, and some other, ordinary stout Muslims lads showed them how strongly they disapproved of terrorism and mass murder. I think it was because of his role as a leading supporter and campaigner for al-Muhajiroun that Anjem Chowdhry, who never met an Islamist terrorist he didn’t like, apparently, ended up in the slammer. I thought Chowdry was behind the outfit, but it seems he wasn’t. It was founded instead by Omar Bakri. According to the US army intelligence officer and prosecutor for the US Justice Department, John Loftus, after Bakr left Hizb-ut-Tahrir he was recruited by MI6 facilitate Islamist activities in the Balkans. Ahmed concluded his piece by wishing that they could round up all the activists in the Quilliam Foundation and HuT and their handlers, and then put them in a boat on a journey to nowhere, so that everyone else could get some peace.

Zelo Street: Quilliam And The Spooks (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

It’s been Lobster’s contention since its foundation in the 1980s that the British security services are incompetent, out of control and very frequently working against the well-being of this country’s ordinary people. MI6’s recruitment of Bakri to assist in Islamist radicalisation and activities in the Balkans adds further evidence to this view. Years ago I found a book in the Central Library here in Bristol by a Muslim, which suggested that the 7/7 bombings had also been the result of a plot by the British security services. This was part of a wider scheme to keep western troops in the former Yugoslavia, ostensibly to keep the peace, but in reality to maintain control of yet another oil pipeline. I don’t know whether MI6 is so lawless that it was behind the 7/7 bombings – I sincerely hope not – but the revelation that it recruited Bakri to promote Islamism in that part of Europe suggests that there’s something to the idea that it’s all about oil politics. It was to get control of an oil pipeline that we invaded Afghanistan, not to overthrow al-Qaeda or the Taliban. And the Iraq invasion was to grab their oil industry as well as loot the country of its other, valuable state enterprises for the benefit of western multinationals.

And somehow the Quilliam Foundation fits in with this mess of Islamist surveillance and manipulation.

Lenin’s Decree on Workers’ Control in the Russian Revolution

September 23, 2020

Robert V. Daniels’ A Documentary History of Communism in Russia from Lenin to Gorbachev (Burlington, Vermont: University of Vermont Press 1993) also contains the text of Lenin’s decree establishing workers’ control in businesses throughout the Russian empire. This ran

  1. In the interests of a systematic regulation of national economy, Worker’s Control is introduced in all industrial, commercial, agricultural (and similar) enterprises which are hiring people to work for them in their shops or which are giving them work to take home. This control is to extend over the production, storing, buying and selling of raw materials and finished products as well as over the finances of any enterprises.
  2. The workers will exercise this control through their elected organisations such as factory and shop committees, soviets of elders, etc. The office employees and the technical personnel are also to have representation in these committees.
  3. Every large city, province and industrial area is to have its own Soviet of Workers’ Control, which, being an organ of the S(oviet) of W(orkers’), S(oldiers’)and P(easants’) D(eputies), must be composed of representatives of trade unions, factory, shop and other workers’ committees and workers’ cooperatives.
  4. ….
  5. The organs of Workers’ Control have the right to supervise production fix the minimum of output, and determine the cost of production.
  6. The organs of Workers’ Control have the right to control all the business correspondence of an enterprise. Owners of enterprises are legally responsible for all correspondence kept secret. Commercial secrets are abolished. the owners have to show to the organs of Workers’ Control all their books and statements for the current year and for the past years.
  7. The rulings of the organs of Workers’ Control are binding on the owners of enterprises and can be annulled only by decisions of the higher organs of Workers’ Control. (pp. 69-70).

Daniels’ explains that this idea had the support of most of the Russian workers at the time, some of whom were already putting it into practise by force. Sergei Eisenstein shows workers taking over the factories and throwing the bosses out the gates in wheelbarrows in his classic piece of Communist propaganda, October. Lenin initially supported, but later overturned it and restored the authority of the factory management despite Bolshevik opposition. The reason for it is that it simply didn’t work. Lenin genuinely believed that poorly educated workers would have no trouble running a business, but commonsense simply tells you it isn’t true.

However, workers’ control is an inspiring idea. It continued in Yugoslavia as part of their self-management system, and there are ways in which it certainly could be made to work. One obvious way is to train the worker managers up to a level where they can make informed decisions before they start. Another is through the unions providing them with expert advisers on their behalf. These are just ideas off the top of my head. I’m sure that the people who have really tried it in practice through running cooperatives and have served as trade union officials and shop stewards in negotiations with management have better from their own experience.

We desperately need an element of workers’ control and industrial democracy, if not a full-blown representative chamber for working people in parliament. Working people have seen their rights at worker devastated through forty years of Thatcherism. One of the reasons the Tories have been able to enforce their wages freezes, introduce job precarity, zero hours contracts and the gig economy is that they’ve also destroyed the unions through grossly restrictive legislation. And they’re set to make it worse after Brexit, when they will get rid of all the minimum rights workers’ have under the EU’s Social Charter. Which they’ve been wanting to do for nearly forty years, again since Thatcher.

You don’t have to be as radical as Lenin and the Bolsheviks. But we do need a return of strong trade unions, workers’ representation in the boardroom and a Labour Party that actually stands up for working people.

Posted Copies of Book ‘For A Workers’ Chamber’ to Labour Party

September 18, 2020

This afternoon I posted two copies of my self-published book, For A Workers’ Chamber, off to the Labour Party with appropriate covering letters. As I’ve explained in previous posts, the book argues that as parliament is now dominated by the millionaire heads and senior executives of big business, the working class has been excluded. It therefore needs a separate parliamentary chamber, composed of working people, elected by working people, to represent them.

I’ve also explained in the covering letters that it draws on arguments for such working class assemblies going as far back as Robert Owen’s Grand Consolidated Trades Union, the Chartists’ parliament of trades and the Guild Socialist strand within the early Labour party. I also state that it also draws on the post-war corporatist system in Britain, in which economic and industrial affairs were decided through negotiations and organisations that brought together government, industry and trade unionists. It also discusses too the producers’ chambers, which formed part of the governmental system of Tito’s Yugoslavia under the workers’ self-management system.

I have also said in the letter that the domination of parliament by employers supports the Marxist argument that the state is the instrument of class rule. Sidney and Beatrice Webb also felt that the parliamentary system could not cope with the demands of the expansion of parliamentary business into the social and economic spheres, and so recommended the establishment of a social parliament as well as a political parliament in their 1920 book, A Constitution for the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain. Another Fabian, Herman Finer, also recommended that Britain should copy the industrial chamber the Germans had set up, which contained representatives of industry and the trade unions to decide questions of industry.

We already have part of that through parliament’s domination by industrialists. We just need to include the working class. Of course, this could also be corrected if the Labour party turns away from the disastrous policies of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, which have done so much to ruin our country and impoverish its people. We need a Labour party that properly supports its traditional policies – a strong welfare state and unions able to defend working people, a properly funded and nationalised NHS and public utilities, run for the benefit of the community and not private profit, and a mixed economy. But there is a real danger that the Labour party is returning to the failed policies of Thatcherism. If that is the case, then the working class needs its own parliamentary chamber to defend its interests.

The Labour Party is holding a national policy review and has asked for suggestions by email. So I’ve sent them my book and its suggestions instead to the party’s National Policy Commission. I’ve also sent a copy to Richard Burgon in appreciation of his great efforts on behalf of the Labour left and the Labour Grassroots Alliance in supporting traditional Labour party policies and working people.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get a reply. Given the rabidly right-wing politics of the Blairite Labour party bureaucracy I have wondered if I might find myself smeared and accused of being a Trotskyite or Communist infiltrator or other slur after sending a copy of my book to the National Policy Commission. After all, they suspended and smeared Mike as an anti-Semite and Holocaust-denier simply because he had the temerity to send them a document defending Ken Livingstone against the charges of anti-Semitism they had leveled against him. I hope nothing like that happens to me, but I’m still left wondering.

Hooray! Copies of My Book Demanding Workers’ Parliamentary Chamber Have Arrived!

September 16, 2020

I got the two copies of my self-published book For A Workers’ Chamber, published with the print on demand service Lulu through the post today. I wrote the book way back in 2018. It argues that as parliament is dominated by millionaire company directors and senior management, working people have been effectively excluded. Blairite Labour is no help, as it has enthusiastically embraced this policy. I therefore argue that what is needed to correct this is a parliamentary chamber composed of working people, elected by working people, following ideas and demands going back as Robert Owen’s Grand Consolidated Trade Union and the Chartist’s assembly of a parliament of trades in the 19th century. The book’s blurb runs

For a Worker’s Chamber argues that a special representative chamber of composed of representatives of the working class, elected by the working class, is necessary to counter the domination of parliament by millionaires and the heads of industries.

It traces the idea of worker’s special legislative assemblies from Robert Owen’s Grand Consolidated Trade Union, anarchism, syndicalism, Guild Socialism, the workers’, soldiers’ and peasants’ councils in Revolutionary Russia, Germany and Austria, the Utopian Socialism of Saint-Simon and the Corporativism of Fascist Italy. It also discusses the liberal forms of corporativism which emerged in Britain during the First and Second World Wars, as well as the system of workers’ control and producer’s chambers in Tito’s Yugoslavia.

It argues that parliamentary democracy should not be abandoned, but needs to be expanded in include a worker’s chamber to make it more representative.

I ordered two copies of my book as I want to send one to the Labour Party. It’s now holding a policy review, and they’ve been asking members to send in suggestions for a policy. I really this idea is quite extreme and Utopian, but I want to send a copy of it to them to remind them just who they were set up to represent and where their priorities should lie. And they definitely do not lie with chasing Tory votes, taking over Thatcher’s policies and dismantling the welfare state, privatising the NHS and enrolling rich businessmen in parliament.

I’d like to send the second copy to any Labour MP or senior figure in the movement, who might be interested in it. Ken Livingstone would be the obvious choice, as he was a strong supporter of workers’ rights and industrial democracy when he was head of the GLC. Unfortunately, he has been forced out of the party due to being smeared as an anti-Semite, simply because he correctly pointed out that Hitler initially supported Zionism and sending Jews to Israel. The German Zionists signed a pact with him, the Ha’avara Agreement, which is documented on the website of the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.

I’m also thinking of sending it Richard Burgon, who is now one of the leading figures in left-wing Labour politics. I realise that it is probably too extreme for him, as he’s traditional centrist Labour, wanting the return of nationalisation for the NHS and utilities and a state managed but mixed economy. You know, the standard post-war social democratic consensus until Thatcher’s election in 1979. But I’m also worried about sending it to him in case his enemies in the party use it to smear him as a Commie or Trotskyite, just as they did with Corbyn.

The book is only one of a number of pamphlets and books I’ve self-published. I tried sending copies of them to the press, but didn’t get any interest. If you have any suggestions for any senior Labour figure, or simply ordinary MP or official, who would enjoy reading a copy, please let me know.

Should I Send the Labour Party a Copy of My Book ‘For A Workers’ Chamber’ as a Policy Suggestion?

September 3, 2020

I got an email from the Labour Party, of which I am a member, the other day asking if I had any policy suggestions. They’ve been holding various policy reviews for a few months now since Keir Starmer took over as leadere, and have sent at least one of these appeals for suggestions before. I can think of two policies I could suggest, one very serious, the other rather more far-fetched.

The first would be an end to the privatisation of the NHS. No further contracts should be given to private hospitals or healthcare companies. No expansion of the number of charges that Tory legislation permits for NHS services. An absolute end to the Private Finance Initiative and the construction of NHS hospitals in partnership with private companies. No handover of doctors’ surgeries or NHS hospitals to private healthcare companies to manage. If people want to pay for their healthcare, fine, but the NHS should not under be sold off to private enterprise, for them to charge us for it as so many Tories, including Dido Harding’s husband, would like.

That’s the very serious one. The other one is a piece of utopian political theorising I wrote two years ago, and published with the print on demand company Lulu. I was furious with the corruption of parliament by corporate interests. It was reported that something like 77 per cent of MPs are millionaires, and that both Houses are packed with the owners and senior officers in private enterprise. Under the corporatism of the late 20th and early 21st century capitalist penetration of politics, private firms now grant donations to parties and individual politicos, and sponsor events and conferences. In return, senior staff and directors are taken on by government as advisors, or put in charge of government departments and committees. Legislation is framed not for the benefit of the community, but for big business. This has occurred not just under the parties of the right, like the Republicans in America and the Tories here in Britain, but also in the Democrats and the British Labour Party under Tony Blair. See George Monbiot’s excellent dissection of it and its consequences in Captive State, and Rory Bremner’s, John Bird’s and John Fortune’s You Are Here. The working class is being shut out of power, even in the very party that was founded to represent it.

For A Workers’ Chamber was my suggestion for combating this by setting up within parliament a separate chamber to represent working people, organised according to industry, and whose members would consist of workers from those industries. Not managers or directors, workers. I based it on arguments for a parliament for working people that had been around since the early Socialists and Chartists in the 19th century. The blurb for my book runs

For a Worker’s Chamber argues that a special representative chamber composed of representatives of the working class, elected by the working class, is necessary to counter the domination of parliament by millionaires and the heads of industries.

It (t)races the idea of worker’s special legislative assemblies from Robert Owen’s Grand Consolidated Trade Union, anarchism, syndicalism, Guild Socialism, the workers’, soldiers’ and peasants’ councils in Revolutionary Russia, Germany and Austria, the Utopian Socialism of Saint-Simon and the Corporativism of Fascist Italy. It also discusses the liberal forms of corporativism which emerged in Britain during the First and Second World Wars, as well as the system of workers’ control and producer’s chambers in Tito’s Yugoslavia.

It argues that parliamentary democracy should not be abandoned, but needs to be expanded to includ(e) a worker’s chamber to make it more representative.

Of course, such a chamber wouldn’t be necessary if we had a Labour Party that took its job seriously and actually stood for working people rather than corporate interests. There was hope with the election of Jeremy Corbyn, but that’s been severely damaged, if not destroyed completely in many people’s eyes with the election of Keir Starmer. Starmer’s a Blairite neoliberal, who appears to be reversing all the policies agreed and presented in Labour’s last election manifesto. It says so much about the corporate corruption of the party that the Groaniad announced without any shame whatsoever a few weeks ago that the corporate donors, who had stopped funding the party under Corbyn, were now returning under Starmer. Corbyn had transformed Labour into the largest socialist party in Europe, and had raised money not through corporate donations and sponsorship, like Blair, but through ordinary members’ subscriptions. Blair’s and Brown’s determination to cater to big business and turn to winning middle class votes actually lost them working class support, a portion of whom instead turned to UKIP.

And now this seems set to return under Starmer.

So, should I try to be a bit provocative and send my book and its demand for a special chamber of parliament for the workers to the Labour Party as a suggestion for their policy review?

Dua Lipa Sparks Controversy over Kosovar with Social Media Comment

July 22, 2020

Reading through today’s I, I came across a piece by Sally Guyoncourt reporting that Dua Lipa had posted a controversial piece on social media. She put up a map of Albania, alongside the tweet ‘au-toch-tho-nous adjective (of  an inhabitant of a place) indigenous rather than descended from migrants or colonists.’ She said that she was merely debunking the view that Albanians are not indigenous people in the Balkans.

But what made her tweet controversial is that the phrase is associated with Albanian nationalists, who would like to unify the various Albanian enclaves in the other, neighbouring countries into a single great Albania. It’s particularly associated with the claim that Kosovan Albanians are indigenous to the area. Kosovo broke away from Serbia in 2008, but has not been recognised by Serbia and its allies, including Russia. She posted her tweet a few days after someone posted a petition requesting Apple to put Kosovo on its map. This was supported by Rita Ora, who said “Would love to see Apple spreading awareness by putting Kosovo on the map! Albania and Kosovo are full of so much beautiful and great talent!’Lipa’s parents are Kosovar Albanians, and she spent part of her childhood there, and Rita Ora also has links to Kosovo.

Lipa denied she was trying to spread hatred, saying

“We all deserve to be proud of our ethnicity and where we are from. I simply want my country to be represented on a map and to be able to speak with pride and joy about may Albanian roots and mother country’.

That sounds reasonable enough, and I’ve seen absolutely zero evidence to suggest that Albanians are anything but indigenous to Europe. The Romans called the country Illyria, and there were also Illyrian tribes living in Italy at the same time. What makes her tweet controversial is that Kosovo has always been claimed as a province of Serbia. It contains the notorious Kosovo Polje, or ‘Field of Blackbirds’, the site of the decisive battle in which the Serbs were defeated in 1455 by the Turks and their country conquered and absorbed into the Turkish empire. Quite when the population became majority Albanian is a good question. I understood that it might have been during the 17th century.

And the Kosovan independence movement is highly questionable. When fighting between the Kosovars and Serbs broke out, Private Eye published a piece claiming that the Kosovars, rather than the ethnic Serbs, were the Fascists. During the war in Bosnia, Serbia was supported by European Nazis and did commit horrendous atrocities. As did the other combatants. However, the Serbs didn’t persecute the Jews. The Kosovar militias did. They’re supposed to have been Islamist supremacists, who massacred Serbs and harvested their organs, a fact not reported in the western press.

The other problem is that there are also significant Albanian minorities in the west of Macedonia and some of the other countries, and they’ve also been restless over the past few decades. There were fears not so long ago that there would be an Albanian uprising in Macedonia, plunging the Balkans into yet another war.

I remember the horrors of the Bosnian War and the atrocities there all too well, not least because Mike, as he says on his best blog, went there and lived with a Muslim family as part of his job. The last thing the region and Europe need is another bloody conflict there.

 

Fighting Racism Means Restoring the Welfare State

July 17, 2020

One of the most important things I learned when I was studying Geography for ‘A’ level nearly forty years ago was that poverty leads to political extremism. Part of the course was on the Third World, although I now gather that term, coined by Gandhi, is now out of favour. It was fascinating. We were taught that the countries of the Developing World varied in their levels of economic development and that many of their problems stemmed from the neocolonial system put in place when the European imperial power granted their independence. In return for their political freedom, the former colonies were required to confine themselves to primary industry – mining and agriculture. They were forced into a relationship with their former masters in which they were to trade their agricultural and mineral products for finished European goods. Punitive tariffs were imposed on industrial goods produced by these nations. They are therefore prevented from developing their own manufacturing industries and diversifying their economies. And as the primary resources they export to the global north are produced by a large number of countries, competition works against them. If one country tries to raise the price of copra, for example, the developed countries can simply find another nation willing to supply it at a lower cost. And so the Developing World is kept poor. And that poverty will drive people to political extremism – Communism and Fascism.

Poverty, Economic and Political Crisis and the Rise of Fascism

The same forces were at work behind the rise of Fascism in Europe. Part of the impetus behind the formation of Italian Fascism and German Nazism was frustration at the international settlement at the end of the First World War. Italy was angered by the great powers’ refusal to grant it the territories it claimed, like the Yugoslavian island of Fiume. Germany was humiliated by the Treaty of Versailles and the imposition of crippling reparations. The new democratic system in both countries was unstable. The Nazis made their first electoral breakthrough as the champions of the small farmers of Schleswig-Holstein in the 1920s. But arguable what gave them the greatest spur to power was the 1929 Wall Street crash and the massive global recession this caused. Combined with the breakdown of the ruling Weimar coalition between the Catholic Centre Party, the German  Social Democrats – the rough equivalent of the British Labour Party and the two Liberal parties – the crisis boosted Nazism as a mass movement and allowed President Hindenberg, then ruling by decree, to consider giving them a place in power in order to break the political deadlock. He did, and the result was the twelve years of horror of the Third Reich. Faced with rising unemployment, national humiliation and social and political chaos, millions of people were attracted by the Nazis denunciation of international capitalism and Marxist Communism and Socialism, which they blamed on the Jews.

The Collapse of Louisiana Oil Industry and the Witchcraft Scare

Sociologists and folklorists critically examining the witchcraft scare of the 1990s also noticed the role poverty and wealth inequalities have in creating social panics and the persecution of outsider groups. From the ’70s onwards a myth had developed that there existed in society multigenerational Satanic groups practising child abuse and infant sacrifice. A critical investigation by the British government over here – the Fontaine Report – and the FBI over the Pond found absolutely no evidence that these sects ever existed. But large numbers of people uncritically believed in them. As this belief spread, innocent people were accused of membership of such cults and their mythical atrocities. As the American folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand pointed out, this witch hunt emerged and spread at a time when the gap between rich and poor in America was increasing. One of the places hit by the scare was Louisiana. Louisiana had a strong oil industry, and the state levied a tax on its profits to subsidize local housing. This was fine until the industry went into recession. Suddenly ordinary, hard-working Louisianans found they could no longer afford their mortgages. There were cases where the banks were simply posted the keys to properties as their former owners fled elsewhere. With poverty and insecurity rising, people started looking round for a scapegoat. And they found it in these mythical Satanic conspiracies and in real, New Age neo-Pagan religions, which they identified with them.

1990s Prosperity and Positive Challenges to Affirmative Action

It’s a truism that poverty creates social and racial conflict, as different groups fight over scarce resources. There was a period in the 1990s when it looked like racism was well on the wane in America, Britain and Europe. Blacks were still at the bottom of American society, but some Blacks were doing well, and challenging stereotypes and the need for affirmative action. The Financial Times approvingly reported a self-portrait by a Black American artist, in which he pointedly exaggerated his ‘negrotic’ features in order to make the point that these didn’t define him. There were cases of Black college professors turning down promotion to senior, prestigious positions at their seats of learning because they didn’t want people to think that they hadn’t earned them through their own merits. They hated the idea that they were just being given these places because of their colour. Whites further down the social scale were also challenging the need for affirmative action in a different way, which didn’t involve racist abuse and violence. The FT reported that four American firemen had changed their names to Hispanic monickers, as this was the only way they believed they could get promotion under a system designed to give preference to ethnic minorities. Back in Blighty, some TV critics naively applauded the lack of racism in a series of Celebrity Big Brother, before that all shattered as Jade Goody and one of her friends racially bullied Indian supermodel and film star Shilpa Shetty. Sociological studies revealed that people’s accent was more important than their race in terms of social identity and acceptance. And then when Barack Obama won the American election in 2008, the chattering classes around the world hailed this as the inauguration of a new, post-racial America. But wiser voices reminded the world that the terrible racial inequalities remained.

Austerity, Poverty, and the Destruction of the Welfare State Behind Growth in Racism

All this has been shattered with the imposition of austerity following the banking crash, and the increasing impoverishment of working people across the world. The crash has allowed Conservative government to cut spending on welfare programmes, force through even more privatisations and cuts, and freeze and slash workers’ pay. At the same time, the top 1 per cent has become even more incredibly wealth through massively increased profits and tax cuts.

One of the many great speakers at last Saturday’s Arise Festival on Zoom – I think it was Richard Burgon, but I’m not sure – remarked that talking to people in the north, he found that they weren’t racist. They didn’t hate Blacks and ethnic minorities. But they were worried about access to jobs, opportunities and housing. He made the point that we need to restore these, to fight for all working people and not allow the Tories to divide us. He’s right. If you read rags like the Scum, the Heil and the Depress, the line they take is of virtuous Whites being deprived of employment and housing by undeserving immigrants. Who also sponge off the state on benefits, like the White unemployed the Tories also despise. But they’re obviously not going to tell the world that they are responsible for the shortage of jobs, the insecure conditions for those, who are lucky to have them, and that the shortage of affordable housing is due to them selling off the council houses and defining ‘affordable’ in such a way that such homes are still out of the pocket of many ordinary people. Even if enough of them are built by companies eager to serve the wealthy.

Austerity and Black Lives Matter

It’s austerity that has given urgency to the Black Lives Matter movement. Blacks and some other ethnic minorities have been acutely affected by austerity, as they were already at the bottom of society. If prosperity had continued, if the banking crash had not happened and austerity not imposed, I don’t believe that BLM would have received the wave of global support it has. Blacks would still have occupied the lowest rung of the social hierarchy, but conditions would not have been so bad that they have become a crisis.

White Trump Voters Whites Disadvantaged by Affirmative Action

At the same time, some disadvantaged Whites would not have given their votes to Donald Trump. While Trump is a grotty racist himself, who has surrounded himself with White supremacists and members of the Alt Right, some sociologists have counselled against accusing all of his supporters as such. Years ago Democracy Now’s anchorwoman, Amy Goodman, interviewed a female academic who had done a sociological survey of Conservative White Trump supporters. She found that they weren’t racist. But they did feel that they were being denied the jobs and opportunities they deserved through unfair preference given to other ethnic groups. She likened their mentality to people in a queue for something. Waiting at their place in line, they were annoyed by others pushing in ahead of them. And this was made worse when the queue jumpers responded to their complaints by accusing them of racism. I think the sociologist herself was politically liberal, but she stated that the Conservatives Whites she’d studied should not automatically be called racist and it was dangerous to do so.

Conclusion

It’s clear from all this that if we really want to tackle racism, we need to restore jobs, proper wages, trade union power, real affordable and council housing, and a proper welfare state. These are desperately needed by all members of the working class. I’ve no doubt that they’re most acutely needed by Blacks, but this certainly isn’t confined to them. Restoring prosperity would bring all the different racial groups that make up the working class together, and it would stop the resentment that leads to racial conflict by one group feeling disadvantaged for the benefit of the others.