Posts Tagged ‘Anti-Apartheid’

Radio 4 Programme Tomorrow on Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ Speech

April 13, 2018

Radio 4 tomorrow, 14th April 2017, are marking the 50th anniversary of Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ Speech with a programme in their ‘Archive Hour’ series at 8.00 pm. Entitled ‘Archive on 4: 50 Years On: Rivers of Blood’, the blurb for this on page 117 of the Radio Times runs

Amol Rajan reflects on the Conservative MP Enoch Powell’s incendiary 1968 Rivers of Blood speech, and the impact it continues to have today. And for the first time the speech is broadcast complete on British radio, as actor Ian Mc Diarmid reads it in full. The text of the speech included observations on immigrants taken from Powell’s Wolverhampton constituents, and ended with a reference to a moment in Virgil’s Aeneid, when the prophetess Sibyll predicts a civil war in Italy with “the Tiber foaming with much blood.’

The paragraph on the programme on the opposite page, 116, by Jane Anderson, the magazine’s radio editor, gives the following additional information:

It has been 50 years since Enoch Powell delivered his incendiary Rivers of Blood speech to a Conservative party meeting in Birmingham. Only a short section was recorded at the time and so, like presenter Amol Rajan, I have read the speech in its entirety. The post-Brexit vote echoes are rather chilling. What shocked me most, however, was not Powell’s own words – he was an incredibly bright and eloquent man, whatever his political views – but those of his constituents, as read in full here by the actor Ian McDiarmid: “Then the immigrants moved in. With growing fear, she (an old lady) saw one house after another taken over. The quiet street became a place of noise and confusion. Regretfully, her white tenants moved out.”

Lord Adonis has already expressed his very strong fears about the programme. According to today’s I, he has written to Ofcom expressing his deep concern that the programme should be broadcast at this time, and requesting them to order the Beeb not to broadcast it. The I‘s article also states that Ofcom has no power to tell anybody what or what not broadcast. The Beeb has also issued a reply stating that broadcasting Powell’s infamous words does not constitute endorsement.

No, it certainly doesn’t, and the selection of a British Asian presenter for the programme does indicate fairly clearly that this is not going to be an endorsement of Powell’s vile views. And there’s an irony here in the choice of actor to read the speech. If memory serves me correctly, Ian McDiarmid, amongst other roles, was the Galactic Emperor, AKA Senator Palatine, AKA Darth Sidious in Star Wars. Of course, there are probably very many other good reasons why he is the right person to read the speech. But for all the Star Wars fans, it’s still going to be the Dark Lord of the Sith reading out Powell’s evil speech.

I’ve no problem with it being read out in its entirety, if it’s properly critiqued. This is why I don’t have a problem with German universities issuing an annotated version of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. If you want to combat evil and racism, you have to study it, and take it apart to refute it. And Powell’s wretched speech has cast a long shadow over British politics. Yasmin Alibhai-Browne in one of her column’s in the I mentioned how some Whites mutter comments about Enoch being right without going any further. The NF used to sell Union Jack badges, which had around the edge ‘Enoch Was Right’. And last year or so Simon Heffer and other right-wing journos from the Torygraph and Heil published a volume of articles celebrating the noxious old monetarist, Enoch at 100.

The impression I had was that Powell, otherwise known as ‘Scowly Powelly’ as the other kids at school used to call him, really wasn’t racist. He could speak Urdu, and sincerely admired Indian culture. On the other hand, a friend I used to work with, who was very active in the anti-Apartheid movement, said that could have just been from a desire for promotion. British civil servants in India were paid more if they could speak an Indian language. He also initially believed that Britain had an obligation to support and treat well its imperial subjects. What he was unprepared for was the hostility to the new coloured immigrants from ordinary Whites in his constituency.

And the issues outlined in the speech are still with us. I’ve heard people complain about Whites being forced out of their neighbourhoods by Blacks and other immigrants, who wanted to take their houses. I’ve seen this complaint directed against Muslims by the Islamophobic ‘counterjihad’ websites. And the Tories are still playing on these fears. Mike earlier this week put up a piece about the Tories producing a pamphlet directed at the residents of one area around London. This threatened that if Labour got won the council elections in May, then they would increase the area’s links with the inner city so that the area would be awash with crime and drugs. In other words, a middle class White area would be deluged with Blacks and Asians, bringing these problems from their urban ghetto.

I also understand that some of the events Powell alluded to in his wretched speech were completely bogus. A friend of mine, who was very anti-racist, told me that they tried to investigate Powell’s allegation that old ladies had had excrement pushed through their letter boxes by ‘grinning picaninnies’. They couldn’t find it. Never happened. Another friend also told me that another, similar incident, was also imaginary. Another old lady had claimed that a black man had forced his way into her home, and defecated on her carpet. That never happened too. The old lady, apparently, was a nasty piece of work continually making up vile stories about her neighbours. She was, however, supported by a Black family next door, who looked after her, and who seemed to regard her hateful slanders as a bit of joke. There’s a whole chapter devoted to Powell and the ‘Rivers of Blood’ and its lies and falsehoods in the book, Bloody Foreigners: A History of the English.

I am also not convinced that everyone who voted for Brexit is racist. Some left-wingers voted for it because the EU is a very neoliberal organisation, which does have policies promoting privatisation. For left-wing critiques of the EU, read Lobster or Counterpunch. Many people undoubtedly voted ‘Leave’ because they wanted to give a shock to the elites governing this country, without actually considering that it might actually happen. Unfortunately, they won. And most of the people, who did vote ‘Leave’ probably were racists, as Tom Pride and so many others have pointed out.

So I’m going to say that people have a right to listen to this programme, and hear what Powell actually said, regardless of the dangers. I sympathise with Adonis, but at the same time, I don’t like anyone – including former New Labour ministers – telling me what I may or may not listen to. I sincerely hope that the Beeb will in this instance try to live up to it role as a public service broadcaster, and provide a suitably incisive critique of it. Regardless of whether Boris, Heffer and the rest of the Tories want it or not.

Lobster Article on British Prime Ministers and the Secret State

October 13, 2016

The Winter 2016 issue of Lobster also has a very disquieting review by John Newsinger of a book on the relationship between British Ministers and the intelligence services, The Black Door: Spies, Secret Intelligence and British Prime Ministers by Richard Aldrich and Rory Cormac. This discusses not only the way British prime ministers have co-operated with the secret services in the bugging and surveillance of the Left, and how they used the services in a series of foreign operations, including Iraq, but also how the same intelligence services also worked against them, including interventions by foreign espionage services in Britain. In doing so, several reputations are left tarnished and some convenient myths destroyed.

One of the keenest supporters of British intelligence against his domestic opponents was Harold Wilson. When he was in office in the 1960s, Wilson had had leftwing trade unionists put under surveillance, taps placed on their phones, and bugged. This included the participants in the 1966 strike by British merchant seamen. Others kept under very close watch included, naturally, the Communist party. He also encouraged other rightwing union leaders to cooperate with MI5. Those, who did so included Harry Crane, the head of the GMWU, who passed information onto Sarah Barker, the Labour Party’s national agent, who in turn passed it on to the spooks.

Wilson also continued the secret wars the Tories had begun in Yemen and Indonesia. The British, Saudis and Israeli secret services provided aid and assistance to rebels, who perpetrated the same kind of atrocities as ISIS. Unlike ISIS, they didn’t cause a scandal and international terror by posting them online. Newsinger notes that Aldrich and Cormac state that the extent of the British involvement in the 1965 massacre of the Left in Indonesia is a mystery. As this also involved the commission of atrocities, besides which those of ISIS seem pale by comparison, this is a very convenient mystery. It’s widely believed that Wilson kept Britain out of the Vietnam War, but this is not the case. Wilson actually wanted to send a token force, but was prevented from doing so because of the extent of British public opinion against the War and the opposition of the left wing within the Labour party itself. This did not prevent him from providing the Americans with intelligence support. This involved not only GCHQ, but also MI6, who provided reports on the effect of American bombing campaigns from the British embassy in Hanoi. The Americans were also allowed to operate their biggest CIA station in that part of Asia from Hong Kong. In addition to this, Wilson also wanted MI6 to assassinate Idi Amin, but they refused. Considering the carnage wrought by this monster, it’s a pity that they didn’t.

Wilson himself was the subject of various intelligence plots and smears against him, despite his collaboration with the intelligence services. This involved not only MI5, but also the South African intelligence service, BOSS. This got to the point where it was literally spies watching other spies, with BOSS spying on the anti-apartheid campaign, while themselves being spied on by MI5. BOSS were allowed to get away with their espionage, however, as it was claimed that they had a film of MPs taking part in an orgy and a dossier on a sex scandal that was far more shocking and compromising than Christine Keeler.

Ted Heath in the 1970s had Jack Jones, the leader of the TGWU put under surveillance. Joe Gormley, the head of the NUM, was also an informant for special branch throughout the decade. The usual practice at MI5 when a company requested assistance monitoring radical trade unionist was to pass the case on to the Economic League, a private outfit specialising in blacklisting trade unionists. But Ford also demanded that Special Branch vet their workforce, to which Heath agreed. This led to more firms demanding information on trade unionists, including Massey Ferguson. Not only was the British government under Heath actively compiling blacklists of trade unionists, Heath himself demanded that MI5 should have some of the militant activists ‘done’.

Under Thatcher the number of private intelligence agencies tackling her domestic enemies, like CND, increased. But Newsinger observes that the book does not cover at all the involvement of this agencies in the machinations against the NUM in the Miners’ Strike, and the establishment of the scab Union of Democratic Mineworkers. Newsinger comments

Perhaps the official material is not available, but not to have any discussion of the great miners’ strike at all is a serious shortcoming. The very absence of material, if this was indeed the case, is tremendously significant and deserved discussion. This was, after all, the decisive engagement that shifted the balance of class forces and made everything that has followed possible.

The book also covers Blair’s wars, which Newsinger does not cover in his review, finding the book’s revelations about Cameron’s own warmongering in Libya and Syria more interesting. MI6 and the Defence chiefs advised Cameron not to try to bring down Gaddafi. This didn’t stop him, and Cameron had the agency and SAS give the rebels training, arms and body armour. MI6 wanted the Libyan dictator sent into exile into Equatorial Guinea, where his own links to them would not be placed in any danger by him having to appear before an international human rights court. But this problem was, as Newsinger notes, solved by his death.

The book also reveals that a number of people within MI6 and the CIA did not believe that Assad’s regime in Syria was responsible for the Sarin attack in Ghoutta. They believed that the real perpetrators were the al-Nusra Front, backed by Turkey, which hoped to provoke the US into starting a bombing campaign. The US was ready with a fleet of aircraft, which Britain was also set to join, but the operation was cancelled due to the disagreements over responsibility for the atrocity within the US secret services.

The authors also report that Mossad has also been responsible for kidnappings and murders in London, but give no further information.

Newsinger concludes that ‘after reading this book we not only know more than we
did, but also how much more we need to know and unfortunately how much we are likely to never know….’

What is also clear from reading this is not only the extent of the involvement of British prime ministers in covert operations, against left-wingers and trade unionists in Britain and a series of foreign regimes abroad, but also the weakness of parliament in restraining them. British involvement in the bombing of Syria was stopped because of dissension within the American intelligence community, not because of opposition from parliament. As for Heath targeting British trade unionists for surveillance and possible assassination, Newsinger remarks on how this is ‘dynamite’, which should be investigated by the Commons Intelligence Select Committee. There is not the most remote chance of this happening, however, as the Commons Intelligence Select Committee is really
just a parliamentary spittoon into which the intelligence agencies occasionally feel obliged to gob.

Lobster’s entire raison d’etre is the belief that western, and particularly the British intelligence services are out of control and responsible for immense crimes that otherwise go undocumented and unpunished. Newsinger’s review of this book and its potentially explosive contents bear out this belief. It also hints by its omissions that there is more buried yet deeper, which may never be brought to light.

The article’s at: http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster72/lob72-black-door.pdf

New Book Repeating the Anti-Semitism Smears against the Labour Party

October 10, 2016

Unfortunately, despite the fact that Shami Chakrabarti cleared the Labour party of institutional racism, and that most of the people smeared as anti-Semites have similarly been cleared and reinstated, the allegations keep being repeated. Browsing through the Cheltenham branch of Waterstone’s on Friday, I came across a book repeating the allegations. Written by David Rich and published by Biteback, the book’s title told you precisely how it was biased: The Left’s Jewish Problem, with the word ‘Jewish’ on the cover surrounded by a stylised Star of David. The blurb for it on its back cover stated that the Labour party having to conduct three investigations into anti-Semitism after the election of Jeremy Corbyn was no accident. It then went on to allege that the ‘left’ and in particular the Labour party was deeply contaminated with anti-Semitism. This was, it declared, due to the anti-apartheid campaigns launched against Israel, which saw members of the Left ally themselves with radical Islam.

I was half tempted to buy it, simply to rip it to shreds, but I decided against it on the grounds that it would annoy me too much. Plus, I didn’t want to give Rich my money for his twaddle. But I shall try and give a brief refutation of his allegations here.

Firstly, the smears have been made not because the Labour party does have an anti-Semitism problem, but because of the desperation of the Blairites in the party and the Israel lobby to hang on to power by any means they can. Which basically means smearing decent people, Jews as well as gentiles, as anti-Semites when they are nothing of the kind. Norman Finkelstein, one of the leading Jewish American critics of Israel, and the author of several books, has made the point that the Israel lobby has always responded to criticism by smearing the critics as anti-Semites, even when they’re not. And those labelled as anti-Semites in the recent allegations within the Labour party are either critics of Israel, or those unfortunate to be labelled as such simply because they’re members of Momentum. Like Rhea Wolfson, whose bid to join the NEC was blocked by Jim Murphy, a leading member of Labour Friends of Israel and the head of the Labour party in Scotland. He recommended that Wolfson’s party should not support her bid, because, as a member of Momentum, she was linked to an anti-Semitic organisation. This was despite the fact that Wolfson herself is Jewish. Mike pointed out the monumental absurdity of the claim when he stated that anti-Semites don’t usually support a Jewish candidate for political office getting into power. They don’t. In fact, they’re bitterly opposed to it. That’s part of why they’re anti-Semites. And it’s one of the reasons the allegations against Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn are stupid and malign.

Rich is right about some of the opposition to Israel having emerged from the anti-apartheid movement. In the 1960s and 1970s Israel did indeed form a close alliance with White South Africa, as they were both pariah states, where Western settlers ruled as a privilege minority over non-Western indigenous population. The alliance also shocked many Israelis, who did not want to see their country allied to and compared with a nakedly racist state. Israel too has also developed its own form of apartheid in its treatment of the Palestinians, who are subject to repeated restrictions on the personal and collective freedoms in the name of security, and where the constant goal of the state itself has been their cleansing from Israel and the Occupied Territories.

The claims of an alliance with radical Islam is rather more complex. Some idiots have indeed supported ISIS as supposedly anti-imperial forces, rather than the sadistic, intolerant murderers they really are. But the numbers who have seem far smaller than the impression given by the Right. There’s a piece over on Guy Debord’s Cat, where he takes apart the claim that there was an attempt at one left-wing meeting to pass a motion of support for ISIS. In fact, out of all the hundreds of people attending the meeting, there was only three who proposed and supported such a motion. They were roundly defeated by everyone else. Nevertheless, the Cat described how this was seized on by the Conservative press and magnified so that instead of only three, it seemed that the majority of people attending the meeting supported the proposed endorsement of ISIS.

One of those blogging about supposed anti-Semitism on the Left and in the Labour movement is Adam Lebor. The extreme Right-wing Canadian blog, Five Feet of Fury, linked to his a few years ago when it posted up a piece about how anti-Semitism is supposedly rife on the Left. His blog on its masthead explicitly stated that it was dedicated to exposing this anti-Semitism. If I remember correctly, about twenty or so years ago Lebor was a supporter of the Palestinians and anti-Israel, anti-imperialist activist. He authored a book that was reviewed in the ‘books’ pages of the Financial Times’ ‘Weekend’ supplement. This described his meetings with a series of radical Islamic preachers and leaders, whom he did support as the enemies of imperialism. One of these was a vile individual he met in London, who told Holocaust jokes throughout his interview with Lebor. I think Lebor himself is Jewish. His interviewee’s behaviour was disgusting, and reading I wondered why Lebor persisted in talking to him and supporting him, rather than simply walking out there and then. Assuming this is the same person, it seems to me that in the intervening period he has had too much of the real Muslim anti-Semites, and this has tainted his entire attitude towards the Left and those who shared his former opinions.

However, that does not mean that everyone who supports the Palestinians is an anti-Semite, or, if they’re Jewish, a self-hating ‘un-Jew’. Nor does it mean that they are allied with radical Muslims. And there is much more to this latter claim than first appears.

I think both Lobster and Guy Debord’s Cat have posted pieces about the deliberate tactics Israel adopted to marginalise, isolate and destroy the credibility and influence of the secular wing of the PLO. This was done with the intention of leaving the more extreme, Islamic faction in overall control of the Palestinian territories, so that the Israelis could present themselves on the world stage as being locked in a battle with radical Islam. It’s a battle the Israelis themselves orchestrated in order to get as much support as possible from the West as part of the War on Terror. And Norman Finkelstein once again has pointed out that while terrorism goes back to the 19th century, the term was used most commonly after 1970 to describe Arabs and Muslims by the Israelis.

As for the narrative that the European Left are allied with radical Muslims, this was all formed at least about twelve years ago. I remember reading a review in the Spectator of a book set a few decades in the future, in which the remains of the European Socialist organisations had united with the Muslims to begin a new Holocaust against the Jews. It’s a vile, malicious fantasy, of course, and the fact that the Speccie gave a review of the book without calling it such shows how mendacious and vile Boris Johnson’s mighty organ was. The lie couldn’t really be run against Labour when Tony Blair was in charge, because of his strong links to the Israel lobby. It also couldn’t really be used against Ed Miliband, as he’s Jewish. I dare say, however, that some were probably willing to try. We’ve seen how they’ve smeared other Jews since. But they had their chance with the election of Jeremy Corbyn, who threatened the Blairites’ continued hold on power and that of the Israel lobby, with whom the Blairites were deeply intertwined.

And so these vile stories were taken off the shelf, dusted off, and decent men and women with proud personal histories of fighting racism and anti-Semitism were libelled, all because they took their commitment to combating racism and imperialism sufficiently seriously that they dared to criticise and question Israel.

Shami Chakrabarti in her report into anti-Semitism in the Labour party showed Labour doesn’t have a ‘Jewish problem’. It is the Conservatives, Blairite entryists and Israel lobby, who have a problem with the grassroots Labour membership, as they’re rejecting Thatcherism on the one hand and the Neoconservatives abhorrent colonialism and imperialism on the other, an imperialism that is also intimately bound up with Israel’s cleansing of the Palestinians.

Barbara Castle Talks about Leading an Anti-Apartheid Demonstration during Commonwealth Summit

May 12, 2016

This is another clip I found of an historic Labour politician. Yesterday I found one of the Nye Bevan talking about the foundation of the NHS, which is even now being attacked and privatised piecemeal by the Conservatives. This is a clip of Barbara Castle, one of Britain’s most famous female politicos. Lobster published an article a few years ago about James Callaghan’s period as head of the Labour party and Prime Minister in the 1970s. The article said at one point that Castle was one of his rivals as head of the party, and could possibly have become Britain’s first woman prime minister. No-one really knows quite what would have happened, if something had occurred, despite the various ‘counterfactual’ history books informing us what could have happened if Hitler had one the War, or Napoleon won a particular battle. It’s possible that Castle would have been a better premier than Callaghan, had she won, and certainly she would have been much better for the country had she been the first female leader of Her Majesty’s Government. It would, at any rate, have taken away the Tory’s claim to be more progressive than they really are, because of Maggie’s leadership. Thatcher has been held up as a feminist pioneer, who should be admired and supported by every woman, despite the fact that Thatcher didn’t see herself as a feminist, and her policies largely hit women the hardest.

In this clip, Castle talks about her work in the early 1960s leading a 48 hour silent vigil outside Lancaster House in protest at the Sharpeville massacre of Black protesters by the South African government. She states that she spent two days in the basement of the House of Commons plotting it with Abdul Minty, the head of the anti-apartheid campaign. There was a Commonwealth meeting at the Lancaster House, and Castle and Minty organised the vigil to put pressure on the Commonwealth leaders to have South Africa thrown out. They organised the vigil to be carried out by people in two hours shifts, everyone just standing there in silence. Coffee and other refreshments were provided. She states that during the night, some journos came to see if they really would go all through the night with the protest. They believed it was just a hoax. They were wrong. ‘But’, she says, ‘we were there.’