Posts Tagged ‘Bengal’

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

July 19, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When You Pull Down Statues, Make Sure They’re of the Right People

June 10, 2020

Since Colston’s statue was pulled over and lobbed in the docks in Bristol on Sunday, others have called for the removal of similar statues and monuments to those connected to the slave trade. Down in Devon there have been calls for a statue of the Elizabethan explorer Francis Drake to be removed. At Oxford University demands have started up again for the removal of the university’s statue to the 19th century imperialist, Cecil Rhodes. And on Sky News’ The Pledge, Afua Hirsh managed to get LBC’s Nick Ferrari in a right tizzy for suggesting that not only should Rhodes’ statue be taken down, but also Horatio Nelson and Winston Churchill.

I can’t defend Rhodes. He seems to me to be have been a thoroughly ruthless character, who was intent only on grabbing as much land for himself and Britain on any pretext whatsoever. I might be wrong, but I’ve got a horrible suspicion he was one of the people behind the Anglo-South African or Boer War during which tens or hundreds of thousands of Afrikaner women and children died in concentration camps. He was also instrumental in the creation of Rhodesia’s colour bar.

Nelson and Churchill are going to be much more controversial. Most people only know of Nelson for his victory at Trafalgar during the Napoleonic War. This was to stop the French imperial domination of Europe, and Napoleonic forces had also invaded Egypt. I think most Brits will therefore take an attack on Nelson as an attack on a key figure, who kept Britain and Europe free. Yes, he’s a symbol of British imperial strength, but I doubt many people associate him with the oppression of Blacks and Asians. It’s going to look like a spiteful attack on Britain, rather than a gesture of Black liberation.

Ditto Hirsh’s other target, Winston Churchill. I’m absolutely no fan of Churchill myself. He was an authoritarian aristocrat, whose real reason for opposing Hitler was that he saw Nazi Germany as a threat to British interests in the North Sea, not because he was an opponent of Fascism. He sent troops in to shoot striking miners in Wales, and was all for calling them in during the General Strike. Stanley Baldwin, the Conservative prime minister at the time, wanted him kept well out of the way to avoid exacerbating the situation. As for Ireland, back in the 1990s there was an interesting little programme on BBC 2, The Living Dead, which was about the way Churchill’s heroic view of British history in his A History of the English-Speaking Peoples had influenced subsequent politics. One of the key offenders here was one Baroness Margaret Thatcher, who had been strongly influenced by the great war leader herself, and tried to invoke his memory at nearly every opportunity. The programme interviewed a former member of the Irish republican paramilitary group, the INLA. He said that it was easier to recruit members under Thatcher than under Ted Heath because of Thatcher’s celebration of Churchill. For Irish nationalists, Churchill was the monster, who sent in the Black and Tans. His sequestration of grain from the Bengal peasants during the War resulted in an horrific famine which killed something like 2-4 million people. This is comparable to the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis, and some senior British army officers saw it as exactly that. Churchill, however, declared it was all their fault for ‘pullulating’, or having too many children.

That is not, however, why Churchill is celebrated over here. He’s lauded because he, Roosevelt and Stalin together overthrew the Nazis and their allies. The War swept away Fascist Italy, and the other Fascist or Fascist-aligned regimes in Slovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Romania. It liberated Greece and Albania. Stalin was no angel either. He killed at least 30 million Soviet citizens during the purges and deported whole nations and ethnic groups to Siberia. Instead of letting the eastern European countries decide their future for themselves, he imposed a ruthless autocratic Communist dictatorship. I think Churchill would have liked those nations to have been free to decide for themselves. Back in the ’90s there was a radio series on Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at Yalta, the conference that would decide the post-War European order. It was called The Eagle and the Small Birds, from a quote from Churchill ‘The eagle should let the small birds sing, and care not wherefore they sang’. A Nazi victory would have been the stuff of nightmares, and I don’t know how many millions Hitler would have murdered had he been successful. What the Nazis did to the Jews, Poles, Ukrainians and Russians was horrific enough as it is.

Churchill isn’t the saint or the great molten idol the Tories claim he is by any stretch of the imagination, but he is one of the reasons why Hirsh and Black activists like her are able to make their criticisms of traditional British history and its heroes. If Hitler had won, or his mate Oswald Mosley had seized power in some kind of coup over here, Hirsh and her allies would not have been tolerated. The Nazis’ eugenics programme included not only the murder of the disabled, but also the sterilisation of the mixed race children of White German women and Black American soldiers from the post-First World War army of occupation. Mosley himself would have made Britain an apartheid state, with citizenship granted only to those who conformed to aryan British culture, if not physiology. The War and the horrors of the Nazi and Fascist regimes made eugenics and racism and anti-Semitism far less acceptable than they were before. I am very much aware how institutionally racist Britain is and has been. But it’s much better than what would have existed had Churchill been defeated.

But most of all, I’m concerned that the zeal for smashing statues and monuments may destroy those to abolitionists. Nearly 20 years ago, when I was doing voluntary work in the Empire and Commonwealth Museum here in Bristol, one of the books that found its way into the slavery archive and library was a little bit of local history by the Liverpudlian writer, Fritz Spiegel. Spiegel prides himself on being a ‘Dicky Sam’, the Liverpudlian equivalent of a ‘real Cockney sparrow’. The book was on the fascinating history of the abolition movement in that great city. If I remember rightly, it included not only White abolitionists, but also some of the Black people who also populated the city. It wasn’t just a piece of local history for its own sake, though. In his introduction, Spiegel explained that he moved to right it because, in their zeal to destroy monuments to the city’s slavers, some people had also vandalized those of innocent merchants and abolitionists.

I’m afraid there might be a danger of something similar happening in the current zeal for smashing statues commemorating Black oppression and slavery. There are good reasons for removing monuments like Colston’s. But let’s not confuse those with slavery’s opponents.

Labour and Trade Union Staffers Trying to Protect Anti-Black and Asian Racists

April 18, 2020

Here’s another scandal that’s erupted in the wake of the leak of the damning report showing how the Blairite faction in the Labour party deliberately intrigued against Corbyn and left-wing MPs and activists, even to the point of working for a thrown election. Now elements in the party and the union, GMB, are trying to protect anti-Black and Asian racists.

Mike put up a piece on Thursday reporting that the suppressed document also stated that the Black MPs, Diane Abbott, Dawn Butler and Clive Lewis, had been victims of racism and racial profiling. A video conference meeting apparently confirmed this, supporting a motion that said that the report had highlighted damning examples of casual workplace racism at the highest levels of the party, and showed how racism against Black, Asian and ethnic minority members were ignored. The meeting called for letters of solidarity to be sent to Abbott, Butler and Lewis.

This was, however, blocked by Labour Party staffers, with one staffer named in the report claiming that it didn’t happen, and to send the letters would be an admission of guilt. Gabriel Pogrund, the Sunday Times hack who libeled Mike as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier, further reported that a motion was put before the Labour Branch of the union GMB demanding that General Secretary Jennie Formby should personally apologise to the members named in the report. Furthermore, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis also promised his protection to two of his senior staffers named in the report as plotting against Corbyn. They’re probably Emilie Oldknow and John Stolliday.

Mike in his article asks if these are the same people, who were happy to demand the persecution and expulsion of left-wing members, like Mike, because of false press reports. He states that if so, they are not acting in good faith and their memberships should already have been suspended. He also asks whether it’s time for vote of ‘no confidence’.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/04/16/responses-to-leaked-labour-report-shows-the-party-and-unions-must-kick-out-the-racists/

This squalid incident shows the double standard within the Labour party and wider society between racism towards Jews and people of colour. Tony Greenstein has pointed out in his incisive critiques of the anti-Semitism smears how racism against Jews is given a higher profile and harsher condemnation than that against Blacks and Asians. Jews are generally less subject to racist abuse and assault. They are not subject to stop and search, nor targeted for deportation. They aren’t rounded up to be put on flights to supposed countries of origin, which they may never have seen in their lives, like the Windrush migrants. At the other end of the political spectrum, Times parliamentary sketch writer Quentin Letts has made a very similar point. In his book Bog-Standard Britain, Letts argues that there is a hierarchy of respect and power of minorities. Jews are either at the top, or near to it. Blacks, Asians and Muslims lower down or at the bottom.

Some of this inequality can be explained as an entirely understandable reaction to the Holocaust. This has made anti-Jewish racism far less acceptable. It’s also perhaps due to the fact that the traditional European Jews are White and highly assimilated. The Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment of the 18th and 19th century, was a reform movement within Judaism that attempted to adapt Jewish culture so that Jews could also participate in wider European society. The result of this has been that most European Jews are highly integrated. Except when wearing traditional Jewish garb, such as the kippah, most British Jews look, dress and behave exactly like their gentile compatriots. And they’re largely accepted by the great mass of British society as fellow Brits. Tony Greenstein stated that the majority of anti-Semitic abuse and violence was directed against Orthodox Jews, who obviously still retain a distinctive dress and are therefore ‘other’ in a way that Liberal and Reform Jews are not.

Class also plays a large part. Tony has also stated that 60 per cent of the British community is middle or upper middle class. They are therefore economically important and socially respectable in a way that other demographic groups are not.

This contrasts with Blacks and Asians, who are marked as different through their skin colouring. While Blacks and some Muslims have been present in Britain and western Europe from the Middle Ages, the majority are recent immigrants to these shores. Large sections of these communities have a distinctive dress and language, and are therefore more radically other than indigenous Jewish Brits. They are also more likely to be poorer and less well educated, and were used over here as cheap labour. These are generalisations, of course, and you can find exceptions to them. Chinese and Indians are like to be as affluent, educated and occupying the same ranks in the social hierarchy as Whites. Working class White boys are far less likely than the children of ethnic minority background to get good grades at school and progress to university. Blacks and Asians have also suffered their own holocausts, such as slavery and the Bengal famine of the War years, when Churchill ordered the sequestration of grain as backup supplies for British troops. The result was an estimated death toll of 2-6 million. Churchill refused to release the grain to feed the starving Indians, and blamed it on them having too many children. His attitude shocked many British officers and colonial administrators, who explicitly compared it to the Nazis.

But these atrocities are historic, and many of them took place far away from Blighty, so that the majority of Brits have never heard of them. Slavery was officially abolished in the British Empire in 1837, although the infamous ‘Coolie Trade’ in indentured Indian labourers continued into the 20th century. The result is that racism towards Blacks and Asians is far more acceptable than anti-Semitism.

Which means that the people determined to unseat Corbyn were able to exaggerate the extent of real anti-Semitism in the Labour party for a right-wing political and media establishment to present as evidence that the Labour leader was a real, existential threat to Jews when he was absolutely nothing of the sort.

And now it seems that right-wing elements in the party are demonstrating their double standards by denying that anti-Black and Asian racism exists, and seeking to defend and protect those guilty.

Whatever they do, they’re still racists. They should be held to account and expelled, not apologised to.

 

Lobster Reviews Boris Johnson’s Biography of Churchill

October 9, 2019

There have been a couple of deeply critical reviews of books by leading Tories. Last fortnight Private Eye reviewed and dissected David Cameron’s self-serving tome. In it, Cameron tries persuading the rest of his that his time at No. 10 resulted in us all being more prosperous, with a strong economy and political stability. The satirical magazine trashed this nonsense by showing instead that Cameron comprehensively wrecked Britain by calling the referendum on EU membership.  And last week Lobster added to its number for Winter 2019 a review by John Newsinger of Boris Johnson’s 2014 biography of Churchill.

Newsinger is the professor emeritus of history at one of the universities in Bath. As such, he knows what he’s talking about – and makes it very clear that BoJob, on the other hand, doesn’t. It’s a comprehensive demolition of both Johnson’s book and the aspirations behind it. Newsinger argues that Johnson’s reason for writing this unnecessary piece – there are hundred of others published every year – is not to prevent Churchill from being forgotten, as he claims, but to try to burnish his own reputation through identification with Churchill. And it’s here that Newsinger is also brilliantly critical. He makes it very clear that Churchill was far from the greatest of the great men, who make history, as Johnson seems to believe. He was a deeply flawed man, who enjoyed war for the opportunities it gave him and members of his class for greatness, while viewing those lower down the social scale as mere cannon fodder. The review begins

When this book was first published back in 2014 it did not seem to be worth the trouble reviewing. It was a truly appalling volume that no one except the right-wing press could possibly take seriously; and they only praised it to advance the career of its author. As a supposed biographical study of Winston Churchill it was altogether worthless, even worse than Johnson’s earlier ‘histories’ of the Roman Empire and London and they were pretty dire. And dire books are obviously a reflection of their author. Johnson is a serial liar and casual racist, a homophobe, a sexist and a xenophobe. He is akin to a cross
between Benny Hill and Benito Mussolini: completely without principles, wholly
irresponsible and unfit for any public office. However, as we know, the incredible has happened and a desperate Conservative Party has actually installed him as Prime Minister! Thus, the book is now worth some critical attention – not for anything it has to say about Churchill but, as I have already indicated, for what it tells us about the author.

Churchill’s reputation for heroic leadership during the War is the product of very careful state propaganda comparable to Stalin’s. He had nothing in common with ordinary people. He didn’t meet them and only once used public transport. As for Churchill’s concern for ordinary people, Johnson believes he found it in the great warleader’s concern for his nanny. Newsinger bitingly observes that only a public schoolboy could think that concern for their nanny equals concern for ordinary people.

Newsinger is also suitably derisive about Johnson’s claim that Churchill resonated with the British public for four reasons. These are 1) our national sense of humour, 2) our massive capacity for booze, 3) our suspicion of people who are unusually thin, and 4) our view of Britain as the homeland of eccentrics. Newsinger comments

Really! It is difficult to know what to make of this moronic garbage. The whole discussion is positively embarrassing. One is shocked that the author of this nonsense is a Member of Parliament, let alone the Prime Minister, and can only hope that the book never falls into the hands of someone studying for their History GCSE.

As for Churchill not being a warmonger, Newsinger acknowledges that Churchill fought bravely in the campaign against the Mahdi in the Sudan, and in the Anglo-South African War. The battle of Omdurman was more of a massacre than a battle. British casualties number only 48, while 16,000 Sudanese were killed, many of them when they were trying to surrender or lying wounded. Newsinger does, however, credit Churchill with opposing the shooting and bayoneting of the wounded. As for Churchill not being a warmonger, Newsinger writes

Quite how he squares this with his account of how Churchill ‘loved’ – yes, loved – war is
difficult to see. On one occasion, Churchill actually told Margot Asquith that war was ‘delicious’ – and this was during the horror that was the First World War. He was ‘excited by war’ and ‘without war he knew there could be no glory – no real chance to emulate Napoleon, Nelson or his ancestor Marlborough’. ‘War sent the adrenalin spurting from his glands’. (pp. 168-169) But while he ‘loved’ war, he did not support wars of aggression. Once again, this is so much nonsense. In 1914 Britain was a satisfied Empire intent on holding on to what it had already conquered but, as soon as the war began, the country’s war aims encompassed the dividing up of enemy colonies with its allies. As Johnson himself admits, the British Empire was in control of 9 per cent more of the world after the War than it had been before. This was not just by chance. This was what the war was really all about, what millions had died for – that and the glorification of men like Churchill.

Johnson admires Churchill’s support for all the reforms brought in while he was a liberal under Asquith, reforms Newsinger notes were opposed by the Tories at the time. He also tries to give Churchill credit for the achievements of Attlee’s government, though objects to the pension age having been lowered from 70 to 65. He states that the government will have to correct this, which, as Newsinger also notes, will leave millions with no pension entitlement.

Johnson also tries to equate Churchill’s own views and policies towards India with that of himself and his relations with the EU. He claims that Churchill largely ignored India, and was chiefly concerned with positioning himself as the successor to Stanley Baldwin. But this ignores the fact that Churchill was determined to maintain the British position in India. He also doesn’t mention the Bengal Famine, which killed three million Indians, which Churchill caused. He does mention it in his previous book on The Spirit of London, which Newsinger also criticises in the review. Johnson gives it two, very critical comments in that book. However, Johnson isn’t alone in ignoring the Famine. And he doesn’t include it because it would cast doubt on his view of Churchill as the great man, and the British Empire as a benevolent institution towards the indigenous peoples.

Newsinger particularly attacks one chapter in Johnson’s book about the great man’s errors and mistakes. These are given ratings for the Churchill Factor and the Fiasco Factor. Newsinger calls it the most stupid part of the book. Gallipolli, which resulted in 55,000 British and imperial troops dead and 123,000 wounded. Johnson gives this debacle a rating of 10 in each category. Newsinger writes

what that actually means is anyone’s guess. While Johnson is attempting to be witty, what he actually displays is an astonishing degree of callous disregard for the immense suffering and enormous loss of life that the battle cost. In many ways, this sums up his own particular version of the Great Man view of History.

He also comments that when Johnson describes how Churchill was regarded with distaste and suspicion by the Conservatives in 1940 as an outsider and ‘rotter’, he’s talking about himself. The difference, however, is that by that time Churchill had considerable experience in government. The promiscuous Johnson also seems somewhat concerned about Churchill’s sexual appetite, or lack of it. He finds this remarkable in a man with such otherwise titanic appetites. As Newsinger says, this tells us nothing about Churchill but much about Johnson. And he concludes

One thing that we can be certain of is that, whatever one thinks of Churchill, there is no way he would ever have let someone like Boris Johnson anywhere near the levers of power.

This is an article that deserves to be read because it lays bare how Johnson regards himself and Churchill, and exposes some of the myths about Churchill that we’re still taught through the mass media. If you want to read it, it’s at

Click to access lob78-churchill-factor.pdf

John McDonnell Outrages Tories with Comments about Churchill’s Villainy

February 16, 2019

John McDonnell kicked up a storm of controversy this week when, in an interview with the Politico website on Wednesday, he described Winston Churchill as a villain. McDonnell was answering a series of quick-fire questions, and the one about Churchill was ‘Winston Churchill. Hero or villain?’ McDonnell replied ‘Tonypandy – villain’. This referred to the Tonypandy riots of 1910, when striking miners were shot down by the army after clashing with the police. According to the I’s article on the controversy on page 23 of Wednesday’s edition, Churchill initially refused requests to send in the troops, instead sending a squad of metropolitan police. Troops were also sent in to stand in reserve in Cardiff and Swindon. Following further rioting, Churchill sent in the 18th Hussars. He later denied it, but it was widely believed that he had given orders to use live rounds. There’s still very strong bitterness amongst Welsh working people about the massacre. The I quoted Louise Miskell, a historian at Swansea University, who said that ‘He is seen as an enemy of the miners’.

Boris Johnson, who has written a biography of Churchill, was naturally outraged, declaring ‘Winston Churchill saved this country and the whole of Europe from a barbaric fascist and racist tyranny, and our debt to him is incalculable’. He also said that McDonnell should be ashamed of his remarks and withdraw them forthwith.

McDonnell, speaking on ITV news, said that although he didn’t want to upset people, he’d give the same answer again to that question if he was honest, and said that he welcomed it if it has prompted a more rounded debate about Churchill’s role. He said that Churchill was undoubtedly a hero during the Second World War, but that this was not necessarily the case in other areas of his life. He said ‘Tonypandy was a disgrace.: sending the troops in, killing a miner, tryinig to break a strike and other incidents in his history as well.’

The I then gave a brief list of various heroic and villainous incidents. These were

* Saving Britain from the Nazis during and helping to lead the Allies to victory during the Second World War.

* Introducing the Trade Boards Bill of 1909, which established the first minimum wages system for various trades across the UK.

* Making the famous speech about an Iron Curtain coming down across Europe in 1946.

* According to his biographer, John Charmley, Churchill believed in a racial hierarchy and eugenics, and that at the top of this were White Protestant Christians.

* Saying that it was ‘alarming and nauseating’ seeing Gandhi ‘striding half-naked up the steps of the vice-regal palace.’ He also said ‘I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion’.

* Three million people died in the Bengal famine of 1943, in which Churchill refused to deploy food supplies.

It’s in the context of the Bengal famine that Churchill made his vile remarks about Indians. The Bengalis starved because their grain had been sequestered as back up supplies to fee British troops. In the end they weren’t needed, according to one video I’ve seen on YouTube. Churchill also said that the famine was their fault for having too many children.

He also supported the brief British invasion of Russia to overthrow the Communist Revolution, and the use of gas on Russian troops. Just as he also wanted to use gas to knock out, but not kill, Iraqi troops in Mesopotamia when they revolted in the 1920s against British rule.

He also said that ‘Keep Britain White’ was a good slogan for the Tories to go into the 1951 general election.

It’s clearly true that Churchill’s determined opposition to the Nazis did help lead to a free Europe and the defeat of Nazi Germany. But according to the historian of British Fascism, Martin Pugh, he did not do so out of opposition to Fascism per se. He was afraid that Nazi Germany posed a threat to British interests in the North Sea. The Conservative journo, Peter Hitchens, is very critical of Churchill and Britain’s entry into the Second World War. He rightly points out that Churchill wasn’t interested in saving the Jews, but that we went in because of the treaties we had signed with Poland and France. As for defeating Nazism, historians have for a long time credited the Soviet Red Army with breaking the back of the Wehrmacht. In one of Spike Milligan’s war memoirs, he jokes that if Churchill hadn’t sent the troops in, then the Iron Curtain would begin about Bexhill in Kent. Churchill also went on a diplomatic visit to Mussolini’s Italy after the Duce seized power, though privately he remarked that the man was ‘a perfect swine’ after the Italian dictator declared that his Blackshirts were ‘the equivalent of your Black and Tans’. For many people, that’s an accurate comparison, given how brutal and barbaric the Black and Tans were. And as an authoritarian, Churchill also got on very well and liked General Franco. And George Orwell also didn’t take Churchill seriously as the defender of democracy. In the run-up to the outbreak of war, he remarked that strange things were occurring, one of which was ‘Winston Churchill running around pretending to be a democrat’.

Now I don’t share Hitchen’s view that we shouldn’t have gone into the Second World War. The Nazis were determined to exterminate not just Jews, Gypsies and the disabled, but also a large part of the Slavic peoples of eastern Europe. One Roman Catholic site I found had an article on Roman Catholic and Christian martyrs under the Nazis. This began with the Nazis’ attempts to destroy the Polish people, and particularly its intellectuals, including the Polish Roman Catholic Church. It quoted Hitler as saying that war with Poland would a be a war of extermination. Hitler in his Table Talk as also talks about exterminating the Czechs, saying that ‘It’s them or us.’ Churchill may have gone into the War entirely for reasons of British imperial security, but his action nevertheless saved millions of lives right across Europe. It overthrew a regime that, in Churchill’s words, threatened to send the continent back into a new Dark Age, lit only by the fire of perverted science’.

Having said that does not mean he was not a monster in other areas. The General Strike was a terrible defeat for the British working class, but if Churchill had been involved it would almost certainly have been met with further butchery on his part. Again, according to Pugh, Churchill was all set to send the army in, saying that they were ready to do their duty if called on by the civil authority. The Tory prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, was all too aware of what would happen, and when another minister of civil servant suggested finding him a position in the Post Office or the department looking after the radio, he enthusiastically agreed, because it would keep Churchill out of trouble.

As for the Bengal famine, I think that still haunts Indian nationalists today. I was looking at the comments on Al-Jazeera’s video on YouTube about the UN finding severe poverty in Britain a few months ago. There was a comment left by someone with an Indian name, who was entirely unsympathetic and said he looked forward to our country being decimated by starvation. My guess is that this vicious racist was partly inspired in his hatred of Britain by the famine, as well as other aspects of our rule of his country.

I think McDonnell’s remarks, taken as a whole, are quite right. McDonnell credited him with his inspiring leadership during the War, but justifiably called him a villain because of the Tonypandy massacre. And eyewitnesses to the rioting said that the miners really were desperate. They were starving and in rags. And Churchill should not be above criticism and his other crimes and vile statements and attitudes disregarded in order to create a sanitized idol of Tory perfection, as Johnson and the other Tories would like.

Vox Political: Priti Patel Confirms ‘Leave’ Campaign Wants to Take Away Workers’ Rights

May 23, 2016

Mike on Saturday also posted up another piece commenting on the anti-working class policies of the ‘Brexit’ crowd. Priti Patel, one of its leaders, and the author of the notorious Britannia Unchained, gave a speech to the Institute of Directors claiming that leaving the EU would give Britain an opportunity to abandon its legal obligations to protect workers under current EU legislation. She claimed this would produce another 60,000 jobs.

Frances O’Grady, the head of the TUC, has denounced this attack on workers’ rights by the ‘Leave’ campaign. The TUC has also commissioned a report into which rights would be vulnerable to repeal from Michael Ford, QC. Some of these are listed in this piece reblogged by Mike.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/21/priti-patel-admits-leave-campaign-agenda-to-reduce-workers-rights-tuc/

This latest sputtering from the Brexit crowd doesn’t surprise me in the least. I’ve said all along that what really annoys the Tories about the EU is the Social Charter, as was shown back in the 1990s when Terry Wogan had on his show a Tory politico, who fully endorsed the Common Market but hated the protection it gave European workers. Patel and the other authors of Britannia Unchained argued in that vile little screed that British workers should accept poor conditions and work harder, so that the country can compete with the sweatshops of the Developing World. The same views were articulated here in the West Country by an ‘Orange’ Book Lib Dem from Taunton Dean. Of course, neither Patel nor the rest of that crew believe in cutting managers’ salaries and shareholder dividends in order to make the companies more competitive by allowing them to free more capital to invest in new machinery and research and development.

As for those 60,000 or so jobs, they wouldn’t appear either if Britain left the EU. The money saved from the EU contributions would be frittered away giving yet more massive tax cuts to the rich. Or else it would be eaten up in the extra expenses that would be incurred by Britain going it alone outside Europe, and having to hammer out trade agreements with each individual EU nation, as Mike has repeatedly pointed out.

As for Patel herself, I have nothing but contempt for her. She first appeared in the 1990s, and was hailed and applauded by the Daily Mail, who produced her as a sign that the Tories were embracing ethnic minorities. She was featured in an article headlined, ‘As Priti as a Picture’. The article naturally claimed that Tory ethnic minorities were better than the Blacks or Asians in Labour, who were, of course, all riddled with post-colonial racial resentment against the Whites.

It struck me the other day that the arguments the Tories and big business use to justify unpaid internships would be wonderful for the apologists for slavery if somehow that vile trade had not been made illegal by Wilberforce, Olaudah Equiano, John Wedderburn and the rest of the Abolitionists. When Wilberforce and the others were launching their campaign to send the trade and free its victims, the West Indian planters and slavers complained that it was a ‘visonary’ and ‘philanthropic’ attack on private enterprise and private property, and as a result the economy would suffer. You can imagine the same slavers telling the slaves in Africa, and the indentured Indian labourers, who were exploited in the infamous ‘Coolie’ Trade, that they were going to enjoy a wonderful employment opportunity abroad. No, the planters couldn’t afford to pay them, but this would be good experience. Actually, the latter was the argument during the period of unpaid apprenticeship. After slavery itself was formally ended, the slaves were supposed to work unpaid for their masters in order to learn how to be upright, independent, self-reliant citizens. I’ve posted articles before comparing it to workfare.

And just as there was a slave trade from Africa across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and the New World, so there was also a slave trade across the Indian Ocean, from Africa, to Arabia, India and Asia. Indeed, the British authorities in the Bengal presidency banned slavery there as early as the 1820s, and in the 1870s the Raj stepped into ban the African slave trade carried out by British Indians, and confiscated their slaves. It struck me that the Indian slave trade was probably carried out by someone very like Priti Patel, just as someone like Gove and Johnson were probably out defending the slave trade in the Atlantic. I am certainly not accusing any of the above of personally supporting the slave trade, or having any connection to it. Just that they’ve got the same nasty exploitative attitudes of those who did.

The Tories Who Voted Against the Beveridge Report and the Welfare State

March 14, 2016

‘Gracchus’, in his anti-Tory book, Your MP, has a lengthy passage on the various Conservative MPs who voted against the Beveridge Report, the document that laid the foundations for the modern welfare state. I’ve blogged about how the Report had the support of the Labour party, the Liberals and left-wing Tories. These are its opponents, whose modern ideological descendants, David Cameron, Jeremy Hunt, George Osborne, and the four ‘wafflers’ who talked out a bill to ban the privatisation of the NHS, and so many others, who now want to the scrap this most precious British institution.

The anti-Beveridge Tories included:

Sir John Anderson, of the air raid shelter fame. He was Commander of the Crown of Italy, Governor of Bengal, and one of the organisers of the ‘Black and Tans’ that terrorised Ireland during their struggle for independence.

Osbert Peake, Leeds North, stated that William Beveridge, had “raised hopes which could not be fulfilled. No system of weekly payments can abolish want in a free society; so long as men are free to spend their money as they please there will be homes in which want exists.” He also said it was ‘incompatible with freedom’ and claimed that want could only be eradication by the type of regimentation found in the armed forces or internment camps.

Captain H.H. Balfour, Isle of Thanet, declared that “The ideal of those who want a planned society is the “raising of utility families in accordance with State guidance; the children, as soon as possible, being enrolled into the ever-swelling ranks of a new race of little State stooges trained to serve and look only to the State for all sustenance, security and benefit right from the days of the State crèche to the evening of life, directed to be spent in some bare-walled but beautifully sanitary institution, run, of course, under a State medical service.”

Reading through these denunciations, it’s striking how little has changed in that they’re the same arguments being made today about any kind of socialism or state intervention by the American extreme Right. Libertarians talk about how Britain’s ‘cradle-to-grave’ welfare state has robbed us of our liberty and deprived us of the right to carry guns around in very much the same terms. As for the raising of children as ‘little state stooges’, something very similar was screamed a little while ago by the conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, on his Infowars website. He claimed that the child immigrants Obama had let into the country were going to be used by him as child soldiers, as in Africa, to establish his totalitarian control of America. It’s the same kind of rhetoric Sarah Palin used in her election campaign when she ranted about ‘death panels’ on the evils of Obamacare. It’s the same type of argument Ronald Reagan also used to attack Medicaid when this was being introduced by Lyndon Johnson.

The other Tories, who voted against the Beveridge Report, were:

Lt-Col. G.J. Acland-Troyte, Tiverton;
Major S.V.T. Adams, Leeds West
Lt. Com. P.G. Agnew, Camborne
Sir Irving Albery, Gravesend
Brig.-Gen Sir Wm. Alexander, Glasgow Central
Lt.-Col Wm. James Allen, Armagh
L.C.M.S. Amery, Secretary of State for India and Burma, Sparkbrook.
R. Assheton, Financial Secretary to the Exchequer, Rushcliffe.
Col. J.J. Astor, Dover
W.W. Astor, Fulham East.

Adrian Baillie, Tonbridge,
A. Beverley Baxter, Wood Green
Rear-Adm. T. Beamish, Lewes
F. Geattie, Cathcart
Sir Brograve Beauchamp, Walthamstow
Major R.E.B. Beaumont, Portsmouth Central
Sir Alfred Beit, St. Pancras South East
Sir Peter Bennett, Edgbaston
R. De La Bere, Worcester, Evesham
Sir Robert Bird, Wolverhampton West
Sir Reginald Blair, Hendon
Lt.-Col. D. Boles, Wells
R.J.G. Boothby, Aberdeen East
A.C. Bossom, Maidstone
W.W. Boulton, Vice-Chamberlain of the Household, Sheffield Central
Com. R.T. Bower, Cleveland
H. Leslie Boyce, Gloucester
Rt. Hon. B. Bracken, Minister of Information, Paddington North
Major A.N. Braithwaite, Buckrose
Captain Sir William Brass, Clitheroe
Captain R. Briscoe, Cambridgeshire
Sir George Thomas Broadbridge, City of London
Sir Edmund Brocklebank, Fairfield
H. Brooke, Lewisham West

Rt. Hon. A.E. Brown, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Leith
Captain Bartle Bull, Enfield
Col. H.W., Burton, Sudbury
Rt. Hon. R.A. Butler, President Board of Education, Saffron Walden

G.R. Hall Caine, Dorset East
Sir Edward Campbell, Bromley
R.A. Cary, Eccles
Viscount Castlereagh, Down
S.S. de Chair, Norfolk, South West
Flight lieutenant C. Challen, Hampstead
H. Channon, Southend
A. Chapman, Parliamentary Under-Sec. for Scotland, Rutherglen
Sir Samuel Chapman, Edinburgh, S.
J. Christie, Norfolk South
Sir Reginald Clarry, Newport
Capt. E.C. Cobb, Preston
Arthur Colegate, the Wrekin
N.C.D. Colman, Brixton
Captain R.J.E. Conant, Bewdley
Cooke, J. Douglas, Hammersmith South
A. Duff Cooper, St George’s
Col. George Courthope, Rye.
W. Craven-Ellis, Southampton
Lord C. Crichton-Stuart, Northwich
Sir Smedley Crooke, Deritend
Capt. Harry Crookshank, Postmaster-General, Gainisborough
J.F.E. Crowder, Finchley
C.T. Culverwell, Bristol West

Viscountess Davidson, Hemel Hempstead
Sir William Davison, Kensington South
A. Denville, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
Lt.-Col. G.F. Doland
P.W. Donner
Lt.-Col. Alan V.G. Dower
C. Drewe, Assistant Whip, Honiton
G.A.V. Duckworth, Shrewsbury
W.R. Duckworth, Manchester, Moss Side
major T.L. Dugdale, Richmond, York.
Captain. J.A. Duncan, Kensington North

Anthony Eden, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Warwick and leamington
Major Sir James Edmondson, Treasurer of the Household, Banbury
Sir Geoffrey Ellis, Ecclesall
Captain G.S. Elliston, Blackburn
J.F. Emery, Salford West
C.E.G.C. Emmott, Surrey, East.
P.V. Emrys-Evans, Under-Secretary for the Dominions, Derby South.
Major Cyril Entwhistle, Bolton
Eric Errington, Bootle
A.G. Erskine-Hill, Edinburgh North
Ralph Etherton, Stretford
Col. Arthur Evans, Cardiff South
W. Lindsay Everard, Melton

Edmund Findlay, Banff
Flt.-Lt Sir Gifford Fox, Henley
David Fyfe, Solicitor-General, West Derby

Com. T.D. Galbraith, Pollok
Granville Gibson, Pudsey and Otley
G. Gledhill, Halifax
L.H. Gluckstein, Nottingham East
Major Ralph Glyn, Abingdon
N.B. Goldie, Warrington
Robert Gower, Gillingham
Captain A.C. Graham, Chester, Wirral
W.P.C. Greene, Worcester
Sir Arnold Gridley, Stockport
Edward Grigg, Altrincham,
R.V. Grimston, Assistant Postmaster-General, Westbury
Col. Henry Guest, Drake
Major Derrick Gunston, Thornbury

Sir Douglas hacking, Chorley
Captain F.F.A. Heilgers, Bury St. Edmunds
M.R. Hely-Hutchinson, Hastings
J.J.C. Henderson, Leeds North East
T.H. Hewlett, Manchester Exchange
W.F. Higgs, Birmingham West
Quintin Hogg, Oxford
Miss F. Horsbrught, P.S., Ministry of Health
Dr A.B. Howitt, Reading
Austen Hudson
R.S. Hudson, Minister of Agriculture, Southport
Sqd.-Ldr N.J. Hulbert, Stockport.
George Hume, Greenwich
Percy Hurd, Devizes
Major Geoffrey Hutchinson, Ilford

Wing.-Com. A.W.H. James, Wellingborough
John Jarvis, Surrey, Guildford
R. Jennings, Hallam
George Jones, Stoke Newington
Lt. Com. L.W. Joynson-Hicks

Mrs. Cazalet Keir, Islington East
H.W. Kerr, Oldham
John Graham Kerr, Scottish Universities
Major L. Kimball, Leicester, Loughborough
Maj.-Gen. Alfred Knox, Wycombe

Joseph Lamb, Stone

J. Lees-Jones, Blackley
John Leigh, Clapham
Major B.E.P. Leighton, Oswestry
T. Levy, Elland
O. Lewis, Colchester
W.S. Liddall, Lincoln
Major E.G.R. Lloyd, Refrew East
P.C. Loftus, Lowestoft
Major Sir Jocelyn Lucas, Portsmouth South
Leonard Lyle, Bournemouth
Major A.M. Lyons, Leicester East
Captain O. Lyttelton, Aldershot

Col. Charles MacAndrew, Buteshire and Ayrshire
Major Duncan McCallum, Argyll
M.S. McCorquodale, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Labour, Sowerby
Captain P.D. Macdonald, Isle of Wight
Captain J.H.F. McEwen, Lord of the Treasury, Berwick and Haddington,
Lt.-Col. J.R.J. Macnamara, Essex, Chelmsford
T. Magnay, Gateshead,
Adam Maitland, Faversham
Brig.-Gen ernest Makins, Knutsford
Lt.-Col. John Myhew, East Ham, North
John Mellor, Tamworth
Major J.D. Mills, Ecclesiastical Commissioner, New Forest and Christchurch
Col. H.P. Mitchell, Brentford and Chiswick
George Mitcheson, St. Pancras, South West
Lt.-Col. Thomas Moore, Ayr Burghs
R.H. Morgan, Stourbridge
Major J.G. Morrison, Salisbury
W.S. Morrison, Minister for Town and Country Planning, Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Col. Joseph Nall, Hulme,
Major B.H.H. Neven-Spence, Orkney and Shetland
W. Nunn, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne West

Hugh O’Neill, Antrim
I.L. Orr-Ewing, Weston-Super-Mare

G.E.H. Palmer, Hampshire, Winchester
C.J. Peat, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Supply, Darlington
Major M. Petherick, Penryn and Falmouth
K.W.M. Pckthorn, Cambridge University
Captain R.A. Pilkington, Civil Lord of the Admiralty, Lancaster, Widnes
Col. C.E. Ponsonby, Sevenoaks
Lt.-Col. Assheton Pownall, Lewisham East
Major H.A. Procter, Accrington
R. Purbrick, Walton
L.R. Pym, Lord of the Treasury, Monmouth

E.A. Radford, Rusholme,
Flt.-Lt. H.V.A.M. Raikes, Essex, South East
Eugen Ramsden, Bradford North
Robert Rankin, Kirkdale
Stanley, Reed, Aylesbury
W.A. Reid, Derby
G.W. rickards, Skipton
D. Robertson, Streatham
J.R. Robinson, Blackbool
G. Fowlands, Flint
Admiral Percy Royds, Kingston-upon-Thomas
Alexander Russell, Tynemouth

E.W. Salt, Yardley
Frank Sanderson, Ealing
E.D. Sandys, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Supply, Norwood
William Scott, Roxburgh and Selkirk
H.R. Selley, Battersea South
Major P.S. Shaw, Liverpool, Wavertree
Captain W.T. Shaw, Forfar
O.E. Simmons, Duddeston
Major Archibald Sinclair, Caithness and Sutherland
Bracewell Smith, Dulwich
Waldron Smithers, Chislehurst
W.M. Snadden, Kinross and West Perth
Donald Somervell, Attorney-General, Crewe
Oliver Stanley, Secretary of State for the Colonies, Westmorland
S. Storey, Sunderland,
H.G. Strauss, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Town and Country Planning, Norwich
Captain W.F Strickland, Coventry
Captain H.G. Studholme, Tavistock
Rear-Admiral Murray Sueter, Hertford
Harold Sutcliffe, Royton
Major-General Frederick Sykes, Nottingham Central.

Robert Tasker, Holborn
Captain C.S. Taylor, Eastbourne
Vice-Admiral E.A. Taylor, Paddington South
J.P.L. Thomas, Financial Secretary, Admiralty, Hereford
Douglas Thomson, Aberdeen South
C.N. Thornton-Kemsley, Kincardine and Western
G.C. Touche, Reigate
A.R.L.F. Tree, Harborough
Lt.Com. R.L. Tufnell

W.W. Wakefield, Wiltshire, Swindon
Jonah Walker-Smith, Barrow-in-Furness
Col. Lambert Ward, Kingston-Upon-Hull
Miss Irene Ward, Walsend
John Wardlaw-Milne, Worcester, Kidderminster
Captain C. Waterhouse, Permanent Secretary, Board of Trade, Leicester South
F.C. Watt, Edinburgh Central
Brigadier G.S. Harvie Watt, Richmond
Harold Webbe, Abbey
J.J.S. Wedderburn, Refrew West
Richard Wells, Bedford
W. Garfield, Macclesfied
Dymoke white, Fareham
Lt.-Col. E.T.R. Wickham, Somerset, Taunton
Commander C. Williams, Deputy Chairman of Committees, Torquay
Herbert Williams, Croydon South
Lt.-Col. G. Windsor-Clive, Ludlow
Earl Winterton, Horsham and Worthing
Major A.R. Wise, Smethwick
Walter J.P. Womersley, Minister of Pensions, Grimsby
H. Wragg, Belper
Group Captain J.A.C. Wright, Erdington

Major Christopher York, Ripon
A.S.L. Young, Lord of the Treasury, Glasgow, Partick.

Tory Councillor Told To Resign after Criticising David Attenborough – But Attenborough Does Believe in Doing Nothing for the Starving

September 19, 2013

Late yesterday evening there was a story on the MSN News about Phil Taylor, a Conservative councillor in Ealing, who had been told to resign for his comments on Twitter about David Attenborough. According to the article, Taylor had been angered by a statement by Attenborough on the need to curb the growth of the world’s population. He tweeted ‘I do wish this silly old fart would practice what he preached and take a one-way trip to Switzerland’. The leader of the Labour Party in Ealing Council, Julian Bell, condemned Taylor’s comments, and demanded that he should either apologise or resign. Taylor was also criticised by Scott Freeman, from the anti-bullying charity, Cybersmile, for setting a bad example and encouraging cyberbullying.

In reply to these criticisms, Taylor said in an email “My tweet reflected my frustration with Attenborough repeatedly using his ‘national treasure’ status to promote a set of views that see people as being a problem. His prescriptions seem always to apply to other people.

“My view of the world is that we have to work out how to make sure that the 9 billion people who will populate the world by 2050 all have a good life. They all have hopes and dreams and don’t need to be told what to do by Attenborough.”

The article concludes with the simple statement that ‘Sir David said in a radio interview this morning that he recognised that population controls were a controversial area and emphasised that he felt more strongly towards a human baby than any animal.

However, it is important to have a debate over what we do about the rising pressures on natural resources, he said.’

The full article can be read at:
http://news.uk.msn.com/uk/david-attenborough-should-kill-himself-says-tory-councillor.

Right-Wing Opposition to Green Politics

Now the Right does not like Green politics. In America Green politics are criticised as a Left-wing strategy for increasing taxation, regulation and enforcing income redistribution. The last means Republicans don’t like it because the Greens want to take money from the rich and give to the poor. Conservatives in America and Britain believe that Big Business has an absolute right to exploit, pollute and destroy the environment and its flora and fauna. In response to pressure from Green politicians and environmental groups, they have set up astroturf organisations, like ‘Wise Use’ to counter such criticism and present Conservatives as advocating instead a responsible approach to the environment in line with a policy promoting the proper exploitation of the natural world.

Attenborough: UN Should Not Give Food to Famine Victims

Now the suggestion that Attenborough should go and end his life in a Dignitas clinic is extreme, and it does set a bad example when so many children have ended their lives through abuse on the Internet. Taylor’s comment is not, however, quite as bad when you read what Attenborough himself had said. This is truly monstrous. According to the Daily Telegraph, Attenborough told their interviewer about his fears about overpopulation and appeared to suggest that the starving of the developing world should be left to die. The great broadcaster apparently said:
“What are all these famines in Ethiopia, what are they about? They’re about too many people for too little land. That’s what it’s about. And we are blinding ourselves. We say, get the United Nations to send them bags of flour. That’s barmy.” According to the article, he stated that overpopulation was a problem, and that if we didn’t tackle it, nature itself would, as it had done for a long time in the past. He also believed that the major obstacles to managing the world’s population was the attitude that having children was a human right, and the Roman Catholic Church’s prohibition on contraception. He also acknowledge that his statement about Ethiopia and its starving could be ‘misconstrued as an attack on poor people as the issues of major concern were in Africa and Asia.

The article about his comments can be read here:http://news.uk.msn.com/articles?cp-documentid=257478670.

India Starvation Photo

The victims of a famine in India. David Attenborough doesn’t want the UN to give food to people like these.

Attenborough and Atheist Attacks on Religion and Christianity

Now Attenborough has shown himself with these comments to be monstrously ignorant and callously indifferent to global suffering. I have been extremely unimpressed with Attenborough for several years now, ever since he added his voice to that of Richard Dawkins in sneering at religion. That’s a different issue, but I found his remarks then ignorant and uninformed, as countless people of faith, and particularly Western Christians, did contribute to the rise of science. For a more complete discussion of how Christianity laid the basis for modern science, see R. Hooykaas, Religion and the Rise of Modern Science (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press 1971). I was also not impressed by his attitude, which suggested that Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection had somehow disproven the existence of God. I’ve blogged several times on this issue. For a proper discussion of this issue, see Own Chadwick, ‘Evolution and the Churches’ in G.A. Russell, ed., Science and Religious Belief: A Selection of Recent Historical Studies (London: The Open University/ University of London Press 1973)282-93. These are separate issues. Attenborough’s comments here also seem woefully ignorant and misinformed.

Traditional Attitudes towards Large Families in Western History and Modern Developing World

Let’s take his comment about the Roman Catholic church’s stance on contraception being part of the problem. In actual fact, many cultures and religion advocate large families. In tradition Moroccan society, a family with fewer than 12 children was described as ‘unfinished’. The pagan religions in Africa also lay great stress of large families and the fertility of their flocks and herds. As for attitudes to the environment and animal life, Nigel Barley in his account of his fieldwork amongst the Dowayo people of Cameroun, The Innocent Anthropologist, noted that they had very little knowledge of the animal life around them, and were quite prepared to exterminate any creature they disliked, such as lions. He states that family planning is so unpopular that there is a joke that the only thing that will not be opened and misappropriated when you send it through the post in West Africa is a packed of condoms.

He also does not seem to know, or understand the reasons why the developing world, and indeed Britain and the West before the twentieth century, had large families. These were massive infant mortality rates and to provide support for the parents in their old age. Barley himself says that one of the most moving demonstrations of the tragically high rate of death in childhood in Africa is a question in the Nigerian census form. This asks you how many children you have. After this is the question ‘How many are still living?’ In traditional societies, such as Britain before the establishment of the welfare state in 1948, there is no or little state provision for citizens in their old age. People therefore have large families in order to support them when they have become too elderly to manage for themselves.

Pakistan Contraception Photo

Women in Pakistan receiving contraceptive advice.

Fall in Birth Rate throughout the World

Attenborough also seems to have ignored the fact that globally, birth rates are dropping. Governments throughout the developing world have launched campaigns to control their populations through family planning and contraception. This includes the developing world. The French anthropologist, Richard Tod, has pointed to the fact that, although families in the developing world may be much larger than in the West, there has been a dramatic decline. In some Middle Eastern nations, such as those of the former Soviet central Asian republics like Azerbaijan, for example, the birth rates are comparable to those of Western Europe. In Britain and much of the developed world, including Germany, Italy, Russia and Japan, the birth rate is actually below replacement levels. The population in Britain has grown only because of immigration. The Japanese are so concerned about their demographic decline that Japanese newspapers have run stories predicting that in a thousand years’ time, the Japanese people will be extinct. One of the reasons why the Land of the Rising Sun is putting so much resources into developing robots is to create a suitable workforce. The Japanese are unwilling to permit mass immigration to provide the country with labour, and so have turned to cybernetics and robots instead. In fact the global decline in the birth rate has alarmed some demographers, anthropologists and economic planner. In mid-1990s New Scientist carried an interview with a scientist, who believed that population growth had peaked or was peaking. He believed that by the middle of this century there would be a population crash. The result would be increased strain on the welfare state due to the cost of caring for an aging population. The economy would also contract, and countries would have to compete with each other to attract migrants to join their nations’ workforce. He also believed that the high mortality rates in some African nations coupled with a low birth rate would cause their populations to shrink. He believed that the first nation that could be so affected would be Ethiopia. We are here looking very much at the kind of dystopian future predicted by the film Children of Men. This portrayed a Fascistic future Britain, in which no children had been born for 18 years.

Racist Fears over Campaigns to Limit Population

Attenborough’s comments here also threaten to increase racial tension and spur on the rise of the racist Right. IN Britain and America the Fascist and Nationalist Right see demands by the ruling elite that we should limit the size of our families as part of a policy of racial extermination directed at the indigenous White population. They believe that there is a deliberate policy by the liberal elite of wiping out Whites, and replacing them with Black and Asian immigrants. Attenborough’s comments will be seen by them as another example of this policy. Black Nationalists may also see it as a racially motivated attempt to exterminate them. Private Eye a few years ago reported the outrageous comments by a Black leader in South Africa, telling people not to use contraception to stop AIDS as this was really another racist attempts by Whites to limit the Black population. Such statements have some verisimilitude due to the fact that BOSS, the South African secret service, had at one time been active trying to develop diseases that would specifically target Blacks. Attenborough might fear that his comments may be ‘misconstrued’ as an attack on the poor of Africa and Asia, but given the highly mixed legacy of European colonial administrations, one cannot reasonable blame them for doing so. About ten or so years ago a history book came out. It was entitled ‘Third World Holocausts’, or something like that. I can’t remember the exact title. I do, however, remember what it was about. The book described the way European colonialists had committed terrible atrocities in their African and Asian possessions from the political and economic ideologies of the time. In the 19th century, for example, there was a terrible famine in one of the Indian states. I believe it was Bengal, during which millions starved to death. The Raj refused to import and distribute food to its victims from the belief that this would undermine the principle of free trade they were trying to adopt across the Empire.

Attenborough’s Comments and the Irish Potato Famine

Irish Famine Photo

Irish victims of the Potato Famine queuing to emigrate.

Much closer to home, Attenborough’s comments recall the attitude of British politicians and civil servants during the Irish Potato Famine. The head of the British civil service, Trevelyan, stated that the victims of the famine should be left to starve. It was, he stated, their fault due to their improvident and irresponsible lifestyle. The result was the legacy of bitterness and hatred which further fuelled Nationalist demands for home rule under Charles Stuart Parnell and violent revolution from the Fenian Brotherhood and later Irish Republican groups. Attitudes like Attenborough’s have partly contributed, however, remotely, to the rise and persistence of terror groups like the IRA.

Fascism and the Green Movement

Attenborough’s views are also similar to some other, viciously misanthropic, extreme Right-wing views found in certain sections of the Green movement. In the 1990s one of the anarchist groups became alarmed at the Fascist tendencies then entering the Green movement. Murray Bookchin, a leading anarchist intellectual, who advocates Green, post-scarcity Anarchism, walked out of a Green conference in Germany when one of the speakers, a former East German dissident, declared that they needed a ‘Green Adolf’. Private Eye, in ‘Ape Sh*t’, its May 1988 review of Brian Masters biography of John Aspinall, The Passion of John Aspinall, remarked on the thuggishness of Aspinall’s political opinions. Aspinall has stated that humans are ‘vermin’, and stated that he favours a policy of ‘beneficial genocide’. He believes Britain’s population should be reduced from 54 to 18 million. He also has explicitly Fascist political sympathies. He supports ‘a right-wing counter-revolution, Franco-esque in spirit and determination’. See Francis Wheen, ed., Lord Gnome’s Literary Companion (London: Verso 1994) 226-7 (p,. 226).

Now I don’t think Attenborough is a Nazi. He has not advocated a Fascist dictatorship nor has any racist views. Indeed, quite the opposite. His programme, Man Alive, in the 1970s brought anthropology to British television and he was always polite and courteous to the primal peoples he spoke to and whose lives he explored. It’s a pity that this respect has not been extended to their children or grandchildren forty years later. Attenborough himself has been responsible for some of the very best of British television. He has delighted and educated the British public with his programmes on animals and wildlife for about sixty years. The BBC’s Natural History Unit in Bristol has brought from fame and honour to the city for its achievements in wildlife broadcasting. When he was controller of BBC 2, he was responsible for bringing some of the most innovative ideas to British television. Who now remembers Brass Tacks, a programme which allowed members of the public to talk about their political views? Unfortunately, Attenborough’s views in this instance less resemble those of an enlightened, genuinely liberal educator, but that of a loudmouthed bigot.

Attenborough’s Comments and the Macc Lads

Attenborough’s view in this instance resemble those of the Macc Lads. This was a northern punk band, which specialised in deliberately offensive lyrics. These could reasonably be described as misogynist, homophobic, and racist. I don’t know if the band themselves actually were. One of their songs describes them listening to the Band Aid global fundraising concert to help the famine victims of Ethiopia and Africa. The song ends with the lines

‘But I didn’t send money
t’ starving n*ggers
Because I’m a fookin’ Nazi’

I’ve been told that the Macc Lad’s songs were not meant seriously. Sadly, Attenborough here appears to have joined them, and this time meant it.

I would hope that Attenborough reconsiders his position in this matter, and issue the apology for his comments that they demand.

Overpopulation in SF Cinema

Apart from this, problems of a vastly overpopulated world has been portrayed in two films, Soylent Green, starring Charlton Heston, and ZPG (Zero Population Growth), starring Oliver Reed. The future in ZPG is one in which, due to population pressure, even domestic animals, such as dogs and cats, have become extinct. The plot involves the attempts by the hero and his wife to preserve their child after the government outlaws having children.

Here’s the trailer for Soylent Green.

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And this is the movie trailer for ZPG.

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