Posts Tagged ‘Bengal’

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.

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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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