Posts Tagged ‘Blaxploitation’

Disgusted by Mike’s Kangroo Court Trial

November 14, 2018

Yesterday Mike had his hearing before a Labour party tribunal in Wales to decide the charge against him of being an anti-Semite. As is clear to anyone who reads anything Mike has actually written, rather than lies put out by a corrupt, mendacious press and the Israel lobby, an anti-Semite is the very last thing Mike is. He isn’t at all racist or prejudiced, as a gay friend of his tried to make clear to three men, who suspiciously approached him last week wanting to talk to him about the charge. Mike found that encounter extremely suspicious. They knew him by name, though he’d never met them, and claimed that they’d read about him in the papers, although as Mike wrote on his blog, he only featured in them in May last year, 2017. That’s a long time ago. It could all have been perfectly innocuous, but Mike wondered if they weren’t there to intimidate him in the last few days before he defended himself. It’s quite possible. It also wouldn’t have surprised me if they weren’t private detectives hired by someone to see if they couldn’t dig any dirt on him. It’d be odd, but it’s not unknown.

And then there was the trial itself. As Mike has said in detail in his blog, it was a complete kangaroo court. They had no evidence against him whatsoever. None. Zip. Nada, nichts, and nitchevo. But it didn’t matter. They were obviously determined to find him guilty. I have absolutely no doubt Mike defended himself to the very best of his ability, and that, were it a properly constituted court of law, he would have won the case. Either that, or even now his lawyers would be filing objections to a miscarriage of justice. But this is the Labour party witch hunt against Corbynites, so truth didn’t matter.

What apparently did matter was how his comments appeared, especially to the ‘Jewish community’. As the numerous left-wing Jewish bloggers on the internet have said with great clarity, there is no monolithic Jewish community. Judaism has always been a community of different opinions and views, as shown by the old Jewish adage, ‘Two Jews, three opinions’. The group the press have chosen to present as Britain’s Jewish community are the official, Jewish Zionist establishment, the Chief Rabbi and Board of Deputies of British Jews. Which basically represents the United Synagogue and no-one else. They don’t represent the secular Jewish community, nor Orthodox Jews. The Board of Deputies of British Jews is solidly Zionist, as defined by their constitution. So they don’t represent non- or anti-Zionist Jews. Tony Greenstein has also cited proper sociological studies from respected scholars, which show that British Jews are almost wholly upper middle class. This doesn’t mean that British Jews are all Conservatives by any means, but those making the smears of anti-Semitism certainly are, as you can see from the political bias of the Jewish Chronicle. It’s a Conservative, business-oriented, religious establishment using anti-Semitism as a tool for smearing its opponents because they threaten them as Socialists seeking to empower ordinary people – which includes Jews – and support the Palestinians in their desperate search for justice against Israeli oppression. And this Conservative, Zionist Jewish establishment is closely interwoven with the Blairites in the Labour party. Blair’s followers are a minority, and always were. But they control the party bureaucracy, or at least key positions in it.

And in that position, they behave as the Stalinists they revile Corbyn’s supporters of being. Before Stalin came to power, the position of General Secretary in the Communist party was a relatively minor post. The secretary was there basically to make sure that only those of good character were party members. Which is incredible, I know, given the bloody history of the Russian Communist party and its satellites in eastern Europe. They gave it to Stalin, because everybody thought he was thick, and would be satisfied with the post. His job would be to throw out the drunks and seducers. Instead, Stalin used his position to purge the party of his opponents, and cram it with his supporters. As the old butcher said, ‘It’s not who votes that counts, it’s who counts the votes.’

And this has been the strategy the Blairites and their allies, the Israel lobby, have adopted in attacking genuine, Socialist Labour party members. They’ve launched a purge of the party, using anti-Semitism and other, equally vague charges as the pretext to get rid of awkward members. And so they have smeared decent, anti-racist men and women. Not just Mike, but also Marc Wadsworth and Jackie Walker, two people of colour, who have been dedicated anti-racists that have consistently battled bigotry and Fascism. Just like Ken Livingstone, who is also no anti-Semite, as is shown very clearly in his book, Livingstone’s Labour. Like Tony Greenstein, a Jewish member of the party, like Walker, and like her and Wadsworth, also an ardent opponent of Fascism. And there are so many people like them. As I’ve pointed out, ad nauseam, the decent people they’ve smeared as anti-Semites and worse include self-respecting Jews, people who have suffered real anti-Semitism, including assault. People who lost family members in the Shoah, or whose parents were lucky enough to survive the horrors of the camps. People, who should never be insulted with such smears.

And some of the charges are risible. One man was accused of being an anti-Semite, because he posted a photo-shopped image of a jobcentre sign saying, ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’. This was the slogan above the gates of Auschwitz and the other concentration camps. It means roughly ‘Work Makes You Free’. Which is the attitude of the Tory party. One of them even wrote a newspaper article using the phrase, until someone spotted it and realized that quoting Nazi slogans against those they persecuted wasn’t going to go down too well with the British public, and the offending paragraphs were removed. And the concentration camps didn’t just contain Jews. They held others the Nazis considered politically or biologically undesirable, like Socialists, trade unionists, Communists, prostitutes, recidivist criminals, the mentally ill, Russian prisoners of war and other slave workers from the Slav peoples, and Romanies. The charge against this fellow was so weak it could have been blown over in a light wind. But nevertheless, he was accused and convicted by people, who had already decided the answer.

It’s also very clear from Mike’s article that they didn’t like him refuting their attacks on other party members in public. This was bringing the party into disrepute. In fact they did that the moment they made their false accusations. The overwhelming concern here, it seems, was to preserve the reputation of the people further up the party, who made the accusations. It’s a very, very authoritarian attitude. Important people have spoken – don’t contradict them! And, to quote the Japanese proverb, the nail that stands up must be hammered down. Blair and his cronies always were authoritarian, centralizing power around them and making it very clear that dissent from Old Labour would very definitely not be tolerated. And so they were determined not to let their superiors be embarrassed by having the public shown the facts.

And it was clear from their choice of chair that Mike was never going to get a fair hearing. The person is charge was Maggie Cousins, who has form in these matters. From what I gather, this is what she does. She presides over these kangaroo courts as a kind of corporate hatchetwoman.

This was, ultimately, a PR stunt to reassure a Zionist Jewish establishment, that will never tolerate a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn, no matter what concessions are made to it, and a wider, Tory media that is seizing on any and every possible opportunity to misrepresent the Labour party as a threat to society.

I’m very impressed by Mike’s speech to them, citing Stan ‘the Man’ Lee, the creator of Marvel Comic’s superheroes with ‘Jolly’ Jack Kirby. Lee, Kirby and the majority of the creators of America’s comics industry were Jews. Lee’s real name was Stanley Martin Leiber. Kirby’s was Jake Kurzberg. There was little specifically Jewish in the comics, except that occasionally there was the odd Yiddish word or two. But there was a concern for the marginalized, and racially persecuted. This was shown in metaphorical form in the X-Men, an underground of young mutants, feared and persecuted for their special powers by outside society, and in more overt forms when Blaxsploitation emerged in the ’70s, and Marvel gave us heroes like Powerman, alias Luke Cage, hero for hire, the Black Panther, Brother Voodoo and more. And as I’ve described before, the tales did show very clearly how the Nazis regarded and treated Jews, albeit in science fictional form. These strips together preached an anti-racist message, which could sometimes be overt, as when the Black Panther went up against the Klan, or when an Adolf Hitler clone took the guise of the Hatemonger to turn Americans against each other. These were the comics Mike and I read as kids, and which definitely influenced us. They taught racial tolerance, respect and co-operation, and that bigotry, racism and oppression must be fought and defeated, at all times, everywhere. And Stan and his fellow inmates of the merry Marvel madhouse spread that vital message through the medium of popular literature – the comics. They aren’t great literature, although there’s some truly great writing and superb art in a medium that has often been critically reviled and disparaged. But they were read and enjoyed by millions, and in their way helped to make Anglophone society more tolerant. That’s Stan’s legacy to the world, which Mike duly paid tribute to in his speech at the end.

RIP, Stan Lee, a true titan of the four-colour funny papers.

It’s disgusting that Mike, and so many others have been treated this way by a party that should be defending people like him and the others against a predatory, Conservative establishment. Rather than propping up it up with lies, smears and derisory pretence at justice, presided over by faceless bureaucrats and cynical, moral cowards.

Mike’s made it very clear that he will fight on to clear his name and redress this gross injustice. I wish him all the best, as I do everyone else, who has been smeared by these bullying moral vacuities.

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Pat Mills Talks to Sasha Simic of the SWP about the Politics of 2000AD

September 15, 2017

This comes from the Socialist Workers’ Party, an organization of which I am not a member and which I don’t support. But this is another really great video, in which one of the great creators of the British comics for over forty years talks about politics, social class, the role of capitalism and women and feminism, not just in 2000AD, but also in comics and publishing generally, and the media.

Mills was speaking as part of annual four day convention the Socialist Workers hold on Marxism. Simic introduces himself as the person, who gets the annual geek slot. As well as a member of the party, he’s also a convener of USDAW. And he’s very happy in this, the centenary of the Russian Revolution, to have on Pat Mills.

Mills starts by saying that as he was growing up in the 50s and 60s, he read the same books everyone else did – John Buchan, Ian Fleming, Dennis Wheatley, Sherlock Holmes and the Scarlet Pimpernel. But there was something about it that made him angry, and it was only looking back on it that he came to realise that what infuriated him was the fact that these were all authors from the upper and middle classes, who created heroes from those class backgrounds. He makes the point that these were good writers, but that some of their work was very sinister the more you go into it. Like John Buchan. Buchan was the major propagandist of the First World War. Mills says that Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair’s infamous spin doctor, had nothing on him. He promoted the First world War, for which he was rewarded with the governorship of Canada.
He states that he doesn’t want to go too far into it as he’ll start ranting. Nevertheless, he’s glad to be able to talk to the people at the SWP’s convention, as it means they have a similar opinion to him, and he doesn’t have to censor himself.

He makes the point that there are very, very few working class heroes, and believes this is quite deliberate. It’s to deprive working people of a strong role. When the working people do appear, it’s as loyal batmen, or sidekicks, and there is an element of parody there. And it’s not just in comics and literature. In the 1980s he was contacted by the producers of Dr. Who to do a story. He wanted to have a working class spaceship captain. He was told by the script editor that they couldn’t. They also didn’t like his idea to have a working class family. It was only by looking back on where this hatred of the heroes of traditional literature came from, that he came to realise that it wasn’t just that he didn’t want to have any generals in his work.

He also talks about how it’s easier to get away with subversion in comics, as comics are treated as a trivial form of literature, which nobody really cares about. The profit motive also helps. So long as it’s making money, comics companies don’t care what’s going on. And this explains how he was able to get away with some of the things he did in Battle. He states that the way he works is by pretending to write something mainstream and inoffensive, and then subvert it from within. An example of that is Charley’s War in Battle. This looks like an ordinary war strip, but in fact was very anti-war. Even so, there were times when he had to be careful and know when to give up. One of these was about a story he wanted to run about the entry of the Americans into the War. In this story, a group of White American squaddies are members of the Klan, and try to lynch a Black soldier. Charley wades in to help the Black guy. The management rejected the story on the grounds that they didn’t want anything too controversial. Mills decided to draw in his horns and bite his tongue at that point, because he had a bigger story lined up about the British invasion of Russian in 1919, when we sent in 20-30,000 men. It was, he says, our Vietnam, and has been whitewashed out of the history books.

He also makes the point that subversion was also present in the girls’ comics. Even more so, as there was a psychological angle that wasn’t present in the boys’. For example, there was one story called ‘Ella in Easy Street’, where a young girl reacts against her aspirational family. They want to get on, and so the father has two jobs, and the mother is similarly working very hard to support their aspirations. But Ella herself is unhappy, as it’s destroying what they are as a family. And so she sets out to sabotage their yuppie dream. Mills says that it’s not all one-dimensional – he looks at the situation from both sides, pro and con, but the story makes the point that there are things that are more important that materialism and social advancement, like family, comradeship. He says that such a story could not be published now. It’s rather like The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, where the hero, in the end, throws the race as a way of giving the system the finger.

Mills reminds his audience just how massive girls’ comics were in the ’70s. They were bigger, much bigger, than the boys’. 2000AD sold 200,000 copies a week in its prime. But Tammy, one of the girls’ comics, sold 260,000. This is really surprising, as women read much more than we men. These comics have all disappeared. This, he says, is because the boys’ took over the sandpit. He has been trying to revive them, and so a couple of stories from Misty have been republished in an album.

This gets him onto the issue of reaching the audience, who really need it. In the case of the stories from Misty, this has meant that there are two serials on sale, both of which are very good, but in a book costing £17 – odd. The only people going to read that are the mothers of the present generation of girls, perhaps. To reach the girls, it needs to be set at a lower price they can afford. This is also a problem with the political material. If you write something subversive, it will receive glowing reviews but be bought by people, who already agree with you. He wants his message to get further out, and not to become a coffee table book for north London.

He talks about the way British comics have grown up with their readership, and the advantages and disadvantages this has brought. British comics has, with the exception of 2000AD, more or less disappeared, and the readership of that comic is in its 30s and 40s. People have put this down to demographics and the rise of computer games, saying that this was inevitable. It wasn’t. It was our fault, says Mills. We fumbled it. Games workshop still have young people amongst their audience, while the French also have computer games across the Channel, but their children are reading comics.

Mills goes on to say that it’s easier writing for adults. Writing for 9 and 10 year olds is much harder, because if they don’t like a story, they’ll say. He says to his audience that they may think the same way, but they’re much too polite to say it at conventions. And they had to respond to their young readers as well, as the kids voted on it every week. They’d tell you if they thought it was a bad story, even if you thought it was the best one so far, and asked yourself what was wrong with the little sh*ts.

He also talks about how difficult it is to break into comics. He has friends, who have been trying for decades to get into 2000AD, and have been unsuccessful. His advice to people trying to do so is: don’t bother. There’s nothing wrong with you, it’s 2000AD. And this also effects text publishing. All the publishers have now been bought up, so that HarperCollins have the fingers in everything, such as Hodder and Stoughton. And their politics aren’t ours.

The way round this is to get into web publishing. Here he digresses and talks about pulp fiction, which is a close relative of comics. He was talking to a guy at a convention, who writes pulp fiction and puts it on the net. It only costs a few pence. The man writes about a zombie apocalypse, but – and this is true, as he’s seen the payment slips – he’s pulling in £3,000 a month. Mills says that this is important as well. He wants to get his material out there, but he also wants to eat. This shows you how you can make money publishing it yourself. Later on in the video, after the questions and the comments from the audience, he goes further into this. He mentions some of the web publishers, one of which is subsidiary of Amazon, which will allow people to publish their own work. He also talks about self-publishing and chapbooks. He found out about these while writing Defoe, his story about Leveller zombie killer in an alternative 17th century England. Chapbooks were so called because they were cheap books, the cheap literature of the masses. And this is what comics should go back to. He says that everyone should produce comics, in the same way that everyone can also make music by picking up an instrument and playing a few chords.

He also praises some of the other subversive literature people have self-produced. Like one piece satirizing the British army’s recruitment posters. ‘Join the army’, it says, ‘- like prison, but with more fighting’. Mills is fairly sure he knows who wrote that as well. It was another guy he met at a convention, who was probably responsible for the anti-war film on YouTube Action Man: Battlefield Casualties. He enormously admires this film, and is envious of the people, who made it.

He also talks about some of the fan letters he’s had. One was from the CEO of a school, he talks about the way reading 2000AD opened up his mind and changed his moral compass. The man says that everything he learned about Fascism, he learned from Judge Dredd, everything about racism from Strontium Dog, and feminism from Halo Jones. He and his headmaster, whom he names, were both punks and he’s now opened a school in Doncaster. The most subversive thing you can do now is to try to create an open-minded and questioning generation of young people. The letter is signed, yours, from a company director, but not an evil one, and then the gentleman’s name.

He concludes this part of the talk by describing the career of James Clarke, a member of the Socialist Labour Party, the Communist Party, a lion tamer and conscientious objector. During the War he ran escape lines for British squaddies in France. And people say that pacifists are cowards, Mills jokes. How much braver can you be than sticking your head in a lion’s mouth. He wrote a pamphlet defending a group of comrades, who tried to start the revolution by following the example of the Irish Nationalists and blow things up with a bomb. The pamphlet argued that this was wrong, and that if the working class wanted to gain power, they should concentrate on confronting capitalism through direct action. He also wrote poetry. Mills describes Clark as being a kind of Scots Tom Baker. One of these is a biting satire of Kipling’s If. The poem begins by asking if the reader can wake up every morning at 5 O’clock, or 4.30, and then labour at their machines, and see their wives and children suffer deprivation while those, who haven’t earned it take it all the profits, and describes the backbreaking grind of hard working life for the capitalist class in several stanzas. It ends with the statement that if you can do all that, and still be complacent, then go out, buy a gun and blow your brains out.

Clearly, I don’t recommend any actually do this, but it is a witty and funny response to Kipling’s poem. I found it hugely funny, and I do think it’s a great response to what was voted Britain’s favourite poem by the Beeb’s viewers and readers a few years ago. Can you imagine the sheer Tory rage that would erupt if someone dared to recite it on television!

Many of the comments are from people thanking Mills for opening their eyes and for writing such great stories. They include a man, who describes how Mills’ works are on his shelf next to his copy of Das Kapital. Another man describes how he used to buy 2000AD just after going to church on Sunday. So after listening to some very boring sermons, he came back from Baptist chapel to read all this subversion. One young woman says that the zines – the small press magazines, that appeared in the 1990s – seem to be still around, as she has seen them at punk concerts. Another young woman says that although comics are seen as a boys’ thing, when she goes into Forbidden Planet near her, there are always three girls in there and two boys. She also talks about how many young women read Japanese manga. Mills states in reply that manga stories generally are light and frothy, and so not the kind of stories he wants to write. But as for women in comics, he says that he spoken several times to students on graphic novel courses, and each time about 75 per cent of them have been women, which is good.

He also talks about Crisis and Action. The Third World War strip in Crisis was about the politics of food, and was set in a world where food production was dominated by a vast multinational formed by the merger of two of today’s megacorporations. Mills states that when the strip covered what was going on in South America, that was acceptable. However, at one point he moved the story to Brixton, finding a Black co-writer to help with the story. At that point, the White Guardian-reading liberals started to be uncomfortable with it. There was also a story in which Britain leaves the EU. This results in the rise of a Fascist dictatorship, and the EU responds by invading Britain. Mills says that he’s been trying to get Crisis relaunched, but the company are stringing him along with excuses, probably because it’s easier than arguing with him.

Mills obviously did the right thing by finding a Black co-writer. Marvel suffered a barrage of criticism with some of their attempts to launch a series of Black superheroes, like the Black Panther as part of the Blaxploitation wave of the 1970s. The Black Panther was particularly criticized. The creators were old, White dudes, who didn’t understand urban Black culture, even if the comics themselves were sincere in presenting a sympathetic view of Black Americans and combating racism.

He also talks briefly about Action, and the controversy that caused. What really upset Mary Whitehouse and the rest was ‘Kid’s Rule UK’, a strip in which a disease killed everyone over 16, and Britain was inhabited solely by warring street gangs. Mills used to take the same train from where he was living at the time with Mary Whitehouse. He said he was editing a Hookjaw script at the time, and notice Whitehouse over the other side of the carriage looking daggers at him. So he put in more carnage and more arms and legs being bitten off.

One of the most interesting questions is about the politics and morality of Judge Dredd. Dredd is a fascist, and in one of the strips it seemed to take the side of authority over subversion with no irony. This was in a story about the punks taking over Megacity 1. At the end of the strip, Dredd gets hold of the leader, and makes him say, ‘I’m a dirty punk.’ Mills actually agrees with the speaker, and says that there are people, who take Dredd as a role-model. He’s had letters from them, which he doesn’t like. He doesn’t know what these people do. Perhaps they have their own chapterhouse somewhere. He went cold inside when he heard about the story. It wasn’t one of his. It was by John Wagner, who isn’t at all political, but is very cynical, so this has some of the same effects of politics. But 75 per cent of Dredd comes from Mills. Mills states that it’s a flawed character, and that can be seen in why the two Dredd films never did well at the box office. Dredd was based on a particular teacher at his old school, as was Torquemada, the Grand Master of Termight, a genocidally racist Fascist military feudal order ruling Earth thousands of years in the future. They were both two sides of the same coin. That was why he enjoyed humiliating Torquemada. But it isn’t done with Dredd. Yet it could have been different, and there could be instances where people have their revenge on Dredd without losing the power of the character. He states that it was because Chopper did this in the story ‘Unamerican Graffiti’, that this became the favourite Dredd story of all time.

It’s a fascinating insight into the politics of the comics industry. The zines and other self-published small magazines he describes were a product of the Punk scene, where people did start putting together their own fanzines in their bedrooms. It was part of the mass creativity that punk at its height unleashed. As for the web comics, he talks about a couple that he finds particularly impressive, including those by the author of the dystopian science fiction story Y – the Last Man, set in a future in which all the men in the world have been killed by another disease. A number of my friends used to publish their own small press magazines in the 1990s, as did Mike. Mike started his own, small press comic, Violent, as an homage to Action when it was that comics anniversary. Mike was helped by some of the artists and writers from 2000AD, and so some of the tales are very professional. But probably not for delicate, gentle souls.

Amongst SF fandom, chapbooks are small books which another publishes himself. And they have been the route some professionally published authors have taken into print. Stephen Baxter is one of them. I think his Xelee stories first appeared in a chapbook he sold at one of the SF conventions.

Looking back at Kids Rule UK, this was my least favourite strip in Action. I was bullied at school, and so the idea of a Britain, where everything had broken down and there was nothing but bullying and juvenile violence really scared me. Action took many of its strips from the popular culture of the time. Hookjaw was basically Jaws. One-Eyed Jack seemed based very much on the type of hard-boiled American cop shows, if not actually Dirty Harry. One of the SF movies of the late sixties was about an America in which teenagers had seized power, and put all the adults in concentration camps were they were force-fed LSD. One of the four Star Trek stories that were banned on British television until the 1980s was ‘Miri’. In this tale, Kirk, Spock and the others beam down to a planet occupied entirely by children, as all the ‘grups’ – the adults – have been killed by disease. Kids Rule UK seems very much in the same vein as these stories.

Mills’ story about Dr. Who not wanting to show a working class family, let alone a spaceship captain, shows how far the series has come when it was relaunched by Russell T. Davis. Christopher Eccleston basically played the Doctor as northern and working class, wile Rose Tyler’s family and friends were ordinary people in a London tower block. As for not wanting to show a working class spaceship captain, that probably comes from very ingrained class attitudes in the aviation industry. A friend of mine trained as a pilot. When he was studying, their tutor told the class that the British exam included a question no other country in the world required, and which was particularly difficult. He stated that it was put there to weed out people from working or lower middle class backgrounds, as they would fail and not be able to retake the exam, as their competitors from the upper classes could.

It’s great to hear Mills encourage people try to produce their own work, and not be disheartened if they are rejected by mainstream publishers. I’m also saddened by the absence of any comics for children. They offered me when I was a lad an escape into a whole world of fun and imagination. And at their best, they do encourage children to take an interest in real issues like racism, sexism, bigotry and exploitation. I hope some way can be found to reverse their disappearance.