Posts Tagged ‘Capitalism’

Niall Ferguson and the Right-wing Historians Are Wrong: Property Rights in Islam Existed Before British Empire

June 29, 2022

Okay, this is another post in which I’m going to break my own feeble attempts not to write anything about Ed Hussein’s book, Among the Mosques, until I finish it, when I will write a proper review. But there’s a piece in the book where Hussein makes a point that is very much relevant to the debate about the compatibility between Islam and modern British society and its constitutional underpinnings. And it contradicts part of the propaganda for the British empire spouted by Niall Ferguson and Andrew Roberts. Both these historians have argued that the British empire was a Good Thing because it gave the world democracy, capitalism and property rights. But one of the imams Hussein talks to, Mufti Jalal, the deputy imam of an Islamic seminary in Luton. Jalal praises the British constitutions and its freedoms because, in his view, these preserve the fundamental higher objective – maqasid – of the Islamic law, as identified by the 11th century imam, al-Juwaini. Hussain writes

“Our sharia is the British constitution.’ he says. ‘The Maqasid of the sharia are best preserved in Britain. I came back here after Egypt, Turkey and Yemen with a deeper recognition of the historical freedoms of England, but too many Muslims don’t understand that turning against this country is turning against our own selves.

‘At one point I studied under Haitham al-Haddad, who thinks we need to implement Islamic law against the “liberalism” of the West. I didn’t agree with this, so I left, but his influence is on the rise.’

The Maqasid, or Higher Objectives, are aspects of the sharia that were enshrined in Islamic law by jurists as early as the eleventh century, particularly by Imam al-Juwaini (d. 1085) in his Ghiyath al-Umaan (The Salvage of the Nations) and his students over the centuries. There are five aspects to the Maqasid as laid out by al-Juwaini: the preservation of family, life, faith, intellect and property; these are intended to form the basis on which the sharia has followed. The British legal system, with its fundamental values of individual liberty and freedom of expression, is a perfect working model of the main aspects of the sharia, applied to the context of modern life.’ (p. 236).

John Locke,, one of the founders of the British liberal tradition, believed that people had the inalienable right to life, liberty and property. This influenced the American Founding Fathers, but they changed it to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’, although they also strongly supported property rights. But as Hussein’s conversation with Mufti Jalal shows, property rights were most definitely recognised in Islam, and not an import from the West. As for the compatibility of Islam and western democracy, I found a review of Hussein’s book from the Financial Times in 2021, written by Tanjil Rashid. It criticises Hussein’s book for focusing on the highly reactionary mullahs and their rejection of democracy and western values. Rashid argues that the clergy are unrepresentative and out of touch. He points instead to an Ipsos Mori poll that found that 88 per cent of British Muslims strongly feel British, 7 in 10 believe Islam is compatible with western liberal society, and only 1 per cent want separate, autonomous Muslim communities. The early Persian activists campaigning against the despotism of the Qajar shahs also admired Britain and its traditional liberties. An early revolutionary book, written in Turkish, called for the introduction of civil rights and praised British law, which the writer believed were based on the sharia. They weren’t, obviously, but clearly at that time social opinions in western society were sufficiently similar to those of progressive Muslims that they were considered to be identical.

Lotus Eaters Now Blaming Migrants for the Housing Crisis

June 21, 2022

I had to blog about this, as it’s another example of the right-wing media only telling you one side of the story. Yesterday or the day before the Lotus Eaters put up a video claiming that the housing crisis was a result of immigrants taking up so much housing, and no doubt looking at the channel migrants in particular as they did so. Because they should all be deported to Rwanda, of course. They argued that immigration was the source of the housing shortage, and thus all the new building work that is threatening to cover our green and pleasant land with concrete, as the British birth rate is 1.24, below that needed to maintain the population. The reason why our population is growing, however, is because of immigration. Now the Lotus Eaters are fervent Brexiteers, hate Woke and are very strong opponents of immigration. But they’re not wrong. I believe the Pears Cyclopedia 1984 edition said the same nearly 40 years ago. It’s solid fact, rather than racist myth. Mind you, I also believe that that the population has grown also because people are living longer and not dying off as young as they did, and so there’s a younger generation growing up at the same time as its grandparents and great-grandparents are still alive. But possibly for not much longer if Johnson and his foul effluvium have their way. In the past decade they’ve been in power, life expectancy has gone into reverse so that the present generation has a shorter life expectancy than we did.

Now for what John, Callum and Sargon aren’t telling you. The welfare state and capitalism need a population that’s stable or growing. Years ago, the Financial Times wrote that the welfare state was maintained by the contributions of the present generation of workers, which were needed to maintain the level of benefits to support the older generation. Fewer people being born means less money being paid into the welfare state,, equals cuts to welfare provision. This presumably is the thinking behind the Tories’ decision back in the ’90s to try and get people paying into private ‘workplace’ pension schemes rather than the state pension, and why the state pension’s been kept low. It’s also no doubt being used to support the cuts to the welfare state in general, following Thatcher’s line that we now can’t afford to support everybody and people should have to look out for themselves. This may not affect the Lotus Eaters, as their smug sneers about ‘socialism’ and ‘leftists’ and general support for unfettered capitalism suggests to me they come from monied backgrounds. But I could be wrong.

But capitalism also requires a stable or growing population. It’s all about consumer demand, you see. The more people, the more demand for goods and services, which in turn stimulates production and should produce more profits and less unemployment as workers are taken on to produce the goods. If you have fewer people, you have less demand, declining profits and rising unemployment.

Immigrants help solve these problems, because they tend to put more into the welfare state than they take out in terms of benefits and so on. And by maintaining or expanding the population, they help to create the demand that powers industry.

And I suspect some of the demand for new housing is local to certain parts of the country. A few years ago the ‘Communist’ BBC as the Lotus Eaters no doubt think of the Corporation produced a documentary following a prospective Romanian immigrant as he tried to find accommodation over here. He ended up sleeping rough in one of the London parks. At one point he went north seeking available homes. He found a whole street-load, boarded up and deliberately kept empty. Because some obscure reason of capitalism. He was obviously not impressed, and made the obvious comment that it was stupid to have houses go empty when people needed them.

I think – and this is only my impression – that some of the migration pushing up house prices and creating demand is internal. People from the declining north, or some of them, are moving south in search of work and opportunities. People in the countryside are being priced out of local homes by rich outsiders seeking second homes. And respect to the council the other day that was reported to have banned this! Here in Bristol local people are being priced out of the housing market due to recent migrants, not from Africa, Asia or Jamaica, but from London. As a result, some Bristolians are looking towards places like Wales and the borders for affordable homes, which is going to push the prices up there. And so there’s a knock-on effect.

And last but not least, the Tories and the Heil can take some of the blame. In order to keep the economy afloat, I think it was George Osborne who linked some part of our financial performance to house prices. As a result, house prices have to be kept high. Quite apart from the Daily Heil in the ’90s constantly advising its readers on the ‘money’ pages to invest in brick and mortar as part of the ‘buy to rent’ boom. People have done that, leaving less homes around for people, who actually want to live in them to purchase.

Yes, I think there are a lot of problems surrounding immigration that need proper discussion and solution. There are problems of assimilation and integration, and while I don’t like Kemi Badenoch’s party, I think she is right about growing segregation. That’s been going on for some time, since at least the beginning of this century. The concentration on race is probably a part of it, but only a part. But you can’t blame immigrants solely for the housing shortage and new building work.

Hidden behind this is also an anti-feminist agenda. Sargon and the other Lotus Eaters have the same anti-feminist views as American conservatives. In their view, the population decline is due to modern women choosing not to settle down and marry but concentrate on having careers. They’d like to return to the old traditional family in which mum stayed at home to raise the kids and Dad worked to support them. Now I think that if they were given the choice, more women probably would stay home to look after their children. But they don’t have a choice. Since women entered the workforce, it’s been argued that the economy has responded so that families need the income from both parents to pay off mortgages and buy the family groceries. However, this claim also needs examination as I’ve also read that long before the 70s families needed both parents to work. And back in the 30s and 40s, women didn’t have a choice about not working. Some of the firms in Bristol would not employ married women with children, which was a real problem for women running away from abusive or criminal husbands.

The decline of the existing, traditional populations is also one of the arguments against abortion. If all the kids lost to abortion were allowed to come to term and live, then the population would be growing. This isn’t necessarily a racist argument. Turning Point, an arch-conservative think tank, put up a video of one of its presenters challenging a young woman on the issue. He argued that the reason the Black population has remained at 13% in the Land of the Free is due to abortion. If there was less abortion, the population would expand. She was obviously racist for being in favour of abortion, and hence fewer Blacks, while he wanted more of them. I don’t want to get into the politics of abortion, except to say that it includes major issues of bodily autonomy, female healthcare, the dangers of a return to backstreet abortions and poverty. What happens in the case of women too poor to bring their children up? Conservatives like Thomas Sowell already blame the welfare state for the decline of the Black family, but without it many women would be too poor to have the children Conservatives would like them to. In the 1920s Mussolini got very worried about falling Italian birthrates, and one of the methods he chose to tackle it, apart from getting women out of the workplace, was providing something like the equivalent of family allowance. Perhaps, if the Tories want women to stay at home and raise their families they should consider providing them with a state income for doing so. But I can imagine the screams and horror from the right if someone dared suggesting that. They shouldn’t, not if they’re good classicists. The later Roman emperors were so worried about the declining population of their empire, they passed legislation giving first Italians, and then all Roman citizens throughout the empire, a kind of family allowance. Possibly not something Johnson wants to be reminded of, for all he goes on about how wonder the Romans were.

Years ago New Scientist covered this issue with an interview on demographics. A declining birthrate is happening not just in the West, but also in Japan and China. Way back in the 90s one of the leading Japanese newspapers was so worried about it that they published an article that declared that if it carried out, in one thousand years the Japanese would be extinct. They also tried encouraging men to take an extra day off work to improve marital relations with their wives and so make more little Japanese. This got an angry response from a housewife, who said that relations between married couples didn’t improve simply because the husband was at home. China and India are also suffering from a shortage of women because of generations of infanticide. What the New Scientist demographer noted, was that the countries that have the highest birthrate have the less macho cultures and men are prepared to share the childrearing. Thus Scandinavia has a higher birthrate than Italy, and China and Japan, which have the same traditional attitudes to the division of labour, also have a low birthrate. In the case of Japan, there’s also the problem that young Japanese aren’t dating and having sex. Some even say that it revolts them. A decade ago there was a Radio 4 programme reporting this phenomenon and asking why it was so. I honestly don’t know, but I’m sure someone will blame video games.

The birthrate is also falling all over the world, although obviously in developing countries it is still much higher than over here. But Africa loses very many of its infants to appalling rates of infant mortality, so its population is very stable. In fact, there are fears that if the population continues to fall in some of these nations, their population will actually decline.

Which bring me to another point: the same demographer predicts a population crash throughout the globe in the middle of this century. This obviously contradicts the predictions of the various scientists and experts of the ’70s, who were worried about the ‘population bomb’. If this happens, countries will instead compete with each other to attract migrants. P.D. James’ SF film, Children of Men, showed that. It’s a dystopian movie in which the human race has become infertile. As a result, there’s massive political instability, but Britain has managed to keep order by becoming a quasi-Fascist state. But migrants from the rest of the world are invited, as shown by Arab mule trains around London. The hero in the story is charged with protecting an immigrant woman, who’s become the first in a very long time to become pregnant. Its a chilling movie, and one which marks a departure from the detective novels with which she made her name. But it was chilling realistic and had a point.

There are issues with immigration, but it ain’t the sole cause of the housing shortage, nor is the solution the Lotus Eaters want underneath it palatable to today’s women wanting independence. It may not even be one that works. We might instead be better off passing legislation giving greater assistance to manage family and work, like perhaps more maternity leave, and encouraging dad to share some of the housework more. But those aren’t good, Conservative attitudes and involve capitulating to feminism and greater state legislation of industry. But this terrifies the Lotus Eaters, and so they ain’t going to tell you about it. Except to argue against it.

Left Labour Seminar on the Lessons to Be Learned from Welsh Labour

May 28, 2022

I also got this interesting piece of information yesterday from a message about their forthcoming events from the Labour Assembly against Austerity. The Socialist Campaign Group are organising a seminar on June 20th about what British socialists can learn from the successful, socialist policies of the Welsh Labour party. The snippet says

SCG SEMINAR: Learning from Welsh Labour’s Radical Agenda


Monday 20 June 2022, 7pm. Register here.


Beth Winter MP // Mick Antoniw MS, Welsh Government Counsel-General // Jack Sargeant MS, Chair, Senedd Petitions Committee // Sophie Howe, Welsh Future Generations Commissioner // Darren Williams, Welsh Labour Grassroots

The next SCG online Socialist Policy Forum will look at the lessons we can learn from Welsh Labour’s new radical plan for government – which is helping to build a country that serves the many, not the few. This radical agenda includes: setting up a publicly owned energy company ■ a free National Care Service ■ free school meals for all primary school pupils ■ plans for Net Zero by 2025 – 15 years ahead of the UK-wide 2050 target ■ a national construction company to increase the numbers of social housing ■ and a Basic Income pilot scheme for care leavers.

Come along and learn about these progressive polices and how they can help the wider Labour movement win enough support to kick the Tories out of Downing Street.

This meeting is part of a series of socialist policy events organised by the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs in partnership with the Labour Assembly Against Austerity and Momentum.

I’m fully behind this. Welsh Labour are doing – and doing very successfully – what the Labour party in the rest of this great nation should be doing, but isn’t. Because Starmer is too in love with Blair and his legacy. And I expect as a result conditions for ordinary people will improve as they worsen in England. So you can expect the Tories to start complaining about something or other in Wales, which is terribly unfair, in order to divert attention from the failures of Tory laissez-faire capitalism. That’s if Starmer doesn’t help them by finding some way to close Welsh Labour down.
 

Sargon’s Lotus Eater Deny You Have A Right to Healthcare

May 26, 2022

The attack on the NHS and the state provision of healthcare continues. A few days ago I put up piece from Private Eye the other fortnight, in which they reviewed Tory donor Michael Ashcroft’s and his pet journo, Isabel Oakeshott’s wretched little book on the state of the health service. They decided that it was in a mess because of waste caused by profligate hospital managers and recommended, along with a number of other ideas like people turning themselves into cyborgs, that some hospitals should be sold off. So to them, the state of the NHS has nothing to do with the fact that it’s been starved of proper funding for years and that administrative costs have written as a consequence of the piecemeal privatisation of the Health Service that’s been going on since the days of Thatcher.

But it’s significant that the Tories are now saying the quiet part out loud. Or at least their supporters are. Alex Belfield has also been telling his listeners that the NHS should be sold off, though he also tells them he doesn’t want people charged for treatment. But that would come in as a consequence of privatisation. A few years ago a group of right-wing Tories were pressing for the expansion of services for which the NHS could charge. And the whole point of privatisation is to transform our health service into a private one paid for by private health insurance.

And the Lotus Eaters seem to have the same attitude. They’re a right-wing YouTube channel with a team featuring Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad, the man who broke UKIP. Much of what they put up is general culture war material against the trans cult and Critical Race Theory. Sargon denies that the Health Service is being privatised because he couldn’t see why anyone would buy it. Which shows that he’s wilfully blind to what’s been going on. But his little mate Callum said something that suggests that he doesn’t think that people have a right to healthcare.

It came up in a short I found on my mobile this morning. Callum and one of the other Lotus Eaters were discussing what they thought were the differences between left and right when it came to the concepts of rights. The right, they claimed, saw rights as innate, while the left saw them as something they had to be given for free. ‘Yeah, gib me dat’, says one of them, in what sounds suspiciously like a parody of Black speech. And then Callum added, ‘Like healthcare’.

Actually, I don’t see any difference between the right’s and left’s basic ideas about the nature of rights. Both, it seems to me, hold that rights are innate. Where they differ is the extent of fundamental rights. The political right believes that you have the right to do as you please with the bare minimum of state interference, because of the sacred right to private property and enterprise. But the left believes that capitalism, or at least neoliberalism, effectively prevents everyone enjoying the same rights, freedoms and opportunities, and so demand government legislation and interference to make society more equal.

And one of the fundamental rights, I’d say, was the right to healthcare. The provision of healthcare by the state has kept this country healthy since the NHS’ foundation in 1948. It isn’t perfect, and it’s being destroyed very deliberately by Boris and his minions, but it’s far better by far than what existed before. And much better than the American system, which Callum seems to admire.

Now that, thanks to the Covid crisis as well as decades of privatisation and cuts, only 38 per cent of the public are satisfied with the NHS’ performance, we can expect the demands of these chumps for its privatisation to get louder.

Capitalism and Property Rights in the West and Islam

March 25, 2022

Private property is very much at the heart of modern Conservatism. Conservative intellectuals, politicians and activists maintain that private industry is more efficient and effective, and has raised more people out of poverty than alternative economic systems. It’s also a fundamental right, a mainstay of western democracy that has prevented Europeans and Americans from tyrannical government, whether absolute monarchies or soviet-style communist dictatorships. It’s also supposedly the reason why Britain and the West currently dominate the rest of the world. The Times journo Niall Ferguson wrote a book about this a few years ago, which accompanied a TV series. In his analysis, Britain was able to out-compete Spain as a colonial power because British democracy gave people a stake in their society, while the only stakeholder in Spain was the king.

This can be challenged from a number of directions. Firstly, early modern Britain wasn’t democratic. The vote was restricted to a small class of gentlemen, meaning people who were lower than the aristocracy, but nevertheless were still able and expected to live off their rents. At the same time, although the power of the monarchy was restricted by the constitution and parliament, it still possessed vast power. Kings could go for years without calling one. As for Drake and the Armada, we were also saved by the weather. There was a ‘Protestant wind’ which blew apart and disrupted the Spanish fleet. As for capitalism, more recent books like The Renaissance Bazaar have shown that the new capitalist institutions that were introduced in Italy and thence to the rest of Europe during the renaissance were based on those further east in the Islamic world. And far from western global domination being inevitable, in the 15th century Christian Europeans feared that they would be conquered by Islam. The Turks had blazed through the Balkans and took 2/3 of Hungary. One fifteenth century German soldier and writer, de Busbecq, feared that the Ottomans would conquer Christendom because of the meritocracy and professionalism of their armies. The Ottomans, along with other Muslim states, recruited their armies through enslavement. It’s the origin of the Mamlukes in Egypt and the slave dynasties in Delhi. But these slaves were given an intensive military training, as well as education in Islam and the Turkish language, and promoted on their merits. Jonathan A.C. Brown in his book, slavery & Islam, how further back in Islamic history Black African slaves had been appointed the governors of parts of Iraq. The result was that while the European armies were feudal, led by aristocrats who had been born to their position and held it despite their ability or lack thereof, the Ottoman’s were manned and led by well-trained soldiers who held their commands by merit. We had better armour than the Ottomans, but they were able to defeat us because they were simply better soldiers.

Property rights have been a fundamental part of western political theory for a very long time. The social contract theory of government held that the primordial human community had elected kings to protect their lives and property. But Islam also maintained that property was a fundamental human right. According to Jonathan A.C. Brown’s Islam & Slavery, from the 700s AD Muslim jurists discussed the issue of human rights – huquq al-‘Ibad, or the rights of (God’s) slaves, i.e. humans, or huquq al-Adamiyya, or Adamic rights, or human rights. These were held to be the rights possessed by all humans, whether Muslim or not. Under the great Islamic theologian al-Ghazzali, these were expanded into five universals: protection for the integrity of life, reason, religion, lineage and paternity and property. He concludes that ‘The Islamic rights of physical inviolability and property can be seen as counterparts or perhaps forerunners of these aims.’ (pp. 299-300). I’ll admit this came as something of a surprise to me, because unless you study Islam at a higher level, you don’t hear about it. And you definitely don’t hear about it from the conservative right, who seem to believe that property rights and virtuous capitalism are something that only the Anglo-Saxon peoples invented. Remember George W. Bush’s famous, ludicrous sneer at the French that they had ‘no word for entrepreneurship’. Well,, they have, as attested by the word ‘entrepreneur’.

And property rights are not automatically intrinsic to modern concepts of freedom and democracy. They arose long before the expansion of the franchi8se in the 19th century and the emergence of universal adult suffrage in the early 20th century. Over much of western history, property rights meant the rights of the property owning upper classes against the working masses. And slaves could not own property, as legally, following the precedent of Roman law, they were property. Anything they had automatically belonged to their masters. Property rights were also regularly invoked to defend slavery. That’s very apparent when you read the protests against the British government’s attempts to regulate and then finally abolish slavery in the 19th century. The slaveowners were incensed by what they viewed as a tyrannical governmental interference in their property rights.

Now I agree people do have a right to private property, though private enterprise in many spheres is certainly not adequate to provide decent services. These are the utilities, education and healthcare. I also believe that, following Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, the west was able to gain ascendancy through technological and scientific advances, particularly military. I think the development of western capitalism also played a part in creating a mass, industrial society that was more efficient and advanced than the craft economies of the Islamic world. But this does not mean capitalism, or at least its antecedents, were absent from Islam or that Islam had no conception of property rights.

Perhaps, before we go to war with these countries to liberate them for multinational corporations, we should stop listening to Conservatives and listen more to those academics and experts, who actually know something about Islam.

Novara Media on Fascism in Ukraine

March 16, 2022

This video from Novara Media aims to set the record straight about the far right in Ukraine, refuting Putin’s lie that he is liberating the country from Fascism. Hosts Michael Walker and Aaron Bastani talk about the Maidan, or Orange Revolution, that saw the pro-Russian Ukrainian president ousted in favour of a pro-western, pro-EU candidate. The pair state that the revolution was completely democratic. Umm, possibly. In fact the revolution was overseen by Victoria Nuland for Hillary Clinton’s state department and the National Endowment for Democracy, which is the quango to which the American state delegated the job of regime change when they took it away from the CIA. Not that this means that Zelensky is an American puppet or that Putin’s invasion is at all justified. They make the point that it was a popular revolution, but that far right groups were also involved and talk about the attack on a trade union building. This was set alight, several trade unionists were shot and killed, and Nazi graffiti was scrawled on the building. However, the identity of the attackers is unknown.

The Fascist groups active in Ukraine include the followers of Stepan Bandera, who fought for the Nazis as an SS auxiliary during World War II before turning against the Nazis. The Ukrainian authorities caused outrage a few years ago when they honoured him as a national hero. His followers today also wear SS auxiliary uniforms. Then there’s the infamous Azov Battalion, whose uniform includes the SS ‘wolfsangel’ badge and who have been active fighting the Russian separatists in the east. Walker and Bastani state that they try to recruit western Fascists, and the film includes a brief interview with a Swedish Nazi who joined them. They’ve also turned up in this country to try and gather the bigoted and stupid here. They rocked up at one of the neo-Nazi demonstrations a few years ago along with a group of Italian Fascisti. The Azov Battalion run a Fascist summer camp for children, shots of which show school age kids doing exercises and learning to shoot. They also have a very slick recruitment video. This shows them marching about, ready to defend the fatherland with a voiceover boasting about their patriotic values and ending with ‘Join us’. Also in this toxic stew is the Right Sector. There are interviews with various members of these horrendous groups, who say, among other things, how attractive the idea of ‘one nation’, but deny that everyone in these organisations is a Fascist. One high-ranking member successfully sued a journalist for calling him a Nazi, despite the fact that Nazi ideology is very much what their wretched rants sound like. The video includes a clip of one of their leaders at rally ranting from a stage about homosexuality. It’s unnatural, and being promoted by a certain racial group. Gosh! I wonder who he could mean? Yeah, it’s the old Fascist anti-Semitism. Years ago The Young Turks discussed these bonkers Nazi conspiracy theories. Ben Mankiewicz, one of their guests, responded to them by saying that if there is a Jewish conspiracy, nobody told him. I’ve seen other videos attacking various anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in which other Jews and people of Jewish descent have said the same thing. And if the Jews were so keen to promote it, why does Miriam Margolyes need to work with an organisation for gay Jews dedicated to challenging prejudice in the Jewish community? I’m not saying that Jews are any more prejudiced against gays than anyone else. I merely mention it to show how stupid and wrong the accusation that they’re pushing homosexuality is.

Bastani and Walker state that Zelensky himself is a political moderate and Jewish. As for these Nazis, the most they got at an election was 10 per cent of the vote. That’s a lot, but not the same as Jobbik in Hungary, which got 20 per cent. From this high point their share of the vote has declined to 2 per cent. This is roughly the normal proportion of votes gained by Fascist groups across Europe, including the BNP and NF in this country. Under normal circumstances, Fascists aren’t popular. The problem in Ukraine is that these scumbags have been taken up and formed links with members of the political elite, including a judge. The Azov Battalion has also been merged with the Ukrainian army, which has led its apologists to claim that it’s no longer a Fascist organisation. Fuelling support for the far right is the decline in living standards. Over the last 30 years the Ukrainian population has shrunk by 8 – 10 million, and the life expectancy is now what it was in the 1960s. I have a feeling that’s another consequence of the collapse of communism. My guess is that the dismantlement of the Communist economy and its replacement with capitalism has led to the same kind of poverty, unemployment and the closure of businesses and factories that has occurred elsewhere in the former Communist bloc. Just as Yeltsin’s wholesale privatisations in Russia resulted in the complete meltdown of the Russian economy. Putin’s popularity among ordinary Russians is partly based on his restoration of economic stability after the chaos the old drunk caused. And I understand that depopulation has also been a factor in the rise of the Nazi right in Germany. According to an online conversation with a German anti-fascist posted by left vlogger Kevin Logan, the former east Germany has been hit particularly hard with the transition to capitalism. Many of the former country’s industries and businesses have been unable to compete, and so have closed down. As a result, whole towns and villages have been abandoned as their people have moved away to seek employment elsewhere. When you have an economic crisis like that, people start looking around for a scapegoat, and Fascism provides it in the shape of immigrants and Jews.

I also think that whatever popularity Fascism has is also partly due to its claim to be a third political alternative against socialism and capitalism. Communism failed, capitalism isn’t living up to its promise and so some may turn to Fascism as an alternative.

Walker and Bastani also point out that there are other political groups fighting the Russians, including anarchists, so it isn’t true that the Fascists are the only people defending the country apart from the regular army. They also make it clear that they feel that the regular Ukrainian deserves its support from the West. It’s just that this should not be given to the Azov Battalion and the rest of the Fascists.

Sting Reprises 80s Anti-Nuclear Song against War in Ukraine

March 14, 2022

A few days ago I put up the YouTube video of Punk legends Toyah Wilcox’s and Robert Fripp’s song of support for Ukraine against Putin’s invasion. Sting has also posted on YouTube a version of his 80s hit ‘Russians’ as a protest against Putin’s bloody invasion of ‘a peaceful and unthreatening neighbour’. It’s dedicated not just to the Ukrainians but also to the many Russians protesting against the war, and is once again a plea for our children and our common humanity.

Sting released ‘Russians’ right in the middle of the new Cold War under Thatcher and Reagan, when it seemed all too possible that a nuclear war would erupt to end humanity and destroy our lovely and beautiful planet. It was partly based on a theme from Prokofiev and urged everyone to protect their children against the nuclear threat. One of its lines is ‘How can I protect my little boy/ From Oppenheimer’s deadly toy?’ with the refrain ‘Believe me when I say to you, do the Russians love their children too?’ It also reminded both sides that ‘We share the same biology regardless of ideology’. It was a powerful, heartfelt song that reflected the deep fears and hopes of millions across the world at the time.

Sting states that he hasn’t really played it since because it wasn’t really relevant. Horrifically, it is now, with Putin threatening to launch nukes if NATO gets involved. I find Sting’s piece profoundly moving, but I’m also furious with the way geopolitics has gone in eastern Europe in the forty or so years since this was written. Reagan was an arch-reactionary who supported every bloody Fascist dictator that disgraced Latin America in his campaign against Communism. But together he and Mikhail Gorbachev ended the Cold War. Communism fell and the former Soviet satellites went their own way. And in the former Soviet Union, Gorbachev did his best to transform the Stalinist Communism of the Soviet state into something genuinely good and progressive. He wanted to introduce democracy and multiparty elections, ended the persecution of religion, and wished to create a mixed economy in which state and private enterprise existed alongside each other. But he also wished to create a new class of genuine cooperatives, where the workers would hire and fire management. He wanted Russia to join the rest of the world in the Green movement and tackling environmental issues as well fully support human rights. And as the Berlin Wall came down, thousands of people from the former eastern bloc came over here to work and run businesses.

Terrible things were still being done across the world, including the first Gulf War, which was also really about oil rather than freeing Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. But the Fall of Communism and the end of the Cold War made it that bit better. For all the claims that socialism was dead and that free market capitalism would now reign unchallenged at the ‘end of history’, it was still an optimistic time. It looked like the world had finally put that part of the nuclear threat behind us and that we could look forward to a future without any more fears of another Cuban missile crisis or similar armaggeddon.

And now I feel that all that hope and promise has been squandered through great power interference and Putin’s warmongering. Well, damn this! I want the world to go back to how it was before all this erupted.

Bring back Gorbachev!

Love and peace to everyone protesting against the war, and especially to those in Russia. May peace come soon.

A Black Conservative’s Demand for the Return of Traditional Morality and against the Condescencion of Affirmative Action

February 27, 2022

Shelby Steele, White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era (New York: HarperCollins 2006).

Shelby Steele is a Black American literature professor. A conservative, the blurb states that he is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and Stanford University and contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine as well as a multiple aware winner. This is his view of the failure of the movement for Black uplift, ultimately caused by the loss of traditional, conservative values through their association with White supremacy after the ending of segregation. It’s also an account of his journey from childhood growing up in the south under segregation, to angry student radical, disaffected employee, and finally conservative intellectual. During his time he also worked on the Great Society programmes initiated by Lyndon Johnson in some of the worst Black communities and become increasingly disillusioned with them and succeeding programmes as they failed. This last week we had a mixed-race footballer demanding the inclusion of ethnic minority culture and history in the British school curriculum. But Steele rejects this and another initiatives, arguing that despite the implementation of such policies in America, Blacks are still performing poorly at school and elsewhere. Worse, the American public school system, which he boasts was the greatest in the world, has been destroyed by them. What Black America needs, according to Steele, is a return to the traditional capitalist, bourgeois virtues, such as entrepreneurialism, as well as stable two-parent families and a genuine meritocracy, where people are rewarded according to their talent rather than the colour of their skin. In short, he wants Blacks to stand on their own two feet and argues persuasively this is possible. Black children perform badly at school, despite affirmative action programmes to help them and the lowering of academic standards in their favour. But they excel in sport, music, literature and entertainment, where there are no such programmes and only the best is required of them. Thus, leading Black sportsmen emerge through long, demanding practise on the baseball pitch, for example. Great Black musicians come about through kids practicing long and hard on cheap keyboards in their rooms, demanding the best of themselves. But the Black community has been deprived of this spirit of initiative and excellence when it turned away from the liberalism of rights and personal freedom to demand positive measures by the state through exploiting the guilty feelings and loss of moral authority experienced by Whites as they ended segregation and came to terms with the history of racism and Black oppression.

But this has not just damaged Blacks. It has also damaged general American moral authority. White guilt helped the 60s counterculture to emerge and flourish, as well as the new feminist and environmental movements. He states at various times that the attitude now is that if you fail to be properly environmentally concerned, you must be some kind of racist. He’s fully behind the Iraq invasion, which he genuinely believes was an attempt to liberate the country and create a genuine, liberal, democratic order. But it has been hamstrung through comparisons to past American imperialism and exploitation. He celebrates George W. Bush and the new American conservatives, who at one level seem liberal. Bush is comfortable with ethnic minorities and has appointed a number to positions of power. But they are not encumbered by White guilt, and so can exert the traditional moral authority America needs and used to have when White supremacy was unchallenged. As for the inclusion of Black writers on school syllabuses, he feels that the current policy of promoting them simply because they are Black is damaging. It means that genuinely talented writers are put in the same category as the mediocre and so discredited by association, simply because they’re Black. He also condemns a system that imposes higher standards on poor White university applicants simply because of their colour in favour of children from rich Black families. And throughout the book there is a feeling of outrage at such affirmative action measures because of their patronising attitude and apparent condescension.

He also argues that Black anger and militancy was due to the collapse of White confidence and authority due to the end of segregation. During segregation peaceful protests, intended to show Black moral superiority, such as the civil rights demonstrations led by Martin Luther King were the only way to stand up against it. And in cases where nothing could be done, because that was just the way society was, the only things Blacks could do was move on. Such as when he tried to get a job when he was a youngster for an all-White baseball team as their batboy. He was eventually dropped because he couldn’t travel with them to segregated matches. But, as disappointed as he was, by the next day he had moved on to other things as there was absolutely nothing he could do. This is contrasted with the situation a few years later when he led an angry delegation of Black students into his college principal’s office to make what he now regards as outrageous demands. He showed his own personal disrespect by dropping cigarette ash onto the principal’s carpet. The principal received them graciously and gave in, despite appearing initially shocked an angry. This happened because he had lost his moral authority along with the rest of the traditional American order, tarnished by its link with White supremacy.

There’s a wealth of information on the lives of ordinary Blacks under segregation and how, despite its constraints some of them where able to achieve a modicum of prosperity. His father was caught between the unions and his employer. The unions wouldn’t accept him because of his colour, while he had to keep from his employer the fact that he owned his own house. But his father, clearly a man of great entrepreneurial talent, was able to purchase three houses, which he renovated using slightly worn, but still perfectly serviceable furnishings. His parents also set up a free mother and baby clinic. When it came to their son’s schooling, they moved heaven and earth, practically setting up their own civil rights movement, to get him into an all-White school. Unfortunately the area declined due to ‘ghetto blight’ and his father was glad to sell the last one. He describes how, when Blacks travelled to other towns the first thing they had to do was a find another Black to inform them what hotels and shops they could use. This also gave them a kind of secret knowledge and collective identity against that of White America. Some Blacks miss this sense of community and solidarity, hence the proliferation of all-Black groups, societies and professional associations. He talks about working on the Great Society programmes in a truly horrendous town. One morning he woke up to hear the sound of his neighbour trying to shoot his own son in the stomach. Fortunately the man just grazed him. The bookish, nerdy kid, who should have done well at school, and whose mother attempted to protect him from the horror and violence around him by keeping him heavily involved at church, was shot dead in a drive-by gang shooting. The homecoming king at the local school was arrested as a violent thug. His job was to improve this community with the funding they had, but they had no idea what they were doing. They experimented and made stuff up, like the line that Blacks differ from Whites in learning experientially.

But as the years rolled on he became inwardly more conservative while maintaining an outward appearance of left-wing radicalism. Finally this became too much, and he came out as a conservative at a faculty meeting where they were discussing setting up a course on ‘ethnic literature’. Steele, who had already been teaching a course on Black literature, objected. He asks what the label would mean – would it include Philip Roth as well as V.S. Naipaul? He was also angry at being taken for granted when it came to voting, as the proposer of the motion stated she didn’t need to ask him, because she knew he’d vote with her. But he didn’t. He objected, shed his left-wing mask, and came out as a conservative. He now gets abuse as an ‘uncle Tom’ but says he feels better.

In an interview in the back, Steele talks about what got him interested in literature. At his new, all-White school, the English teacher gave him a copy of Kit Carson and the Indians. He was practical illiterate after the appalling education at his former all-Black school. But he so wanted to read the book he spent the next 9 months teaching himself to read. He then moved on to other children’s books, sports stories before tackling Dickens and Somerset Maugham.

Steele is wrong about American conservatism having abandoned imperialism. Bush’s invasion of Iraq was definitely a piece of imperialist conquest, designed to rob the Iraqi people of their oil and state industries. The only difference was the presentation. It was disguised as a war of liberation. But that ruse is almost as old as civilisation itself. When Alexander the Great took a town, he didn’t exact tribute from its ruler. No, what he demanded was ‘contributions to the army of liberation.’ Because he had liberated them from a tyrant. Steele states that the campaigns against sexism and the environmentalist movement are right, but he does have a point when he states that they were also enabled by a reaction against traditional White authority. Some radical writers and activists I’ve come across do seem to present them as in opposition to the White social and economic order carried to the New World by the first European colonists. And I agree with him about the breakdown of the traditional family that came as a result of the sexual revolution of the 60s. This affects Whites as well as Blacks, but is particularly acute among the latter community. 70 per cent of Black American children are born out of wedlock, 90 per cent in the cities. Studies have shown that children from stable families where both parents live together perform far better at school and work. As for education, one of his ideas for Blacks in areas with failing public schools is to open their own in a church or community centre.

I think he’s right about the value of what can also be termed old-fashioned respectability and bourgeois family life. However individual initiative is inadequate to solve all forms of poverty. State action and welfare programmes are still badly needed. But this needn’t be a choice between two alternatives. It means mixing appropriate state support while encouraging people to develop and use their talents. And his examples of Black excellence in sport, music, literature and entertainment do indicate that Blacks can excel by themselves. I found this particularly reassuring after listening to the claims about supposed Black intellectual inferior made by Simon Webb on History Debunked as his preferred explanation for the lack of Black progress.

The book comes from across the other side of the political aisle, but it’s well worth reading and intensely thought-provoking about the continuing, very pertinent problem of Black failure as a consequence of the general failure of traditional morality post-segregation.

Children’s Literature and Non-Binary Indoctrination

January 19, 2022

One of the issues that concerns the opponents of the trans ideology is the massive expansion of the number of people identifying as trans or non-binary. Before the emergence of the trans craze a few years ago, there were relatively few trans people coming forward each year for treatment and these were mainly men. Now the number has dramatically increased and the majority of those now identifying as members of the opposite sex are young women. For writers and researchers like Abigail Shrier, this indicates that this is not a natural development but a social phenomenon, comparable to the growth of anorexia amongst girls and young women in the 1970s.

At the same time the number of young Americans declaring themselves to be gay has also expanded. Whereas the number of gay people in a population across the world was about 6 per cent, 3 per cent gay men, 3 per cent lesbian women, it’s now increased in the younger generation to 30 per cent. The gay American Conservative YouTuber, Matt Walsh, and Arielle Scarcella, a lesbian critic of the trans ideology on YouTube, have made videos about this. Walsh put it down to the ideological promotion of gayness by the woke, while Scarcella in her video considered that it was due to a massive mental health crisis amongst America’s kids. I think this is quite likely. The present generation of young people are facing worse lives and lower living conditions than their parents due to the Thatcherism and Reaganomics the previous generations embraced. The welfare net is being destroyed, right to work legislation in America has decimated the unions as has similar legislation over here, wages have stagnated while the cost of living is rising. Youngsters are encouraged to go for a college education, but the fees and costs are now exorbitant so that many will be saddled with debt for life. When I was at Bristol uni doing the Ph.D. ten years ago, i heard of American students saying that because of the money they were spending on their education, they would never be able to own property. Thatcher sold Brits the dream of owning their own homes when she sold off the council houses. That dream has turned sour, so that there is a massive housing crisis, not least due to the prohibition on building further council housing and a lack of genuine affordable housing. The pressures of the Covid lockdown, the isolation it has caused as well as job insecurity and further poverty, as the furlough cut incomes to 80 per cent of what they were and people are naturally worried about whether their jobs and businesses will survive, has increased this pressure. It’s no surprise that the medical authorities in Britain are reporting an alarming increase in anxiety, depression and other mental health problems.

It also seems to me to be quite likely that these pressures might lead some people to obsess over their sexuality, especially if gayness is presented as a positive, attractive identity. One of the gay critics of the trans movement a while ago commented on the adoption of the ‘queer’ identity by straight people. He felt that it was being taken up by them, even though they weren’t really gay, because they were allies and wanted to be part of the LGBTQ community. I wonder if something similar is going on with the people, who now identify of gay. In some parts of contemporary popular culture, gay people are depicted as virtuous victims of straight persecution. See the Batwoman tv series, for example, and the type of ‘SJW’ comics denounced by right-wingers like Ethan van Sciver of Comicsgate infamy. The positive depiction of gays in comics and popular culture in itself isn’t unreasonable. It’s no doubt much better now, but I remember the vicious homophobia of the 1980s. I am also not suggesting that people can choose the sexuality. What I am suggesting is that, in the absence of other ways to express their pain and distress, some young people may become convinced they’re gay as that’s the only way to respond to the terrible pressures put on them. It’s the only way they feel they can respond to their sense of persecution by a hostile, social and economic environment.

But I also believe that ideological indoctrination also plays a part. James Lindsay has shown that the Queer Theory underpinning the modern trans movement is not about helping gay and trans people deal with their problems or find a place in existing bourgeois capitalist society. Rather it’s about increasing their mental problems in order to create unstable, angry personalities susceptible to radical Marxist indoctrination. And even if this is not the aim, popular culture does seem to be playing a part.

Clive Simpson is a gay, anti-trans YouTuber. He posted a disturbing video a few days ago about a little American girl, Chloe, who has now decided that she’s non-binary and wishes to be known as Clarke, with the corresponding changes in gender expression. This came after her mother was reading a book to her, which was intended to explain non-binary people. It said that some people are boys, some are girls, and some don’t believe they’re either boys or girls. The child said that was her, and that was how she felt.

Simpson cites a medical paper on the development of children’s sexual identities. It states that they usually develop it by age three, but it may not become fixed until they are seven. So some children’s gender identity is rather fluid until it naturally settles down. The book the mother was reading from was aimed at 4-8 year olds.

If the paper is correct, then the mother may have intentionally done immense harm to her daughter’s psycho-sexual development. What might have been merely a passing phase that many children go through has now been turned into a permanent identity, with the sense of alienation from society and one’s own biology this may bring.

I can understand the mother wishing to teach her daughter the same liberal values she holds, but it appears from this that teaching children about such issues so young may harm the child’s own psychology.

It would be much better if this was left later to an age when the child could understand it without it undermining their own gender identity.

History Debunked on the Popularity of Conspiracy Theories in the Black Community

January 3, 2022

I’ve an interest in conspiracy theories. It partly comes from studying the rise of Fascism as part of the history course at college and having friends, who were huge fans of the Illuminatus! books. They’re a series of science fiction books about various secret societies competing to bring about the end of the world, or take it over, written by Robert Anton Wilson and Michael Shea. Conspiracy theories can be an extremely powerful political force. The Nazis gained power and popularity because of the ‘stab in the back’ myth that the Jews had secretly conspired to cause Germany’s defeat in the First World War from within. The infamous Tsarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, is a classic example of this kind of poisonous conspiracy theory. Written by the monk Nilus for the Tsar’s secret police, it was intended to persuade Nicholas II to increase the persecution of the Jews even further. It claimed to prove that the Jews were secretly controlling both socialism and capitalism in order to enslave gentiles, and has been a major force in the rise of Fascism and anti-Semitic movements throughout the world. Some of its readers have continued to believe it even after it was shown to be a forgery, claiming that it is ‘symbolically true’. Although thoroughly discredited in the West, it remains popular in other parts of the world. I’ve read that it can be freely bought from kiosks in Russia, while in the 90s it was serialised on Egyptian television. I was therefore particularly interested in this video from Simon Webb’s ‘History Debunked’ channel.

In it Webb discusses the influence of conspiracy theories about the Coronavirus and fake history among the Black community. An American study had found that Black Americans were far more inclined to believe conspiracy theories. He had been visiting a Black female friend, who told him she wasn’t going to take the Coronavirus vaccine because of the grossly unethical Tuskeegee Experiment that ran from the 1930s to only a few decades ago. A group of Black sharecroppers had been deliberately infected with syphilis, which was left to go untreated until it culminated in their deaths. The intention was to study the progress of the disease, and in return the victims had their funerals paid for. Webb’s friend was afraid the Covid vaccine was a similar experiment. Back in the ’90s, a similar conspiracy theory arose about the origins of AIDS. This was supposed to have been developed by the US military as a germ warfare experiment at Fort Detrick. In fact the story was a fabrication by the KGB in retaliation for the Americans claiming that the Soviet Union had been responsible for the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II by a far-right Turkish nationalist. One American doctor, writing in the US conspiracy magazine Steamshovel Press, stated that in his experience many Black Americans in particular believed that AIDS was an engineered bio-weapon because of the Tuskeegee Experiment. There is a problem with Blacks and some Asians refusing to accept the Covid vaccine because of similar fears.

Of course, these bizarre and malign beliefs aren’t confined solely to Blacks and Asians. There are also Whites who refuse to have the vaccine because they also believe it is some kind of malicious experiment. One such theory claims that Bill Gates and Microsoft are putting computer chips in it to control people, or wreck their health, or something. All completely false.

These destructive theories have also harmed the campaign to eradicate killer diseases like Polio in Pakistan. Government officials and aid workers there have been attacked and murdered because of the widespread belief that the vaccine is really intended to sterilise Muslims. As a result, a terrible disease that has been successfully fought elsewhere is still very much a threat to the life and health of the people of Pakistan and other areas which have similar theories. I noticed that the government and the TV companies have tried to combat the conspiracy theories about the Covid vaccine by reassuring people that this is just a conspiracy theory, and showing Black doctors and patients administering and receiving the vaccine.

In the 19th century the kidnapping of Asian labourers during the infamous ‘Coolie Trade’, and the subsequent loss of contact with their families for years, even decades, resulted in another conspiracy theory. This claimed that people from India and what is now Pakistan and Bangladesh were being killed for the cerebrospinal fluid in their skulls, which was being used as lubricant for Europe’s machines. A similar theory also emerged in Latin America, where it was believed that a White or mestizo man in a black coat, armed with long knives, was murdering Amerindians. In this myth, it was the victims’ body fat that was being used to grease the wheels of Europe’s machines.

Commenting on the Tuskeegee Experiment, Webb wonders if he wouldn’t also believe in the conspiracy theory about the Covid vaccine if he was Black. But he goes on to consider the role of fake history in convincing many Black Brits they’ve been cheated by a racist society and deserve government assistance. A couple of examples of this fake history is the belief, expressed by a Black friend, that it was a Black man, who invented the lightbulb, and David Olasuga’s claim that there was a 15,000 strong Black community here in Britain in the 16th century. He speculates that the greater belief in conspiracy theories among Black Americans may well be due to a comparative lack of education. Blacks are more likely to leave school earlier and fewer Blacks go to university than other groups. But it could also be that the fake history, to which they’ve been exposed, has resulted in a widespread feeling of resentment and feeling cheated, thus fuelling demands for affirmative action programmes.

It’s possible, though I think the resentment and widespread suspicion of racial injustice comes from the real racism and exploitation many Blacks have experienced during the slave trade and after, when the British and colonial governments deliberately imposed highly discriminatory legislation on the newly freed Black workers in order to keep them tied to the plantations and maintain the Caribbean nations’ economies. There’s also the often vicious racism and blatant discrimination that Black and Asian immigrants have faced in Britain. The affirmative action programmes, dubbed over here ‘positive discrimination’, began following the 1981/2 race riots, which were partly caused by the particularly large unemployment rate and consequent despair in Black communities in Bristol, Liverpool and London. The Black community continues to be generally poorer, less educated and suffering greater unemployment and marginalisation than other racial groups. Hence the continued demands for affirmative action campaigns on their behalf. Structural racism or its legacy may well play a role in the Black community’s impoverishment, although this would conflict with Webb’s own views that some of the Black community’s problems are rooted in biology. He believes in the ‘Bell Curve’ nonsense that Blacks are less intelligent than Whites, who are in turn less intelligent than Asians. He is also impressed by neurological medical papers noting the greater genetic inclination towards schizophrenia among Blacks.

But researchers into conspiracy theories and the people, who believe them, have come to the conclusion that lack of information is a powerful factor in their emergence and spread. Without any proper information to the contrary, stupid and destructive conspiracy theories, like those about the Coronavirus and Polio vaccines, can arise and spread. I also suspect that the prevalence of such theories in parts of the Middle East, Iran and Pakistan also comes from these countries being dictatorships or absolute monarchies. In this anti-democratic culture, the state may be distant or exploitative and so there is an immediate suspicion and resistance to its interference. Hence the stupid ideas about the Covid and Polio vaccines. Folklorists also noted a similar theory among Black Americans about Coca-Cola in the 1990s. This was supposed to have had a chemical added to it to sterilise young Black men. A fellow volunteer at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol also told me that there was a conspiracy theory believed by many Black South Africans that the government was also covertly trying to destroy them through similar methods. This last belief is perfectly understandable, given the immense poverty and oppression caused by apartheid. And it does seem that the South African secret service, BOSS, was working on a germ warfare weapon which would only target Blacks.

These poisonous conspiracy theories need to be tackled and disproven, just as the widespread fake history also needs to be refuted. But this has to be alongside policies to improve the conditions of Blacks and other ethnic minorities so that they can enjoy economic, social and educational equality. If that’s achieved, then perhaps so many won’t distrust their government so much that they mistakenly think it’s deliberately trying to poison them.