Posts Tagged ‘Cheltenham’

A Treasury of Ancient Mathematical Texts

February 4, 2017

Henrietta Midonick, The Treasure of Mathematics: 1 (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1968)

ancient-mathematics-cover

I realise that the history of mathematics is an arcane subject, that few people will have much interest in, having struggled enough with the subject at school. But with Black History Month, there is immense interest amongst scholars of Black and Asian history about restoring Black and Asian scientists and mathematicians to their rightful place in history.

I picked up this book in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham about a year or so ago. It’s a collection of ancient and medieval mathematical texts from Ancient Egypt, Babylon, China, India, Islam, the Jews and, of course, the ancient Greeks. The blurb for it runs

Mathematics is the only true international language. men can communicate more directly, precisely and logically in pure mathematics than in any other tongue. Moreover we have much to learn from the achievements of past civilizations in this field: even modern computers have not fathomed all the intricacies of Stonehenge. In this fascinating collection of original sources (many of them published in a popular edition for the first time) Henrietta Midonick shows individual mathematicians grappling with varied problems – some practical, such as architecture, money valuation, mechanics, astronomy and calendar calculation; others verging on philosophy, such as the existence of zero and the concept of infinity. Her arrangement also demonstrates the growth of key ideas in geometry, arithmetic, logic and calculus.

Volume 1 documents the growth of mathematical science in the civilizations of Babylon, Ancient Egypt, the Mayas, India and China, and assesses the revolutionary discoveries of Plato, Archimedes and Euclid in classical antiquity.

Among the various extracts are pieces on Babylonian mathematics; four geometrical problems from the Moscow Papyrus, which dates from Ancient Egypt, c. 1850 BC; the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, again from Egypt, c. 1650 BC; the Bakhshali Manuscript, from 4th century AD India; the Mayas – discussing their system of numbers, the calendar, arithmetic and chronology, and the Quipu, the method of keeping statistical records using knots, used by the ancient Incas in South America.

Chinese mathematicians include Wan Wang, from the 12th century BC, Chou Kung, c. 1100 BC; Chang Tsang, died 152; Liu Hui, 3rd century AD; Sun-Tsu, from the same century; Hsia-Hou Yang, 6th century AD; Wang Hs’iao-T’ung, 7th century AD, Li Yeh, c. AD 1178-1265; Ch’in Chiu-Shao, c. AD 1250; Yang Hui, c. AD 1275; Chu Chi-Chieh, c. AD 1300.

The Indian scholars collected include Aryabhata the Elder, c. AD. 476; Brahmagupta, AD 598; and Bhascara Acharya, AD 1114-c. 1185.

It also includes the Algebra of Mohammed ben Musa al-Khowarismi, who founded much of modern algebra, including giving it its modern name.

The two Jewish mathematicians collected include the Mishnat ha-Middot of Rabbi Nehemiah, from c. AD 150; and the Method of Division of Immanuel Ben Jacob Bonfils, c. AD 1350.

The ancient Greeks include Hippocrates of Chios, 5th century BC; an extract from Plato’s Dialogues; the Elements of Euclid of Alexandria, c. 300 BC; Apollonius of Perga’s Conic Sections, from the same period; Archimedes’ On Spirals, Mechanical Problems, and Quadrature of the Parabola, Pappus, c. AD 300, and Proclus, AD 410-485.

babylonian-multipilication-table

Ancient Babylonian Multiplication Table for X 10.

For the non-mathematician like myself these texts aren’t easy reading. There are diagrams to help, but many of them, as the pioneering works of their time, are trying to express difficult mathematical ideas without the modern language of Maths, and so it can be difficult understanding what they are trying to describe. Nevertheless, this is an important collection of some of the classic texts of ancient mathematics on which the structure of modern maths has been built.

Demonstrations Across the UK Today Against Trump’s Muslim Ban

January 30, 2017

Mike has put up news that there are going to be mass demonstrations across the UK today against Trump’s ban on immigration from seven Muslim majority countries. The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has demanded that Trump’s state visit to Britain should be cancelled. And, almost predictably, Theresa May has failed to say very much about it. She has asked Boris Johnson and the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, to raise the issue of the travel ban with their opposite numbers in the US administration. But this seems to be less than altruistic. She’s not worried about the ban on Muslims going to the US so much as how it would affect the Tory MP, Nadhim Zahawi.

The demonstration in London is due to be held this evening at 6.00 pm outside Downing Street. There are also demos in Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Cheltenham, Edinburgh, Falmouth, Glasgow, Hastings, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham, Preston in Lancashire, Sheffield and York. The demos are organised by Momentum, but people of other views are welcome to join them.

There is also a petition currently being compiled against a state visit by Trump to the UK, which people may also wish to sign. And Mike has also suggested that those with a Tory MP may also like to write to them in protest about it, using the tools provided by Write To Them for creating such messages.

For further information, please go to Mike’s website, where there are appropriate links to the internet pages of the organisations mentioned.

Mike’s article also has a few Tweets from those disapproving May’s silence on this critical issue. One of them is Gary Lineker, wondering when May’s going to speak out. The other is Hugh Terry, who aptly describes May as not a prime minister, but a ‘fascist apologist arms dealer disguised as a rancid old school-marm!’ Which is an accurate description of May, and indeed, of that great, golden Tory icon, Maggie Thatcher.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/29/join-demonstrations-across-the-nation-january-30-2017-against-trumps-muslimban/

Vox Political: Public Sides with Archbishop of Canterbury against Scrooge Farage

December 29, 2016

This story adds one piece more to the pile of evidence screaming out how thoroughly, grottily mean-spirited Nigel Farage is. On Christmas Day, Rev. Justin Welby, the current archbishop of Canterbury, tweeted the following message:

“Jesus came to us homeless and in a manger. This Christmas, please pray with me for the poor, hungry and homeless, here and abroad.”

This was too much for Farage, who tweeted back

“Merry Christmas! Ignore all negative messages from the Archbishop of Canterbury and have a great day!”

As a result, a social media campaign has been launched, where users of the site have been posting messages supporting the Archbishop under the hashtag #ImWithJustinWelby”.

Mike speculates that this may be part of a sea change against the various rightwing windbags like Farage and, indeed, the entire Tory cabinet, who have been promoted by their parties far beyond their meagre abilities, and have been responsible for making 2016 the dire mess it has been.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/29/imwithjustinwelby-and-against-nigel-farage-who-in-their-right-mind-wouldnt-be/

You actually begin to wonder what kind of society the Tories and ultra-Tories like UKIP have created, when a politico like Farage finds the Archbishop’s message offensive or controversial. Christian religious leaders and laypeople have been exhorting their co-religionists to remember the poor at this time of year since, well, actually since Charles Dickens first invented the modern Christmas way back in the 19th century with A Christmas Carol. The story was a piece of deliberate social engineering by the great novelist. Dickens was appalled by the poverty he saw in the Britain of his time – hence the term ‘Dickensian’, because of the care he took to describe it. Dickens felt that part of the solution to this problem would be to re-awaken the Christian conscience through stressing the spirit of generous charity at this festival. It was his rebuttal to the sentiments he puts in Scrooge’s mouth, about the poor finding relief from starvation through prison or the workhouse.

But this very traditional Christmas message – which has been repeated just about every year since Dickens effectively revived and reinvented its celebration in Britain – is now seen by the Fuhrage as some kind of dangerous moralistic ploy to spoil everyone’s fun. It isn’t. It’s inclusive. It’s about sharing the fun around, to combat poverty and social alienation.

And Britain might now be a largely secular society, but many atheists and secular people would agree with central point of the Archbishop’s message: that as the nation settles down to enjoy itself, it should also remember those less fortunate than themselves.

Farage’s reaction to the Archbishop’s message also shows how used the Tories are to automatically attacking any comment about social conditions from the Church. Ever since the Anglican church issued the first of a series of reports in the 1970s condemning the Tory party for increasing poverty in Britain, the Tories have been sneering and attacking them in their turn. There’s even a wretched blog, Cranmer, which states that it has been set up to support all rightwing Christians, particularly Anglicans, now that the Anglican clergy are turning to politics. The Tories’ reaction to such comments has now become instinctive. As soon as a senior clergyman dares to point out that poverty still haunts Britain, even in such a mild, inoffensive and entirely non-controversial form as the Archbishop’s Christmas tweet, someone like Farage has to stand up and denounce it.

And so, in the spirit of selfish greed and indulgence, we have Farage demanding that everyone should ignore the poor and homeless, and concentrate on stuffing themselves.

His statement also shows up another glaring moral fault in UKIP in the party’s attitude to immigration and non-Whites. Despite what the Fuhrage has said, his party is full of racist bigots, Islamophobes and White supremacists, who see Blacks and Asians as a dangerous threat to the British way of life and morality. But over Christmas, a number of Asian take-aways and restaurants have shown far more of the Christmas spirit than Farage. Mike put up a story about a fish and chip shop in Brum, run by two Asian brothers, which was going to supply free meals to the homeless and elderly on Christmas Day. I also heard that some of the Asian restaurants were also going to do likewise in Cheltenham. This spirit wasn’t confined to the Asian community – other hostelries, like a pub in Glastonbury, were also doing the same. I’m not here claiming that Blacks or Asians are any more virtuous than Whites. But the simple fact that so many Asian restaurants were doing so amply demonstrates that the obvious isn’t automatically true either. It shows how bigoted UKIP are, and their lack of compassion for society as a whole.

A few years ago one of the TV companies ran a show which adopted an interesting take on the issue of immigration. The show worked on the principle of ‘one in, one out’. Every week, the presenters gave the case for letting a particular person into the country, and canvased their viewers on who they’d like to see deported. One of those the great British public wanted to see thrown out of the country by a very long margin, according to Private Eye, was the editor of rabidly xenophobic Daily Mail, Paul Dacre. I think we should adopt the same attitude here. The Archbishop should be fully supported, and everyone who gave their time, money or other help to the poor and homeless at Christmas needs to stay, regardless of their ethnic or religious origins. Nigel Farage, however, must go.

Farage is Scrooge. Deport him now!

Chip Shops and Pubs Offering Meals to the Homeless at Christmas

December 24, 2016

Yesterday, Mike over at Vox Political put up a piece commenting on the decision by two brothers in Brum, Hamid and Asef Faqiri, who own the Classic Fish Bar, to open on Christmas Day between 13.00 and 16.00 to give free turkey dinners to the elderly and the homeless. They state that they want to help those in need and make the community happy. One of the brothers, Asef, remarked that he had seen a lot of homeless people, and always wanted to help.

While Mike welcomed the twos generosity, he also pointed out the obvious danger. That by doing something to help the poor, this would be used by the Tories to justify the government doing nothing. They’d try to argue that this is David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ at work, where private charity picks up the slack from government.

Mike makes the argument instead that we pay our taxes on the understanding that the government does everything in its power to make sure that citizens aren’t homeless and starving.

He concludes:

We don’t make that argument often enough and, in the Season of Goodwill, it might be more appropriate than ever to point out that very little goodwill is coming from Westminster.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/22/free-christmas-fish-and-chips-for-the-homeless-gives-tories-a-chance-to-justify-their-apathy/

I think there are a number of places doing this up and down the country. I heard that some of the Asian restaurants and take-aways in Cheltenham will also be doing the same, as will the Market Inn pub in Glastonbury, according to today’s Western Daily Press.

I completely share Mike’s views on this issue. What these places and the people who run them are doing is very commendable, but it runs into the trap of appearing to validate the Tories’ cuts and dismantlement of the welfare state. Maggie Thatcher began her attack on it back in the 1980s with the deliberate goal of reducing the tax burden and forcing people back on to private charity to support them. She believed it would strengthen religion, and particularly the churches, if people had to come to them for aid, rather than the state. Hence the eagerness of the Salvation Army to acquire government contracts for dealing with poverty, as well as the desire of so many of the corporate management types now running very many charities likewise to do so, while at the same time demanding that the government enact even more stringent policies against the poor, the unemployed and the homeless. For the grim details, go to Johnny Void’s blog and look up his entries on these issues.

It’s a nasty, cynical attitude to bringing people back to religion, and it many Christians believe it runs contrary to the teachings of the Bible and the Gospels. In the last of the series of Advent talks held at our local church on Thursday, the minister made precisely this point. Not that this would have had any effect on Maggie. When she gave a talk to the ruling body of the Church of Scotland back in the 1980s, expounding her view that people who didn’t work, shouldn’t get something for nothing, the guid ministers and layfolk greeted what she said with frowns and silence. It was obvious that they were very unimpressed. But it didn’t stop Maggie cutting welfare provision left and right.

So I heartily endorse Mike’s point. It needs to be repeated over and again, until someone in Westminster either gets the point, or is unable to drown it out and stop others from hearing it. If you want to see the drawbacks of this attitude, look at America. Americans are extremely generous in charitable giving. But there is a massive problem with extreme poverty in America, and one that is growing thanks to Reagan and corporatist Democrats like Obama and Killary. Private charity cannot adequately tackle poverty, no matter what Thatcher, Cameron, May and Iain Duncan Smith and Damian Green want us to believe. And this message needs to be hammered home, until the public very obviously turns away from the Tories and their lies.

New Book on BBC Bias

November 18, 2016

Looking through the Cheltenham branch of Waterstone’s today I found a new book on institutional bias at the BBC. It’s Tom Miller’s The BBC and the Myth of Public Service Broadcasting. I didn’t buy it, but glancing at the blurb on the back cover, it seemed to be about how the Beeb is biased towards power, and the establishment.

This really should come as no surprise to anyone. Despite the frothings of the right, which claims that the Beeb has a liberal bias, Edinburgh, Glasgow and I think, Cardiff University have studied the Beeb’s news bias, and found that it is significantly biased towards the Right. The two Scots universities found that it was far more likely to talk to Conservative MPs and businessmen, than to Labour MPs and trade unionists. The Kushner brothers, in their book, Who Needs the Cuts? state that they were prompted to write the book because of the way the Beeb and the rest of the media automatically accepted, quite uncritically, that the cuts were needed. When trade unionists appeared on the Today programme on Radio 4, and said that the cuts weren’t needed and were harmful, he was interrupted by the presenter. And then there’s Laura Koenigsberg, who is outrageously and blatantly biased. But you mustn’t accuse her of beings so, according to the Graoniad, because if you do you are only doing so because you’re a misogynist. Rubbish. People are criticising her because she is biased, and she’s a disgrace. It has nothing to do with her gender. Another of the Beeb’s reporters, who is also flagrantly biased is Nick Robinson. Remember how Robinson and his team careful cut footage of a question and answer session with Alex Salmond, the leader of the SNP, during the Scots Referendum? Robinson asked Salmond about whether he was worried that the main Scots financial firms would move down to London if Scotland gained independence. Salmond said no, and explained why he believed they wouldn’t. The Beeb then edited the video, first to make it appear that he evaded the question, and then claimed he hadn’t answer it all. I’m not fan of the SNP and its attacks on the Labour Party, but Salmond had answered the question, calmly and fully. It was pure falsification, a lie of the type you’d expect from the state dominated media in eastern Europe under Communism, for example. But it didn’t come from a wretched totalitarian dictatorship. It came from the Beeb, which is constantly congratulating itself on how ‘impartial’ it is, and what a world leader in quality broadcasting it constitutes.

Well, it’s biased towards the right, and more and more people are waking up to that fact, as this book appears to show.

Frontiers Magazine on Robot Weapons

October 23, 2016

The popular science magazine, Frontiers, way back in October 1998 ran an article on robots. This included two pages on the ‘Soldiers of Tomorrow’, military robots then under development. This included drones. These are now extremely well-known, if not notorious, for the threat they pose to privacy and freedom. The article notes that they were developed from the unmanned planes used for target practice. They were first used in the 1960s to fly reconnaissance missions in Vietnam after the US air force suffered several losses from surface to air missiles. Drones were also used during the Cold War to spy on the Soviet Union, though instead of beaming the pictures back to their operators, they had to eject them physically. They were further developed by the Israelis, who used them to spy on their Arab neighbours during their many wars. Their next development was during the Gulf War, when they broadcast back to their operators real-time images of the battlefields they were surveying.

Apart from drones, the article also covered a number of other war machines under development. This included remotely operated ground vehicles like SARGE, and the Mobility Module and remotely controlled buggy shown below.

robot-army-cars

SARGE was a scout vehicle adapted from a Yamaha four-wheel drive all-terrain jeep. Like the drones, it was remotely controlled by a human operator. The top photo of the two above showed the Mobility Module mounted aboard another army vehicle, which contained a number of reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition sensors. Below it is a missile launcher fixed to another remote-control buggy. The article also carried a photo of a Rockwell Hellfire missile being launched from another of this type of adapted vehicle.

robot-army-car-missile

Next to this was a photo of the operator in his equipment, who controlled the Tele-Operated Vehicle, or TOV, as the developers were calling such machines.

robot-army-car-operator

Another of the machines described in the article was the Telepresent Rapid Aiming System, a robot gun designed by Graham Hawkes and Precision Remotes of California as a sentry robot. As the article itself notes, it’s similar to the tunnel machine guns used by the Space Marines in the film Aliens. It could either be operated by remote control, or made fully automatic and configured to shoot live ammunition. At the time the article was written it had already been tested by a number of different law enforcement agencies.

The only vaguely humanoid robot was the Robart III, shown below.

robot-solider

This machine was able to track a target automatically using its video vision, and possessed laser guidance to allow it to be operated remotely. In demonstrations it carried a pneumatic dart gun, capable of firing tranquillizer darts at intruders. In combat situations this would be replaced with a machine gun. It was designed to be used as a mechanical security guard.

The article also stated that miniature crawling robots were also under development. These would be used to creep up on enemy positions, sending back to their operators video images of their progress. If such machines were mass-produced, their price could fall to about £10. This would mean that it would be easily affordable to saturate an area with them. (pp. 56-7).

The article describes the state of development of these machines as it was nearly 20 years ago. Drones are now so widespread, that they’ve become a nuisance. I’ve seen them in sale in some of the shops in Cheltenham for anything from £36 to near enough £400. Apart from the military, they’re being used by building surveyors and archaeologists.

And while robots like the above might excite enthusiasts for military hardware, there are very serious issues with them. The Young Turks, Secular Talk and Jimmy Dore have pointed out on their shows that Bush and Obama have violated the American constitution by using drones to assassinate terrorists, even when they are resident in friendly or at least non-hostile countries. Despite all the talk by the American army about ‘surgical strikes’, these weapons in fact are anything but precise instruments that can kill terrorists while sparing civilians. The three programmes cited, along with no doubt many other shows and critics, have stated that most of the victims of drone attacks are civilians and the families of terrorists. The drones may be used to home in on mobile signals, so that the person killed has been someone using their phone, rather than the terrorists themselves. Others have been worried about the way the operation of these weapons through remote control have distanced their human operators, and by extension the wider public, from the bloody reality of warfare.

Way back in the first Gulf War, one of the French radical philosophers in his book, The Gulf War Never Happened, argued that the extensive use of remotely controlled missiles during the war, and the images from them that were used in news coverage at the time, meant that for many people the Gulf War was less than real. It occurred in Virtual Reality, like a simulation in cyberspace. Recent criticism of the military use of drones as killing machines by whistleblowers have borne out these fears. One, who was also an instructor on the drone programme, described the casual indifference to killing, including killing children, of the drone pilots. They referred to their actions as ‘mowing the lawn’, and their child victims as ‘fun-sized terrorists’, justifying their deaths by arguing that as the children of terrorists, they would have grown up to be terrorists themselves. Thus they claimed to have prevented further acts of terrorism through their murder. And they did seem to regard the operation of the drones almost as a video game. The instructor describes how he threw one trainee off the controls after he indulged in more, unnecessary bloodshed, telling him, ‘This is not a computer game!’

And behind this is the threat that such machines will gain their independence to wipe out or enslave humanity. This is the real scenario behind Dr Kevin Warwick’s book, March of the Machines, which predicts that by mid-century robots will have killed the majority of humanity and enslaved the rest. A number of leading scientists have called for a halt on the development of robot soldiers. About 15 or twenty years ago there was a mass outcry from scientists and political activists after one government announced it was going to develop fully autonomous robot soldiers.

I’m a fan of the 2000 AD strip, ‘ABC Warriors’, which is about a group of robot soldiers, who now fight to ‘increase the peace’, using their lethal skills to rid the galaxy of criminals and tyrants and protect the innocent. The robots depicted in the strip are fully conscious, intelligent machines, with individual personalities and their own moral codes. The Frontiers article notes elsewhere that we’re a long way from developing such sophisticated AI, stating that he did not believe he would see it in his lifetime. On the other hand, Pat Mills, the strips’ writer and creator, says in the introduction to one of the collected volumes of the strips on the ‘Volgan War’, that there is a Russian robot, ‘Johnny 5’, that looks very much like Mechquake, the stupid, psychopathic robot bulldozer that appeared in the strip and its predecessor, ‘Robusters’. None of the machines under development therefore have the humanity and moral engagement of Hammerstein, Ro-Jaws, Mongrol, Steelhorn, Happy Shrapnel/ Tubalcain, Deadlok or even Joe Pineapples. The real robotic killing machines now being developed and used by the military represent a real threat to political liberty, the dehumanisation of warfare, and the continuing safety of the human race.

A Critical Bibliography of Genocide

October 15, 2016

Genocide: A Critical Bibliographic Review, edited by Israel W. Charny, Vol. 2 (London: Mansell Publishing Ltd 1991).

This is a grim book, but one on a subject that it is still tragically extremely relevant, and in many cases urgently so today. It’s a critical review of genocide and the related issues surrounding it.

I found it in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham, and bought it because of its direct relevance to the current anti-Semitism smears in the Labour party. At the heart of these smears are attempts by the Israel lobby to silence left-wing critics of their decades-long policy of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, and by the Blairites to hang on to power by any and all means they can. This has meant the personal vilification and libel of genuinely anti-racist people, including Jews, people of Jewish descent and gentiles, who have proud histories of actively fighting anti-Semitism as anti-Semites. If Jewish, they are smeared as ‘self-hating’ and their own Jewishness impugned, regardless of their pride in their Jewish heritage or the fact that their opposition in several cases in rooted in their understanding of the moral dimension of the Judaism and opinions of the sages in the Talmud.

It’s particularly relevant in the case of Jackie Walker, the former Vice-Chair of Momentum, who was removed from her post following accusations that her comments questioning the definition of anti-Semitism and the exclusive focus on the suffering of the Jews in the Shoah during a training day on Holocaust Memorial Day were insensitive, and anti-Semitic. Walker has since received messages of support from Momentum’s Black and Jewish supporters, condemning her removal and demanding her reinstatement. The letter published in the Groaniad by Momentum’s Jewish members and supporters argues from its signatories’ considerable knowledge of the Holocaust and the historical literature about it, that Walker’s criticisms were entirely correct. Mike has published a piece on it, which you should read, and follow the links to the original post.

But it isn’t just in this issue that the book is useful. It also covers the literature surrounding other holocausts, such as the Armenian massacres, which are still to this day denied by the Turkish authorities, as well as many other, lesser-known crimes against humanity, such as the Pakistani atrocities in Bangladesh, the murder of the Ache Indians in Paraguay, the artificial famine in the Ukraine under Stalin and the Soviet deportation of entire peoples to Siberia, the butchery of the Mayan Indians in Guatemala and so on. It also extends the discussion of genocide to include ‘omnicide’ – the murder of everyone in a thermonuclear holocaust in an atomic war.

Other topics covered include the psychology of those committing genocide, the Righteous Gentiles, who showed immense courage and daring in assisting Jews during the Holocaust, the responsibility of civil servants and professional groups, and Holocaust denial. Amongst those involved in these disgusting attempts to minimise the extermination of the Jews, or deny it happened altogether, is David Irving. Irving was the British historian, who tried to sue an American historian for libel when she attacked his book on the Holocaust as anti-Semitic. He lost. In the trial a number of expert witnesses tore down his arguments, showing how he omitted evidence, misrepresented others and presented an entirely false history. This destroyed any academic reputation he might have had.

And don’t let any Nazi tell you that the Holocaust has not been proven. It has. In an American court of law. One of the American Nazi magazines claimed that the Holocaust was unproven, and offered a prize of several thousand dollars to anyone, who could prove that it actually happened. A Californian resident stepped forward, and did so. But the Nazis showed their complete unwillingness to confront history, total dishonesty and general lack of class, and refused to stump up the money. So the gentleman took them to court. This ruled in his favour, with the judge declaring that the Holocaust had been proven beyond any doubt, and that it was stupid and malicious to try to say otherwise. Or words to that effect.

The book explains why, despite the masses of evidence available on the existence of the Holocaust, the Nazis are still able to present a case that it didn’t. Put simply, the Nazis were extremely cautious about honestly describing what they were doing to the Jews. The extermination campaign was couched in deliberately obscure language. It was described as ‘relocation to the East’ and ‘special operations’. Finally, the Nazis aimed to destroy all traces of the camps, thus removing both the Jews and the Nazis’ own horrific crimes against them from history.

A similar tactic of concealing evidence has been adopted by the Turkish government over the Armenian Massacres. Despite widespread coverage to by the American press, and firsthand testimony from the survivors, as well as evidence from the American and German ambassadors, and Turkish officers and officials themselves, much of the evidence is deliberately withheld by the authorities.

There are also chapters on memorialising and teaching the Holocaust and other genocides, and a list of suitable teaching materials and monuments to the Shoah and other genocides across the world, including the former Czechoslovakia and Poland.

The book’s contents are as follows:

Part I: Special Section on Denials of the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide

1. Israel W. Charny, The Psychology of Denial of Known Genocides.
2. Erich Kulka, Denial of the Holocaust.
3. Roger W. Smith, Denial of the Armenian Genocide.
4. Vahakn N. Dadrian, Documentation of the Armenian Genocide in Turkish Sources.

Part II: Law and Genocide
5A. Progress and Limitations in Basic Genocide Law, David Kader.
5B. Humanitarian Intervention in Genocidal Situations.
5C. Bibliography of Law and Genocide, Barbara Harff and David Kader.

Part III. Educating about the Holocaust and Genocide
6A. Educating about the Holocaust: A Case Study in the Teaching of Genocide, Jan Dorsa.
6B. Education about Genocide: Curricula and Inservice Training, Samuel Totten.

Part IV.
7. Genocide, Total War, and Nuclear Omnicide, Eric Markusen.
8. Professions, Professionals, and Genocide, by Eric Markusen.
9. The Memorialisation of the Holocaust: Museums, Memorials and Centers, by Sybil Milton.
10. First-Person Accounts of Genocidal Acts, by Samuel Totten.
11. Righteous People in the Holocaust, by Pearl M. Oliner and Samuel P. Oliner.
12. The language of Extermination in Genocide, by Herbert Hirsch and Roger W. Smith.

I’m sure that as the book is now a quarter of a century old, it is no doubt dated and has very like been superseded. But it still seems to me to be enormously valuable in the historical, psychological and legal issues surrounding this desperately important subject.

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

October 10, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vox Political on Yet Another Anti-Semitism Smear against Jackie Walker

September 29, 2016

I was starting to think that maybe I wouldn’t have to write many more pieces about the anti-Semitism allegations in the Labour party after my last post, which reported that Mike has his book out, The Livingstone Presumption, which soundly refutes them. In the same piece in which he announces the publication of his book, Mike also discusses an article by Michael Segalov, who roundly denied that Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters were anti-Semites. Mr Segalov pointed out that the people, who put their lives and their bodies on the line time and again to protect Jews and their religion, were left-wingers, including Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters. He made the point that the real anti-Semites were the Nazis, who have no qualms of spouting their filth and making the Nazi salute right in your face. Smearing genuine anti-racists like Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters as anti-Semites devalues the word and its ability to protect Jews from those, who really wish them harm.

Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum against Real Nazism

This is all entirely correct. As I blogged yesterday, it’s been my experience too that the people, who took ant-racism very seriously and went on the marches and demos against racist and Nazi organisations were left-wingers like Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in Momentum. And there are all too genuine Nazi organisations in Britain today. One is National Action, which openly spouts conspiracist nonsense about the Jews trying to destroy the White race using Blacks, and whose members will make the Nazi salute and chant ‘Sieg heil!’ during their rallies. There’s also a miniscule National Socialist Party, who are exactly what their name suggests they are: Nazis. A few years ago there was a furore about their meeting in a pub near Bristol. Somehow the organisation had managed to book it to hold a meeting. I think they used a false name. On the day, they were there in full Nazi regalia, complete with flags. The neighbours were disgusted, properly made complaints, and the whole incident ended up on the local news. This included photos and footage of the event, showing the flags. And they were the proper, vile thing.

Jackie Walker Accused Yet Again of Anti-Semitism

Unfortunately, members of the Blairite Labour party hierarchy don’t seem to have got the message that Momentum and its members aren’t anti-Semites, and that the real threat is showing itself quite openly in the shape of National Action and the National Socialist Party. According to a story in today’s Guardian, Jackie Walker, the vice-chair of Momentum has faced calls to resign after she made ‘insensitive’ comments at a Labour party training day on anti-Semitism. She ‘incorrectly’ criticised Holocaust Memorial Day for commemorating only Jews, and is quoted as saying

“In terms of Holocaust day, wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust day was open to all people who experienced holocaust?”

She also took issue with the definition of anti-Semitism used at the training day, and is also accused of questioning the need for Jewish organisations, including schools to have so much security to protect them from attack. Walker has made a statement denying she said this, and apologising for any offence she might have given.

Definitions of Anti-Semitism

Mike in his comments on the case begins by stating that he also appeared at an event marking Holocaust Memorial Day, where he read a piece about the Shoah by the German playwright Peter Weiss. He states he makes an attempt at defining anti-Semitism in his book, but also gives a 7-point definition of it by David Schneider. Roughly summed up, this says that you might by an anti-Semite if you don’t make a distinction between Jews and Israel, hold Jews responsible for all the atrocities committed by Israel unless they explicitly say otherwise, and believe in the stupid conspiracy theories about the Jews having control of capitalism, the government and the BBC in order to control the world. Mr Schneider says of the latter that if they have control of the Beeb, no-one’s yet told him. Which makes me wonder if David Schneider is the actor and comedian, who has been a frequent star on a number of shows, such as the spoof news programme, The Day Today, and Alan Partridge, where he played the TV host’s boss.

Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone Not Anti-Semites

Mike also makes the point that Naz Shah’s suspension has been lifted, and only one of the tweets on which the accusation against her were made could reasonably be construed as anti-Semitic. As for Red Ken, they are based on ignorance of history and taking the original comments out of context. He also makes the point that Rhea Wolfson had her bid to join the NEC voted down by her constituency Labour party by Jim Murphy, because she was a member of Momentum, who were anti-Semites. Mike makes the point that it’s amazing how people could believe that an organisation full of anti-Semites would want to see Mrs Wolfson, a Jew, promoted to the party’s governing body.

Mike’s absolutely right. They wouldn’t. The real, Nazi anti-Semites are all about keeping Jews as far away from power as possible, following all that rubbish they believe of the Jewish conspiracy to destroy the Aryan race.

Wilhelm Marr and Anti-Semitism

If you want a short definition of anti-Semitism, try the one from the person, who first coined the term in the 19th century, Wilhelm Marr. Marr was an anti-Semite, and the founder of the Bund der Antisemiten, the League of Anti-Semites, if I recall correctly. He defined anti-Semitism as the hatred of Jews simply for being Jews, regardless of Judaism as a religion. The stupid conspiracy theories that have grown up around them are basically an elaboration of that, roughly based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious forgery drawn up by the Tsarist secret police, the Okhrana, to persuade Nicholas II to persecute the Jews more savagely in the Russian Empire.

Why Security in Britain?

Mike also makes the point that the Groan’s article does give the definition of anti-Semitism that was made at the event. He also says he is confused about the need for Jewish organisations here to have high security, as the reason given was the example of the attack in Toulouse. This is in France, and the French government has been criticised for failing to protect its citizens, not just Jews. And he also makes another, very good point, that Mrs Walker’s accusers have also shown their insensitivity in not considering the harm they’re doing.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/29/another-anti-semitism-row-that-completely-misses-the-point/

Another Politically Motivated Smear

I think Mike’s right when he observes that the paper doesn’t supply the definition of anti-Semitism the party used at its training day. In fact, I think there is a lot that this article isn’t telling us. And it seems to me that this is yet another attempt to smear Mrs Walker as an anti-Semite, which is itself part of a wider campaign to purge politically liberal Jews from positions of leadership as part of a Neocon agenda.

Israel’s Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinians

If you remember, Mrs Walker was accused of anti-Semitism previously, because she had dared to criticise Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and state, quite correctly, that other peoples had also experienced their own holocausts. Both of these statements are exactly true. Israel has been and is pursuing a policy of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians. It has been abundantly documented by courageous Jewish scholars like Ilan Pappe and Norman Finkelstein. I even found a copy of Pappe’s book on it, whose title calls it what it is, in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham.

The Holocaust and Other Genocides

As for other nations also having suffered their own genocides, the great Afro-American historian and one of the founders of the modern civil rights movement, W.E.B. Dubois, stated that the transatlantic slave trade had caused ‘a holocaust in central Africa’. The extent of the devastation inflicted on the African population by the slave trade is a subject of debate, and many historians of the slave trade would take issue with Dubois’ statement. But nevertheless, that is how many Blacks see the slave trade and its effects on Africa, not unjustifiably. And the campaigns to exterminate the First Nations of North and South America, beginning with the genocide of the Taino in the Caribbean, by European settlers is notorious. If you want to read about the genocide of the Amerindians in America, try the classic Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. There have also been campaign to wipe out Aboriginal Australians following the British invasion of that country, and a long string of other crimes against humanity, including the ethnic butchery following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans, culminating in the Armenian Massacres and the Day of the Sword against the Christian population in the Empire’s Middle Eastern territories. Not to mention the horrific persecutions after the Second World War, such as the invasion of East Timor, Pol Pot in Cambodia, the Rwandan genocide and Bosnia during the break up of the former Yugoslavia.

The Guardian article states that

Holocaust Memorial Day is intended to commemorate all victims of the Nazi Holocaust, and other genocides, including atrocities in Bosnia and Rwanda.

Neocon Attacks against Jews Universalising the Holocaust

I wonder if that attitude was being seriously followed at the Labour party training day. It’s certainly the attitude of the older, mainstream Jewish organisations, but more recently this universalising of the Holocaust has come under attack from the Neocon right. For example, one of the rightwing Canadian blogs is Five Feet of Fury, run by Kathy Shaidle. Shaidle’s blog is pro-privatisation. She attacked the 2012 British Olympic opening ceremony because it celebrate the NHS, which she and the other Republicans and High Tories desperately, and openly wanted to see sold off. She was rabidly anti-Muslim, and despite indigenous Canadians. She also hated Bernie Farber, the head of the main Jewish organisation in Canada, and those she derided as ‘official Jews’. In one of her rants against Mr Farber, she attacked him precisely because he had universalised the Holocaust. This was at the time of the Darfur massacres. Mr Farber and his organisation had launched a ‘Shabbat for Darfur’. This was a ‘sabbath’ in the sense of a day of fasting and prayer. Mr Farber and the other organisers explicitly connected the genocide now being suffered by the people of Darfur, with that of other victims of similarly massacres, and the Holocaust of the Jewish people in the Third Reich.

For most decent people, whether they’re Jews or not, Mr Farber’s stance was noble and honourable. He represented a victimised, persecuted people, standing up on behalf of all victimised peoples, to demand an end to the genocide of yet another suffering people. Shaidle, however, had nothing but scorn for Mr Farber, his organisation, and proposed Shabbat. She was outraged that the Holocaust was to be universalised. In her opinion, it was an event unique to the Jewish people, and should be regarded as such. She also sneered at Mr Farber and his organisation for concentrating on the threat to Jews from White Nazi organisations, and ignoring, or downplaying, the threat from militant Islam. The blog is also vehemently Zionist, regularly attacking the Palestinians as terrorists, and defending Israel’s annexation and occupation of the West Bank.

I don’t know how many readers Shaidle’s blog has. Possibly not many, but I don’t think she was alone in her views. The Tories over here definitely want to privatise the health service, as very many people have pointed out, including Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis in NHS-SOS, and I’ve also written my own pamphlet about it, Privatisation: Killing the NHS, which is available at Lulu. Similar attacks on Islam and the mainstream Jewish organisations have also been made by Ezra Levant, a journalist and presenter on a minor right-wing cable TV station in Canada.

The Manipulation of the Commemoration of the Holocaust by Zionism

One of Prof. Norman Finkelstein’s most controversial works is his The Holocaust Industry. Prof. Finkestein wrote it a few years ago, tracing the emergence of an industry exploiting the memory of this most heinous crime from Israel’s victories over the Arabs at the end of the 1960s. He makes the case that the Holocaust has been deliberately exploited by Zionist organisations as a way of creating public support for Israel. I’ll make it very plain here to avoid any misunderstanding: Professor Finkelstein is not a Holocaust denier. He is the son of parents, who managed to survive the horror. Hence, I think, his outrage at the way its memory has been exploited for narrow political gains and the ethnic cleansing of another people.

Using the Holocaust to Justify the Occupation of Palestine

There was an example of the kind of political exploiting Prof. Finkelstein describes about a week ago. Counterpunch wrote an article criticising Binyamin Netanyahu, after he made a speech declaring that he would not halt or recall the colonisation of the West Bank by Israeli settlers, because this would violate their civil rights. And he, or one of his cabinet, invoked the Holocaust once again to justify Israel’s colonisation of the Occupied Territories. It’s disgusting to see one of the most horrific crimes of the 20th century used in a piece of twisted rhetoric to justify the persecution and dispossession of another people.

This is what makes me suspicious that there is more behind this latest smear against Jackie Walker. Despite the Groan’s protestations, there are Zionists, who would like the Shoah seen as an exclusively Jewish tragedy and resent its extension to cover the victims of other, similar crimes against humanity. It looks to me that Mrs Walker has been censured, precisely because she did universalise it and has criticised its political use by the Israel lobby.

Jackie Walker’s Black, Jewish and Anti-Racist Heritage and Activism

As for her ‘insensitivity’, I give that the same about of credence I give to the allegations against her of anti-Semitism. Mrs Walker is half-Jewish. Her mother was a Black civil rights activist, who was thrown out of America because of her activism. Her father was a Russian Jew, and so therefore probably knew more than most about real anti-Semitic persecution. She has made it clear that she has always fought against racism and anti-Semitism, and with her heritage, I do not think there are any grounds for doubting her at all. She has also stated that her partner is Jewish, and said in an interview that their family had not spoken to her after the allegations were made. This must clearly have caused her distress, so I think her accusers should be called up on their insensitivity and the emotional distress they have caused her.

The Jews and Other Victims of the Nazis

As for Walker’s own ‘insensitivity’, from the sound of it, she asked a reasonable question at a time when at least some Zionists are trying to deny the universalisation of the Holocaust, and manipulate its memory to support their own ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. It’s a disgusting attitude that insults the memory of those who suffered and perished in the Shoah. And it wasn’t just Jews, who perished in the Nazi camps. The Roma – the Gypsies, who are even now persecuted in central and eastern Europe, were also targeted for extermination by the Nazis as untermenschen, subhumans. As also were the Slavic peoples of eastern Europe – the Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Czechs and Slovaks, who were to be reduced to illiterate peasants supplying the Reich with agricultural goods, when not forced off their homelands for German colonisation and worked to death as slave labourers. And historians of the Reich have pointed out that the Nazis began their extermination campaign against the Jews with their odious Aktion T4 ‘euthanasia’ programme against the disabled. I was taught at school that altogether 11 1/2 million people died in the Nazi camps. The majority of these – six million – were Jews, but in addition to these victims there were 5 1/2 others, who included not just the aforementioned peoples, but also political prisoners – Socialists, trade unionists, Communists, anti-Nazi Conservatives, such as Konrad Adenauer, West Germany’s first president after the War. It certainly should not be out of the question why these victims are also not given their due commemoration along with the Jews, with whom they were enslaved and perished.

More Hatred against Muslims than Jews in France and Britain?

I also don’t think Mrs Walker was at all out of order when she asked why Jewish organisations, including schools, needed so much high security. I am not complacent about anti-Semitic hate crime against them. The threat of Daesh is very real, as is the murderous buffoons of National Action and the National Socialist Party and related sects. But if the situation in France is comparable to that of England, then Jews are much less likely to suffer hate crime from mainstream British society than Muslims. One of the reasons the French government was keener to protect Muslims from hate crime than Jews, was because more French people considered the Jews to be French than felt that way about Muslims. In polls, only about 5 per cent of French people said that they did not consider Jews really French. While that’s clearly troubling, it’s also somewhat reassuring as it says that 95 per cent of all French people consider Jews to be French. The number of French people, who don’t consider Muslims to be French, is much higher. My guess is the situation in Britain is probably similar, and that more mainstream Brits consider Jews to be properly British than they consider Muslims.

Muslims Also Victims of Islamist Terrorism

Al-Qaeda and Daesh also do not limit themselves to killing only Jews. They kill and maim all Brits, including Muslims. That was abundantly shown in the 7/7 bombings. It was also shown earlier this week, when a young man, who had fallen under their influence, was found guilty of murdering the imam at his local mosque. The imam performed healing rituals using amulets. While this is common in parts of Islam, it is condemned by Daesh. The man was described as ‘self-radicalised’, and had come under their influence through the net. Motivated by the Islamic States sectarian intolerance towards other Muslims, he attacked and killed the imam. Just like Daesh are butchering other Muslims in Iraq and Syria, for having the temerity to hold different views about what it means to be a member of the ‘umma, the Muslim community. Muslims are as at risk from their attacks as the rest of British society.

High Security Imprisoning British Jews and Black Americans?

I think also think that Mrs Walker’s question was justified following remarks about the amount of security around Black schools in America. The left-wing internet news and politics show, The Young Turks, had a piece the other day comparing Black American schools with prisons because of the amount of security. Mrs Walker, as a woman of colour, may well have been worried that the Jewish community was also going to suffer from the same imprisonment behind walls of security designed to protect them. After all, the article states that she was particularly worried about schools, such as that attended by her daughter. While the reasons for the security are different for Black and Jewish communities – its their to protect Jews from attack by outsiders, while it’s present in Black schools to protect the children from the violent criminality that plagues many poor communities – Mrs Walker may well have been worried that the sociological and psychological effect would be the same. If that is the case, then she asked a reasonable question with only the best intentions at heart.

Jackie Walker Smeared; They Owe Us an Explanation

It is therefore my belief that the truly wronged party in this instance is Mrs Walker. This seems to be yet another attempt to smear her character as part of a campaign by the Israel lobby against the country’s critics. As I said, it looks like there is a concerted neocon campaign to make sure that only Zionists have ownership of the memorialisation of the Holocaust, to the exclusion of more liberal voices from the rest of the Jewish community. And I can understand Mrs Walker’s opposition to seeing the Jewish community and its schoolchildren walled off from everyone else behind high security. I feel dismayed by the amount of security schools generally have to maintain, with locked gates, though I well appreciate the need to protect our young people from those, who would do them harm.

I think rather than Mrs Walker being queried and investigated for anti-Semitism and ‘insensitivity’, it is the anonymous organisers of this training day, who deserve to give the rest of the Labour party, both Jews and gentiles, an explanation.

For Netanyahu’s grotesque invocation of ‘human rights’ to justify the ongoing colonisation of the West Bank, see the Counterpunch article ‘The Human Rights of the Settler’, by Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini, at http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/09/13/the-human-rights-of-the-settler/

Solidarity Pamphlet on Bolsheviks’ Destruction of Workers’ Control in Russian Revolution

September 24, 2016

bolsheviks-workers-control

Maurice Brinton, The Bolsheviks and Workers’ Control/ 1917-1921/ The State and Counter-Revolution (London: Solidarity 1970).

I picked this short book – 89 pages – in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham. Solidarity were a libertarian Communist group that believed that the workers should operate and manage the means of production. In their statement of beliefs at the back of the book, they state in point 9 ‘We do not accept the view that by itself the working class can only achieve a trade union consciousness.’ (p. 89). This is a direct contradiction of Lenin’s belief, firmly expressed in his 1905 pamphlet, What Is To Be Done?, that the workers could only achieve trade union consciousness, and needed to be led to Socialism by a group of dedicated revolutionaries. The book itself states that it is a work of history, which intends to show how the Bolsheviks betrayed the revolution of 1917 by suppressing the movement for workers’ control in the factories and the workers’, soldiers’ and peasants’ soviets.

The Revolution had begun when Russia’s working people rose up against Tsarism and the Kerensky government that replaced it. They formed factory committees which took over the management of the factories to various degrees in industry, and formed the soviets – councils – of working people across Russia, which formed a parallel system of popular government to that of the duma, the Russian parliament. Communist historiography has presented Lenin as fully behind these developments. He passed a decree stating that ‘workers’ control is established in the factories’ and praised the soviets, proclaiming the slogan, ‘All Power to the Workers’ Soviets’. The conventional historical view states that the workers were in fact unable to run industry, and so the government was forced to reintroduce the entrepreneurs, managers and technicians that the workers had previously turfed out of the factory gates in wheelbarrows.

This pamphlet shows that the opposite was true. From initially supporting them as a bulwark against the return of capitalism, and a necessary precondition for the nationalisation of industry, Lenin turned to active dislike and opposition, but was forced to support them for reasons of expediency. Lenin, Trotsky and their faction in the Bolsheviks really wanted Russian industry to be managed by a state bureaucracy, with a single person in command of individual factories and enterprises. Lenin adopted the slogan to present himself and his faction as fully behind the soviet revolution, while doing everything he could behind the scenes to reduce this to a mere slogan. Their practical strategy for destroying the factory committees involved incorporating them into the trade unions. These had always been under political control in Russia, partly through necessity as for most of the time they were illegal. The Bolsheviks in turn transformed these from popular organisations to campaign for better wages and conditions, to instruments of the Bolshevik party to discipline and organise Russian labour, so that it obeyed the state and the managers. It was the trade unions that set wages and determined working conditions. At the same time as they were being absorbed by the unions, the committees were gradually stripped over their powers until they were finally dissolved following the Kronstadt rebellion, which was intended to restore democracy to the Revolution by overthrowing Bolshevik rule. The Bolsheviks were also actively destroying democracy throughout the system of government and industrial management by gradually removing elections and replacing them with political appointments. As part of this, the trade unions could elect their members to the various Bolshevik political organs, but this became subject to the party’s veto. Candidates elected by the unions not approved by Lenin and his faction could be blocked.

This resulted in the construction of the totalitarian, monolithic Soviet state, while industry saw the removal of workers’ power and the return of the very industrialists and entrepreneurs, who had been overthrown. Indeed, after the failure of authoritarian ‘war communism’, with its forced requisitions of food from the peasantry during the Civil War, 1921 saw the limited return of capitalism itself in the establishment of a private sector as part of the New Economic Policy.

Not all of the Bolsheviks were in favour of this policy, and Lenin, Trotsky and their faction faced bitter opposition from a series of groups and individuals within the party, including Preobrazhensky, Osinsky, Bukharin and Alexandra Kollontai, in the ‘Democratic Centralists’ and ‘Left Communists’. Despite their efforts, theirs was a losing battle and in the end they were fighting a series of rearguard actions to preserve the last vestiges of the factory committees and the autonomy of the trade unions.

Outside the party, the Bolsheviks also faced opposition from anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists, who also wished to preserve the factory committees from attacks from the party and the trade unions. The booklet discusses the increasing mass arrests of these, and the closure of a range of anarchist newspapers and magazines, such as Burevestnik, Anarkhia and Golos Truda (Workers’ Voice). The final demands of the Left Communists for trade union autonomy and its management of industry was also denounced by Lenin as ‘anarcho-syndicalist deviation’.

Apart from its description of the way the Bolsheviks overturned the founding principles of the revolution, supplanting control and management by the workers themselves, with a system of control and management by the party, its functionaries, and returned capitalist businessmen in the name of the workers, the pamphlet’s also interesting for discussing the various literature produced by the revolutionaries and their plans for instituting practical system of workers’ control. For example, the Exploratory Conference of Factory Committees of Petrograd War Industries, convened on April 2nd, 1917, issued the proclamations that

From the Factory Committee should emanate all instructions concerning internal factory organisation (i.e. instructions concerning such mattes as hours of work, wages, hiring and firing, holidays, etc.) The factory manager to be kept notified…

The whole administrative personnel (management at all levels and technicians) is taken on with the consent of the Factory Committee which has to notify the workers of its decisions at mass meetings of the whole factory or through shop committees…

The Factory committee controls managerial activity in the administrative, economic and technical fields … representatives of the Factory Committee must be provided, for information, with all official documents of the management, production budgets and details of all times entering or leaving the factory … (p.2).

The Kharkov Conference of Factory Committees, held on May 29th that same year, declared that the committees should become

organs of the Revolution… aiming at consolidating its victories. The Factory Committees must take over production, protect it, develop it. They must fix wages, look after hygiene, control the technical quality of products, decree all internal factory regulations and determine solutions all conflicts. (p.4).

The Second Conference of Factory Committees of Petrograd, held at the Smolny Institute from the 7th-12th August, also stipulated that

‘All decrees of Factory Committees’ were compulsory ‘for the factory administration as well as for the workers and employees – until such time as those decrees were abolished by the Committee itself, or by the Central Soviet of Factory Committees’. The pamphlet states that

the committees were to meet regularly during working working hours. Meetings were to be held on days designated by the Committees themselves. Members of the Committees were to receive full pay – from the employers – while on Committee business. Notice to the appropriate administrative personnel was to be deemed sufficient to free a member of the Factory Committee from work so that he might fulfil his obligations to the Committee. In the periods between meetings, selected members of the Factory Committees were to occupy premises, within the factory, at which they could receive information from the workers and employees. Factory administrations were to provide funds ‘for the maintenance of the Committees and the conduct of their affairs’. Factory Committees were to have ‘control over the composition of the administration and the right to dismiss all those who could not guarantee normal relations with the workers or who were incompetent for other reasons’. ‘All administrative factory personnel can only into service with the consent of the Factory Committee, which must declare its (sic!) hirings at a General Meeting of all the factory or through departmental or workshop committees. The ‘internal organisation’ of the factory (working time, wages, holidays, etc.) was also to be determined by the Factory Committees. Factory Committees were to have their own press and were ‘to inform the workers and employees of the enterprise concerning their resolutions by posting an announcement in conspicuous place’. (pp. 8-9).

The Wikipedia entry on Solidarity states that the group was always small, but played a disproportionately large role in the industrial disputes of the 1970s and the campaign for workers’ control and management in industry. The system of complete workers’ control set up during the Russian Revolution is far too extreme to be popular in Britain, at least at present and the foreseeable future. Worker’s involvement in management has still been put back on the agenda, even if in a half-hearted way by Theresa May, no doubt as a calculated deception. The pamphlet itself remains a fascinating description of this optimistic movement in Russian revolutionary history, and its betrayal by the Communist party, and is an important corrective to the standard view that workers’ control was fully supported by them.