Posts Tagged ‘Cold War’

Explanation for the Survival of Marxism after the Fall of Communism

October 8, 2021

I think there’s a lot of confusion among people over the reappearance of Marxism in recent social activism. People are wondering how it has managed to survive and revive now after Communism fell so spectacularly around the world in the ’80s and ’90s. I found this interesting explanation in Simon Tormey’s Anti-Capitalism (London: Oneworld Revised Edition 2014). The answer is that there are any number of competing strands of Marxism and Marxist organisations, and the groups that survived had nothing to do with the official communism of the Soviet bloc. In fact they were opposed to it. Tormey writes

‘It may come as a surprise after all we have said about the death of Marxism or communism in chapter 2 to begin a consideration of the radical wing of anti-capitalism with Marxist groups. If Marxism is ‘dead’, then why are we looking at it? Attentive readers of the relevant chapter will have noted that one of the key distinctions drawn in the exposition was between ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ politics, that is between national politics , the politics of electioneering, political parties and voting, and the subterranean politics that began to proliferate after 1968. What we noted there was that official Marxism – the Marxism of the Communist Bloc – went into decline after that point and eventually succumbed in all but a handful of countries after the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. China, the most powerful of the remaining communist regimes, appears increasingly embarrassed about its Marxist-Leninist heritage , and rightly so given its enthusiasm for capitalism. On the other hand, unofficial Marxism -the Marxism that vehemently criticised the Soviet Union, the Communist Bloc as well as the West – has never gone away. Indeed as is evident, Marxist groups have been amongst the most important and most visible at anti-capitalist protests, particularly in Europe. Marxist writers such as Alex Callinicos, Slavoj Zizek, David Harvey and John Holloway have offered compelling analysis of contemporary society as well as prescribing programmes and strategies for an anti-capitalist resistance. Many Marxist groups are well organised and well-furnished with the means of making their presence felt, whether it be in the preparation of banners and placards, in the printing of posters, leaflets and newspapers, or in organising carnivals, festivals, summer schools and teach-ins. Marxists have been prominent in organising anti-capitalist protests and initiatives’. (p. 103).

The following passages also explain that Marxism’s survival isn’t just due to these groups’ organisational abilities, but to Marxism’s considerable intellectual power as a system of thought explaining and opposing capitalism.

There seems to be a suspicion on the right that the appearance of radical ideologies, such as that supporting Black Lives Matter and the trans movement, are somehow a foreign plot to weaken the West in preparation for an invasion. The right-wing YouTuber Ex-Army Paz 49 says in one of his videos that the trans ideology is being promoted precisely as such a strategy, but we don’t know by whom. China, as one of the last remaining Communist nations and rising global superpower, is a frequent target of some of these suspicions.

But I doubt this is true for the above reason. The Marxism that has survived would be as opposed to China’s weird mixture of Maoism and capitalism and the other former communist regimes as it is to western capitalism. And while Putin certainly has no qualms about funding and encouraging other political movements, even including domestic Fascists, if it will advance his aims, I doubt he would want to encourage the trans ideology. Post-Communist society in eastern Europe is very traditional regarding gender roles, despite the official insistence on sexual equality under Communism. The problem for anyone like Putin or the Chinese using the trans and gay movement to weaken their enemies’ masculinity and military strength, is that these ideologies cross political borders. And as Putin’s government has for decades been very intolerant towards gays, Hungary has passed increasingly stringent legislation against the teaching of homosexuality and the other week the Chinese government ruled that they didn’t want ‘sissy’ men on television, it would be dangerous for these regimes to encourage it in the West. Quite apart from the fact that gay rights and the transgender ideology can be shown to be homegrown western intellectual products, with no input, as far as I’m aware, from the former Soviet bloc and the regimes which have succeeded it.

The fear about foreign powers conspiring to bring about a Communist revolution or foreign takeover of the West is just Cold War paranoia, persisting long after the Cold War should have gone.

Were the Gaitskellites Willing Collaborators with the CIA During the Cold War?

October 5, 2021

Over the years Lobster has published a series of well-researched, properly sourced pieces on the infiltration of the trade unions and western socialist parties by the CIA during the Cold War in order to combat any communist influence. There is ample evidence that the deep state and the intelligence agencies were very much engaged in a covert war on the left. The magazine has described the propaganda put out by IRD, a department of the British government linked to the intelligence agencies. This smeared left-wing Labour MPs, like Tony Benn, as communists, Soviet stooges and IRA sympathisers. In his ‘View from the Bridge’ column, main man Robin Ramsay has put up a piece suggesting that Rita Hinden, the founder of the Fabian Society’s Colonial Bureau and the editor of Socialist Commentary, a Gaitskellite magazine, was connect to the CIA. She may have been tasked to give a bad review to a piece by George Padmore, who was suspected of still having communist sympathies. The piece runs

“The CIA and the Labour Party
In Susan Williams’ majestic White Mischief there is a little snippet about Rita Hinden, founder of the Fabian Society’s Colonial Bureau in 1940 and later editor of the Gaitskellite magazine Socialist Commentary.
‘Criticism of [George] Padmore had appeared in Encounter long before his death. A scathing review of his 1956 book Pan-Africanism or Communism? described it as “infuriating”; it classified Padmore among
those “who have revolted against Communist conduct and cynicism, but can never free themselves from Communist ideology”. The review was written by Rita Hinden, who was carefully selected for the task. Michael Josselson, the CIA agent who had set up the Congress for Cultural Freedom, had told Irving Kristol, the coeditor of Encounter, that he should run a review “by one of ‘our’ people”; elsewhere, Josselson described Hinden as “one of us”.’ (Williams, p. 147)
Which looks awfully like Hinden was CIA and is another little piece of support for the thesis that the Gaitskellites were, in effect, a CIA operation within the Labour Party.”

See: https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster82/lob82-view-from-the-bridge.pdf?cache=3

The book, White Mischief, which is reviewed elsewhere in that issue of Lobster, describes the extensive covert CIA operations in Africa around the time the former colonies were gaining their independence in what Williams’ describes as a colonisation.

Hugh Gaitskell was the right-wing leader of the Labour party, who decades before Tony Blair tried to have Clause IV dropped from the party’s constitution. There’s rumour and speculation that Keef Stalin is in league with British intelligence to destroy the Labour party, or socialism within the Labour party. Stalin’s very establishment career, his membership of the elite Trilateral Commission and the history of such deep state operations by US and British intelligence against the Labour left, make this all too plausible.

Afghanistan Withdrawal – the Conspiracy Theories Start

September 2, 2021

For some the catastrophic departure of the western armed forces from Afghanistan has been almost unimaginable. This is not surprising, as successive governments have been telling us for years that the Taliban had been successfully contained and victory was only a few months away. They find it particularly incomprehensible that the US and western armed forces were so unprepared for the Taliban’s reconquest of the country, that President Biden has left 73 military planes and $80 billion worth of kit behind in the scramble to get out. One of these is the mad right-wing YouTuber and internet radio host, Alex Belfield. In the video below, Belfield wonders if all that military equipment has been deliberately left behind to be taken and used by the Taliban, in order to provide the pretext for more wars. He sees this as part of an overall strategy by out governments to keep us afraid. One of these ruses has been, so he argues, the Coronavirus. He seems to follow here the line of some of the sceptics that Covid doesn’t present a real threat, but has just been used by the government in order to justify a totalitarian seizure of power through the lockdown.

Belfield’s been sceptical about the Coronavirus and the lockdown almost from the beginning. His argument is usually that the lockdown is doing more harm than good to the economy and to the health, mental and physical, of the British people. He’s right in that clearly people’s businesses and wellbeing is suffering, but is completely and utterly wrong about lifting the lockdown and letting the disease take its course and carry off whoever it may.

But I can’t say that his paranoia about the US leaving behind so much military equipment is unwarranted. The American and British public were miss-sold the wars in the Middle East. We were told we were freeing Afghanistan from a brutal theocratic tyranny and defending America and ourselves from future terrorist attacks. We weren’t. The troops were sent in to secure the country so that an oil pipeline could be built, one which Bush’s administration had been in talks with the Taliban to build. The Taliban had pulled out, and so the NeoCons were looking for an excuse to invade. This came along in the shape of 9/11.

Ditto Iraq. We were informed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that he was in league with Osama bin Laden. He wasn’t. Hussein had led a largely secular regime, which was cordially hated by bin Laden and his Islamist fanatics. We were told that the invasion would liberate the Iraqi people from Hussein, who really was a tyrant. But the invasion wasn’t about granting a grateful Iraqi people democracy. It was about Aramco, the joint Saudi-American oil company seizing the country’s oil reserves and the western oil companies grabbing its oil industry. Other multinationals, such as Haliburton, which employed various members of Bush’s family and cabinet colleagues, seized its state industries. Meanwhile the country descended into sectarian violence and chaos, the secular state and the feminism it promoted vanished, and the private military contractors – read: mercenaries – hired as part of the peacekeeping forces ran amok with drug and prostitution rings. They also amused themselves by shooting ordinary Iraqis for sport.

It’s been said that America is a ‘warfare state’. That is, its military-industrial complex is so pervasive and powerful that its entire economy is geared to and depends on war. It was suggested years ago in one of the publications of the old Left Book Club, as I recall, that this is deliberate. American political ideology rejects Keynsianism, the economic doctrine that maintains that the state should interfere in the economy through welfare spending, public works and so on to stimulate it. American political culture, on the other hand, rejects this in favour of laissez-faire. But the American economy still needs government intervention, and the only way the American state can do this is through war and military spending. Hence the continual need to find new wars to fight. First it was the Cold War, then the War on Terror.

I tend to believe in ‘cock-up’ rather than conspiracy – that the world is the way it is because of the incompetence of the authorities, rather than that there is some overwhelming and all-pervasive conspiracy against us. This does not rule out the fact that real conspiracies by the intelligence agencies, big business and various covert political groups really do occur. My guess is that the armaments left behind in Afghanistan are there as a result of incompetence rather than a deliberate plot to produce more war and international instability for the benefit of the war profiteers.

But after the lies that have sustained two decades and more of war and occupation in the Middle East, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was true.

Is the Catastrophic Withdrawal in Afghanistan due to Failure of Intelligence Services

September 2, 2021

Mike has been casting his bleak and jaundiced eye over Dominic Raab’s testimony about the current debacle in Afghanistan, and has asked a very serious question: has Raab just told parliament and the British people that our intelligences services have been outwitted by a bunch of desert-dwelling bandits? That’s the conclusion that follows from Raab’s statement that the government was informed that the Taliban couldn’t take power this year. Mike writes

This will upset the racists and Islamophobes.

Foreign Secretary (by the skin of his teeth) Dominic Raab was interrogated on the fall of Afghanistan by Parliament’s Foreign Affairs committee yesterday (September 1) – and said information provided by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) had told him the Taliban were unlikely to take control of Kabul at all in 2021, even after international forces including those from the UK had left.

Well, they got that badly wrong, didn’t they!

The JIC is a civil service body comprising senior officials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Defence and United Kingdom Armed Forces, Home Office, Department for International Development, HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office.

It oversees the work of the Secret Intelligence Service, the Security Service, GCHQ and Defence Intelligence.

Are we to take it from Raab that none of these organisations were intelligent enough to notice that there were real problems with the Afghan government and military that UK forces were leaving behind?

Is he really saying that the UK’s entire intelligence community was outsmarted by a gang of desert-dwelling bandits?

The plan was to leave Afghanistan defended by its own National Army – but we have discovered that this organisation was badly-trained (by organisations including the British Army, it seems) and riddled with corruption. Was Raab telling us that nobody knew?

After the United States broke the Doha Agreement’s May 1 deadline for leaving the country, the Taliban simply walked into Kabul and took over. Yes, This Writer is oversimplifying, but the amount of resistance provided by the Afghan National Army was minimal – and UK intelligence should have known.

Indeed, it is unbelievable that our intelligence agencies did not.

Still, there it is: Raab said the “central assessment” provided to ministers was that Afghan security was likely to suffer “steady deterioration” after US troops pulled out last month, but Kabul was “unlikely” to fall this year.

That assessment was wrong, and now we need to know who made it, what information they used to make it, and what information they ignored. Then we’ll need to see evidence of reforms to the JIC, to make it more intelligent.

If Raab is going to blame other government organisations for the incompetence we have seen over Afghanistan, then we need to see him make improvements – or we’ll face more humiliations, possibly involving large-scale loss of life, in the near future.

There’s a saying that goes ‘military intelligence is a contradiction in terms’. And sadly the argument that the current debacle in Afghanistan may have been caused by the incompetence of the British intelligence agencies will be all too familiar to readers of the parapolitics/ conspiracy magazine, Lobster. The mag was set up in mid-1980s on the premise that British intelligence, as well as those of the US and other western countries, was out of control and incompetent. This was based on the covert activities of the British state against the left, the disinformation campaign in Northern Ireland and the way decent politicians like Tony Benn and others were smeared as IRA supporters and sympathisers, and the way the same intelligence agencies have never been subject to official critical scrutiny for their subversion of domestic democracy and their failures. The reports compiled for Margaret Thatcher about the Middle East and elsewhere were so poor that the Leaderene never read them. I go the impression that they were also seriously unprepared for 9/11. After the end of the Cold War, it seems that Britain got rid of its Middle East experts and the security services instead decided that they were now going into corporate espionage.

The 7/7 bombings also caught the security services unawares. They stated that this was to due to failures on their part and asked for a massive increase in funding. This was automatically granted, but Blair’s administration did not ask how this money was going to be spent, what restructuring was needed or indeed exercise any real oversight over the security services. They simply accepted the intelligence agencies that parliamentary scrutiny could cause of breach of security and politely looked away and let them get on with doing whatever they wanted.

Not that the American intelligence agencies are necessarily any better. The CIA became notorious for its ‘health alteration squads’, or gangs of assassins. The Americans were also taken by surprise by the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The closest they got was a report by the CIA stating that the Ayatollah Khomeini would return to that ancient land to lead a Gandhi-like campaign of passive resistance. If only!

Unfortunately, it is only too plausible that the Taliban’s rapid seizure of power and our consequent scramble to leave is due to colossal errors by our intelligence services. Quite apart from the negligence and sheer incompetence of Boris and his wretched crew.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2021/09/02/did-raab-really-tell-us-the-uks-intelligence-agencies-were-outsmarted-by-arab-terrorists/

The Almaz – The Soviet Union’s Armed Spy Space Station

June 26, 2021

This is another fascinating little video from the military historian Mark Felton. I’ve put up a couple of his videos demolishing the stories about Nazi UFOs and space/time travel. But some real aerospace and military technology comes very close to Science Fiction. In this video, he talks about the Almaz armed spy stations launched by the Soviet Union in the 1970s. They were manned spacecraft, designed to photograph NATO military targets during the tense days of the Cold War. They were launched under the cover of a civilian space programme, Salyut. And to protect them from western attack, each station was armed with a rapid fire aircraft gun. It’s an idea close to the Bond film, Moonraker, in which Bond tackles Hugo Drax and his minions aboard their own space station.

The Almaz, ‘Diamond’, stations consisted of three sections. There was the main, piloted station module, a cargo section for resupply, and a launch and return craft. The stations were launched using a Proton rocket, and carried a two-three man crew, in space for 20 to 30 days before returning to Earth and being replaced by the next crew. They were armed with 25 mm Rikhtor guns, a modified version of the tail canon used on the Tupolev Tu-22 Blinder Russian bomber. The Russians were afraid that vibrations from the canon might damage the spacecraft, and so arranged a test firing. Salyut 3 (Almaz 2) was due to come to the end of its life in July 1974, and so was selected as a suitable test vehicle. After the last crew left on the 19th of that month, the station was remotely operated so that it targeted and shot down a defunct Soviet satellite. The Almaz station, the satellite, and the spent rounds were all burned up when they re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere afterwards. To date, Russia is the only country that has fired a weapon in space, but this may change.

I remember the Salyut space programme. It was always presented as just civilian research into living in space, and people were impressed by the lengths of time the Russians were able successfully to keep crews in orbit. However, these achievements were never as spectacular or interesting as the Moon landings. Now it’s been revealed that they were military spy missions, a fact that has almost certainly been revealed as a consequence of the Fall of Communism and the end of the Cold War.

It’s not just with the Bond film Moonraker that the Almaz stations have a similarity. In Kubrick’s and Clarke’s classic SF film, 2001, the world is on the brink of a nuclear war. After the first section, which shows a group of primitive hominids being led to intelligence by the black monolith on the prehistoric Earth, the film cuts to space, showing various satellites gliding in orbit while the Orion space shuttle makes it complex maneuvres to dock with the wheel-like space station. Although their purpose isn’t obvious, as Kubrick didn’t want people to think his film was repeating the themes of his Cold War nuclear satire, Dr Strangelove, these satellites are actually orbiting nuclear weapons platforms. Real killer satellites like them, but using ‘pop-up’ lasers to destroy nuclear missiles, were designed as part of Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defence Initiative, or ‘Star Wars’ programme. There have been a number of books written about possible future wars in space, such as The Shape of Wars to Come, and a year or so ago former president Donald Trump called for the creation of an American space force. Which I think has provided the subject matter for a comedy on Netflix or one of the other streaming channels.

The arming of the Almaz stations shows how terrifyingly close the threat of war in space is to reality. I hope that for the sake of the world we manage to halt the militarisation of space and keep space exploration and, hopefully, colonisation, peaceful. Although this may be difficult given rising tensions between the West, Russia and China.

The Satanic Rites of Glossop Tories

May 29, 2021

Ho ho! We suspected as much! People as evil as Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings, Iain Duncan Smith and Esther McVile have to be in league with the forces of darkness. Now there’s the proof that at least one local Conservative club has had truck with the Evil One. ‘Cause archaeologists dug up the occult image they were using, as well as the remains of candlewax, chicken bones and other paraphernalia from their diabolical ceremonies.

A friend of mine helps run a psychic research society. Unlike the ghost hunters you see on TV, who every week seem to encounter real, unquiet spirits and run around screaming that they’re possessed, his organisation is very serious about investigating the paranormal scientifically. Quite a few of them have backgrounds in the medicine and the sciences. There is a very sizable academic literature on parapsychology and the proper investigation of paranormal events, including the proper scientific protocols to rule out misperception, fraud and false results. The paranormal is now regarded by very many people as something as a joke, but it was taken very seriously at one time. The founders of the British Society for Psychical Research included some of the most prominent politicians, academics and scientists of the 19th century.

As they’re unable to meet in person due to lockdown restriction, my friend’s been arranging a series of Zoom talks about the paranormal. He asked me if I’d like to give one. I agreed, and chose the archaeology of magic as the talk’s topic. There’s been a revival of interest in the history of magic and witchcraft by historians since the 1960s. This was pioneered in the 1960s and ’70s by French historians, who wanted to investigate the ‘mentalites’ – the mental worldview – of previous ages. Interest in witchcraft and the witch craze of the 16th and 17th is immense, because of the parallels between them and the persecution of minorities by the horrific totalitarianisms of the 20th century – Nazism, Fascism and Stalinist Communism – as well as parallels to the Cold War and ‘reds under the bed’. They’re also investigated because of what they say about these centuries attitudes towards women. Feminists are thus particularly interested, including activists who believe that the witches weren’t servants of Satan, but female adherents of an ancient mother goddess cult. Historians are also interested in witchcraft because it marks the transition from the enchanted world of the Middle Ages, when the universe was occupied by angels, demons, fairies and magicians, to secular modernity and the rationalism of the 18th century. And finally there’s the modern occult revival, which began in the 19th century, which has been particularly investigated by Dr Ronald Hutton of Bristol University.

Archaeologists have been rather late to the party. I think this is partly because archaeologist tended to identify anything with a vaguely supernatural use as ‘ritual’, rather than religious. There was an attitude that archaeologists could not reconstruct the religious ideas of past societies from their material remains, although in the case of temples and shrines, that’s clearly not the case. But it can be difficult without textual information. Also, many archaeologists didn’t want the sensationalism that came with the words ‘magic’ and ‘supernatural’. The first major book on the subject was Ralph Merrifield’s The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic. The kinds of items and remains investigated by archaeologists as magic include human and animal remains buried under houses, possibly as foundation sacrifices, charms and amulets, curse tablets, witch posts – carved posts in houses to stop witches or the walking dead entering – witch dolls and bottles, as well as items of clothing like shoes also left behind walls in houses. One of the books I’ve been using is The Materiality of Magic, edited by Ceri Houlbrook and Natalie Armitage (Oxbow: 2015). This is a collection of papers on archaeology and magic that came out of an interdisciplinary course run by the University of Manchester.

One of these papers, by A.J.N.W. Prag, ‘The Little Mannie with his Daddy’s Horns’, recounts how Manchester museum acquired a devil figure – so they thought – in the 1970s. The museum was running an exhibition of Celtic heads, and the cleaner at the local Tory club in Hollingworth had discovered one when she was cleaning the cellar. The museum experts came down, examined it, and found the remains left from the last time it was used. Which was apparently in 1916 to benefit the troops at the front. The museum quickly arranged to purchase it from her, partly because they were afraid that Satanists, especially American, would get wind of it. However, after they acquired it, their staff suffered a series of accidents. People who hadn’t had a car accident in their life suddenly scratched both sides of their vehicles, one worker cut his head open and then managed to lock the keys in the car of the colleague who took him to hospital. Eventually it got to the point where no-one really wanted to touch, until one of the women took to soothing it physically. But there was a further surprise when they were about to put it on display. A visiting expert on Africa told them that it wasn’t actually Celtic, but African. Specifically, it was a nomoli figure from the Mende people of Sierra Leone. This raises the question how such an exotic item found its way to a Tory club near Glossop. The paper speculates that it may have been brought to Manchester by one of the Jesuits involved in the exorcism of the possessed nuns at the 17th century French convent, which formed the basis for the Aldous Huxley book, The Devils of Loudoun, and the Ken Russell movie, The Devils, with Oliver Reed. It’s possible that the image, brought to the convent by a missionary clergyman, may have been at the heart of the accusations of witchcraft.

The idea of the local Tories practising their Satanic rites sounds like something from Last of the Summer Wine. Back in the 1980s there was an episode in which Sid and his wife at the local cafe were catering for a Masonic-style secret society, the Bullocks. As Foggy and Clegg are talking about it downstairs with Sid and Ivy, Compo comes down from their upstairs room where they’re holding their secret ceremony. He calls them a load of pansies, or something similar. When asked, they’re all there stamping their feet like hooves and holding their fingers in front of their heads like horns, chanting ‘Who’s a pretty bullock then, moo, moo? Who’s a pretty bullock then, you, you.’ Later Clegg and Compo embarrass Foggy by stealing their banner and running across one of the hills with it, so it proclaims to all and sundry, ‘Bullocks’.

Is this the kind of thing that’s going on in Tory clubs up and down England, we wonder? I find the whole thing peculiar and funny, and it inspired me to make this painting of Thatcher as the Satanic figure, Baphomet. If you can’t quite make out the text, it’s supposed to read ‘The Satanic Rites of Thatcher’. Hope you enjoy it and don’t have nightmares.

Boris Says There’s No Money to Pay Nurses, But Has Millions to Spend on Atomic Weapons

March 17, 2021

Mike’s put up an excellent and disturbing article today, which shows very clearly where Boris Johnson’s priority’s really are. He’s planning to reverse the proposed reduction of Britain’s nuclear arsenal to 180 warheads and increase it instead to 260. As the peeps on Twitter have pointed out, this is a 45 per cent increase. It’s supposed to be in preparation for a possible terrorist attack using chemical or nuclear weapons by 2030. ‘Russ’, one of the critics of this insane proposal, has asked what Boris intends to do in the event of an attack like 9/11, when the terrorists came from four different countries. Would he launch those missiles at four different capitals? He states ‘Not a chance. Idiotic, dangerous, flashy bullshit.’

The question about 9/11 is a very good one. The vast majority of the plotters came from Saudi Arabia, and there is very, very strong evidence that responsibility for the attack goes all the way to the very top, to country’s present king or his head of intelligence. But George Dubya and Blair didn’t order reprisals against Saudi Arabia. Instead, we invaded Afghanistan. The country was indeed hosting Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the organisation responsible for it. But I’ve also heard that the Afghans denied all knowledge of the plot and offered to surrender bin Laden to the Americans, but were ignored. The American military were planning the possibility of invading Afghanistan several years before in order to control a planned oil pipeline passing through it.

Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was also accused of complicity with 9/11, and Blair was scaremongering about Hussein having weapons of mass destruction that could be launched within three quarters of an hour. This was also a lie. The real reason for the invasion was, once again, oil. The American and Saudi oil companies wanted Iraq’s reserves and its oil industry, while American multinationals also wanted to get their grubby mitts on the country’s state industries. The actual cost to the Iraqi people has been horrendous. The country’s tariff barriers were lowered as part of a plan to create the low tax, free market state the Neo-Cons dreamed about, with a result that every nation dumped their excess goods there, undermining its domestic businesses. The result was soaring bankruptcy and unemployment. The country’s welfare state was destroyed, as was the ability of women to pursue a career in safety outside the home. The country was riven by sectarian violence, and the mercenaries used as part of the invasion force ran amok, running drugs and prostitution rings. They also shot ordinary Iraqis for sport. The Allied forces also used depleted uranium and other highly toxic materials in their armaments, with the result that the country also has a horrendously high rate of birth defects.

And now Boris wants more nukes. Does he intend to use them on further victims of western imperialism, countries deliberately and wrongfully blamed for terrorist attacks just to further western geopolitical and commercial goals? Mike also suggests that it seems to him that Boris is planning to start some kind of war with a country on or near the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and would like to set off a few nukes to show how tough he is.

This is all too possible. The American radical magazine, Counterpunch, published an article a few years ago arguing that the American military was set on a policy of ‘full spectrum dominance’. This meant that it was to remain the world’s only superpower with the ability to destroy or conquer any other country that could threaten it. And it looked very, very much that Hillary Clinton, who claimed to be terribly offended by the treatment of Meghan Markle, was preparing for a war with China. Lobster has also published a very detailed article arguing that, despite the rhetoric and posturing about the Chinese threatening western security interests in the South China Sea, the Chinese actually aren’t any danger at all. But they do threaten the global American commercial power both in practice and at an ideological level. The Americans believe in deregulation and free trade, while in China capitalism is regulated and state-directed. The global struggle between America and China is partly about which model of capitalism should be dominant.

And then there’s the issue of whether you could ever use a nuclear bomb in the event of a terrorist attack. From the 1970s to historic Good Friday peace agreement in the ’90s, Northern Ireland and Britain suffered terrorist violence and bombings. In Ulster this was by Irish Nationalist and Loyalist paramilitaries, while in Britain the bombings were carried out by the IRA. Following 9/11, one of the critics of the invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq asked whether Britain would have used the same tactics of mass bombing and air strikes on Northern Ireland in response to the IRA’s terrorism. Of course we wouldn’t, although we did send troops there to suppress it. There’s a real possibility that, thanks to Brexit, the Good Friday Agreement could break down and Ulster could once again fall into violence and bloodshed. Which also raises the spectre of further terrorist bombings in Britain. Would Boris nuke Derry or Belfast in response? I doubt it. At the same time, many of the Islamist terrorists responsible for atrocities in Britain seem to be homegrown, Muslim Brits who come from ordinary, peaceful families, but who have been radicalised by Islamist propaganda on the Net or from some firebrand preacher in a British mosque. Obviously, Boris isn’t going to use it in Britain itself.

There’s also the danger that if Boris every uses them against a foreign enemy, it’ll pitch the world into a nuclear war that will end very quickly with the destruction of the planet. I can remember the late, great Irish comedian Dave Allen commenting on this in one of his shows on the Beeb during Reagan and Thatcher’s New Cold War of the 1980s. ‘Do you know,’ he said in his tobacco and whisky cured voice, ‘that there are enough nuclear weapons to blow up the world three times. Three times! Once is enough for me!’ It was a profound relief for millions around the world when Reagan and Gorbachev signed their arms limitation agreement in Iceland. That, and the collapse of Communism, promised the beginning of a better world, where we wouldn’t have to fear nuclear annihilation. Well, it was until India and Pakistan looked set to nuke each other later in the ’90s.

But now those dreams of a better, more peaceful world are fading as Boris once again wishes to send us all back to the days of Thatcher and the Cold War. Thatcher was vehemently in favour of keeping Britain’s nuclear deterrent. So much so that she falsified the results of an experiment to estimate the results of a nuclear war on Britain. The experiment showed that it would end with the country’s major cities reduced to nuclear cinders. This was too much for the leaderene, who had the parameters of the projection altered to give the results she wanted. But this still would have resulted in millions dead, and so she had the parameters altered again to show that Britain would have survived with minimal damage. By which time the whole exercise had to be scrapped as it was completely unreliable.

Michael Foot, the leader of the Labour party at the time, favoured unilateral nuclear disarmament. He was right, but the Tories and their puppet press viciously attacked him as some kind of fool or traitor, who would give in to the evil Commies. The complaint of many Tories was that he would give our nuclear weapons away. Unlike Maggie, the bargain basement Boadicea, as I think Roy Hattersley once called her.

It looks very much like Boris is playing the same game. He’s wrecking the economy, destroying the health service and welfare state, but he’ll have the right-leaning part of the British public praising him for standing up to those evil foreigners and protecting the country with nukes.

And all the while he’s claiming that there’s no money to give the nurses and other hardworking, front-line professionals anything more than what is in reality a derisory cut in wages. Which is clearly a lie. But it does remind me of what Goering once said:

‘Guns will make us powerful. Butter will make us fat.’

He’s following the Nazis in deliberately starving people while splashing the cash on arms.

For further information, see: Nuclear bomb announcement sends clear message: warmonger Johnson has cash to KILL, not heal | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Another Lesson from France: How to Maintain a Diverse, Pluralist Press

October 10, 2020

There’s a very interesting passage in Denis MacShane’s 1986 Fabian Society pamphlet, French Lessons for Labour, where he describes how the French have been able to create a diverse and pluralistic press. Apparently it’s the most diverse in Europe with the exception of Sweden. This has been achieved partly through legislation drafted at the country’s liberation during World War II, but which was never enforced, which would have removed newspapers from the ownership of Nazi supporters and collaborators, the nationalisation of the distributors and state subsidization.

In fact, France, partly by design, partly by chance, has the most pluralist press in Europe outside Sweden. The design lies in the laws passed at the liberation in 1944/45 which dispossessed the owners of the right-wing papers which had supported Hitler before 1939 and the Vichy regime after 1940. A right of reply law and, more important, one that nationalised the press distribution agency were also passed. The latter means that left-wing newspapers and magazines are on sale in the most remote parts of France and the distribution censorship which is exercised in Britain by the two main wholesale/retail companies does not exist in France. In addition, the Government subsidises the press with cheap postal tariffs, zero VAT rating and, on occasion, direct subsidy.

The chance lies in the willingness of businessmen or corporations to put up money on left-of-centre newspapers and to support them during periods of low or zero profits. Le Matin, Liberation and the left-wing weekly Le Nouvel Observateur (circulation 400,000) all provide a width of reporting and comments In addition, Le Monde, whose independence is assured by the right of journalists to elect its editor, maintains an objectivity and authority, and an influence because of those two values, which are not automatically hostile to a socialist government. (P. 17).

However, attempts to pass similar legislation to the 1944/5 laws in order to stop the Vichy collaborator Robert Hersant from owning 19 national and provincial papers in 1984 and 1986 was a failure, partly due to a press freedom campaign from the right.

This issue of media ownership and bias is acutely relevant on this side of the Channel as well. Since the 1980s, the press and media in Britain has been owned by a decreasing number of powerful individuals, who may also have other business interests. These individuals, like Rupert Murdoch, have been able to exert oligarchical control of the media, maintaining a strong Tory bias. Media and press bias against Labour was particularly acute during Thatcher’s administration and was certainly a factor in the 1987 general election. It has also been very much in evidence over the past five years, when even supposedly left-wing newspapers like the Mirror, the Guardian and the Observer, ran stories attacking Labour and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, as well as the radio and television networks.

Media bias has also partly been responsible for the right-ward movement of the Labour party itself under Tony Blair. Blair was backed by the Murdoch press, and former ministers have said that Murdoch was an invisible presence at every cabinet meeting as Blair worried how his policies would be viewed by the press magnate. He was also able to gain the support of other papers with the exception of the Heil, but continued to hope that he would eventually win over that rag. I think it’s likely that press ownership will become even more restricted if some papers go under due to the Coronavirus lockdown. Even before the lockdown, the Express changed owners as its former proprietor, the pornography Richard Desmond, sold it to the Mirror group.

The willingness of businessmen to support left-wing newspapers is a crucial factor. When the Daily Herald went bust in the 1960s, to be bought by Murdoch and relauched as the Scum, it actually had a higher circulation that many of the other papers. What brought it down was the fact that it was unable to attract advertising. And I’ve encountered censorship by the distributors myself. Way back in the 1980s during the period of glasnost and perestroika introduced by Gorbachev, an English edition of Pravda was briefly available in some British newsagents. This was an exciting time as Gorbachev signed arms limitation treaties with Reagan ending the Cold War, and introduced reforms in the Soviet Union intended to turn the country into a multi-party democracy. I tried ordering it from my local newsagent in Bristol, but was told it was impossible. It was only being carried by one of the two national distributors. The one that served my area simply wouldn’t carry it.

And the newsagent chains can also exercise their own censorship. When it started out, Private Eye was seen as very subversive and viewed with distaste by many people. Many newsagents wouldn’t stock it. And at least one of the newsagents in the ‘ 90s refused to put its edition satirising the public attitude at Princess Di’s funeral on their shelves. When I asked what had happened to it when it wasn’t on sale in my local newsagents, I was told that it hadn’t come in yet. Well, there seemed to be many other newsagents, who hadn’t had it delivered either. After it returned to the shelves a fortnight later, the Eye published a series of pieces, including letters from readers, who’d had similar problems finding a copy, revealing what had actually gone on. One of the newsagents, John Menzies, had objected to the issue and its cover, and so refused to sell it.

Britain would definitely benefit considerably from similar policies towards the press as that of our friends across Le Manche. But I think getting such legislation through would be almost impossible. There were demands for workers’ control of the press in the 1980s, partly as a reaction by journalists on papers bought by Murdoch as he expanded his noxious empire. They were also concerned about editorial control and bias as the press passed into the hands of fewer and fewer owners. Those demands were obviously unsuccessful. Any attempt to pass legislation providing for state subsidisation of left-wing papers would be howled down by the Tory press as interference in press freedom and the state bailing out failing companies in contravention of the Thatcherite doctrine that market forces should be allowed full reign and failing companies and industries should be allowed to go under.

And I can’t imagine any law to deprive former collaborators or supporters of Hitler of ownership of their papers going down at all well with the Daily Mail, which is notorious for its support of Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists and articles praising Hitler before the outbreak of the War. John Major in the last days of his administration wanted to pass legislation breaking up Murdoch’s empire, but by that time it was too late – Murdoch had already switched to Tony Blair and the Labour party and Major’s government was in no position to do anything about Murdoch’s pernicious control of the press.

This problem is likely to become more acute if some newspapers fold due to lack of sales during the lockdown and the impact of the internet. Media ownership is restricted enough as it is, without Murdoch trying to destroy the Beeb so that Sky and the other cable/satellite stations can take its place. It may not be too long before Murdoch’s hold on the media becomes a true monopoly. In that event, government action to break it up will become a necessity. But given the uniform opposition it would face from the press, it’s questionable if it would be successful.

Or as governments increasingly ingratiate themselves with the Murdoch press in return for its support, even be considered as an option.

Mr H Reviews Raves about New Russian SF/Horror Flick ‘Sputnik’

August 23, 2020

This is something a bit lighter for a Sunday morning. Mr. H Reviews is a YouTuber, who discusses genre film – Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy. In this video he posted the other day, he praises a new Russian SF film, Sputnik. There are no spoilers, but he briefly sums up the plot. It’s set in in the Cold War, and is about a cosmonaut, who returns from space with something alien. It seems to be in line with films like Alien, although it also reminds me of Britain’s own Quatermass.This classic piece of British SF Horror first appeared as a Beeb TV series in the 1950s, before being filmed by Hammer. It was also about an astronaut, Caroon,from a British manned space mission at a time when we did indeed have our own space programme and were the third space power along with the Russians and Americans. He returns alone from space, his two fellow astronauts mysteriously disappeared, in a coma. It then emerges that he too is carrying a hostile visitor, and is slowly mutating into a threat to all life on Earth. Mr. H. also compares it to the much more recent movie, Life, which is also about a group of astronauts discovering and having to deal with a hostile alien entity in orbit.

Mr. H. is impressed by the film’s high production values, especially as it had a budget of 190,000 Roubles, which equates to about $2.5 million. I can’t say I’m surprised. Russia, for all its role as a global superpower, has a much smaller economy. When Simon Reeve toured it in a BBC documentary series a few years ago, I think he said that it’s economy was the size of Italy’s. It’s tiny for such a large country with a similarly large population. But that does mean that films can be made more cheaply there.

And the Russians are certainly capable of producing SF movies of the same quality as Hollywood blockbusters. A year or so ago before the lockdown I found in HMV a Russian superhero movie, Guardians. This was about a group of men and women from across the Russian Federation – one was from a nomadic people from Central Asia, another from one of the countries in the Caucasus, who have been given superpowers through a secret Russian government programme. But they now have to team up against an old threat  – the former chief of another underground project, that was shut down by the KGB, who is now determined to take over the country and the world.

It’s rather like contemporary Hollywood SF/ superhero movies with its theme of secret, unethical government experiments. And of course, as it’s a Russian film, it culminates in a battle over Moscow. If it was American, it would obviously be New York or LA. Guardians is a Russian language film, so you have to deal with subtitles, but it does show that the Russians are capable of producing genre movies of the same standard as Hollywood. And it’s also interesting to see how the Russians take over and adapt the plot and tropes of the western superhero genre.

I haven’t seen Sputnik, and so really don’t know anything about it apart from what Mr. H. says in the review, but it looks interesting. Here’s his video.

 

 

‘I’ Feature on New Iranian Film about 1953 British-CIA against Mossadeq

August 21, 2020

Yesterday’s I, for 20th August 2020, published a very interesting piece by the Independent’s Kim Sengupta about a new Iranian film coming out today. It’s on the 1953 coup against Mohammed Mossadeq, the last democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran. Mossadeq was overthrown because he nationalised the Iranian oil industry, then the company Anglo-Persian Oil, now BP, which was majority owned by us. The result was the gradual establishment of the Shah’s personal dictatorship during his ‘White Revolution’, a brutal dismantlement of human rights and rule by torture and secret police, which finally ended with the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the equally brutal and repressive rule of the ayatollahs. The coup is yet one episode in the long list of countries, in whose politics we’ve interfered and whose governments we’ve helped to destabilise or overthrow in our long campaign to retain some vestiges of our imperial power. And as Sengupta’s article points out, it has left a legacy of distrust for Britain among the Iranian people. According to John Simpson, they’ve got a saying: ‘If you find a stone in your path, it was put there by an Englishman.’ In fairness, Simpson also says in his book on Iran that when he was there reporting, he found absolutely no personal animosity towards him or Brits because of our nationality. The hatred was directed against the British state and its leaders, like Thatcher, rather than the British people.

The I article was titled ‘How MI6 and the CIA overthrew an elected leader’. It ran

Iran has a deep mistrust about Britain, dating back to an event that is unlikely to be forgotten or forgiven in the near future, and is the subject of a new documentary. Coup 53, released tomorrow, examines the overthrow of the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossaddegh, and his replacement by the Shah of Iran, all instigated by London and Washington.

The film, a fine production by Iranian director Taghi Amirani, features interviews with many of those involved – Iranian nationalists who supported the prime minister, royalists loyal to the Shah, and British and US officials.

Mossaddegh, a progressive and secular leader, earned the antipathy of the British government chiefly by nationalising the Anglo-Persian Oil Company – now BP – in which the UK held 51 per cent of the shares. The company had exclusive rights to pump Iranian oil. As relations worsened, the Iranian government broke off diplomatic ties with the UK and expelled embassy staff.

The documentary recalls how the Americans were initially disinclined to support the UK’s plans to overthrow a democratically elected government that, they thought, would be a check against totalitarian communism.

Such was the British sense of entitlement that the US secretary of state, Dean Acheson, under President Harry Truman, condemned it witheringly as “destructive and determined on a rule-or-ruin policy on Iran”.

This changed, however, with the election of Dwight Eisenhower. Winston Churchill claimed to the new president that Mossaddegh – who had been openly critical of communism – wou8ld veer towards the pro-Russian Tudeh Party. And with the Cold War, and fear of Soviet expansion, at its height, the US changed its position.

Operation Ajax was launched in 1953 to depose Mossaddegh, initially through a propaganda campaign and proposed election interference, with the CIA chief, Allen Dulles, authorising $1m to be used “in any way that would bring about the fall” of the prime minister.

The coup succeeded. Many of Mosaddegh’s supporters were arrested, imprisoned and tortured; some, including the foreign minister Hossein Fatemi, were executed.

The prosecutors demanded a life sentence for Mosaddegh, but a tribunal jailed him for three years in a military prison. After that, he was kept under house arrest until his death in 1967. He was denied a public funeral because of apprehension that his grave may become a political shrine, and was buried under his living room.

Coup 53 features Ralph Fiennes reading the words of Norman Derbyshire, an MI6 officer based in Cyprus whom the British claim was the real mastermind of the coup.

Only one photograph of Darbyshire, in dark glasses, is seen in the documentary. He died in 1993 and his account comes from an interview he gave to Granada TV’s End of Empire film in 1985, which was not shown because he refused to appear on screen.

Fiennes’ delivery is melodramatic. Through him, Darbyshire is a sort of Roger Moore-ish version of James Bond, licensed to coup.

Darbyshire claims he organised the kidnapping of the chief of police in Tehran, Mohammed Afshartous. The general was tortured and strangled, and news of his death was met with shock and anger.

Darbyshire claimed that was not his fault. “Something went wrong; he was kidnapped and held in a cave. Feelings ran very high and Afshartous was unwise enough to make derogatory comments about the Shah. He was under guard by a young army officer and the young officer pulled out a gun and shot him. That was never part of our programme.”

One wonders what would have happened if the Americans had stuck to their initial sceptical instincts about the coup in Iran – and reports of weapons of mass destruction held by Saddam Hussein in Iraq. They did not, and we see the legacy of that in the strife and suffering that unfolded in the Middle East.

I think I first came across the 1953 coup in a long article about it in the conspiracies/ parapolitics magazine Lobster back in the ’90s. But it is established history, and very definitely not a ‘conspiracy theory’ in the derogatory sense. It’s mentioned, for example, in a very mainstream History of the World published by W.H. Smith/ Hamlyn in the early 1980s, and is one of the long list of similar coups, electoral meddling and destabilisation in Rory Cormac’s Disrupt and Deny: Spies, Special Forces, and the Secret Pursuit of British Foreign Policy, published by the Oxford University Press in 2018.

And some of the same dirty tricks have been used in this country by the secret state to smear left-wing politicos, like Tony Benn, with accusations of pro-IRA and communist sympathies. It was done by the IRD before that was wound up, and carried on against Jeremy Corbyn by the Institute for Statecraft, ostensibly a private company but with extensive links to the British intelligence establishment.

And I would not be at all surprised if British and American intelligence aren’t involved in the apparent news blackout of the latest Israeli aggression against Gaza and the Palestinians. All to defend our ally in the Middle East, which seems to be done solely through libellous and malicious accusations of anti-Semitism. Because Israel’s actions are absolutely indefensible in themselves.

The late Labour MP Robin Cook wanted an ethical foreign policy. Unfortunately, he served under Tony Blair. It’ll never happen, not under New Labour, and not under the Tories. Which is why the establishment did everything they could to smear and vilify Corbyn and his supporters, because he did take such noble goals seriously.

The Tories would like hide shameful episodes like the 1953 coup under the imperial carpet, in order to retain an approved historical view of British imperial benevolence. Which is why films like Amirani’s are so vitally important.