Posts Tagged ‘Conscription’

Video of Mass Meeting of Orthodox Jews against Israel in New York 2013

October 9, 2016

I’ve also mentioned several times in my blog posts about Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and the anti-Semitism smears, that some Orthodox Jews strongly reject Zionism and the state of Israel from religious reasons. As Sam Seder explained in a clip from the Majority Report I put up about a week ago, and a young Jewish woman, who was brutalised for heckling Binyamin Netanyahu when he addressed Congress, traditional Jewish theology considers it a sin to try to establish a Jewish state in Palestine before the coming of the Messiah.

I found this clip on YouTube of a mass meeting of 10,000 plus Orthodox Jews in New York in 2013 to condemn the state of Israel, and in particular a law by the Knesset that would force Yeshiva students – that it is, students at the Jewish religious schools and seminaries – to join the army. The speakers not only make it plain that they see the state of Israel as a blasphemy, they also bitterly resent what they see as the Israeli military’s attempt to make their young men complicit in the military’s crimes. One speaker denounces the Israel government for trying to turn Jews, a traditionally peaceful people, into a militaristic and aggressive nation – ‘the hands of Esau’.

The clip is also interesting as they quote a former Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi Sonnenfeld, who refused Zionist aid for his people during a terrible famine in the 1920s. Despite the fact that his people were dying of starvation, Rabbi Sonnenfeld refused the money, as he felt it was an attempt by the Zionists to buy influence in his community. As pious, Orthodox Jews, they also pray for God to return to His people quickly, and come to dwell with them in the Holy City of Zion, as prophesied in the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Old Testament.

The speeches are in Yiddish, but there is a English voiceover and subtitles.

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Gun Rights, the Second Amendment and Early 20th Century Preparations for Revolution in Britain

March 6, 2016

One of the major issues that concerns the Republicans, and particularly the extreme right-wing of that party, is gun rights. They point to the Second Amendment in the Constitution guaranteeing American citizens the right to bear arms, which they view as one of the key democratic freedoms in America. They see it as the article in the Constitution that enables Americans to fight back against a tyrannical government. Hence the hysterical rage amongst the NRA and people like the conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, at the mere mention of gun legislation. This is always greeted with cries of ‘They’re coming for our guns!’ and the defiant snarl that they’ll only be able to take the weapon, ‘from my cold, dead hand’.

I’ve also seen a quotation from George Orwell trotted out to support gun rights. I can’t remember the exact quotation, but it’s something like the household gun on the wall being the mark of the free worker. Now Orwell’s quote could be a remark on many things. In the 19th century the poaching laws introduced by the wealthy farmers during the Napoleonic Wars were bitterly resented, because many agricultural workers believed they had the right to poach rabbits on their employer’s land as part of the perks of the job. And this became more important as the economic situation deteriorated and poverty and starvation more common.

It was also an attitude shared by the Social Democratic Federation, an early British Socialist party, which was one of the organisations that formed the Labour party. The SDF was Marxist, although its founder, Hyndeman, had fallen out with Marx himself as he had not credited Marx with the party’s programme. Pelling in his ‘Short History of the Labour Party’ notes that in period running up to the First World War and the debate about rearmament, several members of the SDF, most notably Will Thorne, believed

in a form of conscription known as ‘the citizen army’, which was based on the idea that a revolution could best be effected when all members of the working class had some training in the use of arms. (p. 29).

Now I’ve no doubt that the idea of radical, working-class Marxists bearing arms ready to start the revolution is something that scares the right witless. Gun rights are all right for right-wing Whites, but when Blacks and the radical Left get them, it’s a major threat to decent American society. The Young Turks and Secular Talk have pointed out that the authorities in America suddenly became interested in limiting access to guns after the Black Panthers started walking around with them. The Panthers had read the Constitution, and found that nowhere in it did it say that only Whites could carry firearms. And so even before they started shooting people the American government got very alarmed, and started passing laws to limit gun ownership.

Back in the 1990s parts of the Survivalist movement grew so concerned about what they saw as the new Communist threat and the imminent collapse of society, that they started forming informal ‘militias’. Somehow I doubt very much that the same people, who formed and joined these, would be comfortable knowing that their opponents on the radical left back in the very beginning of the 20th century, shared their ideas and desire to acquire firearms training to overthrow a tyrannical government. The only difference being that it was a right-wing, economically conservative government that they viewed as oppressive. I can’t see them being terribly enthusiastic about that little episode of British history at all.

Major General Smedley Butler’s ‘War Is A Racket’

January 3, 2016

I’ve posted several pieces on the immense profiteering by governments and corporations promoting war. One of the most savage critics of such profiteering was the American officer, Major General Smedley Butler. Michelle Thomasson sent me this comment and links to his speech, ‘War Is A Racket’ to my post on the meme on capitalism and war, as well as the amount so far made by the defence contractors and other participating corporations in the war in Afghanistan.

In 2014 when I was researching for Campaign Against Arms Trade I posted Smedley Butler’s 1935 speech (it was also printed as a book). If any readers of your blog have time his ‘War is a Racket’ speech or ‘turning blood into gold’ is worth listening to. A recording of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EI3lckqaSk0 or here: http://ia600507.us.archive.org/3/items/nonfiction018_librivox/snf018_warisaracket_butler_jh.mp3

and printed versions: https://archive.org/details/WarIsARacket or here: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article4377.htm

On recent spending on war racketeering by the USA (including the sojourn into Afghanistan) this is sobering reading, in 13 years they paid out $1.6 trillion to military contractors (shown on the second page of the Congressional Research file, December 8th 2014) Ref: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33110.pdf

Smedley Butler’s ‘War Is A Racket’ is one of the most famous and celebrated polemics against war. Butler was writing in 1936, and concerned by the growing preparations and clamour for war amongst the European nations. Like very many other soldiers, he was horrified by the mass death and suffering experienced by the squaddies, and disgusted by the vast profits made by the arms and equipment manufacturers. He denounced the way a minuscule few had made money out of the sufferings of millions. In the speech he gives examples of the many firms and industries that made vast profits manufacturing and selling to the American government equipment, munitions and clothing for the conflict. This included surplus and seriously defective items that could never be used, such as shoes, ships that kept sinking, and wrenches that were suitable only for loosening the bolts on the pumping stations at Niagara.

He also describes the way the bankers manipulating the financial system to profit from war bonds. The public was persuaded to purchase them, there was then a crisis so the same public sold them back to the banks at a loss, and then there was flip in the stock exchange, which meant that their value soared again.

Butler also describes the immense suffering of the soldiers themselves. It’s interesting that decades before Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder became a household word, linked to the continued mental suffering of Vietnam vets, he described the shattered mental state of discharged veterans. These were men so traumatised that they were kept under heavy guard in prison-like conditions at the mental hospital. Butler contrasts the way the forces of society, propaganda and psychology were used to persuade them to enlist with the way they were summarily discharged after the war with no thought to training or remoulding their psychologies so that they could fit back into civilian life after being trained to kill.

He also describes the way the American soldier was deprived the profits of war. During the Civil War, Americans were given a bonus if they joined up. And up until the war with Spain, American squaddies also received prize money for ships captured. That was all scrapped, as it made war too expensive. Instead, they were given medal to encourage them to fight. As for the wages they received, these were half the monthly pay of the average factory steel worker. Then there were deductions, to support the families their families so they wouldn’t be a burden on the community while their sons and husbands were away fighting. Other deductions were for the squaddies’ own equipment. The result of all these was that on payday, some soldiers received absolutely nothing at all.

Butler was also not impressed with the various disarmament talks. He considered that their purpose was for countries to get the maximum number of permitted weapons for themselves, and the least number for their opponents. The American government had also declared that it was looking into ways to avoid war. Smedley Butler described how this was undermined by a commission by the corporations and generals, which was set up deliberately to counteract it.

In conclusion, Smedley Butler argued that war would only be ended through a series of reforms intended to take the profits out of it, limit the capability of the American armed forces so that they could not fight an offensive war, and put the decision whether America should go to war or not in the hands of the very people, who would have to fight it. He therefore argued that one month before mobilisation, the capitalists, generals, politicians and workers in the manufacturing and other industries that would profit from the war should also be conscripted, and their pay limited to the $30 a month given to the squaddies. The US armed forces should be limited by law to protecting US territory. The army should be legally prevented from serving abroad, and the range of the American navy and air force limited to a few hundred miles off the American Pacific coast. He also states that before the decision to go to war is taken, their should be a limited plebiscite of men of recruitment age only. Only they should have the power to decide whether to wage war, as they would be the people who have to fight it. Not politicians or businessmen, who were too old to serve, or unfit, and who would profit from it.

Smedley Butler was an isolationist, who states firmly at the end of the speech that he doesn’t care what system other countries live under – democracy, monarchy, Fascism, whatever. He only cares about protecting democracy in America. He believed that America would not have entered the war, if it had not been approached for aid by Britain and France. The declaration that Americans were fighting for democracy was a lie. They were fighting only for corporate profits. As the brief biography for the audiobook version of his speech states, Butler served as a Republican politician. Nevertheless, his isolationism still persists amongst some Conservative American critics of the Neo-Cons, who similarly saw Bush’s desire to extend the American Empire as against the basic principles of American Conservatism. These critics included serving senior army officers, who were spectacularly unimpressed by the fact that the Neo-Cons had not actually fought in any war, and had no understanding of the political situation in the Middle East.

As the vast profits being made by the arms manufacturers in this latest phase of militarism show, war is a racket, and Smedley Butler’s speech still has immense political relevance and moral force.

School Student Ruby Hill Organises Anti-Bombing March in Bristol

December 9, 2015

Points West, the local news programme for the Bristol, Somerset and Gloucestershire, has just reported a march by young people in the Bristol against bombing of Syria. I think the march is happening right now, as it was definitely early evening with a black sky. The marchers were walking down Park Street in a crowd, the Beeb’s reporter estimated numbered 600. He said it was remarkable, as it was organised by 16-17 year old school students on social media. He then interviewed one of them, Ruby Hill. She stated that they organised it because young people of that age group don’t have a voice. He asked her whether it was pointless, as the decision had already been made. She replied that she didn’t think so, as if politicians really are for the people, as all parties claim, then they should take notice.

It’s an inspiring sight, and I think Ms Hill and her friends and colleagues are to be absolutely congratulated on organising the march. She’s right about the disconnection many young people feel about politics. They don’t have a voice, but the government has made major decisions affecting their future. Like introducing and raising university tuition fees. Sixteen-seventeen is about the age many young people become seriously interested in politics. I can remember that when I was in the Sixth Form all that long ago, one of the additional studies we had to do was ‘topical issues’. This was usually held on a Wednesday afternoon, and involved debating some issue of the day with the teacher. The point was not to indoctrinate us – this was made very clear at the very beginning of the lessons, but just to get us into the habit of carefully thinking about issues in order to prepare us for the civic responsibility as future citizens. The school also encouraged us to watch the news and take notice of political events.

And some of those students may well have personal reasons to be worried. In a year or two they will be 18, by which time Cameron may well decide that really, conscription is the only way to contain the terrorist threat, just like the Americans did in Vietnam. And like Vietnam, we risk losing our young people in a pointless imperial war.

More on the Weird Psychology of Ian Duncan Smith

February 16, 2014

Ian Duncan Rimmer

Last week I put up a post showing how Ian Duncan Smith’s psychology conforms to the ‘drive to power’ identified by Nixon’s quondam psychiatrist, Dr Arnold Hutschnecker. As described in Alex de Jonge’s biography of Stalin, Hutschnecker

derives it from a painful sense of one’s own insignificance, a fear of death and the wish to have others die. It is associated with a low sexual drive and an inability to love. ‘It moves on the wings of aggression to overcome inferiority … Those whose power to love and consequently create has been broke will choose war inorder to experience an intoxicating sense of power and excitement’. (p. 510).

This seems to be a good diagnosis of a man, who has falsely claimed, amongst other things, to have a degree from an Italian institution that doesn’t issue them, and whose claim to have been an officer in the British army is also highly questionable.

laundry basket

A laundry basket, though not possibly the type IDS has been known to hide in.

Jaypot added a few more details to the discussion in her comment to the piece.

IDS is a narcissist and he enjoys the power he has over people’s lives. I truly believe that he enjoys hearing about the deaths of people as he can only feel enjoyment, and, perhaps a sexual release in his persecution of the poor.
Another emotion that IDS does feel is fear – he is absolutely terrified of everyone who is poor or beneath him, which has been seen on a number of occasions. One was hiding in a laundry basket in Edinburgh (PMSL) and one of the most famous ones is where he has the armed guards surrounding him when waiting to go into the committee about his “use of statistics and his waste of money on UC). Those armed police should NOT have had their guns pointed at anyone, least of all the small amount of people who had every right to also go into the committee hearing! I still think that should be dealt with by the police commissioner!
IDS is coming to the end of his failed “career”, just like his whole life has been one failure after another. Here’s hoping karma gets him and let’s hope it’s very soon.

Fear of the general public is another psychological trait IDS, and indeed Cameron and Georg Osborne, share with Stalin. None of them can be seen as ‘men of the people’ in the same sense of Hitler, Mussolini, or indeed, Oswald Mosely. While they like power, they seem to be definitely afraid of meeting the public except in highly organised and choreographed events. Until the 1930s, Stalin was very rarely photographed and granted very few interviews to the Soviet press. During the purges he was so terrified of the reactions of the Soviet people, that at the annual May Day parade in Moscow one year Red Square was empty of crowds, except for a group of children waving banner and slogans located a quarter of a mile away from Stalin and the other Communist leaders. All the cheering heard during that celebration of Communist power was recorded, and played over loudspeakers.

I similarly noticed that the Olympic Stadium was empty was David Cameron gave his speech imploring the Scots to stay in the United Kingdom. It was conspicuous that Cameron did not do the Scots the courtesy of addressing them directly in Scotland itself, but chose to make his statement in the London, the former metropolis of the British Empire. Furthermore, Alex Salmond has challenged him to a debate. Cameron has ducked this, saying that he will talk to the Scots people themselves later this year. This will, no doubt, be in a very carefully, micro-managed political walkabout, where hostile or dissenting voices can be side-lined or edited out to present an image of Cameron talking easily to an enthusiastic, or at least receptive, Scots public, rather than given the barrage of criticism and abuse he’s more likely to get north of the Border.

It also looks very much that Cameron knows that Salmond is the better debater, and is desperate not to lose face by being beaten in an argument with him in public. As for the general public south of the Border, it was very noticeable indeed that there was no-one except the media in the Olympic Stadium when he made the speech. If it had been Oswald Mosely, that stadium would have been full, along with heckling and mass fighting. This obviously wouldn’t look good for the leader of an ostensibly centre-right part, although Cameron shares Mosely contempt for the organised working class. And so Cameron stands to give a speech in an empty stadium.

George Osborne similarly appears anxious around the British public. One of my colleagues on the unemployment course I’m on at the moment remarked on how uncomfortable Osborne looked when he met a group of workers at an engineering factory on a political walkabout a few months ago. And so he well might. Osborne, like Cameron, is another aristocrat, who has nothing in common with the majority of the British people, and who clearly fears the reception he might get for his economic and social policies that are intended to shift the tax burden onto them and deprive them of even more public services in order to generate tax cuts for the rich.

As for workfare, Milovan Djilas, the Yugoslav Communist leader and dissident describes why the Yugoslavs tried to abolish forced voluntary work after their break with Stalin. He also states that he objected to it, not just because of the hardship and suffering it inflicted on the ‘volunteers’, but also because of the psychology behind it. He writes

Soon after Stalin’s death, we abolished voluntary mass physical labor for youth and disbanded the collective farms. The initiative for the first came from the youth leadership at its congress of March 6 and was promoted by economists: youth labor was too costly and inefficient. I supported their initiative, though more for political than for economic reasons. I felt that voluntary mass labor was an outmoded form that encouraged quasi-military, monolithic thinking among our young people-thinking more akin to slogans than to freedom.

This does, I think, also go straight to the heart of the thinking behind workfare in the definitely anti-Communist, private enterprise supporting Conservative party. The Conservatives like the army, or at least, they did until the Coalition decided to cut their funding too, and have tried to impose a military solution to social problems. I remember how they called for the re-introduction of conscription back in the 1980s to solve the problems of youth crime and poor education. A decade or so later, and Michael Howard was recommending US-style ‘boot camps’ to straighten out young offenders. The same mindset seems to permeate IDS’ and Osborne’s workfare. The Nudge Unit has been involved in shaping the various unemployment forms and procedures to that the unemployed see themselves and their own personal failings as the cause of their inability to find a job, rather than the economy or government policy. And mindless drudgery stacking shelves for Tesco and turning burgers also seems deliberately designed, not just to supply cheap labour to their corporate paymasters, but also to break the spirit of the unemployed. We have seen just how hostile the system is to anyone, who manages to get a fulfilling voluntary job outside of the menial drudgery prescribed by the DWP or Jobcentre Plus. Remember the case of the geography graduate, who was told that she couldn’t do voluntary work in a museum, and that she had to work instead at one of the supermarkets?

Now the army states that its training is designed to mould the psychology of its soldiers. A friend of mine, a former army officer, once told me that the army tries to break you, in order to put you back together. As with all the rest of the government’s policies, the Coalition has adopted only the negative parts of this process: the breaking of the individual’s spirit. While they claim that workfare encourages a proper attitude to work, clearly the other qualities the army seeks to inculcate in its soldiers and officers – courage, self-reliance, initiative, are not required. If they were, there would be absolutely no problem with that graduate doing her voluntary work at the Museum. But all that is really wanted is demoralised, obedient drones for corporate exploitation.

The Coalition conform to the psychology of tyrants like Stalin, who fear their own people, and attempt to destroy them physically and mentally. Workfare, like the mass ‘voluntary’ labour of the totalitarian regimes, is another tool in this process.