Posts Tagged ‘Drugs’

Tories Ashcroft and Oakeshott Demand Privatisation of NHS Hospitals

May 23, 2022

A few weeks ago Private Eye carried a review of Michael Ashcroft’s and Isabel Oakeshott’s book on the supposed failures of the NHS in its issue for 29th April – 12th May. Ashcroft is, I believe, the Tory donor now resident in Belize, and Isabel Oakeshott his pet journo, responsible for the otherwise uncorroborated claim that when he was at Oxford, David Cameron poked a porker. Now the two have written a book, Life Support, giving their critical analysis of the NHS and their suggestions for its improvement. The pair examine two hospitals, St. Mary’s in Paddington and King’s College Hospital in Camberwell, which they describe as being in run-down areas. St. Mary’s Hospital is in a dingy backstreet off the lower Edgware Road between the railway station and a long strip of burger joints, pawnbrokers and shops selling cheap luggage. King’s College Hospital occupies a neighbourhood where drug and gang crime are rife, and is filled with the victims of gang warfare.

The book claims that hospitals ” are badly run by management teams that tolerate waste, allow patient safety standards to slip”, whose bosses “prise over a culture of bullying and cover-ups and fail to grip budgets”, which is “terrible for taxpayers, terrible for NHS staff and potentially fatal for patients”. They also claim that the NHS has a code of omerta similar to the Sicilian mafia.

So what are their solutions to this crisis? Well, get rid of foreign doctors and health tourists, sell off a few hospitals, have people transform themselves into cyborgs and lose weight. They are suspicious of Indian doctors, because there is less regulation and greater corruption in their country of origin. When they start working in the NHS, they have a paternalistic attitude towards patients.

As for the health tourists, they gave as an example a Nigerian woman who flew in from Lagos so that she could have her triplets delivered by the NHS, complaining that ‘Part of the problem is that most healthcare professionals believe they have a moral duty to help the sick,, wherever they are from.’ After demanding the privatisation of a few hospitals, there’s a chapter, “Cyborgs: Futuristic Medicine” in which they encourage people to turn themselves into the real-life equivalents of Dr. Who’s Cybermen. But they claim that ‘Nobody is suggesting that thousands of patients will go to such lengths and attempt to become ‘full cyborgs'”.

They also attack the various fashion brands and social media influencers who they claim have made obesity fashionable, which they state is grossly irresponsible. Despite all this criticism, however, the book says precious little about the Covid pandemic, which has cause a crisis in the Health Service. The Eye’s reviewer states that it’s commendable that Ashcroft and Oakeshott are donating the profits from the book to NHS charities, but concludes

‘Any suspicion that the authors set out to slag off the NHS across 400 pages of ill-informed vanity-published guff but then had to bung some Covid stuff in the intro as events unfolded is surely nonsense’.

Let’s critically examine some of their recommendations. Firstly, many NHS doctors are foreign. During my illness, I’ve been treated by a number of South Asian doctors, as well as those from the Far East and eastern Europe. And I have absolutely no complaints whatsoever. I can’t speak for others, but I believe that they, and the other British and foreign staff gave me excellent care. I am not aware that NHS doctors from India have been found to be any less competent than others. This looks to me like a bit of racism on Ashcroft’s part. As does the bit about health tourists and the Nigerian woman. with triplets. I don’t blame the woman for wanting to give birth over here, than trust herself and her unborn children to medicine in her own country. And I thought it was a fundamental position of modern medical ethics that everyone has the same right to care, regardless of ethnic origin. Besides, Nye Bevan was aware that there would be people coming from less developed parts of the world to take advantage of the NHS, and considered that the Health Service would be more than capable of dealing with them.

There are indeed some very cool and advanced artificial limbs being developed, but some of these – the most advanced – cost tens of thousands of dollars. And despite the invention of dialysis and heart-lung machines, I am not aware that anybody has come close to creating mechanical counterparts of the kidneys, heart and lungs that can be implanted in the body. The idea of people turning themselves into cyborgs is, at present, Science Fiction.

Dr. Who’s Cybermen – the future of patients cutting costs for the NHS. From the Dr. Who Monster Book.

As for the demand that hospitals be privatised, this is obviously what Ashcroft as Tory donor and capitalist clearly wants. But it’s because of privatisation that NHS administrative costs have mushroomed and standards of care declined because of massive funding cuts. And as we’ve seen, privatisation actually leads to few hospitals and doctor’s surgeries as the companies running them close them down in order to maximise their profits. This is bad for taxpayers, who are having to fork out more for poorer service, as well as staff and patients. And it would also be a massive step towards the transformation of the Health Service into one operated through private healthcare companies and funded through private health insurance, like America.

But this is what is happening under the Tories and Blair’s New Labour, as these right-wing Thatcherite politicos seek to enrich themselves and their corporate donors in the private medical industry. Ashcroft’s and Oakeshott’s book are the latest in the propaganda campaign to tell you this is a good idea.

Leaked Applebee’s Memo about Using the Cost of Living Crisis to Exploit Employees

March 25, 2022

A few days ago the Chris Hedge’s Fan Club posted a leaked memo from Applebee’s which definitely shows that in the current economic crisis, we are definitely not ‘all in it together’. Chris Hedges is a powerful left-wing American journalist and broadcaster. I think he might be an ordained Presbyterian minister. Certainly his father was, before he was thrown out by his congregation for backing gay rights. This was obviously at a time when the gay rights movement was just beginning and still massively controversial. Hedge’s himself was one of the few journalists to cover the wars in Central America in the 1980s from the front line, and he has talked about the atrocities committed by Fascist groups like the Contras in Nicaragua. This were the same Fascist death squads and torturers to whom Reagan sold arms and provided other aid, while allowing them to finance their campaigns of terror by exporting cocaine to America. Where it helped further devastate desperately poor Black Americans. The same butchers Reagan declared were the ‘moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers’. Some patriotic Americans could feel their country was being insulted. Other left-wingers might be more worried that it’s true.

A few days ago the YouTube channel devoted to him and his analysis of capitalism and contemporary politics got hold of a leaked memo from Applebee’s. We don’t have it in this country, but I gather that it’s a chain of restaurants across the Pond. The memo talked about using the current crisis, with petrol prices rising and inflation expected to explode generally, as an opportunity for treating people badly. ‘Because their desperate’.

This is grubby, and I realise that not all businesses are like it. But this is the predatory face of capitalism, and unfortunately it’s companies like this that are bankrolling the political parties on both sides of the Atlantic. The right regard capitalism as patriotic, but there is nothing patriotic about this. It’s anti-social profiteering, pure and simple.

We need to end corporate donations in politics, and drive through legislation to protect workers and consumers from such cynical exploitation.

Harlem Man Demands an End to Black on Black Crime

March 15, 2022

This is a video from what I think is a New York TV company, LLN NYC. It’s of a Black gent protesting against Black on Black crime. Listening to his comments and seeing the what looks like a police car there, it seems that this comes after someone has been killed. He notes that Whites and Asians can wander around the neighbourhood without trouble, but when it’s a Black person they’re targeted. He wonders where the self-hatred comes from and calls for Black Lives Matter to do something about it, because they have the money and resources, and have combated police violence against Blacks.

I’ve posted up several pieces before about the problem of Black on Black violence plaguing Black communities and the failure of the anti-racism organisations to do anything about it or even wishing to see it mentioned in the news. Some of these posts have been controversial. I’m aware of how Black criminality has been and is used by the right in this country and elsewhere to promote anti-Black racism. However, I don’t think turning away from the problem and refusing to acknowledge it is an option. Not when innocents are dying.

Black conservatives such as Jason Riley are also worried about gang violence in Black communities, and the Barbershop series of comedies set in a Black community barbers has presented it as one of the major concerns of ordinary Black peeps. And alongside this video there were a number of others from Black Americans expressing similar sentiments.

Regarding certain points, I think White people might be immune from violence in Black communities, at least to a certain extent, because the police respond more quickly and in much more force than if the victim’s Black. Or at least that’s what I’ve seen claimed by one person on the Net, who described how got lost and wandered into the ghetto by mistake. Someone did approach him with the intention of mugging him, but they were set upon by a group of other Blacks, allowing him to escape. I don’t know how true this is or how widespread if it is true. But it might be an explanation if Whites and Asians are able to walk around crime-ridden Black neighbourhoods unmolested.

As for the self-hatred, I honestly have no idea. It might be a legacy from slavery and segregation which have undermined Black self-respect to the point where some members of that community see each other as some kind of threat. It may also be a product of the drug gangs in those communities. A decade or so ago there was a series of shootings in Bristol’s St. Paul’s, which were held to be gang related. It may also be partly due to parts of the rap culture promoting and celebrating the ‘gangsta’ lifestyle. If you remember, the cops over here tried to ban Drill being played on the radio a few years ago as it was just gangsters boasting about what they were going to do to other gangsters.

As for Black Lives Matter doing something about this issue, I honestly don’t have much hope. Their anger is directed towards White racism and police violence, and I don’t see it broadening out to include Black on Black crime. The organisation that does seem effective in keeping communities safe is the Nation of Islam, or so I’ve heard. They’re a nasty group of anti-White racists, who want a separate Black state. But they actively protect their communities and people are safer in them than elsewhere. I’ve seen favourable comparisons with the Guardian Angels. You remember them – they appeared in the 1980s as a volunteer group to protect people on public transport. I’ve read comments that they only protected Whites and never did much, and that the Nation of Islam was much better, at least for Blacks.

It looks to me that there is a groundswell of opinion by ordinary Black Americans against Black on Black murders, and I hope it won’t be long before action is taken against this horrendous problem.

Adolf Hitler and Black and Asian Anti-White Racists on the Extermination and Enslavement of Racial Enemies

February 13, 2022

A few days ago I put up a couple of posts showing the very close similarity between far right Labour MP Neil Coyle’s comments about Jewish Voice for Labour and the Nazis’ and British Fascists’ denunciations of ‘communist’ Jews and Jewish influence in politics. But unfortunately it’s not only White bigots who seem to share their attitudes and rhetoric. Many Black and Asian allegedly ‘anti-racist’ ideologues and activists do to.

The Black Lives Matter protests across the world were an attempt to raise awareness about the supposed greater incidence of Blacks being shot and killed by the police. Behind them was outrage and frustration at the continuing material poverty, high unemployment, lack of educational achievement, crime and drugs in the Black community. BLM groups, such as those in Bristol, were keen to present themselves not as racists trying to cause division, but as sincere anti-racists trying to draw people together. The organisation’s Bristol branch put up posters that included the statement that they weren’t trying to start a race war. They were trying to stop one. But unfortunately the protests were accompanied by highly racist, genocidal statements and attitudes from high profile members of the Black and Asian communities. A Black American academic, Britney Cooper, caused outrage when she appeared on the Black American internet show, The Root, declaring that Whites were dying out, and ‘may be we should help them along’. An Asian academic at a New York university, who specialised in the psychology of racism, stated she fantasised about shooting Whites. A recent video put up by the New Culture Forum also contained a selection of tweets from angry Black activists. One of these stated that the poster looked forward to destroying White prosperity and livelihoods, and forcing Whites to endure the same poverty as BAME people. The tweeter’s name is blurred, but it looks like Priyamvada Gopal, the professor of Colonial and Postcolonial literature at Cambridge.

These comments are almost exactly like those of the Nazis, and particularly their attitude to Poles and Slavs. In 1942 Martin Bormann wrote

‘The Slavs are to work for us. In so far as we do not need them, they may die. Slav fertility is undesirable. They may possess contraceptives or abort, the more the better. Education is dangerous. We shall leave them religion as a means of diversion. They will receive only the absolutely necessary provisions. We are the masters, we come first.’

Joachim C. Fest, The Face of the Third Reich, page 204.

In fact there has been a strain of viciously anti-White racism present in Black political culture for a very long time. Afrocentrism holds that Blacks are intellectually and spiritually superior to other peoples, especially Whites, who are supposed to be more stupid, less spiritual, intuitive and cruel. These attitudes are reinforced by Post-Colonial and Critical Race Theory, which see Whites, even when they are opposed to racism, as deeply racist and embedded in and part of a culture which privileges them. A year or so ago right-wing videos on the Net showed a clip of one lecturer, Angela Shackleford, telling a White class that they were not born into humanity, cannot change, and that they were ‘devils’ to her.

And some Black rhetoric and activism has crossed the line into overt Fascism. Marcus Garvey, who held paramilitary parades in New York, once declared that Hitler and Mussolini learned everything from him. In the 1970s his son announced, during the Jamaican celebrations of the great man’s birth, that Garveyism must become Black National Socialism, for Africa also needed its Lebensraum. Before she was shot by a criminal gang, Black activist Sasha Johnson demanded a Black militia to safeguard Blacks against the police, whom she accused of being like the Klan. She duly appeared on platforms with them, dressed alike in stab vests. Johnson fancied herself as ‘the British Black panther’, but her parade violated British legislation going back to the 1930s against political paramilitary uniforms aimed squarely at Fascist organisations like Mosley’s BUF.

And Black British politicians have encouraged and extended a welcome to deeply racist Black American activists. Back in the 1980s ‘Black radical’ Labour politician Bernie Grant invited over here Louis Farrakhan, the head of the Nation of Islam. The Nation of Islam demands a Black-only state. Now more or less a science fictional space cult, it believes that Whites were created by an evil Mekkan scientist, Shaitan, to destroy the purity of the Black race. It is also very definitely opposed to the welfare state. If this had been a White politician, he would have been denounced as Fascist and his visit accompanied with protests from the Left. But Grant excused him, saying he didn’t agree with everything he said, but regarded him as an elder statesman.

The Left tends to turn a blind eye to such racism. It is fixated on the real threat of White racism and fascism, to the extent that it ignores anti-White racism and refuses to accept it. Matthew Collins, the author of the Demonisation of the White Working Class, in an interview on the New Culture Forum YouTube channel, remarked that when his book came out it was bitterly criticised as itself racist by the left-wing press because of its discussion of Whites forced out of Black majority areas due to anti-White racism. The publication of Ed Hussein’s book, Among the Mosques, about Muslim anti-White hatred, was also greeted with accusations of racism and Islamophobia by the left.

This attitude is itself profoundly racist and a mistake, because anti-White racism in the past has at times reached and exceeded the same extent as White racist crimes against people of colour. In 2006 the Independent report that the racist murder of Whites was almost at the same level as the racist murders of Blacks. And back in the 1990s the newspaper also covered a report, published by the then Committee for Racial Equality, written by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, that racist attacks on Whites now amounted to 60 per cent of the total number of such incidents. This was the first time it had done so. Since then I’ve no doubt that it’s been overtaken by assaults against people of colour, especially Muslims after 9/11. But the threat of a revived, violent anti-White racism is still there in my opinion, especially as it could be encouraged by the anti-White rhetoric and ideologies of Post-Colonial and Critical Race Theory and its adherents.

I don’t believe that the extent of these pernicious ideologies should be exaggerated. Such people don’t speak for all Blacks or Asians by any means, just as the real Nazis never represented the vast majority of Whites. But these attitudes and ideologies do need to be fought. They should not be indulged in or promoted by the left because they come from the left and are supposed to be about defending and promoting persecuted, marginalised peoples. Rather the left needs to unite against them. There needs to be left-led anti-racist marches, with both Blacks, Asians and Whites, against Muslim grooming gangs. There needs to be a no-platform on campus against Post-Colonial and Critical Race Theory racists, just as there are for White supremacists and Fascists. But there isn’t. And so such issues are left to the right and genuine racists like the Islamophobic Tommy Robinson.

This needs to be stopped and radically changed now. Racism and Fascism can appear in all peoples and colours, including Black and Asians. And it needs to be fought be all races together.

Black and White, unite and fight!

Arise Festival Online Events against Blair and NHS Privatisation

February 4, 2022

I got an email today from the Arise Festival of Labour Left Ideas about a number of forthcoming online events. Two were about Latin America and Cuba, but the two that really interested me were against Blair’s knighthood and NHS Privatisation.

The brief notices about these events ran:

“1) FORUM: No to Blair’s Knighthood – No Return to Blairism

Thursday 10 February, 18:30. Register here // Share & invite here // Retweet here to spread the word.

With: Steve Howell (Deputy Director, Strategy & Communications for Jeremy Corbyn in 2017) , Rachel Garnham (Campaign for Labour Party Democracy) & Sami Ramidani (Iraqi anti-war campaigner.)

Tony Blair’s knighthood has provoked a massive backlash – come & find out more about Blairism – & what it represents & means today. With plenty of time for questions & discussion.

Hosted by Labour Outlook. Kindly streamed by Arise – A Festival of Left Ideas.

2) DIARY DATE: Ending NHS Privatisation – For a National Care Service.

Monday, 21 February 2022, 7pm  Register here 

The Second of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs online policy seminars being organised throughout 2022 – in partnership with the Labour Assembly Against Austerity and Momentum – looking at the key policies we need to be raising and how we build the movements to win these policies.”

I haven’t registered for them yet, but I think I probably will as I strongly support both these causes. Blair took us to war against Iraq on a lie, a lie intended to justify the plundering of Iraq’s oil and state industries for the benefit of the American and Saudi oil conglomerates and American multinationals. There’s footage of Gorgeous George Galloway angrily telling one of the New Labour women who cheered and organised the Labour benches for this war that she’s responsible for the deaths of a million people in Iraq. I’ve got mixed feeling about the Glesgae bruiser. Sometimes he says things that are absolutely brilliant, at other times he acts like a self-centred publicity seeker. This time I think he was spot-on. Innocent people died, including our best and bravest in the armed forces, not to defend our great nation from a real threat to be get the already bloated rich even richer and more bloated. It destroyed what was, by middle eastern standards at least, a relatively secular welfare state. A society where women could safely pursue careers outside the home. It created a monstrous society instead where Sunni and Shia Muslims had to be separated in Baghdad by peace walls, as in Northern Ireland. There were sectarian deaths squads running amok with the connivance of the American proconsuls running country, and the mercenaries brought in as peacekeepers ran drugs and prostitution rings. Oh yes,, and they killed ordinary Iraqis for sport. The situation was so dire that one American diplomat went home and gave public interviews denouncing the occupation.

A million or two severely normal Brits marched against the invasion. I think it was the biggest mass protest ever. One of those was one of my parish priests at the time. The satirists Bremner, Bird and Fortune attacked the warmongering prior to the invasion. The Tories opposed it, which was a first. I suspect this was simple opportunism, but in some cases it was genuine. The right-wing journalist, Peter Hitchens, continued to attack Blair for wasting the lives of British servicemen and women. A friend of mine even read the Spectator for a time because of its anti-invasion stance.

And Blair ignored it all. The result was a wrecked country, which allowed the expansion of Iranian influence there and, with the rest of the Neo-Con policy in the Middle East, created the conditions for the emergence and expansion of Daesh and their campaign against civilisation.

Millions of people have either died or been forced to flee their homes, contributing to the migrant crisis. The economy was destroyed, people thrown out of work, women forced back into their traditional role and businesses destroyed. But Starmer wants to bring Blairism back, telling everyone that it’s going to be a vote winner.

It ain’t. Blair’s popularity at the time declined and its suffered even worse in the intervening years as more people have woken up to how harmful so many of his policies were. Not just in Iraq, but on the economy, industry and the NHS. Because Blair shared the Tory desire to privatise the health service.

If this country is ever to have a government that genuinely respects and cares for ordinary people, and which pursues a sane, just, humane policy in the Middle East, it’s only going to be through genuine socialist values and the vision of Jeremy Corbyn.

The Tories must go, and Blairism must be consigned to the dustbin.

Bristol Announces Education Report about the Contribution of Different Communities to City

January 19, 2022

Yesterday a couple of bods from Bristol city council appeared on the news to announce the imminent public of two reports, both dealing with race and community issues. At lunchtime it was reported that there was a report coming out about how the city should educate people about city’s history as a major centre of the slave trade. Then on the 6.30 local news, deputy mayor and head of equalities Asher Craig appeared to tell viewers about another report coming out about another education initiative, this time about the contribution different communities had made to the city. She thought it might perhaps form the basis for a new museum. The report was hailed as bringing communities together.

Bristol’s a port city and so people of different races and nationalities have been living in the city since the Middle Ages. It had a Jewish community, complete with a miqveh or ritual bath, on Jacob’s Wells Road before Edward I’s expulsion of them from England. it also had strong links with Ireland, and it’s possible that there was a community of Bristol merchants in Dublin before Henry IIs invasion of 1169. It also had strong links to Wales, and so there’s always been people from Ireland and Wales here in the city. There were a few Icelandic merchants resident in Bristol in the 15th century. As the city also traded in wine from France and Spain, I’m fairly certain there were also French people and Spaniards here. There were also Black people in Bristol from the 16th century onwards following the emergence of the transatlantic slave trade. However, the bulk of the modern Black population probably really only dates from the Windrush migration. Other immigrants to Bristol include Poles, Russians – there’s a Russian Orthodox church on University Road by the museum in Clifton, Chinese and peeps from India and Pakistan. A few years ago a book was published about Bristol’s diverse immigrant population.

But I don’t think this is primarily about all of the city’s various ethnic communities. I think it’s really an attempt to promote Bristol’s Black community. Last year, when I contacted Craig criticising her for some of her comments about the city’s involvement in the slave trade, her reply talked about the ‘One Bristol’ educational project. This would promote Blacks, and be ‘diverse and inclusive’, which didn’t always happen with White men. I don’t know if that last comment is a deliberate sneer or putdown.

It’s fair to say that the majority Black areas of the Bristol have the same problems and reputation of inner cities elsewhere – drugs, crime, prostitution and violence. When I was growing up people from outside the area drove along Stapleton Road in St. Paul’s with their windows up and the door firmly locked. Nearly two decades ago in 2004 there were a series of murders in the area and it was reported on the news that there was a gun-related incident everyday. I can remember going along the road on the bus to a lecture at UWE and seeing armed policemen on the street. I’ve heard from friends that there are local people in the community collecting and blogging about the area and Bristol’s black history as way of combating the alienation and marginalisation many Black Bristolians feel. From Craig’s reply to me, it looks like the ‘One Bristol’ education project is intended to do something similar by giving a more positive image of the community.

As for educating Bristolians about the city’s role in the slave trade, I’ve grown up knowing about it although there is still the strong belief among some Blacks, repeated by Craig in her interview on Radio 4 last year, that the city authorities have covered it up. In the 1990s the City Museum and Art Gallery staged an exhibition about the city and the slave trade, ‘A Respectable Trade’, named after the costume drama then showing on the Beeb, adapted from a book by Philippa Gregory. The M Shed museum on the city docks also has a gallery about Bristol and the slave trade. There are articles about the city’s involvement in the slave trade on the museum’s website, a slave walk in Clifton and a plaque on one of the warehouses down by the M Shed commemorating the victims who were enslaved and sold by Bristol merchants. The official name for the very bizarre looking ‘horned bridge’ across the dock’s is Pero’s Bridge, after one of the few named slaves who was brought to Bristol itself.

I have to say I’m a bit sensitive about some of the demands for the proper commemoration of the slave trade in the city. It sometimes seems to me that’s it’s being used by angry members of the Black community to attack White Bristol because of the poverty and marginalisation that still plagues their community. Back in the 1990s, for example, when the city celebrated the 500th anniversary of John Cabot’s discovery of Newfoundland, various Black spokesmen declared that it was a celebration of slavery. This followed American Blacks’ condemnation of the celebration of Columbus’ discovery of America a few years earlier. Indigenous Americans also attacked it as a celebration of their genocide. It wasn’t, of course, meant to be a celebration of slavery, but they had a point. Following Columbus discovery of the New World, the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean were enslaved and worked, tortured and massacred until they died out. The Spanish then turned to Black African slaves to replace them. I don’t believe that the discovery of Newfoundland had any direct connection with slavery. That seems to have started in 1619 when Spanish merchants brought a consignment of them to Jamestown, and it seems that initially the English settlers didn’t know what to do with them. However, slavery and all the horrendous methods of repression soon followed. A Black artist produced a picture showing his feelings about the celebration of Cabot’s discovery. It shows the Matthew sailing up the Avon Gorge. watched by cameras from the Evening Post and the local news, while shadowy figures rampage across the suspension bridge. The painting’s now on display in the slavery gallery in the M Shed. To me it demonstrates a bitter mentality that automatically assumes any celebration like it must somehow be about the persecution or exploitation of Blacks, and it seems to me that a similar deep bitterness is driving the demands for proper education about the city’s slavery history. On the other hand, there have been a large influx of newcomers to the city from London and elsewhere, and it’s possible that, not being Bristolians, they really know little about the city and the slave trade. The education initiative could therefore be a response to them requiring to know more.

Points West stated that the report about educating Bristolians about the contributions of Bristol’s multiracial communities will make five recommendations, while the one about slavery will make fifteen. It’ll be interesting to see what they are.

Nigel Farage Interviews Iraq War Army Officer about Blair’s War Crimes

January 8, 2022

Oh Heaven help me! I’ve just agreed with something arch-Brexiteer, former Kipperfuhrer and founder of the Brexit party, Nigel Farage, has said on right-wing satellite/cable broadcaster GB News. The Fuhrage was criticising the recent award of a knighthood to Tony Blair. Blair has not been forgiven by very many ordinary Brits, both on the right and left, for taking this country into an illegal war and occupation of Iraq. Three quarters of a million people, according to Farage, have now signed a petition against the honour. Farage points out that every prime minister automatically becomes a member of the Order of the Garter with which comes either a knighthood or an earldom. In this video from his show on GB News, posted on the 5th of January, not only does Farage himself criticise its award to Blair, asking if he is a fit and proper person to receive it, but he talks over the phone to one of the veterans who served in the war. This is Colonel Tim Collins, OBE, who led the Royal Irish Regiment.

Farage begins with the news that one of Blair’s former cabinet ministers, Jeff Hoon, is writing a book that claims that Blair’s chief of staff, Tony Powell, burnt a document of legal advice concerning legality of gong to war provided by the Attorney General Lord Geoffrey Goldsmith. The newspapers report that the story came out in 2015, but Farage states that he has never, ever seen it before to his recollection. He states that Blair had the backing of parliament to go to war, and asks Col. Collins if there are really legitimate reasons for refusing him the Order of the Garter. Collins replies by going even further, contradicting the story that it was Blair who was responsible for the peace settlement in Northern Ireland. Not so. According to Collins, it was largely the work of John Major and the Irish government. Blair took over the process, but added celebrity spin, which had the effect of watering the agreement down, hence producing the conditions for the mess Ulster is in now. The colonel then goes on to remind the viewers that Blair took us into the war on the dodgy dossier. We acted as bit-part players, not pulling our weight and giving the coalition good advice. He recalls that the crucial piece of advice he saw when he was a member of Special Forces at their HQ before he joined the RIR was that we needed to retain the Iraqi army to hold Iraq together until a democratic replacement for Saddam Hussein could be found. The disbandment of the Iraqi army unleashed a form of terror that cost many lives, both Iraqi and British. Farage responds by stating that down the centuries British prime ministers in crisis have made both good and bad decisions. This decision was very bad, but should it disqualify Blair from getting the accolade all other prime minsters have received? Collins response to this question is to point out that it’s ironic that the honour is in the gift of the monarch, whom Blair did so much to undermine. He describes how she was used as a prop for Blair, Cherie and New Labour at the millennium celebrations. He now has to come cap in hand to Her Maj and say ‘You are right.’ And Farage fully agrees.

Farage goes on to ask the colonel, as a veteran of the Iraq war, whether he and his colleagues feel bitter about being sold that war on a falsehood. Collins replies that he feels sorry for the people of Iraq, who have been pushed into their unfriendly neighbours, Iran. He believes they will rise again, but it will take a long time. There are thousands of people dead, who didn’t need to die, including our own people. Farage then asks him if he’s saying that Tony Blair shouldn’t get the knighthood. Collins replies that he should got to the Queen and tell her that he cannot accept it, because he is not a fit and proper person to receive it from the monarchy he has done so much to demean.

I think the colonel is rather more concerned about Blair’s undermining of the monarchy as much as, if not more, than British troops being sent into Iraq to fight and lose life and limb, and destroy an entire country on the basis of a lie. Blair did indeed appear to use to Queen as a prop for his own self-promotion during his tenure of 10 Downing Street. He was widely criticised by the right-wing press for his ‘presidential’ party political election film. He’s not the only one, however. Thatcher seemed to being her best on many occasions to upstage Her Maj while at the same time trying to bathe in the monarchy’s reflected glory.

The colonel’s statement about the Northern Ireland peace process being largely the work of Major and the Irish government is subject to doubt, but I can well believe it. Thatcher had begun secret talks with Sinn Fein and the IRA years before, while at the same time showing her massive hypocrisy by loudly denouncing the Labour party as traitors and supporters of terrorism for openly saying that it was precisely what we should do. Going further back to the beginning of the Troubles in the ’70s, Ted Heath had also opened talks with them, only to have them collapse because of the intransigence of the Loyalists.

The colonel also has a good point when he states that they shouldn’t have disbanded the Iraqi army. Bush and Blair had no real idea what to do after they’d won. Bush was taken in by the lies of Ahmed Chalabi, a fantasist who claimed to be the massively popular hero of resistance movement. He would take over the government of the country, and the coalition forces would be met as liberators by a grateful Iraqi people. None of which was true. What is also true is that Iranian influence has expanded into Iraq despite the hostilities of the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. Iran is a Shia country, and there is a sizable Shia minority in Iraq for whom Iran is, no doubt, a liberator and protector.

What the Colonel and Farage don’t mention is the real, geopolitical and economic reasons we invaded Iraq. The American-Saudi oil companies wanted to get their hands on Iraq’s state oil industry and its reserves, American multinationals wanted to acquire the country’s other state enterprises. And the Neo-Cons had the fantasy of turning the country into some kind of free trade, free market utopia, with disastrous consequences for the country’s economy.

Native Iraqi firms couldn’t compete with the goods dumped on them by foreign countries. Businesses went bankrupt, unemployment soared to 60 per cent. The country’s relatively progressive, secular government and welfare state collapsed. Sectarian violence erupted between Sunni and Shia, complete with death squads under the command of senior coalition officers. Women lost their ability to find careers outside the home. And the mercenaries hired to keep the peace ran prostitution rings, sold drugs and shot ordinary Iraqis for sport.

This is what you’re not being told on the mainstream news. The people reporting it are journalists like former Guardian hack Greg Palast in his book Armed Madhouse and alternative media outlets like Democracy Now! and The Empire Files on TeleSur. And there is plenty of evidence that Blair is a war criminal because of the war.

I’m well aware that some of the great commenters on this blog will object to my giving a platform to Farage and GB News. But I do feel that Farage is actually performing a valid service here questioning a senior army officer and veteran of the war about the issue of Blair’s knighthood. Even if his criticisms come from him as a man of the right.

There has been controversy about the New Years Honours system for a long time because so many have been awarded to very questionable people. Especially as the Tories have used it as a way of rewarding their donors.

But the destruction of an entire nation and the killing and displacement of millions of citizens for a lie made on behalf of further enriching the multinational elite is surely excellent reason for denying any honour to Blair.

Rightwingers Outraged at Acquittal of the Four Who Toppled Colston’s Statue

January 7, 2022

As a Bristolian with long personal roots in the city, I feel I’ve got to tackle this. The four people responsible for pulling the down the statue of the 18th century slave trader and philanthropist in a massive Black Lives Matter protest last year were on trial for it this week. They were charged with criminal damage, and yesterday were found ‘not guilty’ by the jury. And the right has been predictably incensed. The story’s on the front page of the Daily Mail, which reports that the jury may have been placed under pressure to acquit by the defence, which urged them ‘not to be on the wrong side of history’. The prosecution is therefore planning to appeal the decision. Nigel Farage has released a video on YouTube about it. Mixed-race Tory commenter Calvin Robinson has appeared on GB News talking about it. And inevitably the Lotus Eaters have also released a video about it, with Callum and one of Sargon’s other mates expressing their poor opinion of the whole thing. The message from the right has been the same: this decision imperils every statue in Britain, because it legitimises attacks on them through an appeal to the emotions of the attacker regardless of the letter of the law. Calvin Robinson in his interview on GB News agreed with the two journalists, one Black, one White, that you had to be very careful about limiting people’s freedom of expression. However the decision to acquit was, he explained, based on a legal loophole in the criminal damage law. This permits such damage, if the property damaged or destroyed itself serves to promote a crime. The argument made by the accused in a feature about them in the Groan was that the statue constituted a hate crime against Black Bristolians. The right-wing critics of the decision have therefore argued that this makes every statue unsafe, as an emotional reason could be found for any attack on them. The person, who vandalised Churchill’s statue last year could get off because, despite defeating Fascism, Churchill was a racist and imperialist. They have also made the point that the decision also means that Conservatives also have a right to tear down Marx’s bust in London, as he was also racist and anti-Semitic, quite apart from the millions murdered under Communism. Darren Grimes, the repulsive spawn of the Guido Fawkes site, said that he could also therefore tear down the statue of Friedrich Engels in Manchester.

Jury Freedom and the Historic Acquittal of Guilty Murderers

Yesterday Simon Webb of History Debunked also joined the debate, comparing the decision to the jury’s acquittal of the attackers of three policemen during a riot in 1820s London. The cops had been stabbed, and one killed, but the jury acquitted their attackers because the cops had attacked in a particularly aggressive and provocative manner. Webb stated that back in the 17th and 18th centuries judges could and did send juries back to reconsider their verdict, and even imprison them if they didn’t give the right verdict as directed. It was, of course, a great improvement to allow the juries the freedom to judge themselves rather than according to the opinion of the beak. But this did raise problems in cases like this. Indeed. Juries won the right to judge freely according to their own judgement following arguments for such free trials by the Levellers and particularly when William Penn, a Quaker and the founder of Pennsylvania, was put on trial for preaching his radical views in Bristol. The jury repeatedly refused the judge’s order to find guilty, and were even imprisoned. They eventually won out, and the trial helped established true British justice.

Allegations of Bias against Witness David Olasuga

One of the other objections to the trial was that one of the witnesses was the historian, David Olasuga. whom the Lotus Eaters describe as a Black activist and who admitted that, had he been able, he would have joined the mob in toppling the status. There is indeed a problem with Olasuga as some of his historical interpretations are questionable. For example, he and Reni Edo-Lodge turned up in video by the Beeb laying a plaque in Liverpool to a victim of racist lynching. Except that Wootton, the lynched man, had been part of a gang of West Indians, who had launched an attack on a group of Swedes and Russians. When a cop intervened, the West Indians repeated stabbed and tried to slash his throat. They retreated to a house where someone, probably Wootton, shot three policemen, before he was chased down to the docks trying to escape. He was hardly an innocent victim. Olasuga has been one of the Black historians claiming that historically, Britain had a much larger Black community than it probably did. He claims that there were Blacks in Roman Britain. History Debunked has shown that this largely comes from one of the legions at Hadrian’s Wall coming from the Roman province of Mauretania. This has been confused with the present day country in West Africa. However, the Roman province of Mauretania was further north in Morocco. I think there are perfectly reasonable questions of bias in Olasuga’s testimony.

Political Bias in Prosecution of Vandals

And then have come the various commenters sneering and deriding Bristol. I’ve seen the usual rants about how it’s a ‘Communist’ or ‘left-wing’ shithole; it’s a lefty university town, and as terrible as Liverpool or London. Rather more interesting was one comment from a working class Bristolian, who had been having a meal at a cafe in the city, whose customers were largely Black West Indians. These people had all been solidly against the decision. I can well believe it. I don’t think the Black community Bristol or elsewhere in our great nation is a monolithic bloc. Just like other racial groups, like Whites, Asians or Jews aren’t either. As for the four defendants, they were White middle class liberal kids, who most likely didn’t come from Bristol. There was also speculation about what would happen if someone vandalised a statue to a Black personality, like Nelson Mandela. Would this be treated the same way? Not if the example of the vandalism done to a mural of Marcus Rashford was an example. Although the messages sprayed on it weren’t racist, it was nevertheless treated as a racist hate crime. Actually, you don’t have to look that far for a similar example. After Colston’s statue was torn down, a bust in one of Bristol’s parks of a Black writer and dramatist was vandalised and the cops were after those responsible.

Some Black Bristolians Genuinely Upset at Statue

As for the feelings of fear or outrage that the defendants claimed justified the attack, the Black interviewer on GB News and Robinson both questioned whether Black people are so emotional fragile that they would be upset simply walking past Colston’s statue. Some may well not be, but others definitely were. Asher Craig, Bristol’s deputy elected mayor, head of equalities and city councillor for St. George’s, was on Radio 4 last year giving her opinion about the statue and Bristol’s historic connection to the slave trade. The programme also talked to others about it, including one ordinary Black woman. She said that she felt physically sick having to walk past it on the way to work every morning. I understand and sympathise. I think her example was far better and more persuasive than the various political activists angrily demanding that it should be torn down. It was the voice of an ordinary, working-class woman, about how the statue affected her.

Arguments for the Preservation of the Statue

It also has to be stated that Black Lives Matter’s attack was deliberately against the wishes of Bristolians themselves. There had been several polls in the past about whether the statue should be taken down or not. The majority of people voted against it. Paul Stephenson, one of the organisers of the Bristol bus boycott in the 1960s against the bus company’s refusal to employ Blacks, gave his opinion on the issue in an interview with Philippa Gregory in the 1990s. Gregory had just had her novel, A Respectable Trade, about the Bristol slave trade adapted for television and there was an exhibition about the city and slavery then at the City Museum and Art Gallery. It has since been moved and is now on display, sans title, at the city’s excellent M Shed Museum. Stephenson has something of a mixed reputation. To some he’s a respected civil rights activists, while others regard him more a deliberate troublemaker. He declared to Gregory that Colston was a bloody mass murderer responsible for a ‘Holocaust in Africa’. This follows the statement of W.E.B. DuBois, the pioneering American Black rights activist, that slavery and the slave trade were a Black Holocaust. It sounds like hyperbole, a deliberately emotional exaggeration, but I believe it’s based on the accounts of 19th century anti-slavery activists about the fierce tribal violence generated by the slave trade, and the devastation of whole regions as a result. But Stephenson also said that he didn’t think the statue should be torn down. He believed it should remain standing with an additional note to remind people of his crimes. A similar argument was made by the Lotus Eaters, who felt that statues should be left standing, even though they may be to terrible people, because they’re history. And we need to learn from history if we are to move on.

It’s a perfectly good argument, and one advanced in the ’90s by radical anarchist band The Levellers. They took their name from the radical, proto-democrat, proto-socialist sect during the British Civil War. They also believed in ‘Godly reformation’ and so, along with the other merchandising at their concerts were copies of the Bible and Christopher Hill’s Marxist study of the British Civil War, The World Turned Upside Down. I particularly remember one of their songs that had the lines ‘I believe in justice, I believe in vengeance, I believe in getting the bastard’. But they also released a song protesting about the decision by Manchester’s Labour council to rename the town’s historic Free Trade Hall. They objected to it because it was the destruction of history and an attempt to rewrite the past. It’s strange and rather disconcerting that they should have the same view on this issue from a libertarian left perspective, as the Tories.

Lastly, it needs to be remembered that Colston was not honoured for enslaving Blacks. The statue was put up long after that was over. Rather it was because he was a great philanthropist, who gave much of his fortune away in charity. There were schools named after him and funded by his largesse. My old school used to celebrate Colston Day in his honour, when the children were given a few days off. A few were specially honoured and went to a special service at Redcliffe Church, where they were given a Colston bun.

Bristol Great City

Now for a few remarks on the decision and the views of the various right-winger, who have sounded off about it. Firstly, Bristol isn’t a shithole. It’s a large, great city with a proud history of trade, exploration, industry and invention with excellent museums and theatres. The Bristol Old Vic and its theatre school have a particularly excellent reputation and have produced some of the country’s great thesps. It has it’s problems. I believe that the Bristol’s Black community is one of the three largest in the country, along with Birmingham and London. It has its problems with marginalisation, lack of educational achievement, unemployment, drugs and violent crime, though this is by no means confined simply to Blacks. But it’s not particularly left-wing. Some areas, like Stokes Croft, have a reputation for radical politics. I’ve heard local people refer to it as ‘the people’s republic of Stokes Croft’. Other areas are Conservative, and all the shades of political opinion in between.

Academic Freedom and Marxist Indoctrination at Universities

As for the universities, the comment blaming them for the decision comes from the standard right-wing attitude that the unis are full of Marxists indoctrinating students. In fact, universities, courses and individual lecturers vary immensely. Some universities had a reputation, even in my day, for being hotbeds of left-wing activism, others were more Conservative. It also varies with the course you’re on. There hasn’t, traditionally, been much opportunity for far left-wing indoctrination in maths, science, medicine and engineering courses because of the nature of those subjects. Although it’s creeping in now in the form of ethnomathematics and the demands that the achievements of Black scientists and mathematicians should be particularly taught, it’s mostly been confined to the humanities. There have always been Marxist historians. These include the very well respected Christopher Hill, Eric Hobsbawm and E.P. Saunders, and there is a specific Marxist view of history. You are taught about this on the historiography courses in history at University, along with other forms of history, such as women’s history, social history, what Butterfield called the ‘Whig view of history’ and more conservative and Conservative views. I’ve been taught by lecturers with feminist or left-wing views. I’ve also been taught by people with far more traditional views. I also know lecturer who determined to keep their political views out of the classroom. University is supposed to be a place of free speech and debate, and it’s important that this is maintained. Students should be encouraged to read sources and the historical literature critically, and make up their own views. This means an engagement with Marxism as well as other ideologies. I think Bristol university has particularly come under fire because it’s rather more conservative and traditional compared to the newer universities. It received funding from the Colston charities when it was established early in the last century. Hence I believe the granting of a chair in the history of slavery to a Black woman. It also has relatively few Black students, which contrasts with the population of the city as a whole. This is partly because it has very high standards, and as a rule Blacks generally have poorer grades than other racial groups. It is also no doubt because when I was young, going away was seen as part of university education and so you were discouraged from applying to the local university. Hence the university is now trying to give greater opportunities to study to more Blacks and ethnic minorities.

Queer Theory, Critical Race Theory and the Marxist Attack on Western Culture

Now I largely agree that the acquittal of the four defendants has set a dangerous precedent because it allows people to attack public monuments they dislike or which are controversial. James Lindsay, one of the group with Peter Boghossian and Helen Pluckrose that has attacked postmodernist Critical Theory, has argued that ideologies like Queer Theory and Critical Race Theory are deliberate attacks on traditional western culture and Enlightenment values. They are aimed at destroying the past to create a Marxist future, just as Chairman Mao did during the horrors of the Cultural Revolution. One of the ancient monuments the Red cadres smashed as part of the campaign against the ‘Four Olds’ was the tomb of Confucius! This sounds like an idea straight out of loony right-wing paranoids and conspiracists like Alex Jones and the John Birch Society, until he backs it up by reading chapter and verse from the founders of such postmodernist Marxism, like Marcuse, Horkheimer and others. And yes, I can quite believe that vandalism to a monument to a Black politico or celebrity, like Nelson Mandela, would be treated far differently and as a terrible hate crime than the attack on Colston.

But regardless of the defence’s plea to the jury to ‘be on the right side of history’, I think there would always have been pressure on the jury to acquit. Colston was a slave trader and had been controversial for decades. They naturally wouldn’t have wanted to acquit people who attacked a monument on that score, rather than the philanthropy the statue commemorated. And the defendants make a good point when they say that ‘he no longer speaks for Bristol’. There were others in the city who opposed the slave trade. As well as the slavers and the West Indian planters, Bristol also had a large abolitionist movement. If you go a little way from the centre of Bristol into Redcliffe, you’ll find the Georgian church where Jeremiah Clarkson, one of the leading 18th century abolitionists, collected the testimony of Bristol’s slavers as part of his evidence against the trade.

Other Statues Not Vandalised

As for other statues, none of those in the surrounding area were touched. Not the statue to Edmund Burke, the politician and founder of modern Conservatism through his book, Reflections on the Revolution in France. The Lotus Eaters are offering it, or reading through it, as their ‘book of the month’. I wonder if they’ll mention that Burke’s statue was signally left untouched by the rioters. As was the statue of a monk in Lewin’s Mead, which had before the Reformation been a monastic complex. They also failed to destroy the statue of Neptune and a sailor on the docks. Queen Victoria was left untouched on nearby College Green. They also didn’t destroy the statue of John Cabot outside the Council House, sorry, ‘City Hall’ and the Central Library. This was despite various ‘spokesmen’ for the Black community claiming that the City’s celebration of his discovery of Newfoundland and America, following Columbus, was a celebration of slavery. There may well be similar defences used on similar attacks on other statues, but I think such attacks will be far more difficult to defend. Churchill was indeed a racist and an imperialist, as well as personally responsible for sending troops to gun down striking miners in Wales. But to the vast majority of severely normal Brits he was also the man, who helped save Europe and the world from Nazism and the Axis. And that would also count powerfully in the case against anyone who vandalised his monument.

Historians also Successfully Defend Controversial Statues

As for testimony from historians, this can work against the iconoclasts. The BLM fanatics trying to get the statue of Cecil Rhodes torn down at Oxford university claimed that he was somehow ‘South Africa’s Adolf Hitler’. Now Rhodes was a grotty character and an imperialist, but this goes too far. Rhodes’ biographer tackled this claim on social media, at which the BLM protesters making it went quiet. They couldn’t refute it, and so went silent.

I therefore do not feel that other statues are necessarily in a greater danger than previously because of the acquittal.

Then there’s the question of any possible statue to replace it. There are rumours that it could be a Black person. Well, if there is, it should be of a Black person, who actually had contact and lived in the city. One of Bristol’s sporting heroes way back was a Black boxer. One of my aunts was friends with his daughter. I’d say this gentleman would be a good candidate for such a statue, because as a sports hero he united everyone from left and right, as well as being a citizen of Bristol.

Nigel Farage has suggested a memorial to the British navy. Absolutely. The British West India squadron did excellent work patrolling the seas for slavers. And they were by no means all racist. Captain Denman, giving evidence on a massacre of 300 unsold slaves by one of the West African slaving states to parliament, made the point that ‘it is remarkable given the advances they have made in the arts of civilisation’. He clearly believe European civilisation was superior, but had been particularly shocked because the African peoples responsible for the massacre were also comparatively civilised. Africans serving or aiding the British navy were also given the compensation payments awarded to British tars when they suffered injury and loss of limbs.

We also patrolled the waters between east Africa and India to stop western and Arab slavers, and one antipodean historian has written that in the Pacific, the royal navy was the chief protector of its indigenous peoples against enslavement.

It also needs to be remembered that one of the reasons for the British invasion of Africa was to stamp out slavery and the slave trade. I’ve no doubt that the main, if not the real reasons were simple hunger for territory and resources, and to stop those areas falling into the hands of our European imperial rivals – France, Germany, Italy and Portugal. But some of the officer involved took their duty extremely serious, such as Samuel Baker and Gordon of Khartoum. The Mahdi, against whom Gordon fought, and his followers were slavers outraged at the British government’s ban on it and the enslavement of Black Sudanese. There are therefore excellent reasons for putting up a memorial to the British navy and armed forces.

And I would also support a statue to Jeremiah Clarkson for his work in the city bringing the horrors of the trade to light.

In the meantime, despite the right-wing outrage at this act of vandalism, I think we should view the attack on Colston’s statue as a special case.

Claims of a general threat to British history because of it may well be exaggerated.

Another Festive Musical Attack on the Tories from PoliticsJoe

December 27, 2021

I’ve been putting up some of the vids from Kunt and the Gang for their obscene song about our incompetent, greedy, and murderous prime minister. However, they haven’t only made one or two. They’ve made thirteen, which is far too many to put up. And I think we’ve got the message by now. But here’s another musical spoof of them I found on YouTube from JOE: Now That’s What I Call A Tory Christmas. It’s a parody of the long-running series of music albums, Now That’s What I Call Music. The spoof songs include a version of Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’, about them telling people to keep apart while they themselves partied, Michael Gove singing a version of ‘White Christmas’ with a suspicious sniff; the horsey woman sings about how cronyism got her the contract for PPE and Rishi Sunak and friends singing about how they’ve spaffed everyone’s money up the wall. Other songs satirise Dominic Cummings for his drive to Barnard Castle and the Tory party cutting aid to Africa. And there’s a final song from a football commentator, manager or somebody advising us all not to vote for these bellends. Which is excellent advice. All with a carefully cut and edited voiceover from the minister for the 18th century, which makes him seem even more of a ridiculous anachronism than he already is. So enjoy!

Cartoonist Kayfabe Look at the Art and Career of ‘American Hero’ Steve Ditko

December 10, 2021

More comics stuff, and a rather longer video than usual at 1hr 9minutes, but the subject deserves it. Steve Ditko is one of the great, legendary figures of American comics. He’s probably best known for creating Spiderman and the occult hero Dr. Strange with Stan ‘the Man’ Lee for Marvel. But as this video shows, Ditko worked for many other American comics companies – DC, Charlton, Dale and EC among them as well as self-publishing his personal works. In the video, the Kayfabers Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg go through the volume Ditko Unleashed: An American Hero, which accompanied an exhibition of the great man’s work. The book’s bilingual in English and Spanish, which suggests that the exhibition may have been in Spain. The volume not only describes Ditko’s career, but gives plentiful illustrations of his art.

Ditko, like Kirby, came from a blue-collar, working class background. He went into art school to study cartooning, as he wanted to be a comics artist. His career was uneven, working for a number of different publishers and in a variety of different genres – monster, science fiction, horror as well as the superheroes for which is he is best known. He also worked with some of the great names in American comics. At times he inked the awesome Jack Kirby, at other times he was inked by Frank Miller, the artist and writer chiefly responsible for turning Daredevil into one of Marvel’s leading heroes. I think he may also have been inked by John Byrne, one of the major artists behind the New X-Men. He was admired by many of these new artists. The epic Jim Starlin, in one edition of his Warlock comic, ‘One Thousand Clowns’, dedicated it to Ditko for showing us a new reality. Starlin’s art was rather more naturalistic, but he also used the same floating paths and mystic portals in his work. He also went through several hard times in his career. At one point he moved away to New York to recover from tuberculosis, then, as in Britain, a major killer. There were also years when he struggled, as many others did, to get work. He also worked on a number of merchandising tie-ins, like Micronauts and Rom: the SpaceKnight, which were intended to promote toy figures. I read the comics, which were excellent without having any interest in buying the toys, which might indicate they were too successful. Like the adverts for Cinzano Bianco wine with Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins. Everyone enjoyed them and they’re still fondly remembered by peeps of a certain vintage, but the people watching the ads couldn’t remember the brand of booze and so didn’t buy it. Ditko, like Kirby, broke off from Marvel for a time, before he returned, working on the above tie-ins along with the robotic superhero Machine Man.

Ditko, Politics and Morality

Unlike Stan Lee, who was a liberal, Ditko was very Conservative, a follower of Objectivism, the philosophy of supercapitalist ideologue Ayn Rand. He also had very black and white views on morality, which were expressed in his personal creations, Mr. A and The Question. He believed that heroes should be heroes, their morals pure and uncompromised. True to his ideals, he turned down work when the characters he was being asked to depict didn’t live up to them. A few years ago Jonathan Ross made a documentary for BBC 4 or one of the other channels searching for Ditko. One of those interviewed was Brit comics titan Alan Moore, who described meeting Ditko at Ditko’s home. He says that Ditko had a very narrow, inflexible view of morality, telling Moore, like one of his characters, that there were only two ways, a right way and a wrong way. Ditko’s politics are very definitely not mine, and I’m very much aware that in the real world, things are very often never a case of black and white but more shades or grey and motives can be less pure than we’d like. But after the comics industry went through a phase in which they tried to make their heroes darker – Batman: The Killing Joke is one of the foremost – and it was difficult telling the heroes from the villains, it’s refreshing to have someone who believes in old fashioned heroics.

The Kayfabers believe that if he were working today, Ditko would be cancelled or at least severely annoy and alienate 50 per cent of his audience. I think the first is certainly true. There has always been a left-wing message in American comics and an awareness of social issues. In the late 1960s into the 1970s both Marvel and DC tackled issues like racism and the rise of the feminist movement. As a response to the latter, Marvel created the Valkyrie, original a woman scientist who revolted against the patriarchy after having the credit for her discoveries stolen by her male colleagues. The Hulk comic also questioned American militarism, while Captain America, in disgust at Watergate and the contemporary corruption of American politics, renounced his patriotic monicker to become Nomad. Of course it wasn’t long before he rediscovered his faith in the rightness of the American way and put his uniform back on. However, Lee has also said in an interview that he was careful not to make the message too shrill so that it alienated readers that didn’t share his politics. Now many Conservative and moderate left comics creators and fans believe that in many strips, the political message has become too overt at the expense of traditional qualities like plotting, characterisation, dialogue and sheer fantasy. This was the motive behind Comicsgate a few years ago, when a number of comics creators, like Ethan van Sciver, broke away from the main comics companies of DC and Marvel to set up on their own.

Heroism and Its Absence in Modern Genre Film and Literature

One of the problems Az of Heels vs. Babyface and The Critical Drinker is that many of today’s pop culture heroes actually don’t act like heroes. For example, in one episode of Batwoman reviewed by Az, he comments critically on the way Batwoman treats the villain, a woman who has murdered several innocents. When Batwoman confronts her, she tells Batwoman that she’s killed so many people out of rage at her persecution as a lesbian. As a result, Batwoman, a lesbian herself, lets her go. This is simply immoral. The persecution of otherwise perfectly decent people because they’re attracted to the opposite sex is wrong, but it doesn’t justify the murder of innocents. Whatever political views real policemen and women have, they still have to act impartially and arrest those, who break the law and especially those who commit terrible crimes like mass murder.

The Critical Drinker put up a whole video about the failure of contemporary SF heroes to live up to the standards of true heroism with the latest Star Trek iterations as a case in point. He contrasted these were the high standards of professionalism demanded of the captain and crew in the classic Star Trek: The Next Generation. In that series, the characters knew the importance of duty and respecting the command hierarchy even if they disagreed with it. At the same time, Picard and the other senior officers demanded and got the best from their crew. Several of the episodes involved leading characters learning the difficulties of command. There is one episode where one of the characters is training for promotion. Part this training involves trying to find ways to prevent a warp core breach that will destroy the Enterprise. The problem is insolvable until nearly every option has been tried except the one the prospective leader has been consciously trying to avoid: they have to send Jordi into the warp core to fix it, a command which will result in his death. But it’s unavoidable, and both characters know their duty is to their ship. The would-be commander has to give the order, which Jordi calmly accepts. And a hard lesson is learned. Instead, the crew of the new Trek franchises are grossly unprofessional. They bicker over there personal relationships in front of a superior officer, react badly to the stressful conditions they should, as crew aboard a quasi-military spacecraft, be trained to deal with and try to undermine their superior officers. Case in point: one sequence where Kirk and Spock attempt to beat the living daylights out of each other. Yeah, I’m aware that it happened in an episode or two of the original Trek, like the classic ‘Amok Time’, but there were extenuating circumstances. I like Star Trek and have got a couple of the recent Trek films on DVD. But I think the Drinker has a point, even if it comes from a jaundiced, booze-soaked mind. I think we need a few more heroes who are genuinely heroic in the old fashioned sense, even if the social views they hold may be those of the left.

Stylistic Strong Points

But Ditko’s own career also had its contradictions. At one point he was working on BDSM/ fetish comics, and there were certainly questions raised about the spectacular and surreal effects in several of his strips. Many of his characters, like Dr Strange, enter strange realms in which roads float apparently in mid-air, and doors and portals appear leading to elsewhere, like the mobile holes in many a cartoon strip. Strange shoots beams of light and conjures up strange geometrical figures in his incantations. These effects resemble the entoptic imagery seen when people start to hallucinate after using mind-altering drugs. Which led to the obvious question: was Ditko also on ’em. Ditko was too straitlaced to use recreational chemicals, and answered ‘No’. It all came from within, from his own unaided imagination. Which says to me that Ditko had an awesome imagination on his own, and that the really great, creative people don’t need drugs.

I can’t say that I was ever a fan of Ditko, as his artistic style with Marvel seemed rather too simple. I really admired those artists who were rather less stylised and more detailed and naturalistic. Nevertheless, this video shows that Ditko was a master of his art. The Kayfabers point out that he’s great at cityscapes and portraying fluid action sequences in which the characters are constantly in motion. In some of the strips, Ditko also used colour washes to enhance his line art, and the result is stunning. There are also a couple of strips where Ditko’s inkers were beginning to use computers to add inks and colour to his pencils, which are also very striking.

The Kayfabers also think that some of the pictures come from the private collections of people who acquired them less than legally. There is a black market in comics art, and Ditko was a victim along with many others. They won’t name names, of course, because they don’t want to get writs from m’learned friends. But they also state they’re just glad that someone, somewhere has preserved these pictures that would otherwise have been lost. Ditko also suffered into inadvertently giving people his autograph, thus cheating himself of money. He didn’t give autographs. However, if someone wrote to him asking for his autograph, they’d get a polite reply for Ditko saying ‘No’. Which he’d sign. People cottoned on to this, and exploited it.

Comics and Other Genre Artists True Artistic Innovators Deserving Academic Respect

The Kayfabers also lament that Ditko and that other American comics legend, Jack Kirby, weren’t more articulate. If they had been able to use the kind of language critics and intellectuals use about art, they could easily have been up there with Warhol and the Factory. But they were working artists, who had to grind out their strips to make a buck, and so didn’t have time to mix with people in art galleries. I completely agree. It’s been my opinion for a very long time that the truly great, innovative art exploring new visions, directions and tools is that of the space, science fiction and fantasy artists, including book illustrators and comics artists. And there are others who feel the same. I can remember watching one video about comics, in which one of the speakers said he felt angry seeing the work of artists hung in art galleries, who had based their work on comic artists. He felt that the original comics artists should have got the money and their work hung instead. Way back in the ’90s I tried to get one of the art magazines to accept an article in which I argued this point, and showed the stylistic similarities between respect fine artists like H.R. Giger and those of the Soviet austere school and such comics greats as Kirby and the British master of aliens, robots and the grotesque, Kevin O’Neil. Unfortunately, it was turned down because it would have been too expensive to run. But the point remains. And it'[s shown in Ditko’s art. There’s a panel in which the exhibition shows a clear influence on one of Ditko’s weird geometrical designs in a portal in Dr. Strange with a painting from the Russian avant-garde artist Vassily Kandinsky. The two debate whether there is a genuine influence there, before concluding that their probably is. I can easily believe it. Many comics artists have their own heroes and influences in fine art as well as other great illustrators of the past. Way back at the comics festival UKCAC ’90 I remember going to a talk by Charles Vess, who talked about the great artists and illustrators he admired. I can well believe that Ditko absorbed and incorporated ideas from fine art as well as cartooning and illustration, and that his own work pushed these ideas forward into new directions.

The book goes up to 2016, nearly the end of Ditko’s life. He died only a few years ago. Wossy in his quest to find the great man managed to track him down to an advertising agency in the Big Apple. Ditko agreed to meet Woss and the other host, but it all had to be off-camera. The programme concluded with Wossy stating that when they met Ditko he was very sweet, gave them lots of copies of his work, but they couldn’t repeat what he said to them. And so walked off into the New York crowd.

Well, RIP Steve Ditko, one of the greats of American founders. The book and the video by the Kayfabers are a great overview of one of the creators of some of the most iconic modern American superheroes.