Posts Tagged ‘El Salvador’

Libertarian Socialist Rants on the Top 10 US-backed Atrocities and Brutal Regimes

April 30, 2016

Libertarian Socialist Rants is an Anarchist vlog on Youtube. Why I don’t agree with his variety of Socialism, the Libertarian Socialist has made some excellent videos making extremely incisive points about capitalism, state-committed atrocities and the vile state of politics and individual politicians in this country. In the video below, he goes through a list of what he considers to be the top ten atrocities and most brutal regimes supported by America. These are, in reverse order:

10: Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam. This is interesting because it shows you what is rarely discussed, which is how awful the regime was against whom the Viet Cong were rebelling. And he’s fairly typical of many of the dictators on this list, with massive nepotism, brutal suppression of internal dissidents, including labour organisations, and persecution of Buddhists.

9. Agha Yahya Khan of Pakistan for his regime’s brutal war against Bangladesh.

8. The Shah of Iran.

7. Fulgencio Batista of Cuba, the dictator, who was overthrown by Castro.

6. Apartheid South Africa. This is also interesting for showing how far White South Africa was supported by Britain and a certain Margaret Thatcher, because it was a bulwark against the ANC, who were Communists. The pictures in this section show Thatcher stating that she wouldn’t impose sanctions, and the infamous right-wing song, ‘Hang Nelson Mandela’. Thatcher justified her refusal to impose sanctions by stating that the ANC were terrorists. However, what this video does not say, is that they were driven to terrorism only after repeated attempts to change the situation by legal means had failed. They started out in the 1950s by simply writing letters to the South African parliament urging change, the dismantlement of Apartheid and the enfranchisement of the Black population. It was only after these were repeatedly rejected, that they did what others do when the road of peaceful protest is closed to them, and turn to violence.

5. The Chilean coup which overthrew Salvador Allende and replaced him with General Pinochet. The video also shows how Thatcher’s favourite South American thug was supported by the economists of the Chicago school. These, explains, were all Chileans taught at the University of Chicago by Milton Friedman, the founder of Monetarism. When Pinochet came to power, Friedman paid the Nazi a visit to supervise the privatisation of Chile’s nationalised industries.

4. General Suharto of Indonesia, who massacred hundreds of thousands and committed crimes against humanity in a military crackdown against Communism. He received substantial support from the US, including Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Suharto then went on to invade East Timor, during the occupation of which 1/3 of the population were murdered. This part of the video shows a discomfited Clinton being asked about his support for Indonesia’s dictatorship by a gentleman of the press. Clinton comes towards the journo, repeatedly asking him when he’s going to get to the point. Slick Willy’s demeanour is smooth, but the hack clearly has got under his skin.

3. El Salvador. This starts off with the murder of the Roman Catholic Cardinal Oscar Romero, who committed the heinous and unforgivable crime of writing to the US authorities about what was being done to the people of this country by the Fascist dictatorship. This piece also includes accounts from the teenage kids, who were forcibly recruited into the regime’s death squads, and indoctrinated and brutalised using methods copied from the Nazis’ SS. None of this video is easy watching, but this section is particularly harrowing. Among other atrocities, the regime used to decapitate whole families, including babies.

2. Pol Pot in Cambodia. He’s on the list, because Kissinger helped them into power through a bombing campaign of the country. Intended to destroy Communism, it actually increased support. And once in power, the regime received covert assistance from the US and Britain.

1. Guatemala and the United Fruit Company. This describes the long history of the country’s domination by the American United Fruit Company, which was supported by various dictators. The UFC owned extensive banana plantations and had the concession of the entire east coast railway, forming a feudal ‘state within a state’. Liberal movements demanding reform, labour unions and pro-peasant organisations were banned and brutally attacked. And when Arbenz in the 1950s dared to extend the franchise and nationalised the UFC’s plantations, the American government organised a coup and overthrew him, all with the pretext that he was a Communist, who was going to turn Guatemala into a puppet state of the USSR to attack the US.

What I found particularly interesting in this segment was the piece from a US propaganda newsreel celebrating the coup with the headline title ‘Freedom Comes to Guatemala’. The announcers voice and accent are very much the same as that of the fake Internet newsreel messages in Paul Verhoeven’s 1990s version of Starship Troopers. Verhoeven grew up in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation, and the film is supposed to be a satire on militarism and Fascism, using as its vehicle the most militaristic of Heinlein’s SF books.

The section on Guatemala also covers the long war in the 1980s that was waged against the country’s indigenous peoples, and the brutalising effect this had on the country’s children.

And finally, there’s a section at the end where the Libertarian Socialist lists a few ‘honourable’ mentions. It’s so long that it has to be skimmed through at speed. He also quotes Team America: World Police, and concludes at the end that states and corporations are not moral actors and have colluding in committing the most appalling atrocities.

It’s a very, very good video, done pretty much in the style of Adam Curtis’ brilliant documentaries, but with the use of black humour in place of Curtis’ montage effects. Be aware, though, that this is a very grim piece. It describes the various tortures these regimes have inflicted on their opponents. As the standard warning goes, some viewers may find it upsetting.

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Outfoxed: Documentary on Corrupt Journalism in Fox News

April 6, 2015

This is another documentary I found on Youtube. It’s about the massively biased reporting and complete lack of any kind of journalistic integrity on Fox News, the American news channel owned by Rupert Murdoch. Amongst the speakers are journalists, free press activists, politicians and ordinary people, who were interviewed by Murdoch’s hacks. The documentary sets the tone in the very first minutes by comparing Fox news and its management to a scene in the Godfather. Murdoch and his cronies are the gangsters of television journalism.

Among the programme’s revelations is the fact that the executives at Fox News sent memos to their staff every morning laying out what the stories they wanted covered that day, and how they wanted it presented and slanted. The journalists themselves were spied on and punished, if they did not follow the party line. Murdoch himself when he was negotiating to take over the channel, assured the federal authorities that he would bring ‘diversity’ to news broadcasting.

He didn’t. In fact, he did anything but. He was always a supporter of the Republican party, and fervently admired Reagan. As a result, Fox News acted as an arm of the Repugs, broadcasting press releases from the Bush’s administration almost unedited and without any kind of factual analysis.

This could get awkward for the journalists themselves, as they were expected to present the actions of Murdoch’s political heroes as those of heroic grandeur, even when nothing impressive or remotely grand was happening. One journalist talks about the problems he had doing this for Dubya, on days when Dubya wasn’t acting heroically. Another journo talks about the grief he was given by the studio executives for not giving a sufficiently grand and impressive image of the celebrations of Reagan’s birthday. There were a couple of schools there at the Ronald Reagan Memorial Library to valorise the old brute, but nothing much was actually going on. The hack did his best, trying to present the crowds there as far larger and the celebrations more impressive than they actually were. But you can’t make up what isn’t there, and the hack’s attempts to do so were judged inadequate and insufficient by Murdoch’s minions.

The speakers on the documentary go on to describe the subtle bias in the selection of guests or opposing speakers on the News. When covering political conferences or gathering, Fox News made sure they showed the big, well-known Republican politicians. When it came to the Democrats, they gave airtime only to the unknown, obscure figures in the party. The Channel also made sure that Republicans were on there commenting on the news fives times more than Democrats.

Those Democrats that were invited on were very carefully selected. One of the former Fox journalists describes them as ‘Faux Democrats’. They had a liberal faƧade, but were actually Conservatives. They were chosen because they didn’t really disagree with the Conservative line the network was taking. They even extended this bias down to the personal appearance of two of Fox’s anchors, Hannity and Colmes. Sean Hannity, the Conservative, was big, good-looking bloke. His liberal partner on the programme, Colmes, was described as ‘weaselly’. It’s harsh and ad hominem, but the comment’s a fair one in a society and industry where celebrities and politicians are carefully chosen and judged on their physical attractiveness.

And then there’s Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly is one of their main anchors, with a highly confrontational manner and an absolute disregard for anything like objective truth. He’s been caught out recently lying about his early career in journalism, when he claimed to have covered the Falklands War, Northern Ireland and El Salvador from the combat zones. In reality, he wasn’t anywhere near the fighting. The man lies so often that he’s collected the nickname, Bill O’Liely. There’s even a video around of Fred Phelps, the pastor of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church, denouncing O’ Reilly as a liar. How much of a skunk do you have to be, when even a monomaniac, pathological bigot like Phelps looks down on you?

O’Reilly is shown trying to rebut his reputation for telling his guests to shut up. This happened only once, a few years ago, he tells the audience at a news convention. Wrong! And the documentary gleefully shows O’Liely exploding over and over again, telling everyone to shut up.

They also interview a young man, Jonathan Glick, who managed to hold his own while being interviewed by the old bully. This so infuriated O’Reilly that Glick had to be rushed out of the building before O’Reilly turned violent. And for months afterwards, O’Reilly returned to the interview to lie and twist what Glick had actually said.

Glick’s father was one of the victims of the 9/11 Twin Towers attack. Glick himself was one of those, who signed a letter against the invasion of Afghanistan. When questions about this by O’Reilly, by Glick states calmly that the people of Afghanistan didn’t carry out the attack. It was a group of mujahideen, who had been funded and equipped by the US.

This is absolutely true, but not something that O’Reilly wanted to here. He started shouting at Glick to shut up, and tried to invoke Glick’s father and respect for the other victims of the atrocity. Glick calmly stated that he loves and respects his father, and is following his father’s views, and criticises O’Reilly for invoking the victims’ memory in support of his own views. This was all too much for O’Reilly, who angrily ended the interview.

Glick was told to get out of O’Reilly’s sight for his own safety by a couple of producers. He then went up to the green room, and was then urged to leave the building by another couple of staff, who were afraid that if he stayed around, O’Reilly would be hit with a legal writ.

Over the next four months or so, O’Reilly began lying about the interview in subsequent broadcasts. He claimed that Glick was some kind of far-left Communist, and a Troofer. Glick was neither. He contacted one of the media monitoring groups, and told them he was thinking of suing O’Reilly for lying. The group’s lawyer told him that it would be difficult to get a conviction, as he’d need to prove that O’Reilly knew he was lying. And as O’Reilly was such an inveterate liar, he may well have been pathological and actually believed what he said.

Going on to political campaigns, the documentary describes how Fox uses the headlines and small, running snippets of news presented in the text at the bottom of the screen to frame the bias for the rest of the news. They were also less interested in important issues like health, education and welfare, which lacked the emotional impact that would appeal to right-wing groups. They preferred to concentrate on highly controversial, ‘hot-button’ topics, like abortion and gay rights, that would generate and provoke right-wing attention and support.

The issue of gay marriage actually proved more difficult for the Channel to manipulate than it thought. Rather than the outrageously costumed, theatrical sexuality of gay pride parades, which Fox was used to covering, most of the gay men and women, who came forward to get married were middle aged and looked severely normal. Fox couldn’t get any mileage out of presenting them as sources of outrage and a major threat to American society, so they ditched the issue and concentrated on religion instead.

When it came to individual politicians, they took every opportunity to denigrate the Democrats. When Bill Clinton was in office, they consistently attacked him, only to reverse their bias against the president when their boy, George Dubya, won. When it came to John Kerry, they concentrated on the issue of whether or not he had thrown away his medals after serving in Vietnam. If there was a downturn in the economy, it was because the markets were worried about Kerry. In fact, there were a number of issues that would have effected the markets, but the line Murdoch wanted pushed was that it was all down to Kerry, who would be a disaster for America.

Unlike the disaster for American, and global journalism, that is Rupert Murdoch.

And the network was responsible for extremely biased reporting when it came to the Bush’s election. At the time Fox made the announcement that Bush had won, the actual stats were still unclear and it was undecided. The ethical response from traditional, mainstream journalists would be to admit that. Fox didn’t. They declared Bush the winner. And within minutes, this was parroted by the other channels, who clearly hadn’t done their own, independent research.

The documentary makes it clear that this one of the most pernicious effects of Fox News: it’s corrupting the other networks, from MSNBC to CNN as they attempt to copy its style and political bias. And this is alarmingly destroying journalistic standards in America. The documentary gives the stats showing that Fox viewers actually know less about the world, and believe that their government’s actions are right, far more than other Americans. The journalists commenting on this state that for other channels, this would be a source of shame and an indication of failure.

It also has had an effect in making the number of journalists and presenters from ethnic minorities coming into television much smaller. A Black journalist in the documentary describes how this has effected not just Blacks, but also Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians. Their numbers have declined, as Fox has centralised its broadcasting, and cut down on local stations.

One of the positive things that has come out of Fox News, however, is that more people are aware of media bias. The producers warn of the dangers of television journalism being concentrated in the hands of five or so networks. They urge viewers and listeners to write and contact their local stations demanding that they report the news better and more objectively. They also report a few cases where communities have set up their own radio stations out of dissatisfaction with the bias of the existing broadcaster.

It’s a fascinating expose of Murdoch’s corrupt journalism. Several times in the show they describe Murdoch’s channel as like Soviet propaganda under Stalin. Unlike Stalin’s media, Fox News is far more pernicious. In the Soviet Union, it was clear the news was bias. In the West, the news claims to be independent, and so its bias is far more hidden. Especially on a channel that keeps boasting that about it’s ‘fair and accurate journalism’.

This is a show that’s clearly more relevant to Americans. But it’s also important over here. Murdoch would like to see the BBC sold off, so he could purchase it, or expand to fill the vacuum left by its demise. At the moment we have legislation prohibiting biased reporting. So did the Americans until the 1980s, when Reagan repealed the ‘fairness doctrine’.

A few weeks ago the Radio Times carried an article by one of its journos arguing that British broadcasters should similarly be able to abandon any pretence of objectivity, and so create the kind of vigorous material that has supposedly rejuvenated American journalism with Fox. This documentary shows the reality: a horrendously biased network, that keeps the public ignorant while celebrating the actions of the Right.

And it hasn’t rejuvenated American journalism. The average age of the Fox viewer is 68, and the network has been described as less of a broadcaster, and more of a retirement community.

Whatever Fox is, it shouldn’t be the future of journalism, either here or in America.

Western Goals, the Tories and Links to Fascism

March 2, 2014

Daniel Hannan

Daniel Hannan, Eurosceptic Tory MP and opponent of the NHS

Earlier this week I reblogged an article from Guy Debord’s Cat critiquing the assertion by Daniel Hanna the idea of the BNP are ‘Left-wing’. Hannan is the Conservative MEP for Dorset, who wishes Britain to leave the EU and supports the privatisation of the NHS. His claim that the BNP is Left-wing follows the line of the American and Canadian Conservatives that Fascism is a form of Socialism. It is true that both Italian Fascism and the Nazi party contained socialist elements. Mussolini was originally a radical Socialist, who broke with the Italian socialist party because of his support for Italian intervention in the First World War. Both the Nazis and the Fascists allied with traditional right-wing Conservative groups to gain and hold on to power. Mussolini declared that the Fascists were the party of pure, ‘Manchester school’ laissez-faire economics. Hitler attempted to win over German industrialists by stating that ‘private property cannot survive an age of democracy’, and so private industry needed his personal dictatorship to survive. He made it clear that he would not nationalise any industry or enterprise, unless it was extremely badly run, and declared his support for the upper classes and the industrialists, as they had proven their social and physical superiority to everyone else by achieving their social position by their own efforts. It’s a statement that very clearly demonstrates the influence of social Darwinism on Hitler.

In Britain it is true that some left-wingers joined the BUF because of its apparently anti-capitalist programme. Many of the British Fascist groups, however, consisted of extreme Right-wing, Die-Hard Conservatives, worried about the threat of organised labour and subversions by foreign industrialists, such as the Anglo-German Jewish industrialist, Mond. The British Fascisti in the 1920s consisted of middle class ladies and senior military officers, and supplied blackleg labour to break up strikes. They strenuously rejected Oswald Mosely’s advocacy of a corporative state on the model of Mussolini’s Italy as ‘socialism’. All of the British Fascist groups were extremely nationalistic and anti-Semitic.

Maggie’s Militant Tendency and the Union of Conservative Students

Although the Tory Die-Hards and their support for Fascism did not survive World War II, there were nevertheless individuals and groups with the Conservative party that were extremely sympathetic to the Far Right. In the 1980s Margaret Thatcher had a Panorama documentary, ‘Maggies’ Militant Tendency’, pulled from the airwaves as the programme argued that the Conservative party had been infiltrated by Fascists, just as Labour had been by the Far Left group, Militant Tendency. There was also a scandal when one of the leaders of the Union of Conservative Students in Northern Ireland, Tinnies, declared their support for Far Right policies. Tinnies stated that they were ‘all Thatcherite achievers, but if Mrs Thatcher doesn’t want us, we will go to the Far Right’. The British parapolitical magazine, Lobster, in issue 21 carried an article on another group with links to Fascism within the Tory party, Western Goals (UK).

Western Goals

Western Goals (UK) was the British branch of the American Conservative organisation, the Western Goals Foundation. During its career, Western Goals had links to and supported the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, acting as a conduit for Oliver North’s funding of them according to a report of the Tower Commission. Its British subsidiary had links with the World Anti-Communist League, the British Anti-Communist League, the American Conservative groups the Conservative Action Foundation (CAF), the Committee to Defend the Constitution (CDC) as well as CAUSA, a front organisation for the Moonies, which supplied funds to the CAF. It also had links to the pro-Apartheid South African Conservative party, and also supported the Neo-Nazi German Republican Party and the French Front National, as well as El Salvador’s ruling Arena Party. There was also contact with the BNP, the League of St. George and David Irving’s Focus Group.

Western Goals (UK) parent organisation, the Western Goals Foundation, was set up in America in 1979 by Larry McDonald, an extreme Right-wing Georgia congressman with support from General John Singlaub. It was chaired by Linda Guell with Carl ‘Spitz’ Channell as its president. Western Goals (UK) was launched six years later May 1985, when Linda Guell visited Britain. By this time Western Goals also had a branch in Germany, and had run a series of TV adverts supporting the Contras. Both McDonald and Singlaub were linked to the Conservative Action Group, and Singlaub also had ties to the World Anti-Communist League.

Western Goals (UK) first director was the Young Conservative, Paul Masson. It also had a parliamentary advisor board, whose membership included the Rev. Martin Smyth, Patrick Wall, Nicholas Winterton, Neil Hamilton, Bill Walker and Stefan Terlezki, a former MP. Patrick Wall was also president of the British Anti-Communist Council, which was at the time a branch of the World Anti-Communist League. Peter Dally, another leading figure of BACC, was also president at the launch of Western Goals (UK). Terlezki was also a leading member in the British section of the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations (ABN). In March 1986 the anti-Fascist magazine, Searchlight, reported that Paul Masson had become a member of the ABN’s International Youth Committee, and that a delegation had been sent to them by the Young Monday Club consisting of Masson, David Neil-Smith, A.V.R. Smith and Adrian Lee.

‘Spitz’ Channell and Tax Fraud

In late 1986 Western Goals (UK) split with its American parent. This was partly due to the scandal over the Tower Reports finding of its funding of the Contras. More importantly, ‘Spitz’ Channell had admitted tax fraud. Western Goals (UK) therefore separated from the Western Goals Foundation, which was effectively wound up and absorbed into the Larry McDonald Trust. The split was, however, a difference without distinction, as the supposedly independent Western Goals (UK) still retained links to the Larry McDonald Trust.

Attacks on ‘Left-wing’ Charities

In 1986 and 1987 Western Goals played a leading role, with other Right-wing organisations such as the anti-trade union Economic League, in attacking the charities Oxfam, Cafod and War on Want. They also produced a report attacking Christian Aid. In October the same year Western Goals (UK) also held a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference attacking the charities under the title ‘Alms for the Poor or Arms for Communism?’. In 1989 they sent a report on the above charities involved in Central America Week to the Charities’ Commission. The report was produced by Michael McCrone and Gideon Sherman, the childhood friend of the Right-wing blogger, ‘Guido Fawkes’.

Claims of Communists in Labour, Liberals and Attacks on Livingstone for Pro-Gay Stance

During the 1987 election, they also produced as briefing paper containing the details of ‘Communist aligned’ Labour and Liberal candidates, which was circulated to Tory MPs and their friends in the media. It became the basis for a four page report in the Daily Mail. In August the same year the Kilburn Times reported that they had launched an attack on Ken Livingstone for his support of gay issues. They stated

Livingstone and his friends in London’s Labour councils want to encourage more homosexuals to come out of the closet and spread their perverted filth. The gay rights policy which he is preparing to put before Parliament in the Autumn is typical of someone who is working to destroy the family and traditional family values. It will mean more danger of AIDS and that is just what Britain’s enemies want.

The following year, in 1988, members of CAUSA, CAF and CDC addressed one Western Goals’ meetings. *In January 1989 there was a report that Stuart Northolt and A.V.R. Smith of Western Goals (UK) were collaborating with David Finzer, the general secretary of the World Youth Freedom League, WACL’s youth wing, and who was also linked to CAF and the CDC, to raise money for an international conference on ‘self defence for Eastern Europe’.

Jonas Savimbi and UNITA

It was also in 1988 that Western Goals (UK) claimed to have an ‘African desk’, although this was probably just a grandiose way of referring to Northolt and Smith. Western Goals (UK) also participated in organising a visit that July to Britain of Jonas Savimbi of UNITA in Angola. They held a briefing with him at the House of Commons, claiming it was attended by 20 MPs belonging to their organisation. There is some question over this, as Western Goals (UK)’s parliamentary advisory body had ceased to function by this time, and there is no evidence that the Tory MPs Winterton, Hamilton or Walker were still involved with them. Another Tory MP, Stefan Terlezki, had left the House of Commons.

Opposition to War Crimes Trials in Britain

In February 1989 Western Goals issued a press release criticising the proposal to allow war crimes’ trials in Britain. They condemned such trials as a ‘Communist disinformation ploy’. The statement was issued on notepaper listing the names of their vice-presidents, one of whom was the Unionist MP, the Rev. Martin Smyth. Smyth then resigned, as he had actively campaigned for the trial of Nazi war criminals.

UNITA and the South African Conservative Party

Later that year in June they issued a ‘discussion paper’, Namibia – What Kind of Independence?, which strongly favoured South Africa and Angola’s UNITA. They also issued the pamphlet, ANC/IRA Partners in Terror, which was timed to coincide with the visit to Britain of the leader and foreign affairs spokesman of the South African Conservative Party, Andries Treunicht and Clive Derby-Lewis. This was presented as having been organised by the Anglo-South African Fellowship. In reality it was organised by Western Goals, with A.V.R. Smith dealing with PR. The meeting’s press release also contained the contact details of Gregory Lauder-Frost and Christopher Forster. In addition to being members of Western Goals, Lauder-Frost was also chair of the Monday Club’s Foreign Affairs’ Committee, while Forster was also chair of the Anglo-South African Fellowship.

European Dawn and the Leader of El Salvador’s Death Squads

By the time of the 1989 Conservative Party conference, they had adopted an explicitly pro-Fascist stance. It was then that Western Goals (UK) launched their magazine, European Dawn. The magazine announced that it was ‘published by Western Goals (UK) on behalf of YEWF’ – the latter organisation was the Young Europeans for World Freedom, WACL’s youth organisation. So far, only two issues of European Dawn are known to have been published. The logo featured the kind of Celtic cross adopted by the British National Party. It was edited by Northolt and produced by Smith, publishing articles supporting the Front National in France and the Neo-Nazi Republican Party in Germany. The first issue was also accompanied by a covering letter by Northolt, which mentioned that the organisation’s executive committee had held a private dinner, at which the guest of honour was Major Roberto D’Aubuisson. D’Aubuisson was a member of El Salvador’s governing Arena Party, and one of the organisers of its death squads. According to Northolt, D’Aubuisson had agreed to become an honorary patron of Western Goals (UK).

European Dawn, the Tories and the Front National

European Dawn was also one of the joint sponsors of Western Goals (UK) fringe meeting on October 12 1989 of that year’s Tory party conference. In their press, Western Goals (UK) described themselves as ‘a London-based right-wing organisation devoted to the preservation of traditional Western values and European culture, and it opposes communism, liberalism, internationalism and the “multi-cultural society”.’ The meetings main speaker was Derby-Lewis of the South African Conservative Party. One of the other speakers was Yvan Blot, of the French Front National.

Derby-Lewis and British Conservatives

When Derby-Lewis again visited Britain the following year, 1990, A.V.R. Smith arranged for him to attend WACL’s 22nd conference in Brussels as a Western Goals Institute delegate. Western Goals (UK) also claimed that he had met leading members of the Conservative party such as Lord Hailsham, the tennis player and Buster Motram, who had formerly supported the NF. They also claimed that he had addressed a meeting of the House of Lords Monday Club under Lord Sudely and a banquet of the South West Essex Monday Club, attended by Teresa Gorman, Teddy Taylor and Tim Janman. His speech at the banquet was praised for its ‘robust defence of European values and civilisation in Southern Africa’. He was also a guest at a ‘select’ dinner in Whitehall for Conservative MPs, Conservative candidates, councillors and party officials. European Dawn also became more overtly anti-Semitic. It has been alleged that there was at least one meeting between Northolt and Smith and the Fascist League of St. George. However, both A.V.R. Smith and Keith Thompson of the League of St. George have denied them.

Western Goals and the BNP

The BNP certainly appear to have had links to Western Goals, discussing them in an issue of their magazine, Spearhead. The article described how a group of BNP members had arrived at a meeting between the South African Conservatives’ Andries Treunicht and Western Goals (UK) at the Royal Commonwealth Society, where they attempted to sell copies of Spearhead. Prevented from doing so, the BNP criticised Western Goals’ members for their squeamishness in not owning up to their Nationalist convictions:

Their line was the familiar one: “Oh yes, I agree with all you say, but keep it quiet”… Their greatest fear is that of being embarrassed by their nationalist acquaintances turning to their gatherings and compromising their “respectable” credentials’. Just how many Western Goals members were sympathetic to the BNP is open to question. However, one of early members of Western Goals (UK), and an associated of Smith and Northolt, Stuart Millson, left the organisation to join the BNP. Millson had been a member of the Young Monday Club and Conservative Student while at Exeter University in 1985. By 1991, however, he claimed to have left the BNP and was once more a member of the Tories. Another BNP activist, Sean Pearson, was also a member of the Yorkshire branch of the Monday Club run by Anthony Murphy, who was also Western Goal’s main contact in the region. He was thrown out of his local branch of the Conservative party after Leeds Other Paper, Searchlight and City Limits revealed that he had been distributing racist leaflets in Bradford. However, he joined Thurrock Conservative Association, thus remaining a member of the party. In April 1991 he was one of the Party’s election agents in Bradford.

Conclusion: Western Goals example of Fascism in Conservative Party, not Socialism

Hughe’s article predicts that the organisation and the Monday Club would find themselves under increasing pressure from the party’s leadership under John Major, who was an opponent of White supremacism. Certainly Western Goals and its links to the BNP and German and French extreme Right would now be acutely embarrassing for David Cameron. Cameron has, after all, attempted to present the party as pro-gay and anti-racist. One of the first things he did as leader was sever links to the Monday Club. Nevertheless, Western Goals and its extreme Right-wing stance, which can certainly be considered Fascist, does refute the claim of Daniel Hannan and other Conservatives, on both sides of the Atlantic, that somehow Fascism is a form of Socialism and the BNP are ‘left-wing’.

Resisting the Tories War on the Poor: Bring Back the Underground and Alternative Comics

December 24, 2013

As I’ve written in previous blog, one of the problems facing Left-wing opponents of the Coalition and its vile policies is how to get the message across, when the media are nearly all biased towards the Conservatives. One possibility may be to use comics and graphic novels, following the examples of the great underground and alternative comics that first appeared in the 1960s and ’70s, before expanding and changing, along with the rest of the comics world in the ’80s and ’90s. Two of the most famous examples of comics creators using the medium to make extremely serious political points were Brought to Light and Aargh in the 1980s. These were a response to atrocities committed by CIA-backed Contra rebels in Nicaragua and the Thatcher government’s attempt to pass the now notorious Clause 28 respectively. This last piece of legislation was intended to prevent schools promoting homosexuality. Gays and libertarians were outraged by what they saw as the official promotion of homophobia, and feared that it would be followed by even more punitive legislation directed at gays themselves. Since Mrs Thatcher’s death, there has been some attempt to rehabilitate her regarding her attitude towards homosexuality. It’s been rightly observed that she did not personally hate gays, and that an attraction to one’s own sex was no obstacle to serving in her cabinet. Thatcher’s economic model was, however, Chile under the Fascist dictator General Pinochet, who was a personal friend of hers. At a time when homosexuality was far less tolerated than at present, there was a real fear that Thatcher would not only import Pinochet’s monetarism, but also follow him in destroying personal and political freedoms over here. Under the Right-wing totalitarianism Thatcher seemed ready to establish, gays would also be brutalised and persecuted, as well as other social and political groups the government deemed offensive or a threat. This was the background to the Fascist dystopia depicted in Moore’s and Lloyd’s comic strip and graphic novel, V for Vendetta.

Moore also contributed to Brought to Light, writing the strip ‘Shadowplay’, illustrated by the American comics artist Bill Sienkiewicz. ‘Shadowplay’ is a bitterly funny history of the way the CIA had backed Right-wing dictators and conspired to overthrow left-wing regimes, as well as engage in other, illegal and extremely unethical tactics across the world, as told in a sleazy bar by a cynical American eagle. It’s an example of the way comics, in the hands of good writers and artists, can be used to make deadly serious political points based on fact in a manner that it is entertaining as well as informative.

Shadowplay art

Art from ‘Shadowplay’ from Brought to Light, written by Alan Moore with art by Bill Sienkiewicz, showing the caricature-based artistic style used to make their point about the CIA infamous legacy of atrocity and human rights abuses.

Moore also contributed to Aargh!. This was a collection of strips, whose title was an acronym supposedly standing for ‘Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia’. Although it was a British response to Thatcher’s Clause 28, it followed a line of American underground gay comics from the 1970s, such as Harold Hedd, Barefootz and the lesbian comic, Dynamite Damsels, culminating in the anthology, Gay Comix, published by Kitchen Sink.

Aargh1

Page from Aargh!

The underground comics were largely a product of the 1960s Hippy counterculture, and much of their contents were based around drugs and sex. This is shown very much in the work of the best known of the underground comics creators, Robert Crumb, and Gilbert Shelton’s Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, a comic about the weird adventures of a group of hippy drug freaks. In the 1970s a number of explicitly political underground comics appeared, including Slow Death Funnies, Edu-Comics and Anarchy Comics. Slow Death produced a number of issues, each devoted to a particular topic, such as the medical-industrial complex, nuclear power, the campaign against the Vietnam War and Greenpeace. As well as satirical strips, they also included facts and figures. Edu-Comics also produced a number of individual comics devoted to particular issues, such as All-Atomic Comics (1976) and Energy Comics (1980), which attacked the nuclear power industry.

Atomic Comics

Pages from All-Atomic Comics showing the mixture of satirical strip and factual contents.

Britain also had a number of political underground comics, such as the Optimist and Committed Comics. The Optimist appeared in 1976, and featured strips that discussed squatting, the dole, abortion and hypothermia amongst British pensioners.

Optimist

Cover from The Optimist.

Committed Comix, for its part, had strips discussing Northern Ireland, gay rights and the rise of the National Front.

Back to the Thirties

Back to the Thirties strip from Committed Comix, warning of the rise of the extreme Right-wing National Front.

These underground comics helped create a tradition of highly political comics that continued well into the 1990s, with titles such as Downside. This was a soap opera set in Thatcher’s Britain, which strongly criticised her government and its policies, and which ironically used quotes from her for each issue’s titles.

Downside Thatcher

Other comics in the 1980s devoted to particular contemporary issues include Strip AIDS, El Salvador: A House Divided and Palestine. Alan Moore also produced another political comic in consultation with an American conscientious objectors’ group, Real War Stories. This was intended to promote its anti-War message through presenting the reality of armed conflict, based on the experiences of real soldiers.

Apart from these Underground and alternative comics, mainstream comics also became far more adult with an increasing demand from their readers for them to include more mature themes and issues. One issue of Daredevil attempted to show the horrific effects of drugs on American schoolchildren, while another superhero comic, The Vigilante, dealt with child abuse. In Britain a range of comics were produced by Fleetway, aimed at readers over the age of 16. These included Crisis, and its strip, ‘Third World War’. This was about a pair of teenagers drafted in to serve the multinational food corporations as they exploited the Developing World.

Crisis Cover

Cover of Crisis.

Most of these new, adult strips didn’t last very long. The new emphasis on gritty realism and politics did not attract the younger readers, on whom the industry traditionally depended, and the comics industry in general suffered a massive collapse after the initial boom of the 1990s. Nevertheless, despite this decline, 2000 AD has survived. Many of its strips, including Judge Dredd, were sharply satirical. As the millennium approached, for example, the comic decided to celebrate the approaching year of its title with a satirical strip harking back to Mach 1, one of the very strips in the new comic. Mach 1 was based very much on the Six Million Dollar Man. Instead of bionics, however, Mach 1 owed his massively increased strength and speed to ‘compu-puncture hyperpower’. To help him control it, Mach 1 had a special computer implanted in his head which gave him advice. 2000 AD took this early strip, and reworked it into a strip satirising Tony Blair, the then current prime minister. He appeared as Blair 1, with his inbuilt computer advisor, Dr Spin. Two of the problems facing the fictional PM was how to support single mothers, as well as what should be done about the abandoned mines left through the closure of the mining industry by Major’s regime. Dr Spin’s advice is to solve these problems by combining them, so that the single mothers are then sent down the mines. A long line of them appear in characteristic miner’s gear, singing ‘Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go! We work all day for rubbish pay, thank you, Tonio!’ Other politicians skewered by the strip also included Chris Patten and Anne Widdicombe.

The 1980s also saw the appearance of Diceman, a comic in which the individual strips were adventure games that could be played by the reader, and whose narrative and ending depended on the choice they made as they progressed through the game. It was the graphic successor not only to similar, text-based games like The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, but also to the various ‘Have Your Own … Adventure’ books aimed at younger readers, which used comic strips as the format for similar adventure games. Diceman was a spin-off from 2000 AD, and many of the games were based on its strips and characters, including Slaine and Nemesis the Warlock. It also shared the satirical slant of its parent, and several of its games attacked the leaders of the British and American governments. Thus, Diceman ran the strips Thatcher: A Dole-Playing Game, and one in which the reader played Ronald Reagan. This was illustrated by that veteran of underground comics and political subversion, Hunt Emerson. These were humorous in tone. One of the problems presented to the reader in the Reagan strip is that, as the present, your popularity is falling. The way to regain popularity is to launch an investigation into your own family tree, in the hope that a suitably popular and glamorous ancestral link can be found. The reader thus spun the dice to decide, who the investigation would say Reagan was related to. The highest numbers produced the most popular relatives, who duly boosted your score as Ronald Reagan. The most popular of these was the Queen, followed by ‘a lot of Irishmen’. The lowest score, however, made you related to Bonzo, Reagan’s chimpanzee fellow star from his film, Bedtime for Bonzo. The strip also made extremely serious and alarming factual points, such as when it discussed some of the occasions in which mistakes and malfunctions had left the world a millimetre away from nuclear war. One of these, for example, was when a technician accidentally dropped a spanner down the shaft of a nuclear silo.

A number of alternative comics have also appeared in Britain, which also include a strongly political element. These include Pete Loveday’s Russell: The Saga of a Peaceful Man, whose hero is a hippy going from one weird experience to another. Like the Underground comics before it, much of the humour in this centres around the alternative culture and the various festivals that had appeared by the ’90s, and drugs. It also showed and satirised the demoralising experience of job hunting, government cuts to unemployment benefit at the Job Centre, and the callous attitude of hospital administrators, eager to get people out of their hospital beds as quickly as possible in order to accommodate the next person in the queue.

Russel Job Hunting

The reality of looking for a job, as depicted in Russell: The Saga of a Peaceful Man.

Russel DofE

Russell finds that Unemployment Benefits are being replaced by payment in kind. From Russell: Part 2.

Russel Hospital Admin

Apart from the political comics themselves, many contemporary British comics artists and writers entered the field through the Underground comics, including Brian Bolland, Angus McKie, Dave Gibbons, Bryan Talbot, Hunt Emerson and Steve Bell, known for his political cartoons in the Guardian and the Indepedent, like Maggie’s Farm. There are also a large number of younger comics artists and writers out there in the wider fan culture, many of whom have got around problems of finding a commercial publisher by publishing their work themselves. Comics are also no longer confined to print and hardcopy. A few artists have taken to the web to publish their work. There is thus a large pool of talent available to create such comics, and the developments in comics publishing over the last couple of decades means that a political comic attacking the governments’ welfare policies could be published independently, or on-line and so get around the problem of finding a commercial publisher that way. Graphic novels have established comics as a medium in which serious issues can be discussed, and the growth of comics and their readership has meant that Waterstone’s now has a section devoted to comics and graphic novels. I also believe that Forbidden Planet would also be willing to stock such a comic. As well as conventional, mainstream comics like Batman, Superman, Spiderman and so on, Forbidden Planet has also stocked the independent, alternative and underground comics, including some of the very political work published by Knockabout. It might even be worth some of the comics companies republishing some of the old satirical strips. Margaret Thatcher has passed away, but her shadow still looms large over the British political landscape, with politicians on both the Right and the Left presenting themselves as her political heir and successor. It would thus be a timely reminder of how much suffering she caused in her day. And some of the issues discussed in the British undergrounds are still all too relevant. The references in The Optimist to pensioners suffering from hypothermia is, tragically, one of these. There was shock a few months ago when it was revealed just how many tens of thousands of senior citizens had died of the cold the previous winter.

Rather than a comic, published in serial instalments, I think the best way of using the comic strip to satirise and attack the government would be a graphic novel, or anthology, dedicated to the issue of poverty and the Coalition’s war on the poor, the unemployed and the disabled, like Brought to Light, Aargh! and the others in the 1980s and 1990s. The harshness of the government’s policies and the immense suffering they have created, such as the very many disabled people, who have committed suicide after being found fit for work by ATOS, surely warrant a similar treatment to the issues graphic novels explored and publicised in those decades. I am not saying that such a graphic novel or comic would be sufficiently influential to persuade the public to vote Cameron, Clegg and the others out. Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye and one of the creators of British satirical puppet show, Spitting Image, was once asked on Radio 4 whether he thought satire could change anything. He answered, ‘No’, and pointing out that no matter how viciously Spitting Image caricatured and attacked Mrs Thatcher and her government, people still kept voting for her. Nevertheless, if told with wit and style, such a graphic novel or comic might still reach and affect some people, who would otherwise find politics boring and help change the minds of those, who would otherwise quietly accept the Right-wing media’s misleading reporting and views of these issues. If even some people change their mind as a result, or are encouraged to vote against the government or become politically active against their policies, then such a graphic novel or comic will have succeeded.

A political comic attacking the government and its welfare policies would doubtless be extremely controversial. This is nothing new. The underground comics were notoriously controversial, and in the 1970s were the subjects of a series of obscenity cases in America that decimated the underground scene. Their counterparts over this side of the pond were similarly attacked. I remember that back in the ’70s and ’80s Knockabout always seemed to be raided by the police. Martin Barker in his book, Comics: Ideology, Power & the Critics, has also pointed out how mainstream children’s comics have also been the frequent target of official disapproval. Many of these were on the grounds that they were cheap rubbish that kept children away from reading proper literature, or that they indoctrinated their younger readers with the wrong values, either from the subversive Left or capitalist right. Barker wrote the book while Mrs Thatcher was Prime Minister, and popular literature, particularly comics, was coming under increasing attack. In the postscript to the book Barker makes a passionate defence of comics in the face of growing demands for censorship. Although comics and graphic novels are now better accepted than they were in the 1980s, his comments are still relevant today.

‘In this book I have worked hard at being the analyst. Assessing and weighing, investigating and evaluating. Not above a bit of anger when I find bad theory and empirical misrepresentation, but basically cool. Perhaps every now and then a bit of laughter or passion when something I really love comes up before my eyes, but most of the time outside it all. This is, of course, not true at all. I live in this damned country at this damned time and comics are part of my and my children’s lives. And I now say passionately: let us have as many of the things as we possibly can. In the face of the capital-calculating machine called Thatcherism which used morality like murderers use shotguns, all the little things like comics matter. Little by little, the cohorts of the ‘competitive-minded’ seek to shut down, enclose, militarise our imaginations. Comics prise open the bars just a little. Dreaming, eh? Give that chap a ‘short, sharp shock’! I am quite willing to say passionately: all those in whom humanity remains prized about the ‘laws of the market’ have no business (you own none, you have none) helping to block the dreaming that people manage to do. Imagination, fantasy, call it what-you-will, is not some fixed drum which, filled with the wrong stuff, will then be unavailable for other purposes. For heaven’s sake, let us have dreamers; or we will have hell. My defence of the comics is, to me, in the end a defence of the right to imagine.’ (p. 301). He then proceeds to attack comics’ left-wing critics for their censorship, which they share with Thatcher.

Comics and graphic novels have a long tradition of highlighting social and political problems, and satirising and attacking repressive governments and exploitative organisations and corporations. This tradition provides a fertile ground for attacking the present, repressive, exploitative government, and I’m sure there are plenty of talented and enthusiastic young comics writers and artists willing to do this. Such a graphic novel may not be successful, but it would be worth trying, and might, just might, help change a few minds.

On the subject of the way comics in the 1980s began to tackle serious, adult issues, here is an edition of the 1980s documentary series, Signals from 1989, I found on youtube. Entitled ‘The Day Comics Grew Up’, it features interviews with Alan Moore, Archie Goodwin, John Byrne, Tom Veitch and Jim Baikie, amongst other writers and artists, talking about their work and the demand for comics to include such mature, serious subjects.

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Sources

Martin Barker, Comics: Ideology, Power & the Critics (Manchester: Manchester University Press 1989).

Pete Loveday, Russell: The Saga of a Peaceful Man (London: John Brown Publishing 1991).

Pete Loveday, Russell: The Saga of a Peaceful Man, Part 2 (London: John Brown Publishing 1993).

Roger Sabin, Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels: A History of Comic Art (London: Phaidon 1996).