Posts Tagged ‘Empire and Commonwealth Museum’

Black and Islamic Calls for Autonomous Communities and Colonies in the West

September 17, 2020

On Tuesay I put up a piece comment on the plans by two Black entrepreneurs to set up a Blacks-only town in rural Georgia, to be named Wakanda after the fictional African supertechnological nation in Marvel’s Black Panther. The idea’s part of a long tradition of American ideal communities, beginning with the first Puritan settlers. it recalls the Utopian Socialist communities of the 19th century as well as the Free Black townships set up by Baptist missionaries in Jamaica, Antiqua, Demerara and Berbice in order to protect the newly freed former slaves from re-enslavement by the planters. However, coming nearly a century and a half after the abolition of slavery in America and the British Empire, this looks more like the compounds and proposed colonies of White racists, that have been set up in the Hayden Lakes area of America and which a group of British Nazis tried and failed to set up on a French farm.

Paul Boateng and the Black and Asian Studies Association

Way back in 1984/5 the Black British Labour politician, Paul Boateng, called for the establishment of autonomous Black communities in Britain. He was criticised for this in the pages of the Observer, which rightly viewed it as an attempt by Blacks to introduce apartheid. I’ve mentioned before that when I was doing voluntary work for the Empire and Commonwealth I was for a time corresponding with a Black studies organisation. This was the Black and Asian Studies Association, based in London. I split with them over the views they expressed of Whites in a copy of their magazine they sent me. I think it was no. 32/33, around about 2001-3 or so. One of the views, which I objected to was their comment that Blacks need their own space. I presume they meant by this separate arts and community centres, rather than separate geographical areas. When Blacks and other ethnic groups are a minority, and a depressed minority, this is actually reasonable and just. But they made it after reporting an article in the Observer that predicted that after the middle of this century Whites would be a minority in Britain and Europe. This was followed by another comment firmly rejecting any restrictions on non-White immigration, because it was racist. Now there was no comment about the Observer article itself. It was simply presented as something their readers should know about. I don’t know whether the editor believed the prediction or not. They could have felt it was alarmist. I don’t know. But coming after this prediction, the continued support for unlimited immigration and separate spaces for Blacks – but not for Whites – struck me as simply a form of colonialism.

Demands for Muslim Autonomous Colonies

I recall reading a passage in Ali A. Allawi’s The Crisis of Islamic Civilisation (New Haven: Yale University Press 2009) in which he discusses the establishment of autonomous Muslim communities in America. He bases his argument on the methods used by the British in founding their own colonies. The British themselves were a minority, and so they encouraged the citizens of other European nations to settle in their colonies in exchange for which they promised to respect and preserve these peoples’ own languages, culture and laws. Thus America should permit the similar establishment of autonomous Muslim communities, who would be free to follow their own culture under sharia law but which nevertheless would still be loyal to the American state. Allawi, a former Minister of Defence and Minster of Finance in the postwar Iraqi government, is a critique of both the westernisation of Islam and Salafi fundamentalism and Islamism. But this call for Islamic colonisation really can’t be tolerated. The best defence against it is the American separation of church and state, which was used against the followers of one of the grunge gurus from India when he tried to set up a theocratic town in Oregon.

The radical Islamist Anjem Chaudhry made the same demand for an autonomous Muslim community in the pages of the Financial Times colour supplement for the 1st January, 2000. Chaudhry, then running an outfit called Sharia4Belgium, was claiming that Muslims should have their own separate community with Arabic as its language under sharia law. I think he may have been able to argue this as Belgium is already split into several different regions occupied by its different traditional ethnic groups – French-speaking Wallonia, Flanders and a German-speaking enclave. Chaudhry’s own lack of engagement with Belgium’s traditional peoples is shown in the title of his organisation. The 4/for pun simply doesn’t work in either of the country’s two majority languages, French or Flemish. This is another demand for what is in effect Muslim colonisation.

Way back in the 1990s I briefly tried a postgraduate degree researching British Islam. I eventually gave up, partly because I couldn’t handle some of the polemic coming from the radical fringes. During this time I came across similar arguments contained in books from British Islamic publishers. One was on sharia law by Ibrahim E. Doi, the former head of the Islamic society at Oxford University. Another was a guide to the adab, the traditional Muslim system of morals and courtesy. The introductions to both books demanded the establishment of independent, autonomous Muslim communities, governed by sharia law, in Britain. If these were not permitted, then British multiculturalism was a sham.

Self-Enclosed Communities in Britain and Germany

Since then I have seen plenty of articles in the press, including liberal journals like Prospect, worrying about the increasing separation between White and Muslim communities. There was an article a while ago in that magazine discussing a city in the north of England, where the Muslim and non-Muslim White communities were nearly separate with a minimum of interaction. Other articles elsewhere in the press have mentioned the situation in Germany, where the Turkish minority may also form self-enclosed communities. It has been argued that in these communities, people can get by without any knowledge of German, supported as they are by Turkish businesses and able to watch and listen to Turkish broadcasting. But I don’t believe I’ve ever come across anyone discussing the demands for separate Islamic colonies, at least not in Britain. It’s possible that the journos writing those articles don’t know about and neither do British politicians. I’ve also never heard Tommy Robinson mention them either, so it seems very likely that he and his gang of thugs don’t know about it. On the other hand, it’s also possible that the authorities are aware of them. They’re just not publicising them for fear of riots and the breakdown of ‘community cohesion’. The same reason they permitted the Asian paedophile gangs in Rotherham to go on for so long.

In many ways this is doubtless a good thing, as you can imagine the massive scaremongering and islamophobia that would be generated by the right, including Tommy Robinson and the EDL and the Daily Heil. 9/11 saw a rise in hate crimes against Muslims, and Boris Johnson’s infamous article in the Torygraph attacking the burqa resulted in further physical attacks on the minority of Muslim women clad in the garment. Several were murdered.

Sharia Law Small Minority in British Islam

It’s important not to exaggerated the numbers of western Muslims, who may support this view. One of the papers a few years ago notoriously claimed that the majority of British Muslims wanted the establishment of sharia law here. In fact a close reading of the stats showed that only 5 per cent of Britain’s Muslims wanted it, and then only where it didn’t conflict with British law. I’ve heard that most Muslims in the West base their ideas on Islamic law on the Qu’ran, where most of this is about inheritance, rather than systems of government. I very much doubt that the majority of Muslims would welcome the formal imposition of what amounts to a system of autonomous ghettos, and certainly not those immigrants who have come to Britain to escape persecution in very draconian and authoritarian Islamic states.

The demands for separate, autonomous Muslim communities seem to be attempts by Islamic traditionalists to impose their views on the majority of their coreligionists, who seem more comfortable in a multi-faith society allowing the free interactions of people with different religious or non-religious views. And the general Muslim community seems to have become less insular, stressing engagement with wider British society rather than retreat. This has been shown in Muslim restaurants feeding the poor and homeless during the Christmas period, and community festivals like Eid, commemorating the end of Ramadan. This is celebrated with a large feast, which the Muslim community in parts of Bristol shared with their non-Muslim fellow residents.

No No-Go Zones in Britain

Fox News made itself a massive laughing stock a few years ago when it hysterically claimed that Muslims were taking over Britain. Birmingham was 100 per cent Muslim, which surprised the mayor and people of that great city. There were no-go areas in towns throughout Britain, where non-Muslims feared to tread. This was also angrily refuted by the mayors and politicos of those towns so accused, as well as ordinary British peeps.

Nevertheless, these calls for segregation do seem to be still around. A while ago I noticed in the ‘ethnicity’ shelves in Bristol’s Central Library a book by a prominent Muslim woman from one of the northern cities. I can’t remember who she was, but one of her claims was she was a matchmaker and an agony aunt, who had appeared on the Beeb’s Asian Network. The book’s blurb stated that it was about the rise of racial conflict and violence between Asians and other ethnic groups, and offered ‘a surprising solution’. The only surprising solution I can think of is segregation. I didn’t look at the book, so I might be wrong.

Belfield on Islam in Birmingham

I also wonder if this, or similar views, are secretly held by some of the leaders of Britain’s Muslim communities. Following the stabbings in Birmingham, right-wing radio host and Youtuber Alex Belfield put up video calling for Birmingham’s authorities to clamp down on the threatening environment in one particular area of the city. Some of this was uncontroversial. He specifically mentioned the druggies on the streets there. But he also, and some of the callers to his programme, claimed that there was a Muslim presence there which was overpowering and threatening to non-Muslims. He attacked the chanting coming from the local mosque, as well as preaching, some of which seemed to be political by Muslims on the street. This, he said, was not tolerated in other towns.

I wouldn’t like to say that Belfield is personally racist. Certainly one of the callers supporting his view wasn’t. She said she had no problem with the Black population of the area, who were also Brummies. But he is vehemently anti-immigrant, condemning the arrival of asylum seekers from Calais. He also seems to be have been taken in by the rumours that the stabbings were committed not by a Black Brit with mental health problems, but by one of the Somalian asylum seekers he and Nigel Farage have been moaning about. He also attacked Leeds English language local radio for broadcasting warnings about the Coronavirus in Urdu, which is the language, or one of the languages used on the Beeb’s Asian Network, which is also based in Leeds.

Covert Support for Extremism Among Some British Muslim Leaders

But there is a problem in that the leaders of Birmingham Central Mosque and British Islamic organisations have a history of saying one thing and believing quite another. Ed Hussain in his book, The Islamist, an account of his time as a militant Islamic radical, describes the various leaders of the British Muslim community, who visited No. 10 to reassure Tony Blair that they supported his campaign against Islamic radicalism, all the while holding the very beliefs they affected to condemn. It’s therefore quite possible that the leaders of whatever mosque Belfield was attacking may want Muslim autonomous areas, and are acting on this belief as far as they can in a democratic, pluralist society. I hope not, but I don’t know.

This is a situation that needs watching. It will be interesting to see if Black British and Muslim radicals start making demands for autonomous areas following developments in America. If so, they need to be discussed, refuted and fought. Such views would be unacceptable coming from White supremacists and racists, and should be no more tolerated coming from any other colour or religion.

Is Random Stop and Search Saving Black Lives?

August 25, 2020

I realise that this is a very controversial position, as one of the complaints made by the Black Lives Matter protests was about the hugely disproportionate numbers of Black people stopped and search for weapons by the rozzers. But nevertheless, I do wonder if there’s an issue here that isn’t being addressed – that of Black on Black violence.

This was an issue way back in the 1990s, as I recall. Black activists and anti-racism campaigners pointed out that Black people, and particularly Black men, were the commonest victims of violence. I don’t doubt that this information was revealed partly to calm White fears that Black violence was largely directed outwards at them. There was naturally great concern about the gang culture, not just confined to Blacks but including Whites and others, especially after the murder of Demilola Taylor. He, you may remember, was a 12 year old Black lad, who was chased home from school and stabbed. He bled to death in the stairwell of the block of flats where he lived. It was an horrific crime that truly shocked the nation. The issue of Black and Black violence was also picked up by Ali G. In one of his interviews, in which he took the mick out of serious celebs, politicos and other figures of authority, he talked to a senior police officer about it, and the weapons that ‘brothers were using against brothers’. After pretending to be seriously concerned, the character turned to a selection of the weapons the officer of the law had brought along to show just what they had taken from the criminals responsible. Ali G immediately started asking about which was the coolest. To which the officer rightly replied that none of them were. I used to watch Ali G, and found some of it hilarious. But there were times when Sasha Baron Cohen overstepped the mark with him and his other characters, and there were protests from Blacks offended at what they considered to be racism in a White performer appearing as a Black character. Even though Baron Cohen never appeared in Blackface, and the character was later presented as a White lad, who wanted to be part of urban Black culture but didn’t really understand it.

I don’t quite know what happened to the issue of Black on Black violence. It seemed to fade away into media obscurity, along with general concerns about the influence of Hip Hop and gangsta rap, which was held to be responsible for promoting the violent gang culture. I’ve noticed in recent reports on the news attacking and condemning knife crime that many of the victims are Black, but there are also Whites represented, presumably to dispel any further racial fears that it’s a peculiarly Black problem. However, extreme right-wing YouTuber, Paul Joseph Watson, in one of his rants the other day claimed that 70 + per cent of the perpetrators of violence or knife crime were Black, and 62 per cent of the victims. He did not give the source of these statistics, so you may well be justified in taking them with a pinch of salt. I can think of one reason why these figures may be incorrect. If the police are massively disproportionate in their targeting of Blacks for stop and search, then the figures could be an artifact, not of the real amount of Black violence, but simply a product of more Blacks being found with weapons simply because more Blacks than Whites were searched. But it may also be true that these figures are accurate, and that for a variety of reasons – poverty, unemployment, lack of opportunities, and yes, the influence of certain strands in popular culture, more Blacks than Whites are involved in violent crime, with Black people the chief victims.

If that’s the case, then there is clearly an argument for retaining stop and search and targeting Blacks rather more than Whites as an anti-racist strategy. Because if Blacks also constitute the majority of victims, then those searches are saving Black lives. Even though I think the criticisms of the excessive use of stop and search on Blacks is justified. And there is also clearly an argument for cutting some of the funding to the police and using it instead for social programmes, that may have greater success in leading some young Black people away from gang culture and its violence.

As for the murder of Demilola Taylor, that was one of the issues I had with a Black rights academic organisation with whom I was briefly in touch when I was doing voluntary work at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum. They thought I’d be interested in looking at their magazine. It honestly had the opposite effect on my, as I was angered at the magazine’s presumption of racism against Whites. I was particularly furious at a piece they’d included criticising the coverage of Taylor’s murder. They decided it was racist, and felt that the news should instead be concentrating on all the Blacks attacked and murdered by Whites. I got the impression that they thought the poor lad had been murdered by a Black gang. But there was no mention of the gang’s ethnicity on the news, and it was later revealed that it was of mixed race – it included members of all colours. The tone of the article made me furious, as regardless of the race or whatever of the murderers, a young child had been horrifically killed. It was one of the issues I raised in a reply I sent back to them about their magazine, along with several others. They replied in turn by telling me that if I wanted to talk to them again, I should send my comments to someone else.

This seems to be an example of the wider sensitivities surrounding the reporting of Black violent crime. And you can understand why, with the long history of extremely biased, racist reporting by the Tory press, Black people don’t want their community automatically associated with crime and violence.

But if there is a real issue here – if the majority of gang or knife attacks are by Blacks against other Blacks – then these sensibilities are counterproductive. There are certainly good arguments for scaling back stop and search, and being far more discriminating in targeting the real villains, rather than ordinary, decent Black peeps simply for being Black. But at the same time, these searches could also be saving Black lives. And as the news reports have shown, even for those who survive, the trauma is still very real.

If Black lives truly matter, then it’s also an issue than means cracking down on Black on Black violence, and not just the excessive tactics of the police. 

 

Liverpool to Put Information Plaques on Buildings and Monuments with Connections to Slavery

August 24, 2020

The Black Lives Matter protests across the world have prompted the authorities in Liverpool to examine once again their great city’s connection to the slave trade. According to an article by Jean Selby in today’s I, for 24th August 2020, the city is going to put up information plaques around the city on areas and places connected to the slave trade. The article’s titled ‘Liverpool to acknowledge its history of slavery’. I think it’s slightly misleading, and something of a slur, as the City has already acknowledged its connection to slavery a long time ago. It has an international slavery museum, which I think may have started as a gallery in its maritime museum way back in the 1990s. This has inspired Black rights and anti-racism campaigners to approach the council here in Bristol calling for a similar museum down here. From what I gather from the local news website, The Bristolian, Asher Craig, a councilor for St. George’s in Bristol and the head of the local equalities body, told them to go away and find a private backer first. This is the same Asher Craig, who in an interview on Radio 4 showed that apparently she didn’t know about the slavery gallery in Bristol’s M Shed, nor about the various official publications, including a 1970s school history book for local children, that discuss Bristol’s history in the slave trade, and told the Beeb she wanted a museum of slavery here in Bristol. According to The Bristolian, the campaigners are dismayed at the city’s refusal to build such a museum following the examples of Liverpool in the Britain and Nantes in France.

Frankly, I’m sick and tired of London journos writing pieces about places like Bristol and Liverpool blithely claiming, or implying, that only now are they acknowledging their role in the abominable trade. I can remember getting very annoyed with the News Quiz and some of the comedians on it over a decade ago when I similar story came up about Liverpool. Jeremy Hardy, a great left-wing comedian sadly no longer with us, said something suitably sneering about the city and slavery. But the impression I have is that it’s London that has been the most sensitive and most desperate to hide its past in connection to slavery. Nearly two decades or so ago, when I was doing voluntary work at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum, I had the privilege of meeting a young Asian artist. She was working on a project commemorating the slave trade by making models of old factories and mills from the foodstuffs they produced, which had been cultivated through slavery. She told me that she’d approached a number of towns and their museums, and received very positive reactions to her work. They had all been very willing to give her whatever help they could, though some of these towns had only been in the slave trade for a very short time before being squeezed out by competition from Bristol and Liverpool. As a result, they often genuinely had little in their collections connected to slavery. But they were willing to give any help they could. But her experience with the Museum of London had been quite different. They made it plain that they didn’t have any holdings on slavery whatsoever. I’ve been told since then that things are a bit different, and that individual London boroughs are quite open and apologetic about their connection to the slave trade. But it does seem to me that it is London that is particularly defensive and secretive when it comes to commemorating its own history of slave dealing.

Back to the I’s article, which runs

Liverpool will address its ties to the slave trade with a series of plaques around the city explaining the history behind its street names, building and monuments.

The city council plans to acknowledge the role the port city played in colonialism and the vast wealth generated from the trafficking of human beings. According to the International Slavery Museum, Liverpool ships carried about 1.5 million slaves, half of the three million Africans taken across the Atlantic by British slavers.

Falkner Square, named after an 18th-century merchant involved in the slave trade, is among those expected to have a plaque installed.

“We have to be led by our communities on how to do this and do it in a way that is sensitive to both our past and our present,” mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said as he announced the project yesterday. He was marking Slavery Remembrance Day – which commemorates the anniversary of a 1791 slave uprising in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

He continued: “I do not believe that changing street names is the answer – it would be wrong to try and airbrush out our past. It’s important that we have a sensible and informed discussion about theses issues. We need to judge the past with a historical perspective, taking into account today’s higher ethical standards and, most importantly, how everyone, from every community in the city, feels about it.”

And advisory panel, chaired by Michelle Charters, recommended the creation of Eric Lynch slavery memorial plaques, named in honour of Eric Lynch, a Ghanaian chief who is a descendant of African slaves and spent his life drawing attention to the city’s slavery history.

His son, Andrew Lynch, said: “These plaques are a tribute to Eric’s long years of work as a black community activist and educator, teaching the people of Liverpool to acknowledge and understand their historic inheritance in an honest and open way, and uncovering the contribution made by black people throughout our great city.”

This all sounds actually quite reasonable. I think it’s fair to put the plaques up for those wanting such information. And I really don’t believe those places should be renamed, as this is a form of rewriting history. You shouldn’t try to erase the past, although I accept that some monuments, like those of Colston, are unacceptable in today’s moral and political climate for very good reasons.

However, I think this says less about Liverpool’s history and more about the present desperate state of the Black community in Britain. Back when I was working at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum all those years ago, I remember talking about some of the materials we had on slavery and its history by West Indian academic historians. I heard from some of the staff that some of this was actually quite controversial in some of the West Indian nations, but for reasons that are completely the opposite to the situation in this country. They’re controversial, or were then, among Black West Indians, who feel that they’re racist against their White fellow countrymen and co-workers. Apparently after one book was published, there was a spate of letters in the local press by Black people stating that their bosses or secretaries were White, and certainly weren’t like that. I think if the Black community in Britain shared the same general level of prosperity and opportunity as the White population, there would be precious little interest in slavery and its commemoration except among academics and historians. It would be an episode from the past, which was now mercifully over, and which the Black community and the rest of society had moved on from.

I also think that demands for its commemoration also come not just from the material disadvantages the Black community in general suffers from, but also its feelings of alienation and marginalisation. They feel that they and their history are being excluded, hence the demands for its commemoration. However, I think the reverse of this is that such demands can also look like expressions of anti-White sentiment, in which the present White population is demanded to be penitent and remorseful about something they were not responsible for, simply because they’re White.

And there are also problems with the selection of the events commemorated International Slavery Remembrance Day. This looks like Toussaint L’Louverture’s Black revolution on Haiti. L’ouverture was inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution. It was he and his generals that overthrew the French authorities in what is now Haiti, giving the country its present name and making it a Black republic in which power and property could only be held by Blacks. It naturally became a shining beacon for the aspirations of other Black revolutionaries right across the Caribbean and even the US. Major Moody discusses it in his 1820s report on slavery, which critically examined whether Blacks were prepared for supporting themselves as independent, self-reliant citizens after emancipation. His report included correspondence from Black Americans, who had been freed by their owners and moved to Haiti, but still kept in touch with them.

Moody was not impressed with the progress of the revolution, and concluded that Blacks weren’t ready for their freedom. This shocked many abolitionists, as Moody himself was a married to a Black woman. But if you read his report about Haiti, you understand why. After successfully gaining their freedom, the Haitians had been faced with the problem of maintaining it against European aggression on the one hand, and economic collapse on the other. The result was the imposition of virtual enslavement back on the plantation workers, who had fought so hard for their freedom. The country’s estates were divided up among the generals. The former slaves were forbidden to leave them, and quotas of the amount of sugar they were required to produce were imposed. If the poor souls did not produce the required amount, they were tortured or burned to death. It seemed to me when I read the Blue Book Moody published, kept in the Museum’s libraries, that Moody’s decision against supporting immediate emancipation for the enslaved peoples of the Caribbean was based on a genuine horror of such atrocities and fear that this would be repeated across the West Indies.

I don’t think Marxist historians would be surprised at the brutality that arose after the Haitian revolution. Marxist revolutionaries like Lenin believed that history followed certain deterministic laws, and were acutely interested in the French Revolution. From this they believed that all revolutions followed an inevitable pattern. After the initial gains of freedom, the revolution would be overthrown and a period of reaction arise, created by a dictator. Just like Napoleon had overthrown the French Revolutionaries to create a new, imperial monarchy. In their own time, they were afraid that the new Napoleon, who would undo the Russian Revolution, would be Trotsky. And so they missed Stalin’s threat. The reintroduction of slavery by L’Ouverture’s generals is just part of this general pattern in the progress of revolutions. Nevertheless, like the destruction of personal freedoms following the Russian Revolution and then Stalin’s Terror in the 1930s, it does raise the awkward question of whether it should, like the Russian Revolution, really by celebrated or commemorated without significant caveats.

This aside, I’m sure that following Liverpool’s decision, there will also be demands for Bristol to do the same. There is already a slave walk around the docks in Bristol and a plaque commemorating the slaves exploited and traded by Bristol merchants. The M Shed has a gallery on Bristol and the slave trade, which includes a map of various streets and properties in the city and its surroundings built and owned by slavers and those with connections to the trade. And the latest monument, set up in the 1990s, is a remarkable bridge down on the docks. This has two horns either side of it, but has been named ‘Pero’s Bridge’ after one of the very few slaves traded by the city in the 18th century, who identity is known.

Radio 4 Programme Next Thursday on the Repatriation of Looted Museum Exhibits Following Black Lives Matter

August 18, 2020

The Radio Times also states that next Thursday on Radio 4 at 11.30 am there’s a documentary on the debate about the repatriation of looted African artefacts now on display in British museums. The blurb for it on page 125 of the Radio Times runs

In the wake of protesters in Bristol pulling down a statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston, Gary Younge talks to museum curators as they review what is on display.

There’s an additional piece by Simon O’Hagan on the previous page, 124, which adds

Museums might be closed, but curators are keeping busy reassessing what they have on display – minds focused by the toppling of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol in June. In the words of one curator, “in Britain you’re never more than 150 miles rom a looted African object.”

Presented by Gary Younge, who discovers that when the public is re-admitted to museums after lockdown, there is a distinct possibility that some display cases may have notable absences.

The debate over the return of looted and seized objects to indigenous communities around the world has been going on for several decades. Much of it is about the display of human remains. A few years ago a series about the British Museum showed that august institution repatriating a set of indigenous Australian burials to Tasmanian people from which they were seized. It’s not just African and indigenous peoples demanding that their ancestors and their property should be returned. The Greeks have famously been demanding the return of the Elgin Marbles for decades, if not since they very moment Lord Elgin collected them in the 19th century. In very many cases, I don’t doubt that the moral argument is with those demanding their return, and that it’s the right thing to do.

The mention of the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol adds a dimension that complicates the issue. The repatriation of these objects is supposed to be about modern, western museums correcting the moral injustices of an imperial past. But many of the looted objects themselves are the products of slaving societies, and were seized by British forces during wars fought to extirpate the slave trade.

The Benin Bronzes are case in point. These are superbly sculpted bronze heads, which were made as part of shrines to the chief’s oba. Literally meaning ‘right arm’, the word also denotes his spiritual power, rather like the numa of the pagan Roman emperors. However, Benin, then Dahomey, was a major centre of the African slave trade. It had a plantation economy centred on cotton production like the American Deep South, and was a major exporter. So much so that the British launched a war against them from 1850 to 1852 after their king, Guezo, refused to give it up and continued trading. The bronzes were seized by the victorious British forces.

Nobody was talking about their repatriation until the 1980s, when ‘African radical’ and the highly controversial leader of Brent council, Bernie Grant, demanded their return. I’ve no doubt that Grant was motivated by genuine indignation about the humiliation of an African nation by the British empire. But there is an irony here in that such a very outspoken opponent of anti-Black racism should have been seeking to return objects that had been taken as part of military action against an African slave state. And one that had absolutely no qualms, and grew rich, from enslaving the ancestors of Black Brits, West Indians and Americans like Grant.

Ditto with some of the objects that may have been returned to Ethiopia. A year or so ago the I reported that a particularly holy cross belonging to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which had been seized by the British army in the 19th century, had also been repatriated to its country of origin. I wondered if the relic had also been looted in a similar campaign launched in that century to stop Abyssinian slave-raiding across the border into Sudan and what is now Kenya. If so, then it could be argued that it should not be repatriated, as it was a legitimate spoil in a war the British were justified in waging.

And let’s not be under any illusion that the African slaving nations wouldn’t also have enslaved the British servicemen they fought. One of the documents I found cataloguing the materials on slavery in the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol was a parliamentary blue book on the British action against the African slavers in Lagos. One of the chiefs involved stated that if he won, he was going to shave the head of the British commander and make him carry his palanquin. Which sounds very much like a declaration that he intended to enslave him.

I think the area of the repatriation of objects looted from Africa is much more complicated morally than is being discussed and presented, and that African involvement in and culpability for the slave trade is being quietly glossed over in order to present a cosy, straightforward narrative of imperial aggression and guilt.

 

A British Colonial Governor’s Attack on Racism

July 31, 2020

Sir Alan Burns, Colour and Colour Prejudice with Particular Reference to the Relationship between Whites and Negroes (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd 1948).

I ordered this book secondhand online a week or so ago, following the Black Lives Matter protests and controversies over the past few weeks. I realise reading a book this old is a rather eccentric way of looking at contemporary racial issues, but I’d already come across it in the library there when I was doing voluntary work at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum. What impressed me about it was that it also dealt with anti-White racism amongst Blacks as well as the book’s main concern with anti-Black racism, discrimination and growing Black discontent in the British Empire.

Burns was a former governor of Ghana, then the Gold Coast. According to the potted biography on the front flap of the dust jacket, he was ‘a Colonial Civil Servant of long and distinguished experience in tropical West Africa and the West Indies.’ The book

deals with the important question of colour prejudice, and pleads for mutual courtesy and consideration between the white and the coloured races. Sir Alan analyses the history and alleged causes of colour prejudice, and cites the opinions of many writers who condemn or attempt to justify the existence of prejudice. It is a frank analysis of an unpleasant phenomenon.

He was also the author of two other books, his memoirs of colonial service in the Leeward Islands Nigeria, Bahamas, British Honduras, the Gold Coast and the Colonial Office, Colonial Civil Servant, and A History of Nigeria. The Gold Coast was one of the most racial progressive of the British African colonies. It was the first of them to include an indigenous chief on the ruling colonial council. I therefore expected Burns to hold similar positive views of Blacks, given, of course, how outdated these would no doubt seem to us 72 years later.

After the introduction, the book is divided into the following chapters:

I. The Existence and Growth of Colour Prejudice

II. The Attitude of Various Peoples to Racial and Colour Differences

III. Negro Resentment of Colour Prejudice

IV. Political and Legal Discrimination Against Negroes

V. Social Discrimination Against Negroes

VI. Alleged Inferiority of the Negro

VII. Alleged Shortcomings of the Negro

VIII. Physical and Mental Differences between the Races

IX. Physical Repulsion between Races

X. Miscegenation

XI. The Effect of Environment and History on the Negro Race

XII. Lack of Unity and Inferiority Complex Among Negroes

XIII. Conclusion.

I’ve done little more than take the occasional glance through it so far, so this is really a rather superficial treatment of  the book, more in the way of preliminary remarks than a full-scale review. Burns does indeed take a more positive view of Blacks and their potential for improvement, but the book is very dated and obviously strongly influenced by his own background in the colonial service and government. As a member of the colonial governing class, Burns is impressed by the British Empire and what he sees as its benevolent and highly beneficial rule of the world’s indigenous peoples. He is in no doubt that they have benefited from British rule, and quotes an American author as saying that there is no other colonial power which would have done so for its subject peoples. He is particularly impressed by the system of indirect rule, in which practical government was largely given over to the colonies’ indigenous ruling elites. This was peaceful, harmonious and had benefited the uneducated masses of the Empire’s indigenous peoples. These colonial subjects appreciated British rule and largely supported it. He did not expect this section of colonial society to demand their nations’ independence. However, this governmental strategy did not suit the growing class of educated Blacks, who were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their treatment as inferiors and demanding independence.

As with other, later books on racism Burns tackles its history and tries to trace how far back it goes. He argues that racism seems to go back no further than the Fifteenth century. Before then, culture and religion were far more important in defining identity.  He’s not entirely convinced by this, and believes that racism in the sense of colour prejudice probably existed far earlier, but there is little evidence for it. There have been other explorations of this subject which have attempted to show the history and development of racism as a cultural idea in the west. Other historians have said much the same, and I think the consensus of opinion is that it was the establishment of slavery that led to the development of ideas of Black inferiority to justify their capture and enslavement.

Burns is also concerned at what he and the other authorities he quotes as the growth in anti-Black racism that came following the First World War. He compares this unfavourably with a comment from an African lady, who went to a British school during Victoria’s reign. The women recalls that she and the other Black girls were treated absolutely no differently from the Whites, and that the only time she realised there was any difference between them was when she looked in a mirror. This is interesting, and a good corrective to the idea that all Whites were uniformly and aggressively racist back then, but I expect her experience may have been very different from Blacks further down the social hierarchy. Burns believes the increase in racism after the First World War was due to the increased contact between Blacks and Whites, which is probably true following the mass mobilisation of troops across the Empire.

But what I found as an historian with an interest in African and other global civilisations is the book’s almost wholly negative assessment of Black civilisation and its achievements. Burns quotes author after author, who states that Blacks have produced no great civilisations or cultural achievements. Yes, ancient Egypt is geographically a part of Africa, but culturally and racially, so it is claimed, it is part of the Middle East. Where Black Africans have produced great civilisations, it is through contact with external, superior cultures like the Egyptians, Carthaginians and the Arabs. Where Blacks have produced great artistic achievements, such as in the Benin bronzes of the 16th/17th century, it is claimed that this is due to contact with the Portuguese and Spanish. This negative view is held even by writers, who are concerned to stress Black value and dignity, and show that Blacks are not only capable of improvement, but actually doing so.

Since then a series of historians, archaeologists and art historians have attempted to redress this view of history by showing how impressive Black African civilisations were. Civilisations like ancient Nubia, Ethiopia, Mali and the other great Islamic states of north Africa, and advanced west African civilisations like Dahomey. I myself prefer the superb portraiture in the sculptures from 17th century Ife in west Africa, but archaeologists and historians have been immensely impressed by the carved heads from Nok in Nigeria, which date from about 2,000 BC. Going further south, there is the great fortress of Zimbabwe, a huge stone structure that bewildered western archaeologists. For years it was suggested that Black Africans simply couldn’t have built it, and that it must have been the Arabs or Chinese instead. In fact analysis of the methods used to build it and comparison with the same techniques used by local tribes in the construction of their wooden buildings have shown that the fortress was most definitely built by indigenous Zimbabweans. There have been a number of excellent TV series broadcast recently. Aminatta Forna presented one a few years ago now on Timbuktu, once the centre of a flourishing and immensely wealthy west African kingdom. A few years before, art historian Gus Casely-Hayford presented a series on BBC Four, Lost Civilisations of Africa. I think that’s still on YouTube, and it’s definitely worth a look. Archaeologists are revealing an entire history of urban civilisation that has previously been lost or overlooked. Nearly two decades or so ago there was a piece by a White archaeologist teaching in Nigeria, who had discovered the remains of house and courtyard walls stretching over an area of about 70 km. This had been lost as the site had been abandoned and overgrown with vegetation. He lamented how there was little interest in the remains of this immense, ancient city among Nigerians, who were far more interested in ancient Egypt.

This neglect and disparagement of African history and achievement really does explain the fervour with which Afrocentric history is held by some Blacks and anti-racist Whites. This is a view that claims that the ancient Egyptians were Black, and the real creators of the western cultural achievement. It began with the Senegalese scholar Cheikh Anta Diop. White Afrocentrists have included Martin Bernal, the author of Black Athena, and Basil Davidson. Following the Black Lives Matter protests there have also been calls for Black history to be taught in schools, beginning with African civilisations.

More positively, from what I’ve seen so far, Burns did believe that Blacks and Whites were equal in intelligence. The Christian missionaries Samuel Crowther, who became the first Anglican bishop of Africa, and Frederick Schon, had absolutely no doubt. Crowther was Black, while Schon was a White Swiss. In one of their reports to the British parliamentary committee sitting to examine slavery and the slave trade, they presented evidence from the African missionary schools in the form of essays from their pupils to show that Blacks certainly were as capable as Whites. Possibly more so at a certain age. As Black underachievement at school is still a very pressing issue, Crowther’s and Schon’s findings are still very important. Especially as there are real racists, supporters of the book The Bell Curve, keen to argue that Blacks really are biologically mentally inferior to Whites.

Burns’ book is fascinating, not least because it shows the development of official attitudes towards combating racism in Britain. Before it became such a pressing issue with the mass influx of Black migrants that came with Windrush, it seems that official concern was mostly over the growing resentment in Africa and elsewhere with White, British rule. The book also hopefully shows how we’ve also come in tackling racism in the West. I’m not complacent about it – I realise that it’s still very present and blighting lives – but it’s far, far less respectable now than it was when I was a child in the 1970s. My concern, however, is that some anti-racism activists really don’t realise this and their concentration on the horrors and crimes of the past has led them to see the present in its terms. Hence the rant of one of the BLM firebrands in Oxford that the police were the equivalent of the Klan.

Burn’s book shows just how much progress has been made on, and makes you understand just what an uphill struggle this has been.

 

 

Rishi Sunak Considering Putting BAME Heroes and Heroines on Coinage

July 28, 2020

One of the very few items that drew my attention in yesterday’s edition of the I, for Monday 27th July 2020, was an article by Ewan Somerville reporting that our murderous clown chancellor, Rishi Sunak, was considering adding Black, Asian and ethnic minority heroes and heroines to our notes and coinage. It would be the first time this was done, and is a gesture to Black Lives Matter. The article ran

Black and ethnic minority (Bame) figures could appear on Britain’s currency for the first time. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is considering proposals by campaigners to have influential Bame people featured on a set of coins, the Treasure minister, John Glen, said.

Those under consideration include the first Indian and Gurkha soldiers who received the Victoria Cross, the British-Jamaican Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole, and Noor Inqyat Khan, a Second World War agent and one of only four women to have received the George Cross. There has never been a non-white person features on British coins or notes.

Plans have been submitted to the Royal Mint, which has been encouraged by the Treasury to draft proposals and designs for a potential coin. Mr Sunak has previously expressed support for the anti-racist cause highlighted by the Black Lives Matter Protests.

I think there have been calls for distinguished Black and Asian Brits to be put on the currency before, if only a decade or so ago. There certainly have been calls many times for more women to feature on the currency. From the article it seems that all of the figures being considered well deserve such commemoration. I can’t think of anybody objecting to Black, and particularly Gurkha war heroes considering the latter’s splendid record of service in the British army despite the fact that we never conquered Nepal. One of the most striking images we came across at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum was of a Black British squaddy, his chest festooned with medals, proudly holding up a union jack. I think the image came from the Second World War. Either way, as the museum staff remarked, it utterly contradicted the BNP’s lies that Blacks cannot be patriotic British citizens, as this man had clearly fought with gallantry and distinction for the Motherland.

I’ve said before, though, that I’m not impressed with Black Lives Matter. I can appreciate the frustration, anger and deprivation fuelling it. But I think that it has an extremely simplistic view of race and class in Britain and is unintentionally divisive and polarising. And I don’t believe that Sunak or the Tories are going to be remotely sincere in their efforts to tackle the structural racism in British society. Boris Johnson has said he’ll set up an inquiry to investigate it. Or think tank. Or some other talking shop, just like the Tories already promised a few years ago.

And there is already a backlash taking shape. Mike posted a few days ago that the Tories had started recruiting racists on Twitter by appealing to their outrage that migrants were still coming to Britain. Labour had apparently sabotaged the government’s efforts to tighten up the migration system. Given how tough the system already is and that some of the noticeable reports are about people coming over here from France in flimsy, leaking vessels, I honestly don’t know what can be done to make it tougher without going into real, genuine Fascism. By which I mean following Katie Hopkins’ suggestion that migrant ships should be gunned down in the Med and left to sink. Or warned off by the coastguard firing automatic rifles, as the Greek navy/coastguard was shown doing a few weeks ago.

And some of the real firebrands in Black Lives Matter are playing into the Tories’ hands. Yesterday TalkRadio put up a video in which one of their right-wing mouthpieces was interviewing a young Black woman, somebody Samuel, of the Orthodox Conservative Black Group, or some such organisation. She was complaining that most members of Black Lives Matter were bored, disgruntled troublemakers. I didn’t watch all of it, so I may well be prejudging what she said. But it started off with a recording from the leader of Black Lives Matter in Oxford, ranting on about how the police were the Klan, defending statues and other acts of racism. She attacked senior Black figures in the Labour Party like David Lammy for being tokenistic, and said that they needed a new party. And then shouted ‘Black Power’.

The police have a racism problem, and it’s been very well demonstrated through a series of scandals over the years. Before the murder of Stephen Lawrence one of the big scandals to his the news was the revelation that members of her Majesty’s constabulary had been part of the League of St. George, an SS auxiliary unit set up for Fascist Brits during the War. But Mike and I had relatives and friends in the police, and no, not all cops are remotely like that, whatever the Met police is like. And it should be obvious that the police aren’t like the Klan. If they were, then that angry lady wouldn’t have the freedom to denounce them as such because of the sheer intensity of the violence that would be meted out, and the anonymity of those inflicting it. If you want to see the real fear the Klan spread and embodied, just watch last year’s Dr. Who episode where she and her ‘fam’ travel back to the American Deep South to stop a White racist trying to stop the beginning of the bus boycott which launched the mass phase of the Civil Rights movement. If the police were like the Klan, then there would be many more deaths and those responsible would be protected by their anonymity.

As for demanding a separate party for Black people, there are several ways in which that would be a non-starter. Firstly she seems to be harking back to the Black Panther Party and the New Black Panther Party in America. Which is all very well if you’re dreaming of revolution, but to the majority of Whites they look very much like anti-White paramilitaries. Small parties also have trouble establishing themselves. UKIP spent decades trudging up and down Britain getting practically nowhere at elections before their electoral breakthrough a few years ago. And as a single issue party, they’ve suffered from Brexit giving them exactly what they wanted. In Britain, blackness is still associated with foreigness and immigration, although Blacks have been here since the days of the Roman Empire. A party that served and only represented Blacks would be seen as anti-White and colonialist, exacerbating the fears of a ‘great replacement’ and White genocide. And part of the problem is the dispersal of Black people geographically throughout Britain. Someone worked out a while ago that if the number of Black MPs accurately reflected the size of the Black population of Britain, there would be 50 or more in the House of Commons by now. But not all Blacks are concentrated in specific, Black majority areas. Many live in more ethnically mixed or predominantly White towns and regions. They therefore have to show that they can represent their White constituents as well as standing for Black rights. And I doubt very many Whites would vote for a party set up solely to represent Blacks. The young woman TalkRadio was discussing was talking dangerously divisive nonsense.

I dare say that, despite her recent notoriety, she’s an isolated figure. Certainly there seem to be many Black Brits who don’t believe that someone like her stands for them. But through her ignorant comments, she’s given an opportunity for the Tories to take the initiative. I’d never heard of the Orthodox Conservative Black Group before, and I doubt many others had either. The Tories have been trying to win Black voters away from Labour by years. The tactic has been to present Labour’s attitude towards Blacks as that of angry, racial alienation – which is in many cases true – but extreme, and unrepresentative of Black Britain. Their racial policies and BAME members, they claim, are all about healing such divisions rather than increasing them. And so we had the unpleasant spectacle by in the 1990s of the Daily Heil drooling over Priti Patel at the beginning of her noxious rise to power under the headline ‘Priti as a picture’. No, she’s a smirking, self-centred, egomaniac bullying thug.

Sunak’s suggestion for more Blacks and Asians on the currency is certainly welcome, but I feel it will be no more than a token gesture. If it every happens at all, and Boris doesn’t decide to shelve it. Along with all the other Tories projects for a better, racially inclusive Britain.

 

After Slavery, the West Indies Had Black Politicians

June 19, 2020

Following the Black Lives Matter protests in Britain has come the debate about the teaching of Black history in schools. There was an item about this on BBC news earlier this week. Some schools already teach it, including the Black British experience but also the Black kingdoms in Africa, which is taught before going on to slavery. There were comments from Black students, who said that it had boosted their self-esteem. However, not all schools teach it and there have been calls from Black politicos to make it compulsory.

But Caribbean history may also provide useful role models and inspiration for Black Britons. What isn’t really appreciated is that shortly after the abolition of slavery in 1837, Black West Indians elected Black and biracial ‘coloured’ politicians to protect them from the planters’ attempts to force them back into servitude. Gad Heuvelmans mentions this development in The Caribbean: A Brief History, 2nd edition (London: Bloomsbury 2014). He writes

Strikes and riots were one form of response of the ex-slaves to emancipation; another was challenging the political domination of the planters. This took the form of electing black and brown representatives to the local Assemblies. Although not forming a single political bloc, black and brown Assemblymen generally supported government policies. Moreover, they could be significant: in Dominica, for example, coloured representatives formed a majority in the Assembly. Their presence prevented the passage of harsh legislation against the ex-slaves which characterized many other West Indian colonies.

In Jamaica, the coloured and black members of the Assembly united to form the Town Party, a faction which opposed the predominately planters’ Country Party. The coloureds favoured funds being spent on education, resisted expensive immigration schemes, and sought to counter planter attempts to restrict the franchise. Moreover, the coloureds also voted against measures to shift the burden of taxation almost entirely onto small settlers. Brown and black representatives did remain a minority in the Jamaican House of Assembly, but as tehir numbers increased, the planters became increasingly alarmed about the possibility of being outnumbered. (p.113).

I’ve known Black educators and historians get frustrated about the lack of awareness of this aspect of West Indian history. One of the experts, who also worked at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum was a Black historian from the West Indies. He used to give talks regularly to Bristol’s Black community was active in several Black improvement programmes. I remember him telling me how exasperated he got when he was talking to a young man, who blamed the problems of the Black community on slavery. He told the young man that that was no explanation as they had Black politicians immediately after slavery.

I think this is right. You can’t put all of the problems of the western Black communities down to slavery. Some of it is also due general racism, and the oppressive measures the planter elites imposed to try and force Black West Indians back onto the plantation under their control. But just as they had strongly resisted slavery, so the newly emancipated Black population turned to politics and got themselves and their representatives elected to resist attempts to disenfranchise them. No small achievement! I don’t want to be accused of telling Black people what they should or shouldn’t do to improve their condition, but perhaps it would give more Black Britons hope and inspiration if they knew more about this.

Another nation that might also provide useful role models might be Ghana. As the former Gold Coast, in the 1920s this had a remarkably enlightened governor for the time. It was the first British colony to appoint indigenous people as members of its governing council. I think its governor also wrote a book on racism in the 1940s, with the title of ‘Colour Prejudice’ or ‘Colour Issue’ or something like it. This included not only examples of White racism, but also Blacks against Whites. He quotes the 14th century Arab traveler ibn Battuta on the racism towards Whites of the people of the Black African kingdom of Mali.  This was something like ‘They would be great Muslims, if they didn’t treat Whites with such contempt’.

And regardless of skin colour, I wish there was more of the spirit of the Town Party today. We need more spent on education, just as we need more spent on welfare and the NHS. We need to stop the Tories shifting the tax burden onto the poor instead of the rich.

And the Tories are doing what they can to disenfranchise and force into servitude Britain’s working people, all while trying to preserve a facade of freedom.

 

 

Tommy Robinson’s Equipment Seized After Breaking Lockdown Rules

June 15, 2020

The odious Dominic Cummings wasn’t the only right-winger to be caught breaking the lockdown. So was Stephen Yaxley Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson, the notorious islamophobe. Robinson had been nabbed by the fuzz, which can be extremely painful, in Cumbria when he was trying to get to Barrow-on-Furness. The rozzers seized his equipment – his car, his phone and his camera.

This set the anti-Muslim bully-boy off on a long rant against Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter was caused by the radicalisation of people by Antifa, socialist, communist activists. It’s the product of identity politics imported from the US, and funded by the Americans, communism and Marxism. BLM was also supported by the media and ‘the whole remain movement’. Antifa were a ‘far-left’, Fascist organisation, which is an oxymoron. He also attacked someone called Anthony Joshua, who has apparently called for Blacks not to shop at White businesses. Robinson called him a Black supremacist and claimed he was being funded by Saudi Arabia.

Ominously, Robinson also said that he was coming to London this past weekend for a non-racist, patriotic demonstration. “It’s not an anti-Black Lives Matter protest. Many people were there for the right reasons, but you’ve been hijacked by Antifa, you’re being used … on Saturday, many non-white people will be standing with patriots – here Zelo Street interpolated the right interpretation of this clause – [patriots can clearly only be white, then] cos we cannot rely on the Police”.

But as the events on Saturday showed, it was an anti-BLM demonstration. Thugs and louts from the Democratic Football Lads’ Alliance turned up waving anti-Black Lives Matter placards. They were also seen setting fire to a BLM poster whilst describing the person on it as a ‘Black c***’. They were clearly hoping to start a fight with the BLM protesters, who had planned on demonstrating that day. However, those protesters had moved their event to last Friday. Denied their chosen targets, the Fashy idiots decided to attack the cops instead. One of them spat at and threatened a young woman, who was simply picnicking with her friends, while another was seen urinating next to the memorial for the policeman killed defending parliament from an islamist attack. He wasn’t actually widdling on it, as right-wing rent-a-mouth Julia Hartley-Brewer was keen to point out, as if that somehow exonerated this prize bit of drunken yobbishness. Well, no, but it still was a despicable sacrilege to the memory of a brave man. And as the peeps on Twitter also pointed out, urinating in public is still an offence, as it’s an act of public indecency. They were, in short, a disgraceful, drunken rabble, which, if you read the anti-racism, anti-religious extremism site, Hope Not Hate, is just bog-standard, typical behaviour for the far right.

Black Lives Matter has been imported from America, but I really don’t know if it’s funded from there. The BLM demonstrations seemed to me to be spontaneous and occurred all over the world. They are undoubtedly supported by the left, including socialists and communists, but I doubt very much they are an exclusive socialist or communist movement. For all that the various communist movements and parties would like to believe they are instrumental in mobilising mass protest, the truth is the opposite. The collapse of communism globally took most of the local, national communist parties with it. And they were never very popular anyway. The British Communist party reached its peak of popular support in the mid-’70s. When I was a schoolboy in the 1980s, I noticed that in one set of elections in Bristol – I think it was around ’82 or ‘3’ – the local Communist party got 45 votes, beating the National Front, who only got 40. Hardly anybody voted for them. The Socialist Workers’ Party, now the Socialist Party, has done its level best to infiltrate and colonise other people’s protest movements, but their efforts have always been counterproductive. When they inflitrated ‘Rock Against Racism’ in the early ’80s and tried to turn it into a satellite organisation, the mass of members simply left and the organisation, and their plan for using it to radicalise the masses towards Marxism – collapsed. The people who joined ‘Rock Against Racism’ did so because they were anti-racist, not because they were interested in revolutionary socialism.

I also don’t know how many supporters of anti-racist movements like Black Lives Matter are actually socialists. I got the impression that Jo Cox, the Labour MP murdered by racist fanatic Thomas Mair, was on the anti-socialist, Blairite right of the party. Anti-racism and feminism are liberal movements. They are about expanding democracy, opportunity and social participation to include marginalised groups, in this case, ethnic minorities and women. But that can simply mean improving opportunities for individuals, rather than improving conditions generally for the poor or the working and lower middle classes. Hence Blair could back anti-racism campaigns and the movement to get more women in business, science and parliament, without taking up nationalisation or turning away from the Thatcherite road of privatisation, welfare cuts, the destruction of the unions and selling off the NHS. Socialists have adopted anti-racism and feminism as part of a general concern to emancipate those excluded and exploited by capitalism.

I’ve already blogged about the real reasons for the Black Lives Matter protests, as opposed the stupid conspiracy theories about Marxists spouted by Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s primarily a reaction to the disproportionate use of lethal force by the police against Blacks. But it’s also caused by continuing racial inequalities and the grinding poverty of Black communities, as well as everyday anti-Black racism. It’s why the BLM protest in Cheltenham last weekend included a poem by a little girl, Nylah, about why Blacks should take no notice when people tell them they aren’t beautiful. It’s a subject that has haunted many Black people. I came across a similar poem about Black beauty in an issue I was sent at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum of the magazine of the Black and Asian Studies Association. That was 20 years ago, and it is a disgrace that after nearly fifty years of such campaigning, some Black people still somehow feel that they are less attractive than Whites. But it’s also a demonstration that Black pride and anti-racism are humanist movements that go beyond the ideological boundaries of socialism and communism, although both of the latter may and should support them.

Back to Robinson, by his own admission his phone contains footage of his activities. These includes turning up announced on his critics’ doorsteps with a few of his henchmen in order to intimidate them into silence. He also inadvertently doxes them, posting their private information online but telling his followers not to trouble them, and then deleting the information. It all looks suspiciously like incitement, while Robinson himself pretends the opposite. He didn’t want anyone to harass anybody, honest! Look, he’s deleted their information. Robinson did it to the parents of a lad, who persisted in criticising Robinson online and who had pointed out that Robinson’s expensive house showed he was definitely not the poor, working class lad he claimed. He did it to the anti-racist activist Mike Stuchbery, who was forced to leave his teaching job in this country after Robinson falsely claimed, or insinuated, that he was abusing children. And he did it to Tim Felton himself, the man behind Zelo Street. Naturally Tim hopes that the rozzers crack the codes and passwords into Robinson’s phone, and get all the sordid details. Including who is breaking privacy laws by giving Robinson other peoples’ private addresses.

Robinson’s got a series of convictions as long as your arm. These include assault and contempt of court for his repeated violations of the very tight legislation governing trial reportage. That’s legislation intended to make sure the accused get a fair trial. In the case of the Asian grooming gangs and paedophiles, whose trials Robinson has insisted on covering, this means making sure that if they are guilty, their lawyers can’t have the cases dropped because Robinson’s stupid vlogging stops them getting a fair trial.

So far Robinson has had suspended sentences, or those of only a few months. But depending on what the police are able to get out of his phone, that really could change. And it could net some of Robinson’s vile collaborators with him.

See also: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/06/lennon-loses-his-instruments.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/06/lennon-loss-lacked-lockout.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/06/fascist-scum-really-are-scum.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/06/julia-hartley-doodas-piss-poor-excuse.html

 

 

 

The Reasons for the Toppling of the Statues of Columbus and King Leopold of Belgium

June 13, 2020

It isn’t just in Bristol that people are pulling down the statues of those, who were racist, imperialist or connected to slavery. In America protesters have pulled down more statues of Confederate generals. According to the Beeb, they also pulled down a statue of Christopher Columbus. Back across the Pond in Belgium, a statue of King Leopold II was also attacked.

Columbus and the Genocide of the Amerindians

Many people are no doubt surprised and shocked that Columbus should be the centre of such controversy and anger. Again, this is because most people largely don’t know much about him. All most people are taught are that he discovered America, as in the rhyme ‘In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue’. He was an Italian in the service of the king of Spain. Many may also believe the myth begun by Washington Irving, that until Columbus found the New World, everyone believed that the Earth was flat and you’d fall off the edge if you sailed far enough. In fact people at the time had know perfectly well that the world was round, and had done since at least late antiquity and the early Middle Ages. Columbus himself was seeking a new route to the wealth, and particularly spices, of India and China. The overland trade routes had been blocked by the Turkish conquests, so Columbus was seeking a new route to these countries by sailing around the world. In doing so, he failed to realise that the world was actually larger than he believed. When he landed in the Caribbean, he thought he had landed in Asia. It was only towards the end of his career that he began to suspect that he hadn’t, and had discovered an entirely different, new continent instead.

Although it opened up a whole new world for Europeans, and especially the Spanish, it was a catastrophe for the indigenous peoples. Columbus described the Caribbean peoples he met as ‘gentle and mild’, and they welcomed their strange, new visitor. After Columbus returned to Spain, the situation changed with the Spanish conquest. The indigenous peoples – the Taino, Arawak and Caribs were enslaved and worked to death mining the gold that the Spanish and Europeans craved. If they failed to produce enough gold for their European masters, they were killed and mutilated. One of the contemporary sources for the conquest of the New World states that one of the punishments was to amputate their hands, and then hang them around the victim’s neck. Indigenous women were raped and sexually exploited. Indigenous populations were also devastated by the diseases Europeans brought with them, such as smallpox. The population of the Americas had reached several million before Columbus’ arrival. I forget the estimated number – it might be something like 8 million. That number had dropped considerably after the European conquests. The Spanish pushed further, overthrowing the Aztec and Inca empires and conquering the Mayan city states. And across the continent the indigenous peoples were devastated by disease and war, and enslaved on the vast estates carved out by the conquistadors. Other Europeans followed them, who were equally brutal – Portuguese, French, Dutch and ourselves.

The carnage of the European conquests means that Columbus is very definitely not a hero to the New World’s indigenous peoples, nor to the Black populations who succeeded them. Transatlantic slavery emerged because Europeans replaced the Indian workers they’d exterminated with African slaves. Nearly thirty years ago, in 1992 there were demonstrations and denunciations by indigenous Americans and Blacks at the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America. For the Amerindian peoples, the festivities were a celebration of their genocide and enslavement. Black Americans also condemned them as a celebration of slavery, an accusation that was repeated by Black Britons three years later when this country celebrated John Cabot’s discovery of Newfoundland.

Leopold of Belgium and the Congo Atrocity

Centuries later, at the end of the 19th century, Leopold was also responsible for genocide on a scale comparable to the Nazis in Zaire, the former Belgian Congo. He’d acquired the area as his own personal property, and decided to exploit his new territory through rubber production. He set up his own, private police force, the Force Publique, and forced the indigenous peoples to cultivate and produce it. The indigenous Congolese were given quotas, and if they failed to produce the set amount of rubber, they were beaten, mutilated and killed by the thugs of his private police. Tony Greenstein in an article he has published on his blog a few days ago estimates the number of killed at 10 million. I don’t know if that’s the generally accepted number, as it seems he prefers the upper end of the estimates of European genocide. But it wouldn’t have been far off. There’s a very good popular book on slavery produced by Buffalo Books. I think it’s called just Slavery, and covers all of its forms, including the infamous Coolie Trade in Indian indentured migrants and the enslavement of Pacific Islanders to serve on the plantations of Fiji and Queensland. This also covers the Congo atrocity. It’s profusely illustrated with contemporary pictures, cartoons and photographs. I came across the book when a copy was given to the Empire and Commonwealth Museum, where I was doing voluntary work cataloguing the Museum’s holdings on slavery. One of the photographs was of a Congolese man forlornly looking at his severed feet. Slavery is an horrific subject, and there were a number of very graphic illustrations. But that was one that definitely made me feel ill.

The horror stopped because of the public outcry created by its exposure by several brilliant, crusading European and American journos. The Belgian government took it out of Leopold’s hands and turned it into a state colony. For many years the whole subject was something most Belgians wished to forget. However, in the late 1990s or early part of this century, Belgium began reexamining its relationship with its colonial past. There was an exhibition at the country’s national museum around the exhibits from the Congo. This included new works from contemporary artists and performers about the exhibits and the issues they raised.

Conclusion

For most ordinary people, at least in Britain, the attacks on these statues are astonishing. They’re yet another example of the violent iconoclasm and assault on history and White identity of the BLM movement. I doubt many people in Britain know enough about Leopold and his personal crimes against humanity to care what happens to his statue. But there are good reasons why Blacks, the American First Nations and their sympathisers should hate these statues and want their removal. Columbus and Leopold were monsters, and like Colston brought suffering to unimaginable millions. The attacks are shocking because we aren’t taught about the consequences of the European conquests in school history, although it is certainly not hidden or covered up. You can read about the Spanish conquests and the genocide of the Amerindians in books on South American history, as well as the classic treatment of the dispossession and genocide of the North American peoples, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

It’s why the BLM and Black and Asian activists are justified in calls for the dark side of British and European imperialism to be taught in history.

 

When You Pull Down Statues, Make Sure They’re of the Right People

June 10, 2020

Since Colston’s statue was pulled over and lobbed in the docks in Bristol on Sunday, others have called for the removal of similar statues and monuments to those connected to the slave trade. Down in Devon there have been calls for a statue of the Elizabethan explorer Francis Drake to be removed. At Oxford University demands have started up again for the removal of the university’s statue to the 19th century imperialist, Cecil Rhodes. And on Sky News’ The Pledge, Afua Hirsh managed to get LBC’s Nick Ferrari in a right tizzy for suggesting that not only should Rhodes’ statue be taken down, but also Horatio Nelson and Winston Churchill.

I can’t defend Rhodes. He seems to me to be have been a thoroughly ruthless character, who was intent only on grabbing as much land for himself and Britain on any pretext whatsoever. I might be wrong, but I’ve got a horrible suspicion he was one of the people behind the Anglo-South African or Boer War during which tens or hundreds of thousands of Afrikaner women and children died in concentration camps. He was also instrumental in the creation of Rhodesia’s colour bar.

Nelson and Churchill are going to be much more controversial. Most people only know of Nelson for his victory at Trafalgar during the Napoleonic War. This was to stop the French imperial domination of Europe, and Napoleonic forces had also invaded Egypt. I think most Brits will therefore take an attack on Nelson as an attack on a key figure, who kept Britain and Europe free. Yes, he’s a symbol of British imperial strength, but I doubt many people associate him with the oppression of Blacks and Asians. It’s going to look like a spiteful attack on Britain, rather than a gesture of Black liberation.

Ditto Hirsh’s other target, Winston Churchill. I’m absolutely no fan of Churchill myself. He was an authoritarian aristocrat, whose real reason for opposing Hitler was that he saw Nazi Germany as a threat to British interests in the North Sea, not because he was an opponent of Fascism. He sent troops in to shoot striking miners in Wales, and was all for calling them in during the General Strike. Stanley Baldwin, the Conservative prime minister at the time, wanted him kept well out of the way to avoid exacerbating the situation. As for Ireland, back in the 1990s there was an interesting little programme on BBC 2, The Living Dead, which was about the way Churchill’s heroic view of British history in his A History of the English-Speaking Peoples had influenced subsequent politics. One of the key offenders here was one Baroness Margaret Thatcher, who had been strongly influenced by the great war leader herself, and tried to invoke his memory at nearly every opportunity. The programme interviewed a former member of the Irish republican paramilitary group, the INLA. He said that it was easier to recruit members under Thatcher than under Ted Heath because of Thatcher’s celebration of Churchill. For Irish nationalists, Churchill was the monster, who sent in the Black and Tans. His sequestration of grain from the Bengal peasants during the War resulted in an horrific famine which killed something like 2-4 million people. This is comparable to the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis, and some senior British army officers saw it as exactly that. Churchill, however, declared it was all their fault for ‘pullulating’, or having too many children.

That is not, however, why Churchill is celebrated over here. He’s lauded because he, Roosevelt and Stalin together overthrew the Nazis and their allies. The War swept away Fascist Italy, and the other Fascist or Fascist-aligned regimes in Slovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Romania. It liberated Greece and Albania. Stalin was no angel either. He killed at least 30 million Soviet citizens during the purges and deported whole nations and ethnic groups to Siberia. Instead of letting the eastern European countries decide their future for themselves, he imposed a ruthless autocratic Communist dictatorship. I think Churchill would have liked those nations to have been free to decide for themselves. Back in the ’90s there was a radio series on Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at Yalta, the conference that would decide the post-War European order. It was called The Eagle and the Small Birds, from a quote from Churchill ‘The eagle should let the small birds sing, and care not wherefore they sang’. A Nazi victory would have been the stuff of nightmares, and I don’t know how many millions Hitler would have murdered had he been successful. What the Nazis did to the Jews, Poles, Ukrainians and Russians was horrific enough as it is.

Churchill isn’t the saint or the great molten idol the Tories claim he is by any stretch of the imagination, but he is one of the reasons why Hirsh and Black activists like her are able to make their criticisms of traditional British history and its heroes. If Hitler had won, or his mate Oswald Mosley had seized power in some kind of coup over here, Hirsh and her allies would not have been tolerated. The Nazis’ eugenics programme included not only the murder of the disabled, but also the sterilisation of the mixed race children of White German women and Black American soldiers from the post-First World War army of occupation. Mosley himself would have made Britain an apartheid state, with citizenship granted only to those who conformed to aryan British culture, if not physiology. The War and the horrors of the Nazi and Fascist regimes made eugenics and racism and anti-Semitism far less acceptable than they were before. I am very much aware how institutionally racist Britain is and has been. But it’s much better than what would have existed had Churchill been defeated.

But most of all, I’m concerned that the zeal for smashing statues and monuments may destroy those to abolitionists. Nearly 20 years ago, when I was doing voluntary work in the Empire and Commonwealth Museum here in Bristol, one of the books that found its way into the slavery archive and library was a little bit of local history by the Liverpudlian writer, Fritz Spiegel. Spiegel prides himself on being a ‘Dicky Sam’, the Liverpudlian equivalent of a ‘real Cockney sparrow’. The book was on the fascinating history of the abolition movement in that great city. If I remember rightly, it included not only White abolitionists, but also some of the Black people who also populated the city. It wasn’t just a piece of local history for its own sake, though. In his introduction, Spiegel explained that he moved to right it because, in their zeal to destroy monuments to the city’s slavers, some people had also vandalized those of innocent merchants and abolitionists.

I’m afraid there might be a danger of something similar happening in the current zeal for smashing statues commemorating Black oppression and slavery. There are good reasons for removing monuments like Colston’s. But let’s not confuse those with slavery’s opponents.