Posts Tagged ‘Famine’

Grimes and Starkey Get Racist Discussing Slavery and British Imperialism

July 3, 2020

Yesterday the ever-reliable Zelo Street put up a very revealing piece about one of the videos Darren Grimes had put up on the Reasoned YouTube channel. Reasoned is yet another Conservative astroturf organisation set up by the group Media and Activism, the same people who brought you Turning Point UK. That’s the Turning Point UK which is the British subsidiary of the American conservative youth movement, Turning Point. It was officially opened by Dave Rubin and Candace Owens, who immediately showed her lack of historical knowledge by denying that Hitler was a nationalist, even though he said he was and it’s in the Nazis’ name. Worse, she said that she thought that Hitler’s actions would have been all right, if only he had stuck to Germany. Which obviously suggests she thinks the dismantlement of democracy, the imprisonment of political prisoners, and the mass murder of Jews, Gypsies and the disabled would have been a-OK if it had been confined to Germany. I really don’t believe she meant to say that, but it illustrates how some people, especially on the right, really need to engage their brains and do some reading before their open their mouths.

Grimes should have avoided such massive historical illiteracy with his guest in the video Zelo Street discussed. This was Dr David Starkey, the expert on Queen Elizabeth I and the Tudors, who has himself presented and appeared on many history programmes. Grimes, who really looks like he should be in school studying for his ‘O’ levels rather than pumping out extreme right-wing propaganda for the Tories, had Starkey on to discuss British history. The video’s title was about BLM delegitimating (sic) British history. By which Reasoned presumably meant British imperial history. And the discussion became a car crash.

The pair debated the question of whether slavery was a genocide. This is a claim made by many Black activists, and it ultimately comes from the great American civil rights leader W.E.B. DuBois. DuBois had argued that it was, drawing on the descriptions of the devastation to African communities by the depredations of the slavers. Starkey denied that it was, on the grounds that the Black population had not only survived, but expanded. This is also true, and has been used by many historians and academics as an illustration of how human populations can recover quickly after they’ve been massively reduced.

You could also argue that slavery wasn’t a genocide on the grounds that, like Stalin’s purges and the deportations of whole ethnic groups in the Soviet Union, the point wasn’t to exterminate but to enslave and exploit. Back when I was doing my Ph.D. at Bristol uni, I went to a seminar in the History department given by a lad on what officially counts as a genocide. There are a number of conflicting definitions. Atrocities that count as genocide under one are excluded under another. The only mass murder which fits all the definitions is the Holocaust. The speaker’s attitude was that historians and human rights campaigners should step back from trying to make precise definitions because they actually do more to obscure rather than illuminate. Instead there should be a commonsense approach, where people knew it when they saw it without worrying too much about quibbling details.

If this attitude is taken, then yes, slavery does count as genocide because of the destruction and death inflicted on African communities through slave raiding, and the very high death rate among the enslaved as they were taken across the Atlantic – 25 per cent of slaves died during the journey – and then put to work. Time Team a while ago conducted an excavation of a plantation, including the slave village, on one of the Caribbean islands. In the programme, Tony Robinson announced that the average life expectancy on the plantations was three years. This was regardless whether someone was one of the slaves or not. Life expectancy presumably improved, as it became the custom for the slaveowners to ‘season’ their slaves, letting them rest and recuperate for a year before setting them to work. But there was a debate over how hard slaves should be worked. Some planters recommending working them literally to death to get as much out of them as possible, and then simply buying more replacements. And the birthrate among slaves is always low. This has been true throughout history, from the Romans to the Caribbean and Americas. It’s why the British government started to try to ameliorate slave conditions of slaves owned by the crown in 1816, twenty years before slavery was officially abolished.

But it wasn’t so much Starkey’s denial that slavery was a genocide that was the problem, but the way he denied it. Starkey declared “Slavery was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain, would there? An awful lot of them survived”. The emphasis was Zelo Street’s, who said that here Starkey sounded like an apologist for apartheid South Africa c. 1980 but without the accent. He also said that “The honest teaching of the British Empire is to say quite simply that it is the first key stage of world globalisation. It’s probably the most important moment in human history, and it’s still with us,” adding, “Its consequences are still on … and in most ways, actually fruitful”. The Street comments “Not sure what the reaction to that would be in many of those countries that were given the benefit of this less than benign phenomenon, along with the brutal militarisation, enforced famines, and free trade that was only free if it suited the colonial power.” This is also true. The campaign for the independence of the Caribbean countries began in the 1930s with nationalists upset at the way their trade was hampered through its ties to Britain. They wished to develop their economies and sell goods to other nations, like America. And there were artificial famines across the empire produced and exacerbated by a rigid adherence to free trade. Starving populations were refused free or artificially subsidized, cheap grain because this would violate the principles of free trade. See the book Late Victorian Holocausts. And present-day globalisation is still creating misery for the world’s working people from the developing world to the west.

Starkey’s overall conclusion is wrong, but it has to be admitted that the British Empire also did some good. The expansion into Africa in the late 19th century was partly motivated from a desire to crush slavery and the slave trade, although this also led to establishment of systems of forced labour inflicted on the indigenous peoples on behalf of the European colonists. But what was offensive was obviously not so much what he said, but how he said it: ‘so many damn Blacks in Africa or in Britain’.

It’s at this point that you also wonder what Grimes and the video’s director and producers thought they were doing. If the video was being recorded rather than broadcast live, they should have stepped in and told Starkey that he couldn’t say that, then gone back and reshot the piece. But they didn’t. Nor did Grimes look uncomfortable as Starkey said it. Others would have pulled a face or shown some disapproval, but apparently Grimes cheerfully nods along. This resulted in one of the peeps on Twitter putting up a clip of him nodding in agreement to one of Adolf’s rants.

Zelo Street concludes that this should effectively terminate Grime’s and Starkey’s careers. He states

‘From here there should be no way back for either Starkey or Grimes, although Brendan O’Neill will no doubt be along soon to excuse the whole affair, blaming any criticism on “leftists”, “wokeism”, or some other excuse that allows him to pretend to understand George Orwell. Darren Grimes is fronting a racist endeavour.

Will broadcasters now think better of inviting Dazza on? Don’t hold your breath.’

It should, but it won’t. Not unless far more people see and comment on it so that any appearance by either of them is immediately greeted with strong objections and complaints. As it stands, however, I think Starkey is far too established as a TV personality and popular historian to suffer much from this, while it seems that no matter how noxious Grimes and the rest of the Paul Staines massive can be, they still seem to be feted as legitimate journalists.

Once upon a time Starkey bridled if someone accused him of racism. Now on this video, he seems to have shown that he is. And Grimes and his backers are too. And worse, they’re unashamed. If this isn’t checked, the racism will only get more overt and worse.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/07/darren-grimes-fronts-racist-endeavour.html

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.

Shaw’s Classic Defence of Socialism for Women Part Three

May 16, 2020

George Bernard Shaw, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism, foreword by Polly Toynbee (London: Alma Classics 2012).

Socialism and Marriage, Children, Liberty and Religion

Shaw also discusses what socialism would mean for marriage, liberty, children and the churches, and these are the most problematic sections of the book. He looks forward to marriage being a purely voluntary commitment, where people people can marry for love instead of financial advancement. This will produce biologically better children, because people will be able to choose the best partners, rather than be limited to only those from their class. At the same time incompatible partners will be able to divorce each other free of stigma.

He defines liberty in terms of personal freedom. Under socialism, people will be freer because the amount of time they will have for their personal amusement and recreation will be greater. Legislation might go down, because the laws currently needed to protect people will become unnecessary as socialism is established and society advances. Shaw also believes that greater free time would be enough to attract the top brains to management positions in the absence of the usual inducement of greater pay. Shaw realised that not everyone could run industries, and that it was necessary to hire the very best people, who would be a small minority. Giving them greater leisure time was the best way to do this, and he later criticises the Soviet government for not equalising incomes.

But this is sheer utopianism. The Bolsheviks had tried to equalise incomes, and it didn’t work, which is why they went back to higher rates of pay for managers and so on. And as we’ve seen, socialism doesn’t necessarily lead to greater free time and certainly not less legislation. The better argument is that socialism leads to greater liberty because under socialism people have better opportunities available to them for careers, sport, entertainment and personal improvement than they would if they were mere capitalist wage slaves.

Religious people will also object to his views on religion and the churches. While earlier in the book Shaw addressed the reader as a fellow Christian, his attitude in this section is one of a religious sceptic. The reader will have already been warned of this through the foreword by Toynbee. The Groaniad columnist is a high-ranking member of the both the Secular and Humanist Societies, and her columns and articles in just about every magazine or newspaper she wrote for contained sneers at religion. Shaw considers the various Christian denominations irreconcilable in their theologies, and pour scorn on orthodox Christian doctrines such as the Atonement, that Christ died for our sins. Religion should not be taught in school, because of the incompatibility of the account of the Creation in Genesis with modern science. Children should not be taught about religion at all under they are of the age of consent. If their parents do teach them, the children are to be removed from their care. This is the attitude of very aggressive secularists and atheists. Richard Dawkins had the same attitude, but eventually reversed it. It’s far too authoritarian for most people. Mike and I went to a church school, and received a very good education from teachers that did believe in evolution. Religion deals with ultimate questions of existence and morality that go far beyond science. I therefore strongly believe that parents have the right to bring their children up in their religion, as long as they are aware of the existence of other views and that those who hold them are not wicked simply for doing so. He also believed that instead of children having information pumped into them, the business should be to educate children to the basic level they need to be able to live and work in modern society, and then allow the child to choose for itself what it wants to study.

Communism and Fascism

This last section of the book includes Shaw’s observations on Russian Communism and Fascism. Shaw had visited the USSR in the early ’30s, and like the other Fabians had been duped by Stalin. He praised it as the new socialist society that was eradicating poverty and class differences. He also thought that its early history vindicated the Fabian approach of cautious nationalisation. Lenin had first nationalised everything, and then had to go back on it and restore capitalism and the capitalist managers under the New Economic Policy. But Russia was to be admired because it had done this reversal quite openly, while such changes were kept very quiet in capitalism. If there were problems in the country’s industrialisation, it was due to mass sabotage by the kulaks – the wealthy peasants – and the industrialists. He also recognised that the previous capitalist elite were disenfranchised, forced into manual labour, and their children denied education until the working class children had been served. At the same time, the Soviet leaders had been members of the upper classes themselves, and in order to present themselves as working class leaders had claimed working class parentage. These issues were, however, gradually working themselves out. The Soviet leaders no longer had need of such personal propaganda, and the former capitalists could reconcile themselves to the regime as members of the intellectual proletariat. And some of the industrialisation was being performed by criminals, but this was less arduous than the labour in our prisons.

Shaw is right about the NEP showing that nationalisation needs to be preceded by careful preparation. But he was obviously kept ignorant of the famine that was raging in the USSR through forced collectivisation and the mass murder of the kulaks. And rather than a few criminals in the gulags, the real figures were millions of forced labourers. They were innocent of any crime except Stalin’s paranoia and the need of his managers for cheap slave labour. It’s believed that about 30 millions died in Stalin’s purges, while 7 million died in the famine in the Ukraine.

Shaw’s treatment of Fascism seems to be based mostly on the career of Mussolini. He considers Fascism just a revival of the craze for absolute monarchy and military leadership, of the kind that had produced Henry VIII in England, Napoleon, and now Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, the Shah of Iran and Ataturk in Turkey. These new absolute rulers had started out as working class radicals, before find out that the changes they wanted would not come from the working class. They had therefore appealed to the respectable middle class, swept away democracy and the old municipal councils, which were really talking shops for elderly tradesmen which accomplished little. They had then embarked on a campaign against liberalism and the left, smashing those organisations and imprisoning their members. Some form of parliament had been retained in order to reassure the people. At the same time, wars were started to divert the population and stop them criticising the new generalissimo. Industry was approaching socialism by combining into trusts. However, the government would not introduce socialism or truly effective government because of middle class opposition. Fascist regimes wouldn’t last, because their leaders were, like the rest of us, only mortal. In fact Mussolini was overthrown by the other Fascists, who then surrendered to the Allies, partly because of his failing health. That, and his utter military incompetence which meant that Italy was very definitely losing the War and the Allies were steadily advancing up the peninsula. While this potted biography of the typical Fascist is true of Mussolini, it doesn’t really fit some of the others. The Shah, for example, was an Indian prince.

Anarchism and Syndicalism

Shaw is much less informed about anarchism. He really only discusses it in terms of ‘Communist Anarchism’, which he dismisses as a silly contradiction in terms. Communism meant more legislation, while anarchism clearly meant less. He should have the articles and books on Anarcho-communism by Peter Kropotkin. Kropotkin believed that goods and services should be taken over by the whole community. However, rather than a complete absence of government and legislation, society would be managed instead by individual communities and federations.

He also dismisses syndicalism, in which industry would be taken over and run by the trade unions. He considers this just another form of capitalism, with the place of the managers being taken by the workers. These would still fleece the consumer, while at the same time leave the problem of the great inequality in the distribution of wealth untouched, as some industries would obviously be poorer than others. But the Guild Socialists did believe that there should be a kind of central authority to represent the interests of the consumer. And one of the reasons why nationalisation, in the view of some socialists, failed to gain the popular support needed to defend it against the privatisations of the Tories is because the workers in the nationalised industries after the War were disappointed in their hopes for a great role in their management. The Labour party merely wanted nationalisation to be a simple exchange of public for private management, with no profound changes to the management structure. In some cases the same personnel were left in place. Unions were to be given a role in management through the various planning bodies. But this was far less than many workers and trade unionists hoped. If nationalisation is to have any meaning, it must allow for a proper, expanded role of the workers themselves in the business of managing their companies and industries.

The book ends with a peroration and a discussion of the works that have influenced and interest Shaw. In the peroration Shaw exhorts the readers not to be upset by the mass poverty and misery of the time, but to deplore the waste of opportunities for health, prosperity and happiness of the time, and to look forward and work for a better, socialist future.

His ‘Instead of a Bibliography’ is a kind of potted history of books critical of capitalism and advocating socialism from David Ricardo’s formulation of capitalism in the 19th century. These also include literary figures like Ruskin, Carlyle and Dickens. He states that he has replaced Marx’s theory of surplus value with Jevons treatment of rent, in order to show how capitalism deprives workers of their rightful share of the profits.

 

 

Boris Johnson: Britain’s Chairman Mao

April 29, 2020

Boris Johnson finally returned to work this Monday. As he did so, he gave us the benefit of his thoughts in a speech to the nation. This was at 9 O’clock in the morning, when some people furloughed from work may have been asleep.

Mike was one of those who watched it, and assured those who had slept through it that they weren’t missing much. It was mostly just flannel and platitudes. Johnson did manage to say something sensible. In comparing the current situation to an attack by an assailant, Johnson warned people that although we had got on top of the situation, this was no time to relax the lockdown. Even if you had your attacker on the ground, he was still dangerous and you wouldn’t take your hands off him to allow him back up in case he returned to the attack. It was the same with the lockdown and the virus.

That wasn’t what struck Mike about Johnson’s peroration, however. What he noticed, and which justifiably left Mike outraged, was our clown prime minister’s statement that we were successful in tackling the virus. What? Successful! How? The death toll is at 21,000, excluding those in care homes and at home. We have the worst death toll in Europe, above Italy and Spain, the two countries worse hit. We have our front line medical and care workers dying of this wretched disease because they don’t have the right PPE. They’re going to work in bin bags. And this is because Johnson and his cronies didn’t take the pandemic threat seriously, didn’t want to update the plans and preparations previous administrations had made for such an eventuality, and prioritised Brexit and the economy over actually shutting the country down as soon as possible to save lives. Far more could have been done, especially if Johnson had got off his well-padded, Eton-educated rear end and attended a few more Cobra meetings and actually did some work at weekends.

But the Tories and their fawning media lackeys have been falling over themselves to hail the great man’s return to health and work. Yesterday Zelo Street put up an article comparing this outburst of praise and good wishes for Boris with the official praise and acclamation given by the Chinese to Mao Zedong. Chairman Mao was hailed by his supporters as ‘the great helmsman’, and Johnson too was being lauded by the Tories in similar terms. Zelo Street reproduced a series of Tweets from the Tories stating how wonderful it was to have Boris ‘back at the helm’. Zelo Street did this to make the point that, despite claims to the contrary, this country was capable of a cult of personality similar to Communist dictatorships like North Korea and China.

Precisely, but we’ve seen it before, of course. Thatcher over here and Ronald Reagan in America have cults among their parties which can easily be compared with the Soviet cults of Lenin and Stalin. As for Mao, he was responsible for the Cultural Revolution during which 60 million Chinese died, many of them from famine caused by the party’s failed policies.  In the ten years of their government, the Tories have killed over a hundred thousand people through benefit sanctions and work capability tests, and thrown a quarter of a million people on to food banks to feed themselves. More children are growing up in poverty, homelessness has got worse and a record number of Brits are faced with the choice of whether they eat or heat their homes, ’cause they can’t do both.

And at least 21,000 people have died because of the virus, assisted by Johnson’s mistakes, complacency and sheer, bloody idleness.

So Boris certainly is Britain’s Chairman Mao in cult of personality and in the number of deaths he and his wretched party have caused.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/boris-is-new-mao-zedong.html

This is what Boris Johnson calls winning: the second-worst Covid-19 death rate in the world

 

Labour and Trade Union Staffers Trying to Protect Anti-Black and Asian Racists

April 18, 2020

Here’s another scandal that’s erupted in the wake of the leak of the damning report showing how the Blairite faction in the Labour party deliberately intrigued against Corbyn and left-wing MPs and activists, even to the point of working for a thrown election. Now elements in the party and the union, GMB, are trying to protect anti-Black and Asian racists.

Mike put up a piece on Thursday reporting that the suppressed document also stated that the Black MPs, Diane Abbott, Dawn Butler and Clive Lewis, had been victims of racism and racial profiling. A video conference meeting apparently confirmed this, supporting a motion that said that the report had highlighted damning examples of casual workplace racism at the highest levels of the party, and showed how racism against Black, Asian and ethnic minority members were ignored. The meeting called for letters of solidarity to be sent to Abbott, Butler and Lewis.

This was, however, blocked by Labour Party staffers, with one staffer named in the report claiming that it didn’t happen, and to send the letters would be an admission of guilt. Gabriel Pogrund, the Sunday Times hack who libeled Mike as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier, further reported that a motion was put before the Labour Branch of the union GMB demanding that General Secretary Jennie Formby should personally apologise to the members named in the report. Furthermore, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis also promised his protection to two of his senior staffers named in the report as plotting against Corbyn. They’re probably Emilie Oldknow and John Stolliday.

Mike in his article asks if these are the same people, who were happy to demand the persecution and expulsion of left-wing members, like Mike, because of false press reports. He states that if so, they are not acting in good faith and their memberships should already have been suspended. He also asks whether it’s time for vote of ‘no confidence’.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/04/16/responses-to-leaked-labour-report-shows-the-party-and-unions-must-kick-out-the-racists/

This squalid incident shows the double standard within the Labour party and wider society between racism towards Jews and people of colour. Tony Greenstein has pointed out in his incisive critiques of the anti-Semitism smears how racism against Jews is given a higher profile and harsher condemnation than that against Blacks and Asians. Jews are generally less subject to racist abuse and assault. They are not subject to stop and search, nor targeted for deportation. They aren’t rounded up to be put on flights to supposed countries of origin, which they may never have seen in their lives, like the Windrush migrants. At the other end of the political spectrum, Times parliamentary sketch writer Quentin Letts has made a very similar point. In his book Bog-Standard Britain, Letts argues that there is a hierarchy of respect and power of minorities. Jews are either at the top, or near to it. Blacks, Asians and Muslims lower down or at the bottom.

Some of this inequality can be explained as an entirely understandable reaction to the Holocaust. This has made anti-Jewish racism far less acceptable. It’s also perhaps due to the fact that the traditional European Jews are White and highly assimilated. The Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment of the 18th and 19th century, was a reform movement within Judaism that attempted to adapt Jewish culture so that Jews could also participate in wider European society. The result of this has been that most European Jews are highly integrated. Except when wearing traditional Jewish garb, such as the kippah, most British Jews look, dress and behave exactly like their gentile compatriots. And they’re largely accepted by the great mass of British society as fellow Brits. Tony Greenstein stated that the majority of anti-Semitic abuse and violence was directed against Orthodox Jews, who obviously still retain a distinctive dress and are therefore ‘other’ in a way that Liberal and Reform Jews are not.

Class also plays a large part. Tony has also stated that 60 per cent of the British community is middle or upper middle class. They are therefore economically important and socially respectable in a way that other demographic groups are not.

This contrasts with Blacks and Asians, who are marked as different through their skin colouring. While Blacks and some Muslims have been present in Britain and western Europe from the Middle Ages, the majority are recent immigrants to these shores. Large sections of these communities have a distinctive dress and language, and are therefore more radically other than indigenous Jewish Brits. They are also more likely to be poorer and less well educated, and were used over here as cheap labour. These are generalisations, of course, and you can find exceptions to them. Chinese and Indians are like to be as affluent, educated and occupying the same ranks in the social hierarchy as Whites. Working class White boys are far less likely than the children of ethnic minority background to get good grades at school and progress to university. Blacks and Asians have also suffered their own holocausts, such as slavery and the Bengal famine of the War years, when Churchill ordered the sequestration of grain as backup supplies for British troops. The result was an estimated death toll of 2-6 million. Churchill refused to release the grain to feed the starving Indians, and blamed it on them having too many children. His attitude shocked many British officers and colonial administrators, who explicitly compared it to the Nazis.

But these atrocities are historic, and many of them took place far away from Blighty, so that the majority of Brits have never heard of them. Slavery was officially abolished in the British Empire in 1837, although the infamous ‘Coolie Trade’ in indentured Indian labourers continued into the 20th century. The result is that racism towards Blacks and Asians is far more acceptable than anti-Semitism.

Which means that the people determined to unseat Corbyn were able to exaggerate the extent of real anti-Semitism in the Labour party for a right-wing political and media establishment to present as evidence that the Labour leader was a real, existential threat to Jews when he was absolutely nothing of the sort.

And now it seems that right-wing elements in the party are demonstrating their double standards by denying that anti-Black and Asian racism exists, and seeking to defend and protect those guilty.

Whatever they do, they’re still racists. They should be held to account and expelled, not apologised to.

 

Astronomer Vladimir Firsoff’s Argument for Space Exploration as a Positive Alternative to War

December 2, 2019

Vladimir Firsoff was a British astronomer and the author of a series of books, not just on space and spaceflight, but also on skiing and travel. He was a staunch advocate of space exploration. At the end of his 1964 book, Exploring the Planets (London: Sidgwick & Jackson) he presents a rather unusual argument for it. He criticises the scepticism of leading astronomers of his time towards space exploration. This was after the Astronomer Royal of the time had declared that the possibility of building a vehicle that could leave the Earth’s atmosphere and enter space was ‘utter bilge’. He points out that the technology involved presented few problems, but that ordinary people had been influenced by the astronomers’ scepticism, and that there are more pressing problems on Earth. Against this he argued that humanity needed danger, excitement and sacrifice, the emotional stimulation that came from war. Space exploration could provide this and so serve as a positive alternative, a beneficial channel for these deep psychological needs. Firsoff wrote

The traditional planetary astronomy has exhausted its resources. No significant advance is possible without escape beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. The orbital observatories to come will reveal much that is now hidden about the other planets. Space travel is a short historical step ahead. The basic technical problems have been solved, and the consummation of this ancient dream is only a matter of a little effort, experiment and technical refinement. When Bleriot flew the Channel the Atlantic had already been spanned by air lines. And so today we have already landed on Mars – even Triton and Pluto have been reached.

But do we really like to have our dreams come true?

Possibly that happy extrovert the technologist has no misgivings. He sees the Solar System as an enlargement of his scope of action, and has even suggested preceding a descent on Mars by dropping a few bombs, “to study the surface” (this suggestion was widely reported in the press). Yet the astronomer does not relish the prospect of leaving his ivory tower to become a man of action. He is troubled by this unfamiliar part, and a small voice at the back of his mind whispers insidiously that his cherished theories and predictions may, after all, be false. The dislike of space travel is psychologically complex, but there is no mistaking its intensity among the profession.

The general public shares these enthusiasms  and apprehensions, more often than not without any clear reasons why. The Press (with a very capital P) feeds them with predigested mental pulp about what those ‘wonderful people’ the scientists have said or done (and not all scientists are 12 feet tall). At the same time the scientist is a ‘clever man’, and the ‘clever man’ is traditionally either a crank or a scoundrel, and why not both? Whatever we do not understand we must hate.

Of such promptings the fabric of public opinion is woven into varied patterns.

“Space flight is too expensive. We can’t afford it”… “What is the point of putting a man on the Moon? It is only a lifeless desert.”… “We must feed the backward nations, finance cancer research” (= in practice “buy a new TV set and a new care”)…

Wars are even more expensive and hugely destructive, and cars kill more people than cancer and famine put together.

And yet before 1939 Britain ruled half the world, her coffers were stuffed with gold, she also had 5 million on the dole, slums, an inadequate system of education, poverty and dejection. Came a long and terrible war, a fearful squandering of resources, the Empire was lost, and in the end of it it all the people “had never had it so good”, which for all the facility of such catch-phrases is basically true. Not in Britain alone either-look at West Germany, look at the U.S.S.R.! One half of the country devastated, cities razed to the ground, 30 million dead. BHut in Russia, too, the “people had never had it so good”.

In terms of ‘sound economics’ this does not make any sense. 

The reason is simply: ‘sound economics’ is a fraud, because Man is not an economic animal, or is so only to an extent. He needs danger, struggle, sacrifice, fear, loss, even death, to release his dormant energies, to find true companionship, and-oddly-to attain the transient condition of happiness … among or after the storm.

That German soldier who had scribbled on the wall of his hut: “Nie wieder Krieg heisst nie wieder Sieg, heisst nie wieder frei, heisst Sklaverie” (No more war means no more victory, means never free, means slavery) was a simple soul and he may have survived long enough to regret his enthusiasms among the horrors that followed. Yet the idea, distorted as it was, contained a germ of truth. For heroic endeavour, which the past enshrined as martial valour, is as much a necessity as food and drink. We must have something great to live for.

Hitler’s ‘endeavour’ was diabolical in conception and in final count idiotic, but it cannot be denied that it released prodigious energies both in Germany and among her opponents, and we are still living on the proceeds of this psychological capital.

What we need is a noble uplifting endeavour, and even if we cannot all take direct part in it, we can yet share in it through the newspapers, radio and television, as we did, say, in the epic rescue operation during the Langede mining disaster. It became a presence, everybody’s business-and I doubt if it paid in terms of £ s.d…

You will have guessed what I am going to say.

Mankind needs space flight. Let us have space ships instead of bombers, orbital stations instead of ‘nuclear devices’. The glory of this great venture could do away with war, juvenile delinquency and bank raids. It could be cheap at the price.

It is a fallacy to imagine that money spend on developing spaceflight is lost to the nation; it is only redistributed within it, and it is much better to redistribute it in the form of real wages than in unemployment relief. Besides, real wealth is not in a ledger; it is the work and the willingness to do it.

Yet if we go into space, let us do so humbly, in the spirit of cosmic piety. We know very little. We are face to face with the great unknown and gave no right to assume that we are alone in the Solar System.

No bombs on Mars, please.

For all that they are well meant and were probably true at the time, his arguments are now very dated. I think now that the majority of astronomers are probably enthusiasts for space flight and space exploration, although not all of them by any means are advocates for crewed space exploration. The Hubble Space Telescope and its successors have opened up vast and exciting new vistas and new discoveries on the universe. But astronomers are still using and building conventional observatories on Earth. Despite the vast sums given to the space programme during the ‘Space Race’, it did not solve the problems of crime or juvenile delinquency. And it was resented because of the exclusion of women and people of colour. Martin Luther King led a march of his Poor Peoples’ Party to the NASA launch site to protest against the way money was being wasted, as he saw it, on sending White men to the Moon instead of lifting the poor – mainly Black, but certainly including Whites – out of poverty. And as well as being enthused and inspired by the Moon landings, people also grew bored. Hence the early cancellation of the programme.

And people also have a right to better healthcare, an end to famine and a cure for cancer. Just as it’s also not wrong for them to want better TVs and cars.

But this isn’t an either/or situation. Some of the technology used in the development of space travel and research has also led to breakthroughs in other areas of science and medicine. Satellites, for example, are now used so much in weather forecasting that they’re simply accepted as part of the meteorologists’ tools.

But I agree with Firsoff in that space is an arena for positive adventure, struggle and heroism, and that it should be humanity’s proper outlet for these urges, rather than war and aggression. I think the problem is that space travel has yet to take off really, and involve the larger numbers of people in the exploration and colonisation space needed to make it have an obvious, conspicuous impact on everyone’s lives. There is massive public interest in space and space exploration, as shown by Prof. Brian Cox’s TV series and touring show, but I think that to have the impact Virsoff wanted people would have to feel that space was being opened up to ordinary people, or at least a wider section of the population than the elite scientists and engineers that now enjoy the privilege of ascending into Low Earth Orbit. And that means bases on the Moon, Mars and elsewhere, and the industrialisation of space.

But I think with the interest shown in the commercial exploitation of space by Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, that might be coming. And I certainly hope, with Firsoff, that this does provide a proper avenue for the human need for danger and adventure, rather than more war and violence.

Unbelievable! Woman in Food Bank Says She’ll Vote for Boris

November 25, 2019

Okay, this is a bit of hearsay, as I didn’t see the piece on the news myself. But I’ve no doubt it’s true. Points West, the local Beeb news programme for the Bristol region, this past week went down to Avonmouth near Bristol to see what people there thought about the coming election and who they’d vote for. And one of the locations they filmed in was a food bank. One of the customers there, a woman, blandly told the interviewer that she intended to vote for Boris Johnson.

Say whaaaat!

Yes, she’d vote for Johnson. The man, whose party had forced a quarter of million people to use food banks through their punitive attitudes towards welfare and poverty. When the interviewer asked her about this, and told her she’d be voting Conservative, she apparently denied it. She would not be voting Tory, she said. She would be voting for Boris, because he was a strong man, who would get things done his way.

Er, no. Boris isn’t strong. He really isn’t!

Boris has been a massive failure as a Prime Minister so far. The last time I looked, he had managed to pass none, or almost none, of his policies through government. In fact his stance on Brexit had further split and alienated members of his own party, rather than unite them around a core of principles. Much of the effective work of government and politics generally is about negotiation and compromise, altering policies and decisions so that they overcome opposition enough to be passed by a majority. Boris Johnson is atrociously bad at that. He’s even worse than Tweezer, which is really saying something.

He only looks strong because he’s a massive egotist.

Boris is a massive narcissist with grandiose fantasies – about his own importance, and about the great projects he will achieve. He sees himself as a statesman of the same stamp as Winston Churchill, hence his biography of the wartime prime minister. But he comes nowhere near Churchill’s level, who in any case also committed some truly monstrous failures himself. Like Gallipolli, which killed and injured tens of thousands of allied troops, and the horrific Bengal Famine, which claimed the lives of 2 – 6 million Indian peasants. While mayor of London he threw away millions on three watercannons, which could never be used ’cause they’re illegal over here, a garden bridge that was never built, and various other vanity projects that have been massive white elephants. As a leader, he’s a disaster. But he’s very good at self-publicity. Although even here, he has arguably managed to antagonise and irritate as many people as he appealed to.

And the woman has exactly the same attitude that Hitler openly manipulated in his rise to power.

Yeah, I know I’ve just proved Godwin’s Law again: that sooner or later any debate on the internet will end in comparisons with the Nazis. But this is true, rather than just hyperbole. The woman, if she did say all this, has precisely the same mentality Hitler looked for in prospective voters. He aimed his propaganda at people we would now politely call ‘low information voters’. People, who were politically naive and poorly-informed. What he called ‘silly old women’. And he considered ordinary people themselves to be essentially passive and feminine. ‘The masses are like women’, he opined, ‘they want a strong man to lead them.’

Feminists and working class activists will naturally bridle at this, along with just about every self-respecting woman and member of the working or lower middle classes. But that was how Hitler saw women and the masses.

But as Paul Weller and the Style Council once sang, ‘You don’t have to take this crap’.

At the risk of being accused of ‘mansplaining’ or otherwise being condescending, here’s a bit of advice. Have a bit of self-respect. Educate and inform yourself about how the Tories regard you, how they manipulate you into voting against your own interests. Don’t let them use cynical appeals based on personal strength – whether in a man, Boris, or a woman, Tweezer, to trick you into voting for them. Vote instead for people who will genuinely empower you, rather than themselves and their upper class chums.

And that can only mean Corbyn and the Labour party. 

 

Scots Tories Remove Candidate for Anti-Semitism

November 23, 2019

More on the hidden racism and bigotry seething away under the surface of the Tory party. A week or so ago, Mates Jacob got tired of James Cleverly’s decision not to do anything about the rampant islamophobia in the Tory party, and published his extensive dossier on it. Zelo Street put up the details of ten of the Tory politicos caught expressing bigoted views about Muslims. They happened to be local councillors, and had made the usual rants about Muslims being ‘barbarians’ and invaders, who forced their views on others through war and conquest. One also thought that immigration from Africa should be stopped, and famine was just nature’s way of dealing with overpopulation. Another was angry that the Muslim journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown was still in Britain. Which shows how perverse their bigotry is. Alibhai-Brown’s a committed anti-racist, but she’s no friend of Islamism and has criticised extremist Islam for its bigotry and repressive attitudes. Just as she’s also criticism anti-White racism, as well as that directed at Blacks, Asians and Muslims.

Mates Jacob stated that his dossier of 25 Tory islamophobes showed that the party was a hostile environment for Muslims. Miqdaad Versi of the Muslim Council of Britain commented

Islamophobia is truly endemic within the Conservative Party & yet they still do nothing and ignore the problem … The scale of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party continues to be ignored by the mainstream political commentariat, with little scrutiny or accountability despite the Party’s total inaction & despite the depth of Islamophobia across all levels of the Party”.

Faced with its publication, the Tories were forced to act and suspend the 25, pending an investigation. A spokeswoman declared that the swiftness with which they were suspended show the seriousness with which the party took racism and discrimination, which they would not tolerate in any form. As Zelo Street drily commented, ‘Cue hollow laughter all round’.

And the blog concluded

‘Sadly, the reality of the situation is that it is only the Guardian and Mirror showing a willingness to follow up Mates Jacob’s work, and the impending election, that has spurred the Tories into pulling their fingers out. Moreover, there has been no action, and most likely will not be, against Jacob Rees Mogg, Priti Patel, and Michael “Oiky” Gove over their recent veering across the anti-Semitism line. Which leads to just one conclusion.

The Tory Party is institutionally racist from top to bottom. I’ll just leave that one there.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/tory-racism-bursts-into-open.html

Following this, Mates Jacob reported that he had uncovered a Tory Jew-hater. He’d been going through the alphabet, starting at ‘A’, and got as far as Aberdeen North before he found one.

This was Ryan Houghton, who the Scottish National reported had been suspended from the Tories because of comments he had a made several years previously. What were those views? Apparently, they were about gays as well as Jews, as well as Holocaust denial. The paper reported that

Houghton said the National newspaper had taken a ‘selective look’ at comments he made in discussions about terrorism, LGBT rights and anti-Semitism and vowed to clear his name. He said that in the discussions seven years ago, when he was 20, he referenced the views of discredited historian and Holocaust denier David Irving but had made clear in subsequent posts that he was not defending them”.

Houghton tried to hang on as the prospective candidate by apologising unreservedly to the Jewish community, and saying that he was in contact with them. Put the Scots Tories didn’t accept it, declared his blogs about these issues were unacceptable, and suspended him.

Zelo Street notes that he wasn’t the only Tory to be suspended for anti-Semitism. Amjad Bashir, the Tory candidate for Leeds North East, had described British Jews returning from Israel as ‘brainwashed extremists’, He also accused the chair of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs committee of also being an apologist for Israel. Leeds has a large Jewish population, and that constituency was represented for years by Keith Joseph. The Tories really had no choice if they wished to retain the seat. They had to get rid of him.

Zelo Street also reminds its readers in this article that the Tories have made some very anti-Semitic remarks using coded language. Suella Braverman had ranted about ‘cultural Marxism’, a term that goes all the way back to the Nazis, and which has been used to refer to left-wing Jewish intellectuals. The smirking Priti Patel praised Viktor Orban, the anti-Semitic far right president of Hungary. Michael Gove confused Israel and Jews, which is a mark of anti-Semitism according to the definition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. But Benjamin Netanyahu has passed a law in Israel stating they’re one and the same, so he got a pass. And then there was Jacob Rees-Mogg calling Oliver Letwin and John Bercow ‘illuminati’, from the far right conspiracy theory about Freemasons, Jews and Satanists trying to take over the world. He also claimed that George Soros was behing the Remain campaign, which follows the Nazi conspiracy theories about Jewish bankers.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/tory-anti-semitism-candidates-busted.html

As Jewish bloggers like David Rosenberg and Tony Greenstein have pointed out, anti-Semitism has always been far more prevalent on the right than on the left. Conservatives value tradition, and Jews have been seen as an invasive threat to traditional social structures, ideologies and values. In the 1930s the membership of the various British pro-Nazi organisations was largely made up of upper and upper middle class Tories. The Daily Heil is notorious for its support of Oswald Mosley and Adolf Hitler in this period. And certain sections of the Tory party had such a reputation for Jew hatred that in 1970 the Monday Club opened its membership books to the Board of Deputies of British Jews in order to show them that it didn’t contain any anti-Semites or Fascists. That didn’t stop the Monday’s Club’s deserved reputation for racism, stemming from its intense hostile to Black and Asian immigration. It’s reputation was so toxic that when David Cameron became leader of the Tory party, he made a great show of cutting the party’s ties with it as part of his campaign to clean out racists from the party. It doesn’t seem to have worked.

The Nazis and racists were still there throughout the 70s and 80s. I can remember the uproar during Thatcher’s tenure of No. 10 when the Union of Conservative Students decided to support racial nationalism as their explicit ideology. That’s the same one as the BNP and former National Front: you’re only British if you’re White. This provoked a crackdown by Norman Fowler, who was forced to merge them with the Young Conservatives to produce Conservative Future, a new youth organisation. The overlap between the Tories’ membership and that of far-right organisations was so great, that Panorama was going to screen a documentary about it, ‘Maggie’s Militant Tendency’. But that was never broadcast due to pressure from the PM in an act of explicit state censorship.

Despite their claims to the contrary, the Tories are still a deeply racist party, but this is overlooked by a Conservative press and media establishment, which shares and promotes their bigotry and hatred. And so it’s silent about the vicious racism within the Tory ranks, while hypocritically doing all it can to present Labour as an institutionally anti-Semitic party.

Mates Jacob Publishes His Dossier of Tory Islamophobia

November 22, 2019

Last Friday, Zelo Street put up a very informative piece about Mates Jacob’s decision to publish his dossier about the rampant islamophobia in the Tory party. Mates Jacob is the internet personality, who published details of the racism, anti-Semitism and islamophobia he found on Twitter and other internet groups for supporters of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg. And it was a very nasty, seething mass of bigotry and hate he uncovered. They demanded the usual stop to immigration before moving on to deportation and even assault and murder against Blacks and Asians, and particularly against Muslim politicians like Sadiq Khan.

Zelo Street reports that Mates Jacob had refrained from publishing his dossier on islamophobia in the wider Tory party in the hope that chairman James Cleverly would do something about it. Well, Cleverly and they had their chance, and they blew it. This is going to be another inquiry the Tories will hold after the election. So Mates Jacob has published it. And Zelo Street has in its turn blogged about a selection of Tory politicos in the dossier, and their vile views. They are:

Councillor Roger Taylor of Calderdale council,

Councillor Beverley Dunlop of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council,

Councillor Christopher Newbury of Wiltshire council,

Councillor Danny Scott of Blackpool council,

Councillor Vera Walters of Walsall council,

Councillor Duane Farr of Bournemouth Council,

Councillor Alistair Redman of Argyle and Brute council,

Councillor Malcolm Griffiths of Redcar and Cleve Council,

Councillor Paul Marks of Kettering council,

Councillor Nick Colbert of South Somerset council.

They have been caught expressing such delightful opinions, like wondering why the anti-racist journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is still in Britain, demanding an inquiry into Muslim rape gangs targeting White girls; worrying about Marseilles becoming Europe’s first Muslim majority city, describing Muslims as ‘barbarians’ and wondering why anyone has a problem with PEGIDA; stating that Muslims have been terrorising and seeking to dominate everyone who isn’t of their faith for over a thousand years through imperialist, colonialist wars; demanding a halt to immigration from Africa and describing famine as a natural method of depopulation; admiring the way the BNP doesn’t shy away from tackling issues others wouldn’t due to political correctness;  promoting a video from Paul Joseph Watson entitled ‘The Islamic State of Sweden’; describing the Afghan boy who attacked and injured four people on a train in Germany as ‘chopping them up’ and remarking sarcastically that it must have something to do with Brexit; and claiming that voter fraud was massive, when it’s so small it’s insignificant, and that it’s all down to women in hijabs handing over ballot papers to imams.

Now it’s true that Islam has expanded through imperialist wars, as has Christianity. But this is only part of the religion’s history, just as it is only part of Christianity’s.  And it doesn’t reflect the attitudes of all Muslims, many of whom are the victims of horrendous persecution, like the Rohingya in Burma and the Uyghurs in China.

The sage of Crewe concludes his piece by pointing out that these are only ten of many more in the Tory party, who hold similar views, and that Cleverly hasn’t done anything about them. He states

‘There is only one major political party that is institutionally racist. And it is the Conservative Party.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/tory-islamophobia-laid-bare.html

Well, there’s also the Brexit party and the remnants of what used to be UKIP, but it’s a fair point. The Tories have no business smearing Corbyn and Labour as anti-Semites, when there is so much more hatred and bigotry in their ranks. And they aren’t going to do anything about it, because as we’ve seen from the Hostile Environment policy and the Windrush deportations, and indeed from the contents of papers like the Mail and Depress, they use racism to promote themselves.

 

Lobster Reviews Boris Johnson’s Biography of Churchill

October 9, 2019

There have been a couple of deeply critical reviews of books by leading Tories. Last fortnight Private Eye reviewed and dissected David Cameron’s self-serving tome. In it, Cameron tries persuading the rest of his that his time at No. 10 resulted in us all being more prosperous, with a strong economy and political stability. The satirical magazine trashed this nonsense by showing instead that Cameron comprehensively wrecked Britain by calling the referendum on EU membership.  And last week Lobster added to its number for Winter 2019 a review by John Newsinger of Boris Johnson’s 2014 biography of Churchill.

Newsinger is the professor emeritus of history at one of the universities in Bath. As such, he knows what he’s talking about – and makes it very clear that BoJob, on the other hand, doesn’t. It’s a comprehensive demolition of both Johnson’s book and the aspirations behind it. Newsinger argues that Johnson’s reason for writing this unnecessary piece – there are hundred of others published every year – is not to prevent Churchill from being forgotten, as he claims, but to try to burnish his own reputation through identification with Churchill. And it’s here that Newsinger is also brilliantly critical. He makes it very clear that Churchill was far from the greatest of the great men, who make history, as Johnson seems to believe. He was a deeply flawed man, who enjoyed war for the opportunities it gave him and members of his class for greatness, while viewing those lower down the social scale as mere cannon fodder. The review begins

When this book was first published back in 2014 it did not seem to be worth the trouble reviewing. It was a truly appalling volume that no one except the right-wing press could possibly take seriously; and they only praised it to advance the career of its author. As a supposed biographical study of Winston Churchill it was altogether worthless, even worse than Johnson’s earlier ‘histories’ of the Roman Empire and London and they were pretty dire. And dire books are obviously a reflection of their author. Johnson is a serial liar and casual racist, a homophobe, a sexist and a xenophobe. He is akin to a cross
between Benny Hill and Benito Mussolini: completely without principles, wholly
irresponsible and unfit for any public office. However, as we know, the incredible has happened and a desperate Conservative Party has actually installed him as Prime Minister! Thus, the book is now worth some critical attention – not for anything it has to say about Churchill but, as I have already indicated, for what it tells us about the author.

Churchill’s reputation for heroic leadership during the War is the product of very careful state propaganda comparable to Stalin’s. He had nothing in common with ordinary people. He didn’t meet them and only once used public transport. As for Churchill’s concern for ordinary people, Johnson believes he found it in the great warleader’s concern for his nanny. Newsinger bitingly observes that only a public schoolboy could think that concern for their nanny equals concern for ordinary people.

Newsinger is also suitably derisive about Johnson’s claim that Churchill resonated with the British public for four reasons. These are 1) our national sense of humour, 2) our massive capacity for booze, 3) our suspicion of people who are unusually thin, and 4) our view of Britain as the homeland of eccentrics. Newsinger comments

Really! It is difficult to know what to make of this moronic garbage. The whole discussion is positively embarrassing. One is shocked that the author of this nonsense is a Member of Parliament, let alone the Prime Minister, and can only hope that the book never falls into the hands of someone studying for their History GCSE.

As for Churchill not being a warmonger, Newsinger acknowledges that Churchill fought bravely in the campaign against the Mahdi in the Sudan, and in the Anglo-South African War. The battle of Omdurman was more of a massacre than a battle. British casualties number only 48, while 16,000 Sudanese were killed, many of them when they were trying to surrender or lying wounded. Newsinger does, however, credit Churchill with opposing the shooting and bayoneting of the wounded. As for Churchill not being a warmonger, Newsinger writes

Quite how he squares this with his account of how Churchill ‘loved’ – yes, loved – war is
difficult to see. On one occasion, Churchill actually told Margot Asquith that war was ‘delicious’ – and this was during the horror that was the First World War. He was ‘excited by war’ and ‘without war he knew there could be no glory – no real chance to emulate Napoleon, Nelson or his ancestor Marlborough’. ‘War sent the adrenalin spurting from his glands’. (pp. 168-169) But while he ‘loved’ war, he did not support wars of aggression. Once again, this is so much nonsense. In 1914 Britain was a satisfied Empire intent on holding on to what it had already conquered but, as soon as the war began, the country’s war aims encompassed the dividing up of enemy colonies with its allies. As Johnson himself admits, the British Empire was in control of 9 per cent more of the world after the War than it had been before. This was not just by chance. This was what the war was really all about, what millions had died for – that and the glorification of men like Churchill.

Johnson admires Churchill’s support for all the reforms brought in while he was a liberal under Asquith, reforms Newsinger notes were opposed by the Tories at the time. He also tries to give Churchill credit for the achievements of Attlee’s government, though objects to the pension age having been lowered from 70 to 65. He states that the government will have to correct this, which, as Newsinger also notes, will leave millions with no pension entitlement.

Johnson also tries to equate Churchill’s own views and policies towards India with that of himself and his relations with the EU. He claims that Churchill largely ignored India, and was chiefly concerned with positioning himself as the successor to Stanley Baldwin. But this ignores the fact that Churchill was determined to maintain the British position in India. He also doesn’t mention the Bengal Famine, which killed three million Indians, which Churchill caused. He does mention it in his previous book on The Spirit of London, which Newsinger also criticises in the review. Johnson gives it two, very critical comments in that book. However, Johnson isn’t alone in ignoring the Famine. And he doesn’t include it because it would cast doubt on his view of Churchill as the great man, and the British Empire as a benevolent institution towards the indigenous peoples.

Newsinger particularly attacks one chapter in Johnson’s book about the great man’s errors and mistakes. These are given ratings for the Churchill Factor and the Fiasco Factor. Newsinger calls it the most stupid part of the book. Gallipolli, which resulted in 55,000 British and imperial troops dead and 123,000 wounded. Johnson gives this debacle a rating of 10 in each category. Newsinger writes

what that actually means is anyone’s guess. While Johnson is attempting to be witty, what he actually displays is an astonishing degree of callous disregard for the immense suffering and enormous loss of life that the battle cost. In many ways, this sums up his own particular version of the Great Man view of History.

He also comments that when Johnson describes how Churchill was regarded with distaste and suspicion by the Conservatives in 1940 as an outsider and ‘rotter’, he’s talking about himself. The difference, however, is that by that time Churchill had considerable experience in government. The promiscuous Johnson also seems somewhat concerned about Churchill’s sexual appetite, or lack of it. He finds this remarkable in a man with such otherwise titanic appetites. As Newsinger says, this tells us nothing about Churchill but much about Johnson. And he concludes

One thing that we can be certain of is that, whatever one thinks of Churchill, there is no way he would ever have let someone like Boris Johnson anywhere near the levers of power.

This is an article that deserves to be read because it lays bare how Johnson regards himself and Churchill, and exposes some of the myths about Churchill that we’re still taught through the mass media. If you want to read it, it’s at

Click to access lob78-churchill-factor.pdf