Posts Tagged ‘Feudalism’

Nestle, Pinkwashing and the Corporate Enslavement of Black Africans

July 5, 2021

Apart from the mad internet radio host, Alex Belfield, another right wing YouTube channel I keep an eye on is The Lotus Eaters, with Sargon of Gasbag, alias Carl Benjamin, and his friends. It annoys me with its calm assumption that capitalism is perfect, more privatisation and deregulation will lift the world’s starving billions out of poverty and their casual sneers against the left. I found their review of Ze’ev Sternhell’s latest book on Fascism, Neither Left Nor Right, absolutely unwatchable because of the massive amount of ignorance about the subject, and just intellectual history generally. Sternhell’s an Israeli who grew up in Poland during the Nazi invasion. He’s a very well respected scholar of Fascism, not surprisingly. But Benjamin and his cronies took the book as proving that Fascism is a form of socialism. This idea is rampant on the right. This ignores the Fascist alliance with big business, their promotion of capitalism, and their recruitment of private sector businessmen to run the vast industrial associations through which the Nazis exercised control of industry and society. Mussolini started out as a radical socialist, but moved right to ally with the industrialists and feudal landlords to break up the socialist trade unions, smash workers’ and peasants’ cooperatives, and destroy other dangerous liberal political parties, like the Populists. The Italian Popular party was founded as a Catholic organisation, and stood for a widening of democracy including the radical step of votes for women and further rights for the workers and peasants. But the papacy at the time allied with the Fascists to smash it because it wasn’t under the control of the bishops. Yes, Mussolini’s ideal of the corporative state, in which industries are run by vast industrial associations which combine the trade unions with the employer’s organisations, sort of if someone combined the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress and then gave them a separate parliamentary chamber, was derived from anarcho-syndicalism. But it also incorporated ideas from Nationalists like Alfredo Rocco, who wanted the state to take over the trade unions from a right-wing, pro-business viewpoint. It also ignores Adolf Hitler’s adulation of the big businessman as biologically superior to the proles, his blanket refusal to nationalise anything and a speech he made to the German version of the CBI stating that business needed dictatorship to protect it. Instead you generally get a lot of waffle about how the Nazis were socialists, because they said so, but it and Fascism were different types of socialism to Communism. In fairness, this analysis of Italian Fascism does have more than an element of truth. In the words of Sargon’s matey Callum, Fascism is socialism after it dumps Communism. Which is almost true, but ignores the fact that Communism is only one form of socialism, and was so even at the time. But it excludes the fact that Mussolini and the rest were generally and fanatically pro-capitalist. The statement that it must somehow be a form of socialism rests on the Fascist’s state control of industry. But this state control is contrasted with an idealised form of free market capitalism that has never existed. And Fascist corporativism looks very much like the Blairite Third Way or modern neoliberalism, in which the heads of big corporations form government policy and and are rewarded with government posts.

It looks like Boris Johnson’s crony capitalism, and is, I fear, what we are moving towards with his continued attack on democracy and the right to protest.

However, I believe very strongly that the Lotus Eaters are absolutely right about the extremist views promoted by the far left, like Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory. So do many left-wing intellectuals, who feel that there is still a lot of racism, sexism and bigotry that needs to be tackled, but despise Critical Race Theory and Queer Theory for their rejection of objective truth and fact in favour of feelings, ideological assumptions and subjective interpretations.

It was the end of Pride Month a few days ago, and the Lotus Eaters marked the occasion by sneering at the corporate nonsense various big companies were putting out to show that they indicated Pride and gay and trans rights. I’m blogging about this not because I wish to attack genuine support for gay rights or promote intolerance towards trans people, but because some of this corporate support does seem a mite excessive. And in some cases it might even be hypocritical. The Lotus Eaters’ video included a promo video from one of the banks telling everyone to watch their pronouns around trans people. Ikea went even so far as to launch gay and trans sofas. The gay sofa has various colour straps running across it, presumably to represent the colours of the rainbow gay flag. The trans sofa has various slogans written on it, one of which is ‘No-one will believe you.’ The sofa is also decorated with prints of multicoloured hands. Various trans people appear in the video saying that they can really express their essential selves on this piece of furniture. Which makes it sound like no trans person was ever comfortable on a normal sofa before. Sargon and Callum then giggle about how the hands and slogan make the sofa creepily rape-y, and unfortunately they do have a point.

But they have a rather more serious point when they report that a legal suit brought against Nestle, one of the companies loudly promoting their support of gay and trans right, was thrown out last week by an American court. The suit was against the company’s use of enslaved Black African labour in the production of the cocoa from which their chocolate is made. The case was thrown out because the people enslaved aren’t under American jurisdiction. Sargon and Callum used it to argue that Nestle, and all the other companies, really don’t care about the various left-wing issues they claim to support, like Black Lives Matter. They just want to be seen as nice, liberal and cuddly to avoid being attacked for racism or any other form of bigotry. And in the case of gay rights, it’s called ‘pinkwashing’.

Israel’s particularly guilty of this, using the state’s official tolerance towards gay culture and the Jerusalem Pride parade to present a false liberalism and appeal to western liberals and radicals against Islam. Israel is pro-gay, even though many of its citizens are extremely conservative in their views and hate gays just like they’re hated by other religions and societies. They contrast this with the persecution of gays in contemporary Islam. But traditionally Islam was far more tolerant of homosexuality. Tele Sur’s Abbie Martin reported that when she went to Palestine, she found the situation the complete opposite of what the Israelis were claiming. Gayness was definitely tolerated, and she saw gay couples who were not persecuted at all.

Nestle’s a nasty corporation. I remember the scandal a few years ago when they were pushing their baby milk, a substance that needed to be bought after the baby was started on it, as against healthy breastfeeding in Africa. And all for corporate profit. It doesn’t surprise me that they source their cocoa from plantations using slave labour. It also bears out a comment by one of the great readers of this blog, who pointed me in the direction of an article about how the various big companies all pledging their support for Black Lives Matter were ruthless exploiters of slave, or starvation level labour in the developing world. This is all lies and corporate hypocrisy, done to impress liberal consumers in the West, while the reality is very different.

I’ve also no doubt that the example he makes of Nestle using Black African slave labour also damages his case for unrestrained capitalism. This is what unrestrained private enterprise looks like. The most horrific example of this was the Belgian Congo, now Zaire, when it was the personal fief of the Belgian king, Leopold. Leopold set up his own private police force, the Force Publique, and demanded that all Congolese produced a set amount of rubber. If they didn’t, they were beaten, mutilated and killed. Eight million Congolese died in what can only justly be described as a holocaust. This is what unrestrained global capitalism is doing today – forcing people into real slavery and poverty. We need more regulation, not less.

And I’m dam’ sure that the case against Nestle was brought by lefties outraged at this corporate enslavement for a western multinational.

Don’t be taken in by this type of false advertising, which only really applies to the West. We needed to see beyond the specious support some companies give to liberal issues like anti-racism and gay rights, and look at what is really going on elsewhere in the world.

If you want to have a look at their video, it’s entitled ‘Social Justice Is Going Over the Top’ and it’s at (2) Social Justice is Going Over the Top – YouTube. I’m not going to post it, just link to it, because, well, this is Sargon of Gasbag, the man who broke UKIP, and the Lotus Eaters are annoying, even when they make some decent points people on the left can also get behind.

A French Historian’s Examination of Medieval Slavery

June 27, 2021

Pierre Dockes, Medieval Slavery and Liberation, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (London: Methuen 1982).

I got this book through the post yesterday from the secondhand book company, World of Books. I ordered it because it seems to me that there is too little awareness of the existence of indigenous White European slavery and serfdom. It very much seems that anti-racist and Black activists are presenting a false view of slavery as something that only White Europeans and Americans did to Black Africans. Its existence in ancient and medieval Europe, as well as in Africa and Islam, is deliberately ignored or downplayed. At the same time, the Tories are also intent on presenting their terribly simplified view of British history as a kind of ‘merrie England’ when everyone was free and prosperous, and the peasants lived happily under the benign rule of the aristocracy and factory masters. Dockes, the author of the above book, was professor of political economy at the university of Lyons. He’s described as a member of the Annales school of French historians. I was taught in the historiography part of the MA history course at UWE that the Annales school is, roughly, the French equivalent of History Today. In other words, mainstream academic history. He seems to be approaching the subject from a left-wing direction, as several sections concentrate on the role of class conflict and warfare.

The blurb for the book runs:

How and why did ancient slavery come to an end in the Middle Ages? In this study, Pierre Dockes, a controversial figure in the younger generation of Annales historians, approaches the question not only from the historian’s legitimate concern to understand the transformations of ancient societies but also out of the belief that slavery is more than merely a simple moment in the past. It is rather the primary relationship of exploitation, from which serfdom and wage-labour have stemmed.

Dockes criticises the deterministic accounts of ancient slavery and medieval liberation put forward by both bourgeois and Marxist scholars. He describes the organisation of the Roman villa and its place in the slaveholding society and in the formation of the imperial state, and goes on to show how it was ultimately slave revolts that erased this form of exploitation. Imperial society was reduced to two antagonistic classes and, the author argues, it was slaveholding which undermined the social base upon which Caesar’s and Augustus’s state was constructed.

The end of slaveholding took centuries to accomplish. Each resurgence of the power of the state meant the resurgence of slavery, which did not end until the late ninth century when slave revolts contributed to the breakdown of the Carolingian political order. Dockes concludes that imperialism and slavery are inextricably intertwined, and that even today, ‘after centuries of struggle, exploitation does indeed continue to exist. Only the form has changed.’

The book contains the following chapters and constituent sections.

Introduction

Definition of slavery

The Role of the Class Struggle

The Class Struggle and the State

Appendix: Note on the Determinism of the Productive Forces in History.

  1. The Villa, Society and the State

Genesis of the Villa Slave System

“Ends” of Slavery

Forms of Exploitation in the Early Middle Ages and Challenges to Them

The Elaboration of a “New” Feudal Mode of Production

Outline of the Following Chapters

2. Questions to Historians about Economism

The Question of the Rationality of the Great Slaveholding Landowner

The Question of Productivity

The Question of the Profitability of Slavery

Reproduction of the Work Force: Razzia and Breeding

Marc Bloch’s “Economic Conditions”

The Moral and Religious Factor

3. Productive Forces and Feudal Relations

The Collapse of the Slave Empire, or the Struggle of the Lower Classes

“Build the Material Foundations of Feudalism First”

“Large” Water Mills: Where Does Technological Progress Come From?

Appendix: The Banal Mill – Advantageous to the Peasant or Not?

Dues of the Banal Mill

The Time “Wasted” in Milling by Hand

Estimation of the Average Costs

A Calculation at the Margin

4. Class Struggles in Europe (Third to Ninth Centuries)

Slaves and the Struggles of Others

Slave Struggles and the State

5. Epilogue: By Way of Conclusion.

I’m sure that in the nearly forty years since its publication parts of the book have become dated. For example, Dockes states that slavery continued in England until the 13th century, while more recent books state that slavery had died out by the end of the twelfth century as serfdom became the predominant form of unfree labour. Nevertheless, I think it’s an extremely useful examination of medieval European slavery and the role of class warfare and struggle in its removal and transformation.

‘I’: People Want Rough-Sleeping Law Scrapped

January 23, 2020

Here’s a piece of optimistic news from today’s I. Apparently the majority of people in this great nation want the laws against rough-sleeping repealed. The paper’s brief report on page 2 runs

More than half of people think that the Government should prioritise scrapping a law that makes rough sleeping illegal, according to a survey by a homelessness charity. Crisis has described the Vagrancy Act, which also makes begging illegal in England and Wales, as an ‘antiquated law’. 

The Vagrancy Act dates, if I remember correctly, from the 16th century when a massive economic downturn threw a large section of the population out of work. This was when European society was emerging from feudalism into the modern capitalist consumer economy. Capitalism suffers from periodic crises and recessions, though this was not known to the Elizabethans, who therefore struggled to find a solution. They attempted to tackle it by setting up the first workhouses and passing laws against vagrancy, which were intended to stop beggars from becoming a burden on what support there was from the parish vestry. Since the Tories introduced austerity, local authorities have also introduced their modern versions of the Vagrancy Act against rough sleeping and begging in certain areas, like town centres. This is intended to hide the ugly reality of Tory welfare cuts and neoliberal economic policy from the public, who might be distressed by the sight.

It’s great that people want these antiquated laws scrapped, but that’s not enough to tackle homelessness. The root cause – forty years of Thatcherite economics – needs to be tackled, as well as a solid commitment to building more genuinely affordable housing.

And I don’t see either of that happening under Boris’ government, no matter what charities and a majority of the public say.

An Argument for Industrial Democracy from the Mars of SF

November 5, 2018

I’m currently reading Blue Mars, the last of a trilogy of books about the future colonization of the Red Planet by Kim Stanley Robinson. Written in the 1990s, this book and the other two in the series, Red Mars and Green Mars, chronicle the history of humans on Mars from the landing of the First 100 c. 2020, through full-scale colonization and the development of Martian society to the new Martians’ struggle for independence from Earth. In this future, Earth is run by the metanats, a contraction of ‘metanational’. These are the ultimate development of multinational corporations, firms so powerful that they dominate and control whole nations, and are the real power behind the United Nations, which in theory rules Mars.

As the Martians fight off Terran rule, they also fight among themselves. The two main factions are the Reds and the Greens. The Reds are those, who wish to preserve Mars in as close to its pristine, un-terraformed condition as possible. The Greens are those on the other side, who wish to terraform and bring life to the planet. The Martians are also faced with the question about what type of society and economy they wish to create themselves. This question is a part of the other books in the series. One of the characters, Arkady Bogdanov, a Russian radical, is named after a real Russian revolutionary. As it develops, the economy of the free Martians is partly based on gift exchange, rather like the economies of some indigenous societies on Earth. And at a meeting held in the underground chamber of one of the Martian societies – there are a variety of different cultures and societies, reflecting the culture of various ethnic immigrant to Mars and the political orientation of different factions – the free Martians in the second book draw up their tentative plans for the new society they want to create. This includes the socialization of industry.

Near the beginning of Blue Mars, the Martians have chased the Terran forces off the planet, but they remain in control of the asteroid Clarke, the terminus for the space elevator allowing easier space transport between Earth and Mars. The Martians themselves are dangerously divided, and so to begin the unification of their forces against possible invasion, they hold a constitutional congress. In one of the numerous discussions and meetings, the issue of the socialization of industry is revisited. One member, Antar, is firmly against government interference in the economy. He is opposed by Vlad Taneev, a biologist and economist, who argues not just for socialization but for worker’s control.

‘Do you believe in democracy and self-rule as the fundamental values that government ought to encourage?’
‘Yes!’ Antar repeated, looking more and more annoyed.
‘Very well. If democracy and self-rule are the fundamentals, then why should people give up these rights when they enter their work place? In politics we fight like tigers for freedom of movement, choice of residence, choice of what work to pursue – control of our lives, in short. And then we wake up in the morning and go to work, and all those rights disappear. We no longer insist on them. And so for most of the day we return to feudalism. That is what capitalism is – a version of feudalism in which capital replaces land, and business leaders replace kings. But the hierarchy remains. And so we still hand over our lives’ labour, under duress, to fee rulers who do no real work.’
‘Business leaders work,’ Antar said sharply. ‘And they take the financial risks-‘
‘The so-called risk of the capitalist is merely one of the
privileges of capital.’
‘Management -‘
‘Yes, yes. Don’t interrupt me. Management is a real thing, a technical matter. But it can be controlled by labour just as well by capital. Capital itself is simply the useful residue of the work of past labourers, and it could belong to everyone as well as to a few. There is no reason why a tiny nobility should own the capital, and everyone else therefore be in service to them. There is no reason they should give us a living wage and take all the rest that we produce. No! The system called capitalist democracy was not really democratic at all. That’s why it was able to turn so quickly into the metanational system, in which democracy grew ever weaker and capitalism every stronger. In which one per cent of the population owned half of the wealth, and five per cent of the population owned ninety-five per cent of the wealth. History has shown which values were real in that system. And the sad thing is that the injustice and suffering caused by it were not at all necessary, in that the technical means have existed since the eighteenth century to provide the basics of life to all.
‘So. We must change. It is time. If self-rule is a fundamental value. If simple justice is a value, then they are values everywhere, including in the work place where we spend so much of our lives. That was what was said in point four of the Dorsa Brevia agreement. It says everyone’s work is their own, and the worth of it cannot be taken away. It says that the various modes of production belong to those who created them, and to the common good of the future generations. It says that the world is something we steward together. That is what it says. And in our years on Mars, we have developed an economic system that can keep all those promises. That has been our work these last fifty years. In the system we have developed, all economic enterprises are to be small co-operatives, owned by their workers and by no one else. They hire their management, or manage themselves. Industry guilds and co-op associations will form the larger structures necessary to regulate trade and the market, share capital, and create credit.’
Antar said scornfully, ‘These are nothing but ideas. It is utopianism and nothing more.’
‘Not at all.’ Again Vlad waved him away. ‘The system is based on models from Terran history, and its various parts have all been tested on both worlds, and have succeeded very well. You don’t know about this partly because you are ignorant, and partly because metanationalism itself steadfastly ignored and denied all alternatives to it. But most of our micro-economy has been in successful operation for centuries in the Mondragon region of Spain. the different parts of the macro-economy have been used in the pseudo-metanat Praxis, in Switzerland, in India’s state of Kerala, in Bhutan, in Bologna, Italy, and in many other places, including the Martian underground itself. These organization were the precursors to our economy, which will be democratic in a way capitalism never even tried to be.
(pp. 146-8).

It’s refreshing to see a Science Fiction character advocate a left-wing economics. Many SF writers, like Robert A. Heinlein, were right-wing. Heinlein’s The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, about a rebellion on the Moon, contains several discussion in which Heinlein talks about TANSTAAFL – his acronym for There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Lunch.

Praxis is the fictional metanational corporation, which supplies aid to the colonists against the rest of the terrestrial super-corporations. I don’t know about the references to Switzerland, Kerala, Bhutan or Bologna, but the Mondragon co-operatives in Spain certainly exist, and are a significant part of the country’s economy. They were set up by a Spanish priest during Franco’s dictatorship, but managed to escape being closed down as he didn’t recognize such enterprises as socialist.

I don’t know how practical it would be to make all businesses co-operatives, as there are problems of scale. Roughly, the bigger an enterprise is, the more difficult proper industrial democracy becomes. But co-operatives can take over and transform ailing firms, as was shown in Argentina during the last depression there a few years ago, when many factories that were about to be closed were handed over to their workers instead. They managed to turn many of them around so that they started making a profit once again. Since then, most of them have been handed back to their management, however.

But the arguments the Vlad character makes about democracy being a fundamental value that needs to be incorporated into industry is one of that the advocates of industrial democracy and workers’ control, like the Guild Socialists, made. And we do need to give workers far more power in the work place. Jeremy Corbyn has promised this with his pledge to restore workers’ and union rights, and make a third of the directors on corporate boards over a certain size elected by the workers.

If Corbyn’s plans for industrial democracy in Britain become a reality, perhaps Britain really will have a proper economic system for the 21st century, rather than the Tories and Libertarians trying to drag us back to the unfettered capitalism of the 19th.

Jeremy Corbyn Demands Abolition of the House of Lords

May 27, 2018

Last week I put up a post about the internet petition demanding a referendum on the House of Lords. In this report from RT, Polly Boiko discusses the statement from Jeremy Corbyn that he wants to abolish the House and replace it with a democratically elected upper chamber. She states that this is an issue that comes up every so many years. Corbyn’s spokesman, Seamus Milne, states that the House of Lords is an anachronism, and that Labour means to carry out its pledge to abolish it. In the meantime, the Labour leader has said that he will only appoint Labour politicians to the House if the promise to support its abolition, which Boiko rightly describes as them voting themselves out of a job. She points out that people have accused the Lords of being unrepresentative. The average age of its members is 69, and they collected £300 in expenses from the state per day, sometimes for not doing very much. She also discusses how, in its 700 years of existence, the Lords has also had its fair share of scandals and sleep. This is followed by a clip of one of the Lords disturbing the Lady sitting next to him by telling the rest of the House that she is one of the very few still alive from the time of the Second World War. A second clip shows another member of the Lords apologising for not being in his place to answer a question, and announcing that he intends to tender his resignation.

Boiko goes on to discuss how the government is also attacking the House of Lords after they rejected its Brexit legislation. This has been thrown back at the government by the peers 15 times in the last two weeks. She points out that there has always been tension about the Lords and its role. Its opponents claim that it is undemocratic and blocks legislation from the elected lower House. It’s supporters maintain that it does its job of holding the government to account.

She goes on to add that this time there is the internet petition about the House of Lords, which has reached 150,000 signatures. This means that it has passed the threshold for discussion in parliament, and is due to be debated on June 18th.

I can remember when this issue was raised way back in 1986, when the Labour party recommended the abolition of the House of Lords and its transformation into an elected senate. Or something like it. It is an anachronism of feudal, hereditary privilege, and has far too many members. There are about 900 of them, which is more than the members of the Chinese parliament. It’s one advantage, from what I’ve heard, is that it’s cheap, while Private Eye considered that an elected senate lacks any popular enthusiasm and would only attract second-rate politicians.

I think that the continued existence of the House of Lords will become increasingly controversial as prime ministers continue to stuff it with their cronies and supporters, as Tweezer wants to do to push through her Brexit legislation. The House of Lords desperately needs to be properly reformed and for its membership to be considerably reduced, if it is not to fall into further disrepute.

Without America, Israel Would Be A Liberia for Jews

May 26, 2018

Israel is very strongly supported financially by America. I don’t know the precise figures, but annually tens, if not hundreds of millions of US dollars goes in aid to it. And the Iron Dome anti-missile shield was actually given to the Israelis by Obama’s regime. But the Israel lobby in America, AIPAC and the other organisations, continually press for more money and continued financial support. And I have heard of incidents where the suggestion that aid money to Israel must be scaled down is greeted within Israel by angry protests and cries of ‘anti-Semitism!’

But Israel isn’t the first colonial state founded as a refuge for persecuted minorities in the West. The first modern such states were Liberia and Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone was established in the late 18th century by British abolitionists as a homeland from freed slaves. Like Israel, there was also a utopian element in the scheme. Sierra Leone was to be self-governing, and non-feudal, based on contemporary liberal English historians’ conception of Anglo-Saxon English society and government before the Norman Conquest. Many of the Black colonists sent there were literate, and they were joined by a number of poor Whites, who also wanted to set up a new home in the Continent.

In fact, the colony was troubled almost from the outset. It was beset with agricultural problems, disease and sickness were rife, and there was conflict with the indigenous peoples, from whom the Abolitionists had purchased or leased the land. It eventually passed under the control of a colonial company and thence became a British colonial possession. Due to friction with the colonial authorities, the Black colonists rebelled. This was quashed with the arrival of a number of Maroon – free Black – soldiers from Jamaica.

After the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire in 1807, Sierra Leone became the centre of one of the naval courts in West Africa, that judged whether or not captured ships were slavers. The enslaved people in these vessels were also settled there, after they were given their freedom. It also became a major centre of Creole – Western Black – learning and culture. Much of what we know about the culture and languages of West Africa comes from Sierra Leonean travellers and missionaries. It was through working in Sierra Leone that two non-conformist missionaries presented evidence to British parliamentary committees that Black African children were not just as intelligent as White European kids, but at certain stages seemed to be more advanced. This is obviously very controversial, but it is true that Black babies tend to be more alert earlier than Whites. There is also a connection to the world of British classical music. The father of the 19th century British composer, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (not to be confused with the poet of almost the same name) came from Sierra Leone. Coleridge-Taylor was the composer, amongst other things, of a Clarinet Quintet, and a cantata based on Longfellow’s Hiawatha. This is still performed today by British choral societies.

America also founded a similar colony for its freed slaves in the same part of West Africa. This was Liberia. The American abolitionists, who founded the colony, were proud of the achievements of the Black colonists, their political involvement and the colonies’ economic development. They praised, for example, the growth of craft and artisan industries and the colonists’ manufactures, and predicted it would be a major centre of civilisation in Africa.

Sadly, this has not been the case, either in Sierra Leon or Liberia. Both remain impoverished developing nations, dominated by kleptocratic elites. Sierra Leone was rent by a devastating civil war in the 1990s over control of its vast diamond reserves. In Liberia, the descendants of the Western Black Colonists dominate and oppress the indigenous peoples. When one of the Afro-American presidents deigned to make a tour of the indigenous peoples and their lands in the 1960s, this was hailed as a major democratic move.

Western settlers dominating the indigenous people, in a country founded so that the settlers could be free from persecution in the West – that also sounds very much like Israel.

Critics of Zionism have pointed out that many of the gentile supporters of Zionism were anti-Semites with their own reasons for supporting a Jewish homeland. Quite simply, many of them simply wanted to clear Jews out of Britain, and dump them somewhere else in the world. Jewish Zionism was also predated by Christian Zionism, which wanted to re-establish the ancient kingdom of Israel in preparation for the End Times predicted in the Book of Revelation.

And one of the reasons for the foundation of Sierra Leone and Liberia was the belief that Whites and Blacks would never mix in Europe and America. There would always be prejudice against Blacks. And many of the supporters of the scheme, at least for Sierra Leone, also wanted a place to put British Blacks and clear them out of England.

Israel is a prosperous country, and is now supporting itself through its arms trade. But recently it has been hit with a massive corruption scandal surrounding Binyamin Netanyahu. It therefore seems to me that, for all the promotion of Israel and its undoubted achievements in the West, if it wasn’t so heavily supported by America and the Europeans, it would decline very swiftly to the same level as Sierra Leone and Liberia: dominated by kleptocrats and brutal, corrupt dictators, which oppressing the indigenous peoples. Which the Israelis are doing already to the Palestinians.

Torquemada: 2000 AD’s ‘Ultimate Fascist’ and a Prediction of the Rise of the Brextremists, Kippers and Trump

December 31, 2017

As you’ve probably gather from reading my previous posts about art robot Kevin O’Neill, I was and am a big fan of the ‘Nemesis the Warlock’ strip that ran in 2000 AD from 1980 through the 1990s. The villain of the piece was Torquemada, the former chief of the Tube police on an Earth thousands of years in the future. Outraged by the interbreeding between humans and their alien subjects, Torquemada overthrew the last, debauched emperor, founding an order of viciously genocidal knights, the Terminators. The construction of the linked White and Black Hole bypasses, giving Earth instant access to the Galaxy, also created terrible temporal catastrophes, resulting in creatures from even further into the future appearing in the present. These included the terrible gooney birds, giant predatory Concorde aircraft, which fed on the trains and anything else that travelled over Earth’s devastated surface. Torquemada and his Terminators blamed these disasters on aliens, killed human scientists and engineers, leading humanity into a new Dark Age. The Human race retreated underground, where the Terminators told them they would be safe from the terrible aliens threatening them. Terra was renamed ‘Termight’ – ‘Mighty Terra’, though Mills also gave it the name because the underground society resembled a massive termites’ nest. And Torquemada set up a corrupt, Fascistic, quasi-feudal society, which also included Orwellian elements from the classic 1984.

Pitched against Torquemada was the hero, Nemesis, an alien warlock. Horned and hooved, with magical powers, he resembled the Devil, and at one point, in conversation with his mad, cruel uncle Baal, he explicitly states that his powers are satanic. Nemesis is also the head of Credo, a human resistance movement dedicated to overthrowing Torquemada and restoring freedom and interspecies tolerance to Earth. Also resisting humanity’s aggressive expansion and extermination of other intelligent races were the Cabal, an alliance of various alien worlds.

The strip was possibly one of the weirdest 2000 AD had run, and was too weird for editor Kevin Gosnell, who hated it. But it was massively popular, at one point even rivalling the mighty Judge Dredd. Torquemada became British comics’ most popular villain, winning that category in the Eagle Award four years in a row. He was so popular that in the end I heard that they stopped submitting or accepting the character, in order to let others have a chance.

Torquemada speaks on the radio, in the strip that launched the character and Nemesis, ‘Going Underground’.

Looking back, I have mixed feelings about the strip. I still like it, but I’m not entirely comfortable with a hero, who has explicitly satanic characteristics, nor the villains, who are very much in the style of medieval Christian crusaders. Mills and O’Neill had had the misfortune to suffer brutal Roman Catholic education, and Mills states that where he grew up, everyone involved in the Roman Catholic establishment was corrupt. Everyone. They poured everything they hated about the bigotry and cruelty they had seen and experienced into the strip.

From a historians’ perspective, it’s not actually fair on the Roman Catholic church. Yes, medieval Christianity persecuted Jews, heretics and witches, and warred against Islam. But the great age of witch-hunting was in the 17th century, and cut across faith boundaries. Prof. Ronald Hutton, a History lecturer at Bristol Uni, who has studied the history of witchcraft and its modern revival – see his book Triumph of the Moon – has pointed out that the German Protestant states killed more witches than the Roman Catholics. And those accused of witchcraft in Italy had far better legal protection in the 16th century than those in Henry VIII’s England. You had a right to a lawyer and proper legal representation. If you couldn’t afford one, the court would appoint one for you. Torture was either outlawed, or very strictly regulated. There was a period of 50 years when the Holy Office was actually shut, because there were so few heretics and witches to hunt down.

As for the equation between medieval Roman Catholicism and Fascism, a graduate student, who taught medieval studies got annoyed at this glib stereotype. it kept being repeated by their students, and was historically wrong. This student came from a Protestant background, but was more or less a secular atheist, although one who appreciated the best of medieval Christian literature.

Underneath the personal experiences of Mills and O’Neill, the strip’s depiction of a future feudal society was also influenced by Protestant anti-Catholic polemic, and the theories of the 19th century French liberal, anti-Christian writer, Charles Michelet. It was Michelet, who first proposed that the witch-hunts were an attempt by patriarchal Christianity to wipe out an indigenous, matriarchal folk paganism. It’s a view that has strongly influenced feminist ecopaganism, although academic scholars like Hutton, and very many pagans have now rejected it as historically untrue.

The robes and masks worn by the Terminators recalled not only those worn by Spanish Catholic penitents during the Easter Day processions, but also the Klan, who are an Protestant organisation, which hates Roman Catholics as well Jews and Blacks.

There’s also the influence of John Wyndham’s classic SF novel, The Chrysalids. This is set in Labrador centuries in the future, after a nuclear war has devastated much of the world, except for a few isolated spots of civilisation. Society has regressed to that of 17th century Puritanism. The survivors are waging a war to restore and maintain the original form of their crops, animals and themselves. Mutants, including humans, are examined and destroyed at birth. As with the Terminators, their clothing is embroidered with religious symbols. In this case a cross. Just as Torquemada denounces aliens as ‘deviants’, so do the leaders of this puritanical regime describe human mutants. And like the pro-alien humans in Nemesis, a woman bearing a mutant child is suspected and punished for her perceived sexual deviancy.

In fact, the underlying anti-religious, anti-Christian elements in the strip didn’t bother me at the time. Mike and myself went to an Anglican church school here in Bristol, though the teaching staff also included people from other Christian denominations such as Methodism and Roman Catholicism. They had a real horror of sectarian bigotry and violence, sharpened by the war in Northern Ireland, and were keenly aware that Christians had done terrible things in the name of religion. I can remember hearing a poem on this subject, The Devil Carried a Crucifix, regularly being recited at school assembly, and the headmaster and school chaplain preaching explicitly against bigotry. At the same time, racial prejudice was also condemned. I can remember one poem, which denounced the colour bar in one of its lines, repeatedly turning up in the end of year services held at the church to which the school was attached.

I also have Roman Catholic relatives and neighbours, who were great people. They were committed to their face, but also bitterly opposed to sectarian bigotry and violence. And the Roman Catholic clergy serving my bit of Bristol were decent men and women, though some of those in other areas were much more sectarian. I’ve Protestant friends, who went on to study RE at a Roman Catholic college. Their experience was not Mills’ and O’Neill’s, though I also had relatives, who were estranged from the Church because they had suffered the same kind of strict, and violently repressive Roman Catholic education that they had.

But Torquemada and the Terminators were far from being a veiled comment on atrocities committed by medieval Roman Catholicism. Torquemada modelled himself on Tomas de Torquemada, the leader of the Spanish Inquisition, whose bloody work he so much admired. But he also explicitly styled himself as the supreme Fascist. By fostering humanity’s hatred of aliens, he hoped to unite the human race so that they didn’t fight each other over differences in colour. But the character was also supposed to be the reincarnation of every persecuting bigot in European and American history. In one story, Torquemada becomes seriously ill, breaking out in vast, festering boils, because Nemesis’ lost son, Thoth, has used the tunnels dug by the Tube engineers to channel away the destructive energies of the White and Black Hole bypasses, to travel backwards in time to kill Torquemada’s previous incarnations. These include Adolf Hitler, natch, one of the notoriously murderous American cavalry officers, responsible for the butchery of innocent indigenous Americans in the Indian Wars, and finally Torquemada himself. Torquemada therefore travelled back in time to confront his former incarnation, and save himself from Thoth.

This was followed by another story, in which Torquemada himself travelled forward to the 20th century. Infected with time energy, Torquemada caused temporal disruptions and catastrophes in the London of the present. He found himself a job as a rack-renting landlord, before founding a Fascist political party. Using Brits’ fears that these disasters were caused by aliens, he became a successful politician and was elected to Number 10.

And one of Torque’s previous incarnations, recovered by Brother Mikron, his pet superscientist, using advanced technological hypnotic regression, was very familiar to British readers with an awareness of the history of Fascism in their country.

Torquemada as Hitler, and very Mosley-esque British Far Right politician. From Prog 524, 30th May 1987.

In the above page, Brother Mikron recovers Torquemada’s past incarnation as Hitler, but only after encountering a later incarnation, in which Torquemada was Sir Edwin Munday, the British prime minister, and leader of the New Empire Party. Munday/Torquemada goes off an a rant on public television, shouting

‘I’ll solve the youth problem! We’ll make our children respectable again! – with compulsory short back and sides! The return of National Service! Order and discipline’.

His name clearly recalls that of the far right, anti-immigration Monday Club in the Tory party, which was at the centre of continuing scandals during the 70s and 80s over the racism of some of its members, the most notorious of whom was Thatcher’s cabinet minister, Norman Tebbit. As a member of the aristocracy, Munday also draws on Sir Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists and later Fascist movements.

Mosley unfurling his Fascist banner in the ’30s.

The rhetoric about youth is also very much that of the Tories around Maggie Thatcher, who really didn’t like long-haired liberals, hippies, punks and the other youth movements, who had sprung up at the time. They were calling for the return of National Service to stop the rise in youth crime and delinquency.

And this is now very much the attitude of the Kippers and Brextremists over here, who really do hanker after the old days of the British Empire, with all its pomp and authoritarianism. The last thing that incarnation of Torquemada says is

‘We’ll make our country great again!’

This is also based on the rhetoric of the Tories at the time, in which Thatcher was credited with turning around Britain’s decline and restoring her to her glory. In the general election that year, the Tory party election broadcasts showed old footage of Spitfires and Hurricanes racing around the sky shooting down Nazi planes, while an overexcited actor exclaimed ‘It’s great – to be great again!’

No, she didn’t make us great. She wrecked our economy and welfare state, and sold everything off to foreign firms, all the while ranting hypocritically about how she represented true British patriotism.

But it also recalls Trump’s rhetoric last year, during his election campaign. When he announced ‘We’ll make America great again!’ And he’s gone on to use the same neoliberalism as Reagan, Thatcher, and successive Democrat and New Labour leaders, backed with racist rhetoric and legislation supported by White supremacists.

Torquemada was one of 2000 AD’s greatest comments on sectarian bigotry and racism, with Torquemada as its very explicit symbol. Even after three decades, it’s central message about the nature of Fascism, imperialism and colonialism, and the western hankering for its return, remains acutely relevant.

Japanese History: Twelfth Century Guild Power against Feudalism

December 17, 2017

This is the type of history you don’t hear much about from the Land of the Rising Sun. Much of our images of Japanese history and culture are based on Japanese feudalism and the samurai, who held power until the modernisation of the country in the later 19th century during the Meiji Restoration. But there was a period during the 12th century during a period of intense civil wars when the power of the daimyos began to break down. This meant that a number of towns began to shake off their yoke, and asserted their own independence. The ruling powers in them were the guilds, who organised local armies.

This is a period I’d love to know more about. The guilds weren’t trade unions – not in Japan, Europe or wherever. But they represented the ‘middling sort’ and the craftspeople, regulated trade and provided some welfare services. They were also a powerful inspiration to the British Guild Socialists – hence the name – who formulated a British version of continental syndicalism.

During the radical ferment of the 1960s there was a revival of interest in ideas of municipal anarchism following the publication of Goro Hani’s The Logic of the Cities. This can partly be explained by the alienation many Japanese felt through the Fascism of Imperial Japan during the Second World War, and the humiliation they felt at their nation’s defeat. it doesn’t look like Japan’s current economic decline, marked by rising homelessness and poverty, will lead to renewed interest in radical ideas over there. But this is period of the 12th century seems to me to be a fascinating period that should be a bit better known.

Lenin’s Speech Denouncing Anti-Semitism

November 22, 2017

I found this fascinating little clip of a speech by Lenin, the founder of Soviet Communism, on Maoist Rebel News, presented by Jason Unruhe. I am very definitely not a Maoist, as I think it’s undeniable that he was one of the most murderous tyrants of the 20th century. About 60 million Chinese died in the purges and mass starvation created by the ‘Cultural Revolution’, and countless precious art treasures and other monuments from the country’s rich, ancient past, were destroyed.

Nevertheless, this piece is interesting and important as it shows how the Bolsheviks took seriously the threat of anti-Semitism, and were keen to stamp it out. Unruhe made the video in response to an appearance by Rick Harrison of Pawn Stars on Mark Levin’s radio show. Harrison owns the pawn shop featured in the show. It’s an American programme, but it’s also shown over here on one of the satellite/cable channels. I tried watching it once, when it was on the History Channel, in the vague hope that it might actually be interesting. It wasn’t. The programme largely consisted of the crew musing over various artifacts – in this case, a couple of pistols left over from the Old West – and speculating about how much they were worth. It reminded me a little of the Beeb’s antiques’ programmes, with the exception that the people looking at the antiques didn’t actually seem to know very much about them, apart from the very basics.

On Levin’s show, Harrison went off and laid into Barack Obama. Obama was ‘anti-business’ and blamed the Jews and intelligentsia for everything, just like Lenin. Well, no. Barack Obama is not at all like Lenin. Barack Obama is very definitely not ‘anti-business’, even remotely. As the Jimmy Dore Show and other alternative news shows have pointed out, ad nauseam, Obama is a bog-standard corporatist politician. He tried to privatise the public schools by turning them into Charter Schools, the American equivalent of British academy schools. Even Obamacare is private enterprise. It was originally dreamed up by the right-wing Heritage Foundation and promoted by Newt Gingrich, an arch-Republican. The last time I looked, America was still very much a private enterprise economy. Obama has even said that he considers himself to be a ‘moderate Republican’.

But such accusations are almost par for the course for the bonkers end of the Republican party. There have even been right-wing Christian radio hosts declaring that he was a mass-murderer, who was secretly planning to kill even more people than Mao and Stalin. And this is apart from all the hysterical screaming that he was a Communist-Nazi-crypto-Islamist terrorist intent on bringing about the fall of America and western civilisation.

He also spent eight years in power, and has now departed. Nobody was assassinated, or rounded up in cattle trucks to be deported to death camps. Or incarcerated in FEMA, which would be the modern equivalent, if you believe Alex Jones. But the rhetoric shows the sheer, blind hysteria that gripped some of these maniacs whenever Obama was mentioned.

Unruhe points out that it is factually incorrect that Lenin blamed the Jews for the problems of the nascent Soviet Union. He states that the Soviet leader spent a year touring the former Russian Empire, denouncing anti-Semitism and Jew hatred. How is this known? Because there are recordings of him. He then plays one. It’s clearly from a gramophone recording, complete with crackles and scratches, but it is subtitled in English. My Russian really isn’t very good at all, but from what little I can catch, the translation is accurate, and it states what Lenin is actually saying.

Lenin states that it is the capitalists, the landowners and the tsars, who were trying to stir up hatred against the Jews, as a way of dividing the working people of all nations and getting them to hate each other. He states that it is a medieval, feudal superstition, that exists only when workers and peasants are kept in slavery by the landlords. He says that most Jews are workers, and therefore our brothers. He acknowledges that amongst the Jews there are capitalists, the bourgeois and kulaks, just as there are all of these amongst Russians. He states that this hatred against the Jews is being stirred up by the capitalists to divert attention away from who really is exploiting working people: capital!

He cries out several times ‘Shame upon the tsars’ for stoking hatred against the Jews, for stirring up pogroms, massacres and persecution.

Unruhe points out in his introduction to the speech that it was actually Lenin’s opponents, the tsars, who were anti-Semitic. This is solid, established fact. Nicholas II was viciously anti-Semitic himself, and believed firmly in the ‘Blood Libel’ – the poisonous myth that Jews killed Christian children and used their blood to make the matzo bread for Passover. One of the issues that discredited Nicholas II’s rule was his repeated attempt to prosecute a Jew, Beilis, on this charge, despite the most anti-Semitic of his ministers telling him that it was stupid and ridiculous.

And in opposition to the workers’ and revolutionary movements, there were the Black Hundreds. These were groups of extreme right-wing supporters of the traditional order, who were viciously anti-Semitic.

It’s obviously glaringly true that Lenin was ‘anti-business’. But saying that makes it appear as though it was just a matter of prejudice. It wasn’t. Russia’s working people and peasants at the time laboured in appalling conditions, with many on literal ‘starvation wages’. And although the serfs had been freed in the 1860s by Alexander I, their lords and masters still treated their workers as unfree slaves. There were cases where factory masters told their workers ‘We own you!’ Hence before the Bolshevik coup there were hundreds of strikes and peasant revolts up and down the Russian Empire. You can easily see why before Lenin and the Bolsheviks seized power, there was a revolution that overthrew the Tsar, and the workers began electing left-wing parties like the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Trudoviks and Socialist Revolutionaries on to the workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ soviets they set up to represent their own interests against the power of the capitalists.

As for the capitalists and business using anti-Semitism to divide working people of all nations, anti-Semitism in the West has been rightly discredited and regarded with loathing by the majority of people since the defeat of Nazism. But the right has used racism to try and attack the left and organised Labour. You can see it in the way the Tories have tried to stir up nationalist sentiment against Muslims and other ‘unassimilable’ immigrants, quite apart from the fearmongering about workers coming from elsewhere in the EU and eastern Europe.

I’m not a fan of Lenin. He created a very authoritarian system, which eventually led to the murderous tyranny of Stalin. But he was no anti-Semite, and his speech still remains a very relevant commentary on the political uses of racial hatred.

Ian Blackmore: Universal Credit Is Fast Becoming Theresa May’s Poll Tax

November 2, 2017

This is another short video from RT covering Prime Minister’s Questions the other day. Labour’s Ian Blackmore stated that research has shown that families on Universal Credit will lose £1350 of benefits. This will make them worse off. Universal Credit is fast becoming May’s Poll Tax. This is a reference to Margaret Thatcher, whose administration fell in 1989 due to the protests against her attempts to replace the rates with a universal poll tax. And, he asks rhetorically, isn’t it about time she stopped talking about its implementation and did something to fix it.

May responds by talking a lot of nonsense and lies about how Universal Credit isn’t just about Universal Credit, but about supporting people into work, giving them the skills they need to work, and then, once they are in work, allowing them to keep more of the money they earn.

Bilge. All of it. The government doesn’t support people into work. It just hits them with sanctions, which they claim are to provide them with the motivation to find work, but which are simply a rationale for throwing claimants off benefits on the most flimsy of pretexts. Or phoning them up to harangue them for being on the dole, which they then claim is also motivating them. This is another lie. It’s just abuse and harassment. As providing people with skills to get into work, this presumably means the workfare, in which people are expected to work for supermarkets and other big corporations simply for the benefit money, rather than be paid a proper wage and the corporations actually having to employee real workers and pay them proper salaries. It does not provide people with the skills they need. In fact, it actively prevents them from acquiring them, as has happened with the graduates, who had voluntary work lined up in museums, but were told that this was not part of the scheme and they had to fill shelves for Tesco instead. As for allowing people to retain more of their earnings, that’s another whopper. The tax breaks implemented by the Tories are designed to benefit the rich 25 per cent, and the tax burden has been shifted lower down the scale to the poor, who are now subsidizing them. Which is just how the Tories think it all should be, as they still have the feudal attitude that the poor should be bound to supporting their rich masters for as little as possible.

Rather than making people richer, Universal Credit, and the rest of the Tories’ welfare policies, are designed to make ordinary people poorer for the benefit of the rich. And May has told so many half-truths and lies in her reply to Blackmore that I’m amazed she could keep a straight face.