Posts Tagged ‘Football’

38 Degrees Petition to Get Jeremy Hunt to Provide Free School Meals to Children on Universal Credit

November 25, 2022

I got this message yesterday from the internet petitioning organisation objecting to Jeremy Hunt’s apparent refusal to provide free school meals to four-firths of a million children on Universal Credit, but who currently don’t qualify for free school meals. I’ve signed it, and if you feel as strongly about it as I do, I hope you’ll do the same. Because this is obscene. Britain is one of the richest countries in the world, and millions of working people and children are going hungry. They have to use food banks to stave off starvation, and now there are warm banks to make sure they don’t die of hypothermia because they can’t afford to heat their homes. Marcus Rashford, God bless ‘im, managed to shame them into providing fee school meals to deprived kids during the holidays. And they hate him for it. They published hit pieces afterwards lambasting him for being rich and having more than one house. Guess what? That’s irrelevant. The Fabian Society rejected class war, and so, I think, did the Labour party in general. They fought for the working class but saw socialism as such an eminently reasonable social system of society that everyone would benefit. This is where Labour differs from Communism. The only people who are fighting a class war, and exploiting class resentment, are the Tories in order to keep the workers firmly in their place.

‘Dear David,

800,000 vulnerable children are going to school hungry and missing out on free school meals – yet Chancellor Jeremy Hunt had nothing to say about it in last week’s budget. [1] He’s happy to leave hundreds of thousands of families, on Universal Credit but not eligible for free school meals, to struggle to feed their kids. [2]

David – we won’t let the Government get away with this. Our petition to expand free school meals is over 90% of the way to 100,000 signatures – but your name is missing. [3]

We MUST push this up the Government’s agenda if we’re to protect families struggling this winter. [4] That’s why we have BIG plans to expand this campaign – and it all starts with ramping up names on this petition and handing it in to Rishi Sunak to put child hunger firmly on his radar. As for the next stage of the campaign… watch this space!

So David, will you add your name to show Rishi Sunak he can’t get away with letting kids go hungry?It only takes a few seconds to sign!

I’LL ADD MY NAME

I’m not signing because…

It feels like we’re getting close to a breakthrough, David. Supermarkets, local councils, and celebrities are piling on the pressure to expand free school meals. [4] But time and again, the Government has failed to give critical support to families most in need – which is why we need your name, and your support.

So David, will you sign today to urge this Government to expand free school meals and keep this country’s children fed?If each of us reading this signs, we’ll smash the 100,000 target!

I’LL ADD MY NAME

I’m not signing because…

Thanks for all you do,

Flo, Tash, Siobhan, Angus and the 38 Degrees team

NOTES:
[1] The Guardian: ‘It would mean so much’: parents on the need to expand free school meals 
The Independent: Feed the Future: Jeremy Hunt ignores pleas to expand free school meals in autumn Budget 
[2] See note 1.
[3] 38 Degrees: Rishi Sunak: don’t let kids go hungry by ditching the free school meals expansion! 
[4] Evening Standard: UK supermarkets join calls for expansion of free school meals 

Avaaz Petition for FIFA to Compensate the Families of Migrant Workers Who Died Building Stadium in Qatar

November 1, 2022

This is another internet petition I’ve received and signed. As many people have pointed out, the conditions for migrant workers in Qatar is very much like real slavery, and it is only just that the families of those who have died building the multi-million dollar footie stadium for the coming world cup receive their proper compensation.

More than 6750 modern day slaves have died preparing Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. Hundreds of thousands more still toil for as little as a dollar an hour. FIFA stands to make billions of dollars in profit, but refuses to compensate workers or their families fairly. Sign now to demand that FIFA pay these workers and their families what they deserve! #PayUpFIFA

SIGN THE PETITION

Dear friends,

Imagine being so desperate for work that you left your family behind to live in a squalid camp thousands of miles away and toil in the desert heat for as little as $1 an hour. Then you died, alone, and your family got nothing. This was the terrible fate of more than 6,750 modern-day slaves who died preparing Qatar for the 2022 World Cup.

Now imagine that those who exploited and abused you were set to rake in billions while the family you left behind spiraled deeper into poverty.

FIFA chose Qatar’s despotic regime to host the World Cup, well aware of reports that forced labor and abuse of poor migrant workers was a common practice in the country.  As a direct result, more than 6,750 vulnerable migrant workers have died building the glitzy stadiums and posh hotels that will be filled with football fans in a few weeks. 

That’s 40 deaths for every goal expected at this year’s World Cup.

Don’t let FIFA profit off of abuse!

FIFA is under pressure to set aside $440 million for these workers – the same amount that will be awarded to the winning teams. Rights groups, footballers, and even some of the World Cup’s top corporate sponsors are part of the push. But with less than four weeks until kickoff, we need to amplify this call to force FIFA to do the right thing. So sign now and we’ll deliver your voices straight to FIFA’s front door in Zurich.

Don’t let FIFA profit off of abuse!

Avaaz stands up for human rights and workers’ rights around the world. Already in 2015 Avaaz urged Qatar to end its modern slavery ahead of the World Cup, receiving almost a million signatures. In the years since, the Qatar government has taken steps to address these issues, but more can be done!

With hope and determination,
Bieta, Nate, Christine, John, Laura, Miguel, Marta and the rest of the Avaaz team

More information:

Did Barbados and Jamaica Really Appeal to Us to Take their Workers to Prevent a Political Crisis?

August 8, 2022

Here’s another unusual claim from Simon Webb of History Debunked about the origins of the first wave of Caribbean immigration here in the 1940s and 50s, if some of the great readers of this blog will indulge me talking about him once again. I know how he and his very right-wing views really annoy some people. This morning Webb put up a video repeating the claim once again that the Windrush migrants hadn’t been invited by the British government, but instead took advantage of the cheap cabins available on the Empire Windrush to come to Britain to seek work. He then moved from this claim to discuss the advertisements London Transport had placed in the Caribbean for men willing to work as bus drivers over here. Citing the Runnymede Commission and something they say on their website, to which he provides a link, Webb claimed that this had been done, not because Britain needed the Labour but for the benefit of the Barbadian and Jamaican authorities. At this period in the 1950s, there had been high unemployment and civil unrest in those colonies, and the British government had made the appeal for workers their to relieve the political pressure by taking the hotheads to Britain. He also stated that the West Indian nurses that came over here were intended simply to study, then go back to their own countries taking their skills with them.

I’m not an expert on immigration or immigration policy, and this occurred well before I was born. But history matters, even when some of the claims about it come from people like Simon Webb. I always understood that there was a labour shortage, and that some sort of appeal for commonwealth workers had been made. Though this wasn’t necessarily for Black workers. I therefore left this comment on the video:

‘I’ve seen several stories in the press about the appeal for West Indian workers to come to Britain. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the Independent a decade or so ago claimed that the British government had put out such a call, but that five Labour MPs had joined the opposition in voting against it. Another version I’ve heard is that the British government had put out a call for commonwealth workers, but were expecting them to come from the White colonies like Australia, New Zealand and Canada. They weren’t expecting the mass influx of Black and Asian migrants. Is there any way to get to the bottom of these stories and see whether they’re truth or myth?’

Webb claims that the story that Caribbean immigrants were invited here is a myth created by Blacks a little while ago, and uncritically adopted by Whites because it made them feel ‘warm and fuzzy’. But from pieces like Alibhai-Brown’s in the press, it seems to me that some kind of appeal had been made. I suspect that you would have to read through a lot of books and documents looking for the truth of these claims. However, I do wonder if any of the readers or commenters here know anything about this issue and so may be able to correct or refute it.

Some of the comments to Webb’s video are interesting as personal reminiscences of meeting Caribbean immigrants and hearing from them why they came here, as well as seeing films in the Caribbean advertising for workers.

53supermojo said:

‘n 1964/5 I went to Football Matches and stood generally in the same place and by same people at every game. Amongst them were a group of Bus Drivers and Conductors from Barbados. Sometimes they came to the Match in their work Clothing , having worked the Morning Shift. They were all friendly and well mannered. They told my older Cousin and his Workmates, that they came here because they were unemployed , they saw advert in local newspaper for people to come and work here. So someone must have known about that in Home Office ? They said they had been here for 3 to 4 years at time and moved from London Area up to West Midlands , they lived in ‘ Digs ‘ and had Girlfriends. If they are still here , they would be in their late 80s or 90s now !’

Gary Dennis commented

‘My parents and many of her friends and associates from Jamaica recalled seeing what that called ‘propaganda’ films encouraging them to come to Britain. It painted a romantic and quant image of Britain, which did exists but not for most people. If you know any elderly Caribbean people ask them about these films and adverts. When Jamaicans came they actually had not intent of staying beyond five year, they wanted to make a bit of money then go back. Life was not as they expected and most were unable to leave and therefore settled in and made the best of it. My suspicion was that my parents generation had been ‘invited’ – or more perhaps more accurately ‘an opening made’ – to undercut the cost of local labour. I believe this was the origin of racial tension but I have no evidence. I remember reading an article in Lobster Magazine where Harold MacMillan was heard to have said in conversation that he didn’t expect so many to come. I began to question the need for immigrants from the Caribbean when I began to take an interest in basic economics and started to question the premise that there was not enough labour available after the second world war. Obviously many people died but I understand that women had already taken up much of the slack in the workforce. I don’t claim to know the truth but there are some of us descendants of immigrants that also question the official narratives about immigration. We need to remember that some of these countries were British territories and these policies and actions would have been arrangements between Parliament and the Governor Generals of the countries and I suspect that the trigger for the movement of immigrants originates from these parties with Barbados only having got it’s independence in 1966 and Jamaica in 1962; well after Windrush. Jamaica had turned violent because of militant unionism during the 1930s and 40s escalating significantly in the 60s so I suspect the worry expressed by the governments was less to do with the welfare of the locals but the stability of the territory. The European Coal Community also took advantage of massive movements of cheap labour after the second world war. Is cheap labour the common theme here?’

I’ve heard that many migrants from what is now Pakistan and India also originally came here to work for a very limited time before going back to their home countries. It was chain migration, in which one set of migrants would move in after the last set had returned. According to this view, the great surge in Black and Asian immigration came after Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech and the imposition of limits on immigration by Ted Heath, as there was a rush of people to come to this country before the gates were closed. So many migrants from south Asia came here with the intention of making enough money to go back to Pakistan or India again that one ethnographic study of the British Asian community I’ve come across was called The Myth of Return.

As for women taking on male jobs during the War, I understood that there was the expectation that after the War women would return to their domestic role, just as they did after World War II, and that this is largely what happened until the rise of second wave feminism in the 1960s.

Also interesting is this comment from david c:

‘Back in the 60’s, I worked at a well known clothing company, who were praised for their charitable efforts to give employment, to about 300 people from Mauritius, with an agreement from their government, so they could work in the basement of the shop, making clothes. Nobody mentioned that they were being paid about 50% less than the the rest of us.’

This looks like a nasty bit of exploitation under the cover of humanitarianism, which makes you wonder what else was going on.

Tory Comedian Gets Frightened by Prospect of the Return of Corbyn

July 26, 2022

I found another highly amusing video from GB News on YouTube the other day. It was so amusing I didn’t watch it, but just enjoyed its title. Because it was about the Scots comedian, Leo Kearse, getting terribly ‘frit’ as Thatcher would have said, about the possibility that Jeremy Corbyn might make a bid to be mayor of London.

If only.

This seems to follow a story in the Depress which came up on my internet news page last week, reporting that Corbyn’s supporters were urging him to try to return as party leader or something. It wasn’t clear quite what, but obviously all good, virtuous right-wingers who hate Mayor Sadiq Khan because he’s some horrible anti-White, anti-British leftie Muslim supremacist are also alarmed that Corbyn might try for the job. And evening more frightening, he might just get in.

Kearse himself has appeared on a number of right-wing media and news outlets. He’s been a regular guest on the Lotus Eaters and GB News, where he frequently appears on a spot where they analyse what the papers are saying. Sometimes there’s a point to what he’s saying, such as when he appeared in mock Nazi uniform as a representative of the ‘Love’ party to confront Scots minister Humza Yusuf. Yusuf and the SNP had passed legislation banning hate speech, but the boundaries of the law were set so wide, and the types of individual and groups so numerous, that Kearse and others took it as an assault on free speech. They saw it as totalitarian, and hence Kearse turned up as a Nazi to protest it. He marched around, stating that no-one could possibly object to what he and the ‘Love’ party stood for, because they represented love. Of course, the Love party didn’t exist, and this was a piece of satire directed against Yusuf and the SNP. Whatever you feel about the intention of the act – and I doubt very many decent people really want to tolerate abuse aimed at people simply because of their sex, gender identity, race, religion, sexuality, or disability, I do think he had a point in that legislating against hate speech really does threaten free speech. There’s the question of who defines what hate speech is, and that reasonable discussion and criticism of vital issues is limited and curtailed by well-,meant, but badly framed laws.

He also had a point when he attacked the Scottish university and its students, who had a young student of international law disciplined and attacked because she dared to question whether transwomen were women and stated that sex and gender were defined and based on biology. It might not be a point of view that the pro-trans lobby agrees with, but it is a reasonable one, and in my view, not bigoted, but simply common sense. Her freedom of speech and belief should have been protected, and I think that Kearse was right to defend her and mock the academics and students who tried to make her life a misery.

At other times Kearse is just boorish. He had some kind of debate on GB News with a young, feminist comedian, Smurthwaite. I forgotten what the subject of the debate was, but he peppered whatever he was saying about the topic with gibes about how nobody watches women’s football. It’s almost certainly true that the audience figures for the women’s game are lower than the men’s, but some of that is probably because it’s only within the past decade or so that the women’s game has been a broadcast sport on British television. It really took off in Italy back in the 1980s, when women’s games, according to a Beeb documentary, attracted crowds of 30-40,000. Also, the size of the viewing audience doesn’t actually say anything about the quality of the game itself. When women’s football began being broadcast, Private Eye’s TV critic remarked that the quality of the football was just as good, but with fewer ponytails. Other people have commented that while women don’t have the same physical power as men, they make up for it in being more skilled. Another comment I’ve heard is that they play a better game ’cause there’s less showing off. Having seen some prize examples of this during previous World Cups, I can believe it.

Eventually, Smurthwaite allowed that people weren’t watching women’s football, at which point Kearse cried exultantly, ‘At last, some truth!’ Which isn’t an argument, just boorish needling and sneering.

I’ve got a feeling that Kearse, like the Lotus Eaters and the rest of the lamestream media, including Private Eye, believes that Corbyn really is an anti-Semite and ‘far left’. The truth is ‘no’ on both counts. Corbyn wasn’t and isn’t anti-Semitic, just pro-Palestinian. He also had a proud record of standing up for Britain’s Jewish community and had a sizable number of Jewish supporters in the Labour party. But these were outside British Jewry’s right-wing establishment – the Chief Rabbinate, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the United Synagogue – who all took it upon themselves to vilify Corbyn as the latest incarnation of Nazi evil. As for being ‘far left’, Corbyn really stands for a return of the post-War consensus: nationalised public utilities, a properly nationalised and funded NHS, strong trade unions and a proper welfare state that gives people what they need to live on, instead of leaving to food banks or choosing between whether they want to eat or heat their homes.

This strikes me as far more frightening to the Tories than Communism or Trotskyism because it’s far more realistic. It gave the British people a rising standard of living for three decades until the election of Maggie Thatcher. And if it returns and shows itself to be popular and successful. it will have shown the Thatcherite experiment to be what it is – a dismal, malign failure.

And that scares the living daylights out of the political, economic and media elite. Hence the desperate scramble to vilify Corbyn in any way possible, and the absolute terror in right-wingers like Kearse that he might return.

And worse, become mayor of England’s capital. Where he actually would do something for the working man or woman, rather than deceive them with lies about Brexit and cutting taxes.

E. Nesbit’s Proposal to Tackle Crime: More Schools and Fewer Prisons

May 2, 2022

A few days ago I put up a post about how very relevant some of the concerns and causes taken up and championed by children’s author and Fabian Socialist E. Nesbit are. For example, she was appalled at the poverty and hunger among the children at a local school near her in Deptford, so she organised work parties held every Saturday in October, November and December to make clothing for the children, as well as provide them with a Christmas party. Each child was to have a cake, plentiful bread and butter and a toy. Her husband, Hubert Bland, went to frame legislation, passed by parliament, that provided free school meals for children in council schools. The parallels to today, with increasing numbers of people forced to use food banks to keep body and soul together and the campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford to have schools continue to provide free school meals during the summer holidays to feed needy children are very striking.

But I was also struck by a passage in Eleanor Fitzsimon’s biography of her, The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit where she describes how Nesbit was also deeply impressed by a visit to a jail while staying with Welsh friends. This prompted her to write an article arguing that it would not only be cheaper but more effective for the government to provide more schools with better funding rather than more prisons in order to combat crime.

One of the characters in Nesbit’s book, The Incredible Honeymoon, Colonel Bertram, was based on Colonel Arthur Ashley Ruck Chief Constable of Caernarvonshire and father of her friend, Berta. The book states

‘While she was staying with them, he arranged for Edith [Nesbit] to tour a Welsh prison. This experience appears to have affected her greatly. As she left, she turned to one convict and declared ‘I wish you well’. In ‘Cheaper in the End’, the remarkably progressive essay she wrote for Cecil Chesterton’s magazine, the New Witness, she declared ‘we4 want more money spent on schools and less on jails and reformatories’. She believed education was the key to avoiding incarceration and she explained her reasoning.

‘It cannot be put too plainly that the nation which will not pay for her schools must pay for her prisons and asylums. People don’t seem to mind so much paying for prisons and workhouses. What they really hate seems to be paying for schools. And yet how well, in the end, such spending would pay us! ‘There is no darkness but ignorance’ – and we have such a chance as has never been the lot of men since time began, a chance to light enough lamps to dispel all darkness. If only we would take that chance! Even from the meanest point of view we ought to take it. It would be cheaper in the end. Schools are cheaper than prisons.’ (pp.187-8).

It’s not exactly the same situation as today, but close. Successive right-wing governments, including that of Tony Blair, hate spending money on state schools. Funding has been repeatedly cut, even as the amount teachers are expected to do has increased, and the education privatised as far as possible by the transformation of many state schools into academies, run by private companies for their own profit. The academies are not more efficient compared to state schools, just better funded. Thatcher tried to set up a similar system with her wretched ‘city academies’, but these were a complete failure and we actually being wound up by her education minister, Norman Fowler. Then Blair got in, fished the idea out of the bin, and pushed them through as academies.

But the Tories also haven’t been keen on funding the prison service either. A few years ago there was a crisis in the prison sector with massive overcrowding. So much so, in fact, that they were considering housing criminals in ships, like the historic prison hulks. And like everything else, Blair and the Tories tried to push prisons and jails some way towards privatisation by outsourcing them to such brilliant, superbly performing companies as G4S. Or as Molesworth would sa, ‘Hem hem, I do not think’.

Part of Black Lives Matter’s programme was to defund the police. A few days ago its leader, Patrice Cullors, stated that what she meant by that was the complete abolition of the police, the judiciary and the prison system. It’s a completely insane idea that would undoubtedly result in utter chaos and crime rates rocketing, with Black people among the victims. But others involved in the organisation merely said that they wanted police funding cut and the money spent instead on programmes that benefit and uplift the Black community. I don’t believe in cutting police funding, as after Priti Patel under Tweezer removed something like 20,000 police officers from the force crime, not unnaturally, increased. But increased funding for schools and genuine change and improvement in the education system still seems the best way of preventing some children turning to crime.

I’m very much aware that education has very much become a political football, with demands that schools teach ethical issues quite apart from formal academic subjects, like stopping misogyny and racism. But it seems to me that much good would simply come from simply reforming schools so that teachers have enough funding and resources to provide effective teaching that would prepare pupils to become worthy citizens, and allow them to avoid being forced or sucked into offending.

I also feel that to cut down on crime, there needs to be general changes in society so that people are able to get suitable jobs and the gang culture that infects some of Britain’s cities smashed. That’s a tough task.

But we can begin by building more, and better funded schools.

W.L. Phillips, Working Class Socialist and Anti-Slavery Activist, and E. Nesbit’s Work for Deprived Schools

April 30, 2022

I’ve been reading Eleanor Fitzsimon’s biography of E. Nesbit, The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit (London: Duckworth 2019). Nesbit’s best known for her children’s books The Railway Children, Five Children and It, The Story of the Amulet and The Treasure Seekers, but she was also a prolific poet and writer of short stories. But she and her husband, Hubert Bland, were also committed socialists and members of the Fabian Society. She and her husband would have been pilloried by the right-wing media today, because they lived very unconventional lives. Her husband put it about a bit, and she ended up sharing her household with his mistress and raising their child, Rosamund, as one of their own. She also mixed with members of the literary and artistic set of the time, including, obviously, leading socialists like George Bernard Shaw, William Morris and Eleanor Marx. Fabian meetings tended to be genteelly middle class, and Hubert remarked that they were sneered at as armchair socialists. If they were around now, the Tories and their lapdog press would be screaming that the were members of the ‘liberal elite’ and ‘champagne socialists’. But the Society also included working people, who not only talked the talk, but walked the walk. The first Fabian pamphlet, Why Are The Many Poor?, was written by W.L. Phillips, a housepainter who, when he was in America, had been active aiding escaped slaves. (p. 73). Unfortunately, that’s all that’s said about this fascinating and courageous figure.

Nesbit and Work Parties for Deprived Schools

And there are other passages in the book that are interesting because of the vile way the Tories have dragged our great and noble country back to the deprivation and poverty of the 19th century. Nesbit, her husband and their friends and family were active organising work parties to provide food, clothes and Christmas presents for the children at Hughes Fields school, in a particularly deprived area near where they lived in Kent. The book states

‘The London School Board had designated Hughes Fields primary school a ‘specially difficult school’. Pupils were withdrawn as soon as they were capable of earning a wage and the attendance rate was just sixty-five per cent. It was reported that one kindly school inspector purchased food for the children out of his own pocket. The dire poverty they endured was highlighted in an appeal carried in the Blackheath Gazette

“In this very poor school a large proportion of the children are either shoeless or very badly shod and clad, even during this inclement weather, and the teachers would gladly welcome any gifts of old boots and clothing – no matter how old they may be.”‘ ( p.127)

She organised Christmas parties for the children. One of these was described by the Kentish Mercury in this passage from an edition from 1896

‘Following her usual custom, Mrs Hubert Bland, of Lee, assisted by several friends gave a tea and entertainment on Saturday afternoon to between 300 and 400 of the poorest and wretchedest of the little ones who attend the Hughes Fields Board Schools, Deptford. The whole of the children were first mustered in the infants’ class-room, and eventually divided into batches and served with tea – which included a plentiful supply of bread and butter and cake – in the four classrooms… each child was made the recipient of a warm garment and a toy.’ (p. 129).

The book goes on to describe the work parties she organised to provide the fare, clothes and toys, which also included a fair bit of fun for those attending.

‘She raised funds and hosted working parties every Saturday for three months leading up to each party, at which family, friends and and neighbours made warm, practical clothing; they knitted hats and comforters, and, on one occasion, made trousers for the boys from blue corduroy that had been supplied to Saretta’s (Nesbit’s half-sister from her father’s previous marriage) husband, John Deakin. Edith’s neighbour Ada Moore described these gatherings

‘I shall never forget our Saturdays during the winter of 1890-1 (I think). We worked at all kinds of things for the very poor of Deptford for some hours, then a supper of, probably, herrings, cheese and bottled stout, followed by a dance.” (p. 130).

Now we have children and families only kept from starvation by food banks, and charities appealing for clothes for the poor. And the situation is going to get worse thanks to the cost of living crisis. As for the school inspector buying food for the kids out of his own pocket, there are stories that some teachers in British schools are also doing that.

But the passage also reminds me of Marcus Rashford and his campaign for schools to provide free meals to children during the summer holidays. He suffered terrible abuse for this, because, obviously, as a millionaire footballer he couldn’t possibly demand such state provision for children without being a massive hypocrite. But Rashford had endured similar poverty when he was a sprog, and the real reason for the Tory ire was that he had exposed the callousness and real deprivation behind their policies. And I’m very sure that if she lived today, Nesbit and her friends would have been similarly attacked.

Nesbit herself comes across as fascinating figure – highly intelligent, and extremely mischievous when a girl, who based many of the incidents in her books on her own life. She clearly had a deep sympathy for the poor and children, and was a woman of very strong principles, expressed in her literary work and social activism. She definitely earns her place as one of Britain’s great literary heroines.

And it is utterly disgusting that similar conditions are now returning to the UK, thanks to the Tories. Thatcherism is a failure and they and the Blairites should be thrown out of power as soon as possible.

A Black Woman Visits Qatar’s Museum of Slavery

April 3, 2022

Very interesting video posted by Angela B. on her channel on YouTube. It was posted five years ago for Black history month. The hostess is an English-speaking Black woman, who lives in the Middle East. One of her parents is African, while the other comes from the Virgin Islands, which gives her a personal connection to the history of slavery. The video is her visit to a museum of slave trade in Qatar. This covers the history of slavery from ancient Greece and the use of enslaved Ethiopians in the bath houses, which understandably chills Angela B on what they saw and what they were used for – through the Atlantic slave trade and then the Arabic slave trade. It has animated displays and the voices of the enslaved describing their capture, the forced march through the desert during which many were left to die where they fell before arriving in Zanzibar, Kilwa and other east African islands under Arab suzerainty. The museum describes the enslavement of boys as pearl fishers and the abolition of slavery in Qatar in 1951. It also goes on to discuss the persistence of slavery in the modern world. Angela B is personally chilled, as someone with ancestors from the Virgin Islands, by the sight of the slave manacles in the museum. Interestingly, the explanatory panels in the museum also talk about serfdom in medieval Europe, which she doesn’t comment on. Serfdom is one of the numerous forms of unfree labour that is now considered a form of slavery by the international authorities. It’s interesting to see it referenced in an Arabic museum to slavery, when it is largely excluded from the debate over slavery in the West, which largely centres around the transatlantic slave trade. The recorded speech and voiceovers in the Museum are in Arabic, but the written texts are bilingual in Arabic and English.

The video’s also interesting in what the museum and Angela B include and comment on, and what they omit. There’s a bias towards Black slavery, though how much of this is the museum and how much Angela B obviously attracted to the part of the slave trade that affected people of her own race is debatable. Slavery was widespread as an unremarkable part of life in the Ancient Near East long before ancient Greece. There exist the lists of slaves working on the great estates from ancient Egypt, some of whom had definite Jewish names like Menachem. Slavery also existed among the Hittites in what is now Turkey, Babylonia and Assyria, but this isn’t mentioned in the video. If the museum doesn’t mention this, it might be from diplomatic reasons to avoid upsetting other, neighbouring middle eastern states. Or it could be for religious reasons. Islam regards the period before Mohammed as the ‘Jaihiliyya’, or ‘Age of Darkness’, and discourages interest in it. This is perhaps why it was significant a few years ago that the Saudi monarchy permitted the exhibition in the country’s museums of ancient Arabian pre-Islamic gods, except for those idols which were depicted nude. If the museum did include that era, then Angela B may have skipped over it because her video is concentrating and Black slaves. At the same time, the video doesn’t show the enslavement of White Europeans by the Barbary pirates and other Muslims. This may also be due to the same reason. The ancient Greeks used slaves in a variety of roles, including as craftsmen and agricultural labourers. Some of the pottery shows female sex slaves being used in orgies. There’s also a piece of pottery in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in the shape of a sleeping Ethiopian boy curled up around a wine pot. I wonder if the piece about enslaved Ethiopians serving as bath attendants was selected for inclusion in the museum because it was similar to forms of slavery they would have been familiar with.

The video’s fascinating because it, like another video about the Arab slave trade I posted and commented on a few days ago, it shows how the issue of slavery and Black civil rights has penetrated the Arab world. The other video included not only discussion of Libya’s wretched slave markets, but also covered modern Afro-Iraqis and their demand for civil rights and political representation. These are issues we really don’t hear about in the west, unless you’re an academic at one of the universities or watch al-Jazeera. But there’s also an issue with the museum. While it naturally condemns historic slavery, Qatar and the other Gulf Arab states effectively enslave and exploit the foreign migrant workers that come to the country. This has provoked protests and criticism at the country hosting the World Cup and one of the Grand Prix’.

A Black Conservative’s Demand for the Return of Traditional Morality and against the Condescencion of Affirmative Action

February 27, 2022

Shelby Steele, White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era (New York: HarperCollins 2006).

Shelby Steele is a Black American literature professor. A conservative, the blurb states that he is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and Stanford University and contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine as well as a multiple aware winner. This is his view of the failure of the movement for Black uplift, ultimately caused by the loss of traditional, conservative values through their association with White supremacy after the ending of segregation. It’s also an account of his journey from childhood growing up in the south under segregation, to angry student radical, disaffected employee, and finally conservative intellectual. During his time he also worked on the Great Society programmes initiated by Lyndon Johnson in some of the worst Black communities and become increasingly disillusioned with them and succeeding programmes as they failed. This last week we had a mixed-race footballer demanding the inclusion of ethnic minority culture and history in the British school curriculum. But Steele rejects this and another initiatives, arguing that despite the implementation of such policies in America, Blacks are still performing poorly at school and elsewhere. Worse, the American public school system, which he boasts was the greatest in the world, has been destroyed by them. What Black America needs, according to Steele, is a return to the traditional capitalist, bourgeois virtues, such as entrepreneurialism, as well as stable two-parent families and a genuine meritocracy, where people are rewarded according to their talent rather than the colour of their skin. In short, he wants Blacks to stand on their own two feet and argues persuasively this is possible. Black children perform badly at school, despite affirmative action programmes to help them and the lowering of academic standards in their favour. But they excel in sport, music, literature and entertainment, where there are no such programmes and only the best is required of them. Thus, leading Black sportsmen emerge through long, demanding practise on the baseball pitch, for example. Great Black musicians come about through kids practicing long and hard on cheap keyboards in their rooms, demanding the best of themselves. But the Black community has been deprived of this spirit of initiative and excellence when it turned away from the liberalism of rights and personal freedom to demand positive measures by the state through exploiting the guilty feelings and loss of moral authority experienced by Whites as they ended segregation and came to terms with the history of racism and Black oppression.

But this has not just damaged Blacks. It has also damaged general American moral authority. White guilt helped the 60s counterculture to emerge and flourish, as well as the new feminist and environmental movements. He states at various times that the attitude now is that if you fail to be properly environmentally concerned, you must be some kind of racist. He’s fully behind the Iraq invasion, which he genuinely believes was an attempt to liberate the country and create a genuine, liberal, democratic order. But it has been hamstrung through comparisons to past American imperialism and exploitation. He celebrates George W. Bush and the new American conservatives, who at one level seem liberal. Bush is comfortable with ethnic minorities and has appointed a number to positions of power. But they are not encumbered by White guilt, and so can exert the traditional moral authority America needs and used to have when White supremacy was unchallenged. As for the inclusion of Black writers on school syllabuses, he feels that the current policy of promoting them simply because they are Black is damaging. It means that genuinely talented writers are put in the same category as the mediocre and so discredited by association, simply because they’re Black. He also condemns a system that imposes higher standards on poor White university applicants simply because of their colour in favour of children from rich Black families. And throughout the book there is a feeling of outrage at such affirmative action measures because of their patronising attitude and apparent condescension.

He also argues that Black anger and militancy was due to the collapse of White confidence and authority due to the end of segregation. During segregation peaceful protests, intended to show Black moral superiority, such as the civil rights demonstrations led by Martin Luther King were the only way to stand up against it. And in cases where nothing could be done, because that was just the way society was, the only things Blacks could do was move on. Such as when he tried to get a job when he was a youngster for an all-White baseball team as their batboy. He was eventually dropped because he couldn’t travel with them to segregated matches. But, as disappointed as he was, by the next day he had moved on to other things as there was absolutely nothing he could do. This is contrasted with the situation a few years later when he led an angry delegation of Black students into his college principal’s office to make what he now regards as outrageous demands. He showed his own personal disrespect by dropping cigarette ash onto the principal’s carpet. The principal received them graciously and gave in, despite appearing initially shocked an angry. This happened because he had lost his moral authority along with the rest of the traditional American order, tarnished by its link with White supremacy.

There’s a wealth of information on the lives of ordinary Blacks under segregation and how, despite its constraints some of them where able to achieve a modicum of prosperity. His father was caught between the unions and his employer. The unions wouldn’t accept him because of his colour, while he had to keep from his employer the fact that he owned his own house. But his father, clearly a man of great entrepreneurial talent, was able to purchase three houses, which he renovated using slightly worn, but still perfectly serviceable furnishings. His parents also set up a free mother and baby clinic. When it came to their son’s schooling, they moved heaven and earth, practically setting up their own civil rights movement, to get him into an all-White school. Unfortunately the area declined due to ‘ghetto blight’ and his father was glad to sell the last one. He describes how, when Blacks travelled to other towns the first thing they had to do was a find another Black to inform them what hotels and shops they could use. This also gave them a kind of secret knowledge and collective identity against that of White America. Some Blacks miss this sense of community and solidarity, hence the proliferation of all-Black groups, societies and professional associations. He talks about working on the Great Society programmes in a truly horrendous town. One morning he woke up to hear the sound of his neighbour trying to shoot his own son in the stomach. Fortunately the man just grazed him. The bookish, nerdy kid, who should have done well at school, and whose mother attempted to protect him from the horror and violence around him by keeping him heavily involved at church, was shot dead in a drive-by gang shooting. The homecoming king at the local school was arrested as a violent thug. His job was to improve this community with the funding they had, but they had no idea what they were doing. They experimented and made stuff up, like the line that Blacks differ from Whites in learning experientially.

But as the years rolled on he became inwardly more conservative while maintaining an outward appearance of left-wing radicalism. Finally this became too much, and he came out as a conservative at a faculty meeting where they were discussing setting up a course on ‘ethnic literature’. Steele, who had already been teaching a course on Black literature, objected. He asks what the label would mean – would it include Philip Roth as well as V.S. Naipaul? He was also angry at being taken for granted when it came to voting, as the proposer of the motion stated she didn’t need to ask him, because she knew he’d vote with her. But he didn’t. He objected, shed his left-wing mask, and came out as a conservative. He now gets abuse as an ‘uncle Tom’ but says he feels better.

In an interview in the back, Steele talks about what got him interested in literature. At his new, all-White school, the English teacher gave him a copy of Kit Carson and the Indians. He was practical illiterate after the appalling education at his former all-Black school. But he so wanted to read the book he spent the next 9 months teaching himself to read. He then moved on to other children’s books, sports stories before tackling Dickens and Somerset Maugham.

Steele is wrong about American conservatism having abandoned imperialism. Bush’s invasion of Iraq was definitely a piece of imperialist conquest, designed to rob the Iraqi people of their oil and state industries. The only difference was the presentation. It was disguised as a war of liberation. But that ruse is almost as old as civilisation itself. When Alexander the Great took a town, he didn’t exact tribute from its ruler. No, what he demanded was ‘contributions to the army of liberation.’ Because he had liberated them from a tyrant. Steele states that the campaigns against sexism and the environmentalist movement are right, but he does have a point when he states that they were also enabled by a reaction against traditional White authority. Some radical writers and activists I’ve come across do seem to present them as in opposition to the White social and economic order carried to the New World by the first European colonists. And I agree with him about the breakdown of the traditional family that came as a result of the sexual revolution of the 60s. This affects Whites as well as Blacks, but is particularly acute among the latter community. 70 per cent of Black American children are born out of wedlock, 90 per cent in the cities. Studies have shown that children from stable families where both parents live together perform far better at school and work. As for education, one of his ideas for Blacks in areas with failing public schools is to open their own in a church or community centre.

I think he’s right about the value of what can also be termed old-fashioned respectability and bourgeois family life. However individual initiative is inadequate to solve all forms of poverty. State action and welfare programmes are still badly needed. But this needn’t be a choice between two alternatives. It means mixing appropriate state support while encouraging people to develop and use their talents. And his examples of Black excellence in sport, music, literature and entertainment do indicate that Blacks can excel by themselves. I found this particularly reassuring after listening to the claims about supposed Black intellectual inferior made by Simon Webb on History Debunked as his preferred explanation for the lack of Black progress.

The book comes from across the other side of the political aisle, but it’s well worth reading and intensely thought-provoking about the continuing, very pertinent problem of Black failure as a consequence of the general failure of traditional morality post-segregation.

Another Festive Musical Attack on the Tories from PoliticsJoe

December 27, 2021

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

Private Eye on Luciana Berger

November 14, 2021

Remember Luciana Berger? She is, or was, the Blairite MP for Liverpool who joined the chorus of Jewish MPs screaming that Jeremy Corbyn was an evil anti-Semite and a threat to British Jewry because he criticised Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. Oh yes, and he wanted to ditch Thatcherism. She was one of the lynch mob of angry White women who turned up at the kangaroo trial of Marc Wadsworth demanding that he should be expelled for the dreadful crime of embarrassing Ruth Smeeth. For which Wadsworth, a long-term anti-racist activist who had worked with the Board of Deputies of British Jews in passing legislation to deal with real anti-Semitic attacks by the BNP, was labelled an anti-Semite. Berger seems to have turned up amongst the intake of new MPs in the 2010 parliament, and so Private Eye ran a feature on her in their ‘The New Boys and Girls’ column in their issue for the 18-31 March 2011. She comes across as fiercely ambitious, opportunistic and with scant interest or understanding of the ordinary Liverpudlians she supposedly represented. The article runs

She may recently have been voted the most fanciable member of parliament, and since being elected as Labour MP for Liverpool Watertree last year she has developed a drooling fan club of sad, middle-aged men in the Commons – but looks deceive.

Twenty-eight year old Luciana Berger is what the comrades used to describe as a “right operator”. Within a few months of her arrival, Ed Miliband had already promoted her to the frontbench as a shadow minister for energy and climate change.

Her swift climb up the greasy pole began soon after she left the Haberdasher Aske’s School for Girls and went to Birmingham University, where she became an executive member of the National Union of Students, convening national anti-racism campaigns. She resigned in 2005, accusing the NUS of taking a lax attitude to anti-Semitism on campus.

She later took up a “public affairs” post at Accenture and went on to advise the NHS Confederation, but not before the rumour mill had come alive with talk of a relationship with Euan Blair after the pair were pictured at a party. Denials came thick and fast, not only from Blair but also from the Labour party, which took it upon itself to issue an official statement saing that young Luciana “was not, and had never been” romantically linked with Euan Blair.

One of her predecessors in the Liverpool Wavertree seat, the late Terry Fields, might have doffed his fireman’s helmet to her for the way she managed to get selected in the first place, for it came straight out of the old Militant Tendency’s instruction manual. While Labour was choosing its candidate, Berger lived for a month at the home of Jane Kennedy, then the sitting MP, whose partner was the Labour official who ran the selection process, Peter Dowling. The completed ballot papers were then returned to Kennedy’s home address for counting.

A furious Frank Hont, secretary of the regional branch of the Unison trade union, lodged protests with party bosses, to no avail. Although veteran Liverpool Walton MP Peter Kilfoyle branded her a “student politician” who lacked the experience to do the job, Berger went on to beat Liverpool councillors Wendy Simon and Joyce Still by a margin of around 2-1 to win the candidacy on an “all-wimmin” shortlist. By this time, Berger was in a relationship with the MP and journalist Sion Simon, who was shortly to stand down from parliament to devote his energies to becoming mayor of Birmingham. The pair were talked of as a new “power couple”.

Berger didn’t improve her stock with incandescent Scousers by committing a series of gaffes that would have sunk a less shameless candidate. In January 2010, the Liverpool Echo tested Berger with a four-question quiz on Liverpool life and history. She scored two out of four, not knowing who performed “Ferry Cross the Mersey”, and not recognising the name of former Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly.

In her defence, Berger said that “you can’t ask a girl a football question” and added: “I’m not new to the city. I’ve been coming here for the past decade through all different jobs.” It is difficult to know what caused more offence, Berger’s failure to have heard of Shankly or her reference to coming to the city “through all different jobs” – jobs, after all, being a commodity in short supply on Merseyside.

For a while it looked as though she would be given a run for her money at the election by Scouse actor and former union activist Ricky Tomlinson, who announced that he would stand for the Socialist Labour Party under the election slogan “Berger – my arse!” – but then wimped out because of “personal and contractual commitments”.,

Once in parliament, Berger’s ability to upset local sensitivities continued. Last October she infuriated Liverpudlians by appearing on a Radio Five Live show with Kelvin McKenzie, who was the editor of the Sun at the time of the Hillsborough disaster and whose coverage of the story led to a boycott of the paper on Merseyside that last to this day. Berger’s lame defence was that she “didn’t know who the other guests were”.

With yet another little local difficulty somehow shrugged off, Luciana has also shrugged off Sion Simon and is now romantically involved with an equally ambitious Labour MP, Chuka Umunna, who has been dubbed “the British Obama”. With the pair already being talked of as a new “power couple”, let’s hope the Labour party doesn’t go and spoil things against by issuing a denial.”

From this, it seems that she won her selection as Labour MP through knowing the right people, and is less interested in representing Liverpool than using it as a base to get her rear end in parliament. Which describes any number of Blairite MPs, male and female. As for saying that it was unfair to expect a girl to know about football, this sounds less persuasive ten years later when there’s a campaign to get more women and girls playing sport and women’s footie has been a regular fixture on the box with the men’s. As for Berger’s commitment to anti-racism, while I’m sure it was genuine enough at the time it was clearly outweighed in the Wadsworth’s case by her determination to defend Israel and purge the party of Corbyn and his supporters anyway she could. I also wonder about her complaint that Birmingham University wasn’t doing enough to tackle anti-Semitism. It’s possible it was all as she said it was, and there was real anti-Semitism on campus. But the Blairites deliberately conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism. Was the anti-Semitism she was so upset about simply other student activists, equally determined in their opposition to racism, condemning Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians?

And it is, in my view, too bad that Tomlinson didn’t stand against her and win. If he had done so, it was have done much to demonstrate to the Blairites, and particularly Starmer, that the Old Labour they despise has the power to defeat them by being able to create its own, independent party outside their control.