Posts Tagged ‘Forced Labour Camps’

Ismahil Blagrove Criticises Mainstream Media

June 17, 2017

This is another short video showing the sheer anger of the community affected by the Grenfell Tower fire. It’s a short clip of Ismahil Blagrove telling the mainstream media exactly what he thinks of them for constructing the narrative that Jeremy Corbyn was ‘unelectable’. He states very clearly that he wants a revolution, and believes that one would break out if this horror occurred in any other country.

Warning: Contains very strong language.

I don’t believe we should have a revolution, as revolutions with very few exceptions result in mass bloodshed. And more often than not, they result in oppressive dictatorships which rule through terror and mass death. Think of the French Revolution, which promised liberte, egalite and fraternite, and which ended with the despotism of Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety, and the reactionary monarchy of Napoleon. Or the Russian Revolution, which swiftly degenerated into the autocratic rule of Lenin, and the brutal, genocidal dictatorship of Stalin, under which 30 million + soviet citizens ended their lives in forced labour camps.

But Blagrove is right to criticise the mass media. They did everything they could to smear and demonise Corbyn. And they’ve started demonising and smearing the crowds of people, who have spontaneously gathered to protest against the way people’s lives and property have been destroyed by Kensington council and the Tory government.

Mike in one of his posts yesterday reported that the Beeb has been describing the protesting crowds as ‘a mob’. They also falsely claimed that they were ‘rioting’. Mike reports that the opposite is true. You can see from footage taken by ordinary people, who were actually there, that no rioting is going on. They’ve also been claiming that the crowds are demanding money – they aren’t. And one of Mike’s commenters, NMac has also posted that the Torygraph claimed the protests had been taken over by ‘extremists’.

This is going to be absolute rubbish. It’s possible that the Socialist Workers Party are there, along with other far left groups. They’re there trying to pick up recruits wherever there’s even a vaguely left-wing issue. But they’ve always been a minority, and I’ve no doubt they’re a minority here.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/16/vox-political-was-wrong-britain-didnt-need-an-ignorant-toffs-comment-to-rise-against-the-tories-over-grenfelltower/

And the Beeb are the broadcasting establishment, a department of the British state. They’ve been cowed into line by threats of privatisation by the Tories and New Labour. But there’s also always been a right-wing bias in the domestic news. Academics at Edinburgh, Glasgow and Cardiff universities have found that the Beeb is more likely to interview businessmen and Conservatives over the state of the economy than trade unionists and Labour politicians. The authors Saville and Barry Kushner also made the point in their anti-Austerity book, Who Needs the Cuts, that the Beeb also swallowed and promoted absolutely uncritically the garbage that the slashing cuts made by the Tory party were necessary. Those who tried to refute this were simply not allowed on air. If, by some mischance, they did appear, they were cut off or sharply contradicted.

And the establishment has always feared the masses, and especially large public protests, as sources of disorder. You can see it in the legislation passed by monarchs and parliament down the ages. It started to change about the time of the Great Exhibition, when the respectable middle classes were surprised to find that the working class visitors to the displays, although poor, were not fanatics intent on overthrowing the established order.

But that suspicion and fear obviously hasn’t gone away. And so the Beeb and the Torygraph are busy spouting the propaganda that their very middle class masters, and in the case of the Torygraph, readers and advertisers, want to hear: that the crowds of people, who burst in on Kensington council to demand answers were the Great Unwashed of angry, criminal oiks and plebs, a threat to morality and public order.

They aren’t. They are angry, frightened and bewildered people, whose lives have been devastated by a terrible tragedy and who have every right to feel that way. And the media that smears them is a total disgrace.

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The Culpable Silence over the Genocide of the Disabled

March 20, 2017

Two weeks ago Mike over at Vox Political posted a piece about how he had praised on Twitter the Last Leg for its hosts describing the Tory government’s lethal policy of throwing disabled people off benefits for what it was: a disabled genocide. Alex Brooker and the show’s main man, Adam Hills had said of the policy

“At first these cuts looked like a good plan experiencing teething problems, then it started to feel like a badly executed system but now – it’s beginning to look a lot like disabled genocide.”

“This government is slowly killing off a generation of disabled people.””

He continued: “The only question is are they doing it on purpose? Because if you are, why stop at sanctions?

”Why not round us up put us on a reservation and sterilise the drinking water because that is literally more humane than what you’re doing right now. For any Conservatives watching that is not a genuine suggestion.”

Brooker and Hills then urged the government committee meeting to examine the issue not to issue bonus for swift assessments, but to punish people when they do so wrongly.

Mike makes the point that his blog had also been describing the Tory policy as a genocide for years. Mike also hoped this would spark a debate, but noted that the social media was far too much a minority pursuit to do so on its own. He hoped mentioning the Last Leg, a popular comedy news review show on Channel 4, would do something to get more people interested. Unfortunately, Mike was disappointed. After only a couple of days, the story had been overtaken by the controversy surrounding Emma Watson showing much of her bosom in one of the fashion magazines.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/03/05/praise-for-the-last-legs-attack-on-disabled-genocide-but-was-it-only-words/

I am not surprised there has been this silence over the organised murder of the disabled. Much of the supposed news content of the mass media is, as Mike and the other bloggers have pointed out time and again, ad nauseam, about provoking hatred and demonising those on benefits and particularly the disabled. Mike has frequently cited the statistic that while fraud accounts for only 0.7 per cent of benefit claims, the general public seem to have swallowed the media’s lie so that they believe 25 per cent of all benefit recipients are scroungers and malingerers. One of the worst offenders in this regard is the Daily Hail, where these stories are a constant staple of its ‘journalism’. The TV companies aren’t much better, however. Over the past few years we’ve also seen the emergence of ‘poverty porn’ TV series, like Channel 4’s Benefits Street, looking at the lives of Britain’s poorest people on welfare. These series also regularly show amongst their cast of real-life characters, at least one person, who is committing fraud. It wasn’t a coincidence that one of these series was produced by the TV company owned by Esther McVie, Cameron’s ‘Wicked Witch of the Wirral’, who was briefly in charge of throwing the disabled out off benefits and out of their homes when she was at the DWP.

The media’s and general public’s lack of reaction to the claim that Britain’s disabled people are being systematically targeted for extermination by an uncaring government reminded me of the controversy in America way back in the late 1980s and early 1990s about claims that there was a secret government plot to exterminate the Black population. Many Black Americans were so convinced of this, that Jack White, a journalist at Time magazine, wrote an article rebutting it with the title ‘Genocide Mumbo Jumbo’. Harry Allen, the ‘media assassin’ with the Black rap outfit, Public Enemy, was then asked to write a response to it. Adam Parfrey included the resulting article ‘How to Kill: Are Afrikan People Subjects of a Genocidal Plot?’ in his book Apocalypse Culture (Los Angeles: Feral House 1990) 229-44.

Apocalypse Culture is an anthology of essays and articles on fringe and extreme issues in America during the late ’80s and first year of the ’90s. Many of the articles are written from an occult perspective, or that of new religious movements, the paranormal, and extreme or fringe political movements so that the authors include the late head of the Church of Satan, Anton Szandor LaVey and the founder of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammed, as well as Oswald Spengler, the conspiracy theorist John Shelby Downard and the chronicler of weird phenomena, Charles Fort, and the Red Brigades. This is genuinely transgressive writing. While I don’t agree with the occult and am not a member of a new religious movement or hold the extremist political views of some of the authors, this does not mean that I don’t think that some of the writers have a point.

Allen in his article interviewed Jack White and Asiba Tukahache, a First Nation American woman, who stated that she’d been aware of the genocide of Black people since 1973. Clearly the organised campaigns that have been inflicted on Black people and Indigenous Americans are different from the British government’s attacks on the disabled. Nevertheless, some of the observations Tupahache and White make do seem to parallel some of attitudes and the process of discrimination that disabled people on this side of the Pond are experiencing. For example, Tupahache remarks on the way racist portrayals of Blacks were still considered acceptable on television, and the way monuments to her people on Long Island were being obliterated in the 70s, at the same time Roots was on TV and everyone was talking about slavery. She said that what first brought this issue to her attention was

‘Seeing an ‘Inky’ Warner Bros. cartoon caricature on television. I was just amazed that the cartoon was still being shown, and just how easy it was for that to be shown, and no one objected. No one seemed to think anything was wrong. I started making photographs, taking pictures, shooting off the television-Flintstones cartoons, shooting ads out of magazines, billboards and everything. Just feeling like there was something I was going to do with it, just to tell everybody how wrong it was and how abnormal it was to pretend, or at least not know, that anything was wrong, when it really was a very hurtful thing. I didn’t what I was gonna do, I knew I was gonna do something, and I just started collecting stuff, and it turned into boxes…

I think the turning point was when some land markers were going to declare on (sic) of our ancestral areas Long Island’s first Black national land mark. It kind of flipped my brain inside out, trying to deal with the panic and outrage of my relatives, while at the same time trying to understand and cope with deaf, dumb and blindness of a public, who I thought wanted to know the truth, but who, in fact, only wanted to know what they wanted to hear. 1977, right after Roots was televised, and everybody was slave wild. And it was bicentennial time, and nobody wanted to hear about this obscure idea of a people called Matinecoc getting in the way of their slavery revelry and their bicentennial minutes.

Tupahache was nevertheless successful in bringing the issue to a large number of people, and said in the interview that she was overwhelmed by the public’s response. She stated that it had received

Very positive reactions, for those who have seen it. And I guess that’s probably what really overwhelmed me the most. The first week I sold a hundred copies of it, after a radio discussion on a show called Night Talk. I didn’t really understand the impact that it made on people, but it did [make one]. And just the process of sending them out to people, then finding it had been understood and useful was kind of a transition right there, because I had spent all the time gathering the evidence, figuring it out, writing it all out, and then sending it out. Saying goodbye to it.

She also makes the point that many people in Nazi Germany also did not believe that their government was trying to exterminate people because of their race.

Well, you have an environment of extreme terror. People are responding in terms of genocidal acts of aggression against them, because of how brutal things are and can be. And also, as DePres has said in his book, that a lot of people refused to believe that it was going on in Nazi Germany too.

And it was just that people who, quote, ‘live decently’, unquote, don’t want to think that there is anything going on around them that could mean a guilt on their part, or an examination of their lives, or a questioning of their own motives or failure to do something about it. But that has its opposite reaction: For all of that denial, you also have that very same panic and fear. Not that the fears of the people are unfounded, when I talk about panic, but from the absolute fright of what’s going on =which is so obvious to them, but is totally deniable and invisible to others who seem to wilfully not want to address it or change it.

There’s another form of absolute terror! When you totally rearrange what’s going on around you into “Mumbo Jumbo”, or to trivialise it, to the point of contempt, is another form of denial. To say it isn’t rue, to trivialize.

White and Tupahache also differed in their attitude to whether genocide was possible in a democracy. Tupahache did not believe it was, while White admitted it could. When asked if it was possible in the United States, he replied

Well, I think it’s probably unlikely. But sure, why not? I mean, probably not in the United States, but you’re asking in principle, right? In theory? Sure, I think it’s possible. I think that’s why in societies like this one we have constitutional protections: To protect minorities, because I think it’s always possible. I mean, the mass hysteria that attended the rise of Nazism in Germany could conceivably take rise in any society in the world, if had sufficient friction, and the right ethnic group, and the right sort of numbers involved. Again, I say, I don’t think that pertains to the United States, but it’s conceivable it could occur somewhere else, and probably has. I don’t know that it has but it probably has.

Some of the difference between White’s and Tupahache’s view of whether there is a Black genocide in America comes from their difference in attitude to what constitutes it. For White, it seems to be a matter of the use of physical force. For Tupahache, it comes through a system of racialization that denies people their nationhood and connection to the land, which makes them other than human, and which also leads the victims to blame themselves for the brutality that is inflicted upon them.

Reading these different, it’s clear from Tukahache’s experience that disabled people in Britain are not alone in finding that a public that considers itself liberal and informed does not want to hear about or discuss the way they are being systematically discriminated and killed through the withdrawal of the support they need. People don’t see it, because, like the racist images of Black people in mainstream culture, they don’t see anything wrong with it and don’t connect it to mass death.

The public is being told by the mass media that welfare recipients, and particularly the disabled, are all scroungers and malingerers, so they think that if people are being thrown off benefit, they’ve only themselves to blame, because they’re obviously a scrounger or malingerer. And like the Nazis, the Tories have been very carefully to keep the numbers of people they’ve killed from reaching the public. You look at the articles posted by Mike over at Vox Political about his struggle to get the information from IDS’ DWP. The Department refused again and again, decried his requests as ‘vexatious’, and did everything it could to block or evade answering the question. And it’s still doing so.

And my guess is that much of this indifference also comes from the was accusations of Fascism have become so routine, that there is a tendency not to take it seriously. For example, one of the people, who took the opportunity to pose on the empty fourth plinth as a public work of art, was a disabled woman in a wheelchair. She dressed in Nazi costume, and sat in her chair, on top of the plinth, as a protest against the government’s treatment of the disabled. This was reported in the Independent, and then, I think, forgotten. Yet another person from a minority making an hysterical and inflated claim to persecution.

My guess is that for most of the public, discrimination against the disabled is probably connected with issues of accessibility and jobs. These are issues of frustration and injustice, yes, but not at the same level as being herded into gas chambers, shot, or dragged into reservations or forced labour camps. And because of that – because the organised campaign to deny disabled people the funding they need to live, let alone live with dignity – it is easy for the public and the media to dismiss any complaints about genocide as grossly exaggerated. More inflated hyperbole from grievance-mongers.

Except that this is a genuine grievance, and the disabled are being genuinely killed by the government’s callousness and determination to save money, even if it means death to those refused it.

As for the issue of racial genocide, I’m afraid that now, after a quarter of a century, that seems far more possible in Trump’s America than it did when the article was first published. Trump’s administration is racist in its determination to deport and ban Latin American and Muslim immigration, and it includes people, who are genuinely racist and hold views that could reasonably be considered Fascist and White supremacist, like Steve Bannon, Richard Spencer and Sebastian Gorka. They need to be stopped, before they start killing people.

As for raising awareness of the genocide against the disabled in this country, Stilloaks, Atos Miracles and DPAC are publishing details of the people the government are victimising and throwing off benefit. I hope the Last Leg will continue to cover this issue, and persist in calling it what it is so that the Tories can’t get away with denying what they’re doing. There are artists out there, who’ve also made it the subject of their work. Johnny Void had on his site a few years ago a picture made up of smaller photos of some of the victims of the government’s policy. I hope they also carry on, and are joined by more artists, journalists and commenters. And perhaps what we need here is for a few more people on talk radio to cover this, and not be satisfied by the smooth, patronising lies of Damian Green, Iain Duncan Smith, Cameron or May.

Guy Standing’s Arguments against Workfare: Part 1

August 8, 2016

Workfare is one of the most exploitative aspects of the contemporary assault on the welfare state and the unemployed. It was advocated in the 1980s by the Republicans under Ronald Reagan in America, and in Britain by Thatcher’s Conservatives. At its heart is the attitude that the unemployed should be forced to work for their benefits, as otherwise they are getting ‘something for nothing’. Very many bloggers and activists for the poor and unemployed, including Mike over at Vox Political, Johnny Void, the Angry Yorkshireman, and myself have denounced it as another form of slavery. It’s used to provide state-subsidised, cheap labour for big business and charities, including influential Tory donors like Sainsbury’s. And at times it crosses the line into true slavery. Under the sanctions system, an unemployed person is still required to perform workfare, even if the jobcentre has sanctioned them, so that they are not receiving benefits. Workfare recipients – or victims – have no control over where they are allocated or what jobs they do. The government was challenged in the courts by a geology graduate, who was forced to work in Poundland. The young woman stated that she did not object to performing unpaid work. She, however, had wanted to work in a museum, and if memory serves me correctly, had indeed got a place at one. She was, however, unable to take up her unpaid position there because of the Jobcentre’s insistence she labour for Poundland instead. A young man also sued the government, after he was sanctioned for his refusal to do 30 hours a week unpaid labour for six months for the Community Action Programme. The High and Appeal Courts ruled in the young people’s favour. They judged that the government had indeed acted illegally, as the law did not contain any stipulations for when and how such work was to be performed.

Iain Duncan Smith, the notorious head of the Department of Work and Pensions, was outraged. He called the decision ‘rubbish’ and said, ‘There are a group of people out there who think they are too good for this kind of stuff .. People who think it is their right take benefit and do nothing for it – those days are over.’ This is rich coming from IDS, who was taking over a million pounds in farm subsidies from the EU. Eventually, Smith got sick of the criticism he was taking for the government’s welfare policies, and flounced off early in 2016 moaning about how unfair it all was that he should get the blame, when the notorious Work Capability Tests inflicted on the elderly and disabled were introduced by New labour.

They are in no sense free workers, and it similarly makes a nonsense of the pretense that this somehow constitutes ‘voluntary work’, as this has been presented by the government and some of the participating charities.

The political scientist Guy Standing is also extremely critical of workfare in his book, A Precariat Charter, demanding its abolition and making a series of solid arguments against it. He states that it was first introduced in America by the Republicans in Wisconsin, and then expanded nationally to the rest of the US by Bill Clinton in his Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. It was part of his campaign to ‘end welfare as we know it’. Single parents receiving social assistance were required to take low-paying jobs after two years. Legislation was also passed barring people from receiving welfare payments for more than five years in their entire lives.

David Cameron, unsurprisingly, was also a fan of the Wisconsin system, and wanted to introduce it over here. In 2007 he made a speech to the Tory faithful at the party conference, proclaiming ‘We will say to people that if you are offered a job and it’s a fair job and one that you can do and you refuse it, you shouldn’t get any welfare.’ This became part of Coalition policy towards the unemployed when they took power after the 2010 elections. Two years later, in 2012, Boris Johnson, speaking as mayor of London, declared that he was going to use EU money from the Social Fund to force young adults between 18 and 24 to perform 13 weeks of labour without pay if they were unemployed.

Ed Miliband’s Labour party also joined in. Liam Byrne, the Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, declared that

Labour would ensure that no adult will be able to live on the dole for over two years and no young person for over a year. They will be offered a real job with real training, real prospects and real responsibility … People would have to take this responsibility or lose benefits.

This was echoed by Ed Balls, who said

A One Nation approach to welfare reform means government has a responsibility to help people into work and support for those who cannot. But those who can work must be required to take up jobs or lose benefits as such – no ifs or buts.

Standing traces the antecedents of workfare back to the English poor law of 1536 and the French Ordonnance de Moulins of twenty years later, which obliged unemployed vagabonds to accept any job that was offered them. He states that the direct ancestor is the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, the infamous legislation that, under the notion of ‘less eligibility’, stipulated that those receiving support were to be incarcerated in the workhouse, where conditions were deliberately made much harsher in order to deter people from seeking state support, rather than paid work. This attitude is also reflected in contemporary attitudes that, in order to ‘make work pay’, have demanded that welfare support should be much less than that received for paid work. This has meant that welfare payments have become progressively less as the various measure to make the labour market more flexible – like zero hours contracts – drove down wages. The workhouse system was supplemented in 1905 by the Unemployed Workmen Act, supported, amongst others, by Winston Churchill. This directed unemployed young men into labour, so that they should not be ‘idle’ and be ‘under control’. Nor were leading members of the early Labour party averse to the use of force. Sidney and Beatrice Webb, two of the founders of the Fabian Society, were also in favour of sending the unemployed to ‘labour colonies’, chillingly close to the forced labour camps which became such as feature of the Nazi and Communist regimes. Liam Byrne also harked back to the Webbs to support his argument for workfare as Labour party policy. He stated

If you go back to the Webb report, they were proposing detention colonies for people refusing to take work … All the way through our history there has been an insistence on the responsibility to work if you can. Labour shouldn’t be any different now. We have always been the party of the responsibility to work as well.

The result of this is that many unemployed people have been placed on the Mandatory Work Activity – MWA – scheme, which requires them to perform four weeks of unpaid work for a particular company, organisation or charity. The scheme also includes the disabled. Those now judged capable of performing some work are placed in the Work-Related Activity group, and required perform some unpaid labour in order to gain ‘experience’. If they do not do so, they may lose up to 70 per cent of their benefits.

This has created immense fear among the unemployed and disabled. Standing quotes one man with cerebral palsy, who was so afraid of being sanctioned for not performing the mandatory work, that he felt physically sick.

The system also affects those in low-paid part-time jobs or on zero hours contracts. These must prove that they are looking for more working hours or a better paid job. If they do not do so, they may lose benefits or tax credits. In 2013 the Tory-Lib Dem government made it even harder for people to claim tax credits by raising the number of working hours a week, for which tax credits could not be claimed, from 16 to 24.

Vox Political on the Strange Disappearance of aIDS Whinging Letter about ‘Outrageous Claims’

February 15, 2016

Mike put up this story earlier today about the letter Ian Duncan Smith had written, whining about the ‘outrageous claims’ Mike and other bloggers had made about his reforms causing the deaths of the poor and disabled. It seemed for a moment it had mysteriously disappeared. In fact, this seems to have been something of a false alarm. One of Mike’s commenters, however, states that it had vanished, only to reappear on the Commons Work and Pensions website.

Iain Duncan Smith’s latest attempt to justify benefit-related deaths has disappeared from the government’s website

I’ve blogged several times about the way the Spurious Major gallops away at high speed, whenever it looks like he might have meet his opponents. The minister for chequebook genocide simply can’t stop himself. He’s hidden in laundry baskets, run out of the rear entrance in Job Centres, and spoken at early hours of the morning at Tory-run job fairs in order to avoid the angry Great Unwashed. And when he was forced to face the disabled and their carers in the public gallery in parliament at a meeting of the Commons’ Work and Pensions Committee, this mighty general in the tradition of Wellington, Mark Anthony, Julius Caesar and Henry IV, surrounded himself with armed goons.

Now it seems even cyberspace is not safe from his cowardice. He’s starting to run away from people there. Of course, the Tories have form for this kind of thing. Some of us can still remember how a paragraph in one of the papers, written by a leading Tory, which lauded the motto on the gates of Auschwitz, Arbeit Macht Frei, ‘Work Makes You Free’, mysteriously disappeared after someone realised that it made them look like what they are: Nazis. Just that they don’t have the stormtroopers and the jackboots just yet, although no doubt aIDS is working on the forced labour camps. They’ve certainly set up their own system of secret courts, under which you may not even be told under what law you’re charged if this is deemed to be against ‘national security’. We are heading to the old Nazi strategy of Nacht und Nebel – ‘night and fog’, the mysterious disappearance of dissidents.

And like the Spurious Major, Himmler was also not nearly half as tough as he made himself out to be. When he attended an execution by firing squad, he had to be carried away, hysterical. IDS also shows that he wants to run away as from shame and personal danger as possible, even when its Virtual.

Working Class Experience and the Tories’ Hatred of International Human Rights Legislation

May 19, 2014

Democrat Dissection pic

William(?) Dent, ‘A Right Honble Democrat Dissected’, 1793. In Roy Porter, Bodies Politic: Death, Disease and Doctors in Britain, 1650-1900 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press 2001) 243. The caption for this reads: The various portions of his anatomy display every form of hypocrisy and immorality, personal and political.

The Tories Attack on Human Rights Legislation

Last week I reblogged Mike’s piece, ‘The Tory Euro Threat Exposed’, which demolished some of the claims the Tories were making about the EU, including their promise to hold a referendum on Europe. One of the criticisms Mike made was against the Tories’ plans to withdraw Britain from the European Court of Human Rights. Mike pointed out that the Court is actually nothing to do with the EU, and if Britain withdrew, it would mean the Tories could pass highly illiberal legislation ignoring and undermining the human rights of British citizens. He specifically mentioned workfare, the right to a fair trial and the current laws protecting the disabled as areas that would be under threat. It is not just European human rights legislation and international justice that the Tories are opposed to. They also plan to repeal Labour’s human rights legislation at home.

The Memoir of Robert Blincoe and 19th Century Working Class Political Oppression

Jess, one of the commenters on mine and Mike’s blog, suggested that the part of the problem was that most people now don’t recall a time when there was no absolutely no respect for human rights in Britain, and people were genuinely oppressed and jailed for their political beliefs. As a corrective, she posted a link to The Memoir of Robert Blincoe, a 19th century working-class activist, who was jailed for setting up a trade union. She wrote

Part of the ‘problem’ convincing people of the validity of human rights legislation is they have no concept, or memory, of what things were like before such things began to be regulated. Or the fight it took to force such legislation through Parliament.

This small book, ‘Memoir of Robert Blincoe’, now online, courtesy of Malcolm Powell’s Northern Grove Publishing Project
http://www.malcsbooks.com/resources/A%20MEMOIR%20OF%20ROBERT%20BLINCOE.pdf

“The Memoir….” was first published by Richard Carlile in his journal ‘The Lion’ in 1828. It was republished as a pamphlet the same year, and then re-serialised in ‘The Poor Man’s Advocate’ later the same year.

The pioneer Trades Unionist, John Doherty republished it in 1832, with the co-operation of Blincoe and additional text. Caliban reprinted Doherty’s text in 1977. For some reason it was not mentioned in Burnett, Mayall and Vincent (Eds) Bibliograpy (of) The Autobiography of The Working Class.

19th Century Oppression, thatcher’s Assault on the Unions, British Forced Labour Camps and the New Surveillance State

She has a point. For most people, this was so long ago that it’s no longer relevant – just another fact of history, along with the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Great Reform Act and the Workhouse. It’s an example how things were grim back in the 19th century, but it doesn’t really have any direct significance today. In fact, it’s extremely relevant as the Tories are doing their best to strangle the Trade Unions with legislation following their decimation with the Miners’ Strike under Thatcher. The Coalition has also passed legislation providing for the establishment of secret courts, and Britain is being transformed into a surveillance society through the massive tapping of phones and other electronic communication by GCHQ. And I reblogged a piece from one of the other bloggers – I think it was Unemployed in Tyne and Weare – about the existence of forced labour camps for the unemployed here in Britain during the recession of the 1920s. I doubt anyone outside a few small circles of labour historians have heard of that, particularly as the authorities destroyed much of the documentation. Nevertheless, it’s a sobering reminder that Britain is not unique, and that the methods associated with Nazism and Stalinism certainly existed over here.

Britain as Uniquely Democratic, Above Foreign Interference

Another part of the problem lies in British exceptionalism. There is the view that somehow Britain is uniquely democratic, with a mission to spread freedom and democracy throughout the world. This conception of one’s country and its history is strongest in America, and forms a very powerful element of the ideology of the Republican party and the Neo-Cons. America has repeatedly refused to allow international courts jurisdiction in America and condemned criticism of American society and institutions by the UN, on the grounds that these organisations and the countries they represent are much less democratic than the US. To allow them jurisdiction in America, or over Americans, is seen as an attack on the fundamental institutions of American freedom. Thus, while America has demanded that foreign heads of states responsible for atrocities, such as the Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, should be tried at the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague, it has strenuously resisted calls for the prosecution of American commanders accused of similar crimes.

Britain Not Democratic for Most of its History

This sense of a unique, democratic destiny and a moral superiority to other nations also permeates the British Right. Daniel Hannan, the Conservative MEP for Dorset, who wishes to privatise the NHS, has written a book, on how the English-speaking peoples invented democracy. It’s a highly debatable view. Most historians, I suspect, take the view instead that it was the Americans and French, rather than exclusively the English-speaking peoples, who invented democracy. Britain invented representative, elected government, but until quite late in the 19th century the franchise was restricted to a narrow class of propertied men. Women in Britain finally got the right to vote in 1918, but didn’t actually get to vote until 1928. Part of the Fascist revolt in Britain in the 1930s was by Right-wing, die-hard Tories alarmed at all of the proles finally getting the vote, and the growing power of Socialism and the trade unions. Technically, Britain is still not a democracy. The architects of the British constitution in the 17th and 18th centuries viewed it as mixed constitution, containing monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, with each component and social class acting as a check on the others. The House of Commons was the democratic element. And the 17th and 18th century views of its democratic nature often seem at odds with the modern idea that everyone should have the inalienable right to vote. It seems to me that these centuries’ very restricted view of democracy ultimately derived from Aristotle. In his Politics, Aristotle considers a number of constitutions and forms of government and state, including democracy. His idea of democracy, however, is very definitely not ours. He considers it to be a state governed by leisured, landed gentlemen, who are supposed to remain aloof and separate from the lower orders – the artisans, labourers, tradesmen and merchants, who actually run the economy. In his ideal democracy, there were to be two different fora – one for the gentlemen of the political class, the other for the rude mechanicals and tradesmen of the hoi polloi.

How seriously the British ruling class took democracy and constitutional freedom can be seen in the very rapid way they removed and abolished most of it to stop the proles rising up during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Burke is hailed as the founder of modern Conservatism for his Reflections on the Revolution in France, in which he argued for cautious, gradual change firmly grounded and respecting national tradition, as opposed to the violence and bloodshed which occurred over the other side of the Channel, when the French tried rebuilding their nation from scratch. At the time, however, Burke was seen as half-mad and extremely eccentric for his views.

Imperial Government and Lack of Democracy in Colonies

The lack of democracy became acute in the case of the countries the British conquered as they established the British Empire. The peoples of Africa, the Middle East and Asia were largely governed indirectly through their indigenous authorities. However, ultimate authority lay with the British governors and the colonial administration. It was not until the 1920s, for example, that an indigenous chief was given a place on the colonial council in the Gold Coast, now Ghana. Some governors did actively try to involve the peoples, over whom they ruled, in the business of government, like Hennessy in Hong Kong. For the vast majority of colonial peoples, however, the reality was the absence of self-government and democracy.

British Imperial Aggression and Oppression of Subject Peoples

And for many of the peoples of the British Empire, imperial rule meant a long history of horrific oppression. The sugar plantations of the West Indies have been described as ‘concentration camps for Blacks’, which have left a continuing legacy of bitterness and resentment amongst some West Indians. The sense of moral outrage, as well as the horrific nature of imperial rule for Black West Indians and the indigenous Arawak and Carib peoples in books on West Indian history written by West Indians can come as a real shock to Brits, who have grown up with the Whig interpretation of history. Other chapters in British imperial history also come across as actually quite sordid, like the annexation of the Transvaal, despite the fact that the Afrikaaner voortrekkers who colonised it did so to get away from British rule. The Opium War is another notorious example, the colonisation of Australia was accompanied by the truly horrific genocide of the Aboriginal peoples, and the late 19th century ‘Scramble for Africa’, which saw much of the continent conquered by the French and British, was largely motivated by the desire to grab Africa and its resources before the Germans did.

Whig Interpretation of History: Britain Advancing Freedom against Foreign Tyranny

All this gives the lie to the Whig interpretation of history. This was the name the historian Butterfield gave to the reassuring, patriotic view of British history being one natural progression upwards to democracy and the Empire. There’s still an element of it around today. The view of the Empire as promoted by patriotic text books like Our Empire Story, was of Britain establishing freedom and justice against foreign tyrants and despots, civilising the backward nations of Africa and Asia. Similar views can be found in Niall Ferguson, who in his books states that Europe and America managed to overtake other global cultures because of their innately democratic character and respect for property. Ferguson presented this idea in a television series, which was critiqued by Private Eye’s ‘Square Eyes’.

Another, very strong element in this patriotic view of British history is the struggle Between Britain and foreign tyrants, starting with the French in the Hundred Years War, through the Spanish Armada, and then the Napoleonic War and Hitler, and finally as part of the Western free world standing against Communism. In fact, many of the regimes supported by Britain and the Americans weren’t very free at all. Salvador Allende of Chile, although a Marxist, was democratically elected. He was over thrown in the coup that elevated General Pinochet to power, sponsored by the CIA. Similar coups were launched against the democratic, non-Marxist Socialist regime of Benz in Guatemala. And it hasn’t stopped with the election of Barak Obama. Seumas Milne in one of his pieces for the Guardian, collected in The Revenge of History, reports a Right-wing coup against the democratically elected government in Honduras, again sponsored by America. at the same time Britain and America supported various Middle Eastern despots and tyrants, including the theocratic, absolute monarchies of the Gulf States, against Communism. If you are a member of these nations, in South and Central America and the Middle East, you could be forgiven for believing that the last thing the West stands for is democracy, or that it’s a hypocritical pose. Democracy and freedom is all right for Britain, America and their allies, but definitely not something to be given to the rest of the world. And certainly not if they don’t vote the way we want them.

Origin of Link between Britain and Democracy in Churchill’s Propaganda against Axis

In fact, it’s only been since the Second World War that the English-speaking world has attempted to make itself synonymous with ‘democracy’. While Britain previously considered itself to be a pillar of freedom, this was certainly not synonymous, and in some cases directly opposed to democracy. Some 18th and 19th century cartoons on the radical ferment about the time of the French Revolution and its supporters in Britain are explicitly anti-democratic. Martini Pugh in his book on British Fascism between the Wars notes that large sections of the colonial bureaucracy, including the India Office, were firmly against the introduction of democracy in England. According to an article on the origins of the English-Speaking Union in the Financial Times I read years ago, this situation only changed with the Second World War, when Churchill was faced with the problem of winning the propaganda battle against Nazi Germany. So he attempted win allies, and hearts and minds, by explicitly linking British culture to the idea of democracy. This may not have been a hugely radical step, as Hitler already equated Britain with democracy. Nevertheless, it completed the process by which the country’s view of its constitution, from being narrowly oligarchical, was transformed into a democracy, though one which retained the monarchy and the House of Lords.

House of Lords as Seat of British Prime Ministers, Not Commons

And it wasn’t that long ago that effective power lay with the upper house, rather than the Commons. During the 19th and early 20th centuries a succession of prime ministers were drawn from the House of Lords. It was only after Lloyd George’s constitutional reforms that the head of government came from the Lower House, rather than the chamber of the aristocracy.

Most of this is either unknown, or is just accepted by most people in Britain today. The British’ idea of themselves as uniquely democratic is largely accepted unquestioningly, to the point where just raising the issue of how recent and artificial it is, especially with regard to Britain’s colonies and the Empire’s subaltern peoples, is still extremely radical. And the Conservatives and their fellows on the Right, like UKIP, play on this assumption of democratic superiority. Europe, or anywhere else in the world, for that matter, isn’t as democratic us, and has absolutely no right telling us what to do.

Need to Challenge Image of Britain as Uniquely Democratic, to Stop Tories Undermining It

And so the British image of themselves as innately, quintessentially democratic and freedom-loving, is turned around by the Right to attack foreign human rights legislation, courts and institutions, that help to protect British freedoms at home. This needs to be tackled, and the anti-democratic nature of much of British history and political culture needs to be raised and properly appreciated in order to stop further erosion of our human rights as British citizens, by a thoroughly reactionary Conservative administration determined to throw us back to the aristocratic rule of the 19th century, when democracy was itself was highly suspect and even subversive because of its origins in the French Revolution.

The Coalition’s Secret Courts and Communist Yugoslavia’s Gulags

February 15, 2014

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Inmates at a Soviet Gulag

Many bloggers, including myself, have raised the issue of the Coalition’s increasing intolerance, its attempts to close down freedom of speech and the press through legislation such as the anti-lobbying bill. Vox Political yesterday reblogged a piece showing that Britain had fallen from 29th to 33rd place in the world for press freedom following the government’s campaign against the Guardian for publishing the revelations of comprehensive British and American secret surveillance.

One of the most alarming developments in the Coalition’s creation of an increasingly authoritarian and dictatorial state are the secret courts, which have been set up with the full backing of those champions of freedom and democracy, the Lib Dems. Another Angry Voice has particularly blogged and commented on them. He gives this brief description of them:

For those of you that don’t know about what the Tory “Secret Courts” bill entails, here’s a brief description: As it now stands, defendants (or claimants in civil cases) can be excluded from the hearings where their fates are decided; they will not be allowed to know what the case against them is; they will not be allowed to enter the courtroom; they will not be allowed to know or challenge the details of the case; and they will not be allowed representation from their own lawyer, but will instead be represented (in their absence) by a security-cleared “special advocate”.

See his post ‘Secret Courts: The Very Illiberal Democrats’ at http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/secret-courts-very-illiberal-democrats.html

This legislation places Britain alongside the nightmarish perversions of justice described in fiction by Franz Kafka in his novels The Castle and The Trial, in which the hero has been arrested and repeatedly interrogated for an unknown crime. He does not know himself what he is supposed to have done, and the authorities never tell him. This grotesque injustice was the reality in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Under the Ba’ath legal code, there were a set of laws, knowledge of whose existence was also prohibited and for which individuals could be arrested and tried. I can remembering hearing about this through the BBC’s radio coverage of the arrest and eventual execution of Bazoft, a British journalist of Iranian origin, who was arrested for spying by Hussein’s regime. The passage last March of the Secret Courts bill, and the government’s attempt to prosecute the Guardian for Snowden and clamp down on other forms of dissent, raises the real possibility that such a grotesque miscarriage of justice will also occur in Britain.

Apart from Hussein’s Iraq, it is also very, very much like the totalitarian regimes of the Stalinist Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, where anyone considered to be a threat to the regime was subject to summary arrest and deportation into the concentration camps and gulags. Further communication with them was difficult, if not impossible. In both regimes those arrested simply disappeared. For the Nazis, such unexplained disappearances were a deliberate part of the system of arrest and imprisonment. It was called ‘Nacht und Nebel’, or ‘Night and Fog’, and was intended to cause even further terror of the Nazi dictatorship.

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Milovan Djilas, Yugoslav Communist leader and dissident

The Yugoslavian Communist regime of Marshal Tito also established a gulag after it’s split with Stalin in the late 1940s. The Yugoslavs were resisting Stalin’s attempt to turn their country into a satellite of the Soviet Union. Undercover of diplomatic missions, joint Yugoslav-Soviet companies and even a Soviet film of Tito’s victory in the Second World War and the rise of the Communist government in Yugoslavia, Stalin’s regime attempted to recruit spies against Tito’s government. The international Communist organisation, the Cominform, was also used to recruit agents and spread discontent in order to undermine Yugoslavia’s independence.

The regime responded with the summary arrest of anyone suspected of pro-Soviet sympathies and the establishment of a gulag for them on Goli Otok, or Bare Island. Milovan Djilas, a former Vice-President of Yugoslavia, President of the National Assembly and later leading dissident, describes the system of arrests and the brutal conditions under which the inmates were held in his autobiographical account of the regime and his part in it, Rise and Fall.

He notes the camp’s extra-legal basis, and the way it was established at the highest authority.

The camp for Cominformists on Goli Otok (“Bare Island”) in the northern Adriatic was organized without a legal basis. At first, Cominformists were simply taken into custody and shipped there. A law was passed later covering obligatory “socially useful labor,” as the camp activities were innocently designated for official purposes. Moreover, not even the Politburo, or its inner circle, the Secretariat, ever made any decision about the camp. It was made by Tito himself and implemented through Rankovic’s State Security apparatus. (p. 235).

After examining the motives behind those who joined the Cominform against the Yugoslavian regime, including personal rivalry and frustration at their lack of personal advancement, Djilas describes the harsh conditions in the camp.

Sentences to Goli Otok were imposed by the security organ. By law, no term could exceed two years, but there was no limit on its renewal. Inmates who languished there for ten years were not uncommon.

On his passage to the island the prisoner was shoved-in fact, hurled- to the bottom of the boat. Then, when he emerged on Goli Otok, he had to run the gauntlet. This was a double line of inmates, who vied with one another in hitting him. If gouged eyes were a rarity, broken teeth and ribs were not. There were also incorrigibles, who were subjected to lynching, sometimes spontaneous, sometimes not.

The inmates had no visitation rights. They received neither letters nor packages-at least not in the early period. Until word leaked out unofficially, their families had no idea where they were; letters were addressed to a number, as to soldiers in wartime. Their labor was not only hard and compulsory, but often meaningless as well. One of the punishments was carrying heavy stones back and forth. Work went on in all kinds of weather. What stuck in their tormented memories, as I can well understand, was labouring on rocky ground in scorching heat. State Security got carried away with making a productive enterprise out of Goli Otok, for this was the period when the Security bosses were tinkering with our economy and founding export firms; yet nothing came of this “production” but suffering and madness. Then, when finally released, inmates were sworn to silence about the camp and its methods. This could have been taken for granted, yet little by little the truth came out anyway, especially after the fall of Rankovic in 1966. (pp. 241-2).

Tito was intent on suppressing the Cominform in Yugoslavia with as little bloodshed as possible. The camp was intended on ‘re-educating’ the political prisoners, rather than murdering them, a process that was nevertheless carried out with extreme brutality.

This nuance of his-on the head but not off with it-explains why so few Cominformists were killed. But it also became the basis for unimagined, unheard-of coercion, pressure, and torture on the island. There, re-education, or “head-knocking”, was made the responsibility of certain inmates- the “reconstructed” ones-who in effect collaborated with Security. The latter involved itself as little as possible, leaving the re-education to “self-managing units” made up of reconstructed inmates, who went to inhuman extreme to ingratiate themselves and win their own release. They were inventive in driving their fellow victims similarly to “reconstruct” themselves. There is no limit to the hatred and meanness of the new convert toward yesterday’s coreligionists. (p. 241).

Djilas makes it clear that many of those interned in the camp would not have been imprisoned if they had instead been tried in an open court.

But regardless of any such factor, there is no question that the vast majority of Cominformists would never have been sent to Goli Otok had the proceedings been the least bit legal, reasonable and undogmatic. People were arrested and committed to the camp for failure to report intimate “cominformist” conversations or for reading leaflets and listening to the short-wave radio. Subsequent victims included those who at the time of the resolution said that we ought to have attended the Bucharest meeting at which our party was condemned.

Djilas recognised that Communist ideology played a part in the construction of the camp and the terror they inflicted in order to destroy Stalin’s influence in Yugoslavia. He also cautions, however, against viewing such human rights abuses as a purely Communist phenomenon.

But the way we dealt with those arrested and their families-that was something else again. There was no need to behave as we did. That conduct sprang from our ideological dogmatism, from our Leninist and Stalinist methods, and, of course, in part from our Balkan traditions of reprisal.

But analyses can be left to historians and philosophers. My business is to get on with the tale, a tale of defeat and disgrace, not only for Yugoslav Communism but also for our times and humankind. If the Yugoslav gulag, like the Soviet, is explained purely in terms of the “inhuman” or “antihuman” nature of Communism, that is an oversimplified judgment that in its way is just as ideological. Ideology, I think, was only a motivational expression, the appeal to an ideal, justifying the insane human yearning to be lord and master. Sending people off to camps is neither the invention nor the distinction of Communists. People like those of us at the top of the heap, with our ideals and absolute power,, are bound to throw our opponents into a camp. yet if the treatment of the inmates had come up for discussion-if discussion had not been precluded by Tito’s omnipotent will-different views would have emerged among us and more common-sense and human procedures would have been instituted. Some of us were aware of this paradox: a camp must be established, yet to do so was terrible. (pp. 236-7).

The Western press was also content not to report the existence of the forced labour camp.

Characteristic both of the time and of the relationships then unfolding was the attitude towards the press, Eastern as well as Western, toward the camp. The Western press by an large showed no interest in it, certainly no critical interest. The same could be said of the Western diplomatic corps. Whenever the persecution of Cominformists came up, as if by agreement these diplomats displayed a tacit understand: our independence and the state were threatened by a combination of external and internal pressure. But there was also a note of ambiguity, of malicious joy behind the Westerners’ façade of understanding: let the Communists exterminate each other and so reveal the very nature of Communism. (pp. 242-3).

All these elements are present in the policies the Coalition has adopted towards press freedom and the unemployed. The secret courts set up by the Coalition would allow those deemed to be a threat to be tried without the normal conventions to ensure justice and protect the accused until they are found guilty. This is important: in British law, you are innocent until the court is convinced of your guilt, and the onus is on the prosecution to prove their case.

The Coalition have also shown themselves more than willing to use psychological techniques to indoctrinate their policies’ victims. The unemployment courses and forms drawn up with the advice of the Nudge Unit are designed so that the unemployed will blame themselves for their joblessness, rather than the economy.

Elements within the Conservative party have also at times called for the establishment of camps for individuals they judged to be a threat to the British state. One of the reasons behind the assassination of Airey Neave, Margaret Thatcher’s political mentor, in the 1970s by the INLA was because Neave had called for the establishment of internment camps in northern Ireland. And as workfare shows, there is a strong impulse towards using compulsory ‘voluntary’ labour to support big business in Britain, just as it was used in Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, and, for that matter, Tito’s Yugoslavia.

Nor can the British press be depended on to guard traditional British freedoms of speech and justice. AS Mike over at Vox Political has shown, part of the reason for the marked decline in press freedom in this country is due to the Right-wing press’ collusion with the authorities in attacking the Guardian and Edward Snowden. It’s has been alleged by Lobster that in the 1980s the Sunday Times under Andrew ‘Brillo Pad’ Neil was a conduit for disinformation from the British security services. Certainly Neil has shown no qualms about making unsupported claims about Allende’s democratically elected Marxist government in Chile in order to support the coup led by Thatcher’s friend, General Pinochet.

These secret courts, the gagging laws and workfare have to be stopped now, before they develop into something exactly like the forced labour camps of the Nazis and Communists. And that has to start by voting out the Coalition.

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Nick Clegg

David Cameron and Nick Clegg. Together their reforms are laying the foundations for a police state and forced labour camps.