Posts Tagged ‘Franz Kafka’

More from Vox Political on the Blairites Doing the Stalinist Hot-Trot

August 29, 2016

Over the past few days Mike’s put up a few more posts about the Blairites and their attempted purge of the Corbynites in time for the leadership elections.

Among their various antics, they sent a tweet to one victim of the coup, who had been told they did not have the right to vote, in the middle of the night asking them to support Owen Smith. Which is, as Isabel Waby, a friend of Vox Political, observed, simply adding insult to injury. Another person, Catherine Starr, was banned because of an ‘inappropriate’ tweet. She had made the cardinal sin of posting that she ‘f**king loved the Foo Fighters’. Richard Burgon, the Shadow Justice Secretary, responded to this woman’s ban with the jocular comment that he preferred Motorhead, but liking the Foo Fighters was certainly no reason to ban someone. Quite. Nor is foul language on a completely unrelated topic. I realise the ‘F bomb’ is still very shocking to quite a few people, but it’s now so widely used that it is using much of its ability to shock. If you want an example of this, think of the number of times Paul Merton and some of the other panellists on Have I Got News For You have cussed. When I was at school, the use of the word got Jools Holland thrown off the Friday early evening pop show, The Tube. Admittedly, this show was on much earlier, at about 6 O’clock, while HIGNFY is on after the 9 O’clock watershed. But even so, Merton and co are still going, and the shows as strong as ever. Starr was planning to vote for Jeremy Corbyn, so it looks very much like the Blairite National Executive was simply trying to find an excuse to ban her.

Corbyn was moved to tweet his own disapproval about the one-sidedness of the purge: “I’m very concerned that some people seem to have been unfairly removed from the ability to vote in this election. I’ve written to Labour’s General Secretary to raise concerns about members being suspended from voting in the leadership contest often without knowing why, being given an option to challenge or appeal.”

For this, the Labour leader got told by a Scottish Labour councillor, Stephen McCabe, that he should have some faith as leader in the NEC, knowing perfectly well Corbyn can contribute, but can’t control what they do.

Among the other victims of the purge is Ronnie Draper, the General Secretary of the Baker’s, Food, and Allied Worker’s Union. He was told that he was being denied the vote on the basis of an unidentified tweet. He has also been given no opportunity to refute the charge, and no hearing has been set for him to challenge it.

According to Mike, 200,000 people have been denied the vote by the NEC. The process of deciding who gets to vote, and who doesn’t, is overseen by Joanna Baxter. She tweeted that the decisions were made by 2 panels, comprising three people from the NEC, and supporters of Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith. She did not, however, give any details on the criteria by which the suitability of the voters was assessed. Furthermore, Baxter is no longer a member of the NEC, and so has absolutely no right or obligation to oversee the purge.

Mike concludes:

So far, it seems you get the boot for comments made at any time since you joined social media – no matter how long ago and never mind whether you have changed your mind since. Use of profanities at any time means you’re out – if you’re a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn. Tweeting support for a point of view put forward by another political party – out. Publicly disagreeing with Owen Smith – out.

It is hard to tell the criteria by which supporters of Mr Smith are likely to be removed from the voting register. Does anybody know?

Mike also has put up the advice, given by one of his commenters, that anyone intending to appeal against the decision to ban them should throw in a Data Access Request for Data held on them under the Data Protection Act. As data holders, the Labour party will be obliged to provide them with all the data they have on them.

Mike also warns that as Baxter complained that she was receiving abuse even before these shenanigans began, she’s now got a running commentary on her twitter feed about the abusive messages she’s receiving. Or claims to have received. As Mike says, it’s unknown whether these are ‘false flag attacks’ or not. But he strongly advises his readers to be polite in any case.

See his article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/27/labour-member-is-denied-vote-in-leader-election-then-owen-smith-txts-to-ask-for-support/

I remarked before, when the purge began a few days ago, that this is New Labour and the Blairites behaving exactly like Stalin. He took over the Russian Communist party by purging the membership of his rivals’ supporters. Once installed as the president of the USSR, he continued his purges, not by merely throwing his opponents out of the party, but by sending them, and millions of others, to the Gulags and the firing squads as enemies of the Revolution and so forth. Baxter and Smudger aren’t sending people to forced labour camps, but in other respects they’re following Uncle Joe’s tactics. As he said, ‘it’s not who votes that counts, but who counts the votes.’

It’s also all very Kafkaesque. In his novels The Castle and The Trial, the Czech novelist described farcical bureaucratic tyrannies, in which the regime’s victims were arrested, tried and condemned without knowing what their crime was, or who their accusers were. Which is pretty much what’s happening here, with people being told their banned simply on account of ‘inappropriate comments’.

But only Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters, apparently. Lord Sainsbury, who is now supporting the Lib Dems, has, it seems, not lost his right to vote. Never mind. As Mike has put up in a later article today, after the election there will be a reckoning of this bureaucratic tyrants.

Metamorphosis: Another Comic Attacking Farage

April 4, 2015

Earlier this week I put up a post about reports in the Belfast Telegraph and ITV that 2000 AD was planning to skewer Farage in a forthcoming Judge Dredd strip. This will pit the hardest lawman in Mega-City One against the corrupt, racist politico, Bilious Barrage.

Now it seems that the Independent also is publishing their comic strip attack on the Purple Duce. I found this piece posted on the SlatUKIP site, reporting a piece in the Independent about the launch of the Metamorphosis comic strip, by one of their cartoonists. The strip seems to take Kafka’s novel, Metamorphosis, and puts an extra spin on it to turn it into a modern parable about racism.

Kafka’s novel is about a man, who wakes up one day to find that he has been transformed over night into a beetle. In this strip, giant intelligent cockroaches have appeared, and are being victimised in same way as foreign immigrants are in contemporary Britain. There is even an anti-cockroach party, UCOC, led by a politician, who looks exactly like Farage. Here’s the link.

http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/metamorphosis-an-exclusive-satirical-comic-we-recommend-you-read–eJlV0wWby1b

Apart from Kafka, the strip also seems influenced by Art Spiegelman’s Maus. This was an alternative comic narrating the experiences of Spiegelman’s father and the situation of the Jews in the Third Reich as an animal fable. The Jews were mice, the Germans cats, and the Poles were pigs. The Independent’s Metamorphosis seems to be following Spiegelman in using comics to combat racism, and animals as metaphors for the different racial groups.

A little while ago I posted a piece lamenting the absence of underground and alternative comics tackling the great issues of modern Britain. Now it seems they’re coming back. And that can only be a good thing, so here’s to more of them, and more power to their artists’ satirical elbows.

Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Disability

While this comic book uses Kafka’s idea of transformation into an insect as a metaphor for racism, the original novel can be read as a parable about disability. Though Kafka himself spoke and wrote in German, the novel’s title in Czech is Zuk, which literally means ‘beetle’, but can also mean anything loathsome or disgusting. Kafka was a clerk working in the insurance department, and his novels of labyrinthine bureaucracy are basically fantastic extrapolations from the real bureaucracy in which he worked.

In Metamorphosis, the hero’s transformation renders him unable to work, and he eventually either dies or commits suicide, because he is an increasing drain on his family. This could be seen as a metaphor for the all-too real predicament the disabled and their families ended up in 19th century Bohemia, when accident or disease rendered them unable to make a living.

Which is basically another good reason for why no-one should ever vote UKIP. Farage, Nuttall and the rest of stormtroopers would like to see the welfare state completely removed and the NHS privatised. Various Kipper politicos have made monstrous comments about the disabled, and denied the right of disabled children to be born.

This morning I reblogged another great piece from Tom Pride on the Nazi ideas of the Kippers’ European ally, Janusz Korwin-Mikke. This particularly Nazi has stated that the disabled should not be on television, which should be reserved for the strong, healthy and able-bodied. He also announced that supporting the disabled hadn’t yet spread to Africa, which was why they were going to become so much stronger than Europeans. In his view, this will lead to them invading and massacring us.

It’s bog-standard, 19th century eugenics crap, and could almost have come straight from Hitler himself, or any of the biology textbooks published in the Third Reich. It’s particularly ironic coming from a Pole, as the Nazis viewed all the Slavonic peoples of eastern Europe – Poles, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Russians, Czechs and Slovaks, among many others, as sub-humans. They were to be enslaved and worked to death after the Nazis conquered their countries. As well as the extermination of the Jews and Gypsies, the Nazis were also responsible for horrific atrocities against these peoples, including in Poland.

Farage made an alliance with Korwin-Mikke’s party to get EU money by forming a voting bloc of extreme Right-wing and anti-EU parties within the European parliament. It shows a cynical absence of any kind of morality, and the underlying Fascism behind Farage’s democratic façade.

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

February 15, 2014

gulag_1

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.

Djilas

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.

Cameron Pic

Nick Clegg

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