Posts Tagged ‘Gandhi’

History Debunked Explores British Asian History in Opposition to Black History Month

October 24, 2022

My favourite internet historian, as some commenters have dubbed him, Simon Webb, has put up a couple of videos yesterday and today on the great, forgotten figures of British Asian history. These were men and women of real achievement, and he uses them to ask an important question: if Britain really was as racist as it has been claimed in the 19th and early 20th centuries, why did these men and women succeed, largely through their own merits? Why, therefore, is it only Blacks who have their own special history month, but not Asians, who seem content not to have one? These are actually good questions, and I think they show much about the difference in situation between Blacks and Asians.

He began yesterday with a video contrasting Mary Seacole, the restauranteur and entrepreneur, who is often claimed to be a Black counterpart of Florence Nightingale, with an Indian female doctor, Annie Wardlaw Jagganadham. This lady was born in 1864 in Adhra Pradesh, India and studied medicine at Madras. She came to Britain to study medicine at Edinburgh university, qualifying as a doctor in 1890. She then became house surgeon at the Edinburgh Hospital for Women and Children. Her brother was also a doctor, as were her nephews.

She was one of a number of other Indian medical students in this country in the 1890s including Gandhi, who qualified in 1891.

Today, Webb has put up another video on Dadabhai Naoroji, an Indian Zoroastrian, who was elected MP in 1892. When taking office, he swore his oath not on the Bible, but on the Zoroastrian holy book, the Zend Avesta. In 1919 another Indian gent, Satyendra Prasanna Sindh, became a member of the British government and simultaneously the House of Lords, becoming the First Baron Sindh. Webb’s a man of the right, and he could have added to this list of Indian MPs Shapurji Saklatvala, a Communist who stood as a Labour party candidate and was elected first Labour MP for Battersea North in 1922 and then Communist MP for the same constituency in 1924. But I suspect that would have been too much for his right-wing principles. But he made a video a few years ago about an Indian raja who became a Tory MP in the 19th century.

Whatever the political point Webb is trying to make, these are really interesting figures. Saklatvala and his White British comrade Newbold, were deeply concerned with imperialism and the oppression of the indigenous peoples, speaking about Ireland, India and Mesopotamia, as Iraq was known at the time.

As for the reason why Chinese and Asian Brits seem uninterested in having their own special history month, I suspect part of this might be because they are culturally more self-confident and economically more self-reliant than Blacks. China, India and Islam have a long history of cultural achievement and scientific invention. If you look through popular books on the history of scientific inventions, you see any number in the ancient and medieval worlds that were discovered or created by Chinese, Indians and Muslim mathematicians, doctors, engineers and scholars. And their descendants are well aware of them. This has found its way into jokes. One of the characters in the Asian comedy show, Goodness Gracious Me, was an Indian father who shouted ‘India!’ at the mention of various inventions and discoveries, whether they were actually made by Indians or not. Then there was an episode of Lovejoy, in which the dodgy antiques trader was trying to procure an ancient Chinese piece of art for a Chinese Hong Kong banker. This businessman spoke only Chinese and was accompanied by his Chinese interpreter. The character was passionately proud about his country’s heritage of invention, announcing at every opportunity that something or other was a Chinese invention, even when it wasn’t. This eventually reached the point where his interpreter had to say to him, ‘Oh no, Mr. – I don’t think we invented motorcycles!’ These are clearly jokes laughing at Indian and Chinese pride, but I don’t recall anyone taking offence.

Both Chinese, Indians and other Asians have been victims of racism over here, and their countries conquered and exploited under imperialism, but it seems to me that they are confident enough in their own achievements that they don’t feel the need for an Asia history month. They also seem much more determined to raise their economic and social position through their own efforts, something the Black American conservative writer, Jason Riley, wishes Black Americans would do rather than concentrate on gaining political power.

Blacks are in a slightly different position. Those of West Indian descent are acutely aware that their ancestors were slaves while the Black community as a whole seems to know little about African history. African civilisations have suffered from the prejudice of White scholars. It’s depressing reading through the book Colour Prejudice, published in the late 1940s, and seeing so many western scholars declaring that Black Africans had made no innovations and their civilisations were worthless. Some of this doubtless was due to racism, but another problem may have been that many African cultures didn’t have a written literature and built with wood a highly perishable material in the Africa climate, and so archaeological evidence of these cultures were easily obscured over time. Also, a lot of Black history necessarily happened overseas and so isn’t taught in British history. Hence the arguments for Black History month to make Blacks aware that they also have a history of achievement in the hope of inspiring them to go and raise their social and economic position to the same level as Whites and mainstream society.

Indian born Communist MP for Battersea North Shapurji Saklatvala. From James Klugman, History of the Communist Party of Great Britain, Formation and Early Years, Vol. 1 1919-1924 (London: Lawrence & Wishart 1968).

Far Right Hindus Swear Nazi Oaths against Muslims in India

January 13, 2022

This is a very chilling video from ‘Sultan and Khan’s Sunday Scoop’ channel over on YouTube. The two hosts, Harris Sultan and Nuriyeh Khan, are ex-Muslim atheists, who critique and attack their former religion. I’m not an atheist, and while I’m not a Muslim, this is not the kind of material I’d usually put up on my channel. I feel it’s far more important to attack the government and various political movements that I believe are wrong and dangerous, than attack other people’s religions. But Sultan and Khan are also worried about the rise of religious fanaticism and intolerance, not just in the Muslim world and Pakistan, but also in India. They have posted several videos reporting and commenting on the lynching and malicious prosecution of people for blasphemy by Muslims in Pakistan, as well as murderous rants and attacks on Muslims and Christians by Hindu mobs and rabble-rousing demagogues in India. They have also covered two incidents in which Sikhs also have lynched people for blasphemy. In this video they talk about further instances of anti-Muslim bigotry and hate spread by the Hindu far right.

The first case they comment on is the arrest of a fourth man by India’s finest for ‘Bulli Bhai’. Bulli is an insulting term for Muslims used by the Hindu fascists. Last week the Indian cops arrested a young woman for putting up the images of 100 Muslim women on the internet, announcing that they were for auction. It was deliberately done to humiliate these ladies. Now a fourth person, a man, has been arrested for it.

But what will chill western viewers is the footage of a mass gathering in a village somewhere in India, in which the villagers swear a Nazi style oath not to do business with, sell land to or work with Muslims. Sultan and Khan describe it themselves as Nazi, and they are absolutely correct. It is almost exactly like the Nazi oath to boycott Jewish businesses, which culminated in the smashing of Jewish storefronts in Krystallnacht. And the parallel is even closer when you see that the wretched people swearing the oath do so with right arm outstretched in what really does look like the Fascist and Nazi salute. The oath ends with them shouting ‘Hail Mother India! Hail Lord Ram’. Sultan and Khan are naturally disgusted at this. They state that while there is a problem with Muslim fanaticism, only 5 to 10 per cent of Muslims are like that. And it is up to the vast majority of ordinary Muslims, who aren’t like that, to take care of them. Most Muslims, says Sultan, are Muslim in name only. They are just ordinary people trying to put food on the table.

The Hindu far right, like the BJP and the paramilitary RSSS, are considered Fascist movements by political scientists and historians of Fascism. One modern text book on Fascism includes a BJP prayer as an example of Fascist mysticism, a phenomenon that isn’t confined to Hinduism but permeates all Fascism, Hindu, Christian or whatever. Hindu fanaticism has been a growing problem since mobs rioted, and attacked historic mosques and ordinary Muslims while the authorities turned a blind eye in the 1980s. Indeed, several leading members of the BJP have connections to far right organisations or else made very sure that the mobs responsible for the attacks were allowed to go unchecked.

Most of us have an image of Hinduism as a gentle religion, largely, I think, thanks to Mahatma Gandhi and his doctrine of ahimsa, non-violence. The Hindu far right exploit this peaceful image, denying that such bigotry and violence exists in their religion while at the same time copying it from the religions they hate and persecute. And as well as hating Muslims, Sikhs and Christians, they also hate ordinary, democratic, moderate Hindus and secular Indians as well as Gandhi himself for their ideal of India as a democratic, pluralist nation. As this video shows, these fanatics wish to turn India into a nation where Hinduism is the only permitted religion.

Sultan and Khan have greater faith in the power of modern India’s democratic, pluralist traditions. They state that this will not happen, and India will never become a world power by persecuting 200 million of its citizens. This is presumably the Muslim population in India. The persecution isn’t stopping with Muslims and other religious minorities. The fanatics are also attacking and trying to close down and arrest Indian activists and journalists opposed to this wave of intolerance.

I have said that Fascism knows no colour or religion. Violent contempt for democracy, extreme nationalism and religious or racial hatred can arise everywhere, in any race, religion or culture. And it has to be fought everywhere it appears.

I therefore wish Indian anti-fascists and liberals every success in combating this bigotry regardless of their personal religious views, just as we in the West need to combat the rising Fascism in Europe and America.

Guardian Reports Death Threats Sent to US Academic Conference on Hindu Extremism

October 9, 2021

The Groan has posted an alarming article about a campaign of online intimidation being wages by a number of Hindu nationalist organisations against an academic conference held by many of the America’s most prestigious universities about Hindu nationalism. This includes death threats to the speakers and organisers and their families, and insults and abuse against their caste and religion. The article begins

‘An academic conference in the US addressing Hindu nationalism is being targeted by rightwing Hindu groups, which have sent death threats to participants and forced several scholars to withdraw.

The conference, titled Dismantling Global Hindutva, which is co-sponsored by more than 53 universities including Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, Berkeley, the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, and Rutgers, has come under attack after several groups in India and the US accused the event of being “anti-Hindu”.

The aim of the conference, which will begin online on 10 September, is to bring together scholars to discuss Hindutva, otherwise known as Hindu nationalism, a rightwing movement that believes India should be an ethnic Hindu state, rather than a secular nation.

India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), led by the prime minister, Narendra Modi, has pushed forward a Hindu nationalist agenda, under which India’s 200 million Muslims have faced discrimination and attacks.

The conference organisers said that in recent weeks, “far-right fringe groups have mobilised to attack the speakers at the conference”, falsely characterising the discussion of the political ideology of Hindutva as an attack on Hinduism itself.

In a statement, the organisers described how “immense pressure has been placed upon universities by fringe groups to back out of the conference” and emphasised the “sinister implications” of this “massive disinformation campaign”.

Several of the participants have withdrawn from the conference over fears it would lead to them being banned from returning to their families in India or being arrested on their arrival into the country.

Dozens of speakers and organisers involved have had violent threats made against their family members. Meena Kandasamy, a speaker, had pictures of her children posted online with captions such as “ur son will face a painful death” as well as casteist slurs. Other academics have been forced to file police cases after receiving death threats.

More than 1m emails were sent to the presidents, provosts and officials at universities involved in the conference pressuring them to withdraw and dismiss staff who were participating, pointing to an organised campaign by groups in India and the US. At Drew University in New Jersey, more than 30,000 emails were received in just a few minutes, causing the university server to crash.

“We are deeply concerned that all of these lies, taken together, will be used to incarcerate those who speak at the conference, or worse, inflict bodily harm, up to murder, upon those associated with the conference,” read the statement by the conference’s organisers. “Due to the variety of the nature of these threats, several speakers have had to withdraw from participating in this conference over the past two to three days.”

“The level of hate has been staggering,” said Rohit Chopra, an associate professor at Santa Clara University, who is one of the conference organisers.

“Organisers and speakers have received death threats, threats of sexual violence, and threats of violence against their families. Women participants have been subjected to the vilest kind of misogynistic threats and abuse and members of religious minorities associated with the conference have been targeted with casteist and sectarian slurs in the ugliest sorts of language.”’

The article states that the conference has been attacked by right-wing Indian TV channels and discusses the particular nationalist groups behind the campaign.

‘The conference has also become a particular object of ire on rightwing TV news channels in India, who have accused it of being funded by the CIA, foreign governments and George Soros, and alleged on air that the conference is designed to support the Taliban.

The groups campaigning against the conference are the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, an Indian organisation that has faced allegations of being linked to the murders of intellectuals and journalists, and US-based rightwing groups the Hindu American Foundation and the Coalition of Hindus of North America.

In a statement this week, the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) USA – a sister group of the RSS, an extremist nationalist organisation in India – urged all universities involved to withdraw support. They expressed “deep concern about the upcoming online event titled Dismantling Global Hindutva. We strongly condemn such events that amplify Hinduphobia, encourage Hindu hate, and incite violence against the minority Hindu population in the west.”

Hindu Janajagruti Samiti also wrote to the Indian home minister asking for action to be taken against those taking part in the event.’

According to Private Eye, the RSSS was founded in the 1920s and deliberately modelled on Mussolini’s Fascists. They have been behind a series of attacks against Muslims, Sikhs and Christians. And some of the Hindu groups in the US are very right-wing. I can remember seeing a video on one American Hindu group’s rally supporting Donald Trump and the Republicans. It was blatantly Islamophobic, consisting of a play in which Hindu dancers were attacked by menacing jihadis before the US marines came in and shot them.

This Hindu nationalism, Hindutva, is considered by political scientists to be another form of Fascism. I’ve come across books on Fascism that include passages from Hindu extremist literature as examples of the mystical side of Fascism, ‘Fascismo mystica’, as Mussolini called it.

The organisers of the conference make it very clear that they aren’t opponents of Hinduism, but of Hindu nationalism. And the domestic victims of this form of Fascism have included liberal Hindu writers, journalists and activists. People who wish India to remain faithful to Gandhi’s vision of a pluralist, multicultural country. And the ultra-nationalist Hindu fanatics despise him because of this.

Indian liberals have also complained that freedom of speech and information is under threat thanks to Modi. Peaceful protesters, including the farmers protesting against the government’s privatisation of the state machinery guaranteeing a fair price for this goods, are arrested and beaten by the police. Journos covering these protests are also arrested in attempts to stop coverage and filming.

We’re used to hearing about European and British Fascism and Nazism as well as Islamism, but it should be remembered that hatred, racism, religious intolerance and violent ethnic nationalism can be found in all cultures, nations and races.

Which is why Fascism has to be fought wherever it is found.

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/death-threats-sent-to-participants-of-us-conference-on-hindu-nationalism/ar-AAPjKWd?ocid=msedgdhp&pc=U531

Corrbyn Was Right About Afghanistan

August 25, 2021

A few days ago Mike was pointing out that, in contrast to Starmer and his current attitude towards Afghanistan, there was one Labour politico who was consistently right. This was Jeremy Corbyn. Back in 2001 when Blair and Bush were considering invading, Jeremy Corbyn was elected to the steering committee of the Stop the War Coalition. He said there was considerable disquiet and opposition to the deployment of troops in Afghanistan and the bombing of Iraq. An invasion would cost thousands of lives and not solve anything.

Totally correct.

In 2010 he spoke against the war, saying

“The issue of Afghanistan goes on. The deaths continue, the soldiers continue to die, the war is clearly unwinnable,” Corbyn said.

“The expense in moral terms, financial terms and loss of life of Afghan people gets worse and worse.”

He spoke again against the war in Afghanistan in 2017 when he was leader of the Labour party.

The war in Afghanistan has failed. After 16 years of bloodshed and destruction, the Taliban are undefeated and terrorism is no less of a threat at home. In fact it has spread.

“The British Government should make clear to Donald Trump that his strategy of more bombing and a new troop surge will continue this failure, not obediently applaud his latest policy U-turn.”

In July 2021, last month, when Johnson announced that he was pulling British troops out of Afghanistan, Corbyn dared to question why we had ever invaded the country in the first place.

“This has to be a day of reflection. We have spent billions of pounds in the war in Afghanistan, 450 British troops have lost their lives, thousands of Americans and other troops have lost their lives, many, many thousands of Afghan people have lost their lives and many more have been forced to be refugees in exile all around the region as well as in western Europe.

“While Britain is withdrawing, surely we need to recognise that when we make hasty foreign policy decisions to go to war, the consequences go on for a very long time. In this case, it is now the 20th anniversary of such a decision.”

Now Mr Corbyn has said

 “We must learn the lessons of a two-decade war which cost nearly a quarter of a million lives and failed to achieve security for the Afghan people or prevent the spread of terrorism.

“The War on Terror and its architects’ reckless use of force to deal with complex political issues has had profound, uncountable, and unacceptable human costs – whether to British and allied servicement and women or to the civilian populations of Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond.

“Invasions and occupations are not only wrong and violate the right to sovereignty, they also do not deliver viable and sustainable political settlements. We cannot allow ourselves to be led down such a disastrous road again.”

He recognises that some critics see a refusal to take action as a sign of weakness, and pre-empts them with the statement

 “Too often rejecting military intervention is conflated with taking no action at all. As well as resettling refugees, I will be making the case in Parliament this week for the UK to play its part in a robust diplomatic effort that engages regional powers to ensure stability.

“This will need to cover humanitarian support, a response to rising extreme poverty, respect for human and civil rights especially those of women and girls, and real self-determination for Afghanistan.”

Mike contrasts this with Starmer, who says that his thoughts are with the Afghans but is only concerned with rescuing British support staff, not giving sanctuary to Afghan refugees.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2021/08/22/one-person-has-been-consistently-right-about-uk-involvement-in-afghanistan-guess-who/

The British and American peoples have been lied to about Afghanistan and Iraq. They were told the invasions and occupations were all about liberating these nations from vicious tyrants. They were told that the Taliban and Saddam Hussein were responsible for 9/11. Well, the Taliban did provide a safe haven for bin Laden, but I heard that they protested that they had no idea what the thug was doing and actually offered to give him up. And Hussein had nothing to do with the attack.

Both invasions were really all about oil and demonstrating American military superiority. Bush and the Neo-Cons were waiting for an opportunity to invade Afghanistan so they could build an oil pipeline after talks with the Taliban about its construction had broken down. Iraq was invaded because Aramco, the joint American-Saudi oil company wanted the country’s oil industry and oil reserves. American multinationals like Haliburton, to whom Bush and various members of his wretched cabinet had close ties, also coveted Iraq’s state industries. The Neo-Cons also had fantasies of turning the country into a low tariff, free trade state, the establishment of which wrecked domestic Iraqi industries, creating a surge of bankruptcies and an unemployment rate of 60 per cent.

And the succeeding regimes have had serious flaws. Hamid Karzai’s regime in Afghanistan was massively corrupt, with officials buying their positions and government contracts and connections, and using them to extort bribes and money from Mr and Mrs Ordinary Afghan. Under Karzai, the production of opium actually increased. Iraq descended into sectarian violence and civil war, while the mercenary companies brought in as peacekeepers ran amok, setting up prostitution and drug rings. They also shot ordinary Iraqis for fun.

Mike has pointed out in the above article that while Corbyn has been spot on, Boris’ predictions are so off target that he could have taken them from a box of Christmas crackers. Actually, I’d say that probably reflects the value of some of the decision makers. You can wonder if our intelligence agencies actually have any understanding of the Middle East. The CIA didn’t see the Islamic Revolution coming, for example. When it did become clear that the Shah’s regime would be toppled, they predicted that the Ayatollah Khomeini would lead a peaceful movement like Gandhi.

If only.

As for Iraq, one of the Neo-Cons critics is a female Pentagon Colonel, Kathryn W. She’s a woman of the right, a traditional Conservative who believes America has no right to interfere in the affairs of others. She is particularly scathing about the massive ignorance of Bush and his advisors of the practical realities of the Middle East. Not only that, but they were hostile to and dismissed American military staff, like General Zilli, the head of the Pentagon’s Middle East sector, who actually did. Because officers like Zilli told the Smirking Chimp what he didn’t want to hear: that it wouldn’t work, and the occupations would last a long time.

Two million people marched against the Iraq invasion. That’s two million people who knew far better than the grinning warmonger Tony Blair. Bush and Blair were not only wrong, but wilfully ignorant and greedy. And Johnson is so stupid he’s a walking insult to the intelligence.

Only one person has been consistently right about Afghanistan and Iraq – the man the media has vilified and smeared as a Communist, Trotskyite and Anti-Semite: Jeremy Corbyn.

Afghanistan: US Supported Islamist Fighters in order to Provoke Russian Invasion

November 18, 2020

Here’s another piece of US myth-making that William Blum skewers, the story that America only started funding the Islamist fighters, the Mujahideen, after the Russians invaded. America supported them as a resistance movement against Soviet occupation. In fact, the truth is almost the direct opposite. The Russians invaded the country because the US was conspiring with the Mujahideen to overthrow its secular, but pro-Russian, government. Blum writes in America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy

The Russians were not in Afghanistan to conquer it. The Soviet Union had lived next door to the country for more than sixty years without any kind of invasion. It was only when the United States intervened in Afghanistan to replace a government friendly to Moscow with one militantly anti-communist that the Russians invaded to do battle with the US-supported Islamic jihadists; precisely what the US would have done to prevent a communist government in Canada or Mexico. (p. 83).

In fact America supported the Islamist insurgency against the Afghan government in order to provoke the Soviets to invade. In his book Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (London: Zed Books 2014), Blum states

Consider Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security advisor to Jimmy Carter. In a 1998 interview he admitted that the official story that the US gave military aid to the Afghanistan opposition only after the Soviet invasion in 1979 was a lie. The truth was, he said, that the US began aiding the Islamic fundamentalist moujahedeen six months before the Russians made their move, even though he believed-and told this to Carter, who acted on it-that “this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.”

Brzezinski was asked whether he regretted this decision.

“Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving the USSR its Vietnam War. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.”

Besides the fact that there’s no demonstrable connection between the Afghanistan war and the breakup of the Soviet empire, we are faced with the consequences of that war: the defeat of a government committed to bringing the extraordinarily backward nation into the 20th century; the breathtaking carnage; moujahideen torture that even US government officials called “indescribable horror”; half the population either dead, disabled or refugees; the spawning of thousands of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, who have unleashed atrocities in numerous countries and the astounding repression of women in Afghanistan, instituted by America’s wartime allies. (pp.5-6).

It’s ironic that one of the countries that became a victim to Islamist terror was America itself. The Soviet withdrawal convinced the terrorists that they could defeat America, just as they had defeat its rival superpower. And so they plotted the attack launched on 9/11.

Blum also makes it very clear that the subsequent American invasion of Afghanistan also wasn’t in reprisal for the attack, which was the overwhelmingly the work of Saudi nationals with deep connections to the Saudi secret services. It wasn’t done to free the Afghan people from the repressive Islamist government that the Americans had actually helped to install. No, the Americans had been on good terms with the Taliban. When the Taliban was willing to cooperate with them over the construction of an oil pipeline. When talks stalled over that, the Americans threatened them with military action and then invaded six months later.

America’s wars in Afghanistan are all about geopolitics and protecting American oil interests, nothing more. And the Afghan people, not to mention everyone else killed and maimed by the Islamist terror groups those wars have produced, are the real victims. And that includes our brave boys and girls, who have been sent in kill and die for the profits of western multinationals.

And America’s legacy of terror in the Middle East naturally worries people from the region. I’ve spoken to people from those countries, who told me they were worried about Joe Biden. They weren’t impressed with Trump, but they were worried about Biden, because of his connection to Carter. Carter was the US president at the time of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. I don’t think you can blame him for that, as you can the mujahideen in Afghanistan. The Americans really didn’t see the Iranian revolution coming, and when the Ayatollah Khomeini did arrive, they completely failed to realize what would happen. The CIA believed that he would lead a peaceful revolution like Gandhi. If only. However, America did support the Shah, who by the time of the Islamic revolution was a bitterly hated absolute monarch who ruled through terror.

It seems everything we’ve been told about Afghanistan is a lie, a lie that is continually told by the lamestream media and the western political-industrial establishment.

And the broader message is that just as you can’t believe what you’ve been told about Afghanistan, so you shouldn’t believe anything else about the supposed benign actions of the American empire and its allies either.

FT Review from 2000 of Three History Books on the British Empire

July 19, 2020

Another clipping I’ve kept is a review by the Financial Time’s David Gilmour, ‘World in the Pink’, of three history books on the British Empire. The books reviewed were The Oxford History of the British Empire: The Nineteenth Century, edited by Andrew Porter, The Oxford History of the British Empire: The Twentieth Century, edited by Judith M. Brown and Wm Roger Louis; and the Oxford History of the British Empire: Historiography, edited by Robin W. Winks. The review was in the FT’s weekend edition for February 19/20 2000. I’m putting it up here as some readers might find it useful, as after the Black Lives Matter protests the history of the British empire is going to come under debate once again. The review runs

Once upon a time the British Empire was an easy subject to teach. Pupils stood in front of the schoolroom map, identified two red dots in the middle, and were encouraged to gaze with wonder at the vast expanse of similarly coloured spaces stretching from Canada at the top left to New Zealand at the bottom right. If suitably awestruck, they could then learn about these places (and how they came to be red) in the novels of Henty and Rider Haggard and in the poems of Tennyson, Kipling and Newbold.

Stout histories were also available for serious pupils to study the process of conquest and dominion, the spread of civilisation and prosperity, and, in some cases, the splendid bestowal of certain freedoms. From them students would learn that “the British Empire existed for the welfare of the world”, a belief held by many but expressed in these particularly terms by Gandhi. Guided by Providence and Queen Victoria, Britain had assumed a grandmaternal role, the mother of Dominion daughters, the “mother of parliaments” and, even more stirringly, “mother of the Free”.

The uniformity of the vision – red is red whether in Canada or Ceylon – may have been useful for the schoolteacher and the recruiting officer. But the men sent out to administer different systems all over the globe understood its limitations. The appearance of theses impressive books, the last in the five volume Oxford History of the British Empire, demonstrates that historians, after a long time-lag in the first half of the 20th century, have caught up with them.

The previous attempt at a comprehensive survey, the Cambridge History of the British Empire (published in nine volumes between 1929 and 1959), retained the anglocentric approach of earlier works, as well as their assumptions of a noble imperial purpose. Without entirely demolishing those assumptions (indeed the editor-in-chief, Roger Louis, specifically endorses some of them), the Oxford History offers more cautious and rataher more sophisticated assessments of the imperial experience. As Louis points out, these volumes do not depict it as “one of purposeful progress” nor concentrate narrowly on “metropolitan authority and rule”; nor do they see its demise as “steady decline and fall”. Their emphasis is on diversity, on a “constantly changing territorial empire and ever-shifting patterns of social and economic relations”.

The chief inspiration behind this approach is the work of the late historian Jack Gallagher and Ronald Robinson, who compared the empire to an iceberg, the visible section being the red-painted colonies and the submerged bulk representing the “imperialism of free trade”, a vast “informal empire” based on naval supremacy and economic power which extended into places such as China, Latin America and the Middle East.

Many of the contributors to the Oxford volumes apply this view to their own areas. In south-east Asia, stresses A.J. Stockwell, the demarcation between Britain’s formal empire and its neighbours was indistinct: “‘British pink’ seeped over the whole region: nearly indelible in some areas, it merely tinged other parts and elsewhere faded fast.”

The scope of these books is so large that there were bound to be gaps: Malta and Gibraltar are barely mentioned, sport and the “games ethic” are ignored, and almost nothing is said about training administrators to do their job. Yet the overall achievement is undeniably impressive. Under the magisterial guidance of Louis (a distinguished American academic whose appointment as editor raised predictable insular howls in the UK), a vast array of of historians has produced a solid monument of contemporary scholarship. Some of the contributions, such as those by E.H.H. Green on political economy and David Fitzpatrick on Ireland’s ambivalence towards the empire are brilliants – subjects that would justify individual volumes distilled into concise and lucid essays.

Naturally there can be neither a common view nor a uniformity of tone among the hundred contributors to these volumes. The assembled historians are certainly not apologists for imperialism but nor, in general, are they too apologetic about it. Several remind us of its humanitarian dimension, and Louis may have confounded his fogeyish detractors with his view that Kipling was “perhaps the greatest poet of the age”. In addition, while appropriate genuflections are made to all those contemporary “studies” (area, gender, cultural and so on), the faddish preoccupation with “discourse” (in its postmodernist and post-colonial contexts) is restricted.

Yet the work has some of the defects as well as most of the merits of current historical writing: too much drab prose, too heavy a reliance on tables and statistics, a sense (especially in Historiography) of colleagues complimenting each other while disparaging their predecessors. Few contributions show real historical imagination: several leave an aroma of seminars and obscure historical quarterlies.

The great historian Richard Cobb used to say that a good deal of French history could be walked, seen and above all heard in cafes or buses or on park benches in Paris and Lyon. But most of the academics in these volumes do not seem to share his view that history is a cultural and creative subject as well as an academic one. However diligent their research may have been, they do not write as if they have ever sat in a Delhi rickshaw or a cafe in Calcutta. Robin J. Moore directs readers to all his own books, but neither he nor any of his colleagues cite a work published in an Indian language.

Yet if these volumes have little feel for the imperial setting and its personal impact, they manage to convey the sheer scope of the enterprise, the scale of the endeavour, the means by which those little dots reddened a quarter of the map. More importantly, they demonstrate the need to study the empire’s history, not in order to glorify or denigrate, but in order to understand the centuries of interaction between the dots and their formal and informal empires.

Perhaps this history, the first to be written since the territorial dismantlement, will mark a new stage not just of reassessment but of acceptance of the empire’s importance, for good and for bad, in the history of our planet. The topic is unfashionable in Britain today – Bristol’s excellent British Empire and Commonwealth Museum has not received a penny of public money – but it might now, thanks to Louis and his collaborators, emerge as something more than a sterile debate between those who regard it as a cause for sniggering and those who see it as a reason to swagger.

Bristol’s Empire and Commonwealth Museum is no more, unfortunately. It packed up and left Bristol for new premises at the Commonwealth Institute in London, where it died the death. I believe its former collection is now housed in the Bristol’s M Shed museum. The Empire is going to be acutely relevant now with the debate over racism, social justice and what history should be taught in schools. There are parts of British imperial history that are indefensible – the conquest of the Caribbean, slavery, the extermination of indigenous Australians, the concentration camps of the Boer War, the Bengal Famine and the massacres in Kenya. Niall Ferguson in a discussion about the British empire on a programme on Radio 4 a few years ago admitted its dark side, but said that it was a benevolent institution, although he qualified this. I think he said something to the effect of ‘just about’. For a short history of the negative side of the British empire – its domination, exploitation and massacre, see John Newsinger’s The Blood Never Dried. But it was also responsible for bring modern, western science, education and medicine to distant parts of the globe.

And it did try to stamp out slavery worldwide, not only where it had established and exploited it, but also indigenous slavery and forms of servitude around the world. That shouldn’t be forgotten either.

Hindu Nationalist Persecution of Christians in India under Modi’s Government

July 4, 2019

One of the ladies at our church gave a talk on Wednesday about the growing persecution of Christians in India by Hindu extremists, aided and abetted by President Narendra Modi and his squalid Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. This is an important issue for a number of reasons, and needs to be discussed. It’s naturally important to Christians concerned with the persecution members of their faith face in many other countries, but there are other reasons why it is important. It contradicts the view being pushed by the islamophobic right, that Christians are only, or primarily persecuted by Muslims. This is being particularly promoted by the neocons and Christian Zionists, like Ted Hagee’s Christians United for Israel, who, it seems, are using it to work up support for Israel and for further western imperialist wars in the Middle East. Although the article was written for Christians, the laws criminalising Christian conversion and the mob violence they face are also part of a general persecution directed at other non-Hindu religious minorities, such as Muslims and Sikhs. Discussing the resistible rise of the BJP two decades or so ago, Private Eye’s ‘Letter from India’ described how the BJP was connected to the militant RSSS, a militant Indian nationalist organisation which was partly modeled on Mussolini’s Fascists, and which was responsible for attacks on Muslims, Sikhs and Christians.

I am also certainly not blaming all Hindus for the actions of the BJP, or trying to attack Hinduism generally. Hinduism is a religion with a bewildering number of deities and sects, and thus has an impressive reputation for pluralism and tolerance. The extremists encouraged by the BJP also target moderate, liberal or secular Hindus because of their support of Gandhi and Nehru’s vision of India as a religiously tolerant, secular nation in which people of different faiths could live together in harmony and peace. The Hindu extremists not only reject this, they also passionately and vehemently despised its founder. A week or so ago one of the columnists in the I published a piece about how shocked they were when they first met a Hindu, who hated Gandhi. The Hindu extreme right despise and vilify Gandhi because they wanted India to be a Hindu state, and believed he had done too much to appease the Muslims.

I am also very much aware that Christian has also been spread through imperialism and military force, and has persecuted non-Christians. I don’t approve of or justify this. Religious persecution is wrong, no matter which religion is doing it.

Christianity in India is very ancient. Before Europeans arrived, there was already an indigenous Indian, Syriac Christian church. The Mar Thoma Christian church of Kerala believe that Christianity was brought to India in 50 or 52 AD by the apostle Thomas, who was martyred in Chennai in 72 AD. In 883 AD Sighelm, an ambassador to Kerala from the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex, visited his shrine to present thank offering from King Alfred. Another apostle, Nathanael (Bartholomew) also visited India in the first century, who brought with him a copy of Matthew’s Gospel in Hebrew. Documentary evidence suggests that Christianity had reached India by the early third century AD. By 225 there was a bishop in Baith Lapat, now Shahabad in Northern India, caring for the souls of a Christian community that had been converted by missionaries from Persia and what is now Iraq. The following century, Bishop John the Persian signed the Nicene Creed, which had been drawn up as the formal statement of the Christian faith “on behalf of (the churches) in the whole of Persia, and in the great India.”

The Indian Christian population is 65 million., and comprises about 2% of the population of India, 80% of whom are Hindus. In 2016 there were 348 incidents of persecution in India recorded by the Evangelical Fellowship of India. In 2017 this increased to 736, of which 351 were violent. Many incidents probably haven’t been recorded, and so the true number is probably higher.

The BJP has also passed a series of laws, ostensibly against forced conversion, as part of their campaign against Christianity. These forbid the use of force, fraud or allurement in conversion. I’m very much aware of the term ‘rice Christianity’, dating from the 19th century. This came from the supposed tactics of some missionaries, who promised the starving a bowl of rice if they converted. The use of such inducements to get people to convert is clearly immoral. But the laws brought in against them allow Christians to be falsely accused of these tactics. In September 2017 the Jharkhand state government passed a freedom of religion law, which punishes those guilty of using ‘coercion’ to convert Hindus with three years in prison. Anyone, who wishes to change their faith, has to obtain prior permission from a magistrate. Christians have been subjected to violence and arrest, and churches disrupted because of accusations that they are breaking these laws. But the BJP is determined to roll them out nationally. The opposition party has also moved rightward to compete with the BJP, and there is fears that this will also lead to greater intolerance of religious minorities.

The tactics used against Christians not only include social exclusion, but also assault and attacks and sabotage of church buildings and private homes. They are also subject to boycotts, and a campaign, “Ghar Wapsi” (homecoming) to force Indian Christians to renounce their faith. Two years ago, in January 2017, a 50 year-old Christian convert, Bartu Urawn, and his wife were immersed in a pond by a mob for 17 hours by a mob from their village in order to force them to recant their faith. Urawn refused, dying afterwards from his ordeal. The police, however, recorded his death as ‘natural causes’. Rural Christians are especially vulnerable, and all too often the police arrest the victims instead of the perps.

Many Christians are also Dalits, formerly the untouchables, the lowest-rung of the Hindu caste system, and are considered impure and polluting by the higher castes. There is a quota system to give them access to education and employment, but these quotas don’t apply to Christians or Muslims. They’ve also suffered attacks on their homes, churches, and water sources.

See ‘Courageous faith: India’s pressured christians’ in barnabasaid, March/April 2019, pp. 6-7.

I am also very much aware that the Christian right in several American states is trying to pass ‘freedom of religion’ laws with the same intention as the Hindu extremists in the above article: to exclude religious and secular minorities from political involvement. It hasn’t quite reached the level of the Hindu extremists as described in the above article, but the intolerance of parts of the American Christian right is similar in intensity.

The BJP is, if not Fascist, then certainly fascistic in its extreme nationalism. Indeed, a prayer used by one of the BJP’s allies or constituent organisations is included in an academic textbook on Fascism to illustrate Fascism’s mystical component. The BJP is part of the growth of religious and ethnic intolerance throughout the world. And as the book, Falling Off The Edge shows, a major cause of this tension and conflict is neoliberalism. The doctrine of absolute free trade without any form of government interference means that conditions for ordinary working people across the globe, whether in the developed West or the developing world, has got worse. And as conditions of grinding poverty have increased, so people have turned on minorities as scapegoats for their rage and desperation.

It’s what’s behind the growth of fascism in working class White communities in Britain. And I’ve no doubt it’s also behind the growth of Hindu extremism in India, all encouraged and promoted by Modi. It’s one of the classic tactics of the wealthy elite everywhere to divert opposition away from themselves by claiming that mainstream society is perfect. It’s only ethnic or religious minorities, who are behind all societies problems. Minorities like Jews, Muslims, Christians, Blacks, Asians or gays, depending on the society.

But one thing is absolutely certain: Fascism and intolerance has to be fought everywhere, along with the neoliberal economics that force people into poverty, despair and racism or religious extremism, whatever the colour or creed of the persecutors or their victims.

Hunt Wrong, Corbyn Right Not to Trust Intelligence Services on Iran

June 18, 2019

Yesterday I put up a piece stating that the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, was quite right to demand evidence that Iran was responsible for the explosions that have destroyed several tankers in the Persian Gulf. This is against the accusations that Trump and the Tory government have hurled against the Iranians, who protest their innocence.

Iran is a very authoritarian theocracy with an abysmal record of human rights abuses. The Iranian secret services are capable of organising terror attacks. In the 1980s they bombed a cafe in Berlin used by Kurdish separatists. More recently they sent out naval vessels to seize the crew of a British warship in the Gulf, whom they eventually released. And there are hardliners in the Iranian government, theocracy and military who would wish to start a war with the West.

The False Claims about Iraq and 9/11

But against this, there is the long history of the American Neocons manufacturing pretexts for attacks on and invasions of countries for no other reason than that they are obstacles to American and Western geopolitical and commercial imperialism. The Iraq invasion is a case in point. George W. Bush and Blair accused Saddam Hussein of supporting Osama Bin Laden 9/11 attack. The Blair creature, as Peter Hitchens calls him, told us all that we had to go and support the American-led invasion of Iraq, because the Iraqi dictator could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes. It was a lie. All of it. Saddam Hussein had zilch to do with 9/11, and there were no weapons of mass destruction. 17 of the 19 attackers in 9/11 were Saudis. None were Iraqis. The American intelligence agencies were aware that the Saudi spy agencies were involved with the attack, and the evidence pointed that involvement in it went all the way to the top, though direct evidence was lacking as the threads petered out. The American intelligence services were also acutely aware that after their invasion of Iraq, Saudi intelligence was supplying arms and collaborating with al-Qaeda and ISIS in their attacks in Iraq and Syria. Since then, records have been discovered that show that the Iraqis were interested in working with bin Laden against the West. But al-Qaeda overwhelmingly hated and despised Hussein and the Ba’athists because they were secular Arab socialists.

Real Reasons for Iraq Invasion

The real reason the Neocons wanted to oust Hussein was entirely down to western imperial ambitions. The Americans and the Saudis wanted the Iraqi oil industry and its reserves, as the latter is the largest outside Saudi Arabia. American multinationals also wanted to take over Iraqi state enterprises. And the Neocons also hoped to turn the country into the low-tax, free trade economy that they’d like to foist on America itself. And they and the Israelis also wanted Hussein overthrown because he supported the Palestinians.

Neocon and Multinationals’ Motives for Possible Invasion of Iran

I have no doubt that similar reasons are behind the latest accusations against Iran by Trump. I don’t think the American right has quite recovered from the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the overthrow of the Shah, one of America’s and Israel’s allies in the region. After the Revolution, the Iranians nationalised the oil industry, taking it out of the hands of private, foreign companies. This was exactly like Mohammed Mossadeq, the country’s democratically elected prime minister, had done in the 1950s. The Iranian oil industry at the time was controlled by Anglo-Persian Oil, the British company that became BP. We joined the Americans in a CIA operation which overthrew Mossadeq, a coup which eventually led to the Shah assuming absolute power as a ruthless autocrat. I don’t doubt that American and British oil interests dearly want to grab the Iranian oil industry back. I also don’t doubt that American and western multinationals would also like to get their corporate mitts on the 51 per cent or so of the Iranian economy dominated by the state enterprises and the bonyads, the Islamic charitable foundations also managed by the state theocracy. The Neocons also want the current theocracy overthrown, not because they are genuinely interested in the wellbeing of the average Iranian, but because Iran is a fierce opponent of Israel. The dominant religion of Iran is Twelver Shi’ism, and since the overthrow of Hussein Iran has become increasingly influential amongst Iraqi Shi’a. The Saudis and other Gulf states are Sunni Muslims, who fear and oppress their own Shi’a population. A few years ago one of the leading Saudi clerics declared that the Shi’a were ‘enemies of the faith’ and ‘worthy of death’. They would like to see Iran conquered, I don’t doubt, as part of their religious campaign against Shi’a Islam.

Jeremy Hunt was in the news today as it’s reported he’s trying to calm the situation down and de-escalate tensions before it does come to violence. But he’s still criticising Corbyn for not automatically accepting Iranian responsibility for the attacks. Corbyn has committed the unforgivable sin of demanding evidence. And so he’s been grossly misrepresented as siding with the Iranians against Britain. Hunt has also attacked the Labour leader for not automatically accepting the word of the British intelligence agencies that Iran’s responsible.

But Corbyn’s quite right, and the British spy agencies can’t be trusted. 

There’s ample evidence of this. Let’s go back to the Iraq invasion. Hussein didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, but Blair insisted that they did so he could have an excuse for joining George Dubya’s invasion. And so, under government pressure, the ‘dodgy dossier’ was concocted by the spy agencies, which purported to show that Hussein did.

And British Intelligence has a very long record of publishing disinformation, propaganda and sheer lies against the British Left.

There’s the case of the Zinoviev letter in the 1920s. This was supposedly a letter written by the Russian head of the Comintern to the Labour party encouraging them to start a revolution and turn Britain into a Communist satellite, and it was published by the British press just before a general election. It’s believed that the letter was a major cause of Labour losing it to the Tories. The letter was an utter fabrication, created by MI 5 to discredit Labour. And British intelligence have kept doing it. In the 1970s MI 5 was behind various rumours and attempts to overthrow the Labour leader and Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, because he was a KGB spy. This was part of a wider campaign of disinformation during the Cold War, designed to combat the spread of Communism. The agency responsible for this, the Information Research Department, and the other agencies also manufactured stories claiming that the IRA were collaborating with the Soviet Union, and that high profile members of the Labour left were also either Communist agents or sympathisers or members of the IRA. This has continued to today. Just a year or so ago, the Institute for Statecraft, a propaganda outfit churning out online pieces attacking politicians and other public figures, whom they thought were too close to Putin, was revealed as being funded by the British government. And although it’s a private organisation, it has links to the British intelligence agencies and the section of the SAS responsible for cyberwarfare. It’s no surprise that Jeremy Corbyn was one of those smeared as a supporter or agent of Putin.

And this is quite apart from the agencies’ grubby record rigging elections and doing other dirty tricks in Britain’s former colonies, in order to make sure that they remained loyal to Britain. This is extensively described in a recent book published by a mainstream historian.

And aside from producing propaganda, disinformation and outright lies, British intelligence at one time was also notorious for its incompetence.

Apparently Margaret Thatcher was the only Prime Minister, so it was claimed in the 1990s, who regularly read their reports. Other Prime Ministers didn’t bother for the simple reason that they were rubbish. Among the failures of the western intelligence agencies was the fact that they didn’t predict the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The only organisation that knew that a revolution was coming were the Tudeh, the Iranian Communist party. And they made the mistake of assuming it would be a Communist uprising. The CIA also thought that the Ayatollah Khomeini would be a leader in the mould of Gandhi, preaching non-violent opposition, instead of the radical firebrand he actually was.

Now British intelligence might be right about Iranian responsibility for these bombings, but they need to offer evidence. Evidence that can be subjected to proper scrutiny and independent analysis. If that is not forthcoming, then the long history of the British intelligence agencies in publishing lies and propaganda, including against the Labour party and other elements of the domestic Left, means that their word cannot be trusted.

Corbyn is quite right not to trust the word of the spy agencies automatically, and demand proper evidence. Until that is produced, it seems clear to me that the British and American right-wing political and media elite, and their secret states, are merely producing more smears to prepare for Iran’s invasion. And this is being driven not by anything the Iranians are doing, but simply for the same geopolitical and corporate imperialism behind the invasion of Iraq.

John McDonnell Outrages Tories with Comments about Churchill’s Villainy

February 16, 2019

John McDonnell kicked up a storm of controversy this week when, in an interview with the Politico website on Wednesday, he described Winston Churchill as a villain. McDonnell was answering a series of quick-fire questions, and the one about Churchill was ‘Winston Churchill. Hero or villain?’ McDonnell replied ‘Tonypandy – villain’. This referred to the Tonypandy riots of 1910, when striking miners were shot down by the army after clashing with the police. According to the I’s article on the controversy on page 23 of Wednesday’s edition, Churchill initially refused requests to send in the troops, instead sending a squad of metropolitan police. Troops were also sent in to stand in reserve in Cardiff and Swindon. Following further rioting, Churchill sent in the 18th Hussars. He later denied it, but it was widely believed that he had given orders to use live rounds. There’s still very strong bitterness amongst Welsh working people about the massacre. The I quoted Louise Miskell, a historian at Swansea University, who said that ‘He is seen as an enemy of the miners’.

Boris Johnson, who has written a biography of Churchill, was naturally outraged, declaring ‘Winston Churchill saved this country and the whole of Europe from a barbaric fascist and racist tyranny, and our debt to him is incalculable’. He also said that McDonnell should be ashamed of his remarks and withdraw them forthwith.

McDonnell, speaking on ITV news, said that although he didn’t want to upset people, he’d give the same answer again to that question if he was honest, and said that he welcomed it if it has prompted a more rounded debate about Churchill’s role. He said that Churchill was undoubtedly a hero during the Second World War, but that this was not necessarily the case in other areas of his life. He said ‘Tonypandy was a disgrace.: sending the troops in, killing a miner, tryinig to break a strike and other incidents in his history as well.’

The I then gave a brief list of various heroic and villainous incidents. These were

* Saving Britain from the Nazis during and helping to lead the Allies to victory during the Second World War.

* Introducing the Trade Boards Bill of 1909, which established the first minimum wages system for various trades across the UK.

* Making the famous speech about an Iron Curtain coming down across Europe in 1946.

* According to his biographer, John Charmley, Churchill believed in a racial hierarchy and eugenics, and that at the top of this were White Protestant Christians.

* Saying that it was ‘alarming and nauseating’ seeing Gandhi ‘striding half-naked up the steps of the vice-regal palace.’ He also said ‘I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion’.

* Three million people died in the Bengal famine of 1943, in which Churchill refused to deploy food supplies.

It’s in the context of the Bengal famine that Churchill made his vile remarks about Indians. The Bengalis starved because their grain had been sequestered as back up supplies to fee British troops. In the end they weren’t needed, according to one video I’ve seen on YouTube. Churchill also said that the famine was their fault for having too many children.

He also supported the brief British invasion of Russia to overthrow the Communist Revolution, and the use of gas on Russian troops. Just as he also wanted to use gas to knock out, but not kill, Iraqi troops in Mesopotamia when they revolted in the 1920s against British rule.

He also said that ‘Keep Britain White’ was a good slogan for the Tories to go into the 1951 general election.

It’s clearly true that Churchill’s determined opposition to the Nazis did help lead to a free Europe and the defeat of Nazi Germany. But according to the historian of British Fascism, Martin Pugh, he did not do so out of opposition to Fascism per se. He was afraid that Nazi Germany posed a threat to British interests in the North Sea. The Conservative journo, Peter Hitchens, is very critical of Churchill and Britain’s entry into the Second World War. He rightly points out that Churchill wasn’t interested in saving the Jews, but that we went in because of the treaties we had signed with Poland and France. As for defeating Nazism, historians have for a long time credited the Soviet Red Army with breaking the back of the Wehrmacht. In one of Spike Milligan’s war memoirs, he jokes that if Churchill hadn’t sent the troops in, then the Iron Curtain would begin about Bexhill in Kent. Churchill also went on a diplomatic visit to Mussolini’s Italy after the Duce seized power, though privately he remarked that the man was ‘a perfect swine’ after the Italian dictator declared that his Blackshirts were ‘the equivalent of your Black and Tans’. For many people, that’s an accurate comparison, given how brutal and barbaric the Black and Tans were. And as an authoritarian, Churchill also got on very well and liked General Franco. And George Orwell also didn’t take Churchill seriously as the defender of democracy. In the run-up to the outbreak of war, he remarked that strange things were occurring, one of which was ‘Winston Churchill running around pretending to be a democrat’.

Now I don’t share Hitchen’s view that we shouldn’t have gone into the Second World War. The Nazis were determined to exterminate not just Jews, Gypsies and the disabled, but also a large part of the Slavic peoples of eastern Europe. One Roman Catholic site I found had an article on Roman Catholic and Christian martyrs under the Nazis. This began with the Nazis’ attempts to destroy the Polish people, and particularly its intellectuals, including the Polish Roman Catholic Church. It quoted Hitler as saying that war with Poland would a be a war of extermination. Hitler in his Table Talk as also talks about exterminating the Czechs, saying that ‘It’s them or us.’ Churchill may have gone into the War entirely for reasons of British imperial security, but his action nevertheless saved millions of lives right across Europe. It overthrew a regime that, in Churchill’s words, threatened to send the continent back into a new Dark Age, lit only by the fire of perverted science’.

Having said that does not mean he was not a monster in other areas. The General Strike was a terrible defeat for the British working class, but if Churchill had been involved it would almost certainly have been met with further butchery on his part. Again, according to Pugh, Churchill was all set to send the army in, saying that they were ready to do their duty if called on by the civil authority. The Tory prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, was all too aware of what would happen, and when another minister of civil servant suggested finding him a position in the Post Office or the department looking after the radio, he enthusiastically agreed, because it would keep Churchill out of trouble.

As for the Bengal famine, I think that still haunts Indian nationalists today. I was looking at the comments on Al-Jazeera’s video on YouTube about the UN finding severe poverty in Britain a few months ago. There was a comment left by someone with an Indian name, who was entirely unsympathetic and said he looked forward to our country being decimated by starvation. My guess is that this vicious racist was partly inspired in his hatred of Britain by the famine, as well as other aspects of our rule of his country.

I think McDonnell’s remarks, taken as a whole, are quite right. McDonnell credited him with his inspiring leadership during the War, but justifiably called him a villain because of the Tonypandy massacre. And eyewitnesses to the rioting said that the miners really were desperate. They were starving and in rags. And Churchill should not be above criticism and his other crimes and vile statements and attitudes disregarded in order to create a sanitized idol of Tory perfection, as Johnson and the other Tories would like.

Counterpunch Interview with Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Campaigners

May 6, 2017

Last week, Counterpunch published an interview by Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb with Sami Awad, a Christian Palestinian, and Yoav Litvin, a former Israeli soldier, about their campaigns to bring about an end to the brutalisation of the Palestinian people and conflict between Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land, based on the Gandhian principles of nonviolence and civil resistance. For example, Sami Awad in the articles states that he is horrified that Palestinian children don’t have Jewish friends, thanks to the system of segregation. Rabbi Gottlieb also notes that apart from the well-known conflict between Israelis and Arabs there are also tensions between Eurpean and American descended Jews and the Mizrahim, the indigenous Middle Eastern Jews. She states that the myth of the Jews returning to their ancestral homeland after 2000 years of exile has resulted in the Jewish state erasing the long history of the region’s indigenous Jews.

In her introduction, Rabbi Gottlieb writes

Sami Awad and Yoav Litvin are two men whose lives have been deeply impacted by the events of 1948 and 1967 when Palestinians were collectively driven from their homes and villages in order to make room for Jewish settlement. The Israeli Occupation of Palestine is ongoing; Israeli policies that resulted from the events of 1948 and 1967 continue to create daily suffering in the lives of Palestinians.

Sami Awad comes from a lineage of Palestinian Christians from Bethlehem. He was influenced to follow the path of nonviolence by his uncle, Mubarak Awad, a follower of Gandhi. Sami created an alternative institution, The Holy Land Trust, which is part of the wave of nonviolent movement building dedicated to resisting Occupation, which grew out of the first Intifada.

Yoav Litvin went through a personal journey from acceptance of the pre-determined role of Zionist soldier-guardian, to a person who dissents from the Israeli status quo regarding Palestinians. He uses his skills as a psychologist/neuroscientist and writer/artist to promote accountability, healing and reconciliation.

People who resist the systemic violence of Israeli Occupation in Palestine and Israel have a lot to teach us about building nonviolent movements for justice and social change under extremely challenging conditions. Millions of Palestinians suffer under a settler-colonial regime that is engaged in continuous appropriation of land, ghettoization and isolation, the imposition of hundreds of check points that curtail freedom of movement and economic growth, destruction of homes, villages and farm land, forced water deprivation, the blockade of Gaza, constant military invasion and assault, two separate and unequal systems of justice and so many other features of Israeli rule that deprive Palestinians of their capacity to live peacefully and without fear upon the land of their ancestors or fulfill their personal dreams. In addition to the Israeli Jewish and Palestinian conflict, social, political, cultural and economic divides among Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jews in Israel is another complex component of the process of conflict transformation. The Zionist myth of a 2000-year absence and subsequent return of Jews to the land erases the long history of the Jews of the Middle East who are indigenous to the region.

In response to Israeli apartheid, Palestinians have chosen to resist forced removal from ancestral lands with a variety of mostly nonviolent tactics. Inspired by the successful South African struggle to end apartheid, Palestinians called upon the international community to take up boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as a nonviolent solidarity tactic on July 9, 2005 after the International Court of Justice declared the Separation Wall illegal on July 9, 2004. In addition to BDS, Palestinians employ prisoner hunger strikes, Friday demonstrations against the Separation Barrier, the creation of ‘Tent Cities’, and Palestinian cultural arts to remain ‘sumud’, that is, ‘steadfast’ to their commitment to keep living on ancestral lands and preserving Palestinian culture. Palestinians refuse to be erased from history and place. Intifada, in its original meaning, means to shake off oppression through the art of resistance. This is a daily, and unavoidable practice for Palestinians, as it is a condition of existence under Israeli occupation for those who remain.

Israeli Jews who dissent from Occupation, although few in number, continue to create methods of solidarity in support of Palestinian human rights. Groups such as Israeli Committee Against Home Demolition (ICAHD), Combatants for Peace, Breaking the Silence, Who Profits?, Anarchists Against the Wall, Machsom Watch, Shministim, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and +972 are platforms of resistance to Occupation. The Palestinian community living inside ‘1948’ also engages in resistance through alternative institution building and human rights advocacy that includes groups like Adalah-the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Adammer (prisoner rights) and many more. Palestinians living inside Israel face ongoing assaults on their capacity to remain on traditional lands and neighborhoods as well as achieve equal rights under Israeli law. The ongoing atmosphere of racism is the price Palestinians pay for continuing to live in Israel.

This is a fascinating alternative insight into the activism of decent, honourable men and women, seeking to remove a monstrous injustice. Much of this is new to me. I don’t believe I’ve heard anyone talking about non-violent resistance by the Palestinians. The news you hear about from the region seems to be exclusively about bloodshed. I’ve come across the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, but have never come across many of the other Israeli groups mentioned in this article, such as Combatants for Peace. I’m not surprised, however. Amos Oz in his book, The Israelis, records the sorrow and guilt expressed by many Israeli soldiers for their role in expelling Palestinians during the Six Day War.

The article’s at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/28/never-give-up-nonviolent-civilian-resistance-healing-and-active-hope-in-the-holyland/

May the Lord bless all those striving to bring a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and indeed to everyone trying to create a better future in the Middle East, one without terror, sectarianism, and imperialism.