Posts Tagged ‘Guantanamo Bay’

Abby Martin on the Jimmy Dore Show Talks about US Crimes of Empire: Part 2

November 18, 2017

This is the second part of my article on the interview with Abby Martin on the Jimmy Dore Show. Martin is the presenter of the Empire Files on TeleSur English, and a former presenter at RT. She is impassioned, incisive and tells the story of the victims of American and western imperialism both abroad in the Middle East and elsewhere, and the mass of severely normal Americans at home burdened with the tax bill and the sheer rapacious greed of the neoliberal, corporate elite.

She states that Boeing and the other big corporations fund the adverts in the media simply to show the journos, who’s paying their wages, and so keep in line. The media is now all about advertising, not news.

They then talk about the rampant Russia-phobia, which Martin says is causing her to lose her mind. At first she just thought it was the product of Trump and his brown shirts. Dore rips this to shreds by pointing out that it’s not Russia that preventing Americans from getting what they want on a range of issues. 90 per cent of Americans want some form of gun control. But they ain’t getting, and it’s not because of Russia. 80 per cent of the US wanted a public option for Obamacare. Didn’t get it. Not because of Russia either. Americans also want Medicare For All and free college education. Denied that too – but not by the Russians. And everybody in America wants the wars to end. And it ain’t the Russians that are preventing that from happening. The people really screwing America is Wall Street, the military-industrial complex, big pharma, and the fossil fuel industry.

Back to Boeing and its adverts, the company’s funding Meet the Press to shut the press up. Half of America doesn’t believe in climate change, because it’s just presented by the media as just another point of view. And this is because the networks are funded by the fossil fuel industry. And the networks bring on general after endless general to talk about how the US should go to war with North Korea. All they talk about is how the war should be fought, but they are never challenged on the reason why. They never bring on Medea Benjamin, the head of the anti-war opposition group, Code Pink, except to mock her. Similarly, you never see union leaders on TV, nor are there any anti-war voices. As for Brian Williams, who was sacked for telling porkies about how he took fire, his real crime was that he didn’t tell his audience that the ‘objective’ news he was broadcasting was paid for by the generals who appeared on his show.

They then talk about the revolving door between the generals and the defence contractors. After the generals retire, they go to work for some company like General Electric. Martin talks about the $500 million in one bill sponsored by John McCain, to train the Ukrainians against Russian aggression. She caustically and accurately remarks that ‘we’re now funding neo-Nazis’, after setting up the coup that overthrew their last president. America is also giving $750 million to Israel for defence.

The Russia scare was hatched by Ralph Mook and John Podesta in the Democrat party, and it’s grown into a huge conspiracy. Martin describes how she saw it all developing three years ago when she was working for RT. They first attacked Al-Jazeera, demonising it as the propaganda wing of Saddam Hussein. Then they turned against RT as a network and her personally. She states that the report on which the accusations are based is rubbish. It looks like it was half written by some unpaid intern. There’s that contempt for any truth or real fact in this document. She noticed when one of RT’s presenters publicly resigned over Putin’s annexation of the Crimea. That was a psy-ops operation launched by William Kristol, one of the founders of the Neocons and the head of the Project for the New American Century. There was absolute no proof that Russia was meddling in American democracy. And half of the document attacked Martin personally. It was fomenting radical discontent, and the elite hated the way they covered third parties, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street. so talking about how half of America has less than $1,000 in savings is now Russian propaganda. It’s at this point that Martin states she never said anything in praise in Putin. She states that there are plenty of leftists and socialists working at the network, not because they like Putin, but because there is nowhere else to go.

They then talk about how the Democrat party is full of people, who voted for Bush twice. And particularly the way Keith Olberman, whom Martin had previously admired, came out and publicly apologised to George Dubya. She states that Bush is a war criminal. He set up a gulag (Guantanamo) killed and tortured people wholesale, but when he appeared on Oprah she held his hand as if he was Buddha! Martin said she realised Obama was a fake when he refused to prosecute the war criminals. So now they have Trump, who’s hated because he’s a narcissist, but knows he will have people applauding every time he bombs people. They ask rhetorically whether the media will apologise to Nixon if Trump wins a second term.

They then go on to discuss how Trump is actually less dangerous, and more of a threat to the establishment, then Mike Pence, the Vice-President. Martin describes Pence, with good reason, as a ‘Christian ISIS who wants to kill gays’. He’s psychotic, but you wouldn’t have the cult of personality you have with Trump. She states that the Christian Evangelicals love him, as without him they wouldn’t have got in. And so Pence and DeVos are quite happy to use him as the fall guy, taking the rap for the policies they’re pushing through Congress. Trump represents the worst elements in society – the cult of celebrity, of reality TV shows, the adulation given to millionaires. She states that Joyce Behar, another personality, was paradoxically the voice of reason when she said on one interview that things wouldn’t be better if they only got rid of Trump. No, not if that meant Mike Pence becoming president. They talk about how, when Bush was in power, everyone talked about Bush Derangement Disorder. Then it was Obama Derangement Disorder, and now its Trump Derangement Disorder. But Dore also points out that progressives dodged a bullet with Trump. Voting for the lesser of two evils meant that they got Trump, who is too incompetent to get his policies through.

To be continued in Part 3.

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Joe Rogan on Conspiracy Theories and Alex Jones’ Comments on Charlottesville

August 18, 2017

It seems that Alex Jones just keeps going lower and lower in his statements and mouthings about stupid and poisonous conspiracy theories.

In this clip, Joe Rogan, the host of an internet radio show in the US, and his co-presenter talk about conspiracies and conspiracy theories. They discuss the problem of credibility and the refusal of people to accept when they genuinely don’t know anything. They also contrast real conspiracies with the wild, bogus theories spouted by Alex Jones.

Rogan gives as an example of a real conspiracy the plan by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the 1960s to shoot down an American passenger aircraft and blame it on Cuba. There were also other strategies to arm Cuban friendlies to attack Guantanamo Bay, thus allowing them to blame it on Castro and start a war. These are genuine conspiracies, which have been revealed by documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

He contrasts these with the bizarre, deep conspiracies, such as Kennedy being assassinated by his driver, and the rubbish pushed by Alex Jones.

Alex Jones is the main man behind Infowars, and I’ve blogged many times about his insane and dangerous theories. Jones is a 9/11 truther, but has gone on to claim that the ‘globalists’ who run the world really are demonic entities, either literally so, or are extra-dimensional aliens. The global elite sacrifice children to Satan, and perform black magic orgies. Barak Obama was possessed by demons. So is Hillary Clinton, though she may also be a robot or cyborg. The Clintons were also involved in a paedophile ring running out of a Boston pizza parlour. Gay rights activists are a ‘transhumanist space cult intent on producing genderless humans’.

And the global elite, including Obama, are just waiting to incarcerate true, freedom-loving Americans in concentration camps. They also manufacture emergencies, including gun crime and mass shootings, in order to pass legislation to deprive Americans further of the rights and liberties. Of which, the most important is the right to carry guns.

Hence he declared that the Sandy Hook school shooting was entirely fake, and that the victims were all ‘crisis actors’. Apart from being massively wrong and offensive, this has led to the nutters, who believe this nonsense approaching the bereaved parents to challenge them about the deaths of their children.

And now it appears Jones has done something similar following the events at Charlottesville. He has claimed that the violence there was staged by ‘Jewish actors’, at least according to Rogan. If this is true, then it’s a new low. The mob marching to defend the statue definitely included real Klan members and Nazis. These stormtroopers really did try to beat up and kill the counterdemonstrators, and the anti-racists inside a meeting hall, attended an inter-racial, interfaith meeting, in which the participants included Dr. Cornell West and Rev. Traci Blackmon, two Christian ministers committed to social justice. West and Blackmon have stated that it was the anarchists and the Antifa, who rescued them when it looked like the Nazis were going to beat them to death.

And the Nazis also marched on a local synagogue, surrounded it, and chanted ‘Sieg heil’, terrorizing those gathered for the evening service. The rabbi and staff were so frightened, that they smuggled the Torah scroll out of the backdoor in case the Nazis should try to damage it.

Rogan and his fellow presenter also state that these daft conspiracy theories are a distraction from what the authorities really are covertly doing.

This is all absolutely correct. Parapolitical writers, like Robin Ramsay, the editor of Lobster, draw a distinction between real conspiracies, such as those discussed by Rogan and his fellow host, which they sometimes term ‘parapolitics’ or ‘Deep Politics’, and the bogus conspiracy theories, such as Jones’ rants about the coming one world Satanic state, the various anti-Semitic theories about the Jewish bankers, and contact with shape-changing alien lizards.

As for Jones and his nonsense about ‘Jewish actors’, this is stuff of which the Nazis would have been proud. The Nazis and fellow Fascist parties in the rest of Europe, like Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists, blamed just about every misfortune on the Jews, including their own negative image. Mosley devotes an entire chapter in his autobiography, My Life, to what he calls ‘Jewish opposition’, claiming that he was unfairly maligned by his Jewish opponents. Needless to say, he wasn’t. His biographer, Skidelsky, claimed that Mosley wasn’t originally anti-Semitic, but only became so after he was attacked as such by the Jews. He supposedly ordered one of his lieutenants, who came from the Britons or another of the anti-Semitic societies, to look into it. And this officer then duly came up with the daft conspiracy theories and libels blaming everything on them. More recent studies, such as by Stephen Dorrill and his biography of Mosley, Blackshirt, have shown Mosley was anti-Semitic from the start.

Jones, and those figures on the right like him, are going down a very dangerous path when they repeat the same type of lies that the Nazis used to try and fool people into believing that they weren’t a collection of violent thugs intent on mass murder.

It’s questionable how much of this bilge Jones really believes. Jones has tried to defend himself in the court case involving custody of his children by having his lawyer release a statement that he doesn’t believe any of it, and that he just a ‘performance artist’, like a ‘rodeo clown’. If true, it means he’s consciously lying, which makes him even more similar to Goebbels in this matter.

I admit, I’ve got a lot of pleasure before now from watching Jones’ insane rants and antics. But this is rapidly coming to an end. When he starts lying about real Nazis, who act like Nazis attacking Blacks, Jews, gays and anti-racist Whites, he’s crossed a line.

Even looking at him to get a laugh out of his ravings is dangerous. Karl Dietrich Bracher, a German historian of Nazism, describes in one of his books how some Germans turned up at Hitler’s rallies and his denunciation of the Jews and others simply as a bit of fun, without taking it seriously.

After Charlottesville, a number of internet servers are refusing to host Nazi and White supremacist sites. After Jones’ comments about the violence in Charlottesville being the fault of ‘Jewish actors’, his show should be treated the same way as well.

The Six Tories for Leaving Europe, Who’ll Make You Want to Stay In

February 21, 2016

Mike has posted up a picture on Vox Political of the grim Rogue’s Gallery of leading Tories supporting Britain leaving the EC. He refers to them as six good reasons not to vote for the Brexit. They include John Whittingdale, Theresa Villiers, Ian Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling, Michael Gove and Priti Patel. See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/20/at-least-six-good-reasons-not-to-support-brexit/.

This is absolutely right, and current EU legislation at least helps keep some of their monstrous policies in check. For example, Priti ‘As a Picture’ Patel, was one of the authors of Britannia Unchained, a vile little screed which scorned British workers for being lazy, and told us all that we should work harder, for less, because that’s what people in the Third World were doing. Except that in this case, the reverse was true. The people of the Developing World were working harder, because we were. If we work fewer hours, for a bit more money, they might get a bit more too out of their employers. At the moment, British workers, as part of the EU, are guaranteed certain minimal rights under the Social Charter. Naturally, the Tories hate this with a passion. If we leave the EU, Patel and her fellow slave drivers will get their way and strip British workers of the rights and benefits we’ve built up over centuries.

Then there’s Chris Grayling. Grayling’s in charge of British justice, rapidly becoming British injustice. The Tories have set up a system of secret courts, in which you may not even know what the evidence against you or who your accuser is, if someone decides this contradicts the national interest. Grayling has cut legal aid, so that the poorest now find themselves unable to afford a solicitor. And he effectively wants to set up special prisons for political offenders, starting with Islamist terrorists.

The obstacles here are the European human rights legislation and the court of justice. The Tories have long resented these on the grounds that they protect terrorists from deportation. They don’t. They do, however, protect the human rights of EU citizens, and that’s what Grayling and the rest of the Tories want to strip from British citizens. And just remember – in the 1970s the Tories were planning internment camps for Labour MPs, the Socialist Workers, Communist Party, and leaders of youth, age and minority activist groups in the Shetland Isles. And with Grayling and Cameron planning a British gitmo for Islamists, it looks like radical Muslims aren’t going to be the only people rounded up as a threat to national security.

IDS – what can I say here? He himself is a walking indictment of the Tories. The minister for chequebook genocide has done his level best to kill, starve and impoverish the poor and disabled by cutting back on welfare support. And he’s been criticised repeatedly by international organisations. These have included the UN. Of course there’s a resentment there for the welfare provision in many EU countries, and the Social Charter. So long as we’re in the EU, there will be pressure for British workers to enjoy some of the same welfare benefits as in the other EU countries in western Europe. And this drives the Tories up the wall. They would like us to leave Europe, and become more like America, or at least the Republican version thereof, where there’s little or no welfare support.

So if you truly value the freedom, rights and welfare benefits British workers currently cling on to, vote for the ‘In’ campaign. Because if you vote with those six for leaving the EU, they will deprive you of all your rights. It’s their primary reason for wanting to leave Europe. Trade has little to do with it.

The British Intelligence Service’s Plans for a Coup and the Internment of Radicals in the 1970s

February 17, 2016

Earlier this evening I reblogged a piece from Vox Political, where Mike discussed a piece in the Canary about Cameron’s plans to isolate Islamist radicals in a special prison, rather like Guantanamo Bay. Mike raised the obvious and chilling question of whether this would be a concentration camp, especially with the government’s secret courts providing the legal basis for the Nazi-style Nacht und Nebel round-up and imprisonment of radicals.

I believe Mike’s fears are entirely justified. In the mid-1970s there were sections of the establishment that openly advocated a coup against the-then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. They’re discussed by the journalist and frequent guest on the News Quiz, Francis Wheen in his book, Strange Days Indeed: Paranoia in the 1970s. They’re also discussed, along with other intrigues and campaigns by MI5 and MI6 against the Labour left in ‘Red’ Ken Livingstone’s book, Livingstone’s Labour: A Manifesto for the Nineties. He writes

As the economy disintegrated under Wilson’s mismanagement, there began to be talk of the need for a change of government or even a coalition of the great and the good drawn from the British establishment. In the summer of 1967, the CIA, the FBI, MI5, MI6, and the Australian and New Zealand security services met in secret in Melbourne, Australia. They were addressed by Golitsin about his Wilson allegations and Wright presented information which he claimed raised the question of the loyalty of Willi Brandt. This meeting was followed by a visit to MI5 by Angleton who claimed to have confirmation from another source, whom he claimed could not be named, that Wilson was indeed a Soviet agent.

Matters began to hot up when the press baron Cecil King, a long-standing MI5 agent, began to discuss the need for a coup against Wilson. He informed Peter Wright that the Mirror would publish any damaging anti-Wilson leaks that MI5 wanted aired, and at a meeting with Lord Mountbatten and the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Solly Zuckerman, King urged Mountbatten to become the leader of a government of National Salvation. Zukerman pointed out that this was treason and left the meeting which came to nothing due to Mountbatten’s reluctance to act. (P. 53).

He also states that one army intelligence officer states that the security services had also convened meetings to determine the location of a possible internment camp for radicals in the Shetland Islands. One of those involved in this process was George Young, who had been the deputy head of MI6. ‘Red’ Ken quotes this passage from Young’s Subversion and the British Riposte, published in 1984:

(A) security counter-action need cover no more than 5,000 persons, including some 40 MPs, not all of them Labour; several hundred journalists and media employees, plus their supporting academics and clerics; the full-time members and main activists of the Communist party and the Socialist Workers Party; and the directing elements of the 30 or 40 bodies affecting concern and compassion for youth, age, civil liberties, social research and minority grievances. The total internment could easily be accommodated in a lesser ‘Gaelic Archipelago’ off the West Highlands.

Livingstone goes on to state that in the end the talks of coups amounted to nothing through a variety of factors. King lost his place at Mirror newspapers because of his increasingly erratic behaviour, which got worse. In 1974 he gave a speech to a group of officers at Sandhurst, urging them to overthrow Wilson in coup. ‘They thought he was made’, says the Bane of Thatcher. (p.54)

He also states that MI5 was also behind smears that Ted Heath was gay. Apparently the Tory MP Captain Henry Kerby was used to spread the rumour that the Tory Prime Minister was gay and had had an affair with a Swedish diplomat. Says Ken ‘I suspect that for some in MI5 being a Swedish diplomat and homosexuality were virtually synonymous anyway.’

Livingstone says that this sound like something from one of Frederick Forsythe’s grotty novels, but it’s all true and deadly serious. I’m sure he’s right. And the same kind of rumour mongering started again in the 1990s about the late former Labour leader, Michael Foot. It was Golitsin again. According to the defector, Foot was a KGB spy codenamed ‘Comrade Boot’. Really. And the conduit for the smear, which cost Murdoch a liberal actions, was the Times under its editor David Leppard.

You’d like to think that MI5 and MI6 had changed since the days of Thatcher. David Cameron, however, is despite all his verbiage about ‘One Nation’ Toryism, a Far Right authoritarian. I simply don’t think you can discount the idea that he would start rounding people up as subversives, not just Muslim radicals, but anyone, anyone at all, if he could get away with it. And his decision to start setting up special jails of Islamists seems to confirm it.

Cameron’s is a government of ‘filofascisti’. It’s the terms the Italians used to describe the ’80s generation of Yuppie Fascists. Rather than appear in Blackshirts and jackboots, they all adopted sharp business suits, and posed for the cameras like the models in GQ adverts for suits. The desire to imprison, beat, and attack immigrants, trade unionists, Socialists, Communists and others remained. Just as it is with Cameron and his pack of thugs.

Vox Political: Cameron Planning Internment Camp for British Radicals

February 17, 2016

This is a really scary piece Mike’s reblogged from the Canary. Apparently, Cameron and Gove are planning to isolate Muslim extremists in special secure unit to stop Muslim radicalisation in prison. This has been compared to Guantanamo Bay in America. Mike instead in his comments asks the extremely pertinent question of whether it’s actually instead something like a Nazi concentration camp, especially with the government’s establishment of secret courts. See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/17/cameron-wants-to-lock-radicals-in-a-single-place-like-a-nazi-concentration-camp/

Mike and so many, many others, like the Angry Yorkshireman, have blogged about the serious dangers these iniquitous courts pose to British justice and liberty. Under this system of, for want of a better term, special justice, the established standards of legal process may waived in the interests of ‘national security’. You may not see the evidence against you, nor know who your accuser is. Indeed, you may not be told what offence you have been charged. It tramples all over Magna Carta, and is exactly like something straight out of Kafka’s novels, The Trial and The Castle.

The motivation here appears to be the very rapid spread of Islam through the prison system through what looks like a very aggressive strategy of dawah, Islamic evangelisation. However alarmed some might feel about the spread of Islam in prisons, this proposal is should be more alarming. Firstly, there is difference between Islam and Islamism, and conversion to Islam does not necessarily lead to converts being set on an automatic path to extremism, at the end of which is ISIS or al-Qaeda. Indeed, the piece Mike’s reproduced from the Canary article states that the idea behind this special prison seems to be that Islamism is like an infectious disease, which isn’t the case.

The model for this special prison seems to be Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay. This was extensively criticised because of the illegality of the vast majority of the incarcerations their. The majority of those imprisoned would simply not have been convicted in ordinary courts of law because of the lack of evidence against them. With the addition of the Patriot Act, which provided for the arrest of anybody George Dubya and his cronies thought wasn’t sufficiently patriotic as a potential terrorist, the system’s critics saw Gitmo very much as the thin end of a totalitarian, Nazi wedge. Conservatives, like the right-wing Canadian cable/web TV host, Michael Koren and the British/Irish journalist Mark Steyn, resident in New Hampshire, have tried to justify Gitmo by arguing that normal standards of justice cannot apply in war. The conditions of battle are just too confused, they argue, for the same standards of reasonable proof to apply when assessing whether or not a suspect is guilty. The men and women interned at Gitmo are nevertheless extremely dangerous, and present a real threat to the public security if they are released. Hence their incarceration of what may be inadequate or flimsy legal grounds is justified. Despite this argument, the majority of those imprisoned at Gitmo have been released, and those still remaining seem to be there out of sheer bloody-mindedness by the authorities rather than any convincing legal reason.

I’m also worried about this, because it points to a long tradition of authoritarianism in the Tory Right. I’ve got a feeling Lobster ran pieces in the 1980s about Tory plans for internment camps in Northern Ireland, to be used against the IRA, modelled on the system of concentration camps the French had used in their campaigns against the indigenous peoples fighting for their freedom in what used to be Indo-China, out of which came the Vietnam War. These were dropped because whatever the threat of paramilitary violence in Ulster, it was felt that the British people would not tolerate other White Brits being rounded up and herded into concentration camps like Black Kenyans during the Mao Mao rebellion.

And the Tory need to incarcerate political and social ‘deviants’ raised its hideous physiognomy again when AIDS appeared in the 1980s. At the time there was a real fear that AIDS was so infectious and deadly, that it would wipe out the world’s population exactly as the population of Europe and Muslim North Africa had been decimated by the Black Death in the 14th century. In five years, that disease killed perhaps somewhere between a third and quarter of the European population, and a similar proportion North Africans in what is now the countries of Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria. Radical measures were being mooted to combat the disease. And this included the isolation of its victims. I can remember being chilled by an article in the Sunday Express that announced that the Swedes were considering building an ‘AIDS Island’ to isolate and treat the victims of the disease. British ministers were looking into the possibility of doing the same. Gay sex between men had only been legal since 1969, and much of society was extremely prejudiced against homosexuals, particularly the Tory party and the police. James Anderton, the extremely right-wing head of Manchester police force, stated that he believed that AIDS was God’s punishment for gays, and described homosexuality as a cesspool, or something similarly offensive. Margaret Thatcher passed legislation intended to ban the teaching that homosexuality was at all normal or acceptable in schools. In this environment, even at the time I wondered if this was an attempt to construct a secure medical facility, like the leper hospitals that were deliberately built on islands to isolate the victims of that terrible disease. Or if instead it was a prison camp to lock up gays, just as the Nazis had done during the Third Reich. Homosexuals were then sent to the concentration camps, and identified by pink triangles placed on their prison pyjamas. This part of the persecution of gays by the Nazis was portrayed in the harrowing play, Bent, starring one of the great gay British thesps. I’ve got a feeling it was Sir Ian Mackellan in the title role, but I could be mistaken.

This strikes me as being pretty much the same squalid, authoritarian instincts rising to the Tory surface yet again. If, indeed, it ever really went away. And the danger here is that once the Tories do it to once section of the community and get away with it, they’ll do it to all of us. Muslim radicals will be the first. Then it could be others suspected of terrorism, like radical nationalists – Irish Republican splinter groups, say. And then it’ll be extended to illegal asylum-seekers, trade unionists, Socialists, Anarchists and Communists. Same as it always has been. Just like Trump in America similarly threatens to introduce real Fascism if he wins the election. This has got to be very carefully watched indeed, if not banned altogether before it even begins.

And if they are considering a round-up of Islamist radicals and other suspects, when should we expect them to stage their own fake attack on parliament to justify it all, like the Reichstag fire?

Secular Talk: Son of Trump Defends Waterboarding as Frat Boy Lark

February 12, 2016

More evidence of the congenital, inbred stupidity and malignancy in the Trump genetic heritage. This is a piece from Secular Talk, in which Kyle Kulinski discusses the Spawn of Trump’s defence of waterboarding. Eric Trump has decided that it’s no worse than what students in the American college fraternities get up to, and that his father stands full square ready to defeat ISIS and al-Qaeda in the Middle East.

Kulinski points out that waterboarding and other forms of ‘enhanced interrogation’ don’t work. They only work in movies, where the characters have perfect knowledge of the terrorists’ plans through these methods of torture. Furthermore, many of the people rounded up and placed in Gitmo were innocent. They weren’t seized by Special Ops units. Instead, the authorities asked America’s allies in places like Pakistan to arrest and send them their militants. But many of the people they arrested weren’t terrorists, and had no connection with either of those groups. They were just political dissidents the Pakistanis and like regimes didn’t like.

As for waterboarding itself, it was taken from a Chinese Communist torture manual. Kulinski points out that they talk about Justice being blind for a reason. It means that it something’s wrong for one party, it’s wrong for all. This was laid down in the 18th century by the great German philosopher, Immanuel Kant. He also points out that when the Japanese did it to Americans during the Second World War, they were hanged as war criminals. If it was a war crime when the forces of Hirohito did it, then it’s also wrong when America and her allies do it.

As for the weird comment about the activities of college fraternities, this should make no difference. Now I have to admit I don’t have any personal experience of frat boy antics. We don’t have fraternities and sororities at British colleges and universities. There’s a family system, of father, grandfather, or mother, grandmother, but when I was there this had basically degenerated in a system of stupid drinking competitions. When you went out on family nights, you were supposed to drink so much more than your college father, who was supposed to drink more than the college grandfather. The result was that the supposedly convivial drinking evenings tended to end fairly, with everyone drinking far too much, and then either running out of money, or being so blind drunk that they had to be taken home. This was thirty years ago in the 1980s, mind. It’s probably different now, not least because pressures of student loans means that you can’t go and get drunk. And students generally aren’t.

There was something similar with the antics of some of the sports societies. They were quite capable of behaving in stupid and asinine ways, usually after having a few pints in them. That doesn’t excuse them either. They were faced with action from the college authorities when they got out of hand. And if someone does something illegal, like some stupid hazing ritual, then they deserve to be prosecuted. Saying that college fraternities do something is not a defence for allowing it. All Trump junior has done with this is probably frighten some parents, who are worried about their children’s safety after hearing stories about wild frat boys. I remember the scandal on Oprah a few decades ago after there were a series of rapes of women, who had remained in college frat houses after parties. Winfrey had on her show women who were understandably afraid of what might happen to their daughters in such environments.

Trump junior is talking rubbish, like his dad. Waterboarding is wrong, and torture, regardless of who does it. Including frat boys.

Police Black Sites in America, and the Death of Hilda Murrell

February 28, 2015

Police Black Site in Chicago

This is another video from The Young Turks. Secret CIA Black Sites in American Heartland for ‘Disappearing’ Citizens reports an article from the Guardian a few days ago revealing the existence of a ‘black site’ run by the local police in Homan Square in Chicago. It was a secret detention centre where suspects were taken. They were not allowed access to their lawyers, read their Miranda warning, or booked in, as required in normal police procedure at American police precincts. Those detained were also frequently beaten.

Normally, those arrested and taken to the site were only there for a few days, before being put back in normal police custody. Some, however, have died at the centre, such as a man, who was found unresponsive at an interrogation room, and later declared dead in hospital.

Cenk Uyghur, the Turks’ anchor, links this case to the use of CIA Black Sites used to disappear suspected terrorists throughout the world, including Gitmo and Abu Ghraib. He quotes Tracy Siska, an American civil rights activist and criminologist working in the Chicago justice department. Siska and Uyghur state very firmly that this is the result when the intelligence agencies are able to get away with illegal and unconstitutional actions. These procedures then get back into the American civil system, to corrupt and pervert normal law enforcement. One of those detained without access to a lawyer was a NATO protester.

Hilda Murrell

I’ve reblogged this because it raises important questions about what our security services over here have also been doing. Britain was very firmly complicit in the extraordinary rendition of terrorist suspects, who were deported to nations, where they would be tortured to extract information from them. British citizens were also interned at Gitmo.
The death of the NATO protester after being abducted by the cops and illegally imprisoned in Homan Square also seems to me to be extremely and uncomfortably similar to the death in March 1984 of Hilda Murrell.

Murrell was an elderly lady living in Llanymynech, near Oswestry. She was an anti-nuclear campaigner with links to the protest groups END, ECOROPA and MCANW. Her nephew was Commander Robert Green, a naval intelligence officer. When Tam Dalyell raised questions over Murrell’s death, he was informed that Commander Green was the officer, who passed on the order to the Conqueror to sink the Belgrano during the Falklands War. He also passed the message from HMS Endurance to Northwood HQ informing them that the Argentinians were about to invade.

On Friday, 23rd March Murrell disappeared from her home. Her body was eventually found three miles away. The official police investigation concluded that she had been the victim of a burglary. Supposedly, she had caught the burglar in the act. He had killed her, and then taken her body to dump elsewhere. Others at the time were unconvinced. If she really had been killed by a burglar, why, for example, had he put the body in his car and then driven around town, where she was seen by no less than 69 people?

Her now empty house caught fire on the 26th January 1985. This was blamed on arson, but no-one was ever caught, nor was it attributed to Welsh Nationalists, who had begun burning down holiday homes owned by the English. Furthermore, during the investigation the police called in Home Office forensic scientists, which was highly unusual if it was an ordinary arson. Murrell was also a very close friend of Catriona Guthrie and her boyfriend, ‘LM’ or ‘Malcolm’. The three of them used to attend meetings of the Shrewsbury peace group together. Yet Guthrie and her boyfriend were never questioned by police.

Murrell’s death has been investigated and reported by several people and organisations, including Robert Green, Tam Dalyell, Graham Smith, John Osborne, Amanda Mitchison, Bob Parker, David Cole, Peter Acland, Nick Davies, Gary Murray, Lobster’s Robin Ramsay, John Stalker, Judith Cook, West Mercia Police, and the documentary series Crimewatch for the Beeb, and ITV’s World In Action.

Lobster magazine has published several articles on her death. One of these, ‘Hilda Murrell: A Death in the Private Sector’, was an anonymous piece written by a former director of the Institute of Professional Investigators. This described the links between MI5, the Institute, and Zeus Security, a private security firm run by Peter Hamilton, a former major in Army Intelligence. The author stated that MI5 contracted out the surveillance of suspect groups and individual to private security firms, such as Zeus Security. The author of the article stated that one of his informants was a former captain in British Military Intelligence. This informant, according to the article, gave its author detailed descriptions of unlawful killings carried out on the instructions of MI5. He also stated that some of these killings were carried out by ‘renegade SAS types’ just ‘for kicks’. In the opinion of the writer of the Lobster article, Murrell was murdered by a private operation, not an official espionage operation. He believed that Murrell had interrupted a break-in by one of the private security firms contracted by MI5. The gaol of the operation was simply to see if she had sensitive information about Sizewell. When she discovered them, they panicked, abducted and killed her. One of the private operatives used by MI5 through the IPI was Vic Norris, aka Adrian Hampson, who had several convictions for sex offences and violence.

Peter Smith, in another Lobster article, ‘The Murder of Hilda Murrell: Conspiracy Theories Old and New’, reports that Guthrie became a prison visitor after Murrell’s murder. She was told by a convict in Lincoln that he had been a member of the team that broke into Murrell’s house. Their leader reported to the Cabinet Office through an MI5 liaison officer, and they had been ordered to look for papers for Naval Intelligence. One of those suggested as possible members of the team was David Gricewith. Gricewith was an armed robber, and was probably responsible for the killing of Sgt John Speed in Leeds. He allegedly did undercover work, including acting as an agent provocateur, for the intelligences and was also, allegedly, involved in far right politics. Gricewith died after supposedly accidentally shooting himself during his arrest by the police for armed robbery.

The Tories and Lib Dems Attack on Human Rights

If the security agencies really were assassinating British citizens through the use of private security firms in the 1980s, then the threat to the human rights of British citizens is even greater now. The Tories and Lib Dems have passed legislation providing for the establishment of secret courts. These are intended to protect sensitive information and the identities of intelligence operatives in cases involving national security. As a result, the accused may not be present during the trial. They may not be informed of certain pieces of evidence, nor know the identities of their accusers. All of these violate the fundamental principles of British justice going all the way back to Magna Carta.

The law also provides for a system of virtual ‘internal exile’, in which a person suspected of terrorism offences may be removed from his home, family or friends, and relocated as much as 100 miles away, again without legal representation.

Finally, the Tories and UKIP have also made it very clear that they are opposed to the European Court of Human Rights. They have said that they wish to see European human rights legislation repealed in this country, and replaced by a British bill of rights. Several bloggers have pointed out how malign and pernicious this idea is. The Tories and Kippers have claimed that the European Human Rights legislation is the result of the EU. It isn’t, and the European Court of Human Rights is part of the Council of Europe, a separate international body. They also claim that such legislation allows terrorists to remain in Britain and resist the threat of deportation. It doesn’t.

The Tories and UKIP are lying.

Whatever the effect may be on terrorists, if the European Human Rights Act is repealed, the British bill of rights which will replace it will be much weaker. It will not protect British citizens from Kafkaesque secret trials, in which they will not even be told what offence they have committed. It would also make such ‘Black Sites’, like that run by the cops in Chicago, legal.

And then, rather than enjoying the freedom guaranteed by Magna Carta, will be under a system of ‘Nacht und Nebel’ such as that imposed by the Nazis. The phrase means ‘night and fog’, and refers to the extraordinary system of imprisonment in which opponents of the regime simply disappeared.

This is what the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers want for Britain. And they must be stopped. As we have seen, the Tories actively copy and take over American policies. If they get in, the Chicago Black Site will come over here. If it hasn’t already.

Sources

Anonymous, ‘Hilda Murrell: A Death in the Private Sector’, Lobster 16: 25-9.

Peter Smith, ‘The Murder of Hilda Murrell: Conspiracy Theories New and Old’, Lobster 28: 28-30.

Radical Voices from History to Today

December 18, 2013

People Speak

The People Speak: Democracy Is Not A Spectator Sport (Colin Firth and Anthony Arnove with David Horspool (Edinburgh: Canongate 2012) is a collection of radical and anti-authoritarian texts from British history from 1066 to the present, collected and edited by the actor, Colin Firth, and Anthony Arnove. It was partly inspired by Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. Arnove had worked with Zinn translating the book into a series of stage readings of American radical and democratic texts, which toured the US. Realising that Firth was one of the book’s fans, Arnove approached him to do a British version. Firth, Arnove, and a number of their friends and other performers they admired did indeed stage a reading of some of the texts collected in The People Speak in 2010. This was filmed and broadcast by the History Channel. The two authors state that they hope a DVD of this reading will eventually be released to accompany the film of the same name made the year previously (2010) by Zinn and Arnove, with Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and Chris Moore. Firth and Arnove rejected any claim that this was the ‘actorly activism’ attacked by critics such as Marina Hyde. Rather, they were simply doing what actors are paid to do – to act, and interpret other’s voices.

Firth states that the book is not an attack on history teachers or the history curriculum, noting that his own father is a history teacher. It comes from his feeling, dating from when he was studying history at school, that the kind of history we are taught is incomplete. It concentrates on kings and queens and politicians to the exclusion of everyone else, who are presented as a faceless, homogenous mass. This is his and Arnove’s attempt to put back into history the voice of the excluded, the Socialists, Anarchists, agitators, Chartists, suffragists, Lollards, Levellers, in short, the trouble-makers, like Zinn himself. Firth makes the point that democracy works from the bottom up, and that it’s protagonists are real trouble-makers. He also makes the point that the rights we now take for granted and accept as civilised and decent were at one point considered treason. The people, who fought for and won them were those without political power, and were hanged, transported, tortured and imprisoned, until their ideas were eventually adopted and adapted. Their continued existence is, however, precarious, and we need to defend them. ‘These freedoms are now in our care. And unless we act on them and continue to fight for them, they will be lost more easily that they were won.’

Firth and Arnove freely acknowledge that in covering two millennia, they have let much important material out. They hope, however, that their readers will feel rightly indignant about that, and be compelled to point it out, or, even better, write another the book, which will be the first of many. Firth hopes most of all it will inspire their readers to speak out, and make their voice heard on the issues they feel is important, ‘As Howard reminds us, democracy is not a spectator sport, and history is not something on a library shelf, but something in which each of us has a potentially critical role’.

Chronologically, the book has divided into five chapters, ‘1066-1450: Commoners and Kings’, ‘1642-1789: Representing the People’, ‘1790-1860: One Man, One Vote’, 1890-1945: Equal Rights’, and ‘1945-2012: Battling the State’ collecting some of the radical texts from these periods. Between these are other chapters covering particular political, constitutional, religious, national and economic issues and struggles. These include:

‘Disunited Kingdoms: ‘Our English Enemies’,
‘Freedom of Worship: ‘Touching our Faith’,
‘Land and Liberty: ‘The Earth is a Common Treasury’,
‘Empire and Race: All Slaves Want to Be Free’,,
‘Money and Class: ‘The Rank is But the Guinea’s Stamp’,
‘Workers United: Labour’s “No” into Action’,
‘War and Peace: ‘What People Have Your Battles Slain?’,
‘Gender and Sexual Equality: ‘A Human Being, Regardless of the Distinction of Sex’.

The chapter on the 400 or so years from 1066 to 1450 contains the following texts:

Ordericus Vitalis on the Norman Conquest of 1066,
The Liber Eliensis on Hereward the Wake,
Extracts from the Magna Carta,
Extracts from the Song of Lewes; written by a Franciscan monk in 1264, this sets out some early examples of the doctrine of resistance and popular rights.
It also contains a section devoted to the voice of the Peasant’s Revolt, including
Wat Tyler’s address to Richard II,
John Ball, ‘Until Everything Shall Be in Common’ (1381),
and William Grindcobbe, ‘I shall die in the Cause of Gaining our Liberty’.

The chapter on ‘Disunited Kingdoms – Our English Enemies’, includes the following pieces:
The declaration of Scottish independence at Arbroath, 6th April 1320,
Owain Glyn Dwr’s letter to another Welsh noble, Henry Don,
The Complaynt of Scotland of 1549,
Jonathan Swift’s bitterly satirical ‘A Modest Proposal’ of 1729,
The Speech from the Dock of the Irish Nationalist leader, Theobald Wolfe Tone,
The Speech from the Dock of Tone’s successor in the United Irishmen, Robert Emmet,
Rev. John Blackwell’s Eisteddfod Address in Beaumaris in 1832, stressing the importance of literature in Welsh,
Letters from the Rebecca Riots’,
The Letter from Nicholas M. Cummins to the Times attacking the English for refusing to supply the Irish with food during the Potato Famine,
The Speech from the Dock of the Irish American Fenian Leader, Captain John McClure, of 1867,
Padraig Pearse’s Eulogy for the Fenian Leader Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa of 1915,
An extract from the Scots writer Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Sunset Song of 1932,
Bernadette Devlin’s Speech in Draperstown when she stood as the candidate for the Nationalist Independent Unity Party in Northern Ireland,
Silvester Gordon Boswell’s Address to Travellers on Appleby Hill of 1967, and Boswell’s The Book of Boswell: Autobiography of a Gypsy of 1970,
The Dubliners’ Luke Kelly’s lyric, ‘For What died the Sons of Roisin?’ of 1970,
Pauline M.’s description of the events of Bloody Sunday,
An editorial on the Tax-Dodgers on the Isle of Man by the Manx Marxist group, Fo Halloo,
Bobby Sands’ prison diary for 1-2 March 1981,
and an extract from Gwyn Alf Williams’ history of the Welsh, ‘The Dragon Has Two Tongues’ from 1985.

The section on Freedom of Worship, begins with a section on the Pilgrimage of Grace, which includes
The examination of Nicholas Leche of 1536,
The Pontefract Articles of 2-4 December 1536,
The Examination of Robert Aske, 1537,
John Foxe, ‘The Mart6yrdom and Suffering of Cicelie Ormes, Burnt at Norwich the Testimonie and Witnes of Christes Gospell’ of 1557,
Matthew Hamont’s Trial for Heresy,
John Mush, the Life of Margaret Clitherow, 1586,
Daniel Defoe’s satirical ‘The Shortest Way with Dissenters:, Or, Proposals for the Establishment of the Church of 1702,
Ignatius Samcho’s Letter on the Gordon Riots of 1780,
William Blake’s ‘America’ of 1793, his Preface to Milton of (1804) and Preface to Book Two of ‘Jerusalem’ of the same year.
Grace Aguilar’s History of the Jews in England of 1847,
George Jacob Holyoake, Exchange with his Caplain on Atheism (1850),
An anonymous account of the Basingstoke Riots against the Salvation Army of 1881,
and Victoria Brittain’s ‘The Meaning of Waiting’, using the words of eight Muslim women married to prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.

The section on the period 1642-1749 contains
Elizabeth Lilburne’s Appeal against the arrest of her husband, the leveller leader John Lilburne,
Richard Overton’s An Arrow Against All Tyrants of 1646,
The Putney Debates of 1647,
John Lilburne’s Appeal to Cromwellian Soldiers of 1649,
The last speech of Richard Rumbold at the Market Cross in Edinburgh,
Reports of torture in prison from 1721,
The frontispiece to the anonymous pamphlet ‘Idol Worship, Or, the Way to Preferment, showing that the way to political power to was kiss your superiors’ rear ends,
Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, 1776,
The American Declaration of Independence,
Paine’s Rights of Man, 1791,
Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘Destruction of the Bastille’,
An Advertisement for Commemoration of the French Revolution by Dissenters in Birmingham in 1791,
and An Anonymous Birmingham handbill to Commemorate the French Revolution, 1791.

The section ‘Land and Liberty’ contains
Robert Kett, ‘Kett’s Demands Being in Rebellion’, 1549, against the Enclosures in Kent,
Gerard Winstanley, ‘A Declaration from the Poor Oppressed People of England’, 1649,
The 1650 Declaration of the Wellingborough Diggers,
The ballad ‘Bonny Portmore’ of 1690, lamenting the destruction of the forest around Lough Beg,
Thomas Spence’s ‘Spence’s Plan for Parochial Partnerships in the Land of 1816), an early Utopian Socialist precursor,
John Clare, ‘The mores’, c. 1821-4,
W.G. Ward’s ‘The Battle, the Struggle and the Victory’ of 1873, on a battle between the National Agricultural Labourers’ Union and the employers and landowners, who refused to employ their members,
Richard Barlow-Kennett’s ‘Address to the Working Classes’ on Vivisection of 1883,
Henry S. Salts’ Animal Rights Considered in Relation to Social Progress (1892),
Ernest a Baker, The Forbidden Land of 1924 on the landowners’ denial of the right of access to land around the Peak District and the Yorkshire moors due to grouse shooting,
Benny Rothman on the Kinder Trespass in 1932 by ramblers,
and Voices from the Kingsnorth 6 Greenpeace protesters of 2007.

The section on Empire and Race has the above extracts,
William Cecil’s Speech in Parliament of 1588, against a bill against Strangers and Aliens Selling Wares by Retail, 1588,
William Shakespeare’s Sir Thomas More, Act II, Scene 4, c. 1593,
Anna Barbauld, Sins of Government, Sins of of the Nation; Or, A Discourse for the Fast, of 1793, against imperialism and war with revolutionary France,
Robert Wedderbu5rn’s The Axe Laid to the Root or A Fatal Blow to Oppressors, Being an Address to the Planters and Negroes of the Island of Jamaica, 1817,
Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave, 1831,
Louis Asa-Asa, ‘How Cruelly We Are Used’, 1831,
Joseph Sturge, Speech at the Baptist Missionary Society of Birmingham, 1836,
An Anonymous Member of the Walthamstow Free Produce or Anti-Slavery Association, Conscience Versus Cotton: Or, the Preference of Free Labour Produce, 1851,
Ernest Jones’, ‘The Indian Struggle’, 1857, supporting Indian independence during the Mutiny,
Richard Cobden’s Letter to John Bright on Indian independence, 1857,
Celestine Edwards, a Black Methodist preacher from Dominica, The British Empire, attacking imperialism,
‘A Voice from the Aliens about the Anti-Alien Resolution of the Cardiff Trades Union Congress of 1893, by Jewish worker protesting at a motion by William Inskip and Charles Freak to ban immigrant workers from joining trades unions,
Henry Woodd Nevinson, ‘The Slave Trade of Today’, 1906, against the cultivation of cocoa by Angolan slaves,
The Indian nationalist Ghadar Movement’s ‘An Open letter to the People of India’, 1913,
The satirical, ‘In Praise of the Empire’ by the Irish nationalist and founder of the Independent Labour Party of Ireland, James Connolly,
B.R. Ambedkar’s ‘India on the Eve of the Crown Government’, 1915,
John Archer’s Presidential Address to the Inaugural Meeting of the African Progress Union, 1918,
Manifesto of Bhagwati Charan Vohra, a Punjabi revolutionary Indian nationalist, 1928,
Gandhi’s Quit India Speech of 1942,
C.L.R. James’ Beyond a Boundary, on cricket and his experiences growing up in Trinidad, 1963,
Peter Hain, Defence in Trial from Picketing Apartheid South African Cricket and Rugby, 1972,
Linton Kwesi Johnson, ‘Inglan Is a Bitch’, 1980,
Sinead O’Connor, ‘Black Boys on Mopeds’, 1990,
The account of his own incarceration by an anonymous Tanzanian Asylum Seeker, 2000,
Benjuamin Zephaniah, ‘What Stephen Lawrence has Taught Us’, 2001,
Roger Huddle and Lee Billingham’s Reflections on Rock against Racism and Love Music Hate Racism, 2004,
The People’s Navy Protest on the eviction of the indigenous islanders from the islands, 2008,
and Mark Steel’s ‘The Poles Might be Leaving but the Prejudice Remains’, 2009.

The section on the period 1790-1860 has the following extracts and pieces
An Account of the Seizure of Citizen Thomas Hardy, Secretary to the London Corresponding Society, 1794,
‘Rules and Resolutions of the Political Protestants’, 1818. Political Protestants was the name adopted by a number of northern working class radical organisations demanding universal suffrage.
There is a subsection devoted to the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, in which the local militia and then a detachment of Hussars attacked and broke up a peaceful meeting in Manchester of protesters campaigning for an extension of the franchise. This section has
The Letter from Mr W.R. Hay to Lord Sidmouth regarding Peterloo, 1819,
extracts from Shelley’s The Masque of Anarchy
and William Hone’s The Political House that Jack Built.

The chapter also has following pieces
William Davidson, Speech to the Court in the Cato Street Conspiracy Trial, 1820,
and Mr Crawshay Recounts the Merthyr Uprising, 1831.
This is followed by a section on Chartism, including
Henry Vincent, Chartists in Wales, 1839,
Edward Hamer, ‘The Chartist Outbreak in Llanidloes, 1839,
and Chartist Protests in Newcastle, 1839.
Charles Dickens,’The Fine Old English Gentleman: New Version’, 1841, bitterly attack Tory feudalism and massacres of radicals,
and the Bilston, South Staffordshire Chartist Rally.

The section on money and class has a piece on the rebellion of William Fitz-Osbert against the way the Anglo-Normans barons shifted their tax burden onto the poor,
George Manley’s speech from the gallows at Wicklow, where he was hanged for murder, against the murder and plunder of the rich and general such as Marlborough,
Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in Country Churchyard,
Robert Burns’ A Man’s A Man for A’ That,
and John Grimswaw’s ‘The Handloom Weaver’s Lament’.
This is followed by a section on Luddism, which contains
John Sykes’ account of machine-breaking at Linthwaite, Yorkshire, 1812,
An Anonymous ‘Address to Cotton Weavers and Others’, 1812,
The poem ‘Hunting a Loaf’,
The poet Byron’s speech on the Frame-Work Bill in the House of Lords, and his ‘Ode to the Framers of the Frame Bill’,
The ballad, ‘The Tradesman’s Complaint’,
An extract from Carlisle’s Past and Present in which he questioned the benefits of unrestrained economic growth,
Frederick Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England,
An extract from Marx and Engels’ The Communist Manifesto,
Henry Mayhew’s ‘Labour and the Poor’,
‘The Last Sark’ by the radical working class poet, Ellen Johnston,
Thomas Hardy’s ‘To An Unborn Pauper Child’,
The Invasion of the Ritz Hotel in 1938, by Jack Dash, a Member of the National Unemployed Workers’ Union,
George Orwell’s ‘England, Your England’,
John Lennon’s ‘Working Class Hero’,
Jimmy Reid’s Inaugural Speech as Rector of Glasgow University in 1972,
and Dick Gaughan’s ‘Call It Freedom’.

The section ‘Workers United’ contains the following

An Address to the Inhabitants of Great Britain and Ireland by the Glasgow Weavers, 1820,
Richard Oastler’s Letter to the Leeds Mercury on Slavery, denouncing the harsh conditions endured by children working in the factories and mines,
George Loveless, the Tolpuddle Martyr,
Patience Kerr’s Testimony before the Children’s Employment Commission, 1842,
Thomas Kerr’s ‘Aw’s Glad the Strike’s Duin’, 1880,
William Morris’ The Depression of Trade and Socialism: Ends and Means, 1886,
Annie Besant on White Slavery in London,
Samuel Webber’s Memories of the Matchgirl’s Strike,
Ben Tillett on the Dock Strike, 1911,
The Speech, ‘I am here as the Accuser’ by John Maclean, a Revolutionary Glaswegian Socialist tried for sedition for trying to dissuade soldiers from fighting in the First World War,
An account of the General Strike of 1926 by an Ashton Sheet Metal Worker,
Hamish Henderson’s ‘The John Maclean March’,
Frank Higgins’ ‘The Testimony of Patience Kershaw’,
An account of the Miners’ Strike by Bobby Girvan and Christine Mahoney,
And Mark Serwotka’s ‘Imagine Not Only Marching Together, but Striking Together’, of 2011 against the Coalition.

The section on Equal Rights has an extract from Oscar Wilde’s The Soul of Man under Socialism,
Emmeline Pankhursts’ Kill Me or Give Me My Freedom,
George Orwell’s ‘A Hanging’,
and a section for the voices of those involved in the Battle of Cable Street against Mosely’s Blackshirts.
This section includes the testimony of William J. Fishman, a Stepney Labour activist, the then secretary of the Communist Party, Phil Piratin, Joe Jacobs, another member of the Communist Party, also from Stepney, Julie Gershon, a Stepney resident, Mr Ginsburg, from Cable Street, and Mrs Beresford, of Lascombe’s fish and chip shop.
These are followed by an extract from Aneurin Bevan’s ‘In Place of Fear’.

The section and war and piece begins with Thomas Hoccleve’s An Appeal for Peace with France of 1412,
a Handbill from the Weavers of Royton, 1808,
John Bright’s Speech against the Crimean War,
Bertrand Russell’s Letter to the Nation, 1914,
Siegfried Sassoon’s Declaration against War, 1917,
Wilfred Owen’s ‘Disabled’,
The section answering the question, ‘How Should War be Prevented?’ from Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas,
James Maxton’s Speech Against War,
Charlie Chaplin’s Final Speech from The Great Dictator,
Phil Piratin on the Invasion of the Savoy Hotel, 1940,
Denis Knight, The Aldermaston Anti-Nuclear March, 1958,
Hamish Henderson’s ‘Freedom Come-All-Ye’, dedicated to Scots anti-Nuclear marchers,
and Adrian Mitchell’s ‘To Whom It May Concern (Tell Me Lies about Vietnam)’, 1964.

There is also a section of voices from the women involved in the Greenham Common Peace Protest, containing testimony and memories from Kim Besly, Sarah Hipperson,Ann Pettitt, and Thalia Campbell.
This is followed by Mary Compton’s speech at the Stop the War Coalition, and Robin Cook’s resignation speech to parliament against the invasion of Iraq.

The section and gender and sexual equality begins with an anonymous sixteenth century Song on the Labour of Women,
The Petition of Divers Well-Affected Women, 1649, against the imprisonment of four of the Levellers,
An anonymous article from the Saint James Chronicle from 1790, recording the ‘Extraordinary Female Affection’ between the ‘Ladies of Llangollen, Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby,
Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792,
Anna Wheeler and William Thompson’s ‘Address to Women’, an extract from their pamphlet, Appeal of One Half of the Human Race, Women, against the Pretensions of the Other Half, Men, to Retain them in Political, and thence in Civil and Domestic Slavery, 1825,
A letter by an anonymous prostitute from the Times, 1858,
Josephine Butler’s An Appeal to the People of England, on the Recognition and Superintendence of Prostitution by Governments,
Edmund Kell, ‘Effects of the Acts Upon the ‘Subjected’ Women, against the humiliation endured by women through the examinations under the Contagious Diseases Act,
Oscar Wilde’s Second Trial for ‘Gross Indecency’,
Helen Gordon Liddle’s The Prisoner, an account of the force-feeding of the Suffragettes under the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act,
Two passages from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own,
Against the Law, by Peter Wildeblood, a journalist and TV producer arrested for conspiracy to incite acts of gross indecency,
The memories of Vicky and Janice of Lesbian Life in Brighton in the 1950s and ’60s,
Selma James and the Women’s Liberation Workshop, ‘Women against the Industrial Relations Act’, 1971,
Tom Robinson’s ‘Glad to be Gay’,
Quentin Crisp’s How to Become a Virgin,
and Ian McKellen’s Keynote Speech at the 2008 Stonewall Equality Dinner.

The section, ‘Battling the State’, has pieces and extracts from
Tariq Ali’s ‘The Street is Our Medium’, from Black Dwarf, the newspaper of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign, with a copy of Mick Jagger’s handwritten lyrics to Street Fighting Man.
Paul Foot’s Speech on the Murder of Blair Peach, 1979,
The Clash, ‘Know Your Rights’, 1982,
Elvis Costello, ‘Shipbuilding’, against the Falkland’s War,
Pensioner Nellie discussing the Poll Tax revolt,
Jeremy Hardy, ‘How to Be Truly Free’, 1993,
‘Catching Buses’ by the Bristolian disabled rights activist, Liz Crow,
Harold Pinter’s ‘Art, Truth and Politics’, 2005,
Mark Thomas’ ‘Put People First G20 Protest of 2009,
Euan Booth’s ‘Subversively Move Tony Blair’s Memoirs to the Crime Section in Bookshops’,
The Speech on Student Protests by the fifteen-year old schoolboy, Barnaby Raine, to the Coalition of Resistance Conference.
The book ends with Zadie Smith’s piece attacking library closures in 2011.

As well as notes and a normal index, the book also has a chronological index, placing the pieces in order according to the dates they were written.

The book is indeed encyclopaedic and comprehensive in the range of its selected texts through two millennia of history. Firth is quite right when he says that much has been necessarily left out. Whole can and have been written about some of the subjects he has touched on, such as popular protest in history, the Enclosures, Chartism, the development of British Socialism, Irish, Scots and Welsh history and nationalism, Socialism in Britain, opposition to the workhouse, to name but a few. There are a number of works on gay, gender and women’s history. E.P. Thompson himself wrote a history of the English working class, which remains one of the standard texts on the subject. Labour history-writing goes further back than Thompson, however. The Fabians, Sidney and Beatrice Webb wrote two books on the country and town labourers respectively. A number of the first Labour MPs to be voted into parliament have also left their autobiographies, describing their rise from manual labourer to Member of Parliament.

The book does an important service by showing just how old some of the issues and techniques raised and used by today’s protesters actually are. Hoccleve’s appeal for peace with France shows that peace protests go right back to the Middle Ages. Indeed, in the Tenth Century the Church led a peace movement to establish God’s Truce. This was the ban on fighting by the knights and the aristocracy on certain days of the week, so that the peasants, their crops and livestock were harmed as little as possible. And some of the 19th century popular protests are surprisingly modern in flavour. I was struck in the 1980s by how similar Cobden and Bright’s peace meetings demanding an end to the Crimean War were to contemporary anti-Nuclear peace marches and protests. An earlier generation would doubtless be struck by the similarity to the anti-Vietnam protests. The various articles, pamphlets, books and letters written attacking British imperialism are a reminder that, even during the intensely patriotic Victorian age imperialism and colonial expansion were the subjects of criticism. One of Gladstone’s ministers was privately strongly anti-imperial, and wrote articles for the Liberal press denouncing imperialism. ‘A love of empire’, he wrote, ‘is the love of war’. It’s as true now as it was then.

The Anti-Saccherist League is another example of a startlingly modern Victorian protest. It was an early example of ethical consumption. It aimed to attack slavery by destroying the profits from sugar produced by slaves. Instead of buying sugar from the Caribbean, it instead promoted Indian sugar, which it believed was produced by free people. The book doesn’t mention it, but there were also feminist campaigns to end slavery. One of the petitions against slavery compiled by anti-Slavery activists, was by women, attacking the brutality experienced by enslaved women, and addressed to the Queen herself, Victoria. It was felt that she, as a woman, would have more sympathy to the sufferings of the other members of her gender in slavery than men. Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman is justly famous, and has been published in Penguin Classics. It, and the 19th century pamphlet similarly protesting women’s subordination and exploitation are a reminder that feminism did not begin with the suffragettes or was a product of ’60s radicalism.

Some of the older, more ancient texts from the book could easily be reprinted today as an indictment of modern conditions and attitudes under the Coalition. The descriptions of the government and employers’ opposition to the dock and matchgirls’ strikes sound very modern indeed, and Annie Besant’s denunciation of white slavery in London – the gruelling work performed in factories by poorly paid and exploited workers, sounds exactly like the world Cameron, Clegg and the rest of the whole foul crew would like to drag us back to.

I do, however, have problems with some of the material included in the book. It’s true that the United Kingdom was largely created through military expansion and conquest, as the Anglo-Norman barons first took Wales, and then established the English pale and suzerainty over the Gaelic clans in Ireland. They tried to conquer Scotland, but England and Scotland were only politically united after the failure of the Darien colony in the early 18th century. The history of the British control of Ireland is one of repeated misgovernment and oppression, as well as missed opportunities for reform and improvement. If some of George III’s ministers had succeeded in enfranchising Roman Catholics, so that they had at least some of the same rights as Protestants, or Gladstone, himself very much a member of the Anglican Church, had succeeded in granting ‘Home Rule all round’ to the ‘Celtic Fringe’, then some of the sectarian and political violence could possibly have been avoided. Discrimination against Roman Catholics was widespread and resulted in the Civil Rights demonstrations by Ulster Catholics in the 1960s. It also produced the Nationalist terrorist groups, who, like the Loyalist terrorists, which opposed them, have been responsible for some truly horrific atrocities, including the mass murder of civilians. I do have strong reservations of parts of the Irish folk scene, because of the way folk songs describing and denouncing historic atrocities by the British, were used by Nationalist paramilitaries to drum up hatred and support for their murderous campaigns. I am certainly not accusing any of the modern folk groups included in the book, whose lyrics denounce what they see as the continuing oppression of the Irish people, of supporting terrorism. Firth and Arnove appear to have deliberately avoided choosing the contemporary folk songs that do glamorise terrorism. Nevertheless, there is a problem in that some of the Irish folk songs about the suffering of their country and its people can be so abused. I am also definitely not impressed with Protestant, Loyalist sectarianism and its vilification of and celebration of violence against Roman Catholics.

It’s also the case that historically at least, many Protestants did support the aspirations of their Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen for freedom and emancipation. A few years ago Mapping the Town, BBC Radio 4’s urban history programme, broadcast an edition from Belfast. This noted that one of the first Roman Catholic churches built in the town in the late 18th or early 19th century was half funded by the town’s Protestants. Although there denominations were recognised and permitted by the Anglican establishment, unlike Roman Catholicism, which was rigorously prohibited, they also suffered serious legal disabilities and were prevented from holding political office. They shared the resentment their Roman Catholic friends and fellow Irishmen felt, and so sometimes, as here, made common cause with them. The book does include some of the speeches from Wolfe Tone’s United Irishmen, the 18th century militant Nationalist organisation that included both Roman Catholics and Protestants. This makes the point that the struggle for an independent Ireland has historically included Protestants as well as Roman Catholics. Nevertheless, possibly some further Irish Protestant texts supporting independence or Roman Catholic emancipation would have been useful, to show such issues can and did transcend the religious divide.

Another problem with the section on Ireland is that in Northern Ireland the majority of the inhabitants were Protestants, who wished to remain part of the United Kingdom. Indeed, the province was created through an uprising against the possibility that it would become part of Eire. While the oppression of Roman Catholics in Ulster is definitely undemocratic, it also has to be recognised that Ulster has remained part of the UK through the wishes of a majority of its people. This has been implemented through democratic politics, which is something that needs to be recognised. Unfortunately, the exclusive focus on Irish nationalism in the book obscures the fact that the province’s inclusion in the UK does have a popular democratic mandate.

A further issue is the exclusion of a modern, working class Ulster Protestant voice. Nearly a decade ago now the Independent reviewed a play by a working class Ulster Protestant playwright about the Troubles. The play was about a family reacting to the rioting occurring outside. I’ve unfortunately forgotten, who the playwright was. What I do remember was his comment that working class Protestants in Ulster were disenfranchised, as there were no organisations representing them. It’s a controversial claim, but there’s more than a little truth in it. Many of the working class political parties in Northern Ireland, such as the SDLP, are more or less Nationalist. The Unionist party, on the other hand, was formed from the merger of the Conservative and right-wing parts of the Liberal party. There has therefore been little in the way of working-class Protestant political parties, although some of the militant Protestant paramilitaries did adopt a radical Socialist agenda in the 1970s. Again, it would have been good to have a text or so examining this aspect of Northern Irish politics, though one which would not support the Protestant paramilitaries and their violence.

Equally problematic is the inclusion in the book of the voices of the womenfolk of the men imprisoned in Guatanamo Bay, collected by Victoria Brittain. Now Gitmo is indeed a human rights abuse. The prisoners there are held without trial or sentencing. The reasoning behind this is that, while they are guilty of terrorism offences, wartime conditions and the pressures of battle mean that it has been impossible to obtain the level of evidence required to secure a conviction under civilian law. If they were tried, they would be acquitted, and disappear to continue their terrorist campaigns against the US. Hence, for national security they must be detained outside the law. It’s a dangerous argument, as it sets up a precedent for the kind of ‘Nacht und Nebel’ disappearances and incarceration without trial of domestic opponents that was ruthlessly used by the Nazis on their political opponents in Germany.

This does not mean that the men held without trial in Gitmo are democrats. Far from it. Those that fought for the Taliban supported a vehemently anti-democratic regime. It was a violently repressive theocracy, which rejected ‘man-made law’ in favour of the Sharia. Under the Taliban, no forms of religious belief or unbelief were tolerated apart from Islam. Women were prevented from going out in public except when clad in the chador. As they were supposed to be silent and not draw attention to themselves when in public, they were beaten if they made a sound. This included the noises made by the artificial limbs of women, who had been mutilated by the mines and ordnance used in the fighting. There was also an active campaign against female education. This situation has been challenged by the presence of the Coalition forces in Afghanistan. Jeremy Hardy in the News Quiz derided this as ‘collateral feminism’. He has a point. The war was not fought to liberate or improve the conditions of Afghan women. This is very much a side effect. However, if the Western occupation of Afghanistan does raise their status and give them more freedom, then it will have done some good.

As for the occupation of Afghanistan itself, I’ve read material that has argued that the real reason the Western forces are there is to secure access to and appropriate the country’s oil pipelines. There’s possibly something in that. However, the immediate reason for the invasion was al-Qaeda’s attack on the US on 9/11. The destruction of the Twin Towers and parallel attacks on the Pentagon and the White House were acts of war. There is simply no two ways about this, and the West’s counter-attack and invasion of Afghanistan was an entirely appropriate response. It is therefore somewhat disingenuous to include the piece of on the suffering of the wives of the men imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, when the men themselves were the militant, murderous supporters of an oppressive regime that itself had absolute contempt for democracy and Western notions of human rights.

If many of the texts in this volume seem surprisingly modern, the extracts on the Ladies of Llangollen can be somewhat misleading in that historically British society has recognised a number of intense same-sex relationships, that were not at the time regarded as homosexual, or which included a homosexual element that was nevertheless seen in context as part of a wider relationship. There has been a book published within the last year or so on the homosocial relationship between medieval knights, which examined the all-male camaraderie and loyalty between them. The chivalrous concept of campiognage, which was the extreme friendship and loyalty between two knights, could be described in homosexual terms, even when one knight was helping his comrade in arms to escape with his lady love. In the 19th century there was the ‘romantic friendship’. This was a devoted friendship between two members of the same sex. These now can strike us as definitely gay, but at the time these were not seen as being necessarily homosexual or particularly extraordinary. Cardinal Newman’s request to be buried next to another priest, with whom he shared a profound friendship, was almost certainly such a Victorian romantic friendship, rather than a straightforward gay relationship. Although the ladies of Llangollen described themselves as having eloped, they always maintained that they devoted themselves to artistic and intellectual pursuits. They were celebrated at the time for their devotion to each other, and visitors to their home included many of the 19th century’s great and good, including the Duke of Wellington. It seems to me therefore that there relationship was seen as another romantic friendship, rather than a lesbian relationship.

It is also the case that the Victorians were aware of the existence of lesbianism. The story that when they were formulating the laws against homosexuality, Queen Victoria and her ministers did not outlaw female homosexuality because they didn’t believe it existed is a myth. They knew that it did. They just didn’t see it as a particular threat. The historian Martin Pugh makes this point in his book, British Fascism between the Wars. He argues that lesbianism was only perceived as a threat to British society after the First World War, when there was a ‘crisis of masculinity’. It was widely believed that the cream of British manhood had all been carried off by the War, and that only inferior men had been left behind. This created the atmosphere of sexual panic in which arose Pemberton Billing and his notorious black book. Billing was an extreme Right-wing Tory MP, who believed that the Germans were blackmailing British homosexuals into betraying their country. He claimed to have a little book containing the names of 50,000 ‘devotees of Sodom and Lesbia’, and regularly attacked other public figures with accusations that they were gay. At least one of his victims sued for libel, but the trial was called off when Billing accused the presiding judge of being another gay, whose name was in his book. I’m no legal expert, but it has struck me that the judge would have grounds for jailing him for contempt. Moral fears and legislation against gay women arguably date from this period, rather than the Victorian age.

These reservations aside, this is a powerful, inspiring book, that should encourage and empower anyone with an interest in radical history and who is determined to defend freedom and dignity today from the increasing attacks on it by the Coalition, the most reactionary regime this country has endured since the election of Mrs Thatcher in 1979.

Private Eye on the Government’s Proposal to Introduce Secret Courts

July 20, 2013

I’ve recently linked to Another Angry Voice’s blog post attacking the government’s proposal to introduce secret courts. Last year Private Eye also ran a piece in its edition for the 21st September – 4th October. The article ran as follows:

‘Secret Courts

Open and Shut Cases

The first lesson the apologetic David Cameron should learn from the Hillsborough inquiry is that there can be no justification for his plan to press ahead with a new raft of secret courts.

While the scale of the cover-up by the authorities in the wake of the football tragedy was breathtaking, the fact that police and other agents of the state can lie and fabricate damning evidence while burying other material that doesn’t help their case has been a long and unhappy feature of our justice system.

It is often only because of a tireless campaign by families, sometimes working with dedicated lawyers, trawling through boxes of evidence and material, that the injustice is finally put right-not before many lives have been destroyed. Non-disclosure of material which could prove someone’s innocence, of police, scientific or state malpractice, have long been major factors in these cases.

Such cover-ups happen even when the courts are open to public scrutiny and defendants or those challenging the state and their lawyers have rights of access to evidence. Imagine how much easier it would be behind closed court doors.

However, the Ministry of Justice is pressing ahead with plans to establish new secret courts, which will allow ministers to apply for special ‘closed material procedures’ (CMPs) in civil courts when it or its intelligence agencies and forces are being sued. It has also recently conceded in the Lords that CMPs could be employed in habeas corpus claims – the ancient law to ensure that people are not unlawfully detained – meaning yet more people will be locked up without knowing on what basis and without the means to contest it properly.

Cleverly, the prime minister used his “liberal” justice secretary Ken Clarke to steer through the controversial legislation, before ditching him for Chris Grayling in the reshuffle to the right. Clarke duly maintained that the measures are needed to prevent sensitive intelligence material provided by friendly states being revealed in open court.

The previous Labour administration always claimed, dubiously, that the US had been outraged at the use of American evidence in the UK courts which showed MI5 officers were involved in the torture and unlawful interrogation of British resident and Guantanamo Bay detainee, Binyam Mohamed. Lord Neuberger, the then master of the rolls, found that the security services had failed to respect human rights, had misled parliament and had a culture of suppression. All this was damning and hugely embarrassing for the service and Labour government which had tried to keep the material secret; and no doubt this is the driving motive behind the new secret court legislation for which MI5 has been lobbying ever since.

Under the proposals an application by the government for a court to sit in secret might itself remain secret as in the discredited superinjunction cases. The public would be prevented from learning about cases like that of Binyam Mohamed and the more recent cases of rendition to Iraq.’

The article then considered the case of another Guantanamo detainee, whose case was reviewed behind closed doors, rather than in open court.

‘It has now emerged that other Guantanamo detainees who were promised an inquiry and investigation into claims that they had ben illegally detained and ill-treated are again being thwarted by the government and authorities.

In January the judge-led Gibson inquiry – which was also to take place behind closed doors – into allegations of wrongdoing by the UKI’s security services was scrapped because Ken Clarke said it would interfere with a new Met police investigation into the Iraqi renditions.

Others making similar allegations were invited to complain formally to the police. But last month human rights lawyer Louise Christian, representing Guantanamo detainee Martin Mubanga, was told that a “scoping panel” which includes director public prosecutions Keir Starmer and senior police chiefs was deciding which cases to prioritise.

Curiously, the panel’s view was that the evidence in Mr Mubanga’s case would be best examined in the first instance “within the wider context of the detainee inquiry”, ignoring the fact tha the Gibson inquiry has been axed – and with no firm plans for any further inquiry.

Ms Christian told the Eye she knew of no precedent where police and the Crown Prosecution Service, which are supposed to be independent of government, postpone criminal investigations for a behind-closed-doors inquiry,m which would not in any event meet international human rights law governing serious allegations. More successful lobbying by the spooks, no doubt.’

Now I doubt that many people have much sympathy for the Guantanamo detainees, the majority of whom are there for very good reasons. There is, however, the wider issue of justice involved here. Justice has to be impartial. It has to operate, even in the cases of individuals accused of the most terrible crimes, regardless of what we think of them. Moreover, the legal safeguards built into these cases also protect wider society. It is to stop the same laws now being used in Gitmo being applied to other British citizens, to prevent Britain becoming a surveillance state where people disappear without knowing the crime of which they have been accused.

The proposal for these secret courts has been compared to the nightmare denials of justice portrayed in Kafka’s novels The Trial and The Castle. These predicted the situation that existed decades later under the Nazis and the Communists. During Stalin’s Terror people disappeared, taken from their homes and families by the NKVD as it then was, for trivial offences of Thoughtcrime. Simply remarking that Stalin appeared ill could and did get people arrested for being imperialist and Trotskyite spies engaged in anti-Soviet activities. Under the Nazis the phrase was ‘Nacht und Nebel’ – night and fog. Their disappearance into the maze of concentration camps without any statement regarding their whereabouts was deliberately calculated to inspire fear. Saddam Hussein operated a similar regime in Iraq. Under Hussein there were a number of laws relating to spying and national security in the Iraqi penal code, which it was illegal even to know about. These laws were invoked to detain and murder political opponents. it was for violation of these codes that the British journalist, Faisal Bazoft, was arrested and then murdered by the Iraqi regime.

If Cameron’s proposal for such secret courts goes ahead, we will have created the type of justice system against which we fought in the Second World War, and which partly supplied the justification for the wars against Iraq.