Posts Tagged ‘Inner City’

Radio 4 Programme Tomorrow on Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ Speech

April 13, 2018

Radio 4 tomorrow, 14th April 2017, are marking the 50th anniversary of Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ Speech with a programme in their ‘Archive Hour’ series at 8.00 pm. Entitled ‘Archive on 4: 50 Years On: Rivers of Blood’, the blurb for this on page 117 of the Radio Times runs

Amol Rajan reflects on the Conservative MP Enoch Powell’s incendiary 1968 Rivers of Blood speech, and the impact it continues to have today. And for the first time the speech is broadcast complete on British radio, as actor Ian Mc Diarmid reads it in full. The text of the speech included observations on immigrants taken from Powell’s Wolverhampton constituents, and ended with a reference to a moment in Virgil’s Aeneid, when the prophetess Sibyll predicts a civil war in Italy with “the Tiber foaming with much blood.’

The paragraph on the programme on the opposite page, 116, by Jane Anderson, the magazine’s radio editor, gives the following additional information:

It has been 50 years since Enoch Powell delivered his incendiary Rivers of Blood speech to a Conservative party meeting in Birmingham. Only a short section was recorded at the time and so, like presenter Amol Rajan, I have read the speech in its entirety. The post-Brexit vote echoes are rather chilling. What shocked me most, however, was not Powell’s own words – he was an incredibly bright and eloquent man, whatever his political views – but those of his constituents, as read in full here by the actor Ian McDiarmid: “Then the immigrants moved in. With growing fear, she (an old lady) saw one house after another taken over. The quiet street became a place of noise and confusion. Regretfully, her white tenants moved out.”

Lord Adonis has already expressed his very strong fears about the programme. According to today’s I, he has written to Ofcom expressing his deep concern that the programme should be broadcast at this time, and requesting them to order the Beeb not to broadcast it. The I‘s article also states that Ofcom has no power to tell anybody what or what not broadcast. The Beeb has also issued a reply stating that broadcasting Powell’s infamous words does not constitute endorsement.

No, it certainly doesn’t, and the selection of a British Asian presenter for the programme does indicate fairly clearly that this is not going to be an endorsement of Powell’s vile views. And there’s an irony here in the choice of actor to read the speech. If memory serves me correctly, Ian McDiarmid, amongst other roles, was the Galactic Emperor, AKA Senator Palatine, AKA Darth Sidious in Star Wars. Of course, there are probably very many other good reasons why he is the right person to read the speech. But for all the Star Wars fans, it’s still going to be the Dark Lord of the Sith reading out Powell’s evil speech.

I’ve no problem with it being read out in its entirety, if it’s properly critiqued. This is why I don’t have a problem with German universities issuing an annotated version of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. If you want to combat evil and racism, you have to study it, and take it apart to refute it. And Powell’s wretched speech has cast a long shadow over British politics. Yasmin Alibhai-Browne in one of her column’s in the I mentioned how some Whites mutter comments about Enoch being right without going any further. The NF used to sell Union Jack badges, which had around the edge ‘Enoch Was Right’. And last year or so Simon Heffer and other right-wing journos from the Torygraph and Heil published a volume of articles celebrating the noxious old monetarist, Enoch at 100.

The impression I had was that Powell, otherwise known as ‘Scowly Powelly’ as the other kids at school used to call him, really wasn’t racist. He could speak Urdu, and sincerely admired Indian culture. On the other hand, a friend I used to work with, who was very active in the anti-Apartheid movement, said that could have just been from a desire for promotion. British civil servants in India were paid more if they could speak an Indian language. He also initially believed that Britain had an obligation to support and treat well its imperial subjects. What he was unprepared for was the hostility to the new coloured immigrants from ordinary Whites in his constituency.

And the issues outlined in the speech are still with us. I’ve heard people complain about Whites being forced out of their neighbourhoods by Blacks and other immigrants, who wanted to take their houses. I’ve seen this complaint directed against Muslims by the Islamophobic ‘counterjihad’ websites. And the Tories are still playing on these fears. Mike earlier this week put up a piece about the Tories producing a pamphlet directed at the residents of one area around London. This threatened that if Labour got won the council elections in May, then they would increase the area’s links with the inner city so that the area would be awash with crime and drugs. In other words, a middle class White area would be deluged with Blacks and Asians, bringing these problems from their urban ghetto.

I also understand that some of the events Powell alluded to in his wretched speech were completely bogus. A friend of mine, who was very anti-racist, told me that they tried to investigate Powell’s allegation that old ladies had had excrement pushed through their letter boxes by ‘grinning picaninnies’. They couldn’t find it. Never happened. Another friend also told me that another, similar incident, was also imaginary. Another old lady had claimed that a black man had forced his way into her home, and defecated on her carpet. That never happened too. The old lady, apparently, was a nasty piece of work continually making up vile stories about her neighbours. She was, however, supported by a Black family next door, who looked after her, and who seemed to regard her hateful slanders as a bit of joke. There’s a whole chapter devoted to Powell and the ‘Rivers of Blood’ and its lies and falsehoods in the book, Bloody Foreigners: A History of the English.

I am also not convinced that everyone who voted for Brexit is racist. Some left-wingers voted for it because the EU is a very neoliberal organisation, which does have policies promoting privatisation. For left-wing critiques of the EU, read Lobster or Counterpunch. Many people undoubtedly voted ‘Leave’ because they wanted to give a shock to the elites governing this country, without actually considering that it might actually happen. Unfortunately, they won. And most of the people, who did vote ‘Leave’ probably were racists, as Tom Pride and so many others have pointed out.

So I’m going to say that people have a right to listen to this programme, and hear what Powell actually said, regardless of the dangers. I sympathise with Adonis, but at the same time, I don’t like anyone – including former New Labour ministers – telling me what I may or may not listen to. I sincerely hope that the Beeb will in this instance try to live up to it role as a public service broadcaster, and provide a suitably incisive critique of it. Regardless of whether Boris, Heffer and the rest of the Tories want it or not.

Advertisements

Trump Opens Black History Month, But Doesn’t Know Who Frederick Douglass Was

February 4, 2017

I think this month over in the US is Black History Month, which is when teachers, historians and educationalists try to bring to mainstream attention the numerous Black figures, who have contributed to the shaping of modern America. Trump went on TV to announce it this week, and paid tribute to great figures of the Abolitionist and Civil Rights movement Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. However, he didn’t seem to know quite who Douglass was. He described him as someone, who has done great work, and is increasingly being recognised. Which makes it sound as though Drumpf thought he was an historian of the Black contribution to America. Douglass wasn’t. He was one of the major figures of the 19th century Abolitionist movement. His autobiography is one of the classics of Abolitionist and Black American literature. One of his most controversial and inspiring speeches was ‘What To The Slave Is the Fourth of July?’, in which he pointed out how hollow and meaningless the rhetoric surrounding Independence Day, with its talk of resisting tyrants and slavery, for America’s Black people, who were still held in servitude.

In this clip from The Young Turks, John Iadarola and Ana Kasparian discuss Trump’s apparent ignorance. They give him due credit for recognising the contribution of the above Black leaders, and the millions of other Black people in business and politics, which Trump also mentions. They make the point that his apparent ignorance shows the need for Black History Month, as Douglass was an obscure figure until Black scholars rediscovered him. They take issue with the opposition some people have to the Month. Some object to it on the grounds that a separate period for Black history shouldn’t be necessary, and historically marginalised figures like Tubman, Parks, Douglass, MLK et al should be incorporated in general history. They don’t dispute this. They do attack the claim that there simply shouldn’t be Black history month, or there should also be a White History Month, on the grounds that White history is taught every year, throughout the year, from January to December. And they point out too that teaching Black history is necessary, as some schools in very right-wing states have deliberately removed Black leaders and figures like MLK from the curriculum, in order to teach right-wing political figures like Phyllis Schlafly. In an earlier video, The Young Turks reported, if I recall correctly, how the schoolboard in Arizona had stopped teaching the pupils there about slavery, and replaced that part of the school curriculum with Reagan’s speeches. Which very much bears out their point. As for Phyllis Schlafly, she was a Conservative activist, who was anti-feminist and very much anti-UN.

Trump in his speech also takes the time to correct the rumour that he does not treasure the bust of Martin Luther King and had it removed from his office. This, he says, is wrong. He states that it is his most treasured object. This is interesting, as it shows how MLK has been ‘whitewashed’ so that even a Conservative like Trump can approve of him. Those, who’ve studied MLK and his work have pointed out that the man was much more radical than is commonly recognised. He’s seen now simply as standing up for Black equality and racial reconciliation between White and Black. Which is true. But he also bitterly hated capitalism for its exploitation of the poor, whether Black or White, denounced the US’ attacks on Cuba and was very firmly opposed to the Vietnam War, for exactly the same reasons Mohammed Ali did. I dare say Trump would have been shocked to know any of that. It definitely wouldn’t have made MLK one of his favourite Black leaders, as the great man would have despised everything that Drumpf, and indeed recent American presidents, including Obama, stand for regarding the bombing and wars in the Middle East.

Trump also pays due to tribute to his Black staff members and co-workers, especially for taking him into areas, he didn’t know anything about and had not visited before. Iadarola and Kasparian give Trump credit for not going on about the problems of Black inner city ghettoes, which is the prism through which Drumpf usually views the Black community. They also note at one point, Trump characteristically turns it around so that he is, once again, talking about himself and his campaigning, rather than the issue at hand.

If you’re interested in following up Frederick Douglass’ life and work, his autobiography most certainly has been republished. I think it’s in print both individually, as a part of anthologies of American slave writings. There are very many history of slavery and the slave trade. One that’s particularly useful for American history is Harry Harmer’s, The Longman Companion to Slavery, Emancipation and Civil Rights (Harlow: Pearson Education Ltd 2002). This has separate chapters on slavery in different regions and periods, such as in South America, North America and so on. It also presents the most important points as bulleted facts, and as its title says, continues the story into the Civil Rights period.

Letwin and Alienated Inner City Youths

January 4, 2016

Nye Bevan pic

Nye Bevan – Miner, Statesman, Founder of the Welfare State

Yesterday, Mike over at Vox Political put up another piece about Oliver Letwin, and his racist, bigoted views on Blacks and inner city youths. In his 1999 book, The Purpose of Politics, Letwin held forth about the underclass, and specifically drug riddled gang members, who were more alienated than the medieval serfs. See the article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/01/03/oliver-letwin-inner-city-youth-more-alien-than-the-serfs/. Letwin claims that these comments show his commitment to equality of opportunity. As everyone else but him has already realised, they don’t. They show the complete opposite.

They are actually bog-standard Tory views about ‘the democracy’, as the upper classes used to refer to us proles back in the 19th century, and they could have come from any time from the 17th century right into the 19th and beyond. The upper classes feared and hated the urban working classes as immoral, criminal and potentially subversive. Hence the harsh legislation enacted against trade unions and other potentially seditious assemblies and organisations. What eventually disproved this image was the Great Exhibition of 1854, when large numbers of working class people turned up at Crystal Palace showing themselves to be well-behaved, and generally not rioting, or trying to overthrow the government.

And youth culture has been particularly viewed with alarm and suspicion by the authorities since the 17th century, when the Mohocks ran wild in the streets of London. These were a group of thugs, who got their name from their Mohawk hairstyles taken from the Amerindian people. There’s even a book written about the historic distrust of working class popular culture Hooligan: A History of Respectable Fears. Thatcher, of course, hated the working class with a passion. She saw them as treacherous and subversive. Letwin is basically following the views of his leader, Maggie Thatcher, in that respect. Except that Thatcher was careful to craft an image of herself as somehow working class, with all that rubbish about living above the family shop.

And Letwin’s comments about alienation ignores the fact that such an attitude may be completely justified by the nature of society and the way it treats its least fortunate members. One of the clearest statements of political alienation in modern literature came from the pen of Aneurin Bevan, the architect of the welfare state and NHS. In his 1952 book, In Place of Fear (London: William Heinemann Ltd) Bevan describes his feelings as a member of the working class and the feeling he experienced when he entered parliament, the bastion of ruling class privilege and power.

“The past lies like an Alp upon the human mind.” The House of Commons is a whole range of mountains. If the new Member gets there too late in life he is already trailing a pretty considerable past of his own, making him heavy-footed and cautious. When to this is added the visible penumbra of sic centuries of receding legislator, he feels weighed to the ground. Often he never gets to his feet again.

His first impression is that he is in church. The vaulted roofs and stained-glass windows, the rows of statues of great statesmen of the past, the echoing halls, the soft-footed attendants and the whispered conversation, contrast depressingly with the crowded meetings and the clang and clash of hot opinions he has just left behind in his election campaign. Here he is, a tribune of the people, coming to make his voice heard in the seats of power. Instead, it seems he is expected to worship; and the most conservative of all religions – ancestor worship.

The first thing he should bear in mind is that these were not his ancestors. His forebears had no part in the past, the accumulated dust of which now muffles his own footfalls. His forefathers were tending sheep or ploughing the land, or serving the statesmen whose names he sees written on the walls around him, or whose portraits look down upon him in the long corridors. it is not the past of his people that extends in colourful pageantry before his eyes. They were shut out from all this; were forbidden to take part in the dramatic scenes depicted in these frescoes. In him his people are there for the first time, and the history he will make will not be merely an episode in the story he is now reading. It must be wholly different; as different as is the social status which he now brings with him.

To preserve the keen edge of his critical judgement he will find that he must adopt an attitude of scepticism amounting almost to cynicism, for the Parliamentary procedure neglects nothing which might soften the acerbities of his class feelings. In one sense the House of Commons is the most unrepresentative of representative assemblies. It is an elaborate conspiracy to prevent the real clash of opinion which exists outside from finding an appropriate echo within its walls. It is a social shock absorber placed between privilege and the pressure of popular discontent.

That’s a very strong statement of acute alienation from parliament, with all its ceremony, and the pomp and iconography of the ruling class. And Bevan is exactly right: for centuries the working class were excluded from any kind of power, and expected to serve and show due difference to their social superiors, if not betters. And despite all the slogans Cameron mouths about expanding opportunity, parliament is still the seat of privilege. Something like 90 % of MPs are millionaires. And the Tory party has always boasted of being the party of the ruling class.

Bevan was perfectly in his rights to be alienated. Just as contemporary working and lower middle class people are entirely within their rights to be cynical about a system and a party that is reducing them to desperate poverty. All while the Letwins of the British politics mouth off about how they are committed to equality of opportunity.