Posts Tagged ‘Irish Nationalism’

Lyra McKee and the Return of the Troubles in Northern Ireland

April 20, 2019

Yesterday Mike reported the death of Lyra McKee, a crusading journalist in Ulster, who was shot dead during rioting at the Creggan estate in Derry. Police had been despatched their to search for arms and ammunition that it was feared would be used by Republican terrorists, hoping to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising with a return to violence and bloodshed.

Mike makes the point that there are no reasons good enough to justify murder, and that 21 years after the Good Friday agreement there must be a commitment instead to friendship. Power must once again be restored to the Stormont Assembly, and the people of the Six Counties should be shown that the Irish border will remain open, whatever Britain’s relationship with the EU is like.

He states that the best way to shut down violence is to remove the cause for it. But Tweezer has instead stated that ‘nothing has changed’. Well, problems with a political cause need a political solution, and so he asks May squarely why nothing has changed.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/04/19/journalist-shot-dead-in-northern-ireland-21-years-after-good-friday-agreement-why/

I think we all know the reason for that. Devolved government in Northern Ireland has collapsed through a failure of the two coalition parties to cooperate. And Tweezer has increased insecurities over the Irish border through her determination to hold on to power at the expense of a proper Brexit deal or alternative government, that could find one. And she is being propped up by a Loyalist party with very extreme views, linked to political corruption and terrorism.

The people of Ulster and the British people need and deserve better.

One of the problems Jerry Adams faced in selling the Good Friday agreement to the Republicans was that to many of them, it was simply a return to the situation before the Troubles. Northern Ireland had a devolved assembly, but it’s government was taken over by Westminster after the Troubles broke out. And there was a ‘hard border’ with Eire. Now that the government of the Six Counties is once again in the hands of Britain and there is again a prospect of a hard border returning, it is not surprising that anxiety among the Nationalist community in Ulster is rising and that dissident Republicans are seeking to exploit this and begin the terrorist campaign again.

It’s time this was stopped before it began, as Mike said. It’s time there was a renewed commitment to making democracy work in Northern Ireland, no hard border with Eire, and Tweezer and her wretched Brexit scheme out from No. 10. And preferably Corbyn in, who was never a supporter of terrorism, and had the respect of all the parties in Northern Ireland. And we need this immediately, before more innocents are killed.

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Bernie Sanders Launches ‘Medicare for All’ Plan in US

April 11, 2019

Great news from across the Pond. According to today’s I for Thursday, 11th April 2019, the left-wing Democrat senator, Bernie Sanders, has launched his ‘medicare for all’ scheme to replace America’s current insurance-driven healthcare system with one in which the American state would pay people’s medical fees. The I’s report, ‘Sanders launches ‘healthcare for all’ plan, on page 25 runs

The US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders revealed his “Medicare for All” plan yesterday, shaking up the 2020 election by reopening the debate over his call to eliminate private health insurance.

Four of the senators who are rivalling Mr Sanders for the Democratic Party nomination are set to sign on to the updated single-payer healthcare proposal. The bill’s reintroduction promises to shine a light on Democratic presidential candidates’ disparate visions for the long-term future of American healthcare.

Some Democratic contenders, including former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, have criticized Sanders’ measure, which they say is political infeasible.

Under Medicare for All, Americans would no longer pay premiums or face insurance deductibles as the government-run system replaced private health insurance offered through employers.

This really is what America needs. Badly. Something like 20 per cent of all Americans can’t afford medical insurance, and, according to the statistics cited by Sanders in his book, Our Revolution, every year 40,000 Americans die because they can’t afford medical treatment. In some parts of the US, people are hoarding medicine because they have difficult affording it, and even use medicines prescribed by vets for animals. They’re even heading over the border to Mexico for dental treatment because it’s much, much cheaper over there. And medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy in the Land of the Free. The progressive American Left have been wondering for a long time why it is that the other nations of the Developed World can afford universal healthcare, but American can’t.

Opposing him, naturally, is the American private healthcare industry, the Republicans, and the Corporate, Clintonite Democrats. I think Hillary Clinton said several times that the country couldn’t afford state medicine, parroting the ideas of the Republicans. And if she didn’t say, her daughter, Chelsea, certainly did. And over here, the Tories and Blairite Labour, as well as the ‘Centrist’ Change UK, also want to privatise the NHS. Blair’s health secretary, Alan Milburn, wanted to see the NHS reduced to a kitemark on services provided by private healthcare providers. I don’t think Bernie Sanders wants to nationalize the American healthcare system. He just wants the state to pay for its citizens’ healthcare, as Germany has done for its people since Bismarck’s ‘Socialist Law’ of 1871 or so. And one of the reasons that there has been such opposition in British politics to Jeremy Corbyn is because he has promised to renationalize the NHS. Corbyn’s policies are massively popular, which is why the Right, both within and outside the Labour Party, has been reduced to smearing him as a Communist, or a supporter of Irish Republican terrorism – as we’ve seen from the Tories, the Right considers Loyalist terrorists perfectly acceptable – and now a raging anti-Semite, despite the plentiful evidence to the contrary.

The NHS is being destroyed before us, and if this continues, we will reach a situation like America, where it’s increasingly unaffordable to all but the very affluent. We need Jeremy Corbyn in No. 10 in Britain, and Bernie Sanders over in America. A transatlantic partnership that would roll back the horrors of neoliberalism, and start giving working people in both countries the healthcare they need and deserve.

Tories’ Karen Bradley Insults Innocent Victims of the British Army in Northern Ireland

March 8, 2019

Yesterday Mike also put up a piece about Karen Bradley, the current Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who seems determined to wreck the Tories’ chances of retaining any support in Ulster. They are supposed to be the Conservative and Unionist Party, but you wouldn’t know it, considering the contempt she appeared to show the innocents killed by the British army during the Troubles. Bradley declared that the people killed by the army were not crimes, constituted only 10 per cent of the deaths during the Troubles, and that the police and military fulfilled their duties in a dignified and appropriate way. This naturally caused outrage, as there is plentiful evidence that they didn’t. She then made matters worse by trying to clarify her comments by saying that where there is evidence of wrongdoing, it should be investigated. This appears to contradict her earlier comments, which suggests that there is no such evidence.

Mike therefore put up a series of tweets by Clare Allan, which list some of the unarmed protesters gunned down by the army during Bloody Sunday. Mike makes the point that he doesn’t know the details behind each incident and so is not saying it should be given legal weight. But it is clear that Allan herself believes they were killed illegally, and this shows the reason for the outrage Bradley’s comments have caused.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/03/08/supporters-of-the-jewish-labour-movement-respond-to-this-sites-critique-with-abuse/

Bloody Sunday is one of the most infamous events in the Troubles. It was when the  British army shot an unarmed Roman Catholic civil rights demonstration. The army has claimed in its defence that it believed that IRA terrorists were hiding amongst the demonstrators and were preparing an attack. This might be true, but it seems that many of those shot were unarmed, non-violent demonstrators. And it has left a long and bitter memory. Nearly two decades ago I went to an art exhibition in one of the pubs in Cheltenham, showing the works by some of the students and graduates of the art school there. It was avant-garde, conceptualist stuff. One of the pieces consisted of the portraits of seven demonstrators killed at Bloody Sunday covered in lead as a comment on their deaths.

As for the police, the army was originally sent in because the RUC, dominated by Protestant loyalists, was too brutal. There is also evidence that the British government embedded SAS troopers in with regular soldiers, who then acted as death squads against Republicans. I have also heard stories from non-sectarian relatives, who grew up in Ulster, that some of the squaddies’ attitude to ordinary Roman Catholics was less than ‘dignified’ and ‘appropriate’. But people there felt they could not speak out, because if they did, they’d be put in the Maze as a ‘Fenian’.

I am very much aware that the police and armed services risked their lives to maintain peace in the province, and that if they had been removed without a peace agreement, the violence and bloodshed between Nationalist and Loyalist would have been even more horrific. But this does not alter the fact that there are serious questions still to be answered about the conduct of the police and British army during the Troubles. And as we’ve also seen, the recent car bomb in Londonderry shows and the uncertainty about the Irish backstop and Brexit shows that the peace is still very delicate. Mo Mowlam and Jeremy Corbyn performed a considerable achievement in bringing about peace in the Six Counties. A piece Bradley and the Tories seem willing to destroy with their tactless and ill-considered remarks. 

Sinn Fein Senator Niall O’Donnghaile Demands Expulsion of Israeli Ambassador over Gaza

February 12, 2019

This is a video posted on YouTube by the Sinn Fein senator, Niall O’Donghaile, of his speech in the Irish Senate last May demanding sanctions against Israeli and the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador for Israel’s continued bombing of Gaza and the genocide of the Palestinian people.

Senator O’Donghaile pays due tribute to the efforts of the Dublin government to reach a diplomatic solution to the crisis, but he rejects this approach. He says it assumes that the conflict is between two equal countries, and that Israel is interested in diplomacy. They are not. And the bombing is not a one-off situation either. It is part of the continued genocide of the Palestinian people. He also says that the Americans would block any diplomatic attempt to end the Israeli action. He states that they know from their own history when to support diplomacy and when not. He therefore calls on the Irish government to boycott Israeli goods and follow South Africa’s example and expel the Israeli ambassador. He also states that, as Ireland has also suffered from imperialism and colonialism, they should stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

I realise that this going to be a controversial video, not least because of the speaker. I remember how Sinn Fein was the mouthpiece of the IRA during the Troubles and the carnage caused by Ulster terrorists. I am also very much aware that it was through efforts of Sinn Fein politicians like Gerry Adams that the Good Friday Agreement was reached and peace and normality returned to the Six Counties. A peace that remains fragile, and has been upset thanks to the breakdown of government at Stormont and Brexit, which threatens the open border to the South.

And I am also very much aware how desperate the Tories and their lackeys in the press and media have been to find any link between Jeremy Corbyn and Irish Republican terrorism, as well as Palestinian and Arab groups.

But Senator O’Donnghaile is right here, and his speech is a very statesmanlike summary of the realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Israeli state is not interested in a just and equitable peace. It is only interested in carrying through its decades long policy of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. The speech also shows that I was correct in linking the Irish boycott of Israeli goods from the Occupied Territories with the Irish nationalist campaign against British imperialism. And possibly more closely than Mr. O’Donnghaile realizes. A few weeks ago Tony Greenstein put up on his blog a very long piece describing how Britain promoted and armed Saudi Arabia in the 1920s to attack and overthrow the traditional Arab and Muslim authority in the region because they would not support the region’s partition and continued to support the Palestinians against the nascent Jewish settlements. And it was very much about preserving and extending British power in the region.

After Ireland passed its BDS legislation, Netanyahu went on a predictable rant about them being anti-Semitic – they weren’t: Ireland still recognizes Israel and purchases Israeli goods. They just won’t purchase them if they’re made in the West Bank. The Israelis also called in the Irish ambassador for a telling off.

Senator O’Donnghaile says in his speech that Ireland is a small country on the world stage. Which is true. But as I pointed out in a previous post, Ireland has massive cultural cachet through its music and literature, especially in America and Australia, which have very strong Irish populations. In America the Irish formed a major constituency for the Democrats, at least in New York, while I understand that in Australia they were the backbone of the Labor Party. What Ireland says or does about an issue therefore carries weight far above the country’s economic or demographic figures.

I’m also very sure that Mr O’Donnghaile’s speech is what Israel fears the most, and why the Israel lobby has been so keen to smear Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters as anti-Semites. They are afraid of him standing up in parliament to make a speech like this, and of Britain also passing BDS legislation. Hence also Shai Masot’s shenanigans a year or so ago, where he took it upon himself to decide who should be in Theresa May’s cabinet, forcing Alan Duncan out because he was insufficiently loyal to Israel.

Unlike Ireland, Britain is a major economic power. Or we were up to the point the Tories decided to wreck it with their inept plans for Brexit. If we ban goods produced in the Occupied Territories, it will be a profound blow. And it would encourage more countries to begin criticizing Israel. And the Israeli state cannot tolerate that. We can expect more hysterical denunciations of decent people for anti-Semitism as the Israelis try to stop more people following Ireland’s example.

Open Britain Video Showing May’s Decision for Hard Border in Northern Ireland

March 2, 2018

I get regular emails from Open Britain, an all-party organisation supporting the EU and opposing the Hard Brexit so beloved of Boris, Mogg, Gove and the rest of the right-wing grotesques. Earlier today I got this email from them, issued by Chuka Umunna, promoting their video, which clearly shows Tweezer stating that she’s backing a hard border in the Northern Ireland.

The email ran:

It was the last chance for the Prime Minister to finally face down the Brextremists in her party and do what is in the best interests of the country. But, yet again, she failed to do so. Her speech offered no new solutions, just more empty soundbites.

As the Brexit process continues, facts are coming to light which no-one could have known at the time of the referendum. Nobody voted for a £40bn Brexit divorce bill, or for fewer nurses and less money for our NHS.

And on the key issue of Northern Ireland, Theresa May today had almost nothing new to say. Perhaps that’s because she knows her ‘red lines’ have made avoiding a hard border impossible. Yesterday we revealed a video showing that, in the days leading up to the referendum, Theresa May told the truth – that hard Brexit means having a hard border.

this video has already been viewed by over 191,000 people in just the past 24 hours. But we need everyone to see it, so they know the truth about the damage that Theresa May’s Brexit plans will really do. So please share the video and spread the word.

Please SHARE this video with friends and family on Facebook and Twitter so everybody knows what Theresa May really thinks on how her hard Brexit plans will hit Northern Ireland.

The video’s on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/OpenBritain/videos/1989256644447983/

Mike’s already blogged about how May supports a hard border in Ulster. And more than enough people have pointed out that a vital condition of the Good Friday Agreement was that there should be an open border between the Six Counties and Eire. If May and her gang close that border, then it threatens to return us to the very dark days of the Troubles.

But I doubt Tweezer is bothered by that.

Thatcher used the Troubles and the threat of Nationalist violence for all the publicity she could get. She portrayed herself as standing proud, like some Boudicaa or Winston Churchill facing down the Romans and Nazis, never willing to budge one inch against the IRA.

It was all lies.

At the same time she was posing as Britain’s defender against Fenianism, she and her government were deep in negotiations with those very same Irish Nationalists. At the very time she was vilifying the Labour party as traitors, because they were publicly advocating the same policy. Which shows how mendacious and utterly two-faced she was.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Tweezer and the Hard Brexit Tories didn’t think that they could do the same. Fix a hard border in Ulster, and then, when the province descends into chaos and the terrorists begin bombing, they can once again win over a frightened British public by posing as our ardent defenders. Even when it is her party’s policy that has created the murder and bloodshed in the first place.

And do you know what shattered Thatcher’s intransigence, and brought her round to the negotiating table with the IRA and Sinn Fein?

It wasn’t the hundreds of innocents butchered by the men of violence – Nationalist and Loyalist – in Ulster, including our courageous troops. It was because the IRA bombed Canary Wharf. That showed that they could bring down the very heart of British finance capitalism.

Ordinary lives don’t matter to the Tories. But the banks must always be protected and promoted.

Tweezer and the Tories are destroying Britain, and threatening more death and destruction in Ulster for their own electoral gain and stupid, free market ideologies. Get them out. Support Corbyn’s Labour and closer ties with the EU.
Before Tweezer and her cronies try to portray her as the second coming of Maggie Thatcher, and start exploiting the violence they have helped cause.

Tory Press Scaremongering about Sinn Fein Taking Seats in Westminster

June 14, 2017

In addition to the DUP’s links to Loyalist paramilitaries in Ulster, it seems the Tory press over this side of the Irish Sea have been trying to scare people with the spectre of Sinn Fein MPs taking their seats in the British parliament in Westminster. The Scum, Express and the Scotsman have been running stories about this.

This was too much for the French Philosophical Feline, who has produced a whole post showing how this very definitely won’t happen. He points out that Sinn Fein haven’t taken their seats in the British parliament ever since they became the third largest British party under Eamonn De Valera in the Coupon Election of 1918. If I remember correctly from when we did the ‘Irish Question’ as part of 19th century history at school, the Irish Nationalists’ policy of refusing to take their seats in Westminster goes back that far.

The Cat quotes a long section from an article by Sinn Fein’s Danny Morrison, stating the reasons the party won’t ever take up their seats in the British parliament. It’s partly because they’re Republicans, and so won’t swear an oath to the monarchy. It’s also partly because they can’t see themselves, as a minority party in parliament, ever passing any useful legislation.

But it’s mostly because they don’t recognise the validity of British government in Northern Ireland. They see Britain as a foreign, occupying power and so refuse to collaborate with it. Morrison also makes the point that it would be hypocritical of them to deny the authority of the British government over Northern Ireland, while actively claiming to have a right to interfere in British politics.

The Cat concludes

The British press has a terrible reputation for propagandizing and stirring up trouble, and anything it says with regards to Ireland and Irish sovereignty should be taken with a ton of salt – especially if its in The S*n, a paper that lied about Hillsborough and hacked people’s phones.

See: https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/dont-get-too-excited-sinn-fein-are-not-taking-their-seats-at-westminster/

Useful Books and Articles on British Fascism

May 6, 2017

Since Brexit there’s been an alarming rise in racism, which has resulted in a spate of verbal and physical attacks on Blacks, Asians and eastern European immigrants. The openly Nazi fringe has shrunk to a handful of feuding grouplets, whose membership has also fallen dramatically. Unfortunately, these groups have become increasingly radical, and their Nazism and racism is now much more overt. The banned British Nazi youth group, National Action, as I’ve said, used to march about in cod-Nazi uniforms while making speeches full of the Jewish world conspiracy twaddle. And they’re not the only clowns. There’s another Nazi group, which also dresses up in quasi-Nazi gear, and whose leader seems to desperately fancy himself as the new Oswald Mosley.

With this occurring, I though I’d post a piece about some of the books and articles I’ve found useful on the history of British Fascism. These are

Richard Thurlow, Fascism in Britain: A History, 1918-1985 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell 1987).

This is a comprehensive history of British Fascism, from its origins in late 19th century reactionary Conservativism, racial theorising, Eugenics and bizarre evolutionary speculation, to the mid-1980s. The groups covered include notorious anti-Semites like Arnold Leese’s the Britons, the arch-Conservative British Fascisti, who acted like a kind of paramilitary wing for the Tories in attacking trade unionists, members of the Labour party, and other dangerous and subversive working class radicals; the BUF and Oswald Mosley, and other notorious Fascist and radical anti-immigration groups like the League of Empire Loyalists, the BNP, National Front, British Movement, Column 88, and lesser organisations. It has the following chapters

1. The Twilight of the Gods, 1890-1914
2. the Lost Generation, 1914-1932
3 The British Fascists and Conservative Fascism, 1918-1934
4 The Jew Wise, 1918-1939
5 The BUF and British Society, 1932-1939
6 The Boys in Black, 1932-1939
7 The Mutiny against Destiny
8 The Hitler Fan Club
9 Internment, 1939-1945
10 New Wine for Old Bottles, 1945-1960
11 National Socialists and Racial Populists, 1960-1967
12 The Grand Synthesis, 1967-1985
Conclusion: The Sawdust Caesars.

The British parapolitics magazine, Lobster, has also published a number of articles about British Fascism and its denizens. Lobster is a ‘conspiracy’ magazine, but it isn’t about stupid and murderous rantings about Jews and freemasons. This is about real conspiracies and clandestine groups that are documented history, and have been trying covertly to influence British and global politics, such as the various front organisations set up by the CIA during the Cold War and the type of pro-Nazi groups set up and organised by the Republicans in their long campaign against global Communism. The articles on British Fascism are by anti-Fascist writers and activists.

Larry O’Hara published a series of articles, Notes from the Underground on British Fascism from 1974 to 1992. These ran from issues 23-25. Part 1, published in Lobster 23, was on the period 1974-83. Part 2 in Lobster 24 covered the links between British Fascists and their counterparts on the continent, including Steve Brady, the political soldier faction in the NF, the safe-housing of German and Italian Fascists in Britain in 1983, and the plot to bomb the Notting Hill carnival. Part 3 in Lobster 25 covered the four years from 1983 to 1986 including the removal of Martin Webster as the head of the NF and the resignation of Joe Pearce and Nick Griffin,, the attempts by the NF to set up Instant Response Groups to organise rapid campaigns against marches by Irish Republicans, and a brief occupation of the offices of the Daily Mirror. In the same period they also tried to present themselves as Green and eco-friendly, organising demonstrations against vivisection. They also mounted a campaigned against the kosher slaughter of animals. This prefigures the recent campaigns of some of the far right factions against halal slaughter by Muslims. They also tried to set themselves up as being for the miners in the miners’ strike, a series of prosecutions in 1984, which resulted in several of their members being jailed for various offences, and their foiled attempt to infiltrate the National Council for Civil Liberties. O’Hara followed this up in Lobster 29 with an analysis of the NF’s split in 1986. He also wrote a piece in issue 30 examining the possible links between Combat 18 and MI5. He also reviewed the books Contemporary British Fascism: The British National Party and the Quest for Legitimacy, by Nigel Copsey (Palgrave MacMillan 2004) and The Radical Right in Britain by Alan Sykes, (Palgrave MacMillan 2005) in Lobster 49. There was also piece in Lobster 46 by Kevin Coogan on the League of Empire Loyalists and the Defenders of the American Constitution.

The issues from Lobster 58 are online and free to read. Earlier issues are only available in hardcopy, and have to be ordered from the editor, Robin Ramsay.

This obviously is a very limited and dated list of material on modern Fascism. Nevertheless, it helps give the perspective to the contemporary antics of the British Far Right and their campaigns to beat and terrorise people simply because of their ethnicity or colour.

Danish Amateur Rocketeers Aim for Space

November 19, 2015

This is truly awesome! It’s a VICE documentary I found on Youtube about Copenhagen Suborbitals, a non-profit organisation formed by two Danish guys, Kristian von Bengtson and Peter Madsen, who are building their own spacecraft to carry a person on a sub-orbital spaceflight.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that both have a background as professional rocket engineers. Bengtson used to work for NASA, while his partner, Peter Madsen, also has a background in rocket science. Bengtson got in touch with Madsen after Madsen built and launched his own submarine, the Nautilus, and stated that he’d like to go back to rockets.

Their spacecraft, Beautiful Betty, is built from off the shelf components, like domestic boilers. The rocket uses ethanol as its fuel, and LOX, liquid oxygen, to oxidise it to make it combust. At the time the film was posted in 2012 Bengtson and Madsen were still experimenting with crash test dummies rather than risking a human life. My guess is that they haven’t progressed beyond that, as if they had finally launched someone into space, even in a very short suborbital flight, it would most likely have been all over the news. Bengtson, Madsen and their team would have been celebrities.

The two also encourage others to copy them, in order to show that it doesn’t have to be massive corporations with extremely expensive launchers getting into space. Bengtson says at the end that people are welcome to join them, or copy the details of the spacecraft from their blog and go off and make their own spacecraft.

Here’s the programme:

This is truly inspiring. I strongly believe that the only way spaceflight will ever truly become a mass enterprise, will be when ordinary people have the opportunity to experience space. When the High Frontier is no longer the sole preserve of giant aerospace companies and national or international organisations, like NASA and ESA. When its more like the mass popular migration into space depicted by Ray Bradbury in his classic collection of short stories, The Martian Chronicles. Without, hopefully, the pessimism about human civilisation and it destructive effects contained in Bradbury’s book. In The Martian Chronicles the human settlers destroy the indigenous Martians, and then their civilisation collapses after a nuclear war destroys all life on Earth, or at least humanity there.

Now rocketry, even at the level of Copenhagen Suborbital, is very advanced engineering. Nevertheless, there’s a very large amateur rocketry milieu around the world. These range from hobbyists, who make and launch model rockets that travel only a few hundred feet up, to some extremely serious rocketeers. One year a group sent a 45 foot minuteman missile into orbit.

One of the issues that might strangle the popular, amateur exploration of space is domestic terrorism. In Britain, research into rockets and their use as spacecraft was seriously hampered by the Victorian legislation, nicknamed ‘the fireworks act’, which made it illegal for amateurs to manufacture explosives. The law was passed as a response to bombings by Irish nationalists. Unfortunately, as well as helping to prevent terrorism, it stopped the various early British amateurs from experimenting, though there were a number of rocket societies which developed in the 1920s. Out of them grew the British Interplanetary Society, which is still going today. It still publishes serious papers on rocketry and space science, as well as more popular coverage of spaceflight. Among its members are the late Arthur C. Clarke, and Matt Irvine, who was one of the special effects team building the models for the cult BBC SF series, Blake’s 7.

The legislation regulating the manufacture of explosives is quite correct. These are highly dangerous materials. Apart from anything else, there’s always the danger of accidents, quite apart from the renewed terrorist threat from ISIS and al-Qaeda much earlier. Even in America, which has much less strict firearms regulations, serious rocketeers have to obtain suitable certificates and permits from the Federal Aviation Authority.

Nevertheless, these Danish guys are showing what you can do with skill and ingenuity without the budget of the big space combines. The motto of the British Interplanetary Society is ‘From Imagination to Reality’ – and they’re doing it!
Godspeed, guys!

Homelessness, Evictions and Revolution: Ireland, 19th century; Britain, 21st?

May 16, 2014

Irish Eviction Pic

I found this photo of an Irish peasant being evicted from his holding in the W.H. Smith History of the World: The Last Five Hundred Years (Feltham: Hamlyn 1984), p. 519. The caption for it reads:

Evicting a peasant from his holding: the poverty-stricken Irish peasantry’s resentment of prosperous English absentee landlords was just one contributory factor in the unstoppable demand for Home Rule and the dissolution of the Union of England and Ireland.

The oppression of the Irish peasantry through heavy rents and the eviction of large numbers, who couldn’t pay, created bitter resentment that did indeed contribute strongly to the demand for Home Rule, popular uprisings and Fenian – Irish nationalist – terrorism against the British. And I wonder how long it will be before the Tory cuts and the mass poverty they have caused in Britain will lead to the same resentment and violence in the UK.

Many people now in Britain also feel alienated and abandoned by a political class that appears isolated and out of touch with the needs of the British people themselves, and concerned only with the further enrichment of the extremely wealthy through further privatisation and tax cuts. The government’s austerity programme has led to a level of starvation in the UK not seen since the 19th century. Rising house prices have created a ‘Generation Rent’, who have little opportunity to get on the property ladder. And the notorious ‘Bedroom Tax’ and prohibition on the further construction of council housing have seen people forced out of their homes and into Bed and Breakfast accommodation and hotels, simply because they can no longer afford the rent on their council houses. And as the rich get richer, British cities like London are seeing a social cleansing as the poor and working class are forced out to the suburbs and less expensive towns as they are priced out by the rich.

If these policies continue, the resentment and alienation felt by the poor, working and lower middle class in this country will get worse. And the celebrations up and down the country last year of the death of Margaret Thatcher show just how long and deeply such bitterness can and will last. Thatcher was overthrown by the Tories in a cabinet coup in the first years of the 1990s nearly a quarter of a century ago.

You can only push people so far before the bitterness and resentment turns to violence. The shooting of Mark Duggan in 2010 resulted in rioting, and it only needs more incidents like that to cause further unrest. Boris Johnson is clearly worried about it, otherwise he wouldn’t be trying to purchase two second-hand water cannons from the Germans. And one of the causes of radical resentment in the Federal Republic was the death of a protester after being hit by water cannon during a riot in 1969. I’m not saying that violence, rioting and terrorism will inevitably occur. The popular mood at the moment seems simply to be one of sullen resignation. Nevertheless, if people are left without hope, and the government appears too distant, self-interested and arrogant, the potential is there. The existence of formal parliamentary democracy may not make much difference, if people feel that there is no real choice, or there is a continued dominance of one political party. It is believed that if Scotland secedes, the result will be a decline in the number of Labour MPs, with the result that future government are likely to be dominated by the Conservatives. The existence of democracy in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s did not prevent the revival of Irish nationalist terrorism, because the dominance of the Unionist party meant that the Roman Catholic population did not feel that their grievances and institutional oppression against them were being addressed. It may therefore not be long before a similar situation arises in Britain and England, where large number of the poor and working class feel they have no alternative for making themselves heard except through violence and acts of terror.

I don’t want that. There’s been enough bloodshed in British history already. Hopefully this can be prevented before it’s too late. The ‘Bedroom Tax’, Workfare, and cuts to welfare benefit all need to be scrapped, and a government elected determined to create real jobs, rather than just the illusion to serve the corporate interests of wealthy donors. It needs a more representative parliament, with members drawn from the working and lower middle classes, rather than the professionals and lawyers, who now predominate. And certainly not the Eton-educated aristos now forming the present cabinet. Only in this way can we stop, and possibly just begin to reverse, the bitter resentment and hatred now forming against Britain’s out of touch, complacent and exploitative elite. A resentment that if it goes further will lead to violence and bloodshed that may last decades.

Tory Councillor Told To Resign after Criticising David Attenborough – But Attenborough Does Believe in Doing Nothing for the Starving

September 19, 2013

Late yesterday evening there was a story on the MSN News about Phil Taylor, a Conservative councillor in Ealing, who had been told to resign for his comments on Twitter about David Attenborough. According to the article, Taylor had been angered by a statement by Attenborough on the need to curb the growth of the world’s population. He tweeted ‘I do wish this silly old fart would practice what he preached and take a one-way trip to Switzerland’. The leader of the Labour Party in Ealing Council, Julian Bell, condemned Taylor’s comments, and demanded that he should either apologise or resign. Taylor was also criticised by Scott Freeman, from the anti-bullying charity, Cybersmile, for setting a bad example and encouraging cyberbullying.

In reply to these criticisms, Taylor said in an email “My tweet reflected my frustration with Attenborough repeatedly using his ‘national treasure’ status to promote a set of views that see people as being a problem. His prescriptions seem always to apply to other people.

“My view of the world is that we have to work out how to make sure that the 9 billion people who will populate the world by 2050 all have a good life. They all have hopes and dreams and don’t need to be told what to do by Attenborough.”

The article concludes with the simple statement that ‘Sir David said in a radio interview this morning that he recognised that population controls were a controversial area and emphasised that he felt more strongly towards a human baby than any animal.

However, it is important to have a debate over what we do about the rising pressures on natural resources, he said.’

The full article can be read at:
http://news.uk.msn.com/uk/david-attenborough-should-kill-himself-says-tory-councillor.

Right-Wing Opposition to Green Politics

Now the Right does not like Green politics. In America Green politics are criticised as a Left-wing strategy for increasing taxation, regulation and enforcing income redistribution. The last means Republicans don’t like it because the Greens want to take money from the rich and give to the poor. Conservatives in America and Britain believe that Big Business has an absolute right to exploit, pollute and destroy the environment and its flora and fauna. In response to pressure from Green politicians and environmental groups, they have set up astroturf organisations, like ‘Wise Use’ to counter such criticism and present Conservatives as advocating instead a responsible approach to the environment in line with a policy promoting the proper exploitation of the natural world.

Attenborough: UN Should Not Give Food to Famine Victims

Now the suggestion that Attenborough should go and end his life in a Dignitas clinic is extreme, and it does set a bad example when so many children have ended their lives through abuse on the Internet. Taylor’s comment is not, however, quite as bad when you read what Attenborough himself had said. This is truly monstrous. According to the Daily Telegraph, Attenborough told their interviewer about his fears about overpopulation and appeared to suggest that the starving of the developing world should be left to die. The great broadcaster apparently said:
“What are all these famines in Ethiopia, what are they about? They’re about too many people for too little land. That’s what it’s about. And we are blinding ourselves. We say, get the United Nations to send them bags of flour. That’s barmy.” According to the article, he stated that overpopulation was a problem, and that if we didn’t tackle it, nature itself would, as it had done for a long time in the past. He also believed that the major obstacles to managing the world’s population was the attitude that having children was a human right, and the Roman Catholic Church’s prohibition on contraception. He also acknowledge that his statement about Ethiopia and its starving could be ‘misconstrued as an attack on poor people as the issues of major concern were in Africa and Asia.

The article about his comments can be read here:http://news.uk.msn.com/articles?cp-documentid=257478670.

India Starvation Photo

The victims of a famine in India. David Attenborough doesn’t want the UN to give food to people like these.

Attenborough and Atheist Attacks on Religion and Christianity

Now Attenborough has shown himself with these comments to be monstrously ignorant and callously indifferent to global suffering. I have been extremely unimpressed with Attenborough for several years now, ever since he added his voice to that of Richard Dawkins in sneering at religion. That’s a different issue, but I found his remarks then ignorant and uninformed, as countless people of faith, and particularly Western Christians, did contribute to the rise of science. For a more complete discussion of how Christianity laid the basis for modern science, see R. Hooykaas, Religion and the Rise of Modern Science (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press 1971). I was also not impressed by his attitude, which suggested that Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection had somehow disproven the existence of God. I’ve blogged several times on this issue. For a proper discussion of this issue, see Own Chadwick, ‘Evolution and the Churches’ in G.A. Russell, ed., Science and Religious Belief: A Selection of Recent Historical Studies (London: The Open University/ University of London Press 1973)282-93. These are separate issues. Attenborough’s comments here also seem woefully ignorant and misinformed.

Traditional Attitudes towards Large Families in Western History and Modern Developing World

Let’s take his comment about the Roman Catholic church’s stance on contraception being part of the problem. In actual fact, many cultures and religion advocate large families. In tradition Moroccan society, a family with fewer than 12 children was described as ‘unfinished’. The pagan religions in Africa also lay great stress of large families and the fertility of their flocks and herds. As for attitudes to the environment and animal life, Nigel Barley in his account of his fieldwork amongst the Dowayo people of Cameroun, The Innocent Anthropologist, noted that they had very little knowledge of the animal life around them, and were quite prepared to exterminate any creature they disliked, such as lions. He states that family planning is so unpopular that there is a joke that the only thing that will not be opened and misappropriated when you send it through the post in West Africa is a packed of condoms.

He also does not seem to know, or understand the reasons why the developing world, and indeed Britain and the West before the twentieth century, had large families. These were massive infant mortality rates and to provide support for the parents in their old age. Barley himself says that one of the most moving demonstrations of the tragically high rate of death in childhood in Africa is a question in the Nigerian census form. This asks you how many children you have. After this is the question ‘How many are still living?’ In traditional societies, such as Britain before the establishment of the welfare state in 1948, there is no or little state provision for citizens in their old age. People therefore have large families in order to support them when they have become too elderly to manage for themselves.

Pakistan Contraception Photo

Women in Pakistan receiving contraceptive advice.

Fall in Birth Rate throughout the World

Attenborough also seems to have ignored the fact that globally, birth rates are dropping. Governments throughout the developing world have launched campaigns to control their populations through family planning and contraception. This includes the developing world. The French anthropologist, Richard Tod, has pointed to the fact that, although families in the developing world may be much larger than in the West, there has been a dramatic decline. In some Middle Eastern nations, such as those of the former Soviet central Asian republics like Azerbaijan, for example, the birth rates are comparable to those of Western Europe. In Britain and much of the developed world, including Germany, Italy, Russia and Japan, the birth rate is actually below replacement levels. The population in Britain has grown only because of immigration. The Japanese are so concerned about their demographic decline that Japanese newspapers have run stories predicting that in a thousand years’ time, the Japanese people will be extinct. One of the reasons why the Land of the Rising Sun is putting so much resources into developing robots is to create a suitable workforce. The Japanese are unwilling to permit mass immigration to provide the country with labour, and so have turned to cybernetics and robots instead. In fact the global decline in the birth rate has alarmed some demographers, anthropologists and economic planner. In mid-1990s New Scientist carried an interview with a scientist, who believed that population growth had peaked or was peaking. He believed that by the middle of this century there would be a population crash. The result would be increased strain on the welfare state due to the cost of caring for an aging population. The economy would also contract, and countries would have to compete with each other to attract migrants to join their nations’ workforce. He also believed that the high mortality rates in some African nations coupled with a low birth rate would cause their populations to shrink. He believed that the first nation that could be so affected would be Ethiopia. We are here looking very much at the kind of dystopian future predicted by the film Children of Men. This portrayed a Fascistic future Britain, in which no children had been born for 18 years.

Racist Fears over Campaigns to Limit Population

Attenborough’s comments here also threaten to increase racial tension and spur on the rise of the racist Right. IN Britain and America the Fascist and Nationalist Right see demands by the ruling elite that we should limit the size of our families as part of a policy of racial extermination directed at the indigenous White population. They believe that there is a deliberate policy by the liberal elite of wiping out Whites, and replacing them with Black and Asian immigrants. Attenborough’s comments will be seen by them as another example of this policy. Black Nationalists may also see it as a racially motivated attempt to exterminate them. Private Eye a few years ago reported the outrageous comments by a Black leader in South Africa, telling people not to use contraception to stop AIDS as this was really another racist attempts by Whites to limit the Black population. Such statements have some verisimilitude due to the fact that BOSS, the South African secret service, had at one time been active trying to develop diseases that would specifically target Blacks. Attenborough might fear that his comments may be ‘misconstrued’ as an attack on the poor of Africa and Asia, but given the highly mixed legacy of European colonial administrations, one cannot reasonable blame them for doing so. About ten or so years ago a history book came out. It was entitled ‘Third World Holocausts’, or something like that. I can’t remember the exact title. I do, however, remember what it was about. The book described the way European colonialists had committed terrible atrocities in their African and Asian possessions from the political and economic ideologies of the time. In the 19th century, for example, there was a terrible famine in one of the Indian states. I believe it was Bengal, during which millions starved to death. The Raj refused to import and distribute food to its victims from the belief that this would undermine the principle of free trade they were trying to adopt across the Empire.

Attenborough’s Comments and the Irish Potato Famine

Irish Famine Photo

Irish victims of the Potato Famine queuing to emigrate.

Much closer to home, Attenborough’s comments recall the attitude of British politicians and civil servants during the Irish Potato Famine. The head of the British civil service, Trevelyan, stated that the victims of the famine should be left to starve. It was, he stated, their fault due to their improvident and irresponsible lifestyle. The result was the legacy of bitterness and hatred which further fuelled Nationalist demands for home rule under Charles Stuart Parnell and violent revolution from the Fenian Brotherhood and later Irish Republican groups. Attitudes like Attenborough’s have partly contributed, however, remotely, to the rise and persistence of terror groups like the IRA.

Fascism and the Green Movement

Attenborough’s views are also similar to some other, viciously misanthropic, extreme Right-wing views found in certain sections of the Green movement. In the 1990s one of the anarchist groups became alarmed at the Fascist tendencies then entering the Green movement. Murray Bookchin, a leading anarchist intellectual, who advocates Green, post-scarcity Anarchism, walked out of a Green conference in Germany when one of the speakers, a former East German dissident, declared that they needed a ‘Green Adolf’. Private Eye, in ‘Ape Sh*t’, its May 1988 review of Brian Masters biography of John Aspinall, The Passion of John Aspinall, remarked on the thuggishness of Aspinall’s political opinions. Aspinall has stated that humans are ‘vermin’, and stated that he favours a policy of ‘beneficial genocide’. He believes Britain’s population should be reduced from 54 to 18 million. He also has explicitly Fascist political sympathies. He supports ‘a right-wing counter-revolution, Franco-esque in spirit and determination’. See Francis Wheen, ed., Lord Gnome’s Literary Companion (London: Verso 1994) 226-7 (p,. 226).

Now I don’t think Attenborough is a Nazi. He has not advocated a Fascist dictatorship nor has any racist views. Indeed, quite the opposite. His programme, Man Alive, in the 1970s brought anthropology to British television and he was always polite and courteous to the primal peoples he spoke to and whose lives he explored. It’s a pity that this respect has not been extended to their children or grandchildren forty years later. Attenborough himself has been responsible for some of the very best of British television. He has delighted and educated the British public with his programmes on animals and wildlife for about sixty years. The BBC’s Natural History Unit in Bristol has brought from fame and honour to the city for its achievements in wildlife broadcasting. When he was controller of BBC 2, he was responsible for bringing some of the most innovative ideas to British television. Who now remembers Brass Tacks, a programme which allowed members of the public to talk about their political views? Unfortunately, Attenborough’s views in this instance less resemble those of an enlightened, genuinely liberal educator, but that of a loudmouthed bigot.

Attenborough’s Comments and the Macc Lads

Attenborough’s view in this instance resemble those of the Macc Lads. This was a northern punk band, which specialised in deliberately offensive lyrics. These could reasonably be described as misogynist, homophobic, and racist. I don’t know if the band themselves actually were. One of their songs describes them listening to the Band Aid global fundraising concert to help the famine victims of Ethiopia and Africa. The song ends with the lines

‘But I didn’t send money
t’ starving n*ggers
Because I’m a fookin’ Nazi’

I’ve been told that the Macc Lad’s songs were not meant seriously. Sadly, Attenborough here appears to have joined them, and this time meant it.

I would hope that Attenborough reconsiders his position in this matter, and issue the apology for his comments that they demand.

Overpopulation in SF Cinema

Apart from this, problems of a vastly overpopulated world has been portrayed in two films, Soylent Green, starring Charlton Heston, and ZPG (Zero Population Growth), starring Oliver Reed. The future in ZPG is one in which, due to population pressure, even domestic animals, such as dogs and cats, have become extinct. The plot involves the attempts by the hero and his wife to preserve their child after the government outlaws having children.

Here’s the trailer for Soylent Green.

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And this is the movie trailer for ZPG.

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