Posts Tagged ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’

Good Friday Greetings

April 19, 2019

Today is Good Friday, the day when Christians across the world remember Christ’s trial by Pontius Pilate, His crucifixion and death, and look forward to His glorious resurrection three days later on Easter Sunday. St. Paul calls Christ ‘the Firstborn of the dead’, as Christians since the earliest days of the church have seen His resurrection as the precursor of what will happen to everyone at the end of time. And this belief in a general resurrection came to Christianity from Judaism, where, I believe, it is called the Olam Ha-Ba, or the World To Come. And as another Abrahamic faith, this belief in the ultimate resurrection of all humanity by the Almighty is one of the fundamental tenets of Islam.

I also feel at this time we should remember prisoners of conscience across the world, regardless of the political or religious views we hold. Like the crackdown on various dissenting religious groups, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Putin’s Russia, and atheists and the other non-Wahhabi religions and philosophies in Saudi Arabia. It’s grotesque that people belonging to either of these groups should be called ‘terrorists’ simply for holding the views they do, without harming anyone.

On a more positive note, I just wish all the readers of this blog a great and happy Easter weekend, whether they are religious or otherwise.

Best wishes to you all.

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The Prussian Confessional Church’s Denunciation of Nazi Genocide

March 20, 2019

One of the scandals of the Nazi regime was that the churches, who should have led the opposition to Nazism, did far too little to resist. And quite often the resistance that was offered was simply to preserve their own freedom against the demands and attempts at coordination by the Nazi state. Nevertheless, there were many heroic Christian clergy and lay people, who did resist Nazism, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who declared Hitler the Anti-Christ. 400 Lutheran pastors paid for their opposition by being murdered in Buchenwald concentration camp. The Nazis also devised a special emblem to be worn by Christian opponents of Nazis – Bibelforscher, ‘Bible Students’, as they were dubbed. This was a purple triangle, like the pink triangle worn by gay men and the black triangle of the ‘asocial’ and ‘workshy’. Most of those interned were Jehovah’s Witnesses, who refused to accept Hitler as a ‘secular messiah’.

In June 1936 the Confessional Church – a Lutheran organisation that had split off from the official National Church – issued the Barmen Memorandum attacking not only Nazi anti-clericalism, but also Nazi ideology, racial anti-Semitism, the perverted judicial system and the concentration camps. Some of those who signed it, including the head of the Confessional Church Friedrich Weissler, were imprisoned and executed. Seven years later, in October 1943, the Prussian Confessional Synod at Breslau denounced the Nazi extermination policy as unchristian. They declared

Concepts such as “rooting out”, “liquidation” and “unworthy life” are not known to the Divine order. The extermination of people solely because they are related to a criminal, or old or mentally disturbed or belong to an alien race is not a sword to be wielded by the state.’ This included ‘the life of the people of Israel’. Moreover, claiming that you were merely acting on orders was no defence: ‘We cannot permit superiors to relieve us of our responsibility before God.’

See: Karl Dietrich Bracher, The German Dictatorship (Harmondsworth: Penguin 197) 477.

D.G. Williamson, The Third Reich (Harlow: Longman 1982) 76.

James Taylor and Warren Shaw, A Dictionary of the Third Reich (London: Grafton Books 1987) 88.

I’m putting this up because the extreme Right in America and Europe is trying to justify its demands for the persecution of Muslims and their forcible removal or mass murder as the necessary defence of Europe’s Judaeo-Christian and secular, enlightenment heritage. The Nazis despise the Enlightenment and its doctrines of tolerance, humanity and the brotherhood of nations, which should serve as a warning to anyone who believes they can adopt their policies to defend it. And while many Nazis were Christians, and were supported by anti-Semites within the churches and wider German and European society, others like Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazis official ideologue, and Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, were fervently anti-Christian. Hitler himself was a pantheist. He had been raised a Catholic, but had very much turned against his upbringing. In his Table Talk he freely describes how unimpressed he was with his RE teacher at school, how since he was 12 years old he wanted to blow the Catholic mass up with dynamite, and how the Reich should found astronomical observatories all over Germany as part of a campaign to destroy Christianity. And one of the reasons the mainstream churches are uniting with Muslims to denounce the massacre in New Zealand is because of memories of the Third Reich, and the churches’ collaboration with the Nazis, as well as other atrocities committed through history in the name of religion.

The Barmen Memorandum and the 1943 condemnation of Nazism by the Breslau Confessional Church not just condemn Nazism, but also anyone else who seeks to exterminate other innocent people simply because they are of a different race or ethnicity. And that includes modern Western racial terrorists of the Nazi, Alt Right, or racial populist fringe, such as New Zealand murderer.  

Conspiracy Book’s Debunking of Holocaust Denial

September 16, 2018

The Mammoth Book of Cover-Ups: The 100 Most Disturbing Conspiracies of All Time, Jon E. Lewis (London: Constable & Robinson 2007).

As the book’s cover tells you, this is a popular treatment of 100 assorted conspiracies, ranging from the assassination of JFK, 9/11, the Da Vinci Code, the death of Princess Diana, the Men In Black of UFO lore, the belief that Roosevelt knew about the coming Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour?, the Illuminati, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and so on. It’s a selection of conspiracies and conspiracy theories that were current at the end of the 1990s and early part of the 21st centuries.

As you might expect of a popular work of this size, the individual chapters tend to be brief. Many are only about two or three pages long, and so this isn’t an in depth examination of them by any means. Most of these theories are absolutely spurious, and so get properly debunked. Most, but not all. Some conspiracies, like the Iran-Contral scandal and the Masonic lodge P2, which was deeply involved in Italian Fascism, the Mafia and had connections to the CIA.

Lewis writes in his introduction that his aim has been to understand and treat the conspiracy theories objectively, to find which are true, and which aren’t.

Hostility to conspiracy theory is as useless in understanding the world as an indiscriminate acceptance of it. The task, surely, is to disentangle the mad and bad conspiracies from those that illuminate the darkened, secret corners of power. To this end The Mammoth Book of Cover-Ups takes a considered, objective scalpel to one hundred of the most compelling conspiracy theories of modern times. The theories are arranged alphabetically, assessed and interrogated. Where appropriate, the relevant documents are reproduced, and details of where to look to find out more are listed. Each conspiracy theory is assigned an “Alert Level” rating indicating its likely veracity. (p. 3).

One conspiracy theory that the book thoroughly debunks is Holocaust denial, discussed on pages 180-2. The first two paragraphs briefly state what it was, and how its existence is supported by a mountain of very trustworthy evidence.

The Holocaust is the name given to the extermination of some six million Jews and other “undesirables” by the Third Reich of Germany between 1933 and 1945. To industrialise the genocide process, the Nazis purpose-built a number of death camps such as Auschwitz, which gassed the Jews in batches; most victims, however, simply died of malnourishment in concentration camps. In occupied Eastern Europe, from where more than five million Jews were taken, special SS killing squads, Einsatzgruppen, sometimes shot Jews in situ.

A wide spread of sources confirms the nature and extent of the Holocaust: the thousandfold testimonies of camp survivors; film and photographs taken by Allied reporters as the camps were liberated in 1945; the confession by Auschwitz SS camp commandant Rudolf Hoss; the prosecution of Adolf Eichmann in 1960-2 and his sentencing to death for “crimes against humanity”. But all of this is dispute by a number of historians and politicians, who speculate that the Holocaust, if it happened at all, was on at most a minor scale. (p. 180).

It then goes on to discuss David Hoggan and his The Myth of the Six Million, one of the earliest and most influential books pushing the lie that the Holocaust never happened. Hoggan claimed in it that the Jews had falsely accused the Germans of genocide in order to gain reparations. This set the pattern for later works, claiming that the Jews had made it up either to gain money or international sympathy. It was the latter which led the United Nations to look kindly on the creation of Israel as a Jewish homeland. The book notes that from 1970s, the most prominent mouthpiece for Holocaust denial in the US has been the Institute for Holocaust Review, led by the neo-Nazi Willis Carto. Publications from the Institute and similar organisations in the US speculate that the gas chambers at Auschwitz weren’t there to kill Jews, but to kill the lice they carried. There are many versions of Holocaust denial. One of these is that there was indeed an extermination of the Jews during the Nazi occupation, but that this was small and not official Nazi policy. This was the view of the notorious David Irving, who claimed that the Nazis were too busy fighting the war to organize the mass extermination of the Jews, and that Hitler was unaware of it.

The chapter goes on to describe how Irving’s version of the Holocaust and Hitler’s involvement was challenged by Deborah Lipstadt in her 1993, Denying the Holocaust. This accused Irving of anti-Semitism and distorting evidence. Irving sued her and her British publisher, Penguin, for libel. Lipstadt and Penguin defended themselves by hiring the Cambridge historian Richard J. Evans, who then went through Irving’s works. He found that Irving had deliberately used unreliable documentation. One such was the report made by Fred Leuchter, who designed gas chambers for the American prison service. Leuchter stated that he found no significant deposits of cynanide at Auschwitz. However, this was in 1988, nearly 40 years after the camp was used and Leuchter himself was not trained in forensics. Evans also found that Irving also expressed very anti-Semitic sentiments in his books, such as calling Jews ‘the scum of humanity’. The court found in Lipstadt’s favour, with the judge declaring Irving to be ‘an active Holocaust denier; that he is anti-Semite and racist, and that he associates with right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism’.

The chapter also makes it clear that Hitler knew very well what was going on. He knew its scope even if he didn’t know all the details about every train of victims going to Sobibor. He set the agenda for the Holocaust, as shown in his speeches. In 1939, for example, he declared

If international Jewish financiers inside and outside Europe again succeed in plunging the nations into a world war, the result will be … the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe. (p. 181.)

Fifteen other leading Nazis attended the Wannsee conference in 1942, which was held outside Berlin on how the extermination of the Jews could best be arranged. The meeting was minuted, and its protocols used to incriminate those present.

The chapter concludes

The Holocaust happened. Most reputable historians put the lower limit of Jews, gypsies, Romanies, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the disabled and the mentally ill exterminated by the Nazis at five million. The upper limit is as high as 11 million.

In 1979 the Institute for Historical Review offered a $50,000 reward to anybody who “could prove that the Nazis operated gas chambers to terminate Jews”. Mel Marmelstein, an Auschwitz survivor, forwarded to the IHR affidavits concerning the fate of his family in Auschwitz plus other documentation, and duly claimed his money. When the IHR failed to give him the $50,000 he sued. The court awarded him the $50,000 plus an extra $40,000 for distress. In other words, the leading outfit for Holocaust denial, giving it its best shot, could not convince a neutral jury of its case. (p. 182).

The book properly gives Holocaust denial an alert level of zero, as it is a completely false conspiracy theory.

It also has a short bibliography, which includes the following two books debunking Holocaust denial:

Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, 1993; and

Michael Shermer, Alex Grobman and Arthur Hertzberg, Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It?, 2002.

Our Dad’s Photograph of the Memorial to the Jews Murdered at Belsen Concentration Camp

February 9, 2018

I put up a piece yesterday describing how our father visited the remains of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp when he was doing his National Service. Dad was stationed at Bielefeld, one of the towns then on the border of the former East Germany. I also talked about how Dad showed Mike and I the pictures of the remains of the camp when we were in junior, explaining how the Nazis murdered the Jews there, and disposed of the bodies in the pits.

This was to make the point that Mike and I were very definitely brought up not to be Holocaust deniers, by parents who were very clear on the factual existence of the Shoah, and like every other decent person in Britain, heartily despised the Nazis.

Going through Dad’s old photograph albums, I found this picture he’d taken of the Jewish memorial at the concentration camp.

I don’t know if you can make out the words on the photograph. It’s in black and white and rather old. However, the memorial has Star of David at the top, and the legend

Israel and the world
Thirty thousand Jews
Exterminated in the concentration camp
of Bergen Belsen
at the hands of the murderous Nazis.
Earth conceal not the blood
shed on thee!

First anniversary of liberation
-th April 1946
– Nissan 5706

Central Jewish Committee
British Zone.

The figures below the usual date is the date according to the Jewish calendar. Nissan is the month, and I believe that the year figure is higher because the Jewish calendar dates everything according to the traditional, religious date of the creation of the world by the Almighty.

As Mike has pointed out in his reblog of my post, it wasn’t only the Jews that the Nazis murdered in these places. They also killed political prisoners, including trade unionists, Socialists, Communists and Anarchists, prostitutes, gay men, gypsies, the neurotic, recidivist criminals, members of Christian groups, that refused to worship Adolf as the new messiah, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and slave workers and P.O.W.s taken from the Slav countries.

Altogether six million Jews were murdered in the camps, but the total number of people butchered is 11 1/2 million. It’s important to remember the Jewish victims, but the other victims should also be commemorated too.

Mike in his reblog states that the people accusing him of anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial seem to regard it all as some kind of game, as if it were simply a matter of scoring points. Well, it wasn’t a game to the millions of victims killed in these murder factories.

Mike is not and has never been a Nazi, or an anti-Semite and has never denied the Holocaust. But the people, who have libelled him as such – the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, the Sunday Times, the Mail, the Scum, the Jerusalem Post are, in my opinion, pure scum. They’ve accused a decent man of holding deeply abhorrent political beliefs, solely as a political weapon in order to undermine Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in the Labour party. Just like they have accused very many others, including anti-racist gentiles and self-respecting Jews.

How utterly, utterly disgusting.

Alex Jones: KKK Are Leftist Jewish Actors Creating Division

August 20, 2017

I blogged a few days ago about a report on one of the American left-wing internet news shows about a particularly odious comment about Charlottesville from the conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones. Alex Jones is the head of the conspiracy internet show, Infowars, and its website, Prison Planet. As I’ve discussed many times before, Jones believes – or pretends to believe – in all manner of outre conspiratorial ideas. At their heart, however, is his unwavering belief that the ‘globalists’ in charge of politics and industry are paedophile Satanists, who worship and are possessed by demons, and are intent on enslaving and destroying humanity. Their ultimate aim is to create a one-world state. Among their weapons are socialism, feminism and gay rights, which he has described as ‘a transhumanist spacecult to create a genderless human being’. Oh yes, and they’re intent on taking away good, freedom-loving Americans guns.

In this clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, co-host Michael Brooks plays the clip from Jones’ Infowar broadcast in which he talks about how he protested the Klan. Jones states that back then there was no Antifa protecting him. He’s clearly a bit miffed at that, though depending how far back he was protesting – Jones has been around for a long time – the organization as such may not have existed back then. Brooks wonders why Jones was protesting. Was he protesting against their racism, or because he thought they were a front group funded by George Soros?

And then Jones gets very sinister. He claims that when the hoods came off, the Klansmen were all FBI infiltrators, played by ‘leftist Jewish actors’. He then states that they were so Jewish, they looked like the cast of Seinfeld. And concludes that Leftist Jews are posing as the Klan in order to create division.

Brooks and his team joke about Jones’ statement about the supposed actors impersonating the Klan looking like the cast of Seinfeld. Brooks states that the show had the weirdest portrayal of New York. They were no Black people, but also no inbred WASP-ish types.

I’m sure I don’t need to go into how dangerous and sinister Jones’ comments are to the readers of this blog. But just to make it absolutely clear, this is verging dangerously on the stupid, genocidal conspiracy theories at the heart of Nazism. Hitler believed that ‘Marxist’ Socialism – meaning everything from the Communist party to the reformist SDP and trade unions – and capitalism were both Jewish strategies for enslaving the Aryan race. The modern variant of this is that the Jews are still intent on establishing themselves as the rulers of the world, and are attempting to destroy the White race through racial intermixing, and the promotion of homosexuality and other forms of depraved sexuality, including Rock and other Black musical genres.

Now Jones hasn’t promoted these long discredited and murderous theories yet, but by talking about ‘leftist Jewish actors’ attempting to create division, he’s not very far away.

And especially as the stupid theories of government collusion with extraterrestrials produced a further theory in the 1990s that the American and other governments were cooperating with the aliens to enslave humans. These theories, at least those promoted by the infamous Bill English in his book, Behold a Pale Horse, drew extensively on the Tsarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This is the spurious document at the heart of many of these theories of Jewish world domination. It’s supposed to be the minutes of a secret meeting of Jewish leaders outlining their plan to seize global power and enslave gentiles. It has inspired Nazis and Fascists all over the world. It was even supported by the right-wing press in Britain, until some of them woke up to how fake and dangerous it was, and turned against it.

The Protocols of Zion are absolutely fake. They were put together by the Okhrana, the Tsarist secret police, in order to encourage the last tsar, Nicholas II, to persecute the Jews even more harshly. Nicholas II believed in the old blood libel, that Jews murdered Christians during Passover and used their blood in the matzoh bread eaten at this Jewish holiday. He had a young man, Beilis, repeatedly tried for this non-existent offence, to the point where even some of his most anti-Semitic advisors realized that it was discrediting his regime.

English and the other conspiracy theorists took care when citing the Protocols to try to make their ideas seem more acceptable by excising, or rather, explaining away the Protocols’ anti-Semitic content. Where the text said ‘Jews’, they claimed it really meant ‘Illuminati’, the 18th century conspiratorial group under Adam Weishaupt, which infiltrated the Freemasons. The Illuminati have been blamed as the secret actors behind the major political events of world history, such as the French Revolution, and are intent on destroying Western, Judeo-Christian culture. One of the female leaders of the British Fascist movement in the 1920s was a very strong advocate of these claims. I can’t remember if it was Nesta Webster or Rotha Orne Linton. One of the two, anyway. Whoever it was, she was an alcoholic, who had been given this privileged information by the spirit Duc de Orleans, one of the aristocrats involved in fighting the French Revolution.

I think the John Birch Society in the 1960s also claimed that the Illuminati were responsible for the decline of civilization and the rise of Communism, so that today there is a distinct subculture around the world of ultra-Conservative people, who really believe it. Many of those, who believe in the existence of the Illuminati genuinely aren’t anti-Semites, and would probably be horrified if you called them that. But by citing the Protocols in his stupid UFO conspiracy theory, English did much to rehabilitate them. One bookshop in the north of England even stocked the wretched thing because of this.

Jones calls the ‘globalists’ he thinks are, in Jon Ronson’s phrase, ‘the secret rulers of the world’ the Illuminati. I don’t think he’s anti-Semitic, but by promoting these absurd views he’s coming dangerously close to the real, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that form their basis. The right-wing political scientist, Daniel Pipes, in his book Conspiracy Theories, discusses how these theories first blamed the Freemasons when they emerged after the French Revolution. During the 19th century the Jews were introduced into them as allies and collaborators of the Freemasons. The final revision came in the 20th century, when the Jews were blamed as the prime cause of the liberal revolutions and left-wing dissent, displacing the Freemasons.

You can see from this that it’s only a very short step from Jones’ ranting about the Illuminati, who include ‘Leftist Jews’ as just one of the groups collaborating with them, to the full bilge of The Protocols.

This isn’t just an American problem. People have access to the internet all over the world, so that I’m sure Jones has viewers in many different countries. One of his co-hosts, Paul Joseph Watson, is British, and he’s also had David Icke on his show. I’m therefore very show that he has more than a few followers in Britain. He was even interviewed over here by Andrew Neil, who was far less than impressed with his sanity when Jones started ranting about gun rights.

I don’t know how many people honestly take Jones seriously. Certainly there are any number of videos on YouTube taking the mick out of him, using carefully edited excerpts from his show. These show him ranting nonsensically, including one where he screams ‘I am a fluoride-maddened chimpanzee’.

But at this point, the laughter has to stop. It’s beyond a joke. Jones is becoming dangerous. Not to the ‘globalists’ – the real corporate heads, who run multinational industries responsible for enslaving millions in sweatshops and trashing our planet’s already fragile ecology. He already embraced one, when he had Trump himself come on his show and gave his support to the orange buffoon during his election campaign.

He’s a danger to ordinary people, and particularly the Jews. It starts with them, before going on to the other racial and political groups Nazis and Fascists hate and fear – people of colour, gypsies, socialists, communists, trade unionists, gay and transgender folk. Other religions or sects, which are deemed to be subversive and dangerous. The Nazis persecuted either the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Seventh Day Adventists – I’ve forgotten which, because they wouldn’t accept Hitler as a secular messiah. They and Mussolini also banned the Freemasons, and Fascist Italy also carried out a campaign against the Waldensians, a Protestant sect that had its origins way back in the 12th century with the merchant, Peter Waldo. And, as disabled rights activists have rightly pointed out, the Nazis also murdered the disabled and mentally handicapped.

For all his loud liberatarianism, Jones is coming perilously close to promoting the kind of lies that led to the death of nearly 12 million people in the Nazi death and concentration camps. These comprised 6 million Jews, and 5 1/2 million others, rounded up, persecuted and murdered because of their political or religious beliefs, or, as in the Roma, for their race. The Nazis also despised as untermenschen the Slavonic people of eastern Europe. Russian POWs were also worked to death and murdered in the camps as slave labourers.

I dare say this genuinely horrifies Jones. But as I said, he’s coming very, very close to promoting the same ideas and attitudes that created the Third Reich and its horrors.

It’s time the plug was pulled on his programme, and it was taken off the air.

Hail, Trump? Trump Gets Followers to Raise Right Hands and Swear Personal Allegiance

March 6, 2016

This is extremely ominous. Yesterday at a meeting in Orlando, Florida, Trump got his supporters to raise their right hands and swear their personal allegiance to him. This was reported in the Hill. Mike in his report on it notes the similarity to the oath every German citizen was required to swear to Adolf Hitler. The strangeness of the scene was also not lost on a columnist for Bloomberg. Mike states

The scene is reminiscent of Hitler in 1930s Germany – the crowd with their right hands raised echoing the Nazi salute, and the oath echoing the oaths of personal loyalty to the Nazi leader that Germans were ordered to swear.

Bloomberg’s Steven Dennis tweeted: “I’ve never seen someone swear allegiance to a politician in America, until today. To the Constitution, many times. To the flag, daily.”

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/06/whats-worse-donald-trump-what-this-looks-like-or-what-it-really-is/

Trump Allegiance

I don’t know, but I can kind of guess what Trump would say about this in his defence. He’d probably argue that it’s no different to raising your right hand to swear on oath in the church or in court. Many evangelical Christians raise their right hand during church services when they’re carried away with the worship. German evangelical Christians, obviously, very definitely do not. They raise both hands, just to make it very clear that they are not saluting the Fuehrer and the horror of the Third Reich.

But I don’t think the parallels with swearing oaths in court, or ecstatic gestures during Christian worship, really hold. It is far more like the mass oaths the citizens of the Fascist tyrannies were expected to swear to their dictators – to Hitler, Mussolini and the other goose-steppers. And Mike goes on to make the comment that its unacceptable either way whether or not Trump is ignorant of the historical comparison.

It’s frightening that Trump has the support of David Duke and the Klan, that he’s invited the White supremacist National Cesspool to his rallies; that he intends to deport 11-12 million illegal immigrants, build a wall with Mexico and ban Muslims from entering the US. Let alone his intention to resume torture and kill civilians in the War on Terror. Or is that the War for Terror?

Hitler claimed to be sent from God, and you can hear the same rhetoric around several of the Republican candidates. They claim that they are called by God, or their supporters claim that God has meant them to run for president. It all recalls the line in the oath to Adolf, ‘Oh my Fuehrer sent from God’. To their credit, the Jehovah’s Witnesses would not comply with these claims. They saw Hitler as a secular messiah, and so refused to swear loyalty to him. The only messiah for Christians is Jesus. And they paid for that with internment in the concentration camps.

Nuremberg Rally

The Wehrmacht at the Nuremberg Rally: Trump’s model for the Florida meeting?

Trump’s certainly Fascistic, but I don’t know whether he really is a Nazi. It could be that Trump is deliberately pushing the Far Right aspects of his campaign, both in style and substance, as far as they’ll go on the grounds that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. He’s getting talked about, and extensive media coverage. And the more sober media commenters or the Left note the similarities between him and the Fascists, the more popular he seems to become. He seems to be determined to push it as far as possible, until it rebounds.

Or until it’s too late. For America. For freedom. And for millions of innocents around the world.

A line from an old Space Opera I used to watch on TV comes to mind, a prediction given by a departing mage to a fiercely ambitious alien politicians: I see a hand reaching out of the stars. It is your hand. And I hear a billion voices calling your name.’
‘My followers?’
‘No. Your victims.’

Russia Persecutes the Jehovah’s Witnesses

December 18, 2015

Religious persecution has returned to Russia again after the collapse of Communism. It was reported a few weeks ago in the I that a judge in a region about 600 miles away from Moscow had decided that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were an illegal sect, and sentenced a small group of mainly elderly believers to jail. The leader of this band of dangerous religious zealots was Koptev, a man in his 70s. Putin’s regime, at least in that part of the Russian Federation, has decided that the JWs are a dangerous and subversive organisation. They have put them on a list of such dangers to the post-Soviet state as ISIS, al-Qaeda, the mafia, and Neo-Nazi organisations.

Really! I never knew the Jehovah’s Witnesses were such a danger to life, liberty and property. There I was thinking the only thing wrong with them was that they turned up on your doorstep trying to interest you in joining them and offering copies of The Watchtower.

Most people probably find their religious proselytizing silly, but it’s absurd and monstrous to put them in the same category as genuine threats to life, limb and freedom like organised crime, Fascists and Islamist terrorists. Their prosecution renewed fears that Russia was returning to the bitter anti-religious campaign it pursued under Communism. Religious believers of all faiths, Christians, Jews, Buddhists and shamanists were rounded up and sent to the gulags. Their places of worship were torn down, and the few that survived the campaign were closely monitored. There was some toleration for believers practising their religion, but if you tried to explain the tenets, you would be arrested and tried. Baptists, Pentecostalists and Seventh Day Adventists in particular were heavily persecuted. If you dared to hold a religious service in your own home, you could be arrested and your house torn down. The state also promoted vicious conspiracy theories about the Pentecostalists to work up public sentiment against them. They were accused of becoming rich through taking money secretly smuggled in by an American ship in the Russian far north every year. All Soviet recruits to the army are viciously bullied under the brutal regime of the grandfathers, but the treatment meted out to Pentecostalists was especially harsh. They were beaten particularly savagely, many having to spend weeks recovering in the hospital afterwards as a result.

This looks like a return to those days, though my guess is that it’s now less about atheism than about Russian nationalism and the alliance Putin has struck with the Russian Orthodox Church. Not that this necessarily rules out a militantly atheist component in the persecution. Some of the judges and attitudes are no doubt left over from the officially atheist regime of the Soviet Union, and may see religious organisations generally as a subversive threat, just as the former Soviet state did.

And my guess is that the JWs are being persecuted not just because they’re a foreign religious denomination, but for the same reason the Nazis threw them into the camps: they don’t accept secular messiahs. They were persecuted by the Nazis as they recognised that Hitler was making a claim to be such a figure. The Nazi oath, to be recited in schools, had children swearing allegiance to ‘my Fuehrer sent by God’, and so treated Hitler as he deserved. They rejected him. This saw believers as young as 17 thrown into the concentration camps as a subversive threat to the Nazi state.

First Hitler, now Putin.

I don’t have a lot of time for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I don’t share their religious views. But they aren’t any kind of political threat or menace to society, except to totalitarian despots. Yeah, it’s irritating when they turn up at your house to promote their religion, but that’s all it is. In genuinely free societies, people are at liberty to have and to promote different philosophical, religious and political views, as long as this does not involve force. That means that they are at liberty to knock on doors asking them if they’d like to join them, just as it also means that everyone else has the right to say ‘No’, or argue with them. Or agree, and join them, if they so wish.

This is part of what it means to live in genuinely pluralist, free society. And that’s why Putin’s persecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is also part of an attack on everyone’s liberties in Russia.

Workfare and the Nazi ‘Arbeitscheu’

February 18, 2014

sanction-sabs

As well as Jews, the Nazis also condemned a number of other groups to the concentration camps. These included Gypsies; gay men; Jehovah’s Witnesses – who were a threat to the regime as they refused to obey Hitler as a ‘secular messiah’; habitual criminals; political prisoners – largely trade unionists, Communists and Socialists, but also those Liberals and Conservatives that defied the Nazi state – who had either already served prison sentences, or been acquitted by the regular courts; and the stateless, including those Germans, who had tried to escape from the Third Reich. They and the Jews were declared to be ‘anti-social parasitical elements’. This also covered the ‘asocial’, which seems to have been a catch-all category for people the authorities decided were somehow subversive or a threat, but had no clear reason why, and the ‘workshy’ – Arbeitscheu in German.

The ‘workshy’ included those, who had rejected offers of work ‘without good reason’.

Himmler Hitler

SS leader Heinrich Himmler with Adolf Hitler. Under Himmler, the SS expanded into a vast industrial complex using concentration camp slave labour.

The reasons given for the imprisonment of Jews with criminal records, the asocial and the workshy were economic and military. They were to provide slave labour for the SS industries and the Nazi building projects. There was even a special branch of SS, the WVHA or Wirtschaftsverwaltungshauptamt, or Economic Government Head Office, that managed the SS’ commercial interests. In 1939 the SS was operating four main businesses. These included excavation and quarrying to supply building materials; a company dealing in products from concentration camp workshops; an agricultural company dealing in food, estates, fisheries and forestry; and a textile company producing uniforms for the SS from the female detainees of women’s concentration camp at Ravensbruck.

Through take-overs of companies in the Sudetenland, the SS controlled most of the Reich’s factories producing mineral water and soft drinks; a vast furniture-making conglomerate created through the forced acquisition of former Jewish and Czech businesses; as well as companies producing building materials – cement, brick, lime and ceramics. These were mostly Polish, and operated using Jewish slave labour.

The SS also rented out their slave workers to other, civilian companies, at the rate of 4-8 marks per slave per 12-hour day. The average life expectancy of an inmate in the concentration camps was 9 months. This gave the SS an average profit of 1,431 marks per each slave.

Now clearly the government isn’t running concentration camps. They may be horrendous in their treatment of the sick, poor, and unemployed, but they’re not that evil. Nevertheless, I have posted a number of pieces pointing out the similarity between workfare and other forms of unpaid labour in the Third Reich, such as Reichsarbeitsdienst, and the gulags in Stalin’s Russia. There is some similarity here with the Nazi’s use of slave labour and workfare.

Osborne Pic

Chancellor George Osborne, who would like sanctioned jobseekers work for big business for free under Workfare.

Since the 1990s, for example, there has been an insistence that those on Unemployment Benefit/ Jobseeker’s allowance should take any job they are offered. If they refuse, they lose benefits. The long term unemployed are placed on the Work Programme and forced to take voluntary work. This is similarly not so much a form of genuine voluntary work, but a means of supplying cheap labour to big business such as Tesco’s. Furthermore, George Osborne announced last year that he was expanding the Workfare system so that even those, whose benefits had been sanctioned, would have to do it. At which point the workfare system becomes true slavery. As many of those, whose benefits have been stopped because of sanctions, have taken their own lives or died or poverty and starvation, the government’s attitudes to disability and unemployment are also lethal. And if Osborne’s plan to force those whose benefits have been stopped to work for businesses for nothing goes through, then it could rightly be said that the only difference between that and concentration camp labour is that so far there are no concentration camps. Of course, this could all change if the firms profiting from workfare decide that they need to build special barracks for them.

I’ve no object to job creation schemes, or to voluntary work. But this is the point – it has to be proper voluntary work, where the worker and choose to do it or not, without losing benefits, and where they can choose for whom they work. They should also be paid a proper, living wage, or receive some other benefits so that they are genuinely trained for work and protected from exploitation. At present, the current workfare schemes do extremely little of this.

This system needs to change, and those responsible for it should be voted out.