Posts Tagged ‘Moldova’

Boris Twists Facts on Europe and LGBT Rights to Promote Brexit

April 5, 2016

Tory Lies Drawing

It goes without saying that the mendacity of this government runs so deep, that every liberal claim they make should be taken with a whole mountain of salt. To get at the truth, all you have to do is listen to what Cameron or the other lying puppets of the corporate elite say, and turn it through 180 degrees. You will automatically be correct.

Cameron scraped in at the 2010 election, when he wasn’t voted into power, by pretending to be more left-wing and liberal than Tony Blair. Philip Blonde, his political mentor, filled his book, Red Tory, with pages about how the Conservatives had passed laws benefiting the working class in the 19th century (true), and said nice things admiring the great Russian Anarchist, Kropotkin. The book was also full of accurate criticisms of neo-liberal economics. Reading the book, you could fool yourself, if you didn’t know otherwise, into thinking that the Tories were then going to reposition themselves slightly to the left of Bliar. Well, the Speccie had taken an ant-War stance against the invasion of Iraq, so it could seem vaguely plausible. Cameron himself strode around claiming that he was going to ring fence NHS spending to save it from the austerity cuts that were coming to sort out the problems with the banks. Essential services were going to be preserved. He even claimed that his government would be the ‘greenest ever’, and stuck a windmill on his roof, to show he meant it.

Of course, he didn’t mean any of it. Not a single word. Once in he started cutting the NHS budget massively, and vastly expanded the creeping privatisation that was coming in under Bliar and New Labour. The Public-Private Finance Initiative, which Osbo said he would abolish, has also been kept, along with the wretched sanctions regime over at the DWP. And no, he definitely had no intention to abandon workfare, not while it was supplying so much cheap labour at starvation level to his corporate backers. As for Green policies, he’s doing his level best to introduce legislation to allow the fracking companies to trash the environment. Renewables are being cut, and nuclear power is suddenly the way forward again. Always assuming the Chinese don’t decide they’re not, after all, going to build the power station at Hinckley point.

And that windmill has definitely come off his roof.

Boris, a man even the Tories decry as an utter cad and a wrong’un, has shown his own duplicity by throwing his lot in with Brexit, to the dismay of Dave Cameron, and the high delight of everyone, who enjoys a good fight in the Tory ranks. And, still being a Tory, BoJo has decided that he’s going to try to promote Brexit by presenting it as a liberal movement, which will benefit oppressed minorities. The Open Democracy website has posted a story about how the notoriously heterosexual Mr Johnson, has appeared on a video with the LGBT Brexit group, Out and Proud. Johnson claims that staying in Europe is a major threat to the civil rights gay and trans people have won over the past few years. He claims that this is all due to the benign views of the Tory government. And of course, the European Union is poised to take them all away.

The truth, of course, is exactly the reverse. Cameron did finally grant gays the right to get married, though this was in the teeth of determined back-bench Tory opposition. It also built on previous Labour legislation, which sort of opened the door to it in the form of Civil Partnerships. The OpenDemocracy article begins:

In his recent video for the LGBT Brexit group, ‘Out and Proud’ Boris Johnson, with typical disregard for the facts, asserted that the U.K.’s progressive attitudes on LGBT rights were entirely the work of “us, the British people”. By implication, ‘Europe’ had contributed nothing. The reality is very different. Europe’s two main organisations, the Council of Europe and the EU together did much to create the momentum for change in the late 1990s and early 2000’s. This followed 17 years of Conservative government which, far from progressing LGBT rights, supported the introduction of a law that prohibited local authorities from “promoting” homosexuality.

The Council of Europe’s main contribution came through a series of rulings against the UK under the European Convention on Human Rights. These condemned discrimination in a number of areas, including the criminal law in Northern Ireland, the unequal age of consent, the ban on LGB employees in the armed forces, and the failure to provide adequate legal gender recognition procedures for trans people. They compelled the Blair government to initiate legislation, leading to extensive parliamentary debates over a number of years that in themselves did much to change public attitudes.

Yup, it was the Council of Europe and the EU that challenged the legal discrimination in British law. And Mike points out in his article on this issue that the Tories attempted to keep a lid on the teaching of progressive views on homosexuality in schools with the notorious Clause 28 introduced by Maggie Thatcher. That was the one that banned schools from promoting homosexuality as an equal lifestyle to schoolchildren.

The article goes on to discuss how Boris is warning about the terrible position of gay and trans folk in eastern Europe – in Poland, Hungary and other parts of eastern Europe. That’s true, and some of the most brutal persecution is in Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. The article describes the armed attack by the police and local authorities on a gay rights march in Ukraine. However, it points out that Ukraine, and the other former eastern bloc nations have had to revise and tone down their hatred of homosexuals and the transgendered, if they wish to get into the EU, or establish good relations with it.

And on the subject of homophobic governments, Putin’s regime in Russia has come in for considerable criticism because of his attempts to clamp down on gays in his country. The last time I looked, however, Russia wasn’t part of the European Union. So whatever he’s doing to gay people there, he’s not doing it as an EU leader.

The OpenDemocracy article is at: https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/nigel-warner/boris-is-wrong-lgbt-people-should-oppose-brexit

Mike’s article is at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/04/05/boris-is-wrong-lgbt-people-should-oppose-brexit-opendemocracy/

And Mike’s article makes it very clear that if Britain leaves the EU, all the legislation that currently protects gay people is vulnerable. The Tories hate and despise the EU because of the Social Charter, which gives workers some minimum rights, as well as its human rights legislation, which they’d also like to get rid of. They’d much rather replace it with a British Bill of Rights, which would be much weaker.

So don’t be fooled. BoJo is lying yet again. He can’t help it: it’s in his nature and that of his party. If Britain does leave Europe, the position of gay people will be consequently weaker. And if the homophobic wing of the Tories gain ascendancy, any liberal legislation conceding equality to gay men and women is very vulnerable.

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Seumas Milne on the Dangers of Conservative Propaganda in the History of Communism

May 11, 2014

speaker_seumasmilne

One of the most provocative articles in Seumas Milne’s book The Revenge of History: The Battle for the 21st Century (London: Verso 2013) is the piece ‘Communism May Be Dead, But Clearly Not Dead Enough’. The book is a collection of Milne’s articles for the Guardian. In this piece, Milne comments on the demands by the Swedish Conservative MP, Goran Lindblad, that the EU launch an anti-Communist campaign to remind people of the horrors of the Communist regimes across Europe. Milne sees the campaign less as a genuine attack on Communism as Conservative propaganda to deter any radical questioning of European liberal capitalism by presenting the Communist tyrannies of eastern Europe as its outcome. He also notes the connection between colonialism and Nazism, showing that the genocidal policies the Nazis adopted towards the Jews were first used in Africa against its indigenous peoples. The Belgian rule in the Congo similarly resulted in the deaths of millions, while up to a million Algerians were killed by the French in their war for independence. Milne’s piece goes as follows:

Fifteen years after communism was officially pronounced dead, its spectre seems once again to be haunting Europe. Last month, the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly voted to condemn the ‘crimes of totalitarian communist regimes’, linking them with Nazism and complaining that Communist parties are still ‘legal and active in some countries’. Now Goran Lindblad, the conservative Swedish MP behind the resolution, wants to go further. Demands that European ministers launch a continent-wide anti-communist campaign – including school textbook revisions, official memorial days and museums – only narrowly missed the necessary two-thirds majority. Yesterday, declaring himself delighted at the first international condemnation of this ‘evil ideology’, Lindblad pledged to bring the wider plans back to the Council of Europe in the coming months.

He has chosen a good year for his ideological offensive: this is the fiftieth anniversary of Khrushchev’s denunciation of the cult of Stalin and the subsequent Hungarian uprising, which will doubtless be the cue for further excoriation of the communist record. The ground has been well laid by a determined rewriting of history since the collapse of the Soviet Union that has sought to portray twentieth-century communist leaders as monsters equal to or surpassing Hitler in their depravity – and communism and fascism as the two greatest evils of history’s bloodiest era. The latest contribution was last year’s bestselling biography of Mao by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, keenly endorsed by George Bush and dismissed by China specialists as ‘bad history’ and ‘misleading’.

Paradoxically, given that there is no communist government left in Europe outside Moldova, the attacks have if anything become more extreme as time has gone on. A clue as to why that might be can be found in the rambling report by Lindblad that led to the Council of Europe declaration. Blaming class struggle and public ownership, he explained that ‘different elements of communist ideology such as equality or social justice still seduce many’ and ‘a sort of nostalgia for communism is still alive’. Perhaps the real problem for Lindblad and his right-wing allies in eastern Europe is that communism is not dead enough – and they will only be content when they have driven a stake through its heart and buried it at the crossroads at midnight.

The fashionable attempt to equate communism and Nazism is in reality a moral and historical nonsense. Despite the cruelties of the Stalin terror, there was no Soviet Sobibor or Treblinka, no death camps built to murder millions. And while Hitler launched the most devastating war in history at a cost of more than fifty million lives, the Soviet Union played the decisive role in the defeat of Nazi Germany. Lindblad and the Council of Europe adopt as fact the wildest estimates of those ‘killed by communist regimes’ (mostly in famines) from the fiercely contested Black Book of Communism, which also underplays the number of deaths attributable to Hitler. The real records of repression now available from the Soviet archives are horrendous enough (799,455 people were reported to have been executed between 1921 and 1953, and the labour camp population reached 2.5 million at its peak) without engaging in an ideologically fuelled inflation game.

But in any case, none of this explains why anyone might be nostalgic in former communist states, now enjoying the delights of capitalist restoration. The dominant account gives no sense of how communist regimes renewed themselves after 1956, or why Western leaders feared they might overtake the capitalist world well into the 1960s. For its brutalities and failures, communism in the Soviet Union, eastern Europe and elsewhere delivered rapid industrialisation, mass education, job security and huge advances in social and gender equality. It encompassed genuine idealism and commitment, captured even by critical films and books of the post-Stalin era such as Andrzej Wajda’s Man of Marble and Anatoli Rybakov’s Children of the Arbat. Its existence helped to drive up welfare standards in the West, boosted the anti-colonial movement and provided a powerful counterweight to Western global domination.

It would be easier to take the Council of Europe’s condemnation of communist state crimes seriously if it had also seen fit to denounce the far bloodier record of European colonialism – which only finally came to an end in the 1970s. This was a system of racist despotism, which dominated the globe in Stalin’s time. And while there is precious little connection between the ideas of fascism and communism, there is an intimate link between colonialism and Nazism. The terms Lebensraum and Konzentrationslager were both first used by the German colonial regime in South West Africa (now Namibia), which committed genocide against the Herero and Nama peoples and bequeathed its ideas and personnel directly to the Nazi party.

Around 10 million Congolese died as a result of Belgian forced labour and mass murder in the early twentieth century; tens of millions perished in avoidable or regime-enforced famines in British-ruled Indian; up to a million Algerians died in their war for independence, while controversy now rages in France about a new law requiring teachers to put a positive spin on colonial history. Comparable atrocities were carried out by all European colonialists, but not a word of condemnation from the Council of Europe – nor over the impact of European intervention in the third world since decolonisation. Presumably, European lives count for more.

No major modern political tradition is without blood on its hands, but conflicts over history are more about the future than the past. Part of the current enthusiasm in official Western circles for dancing on the grave of communism is no doubt about relations with today’s Russia and China. But it also reflects a determination to prove there is no alternative to the new capitalist order – and that any attempt to find one is bound to lead to suffering and bloodshed. With the new imperialism now being resisted in both the Muslim world and Latin America, growing international demands for social justice and escalating doubts about whether the environmental crisis can be solved within the existing economic system, the pressure for political and social alternative will increase. The particular form of society developed by twentieth-century communist parties will never be replicated. But there are lessons to be learned from its successes as well as its failures. (pp. 89-90).

I’ve no problems equating the evils of Stalinist Communism with Nazi Germany. It didn’t launch a policy of deliberate extermination, but the millions it murder through forced labour, artificial famine and the deportation of whole nations to Siberia are terrible enough. About 30 million are believed to have been killed by Stalin, though victims’ groups have criticised this, and the true number may be much higher, about 45 million. Occasionally you hear the argument that Communism was worse than the Nazis, as they only murdered 11 1/2 – 12 million people in the concentration camps, of which the largest single group were six million Jews. This again may be an underestimate. I’ve seen on transatlantic Conservative blogs the argument that recent research suggests that 20 million Jews may have been murdered under the Third Reich, including those massacred by Nazi sympathizers and collaborators in occupied Eastern Europe. It also ignores the fact that if the Nazis had won, they planned on working to death the Slavonic peoples of the occupied territories, exterminating Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, Belo-Russians, Czech and Slovaks.

The actual numbers of indigenous peoples killed during European colonialism is still very controversial because of the way it directly touches on the questions of anti-racism, pluralism, racial equality and national pride in European countries today. Salman Rushdie once said that the British really didn’t know about their history, because so much of it happened abroad. He’s right. Few Brits really understand British imperial history, its achievements and atrocities, because it so far away on other continents. Moreover, those involved managed to cover up and hide many – but not all by any means – atrocities. It has only been in the last year or two that the state documents on the Mao Mao rebellion have been declassified. And until the publication a few years ago of Victorian Holocausts, I doubt many people realised that the British imperial government at the end of the 19th century had engineered – or refused to act against – famines in India and across the Empire as part of a deliberate ideological campaign to create an international system of free trade. This all needs to be taken into account, as well as the horrors of the Communist regimes. But his point that Conservatives are demanding the particular memorialisation of the victims and horrors of the Communist regimes in order to prevent radical campaigns against the current Neoliberal capitalist order is also certainly true. Some of the groups that are most vociferous in their condemnation of the Communist regimes are Conservatives, for whom any attack on free market capitalism is tantamount to Communism. They have to be criticised and combatted in order for a juster economic and social order, which gives the poor more freedom, can be created.