Posts Tagged ‘Prussia’

Israel Is Doing to the Palestinians What the Nazis Did to the Poles

March 4, 2018

One of the methods the Israel lobby uses to silence comparisons between their decades long maltreatment and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and the Nazis’ persecution of the Jewish people, culminating in the Shoah – the Holocaust – to proclaim very loudly that such comparisons are hurtful and particularly offensive to them as Jews, the Nazis’ victims. This doesn’t mean that the comparisons aren’t there. Critics of Israel have pointed out that Israel’s policies towards the Arabs certainly does resemble the Nazi persecution of the Jews up until 1942, when Hitler and the rest of his murderous gang decided on the infamous ‘Final Solution’. The Conservatives and other, self-proclaimed opponents of ‘Political correctness’ have made it very clear that hurt feelings should not be used to silence plain speaking and honest debate. This is true, although by plain speaking it usually means standing up for the type of people, who see nothing wrong with using racist epithets and making very racist remarks about Blacks, Asians and any other ethnic groups they don’t like. See the mouthings of the Daily Mail on this issue for further information.

But the Jews weren’t the only people the Nazis regarded as subhuman. They also despised the Slavonic peoples of Eastern Europe. Hitler made it very clear that in his invasion of Poland, Ukraine and Russia, he was merely continuing the medieval ‘Drang Nach Osten’, or ‘Drive/ Penetration to the East’ of the German medieval kings to conquer the Slav tribes. Prussia was one such state to be Germanised through conquest during the Middle Ages. The Pruzzi, from whom the German state took its name, were a Baltic tribe, and the area was also occupied by the Wends, a Slav people, whose language still survives today around the town of Cotbus in the former East Germany. They also waged war against the Poles. This finally ended with the collapse of Poland in the 17th century, and its annexation by Prussia, Austria and the Russian Empire.

Hitler’s plan for the conquered eastern European territories was to establish a series of German colonies in areas seized from the indigenous peoples. In those areas free of colonisation, the Slav peoples were to be reduced to an uneducated, peasant class, who would provide their German masters with foodstuffs.

D.G. Williamson, in his book The Third Reich (Harlow: Longman 1982) writes

Hitler’s primary aim in eastern Europe was to found a series of new German colonies. In the former Polish territory, which had been annexed by the Reich in 1939 a start was made in resettling German refugees from the Baltic States and eastern Poland, which had reverted to Russian rule in 1939-40. By 1943 the RKFDV had expelled about a million Jews and Poles and brought in roughly the equivalent number of ethnic Germans, of whom only about half were settled on the land. The remainder spent the war in refugee camps. Hitler wished to reduce the Polish population to a semi-illiterate mass whose main function would be to serve the interests of Greater Germany, and to allow the economy to deteriorate into what he called ‘the Polish chaos’. (p. 63).

Further information on the Nazi ethnic cleansing and enslavement of the Poles is provided by Norman Davies in his book, Heart of Europe: A Short History of Poland (Oxford: OUP 1984). He writes

As a result of the September Campaign, the whole of Poland passed under the occupation of Nazi and of Soviet forces. the Polish government and High Command took refuge in Romania, and on 30th September, a new Government was constituted abroad under General Sikorski, first in France, and later in England. On the western side of the Nazi-Soviet demarcation line along the Bug and the San, the Germans established a ‘General Government’ with its headquarters in Cracow. May districts of pre-war Poland, including Suwalki, West Prussia, Wielkopolska, and Upper Silesia, were directly incorporated into the Reich. (P. 65).

According to the outlines of the Generalplan-Ost, the Nazi aimed to redistribute the entire population between the Oder and the Dneiper. German settler were to be introduce by the million. the Poles were destined either for Germanisation where suitable, or for expulsion beyond the Urals. The residual Slavs were to be turned into a pool of half-educated slave labourers. Inferior or useless human beings-Jews, gypsies, recalcitrant prisoners of war, imbeciles and invalids-were to be eliminated….

German resettlement schemes were already under way in West Prussia,, where 750,000 Polish peasants had ben expelled to make way for Germans transferred from the Baltic States. Now the same methods began to be applied in central Poland, notably in the region of Zamosc. In 1942-3, over 300 villages were cleared in this region alone. There remained 400 villages intact simply because the SS could not spare the manpower to clear them. The evictions were attended by unspeakable burnings, beatings and butchery. The well-known fate of the one Bohemian village of Lidice, where 143 men were murdered by a Nazi reprisal order, was visited on Poland not once, but hundreds of times over.
(Pp. 69-70).

Map of Nazi occupied Poland, from Davies’ Heart of Europe, page.69.

Okay, there are some major differences between the Israeli ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, like the Nazis and the Nazi occupation of Poland, quite apart from the fact that they haven’t set up death camps to murder them as they did to Polish Jews. The Israelis aren’t interested in retaining the Palestinians as an enslaved peasant class. They just want to expel them. But this has been done through massacre, land seizures and horrific persecution. And Gaza has been compared to a wartime Jewish ghetto.

I am in no doubt that such comparisons will be just as unpalatable to the Zionist lobby in this country, as the comparisons to the Nazi persecution of the Jews before 1942 and the ‘Final Solution’ are. But that does not mean that they aren’t there, and valid.

The truth often hurts, but real history, not propaganda, is about facing up to them, to explain and explore history and recognise what really happened in the past. Not to purvey cosy, patriotic myths about what we’d like to believe happened. This applies to everyone, regardless of nationality, religious creed or race.

Screaming that the comparisons between the Nazi occupation of Poland and the ethnic cleansing and enslavement of its people, or claims that such comparisons must be anti-Semitic aren’t arguments. It’s just more libel and abuse. It’s time for Israel’s supporters to wake up to the facts, and stop their support for Israeli imperialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

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Abby Martin Exposes Israeli Racism and Fascism on Joe Rogan Show

August 18, 2017

This is a video from an Islamic website, though this is immaterial to the content of the video, which goes beyond religious or doctrinal differences. It’s a long, 25-minute extract from the Joe Rogan Show in which Rogan talks to Abby Martin. Martin’s a left-wing broadcaster and journalist, who was formerly with RT and is now with TeleSur. She talks about the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, their brutal maltreatment of the Palestinians, America’s support for Israel and the country’s deeply entrenched xenophobia and racist indoctrination as part of the compulsory military service.

It’s very strong, very disturbing material. She states very clearly that its a Jewish supremacist, White settler state. Palestinians in the occupied territories have no freedom whatsoever. They are subject to constant military checks and interference through a system of apartheid. They have no precious little in the way of provision of water and electricity. The water comes from large cisterns, in which Israeli soldiers will spray Skunk, which makes the water taste of excrement so that it becomes undrinkable for the next month. Even though the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are illegal, this is ignored. Israeli mobs will come and occupy Palestinian homes, forcing the true owners out. If a Palestinian blogs about it, he will be tried and sentenced according to the number of hits on his site.

At the same time, Israeli soldiers shoot to kill and maim with impunity. They have a policy of ‘shoot to wound’, which means shooting people in the crotch. A woman was hit in her vagina, and men have their penises targeted. She also describes how a man, who was just drunk, was casually shot dead by Israeli soldiers. As was an Arab woman, who was shot at an Israeli checkpoint, and bled to death in front of her son.

It isn’t just Arabs gentiles, who are seen as inferiors, who can be ill-treated at whim. Martin states that the Israelis also look down on Black African Jews as racially inferior as well.

And official support for these illegal settlements goes all the way to the White House. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, is the entrepreneur behind the Kushner Fund, a scheme which supports the construction of homes for Israeli settlers in the West Bank. She also talks about support for Israel by Richard Spencer, who describes himself as a White Zionist, who admires Israel as a racial state.

She also contrasts the popular reaction to the shooting of unarmed civilians by the authorities in Israel and the US. In America when the cops shoot an unarmed Black person, there’ll be a popular protest against it. However, in Israel, when the squaddie Elor Azaria shot an unarmed Palestinian, and was tried for it because of public pressure, there were also public protests against his trial. Rogan and Martin show footage of one of these demonstrations, in which the massed crowd chants ‘Death to Arabs’. Realising how bad this looks, they then change the chants to cries of supports for the troops. They even have a band rapping in Hebrew.

Martin pays due tribute to the courage of the Israelis, who film and speak out against these atrocities. In Israel many people will talk about treating the Palestinians better, but the idea of opposing Zionism is simply unthinkable, as this is their country. It’s like Americans opposing America. And the term ‘Leftist’ is a form of abuse.

As for crowds like that she filmed, they’ll also shout ‘Death to videographers’, as they hate the people filming this. Her team with her weren’t treated too badly, as they were Israeli Jews, but she says that there were attacked by people, who did wear Fascist-style cloaks.

She also talks about the immense amount of aide given by the American government to Israel. It’s $30 billion. However, in many cases, this is America giving a present to itself. Before then, Israel was able to do its own arms dealing, and was purchasing weapons from India. The aide has been given on the condition that it should be used to purchase American armaments.

As for the reason for America backing Israel, Martin states she doesn’t know why. She doesn’t believe its due to the power of the Israel lobby in the US. She states it’s more of a partnership, in the same way that America supports Saudi Arabia. Although Rogan points out that the Saudis have oil. Martin states that it’s probably to do with America using Israel as a point of leverage in the Middle East.

She goes on to make the point that the foundations for the country were laid after the Middle East was divided up by the colonial powers – Britain and France – by the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Jewish immigration to Israel, and support for the country was minimal until the Holocaust, when fear provided an instrument to increase support. The country was then partitioned by the UN, although she asks the rhetorical question of who gave them that power. She also states that it should have never been put in the Middle East, but should have been established somewhere like Australia, because of the immense amount of trouble it’s caused.

She says that several times in making her video, she thought she’d die. In Jerusalem she was asked if she was Arab. She also points out that the Zionists were also responsible for terrorist atrocities against Jewish communities in surrounding countries. These were false flag operations, which were blamed on the gentile communities, in order to create a climate of fear, which would inspire those Jewish communities to emigrate to Israel. And Israel itself grew through a number of massacres.

Rogan and Martin also discuss the role that national service plays in creating this massively xenophobic mindset. Rogan states that he knows people, who have joined the army in America, and its created a very strong bond between the service personnel, and a sense of separation, an ‘us and them’ attitude. He can only imagine the intense indoctrination that Israelis must undergo during their national service so that the hatred of Arabs becomes unquestionable.

As for the Arab settlements, she states that they are not as we’ve been told. She saw openly gay people, and the first time she filmed there she said there was weed in the air.

The interview concludes with Rogan asking her where her films can be seen. She says they’re at The Empire Files, and if you click on them, the various films she’s made about Israel will also be displayed.

This is very powerful stuff. It’s precisely what the Beeb and the other mainstream British broadcasters will not report, nor what the racists in the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Labour Movement do not want severely normal people, Jewish and gentile, knowing about. Martin states in this video that the Israeli state and its supporters want this covered up, and do their level best to make sure it isn’t filmed.

Martin has called Israel a Jewish supremacist state. This is exactly what it is, with Judaism defined in racial terms. It’s comparable to the Christian clerical Fascist states which emerged in Europe prior to the Second World War, such as parts of the Fascist movement in Italy, where Fascist sympathisers in the Vatican saw Mussolini’s regime as a bulwark against materialism and Communism. As was Franco’s Spain, and the Slovak dictatorship of Monsignor Tizo, as well as elements of the Nazi party. It’s also similar to the viciously intolerant Islamist regimes in the Middle East, and the Hindu nationalist extremism of Modi’s BJP, as well as the militant atheism of the USSR and China. Shintoism also briefly became an intolerant, expansionist force during the Second World War. Israel isn’t unique by any means in its possession of a militantly intolerant nationalist ideology, which combines race with religion, or an official policy of anti-theism. But that does not mean that Israeli Jewish supremacism and Fascism should be ignored or excused.

As for the role national service plays in creating an intensely nationalistic, racial consciousness, political scientists have pointed to this as a major element in the construction of Fascism. Fascist and proto-Fascist ideologues admired the armed forces, not just from militarism and an admiration for military glory, but also because it offered an alternative and a tool against the expansion of socialism and democracy. The military was an ideal model, in their eyes, for society because it was hierarchical. At the same time, the uniform and common military identity and service under fire created a strong bond between men. This was valued as a way of stopping the development of working class consciousness and power.

And the bond of men under fire is very, very strong. The veteran BBC broadcaster on foreign affairs, Kate Adie, has said that it’s far stronger and ferocious than anything in the movies. So strong that it can’t really be shown on camera.

And the fundamental position of military service in Israel is comparable to that of Prussia. It was said of the Hohenzollern’s kingdom that ‘Prussia is not a country with an army. It was an army with a country’. The kingdom was held together through its army, which was well-funded, had a very high status, and wide-ranging powers over the civilian population. For example, under Frederick the Great army officers could compel civilians to carry their baggage and equipment.

Martin states that she doesn’t know if Richard Spencer of the Alt Right would like to impose universal conscription like Israel. Well, he may not, but that has historically been the demand of British Fascists and those on the Tory right. And in the 2010 election one of the policies of the BNP was that every Brit should possess a gun as part of his volkisch identity.

As for Palestinian Arabs tolerating homosexuality, Islam has been traditionally far more tolerant of gays than western culture. The Qu’ran condemns sodomy as a sin against which the Prophet Lut – the Biblical Lot in the Hebrew Bible/ Old Testament preached. But the laws against it were a dead letter in Egypt as early as the 12th century. One of the most admired Arab poets of the 9th century was gay, so that even today, Arab poets often use the masculine 3rd person pronoun – ‘he’ – for the beloved, even when they are talking about a woman.

This point is important, as supporters of Israel will try to defend it as one of the few places in the Middle East which is tolerant of gays. Pamela Geller, of the Atlas Shrugs blog, one of the leaders of the ‘counter-jihad’ movement, has made this claim on her site. As has Michael Koren, a Canadian anti-Muslim broadcaster with Rebel Media. This week, a documentary on BBC 1 followed a Scots gay man from a Roman Catholic background, who was considering converting to Judaism because of Israel’s tolerance for gays. The Beeb filmed him travelling to the country, and Tel Aviv, which has been described as ‘the gayest place on Earth’. But this tolerance for homosexuality was traditionally shared across the Middle East. It is only in recent decades that attitudes have changed for the worse.

Despite Netanyahu’s insistence that Jews everyone are automatically Israeli citizens, there are very many Jews, who are bitterly opposed to it both from secular and religious principles. many of the supporters of the BDS movement are Jews or of Jewish heritage, as are several of the Counterpunch writers, who are also opposed to Zionism and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. One of these writers stated in a recent article that he is against Israel because of the liberal Jewish values with which he was brought up. A recent study has found that an increasing number of young Jewish Americans are becoming indifferent or hostile to Israel, because of its maltreatment of the Palestinians. As the very Jewish Sam Seder and his Jewish co-host, Michael Brooks, pointed out on their programme, Majority Report, criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism.

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Labour Movement, and other Zionist organisations and pressure groups, would have the world believe the opposite. It isn’t. Don’t believe their lies and smears. Instead, look at the exposures of Israeli racism and institutional brutality from anti-racist broadcasters like Abbie Martin, respected academics like Norman Finkelstein and Ilan Pappe, Lobster’s John Newsinger, and bloggers like Tony Greenstein.

VICE Report on Nationalist March in Poland

April 3, 2016

I’ve been blogging quite a bit recently about the frightening rise of the far Right in Europe, and especially eastern Europe. I put up a video yesterday about the cult of Stepan Bandera, the great, modern nationalist hero of Ukraine. Bandera fought for his country’s freedom from the Soviet Union during World War II. However, he did so by allying himself and collaborating with the invading Nazis. Poland has also seen the emergence of extreme Right-wing groups, such as the National Rebirth of Poland, which is now actively trying to recruit members from the Polish expatriate community living and working over here.

This piece from VICE is a report about this years Polish Independence Day march. This is held annually, and attracts crowds of extreme nationalists. In previous years it’s been marked by violence between these Fascist groups and the police. Many of the nationalists come from gangs of football hooligans. VICE’s reporter shows the march’s stewards, who are themselves drawn from the far Right, training under a bridge in Warsaw to deal with violence, including being bombarded with smoke bombs or CS gas.

After that, he then goes to the town of Lodz in the company of a member of the Ultras, the violent supporters group for the Widzew lower league team. Lodz appears to be quite a grim town. The reporter says it’s quite picturesque, but the area inhabited by the Ultras seems to be quite run down. It’s got an unemployment rate of 12 per cent, which, the presenter states, compares well with the national average, but there is little to distract its young men away from nationalism and violence. As they’re driving through it’s slightly run-down streets, the Ultra he’s with points out the two supporters of a rival team, and states quite plainly that if the presenter wasn’t there, he’d go after and attack them.

The presenter also states that it’s not a mystery that there is so much nationalist sentiment and antagonism to refugees and Islam in Poland. The country now has a new government, and politicians have been appearing on television talking about the threat from Muslim refugees. The documentary shows television footage of one particular Polish politician stating that refugees don’t respect their host countries’ culture or ways of life, and once they’ve become firmly settled there, they then begin to make their sensitivities clear. The reporter then goes to the muster point for the march. This is at a Roman Catholic church, where the reporter says that they’re to thank God for Poland’s independence, and get Him on their side for the day. During the service the priest thanks the biker gangs that are in attendance for joining them. Standing outside the church are bikers and skinheads with Polish flags and armbands. The reporter states that he thinks the Nazis have ruined armbands, and that after them, no-one can wear them without it looking dodgy.

The march itself this year is strangely quiet and uneventful. There are no battles with the police. This is remarked upon approvingly by a couple of older ladies, who have joined the march. The marchers from Lodz carry their banner, showing their support of Widzew, which they made earlier down in the basement of one of the tower blocks. Along with the Polish flag, which the reporter’s companion from the Ultras has told him is ‘sacred’ to the Poles, are other banners for the National Rebirth of Poland. Several are explicitly anti-Islam. Some simply have the slogan ‘Stop Islam’, while others show a mosque with ‘stop’ traffic sign across it, familiar from Western anti-Islamic groups like the EDL over here and PEGIDA in Germany. The speeches at the march, included in this report, are also overtly anti-Islam. A young voice is heard over the loudspeaker system shouting, ‘Pride, pride, pride. We don’t want rape. We don’t want violence. The Gospel, not the Qu’ran!’ The reporter also briefly interviews a middle-aged Polish man, who makes it clear that the people there fear the influx of Muslim refugees. The man states that they don’t want immigrants to arrive in their country, ‘as we aren’t prepared for them. He also says that they don’t know who they – meaning the immigrants – are, and that they should have to wear armbands identifying them for two or three years. It’s exactly the same kind of rhetoric that’s coming out of Trump and Ted Cruz across the Atlantic in America.

Vice’s reporter ends the documentary by saying that although there hasn’t been any violence between the marchers and the police that day, if felt like a victory parade for the Polish far Right after they had conquered the state. The documentary itself ends with the statement that since it was made, hundreds of thousands have taken part in anti-government protests, and the EU is looking into the state of democracy in Poland.

The rise of the nationalist extreme Right in Poland, and the consequent increase in xenophobia and fear of Islam, and the deep link between Polish national identity and Roman Catholicism can partly be explained by the country’s history. Following the rule of Jan Sobieski, the Polish king who broke the Turkish siege of Vienna, Poland was conquered and divided between Prussia, and the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires. They only gained their independence after the First World War, when they finally became a united nation once more under Marshal Pilsudski. They have had to fight for their survival as a people and nation in a way which we Brits, or at least, the English, are fortunate not to have to. In the Russian ruled areas, the official language, including that of the schools, was Russian. If schoolchildren were taught Polish, it was as a foreign language.

Secondly, the redistribution of territory following the First and Second World Wars, including the loss of parts of Ukraine, meant that Poland’s population were almost uniformly Roman Catholic. 98-99% of the Polish population belong to the Church, which became the focus of opposition to the Communist regime following the expansion of Soviet power as the Russians pushed the Germans back across Europe at the end of the War. The result is a powerful sense of national identity, which itself is deeply identified with Roman Catholicism, as well as a terrible sense of insecurity and threat from outsiders.

The specific fear of Muslim immigration can strike Western Europeans as peculiar, given that Poland isn’t the destination of choice for refugees from Africa and the Middle East. These mostly want to settle in the more prosperous west of the continent. This, however, seems to be part of a general rise in Islamophobia in eastern Europe – in Hungary, and the Czech and Slovak Republics. There’s an interesting report linked to by the anti-Fascist, anti-Islamist organisation, Hope Not Hate, on the rise of militant anti-Islamic politics in the Slovak republic. This also comments on the fact that Slovakia is off the main migration route. However, the article traces the rise to the fact that the Slovaks, compared to Britain, Germany, France and Italy, are a small nation. There are only five million of them. They therefore fear that they will be swamped by mass immigration. And their politicians are also partly responsible, even the left-wing Socialist party, as they have attempted to boost their electoral support by playing on the fears of a mass influx of immigrants from outside Europe. The result has been the resurgence of ugly strands of nationalism, last seen in the collaborationist regime of Monsignor Tiso during the Second World War. Tiso was the Roman Catholic cardinal, who governed the country during its alliance with the Nazis, and was partly responsible for sending his country’s Jews to their deaths in the Holocaust. Tiso himself seems also to have been a hero of the Slovakian far Right for a very long time. I can remember reading in one of the Communist/ Trotskyist newspapers a friend of mine bought in the 1980s an article about the rise of the Fascist right in the Soviet bloc then. Along with a discussion of the notorious, and now defunct Russian Nazi group, Pamyat’, the article also mentioned with horror that the Slovaks were also putting a statue up to honour Tiso.

And finally, I think some of the rise of the extreme Right in eastern Europe is due to the social dislocation following the collapse of Communism. The democracy the peoples of Europe waited for did not bring the prosperity they expected. In fact I can remember talking to a girl, whose parents were Polish, who said that actual conditions in Poland seemed to her to have deteriorated after the Fall of
Communism, to the point where she didn’t feel safe travelling through the country. This was in the 1990s. It was about this time that the Russian economy also went into meltdown due to Yeltsin’s mass privatisation of the state industries. Millions were made unemployed, in a country which had no unemployment support system, as under Communism full employment, provided you kow-towed to the party, was guaranteed. It wouldn’t surprise me if something similar had also happened in the former Soviet satellites and break-away states. And with economic insecurity comes the desire to find a scapegoat, a terrible ‘other’, who can be blamed, or made the focus for all the fear and insecurity. And so in some of the former eastern bloc, it’s back to anti-Semitism and a hatred of the Jews, and now a fear of Muslims.

Gove and 19th Century British Education Provision

March 29, 2014

The Conservative Party Annual Conference

Michael Gove contemplating the government’s destruction of British state education

Unreasoning nostalgia is a British disease,

– Jon Downes and the Amphibians from Outer Space

Earlier this week the NUT staged a one-day strike against the government’s reforms of British schools. As with the rest of Conservative policy, this essentially consists in preparing the system for further privatisation and lowering wages and conditions. They also have their sights set on lowering standards as well. Taking their cue from the assumption of ignorant bar-room bores everywhere, the Tories have the attitude that just about anyone, or almost anyone, can teach without actually needing to be taught how. They are therefore trying to pass legislation to allow graduates to teach in schools without needing to have a teaching qualification first.

I did my first degree at a teacher-training college that also took ordinary degree students. The trainee teachers I knew were conscientious and worked extremely hard, both academically on their specialist subjects, and in the class-room during teaching practice. Often they were put in front of classes that could be difficult, stopping fights between pupils and sometimes with the threat of violence from parents. While there’s a lot of debate just how much of the theory of teaching and child development is relevant – the theories of Piaget have been extensively critiqued and rejected – it is nevertheless not an easy profession by any means. Teachers certainly need good training in how to teach, as well as what. All this will be undermined by Gove’s reforms.

Modern Conservatism is based on the view that laissez-faire, private industry is always best, and so looks back with nostalgia on the 19th century, when Britain dominated the world, we had an empire and industry was expanding. It was also an age of poverty, hunger, disease and overcrowding. And rather than being great, Britain in this respect had one of the worst education systems in western Europe.

France

In France, plans had been drawn up for a national system of primary, secondary and university education as long ago as 1806 under Napoleon. In practice, the regime got only as far as founding the lycees, the boarding schools for the elite. Under the education act of !833 drawn up by the French minister, Guizot, an impressive system of primary education was established. All communes were required to set up schools, which would provide education for local boys free of charge. The communes that could not afford to do so were to be given funding from their department, or, failing, that an annual grant from the Ministry of Public Instruction. As a result, in the thirteen years from 1834 to 1847 the number of primary schools in La Patrie increased from 33,695 to 43,514. By 1849 there were 3 1/2 million children attending primary school. Girl’s schools received much less funding, but nevertheless a law 1836 extended the 1933 Act to provide for schools for girls.

The French educational system was further reformed in 1863 under Napoleon’s minister for public instruction, Victor Duruy. Duruy was the Republican son of a worker in the Gobelins tapestry factory. He proposed to Napoleon III a system for the effective abolition of illiteracy, funding increases for secondary education, and increases in teachers’ salaries. Primary education was made compulsory, and a broader curriculum introduced for secondary schools. In 1866 nearly 66,000 pupils attended secondary school. The state also spent large sums on teachers’ salaries and in establishing good school libraries. In Matthew Arnold’s words, the French education system after Guizot had

given to the lower classes, to the body of the common people, a self-respect, an enlargement of spirit, a consciousness of counting for something in their country’s action, which has raised them in the scale of humanity.

Germany

Prussia had a ministry of public instruction and a system of local school boards from 1817 onwards. By the mid-19th century throughout all the German states primary education was compulsory. In Saxony, Wurttemberg, Bavaria, Baden and Prussia after 1857 parents had to send their children to the local state school. The age when children started school varied from state to state from five to eight years. In some parts of Germany school attendance was compulsory for a further eight years, so that the school leaving age was the same a century later. Unfortunately, education suffered through the use of child labour and widespread poverty, which took children out of the class room.

By 1837 Prussia already had a system of 50 gymnasia, set up to teach the children of the elite from 16 to 19. The curriculum was broader than that in France, and included philosophy, history, geography, arithmetic and geometry, as well as drawing and playing a musical instrument.

Austria

Under the liberal prime minister Auersperg in 1869 education became compulsory for all children from six to fourteen years of age. It has been seen by Harry Hearder, in his Europe in the 19th Century, 1830-1880, as more advanced than the British educational system introduced a year later. (p. 386). The parts of Italy under Austrian rule also benefited from this increase in education. In 1856 Lombardy possessed 4, 427 primary schools.

Switzerland and the Netherlands

The best schools in Europe were those in Switzerland and the Netherlands. Primary education had been made compulsory in most Swiss cantons in the 1830s, and Matthew Arnold considered Swiss schools superior to the French, with the schools in Aargau the very best in Europe.

In the Netherlands a system of state supervision of education had been established in 1806. Dutch schools were hygienic, with well-trained teachers, industrious and happy children, complete religious toleration and no corporal punishment.

Britain

There were a number of schools giving some form of education. These included the Dame Schools, in which an old woman kept a class of children quiet while their parents worked and the charity and Sunday schools. These were essentially religious in nature, and although there were 1 1/2 million pupils in Sunday schools in the 1830s, their pupils were not taught to write or do sums. There result was that there were high rates of illiteracy. By 1851 the literacy rate for men was about 69.3 per cent, and for women 51 per cent.

Under Dr James Kay-Shuttleworth in 1840 schools receiving state grants were obliged to adhere to certain standards, and in 1856 the Department of Education was set up. Nevertheless, a national system of education did not exist until the education act of 1870.

The children of the upper classes attended the grammar and public schools. There was, however, no national system of universal secondary education until 1880, or really, before the 20th century.

University Attendance in England, France, Germany and German Austria

The English universities were intended to produce a small, educated elite, unlike those in France, Italy, German Austria and Germany, which aimed at producing a larger cultured or professional class. As a result, in the 19th century far fewer people in England had the benefit of a university education. In France 1 in 1,900 citizens attended uni. In Italy, this was 1 in 2,200. In Germany and German-speaking Austria, it was 1 in 2,600. In Britain less than half as many had a university education one in 5,800 men.

British Education Dominated by Conservative Aristocratic Bias

Hearder therefore says of the British education system that it suffered from a narrowly aristocratic attitude. If the English upper class was as well educated as that of any other in Europe, the rest of the population remained wretchedly ignorant and neglected. (p. 388).

This attitude still persists in contemporary Tory attitude to education. Cameron, Osborne and Clegg are Toffs, who seem intent on pricing higher education out of the grasp of the lower middle and working classes with their raising of tuition fees. The educational reforms seem designed to wreck state education, leaving it purely run for the profit of private companies and unable to compete with the private schools. This seems partly intended to allow the wealthy to continue to the enjoy their educational and social privileges without having to worry about competition from the poorer children of the state sector.

And supporting this assault on state education is the popular belief, at least amongst some of the electorate, that this must raise standards because private is automatically better, as demonstrated by British imperial and industrial greatness during the 19th century. Britain, however, does not compare well in the sphere of mass education during the 19th century. The state systems of many nations, especially France, appear far better. If we genuinely care about giving a good education to our children, we should be looking to them, not back to a mythical age of imperial glory that promotes an attitude of indifference or active hostility to genuine, popular, state education.

Karl Kautsky on Inflation, Unemployment and the Workers

March 19, 2014

Kautsky pic

This is the day when George Osborne will announce the budget. He has already declared that it will ‘business friendly’, which means that there will be more tax cuts for the rich, further attacks on inflation and cuts in welfare benefits. I was watching a piece on what they expect Osborne’s budget to cover on BBC 1’s breakfast show. At the same time I found this passage in the writings of the German Socialist leader, Karl Kautsky, from 1910.

Inflation and the burden of taxation and the Junkers’ [Prussian aristocracy] brutality are all based on conditions which will not change so easily: they will be just as important in 1911 as in 1910 – even more so; for the armaments race is continuing. The government will, of course, do everything possible to postpone all new demands until the period after the next elections – a reason for them to hasten these, but it will be unable to do so at will. In England the Conservatives are going strong. They have already forced the Liberal Cabinet to strengthen the Navy. If, as expected, they take the helm during the course of the year, then armaments will be increased at an even more rapid rate.

Inflation, however, will not lessen. Anyone who want to know what to expect on this score, would do well to observe American conditions, which are decisive for the international food market. We must be prepared for a further increase in prices.

Some may argue that unemployment has made a not insignificant contribution to the embitterment of the masses, and that in a year’s time it will have declined considerably because the crisis will have been overcome. This is true insofar as the next year does promise to be more favourable for business. But it is doubtful whether business will do brilliantly. And this time, even more than in the last period of prosperity, the employers’ organisations will cream off all benefits, and the workers’ only taste of prosperity will be higher prices; for prosperity means an increase in commodity prices.

Karl Kautsky, ‘The Mass Strike’, in Patrick Goode, ed. and trans., Karl Kautsky: Selected Political Writings (London: Macmillan 1983) 67.

Of course, it’s very much of its time and place, written four years before the First World War, when Britain, Germany and the European powers were locked in an armaments race. The Tories have now savagely cut back on our armed forces, though military development is continuing. But apart from that, it all seems horribly familiar. The tax cuts for the rich will see the tax burden shifted to the poor, the world is still profoundly affected by changes to the American economy, the last paragraph will certainly be true next year, no matter who Osborne says to the contrary.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Georg Weerth’s The Song of Hunger

March 18, 2014

Georg Weerth Pic

Georg Weerth: 19th century Communist poet and journalist

I found this piece of poetry by the 19th century German writer, Georg Weerth, in an anthology of 19th century German prose and poetry dealing with the 19th century revolutionary period. This was the age when German Liberals campaigned for a united, democratic Germany, and Socialist and working class movements arose to protest against the poverty and starvation they experience in the new, industrial society.

Weerth himself was the son of a Prussian official, a Generalsuperintendent. After studying to be a merchant, he became a radical journalist, member of the Communist League and friend of Marx and Engels. In 1843 his close friendship with Engels took him to Bradford in Yorkshire, where Engels’ father had mills. The Song of Hunter was written during this period in England, during which time he met the Chartist leaders. His own literary style used simple, colloquial speech, and was influenced by Chartist working class literature. He was imprisoned by the German authorities in 1949, and was exiled in 1950. He then made a series of business trips to Spain, the West Indies and South America before dying in Havana in 1856.

The Song of Hunger describes, day by day, a week of mounting starvation culminating in an attack on the monarchy itself. It describes the terrible poverty of so many of the working class in mid-19th century Germany and England. It’s also highly relevant to contemporary Britain, where 38,000 people a year may have been killed due to poverty and starvation through benefit sanctions and cuts to the welfare system.

The Song of Hunger

Honoured lord and king,
Do you know the bad story?
On Monday we ate little
And on Tuesday we ate nothing.

And on Wednesday we had to starve,
And Thursday we suffered famine,
And O, on Friday we
Nearly died the death of hunger.

So let us bake on Saturday,
Bread, fine, carefully,
But we will on Sunday seize,
And eat you up, O King!

Workfare Before the Nazis

February 17, 2014

Reichsarbeitsdienst

Members of the Reichsarbeitsdienst, the Nazi compulsory ‘voluntary’ work organisation used to end unemployment.

I’ve already blogged on the strong similarities between the Coalition’s workfare and the Reichsarbeitsdienst established by the Nazis. This, like workfare, was a form of voluntary work, which had been made compulsory and extended in order to combat the massive unemployment resulting from the Great Crash of 1929. By January 1932, the year before the Nazi Machtergreifung, unemployment in Germany had reached 6,042,000.

Franz von Papen, the German Chancellor, had also attempted to lower unemployment by encouraging the German industrialists to take on more workers. Those that did so were rewarded with tax vouchers, and allowed to cut wages by up to 50 per cent. The trade unions naturally denounced this as stimulating the economy ‘at the expense of the workers’. His predecessor, Bruning, had similarly tried to create more jobs, but had suffered from the hostility of the country’s leading industrialists, to whom von Papen’s grant of tax breaks and wage cuts were intended to make the policy more acceptable.

Von Papen was an aristocrat from Westphalia. Although he was formally a member of the Catholic Centre party, he was no democrat and led a government in which members of the aristocracy were so predominant that it was mocked as ‘the baron’s cabinet’. When Papen led the coup against the Prussian government, he was described as a member of the DNVP, the Conservative Deutsche National Volkspartei. The Prussian government was led by three of the main democratic parties, the Socialist SPD, the Roman Catholic Centre Party and the DDP, one of the German Liberal parties. They were brought down by a referendum organised by the DNVP, the Nazis and the paramilitary Stahlhelm. Before this, Papen, and his predecessor, Bruning, had seen the exclusion from power of first the SPD and then the Catholic Centre Party, until only the parties of the Right remained.

This is another point of similarity to contemporary Britain. The Coalition is similarly aristocratic, with Cameron, Clegg and Osborne all true, blue-blooded, Eton-educated members of the aristocracy. They have similarly come to power in a right-wing coalition that has been brought to power through an international financial crisis. They have also tried, albeit ostensibly, to solve the problem of unemployment through a series of measures including cut wages, and indeed, no wages at all, for the unemployed compulsorily placed in the Work Programme.

Those measures were harsh and unjust then, just as they are harsh and unjust now. Workfare, like its Nazi and Weimar predecessors, should be rejected and genuine measures to generate jobs and give workers a living wage, need to be introduced instead.

Was Wissen Sie von England, Die Nur England Kennen?

November 21, 2013

This is my schoolboy German for ‘What do they know of England, who only England know?’

One of the major problems facing this country is the British refusal and apparently inability to learn other people’s languages. Having a second language can be immensely personally enriching, as it gives you a greater access to nations and cultures beyond your own. British visitors to the Continent, for example, can be pleasantly surprised and delighted by the way their stumbling attempts to speak the language of the country they’re visiting is appreciated by its people. Even if what you’re trying to say is halting and stumbling, the people you’re saying it to generally appreciate you’re making the effort, rather than arrogantly assuming that everyone speaks English. There have also been concerns for a long time that British industry is being held back by our collective reluctance to learn other tongues. Industrialists have long pointed out that if we want to sell our products to other nations, we have to persuade them to buy British in their own languages. And unfortunately, too few of us are studying another tongue.

This problem was being earnestly debated on breakfast television Tuesday or Wednesday morning. The Beeb were talking about the personal and professional advantages of speaking foreign tongues. One of their guests in this matter was a gentleman, one of those veritable ‘Briareus of tongues’, who could speak very many of them. In this case, the man could speak about eleven fluently. This is rather less than the eighteenth century Italian cardinal, who had mastered fifty, and who was therefore given the above nickname. Unfortunately, despite such multi-lingual experts as the Beeb’s guest a day or so ago, few people are following their example.

And it does shows, especially in some of the ideologues of the Right, who argue we should be following the employment practices of other nations, like the authors of Britannia Unchained. This bunch denounced British workers as lazy, and urged that the nation’s workforce copy those of the powerhouses of the developing world like China and India in working 19th century hours for miserable pay in the kind of conditions described and denounced by Charles Dickens and the other 19th century reformers. They are also doing the workers of the Developing World no service with their book either. Just as Britain and the rest of the Developed World has increased hours, so the working hours in India, China and the other developing nations have been massively extended. It’s a vicious circle, which seems to profit no-one except the multinational business elite now exploiting workers across the globe.

Of course, the author’s of Britannia Unchained seem unaware of this. If they are aware, they certainly don’t want you to be. And they also appear to be stunningly ignorant of business cultures much nearer home, like Germany.

In recent years the Germans have been doing their level best to challenge their image around the world. There has been a flow of steady articles and pieces in the German and foreign press challenging their image as the staunch incarnation of the Prussian virtues of hard-work and efficiency that created the Wirtschaftwunder. Rather than the dour, humourless drones slaving away all hours in the name of ruthless efficiency, the Germans are keen to point out that they do, in fact, enjoy a good joke. A few years ago there were adverts for Berlin, which boasted that it was the place where the art of living was practiced 24 hours a day, complete with a photo of a German rock star strumming out a mighty power chord on his electric guitar. The new Germany, the adverts said, stands for fun.

The punishing labour regimes of the Nazi and Communist dictatorships are similarly an image from the past that the Germans are increasingly challenging. Rather than spending their entire time grafting away at the workplace, German writers and commenters have pointed out that Germany has one of the shortest working weeks, and gives its workers longer holidays than many other countries. I can remember reading a piece by one German journalist in one of the British newspapers, which said that nothing contradicted the image of the hard-working German that the typical modern office in the Bundesrepublik. There, the staff quietly worked in comfort, with the coffee machine bubbling away to itself in a corner. And in such a relaxed, comfortable employment environment, it’s almost inevitable that someone would be going on about how lazy they all were. A few years ago, one of the German magazines ran a feature entitled ‘The German National Hobby: Krankfeiern‘, which I assume means ‘throwing a sickie’. The piece was accompanied by a photo showing an office worker crouched on a desk, surrounded by water, presumably to indicate the way German industry was being drowned by a flood of lazy workers, all skiving off work.

To Anglo-Saxon audiences, the idea that the Germans are all fun-loving with a relaxed attitude to work is almost comically bizarre. It runs directly counter to everything we know, or think we know, about the German character. After all, northern European nations are expected to be sober and hard-working, while it’s the Mediterranean south that’s all about fun and relaxation. It’s like the comment Badvoc made about the difference the Romans and ancient British in the 1980s Channel 4 comedy, Chelmsford 123: ‘We’re not like these hardworking Romans with their roads and efficiency. We have a more relaxed attitude to life. We say ‘manana!’ Yet, believe it or not, this was the German national image before the Prussian kings – one of whom had such a foul temper he was called ‘Die Bose Wetter von Hohenzollern’ took over the country. I was taught at school that in the 17th century the Germans were considered to be the most easy-going people in Europe. That was shattered by the rise of Prussia, the Napoleonic, Franco-Prussian Wars, and World Wars I and II. This has passed, on the Germans are going back to their national image in the 17th century, despite the horrors of the Gradgrinds of German industry.

So how does this new generation of relaxed funsters regard us across the North Sea? Well, as far as the work ethic is concerned, the attitude is now very much reversed, or so it seems. A few years ago a group of German financial workers and banking whizzkids from ‘Manhattan am Main’ were sent off to work in the company’s London branch. They were reported as making jokes about how, in England nothing worked properly. This seems to be pretty much a constant since Britain’s disastrous industrial performance in the 1970s. Unlike the 1970s, when we were the strike-ridden ‘sick man of Europe’, other jokes were about how hard we worked. We had, at least in the opinion of these employees, swapped places with their country as the nation, whose workers slave away driving themselves into the ground at work. Only without the efficiency and product quality.

All this appears to have been excluded from Britannia Unchained. After all, it would undermine their case if they compared us to the Germans, who now know how to combine a strong economy with a reputation for quality products and have a good time. After all, you can’t tell a country of miserable wage-slaves that they’re all skivers and malingers compared to their fun-loving EU counterparts across the Nordsee, regularly clocking with ruthless efficiency at a reasonable hour every day.

Way back in the 1980s Channel 4 briefly held won the rights to broadcast the cricket from the BBC, before they, in turn, were trumped by Murdoch and Sky. Their trailer for the test match season against the West Indies was, in its own small way, a work of art. It opened with pictures of sun-drenched beaches and tropic rainforests, while a female Caribbean face lilted the Kiplingesque lines ‘What do they know of England, who only England know?’ Hence the title of my piece. One of their innovations, I believe, was a female commentator, who had a West Indian accent. They take cricket extremely seriously over that side of the Atlantic. The University of the West Indies in Kingston has a department of Cricket Studies. One of the course’s professors appeared on TV over here a little while ago talking about how the West Indies team’s sporting excellence had boosted the region’s self-image and pride. And the quote used by the advert is still a very, very good question. Kipling himself held some extremely Right-wing views. In the 1920s he formed a group to fight the General Strike. This collapsed when their treasurer ran off with their funds. He wrote the poem with the lines ‘What should they know of England, who only England know?’ in response to riots in the north of England against working conditions there. Nevertheless, the question is a good one, and can be asked of the Right as well as the Left. ‘What do they know of England, who only England know?’ Going by the authors of Britannia Unchained, very little.