Posts Tagged ‘Schools’

Lib Dems Want More Black History Taught in Schools

July 7, 2020

Also from yesterday’s I for Monday, 6th July 2020 was a piece by Will Hazell reporting that the Lib Dems have called for schools to teach more Black history. The article on page 15 runs

The national curriculum should be reformed so schools teach children more about black history and uncomfortable aspects of Britain’s imperial past, the Liberal Democrats have said.

The party has also demanded improved teacher training so school staff can avoid “microaggressions”, under proposals worked up with the Diversity Reform Initiative – a new organisation which aims to tackle racial disadvantage in institutions.

In a letter to the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, Layla Moran, the Lib Dems’ education spokesperson, said: “Changes to the history curriculum, such as learning about non-white historical figures and addressing the darker sides of British history honestly, are a vital step in tackling racism in our educational system.”  

It’s a good point, and Labour should be demanding the same. Unfortunately they aren’t. Mike put up a piece the other day about how the Labour Party is hemorrhaging members thanks to Keir Starmer’s right-wing leadership. Starmer’s a New Labour centrist, who has done precious little to challenge the Tories, thanks to his decision to advance only constructive criticism during the pandemic. Many of those leaving the party are Black and Asian, who resent his almost total inaction on racism and his halfhearted dismissive attitude towards Black Lives Matter. If the Lib Dems prove to be more serious about tackling racism, they could well attract these disaffected former Labour voters.

That said, I am not impressed by some of the policies suggested by the Diversity Reform Initiative. I am not convinced of the existence of ‘microaggressions’ – I think it is something that has been thought up by oversensitive, resentful individuals to justify their bitter hatred of mainstream society. Of course respect goes both ways, but there is already a problem with discipline in some schools and I think a focus on suppressing ‘microaggressions’ on the part of teachers will only make things worse.

Archaeology Recreates Bronze Age Welsh Round Barrow in ‘Minecraft’

July 7, 2020

Here’s a piece of archaeology news from yesterday’s I for Monday, 6th July 2020. An archaeologist and his daughter have recreated a Bronze Age burial mound on Anglesey, Bryn Celli Ddu, in the computer game ‘Minecraft’. The article, ”Minecraft recreates Bronze Age landmark’, by Madeleine Cuff, runs

An archaeologist has recreated one of the UK’s most famous Bronze Age landmarks on the computer game Minecraft, in an attempt to entertain his 11-year-old daughter during lockdown.

Dr Ben Edwards and his daughter Bella have created a digital version of Bryn Celli Ddu, a 3,000-year-old burial mound on Anglesey.

The pair were assisted by Dr Seren Griffiths, a colleague of Dr Edwards at Manchester Metropolitan University, and Dr Ffion Reynolds of Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service.

Their digital invention is now being shared with classrooms around the world to help students learn more about ancient civilisations and cultures.

Minecraft is a compute game created by Microsoft, where players can explore a 3D world, discovering natural resources, craft tools and build houses or other structures. Dr Edwards had to draw on his daughter’s greater technical expertise to recreate the ancient site with modern-day technology.

“Bella had to show me how to do a lot of things, because she uses it more than me,” he told BBC News, adding that Bella said the final version was “very realistic”.

Bryn Celli Ddu, which loosely translates as “mound in the dark grove”, is thought to date back to the Bronze Age. The main burial mound is positioned so that during the summer solstice the dawn sunrise shines right through the main passageway.

This is interesting, as Minecraft has been used by its players for a long time to recreate structures and objects that have zilch to do with the game itself. There used to be a number of videos on YouTube put up by people, who had used the game to do this. I remember one fan of Dr. Who had even recreated the TARDIS.

While the reconstruction of Bryn Celli Ddu in Minecraft is clearly useful for getting schoolchildren interested in archaeology, I can also see adult archaeologists using it. There is professional software available for mapping archaeological sites and monuments, but this is so expensive only institutions like universities can really afford it. A friend of mine, who’s into role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons introduced me a few weeks ago to a piece of software that has been developed to enable players to create maps of the fictional landscapes of their games. While not exactly cheap, it’s definitely much cheaper than the academic software for archaeologists and geographers. I remarked then how useful the game software could be to serious archaeologists in their recreations of ancient landscapes.

Now it seems that Minecraft could be the same. I think it would be too crude for a finished recreation of a monument, but it might help archaeologists when they are beginning an analysis by allowing them to do so at rough, initial stage.

African Resistance to the Ending of the Slave Trade

July 7, 2020

One of the most shocking aspects of the history of the slave trade is that its abolition was opposed by many African states. These were kingdoms like Dahomey that profited from the trade. As a rule, it wasn’t Europeans who conducted the slave raids. They were largely confined to merchant ghettos within the African towns and ports serving the trade. The actual warfare and slaving that brought them their human cargo was done by warlike African states. And despite being frequently cheated by European slave merchants – John Newton describes the various ruses used to do this in his 1788 Thoughts Upon the African Slave Trade – many African princes grew extremely rich on the profits of the trade. Duke Ephraim of Dahomey was raking in £300,000 per year, an income that exceeded that of many English dukes.

These states were extremely reluctant to give up such a lucrative trade, and resented British insistence that they now turn to more legitimate items, such as palm oil and the other products they believed would be far more useful for British industry after abolition. At the very least, they thought it was hypocritical for their former customers and co-partners in the slave trade to now demand they stop it and lecture them on their wickedness for not doing so. One west African kingdom was so incensed at British refusal to continue slaving that they attacked a British trading fort in order to force them to take it up again. And for a short period bloodshed actually increased. The slave states were faced with keeping large numbers of captives, whom they could no longer sale. As a result there was a series of massacres as they murdered the excess slaves. One of the most notorious was the murder of 300 such captives, which was debated in parliament in one of the many meetings of the Committee of Inquiry held to investigate the slave trade. Some believed that the mass murder was actually human sacrifice, but other witnesses testified that this was not the case. When one of those testifying before the Committee, Captain Denman, was asked if he was surprised or shocked by the massacre, he replied that he was because of the considerable advances this African people had made in the arts of civilization. This statement is itself remarkable as it shows that while Europeans viewed African civilization as inferior, many of those charged with actively ending the slave trade knew it existed and were impressed with Black Africans as cultured, civilized peoples.

Colin McEvedy discusses these negative consequences of the ending of the slave trade in his The Penguin Atlas of African History (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1980) which I reviewed a few days ago. He writes

No one in Africa was going to say thank you for this [the ending of the slave trade]. Most West African states suffered a severe loss of revenue and, though the British granted some of them subsidies in compensation and, in the case of the principalities of the Niger delta, went to considerable trouble to encourage the production of palm oil as an alternative source of income, this was a period of relative impoverishment all along Africa’s Atlantic seaboard. Even the various categories of people who had supplied the slave trade with its raw material can’t be said to have benefited: criminals were once again handed over to the civil executioner and prisoners-of-war to the witch-doctor for sacrifice. This is the reason why the accounts of West African kingdoms in the nineteenth century are so blood-curdling: states like Dahomey that had built up a big slave-exporting capacity now had to consume a lot of unwanted human beings. Their ways of doing so provide a last bizarre flourish to what always had been a sad and sorry business. (p. 97).

This aspect of the slave trade also needs to be taught. Not to try to justify the trade, but to show that Africans were also actively involved in it and not mere victims. We need to remember this so that when the history of the slave trade is taught in schools, it isn’t presented as simply as evil White Europeans preying on noble Black Africans.

Grimes and Starkey Now Feeling Heat for Racist Comments in Slavery Video

July 3, 2020

This is a kind of update to my last post. This followed a great piece from Zelo Street reporting that Darren Grimes, another former inmate of the Paul Staines massive, and the TV historian Dr David Starkey had appeared in a video in which Starkey had definitely made a racist comment about Blacks. The video had been about Black Lives Matter supposedly aiming to delegitimise British history. Grimes and Starkey had been agreed that the British empire had been a good thing. Grimes had also asked the A.J.P. Taylor of TV programmes about the Tudors if slavery was a genocide. It’s a reasonable question, as although the enslavement of Africans by Europeans wasn’t intended to exterminate them, it led to the devastation and abandonment of whole communities due to slave raiding. Starkey denied that it was a genocide, because of the subsequent increase in the Black population, which he expressed in very racist terms. He said it wasn’t, because ‘otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn Blacks in Britain and Africa, would there?’ (my emphasis). This naturally upset many people, and had led to strong criticism of both of them. Grimes should have stopped Starkey making any such comment, but instead sat there nodding in agreement at what his hero said. So one of the peeps on Twitter put up a video of him nodding along to one of Hitler’s speeches.

In my piece about this sordid episode, I quoted Zelo Street’s conclusion that this should effectively end both Starkey’s and Grimes’ careers. But I felt that it wouldn’t harm them at all. Starkey appeared to me to be far too established as a popular historian, while for some reason it doesn’t seem to matter what they do, Grimes and the other members and former members of Guido Fawkes are still invited on TV programmes and treated as regular journalists.

But events this morning show I was wrong. Starkey and Grimes are both feeling the public’s disapproval, and it does threaten to harm their careers. 

Zelo Street has put up another video discussing the effects of Grimes’ video. Starkey has resigned from his position at the Mary Rose Museum, which said that it was appalled at his conduct. Dan Snow, another presenter of TV history programmes, most of which have been about the two World Wars, has said that his channel, History Hit, has never made any original programmes with Starkey. He appears in one programme, which the channel has on license from a third party, and which they have now taken down. And next week Cambridge University’s Fitzwilliam College will review Starkey’s honorary fellowship.

As for Grimes, he has issued a long, kind-of apology for his failure to stop or correct Starkey’s comments. He’s tweeted the following:

Hand on heart, I wasn’t engaged enough in this interview as I should’ve been. It goes without saying that Reasoned UK does not support or condone Dr David Starkey’s words … I am very new to being the interviewer rather than the interviewee and I should have robustly questioned Dr Starkey about his comments”.

However, whether it’s on the BBC, ITV, Sky News or on YouTube, no interviewer is responsible for the views expressed by their guests”.

This last remark isn’t entirely correct. Zelo Street also comments that Grimes could have cut Starkey’s offensive remark, and asked him to rephrase it. He didn’t. Grimes fouled up.

He then goes on to give a lame excuse for regarding Starkey as a hero. It was because he really appreciated Starkey’s history programmes when he was growing up, because he had gone to a ‘crap state school which did little in the way of history’. This was untrue. Others, like James Wilson pointed out that his old school had been rated ‘good’ by Ofsted, and its curriculum ‘excellent’ while he was there. Michael Dunn had also gone to the same school, Tanfield, and had made a career in history. He said “I went to the same school, same teachers, I’ve made a career out of my history education, have a degree in history and work in a museum with a collection of national significance, he’s lying again”.

And Miffy Buckley added further that the episode reflected very badly on the current state of the media:  “The fact that such a frankly stupid and out-of-his-depth ninny like Darren Grimes can segue from failed trainee hairdresser to pundit on prime time Sky News programming must surely tell us something about the state of our media, and of our political & civil discourse”.

The Street concurred, and concluded:

‘Broadcasters keep inviting them on their shows, and they keep showing the world the true extent of their expertise – or lack of it. Grimes and Starkey should not be the only ones repenting at leisure this morning. Hello all you gullible media bookers.’

Absolutely. It has surprised me that they are facing criticism and censure for Starkey’s comments. I didn’t think this would happen. I’m not sure it will result in either disappearing from our screens for good. The broadcasters are desperate to find a popular voice for right-wing politics, which means that they have valued personality and opinion over informed content and the bounds of decent speech. It’s why Hatie Katie Hopkins was given a platform by so many newspapers and websites before she proved too toxic even for the Scum and the Heil. Grimes may yet escape her fate, but even if he doesn’t, it’s likely the media will just find another ignorant loudmouth from the extreme right to replace him.

And that also shows how grotty our national media really is.

See also: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/07/darren-grimes-repents-at-leisure.html

 

Book on African History

June 22, 2020

Roland Oliver and J.D. Fage, A Short History of Africa, 5th Edition (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1975)

As I discussed in an earlier post, the Black Lives Matter protests have led to calls for the greater teaching of Black history in schools. Africa does indeed have a very long and fascinating history and there were great African civilisations, such as Nubia, Ethiopia and the Muslim states of west Africa, like Mali, long before Europeans colonised the continent. There are now plenty of books on African history, but the one I’ve been using is the above book by Roland Oliver and J.D. Fage. I’ve no doubt it’s now very dated, as my copy is the revised version of the fifth edition, that was published in 1978. There’s obviously been 42 years of change and development on the continent since then. Nevertheless, I’ve found it useful in understand the history of the continent from the earliest antiquity through the middle ages and the colonial period.

Its blurb reads

During the twentieth century the centre of the world shifted…

The dramatic alterations in political power have corrected the vision of a European-centred world. While the centres of European culture flourished, decayed and sprouted in turn, empires in Africa rose, ruled, resisted and succumbed. Much of Africa’s past has now been excavated from ignorance and error, revealing a rich and previously little-known human heritage.

In this classic work, the authors have drawn on the whole range of literature about Africa and on the evidence provided by archaeology, oral traditions, language relationships and social institutions. A Short History of Africa not only marshals the most authoritative views of African specialists into an absorbing narrative, it also puts forward original conclusions that take the study of Africa a stage further.

The book has the following chapters:

  1. The Hunters
  2. The Farmers
  3. The Townsmen
  4. The Sudanic Civilisation
  5. Mediterranean Civilisation in Northern and Western Africa
  6. The Arab Empire in Africa
  7. Northern and Western Africa during the Great Age of Islam
  8. North-East and East Africa in Medieval and Early Modern Times
  9. The States of Guinea
  10. The Era of Firearms and the Slave Trade: (1) North and West Africa
  11. The Era of Firearms and the Slave Trade: (2) From the Congo to the Zambezi
  12. The Turn of the Tide in Europe
  13. The Nineteenth Century: North and West Africa
  14. The Nineteenth Century: Southern Africa
  15. The Nineteenth Century: East and North-East Africa
  16. The European Scramble for African Colonies
  17. The Colonial Period: First Phase
  18. The Colonial Period: Second Phase
  19. The Colonial Period: Third Phase – Economic Development and Welfare
  20. Independent Africa (1)
  21. Independent Africa (2).

Despite being published so long ago, I think the book is still useful and hope others will also find it so. And that it also stimulates peoples’ interest in this great and diverse continent and its myriad cultures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where’s Starmer? Labour Should Be Leading the Fight against Racism, Not Johnson

June 15, 2020

I just caught on the lunchtime news today the announcement that Boris Johnson is going to set up a commission to examine the knotty question of racism in the UK. He said something about how this had to be done because of the way people up and down the country had gathered in mass meetings to protest against it. While it showed that Johnson had been paying attention to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations here, America and across the world, not everyone was convinced that Johnson was entirely serious about his proposal. The Beeb’s report said that he’d been criticised already, as there were existing recommendations made in previous reports which hadn’t been acted upon. The Labour MP David Lammy also appeared to give his tuppence worth. He began by noting that Johnson had provided any specifics about this proposed commission. To me, it looks very much like another typical Tory dodge. Johnson will set up this commission to make it look like he’s really bothered about the issue and understands public concern, while making sure that it doesn’t actually do anything and hope that the matter will go away. I do know some genuinely anti-racist Tories. But the Tory party itself has consistently opposed non-White immigration and parts of it are viciously racist. Like the members of the Tory youth movements, who used to sing ‘We Don’t Want No Blacks and Asians’ to the tune of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, or ‘Hang Nelson Mandela’. The people that Jacobsmates exposed posting violently racist messages on the internet sites for supporters of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg. The people that formulated and backed the Tories ‘hostile environment’ policy, which saw hundreds of people illegally deported. People, who had been granted citizenship and then suddenly found it stripped from them by a racist, duplicitous government.

And you have to wonder where Starmer and Angela Rayner are in all this. So far their response has been very muted. After the protests at George Floyd’s murder broke out, Starmer and Rayner issued a statement last week declaring that they were shocked and angered at the killing. Rayner tweeted that ‘We stand in complete solidarity with those standing up against police brutality towards Black people and systemic racism and oppression across the United States, here in the United Kingdom and across the world.’ But actions speak louder than words, and no, they don’t. The suppressed report into the conspiracies by members of the Blairite faction within the party to unseat Corbyn and his supporters and actually make the party lose elections also revealed how these same plotters racially abused the Black MPs and activists Diane Abbott, Dawn Butler and Clive Lewis. It showed that there was a poisonous culture of anti-Black racism, dubbed Afriphobia, in the party that wasn’t being addressed. As a result, according to the Huffington Post, the Labour Party is haemorrhaging Black members, who say they feel politically homeless.

If Black Lives Matter to Keir Starmer, why hasn’t he acted against Labour’s racists?

Starmer’s response to the toppling of the statue of slaver Edward Colston in Bristol has also been muted. When he was asked by caller Barry Gardiner on LBC radio what his views on it were, Starmer simply replied that it shouldn’t have been done that way, and that he didn’t condone lawlessness. This cut no ice with the mighty Kerry-Ann Mendoza of The Canary, who tweeted that they’d been trying to have it removed legally for the past forty years. As for the Labour party’s attitude to ethnic minorities, she tweeted

The Labour Party is not a safe place for Black people
The Labour Party is not a safe place for Muslims
The Labour Party is not a safe place for anti-zionist Jews
The Labour Party is not a safe place for anti-zionists period
The Labour Party is not a safe place for socialists

Starmer on THAT statue: he thinks there’s a heirarchy of racism, with black people very low down it

Mike in the article above argues quite correctly, in my opinion, that Starmer believes in a hierarchy of racism. He was quick to give his full support to the Zionist Jewish establishment, but has done nothing about the racists persecuting Blacks in the party. This is almost certainly because the persecutors were Blairites like himself, and he doesn’t want to alienate his supporters. At the same time, he is also using the fast-track expulsion process that has been set up to deal with alleged anti-Semites to start throwing out members. This is a real kangaroo court, as those accused are not giving a hearing and have no opportunity to defend themselves. And those expelled naturally include socialists and followers of Jeremy Corbyn, and especially anti-Zionist Jews. Tony Greenstein has written a couple of articles about this already. In an article posted yesterday, Tony describes how Starmer was handed a list in March of the people the woefully misnamed Jewish Labour Movement wanted purged. As the Director of Public Prosecutions, Starmer refused to prosecute the coppers who shot Jean Charles de Menezes, whom they mistook for an Islamist terrorist. He was also not in the least interested in the deaths of Blacks in police custody. His expressed support for Black Lives Matter is hypocritical, as the Zionist movement in America has been doing its level best to destroy and discredit it because BLM has declared that Israel is an apartheid state, and supports the Palestinians. It considers that their condition in Israel is comparable to that of Blacks in America.

https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/06/you-cant-be-anti-racist-if-you-are-not.html

Tony has also posted this article about the mass expulsion of anti-Zionist Jews from the Labour party, as well as other, self-respecting anti-racist members.

https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/06/starmers-war-on-jews-in-labours.html

Starmer’s reticence on anti-Black racism contrasts very strongly with the party’s direction over the previous forty years. After Thatcher’s election victory in 1979 or so, Labour strongly supported the aspirations of Britain’s Blacks and Asians for equality. The party put forward a new generation of ethnic minority MPs, who strongly articulated the desire for real change. This was extremely controversial – the Tory press blamed the 1981/2 race riots on Black racism and viciously attacked the new Black MPs, like Diane Abbott and Bernie Grant. And, in my opinion, some of them didn’t help. Brent council under Grant was particularly zealous in its determination to root out racism, to the point where it pursued a vigorous policy of censorship from its libraries. A policy that appalled others in the party, who were equally left-wing but less inflexible and intolerant. I’ve heard stories from people, who grew up in the area how extreme Grant could be in his accusations of racism. One of those he accused was the head of a local school, whose wife was Black and who was supposedly a member of the Communist party. In Bristol the five members of Labour’s ‘unofficial’ Black section went off on a trip to Ulster to support the Roman Catholics. They believed that Ulster’s Catholics were a colonised minority like Blacks. They had a point, but this allowed the Tories to paint the party as ‘loony Labour’, inhabited by embittered Communists, who hated Britain and supported the IRA. Nevertheless, it was this period that led to the vital implementation of policies, like ‘positive discrimination’ to improve conditions for Blacks and ethnic minorities. And Labour continued to include anti-racism, or at least anti-racist rhetoric, under Blair. Some Black activists did feel excluded and that Blair was less than serious about these issues. But I can remember Blair praising the example of America’s General Colin Powell, and wishing that Britain could also be a place where Blacks could rise to the highest ranks of the military.

But Starmer seems to be turning his back on all this in his determination to return Labour to the Thatcherite, neoliberal centre ground. It’s the inevitable result of Blairite triangulation. Blair studied what the Tories were doing, and then adopted it and tried to go further. He began in the 1990s by taking over scrapped recommendations for the restructuring of the civil service by Anderson Consulting. He continued the Tory policies of privatisation, including that of the NHS, and the destruction of the welfare state. And some Blairite MPs even began to make the same type of racist recommendations as the Tories. It’s also dangerous, as under Cameron the Tories did try to gain ethnic minority support by embracing Black and Asian community leaders.

Black Lives Matter and the anti-racism movement shouldn’t be above criticism. But Labour should be taking the lead in the debate. Instead, Starmer seems determined to alienate some of the party’s staunchest supporters.

All in the hope of appealing to the Thatcherites and neoliberals.

Racial Politics and the Toppling of the Statue of Slaver Edward Colston

June 9, 2020

On Sunday Black Lives Matter protesters in Bristol pulled down a statue of Edward Colston from its plinth in the city’s centre, and threw it in the Floating Harbour. It’s been both local and national news. The local news interviewed a White woman, who had been part of the protest. She was married to a Black man, and as the mother of a half-Black child thoroughly approved of the statue’s maltreatment. In fact, she felt a bit teary and overcome with emotion.

Colston, Slavery and Charity

It’s not hard to see why. Colston was a 17th-18th century slaver and president of the Royal African Society. He made a colossal fortune from the enslavement of Black Africans. As historians and Black activists have pointed out, millions of the enslaved died en route to America and the Caribbean due to the appalling conditions on board the slave ships. Slavers like Colston also responded brutally to slave mutinies aboard ship by throwing their cargo overboard, chains and all, to drown. They also did this if a storm threatened to sink the ship, and they needed to lighten it. That’s shown in the classic 19th century painting of a ship at sea facing an oncoming storm. It was based on a real incident, that of the Zong, and the painting shows the struggling Blacks drowning as a detail.

Anti-racism activists have been campaigning for the statue’s removal for over forty years, ever since the St. Paul’s race riots of the 1980s. Mike wrote a long piece about it yesterday. He, and the peeps, whose tweets he cited, viewed the statue’s fall as good riddance to bad rubbish. He wondered why it hadn’t been done years ago. Some of those commenting were Blacks, like the awesome Kerry-Ann Mendoza of The Canary. They compared the statue to those of Hitler, and described how it had tore them up to go past it. If Colston had only been a slaver, the statue’s removal wouldn’t have been an issue. What complicated the matter is that Colston, who actually spent most of his life in Mortlake in London, gave very generously to charity. He endowed several schools in Bristol, one of which was Colston Girls School. As Mike explains in his excellent article, we also had Colston Day at school. This was a one-day holiday. Some pupils were also called upon to attend a special service at St. Mary Redcliffe church, and received a Colston bun. Mike had that experience. So did I.

Bristol and the Slave Trade

I should also point out here that, like Mike, I also grew up believing that one branch of our ancestral family tree, the Haberfields, had been slavers. That was dispelled last week by the historian David Olasuga on the Beeb’s programme, A House Through Time. Olasuga stated instead that the Haberfield’s made their money as wine merchants. There may have been other branches of the family that were slavers, however. I don’t know. I’ve heard stories that one ancestor was the captain of a slave ship, and that the City Museum has his log. But when I talked to people from the City’s museums, they denied they had any such thing. Bristol did benefit immensely from the slave trade, but, contrary to popular belief, most of the slaves were taken to the Caribbean. Those few that came back to the City were trusted personal servants. As a result, there is precious little in Bristol, apart from the luxurious homes the slavers built for themselves, that is directly connected to the slave trade. When the City Museum held an exhibition on Bristol and the slave trade there were so few objects left over from Bristol’s slave trade, that they had to borrow some from elsewhere. There are written documents, like contracts and ledgers, but museums don’t like putting them on display. Not because they’re trying to hide anything, as some people have alleged, but simply because visitors don’t find them interesting.

Anti-racist Politics in Bristol

There have been petitions over the years to remove the statue. It’s remained, because these campaigns did not achieve a majority. At the last poll, Bristolian opinion was divided half and half. Roughly the same proportion of people wanted the statue to stay as those, who wanted it gone. And not all Black anti-racism activists wanted it removed. Paul Stephenson was one of the leaders of the Bristol bus boycott in the 1960s and 1970s. This was against the colour bar operated by the local bus company, which refused to employ Blacks. When he was interviewed about racism and the slave trade in the city a few years ago, he felt the statue should be kept, but with a plaque pointing out that he was responsible for enslavement and genocide. As it is, the statue is going to be fished out of the harbour, and put on display in the M Shed. One of the arguments for keeping it up is that it serves to educate people about this aspect of Bristol’s history, but as one of the tweeters Mike quotes also says, this comes from people, who really don’t want schoolchildren talk about the dark side of the British empire.

I’ve also no doubt that some of the resistance to tearing the statue down and to some of the initiatives by the local authorities to commemorate Bristol’s involvement in the slave trade and its millions of victims comes from the highly emotive and divisive racial politics in the city. Although Britain has had a Black presence since the Roman Empire, and Bristol has had a Black population from at least the 16th-17th centuries, there has only been a large Black community in Bristol since the mass immigration of the post-War years. The Black community in the inner city has, like those elsewhere, a reputation for drug dealing, prostitution and violent crime. St. Paul’s was a district Whites from outside the area drove through with their windows up and doors locked. Furthermore, some of the demands and accusations made by the community’s representatives were less than tactful.

It’s often asserted that Bristol was built on the slave trade. That’s true, but only up to a point. Bristol did profit very well from the trade, as did many other ports. But Bristol was great trading city before the slave trade took off in the 17th century. We traded with France, Spain and Portugal, as well as Ireland and across the Channel to Wales. And the first slaves sold by Bristol were White Anglo-Saxons bought by Irish merchants. The Anglo-Saxon cleric St. Wulstan visited the city to condemn the trade in the 11th century.

There’s also the problem that some anti-racist activists make unwarranted assumptions about racism and Whites. There’s an automatic assumption by some that if you’re White, you must be racist. That naturally gets peoples’ backs up. One of the Conservative blogs I read years ago quoted an American study that found that police officers tended to become more racist after anti-racist training than previously. I don’t know if that’s true, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was. The automatic reaction of anyone accused of racism, whatever their colour, is going to be resentment and defensiveness. And in the 1980s the Tory papers explicitly claimed that the riots were caused by Black racism. Some Black leaders didn’t help their cause either. I remember an article in the Absurder c. 1984/5 attacking one Black politician – it might have been Paul Boateng – for suggesting that Blacks should have their own autonomous areas. The writer correctly pointed out that this was a demand for segregation and apartheid. Fortunately, the call for separate Black communities went unheeded.

There has also been the problem that the city has devoted funds and resources in combating the poverty, unemployment and crime in the racially mixed inner city areas of Bristol, at the expense of the White majority areas further out. South Bristol was promised a local hospital back in the 1970s, but it was only built a few years ago. Positive discrimination schemes also give more funding to those areas with a large ethnic minority population. This has caused some resentment.

As a result it has seemed at times that the demands for Colston’s statue to be pulled down, and for the slave trade to be commemorated in Bristol, has come from a position of anti-White racism, rather than a desire for racial justice in itself.

Black Separatism and the Name of the Malcolm X Centre

And if you’re talking about the official commemoration of racists, there is the whole issue of the name of the community centre in St. Paul’s. It is, or was called the Malcolm X Centre, after the American civil rights leader. The problem is that Malcolm X’s organisation, the Nation of Islam, is racially separatist. They want a separate Black state, to be formed from a group of Black majority states in the US. In the 1960s they used to hold joint rallies with the American Nazi party. There was an article on this in the Sunday colour supplement for the Independent back in the 1990s. It contained an article written by a White American female photographer, who followed, interviewed and photographed Malcolm X at the time. The article reproduced some of the photos shed’ taken of these rallies. Now Malcolm X didn’t remain a separatist. He later converted to orthodox Islam, and supported integration after he went on the Hajj to Mecca, during which he found that people of all races were fundamentally the same. I think he also took an orthodox Muslim name. There is therefore the problem that if it is wrong to commemorate a slaver like Colston, then why should a Black activist, who also stood for racism and separation, be commemorated?

Conclusion

Colston’s statue had its time long ago. It’s removal, one way or another, was pretty much inevitable. It won’t be missed. The argument for its retention was weakened when the Americans began pulling down the statues of Confederate generals. At the same time, it’s right that Bristol’s involvement in the slave trade and the slaves transported should be commemorated. There’s a whole gallery devoted to this at M Shed on Bristol’s docks. There’s also a slave walk, and a commemorative plaque. Black Lives Matter still has an urgent point. Racism still exists in this country, and Black communities as a rule are underprivileged, poorer with higher rates of unemployment and underrepresented in large parts of industry, society and the arts.

But anti-racist campaigns also need tact and sensitivity. Accusations that Whites in general are racist, or that Bristol must somehow be intrinsically racist because of slavery, just cause more division and resentment.

It leads to embittered Whites giving their votes to the Tories, who will just use them to justify their own racism and destruction of state aid for the disadvantaged regardless of their colour.

 

 

 

BLM Protests – Brillo Retweets Far Right Conspiracy Theorist

June 3, 2020

Remember when Andrew ‘Brillo Pad’ Neil had Alex Jones on his programme years ago? This resulted in farce when Neil asked the right-wing, Libertarian Jones about guns and the high rate of shootings in America. I think it came in the wake of yet another crazed gunman going into a school, shopping mall, church, synagogue or mosque or somewhere and shooting innocents. The right to bear arms is sacrosanct to Republicans and Libertarians, and so Jones responded with a long rant about how Americans will never give their firearms up and that there’d be another 1776 if anyone like Britain tried. He then started screaming nonsense, including ‘metal shark!’ at one point. The camera pulled away from Jones to show Brillo making the ‘nutter’ sign behind his head.

It’s a debatable but fair question whether Jones is mad. He’s promoted some immensely stupid theories, like the Democrat Party operating a paedophile ring out of a Boston pizza parlour, that Obama was the Antichrist, Hillary Clinton a Satanist cyborg, and that the world is being run by ‘the Globalists’ intent on enslaving humanity and turning us all into dehumanised cyborgs to serve demons or malevolent aliens. He is most notorious for ranting about how ‘they’ were putting chemicals in the water ‘to turn the frickin’ frogs gay’. He’s been widely ridiculed for that, but as Blissex, one of the great commenters on this blog reminded me on another post about Jones, he does have a point. Frogs and other amphibians are suffering from industrial pollutants that mimic female hormones and so cause reproductive abnormalities in males. Jones pushes all manner of outlandish theories, but some people have said that off-air he’s calm and rational, and his bizarre antics on camera may just be to garner viewers.

Whatever the real state of Jones’ mind, Brillo is now no longer in a position to sneer at Jones for pushing whacky and dangerous conspiracy theories. Because now he’s done it himself. Yesterday Zelo Street reported that Neil had taken exception to criticism of his comments on a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Colorado, and retweeted the bonkers comments by Spectator USA contributor Andy Ngo. Nadine Batchelor-Hunt had responded to his approving comments about the demonstration in Colorado by telling him that as a White guy, he shouldn’t be telling Black people how to protest. This is essentially the same point some Black Civil rights leaders in America in the 1960s told their White supporters when they said they should ‘be in their own space’. The result was the formation of a radical, White, working-class identity movement, which was crucially anti-racist as some of the White poor turned to their own situation and demanded change. I can’t see Brillo, former editor of the Sunday Times, the Economist and head of the Spectator board, wanting to see that develop. He replied “Looks like most of the folks protesting are white. I’m not telling anybody what they should do; just approving of a particular form of protest. Why make an issue of my colour. I don’t take kindly to what people tell me I should or should not do”.

Zelo Street commented that this was a remark from his privileged perspective. I think however, that Neil has the right to make whatever comment he likes about the protest. It might seem condescending, but people have the right to their own opinions whatever colour they are. But then the great newsman went overboard, and retweeted this from the Speccie’s sister paper.

‘We are witnessing glimmers of the full insurrection the far-left has been working toward for decades. The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis was merely a pre-text for radicals to push their ambitious insurgency,’ writes [Andy Ngo]”.

Ngo is a member of the American far right, despite being Asian. He wrote a farcical piece about Islam in Britain, ‘A Visit to Islamic Britain’ for Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, and has hosted the infamous Carl Benjamin, the man who broke UKIP, on his podcast. Zelo Street commented that it was shameful for the Speccie to give Ngo a platform, and even more so for Brillo to retweet him. They also wondered if BBC News and Current Affairs would take a dim view of being linked with Ngo through Neil. And this is apart from some of the deeply unpleasant characters who write for the British Spectator, like the anti-Semitic supporter of the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, Taki.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/06/brillo-boosts-far-right.html

The American far right is riddled with bizarre conspiracy theories. When Obama was ensconced in the Oval Office there were any number of loons proclaiming that he was an anti-White racist who would immediately launch a genocide of Whites. Or that he was closet Muslim, who would impose the Shariah. Or a Nazi, Communist or militant atheist. Jones ranted that Obama would become absolute dictator by declaring a state of emergency, suspending the rule of law and forcing Americans into FEMA camps. It didn’t happen. There are also loony conspiracy theories going around the American and British right about ‘cultural Marxists’ trying to create a new Communist dictatorship through destroying traditional, Christian morality and replacing it with multiculturalism and gay and trans rights. It’s a garbled misreading of Gramsci’s theories of hegemony, and ultimately has its roots in the Nazis’ denunciation of ‘cultural Bolshevism’.

But I’ve got a feeling that the Spectator USA always was a haven for demented conspiracy theories. Way back in the 1990s a magazine with a very similar name, The American Spectator, and a group of Sunday Times journos, got it into their heads that Bill Clinton was at the heart of a vast criminal conspiracy. They believed that Slick Willy was importing drugs from Latin America through a secret airbase in Arizona. Anyone who crossed or otherwise displeased him was then executed by his gangsters. This theory was partly based on the real fact that about 19 of his aides had died, but investigations had shown that their demise had absolutely nothing to do with Clinton. The conspiracy theories were even later denounced and ridiculed by a former believer, one of the ‘Clinton Crazies’. Adam Curtis has discussed this bizarre affair in one of his excellent documentaries.

It looks to me that The American Spectator was a previous incarnation of The Spectator USA, and that, despite the Clinton Crazies having come and gone, there still is a paranoid mentality out there. And Brillo, as former editor of the Sunday Times, and head of the Spectator’s board, shares it.

You don’t have to invoke non-existent conspiracies to explain the protests and riots in America. They come from endemic racism, poverty and lack of opportunity, quite apart from the casual killing of Black Americans by the police. This has been simmering away for several years. Now it’s exploded again. What is needed is calm, rationality and justice.

What we don’t need is more stupid, inflammatory rhetoric by Trump, Ngo or Brillo.

Bristol’s Elected Mayor Supports Schools That Refuse to Open

May 30, 2020

Boris Johnson is desperate to get the children back to school as quickly as possible if he can, and has decided that schools will reopen next week for children of specific ages. Parents and teachers are naturally worried about this, especially as the public schools won’t reopen until September. It seems to be once again one law for the plebs and another for the entitled rich. And once again, Boris is utterly complacent about the health and welfare of ordinary people in his desire to get the economy moving once again. So long as the elite don’t get it, he’s not worried.

Mike has published a series of pieces about this, including the very strict regulations governing the movement of young children when they return to the classroom. Mike has commented that this seems less like schooling and more like a prison. The Tories have tried to justify this by pointing to Denmark, which has already allowed its children to return to school. This is not the first time the Tories have embarked on a disastrous policy and tried to justify it as just following the Danes. And that makes me wonder what else they aren’t telling us about our friends across the North Sea. Way back in the 1990s the Tories laid off a vast number of civil servants. This, they declared, would cut bureaucracy and reinvigorate the economy. The Danes had done it, and so boosted theirs. But they didn’t follow the Danish policy absolutely. It had worked in Denmark, I was told by a Danish friend, because their government had given its departing state bureaucrats very handsome final payments of about £40,000 or more, and encouraged them to set up their own businesses. The Tories didn’t do any of this. They just laid people off. This also had a knock on effect on the economy. I’ve heard that for every civil service job, there’s 1 1/2 jobs supported by it in the wider economy, as those employed by the state purchase goods and services. Which meant that when our civil servants were kicked out, they took an awful lot of other people in private industry with them. Now that the Tories are telling us that the Danes are sending their children back to school, I do wonder what it is that the Danes are doing right, which our benighted government isn’t and won’t tell us about.

Mike has also put up a piece on his blog examining the question of parental responsibility if a child contracts the Coronavirus or the Kawasaki disease from school. It seems very clear – in British law parents are held accountable if they send their child to a hazardous environment and as a result they become ill or injured. This is regardless whether they have been urged or told to do so by the government. Parents therefore have a very strong case for refusing to allow their children to go to school if they are afraid for their safety.

Civil disobedience: would parents be irresponsible to send their children back to school now?

These concerns are also shared by Bristol’s elected mayor, Marvin Rees, and his cabinent. Like many Bristolians I received an email last Wednesday from Rees discussing what he and his team were doing about the coronavirus. Rees particularly mentioned schools and stated that he supported those schools that would remain closed. Rees said

Our city’s teachers and school staff have been working even harder than ever to keep schools open for children who are vulnerable and whose parents are key workers. Rather than accepting the 1 June date from the Government, Councillor Anna Keen, a local schoolteacher and our cabinet member for education, and our education team have met regularly with head teachers. The government made the schools opening a binary debate by not discussing their announcement with unions but I am afraid this has been consistent with their continuing failure to engage with cities on decisions, throughout the crisis. 

We have also met with school leaders representing teaching and children across Bristol throughout the pandemic, listening carefully to their views and concerns. It was very clear that they did not want a blanket approach across Bristol – and the teaching unions in Bristol support this too.

Like other councils, our position is clear:  schools should stay closed until they can begin to reopen safely. We are 100% backing teachers to work with parents and communities to make decisions on how their schools return, as Anna’s blog set out on Wednesday.

We also backed the unions’ calls for scientific advice on child transmission to be published. From the start of last week, all parents and carers have begun receiving a letter from the council, via schools, to remind them that they do not have to send their children in and that they should not expect their school to open on a particular date, in a particular way.

The Tories and their pet press and media have done their best to portray those teachers and unions objecting to schools reopening as selfish and unconcerned with the welfare of their pupils. This is the opposite of the truth. I realise that there are bad, sometimes terribly bad teachers, but most teachers are very concerned about the performance and wellbeing of their charges. But the Tories have always hated teachers and demonised them as part of their campaign to break the unions, privatise education and indoctrinate them with approved Tory values. This latest attack on teachers worried for the health of their students is just more of this same rubbish.

I’m not a great fan of Rees. He’s made some decisions for Bristol that have been very foolish, and has alienated many people in south Bristol with his refusal to accept residents’ plans for housing development in Hengrove Park in favour of his own scheme, which was rejected by the regulator. But this time Rees is right.

He and Bristol’s school heads and teacher are worried about schoolchildren’s health and protection against the Coronavirus. Boris isn’t, and shouldn’t be believed whatever comes out of his mouth.

Shaw’s Classic Defence of Socialism for Women Part Three

May 16, 2020

George Bernard Shaw, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism, foreword by Polly Toynbee (London: Alma Classics 2012).

Socialism and Marriage, Children, Liberty and Religion

Shaw also discusses what socialism would mean for marriage, liberty, children and the churches, and these are the most problematic sections of the book. He looks forward to marriage being a purely voluntary commitment, where people people can marry for love instead of financial advancement. This will produce biologically better children, because people will be able to choose the best partners, rather than be limited to only those from their class. At the same time incompatible partners will be able to divorce each other free of stigma.

He defines liberty in terms of personal freedom. Under socialism, people will be freer because the amount of time they will have for their personal amusement and recreation will be greater. Legislation might go down, because the laws currently needed to protect people will become unnecessary as socialism is established and society advances. Shaw also believes that greater free time would be enough to attract the top brains to management positions in the absence of the usual inducement of greater pay. Shaw realised that not everyone could run industries, and that it was necessary to hire the very best people, who would be a small minority. Giving them greater leisure time was the best way to do this, and he later criticises the Soviet government for not equalising incomes.

But this is sheer utopianism. The Bolsheviks had tried to equalise incomes, and it didn’t work, which is why they went back to higher rates of pay for managers and so on. And as we’ve seen, socialism doesn’t necessarily lead to greater free time and certainly not less legislation. The better argument is that socialism leads to greater liberty because under socialism people have better opportunities available to them for careers, sport, entertainment and personal improvement than they would if they were mere capitalist wage slaves.

Religious people will also object to his views on religion and the churches. While earlier in the book Shaw addressed the reader as a fellow Christian, his attitude in this section is one of a religious sceptic. The reader will have already been warned of this through the foreword by Toynbee. The Groaniad columnist is a high-ranking member of the both the Secular and Humanist Societies, and her columns and articles in just about every magazine or newspaper she wrote for contained sneers at religion. Shaw considers the various Christian denominations irreconcilable in their theologies, and pour scorn on orthodox Christian doctrines such as the Atonement, that Christ died for our sins. Religion should not be taught in school, because of the incompatibility of the account of the Creation in Genesis with modern science. Children should not be taught about religion at all under they are of the age of consent. If their parents do teach them, the children are to be removed from their care. This is the attitude of very aggressive secularists and atheists. Richard Dawkins had the same attitude, but eventually reversed it. It’s far too authoritarian for most people. Mike and I went to a church school, and received a very good education from teachers that did believe in evolution. Religion deals with ultimate questions of existence and morality that go far beyond science. I therefore strongly believe that parents have the right to bring their children up in their religion, as long as they are aware of the existence of other views and that those who hold them are not wicked simply for doing so. He also believed that instead of children having information pumped into them, the business should be to educate children to the basic level they need to be able to live and work in modern society, and then allow the child to choose for itself what it wants to study.

Communism and Fascism

This last section of the book includes Shaw’s observations on Russian Communism and Fascism. Shaw had visited the USSR in the early ’30s, and like the other Fabians had been duped by Stalin. He praised it as the new socialist society that was eradicating poverty and class differences. He also thought that its early history vindicated the Fabian approach of cautious nationalisation. Lenin had first nationalised everything, and then had to go back on it and restore capitalism and the capitalist managers under the New Economic Policy. But Russia was to be admired because it had done this reversal quite openly, while such changes were kept very quiet in capitalism. If there were problems in the country’s industrialisation, it was due to mass sabotage by the kulaks – the wealthy peasants – and the industrialists. He also recognised that the previous capitalist elite were disenfranchised, forced into manual labour, and their children denied education until the working class children had been served. At the same time, the Soviet leaders had been members of the upper classes themselves, and in order to present themselves as working class leaders had claimed working class parentage. These issues were, however, gradually working themselves out. The Soviet leaders no longer had need of such personal propaganda, and the former capitalists could reconcile themselves to the regime as members of the intellectual proletariat. And some of the industrialisation was being performed by criminals, but this was less arduous than the labour in our prisons.

Shaw is right about the NEP showing that nationalisation needs to be preceded by careful preparation. But he was obviously kept ignorant of the famine that was raging in the USSR through forced collectivisation and the mass murder of the kulaks. And rather than a few criminals in the gulags, the real figures were millions of forced labourers. They were innocent of any crime except Stalin’s paranoia and the need of his managers for cheap slave labour. It’s believed that about 30 millions died in Stalin’s purges, while 7 million died in the famine in the Ukraine.

Shaw’s treatment of Fascism seems to be based mostly on the career of Mussolini. He considers Fascism just a revival of the craze for absolute monarchy and military leadership, of the kind that had produced Henry VIII in England, Napoleon, and now Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, the Shah of Iran and Ataturk in Turkey. These new absolute rulers had started out as working class radicals, before find out that the changes they wanted would not come from the working class. They had therefore appealed to the respectable middle class, swept away democracy and the old municipal councils, which were really talking shops for elderly tradesmen which accomplished little. They had then embarked on a campaign against liberalism and the left, smashing those organisations and imprisoning their members. Some form of parliament had been retained in order to reassure the people. At the same time, wars were started to divert the population and stop them criticising the new generalissimo. Industry was approaching socialism by combining into trusts. However, the government would not introduce socialism or truly effective government because of middle class opposition. Fascist regimes wouldn’t last, because their leaders were, like the rest of us, only mortal. In fact Mussolini was overthrown by the other Fascists, who then surrendered to the Allies, partly because of his failing health. That, and his utter military incompetence which meant that Italy was very definitely losing the War and the Allies were steadily advancing up the peninsula. While this potted biography of the typical Fascist is true of Mussolini, it doesn’t really fit some of the others. The Shah, for example, was an Indian prince.

Anarchism and Syndicalism

Shaw is much less informed about anarchism. He really only discusses it in terms of ‘Communist Anarchism’, which he dismisses as a silly contradiction in terms. Communism meant more legislation, while anarchism clearly meant less. He should have the articles and books on Anarcho-communism by Peter Kropotkin. Kropotkin believed that goods and services should be taken over by the whole community. However, rather than a complete absence of government and legislation, society would be managed instead by individual communities and federations.

He also dismisses syndicalism, in which industry would be taken over and run by the trade unions. He considers this just another form of capitalism, with the place of the managers being taken by the workers. These would still fleece the consumer, while at the same time leave the problem of the great inequality in the distribution of wealth untouched, as some industries would obviously be poorer than others. But the Guild Socialists did believe that there should be a kind of central authority to represent the interests of the consumer. And one of the reasons why nationalisation, in the view of some socialists, failed to gain the popular support needed to defend it against the privatisations of the Tories is because the workers in the nationalised industries after the War were disappointed in their hopes for a great role in their management. The Labour party merely wanted nationalisation to be a simple exchange of public for private management, with no profound changes to the management structure. In some cases the same personnel were left in place. Unions were to be given a role in management through the various planning bodies. But this was far less than many workers and trade unionists hoped. If nationalisation is to have any meaning, it must allow for a proper, expanded role of the workers themselves in the business of managing their companies and industries.

The book ends with a peroration and a discussion of the works that have influenced and interest Shaw. In the peroration Shaw exhorts the readers not to be upset by the mass poverty and misery of the time, but to deplore the waste of opportunities for health, prosperity and happiness of the time, and to look forward and work for a better, socialist future.

His ‘Instead of a Bibliography’ is a kind of potted history of books critical of capitalism and advocating socialism from David Ricardo’s formulation of capitalism in the 19th century. These also include literary figures like Ruskin, Carlyle and Dickens. He states that he has replaced Marx’s theory of surplus value with Jevons treatment of rent, in order to show how capitalism deprives workers of their rightful share of the profits.