Posts Tagged ‘Slaveowners’

Proud Haitians Defend Country as Free Black Republic after Trump’s ‘Sh*thole Countries’ Comments

January 14, 2018

Yesterday there were mass demonstrations in America, and expressions of outrage around the rest of the world at Trump’s grotesque comments about immigrants to America from ‘sh*thole countries’. As Mike put up on his blog, one of the countries that was most definitely not impressed was Botswana in Africa. This tiny African state, with a population of 2 million, has, as Mike pointed out, the highest growth rate in Africa, and a tradition of stable democratic government. It’s a developing nation, but definitely not a ‘sh*thole’. And the country’s authorities seemed determined to make that point when they called the American ambassador in to explain if their nation was one of the countries Trump was sneering at.

I was particularly impressed by a young Haitian woman, who appeared on the BBC news yesterday when the Corporation covered a demonstration against Trump and his racist comments in Florida. She stated that Haitians were a proud people, and that their country became the first Black republic, where the slaves overthrew their masters. She’s absolutely right. Modern Haiti was created by the ‘Black Jacobins’ under Toussaint Louverture, who organised a slave revolt inspired by the Revolution in France. Haiti had been a French colony, but they toppled colonial rule, and threw the French out. Louverture then renamed the country ‘Haiti’, rather than continue using the old French/ European colonial name, justifying the change by claiming that this was the indigenous name for it.

Lourverture’s revolution sent a shock wave throughout the Caribbean and America. It was an inspiration to Blacks struggling for their freedom, and alarmed the colonial authorities. The late 18th and early 19th centuries saw a series of slave revolts break out in the Caribbean, by enslaved people impatient for their freedom. These were ruthlessly and brutally suppressed, as the colonial authorities feared the influence of Haiti upon their enslaved subjects, and that the slaves would be in contact with the Haitian revolutionaries. And some free Black Americans moved to Haiti after they obtained their freedom. Major Moody, a British army officer, who was sent to the Caribbean in the 1820s to produce a report on whether the enslaved people of the British colonies were ready for emancipation, includes in his report correspondence between a Black American, who had done this, and his former mistress in America, who had freed him.

Haiti is a desperately poor country, as has been shown by the suffering and destruction it has sustained in recent years through a series of disasters. But much of this poverty and deprivation comes from American imperial intervention. The Americans invaded in the 1920s as part of their campaign to assert their dominance over the Caribbean, and defend their economic interests. And they’ve done the same thing at various intervals throughout the 20th and now the 21st century. A little while ago I found a piece on YouTube – I think it might have been by Abby Martin of TeleSur English’s The Empire Files, or it could have been the Real News people, which made the point that when the Americans invaded again a few years ago to overthrow the latest dictator, it wasn’t because of his human rights record. Rather, it was because he was redistributing wealth, which threatened American corporate interests once again. And the dictator’s left-wing opponent was kept from standing and taking over office through armed soldiers posted outside his house. It was the same pattern of invasion and coup that has been repeated over and over again, around the world, whenever a smaller, weaker country elects anyone remotely left-wing, or otherwise threatens the dominance of the big American corporations in their country’s economy. Just like Hillary Clinton five years ago in 2012 gave her backing to the Fascist coup which overthrew the liberal regime in Honduras.

One peculiar consequence of the American invasion of Haiti has been the rise of the zombie movie. The first of these appeared shortly after the 1920s American invasion, and left-wing, anti-colonial critics have argued that the movies represent an attempt by the country’s new colonial masters to present a picture of it as a terrifying land, steeped in superstition and black magic. Since then the zombie movie has moved away from Haiti to America itself, and under George A. Romero also developed satirical overtones criticising contemporary American society and capitalism. Like in one of his movies, the survivors seeks refuge in a mall.

Trump’s comments were offensive, and they clearly stung the pride of migrants to America, who nevertheless still felt strong bonds with their countries of origin, as well as the other peoples in the Developing World. But the young Haitian woman speaking up for her mother country made a very good point about how important it was for Black history. And if many of these countries are poor, ruled over by brutal, corrupt governments responsible for human rights abuses, one of the reasons is because the Americans have assisted these thugs into power to stop any redistribution of wealth or growth of democracy. All under the guise of protecting the world from the threat of Communism, and upholding American corporate interests. People around the world have been demanding that Trump apologise for his comments. They’re right, but it’s not just his comments that need to be critically analysed and opposed. It’s American imperialism itself, and the underlying cynical contempt for the nations of the Developing World and their people, who are there to be abused and sneered at in the interests of American corporate capitalism.


Black Parisians Protest against Islamist Slave Auctions in Libya

November 25, 2017

This is another great piece of reporting from RT. It’s horrendous, and shows the depths of sheer barbarism that the country has been reduced since we and the American helped the Islamists overthrow Colonel Gaddafi.

Gaddafi was no angel. He was a tyrant who ruled by fear and used the Islamists himself to assassinate his enemies in Africa and the Middle East. But he did much to improve his country. His official ideology was a mixture, so I gather, of Arab socialism and Islam. Libya was a modern, secular state, where women enjoyed western style rights under the law. Like the old boy at one point had an all-female bodyguard. Education and healthcare was free. Previously, the oil companies had run the place as they liked. When he took power, they had to pay a fair price for the oil, and fund public works projects, like building roads. He was a monster, but not half as monstrous as those, who have replaced him.

Slavery is recognised and regulated in the Qu’ran, as it is also in the Bible and in many other religions. Mohammed, however, praised the emancipation of slaves as a meritorious act, and the Qu’ran instructs Muslims to treat their slaves gently. The Prophet was also anti-racist, and the Qu’ran also tells Muslims that they are not to distinguish between Black and White. The Muslim states, like the Ottoman Empire, enslaved both Blacks and Whites. After the Ottomans put down a nationalist rebellion in Crete in the 1820s, it was estimated that about 20,000 White, Greek slaves filled their slave markets, and furnished the Georgian painters of the era with pictures of murderous, tyrannical Turks dragging heroic-looking men, and young, virginal, naked women off into captivity. In Egypt there were two guilds for slavers, one for those, who dealt in Blacks and another for those selling enslaved Whites.

In fact, Europeans had also enslaved Whites through the Middle Ages, The word ‘slave’ is derived from ‘Slav’, as so many of the enslaved people finding their way to western slave markets came from the Slavonic countries to the East. This was stopped by the rise of the Mongol Empire and the expansion of Ottoman Turkey in the 15th centuries, and so western Europeans turned instead to importing and exploiting enslaved Africans. Hence the connection of slavery in the Western mind with negritude and African heritage.

After the British ended slavery in their empire in 1839, they turned to trying to stamp it out elsewhere in the world, including Africa and the Ottoman Empire. They were helped in Egypt by the reforming pasha, Khedive Ismail, who was sincerely opposed to it. However, it was blocked by vested mercantile interests, particularly in the Sudan, where it formed an important fabric of the economy of the upper classes. The British attempts to exterminate slavery there, with General Gordon acting in charge of the Egyptian forces, was one of the causes of the Mahdi’s revolt. Throughout the 19th century there were complaints by British ambassadors and diplomatic staff about slaves continuing to be imported into Libya from further south in Africa. These imports were disguised as ‘personal servants’, which the law permitted slave-owners to take with them on their travels. The British also tried to avoid a direct confrontation with the religious authorities as far as possible, by granting certificates of liberation to those enslaved people, who came to them to ask for their freedom.

What finally discredited slavery in Egypt was a prosecution brought by a Circassian slave woman, Shanigal, against her master for raping her. The Circassians are a people from the Caucasus mountains, and converted to Islam after they were conquered by the Turks in the 17th century. Shanigal went to the British authorities to obtained justice, and got it. In doing so, she showed up the massive injustice and hypocrisy towards slavery in the upper and middle classes, with the result that she dealt a major blow against it.

While studying Islam at College, I did read in one of the books on the Islamic Revolution that some of the Muslim fundamentalists then wanted to bring it all back, but they were successfully blocked – thank heaven! – by the rest of the revolutionaries.

However, there is still a widespread racial prejudice against Blacks in the Islamic world. Flicking through a Teach Yourself book on the Arabic of the Levant, way back when I was at school, I found a bit that described how common term for Blacks in the Syrian Arabic dialect literally translates as ‘the slaves’. And in Sudan, the indigenous Black population are still treated very much as slaves by the Arabs. One of the civil rights leaders for the Beja people died back in the 1990s. In the obituary for him in the Independent it mentioned how his Arab teachers really didn’t want him to go to school, because there was no point educating slaves. I mentioned this in a long letter to a Black organisation, that really only wanted to discuss White racism. They really didn’t like it, and politely told me to take my correspondence elsewhere. The problem is that slavery and racism are found all over the world, and in the globalised societies of the 20th century they need to be tackled together.

Most of the crowd in the video looks to be Black. My guess is that many of them, if not the majority, are probably asylum seekers, who came to Europe and France through Libya, and so this has an acute personal meaning for them.
Along with signs with the slogans ‘Ons dit non a l’esclavage’ – ‘We say ‘No’ to slavery’, there are other signs directly attacking Bush, Clinton and Blair as war criminals.

Yes, they are. No argument from me. Bush and Blair started the illegal wars in the Middle East, but it was Obama and Killary, who authorised the bombing of Libya. With Killary smirking and giggling like an excited schoolgirl over Gaddafi’s death. ‘We got him!’, she rejoiced.

Yeah, you got him. But you destroyed a modern, secular state with the highest standard of living in Africa.

The secular state and its infrastructure have been destroyed. The Islamists massacred and butchered whole towns, and particularly those occupied mostly by Blacks. Women are being deprived of their hard-won, modern, western style rights, despite the fact that in Egypt and elsewhere in the Muslim world there are Islamic feminist groups. When I was studying Islam at College, we were told that one year they had a seminar given to them by a Black, Muslim feminist talking about the status of ‘protected peoples’ – that is, those monotheist peoples that Muslims are forbidden to convert by force.

So despite the best efforts of Muslim and Arab reformers, the country has been plunged back to medieval barbarism.

And Killary Clinton is the direct cause of this. And she has the sheer, unmitigated gall to claim that she’s some kind of ‘everywoman’ feminist.

She isn’t, and has never been. She’s a rich, entitled corporate boss, who’s in the pocket of Wall Street and a hundred other corporations, no doubt. She’s as corrupt and bloodthirsty as the male hawks and corporate whores, who surround her.

At home, she stands for corruption, inequality and lack of single-payer healthcare, all to drive up profits for her friends in big business. And abroad, well, she stands for American corporate interests there too. The Americans weren’t interested in freeing the Libyan people from a dictator. They wanted Gaddafi out because he defied American imperial power. And he also threated the petrodollar. He was planning to abandon that, and have it replaced with the gold dinar, which would be used through the Middle East and Africa. If that happened, America wouldn’t be able to remonetise its debts, and the economy would collapse. Or collapse even further.

So Killary sent the planes in to destroy a country, and murder its leader. then she giggled about it.

And the result is this return to savagery and barbarism.

William Blum on Socialism vs. Capitalism

September 19, 2017

William Blum, the long-time fierce critic of American and western imperialism, has come back to writing his Anti-Empire Report after a period of illness. He’s an older man of 84, and due to kidney failure has been placed on dialysis for the rest of his life. This has left him, as it does others with the same condition, drained of energy, and he says he finds writing the report difficult. Nevertheless, his mind and his dissection of the ruthless, amoral and predatory nature of western capitalism and corporate greed is as acute as ever.

There’s a section in the Anti-Empire Report, where he discusses the advantages of socialism versus capitalism. He notes that there were two studies carried out under George Dubya to see if private corporations were better than federal agencies. And the federal agencies won by a huge margin every time. He writes

Twice in recent times the federal government in Washington has undertaken major studies of many thousands of federal jobs to determine whether they could be done more efficiently by private contractors. On one occasion the federal employees won more than 80% of the time; on the other occasion 91%. Both studies took place under the George W. Bush administration, which was hoping for different results. 1 The American people have to be reminded of what they once knew but seem to have forgotten: that they don’t want BIG government, or SMALL government; they don’t want MORE government, or LESS government; they want government ON THEIR SIDE.

He also states that the juries’ still out on whether socialist countries are more successful than capitalist, as no socialist country has fallen through its own failures. Instead they’ve been subverted and overthrown by the US.

I think he’s wrong about this. The Communist bloc couldn’t provide its people with the same standard of living as the capitalist west, and the state ownership of agriculture was a real obstacle to food production. The bulk of the Soviet Union’s food was produced on private plots. Similarly, Anton Dubcek and the leaders of the Prague Spring, who wanted to reform and democratize Communism, not overthrow it, believed that Czechoslovakia’s industrial development was held back through the rigid structure of Soviet-style central planning.

However, he still has a point, in that very many left and left-leaning regimes have been overthrown by America, particularly in South America, but also across much of the rest of the world, as they were perceived to be a threat to American political and corporate interests. And for the peoples of these nations, it’s questionable how successful capitalism is. For example, in the 1950s the Americans overthrew the Guatemalan government of Jacobo Arbenz after he dared to nationalize the banana plantations, many of which were own by the American corporation, United Fruit. Benz was a democratic socialist – not a Communist, as was claimed by the American secret state – who nationalized the plantations in order to give some dignity and a decent standard of living to the agricultural workers on them. The government that overthrew Benz was a brutal Fascist dictatorship, which imposed conditions very close to feudal serfdom on the plantation labourers.

Which leads to a more general point about the emergence of capitalism, imperialism and the exploitation of the developing world. Marxists have argued that capitalism had partly arisen due to western imperialism. It was the riches looted from their conquered overseas territories that allowed western capitalism to emerge and develop. Again this is a matter of considerable debate, as some historians have argued that the slave trade and plantation slavery only added an extra 5 per cent to the British economy during the period these existed in the British empire, from the mid-17th century to 1840. More recently, historians have argued that it was the compensation given to the slaveowners at emancipation, that allowed capitalism to develop. In the case of the large slaveholders, this compensation was the equivalent of tens of millions of pounds today. At the time the plantation system was in crisis, and many of the plantation owners were heavily in debt. The slaveholders used the money given to them by the British government – £20 million, a colossal sum then-to invest in British industry, thus boosting its development.

This system has continued today through what the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal termed ‘neocolonialism’. This is the international trading system which the former imperial masters imposed on their colonies after the end of imperialism proper following the Second World War. High tariffs and other barriers were imposed to stop these countries developing their own manufacturing industries, which could produced finished goods that would compete with those of Europe and the west. Instead, the former subject nations were forced through a series of trade agreements to limit themselves to primary industries – mining and agriculture – which would provide western and European industry with the raw materials it needed. As a global system, it’s therefore highly debatable how successful capitalism is in providing for people’s needs, when the relative success of the capitalist west has depended on the immiseration and exploitation of countless millions in the developed world.

And in the developed west itself, capitalism is failing. In the 19th century Marx pointed to the repeated crises and economic slumps that the system created, and predicted that one of these would be so severe that it would destroy capitalism completely. He was wrong. Capitalism did not collapse, and there was a long period of prosperity and growth from the late 19th century onwards.

But terrible, grinding poverty still existed in Britain and the rest of the developed world, even if conditions were slowly improving. And the long period of prosperity and growth after the Second World War was partly due to the foundation of the welfare state, Keynsian economic policies in which the government invested in the economy in order to stimulate it, and a system of state economic planning copied from the French.

Now that Thatcherite governments have rolled back the frontiers of the state, we’ve seen the re-emergence of extreme poverty in Britain. An increasing number of Brits are now homeless. 700,000 odd are forced to use food banks to keep body and soul together, as they can’t afford food. Millions more are faced with the choice between eating and paying the bills. In the school holiday just passed, three million children went hungry. And some historians are predicting that the refusal of the governments that came after the great crash of 2008 to impose controls on the financial sector means that we are heading for the final collapse of capitalism. They argue that the industrial and financial elite in Europe know it’s coming, are just trying to loot as much money as possible before it finally arrives.

The great, free trade capitalism lauded by Thatcher, Reagan and the neoliberal regimes after them has failed to benefit the majority of people in Britain and the rest of the world. But as the rich 1 per cent have benefited immensely, they are still promoting neoliberal, free trade policies and imposing low wages and exploitative working conditions on the rest of the population, all the while telling us that we’re richer and generally more prosperous than ever before.

Back to Blum’s Anti-Empire Report, he also has a few quotes from the American comedian Dick Gregory, who passed away this year. These include the following acute observations

“The way Americans seem to think today, about the only way to end hunger in America would be for Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird to go on national TV and say we are falling behind the Russians in feeding folks.”

“What we’re doing in Vietnam is using the black man to kill the yellow man so the white man can keep the land he took from the red man.”

For more, see

Sam Seder Attacks Economist Review Defending Slavery

February 22, 2016

This is unbelievable. In this segment from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, Seder rants about a negative review in the Economist attacking Edward Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. The reviewer criticised Baptist’s book for being one-sided. All the Blacks in the book were victims, he complains, and all the Whites were villains. Seder is understandably and rightly outraged by this statement, and goes off on a long rant about how luck Blacks were to be enslaved, when they could simply have been kept in the slave ships and not landed in America, or been eaten by lions back in Africa, rather than captured and sold. It seems that many others were offended too, as the review was pulled from the Economist’s website.

Now depending on how their masters treated them, slaves could enjoy quite a high standard of living. Archaeologists researching Benjamin Franklin’s slaves’ quarters found remains of violins, pipes, and good quality china, as well as quite a varied diet, which included fish. And the defenders of slavery pointed out that the standard of living of their slaves was better than the miserable industrial workers in the north, the ‘factory slaves’, who were free in name only. You can even find examples of slave owners, who risked punishment under the law for trying to give their slaves some education, teaching them to read, for example.

None of which detracts from how monstrous and horrendous slavery actually was. The slave was legally just a mere chattel, subject to extreme punishment for even minor offences, who by law was banned from mixing with Whites. It was the appalling conditions in which slaves were kept, sold and exploited that motivated so many people in America, Britain, Canada and across the world to protest against slavery and demand its abolition. Just how deeply traumatised slaves were simply by the condition of slavery itself can be seen by the fact that, in general, very few former slaves described what their lives were like to their free children and grandchildren. Years ago there was a piece in the Observer about the reparations movement. One of the leaders of the movement explained that it wasn’t just about getting reparations for slavery, it was also to recover some of the lost history. They were afraid that with their grandparents’ generations dying off, Blacks would lose contact with the last people, who had had contact with the slaves. They complained that their slave forebears had never talked to them about what it was like when they were slaves.
I can’t say I’m surprised. People who go through deeply traumatic experiences tend not to talk about them. They just want to forget and move on. Old soldiers, for example, rarely talked about what they did in combat. It was too shocking, too horrific. Similarly, people, who have been raped or sexually assaulted generally don’t want to talk about the experience. They’re too deeply shamed, even though they were not responsible for their assault. So it seems entirely natural to me that a generation of Black Americans, raised in servitude, should have gone through their lives as free people determined not to speak about the condition of degradation they had been born into.

The Economist is, of course, one of the main upholders of capitalist economic orthodoxy. There seems to be very much a movement on the libertarian Right at the moment to try and play down the importance of slavery as a dark smear on American history. Guy Debord’s Cat has several very interesting pieces on how the intellectual heirs of Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises and von Hayek are trying to rewrite the American Civil War to avoid slavery as its major cause. They’re trying to make out it was due to some kind of trade controversy over tariffs. Together with the deeply racist beliefs of Donald Trump’s supports, it shows how frightening reactionary the American Far Right is.