Posts Tagged ‘Soviet Union’

A Few Pictures of the Reality of Fascism

September 16, 2022

Simon Webb today went full Mosley and put up a video asking, ‘What’s wrong with Fascism?’ He wanted to make a distinction between Nazism and Fascism. Fascism, he said, had been tarnished through its association with Nazism. But if you wanted to see a benevolent regime that was Fascist in all but name, he directed you to that of the Portuguese dictator Salazar.

But it isn’t just the association with the Third Reich and its attendant horrors that has turned decent people across the world against Fascism. It’s the fact that Mussolini’s fascists were also militant imperialists responsible for brutal atrocities in the nations they conquered, as well as those committed by the various Fascist juntas in Greece, Latin America and Indonesia.

Yesterday or the day before right-wingers like Paul Joseph Watson were also celebrating the electoral victory of the right-wing coalition in Sweden’s elections over their socialist party. This coalition included with the centre right party the Sweden Democrats, a far-right outfit. They’re obviously anti-immigration, but have a very unpleasant neo-Nazi past. According to Hope Not Hate, they used to wear Nazi uniforms as late as the ’90.

I didn’t watch Webb’s video about the Swedish election, whose title said that the Swedes had turned against immigration, the Italians were waking up and when would Britain follow? Mark Pattie did, and wasn’t impressed. He writes ‘Dear God! I did watch his recent video on the Swedish election result where he said “Why can’t we have a similar party here?”- and the anti-immigration party he mentioned? Ukip, 2015? No, he mentioned the bloody National Front getting 5% of the vote in 1974. Makes me think he would vote for Britain First in the next GE.’

I remember the National Front when they goose-stepping about in the 1970s, as well as the various other Fascist and Nazi outfits like the British Movement. And they were overtly Nazi and extremely violent. Michael Collins in his book Hate describes one of the attacks he took part in on an anti-racist meeting in the local library. This had young Asian women leaping out of upstairs windows to get away from them. Monica Ali gives a fictionalised description of the gang fights between White Fascists and Asian self-defence groups in her book, Brick Lane. Just to remind people what British Fascism looked like in the 1960s and 70s, here are a few pictures from British Fascism, 1919-1985. and the W.H. Smith History of the World.

Colin Jordan, Fuhrer of the World Union of National Socialists, with his wife, the daughter of fashion designer Christian Dior.

Skinhead supporter of the NF in the 1970s

And this is what the Nazis did to the Jews, aided by their collaborators in occupied Europe.

The Survivors of Buchenwald Concentration Camp

I don’t know about Portugal, but Franco only kept out of the Second World War because of poverty. Even so, I think he wanted to send a few token Spanish troops with the Nazis in the invasion of the Soviet Union. Not everyone who wants to cut down on immigration is a racist or Nazi. And despite the rhetoric, the BNP and NF as Fascists have a trouble hanging on to members. Lobster published a piece in the 90s which I think quoted anti-racist researchers of the movement as saying that although they boasted of having 2,000 members or more, they actually had a very high membership turnover. In reality they only had 200 or so core members. The simple reason for this is probably that people aren’t interested or sympathetic to fascist ideology. People joined not because they wanted some kind of new British reich or dictatorship, but probably simply because they wanted an end to non-White immigration. When they were subjected to the Nazi or Fascist ideology, they left. And political scientists have noted that this common in other countries with Fascist parties as well. They do better when they get rid of the jackboots, the right arm salute and the calls for a dictatorship. The Alleanzo Nazionale was formed from the Italian neo-Fascist party, the Movimiento Sociale Italiano or Italian Social Movement. But they jettisoned the Fascist paraphernalia and became instead, so they claimed, a centre-right party. As such they joined Berlusconi’s right-wing coalition with the separatists of the Liga Nord and Berlusconi’s own Forza Italia party.

Whatever people’s feelings about immigration, the majority of normal people despise Fascism and its British parties. There should be absolutely no nostalgia for these brutal thugs.

Tulsi Gabbard Accuses Ukraine’s Zelensky of being Putinesque Dictator

June 5, 2022

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, parts of the right have sympathised with Russia and argued against supporting Ukraine. I think Sargon of Gasbag and the Lotus Eaters have put up a post raising issues about Ukraine and I believe that Peter Hitchens may have done so as well. This afternoon I found a short video on YouTube from American Republican politician Tulsi Gabbard, which, if true, raises significant questions why we should be supporting Zelensky’s regime. She claimed that Zelensky closed down three Ukrainian TV stations because they were criticising him, and that he banned the party that came second in the Ukrainian elections and imprisoned its leaders, all actions which Putin has been accused of doing. In the case of Putin, there’s little doubt: this is exactly what he has done. But there have been no reports over here of Zelensky doing the same, though this is not to say he hasn’t done them. One of Hitchen’s videos on the war is about what the media isn’t telling you. Gabbard in her video calls the people demanding support for Ukraine ‘warmongers’, which is surprising language coming from a Republican. But it’s no more surprising than the Tories opposing Blair’s invasion of Iraq. Some of them were no doubt opportunists, opposing the invasion simply because it was done by Labour, not themselves. But some of the Tories did oppose it from moral conviction, the best example being Hitchens, who has continued to denounce it and Blair. It’s possible that Gabbard is the same.

There’s a fair amount of self-interest in the Tory defence of Russia. Russian oligarchs have contributed handsomely to Tory coffers. In America Trump’s government also gave contracts and concessions to Russian firms, quite apart from the rumours that Putin had some kind of incriminating footage involving Trump from the Orange Man’s visit to Russia. And even if these accusations of dictatorial behaviour by Zelensky were true, they would not justify the Russian invasion and the atrocities Putin’s forces have committed. But they do raise questions about why we are providing military aid. Are we doing so simply because Ukraine is a sovereign nation, which is threatened with annihilation and dismemberment by a larger, more powerful former colonial master – Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union and before then the Russian empire? Or are we backing it for the same reason the American state department and the National Endowment for Democracy under Barack Obama, Hillary ‘Queen of Chaos’ Clinton and Victoria Nuland helped to orchestrate the the Orange Revolution of 2012? That had nothing to do with overthrowing an unpopular president, and everything to do with installing one who favoured the west rather than Putin’s Russia. These are serious questions that need to be answered. But I doubt we’ll get them through the mainstream news.

Glasgow Council Report Criticises Statues of Livingstone, Peel and Gladstone for Slavery Links

April 5, 2022

GB News and the Heil carried reports a few days ago attacking Glasgow council for a report compiled by a highly respected Scottish historian about the city’s historic involvement in the slave trade and its statues commemorating figures connected with it. The council felt that, unlike Liverpool and Bristol, and the city had not faced up to its history as one of the other major British centres of the slave trade. It compiled a list of seven statues that were particularly questionable because of their subjects’ links to the trade. These included the missionary and abolitionist, David Livingstone, Robert Peel and William Ewart Gladstone. The reports concentrated on the criticism of Livingstone, as the man was a fervent abolitionist and it demonstrates how ridiculousness the iconoclasm by the anti-slavery activists is. According to reports by GB News, the Heil and the Glasgow Herald, it’s partly because Livingstone started work at age 10 in factory weaving and processing slave-produced cotton from the West Indies. They make the point that as a child worker, Livingstone had absolutely no control over what the factory did. I doubt very much that he had much control, as someone who could be called a ‘factory slave’, over his choice of employment either. Later videos from GB News and further down in the articles from the Herald and the Heil is the statement that he also defend the cotton masters, believing that they were paternalistic. He may well have done so, but this hardly discredits him because of his life’s work in Africa.

Livingstone had a genuine, deep hatred, as many British Christians had at the time, of slavery. He travelled to Africa to spread Christianity and to combat slavery as its sources. He was also a doctor, and had worked hard after work to educate himself. One of the guests on the GB News debate about it was a right-wing historian of Africa. He pointed out that Livingstone is still very much loved in Africa, and there are plaques to him in Malawi, Zambia, Tanganyika and three other African countries. I have no doubt this is absolutely true. A few years ago I took out of Bristol’s central library a history of Malawi. The book was even-handed and objective. It did not play down massacres by the British army committed when we annexed the area during fighting with the slaving tribes. It described how, under imperialism, White Malawians tended to look down on the indigenous peoples and the dissatisfaction with imperial rule that resulted from the use of forced labour. But neither did it omit or play down the enslavement of indigenous Africans by the other native peoples. These included the Yao, Marganja, Swahili and Arabs, who preyed on the other tribes for the Arab slave trade, sending their captives to Zanziba, Kilwa and across the Indian ocean. To gain their victims’ trust, they’d settle down with them for a year, working alongside them as friends before finally turning on them. They also set up a series of forts to defend the slave routes. One of these, set up by Zarafi, one of the most infamous slavers, had a palisade on which were impaled 100 severed heads. As for the akapolo slaves used in the local economy, they were made very much aware of their status. They had to work with broken tools, and eat their meals off the floor. The chiefs, meanwhile, seemed to have spent much of their time relaxing and having their hair done.

Livingstone, whatever his faults, hated all this and his settlement became a refuge for runaway slaves. As did many of the other settlements he or his followers founded for this purpose. These settlements have since expanded to form some of Malawi’s towns.

William Ewart Gladstone was the leader of Britain’s Liberal party, serving as prime minister, in the latter half of the 19th century. The scandal here is that Gladstone’s family got its money from slave estates in the West Indies. I know Conservatives who genuine hate slavery, who despise Gladstone because of this. So it isn’t just ‘leftists’ that have issues with the Grand Old Man, as Gladstone’s supporters dubbed him. But Gladstone is immensely important because of the social legislation he enacted. He was an Anglican, who, in the words of one historian, ‘became the voice of the Nonconformist conscience’. He wanted the disestablishment of the Anglican church at a time when Christian Nonconformists were still required to pay it tithes and other duties that left them disadvantaged. He also wanted to give Ireland home rule. Of course this faced immense opposition, and I think it was one reason why he failed to win elections as the century wore on. But it seems to me that if he had been able to enact this policy, then perhaps Ireland’s subsequent history may not have been quite so bloody. One of the surprising facts about Irish history is that there was in the 18th century an alliance between Roman Catholics and Protestant Nonconformists. This was before Roman Catholic emancipation, which legalised it and granted Roman Catholics civil rights. At the same time Protestant Nonconformists were tolerated, but still suffered deep political disabilities. As a result, one of Ulster’s historic Roman Catholic churches was build with donations and subscriptions from Ulster nonconformist Protestants. This surprising fact was included in a BBC Radio 4 series, Mapping the Town, which traced the history of British and UK towns through their maps.

I don’t know much about Robert Peel, except that he introduced free trade as a policy for the Conservatives, or a section of the Conservatives. But what he is primarily known for is founding the metropolitan police force. I’ve got a feeling he might also have been responsible for reducing the 100-odd crimes that carried the death penalty to three. These included murder and treason. It might be because of Peel that we’re no longer hanging people for stealing a loaf of bread or impersonating a Chelsea pensioner. But long before Glasgow council decided he was problematic, there was also a demonstration by masked protesters in London demanding that his statue should be removed. And last year the right were also getting in a tizzy because one of Liverpool’s universities was removing him as the name of one of their halls. The student union replaced him with a Black woman, who was a Communist and teacher. She is, no doubt, perfectly worthy of commemoration, but hardly in Gladstone’s league.

Part of the problem is that iconoclasts want to judge everything by a very strict, modern morality. Slavery and the slave trade was an abomination and was rightly abolished. Good people have been continuing the struggle against global slavery since then. But not everybody, who was connected to the trade, is such a monster that they should be blotted out of history in the same way Stalin’s historians removed all mention of his opponents.

One of the things you are taught, or at least were taught, in history at university level is not to play ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ with historical figures. There is no set outcome to the historical process. If events had been different in the past, then modern society would also be different. If, horribly, Wilberforce and the abolitionists had lost, then slavery would still be unchallenged today. At the same time, you need to use the historical imagination to understand why people in the past behaved as they did, and why good people by the standard of their times were capable of attitudes that are deeply morally repugnant to us.

The great British philosopher, Sir Isaiah Berlin, was an admirer of the 17th-18th century Italian historian Vico. Vico believed, as Berlin later did, that there were no objective moral values. He noted how they changed over time, and that to properly understand a past epoch, you needed to understand also its art and culture. I don’t think he was a cultural relativist, however. Berlin certainly wasn’t – he believed that while there were no objective moral values, there were certainly those which acted as if they were. He was fiercely anti-Communist, partly because his family were Lithuanian Jews, who had seen their logging business seized by the Bolsheviks and had fled the Russian Revolution. He was a major figure during the Cold War in establishing western contacts with Soviet dissidents like Nadezhda Mandelstam, who wrote moving accounts of her experience of the gulags under Stalin.

I don’t share Berlin’s Conservatism and strongly believe in the existence of objective moral values. But I strongly recommend Berlin’s books. He wrote a series of potted intellectual biographies, including on the early Russian revolutionaries like the 19th century anarchist, Bakunin. Even though he hated what they stood for, his books are notable for his attempts to see things from his subjects’ point of view. So much so that some people, according to Berlin, though he was pro-Communist. They’re fascinating and highly readable, even if you don’t agree that someone like the French utopian socialist Saint-Simon was ‘an enemy of freedom’.

There are statues of slavers and the people connected with the trade that deserve to be torn down. There had been calls for Colston’s statue to be removed since the 1980s. It was highly controversial all those decades ago, though many Bristolians would have defended it because he gave away most of his money to charity. But other historical figures deserve to be still commemorated despite their connections to the ‘abominable trade’ because of their immense work that has benefited both Britain and nations like Malawi. And I believe that some of those, who find figures like Gladstone objectionable, could also benefit from reading Vico and Berlin. In the meantime, it should be noted that Glasgow council has no plans to tear any statues down.

Slavery is a great moral evil. But historic slavery should not considered so grave and unforgivable, that it is used to blot out the memory of figures like Livingstone, Gladstone and Peel, whose work has so helped shape modern Britain for the better.

CIA Had Plans to Install Nazi Regime in Post-War Ukraine

April 2, 2022

According to magazine Newspunch, recently released declassified documents reveal a plot by the CIA to install a regime in Ukraine led by the followers of Stepan Bandera, a nationalist who fought against the Soviets as a member of the SS auxiliary regiment in the country. The article, headed ‘Declassified CIA Documents Reveal Agency Plans to ‘Nazify’ Ukraine’ states

The U.S. has had a hand in numerous projects intent on destabilizing Ukraine’s governments including two CIA programs that attempted to install Nazi leadership in the country.

A recent declassification of over 3,800 documents by the Central Intelligence Agency has revealed it operated two major programs intent on not only destabilizing Ukraine but ‘Nazifying’ it with followers of the World War II Ukrainian Nazi leader Stepan Bandera.

The documents, which were released in 2016, said that programs, spanning over four years, provided funding and equipment for such anti-Soviet Ukrainian resistance groups as the Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council among a host of others.

The papers gave details of the AERODYNAMIC program which intended to destabilize Ukraine, using exile Ukrainian agents in the West who were infiltrated into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

The purpose of Project AERODYNAMIC is to provide for the exploitation and expansion of the anti-Soviet Ukrainian resistance for cold war and hot war purposes,” the formerly top secret document dated July 13, 1953 says of the project.

Such groups as the Ukrainian Supreme Council of Liberation (UHVR) and its Ukrainian Insurgent Army (OUN), the Foreign Representation of the Ukrainian Supreme Council of Liberation (ZPUHVR) in Western Europe and the United States, and other organizations such as the OUN/B will be utilized,” the document continued.

The CIA documents show that under the AERODYNAMIC program the CIA operated an affiliate project codenamed CAPACHO.

According to the Signs of the Times magazine CAPACHO “took on more of a psychological warfare operation veneer,” with the CIA setting up a propaganda company in Manhattan that “catered to printing and publishing anti-Soviet ZPUHVR literature that would be smuggled into Ukraine.”

The AERODYNAMIC and CAPACHO projects continued in operation through the Richard Nixon administration during the 1970s.’

The article also states that in 2014, former US agent Scott Rickard told Russia today that US foreign aid agencies gave $5 billion of funding to the groups protesting against former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych was overthrown in February 2014 after indicating he intended to move closer to Russia instead of America and the EU.

See: https://newspunch.com/declassified-cia-documents-reveal-agency-plans-to-nazify-ukraine/?presentid=webnews&ocid=msedgdhp

This is very much the kind of material Lobster specialises in. Newspunch describes itself as going where the mainstream fears to tread, which definitely includes anything about covert western intelligence operations like this. If this is correct, then there’s a very long history of secret western meddling in the region.

Capitalism and Property Rights in the West and Islam

March 25, 2022

Private property is very much at the heart of modern Conservatism. Conservative intellectuals, politicians and activists maintain that private industry is more efficient and effective, and has raised more people out of poverty than alternative economic systems. It’s also a fundamental right, a mainstay of western democracy that has prevented Europeans and Americans from tyrannical government, whether absolute monarchies or soviet-style communist dictatorships. It’s also supposedly the reason why Britain and the West currently dominate the rest of the world. The Times journo Niall Ferguson wrote a book about this a few years ago, which accompanied a TV series. In his analysis, Britain was able to out-compete Spain as a colonial power because British democracy gave people a stake in their society, while the only stakeholder in Spain was the king.

This can be challenged from a number of directions. Firstly, early modern Britain wasn’t democratic. The vote was restricted to a small class of gentlemen, meaning people who were lower than the aristocracy, but nevertheless were still able and expected to live off their rents. At the same time, although the power of the monarchy was restricted by the constitution and parliament, it still possessed vast power. Kings could go for years without calling one. As for Drake and the Armada, we were also saved by the weather. There was a ‘Protestant wind’ which blew apart and disrupted the Spanish fleet. As for capitalism, more recent books like The Renaissance Bazaar have shown that the new capitalist institutions that were introduced in Italy and thence to the rest of Europe during the renaissance were based on those further east in the Islamic world. And far from western global domination being inevitable, in the 15th century Christian Europeans feared that they would be conquered by Islam. The Turks had blazed through the Balkans and took 2/3 of Hungary. One fifteenth century German soldier and writer, de Busbecq, feared that the Ottomans would conquer Christendom because of the meritocracy and professionalism of their armies. The Ottomans, along with other Muslim states, recruited their armies through enslavement. It’s the origin of the Mamlukes in Egypt and the slave dynasties in Delhi. But these slaves were given an intensive military training, as well as education in Islam and the Turkish language, and promoted on their merits. Jonathan A.C. Brown in his book, slavery & Islam, how further back in Islamic history Black African slaves had been appointed the governors of parts of Iraq. The result was that while the European armies were feudal, led by aristocrats who had been born to their position and held it despite their ability or lack thereof, the Ottoman’s were manned and led by well-trained soldiers who held their commands by merit. We had better armour than the Ottomans, but they were able to defeat us because they were simply better soldiers.

Property rights have been a fundamental part of western political theory for a very long time. The social contract theory of government held that the primordial human community had elected kings to protect their lives and property. But Islam also maintained that property was a fundamental human right. According to Jonathan A.C. Brown’s Islam & Slavery, from the 700s AD Muslim jurists discussed the issue of human rights – huquq al-‘Ibad, or the rights of (God’s) slaves, i.e. humans, or huquq al-Adamiyya, or Adamic rights, or human rights. These were held to be the rights possessed by all humans, whether Muslim or not. Under the great Islamic theologian al-Ghazzali, these were expanded into five universals: protection for the integrity of life, reason, religion, lineage and paternity and property. He concludes that ‘The Islamic rights of physical inviolability and property can be seen as counterparts or perhaps forerunners of these aims.’ (pp. 299-300). I’ll admit this came as something of a surprise to me, because unless you study Islam at a higher level, you don’t hear about it. And you definitely don’t hear about it from the conservative right, who seem to believe that property rights and virtuous capitalism are something that only the Anglo-Saxon peoples invented. Remember George W. Bush’s famous, ludicrous sneer at the French that they had ‘no word for entrepreneurship’. Well,, they have, as attested by the word ‘entrepreneur’.

And property rights are not automatically intrinsic to modern concepts of freedom and democracy. They arose long before the expansion of the franchi8se in the 19th century and the emergence of universal adult suffrage in the early 20th century. Over much of western history, property rights meant the rights of the property owning upper classes against the working masses. And slaves could not own property, as legally, following the precedent of Roman law, they were property. Anything they had automatically belonged to their masters. Property rights were also regularly invoked to defend slavery. That’s very apparent when you read the protests against the British government’s attempts to regulate and then finally abolish slavery in the 19th century. The slaveowners were incensed by what they viewed as a tyrannical governmental interference in their property rights.

Now I agree people do have a right to private property, though private enterprise in many spheres is certainly not adequate to provide decent services. These are the utilities, education and healthcare. I also believe that, following Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, the west was able to gain ascendancy through technological and scientific advances, particularly military. I think the development of western capitalism also played a part in creating a mass, industrial society that was more efficient and advanced than the craft economies of the Islamic world. But this does not mean capitalism, or at least its antecedents, were absent from Islam or that Islam had no conception of property rights.

Perhaps, before we go to war with these countries to liberate them for multinational corporations, we should stop listening to Conservatives and listen more to those academics and experts, who actually know something about Islam.

Latest Bulletin and Appeal from Stop the War Coalition for People to Hold Local Meetings

March 18, 2022

I also got this message today from the Stop the War Coalition detailing their protests and meetings across the country and appealing for people to get in touch if they also want to hold one. This is well beyond my abilities, but I’m putting this email up and its appeal in case there are readers interested in doing so, or attending any of the meetings that have already been planned.

Newsletter – 18/03/22

No to War in Ukraine

The horrific war in Ukraine continues so it’s vital that the anti-war movement works as hard as possible to cement our argument for an immediate withdrawal of Russian troops and a negotiated settlement, not no-fly zones and increased militarisation.

Our groups have been spreading the anti-war message by holding public meetings, rallies and teach-ins across the country. But we want there to be meetings in every single town and city so if you’re interested in hosting a meeting please get in touch…

Yes, I’d Like to Host a Meeting

Next Saturday (26 March), leading activists and experts are coming together for a teach-in on the war at London’s Mary Ward House, 5-7 Tavistock Pl, WC1H 9SN to look at the roots of the disaster in Ukraine and how to bring this war to an end.

We’re very pleased to announce that there will be anti-war speakers from both Ukraine and Russia joining us.

Tickets for this in-person event are limited so register as soon as possible to avoid missing out…

Sign Up Here

Yemen: A 7-Year Long Crime – Online Meeting

In January of this year over 400 civilians were killed or injured in airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition in their war on one of the poorest countries on earth – Yemen.

The war is approaching its seventh year. It’s a war in which British personnel produce the bombs, train the pilots, coordinate air strikes and gather intelligence. All while our government provides political cover and our media largely turns a blind eye.

Join us and Liberation on Zoom later in the day on 26 March to call for an immediate end to this horrendous British-backed war.

Register Now

2022 AGM – 23 April

We’re pleased to announce that Stop the War’s 2022 AGM will be held at Mander Hall, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London, WC1H 9BD on Sat 23 April from 11am-4pm.

The AGM is where the policy and priorities of the coalition are discussed and decided, and where our steering committee and officers are elected. We hope that you will be able to join us and contribute to the discussions. All members are entitled and encouraged to attend.

Click Here to RSVP

This Week’s Anti-War Briefing

Starmer has demonstrated his own true colours in all this by denouncing the Coalition as ‘a Russian stooge’. Jeremy Corbyn, who is an active supporter, has made it very clear there’s no evidence for it. Indeed, I don’t see any. In fact they have condemned the Russian invasion, as has Corbyn himself who also actively opposed human rights abuses in the former Soviet Union and in ‘democratic’ Russia.

This is exactly the same lie Thatcher and the Tories used against CND in the 1980s, along with the line that they were a Communist organisation. No, they weren’t. One of my College friends, who was left-wing, had been a member. And he told me that some of their members were definitely not people of the left. Like Enoch Powell, of ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech infamy. Powell had appalling views on race and was one of the first to promote the failed economic god of monetarism, but apparently he supported CND. So there was some decency in him.

As for Starmer, I see no decency or honour there at all, just a typical Thatcherite with no scruples and a thirst for power, lying and betraying every decent principle in order to get his rear end in No. 10.

Jeremy Corbyn on Putin and the Invasion of Ukraine

March 17, 2022

I’m posting this for Trev, one of the great commenters on this blog. He posted a comment a few days ago stating that some nutter elsewhere on the web had accused him and Jeremy Corbyn of being pro-Putin. This is absolute nonsense, as this video from Double Down News put up on YouTube on the 28th February shows.

In it, Corbyn makes it very clear that he utterly condemns the Russian invasion and its horrifying loss of human life and has every sympathy with the Ukrainians. He states that all wars end with a political solution, so let’s cut out the fighting and go directly there. He feels that we should go back to the agreements made at the end of the Cold War, particularly that in Minsk. Starmer has denounced the Stop the War Coalition as a Russian stooge, for which there’s no evidence. All governments try to make sure it’s only their line that’s heard during a war, and truth is the first casualty. It’s very easy for political leaders to send other people’s children to die. He states that he has been accused of being pro-Putin, but he has a record of standing up against tyrants and for human rights both in the Soviet Union and in democratic Russia. As Putin, he was helped into power by various world leaders – here the video shows Putin meeting and greeting Blair, the Queen and, I think, George Dubya. This was at the same time Putin invaded Chechnya to persecute and murder its people. He talks about the palpable racism in Moscow towards Chechens, complete with footage of Russian Nazi scum goose stepping about with their wretched right-arm salute. He was part of a parliamentary human rights delegation that met Russian officials complaining about the abuse of human rights, and was part of a demonstration in London with Tony Benn against the violations and the war in Chechnya. And when the terrible events in Salisbury took place, Corbyn said it was a consequence of Russian money in Britain, which needed to be examined. This is followed by a clip of his speech in parliament attacking this dirty money, and noting that the Tories had received £800,000 in donations from Russian oligarchs. We now have the Magnitsky rules and other legislation. But there have been people on the left who have been quite consistent in their support for human rights and the rights of journalists.

He says that when the Iraq war broke out in 2003 he was completely opposed to it, but didn’t want to go to war with the US or anybody else. He wanted peace for the people of Iraq. Similarly an attack on Russia in Ukraine will just produce another war and more bitterness and hatred. It would mean more of the world’s precious resources being used to manufacture weapons rather than dealing with the environmental crisis that threatens everyone. He states that it often seems that the people who have absolute unity are more prescient, so it’s good to stand out sometimes. As for wars being won or lost, he says that after they’re over and the media circus has moved on, the person who has lost a son is forever left with that, wondering on their birthday what they would have done and that goes on for all their life. Nobody ever wins a war, and having a war is a defeat for all of us. The best option is to halt the war as quickly as possible and move on to peace, recognition and understanding. In the case of Ukraine, the country could be occupied with massive destruction,, leading to resistance fighting and a civil war that could go on for a very long time. And worse is the possibility of a conflict between NATO and Russia with their nuclear armaments.

Being anti-war isn’t a weakness. It’s looking at the current conflict and seeing that it needs to be resolved and we need peace. We need more voices for peace and anti-war activists around the world to speak and oppose what their governments are doing. He was inspired to see so many young people on the streets of Moscow protesting against the war and that it was not being done in their name. It was the same language many people used against the Iraq War, and which Americans used against the Vietnam War. It is the voices for peace around the world we should be listening to at the present time.

There you have it from the man himself: he’s made it clear that he condemns the invasion, as he condemns all wars, and has protested against Putin when others in the West embraced the tyrant. He wants the war to stop not just because of the carnage that all wars cause, but of the dangers of this escalating into nuclear war. And he admires, respects and supports anti-war campaigners in Russia and around the world.

Jeremy Corbyn: the prime minister this country should have had.

Sting Reprises 80s Anti-Nuclear Song against War in Ukraine

March 14, 2022

A few days ago I put up the YouTube video of Punk legends Toyah Wilcox’s and Robert Fripp’s song of support for Ukraine against Putin’s invasion. Sting has also posted on YouTube a version of his 80s hit ‘Russians’ as a protest against Putin’s bloody invasion of ‘a peaceful and unthreatening neighbour’. It’s dedicated not just to the Ukrainians but also to the many Russians protesting against the war, and is once again a plea for our children and our common humanity.

Sting released ‘Russians’ right in the middle of the new Cold War under Thatcher and Reagan, when it seemed all too possible that a nuclear war would erupt to end humanity and destroy our lovely and beautiful planet. It was partly based on a theme from Prokofiev and urged everyone to protect their children against the nuclear threat. One of its lines is ‘How can I protect my little boy/ From Oppenheimer’s deadly toy?’ with the refrain ‘Believe me when I say to you, do the Russians love their children too?’ It also reminded both sides that ‘We share the same biology regardless of ideology’. It was a powerful, heartfelt song that reflected the deep fears and hopes of millions across the world at the time.

Sting states that he hasn’t really played it since because it wasn’t really relevant. Horrifically, it is now, with Putin threatening to launch nukes if NATO gets involved. I find Sting’s piece profoundly moving, but I’m also furious with the way geopolitics has gone in eastern Europe in the forty or so years since this was written. Reagan was an arch-reactionary who supported every bloody Fascist dictator that disgraced Latin America in his campaign against Communism. But together he and Mikhail Gorbachev ended the Cold War. Communism fell and the former Soviet satellites went their own way. And in the former Soviet Union, Gorbachev did his best to transform the Stalinist Communism of the Soviet state into something genuinely good and progressive. He wanted to introduce democracy and multiparty elections, ended the persecution of religion, and wished to create a mixed economy in which state and private enterprise existed alongside each other. But he also wished to create a new class of genuine cooperatives, where the workers would hire and fire management. He wanted Russia to join the rest of the world in the Green movement and tackling environmental issues as well fully support human rights. And as the Berlin Wall came down, thousands of people from the former eastern bloc came over here to work and run businesses.

Terrible things were still being done across the world, including the first Gulf War, which was also really about oil rather than freeing Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. But the Fall of Communism and the end of the Cold War made it that bit better. For all the claims that socialism was dead and that free market capitalism would now reign unchallenged at the ‘end of history’, it was still an optimistic time. It looked like the world had finally put that part of the nuclear threat behind us and that we could look forward to a future without any more fears of another Cuban missile crisis or similar armaggeddon.

And now I feel that all that hope and promise has been squandered through great power interference and Putin’s warmongering. Well, damn this! I want the world to go back to how it was before all this erupted.

Bring back Gorbachev!

Love and peace to everyone protesting against the war, and especially to those in Russia. May peace come soon.

History Debunked on the Popularity of Conspiracy Theories in the Black Community

January 3, 2022

I’ve an interest in conspiracy theories. It partly comes from studying the rise of Fascism as part of the history course at college and having friends, who were huge fans of the Illuminatus! books. They’re a series of science fiction books about various secret societies competing to bring about the end of the world, or take it over, written by Robert Anton Wilson and Michael Shea. Conspiracy theories can be an extremely powerful political force. The Nazis gained power and popularity because of the ‘stab in the back’ myth that the Jews had secretly conspired to cause Germany’s defeat in the First World War from within. The infamous Tsarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, is a classic example of this kind of poisonous conspiracy theory. Written by the monk Nilus for the Tsar’s secret police, it was intended to persuade Nicholas II to increase the persecution of the Jews even further. It claimed to prove that the Jews were secretly controlling both socialism and capitalism in order to enslave gentiles, and has been a major force in the rise of Fascism and anti-Semitic movements throughout the world. Some of its readers have continued to believe it even after it was shown to be a forgery, claiming that it is ‘symbolically true’. Although thoroughly discredited in the West, it remains popular in other parts of the world. I’ve read that it can be freely bought from kiosks in Russia, while in the 90s it was serialised on Egyptian television. I was therefore particularly interested in this video from Simon Webb’s ‘History Debunked’ channel.

In it Webb discusses the influence of conspiracy theories about the Coronavirus and fake history among the Black community. An American study had found that Black Americans were far more inclined to believe conspiracy theories. He had been visiting a Black female friend, who told him she wasn’t going to take the Coronavirus vaccine because of the grossly unethical Tuskeegee Experiment that ran from the 1930s to only a few decades ago. A group of Black sharecroppers had been deliberately infected with syphilis, which was left to go untreated until it culminated in their deaths. The intention was to study the progress of the disease, and in return the victims had their funerals paid for. Webb’s friend was afraid the Covid vaccine was a similar experiment. Back in the ’90s, a similar conspiracy theory arose about the origins of AIDS. This was supposed to have been developed by the US military as a germ warfare experiment at Fort Detrick. In fact the story was a fabrication by the KGB in retaliation for the Americans claiming that the Soviet Union had been responsible for the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II by a far-right Turkish nationalist. One American doctor, writing in the US conspiracy magazine Steamshovel Press, stated that in his experience many Black Americans in particular believed that AIDS was an engineered bio-weapon because of the Tuskeegee Experiment. There is a problem with Blacks and some Asians refusing to accept the Covid vaccine because of similar fears.

Of course, these bizarre and malign beliefs aren’t confined solely to Blacks and Asians. There are also Whites who refuse to have the vaccine because they also believe it is some kind of malicious experiment. One such theory claims that Bill Gates and Microsoft are putting computer chips in it to control people, or wreck their health, or something. All completely false.

These destructive theories have also harmed the campaign to eradicate killer diseases like Polio in Pakistan. Government officials and aid workers there have been attacked and murdered because of the widespread belief that the vaccine is really intended to sterilise Muslims. As a result, a terrible disease that has been successfully fought elsewhere is still very much a threat to the life and health of the people of Pakistan and other areas which have similar theories. I noticed that the government and the TV companies have tried to combat the conspiracy theories about the Covid vaccine by reassuring people that this is just a conspiracy theory, and showing Black doctors and patients administering and receiving the vaccine.

In the 19th century the kidnapping of Asian labourers during the infamous ‘Coolie Trade’, and the subsequent loss of contact with their families for years, even decades, resulted in another conspiracy theory. This claimed that people from India and what is now Pakistan and Bangladesh were being killed for the cerebrospinal fluid in their skulls, which was being used as lubricant for Europe’s machines. A similar theory also emerged in Latin America, where it was believed that a White or mestizo man in a black coat, armed with long knives, was murdering Amerindians. In this myth, it was the victims’ body fat that was being used to grease the wheels of Europe’s machines.

Commenting on the Tuskeegee Experiment, Webb wonders if he wouldn’t also believe in the conspiracy theory about the Covid vaccine if he was Black. But he goes on to consider the role of fake history in convincing many Black Brits they’ve been cheated by a racist society and deserve government assistance. A couple of examples of this fake history is the belief, expressed by a Black friend, that it was a Black man, who invented the lightbulb, and David Olasuga’s claim that there was a 15,000 strong Black community here in Britain in the 16th century. He speculates that the greater belief in conspiracy theories among Black Americans may well be due to a comparative lack of education. Blacks are more likely to leave school earlier and fewer Blacks go to university than other groups. But it could also be that the fake history, to which they’ve been exposed, has resulted in a widespread feeling of resentment and feeling cheated, thus fuelling demands for affirmative action programmes.

It’s possible, though I think the resentment and widespread suspicion of racial injustice comes from the real racism and exploitation many Blacks have experienced during the slave trade and after, when the British and colonial governments deliberately imposed highly discriminatory legislation on the newly freed Black workers in order to keep them tied to the plantations and maintain the Caribbean nations’ economies. There’s also the often vicious racism and blatant discrimination that Black and Asian immigrants have faced in Britain. The affirmative action programmes, dubbed over here ‘positive discrimination’, began following the 1981/2 race riots, which were partly caused by the particularly large unemployment rate and consequent despair in Black communities in Bristol, Liverpool and London. The Black community continues to be generally poorer, less educated and suffering greater unemployment and marginalisation than other racial groups. Hence the continued demands for affirmative action campaigns on their behalf. Structural racism or its legacy may well play a role in the Black community’s impoverishment, although this would conflict with Webb’s own views that some of the Black community’s problems are rooted in biology. He believes in the ‘Bell Curve’ nonsense that Blacks are less intelligent than Whites, who are in turn less intelligent than Asians. He is also impressed by neurological medical papers noting the greater genetic inclination towards schizophrenia among Blacks.

But researchers into conspiracy theories and the people, who believe them, have come to the conclusion that lack of information is a powerful factor in their emergence and spread. Without any proper information to the contrary, stupid and destructive conspiracy theories, like those about the Coronavirus and Polio vaccines, can arise and spread. I also suspect that the prevalence of such theories in parts of the Middle East, Iran and Pakistan also comes from these countries being dictatorships or absolute monarchies. In this anti-democratic culture, the state may be distant or exploitative and so there is an immediate suspicion and resistance to its interference. Hence the stupid ideas about the Covid and Polio vaccines. Folklorists also noted a similar theory among Black Americans about Coca-Cola in the 1990s. This was supposed to have had a chemical added to it to sterilise young Black men. A fellow volunteer at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol also told me that there was a conspiracy theory believed by many Black South Africans that the government was also covertly trying to destroy them through similar methods. This last belief is perfectly understandable, given the immense poverty and oppression caused by apartheid. And it does seem that the South African secret service, BOSS, was working on a germ warfare weapon which would only target Blacks.

These poisonous conspiracy theories need to be tackled and disproven, just as the widespread fake history also needs to be refuted. But this has to be alongside policies to improve the conditions of Blacks and other ethnic minorities so that they can enjoy economic, social and educational equality. If that’s achieved, then perhaps so many won’t distrust their government so much that they mistakenly think it’s deliberately trying to poison them.

Cartoonist Kayfabe Look at the Art and Career of ‘American Hero’ Steve Ditko

December 10, 2021

More comics stuff, and a rather longer video than usual at 1hr 9minutes, but the subject deserves it. Steve Ditko is one of the great, legendary figures of American comics. He’s probably best known for creating Spiderman and the occult hero Dr. Strange with Stan ‘the Man’ Lee for Marvel. But as this video shows, Ditko worked for many other American comics companies – DC, Charlton, Dale and EC among them as well as self-publishing his personal works. In the video, the Kayfabers Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg go through the volume Ditko Unleashed: An American Hero, which accompanied an exhibition of the great man’s work. The book’s bilingual in English and Spanish, which suggests that the exhibition may have been in Spain. The volume not only describes Ditko’s career, but gives plentiful illustrations of his art.

Ditko, like Kirby, came from a blue-collar, working class background. He went into art school to study cartooning, as he wanted to be a comics artist. His career was uneven, working for a number of different publishers and in a variety of different genres – monster, science fiction, horror as well as the superheroes for which is he is best known. He also worked with some of the great names in American comics. At times he inked the awesome Jack Kirby, at other times he was inked by Frank Miller, the artist and writer chiefly responsible for turning Daredevil into one of Marvel’s leading heroes. I think he may also have been inked by John Byrne, one of the major artists behind the New X-Men. He was admired by many of these new artists. The epic Jim Starlin, in one edition of his Warlock comic, ‘One Thousand Clowns’, dedicated it to Ditko for showing us a new reality. Starlin’s art was rather more naturalistic, but he also used the same floating paths and mystic portals in his work. He also went through several hard times in his career. At one point he moved away to New York to recover from tuberculosis, then, as in Britain, a major killer. There were also years when he struggled, as many others did, to get work. He also worked on a number of merchandising tie-ins, like Micronauts and Rom: the SpaceKnight, which were intended to promote toy figures. I read the comics, which were excellent without having any interest in buying the toys, which might indicate they were too successful. Like the adverts for Cinzano Bianco wine with Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins. Everyone enjoyed them and they’re still fondly remembered by peeps of a certain vintage, but the people watching the ads couldn’t remember the brand of booze and so didn’t buy it. Ditko, like Kirby, broke off from Marvel for a time, before he returned, working on the above tie-ins along with the robotic superhero Machine Man.

Ditko, Politics and Morality

Unlike Stan Lee, who was a liberal, Ditko was very Conservative, a follower of Objectivism, the philosophy of supercapitalist ideologue Ayn Rand. He also had very black and white views on morality, which were expressed in his personal creations, Mr. A and The Question. He believed that heroes should be heroes, their morals pure and uncompromised. True to his ideals, he turned down work when the characters he was being asked to depict didn’t live up to them. A few years ago Jonathan Ross made a documentary for BBC 4 or one of the other channels searching for Ditko. One of those interviewed was Brit comics titan Alan Moore, who described meeting Ditko at Ditko’s home. He says that Ditko had a very narrow, inflexible view of morality, telling Moore, like one of his characters, that there were only two ways, a right way and a wrong way. Ditko’s politics are very definitely not mine, and I’m very much aware that in the real world, things are very often never a case of black and white but more shades or grey and motives can be less pure than we’d like. But after the comics industry went through a phase in which they tried to make their heroes darker – Batman: The Killing Joke is one of the foremost – and it was difficult telling the heroes from the villains, it’s refreshing to have someone who believes in old fashioned heroics.

The Kayfabers believe that if he were working today, Ditko would be cancelled or at least severely annoy and alienate 50 per cent of his audience. I think the first is certainly true. There has always been a left-wing message in American comics and an awareness of social issues. In the late 1960s into the 1970s both Marvel and DC tackled issues like racism and the rise of the feminist movement. As a response to the latter, Marvel created the Valkyrie, original a woman scientist who revolted against the patriarchy after having the credit for her discoveries stolen by her male colleagues. The Hulk comic also questioned American militarism, while Captain America, in disgust at Watergate and the contemporary corruption of American politics, renounced his patriotic monicker to become Nomad. Of course it wasn’t long before he rediscovered his faith in the rightness of the American way and put his uniform back on. However, Lee has also said in an interview that he was careful not to make the message too shrill so that it alienated readers that didn’t share his politics. Now many Conservative and moderate left comics creators and fans believe that in many strips, the political message has become too overt at the expense of traditional qualities like plotting, characterisation, dialogue and sheer fantasy. This was the motive behind Comicsgate a few years ago, when a number of comics creators, like Ethan van Sciver, broke away from the main comics companies of DC and Marvel to set up on their own.

Heroism and Its Absence in Modern Genre Film and Literature

One of the problems Az of Heels vs. Babyface and The Critical Drinker is that many of today’s pop culture heroes actually don’t act like heroes. For example, in one episode of Batwoman reviewed by Az, he comments critically on the way Batwoman treats the villain, a woman who has murdered several innocents. When Batwoman confronts her, she tells Batwoman that she’s killed so many people out of rage at her persecution as a lesbian. As a result, Batwoman, a lesbian herself, lets her go. This is simply immoral. The persecution of otherwise perfectly decent people because they’re attracted to the opposite sex is wrong, but it doesn’t justify the murder of innocents. Whatever political views real policemen and women have, they still have to act impartially and arrest those, who break the law and especially those who commit terrible crimes like mass murder.

The Critical Drinker put up a whole video about the failure of contemporary SF heroes to live up to the standards of true heroism with the latest Star Trek iterations as a case in point. He contrasted these were the high standards of professionalism demanded of the captain and crew in the classic Star Trek: The Next Generation. In that series, the characters knew the importance of duty and respecting the command hierarchy even if they disagreed with it. At the same time, Picard and the other senior officers demanded and got the best from their crew. Several of the episodes involved leading characters learning the difficulties of command. There is one episode where one of the characters is training for promotion. Part this training involves trying to find ways to prevent a warp core breach that will destroy the Enterprise. The problem is insolvable until nearly every option has been tried except the one the prospective leader has been consciously trying to avoid: they have to send Jordi into the warp core to fix it, a command which will result in his death. But it’s unavoidable, and both characters know their duty is to their ship. The would-be commander has to give the order, which Jordi calmly accepts. And a hard lesson is learned. Instead, the crew of the new Trek franchises are grossly unprofessional. They bicker over there personal relationships in front of a superior officer, react badly to the stressful conditions they should, as crew aboard a quasi-military spacecraft, be trained to deal with and try to undermine their superior officers. Case in point: one sequence where Kirk and Spock attempt to beat the living daylights out of each other. Yeah, I’m aware that it happened in an episode or two of the original Trek, like the classic ‘Amok Time’, but there were extenuating circumstances. I like Star Trek and have got a couple of the recent Trek films on DVD. But I think the Drinker has a point, even if it comes from a jaundiced, booze-soaked mind. I think we need a few more heroes who are genuinely heroic in the old fashioned sense, even if the social views they hold may be those of the left.

Stylistic Strong Points

But Ditko’s own career also had its contradictions. At one point he was working on BDSM/ fetish comics, and there were certainly questions raised about the spectacular and surreal effects in several of his strips. Many of his characters, like Dr Strange, enter strange realms in which roads float apparently in mid-air, and doors and portals appear leading to elsewhere, like the mobile holes in many a cartoon strip. Strange shoots beams of light and conjures up strange geometrical figures in his incantations. These effects resemble the entoptic imagery seen when people start to hallucinate after using mind-altering drugs. Which led to the obvious question: was Ditko also on ’em. Ditko was too straitlaced to use recreational chemicals, and answered ‘No’. It all came from within, from his own unaided imagination. Which says to me that Ditko had an awesome imagination on his own, and that the really great, creative people don’t need drugs.

I can’t say that I was ever a fan of Ditko, as his artistic style with Marvel seemed rather too simple. I really admired those artists who were rather less stylised and more detailed and naturalistic. Nevertheless, this video shows that Ditko was a master of his art. The Kayfabers point out that he’s great at cityscapes and portraying fluid action sequences in which the characters are constantly in motion. In some of the strips, Ditko also used colour washes to enhance his line art, and the result is stunning. There are also a couple of strips where Ditko’s inkers were beginning to use computers to add inks and colour to his pencils, which are also very striking.

The Kayfabers also think that some of the pictures come from the private collections of people who acquired them less than legally. There is a black market in comics art, and Ditko was a victim along with many others. They won’t name names, of course, because they don’t want to get writs from m’learned friends. But they also state they’re just glad that someone, somewhere has preserved these pictures that would otherwise have been lost. Ditko also suffered into inadvertently giving people his autograph, thus cheating himself of money. He didn’t give autographs. However, if someone wrote to him asking for his autograph, they’d get a polite reply for Ditko saying ‘No’. Which he’d sign. People cottoned on to this, and exploited it.

Comics and Other Genre Artists True Artistic Innovators Deserving Academic Respect

The Kayfabers also lament that Ditko and that other American comics legend, Jack Kirby, weren’t more articulate. If they had been able to use the kind of language critics and intellectuals use about art, they could easily have been up there with Warhol and the Factory. But they were working artists, who had to grind out their strips to make a buck, and so didn’t have time to mix with people in art galleries. I completely agree. It’s been my opinion for a very long time that the truly great, innovative art exploring new visions, directions and tools is that of the space, science fiction and fantasy artists, including book illustrators and comics artists. And there are others who feel the same. I can remember watching one video about comics, in which one of the speakers said he felt angry seeing the work of artists hung in art galleries, who had based their work on comic artists. He felt that the original comics artists should have got the money and their work hung instead. Way back in the ’90s I tried to get one of the art magazines to accept an article in which I argued this point, and showed the stylistic similarities between respect fine artists like H.R. Giger and those of the Soviet austere school and such comics greats as Kirby and the British master of aliens, robots and the grotesque, Kevin O’Neil. Unfortunately, it was turned down because it would have been too expensive to run. But the point remains. And it'[s shown in Ditko’s art. There’s a panel in which the exhibition shows a clear influence on one of Ditko’s weird geometrical designs in a portal in Dr. Strange with a painting from the Russian avant-garde artist Vassily Kandinsky. The two debate whether there is a genuine influence there, before concluding that their probably is. I can easily believe it. Many comics artists have their own heroes and influences in fine art as well as other great illustrators of the past. Way back at the comics festival UKCAC ’90 I remember going to a talk by Charles Vess, who talked about the great artists and illustrators he admired. I can well believe that Ditko absorbed and incorporated ideas from fine art as well as cartooning and illustration, and that his own work pushed these ideas forward into new directions.

The book goes up to 2016, nearly the end of Ditko’s life. He died only a few years ago. Wossy in his quest to find the great man managed to track him down to an advertising agency in the Big Apple. Ditko agreed to meet Woss and the other host, but it all had to be off-camera. The programme concluded with Wossy stating that when they met Ditko he was very sweet, gave them lots of copies of his work, but they couldn’t repeat what he said to them. And so walked off into the New York crowd.

Well, RIP Steve Ditko, one of the greats of American founders. The book and the video by the Kayfabers are a great overview of one of the creators of some of the most iconic modern American superheroes.