Posts Tagged ‘Soviet Union’

Are the Tories Demanding Further British Involvement in Ukraine as a Diversion from their Crookedness?

January 24, 2023

That was the allegation made today in a video put up by Our Favourite YouTube ‘Historia’. Johnson was in one of the tabloids today giving Britain the benefit of his experience and talent in foreign affairs. I just saw the headline which was something about how Britain should give more aid to Ukraine as if it falls, Putin will be a threat to Europe. I didn’t read any more. It was in something like the Depress or the Scum or some other terrible rag, which isn’t worth reading. But apparently he had more to say. He wanted Ukraine to be admitted to NATO ASAP. Simon Webb over at History Debunked took this idea apart, showing that far from leading to peace or defeat for the Russians, it would instead probably lead to World War III. If NATO did admit Ukraine, then the next Putin attacked we would be required to counterattack by the terms of the treaty. You can see how this would expand into a direct war between NATO and Russia and the possibility that this would go nuclear very quickly. Putin and his aides have been making threats of a nuclear strike against the NATO countries, as well as threatening to invade Sweden if it joined NATO. One of the news articles that came up for me a little while ago on the news feed on my browser argued that Putin wasn’t bluffing when he made these threats. Elsewhere the group of scientists responsible for the Doomsday Clock showing how far away we are from nuclear Armageddon moved its hands forward to 90 seconds to minute. This places us in unprecedented danger, the group says. So what Johnson has said is so colossally stupid that the former Prime Minister should be nowhere near power. But what do you expect from him? This is the edit, you will remember, who started reciting the Road to Mandalay when on an official visit to Thailand’s holiest Buddhist temple. This is the nutter, who went off a diplomat mission to Moscow to soothe tensions with Putin, only to ramp them up even further at a press interview on his return. And there’s more and worse. There was a story going round last year that Zelensky was about to make a peace deal with Putin, only to persuaded otherwise when Johnson turned up to advise him.

Webb suggests that this suicidal belligerence from Johnson may come from the sorry state of affairs He, Rishi Sunak and Zahawi are in. Zahawi’s facing criticism and calls for an inquiry because he’s been dodging paying tax, Sunak got a loan from a Tory donor, who was then rewarded with a place at the Beeb and Johnson is similarly having his collar felt for breaches of ministerial conduct. Webb states that Johnson couldn’t have made these comments without approval from Sunak, and so this sabre-rattling is just to get us to look away from their personal corruption. I can see there being more than something behind this. One of the ways governments try to divert attention from domestic failures is to start a foreign policy conflict.

But there are other aspects to the Ukraine conflict which make it very clear that all is not as it appears. After the fall of communism, the west signed a deal with Gorbachev that NATO would not expand into the former eastern bloc and threaten Russia’s borders. But this is what NATO has done with the accession of Poland and other states. The Maidan Revolution which overthrew the pro-Russian Ukrainian president in favour of one who was pro-western, wasn’t a spontaneously democratic display of popular anger. It was carefully orchestrated by Victoria Nuland and Hillary Clinton, the American secretary of state, and the National Endowment for Democracy, the organisation that has taken over the CIA’s role in engineering regime change.

But there are dangers for rightists and ethnonationalists in following this line of inquiry. Before you know it, you could end up like the late American Nazi leader, Francis Parker Yockey. Yockey was a White supremacist almost straight out of the skits of the Blues Brothers and The Producers. He used to appear on Public Access Television in New York in the 1970s, seated wearing a blue uniform and motorcycle helmet and flanked by two of his storm troopers ranting his fascist nonsense. Not surprisingly, he was eventually kicked off air following complaints from Jewish viewers. Surprisingly for a raving Nazi, Yockey was a fan of the Soviet Union. He felt it was the great hope for the White race because it was still a dictatorship after the western nations had embraced corrupt democracy. There was a similar tendency over here in Nick Griffin’s BNP. There was a section of its membership and supporters that admired Colonel Gadaffy’s Libya.

Webb has posted videos suggesting that Britain needs a dictator for White Britain to survive and that we should be giving medals to particularly prolific women like the Nazis did. But the Soviet Union also gave out ‘Heroic Mother’ medals and there was a similar scheme by Mussolini as part of his ‘Battle for Births’. Putin is also a dictator, who is also keen on promoting national pride among his people, and he has succeeded in raising the Russian birth rate, which had been declining below replacement levels.

Putin’s a thug and a monster, but if you want to see where such ideas about nationalist dictators lead, they lead to people like him. If not worse.

Gracchus Babeuf and the Calls for a Welfare State in 18th Century France

January 21, 2023

Gracchus Babeuf was a French revolutionary, who tried to overthrow the Directory and establish a communist state during the French Revolution as the leader of the ‘Conspiracy of Equals’. He’s one of the founders of the European socialist and communist traditions. I’ve been reading Ian Birchall’s book on him and his legacy, The Spectre of Babeuf (Haymarket Books 2016), and it’s fascinating. Birchall discusses the influences on Babeuf, which included Morelly, the author of the Code de la Nature, which also advocated a communist system with a centrally planned economy, Nicolas Collignon, who wrote an 8 page pamphlet demanding the same, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In Collignon’s ideal state, the citizens were to be provided with free food and clothing, high quality housing, schools and healthcare. Like the Tories, he also believed in competition, so doctors would be graded according to their performance. Those that cured the most would be consequently paid more and get promotion, while those who cured the least would be struck off. Even before he devised his own communist plans, he was already discussing the need for collective farms. What he meant by this is not collective farms in the soviet sense, but farms run cooperatively by their workers rather than a single farmer with employees. And he was also in favour of creating a welfare state. In a book he authored on correct taxation, he wrote

‘That a national fund for the subsistence of the poor should be established. That doctors, apothecaries and surgeons should be psif wages out of public funds so that they can administer assistance free of charge. That a system of national education be established out of which all citizens may take advantage. That magistrates be also paid wages out of public revenue, so that justice can be done free of charge.’ (p. 29).

Birchall also attacks the view promoted by Talmon in his The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy that Babeuf was an authoritarian who prefigured soviet tyranny. Talmon was an Israeli Conservative writing at the beginning of the Cold War. But Babeuf himself, although a revolutionary, was also keen to preserve and expand democracy. One of his suggestions was that there should be a set of elected officials charged with making sure that delegates to the national assembly were representing their constituents properly. If they weren’t, the people had the right to recall them.

Regarding industrial organisation, he believed that the citizens in each commune should be divided into classes, each class representing a different trade. The members of these classes would appoint governors, who would set the work and carry out the instructions of the municipal government. It’s very much a command economy, and utopian in that money would be abolished.

I can’t say I find Babeuf’s full-blown communist ideas attractive, for the reason I believe in a mixed a economy and the right of people to do what they wish outside of interference from either the authorities or other people. And I really don’t see how such a state could last long without a money economy. Some Russians looked forward to the establishment of such an economy at the beginning of the Russian Revolution when the economy began to break down and trading went back to barter in some areas until the Bolsheviks restored the economy. And there is clearly conflict between violent revolution and democracy. But I respect his calls for a welfare state. He was also an advocate of equality for women and an opponent of imperialism, which he felt corrupted extra-European peoples with European vices. This view is clearly based on the 17th century ideas of the Noble Savage, in which primitive peoples are seen as better and more morally advanced than civilised westerners.

Demands for a welfare state are as old as socialism itself. We cannot allow the British welfare state and NHS to be destroyed by the Tories and Blairite Labour under Starmer.

A Democratic Marxist Condemnation of the Soviet Regime

January 18, 2023

A few days ago I put up a post about the 18th century communist Morelly. He had some interesting ideas, although I made it clear that I am not a supporter of communism because of the tyranny, poor economic performance and poverty of the Soviet regime. One of the great commenters here remarked that describing the USSR as a tyranny probably wouldn’t go down very well with the Socialist Workers Party, now renamed the Socialist Party. I’m not sure, as the Socialist Workers were, in their day, a Trotskyite party, and therefore opposed to the communism of the USSR over the issue of Stalin’s dictatorship. The impression I had was that the Trotskyite parties wanted a communist society, but one where the workers themselves would hold power through soviets, rather than controlled by the communist bureaucracy.

As well as the Trotskyites, there were democratic Marxists in the west, who believed that socialism should be achieved democratically and rejected violent revolution and the dictatorship of the USSR. Karl Kautsky, an Austrian Marxist and one of the leaders of European Marxism, took this position. Another was the French Marxist, Lucien Laurat, who made the following scathing condemnation of the Soviet tyranny in Russia in his Marxism and Democracy, published by the Left Book Club in 1940.

‘In the fascist countries we can still observe the existence of capitalist characteristics, where as in Russia these characteristics have been radically destroyed as a result of the absolute seizure by the State of all the means of production and distribution. Although the Russian economic system has often been called “State capitalism”, and although the term “State slavery” employed by Karl Kautsky seems to us a more appropriate designation in our opinion, the present Russian regime is not slavery, or serfdom, or capitalism, but something of all three. It is related to slavery and serfdom by the absolute and total suppression of all freedom for the workers, who are tied by domestic passports to their places of residence, and often to their places of employment, like the feudal serf to the glebe. It is related to capitalism by the preservation of a great number of economic categories and legal forms. However, it is fundamentally different from any of these systems.

With more reason, and, of course, with all those reservations proper to such historical comparisons, we may rather compare the present Russian regime with the social and economic regime of the Incas, who dictatorially governed Peru before the discovery of America: an authoritatively controlled economic system strongly marked by numerous communist traits, but with a division of society into classes. No one can say how and toward what this curious social system might have developed had not a brutal and rapacious conqueror brought it to a sudden and premature end. It is quite certain, however, that on an infinitely larger scale, with an incomparably higher mass culture, and provided with all the achievements of twentieth-century science, our modern Incaism over what is called “one-sixth of the globe” reproduces from the social and and political point of view the most characteristic traits of Peruvian Incaism of four hundred years ago.

Just as the Russian State disposes absolutely over the material elements of the economic process, so it disposes dictatorially over the human element also. The workers are no longer free to sell their labour-power where they like and how they please. They no longer enjoy freedom of movement in the territory of the U.S.S.R. (domestic passports) The right to strike has been suppressed, and if the workers expressed even the slightest desire to oppose the methods of Stakhanovism, it would expose them to the severest punishments.

The Russian unions, strictly under the orders of the governing party, are merely organs charged with the execution in their own province of the political instructions of the Government. The instruments destined to defend the working class against the directive organism of the economic system have become instruments in the service of these organisms. The working class thus finds itself subjected to the discretionary power of a bureau-technocracy identical with the State apparatus.’ (Pp. 200-2).

There, and if you only listen to the Libertarians, you would think that only von Hayek believed that communism was slavery, although in his case he all meant all forms of socialism. Not that I think he had any hatred of right-wing dictatorship. He served in Dollfuss’ Austro-Fascist regime, which ended with the Nazi invasion and supported the various fascist dictatorships in South America. This, too me, shows how far Libertarians really believe in freedom.

Video on Orion, the US Navy’s Nuclear Space Battleship

December 4, 2022

I found this very interesting video on the Found and Explained channel on YouTube. It’s about Orion, a massive space battleship designed, but fortunately never built, by the US navy. The vehicle would have been propelled by nuclear bombs thrown out from the rear of the spacecraft. The force of the explosion would have been caught by a buffer plate on four retracting struts. This would have absorbed the shock, while allowing the spacecraft to move at immense speeds. The ship would have had a complement of 120 men, who would have rested and worked, at least at times, in a centrifuge that would have generated artificial gravity. It would also have carried four shuttle craft, and an arsenal of 140 nuclear bombs. It would also have carried another type of nuclear bomb, the details of which are still classified. This would have been thrown out of the spacecraft and when it exploded would have released a deadly beam of charged particles at its target. It would also have been equipped with a number of conventional naval cannons. I think the intention was to dominate the Earth militarily from space. The navy also planned a number of peaceful missions, including expeditions to Saturn by the 1970s. They didn’t work out any detailed plans but created a detailed model which they showed to Kennedy to persuade him to back the project. It had the opposite effect. Kennedy realised that it would have made the Cold War much worse, and wisely cancelled it.

The video’s sponsored by a Star Trek computer game, and so there’s much comparison between the USS Enterprise and other ships in that series with the Orion battleship. It also goes into the methods by which the spacecraft could be used to become a real starship enabling humanity to reach Alpha Centauri. With its conventional nuclear fuel, it could attain 3.3 per cent of the speed of light, which would enable humanity to reach Alpha Centauri in 144 years. But other techniques could be used, including matter-antimatter annihilation. This could propel the ship to 80 per cent of the speed of light, cutting the journey time to a decade or so. Unfortunately, anti-matter is immensely expensive and so unless or until a cheap method of mass producing it is found, that means of propulsion is impossible.

Sagan mentions the Orion spacecraft in Cosmos, and how it could have taken humanity to the stars. He doesn’t mention, however, the fact that it was intended as a warship. Either he didn’t know, which is unlikely, or that aspect of the ship’s design was classified at the time, and he wasn’t at liberty to divulge it. However, the use of bombs to push a spacecraft forward is actually a sound one. It was tested experimentally on a scale model, and there are clips of this about. The idea goes back to before the Russian Revolution, when an imprisoned revolutionary sketched a platform taking off from the ground propelled by exploding gunpowder bombs beneath it.

Nuclear explosions in space are currently banned under international law, which has helped to prevent atomic war but means that so far only chemical rockets can be used for space exploration. The Beeb a while ago made a science fiction programme about humans exploring the solar system in a nuclear rocket and confidently predicted that, although now fiction, this would actually happen sometime in this century. I’m also struck about how closely the spacecraft resembles the Discovery, the spacecraft that travels to meet the alien monolith around Jupiter in Kubrick’s 2001. That was also nuclear propelled, and its crew also lived in a giant centrifuge to simulate gravity.

I also wonder if JFK cancelled the project for financial as well as geopolitical reasons. Such as spacecraft would have been massively expensive. As it was, the Moon programme absorbed 5 per cent of America’s GDP, and that was for conventional, chemical rockets carrying no more than three men. I can see the construction of a spacecraft like Orion practically bankrupting the entire country, just as trying to keep up with Reagan’s wretched Star Wars programme did the Soviet Union. Scientists have estimated that the technology isn’t necessarily the problem with building spacecraft to other stars. We can almost do it now. It’s just the expense. It’ll be about 200 years before the world can afford to build such spacecraft.

One day a ship like Orion may be built to take us to Alpha Centauri and beyond. But hopefully, not as a warship.

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.