Posts Tagged ‘Statues’

Bristol’s Colston Hall Changes Name to Bristol Beacon

September 25, 2020

My fair home city of Bristol was in the news yesterday. One of its premier music venues, the Colston Hall, is changing its name. This is obviously a consequence of the pulling down of Colston’s statue on the town centre not far from the Hall a month or so ago by Black Lives Matter activists. The Hall’s been debating for a long time whether or not to change its name, and the decision has been hastened as it and other places try to distance themselves from the slaver and his legacy. Colston Tower, an office block on or near the centre, is also being renamed. And there was mention on the news a little while ago that Colston Girls’ school was also considering changing its name.

The item I saw about this on the national news showed one of the journos walking along Pero’s Bridge. It’s an eccentric structure crossing Bristol’s docks, as it has two horn-like structures either side of it at one point. It takes its name from one of the few slaves in the city, whose name is actually known. Then there was a brief interview with Dr. Edson Burnett, one of the leading historians of the Bristol slave trade. He said that the some people were afraid that the renaming of some of landmarks was an attack on history and an attempt to rewrite, but instead it was an attempt to uncover other histories that had been hidden or neglected.

He’s right, and David Olusoga was also correct when he pointed out in an article in the Radio Times the other week that none of the other historic statues in the area were attacked when the BLM protestors took down Colston’s and threw it in the docks. However, it still needs to be pointed out over and over again that Bristol’s involvement with the slave trade has never been covered up. It was mentioned in history textbooks for the city’s schoolchildren. Pero’s Bridge was put up in the 1990s, as was an exhibition, ‘A Respectable Trade’, at the City Museum and Art Gallery, and there is a gallery on it in Bristol’s M Shed.

As for the Colston Hall’s change of name, I don’t think it’ll make any difference. The debate has been going on for some time now, as have demands to have Colston’s statue removed. They were controversial, but now they’ve happened I don’t think it’ll make much difference. I think most Bristolians will simply shrug and get on with better things to do and think about.

And the Bristol Beacon is a great name for one of the city’s most historic and outstanding concert halls.

Spain Passes New Laws Against Glorification of Fascist Franco

September 18, 2020

This is another excellent piece of news I found in Wednesday’s issue of the I, for 16th September 2020. It reports that the Spanish government has passed a historic law banning the glorification of General Franco, the country’s Fascist dictator, and granting reparations to his victims. The article reads

Spain has passed a law to give reparations to the victims of the late dictator General Francisco Franco.

The Democratic Memory Law will ban the foundation which guards the memory of the dictator and fine those who glorify Franco up to 150,000 euros (£138,000).

The mausoleum where Franco’s body lay for more than four decades will also be transformed into a civilian cemetery as part of other changes. School children will be taught about the law.

This is the same law that an earlier article in that same day’s edition reported offers Spanish citizenship to the descendants of Brits who served in the International Brigades that fought against Franco in the Spanish civil war. It’s a great piece of news. Franco was a butcher, who held on to power from the his victory at the end of the civil war to his death in 1975. There’s evidence, but no proof, that he may have been helped launch his rebellion against Spain’s Republican government by our secret services.

Spanish liberals have fought long and hard to overturn his legacy. Spanish archaeologists have faced considerable resistance to the excavation of the mass graves of the old thug’s victims. His mausoleum was particularly offensive. He claimed that it was a monument to everyone who fell in the civil war, regardless of what side they were on. In fact it solely glorified Franco and his Fascists. And he continued to cast a long shadow over Spain even decades after his death. I remember the looks of real horror and fear that came into the face of young Spaniards back in the 1990s at the mere mention of his name.

There was a statue of him on horseback somewhere, which has become a rallying point for Fascist scumbags from across Europe. I don’t know whether that’s still around, but the Spanish people made their own efforts to take it down. Way back in the 1980s its hindquarters were blown off with a bomb. And he was another dictator, who liked having towns and villages named after him. One of these got into the news in 1980s as it changed its name. I can’t remember precisely what the new name was, except that it roughly translated as ‘Our Town’ or ‘Our Village’. Which is obviously better than Pueblo Franco or whatever.

He was like the rest of the dictators in that he was of much less than imposing stature. I’ve got a biography of him somewhere, which said that he was under five foot tall and had a high, piping voice. He was a pious Roman Catholic, and his father had left his mother for another woman, leaving her to bring him up. He was thus very chaste, and so when he was an officer in Spanish north Africa, the other troops thought he was gay because he didn’t visit the brothels.

He was a brutal disciplinarian. When he was an officer in north Africa, he had an Arab/Berber solider shot after the man threw his meal at him. He was ruthless in his treatment of the north Africans, and treated the Spanish the same way in the civil war and his reign afterwards.

It’s great that at last the Spanish have been able to undo his cult, and are offering citizenship to the descendants of the people, who fought against him, and reparations to his victims. It’s just a pity that it’s taken all this time to do it.

Tories Waste £120 Million in Two Years Persecuting Disability Claimants

September 2, 2020

Mike put up another excellent article yesterday about the news that Johnson’s government had spent £120 million over the past two years fighting appeals against rulings by the DWP and Maximus against disabled benefit claimants. These are people, whom have been ruled ‘fit for work’ under the Fitness for Work tests. As Mike and others have reported for a very long time, three-quarters of these rulings are overturned on appeal. This means that the Tories have spent something like £100 million on trying to get people, who have every right to benefit, thrown off them.

Mike also states in his article that under the internal regulations of the DWP, each new claim is subject to ‘mandatory reconsideration’ during which time the claimant receives no benefit for a period of four weeks. It is only recently that this policy has been overturned by the courts. Any claim that this is fighting benefit fraud is spurious. The actual number of fraudulent claims is less than 1 or 2 per cent, whatever bilge rags like the Daily Mail tell you. And the increase in expenditure against appeals by the disabled is far greater than the 13 per cent rise in new claims. Which means, as Mike points out, the Tories have been spending this money and trying to stop people with real needs claiming benefits simply out of a vindictive hatred of the sick and disabled. He concludes

So the huge proportion that the Tories refuse – and the amount of time and money wasted in the appeal process – can only mean one thing:

The Tories hate disabled people and want them to die.

Why isn’t this a national – if not international – scandal?

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/09/01/tories-have-wasted-120m-in-two-years-trying-to-tell-people-theyre-not-disabled/

This isn’t about saving money. I’ve got a feeling the amount of government expenditure on ordinary welfare claims is trivial. Especially compared to the handouts the Tories have given, even before the Coronavirus, to big business through tax breaks, the bloated contracts awarded to the private outsourcing companies, and subsidies to the banks and other industries, like the railways. And the situation in America is even worse, thanks to the greater advance of corporatism in the American system and the massive expenditure on the military-industrial complex and armaments. It’s why there are books like Take the Rich Off Welfare attacking it.

Left-wing critics and activists have pointed out that Thatcherism has represented nothing less than a massive transfer of wealth upwards, away from the poor, the sick, the disabled and the rest of the working class. As a result, the 1 per cent have become massively richer.

This is all about persecuting the poor for the benefit of the bloated rich. And I would like it to be a national scandal. I would like the same kind of mass demonstrations that spontaneously erupted with the Black Lives Matter movement to occur and be organised against this horrendous persecution of the disabled. I would like people to march, holding placards denouncing the Tories – and New Labour, for their part in creation of this disgusting policy – showing the faces of the people, who’ve died after being found fit for work, and starved to death or took their own lives after being thrown off benefit.

Because, dear Lord, there have been more than enough of them. I lost count of the number who’d starved to death after it hit five hundred. And the number of disabled people, who’ve died from their conditions after being found fit for work is 113,000. Or more. One of the last victims was a Black man, Errol Graham, a diabetic who also died of starvation after he was declared fit to go back to work. Black Lives Matter have protested – rightly – against the shooting of unarmed Blacks by lawless cops in America. They’ve held protests here about institutional racism, and pulled down statues of slavers. But why aren’t they marching against the institutional murder – ’cause that’s what is – of disabled Black people. Because Blacks and Asians have been especially hard hit by austerity because of their general poverty and lack of opportunities compared to Whites.

The Tory persecution of the disabled is a real scandal. And it’s not going away. We need mass demonstrations against it until the message gets through.

Right-wing Internet Radio Host Alex Belfield Attacks Esther McVile

August 25, 2020

I’ve put up a number of articles recently taking issue with Alex Belfield. Belfield is another right-wing radio host, with his own show, ‘Celebrity Radio’, marketing himself with the slogan ‘the Voice of Reason’. It’s a misnomer. He’s like just about all the other right-wing voices out there on mainstream Talk Radio, like Nick Ferrari, Julia Hartley-Brewer and the rest. Fiercely anti-immigration, his recent videos seem to be about demonising the desperate asylum seekers crossing the channel from France, wrongly claiming that the Labour MP was negligent in not doing anything about the exploited sweatshop workers of Leeds, when she had been protesting for years, and criticising Black Lives Matter for not protesting about the conditions of those workers rather than pulling down statues of slavers in Bristol. And now, of course, he’s joined the various chorus of voices denouncing the Beeb for planning not to play ‘Rule, Britannia’, and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ at Last Night of the Proms. Even though, as Zelo Street has shown today, no such decision was taken and the two will be sung as is traditional, subject to the restrictions imposed by the Coronavirus lockdown.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/08/last-night-of-silly-season.html

Belfield is particularly bitter about show biz. He’s posted a number of videos attacking the industry for demanding government subsidies and bailouts, while its leading members and companies rake in millions. He’s also attacked a number of celebs personally for hypocritically affecting an attitude of social concern and engagement, while being horrible people in their private lives. Some of this seems to follow recent allegations about the conduct of people like Ellen Degeneres in America. Degeneres is a former comedian with her own chat show on American TV. She’s another, who, it is claimed, affects a left-wing demeanour, urging people to be kinder to each other, but in reality is on very friendly terms with leading American right-wing politicians, and has a highly exploitative, domineering attitude to her staff and contempt for those serving her. Now I don’t doubt that very many of the celebs right across the political spectrum, who affect to be nice, caring human beings are actually anything but in their private lives. That’s just human nature. Simple experience teaches that just because someone may have a set of political ideals or tastes in sport, culture etc doesn’t mean that they’re personally very pleasant.

Belfield seems to have a particular hatred for politicos with a background in the media, who are now trying to relaunch their careers as media celebrities. And I do agree with him on one of the targets for his ire: Esther McVey. A few weeks ago he put up a video attacking her as a ‘twirly’. Because the odious woman had put up a video about herself, in which she pretended to drive around in a car looking at places around Liverpool or wherever. The video was clearly fake, shot in a studio using green screen and with the moving background added using the magic of computer graphics.

I share Belfield’s loathing of McVey, but for completely opposite reasons. Belfield put up a piece a little while ago attacking benefit claimants as scroungers. It seemed to follow all the extremely biased and misleading articles about it in the press. Articles that according to stats, have convinced the British public that over a quarter of benefit claims are fraudulent when in reality fraudulent claims account for less than 1 per cent.

I despise McVey because she was part of the Department of Work and Pensions under Iain Duncan Smith. This was when the Tories were going full speed ahead with their vicious, murderous sanctions regime, in which the Jobcentres find any excuse to throw claimants off benefits just to satisfy targets. I despise her, because she was one of the Department’s chiefs behind the Work Capability Tests, which have resulted in tens of thousands of seriously disabled people being judged ‘fit for work’ and thrown off the benefits they need to live, simply because of fraudulent science that assumes a high percentage of such claimants are malingerers. I despise her because she was part of Cameron’s government which inflicted austerity on the nation. The same austerity that has since been revealed as very much a political choice intended to hurt the poor while enriching the already bloated bank balances of the super-rich. I despise her because, thanks to the same policies, over 100,000 disabled people have died after her wretched system declared them to be ‘fit for work’. I despise her, and her former boss, IDS, because thanks to Tory policies, millions are in real food poverty, faced with a choice of starving themselves or going without heat or feeding their children. I despise her, because well over a quarter of a million are now having to use food banks rather than the welfare state to keep body and soul together.

I despise her, because she is the rich and entitled head of media production company. Her company was, I believe, responsible for various ‘poverty porn’ documentaries, like Benefits Street, which presented the issue of mass poverty as due to the personal faults of the unemployed themselves.

And so I completely agree with him in find her attempts to restart her career utterly, utterly contemptible.

Faced with McVey, whose opponents and critics dubbed ‘Esther McVile’, and altered her Wikipedia entry so that it read that she was minister in charge of culling the disabled, I find myself agreeing with one of the slogans of the villainous Torquemada from 2000 AD. Not that whole idea about galactic fascism and racial hatred, but the slogan in one of his rants:

Never Forgive.

Never Forget.

Never for Fun.

And yes, I do realise that the initial letters spell out ‘NF’ to show that Torquemada really is a ranting Fascist. But it seems an excellent attitude to have to the Tories, who really would like us all to forget how vile they are, and how they are killing the poor and disabled, as well as stoking up racial hatred against immigrants and the disabled, all to make their wealthy corporate donors richer and ordinary working Brits of all colours poorer.

And that attitude also extends to Belfield, because he is part of that Tory agenda. So it’s ironic that he’s attacked McVile. He’s right, though it makes him no better.

 

Liverpool to Put Information Plaques on Buildings and Monuments with Connections to Slavery

August 24, 2020

The Black Lives Matter protests across the world have prompted the authorities in Liverpool to examine once again their great city’s connection to the slave trade. According to an article by Jean Selby in today’s I, for 24th August 2020, the city is going to put up information plaques around the city on areas and places connected to the slave trade. The article’s titled ‘Liverpool to acknowledge its history of slavery’. I think it’s slightly misleading, and something of a slur, as the City has already acknowledged its connection to slavery a long time ago. It has an international slavery museum, which I think may have started as a gallery in its maritime museum way back in the 1990s. This has inspired Black rights and anti-racism campaigners to approach the council here in Bristol calling for a similar museum down here. From what I gather from the local news website, The Bristolian, Asher Craig, a councilor for St. George’s in Bristol and the head of the local equalities body, told them to go away and find a private backer first. This is the same Asher Craig, who in an interview on Radio 4 showed that apparently she didn’t know about the slavery gallery in Bristol’s M Shed, nor about the various official publications, including a 1970s school history book for local children, that discuss Bristol’s history in the slave trade, and told the Beeb she wanted a museum of slavery here in Bristol. According to The Bristolian, the campaigners are dismayed at the city’s refusal to build such a museum following the examples of Liverpool in the Britain and Nantes in France.

Frankly, I’m sick and tired of London journos writing pieces about places like Bristol and Liverpool blithely claiming, or implying, that only now are they acknowledging their role in the abominable trade. I can remember getting very annoyed with the News Quiz and some of the comedians on it over a decade ago when I similar story came up about Liverpool. Jeremy Hardy, a great left-wing comedian sadly no longer with us, said something suitably sneering about the city and slavery. But the impression I have is that it’s London that has been the most sensitive and most desperate to hide its past in connection to slavery. Nearly two decades or so ago, when I was doing voluntary work at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum, I had the privilege of meeting a young Asian artist. She was working on a project commemorating the slave trade by making models of old factories and mills from the foodstuffs they produced, which had been cultivated through slavery. She told me that she’d approached a number of towns and their museums, and received very positive reactions to her work. They had all been very willing to give her whatever help they could, though some of these towns had only been in the slave trade for a very short time before being squeezed out by competition from Bristol and Liverpool. As a result, they often genuinely had little in their collections connected to slavery. But they were willing to give any help they could. But her experience with the Museum of London had been quite different. They made it plain that they didn’t have any holdings on slavery whatsoever. I’ve been told since then that things are a bit different, and that individual London boroughs are quite open and apologetic about their connection to the slave trade. But it does seem to me that it is London that is particularly defensive and secretive when it comes to commemorating its own history of slave dealing.

Back to the I’s article, which runs

Liverpool will address its ties to the slave trade with a series of plaques around the city explaining the history behind its street names, building and monuments.

The city council plans to acknowledge the role the port city played in colonialism and the vast wealth generated from the trafficking of human beings. According to the International Slavery Museum, Liverpool ships carried about 1.5 million slaves, half of the three million Africans taken across the Atlantic by British slavers.

Falkner Square, named after an 18th-century merchant involved in the slave trade, is among those expected to have a plaque installed.

“We have to be led by our communities on how to do this and do it in a way that is sensitive to both our past and our present,” mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said as he announced the project yesterday. He was marking Slavery Remembrance Day – which commemorates the anniversary of a 1791 slave uprising in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

He continued: “I do not believe that changing street names is the answer – it would be wrong to try and airbrush out our past. It’s important that we have a sensible and informed discussion about theses issues. We need to judge the past with a historical perspective, taking into account today’s higher ethical standards and, most importantly, how everyone, from every community in the city, feels about it.”

And advisory panel, chaired by Michelle Charters, recommended the creation of Eric Lynch slavery memorial plaques, named in honour of Eric Lynch, a Ghanaian chief who is a descendant of African slaves and spent his life drawing attention to the city’s slavery history.

His son, Andrew Lynch, said: “These plaques are a tribute to Eric’s long years of work as a black community activist and educator, teaching the people of Liverpool to acknowledge and understand their historic inheritance in an honest and open way, and uncovering the contribution made by black people throughout our great city.”

This all sounds actually quite reasonable. I think it’s fair to put the plaques up for those wanting such information. And I really don’t believe those places should be renamed, as this is a form of rewriting history. You shouldn’t try to erase the past, although I accept that some monuments, like those of Colston, are unacceptable in today’s moral and political climate for very good reasons.

However, I think this says less about Liverpool’s history and more about the present desperate state of the Black community in Britain. Back when I was working at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum all those years ago, I remember talking about some of the materials we had on slavery and its history by West Indian academic historians. I heard from some of the staff that some of this was actually quite controversial in some of the West Indian nations, but for reasons that are completely the opposite to the situation in this country. They’re controversial, or were then, among Black West Indians, who feel that they’re racist against their White fellow countrymen and co-workers. Apparently after one book was published, there was a spate of letters in the local press by Black people stating that their bosses or secretaries were White, and certainly weren’t like that. I think if the Black community in Britain shared the same general level of prosperity and opportunity as the White population, there would be precious little interest in slavery and its commemoration except among academics and historians. It would be an episode from the past, which was now mercifully over, and which the Black community and the rest of society had moved on from.

I also think that demands for its commemoration also come not just from the material disadvantages the Black community in general suffers from, but also its feelings of alienation and marginalisation. They feel that they and their history are being excluded, hence the demands for its commemoration. However, I think the reverse of this is that such demands can also look like expressions of anti-White sentiment, in which the present White population is demanded to be penitent and remorseful about something they were not responsible for, simply because they’re White.

And there are also problems with the selection of the events commemorated International Slavery Remembrance Day. This looks like Toussaint L’Louverture’s Black revolution on Haiti. L’ouverture was inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution. It was he and his generals that overthrew the French authorities in what is now Haiti, giving the country its present name and making it a Black republic in which power and property could only be held by Blacks. It naturally became a shining beacon for the aspirations of other Black revolutionaries right across the Caribbean and even the US. Major Moody discusses it in his 1820s report on slavery, which critically examined whether Blacks were prepared for supporting themselves as independent, self-reliant citizens after emancipation. His report included correspondence from Black Americans, who had been freed by their owners and moved to Haiti, but still kept in touch with them.

Moody was not impressed with the progress of the revolution, and concluded that Blacks weren’t ready for their freedom. This shocked many abolitionists, as Moody himself was a married to a Black woman. But if you read his report about Haiti, you understand why. After successfully gaining their freedom, the Haitians had been faced with the problem of maintaining it against European aggression on the one hand, and economic collapse on the other. The result was the imposition of virtual enslavement back on the plantation workers, who had fought so hard for their freedom. The country’s estates were divided up among the generals. The former slaves were forbidden to leave them, and quotas of the amount of sugar they were required to produce were imposed. If the poor souls did not produce the required amount, they were tortured or burned to death. It seemed to me when I read the Blue Book Moody published, kept in the Museum’s libraries, that Moody’s decision against supporting immediate emancipation for the enslaved peoples of the Caribbean was based on a genuine horror of such atrocities and fear that this would be repeated across the West Indies.

I don’t think Marxist historians would be surprised at the brutality that arose after the Haitian revolution. Marxist revolutionaries like Lenin believed that history followed certain deterministic laws, and were acutely interested in the French Revolution. From this they believed that all revolutions followed an inevitable pattern. After the initial gains of freedom, the revolution would be overthrown and a period of reaction arise, created by a dictator. Just like Napoleon had overthrown the French Revolutionaries to create a new, imperial monarchy. In their own time, they were afraid that the new Napoleon, who would undo the Russian Revolution, would be Trotsky. And so they missed Stalin’s threat. The reintroduction of slavery by L’Ouverture’s generals is just part of this general pattern in the progress of revolutions. Nevertheless, like the destruction of personal freedoms following the Russian Revolution and then Stalin’s Terror in the 1930s, it does raise the awkward question of whether it should, like the Russian Revolution, really by celebrated or commemorated without significant caveats.

This aside, I’m sure that following Liverpool’s decision, there will also be demands for Bristol to do the same. There is already a slave walk around the docks in Bristol and a plaque commemorating the slaves exploited and traded by Bristol merchants. The M Shed has a gallery on Bristol and the slave trade, which includes a map of various streets and properties in the city and its surroundings built and owned by slavers and those with connections to the trade. And the latest monument, set up in the 1990s, is a remarkable bridge down on the docks. This has two horns either side of it, but has been named ‘Pero’s Bridge’ after one of the very few slaves traded by the city in the 18th century, who identity is known.

Radio 4 Programme Next Thursday on the Repatriation of Looted Museum Exhibits Following Black Lives Matter

August 18, 2020

The Radio Times also states that next Thursday on Radio 4 at 11.30 am there’s a documentary on the debate about the repatriation of looted African artefacts now on display in British museums. The blurb for it on page 125 of the Radio Times runs

In the wake of protesters in Bristol pulling down a statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston, Gary Younge talks to museum curators as they review what is on display.

There’s an additional piece by Simon O’Hagan on the previous page, 124, which adds

Museums might be closed, but curators are keeping busy reassessing what they have on display – minds focused by the toppling of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol in June. In the words of one curator, “in Britain you’re never more than 150 miles rom a looted African object.”

Presented by Gary Younge, who discovers that when the public is re-admitted to museums after lockdown, there is a distinct possibility that some display cases may have notable absences.

The debate over the return of looted and seized objects to indigenous communities around the world has been going on for several decades. Much of it is about the display of human remains. A few years ago a series about the British Museum showed that august institution repatriating a set of indigenous Australian burials to Tasmanian people from which they were seized. It’s not just African and indigenous peoples demanding that their ancestors and their property should be returned. The Greeks have famously been demanding the return of the Elgin Marbles for decades, if not since they very moment Lord Elgin collected them in the 19th century. In very many cases, I don’t doubt that the moral argument is with those demanding their return, and that it’s the right thing to do.

The mention of the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol adds a dimension that complicates the issue. The repatriation of these objects is supposed to be about modern, western museums correcting the moral injustices of an imperial past. But many of the looted objects themselves are the products of slaving societies, and were seized by British forces during wars fought to extirpate the slave trade.

The Benin Bronzes are case in point. These are superbly sculpted bronze heads, which were made as part of shrines to the chief’s oba. Literally meaning ‘right arm’, the word also denotes his spiritual power, rather like the numa of the pagan Roman emperors. However, Benin, then Dahomey, was a major centre of the African slave trade. It had a plantation economy centred on cotton production like the American Deep South, and was a major exporter. So much so that the British launched a war against them from 1850 to 1852 after their king, Guezo, refused to give it up and continued trading. The bronzes were seized by the victorious British forces.

Nobody was talking about their repatriation until the 1980s, when ‘African radical’ and the highly controversial leader of Brent council, Bernie Grant, demanded their return. I’ve no doubt that Grant was motivated by genuine indignation about the humiliation of an African nation by the British empire. But there is an irony here in that such a very outspoken opponent of anti-Black racism should have been seeking to return objects that had been taken as part of military action against an African slave state. And one that had absolutely no qualms, and grew rich, from enslaving the ancestors of Black Brits, West Indians and Americans like Grant.

Ditto with some of the objects that may have been returned to Ethiopia. A year or so ago the I reported that a particularly holy cross belonging to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which had been seized by the British army in the 19th century, had also been repatriated to its country of origin. I wondered if the relic had also been looted in a similar campaign launched in that century to stop Abyssinian slave-raiding across the border into Sudan and what is now Kenya. If so, then it could be argued that it should not be repatriated, as it was a legitimate spoil in a war the British were justified in waging.

And let’s not be under any illusion that the African slaving nations wouldn’t also have enslaved the British servicemen they fought. One of the documents I found cataloguing the materials on slavery in the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol was a parliamentary blue book on the British action against the African slavers in Lagos. One of the chiefs involved stated that if he won, he was going to shave the head of the British commander and make him carry his palanquin. Which sounds very much like a declaration that he intended to enslave him.

I think the area of the repatriation of objects looted from Africa is much more complicated morally than is being discussed and presented, and that African involvement in and culpability for the slave trade is being quietly glossed over in order to present a cosy, straightforward narrative of imperial aggression and guilt.

 

Vile! Priti Patel Withdraws Funding to Britain’s Only Centre Against Female Genital Mutilation

August 3, 2020

Yesterday, Mike over at Vox Political put up a very telling piece, which reveals precisely how low on their priorities is protecting vulnerable British girls from FGM. Priti Patel, the smirking minister, who believes it’s perfectly acceptable to conduct her own foreign policy for states such as Israel behind her own government’s back, and thinks that British workers should suffer the same horrendous wages and working conditions as the exploited masses of the developing world, because they’re too lazy, has decided to cut the funding to this country’s National FGM Centre. This was set up five years ago to combat Female Genital Mutilation, otherwise known as female circumcision. Feminists have also described it as ‘female castration’ because of its truly horrific nature. It’s the only centre protecting girls from communities across the UK from it. The centre’s head, Letheen Bartholomew, warned that FGM will not end if it is forced to close because of the cuts. Mike quotes her as saying:

“We will not be there to protect the girls who need us. We know that FGM is still being practised in communities across England.

“There are still girls who are being cut and so will face a lifetime of physical and emotional pain. It is a hidden form of child abuse.”

Mike connects this to the sadism in the Tory party generally, and their need to inflict pain and suffering on innocents. He also points out that Patel herself wanted to deport a girl so that she could undergo this truly horrific practise. There’s no way it can be decently described in a family blog, and it does seem to vary in severity. At its worst it leads to a lifetime of agonizing medical problems and health issues, including childbirth.

One of the communities in which girls are at risk is my own city of Bristol. A few years ago the local Beeb news propgramme, Points West, carried an item about girls of African heritage, who left vulnerable to it, and the courageous efforts of campaigners from these communities to combat it. This was when it was a pressing issue and voices were being raised across the country demanding that it should be fought and outlawed. And now that we find that the outrage has calmed down and it is no longer in the public consciousness, the Tories are doing what they have always done in these circumstances: they’re quietly ending it, hoping that nobody will notice. It’s served its purpose, which was to convince the public, or the chattering classes or some section thereof that the Tories really do hold some kind of liberal values, and are prepared to defend women and people of colour. But like everything they do in that direction, it’s always essentially propagandistic. It is there to garner them votes and plaudits in the press and media. And once it’s done that, these and similar initiatives are always abandoned.

Patel’s decision also shows you how seriously Johnson takes the general issue of racism and racial equality after the Black Lives Matter protests: he doesn’t. Not remotely. Remember he was going to set up an inquiry to deal with the issue, just like the last one the Tories set up under May when the issue raised its ugly head a few years ago. I admit that FGM is only one of a number of issues affecting Britain’s Black and BAME communities. It may not the most common, but it is certainly one of the most severe to those affected and there should be absolutely no question of the Centre continuing to receive funding. Young lives are being ruined. But Boris, Patel and the rest really can’t care less.

Part of the motive behind the Black Lives Matter protests, it seems to me, is that Britain’s Black communities have been particularly badly affected by austerity and neoliberalism. They aren’t alone – there are plenty of Whites and Asians that have similarly suffered. But as generally the poorest, or one of the poorest, sections of British society, which has suffered from structural racism, the Tories attacks on jobs, wages and welfare benefits has been particularly acute for them. It has contributed to the anger and alienation that led to the protests a few weeks ago and such symbolic acts as the tearing down of the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol.

But now that the protests seem to be fading, the Tories are showing their real lack of concern despite the appointment of BAME politicos like Patel to the government.

And underneath this there’s also a very hypocritical attitude to the whole issue of FGM on the political right. Islamophobes like Tommy Robinson and the EDL use it to tarnish Islam as a whole. It’s supposed to show that the religion as a whole is dangerously misogynist, anti-feminist and fundamentally opposed to modern western conceptions of human rights. In fact the impression I have is that FGM isn’t unique to Islam, but practised by various African and other cultures around the world. Islamic scholars have said that it has no basis in Islam itself, but is a pre-Islamic practice that was taken over as the religion expanded. There have also been attempts by campaigners in this country and the European Union to pass legislation very firmly outlawing it. A few years ago there was even a bill passing through the European Parliament. But UKIP, whose storm troopers had been making such a noise about FGM and the fundamental incompatibility of Islam and western society, did not rouse themselves from their habitual idleness to support the motion. And this was noticed at the time.

There seems to be a racist backlash coming on after the Black Lives Matter protests. The Tories are trying to recruit members on the internet by stirring up concerns about the waves of illegal immigration. Over the past few days there have also been pieces stuck up on YouTube about this, and related issues from the usual offenders at TalkRadio, Julia Hartley-Brewer, and ‘Celebrity Radio’ Alex Belfield. My guess is that if we wait long enough, FGM will be revived once again by the right as another metaphorical stick to attack Muslims and brown people.

But all the while it should be remembered that the Tories wanted to tell us they were serious about tackling it. They weren’t, and aren’t.

And that tells you all you need to know about their attitudes to race, women and the poorest members of society generally, regardless of gender and ethnicity.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/08/02/tory-cut-killing-uks-only-centre-to-stop-female-genital-mutilation-is-in-line-with-priti-patels-behaviour/

 

Petition Started to Sack Keir Starmer as Leader of the Labour Party

June 26, 2020

There’s been outrage after Keir Starmer sacked Rebecca Long Bailey from her position on the shadow cabinet yesterday. Her crime was simply tweeting about an interview with the actress Maxine Peake in the Independent. Peake and RLB had condemned the training of US police by the IDF, who had taught them to keep suspects and protesters down by putting their knees on their necks. It was this hold that had killed George Floyd. RLB had begun her tweet by stating that systematic racism was a global issue, mentioning that the American cops were taught the hold from seminars with the Israeli security forces.

This outraged the Zionist fanatics and the Tories, like the Tory peer and Murdoch hack Daniel Finkelstein, John Rentoul, the keeper of the Blair flame in the Labour Party, and the noxious Dave Rich, who immediately declared that RLB was peddling an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory and demanded Starmer sack her. But it isn’t a ‘conspiracy theory’. It’s solid fact, as established and verified by Amnesty International. Mike in his piece about this disgraceful scandal has supported RLB’s statement through passages from Amnesty reporting that law enforcement officials from a series of American states – Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, Arizona, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Georgia, Washington State, and the police of Washington DC, have travelled to Israel for training. He has also reproduced a passage from the Jerusalem Post reporting that a city in North Carolina has actually banned training and other forms of exchange between their police and the IDF because of the IDF’s brutal repression and maltreatment of the Palestinians. He also points out that what RLB said was not anti-Semitic. She did not say Jews had taught the police the use of the technique. She had said the IDF. The two are not synonymous, no matter what Marie van der Zyl of the Board of Deputies wishes to claim.

Starmer, honouring his obligation to the Board after he signed their ridiculous and highly manipulative 10 pledges, has asked RLB to resign. This was angrily attacked by the peeps on Twitter, including Simon Maginn, Kerry-Ann Mendoza, Ash Sarkar, and Tom London. Even Owen Jones, who has supported the anti-Semitism smears, called it an absurd overreaction.

But as Mike himself has pointed out, Starmer has not sacked Rachel Reeves, the odious right-winger in the party who laid a wreath at the statue of Nancy Astor. Astor was the first British woman MP, but she was also a vicious anti-Communist and anti-Semite, who thought that Adolf Hitler was the right man for Germany and tackling both of these issues.

Mike has also reproduced RLB’s own series of Tweets explaining and clarifying her comments. She states that she put up an previous clarification of her comments, which had been agreed by Starmer, but was told to take it and her retweet down. This means that Starmer is using her Tweet as a pretext to get rid of her. It’s all part of his campaign to purge the Labour Party of the left, and anti-Semitism is just the pretext, not a real cause.

Long-Bailey’s sacking tells us all we need to know about Keir ‘double-standard’ Starmer and his racist Labour Party

In fact under Starmer Labour has allowed racism to go unpunished. But it’s the racism of his supporters against Blacks and BAME MPs, supporters and activists.

Zelo Street in its article also quotes the Middle East Eye, which states

The Israeli police force has tried to distance itself from any perceived imilarities, issuing statements denouncing what happened and stating that its officers are not trained to use knee-to-neck techniques. But photographs taken as recently as March have shown Israeli forces using the same restraint on unarmed protesters just yards from the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City”.

The Street concludes

‘The training of US law enforcement officers by the Israeli military is not an “anti-Semitic conspiracy theory”. It’s not “5G level stuff”. No-one “blames Jews”. But this does enable pundits to look away from holding a catastrophically inept Government to account.

And it allows the Tories to get away with rather more blatant anti-Semitism. The kind that none of those bleating at Maxine Peake seem to notice. I’ll just leave that one there.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/06/maxine-peake-and-no-anti-semitism.html

Tony Greenstein, the long-time critic of Israel and Zionism, was so incensed by Starmer’s actions that he has put up an article that also proves very clearly that the training of American cops by the IDF is most definitely not a ‘conspiracy theory’ but solid fact. he has this quote from Neta Golan of the International Solidarity Movement.

“When I saw the picture of killer cop Derek Chauvin murdering George Floyd by leaning in on his neck with his knee I remembered noticing when many Israeli soldiers began using this technique when we were protesting in the West Bank sometime in 2006.”

He has also stated that Starmer’s support for Black Lives Matter is hypocritical, as the Israel lobby despises BLM because it also criticises and condemns the Israeli state’s maltreatment of the Palestinians. He provided more than ample evidence of this in an article he put up yesterday.

See https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/06/for-6-years-black-lives-matter-were.html

He also notes that this isn’t about attacking anti-Semitism. It is about defending the Israeli apartheid state and the bi-partisan imperialist foreign policy in the Middle East that Labour shares with the Tories. He states that a racist and imperialist cannot be leader of a socialist party, and has therefore set up a petition calling for Starmer to go. A link to it is in his article on RLB’s sacking at:

https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/06/its-time-for-starmer-to-go-israels-use.html

I think this link should also take you there if you put it in the search box.

http://chng.it/CJg7z8QNGY

I’ve signed it, as I agree absolutely with what Tony, Mike and Zelo Street have all said. This isn’t about anti-Semitism. It’s simply using the anti-Semitism smears to justify the unjustifiable – apartheid in Israel, and the smearing and purge of entirely decent, anti-racist people from the Labour Party in favour of racist red Tories.

If you feel the same, please consider signing Tony’s petition. Though I’m afraid that it may provide Starmer with more names of people he can purge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Artist Wants Her Statues Put Up on Colston’s Plinth

June 21, 2020

Since the statue of the slaver Edward Colston in Bristol was pulled down from its plinth and thrown into the docks, there’s been a debate over what should replace him. Mike posted up a few Tweets from people giving their suggestions in his post about the statue’s forcible removal. One of these suggested that as the Ladies’ Abolitionist Society in Sheffield was the first to demand the emancipation of the slaves, a statue should be put up to them. I disagree, because although there should be a monument to them, it should be a matter for Sheffield to commemorate its great citizens, rather than Bristol. It’s for this same reason I got annoyed with a piece on Channel 4 News yesterday in which a Black sculptress spoke about how she would like her statues put up on Colston’s plinth.

She had created a series of sculptures of male and female slaves with the title We Have Made the World Richer. These depicted various figures from the history of slavery and the enslavement of Africans. The first two were of a man and woman, who had been newly enslaved. They had a slogan stating that they had been torn from their homes. Then there was a couple of plantation slaves, with the slogan ‘We Are Brave’. And there were more. I think there were something like six or eight statues in total. The statues had previously been exhibited in parliament, but had garnered little comment from the MP. Krishnan Guru-Murthy, interviewing her, asked her why this was. She felt it was because it was too raw and powerful for them. She described the fall of Colston’s statue as ‘cathartic’, and felt that the empty plinth should be taken up with one of hers. When Guru-Murthy asked her if Bristol knew she was coming, she laughed and said that she hoped they did now.

It would be entirely right for the plinth in Bristol to be occupied by a slave, representing one of Colston’s victims. But the statue and/or its artist should ideally be people, who actually had connections to the city. I wonder if there’s a local Black artist from somewhere like St. Paul’s or Stokes Croft that could create one. From the way the woman spoke, it was clear that she wasn’t a Bristolian and had absolutely no connection with it or its people. I wonder if she even knew where the city was or even that there was such a place before the events a week or so ago. It looked to me to be rather opportunistic. She was an outsider looking for a space for her art, and thought she’d found it in Bristol. There are also problems with the size of the plinth itself. It is only big enough to hold a statue of one person, not the many she created. Presumably one of the statues would have to be on the plinth itself while the others were arranged around it.

The vast majority of slaves traded by Bristol were taken to the West Indies, but there were some and free Blacks in the city. One of the villages just outside Bristol has the grave of Scipio, the enslaved servant of one of the local aristocracy. One of the bridges over Bristol’s docks, which is cantilevered with two, gigantic, trumpet-shaped horns, is called ‘Pero’s Bridge’ after another local slave. There is also a slave walk around the docks, and memorial plaque on one of the former warehouses by Bristol’s M Shed to the countless victims of Bristol’s trade in slaves. And the subjects of two existing sculptures in the city, John Wesley and Edmund Burke, were also opponents of the slavery and the slave trade. Burke, the city’s MP, whose Reflections on the Revolution in France became a foundational text for modern Conservatism, condemned slavery in an 18th century parliamentary debate. I believe Wesley also attacked in a sermon he gave at the Methodist New Room, now John Wesley’s Chapel in Broadmead in Bristol. I think that after 1745 Methodists were forbidden to own slaves.

I also wonder if figures from national history might make more suitable subjects for sculptures. Like Mary Prince, a West Indian slave from Bermuda, who was able to gain her freedom when her masters took her to London. The Mansfield judgement had officially ruled that slavery did not exist under English law, and so slaves brought to Britain were, in law, free. Prince got her freedom simply by walking away. She joined the Anti-Slavery Society in 1823, and her account of her life as a slave, The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave, was published in London in 1831. Another British slave, who gave his voice to the abolitionist campaign was Louis Asa-Asa. Asa-Asa had been enslaved by the French, but gained his freedom when a ship carrying him put in at Cornwall. He was the author of a pamphlet, How Cruelly We Are Used, which was also published in 1831. I also suspect that there are other people in Bristol’s history, whether slaves or White abolitionists, who deserve to be commemorated but at the moment nobody knows about.

Without going into the murderous fear of outsiders of the League of Gentlemen’s Edward and Tubbs and their slogan ‘a local shop, for local people’, the vacant plinth should be occupied by a figure from Bristol’s history. Even if it is only someone, who simply visited the city as part of an abolitionist speaking tour. Many of Britain’s towns and cities had abolitionist societies, like those of Sheffield, and I’d be very surprised if Bristol didn’t have one. Even if the city did officially celebrate the failure of abolitionist bills before the eventual emancipation of 1837.

 

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

June 15, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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