Posts Tagged ‘Surrealism’

The CAA and the JLM are the Israel Lobby’s Version of the ‘Anti-Paki League’

February 24, 2018

The Anti-Paki League were another bunch of extreme right-wing racists, who goose-stepped up and down our green and pleasant land in the 1970s campaigning against coloured immigration, and terrorising Blacks and Asians. They had an ugly name, which exactly expressed the ugliness of the organisation. I first became aware of the Leagues existence when I saw a book on them in the former Midland Educational bookshop in Bristol’s Broadmead in the ’70s or early ’80s. The cover showed a crowd in Klan robes about to behead a prone and screaming Black man.

I’ve chosen the Anti-Paki League to focus on here, rather than other, larger anti-immigrant and racist organisation, like the National Front or BNP, because their name also carries with it undertones of Islamophobia. Pakistan is a Muslim state. It was explicitly set up to be the country where Muslims, who felt excluded by the dominant Hindus in India, could live in according with Qu’ran and the Sunna. Not all Pakistani immigrants are Muslim, however. Many of them have been Christians, who have left their homeland because of the increasing violence and intolerance of their Muslim compatriots.

And Islamophobia and connections to other, nakedly Fascistic British anti-Muslim organisations, run right through the Israel lobby and its organisations like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Labour Movement. The racism and Islamophobia at the heart of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism is very clear in its statement that Muslims are more likely than the rest of the British population to be anti-Semitic, whom they also smear as sharing the same Jew hatred.

As for the JLM, their head, Jonathan Newmark, an unconvicted embezzler from Jewish charities, if the allegations against him are true, turned up to disrupt a film on the sufferings of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation, held at the SOAS university. They did so in the company of the Jewish Defence League, the Jewish branch of the Fascist English Defence League, screaming, hurling abuse and waving flags.

Mike’s been unfairly accused of being an anti-Semite, because the uncomfortable facts he covered about Shai Masot’s attempts to plot the removal and replacement of prominent cabinet ministers, which he rightly described as a conspiracy, was held to be an ‘anti-Semitic trope’.

Well, turning up to a screening of film to disrupt it by flag-waving racial nationalists is a Fascist trope. Since the time of Mosley’s BUF, the stormtroopers of the British Nazi right have used appropriated the Union Flag and other emblems of Britishness for their insignia and rallies. The National Front despised Mosley, but they adopted the same tactic to try to win over members.

And Fascists also aggressively disrupt anti-racist and left-wing gatherings, including films. The parallel to their JDL’s disruption of the film on the Palestinians that comes to my mind is the attack Christian Fascists in France in the 1920s made on the screening of Bunuel’s and Dali’s Surrealist film, L’Age d’Or. As Marxists, the Surrealists were extremely anti-religious with a bitter hatred of Christianity. The French Christian far right objected to the film because it showed a monstrance being thrown into a river, and ended with a group of skeletons lying on a rock wearing clerical vestments such as bishop’s mitres.

And the Israel lobby’s connection to mainstream British Islamphobic Fascism don’t end there. A few months ago Jonathan Hoffman, another prominent member of the Israel lobby was photographed getting very chummy with Paul Besser, the intelligence officer of Britain First, if ‘Intelligence officer’ in this context isn’t a contradiction in terms.

These are fake anti-racist organisations. They don’t exist to protect Jews from real anti-Semitism. They exist to defend Israel and its racist oppression of the Palestinians by pretending to defend Jews from anti-Semitism. And they do this by smearing Israel’s critics, including self-respecting secular and Torah-observant Jews, as anti-Semites.

They are Fascists. The CAA should lose its charitable status, and the Jewish Labour Movement, as a Fascist organisation, should be closed down. Real socialists and anti-racist activists should not be tolerating any racist organisation, no matter what it’s ethnicity is, in their party.

Blade Runner 2049: ‘Time to Live’

September 1, 2017

This is another trailer for the forthcoming sequel to Blade Runner, Blade Runner 2049. Described as a ‘featurette’, it’s a short film mixing scenes from the film with soundbites from the stars Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling, the director Denis Villeneuve, and various members of the production crew, including its art director, and the director of the original classic himself, Ridley Scott.

It begins with Ford describing the immense impact of the scope and look of the original movie, and says it’s great to be back in his character’s, Deckard’s, old clothes. He’s glad they fit. Ridley Scott says he had no idea at the time the first movie came out that it would be so iconic. Later he says that it was meant to be a stand-alone movie, but there’s always more than you can tell in a two hour film. The production team tell how they wanted to preserve the look of the original, while also doing something that was ‘divergent’. And Villeneuve says that he never felt anxious while making it that Scott was watching over his shoulder.

I put up a previous trailer for Blade Runner 2049, the short prequel, Nexus Dawn, yesterday, and said that, while I’m looking forward to the film’s release in October, I also have mixed feelings about it. The film is now rightly regarded as one of the classics of science fiction cinema. It was a dark, dystopian vision of the future, that also mixed in French film noir, to create a dismal but stylish ‘Future Noir’. I’m afraid that the original is such a classic, and has set the standards so high for its sequel, that it will be simply impossible for the film to fulfill them, no matter how good it is. I think part of the problem many people were disappointed with the Star Wars prequels, and Scott’s prequels to the original Alien film, Prometheus and Covenant, is partly because these films are also cinematic classics.

There’s also the problem that part of what made these films classics was that at the time, they had a unique quality or vision that set them far apart from other films of the same type. In the case of Star Wars, it was Lucas’ creation of an entire galactic society, complete with its own form of mystical religion in the force, as well as the superb special effects. The spaceships and robots looked good. The film also broke with previous SF movies in that the technology looked used. I can remember reading in Starburst that it was the first SF movie to ‘dirty up’ the spacecraft. Rather than everything appearing antiseptically clean, the ships in Star Wars looked like people actually flew and maintained them in real conditions, in working hangers full of grease and whatever people in A Galaxy Far, Far Away use for enjoy oil.

In Alien, you also had the dirty, worn look of the spaceship Nostromo. It was dark, and dingy, stacked with equipment, and looked like what it was supposed to be: a functioning industrial complex, built for work, not beauty. And then there was the weird, biological design of the alien spacecraft the Nostromo’s crew encounters and explores, with the space jockey and the Alien itself, all designed by the Austrian surrealist, H.R. Giger.

The imagery and designs of these films have been so influential that they’ve become part of the stock visual language of much of the science fiction that followed them, to the point where it might be difficult for some younger film enthusiasts to understand just how exciting and revolutionary they were when they first came out.

As for Ridley Scott’s comment that he had no idea that Blade Runner would become the classic it is, this is very true. It flopped in the cinemas. This was partly because the studio didn’t think audiences were intelligent enough to work out what was going on, or understand some of the future slang, so they insisted that Ford also did a voiceover during certain scenes. There’s a rumour that Ford thought it was such a bad idea, that he deliberately made his voice as flat and monotone as possible in the hope the result would be so terrible the studio wouldn’t use it. But they did. And unfortunately it did affect the way audience received it. Put bluntly, it made the film a laughing stock. A friend of mine went to see it – he was a few years older than me – and he said that people in the cinema were laughing at the voiceover.

What saved the movie were the fans, who discovered it on video, who turned it into a cult movie, so that its audience and reputation increased. This reached the point where it allowed Scott to do something that had never been done before: he released a director’s cut of the film. Which critically removed that stupid voiceover.

And the result of that long process of rediscovery and growing appreciation is that the original movie is a cinematic classic. Blade Runner 2049 has a lot to live up to, but I’m really looking forward to it.

Chris Foss on Working with Giger and Moebius on ‘Dune’

April 24, 2017

Chris Foss is one of the great masters of British SF art. Apart from painting numerous book covers, he also worked as the concept artist for Alien, Superman, and the version of Dune that was being made by the Franco-Chilean surrealist, Alejandro Jodorowsky. Sadly, his work for Alien and Dune was never seen. Ridley Scott rejected his depictions of the ‘Nostromo’ for alien, as he thought it was far too interesting and would distract the audience from the main action. And despite extensive preparation, Jodorowsky’s Dune was never made. The studio pulled the plug at the last minute. It wasn’t a wasted effort, however, as the work Jodorowsky and the French comic artist, Moebius, had put into Dune was used by them as the basis for the comic book series, the Metabarons.

A documentary came out a few years ago about the making of Jodorowsky’s Dune. Jodorowsky states that he wanted it to blow the audience’s mind. It was to have the effect of taking LSD, but without actually using the drug. Certainly the concept art looks truly awesome. Apart from Foss and Moebius, Jodorowsky also employed as concept artist H.R. Giger, the creator of the ‘Alien’. Giger produced various designs for Vladimir Harkonnen’s cast, and for a train, very much in his distinctively nightmarish style. Among the actors lined up for the film were Orson Welles as Vladimir Harkonnen and Mick Jagger as Feyd Rautha. Jodorowsky’s son, Brontes, was to play Paul Atreides. And the Emperor of the Galaxy would be played by the great surrealist egotist himself, Salvador Dali. But only for half an hour. So Jodorowsky and his team intended to fill in the rest of the time, that have been occupied by Dali, by using a robotic version of him. It’s a pity that the film was not made, as with those artists and performers, it truly would have been a genuinely mind-blowing experience.

In this clip, Foss talks about how wonderful it was working with Moebius and Giger, but says that he enjoyed it because what he was doing did not interfere with them, and their work did not interfere with his own. Looking on YouTube a few years ago, I found that Foss had put up a series of short videos about himself and his work, so if you’re interested, try looking to see if they’re still there.

Trailer for Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant

December 26, 2016

Looking through YouTube on Christmas Day, I found a trailer for the next instalment in the Alien franchise, Alien: Covenant. Directed by Ridley Scott, this follows on from his not-quite Alien prequel, Prometheus, which came out in four years ago in 2012. The blurb for this runs

Ridley Scott returns to the universe he created, with ALIEN: COVENANT, a new chapter in his groundbreaking ALIEN franchise. The crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world. When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape.

Directed by Ridley Scott

Starring Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Amy Seimetz, Jussie Smollet, Callie Hernandez, Nathaniel Dean, Alexander England, Benjamin Rigby.

The trailer shows the Covenant landing, and a scene with one of the David robots, played by Michael Fassbender. On landing, one of the crew steps on a bizarre set of bulbs, which releases some kind of spore. There is also a proper Alien egg hatching, ready to birth a facehugger. The sequence begins with one of the female characters refusing to let one of the other women out of room with a man, who is clearly in the agonies of some kind of transformation, or the eruption of an Alien from their body. It ends with two lovers in a shower having their tender moment interrupted by an Alien attack.

According to the YouTube page, it opens on May 19th.

This is another movie that I’m looking forward to, along with the sequel to another of Scott’s SF masterpieces, Blade Runner 2049.

The Alien has now become one of the classic Hollywood monsters, alongside the Predator, and older creatures like the Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolfman. Several critics have pointed out that Alien was basically a ‘B’ movie, but treated like a Hollywood main feature. I’d say that this was a fair statement. The basic story – alien gets on board spaceship to run amok killing the crew – was the storyline of another, very definite ‘B’ movie of the 1950s or ’60s. The same critic remarked that it could have – and very nearly did – come from Roger Corman, the great director responsible for churning out any number of them. Fortunately, Dan O’Bannon, the script writer, objected and the studio found Ridley Scott instead. What elevated the movie far above it’s ‘B’ movie plot were its stylish direction by Scott, its superb special effects and the way its script broke a number of conventions and gender stereotypes. It was one of the first SF movies to have a strong female lead in Ripley. Another critic has pointed out that as well as breaking gender stereotypes, Ripley also broke another Hollywood convention in that she was basically a hard, by-the-book character. These types usually die before the end of the movie, but not before they perform some noble gesture that shows they’re OK really. Ripley goes by the book, and doesn’t want to let Kane in to infect the ship with whatever attacked him. She’s right, but it’s a hard attitude, and she’s overridden by Ash, who appears to be acting from simple compassion. The reality is otherwise, and, as everyone whose watched or heard of the film knows, carnage ensues. But Ripley survives to the end, and finally beats the monster.

And, of course, what really made the monster one of the classics was its unique quality and the dark beauty of its realization by Swiss Surrealist H.R. Giger. The Alien’s two-stage life cycle – facehugger and then the monster itself, is genuinely alien. It isn’t like anything on Earth. Its gestation inside humans is based on the ichneumon moth, which lays its eggs in captive caterpillars. These serve as living larders as the developing larvae hatch and eat their host from the inside. It plays on the fear of parasitism, and was intended by the writer and director to make the men in the audience afraid of rape and a malign pregnancy, rather than women.

And when it finally emerges and develops, the monster itself does not look like anything on Earth. The film was before CGI and a little before animatronics, so it really was another ‘man in a rubber suit’. However, it’s design was so unique that it didn’t look like one. It was both cadaverously thin, like a spindly, distorted human corpse, but with an insect carapace. It also had a tongue with its own mouth and set of teeth, and appeared to lack any kind of external sense organs. There are no eyes or ears that you can see. Finally, there are the strange tubes emerging from its back.

Stylistically, it was one of the biomechanical creatures that formed Giger’s oeuvre. These were a disturbing mixture of the biological and mechanical, so that organically derived shapes had the shapes of, and acted like, machines. The Alien was so uniquely strange and disturbing, that it’s influenced the design of other malignant beings from space since then. The aliens in Independence Day show Giger’s influence, as did the ‘Sleazoids’ in an X-Men storyline of about the same time, and the Cythrons and their armour in the Slaine strip in 2000 AD, for those comic fans of a certain age.

There’s also supposed to be an Alien 5 in production, which will apparently see the return of Ripley, Newt and the surviving Space Marine from James Cameron’s Aliens. I don’t know much about this, however.

The Alien franchise is now 3 1/2 decades old, and like Hammer Horror’s Dracula, or Star Wars, doesn’t seem to show any signs of stopping. From the trailer it looks like the latest instalment could be well worth going to, if you’re a fan of what Mark Kermode has called ‘gribbly monsters.’

Vox Political on the Government’s Privatisation of the Prisons

May 19, 2016

Mike yesterday also put up a piece on Vox Political from the Canary, reporting that the government is planning a stealth privatisation of the prison system. They’re to be transformed into independent ‘reform prisons’, which can set their own wages and conditions for staff and inmates. It’s very much like the government’s stealth privatisation of the schools by transforming them into academies, especially as it’s being done by Michael Gove, the same person, who masterminded the school programme.

The Canary reported:

In the Queen’s speech on Wednesday, the government announced its new prison and courts reform bill. At the heart of the bill is the creation of several new “autonomous reform prisons” which, says the government:

“will give unprecedented freedoms to prison governors, including financial and legal freedoms, such as how the prison budget is spent and whether to opt-out of national contracts; and operational freedoms over education, the prison regime, family visits, and partnerships to provide prison work and rehabilitation services.”

It’s hardly necessary to say that business opportunities and profits also loom large in the Tory plans:

And, as with academies, the prison reforms will open up commercial opportunities for those in charge of them. Prison governors will have “unprecedented operational and financial autonomy”, says David Cameron. They will be given “total discretion over how to spend” their budgets. They will be able to “opt-out of national contracts and choose their own suppliers”. And, just to be clear, “we’ll ensure there is a strong role for businesses and charities in the operation of these Reform Prisons”.

There are a number of privately-run prisons in America, and these have been the subject of a number of scandals. As for-profit institutions, they do exploit prison labour, and lobby lawmakers and judges in their states to pass harsh anti-crime legislation and punishments, which will maximise the number sent to prisons. It’s very much like the old Stalinist system, where the gulags – the forced labour camps to which dissidents were sent – were used to industrialise the USSR. Local industry leaders gave the NKVD a list of the types of workers they needed, and the forerunner of the KGB then came round and arrested a few imperialist/Trotskyist/Fascist running dogs. Exactly the same is going to happen here.

The scandal has been covered by Michael Moore in his film, Capitalism: A Love Story, where he reports on the case of a teenage girl, who was sentenced to prison for what was basically just truancy. The judge, who sentenced her was in the pay of one of the private prison corporations.

And in America, the prisoners themselves have begun to strike back against what they see as their exploitation.

In the piece below from RT, their anchor talks to Jim Del Duca of the Incarcerated Workers Organising Committee about a strike by inmates in a Texas prison against their exploitation. Del Duca explains that the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States, did not do so for prisons. They see themselves very much as America’s new slaves. They’re paid 5 cents an hour for their work. This is not for the taxpayer, and the money saved does not go back to the state. Rather, it goes to the private corporations, who use prison labour. These include a wide range of industries, including construction, and the defence industry. Del Duca points out that the defence industry receives vast amounts of government funding and is immensely profitable. For the prisoners themselves, conditions are very different. Del Duca discusses the problem of overcrowding and increasing numbers of prisoners being crammed into gaols that simply weren’t built to hold that number. He also says that phone calls to family are immensely expensive, and if a prisoner wants to make a phone call for medical aid, this will cost him $100.

Finally, they discuss how members of the public can help the striking prisoners. Del Duca and his fellows are members of the Industrial Workers of the World, the Wobblies, a documentary on whom I posted up on this blog not so long ago. People can support the strike by joining the union, getting in touch with the striking workers, or simply refusing to buy goods produced by prison slave labour.

I have to say I find the prospect of prisoners going on strike bizarre and faintly comical, like something from some of the comedies of the 1970s commenting on strikes and industrial unrest in that decade. But there are serious issues here about the humane treatment of prisoners, the balance between punishment and rehabilitation, and simply not getting profit through slave labour.

Back in the 1920s the radical playwright and author, Antonin Artaud issued a manifesto for the Surrealists. In it, he urged the people to rise up, and open up the prisons and the lunatic asylums. This is going way too far, and the last thing anyone wants is more thugs, rapists, murderers, muggers, fraudsters and thieves running around. We’ve got far too many of those in the House of Commons as it is. But when faced with the grim exploitation of for-profit private prisons, you can see his point.

Vox Political: Stephen Crabb, IDS’ Replacement, Believes People with Progressive Degenerative Diseases Able to Work

March 26, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has written about how the latest sputtering from the new head of the DWP have effectively ended satire. Stephen Crabb, apparently an expert on such diseases, has declared that sufferers of brain tumours and progressive degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Motor Neurone are able to work. And so, presumably, they should not get any PIP or ESA, but the normal jobseeker’s allowance, until they are eventually sanctioned for not trying hard enough to get a job.

Mike states that this is beyond satire, because he commented in an earlier post about Crabb’s bizarre views on homosexuality. Crabb believed that homosexuality could be cured, and supported CARE, a Christian organisation that claimed it could cure gay people. In fact, gay cures don’t work. There have been a series of scandals in American involving these organisations, as well as concerns in the UK apart the potential harm they can do to the mental health of vulnerable people. Mike commented after Crabb announced his belief that there was a cure for gayness, that perhaps the new minister thought that Parkinson’s could also be cured.

And now he does.

Mike quotes Tom Pride as saying that satire died the moment this vile crew took power. Just like the pianist and satirist, Tom Lehrer, pointedly gave up satire after Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize after the bombing of Hanoi.

Mike’s article can be read at:http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/25/after-this-blog-joked-about-it-stephen-crabb-has-said-people-with-parkinsons-can-work-satire-really-is-dead/

Go there and be amazed at this pratt’s immense medical ignorance.

Now, I’m aware that some people might be able to work with Parkinson’s and Motor Neurone disease. Many years ago, I was interviewed for a place at Uni by a lecturer, who suffered from Parkinson’s. As I was told about his condition by one of the students, who was showing us around. He kindly told me about this gentleman’s condition so that I would not be alarmed when he did not stand up to greet me. It wasn’t because he was being hostile. It was because he was physically unable. I’m sure there are others like him that are able to keep working.

However, one of my own uncles, as Mike has already mentioned in the comments to his piece about Crabb, suffered from Parkinson’s. He was, like the lecturer, confined to a wheelchair and very definitely could not work because of the disease. It’s a progressively degenerative disease, which means it gets worse. It’s the reason we no longer see the American actor, Michael J. Fox, on our screens any more. He also suffers from this disease. It’s why he had to leave his hit series, Spin City. Crabb possibly believes people with Motor Neurone Disease can work, because he’s seen the severely disabled Stephen Hawking zooming around in his wheelchair and talking through his computer. Hawking is able to do so because he has the benefit of excellent care and computer engineers, which most people probably can’t afford. He has also been lucky enough to outlive vastly other sufferers from the Disease. I’m not expert, but from the reports about it on TV and the papers, it seems to me that most of the poor souls, who contract it only live for about two or three years at most.

My point here is not that there aren’t some fortunate souls who are able to carry on working, but that many, the majority of sufferer’s, can’t. And this should be enough for the government. If a doctor, a properly qualified doctor, not some paid clerk with Unum or Maximus, who just ticks boxes, says that a sufferer cannot work, then that should be enough for them. Anything else is pure bureaucratic quackery and pseudoscience based on right-wing wishful thinking.

As for Crabb himself, his occupation of the place vacated by IDS reminds me of another quote from the Surrealist artist, Fascist supporter and pervert Salvador Dali. During his sojourn in America, Dali declared that his aim was ‘to cretinise the public’. Dali was, however, despite his considerable personality flaws, one of the greatest painters of the 20th century. Looking at the Crabb and the current members of the cabinet, his desire to reduce the public to sheer imbecility seems to be pointless. Cameron and his big business paymasters have clearly found a better way to lower intellectual and moral standards by promoting the culpably stupid, like IDS, Osbo, and now Crabb.

UKIP, Islamophobia and the Loud Atheism Website

April 18, 2015

On Thursday, Hope Not Hate published a piece UKIP’s Stretford & Urmston Candidate Thinks Islam is “Despicable” reporting that Kalvin Chapman, the UKIP parliamentary candidate for Stretford and Urmston, Kalvin Chapman, had posted a comment on the ‘Loud Atheism’ Facebook page attacking Islam. He described it as a ‘despicable’ and ‘f***ed up’.

The article’s at http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/ukip/ukip-s-stretford-urmston-candidate-thinks-islam-is-despicable-4397, if you want to see it.

Now I have the impression that this is pretty much par for the course for much of the ‘New Atheist’ movement. This is the form of organised atheism that emerged in late decade, led by Richard Dawkins, Sue Blackmore, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel C. Dennett. The movements critics have pointed out that by and large the New Atheism didn’t have any new arguments, except perhaps an extension of Darwinian theory to try and explain religious belief. In the case of Sue Blackmore and Daniel C. Dennett, it had an extremely reductive view of human consciousness that saw it as being nothing more than a series of biological computer programmes. Sue Blackmore in particular took this to its most logically absurd extent and denied consciousness actually existed.

If the arguments were largely the same, traditional arguments used against religious belief and organised religion, the presentation was quite different. It was much more vicious, vitriolic and intolerant. Atheist movements in the past have persecuted organised religion. Religious belief in the former Communist bloc was severely limited and fiercely persecuted, with religious believers killed or sent to forced labour camps. In the former Soviet Union the penalty for holding a religious service in your own home would see you arrested and your house demolished.

The older, atheist tradition in the West could be much more genteel. Angry revolutionaries like the Surrealist film-maker Bunuel and his counterparts could and did make blasphemous films and art attacking organised religion in general and Roman Catholicism in particular. In the 1950s they held a mock trial of the Roman Catholic church in a disused church just outside Paris, while the Surrealists’ leader, Andre Breton, wrote an article denouncing recent attempts to combine surrealism with Christianity, entitled ‘To Your Kennels, Curs of God’.

Against this, there were atheist intellectuals like A.J. Ayer and Ludovik Kennedy, who were much less personally abusive. Kennedy when he appeared on Mark Lamarr’s chat show, Lamarr’s Attacks, in the 1990s, was courteous and polite. A.J. Ayer became friends with a Jesuit priest after having a Near Death Experience choking on a piece of fish in hospital. It didn’t make him become a religious believer, but the incident does show that people of differing and opposed religious views needn’t be personal enemies.

The New Atheism, by contrast, was much more aggressive, with a far greater use of invective. Rather than merely being attacked intellectually, religious and religious belief should be actively discouraged and given much less tolerance. Richard Dawkins has been quoted by his critics as saying that religious believers should be humiliated and shamed into abandoning their beliefs.

The result of this is that some atheist websites have a reputation for abuse and invective, like P.Z. Myers’ The Panda’s Thumb, set up to defend evolution from creationism, and Raving Atheism. I was warned off the latter by a friend, who said it was just atheists being extremely blasphemous and abusive for the sake of it.

To be fair, this approach has its critics from within the atheist movement, many of whom are genuinely shocked at how extreme and bitterly intolerant the New Atheist rhetoric is. A few years ago one atheist writer published an article in one of the papers actually saying that Richard Dawkins’ made him ashamed to be an atheist. And within the last couple of years in particular a strain of Islamophobia has emerged within the New Atheist movement. Again, this has been exemplified by Richard Dawkins, who become the subject of further controversy because of his posts and tweets attacking Islam, particularly the low status of women in Islamic countries and Female Genital Mutilation. Chapman’s comments about Islam are part of this strand of New Atheism.

And the fear of Islam, or at least radical Islamism, may have been one of the catalysts of the New Atheism from the start. I was talking to a friend of mine a while ago about the origins of the New Atheism. I thought it was a reaction to the growth of Creationism and Intelligent Design, which recognises the emergence of new species over time, but claims this is due to the intervention of intelligent agencies, rather than the mechanism of random mutation and natural selection, suggested by Neo-Darwinian theory. I also wondered if it was also due to the accession to the Presidency of George ‘Dubya’, an Evangelical Christian, and the increasing power and influence of the Christian religious right in American politics.

My friend took a different view. He believed it was a reaction to 9/11 and the rise of aggressive Islamic terrorist movements, like al-Qaeda, and radical and aggressive Islamic political movements within the largely secular West, such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir. He stated that some of Atheists’, Agnostics’ and Secularists’ Societies set up on university campus in practice were little more than anti-Islam societies.

Now I don’t know how true this is. The AAS at Bristol University did not seem to be particularly interested in Islam, only in attacking religion in general. The events and lectures it organised seemed generally disrespectful, such as a social evening in which members were encouraged to dress up as their favourite religious figure. One of their lectures was a general account of traditional, religious beliefs about the creation of the world from antiquity onwards.

Now I do believe that if you are going to criticise religion, then this should extend to all religions, rather than just Christianity as the former majority, mainstream religion of the West. However, in the case of Islam at the moment, such criticism has become extremely dangerous. It can easily lead to the persecution of innocents, including racist attacks and the demonization of Islam generally because of the atrocities committed by the Islamist militants. This in turn may fuel the alienation and resentment in Muslim communities, and further the Islamists’ goal of their further radicalisation.

In the case of Chapman, I’m not surprised that his post against Islam was particularly splenetic, given the title of the website on which it was posted. What is worrying is that it comes from a prospective parliamentary candidate for a party that has developed a reputation for racism and a bitter hostility to Islam.

Radical Balladry and Tunes for Toilers: The Diggers’ Christmas Carol

May 26, 2014

Ballad Seller pic

Not only has Jess provided the words to tune of the Diggers’ Song, which I posted this morning and which I’ve put up in my last post, but she also sent the lyrics for another Digger Song, The Diggers’ Christmas Carol. This expresses the Diggers’ hatred for the forces they felt were oppressing society and preventing humanity from enjoying true fraternal love, in which the Earth and its fruits and bounty would be held in common. These were priests, and the tithes which supported them, lawyers, the manorial lords and the monarchy itself. Lawyers were resented because it was felt that they were venal and exploitative, prolonging and exacerbating disputes in order to fleece their clients. Lastly, the people were oppressed by the feudal lords and the monarchy, who owed their position in society only to their descent from the Normans, who conquered England in 1066. This followed the standard 17th century liberal view that feudalism was a result of the Norman Conquest. It’s not actually true. Anglo-Saxon England was also a feudal state, though rather less developed. Nevertheless, this view of the origins of the feudal aristocracy continued as part of the Liberal view of history into the 19th century. The Diggers rejected the aristocracy and feudal rule, not just because of the injustice of elite, oligarchical rule, but also because the aristocracy’s tile to the land was based on warfare and violence, something the Diggers themselves profoundly detested.

Here are the lyrics, as Jess has given them. She also mentions the work of Christopher Hill and Andrew Hopton and his Aporia Press, who have published editions of Gerrard Winstanley and other Digger writings.

This, though, is not usually included in ‘Digger Collections

“The Diggers Christmass-Caroll.

This for a Christmasse-Caroll was invented,
Which here unto your view is now presented;
‘Twas writ at that time which you Christmasse call
And had come forth then; but this is all
The reason why it came not forth before,
Because we thought for to have added more.
Accept of this therefore with all thy heart,
Thou maist hereafter see a Second part.

To the Tune of the Spanish Gypsie.

1.
You people which be wise,
Will Freedom highly prise;
For experience you have
What ’tis to be a slave:
This have you been all your life long,
But chiefly since the Wars begun.
2.
When great Men disagree
About Supremacy,
Then doe they warn poor men
To aid and assist them
In setting up their self-will power,
And thus they doe the poor devour.
3.
Yet they cunningly pretend
They have no other end
But to set the poor Free
From all their slavery:
And thus they do the poor deceive,
In making them such things believe.
4.
Their blinde Guides will not spare,
These things for to declare;
Ye they aloud will cry,
Stand for your liberty;
The Gospel that lyes at the stake;
Rise therefore ’tis time to awake.
5.
The Priests very sensible be,
If the poor their Liberty see;
Their Tythe-plundring trade will fall,
And then farewell Tythes all.
Then would they not be finely fed,
But they must work for their own bread.
6.
The King an Army did gain,
His power for to maintain;
That Army did pretend
For to be England’s friend,
In saving of their Libertie
Which lay at stake and like to die.
7.
Another Army then
Was raised by mighty Men,
That Army to oppose,
Looking on them as Foes:
Likewise these powers did agree
To make the English Nation free.
8.
A Covenant they did take,
And promises they did make
All burthens to remove,
And to unite in love;
Yet we cannot see that good hour,
The taking down of Kingly power.
9.
The Nation willingly
Did maintain this Army,
Their Freedom for to gain;
But as yet all in vain:
For still a Kingly power doth stand
In many persons of this Land.
10.
A Kingly power I say
Doth in most men bare sway,
But chiefly in Lords of Mannors,
And in the Priests and Lawyers:
This Kingly power is their Self-will,
Which in this manner they do fulfill.
11.
The Priests they tyrannize,
By taking of the Tythes;
The poor they much oppresse
By their pride and idlenesse:
No Scripture warrant they can show,
Why any of these things they do.
12.
Therefore I pray consider,
And lay your heads together;
For you will never thrive,
Whilst Priests do gain the Tythe.
But let them work as well as you,
For Reason bids them so to do.
13.
They neither plow nor sow,
Nor do they reap or mow,
Nor any seed do finde,
But Priests the people grinde:
The tenth of all things they do crave;
And thus each man is made a slave.
14.
The Lawyers they are next,
By whom the poor are vext;
Their practice is most base,
For they will plead mens Case,
According to the length o’th’ Purse,
And so the Lawyers prove a Curse.
15.
Another trick they have,
The Nation to inslave;
Mens quarrels they’ll maintain,
Their Moneys for to gain:
Therefore if Lawyers you uphold,
They’l cheat you of your silver & gold.
16.
Therefore my brethren dear,
The Lawyers quite Cashiere;
Go not to them for Law,
For they your sides will claw;
They’l tell you that your case is good,
When they doe mean to suck your blood.
17.
Therefore be rul’d by me,
And do not Lawyers Fee,
But end your suits at home,
Lest you be overthrown;
For if Lawyers gain your estate,
You may repent when ’tis too late.
18.
Besides the Priests and Lawyers,
There be the Lords of Mannors,
Who lay claim to waste Land,
Which by blood-shed was gain’d;
For Duke William the Norman King,
By much bloodshed this land did win.
19.
When he this Land had gain’d,
He presently Ordain’d,
That his chief Souldiers should
This Land by parcels hold,
Owning him to be the Supream,
In paying tribute unto him.
20.
From hence came Lords of Mannors,
VVith Fines, quit-Rents and Heriots,
And all such cursed things,
Which are payed to these Kings:
And thus the people be broughtdown
By Lords of Mannors who wear the Crown.
21.
The Lords of Mannors, I say,
Do bear a mighty sway;
The Common Lands they hold,
Herein they are too bold:
They will not suffer men to till
The comon Lands, by their good wil.
22.
But Lords of Mannors must know,
Their title to Commons is low;
For why their title came in
By WILLIAM the Norman King.
But now the Norman successor is dead,
Their Royalty to th’ Commons is fled.
23.
Therefore let me advise
All those which Freedom prise,
To Till each Heath and Plain,
For this will Freedom gain:
Heriots and Fines this will expell,
A bondage great men know full well.
24.
For we do plainly see,
The Sword will not set’s free,
But bondage is increased,
Because our wealth is wasted
By paying Taxes and Free-quarter,
Expecting Freedom would com after.
25.
But Freedom is not wonn,
Neither by Sword nor Gunn:
Though we have eight years stay’d,
And have our Moneys pay’d:
Then Clubs and Diamonds cast away,
For Harts & Spades must win the day. ”

Robert Coster; “The Diggers mirth or, certain verses composed and fitted to tunes, for the delight and recreation of all those who dig, or own that work, in the Commonwealth of England. Wherein is shewed how the kingly power doth still reign in severall sorts of men. With a hint of that freedom which shall come, when the father shall reign alone in his Son. Set forth by those who were the original of that so righteous a work, and continue still successful therein at Cobham in Surrey. ”

Christopher Hill edited a selection of Winstanley’s work “The |Law of Freedom”, 1973. But mention should also be made of Andrew Hopton’s “Selected Writings of Gerard Winstanley, 1989.

Hopton’s publishing venture, Aporia Press, reprinted many scarce and otherwise unobtainable tracts from the Thomason Collection.
http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelprestype/prbooks/thomason/thomasoncivilwar.html

One of the bizarre works of 17th century mysticism from the British Civil War, A Fiery Flying Roll, published by Aporia, was for a long time one of the items listed in the Counterproductions’ catalogue. Counterproductions were a radical London bookshop, specialising in Anarchist and radical artistic literature – Decadent, Dada and Surrealist, as well as contemporary fringe literature and general high weirdness. Another of Aporia’s items which was also included in their catalogue was a radical appeal to stop people enlisting in the army for Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland. That’s important, and it’s a pity more people didn’t take heed of it, as then the atrocities Cromwell committed against the Irish people would never have occurred, and relations between Britain and the Emerald Isle would have been just that bit better.