Posts Tagged ‘The Enlightenment’

Wellcome Museum Purges Display on History of Medicine to Include African Shaman – A Piece of Cultural Relativism That Will Also Damage Blacks

February 24, 2023

This comes from a piece our favourite YouTube historian, Simon Webb, put up on History Debunked a few days ago. He was attacking the new policy towards the museum that has come in with its new director, a woman whose degree is in the arts. Before, according to Webb, the museum was excellent, covering the history of western medicine in rigorous detail and including displays of operating theatres. Much of this, however, has been junked because the new director has deemed it ableist, racist and colonialist. The gallery to its founder, Wellcome himself, has also gone because he did not hold the current, mandatory beliefs. In their stead a gallery has erected containing two photographs showing the horrors of colonial experimentation on Black Africans along with one Mrs Eruditu, a self-professed African shaman, who conducts healing ceremonies and will counsel visitors to the gallery traumatised by the pictures. Webb calls her a witchdoctor, and describes her as completely mad, as she believes inanimate objects also possess consciousness. She doesn’t like the British Museum and the Egyptology displays, because the exhibits there have told her that they want to be underground. Nor does she approve of the display of a Native American totem pole in the Musee Nationale in France, as this has told her psychically that it wants to be out in the open air. Webb states, quite correctly, that western medicine has produced amazing advances in combating disease and extending the human life span. This new policy is a direct attack on that.

I think Webb, if he’s right about the Museum’s new policy, and he seems to be, has an excellent point here. He views it, no doubt, as another attack on western culture in the name of anti-racism, anti-imperialism and post-colonialism. He is, unfortunately, also very likely right about this. There have been pieces on YouTube by other right-wingers attacking the current policies of the Museums Association, which are all about this. I’ve got a feeling that Manchester Museum has also fallen to these new policies, and that they are also reviewing their collections as a result. But this policy is also harming Black and particularly Black African advancement in ways which the founders of the ‘Science Must Fall’ movement, which is ultimately at the heart of this, probably don’t understand.

The ‘Science Must Fall’ movement was a South African campaign to decentre western science because it rejected indigenous knowledges about the world rooted in myth and legend. There was a video on YouTube of a student debate in one of the South African universities, in which a Black female student urged her White comrades to decolonise their minds and accept that tribal rainmakers could indeed make it rain. People are welcome to whatever mystical or religious beliefs they choose, providing these don’t break the law. But they are separate. Back in the 90s, the late Stephen Jay Gould, a biologist and palaeontologist, attempted to end the war between science and religious by stating that there were No Overlapping Magisteria (NOMA). Science dealt with fact, and religion with issues of meaning and values. Of course, militant atheists of the Dawkins type disagreed and thought that it was a capitulation to unreason. Gould’s wrong in that religion and science do overlap, but as a general point I think it’s fair. Science and religion, as a general rule, are separate.

I am also sure that the new director is right, and that Blacks were experimented on by surgeons and doctors in the past. It certainly happened in America, where one of the great surgeons of the 19th century experiment on Black women without anaesthetic. I read somewhere that H.G. Wells was partly inspired to write The Island of Dr. Moreau by accounts of a German doctor experimenting on Black Africans. But you have to be very careful in making such judgements. A while ago I provoked an angry reply in a piece I had written for the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. I was talking about the history of medicine in the context of space exploration. One of the books I had consulted for the piece described one particular pioneering doctor of tropical medicine as a quack for his theories and treatment of diseases. Unfortunately for me, one of the other senior members of the Society knew him, and wrote to me stating that he was a dedicated, humane man of science. The problem was that he was facing completely new diseases unknown in the west and which nobody knew how to treat. This is a good point, and I wrote to the aggrieved gentleman apologising for the inadvertent smear and issued a correction to the Journal. I wonder if some of the other pioneering doctors and surgeons, whose work has similarly fallen into disfavour, were like the man I mentioned – a sincere medical man, working in the unknown.

Underlying the attempts to decentre western science are two related attitudes. One is the fact that many displaced, colonised peoples have been harmed by the destruction of their own, indigenous world view. This has left them without meaning, resulting in alcoholism and drug addiction in many indigenous communities like the Amerindians in the Americas and Aboriginal Australians. The other is the belief in the Noble Savage, in which indigenous communities like them are somehow better, and more noble than moral than White, western society. The attempts to decentre western science and include indigenous myth and religion are attempts to restore dignity to these colonised peoples.

But African paganism also has its dark side. The priests of one of the cults in Nigeria were actively involved in the slave trade, to the point where the Nigerian equivalent of the saying that someone has been sold down the river literally translates as they ‘have been stolen by the Oracle’. There is also a widespread belief in witches and witch hunting all across the continent. Many of the accused, as in the pre-modern west are women, and some of the trials are just as deadly. In one Nigerian ritual, the accused woman is given the Calabar Bean, a poisonous vegetable. If she doesn’t vomit it out quickly, she’ll die, and so be judged a witch. There have also been professional witch hunters of the same stripe as the infamous Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins, of Civil War England. Way back in the 19th century one of the Zulu kings went on a witch-hunting campaign. Witchsmellers, the indigenous Zulu witch hunters, were engaged and duly pointed the finger at a number of suspects, who were duly executed. A European official talked to the king, and said this all looked very dubious, and wondered if the witchsmellers were right in their accusations. The king laughed, said he wondered too, and had all one hundred of them executed as frauds.

And then there’s muti, which is really sinister. This is the sacrifice of humans, often young children, for their body parts, which are sold to the sorcerer’s clients to bring them good luck. I put up a piece I found on one of the YouTube channels about the amazing efforts of a Black British woman against it in Uganda. But it also appeared in Britain back in the early part of this century. The cops dragged the spine of a murdered boy, Adam, wrapped in various pieces of coloured cloth out of the Thames. The cloth’s colours were those of the muti cult, and it looked like child, probably 12 years old, had been sacrificed. And some African anthropologists have defended such murders. A little while ago one of them presented such a paper at an anthropological conference in Manchester. They claimed that these sacrifices were morally acceptable because Africans had a collective morality that saw that the sacrifice of an individual could benefit the community. Bear in mind that we are talking about the murder of children, whose body parts, including their genitals, are considered most effective if they have been hacked off while the victim was still alive. I believe that the anthropologist presenting the paper was asked to leave.

Indigenous African religion has also been the tool of White supremacist governments to keep Black Africans firmly in their very subordinate place. A few decades ago, a Zulu shaman, Credo Mutwa, had a book published in this country, in which he explained his mystical beliefs and practises. From what I’ve read, it was a mixture of native Zulu lore and western occultism, aimed at the New Age crowd. It was reviewed by the sceptical UFO magazine, Magonia, who were very scathing. Mutwa, they claimed, had been a stooge of the Apartheid South African government during their retribalisation campaign. This stressed the indigenous, separate identities of the various South African tribes, who by then had become a Black proletariat. The intention was to keep the Black population divided so they were too weak to successfully challenge the Apartheid government.

Magonia have also several times stated that these books extolling the joys of indigenous life without western science and technology are all aimed at westerners, who have no intention of living like their ancestors did. I think it’s a fair point. The satirist Alan Coren expressed similar sentiments, set in a European context, in one of his pieces for Punch back in the 1970s. It’s about a very middle class, academic couple, who take over a French village and undo centuries of civilisation in order to return to them to what they see as the inhabitants’ natural, pre-Christian, pre-scientific state. But they themselves have no intention of rejecting scientific modernity. The piece ends with one of them stating he intends to write a paper on it. I think the same mindset is at work here.

As for Eruditu’s beliefs about the British museum and its exhibits, this is just animism, pure and simple, the belief that every rock and object has a soul. But I’ve heard very different things about the unhappy state of some of the exhibits. I’ve got a strong interest in psychical research, and a few weeks ago went to an online meeting about ghosts and hauntings in the British Museum. The Egyptology section has something of a cult as some of the visitors there are worshippers, who leave offerings. One spiritualist visitor, a medium, is supposed to have said that the mummies like being on display, as they feel they have a role to teach, but are frustrated at not being able to communicate with the living. This, of course, is completely the opposite of what Eruditu has said, and you can take or leave either or both depending on your attitude to mysticism. I many people are unhappy about the dead being excavated and put on display in museums, and don’t need a mystic to tell them this. But Egypt is certainly one of the great, founding civilisations of humanity, and Egyptology has massively extended our knowledge of the human past and this civilisation’s undeniable achievements and contribution.

Back to Africa. Way back in the 1980s I read an article by a Black African historian, a Muslim, who had presented his own series on the continent’s history on the Beeb. He lamented the fact that the west’s scientific and technological knowledge, inherited from ancient Greece and Rome, was not being transmitted to Africa. He’s right. After all, India and China have made massive strides in development this century because they have embraced science and technology. Sun Yat-Sen, the Chinese revolutionary who founded the Kuomintang, said at the beginning of his movement that ‘We say hello to Mr Science and Mr Democracy’. Sadly, democracy in China got left behind, but science has been taken up with a vengeance so that the country is now a centre of serious technological innovation in space and robotics. And it was helped in this by the early translators of western scientific texts, who referred to it not as western science, but as ‘the new science’. Something similar may well be needed in Africa.

This attempt to decentre and stigmatise western science and medicine has the potential to seriously harm Black advancement. I do think that there is a genuine potential for science and technology in Africa that is currently untapped and stifled. And Webb complained a few months or perhaps a year ago about a piece in New Scientist, in which a Black, female scientist called for more Blacks in lab coats. This movement, which sees Blacks and other indigenous peoples as non-scientific, runs counter to that. It reminds me of some of the scathing criticisms of non-western cultures by the early orientalists, who felt that these peoples would not be capable of assimilating western culture.

And I dare say the promoters of this movement would accuse me of racism, but I am afraid that there are real dangers of encouraging the dark side of African religion and spirituality through an uncritical acceptance of such shamanism.

If Webb is right, then the new director has not only ruined a once great museum, but she’s part of a larger movement that poses a threat to the whole tradition of the Enlightenment, a movement that genuinely endangers scientific advancement for some of the world’s peoples, who most need it.

The Lotus Eaters Reject Objective Moral Values

January 8, 2023

This is a bit abstract, but as it involves issues about the objective reality of moral values and justice against moral relativism, it needs to be tackled. A few days ago the Lotus Eaters published an essay on their website by Helen Dale, which denied that there were such things as objective moral values. This followed an conversation on YouTube between Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Gasbag, and the philosopher Peter Boghossian, in which Sargon was also arguing that objective moral values don’t exist. People, including myself, have taken the mick out of Sargon, pointing out that he’s not university educated and that at one point his standard response to his opponents seemed to be to ask if they hadn’t read John Locke. But Sargon’s bright and is well-read in political philosophy, albeit from the Conservative, Libertarian perspective.

Which seems to be where his denial of objective morality comes. Conservatives since Edmund Burke have stressed the importance of tradition, and from what I remember of Sargon’s debate with Boghossian, he was arguing that concepts like human rights and democracy are the unique products of western culture. These notions are alien and incomprehensible to other culture, such as Islam, which have their own value systems, notions of justice and ideas about their ultimate grounding. Now Sargon does have a point. Human rights seem obvious to us, because we have grown up in a society in which such notions have developed over centuries, dating back to the 18th century and beyond, going back to the Roman idea of the Lex Gentiles, the Law of Nations. This was the idea that there were fundamental assumptions about justice that was common to all nations and which could be used as the basis for international law. And the Enlightenment philosophers were confident that they could also discover an objective basis for morality. This has not happened. One of the problems is the values which are to be regarded as fundamental also need supporting arguments, and morality has changed over time. This can be seen in the west in the changing attitudes to sex outside marriage and homosexuality. Back in the early 20th century both were regarded as immoral, but are now accepted. In the case of homosexuality, moral condemnation has been reversed so that it is the persecution of gays that it rightly regarded as immoral. The philosopher Isaiah Berlin was aware of the changes in morality over time, and deeply influenced by the 17th century Italian philosopher Vico. His solution, as someone who bitterly hated Stalin’s USSR and its tyranny, was to argue that although objective moral values didn’t exist, there were nevertheless moral values that acted as such.

I can see some positive aspects to Sargon’s position. If it is accepted that western ideas of truth and justice are just that, localised western notions, that it prevents them from being used as pretexts for foreign imperialist ventures like the Neo-Con invasions of the Middle East. It brings us back to the old, pre-War American conservative values that held that America had no business interfering in the political institutions and concerns of other peoples. But it also leaves the way open for cultural relativism and the justification of despotic regimes. If there are no objective moral values, then there can be no firm moral objections to obvious injustices, such as the genocide of the Uighurs in China or the Taliban’s recent decision to deprive women of university education. From what I’ve been reading, Chinese nationalist communists dismiss such ideas of democracy and human rights as baizuo, which translates as White liberal nonsense. And the Fascists and Communists Sargon despises were also moral relativists. Both Mussolini and Hitler also declared that each nation had their own set of unique moral values and that liberal notions of justice and humanity did not apply to their regimes. In a number of his speeches Lenin denied that there were any eternal moral values, but that these changed instead with each historical epoch, as determined by the economic structure of society at the time. This opened the way to the horrendous atrocities committed by the Nazi and Soviet regimes.

The Lotus Eaters are also staunch enemies of wokeness, but Critical Theory in its various forms also relativizes traditional morality and attitudes arguing that these too are merely the local intellectual products of the west, and specifically White heterosexual elite men. This has led to Postcolonial Theorists betraying feminists and human rights activists in nations like India, by refusing to criticise these cultures repressive traditions, or instead blaming them on western imperialism.

My own belief is that there are indeed objective moral values although human moral intuitions have changed over time. Notions of democracy and human rights may have their origin in the west, but they are nevertheless universal and universally applicable. This does not mean that other cultures may not adopt and adapt them according to their own cultural traditions. In the case of Islam, there are any number of books by the Islamic modernists arguing that modern notions of human rights are perfectly in accordance with Muslim values.

For the sake of genuine humanity and international justice and the eradication of tyranny, we have to believe that there are objective moral values protecting human life and freedom.

Video on Archaeology’s Challenge to Enlightenment Accounts of Origins of States and Inequality

December 8, 2022

This is a fascinating video I found on Novara Media’s channel the other day. In it, host Aaron Bastani talks to archaeologist David Wengrow about the origins of the state and the development of social inequality. Wengrow argues that the evidence from archaeology challenges assumptions that prehistoric and preliterate peoples were incapable of rationally deciding for themselves what kind of societies they wished to live in. He gives examples from prehistoric Europe and North and South America to show that ancient and indigenous peoples not only did decide on the kind of societies they wanted, but were perfectly capable of reversing trends in their societies towards authoritarianism. One of the examples of this, which I found truly jaw-dropping, was one of the city states the conquistador Hernan Cortes made alliance with against the Aztecs. Unlike the Aztec empire, that state city was a democratic republic. He also talks about the influence on Enlightenment critiques of western society of a Huron Indian chief in Canada, who was an intelligent conversationalist able to hold his own in conversations about the nature of society to such an extent that French, British and Dutch colonial authorities invited him to dinner to talk this matter over.

Wengrow starts off by stating that modern political theory about the origins of society, as taught in politics courses, is completely divorced from archaeological accounts. The theory is based on the speculations of foundational Enlightenment thinkers like Hobbes and Rousseau, who admitted that they were speculating. But these accounts are now taught as fact. Archaeological research, however, is overturning previous ideas about the origins of urban society. For example, it was believed that agriculture and urbanisation were linked and appeared together as part of the Neolithic Revolution. But this is not the case. Excavations of the ancient city of Catalhuyuk in Turkey show that while it was an urban centre, although Wengrow hesitates to call it a city, show that its people were still hunter-gatherers, living by foraging rather than agriculture. And the same is true of the settlement at Amesbury at the time Stonehenge was being built. The people then had given up agriculture, although they retained animal husbandry. It appears they had tried growing crops and then rejected it in favour of foraging.

He then goes on to talk about the Huron Amerindian chief. He inspired a colonist from New France, who had been expelled from the colony, to write a book based on the chief and his dinner conversation when the colonist was penniless in Amsterdam. This became a massive Enlightenment bestseller, and inspired other books by Voltaire and others in which Chinese, Tahitians and other outsiders criticise European society. Wengrow states that the Indian societies surprise western Europeans because they were much less hierarchical than they were, and contact with these societies and the indigenous critics of western civilisation did influence European political philosophy. We easily accept that Europe took over many material products from these nations, but are much less ready to accept the idea that they influenced our ideas, even though the Enlightenment philosophers said that they had.

He also talks about Cahokia, a great pyramid and city state in the Mississippi valley in America. This appears to be another example of a society, in which people rebelled or simply walked away from authority and hierarchy. It was also another indigenous monument that was ascribed to everyone else but the native peoples when it was first discovered, and is now disrespected by having a road driven through it. When it was constructed, the local society seems to have been hierarchical. At the top of the mound is a structure from which all of the city could be viewed. But sometime after its heyday it was abandoned. The traditional reasons are that the climate changed, but Wengrow finds that unconvincing. What seems to have happened instead is that people simply got tired of living in such a society and walked away.

Tenochtitlan, one of the great cities in ancient Mexico, is another example of a strongly hierarchical society that underwent profound social change and became more democratic. Wengrow states that it’s a massive state, and they owe a debt to the French scholar who produced detailed maps of it. When it first emerged, it was hierarchical but then the nature of society changed. People started living in high-quality, single-floor homes. These were so good they were originally thought to be palaces, but now it appears they were villas occupied by ordinary citizens. At some point, the people of Tenochtitlan decided that they wanted a more equal society, to the extent that some scholars believe that there was a revolution.

Then there is the case of the democratic city state Cortes encountered. This really was democratic, as there are accounts of the debates in its assembly. This astonished the conquistadors, as there was very little like it in Europe at the time, except some of the Florentine republics. This all challenges the notion that once society develops to a certain extent and becomes complex, inequality also emerges and is very difficult to challenge or remove. These cases show that indigenous peoples could and did. He also argues that the same may have been true of slavery. The only successful slave revolt that we know of is Toussant L’Ouverture in Haiti. But Wengrow suggests there could have been thousands of other successful slave revolts in prehistory of which we are unaware. Slavery came about, he argues, from the expense of laying out offerings for the dead. In order to leave food and drink for the dead, the bereaved had to have access to the foods themselves and so they became indebted and dependent on the people who owned those resources.

He also talks about the problems in describing some of these urban centres as cities. There are huge sites in the Ukraine, but archaeologists are hesitant about calling them cities with some preferring other terms such as ‘mega-sites’ because they aren’t centralised.

Bastani asks him at one point about the problem of pseudo-archaeology. I think this came up because Graham Hancock is currently fronting a series on Netflix claiming that way back in prehistory there was an advanced society, but that it was destroyed in a global cataclysm. Wengrow states that quite often pseudo-archaeology is based on old and discarded idea, such as Atlantis. The people involved tend not to be anyone who’s ever been on an archaeological dig, and view archaeologists as spending their lives trying to hide some momentous secret from everyone. But it can act as an entry for some people to archaeology, and he doesn’t really like the sneering attitude of some archaeologists towards it.

Wengrow himself is an interesting character. He didn’t want to be an archaeologist originally, but came to it from acting. He also worked in the BBC Arabic service. He decided at one point he wanted to get a degree, applied to the best university he could, Oxford, and sent reams of applications to its various colleges. They turned him down. Then he was told that he should apply for a place on a course that was just being set up. One of the colleges was just setting up an archaeology course, so he did. When it came to the interview, he told the interviewer that he had always wanted to be an archaeologist. At which point she held up all the previous letters he’d written. But they admitted him, and he has now had a career teaching and excavating in places like Egypt.

He states that sometimes the pseudoarchaeology about a period or culture misses the point about what’s really interesting about it. He talks about the idea that the Sphinx was constructed before the pyramids, and admits that it’s actually a reasonable question. But if you go back to the predynastic period a thousand years before the pyramids were built, you come to the burial sites of one of Egypt’s first kings. This is fascinating, although you wouldn’t know it from the dry way it has been discussed in conferences and museums like the Petrie Museum. Excellent though these are, they talk about highly specialised subjects like pot typography which is excruciatingly dull if you want to know the wider picture. The early king’s tomb is composed of room after room of the bodies of the people and occasionally the animals that were slaughtered to accompany the king into the afterlife.

The interview is based on a book Wengrow wrote with a colleague, The Dawn of Everything. Sadly, after spending a decade writing it, the co-author died just a few weeks after its completion. The book has been widely praised, and has even inspired artistic pieces. He talks about a French woman, who composed a piece of music based on it. He regrets he was unable to attend its performance thanks to jet lag coming back from somewhere, but later met the lady when she came to Britain.

I know a little about some of what he’s talking about to have no doubt that he’s absolutely right. One of the seminars in the archaeology department at Bristol, which I attended, was about how cities like Catalhuyuk were established before the appearance of agriculture. One of the huge Neolithic sites in the Ukraine is discussed in the La Rousse Encyclopedia of Archaeology. The great mound of Cahokia is also discussed in a book I bought years ago on North American Indian archaeology. I wasn’t aware that the people of Stonehenge had given up growing crops, nor of the democratic city states in South America and Mexico. This is fascinating stuff.

He’s right about archaeology contradicting the ideas of Enlightenment philosophers about the origins of society, though I’m not sure how much of a problem this is. The philosophers he discusses – Hobbes and Rousseau – were Social Contract theorists. Social Contract theory is the idea that the state and society were set up when men came together to select an authority under whom they would live, so that their lives and property would be protected. Thus the first kings. These princes are the representatives of the people, and so from the 17th century onwards the idea developed that sovereignty lay with the people, who could revoke the power they had delegated to the prince. This was the view of John Locke. However, subsequent philosophers showed that this was just conjecture, and that it could have happened like that as the people at the time were using concepts that only subsequently developed after the foundation of states and kingdoms. I thought Social Contract theory was dead, and he closest it had to a modern advocate was John Rawls in his Theory of Justice. Rawls argued that if people were just disembodied entities wishing to chose the kind of society in which they would care to live, they would choose one that had the maximum freedom and justice for everyone, as that would also include them. Away from centrist politics, the anarchists have been keenly interested in anthropology and those indigenous societies where there is no central authority.

I’m not sure how well some of this would go down with Sargon of Akkad and the Lotus Eaters. They’ve developed an interest in archaeology, recently posting a video discussing Homo Erectus, along with the Norman Conquest and ancient Rome. But Sargon is a huge fan of John Locke and describes himself as a classical liberal. I don’t know whether archaeology’s findings about the origin of early states would contradict his ideas or not.

Critical Race Theories Rejection of Enlightenment Rationalism and liberalism

July 10, 2021

This is another short video from Simon Webb of History Debunked attacking Critical Race Theory. I’ve already put up a number of videos from right-wingers like Webb criticising CRT for its anti-White racism and its rejection of rationalism, logic and reasoned argument based on evidence in favour of Black prejudice and emotion, but this reinforces the point by quoting from the Critical Race Theorists themselves. This is the university textbook Critical Race Theory by Richard Delgado.

Webb has been moved to put up this video by a report in the Torygraph about the Royal Veterinary College deciding to decolonise its curriculum, assuming they can find anything racist or colonialist in courses about animal medicine and husbandry. However, the Critical Race Theorists at the school for vets describe the intellectual tradition of the White north as a ‘colonial legacy’. And in Delgado’s book, it is explicitly stated ‘Critical Race Theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, enlightenment rationalism and mutual principles of constitutional law.’ Webb points out that the rejection of Enlightenment rationalism is an rejection of the principle that issues should be tackled through evidence, logic and reasoned discussion. Instead Critical Race Theory elevates feelings and instincts. Webb makes the point that few people are aware of Critical Race Theory’s rejection of Enlightenment rationality, and that this rejection means it is impossible to reach any compromise with this cult’s believers. Without rational debate or discussion, there is simply no common intellectual framework through which compromise can be reached.

Although he doesn’t mention it in his video, such a rejection of Enlightenment rationalism in favour of feelings, especially racial feelings, is Fascistic. This isn’t hyperbole or exaggeration. Fascism explicitly rejected the Enlightenment values of rationality and debate, along with equality and liberal values, in favour of emotion and irrationalism. And obviously, there was an explicitly nationalistic and racist element in this. In Nazism, a German was supposed to instinctively know whether something was right or wrong through his or her membership of the German Volk. As for regarding Enlightenment values as a form of enslavement for Blacks, this is exactly comparable with Hitler’s rants about democracy being against the racial character of the German people, a Jewish plot to enslave them.

This aspect of Critical Race Theory isn’t discussed, and there have been any number of articles in what passes as the left-wing press – the Groaniad, Independent and I – defending it. But CRT’s rejection of the Enlightenment and embrace of Fascistic irrationalism should mean that no-one on the Left should touch it, for the same reason that no-one on the Left should ever embrace any form of Fascism.

I have similar issues with the whole notion of ‘White privilege’. This is supposed to be an anti-racist strategy through attacking the supposedly higher status of Whites rather than Black poverty. But ‘privilege’ is something one uses to describe the power and status of particular social classes, such as the aristocracy. It reminds me of the way Fascism, following the legacy of the French Revolution, divided society into the real and false nation. In the French Revolution, the real nation was the middle class and the masses, as against the aristocracy, who were to be hunted down and eradicated. James Lindsay, one of the left-wing critics of postmodernism, including Critical Race Theory, has expressed fears that if it carries on, the attacks will move beyond ‘Whiteness’ to Whites themselves and I’m afraid I can very easily see it happening. I imagine Robert Mugabe used much the same rhetoric to whip up his followers during his ethnic cleansing of the White farmers of Zimbabwe. And for all their gentle words, when BLM activists such as Sasha Johnson talk about founding Black militias, that’s another step taken towards real Fascism with the establishment of paramilitary foundations.

I am definitely not denying that there aren’t glaring racial inequalities in Britain, or that Blacks don’t need state action to assist them achieve equality. I am simply saying that Critical Race Theory has nothing sensible or reasonable to add to the debate through its race feeling and Fascistic irrationalism.

If this ideology is wrong for Whites, then it should also be wrong for Blacks. And the Groan, Independent and I are deceiving their readers by not discussing this and presenting Critical Race Theory as somehow left-wing, liberal and acceptable.

Ilan Pappe’s Demolition of the Myths of Modern Israel and Its Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinians

March 28, 2019

 

Ilan Pappe, Ten Myths About Israel (London: Verso 2017)

Ilan Pappe is an Israeli historian and activist, who has extensively researched and documented Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from its foundation in 1948 till today. Because of this, he was subjected to abuse and academic censure by the authorities and his university. He now teaches, I believe, at Exeter University. He has been a signatory of several of the letters from academics and leading members of the Jewish community defending Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters from the charges of anti-Semitism.

This book tackles the ten myths Pappe identifies as central to the history of modern Israel and its continuing dispossession of its indigenous people. The blurb for the book states

In this groundbreaking book, published on the fiftieth anniversary of the Occupation, the outspoken and radical Israeli historian Ilan Pappe examines the most contested ideas concerning the origins and identity of the contemporary state of Israel.

The “ten myths” that Pappe explores – repeated endlessly in the media, enforced by the military, accepted without question by the world’s governments – reinforce the region status quo. He explores the claims that Palestine was an empty land at the time of the Balfour Declaration, as well as the formation of Zionism and its role in the early decades of nation building. He asks whether the Palestinians voluntarily left their homeland in 1948, and whether June 1967 was a war of “no choice”. Turning to the myths surrounding the failure of the Camp David Accords and the official reasons for the attacks on Gaza, Pappe explains why the two-state solution is no longer viable. 

The book is divided into three parts. Part 11, ‘Fallacies of the Past’, contains the following chapters attacking these particular myths.

  1. Palestine was an empty land.
  2. The Jews were a people without a land.
  3. Zionism is Judaism.
  4. Zionism is not colonialism.
  5. The Palestinians voluntarily left their homeland in 1948.
  6. The June 1967 War was a war of no choice.

Part II, ‘Fallacies of the Present’, has the following

7. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.

8. The Oslo mythologies.

9. The Gaza mythologies.

Part III ‘Looking Ahead’

10. The two-states solution is the only way forward.

Conclusion: The Settler Colonial state of Israel in the 21st First century.

There’s also a timeline of Israeli/Zionist history from the 1881 pogroms in the Russian Empire to 2015 and the fourth Netanyahu government.

This is a short book, the actual text taking up 153 pages. Although it is properly documented with notes and index, it’s clearly written and seems to be aimed the general reader, rather than an exclusively academic audience. Much of it will be familiar to readers of the blogs of the great Jewish critics and activists against Zionist racism, like Tony Greenstein, Martin Odoni and David Rosenberg. He points out, for example, that Zionism was a minority movement amongst Jews before 1948, and that it was preceded by Christian Zionism, which wished to see the Jews return to Israel in order to hasten Christ’s return to Earth and the End Times, as well as more immediate religious and geopolitical goals. Some hoped that the Jews would convert to Christianity, while others, like Palmerston, believed that a western Jewish presence in the Holy Land would help shore up the decaying Ottoman Empire. Others associated it with restoring the glory of the Crusades. Most Jews at the time, however, were much more eager to remain in the countries of their birth. For Reform Jews and the Socialists of the Bund, this meant fighting for equality as fellow citizens and adopting wider European secular culture to a greater or lesser extent so that they could fully participate in the new societies from the Enlightenment onwards. So determined were they to do so, that Reform Judaism removed altogether references from their services to the return to Israel. They also rejected the idea of a Jewish state because they felt its establishment would cast doubt on their loyalties to their mother countries as proper English or Germans. Orthodox Judaism remained far more conservative, rejecting the Enlightenment, but still determined to remain in their traditional homelands because Israel could only be restored through divine will by the Messiah. Until he came, it was their religious duty to wait out their exile.

Nor was Palestine remotely empty, despite the Zionists maintaining that it was – ‘a land without a people for a people without a land’, as the Zionist maxim ran. 18th and 19th century European travelers noted that Palestine was very definitely occupied, and that ten per cent of its population was Jewish. Zionist settlers there found to their shock and discomfort that there were Arabs there, with whom they were going to have to live. And that these Arabs weren’t like them. Which shouldn’t really be surprising. However marginalised eastern European Jews were, they were still part of European society and so were bound to have certain aspects of their culture in common with other Europeans. As for the Palestinians themselves, they were perfectly willing to provide shelter and help to the early Jewish settlers when it seemed that they were simply migrants, who were not intending to colonise and displace them. They only became hostile, ultimately turning to violence, when it became clear just what the Zionists’ intentions towards them were. Pappe also points out that at the time the first Zionist communities were being founded, Palestinian society was undergoing its second wave of nationalism. The first was the general wave of Arab nationalism from the 19th century onwards, as the Arabs became conscious of themselves as a distinct people with the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire. The second was when the individual Arab nations, such as Syria and Egypt, became conscious of themselves and began demanding their separate independence. And these new, emerging Arab nations included Palestine.

The book also shows how Zionism is colonialism through comparing Israel with other White nations, like those of  North and South America, New Zealand and so on, where the indigenous people were massacred and their land seized for White colonisation. He  then shows how Zionist leaders such as David Ben-Gurion had planned in 1948 to cleanse what they could of the Israel state they were creating of its Arab population in order to ensure that Jews were in the majority. Thus Palestinian towns and villages were razed and their people massacred. At the same time, the Israelis spread propaganda that the Palestinians had somehow voluntarily left their homes, rather than fled. He also argues that the Israeli government was determined to exploit diplomatic and military tensions with Nasser’s Egypt and Syria in 1967 in order to manufacture a war that would allow them to seize the West Bank and the holy places of west Jerusalem, with their rich archaeological sites. Pappe shows that, whatever their composion, whether Labour, Likud, or, as in 1967, a coalition of parties across the Israeli political spectrum, successive Israeli government have pursued a policy of securing the greatest amount of land for Israel with the least amount of Palestinians. This has meant redrawing and redefining the boundaries of what is Jewish territory, with the intention of forcing the Palestinians into minuscule cantons or bantustans, to use the word applied to similar settlements in apartheid South Africa. The Palestinians were to have some autonomy within them, but only if the acted as Israel’s peacekeeper within those territories. This was the real intention of the Oslo Peace Process, which was unacceptable to Yasser Arafat and the Arab leadership because far from improving conditions for the Palestinians, it actually made them much worse. It was a deal that the Palestinians could not accept, hence the breakdown of the talks and the eruption of the Second Intifada.

Pappe describes the Israeli attacks on Gaza as an ‘incremental genocide’. He states that he has been reluctant to call it thus, because it’s a very loaded term, but can find no other way to reasonably describe it. Each stage begins with a Palestinian rocket attack, which kills very few Israelis, if any. The Israelis then launch massive counterattacks, killing hundreds, with names like ‘Summer Rains’, ‘Autumn Rains’, and then ‘Operation Cast lead’, which the Israelis claim are just reprisals against Palestinian terrorism. The goal is supposed to be the removal of the Hamas government in Gaza. While Hamas are an Islamic organisation, they were democratically elected and their rise was initially aided by Israel, who believed that the real threat to their security was the secular, nationalist Fatah.

The chapter arguing against Israel as a democracy shows that it cannot justly be considered such given the apartheid system that dispossesses and marginalises the Palestinians. Part of this apartheid is based on willingness or suitability for military service. Rather like the future Earth of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, civil rights are connected with national service. The Israelis disbar the Palestinians from serving in the armed forces on the grounds that the Palestinians would be unwilling to join them. But even here the Palestinians do the unexpected: a majority of them have shown themselves willing in a poll to join the Israeli army.

Pappe considers that the two-state solution, as a realistic solution to the Palestinian crisis, is near its end. Its only real purpose was to give the Israelis a justification for seizing the most land while dispossessing the indigenous people, who lived there. It will eventually fall, one way or another, because the Israelis are determined to colonise the West Bank and the siege of Gaza. He also makes the point that no discussion of the issue of human rights in the Middle East, in nations like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, for example, can be complete without including the 100 year long persecution of the Palestinians. At the same time, the West allowed Israel to emerge as a settler colonial state, at a time when settler-colonialism was being abandoned, partly out of guilt over the Holocaust. Germany in particular contributed a large amount of funding to the new state. But the foundation of Israel hasn’t solved the problem of anti-Semitism, only increased it. The discrediting of the ten major myths about Israel should ensure better justice for the Palestinians, and a fitting, proper end to the legacy of the Holocaust.

It’s a very effective demolition of the myths Israel uses and exploits to support its own existence and its policies towards the Palestinians. For example, Israel claims that its occupation of the West Bank is only temporary, while the facts on the ground amply demonstrate that it intends to be there permanently. Pappe is also extremely critical about the use of the Bible and archaeology to justify Israel’s occupation of Palestine. He seems to support the Biblical minimalists assessment that the Bible isn’t a reliable source of historical information. I don’t think this can be reasonably maintained, as while archaeology can’t be used to establish whether some episodes in the Bible are historically true, it does seem clear that ancient Israel undoubtedly existed, at least after the Exile and probably before then. But he certainly raises proper moral questions about the use of archaeology to justify the removal of Palestinian communities and their transformation into Israeli settlements on the grounds that they are really ancient Israelite towns and villages.

Pappe has always maintained that his countrymen are decent people, who just need the situation properly explained to them. He attempted to do this himself by holding open evenings at his home every Thursday night, in the Israeli village in which he lived. During these evenings anyone could come to his home and ask him what was really going on. These evenings eventually grew to such an extent that, despite the real anger and hostility against him by the academic and political establishment, he had 30-40 people in his front room. In the book he also properly pays tribute to the courage and determination of those Israelis, who are determined to challenge their country’s attacks on the Palestinians. If there is to be hope for the Palestinians, then they should surely play a part on the Israeli side.

I don’t know if there will ever be proper justice for the Palestinians. The Israel lobby has shown itself to be determined and expert at the demonisation of its opponents here in the West. That’s been shown in the recent expulsions of prinicipled anti-Zionists and anti-racists like Tony Greenstein, Ken Livingstone, Marc Wadsworth, Mike and now Jackie Walker on trumped up charges of ‘anti-Semitism’ from the Labour Party. But there are signs that the Israel lobby is losing its grip. They’re turning from Jews to Christian Evangelicals in America for support, while Ireland has recently passed legislation supporting the BDS movement. These are signs for hope. But the process will be long and difficult. This book, however, helps provide the means by which more people can fight back against Israeli and establishment propaganda to support a proper peace with justice, dignity and proper autonomy for Jews and Palestinians in a single state.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Prussian Confessional Church’s Denunciation of Nazi Genocide

March 20, 2019

One of the scandals of the Nazi regime was that the churches, who should have led the opposition to Nazism, did far too little to resist. And quite often the resistance that was offered was simply to preserve their own freedom against the demands and attempts at coordination by the Nazi state. Nevertheless, there were many heroic Christian clergy and lay people, who did resist Nazism, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who declared Hitler the Anti-Christ. 400 Lutheran pastors paid for their opposition by being murdered in Buchenwald concentration camp. The Nazis also devised a special emblem to be worn by Christian opponents of Nazis – Bibelforscher, ‘Bible Students’, as they were dubbed. This was a purple triangle, like the pink triangle worn by gay men and the black triangle of the ‘asocial’ and ‘workshy’. Most of those interned were Jehovah’s Witnesses, who refused to accept Hitler as a ‘secular messiah’.

In June 1936 the Confessional Church – a Lutheran organisation that had split off from the official National Church – issued the Barmen Memorandum attacking not only Nazi anti-clericalism, but also Nazi ideology, racial anti-Semitism, the perverted judicial system and the concentration camps. Some of those who signed it, including the head of the Confessional Church Friedrich Weissler, were imprisoned and executed. Seven years later, in October 1943, the Prussian Confessional Synod at Breslau denounced the Nazi extermination policy as unchristian. They declared

Concepts such as “rooting out”, “liquidation” and “unworthy life” are not known to the Divine order. The extermination of people solely because they are related to a criminal, or old or mentally disturbed or belong to an alien race is not a sword to be wielded by the state.’ This included ‘the life of the people of Israel’. Moreover, claiming that you were merely acting on orders was no defence: ‘We cannot permit superiors to relieve us of our responsibility before God.’

See: Karl Dietrich Bracher, The German Dictatorship (Harmondsworth: Penguin 197) 477.

D.G. Williamson, The Third Reich (Harlow: Longman 1982) 76.

James Taylor and Warren Shaw, A Dictionary of the Third Reich (London: Grafton Books 1987) 88.

I’m putting this up because the extreme Right in America and Europe is trying to justify its demands for the persecution of Muslims and their forcible removal or mass murder as the necessary defence of Europe’s Judaeo-Christian and secular, enlightenment heritage. The Nazis despise the Enlightenment and its doctrines of tolerance, humanity and the brotherhood of nations, which should serve as a warning to anyone who believes they can adopt their policies to defend it. And while many Nazis were Christians, and were supported by anti-Semites within the churches and wider German and European society, others like Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazis official ideologue, and Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, were fervently anti-Christian. Hitler himself was a pantheist. He had been raised a Catholic, but had very much turned against his upbringing. In his Table Talk he freely describes how unimpressed he was with his RE teacher at school, how since he was 12 years old he wanted to blow the Catholic mass up with dynamite, and how the Reich should found astronomical observatories all over Germany as part of a campaign to destroy Christianity. And one of the reasons the mainstream churches are uniting with Muslims to denounce the massacre in New Zealand is because of memories of the Third Reich, and the churches’ collaboration with the Nazis, as well as other atrocities committed through history in the name of religion.

The Barmen Memorandum and the 1943 condemnation of Nazism by the Breslau Confessional Church not just condemn Nazism, but also anyone else who seeks to exterminate other innocent people simply because they are of a different race or ethnicity. And that includes modern Western racial terrorists of the Nazi, Alt Right, or racial populist fringe, such as New Zealand murderer.  

Bakunin on the Sociological Origins of Crime

December 28, 2018

Here’s another passage from the anarchist Bakunin that’s still very relevant today, in Tory-run Britain. Bakunin was strongly impressed by sociology, and believed, like the French philosophes of the Enlightenment, that humanity and society were governed by laws. So strong was this belief, that he rejected free will completely. I very much reject this philosophical stance, along with his atheism and denial of divine providence, which he claimed made science impossible.

Humans do have free will and not just meat machines, running according to a set of biological or sociological imperatives, and while sociology is a powerful tool for investigating the basis of society and suggesting solutions to social problems, it’s very different from the natural sciences based on experiment and prediction. People are still responsible for their actions. Nevertheless, sociological influences are a powerful cause of crime. Bakunin discusses this in his piece ‘All Round Education’, quoting the stastician Lambert Queteler on the sociological origins of crime, which he believed were completely responsible for its incidence. Bakunin writes

A science of statistics is possible only because of this natural and social inevitability. This science is not satisfied with ascertaining and enumerating social facts but looks for their links to and correlation with the organization of society. Criminal statistics show, for example, that in a given country, in a given town, over a period of ten, twenty, thirty or more years, the same crime or misdemeanor occurs every year in the same proportion [to the total], if the fabric of society has not been altered by political and social crises. Even more remarkably, a given modus operandi recurs from year to year in the same proportion, for example, the number of poisonings, knifings, and shootings, as well as the number of suicides committed one way or another, are almost always the same. This led the famous Belgian statistician Quetelet to utter the following memorable words: ‘Society prepares the crimes while individuals merely carry them out.’

In Robert E. Cutler, Mikhail Bakunin: From Out of the Dustbin: Bakunin’s Basic Writings 1869-1871 (Ann Arbor: Ardis 1985), p. 122.

Now I can remember one of the postgraduate archaeological students at Bristol University making much the same point as Bakunin in a talk she gave explaining her research into the physical structure of one of Bristol’s historic hospitals. She said that the total number of prison and mental hospitals tends to remain the same, although the proportions of people going to one or the other changes. She went on to discuss the beneficial effects of natural light and contact with the natural world in healing hospital patients and reforming criminals. Despite pressures from government across the political spectrum to cut costs in the prison service and abolish them, prison farms have remained because of their demonstrably strong influence in reforming convicts.

At present, Britain is suffering a very high incidence of crime and suicide. The media has reported the shocking number of knife crimes in the capital. There has been a rise in hate crime, not just against ethnic minorities, including Muslims, but also against the disabled. Suicides have also increased, and as Mike, Stilloaks, Tom Pride and so many other left-wing and disability rights bloggers have pointed out, these have included disabled people, who were left in misery and starvation due to being thrown off their benefits. Several left notes explicitly stating that they were ending their lives due to sanctions by DWP, or being judged ‘fit for work’ under the Work Capability Tests.

Predictably, the Tories have held up their hands and claimed that there is no absolutely no link between their shabby, degrading and vicious welfare policies and the tragic deaths of these people.

This is a lie. The anti-immigration rhetoric and stance of many of the leaders of the ‘Leave’ campaign, and anti-EU parties and organisations like UKIP has led to an increase in racist hate crime. And the Tories are also responsible for stoking this hostility through their campaigns to get illegal immigrants to turn themselves, their attempt to deport the Windrush generation, despite the fact that they had a perfect right to stay in Britain, and the racist and islamophobic comments of many of their members. Like Boris Johnson and his wretch article describing women wearing the niqub as looking like dustbins and letterboxes. Only a tiny minority of Muslim women wear it, and many pro-Muslim political figures, like George Galloway are opposed to it. But Galloway also believed that women had a right to wear it, and condemned Johnson’s comments as racist. He was also bitterly critical of Johnson’s remarks along with many other people, including Mike on his blog, because after Johnson made them attacks on women wearing the burka increased. At least woman was killed. Despite this, the Tories concluded that BoJo’s article wasn’t racist, but ‘tolerant’ and ‘respectful’.

There have also been vicious attacks on the homeless and the disabled, again due to Tory policies and the rabid right-wing press, which demonizes the poor and the unemployed as scroungers and the disabled as malingerers. Thanks to rags like the Scum and the Heil, people believe that a quarter of all benefit claims are fraudulent, while the reality is that fake claims account for less than 1 one per cent of them.

The crime figures, and particularly the increase in hate crimes, clearly shows that the Tories have had a disastrous effect on British society, making it more suspicious, hateful and violent. Individuals are still responsible for the crimes they commit, but Quetelet’s and Bakunin’s views are correct. Society is a powerful influence in the amount of crime and suicide.

And the conclusion is undeniable: the Tories have prepared these crimes by deliberately creating a society where they are carried out, however much they scream and try to deny it. They have to be got out, before they cause any more attacks and deaths of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.

Three Arrows Attacks the Right-Wing Myth of ‘Cultural Marxism’

October 13, 2018

Three Arrows is a German vlogger, who makes videos attacking and refuting the lies and assertions of the internet far right. These are reactionary, anti-feminist and anti-immigrant – some would also say racist – personalities like Stefan Molyneaux, Jordan Peterson, Carl Benjamin AKA ‘Sargon of Akkad’ and Paul Joseph Watson, who was formerly Alex Jones’ little Brit buddy on Infowars. In the video below, he tackles the myth of ‘cultural Marxism’. This is the belief amongst the transatlantic extreme right that a group of Marxist intellectuals are trying to destroy western culture from within through feminism, immigration, postmodernism, gay and trans rights and other radical movements. They trace this movement back to the German Frankfurt School of radical Marxist thinkers, which included Horkheimer, Jurgen Habermas and Theodor Adorno.

I’m putting up this video as it is directly relevant to the issue of some of the extremist literature that was found at the Tory conference this week. Mike over at Vox Political reported a piece by Vice that an extremist pamphlet, Moralitis: A Cultural Virus, had been found at a meeting of the Thatcherite, right-wing organization, the Bruges group, at the conference. This used the metaphor of a virus to describe the spread of left-wing ideas, particularly a positive attitude to immigration and Islam. These were attacking western culture, and were being promoted and orchestrated by ‘Cultural Marxists’.

Three Arrows shows how similar the modern Right’s ideas of Cultural Marxism to the Nazi idea of Cultural Bolshevism. The Nazis also believed that the Bolsheviks were spreading radical cultural and intellectual movements to bring down traditional western, and especially German culture, with the Jews at the centre of this Marxist conspiracy.

The modern right-wing myth of cultural Marxism started with two Americans, Pat Buchanan and William S. Lint. Buchanan wrote two books, The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilisation and Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost its Empire and the West Lost the World. Three Arrows states that Buchanan is a palaeoconservative who has complained that there are too many Jews on the American supreme court. In the first book, he argued that the cultural Marxists, referring to the Frankfurt School, were trying to de-Christianise and subvert the country. This meant making America more open to issues like homosexuality. The second book argued that Britain should never have declared war on Nazi Germany, and the Holocaust was the consequence of its doing so.

Lint is more overtly right-wing and racist. He calls for hanging as the punishment for crime, but only in ‘urban areas’. Which is a dog-whistle reference to Black ghettos. In 1989 he told a conference that political correctness and cultural Marxism had turned American universities in little ‘North Koreas’, in which dissenters would be persecuted and punished by ‘gender feminists’ and homosexual activists. In 2002 Lint spoke at a conference organized by the Barnes Review, a Holocaust revisionist rag, in front self-described Holocaust revisionists, anti-Semites and neo-Nazis. The character of the rag is shown by the cover of the issue Three Arrows puts up, which shows Adolf Hitler at a rally, with the caption, ‘In Defence of Adolf Hitler’. Lint is not, however, a Holocaust denier. He again talked about how the Frankfurt school were responsible for the ideas destroying America, and said that they were all Jewish. For which he was greeted with rapturous applause from the stormtroopers.

Three Arrows then goes on to discuss how, contrary to what Buchanan, Lint and their successors believe, the Frankfurt school were very definitely not supporters of postmodernism, and wished to preserve western culture. Indeed, Jurgen Habermas was one of postmodernism’s fiercest critics. He attacked the founders and major figures in postmodernism – Jacques Derrida, Foucault and Nietzsche contradicted themselves by using the methods of western rationalism to attack western rationalism. He also criticized Nietzsche for destroying the unity religion had given wester culture. The Frankfurt School were also appalled at the uniformity and coarseness of modern culture and expressed this in terms that resemble some of the comments of right-wing mouthpieces like Paul Joseph Watson. The difference, however, was that Theodor Adorno, who voiced these criticisms of the modern culture industry, placed the blame for western cultural decline on capitalism. Horkheimer, Adorno, Lowenthal and the other members of the School wished to preserve and promote western values like rationality and personal freedom. They believed that capitalism itself threatened Enlightenment values, and some of them attacked postmodernism, pop culture and ‘political correctness’. Three Arrows also makes the point that they wouldn’t have supported changing the culture to bring about Communism, because this contradicted the Marxist doctrine that this could only be done through changing society’s economic base.

Three Arrows also makes the point that there is absolutely no evidence for this ‘cultural Marxist’ conspiracy. Wikipedia had to move its entry for it to that of the Frankfurt School, because none of its readers could provide any. There are no Marxist countries in the West. And in Three Arrows’ homeland, Germany, in which Marx was born, the two biggest Marxist parties – the German Communist Party and the Marxist-Leninist Party together got less than 0.1 per cent of the vote combined. He suggests that instead of a secret Marxist conspiracy, these changes in western society owe more instead to politicians and businesses adopting ‘political correctness’ to appeal to a wider audience. As for left-wing students, they have always been around, and some of them do stupid things. Like the two young women in the late ’60s who took off their clothes and started kissing Adorno as a protest against ‘patriarchal structures’. For which Adorno called the cops and had them removed.

Three Arrows then argues that the similarity between the Nazis’ Cultural Bolshevism and the ‘Cultural Marxism’ of modern right-wing internet pundits like Stefan Molyneaux, Sargon of Akkad and Paul Joseph Watson isn’t coincidental. They both require their audience to accept the existence of this conspiracy on their word alone, without any supporting proof. The only difference is that Molyneaux, Sargon, Watson and the others aren’t anti-Semites. For them, the group responsible for this conspiracy aren’t the Jews, but the globalists. But their opinions do validate the Nazis’ own conspiratorial beliefs about Marxism, even while they decry the Nazis’ actions and murder of the Jews.

Three Arrows also makes the point that Molyneaux et al are massively wrong about the ‘Decline of the West’. According to them, Germany should have collapsed several times over by now. But Three Arrows declares with biting irony that he has no doubt that the Caliphate will be declared soon.

This is a good, short account of the idea of cultural Marxism, which makes it clear that it is just another extreme right-wing conspiracy theory, advanced and promoted by fringe ideologues with no real understanding of what the Frankfurt School actually was. Buchanan, Lint and the rest of them have mixed it up with the ideas of the Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, who did believe that a change in culture could be use to alter social relations and society’s economic base.

As for Buchanan himself, he’s a Republican politician notorious for his extreme ideas. A pro-gun nut, he and his followers once went through a crowd
holding their guns in the air, crying ‘Lock and Load’ – basically, ‘take aim and fire’. Back in the 1990s he won an election in New Hampshire as part, I think, of the presidential primaries. The edition of the Radio 4’s Postcard from Gotham, a weekly show covering events in America over the previous week, began with a piece of Italian dialogue from the film Il Postino, which was then in cinemas. The show’s presenter, Joe Queenan, instead joked that it was Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini congratulating Buchanan on his success. He and his guests discussed the rise of the Right in America and Europe, and one of them, a Jewish woman, stated that despite his denials Buchanan was an anti-Semite. Going back to the subject of New Hampshire, Queenan joked yet again that now Buchanan had won the nomination for that state, all you could hear up there were cries of ‘Duce! Duce!’

Cultural Marxism doesn’t exist. It’s just a malicious conspiracy theory promoted by extreme right-wingers to attack the Left, and provide a spurious explanation for the social changes they fear and dislike – like gay rights, immigration, particularly Muslim communities and the decline of traditional morality. But while Cultural Marxism is a myth, those promoting it are a real threat to today’s culture of tolerance and pluralism.

Israel Based Journo Shows How Censorship of Steve Bell Cartoon Plays into Hands of Real Anti-Semites

June 11, 2018

Last week the editor of the Groaniad, Kath Viner, spiked a cartoon by the paper’s Steve Bell for supposed anti-Semitism. The cartoon commented on the complete indifference to the murder of 21 year old Palestinian medic, Razan al-Najjar by the IDF shown by Netanyahu and Tweezer. Bell depicted the two having a cosy chat by the fire, in which al-Najjar was burning. This was too much for Viner, who immediately did what the Israel lobby always does whenever the country is criticised for its brutal treatment of the Palestinians: she immediately accused the critic of anti-Semitism. The cartoon was anti-Semitic, apparently, because al-Najjar’s place in the fire was supposedly a reference to the Holocaust and the murder of the Jews in the Nazi gas ovens. Despite the fact that Bell denied that there was any such intention in his work, or indeed, any overt references to the Holocaust at all.

Bell was naturally outraged, and issued a strong denial. I’ve blogged about this issue, as has Mike, and Bell’s denial was also covered by that notorious pro-Putin propaganda channel, RT. And an Israel-based journalist, Jonathan Cook, has also come down solidly on Bell’s side and against censorship.

Mike posted a piece reporting and commenting on Mr Cook’s view and analysis of the case on Saturday. Cook is a former Guardian journalist, who now lives in Nazareth, the capital of Israel’s Palestinian minority. Cook praised Bell’s cartoon because of the way it held power to account, and indicted the powerful and their calculations at the expense of the powerless. He stated

In other words, it represents all that is best about political cartoons, or what might be termed graphic journalism. It holds power – and us – to account.

He then went on to describe how, by siding with Israel over the cartoon, the Guardian was siding with the powerful against the powerless; with a nuclear-armed state against its stateless minority. He then goes on to make the point that when criticism of Israel is silenced, the country benefits from a kind of reverse anti-Semitism, or philo-Semitism, which turns Israel into a special case. He writes

When a standard caricature of Netanyahu – far less crude than the caricatures of British and American leaders like Blair and Trump – is denounced as anti-Semitic, we are likely to infer that Israeli leaders expect and receive preferential treatment. When showing Netanyahu steeped in blood – as so many other world leaders have been – is savaged as a blood libel, we are likely to conclude that Israeli war crimes are uniquely sanctioned. When Netanyahu cannot be shown holding a missile, we may assume that Israel has dispensation to bombard Gaza, whatever the toll on civilians.

And when we see the furore created over a cartoon like Bell’s, we can only surmise that other, less established cartoonists will draw the appropriate conclusion: keep away from criticising Israel because it will harm your personal and professional reputation.

He then makes the point that doing so plays into the hands of real anti-Semites, and generates more:

When we fail to hold Israel to account; when we concede to Israel, a nuclear-armed garrison state, the sensitivities of a Holocaust victim; when we so mistake moral priorities that we elevate the rights of a state over the rights of the Palestinians it victimises, we not only fuel the prejudices of the anti-Semite but we make his arguments appealing to others. We do not help to stamp out anti-Semitism, we encourage it to spread. That is why Viner and the Guardian have transgressed not just against Bell, and against the art of political cartoons, and against justice for the Palestinians, but also against Jews and their long-term safety.

Mike goes on to make the point that we need to be more critical about the raving paranoiacs, who see anti-Semitism in Steve Bell’s cartoon, and also in Gerald Scarfe’s depiction of Netanyahu building his anti-Palestinian wall using the blood and bodies of the Palestinians themselves. This was attacked by Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador, as ‘anti-Semitic’, who claimed that it was a reference to the Blood Libel. It wasn’t, but the I apologised anyway. Mike goes on to say that there is no such thing as an unintentional anti-Semite, but authorial intentions are routinely ignored in these cases.

He then goes to state very clearly that as the authorial intentions of these cartoons weren’t anti-Semitic, Viner was wrong about Bell’s cartoon. Just as the Sunset Times, as Private Eye dubbed the rag, was wrong about Scarfe and Mike himself, as was the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. And so are the people, who’ve accused Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein and so many others of anti-Semitism. And in the meantime, Netanyahu gets away with mass murder.

Mike concludes

But Mr Cook is right – these attitudes only fuel real anti-Semitism among those who draw the only logical conclusion about what’s going on in the media, which is that the Establishment is protecting the Israeli government against censure for its crimes.

It suggests to me that all those involved in this charade have been creating problems that will come back to harm all of us in the future.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/06/09/israel-based-journo-shows-how-guardian-editor-helped-anti-semites-by-censoring-steve-bell/

Now part of the problem here could be certain developments in anti-racism and postmodernist literary theory. For example, some anti-racist activists have argued that there is such a thing as unconscious racism, and have used it to accuse people and material they have seen as spreading or legitimising racism, but without any conscious intent to do so.

In postmodernist literary theory, the author’s intent is irrelevant. In the words of one French postmodernist literary theorist, ‘all that exists is the text’. And one person’s interpretation of the text is as good as another’s.

Hence, those arguing that the above cartoons are anti-Semitic, could do so citing these ideas above.

Now there clearly is something to unconscious racism. If you look back at some of the discussions and depictions of racial issues in 1970s popular culture, they are often horrendously racist by today’s standards. But they weren’t seen as such then, and I dare say many of those responsible for some of them genuinely didn’t believe they were being racist, nor intended to do so. And unconscious racism is irrelevant in this case too. The accusers have not argued that these cartoons are unconsciously racist. They’ve simply declared that they are, without any kind of qualification. Which implies that their authors must be deliberately anti-Semitic, which is a gross slur.

As for postmodernist literary theory, the accusers haven’t cited that either. And if they did, it could also easily be turned against them. If there are no privileged readings of a particular text, then the view of someone, who thought Bell’s cartoon was anti-Semitic, is no more valid than the person, who didn’t. Which cuts the ground out from such accusations. That argument doesn’t stand up either, though here again, the people making the accusations of anti-Semitism haven’t used it.

Nevertheless, their arguments about the anti-Semitic content of these cartoons and the strained parallels they find with the Holocaust, or anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, are very reminiscent of the postmodernist texts the American mathematician Sokal, and the Belgian philosopher Bricmont, used to demolish the intellectual pretensions of postmodernism in their 1990s book, Intellectual Impostures. One of the texts they cited was by a French feminist arguing that women were being prevented from taking up careers in science. It’s a fair point, albeit still controversial amongst some people on the right. However, part of her evidence for this didn’t come from studies showing that girls start off with a strong interest in science like boys, only to have it crushed out of them later in their schooling. No! This strange individual based part of her argument on the medieval coat of arms for Brussels, which shows frogs in a marsh. Which somehow represents the feminine. Or at least, it did to her. For most of us, the depiction of frogs in a marsh in the coat of arms for Brussels is a depiction of precisely that: frogs in a marsh. Because, I have no doubt, the land Brussels was founded on was marshy.

But Cook and Mike are right about these accusations, and the favouritism shown to Israel, playing into the hands of anti-Semites.

The storm troopers of the right are very fond of a quote from Voltaire: ‘If you want to know who rules over you, ask who it is you can’t criticise’. Or words to that effect. Depending on whether the person using the quote is an anti-Semite or an Islamophobe, the answer they’ll give will be ‘the Jews’ or ‘the Muslims’.

Of course, their choice of the French Enlightenment philosopher is more than somewhat hypocritical. Voltaire hated intolerance, and in the early stages before it became aggressively anti-religious, the French Revolution stood for religious toleration. A set of playing cards made to celebrate it showed on one card the Bible with the Talmud, the Jewish holy book containing extra-Biblical lore and guidance, and the Qu’ran.

But by ruling that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, the Israel lobby very much appears to show – entirely falsely – that the anti-Semites are right, and that the Jews really are in control of the rest of us. It gives an utterly false, specious confirmation of the very conspiracy theories they claim to have found in the works of the people they denounce. The same conspiracy theories they claim to oppose, and which have been responsible for the horrific suffering of millions of innocent Jews.

It’s high time this was stopped, and accusations of anti-Semitism treated with the same impartial judgement as other claims of bias or racism. And false accusations should be firmly rejected as a slur, and apologies and restitution demanded from the libellers.

Gabriel Rockhill on the Myth of American Democracy

March 2, 2018

A few months ago, the Franco-American philosopher Gabriel Rockhill published a very interesting piece in Counterpunch arguing that, contrary to how the country sees itself, America isn’t and has never been a democracy. He notes that the British imperialists, who founded the Thirteen Colonies, weren’t interested in spreading rights or democracy, and that the Founding Fathers were also anti-democratic. They were like most of the other Enlightenment thinkers in that they were keen to defend to property from the mass of the propertyless, whom they associated with misrule and the mob. He points out that at the time the suffrage only extended to men of property, and excluded the poor, women, First Nations and slaves. The notion that the country was a democracy first appeared with Andrew Jackson, who styled himself as a democrat purely as an electoral pose without doing anything to extend the franchise. He writes

Second, when the elite colonial ruling class decided to sever ties from their homeland and establish an independent state for themselves, they did not found it as a democracy. On the contrary, they were fervently and explicitly opposed to democracy, like the vast majority of European Enlightenment thinkers. They understood it to be a dangerous and chaotic form of uneducated mob rule. For the so-called “founding fathers,” the masses were not only incapable of ruling, but they were considered a threat to the hierarchical social structures purportedly necessary for good governance. In the words of John Adams, to take but one telling example, if the majority were given real power, they would redistribute wealth and dissolve the “subordination” so necessary for politics. When the eminent members of the landowning class met in 1787 to draw up a constitution, they regularly insisted in their debates on the need to establish a republic that kept at bay vile democracy, which was judged worse than “the filth of the common sewers” by the pro-Federalist editor William Cobbett. The new constitution provided for popular elections only in the House of Representatives, but in most states the right to vote was based on being a property owner, and women, the indigenous and slaves—meaning the overwhelming majority of the population—were simply excluded from the franchise. Senators were elected by state legislators, the President by electors chosen by the state legislators, and the Supreme Court was appointed by the President. It is in this context that Patrick Henry flatly proclaimed the most lucid of judgments: “it is not a democracy.” George Mason further clarified the situation by describing the newly independent country as “a despotic aristocracy.”

When the American republic slowly came to be relabeled as a “democracy,” there were no significant institutional modifications to justify the change in name. In other words, and this is the third point, the use of the term “democracy” to refer to an oligarchic republic simply meant that a different word was being used to describe the same basic phenomenon. This began around the time of “Indian killer” Andrew Jackson’s presidential campaign in the 1830s. Presenting himself as a ‘democrat,’ he put forth an image of himself as an average man of the people who was going to put a halt to the long reign of patricians from Virginia and Massachusetts. Slowly but surely, the term “democracy” came to be used as a public relations term to re-brand a plutocratic oligarchy as an electoral regime that serves the interest of the people or demos. Meanwhile, the American holocaust continued unabated, along with chattel slavery, colonial expansion and top-down class warfare.

He then goes to argue that America today is also not a democracy. It has elections, but in fact the American people aren’t governing themselves, but merely choosing which members of a plutocratic ruling class they want to govern them. And his last point is that the anti-democratic nature of American politics is shown very clearly in how often America has interfered in the elections of foreign nations – either through manipulation, or by invasion – when those countries haven’t elected the leaders America wants.

The article’s well worth reading, and is at https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/12/13/the-u-s-is-not-a-democracy-it-never-was/

Douglas Adams made a similar point in his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. On one of the fictional worlds described by the Guide, there are two races. The planet’s society is stratified, so that one of the races is the ruling class, and the other their subordinates. But it is a democracy. Ever so often, elections are held, in which the subordinate race goes off to vote for whichever members of the dominant race they want in power. But the position of the dominant race and their right to rule is never questioned.

I don’t know whether this is one of the other Hitchhiker books, or if it was just in the radio series. But it’s a good satirical description of the way western class politics works. It’s probably more true now than it was in Adams’ time, as the Blairites and the Tories come from the same middle class, and promote the same free market, neoliberal policies, which the rest of us are expected to support uncritically. It’s time to break this class monopoly on power.