Posts Tagged ‘Trotsky’

American State Censored TV Programme on American Nerve Gas Atrocity in Laos

February 13, 2017

I’ve blogged before about the way the Thames TV documentary, Death On the Rock, about the killing of an IRA terror squad by the SAS in Gibraltar, angered Maggie Thatcher so much that she destroyed Thames. The documentary presented evidence that the British army knew about the group’s movements, and could have picked them up peacefully at any time. They deliberately chose not to. The shootings were therefore a targeted assassination, with the SAS acting as a South American-style death squad.

This was, of course, too much for Maggie. She had Thames’ broadcasting licence removed, and they were replaced by Carlton. This is something to remember the next time John Humphries or anyone else at the Beeb tells you that she never interfered with the state broadcaster, and that this only began under Blair. I’m not arguing that Tory Tony didn’t interfere or throw his weight around with the Beeb. And there’s plenty of evidence that Maggie also had programme censored. She had the documentary, ‘Maggie’s Militant Tendency’, produced by Panorama, censored because it argued that the Conservatives had been infiltrated by card carrying neo-Nazis, just like the Labour party had been infiltrated by Militant. Perhaps in Humphries’ case, the Conservatives didn’t interfere with the news coverage, because they didn’t need to. It already reflected their own bias.

Such censorship isn’t confined to Britain. It also happened in America. William Blum, a very long time critic of US foreign policy, has a section describing the censorship of a documentary on American television in 1998 in his book Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (London: Zed Books 2014). The company aroused the ire of the political, economic and media elite because it dared to tell the truth about a US gas attack in Laos that resulted in the deaths of civilians and American servicemen. He writes

In September 1970, American forces in Laos, acting under “Operation Tailwind”, used aerosolized Sarin nerve agent (referred to also as CBU-15 or GB) to prepare their entry in an attack upon a Laotian village base camp, with the object of killing a number of American military defectors who were reported to be there. The operation succeeded in killing in excess of 100 people, military and civilian, including at least two Americans. How many died before the attack from the gas and how many from the attack itself is not known.

Sarin, which was developed in Germany in the 1930s, can kill within minutes after inhalation of its vapor. A tiny drop of it on the skin will do the same; it may even penetrate ordinary clothing. It works by inhibiting an enzyme needed to control muscle movements. Without the enzyme, the body has no means of stopping the activation of muscles, and any physical horror is possible.

When the invading Americans were making their getaway, they were confronted by a superior force of North Vietnamese and communist Pathet Lao soldiers. The Americans called for help from the air. Very shortly, US planes were overhead dropping canisters of sarin upon the enemy. As the canisters exploded, a wet fog enveloped the enemy soldiers, who dropped to the ground, vomiting and convulsing. Some of the gas spread towards the Americans, not all of whom were adequately protected. Some began vomiting violently. Today, one of them suffers from creeping paralysis, which his doctor diagnoses as nerve-gas damage.

This story was reported on June 7, 1998, on the TV programme “NewsStand: CNN & Time”, and featured the testimony of Admiral Thomas Moorer, who had been Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1970,, as well as lesser military personnel, both on and off camera, who corroborated the incidents described above.

Then all hell broke loose. This was a story too much in conflict-painfully so-with American schoolbooks, Readers Digest, the flag, apple pie and mom. It was damage-control time. The big guns were called out-Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, Green Beret veterans, the journalistic elite, the Pentagon itself. The story was wrong, absurd, slanderous, they cried. CNN retracted, Moorer retracted, the show’s producers were fired…lawsuits all over the place.

Like the dissidents who became “non-persons” under Stalin, Operation Tailwind is now officially a “non-event”.

Notwithstanding this, the program’s producers, April Oliver and Jack Smith, put together a 78 page document supporting their side of the story, with actual testimony by military personnel confirming the use of the nerve agent. (pp. 139-141).

This is truly Orwellian. Orwell, of course, based 1984 on Stalin’s Russia, and the way party functionaries rewrote history to suit the needs of the party and Stalin. The most famous example of this was the way the regime turned Trotsky from a hero and co-author of the Revolution with Lenin, to its arch-enemy and betrayer.

This incident shows how the American military-industrial complex and its puppets and paid shills in the media are quite prepared to do the same, and vilify and expel anyone who commits the same cardinal crime of exposing state lies and atrocities.

Cockburn and Sinclair in their book, End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate, describe the way the American military and media have managed news reporting to support the Iraq invasion, up to and including the killing of journalists. Now the situation seems ready to get worse under Fuhrer Trump. But this would have been under Bill Clinton’s presidency. And Blum’s book shows that the corruption goes back further than that, right back to the Second World War.

It really makes you start to wonder how free the American press and media is, or if it ever was.

Solidarity Pamphlet on Bolsheviks’ Destruction of Workers’ Control in Russian Revolution

September 24, 2016


Maurice Brinton, The Bolsheviks and Workers’ Control/ 1917-1921/ The State and Counter-Revolution (London: Solidarity 1970).

I picked this short book – 89 pages – in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham. Solidarity were a libertarian Communist group that believed that the workers should operate and manage the means of production. In their statement of beliefs at the back of the book, they state in point 9 ‘We do not accept the view that by itself the working class can only achieve a trade union consciousness.’ (p. 89). This is a direct contradiction of Lenin’s belief, firmly expressed in his 1905 pamphlet, What Is To Be Done?, that the workers could only achieve trade union consciousness, and needed to be led to Socialism by a group of dedicated revolutionaries. The book itself states that it is a work of history, which intends to show how the Bolsheviks betrayed the revolution of 1917 by suppressing the movement for workers’ control in the factories and the workers’, soldiers’ and peasants’ soviets.

The Revolution had begun when Russia’s working people rose up against Tsarism and the Kerensky government that replaced it. They formed factory committees which took over the management of the factories to various degrees in industry, and formed the soviets – councils – of working people across Russia, which formed a parallel system of popular government to that of the duma, the Russian parliament. Communist historiography has presented Lenin as fully behind these developments. He passed a decree stating that ‘workers’ control is established in the factories’ and praised the soviets, proclaiming the slogan, ‘All Power to the Workers’ Soviets’. The conventional historical view states that the workers were in fact unable to run industry, and so the government was forced to reintroduce the entrepreneurs, managers and technicians that the workers had previously turfed out of the factory gates in wheelbarrows.

This pamphlet shows that the opposite was true. From initially supporting them as a bulwark against the return of capitalism, and a necessary precondition for the nationalisation of industry, Lenin turned to active dislike and opposition, but was forced to support them for reasons of expediency. Lenin, Trotsky and their faction in the Bolsheviks really wanted Russian industry to be managed by a state bureaucracy, with a single person in command of individual factories and enterprises. Lenin adopted the slogan to present himself and his faction as fully behind the soviet revolution, while doing everything he could behind the scenes to reduce this to a mere slogan. Their practical strategy for destroying the factory committees involved incorporating them into the trade unions. These had always been under political control in Russia, partly through necessity as for most of the time they were illegal. The Bolsheviks in turn transformed these from popular organisations to campaign for better wages and conditions, to instruments of the Bolshevik party to discipline and organise Russian labour, so that it obeyed the state and the managers. It was the trade unions that set wages and determined working conditions. At the same time as they were being absorbed by the unions, the committees were gradually stripped over their powers until they were finally dissolved following the Kronstadt rebellion, which was intended to restore democracy to the Revolution by overthrowing Bolshevik rule. The Bolsheviks were also actively destroying democracy throughout the system of government and industrial management by gradually removing elections and replacing them with political appointments. As part of this, the trade unions could elect their members to the various Bolshevik political organs, but this became subject to the party’s veto. Candidates elected by the unions not approved by Lenin and his faction could be blocked.

This resulted in the construction of the totalitarian, monolithic Soviet state, while industry saw the removal of workers’ power and the return of the very industrialists and entrepreneurs, who had been overthrown. Indeed, after the failure of authoritarian ‘war communism’, with its forced requisitions of food from the peasantry during the Civil War, 1921 saw the limited return of capitalism itself in the establishment of a private sector as part of the New Economic Policy.

Not all of the Bolsheviks were in favour of this policy, and Lenin, Trotsky and their faction faced bitter opposition from a series of groups and individuals within the party, including Preobrazhensky, Osinsky, Bukharin and Alexandra Kollontai, in the ‘Democratic Centralists’ and ‘Left Communists’. Despite their efforts, theirs was a losing battle and in the end they were fighting a series of rearguard actions to preserve the last vestiges of the factory committees and the autonomy of the trade unions.

Outside the party, the Bolsheviks also faced opposition from anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists, who also wished to preserve the factory committees from attacks from the party and the trade unions. The booklet discusses the increasing mass arrests of these, and the closure of a range of anarchist newspapers and magazines, such as Burevestnik, Anarkhia and Golos Truda (Workers’ Voice). The final demands of the Left Communists for trade union autonomy and its management of industry was also denounced by Lenin as ‘anarcho-syndicalist deviation’.

Apart from its description of the way the Bolsheviks overturned the founding principles of the revolution, supplanting control and management by the workers themselves, with a system of control and management by the party, its functionaries, and returned capitalist businessmen in the name of the workers, the pamphlet’s also interesting for discussing the various literature produced by the revolutionaries and their plans for instituting practical system of workers’ control. For example, the Exploratory Conference of Factory Committees of Petrograd War Industries, convened on April 2nd, 1917, issued the proclamations that

From the Factory Committee should emanate all instructions concerning internal factory organisation (i.e. instructions concerning such mattes as hours of work, wages, hiring and firing, holidays, etc.) The factory manager to be kept notified…

The whole administrative personnel (management at all levels and technicians) is taken on with the consent of the Factory Committee which has to notify the workers of its decisions at mass meetings of the whole factory or through shop committees…

The Factory committee controls managerial activity in the administrative, economic and technical fields … representatives of the Factory Committee must be provided, for information, with all official documents of the management, production budgets and details of all times entering or leaving the factory … (p.2).

The Kharkov Conference of Factory Committees, held on May 29th that same year, declared that the committees should become

organs of the Revolution… aiming at consolidating its victories. The Factory Committees must take over production, protect it, develop it. They must fix wages, look after hygiene, control the technical quality of products, decree all internal factory regulations and determine solutions all conflicts. (p.4).

The Second Conference of Factory Committees of Petrograd, held at the Smolny Institute from the 7th-12th August, also stipulated that

‘All decrees of Factory Committees’ were compulsory ‘for the factory administration as well as for the workers and employees – until such time as those decrees were abolished by the Committee itself, or by the Central Soviet of Factory Committees’. The pamphlet states that

the committees were to meet regularly during working working hours. Meetings were to be held on days designated by the Committees themselves. Members of the Committees were to receive full pay – from the employers – while on Committee business. Notice to the appropriate administrative personnel was to be deemed sufficient to free a member of the Factory Committee from work so that he might fulfil his obligations to the Committee. In the periods between meetings, selected members of the Factory Committees were to occupy premises, within the factory, at which they could receive information from the workers and employees. Factory administrations were to provide funds ‘for the maintenance of the Committees and the conduct of their affairs’. Factory Committees were to have ‘control over the composition of the administration and the right to dismiss all those who could not guarantee normal relations with the workers or who were incompetent for other reasons’. ‘All administrative factory personnel can only into service with the consent of the Factory Committee, which must declare its (sic!) hirings at a General Meeting of all the factory or through departmental or workshop committees. The ‘internal organisation’ of the factory (working time, wages, holidays, etc.) was also to be determined by the Factory Committees. Factory Committees were to have their own press and were ‘to inform the workers and employees of the enterprise concerning their resolutions by posting an announcement in conspicuous place’. (pp. 8-9).

The Wikipedia entry on Solidarity states that the group was always small, but played a disproportionately large role in the industrial disputes of the 1970s and the campaign for workers’ control and management in industry. The system of complete workers’ control set up during the Russian Revolution is far too extreme to be popular in Britain, at least at present and the foreseeable future. Worker’s involvement in management has still been put back on the agenda, even if in a half-hearted way by Theresa May, no doubt as a calculated deception. The pamphlet itself remains a fascinating description of this optimistic movement in Russian revolutionary history, and its betrayal by the Communist party, and is an important corrective to the standard view that workers’ control was fully supported by them.

Vox Political: Owen Smith Wants Momentum Banned because Has Same Initial Letter as ‘Militant’

September 16, 2016

I really couldn’t let this latest example of sheer lunacy from Smudger go. It just provides so much light on how he and the Blairites think, or at least, believe they can maker the rest of us think. It also makes you wonder how someone, who is so stupid or misinformed to believe that, can ever hope to present himself as political dynamo. As Kryten from Red Dwarf said of Arnold J. Rimmer, ‘Oh for a world class psychiatrist!’

Mike put up this evening a little piece reporting that Owen Smith, the Blairite challenger for the Labour leadership, told the world on Twitter that he thinks Momentum are a rebranding of the Militant Tendency, the Trotskyite group that infiltrated the Labour party in the 1980s. Why? Because Militant wasn’t subtle, and both Militant and Momentum begin with the same letter: ‘M’.

Mike sent up this piece of false logic by stating that his name also begins with ‘M’. How long before he too was rumbled? So he’s joked about changing it to Pharquar, with a ‘P’. That should appeal to Smudger as a Blairite. It begins with the same letter as the Blairite party-within-a-party, Progress. Oh yes, and Smudger’s old employers, Pfizer.

Owen Smith wants Momentum banned from Labour because the name starts with ‘M’ – like Militant

I’m left wondering if Smudger really is that thick, or whether it’s a lie to smear Corbyn in the minds of ordinary people, who are less well-informed politically. Militant Tendency aren’t Momentum. They’ve formed their own, separate party, called the Socialist Party. As for the similarity between the two names, because the share the same first letter, well, there are very many things that begin with ‘M’, as Mike himself points out. Like ‘M’, James Bond’s boss in the movies. Or child-murderer in Fritz Lang’s silent classic, M, from 1920s Germany, who was chillingly played by Peter Lorre. Perhaps Smudger also believes that Momentum is entirely made up of bug-eyed German serial killers, when not at their desks in their day job of ordering suave super-spies to combat villainous multi-millionaires trying to take over the world. Is this how the Blairites think of the Old Labour left? Do they think Corbyn, in private, takes off a mask to reveal himself as looking like Donald Pleasance or Charles Grey, wearing a Nehru-collared suit and stroking a white cat, as he giggles at his plan to incinerate the Earth from space-based lasers? Strange. Every time I’ve seen Corbyn on TV, he hasn’t been surrounded by goons in orange jump suits, and I’m fairly certain his constituency office isn’t located in a secret base inside an extinct Japanese volcano, or in an orbiting space station. Or in a secret laboratory under the Caribbean.

I do think I know where he got this bizarre idea, however. Looking through the Cheltenham branch of Waterstone’s the other week, I found on the shelves a book about Militant Tendency. And on the back was a series of approving comments, including one which said it would help anyone now trying to understand Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour party. This is part of the general line being pushed by the Labour right and its cheerleaders in the media, that Corbyn is a Trot and an infiltrator. He’s no such thing, of course, but that isn’t stopping them from repeating this calumny.

It also shows how, despite any protests they might make to the contrary, they’re also following Hitler’s advice on propaganda. It’s ironic, considering the way John MacDonald has been suspended from the party, because he dared to repost a picture of Dave Cameron as Adolf Hitler, along with a quote from the Fuhrer about taking away people’s freedoms tiny piece by tiny piece, so that they don’t realise what’s going on and can’t protest. There’s another quote from Adolf, or Goebbels, I can’t remember which, about making people believe in the One Big Lie. This runs that it doesn’t matter how stupid or false the lie is, you stick to your guns and repeat it as loudly and often as possible, until the majority of people believe you.

And this is exactly what Smudger and the rest of the Blairites are doing, trying to link Momentum with Militant Tendency and Trotsky.

It’s disgraceful, but what can you expect from someone, who was a PR man working for one of the big drugs companies when they were very keen to have the NHS privatised.

Norman Finkelstein on the Coming Break-Up of American Zionism: Part 3

May 28, 2016

Another audience member asks why it is that so many Palestinians survived in Israel, when the Israeli government was trying to cleans them. Finkelstein replies that in some areas, like Hebron, the Arab population survived because the Israelis needed them as workers. Galilee was mostly Christian, and the Arabs survived there because the Israelis were scared of offending the Vatican. And incidentally, their survival is further evidence that the cleansing of the Palestinians was not accidental, but was planned, as it wouldn’t have occurred otherwise. And some Palestinians survived by accident and sheer good fortune, like the Jews who survived the Holocaust.

Finkelstein also tackles the Holocaust industry, in response to another question from the audience. He is particularly incensed by this, as the descendant of Holocaust survivors himself. His father survived Auschwitz, while his mother survived that horrors of a succession of concentration and force labour camps. He makes the point that what made the systematic Nazi murder of European Jewry most shocking is its sheer efficiency. Of all the millions of Jews in eastern Europe, on 100,000 still survived by the end of the War. They did so only through sheer luck. And now, when the industry started in the 1990s, there must be even less, as many have died from old age. So the figures the Holocaust Industry advances for those, who have survived and need to be compensated are grossly inflated. He describes this distortion as a form of Holocaust denial. If so many people survived the Holocaust, then it means that the Nazis weren’t as good at killing people as was previously believed. He quotes his mother as asking, ‘Who did Adolf kill, if all these people have survived?’ The figures for the numbers of survivors are wrong, as abused by the Holocaust industry.

He is also less than impressed by the claims for vast wealth that the industry makes regarding European Jews murdered by the Nazis. He points out that European Jews were largely poor, living in shtetls – Jewish settlements. He says it’s why Tevia in Fiddler on the Roof sings, ‘If I were a rich man’. Because obviously, he isn’t. Finkelstein also makes the point that there were even fewer rich Jews around because of the Depression, which brought the Nazis to power. In depressions, rich people lose their money. He also makes the point that those Jews, who did have money, got out. The Rothschilds, for example, had branches of their family and money in a number of countries. As the Nazis invaded one country, they moved their money to another, and their relatives followed their familial obligations and bought their brothers and sisters out.

But now, according to the Holocaust industry, not only did many more Jews survive, but they all had Swiss bank accounts and private art collections. He makes the point that Swiss bank accounts are incredibly difficult to come by. He states that his brother’s a millionaire, and he doesn’t have a Swiss bank account. And neither do the people in his audience. And the figures for the numbers of surviving Jews, who had Swiss bank accounts, that the Holocaust industry have presented have been shown to be notoriously inflated.

On the subject of what can be done to support the Palestinians, he makes the point that no matter how deeply you believe in the Bible, it should still shock you that people are losing their homes. Israel is the only country that uses house demolition as a judicial punishment. He gives the example of one of his Palestinian friends, who was denied permission to build his house where he wanted to, and so has built it further away. But nevertheless, his house is illegal and it can be demolished at any time. Finkelstein points out that the Palestinians are poor. They don’t have stocks and bonds, and so everything they have is invested in their houses. He states that it is no good trying to win the settlers over, as ‘they’re like something from a science fiction story.’ He compares trying to do something about them with the question Trotsky was once asked about what to do about Fascists. ‘Acquaint them with the pavement’, was the dissident Marxist’s reply.

Finkelstein goes on to state that winning people over to supporting the Palestinians should be a simple case of vanquishing an enemy. He goes on to quote another writer that everyone should have a place at the table of victory.

There is no doubt that Finkelstein has very controversial views, especially on the Holocaust industry. He describes that as double shakedown. Nations are being blackmailed by the industry for money that they don’t actually owe, while the real survivors of the death camps don’t see a nickel or penny. This isn’t just his own opinion. He quotes another Jewish author, who states that its first time Jews have scammed people like this.

Despite the controversial nature of his views, it’s very clear that he has a very strong case against Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, and that his revulsion is also shared by very many Jewish Americans, who are likely to be the majority as time goes on. The generous and vociferous support AIPAC gives to Israel belies the fact that for many American Jews, the oppression of the Palestinians is very much a case of ‘Not in my name’.

As for the two Palestinians, who spoke up, I understand that they’re also factually correct. In the 19th century many liberal Jewish historians wrote books pointing out that Jews were treated better under Islam than they were in Christendom. As for Arabs and Jews living peacefully in Palestine, this also is true. In the 1960s the Israeli government expelled tens of thousands of indigenous Jewish Palestinians as they were culturally indistinguishable from Arabs. Moreover, Albert Hourani, in his book The Modern Middle East, in the chapter on Israel points out that during Muslim rule, Christian churches were regarded as mawsin by Muslims – ‘sacred’, ‘inviolable’. If you read the ethnographic literature on the modern Middle East, you do find accounts of friendship between Muslims and Jews, relationships which were disrupted through the great power occupations by France and Britain in the 1920s. Israel’s continuing maltreatment of the Palestinians is one legacy of this.

Here’s the video:

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.

Secular Talk on the Iranians Raising the Bounty on Salman Rushdie by $600,000

February 27, 2016

Private Eyatollah

The cover of Private Eye for Friday 13th March 1989. If you can’t read the caption, one mullah is saying to the Ayatollah, ‘Have you read the book?’. He replies, ‘Do you think I’m mad?’

Kulinski in this clip discusses a report in the Guardian that a group of 40 newspaper and other media companies in Iran have clubbed together to raise the money offered under their government’s fatwa for killing Salman Rushdie by a further $600,000. The fatwas was imposed way back in 1988 by the leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini, for Rushdie writing the book, the Satanic Verses, which the Ayatollah considered blasphemous against Islam. Kulinski points out that it hasn’t just been Rushdie whose life has been put in danger by the fatwa. The book’s Japanese translator, Hitoshi Kirigashi was fatally stabbed in 1991. That same year, the Italian translator, Ettore Caprioli, was also the victim of a stabbing, though mercifully he survived. Aziz Nessin, the Turkish translator, survived an arson attack on an hotel in which 37 other people died in 1993. William Nyegard, the Swedish translator, was also attacked in 1993. He was shot three times in Oslo, though thankfully he too survived. And last year, 2015, Iran withdrew from the Frankfurt book fair because they had announced that Rushdie was speaking.

Kulinski states that the Iranians have the attitude that they’re being oppressed, because of their offence at Rushdie’s book. He points out that for civilised people, the solution to such a difference of opinion is to argue about it, and then move on. He states very strongly that the reason why the Iranians aren’t doing this is because they know their arguments are weak. This is why they have to force it on children when they’re young. He also points out that the younger generation in Iran is also disgusted by this. Iran is a very young country, and most of them are much more liberal than their elders. ‘Tick tock,’ he says, ‘the clock is ticking. Times running out for you.’

I’m reblogging this as there’s much more going on here than simply a revival of anti-Rushdie feeling in Iran. In fact, the evidence points the other way. If these media companies have decided to band together to add even more money to the fatwa, then it shows very effectively that few people in Iran are interested in killing the author. Again, thankfully.

The book has been a source of tension between Islam and the secular West almost from the first. Not all Muslims are as extreme as the Ayatollah, but many, perhaps the majority, do resent what they see as an attack on their religion. The book’s Islamic opponents have also pointed out that Viking Penguin was also ambivalent about publishing the book. The publisher’s advisors told them three time that it would result in serious trouble, including mass protests. These were eventually ignored and overridden. Roald Dahl, the renowned children’s author, speaking on Radio 4 several years ago, also felt that the book should not have been published given the hatred and violence that this had caused. He did not consider it great literature, and felt it should be pulped.

The outrage caused by The Satanic Verses is also a major cause of the current surge of anti-western and Islamist Muslim activism. Outrage at the book prompted Muslims to band together for pretty much the first time in protest, organising demonstrations and book burnings. And the preachers of hate used it as a pretext to attack Britons and British society in general. I can remember Kalim Saddiqui speaking in his mosque on a documentary shown late at night on the Beeb, The Trouble with Islam, in which he described Britain as ‘a terrible killing machine’ and stated that ‘killing Muslims comes very easily to them.’ When the documentary-makers picked him up on this, he blustered that it was about the Satanic Verses, which had been published in preparation for a ‘holocaust of Muslims.’ He was, of course, talking poisonous rubbish.

In fact all the people I know, who’ve actually read the book, tell me that it’s not actually blasphemous. I know a lecturer in Islam, who actually got his students to read the book when he was teaching in Pakistan. They’d been talking about how the book was blasphemous, so he asked them if they’d read it. When they said they hadn’t, he asked them if they would, and gave copies to them to read. They carried them home in brown paper bags so no-one would see them. When they’d read the book, he asked them again if they thought it was blasphemous. They said, ‘No’.

There were very cynical, political reasons for the Ayatollah’s decision to put a price on Rushdie’s head. He was afraid he was losing Iran’s position as the premier Islamic revolutionary regime to others, like Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya. In order to try and whip up some more popularity, he resorted to that classic Orwellian technique: the five minute hate. This is the episode in Orwell’s classic 1984, where ‘Big Brother’ orchestrates a wave of hatred against a traitor figure for about five minutes. It’s very, very much like the way Stalin whipped up hatred in the Soviet Union against Trotsky, who was accused of all kinds of treachery and perfidy against the state and its people. Khomeini was doing the same here, but with Rushdie as the hate figure.

The fatwa didn’t work as well as the Iranians hoped it would, though I have Iranian friends who feel that the Satanic Verses was deliberately published by the British government to sever relations with Iran. After about a decade or more, the Iranians announced that, while the fatwa couldn’t – or wouldn’t – be lifted, they weren’t going actively going to enforce it.

Then a few years ago, more money was placed on the price. This was after the rioting around the world against the film, The Innocence of Muslims, which was a genuinely blasphemous attack on Mohammed. The film, however, was the group of expatriate Egyptians and nothing to do with Salman Rushdie. Again, it looked like a cynical attempt by the Iranian revolutionary authorities to gain some kind of political advantage, which they felt they had lost.

And now this. And everything about this says exactly the same to me: that this is nothing but a cynical attempt to exploit Rushdie’s notoriety to marshal support for the regime. Except that I don’t know how successful they’ll be. Not very, is my guess. They weren’t before, despite the vicious attacks on Rushdie’s publishers and translators. After all, they had to drop it as a dead letter for several years. And Kulinski is right about the Iranian population. They are on average very young. Most of the population is under 30. This generation doesn’t remember the Shah or the Islamic Revolution, and Rushdie to them is nothing but decades old news.

Now I don’t share Kulinski’s atheism. I think that people have the right to bring their children up and have them educated in their faith, and I don’t see it as brainwashing. But I do share his feelings that if the Iranians are resorting to violence, or advocating it, then it does mean that they don’t have confidence in their own ability to confront and overcome Rushdie in the realm of ideas. Which is itself astonishing, considering the rich heritage of Islamic philosophy. But then, I don’t think combating Rushdie’s ideas are what the fatwas is intended for. As I said, I think it’s an appeal to raw emotion simply to bolster the regime.

So why would the Iranian state and authorities need this renewed campaign against Rushdie? It might be because the young general is much less religious, and more secular. Atheism is expanding across the Middle East, including Iran. This is pretty much what you’d expect when religion, or indeed any ideology, becomes oppressive and the source of violence instead of peace and prosperity. Christopher Hill, in one of his books on what he called the English Revolution, his term for the British Civil War notes that the religious violence in Britain in the mid-17th century led to a similar growth in atheism and unbelief. And Iran many people resent their lack of political and social freedoms, and the immense corruption of Islamic clergy, who have enriched themselves through backhanders from commerce, industry and control of the bonyads, the religious trusts, which manage about 50 per cent of the economy, including the oil industry. All this growth in atheism is very, very clandestine. Atheism and apostasy are capital crimes in many Islamic countries, and so people have to be very careful about who they talk to about this issue. Even social media is very carefully monitored. ISIS in Syria kept the facebook and twitter accounts of a female anti-Islamist activist open long after the woman herself had been captured and murdered by them, as a honey trap to catch other anti-Islamist dissidents. And Nokia sold software across the Middle East to the despots and autocrats enabling them to hack into people’s mobiles in order to spy on them. So it’s still incredibly dangerous. Nevertheless, atheism and general disaffection against these regimes is growing. So I’m very sure that the Iranians have raised the fatwa bounty once again, because they hear the ticks of the clock sounding out the final moments of their regime only too well.

Dr Arnold Hutschnecker on the Psychology of the Tyrant

February 13, 2014

Alex de Jonge begins the last chapter of his biography of Stalin by discussing Dr Arnold Hutschnecker’s ideas about the psychology of the drive to power. Hutschnecker was at one time Nixon’s psychiatrist, and so presumably some of these insights came from his observation of Tricky Dicky’s own warped psyche.

According to de Jonge, Hutschnecker believed that the drive to power came from

‘a painful sense of one’s own insignificance, a fear of death and the wish to have others die. It is associated with a low sexual drive and an inability to love. ‘It moves on the wings of aggression to overcome inferiority … Those whose power to love and consequently create has been broken will choose war in order to experience an intoxicating sense of power or excitement.”

Now some of this is obviously true of Stalin. De Jonge points out in the book that Stalin had very strong feelings of inferiority due to his short stature, and his physical deformities. Two of the toes on one of his feet were fused, he had a withered arm and his face was pockmarked due to smallpox. He also had a bitter hatred of intellectuals, possibly dating from the time the Georgian Marxist Zhordania refused to allow him into his revolutionary group because he didn’t have the depth of understanding of Marxist theory he required. De Jonge also states that his attitude to the West was a mixture of the traditional Russian sense of inferiority at the West’s achievements mixed with a sense of spiritual superiority. This inferiority complex resulted in the Stalinist regime’s extreme xenophobia and nationalism, which saw millions of returning Soviet emigres, prisoners of war and troops from Europe after the Second World War imprisoned in the gulags or shot as potential traitors or otherwise culturally contaminated by anti-Soviet elements. It also resulted in the Soviet Union, not content with the brilliant achievements of its own citizens throughout their history, also appropriating those of the West, so that everything from the steam engine to the radio was held up as the invention of a Russian. Not that Stalin’s Russia was the only totalitarian state to do this. Mussolini’s Italy, one of whose leading scientists, Marconi, really had pioneered radio, also made the same extravagant claims. One of these was that Shakespeare was really Italian.

Stalin also recognised that he lacked the ability to love, especially after the death of his first wife. While he may not have feared death in his youth or middle age, when he was young kinto on the streets of Tiflis and gangster-cum-revolutionary holding up banks and repeatedly being exiled and escaping from Siberia, he certainly was terrified of it at the end of his life. He had the cypresses cut down on his summer estate of Kuntsevo because he found them too gloomy. Possibly some memory of his earlier Christian faith, and what he had learned at the seminary in Georgia came back to haunt him, and he began to fear that his victims would find justice against him in the hereafter. And he certainly did not lack the desire to have others die in their millions.

The description also reminds me of that of another public figure, much closer to home: Ian Duncan Smith, the head of the DWP.

Ian Duncan Smith pic

The man clearly suffers from a massive sense of his own inferiority. How otherwise can you explain his bizarre fantasies and lies, in which he has claimed, amongst other things, to have a degree from an Italian university that doesn’t grant them. He has furthermore declared that the introduction of Universal Credit and his other reforms are an advance as great as the abolition of slavery, as well as his highly dubious claim to have been an officer in the British army. And he does seem to have turned to a military career to give him the power and excitement that he lacked as a civilian.

As for the hardship and suffering his reforms in the DWP have caused, these certainly point to a large cruel and sadistic streak in his character. And while I’ve no doubt that he has a desire to cause anyone’s death, as shown in his refusal to release the figures for the number of people who’ve died after being thrown off their benefits by Atos, this is exactly what his reforms have done. You can find a list of names over at Stilloak’s blog. Some bloggers, such as Jaynelinney, have suggested that the figure may be as high as 38,000 per year.

The final chapter of de Jonge’s book also begins with a quote from Marx to Engels about the Paris Commune in 1871. This was the uprising by the citizen’s of Paris in which they tried to establish the city as an independent, revolutionary municipality after France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. It was brutally suppressed by the French monarchy. Marx said

‘We think of terror as the reign of those who inspire terror; on the contrary it is the reign of people who are themselves terrified. Terror consists of useless cruelties perpetrated by frightened people in order to reassure themselves.’

This statement not only describes the paranoid psychology of Stalin himself, but also that of the millions of Soviet citizens, who collaborated with his regime in spying on and denouncing their friends, family and neighbours as saboteurs, agents of Trotsky and the Western, imperial and capitalist powers, or for having an ‘anti-party’ conception of Marxism.

It also describes the psychology of IDS and his servants within the DWP. These are, after all, also demoralised, with those on the lowest ranks of the hierarchy forced to take out advances in their salaries just to ends meet till the end of the month. It also describes the atmosphere of backstabbing and suspicion that also pervades the DWP, and the way its employees take out their own fears, resentment and frustration on those unfortunates, who come to them for unemployment benefit.

Stalin was a monster, who terrorised and murdered millions. Ian Duncan Smith is a petty bureaucrat, but one whose reforms are killing people in their tens of thousands. They are at opposite ends of the political spectrum, but the psychology, the feelings of inferiority and the need to persecute, are exactly the same.

The angry Yorkshireman over at Another Angry Voice has posted a recent article showing the Stalinist assumptions behind IDS workfare schemes, and used Conservative arguments to demonstrate how anyone, who sincerely stands for the principles of the Right, should reject it. He also has this picture showing Smith as Stalin. This seems particularly appropriate considering the similarities between their psychologies.

IDS Stalin

And the Angry Yorkshireman’s question is all too valid. To see his article, ‘Why do Right-Wing People support Workfare’, go to

Lenin: Atheist Propaganda Official Soviet Policy

May 31, 2013

Lenin and The Official Publication of Soviet Militant Atheism: Necessity of Including Non-Communist Atheists

This is further to my post yesterday, in which I explained that atheism was a vital part of Communist ideology, citing Marx and Engels. In his article ‘On the Significance of Militant Materialism’, published in the March, 1922 issue of Trotsky’s journal, Pod Znamenem Marksizma (Under the Banner of Marxism), Lenin advocated the establishment of atheist materialism and propaganda as a vital part of Soviet ideology. He praised the above magazine, for including both Communists and Non-Communist materialists. ‘This statement says that not all those gathered round the journal Pod Znamen Marksizma are Communists but that they are all consistent materialists. I think that this alliance of Communists and Non-Communists is absolutely essential and correctly defines the purposes of the journal … Without an alliance with non-Communists in the most diverse spheres of activity there can be no question of any successful communist construction. … This also applies to the defence of materialism and Marxism’.

‘At any rate, in Russia we still have – and shall undoubtedly have for a fairly long time to come – materialists from the non-communist camp, and it is our absolute duty to enlist all adherent of consistent and militant materialism in the joint work of combating philosophical reaction and the philosophical prejudices of so-called educated society’. Lenin furthermore said of the magazine that ‘such a journal must be a militant atheist organ. We have departments, or at least state institutions, which are in charge of this work. But the work is being carried on with extreme apathy and very unsatisfactorily, and is apparently suffering from the general conditions of our truly Russian (even though Soviet) bureaucratic ways. It is therefore highly essential that in addition to the work of these state institutions, and in order to improve and infuse life into that work, a journal which sets out to propagandise militant materialism must carry on untiring atheist propganda and an untiring atheist fight. The literature on the subject in all languages should be carefully followed and everything at all valuable in this sphere should be translated, or at least reviewed’.

Communists Should Publish Atheist Propaganda

Lenin then cited Engels’ recommendation that Communists should translate and republish the militant atheist literature of the eighteenth for mass distribution amongst the people. This should be done in abridged editions omitting material that was unscientific and ‘naive’, and including brief postscripts pointing out the progress in the scientific criticism of religion since the eighteenth century. This material should not be purely Marxist. ‘These masses should be supplied with the most varied atheist propaganda material, they should be made familiar with facts from the most diverse spheres of life, they should be approached in every possible way, so as to interest them, rouse them from their religious torpor, stir them from the varied angles and by the most varied methods, and so forth’. He then stated that this material was more suitable than the dry material of Marxism.

He considered one of the journal’s tasks should be atheist propaganda, particularly using material showing the connection between the modern bourgeoisie and religious institutions and propaganda, particular in America, where the connection between the boureoisie and religion was not obvious:

Pod Znamen Marksizma, which set out to be an organ of militant materialism, should devote much of its space to atheist propaganda, to reviews of the literature on the subject and to correcting the immense shortcomings of our governmental work in this field. It is particularly important to utilise books and pamphlets which contain many concrete facts and comparisons showing how the class interests and the class organisations of the modern bourgeoisie are connected with the organisation of religious institutions and religious propaganda.

All material relating to the United States of America, where the official, state connection between religion and capital is less manifest, is extremely important’.

Communists to Ally with Militant Atheist Scientists

He also recommended that the Communists should also ally themselves with those scientists, who inclined towards materialism and were willing to spread it:

‘In addition to the alliance with consistent materialist who do not belong to the Communist Party, of no less and perhaps even of more important for the work which militant materialism should perform is an alliance with those modern natural scientists who incline towards materialism and are not afraid to defend and preach it as against the modish philosophical wanderings into idealism and scepticism which are prevalent in so-called educated society.’

Communist Atheism Threatened by Non-Communist Atheists and Science

For all that Lenin advocated an alliance with non-Communist atheist materialists, particularly scientists, he felt threatened by those atheists, that were, in his view, insufficiently hostile to religion. He inveighed against these as the ‘ideological slaves of the bourgeoisie, as ‘graduated flunkeys of clericalism’. He attacked an atheist account of Christianity’s origins by a Russian scientist, Professor R.Y. Wipper, because Wipper declared that he was above extremes of both idealism and materialism. He similarly attacked a book by the German author, Arthur Drews, which tried to make the case that Christ didn’t exist, because Drews wished for a revived, purified religion that would withstand ‘the daily growing naturalist torrent’. He was particularly afraid of contemporary philosophical trends towards religion that were based on the investigation of radioactivity – the discovery of radium – and particularly Einstein’s theory of relativity. ‘It should be remembered that the shap upheaval which modern natural science is undergoing ery often gives rise to reactionary philosophical schools and minor schools, trends and minor trends. Unless, therefore, the problems raised by the recent revolution in natural science are followed, and unless natural scientists are enlisted in the work of a philosophical journal, militant materialism can be neither militant nor materialism’. He believed that the interest caused by Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and other scientific developments since the late 19th century were leading the world’s people to atheism. This movement towards atheist materialism could only be politically and philosophically secure if it was firmly based in Marxist philosophy, particularly the Hegelian dialectic.

Communist Atheism and Science to be Based on Marxist Dialectic

‘For our attitude towrads this phenomenon to be a politically conscious one, it must be realised that no natural science and no materialism can hold its own in the struggle against the onslaught of bourgeois ideas and the restoration of the borgeois world outlook unless it stands on solid philosophical ground. In order to hold his own in this struggle and carry it to a victorious finish, the natural scientist must be a modern materialist, a conscious adherent of the materialism represented by Marx, i.e., he must be a dialectal materialist…In my opinion, the ediotrs and contributors of Pod Znamenem Marsksizma should be a kind of “Society of Materialist Friends of Hegelian Dialectics”. Modern natural scientists (if they known how to seek, if we learn to help them) will find in the Hegelian dialectics, materialistically interpreted, a series of answers to the philosophical problems which are being raised by the revolution in natural science and which make the intellectual admirers of bourgeois fashion “stumble” into reaction’.

Communist Atheism Highly Ideological, Soviet Science Explicitly Atheist, Communist Politicisation of Science Retarded Scientific Progress

Lenin’s demand for Marxist atheism to appeal to scientists partly explains why a number of scientists did join the Communist party, such as J.B.S. Haldane. It also shows that the Marxist conception of atheism felt itself to be highly vulnerable to developments in natural science that appeared to contradict a pure materialism. Furthermore, the highly politicised, ideological form of atheism that formed the core of Marxism was to be imported into science itself. Now the proponents of Intelligent Design theory have maintained that atheism and materialism have corrupted science. While this is generally highly contentious, nevertheless it was true of Soviet Science. Soviet Science was supposed to be informed and based on Marxist materialism. As a result, it was highly politicised. The Soviet Union could produce some superb scientists, such as the rocket pioneer Sergei Korolyev. Yet it could also viciously persecute those individuals whose scientific views did not find official favour, with the result that in many areas Soviet Science was remarkably backwards. They remained behind in computer technology, for example, because Stalin’s scientific advisor believed it was a pseudo-science. It is therefore very clear that for Lenin, Marxism was a kind of militant atheism to be promoted as the only true atheism, and that Marxist atheist materialism was to form a vital part of the Soviet scientific enterprise.


V.I. Lenin, ‘On the Significance of Militant Materialism’, in Lenin: Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers 1968) 653-60.