Posts Tagged ‘War’

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

January 24, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guardian Article on Ethiopia Covering Up Its Slaving Past

January 18, 2023

Today’s Groaniad has published a fascinating article on Ethiopia’s refusal to acknowledge its history of slavery and slaving, ”If you had money, you had slaves’, how Ethiopia is in denial about the injustices of the past’, by Fred Harter. Here are a few extracts.

‘Histories of the country gloss over slavery and the subject rarely surfaces in public discourse. At the National Museum of Ethiopia in the capital, Addis Ababa, none of the exhibits deal with domestic slavery, while in Dalbo the chains once used to bind slaves have been melted down to make knives and farm implements. Little has been preserved.

“Slavery is a controversial issue,” says Nigussu Mekonnen, a guide at the museum. “There is limited evidence and information about it.”

“We tend to ignore certain kinds of history that would shape the negative image of the country,” says Kiya Gezahegne, an assistant professor in the social anthropology department at Addis Ababa University. Instead, official narratives focus on Ethiopia’s ancient Christian civilisation and its reputation as the only African country to have successfully resisted European colonisation.

“We are taught to be proud of our identity, and bringing in this narrative of slavery would be a challenge to that discourse,” says Kiya.

Yet slavery was once widespread in Ethiopia. Stretching back centuries, slaves served as soldiers, domestic servants and labourers, who were put to work at royal courts, in churches and fields.

Many were born into servitude. Others were captured in raids and during wars, or sold into slavery after they failed to pay debts. Much of the trade was domestic, although Ethiopian slaves were also sold across the Red Sea to Arabia and Turkey, where they were prized as concubines and servants.

Historical data on the slave trade is patchy. Ahmed Hassen, a professor of history at Addis Ababa University, says the number of enslaved people ebbed and flowed, especially during times of war, but estimates that up to one-third of Ethiopians were enslaved at different points in history.

In some districts, the proportion was likely even higher. The sociologist Remo Chiatti calculates that 50 to 80% of people were slaves in parts of Wolaita, a southern kingdom centred on Dalbo that was absorbed into the Ethiopian empire in the 1890s.

“Slavery was everywhere,” says Ahmed. “It was the backbone of labour; it was the source of everything. It was not only landlords and the court of the emperor keeping slaves, but also rich peasants. If you had money, you had them.”

Abolition came slowly, the result of “external and internal realities”, says Ahmed. The first big step came in 1923 when Haile Selassie signed an accord promising to end slavery to gain admittance to the League of Nations, although the practice was not stamped out entirely. In the 1930s, Benito Mussolini used the issue to justify his invasion of Ethiopia, which Italian fascist propaganda cast as a “civilising mission”.

In 1942, after Ethiopia’s liberation from Italian occupation, Haile Selassie issued the decree abolishing slavery. Even then, the practice lingered in some pockets and the influence of the former slave-owning aristocracy would not be smashed until 1974, when revolution swept to power the Provisional Military Administrative Council, also known as the Derg, a Marxist-Leninist military junta that introduced land reforms.

Today, the impact of slavery is keenly felt. After abolition, many slaves became part of the families of their former masters, but in some areas the descendants of enslaved people are seen as impure and are marginalised, barred from participating in ceremonies such as funerals or marrying into other clans. In Addis Ababa, it is common to hear light-skinned highlanders refer to darker-skinned people from southern Ethiopia as “bariya” (slave).

“Slavery in Ethiopia is not a historical phenomenon,” says an Ethiopian researcher, who did not want to be named. “Its legacy still affects people’s lives today.”

Little has been done to heal these rifts. In 2019, a year after Abiy Ahmed became prime minister on a tide of mass protests and promising reform, Ethiopia’s federal parliament set up a reconciliation commission to address past political repression and historical injustices, including the slave trade.

“It is one of the injustices that Ethiopian society inflicted on its members,” says Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, the head of Ethiopia’s Roman Catholic church, who participated in the commission. “We felt slavery should not be put under the table. It should be studied and addressed if there is to be real reconciliation.”

But the commission’s work was never published and it has now been subsumed into a broader national dialogue commission, which opposition parties claim is government-controlled. Critics of the government say political repression has crept back in after the outbreak of the war in Tigray in November 2020.

The polarised environment has made it harder to discuss issues such as slavery. A teacher in Addis Ababa, who did not want to be named, says he grew up with “zero knowledge” that slavery was once so widespread.“People are too preoccupied with ethnic-based politics,” he says. “If you talk about slavery, you are accused of trying to divide your group.”

He says: “I see a lot of posts online about George Floyd, talking about how racist America is, and of course that’s an issue. But we also need to talk about inequality here. There are still ethnic groups looking down on others.”

A new generation of historians are starting to piece together the history of Ethiopia’s slave trade, but discussions remain confined to academic journals and seminar rooms. Last year, there were no public events to commemorate the 80th anniversary of abolition, and most local oral histories are still hidden.’

This is interesting, as it shows that Ethiopia, like many of the other countries outside Europe that were involved in the slavery and the slavery, is also trying to tackle this aspect of their past. Historical slavery is an issue affecting many different countries and cultures, and certainly not a case of evil White Europeans and American enslaving noble Black Africans. Nevertheless, this is how it is viewed and presented by many activist groups.in Britain and America.

For further information, see https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2023/jan/18/ethiopia-slaves-in-denial-about-injustices-of-the-past

Calendar of Coming Left-Labour Events

January 17, 2023

I’ve had some of this blog’s great commenters wondering what the Labour left is doing to challenge Starmer’s stranglehold on the party and his determination to turn it into another version of the Tories. And not necessarily one further to the left. The Labour left is still around and organising events. I’ve had some emails about them, but didn’t put them up as they were in-person meetings in London, and so difficult to get to for people like me in the provinces, or they were about foreign politics, like Latin America, which I didn’t think many people would be interested in. Yesterday I had another email from Matt Willgress through the Arise festival of left ideas and the Labour Assembly against Austerity, giving details about events coming up in what remains of this month and February.

Let’s make 2023 the year of growing waves of resistance.

Read my article here // Retweet it here to spread the word // Register for Feb.1 here

Hello David

Last week, Tory ministers met numerous unions to discuss public-sector pay, but no movement was made, meaning that strike action is set to escalate, including with the PCS announcing 100,000 will be on strike on what is shaping up to be a major day of industrial and other forms of action on February 1st, the day of our #BuildingtheFightback rally.

The Tory refusal to budge on pay is the logical follow-on from locking-in austerity for years. On the Left we need to understand the scale of what we are up against politically, the extent of the crisis Britain is facing, and the nature of what is to come if the Tories aren’t forced out, including that this is an increasingly authoritarian Government.

We need to be organising resistance  right now – and we need to be backing those movements taking direct action and backing those workers taking industrial action. Let’s make 2023 the year of  growing waves of resistance to the Tories – join us at Building the Fightback on February 1 (details below) in solidarity with workers in struggle and to map out our next steps.

Yours in solidarity,
Matt Willgress, on behalf of the Arise volunteers.
 

RALLY: Building the fightback in 2023.

Online rally, 6.30pm, Wednesday February 1. Join us on to hear about & build on a day of action across the country!
Register here // Invite & share here // Retweet here.

Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary // Diane Abbott MP // Dave Ward, CWU GS // Richard Burgon MP // Helen O’Connor, GMB Southern Region & Peoples Assembly // Liz Cabeza, Acorn (Haringey) // Nabeela Mowlana, Young Labour // Holly Turner, NHS Workers Say No // Matt Wrack, FBU GS & more.

Join leaders of key industrial disputes – and who are at the forefront of fighting proposed anti-union laws – at this vital event! Now is the time to build the growing fightback, co-ordinate the resistance & popularise policies that put people before profit. 

Hosted by Arise – a Festival of Left Ideas. All other pages listed on social media are kindly helping to promote the event. 

OTHER 2023 DIARY DATES:

1) FORUM: The economic crisis – was Marx right?


Online. Monday January 23, 2023. Register here // share & invite here // retweet here to spread the word

Here in Britain and around the world the economic crisis is deepening. Join economist Michael Roberts for debate and discussion – was Nye Bevan right, wrong, or both when he said “Marxism put into the hands of the working class movement… the most complete blueprints for political action the world has ever seen?”


Labour Outlook forum as part of the Socialist Ideas series – kindly streamed by Arise – A Festival of Left Ideas.

2) CONFERENCE: The World At War – A Trade Union Issue

Register here. Saturday 21 January 2023, 10.30am, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BD (Nearest tube: Euston/Kings Cross). 

Jeremy Corbyn MP // Mick Whelan, ASLEF // Salma Yaqoob // Fran Heathcote, PCS // Alex Gordon, RMT // Ricardo La Torre, FBU & more.

Organised by the Stop the War Coalition.

3) DIARY DATE: A Society in Crisis – Building a Progressive Policy Platform.

Sat 11 Feb, 2023, 10:00am, Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London, WC1B 5DQ. Register here – Retweet here.

“The economic, social and environmental crises we face mean the need for a transformative policy agenda is more urgent than ever. For this reason, on February 11, I will be bringing together academics, think tanks, policy researchers and experts, campaigners and others to develop a progressive policy platform – and hope you can join us there.” – John McDonnell MP.

Organised by Claim the Future & Influencing the Corridors of Power’

It’s a pity the last meeting is in London, as this is what the left really need to challenge neoliberalism, in the Labour party as much as anywhere else. Perhaps they’ll release a video of it later on YouTube.

History Debunked Attacks NATO Warmongering

January 15, 2023

This is shocking! Far-right YouTuber Simon Webb of History Debunked put up a piece yesterday attacking NATO’s warmongering, from the bombing of a TV station in Serbia during the war in the former Yugoslavia to the Iraq invasion and the bombings of Libya and Syria. In his view, NATO is an aggressive force, and as two of the countries it attacked were allies of Russia, one of them being Syria, it is no wonder that Putin in his suspicious and hostile towards the west. He states, however, that he is certainly not a supporter of Putin either.

This is very much what left-wing critics of NATO have been saying, like the late, long-term critic of American imperialism, William Bloom and the Stop the War Coalition on this side of the Atlantic. I think Webb also may have been critical of the expansion of NATO until it’s on Putin’s doorstep. This may have been prompted by the Ukrainian president’s statement that his country is now effectively a member of NATO. But it wasn’t meant to be like this. The original agreement after the fall of communism was that NATO would not expand eastwards. Instead the newly independent states would remain militarily neutral, and their security would be guaranteed by both NATO and Russia. But NATO’s rapid expansion to include Poland and the Baltic States put an end to that and almost certainly provoked Russian fears of encirclement.

As for the Maidan Revolution in Ukraine that is one of the major causes of this fiasco through the overthrow of its former president, who favoured closer ties with Russia, this was definitely not a spontaneous public uprising. It was very carefully engineered by Hillary Clinton and Victoria Nuland at the American State Department and the National Endowment for Democracy, the quango set up by the American government to engineer regime change after it was taken away from the CIA. Conservative critics of the war in Ukraine have also made the point that their president is as much a dictator as Putin, jailing opponents, banning rival political parties and closing down critical TV stations. Some of this is self-serving – both the British Conservative party and the Republicans in America under Trump benefited from Russian support and donations, but it is still nevertheless true. Of course, Ukraine has the right to protect itself and Putin’s invasion of a sovereign and independent state is wrong. But this seems to be a war between ruthless oligarchs and international geopolitics, rather than a defence of an independent, genuinely democratic nation. And Webb, appallingly right-wing though he is, is right to criticise NATO for its belligerence. And what is even more surprising is that some of his commenters actually know that its due to NATO’s bombing of Syria and the Middle East that we now have the migrant crisis. So, no nutters ranting about Jewish conspiracies and the Great Replacement, although I think they also turn up in the comments section..

Correct, Not Political Pushing the Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theory of the Kalergi Plan and the Great Replacement

January 13, 2023

More overt fascism from the channel that has begun its livestreams with footage of Oswald Mosley and his stormtroopers goose-stepping about. This afternoon they put up a meme supposedly showing that present mass migration to the west is all due to the Kalergi plan as part of a UN-backed ‘Great Replacement’, financed by the Rothschilds, the Baruchs and the Warburgs. In other words, it’s just a new wrinkle on the old conspiracy theory about the UN one-world dictatorship plotted by Jewish bankers. Lobster put up a review of a book on Richard Von Kalergi a few years ago, and I put up a post about it. Kalergi did believe that countries should include different ethnic groups, but for quite different reasons from those attributed to him by the paranoids. He was writing after the First World War, and believed that countries would be less likely to go to war on each other if their opponents contained members of their people. It’s about preserving peace in Europe, not replacing its people. As for his connection to the EU, I think he was just one of a number of political thinkers at about that time who were trying to create a pan-European state in order to protect international peace, and I don’t think he had much success or influence on the EU architects. If you want to find the ultimate roots of the EU, it’s possible that it’s derived from Kant’s On Perpetual Peace, in which he argued that the world should be organised into a federation of states. This was back in the 18th century, long before mass migration from outside Europe.

The meme also states that the UN calls this migration ‘the Great Replacement’. I’m sceptical about this, as I understood the term was invented in 2012 by a far-right Frenchman. In any case, ‘the Great Replacement’ is just another version of the old Fascist myth that the Jews are encouraging Black and Asian immigration to destroy the White race. I’m quite prepared to believe that the UN has declared criticism of its migration laws hate speech out of concern for the refugees subject to racist attacks.

As well as this fascist nonsense, their lead man also says in the comments that he hates David Bowie and Mick Jagger because they were Satanists. I don’t know about Jagger, but there was a vogue for the occult among some rockers at one time, including Bowie. There’s supposed to be a lot of occult material in his last album, Black Star. But I’m not sure if you could call him a Satanist. The late 19th-early 20th century occult society, the Golden Dawn, was mostly composed of High Church Anglicans, who were very definitely not Satanists, with the exception of the vehemently anti-Christian Alistair Crowley.

The Three American Presidential War Criminals

January 10, 2023

I found this meme on The Trumpest’s community page on YouTube. Obviously, this is a staunchly Republican Trump supporter. However, I’m posting it here, as whatever the source of the meme, it’s true: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and George Dubya Bush are war criminals, who backed illegal military campaigns in foreign countries. I’m prepared to excuse Clinton for the war in Bosnia, considering the horrors the Serbs were committing against the Bosnian Muslims, though they and the Croats were also quite capable of perpetrating atrocities themselves. But Bush and Obama started wars which wrecked whole nations. If I have any grips about it, it’s that it omits one other war criminal: Tony Blair.

That Preston Journalist Accuses Starmer of Being a Tory: He’s Right!

January 10, 2023

The very right wing That Preston Journalist has taken time off from sniping and criticising Nicola Sturgeon, and instead fixed his sights on Keir Starmer. Earlier this evening he posted a video stating very clearly that Starmer was a Tory. The thumbnail for this is a meme which shows a rubber plant on one side, and a Tory plant, Starmer, on the other. It’s very short, just 1 minute 44 seconds. The Journalist’s reason for calling Starmer a Tory was the Labour leader’s statement that the NHS needed reform. Although met with a chorus of criticism, Preston Man believes this is glaringly obvious. I agree. It is obvious, and the real solution would be to renationalise it and clear out the private medical companies and advisors who are a waste of money. But unfortunately I suspect this is not Starmer’s view, and that he really wants to follow his wretched, squalid hero Tony Blair and push the health service’s privatisation even further. But Preston Hack also believes that Starmer’s a Tory because of what he said about being fiscally prudent. Starmer stated that he was against austerity, had always been against austerity, but in government they would be careful about expenditure. They would be prudent. This, you will remember, was Gordon Brown’s mantra when he was chancellor: ‘We will be prudent’. He said this so often that according to Private Eye the assembled gentlemen and women of the press started calling him Dear Prudence after the Beatles song. Personally, I preferred ‘Help’ and ‘Helter Skelter’. As a Chancellor, who kept tight control of expenditure in order to avoid the boom and bust cycle, Brown was successful. That is until the bankers went berserk and almost destroyed capitalism. Brown prevented it by injecting our own reserves, for which he’s been blamed for wrecking our economy. But I really believe there would have been global financial collapse if he hadn’t.

And it remains the case that the bankers’ disastrous antics were exploited by the Tories, keen to push through austerity and punish ordinary people in the name of further enriching the superrich. But we were all in it together, as Cameron lied.

The trouble is, Blair and Brown were both neoliberal pushing through Tory policies of privatisation and welfare cuts. Moreover, by the time Brown got his feet into No. 10, New Labour had outlived any popularity with the British public. They were fed up with its managerialism, the spin, the condescension towards working class voters, Blair’s warmongering, the cuts to welfare services and hospital closures. I think Brown also put people off with his surly demeanour, although how much of that was real and how much an false image manufactured by the right-wing press is open to debate. He did not himself no favours by referring to an elderly lady, objecting to eastern European immigrants, as ‘some bigot’ when he thought the camera and microphone were off. But I think this may have been the last nail in his electoral coffin.

But back to Starmer, it really does look to me that once he’s in power, it’s going to be Blairite Tory politics as normal. Some of the great commenters here have suggested that the best policy would be to get him into power then bash him. At the moment, I think that is the best policy, considering that there are no alternatives and another round of Tory government would destroy this country. But I am not optimistic about Starmer’s government.

John Bird and John Fortune Skewer the Iraq Invasion: Yes, It Was All About Oil

January 10, 2023

The satirist and actor John Bird passed away just a week or so ago over Christmas. As well as appearing in the short-lived BBC comedy series Chambers and Absolute Power, he and John Fortune appeared on Bremner, Bird and Fortune on Channel 4 as ‘The Long Johns’, whose satirical dialogues expertly lampooned the rich and powerful. This had the same view Private Eye’s Ian Hislop stated on a radio 4 show some time ago, that satire should also have a serious intent and show what was really going on underneath the surface. It was incisive, witty stuff that revealed the reality behind the fine words uttered by politicians, businessmen and elite bankers to show the greed, double-standards and predatory exploitation underneath. Many of the dialogues had a simple formula. They took turns playing George Parr, who changed his profession to match the topic of the day. One week he could be a general, another an admiral, or a senior civil servant. Other characters included Washington diplomats and the dictator of an anonymous African country, who was happy to see his people mired in starvation and poverty so long as he could take the money from the Chinese building his nation’s infrastructure. The other John would play a journalist interviewing him. The questions would result in bizarre denials from the official, which would show the contradictions in the official’s story or decision and lead to them actually revealing the real reasons for the decision or policy in spite of themselves.

In this piece from 2007, posted on theDossier’s YouTube Channel, the two discuss the-then recent admission by Alan Greenspan, the head of the Federal Reserve in America, that it was embarrassing to have to admit it, but yes, the Iraq invasion really was all about oil. As everyone knew. The official denies that this was the case, pointing out that before the war Blair had passed a resolution stipulating that the oil reserves should stay in Iraqi hands. This was revoked a year later after the war, when Blair passed another resolution saying that the allies should have it for safekeeping or something. As a measure of generosity, the allies allowed the Iraqis to keep 17 oil wells out of a total of 80, and promised to give 20 per cent of the profits from their oil fields to the Iraqi government. Iraq nevertheless contains an extremely large proportion of the world’s oil, whose worth is in the trillions.

The former Guardian journo Greg Palast amply demonstrated in his book, Armed Madhouse, that the Iraq war was an attempt by the American and Saudi oil industries to seize the Iraqi oil fields and their wealth, as well as the Neo-Cons attempting to seize the country’s state industries for America and create the kind of low tax state founded on free trade they wished to see in America. The result was the absolute collapse of the Iraqi economy with soaring bankruptcies and unemployment. Not to mention the chaos and bloodshed caused by the war and the sectarian violence that followed it, and the unrestrained, murderous, Nazi criminality of the private military contractors – read: mercenaries – who were hired by the Americans as part of the peace-keeping forces.

This is political satire at it’s best, and some of the commenters on YouTube have compared Bird and Fortune with the superb BBC comedy, Yes, Minister, which is also still relevant even after all these decades. John Fortune died some years ago, and was much missed, as John Bird will be, for his part in these dialogues. You wonder what they’d have to say about Sunak and the present government. It, and it’s equally incompetent and corrupt predecessors, would have been excellent material for them to send up.

Sketch of Comics Creators Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill

November 23, 2022

This is for all the comics fans out there. It’s a sketch of the comics writer, Alan Moore, with the artist Kevin O’Neill. It’s based on a photo of the two that was published last week on one of the comics sites that reported the sad death of O’Neill. Moore began his career in comics with the strip ‘The Stars My Degradation’ in Sounds, which he wrote and drew under the pseudonym Kurt Vile. This was a satire of the American superhero comics of the time. He also created ‘Laser Eraser and Pressbutton’, about a future female assassin and her companion, the psychotic cyborg Axel Pressbutton, which was revived in the 1980s as one of the strips in the adult comic Warrior. From there he progressed to writing Captain Britain in Marvel UK, as well as the eccentric genius, ‘Abelard Snazz – the Man with the High-Rise Head’ and a number of stories for ‘Tharg’s Future Shocks’ and ‘Time Twisters’ in 2000 AD. He was then poached by DC Comics over in the states, writing Swamp Thing and later The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. This last strip was illustrated by O’Neill, and was about a Victorian superhero group made up of Alan Quartermain, Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde, the Invisible Man, Dorian Grey and Captain Nemo and the Nautilus. This was later filmed with Sean Connery playing Quatermain. Moore and O’Neill were also responsible for the edition of the Green Lantern Corps that the American Comics Code refused to pass as suitable for children. When Moore asked what was wrong with it, and if he could change anything to get it passed, they told him, ‘No.’ It was O’Neill’s artwork. That was totally unsuitable for wholesome American youth. By this time, O’Neill and his art had already appeared for years in British comics like 2000 AD. Moore also wrote ‘V for Vendetta’, which originally appeared in Warrior. This was about a masked vigilante, whose real identity is never revealed, and his female companion Evie, attempting to bring down the corrupt, brutal government in a future Fascist Britain. It was later filmed with Hugo Weaving as ‘V’ and Natalie Portman as Evie, with the dictator played by John Hurt. It was this film that launched the Guy Fawkes mask as the symbol of the hackers’ group Anonymous and universal protest across the world.

O’Neill launched a number of favourite strips in 2000 AD, where his particular strengths were drawing robots and aliens. He co-created with writer Pat Mills, ‘Robusters’, about a robot disaster squad, ‘ABC Warriors’, about a group of war robots fighting tyranny, injustice and the Volgans, and ‘Nemesis the Warlock’, about an alien sorcerer fighting the evil Terminators, a xenophobic human military order determined to exterminate all intelligent aliens. He and Mills also created a short-lived strip for DC, Metalzoic, about a group of robot apemen on a far-future Earth, where robots had evolved to become the dominant creatures and formed an entire ecology of robot animals – mammoths, sharks, lions, giraffes and so on. He and Mills also created the violent and nihilistic anti-superhero strip, Marshal Law, set in a devastated future San Francisco. This was about a superpowered policeman who was employed to fight violent and criminal superhero gangs, formed by former soldiers left traumatised by a war in Central America. Alan Moore has also praised O’Neill’s depiction of humans. O’Neill is also very good at depicting grotesques, and Moore believed he was the greatest artist of that kind of human life since Hogarth. High praise indeed! O’Neill also illustrated strips for other comics, as well writing a number of SF fanzines. As an artist, I think his work transcends the medium and is itself great art, like the other comics artist Jack Kirby, comparable to H.R. Giger, the man who created the Alien and the Russian artists of the austere style. O’Neill was a real character at conventions, with many funny anecdotes and his death is a real loss to British and American comics.

Video on Black Iranians, their Origins and Subculture

October 3, 2022

I found this video, ‘Iran’s Forgotten People: Afro Iranians’ on Beyond Your Borders’ channel on YouTube. Although short, it provides an informative outline of the history and culture of Iran’s Black minority. Iran is a patchwork of different peoples, and Farsi speakers only make up 60 per cent of the population. Afro-Iranians are one of these minorities. These are mostly concentrated in three of the country’s southern provinces, where they constituted 10-12 per cent of the population. They were mostly slaves taken from the Zanj, the east coast of Africa and shipped across to Iran as part of the Indian Ocean slave trade that went to Arabia, Iran, India and beyond to southeast Asia. The video notes that not all of them were slaves – some immigrated as free people in search of work. They’re mostly employed as fishermen and agricultural workers, which explains why they’re mostly concentrated on the south coast. Many of them were also servants and soldiers. Male slaves were often castrated for use as eunuchs, but many weren’t and had children. The women were often bought as concubines. Today Iran’s historic slaves are referred to as servants as it is felt they were not treated with the harshness accompanying slavery. Many Black Iranians have surnames reflecting their former homelands. Those, who came originally from Zanzibar, for example, have the surname ‘Zanzibari’. Not all Iranians slaves were Black. Some were White, such as the Circassians. However, the supply of Whites slaves dried up following conflict during Iran and Russia, so that country under the Qajar shahs turned to Africa for its slaves. There are three castes, which do not intermarry. The highest are supposed to be the descendants of free Black Africans, while the lowest are supposedly the descendants of slaves. Afro-Iranians vary in their assimilation to mainstream Iranian culture. Some are very acculturated, speaking fluent Farsi and the local language, while others are less. They have also been very influential in popular Zendari music of the Iranian south. Many intermarry with White Iranians and consider themselves Iranians. They would regard calling them ‘Afro-Iranians’ as a challenge to their Iranian identity. The speaker suggests that while it is important than they shouldn’t be forgotten, they shouldn’t be separated either from the rest of Iran.