Posts Tagged ‘Women’s Rights’

The German Communist Party’s 1931 Demands for Women’s Equality

November 4, 2020

One of the other books I’ve been reading during the lockdown is The German Left and the Weimar Republic: Selection of Documents, edited by Ben Fowkes, (Chicago: Haymarket Books 2014). The Weimar Republic was the name given to Germany for the all too brief period from the end of the First World War to the the Nazi seizure of power in 1933/4. It was a tumultuous period which saw the brief rise of workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ council seize power briefly, the brutal suppression of soviet republics up and down Germany by the Freikorps, the rise of the Nazis, and splits in the majority Germany socialist, the SPD, which produced the USPD (Independent Socialist Party of Germany), the SAP (Socialist Workers’ Party) and the German Communist Party. The book collects a number of documents from these left-wing parties and movements, which reveal their policies and attitudes towards some of the most important issues of the day.

In 1931 the KPD proposed a law to protect and give full equal rights to working women. I’m putting this up, because while I’m very definitely not a Communist, these demands show how far ahead of their time the Communists were. Women’s right to work was attacked by the Nazis, who saw women’s proper sphere as ‘Kinder, Kirche, Kuche’ – children, church and kitchen. And although governments now are keen, or claim to be keen, to promote women’s equality in politics, culture, industry and science, the laws protection working women from exploitation and arbitrary dismissal have been and are being rolled back. This is line with the general attack on worker’s employment rights and job security.

The KPD proposals ran

We call on the Reichstag to demand that the government introduce a bill to protect and give full equality of rights to working women according to the following principles:

  1. Establishment of complete economic, cultural and political equality of rights between women and men. All laws and emergency ordinances that contradict this are to be abrogated with immediate effect.
  2. Women in all enterprises in industry and agriculture, doing the same work as men, are to be paid wages at the same level as men. The longest daily working time for women is to be set at seven hours, with full wage equality, while for unhealthy and heavy work, as well as for young females below the age of 18, it is to be set at six hours.
  3. (Similar provisions for office workers).
  4. Working women are to have a fully equal right to occupy all posts in all professions. Women workers, office employees and civil service officials are not be dismissed because they are married. All working women are to receive free professional training appropriate to their professional capacity.
  5. All unemployed women must have a legal right to full unemployment insurance payments without means testing or reference to the income of family members. Every kind of compulsory labour or compulsory re-training is prohibited. The right to receive social insurance during the whole period of unemployment is to be guaranteed.
  6. All working women employed in industry, agriculture, commerce and transport and domestic work as well as women in the so -called free professions, housewives and the female relatives or working peasants are to be included in the social insurance system.
  7. Dismissal of pregnant women is legally prohibited up to the 12th month after the birth of the child. The pregnant woman is to receive full pay and be exempt from work from eight weeks before until eight weeks after the birth. Nursing mothers are to receive half and hour twice a day for breast-feeding their children, without any reduction in wages. Maternity homes in sufficient numbers are to be made available to all working women, also creches for babies and children up to three years old, nurseries for children from three to school age. These services are to be provided free of payment. They are to be directed and supervised by control committees made up of delegates from the working population, mainly women.
  8. The interruption of pregnancy is to be permitted by law. The contrary paragraphs of the penal code (184 Section 3 and 28) are to be abolished. All persons condemned under the previous abortion paragraphs are to be amnestied immediately, and all current cases are to be terminated. Abortion carried out by a doctor and the provision of the means to avoid pregnancy count as medicate help in the national system of insurance.
  9. When entering marriage, the woman retains her right to decide independently in all legal and personal matters. She is not dependent on the husband in any of her decisions. After marriage, the women may take the name of her husband, but she may also continue to be known under her maiden name. She has the same parental power over her children as the man.
  10. All exceptional provisions dealing with the unmarried mother and the illegitimate child are removed. Every unmarried women has the right to be bear the title of ‘Frau’. In mixed marriages, the choice of nationality is left to the woman.

Obviously, abortion rights are still extremely controversial today. And one of the reasons for the introduction of zero hours contracts and firms insisting that their employees should sign documents stating that they are self-employed is deny women rights like maternity leave. And unemployed women and men are required to go for compulsory retraining and work under Blair’s wretched ‘welfare to work’ initiative. Which is another Tory idea taken from the Americans.

The reduction of the working day for women would be controversial today. More women work part-time than men because they do the majority of work rearing children and running the home. A week or so ago someone proposed that women’s working day should therefore be shortened generally for those reasons. But one of the drawbacks of this would be that women would need to be paid more than men in order to close the gender income gap. Many men on the political right already feel that they will be discriminated against regarding pay rates because of this.

The KPD made these demands nearly 90 years ago, and despite many of them having been introduced over the following decades, we still need to follow their recommendations to defend the rights of all working women along with workers generally.

Belfield Bashes BBC Diversity in Name of White Working Class

October 13, 2020

A days or so ago, internet radio host and Youtuber Alex Belfield posted yet another video tearing into the Beeb. He’s a man of the right, who regularly attacks immigration, Black Lives Matter, forced diversity and ‘wokeness’ – what used to be called ‘political correctness’ not so long ago. He’s posted videos supporting actor Laurence Fox and his ‘Reclaim’ party, though now Fox is being sued by people he’s called ‘paedophiles’ on Twitter, and a small charity which works with disadvantaged working class young people in Manchester over the name. They’re also called ‘Reclaim’, and obviously really don’t want to have it, or their charity, associated with Fox’s outfit.

Belfield himself is also a bitter critic of the BBC and very definitely wants it defunded, if not actually wiped out altogether. He’s got some kind of personal feud with the Corporation. He was one of their presenters, but seems to have been in some kind of trouble for which m’learned friends are now involved. This seems also to have involved Jeremy Vine, as he’s posted a series of videos attacking him.

Class Attitudes at the Beeb and the Favouring of Ethnic Minorities

Belfield believes that he was looked down upon at the Beeb because of his class origins. He was a working class lad from a pit village, and this did not sit easily with the other members of the corporation, whom he lambasts as rich ex-public schoolboys, who all read the Guardian, wear chinos, sip lattes and hold lefty views and sneer at ordinary people like him. He’s also criticised June Sarpong, the head of diverse creativity at the Beeb, for demanding that there should be more Black and Asian figures in front of the camera. His view is that, according to official stats, BAME performers and presenters are already slightly overrepresent at the Beeb. The proportion of BAME actors, presenters and broadcasters at the Corporation is 15 per cent. But Blacks, Asians and other ethnic minorities only constitute 13 per cent of the British population. The real problem, according to him, is that Blacks and other ethnic minorities aren’t properly represented in the Beeb hierarchy and management.

At the same time, he rails against the Beeb lefties because White working class boys are the least privileged group in society. They underperform other demographic groups in school and jobs. At the same time, automatic ‘positive discrimination’ is not appropriate for all ethnic minorities. Indians and Chinese outperform Whites, have better jobs and higher salaries. They do not need extra help from the state, which should be target at those groups that really need it.

I think he has a point, but as with everything the right says, it’s not the whole point and more often than not its articulated with the ulterior motive of depriving everyone of state aid even when they genuinely need it. I believe he’s correct when he states that at present Britain’s minority ethnic population is 13 per cent of the total. I can also remember Private Eye attacking an anti-racist organisation for the same thing June Sarpong’s done: demanding even more representation of BAME people in excess of their real numbers as a percentage of the population.

Possible Reasons for Sarpong’s Call for More Diversity in Excess of True BAME Population Numbers

In Sarpong’s case, I think there are a number of reasons for it. The first is that she is herself Black, and seems to have automatically assumed that in this issue Blacks and Asians are suffering racial discrimination. Everyone wants the best for people like them, and so she wants more to be done for Blacks and ethnic minorities. I also think self-interest may also be involved. She’s head of Diverse Creativity, but if she admits that Blacks and Asians are already well-represented on our TV screens, then she’s contradicted some of the need for her post. And I also believe that much of it is due to the metropolitan media bubble. London, as the capital, has a very large Black, Asian and ethnic minority population. It’s well over a third, and I think it may be just under half. Black activists like Sarpong and White liberals see the high BAME population of London and automatically assume that the rest of the country must be the same. Some Black performers have described their shock on visiting parts of the country where there are very few peoples of ethnic minority background. Nearly a decade ago, the late actor and comedian Felix Dexter was a guest on an edition of the News Quiz from Scotland. Dexter, who was Black, expressed his surprise at going through some areas of Scotland where there was hardly another Black face to be seen. Which reminded me at the time of the stereotypical comments of White British explorers that they were going through regions of Africa or wherever which no White man had seen before. I doubt very much that this observation would go down at all well with racially sensitive Black activists and militantly anti-racist Whites, but it is there. I think Sarpong, and those like her, have assumed that everywhere else in Britain must be like London, and so demand the same proportion of Black stars.

All Broadcasters Dominated by Middle Class Public School Boys and Girls, Not Just Beeb

At the same time, White working class are the most underprivileged part of the population. This has been reported not just in the parts of the press you’d expect it, like the Heil, but also allegedly liberal papers like the I. The Heil has also published official statistics showing that Indians and Chinese also outperform everyone else in education and work.

I’ve also little doubt he’s correct about the lack of working class people in the Beeb, and that it’s dominated by public school boys and girls, who look down upon on peeps from more modest backgrounds. But I think that’s common throughout broadcasting. Terry Christian, whose Manc tones graced the ’90s Channel 4 yoof programme, The Word, apparently describes how he was driven mad by much the same attitude there. He was the only working class lad amongst a group of people, who all went to Winchester public school. Which no doubt explains why he wanted public schoolboys put in Room 101 when he appeared on it all those years ago.

And here’s where we get to what is not being said: how many of the staff and the performers on the other, private networks come from working or lower middle class backgrounds. How many of the faces you see on Sky and who work behind the scenes are lads and lasses who went to state comprehensives, and whose parents worked as factory workers, bus drivers, cleaners, dustmen and so on. Very few, I expect. But Belfield deliberately avoids mentioning it. Because as a right-winger he hates the BBC for its ostensible ethic of impartiality and wants it to be replaced by private networks that can feed the British public the equivalent of Fox News. Like the Times would like to do with its new channel, Times News or whatever it is, which will present news with what they claim will be an objective slant against the ‘woke’, ‘wet’ BBC. Well, the Times ain’t be a source of objective news since the departure of the late Harold Evans as editor at the end of the ’70s, so this is especially risible.

White Working Class Despised Not By Labour or Democrat Left, But Blairite and Clintonite Neocons

As for the concern for White, working class boys, I think he’s right that a certain section of the left does look down on the working class. But this isn’t the Labour left. It’s the neoliberal, corporatist right of the Democrats in America and the Labour party. There’s a very interesting book, Confronting the New Conservatism, which attacks the Neo-Conservatives and particularly their warmongering and the illegal war in Iraq. It’s mostly written from a left-wing perspective, but some of those interviewed are traditional Conservatives. One of these is a female American colonel, who bitterly attacks Bush’s grotty administration as a bunch of chickenhawks who never served in the armed forces and hated and forced out experienced senior military staff, who knew far more about the Middle East and told them directly that they were wrong. The book argues that both American parties, Republicans and Democrats, have been infected with the Neocon virus. Part of this is the bilateral support by the White middle class for affirmative action policies, provided they don’t affect their children.

Right-wing Pseudo-Feminist Attacks on Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn Shows Contempt for Working Class

You can see that in the sociological origins of the Blairites. They’re very middle class, very public school. They support affirmative action policies for women and ethnic minorities, but really don’t have any time for the working class as a whole. And especially not working class men. One of the claims that was used to attack Jeremy Corbyn over here and the awesome Bernie Sanders in America was that, somehow, they were misogynist anti-feminists. Remember all the furore about ‘Bernie Bros’ and their attacks on Hillary Clinton? This was despite Sanders’ strong support for feminist groups and his appearance as an ‘honorary woman’ at feminist rallies. Because of his support for an expanded welfare system and Medicare for All, Sanders supports policies that would benefit blue collar and lower middle class workers far more than Clinton. She was a member of the corporate elite. She has done things that have benefited women and children, but in general she supports the grotty neoliberal, corporatism that are impoverishing working folks for the benefit of the very rich.

The I and the Groaniad launched the self-same attack on Corbyn. He was a male chauvinist, who would drag the party back to the days of old Labour when it was under the patriarchal control of the trade unions. I don’t believe for a single minute that Corbyn could ever be remotely properly described as any kind of misogynist. As a member of the Labour left, which was attacked in the ’80s for its support for Black, gay, and women’s rights, I think he’s the complete opposite. As for the trade unions, I don’t doubt that they were male dominated. The strongest unions were those in mining and heavy industry, which are traditionally male jobs. Women tend to work in the service industries, which are often poorly unionised. This is because employees in those sectors are in a weaker position regarding employers. But this isn’t an argument for weakening the unions. Rather it’s an argument for strengthening them so that they can enrol and protect women workers. My mother was a teacher, and I remember that during the teachers’ strike of the 1980s banners appeared with the slogan ‘A Woman’s Place Is In Her Union’. Too right. Feminism isn’t just for middle class Thatcherite girls.

Tories Claiming To Support White Working Class In Order to Exploit Them and Destroy Welfare State Even Further

The Tories have always attack the Labour party on behalf of disadvantaged Whites. The Daily Heil ran stories from the 1980s onwards, for example, denouncing various Labour councils for giving priority for council housing to non-White immigrants. But this conveniently omits the facts that the reason there was a shortage of council housing was because of the Tories: Thatcher had sold it off, and passed legislation forbidding councils from building any more. The Tories make a great show of standing up for the White working class because of their patriotism and traditional values. By which they mean the type of working class Conservatives on whom Johnny Speight based the monstrous Alf Garnet in Til Death Us Do Part. These were people, who lived in dingy homes with cracked windows, for whom the Tories had done absolutely nothing but who somehow lionised them.

Only Labour Left Really Standing Up for Working Class Whites, as Concerned for All Working People

The people who are really standing up for the White working class are the Labour left, people like Richard Burgon and in Bristol, mayor Marvin Rees. They’re standing up for the White working class as part of their mission to defend all working Brits regardless of race and colour, Black, Asian, White or whatever. Marvin Rees is Black, but he’s Bristol through and through and has said that he intends to stand up for the White working class as well as underprivileged BAME peeps. He has said that he wants more Bristolians to know about the city’s past as a major centre of the slave trade, but he doesn’t want to demonise the White working class, because they didn’t profit from it. They also suffered, according to him. Clearly he supports Black pride, but he also genuinely support the White working class and is reaching out to them.

Blairites and Tories Exactly Same in Contempt for White Working Class

But you will not hear about these initiatives, especially from the Corbynite left, from the lamestream media or the Tories. Because it contradicts their narrative that the Labour party is racist towards White working class folks. And they have a point when it comes to the Blairites, who are geared towards picking up middle class, Tory swing voters and have ignored or scorned their working class base. Their view of what counts as correct left-wing activism is feminism and anti-racism. Both of which have their place, but they concentrate on them while going along with the Tory destruction of the economy and British industry in the name of market forces, the privatisation of the NHS, because private enterprise is always better, and the dismantlement of the welfare state and workers’ rights, because the poor, the starving, the disabled and the unemployed are scroungers who could get a proper job if only they were properly incentivised. It’s the same view of the working class the Tories hold, except that they cynically exploit the petty jealousies and vindictiveness of sections of the working class to hold them down, while all the while claiming that it’s Labour’s fault. They’re cynically exploiting White working class resentment in order to maintain the British class system and the power and authority of the traditional ruling elites. All the while risible declaring that they’re not elite at all. As Tweezer did so with her cabinet, who were almost public school educated millionaires to a man and woman.

Don’t believe right-wing shills like Alex Belfield. The Tories despise ordinary working people. The only people who are really serious about doing anything for working people – including White working people – are the true Labour centrists. People like Richard Corbyn, Dawn Butler, and the other Corbynites.

PressTV Report on Joan Ryan Losing Vote of ‘No Confidence’

September 29, 2018

Joan Ryan is one of the chairs of Labour Friends of Israel, and a week or so ago lost a vote of ‘No Confidence’ brought by her constituency party because of her continual undermining of her party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and attacks and smears on other Labour activists and members.

Such as her utterly baseless and malicious complaint to the party that Jean Fitzpatrick was an anti-Semite. This was simply because Fitzpatrick had come to her stall at the Labour Party Conference last year, and asked her a question Ryan couldn’t answer. She asked her what Labour Friends of Israel were doing to achieve the two-state solution, and how would this be possible with the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. She also said that she believed the LFI had money and influence, because a friend’s son had got a good job at Oxford Union on the basis of having worked for them.

Ryan, of course, couldn’t give a straight answer, was deeply embarrassed, and then decided that instead of talking about Oxford University, Fitzpatrick had claimed that her friend’s son had got a job in the City of London. Which was anti-Semitic, because anti-Semites believe the Jews dominate banking.

It was all rubbish, and even Ryan and her cohorts at the stall didn’t know whether it was really anti-Semitic. But they decided that as it had made them feel uncomfortable – the delicate snowflakes – then it must be.

After she lost the motion, Ryan reacted with her customary grace and conciliatory attitude. Well, no: she ranted about how it was all down to Trotskyites, Communists, Stalinists and the hard left. And the supporters of Jeremy Corbyn responsible for bringing her down were obviously anti-Semitic, ’cause PressTV was in there filming the proceedings.

PressTV is the Iranian state news agency. The Iranian theocracy is a deeply reactionary, oppressive regime. It has reduced its country’s working people to grinding poverty, denied them union rights and in the camps for the oil workers in Khuzestan reduced them to slave workers, like those in Stalin’s Soviet Union. Women are denied many of the basic rights they enjoy in the West. Gays are given the choice between execution and undergoing sex-change surgery. And the regime is extremely hostile to Israel, and expresses this in deeply unpleasant, genocidal rhetoric. However, Iran’s remaining domestic Jewish population, like the Zoroastrians, are actually treated well.

Below is the PressTV video on the vote by Roshan Muhammed Salih. And unless I’ve missed something, it’s actually reasonably impartial and well balanced. It begins by describing the vote as another incident in the battle for the soul of the Labour party, and states quite rightly that it was brought by supporters of Jeremy Corbyn against her.

It quotes Ryan as saying ‘I love Enfield and the people who live there. There is nowhere else I’d rather live and work’. It also says that she is chair of Labour Friends of Israel, and that before the vote was taken there were speeches both for and against.

Salih stated that one of the speakers on behalf of the motion was a local Jewish woman, who said that all the media had been attacking Corbyn, and she didn’t think it had anything to do with anti-Semitism. She added that Corbyn is critical of Israel oppressing the Palestinians, and that was what Benjamin Netanyahu is scared of: that if a Labour government comes to power, this might force peace on Israel. He goes on to say that another pro-Corbyn speaker spoke against Ryan personally. He asked what had really been sowing division in the party, and concluded that it was Joan Ryan.

He reports that Ryan herself spoke in her own defence, trying to rally support by declaring that Nelson Mandela was a strong influence on her when she was growing up, and quoted him as saying that it was possible to change the world with your own hands. However, this didn’t save her, and there were cheers when the results started coming in. He notes that this meant much to pro-Corbyn members. Her future now hangs in the balance, although she says she won’t resign. The video homes in on her tweet stating that she is ‘Labour through and through’ and stands for ‘Labour values’. He ends by saying that the battle for Labour’s heart is far from over.

In this snippet at least, there’s no loud denunciations of Jews, no anti-Semitism. It quotes the Jewish lady stating that the anti-Semitism accusations against Corbyn are all about Israel and not about anti-Semitism. Which is correct, though a view which is angrily denied and shouted down, again with cries of ‘anti-Semitism!’ from the Israel lobby. But that shows the Israel lobby’s vicious prejudices and biases, not those of the people they accuse.

So while the Iranian regime is deeply unpleasant and hostile to Israel, their coverage of the ‘No Confidence’ vote looks very much like proper, impartial journalism. It’s the kind of journalism that is conspicuous lacking in the lamestream media, and which we could do with more of. Despite the howls of outrage and anger by Ryan and those like her.

Hypocrite Rees-Mogg Profits from Company Making Drug Used for Illegal Abortions

October 2, 2017

A little while ago I put up a post commenting on Jacob Rees-Mogg, the aristocratic Tory MP for north-east Somerset just south of me, his vile voting record and his disgusting views on abortion. Mogg caused massive offence when he appeared on television and stated that, as a Roman Catholic, he did not believe in gay marriage nor abortion under any circumstances, even when the mother was the victim of rape or incest.

Even when abortion was banned as an illegal operation in this country, it was still permitted in exceptional circumstances, such as when the pregnancy posed a threat to the mother’s life and situations like those above. The British public, and especially women, were extremely vocal in their condemnation of his views. This includes the great commenters on this blog, who were very much aware of the suffering this would inflict on women, who had suffered those assaults. And this is quite apart from the issue of a woman’s sovereign right over her own body. As one of my cousins remarked ‘F**k him! It’s my body! He’s not telling me what I can put in it!’

I also said in my article that I was sure that, the Tory party being what it is, there is probably more than a little hypocrisy in Mogg’s attitude. I hope his wife and daughters never suffer these attacks, but if they were raped and became pregnant, it would not surprise me if his lordship discreetly made arrangements for a termination.

Mercifully for Mogg’s family, this hasn’t occurred. But he has shown himself to be a massive hypocrite. Mike today put up the story, broken by the Sunday Mirror, that Mogg’s investment firm, Somerset Capital Management, has £5 million worth of shares in Kalbe Farma, an Indonesian pharmaceutical company, which manages a drug used in illegal abortions.

The drug is intended to treat stomach ulcers, but abortions are illegal in Indonesia. It is also known to trigger abortions, and is used to do this in the country’s illegal abortion clinics.

Mogg, however, has defended himself by stating that abortions are illegal in Indonesia, a condition which would satisfy the Vatican. And he can’t really help it, as ‘the world isn’t as we would wish it.’ So he’s not a hypocrite.

As Mike states, this isn’t a defence, and Mogg very definitely is.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/10/02/jacob-rees-mogg-has-shares-in-abortion-pills-and-it-does-make-him-a-hypocrite/

I think Mogg’s attitude is actually rather worse than simple hypocrisy, but active complacency when it comes to what can be a life-threatening operation when carried out by the untrained. The clinics that use the drug to induce abortions are illegal, which casts very severe doubts on the medical competence of those performing them. When the operation was illegal here and elsewhere in the West not so long ago, women did die from bleeding and other injuries when they were forced to have backstreet abortions. It’s horrific that this may be happening in Indonesia.

I have to say, I share some of Mogg’s distaste for abortion. I believe in the fundamental sanctity of human life, and would rather the operation wasn’t used simply for contraceptive purposes. Not when contraception in various forms is legal and easily available. But the world isn’t as I would like it, and Mogg’s views are hypocritical and repellent. And in this case, they are a real danger to women’s health.

Mogg himself is being touted by the Tories as a possible replacement for Theresa May. He shouldn’t be. His voting record shows that he is consistently for making the poor poorer, and keeping those of his own class as rich as possible. He started his political career by touring Fife as its Tory candidate, telling the guid folk up there why they should vote to keep an hereditary House of Lords. In 2014 he attended the annual dinner of the Fascist Traditional Britain Group, and when this was exposed he tried to excuse himself by saying he didn’t know what they stood for when he got the invitation. Which I find ‘a likely story’ (heavy irony). Abortion has been legal here for decades, and whatever he thinks of it, I hope it has preserved vulnerable women from death and mutilation at the hands of untrained quacks. His views are not just offensive, but a real danger to the health of the women of this country. He should be kept away from power, not given it.

Donald Trump Predicted in Stephen Baxter’s 1995 Novel ‘Titan’

July 16, 2017

I’ve been making my way through Stephen Baxter’s SF novel, Titan, these last few weeks. Baxter’s a British SF writer, with degrees in maths and engineering. He applied to be an astronaut on the Anglo-Soviet mission to Mir in the 1980s, which went to Helen Sharman. He’s probably best known for his Xelee-sequence books. These are set in a universe dominated by the extremely advanced, but mysterious Xelee, who are engaged in a war across the entire universe with the Photino Birds, dark matter creatures determined to age and extinguish the universe of ordinary matter. He has also written other novels about a variety of parthenogenic humans, descended from a lost troop of Romans, a catastrophic flood in the Bronze Age, and the books The Long Earth and The Long War, about parallel worlds, with the late, great Terry Pratchett. His novel, Voyage, an alternative history in which NASA launches a final manned expedition to Mars, was adapted for Radio 4 by Audio Movies in the 1990s. He was also the scientific advisor for the 1990s BBC SF series, Invasion Earth, about aliens from the higher physical dimensions invading the planet.

Titan is also about a last, crewed NASA mission. This time its put together by a team of astronauts, space scientists and ground control crew as the Agency’s last, great space expedition before it is closed down following a shuttle disaster. It’s set in what was then the near future – 2004 onwards – in America increasingly falling into right-wing extremism, irrationalism and Christian fundamentalism. The leading politician and subsequent president, is Xavier Maclachlan, a Texan with standing on an aggressively anti-science platform. Here’s the description of the man and his policies on pages 284-5.

Hadamard was in Washington during the inauguration of Xavier Maclachlan, after his wafer-thin win in the 2008 election.

Maclachlan called it a ‘liberation of the capital’.

Armed militia bands came in from Idaho and Arizona and Oklahoma and Montana, to fire off black-powder salutes to the nationalist-populist who promised to repeal all gun control laws. In the crowd, Hadamard saw a couple of Ku Klux Klan constumes, a sight he though had gone into an unholy past. Come to that, there was a rumour that a former Klan leader was being made ready to become a future White House chief of staff. And in his speech Maclachlan appealed to the people to end what he called the ‘Israeli occupation of Congress’…

And so on.

As soon as Maclachlan lifted his hand from the Bible, US peacekeeping troops in the Balkans and Africa started to board their planes to leave. Foreign aid stopped. The UN was being thrown out of New York, and there was a rumour that Maclachlan was planning some military adventure to take back the canal from Panama.

Army engineers – set in place during the handover from the last Administration – started to build a wall, two thousand miles of it, along the Mexican border, to exclude illegal immigrants. White it was being built, troops brought home from peacekeeping abroad were operating a shoot-to-kill policy.

There was chaos in the financial markets. Machlachlan had withdrawn the US from the North American Free Trade Treaty, from the World Trade Organisation, from GATT. Reviews of the country’s membership of the World Bank and the IMF had started – arms of an incipient world government, Maclachlan said, designed to let in the Russians. He had raised tariffs – ten per cent against Japan, fifty per cent against the Chinese – and world trade collapsed.

The Chinese, particularly, screamed. And so Maclachlan sent the Seventh Fleet to a new station just off the coast of Taiwan.

Meanwhile all the strategic arms treaties with Russia were torn up, as Maclachlan orderd his technicians to dig out the blueprints for Reagan’s old dream of SDI. In fact, Maclachlan wanted to go further. He was inviting ideas for what he called his ‘da Vinci brains trust’. The press was full of schemes for fantastic new weapons: smart remote sensors; dream mines that could shoot at passing traffic; smart armour that would use explosive tiles to deflect incoming projectiles; maybe even an electrical battlefield in which electricity-propelled shells would be zapped in by low-flying aircraft.

And back home, Machlachlan had cut off any remaining programs which benefited blacks and other minorities, and any funding that appeared to support abortion, which had been made illegal in any form.

Xavier Maclachlan was a busy man, and he was fulfilling his campaign promises.

Clearly, much of this is an extrapolation from the policies and attitudes of the Republican party and the American extreme Right in the 1980s and 1990s. Reagan had brought right-wing Christian fundamentalists into the Republican party, who had previously stood aloof from politics as part of a corrupt, fallen secular order. He had also begun to wind up government welfare programmes, particularly those aimed at benefiting minorities, such as Black Americans. Fears of an imminent apocalypse, social breakdown and Russian invasion, even after the collapse of Communism, had resulted in the emergence of the survivalist and then Militia movements, armed right-wing paramilitary groups. These had a bitter resentment of the federal government, which culminated in McViegh’s bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma. They also tended to be bitterly racist and anti-Semitic. They believed and still believe in stupid Nazi conspiracy theories that claim that the Jews are trying to destroy the White race through racial intermixing and that America is covertly controlled by the Jews through the ‘Zionist Occupation Government’, or ZOG. These groups and right-wing American fundamentalist organisations also believed that there was a secret, Illuminati conspiracy to create a one world Satanic superstate centred on the UN. Phyllis Schlafly, who was actually a Democrat, regularly denounced the UN as well as women’s rights. And one leading figure in the militias – I think it may have been Bo Gritz, who supposedly served as the model for ‘Rambo’ – stated that the way they would clear America’s international debt would be by minting a single coin with the legend ‘1 Trillion Dollars’. As for the Klan, there were a series of scandals in which senior Republican politicos were revealed as having links to or membership in the White racist terrorist group. The most notorious of these was David Duke in Louisiana, who is unfortunately still around and blaming the Jews for everything even today.

And political scientists and economists were predicting the rise of China and the other ‘tiger economies’, which would dominate the ‘Pacific Century’ even then.

Of course, there are things Baxter failed to predict, like 9/11 and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. He also takes the conventional view that the various free trade agreements and UN organisations, like the IMF and the World Bank, are nice, liberal, benefificial institutions, rather than the way corporate America imposes its own neoliberal policies on the rest of the world, particularly the developing nations.

Not that the Democrats have been much different. Counterpunch has reported that Obama was considering removing the ‘No first strike’ policy towards a nuclear confrontation, and Killary has been every bit as aggressive in her stance towards Russia and China as the Republicans, perhaps even more so.

As for the White extremist and racist groups supporting the new president, all that’s different is that the Klan has been largely replaced, or subsumed, into the internet-based Alt Right. But the hysterical fear of gun legislation, promoted and lavishly funded by the gun manufacturers and the NRA, against the desires of the majority of Americans, and even the NRA’s own rank and file membership, remains strong.

It shows how long the attitudes held by the American right, and which led to the election of Donald Trump, have been around. Since his election, left-wing news sites such as The Young Turks, Secular Talk and the David Pakman Show have reported that Americans have become increasingly dissatisfied with Trump. Sixty per cent of the American public want him impeached. This dissatisfaction even extends to Republican voters.

Trump, however, in his racism, his isolationism, aggressive nationalism and hatred of the welfare state and women’s rights, is very much in line with the general political stance of post-Reaganite right-wing American politicians. Indeed, he’s so much a part of this political trend that, with caveats, his election – or rather, the election of someone like him – was predicted by Baxter over two decades ago.

No wonder an increasing number of young Americans are looking to progressive politicos like Bernie Sanders for leadership and the redemption of their country against a corrupt political elite and the military-industrial complex. And I fervently hope they win, and that humanity will continue to reach out to the cosmos in a spirit of genuine exploration and wonder, and not as another arena for warfare.

Secular Talk on Lack of Media Outrage for Syrian Rebels Massacring 126 Civilians

April 18, 2017

In this video from Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski reports and comments on the news that Syrian rebels massacred 126 people trying to leave the besieged government-held villages of Foah and Kfreyah. Those killed included 68 children. The Islamists threw food onto the ground, so that starving children ran out and gathered around it, scrambling for the food. They then bombed the buses which were set to take the children and the other civilians away to safety. Kulinski compares the massive lack of outrage over this atrocity in American media, with the posturing over the supposed gas attack by Assad. And from Assad’s point of view, the attack made no sense, as Assad is actually winning. He has nothing to lose, and everything to gain from such an assault. But while this resulted in calls for Assad’s removal, the American media, when it did condescend to cover this, just called it a ‘hiccup’. This is, Kulinski points out, because the American government is run by the Neo-cons, who want regime change, because Assad is allied with Putin. The Syrian rebels, who committed this carnage, are allied to the American government, just like the US government armed the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviets. The American government wants to install instead of Assad a dictator, backed by their corporations. Kulinski also makes the point that while he doesn’t know what kind of government would be in power should Assad fall, it would probably be a Salafist-Wahhabist theocracy like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This is a government that would deprive women of their rights, executes young boys on roundabouts, and would institute the death penalty for crimes like apostasy and witchcraft.

Jimmy Dore on the MIT Professor Showing Trump Wrong about Sarin Gas Attack in Syria

April 18, 2017

As well as appearing on Counterpunch’s website, Theodore A. Postol also appeared on RT, and his analysis of the Sarin gas attack in Syria was also covered by Jimmy Dore. Postol is the emeritus professor of Science, Technology and National Security at MIT. He concluded that, contrary to what the American government and Syrian rebels were saying, the poison gas that killed the people of Khan Shaykhun was not dropped as a bomb from a plane, but was released from an improved ground-based weapon, about 12 cm long. Trump and the American media have claimed that the attack was the responsibility of Assad, and launched an attack by Tomohawk missiles on the air force base, from which the attack was supposedly launched, in reprisal.

In this video, Dore savagely critiques the statements of Trump, Sean Spicer and other members of the White House. He makes the point that the American government is simply interested in regime change in Syria. They are not interested in protecting civilians, as is shown by the American military’s own cavalier indifference to the number of civilian deaths their strikes have brought about in Syria and Iraq. Nor are they against chemical weapons. The American armed forces have used depleted uranium, which has caused birth defects in Iraq.

He also points out that the White Helmets, the rescue team that moved into treat the survivors, are hardly an impartial source. They are allied with the Islamist rebels – al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, ISIS and the western forces seeking to overthrow Assad. This is ignored by the American media, who don’t have reporters in the country. And those reporters that have been there, such as Eva Bartlett, who has appeared on Dore’s show, have been dismissed.

Dore also criticises the American media for their complicity in promoting every war since Reagan’s invasion of Grenada in the 1980s. The reporters on these programmes, such as CNN, MSNBC, and so on, earn $30,000 a day and are not willing to do anything that might jeopardise their position. If they do, they’re sacked. This is what happened when Phil Donohue opposed the Iraq Invasion on his show, stating clearly that all the pretexts for it were false. The broadcaster immediately took him off the air. They claimed that it was because of low ratings, a lie, as he had the highest ratings on the network. A little while later an internal memo surfaced stating that the real reason he was sacked was because the network did not want someone who was against the invasion, and therefore appeared unpatriotic, to front their network.

Dore urges his viewers not to believe CNN, MSNBC and the other news networks, nor Rachel Maddow, Jake Tapper, Wolf Blitzer and other celebrity broadcasters, as they are also lying to support the war. Nor should the mainstream newspapers, like the New York Times also be believed, as they too have published nothing but lies and propaganda for the various wars. As are the corporate, establishment Democrats. This is all about what Chomsky called ‘manufacturing consent’. He shows a clip of Postol on RT stating his conclusions and that the report claiming the attack was launched from the air is so poor, that none of the intelligence analysts he knew would have signed off on it. Dore states that this evidence will be dismissed, despite the professor’s immense expertise, because he’s only a professor and he contradicts what the government and media are saying. He also points out that the American establishment has also been trying to close RT down, just as YouTube is trying to close down the alternative news outlets on their platform, both left and right, because they’re producing better, more objective news than corporate television. YouTube has blocked adverts on these news shows, so that they don’t get the advertising revenue they need. Nevertheless, Dore vows that he’ll continue making these programmes.

Dore points out the similarities to the 2013 poison gas attack, which again was a false flag operation designed to draw America into the war by the rebel forces. He also makes the point that it is like the Iraq war all over again. While he doesn’t know quite what form the government will take if the rebels win, he believes it will probably be a Sunni theocracy where women have no rights, just like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who are pushing this war. As for the rebels themselves, these so-called moderates beheaded a child on a roundabout, but this was glossed over by the American media.

Today Is International Women’s Day

March 8, 2017

It’s International Women’s Day today. According to Wikipedia, it was first started by the Socialist Party of America, who held the first Women’s Day in New York on February 28th, 1909. Following a suggestion by Luise Zietz at an International Women’s Conference in August 1910, it was then celebrated the next year in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. It then spread to the Russian Empire, and became a formal day of celebration under Lenin and Alexandra Kollontai after the Bolshevik coup. It was then celebrated mostly by the Communist countries until 1975, when the UN inaugurated International Women’s Day.

The Wikipedia article gives its history as follows

The earliest organized Women’s Day observance was held on February 28, 1909, in New York. It was organized by the Socialist Party of America in remembrance of the 1908 strike of the International Ladies Garment Worker’s Union.[3] There was no strike on March 8, despite later claims.[5]

In August 1910, an International Women’s Conference was organized to precede the general meeting of the Socialist Second International in Copenhagen, Denmark.[6] Inspired in part by the American socialists, German Socialist Luise Zietz proposed the establishment of an annual International Woman’s Day (singular) and was seconded by fellow socialist and later communist leader Clara Zetkin, although no date was specified at that conference.[7][8] Delegates (100 women from 17 countries) agreed with the idea as a strategy to promote equal rights including suffrage for women.[9] The following year on March 19, 1911 IWD was marked for the first time, by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.[3] In the Austro-Hungarian Empire alone, there were 300 demonstrations.[7] In Vienna, women paraded on the Ringstrasse and carried banners honouring the martyrs of the Paris Commune.[7] Women demanded that they be given the right to vote and to hold public office. They also protested against employment sex discrimination.[2] Americans continued to celebrate National Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February.[7]

Although there were some women-led strikes, marches, and other protests in the years leading up to 1914, none of them happened on March 8.[5] In 1914 International Women’s Day was held on March 8, possibly because that day was a Sunday, and now it is always held on March 8 in all countries.[5] The 1914 observance of the Day in Germany was dedicated to women’s right to vote, which German women did not win until 1918.[5][10]

In London there was a march from Bow to Trafalgar Square in support of women’s suffrage on March 8, 1914. Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested in front of Charing Cross station on her way to speak in Trafalgar Square.[11]

In 1917 demonstrations marking International Women’s Day in Petrograd, Russia, on the last Thursday in February (which fell on March 8 on the Gregorian calendar) initiated the February Revolution.[2] Women in Saint Petersburg went on strike that day for “Bread and Peace” – demanding the end of World War I, an end to Russian food shortages, and the end of czarism.[5] Leon Trotsky wrote, “23 February (8th March) was International Woman’s Day and meetings and actions were foreseen. But we did not imagine that this ‘Women’s Day’ would inaugurate the revolution. Revolutionary actions were foreseen but without date. But in morning, despite the orders to the contrary, textile workers left their work in several factories and sent delegates to ask for support of the strike… which led to mass strike… all went out into the streets.”[5]

Following the October Revolution, the Bolshevik Alexandra Kollontai and Vladimir Lenin made it an official holiday in the Soviet Union, but it was a working day until 1965. On May 8, 1965 by the decree of the USSR Presidium of the Supreme Soviet International Women’s Day was declared a non-working day in the USSR “in commemoration of the outstanding merits of Soviet women in communistic construction, in the defense of their Fatherland during the Great Patriotic War, in their heroism and selflessness at the front and in the rear, and also marking the great contribution of women to strengthening friendship between peoples, and the struggle for peace. But still, women’s day must be celebrated as are other holidays.”

From its official adoption in Soviet Russia following the Revolution in 1917 the holiday was predominantly celebrated in communist countries and by the communist movement worldwide. It was celebrated by the communists in China from 1922, and by Spanish communists in 1936.[7] After the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949 the state council proclaimed on December 23 that March 8 would be made an official holiday with women in China given a half-day off.[12]

The United Nations began celebrating in International Women’s Day in the International Women’s Year, 1975. In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace.[13]

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day ‘Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030’. The article then explains

In a message in support of International Women’s Day, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres commented on how women’s rights were being “reduced, restricted and reversed”. With men still in leadership positions and a widening economic gender gap, he called for change “by empowering women at all levels, enabling their voices to be heard and giving them control over their own lives and over the future of our world”.

A few weeks ago The Young Turks released the news that the organisers of the Women’s Marches in America were planning a Women’s General Strike against Trump. I don’t know if this is actually taking place, but there are a number of articles about it in today’s I newspaper. Including a report that the veteran feminist, Gloria Steinem, has called Trump a ‘walking violation of women’s rights’. Which is true, unfortunately.

So I’d like to give my best wishes to all the females readers of this blog on this special day.

The Young Turks: Female Staffer on Sexism and Misogyny in Trump Campaign

February 2, 2016

This is another piece about Trump’s terrible attitude to women. A former member of Trump’s campaign team in Iowa, Elizabeth Mae Davidson, has left it and is seeking advice from a civil rights organisation, citing The Donald’s sexism and refusal give women working for him equal pay to that of their male co-workers. She states that she was paid $2,000 a month, while the men, who were also working part-time for the campaign, were paid $3,500-$4,000. She also points out that sexism and negative attitudes towards women were rife in his company.

Cenk Uygur, the Turks’ anchor, points out that her statement about pay has yet to be ascertained legally. It is possible that she could ‘just be saying it’. But he points out that Trump and the Republicans do not want women to be paid equally. They reject it on the grounds that it’s just an excuse for women to sue corporations. Uygur makes the point that as a staffer for Trump, Davidson should have known this, and it should have come as no surprise when he did it to her.

Uygur also reports that when Davidson and another female activist met Trump, he said, ‘You guys could do a lot of damage.’ They thought at the time that he was referring to their looks. Trump, again, has laughed off this accusation, saying that ‘a lot worse could be said’, but denies he actually did so, stating that ‘it’s not in my vocabulary’. He has then gone on to make other comments and accusations against Davidson. One of them is that she behaved strangely when she was on campaign team, to the point where she started dressing as his wife.

Uygur has some sympathy for her position as a woman working for such a terrible man, who does see women simply as sex objects and doesn’t want them to have equality with the men in his organisations. But he criticises her for having the same selfish attitude to these issues that permeates all Republicans. The Republicans don’t care when the policies they advocate harm other people. Not when people are unable to feed themselves on their pay, find themselves discriminated against at work, or are shot down, assaulted and imprisoned by the cops for no reason whatsoever. This last is a reference to the racist shootings by police of unarmed Black men, which sparked the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests. In one of the most horrific incidents, a young boy was shot and killed, simply because he was playing with a toy gun. When incidents like these happen to other people, the Republicans simply shrug and say it doesn’t matter, because it didn’t happen to them. but when it does happen to them, there’s outrage.

Uygur’s entirely right about Trump’s horrendous attitude to women, and the way it’s firmly based in Republican attitudes to gender. The Republicans are very much in favour of traditional gender roles. Jerry Fallwell, the right-wing TV evangelist, first made his breakthrough into national US politics in the 1970s, when he led a campaign against the equal pay act. This was the piece of equalities legislation which gave American women the right to be paid the same as men for the same work. And the attitudes to women get more crazed and reactionary the further right you go. Ann Coulter, possibly the Republican’s most splenetic and venomous polemicists, has stated that she doesn’t think women should have the vote. Really. You can check it for yourself. Along with all the other insane and bigoted things she said. There’s whole lists of them on the Net and Youtube.

And these attitudes aren’t confined to America. They permeate UKIP over here, and you can find the same rants against equal pay and maternity leave for women, and flexible working hours to they could fit in their duties looking after their children, in the pages of the supposedly ‘female-friendly’ Daily Mail. They’ve also attacked equal pay legislation and campaigns as harmful to industry, alleging that such provision for maternity leave will make women employees less productive and more expensive to hire. They’ve then go on to argue that this will result in either less women being employed, or firms suffering economic damage from having to employ them and cater for their needs.

I found this meme about the Republicans’ appalling attitudes to women’s rights on the Tumblr site, 1,000 Natural Shocks. (Over 18s only). It probably refers principally to the most vociferously debated and obvious campaign against a recently won right for women, abortion. But it also describes pretty much their entire attitude to women’s rights as a whole, from working outside the home, equal pay, to the right to vote. And this is all despite the fact that the Republicans also have very powerful women on their side, like Coulter and Sarah Palin. And they are powerful, no matter what can be said about their own intelligence, sanity or the stupidity of their policies. But the danger is, for some reason people still continue voting for them.

Republicans Women's Rights

Secular Talk: Saudis Imprison Muslim Professor for Liberal Interpretation of Islam

January 17, 2016

This is another piece from the atheist news programme, Secular Talk, about Saudi Arabia. I know I’ve posted a lot of pieces from them about the Saudis up recently, but as the Saudis are a ruthless, oppressive absolute monarchy that has just executed 47 people, including a young man simply for attending a pro-democracy demonstration, this needs to be said. Especially as our government is fawning all over them.

In this edition of the programme, Kyle Kulinski reports on the sentencing of a Islamic preacher, Abdel-Karim al-Khadar, a professor of Islamic Studies, to ten years in prison, followed by a further ban on travelling abroad for another ten years after his release. He was convicted of disobedience to the sovereign and starting up a human rights organisation. His real crime is that he started teaching a liberal interpretation of Islam, based on the Qu’ran, that included mutual coexistence and women’s rights. And he was not any kind of atheist, but a Muslim scholar, who taught Islamic studies in his own home.

This was too much for the Saudis, whose government includes many, who are actively supporting and funding the Islamist terror groups al-Qaeda and ISIS. He states that America is being played for a fool. The Saudis have somehow got on to the UN Human Rights Council, despite the fact that they blatantly don’t believe in them. And they’re not even bothering to hide it. Kulinski makes it clear that he’s so disgusted with the situation, that if he were president, he’d ended America’s dependence on oil and cease trading with such a treacherous and oppressive ally.

I’m reblogging this as it directly concerns Britain and specifically David Cameron. It appears to have partly been due to Cameron’s wrangling that the Saudis got elected to the UN Human Rights council. And then Cameron tours Saudi Arabia selling them British armaments that they really don’t need, and which will be used to kill civilians in Yemen.

So despite all his verbiage about attacking ISIS and the War on Terror, Cameron actively supports those who share their poisonous ideology, and who are actively supporting them.