agriculture

Error message

Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/menu.inc).

New Holocaust Memorial Announced for London – Sargon and Co Ask Why

First off, I’m sorry I haven’t posted anything for a few days. I’ve been busy with other things down here, but normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. Yesterday, our Tory government announced that they were going to put a new memorial up commemorating the Holocaust. And Sargon of Gasbag, the man who broke UKIP, and his mate Callum over at the Lotuseaters Youtube channel have asked the obvious question: why? The proposed memorial has received widespread approval, especially from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who were highly delighted. They claimed it was needed because Holocaust denial was growing in the UK and we needed to be reminded of our part in the Shoah, the great crime against the Jews, and also against the disabled, gays and the Roma. But as the commenters on the Lotuseaters video have pointed out, they said nothing about the Slav peoples of eastern Europe, who were also massacred. This is true. Hitler hated the Slavs, and in his Tabletalk he makes it clear he was looking forward to the extermination of the Czech. After the Jews, the Poles formed the largest number of the victims of Nazi massacre and extermination, particular Polish Roman Catholic clergy. Slavs were considered subhuman under the Nuremberg race laws. Their lands were targeted for German colonisation, and those Poles, Russians and Ukrainians lucky enough to survive were to serve as an uneducated peasant class producing agricultural goods for their German masters.

The Lotuseaters are men of the right, and the extreme right at that. I find their videos difficult to watch because of the idiot sneering at the Labour party, idiot ‘woke’ lefties and similar comments that also come out of the mouth of the mad right-winger, Alex Belfield. Particularly annoying in this video was all their jokes about Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism, and how he especially wouldn’t like the memorial and agrees with Holocaust denial. It’s just right-wing libel. Corbyn, like George Galloway, has never denied the Holocaust and has a proud record of standing up for the Jews in this country, as he has done for Blacks and other ethnic minorities. His crime wasn’t anti-Semitism, but standing up for the Palestinians. The Israeli state and the ultra-Zionists, like the Board of Deputies, can’t justify it, so they smear those criticising their ethnic cleansing of Israel’s indigenous population as anti-Semites. This include proud, self-respecting Jews, who are tarnished and demonised as ‘self-hating’.

But the Lotuseaters are right to ask why we need such a memorial. They say we entered the War to stop the persecution of the Jews, when the Nazis and USSR had signed a non-aggression pact to divide Poland between. Callum even claimed that when the Soviets took over their part of Poland, they handed over its Jewish inhabitants to the Nazis to massacre. Well, I haven’t heard that before and neither did Sargon, but it doesn’t surprise me. Stalin was a vicious anti-Semite, and during the Weimar period western Communists were ordered to collaborate with Nazis despite the Nazis hatred of Marxist socialism and their persecution of the KPD under the Third Reich. It’s wrong to say we entered the War to save the Jews. We didn’t. We declared war on Nazi Germany because of our defensive alliance with France and Poland. Although there was little outright anti-Semitic persecution in Britain, low-level anti-Jewish sentiment was widespread and acceptable. There was considerable sympathy for Nazism amongst the British aristocracy, with various high-ranking individuals joining pro-Nazi organisations like the Anglo-German Fellowship. The father of Geordie Grieg, editor of the Heil, was a member of one such group. On the other hand, the Fascist parties and groups remained generally small. Britain passed laws banning the stirring up of racial hatred, and once war was declared Oswald Mosley, the head of the BUF, was sent to the Tower of London and his stormtroopers interned on the Isle of Man along with other enemy aliens. And our troops did liberate some of the concentration and death camps, along with the Russians and our other allies, and we did save the survivors from starvation, or as many as we could. There were Nazi sympathisers who served as auxiliaries in the Waffen SS, the British division of which served as the basis for neo-Nazi organisation the League of St. George. But as far as I know, there was absolutely no British state involvement with the Holocaust and I haven’t heard of any British commercial involvement with it, either. I’m therefore puzzled when the Board says it was needed to remind us of our role in it.

As for anti-Semitism in Britain, only 7 per cent of Brits have negative view about Jews. The majority have positive views of them, and a smaller number consider them no better or worse than anyone else. The Lotuseaters state that the Holocaust is taught as part of the British history curriculum. There are Holocaust deniers knocking around, but there are very few of them, at least among the vast majority of severely normal Brits, who despise them. I wondered if behind the cloaked language which didn’t name anybody in particular, the real fear was about the possible growth in anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial amongst Muslims. It’s rife in the Middle East because of the Israeli colonisation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine, and the humiliation inflicted on the Arab nations during the Six Day War. I have the impression that the majority of British Muslims despise Israel for its maltreatment of the Palestinians. However, Tony Greenstein has pointed out that the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism offer no supporting statistics or information on their website for their statement that the majority of anti-Semites are Muslim.

David Cameron apparently approved the monument five years ago in 2016, but Boris has only just given it the go-ahead. My impression is that this has precious little about commemorating the Holocaust for itself, and everything to do with generating support for Israel. Peter Oborne in his documentary for Channel 4’s dispatches 11 years ago described how the Israel lobby had effectively captured Britain’s political parties, and especially the Tories, through parliamentary friendship groups, sponsored trips to Israel and donations from pro-Israel Jewish businessmen. Any British paper or broadcaster, including the Beeb, that dared to cover atrocities by the Israelis and their allies, like the Lebanese Christian Phalange, were attacked and smeared by the Board as anti-Semites. Hence the attacks on the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn, and the capture of the party of Keir Starmer, who has declared himself to be ‘100 per cent Zionist’. Hence also the foundation of front organisations claiming to represent Jews and combat anti-Semitism, but which are really concerned with persecuting and smearing critics of Israel, like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Labour Movement, previously Paole Zion, Workers of Zion. These two organisations were founded to combat the rise in anti-Israel sentiment following Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. My guess is that Israel and it’s satellite organisations and mouthpieces in the UK have been rattled by British support for the Palestinians following the riots around the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian districts in east Jerusalem ready for Israeli settlement. This all looks to me very much like the Israel state exploiting the Holocaust to garner support on the one hand, and the Tories using it to signal their compliance with Israel and its genocidal attitude to the Arabs on the other.

The Holocaust was a monstrous crime against humanity and it is entirely right that British schoolchildren are taught about it. But this new memorial looks like it has nothing to do with remembering the victims of the Shoah, but is simply a PR exercise to shame Brits into supporting Israel and its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

Nestle, Pinkwashing and the Corporate Enslavement of Black Africans

Apart from the mad internet radio host, Alex Belfield, another right wing YouTube channel I keep an eye on is The Lotus Eaters, with Sargon of Gasbag, alias Carl Benjamin, and his friends. It annoys me with its calm assumption that capitalism is perfect, more privatisation and deregulation will lift the world’s starving billions out of poverty and their casual sneers against the left. I found their review of Ze’ev Sternhell’s latest book on Fascism, Neither Left Nor Right, absolutely unwatchable because of the massive amount of ignorance about the subject, and just intellectual history generally. Sternhell’s an Israeli who grew up in Poland during the Nazi invasion. He’s a very well respected scholar of Fascism, not surprisingly. But Benjamin and his cronies took the book as proving that Fascism is a form of socialism. This idea is rampant on the right. This ignores the Fascist alliance with big business, their promotion of capitalism, and their recruitment of private sector businessmen to run the vast industrial associations through which the Nazis exercised control of industry and society. Mussolini started out as a radical socialist, but moved right to ally with the industrialists and feudal landlords to break up the socialist trade unions, smash workers’ and peasants’ cooperatives, and destroy other dangerous liberal political parties, like the Populists. The Italian Popular party was founded as a Catholic organisation, and stood for a widening of democracy including the radical step of votes for women and further rights for the workers and peasants. But the papacy at the time allied with the Fascists to smash it because it wasn’t under the control of the bishops. Yes, Mussolini’s ideal of the corporative state, in which industries are run by vast industrial associations which combine the trade unions with the employer’s organisations, sort of if someone combined the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress and then gave them a separate parliamentary chamber, was derived from anarcho-syndicalism. But it also incorporated ideas from Nationalists like Alfredo Rocco, who wanted the state to take over the trade unions from a right-wing, pro-business viewpoint. It also ignores Adolf Hitler’s adulation of the big businessman as biologically superior to the proles, his blanket refusal to nationalise anything and a speech he made to the German version of the CBI stating that business needed dictatorship to protect it. Instead you generally get a lot of waffle about how the Nazis were socialists, because they said so, but it and Fascism were different types of socialism to Communism. In fairness, this analysis of Italian Fascism does have more than an element of truth. In the words of Sargon’s matey Callum, Fascism is socialism after it dumps Communism. Which is almost true, but ignores the fact that Communism is only one form of socialism, and was so even at the time. But it excludes the fact that Mussolini and the rest were generally and fanatically pro-capitalist. The statement that it must somehow be a form of socialism rests on the Fascist’s state control of industry. But this state control is contrasted with an idealised form of free market capitalism that has never existed. And Fascist corporativism looks very much like the Blairite Third Way or modern neoliberalism, in which the heads of big corporations form government policy and and are rewarded with government posts.

It looks like Boris Johnson’s crony capitalism, and is, I fear, what we are moving towards with his continued attack on democracy and the right to protest.

However, I believe very strongly that the Lotus Eaters are absolutely right about the extremist views promoted by the far left, like Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory. So do many left-wing intellectuals, who feel that there is still a lot of racism, sexism and bigotry that needs to be tackled, but despise Critical Race Theory and Queer Theory for their rejection of objective truth and fact in favour of feelings, ideological assumptions and subjective interpretations.

It was the end of Pride Month a few days ago, and the Lotus Eaters marked the occasion by sneering at the corporate nonsense various big companies were putting out to show that they indicated Pride and gay and trans rights. I’m blogging about this not because I wish to attack genuine support for gay rights or promote intolerance towards trans people, but because some of this corporate support does seem a mite excessive. And in some cases it might even be hypocritical. The Lotus Eaters’ video included a promo video from one of the banks telling everyone to watch their pronouns around trans people. Ikea went even so far as to launch gay and trans sofas. The gay sofa has various colour straps running across it, presumably to represent the colours of the rainbow gay flag. The trans sofa has various slogans written on it, one of which is ‘No-one will believe you.’ The sofa is also decorated with prints of multicoloured hands. Various trans people appear in the video saying that they can really express their essential selves on this piece of furniture. Which makes it sound like no trans person was ever comfortable on a normal sofa before. Sargon and Callum then giggle about how the hands and slogan make the sofa creepily rape-y, and unfortunately they do have a point.

But they have a rather more serious point when they report that a legal suit brought against Nestle, one of the companies loudly promoting their support of gay and trans right, was thrown out last week by an American court. The suit was against the company’s use of enslaved Black African labour in the production of the cocoa from which their chocolate is made. The case was thrown out because the people enslaved aren’t under American jurisdiction. Sargon and Callum used it to argue that Nestle, and all the other companies, really don’t care about the various left-wing issues they claim to support, like Black Lives Matter. They just want to be seen as nice, liberal and cuddly to avoid being attacked for racism or any other form of bigotry. And in the case of gay rights, it’s called ‘pinkwashing’.

Israel’s particularly guilty of this, using the state’s official tolerance towards gay culture and the Jerusalem Pride parade to present a false liberalism and appeal to western liberals and radicals against Islam. Israel is pro-gay, even though many of its citizens are extremely conservative in their views and hate gays just like they’re hated by other religions and societies. They contrast this with the persecution of gays in contemporary Islam. But traditionally Islam was far more tolerant of homosexuality. Tele Sur’s Abbie Martin reported that when she went to Palestine, she found the situation the complete opposite of what the Israelis were claiming. Gayness was definitely tolerated, and she saw gay couples who were not persecuted at all.

Nestle’s a nasty corporation. I remember the scandal a few years ago when they were pushing their baby milk, a substance that needed to be bought after the baby was started on it, as against healthy breastfeeding in Africa. And all for corporate profit. It doesn’t surprise me that they source their cocoa from plantations using slave labour. It also bears out a comment by one of the great readers of this blog, who pointed me in the direction of an article about how the various big companies all pledging their support for Black Lives Matter were ruthless exploiters of slave, or starvation level labour in the developing world. This is all lies and corporate hypocrisy, done to impress liberal consumers in the West, while the reality is very different.

I’ve also no doubt that the example he makes of Nestle using Black African slave labour also damages his case for unrestrained capitalism. This is what unrestrained private enterprise looks like. The most horrific example of this was the Belgian Congo, now Zaire, when it was the personal fief of the Belgian king, Leopold. Leopold set up his own private police force, the Force Publique, and demanded that all Congolese produced a set amount of rubber. If they didn’t, they were beaten, mutilated and killed. Eight million Congolese died in what can only justly be described as a holocaust. This is what unrestrained global capitalism is doing today – forcing people into real slavery and poverty. We need more regulation, not less.

And I’m dam’ sure that the case against Nestle was brought by lefties outraged at this corporate enslavement for a western multinational.

Don’t be taken in by this type of false advertising, which only really applies to the West. We needed to see beyond the specious support some companies give to liberal issues like anti-racism and gay rights, and look at what is really going on elsewhere in the world.

If you want to have a look at their video, it’s entitled ‘Social Justice Is Going Over the Top’ and it’s at (2) Social Justice is Going Over the Top – YouTube. I’m not going to post it, just link to it, because, well, this is Sargon of Gasbag, the man who broke UKIP, and the Lotus Eaters are annoying, even when they make some decent points people on the left can also get behind.

My Video on Gerard Winstanley’s ‘The Diggers’ Song of 1649

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/06/2021 - 12:44am in

The Diggers were a radical 17th century Protestant sect during the time of the British Civil War. They believed that all land should be held in common, all men being created equal by the Almighty, and were firmly against both the Cavaliers, the gentry and the priesthood. They tried to set up a colony in St. George’s Hill, a piece of common land near Weybridge in Surrey, but their homes were pulled down and the movement squashed. One of their leaders, Gerard Winstanley, who advocated their political and theological doctrines in his A New Yeeres Gift, also wrote this song about them.

In this video I explain that before the rise of modern newspapers, people got their news through broadside ballads, popular songs written about the issues and news of the day. I got this from Roy Palmer’s excellent A Ballad History of England (London: B.T. Batsford 1979), which collects various ballads from 1588 to the late 20th century. Ballads were still being written in the 20th century, though the medium had changed to recordings rather sheet music. One of the last was about a dispute at British Steel in 1975.

I recite the lyrics and then play the tune given in the book. I regret I can’t sing and play the keyboard at once.

The lyrics are

You noble Diggers all, stand up now, stand up now,

You noble Diggers all, stand up now,

The wast land to maintain, seeing Cavaliers by name

Your digging does maintain, and persons all defame,

Stand up now, stand up now.

Your houses they pull down, stand up now, stand up now,

Your houses they pull down, stand up now.

Your houses they pull down to fright your men in town,

But the gentry must come down, and the poor shall wear the crown.

Stand up now, Diggers all.

With spades and hoes and plowes, stand up now, stand up now,

With spades and hoes and plowes stand up now,

Your freedom to uphold, seeing Cavaliers are bold

To kill you if they could, and rights from you to hold,

Stand up now, Diggers all.

Theire self-will is theire law, stand up now, stand up now,

Theire self-will is their law, stand up now.

Since tyranny came in they count it now no sin

To make a gaole a gin, to sterve poor men therein.

Stand up now, Diggers all.

The gentrye are all round, stand up now, stand up now,

The gentrye are all round, stand up now.

The gentrye are all round, on each side they are found,

Theire wisdom’s so profound, to cheat us of our ground.

Stand up now, stand up now.

The lawyers they conjoin, stand up now, stand up now,

The lawyers they conjoyne, stand up now,

To arrest you they advise, such fury they devise,

The devill in them lies, and hath blinded both their eyes,

Stand up now, stand up now.

The clergy they come in, stand up now, stand up now,

The clergy they come in, stand up now.

The clergy they come in, and say it is a sin

That we should now begin, our freedom for to win.

Stand up now, Diggers all.

The tithe they yet will have, stand up now, stand up now,

The tithes they yet will have stand up now.

The tithes they yet will have, and lawyers their fees crave,

And this is they say is brave, to make the poor their slave.

Stand up now, Diggers all.

‘Gainst lawyers and gainst priests, stand up now, stand up now,

‘Gainst lawyers and gainst priests stand up now.

For tyrants they are both even flatt against their oath,

To grant us they are loath free meat and drink and cloth.

Stand up now, Diggers all.

The club is all their law, stand up now, stand up now,

The club is all their law, stand up now.

The club is all their law to keep men in awe,

Buth they no vision saw to maintain such a law.

Stand up now, Diggers all.

The Cavaleers are foes, stand up now, stand up now,

The Cavaleers are foes, stand up now;

The Cavaleers are foes, themselves they do disclose

By verses not in prose to please the singing boyes.

Stand up now, Diggers all.

To conquer them by love, come in now, come in now,

To conquer them by love, come in now;

To conquer them by love, as itt does you behove,

For hee is King above, now power is like to love,

Glory heere, Diggers all.

Similar to the Diggers were the Levellers, another radical Protestant sect which was extremely strong in the army. They believe in the extension of the franchise to the male heads of households, which was dangerously democratic for the 17th century, as well as state provided schools, hospitals and care homes for the elderly. They still exert a powerful influence in the Labour party.

Here’s the video.

The Irish Nationalists on Multinational Agribusiness Land Clearances in Africa

Two of the many great commenters on this blog, Brian Burden and Gillflowerblog, are concerned about my watching too many videos from the far right. As they have pointed out, the danger with it is that it can turn you a Tory after a night of bad, troubled dreams. Just like the hero of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis turns into a beetle after a similar disturbed night. I’ve no time for Fascism or the far right. The horrors of the Nazi and Fascist tyrannies are so enormous and vile that no sane, decent person can ever support them. The most infamous of those is the murder of 6 million Jews, and 5 1/2 million assorted gentiles in the Nazi death and concentration camps, but it also includes the atrocities by the Ustashe regime in the former Yugoslavia and by the Italian Fascists against the Arabs and Ethiopians. But it seems that amid the racism and xenophobia the Irish far right are uncovering some very disturbing facts about the actions of multinational corporate capitalism in sub-Saharan Africa that could very easily form part of a liberal critique and politics of international protest.

For some reason YouTube’s put up for my viewing a series of videos from the Irish Nationalist Party, despite the fact that I’m not Irish and definitely not a member of the far right. But they are interesting because of what they show about the issues now driving the rise of the nationalist right in Eire. From what I’ve seen in these videos, the Nationalists are against the EU, mass immigration, gay and trans rights and multinational finance capitalism. Their attacks on finance capitalism are superficially entirely reasonable. They hate the way Ireland and its enterprises have been parcelled up and sold off to foreign owners through offshore holding companies and tax havens. They’re right. This is also what has been done over here in Britain, and is still being done by the Tories. They rightly criticise the government for bailing out the banks responsible for the 2008 financial crash and the austerity that was consequently imposed on the Irish people. Just as over this side of the Irish Sea, our government bailed out the banks and rewarded the people responsible for the crash, while at the same time using it as an excuse to impose cuts on the welfare state, state expenditure on education and the NHS and low wages for everyone not a multimillionaire. And part of their hatred of the EU seems to come from the European Union’s role in imposing this austerity as well as other, socially liberal policies which go against traditional, conservative Irish morality.

In one of their videos, they compare the offshore financial houses and the EU to the absentee landlords that oppressed the Irish peasantry during the 19th century, and whose predations and exploitation was a major cause of the grievances that finally produced the Irish Revolution. But underneath the liberal, reasonable critique of multinational finance capitalism, there’s something far more intolerant. In one of the videos I watched, the speaker talked about how there needed to be research into the role of international finance capitalism in the Cromwellian invasion. This sounds to me to be the old anti-Semitic nonsense about the Jewish banking conspiracy. The nonsense spouted by the Tsarist forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and which inspired Adolf Hitler and the other architects of the Holocaust.

They also hate the Irish government and the country’s mainstream parties, as well as the EU, for mass immigration, which they claim is taking Irish jobs from Irish workers and making Irish people homeless as accommodation which should go to them is given instead to immigrants. It’s standard far right stuff in many ways.

But one of their speakers at a local rally said something very interesting about what the multinational agricultural firms and the EU are doing in Africa. He claimed that they were destabilising the continent through purchasing vast areas of land and then clearing them of the indigenous, local people in order to turn them into vast farms. One of these estates being set up in Niger is, according to him, 5,000 square miles in extent. These firms are building huge walls around these estates, which have created tension and conflict. It’s the reason why so many military age men from the continent are seeking asylum on this side of the Mediterranean. They’re fleeing the wars and conflicts this is fuelling.

Now I don’t know how true this is. But it sounds horrifically plausible. Way back in the ’90s some of the creators of 2000AD put out a very political comic strip, World War Three, about a future war in Latin America driven by the big agricultural firms. I got the impression that this was based on fact and reasonable predictions. It was SF as the ‘literature of warning’. Now it sounds like something very similar is really happening, but this time in Africa.

I’m sure this is being discussed elsewhere, but I’m unaware that it has been covered in the mainstream media or by the mainstream parties. I wonder if this is a consequence of the embrace of neoliberalism by the European left. I very much doubt that Tony Blair and his successors in the Labour party want anyone noticing that free market, international capitalism in its genuine sense rather than as a code for ‘Jews’ brings nothing but wage slavery, poverty, misery and death. The Fascists and the far right, however, are left free to mention it. They are, after all, at the moment numerically small in Ireland and Britain and so few people will take any notice. And decent people will ignore it, because it comes from such a contaminated source.

Odiously, we have now got into a situation where reasonable criticisms of multinational capitalism are being shut down by the rightists under the pretext of combatting anti-Semitism in the Labour party. And instead they’re being embraced by people, whose solution is the ‘socialism of fools’ described by August Bebel.

We need real socialism, and a politics of tolerance and internationalism to protect working people across the world, whether Africa, Ireland or Britain.

I’m not going to show the video or link to it, but if you want to see it on YouTube, it’s title is: Ciarán McCormack – “The UN, the EU and the World Bank are destabilising Africa.”

One Struggle: The People Oppressing the Indian Farmers Are Also Donors to the British Tories

As I’ve mentioned previously, last Friday I went to a Virtual pre-May Day rally on Zoom, put on as part of the Arise festival of left Labour ideas. It lasted for nearly an hour and a half, and featured great speakers from across the world, including our own Jeremy Corbyn. The international guests included Daniele Obono, a Black socialist politician from across the Channel in France, and peeps from Ghana, India and Latin America. They spoke about how people everywhere had to fight against exploitation from their own national elites, as well as combating racism, colonialism and the legacy of slavery. One of the speakers graphically showed how the poor African countries are very much at the mercy of the big multinationals with a story about Kenya and Vodaphone. The Kenyan government had asked the phone company not to give its shareholders their dividends this year, because the pay out would bankrupt the African nation.

I was also very much interested in the talk by an Indian lady about the appalling policies of Modi’s Hindu Supremacist government. This is the Indian nationalist BJP, which is extremely right-wing and bitterly intolerant of Islam, Christianity and Sikhism, as well as liberal Hindus, who believe in a secular, tolerant, pluralist India. The BJP are trying to privatise the state purchasing mechanism for the agricultural sectors. This was set up to guarantee a fair price to India’s farmers. However, the BJP are neoliberals and so want to hand it over to private entrepreneurs. This will force down prices, sending millions of farmers into abject poverty. There have been mass demonstrations and strikes against it right across India. She said that it’s the biggest protest movement in the world, number 250 million people. And Modi and his crew have reacted brutally, sending the police in to break up the protests, beat demonstrators and arrest the journalists covering them.

And guess what? Some of the businessmen backing Modi’s privatisation are also donors to the Tories over here.

This also shows how multinational capital is operating across the globe to impoverish and exploit working people.

A few months ago we had as guest speaker at a Virtual meeting of my local Labour party here in Bristol a member of Sikh community to talk about Modi’s attacks on the Indian farmers. Most of the farmers affected are Sikh, and so there are Sikh charities in this country which are giving aid to their coreligionists in India.

But it’s also very clear that working people across the world also need to unite to tackle the poverty and oppression created by capitalism because of the impact of globalisation. I am very definitely not a Communist, but Marx made this very clear in the slogan on the Communist Manifesto.

We really do need the workers of the world to unite. Because if we don’t, we will be in chains.

Tree-Free Paper Is Saving Forests and Farmers in Washington State

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/04/2021 - 6:00pm in

In 2013, about 20 wheat farmers gathered at a local pizza joint in Dayton, Washington to hear John Begley, CEO of Columbia Pulp, make his case. 

Begley and his team had big plans. He told the farmers his company would start buying up the discarded wheat straw that was left lying in their fields after they finished their harvest. This would-be waste could be turned into pulp to make paper products, no trees required, reducing the carbon footprint of paper manufacturing and introducing a new income stream for the wheat producers. But the farmers had been sold on plans for buying up their wheat waste for various schemes in the past — and, despite many promises, none of them had come to fruition. Skepticism was high.

“Everybody was kind of feeling each other out,” recalls Begley. The meeting turned out to be the very first step in a years-long process of building trust and showing results. Wheat growers were brought in for tours and shown the pulp manufacturing system. Questions were answered and relationships nurtured. Finally, six years after that initial meeting, Columbia Pulp became the first tree-free pulping facility in North America, with a design capacity to process 240,000 tons of straw that the farmers would otherwise throw away each year. What was once garbage could now be salvaged and sold for pulp to make paper products that didn’t require felling a single tree. 

Saving a carbon sink 

Washington’s iconic forests of Douglas fir, western hemlock and sitka spruce are some of the most efficient carbon-sequestration ecosystems in the world. Taken together, these trees scrub 35 percent of the state’s total carbon emissions. All that wood is also worth a lot of money — net timber revenues from state forestland amounted to $124 million in 2018. The tension is evident: a state whose forests are a critical carbon sink has built an economy that relies on turning those forests into plywood, sawdust and paper products.  

But Washington is also home to a vast landscape that many out-of-staters don’t know about: 2.2 million acres of wheat fields that undulate across its southeastern flank, making it America’s third largest producer of wheat.

wheatThe southeastern corner of Washington State is a major wheat producing region. Credit: Keith Ewing / Flickr

“[Wheat] farmers in the Northwest have a good product in a good market, but there are years when they run really lean,” says Ben Rankin, founder of Columbia Straw Supply, which manages relationships between local growers and Columbia Pulp. 

One of the many challenges of profitable wheat production is that the stalk closest to the ground is too dense for the combine to run through, so farmers must figure out how to clear what’s left standing after the harvest. There are essentially three options: till, burn, or bale. The first two are undesirable. Tilling dries out the soil and causes erosion, and burning fills the air with noxious smoke. That leaves baling as the most environmentally friendly option. The question is, what to do with all those bales of unusable leftover straw?

Crushed by negative news?

Sign up for the Reasons to be Cheerful newsletter.
[contact-form-7]

“That’s where Columbia Straw comes in,” says Rankin, who got involved with Columbia Pulp in 2014 after seeing a need to form connections between the company and the people producing wheat. Columbia Straw Supply works with local balers to buy up all that leftover wheat straw, which Columbia Pulp turns into pulp for paper products, giving farmers a new stream of revenue — and pushing the paper industry in a more sustainable direction.

A new kind of paper

“Man has used straw in pulp and paper since the beginning of time,” says Begley. The Egyptians used papyrus, a straw-like plant found in wetlands. But until recently, straw didn’t make sense for large-scale paper pulp manufacturing. 

The reason is that straw is about two-thirds cellulose, which is what you want for pulp, and about one-third other materials. “What made it uneconomical in the old days was how to get rid of that one-third of material,” says Begley. 

Mark Lewis and Bill McKean at the University of Washington took on the challenge of finding a profitable, sustainable use for this excess wheat straw waste. Their work resulted in the Phoenix Process, which not only uses 90 percent less water and fewer chemicals than traditional tree pulping, it makes use of that final one-third of material to produce non-toxic biopolymers for fertilizer, de-icing agents and other products. 

“I realized early on that it was going to work,” says Lewis, who’s been studying non-wood pulping since college. “The challenge was finding the right partners and banging my head against the wall — until I decided to start my own company.”

columbia pulpColumbia Pulp’s processing plant. Photo courtesy Columbia Pulp

Lewis founded Columbia Pulp, along with Sustainable Fiber Technologies (SFT), which owns and licenses out the Phoenix Process. A recent life cycle analysis at Columbia Pulp found that the carbon footprint of this new pulping process is 76 percent lower than that of conventional tree pulps. Part of these saved emissions come from the process itself, but a large chunk comes from simply leaving forests alone. Clearing forests reduces carbon sequestration, and replanting those forests doesn’t revert their sequestration potential back to baseline — according to research conducted for the Canadian government, undisturbed forests sequester nearly twice as much carbon as managed ones. To top it off, only about 25 percent of a tree gets used when it is processed to make paper. 

Between the forest conservation and the more efficient processing techniques, Columbia Pulp estimates that replacing 140,000 tons of conventional pulp with its own version would save 133,000 metric tons of CO2 per year — the equivalent of what’s absorbed by 5.8 million trees.

The product is catching on. A partnership between SFT and Anheuser-Busch is now turning barley waste from beer production into the cardboard box that holds a six-pack of Corona. SFT has also licensed the Phoenix Process to Essity, one of the world’s largest producers of tissue products. 

The long haul

“Once we were up and running, there was a lot of enthusiasm from local farmers,” says Rankin. “They want to pass on a farm to the next generation, so they’re invested in doing the right thing.” 

So what convinced those farmers to trust in the potential of Columbia Pulp?

“We built it,” says Begley. “We put shovels in the ground.” 

Just over a year after opening, operations at Columbia Pulp were halted due to Covid-19, with 90 of the original 100 employees furloughed in March of 2020. Growers have therefore not yet seen the full potential of the mill’s straw purchasing capacity. But operations are slowly starting up again, and 75 jobs have been restored, with 80 percent of them now filled by the original workers. 

columbia pulpWheat farmers touring the Columbia Pulp plant. Photo courtesy Columbia Pulp

Lewis says Covid-19 caused delays in potential partnerships as well, since investors stopped meeting in person last year. But the deals with Anheuser-Busch and Essity are bolstering interest in non-wood pulp. The possibility of new regulations restricting single-use plastics across the U.S. could open up new markets for wheat-straw pulp products, as companies look for sustainable, paper replacements. 

With the technology available, pressure is mounting for paper companies. Procter & Gamble, whose Charmin toilet paper is made from 100 percent virgin forest, was recently called-out by shareholders, 67 percent of which voted in favor of a proposal to “increase the scale, pace, and rigor of its efforts to eliminate deforestation.” 

“We all have to learn to become stewards and gardeners, not just extractors,” says Rankin, who points out that in the 1960s there was a big shift toward recycled paper, and today over 65 percent of paper products in the U.S. are recycled. He’s excited to be a part of the next significant shift. Non-wood pulp, he believes, “could be the beginning of another big transformation in the industry.”

The post Tree-Free Paper Is Saving Forests and Farmers in Washington State appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Another False Start in Africa Sold with Green Revolution Myths

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/04/2021 - 11:08pm in

By Timothy A. Wise and Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Cross-posted at Inter Press Service

Since the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) was launched in 2006, yields have barely risen, while rural poverty remains endemic, and would have increased more if not for out-migration.

AGRA was started, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, to double yields and incomes for 30 million smallholder farm households while halving food insecurity by 2020.

There are no signs of significant productivity and income boosts from promoted commercial seeds and agrochemicals in AGRA’s 13 focus countries. Meanwhile, the number of undernourished in these nations increased by 30%!

When will we ever learn?
What went wrong? The continuing Indian farmer protests, despite the COVID-19 resurgence, highlight the problematic legacy of its Green Revolution (GR) in frustrating progress to sustainable food security.

Many studies have already punctured some myths of India’s GR. Looking back, its flaws and their dire consequences should have warned policymakers of the likely disappointing results of the GR in Africa.

Hagiographic accounts of the GR cite ‘high‐yielding’ and ‘fast-growing’ dwarf wheat and rice spreading through Asia, particularly India, saving lives, modernising agriculture, and ‘freeing’ labour for better off-farm employment.

Many recent historical studies challenge key claims of this supposed success, including allegedly widespread yield improvements and even the number of lives actually saved by increased food production.

Environmental degradation and other public health threats due to the toxic chemicals used are now widely recognized. Meanwhile, water management has become increasingly challenging and unreliable due to global warming and other factors.

Ersatz GR2.0 for Africa
Half a century later, the technology fetishizing, even deifying AGRA initiative seemed oblivious of Asian lessons as if there is nothing to learn from actual experiences, research and analyses.

Worse, AGRA has ignored many crucial features of India’s GR. Importantly, the post-colonial Indian government had quickly developed capacities to promote economic development.

Few African countries have such ‘developmental’ capacities, let alone comparable capabilities. Their already modest government capacities were decimated from the 1980s by structural adjustment programmes demanded by international financial institutions and bilateral ‘donors’.

Ignoring lessons of history
India’s ten-point Intensive Agricultural Development Programme was more than just about seed, fertilizer and pesticide inputs. Its GR also provided credit, assured prices, improved marketing, extension services, village-level planning, analysis and evaluation.

These and other crucial elements are missing or not developed appropriately in recent AGRA initiatives. Sponsors of the ersatz GR in Africa have largely ignored such requirements.

Instead, the technophile AGRA initiative has been enamoured with novel technical innovations while not sufficiently appreciating indigenous and other ‘old’ knowledge, science and technology, or even basic infrastructure.

The Asian GR relied crucially on improving cultivation conditions, including better water management. There has been little such investment by AGRA or others, even when the crop promoted requires such improvements.

From tragedy to farce
Unsurprisingly, Africa’s GR has reproduced many of India’s problems:

    • As in India, overall staple crop productivity has not grown significantly faster despite costly investments in GR technologies. These poor productivity growth rates have remained well below population growth rates.

 

    • Moderate success in one priority crop (e.g., wheat in Punjab, India, or maize in Africa) has typically been at the expense of sustained productivity growth for other crops.

 

    • Crop and dietary diversity has been reduced, adversely affecting cultivation sustainability, nutrition, health and wellbeing.

 

    • Subsidies and other incentives have meant more land devoted to priority crops, not just intensification, with adverse land use and nutrition impacts.

 

    • Soil health and fertility have suffered from ‘nutrient-mining’ due to priority crop monocropping, requiring more inorganic fertilizer purchases.
  • Higher input costs often exceed additional earnings from modest yield increases using new seeds and agrochemicals, increasing farmer debt.

Paths not taken
AGRA and other African GR proponents have had 14 years, plus billions of dollars, to show that input-intensive agriculture can raise productivity, net incomes and food security. They have clearly failed.

Africans — farmers, consumers and governments — have many good reasons to be wary, especially considering AGRA’s track record after a decade and a half. India’s experience and the ongoing farmer protests there should make them more so.

Selling Africa’s GR as innovation requiring unavoidable ‘creative destruction’ is grossly misleading. Alternatively, many agroecology initiatives, which technophiles decry as backward, are bringing cutting-edge science and technology to farmers, with impressive results.

A 2006 University of Essex survey, of nearly 300 large ecological agriculture projects in more than fifty poor countries, documented an average 79% productivity increase, with declining costs and rising incomes.

Published when AGRA was launched, these results far surpass those of GRs thus far. Sadly, they remind us of the high opportunity costs of paths not taken due to well-financed technophile dogma.

Timothy A. Wise is senior advisor at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and author of Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Battle for the Future of Food.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

 

Colonial Ties, Not Oppression, Is the Best Reason for Granting Asylum

This has been irritating me for some time now, and so I’m going to try to get it off my chest. A month or so ago I went to a Virtual meeting, organised by the left wing of the Labour party, on why socialists should be anti-war. It was part of the Arise Festival of ideas, and featured a variety of speakers all concerned with the real possibility that the war-mongering of Tony Blair, George W. Bush and so on would return. They made the point that all the interventions in Iraq, Libya and elsewhere were motivated purely by western geopolitical interests. Western nations and their multinationals had initiated them solely to plunder and dominate these nations and their industries and resources. One of the speakers was the Muslim head of the Stop War Coalition, who stated that many people from ethnic minorities had supported the Labour party because historically Labour had backed independence for their countries of origin. And obviously the Labour party was risking their support by betraying them through supporting these wars. After the failure of these wars – the continued occupation of Afghanistan, the chaos in Iraq and Libya – the calls for further military interventions had died down. But now these wars were being rehabilitated, and there is a real danger that the military-industrial complex will start demanding further invasions and occupations.

I absolutely agree totally with these points. Greg Palast’s book Armed Madhouse shows exactly how the Iraq invasion had absolutely nothing to do with liberating the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, but was all about stealing their oil reserves and state industries. The invasion of Afghanistan has precious little to do with combatting al-Qaeda, and far more to do with the construction of an oil pipeline that would benefit western oil interests at the expense of Russia and its allies. And the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafy in Libya was also about the removal of an obstacle to western neo-colonial domination. These wars have brought nothing but chaos and death to these countries. The welfare states of Iraq and Libya have been decimated, and the freedoms women enjoyed to pursue careers outside the home have been severely curtailed our removed. Both of these countries were relatively secular, but have since been plunged into sectarian violence.

Despite this, one of the speakers annoyed me. This was the head of the Black Liberation Association or whatever Black Lives Matter now calls itself. She was a young a woman with quite a thick African accent. It wasn’t quite what she said, but the tone in which she said it. This was one of angry, indignant and entitled demand, rather than calm, persuasive argument. She explained that the Black Liberation Association campaigned for the rights and self-government of all nations in the global south and their freedom from neo-colonial economic restrictions and domination. She attacked the ‘fortress Europe’ ideology intended to keep non-White immigrants out, especially the withdrawal of the Italian naval patrols in the Med. This had resulted in more migrant deaths as unseaworthy boats sank without their crews and passengers being rescued. This is all stuff the left has campaigned against for a long time. I remember learning in ‘A’ Level geography in school that Britain and Europe had erected tariff barriers to prevent their former colonies competing with them in the production of manufactured goods. This meant that the economies of the African nations, for example, were restricted to agriculture and mining. As for the withdrawal of the Italian navy and coastguard, and the consequent deaths of migrants, this was very much an issue a few years ago and I do remember signing internet petitions against it. But there was one argument she made regarding the issue of the granting of asylum that was weak and seriously annoyed me. She stated that we had to accept migrants because we had oppressed them under colonialism.

This actually doesn’t work as an argument for two reasons. I’m not disputing that we did oppress at least some of the indigenous peoples of our former colonies. The colour bar in White Rhodesia was notorious, and Black Africans in other countries, like Malawi, were treated as second class citizens quite apart from the horrific, genocidal atrocities committed against the Mao-Mao rebellion. The first problem with the argument from colonial oppression is that it raises the question why any self-respecting person from the Commonwealth would ever want to come to Britain, if we’re so racist and oppressive.

The other problem is that the British Empire is now, for the most part, a thing of the past. Former colonies across the globe formed nationalist movements and achieved their independence. They were supposed to benefit from the end of British rule. In some cases they have. But to return to Africa, since independence the continent has been dominated by a series of brutal dictators, who massacred and looted their people. There is an appalling level of corruption to the point where the FT said that many of them were kleptocracies, which were only called countries by the courtesy of the west. Western colonialism is responsible for many of the Developing World’s problems, but not all. I’ve heard from a couple of Brits, who have lived and worked in former colonies, that they have been asked by local people why we left. These were older people, but it shows that the end of British rule was not as beneficial as the nationalists claimed, and that some indigenous people continued to believe that things had been better under the Empire. But the culpability of the leaders of many developing nations for their brutal dictatorships and the poverty they helped to inflict on their people wasn’t mentioned by this angry young woman. And that’s a problem, because the counterargument to her is that the British Empire has vanished, and with the handover to indigenous rule British responsibility for these nations’ affairs ended. It is up to these countries to solve their problems, and we should be under no obligation to take in people fleeing oppression in these countries.

For me, a far better approach would be to stress old colonial ties and obligations with these nations. Part of the ideology of colonialism was that Britain held these countries in trust, and that these nations would only remain under British rule until they developed the ability to manage themselves. It was hypocritical, and I think there’s a quote from Lord Lugard, one of the architects of British rule in Africa, about how the British had only a few decades to despoil the country. Nevertheless, it was there, as was Kipling’s metaphor of the ‘White Man’s Burden’, in which Britain was to teach these nations proper self-government and civilisation. It’s patronising, because it assumes the superiority of western civilisation, but nevertheless it is one of paternal responsibility and guidance. And some British politicians and imperialists took this ideology very seriously. I was told by a friend of mine that before Enoch Powell became an avowed and implacable opponent of non-White immigration with his infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, he sincerely believed that Britain did have an obligation to its subject peoples. He worked for a number of organisations set up to help non-White immigrants to Britain from her colonies.

It therefore seems to me that supporters of non-White migrants and asylum seekers would be far better arguing that they should be granted asylum because of old colonial ties and kinship in the Commonwealth and continuing paternal obligations, rather than allowed in as some kind of reparation for the oppression of the colonial past.

The first argument offers reconciliation and common links. The other only angry division between oppressed and oppressor.

My Letter to Councillors Lake and Craig About their Slavery Reparations Motion

Last week Bristol city council passed a motion supporting the payment of reparations for slavery to Black Britons. The motion was brought by Cleo Lake, a Green councillor for Cotham, and seconded by Asher Craig, the city’s deputy mayor and head of equality. Lake stated that it was to include everyone of ‘Afrikan’ descent as shown by her preferred spelling of the word with a K. She claimed this was the original spelling of the continent before it was changed by White Europeans. The reparations themselves would not be a handout, but instead funding for schemes to improve conditions for the Black community to put them in a position of equality with the rest of society. The schemes were to be guided and informed by the Black communities themselves.

This is all well and good, and certainly comes from the best of motives. But it raises a number of issues that rather complicate matters. Apart from her eccentric spelling, which looks to me like Afrocentric pseudohistory, there is the matter of who should be the proper recipient of these payments. Arguably, it should not include as Africans, as it was African kingdoms and chiefs who actually did the dirty business of raiding for slaves and selling them to European and American merchants.

Then there is the fact that the payment of reparations for slavery in the instance also sets a general principle that states that every nation that has engaged in slaving should pay reparations to its victims. So, are the Arab countries and India also going to pay reparations for their enslavement of Black Africans, which predates the European slave trade? Are Morocco and Algeria, the home countries of the Barbary pirates, going to pay reparations for the 2 1/2 million White Europeans they carried off into slavery?

And what about contemporary slavery today? Real slavery has returned in Africa with slave markets being opened by Islamists in their areas of Libya and in Uganda. What steps are being taken to counter this, or is the city council just interested in historic European slavery? And what measures are being taken by the council to protect modern migrants from enslavement? A few years ago a Gloucestershire farmer was prosecuted for enslaving migrant labourers, as have other employers across the UK. And then there is the problem of sex trafficking and the sexual enslavement of migrant women across the world, who are frequently lured into it with the lie that they will be taken to Europe and given proper, decent employment. What steps is the council taking to protect them?

I also don’t like the undercurrent of anti-White racism in the motion. By including Africans, Lake and Craig are attempting to build up and promote a unified Black British community by presenting the enslavement of Black Africans as something that was only done by Whites. This is not only historically wrong, but it promotes racism against Whites. I’ve heard Black Bristolians on the bus talking to their White friends about other Whites they know in the Black majority parts of Bristol, who are suffering racist abuse. Sasha Johnson, the leader of Black Lives Matter in Oxford, was thrown off Twitter for advocating the enslavement of Whites. Lake’s and Craig’s motion, while well meant, seems dangerous in that it has the potential to increase Black racism towards Whites, not lessen it.

I therefore sent the following letter to councillors Lake and Craig yesterday. So far the only answer I’ve received is an automatic one from Asher Craig. This simply states that she’s receiving a large amount of messages recently and so it may take some time before she answers it. She also says she won’t respond to any message in which she’s been copied. As I’ve sent the email to both her and Lake, it wouldn’t surprise me if this means that I don’t get a reply at all from her. Councillor Lake hasn’t sent me any reply at all. Perhaps she’s too busy.

I do wonder if, by writing this letter, I’m setting myself up for more condescension and gibes about my race and gender by Craig and Lake. When I Craig a letter expressing my concerns about the comments she made about Bristol and slavery on the Beeb, which I believed were flatly untrue, I did get a reply. This simply asserted that I wouldn’t make such comments if I had heard the whole interview, but gave no further information. It ended by telling me that their One Bristol schools curriculum would promote Black Bristolians, both Caribbean and African. They would be inclusive, ‘which hasn’t always happened with White men, I’m afraid’. So no facts, no proper answers, just evasions and the implication that I was somehow being racist and sexist, because I’m a White man.

Nevertheless, I believe very strongly that these a real issues that need to be challenged, rather than ignored or simply gone along with for the sake of a quiet life, or the desire to be seen to be doing the right thing.

I blogged about this a few days ago, and will write something further about any reply I receive, or the absence of one. As I said, I feel I’m setting myself up for patronising sneers and evasions from them, but it will be interesting to read what they have to say.

Dear Madam Councillors,

Congratulations on the passage of your motion last week calling for the payment of reparations for slavery to the Black British community. I am writing to you not to take issue with the question of paying reparations and certainly not with your aim of creating a sustainable process, led and guided by Black communities themselves, to improve conditions for the Black British community. What I wish to dispute here is the inclusion of Black Africans as equal victims of the transatlantic slave trade, as well as other issues raised by your motion.. Black Africans were not just victims of transatlantic slavery..  They were also trading partners, both of ourselves and the other nations and ethnicities involved in the abominable trade.

I’d first like to question Councillor Lake’s assertion that Africa was originally spelt with a ‘K’ and that Europeans changed it to a ‘C’. We use the Latin alphabet, which the Romans developed from the Etruscans, both of which cultures were majority White European. I am not aware of any African culture using the Latin alphabet before the Roman conquest of north Africa. The ancient Egyptians and Nubians used hieroglyphs, the Berber peoples have their own ancient script, Tufinaq, while Ge’ez and Amharic, the languages of Christian Ethiopia, also have their own alphabet. The Coptic language, which is the last stage of the ancient Egyptian language, uses the Greek alphabet with some characters taken from Demotic Egyptian. And the Arabic script and language was used by the Muslim African cultures before the European conquest of the continent. I am therefore at a loss to know where the assertion that Africans originally spelt the name of themselves and their continent with a ‘K’.

Regarding the issue of Africans receiving reparations for slavery, it existed in the continent long before the development of the transatlantic slave trade in the 15th century. For example, in the early Middle Ages West African kingdoms were using slaves in a form of plantation agriculture to grow cotton and foodstuffs. Black Africans were also enslaved by the Arabs and Berbers of North Africa, and the first Black slaves imported into Europe were taken to al-Andalus, Muslim Spain. And when the European transatlantic slave trade arose, it was carried on not just by Europeans but also by powerful African states such as Dahomey, Whydah, Badagry and others in West Africa. These states were responsible for enslaving the surrounding peoples and selling them to European and later American slave merchants. There were occasional slave raids by Europeans themselves, as was done by Jack Hawkins. But mostly the European slave traders were confined to specific quarters in the West African city states, which were sufficiently strong to prevent European expansion inland.

The British mostly took their slaves from West Africa. In eastern Africa the slave trade was conducted by the Arabs, Portuguese and the Dutch, who transported them to their colonies further east in what is now Indonesia. There was also a trade in African slaves in the 19th century by merchants from India. It was also carried out by east African peoples such as the Ngoni, Yao, Balowoka, Swahili and Marganja. These peoples strongly resisted British efforts to suppress the slave trade. In the late 1820s one of the west African slaving nations attacked a British trading post with the aim of forcing the British to resume the trade. In the 1850s the British fought a war against King Guezo of Dahomey with the intention of stamping out slaving by this west African state. In the 1870s the British soldier, Samuel Baker, was employed by the Khedive Ismail of Egypt to suppress Arab slaving in what is now the Sudan and parts of Uganda. The campaign to suppress the slave trade through military force formed part of the rationale for the British invasion of the continent in the Scramble for Africa. But it was also to protect their newly acquired territories in the Sudan and Uganda from slave-raiding by the Abyssinians that the British also launched a punitive expedition into that nation. And the Mahdi’s rebellion in the Sudan, in which General Gordon was killed, was partly caused by the British authorities’ attempts to ban the slave trade and slavery there.

In addition to the use of force, the British also attempted to stamp it out through negotiations. Talks were opened and treaties made with African kings as well as the Imam of Muscat, the suzerain of the east African slave depots and city states, including Zanzibar and Pemba. Subsidies were also paid to some African rulers in order to pay them off from slaving.

I am sure you are aware of all of this. But regrettably none of it seems to have been mentioned in the motion, and this greatly complicates the issue of reparations for slavery. Firstly, there is the general question of whether any Africans should receive compensation for slavery because of the active complicity of African states. So great has this historic involvement in the transatlantic slave trade been that one commenter said that when it came to reparations, it should be Africans compensating western Blacks. Even if it’s conceded that reparations should be paid to Africans for slavery, this, it could be argued, should only apply to some Africans. Those African nations from which we never acquired our slaves should not be compensated, as we were not responsible for their enslavement or the enslavement of other Africans.

When it comes to improving conditions and achieving equality for Bristol and Britain’s Black communities, I do appreciate that Africans may be as underprivileged and as subject to racism as Afro-Caribbeans. I don’t dispute here either that they should also receive official aid and assistance. What is questionable is including them in reparations for slavery. It should be done instead, in my view, with a package of affirmative action programmes, of which reparations for slavery for people of West Indian heritage is one component. This would mixed amongst other aid policies that equally cover all sections of the Black community. I am not trying to create division here, only suggest ways in which the issue of reparations should in accordance with the actual historical roles of the individual peoples involved in the slave trade.

And this is another matter that concerns me about this motion. It seeks to simplify the African slave trade into White Europeans preying upon Black Africans. It appears to be an attempt to promote a united Black community by placing all the blame for slavery and the slave trade on Whites. This is completely ahistorical and, I believe, dangerous. It allows those states that were involved to cover up their involvement in the slave trade and creates hostility against White British. The Conservative journalist Peter Hitchens, speaking on LBC radio a few weeks ago, described how an Ethiopian taxi driver told him that he hated the British, because we were responsible for slavery. He was completely unaware of his own cultures participation in slavery and the enslavement of other African peoples. I’m sure you are also aware that Sasha Johnson, the leader of Black Lives Matter Oxford and the founder of the Taking the Initiative Party, was thrown off Twitter for a tweet advocating the enslavement of Whites: ‘The White man will not be our equal. He will be our slave. History is changing’. I am also concerned about possible prejudice being generated against White members of majority Black communities. I have heard Black Bristolians telling their White friends about the abuse other White people they know get in some  majority Black or Asian parts of Bristol because of their colour. I appreciate the need to protect Black Bristolians from prejudice and abuse, but feel that this also needs to be extended to Whites. Racism can be found in people of all colours.

The lack of discussion of African involvement in the slave trade also concerns me just as a matter of general education. Councillor Craig said in an interview on BBC television during the BLM protests that she would like a museum of slavery in Bristol, just as there is in Liverpool and Nantes. I feel very strongly that any such museum should put it in its proper, global context. White Europeans enslaved Black Africans, yes, but slavery was never exclusive to White Europeans. Other nations and races throughout the world were also involved.

The question of reparations also brings up the issue of possible payments for White enslavement and the question of measures to suppress the resurgence of slavery in Africa. As you are no doubt aware, White Europeans also suffered enslavement by north African pirates from Morocco and Algeria. It is believed about 2 ½ million Europeans were thus carried off. This includes people from Bristol and the West Country. If Britain should pay compensation to Blacks for enslaving them, then by the same logic these nations should pay White Britons reparations for their enslavement. Would you therefore support such a motion? And do you also agree that the Muslim nations, that also enslaved Black Africans, such as Egypt and the Ottoman Turkish Empire, as well as Morocco, should also pay reparations to the descendants of the people they enslaved?

Apart from Britain’s historic role in the slave trade, there is also the matter of the resurgence of slavery in Africa today. Slave markets have been opened in Islamist-held Libya and Uganda. I feel it would be unjust to concentrate on the historic victims of slavery to the exclusion of its modern, recent victims, and hope you agree. What steps should Bristol take to help suppress it today, and support asylum seekers, who may have come to the city fleeing such enslavement?

This also applies to the resurgence of slavery in Britain. There have been cases of migrant labourers being enslaved by their employers in Gloucestershire, as well as the problem of sex trafficking. What steps is the city taking to protect vulnerable workers and immigrants here?

I hope you will appreciate the need for proper education in Bristol about the city’s role in the slave trade and the involvement of other nations, one that does not lead to a simplistic blaming of all of it on White Europeans, as well as the question the issue of reparations raises about the culpability of other nations, who may also be responsible for paying their share.

Yours faithfully,

Not All Africans Were the Victims of European Slavery – Some Were the Slavers

As I mentioned in a previous post, a few days ago Bristol city council passed a motion brought by Green councillor Cleo Lake and seconded by Labour deputy mayor and head of equalities Asher Craig supporting the payment of reparations to the Black community for slavery. Bristol becomes the first town outside London to pass such a motion. Although the motion is a radical step, on examination it seems not so very different from what Bristol and other cities are already doing. Lake herself said something like the reparations weren’t going to be a free handout for everyone, or something like that. The motion, as I understand it, simply calls for funding for projects, led by the ‘Afrikan’ community itself, to improve conditions and create prosperity in Black communities so that they and their residents enjoy the same levels of opportunity and wealth as the rest of us Brits. This has been coupled with calls for ‘cultural reparations’. What this means in practice is unclear. It appears to me that it might include monuments to the people enslaved by Bristol and transported to the New World, the repatriation of stolen cultural artefacts or possibly more support for Black arts projects. But as far as I am aware, the city has already been funding welfare, arts and urban regeneration projects in Bristol’s Black majority communities, like St. Paul’s, since the riots forty years ago. It looks to me far more radical than it actually is.

The motion was passed by 47 votes to 11. Those 11 opposing votes came from the Tories. They stated that while the motion came from a ‘good place’, they were not going to vote for it because it was just reducing a complex issue to a binary. Mike in his piece about it says that it sounds like doubletalk to him. It does to me, too, but there might be a genuine issue there as well. Because Lake has made the motion about the ‘Afrikan’ community in Bristol as a whole, including both Afro-Caribbean and African people. Both these parts of Bristol’s Black community are supposed to qualify equally for reparations. Her eccentric spelling of the ‘African’ with a K exemplified this. She claimed that this was the originally spelling before Europeans changed it to a C. The K spelling indicated the inclusiveness of the African community. This looks like total hogwash. Western European nations use the Latin alphabet, which was developed by the Romans from the Etruscans. The Romans and the Etruscans were both Europeans. I am not aware of any Black African nation having used the Latin alphabet, let alone spelt the name of their continent with a K. The Berber peoples of north Africa have their alphabet, used on gravestones. The ancient Egyptians wrote in hieroglyphs. Coptic, the language of the indigenous Egyptian Christian church, which is descended from ancient Egyptian, uses the Greek alphabet with the addition of a number of letters taken from the demotic ancient Egyptian script. Ge’ez, the language of Christian Ethiopia, and its descendant, Amharic, also have their own scripts. It’s possible that medieval Nubian was written in the Latin alphabet, but it might also be that it was written in Greek. It therefore seems to me that K spelling of Africa is a piece of false etymology, invented for ideological reasons in order to give a greater sense of independence and antiquity to Africa and its people but without any real historical support.

At the same time there is a real difference between the experience of the descendants of enslaved Africans taken to the New World and the African peoples. Because the latter were deeply involved in the enslavement of the former. Some Europeans did directly enslave Africans through raids they conducted themselves, like the privateer Jack Hawkins in the 16th century. But mostly the actual raiding and enslavement of the continent’s peoples was done by other African nations, who sold them on to the Europeans. European slave merchants were prevented from expanding into the continent through a combination of strong African chiefs and disease-ridden environment of the west African coast. As a result, the European slave merchants were confined to specific quarters, like the ghettoes for European Jews, in African towns. Britain also mostly took its slaves from West Africa. The east African peoples were enslaved by Muslim Arabs, the Portuguese or by the Dutch for their colonies at the Cape or further east in what is now Indonesia.

Slavery also existed in Africa long before the arrival of the Europeans. Indeed, the kings of Dahomey used it in a plantation agricultural economy to supply food and cotton. They were also enslaved by the Arabs and Berbers of north Africa. The first Black slaves imported to Europe were taken to al-Andalus, Muslim Spain. The trans-Saharan slave trade survived until 1910 or so because the Europeans did not invade and conquer Morocco, one of its main centres.

Following the ban on the slave trade within the British Empire in 1807, Britain concluded a series of treaties with other nations and sent naval patrols across the world’s oceans in order to suppress it. Captured slavers were taken to mixed courts for judgement. If found guilty, the ship was confiscated, a bounty given to the capturing ship’s officers, and the slaves liberated. Freetown in Sierra Leone was specifically founded as a settlement for these freed slaves.

The reaction of the African peoples to this was mixed. Some African nations, such as the Egba, actively served with British sailors and squaddies to attack slaving vessels. I believe it was British policy to give them the same amount of compensation for wounds received in action as their White British comrades. Other African nations were outraged. In the 1820s there was a series of attacks on British trading stations on the Niger delta in order to force Britain to resume the slave trade. As a result, Britain fought a series of wars against the west African slaving states of Dahomey, Badagry, Whydah and others. On the other side of the Continent, Britain invaded what is now Uganda, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe partly to prevent these countries being claimed by their European imperial rivals, but also to suppress slavery there. In the 1870s the British soldier, Samuel Baker, was employed by the ruler of Egypt, the Khedive Ismail, to stamp out slaving in the Sudan and Uganda. Later on, General Gordon was sent into the Sudan to suppress the Mahdi’s rebellion, one cause of which was the attempt by the British authorities to outlaw the enslavement of Black Africans by the Arabs. The Sudan and Uganda also suffered from raids for slaves from Abyssinia, and we launched a punitive expedition against them sometime in the 1880s, I believe. Some African chiefs grew very wealthy on the profits of such misery. Duke Ephraim of Dahomey in the 18th century had an income of £300,000 a year, far more than some British dukes.

Despite the efforts to suppress slavery, it still persisted in Africa. Colonial officials reported to the British government about the problems they had trying to stamp it out. In west Africa, local custom permitted the seizure of someone’s relatives or dependents for their debts, a system termed ‘panyarring’ or pawning. The local authorities in Sierra Leone were also forced to enact a series of reforms and expeditions further south as former slaves, liberated Africans, seized vulnerable local children and absconded to sell them outside the colony. Diplomatic correspondence also describes the frustration British officials felt at continued slaving by the Arabs and the collusion of the Ottoman Turkish authorities. While the Ottomans had signed the treaty formally outlawing the slave trade, these permitted individuals to have personal servants and concubines. The result was that slaving continued under the guise of merchants simply moving with their households. The Turkish authorities were generally reluctant to move against slavers, and when police raids were finally launched on the buildings holding suspected slaves, they found the slaves gone, taken elsewhere by their masters.

Slavery continued to survive amongst some African societies through the 20th century and into the 21st. The 1990s book, Disposable People, estimated that there were then 20 million people then enslaved around the world. Simon Webb, the Youtuber behind ‘History Debunked’, has said in one of his videos that the number is now 40 million. Slave markets – real slave markets – have been reopened in Uganda and in Islamist held Libya following the western-backed overthrow of Colonel Gaddafy.

From this historical analysis, some African nations should very definitely not be compensated or receive reparations for slavery, because they were the slavers. Black civil rights activists have, however, argued that the continent should receive reparations because of the devastation centuries of warfare to supply the European slave trade wrought on the continent. Not everyone agrees, and I read a comment by one diplomat or expert on the issue that, when it came to reparations, it should be Black Africans paying the Black peoples of the Americas and West Indies.

Nevertheless, Lake’s motion states that all Black Bristolians or British are equal victims of British enslavement. This seems to be a view held by many Black Brits. A reporter for the Beeb interviewed some of those involved in the Black Lives Matter protest last summer when the statue of the slaver Edward Colston was torn down in Bristol. The journo asked one of the mob, a young Black lad, what he thought of it. ‘I’m Nigerian’, said the lad, as if this explained everything. It doesn’t, as the Nigerian peoples practised slavery themselves as well as enslaving others for us and their own profit.

It feels rather churlish to raise this issue, as I’ve no doubt that people of African descent suffer the same amount of racial prejudice, poverty and lack of opportunity as West Indians. If the issue was simply the creation of further programmes for improving the Black community generally, then a motion in favour really shouldn’t be an issue. At the same time, if this was about general compensation for injustices suffered through imperialism, you could also argue that Black Africans would have every right to it there. But the issue is reparations for slavery and enslavement. And some Black Africans simply shouldn’t have any right to it, because they were the slavers.

It would be difficult if not impossible to create schemes for improving the condition of Britain’s Black community under the payment of reparations without including Africans as well as Black West Indians. But it also seems to me that the Tories unfortunately also have a point when they complain that Lake has reduced it to a binary issue. She has, simply by claiming that all ‘Afrikans’ were the victims of British enslavement.

And it’s been done in order to create an inclusive Black community, which ignores the different experiences of slavery by the various peoples that make it up, against White Bristol.

Pages