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Private Eye on Johnson’s Appointment of Neocon as Anti-Extremism Chief

A few weeks ago the Labour left staged an event on Zoom in which a series of Labour MPs and activists, including the head of the Stop the War Coalition, explained why socialists needed to be anti-war. They stated that after going quiet following the debacles of the Iraq invasion, Libya and elsewhere, the Neocons were being rehabilitated. There was therefore a real danger that the ideology behind those wars was returning, and Britain and America would embark on further imperialist, colonialist wars. And now, according to this fortnight’s Private Eye, for 16th – 29th April, 2021, Boris Johnson has appointed Robin Simcox, a Neocon, as head of the government’s Commission on Countering Extremism. Simcox is a member of the extreme right-wing Henry Jackson Society, firmly backing the wars in the Middle East. He also supported the rendition of terrorists to countries, where they would be tortured, as well as drone strikes and detention without trial. And when he was in another right-wing American think tank, the Heritage Foundation, he objected to White supremacist organisations also being included in the American government’s efforts to counter violent extremism.

The Eye’s article about his appointment, ‘Brave Neo World’, on page 14, runs

Robin Simcox, appointed as the new head of the government’s Commission on Countering Extremism (CCE), has neoconservative view that will themselves seem pretty extreme to many observers. He replaces Sara Khan, the first head of the CCE, which Theresa May set up in 2017 as “a statutory body to help fight hatred and extremism”.

Simcox was researcher at the neoconservative think tank the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), before leaving for the US to become “Margaret Thatcher fellow” at the conservative Heritage Foundation. He was also a regular contributor to Tory website ConservativeHome, writing there in 2011 that David Cameron was wrong to criticise neoconservatives “what has been happening in the Middle East is proving the neocons right” (ie that invasions could build democracies.

In a 2013 study for the HJS, Simcox argued: “Rendition, drones, detention without trial, preventative arrests and deportations are the realities of the ongoing struggle against today’s form of terrorism; they are not going to disappear, because they have proved extremely effective.” Rendition meant the US and UK handing terror suspects over to nations such as Libya or Egypt so they could be tortured for information. He complained that politicians “failed to adequately explain to the public” why these methods were needed and were “failing to explain that the complexities of dealing with modern-day terrorism meant that not all roads lead to a court of law”.

Simcox spent many years looking at Islamist terrorism, but at the Heritage Foundation he argued that making “white supremacy” the subject of a “countering violent extremism policy” was mostly driven by “political correctness” and could be “overreach”, regardless of the terrorist acts by white racists in the UK, US and elsewhere.

Simcox has been appointed interim lead commissioner of the CCE, possibly because bring him in as a temp means his recruitment wasn’t subject to the same competition and inspection as a permanent appointment.

Johnson has therefore appointed as head of the commission an extreme right-winger, who supports unprovoked attacks on countries like Iraq and Libya. The argument that these invasions were intended to liberate these nations from their dictators was a lie. It was purely for western geopolitical purposes, and particularly to remove obstacles to western political hegemony and dominance of the oil industry in the region. In the case of Iraq, what followed was the wholesale looting of the country. Its oil industry was acquired by American-Saudi oil interests, American and western multinationals stole its privatised state industries. The country’s economy was wrecked by the lowering of protectionist trade tariffs and unemployment shot up to 60 per cent. The country was riven with sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia, American mercenaries ran drugs and prostitution rings and shot ordinary Iraqis for kicks. The relatively secular, welfare states in Iraq and Libya, which gave their citizens free education and healthcare vanished. As did a relatively liberal social environment, in which women were to be regarded as equals and were free to pursue careers outside the home. And western intervention in the Middle East created an environment leading to the further, massive growth in Islamist extremism in al-Qaeda and then Daesh. And this has led to the return of slavery. This was Islamist sex-slavery under Daesh in the parts of Iraq under their jackboot, while Black Africans are being enslaved and sold by Islamists in slave markets that have reappeared in Libya.

Domestically, Simcox’s appointment is also ominous. He clearly doesn’t believe in human rights and the protection of the law. Just as he doesn’t believe in tackling White supremacist extremism, even though at one point there were more outrages committed by White racists than Islamists.

His appointment is part of continuing trend towards real Fascism, identified by Mike over at Vox Political, of which the Tories proposed curtailment of the freedom to demonstrate and protest in public is a major part. At the same time, it also appears to bear out the Labour left’s statement that the warmongers responsible for atrocities like Iraq and Libya are coming back. And I fear very much that they will start more wars.

The people warning against this and organising to defend real freedom of speech is the Labour left, whatever the Tories might say about ill-thought out legislation designed to outlaw ‘hate speech’. We need to support left politicos like Richard Burgon, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Diana Abbott and Apsana Begum. The last three ladies, along with former head of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, held another Zoom event as part of the Arise festival of left Labour ideas, Our right to resist – the Tory attacks on our civil liberties & human rights, in March. We need to support the Stop the War Coalition, because I’m afraid the Tories and the Blairite right in the Labour party will start more wars.

Blair lied, people died. And Johnson lies as easily and as often as other people breathe. If not stopped, the Neocons will start more wars and more innocents will be massacred for the profit of big business.

The World the Suez Canal Made

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/04/2021 - 10:00pm in

Photo credit: Maxar Technologies/Wikimedia Commons _____On Monday afternoon, the Ever Given was floating again. After six days of excavation, dredging,...

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Book Review: Anticolonial Afterlives in Egypt: The Politics of Hegemony by Sara Salem

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 29/03/2021 - 9:10pm in

In Anticolonial Afterlives in Egypt: The Politics of HegemonySara Salem connects the 2011 revolution in Egypt to the Nasserist project initiated by President Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Free Officers in 1952, putting the theories of Antonio Gramsci and Frantz Fanon in dialogue to argue that Nasserism is the only hegemonic project in modern Egyptian history. This is an excellent, meticulous and highly accessible study of hegemony in Egypt and the postcolonial context in general as well as an illuminating discussion of the emergence and afterlives of anticolonial experiences of social change, writes Haythem Guesmi

Anticolonial Afterlives in Egypt: The Politics of Hegemony. Sara Salem. Cambridge University Press. 2020.

Find this book (affiliate link):amazon-logo

In Anticolonial Afterlives in Egypt: The Politics of Hegemony, Sara Salem connects two important moments in Egypt’s modern history: first, its independence from Britain and the creation of the Nasserist project in 1952, initiated by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Free Officers, a nationalist movement composed of a group of army officers that overthrew Egypt’s last monarch, King Faruq, after a bloodless coup; and second, the popular uprising that toppled the authoritarian regime of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. In so doing, she argues that Nasserism – the core political, social and economic principles and policies that Nasser developed during his rule and which continue to frame his legacy – is the only hegemonic project in modern Egyptian history. Salem engages with Antonio Gramsci’s analysis of hegemony, Frantz Fanon’s theory of decolonisation and his stretching of Marxism to the (post)colonial context and, to a lesser extent, Edward Said’s concept of travelling theory to discuss the singularity of the Nasserist project, its afterlives and its final collapse during and after the 2011 revolution.

Throughout the introduction and the two main sections that comprise her book, Salem uses Gramsci’s hegemony as a methodological and theoretical searchlight to explain Nasserism’s success in establishing a transformative anticolonial project. She also draws on the same Gramscian analysis to explain the failure of the subsequent regime of President Anwar el Sadat to reproduce a similar political project in the 1970s and 1980s, and the fall of Nasserist hegemonic policies during the 1990s and the beginning of the twenty-first century under Mubarak’s police regime, which eventually led to the 2011 revolution. Her book ends with an urgent suggestion to move beyond Nasserism as a haunting modernist project and a hopeful call for a new and radical humanism alongside the construction of a true decolonial future.

Salem succeeds in making her first book an excellent, meticulous and highly accessible study of hegemony in Egypt and the postcolonial context in general as well as an illuminating discussion of the emergence and afterlives of anticolonial experiences of social change. Well-developed theoretical analyses, thorough discussions of empirical materials and meaningful contributions to the current debates about Marxism, postcolonialism and hegemony make her book a compelling read and lend a wide resonance to her work. But what interests me the most about Anticolonial Afterlives in Egypt is the fluid movements between paradigms and disciplines and the attention to ‘alternate chronologies’ (24) and ‘different tempos’ (207) that reveal a scholar who not only makes a persuasive and lucid case for the thesis under discussion but, most importantly, is convincingly in command of her critical insights.

In the introductory chapter, Salem identifies the 2011 revolutionary uprising in Egypt as the impetus behind her doctoral thesis that turned into this elegant book. Rather than delving into another contemporary contextualisation of the Egyptian revolution, she posits that the 2011 events were a secondary revolution that connects back to the first enduring revolution of the Nasserist era and its balanced hegemony between consent and coercion. While she acknowledges that this argument has been discussed by many scholars, Salem suggests a double theoretical movement between Marxism and postcolonialism to join these two revolutions in a singular trajectory. To do this, she reads Gramsci’s and Fanon’s works in relation to Egypt’s political and economic history, and she explores how the context of reception illuminates new understandings and adaptations of their theories.

In ‘Anticolonialism and its Discontents’, Salem carefully signals that Gramsci’s hegemony refers to a structure of power in its civil and political forms and ‘the process whereby one class exerts influence over society so that other classes follow its political and economic project’ (36). This is ‘accomplished when a social force is able to transcend its narrow interests and universalize them through moral and intellectual reform’ (36) as well as through leadership in ‘the embedding of coercion within consent so it appears legitimate, necessary, or unintended’ (231).

To ground this Gramscian concept in Egypt and in the colony/postcolony in general, Salem links both Marxism and postcolonial theory through a Gramscian analysis of Nasserist hegemony and its aftermath in Egypt. She also offers a postcolonial adaptation of Gramsci’s theory through Fanon’s methodology of stretching out Marxism ‘to contextualize the specificity of capitalism in the colony without completely disregarding the assumptions underpinning Marxism’ (62) and his conception of a neocolonial dependent bourgeoisie. For Fanon, capitalism and Marxism took distinct forms in the colonial context, especially when it came to the creation of a ruling class that remained dependent to a large extent on (neo)colonial and international capitalism.

Reading Gramsci through Fanon and Fanon through Gramsci allows Salem to move freely between historical moments in Egypt from the pre-history of the Nasserist’s anticolonial project in the early twentieth century to the present day, between Italy and the postcolonial world, between various paradigms such as political economy and historical materialism. For instance, Salem rehistoricises the role of foreign capital in undermining the anticolonial resistance of Egypt’s Bank Misr and its national capitalists in the pre-independence period. Founded in 1920, the challenges faced by Bank Misr to establish a national independent industrialisation, despite the aspirations of the Egyptian elite, and its eventual downfall show the influence of British capital in colonial Egypt and the debilitating power of the colonial international, the economic and political structures of global capitalism and imperialism.

In the second and lengthiest chapter, ‘Hegemony in Egypt: Revisiting Gamal Abdel Nasser’, Salem discusses the political, economic, social and cultural motivations that underpin her central argument that Nasserism is the first and last hegemonic project in modern Egypt. She underlines how pre-1952 anticolonialism, the creation of a genuine historical bloc that allowed Nasserism to organise Egyptian society in its own image and universalise its project, the balance between economic nationalism and state-led capitalism, political internationalism and the consent of Egyptian civil society all resulted in the success of Nasserist hegemony and the creation of powerful legacies that continue to reverberate throughout Egypt’s modern history. Salem adds nuance to understandings of Nasserism as a hegemonic project that established a balance between consent and coercion and arguably an independent ruling elite, yet was also ‘built on internal contradictions, among them the continuation of capitalist development, the absorption and weakening of radical movements such as labour, and the reproduction of colonial institutions such as the nation and nationalism’ (83).

In the last section of the book, ‘Hegemony and Its Afterlives’, Salem examines the afterlives of Nasserism and its gradual decline through the rise of coercive hegemony under el Sadat, from 1967 to the mid-1990s, and Mubarak, from the mid-1990s to 2011. Salem uses Fanon’s criticism of the dependent bourgeoisie in the postcolony to explain how the rapid economic neoliberalism of el Sadat’s project of ìnfitah (‘opening’) to transnational capital and the absence of a historical bloc weakened the Nasserist hegemonic project. Complicating this Fanonian argument, she argues that Fanon’s prediction of the rise of a native bourgeoisie that is ideologically and economically dependent on former colonies did not materialise under Nasser but rather under el Sadat’s neoliberal rule.

This failure to further Nasserist hegemony initiated a debilitating period of transition that Gramsci describes as an interregnum where the old political rule is dying and the new order fails to design and implement a viable continuity. Salem further adapts this Gramscian concept to analyse the appearance of various ‘morbid symptoms’ under Mubarak’s regime in the 1990s and 2000s. During what Salem calls ‘empty time’, ‘a time of crisis during which politics pauses’ (24), police brutality, rampant corruption, poverty and violent electoral politics turned Egypt into a dictatorship. The association of a corrupt caste of businessmen and the military with aggressive neoliberal restructuring and financialisation of the Egyptian economy resulted in the inability ‘to create either a historical bloc or hegemony’ (243) and led to deep reliance on ruthless coercion to eliminate resistance, which eventually signalled the fall of Nasserist hegemony.

In the book’s conclusion, ‘Haunted Histories and Decolonial Futures’, Nasserism is explored as a haunting political project, because its powerful and enduring political and economic structures forced subsequent regimes to engage with them to design their fragmented hegemonic projects. But also, most importantly, Nasserism still haunts ‘as a kind of historical alternative that never quite materialized; and as a project filled with social violence that continues to haunt contemporary Egyptian politics today’ (260). The failure of el Sadat and Mubarak to break with Nasserism’s key policies, especially economic liberalism, highlights its haunting dimension, but also suggests the need to depart from Nasserism’s mastery over Egypt’s future because its hegemonic project has debilitated the capacity of labour and feminist movements particularly to renew their political and social programmes. To resolve this impasse, Salem turns to Fanon’s argument for a true decolonial future that challenges the desire to imitate and reproduce imperial hegemony in Europe and elsewhere. She argues that Fanon’s radical humanism and his call for a new world propose the possibility of an alternative anticolonialism and a true decolonisation.

While it unpacks complex issues and multiple threads in discussing Nasserism’s hegemony, Anticolonial Afterlives in Egypt underdevelops some of the concepts and analyses that would have been a welcome addition to Salem’s book. For instance, key concepts such as travelling theory, the colonial international, empty time, social violence and haunting could have been further theorised and explored in relation to the central threads on hegemony and its afterlives. Surprisingly, the author’s discussion of Fanon’s dependent bourgeoisie early in her book was less about its connection to hegemony in the postcolony and more about the reception of Fanon in the Middle East. Salem’s arguments would also have benefited from a deeper engagement with Roberto Roccu’s The Political Economy of the Egyptian Revolution since both studies argue that Nasserism is the only successful system of hegemony in post-independence Egypt and that the 2011 revolution announced its collapse. Besides, there seems to be an unresolved debate in relation to the interconnections between the afterlives of Nasserist hegemony and (neo)colonialism. To what extent do the afterlives of colonial hegemony that precede Nasserism explain the failure and collapse of the Nasserist hegemonic project? Finally, such an elegant book merits a more careful editing to avoid occasional spelling errors, especially in the concluding chapter.

Overall, Anticolonial Afterlives in Egypt is a valuable addition and excellent resource for anyone studying and teaching, or generally interested in, hegemony, postcolonialism, Marxism as well as decolonisation in Egypt and in the postcolony in general.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. The LSE RB blog may receive a small commission if you choose to make a purchase through the above Amazon affiliate link. This is entirely independent of the coverage of the book on LSE Review of Books.

Image Credit: Sarah.249 (CC BY 2.0).

 


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.

A Pro-Cairo Lobby is Spending Big to Make Sure Biden Doesn’t Cut Aid to Egypt’s Dictatorship

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 11/02/2021 - 3:14am in

Under Donald Trump’s presidency, Egypt, as well as Saudi Arabia, Israel, the UAE, and other repressive regimes, had virtually free reign to commit unchecked human rights abuses without worry that they might be chastised or lose U.S. diplomatic and financial support. But when Joe Biden won the 2020 election, President Sisi of Egypt started to worry. That’s when he contracted lobbying powerhouse Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck for $65,000 a month.

The pro-Cairo lobby team includes a number of former politicians, including former Republican congressman Ed Royce, who chaired the influential Foreign Affairs Committee from 2013-2018. The most shocking PR agent for the Egyptian regime, however, is Nadeam Elshami, former chief of staff for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. “It’s inconceivable that a man who spent his younger years in Egypt, comes from a Muslim family that supported the 2011 Arab Spring and was a key Democratic staffer in the U.S. Congress would end up lobbying for a regime that jails, tortures and murders tens of thousands of Egyptians,” says Mohamed Ismail of  Egyptians Abroad for Democracy Worldwide.

Brownstein boasts many accomplishments, including pushing Congress to obtain compensation on behalf of the hostages held in Iran in 1979, recovering artifacts plundered during the Armenian Genocide, securing compensation for housing developers who had to mitigate asbestos from former U.S. military sites, and securing increased funding for cancer research. Representing Egypt under President Sisi is unlikely to be something Brownstein Hyatt Schreck will brag about.

In July 2013, Sisi seized control of Egypt in a military coup that removed Mohammed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected leader. The following month, on August 14, his military massacred approximately 1,000 civilians engaging in peaceful protest at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square. Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth called the Rabaa massacre, “one of the worst killing of demonstrators in a single day in recent history,” pointing out that the violence was “intentionally planned at the highest levels of Egyptian society.” Between July 2013 and May 2014, Egyptian authorities detained, charged, or sentenced over 40,000 people. Many of the detainees — demonstrators, dissenters, and journalists — were held without trial. Others were tried without due process and sentenced to death.

In 2015, President Sisi governed without an elected parliament, giving himself almost total impunity for the attacks he carried out against civil and political rights. Effectively, all of the human rights gains that had been achieved during the 2011 Arab Spring that ousted longtime Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak were lost when Sisi took over. Sisi’s reign of power has continued in this fashion with Egyptians experiencing surging human rights abuses and a large-scale breakdown of civil society.

In April 2019, Sisi’s government passed constitutional amendments allowing the leader to remain in power until 2030. In the fall of 2019, Egyptian authorities launched their biggest crackdown since Sisi seized power in 2013. According to Amnesty International, over 2,300 people, including more than 111 children, were taken into custody in sweeping and targeted arrests of peaceful protesters, journalists, human rights attorneys, politicians, and political activists. On January 13, 2020, Egyptian-born American citizen Mustafa Kassem died following more than six years of incarceration in Egypt. Kassem had been arrested in August 2013 in Cairo on claims that he had participated in protests against Sisi’s military regime. He suffered from beatings and was held in pretrial detention for over five years before finally, without due process, receiving a sentence of 15 years.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the already abysmal prison conditions in Egypt and Sisi’s government has used the crisis as a pretext to even further silence critics and make use of pretrial detention without judicial review.

Egypt’s North Sinai, a sparsely populated area bordering Israel and the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip, is a particularly egregious example of the country’s human rights abuses. Attacks by armed groups, including ISIS affiliates, on Egyptian government installations, began to rise after the 2011 Arab Spring uprising but increased dramatically following Sisi’s 2013 coup. Instead of protecting Sinai residents in their fight against militants, the Egyption military has “shown utter contempt for residents’ lives, turning their daily life into a nonstop nightmare of abuses,” said Michael Page, Human Rights Watch’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

The Egyptian military in the Sinai has been engaging in torture, disappearances (including of children as young as 12), mass arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, home demolitions, severe curfews resulting in food shortages, and air and ground attacks against civilians. According to Human Rights Watch, these actions amount to war crimes and, according to a 2020 report by the U.S. Department of State, Egypt has repeatedly refused U.S. requests to observe how its military equipment is being used in the Sinai.

The history of U.S. financial support for Egypt dates back to the 1978 Camp David Accords and 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty when the U.S. began to provide Egypt with aid in a 2:3 ratio in accordance with U.S. aid to Israel. According to the U.S. Department of State, since 1978, Egypt has received over $50 billion in military and $30 billion in economic assistance. Currently, the U.S. gives Egypt $1.3 billion per year ($3.56 million per day) in military aid, making Egypt the second-largest recipient of U.S. military assistance after Israel.

This largesse flowed during the reign of Hosni Mubarak and continues today, despite Sisi’s massive human rights abuses. Following the horrific 2014 Rabaa Square massacre, President Obama halted the delivery of U.S. tanks, missiles, fighter jets, and attack helicopters to Egypt. However, by 2015, he relented and lifted the arms hold, citing the need “to address the shared challenges to U.S. and Egyptian interests in an unstable region.” President Trump famously referred to Sisi as his “favorite dictator,” and praised Sisi for doing a  “fantastic job.” In August of 2017, the Trump administration did cut $96 million and delayed $195 million in military assistance to Egypt over the country’s failure to reduce its human rights abuses, a new law Sisi approved to restrict the activities of non-governmental organizations, and Egypt’s relationship with North Korea. But these actions were not as tough on Egypt as they appeared to be. According to The New York Times: “by pausing the provision of $195 million in military funding, the Trump administration saved the money from expiring entirely on Sept. 30. This way, Egypt could eventually get the money if its record on human rights improves.” Indeed, the funding was later released without any change in Egypt’s policies.

Some members of Congress have tried to take action. In October 2020, 56 representatives — 55 Democrats and one independent — released a letter urging Sisi to release prisoners “unjustly detained for exercising their fundamental human rights.” The call was echoed by over 220 European lawmakers. In 2014, Congress began implementing the Leahy Laws on a portion of aid money to Egypt. The law prevents U.S. security assistance to a foreign security force unit when there is credible information that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.

In December 2020, Congress made $75 million (a small portion of the total $1.3 billion) conditional on human rights improvements, without the U.S. State Department being able to waive the conditions by citing U.S. national security interests.

Unlike Trump, Joe Biden has been quite critical of Sisi. Commenting on the release of an Egypt-American medical student, then-candidate Biden wrote on Twitter: “Mohamed Amasha is finally at home, after 486 days in an Egyptian prison, for raising a protest banner. The arrest, torture, and exile of activists like Sarah Hegazy and Mohamed Soltan or threatening their families is unacceptable. No more blank cheques for Trump’s favorite dictator.”

Shortly after it became apparent that Biden had won the 2020 U.S. election, Egypt began releasing some political prisoners, including three directors of the well-respected Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights—Gasser Abdel-Razek, Kareem Ennarah and Mohamed Basheer. On February 6, 2021, they released Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein, who had been in prison since December 2016 for  “publishing false information and belonging to a banned group.” After Hussein was arrested, Sisi banned Al Jazeera and other news outlets critical of his rule. Reporters Without Borders has called Egypt one of the world’s biggest and worst jailers of journalists.

Certainly, President al-Sisi is afraid that his days of free rein to commit human rights abuses are over now that Trump is out of office. That’s why he is so desperate for the help of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck to whitewash his image and keep U.S. military assistance flowing. But the Biden administration and Congress must not be swayed by Egypt’s release of a few select prisoners or the lobbying efforts of well-compensated Brownstein employees such as Pelosi’s former chief of staff Nadeam Elshami. They should put a “stop payment” on the U.S. taxpayer-funded check that has enabled Sisi to operate with impunity.

Feature photo | Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi watches an honor guard marching in Bucharest, Romania, June 19, 2019. Vadim Ghirda | AP

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and author of several books, including Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In 2014 she was arrested at the Cairo airport, beaten and deported.

Ariel Gold is the national co-director and Senior Middle East Policy Analyst with CODEPINK for Peace.

The post A Pro-Cairo Lobby is Spending Big to Make Sure Biden Doesn’t Cut Aid to Egypt’s Dictatorship appeared first on MintPress News.

The Egyptian Revolution—18 days that shook the world

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 23/01/2021 - 12:59pm in

A revolution in Egypt in 2011 overthrew a brutal dictator and gave a glimpse of how society could be run differently. Egyptian revolutionary Hossam el-Hamalawy tells the story

Ten years ago this month, millions of Egyptians took to the streets in a revolution against the country’s dictator.

The uprising lasted for 18 days, before it forced Hosni Mubarak to step down.

He had ruled the country with an iron fist for roughly three decades. The revolution should be celebrated and remembered.

The Egyptian Revolution was largely presented in the media as a revolt by “internet savvy” youth using social media and smartphones to organise a sudden revolt. This was mistaken, but it suited some groups in and out of Egypt.

It suited the Egyptian middle class, which was suffering under Mubarak’s neo-liberal reforms. It wanted a limited revolt to change the head of the regime, and hopefully introduce some liberal political reforms to allow it a bigger say in how the country was run.

It suited the Egyptian army generals, who were shocked by the revolt. They wanted a quick end to the unrest in the streets, with cosmetic political changes.

These would leave power structures largely unchanged and safeguard the privileges of the military institutions.

It suited the Western backers of the Egyptian regime, who for three decades had armed and financed Mubarak.

They saw him as an essential force for regional stability, the continuous flow of oil, and protection of the Israeli state and Suez Canal. The Western imperial powers were concerned a radical change in the most populous Arab country could threaten their class interests.

The reality, however, was different from their narrative of a “Facebook” revolution.

The January 2011 revolution was a product of an entire decade of struggles that were brewing in Egypt.

They started with pro-Palestinian protests that swept the country in autumn 2000.

The movement revived street politics, and won a limited margin that had not existed previously, within which it could organise against the regime.

After three years of continuous mobilisations, the Palestine solidarity and anti-Iraq war movements metamorphosed into Kefaya, Arabic for “Enough”. This took on Mubarak and his plans to have his son Gamal succeed him.

Electrified

Kefaya’s protests did not go beyond a few thousand. But they electrified the country. The rise of satellite television channels, which took its slogans and messages to large sections of the population in Egypt and abroad, helped.

Among those who followed the gradual erosion of Mubarak’s grip on society were the Egyptian workers. They had borne the brunt of the neo-liberal reforms implemented by Mubarak and his son’s associates and cronies.

In December 2006, thousands of women workers in the Nile Delta town of Mahalla, which housed the largest textile mill in the Middle East, struck over pay. They called on their male colleagues to join action.

The mill struck and forced the government to concede, triggering a wave of mass strikes across the country’s textile sector. Strikes then spread to virtually all other industrial and service sectors.

Mass strikes within the factories’ compounds soon developed into local uprisings in the streets of Mahalla, and later other smaller towns in the north. Farmers’ clashes with the police over land escalated. Protests by the urban poor in the capital and the provinces over housing issues became almost daily news. Anti-police brutality riots fuelled a vibrant human rights movement.

The Coptic Christian minority held a series of mass demonstrations against religious sectarian violence, and demanding an end to discrimination.

On the eve of January 2011, Egypt was a classic case of what Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin described as a “revolutionary situation”.

Lenin said this occurs “when it is impossible for the ruling classes to maintain their rule without any change; when there is a crisis, in one form or another, among the ‘upper classes’, a crisis in the policy of the ruling class, leading to a fissure through which the discontent and indignation of the oppressed classes burst forth. For a revolution to take place, it is usually insufficient for ‘the lower classes not to want’ to live in the old way; it is also necessary that ‘the upper classes should be unable’ to rule in the old way.”

Fear of Mubarak and his police was largely gone. The torture and murder of an middle class young man, Khaled Said, was enough to spark an uprising.

Torture

Had the murder of Khaled Said happened in 2000 or 2007, it would not have triggered an uprising.

In fact, Mubarak’s torture machine had been producing victims and dead corpses regularly, almost on a daily basis.

But only after a decade of accumulating dissent and anger did the Egyptian people feel the courage to take on the regime and its security apparatus.

They did so on 25 January, the National Police Day.

The 18-day uprising witnessed heroic fights in Tahrir, whose images were aired to the rest of the globe. Despite the heroism in the squares, however, it was largely the factories that brought down the dictator.

The protests that started in Tahrir soon spread to workplaces. Every single sector went on strike. The military junta had to rush to force Mubarak out, or else the entire regime might collapse.

The overthrow of Mubarak was enough to end the protests—temporarily—in the public squares. But the strikes in the factories and the ministries’ civil service were only starting.

The strikes had common demands—for job security, independent trade unions and the impeachment of corrupt bosses who were part of Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party.

The military junta denounced the strikes, but so did sections of revolutionaries.

They regarded the workers as “selfish” instead of seeing the strike wave as the embodiment of the fight for social justice slogans raised in Tahrir.

A genuine mass revolutionary party, that could provide leadership for the strike wave, didn’t exist. So the revolution was dominated by the reformist opposition. It pushed for a polarisation in the political scene along secular/Islamist lines, instead of polarisation over class.

This opened the door for agents of the Mubarak regime to rebrand themselves as a dissident revolutionary force against the mainstream Islamists (the Muslim Brotherhood) and the Salafis.

The army generals were happy to ally themselves with the Islamists in the first two years of the revolution. The Islamists promised to end the revolt in the streets and protect the military’s share of the cake.

Yet the alliance became shaky when it became clear the Muslim Brotherhood could neither co-opt the revolt nor diffuse it.

Secret

The military in secret reached out to the secular opposition (leftists, Arab nationalists, liberals), and secured its backing for a coup in July 2013.

What followed were the biggest massacres in Egypt’s modern history, amid the cheering of the Egyptian leftists.

They dubbed the counterrevolution, led by General el-Sisi, a “war on religious fascism.” It was only a matter of time before el-Sisi finished off the Islamists and turned his attention to the left and liberals.

The picture in Egypt today, a decade after the uprising, is bleak. El-Sisi’s prisons house roughly 60,000 political prisoners of all shades, including socialist comrades.

All independent unions have been crushed.

Youth movements and political parties have either been co-opted, besieged or paralysed.

Wildcat strikes break out every now and then, in addition to sporadic unrest over home demolitions. The Egyptian security services, with the full backing of the West, are embroiled in a dirty war, in the name of fighting terror.

Summary executions, arrest of suspects’ families, torture—all have become normal again.

Counter-revolutions do not simply restore the status quo. They regress society to a lower bar on all levels and fronts.

It is not wishful thinking to say there will be another Egyptian Revolution in the future. The underlying demands that ignited the 2011 revolt (bread, freedom and social justice) have not been met.

And the military dictatorship cannot provide solutions for such structural problems. El-Sisi’s policies are only making matters worse.

But a revolution will not simply break out because the people are suffering, or the economic situation is bad.

There has to be hope that, if the Egyptian people take the risk and confront the regime, there will be a positive outcome.

Regaining confidence in actions from below will take time. And it may require a long chain of smaller struggles that will eventually accumulate and snowball.

This must go hand in hand with trying to rebuild the organisations that could sustain the mobilisation—independent trade unions and revolutionary parties.

Such recovery from the defeat will not take a short time. But the next time we will be more ready, and hopefully we will have learned lessons.

Republished from Socialist Worker UK

The post The Egyptian Revolution—18 days that shook the world appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Book on Fascism in Black American Literature Between the Two World Wars

Mark Christian Thompson, Black Fascisms: African American Literature & Culture between the Wars (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press 2007).

This is one of the other books I’ve been reading during the last few days. It’s a fascinating examination of a little known episode of Black American literary history when, in the 1930s and early 1940s, a number of Black American authors and activists took over elements from European Fascism to form their own version of the totalitarian creed. The blurb reads

In this provocative new book, Mark Christian Thompson addresses the startling fact that many African American intellectuals in the 1930s sympathized with fascism, seeing in its ideology a means of envisioning new modes of African American political resistance. Thompson surveys the work and thought of several authors and asserts that their sometimes positive reaction to generic European fascism, and its transformation into black fascism, is crucial to any understanding of Depression-era African American literary culture.

Taking on a subject generally ignored or denied in African American cultural and literary studies, BLACK FASCISMS seeks not only to question the prominence of the Left in the political thought of a generation of writers to change how we view African American literature in general.

Following the introduction, it has the following chapters:

  1. Black Literary Fascism
  2. The Myth of Marcus Garvey: Black Fascism and Nationalism
  3. George S. Schuyler and the God of Love: Black Fascism and Mythic Violence
  4. “In Turban and Gorgeous Robe”: Claude McKay, Black Fascism, and Labor
  5. His Rod of Power: Zora Neale Hurston, Black Fascism and Culture
  6. Richard Wright’s Jealous Rebels: Black Fascism and Philosophy

Conclusion: Historical Black Fascism, Black Arts, and Beyond

For some, this is no doubt shocking and uncomfortable reading. Thompson states that his book will be controversial, because it seems to challenge the dominance and achievements of Marxism in Black American politics and culture of the period. He does not seek to deny this, but to argue that there was a significant turn away from Communism towards Fascism at the tail end of the Harlem Renaissance, and that this was no mere blip in the career of the figures discussed, as some historians and critics have claimed. It’s also remarkable, in that as victims of racism it seems to run counter to reason that Black Americans would embrace a viciously racist ideology associated with White supremacy. But by the early 1940s some Black youngsters had become so alienated from their country, that they were singing songs about how they thought they’d move to Germany because they’d be better off there. The likelihood is that these kids probably didn’t understand what Nazi Germany was really like. The Black intellectuals, who turned to Fascism, didn’t support its specific European versions. They didn’t want to become Nazis or supporters of Mussolini’s Fascists. But they took elements of generic Fascism and adapted it as a vehicle for their own nationalist aspirations and desire for pan-African racial uplift.

Defining Features of Black Fascism

Thompson considers that the main elements in this turn were a dissatisfaction with Communist multiculturalism, the expectation that Ethiopia would produce a strong, modernising leader to redeem Blacks across the world, admiration for newly independent Haiti, and anti-Semitism. Black Fascists rejected Communism, because they were afraid that its emphasis on racial collaboration and the class war would lead to Blacks’ own aspirations and needs being neglected and Blacks used instead to improve conditions for White liberals. The Communist party in turn attempted to harness Black nationalism for the general class struggle, by defining Black Americans as working class. But this also created an anti-White racism that characterised all Whites as members of the exploiting classes. Which strikes me as not at all unlike Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory. The expectations of Black leadership from Ethiopia came from Psalm 68 in the Bible, which states that, after Egypt, Ethiopia will raise its hands to God. Ethiopia was the one African nation not conquered by the Europeans in the 19th century, which seemed to many Black Americans that the country was destined to lead the Black people. Coupled with this was the hope that Black Americans would return to Africa to take up positions of leadership and power in the continent, and free her from the European colonial oppressors. At the same time, the American army had just withdrawn from its occupation of Haiti. Many Black Americans admired this Caribbean nation because of the way it had thrown off French rule in the late 18th century to become a free, Black republic. At the same time, its new president, Stenio Vincent, sweeping autocratic powers dissolving the lower house and allowing him to appoint a sizable proportion of its senate. It was not a democracy in the American sense, as Zora Neale Hurston recognised, but an elected monarchy. Anti-Semitism and a hatred of Italians and Greeks among working class Blacks in Harlem was also part of the turn towards Fascism. The Black soapbox Caesar, Sufi Abdul Hamid, wished to create a separate trade union exclusively for Blacks. He was one of the leaders of a boycott against the White-owned department stores, which refused to employ Black clerks. He succeeded in getting this reversed, but his inflammatory anti-Semitic rhetoric – many of the stores were Jewish owned – resulted in the 1937 Harlem race riot.

Marcus Garvey and the Invasion of Ethiopia

Chapter one is a general discussion of Black American fascist aesthetics. The first of the writers and activists to be examined is Marcus Garvey, the founder and leader of the United Negro Improvement Association. This was a mass organisation, whose hierarchy was based on that of the army, with Garvey giving his followers various military ranks. Militantly nationalistic, the organisation also campaigned for a return to Africa, and Garvey was also impressed with the Italian Fascist corporatist state. Rejecting Communism, he instead supported private property. Blacks should work to acquire wealth, that they should then use to build the new Black state. However, private wealth should also be limited. Only the state should be able to hold investments over $5 or $6 million.

Of the figures discussed in the book, Garvey is the most overtly Fascist. Indeed, in a 1937 interview he claimed that Hitler and Mussolini based their movements on his. He was no fan of Mussolini, however, after the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, which also caused him to become a bitter critic of its former emperor, Hailie Selassie. Selassie had scarpered to London following the invasion, which bitterly disappointed Garvey. He had also expected the Ethiopian emperor to modernise the country, turning it into a modern, Fascist, corporate state, which would embark on its own destiny of imperial conquest. Selassie had not done this. Garvey also sneered at him because of the Biblical lineage of the Ethiopian monarchy. This claimed descent from Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Thus, Garvey attacked him because he was, by virtue of this descent from the great Israelite king, Jewish. This was in contrast to Simon of Cyrene, who was Black, and Jesus, who was mostly Black.

Schuyler’s Pulp Fiction Supervillain Black Liberator

George S. Schuyler was a Black American writer and journalist, described by the book as somewhat like H.L. Mencken. He had started off as a vague socialist, believing that Africans were innately Communistic, and pan-African. Well, he was until he visited Liberia, which left him bitterly disillusioned to the extent that he wished the US army would invade so that America could take over and improve the country. This changed again with the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. Schuyler, like many other Black Americans, was outraged and wanted to raise an army of Black American volunteers, who would go and fight for the African nation. Seeking advice from the American foreign department, he was told that was impossible as America wished to preserve its neutrality. Schuyler thus turned to literature to express his anger and desire for revenge, writing the pulp story Black Empire. This tells the story of Dr. Belsidus, a Black American genius, who takes over Africa with his organisation, the Black Internationale, turning it into a military superpower through able to repel the Italians and then embark on the genocidal conquest of Europe through advance Black super science. Black scientists create death rays, hydroponic farms, fax machines and hypno-robots. Hypno-robots? Yes. Belsidus creates a new religion and deity, the God of Love, whose mission is to inculcate Black Africans with belief in their noble descent from the Babylonians and Egyptians and their future greatness. The hypno-robot is a giant, 50-foot tall figure of a naked Black man representing the God of Love, which has the power to move, raising its arms and nodding its head. Its eyes light up to hypnotise the congregation, so that they will become mentally receptive to Belsidus racial doctrines. Aiding Belsidus are a series of White women, his lovers, whom he casually murders if they fail him in bed or in their tasks of bringing down European rule. Belsidus comes across as Yaphet Kotto’s villain in the Bond film, Live and Let Die, but even nastier. He’s a genocide who ruthlessly kills White men, women and children. The story’s a nasty revenge fantasy, written by Schuyler to compensate for the Italian invasion. Schuyler himself didn’t stay a Fascist, but instead became a noted Black Conservative intellectual.

McKay, Sufi Abdul Hamid and Black Labour

Claude McKay was another Black American who had started out as a Communist, but then moved away from it, converting to Roman Catholicism. In the 1930s and ’40s McKay was also concerned with building a Black labour movement for which he also adopted aspects of Fascism. He was also an admirer of Sufi Abdul Hamid, an eccentric individual who styled himself Bishop Amiru Al-Minin Sufi Abdul Hamid, an Egyptian, but whose real identity may have been Eugene Brown of Philadelphia. Hamid had founded his own cult, the Universal Temple of Tranquillity. In 1932 he led a jobs boycott in Chicago and in 1934 led a similar boycott against Blumstein’s department store in Harlem. He was not popular with the other Black intellectuals, who regarded him as a charlatan and racketeer. Before his death in the late 1930s he was trying to promote himself as a cult leader in an attempt to challenge Father Divine. Called the Black Hitler because of his virulently anti-Semitic speeches, Hamid was partly responsible for the 1937 race riot, for which he was unsuccessfully prosecuted by the Jewish Minute Men. He appears as ‘Omar’ in McKay’s unfinished novel, Harlem Glory. This is partly an examination of the divided psychology of Black America. ‘Omar’ represents its Fascist side, while Father Divine, who appears as ‘Glory Savior’, and his cult, the ‘Glory Soulers’, represent religion and Communism.

Hurston, Moses and Haiti

Zora Neale Hurston is included because of her novel about Moses leading the Exodus, Moses, Man of the Mountain, in which both the greatest of the Hebrew prophets and his adversary, Pharaoh, have the nationalistic, genocidal qualities of modern Fascist dictators. Hurston also linked Moses to Haiti’s founder, Toussaint L’Ouverture. L’Ouverture’s power was represented by the Voodoo god, Damballah, who was also Moses’ rod of power. Damballah’s a snake god, while one of the miracles Moses performed was changing his staff into a snake. This novel is strongly influenced by Hurston’s admiration for Haiti and its authoritarian leader.

Cross Damon, Fascist Murderer or Existentialist Anti-Hero

Wright was another Communist intellectual, who then went to France to hang out with Sartre. He then wrote his own existentialist novel, The Outsider, about a former postal worker, Cross Damon. After losing his job, and suffering problems from the women in his life, Damon becomes a murderer, committing a series of killings across America. The novel was widely criticised at the time for not saying anything about the condition of Black America. Thompson argues that this is untrue. The book does examine their plight, as Damon personifies the Fascist tendency within Black America through his ruthless pursuit of the power over life and death. His murder of two twins, one a Communist, the other a Fascist, shows that to Wright these political creeds were essentially the same, and that Damon is also similar to them through their murder.

The Black Arts Movement and Neo-Fascism

The Black Arts movement was a post-War phenomenon, in which Black intellectuals and artists attempted to create a distinctly Black artistic culture, in contrast and opposition to that of White America. This chapter argues that historic fascism ended with the Second World War, and that its post-War successor, neo-Fascism, is markedly different. Fascism itself is also broader than Nazism, with which it has been identified, and which has itself been reduced to murderous anti-Semitism. It is a distortion, therefore, to describe the Nation of Islam as Fascist and genocidal simply because they held a joint rally with the American Nazi party, for which the party’s Fuhrer, Lincoln Rockwell, donated $20 to them. The chapter nevertheless states that the Black Arts movement constitutes an extreme form of Black nationalism, and ends with a call for it to be examined as a form of neo-Fascism.

Belsidus’ Statue and Fascist Homosexuality

Thompson’s a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, so the book is less a work of political science as literary criticism. Thus it frequently refers to the works of such literary theorists as Georges Bataille, Foucault, Althusser and Guy Debord. I found some of the book’s arguments extremely convoluted, particularly in the chapter on Wright and The Outsider. There are times when he seems to be arguing for the Fascist nature of Cross Damon, from that character’s difference to or opposition to Fascism. He also follows the German writer, Ludwig Theweleit, in considering that their is a homosexual component to the Fascists’ adoration of their leaders. This causes the book to contain some bizarre passages about the significance of the penis in some of the pieces discussed. For example, he writes of the Belsidus’ 50 foot statue of a naked Black man

The statue is what Siegried Krakauer calls the “mass ornament”: a ritual object that is “an end in itself”. But even after the “ritual meaning” of such objects is discarded, “they remain the plastic formation of the erotic life which gave rise to them and determined their traits”. (146). The mass ornament is emptied of its ritual content and plenitude and re-cathected with an erotics of power that seeks to control the masses’ libidinal urges by converting them into an iconic religious outpouring. This is why Schuyler’s mass ornament is depicted as “a huge statue of a nude Negro standing with legs apart, gazing sardonically downward with arms crossed. It was all of 50 feet high and every part of the body was clearly depicted” (58). The bearer of the sardonic gaze cannot be mistaken. “Sardonic” is, after all, one of Schuyler’s favorite adjectives for the good Doctor and his notorious gaze. Also inescapable in this mammoth fifty-foot statue of a male Negro is an anatomical accuracy that surpasses the bounds of decency. If one wondered whether Dr. Belsidus’s movement followed the fascist phallocentric logic of male ego-reintegration Theweleit theorizes, the appearance of the fifty foot “God of Love” in all his anatomical glory removes all doubt. (pp. 90-1).

Black Fascism and other Forms of Dictatorship

The book acknowledges that none of the authors and activists discussed founded Fascist parties or movement, and he regards them as individual figures rather than the leaders of mass Fascist organisations. Garvey, with his militaristic nationalism and claims to have inspired the European Fascist dictators is the closest figure to European Fascism. So too is Sufi Abdul Hamid with his emphasis on labour, Black separatism and anti-Semitism. Hamid’s similar to the Nazis in another way: they also hated the department stores as an example of ‘Jewish capital’. Schuyler’s Black Empire is a revenge fantasy, whose hero – or anti-hero – would certainly qualify as a Fascist, even though Belsidus himself doesn’t appear to his followers to make speeches from the balcony. He just leaves that to his naked 50-foot robot. But this doesn’t make Schuyler himself a Fascist or mean that he is calling for a similar Fascist movement. It is questionable, however, whether Hurston’s Moses or Pharaoh are really fascist either. Political scientists have debated the difference between Fascism and other forms of authoritarianism and aggressive, intolerant nationalism. Noel O’Sullivan in his book, Fascism, argues that it possesses distinct features that distinguish it from the militant, dictatorial regimes of some of the nations in Africa and the Developing World. Stenios Vincent was highly authoritarian, but it’s questionable whether his regime can be considered Fascist. This also raises the question of how far Hurston’s Moses and Pharaoh are Fascists, although they certainly act in a way which could be described as fascistic. I find the argument about Wright’s The Outsider rather less convincing. It may be that Cross Damon partakes of part of the psychology of Fascist and Communist dictators through his murders, but it seems to me to be a straightforward piece of existentialist literature rather than an examination of Black American Fascism. It reminds me of Albert Camus’ novel of the same name, about a Frenchman in Algeria who murders an Arab out of boredom. Wright’s outsider is another murderer, but is a Black American rather than French.

Conclusion

I don’t know how far the Black Arts movement could be described as neo-Fascist, but historians of post-War British Fascism have noted the radical revisions of doctrine the BNP went through under its generalissimo, Nick Griffin. But Critical Race Theory does seem very similar to the Communist party’s simplification of race relations in America to Black workers versus White exploiters. My guess is that an examination of the Black Arts movement would uncover clear parallels and influences from European neo-Fascism, as would Black Lives Matter today.

Ta-Ha Book on Learning Arabic

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 29/11/2020 - 3:01am in

A.T. Ayyad, Teach Yourself Arabic: Rules of Reading and Writing (London: Ta-Ha Publishers 1982).

This is another book on Arabic that I bought when I was briefly trying to learn the language three decades ago. Ta-Ha are, I think, an Islamic publisher and this book begins with the Fatiha, the opening chapter of the Quran. I think they take their name from two of the syllables that begin various chapters of the Quran, whose meaning according to some Quranic scholars, is known only Allah.

Ayyad was a teacher of Arabic at the Lycee Francaise in Cairo from 1930 to 1953, and says in his introduction that the book is an English version of the methods used to teach the language to Arab students. The book is really a short – 114 pages – introduction to standard Arabic, and includes the alphabet as well as transliterations of the Arabic vocabulary. The book subtitle says it for understanding the rules for reading and writing the language, and it concentrates on grammar rather than vocabulary. It’s probably intended for those wishing to learn Arabic so they can read the Quran, but apart from the quote at the beginning of the book, the sample sentences and exercises aren’t religious. As well as practice exercises, it also includes sample conversations, traditional folktales and proverbs, as well as a section on punctuation, abbreviation and the numerical values of the Arabic alphabet. This seems to be used as a system of numerals rather like the Latin alphabet. There is also a grammatical appendix.

I am definitely no expert, but my guess is that this book gives a basic grounding in the standard, written language. Where I think it might be improved is by providing a little more information about actually writing the letters. Some books on languages that use a different alphabet actually show how they are written with diagrams of the individual pen strokes. This doesn’t. It simply shows the shape of the letters, leaving the reader to work out for themselves how to write them.

History Debunked Tears to Shreds the Protocols of the Elders of Zion

Simon Webb, the man behind the YouTube channel History Debunked seems to me to be a man of the right. The channel’s devoted to refuting fake history, but much of the myths it debunks are false claims made in the name of anti-racism by Black activists. He also believes that there are racial differences in intelligence, with Blacks on average less intelligent than Whites, and Whites also on average less bright than Asians. In other words, the Bell Curve stuff that has been loudly denounced and refuted over the past decade or so. That said, his videos are always based on solid fact and well argued, and I don’t believe that he is personally racist. Indeed, he has put up a video about home schooling, in which he states very clearly that not only has he done it himself, but he is also helping and giving advice to a group of Black British parents, who wish to do it.

In this video History Debunked takes on the infamous Tsarist forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Webb states that he’s doing this after some of his previous videos were taken down by YouTube, or he was warned that they may be taken down because of their controversial content. But this video is not only historically right, no-one should be able to accuse him of racism or hate speech because of it. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a notorious anti-Semitic forgery, which is at the heart of the various stupid conspiracy theories about the Jews secretly trying to take over the world through controlling the media, banks, business and so on. It was concocted in the very early 20th century by the Russian monk, Nilus, for the Tsar’s secret police, the Okhrana, in order to make Nicholas II persecute the Jews even more harshly. As Nicholas II believed in the Blood Libel, the myth that Jews murder Christians to use their blood in the matzo bread at Passover, it’s hard to see how Nicholas could be even more anti-Semitic. Especially as his attempts to prosecute one Jewish man, Beilis, for this, was worrying his ministers who viewed it as a serious embarrassment to the autocracy.

In the video, Webb shows how the Protocols was based on an earlier book, a Dialogue between Machiavelli and Montesquieu in Hell. This was an attack on the government of Napoleon III of France, who French liberals feared was trying to take over and control everything, including the press and business. He illustrates this through pointing to some of the metaphors that Nilus took from the earlier book. The Dialogue describes Napoleon as having a hundred arms, like the Hindu god Vishnu, each arm extended into some part of society. And here it appears again in the Protocols, which describes the Jewish conspiracy as like the Hindu deity with hundreds of arms extending through society.

Apart from the Dialogue, Nilus also plagiarised Theodor Herzl’s Altneuland Herzl was the founder of modern Zionism, and the Altneuland was his attempt to depict and popularise a Jewish state. In my view, Zionism has caused immense suffering and conflict in the Middle East, and led to the persecution and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians. I’d say they were entirely justified in despising Herzl’s book. But it isn’t about a global conspiracy or a programme for the mass enslavement of non-Jews, as the Protocols purports to be.

Webb jokes that if there is a Jewish conspiracy as the Protocols claims, then it can’t be much of one if they’ve had to take their ideas from a satire published decades earlier about Napoleon III, and Herzl’s Altneuland. He also states that the other daft conspiracy theories about Jews are ultimately based on the Protocols. One of these is the Kalergi Plan. From what little I know of it, the Kalergi Plan is supposed to be a secret plot by a cabal of European leaders to import non-Whites into the continent and the west in order to destroy the White race. Yep, it’s another permutation of that heap of bilge.

Here’s History Debunked thoroughly refuting the Protocols.

An old French political satire which has, indirectly, had an immense effect upon the world – YouTube

The Protocols are notorious as a forgery, but have been massively influential in spreading real Fascism and Jew-hatred. They inspired many of the Fascist movements that arose after the First World War. At least one of the British papers serialised them, until they saw sense and realized that they were a forgery. Then they published criticisms and refutations. However, even when readers of the wretched book have had it shown to them that they’re a forgery, such is their power that some of them continue to believe that they’re ‘symbolically true’.

The Protocols have been responsible for some of the most horrific anti-Semitic persecution and violence. And unfortunately they’re still being published. Apparently you can’t pick up copies on street corner kiosks in Putin’s Russia, and they were turned into a major television series on Egyptian TV. Way back in the 1990s a branch of Waterstone’s in this country stocked them because they were cited by various UFO conspiracy theorists that Reptoid aliens really were running the world or some such nonsense. One of these books claimed that the ‘Jews’ referred to in the Protocols were really the Illuminati of much contemporary American conspiracy theorising. No, the authors of the Protocols meant to attack the Jews, and whether someone chooses to believe that it’s really about the Illuminati or not, the Protocols are still vile, dangerous, murderous rubbish.

There’s a large body of literature debunking the Protocols. One of the classics is Norman Cohn’s Warrant for Genocide. And this video is also an excellent short but acute refutation of them.

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