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Hitler’s Propagandakompanien and the Media Support for the Iraq War

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/04/2021 - 9:44pm in

Postscript are a mail order company specialising in books. Leafing through their catalogue for December 2020, I found one on the propagandakompanien, the Nazi reporters, photojournalists and film crew, who were placed in the German armed forces to provide positive coverage of the War. The book’s entitled The Propagandakompanien: Preparation, Development, Training and the Beginning of the Conflict, by Nicholas Ferard, published by Histoire & Collections. The entry for it in the catalogue reads

Formed in 1938, the ‘Propagandakompanien’ (Pk) comprised motorized units of reporters, film cameramen and photographers, all with military training and attached to Wehrmacht, Waffen SS or Luftwaffe forces. Reproducing many of the unit’s wartime photographs, this volume gives a full account of the organisation of the Pk and describes their work in print, film and radio during campaigns in Poland, France and the Eastern Front.

This is chillingly relevant to contemporary media manipulation and particularly the methods used by the American military-industrial complex to ensure media support for the Iraq invasion. Because they’re almost exactly the same. In their book End Times – The Death of the Fourth Estate, Alexander Cochburn and Jeffrey St. Clair of the radical American magazine Counterpunch collect a series of articles describing the way the American media censored itself and produced biased, propagandistic reporting in order to whip up public support for the Iraq invasion and George Dubya’s wretched ‘War on Terror’. And this included embedding journos in military units so that they would develop a positive sense of fellowship with them and so produce favourable reports.

One of the documentaries about the Nazis shown on the History Channel years ago had the simple title The Nazis – A Warning from History. It’s a good title, and far more relevant than I think the series’ producers realised. Because more and more aspects of the Nazi and Fascists regimes are being adopted by the current right-wing and ‘centrist’ administrations in America and Britain. A few days ago Mike on his blog listed the number of features of Fascism that were in Johnson’s Conservative party. It was a long list, and showed very convincingly that Johnson and the Tories are definitely Fascistic, although obviously they’re not quite appearing in uniform and holding torchlight rallies. Well, not just yet. One of the left-wing, anti-racist YouTubers said in an interview that he noticed several years ago that the Tories were adopting policies previously advanced by the BNP as British politics moved rightward. This is true. We are heading towards a Fascist dictatorship, especially with the Tories’ wretched Crime and Policing Bill which seeks to ban any kind of public demonstration if someone thinks its a nuisance or offensive.

And they’re using the same techniques the Nazis’ used to manipulate the media. Except that in Tory Britain, the media is a willing partner.

My Proposed Article on Bristol’s Slavery Reparations – Ignored and Rejected by the Press?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/04/2021 - 8:20pm in

Okay, I’ve blogged about it before when Bristol City council first passed the motion all those weeks ago. These were a couple of pieces about the motion, brought by Green councillor Cleo Lake, and seconded by Labour’s deputy mayor and head of equalities Asher Green, calling for the payment of reparations for slavery to all of Britain’s ‘Afrikan’ community. I criticised this because this motion effectively means the payment of reparations to the African peoples responsible for the raiding and enslavement, and their sale to outsiders. It wasn’t just European, who purchased and enslaved the continent’s peoples, but also Muslims, Arabs and Indians. The motion falsifies history by reducing a complex situation to simple Black and White – White Europeans versus Black Africans. I believe Lake and Craig are playing racial politics here by trying to create a unified Black British community by presenting all British Blacks as the victims of White, European, British slavery when this was not historically the case.

The motion also raises other issues by setting the precedent for formerly enslaved peoples to sue their former captors. Thus Black Africans could also demand reparations from Morocco, Algeria, Turkey and the successors to the great Arab caliphates of the Middle Ages – perhaps Saudi Arabia? – Oman and other states for their enslavement. As could Europeans. 2.5 million White Europeans were carried off into slavery by the Barbary pirates from Morocco and Algiers. Would the councillors, who supported and passed Lake’s and Craig’s slavery reparations motion also support similar motions for the payment of reparations to these people from their former masters?

I wrote to Lake and Craig raising these issues, and so far have received no reply. Perhaps they’re too busy. Craig has received 6,000 racially abusive messages, which I condemn, so perhaps she hasn’t looked at it because it’s been lost in all the other mail she’s received about it.

I tried to get the press interested in this issue, and so submitted an article about it. I first sent it to the Guardian, and then to a number of right-wing newspapers when I heard nothing from the Groan. I thought the right-wing press would be perhaps be more likely to publish it, and it contradicts some of the attitudes and assumptions of the pro-Black activists that newspapers like the I, Independent and Observer share and promote. Along with the article itself, I sent the following cover message.

Dear Sir,

I would be very grateful if you would consider the attached article laying out some of the problems with the motion passed a few weeks ago in Bristol calling for the payment of reparations for slavery to the Black community. There are a number of difficult and complex issues raised by this, which I do not believe have been adequately discussed in the press. One of these is that the motion calls for both Africans and Afro-Caribbean people to be granted reparations. While I’ve no doubt that Black African people are as disadvantaged as people of West Indian heritage, there is a problem here as historically it was African peoples who did the dirty business of slaving, selling them not just to Europeans, but also to Muslim, Arab and Indian slavers. It would therefore be unjust for people the British enslave or who actively collaborated in slaving to receive compensation for slavery.

Other problems with the motion are that it sets a precedent for other peoples to demand reparations for their enslavement. White Europeans would, following this logic, also be justified in demanding reparations for the enslavement of 2 1/2 million Europeans by the Barbary pirates. And Black Africans would also be entitled to ask Muslim and Arab nations for reparations for their enslavement of them.

I also consider the motion to be racially divisive, as it seeks to create a unified Black community, who are represented as equal victims, against Whites, who are considered slavers, thus simplifying a complex historical issue.

I hope you will consider the article suitable, and look forward to your reply.


And here’s the article itself.

Slavery Reparations: Not All Blacks Were the Victims, Some Were the Slavers

A few weeks ago Bristol Council passed a motion calling for the payment of reparations to the Black British community for their enslavement. The motion was introduced by Cleo Lake, a former mayor and the Green Councillor for Cotham in the city, and seconded by Asher Craig, the city’s deputy mayor and head of equality. The reparations were to be both financial and cultural. It was moved that they should take the form of proper funding for projects to improve conditions for the Black community and raise them to the same, sustainable level of equality with the rest of British society. These projects were to be led and guided by Black organisations themselves. And the reparations should include all ‘Afrikans’, by which eccentric spelling Councillor Lake meant both Afro-Caribbean people and Black Africans. The motion was passed 47 to 11. It was supported by the Greens, Labour and the Lib Dems. Only the Tories opposed it. They said that while it came from ‘a good place’, the motion was ‘divisive’. In fact, there are a number of reasons why it should be opposed. The most important of these is that Black Africans were hardly innocent of slaving themselves.

Slavery existed in Africa long before the European invasion, and Britain wasn’t the only country that traded in enslaved Africans.  So did the Arabs, Ottoman Turks, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch. The first Black slaves in Europe were enslaved by Arabs and taken to al-Andalus, Muslim Spain. In addition to the transatlantic slave trade, there was also an Islamic slave trade to north Africa and Muslim nations in Asia. Although there were exceptions, Europeans did not directly enslave their African victims. Before the 19th century ‘Scramble for Africa’, powerful African states prevented Europeans from penetrating inland and seizing African territory. The European slave merchants were largely confined to specific quarters, rather like European ghettos, in these state’s main towns, from whom they purchased their human cargo. By the 19th century powerful African slaving nations, such as Dahomey, Whydah and Badagry had emerged in West Africa. In East Africa, the Yao, Marganja and Swahili peoples enslaved the people of other nations to sell to the Arabs. Some were purchased by the Imaum of Muscat, now Oman, for labour on his immensely profitable clove plantations in Zanzibar. It was to prevent Indian merchants from importing enslaved Africans into British India that the British government opened negotiations with the Imaum to halt the east African slave trade.

Part of the rationale for British imperialism was to stamp out the slave trade and slavery at its point of supply, and this was one of the causes of African resistance to British expansionism. The Mahdi’s rebellion in the Sudan, for example, was caused by the British attempting to abolish the Arab enslavement of Black Sudanese. It was to halt slaving by Dahomey that Britain fought a war against its king, Guezo. In some parts of Africa, slavery continued up to the 20th century because these countries had not been conquered by Europeans. The slave trade to Morocco continued to 1910 because the European powers had blocked the European invasion of that country. Slavery also persisted in Ethiopia, whose armies also preyed on the peoples of the surrounding African states, prompting a British punitive expedition in the 1880s.

This obviously presents problems for the payment of reparations to all sections of the Black British community, because some African nations weren’t the victims of White enslavement. They were the slavers. Someone once remarked on this situation that if reparations were to be paid, it should be by Africans compensating the Black peoples of the Caribbean and Americas.

And there are other problems with slavery reparations. If reparations were paid to Blacks for the enslavement of their ancestors, it would set a precedent for similar demands by other ethnicities. For example, up until the conquest of Algeria by France in the 19th century, White Europeans were captured and enslaved by Muslim pirates from Morocco and Algiers. About 2 ½ million people, including those from Bristol and the West Country, were carried off. The demand for reparations for the Black victims of slavery means that, by the same logic, White Europeans would also be justified in demanding reparations for the enslavement of their ancestors from those countries. At the same time, Black Africans would also be entirely justified in claiming reparations from the Muslim nations that enslaved them, such as perhaps Turkey or Saudi Arabia. But there have been no such demands, at least to my knowledge.

I don’t doubt that Black Africans in Bristol or elsewhere in the UK suffer the same problems of marginalisation, poverty, unemployment and discrimination as the rest of the Black population, nor that there should be official programmes to tackle these problems. And it is only fair and proper that they should be guided and informed by the Black community itself. But reparations cannot justly be paid to the Black community as a whole because of the deep involvement of some African peoples in slavery and the slave trade.

Furthermore, there’s a nasty, anti-White dimension to Lake’s motion. By claiming that all Blacks, both West Indian and African, were equally victims of the slave trade, she and her supporters seem to be trying to create a unified Black community by presenting all of them as the victims of White predation, simplifying a complex historical situation along racial lines.

I’ve written to councillors Lake and Craig about these issues, but so far have not received an answer. In Councillor Craig’s case, it may well be that my message to her got lost amongst the 6,000 abusive emails she is reported to have received. It is, of course, disgusting that she should suffer such abuse, and she has my sympathies in this. But this does not alter the fact that reparations for Black slavery raise a number of difficult issues which make it unsuitable as a means of improving conditions for Black Britons.

Well, I haven’t heard anything from any of the newspapers I submitted it to, not even an acknowledgement. It seems the news cycle has moved on and they’re not interested. But this doesn’t mean that the arguments against the motion are any less valid, and I thought people would like to read these arguments again for themselves, as well as about my efforts to raise them in the press.

Macron thinks, Johnson doesn’t

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 09/04/2021 - 7:22am in

According to the FT – and amazingly to me: President Emmanuel Macron is moving ahead with a plan to close [the] Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA). Macron himself was a previous student of that same ENA, which was started by De Gaulle in 1945. It is in effect a post graduate school for administrators and many... Read more

French lessons – What we can learn from the 1988 hospital workers’ strike coordinations in France

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 04/04/2021 - 7:10pm in

image/jpeg iconrsz_toulouse-1.jpg

We translated the following two texts from 1988, because we think that there are still things we can learn from the strike movement back then. Today in the UK we are confronting similar questions: how can we organise the struggle for higher wages in the NHS and defeat the insulting 1% pay offer? How can we overcome divisions into different unions and professional groups and regions (e.g. with the government in Scotland offering a still puny 4% increase)

In some facilities, strikes are organized by joint strike committees of all professions. However, the mobilization of the other professions lags behind that of the nurses.

read more

In France, Accents Are Now Protected by Law

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/04/2021 - 7:00pm in

Click on the shaded quotes to hear the accents of the people speaking them.

On October 17, 2018, the influential left-wing French politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon was asked a question by a reporter working for the broadcaster France 3 about recent police searches carried out at his home and the premises of his party, La France Insoumise.

Mélenchon, in a thinly-veiled attempt to deflect attention away from the corruption investigation, responded by openly mocking the accent of Véronique Gaurel, a veteran journalist from Toulouse, a city in the southwest of France.

“What does that mean? What is your question?” Mélenchon asked, interrupting Gaurel’s question mid sentence while caricaturing her accent. “Does anyone have a question formulated in French that is more or less understandable? Because me, your level exceeds me,” he said sarcastically. “I do not understand you.”

glottophobia“What does that mean? What is your question?” Soundwave of quote illustrated by Steven Davis

The footage sent shockwaves across France. The National Union of Journalists published a statement condemning “the verbal violence and gratuitous humiliation.” Lawmaker Pieyre-Alexandre Anglade said the comments showed a “deep contempt for the country, its territories and its diversity.” Carole Delga, president of Occitania, the region home to Toulouse, then witheringly suggested Mélenchon try to relax by listening to a song by local cult band Zebda called “The Accent Killed” —  an homage to the Toulouse accent and a lament for the gradual loss of it.

For many, the incident was an important turning point in how accents are perceived in France, where diverse historical and cultural influences — from the 10th century Norse Viking invaders in the north, to the vibrant postcolonial diaspora communities from West Africa, the Maghreb and beyond — have created a huge linguistic variety.

Mélenchon was forced into a rare, albeit mealy-mouthed apology two days later. But, more significantly, that very same month the French government announced the tabling of a bill against the so-called “glottophobia,” or accent discrimination, that Mélenchon’s actions so crudely highlighted.

French politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon insulting the accent of a reporter working for the broadcaster France 3. Credit: LCI

In November the legislation, officially known as “the Law to Promote the France of Accents” made its way to a vote in France’s National Assembly. Overwhelming support saw the bill adopted by 98 votes to three, criminalizing accent discrimination — described by some supporters as a form of racism — with up to three years’ jail time and a fine of up to €45,000 (USD$54,000). Now it is inscribed as an offense under France’s Labor and Penal Codes.

“It is essential today, for the sake of equal opportunities and in times of doubt as to the cohesion of the territories that founded the [French] nation, to send a strong sign of recognition, by promoting the revaluation of ‘atypical’ pronunciations,” states the text, which has been heralded as the first law establishing an individual’s right to an accent in the world.

In France, Accents Are Now Protected by Law

Listen to the author of this story discuss his own experience as an expat with an accent.

Equality campaigners hope the law will be a significant step forward in combating accent bias, which has blocked careers in prominent fields like academia, broadcasting and politics — as well as daily life. “It impacts access to housing, healthcare, education, jobs,” says Philippe Blanchet, a linguist at the University of Rennes who coined the term “glottophobia” (he was born in Marseille but has lived in Brittany for 30 years — both areas with strong accents that have influenced his unique tone). “It’s very spread throughout society.”

An issue finds its voice

In recent years — particularly since the incident involving Mélenchon — glottophobia has been the subject of growing awareness in France and has led a number of public figures to speak out about how they have been shamed for their accents. 

Television host Diane Ducret, who grew up between Belgium and a town in France’s Basque region, said when she first began hosting programs, her director sent her to a speech therapist. The actor and comedian Patrick Bosso said that since he decided to keep his Marseillais accent he only receives proposals for stereotypical roles. Jean-Michel Aphatie, a veteran broadcaster, revealed that when he first spoke on the radio, he received letters from listeners saying: “How dare you talk about politics with your accent!” During the French parliament’s debates over the bill, Patricia Mirallès, a lawmaker whose parents emigrated from North Africa, spoke of the “mockery” she used to face.

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“In the Paris region, where the centers of power are concentrated, places of political and administrative power, politicians and parliamentarians and journalists have the tendency to reproduce a way of speaking that is relatively homogeneous,” says Franck Neveu, a leading professor of linguistics at the Sorbonne University in Paris. He says that regional variations across France have long been the classist target of disdain from the bourgeois Parisian elite, to the point that they were intentionally targeted for eradication through the national school system after the French revolution.

And yet, some 30 million French people say they have an accent — nearly half of France’s 67 million population, according to a survey carried out last year for the book I Have An Accent, And So? Of that, 17 million say they have been mocked and 11 million discriminated against because of it.

“There’s almost nobody with a regional accent who leads a prestigious program on radio or television,” says Michel Feltin-Palas, the book’s author and editor-in-chief of magazine L’Express (whose father is Parisian but whose mother is from the southern Béarnais region). “No actor at the Comédie Française speaks with a regional accent, you don’t have famous intellectuals who speak with a regional accent, nor famous lawyers.”

A different kind of discrimination

France is far from the only country with this problem. This pattern of what French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called “unilingualism,” boosted by the arrival of radio and television, exists across the world. Countless examples of accent discrimination and bias exist in every country — often along regional lines. 

In the U.K., Liverpool’s Scouse, Birmingham’s Brummy and Newcastle’s Geordie accents are among those to fall afoul of the Queen’s English. The Andalusians of southern Spain are mocked by those in Madrid for their loose, “lazy” way of speech. In China, those that stray from the gold standard Beijing Mandarin are frowned upon. The Aboriginal communities in Australia have long suffered discrimination for the way they speak. And in the U.S., the dialect of the coastal elites rules over the vast variety of accents in between — from New Orleans’s Yat to Boston’s drawl and the Southern twang.

These biases can take root very early on. A 2012 study analyzing attitudes of children in Illinois and Tennessee towards accents found that those aged between five and six “did not demonstrate knowledge of any stereotypes,” but for nine and ten-year-olds in the same states the Northern accent sounded more “in charge” and the Southern accent sounded “nicer.” Researchers pointed to the role of the film industry and the media, such as the accents of national news anchors, as part of the reasons for this development.

But while in some of these countries, including the U.S. and Canada, there are forms of protection against accent discrimination already in place, none are as significant as France’s new law according to Erez Levon, one of the world’s leading experts on accent bias and a professor of sociolinguistics at the University of Bern.

“It’s the first I know of to protect native accents from discrimination,” Levon said, explaining that other countries’ laws have focused on foreign accents as opposed to differences of region and/or social class. Additionally, other laws have been developed on the basis of precedent and case law, rather than legislation, Levon explains. “That’s what makes the French law so interesting.” 

But beyond the more obvious links between accent and geographical region, experts say a number of factors in such discrimination are at play — class, race, gender, nationality and sexuality are among them. Research in the U.S. has found the way African Americans speak impacts the way jurors view them — audio recordings of people speaking African American Vernacular English (AAVE) compared to General American English (GAE) “predicted more negative overall evaluations of the speaker, and these negative evaluations were associated with an increase in guilty verdicts.”

glottophobia“You’ll always get more noticeably different accents the lower down the social scale you go.” Soundwave of quote illustrated by Steven Davis

“You’ll always get more noticeably different accents the lower down the social scale you go,” says Rob Drummond, a sociologist who co-runs Manchester Metropolitan University’s Accentism Project, which records victims’ testimonies. “Women face more criticism over the way they speak than men. And people will be criticized for differences that people perceive to do with sexuality.”

Respecting accents, shifting attitudes

“[The law] is a very good thing,” Christophe Euzet, said the French parliamentarian of the southern Hérault region who led the efforts behind the bill. “It banalizes accents. It normalizes them.”

For Euzet, a key evidence of that shift in attitudes is the case of Jean Castex, who was appointed France’s Prime Minister in summer 2020. The former mayor of the Pyrenean town of Prades became France’s first post-war head of government to have a strong local accent. “We’ve been listening to the accent of Prime Minister Castex for some months, and now we listen to Castex for what he says,” adds Euzet.

While the law’s full impact is expected to be felt over the coming years as behaviors adjust, another early sign of it’s scale was French national broadcaster FranceInfo’s naming “glottophobia” one of the words of 2020.

Journalist Feltin-Palas even argues the law protects the accent as a human right. “Accents are a fundamental part of an individual,” he says. 

glottophobia“I think we’re asking ourselves a good question in France.” Soundwave of quote illustrated by Steven Davis

When it comes to the legal implications, labor law experts believe change might be hard to come by. Philippe Ravisy, lawyer for the Paris-based firm Astaé Avocats, believes court rulings against accent bias will be difficult to achieve given the high burden of proof for discrimination.

However, Ravisy says that such rulings aren’t impossible. Sarah Lazri, a 27-year-old Algerian based in Toulouse, is among those whose past experiences could be considered a clear-cut case of accent discrimination. 

Last summer the engineering graduate, who also has a Master’s degree in data science, applied for a position as a business developer at a Parisian company. Lazri was invited for an initial interview, and then progressed to two further stages.

During the final interview, the general manager said something unexpected. “He told me: ‘You have everything that we are looking for, but we are hesitating because we need somebody who will have to phone clients,’” she recounts. “‘But you have a Middle Eastern accent, and that won’t work.’”

At first, Lazri’s reaction was of complete surprise. “Because frankly, I had done two days of interviews already,” she says. “They made me sign a confidentiality contract. They asked me to do two presentations. So I didn’t understand why they took so much time, and asked me to provide so much information about what I was capable of, in order for them to just say: ‘We’re not hiring you because of your accent.’”

While the incident “comes back into my mind a lot,” according to Lazri, she believes the law will prevent it from happening again. “It will change things for companies,” she says. “It will make companies afraid of discriminating.”

The battle is far from won, and parts of France’s traditional establishment continue to downplay such bias and reinforce “canonical” French through the education system, elocution classes and oratory schools.

Patrick Vannier of the Académie Française, which produces French dictionaries and has been the leading authority on French language since 1635, is among the doubters. “In the French language [accents] don’t have an important role because it’s not possible to have discrimination from a linguistic point of view,” he says.

The general shift of attitudes in France is nonetheless towards proper recognition of the fundamental role and value of accents. And it will need to as the world, increasingly globalized and digitalized, evolves: Surveys show 44 percent of French speakers live in sub-Saharan Africa — double the number in France itself — and by 2050, estimates project that number to rise to 85 percent.

Hence why some say the relevance and recognition of accents is as important as ever. Maina Sage, a lawmaker from French Polynesia, argues the law shouldn’t be seen as “the alpha and the omega” of ending accent bias — but a starting point to have a conservation about the state of French society.

“I think we’re asking ourselves a good question in France,” she says. “What is the France of today? What do we want to build together? Outside of appearances and correct pronunciations and correct accents, what do we want to build together?”

The post In France, Accents Are Now Protected by Law appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Students of Colour Object to Oxford Music Curriculum Because of Slavery

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 30/03/2021 - 2:19am in

The Telegraph ran a story yesterday claiming that they’d received documents showing that Oxford University was considering changing their classical music course. This was because, following Black Lives Matter protests, students of colour at the university had complained that they were left very distressed by the course on European music from Machaut to Beethoven, because this was the period when the transatlantic slave trade was developing. They also made the same complaint about western music notation.

Now this comes from the Torygraph, part of Britain’s exemplary right-wing press, who are known for their rigorous commitment to journalistic truth and integrity, ho, ho. So you wonder if it true, or is the product of some Tory hack’s fevered imagination, like many of the stories about the Labour party produced by Guido Fawkes. Is this all made up to discredit Black Lives Matter?

Thinking about the issue, it seems very much to me that the problem isn’t the curriculum’s links to colonialism, but an attitude of entitlement and the cultural prejudices of the rich and monumentally uninformed.

Let’s deal with their objection that western musical notation developed during the time of the Black slave trade. As the Torygraph pointed out, it didn’t. It developed before the transatlantic slave trade from the church’s Gregorian Chant. This is absolutely true. The origin of the western musical tradition is in the music written for church services. This soon expanded to take in secular subjects, such as the courtly lyrics of the troubadours, the celebration of kings and princes, drinking, war, and just about every aspect of life. As a genre, the emergence of western classical music has nothing to do with the slave trade. Machaut, the French composer mentioned as the beginning of that part of the Oxford music course, lived in the 12th century, three centuries or so before the development of the transatlantic slave trade in the 15th. The modern system of musical notation was also developed in that century by Guido d’Arezzo. The scale, Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Te Do, comes from the initial syllables of a line in the Latin Mass. And whoever thinks that Beethoven is connected to the slave trade is clean out of their tiny mind. Beethoven, I think, was a German liberal with a profound sympathy for the ideals of the French Revolution. His Eroica was originally dedicated to Napoleon, until the Corsican bandit invaded Austria. His Ode to Joy looks forward to a world where nations live together in peace and fraternity. Furthermore, it’s also been suggested that he may have had Black ancestry. Either way, I doubt very much that he had any sympathy for slavery or any other form of human servitude whatsoever.

The complaint about that part of the music course is just so wrong, that I do wonder about the motives of the people making these complaints. Assuming they exist, and that the complaints are genuine. Because the complaints are so wrong, and so ignorant, that either the complaint is some kind of mickey-take, or else the people making them are simply monumentally stupid and lazy. For example, what kind of individual, who seriously wants to learn music, objects to learning the notation? Yes, people can and do play by ear, and many non-western musical traditions don’t have a system of notation. But if you seriously want to play music, and certainly if you’re studying it an advanced level, then understanding its notation is very much a basic requirement. This includes not only classical music, but also Jazz, rock and pop. Much of this is composed through improvisation and jam sessions by the musicians themselves, and its form of reproduction is primarily through records rather than print. But nevertheless, they’re also published as sheet music. I’ve got several books of pop, rock and Jazz music on my shelves. They’re published as sheet music as people not only want to listen to some of these great pieces, but also play them for themselves.

So basic is an understanding of written music as well as the development of western music from the Middle Ages onwards, that I really do wonder if the people behind these complaints actually want to study music, or do so to the extent that they have to do some serious work that might stretch them. It doesn’t look like they do to me. I also wonder why, if they consider western music so intimately linked to colonialism and slavery that it causes them distress, that, if they’re foreign, they wanted to come to Europe to study it.

It’s therefore occurred to me that, if the complaints are real, the people doing the complaining may not actually want to study the subject. They just want the cachet of studying at Oxford. Years ago I read a history of Japan, which warned about giving in to the insularism and xenophobia of many Japanese. The Japanese highly value an education at Oxbridge and/ or the British public schools (God help them!) but they don’t like mixing with non-Japanese. Thus one or the other of Oxford or Cambridge was building a separate college to accommodate Japanese students so they wouldn’t have the inconvenience of mixing with people of other nationalities. Perhaps something similar is the case here? Do they want the prestige that goes with an Oxford education, but have their own racist prejudices about European culture and music?

If this is the case, then it’s a scandal. It’s a scandal because education at one of Britain’s leading universities is being dumbed down for these morons. It’s a scandal because it cheapens the real problems of Britain’s Black community, which were behind many of the Black Lives Matter protests. For example, there’s a programme on the Beeb this evening investigating the reasons Black British mothers are four times more likely to die in childbirth than Whites. It’s a scandal because there are doubtless plenty of kids of all colours in the UK, who would just love to study music at Oxford and have a genuine love of classic music. There’s a campaign at the moment to get more Black and Asians into orchestras. It’s been found that people from these ethnicities are seriously underrepresented. Hence there’s an orchestra, Chinikwe!, purely for non-Whites, in order to produce more Black and Asian orchestral musicians. This has also followed attempts to recover the works of Black classical composers. Back in the 1990s one of the French labels issued a CD of harpsichord pieces written by Black composers. Earlier this year, Radio 3 also played the music of Black classical composers. The best known Black British classical composer, I’m sure, is Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, who lived from 1875 to 1912. His father came from Sierra Leone while his mother was British. He was the composer of Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, based on Longfellow’s poem, which is still performed by choral societies up and down the country. And yes, it’s written in western musical notation. But these attempts to encourage the performance of classical, orchestral music by Black and Asian performers, and to restore and include Black and Asian classical composers in the western musical tradition, has also been effectively spurned by what seems to be rich, entitled, lazy brats.

The fault therefore seems not to lie with the Oxford music course or with Black Lives Matter, but with an admissions policy that favours the wealthy, even when they are racist and xenophobic, over those from poorer backgrounds, who are genuinely dedicated and talented. If, on the other hand, the people making those complaints seriously believe them, then the response should be to educate them to dispel their prejudices, not accommodate them.

1871-2021: Vive la Commune!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 21/03/2021 - 12:41am in


france, Marxism

image/jpeg iconparis-commune-rp.jpg

Today, we keep alive the lessons of 1871 and 1917.

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Video of Trevithick’s Steam Carriage in Bristol

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 14/03/2021 - 10:03pm in

I’ve an interest in the real, Victorian technology that really does resemble the ideas and inventions in Steampunk Science Fiction. This is the SF genre that, following Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and other early writers, tries to imagine what it would have been like had the Victorians had cars, aircraft, robots, spaceships, computers and time travel. And at certain points the Victorians came very close to creating those worlds. Bruce Sterling’s and William Gibson’s The Difference Engine, set in the Victorian computer age, was a piece of speculation about what kind of society would have emerged, if William Babbage’s pioneering computer, the Difference Engine of the title, had been built. And also if the 1820s Tory government had fallen to be replaced the rule of Lord Byron. The 19th century was a hugely inventive age, as scientists and engineers explored new possibilities and discoveries. George Cayley in Britain successfully invented a glider, in France Giffard created a dirigible airship, flying it around the Eiffel Tower. And from the very beginning of the century scientists and inventors attempted to develop the first ancestors of the modern car, run on coal and steam, of course.

One of these was a steam carriage designed by the Cornish engineer, Richard Trevithick, in 1801. This was built, but wasn’t successful. This did not stop other engineers attempting to perfect such vehicles, and steam cars continued to be developed and built well into the 20th century. The most famous of these was the American Stanley Steamer of 1901.

I found this short video on Johnofbristol’s channel on YouTube. It shows a replica of Trevithick’s vehicle being driven around Bristol docks. From the cranes and the building over the other side of the river, it looks like it was shot outside Bristol’s M Shed museum. This was formerly the site of the city’s Industrial Museum, and still contains among its exhibits some fascinating pieces from the city’s industrial past. These include the aircraft and vehicles produced by Bristol’s aerospace and transport companies.

National Assembly in France decides to explore ‘Socle Citoyen’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 01/03/2021 - 11:32pm in

Editor’s note: The use of the term ‘basic income’ or ‘universal income’ here does not correspond to BIEN’s definition of basic income, since the payments each month will fluctuate with income. ‘Socle citoyen’ corresponds more closely to a Negative Income Tax, adjusted on a monthly basis. Interview with Marc de Basquiat, originally appeared on […]

The Tours Congress and the Birth of the French Communist Party

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 24/02/2021 - 12:40am in


france, Marxism

image/jpeg icontours100.jpg

It is now 100 years since the Tours Congress of 25 to 31 December 1920, when the majority of delegates of the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO) voted to join the Third International.

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