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The three forms of inflation…

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 01/08/2021 - 8:43pm in

Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755) defined “inflation” as “the state of being swelled with wind, flatulence.” Yet now: Inflation. People fear it, policymakers dread it, pundits pronounce upon it. It was high throughout the West in the 1960s, higher in the 1970s, and hyper in the aftermath of World War I. Inflation... Read more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review: Imperial Encore: The Cultural Project of the Late British Empire by Caroline Ritter

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 29/07/2021 - 8:33pm in

In Imperial Encore: The Cultural Project of the Late British EmpireCaroline Ritter explores how cultural industries were used as part of the strategy to extend the life of the British Empire in Africa, focusing on the 1930s to the 1980s. This text should be on the reading list of anyone interested in colonialism, material culture as a tool of empire and attempts to extend imperialism through the use of soft power, writes Lori Lee Oates

Imperial Encore: The Cultural Project of the Late British Empire. Caroline Ritter. University of California Press. 2021.

Find this book (affiliate link): amazon-logo

In Imperial Encore: The Cultural Project of the Late British Empire, Caroline Ritter demonstrates the extent to which cultural industries and soft power were used, not only as tools of empire, but also as key aspects of the strategy to extend the life of the British Empire in Africa. Her methodological approach effectively situates the book within the expanding body of research on the importance of cultural products as instruments of empire-building. With a focus on 1930 to 1980, Ritter examines how aspects of material culture, such as drama performances, broadcast services and publication bureaus, were employed, under the guise of colonial development, to extend the imperial project. Furthermore, she maintains that this was done in ways that would not seem obvious without examining these various media side by side and in their totality.

In the introduction, Ritter argues that ‘the political history of the end of the British Empire must be realigned with a cultural history of reinvigorated imperial ambition’ (6). While it is true that cultural history can inform our understanding of political history, this is far from a novel idea. However, Ritter does bring something new to the discussion. Her main accomplishment is putting broadcast media, travelling theatre troupes and print runs of books together, in order to demonstrate ‘how the same group of cultural artists and even the same relatively small canon dominated British cultural outreach to Africa’ (7). In doing so, she demonstrates the social cohesion of British cultural agencies, both in recognising the importance of empire and in acting in concert to preserve it. The book is divided into two parts: one which deals with ‘late empire’ and the other covering ‘after empire’.

Building on the work of Edward Said in Culture and Imperialism (1993), Ritter demonstrates how ‘the postcolonial critique did not disarm British cultural imperialism – in fact, it ran alongside and sometimes even strengthened it’ (9). Drawing on primary sources, she shows how British cultural agencies, including the BBC and publishing firms like Oxford University Press, maintained that they were ‘fostering African input and encouraging dissenting voices’ to demonstrate that such agencies were important to postcolonial society (9).

Image Credit: ‘CO 1069-43-73’ depicting users of a mobile library van, Accra, Ghana from The National Archives UK, no known copyright restrictions

The book argues in a compelling way that British officials originally tailored their outreach in East and West Africa to white settlers and elite audiences. However, they eventually began targeting black non-elite African populations. British officials maintained they wanted a positive relationship between Britain and Africa that would continue into the postcolonial period. This stood in contrast to how African writers and politicians would formulate their vision of the new postcolonial state. For these figures, what occurred was an ‘imperial encore, but one that showed no sign of ending’ (13).

For example, the British Council relied upon the prominent position of the works of William Shakespeare in curricula and exams to continue the export of drama to Africa. Today the British Council is a public organisation that facilitates cultural and education opportunities. It was founded in the 1930s ‘with the purpose of projecting national culture overseas’ (18). This included the development of stage shows by travelling theatre troupes that would bring the works of Shakespeare to the colonies. It also offered opportunities to learn English. Ritter frames this as ‘using one expression of hegemonic power to justify another’ (45). Conversely, during the same period, Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka argued that it was crucial for ‘East and West Africans to think imaginatively beyond ”the dictates of the British Council pre-historic strictures”’ (46).

In Chapter Three, Ritter examines BBC broadcasting. The BBC ‘started domestic broadcasting in the 1920s and inaugurated its external broadcasting arm, then named the Empire Service, in the early 1930s. The latter was built on shortwave, a relatively new discovery that allowed broadcasters to transmit over long distances cheaply’ (72). This is not surprising, as the structures of communications were often used to extend colonial reach. Like the telegraph, steam ships and railroads before them, new radio technologies were put into the service of empire.

Local audiences were not a priority for the BBC. Ritter maintains that it was only after the Suez Crisis in 1956 that Britain dealt with decolonisation by directing itself towards indigenous audiences in East and West Africa. She makes the case that with African independence, for the first time the BBC found themselves ‘having to compete for postcolonial listeners at the very moment the audience had become most crucial’ (73).

‘Books in all their variety are the means whereby civilization may be carried triumphantly forward.’ This 1937 quote from former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is the opening for the second chapter, ‘Bringing Books to Africans: Publishing in Colonial East Africa’. It was within the colonies that these words would become a policy approach. Ritter maintains that ‘at that precise time, British publishers had started showing interest in expanding their industry reach, particularly in Asian and African colonies, where they imagined endless untapped markets. They seized upon and started repeating Churchill’s words as testimony that there was more purpose to their work than just markets and profits’. In their minds, ‘the British publishing industry had a central place inside the grander civilizing mission’ (47).

In the three decades after its founding, the British Council ‘grew from a handful of departments and representations around the world to an organization with thousands of officials who worked in seventy territories, including twenty in Africa’. Officials were rotated between London and overseas nations every three years. Ritter sees this as a reflection of the British Council not caring to hone regional expertise among its officials (19). She also describes how British Council committee members ‘represented a London-centred, elite version of the stage which they had clear financial, political and cultural interests in preserving’ (25).

Support for the Empire was seen as an issue of safety for British civil servants in Africa. After the Second World War they ‘expressed increasing levels of concern about the ferocity of popular politics in sub-Saharan Africa’. Ritter maintains that ‘when the governors looked to Whitehall for [security] support, they often found it – or at least encountered little resistance’ (92). This included a vision for a ‘broader minded approach’ to news. Colonial administrators felt that by developing political institutions they could use the public sphere to mitigate demands for political change (92).

Ritter concludes that ‘British cultural imperialism reinvented itself as a new version of global Britishness. Its elements overlapped with Western values more generally, such as freedom of speech and the press that ethical journalism and competitive publishing both celebrate’ (190). This was built on the idea that ‘revered and unquestioned Britishness’ could be a universal good. She argues that ‘the imperial endeavour is still very much present, fueled by cultural self-confidence that guides – some would say blindly – the role Britain still seeks for itself in the world today’ (191). This conclusion is even more compelling when seen in light of the discussions around Brexit and British exceptionalism that have taken place in recent years. All of this makes Imperial Encore a text that should be on the reading list of anyone interested in colonialism, material culture as a tool of empire and attempts to extend imperialism through the use of soft power.

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 and Political Science. 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.


Scum! London Lifeboatmen Abused Following Patel’s Demands about Channel Migrants

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/07/2021 - 5:14am in

Really, what kind of people are the Tories turning us into? A week or so ago, Mike reported on his blog that our smirking, vile home secretary had demanded that the RNLI shouldn’t rescue the migrants trying to cross the Channel in dinghies and other flimsy, unseaworthy craft. The Lifeboats refused. Quite apart from their duty to rescue everyone at sea by reason of simple morality and humanitarianism, their patron is Her Maj and it’s written into their charter. Which means they’re answerable to the Queen, not the smug racist in Johnson’s cabinet. That’s supposed to refer to Patel, but I admit, it could also mean any one of them, including Johnson himself. Yesterday Mike reported that a lifeboat crew on the Thames in London had been abused. This looks like they did so from anger at the Lifeboats refusal to kowtow to Patel’s commands over the migrants. It’s disgusting. As the TV series following Britain’s and Ireland’s lifeboat service has amply shown, these are extremely courageous men and women risking their lives to save others often in conditions of appalling danger, in storms and raging seas. They’re also unpaid volunteers, so by anyone’s standards, they’re heroes.

Mike in his article about this revolting incident pointed out that the people hurling insults at the lifeboat crew would be very glad to be rescued by them if they met with an accident on the Thames and were going under for the third time. Quite. I also think that nearby ships are formally required by maritime law to rescue or give aid to ships in trouble. I don’t know, but if that’s true, then it means that the lifeboats have a legal duty to rescue migrants trying to cross the Channel, quite apart from their duty to the Queen and regardless of what Priti Patel has to say. Not that I think she has any respect at all for international law. She and the rest of her party of bandits have shown they have none whatsoever for British law and our unwritten constitution when it suits them.

But it’s the simple, callous rejection of any kind of humanitarian concern for the welfare of others that worries me. It shows that Patel wants to withhold aid from people in peril of their lives. In short, she is quite happy seeing the migrants drown rather than have them cross the Channel. Mike’s posted that the Tories are rapidly crossing from Fascism to Nazism, and I posted the other day about the similarities between their assault on democracy and the Nazi suspension of German civil liberties during their seizure of power. Patel’s call for the lifeboats to ignore the Channel migrants and the real threat of them drowning is well on the way to Nazi morality. It reminds me of the comment by Heinrich Class, the chairman of the Pan-German League, about his generations rejection of the liberalism of the 1848 generation of German radicals and nationalists. Their watchwords had been ‘patriotism, tolerance, humanity’. But the new generation of German nationalists utterly rejected their fathers’ and grandfathers’ values. Class said, ‘We youngsters had moved on; We were nationalist pure and simple. We wanted nothing to do with tolerance if it sheltered the enemies of the Volk and the state. Humanity n the sense of that liberal idea we spurned, for our Volk was bound to come off worse.’ In J. Noakes and G. Pridham, Nazism 1919-1946 1: The Rise to Power 1919-1934, 4. ‘Enemies of the Volk and the state’ – that seems very much to be the attitude of the Tories towards the Channel migrants. Hence Patel’s decision to house them in appalling conditions in what could be considered concentration camps.

The end result of the development of the extreme nationalism of ethno-nationalist groups like the Pan-German League and their rejection of the liberal values of tolerance and humanity was the Nazis and the horrors of the Third Reich – the internment and massacre of millions, including the disabled, Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Russians and political prisoners, because simply by existing they were enemies of the Volk and the state.

Johnson, Patel and the rest of their vile crew haven’t yet destroyed British democracy and traditional British values, but they’re taking us in that direction. They have to be stopped before they take us further towards a similar viciously intolerance, murderous dictatorship.

The Gay ‘Green Book’ Is Going Online

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 26/07/2021 - 6:00pm in

When Eric Gonzaba was growing up in rural Indiana, he says that everything he learned about queer history had happened “in far-off places.” Little did he know that a mere 25 miles away in Louisville, Kentucky, an unassuming brick building on East Main Street had hosted one of the region’s first gay discos, which opened in 1973 and was known for its dazzling drag shows.

Now, as a trained historian and professor of American Studies at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), Gonzaba is uncovering and preserving hidden histories like this one through a digital project called “Mapping the Gay Guides.” The project, which is co-led by Amanda Regan, a lecturer in the Department of History and Geography at Clemson University, uses a series of travel guides published by Bob Damron to map historic queer spaces across the United States.

Damron was a traveling businessman who took note of the gay or at least gay-friendly bars, bathhouses, theaters, bookstores, restaurants and shops he discovered on his many trips. He then published a series of travel guides based on that research beginning in 1965. His collections, originally known as the “Address Book,” became a survival guide for queer road trippers, comparable to the Jim Crow-era Negro Motorist Green Book, which guided Black travelers through the country.

Mapping the Gay Guides’ website hosts an interactive map, where the hangouts from Damron’s books are transformed into little blue pins. Click on the pins, and you can explore the features of Damron’s favorite haunts as they were described in his original writing.

Users can watch locations appear and disappear by clicking through the map from year to year: The number of sites listed in the Pacific Northwest more than triples between 1965 and 1972. Meanwhile, one of the popular sites from early-1970s New Orleans, the Upstairs Lounge, disappears from the map in 1975.

Another section of the site hosts short histories of some of the sites on the map, written by Gonzaba and CSUF graduate students. Here, users can learn the heartbreaking reason behind the disappearance of the Upstairs Lounge: On the evening of June 24, 1973, an arsonist set fire to the building while dozens of patrons were gathered inside enjoying Sunday drink specials. Thirty-two people died as a result of the fire. The attack was the deadliest known attack on a gay club until the 2016 Pulse shooting in Orlando, Florida.

mapUsers can click around the map to see which LGBTQ establishments existed in the 1960s and ’70s, and which ones later disappeared. Screengrab courtesy Mapping the Gay Guides

There are cheerier histories, too, like that of the Paramount Steak House in Washington D.C. The popular restaurant opened in 1948 and began catering to the gay community sometime in the 1950s. Unlike most sites listed in Damron’s old address books, this one is still around today. More than seventy years after it opened, the establishment is now a landmark along Washington D.C.’s annual pride parade route — an homage to its longstanding place in Washington D.C.’s queer culture.

Since its launch in February 2020, Mapping the Gay Guides has dropped hundreds of pins on its interactive map across all 50 states, Washington D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands (Damron did not distinguish between entries in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands, so neither does Mapping the Gay Guides) from the 1965 to 1980 address books. The project received a $350,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in April 2021, which will allow it to spend the next three years digitizing, transcribing and geolocating data from the 1981 to 2000 guides.

“We want our project to be a launching off point for researchers and public historians to think about how queer people have literally and figuratively been on the map for decades,” says Gonzaba. Mapping Damron’s address books means making their contents more available to researchers than ever before.

The project was also a response to what Gonzaba calls “a fairly depressing moment in queer communities across the country dealing with the collapse of LGBTQ spaces.” The Covid-19 pandemic hit queer businesses hard. Famous spaces like StonewallJulius Bar, and Henrietta Hudson, all in New York City, made headlines when they were forced to appeal to patrons for support via crowdfunding campaigns to stay afloat during coronavirus shutdowns.

But even before the pandemic struck, queer spaces were on the decline. Research from Greggor Mattson, professor of sociology at Oberlin College, shows that the number of queer bars and nightclubs in the United States declined by 36.6 percent between 2007 and 2019. For his research, Mattson also relied on Damron’s address books, which were published annually by San Francisco-based Damron Company until 2019. Digital projects like Mapping the Gay Guides are well-suited to archiving the histories of spaces like these so that even as they may close, their stories won’t be lost to time.

New technologies also have the power to make hidden histories more accessible and give people who have traditionally been excluded from the academy opportunities to participate in the preservation of their histories in new and lasting ways. “The creation of digital tools, more affordable tech such as sophisticated smartphones, and easy-to-use interfaces on our devices and platforms has … given agency to people and from that stems a growth in digital humanities projects,” says Megan Smith, professor of creative technologies at the University of British Columbia.

Still, these new technologies are not free of ethical questions. Gonzaba and Regan grapple with concern that making knowledge of hidden queer spaces available on the web could make those spaces or their patrons targets of abuse. However, many of the sites that Damron cataloged decades ago are no longer in operation or their uses have shifted over time, reducing this risk.

The pair also emphasizes that the travel guides they use as primary sources for Mapping the Gay Guides were authored by a gay, white man from the relatively progressive city of San Francisco. Reading them with a critical eye reveals implicit biases, like the fact that Damron labeled most southern sites and sites popular among the Black community as less reputable than others. Contextualizing Damron’s writing and exploring its biases is vital to Mapping the Gay Guides’ work.

Rebecca Caines, who studies digital and site-specific art at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada, also says that effort must be made to ensure that new digital projects will last over time. That means they can’t rely on high-level technical support or expensive equipment that will only be available to a community for a limited time. “This is a feature of new media work in general,” she says, “But it needs to be carefully considered when marginalized people are sharing their stories and experiences.”

Regan describes the threat of technological obsolescence as “one of the greatest hurdles” to doing digital work. She and Gonzaba document their methodology and save copies of their data in sustainable formats to ensure Mapping the Gay Guides will be replicable, even if the technology that powers its current interactive map ceases to work. With some of the new NEH funds, the team also plans to deposit copies of the project in a university library’s archival repository and transition its map into JavaScript, making it more accessible and sustainable.

Mapping the Gay Guides exemplifies the many colorful possibilities of a digital history project handled with appropriate care. Like other creative digital projects, it can give users a fresh perspective on their cities and, according to Caines, “offer new ways to hold onto histories, reclaim identities, provide new forms of communication between generations, and allow for new forms of activism and organizing.”

This story was originally published in Next City.

The post The Gay ‘Green Book’ Is Going Online appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Karl Marx on the Weight of History

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 25/07/2021 - 7:12am in

“Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. […]Men make their own history, but they do not make it … Continue reading →

The Nazis and the Tory Destruction of British Civil Liberties

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 24/07/2021 - 7:13pm in

A few days ago, Mike over at Vox Political commented that our smirking, intriguing Home Secretary, Priti Patel, had gone from Fascism to Nazism in her latest assault on democracy. Hacks publishing leaked documents can now be punished with up to 14 years imprisonment for embarrassing the government. This is in addition to her massively authoritarian, racist approach to dealing with the influx of illegal immigrants crossing the Channel. This isn’t hyperbole. The Nazis passed similar legislation when they seized power in 1933, making it illegal to defame the government. See Martin Broszat’s The Hitler State: The Foundation and Development of the Internal Structure of the Third Reich, page 66, for how the Nazis banned and intimidated Communist, Socialist and liberal newspapers using the laws against defaming the government.

This follows creeping Tory legislation gradually destroying civil liberties and further restricting constitutional limits to Conservative authoritarianism. Patel has passed further legislation limiting the right to demonstrate, abolishing fixed-term parliaments so that the Tories can choose when they hold elections rather than have to abide by the limits set by law, and further limiting the courts’ ability to hold them to account. This all reminds me of the Nazi suspension of German civil liberties following the Reichstag fire and the passage of the emergency decrees as shown in this piece of Nazi legislation

By the authority of Section 48 (2) of the German Constitution the following is decreed as a defensive measure against Communist acts of violence endangering the State:

  1. Sections 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and 153 of the Constitution of the German Reich are suspended until further notice. Thus restrictions of personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press, on the right of assembly and association, and violation of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications, and warrants for house-searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property rights are permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.

In J. Noakes and G. Pridham, Nazism 1919-1945, 1: The Rise to Power 1919-1934 (Exeter University Publication 1983) 142.

The Tories haven’t gone that far yet with outright bans on newspapers and opposition publications, but this is clearly the direction they are going unless the process is halted. We are heading for a Tory dictatorship.

But stopping this means having an effective opposition, something which is glaringly lacking in the Labour leadership of Keir Starmer.

Book at Lunchtime: Jews, Liberalism, Antisemitism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 24/07/2021 - 1:34am in

Book at Lunchtime is a series of bite-sized book discussions held weekly during term-time, with commentators from a range of disciplines. The events are free to attend and open to all. About the book:

The emancipatory promise of liberalism - and its exclusionary qualities - shaped the fate of Jews in many parts of the world during the age of empire. Yet historians have mostly understood the relationship between Jews, liberalism and antisemitism as a European story, defined by the collapse of liberalism and the Holocaust. This volume challenges that perspective by taking a global approach. It takes account of recent historical work that explores issues of race, discrimination and hybrid identities in colonial and postcolonial settings, but which has done so without taking much account of Jews. Individual essays explore how liberalism, citizenship, nationality, gender, religion, race functioned differently in European Jewish heartlands, in the Mediterranean peripheries of Spain and the Ottoman empire, and in the North American Atlantic world.


Professor Abigail Green is Professor of Modern European History at Brasenose College, Oxford. Her recent work focuses on international Jewish history and transnational humanitarian activism. She is currently completing a three year Leverhulme Senior Research Fellowship, working on a new book on liberalism and the Jews, tentatively titled Children of 1848: Liberalism and the Jews from the Revolutions to Human Rights. Working in partnership with colleagues in the heritage sector, she is also leading a major four year AHRC-funded project on Jewish country houses.

Professor Simon Levis Sullam is Associate Professor of Modern History at Ca’ Foscari, University of Venice, Italy. His fields of interest include the history of ideas and culture in Europe between the Nineteenth and the Twentieth century, with a particular focus on nationalisms and fascism; the history of the Jews and of Anti-Semitism; the history of the Holocaust; the history of historiography, and questions of historical method. His many publications include, most recently, The Italian Executioners: The Genocide of the Jews of Italy.

Professor Adam Sutcliffe is Professor of European History and co-director of the Centre for Enlightenment Studies at King’s College London. His research has focused on in the intellectual history of Western Europe between approximately 1650 and 1850, and on the history of Jews, Judaism and Jewish/non-Jewish relations in Europe from 1600 to the present. Professor Sutcliffe’s most recent publication, What Are Jews For? History, Peoplehood and Purpose, is a wide-ranging look at the history of Western thinking on the purpose of the Jewish people.

Dr Kei Hiruta is Assistant Professor and AIAS-COFUND Fellow at the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Aarhus University, Denmark. His research lies at the intersection of political philosophy and intellectual history, with particular interest in theories of freedom in modern political thought. His book Hannah Arendt and Isaiah Berlin: Freedom, Politics and Humanity will be published from Princeton University Press in autumn 2021.

Unseen trends and the society we are becoming.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/07/2021 - 5:49pm in

Societies are evolving and complex, which often makes it hard to see at any moment where things are going. It was thus with the move of Northern European countries towards democracy in the 19th century, which seems inevitable and clear in hindsight but blurred at the time by lots of other developments that have now been forgotten, such as an increase in Protestant fanaticism and an anti-technology (Luddite) movement. In the last few decades there have also been many trends, some already waning, like the increase in international migration, and some on a seemingly unstoppable growth, like increased inequality. As in previous centuries, events like covid-mania accelerate some previous trends, like state surveillance, and reverse others, like the growth of international tourism.

Many commentators have rushed towards applying a particular label to the developments of the last 50 years. One hears about neoliberalism, financialization, or unsustainable growth. Though they make things sound neat and simple, such labels immediately make things moral and political, forcing people to take sides, which obscures the breadth of changes and makes a calmer assessment impossible. Let us thus look here at some of the less noticed trends which do not easily fit into existing labels. In this short post I just want to flag some trends in the Western world and briefly mention some instances of misperceptions of trends, leaving analysis for later. I will deliberately not show any statistics, forcing you to engage with the ideas rather than be a ring-side observer. See what you yourself make of these issues.

One major trend is the stark increase in the volume and extent of state regulation ever since the early 1970s, under any political leadership, pretty much everywhere in the Western world. From a few hundred pages of regulation per year, our bureaucracies and parliaments are now producing hundreds of thousands of pages of regulation per year. This rise makes a mockery of the idea that we are in a period of neoliberal deregulation, which is pretty much the exact opposite of the true direction of travel. The change defies any simple left/right or neoliberal/socialist label. It is a rise in bureaucracy. It has many causes, including meddling bureaucrats looking to expand their sphere of influence, but also the demands from large corporations for regulations that make life harder for the small business competition. The rise in regulation thus does not fit existing labels.

Another major trend is the decrease in IQ of the population in the Western world, probably due to increased use of mobile phones and social media. The mayor loss is the reduced capacity for abstract thought and seeing the interconnections between events. This is a profound dumbing down of the population with effects on every sphere of life, ranging from the quality of our institutions to the types of art enjoyed. Again, this trend is hardly known though it has been clear from the late 1990s. The phenomenon furthermore is not easily given a political label. It is neither pro-environment nor anti-environment, liberal or anti-liberal, woke or populist. Yet it is deeply worrying as a dumber population is less productive and easier to mislead.

Another such trend is the move towards monoculturalism in many areas of life, including politics, media, corporations, entertainment, academia, and commerce: the people, the manners, and the morals in these spheres all look the same. The gradual increase in similarity between people in the same sphere was noted a long time ago by Ortega Y Gasset (1930s) and Theodor Adorno (1960s), and has now reached a zenith: the coffee shop in Berlin is pretty much the same as in Melbourne or Los Angeles. The coffee shop is furthermore pretty similar to the movie theatre or the truck hire company: similar protocols and staff manners. The left-wing politician in Sydney is pretty much the same as the right-wing one in Ontario, using similar language and media methods. Italian artists differ in the language from the famous Polish or Kiwi ones, but the sounds, images, and personalities are very similar. Once again, such a trend is not so easy to put into a political or moral box. But it is a profound change with many consequences.

Let us then briefly mention the issue of misperceptions in trends.

There are the slow changes that are talked about in particular circles, but hardly known by a wide audience. A big one is the changes in demography. As they say, demography is destiny, so any observer of politics and international relations should have a good grasp of what is happening with demographic trends. But how many truly do? How many know whether fertility rates in the Muslim world have remained steady or are decreasing? How many know if the population of Latin America is still expanding or stabilising? Who would know if and when India will overtake China as the most populous country? The answers are ‘decreasing’, ‘still expanding but at a slowing rate’, and ‘in the next 10 years’. Did you know and do you see the great significance of such trends for analyses of the future? Once again, such trends are not so easily put into a political or moral box.

There is also the converse, which is trends large parts of the population believe are immense which are in fact relatively minor compared to other factors. For instance, if one were to ask a random person in the West whether the food security of Africa is more threatened by climate change than by reversing economic growth, I bet many would say ‘climate change’. Don’t even get me started on the magnitude of the threat of covid as compared to that of lockdowns! A sense of real proportions is thus rare because moral and political imperatives increasingly distort our view of things, which is itself an important trend.

A final trend that is hardly known I wish to alert you to is the major reduction in autonomy among workers in the West. Since about the 1980s more and more workers, even the well-paid ones, are spending their working lives surrounded by tight protocols and schedules, with increasingly less discretion over what they do and how they do it. It has been a creeping change wherein labour is more and more shackled to processes and compliance mechanisms. It is an explosion in regulation inside both private and public workplaces. Being bossed around in every aspect of life is now a lived reality for most of us, but who realises this or minds? What effects will the increased habit of obedience have on our societies?

There are hence many profound changes that have been brewing for decades, changes that defy easy political or moral labels. ‘We’ are becoming more regulated, dumber, similar to others, obedient, and ignorant of demographic and social realities.

What kind of society are we then moving towards? I am not sure. Are you? Do put your views in the comments!

Aborigines and the National Game — by the late John Hirst

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/07/2021 - 4:32pm in

Source: Winter in Australia: Football in the Richmond Paddock (1866) is the earliest known image of a football match in Melbourne.(Supplied: State Library of Victoria (Robert Stewart 1866))

Here’s a fine essay I came across by John Hirst.

Aboriginal people make up 2 per cent of the population and 10 per cent of footballers in the Australian Football League. As anyone who has seen them in action will attest, they seem made to play the game; but were they makers of the game as well? Their role in the game’s origins has been a matter agitating the football world and its historians since the appearance in March 2008 of The Australian Game of Football Since 1858, the authorised version of the AFL’s history, as large as a pulpit Bible, though with more illustrations.

The book has many authors. The editor chose Gillian Hibbins, a well-credentialled sports historian, to write the opening chapter on the formation of the game. She made no mention of the Aboriginal game of football, Marngrook. The editor then asked her to deal with the supposed connection between this game and Australian Rules. She produced a one-page supplement to her chapter which completely dismissed any connection. She declared that she would be very happy to find an Aboriginal influence, but sadly there was no evidence for it: it was no more than ‘a seductive myth’.

This got her and the AFL into a lot of trouble. The critics thought that the AFL, having worked so hard to welcome Aborigines into the game, should not have authorised such a firm exclusion from its early history. They had difficulties, however, in making a case for Aboriginal influence, unless it was by the modish assertion that there is no single truth and if Aborigines think they were influential they ought to be allowed to say so. Hibbins 54 insisted very properly that as a professional she had to stick to her reading of the documents.

The Aborigines in Victoria did certainly play games of football, which differed in name and form by region. Marngrook, the name now used for them all, was played by the Gunditjmara people of western Victoria. The ball was made from a possum skin filled with charcoal and tied up with sinews of kangaroo tail; in Gippsland, the ball was a kangaroo’s scrotum stuffed with grass. The players kicked the ball and jumped high to catch it. The play was open and free-flowing, more party game than desperate competition. There were no goals. An individual player who kicked furthest or jumped highest or had most of the play would be declared the winner. James Dawson, an amateur anthropologist, reported that in the games he’d seen, the team that kicked the ball oftenest and furthest won. That would be difficult to determine. Perhaps, like the man who asked frisbee players in a park who was winning, he had difficulty comprehending a team sport without a winner.

An open, free-flowing game with high marks: this looks like Australian Rules. But Australian Rules did not look like this in its first years. It was a grinding, low-to-the-ground, low-scoring contest. The four men who drew up the first rules in 1859 had all played football at school or university in England and Ireland. They had the rules from Rugby, Harrow, Eton and Winchester in front of them and produced a sort of an amalgam. In England, later, football evolved into the separate games of rugby and soccer. Melbourne codified the game earlier so that people coming from different traditions in the old country could play each other in the new.

Three of the pioneer rule-makers were recent arrivals. The fourth was Tom Wills, native-born, with a convict grandfather, the colony’s first sporting hero because of his triumphs at cricket. It was he who suggested that football games should be organised in 55 Melbourne in winter to keep cricketers fit. He had come with his father from New South Wales to squat on land in Port Phillip. At fourteen, he was sent to England to be educated at Rugby School. On his father’s land he had mixed and played with the Aborigines and surely, it is said, would have seen and played their version of football. But when he came to make the rules for the new game, he seemed most interested in getting adopted the rules he had played under at Rugby School. Nevertheless, the village of Moyston in western Victoria, close to the Wills’ homestead, claims to be the birthplace of Australian Rules and now has a stone monument and a circle of display boards sheltered by a pagoda to prove it.

The new game did evolve in practice and by rule change to the more open, long-kicking, high-marking form. David Thompson, a history student at La Trobe University, cited in his honours thesis evidence of these changes happening earlier than is usually thought: in 1862, a newspaper account of a Melbourne–Geelong match recorded players running down the ground dodging other players and a Melbourne player jumping wonderfully high in the air to catch the ball.

Is it in this process of evolution rather than in the founding moment that we can find an Aboriginal influence? An exploration of this sort will have trouble assembling evidence. The hard-headed opponents of Aboriginal influence have shown in the recent conflict that they will be satisfied only with explicit documentary evidence. Wills cannot have been influenced by the Aboriginal game, they say, because in all the surviving documents he never says he was.

One ploy of the opponents we can readily dismiss. Reckoning that you can’t go wrong with a wholesale denunciation of white settlers, Hibbins claims that the racist mindset of the day would have prevented any borrowing, conscious or unconscious, from the Aborigines. But the public mind at this time was far from set 56 on the question of Aboriginal capacity. Hibbins has mistakenly cast the high racism of the late nineteenth century back to the century’s middle decades. In 1858, the year from which Australian Rules takes its origin, a parliamentary inquiry asked settlers their views on the general intelligence of the Aborigines and got very varied answers, ranging from ‘Utterly low’ to ‘Of quick and lively parts, learning readily any description of farm work and rough carpentry; good mimics, with a keen perception of the ludicrous.’ In any case, it is wrong to assume that borrowing between peoples only proceeds where there is respect. The squatter who shot Aborigines lived in a hut roofed with bark, whose use was learnt from the Aborigines. When sheep or a shepherd were lost, he might pay Aborigines to find them because he knew Aborigines to be excellent trackers.

In the early years of settlement, Aborigines and whites lived close to each other. The isolation and institutionalising of Aborigines came much later. They were both highly mobile people. We don’t have to be too particular about who was where and when to suggest that whites would have seen the Aboriginal game of football. Hibbins acknowledges that Aboriginal football was played in western Victoria, but without firm evidence she won’t accept that young Tom Wills could have seen it at Moyston; in any case, she continues, he left at age ten to begin his education in Melbourne. But we know from the reminiscences of William Kyle that Aborigines regularly played football on the edges of Melbourne in the mid-1840s – the time Wills arrived there.

Colden Harrison, native-born like his cousin Tom Wills, is known as the father of the Australian game. He was not one of the first rule-makers, but he was a notable player and involved in amending the rules in the 1860s. His autobiography, which Hibbins edited, shows an openness to Aboriginal life which you would not expect from her ‘racist mindset’ characterisation. He records that 57 Aborigines had extraordinary powers of orientation, such that even a blind old woman was a good guide; their corroborees should be thought of as parties, ‘a weird and fascinating exhibition’, but always with ‘a certain form and meaning’. He retails as a humorous story his mother asking a young woman what she thought of a mission and being told that there was too much hallelujah and not enough damper. Of most significance is his comment that ‘we took them very much for granted, as part of the ordinary scheme of things.’

Wills and Harrison, two early, commanding players, had a strong connection to Aboriginal life. But the influence I do not want to exclude would be more vagrant and unbeknown. There is one game and another begins to imitate it: who knows how? Beyond the rules of the game is its spirit, and that will always be elusive. Hardheads won’t like this. On this matter Geoffrey Blainey is a hardhead, firm in ruling out Aboriginal influence – except just perhaps for the high mark. Once you concede that, you have removed the impossibility of any influence and allowed for the possibility of more.

In Dancing with Strangers, Inga Clendinnen reports that for reasons she can’t explain, Aborigines and other Australians share the same style of humour, ‘a subtle but far-reaching affinity’. To this we can add the same style of football. These are good puzzles to have. Hard evidence won’t solve them.