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Scumbag Starmer Sacks Nadia Whittome Behind Back But Tells Fascist Guido Fawkes

This is another incident which shows the real, intolerant, treacherous face of Starmer’s administration. And it could have come straight out of the Blair playbook. Yesterday Starmer sacked three MPs from their posts as Parliamentary Private Secretaries – Nadia Whittome, Beth Winter and Olivia Blake because they had the conscience and the guts to vote against the government’s Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill 2019-21. The ladies objected to the bill’s provisions that would have exempted British service personnel for prosecutions for torture committed overseas. Starmer, however, had set up a one-line whip demanding that the Labout MPs abstain.

Other MPs from the ‘Corbynite’ wing of the party also had the courage to vote against the bill. They were: Diane Abbott, Apsana Begum, Richard Burgon, Ian Byrne, Jeremy Corbyn, Ian Lavery, Rebecca Long-Bailey, John McDonnell, Kate Osamor, Kate Osborne, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Zarah Sultana, Jon Trickett, and Claudia Webbe. Kudos and respect to all of them.

Lobster has put up a number of articles about the involvement of British armed forces in war crimes and supporting brutal dictatorships. At the moment the British military is giving training to 17 regimes, including the Chinese, that are on a list of thirty which are of concern because of their history of human rights abuses. The SAS was also involved in training the Sri Lankan army in its brutal war against the Tamil Tigers, which included reprisals and atrocities against the civilian Tamil population. A recent book on war crimes by the ‘Keenie Meenies’, a British mercenary company, also notes that, although they’re not formally part of the British army, they too have been used by the British state to give military support to some very unpleasant movements and regimes at arm’s length. Like the Mujahiddin fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan and the Fascist regimes in Central America in the 1980s. Going further back, British armed forces were also responsible for brutal reprisals against Black Kenyans during the Mao Mao rebellion, including torture and mutilation. The victims of the atrocities were only granted compensation after a long legal campaign a few years ago. For details of the atrocities themselves, see the book, Africa’s Secret Gulags.

Mike also points that Starmer’s order that Labour should abstain on the bill, but not vote against it, is similar to Harriet Harman’s order a few years ago that Labour should also abstain on a Tory welfare bill that would further cut benefits and impoverish claimants. It’s all part of the Blairite strategy of trying to appeal to Tory voters at the expense of the people they should really be standing up to protect. But they try to make it seems that they’re also paying attention to their working class and socialist base by abstaining. It’s unconvincing. To me, it recalls Pilate in the Gospels washing his hands and walking off when the Sanhedrin brought Christ before him to be crucified.

What makes Starmer’s decision particularly noxious, however, what adds insult to injury, is the way it was done. Whittome was not told she was sacked but a Labour ‘representative’ – some of us can think of other epithets for this unnamed person – instead went of an briefed Guido Fawkes. That’s the far-right gossip and smear site run by Paul Staines. Staines is an extreme right-wing Tory and libertarian, who’d like to ban the trade unions and other working class organisations, privatise everything, including the NHS, and get rid of the welfare state. When he was a member of the Freedom Association back in the 1980s, the organisation invited the leader of a Fascist death squad from El Salvador as their guest of honour at their annual dinner. Other guests, I think, included members of the South African Conservative party, who were staunch supporters of apartheid. He was also mad keen on the various psychedelics that were coming into the rave scene in the 1990s, including and especially ‘E’. It’s disgusting that anyone in the news should have been told before Whittome herself, but especially a Fascist like Staines and his squalid crew.

And Mike has pointed out on his blog that this is exactly the same tactic the Blairites in the Labour party used to stab him in the back. Mike was suspended for anti-Semitism the evening before he was due to stand as a Labour councillor in the mid-Wales elections. But he only found about it when a reporter from one of the local Welsh papers rang him up to ask him about it. And then some other weasel at the NEC went off and leaked Mike’s details to the Sunset Times, which then ran a feature smearing and libeling him as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. Which Mike has never been, and very strongly and utterly condemns, as he has all racism.

But this also brings to mind the negative briefing Blair himself conducted against those MPs, who dared to go ‘off-message’ during his regime. Notable victims included Clare Short, who I think also clashed with him over his definitely unethical foreign policy. If a Labour MP or senior figure dared to contradict one of the Dear Leader’s policies or announcements, Blair and Campbell called the media hacks in for an anonymous briefing in which they or a representative then attacked the dissenting MP.

And now it seems that these old tactics have returned under ‘centrist’ Keir Starmer.

The Labour party is haemorrhaging members because of the way Starmer has turned his back on the great, socialist, genuinely Labour policies that Corbyn and his team were determined to return to. Mike’s pointed out that so far Starmer has broken 9 of his pledges to uphold them. Including his commitment to add 5 per cent tax to the upper right for big earners. That’s the multi-millionaires who have benefited from massive tax breaks, funded by savage benefit cuts to the poor and starving at the bottom of society, and who have squirreled their money away in offshore bank accounts. Including companies like that well-known patriotic group of papers and media, News International. Black members are particularly bitter and disappointed because of Starmer’s scant regard for the Black Lives Matter movement, which he dismissed as a ‘moment’.

Starmer has done nothing against the intriguers, who cost Labour the 2017 and 2019 elections, and who were responsible for the racist bullying of three senior and respected Black Labour MPs. Instead, the intriguers are arming themselves with lawyers and claiming that they have been smeared. And it shows how low Private Eye has fallen that the satirical magazine is uncritically pushing these claims, just as it was an enthusiastic supporter of the anti-Semitism smears against Corbyn and his supporters.

Mike yesterday put up a piece commenting on this grossly shabby action by Starmer, including citing some very excellent tweets from the public. They include people like Tory Fibs, Kelly-Ann Mendoza and Rachel Swindon. But my favourite comment is this from Mark Hebden

Nadia Whittome has essentially been sacked for voting against war crimes.

The Labour Party is the Party of War criminality again then

Yes, just as they were when Blair ordered the invasion of Iraq.

Mike has pointed out that Labour is behind the Tories in the polls, although Starmer himself is actually more popular than Boris. He asks, quite credibly, if this is because the Labour party acts like this to betray its own members.

What comes out of this is that Starmer himself is another intriguing Blairite and that he and his scuzzy advisors really haven’t learnt that not only are such tactics against one’s own unacceptable in themselves, they will also make you unpopular with the public. The press didn’t hold back on using these negative briefings against Blair and Brown when they did it, in order to make them look personally unpleasant and untrustworthy. Which they were.

Starmer is damaging the Labour party. I wish the poll result were the reverse. I wish Labour was surging ahead of the Tories, and it was Starmer behind Boris. It is no more than he deserves.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/09/24/keir-starmers-labour-is-unpopular-because-he-supports-war-crimes-and-sacks-people-who-dont/

If You Support Black Lives Matter, Condemn China’s Genocide of the Uighurs

In case you’ve missed the news over the last couple of days, relations between China and Britain are strained due to mainland China’s insistence in suppressing democracy in Hong Kong, and the genocide of Uighur people of Xinjiang. Their only crime is to be a separate people, whose native language is related to Turkish and their traditional religion is Islam. Xinjiang is a region rich in natural resources, such as coal and iron. According to the Financial Times back in the 1990s, it was always a border region with a high degree of independence, if not actually a separate state, under the Chinese Empire. Then came the Chinese revolution and the mass influx of majority Han Chinese to exploit and develop these resources for the benefit of China. The Uighurs were and are becoming a minority in their own region. The result was increasing demands for separatism.

The War on Terror

The Chinese started to crack down on these demands in the early parts of this century, spuriously claiming they were part of Bush’s ‘War on Terror’. For nearly two decades now newspapers and news reports have been telling anyone who will listen about how far this persecution has moved into full on genocide. The Uighurs are formally forbidden from speaking their own language and practising their traditional culture. Their homes are monitored. If they break these laws, they are interned and brutalised in concentration camps. The I reported last week that the regime had engaged in the mass sterilization of Uighur women.

The UN Law on Genocide

This is real Nazism. I believe the UN resolution against genocide also includes forcible attempts to deprive a people of their culture and heritage. As for the sterilisation, this was the Nazi policy towards recidivist criminals, the insane and chronic alcoholics, who were also interned in camps. This preceded the extermination of the disabled, Jews and Gypsies by gassing, the disabled as part of the Aktion T4 programme. The Chinese haven’t moved on to that. Yet.

China’s Uighur Policy and European Extermination of Indigenous Peoples

These policies are also extremely similar to those the European powers adopted to the indigenous peoples of their expanding empires. It began with the extermination of the Amerindian peoples of the Caribbean and the dispossession of the indigenous peoples of the New World. In America and Canada indigenous Americans were placed in boarding schools to deprive them of their own culture in order to mould them into modern American and Canadian citizens. There is also bitterness and controversy surrounding the Spanish missions in the American west, which did the same in order to convert them to Christianity. Many of the children and people thus incarcerated died of starvation, brutal maltreatment and disease. Over in the Pacific, there was the genocide of the Aboriginal peoples and the scandal of the lost generation, in which mixed race children were removed from their Aboriginal families and placed with Whites. And again, indigenous children were also placed in boarding schools to stop them speaking their complex native languages and deprive them of their culture. All in the name of progress.

During the Mao Mao rebellion in Kenya in the 1950s, tens of thousands of innocent Black Kenyans were killed, imprisoned, tortured and mutilated in what has been described by a book of that name as ‘Africa’s Secret Gulags’. Aaron Bastani said in his piece attacking David Starkey’s views on race and the Empire with Michael Walker, posted on YouTube, that the White colonists were also considering and demanding their outright extermination. I think he’s speaking from experience, family if not personal as he’s too young to have experienced it himself.

And before all this started, we imposed similar laws in Ireland in the 16th century in order to eradicate that country’s Gaelic culture. Similar laws came into effect after the defeat of the 1745 rebellion, despite the fact that many Scottish clans actually joined the British in fighting the Young Pretender. And Welsh Nationalists keenly remember how the speaking of Welsh was punished in schools, with wooden notices saying ‘Welsh Not’ hung about the necks of children who persisted in using the oldest written language of the British Isles.

History of Chinese racism

There’s been a nasty strain of racism in Chinese culture for a long time. The Middle Kingdom was isolated from the rest of the world, and dominated the other nations in its region. It led the world for so long, that its defeat in the Opium Wars and then occupation by the European empires during the Boxer rebellion was a severe psychological shock, and has produced feeling of humiliation and resentment that have not dissipated to the present day. Europeans, initially confined to mercantile ghettos in a limited number of ports trading with the West, were viewed as almost alien beings. There’s a Chinese drawing from the 19th century of a western sailor, who is drawn as some kind of hairy anthropoid with a huge beak of a nose, wreathed in tobacco fumes like the smoke from some hellish demon. It’s the counterpart of western caricatures of other non-western races. The ‘Yellow Peril’ scares that spread through Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which claimed the Chinese wanted to invade the West and conquer the world actually had some basis in reality. They came ultimately from a small number of anti-western texts, although their significance was wildly and grotesquely exaggerated by racists, thus laying the foundations for the Fascist and imperialist horrors of the 20th century. I also understand that there are ideologies of Chinese racial uniqueness based on the ancient fossil finds of pre-human hominid races, like Peking Man. Chairman Mao, a man who did his best to wreck his nation’s people, history and traditional culture, was carefully anti-racist. He saw the Chinese as part of the global community of non-White races, referring to them as ‘we Coloureds’. But nearly a decade after his death, there was an anti-Black riot in one of the Chinese cities, which was reported in the Observer c. 1984/5.

19th Century Chinese Drawing of European Sailor

And with the emergence of the Coronavirus has come other forms of anti-Black prejudice and discrimination in China. The extreme Right-wing blogger, Sargon of Gasbag, the man who broke UKIP, put up a video about this on his vlog. It told how Black native English speakers are refused jobs teaching the language in China, because they prefer Whites. Blacks have also been refused entry to restaurants on the wholly mistaken grounds that they are more vulnerable to Coronavirus than those with paler skin. If they are admitted, they may be isolated from other guests and the area specially cleaned afterwards. Sargon wondered why no ‘SJWs’ were campaigning against this racism. Part of the answer, as Emma Maltby wrote in the I last Thursday/Friday, is that they don’t want to be deliberately distracted against their goal of combating western racism. But it is a very good question, as China is now fully integrated into the global capitalist economy. Hope Not Hate has compiled a petition, which they are asking people to sign, against buying goods from multinational companies, like Adidas, Puma, Fila, BMW and Jaguar, made from Uighur slave labour. I have absolutely no problem signing it, because the industrial use of slave labour was exactly what Stalin and the Nazis did. Under the purges, industrial combines gave the KGB lists of the type of workers they needed, and the KGB dutifully arrested them as capitalist spies and saboteurs, to work as slaves in the Gulags. The SS had a subsidiary company, staffed with Jewish artisans and craftsmen, producing luxury goods for the Nazi elite. They even brought out a catalogue. And it is notorious that America continued trading with Nazi Germany, with the banks lending them credit, even after their persecution of the Jews was well known. If we continue buying Chinese goods made using forced Uighur slave labour, we are doing exactly the same.

I am not remotely trying to demonise the Chinese as a people. I know some really great Chinese people here in Bristol and the West Country, who are vital members of the community running some of our local stores. I knew one lady who was an opera signer, or at least opera trained. I am merely stating that China, like very many nations, also has its racism and that in the case of the Uighurs it has become little short of Nazism.

Mencius – Ancient Chinese Anti-Racist/ anti-Nationalist

Way back in Chinese history there were a number of competing philosophical schools. Confucianism is the best known as it was ultimately victorious, becoming the ideology of the Chinese empire. The worst of these was Legalism, an ideology that has been compared to modern fascism in that it did believe that might was right and the rulers should have absolute power. But there was also Mencianism. Mencius, or to give him his real, Chinese name, Meng-tse, was an altogether gentler, more idealistic soul. While Confucius believed that one’s primary love should be for the country of one’s birth, Mencius argued that one should love all the world’s people’s equally. You could imagine the great sage mixing easily as a respected figure among the hippies of the ’60s.

Now as the Uighurs are being ground down and exterminated by the Chinese authorities, we need less Legalism, less racism, less totalitarianism and far more Mencianism.

And Nazism needs to be fought wherever it is, whether in Europe, America or China.

Hope Not Hate, the anti-racism organisation, has an entire section devoted to the genocide of the Uighurs, including videos of the concentration camps. It’s at:

What’s happening in Xinjiang?

It has this section on the western brands exploiting Uighur slave labour.

Brands of shame

FT Review from 2000 of Three History Books on the British Empire

Another clipping I’ve kept is a review by the Financial Time’s David Gilmour, ‘World in the Pink’, of three history books on the British Empire. The books reviewed were The Oxford History of the British Empire: The Nineteenth Century, edited by Andrew Porter, The Oxford History of the British Empire: The Twentieth Century, edited by Judith M. Brown and Wm Roger Louis; and the Oxford History of the British Empire: Historiography, edited by Robin W. Winks. The review was in the FT’s weekend edition for February 19/20 2000. I’m putting it up here as some readers might find it useful, as after the Black Lives Matter protests the history of the British empire is going to come under debate once again. The review runs

Once upon a time the British Empire was an easy subject to teach. Pupils stood in front of the schoolroom map, identified two red dots in the middle, and were encouraged to gaze with wonder at the vast expanse of similarly coloured spaces stretching from Canada at the top left to New Zealand at the bottom right. If suitably awestruck, they could then learn about these places (and how they came to be red) in the novels of Henty and Rider Haggard and in the poems of Tennyson, Kipling and Newbold.

Stout histories were also available for serious pupils to study the process of conquest and dominion, the spread of civilisation and prosperity, and, in some cases, the splendid bestowal of certain freedoms. From them students would learn that “the British Empire existed for the welfare of the world”, a belief held by many but expressed in these particularly terms by Gandhi. Guided by Providence and Queen Victoria, Britain had assumed a grandmaternal role, the mother of Dominion daughters, the “mother of parliaments” and, even more stirringly, “mother of the Free”.

The uniformity of the vision – red is red whether in Canada or Ceylon – may have been useful for the schoolteacher and the recruiting officer. But the men sent out to administer different systems all over the globe understood its limitations. The appearance of theses impressive books, the last in the five volume Oxford History of the British Empire, demonstrates that historians, after a long time-lag in the first half of the 20th century, have caught up with them.

The previous attempt at a comprehensive survey, the Cambridge History of the British Empire (published in nine volumes between 1929 and 1959), retained the anglocentric approach of earlier works, as well as their assumptions of a noble imperial purpose. Without entirely demolishing those assumptions (indeed the editor-in-chief, Roger Louis, specifically endorses some of them), the Oxford History offers more cautious and rataher more sophisticated assessments of the imperial experience. As Louis points out, these volumes do not depict it as “one of purposeful progress” nor concentrate narrowly on “metropolitan authority and rule”; nor do they see its demise as “steady decline and fall”. Their emphasis is on diversity, on a “constantly changing territorial empire and ever-shifting patterns of social and economic relations”.

The chief inspiration behind this approach is the work of the late historian Jack Gallagher and Ronald Robinson, who compared the empire to an iceberg, the visible section being the red-painted colonies and the submerged bulk representing the “imperialism of free trade”, a vast “informal empire” based on naval supremacy and economic power which extended into places such as China, Latin America and the Middle East.

Many of the contributors to the Oxford volumes apply this view to their own areas. In south-east Asia, stresses A.J. Stockwell, the demarcation between Britain’s formal empire and its neighbours was indistinct: “‘British pink’ seeped over the whole region: nearly indelible in some areas, it merely tinged other parts and elsewhere faded fast.”

The scope of these books is so large that there were bound to be gaps: Malta and Gibraltar are barely mentioned, sport and the “games ethic” are ignored, and almost nothing is said about training administrators to do their job. Yet the overall achievement is undeniably impressive. Under the magisterial guidance of Louis (a distinguished American academic whose appointment as editor raised predictable insular howls in the UK), a vast array of of historians has produced a solid monument of contemporary scholarship. Some of the contributions, such as those by E.H.H. Green on political economy and David Fitzpatrick on Ireland’s ambivalence towards the empire are brilliants – subjects that would justify individual volumes distilled into concise and lucid essays.

Naturally there can be neither a common view nor a uniformity of tone among the hundred contributors to these volumes. The assembled historians are certainly not apologists for imperialism but nor, in general, are they too apologetic about it. Several remind us of its humanitarian dimension, and Louis may have confounded his fogeyish detractors with his view that Kipling was “perhaps the greatest poet of the age”. In addition, while appropriate genuflections are made to all those contemporary “studies” (area, gender, cultural and so on), the faddish preoccupation with “discourse” (in its postmodernist and post-colonial contexts) is restricted.

Yet the work has some of the defects as well as most of the merits of current historical writing: too much drab prose, too heavy a reliance on tables and statistics, a sense (especially in Historiography) of colleagues complimenting each other while disparaging their predecessors. Few contributions show real historical imagination: several leave an aroma of seminars and obscure historical quarterlies.

The great historian Richard Cobb used to say that a good deal of French history could be walked, seen and above all heard in cafes or buses or on park benches in Paris and Lyon. But most of the academics in these volumes do not seem to share his view that history is a cultural and creative subject as well as an academic one. However diligent their research may have been, they do not write as if they have ever sat in a Delhi rickshaw or a cafe in Calcutta. Robin J. Moore directs readers to all his own books, but neither he nor any of his colleagues cite a work published in an Indian language.

Yet if these volumes have little feel for the imperial setting and its personal impact, they manage to convey the sheer scope of the enterprise, the scale of the endeavour, the means by which those little dots reddened a quarter of the map. More importantly, they demonstrate the need to study the empire’s history, not in order to glorify or denigrate, but in order to understand the centuries of interaction between the dots and their formal and informal empires.

Perhaps this history, the first to be written since the territorial dismantlement, will mark a new stage not just of reassessment but of acceptance of the empire’s importance, for good and for bad, in the history of our planet. The topic is unfashionable in Britain today – Bristol’s excellent British Empire and Commonwealth Museum has not received a penny of public money – but it might now, thanks to Louis and his collaborators, emerge as something more than a sterile debate between those who regard it as a cause for sniggering and those who see it as a reason to swagger.

Bristol’s Empire and Commonwealth Museum is no more, unfortunately. It packed up and left Bristol for new premises at the Commonwealth Institute in London, where it died the death. I believe its former collection is now housed in the Bristol’s M Shed museum. The Empire is going to be acutely relevant now with the debate over racism, social justice and what history should be taught in schools. There are parts of British imperial history that are indefensible – the conquest of the Caribbean, slavery, the extermination of indigenous Australians, the concentration camps of the Boer War, the Bengal Famine and the massacres in Kenya. Niall Ferguson in a discussion about the British empire on a programme on Radio 4 a few years ago admitted its dark side, but said that it was a benevolent institution, although he qualified this. I think he said something to the effect of ‘just about’. For a short history of the negative side of the British empire – its domination, exploitation and massacre, see John Newsinger’s The Blood Never Dried. But it was also responsible for bring modern, western science, education and medicine to distant parts of the globe.

And it did try to stamp out slavery worldwide, not only where it had established and exploited it, but also indigenous slavery and forms of servitude around the world. That shouldn’t be forgotten either.

From 1997: Financial Times Article on Free Market Creating Global Poverty

This is another piece I found combing through my scrapbooks. It’s by the Financial Times’ columnist, Joe Rogaly. Titled ‘Market Victims Who Are Free to Be Poor’, and with the subtitle ‘One set of figures shows the capitalist road leading to paradise; a better set shows it leading to misery for many’ it compares and contrasts two reports on global poverty, one by the UN and another by a group of free market think tanks led by the Fraser Institute. And Rogaly comes down firmly on the side of the UN. The article, published in the Weekend edition for 14/15 June 1997, runs

When pictures of skeletal children or abandoned babies appear on the TV news do you (a) lean forward to catch the commentary (b) change channels (c) switch off and head for the kitchen? Some of us have seen about as many images of third-world distress as we can bear. Our assumption is that we know the cure for deprivation: unshackle the free market and the globalised capitalist wealth-producing machine will do the rest.

No it won’t. The 1997 Human Development report, published this week by Oxford University Press for the United Nations, demolishes the idea that the bounty created by the genius of market economics will trickle down. You have to spend tax -payers’ money to help the worst-off, or they will be dead before they are rescued.

Not everyone accepts this. It is contrary to the spirit of the 1997 Economic Freedom of the World report. Right-thinking and therefore expressive of familiar sentiments, it was published last month by the Fraser Institute, Vancouver, in association with 46 other pro-market think-tanks dotted around the planet.

This clutch of capitalist theologians, which includes London’s Institute of Economic Affairs, has invented an index of economic freedom. Its 17 components include growth and inflation rates, government spending, top marginal tax rates, restraints on trade, and so on. These are expressed in hard numbers and therefore “objective”. Hong Kong tops a list of 115 countries thus appraised. The US comes 4th, Britain 7th and France 36th.

You can guess what follows. A few clicks on the mouse-button tell you that between 1985 and 1996 the economies near the top of the economic freedom index grew fastes, while those at the bottom – the “least free” fifth – got poorer. That unhappy quintile includes Russia, Ukraine, and the well-known African disaster areas. The lesson is obvious. Impede the market, and you pay, perhaps with your life. The unobstructed capitalist road is the highway to  paradise.

Wrong again. The UN’s Human Development Index is closer to the truth. it does not measure progress by the rules of conventional economics alone. To be sure, it factors in real gross domestic product per head, as do the freedom-theorists. But GDP is only one of three ingredients. The other two are life expectancy and educational attainment. The resulting list puts countries in a different order from the free marketeers’ league table.

On the latter, remember, Hong Kong comes first. On the development index it falls to 22nd. France, which believes in government expenditure, moves up from 36th on the economic freedom ladder to second place on human development. The United Kingdom falls from 7th to 15th. It’s not just the wealth you generate. It’s how you spend it.

The Human Development report introduces another index this year – for “human poverty”. It counts the people who are expected to die before turning 40, the number of illiterates, those without health services and clean water, and underweight toddlers. Once again you get changes in the rank order, particularly among developing countries.

Cuba, China, Kenya and Peru have all done relatively well at alleviating human poverty. Egypt, Guatemala and Pakistan score less on poverty relief than on human development. It is not only how you spend it, but who you spend it on.

The obvious message is aspirational. If the rich countries would put their hands in their pockets, poverty could be eliminated. We know this will not happen, in spite of the determination to give a lead expressed by Britain’s new Labour administration. Government to government aid is no longer fashionable. The money does not always reach its destination, as the worst case story, that of Zaire, teaches us. The US poured in the dollars, and they went straight into former president Mobutu’s Swiss bank accounts.

Tied assistance is better. Big donors usually demand that markets by set free. This is not quite enough to meet the needs of Human Development or the alleviation of poverty. Happily, contracts tying aid to certain actions are getting more sophisticated – although so are the means by which recipients contravene them. Anyhow, aid is but a part of what is needed.

The true value of the Human Development report lies in its implicit challenge to narrow-focused concentration on the market mechanism. Compiled by a team of economists and others directed by Richard Joly, it has evolved within the broad discipline of economics. It would be better still if someone could come up with an acceptable index of political freedom, to measure both economic and human development and democratic practices. That would require judgments that could not be quantified. How would you have treated 99 per cent votes in communist countries?

The outlook is not all so dolorous. Poverty is declining overall, largely thanks to the improvement in China, which has moved up the economic freedom tables and reduced destitution. Not many countries can make that boast. There are still 800m people who do not have enough to eat. We have some clever indices, but so far no great help to the misery on our TV screens. Only a change in the way we think can achieve that.

That was published nearly a quarter of a century ago. I don’t doubt that with time and the progress of neoliberalist, free market economics, things have become much, much worse. The book Falling off the Edge, which I’ve reviewed on this blog, is a full-scale attack on such globalisation, showing how it not only has created worse poverty and exploitation, but has also led to political instability and global terrorism. And as more British children go hungry, as more people fall into poverty due to the Tories’ privatisations and destruction of the welfare state, I wonder how long it will be before conditions very like those of the Developing World appear here.

This was published when the Financial Times’ weekend edition was still worth reading. It had good reviews and insightful columnists. It declined in quality around the turn of the millennium when it became much more lightweight. It has also switched its political allegiance from liberal to Conservative in an unsuccessful attempt to gain readers.

This article shows that neoliberal free market economics, of the type pushed by the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute for Economic Affairs, has always been a fraud, and known to be a fraud.

But our mendacious, vicious press and political establishment are still pushing it, at a massive cost in human lives and wellbeing. Even in Britain.

Three Books on African Languages

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 19/06/2020 - 9:28pm in

Teach Yourself Swahili: A Complete Course for Beginners, Joan Russell, (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1996).

Teach yourself Swahili Dictionary, D.V. Perrott, (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1965).

Teach Yourself Yoruba, E.C. Rowlands (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1969).

I’ve an interest in languages, and two that I considered learning are the African languages Swahili and Yoruba. I tried teaching myself a bit of Swahili when I was working at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol in the 1990s and very early couple of years of this century.  I didn’t get very far with either of them, and haven’t really done anything more with the Yoruba book than look at it since I bought it. However, I thought some people out there might be interesting in knowing about them, especially now that the Black Lives Matter movement has sparked an interest in African culture and civilisation.

Kenneth Katzner in his book, Languages of the World (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul 1977) has this section on Swahili:

Swahili, more correctly called Kiswahili, is the most important language of east Africa. It is the official language of both Tanzania and Kenya, and is also spoken in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire. (In Zaire a separate dialect is spoken, known as Kingwana.) Swahili is the mother tongue of perhaps only a million people, but at least ten million more speak it fluently as a second language, and many millions more at least understand it to some degree.

Swahili is one of the Bantu languages, which form a branch of the Niger-Congo family. Its vocabulary is basically Bantu but with many words borrowed from Arabic. The name Swahili is derived from an Arabic word meaning “coastal”, having developed among Arabic-speaking settlers of the African coast beginning about the 7th century. During the 19th century it was carried inland by Arab tradesmen, and was later adopted by the Germans as the language of administration in Tanganyika. In modern Tanzania it is the national language, and in 1970 it was proclaimed the official language of Kenya.

The Swahili alphabet lacks the letters c, q, and x, but contains a number of its own. The dh is pronounced like the th of “this” (e.g., dhoruba-hurricane), gh like the German ch (ghali-expensive), and ng’ like the ng in “thing” but not as in “finger” (ng’ombe-cow). Whereas English grammatical inflections occur at the end of the word, in Swahili everything is done at the beginning. Kitabu is the Swahili word for “book” but the word for “books” is vitabu. This word falls into the so-called Ki Vi class, one of eight in the Swahili language. Others are the M Mi class (e.g., mkono-hand, mikono-hands; mji-town, miji-towns), and the M Wa class, used mainly for people (mtu-man, watu-men; mjinga-fool, wajinga-fools). Furthermore, these prefixes are carried over verbs of which the noun is the subject, as well as to numerals and modifying adjectives. Thus “one big book” in Swahili is kitabu kikbubwa kimoja (“book-big-one”), but “two big books” is vitabu vikubwa viwili.

Katzner gives as a example of a text in the language the poem, The Name, by Shaaban Robert. This runs

Mtego wanaotega, ninaswe nianguke,

Sife yangu kuvuruga, jina liaibike,

Mungu mwema mfuga, nilinde lisittendeke,

Na wawekao kaga, kudhuru watakasike.

 

Kwa wingi natangaziwa, maovu nisiyotenda,

Na habari nasikia, kila ninapokwenda,

Lakini Allah mwelewa, stalifanya kuwanda,

Jina wanalochukia, badala y kukonda.

 

Badala ya kukonda, jina litaneenepa,

Ugenini litakwenda, lisipopendeza hapa,

Kutafuta kinbanda, ambako halitatupwa,

Huko wataolipenda, fadhili litawalipa.

 

A trap they set, for me to get caught,

My reputation they blemish, to spoil my name.

Oh, Lord the Keeper, save me from the plight,

And those who promise me harm, remove their aim.

 

Many slanderous charges are published against me,

And these I hear, wherever I go.

But God who understands, my name will clear,

The name they hate, He will surely emancipate.

 

Rather than wither, my name will thrive,

Abroad it will succeed, if here they will not heed,

Shelter it will find, where it will not be remiss,

Where those who care, it will reward and recompense.

 

The blurb for Teach Yourself Swahili runs

This is a complete course in spoken and written Swahili. If you have never learnt Swahili before, or if your Swahili needs brushing up, Teach Yourself Swahili is for you.

Joan Russell has created a practical course that is both fun and easy to work through.She explains everything clearly along the way and gives you plenty of opportunities to practise what you have learnt. The course structure means that you can work at your own pace, arranging your learning to suit your needs.

Based on the Council of Europe’s Threshold guide lines on language learning, the course contains:

  • Eighteen graded units of dialogues, culture notes, grammar and exercises
  • A guide to Swahili pronunciation
  • Swahili-English and English-Swahili vocabularies

By the end of the course you’ll be able to cope with a whole range of situations and participate confidently in life in Tanzania, Kenya and other Swahili-speaking areas.

The blurb for Teach Yourself Swahili Dictionary simply says that it is

A concise working dictionary that contains all the Swahili words you are likely to hear or read. The Swahili-English and English-Swahili sections of the dictionary provide clear definitions for a range of words and phrases, including words that are particularly appropriate to life in East Africa. A useful Swahili grammar and practical hints on pronunciation are also included at the beginning of the dictionary.

Katzner says of the Yoruba language that

Yoruba, with the stress on the first syllable, is one of the major languages of Nigeria. It is spoken in the southwestern part of the country, in the region whose principal city is Ibadan. There are about 12 million speakers. 

He also notes that it is a member of the Kwa languages, which are a subgroup of the Niger-Congo family. It’s written with grave and acute stresses over letters, which indicate the rise and fall of the voice.

The example he gives of a text in the language is a passage from A King’s Election in Yoruba Land. Here it is, but I’ve been unable to include the tone accents.

Ajo igbimo ti awon agbagba ni ima yan oba larin awon eniti nwon ni itan pataki kan ninu eje. Ilana kan ti o se ajeil ana saju iyan ti oba. Awon olori ama dan agbara ti iroju re ati ise akoso ara re wo. li ojo ti a yan fun dide e li ade, awon olori ama lo si afin oba, nwon a mu u dani pelu agbara, nwon a si na a pelu pasan. Bi oba ba farada aje n lai sun ara ki, nigbana nwon yio de e li ade, bi beko, nwon yio yan oba miran.

The king is chose by a council of elders from among those who have a certain blood descent. A curious ceremony precedes a king’s election. His powers of endurance and self-restraint are tested by the chiefs, who, on the day appointed for the coronation, go to the king’s palace, get hold of him forcibly, and flog him with a whip. If the ordeal is suffered without flinching, then the king is crowned; if not, another king is chosen.

The blurb for Teach Yourself Yoruba runs

This book provides a complete introductory course in Yoruba, the mother tongue of over 10 million people living in Western Nigeria, in parts of Northern Nigeria and Benin.

The book is concerned with the generally accepted “standard” Yoruba which is widely understood even where regional dialects exist. The course assumes no previous knowledge of the language and every stage is illustrated with examples and exercises. Pronunciation, grammar and syntax are comprehensively covered and the book will equip you with a basic, everyday vocabulary.

I’ve no doubt that other books are available on these languages, and that these may well be a little dated after all this time. Reading about them, it’s clear that they’re very different, and therefore very difficult for speakers of European languages like English. Nevertheless, I thought that people interested in Africa and its languages might like to know about them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Nairobi in the Making: Landscapes of Time and Urban Belonging by Constance Smith

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 13/05/2020 - 11:31pm in

In Nairobi in the Making: Landscapes of Time and Urban Belonging, Constance Smith explores how the residents of Nairobi’s Kaloleni estate interact with materials and structures from the city’s past in order to establish themselves in its present and future. In demonstrating how urban landscapes are locations shaped by history and generated through lived experience, this impressive book should be essential reading for anyone looking to understand the complex realities of urban areas, writes Daniela Schofield.

Nairobi in the Making: Landscapes of Time and Urban Belonging. Constance Smith. James Currey. 2019.

African cities are repeatedly heralded as locations of opportunity, as underdeveloped gateways to the global economy and as repositories of economic and commercial real estate potential. Yet, such visions often have a fantastical gleam of macroeconomic prosperity that overlooks the materiality of urban history, as well as the lived realities and ambitions of current residents. In Nairobi in the Making: Landscapes of Time and Urban Belonging, Constance Smith examines how, through their everyday actions, the residents of the Kaloleni estate interact with materials and structures from Nairobi’s past to establish themselves in its present and future.

Smith’s exploration of belonging in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, is situated in Kaloleni, an estate in Eastlands built by British colonial authorities in the 1940s and slated for urban renewal under Vision 2030, Kenya’s development programme. Smith draws on an ‘in place’ ethnography (30) during which she lived in Kaloleni. Nairobi in the Making is richly informed by observations and interactions with Kaloleni’s residents. Smith uses material as a conduit for exploring the inconsistency of everyday life, moving fluidly between Kaloleni’s past as an intended model community based on British suburbs, its present where residents have ‘rescripted these colonial intentions’ (37) through everyday actions and its future through both the ambitions of its residents and Vision 2030.

Smith deftly weaves a deep knowledge of urban and anthropological scholarship, Kiswahili and Kenyan history with conversational accounts of discussions with Kaloleni residents that provide a tangibility to the abstract theoretical concepts presented. Smith’s use of photos, as well as her skillful utilisation of linguistic imagery that does not overburden her prose, supports her demonstration that city-making in Nairobi, while political, is very much a generative process shaped by materials and people. This process is not finite, but a constant churning of accumulation, decay and repurposing over the long term where the formal and informal are ‘deeply enmeshed but highly asymmetrical’ (24).

The book is divided into two sections, each comprising three chapters. The first section consists of Chapter One, which explores life in Kaloleni and how placemaking is shaped by residents’ perspectives. This introductory chapter importantly introduces the uncertainty of the estate under Vision 2030, which threatens its possible demolition. Chapter Two delves into the materiality of the estate, tracing the decay of its infrastructure and historic municipal mismanagement to examine the implications of material accumulation. Chapter Three focuses on the interface of residents’ management of materials, their relationship to the estate’s past and how ownership on the estate is accessed through performance, countering official histories.

The second section shifts to a larger scale consideration of urban belonging. Chapter Four examines generative processes at work in rural-urban connections and notions of urban success, Chapter Five considers security and exclusion in the city’s architecture and Chapter Six looks at residents’ efforts to secure an urban future in the ‘shadow of Vision 2030’ (30). All six chapters reinforce one another, and I welcomed Smith’s invitation for readers to form their own linkages between these six areas beyond the scalar shift set out in the presented order of the chapters. Given this encouragement to seek linkages between the chapters, the division of the book into two distinct sections, while not ultimately disruptive, struck me as unnecessary.

Following Smith’s invitation, I found linking Chapters Three and Six useful to think through the relationship between the lived experience of Kaloleni’s residents and high-level policy and planning as well as to support Smith’s proposal that urban space is ‘felted’ (29) rather than woven. Grouping these two chapters allows for a consideration of the ambiguities, synergies and dissonances of this relationship. Together, these chapters work to respond to the question that Smith sets out in the book’s introduction:

Surrounded by collapsing urban infrastructures and amid fantastical promises of hypermodern, globalised futures, how do ordinary Nairobians try to ensure a place for themselves in the city’s future? (3).

Chapter Three examines how Kaloleni’s residents enact urban belonging through the management of material. Smith recounts how one resident’s physical interaction with the structure of his house during an interview allowed him to overcome an initial reticence to convey detailed stories from his past as he ‘traced his fingers across a surface’ (86). Through this and other accounts, Smith shows how the performance of maintaining, extending and managing physical structures in Kaloleni, as well as a ‘forensic’ (99) recordkeeping of documentation by the Kaloleni Residents’ Association, generates an ownership of the estate. Smith argues this generative process results in the development of ‘minor histories’ which assert ‘alternative claims’ (96) to ‘formal narratives’ and counter official histories (96). In undertaking incremental alterations, in the absence of state services, residents are not only engaging with the city’s past, but ‘forging it anew’ (81), establishing their ownership through a ‘performative sense of property’ (107) and securing their place in the city through their labour.

As a result, Kaloleni’s residents see themselves as stakeholders in the future of Nairobi, a status often not formally recognised. To engage with Vision 2030, residents sometimes strategically deploy formal language and planning approaches. Chapter Six considers why residents would want to engage with a planning vision that holds an ‘aspirational uniformity’ (162) for Nairobi. Vision 2030 does not take into consideration historical specificities or distinguishing features of the city, seeking to mould it after other global cities and risking ‘further marginalisation of Kaloleni’s significance’ (81) and its possible demolition. The uncertainty of Vision 2030 thus results in understandable anxiety for residents, but is also met with acceptance and even approval.

To understand this, the ‘minor histories’ presented in Chapter Three prove useful. The labour of Kaloleni residents, channelled into modifying the estate across decades, results not only in a sense of ownership, but also an expectation of inclusion in and benefit from any renewal efforts. Residents’ expectations of Vision 2030 contrast with the high-level planning ideals, demonstrating that the relationship between everyday reality and high-level planning is not a simplistic binary, but complex, with a ‘messiness’ that Smith argues ‘is based on particular disjunctive temporal experiences in which present and future become entangled’ (167).

In thinking through the entanglement of urban histories and futures, the significance of material accumulation and decay, Smith argues urban belonging is something that is ‘crafted’ (32). She demonstrates that the city is sculpted not only by present actions, but also the ‘powerful afterlives’ (183) of its past, which link to expectations and anxieties for the future. As mentioned above, Smith uses an analogy of felting to describe the combination and layering of urban afterlives with the present and into the future.

Smith proposes felting as a more apt analogy for the city’s constitution than an urban fabric. An urban fabric implies the weaving of parallel fibres resulting in a ‘systematic […] grid-like relationship’ (29): an image that fails to accurately represent Nairobi’s improvisational contingencies. Felt is a textile with fibres that do not adhere to a structured linear pattern, but which are coarse, composite pieces matted together and bound by friction into a new form. Smith proposes that “‘felted’ urban space’ (29) captures the reality of Kaloleni as reconstituted using remnants of its past. In articulating felting as a concept, Smith succeeds in her aim to explore how ordinary Nairobians try to establish their place in the city today and into the future.

While Nairobi in the Making is both an enjoyable and impressive text, I would have liked to have read more about how difference, particularly in terms of gender and age, shapes residents’ encounters with the material landscape. Far from treating residents homogenously, Smith carefully details the circumstances of individuals and their experiences support her points throughout the book. Smith does briefly touch on gender and urban masculinity (see Chapter Four), but the space given to exploring this is limited. It would have been interesting to examine how urban belonging is enabled or constrained by gender and age, and whether performative ownership offers opportunity for transformational change to traditional gender roles.

With an estimated 60 per cent of the world’s population living in urban areas by 2030, the futures of urban areas will be increasingly important. In Nairobi in the Making, Smith demonstrates how urban landscapes can be understood as locations shaped by history and generated by lived experiences. This will be vital to present understanding, but also to the increasingly urban composition of the world we are moving into. Although an academic text, this book will be informative for a wider audience including planners, consultants and policymakers. It should serve as essential reading for those undertaking planning in cities, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, and as a primer for understanding the complex realities that shape urban areas.

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.

Image Credit: Nairobi skyline, Kenya (Nina R CC BY 2.0).