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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.

Grimes and Starkey Get Racist Discussing Slavery and British Imperialism

Yesterday the ever-reliable Zelo Street put up a very revealing piece about one of the videos Darren Grimes had put up on the Reasoned YouTube channel. Reasoned is yet another Conservative astroturf organisation set up by the group Media and Activism, the same people who brought you Turning Point UK. That’s the Turning Point UK which is the British subsidiary of the American conservative youth movement, Turning Point. It was officially opened by Dave Rubin and Candace Owens, who immediately showed her lack of historical knowledge by denying that Hitler was a nationalist, even though he said he was and it’s in the Nazis’ name. Worse, she said that she thought that Hitler’s actions would have been all right, if only he had stuck to Germany. Which obviously suggests she thinks the dismantlement of democracy, the imprisonment of political prisoners, and the mass murder of Jews, Gypsies and the disabled would have been a-OK if it had been confined to Germany. I really don’t believe she meant to say that, but it illustrates how some people, especially on the right, really need to engage their brains and do some reading before their open their mouths.

Grimes should have avoided such massive historical illiteracy with his guest in the video Zelo Street discussed. This was Dr David Starkey, the expert on Queen Elizabeth I and the Tudors, who has himself presented and appeared on many history programmes. Grimes, who really looks like he should be in school studying for his ‘O’ levels rather than pumping out extreme right-wing propaganda for the Tories, had Starkey on to discuss British history. The video’s title was about BLM delegitimating (sic) British history. By which Reasoned presumably meant British imperial history. And the discussion became a car crash.

The pair debated the question of whether slavery was a genocide. This is a claim made by many Black activists, and it ultimately comes from the great American civil rights leader W.E.B. DuBois. DuBois had argued that it was, drawing on the descriptions of the devastation to African communities by the depredations of the slavers. Starkey denied that it was, on the grounds that the Black population had not only survived, but expanded. This is also true, and has been used by many historians and academics as an illustration of how human populations can recover quickly after they’ve been massively reduced.

You could also argue that slavery wasn’t a genocide on the grounds that, like Stalin’s purges and the deportations of whole ethnic groups in the Soviet Union, the point wasn’t to exterminate but to enslave and exploit. Back when I was doing my Ph.D. at Bristol uni, I went to a seminar in the History department given by a lad on what officially counts as a genocide. There are a number of conflicting definitions. Atrocities that count as genocide under one are excluded under another. The only mass murder which fits all the definitions is the Holocaust. The speaker’s attitude was that historians and human rights campaigners should step back from trying to make precise definitions because they actually do more to obscure rather than illuminate. Instead there should be a commonsense approach, where people knew it when they saw it without worrying too much about quibbling details.

If this attitude is taken, then yes, slavery does count as genocide because of the destruction and death inflicted on African communities through slave raiding, and the very high death rate among the enslaved as they were taken across the Atlantic – 25 per cent of slaves died during the journey – and then put to work. Time Team a while ago conducted an excavation of a plantation, including the slave village, on one of the Caribbean islands. In the programme, Tony Robinson announced that the average life expectancy on the plantations was three years. This was regardless whether someone was one of the slaves or not. Life expectancy presumably improved, as it became the custom for the slaveowners to ‘season’ their slaves, letting them rest and recuperate for a year before setting them to work. But there was a debate over how hard slaves should be worked. Some planters recommending working them literally to death to get as much out of them as possible, and then simply buying more replacements. And the birthrate among slaves is always low. This has been true throughout history, from the Romans to the Caribbean and Americas. It’s why the British government started to try to ameliorate slave conditions of slaves owned by the crown in 1816, twenty years before slavery was officially abolished.

But it wasn’t so much Starkey’s denial that slavery was a genocide that was the problem, but the way he denied it. Starkey declared “Slavery was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain, would there? An awful lot of them survived”. The emphasis was Zelo Street’s, who said that here Starkey sounded like an apologist for apartheid South Africa c. 1980 but without the accent. He also said that “The honest teaching of the British Empire is to say quite simply that it is the first key stage of world globalisation. It’s probably the most important moment in human history, and it’s still with us,” adding, “Its consequences are still on … and in most ways, actually fruitful”. The Street comments “Not sure what the reaction to that would be in many of those countries that were given the benefit of this less than benign phenomenon, along with the brutal militarisation, enforced famines, and free trade that was only free if it suited the colonial power.” This is also true. The campaign for the independence of the Caribbean countries began in the 1930s with nationalists upset at the way their trade was hampered through its ties to Britain. They wished to develop their economies and sell goods to other nations, like America. And there were artificial famines across the empire produced and exacerbated by a rigid adherence to free trade. Starving populations were refused free or artificially subsidized, cheap grain because this would violate the principles of free trade. See the book Late Victorian Holocausts. And present-day globalisation is still creating misery for the world’s working people from the developing world to the west.

Starkey’s overall conclusion is wrong, but it has to be admitted that the British Empire also did some good. The expansion into Africa in the late 19th century was partly motivated from a desire to crush slavery and the slave trade, although this also led to establishment of systems of forced labour inflicted on the indigenous peoples on behalf of the European colonists. But what was offensive was obviously not so much what he said, but how he said it: ‘so many damn Blacks in Africa or in Britain’.

It’s at this point that you also wonder what Grimes and the video’s director and producers thought they were doing. If the video was being recorded rather than broadcast live, they should have stepped in and told Starkey that he couldn’t say that, then gone back and reshot the piece. But they didn’t. Nor did Grimes look uncomfortable as Starkey said it. Others would have pulled a face or shown some disapproval, but apparently Grimes cheerfully nods along. This resulted in one of the peeps on Twitter putting up a clip of him nodding in agreement to one of Adolf’s rants.

Zelo Street concludes that this should effectively terminate Grime’s and Starkey’s careers. He states

‘From here there should be no way back for either Starkey or Grimes, although Brendan O’Neill will no doubt be along soon to excuse the whole affair, blaming any criticism on “leftists”, “wokeism”, or some other excuse that allows him to pretend to understand George Orwell. Darren Grimes is fronting a racist endeavour.

Will broadcasters now think better of inviting Dazza on? Don’t hold your breath.’

It should, but it won’t. Not unless far more people see and comment on it so that any appearance by either of them is immediately greeted with strong objections and complaints. As it stands, however, I think Starkey is far too established as a TV personality and popular historian to suffer much from this, while it seems that no matter how noxious Grimes and the rest of the Paul Staines massive can be, they still seem to be feted as legitimate journalists.

Once upon a time Starkey bridled if someone accused him of racism. Now on this video, he seems to have shown that he is. And Grimes and his backers are too. And worse, they’re unashamed. If this isn’t checked, the racism will only get more overt and worse.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/07/darren-grimes-fronts-racist-endeavour.html

Tony Greenstein’s Review of Exhibition and Talks by Pro-Palestinian Arab/Israeli Artist Gil Mualem-Doron

Yesterday Tony Greenstein put up a piece about an art exhibition on the plight of the Palestinians by an Arab/Israeli artist, Dr. Gil Mualem-Doron. Titled ‘Cry the Beloved Country’ after a 1953 article in the Israeli paper Maariv by its editor, Ezriel Karlebach. This compared the new legislation then passed against the Palestinians to the infamous Nuremberg laws the Nazis passed against the Jews. The article took its title in turn from the 1948 book by the South African artist Alan Paton on the rise of that country’s apartheid regime. The exhibition also features a conversation between the Palestinian historian Dr Salman Abu Sitta, Mualem-Doron, Eitan Bronstein Aparicio, the founder of the NGO Zochrot, somebody called Decolonizer and the exhibition’s curator, Ghazaleh Zogheib. It includes photographs of some of the ‘present refugees’ – Palestinians, who fled or were forced off their land during the Nakba of 1948, and who are officially regarded as foreigners in their own country among other photographic and artistic installations. There is also a screening of the film To Gaza and Back Home, by Aparicio and Decolonizer about the Arab village of Ma’in and its destruction. It was due to open on the 2nd April, but this was impossible due to the lockdown. It’s now showing online until sometime in September, probably the 27th, when it will open at the P21 Gallery in London.

Tony’s article quotes the exhibition, which says that

“Cry, the beloved country” is a nightmarish series of room installations and photography works dealing with the links between Great Britain, Israel and Palestine and depicting the catastrophic results of this unholy conundrum.  Built as a journey into “the heart of darkness” the exhibition is intended to negate many Israelis and Zionists supporters’ view of Israel as a “villa in the jungle”.

The photographs include several of an actor dressed in KKK robes, a Jewish prayer shawl and waving an Israeli flag, saluting Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square. It was taken in 2017 during the centennial celebrations of the promulgation of the Balfour Doctrine, in which Britain backed the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. This was very much against the wishes of the British Jewish community, who did not want their Britishness questioned through the foundation of a state for which they had no loyalty and no desire to live in.

This is obviously an extremely provocative piece. I have no doubt that the very people and organizations, who scream ‘anti-Semitism’ at any criticism of Israel, no matter how reasonable and justified, would go berserk about this. It comes very close to one of the IHRA’s examples of anti-Semitism: the comparison of Jews to Nazis. But it is a reasonable comment on the Israeli state and its present government, composed of Likud and various parties from the Israeli religious right. Groups of settlers do launch attacks on Palestinian villages, like the Klan lynched Blacks in America. Those campaign for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians similarly claim a religious basis for their crimes, just like the Klan claimed to be defending White, Protestant Christians from Jews, Blacks, Roman Catholics and Communists. And Tony himself has shown all too often how the present Israeli government and British Zionist activists have very strong links to the real far right groups. Jonathan Hoffman, who has frequently protested and demonstrated against pro-Palestinian exhibitions and meetings over here, shouting anti-Semitism, has done so in the company of Paul Besser, the former intelligence officer of Britain First, and members of the EDL. The event’s supported by Arts Council England and the Hub Collective. I think they should be commended for supporting such an important exhibition, despite the abuse and demands for cancellation the organizers of similar events receive.

The Israelis were due to begin their annexation of 1/3 of the West Bank today, in blatant contravention of international law. The Likud regime is zealously pursuing its persecution and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians with the active support of right-wing American Christian groups like Ted Hagee’s Christians United for Israel. It does so against the wishes and passionate efforts of very many Jews and Jewish organisations in America, Britain and Israel itself. The latter includes the veterans’ group, Breaking the Silence, which works to reveal the atrocities in which its members have personally participated, and the Zionist humanitarian group, B’Tsalem. The supporters of this ethnic cleansing, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Chief Rabbinate, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the various ‘Friends of Israel’ groups in the political parties, are doing their best to present Israel as synonymous with Judaism. This is in breach of the IHRA’s own guidelines, which state that it is anti-Semitic to claim that Jews are more loyal to another country, or hold them responsible as a whole for Israel’s actions. As these atrocities continue, more young Jewish people are becoming critical of Israel and the Zionist organisations themselves were frightened by the British public’s disgust at the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. Hence the foundation of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the revival of Paole Zion, now renamed the Jewish Labour Movement, in the Labour Party. It was all to promote public support for Israel and quash reasoned, justified criticism.

It is why exhibitions like this continue to remain important and necessary, whatever the witch-hunters do to shout them down and silence them.

For more information on the exhibition and the individual pieces, go to:

https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/06/visit-cry-beloved-country-palestinian.html

Book on Slavery Around the World Up To the Present

Jeremy Black, Slavery: A New Global History (London: Constable & Robinson 2011).

One of the aspects of the contemporary debate over slavery is that, with some exceptions, it is very largely centred on western, transatlantic slavery. This is largely because the issue of slavery has been a part of the controversy over the status of Blacks in western society and the campaigns for improving their conditions and combating anti-Black racism since the abolitionist movement arose in the 18th and 19th centuries. But it ignores the crucial fact that slavery is a global phenomenon which was certainly not confined to the transatlantic slavery of the European empires. One of the arguments marshaled by the slaveowners was that slavery had existed since antiquity. Both the Romans and the ancient Greeks had possessed slaves, as had ancient Egypt. It still existed in Black Africa, the Turkish empire, the Arab states and India. Hence slavery, the slaveowners argued, was a necessary part of human civilisation, and was impossible to abolish. It was ‘philanthropic’ and ‘visionary’ to demand it.

This was partly the reason why, after the British had abolished slavery in their own empire, they moved to attack it around the world. This meant not only freeing the slaves in the West Indies and their South American colonies, but also at Cape Colony in South Africa, Sri Lanka, India, Hong Kong and further east in the new territories of Malaya, Fiji and the Pacific Islands, and Australia.  Most histories of slavery focus on transatlantic slavery. However, Jeremy Black’s book discusses it as existed around the world.

The book’s blurb concentrates on European slavery in the Americas. It runs

The story of slavery – from the ancient world to the present day

In this panoramic history, leading historian Jeremy Black explores slavery from its origins – the uprising of Spartacus and the founding of the plantations in the Indies – to its contemporary manifestations as human trafficking and bonded labour.

Black reveals how slavery served to consolidate empires and shape New World societies such as America and Brazil, and the way in which slave trading across the Atlantic changed the Western world. He assesses the controversial truth behind the complicity of Africans within the trade, which continued until the long, hard fight for abolition in the nineteenth century. Black gives voice to both the campaigners who fought for an end to slavery, and the slaves who spoke of their misery.

In this comprehensive and thoughtful account of the history of slavery, the role of slavery in the modern world is examined and Black shows that it is still widespread today in many countries.

But Black begins his introduction with the case of Hadijatou Mani, a Niger woman, who was sold into slavery at the age of 12 and subsequently beaten, raped and prosecuted for bigamy because she dared to marry a man other than her master. She successfully brought her case before the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States, which ruled in her favour and fined her country. She stated that she had brought the case in order to protect her children. Slavery is officially outlawed in Niger, but the local customary courts support the custom by which the children of slaves become the property of their masters.

Black then describes how slavery was truly a global phenomenon, and the treatment of slaves at Cape Coast in Ghana resembles the treatment of Christian slaves taken by the Barbary pirates. And its history extends from the ancient world to the Nazi genocide of the Jews. He writes

The mournful, underground dungeons at Cape Coast Castle and other bases on the low, watery coastline of West Africa where African slaves were held from the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries prior to shipment to the New World are potent memory of the vile cruelty of slavery, and notably of the approximately 12.5 million Africans forced into this trade and transported on about 35,000 transatlantic voyages, yet these dungeons are not alone and should not crowd out other landscapes where slavery was carried on and the slave trade conducted. Nicholas de Nicolay’s mid-sixteenth-century account of slave dealers parading their captives naked to show that they had no physical defects, and so that they could be examined as if they were horses, with particular reference to their teeth and feet, could have referred to the world of Atlantic slavery, but actually was written about Tripoli in modern Libya, where large numbers of Christians captured from Malta and Sicily by the Barbary pirates of North Africa were sold.

Indeed, the landscapes of slavery span the world, and range from the Central Asian city of Khiva, where the bustle of the slave market can still be visualized in the narrow streets, to Venice, a major entrepot for the slave trade of medieval Europe albeit not one noted by modern tourists. The range is also from Malacca in modern Malaysia, an important centre for the slave trade around the Indian Ocean, especially under the Muslim sultans but also, from 1511, under, first their Portuguese and, then, their Dutch successors, to the few remains of the murderous system of labout that was part of the Nazis’ genocidal treatment of the Jews. The variety of slavery in the past and across history stretched from the galleys of imperial Rome to slave craftsmen in Central Asian cities, such as Bukhara, and from the mines of the New World to those working in spice plantations in east Africa. Public and private, governmental and free enterprise, slavery was a means of labour and form of control. (p.2).

The book has the following chapters

  1. Pre-1500
  2. The Age of Conquest, 1500-1600
  3. The Spread of Capitalist Slavery, 1600-1700
  4. Slavery before Abolitionism, 1700-1780
  5. Revolution, Abolitionism and the Contrasting Fortunes of the Slave Trade and Slavery, 1780-1850
  6. The End of Slavery, 1830-1930?
  7. A Troubled Present, 1930-2011
  8. Legacies and Conclusions.

I feel very strongly that the global dimension of slavery and the slave trade needs to be taught, and people should be aware that it isn’t simply something that White Europeans forced on to Black Africans and other indigenous peoples. British imperialism was wrong, but the British did act to end slavery, at least officially, both within our empire and across the world. And odiously slavery is returning. After Blair’s, Sarkozy’s and Obama’s bombing of Libya, the Islamist regime in part of the country has allowed slave markets selling Black Africans to be reopened. Sargon of Gasbag, the man who broke UKIP, posted a video on YouTube discussing the appearance of yet more slave markets in Uganda. He pointedly asked why none of the ‘SJWs’ protesting against the racism and the historical injustice of slavery weren’t protesting about that. Benjamin is a member of the extreme right, though I would not like to accuse him personally of racism and the question is a good one. As far as I know, there are no marches of anti-racist activists loudly demanding an end to racism in countries like Uganda, Niger, Libya and elsewhere. Back in the ’90s the persistence and growth of slavery was a real, pressing issue and described in books like Disposable People. But that was over twenty years ago and times have moved on.

But without an awareness of global history of slavery and existence today, there is a danger that the current preoccupation with western transatlantic slavery will just create a simplistic ‘White man bad’ view. That White Europeans are uniquely evil, while other cultures are somehow more virtuous and noble in another version of the myth of the ‘noble savage’.

And it may make genuine anti-racists blind to its existence today, an existence strengthened and no doubt increasing through neoliberalism and the miseries inflicted by globalisation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When You Pull Down Statues, Make Sure They’re of the Right People

Since Colston’s statue was pulled over and lobbed in the docks in Bristol on Sunday, others have called for the removal of similar statues and monuments to those connected to the slave trade. Down in Devon there have been calls for a statue of the Elizabethan explorer Francis Drake to be removed. At Oxford University demands have started up again for the removal of the university’s statue to the 19th century imperialist, Cecil Rhodes. And on Sky News’ The Pledge, Afua Hirsh managed to get LBC’s Nick Ferrari in a right tizzy for suggesting that not only should Rhodes’ statue be taken down, but also Horatio Nelson and Winston Churchill.

I can’t defend Rhodes. He seems to me to be have been a thoroughly ruthless character, who was intent only on grabbing as much land for himself and Britain on any pretext whatsoever. I might be wrong, but I’ve got a horrible suspicion he was one of the people behind the Anglo-South African or Boer War during which tens or hundreds of thousands of Afrikaner women and children died in concentration camps. He was also instrumental in the creation of Rhodesia’s colour bar.

Nelson and Churchill are going to be much more controversial. Most people only know of Nelson for his victory at Trafalgar during the Napoleonic War. This was to stop the French imperial domination of Europe, and Napoleonic forces had also invaded Egypt. I think most Brits will therefore take an attack on Nelson as an attack on a key figure, who kept Britain and Europe free. Yes, he’s a symbol of British imperial strength, but I doubt many people associate him with the oppression of Blacks and Asians. It’s going to look like a spiteful attack on Britain, rather than a gesture of Black liberation.

Ditto Hirsh’s other target, Winston Churchill. I’m absolutely no fan of Churchill myself. He was an authoritarian aristocrat, whose real reason for opposing Hitler was that he saw Nazi Germany as a threat to British interests in the North Sea, not because he was an opponent of Fascism. He sent troops in to shoot striking miners in Wales, and was all for calling them in during the General Strike. Stanley Baldwin, the Conservative prime minister at the time, wanted him kept well out of the way to avoid exacerbating the situation. As for Ireland, back in the 1990s there was an interesting little programme on BBC 2, The Living Dead, which was about the way Churchill’s heroic view of British history in his A History of the English-Speaking Peoples had influenced subsequent politics. One of the key offenders here was one Baroness Margaret Thatcher, who had been strongly influenced by the great war leader herself, and tried to invoke his memory at nearly every opportunity. The programme interviewed a former member of the Irish republican paramilitary group, the INLA. He said that it was easier to recruit members under Thatcher than under Ted Heath because of Thatcher’s celebration of Churchill. For Irish nationalists, Churchill was the monster, who sent in the Black and Tans. His sequestration of grain from the Bengal peasants during the War resulted in an horrific famine which killed something like 2-4 million people. This is comparable to the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis, and some senior British army officers saw it as exactly that. Churchill, however, declared it was all their fault for ‘pullulating’, or having too many children.

That is not, however, why Churchill is celebrated over here. He’s lauded because he, Roosevelt and Stalin together overthrew the Nazis and their allies. The War swept away Fascist Italy, and the other Fascist or Fascist-aligned regimes in Slovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Romania. It liberated Greece and Albania. Stalin was no angel either. He killed at least 30 million Soviet citizens during the purges and deported whole nations and ethnic groups to Siberia. Instead of letting the eastern European countries decide their future for themselves, he imposed a ruthless autocratic Communist dictatorship. I think Churchill would have liked those nations to have been free to decide for themselves. Back in the ’90s there was a radio series on Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at Yalta, the conference that would decide the post-War European order. It was called The Eagle and the Small Birds, from a quote from Churchill ‘The eagle should let the small birds sing, and care not wherefore they sang’. A Nazi victory would have been the stuff of nightmares, and I don’t know how many millions Hitler would have murdered had he been successful. What the Nazis did to the Jews, Poles, Ukrainians and Russians was horrific enough as it is.

Churchill isn’t the saint or the great molten idol the Tories claim he is by any stretch of the imagination, but he is one of the reasons why Hirsh and Black activists like her are able to make their criticisms of traditional British history and its heroes. If Hitler had won, or his mate Oswald Mosley had seized power in some kind of coup over here, Hirsh and her allies would not have been tolerated. The Nazis’ eugenics programme included not only the murder of the disabled, but also the sterilisation of the mixed race children of White German women and Black American soldiers from the post-First World War army of occupation. Mosley himself would have made Britain an apartheid state, with citizenship granted only to those who conformed to aryan British culture, if not physiology. The War and the horrors of the Nazi and Fascist regimes made eugenics and racism and anti-Semitism far less acceptable than they were before. I am very much aware how institutionally racist Britain is and has been. But it’s much better than what would have existed had Churchill been defeated.

But most of all, I’m concerned that the zeal for smashing statues and monuments may destroy those to abolitionists. Nearly 20 years ago, when I was doing voluntary work in the Empire and Commonwealth Museum here in Bristol, one of the books that found its way into the slavery archive and library was a little bit of local history by the Liverpudlian writer, Fritz Spiegel. Spiegel prides himself on being a ‘Dicky Sam’, the Liverpudlian equivalent of a ‘real Cockney sparrow’. The book was on the fascinating history of the abolition movement in that great city. If I remember rightly, it included not only White abolitionists, but also some of the Black people who also populated the city. It wasn’t just a piece of local history for its own sake, though. In his introduction, Spiegel explained that he moved to right it because, in their zeal to destroy monuments to the city’s slavers, some people had also vandalized those of innocent merchants and abolitionists.

I’m afraid there might be a danger of something similar happening in the current zeal for smashing statues commemorating Black oppression and slavery. There are good reasons for removing monuments like Colston’s. But let’s not confuse those with slavery’s opponents.

J.A. Hobson on Capitalism and Imperialism

One of the crimes for which Jeremy Corbyn was pilloried as an anti-Semite was that he had written a foreword for an edition of J.A. Hobson’s book, Imperialism. First published in 1903, Hobson’s book has become one of the classic critiques of imperialism. Hobson considered that the motive force behind imperialist expansion and overseas conquest was capitalism and the continual need to find new markets. The book influenced Lenin’s own analysis of imperialism, Imperialism: The Highest Form of Capitalism. Fifty years after the book was published it was praised by the great British historian A.J.P. Taylor, who said that ‘No survey of the international history of the twentieth century can be complete without the name of J.A. Hobson’ because he was the first to identify imperialism’s economic motives. Hobson has been accused of anti-Semitism.

Imperialism and the Anti-Semitism Smears against Corbyn

I think it’s because he believed that Jewish financiers were behind the Anglo-South Africa or ‘Boer’ Wars. I think the real force was the British desire to expand into the African interior,  retain the Afrikaners as imperial subjects and acquire the riches of the southern African diamond fields as well as Cecil Rhodes own megalomaniac personal ambitions. However, when the various witch-hunters were howling about how anti-Semitic Corbyn was for endorsing the book, others pointed out that it was a very well-respected text admired and used by entirely reputable historians. Yes, it was a bit anti-Semitic. A very small bit – there was only one anti-Semitic sentence in it. It was another case of the witch-hunters grasping at whatever they could, no matter how small, to smear a genuinely anti-racist politician.

Financial Capitalism, Imperialism and the Decline of Ancient Rome

There’s an extract from Hobson’s Imperialism in The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Protest, edited by Brian MacArthur (London: Penguin 1988). This is a collection various writings protesting against a wide variety of issues ranging from indictments of the poverty of Edwardian England, to various wars, including Vietnam, Civil Rights and anti-Racism, as well as feminism, gay rights, the power of television and the threat of nuclear war. Yes, there’s an extract from Hitler’s Mein Kampf, but there’s also a piece by the American Zionist rabbi, Stephen S. Wise, against the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany as well as other condemnations of Nazis and their horrific rule. The book very definitely does not endorse Fascism or the Communism of Stalin, Pol Pot and the other monsters.

The extract included in the book does identify financial capitalism and militarism as the force behind Roman imperialism, which led to the enslavement of Rome’s enemies abroad and the emergence of an immensely wealthy aristocracy, while impoverishing ordinary Romans at the other end of the social hierarchy, and compares it to the comparable development of the British imperialism of his own time. The extract runs

The spirit of imperialism poisons the springs of democracy in the mind and character of the people. As our free self-governing colonies have furnished hope, encouragement and leadership to the popular aspirations in Great Britain, not merely by practical successes in the arts of popular government, but by the wafting of a spirit of freedom and equality, so our despotically ruled dependencies have ever served to damage the character of our people by feeding the habits of snobbish subservience, the admiration of wealth and rank, the corrupt survivals of the inequalities of feudalism. This process began with the advent of the East Indian nabob and the West Indian planter into English society and politics, bring back with his plunders of the slave trade and the gains of corrupt and extortionate officialism the acts of vulgar ostentation, domineering demeanour and corrupting largesse to dazzle and degrade the life of our people. Cobden, writing in 1860 of our Indian Empire, put this pithy question: ‘Is it not just possible that we may become corrupted at home by the reaction of arbitrary political maxims in the East upon our domestic politics, just as Greece and Rome were demoralized by their contact with Asia?’

The rise of a money-loaning aristocracy in Rome, composed of keen, unscrupulous men from many nations, who filled the high offices of state with their creatures, political ‘bosses’ or military adventurers, who had come to the front as usurers, publicans or chiefs of police in the provinces, was the most distinctive feature of later imperial Rome. This class was continually recruited from returned officials and colonial millionaires. The large incomes drawn in private official plunder, public tribute, usury and official incomes from the provinces had the following reactions upon Italy. Italians were no longer wanted for working the land or for manufactures, or even for military service. ‘The later campaigns on the Rhine and the Danube,’ it is pointed out, ‘were really slave-hunts on a gigantic scale.’

The Italian farmers, at first drawn from rural into military life, soon found themselves permanently ousted from agriculture by the serf labour of the latifundia, and they and their families were sucked into the dregs of town life, to be subsisted as a pauper population upon public charity. A mercenary colonial army came more and more displace the home forces. The parasitic city life, with its lowered vitality and the growing infrequency of marriage, to which Gibbon draws attention, rapidly impaired the physique of the native population of Italy, and Rome subsisted more and more upon immigration of raw vigour from Gaul and Germany. The necessity of maintaining powerful mercenary armies to hold the provinces heightened continually the peril, already manifest in the last years of the Republic, arising from the political ambitions of great pro-consuls conspiring with a moneyed interest at Rome against the Commonwealth. As time went on, this moneyed oligarchy became an hereditary aristocracy, and withdrew from military and civil service, relying more and more upon hired foreigners: themselves sapped by luxury and idleness and tainting by mixed servitude and licence the Roman populace, they so enfeebled the state as to destroy the physical and moral vitality required to hold in check and under government the vast repository of forces in the exploited Empire. The direct cause of Rome’s decay and fall is expressed politically by the term ‘over-centralization’, which conveys in brief the real essence of imperialism as distinguished from national growth on the one hand and colonialism upon the other. Parasitism practised through taxation and usury, involved a constantly increasing centralization of the instruments of government, and a growing strain upon this government as the prey became more impoverished by the drain and showed signs of restiveness. ‘The evolution of this centralized society was as logical as every other work of nature. When force reached the stage where it expressed itself exclusively through money the governing class ceased to be chosen because they were valiant or eloquent, artistic, learned or devout, and were selected solely because they had the faculty of acquiring and keeping wealth. As long as the weak retained enough vitality to produce something which could be absorbed, this oligarchy was invariable; and, for very many years after the native peasantry of Gaul and Italy had perished from the land, new blood, injected from more tenacious races, kept the dying civilization alive. The weakness of the moneyed class lay in this very power, for they not only killed the producer, but in the strength of their acquisitiveness they failed to propagate themselves.’

This is the largest, planest instance history presents of the social parasite process by which a moneyed interest within the state, usurping the reins of government, makes for imperial expansion in order to fasten economic suckers into foreign bodies so as to drain them of their wealth in order to support domestic luxury. The new imperialism differs in no vital point from this old example. The element of political tribute is now absent, or quite subsidiary, and the crudest forms of slavery have disappeared: some elements of more genuine and disinterested government serve to qualify and and mask the distinctively parasitic nature of the later sort. But nature is not mocked: the laws which, operative throughout nature, doom the parasite to atrophy, decay, and final extinction, are not evaded by nations any more than by individual organisms. The greater complexity of the modern process, the endeavour to escape the parasitic reaction by rendering some real but quite unequal and inadequate services to ‘the host’, may retard but cannot finally avert the natural consequences of living upon others. The claim that an imperial state forcibly subjugating other peoples and their lands does so for the purpose of rendering services to the conquered equal to those which she exacts is notoriously false: she neither intends equivalent services nor is capable of rendering them, and the pretence that such benefits to the governed form a leading motive or result of imperialism implies a degree of moral or intellectual obliquity so grave as itself to form a new peril for any nation fostering so false a notion of the nature of its conduct. ‘Let the motive be in the deed, not in the event,’ says a Persian proverb…

Imperialism is a depraved choice of national life, imposed by self-seeking interests which appeal to the lusts of quantitative acquisitiveness and of forceful domination surviving in a nation from early centuries of animal struggle for existence. Its adoption as a policy implies a deliberate renunciation of that cultivation of the higher inner qualities which for a nation as for its individual constitutes the ascendancy of reason over brute impulse. It is the besetting sin of all successful state, and its penalty is unalterable in the order of nature.

(Pp. 15-18).

Financial Capitalism Operating to Exploit Former Colonies and Undermine Domestic Economy

While the British Empire has gone the way of Rome’s, the same forces are still operating today. The Iraq invasion was really to enable western multinationals to seize Iraq’s state industries, and for the American and Saudi oil industry to seize its oil reserves. They weren’t about bringing it democracy or freeing its citizens. Although our former African colonies are now free, they are still plundered through highly unfair trade agreements. At home manufacturing industry has declined because Thatcherite economics favours the financial sector. And the immensely rich now hoard their wealth in offshore tax havens or invest it abroad, rather than in domestic industry. Thus denying British industry investment and making millions of domestic workers unemployed. There’s a further parallel in that in the later Roman Empire, the senatorial aristocracy retreated to their estates rather than pay tax, and so the tax burden increasingly fell on the ordinary Roman citizen. This is the same as the way the Tories have given vast tax cuts to the rich, which have ensured that the tax burden must also be increasingly borne by the poor.

Conservatives have also drawn parallels between the fall of the Roman Empire and today’s west. This has mostly been about non-White immigration, which they have compared to the barbarian invasions. But as Hobson’s Imperialism showed, capitalism and imperialism were connected and together responsible for Rome’s decline and fall. 

But strangely they don’t talk about that!

 

 

Tony Benn on Overseas Investment at the Expense of Britain’s Workers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 17/05/2020 - 8:57pm in

A few days ago I posted up a piece about Shaw’s critique of British imperialism. As I said in the earlier piece, Shaw wasn’t against imperialism in itself, if it had been genuinely for the benefit of the conquered peoples. But it wasn’t. It was really to exploit them, as a cheap workforce unprotected by the Factory Acts in Britain which protected domestic workers. The result was the exploitation of non-Whites abroad, while British manufacturers were ruined by the import of the cheap goods they produced, and British workers made unemployed.

This situation still remains, thanks to globalisation and the rise of the multinationals even though the British empire is no more. Tony Benn was a staunch opponent of the multinationals and the same abuses of overseas investment. In a 1985 speech in parliament on unemployment, Benn said

We would have to stop the export of capital. Since the government came to power, for every family of four, £4,300 has left Britain. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that we must tighten our belts because that is the way to solve the problem. But if a worker tightens his belt, the employer sends the money to South Africa, where the wages are lower still, because Botha’s police will not allow the unions to organise. The export of capital could not continue if we wished to solve the unemployment problem.

Ruth Winstone, ed., The Best of Benn: Speeches, Diaries, Letter and Other Writings (London: Hutchinson 2014) p. 166.

That’s still very pertinent today, when Tory donor James Dyson has moved his plants to the Far East and Jacob Rees-Mogg has investments all over the world, including in a condom factory in Indonesia.

Tony Benn – the greatest Prime Minister this country never had.

Anti-Semitism Witch-Hunters Targeting Prospective Labour Politico for Something She Hasn’t Yet Done

As Asa Winstanley, another anti-racism activist falsely expelled from the Labour Party for anti-Semitism remarks, this is beyond thoughtcrime. It’s pre-crime. Mike in his article about Keir Starmer reprimanding the respected Black women MPs Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy also mentions that the witch-hunters are demanding he censure their next target, Salma Yaqoob. Yaqoob is a prospective Labour candidate for mayor of the West Midlands, and a patron of the Stop the War Coalition. She is also due to appear in an online discussion from the Coalition about the new Labour leadership’s position on anti-war issues and Palestine on the 8th of this month, May 2020, alongside Paul Kelemen, the author of The British Left and Zionism: A History of a Divorce, and Tony Greenstein, ‘Jewish socialist and anti-war campaigner’. And it is his appearance on the panel that has sent the witch-hunters into a fearful bate, as Molesworth would sa. 

Greenstein is very definitely a Jewish socialist and anti-war campaigner. He a fierce, bitter opponent of Fascism and racism. This means that he also criticises Zionism for Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, and the movement’s own crimes against Jews. He has pointed out again and again that throughout their history Zionists and the Israeli state have supported Fascists against Jews and other ethnic minorities when it has served their purpose. Israel sought out an alliance with another White Supremacist state, apartheid South Africa. In the 1970s and ’80 they also allied with Fascist regimes in South and Central America, including Guatemala during its dictatorship’s genocidal civil war with the Mayan Indians, and the neo-Nazi regime in Argentina, which targeted Jews for torture, massacre and murder. At the same time, the Board of Deputies of British Jews attacked the Anti-Nazi League in this country, forbidding Jews from joining it or allowing it to hold meetings in synagogues, because the founder was an anti-Zionist. Some left-wing Jews, who defied the ban and joined it nonetheless, like David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialist Group, say that there were rumours that the Board opposed it for different, racist reasons: they didn’t want Jews joining the Black and Asian fight against racism.

Yaqoob’s appearance was picked up by Ian Austin, the former Labour MP complaining of anti-Semitism while the real reason was that Jeremy Corbyn had returned it to its socialist ideals. He has complained to Starmer and demanded Yaqoob’s suspension. Hence Asa Winstanley tweeted

This racist fanatic wants a prominent Muslim woman expelled from Labour for a future event with the “wrong” kind of Jewish person.

This is beyond Thought Crime, it’s Pre-Crime.

Jackie Walker, another Jewish anti-racism activist smeared as an anti-Semite and expelled from the Party, also commented: It’s open season on black women.

Kerry-Ann Mendoza, the mighty head of The Canary said

Corbyn’s Labour:

For the many, not the few.

Starmer’s Labour:

For us, not you.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/05/02/keir-starmer-has-turned-labour-into-the-party-of-hypocrisy-and-racism/

During the smear campaign a few years ago, the Board, Campaign for Anti-Semitism, Jewish Leadership Council and the other pro-Israel groups and their supporters waved placards at their protests bearing the slogan ‘Labour Party – For the many, not the Jew’. It was a play on Corbyn’s slogan ‘Labour – for the many, not the few’. According to Tony Greenstein, it was made up by British literary author, Howard Jacobson, when he was living in New York. It was supposed to show how anti-Semitic the Labour Party is. But the witch-hunters themselves have particularly targeted Jewish critics of Israel and pro-Palestinian activists. These entirely decent, self-respecting men and women have been viciously smeared as ‘self-hating’. The Board and the other pro-Israel organisations have also misrepresented themselves as standing for Britain’s Jewish community as a whole. They don’t. Board doesn’t represent Orthodox, Haredi nor secular Jews. It really only represents the United Synagogue. I find it very significant that when the I ran an article from a Jewish journalist denouncing Labour as anti-Semitic apart from their own columnist, Simon Kelner, that journo was always described as a member of the United Synagogue. As a Zionist organisation, the Board also doesn’t represent anti-Zionist Jews. The Board and the other organisations attacking Labour and Corbyn were also incensed when the Labour leader attended a Passover Seder with Jewdas, a left-wing Jewish group. This was another anti-Semitic affront to the Jewish community. They were the wrong kind of Jew! Which is itself a noxious, anti-Semitic gesture.

In fact the Board and the other witch-hunters targeting of Jews means that you could reasonably invert their slogan so it reads ‘Board of Deputies – For Israel, not the Jew’. 

It was Tony Blair’s administration that launched the invasion of Iraq, against which the Stop the War Coalition protested, and the Blairites shared the same goals as the Neocons. After George Dubya left office, and was replaced as President by Barack Obama, it was Blair and Sarkozy in France who really wanted an attack on Libya and the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafy. The result has been the destruction of one of Africa’s most prosperous states, which had a strong welfare system and was relatively secular. It has now been replaced in some areas by a hard-line Islamist theocracy, which has returned to slavery with Black migrants now being openly sold in markets. Before the appearance of Coronavirus plunged the world into lockdown, the American right seemed also to be preparing and agitating for a war with Iran. The Neocons also want that country’s regime overthrown because of its militant opposition to Israel, accompanied by frankly genocidal rhetoric, and its defiance of American hegemony in the Middle East. They and their Saudi allies also covet its oil reserves, which they also wish to seize, just like they did Iraq’s.

And there’s also a streak of islamophobia in the witch-hunters a mile wide. People have turned up at pro-Israel and anti-Palestine protests wearing Kach T-shirts. This is a far-right organisation banned in Israel for terrorism. They also wear T-shirts and wave placards for its successor, the Jewish Defence League, which is also banned. One of the witch-hunters turned up next to one anti-Palestinian demo two years or so ago next to Paul Besser, the intelligence officer of the infamous islamophobic group, Britain First. These pro-Israel demonstrators also include open supporters of Tommy Robinson, the founder of the English Defence League and Pegida UK. One of the Board’s members even appeared with him in a video for Rebel Media, a far-right Canadian internet broadcaster.

It therefore very much seems to me that Austin and the other witch-hunters, by making this complaint against Yaqoob, are desperately trying to keep debate and criticism in the Labour party of Israel and its genocide of the Palestinians very firmly closed. They are also seeking to keep Blair’s Neocon agenda alive in Labour. And they are terrified of Muslims and Muslim influence in the Labour Party. There have been polls showing that 85 per cent of British Muslims support Labour. Muslims are one of the largest ethnic minorities in contemporary Britain. The Radio Times a few years ago covered a radio programme about Jewish comedy and literary festivals that were being held up and down the country. These festivals were open to the wider British population. According to the Radio Times, they were partly being held in order to encourage the broader population to support the Jewish community at a time when that community felt its respect was slipping away and being replaced by concern for other ethnic groups.

Now I’ve got absolutely no objection to such festivals, whether by Jews or any other religious or ethnic group. And with the Far Right on the rise in Europe, Jews do need the support and solidarity of non-Jewish anti-racism activists. But Austin’s complaint about Yaqoob, a Muslim patron of the Stop the War Coalition, suggests that the general insecurity felt by part of the Jewish population is shared by the Israel lobby. And they’re scared of competition from Britain’s Muslims for our sympathies.

The witch-hunter’s targeting of Salma Yaqoob is therefore about preserving the Neocon project and protecting Israel from criticism by silencing genuine anti-racism activists, particularly Jews and Muslims. It’s yet another example of the racism of the Blairite Right.

Unrepresentative Jewish Group Makes Racist Demand to Labour to Expel Black Women MPs

This is absolutely atrocious behaviour from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, for which they should be roundly condemned by every genuinely anti-racist person in the country. Mike today has reported that the Board, led by its odious president, Marie van der Zyl, should expel two of its highly esteemed Black women MPs. The women they’re targeting are the Labour veteran, Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy. Why? Because they attended a conference on Zoom in which they took questions from the audience, which included two former Labour members, Tony Greenstein and Jackie Walker, whom the Israel lobby and Conservative – including Blairite – establishment had smeared as anti-Semites. And because Keir Starmer had stupidly tried to win their approval by signing their wretched ‘Ten Pledges’. One of these was that Labour Party members would not share a platform with those expelled from the party for anti-Semitism.

The Board is an unrepresentative body. Despite it claims to speak for all of Britain’s Jews, it really speaks for a tiny minority, the United Synagogue. It does not represent the Haredi Jews nor the Orthodox, who have their own bodies. Furthermore, it explicitly defines itself in its constitution as a Zionist organisation, which means that it does not represent non-Zionist Jews, of which there are many. The Board is, like the rest of the British establishment, by and large very Tory, though I would not care to say that all of its members are. Starmer, and the rest of the Labour leadership candidates, has given them, an organisation outside the Labour Party and hostile to it, dictatorial powers over whom it may accept as members, how they are to behave and with whom they may associate. Many of their demands, as Mike and others have pointed out to me, would not stand up if challenged in a court of law. Indeed, I have heard that they run directly counter to it. To many people, van der Zyl’s and the Board’s obnoxious demands look like both a domineering attempt to dictate to the Labour party and its members, and also a racist attack on two distinguished Black female MPs.

And not only is the Board morally wrong to demand their expulsion, it is also technically wrong according to the terms of its own wretched pledges. Jackie and Tony weren’t on the platform. They were members of the audience. And neither of them were expelled for anti-Semitism.

Mike reproduces a number of tweets from Labour members and supporters, who are very much aware of the gross injustice and sheer arrogance of the Board’s latest demand, and strongly condemn. They include Jackie Walker, the Alternative Daily News, ‘Saboteur Aesop’, ‘Stevewhiteraven’, Kerry-Ann Mendoza, Clare Curran, the Rt Rev’d Mojito and Simon Maginn.

Mike considers that this has put Starmer in quite a quandary, as if he gives into the Board there will be such a mass walkout that by Christmas it will only consist of him and Rayner.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/05/01/this-minority-interest-group-is-dictating-racist-membership-rules-to-the-labour-party-why/

As well as being racist, it also looks very politically motivated. The right has hated Abbott since she was a radical young firebrand in the 1980s. She was one of the first of the wave of Black and ethnic minority MPs that were then entering parliament, along with the late Bernie Grant. She was among the Labour MPs smeared by the Scum in the 1987 election. They claimed that she had said that all White people are racist. They hate her because she is very loud and outspoken in her attacks on anti-Black, anti-Asian racism. But she is also a close friend, and, so I have heard, a former lover of Jeremy Corbyn. This looks very much like the Conservative Board using this as an opportunity to attack a Labour MP they have always loathed.

Despite their claims, the Board and the Israel lobby have a very poor record when it comes to combating racism when it does not involve Jews. David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialist Group, a veteran anti-racist campaigner, states in one of the pieces on his blog that when he was in the Anti-Nazi League, the Board forbade Jews from joining or holding their meetings in synagogues. This was ostensibly because the founder of the Anti-Nazi League was an anti-Zionist, and they wished to stop impressionable Jews hearing criticism of Israel. But other Jewish left-wingers suspected there was also another agenda, to stop Jews supporting Blacks and Asians.

The Board’s demands for the two women’s expulsion also resembles the racist undertones behind the Blairites’ and Israel lobby’s demand for the expulsion of Marc Wadsworth. Wadsworth is a genuine anti-racist activist. He worked for the parents of Stephen Lawrence to meet Nelson Mandela, and with the Board in the 1980s to stop anti-Semitic assaults by the BNP around the Isle of Thanet. But he was the man, who supposedly made a Jewish Blairite MP cry when he caught her passing information on to the Telegraph at a meeting, and called her out for it. An angry squad of Blairites, including, I believe, Luciana Berger, descended on his hearing to demand his expulsion. All of them were White, and critics said it looked very much like a White lynching party about to attack a Black.

Jackie Walker, a very respectable anti-racism educator and activist, has also been subject to viciously racist abuse since the Israel lobby smeared her as an anti-Semite. Apart from the grotesque hate messages she’s received demanding that she should be hanged, or burnt and her body dumped in bin bags, she’s also been racially abused by Jews. She’s Black, and so, according to their limited ideas, can’t be Jewish. I got news for them. There have been communities of Black Jews in Ethiopia for a very long time. There are also Black Jews in the West. There’s a professor of Afro-Jewish Studies at one of the American universities, an American synagogue has even made a Black woman its rabbi. And some of the older readers of this blog will remember a certain Sammy Davis jnr, a very popular singer, dancer and film star, who was a member of the famous ‘Rat Pack’ which included Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

But the Israel lobby also includes some individuals, who can certainly be fairly described as being Far Right. One of the ultra-Zionists, who turns up to protest pro-Palestinian meetings, was formerly a resident of apartheid South Africa and, it seems, very comfortable with its official racism. Others have links to the EDL and other islamophobic groups. Jonathan Hoffman, the former head of the Zionist Federation, has appeared at protests alongside Paul Besser of the extreme right-wing group, Britain First. There is also a couple who turn up to such protests, including those organised against Corbyn by the Campaign For Anti-Semitism and the Board of Deputies, wearing Kach T-shirts. Kach are an extreme right-wing Israeli terrorist group. There have also been Jews, who are extremely sympathetic to the British Nazi right. One Tory MP in Barnet, according to one anti-Zionist Jewish website I read, who used to complain that it was a pity the Conservatives and BNP were separate parties, as it divided the Nationalist vote. The great historian of the British Jewish community, Geoffrey Alderman, was also under pressure from the Board to remove the finding in one of his books in the 1970s that two per cent of the Jewish community support the National Front against Blacks and Asians. There were also some Fascists, who had no hatred of the Jews. Matthew Collins of the anti-racism, anti-religious extremism groups, Hope Not Hate, formerly a member of the BNP and other Nazi groups, recalls being told by another by another Fascist that he really couldn’t understand hatred of the Jews. This interesting snippet is in his book, Hate.

It is therefore completely possible and sensible to talk of Jewish White supremacism and anti-Black, anti-Asian racism.

Marie van der Zyl’s attacks on Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy is not only another partisan, Conservative, Zionist attempt to dictate to Labour under the spurious pretext of combating anti-Semitism, it also looks very much like anti-Black racism.

As one of the Tweeters quote by Mike says, get the Board out of the Labour party.

 

 

A Soft Power Ploy? Cuba Continues to Aid the Poorest and Least Influential Nations

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/04/2020 - 5:06am in

Amidst a worsening COVID-19 pandemic, Cuba has answered an urgent South African request for aid. 217 medical personnel, including family physicians, epidemiologists, health technology engineers and biotech workers touched down Sunday evening, eager to help their African ally. Dr. Reynaldo Denis de Armas, the head of the medical brigade, informed the press that they would first go through a quarantining period then be dispersed throughout each of the country’s nine provinces. Along with Egypt, South Africa currently has the highest number of confirmed positive coronavirus cases in Africa, although the scarcity of testing kits means numbers from the continent are likely only pale reflections of the gravity of the problem.

Despite the Caribbean island’s poverty (according to the CIA World Factbook, Cubans have less than a third of the GDP per capita of even their Puerto Rican neighbors), Cuba has sent over 1,200 healthcare professionals to more than 20 countries around the world – one of very few countries to export any doctors whatsoever during the global pandemic.   

https://twitter.com/camilateleSUR/status/1254617074565025793

To many in the West, the connection between Cuba and South Africa may appear incongruous, but that is not the case to anyone from the Global South. Even as Western nations like the United States and Great Britain supported the white supremacist regimes of southern Africa, Cuba played perhaps the key role in decisively defeating apartheid, sending hundreds of thousands of troops to oppose South African annexation of its neighbors, resoundingly beating apartheid forces and dealing a mortal blow to the myth of white supremacy, ushering in the demise of the regime.

Dr. Helen Yaffe of the University of Glasgow, author of the new book “We Are Cuba!: How a Revolutionary People Have Survived in a Post-Soviet World”, told MintPress that she was “not at all surprised” to see solidarity between the two nations, noting,

 Cuba has a long and principled history of solidarity and practical assistance to the people of Southern Africa. Their military support to the newly independent Angolan nation, helped to weaken the racist apartheid regime in South Africa which invaded the country in the mid-1970s. This contribution was acknowledged by Nelson Mandela after his release from prison. Cuba was the first country outside of Africa which he visited.”

Yaffe explained that by the end of the apartheid regime in 1991, some 300,000 Cuban soldiers (a great number of them Afro-Cubans) and 50,000 civilians, including healthcare workers, teachers and construction workers, had served in defending the newly independent Angola from a white supremacist takeover.

Since the end of apartheid, Cuba has eschewed the guns but greatly increased its medical internationalism. As Yaffe explained:

 In 1999, the Cuban government set up the Latin American School of Medicine (known as ELAM for its Spanish acronym) to provide medical education to students from the region enabling them to graduate as healthcare professionals. Very quickly it opened its door to students from around the world, including South Africa. Over 1,200 South African students have been among its beneficiaries. Thus, the medical ties between these two countries are well established. In the field of medical science, South African is one of nearly a dozen countries in the global south with which Cuba has established a biotechnology joint venture.

ELAM is famous all over the world for educating doctors for free, on the understanding that they will go back to their communities and treat the neediest people first. By 2019, 29,000 doctors from 105 countries had graduated from the Havana-based medical school. Half of them were women and the majority from poor backgrounds. Former World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan applauded ELAM, stating that, “For once, if you are poor, female, or from an indigenous population, you have a distinct advantage [in admission]. This is an institutional ethic that makes this medical school unique.” Even young people from the United States – a country that has been crushing Cuba for decades with economic sanctions – can study for free. Last month, MintPress spoke with a number of American students and graduates from the school. Dr. Sarpoma Sefa-Boakye, a Ghanaian-American ELAM graduate practicing in San Diego, said her colleagues are always amazed when they find out she was paid by the Cuban government to study medicine and graduated debt-free, also estimating that more Africans train in Cuba to become doctors than in Africa itself, a testament to the island’s commitment to revolutionary medicine.

The country’s pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries are also playing their part. Interferon Alpha 2b, a Cuban drug developed to fight Dengue Fever, Hepatitis and shingles, has proved highly useful in boosting COVID-19 infected patients in China; 45 countries have now requested the antiviral drug for use themselves. Doctors have also volunteered to travel to hotspots such as Italy to help fight the outbreak. “Cuba’s sustained training to its medical and technical personnel, and to that of other nations, and its scientific research in the development of medicines, have allowed it to provide invaluable support to many other countries in the world,” said former Jamaican Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines was so happy to see a contingent of Cuban staff come to his country that he met them himself on the airport runway.

However, the Trump administration has accused Havana of cynically using medical aid to deflect from its human rights record, putting great pressure on countries in the Global South, and even Europe, to reject Cuban aid. As right-wing governments came to power in Ecuador, Bolivia and Brazil, their governments quickly expelled the Cubans working within their borders, often accusing them of being terrorists or mercenaries. However, amid a worsening pandemic, the Brazilian Health Minister is now asking them to return. Meanwhile, without a functioning healthcare system, Ecuador has been transformed into perhaps the country worst affected by COVID-19, as MintPress reported earlier this month.

If medical internationalism is merely a cynical “soft power” ploy, as the U.S. government insists, then the Cubans are not doing it very well, focusing on the poorest, least influential countries in the world and working with the poorest people in those countries. That the Trump administration should see any gesture as a cynical attempt to bully, intimidate or increase their power is perhaps unsurprising, given their own actions. The U.S. currently leads the world in seizing and stealing medical equipment bound for other countries. It also tried to compel a German pharmaceutical corporation to move production to the U.S., in order to make sure that America alone had access to and control of any coronavirus vaccine it might produce. Trump reportedly wished to ensure that it would only be available on a for-profit basis.

Washington appears to see Cuba’s genuine solidarity in the face of such adversity as a threat: the threat of a good example to other countries, showing them that “another world is possible,” as the revolutionary phrase goes. People in other nations are often just happy they can see a doctor.

Feature photo | A brigade of Cuban health professionals who volunteered to travel to South Africa to assist local authorities with an upsurge of coronavirus cases, attend the farewell ceremony in Havana, April 25, 2020. Ramon Espinosa | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

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