Stalin

Trotsky on the Failure of Capitalism

I found this quote from Trotsky on how capitalism has now outlived its usefulness as a beneficial economic system in Isaac Deutscher and George Novack, The Age of Permanent Revolution: A Trotsky Anthology (New York: Dell 1964):

Capitalism has outlived itself as a world system. It has ceased to fulfill its essential function, the raising of the level of human power and human wealth. Humanity cannot remain stagnant at the level which it has reached. Only a powerful increase in productive force and a sound, planned, that is, socialist organisation of production and distribution can assure humanity – all humanity – of a decent standard of life and at the same time give it the precious feeling of freedom with respect to its own economy. (p. 363).

I’m not a fan of Trotsky. Despite the protestations to the contrary from the movement he founded, I think he was during his time as one of the leaders of the Russian Revolution and civil war ruthless and authoritarian. The Soviet Union under his leadership may not have been as massively murderous as Stalin’s regime, but it seems to me that it would still have been responsible for mass deaths and imprisonment on a huge scale.

He was also very wrong in his expectation of the collapse of capitalism and the outbreak of revolution in the Developed World. As an orthodox Marxist, he wanted to export the Communist revolution to the rest of Europe, and believed that it would be in the most developed countries of the capitalist West, England, France, and Germany, that revolution would also break out. He also confidently expected throughout his career the imminent collapse of capitalism. This didn’t happen, partly because of the reforms and welfare states established by reformist socialist parties like Labour in Britain and the SPD in Germany, which improved workers’ lives and opportunities, which thus allowed them to stimulate the capitalist economy as consumers and gave them a stake in preserving the system.

It also seems to me that capitalism is still actively creating wealth – the rich are still becoming massively richer – and it is benefiting those countries in the Developing World, which have adopted it, like China and the east Asian ‘tiger’ economies like South Korea.

But in the west neoliberalism, unregulated capitalism, certainly has failed. It hasn’t brought public services, like electricity, railways, and water supply the investment they need, and has been repeatedly shown to be far more inefficient in the provision of healthcare. And it is pushing more and more people into grinding poverty, so denying them the ability to play a role as active citizens about to make wide choices about the jobs they can take, what leisure activities they can choose, and the goods they can buy. At the moment the Tories are able to hide its colossal failure by hiding the mounting evidence and having their hacks in the press pump out favourable propaganda. But if the situation carries on as it is, sooner or later the mass poverty they’ve created will not be so easily hidden or blithely explained away or blamed on others – immigrants, the poor themselves, or the EU. You don’t have to be a Trotskyite to believe the following:

Unfettered capitalism is destroying Britain – get rid of it, and the Tories.

Systems of Forced Labour: Workfare and the Nazi Concentration Camps

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 31/12/2019 - 10:42pm in

I had yet another book catalogue come through the post the other day, this time from PostScript. One of the books listed is a historical study of the informers, who snitched on Jews in Nazi Germany, Who Betrayed the Jews? The Realities of Nazi Persecution in the Holocaust, by Agnes Grunwald-Spier (Amberley 2017). The catalogue’s description of this book runs

In The Other Schindlers Agnes Grunwald-Spier wrote of the many unsung individuals who helped the Jews during the Nazi persecution; in this study she uncovers the individuals and groups who betrayed them. Quoting extensively from survivors’ accounts, and in sometimes shocking detail, she examines betrayals made for ideology or greed, but also the ‘commercial betrayals’ by the railway companies, who transported Jews and the industries that used forced labour, and the betrayals made in fear and desperation.

The SS in particular exploited skilled Jewish labour for commercial profit. They used Jewish artisans and craftsmen to manufacture a range of goods available for purchase, even bringing out a catalogue of such items. At the same time, during Stalin’s purges Soviet industries also encouraged the arrest of workers and technicians for their use, even sending the KGB lists of the type of workers they needed.

I’ve blogged before about the similarity between these systems of totalitarian slave labour and the Tories’ workfare, in which the long term unemployed are forced to do voluntary work in order to prepare them for getting a real job. This actually doesn’t work, and it’s been found that you’re actually more likely to get a job through your own efforts than from workfare. And it has been used to prevent skilled individuals doing the voluntary work they want, as a geography graduate found. She had arranged to work in a museum, but the workfare providers decided she had to stack shelves in a supermarket. So she took them to court, and won.

Others haven’t been so lucky. The Violence of Austerity by Vickie Cooper and David Whyte contains a chapter, ‘The Violence of Workfare’, by Jon Burnett and David Whyte, which describes how exploitative workfare is, using figures and testimony supplied by Boycott Workfare. Benefit claimants were frequently humiliated, forced to work in unsafe conditions with inadequate equipment to safeguard their health. Many were forced to do work that was medically unsuitable for them. One worker said

[I[ [w} to work as a volunteer. Made to feel like a slave. Unsafe working conditions i.e. H and S [health and safety] and Fire regulations breached. Told to leave because I complained and took pictures of the unsafe conditions. (p. 63).

Another said

I can’t stand or walk for more than 10 minutes and have severe stomach illness that means when I eat I’m in agony half an hour until 4 hrs after. They may as well have sent me a death sentence. (p. 64).

One man provided a particularly full description of his experience.

They made me work without safety boots for the first week and without a protective jacket. All day was hard labour 9 -5 pm. ~All day I either had to move wood or clean their place. Or they would send me with other people to places to clean houses and back gardens which they would get money for. They claim to be a community place but didn’t see them help anyone. I told them of my back pain and they just ignored it; they didn’t care. Also another business these people had was to charge local people money to pick up their rubbish and then sell it at their place. We were the ones who had to go to pick up the rubbish and there were many hazards. The truck we went on had not seat belts – just disgusting practice. (Same page).

Now let’s not exaggerate. There are obviously profound differences between the Nazi and Stalinist systems of forced labour and workfare. No-one in this country is forcing the unemployed into camps and gas chambers. But workfare nevertheless is part of a system of austerity that has killed over 130,000 people, despite the Tories’ denials.

It is exploitative, doesn’t work, but it supplies cheap labour to their corporate donors and allows them to claim falsely that their doing something about unemployment.

All the while humiliating the unemployed and the sick, and further endangering their health and wellbeing.

Which is how the Tories want it.

George Soros and Genuine Neo-Nazi Conspiracy Theories

Left-wing and anti-racism bloggers, commenters and campaigners have pointed out again and again how right-wing conspiracy theories about the supposedly nefarious activities of the financier George Soros, such as those promoted by the far-right Fidesz government in Hungary, conform to the poisonous Nazi conspiracy theories about evil Jewish bankers. Mainstream Conservatives have also blamed Soros’s influence for opposition to their policies in Britain. For example, Jacob Rees-Mogg, apart from accusing John Bercow and another Jewish politico of being ‘Illuminati’ – which has its own anti-Semitic overtones – also claimed that George Soros was financing the Remain campaign.

But the conspiracy theories about George Soros don’t just resemble Nazi mythology. They are a part of it, at least in some of the material that arose from the neo-Nazi fringe in the 1990s. In his book on contemporary Nazi paganism, Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity (New York: New York University Press 2002) Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke discusses the work of Jan van Helsing, real name Jan Udo Holey, and his 1993 Geheimgesellschaften und ihre macht im 20. Jahrhundert (Secret Societies and their Power in the 20th Century). Two years later, in 1995, Helsing published Geheimgesellschaften 2. This consisted of his extended responses to interview questions. As you can imagine, despite Helsing’s avowed denials, it is a deeply anti-Semitic book. Goodrick-Clarke writes

Here he denies the charge of anti-Semitism, claiming Jewish friends and colleagues, before making the disingenuous distinction between Semitic Hebrews and Ashkenazi Jews or Khazars, who are his real antagonists in the persons of Rothschilds, Warburgs, the English royal family (!), Marx, Lenin, Stalin, etc. This ploy recapitulates the progressive disqualification of Jews from their Israelite heritage in Christian Identity doctrine. He then reprints several pages of Dr. Johannes Pohl’s vicious translation of the Talmud that was published by the Nazi Party in 1943 as anti-Semitic propaganda. On the Protocols, Helsing simply denies that their authenticity is an important issue: they exist and they are being applied. To complete his anti-Jewish rotomontade, he reveals that former Chancellor Helmut Kohl was born Henoch Koch and shows how George Soros is ruining East European economies through his liberal economic writ. Helsing’s dubious sources, his constant repetition of Jewish names as members of private and public organisations, and above all his emphasis on the assets and powerbroking influence of the Rothschilds as the top Illuminati family leave no doubt that his conspiracy theories are aimed at Jewish targets. (P. 296, my emphasis).

In case any of this sounds remotely credible, it’s worth noting that the royal family aren’t Jewish and neither were Lenin or Stalin. Stalin definitely not – he was a bitter anti-Semite. Helmut Kohl, the former German chancellor, wasn’t Jewish either. Van Helsing also believed that there’s a secret Nazi underground base in Antarctica, as well as colonies of other Reich Germans in the Canaries, the San Carlos area of Argentina, the Bermuda Triangle and the Himalayas. They also have a standing army of 6 million soldiers, including immigrants from Aldebaran. Yes, van Helsing believes the Nazi saucer mythology, in which Adolf and his band of thugs were helped by aliens from the star Aldebaran, who told them how to build flying saucers. Of which the Reich Nazis have an armada of 22,000.

When Jacob Rees-Mogg or the other Tories rant about George Soros, they are repeating an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory and should be criticised for it. But Conservative anti-Semitism has received nowhere near the amount of attention as the anti-Semitic smears against Corbyn and the Labour party. This is despite anti-Semitism being far lower in Labour. John Mann, the Tories’ anti-Semitism tsar, has shown himself completely uninterested in investigating it in the Tories, and blocked and called the children’s poet, Holocaust educator and broadcaster Michael Rosen a troll when he tried to draws Mann’s attention to some examples.

This shows how fake the Tories’ concern about anti-Semitism really is, just as the inclusion of George Soros in van Helsing’s wretched, vile anti-Semitic conspiracy theories show the real Fascism in similar fears about the financier in Tories like Rees-Mogg.

Fan of Rachel Riley Starts Troll Campaign against Owen Jones

More trolling from the darker parts of the internet. Mike reported on Saturday that a hashtag campaign had been started against left-wing journalist and author Owen Jones. The hashtag declared in crude language that Jones practiced the kind of solitary behaviour that tradition has it makes you grow hair on the palms of your hands and ruins your eyesight. It started after a group of Alt Right thugs shouted ‘Oi, you w*nker’ at him live on British TV. Jones himself said of the incident that if he could survive fascists chasing him on the street, then he could survive a hashtag campaign set up by people who need their hard drives checking.

Laura Murray told him that the person – and I use that term loosely – responsible for the troll campaign against him is the same individual, who posts pictures of her in a bikini in various positions in order to degrade and humiliate her. This person is one ‘Basil Brush/Bruscetta’, who is a massive fan of Rachel Riley. He endorsed a thread from Riley in which she attacked a certain 16 year old girl as an anti-Semite. Bruscetta’s website didn’t last, and was taken down. So his supporters linked it to one attacking their idol. Which apparently was done by members of the GnasherJew troll farm, David Collier and another odious jerk, Jack Silver. Collier was moaning that Twitter’s removal of the hashtag against Jones showed it to be a fake news site, as Jones is an anti-Semite and therefore akin to a Nazi!

Saaaaaay whaaaaat!

In what parallel world are this idiots living? Jones is no kind of Nazi. Indeed, he’s been criticised by Tony Greenstein – also definitely not a Nazi – for being too accommodating to the anti-Semitism smear campaign of which Riley, Collier and co. are a part against critics of Israel and supporters of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour party.

As Mike explains, the clip used to troll Jones was of the abuse screamed at him from right-wing pro-Brexit campaigners when he was being interviewed outside parliament in January. Riley also tried to attack Jones with smears and shockingly inaccurate comments about his coverage of Holocaust Memorial Day.

Mike concludes his article about this

She protested at the time that she is not a supporter of the far right. Maybe that’s true; I don’t propose to comment on it, one way or the other.

But questions need to be asked about why supporters of the far right seem so keen to link themselves with her.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/21/was-twitter-campaign-against-owen-jones-organised-by-supporters-of-rachel-riley-or-of-something-more-sinister/

There’s more that could be said about this. Much more. Alongside the comments about Jones’ supposed solitary practices was another line calling him a ‘Stalinist’. This obviously comes from the far right. In some ways it’s ironic. Stalin was a brutal dictator with a venomous hatred of the Jews. After the Nazis broke the pact they’d made for the occupation of eastern Europe with the former Soviet Union, Stalin lamented what the Soviet and Nazis could have achieved together. And one of the major figures in post-War American Nazism, Francis Parker Yockey – a bizarre figure who was very much like the Nazi playwright in Mel Brookes’ The Producers – was a supporter of the Soviet Union because he saw it as a bulwark of civilisation against the decadence caused by democracy. The real Alt Right have more in common with Stalin than they’d like to admit.

The hashtag campaign against Jones was also supported by Carl ‘Sargon of Akkad’ Benjamin, the man who broke UKIP. I think Sargon’s Jewish, and he has argued online with the Alt Right. But despite describing himself as a ‘classical Liberal’ – for which read ‘Libertarian’ – Sargon’s own politics are so close to that of the Alt Right that some have commented that he is a gateway to them. A soft introduction leading to the harder, more racist stuff further away from the mainstream.

Despite Collier and co.’s claim that they’re fighting anti-Semitism, they’re doing no such thing. Like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, they’re almost completely uninterested in real, right-wing anti-Semitism. They’re against anti-Zionism or simply criticism of Israel, which they deliberately conflate with anti-Semitism. And they attack it on the left for two reasons.

At the most superficial level, they do it because they’re bullies.

The people they attack, people like Mike, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone, Chris Williamson, Sally Eason and so on are decent people. They aren’t trolls, and so don’t response with the high level of abuse the real anti-Semites would. GnasherJew and Riley’s fan are not going to attack the trolls that post real anti-Semitic material, like those who consider the Holocaust a great joke, because their campaign of hate wouldn’t touch them. The trolls would just start making coarse comments on their sexuality, which would probably be homophobic and accuse them of being paedophiles. Further attacks on them by Riley’s fans and Collier and his fellow scumbags would just be treated with amusement, and provide them with further ammunition for trolling them. But the people on the Labour left GnasherJew and Riley attack instead aren’t like that. They can be bullied and cowed. And so they do.

And there’s no great mystery why racists like the Alt Right support Riley.

Tony Greenstein has observed that historically, Zionism’s allies have always been the Far Right. The Islamophobic right in Britain – Britain First and the English Defence League strongly support Israel because they hate Muslims. Tommy Robinson even boasted that if there was a war with the Palestinians, he’d fight for Israel. They also admire Israel because it’s the kind of ‘ethnostate’ they’d like to create in the West. Richard Spencer, the founder of the Alt Right, appeared on Israeli TV, where he declared himself to be a White Zionist. Just as Israel is a racial state in which the only true citizens are Jews, so Spencer and co. wish to create a White ethnostate in America, where only Whites will enjoy full civil rights and Blacks, Asians and Hispanics will have been ‘peacefully’ cleansed.

And the Alt Right also have an enemy in common with Israel’s supporters, at least on the Right.

They hate and fear genuine left-wingers. Which is why they were both determined to bring down Jeremy Corbyn. He was both a critic of Israel and determined to bring back the welfare state, strong trade unions and a mixed economy. All of which are abhorrent to those on the Far Right, like Spencer and Sargon, and the Blairites in the Labour party. Which is why you had the Blairites in the Labour party, like Joan Ryan of Labour Friends of Israel, sneering at Corbyn’s supporters in Labour as ‘Stalinists’, ‘Trotskyites’ and Communists.

I am not accusing Riley of being a Fascist or a member of the Alt Right. But she needs to think very clearly about the way she is supported by them, and do what she can to discourage it.

Otherwise some would be justified in calling her a hypocrite. If not worse.

Tories Go Goebbels and Threaten Channel 4 after Humiliation on Climate Change Debate

One of the defining features of every dictatorship has been rigid control of the press. In the former USSR and Soviet bloc until Gorbachev, the media was owned and controlled by the state, and it dutifully followed the party line. The leader was praised, and his opponents were vilified. Before being rounded up, imprisoned and shot, of course. It was exactly the same in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The newspapers there were privately owned, but even so had to follow the party line. In Germany, this was set by Josef Goebbels, the infamous ‘Minister for Public Enlightenment’. The Tories also have an intolerant attitude to the media. Most of the newspapers are owned by proprietors, who support the Tories and so have a strong Tory bias. The Tories therefore expect the press and media to follow their line. When they don’t, they start flinging around accusations of bias. When it’s state-owned companies, like the Beeb, they start making threats of ending the license fee or privatising the corporation, as I remember them doing so in the 1990s. With private broadcasters they threaten to remove their broadcasting license. Thatcher did this to London Weekend Television in the 1980s following the company’s documentary, ‘Death of the Rock’. This showed that the SAS team that killed an IRA terror squad in Gibraltar had acted as a death squad. The terrorists had been under army surveillance during their entire journey through Spain, and could have been picked up at any point with minimal bloodshed. The programme concluded that they had been deliberately executed. Thatcher went berserk at this demonstration of British lawlessness, and withdrew LWT’s broadcasting license. It was replaced instead by Carlton, no doubt named after the infamous Tory club.

And the Tories were making the same threats yesterday to Channel 4, after the programme humiliated Johnson in its leaders’ debate over climate change. Johnson has now resorted to Tweezer’s tactic of running away from possible tough or hostile interviews. He refused to turn up to be grilled by Andrew Neil on his show on the Beeb, which has embarrassed our state broadcaster, as they got Corbyn on his show by falsely telling him that they would be interviewing Boris this week, and that it had all been agreed with the Tories when it hadn’t. Fearing a repeat of last Friday’s leader debates, when Britain’s oafish Trump junior was properly shown to be a blustering moron, Johnson scarpered again. Channel 4 therefore took the decision to go ahead with the debate, but put in a melting ice sculpture to represent the BoJob.

Realising that a Conservative non-appearance didn’t look good, the Tories decided to send Boris’ father and Michael Gove, his best mate. Who weren’t allowed on the programme for the simple reason, as Channel 4’s news editor Ben de Pear pointed out, that as lovely and charming as they were, they weren’t the party’s leader. Gove started lying about how he turned up at Channel 4, but was turned away because Corbyn and Sturgeon didn’t want to debate a Conservative. This was disproved by Robert Peston, who tweeted

Classic Vote Leave tactics this whole ‘Gove turns up’ while CCHQ complains to regulator Ofcom about Ch4 barring him. It is all about proving to supporters that the London media establishment are against them (don’t laugh) while trying to intimidate all broadcasters.

Unable to get their own way, the Tories have complained about the debate to Ofcom, claiming that the channel has broken its legal requirement to be impartial and that the refusal to admit Gove and Stanley Johnson was a partisan stunt. They also told Buzzfeed News that if they’re re-elected, they would review Channel 4’s broadcasting license.

Sunny Hundal pointed out the sheer hypocrisy behind this.

If Corbyn had threatened Channel 4’s license over climate change debate, every newspaper in Britain would rightly be calling it ‘Stalinist’. Yet the press is silent and BBC is treating it as a legit story.

Zelo Street concluded

‘Tory commitment to free speech does not include dissent. Who’s being Stalinist now?’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/tories-threaten-to-curtail-free-speech.html

The Tories don’t like freedom of speech at all. They withdrew LWT’s broadcasting license after ‘Death on the Rock’, and had a Panorama documentary how the party had an overlapping membership with the BNP, National Front and other Fascists, ‘Maggie’s Militant Tendency’ suppressed. And during their coalition government with the Lib Dems, they passed legislation providing for a system of secret courts. If the government decides it is necessary for reasons of national security, the accused may be tried in courts from which the press and public are banned. They may not know the identity of their accusers, nor the crimes of which they are accused or the evidence against them. It a system from the pages of Kafka’s The Trial and The Castle, and is the same as the perverted judicial systems of Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia. And Cameron also wanted to make street demonstrations more difficult by passing legislation that would restrict the right to march and demonstrate under the pretence of protecting local residents from ‘nuisance’.

With this latest threat to Channel 4, the Tories have shown themselves not only cowards and bullies, but an active threat to freedom of speech. Get them out, and Labour in!

No! KKK’s David Duke and BNP’s Nick Griffin DON’T Support Corbyn!

Really brilliant post yesterday by Zelo Street, demolishing the Tory lies that David Duke, the head of the KKK in Louisiana and Britain’s own Fascist abomination, Nick Griffin, support Jeremy Corbyn. The claim was made a year or so ago by the Times and the Scum in order to add some spurious credibility to the anti-Semitism smears against the Labour leader and his supporters.

This began with Henry Zeffman in the Thunderer writing

“A white supremacist and former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan praised the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership as a sign that people were recognising ‘Zionist power’ and ‘Jewish establishment power’. David Duke, who led a branch of the KKK based in Louisiana in the 1970s, told listeners to his radio show in 2015: ‘It’s a really good kind of evolutionary thing, isn’t it, when people are beginning to recognise Zionist power and ultimately the Jewish establishment power in Britain and in the western world.”.

The problem with this was that two years after the claim Zeffman had uncovered, Duke had seriously revised his opinion of Corbyn, calling him ‘Marxist filth’. 

And the BNP’s former fuehrer has crawled out from whichever stone he’s been hiding under ever since his stormtroops gave him the heave-ho to make it clear that he does not, after all, support Jeremy Corbyn either. After reading headlines claiming that Corbyn’s speech to the CBI raised the issue of anti-Semitism once again, Griffin tweeted

“Have read that headline several times. Can easily be read that someone at the Mail still has the occasional ‘hurrah for the Blackshirts’ moment!”

Zelo Street remarks that the Heil’s history is so notorious that even Griffin knows about it. Which I suppose he would, actually being one of the Fascists the Heil supported back then. But in an answer to the question who he would personally support in the election, Griffin responded

None of them. Though I did give the Zio-media a stick to beat Corbyn by saying I’d vote for him on foreign policy grounds. But unless he comes out to oppose the UK sanctions on Syria that are killing thousands of children & adding to the refugee flood, I won’t be doing so”.

It should come as no surprise that neither Duke nor Griffin support Corbyn. And in Griffin’s case, he makes it clear that he only said he did in order to cause trouble for the Labour leader.

Despite Conservative claims on both sides of the Atlantic that the Nazis were socialists, because they said they were, Hitler’s crew were far from it. Both the Nazis and the Italian Fascists were strongly in favour of private industry. When in power, they both embarked on massive privatisation programmes. The Nazis celebrate the entrepreneur of part of the biologically superior elite, who had a natural right to rule. And before the Nazi seizure of power, Hitler told a meeting of leading German businessmen that he had no intention of nationalising anything and private enterprise needed a strong ruler to protect it. Under Mussolini, the Italian Fascists declared that private industry was the best economic system and the very foundation of the country and state.

David Duke is a member of the Republican Party, or he was. Who are very keen on protecting and extending private enterprise against the state – not just in industry, but in healthcare and education, and also against the environment. So are other members of the Klan. A few years ago Duke frightened the Republicans by threatening to reveal the identities of other Republican politicians, who wore white sheets at their klonvocations. Of course Duke was going to find out eventually what Corbyn really stood for, and denounce him as a Commie. Just like the Tory press has been trying to smear him and his followers as Communists, Trotskyites, Stalinists or whatever.

And Duke obviously didn’t know about Corbyn’s Jewish supporters.

Contrary to what the press and media want you to believe, Corbyn ain’t an anti-Semite and has Jewish supporters. People like Jewish Voice for Labour, Jewdas, the Jewish Socialist Group, and London’s Haredi community. Because he’s actually stood up for Jews and Jewish issues. Mike and the other left-wing bloggers have put up lists of the numerous occasions Corbyn intervened on the community’s behalf. He has the support of Shraga Stern and London’s Haredi community because he stopped their historic burial ground from being redeveloped. And rather than wanting the mass carnage of Israelis, he simply wants an end to the Israeli state’s system of apartheid and oppression of the Palestinians. But that enrages Israel and its apologists, who unable to refute the allegations against them with fact, simply turn to smearing their opponents – including and especially self-respecting Jews – as anti-Semites.

Duke’s comment about Corbyn looks like his ideas about the Labour leader came from the biased reporting of the lamestream media. I dare say Duke would have gone berserk if he’d realised then that Corbyn is pro-Jewish and anti-racist, with Jewish supporters, along with those from Britain’s other ethnic communities.

However, if Duke and Griffin aren’t supporting Corbyn, other members of the far right are supporting the Tories. Like Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, alias Tommy Robinson, formerly of the EDL, formerly of PEGIDA, former special adviser on Islam to UKIP. And for some reason the Tories are keeping very quiet about his support, while definitely not repudiating.

They can’t really, not when so much Tory strategy is based on stirring up hatred against ethnic minorities and immigration, particularly Islam. Mates Jacobs uncovered a whole mass of islamophobia, racism and anti-Semitism in the social media groups for supporters of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees Mogg. Some of whose members even believed in the same ‘great replacement’ nonsense – the conspiracy theory that the Jews are deliberately introducing and encouraging non-White immigration in order to destroy and replace White Europeans – that Duke and the Klan believe in.

Corbyn doesn’t have the support of David Duke or Nick Griffin. But the Tories have the support of Tommy Robinson, and some of their members certainly have extreme right-wing views. Which is why Boris isn’t going to have an inquiry into Tory islamophobia until after the election.

He’s probably hoping that by that time he’ll be safely in No. 10 and people will have forgotten about the whole scandal. Don’t let him.

For further information, see: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/nick-griffin-does-not-back-corbyn.html

Beeb’s John Sweeney Attack Parliamentary Lobby System as Source of Fake News

Very interesting article in next week’s Radio Times for 16th-22nd November 2019. John Sweeney, a former journo with the Corporation’s Panorama, has written a piece attacking the parliamentary lobby system, ‘Time to name your sources’, on page 9. The subtitle states very clearly why he objects to it ‘Why are political reporters feeding us fake news?’

The article runs

As the country gears up for a general election, TV viewers and newspaper readers are being lied to from within a secretive system that reduces political journalists and Westminster correspondents to underbutlers, protects power and poisons our democracy. It’s called the lobby and its two most powerful players are a career psychopath (Conservative) and a neo-Stalinist (Labour).

The lobby was created after an Irish terrorist bomb in 1885 caused MPs to lock out the journalists who used to mingle freely inside Westminster. Reporters complained and a permitted few were allowed back, so long as they followed rule number one: when a source says a story is on lobby terms, you don’t identify that source. 

The lobby’s most elegant defender, Andrew Marr, wrote in his book, My Trade: A Short History of British Journalism, “Sophisticated social animals are necessarily hypocrites… who really wants to know less?”

But Marr wrote that before King Brexit turned everything it touched to Novichok. So where do those political stories based on anonymous oft-quoted “sources close to…” come from?

The PMS (the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman) is a many-headed beast, but one set of jaws is snapped by James Slack, who, as Nick Cohen pointed out in the The Spectator, in a previous life wrote the words underneath the infamous 2016 Daily Mail headline “Enemies of the People”, attacking three judges. Another set of jaws are those of Rob Oxley, Boris Johnson’s press secretary, but the sharpest teeth belong to “career psychopath” Dominic Cummings. David  called him that five years ago. It was an understatement.

Cummings, Slack and Oxley jointly and separately use reporters in the lobby system to tell unattributable whoppers while the system as a whole is given coverage by BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky and the papers. Veteran political reporter Peter Oborne nailed a series of lies about Brexit on “lobby terms” recently. Perhaps the most poisonous was the “lobby terms” claim, reported in the Mail on Sunday in October, that Remainers Dominic Grieve, Oliver Letwin and Hilary Benn were being investigated by the government because of their involvement with foreign powers. The story was a lie. The BBC, etc, didn’t tell that lie. But they prop up the system in which the lie could be told.

That system also encourages acquiescence among political hacks. If you don’t toe the line and ask awkward questions instead you are excluded from the regular drip-feed of anonymous briefings. It was reported that Boris Johnson when Foreign Secretary was considered a security risk by MI6 because of his dodgy private life. But has the lobby asked if Boris will launch an inquiry into himself? Nyet.

Another potential security risk is Jeremy Corbyn’s spin commissar, Seumas Milne. He oversees Labaour’s lobby operation but the system shields his shenanigans behind the arras. In 2014 Milne appeared on a panel at a summit in Sochi alongside Vladimir Putin. Milne, a former Guardian journalist, has in the past bigged up both Stalin and East Germany. Creepy.

Has the lobby asked Putin’s pal Milne if he is a security risk? Again, nyet.

In these toxic times, the lobby has become a lie factory. We need to scrappy “lobby terms”. If power speaks with a forked tongue, we need to know whose tongue it is that’s lying.

Okay, Sweeney’s correct to call out the lobby system. I’m irritated myself by stories that begin ‘sources close to the Prime Minister’ or ‘Ministers are considering’, as quite often this means that the source is sounding out a policy. And that policy is quite often something monstrous. I remember a story in the Sunday Express back in the early 1980s, when AIDS first appeared and everyone really was afraid it would decimate the global population like a new Black Death. It was so strongly associated with gays that a Beeb science documentary on it had the title ‘AIDS: The Gay Plague’. In this climate of fear, the Sunday Depress announced that ‘ministers’ – who were never named – were considering a radical solution to the problem. This was the construction of an ‘AIDS island’ following the Swedes’ example, where AIDS victims could be isolated and treated. It harkens back to the location of lazarettos – leper hospitals – on islands. But it was also frightening coming as it did from a government that had very far right tendencies and a reputation for aggressive homophobia. Maggie had just tried to introduce her law banning the positive teaching of homosexuality in schools. To many people, this seemed like the beginning of a campaign against homosexuals and the left which would end up with internment camps. The nightmare Fascist Britain of Alan Moore’s and Dave Lloyd’s V for Vendetta, running in the comic Warrior, seemed all too possible.

Others have also challenged the very close relationship between the press and the political class. When David Cameron was PM, it was pointed out that many leading journos, including editorial staff at the Guardian, I believe, also lived in Cameron’s village of Chipping Norton. Over on the other side of the Pond, some of the left-wing news shows on the Net, like The Young Turks, Sam Seder’s Majority Report and the David Pakman Show, have also commented on the way the press is content to parrot stories and claims by right-wing politicians, because they’re afraid that if they start challenging them, those politicians will simply stop talking to them and they’ll lose their stories. The result has been a decline in journalistic standards, as papers no longer attempt to hold politicos to account, but simply repeat their lines and lies. I’ve no doubt that this also partly accounts for the utter complicity of the press in repeating the claims and assumptions of the neoliberal right over here.

But this also doesn’t exonerate the Beeb. Despite the protestations of its political editor, the Beeb does platform right-wing figures over the left. Mike put up a graphic from Tory Fibs a few days ago, which showed very clearly how massively biased the Beeb was in its inclusion of figures and spokesmen for the right on its news shows and panels. Its newsroom is stacked full of Conservatives, like Nick Robinson, and Fiona Bruce and her producers on Question Time scarcely hide their right-wing bias. And the Beeb is still under investigation for the massive bias in its Panorama documentary on anti-Semitism in the Labour party.

The lobby system is a major part of the problem, but not the whole. The whole journalistic system and its cosy relationship with right-wing politicians is rotten, and needs to be overturned. And the Beeb is very much part of it.

Kay Burley’s Non-Interview with James Cleverly and an Empty Chair

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 09/11/2019 - 9:28pm in

Tory chairman James Cleverly was due to appear on Sky this week to be interviewed by Kay Burley. But he didn’t turn up. She was understandably annoyed – HIGNFY last night played a clip of her saying that she was ‘fizzing’ with anger about it. And so she carried on with the interview. Cleverly was replaced with an empty chair as Burley told viewers about the questions she wanted to ask him.

I found this short video about the incident on Christian Tonnies’ channel on YouTube. Here it is.

Burley begins by saying that she has an empty chair that was supposed to be filled by the Conservative chairman. Where is he? She replies that he’s probably 15 feet away from where she is at the moment, and that she’s been in to see him during the break. He said he wasn’t due to come on and talk to them today, although they had said that they would. She says that she wanted to ask him about things like this, like the front page of the Telegraph, ‘The tragedy of the modern Labour party and its boss’, comparing Jeremy Corbyn to Stalin persecuting the kulaks. She puts the paper down in order to show people the empty chair again.

She also wanted to ask him about the Grenfell incident and the comments by Jacob Rees-Mogg about the people in Grenfell, suggesting that he was smarter than they were, which is why they stayed in their properties. She says to the audience that they’ll remember how many people sadly died, and asks why on Earth Mogg is still a member of the Cabinet. She goes on to show the empty chair again. She also wanted to ask him about the Welsh Secretary and the calls for him to resign of a former aide. She also wanted to ask him about a row over whether the transition will be extended if we don’t have a deal by the middle of 2020. She also wanted to ask him about a different row over attempts to get officials to cost Labour policies. Another issue she wanted to ask him about was the row over the failure to publish the report into Russian interference. She also wanted to ask him if she thought the Tories were having a good day. She also wanted to ask him about his or his boss’ suggestion that Jeremy Corbyn was demonising billionaires and whether or not it was a good idea to defend billionaires at the very start of the campaign.

She goes on to say that she knows Number 10 watches the show and she also knows that the spin doctors at No. 10 had absolutely reassured her via text that when many politicians were doing the rounds in the morning they would do this programme. And yet we have an empty chair. She repeats the rhetorical question about his location, and answers it, saying his 15 feet away from her, and says that he, James Cleverly, will not come on the programme to answer all the of the allegations.

The clip ends with a message from the Labour Party saying its time for real change, and that Labour stands for the many, not the few.

Quite. 

It would appear from this that Cleverly is a coward, who has absolutely no answers to the questions Burley was going to ask him. But he’s not alone in this. We saw with Tweezer how very carefully stage-managed her appearances were. They were all here done before selected audiences from which the public were excluded, crafted to make it seem the opposite. The Tories can’t stand probing interviews, and the moment someone asks them a question they can’t answer without lies and spin, they go to pieces and start ranting about how unfair it all is.

Of course Cleverly has not answer to Burley’s questions, just as his party has no answer to the poverty and misery they’ve inflicted on working people. Because they’re responsible for it.

Get them out, and a party in that does have real solutions: Labour.

Frustration and Dismay at Private Eye Pushing the Anti-Semitism Smears

This kind of follows on from the post I put up on Thursday, criticising a piece in Private Eye by their correspondent ‘Ratbiter’ celebrating Stop Funding Fake News and its attempts to cut off funding from what it considers to be extremist websites. Stop Funding Fake News has been the subject of a series of posts by Zelo Street, which has shown how the organisation is itself deeply suspect. For all its avowed concern to stop fake news, SFFN itself is less than transparent. It won’t tell you who its members are for one thing. And while it has attacked right-wing sites, like Breitbart and Tommy Robinson’s wretched website, as described in Ratbiter’s article, it’s also gone after those on the Left, like the Canary.  They’re also supposed to be extremists sites peddling fake news, but as I pointed out, the Canary’s politics are those of the old social democratic consensus. The consensus that Corbyn wishes to bring back, of a mixed economy, strong welfare state, proper, effective trade unions, a nationalised and properly funded NHS, and proper rights for working people. You know, proper, constructive policies that will save this country and its people from poverty, starvation and exploitation. But Thatcherites, whether in the Tory party, or the Lib Dems and Blairites in Labour, can’t stand any of this. They can’t bear the thought that Thatcher is a goddess who failed, and that neoliberalism has run its course and been found threadbare. So Corbyn and his supporters have been accused of being Trots, Commies, Stalinists and other epithets by the papers and right-wing Labour MPs like Jess Philips.

Israel Lobby Using Anti-Semitism Smears to Suppress Criticism

But these policies are actually popular with the British public, and so the Right has taken to trying to discredit Corbyn and his followers, and more broadly the Labour party, with accusations of anti-Semitism. As I’ve blogged about endlessly, the actual incidence of genuine anti-Semitism in the Labour party is low. Very low. What riles the witch hunters is that Corbyn and his supporters are critics of Israel’s policy of oppression, apartheid and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. The Israel lobby’s only defence against these entirely justifiable criticisms is to scream ‘anti-Semitism!’ and demand that their critics should be removed from office, silenced and even prosecuted for hate crimes. And ‘Ratbiter’ and Private Eye itself has been pushing this as strenuously as the rest of the media. In his article about Stop Funding Fake News, ‘Ratbiter’s’ praise for SFFN’s attack on the Canary claimed that not only was the Canary pushing fake news, but it was also anti-Semitic and pushing conspiracy theories about Jews. None of which is true. There is a concerted campaign by the Conservative Jewish establishment in this country to close down debate about Israel in line with the demands of the Israeli government. The Israeli state even as a special government office for promoting this hasbara. This is substantiated fact. But it’s suppressed by the British establishment and media, which wants you to believe that when the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council scream at Corbyn for supporting speeches by Holocaust survivors and anti-Nazi activists, like Hajo Meyer, attacking the maltreatment of the Palestinians, these right-wing organisations speak for all British Jews. They don’t, as is very clear by the number of Jews involved in the Palestinian rights movement, the BDS campaign and who support Corbyn in the Labour party. Still, why bother about awkward facts when you’re the media, eh?

Private Eye Part of Press Smears of Anti-Semitism

I’m particular dismayed and frustrated that Private Eye has joined in with this vilification and smearing. I’m not surprised by the right-wing press – the Fail, Scum, Depress, Times and Sunset Times, as they’ve always lied about and slandered the Labour party and left-wing activists. You only have to go back two years to when the Sunset Times smeared Mike as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. Or how it tried to tell the world that Michael Foot was a KGB agent, against all evidence. I’m disappointed that the Absurder, Groaniad and the Mirror have joined in with these accusation. But the Groan is in dire financial straits and has supported the Liberals in several elections. Kath Viner, the new editor, would like to make it a general political newspaper, not tied to the Left. And the Absurder and Mirror look like they’re run by Blairites.

Private Eye’s Liberal Stance and Challenge to Authority

But Private Eye’s support for the smears I find more puzzling and exasperating. OK, I realise that despite its attacks on NHS privatisation, Tory housing policy, the attacks on the disabled, the failings of the privatised water companies, probation service, and outsourcing companies like Capita and Serco, the magazine’s not actually left-wing. Its founders – Peter Cook, Richard Ingrams, Willie Rushton and Auberon Waugh were all thoroughly middle class public school boys. John Wells was the headmaster at Eton. But the magazine does have a proud tradition of standing up for those wrongly accused and questioning the actions of the security services. Paul Foot was a staunch advocate for people he believed were wrongly accused of murder. The magazine is still covering the Deepcut scandal, and what looks very much like an attempt to hide the evidence and protect the guilty by the army and the police. They’ve also covered deaths in police custody and other cases of official incompetence, corruption and wrongdoing. They even published several pieces and then a final report in the mid-90s questioning the official assertion that the Libyans were responsible for the Lockerbie bombing. They believed instead that Syria was responsible, and that blame was placed on the Libyans for political reasons: Major and George Bush senior needed Syria to join their coalition against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. It has also defended asylum seekers, both collectively and individually, from racist discrimination, incarceration, beatings and abuse, and the threat of deportation. It is because the magazine has this proud tradition of questioning authority that I find its current support for the anti-Semitism smears infuriating.

Private Eye also Repeating British Intelligence Propaganda?

I am also aware that, as well as probing some of the actions of the British intelligence agencies, like when they have leaned on journalists to reveal their sources, they’ve also acted to promote them. There is ample evidence that the Maidan Revolution in Ukraine in 2012, which overthrew the pro-Russian president, was anything but popular. It was instead a staged coup overseen by the US statement and the National Endowment for Democracy. But from reading the ‘Letter from…’ column in Private Eye dealing with events in that country, you are told that it is all the fault of the Russians and their supporters. It also appears that the magazine does, or at least, did, have connections to MI5. Auberon Waugh was related to one of its directors or senior officials, and Lobster a decade or so ago ran a piece, ‘5 at Eye’, speculating the magazine and particularly Waugh were responsible for running the smear stories about Harold Wilson being a KGB spy. I am also aware that as a magazine that is unaligned to any political party, and which criticises and satirises all of them, it’s going to attack Labour. Corbyn, as head of the party, is fair game. And those attacks are going to come from his opponents. Which include ‘Ratbiter’, real name Nick Cohen, and whichever Blairites used to run the ‘Focus on Fact’ cartoon attacking the Labour leader.

Private Eye Shares Journalists with Other Papers

But nevertheless, I am extremely annoyed at the way it has joined in with the smearing of decent, anti-racist, Jewish and gentile people as anti-Semites. Like the rest of the press and media, they largely haven’t contacted them for their opinion, or given them space to explain how they were smeared. When a letter has been published in Private Eye rebutting their claim that anti-Semitism is rife in Labour, they’ve replied by quoting Jon Lansman, the founder of Momentum, who believes it is. And who has been roundly criticised for this by Tony Greenstein. Part of this might just be standard press groupthink. Private Eye, for all its attacks on the press and media in its ‘Street of Shame’ and television columns, is part of it, and some of its anonymous correspondents are no doubt journalists working for other papers. Nick ‘Ratbiter’ Cohen is a hack for the Graon and Absurder, while one of the editors and probably a reviewer for their books page was Francis Wheen, another Guardian journo. The press seem to have decided en masse that Corbyn is an anti-Semite, and for all its professed independence and criticism of the fourth estate, the Eye really doesn’t seem to want to break ranks with them in that regard.

And I also suspect that they don’t want to counter that narrative for geopolitical reasons. Israel’s one of the pillars of our foreign policy in the Middle East, and although the paper has criticised it for its treatment of the Palestinians, its attack on Corbyn and his supporters as anti-Semites show that there are limits to how far the magazine will go in challenging foreign policy.

Private Eye also Afraid of Being Smeared as Anti-Semitic?

I also wonder if there are more selfish reasons. As Peter Oborne showed in his documentary on the Israel Lobby for Channel 4’s Despatches eleven years ago, the Conservative Jewish establishment and the Israel lobby will smear any and all newspapers and media organisations as anti-Semitic if they criticise Israel. Even, and perhaps especially, when that criticism is justified, as when the Guardian and BBC reported on the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon by the Christian Phalange, who were allied to Israel. The Groan’s former editor, Alan Rusbridger, described how the president of the Board used to troop into his office, with his pet lawyer, demanding the withdrawal of articles critical of Israel on the grounds that they would incite the general public to hate Jews.

The Beeb’s respected Middle East correspondents Jeremy Bowen and Orla Guerin were also accused of anti-Semitism when they covered the above massacres. When senior Beeb officials like Sir David Attenborough defended them, they too were ridiculously accused. That should have destroyed the Board’s credibility. Instead it seems to have succeeded in emboldening the Israel lobby. Since then Israel has also denounced and lied about the Beeb’s coverage of the blockade of Gaza and the bombing campaign against Palestinians, claiming that journalists were anti-Semitic and expelling them. This does seem to have had a chilling effect at the Beeb. And not just at the Beeb – the Groan and the Absurder have also fallen in line. And I think Private Eye’s determined promotion of the anti-Semitism smears may also be part of this. They’re also, I suspect, afraid of the Board turning up in their offices to accuse them of anti-Semitism. Back in the ’60s and ’70s when the magazine appeared more louche and subversive than it is now, some newsagents refused to stock it. In the 1990s WH Smith withdrew one edition from its shelves because of a joke on the cover about the prurient public interest in the death of Princess Di. I think the magazine is still terrified of some kind of boycott by distributors, which may well be the result if the Board did decide to start accusations of anti-Semitism against them.

What Can Be Done?

So there are a variety of reasons why Private Eye is pushing the anti-Semitism smears. But speculating on their motives doesn’t make it any less infuriating that they’re doing it. I’ve thought in the past of writing letters of complaint to the Eye, explaining that the accused aren’t anti-Semites, and asking for an explanation. But what’s the point? The letter would either be ignored, or a short, edited version would appear in the magazine, which would allow them to reply quoting Lansman or someone else that anti-Semitism is rife, etc. And I might be unfair here to the magazine, but I don’t want to find myself smeared as an anti-Semite in turn and have my name or address passed onto the trolls that appear online to howl abuse at Mike, Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein.

And so there doesn’t seem to be much hope of challenging the Eye in its pages. The only option left is to carry on critiquing its lies and those of the rest of the media in the hope that more and more people will realise that it and they are smearing decent people simply for political advantage and to keep a vicious, corrupt government installed.

Anton Petrov’s Tribute to Veteran Cosmonaut and Space Artist, Alexei Leonov

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/10/2019 - 5:03am in

Last Friday, 11th October 2019, Alexei Leonov passed away, aged 85. Born on 30th May 1934, Leonov was one of the first Russian cosmonauts and the first man to walk in space. His obituary in yesterday’s I, written by Nataliya Vasilyeva, ran

Alexei Leonov, the legendary Soviet cosmonaut who became the first human to walk in space 54 years ago – and who nearly did not make it back into his space capsule – has died in Moscow aged 85.

Leonov, described by the Russian Space Agency as Cosmonaut No 11, was an icon both in his country as well as in the US. He was such a legend that the late science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke named a Soviet spaceship after him in his sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, the 1982 novel 2010: Odyssey Two.

Leonov staked his place in space history on 18 March 1965, when he became the first person to walk in space. Secured by a tether, he exited his Voskhod 2 space capsule. “I stepped into that void and I didn’t fall in,” he recalled later. “I was mesmerised by the stars. They were everywhere – up above, down below, to the left, to the right. I can still hear my breath and my heartbeat in that silence.”

Spacewalking always carries a high risk but Leonov’s pioneering venture was particularly nerve-racking, according to details that only became public decades later. His spacesuit had inflated so much in the vacuum of space that he could not get back into the spacecraft. He had to open a valve to release oxygen from his suit to be able to fit through the hatch. Leonov’s 12-minute spacewalk preceded the first American spacewalk, by Ed White, by less than three months.

Leonov was born in 1934 into a large peasant family in western Siberia. Like countless Soviet peasants, his father was arrested and shipped off to Gulag prison camps under Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, but he managed to survive and reunite with his family. 

The future cosmonaut had a strong artistic bent and even thought about going to art school before he enrolled in a pilot training course and, later, an aviation college. Leonov did not give up sketching even in space, and took coloured pencils with him on the Apollo-Soyuz flight in 1975.

That mission was the first between the Soviet Union and the US, carried out at the height of the Cold War. Apollo-Soyuz 19 was a prelude to the international co-operation aboard the current international Space Station.

Nasa offered its sympathies to Leonov’s family, saying it was saddened by his death. “His venture into the vacuum of space began the history of extra-vehicular activity that makes today’s Space Station maintenance possible”, it said in a statement.

“One of the finest people I have ever known,” the Canadian retired astronaut Chris Hadfield wrote. “Alexei Arkhipovich Leonov, artist, leader, spacewalker and friend, I salute you.”

Russian space fans have been laying flowers at his monument on the memorial alley in Moscow that honours Russia’s cosmonauts. Leonov, who will be buried today at a military memorial cemetery outside the Russian capital, is survived by his wife, a daughter and two grandchildren. 

Anton Petrov put up his own personal tribute to the great cosmonaut on YouTube yesterday, 15th October 2019, at his vlog, What Da Math. Petrov posts about astronomy and space, and his video yesterday placed Leonov in his context as one of a series of great Soviet science popularisers before Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Greene or Carl Sagan. Petrov shows the stunning paintings done by Leonov with his friend, the science artist Andrei Sokolov. He describes how Leonov’s spacesuit expanded so that he couldn’t enter the capsule, and was forced to let some of the oxygen out. As a result, he nearly lost consciousness. This showed both the Russians and Americans that spacesuits had to be built differently. He also describes how Leonov, during his 12 minutes in space, was profoundly struck by the profound silence. It was so deep he could hear his heart pumping, the blood coursing through his veins, even the sound of his muscles moving over each other.

Petrov states that the Russian cosmonauts did not enjoy the same celebrity status as their American counterparts, who could live off book signings. Many had to support their families with other work. In Leonov’s case, it was painting. He illustrated a number of books, some with his friend Sokolov. These are paintings Petrov uses for the visuals in his video. He considers these books the equivalent to works by modern science educators like Carl Sagan. They were meant to encourage, inspire and educate. Sokolov’s and Leonov’s art was not just beautiful, but very accurate scientifically and included some SF elements. Some of these elements were borrowed by other science fiction writers. the opening shot of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 is somewhat similar to one of Sokolov’s and Leonov’s paintings. This became a joke between the two, with Leonov creating a miniature version for the great American director to keep. Kubrick also borrowed many of the ideas for the movie from the Russian film director, Pavel Kushentsev. An extremely talented cameraman, Kushentsev made films about the first Moon landing, the first space station and the first man in space decades and years before they became reality. And all of his movies were scientifically accurate. Some of his movies are on YouTube, and Petrov gives the links at his site there for this video.

Petrov explains that he is talking about these men because their era has ended with Leonov’s death. Leonov was the last of the five astronauts on the Voskhod programme, and so all the men who inspired youngsters with amazing paintings and film are now gone. He considers it unfortunate that some of their experiences in the last days of their lives were not very happy. They did not live to see the future they depicted, and their paintings were not appreciated by the modern generation. Kushentsev said before his death,

Popular science is dying, because there is no money. No demand. Nobody wants to educate. Everyone just wants to make money everywhere possible. But one mustn’t live like this. This is how animals live. Men have reached the level of animals – all they want to do is eat and sleep. There is no understand that this humanity has passed a certain phase of evolution. We must understand the direction of this evolution. For this, we need culture, we need knowledge. 

Petrov believes Kushentsev’s criticism of modern Russian society also applies more broadly to the modern generation in the West, to all of us as well. We are all doing what he said we shouldn’t – just living for the money, to eat and sleep. Unfortunately, according to Petrov, nothing has changed in the 20 years since his death. But there are people out there in the world working to change this, to produce culture, to inspire and share knowledge. But sometimes the world crushes them, simply because it can. But Petrov says that, like those Soviet men before him, despite not being a famous astronaut or talented artist, or even someone who has very good diction, he will continue doing his part of sealing the hope for humanity, continue the work of these great men and inspire new generations to do things, believe in science and create a better world. Because as Leonov once said,

the Earth was small, light blue and so touchingly alone. Our home that must be defended like a holy relic. The Earth was absolutely round. I believe I never knew what the word ’round’ meant until I saw the Earth from space. 

Petrov concludes ‘Goodbye, comrade, and thank you for all the paintings.

This is the first of two videos about Russian art from that era of space exploration. I’ll post the other up shortly.

I don’t feel quite as pessimistic as Kushentsev. Brian Cox, who’s now taken Sagan’s place as the chief space broadcaster on British television, has attracted record audiences for his stage presentation about science and the universe. There is a massive interest among the public in space and space exploration. At the same time, there are a number of really great science vlogs and channels on YouTube. Petrov’s is one, but I also recommend John Michael Godier and the Science and Futurism channel, presented by Isaac Arthur.

Sokolov’s and Leonov’s paintings, they are of a universe of rich, vibrant colour. Spacesuited figures explores strange, new worlds, tending vast machines. They stand in front of planetary landers somewhat resembling the American lunar module. Or crawl across the landscape in rovers, gazing at horizons above which hang alien, often multiple, suns. The best space art shows worlds you’d like to visit, to see realised. These paintings have this effect. It’s a pity that on the blurb for this video over at YouTube, Petrov says that these paintings come from old postcards, which are difficult to come by. It’s a pity, as they still have the power to provoke wonder and inspire.

I’m not sure Leonov himself was quite so pessimistic. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the main space museum was closed, and many of its exhibits sold off. Before it finally closed its doors to the public, they held a rave in it. I think Leonov was in attendance, sitting at the back with his wife. Someone asked him what he thought of it all. The old space traveler replied that they had found graffiti on the walls on Babylon complaining about the behaviour of the younger generation. ‘It is,’ he said, ‘the young man’s world’. It is indeed, and may cosmonauts, space pioneers, scientists and artists like Leonov, Sokolov, Kushentsev and Kubrick continue to inspire the young men and women of the future to take their strides in the High Frontier.

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