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Book on Utopias from the 17th Century to Today

Ruth Levitas, The Concept of Utopia (Oxford: Peter Lang Ltd 2011).

I’m sorry I haven’t posted anything for several days. Part of that is because the news doesn’t really inspire me. It’s not that it isn’t important, or that the Tories have stopped trying to strip working people of their rights and drive them further into poverty and degradation. Or that I’m unmoved by Trump trying to organise a coup to keep himself in the Oval Office like just about every other tin pot dictator throughout history. Or that Brexit isn’t threatening to destroy whatever remains of British industry and livelihoods, all for the benefit of the Tory superrich and investment bankers like Jacob Rees-Mogg, who have their money safely invested in firms right across the world. Or that I’m not outraged by even more people dying of Covid-19 every day, while the government has corruptly mismanaged their care by outsourcing vital medical supplies and their services to firms that are clearly incompetent to provide them, because those same firms are run by their chums. Ditto with the grossly inadequate food parcels, which are another vile example of Tory profiteering. It’s just that however disgusting and infuriating the news is, there is a certain sameness about it. Because all this is what the Tories have been doing for decades. It’s also partly because I can’t say anything more or better about these issues than has been already said by great bloggers like Mike, Zelo Street and the rest.

But I’ve also been kept busy reading some of the books I got for Christmas, like the above tome by Ruth Levitas, a sociology professor at Bristol Uni. The blurb for this runs

In this highly influential book, Ruth Levitas provides an excellent introduction to the meaning and importance of the concept of Utopia, and explores a wealth of material drawn from literature and social theory to illustrate its rich history and analytical versatility. Situating utopia within the dynamics of the modern imagination, she examines the ways in which it has been used by some of the leading thinkers of modernity: Marx, Engels, Karl Mannheim, Robert Owen, Georges Sorel, Ernst Bloch, William Morris and Herbert Marcuse. Utopia offers the most potent secular concept for imagining and producing a ‘better world’, and this classic text will be invaluable to students across a wide range of disciplines.

It has the following chapters

  1. Ideal Commonwealths: The Emerging Tradition
  2. Castles in the Air: Marx, Engels and Utopian Socialism
  3. Mobilising Myths: Utopia and Social Change in Georges Sorel and Karl Mannheim
  4. Utopian Hope: Ernst Bloch and Reclaiming the Future
  5. The Education of Desire: The Rediscovery of William Morris
  6. An American Dream: Herbert Marcuse and the Transformation of the Psyche
  7. A Hundred Flowers: Contemporary Utopian Studies
  8. Future Perfect: Retheorising Utopia.

I wanted to read the book because so many utopias have been socialist or socialistic, like the early 19th century thinkers Karl Marx described as utopian, Saint-Simon, Fourier and Robert Owen, and was interested in learning more about their ideas. In this sense, I’m slightly disappointed with the book. Although it tells you a little about the plans for the reformation of society, and the establishment of a perfect state or political system, the book’s not so much about these individual schemes as a more general discussion of the concept of utopia. What, exactly, is a utopia, and how has the concept been used, and changed and developed? Much of this debate has been within Marxism, beginning with the great thinker himself. He called his predecessors – Owen, Fourier and Owen ‘utopian’ because he didn’t believe their particular schemes were realistic. Indeed, he regarded them as unscientific, in contrast to his own theories. However, Marx did believe they had done a vital job in pointing out the failures of the capitalist system. Marxists themselves were split over the value of utopias. The dominant position rejected them, as it was pointless to try to describe the coming society before the revolution. Nevertheless, there were Marxists who believed in their value, as the description of a perfect future society served to inspire the workers with an ideal they could strive to achieve. This position has been obscured in favour of the view that Marx and his followers rejected them, and this book aims to restore their position in the history of Marxist thought. This idea of utopia as essentially inspirational received especial emphasis in the syndicalism of Georges Sorel. Syndicalism is a form of radical socialism in which the state and private industry are abolished and their functions carried out instead by the trade unions. Sorel himself was a French intellectual, who started out on the radical left, but move rightward until he ended up in extreme nationalist, royalist, anti-Semitic movements. His ideas were paradoxically influential not just in the Marxist socialism of the former Soviet Union, but also in Fascist Italy. Sorel doesn’t appear to have been particularly interested in the establishment of a real, syndicalist utopia. This was supposed to come after a general strike. In Sorel’s formulation of syndicalism, however, the general strike is just a myth to inspire the workers in their battle with the employers and capitalism, and he is more interested in the struggle than the workers’ final victory, if indeed that ever arrived.

The book also covers the debate over William Morris and his News from Nowhere. This describes an idyllic, anarchist, agrarian, pre-industrial society in which there are no leaders and everyone works happily performing all kinds of necessary work simply because they enjoy it and find it fulfilling following a workers’ revolution. Apart from criticisms of the book itself, there have also been debates over the depth of Morris’ own socialism. Morris was a member of one of the first British Marxist socialist parties, Hyndman’s Social Democratic Federation, and the founder of another, the Socialist League, after he split from them. Critics have queried whether he was ever really a Marxist or even a socialist. One view holds that he was simply a middle class artist and entrepreneur, but not a socialist. The other sees him as a socialist, but not a Marxist. Levitas contends instead that Morris very definitely was a Marxist.

When it comes to the 20th century, the book points out that utopias have fallen out of fashion, no doubt due to the horrors committed by totalitarian regimes, both Fascist and Communist, which have claimed to be ideal states. However, the critic Tom Moylan has argued that utopias have still been produced in the SF novels of Joanna Russ, Ursula le Guin, Marge Piercy and Samuel Delaney. He describes these as ‘critical utopias’, a new literary genre. The heroes of this literature is not the dominant White, heterosexual male, but characters who are off-centre, female, gay, non-White, and who act collectively rather than individually. The book criticises some earlier utopias, like News from Nowhere, for their exclusive focus on the male viewpoint, comparing them with the Land of Cockayne, the medieval fantasy that similarly presents a perfect world in which everything is seemingly ordered for men’s pleasure. In contrast to these are the feminist utopias of the above writers, which began in the late 19th century with Harriet Gilman’s Herland. It also discusses the value of satires like Samuel Butler’s Erewhon, and dystopias like Eugene Zamyatin’s We, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984.

Levitas does not, however, consider utopianism to be merely confined to the left. She also considers Thatcherism a form of utopianism, discussing the late Roger Scruton’s Conservative Essays and citing Patrick Wright’s On Living in an Old Country. This last argued that the Conservative promotion of heritage was being used to reinforce old hierarchies in a markedly racist way. Some members of society were thus delineated as truly members of the nation, while others were excluded.

The book was first published in 1990, just before or when Communism was falling. It shows it’s age by discussing the issue whether the terrible state of the Soviet Union served to deter people dreaming and trying to create perfect, socialist societies. She argues that it doesn’t, only that the forms of this societies are different from the Marxist-Leninism of the USSR. This is a fair assessment. In Kim Stanley Robinson’s trilogy of books about the future colonisation of Mars, Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars, the colonists not only succeed in terraforming the planet, but also create socialist society in which authority is as decentralised as possible, women are fully equal and patriarchy has been overthrown and businesses run by their workers as cooperatives. At the same time, those wishing to return to a more primitive way of life have formed hunter-gatherer tribes, which are nevertheless also conversant with contemporary technology.

Further on, although the Fall of Communism has been claimed to have discredited not just Marxism but also socialism, recent history has shown the opposite is true. After forty years of Thatcherism, an increasing number of people are sick and tired of it, its economic failures, the glaring inequalities of wealth, the grinding poverty and degradation it is creating. This is why the Conservative establishment, including the Blairites in the Labour party, were so keen to smear Jeremy Corbyn as an anti-Semite, a Communist and Trotskyite, or whatever else they could throw at him. He gave working people hope, and as Servalan, the grim leader of the Terran Federation said on the Beeb’s classic SF show, Blake’s Seven, ‘Hope is very dangerous’. A proper socialist society continues to inspire women and men to dream and work towards a better world, and it is to stop this that the Blairites contrived to get Corbyn’s Labour to lose two elections and have him replaced by Keir Starmer, a neo-liberal vacuity who increasingly has nothing to say to Johnson and his team of crooks.

Back to the book, its discussion of the nature of utopia therefore tends to be rather abstract and theoretical as it attempts to describe the concept and the way it has changed and been used. I didn’t find this really particularly interesting, although there are nevertheless many valuable insights here. I would instead have been far more interested in learning more about the particular ideas, plans and descriptions of a new, perfect, or at least far better, society of the many thinkers, philosophers and authors mentioned.

Malignant Ulcers of Capitalism: The Proletarian Struggle for Reproductive Freedom (Part 2)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 17/01/2021 - 2:09am in

image/jpeg iconabortion_protests.jpg

In our first part on reproductive struggles in class society, we highlighted some of the facts and dangers surrounding abortion and contraception. We also commented on the family unit and prostitution – two phenomena Marxists deem to be flipsides of one another and inseparable from the struggle for reproductive freedom. In this piece, we shed light on sterilization, sex selective abortions, religion, and bourgeois laws as specific to the needs of capital, noting the consequential damages to the proletariat.

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Real Boob Armour from the Middle Ages?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 04/01/2021 - 6:52am in

There was a bit of controversy a few months ago over an episode of the Star Wars spin-off TV show, The Mandalorian. The Mandalorians are a race of mercenaries, one of whom was the Star Wars film villain, Boba Fett. The show’s titular character roams the Galaxy with a baby clone of Yoda righting wrongs as law and order has broken down in the battle between the Empire and the Rebellion. Or I think that’s what the show’s about. The row erupted over an episode which showed female Mandalorians wearing fitted breastplates shaped for women’s breasts. Feminist critic of video games and the SF/Fantasy genre was not impressed, and posted a tweet expressing her disapproval.

She was then answered by the show’s fans, who certainly did not believe that such armour was sexualising or demeaning women. Many of those rebutting Sarkesian were women. One of them posted an interesting piece by a female veteran of the Iraq invasion, who described how uncomfortable the breastplates worn by American squaddies are, particularly for women. She wanted breastplates shaped for women’s breasts. Others pointed out that women boxers today wear breastplates to protect their boobs.

I found this picture of a set of armour from the later Middle Ages at Churburg in Frederick Wilkinson’s Arms and Armour (London: Hamlyn 1978) p. 66. As you can see, the breastplate really is only a strip across the upper torso, leaving the stomach, throat and shoulders protected by chain mail. I don’t doubt that the armour was made for a man. There are records of women fighting in armour during the Middle Ages, such as Joan of Arc, but they were very much exceptions to the rule. When they did fight, they wore men’s armour. However, looking at the Churburg armour, it does seem to me to be the kind of armour women may have worn if they were a regular part of medieval armies and it was made especially for them.

There’s an awful lot of SF and Fantasy in which the women warriors do indeed wear very little. But I don’t see the female breastplates on the Mandalorian as sexualising the women mercenaries. Indeed, from the above illustration – which is admittedly for a man – it does seem to be the kind of armour fighting women would wear in such a society.

Sexual Harassment Has Virtually Vanished from These Farms

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 07/12/2020 - 7:00pm in

Nely Rodríguez stands in front of 43 farmworkers and supervisors who sit side by side at picnic tables wearing various protective workwear — hats, ski masks, bandanas, socks as sleeves.

Rodríguez, a member and worker-leader of the Florida-based Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), points to a drawing of a female farmworker bent over picking tomatoes while a male supervisor stands over her saying, “¡Mamacita, qué rico te vez!” or “Hot momma, you look so sexy!”

“What should you do if this happens to one of your compañeras?” she asks, speaking with warmth and dignified confidence. A few workers laugh, others yell in collective response, “Report it!”

It’s June 2019, and Rodríguez, 53, is in the Sea Islands of South Carolina at Lipman Family Farms, America’s largest field tomato grower and one of the country’s largest agricultural employers. Here, orderly rows of tomato plants coexist next to old-growth jungle with oaks and Spanish moss. Five hundred men and women are harvesting crops across Lipman’s eight farms in this St. Helena Island site — one of more than 30 Lipman locations in the U.S. 

farming sexual harassmentNely Rodríguez, a member and worker-leader of the Florida-based Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Credit: Vera Chang

Back in 2011, Lipman was one of the first growers to join the Fair Food Program (FFP), a worker-led human-rights initiative run by CIW. The FFP is now on 27 farms, but, as an early signer, Lipman was instrumental in getting other industrial tomato producers to participate in the program in order to gain the same access to participating buyers, which today include 14 U.S. corporate retailers — grocery stores, fast food restaurants and institutional food providers including Whole Foods, Chipotle and Compass North America. By joining the FFP, growers agree to a code of conduct that promises that fields will be free of sexual harassment and assault, among other fundamental human rights.

After the #MeToo movement erupted, web traffic for sexual harassment-related searches more than doubled between 2017 and 2018. But in agriculture, forestry and fishing there were fewer reports than before. “We don’t see the floodgates from the people who are most affected,” said Anna Park, the L.A. District Regional Attorney for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “I’m not sure that #MeToo has trickled down to low-wage earners.”

And yet, Rodríguez and others working with the Fair Food Program have shown that the opposite is possible: When farmworkers have the opportunity to prevent — not just remedy — sexual violence, they seize it. 

A dark history of harassment

The case of Diego Muriel, a supervisor at a farm labor trailer camp, shows how agriculture’s weak regulatory environment has meant that sexual abuse is also often present alongside other forms of violence — it’s just harder to see. 

The Fair Food Program uncovered scores of testimonies by workers who hadn’t pursued charges against Muriel claiming that he would “rub against” female workers as he walked the fields. According to the report, he would “stare at women” for long periods of time, gift them extra piece-rate tickets (payment per amount harvested) “so they would let him touch them,” and let himself into their bedrooms while they slept. As the report describes, he took a 16-year-old to a motel for three days only to release her when the girl’s father “put a gun to his head.” And according to the report, Muriel then paid this statutory rape victim, who became pregnant, to disappear. A male worker said that Muriel told him, “All the women that work in the field, married or single, I have taken advantage of them.” Another male farmworker confided, “Most women are afraid of losing their jobs and won’t speak up.”

Back at Lipman Family Farms, Rodríguez explained that the program works because workers are empowered to monitor their own rights. This shifts the culture away from secrecy. The first step in doing so: education. And FFP education sessions are nothing like boilerplate anti-sexual harassment tutorials.

farming sexual harassmentWorkers are empowered to monitor their own rights, shifting the culture away from secrecy. Credit: Vera Chang

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers runs live, interactive, peer-to-peer trainings that use theater, artwork and real situations to teach workers about their rights. Since the FFP started, CIW has conducted 775 in-person sessions that have educated more than 60,000 workers across seven East Coast states. 

As the culture of reporting takes off, it’s possible that more people have become comfortable speaking up.

For example, in 2018, nearly 70 percent of sexual harassment complaints in the program were from Haitian workers. Although they represented less than 20 percent of fieldworkers, the Haitians were new to the program and so only recently educated about their rights. The way Rodríguez sees it, other workers’ successful reporting of problems helped Haitian workers come forward.

The FFP has begun to create a culture of reporting problems through vigilantly protecting workers from retaliation through legally-binding agreements with real economic consequences for growers. The real threat of withholding corporate sales acts as the hammer in enforcement of the FFP’s Code.

“We’re there to make sure that workers have the knowledge to end what was an ugly situation for many years for many people,” Rodríguez said. “It’s no longer easy to stay quiet or watch what’s happening to a woman and not do anything.”

Rigorous audits

The day after the Coalition of Immokalee Workers finished its education sessions, the Fair Food Standards Council (FFSC) — the program’s third-party monitoring body — hit the ground with audits.

Like detectives, FFSC auditors piece together fact-rich tapestries of narrative and observation to get what they call “a high-resolution snapshot” of workers’ experiences and the power structures in the field. FFSC interviews all levels of supervisors and at least half the workforce at any given location, well above industry practice. At Lipman on St. Helena that day, this meant interviewing at least 372 workers. The crews moved from row to row in a heat index of 103 degrees, filling 32-pound buckets with tomatoes, then hoisting them onto their shoulders and heaving them atop a flatbed truck. Occasionally, a worker would stop to drink water from a white cone-shaped cup.

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I followed FFSC auditor Tomas Laster down a tomato furrow. He spoke with a farmworker wearing latex gloves and a white t-shirt smeared with tomato residue. Laster, the worker and I moved together through the rows, alternating between hunching and crouching, as the worker reached for fruit low to the ground. Being at the same height helps mitigate power disparities, Laster told me.

“Have you felt comfortable working here?” Laster asked. “Has the supervisor ever spoken to you in a disrespectful manner?” “Everything’s fine,” the fieldworker responded.

“Any bromas pesadas [jokes in bad taste]?” “Is this a workplace you’d want your mom or sister working in?” he asked, digging below the surface.

Asking directly about sexual harassment can be too outright a question for many to answer candidly, and interpretations of harassment can be subjective. It’s often helpful to ask about something that’s happened to someone else or something workers saw, rather than what they experienced personally, FFSC Associate Director Derek Brinks explained.

farming sexual harassmentThe Fair Food Standards Council prepares for an audit. Credit: Vera Chang

“It’s the first real audit organization that I’ve ever seen,” Lipman’s Chief Farming Officer, Toby Purse, said. “You can’t fake your way through it.” FFSC’s audit reports are a whopping 60 pages. And the audit process requires many people working many hours to run.

“I prefer talking after coffee, but call anytime,” Auditor Jenna Hostetler told a picker as they wrapped up an interview. In June, she handed the worker a card with the FFP’s 24/7, toll-free hotline number that’s answered by the same auditors who are in the fields. Having 24/7 accessibility to workers is crucial in an industry where harvests start before sunrise and end late in the evening.

What sets the investigations apart

FFSC is similar to the judicial system in many ways. Investigations can require the testimony of witnesses, the cross-examination of accused perpetrators and/or interviews with an entire crew about an incident. But there are key distinctions that make the FFP work better with a migrant agricultural population.

Laura Safer Espinoza, a retired New York State Supreme Court justice and FFSC’s executive director, explained that FFP workers don’t have to travel to an office or sign an affidavit. There aren’t formal adversarial proceedings, and the process of discovery is prompt. If there are sufficient witnesses, the complaint can be investigated by the company and FFSC without disclosing victims’ or witnesses’ names.

Victims of sexual harassment with physical contact don’t have to prove that they were touched in an inappropriate place or that the perpetrator intended sexual gratification, as they would need to demonstrate in a legal case. The informality of FFSC’s communication lends itself to transparency, adds Espinoza. When necessary, FFSC has stayed in contact with complainants who have left the state. This doesn’t happen in the legal system.

farming sexual harassmentExecutive Director Laura Safer Espinoza in the Fair Food Standards Council office. Credit: Vera Chang

Espinoza says FFSC typically reaches a resolution about complaints within two weeks. Cases that move through the legal system, on the other hand, can take years or even decades, which risks losing contact with aggrieved workers who may never be able to collect judgment. FFSC always provides complainants with access to the civil or criminal justice systems, should they choose to pursue those. However, many workers — vindicated by FFSC’s prompt, confidential investigations and consequences for abusers — choose not to.

“Workers have seen enough supervisors’ heads roll for things that would never have even raised an eyebrow before — a slap on the butt, an arm on the shoulder. If a worker complained about that before, first of all, they’d be fired. Second, others would laugh. It’s not a laughing matter anymore. Those days are over,” said Espinoza.

The Fair Food program’s near-elimination of sexual harassment

Since the Fair Food Program started in 2011, auditors say cases of sexual assault have been virtually eliminated on participating farms.

“This is probably, in my experience, the most roundly complete anti-gender-based violence effort,” said Aaron Polkey, staff attorney with Futures without Violence, a nonprofit that was instrumental in the creation of the anti-sexual harassment training video for the agricultural industry. It “cuts off the oxygen that fuels sexual violence, in an environment where it would otherwise run hidden and rampant.”

The 2016 EEOC Select Taskforce on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace called the FFP a “radically different accountability mechanism.” Ambassador Luis C. deBaca said that the FFP’s concept of workers controlling their own program for remedy and monitoring their own rights is basic but unusual — revolutionary, even — because it’s rarely, if ever, done.

farming harassment“This is probably, in my experience, the most roundly complete anti-gender-based violence effort,” says Aaron Polkey, staff attorney with Futures without Violence. Credit: Vera Chang

Growers who have signed onto the Fair Food Program agree to reflect on their work in ways that can be challenging at times. 

“I make no bones about it. I’d prefer to have nobody in between me and my customer’s relationship,” he said, when I asked him about what it’s been like to work with the FFP.

Compliance with the FFP has been a lot of work for Lipman. All the farm’s systems are now radically different from the agriculture industry norm. “This company would not look the way it does today if we weren’t partners with the FFP,” Purse said matter-of-factly. He characterized the changes the program catalyzed as a “paradigm shift,” but said that they’d been worthwhile. For example, Lipman has high retention rates for the industry, which helps mitigate risk. Everyone I spoke to also said they would return to Lipman if given the opportunity.

I’d actually first heard about Lipman from Gloria Olivo, a Florida tomato picker. “Before I joined the company, I’d always moved from one farm to the next. There wasn’t much respect,” she told me. “People have rights here.” Olivo, a sexual abuse survivor, has been at Lipman for the past six years now, an extraordinarily long tenure in migrant labor.

Lipman is such a desirable place to work that there have been three fake Facebook pages by illegal recruiters pretending to represent Lipman, plagiarizing their name and logo, according to several Lipman employees. (The pages were shut down.)

Sexual Harassment Remains an Evergreen Problem

Mirroring the wider #MeToo movement, the problem of sexual harassment on farms will never go away completely. But for perhaps the first time in agricultural labor, there’s now a system with ample safeguards. Under the FFP, workers can articulate problems that were formerly hidden, and sanctions proportionate to perpetrators’ inappropriate conduct are enforced.

A telling coda to Diego Muriel’s predations illustrates the shift that the FFP has wrought. For years, Muriel made comments to a mother and daughter about their bodies — their waists, legs and bottoms — while they worked and traveled with him, according to an FFSC report. When the family told the company about the farm labor contractor’s behavior, Muriel retaliated, decreasing the father’s bus driving hours. One night in 2013, the family called the FFP’s 800 number, and Muriel, who had violently harassed men and women for years, was terminated. FFSC’s two-week investigation of this case involved many complainants and witnesses. It resulted in corrective action plans for the farm, including an audited retraining of all the supervisors who had worked under Muriel.

Refugio “Cuco” Flores, a farm labor contractor who works at Lipman, agrees with Purse that sexual harassment may never leave the fields for good.

“Things are bound to happen that [are] not good. Either an accident, a fight, disrespect, or harassment,” he said, describing risks faced by isolated people on farm fields. And yet, Flores is also experiencing a changing culture in those fields.

“We didn’t notice [how common sexual harassment was], like cavemen didn’t notice that killing somebody with a rock was bad.”

Flores, 43, began working as a contractor when he was 16, and now runs eBerry, one of the largest farm labor contract companies. A former wide receiver, he sees his work as akin to managing a football team. During peak season, though, Flores has a crew nine times that size — 450 workers. eBerry supervisors and workers start harvests in Florida, move north to South Carolina and Virginia, and finally travel by school bus to New Jersey.

There used to be a lot of casual touching in farm work, Flores told me. “Hi, mis amigos,” Flores said while he air-gestured patting with his hands, the way he’d greet fieldworkers daily. He says he’ll never do that to anyone again. Flores used to save the first few rows of the bus for female workers, but he doesn’t do that anymore either. Flores and I spoke in a private, tree-shaded area of Lipman’s parking lot. He’d never speak with a female employee alone like that anymore, either.

I asked what changed for him. “The Fair Food Program,” Flores replied. “We got educated, and it made sense.”

*The names of some people have been changed in the interest of privacy.

This story was supported with a grant from the Solutions Journalism Network.

The post Sexual Harassment Has Virtually Vanished from These Farms appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Conspiracy Theories Spreading About the Covid Vaccine

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 07/12/2020 - 1:58am in

Okay, it seems that no sooner has a vaccine against the Coronavirus been announced, than the paranoids are out there spreading stupid and dangerous conspiracy theories about it. Mike put up a piece about one on Friday, which claimed that Bill Gates was going to put a microchip in each dose so that he could monitor what people were doing. This rumour, according to the Beeb, started in March when Gates told an interviewer that there would be ‘digital certificates’ that would show who’d had the disease and recovered, been tested and received the vaccine. He hadn’t mentioned microchips. But the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation stated that the reference to digital certificates referred to the efforts to create an open-source digital platform with the goal of expanding access to safe, home-based testing.

So it’s not about putting microchips in people.

See: ‘Bill Gates is microchipping you’: Vaccine roll-out prompts return of anti-vaxxer conspiracy flapdoodle | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

This looks like a recent mutation of the old End Times conspiracy theory about bar codes. This first emerged in the 1970s/80s. I first came across it at college from evangelical Christian friends. According to this rumour, every bar code contains the numeral ‘666’. This is the number of the Beast in the Book of Revelation in the Bible, which states that under the rule of the Antichrist no-one will be allowed to trade unless they have the Mark of the Beast – this number – on the hand and forehead. So some fundamentalist Christians believe that at the end of the World, everyone will be marked with barcodes on their hand and forehead, because they have the 666 code.

Revelation is a very difficult book of the Bible to understand. One interpretation is that, apart from being a prophecy about the future End of the World and the return of Christ, it’s also a comment on the persecution Christians were then suffering under the emperor Nero. Both the Romans and ancient Jews used codes in which letters had numerical values. In this view, 666 stands for ‘Neron’, Nero’s name in Greek. Not only did Nero persecute the Christians, when he was a young aristocrat he also used to think it was jolly japes to disguise himself as some kind of beast and go round at night attacking people. Hence the Great Beast in Revelation is also reference to Nero.

Now that microchips have been developed, which can be implanted I think the fears about barcodes have changed to include them. Instead of being marked with barcodes, people will be injected with microchips. And Bill Gates is obviously a prime focus for such fears and suspicions because of his huge power through his tech company. But these stories are nevertheless just conspiracy theories in the pejorative sense of the term, nothing more.

Unfortunately it isn’t just western Christians falling prey to stupid fears about the vaccine. I saw a video the other day about a fanatical Islamic cleric in Pakistan, who announced to his audience in cyberspace that the Covid vaccine had been developed to destroy the instinct that stops people committing incest. Once people had it injected, they would start having sex with their close relatives. And it was all the fault of the Jews, because they wanted Israel to get hold of the al-Aqsa mosque.

This is real anti-Semitism, for those, who are so deluded they think it means quietly spoken senior Jewish ladies or gents, who criticise Israel.

I don’t blame Muslims for worrying about what will happen to the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem now that Netanyahu and Donald Trump have decided that Jerusalem’s the real capital of Israel rather than Tel Aviv.

But the claim that the Covid vaccine will turn people into perverted sex maniacs is stupid, wrong and dangerous.

Of course the vaccine isn’t going to do that. And the mullah coming out with this bilge didn’t say how turning people into sex maniacs would enable Israel to get their hands on Islam’s third holiest mosque. Because the theory’s total nonsense.

But it is part of a number of other stupid, dangerous fears about vaccines. The country has been unable to get rid of polio unlike many other Developing nations. It’s because there are rumours going around claiming that the vaccine has been deliberately designed as a bioweapon against Muslims and causes sterility, thus preventing Pakistani Muslim women having children. As a result, people have refused to have the vaccine and medical workers and government officials have been killed. See Meera Senthilingam’s book, Outbreaks and Epidemics: Battling Infection from Measles to Coronavirus (London: Icon Books 2020).

Conspiracy theories like these are dangerous, and stop people getting the medical treatment they need. Don’t believe them. The Covid vaccine doesn’t contain microchips and it won’t turn anyone into a raging pervert bent on incest.

But it might stop someone dying slowly and painfully from the virus.

Don’t believe the rumours and make sure you get treated when it comes to you.

Which is a good question considering the blithering idiocy and incompetence of Boris’ government!

The ‘Empire Files’ on the Plot to Attack Iran

This is an excellent little video that explains Trump’s and the US state and military’s hostility to Iran and the real reasons behind the latest attacks. This ultimately goes back to western imperial control over the country’s oil industry. From 1908 until 1951 the Iranian oil industry was owned and controlled by a British company, Anglo-Persian Oil, now BP. It was nationalised by the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadeq, who was consequently overthrown in a CIA-backed coup. The Shah was installed as an absolute monarch, ruling by terror through the secret police, SAVAK. Which the CIA also helped to set up.

Causes of American Hostility

The Shah’s oppression was eventually too much, and he was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution of 1979, and the American state has resented the country ever since. Iran and Israel were America’s bulldogs in the Middle East, so the US lost an important locus of influence in the region. Iran is now politically independent, and is one of the leaders of the group of non-aligned nations. This was set up for countries that did not wish to align themselves either with America or the Soviet Union, but after the Fall of Communism is now simply for nations not aligned with America. America is also unable to control what Iran does with its own oil, from which American companies are excluded from profiting. Another major cause for America’s hostility may be that Iran and Syria are obstacles to Israel’s territorial expansion and the creation of a greater Israel.

Trump’s Attacks on Iran

The Empire Files is a Tele Sur show dedicated to exposing the horrors and crimes of American imperialism. Presented by Abby Martin, it was originally on RT. In this edition, she talks to Dan Kovalik, a human rights lawyer and author of the book The Plot to Attack Iran. The show was originally broadcast in January this year, 2020, when there had been a series of incidents, including Trump’s assassination of the Iranian general, Soleimani, which many feared would bring about a possible war. As tensions and reprisals increased, many Americans also took to the streets to protest against a possible war. The tensions had begun when Trump unilaterally reneged on an agreement with the Iranians over the enrichment of nuclear materials. Barack Obama had made this agreement with the Iranians, in which they pledged only to enrich it to levels suitable for civilian use but not for the creation of weapons. In return, Obama had agreed to lift the sanctions imposed on them. The Iranians had kept to their side of the agreement, but Trump had abandoned it because he wanted to impose further conditions containing Iran. For their part, it had been a year before the Iranians had reacted to the agreement’s failure. The EU had been keen to keep the agreement, despite American withdrawal, but now were unable or unwilling to do so. Kovalik states that Iran doesn’t want nukes. In the 1950s America and General Electric were helping the country set up nuclear power for electricity production. The Ayatollah Khomeini also issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons, condemning them as ‘unIslamic’. The claim that Iran is now a threat to America is based on intelligence, which claims in turn that Iran had a list of American targets in Syria. As a result American troops, ships, missiles and planes were moved to the Gulf. It was also claimed that the Iranians had attacked three civilian ships. Some of these are very dubious. One of the attacked vessels was Japanese, and the ship’s owners deny that any attack occurred. The attack also makes no sense as at the time it was supposed to have happened, the Japanese and Iranians were in negotiations to reduce tensions. Kovalik states here how devastating any war with Iran is likely to be. According to retired General Williamson, a war with Iran would be ten times more expensive in financial cost and lives than the Iraq War. It also has the potential to become a world war, as Russia and China are also dependent on Iranian oil.

Iran Potential Ally, Not Threat

Trump has also re-imposed sanctions on Iran at their previous level before the nuclear agreement. As a result, the Iranians are unable to sell their oil. They are thus unable to buy imported foodstuffs or medicines, or the raw materials to manufacture medicines, which is naturally causing great hardship. Kovalik and Martin are also very clear that Iran doesn’t pose a threat to America. It doesn’t pose a threat to American civilians, and the country was actually a partner with the US in the War on Terror. Well, that was until George W. declared them to be an ‘axis of evil’ along with North Korea and Saddam Hussein. This disappointed the Iranians, whom Martin and Kovalik consider may be potential allies. America wishes to overthrow the current regime because the 1979 Revolution showed countries could defy America and topple a ruler imposed by the US. Although America may resent the country’s freedom to do what it wishes with its oil, the US doesn’t actually need it. America is an exporter of oil, and so one goal of US foreign policy may simply be to wreck independent oil-producing nations, like Iran, Libya and Venezuela, in order to remove them as competition.

The programme also attacks the claims that Iran is a supporter of terrorism. This is hypocritical, as 73 per cent of the world’s dictatorships are supported by the US. This includes the absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia, which in turn supports al-Qaeda and ISIS. Iran does support Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine, but most political analysts don’t consider them terrorist organisations. They’re elected. The American state really objects to Iran having influence in its own region, but it is the Iranians here who are under threat. They are encircled by countries allied with the US.

Iran anti-Israel, Not Anti-Semitic Country

Kovalik also personally visited Iran in 2017, and he goes on to dispel some misconceptions about the country. Such as that it’s particularly backward and its people personally hostile to Americans. In fact Iran has the largest state-supported condom factory in the Middle East. Alcohol’s banned, but everyone has it. The country also prides itself on being a pluralist society with minorities of Jews, Armenian Christians and Zoroastrians, the country’s ancient religion. And contrary to the claims of Israel and the American right, it’s got the second largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside Israel, and Jews are actually well treated. Kovalik describes meeting a Jewish shopkeeper while visiting the bazaar in Isfahan. He noticed the man was wearing a yarmulka, the Jewish skullcap, and went up to talk to him. In answer to his inquiries, the man told him he was Jewish, and didn’t want to leave Iran. He also told Kovalik that there was a synagogue, and led him a mile up the road to see it. Despite the regime’s genocidal rhetoric, when polled most Iranian Jews said they wish to stay in Iran. There’s a Jewish-run hospital in Tehran, which receives funding from the government. After the Revolution, the Ayatollah also issued a fatwa demanding the Jews be protected. The status of women is also good. Education, including female education, is valued and women are active in all sectors of the economy, including science.

Large Social Safety Net

And the Iranian people are actually open and welcoming to Americans. Martin describes how, when she was there, she saw John Stuart of the Daily Show. The people not only knew who he was, but were delighted he was there. Kovalik agrees that the people actually love Americans, and that if you meet them and they have some English, they’ll try to speak it to show you they can. Martin and Kovalik make the point that Iran is like many other nations, including those of South America, who are able to distinguish between enemy governments and their peoples. They consider America unique in that Americans are unable to do this. Kovalik believes that it comes from American exceptionalism. America is uniquely just and democratic, and so has the right to impose itself and rule the globe. Other countries don’t have this attitude. They’re just happy to be left alone. But America and its citizens believe it, and so get pulled into supporting one war after another. They also make the point the point that Iran has a large social safety net. The mullahs take seriously the view that Islamic values demand supporting the poor. Women enjoy maternity leave, medicine is largely free and food is provided to people, who are unable to obtain it themselves. In this respect, Iran is superior to America. Kovalik states that while he was in Iran, he never saw the depths of poverty that he saw in U.S. cities like Los Angeles. These are supposed to be First World cities, but parts of America increasingly resemble the Third World. He admits, however, that the US-imposed sanctions are making it difficult for the Iranians to take care of people.

British Imperialism and Oil

The programme then turns to the country and its history. It states that it has never been overrun, and has a history going back 4,000 years. As a result, the country has preserved a wealth of monuments and antiquities, in contrast to many of the other, surrounding countries, where they have been destroyed by the US and Britain. Iran was never a formal part of the British empire, but it was dominated by us. Oil was first discovered there in 1908, and Britain moved quickly to acquire it for its own military. The oil company set up favoured British workers and managers, and the profits went to Britain. This was bitterly resented at a time when 90 per cent of the Iranian population was grindingly poor. People wore rags, and some oil workers actually slept in the oil fields. Conditions reached a nadir from 1917-1919 when Britain contributed to a famine that killed 8-10 million people. Those, who know about it, consider it one of the worst genocides.

The Iranian oil industry was nationalised by Mossadeq, who gained power as part of the decolonisation movement sweeping the subject territories of the former empires. Mossadeq offered Britain compensation, but no deal was made before he was overthrown in a CIA-backed coup. Details of the coup came to light a few years ago with the publication of official records. It was the first such coup undertaken by the intelligence agency, but it set the rules and strategy for subsequent operations against other nations.

CIA Coup

The CIA paid protesters to demonstrate against the government, and they were particularly keen that these were violent. They wished to provoke Mossadeq into clamping down on the protests, which they could then use as a pretext for overthrowing him. But Mossadeq was actually a mild individual, who didn’t want to use excessive force. He was only convinced to do so when the CIA turned the Iranian tradition of hospitality against him. They told him Americans were being attacked. Mossadeq was so mortified that this should happen in his country, that he promptly did what the CIA had been preparing for. The Shah was reinstalled as Iran’s absolute monarch with General Zadegi as the new prime minister. Zadegi got the job because he was extremely anti-Communist. In fact, he’d been a Nazi collaborator during the War. After the restoration of the Shah in 1953, there were some Nazi-like pageants in Tehran. The CIA assisted in the creation of SAVAK, the Shah’s brutal secret police. They gave them torture techniques, which had been learned in turn from the Nazis. By 1979, thanks to SAVAK, Amnesty International and other organisations had claimed Iran was the worst human rights abuser in the world.

Reagan, the Hostage Crisis and Iran-Contra

The attack on the left meant that it was the Islamicists, who became the leaders of the Revolution as revolutionary organisation could only be done in the mosques. The left also played a role, particularly in the organisation of the workers. The pair also discuss the hostage crisis. This was when a group of students took the staff at the American embassy hostage, although the regime also took responsibility for it later. This was in response to the Americans inviting the Shah to come for medical treatment. The last time the Shah had done this had been in the 1950s before the coup. The hostage-takers released the women and non-Whites, keeping only the White men. The crisis was also manipulated by Ronald Reagan and the Republicans. They undercut Jimmy Carter’s attempts to free the hostages by persuading the Iranians to keep them until after the US election. America also funded and supplied arms to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War, which left a million people dead. They also supplied arms to Iran. This was partly a way of gaining money for the Contras in Nicaragua, as the US Congress had twice stopped government funding to them. It was also partly to stop Saddam Hussein and Iraq becoming too powerful. Kovalik notes that even in the conduct of this war, the Iranians showed considerable restraint. They had inherited chemical weapons from the Shah, and the Iraqis were using gas. However, Khomeini had issued a fatwa against it and so Iranians didn’t use them.

The pair also observe that Trump is bringing back into his government the figures and officials, like John Bolton, who have been involved in previous attacks on Iran. This raises the possibility of war. Kovalik believes that Trump is a brinksman, which means that there is always the danger of someone calling his bluff. He believes that the American military doesn’t want war, but it’s still a possibility. The American public need to protest to stop Trump getting re-elected as a war president.

Stop War, But Leave Iranians to Change their Regime

This raises the question of how to oppose militarism and support progressive politics in Iran. Iranian Communists, the Tudeh are secular socialists, who hate the Islamicists. They state that it is up to them to overthrow the Islamic regime, not America or its government. They just want Americans to stop their country invading and destroying Iran. External pressure from foreign nations like America through sanctions and military threats actually only makes matters worse, as it allows the Islamic government to crack down on the secular opposition. However, Kovalik believes that the American government doesn’t want reform, but to turn Iran back into its puppet. The video finally ends with the slogan ‘No War on Iran’.

The Plot to Attack Iran – Myths, Oil & Revolution – YouTube

Readers of this blog will know exactly what I think about the Iranian regime. It is a brutal, oppressive theocracy. However, it is very clear that Iran is the wronged party. It has been the victim of western – British and US imperialism, and will be so again if the warmongers Trump has recruited have their way.

Events have moved on since this video was made, and despite Trump’s complaints and accusations of electoral fraud, it can’t really be doubted that he lost the US election. But it really does look like he means to start some kind of confrontation with Iran. And even with his departure from the White House, I don’t doubt that there will still be pressure from the Neocons all demanding more action against Iran, and telling us the same old lies. That Iran’s going to have nuclear weapons, and is going to attack Israel, or some such nonsense.

And if we go to war with Iran, it will be for western multinationals to destroy and loot another Middle Eastern country. The video is right about western oil companies wanting the regime overthrown because they can’t profit from its oil. Under Iranian law, foreign companies can’t buy up their industries. A few years ago Forbes was whining about how tyrannical and oppressive Iran was because of this rule. I think the Iranians are entirely justified, and wish our government did the same with our utilities. I think about 50 per cent of the country’s economy is owned or controlled by the state. Which is clearly another target for western companies wishing to grab a slice of them, just as they wanted to seize Iraqi state enterprises.

And at least in Iran medicines are largely free, and food is being provided to those who can’t obtain it themselves. They’ve got something like a welfare state. Ours is being destroyed. We now have millions forced to use food banks instead of the welfare state to stop themselves starving to death, and the Tories would dearly love to privatise the NHS and turn it into a private service financed through private health insurance. The Iraq invasion destroyed their health service. It also destroyed their secular state and the freedom of Iraqi women to work outside the home.

We’ve got absolutely no business doing this. It shouldn’t have been done to Iraq. Let’s make sure it doesn’t happen to Iran.

Iranian Nuclear Scientist Assassinated – But Do They Really Have a Nuclear Weapons Programme?

I’ve just seen this report on YouTube from the Beeb reporting the assassination of the top Iranian nuclear scientists, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Reports were confused at first, with the Iranian nuclear authority claiming that Fakhrizadeh had survived, but the country’s defence minister then confirmed that he had died. The Beeb’s Middle East editor for the World Service, Sebastian Usher, states that he was the head of Iran’s cover nuclear weapons programme. This has been extremely controversial for years, and is at the heart of the way Israel and America look at Iran. They see Iran as close to becoming a massive risk all across the region because of its nuclear programme. Fakhrizadeh was the ‘father’ of the nuclear weapons programme, and so the prime target, particularly for anyone trying to send a message by whoever was responsible that action would be taken against their weapons programme.

The head of the Revolutionary Guards said that these attacks had happened in the past and have been revenged in the past, and would be revenged this time. Usher states that was quite true. Between 2010 and 2012 there was a spate of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, four of whom were killed in relatively mysterious circumstances, but Iran blamed the Israelis. Netanyahu hasn’t made any comment on what has just happened. Usher states that we should look at the context of this assassination. Trump was in power with a very overt foreign policy from Saudi Arabia and Israel, which had a very strong attitude and ‘strategy of maximum pressure’ against Iran. Usher says that in the last few weeks there has been speculation what Trump’s administration would do to get its message across and make it more difficult for the president elect, Joe Biden, if he were to try to go back to the Iranian nuclear deal which Trump walked away from in 2018.

Top Iranian nuclear scientist assassinated – BBC News – YouTube

I’m calling bullshit on some of this. I’m not at all sure that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons programme – not after the lies Netanyahu and the Americans have told in the past, and definitely not after the total hogwash we were also fed about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction.

Readers of this blog will know that I despise the Iranian regime. They are a bunch of corrupt mass-murderers and torturers, who oppress and rob their people. But it’s a very good question whether Iran is developing nuclear weapons. As the Beeb report says, concerns about this have been around for years. The Iranians do have a nuclear programme, but denied it was military. They said it was all about supplying domestic power. Some western commenters I’ve read have said that’s probably true. Iran’s economy is heavily dependent on oil exports. They want to increase these, and so it would make sense for them to develop nuclear power to generate electricity for their people, so they can export more to the rest of the world.

I also remember how Netanyahu nearly a decade ago now was screaming that the Iranians were close to developing a nuclear bomb, and that action had to be taken against them soon. It was a lie from a man all to practised in lying. It was contradicted by that mamzer’s own security service and his generals. Unsurprisingly, William Blum has a chapter on Iran and the US’ hostility and lies about it in his book, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy. He talks about the scare in 2007 when the Israeli state was telling the world that Iran was on the point of developing nuclear weapons and a threat to Israel. But three months before that, Tzipi Livni, the same foreign minister making the claim, had said instead that the Iranian nuclear weapons programme was not a threat to Israel. Blum also quotes Fareed Zakaria, the editor of Newsweek International, on how cooperative the Iranians were when the Americans negotiated with them in the 1990s.

The one time we seriously negotiated with Tehran was in the closing days of the war in Afghanistan [early 199s], in order to create a new political order in the country. Bush’s representative to the Bonn conference, James Dobbins, says that ‘the Iranians were very professional, straightforward, reliable and helpful. They were also critical to our success. They persuaded the Northern Alliance [Afghan foes of the Taliban] to make the final concessions that we asked for.’ Dobbins says the Iranians made overtures to have better relations with the United States through him and others in 2001 and later, but got no reply. Even after the Axis of Evil speech, he recalls, they offered to cooperate in Afghanistan. Dobbins took the proposal to a principals meeting in Washington only to have it met with dead silence. The then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he says, ‘looked down and rustled his papers.’ No reply was ever sent back to the Iranians. Why bother? They’re mad. (p. 104-5).

Dobbins himself states that it was the Iranians who included the references to democracy and the War on Terror in the Bonn Agreement and insisted that the new Afghan government should be committed to them.

Blum goes on

Shortly after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran made another approach to Washington, via the Swiss ambassador, who sent a fax to the State Department. The Washington Post described it as ‘a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table – including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.’ The Bush administration ‘belittled the initiative. Instead, they formally complained to the Swiss ambassador who had sent the fax.’ Richard Haass, head of policy planning at the State Department at the time and now president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the Iranian approach was swiftly rejected because in the administration ‘the bias was toward a policy of regime change.’ (p. 105).

Blum concludes

So there we have it. The Israelis know it, the Americans know it. Iran is not any kind of military threat. Before the invasion of Iraq I posed the question: What possible reason would Saddam Hussein have for attacking the United States or Israel other than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide? He had no reason, and neither do the Iranians. (p. 105).

Blum also has a chapter on Iraq, and how Hussein tried again and again to make a peace deal with the Americans and show them he didn’t have WMDs. And each time he was rebuffed. A little while ago Trump had an Iranian general assassinated in a drone strike, and there are reports that he would have liked to have had others assassinated in the final days of his presidency. He’s frustrated that he couldn’t. We don’t know who was behind this assassination. It could be the Israeli state, or the Saudis, but it may very well be Trump.

And I’m afraid that over the next few days or weeks, we shall hear more about an Iranian nuclear weapons programme and how they’re a threat to America and its allies. And I fear that the hawks are also preparing to demand war with Iran. If they are, then we’ll hear all the same lies we were told about Saddam Hussein and Afghanistan – that the Iranian government is a tyranny oppressing its people, and that we shall go in there to give them democracy and freedom while eliminating them as a threat to the region’s peace.

But any invasion very definitely won’t be for the benefit of the Iranian people, or to give them freedom and democracy. It will be for the same reasons Iraq and Afghanistan were really invaded – for the oil and the maintenance of American geopolitical power. Plus in the case of Iraq, American and western multinationals also wanted to buy up the country’s state industries.

And the results of any invasion of Iran will be the same as Iraq: bloody carnage. There will be ethnic and sectarian violence, the country’s economy will collapse and unemployment skyrocket. Whatever the country has of a welfare state will disappear and the position of women will get worse. Iran is an Islamic theocracy, but it was also one of the most westernised and industrially advanced societies in the Middle East. I think it still is. The Iranian middle class go skiing in the mountains during which they sport the same fashions as the west. Yes, it part of the developing world, but I got the impression that it was also a comparatively rich and sophisticated country.

We’ve got no business whatsoever invading Iran and the other Middle Eastern nations, and so much of what we’ve been told about them, about the threat they pose, is just one lie after another. And it’s utterly disgraceful that our leaders sent our brave young men and women to fight, die or come back maimed and scarred in body and mind, not to defend this country, but simply so the multinationals can see their stocks and their managers’ salaries rise.

We were lied to about Afghanistan and Iraq. And I’m afraid our leaders will lie to us about Iran, and the Beeb will repeat these lies.

For the sake of millions of people, No War!

Malignant Ulcers of Capitalism: The Proletarian Struggle for Reproductive Freedom (Part 1)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 28/11/2020 - 2:06am in

image/jpeg iconcapitalism_kills_love.jpg

In this first piece on reproductive struggles in class society we bring to focus some of the facts and dangers surrounding abortion, as well as the family unit and prostitution, two phenomena that Marxists deem to be flipsides of the same coin, and inseparable from the struggle for reproductive freedom.

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Conservative Hack Helen Dale Smears Labour with Fake Connection to ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’

The right-wing media just can’t resist pushing the anti-Semitism smears any way they can. But yesterday this reached a new low on Mike Graham’s programme on LBC. Graham was talking to Ozzie Conservative Helen Dale about Suzanne Moore’s departure from the Guardian, and a piece the veteran feminist had written in retaliation. Moore’s crime was that she had written a piece stating that she did not regard transwomen as real women. This is obviously intensely controversial and the subject of much acrimonious debate and horrendous, personal abuse. J.K. Rowling has been vilely accused of hatred and wishing to harm transwomen simply for stating this view, even though she said so in a tweet that wished transfolk to live the best lives they could, dress however they want and sleep with anyone who would have them. At the heart of the controversy is the issue of what defines womanhood and who has access to women’s spaces.

Dale and Graham clearly found it ironic that someone from the censorious left should find herself censored in turn. Dale went on to say how surprising it was for her to share a view with Moore in this, as Dale herself is a Conservative and not a feminist. She then went on to say that she found the whole notion of the patriarchy problematic, as it sounded like a conspiracy. And her she made the smear about the Protocol of Elders of Zion. Because feminists’ idea of the patriarchy was similar to the bogus piece of conspiracy literature, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This nasty forgery, concocted by the monk Nilus in the Tsarist secret police, the Okhrana, in order to encourage Nicholas II to be even more persecutory in his treatment of Russian Jews, has been the inspiration for countless Fascist and anti-Semitic movements. And according to Dale, it was behind the anti-Semitism in the Labour party.

She says this in a video of her interview with Graham put up yesterday, ‘Young people believe being called a slur is the same as physical assault,’ says Helen Dale, at around 1.42 or so in.

No! The Protocols of the Elders of Zion were definitely not part of the anti-Semitism controversy in Labour.

I’ve said again and again that Corbyn and his supporters were anti-racists, and opponents of anti-Semitism, just as they opposed all forms of fascism. And they included plenty of Jews, such as the good peeps of Jewdas and Jewish Voice for Labour. Jackie Walker, who is one of the victims of the smear campaign, is both of a woman colour and Jew by birth and faith, as well as a veteran anti-racism campaigner. Marc Wadsworth, another victim of the smear campaign, is also a longstanding anti-racism campaigner. He’s Black, and in the 1980s worked with the Board of Deputies to bring in legislation to stamp out genuine anti-Semitic attacks made by members of the NF and/or BNP in London. Neither of them, like so many of Corbyn’s other supporters, should ever have been accused of anti-Semitism. And as for the wretched Protocols, it may well be very likely that they’ve been the victims of people whose view of Jews has been poisoned by it.

They certainly haven’t been influenced by it themselves.

But it is true that the anti-Semitism smears were made by the self-proclaimed British Jewish establishment, the Board, Chief Rabbinate and other organisations, as a way of deflecting criticism away from Israel for its oppression of the indigenous Arabs. This has been the standard tactic of the Israel lobby since the 1980s. They obviously can’t defend Israel’s actions, so the only way they can nullify such criticism is to claim that those, who stand up for the Palestinians like Corbyn, must be anti-Semites.

This is despite the fact that many of the opponents of Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians are self-respecting Jews.

The vilification of Corbyn’s gentile supporters is vile enough, but the smearing and abuse of his Jewish supporters has been particularly so. Many of them have been the victims of real anti-Semitic abuse and violence, as have their gentile friends and allies. But these people have been reviled as ‘self-hating’. And the accusation that they are anti-Semitic is particularly noxious and harmful given Jews’ centuries of persecution.

I am absolutely sure that the vast majority of Corbyn’s supporters heartily loath the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. They know what it is, and the immense pain and suffering it has caused. And for Dale to claim that they were the inspiration for anti-Semitism in the Labour party is a new low. Though I note that she was very careful not to say Corbyn or any single individual was inspired by them. Obviously she didn’t want m’learned friends to get involved, and get sued for libel.

Starmer’s now in power in the Labour party, but the right-wing media and political establishment are still terrified of Corbyn and his supporters in the party. Hence the use of this lie to smear them. Which shows how desperate and utterly ideologically bankrupt they are. Thatcher’s precious neoliberalism is zombie economics. It should have ended decades ago, and the Tories know it.

And the only way they can stop people realising this is to distract them with poisonous lies about Labour anti-Semitism.

How Norway Helped Syria Rescue Its Seeds

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 25/11/2020 - 7:00pm in

Three great stories we found on the internet this week.

Seed saviors

Norway’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault is the largest seed bank in the world. Since it opened in 2008, it has received over one million samples. But until five years ago it had never had a withdrawal. That changed with the war in Syria. In 2014, the staff of a seed bank outside of Aleppo were forced to flee. Before they did, they shipped their entire inventory to Svalbard. It was a heroic mobilization that saved many unique varieties of chickpeas, lentils and alfalfa that otherwise might have been lost.

But getting the seeds to safety was just the start. In 2015, the staff withdrew the seeds from the Norway vault and moved them to backup locations in Morocco and Lebanon. Then they started planting them. Over the past five years, they’ve grown more than 100,000 plants from them — and returned 81,000 seeds to Svalbard to replenish what they withdrew. They’ve also been sending the seeds to scientists around the world who are researching drought-resistant crops for which these particular varieties happen to show potential. Grist has the dramatic story of the race to save Syria’s seeds, and how the scientists who got them out — and then got them back — have been helping them multiply ever since.

Read more at Grist

Women rising

The assassination of Rio de Janeiro councilmember Marielle Franco in 2018 has led to a change that would have made the feminist leader proud. Since her death, the number of women running for office in Rio is higher than ever — a shift due, in part, to a very different kind of political candidacy.

Yes! Magazine tells the story of how women in Brazil are forming “collective candidacies,” in which the person on the ballot vows to share decision-making responsibilities with a group of co-candidates. Brazilian law doesn’t officially allow collective candidacies, but they have existed informally since the 1990s. Typically, the “official” candidate simply tells the voting public who their co-candidates are, and that they will be leading together as a group.

The idea has been embraced by women especially, who are severely underrepresented in Brazilian politics — only 15 percent of Rio de Janeiro’s councilmembers are women, for instance. But this year, 41 percent of the country’s collective candidacies are being led by women, more than double the amount from all the years between 1994 and 2018. And many of these groups are made up of the full spectrum of Brazilians, from Black to Indigenous to LGBT, making sure that not just women, but all vulnerable groups, are represented. “The main backdrop for this movement is the idealism of doing politics differently and the rescue of representation and democracy,” said one co-candidate. “But there is also a hint of pragmatism as some people might look at it as just a strategy to gain more votes.” 

Read more at Yes! Magazine

Connecting with kids

Many students in Chattanooga, Tennessee have been attending classes remotely since the pandemic began. This has made home internet service an imperative for families with kids. For those that can’t afford it,  the city’s electric utility has been providing free internet. Now, the public school system has announced it will make that free service permanent for low-income families. As of this moment, it is fully funded for the next ten years.

For Chattanooga, the rollout was relatively easy. That’s because Chattanooga has spent the last several years building out a citywide high-speed, low-cost fiber optic network. The service, which went online in 2014, was the first of its kind in a major U.S. city, and earned Chattanooga the nickname Gig City. Now it’s being used to make sure kids stuck at home don’t fall behind in their studies, no matter their income.

Read more at Next City

The post How Norway Helped Syria Rescue Its Seeds appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

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