Thursday, August 24, 2017

My Log 558 August 24 2017: IJVC, in a fine statement, refuses to privilege anti-Jewish prejudice, but expresses solidarity with all groups targeted by racists --- Muslims, refugees, people of colour, LGBTQ among them

 On Tuesday the Independent Jewish Voices Canada put out a fine statement of attitude towards the growing threat of racism, referencing in particular the events in Charlottesville. Although I am not a Jew I wholeheartedly support this organization, whose activities I have warmly approved over recent years.  Below I append a copy of their statement, which included a very fine cartoon by aislin, of The Gazette that I have not found the means (I mean, do not have the skill) to include herewith.

Independent Jewish Voices Canada             August 22, 2017

One important aspect of the Charlottesville racist events is the brazen inclusion of the Jews as targets for white supremacist wrath. Scenes of Nazis marching with firebrands chanting “The Jews Will Not Replace Us” are now seared into brains around the world.

Is the inclusion of Jews among the targets of white supremacy a sign that we must now pay more attention to the right-wingers than before?

Our response is that the inclusion of Jews as targets does not in itself make the incidents more serious. They are serious enough. We must not ignore — and we must and do — denounce the antisemitic aspects of white supremacy.

But we must also not privilege anti-Jewish bigotry above any other type of bigotry and hatred.

The size and boldness and violence of the fascist activity in Charlottesville was inspired by Trump’s behaviour and pronouncements long before the event. What used to seem a marginal and subterranean movement has quickly been given licence to come to centre stage.

In Canada, successive Islamophobic and nativist politicians have also enabled the right-wing feedback loop.
A white shooter killed six and injured nineteen Muslims in a Quebec City mosque in January, even as fascist recruitment posters abounded at Laval University. Quebec and Canada’s racist movement grew exponentially afterwards.  Last Sunday, the numbers were equal in Quebec City between the few hundred racists aligned with the Islamophobic and anti-refugee organization La Meute, and the anti-racists counter-protesters.  

A few hundred people showed up at a “Million Canadians” pro-Trump rally on Parliament Hill in June. “Proud Boys of Canada” disrupted a Halifax rally of indigenous people and allies in July. Storm Alliance members harass refugees crossing the boarder into Canada. This year, Jewish Defence League members from Toronto traveled to the AIPAC convention in Washington and beat up a Palestinian teacher.

The Charlottesville affair and Quebec’s successful La Meute have inspired other racists. There is urgent work to be done by all progressive people to stop this surge of hatred.

In fact, the best response of Jews to the recent events must be not to draw attention away from Muslims, refugees, people of colour, LGBTQ+ by claiming a special and incommensurable Jewish hurt. The best response for Jews is to stand together with these other targets of hatred and to fight alongside them. Despite the antisemitism of the white supremacists, Jews are enormously privileged in American and Canadian society and we should USE that privilege to unite with others to combat ALL forms of prejudice and hatred.

An issue that SHOULD trouble Jews profoundly is how the white supremacists can hate Jews but love Israel. In an interview with Israeli television, “alt-right” honcho Richard Spencer declared himself a “White Zionist,” claiming only the same rights to exclusion for whites that Israel practices for Jews.

Naomi Dann, of the US group Jewish Voice for Peace, correctly points out:

“Richard Spencer, whose racist views are rightfully abhorred by the majority of the Jewish community, is holding a mirror up to Zionism and the reflection isn’t pretty[2].”

Leaders in mainstream Jewish organisations have been muted or silent about this paradox and tepid in condemnation of the Charlottesville racism. We need to hear Jewish voices on human rights issues like police carding, the inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous women, the massive rates of incarceration and poverty among Indigenous and African-Canadians, and the vilification of Muslims.  

It’s time for Jewish Canadians to stand up for others.

Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) is a national human rights organization whose mandate is to promote a just resolution to the conflict in Israel and Palestine through the application of international law and respect for the human rights of all parties.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

My Log 557 Aug 30 2017: Remarkable BBC series uncovers the true history of Britain’s 46,000 slaveowners, whose profits financed British industrialization

One of the most revealing and impressive programmes I have ever seen on television has just been broadcast in two parts by the BBC, under the title Britain’s Forgotten Slaveowners.  Based on research done by a team of historians at University College, London, it shows that not only was slavery almost unspeakably profitable economically, which has always been well-known, but that the greatest payoff came after it was abolished, when a huge compensation was paid by the British government to the slaveowners that amounted to the equivalent of 17 billion pounds in today’s money (or, at current exchange rates, closer to $29 billion Canadian). But nothing, of course, for the slaves.
The most revealing thing in this programme is that the greatest payoff in British history has been deliberately swept under the carpet, eliminated from the history that has always been taught in schools, and that this money was virtually the bedrock on which Britain’s extraordinary industrial success in the 19th century was based.
Furthermore many of Britain’s most aristocratic families owed their social elevation to the vast wealth accumulated from slavery, and  the tendrils of this huge payoff have penetrated into the lives of almost everyone in Britain (although the payoff itself, before the days of income tax, when government income came from consumption taxes, was basically drawn from the poor.)
The facts of this investigation have been drawn from the books of  a specially created 10-man board called the Slavery Compensation Commission, whose records contain the information that there were 46,000 slaveowners scattered across the British Empire, who owned some 800,000 slaves, on each of whom the owners were paid compensation for the losses that abolition of slavery could have caused them. 
The admirable presenter of these astounding facts, is David Olusoga, a British-Nigerian historian, educated at Liverpool and Leicester Universities, whose family when he was a child were the only blacks living in a Newcastle council flat which they eventually had to leave because of attacks by racists. He has since made a name for himself with books, and programmes like this that have made a point of rescuing from oblivion many aspects of the real history lived by black and other minorities.
From the 17th century Barbados was established by the British as the first colony built and run on slavery, ruthlessly enforced. Some 50 settlers arrived in 1627, complete with their own workforce of indentured workers who were given their food and shelter, and a promise of 10 acres of land at the end of their service.  The new settlers tapped into the Atlantic slave trade, and every year ships arrived  bearing thousands of Africans. The documents describe in detail  the brutality with which any sign of insurrection was treated, whippings, slit noses, burning of the face with hot irons, iron shackles, neck braces,  all part of the system of an extremely violent repression.  Barbados was an incubator, says Olusoga, the greatest experiment in modern terror, that gradually spread across the Caribbean, giving rise to two centuries of intense suffering as the slaves’ work created huge wealth for the English owning families, whose investments began to transform British life.  The documents show that 3000 slave owners in Britain itself were spread among every class (excluding of course, the poor) --- clergymen, widows,  as well as families later enobled such as the Lascelles, the Earl of Harewood,  37 members of the House of Lords, 80 Members of Parliament, and many other well-known families, who also collared half of the 17 billion pounds paid in compensation.  A major slave owner in Guyana was John Gladstone, father of the later British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone. The father  had nine plantations, owned 2,500 slaves, and was awarded 105,000 pounds in compensation for the ending of slavery, which in current money would be equivalent to  83 million pounds. His loyal son as a member of Parliament opposed the abolition of slavery, and helped his father obtain the compensatory money.
There was an immense amount of cross-breeding as the white slaveowners took their pleasure of the African women, and some of these children even became slaveowners themselves, after being sent to England for grooming.  In the nineteenth century  Jamaica became, as Olusoga says, “the most profitable place on earth,” for  a plantation with, for example, 300 slaves, could yield a profit of a cool 6,000 pounds a year, equivalent to five million pounds in today’s money. Jamaica became the seat of the most brutal torture on earth, with terrible floggings in which salt and pickled lime juice was rubbed into the wounds to intensify the agony.
The second TV episode recalls that the greatest  profits ever came from the introduction of sugar into the country now known as Guyana. The records show how slaves were valued according to their skills and strength, the maximum being  3000 guilders (the Dutch were in the region first) down to 150 for a simple woman. The operations there were extended even after the slave trade itself ended. In 1820 some 200 sugar plantations  were recorded with l00,000 slaves.  The researchers are even able to figure the mortality rate of the  slaves. After a careful calculation it was figured at 13 per cent mortality over three years, a figure that seemed to be about average for most plantations. 
A concomitant development of this demeaning use of human beings  was the development of an horrendously negative stereotype, described in a disgraceful language as brutal, savage, uncivilized, child-like, and in need of guidance from their Christian masters. There is a record of a rebellion on August 18, 1820 in which the slaves seized and torched the fields, and the plantations, imprisoned the masters. But the government responded with force against  the unarmed rebels by sending the army and militias, who killed hundreds and deported or executed the ringleaders, leaving bodies hanging from posts to act as a deterrent.
The long fight for abolition of the trade, led by William Wilberforce gradually gained the upper hand over the vigorous defence of the slaveowners. A petition for abolition was presented to Parliament containing 1,500,000 signatures, more than there were voters at the time, but the vigorous defence forced the abolitionists to accept the proposals that the slaveowners be compensated, after a long tussle in which various other solutions were rejected, such as that after abolition the slaves would have to work without receiving any pay for another 15 years, gradually reduced under pressure to four years.  It seems that the slaveowners --- for example one English woman who started with seven slaves and ended with fourteen --- succeeded in portraying themselves as victims of the legislation, who deserved to be compensated. Expressed in the programme in modern terms, the slave economy of the day, like the banks of our day, was regarded as “too big to fail.”
The researchers have followed through to examine some of the investments made of the slave-earned money. Some railways were established with that money, and the Royal Society, the National Gallery and the British Museum and many other institutions were all established with the use of slave money, a least to some extent. Undoubtedly  the most devastating inheritance handed on to our own day is in the debased ideas accepted about non-white people which became established and widely accepted with the slave trade.  A prominent instrument in this were the writings of a British historian Edward Long, who wrote a history of Jamaica that was for years accepted ass being accurate, rather than debased history.  There are still monuments, statues, plaques and the like, extolling this man, although he died in 1813, and his ideas, though now anathema to most educated people, are still, as recent events have shown, alive and well among the bigoted section of many Western nations.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

LINK OF THE DAY: August 16, 2017-08-16: Beware the American habit of using high-sounding names for venal purposes

With the opening of the Nafta renegotiation talks, Canadians are being confronted with all sorts of ideas about life that are purely American, such as buy American, Right to Work and so on. It is good to remember the doubtful origin of these concepts, and a recent  article in Labor Notes by Michael Pierce called The Racist Origins of Right to Work reminds us of at least one thoroughly disreputable concept that has had the effect of virtually destroying the only weapon working people have had for defence against their employers, namely, the union movement . I have been keenly aware of this for many years because I once was called upon to finish a half-hour film shot by some young filmmakers on the subject of the industry --- yes, it is an industry --- devoted to the destruction of unions in the United States, a film that concentrated on one typically right-wing professional agitator whose business in life was precisely that, to destroy unions. 

Later, when researching a proposed film on a new Nissan truck manufacturing plant in Tennessee, I became aware of the anti-union bias  underlying the choice of the work force for the new factory, carefully chosen among gung-ho young guys  without  too much education, from small nearby villages who had been filled with all the concepts of  the huntinand fishin America the Great. I thought of this when reading recently about the failure of the union movement to penetrate another Nissan truck factory in the United States: I was not surprised: the workers there, too were no doubt carefully chosen to abhor unions.

Michael Pierce's article, which can be accessed here with two clicks,  reveals the virulently racist, anti-semitic, anti-communist and anti-union origins of a Right to Work movement that began  in an outfit called  the Christian American Association, that was directed  against  the Roosevelt New Deal, and that,  in its turn,  gave rise to  the Southern Committee to  Uphold the Constitution. Right-wing Americans are never at a loss for a high-sounding name to disguise the venal objectives of their politics. We have to be especially aware of this right now.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

My Log 556 August 15 2017: The hopelessness of the NDP

Last night, having contributed my $15 for membership of the NDP because I approve of Niki Ashton’s attitude towards the Palestine-Israeli imbroglio --- she supports the Palestinians, which raises the question, what the hell is wrong with her party that they don’t do the same?---  I walked over to St Laurent boulevard where she was reputed to be having a meeting at 7 pm.
I eventually found the place, a nightclub, upstairs, almost unsignalled at street level, with no sign indicating Ms Ashton was to be expected. The place was occupied by  a group of very loud rock musicians rehearsing for a concert scheduled to start at 9 pm, according to my internet research.  Eventually quite a few people arrived and occupied the seats that were scattered around as is usual in a nightclub, and waited.
Then, I waited.
And waited. At 7.30 I indicated to someone sitting at my table that she was running late.
So, I waited. And waited. At 7.35, growing impatient, I waited some more, reflecting on the fact that during my days as an active journalist I operated by a rule of thumb, that anyone who has not arrived for an appointment within 20 minutes of the agreed time is not coming, causing me to abandon the appointment.
At 7.45, convinced that if Niki Ashton  cannot keep an appointment, she is unlikely to be able to run the country, I left, asking my question of the guy at the door, who could not tell me when things were going to start,  and replied, “Good question.”
So much for my fancied candidate for Prime Minister.