Friday, 8 May 2020

Victory over Europe Day, 75 years on

Dresden, Germany in 1952. Like many cities in Europe, the town was
almost completely destroyed via aerial bombardment.
"Imagine a world without institutions. No governments. No school or universities. No access to any information. No banks. Money no longer has any worth. There are no shops, because no one has anything to sell. Law and order are virtually non-existent because there is no police force and no judiciary. Men with weapons roam the streets taking what they want. Women of all classes and ages prostitute themselves for food and protection."

 - Keith Lowe, describing Europe in 1945, in his 2012 book Savage Continent

Today, as I write, it's the 75th anniversary of VE Day - the 8th of May, 1945, when, with their Führer dead, their armies exhausted and their country in ruins, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht signed the German Instrument of Surrender and ended the Second World War in Europe. Around 20 million Europeans were dead, along with over 25 million Soviets, and virtually every country in continental Europe had been invaded and occupied by armies of various flags and ideologies. 60 million European civilians had been uprooted, including 12 million German civilians forced out of eastern Europe by the advancing Soviet army. Britain, previously the world's biggest creditor, was now the world's biggest debtor, while the continent itself, from the Atlantic coast to the Soviet border and well beyond, lay in complete and utter ruin, and was rapidly partitioned between the two new superpowers; American plutocracy and Soviet bureaucracy. The installation of new, 'friendly' governments by both occupying powers came soon after.

The Daily Mail got a lot of flack this week (mainly from liberals on Twitter and nationalist scolds in the Scottish media, if we're being truly honest), for describing VE Day as 'Victory over Europe' day - but, to be honest, they really aren't too far from the truth. What was the legacy of WW2 for Europe? Tens of millions dead, many more millions uprooted, a continent in ruins and partition between two outside powers - today, a continent that is, following the collapse of the USSR, politically, militarily and economically subservient to the United States of America and the plutocratic gangsters who run the US government. The war completely shattered a previously mighty continent and left an extractive Yankee-Soviet condominium in its place - and, if you don't believe me, just ask the enthusiastic, American supporters of this idea at Politico!

"Only America, and massive power as the U.S. exercised it, could have pacified and unified Europe under its aegis", writes Claire Berlinski. "No other continental country possessed half the world’s GDP. No other country had enough distance from Europe to be trusted, to a large extent, by all parties and indifferent to its regional jealousies. No other country had a strategic, moral and economic vision for Europe that its inhabitants could be persuaded gladly to share."

Tens of thousands of people were massacred by US/UK-backed, pro-NATO forces in Greece during the 1943-49 Greek Civil War. Around 14,000 woman were raped by advancing American forces in England, France and Germany during the last three years of the war, with 26 people in England directly murdered by American GIs. Direct CIA interference in postwar French and Italian elections ensured the victory of pro-American, anti-communist governments, while former Nazi officials like Reinhard Gehlen (former Wehrmacht chief of military intelligence on the Eastern Front) were recruited into the security apparatus of the new Bundesrepublik. Interesting kind of 'persuasion', eh?

The destruction of Europe, first at the hands of the Nazis and then the Soviets and Americans, had international ramifications far beyond our own continent. Europe's failure (to this day!) to emerge as an independent power on the world stage can be directly linked back to our collective failure to properly respond to the loss of our former colonies in Africa, Asia and Oceania. There's a reason why the United States and the Soviet Union worked their socks off to destroy the British, French, Dutch and Portuguese colonial empires, and it had very little to do with anticolonial altruism - colonies in the Third World had historically allowed European countries to stand on their own two feet, remaining independent of either American plutocracy or Soviet-style communism, and, quite simply, the Americans and Soviets wanted these territories for themselves. I should stress at this point that I'm no advocate of colonialism. The vast majority of the countries liberated in the era of decolonisation are themselves better off as independent nations, particularly those that fell into the Soviet (rather than American) sphere of influence after their independence. Europe, however? We didn't fare so well. There was no real response to this catastrophic loss - Europe simply fell into dependency, with half the continent under permanent Soviet occupation and the rest completely dominated by American plutocrats and their local satraps. Where, then, did we go wrong? What could've been done better, done differently?

One solution, proposed by a whole host of European figures - from outspoken fascist Oswald Mosley to Italian communist Altiero Spinelli and Austrian-Japanese Christian democrat Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi - was the formation of an independent, social-democratic United States of Europe, outside both the American and Soviet spheres and equipped with the resources and economic power to forge its own destiny in an increasingly integrated world. Spinelli and Rossi's Ventotene Manifesto calls for "the rational organization of the United States of Europe, which can only be based on the republican constitution of the federated countries... (with) sufficient means to see that its deliberations for the maintenance of common order are executed in the single federal states, while each state will retain the autonomy it needs for a plastic articulation and development of a political life according to the particular characteristics of the people." The Manifesto of Verona drawn up by the Italian fascists in 1943 calls for "the establishment of a “European Community”, based on a federation of all those nations which accept the following principles: (a) Elimination from our continent of the centuries-old British intrigues; (b) Abolition of the internal capitalistic system, and struggle against the world plutocracies", while, on the other side of the conflict, Jean Monnet, a member of the National Liberation Committee of the Free French government in Algiers, argued that "There will be no peace in Europe, if the states are reconstituted on the basis of national sovereignty ... The countries of Europe are too small to guarantee their peoples the necessary prosperity and social development. The European states must constitute themselves into a federation", and the anti-Nazi 'White Rose' movement's pamphlets claimed that "Only in large-scale cooperation among the nations of Europe can the ground be prepared for reconstruction". The common thread among these people, men of wildly different philosophical outlooks and political positions, is that they knew that a capitalist Europe of petty states would be easy prey for American and Russian vultures - they realised that the era of the 'nation-state', so beloved (for good reason) in the minds of many Europeans, has necessarily given way to the age of the civilisation-state.

This is a more important realisation than a lot of people really get. China, Russia (and the USSR before it) and the United States of America aren't nation-states; they're empires, unified civilisation-states, with enough resource concentration and industrial capacity within their own borders and immediate sphere of influence to be economically and culturally self-sufficient. With the (very slowly) emerging exception of India, these countries are the only states on earth that can be said to be truly independent - even highly isolated 'independent' countries, such as the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Cuba, exist in a state of pseudo-independence, reliant on underhand dealings and covert operations in their own near abroad to acquire foreign currency and maintain international allies. Despite what screeching monkeys like Guy 'Baby Thatcher' Verhofstadt might tell you, the European Union isn't like the USA or China. Even if some of the figures mentioned above played a role in the EU's founding, the European Union isn't a manifestation of the dream of 1945. The United States of Europe dreamt up by these visionaries was a social and national Europe, a Europe independent of American power and with a social-democratic economic system that was capable of transforming our continent into something truly self-sufficient; a continental civilisation-state that acted in the interests of European workers and stood against American plutocratic capitalism *and* Soviet bureaucratic socialism. The present European Union is a capitalist jungle, an ultra-free market seemingly designed to strangle European farmers, crush European industry and export it all to China, while Europe scrounges off the unsustainable neo-colonial profiteering of Africa and Latin America by international high finance and defends itself with the US Army. The EU likes to drape itself in the iconography of 1945, while, in reality, constituting a total betrayal of the independent, socialist spirit and values of that era.

I guess that's why I write all of this as a staunch Brexiteer. The changes that the Second World War wrought could've been the opportunity for a European renewal - and, if the opportunities of that era had been properly exploited, who knows what kind of world we'd be living in. The fact of the matter is, that's not what they became. The European project has gone down a nasty path, and, in the end, that led to its decisive rejection by British voters in the 2016 referendum, in which a British exit from the EU received a larger amount of support than anything else in British electoral history. Even if the EU could be saved, attempting to do so from a British standpoint really is a loser's game, as the Liberal Democrats and 'Change UK' will undoubtedly tell you. Britain will never force Europe to change - various governments have tried their best, and all they've hit is a brick wall. The spirit of 1945 was one of European unity, yes - but it was also one of independence, solidarity, socialism and non-alignment. The best thing socialists in Britain can do to honour that spirit is to reject all 'rejoin' rubbish and fight for a neutral, British social-national democracy, out of NATO, out of the American sphere of influence and as independent as possible from the three major powers in the world today. 'Victory in Europe' has been America's victory for far too long.

75 years later, it's time to finally claim our own.

Monday, 11 November 2019

Electric cars and the coup in Bolivia

Bolivians rally in support of President Evo Morales and CELAC (2015)
On the morning of the 11th of November, I woke up to two big pieces of news - firstly, that the number of electric cars in Jersey is rising rapidly, and, secondly, that Evo Morales, the democratically-elected socialist president of Bolivia, has been removed in a military coup d'etat.

Most people probably didn't link the two. "After all", you might say, "what do electric cars on a small and relatively unimportant island like Jersey have to do with the political convulsions of a nation half a world away?"

Well, I'm glad you asked!

According to Jersey Electricity, in the last year, the number of electric vehicles operating in Jersey has shot up, from a mere 189 twelve months ago to an impressive 572 today. The rise in the number of hybrid vehicles has been even more surprising - nearly 1,000 hybrid cars are now registered, up from only 271 a year ago. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a coup struck Bolivia, with President Evo Morales Ayma, the country's first indigenous president and the leader of Bolivia's Movimiento al Socialismo (Movement for Socialism, MAS) party, forced to resign under military pressure as opposition-led violence continued to escalate across the country.

Bolivia is a country rich in resources, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the Salar de Uyuni, a massive salt flat spanning nearly 5,000 square miles. Salt has been mined in Bolivia for hundreds of years, but the real treasure of the plain isn't the seasoning you put on your chips - hidden in the salar, contained within billions of little white crystals, is 50-70% of the world's lithium reserves.

Lithium is an increasingly in-demand metal, used to create everything from smartphones, aeroplanes, batteries, and - you guessed it - electric cars. The metal's price has risen by 400% in the last few years alone - according to Deutsche Welle, lithium-ion battery production is expected to double by 2025. Unlike Bolivia's other natural resources, such as gold, silver and copper, the country's lithium resources have thus far remained relatively untapped, meaning they haven't been spirited away to the global north to be used in high-end manufacturing or flogged off to western mining companies for a quick boliviano. MAS are well aware of this untapped potential (they've seen the incredible transformations of countries like Saudi Arabia and Libya after the development of the oil industry in those countries) and - at least before the coup yesterday - have pursued a programme of massive investment into lithium extraction and the growth of native lithium-based industries such as battery manufacturing. What makes Bolivia different is that MAS have explicitly stated that they don't want to turn Bolivia into just another Saudi Arabia-like resource-exporting economy - they don't want to export lithium to the global north, favouring the creation of a fully-integrated native supply chain that can process lithium into batteries (and other products) and export it in value-added form, all firmly under the control of either home-grown Bolivian companies or the state (rather than American, European or Chinese mining companies). MAS have form in this regard - while Bolivia used to export unrefined natural gas while importing gas for cooking and heating, Morales has turned the industry around so that Bolivia's nationalised gas industry now exports refined natural gas to Argentina, Peru and Paraguay. A very nice boost for the state coffers!

This really is mega for Bolivia - it has the potential to utterly transform Bolivia's economy, from a largely agricultural economy based on small-scale light industry, gas, soybeans and coca (Morales himself is a former cocalero, a coca farmer) into a serious industrial economy based upon extracting and processing one of the most important commodities in the entire world, with every penny either going directly back into government coffers or into the home-grown Bolivian economy to be taxed later on. For the countries and companies that have historically dominated Bolivia's valuable mining sector, this sort of thing is a bit too independent-minded - there are several large and powerful mining companies and chemical manufacturers who would absolutely love to get their hands on Bolivia's massive lithium reserves, and make themselves a killing exporting it back to the global north to be used in specialist factories in South Korea or the USA, leaving the Bolivian government, and the people they serve, high and dry.

A pro-Morales city mayor is grabbed, covered in red paint and
later has her hair forcibly cut off by violent anti-MAS rioters

This brings us to the coup. On the 10th of November, after 19 days of protests surrounding what western media are calling a 'disputed election' - i.e. an election disputed by the violent anti-Morales opposition, because they lost - the Bolivian military and police demanded Morales's resignation. With his supporters being dragged out of their homes by the opposition and murdered, and the threat of a direct military intervention, Morales resigned, in order to prevent further violence. It hasn't worked - as I write this, clashes continue between MAS supporters and the police across the country, especially in the city of El Alto, where - rumour has it - residents have begun to form self-defense militas to defend themselves against the police, chanting "Ahora sí, guerra civil" - "Now, civil war".

There is no serious argument that Morales lost the election - the dispute is ostensibly about whether he won by a large enough margin to avoid a runoff. Much is also being made of his decision to stand for a fourth term, after extending Bolivia's presidential term limits - but this decision was ruled completely constitutional by the Supreme Court (I'd also remind everyone that Angela Merkel has been in power since 2005 - it isn't anti-democratic to serve for a long time). We all know what the real reason is - Bolivia has a long and sordid history of military coups against governments that dare to defy the interests of western imperialism, and Latin America in general has been a hotspot of CIA activity forever (but especially since the pink tide swept the continent two decades ago). Mark my words - in twenty or thirty years, it will come out that the CIA was behind all of this, just as it came out that they overthrew Allende in Chile in 1973, or funded right-wing death squads in Nicaragua during the 1980s, or backed the Dirty War in Argentina from 1976-83. The idea of an independent and socialist Bolivia, industrialised and able to form a bedrock for anti-imperialist resistance across the entire western hemisphere, was simply too much for the right-wing army and their imperialist backers in Washington and Langley - it's exactly the same reason they overthrew Allende, Isabel Perón, João Goulart and Jacobo Árbenz, the same reason they locked up Lula da Silva and toppled Manny Zelaya, the same reason that the comprador Colorado Party was kept in power in Paraguay for 65 consecutive years of poverty and terror. The USA cannot abide an independent Latin American nation, and will do everything it can to defeat and destroy any country that tries to assert itself.

I write this, not to big up the Movement for Socialism and Evo Morales, or even to educate you on the tragic events that are currently transpiring in Bolivia - but to remind everyone that this is where your electric car batteries, and tons of other things, actually come from. The vital ingredients that make up your phone, your washing machine, your TV, and fancy new gadgets like electric cars are all stolen from the people of the global south, extracted by our mining companies and spirited away to the global north, where they can be turned into consumer electronics and sold on the shelves of the local IQ store to enrich some vile fat cat in Wall Street, New York. Here, in peaceful Jersey, we celebrate our accomplishments in promoting electric cars, pat ourselves on the back for being ever-so-environmentally-friendly - and we ignore the socialists and nationalists of the global south, the courageous defenders of national sovereignty and the global working class, who have been shot in the back of the head to put that electric car in your garage.

Keep that in mind, the next time you see someone flaunting their new Prius.

EDIT 14/11/2019 20:40:

Jeb Sprague, Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton of The Grayzone have produced two excellent articles about the coup d'etat in Bolivia, that I would recommend everyone read.

The first, "Top Bolivian coup plotters trained by US military’s School of the Americas, served as attachés in FBI police programs", highlights the links between the military officers who carried out the coup and the US Army School of the Americas, an American training facility for Latin American officers whose graduates have included such lovely personalities as Hugo Banzer Suárez, the military dictator of Bolivia from 1971-78, and José Efraín Ríos Montt, a Guatemalan general and the former president of Guatemala who was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity in 2013.

(other greatest hits include Emilio Eduardo Massera, Argentine naval officer and mastermind of the Dirty War, Roberto D’Aubuisson Arrieta, prominent Salavadoran death squad leader who ordered Óscar Romero’s assassination, and Heriberto Lazcano, founder of the Los Zetas drug cartel.)

The second, "Bolivia coup led by Christian fascist paramilitary leader and millionaire – with foreign support", highlights the links between prominent Bolivian golpista, Luis Fernando Camacho, and outright Bolivian fascists. 

They are both well worth your time. 

Sunday, 8 September 2019

On the death of Cde Robert Mugabe - a reply to @TheOnlyGuru

On the morning of the sixth of September, 2019, the founding father of the Republic of Zimbabwe, comrade Robert Mugabe, died in a hospital in Singapore.

Cde Mugabe's death was met with all sorts of nasty reactions from various internet personalities, condemning him for all sorts of crimes (real or invented), as would make sense for one of the world's most divisive men. It was, however, also met from several quarters with something even worse - resurgent nostalgia from white supremacists for the unrecognised and illegitimate gangster state of Rhodesia, and particularly Rhodesia's PM, Ian Smith.

Rhodesia has long been a touchstone for white supremacists, both British and American - as a state with a white-only government, which unilaterally declared independence from Britain when it became apparent that the British government was no longer going to tolerate openly racist colonial governments ruled by a small minority of white landowners, many white supremacists view Rhodesia as an honourable example of a white government that refused to surrender to black people communists, even in the face of a supposed "betrayal" on the part of the British government. This is, of course, nonsense - Smith and his government were arch-racists whose only aim was to prevent black majority rule in Zimbabwe, and to hold onto their own illegally seized farmland - but it's a pervasive myth, even among those who model themselves as ostensibly progressive in other areas.

This brings us to online poser, self-described "extraordinarily thin woman", unrepentant user of her own invented turn of phrase (think "racist impression of your beany nan"), and, it seems, Rhodesia LARPer, @TheOnlyGuru (or 'Binky'), a Twitter user with nearly 10K followers from our own lovely island of Jersey. Take a look at the absolute state of this:

"autre" seems to mean "other" in this context, but you can
almost never tell with this clown

Ever criticised Ian Smith for heading up an explicitly racist colonial holdout? Opposed lionising the leaders of apartheid-style settler regimes? Hell, ever thought that calling Ian Smith a "great and well liked" guy is - maybe, just maybe - a bit much?

You are now a "person of little knowledge", apparently.


Smith's military record is almost irrelevant here. Yes, he fought in WW2 against the Nazis, and no, he was not a fascist - so? Whatever you think about Robert Mugabe, Smith was an unrepentant racist who fought a brutal war to cling onto his own power, and, with that power, white minority rule in Zimbabwe. He declared independence from Britain because of a demand that the Rhodesian government eliminate qualified franchise - a system under which only property owners (i.e. white people) could vote, because he feared the land of white property-owners would be redistributed to the poor black agricultural workers who were owed that land as their national birthright. His regime was backed by racist regimes in South Africa, Portugal and Israel, and used chemical and biological weapons such as thallium and anthrax to contaminate water supplies. Smith may have been "well liked" by the white landowners whose interests his government represented, but he was hated by the majority of Zimbabweans and opposed by several large revolutionary groups as well as most of the countries surrounding Rhodesia. The fact that the BRITISH EMPIRE thought this guy was too much to stomach should give anyone pause for thought.

Cloak it in silly language and opposition to Mugabe all you like. The fact is that there are only two sorts of people who lionise Ian Smith - the violently racist and the profoundly idiotic.

I wonder which one 'Binky' is?

Friday, 5 July 2019

Sarah Ferguson is an orientalist cretin

Today's rag provided us Jèrriais folk with a headline that has, in various iterations, been seen all across the western media in recent months, amid the increasingly hysterical orientalism that seems to dominate our discourse at the moment. It was, of course, "Politician raises security fears over China link to 5G network", or, in other words, "know-nothing reactionary racist spews orientalist propaganda as fear of new Cold War mounts among western crazies".

Sarah Ferguson, local climate change denier and, somehow, elected senator, has been voicing her 'fears' as of late concerning a deal between JT and Chinese telecommunications megacorp ZTE, relating to the beginning of the rollout of a 5G network in Jersey. In the rag's own words, "Senator Ferguson expressed concern that the integrity and security of the Island’s digital infrastructure might be compromised by the deal with ZTE, and that, as well as being a security risk, this might put off potential clients of financial services companies operating in the Island. ‘If our finance industry and the Government of Jersey connects with the world through equipment which allows access to their records by other governments or companies, how secure will our clients feel?’ she said".

Notwithstanding that anybody's records - indeed, virtually any information about anything or anybody - are already readily available to any moderately serious government intelligence agency or well-organised hacking operation, the root of this kind of scaremongering merits examination. I don't pretend to be able to read Sarah Ferguson's mind, but I seriously doubt that she would be raising similar concerns if this was a European or American company (say, Orange S.A. or Verizon) getting involved in our telecoms network. All of the recent hysteria surrounding this sort of thing has uniformly been directed against Chinese companies - primarily, Huawei and ZTE.

Now, why do you think that is?

This hysteria has been justified in Britain and in the USA on the basis that the government of the People's Republic of China is, somehow, uniquely prone to interference with private companies, and, thus, that handing over our communications infrastructure to Chinese companies means that we're opening the door to the MSS being able to snoop on western internet users at will or shut down our telecommunications system at the drop of a hat. It's worth noting that this is a massive projection exercise on the part of these western governments - collaboration between the American National Security Agency and Silicon Valley companies such as Microsoft and Facebook is an open secret, allowing the U.S. government to spy far beyond its own borders, and it's only a few years since WikiLeaks exposed decades of NSA wiretapping of the German Chancellery's phone lines.

(this is a classic tactic of western imperialism - accuse others of that which you are guilty of yourself).

With that in mind, these governments are in no position to be moralising, as far as snooping goes. Along with that, a lot of the accusations thrown at companies like Huawei and ZTE are simply elementary smears, like the facile accusation a while back that Huawei was not actually employee-owned (later proven to be sheer nonsense, of course).

It's important to realise the influence of orientalism - a way of viewing eastern cultures that exaggerates or outright invents certain caricatures in order to portray Asian or Middle Eastern people as exotic, backward or dangerous - on the current discourse surrounding 5G. There seems to be an implicit assumption that the sneaky Chinese are just around the corner, just waiting to plant listening devices in your settee or hack the chain of texts between you and your ex-girlfriend - that the Chinese are an enemy, and a crafty one at that, and that we, white westerners, have to be on guard against their attempts to quietly seize control of our economy and culture. This is, of course, nonsense - it's driven by the desire of neoconservative foreign policy hawks for a new Cold War against China, feeling, as they do, threatened by the rise of the PRC as a viable competitor to western powers. The fact that the PRC is not a country with an economic system based upon neoliberal dogma upsets the assumption of most western analysts and intellectuals post-1991 that alternatives to liberal-democratic capitalism were dead and buried - it threatens the neoliberal status quo, and, therefore, in the mind of these reactionary crazies, must be opposed.

Or so the story goes.

It is in this context that Ferguson makes her absurd remarks. ZTE is, clearly, no more dangerous than any western telecoms company, but is being unfairly targeted by orientalist cretins because it comes from a country that scares the living daylights out of the leaders of the American empire and its allies in Britain and Europe. Hysterical scaremongering over the supposed threat to our national security posed by perfectly ordinary Chinese telecoms companies fuels the raging fire of racist histrionics directed against the Chinese state - it is hardly worthy of a politician who claims to be a voice of reason (lol).

What on earth does she suppose the MSS would want to steal? The latest gossip surrounding the new hospital?

Monday, 20 May 2019

Saying the quiet part out loud?

Pyongyang in 1953, after Mike Higgins's "Korean war jets" had
finished with it
This is going to be one of those posts which ends up turning into Grumpy Air Display Memes for Malcontent History-Conscious Teens, so don't say you weren't warned.

People who have read my stuff on 9x5 Media will know that I'm not exactly a massive fan of the Jersey International Air Display, the annual reckless, tone-deaf display of military-grade killing machines air acrobatics show that hits St. Aubin's Bay every September. Today's news that Mike Higgins, the principal organiser of the display, has managed to hook two ancient Korean War-era fighter jets for this year's display hasn't exactly improved matters.

Last year, I said that "Planes are flown right above the castle during the air display, and for that reason Jersey Heritage is mandated to close the site during air display day because of the potential risk to life a crash could present? So, if a crash is judged to be so likely, why do we have this kind of thing going on above one of our most important historical sites at all? How much of the castle and the accompanying site risks sheer obliteration if a crash was to happen? And, even more irritatingly, why can’t the organisers simply move the display a few hundred meters across the bay so that the castle isn’t at risk?". This still holds true today - the air display is still being held in the same place as it has been for years, presenting the same huge risk to the castle. It's always a source of amusement to me that, while Higgins and co. insist that the display is perfectly safe and that chances of a crash are remote (they aren't - air display accidents are actually quite common), they still insist on robbing Jersey Heritage of a day's income and evacuating the castle of human life. Saying that, the best line on the air display so far this year has got to go to Higgins himself, for his story about flying a combat jet that was quoted in yesterday's rag.

"I did one over North Wales in an RAF Hawk", says Higgins. "We had this other French exchange pilot following us and we were pulling 7G and negative –1G getting away from him. You have to turn inside [the enemy’s turn] for the “bullets” to hit so they are rolling and pulling in different directions. Our plane was buffeting and you can feel the plane just about to depart itself. If you pull too tightly the aircraft can stall and go into a spin."

"If you pull too tightly the aircraft can stall and go into a spin."

Now, in the interests of Christian humility, I'll admit that Mike Higgins almost certainly knows a lot more about planes than I ever do. However, you do get slightly concerned when this guy is openly talking about how his planned dogfight could result in the aircraft 'stalling and going into a spin'. I'm sure the castle would absolutely love that.

'Saying the quiet part out loud', anyone?

Safety for the castle is hardly the only concern, either. Remember 2017's Red Arrows trip to Saudi Arabia?

Again, as I said last year: "For many around the world, the sound of an aircraft’s engine buzzing overhead is a signal to find cover, and fast, lest you become the latest untimely victim of “precision coalition strike support”, “rigorous targeting procedures” or “surgical strikes”. A British, American or French aircraft is the noise you heard and the sight you saw just before your best mate got blown to pieces, the flat above yours was pulverised or your wife and kids were wiped from the face of the Earth while you were walking home from work. So, why do we view these death machines as a source of benign entertainment?"

Military-grade aircraft becoming something that entertains children on a day off school is, for an imperialist country like Britain, quite a dangerous precedent to set. Unlike many on the left, I actually don't hate the troops, but I also don't support the aggressive crow-barring of our imperialist armed forces into every aspect of life. Ironically, in a socialist society, this wouldn't really be a problem (because, in a socialist society, our armed forces wouldn't exist to drop Brimstone missiles on brown people and perform acrobatics for the King of Saudi Arabia), but, here and now, it's not good.

As for the Korean War jets, I'm not really of the school of thought that believes that the Korean War, an incredibly violent and destructive conflict which destroyed entire cities and unjustly split a once-proud nation in two, with the south continuing to be occupied to this day by the US military and the fascist collaborator regime in Seoul, should be commodified into a source of casual entertainment. The scars that the Korean War left still haven't healed - Korea is still split in two. During the war, the USAF bombed entire cities flat - when the guns fell silent at the 38th parallel, the number of buildings left standing in Pyongyang could be counted on one hand. Millions of Koreans, on both sides of the parallel, were killed in the conflict.

I don't find that very entertaining.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

International Workers' Day

A May Day demonstration in Vladivostok, 1917
Today is May Day - or, as socialists know it, International Workers' Day!

Today, across the world, socialists, communists, anarchists, trade unionists and progressives of all stripes will come out onto the streets to celebrate workers, the labour movement and the working class. On this day, we celebrate the contribution of ordinary men and women to our society, the history of ordinary people's struggles and the ongoing class war that engulfs our island, our country and our world.

It's worth knowing a little about how May Day actually originated. The whole thing started in Chicago, on May 4th 1886, when a confrontation between demonstrating workers and police officers came to a head. Chicago in 1886 was a city that exemplified the contradictions of Gilded Age capitalism - the city was home to tens of thousands of migrant workers, working a 60-hour week in terrible conditions and earning about $1.50/day for their trouble. The city was a hotbed of labour unrest - immediately before the incident on May 4th, it's estimated that 30,000-40,000 Chicagoans were on strike. Their demands? An eight-hour day - a rallying cry that had been taken up by hundreds of thousands of striking workers across the USA in a series of strikes in New York, Milwaukee, Detroit and many other cities.

On May 3rd, 1886, an incident occurred at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company factory in Chicago. The plant's Irish-American workforce had gathered outside the building to demand an eight-hour day and protest the lockout of union officials from the premises, while the plant's owners had sent in strikebreakers to cross the picket lines. Although around half of the strikebreakers had defected to the side of the striking workers, the remainder continued to go to work - protected by a group of 400 armed police officers. As the day progressed, tensions boiled over - as the strikebreakers left the factory at the end of the day, a group of strikers attempted to confront them.

At this point, the police fired upon the crowd of striking workers. Two strikers died in the ensuing chaos.

Local organizers, particularly the local anarchist movement, seized on this massacre as a way to promote a rally the next day in Haymarket Square in the Fulton River district, and distributed fliers across the city that called the workers of Chicago to arms. Despite predictions from the police that the anarchists intended to start a riot, the gathering was initially so peaceful that the Mayor, who was observing the meeting, went home early.

At 10:30 PM, as British socialist Sam Fielden was finishing his speech, a large number of police advanced on the gathering and ordered that Fielden stop speaking and the meeting disperse immediately - Fielden's rhetoric had been more radical than that of the previous speakers. As the police advanced on the workers, someone - and, to this day, we have no idea who - threw a fragment bomb into the path of the advancing coppers. One policeman was killed immediately, and the police fired upon the crowd in response - the crowd, for their part, ran for their lives. Several of the workers were armed and shot back, but most of the 60+ police officers wounded in the shooting were shot by other police officers in the chaos.

Seven policemen died - it's unknown how many workers were killed by the police.

In the ensuing red scare, countless suspected anarchists and communists were subjected to mass arrests, illegal searches, spying and harassment by the police in Chicago. Eight men were put on trial for the bombing - although the evidence clearly proved none of the eight had thrown the bomb, they were all found guilty and all but one were sentenced to death. Two had their sentences commuted to life in prison, one committed suicide rather than face the rope, and the remaining for were hanged by the neck until they were dead.

August Spies, one of the four who were hanged, famously said that "The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today."

The trial was soon exposed for the sham it was, and Spies and his comrades were rehabilitated in the public eye as martyrs - political prisoners, condemned to death for a crime they obviously didn't commit. The Knights of Labour, a major union fighting for an eight-hour day, doubled its membership in the months after the riot, and, in 1890, the American Federation of Labour officially named May the 1st as the day for the commemoration of the Haymarket riot.

August Spies
In 1891, the Second International - the international union of socialist and communist parties and organizations - officially recognized May 1st as International Workers' Day.

In the socialist bloc countries before and during the Cold War, May Day became an extremely important public holiday. In 1917, the Bolshevik government in the Russian SFSR recognized May Day as a public holiday, and this tradition was followed by all the other countries of the socialist bloc. In the USSR, it was often a day for massive military parades, showcasing the might of Soviet power as a counterbalance to Atlanticist imperialism - in the post-Cold War era, it's become a rallying point for radicals, particularly in the former East Germany and former USSR. Even outside the former socialist bloc, most countries recognise May Day as "Labour Day", "International Workers' Day" or some derivative thereof.

Remember - take it easy this International Workers' Day.

Workers built the world - why shouldn't they own it?

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Industrial-scale pollution - a damning indictment of Jersey's environmental policy

It's not often that you learn that your borehole water might be poisoned from the front page of the local rag.

Even the most slack-jawed, braindead apologist for the government's appalling record on environmental issues will admit that this hasn't exactly been a fantastic week for the government's environmental PR. On Monday, the rag's front page carried a story entitled "PFOS chemical pollution investigation intensifies", which provided all of us lucky enough to live in areas which aren't on mains drains (yes, there are places in one of the richest places in Europe, in the year of our Lord 2019, that are not connected to the mains drains network) with the news that we might be drinking carcinogenic fire retardant. The stuff in question - perfluorooctane sulphonate, or PFOS - is something about which concerns have been raised before (according to the rag, as far back as the '90s), including a nice little incident back in February where it was found that boreholes in St. Peter still contained traces of this stuff from back when it was used to put out a burning plane after a crash in 1980.

That's almost 40 years ago, and this chemical - that causes cancer - is still in the water.

This week, tests in a stream near the airport revealed a PFOS level of 1.2400μg/l - once again, above safe levels.

But, don't worry, borehole users - the Environment Department has knocked up some new guidelines to ensure we can stay safe! According to the rag's report, they assert that, er, "pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under five should not drink borehole water unless it is known exactly what it contains".

I shouldn't need to explain that it really isn't acceptable for certain water sources to be undrinkable for pregnant women and children under five, in the richest place in Britain, in the 21st century. We're literally sending aid workers to end this sort of thing in the External Relation's minister's pet projects in Rwanda, yet we cannot even solve the problem of polluted water in our own backyard. It really is astonishing, and a damning indictment of the utter carelessness that the States continues to show with borehole users. It isn't just the States, either. Certain farmers in the bay have developed a bit of a reputation for pumping their fields full of certain chemicals, some of which can also be seriously harmful if they get into people's drinking water. The fact that there aren't regulations to prevent this, in this day and age, utterly baffles me.

I suppose it could be worse - we could be talking about the levels of pollution at the Waterfront, as revealed on today's front page! If you thought carcinogenic water was bad, wait until you hear this.

According to tests conducted by Earth Project Jersey, the water at the Waterfront is (significantly) more contaminated with heavy metals than water from the port of Jinzhou in northeast China, a city whose major industries include, er, petrochemistry and industrial-scale metallurgy. That's right, folks, our ordinary seawater at the Waterfront is more polluted than the water from Chinese heavy industry.

Considering how common it is for people to mock the Chinese for wearing anti-pollution gear such as smog masks, this sort of thing really should give some people pause for thought. We have no heavy industry - in fact, we scarcely have any industry at all - and yet our water is significantly more polluted than a Chinese petrochemical and metallurgical manufacturing hub. Why? Because luxury flats are being treated as more important than seawater which doesn't slowly and painfully kill invertebrates and fish - because the government would rather appease rich, foreign investors than protect our environment.

It's positively Dickensian.

Oh, well. At least town pledged to become carbon-neutral, right?

EDIT 16:14PM 07/04/19:

It was reported in yesterday's rag that the findings about the water at the Waterfront were incorrectly provided to the paper by a scientist who had done his maths wrong, and thus don't actually reflect the concentration of heavy metals at the Waterfront. We are not, in fact, more polluting than Chinese heavy industry, thank god.

However, the same report carried a statement from a construction industry spin doctor, saying that the concentrations of metals in the water HAVE increased. He then goes on to play this off as temporary and therefore not of concern, but I'd question the wisdom of that sort of thinking. You can never be too careful - and, in any case, your construction site should not be releasing pollution into the water, full stop.