Thursday, 6 August 2020

Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki


75 years ago  on 6th August 1945 am.the United States dropped  an atomic bomb called ' Little Boy" on Hiroshima, Japan which is estimated to have killed 100,000 to 180,000 people out of a population of 350,000. Then three days later, a second  atomic bomb  called "Fat Man" was dropped on the city of Nagasaki, killing between 50,000 and 100,000 people.
.Hiroshima and Nagasaki were largely civilian towns, meaning there wasn't a strong military reason to drop the atomic bombs over those particular cities. No one was excluded from the horrors of the atomic bomb, a "destroyer of worlds" burnt hotter than the sun. Some people were vaporised upon impact, while others suffered burns and radiation poisoning that would kill them days, weeks or even months later. Others were crushed by debris, burned by unimaginable heat or suffocated by the lack of oxygen. Many survivors suffered from leukemia and other cancers like thyroid and lung cancer at higher rates than those not exposed to the bombs. Mothers were more likely to  lose their children during pregnancy or shortly after birth. Children exposed to radiation were more likely to have learning disabilities and impaired growth.
Those that did manage to survive  would be traumatised for the rest of their lives. Hibakusha is a term widely used in Japan, that refers to the victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it translates as 'explosion effected  Survivor of Light. These survivors speak of the deep, unabating grief they felt in the days, months and decades since the attack  They have described the shame of being a survivor , many were unable to marry, find jobs, or live any sort of normal life. They have said that many Hibakusha never speak of the day, instead choosing to suffer in silence. They told what it was like to be suddenly alone in middle age, to lose their parents, spouses, children, and livelihoods in a single instant. In memory of them, we should make sure that the  misery and devastation caused by nuclear weapons is never forgotten.
Even if Japan was not fully innocent, the people of Japan did not deserve to pay the price for their nations wrongdoing, and there was absolutely no moral justification in obliterating these two cities and killing its inhabitants in what was clearly a crime against humanity and murder on an epic scale. Hiroshima and Nagasaki held no strategic importance. Japan were an enemy on the brink of failure an members of the country's top leadership were involved in peace negotiations. Many believe that these two atrocities were a result of  geopolitical posturing at its most barbaric, announcing  in a catastrophic  display of military capability, of inhumane intention showing America's willingness to use doomsday weapons on civilian populations.The bombings serving as warnings and the fist act of the Cold War against its imperialist rival Russia. A message to the Russians of the power of destruction and technological military capability that the US had managed to develop.Three days later U.S president Harry Truman exulted ; "This is the greatest thing in history! " and gloated that " we are now prepared to obliterate more rapidly and completely."
Then the photos began to emerge, haunting images of burned children with their skin hanging off, of bodies charred and there was Sadaki Sasaki and the 1,000 origami peace cranes she folded before her death at the age of 12 from leukemia ten years after the bomb was dropped on her hometown of Hiroshima. The bombs dropped were  of a indiscriminate and cruel character beyond comparison  with weapons and projectiles of the past. Despite all  this Truman never regretted his decision. .
Today as the world commemorates the lives that were lost and the unacceptable devastation caused to people and planet, we still have so much to learn from this picture of indescribable human suffering. Lets not forget that in our our current dangerous  times, many world leaders remain recklessly committed to their nuclear  arsenals. There are an estimated 16,000 nuclear weapons in the world at the present time with over 90% held by USA and Russia, but also by the UK, France, India, Pakistan, Israel and lately North Korea. This is more than enough to wipe out most of the human race and most other life.
For Hiroshima Day and on August 9 Nagasaki Day we must echo the call of the Hibakusha, and  press our leaders to take the actions necessary to ensure  these immoral, illegal weapons are never used again.  The calls come amid progress on the criminalisation of nuclear weapons by the United Nations, where three more countries have voted to ratify the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
The treaty needs 50 countries to ratify it, at which point it would become international law — though the pact is binding only on those countries which are party to it. By last month, 40 countries had signed, with Sudan, Fiji and Botswana being the most recent signatories.
Britain, the United States and other nuclear powers have refused to sign and did not attend the 2017 session of the UN general assembly which voted for the treaty.
The abolition calls also come against the background of intensifying belligerence and military threats from United States President Donald Trump.
Campaigners against nuclear weapons said the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, remain relevant today in a world where nuclear bomb stockpiles cast the shadow of potential global obliteration.
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament secretary Kate Hudson said: “We are facing an increasingly dangerous military situation driven most alarmingly by Trump’s policies.
“His withdrawal from key treaties, the possibility of the resumption of nuclear testing, all increase the risk of nuclear war.
“Of course, we understand the context for this: the US is a declining power economically and seeks to assert itself militarily.
“This has been the case for some time — noticeable under the Bush administration, which sought to compel non-compliant states to bend to the US will.
“Trump’s drive to war is far more dangerous. The US National Security Strategy focuses on what it describes as strategic rivals or competitors, notably China and Russia. Its goal is to be able to defeat them militarily, to prepare for war on a massive scale.” She said that “so-called usable nuclear weapons” have been deployed. “Taking these two strategies together, it is clear that there is a significant danger of a US war on China and that opposing this is a fundamental task for the movement today,” she said.“This is a conflict where nuclear weapons will be used and we need to work with all our strength to prevent such a war.” She said the world today is “closer to tragedy” than it has ever been. “On this anniversary, we must recommit to working together, in unity, to ensure that those hands never reach midnight.”
Former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings: “We must never forget these atrocities, and we must never give up on the mission to rid our world of nuclear weapons.”
Stop the War Campaign convenor Lindsey German said: “For my generation, Hiroshima meant that there could never be another major war without the destruction of all humanity.
“We still see this terrible barbarism everywhere today. The major states are nuclear armed and there is the ever-present threat of conflict, now growing between the US and China in particular.
“Today, August 6, we should redouble our efforts to oppose war and all nuclear weapons.”
CND Cymru chairwoman Jill Evans said: “People in Wales and internationally are marking this anniversary by joining the many events online.
“We cannot hold our planned event at the National Eisteddfod, but we can still raise our voices to call on governments to act. I urge everyone to take some time this week to listen to the powerful testimony of nuclear survivors.”
Also in memory of the victims of the Hiroshima bombing Shabaka Hutchings will share a new composition on the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, via Stop the War Coalition this August. Alongside the live stream concert, Stop the War will also be profiling anti-war jazz records, starting with John Coltrane’s performance of ‘Peace on Earth’ from his Concert in Japan album.
Stop the War Coalition will stream Hutchings’ new composition live across their social media platforms on Thursday 6th August from at 7.00pm GMT.
Head here for more info.

Hiroshima; An Acrostic Poem

Horror was dropped on August 6, 1945
Incinerating thousands of innocents
Reason evaporated after deadly poison shed
One bomb released left devastaion
Senseless slaughter, the scorched sin of humanity
Haunting vapors of pitiful sorrow
Insanity blossoming with black rain
Murderous atoms shattered spirits
American weapon of evil, B-29 Enola Gay

Monday, 3 August 2020

Sir Roger Casement - Human Rights Defender and Irish Martyr

On this day Sir Roger Casement was hanged for high treason for his part in trying to smuggle German weapons to Ireland for the Easter Rising of 1916. He was the last knight of the realm to befall such a fate in the United Kingdom.
Roger Casement was born in Dublin in 1864. His father, an army captain, was a Protestant and his Cork-born mother was a Catholic who had her children secretly baptized. Like his country, Casement was a study in contradictions,  he has vaiously  been called “a microcosm of Ireland:” Dubliner, Ulsterman, Catholic, Protestant, poet, and patriot.
Orphaned at a young age, he lived with his father’s family in Antrim. He was a child of promising intellect who wrote poetry and immersed himself in Celtic myths. Unwilling to accept the charity of relatives, Casement left school at 15 to work for a shipping company in Liverpool. He had always dreamed of far-off places and now the handsome, hardworking clerk was soon promoted to be the British Consul, serving in West Africa.
Word of the brilliant Casement had reached the British Foreign Office. So, too, had word of the atrocities in King Leopold II’s private fiefdom, the Belgian Congo. Leopold, a staunch imperialist was perpetuating genocide there, eventually killing 10 million natives. He became, thanks to Congo resources, the richest man in Europe. The Foreign Office sent Casement into the Congo to investigate, photograph, and bear witness.He took the testimony of Africans who told stories  that were simply shocking , tales of , murder, whippings, maiming and rapes. The collection of ivory and rubber was not done by farming but by a forced terror system. The local people were given quotas to bring in rubber from the forest. If they failed to meet them they were tortured or their families held at ransom and abused. They were not bought, like slaves, but simply seized in a systematic and barbaric way.
Casement published his report in 1904 and then campaigned with others for change via the Congo Reform Association. By 1908 the Congo Free State was replaced by the Belgian Congo and the personal rule of King Leopold II ended. The hellish conditions in the Congo provide the background to Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novel Heart of Darkness. Conrad and Casement met in the Congo, sharing a flat for a few weeks, with  Conrad  declaring that Casement was one of the few decent white men he met in the Congo.
 Casement’s courage, compassion and determination were put to further use when he was asked by the British government to travel to Putanamayo in Peru to report on the human price of the rubber trade in the Amazon, where once again human rights and so many lives were being sacrificed heedlessly for private profit and greed. The Peruvian Amazon Company was a London-registered enterprise with three British directors, John Russell Gubbins, a friend of Peruvian President Augusto Leguía; Herbert Reed, a banker; and Sir John Lister-Kaye, an aristocrat. This forced the British government to order an investigation into the ruthless search for rubber, enslavement of indigenous people and terrible atrocities that came close to wiping them out in a sustained act of ethnocide. Over 100,000 innocent people are thought to have been killed.
All that he witnessed would forever change his life too. Exploitation and greed, he realized, were business as usual for empires, including the world’s largest, the British Empire. His dormant Irish nationalism awoke; he shed his Anglo skin and found the Irishman underneath. Having sparked the world’s first human rights campaigns, Casement was awarded one of Great Britain’s highest citations, the Order of St. Michael and St. George.
 But  after identifying with the oppressed  rather than the oppressor.  that same year Roger Casement  joined the Gaelic League and signed, for the first time, his name as Ruairí Mac Easmainn. The British Empire had forever lost her international hero.. Casement's  increasingly radical views ,and  an interest in Irish history, and a deepening critique of European Imperialism, that drew him ever more firmly into the nationalist fold.  In 1913 he resigned from the Foreign Office and  he became deeply involved with the Irish Volunteers, and  by the time war broke out in 1914, Casement was in America plotting with prominent Irish-Americans to secure German support for the Irish cause.
During World War I, operating on the principle, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Casement and Devoy met with a German diplomat. They promised Ireland would remain neutral if Germany helped the coming Easter Rising by supplying guns and expertise. In Germany, Casement tried to secure arms and persuade Irish P.O.W.s to form an Irish Brigade. After two years, both initiatives were disappointments. There was no brigade – Irish soldiers wouldn’t dishonor their oath to the King – and Germany could only deliver some 20,000 guns, a fraction of the weaponry needed. Worse, British Intelligence was intercepting his messages.
The Easter Rising was imminent. Believing that there were not sufficient arms for the rebellion, Casement slipped out of Germany by submarine to warn the leaders. He placed the armaments on a separate boat, the Aud, flying under a Norwegian flag, which he planned to meet on the Irish shoreline.
First to arrive was the Aud, but it was ambushed by the waiting British navy and taken to Cork.
Unaware of the plight of the gun-runner, Casement had moved from the submarine to a dinghy. But this capsized, leaving him to swim onto Banna Strand in County Kerry.
It was 3:00 a.m., Good Friday, 1916. Once on land, Casement, ill, drenched, and exhausted, found there was no one to meet him. Still, he rejoiced:
“I was for one brief spell happy and smiling once more… all round were primroses and wild violets and the singing of the skylarks in the air and I was back in Ireland again.”
His happiness was short-lived. When the Easter rising began and the Proclamation of the Irish Republic was read, Casement was in the Tower of London.
His trial at the Old Bailey lasted four days. It took the jury one hour to find him guilty, strip him of his knighthood, and condemn him to death by hanging. After his sentencing he delivered a speech from the dock, arguably one of the greatest political statements of all time that would resonate long after his death.. He stated, logically – and ironically, since he had a cultured British accent – that he couldn’t commit treason against England since he wasn’t an Englishman to begin with. Then he railed against the colonial system, “when men must beg with bated breath for leave to subsist in their own land, to think their own thoughts, to sing their own songs, to garner the fruit of their own labours … then surely it is a braver, a saner, and a truer thing to be a rebel in act and deed against such circumstances as this than tamely to accept it as the natural lot of men."
 His admirers and friends launched a campaign for clemency, arguing that he had acted out of conscience and in the interests of his country – Ireland. Those admirers included George Bernard Shaw, Conan Doyle, Bishops and politicians. The campaign looked as if it might succeed until the British government discovered and published  salacious extracts fom  his diary, that outlined his sexual exploits, in order to discredit him with the British and Irish public. The Republican movement was a deeply socially conservative body instilled with Catholic morality, if anything even more homophobic than the British. It was horrified by the accusations, denying them as true but reacting by downplaying Casement’s role as a great Irish martyr. Members of Casement’s family, Irish Republicans and others have claimed in the past that the Casement diaries are forgeries, but most historians to day believe them to be genuine. Whether they are genuine or forgeries, there is no doubting the effect the extracts had on public opinion in 1916:  But for Casement  judging by his diary, the acceptance of homosexuality was an aspect of African society and unlike other empire-builders in the field, he saw the African not as a body to exploit but as an equal to love..
After receiving the last rites of the Catholic Church, Roger Casement was executed on August 3, 1916, at Pentonville Prison at 9 a.m  the sixteenth and final leader of the Rising to be executed. Standing in the gallows Casement was asked by the governor if he had any final words. He did,' Bury me in Ireland'.' John Ellis, his executioner, called him "the bravest man it ever fell to my unhappy lot to execute".
 Even after his execution his corpse was violated, his anus “examined” to provide further proof of his “perversity.” His body was buried on the prison grounds, and the Irish government and his family spent decades demanding the right to return his body to Ireland. British Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s government denied that wish and released the remains only on condition that they could not be brought into Northern Ireland, as “the government feared that a reburial there could provoke Catholic celebrations and Protestant reactions.”
His death  would inspire t W.B. Yeats to write, “The Ghost of Roger Casement” – in which the poet sees Casement’s spirit coming across the sea, knocking on the door, still wanting to come home:

 The Ghost of Roger Casement - W.B. Yeats

 O WHAT has made that sudden noise?
What on the threshold stands?
It never crossed the sea because
John Bull and the sea are friends;
But this is not the old sea
Nor this the old seashore.
What gave that roar of mockery,
That roar in the sea's roar?
The ghost of Roger Casement
Is beating on the door.

 John Bull has stood for Parliament,
A dog must have his day,
The country thinks no end of him,
For he knows how to say,
At a beanfeast or a banquet,
That all must hang their trust
Upon the British Empire,
Upon the Church of Christ.
The ghost of Roger Casement
Is beating on the door.

John Bull has gone to India
And all must pay him heed,
For histories are there to prove
That none of another breed
Has had a like inheritance,
Or sucked such milk as he,
And there's no luck about a house
If it lack honesty.
The ghost of Roger Casement
Is beating on the door.

I poked about a village church
And found his family tomb
And copied out what I could read
In that religious gloom;
Found many a famous man there;
But fame and virtue rot.
Draw round, beloved and bitter men,
Draw round and raise a shout;
The ghost of Roger Casement
Is beating on the door.

Casement was late to enter the pantheon of 1916 martyrs, marginalized, no doubt, by his sexuality. Finally, in 1965, an Irish military escort removed his remains from the prison graveyard in London and accompanied them to Ireland for a state funeral. Hundreds of thousands came to pay him tribute including the very conservative President de Valera, a veteran of the Easter Rising, who delivered his eulogy. He lies today in the Heroes section of Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery where his name, Ruairí Mac Easmainn is carved on a gravestone reading, in Gaelic, “He died for Ireland.”
As we remember the other  brave men and women who fought for Irish independence against colonial oppression, we must remember and honor this remarkable man who risked his own life, health and wellbeing to tell the world the true story of their enslavement, who died in the defense of the Irish people, isolated, alone and reviled by so many because of his sexuality. Now at least recognised as an Irish patriot and father of the human rights movement. The lesson of his life remains a vital one: when the status quo is injustice, the right thing to be is a rebel. We should continue .to honor the memory of a great man whose life was cut short by a cruel, dishonest and vindictive state, and whose own life was dedicated to others and the fine virtues of true, indivisible, human rights.

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Dark Descent

Walking the daily shuffle
Thinking of those gone before,
To the river with heavy shoes
Carried by sadness, with chorus of blues,
Life's jagged  jigsaw's diverting reflection
The kindness of friendship's grip ceasing,
Beautiful dreams, the days kept erasing
Leaving behind scars, the weight of addiction,
Impenetrable minds, injecting poison
Desperate breaths dying to be free,
Not caring about actions, in need of sleep
Releasing pain from heart, taking a final drop,
As world imploded, and wings soar no more
From  alters of cruelty sank into the abyss,
Nothing left to waste, oblivion scattering
Escaping babylon, mental exhaustion,
Out of site now, releasing a trail of tears
The borders of intensity,.no longer possessing,
Carried to the vaults of eternity
As shoals of fish flash through the sea.

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Ail Symudiad - Twristiaid yn y dre

This is a video of my local Welsh  language pop legends  Ail Symudiad (Second Movement) performing their track Twristiaid yn y dre (Tourists in the town). I think their fantastic, they have such a unique fresh sound, and have released so many great records over the years. The first record I actually  got by them  was a single called Geiriau (words) which  came out in 1981, and I've been fortunate to catch them play a number of times over the years, where they always manage to draw a loyal faithful crowd.
They were formed in Cardigan, West Wales in 1978. They were initially inspired by the punk movement that was sweeping the UK at the time. The band cites the Jam, The Undertones, the Buzzcocks, Y Trwynhau Coch and the Clash as primary influences.
The founding members of Ail Symudiad were brothers  Richard Jones, guitar, vocals; Wyn Jones bass, backing vocals and Gareth Lewis, drums. Though the personnel of the band has changed many times since its inception Richard and Wyn have remained the constant steady members since 1978, and the band is still going strong. Over forty years that's quite an achievement for any band.
They are also a good reason to learn the Welsh language  and  have helped  support  an array of other Welsh language bands over the years through their own record label Fflach records, such is their valuable contribution to Welsh culture.
 Here are links to their facebook page. and record label check them out.

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Rest Easy Peter Green (29 October 1946 – 25 July 2020)

Peter Green the influential and legendary lead guitarist, singer and original founder of Fleetwood Mac  has  passed away today (25 July). He was 73.
His family’s solicitors Swan Turton announced the news in a statement: “It is with great sadness that the family of Peter Green announce his death this weekend, peacefully in his sleep. A further statement will be provided in the coming days.”
The news on Saturday comes just two days day after Fleetwood Mac announced a forthcoming massive box set reissue of their first seven studio albums, some of which featured Green on guitar prior to the arrival of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks in 1975.
Born Peter Greenbaum, in Bethnal Green, East London in 1946, to  a Jewish working class family, , he was a sensitive child in whom music had always inspired powerful emotions. He would burst into tears when he heard the theme from Disney's Bambi because he couldn't bear to remember the suffering of the baby deer. He was sensitive in other ways too. As a Jewish kid in London's tough East End, he was constantly teased and taunted, and the scars remained into adulthood.
From an early age, he became enthusiastic about US blues musicians like BB King and Muddy Waters. At the age of eleven he  first learned the  guitar after  acquiring a cheap Spanish guitar from his brother. At the age of 15, the teenager started playing guitar professionally and five years later got the chance to be the lead guitarist for the instrumental band Peter B's Looners,where he met drummer Mick Fleetwood. By the time he was 20, Green had already made a name for himself in the British blues scene. His big break came when he was given the chance to stand in for Eric Clapton in John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers. .Green went on to record The Hard Road with The Bluesbreakers, adding two of his own compositions to the album. He left soon after to form what would become Fleetwood Mac. Already regarded as one of the best Blues guitarists on the scene, Green’s skills as a songwriter were also fast developing,having penned hits such as Albatross, The Green Manalishi and Black Magic Woman now quite rightly regarded as classics.
Sadly, being a sensitive soul it was partly this, combined with a rapid rise to fame and the lifestyle that came with it that led to Green’s deterioration.  Much has been written about this, and in particular about Green’s decline in mental health and his erratic behaviour.
To ignore the details of this would be wrong. Green’s struggle with mental health has come to define his life as well as much of the music he and Fleetwood Mac created.
With newfound stardom came excess. Green began experimenting a lot with psychedelic drugs. On a tour in California, Green became acquainted  with Augustus Owsley III. notorious supplier of LSD to the Grateful Dead and Ken Kesey and it was not long after  that  his mental health also began to deteriorate. In some of his last appearances with the band, he wore a monk’s robe and a crucifix. He became increasingly uncomfortable with his material wealth and vowed to give all of his money away, urging his bandmates to do the same. He was starting to exhibit some of the erratic behaviour that would manifest itself in a much more extreme way in the following years.
If Green was already mentally unstable, then it was the events of Fleetwood Mac’s European tour in 1970 that  really tipped him over the edge. On touching down in Munich, Green was targeted by members of what road manager Dennis Keane described as a ‘cult’. An extremely glamorous couple appeared at the airport and greeted Green like an old friend. They followed him around for the rest of the day, and went to watch Fleetwood Mac play that night.
After the gig, the mysterious couple took Green and fellow guitarist Danny Kirwan to a huge mansion in the woods, which they had turned into a hippy commune. Green and Kirwan took LSD and began jamming with members of the commune in the basement of the house.
When Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Jeremy Spencer later arrived, they were met by a worried looking Keane, who warned them that Green was tripping out badly and the place had a ‘horrible vibe’. The band called their hotel and swiftly left.
Although Green had already started to show signs of mental illness, this particular incident was one from which he never fully recovered. Green left Fleetwood Mac after a final performance in 1970. Shortly after leaving the band, Peter Green released his first solo album, The End of the Game, it  marked a significant departure from anything he produced before or since."That was my LSD album," admitted Green  "I was trying to reach things that I couldn't before but I had experienced through LSD and mescaline." It was also to be his last creation for some years, as his mental health continued to decline from his LSD use.
Just a couple of years later,  following an outburst in which Green smashed an entire cabinet of crockery at his brother’s house,  he was interned at a psychiatric hospital, and was eventually diagnosed as schizophrenic .and spent time in hospitals undergoing electro-convulsive therapy during the mid-70s at St Thomas's Hospital in South London. This drastic treatment frightened him, but it stabilised his behaviour by reducing him to a level of docility in which he appeared to be almost in a trance
Sadly, he would go on to suffer through years of psychotic outbursts. At one point he grew his nails and hair long and wild and roamed around Richmond Park in London, howling and barking like a dog.  The most serious incident saw him smuggle a shotgun into the UK from Canada, threatening to shoot his accountant. Acording to legend, Green wanted him to stop sending him his royalty cheques for Fleetwood Mac's early work, worth around £30,000 a year.
Thankfully, as treatment for schizophrenia  advanced and Green’s own lifestyle settled down, so did his erratic behaviour. In the 1990s he went on to form the Peter Green Splinter Group. They recorded 10 albums during their time together, including Hot Food Powder and The Robert Johnson Songbook. The albums feature cover versions of every song Robert Johnson is known to have recorded.
It is quite amazing that after more than a decade of serious mental health problems, Green was able to produce two albums, both of which are eminently listenable.Green married Jane Samuels in January 1978; the couple divorced in 1979. They have a daughter, Rosebud Samuels-Greenbaum (born 1978).
While his career may have been cut short, his impact and legacy has been lasting.‘Without Peter Green there would be no Fleetwood Mac. Beyond that and in his own right, Peter Green produced music that continues to inspire and delight listeners. It is for this that we should remember him. He is without question one of the best and most underrated blues guitarists of all time.He released seven solo albums altogether, the final of which was A Case for the Blues (with Katmandu) in 1984.
Green  was among eight members of Fleetwood Mac,- along with Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, John McVie, Christine McVie, Danny Kirwan and Jeremy Spencer - who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
Rolling Stone ranked Green at number 58 in its list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time", and in 1996, Green was voted the third-best guitarist of all time in Mojo magazine.
In February before the coronavirus shut down large scale gatherings ,Mick Fleetwood  organised  a gig in celebration of Green, with artists including Fleetwood, Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons and guitarists Jonny Lang and Andy Fairweather Low performing  at the London Palladium. Mick Fleetwood said of the gig at the time: “Peter was my greatest mentor and it gives me such joy to pay tribute to his incredible talent. I am honoured to be sharing the stage with some of the many artists Peter has inspired over the years and who share my great respect for this remarkable musician.”
Because of his unigue talents he was loved by  friends and admirers in equal measure and musicians have been quick to pay tribute upon news of his death.
Whitesnake frontman David Coverdale called him "a breathtaking singer, guitarist & composer". Guitarist Bernie Marsden wrote that he was probably "one of millions" he [Green] touched.
Peter Frampton, a contemporary of Green's, tweeted: "Most sadly have lost one of the most tasteful guitar players ever."
Black Sabbath's Geezer Butler described Green as "one of the greats", while Mumford and Sons guitarist Winston Marshall thanked Green "for the music", describing him as a "#GOAT" (greatest of all time).
Film director Edgar Wright tweeted: "RIP Fleetwood Mac co founder and original lead singer Peter Green", linking to a performance of one of their hits, Oh Well.
Actor David Morrissey praised Peter Green's "fantastic soulful voice", saying he "loved his playing and his singing so much".
Goodbye Peter Green, tragic genius and one of the greatest  guitarists the world has known. Rest easy. Long may his legacy endure. I extend  my thoughts to the loved ones of Peter Green at this sad time. Below I present some of the best fom the inimitable Peter Green.

Man of the World - Fleetworld Mac

Green Manalishi -   Fleetwood Mac

Black Magic Woman - Fleetwood Mac

Oh Well - Fleetwood Mac

Peter Green - Fool No More

Peter Green  and the Splinter Group  - The Supernatural

Friday, 24 July 2020

John Newton (24/7/1725 -22/12/1807 ) - From Slave Trader to Abolitionist.

John Newton, slave trader turned abolitionist and author of the hymn Amazing Graze was born on 24th July 1725 in  Wapping, England. His father was a master mariner. His mother. a pious Dissenter, taught him to read Scripture and memorize Reformed catechisms and hymns. Together they attended an Independent (Congregational) church in London, at a time when barely 1 percent of that city's population went to churches associated with that Puritan-derived group. At age 7, however, Newton's mother died of tuberculosis, and he fell under the less religious and more distant care of his sea-captain father.
His father remarried after his mother's death, but John did not enjoy a good relationship with his stepmother. In 1733 Newton was sent to a boarding-school at Stratford, and at the age of eleven he went to sea with his father, after losing  his first job, in a merchant's office, because of "unsettled behavior and impatience of restraint"—a pattern that would persist for years. He spent his later teen years at sea before he was press-ganged aboard the H.M.S. Harwich in 1744. Newton rebelled against the discipline of the Royal Navy and deserted. He was caught, put in irons, and flogged. He eventually convinced his superiors to discharge him to a slaver ship bound for West Africa. Espousing freethinking principles, he remained arrogant and insubordinate, and he lived with moral abandon: "I sinned with a high hand," he later wrote, "and I made it my study to tempt and seduce others."
Eventually he reached the coast of Sierra Leone where he became the servant of an abusiveslave trader. In 1748, he was rescued by a sea captain and returned to England.
He became a slave ship master himself, working with slave traders to transport people, treating them as cargo. Newton later explained: "The slaves, in general, are bought, and paid for. Sometimes, when goods are lent, or trusted on shore, the trader voluntarily leaves a free person, perhaps his own son, as a hostage, or pawn, for the payment; and, in case or default, the hostage is carried off, and sold; which, however hard upon him, being in consequence of a free stipulation, cannot be deemed unfair. There have been instances of unprincipled captains, who, at the close of what they supposed their last voyage, and when they had no intention of revisiting the coast, have detained, and carried away, free people with them; and left the next ship, that should come from the same port, to risk the consequences. But these actions, I hope, and believe, are not common."
Newton argued that it was important to have as many slaves as possible on board the slave-ship: "With our ships, the great object is, to be full. When the ship is there, it is thought desirable, she should take as many as possible. The cargo of a vessel of a hundred tons, or little more, is calculated to purchase from two hundred and twenty to two hundred and fifty slaves. Their lodging-rooms below the deck, which are three (for the men, the boys, and the women) besides a place for the sick, are sometimes more than five feet high, and sometimes less; and this height is divided towards the middle, for the slaves lie in two rows, one above the other, on each side of the ship, close to each other, like books upon a shelf. I have known them so close, that the shelf would not, easily, contain one more. Let it be observed, that the poor creatures, thus cramped for want of room, are likewise in irons, for the most part both hands and feet, and two together, which makes it difficult for them to turn or move, to attempt either to rise or to lie down, without hurting themselves, or each other."
Newton admitted that conditions on board ship were appalling: "The heat and the smell of these rooms, when the weather will not admit of the slaves being brought upon deck, and of having their rooms cleaned every day, would be, almost, insupportable, to a person not accustomed to them. If the slaves and their rooms can be constantly aired, and they are not detained too long on board, perhaps there are not many die; but the contrary is often their lot. They are kept down, by the weather, to breathe a hot and corrupted air, sometimes for a week: this, added to the galling of their irons, and the despondency which seizes their spirits, when thus confined, soon becomes fatal."
On one occasion Newton kept a record of how many slaves died on a journey from Africa to South Carolin: "The ship, in which I was mate, left the coast with two hundred and eighteen slaves on board; and though we were not much affected by epidemical disorders, I find, by my journal of that voyage (now before me) that we buried sixty-two on our passage to South Carolina, exclusive of those which died before we left the coast, of which I have no account. I believe, upon an average between the more healthy, and the more sickly voyages, and including all contingencies, One fourth of the whole purchase may be allotted to the article of mortality. That is, if the English ships purchase sixty thousand slaves annually, upon the whole extent of the coast, the annual loss of lives cannot be much less than fifteen thousand."
Newton also took slaves to Antigua.  He later recalled a conversation with a man who purchased slaves from Newton: "He said, that calculations had been made, with all possible exactness, to determine which was the preferable, that is, the most saving method of managing slaves". He went onto say that they needed to decided: "Whether, to appoint them moderate work, plenty of provision, and such treatment, as might enable them to protract their lives to old age? Or, by rigorously straining their strength to the utmost, with little relaxation, hard fare, and hard usage, to wear them out before they became useless, and unable to do service; and then, to buy new ones, to fill up their places?" Newton added: "He farther said, that these skillful calculators had determined in favor of the latter mode, as much the cheaper; and that he could mention several estates, in the island of Antigua, on which, it was seldom known, that a slave had lived above nine years."
It was during a storm on 21st March 1748, when Newton thought his ship full of slaves may sink, that he prayed to God for deliverance. While this was the beginning of his desire to embrace Christianity, it was later, on another slave ship that he became deeply ill and prayed again for God’s intervention. This experience is what he touted as the moment when he began to realize the horror of his trade. But despite this he continued to work on ships taking slaves from the Guinea coast and the West Indies (1748–9)  and he became master of slave-trading ships, The Duke of Argyle (1750–51) and The African (1752–54). His biographer Bruce Hidsmarth argued "Newton has sometimes been accused of hypocrisy for holding strong religious convictions at the same time as being active in the slave trade, praying above deck while his human cargo was in abject misery below deck."
Newton married Mary Catlett on 12th February 1750 and in 1754 suffered a convulsive fit and was forced to leave the maritime trade. Later that year he attended religious meetings addressed by George Whitefield and John Wesley. In August 1755 Newton took up a civil service post as tide surveyor at Liverpool. He also became a leading evangelical laymen in the region. This included hosting large religious meetings in his own home.
Newton was considered a Methodist and was unsuccessful in several applications for orders in the Church of England. He sent the first draft of his autobiography to William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth. With his support Newton received deacon's orders, on 29th April 1764, from the Bishop of Lincoln. Newton became curate-in-charge of Olney in Buckinghamshire.
Newton had become friends with the poet, William Cowper and in 1771 they began to collaborate formally on a project to publish a volume of their collected hymns. Olney Hymns was published in 1779. Newton's most famous contribution Amazing Grace  is included."
The irony of Newton’s lyrics is that part of history is that the song was adopted as a spiritual sung by black African slaves to engender strength, hope and encouragement. It was performed by Liwana Porter during George Floyd's memorial service in Minneapolis and  is probably  one of the best known hymns across a variety of Protestant denominations. The song was originally known as "Faith's Review and Expectation."
 In 2015, President Barack Obama, a man with no previous history of public singing, sang the hymn at a memorial service for the nine African Americans killed by a white supremacist shooter inside one of the nation's oldest black churches, Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The moment seemed to resonate with a wide variety of Americans.
In Newton’s age, slavery was an economic reality, as it has been at many times in human history, including today. There is always a profit to be made from human servitude. Newton knew both sides of the economic divide. Having endured slavery, he apparently for some years had no qualms about profiting from it. He knew what it was to be a wretch in two senses: first, to lose physical agency, and then to fail to assume moral agency. But he changed.
In January 1780 Newton accepted the offer from  John Thornton of the benefice of St Mary Wolchurch in Lombard Street, where he wholeheartedly supported the work of the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, formed in 1787. He became close friends with William Wilberforce and became involved in his campaign against the slave trade.
Wilberforce, a Member of Parliament, was the nephew of one of Newton's London friends. Inspired by the former slave trader, and paralleling Newton's own conversion, Wilberforce began to question his role in life. Although Newton, then a lowly Olney curate, was convinced that Wilberforce was just another wealthy politician, he persuaded him to crusade for change and use his station in life and his powerful friends (including Prime Minister Pitt) to seek reform. One of the chief topics for such advocacy was abolition. In fact, Wilberforce wrote in his journal on October 28, 1787, that one of the two goals that had been set before him was "the suppression of the Slave Trade."
Newton joined in the fight for the abolition of slavery by publishing the essay "Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade." in 1787. He admitted that this was "a confession, which... comes too late....It will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders." Newton explained why he had become involved in the campaign against the slave trade: "The nature and effects of that unhappy and disgraceful branch of commerce, which has long been maintained on the Coast of Africa, with the sole, and professed design of purchasing our fellow-creatures, in order to supply our West-India islands and the American colonies, when they were ours, with slaves; is now generally understood. So much light has been thrown upon the subject, by many able pens; and so many respectable persons have already engaged to use their utmost influence, for the suppression of a traffic, which contradicts the feelings of humanity; that it is hoped, this stain of our National character will soon be wiped out."
Because Christians still felt that slavery was justified in the Bible, Newton and Wilberforce wisely avoided building their protests on a religious platform. Instead, they condemned the practice as an inhumane treatment of their fellow men and women. Newton, speaking strongly from his own experiences, also proposed that the captors were in turn brutalized by their callous treatment of others and cited offences including torture, rape, and murder. Newton's friend, William Cowper, joined their fight by writing pro-abolition poems and ballads.
In 1789 Wilberforce introduced a "Bill for the Abolition of Slavery" in Parliament. The bill faced opposition in both Houses, but the forces against enactment became weaker each time it came up for a vote. The bill finally was passed by the House of Commons in 1804 and by the House of Lords in 1807 after which King George III declared it law.
John Newton died on 21st December 1807  aged 82 a few months after the Act abolishing the slave trade throughout the British Empire had been passed. It did not bring slavery itself to an end, as this was only outlawed completely in British territory with the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833. However, the 1807 Act was an incredibly important step in that direction, that encouraged abolitionists around the world.  Newton  was buried by the side of his wife in St Mary Woolchurch on 31st December; both bodies were reinterred at Olney in 1893.
As far as I am aware, there isn’t a statue to Newton in any significant place. If there were then, although I applaud the sentiment behind the pulling down of Edward Colston’s statue, I would be much more startled to see the same thing happen to Newton’s statue if it existed. The Black Lives Matter campaign has been  focussing on educating people about systemic racism and on changing hearts and minds.
After the senseless death of George Floyd and others has awakened an anger and a widespread undeniable feeling of injustice, a feeling that people from black and minority ethnic groups do face discrimination and we cannot ignore. As a result it is possible to wholeheartedly support the Black Lives Matter movement and campaign to stamp out racism but also to acknowledge that we can’t just wipe things out without learning and we also need historical examples of people that can and do change. In Newton’s age, slavery was an economic reality, as it has been at many times in human history, including today. There is always a profit to be made from human servitude. But Newton, a man who had enslaved others, at least changed into a man fighting against the very thing he had been been so much part of. This is why I believe it is important to remember him.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Out of the Shadows.

The world swiftly rearranges
Moving faster than a runaway train,
As the draw bridges shut down
And children grow older faster,
We all stand at the crossroads
Watching each pivotal step,
Kindling hope, igniting rainbows
The pipes of pan serenading,
Beyond the whips and chains that bind
Eternity in mothering bridges,
Delivering confirmation, validation
Following contracts of good and evil,
Gravity of mercy shared
Dynamics of existence,
Between hours of prepared purpose
Shrouds of twisted navigation continue,
As cherry blossom powder the earth
Greed of old, keeps infecting,
We must keep searching for answers
Make magic out of days,
From blue armchairs in sad suburbs
Without inhibition, keep on believing,
Keep on easing minds, bending the rules
Releasing knots, making wishes come true,
Like the old black and white movies
Old wild world keeps on spinning,
Specks of rain softly soothing
Interrupting dragons fangs,
Take to the river at full moon
In the force of currents, believe in change,
Upon the stair cases of ink
Paint flowers, get drunk on imagination.

Friday, 17 July 2020

Anniversary of the Spanish Civil War

Today marks the 84th anniversary of the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, a moment in time that has come to represent the defining struggle of the age: a clash between not just between the opposing political ideologies of socialism and fascism, but between civilization and barbarism, good and evil. The fascists launched a coup against the democratically elected Popular Front Government in Madrid on the night of 17th July 1936 inspired mostly by General Franco. A central goal of the rebels was the destruction of left-wing organisations. Franco’s fellow officer, General Queipo de Llano, instructed his subordinates on how to treat the ‘Bolshevik’ activist with this chilling sentence: ‘I authorise you to kill him like a dog and you will be free of all responsibility." The Nationalist rebels' initial efforts to instigate military revolts throughout Spain only partially succeeded. In rural areas with a strong right-wing political presence, Franco's confederates generally won out. They quickly seized political power and instituted martial law. In other areas, particularly cities with strong leftist political traditions, the revolts met with stiff opposition and were often quelled. Some Spanish officers remained loyal to the Republic and refused to join the uprising.
Within days of the uprising, both the Republic and the Nationalists called for foreign military aid. Initially, France pledged to support the Spanish Republic, but soon reneged on its offer to pursue an official policy of non-intervention in the civil war. Great Britain immediately rejected the Republic's call for support.
Faced with potential defeat, Franco called upon Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy for aid. Thanks to their military assistance, he was able to airlift troops from Spanish Morocco across to the mainland to continue his assault on Madrid. Throughout the three years of the conflict, Hitler and Mussolini provided the Spanish Nationalist Army with crucial military support.
Some 5,000 German air force personnel served in the Condor Legion, which provided air support for coordinated ground attacks against Republican positions and carried out aerial bombings on Republican cities. The most notorious of these attacks came on April 26, 1937, when German and Italian aircraft leveled the Basque town of Gernike (Guernica in Spanish) in a three-hour campaign that killed 200 civilians or more. Fascist Italy supplied some 75,000 troops in addition to its pilots and planes. Spain became a military laboratory to test the latest weaponry under battlefield conditions.
The Spanish conflict quickly generated worldwide fears that it could explode into a full-fledged European war. In August 1936, more than two dozen nations, including France, Great Britain, Italy, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union, signed a Non-Intervention Agreement on Spain. The latter three signatories openly violated the policy. Italy and Germany continued to supply Franco's forces, while the Soviet Union provided military advisors, tanks, aircraft, and other war materiel to the Republic
But the people rose, millions of people around the world felt passionately that rapidly advancing fascism must be halted in Spain; and more than 35,000 volunteers from dozens of other countries went to help defend the Spanish Republic, forces of red and black fought back united against fascism. In the countryside, peasants took control of the land, redistributing large estates and, in many places, collectivizing the land and setting up communes and a civil war was was waged, the workers immediately set up barricades and within hours the rising had been defeated. Arms were seized and given to workers who were dispatched to other areas to prevent risings. Madrid was also saved because of the heroism and initiative of the workers. Hearing of what had happened in Barcelona they had stormed the main army base in the city. Workers' militias were established. Workplaces were taken over and for ten months after July 1936, the people held power. Taking over the factories and the running of the whole of society. They organised workers’ committees in enterprises and streets. They believed that they had power and fought to defend and extend it.
But in a series of tragic events were sadly defeated aided by the British government who had agreed to a policy of 'non-intervention'  along with the help of fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.
The town of Guernica situated 30 kilometers east of Bilbao, in the Basque province of Vizcaya. Guernica was considered to be the spiritual capital of the Basque people and had a population of about 7,000 people. On 26th April 1937, Guernica was bombed by the Germab Condor Legion.. As it was a market day the town was crowded. The town was first struck by explosive bombs and then by incendiaries. As people fled from their homes they were machine-gunned by fighter planes. The three hour raid completely destroyed the town. It is estimated that 1,685 people were killed and 900 injured in the attack.

Pablo Picasso, Guernica (1937)
Pablo Picasso, Guernica (1937)
General Franco denied that he had nothing to do with the raid and claimed that the town had been dynamited and then burnt by Anarchist Brigades. Franco issued a statement after the bombing: "We wish to tell the world, loudly and clearly, a little about the burning of Guernica. It was destroyed by fire and gasoline. The red hordes in the criminal service of Aguirre burnt it to ruins. The fire took place yesterday and Aguirre, since he is a common criminal, has uttered the infamous lie of attributing this atrocity to our noble and heroic air force."
The Spanish church backed this story and its professor of theology in Rome went so far as to declare that "the truth is there is not a single German in Spain. Franco only needs Spanish soldiers which are second to none in the world." After the war a telegram sent from Franco's headquarters was discovered and revealed that he had asked the German Condor legion to carry out the attack on Guernica. It is believed that the attack was an attempt to demoralize the Basque people. Germany had agreed as they wanted to carry out "a major experiment in the effects of aerial terrorism."An earlier post on this tragic event can be found here
By April 1939, all of Spain was under fascist control and Franco declared a victory .Solidifying his power with a brutal dictatorship by oppressing and systematically killing any political opposition.Over half a million people were killed in the war, and in the next few years many tens of thousands more were executed, not forgetting all those who died from malnutrition, starvation, and war-engendered disease. General Franco's military regime remained in power until his death in 1975 depriving  Spain of freedom for several decades afterwards, and former Republicans were subjected to various forms of discrimination and punishment. Victory for the Francoist side brought economic and political isolation for Spain until the 1950s and the denial of basic rights until the late 1970s. Only in recent years have relatives of the executed started to learn where their loved ones are buried.
The fighting and persecution resulted in several million Spaniards being displaced. Many fled areas of violence for safe refuge elsewhere. Only a few countries, such as Mexico and the Dominican Republic, opened their doors to Spanish refugees. Nearly 4,000 Basque children arrived in the UK in 1937, fleeing from the terrors of the Spanish Civil War. Over 200 were accommodated at colonies in Caerleon, Swansea, Brechfa and Old Colwyn, and they were warmly welcomed by Welsh people who considered that Welsh miners and the Basques were fighting the same enemy - fascism.
When the Spanish Civil War ended in 1939, with Franco's victory, some 500,000 Spanish Republicans escaped to France, where many were placed in internment camps in the south, such as Gurs, St. Cyprien, and Les Milles. Following the German defeat of France in spring 1940, Nazi authorities conscripted Spanish Republicans for forced labor and deported more than 30,000 to Germany, where about half of them ended up in concentration camps/ Some 7,000 of these became prisoners in Mathausen; more than half of them died in the camp.
About 300 people volunteered from Wales against the tyranny of fascism, with 35 of whom not returning home .When the Welsh volunteers returned home they were greeted in their communities as heroes, but many felt betrayed by the British government and were at first unwilling to share their experiences.However, as time went on, plaques were erected, memoirs and biographies were written and historians began to carefully curate the individual  stories of  idealism and bravery
The important historical truth is the international flavour of those who volunteered to fight in this brutal war.A total of 59,380 volunteers from fifty-five countries served during the Spanish Civil War joining.the  International Brigade, to fight selflessly  side by side for the ideas of liberty and social justice, solidarity and mutual aid .Rallying to the republican cause.The International Brigade, were so called because their members (initially) came from so many different countries. The International Brigaders were recruited, organized, and directed by the Cominterm (Communist International), with headquarters in Paris. A large number of the mostly young recruits were Communists before they became involved in the conflict; more joined the party during the course of the war. This included the following: French (10,000), German (5,000), Polish (5,000), Italian (3,350), American (2,800), British (2,000), Yugoslavian (1,500), Czech (1,500), Canadian (1,000), Hungarian (1,000) and Scandinavian (1,000). Battalions established included the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, British Battalion, Connolly Column and the George Washington Battalion among others.

A great idealistic cause of the first half of the twentieth century, that has been of great interest to me over the years. Two local people from my neck of the woods went to serve Arthur Morris and a Percy Jones. More information here , I have yet though to see a monument erected to them.
For many it was not just a war to defeat the fascists it was the beginning of a new society. A revolution in fact, unfortunately revolutions do not succeed when the people are divided. There are many lessons to be learnt from this struggle, a struggle that continues to do this day.
Lets not forget all those who were killed serving with the International Brigades who nobly fought bravely in a spirit of solidarity, and political and moral awareness to try and save us from fascism's threat that still sadly lingers and haunts us  today.The dark shadow cast by the Spanish Civil war, still matters, and the wound inflicted on Spain still within living memory for many has yet to close. We must continue to resist oppressive forces, with our shout of no pasaran.
The poet and political activist John Corford was just 21 years old when he died in Spain in August 1936, I will leave you with these two poems by him written in the teeth of death.


Heart of the heartless world,
Dear heart, the thought of you
Is the pain at my side,
The shadow that chills my view.
The wind rises in the evening,
Reminds that autumn is near.
I am afraid to lose you,
I am afraid of my fear.
On the last mile to Huesca,
The last fence for our pride,
Think so kindly, dear, that I
Sense you at my side.
And if bad luck should lay my strength
Into the shallow grave,
Remember all the good you can;
Don’t forget my love.

A letter from Aragon

This is a quiet sector of a quiet front.

We buried Ruiz in a new pine coffin,
But the shroud was too small and his washed feet stuck out.
The stink of his corpse came through the clean pine boards
And some of the bearers wrapped handkerchiefs round their faces.
Death was not dignified.
We hacked a ragged grave in the unfriendly earth
And fired a ragged volley over the grave.

You could tell from our listlessness, no one much missed him.

This is a quiet sector of a quiet front.
There is no poison gas and no H. E.

But when they shelled the other end of the village
And the streets were choked with dust
Women came screaming out of the crumbling houses,
Clutched under one arm the naked rump of an infant.
I thought: how ugly fear is.

This is a quiet sector of a quiet front.
Our nerves are steady; we all sleep soundly.

In the clean hospital bed, my eyes were so heavy
Sleep easily blotted out one ugly picture,
A wounded militiaman moaning on a stretcher,
Now out of danger, but still crying for water,
Strong against death, but unprepared for such pain.

This on a quiet front.

But when I shook hands to leave, an Anarchist worker
Said: 'Tell the workers of England
This was a war not of our own making
We did not seek it.
But if ever the Fascists again rule Barcelona
It will be as a heap of ruins with us workers beneath it.'

reprinted from  Penguin Book of Spanish Civil War Verse, edited by Valentine Cunningham (Penguin, 1980)

Two further posts related to the Spanish Civil War can be found here :-

Further Reading ;-

Vernon Richards - Lessons of the Spanish Civil War, Freedom Press

The Spanish Civil War- Hugh Thomas , Penguin

The Spanish Civil War - Antony Beevor, Cassel

Miners Against Fascism, Wales and the Spanish Civil War - Hywel Francis, Lawrence and Wishart

Fleeing Franco- Hywel Francic, University of Wales Press

And here is a link to the International Brigades Memorial Trust :-

Thursday, 16 July 2020

The Awful Legacy of the First Nuclear Bomb Test

Before nuclear weapons were used on the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, at 5.30 a.m, on July 16, 1945, Los Alamas scientists detonated a plutonium bomb at a test site located on the U.S. Air Force base at Alamogordo, New Mexico. J. Robert Oppenheimer chose the name "Trinity" for the test site , inspired by the poetry of John Donne.
When the bomb was finally detonated atop a steel tower, an intense light flash and sudden wave of heat was followed by a great burst of sound echoing in the valley. A ball of fire tore up into the sky and then surrounded by a giant mushroom  cloud stretching some 40,00 feet across. With a power equivalent to around 21,000 tons, the bomb completely obliterated the steel tower on which it rested, destroying everything in its vicinity and melting huge swathes of sand into sea-green glass. The Nuclear Age had begun,,
Less than a month later, the United States would drop a nearly identical weapon on the city of Nagasaki in Japan. The bomb, named Fat Man, fell three days after Americans dropped a uranium bomb called Little Boy, on Hiroshima. Both weapons immediately killed tens of thousands of Japanese people and forced Japan's surrender on August 14, bring an abrupt end to the war.
Many of the scientists who witnessed the Trinity blast quickly realised the "foul and awesome" power they had set free, according to historians. Mr Oppenheimer said a Hindu scripture ran through his mind at the sight of the explosion: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
Kenneth T. Bainbridge, the test director, was less poetic. "Now we are all sons of bitches," he said.
The Trinity test exposed the communities in the areas downwind from the blast to dangerous levels of radiation and fallout. In the following decades, the "Downwinders" from the Tularosa Basin who were not even informed about the test have faced long-term health consequences including cancers, even across generations. Like the Hibakusha,a term widely used in Japan, that translates as ' explosion effected/Surrvivor of the Light' and global victims of nuclear tests, the Downwinders have raised their voices to fight for a better future.
The thousands living  downwind from  the Trinity Blast were knowingly exposed to extremely high levels of radioactive fallout . Many New Mexicans living in the vicinity of the Trinity test were ranchers, Native Americans, Hispanic settlers who lived a rural and substinence lifestyle. Unbeknownst to them their land, their water and their food was severely contaminated to radioactive fallout. The effects of this exposure are still evident 75 years later in the physical, economic and mental hardships of survivors and their families. Downwinders developed certain types of cancers at rates that far exceed the general population. In many case, entire families have developed cancer at rates that far exceeded the general population. Many downwinders were also forced into debt and poverty from costly health treatments, none of which were compensated by the federal government.
 Since the Trinity Test 75 years ago, at least eight countries have   have detonated over 2,000 nuclear weapons at more than 60 locations around the globe,according to data released by More than half of these tests have been conducted by the United States, most have have taken place on colonized land and the lands of indigenous and minority people, never close to those who made the decisions to conduct them.People living in the vicinity of these tests exposed to radioactive fallout are part of the under acknowledged ;collateral damage' of our nuclear industry. The history of nuclear testing also exposes the oppressive and racist nature of relying on nuclear weapons for “security”.
Radiation from nuclear tests harms children more than it does adults. Infants and young girls run the highest risk of cancer across their lifetime after exposure and teenage girls will suffer almost double rates of cancer compared to boys.
In 2017, the UN adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which is the only international treaty to require for all victims of nuclear weapons use and testing to receive adequate victim assistance. 39 countries have already ratified this Treaty. Has yours? It compels states to address the needs of victims and impacted environments and acknowledges the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapon activities on indigenous peoples. Justice for survivors is an essential part of the quest for a word free of nuclear weapons.
While the number of atomic warheads in the world has fallen considerably since the darker days of the cold war, the club of nuclear armed countries has expanded. With countries including the U.S, updating their nuclear arsenals and arms control treaties in danger of collapsing, many experts believe the risk of nuclear conflict is rising. 75 years after the first nuclear weapon was tested, we must stand with the affected communities, press our leaders to take the actions necessary to ensure  these immoral, illegal weapons are never used again and to negotiate in good faith the global elimination of these most devastating weapons of mass destruction.
Trinity Downwiders will be hosting a virtual event recognising the 75th anniversary of the Trinity test. I encourage people to attend  Here is a link to the video  which will go live when it takes place :-

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Capitalism as religion - Walter Benjamin

Walter Benjamin  who was born on July 15, 1892 in Berlin was a German Jewish Marxist literary critic, essayist, translator, philosopher and renaissance man of letters, who wrote on topics ranging from art history and aesthetics to linguistics, politics, and psychedelic drugs, who is now considered to have been the most important German literary critic in the first half of the 20th century.He was influenced by the critical theory of the Frankfurt School, by Marxism, by German idealism  and by Jewish mysticism.In his brief life, Benjamin developed many of the themes that now serve as an indispensable foundation  for literary and cultural criticism. "Criticism" he observed, "is a matter of correct distancing. It was at home in a world where prospectives and prospects counted and where it was still possible to adopt a standpoint. Now things press too urgently on human society." This could have been written yesterday, it was published in 1928.
Born into a Jewish middle class family his education took him to Berlin, Munich and Bern before he returned back to Berlin in his late twenties,  student of philosophy, Benjamin had been intent on a career as an academic but his ambition was thwarted when the University of Frankfurt dismissed his doctoral thesis on the origins of German tragedy as outlandish.
Because of his anti-fascist advocacy, the Gestapo requested Benjamin’s expatriation from Paris in February 1939. When France declared war on Germany, all Germans living in France were interned in camps. Benjamin was sent to the village of Nevers in Burgundy, but was released due to interventions by his friends. He continued to work, but in June 1940 he was forced to flee Paris.
He then attempted to travel through neutral Spain by crossing the Pyrenees on foot. On the night of September 26, 1940, he was falsely alarmed when he was stopped by General Franco’s border guards near Port-Bou. In his hotel room, unaware that he was not under suspicion and could have escaped to freedom he took his own life with an overdose of morphine, which he carried for in such an eventuality. The local doctor, however declared it a natural death and Benjamin was given a Catholic burial in the municipal cemetery, under a wrong name.
His tragically short life became the subject of Jay Parini's novel Benjamin's Crossing. Charles Bernstein and Brian Ferneyhough wrote the opera Shadowtime based on his life.His dislocation, his not at homeness and willful alienation, mark him as a kindred spirit to Kafka and Baudelaire.More than 70 years after his death his work continues to speak compellingly to the modern reader.
In the following excerpt from an unfinished essay, Capitalism as Religion  by Walter Benjamin written in 1921 and published in the Volume VI of his Collected Writings (in German). Here, Benjamin characterises capitalism not as something that resembles a religion, but as an actual religious cult,without mercy or truth, leading humanity to the house of despair.
Directly based on Max Weber's Protestant ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, but – in ways akin to Ernst Bloch or Erich Fromm – it transforms Weber's 'value-free' analysis into a ferocious anti capitalist argument, probably inspired by Gustav Landauer's romantic and libertarian socialism. The translation is by Chad Kautzer.
Beginning in the late middle ages and reaching its first plateau in the late eigthteenth century, the capitalist market began to assume an autonomous, god-like existence. Since then we have made fetishes out of commodities as we believe we can derive sensuous pleasure from their magical properties. We sacrifice our time, our families, our children our forests, our seas and our land on the altar of the market., the God that some owe their deepest allegiance.
Capitalism is a totalitarian system that engulfs the entire social and cultural structure at considerable cost to this fragile earth of ours. Under it's influence people plunder,kill, steal , ravage nations and wage wars. Capitalism isn't about  bringing you contentment, it's about making you feel discontentment and under the Tory Government they have already shown us that they want pure privatisation  through unfettered Capitalism. So those who already have, will increase their wealth and those who do not will struggle to live. The altar of greed is truly where they worship. Thanks Walter for reminding me.

Capitalism as religion - Walter Benjamin

One can behold in capitalism a religion, that is to say, capitalism essentially serves to satisfy the same worries, anguish, and disquiet formerly answered by so-called religion. The proof of capitalism’s religious structure – as not only a religiously conditioned construction, as Weber thought, but as an essentially religious phenomenon – still today misleads one to a boundless, universal polemic. We cannot draw close the net in which we stand. A commanding view will, however, later become possible.

Three characteristics of the religious structure of capitalism are, however, recognizable at present. First, capitalism is a pure religious cult, perhaps the most extreme there ever was. Within it everything only has a meaning in direct relation to the cult: it knows no special dogma, no theology. From this standpoint, utilitarianism gains its religious coloring. The concretization of the cult connects with a second characteristic of capitalism: the permanent duration of the cult. Capitalism is the celebration of the cult sans rêve et sans merci.¹ Here there is no “weekday”, no day that would not be a holiday in the awful sense of exhibiting all sacred pomp – the extreme exertion of worship. Third, this is a cult that engenders blame. Capitalism is presumably the first case of a blaming, rather than repenting cult. Herein stands this religious system in the fall of a tremendous movement. An enormous feeling of guilt not itself knowing how to repent, grasps at the cult, not in order to repent for this guilt, but to make it universal, to hammer it into consciousness and finally and above all to include God himself in this guilt, in order to finally interest him in repentance. This [repentance] is thus not to be expected in the cult itself, nor in the reformation of this religion – which must hold on to something certain within it – nor yet in the denial of it. In the essence of this religious movement that is capitalism lies – bearing until the end, until the finally complete infusion of blame into God – the attainment of a world of despair still only hoped for. Therein lies the historical enormity of capitalism: religion is no longer the reform of being, but rather its obliteration. From this expansion of despair in the religious state of the world, healing is expected. God’s transcendence has fallen, but he is not dead. He is drawn into the fate of man. This passage of “planetary man” [Planeten Mensch] through the house of despair is, in the absolute loneliness of his path, the ethos Nietzsche describes. This man is the Übermensch, the first who knowingly begins to realize the capitalist religion. The fourth characteristic [of the religious structure of capitalism] is that its God must become concealed and may only be spoken of in the zenith of his culpability. The cult becomes celebrated before an immature deity, [while] every image, every idea of it injures the secret of its maturity.

Freudean theory also belongs to the priestly rule of this cult. It is thoroughly capitalistic in thought. The repressed, the sinful imagination, is, at bottom, still an illuminating analogy to capital – to which the hell of the unconscious pays interest.

This type of capitalist, religious thinking magnificently reconciles itself in Nietzsche’s philosophy. The thought of the Übermensch loses the apocalyptic “leap” not by changing its ways, atonement, purification, [or] penitence, but in the apparently continuous, but in the end, rupturing, discontinuous intensification. That is why intensification and evolution are incompatible in the sense of “non facit saltum.” The Übermensch is the one who without changing, arrived, who streaked through the heavens – historical man.

Capitalism is a purely cultic religion, without dogma. Capitalism itself developed parasitically on Christianity in the West – not in Calvinism alone, but also, as must be shown, in the remaining orthodox Christian movements – in such a way that, in the end, its history is essentially the history of its parasites, of capitalism. Compare the holy iconography of various religions on the one hand with the banknotes of various countries on the other: The spirit that speaks from the ornamentation of banknotes.

Christianity in the time of the Reformation did not encourage the emergence of capitalism, but rather changed itself into capitalism.”

¹ The translator suggests this should actually read “sans trêve et sans merci”

Walter Benjamin, 1921