Friday, 19 January 2018

Soldiers Alive - The strange case of an anti-war novel written by a pro war author

"The sweating, dust-covered soldiers marched, accompanied by countless swarms of circling flies."

Soldiers Alive is possibly the strangest book I've read so far in terms of the context of its writing and publishing. I'd heard of the book several years ago on lists of great anti war novels. That technically isn't true though I have a hard time believing it doesn't fit on the list after reading it. I also saw a brief blurb about this being the fictionalised account of the rape of Nanking. Thankfully that isn't true either. By that I don't mean I've bought into Japanese revisionism, that crime did happen, nor do I wish to downplay or minimise it, its just that.... well I really don't want to read a book about mass rape and massacres. The book is about a military unit on the march to Nanking though, and it ends shortly after the fall of the city, but no mass rape or beheading contests take place within the pages.

Curiously though the unit does commit multiple atrocities everywhere else in China they're stationed. And none of its hidden, on the contrary its stated that violent acts against the civilian population are pretty common experiences in the invasion of China. This is the oddity about Soldiers Alive, its treatment of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) and the Japanese occupation of China is so negative that I don't believe a Chinese nationalist author could do better. Yet Ishikawa Tatsuzo was not only Japanese but a pretty staunch militarist whom believed in Japan's quest to dominate Asia.

When Japan renewed its expansion into China in 1937 one of the ways the government sort to stoke patriotism within its people was to encourage writers to create novels and short stories glorifying the IJA and the Emperor. They even created a special unit of approved writers who were allowed to tour the battlefields and early settlements. Ishikawa was one of those writers, but despite his political agreements with the government and its war aims he came to a dangerous conclusion the standard propaganda line the government was pushing in regards to the war on China was incorrect and potentially very dangerous.

Officially the war was being fought for the salvation of brother race, the Chinese army was being routed at every turn, IJA casualties were light and the civilians were welcoming the Japanese as liberators from the corrupt KMT leadership . Those were in short lies, well, ok, the KMT did have a serious problem with corruption and cliques but the rest of it was extremely inaccurate. The IJA won most of its engagements with the Chinese army, yes, but they were very messy victories. Often the Chinese army would give such stiff resistance that the IJA was constantly delayed and suffered far higher casualties then anticipated. If a village was supposed to be captured within a day of fighting, it would take two or three days to capture, and that was with reinforcements or use of superior artillery and airpower. And usually the Chinese army instead of being routed would withdraw tactically and move to a new defensive position a few miles away, or go to ground and fight as partisans. Instead of a series of decisive manoeuvres in the field, the IJA lurched from one battle to the next.

And as for being beloved by the Chinese civilians, well partisan attacks were a frequent danger in the rear. Indeed acts of resistance behind the lines by Chinese civilians were so common its become part of the post war right wing narrative and is used to retroactively justify the brutal repression of the Chinese population.

Ishikawa saw this was all false and attempted to correct this by publishing an accurate account of the war. And in so doing he effectively condemned the whole adventure. I cannot stress this enough, this is one of the most damning accounts of a war and the conduct of an army I've come across not written as a deliberate attack on militarism.


Consider the following passage

"Screaming shrilly like a lunatic, Hirao thrust his bayonet three times into the woman's chest. the other  soldiers joined in, stabbing her at random. in little over ten seconds, the woman was dead. flat as a layer of bedding, she lay spent on the dark ground; a warm vapour, thick with the smell of fresh blood, drifted upward into the flushed faces of the frenzied soldiers."

The young woman (called ku-niang by the soldiers, it means girl but they're using it as slang more akin to prostitute only without any intention to pay) was butchered because she had the bad luck to mourn the death  of her mother who had been killed by a stray bullet when the fighting moved onto her families doorstep. Hirao faces no consequences for stabbing a woman to death because her crying annoyed him and this is not the only time members of the unit engage in such behaviour. 

Unsurprisingly the authorities were not pleased with this pro war propaganda. In addition to its literary merits Soldiers Alive is incredibly revealing, an accurate account of a conflict is inherently condemnatory even when penned by a militaristic author.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Great Lives - Louise Michel



This from a radio program that runs on the BBC called Great Lives, essentially a series of audio biographies on people chosen by the guests. This episode on the life of Louise Michel was chosen by Paul Mason, this was in 2013 before he reminded us all that he is firmly a social democrat. He the host and the other guest Professor Carolyn Eichner author of Surmounting the Barricades Women and the Paris Commune.



Its very comprehensive and covers her life from childhood to working as a teacher, to the Commune and her time in exile and her return to France.


Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The Case of the Birmingham Six







In Birmingham in 1974 two pubs were bombed, the police suspected IRA involvement and so targeted the local Irish population. In the end their dragnet charged six men Hugh Callaghan, Patrick Joseph Hill, Gerard Hunter, Richard McIlkenny, William Power and John Walker with the bombings. The six men appeared in court bearing bruises and eventually they plead guilty. 

It turned out that the confessions were extracted from them by physical assault, indeed it came out that none of the six men had committed the bombings and were innocent. Eventually in 1991 after being imprisoned since 1975 the six were freed and the case declared a miscarriage of justice. 

There's a part of the above video that got overlooked but I think is really important. The wife of one of the six didn't know her husband had been arrested until the televised news broadcast despite her home being raided and searched by the police. The reason that didn't tip her off is because the police actions surrounding the bombings in 74 weren't a departure from typical police behaviour when suspecting Irish perpetrators. The UK police fully employed profiling in this period, any suspicious event that might possibly be IRA related was met with a program of harassment and investigation of the local Irish community. 

Profiling is often championed on grounds of pragmatism, it may be unfair or even illegal itself but we're assured that it works. Well it didn't work in Birmingham in 1974, six innocent men were beaten and imprisoned sixteen years, and it also didn't work in Guildford where four Irish men were wrongly arrested for another series of IRA pub bombings, and it didn't work when the police arrested an additional seven Irish men for the crime of manufacturing the explosives used. In the end all eleven men were found innocent after lengthy prison terms.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Remembering the Black Triangles




I've been thinking about an often overlooked aspect of Nazi society and its campaigns of terror. Specifically I was thinking of how much of what we think about when we think of Hitler and the Nazi regime is still dominated by the myths they created for themselves. As a result a lot falls through the cracks so I'd like to try redress some of this by sharing what I've learned about the Black Triangle.



Its not much I'm afraid, most of the information on the issue in English I've found has been dominated by the controversy about how appropriate it is or is not as a symbol of Lesbian oppression[1] in the Third Reich, and about the current usage of the symbol by disabled campaigners in the UK[2]. I was able to find out that in 1938 mass arrests of anti-social individuals accounted for 10,000 people 2,000 of which were sent to Buchenwald, and that other camps such as Auschwitz, Ravensbruck and Dachau had black triangle populations[3].

The Black Triangle badge was for prisoners who were deemed to be Antisocial, the official name was Arbeitsscheu which literally translates as work-shy. But long term unemployment wasn't the only criteria for imprisonment, you could also be declared Arbeitsscheu for refusing or being found unfit for compulsory labour such as digging trenches for the Autobahns or working in armaments factories. You could also be branded with the triangle if you were suspected of being of poor moral character, common targets for the anti-social category included the homeless, alcoholics, drug users and sex workers. 

Victims also included the Roma[4] and people with behavioural abnormalities and disabilities that were deemed not serious enough to warrant euthanasia were also rounded up, hence the current associations with the struggles against Department for Work and Pensions. In Ravensbruck there were four women given the Black Triangle who specifically noted as suspected lesbians, and there were cases of people being categorised as Arbeitsscheu for having relations outside of their "race".



You could also be black triangle for having a criminal record even if you had not committed a crime recently, which would have moved you into the Green Triangle category instead.

Hitler in Table Talk actually argues that all citizen with a serious offence on their records should either be executed or condemned for life in the Concentration camp system.

"After ten years of imprisonment with hard labor an individual is lost for community life anyhow. Who is going to give him any work? Such a fellow should be put into a concentration camp for life or he should be killed. In our days the latter is more important and serves as a warning. It should be an example for all followers!"
[5]

The part I've bolded is I think the key factor that unites all the various victims of the Work-shy label and the violent repression that came with it. Its the one thing the estimated 12.658 [6] Anti-social prisoners have in common. They all in one way or another were deemed unworthy of taking part in the new German national community.



Volksgemeinschafft was a key pillar of the National Socialist society, there were dozens of government and party organisations dedicated to its promotion and ensuring that all German citizens took an active part within it. Deviation from this community in any form wasn't tolerated and we see that through the Black Triangle category it carried the ultimate penalty for those who couldn't measure up to it. An estimated 6,000 Anti-social prisoners would die in the camps.

One of the largest and most powerful organisations was the Strength Through Joy (KDF) organisation.


The KDF worked for the German Workers Front the umbrella organisation that replaced the now illegal trade unions and mutual aid societies. It was also under the supervision of Goebbels propaganda ministry and collaborated with other arms of the Nazi regime. The KDF is sometimes depicted as a largely benevolent organisation, apologists are quick to emphasis cheap package holidays and trips to the cinema etc. But the truth is that it was a tool for the control of the ordinary German in their leisure time.

The aim of the KDF was to extend Nazi party regimentation to the German workers free time, it even an Office for After Work Activity (Amt Feierabend) and Office for Popular Education (Amt Volksbildungswerk). The KDF's sole function was making sure German workers took part in approved leisure activities, the cinema trips were to propaganda films, the leisure activities were strictly partisan, even the uniforms for sports clubs were all party endorsed. 


Even the package holidays were politically motivated, after the union with Austria the KDF sent thousands of Austrian workers in order to encourage loyalty to the new regime

Two weeks after the Anschluss, when SS-Gruppenführer Josef Bürckel became Reichskommissar für die Wiedervereinigung as well as Gauleiter, the first five trains with some 2,000 Austrian workers left for Passau, where they were ceremonially welcomed. While Bürckel announced that he did not expect all KdF travelers to return as National Socialists, he did expect them to look him in the eyes and say, "I tried hard to understand you."
This is why the treatment of the "work shy" was so severe, not only were they not contributing to the German economy fully but they weren't able to take part in the German community project either, which rendered them suspect in the eyes of the regime. 

IV.26
Die Gemeinschaftsunfähigen (Those unfit for community life) by H.W Kranz and S. Koller, Giessen 1941
Title page
Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Heinrich Kranz and his colleagues in the Institute for Hereditary Health and Racial Hygiene with the university of Giessen directed their focus in work on the attempt to demonstrate the hereditability of criminal and "asocial" behavior. After his habilitation paper "Lebensschicksale krimineller Zwillinge" (1936), his main work consisting of two volumes, "Die Gemeinschaftsunfähigen", was published in 1941; Kranz had edited this work together with his colleague Siegfried Koller. Kranz and Koller identified "all those'unfit for community life' or'asocial'..., who show very often significant tendencies opposing community life and who repeatedly show their incapacity or hostility concerning community life." The authors described those who were unable or who did not want to fit into the dominant Nazi condition s, crimal and non criminal individuals, "unfit for community life" as "clinkers and excretory products of human society and civilization", and recommended forced sterilization, forced labor and deprivation of national civil rights for the protection of national unity.
In 1941, the medical statistician Siegfried Koller (born in 1908) became head of the new bio-statistical institute in Berlin. In 1956, after having spent the years 1945-1952 in confinement, Koller was appointed honorary professor and head of the Institute for medical statistics in Mainz. From 1953 to 1962 he was head of the Department for Demographic and Cultural Statistics with the Federal Office for Statistics. In his function of nestor of medical statistics, Koller obtained the Bundesverdienstkreuz (Federal Distinguished Service Medal) in 1982.
[7]

Essentially in the new German order you could potentially condemn to a forced labour camp for the crime of not liking folk dancing.


_____________________________________________________________________________
1: http://remember.org/educate/elman
2: http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/
3: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aktion_Arbeitsscheu_Reich
4: In Birkenau concentration camp the Roma population wore black triangles before the introduction of a Brown triangle badge unique to Roma prisoners http://auschwitz.org/en/history/prisoner-classification/system-of-triangles
5:  Table Talk p. 271
6: http://archive.is/BM4e#selection-315.621-315.627
7: Idib.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Audible Anarchist



For the past couple of months or so I've been interested in and then later volunteering for a group called Audible Anarchist. Audible Anarchist is a group of volunteers making audio book versions of texts thought to be useful for the development of Anarchism and education.


Intro video


"What is anarchism? Anarchism is a diverse and overlapping set of political ideologies dedicated to creating a stateless society where all individuals are free from arbitrary authority, hierarchy, and oppression. Because our current society is based on hierarchy--the ingrained beliefs that some people should have more power than others--we believe we must destroy the systems of power that keep all people oppressed.

Audible Anarchist is a collective of volunteers from around the world dedicated to sharing anarchist ideas through audio recordings of books and essays, through podcasts, and through collaboration. Subscribe to our channel and discover the myriad resources available to you. Uploads several times each week."

Currently the main project is reading Rudolf Rocker's Nationalism and Culture but readers are free to contribute a reading on any text they wish. Speaking of the group is always open to more volunteers, all you need is a means to record audio and access to the text you wish to read. Audio editing skills are a bonus but speaking from experience its not necessary as the group has some very experienced editors.

One strength of the current Anarchist community is that it has preserved many books, essays and speeches and still continues produce more to add to it. However material in other mediums is lacking, so audio books are a way of filling in some of the gap. I myself struggle to get into some books and even short essays and have found the readings on Audible Anarchist very helpful. Currently much of the work is being done on the Youtube channel but their is also a Dischord server and subreddit. There is also a website and plans to collaborate further with Librivox the worlds largest publisher of public domain audio books.

If you wish to volunteer or get in touch feel free to contact the group using the email
audibleanarchist@gmail.com 

Monday, 18 December 2017

Italy's Secret State Within the State




Earlier I uploaded a video about the life and murder of Giuseppe Pinelli and Italian Anarchist. While I thought the video was excellent at covering Giuseppe, I took issue with the later discussion about that period of Italian history. The guest downplayed and ridiculed the pretty well known strategy of tension and collaboration and infiltration of the Italian government and its policing arms, especially the intelligence services. Well it seems like the BBC agreed with me, because later they did another program on the murder of Roberto Calvi under Black Friar bridge. And in the process document his many, many connections to the conspiracy and interview two men instrumental in exposing it.






Murder and conspiracy among Italy's elite Roberto Calvi, head of Banco Ambrosiano, who was convicted of fraud but released on appeal shortly before his murder
At the time I thought the guest made the mistake of taking the strategy to its most extreme interpretation, that the government of Italy as a block including politicians and bureaucracy were united in a fiendish plan to use manufactured outrages like the Piazza Fontana bombing to pave the way for an openly Fascistic regime. Whereas the above video makes clear this was a plot motivated by one faction within and without the governmental system with some very powerful friends.

Also of interest, this appears to be one of the few times in history where a chapter of the Free Masons, Propaganda Du, or P2 where up to some very sketchy and murderous schemes. With that in mind and the obsessive fixation on the Masonic brothers in conspiracist circles its a little surprising this incident doesn't play more of a prominent role in that scene.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Classical Liberalism: Classical Menace




I encountered YouTube user and social commentator Sargon of Akkad about a year or so ago. He seemed like a rather obnoxious man who seemed to be deliberately playing up to the stereotype of a toxic intellectual. So I ignored him, though due to his popularity and infamy he kept popping up on my radar like in this video clip where he ends it saying he'll support Fascist terror.




Flicking through the comments and seeing his fans come out the woodwork reminded me of something else Sargon has been pretty heavily committed to in his internet career, the rehabilitation and promotion of the ideology of `classical liberalism`. Classical Liberalism, I'm just going to call it Liberalism from now on, promotes itself by appearing as a moderate and open and tolerant view point that is in strict opposition to all the various political extremists. The horseshoe fallacy is common talking point amongst this crowd.

So far as I'm aware this liberal revivalism unlike Neoliberalism doesn't appear to have grown into a full fledged political movement, so this may seem like tilting at windmills, but this is early days and I think given the prevalence of a certain smug frog its best to knock this thing on the head sooner rather than later. In my personal experience if you let a self professed Classical Liberal talk for long enough you'll eventually start hearing some pretty extreme and violent reactionary ideas. Sargon is pretty typical in that regard, but this more than just individual moral failings the whole project is rooting in some pretty vile stuff and is inherently reactionary.

This particular strand of liberalism likes to based itself on the Enlightenment period, specifically the early United States and United Kingdom, and the personalities they really like come from the 18th and early 19th century. But these societies were not wonderful bastions of reason and tolerance, they both were heavily involved in slavery, conquest and complete oppression of women. And a mans social worth and standing was dependent entirely on the size of their property holdings. Even in the democratic and republican USA property gave you unique entitlements like the right to vote or stand for office.

These weren't aberrations they coincided quite a lot with the views of many of this periods most prominent thinkers. For example John Stuart Mills On Liberty is a foundational text on Liberalism written in 1859 it largely codifies a lot of earlier liberal thinking. It outlines for example the limits of government authority, it also fully endorses colonial expansion and domination.

This isn't a man from an earlier time carrying some baggage either this is at the core of Mill's liberal framework of authority, if you're not advanced enough you should be ruled for your own good. He also was not being guilty of theoretical abstraction, Mill worked for the East India Company and assisted in the Despotic control of millions of "barbarians".

Another influential thinker often cited as one of the best thinkers of early liberalism is Thomas Jefferson the well known democracy advocate and American revolutionary. He not only drafted the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights the two pillars of liberal thought but he was so committed to them that he declared them `self evident`.

He was also a slave owner and even raped some of those slaves  . He also opposed the free coloured population, he tried to declare free black people living in Virginia declared outlaws, and wanted to expel the children of white women and black men.[1] Like Mill he also took a dim view of "Barbarians" and endeavoured to pressure the tribes living in or near US territory to leave and move further west if they couldn't be "civilised". His favourite method was tricking the tribes into debt by selling to them on credit, then using that as leverage in negotiations. In exchange for debt cancellation the government would get land for cheap and parcel it off, this would weaken the ability of the tribe to pay off any future debts and establish a negative spiral eventually forcing the tribes to either leave US territory or assimilate into the towns.

Jefferson first instructed his agents to persuade Indians to adopt agriculture. That new way of life, the agents explained, would require less land than hunting. With no need for their vast forests, the Indians were encouraged to sell their uncultivated territories for 25 cents per acre, the profits of which Indian farmers could use to purchase agricultural tools and manufactured goods. To stimulate Indian consumerism, Jefferson increased the number of government trading houses located near Native villages, arguing publicly that the establishments enabled Indians to share in the fruits of white "civilization." But it was a ploy. His real motive, he confided in 1803, was to lure Indians into spending themselves into debt, obligations that would be paid off through the sale of tribal lands.
The weapons in Jefferson's arsenal of dispossession were many and varied, and they worked to perfection. As the historian Colin Galloway has observed, Jefferson's strategy yielded some 30 treaties with approximately a dozen tribes, who ceded some 200,000 square miles of land in nine states.

The fact Jefferson owned slave is no secret of course, even his admirers acknowledge it, though they quickly make excuses. For example when his slave estate is brought up the quotation about the wolfs ear is often cited as an example of his sad reluctant compromise with that bloody institution.  "but, as it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other." But that is a very selective quote, the full letter that it comes from makes it clear that he advocates expanding slavery throughout the Union including the newly acquired territory of Missouri. Indeed he goes so far as to call abolition a form of treason and the death of the nation.

Monticello Apr. 22. 20.

I thank you, Dear Sir, for the copy you have been so kind as to send me of the letter to your constituents on the Missouri question. it is a perfect justification to them. I had for a long time ceased to read the newspapers or pay any attention to public affairs, confident they were in good hands, and content to be a passenger in our bark to the shore from which I am not distant. but this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. it is hushed indeed for the moment. but this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence. a geographical line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once concieved and held up to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated; and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper. I can say with conscious truth that there is not a man on earth who would sacrifice more than I would, to relieve us from this heavy reproach, in any practicable way. the cession of that kind of property, for so it is misnamed, is a bagatelle which would not cost me in a second thought, if, in that way, a general emancipation and expatriation could be effected: and, gradually, and with due sacrifices, I think it might be. but, as it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other. of one thing I am certain, that as the passage of slaves from one state to another would not make a slave of a single human being who would not be so without it, so their diffusion over a greater surface would make them individually happier and proportionally facilitate the accomplishment of their emancipation, by dividing the burthen on a greater number of co-adjutors. an abstinence too from this act of power would remove the jealousy excited by the undertaking of Congress, to regulate the condition of the different descriptions of men composing a state. this certainly is the exclusive right of every state, which nothing in the constitution has taken from them and given to the general government. could congress, for example say that the Non-freemen of Connecticut, shall be freemen, or that they shall not emigrate into any other state?

I regret that I am now to die in the belief that the useless sacrifice of themselves, by the generation of '76. to acquire self government and happiness to their country, is to be thrown away by the unwise and unworthy passions of their sons, and that my only consolation is to be that I live not to weep over it. if they would but dispassionately weigh the blessings they will throw away against an abstract principle more likely to be effected by union than by scission, they would pause before they would perpetrate this act of suicide on themselves and of treason against the hopes of the world.

to yourself as the faithful advocate of union I tender the offering of my high esteem and respect. Th. Jefferson
This is all terrible but again it is not an aberration, these horrible views are part of the bedrock of Jeffersonian liberalism.  He believed that for the democratic society he championed to work it must be primarily agricultural and based on a large body of small land owners. The Yeomen farming class[2] essentially. In order for this class to survive and prosper it needed several things, plenty of unoccupied land, hence the pushes to removal of the tribes to free up vast acres. It also explains in addition to naked racism and belief in pseudo science the drive to maintain and expand slavery and expel the free coloured population. If the slaves were freed many of them would become free farmers and so compete for land, and so would be a destabilising influence on the yeoman farmer society Jefferson wanted to cultivate.

And speaking of cultivation...

Voltaire! The above is basically classical liberalism's slogan. If they ever do become a full fledged movement with rallies and marches that will be on most of the banners. Minor tangent, when I looked up where exactly Voltaire said this and the second result was Stormfront, I don't have a point here, just thought it was worth mentioning. Also it appears that he didn't and the quotation was attributed to him in a book written after his death by an English admirer  but the association has stuck so I'll keep going.

Voltaire was of course very influential and still is to an extent, the problem is while his works have many merits, Candide is a favourite, both his personal and his legacy aren't very good omens if this liberal revival takes off. Voltaire was not afraid to offend or risk punishment for what he believed in, though he didn't relish being sent back to the Bastille so often used pen names and moved around when the authorities had had enough of him. The problem is though that he had a very, very poor track record when it came to defend the rights of anyone else.

He was the close friend and confidant of Frederick the Great, and may have been his lover. Frederick's regime was built on conquest and serfdom[3] so he does not appear to have made much impact their. He also little success with his other great admirer Catherine the Great. Again he found an enthusiastic fan at the head of an autocracy built on military conquests and serfdom. He had a lively correspondence with the "enlightened despot"[4]. Indeed before the French revolution Voltaire was the most important and popular thinker amongst the Russian nobility.

Now because of the two previous examples I want to make it clear that unlike Mill and Jefferson I don't think Voltaire actively promoted any of this, though his comments praising Catherine's war with the Turks for example are pushing. I'm mainly bringing up Voltaire because he's an enlightenment figure many classical liberals openly aspire to and his legacy shows just how insufficient his ideas are for addressing extreme injustice. 18th century Russia was a society where the nobility could in effect do what they pleased so long as they did not anger a more powerful member. And yet despite years of infatuation the Russian enlightenment never translated into effective social change. On the contrary after 1789 Catherine ditched the enlightenment and aggressively stamped out what little progress had been made.

Now back to the UK. Arguably the United Kingdom since its founding in 1707 was the nation where classical liberalism made the most inroads. Indeed the UK has had several liberal Prime Ministers, and by strange coincidence these premierships often occurred during some pretty dark and bloody periods of UK history. For example Prime Minister John Russell who essentially caused the Irish famine. Now he didn't go around spreading the blight, the blight actually appeared while his predecessor the Conservative PM Robert Peel.

But the majority of the deaths can be lead squarely at Russell's feet since he not only did not take measures to prevent or limit the damage of the famine, he ended what relief efforts Peel's government had made, (small scale public works, price guarantees of corn etc.). He was the Prime minister from 1846 to 1852 nearly the entirety of the famine, and he never changed course. His actions, or rather deliberate inaction lead to the displacement of 2-3million people and the deaths of 800,000 to 1,000,000 people depending on estimates. All of whom were British subjects due to the act of Union in 1800. And again as with Mill and Jefferson this wasn't some personal failing, it was the direct result of a firm belief in a cornerstone of classic liberalism, that of the market economy.

As far as Russell was concerned the real tragedy of the famine was that it lead the British government to intervene in the economy for them it was most important to get the market back on track. To quote Trevalyn a member of Russell's government who oversaw Ireland and its (lack of relief)

Our measures must proceed with as little disturbance as possible of the ordinary course of private trade, which must ever be the chief resource for the subsistence of the people, but, coûte que coûte (at any cost), the people must not, under any circumstances, be allowed to starve.
Which seems not too bad, but the commitment to not let people starve quickly proved hollow, under Trevalyn exports of Irish food stuffs continued regularly and when in 1847 he was confronted with news that the years potato harvest had been riddled with blight this was his response.

    'The only way to prevent the people from becoming habitually dependent on government is to bring the operation to a close. The uncertainty about the new crop only makes it more necessary. Whatever may be done hereafter these things should be stopped now or we run the risk of paralysing all private enterprise and having this country on you for an indefinite number of years. The Chancellor of the Exchequer strongly supports this policy.'

And there you have it, liberal economics in a nutshell. Property and commerce before and above human costs. Whenever someone praises liberal economics and laissez-faire commerce this is what they mean.

Before I wrap up I'd like to hammer home this point with the example of the most successful liberal statesman in the UK, Gladstone. Gladstone was Prime minister four times, and Chancellor of the Exchequer another four times, so a man of influence and power. In opposition he developed a reputation for opposing the growth of the Empire. When he was in office though he made no move to withdraw British rule from any of its overseas territories. Indeed, he personal investments in several Imperial ventures. The case of Egypt is very revealing, in the 1880's tensions were growing there. Gladstone decided to intervene, the fact he had 37% of his stock invested in the country was probably just a coincidence.


Gladstone funnily enough justified Imperial aggression and domination in much the same way J.S. Mill did, for their own good, and it would end once the conquered "savages" reached an appropriate level of civilisation whatever that actually means.

The Liberal project old and new is one steeped in violence and hostile elitism. In that respect the modern "classical liberals" of today are not much different from their forefathers. The reputation political liberalism has of being an emancipatory movement for civil discourse and polite toleration is largely a product of misdirection and propaganda to cover up the atrocities and structural tyranny it presided over.

___________________________________________
1:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/opinion/the-real-thomas-jefferson.html
2: The term Yeomen farmer in the United States didn't have any feudal connotations
3: Frederick II past an abolition of serfdom decree in 1763 after he had fallen out with Voltaire and the decree only extended to crown lands. It wouldn't be until the revolution of 1848 when Prussian peasants would finally be freed from all feudal obligations.
4: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/jun/02/russia.books

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