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Archeofuturism/ Archeofuturism 2.0 Reviewed

Archeofuturism/

Archeofuturism 2.0

-Guillaume Faye

Reviewed by Anthony C Green

Archeofuturism is a work of political theory/prophecy written by Guilaume Faye and published in 1998 which ends with a Science Fiction Short Story. Archeofuturism 2.0, first published fourteen years later, is a work of eleven interlocking Science Fiction Stories that serve to further illustrate Faye’s Political Philosophy.

I read them back to front, on the basis that as a long-standing fan of Science Fiction 2.0 would be an easier ‘in’ to Faye’s ideas.

 Would I have enjoyed 2.0 as pure SF, had I not known that it was written as an addendum to a work of political philosophy, and had not at least had a minimal acquaintance with the strand of thought of which Faye is a key representative?

The best political, or as it’s more usually known ‘Social’ SF, Jack London’s The Iron Heel, almost all of the books of Ursula Le Guin, Orwell’s Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty Four, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the novels of the Soviet novelist Boris Strugatsky, read as though the story came first: the political philosophy flowed naturally from the story. That is as it should be. The danger with the approach of Faye, who was clearly writing fiction as a means of putting across a political message, is that the writing becomes unnecessarily stilted and didactic.

Had I begun with Archeofuturism, then I almost certainly wouldn’t have bothered with 2.0. That is because the single piece of fiction which closes the original book, definitely fits the description of being stilted and didactic, faults to which we can also add that of an unforgivable overuse of cliché. As a writer myself who spends much time, no doubt some of it fruitlessly, on combing my own writing to find over-used word-combinations in order to ruthlessly exterminate them, I instinctively recoil from any writer that uses phrases such as ‘fit as a fiddle’ or ‘stubborn as a mule.’

 There is still a tendency towards the didactic in 2.0, but the writing is far from stilted and I spotted no obvious, glaring examples of cliché. My decision to read 2.0 first was thus vindicated. Taken purely as a work of Science Fiction, this second book features a decent collection of stories that form a cohesive whole in a more or less consistent universe

Before moving on to a discussion of Faye’s ideas themselves, ideas which seem to have hardly changed in the two decades between the two books, I should perhaps give a short introduction to the author himself.

Faye was born in 1949 and died in 2019. He was involved with the French Nouvelle Droite (New Right) movement, along with Alain De Benoist from its inception in 1968. This movement was founded out of the remnants of the old, more traditionally Fascistic, Action Francaise, and was primarily a response to the revolutionary student/workers ‘events’ of May of that year. In 1970, still under the leadership of De Benoist, Faye was part of the attempt to develop the ideas of Nouvelle Droite beyond France into a European wide phenomenon. The movement that emerged was called GRECE (translated as ‘Research and Study Group for European Civilisation’). Faye remained a leading figure within both ND and GRECE until 1986, after which, until the publication of Archeofuturism in 1998, he dropped out of politics in order to establish a successful career in the media. Though political differences with De Benoist were by this time longstanding, Faye did not formally break with GRECE until the year 2000.

GRECE have correctly been described as ‘Gramscian’s of the Right’. Unashamedly elitist in nature, they eschewed the street activism normally associated with the European Far Right in favour of gradually influencing mainstream culture in the direction of a rebirth of European identity and civilisation. Archeofuturism and the Identarian movement which it has given birth to, can in part be seen as an attempt to marry the ‘Long March of the Institutions’ approach of GRECE with a more populist movement with appeal beyond an intellectually inclined elite.

In addition to Gramsci, the influences of both GRECE and Archeofuturism are similar, if not identical, and pretty much as you would expect: Nietzsche, Heidegger, Spengler, Evola, Carl Schmitt, Ernst Junker and other Conservative German Revolutionaries of the twenties. There are also substantial if not entirely acknowledged debts to the Post-War ‘Europe a Nation’ project of Sir Oswald Mosely.

One of the major differences between Faye and De Benoist concerned the issue of Paganism. Although Faye is not personally big on Christianity, he believes that De Benoist’s commitment to Paganism as the ‘True’ religion of the European peoples’ is unnecessarily alienating. On this at least, I am with Faye. It is of course true, as De Benoist and his co thinkers maintain, that Christianity was originally imported onto European soil from the Middle East, the birthplace also of the other two leading monotheistic religions of the world, Judaism and Islam. It is also correct to maintain that religious beliefs were held and practiced in Europe long before the arrival of Christianity. But Christianity has been around in Europe for a long time now. It was in the First Century AD that the first, mainly plebian-soldier Christian Roman converts arrived. It became the official religion of the continent following the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine in the Fourth Century. Many would argue that European civilisation, such as it is, has largely been built upon the principles of Christianity, and compared to other religions, at least in the terms of self-identification, it still remains dominant. These numbers may have dipped a little since they were published, but in 2010 over 76% of Europeans still described themselves as ‘Christians; and although only a small portion (and this is highly variable from country to country) of those self-defined Christians are active in the sense of regularly attending a place of worship, it is fair to say that almost certainly a majority of them believe literally in the existence of their monotheistic God, and this probably even includes a reasonable proportion of Anglican Vicars. I doubt that many of our modern-day Pagans believe in the literal existence of Odin or of the pantheon of Ancient Roman and Greek Gods in the manner that their ancestors almost certainly did. Paganism today is little more than a Post-Modernist conceit; and if we believe that European Civilisation needs to be united and reborn, wouldn’t it simplify the task of unification and rebirth if it was based upon a revival of the religion that the majority of its inhabitants already express some belief in?

So, we move on to the basic tenants of Archeofuturism. In essence, it is the marrying of ‘Archaic’ values, such as tradition, family, tribal belonging, natural hierarchy, with its naturally accompanying rejection of the Enlightenment values of Liberalism and Egalitarianism, with scientific-technological advance past, present and future. That is, whilst drawing heavily on the traditionalism of Evola, Archeofuturism does not follow him in an absolute rejection of the modern world. In fact, aspects of it, particularly of the possibility of accelerated technological advance, are positively embraced. This embrace constitutes the ‘futurism’ of Archeofuturism. Faye though adds a strong proviso: that modern technological society will exist only for a minority of the Earth’s population, a figure he puts at approximately 17%. The rest of the world will essentially return to a subsistence means of living roughly equivalent to that of the Middle Ages. The Euro-Siberian Empire which he sees as an essentially development in our own part of the world, will naturally be amongst the most technologically advanced civilisations.

 We will arrive at this two-tier socio/political/economic world of tomorrow through what Faye terms a ‘Convergence of Catastrophes’, a key phrase/concept in the Archeofuturist  world-view; and the prediction of which has led some to regard him as a prophet, heralding the coming of the world that we have seen rapidly taking shape around us over the last two decades.

 The ‘catastrophes’ that Faye predicted would soon converge into one single, world-changing catastrophe are: economic crisis’ that are ever more deep and ever more sever in their consequences; increasing conflict between the richer Northern part of the world and the poorer South (Faye doesn’t like the artificial conceptual division of the ‘West’ and the rest); the increasing movement of peoples from South to North, which Faye regards as no less than an invasion, a haphazard but no less very real process of colonisation; an upsurge in expansionist, militant fundamentalist religion, by which he cites almost exclusively the example of Islam; the increased likelihood of life-threatening health pandemics; and perhaps most importantly of all, because unlike many on the Far or ‘Alt’ Right, Faye is no climate change sceptic, devastating environmentalist change.

The events of 11th September 2001 (‘9/11), which occurred three years after the publication of the original Archeofuturism, the financial crash of 2008, the current Coronavirus health crisis, increasing evidence of dramatic climate change, and the acceleration of migration from South to North have on the surface at least leant credibility to Faye’s predictions.

However, we should stress that as a prophet, Faye is a little out with his dates. By the reckoning of his 1998 book, ‘convergence’ should have happened by now and we should already be living through the apocalyptic convergence through which the new Archeofuturist word order will emerge. I recognise though that this is more of an aesthetic than a political criticism. Futuristic writers, whether they are writing fiction or none-fiction, need to be ultra-cautious when specifying dates. The year Nineteen-Eighty-Four might have seemed a long way ahead when George Orwell was writing his classic novel, but the actual year 1984 is now as far in the past to us as it was in the future to Orwell.

Faye is in no doubt about the cause of each of the catastrophes taken in isolation, and the convergence of these catastrophes which will lead to the destruction of the socio-economic-political order, the order that only a relatively short period of time ago seemed to be an ever expanding monolith which would come to dominate the entire planet, for the befit of all.

This cause is Globalisation in the sense of the attempt to spread a single, interlinking economic system, free market capitalism, and a single system of political governance, liberal democracy, across the entire planet.      

In place of this, Faye sees the Convergence of Catastrophe as leading to the development of seven distinct blocs in a multi-polar world. These blocs will be: the Euro-Siberian; the Sino-Confucian; the Arab-Muslim; the North American; the South American; the Black African, and the Pacific Peninsula Asian. Only in three of these blocs, the Euro-Siberian, the Chinese led Sino-Confucian; and the North American, will the Scientific-technological way of living remain dominant, and it is only between these blocs that there would continue anything resembling our current level of world trade.

There will however be no strict dividing lines. Even within the primarily scientific-technological blocs a significant amount of the population, perhaps a majority, would live at a level pretty close to that of subsistence. Science and Technology would very much be the province of an elite, and because of this, according to Faye, scientific advance would actually be much swifter and more profound than it has been in a world that is, on paper at least, committed to the values of Egalitarianism.

Faye doesn’t fall into the globalist trap of attempting to prescribe a single ideal way of governance for all peoples. How each bloc conducts its political and economic affairs will essentially be a matter for them, though he uses the term ‘Empire’ to describe the Euro-Siberian bloc, a term which sometimes appears to be in conflict with his talk of ‘direct’ or ‘organic’ democracy.

This is probably the best place to mention Faye’s analysis of the Actually Existing European Union. His criticism of it is that it is neither one thing nor the other: its existence has undermined the power of individual nation-states, whilst failing to replace it with a centralised unifying body that has the power and the will to act. In the Euro-Siberian Federation of the future, which will essentially be a union of the current EU with Russia and its neighbouring countries, democracy of a sort will be retained through the use of regular referenda, but governmental officials within each constituent part of the bloc, will have the authority and the means to make and execute decisions rapidly and decisively when necessary. On today’s EU, Faye’s viewpoint is remarkably close to being a mirror image of that of Diem25, a ‘remain and reform’ movement, though of the Right rather than of the Left. In his view, although the present-day EU is nowhere near fit for the purpose of the future, the very fact of its existence makes the task of forging the necessary European unity much easier than it would otherwise have been.

This is one of the key differences between Faye’s Archeofuturism, and the main thrust of the National Populism that has gained ground throughout Europe in recent years. The new Populism of the type that is on rise in France, in Italy, in Germany, Hungary, Poland and elsewhere are with Faye in their opposition to multi-culturalism, they may even, like Faye, talk sometimes of a common European identity. But their chosen vehicle through which to oppose ethnopluralism and decadent liberal decay remains the nation-state.

Faye had little time for this. In his view, such nationalism is now outmoded. Indeed, for a French political activist, whether of Left or Right, Faye was very muted in his critique of the ‘Americanisation’ of French and European culture. For the Nouvelle Droite, opposition to the plastic, throw-away, pseudo-culture of America was and remains key. De Benoist even announced at one point his electoral support for the PCF, the French Communist Party, on the grounds that this party was the most consistent available defender of French culture in the electoral field. Faye on the other hand believed that American culture triumphed in the West simply because it is superior to anything that modern European nations are now able to produce. As an example, he compares the cinematic grandeur of the big Hollywood blockbusters to the pretentious and puny Arthouse efforts of most French, and other European cinema. Only when it is united under a strong, centralised leadership founded on the archaic values of our ancestors will European culture reach the level of, and finally exceed the achievements of the United States.

In place of outdated nationalism, Faye proposes, as well as continental unity, a rebirth of Regional identity. Thus, the citizen of tomorrow’s united Europe will be a partisan of the Euro-Siberian Empire, but also of Bavaria, Lombardy, Bretton, Cornwall, Yorkshire and so on.

Here, I will raise my first major criticism of Faye’s vision/project; and that is that I just don’t believe it will happen, and if it did, I don’t believe it would long survive. Yes, regional identity is strong. But national identity remains stronger. A United Europe is possible, possibly even including Russia, one day. But it could only be possible through a highly centralised, technocratic leadership with a strong European army able and willing to enforce its will; and that could only be achieved against the mass opposition of the peoples of the existing nation-states of Europe. This is true I believe even in a period of catastrophe. As I’ve mentioned, Faye died just before the outbreak of the Coronavirus. But hasn’t this (comparatively) mini-catastrophe demonstrated that, yes as Faye argued, the current EU has neither the power nor the will to act decisively, but also that it is to their own nation states and their own national traditions that people instinctively turn at a time of crisis? Faye’s United Europe would, even if it were to come about through a series of crisis’, which in itself is highly doubtful, would be inherently unstable because it would lack the consent of the people. I simply don’t believe that a new order could be built on strong regional identity plus loyalty to a new continent wide super power, whilst somehow cutting out the middle man, the nation-state. That middle man remains strong and popular, and continues to my mind to be the most sensible unit upon which to establish and maintain a system of government.

What is true of Europe is also true of the other nascent blocs Faye postulates. It is probably true that the Islamic countries of the world have much more in common with one another, as Faye argues, than that which divides them. It’s also true that a singular Arab-Islamic state, even in the present world order would be a force to be reckoned with, and could even be a pole of attraction that would prompt Muslim migrants to the West to head ‘home’ voluntarily, rather than to be forcibly driven out as is implied would be inevitable in the Archeofuturist world of tomorrow. You would expect that the dominance of a single language, that of Arabic, throughout most of the Arab world would make the cause of unity much easier to achieve than it is in our linguistically fractured Europe. And yet, despite the efforts of impressive enough leaders like Nasser and Gaddafi, Pan Arabism has been a failed project. What is true of Pan-Arabism is also true of Pan Africanism, despite the efforts of such inspiring exponents as Thomas Sankara, Nelson Mandela and, once again, Gaddafi. The attempt to forge distinct, more or less autarkic blocs will fail for the very same reason that multi-culturalism is everywhere in retreat. People are different; attachment to distinctive cultures and to nation states is strong, and crisis tends to strengthen rather than weaken those attachments.

Faye stresses many times that he is in no way arguing for the superiority of the technological-scientific way of living. He believes that people in the advanced technological nations of the modern world are no happier than were our ancestors living a much simpler agricultural way of life pre the Industrial Revolution, or than we were back in our primitive hunter-gatherer days. He is perhaps right.

However, Faye assumes without offering any compelling argument for his assumption, that the techno-scientific elite of the future would simply leave their farming/hunter-gathering brethren to live their simple, happy lives in peace. Does the historical record really suggest that this is likely? His reasoning for limiting science and technology to relatively small groups of people is primarily environmental. Even without the huge game-changing environmental disasters that Faye expects to happen, the resources of our planet are finite. Globalisation will fail, because the notion that every country in the world can raise itself technologically to the level of the most advanced countries of the wealthy nations of the North, will prove to be nothing more than a short-lived utopian fantasy. The Earth simply doesn’t have enough ‘stuff’ for everybody to live in such a way.

My counter-argument to Faye is that in a world where we have rejected even the pretense of a commitment to equality and freedom for all, why would the elite simply leave the rest of us to live happily ever after on our plots of land within our tight knit tribes and clans? Wouldn’t the technological elite simply use their power to do what elites have done ever since elites first appeared as a historical force, that is use their power to enslave others and plunder whatever increasingly scarce and valuable resources remain to be plundered, regardless of historic ownership? In a world were equality, liberty and fraternity are ridiculed as outdated notions of deluded idealists, why would a super-powerful technologically advanced elite (for Faye doesn’t shy away from the issue of Trans-Humanism) of the future simply accept that a rural-hunter-gatherer existence is as equally valid as their own way of life, and therefore vow not to interfere with the natural lifestyle of the more primitive members of their species? Given enough time, would these technologically-enhanced-superman even continue to see these primitive ‘others’ as members of the same species as themselves at all?

In his 2016 book Four Futures: Life After Capitalism, the writer Peter Frase offers up four possible future scenarios that he sees arising from continuing technological advance. These range from something very close to the Fully Automated Luxury Communism (which I’ve already reviewed on Counter-Culture-UK) of Aaron Bastani at one end of the spectrum, to what he terms ‘Exterminism’ at the other. His argument is that, although we currently live in a world where we are becoming increasingly superfluous to the needs of the elite as far as productive labour goes, we are still, fortunately for the majority of us, needed as consumers of the products that the owners of the means of production need to sell in order to maintain their life of luxury. What if, in the future, technology has advanced to the point where everything the elite could possibly need or want is produced for them directly by a super advanced technology that only they have access to, without the mediating factor of the need to create profitable surplus products? Without any commitment to egalitarianism, or any secular or religious reason to value human life for its own sake, wouldn’t it make sense for this super-elite to simply exterminate or leave to die out through hunger and disease the superfluous population, maintaining the existence only of those who can in some way prove useful to them, for reasons of their particular expertise say in maintaining and repairing the robot/slave army at their command, or for reasons merely of entertainment or lust?

The Archeofuturist world would not in my view be the happy, multi-polar world that Faye depicts at various stages of development in the series of short stories that comprise Archeofuturism 2.0. It could well a be Heaven on Earth, with perhaps even death itself having been conquered, for a tiny minority, the 1% as it is sometimes called today, though in reality the real super-rich are much less numerous than that. But for the majority it would be a dystopian nightmare beyond the wildest imagination of even our darkest creators of Science Fiction, something very much akin to the ‘Exterminism’ of Four Futures.

Before moving on to my own conclusions regarding Archeofuturism, I will first say something about those who have decided to (mostly in a virtual fashion, it has to be said) march behind the banner that Faye first raised. Generation Identity is primarily a youth orientated movement, and I’ve also read the short book of that name that serves as their manifesto. The book raises some of the central issues facing the people of the richer nations, particularly the younger people. Not only are these young people the first in many generations who can have no real expectation of a materially easier life than that of the parents. They are also perhaps the first generation in recorded history to live without a grand, unifying vision, a grand narrative beyond that of passive consumerism by which to live their lives. Their book is essentially a cry of rage against the ‘68ers’ deconstruction of all values, a nihilist enterprise that has left them adrift in a world devoid of meaning. They have latched onto Archeofuturism in a desperate attempt to restore such meaning. Their plight is a real one, but surely our brightest young minds can do better than commit themselves to a vision of a world where the future becomes the province of a tiny elite, with the rest of us sent backwards into a world we’d thought we’d long left behind?

In the grown up world, the European New Right, the Nouvelle Droite, has had some success in their Gramscian project of influencing mainstream politics. Parties like the National Rally in France, Jobbik in Hungary, Lega in Italy, Law and Justice in Poland have clearly been influenced by De Benoist, particularly through their combining of policies generally associated with the Right, especially in opposition to mass immigration, with more or less Leftist economic policies. These parties can’t be simplistically dismissed as ‘Fascists’ or Neo Nazis as easily as could the old British NF or BNP, the German National Democrats, or the MSI in Italy, though that of course doesn’t stop the more extreme factions of the Antifa from doing so. The Archeofuturist Front, which along with the youthful Generation Identity is the main organisational representation of Faye’s ideas, aren’t fascist either But take a look at their social media pages. Who are the heroes they champion? Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and Boris Johnson seem to figure prominently. As a working class socialist I can well understand why many, mainly white, working class Americans voted for Trump rather than for the Globalist Hawk Hilary Clinton in 2016; I can even understand why many will do so again, against the equally hawkish, equally globalist Biden, despite the breathtaking ignorance that Trump has displayed throughout his Presidency. I can understand also why Labour’s promise to overturn Brexit through a rigged second referendum led to the collapse of the so called Red Wall and the handing of a substantial majority to Johnson in December 2019. But to hold up these individuals as posing a genuine threat to the globalist order; to see in them a radical foreshadowing of the future?

The AF don’t stop there either. They also seem to idealise the rainforest destroying, free market fundamentalist Bolsonaro, the President of Brazil. Trump; Johnson; Bolsonaro, the leaders of the three countries with the highest death rate from Coronavirus in the world; and as if that wasn’t enough, they also supported the failed coup of the American backed nobody Guaido against the socialist Maduro government in Venezuela. 

Thus, far from representing a strand of opposition to globalized capital, the AF seem to have latched on to some of the most reactionary expressions of it.

By your idols shall you be known.

By way of conclusion, I’d simply reiterate that Archeofuturism 2.0 is worth reading purely as a work of Science Fiction. The original Archeofuturism is also worth reading, if only as a means to familiarise yourself with an ideology which seems, through a convergence of coincidence, including a televised Zoom appearance on Michael Gove’s bookshelves, to be enjoying a brief period of notoriety. But as a political philosophy and a prophecy of the future, I think it is neither plausible nor desirable.

 We are certainly living through, as Faye predicted, a period of perhaps unprecedented crisis. But we do have choices as to how we respond. I’d personally be happy to see a return to traditional values in the sense of seeing stable families and cohesive communities as the foundations of a decent society. But traditional is a different beast to archaic.

 I’m all for Futurism also, for making full use of technological developments past, present and future. But if the techno-scientific world we aim to create is to be closer to a Utopia than to a Dystopia, then we must not abandon our commitment to egalitarianism. In fact, we must strengthen it. This needn’t mean an egalitarianism where everybody has exactly the same, because such a world is either possible nor desirable. But egalitarian in the Social Democratic sense of ensuring equal opportunities for all, and through maintaining the commitment to a level below which no one is allowed to fall. Even with finite resources such a world is possible, but only if we retain egalitarianism as an ideal.

So, read Faye, but also read Bastani and Frase; and although it was written before the digital revolution, Murray Bookchin’s ‘Post Scarcity Anarchism’ is probably worth digging out too, as are the writings of many non-conformist Marxists, Anarchists and Utopians. The novels and the non-fiction of Bogdanov and his fellow Russian Cosmists are perhaps also worth revisiting. We need to base the future on what has worked for the most people in the past, but also on what some of the finest minds of past and present times have dared to imagine. Archeofuturism, in reality, does little more than to dress up the dead ideologies of Divine Right and Imperialism in the clothes of Science Fiction. It’s a good name, but Its vogue moment will prove mercifully short.

Anthony C Green, June 2020.

Archeofuturism, published by Arktos Media LTD, 1998

Archeofuturism 2.0 Arktos Media LTD 2016, 2012

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 Fully Automated Luxury Communism by Aaron Bastani – A Defence

fullyautomatedluxurycommunismAlthough Karl Marx and his key collaborator Frederic Engels were politically engaged, active participants in the class struggle as well as being the theoretical founders of Scientific Socialism, neither of them had much to say about what a future Communist Society might look like. It is not true to say, however, as some critics claim, that they gave no indication of how society and the state might function in the immediate aftermath of the overthrow of capitalism. In his book The Civil War in France, Marx made it clear that he saw the form of Direct Democracy exercised by the Communards in the short-lived but heroic Paris Commune, as an indication of how the working class might exercise State Power in a socialist society, a society that he saw as the transitional stage between Capitalism and Communism. The ideas Marx expressed here were later developed by Lenin in his pamphlet ‘The State and Revolution’ as a model for the future Soviet State, although in reality, for reasons that need not detain us here, very few of them were actually put into operation once this state was established.

That neither Marx nor Engels were willing to speculate on how Full Communism might look, once the concentration of power in the hands of the Proletariat under socialism had been long enough established for the state to, in his own terms, ‘wither away’, was more than anything else an indication of how far away such a prospect seemed at the time that they were writing. One thing that they were clear on however was that Communism, a society where class rule, and hence the repressive apparatus of the state had ceased to exist completely, could only arise in a situation where the application of scientific theory and praxis had created an ‘abundance of goods’ that were accessible to all, rather than to a small pampered elite that lived off the wealth creation of others. Once established, such a society would free individuals from the necessity of dedicating the bulk of their lives to maintaining the barest of existences through their work, thus enabling them to take part fully in the running of that society, as well as being able to dedicate themselves to such noble pursuits as Art, Philosophy and Science. An example of how such a society might function was perhaps given, in somewhat primitive form, by the Ancient Greek City states, where those who were fortunate enough to enjoy full citizenship were freed from the prosaic needs of survival by the existence of large numbers of much less fortunate slaves, thus enabling a flowering of creativity and thought that remains influential to this day. Marx and Engels were of course not agitating for a return to slavery, and indeed strongly supported the abolitionist North against the Slave owning South in the American Civil War. Rather, they saw in the rapidly advancing technological marvels of the Industrial Revolution, the outlines of a future world where mechanisation would allow full citizenship for all, and through that developments in the finer elements of human endeavour that would make the achievements of the Ancients, and of the Enlightenment, seem like a mere prehistoric prelude to history. Under Full Communism, every man would be a Renaissance Man.

Marx and Engels resided for a long period in Victorian Britain, which was then the citadel of world capitalism, as well as the birthplace of the industrial revolution; and it was a through a study of this society that much of what we have come to know as ‘Marxism’ was developed. Here, even in the most developed nation on Earth, they found conditions of extreme poverty afflicting the developing working class, as described most graphically in Engels ‘The Conditions of the Working Class in England.’ Given such appalling conditions, speculation about how a future communist society might look once all such poverty had been eliminated, along with the system of class exploitation itself, would have seemed just that: wild speculation best left to utopians and dreamers, and best avoided by those who based their analysis on the application of the scientific method to the study of politics. Of course, It was also axiomatic to the founders of Scientific Socialism that a society of abundance could only be built from the starting point of the highest forms of capitalism. That is why, the clear expectation of both Marx and Engels was that the first socialist society would be established in one of the most developed capitalist nations, most likely in Britain or Germany. The reality, of course, is that the first state in the world that proclaimed itself to be a Socialist State in the process of advancing towards Communism arose in backward, semi-feudal Russia, a fact that has had a great bearing on the development of socialist thought both East and West.

Those who have called themselves ‘Socialists’ or ‘Communists’ in the West since the Russian Revolution of 1917, have tended to place themselves at either one of two extremes: Firstly, those who follow Marx in insisting that the society of the future is almost unimaginable to our puny, capitalist indoctrinated brains, and therefore such speculation is best avoided; and, secondly, those who say that such a society is already in the process of being created, in the Soviet Union, China, Albania, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea et al. Both of these approaches have their weaknesses. The former has led to many activists seeming to do little more than ask people to continue to fight the good fight and to have trust in a brighter future, in the way that religious zealots might demand faith in a future paradise that can bring about through good works and/or devout faith. The latter group is all too easily, rightly or wrongly, portrayed by the defenders of the status quo as apologists for Totalitarian Dictatorship and mass murder.

It is to these historical weaknesses in the case for Socialism/Communism that Aaron Bastani’s book Fully Automated Luxury Communism is addressed.

His essential thesis is that a future of material abundance is now far from unimaginable. The technological advances made since Marx’ time, and particularly in the period since the Second World War, have been literally astonishing, calling to mind the dictum that ‘if technology is sufficiently advanced it becomes indistinguishable from magic’. Marx was around at the time of the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell: what would he have made of our modern mobile phones, devices through which we hold in our hands virtually the sum total of all human knowledge? The primary mode of transport in Victorian London at the time of Marx’ period of residence in our capital city was the horse-drawn carriage, and the world’s first Railway network was still in the process of being created through the brute labour power of overworked and underpaid itinerant  Navies, the ‘precariat’ of their day. Today, the motor car is king, human beings have walked on the Moon and have developed the ability to send crafts, albeit unmanned, well beyond the confines of our own Galaxy.

And yet, as Bastani shows in clear, easy to read, accessible prose, our astonishing technological advance has been and still is used in the service of a tiny elite, rather than utilised for the benefit of the many; and to make this state of affairs even worse, the ceaseless pursuit of private profit by a few techno-corporate giants threatens, even sans nuclear warfare, to destroy our planet, our habitat, our home, the environment upon which our very survival as a species depends.

Bastani is able to show that a society of post-scarcity is both possible and necessary, as well as to give an indication of how such a society might be achieved and might look. Those of us who are actively engaged in the struggle for a radically different, fairer world, whether we call ourselves Communists, Socialists, Anarchists or Ecologists, be we Trade Unionists and/or campaigners for peace and climate justice, need to absorb, to treat with seriousness, and to make use of the kind of analysis and agenda that Bastani and his co-thinkers are currently advancing. If we don’t, if we ignore such developments and merely implore activists to stick to a study of the classics of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, Enver Hoxa, Kim Il Sung, mix and match as you see fit, and if we continue to re-fight the battles of the past rather than becoming proselytisers for an incomparably brighter and entirely realistic future, then we will confine ourselves to perpetual life on the political margins. The revolution will remain, as one wag put it, ‘just around the corner, the same place it has always been.’

Sadly, too many on the political Left have decided to dismiss Bastani’s work as worthless ‘hipster communism’, often it seems to me without having even bothered to read the book, let alone to engage seriously with the ideas put forward within its pages.

Here, in defending Bastani from his ‘Leftist’ critics, I will confine myself to two main points.

The first of these is the contention that FALC is essentially a ‘Reformist’ project. This is a point that is easily dealt with. Of course, the ideas in the book are indeed reformist, reformist in the sense that it contains a set of proposals to be implemented by a future radical government. That is, it is reformist in the same way that Labour’s 2017 and 2019 Election Manifestoes were reformist, in the same way that the 1945 Labour government was reformist. Reforms are important. Reforms, before Thatcher and Blair between them made the word ‘reform’ mean the opposite of its former political definition, have given working people much. But the reforms contained in Bastani’s book, if implemented in full, would amount to a revolution in the way we live more radical than anything ever previously seen.

In one badly argued ‘Left’ critique of FALC, from John Sweeney of the Communist Party of Britain (Morning Star, July 1st, 2019), Bastani’s assertion that the revolution won’t come about through a storming of the Winter Palace was written off disparagingly: why? Leaving aside the point that there was a lot more to the Russian Revolution than the storming of the official residence of the Tsar by an armed detachment of the working class led by the Bolshevik Party, how many on the Left in Britain today seriously believe that the British revolution will come about through a storming of Buckingham Palace? Does Sweeney himself believe this? If he does, then that is indicative of a very narrow understanding of the form and meaning of the socialist revolution.

One of the most exciting ideas that Bastani advocates is that of using technological development in order to advance towards a society of ever-increasing free Universal Basic Services, or UBS, a method he prefers to that of Universal Basic Income, UBI, (UBS rather than UBI), the latter which he rejects as little more than a trick to further enhance the capitalistic notion of ‘personal responsibility’ at the expense of the socialist imperative of collective security, as well as a way of further shrinking what remains of our actually existing Welfare State. Even at the present level of technological development, Bastani argues, it would be possible, once the capitalist class has been dispossessed, to rapidly advance to a system of UBS in the provision of energy, of high-speed broadband and other means of communication, in transport, in housing as well as in education and health care.

As well as UBS, Bastani advocates worker’s ownership of the means of production, to be administered in differing and varied forms (e.g. state ownership, municipal ownership, cooperatives), and the virtual abolition of all intellectual copyright and patent laws, so that the fruits of the sum total of human knowledge truly become the property of all.

Contrary to the impression given by Sweeney and many other ‘Left’ critics, Bastani doesn’t shy away from the need for political struggle if such a radical overhaul of society is to come about. The Red-Green Populist mass movement he calls for might not in and of itself be sufficient to bring about the changes he advocates. But is it really any less realistic than the idea of a shrinking industrial working class being led to power by a ‘vanguard’ party of the type Lenin first advocated in his ‘What is to be Done’ pamphlet way back in 1903?

This leads me to my second main point: the idea that Bastani is a Techno-Determinist who believes that Full Communism will emerge naturally through technological advance, without the need for political struggle at all. In reality, this is a weak caricature of Bastani’s thought, about as accurate as the common misconception that Marxism is an ideology of Economic Determinism which believes that socialism and communism are inevitable, whatever we as human beings do or don’t do.

In fact, the main thread that runs throughout the pages of Fully Automated Luxury Communism is that the potential for modern technology to liberate the whole of humankind from the evils of drudgery, poverty, and alienation, as well as to reverse climate change through ending our dependence on the rapidly diminishing supply of oil, is severely and quite deliberately limited by the physical and intellectual ownership of this technology by a tiny corporate, globalist elite. In short, Bastani’s work is wholly compatible with the Marxian analysis that under capitalism the capacity of the Forces of Production to liberate mankind will always, so long as capitalism exists, be limited by the Relations of Production, the ownership of the means of production by a tiny elite who then use that ownership to enrich themselves rather than to benefit the many.

A single quotation from the closing pages of the book should forever refute the idea that Bastani believes that political struggle is unnecessary in order to bring about revolutionary change:

‘There is no necessary reason why they (scientists and corporations currently leading technological advance – T.G) should liberate us, or maintain our planet’s ecosystems, any more than that they should lead to ever-widening income inequality and widespread collapse. The direction we take next won’t be the result of a predictive algorithm or unicorn start-up – it will be the result of politics, the binding decisions on all of us that we collectively choose to make.’

I am by no means a Bastani fan-boy. I have my own criticisms of his book. I’m not keen on the use of the word ‘Luxury’ for a start, a word that to me conjures up images of indolent decadence rather than of the unleashing of the creative potential of the masses that I believe would arise in a society built on abundance for all. There is also a strong case for dispensing with the word ‘communism’, a word that has, again rightly or wrongly to have much more negative connotations than its original Marxian meaning.  And I agree that Bastani doesn’t say enough about the form that the sort of movement he believes needs to be developed should take: for instance, a new political party, work through the existing parties, a Gramscian long march through the institutions, mass street protest, Trade Union action, or all of the above? Would such a movement, and/or a government committed to implementing Bastani’s ideas be prepared to use violence in order to defeat resistance that would inevitably be mounted by a threatened ruling elite? I would also add ‘Democratic’ and ‘National’ to Bastani’s ‘Red-Green-Populist triptych. ‘Democratic’ because, contrary to the sectarianism that has plagued the Left since the time of Marx himself, it really would be better if we let as many flowers bloom as possible, and ‘National’ because the political struggle is still fought primarily at the level of the Nation-State, and I believe that history has demonstrated that the Nation-State remains the largest form of political organization possible for the operation of a truly democratic culture. In addition, I wouldn’t be as quick as Bastani to dismiss the revolutionary/reformist potential of UBI, dependent on how it is implemented and by whom. There is no contradiction between the ideas of UBI and UBS. The two are twins, not opposites.

But at the very least FALC offers a hopeful vision of a future worth fighting for, and of how that future might look, something that, as I have already suggested, has been sorely lacking from Socialist discourse from its inception. Admittedly, I’m no scientist; and therefore, I’m not in a position to comment on the feasibility of asteroid mining, of nano-technology, of quantum computers, to give but a few examples of the many technological wonders of the future that Bastani believes can lead to a life of meaningful, healthy leisure for all. Nor do I know if the capacity of renewable energies can be expanded to the point that everyday energy usage can be made free for all, whilst at the same time making a huge contribution to reversing climate change, as quickly and as easily as Bastani suggests. But I doubt that many of the True Communist critics of the book are in any better position as regards such matters than I am.

Aaron Bastani advances a vision that inspires me, and can I believe be used to inspire others, to show the disillusioned and the dispossessed that, contrary to the fatalism and pessimism that is deliberately fostered by the ideologues of capital, that another world, a world for the many, not the few, a world that sees nature as a home in need of repair and protection rather than as a resource to be exploited,  is indeed possible.

It is time to leave our self-constructed Far Left ghettoes; time to dream; time to allow the imagination to take power.

Anthony C Green. Anthony C Green is a social care worker, novelist, Trade Unionist, and political activist living in Liverpool. His latest novel Special, based on his experiences as a social care worker, is now available: https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/contemporary/special/

Fully Automated Luxury Communism: A Manifesto Hardcover – 11 Jun. 2019
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Verso Books (11 Jun. 2019)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1786632624
ISBN-13: 978-1786632623

 

 

  • Fully Automated Luxury Communism: A Manifesto Hardcover – 11 Jun. 2019
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books (11 Jun. 2019)
  • ISBN-10: 1786632624
  • ISBN-13: 978-1786632623

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The Vanishing Futurist by Charlotte Hobson

The Vanishing Futurist by Charlotte Hobson

• Paperback: 320 pages
• Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (2 Mar. 2017)
• ISBN-10: 9780571234875
• ISBN-13: 978-0571234875

Reviewed by Anthony C Green

thevanishingfuturistThe Vanishing Futurist is a novel that I stumbled upon by accident whilst browsing in Liverpool’s excellent News from Nowhere left-wing bookshop. It is set in Russia in the period immediately prior to, during, and after the revolution of 1917.
The story is told from the perspective of Gerty Freely, a young English governess who works for a wealthy Moscow family. It is told in the past tense, from an unspecified point in the future, although it is clear that it is a point at which the Soviet Union is still in existence. References to a Soviet film of The Vanishing Futurist being made in the nineteen fifties, and other snippets of information, make it appear as though we are dealing with real, historical events. The appearance of real-life individuals such as the great Constructivist architect, designer, and artist Vladimir Tatlin and early Soviet Commissar for Education Anatoly Lunacharsky add to this sense of realism.

As the revolutionary upheavals of 1917 intensify, the Kobolev family by whom Gerty is employed, decide to leave Moscow, for the warmer and safer climate of the Crimea. Finding it more and more difficult to support herself through the teaching of English, and also partly out of ideological commitment, Freely ends up becoming a member of the Institute for Revolutionary Transformation (IRT), a small community which is established in order to practice a radical form of collectivist living, where all goods, including clothes, are held in common. The Communities increasingly meagre supplies of food are all shared equally, all work is collectively undertaken without distinctions of gender, and all diversions from the inner and outer struggle to reinvent oneself as the perfect Socialist Man/Woman are either frowned upon or banned outright.
Sex is regarded as one such diversion, though the proscription on physical relationships between commune members is tested early in the novel when Gerty falls in love with an avant-garde artist, scientist, and fellow IRT member Nikita Slavkin.

It is Slavkin who is the hero of the novel, and the Futurist referred to in its title. He brings his sexual relationship with Gerty to an end not long after it had begun, although his claim that he has done so for ideological reasons is strongly undermined when he quickly becomes physically involved with Sonya, another female member of the commune.

Life in the IRT mirrors developments in the world outside as the young Soviet Worker’s State battles for survival against the combined forces of Imperialist intervention, internal counter-revolution, and endemic poverty and backwardness which has been worsened by the wasteful brutalities of the First World War. Thus, as the original revolutionary spirit of experimentation in art comes up against the austere and harsh requirements of War Communism, a split emerges within the commune itself, between the radical followers of Slavkin on one side, and those who side with Fyodor, an IRT member who stresses the importance of discipline and efficiency as the key to the building of socialism. The original radical impulse of the IRT is further weakened when the leadership of the local Soviet decrees that in order to help cope with the acute housing shortage in Moscow it must open its doors to people who do not necessarily share the ideological fervour of its founders.

This aspect of the novel can be read as an analogy for the way that the revolutionary spirit of Russia’s small but class conscious industrial working class was severely diluted by an influx of more politically and culturally backward elements from the countryside, who were needed to replace workers who had joined the newly established Red Army in order to fight the White Counter-Revolutionaries and imperialist interventionists. This struggle also mirrors the tensions within Russia between on the one side the Slavic/conservative/traditionalist elements and the Westernised/ liberal/modernisers, a tension that dates back to at least the 19h century and is still unresolved within today’s Russian Federation.

It is on two of Slavkin’s radical inventions that the novel hinges. The first is called the PropMash, an abbreviation of Propaganda Machine, which is a form of sensory overload capsule that, by bombarding people with sights, sounds and smells designed to promote socialism, can supposedly rapidly break down individualistic conditioning and raise political consciousness to the required level of the new revolutionary man or woman.

The PropMash has mixed results, and Slavkin’s attention is soon diverted to an intense study of the newly emerging theories of Quantum Physics. These studies lead him to adopt what has become known as the Many Worlds/Multi-verse interpretation of quantum reality, essentially the idea that every decision we make creates a new universe; that an infinite number of parallel universes therefore exist, and that within this plurality of worlds everything that can possibly happen has happened, is happening, or will happen. Although seemingly straight out of a Philip K Dick novel this scientific theory, first postulated by the American Physicist Hugh Everett in the late nineteen fifties, has now become almost mainstream.

Slavkin’s logical deduction from the Many Worlds’ theory is that although Communism, the highest and final form of socialism and thus of human development, may not be possible here and now in the conditions of the backward and impoverished Russia of 1918, there must exist an infinite number of alternate universes where Full Communism has already been achieved. This revelation leads him to invent the Socialisation Capsule, which is essentially a vehicle for the transportation of individuals, beginning with Slavkin himself, from the harsh reality of his own material existence into a dimension where one of these utopian, communist parallel realities exists.

Slavkin’s public questioning of the possibility of achieving communism in present-day Russia quickly brings him to the attention of the local Cheka, the forerunner of the KGB. When he disappears from the experimental laboratory where he has been taken, a disappearance that apparently occurs after the facilities’ housekeeper had heard his new device whirling into action, the central mystery of the novel is posed: has Slavkin actually disappeared into one of the alternate communist futures that he believes must exist or, more prosaically, have his radical scientific theorising and experimentation led him to pay the ultimate price under the increasingly harsh excesses of Soviet Communism? It’s a question that Gerty, who has by now found that her brief physical relationship with Slavkin has left her pregnant with his child, sets out to discover the answer to.

I was not entirely satisfied by the ending to the book, but that may be no more than saying that, as a writer myself I would have chosen to conclude it differently. That aside, I thought The Vanishing Futurist was excellent. it is part Historical Fiction, part Science Fiction, and it deals with big questions, about how we should live, about our capacity to imagine different, better worlds, about high ideals, and how such ideals often come into conflict with the material practicalities of brute survival.

If that makes it sound as though it might be hard going, it isn’t. Its light and easy to read style make it a novel that is accessible to all reasonably intelligent readers. I would, however, add the caveat that although prior knowledge is not essential to the enjoyment of the book, the readers who will get the most from it are those with some background understanding of the main events and themes of the Russian Revolution, and perhaps also of the artistic movements that came to prominence and flowered briefly during this period of history, movements such as Futurism and Constructivism. The writer has clearly done her own homework in these areas, and her novel is highly recommended.

Anthony C Green is a social care worker, novelist, Trade Unionist, and political activist living in Liverpool. His latest novel Special, based on his experiences as a social care worker, is now available: https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/contemporary/special/

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SPECIAL by Anthony C Green 

  •  SPECIAL by Anthony C Green  special
  • Matador £7.99
  • ISBN 9781788033 442

Special is essentially the fictional biography of Annie Carter, born in Liverpool to a white mother and Jamaican father, told from the (her own) perspective of someone with an IQ of 70. The author uses his own experience of working within the field of Social Care for more than 20 years to reconstruct her life-story seen through her eyes. It provides an authentic insight into what is often a largely hidden world.

Annie was born in 1963 a (not “in the late 1950s” as stated on the back cover). The distinction is important. Philip Larkin`s poem Annus Mirabilis rings true to anyone who lived through the period:

“Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles` first LP”

The Chatterley ban ended in the autumn of 1960 and the Beatles` first LP came out in the spring of 1963. Larkin`s point is that there really were enormous changes in social attitudes between 1959 and the mid-1960s. In 1959-60 I taught children like Annie, from families who had moved from the Manchester slums of Collyhurst and Harpurhey to a nearby overspill housing estate. They were designated E.S.N. (Educationally Sub-Normal) but were taught in the lowest stream of Primary Schools. Special is set in Liverpool only a few years later, in an environment I found almost unrecognisable from my own experiences.

That said, the book is a gripping read. Jennifer, Annie`s mother, was only 17 when Annie was born. Two siblings arrived at intervals before her father was murdered in a racist attack (the racial element, although apparent throughout the novel, is largely incidental to its main theme) when Annie was 6. Two years later she was sent to an institution some 20 miles away from home. Her mother was an infrequent visitor. The heart of the book is Annie`s reaction to her new situation and how she coped with it. She was always aware of what was going on, unlike some of the other inmates who lacked her level of intelligence. She was sexually abused by staff and even, on a home visit, by a step-father. She ran away when she was 15 and worked as a prostitute in Wigan before being “re-captured”.

The author recounts these experiences with great sensitivity and understanding. He succeeds in the difficult task of empathising with Annie`s situation without either being patronising or under-stating the problems she sometimes caused for others, even for those she instinctively liked. He made one feel sympathetic both to Annie and to her mother Jennifer, who was torn between her love and responsibility for Annie and her need to serve the interests of her other children. And maybe if Annie`s father had not been murdered her life would have turned out differently. Her father doted on her and would surely never have acquiesced in her being sent to Mandlestones, the institution to which she was sent when she was 8. She clearly treasured his memory. I recommend the book warmly. It made me feel on Annie`s side throughout all of her difficulties. In describing the pitfalls which could befall a vulnerable child and adolescent in the 1970s he pulls no punches. Kindness wasn`t absent, but neither was exploitation. In that sense, it is also a piece of social history, the reality of which we have become increasingly aware. It also chronicles an increasingly progressive and humane approach on the part of the authorities.

The Prologue also serves as an Epilogue and should be re-read if its contents have been forgotten during the course of the book.

Reviewed by Henry Falconer

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Buried Lives: the Protestants of Southern Ireland

buriedlivesBuried Lives: the Protestants of Southern Ireland

Robin Bury, The History Press Ireland, Dublin 2019.  20.00

ISBN: 978-1-84588-880-0

Robin Bury, a member of the Church of Ireland, who grew up in East County Cork in the 1950s and 60s, has examined the long and troublesome experience of the Protestants in what he calls ‘Southern Ireland’. He uses this term rather than the ‘Irish Free State’, or the ‘Republic of Ireland’ as he covers the period from before the foundation of the independent Irish state until the present day.

What was it that turned the once strong and thriving southern Irish Protestant community into an ‘isolated, pacified community’ living an isolated parallel existence from mainstream society?  How did the section of Irish society that produced some of the nation’s greatest writers; Jonathan Swift, Oliver Goldsmith, Oscar Wilde, WB Yeats, J M Synge, George Bernard Shaw, and Samuel Beckett; international brands like Guinness, Jacob’s Biscuits and Jameson whiskey decline from 10% of the population in 1911 to less than 3% in 2011? What happened? Was this decline natural, or was it helped by human intervention in some way?

The decline began to accelerate in the period 1919 – 1923. Bury examines carefully the statistics from this period in his first chapter taking into account the number of people directly or indirectly connected with the Royal Irish Constabulary and the British armed forces, those who died in the Great War and the postwar Spanish flu epidemic and natural decrease.  Excluding the approximately 64,600 people included in these categories, Bury estimates that 41,856 southern Irish Protestants left the country; whether by direct intimidation, or their own apprehension and fears of being trapped in what was quickly becoming a conservative, Catholic, Anglophobic state.

The newly formed Irish Free State certainly had no policy of driving the Protestants out.  This was certainly not the case with the IRA ‘irregulars’ who – in east Cork at least – targeted a large number of Protestants; small farmers, businessmen, shopkeepers and one Church of Ireland clergyman. They were seen as the enemy; ‘land-grabbers’, ‘landlords’, ‘Freemasons’, ‘Orangemen’, ‘Imperialists’, ‘informers’; all to justify their killing.

Things got so bad, that the Archbishop of Dublin and two other leading southern Protestants had a meeting with the Free State leader, Michael Collins after thirteen Protestants were murdered in the Bandon valley. They wanted to know if the Protestant minority should stay on in the county. Collins assured them that, “the government would maintain civil and religious liberty”. However, Collins wasn’t in much of a position to do much to help. IRA irregulars assassinated him a few months later.

This is a period that many people, especially in today’s modern Ireland would wish to bury; hence the title, Buried Lives. The author is meticulous in his documentation of this tragic, overlooked, and often deliberately ignored aspect of Irish history. The second chapter records some survivors’ harrowing stories; many given as evidence to the Southern Irish Loyalists Relief Association and the Irish Grants Committee to try to win some compensation for their loss. These personal stories show the genuine terror these survivors experienced.

Bury shows how southern Protestants adapted to life in DeValera’s Free State by living quiet, but largely separate lives, rarely socialising outside their own communities; they ‘kept their heads down’ and got on with things in a virtual parallel universe. Until recent times, the mainstream Irish attitude in the South was deference towards the Catholic Church and a romantic rural nationalism. The Protestants survived because they became an insignificant minority.

Bury also looks at the influence of the infamous Ne Temere decree issued by Pope Pius X in 1907.  Before 1926, only 6.1% of Protestant brides were marrying Catholic men; by 1971 the figure was 30%. Today, it’s closer to 50%. Children of couples married since Ne Temere are brought up in the Catholic faith, further contributing to the decline of the Protestant communities in the State.

Bury looks at the notorious Fethard-on-Sea boycott of 1957 where all Protestant-owned businesses, farms and even individuals were boycotted after the marriage of a local couple broke down and the Protestant wife, Sheila Cloney, took her children away from the Co Wexford town. The boycott was organised by the local parish priest, Fr William Stafford and lasted for nine months.

Happily, the Southern State has changed a lot in the last sixty-odd years since the Fethard-on-Sea boycott. This is not due to the silent minority – the marginalised Protestants – but people, mainly women, brought up in conservative, Catholic Ireland – who said, we’re not going to put up with this anymore.  Strict censorship has gone; Article 44 of the constitution, which gave a special place in society to the Catholic Church, was removed, divorce and contraception were legalised, homosexuality was decriminalised. There is still a long way to go, people are still assumed to be at least culturally Catholic, but perhaps the Southern Protestants may yet find a place in the sun. The rise of Sinn Féin electorally in the Republic may stymie this; it may not. Time will tell.

This book is a useful introduction to a difficult and painful period in Irish history. It has an appendix on the victims of the Bandon valley massacres and extensive notes and a bibliography for further research for any reader wishing to examine the author’s case in detail.

Reviewed by David Kerr

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Counter Culture Interview with Blake Nelson

blakenelsonwithpatrickharrington

Patrick Harrington with Blake Nelson in Edinburgh

Blake Nelson, an American author of adult and young people’s literature, grew up in Portland, Oregon, USA and continues to live in the area. He attended Wesleyan and New York University. Nelson began his career writing short humor pieces for Details magazine in the mid-’90s. These articles, with titles including “How to Date a Feminist” and “How to Live on $3600 a year”, explored the slacker West Coast lifestyle. He has authored many acclaimed novels; the first novel GIRL, was serialized in SASSY magazine and since published in eight foreign countries, before being made into a film starring Selma Blaire and Portia De Rossi. His 2011 novel Recovery Road was adapted by Disney into a TV drama of the same name, premiering on January 2016 on ABC Family. Paranoid Park, a book about skateboarders in Portland, won the prestigious International Grinzane Literary Award (Italy) and was made into a film by Gus Van Sant, which won a special 60th Anniversary prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007. The film featured a few of Portland’s old school skate punk legends including Chester and Jay Smay. Blake’s “The Prince of Venice Beach” was short-listed for the 2015 Edgar Award.

Nelson’s latest adult novel The Red Pill (2019) describes how a liberal advertising exec is slowly sucked into alt-right circles after accepting dating advice from his truck driving brother-in-law, Rob.

On a visit to Edinburgh Blake kindly gave an interview to Counter Culture Editor, Patrick Harrington.

 

Counter Culture: First let me thank you Blake for giving Counter Culture this interview. Can I begin by asking you what does the title of your book The Red Pill mean?

Blake Nelson: To become “red pilled” means to be awoken to the true reality around you. It came from The Matrix movie and then it passed into popular culture and it’s very popular with young men on the manosphere and nowadays in political circles. In terms of dating, to be ‘red-pilled’ is to understand that meeting women is kind of a brutal animalistic situation, as opposed to the normie sanitized version of it, where the man is courteous and respectful and the woman is coy and demure. Once you’ve been red pilled you understand that women like bad boys, and jerks, and guys with status or fame. All your worst fears are unfortunately true. It’s a painful lesson in reality. But you’re better off understanding how things really work than living in a fantasy world. And then it’s the same in politics. The realities of politics are harsh. But to survive you better be aware of them.

Counter Culture: What made you interested in that theme?

Blake Nelson: I write young adult books and I was interested in how young men were reacting to the current feminization of American society and ideas like toxic masculinity and male privilege and a general atmosphere that is pretty openly anti-male. Like if you’re sixteen, what do you think of all that? Does it affect you in any way? And so, people kept telling me to go on the manosphere, on the internet, that the answers to my questions might be there. And so I did that and at first, I was finding pickup websites. But then I found websites that were more philosophical about the state of the gender conflict. Then I gradually found political websites that eventually led to alt-right territory. So that’s the same Journey that the guy in the book goes through.

Counter Culture: Did you realize that tackling this subject even in the form of a novel would be so controversial?

Blake Nelson: I did think it would be. American media is so radically Left at this point, theredpillany kind of investigation of this type of material would cause problems. So, I knew it’d be controversial. I’ve done things like that before and I felt like I could handle it and I felt like my representation of the country at that particular moment, like 2016, 2017, was measured enough and balanced enough that nobody could really fault me. Nobody could say I was attacking anyone unreasonably. I was just showing what it was like, and hopefully showing both sides of the coin. But I felt like yeah sure, of course, Leftists will freak out. And they did.

Counter Culture: Your book references Powell’s Books, which is something of a Portland institution. Wasn’t there some kind of protest at your book signing there? Tell me about that.

Blake Nelson: Yeah, that was embarrassing for them actually. They did this big protest. Mostly because of the title of the book. None of them read it. But like if all you know about the red pill is “incels” and “alpha males”, then, of course, the feminists are going to have a problem with it. I noticed that for the protesters one of the big things was consent. Several signs mentioned consent. So they were very worried that young men who were being red-pilled were being taught how to rape women. Of course, the red pill idea is trying to teach young guys how to get women to want to have sex with them. Which is consent. So it was funny that they were so off base. Literally none of them read the book. But in the end, the climate in a place like Portland Oregon, which is an insanely progressive city they don’t care what’s in the book. They saw the title and they attacked. They accused me of being a racist, homophobe, transphobic. They handed out flyers. It was amazing. I knew I might be called these things but when you actually get accused of being a racist in public, in a big public situation, at a bookstore that I used to work at, you know, it stung. It feels weird and I wasn’t quite ready for it. It’s like fame, nobody’s ever ready to be famous.

Counter Culture: Or ready to be infamous.

Blake Nelson: No.

Counter Culture: I noticed that one of the reviews on Goodreads was from a staff member at Powell’s Books who had taken the trouble to read the book to see what the fuss was about. She was of the opinion that there wasn’t really anything that bad in the book and it was quite balanced and that people had misunderstood it. Do you think they’ve kind of missed the point of what you were trying to do?

Blake Nelson: Oh, yes. Absolutely. I think they miss the point of what anybody on the right is trying to do. They literally can’t imagine any perspective but their own. I met that woman, by the way, the woman who defended me at the bookstore. She said, “I don’t like your politics but I did buy your book and it is totally fine.” She was very nice, and I tried to talk to her more, to thank her for defending me but she just turned and left.

Counter Culture: Do you understand why there’s so much emotion against the whole pick up scene and the red pill philosophy? Not just women but some men in the sense that they see it as highly manipulative and as a way of getting around consent by using language and approaches drawn from psychology to try to manipulate people and get what they want. And that does seem to be part of what’s in the pickup culture. Do you understand? I’m not saying the book is like it, but do you understand to a certain extent the reaction, why people are so emotional about that.

Blake Nelson: Yes, I do. I think that they are right in that it is an attempt to be manipulative. But to me the whole realm of trying to manipulate people with language and sales techniques or subliminal advertising, all that stuff, that’s interesting but I don’t really care. None of that stuff is going to get you a real relationship. But if younger guys want to sit around and talk about good opening lines or whatever, it is their right. That’s what interests me. Why is this little corner of the internet the only place where men can even discuss any of this? What happened to the normal ways that men communicate this information? And why does it have to be this huge secret? Feminism has encroached so much on masculine space that men are forced to do this on the internet and I just feel you know, that feminism has overreached its influence on our society. Young guys, teenagers, should feel comfortable talking about dates and what you should do, what you shouldn’t do, and not have to be embarrassed or guilt-shamed or whatever. Women talk about men and men should be allowed to talk about women.

Counter Culture: Why do you think the codes and language in personal relationships are becoming so politicized? What do you think’s causing that? Why is it happening at this point in time?

Blake Nelson: I grew up out west and when I went to college, I was shocked by the degree to which feminism and liberalism and leftism completely dominated every subject. You couldn’t even take an ancient history class without hearing feminist complaints. If you took an art class. If you took an English class. There was this constant critique by the feminists. And I feel like the university was encouraging it. And the professors. There was a consensus, this is how it’s going to be. I didn’t know why they were doing it. I mean at first, feminism made sense. Like after World War II America was pretty traumatized and people just wanted things to be very normal and conservative and patriarchal. But after about twenty years of that, with the technology advancing and America being so prosperous, things had to change. And so there was a natural women’s liberation movement which was you know, they had the time and money to do other things besides be a homemaker. And there was a natural Civil Rights Movement too. It was time to open up society and let things breath. I think a lot of that stuff was completely legitimate but what happened was those tendencies were promoted to such a degree that thirty years later they’ve been corrupted and they’re dividing the country. They’re pitting men and women against each other to the point of seriously damaging our society. There’s always a natural tension between the genders. Of course, there is, in all societies they have this. But that’s been weaponized to a point that nobody wants to get married. It’s created the low birth rate that’s caused all these other problems. So many single women I know are unhappy. They’ve been told to follow their dreams and get that powerful job. But ninety-five percent of them aren’t going to get that powerful job, and what kind of dream is that anyway? Being a corporate asshole, is better than raising a family? But many believe it. And they do it. And it does not lead them to a good place.

Counter Culture: Obviously there’s a huge market for the pick-up material which shows there’s a need for it in some ways. Do you think that? There’s a lot of confusion going on that ultimately will lead to people discussing the proper power divisions in society between men and women and how men and women can relate to one another and get on. Do you see this as just a temporary period where there’s disruption of the normal?

Blake Nelson: well, first of all, I think that the pickup scene is really a lower level of culture that I don’t consider to be terribly important. It’s like when I was a kid, in the back of the comic book, it showed a cartoon of a skinny kid getting bullied and then he goes home, and lifts weights, and then he beats up the bully. To me, that’s what the pickup scene seems like. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just for people that are at the bottom of the social competence scale. I feel bad for guys who really struggle just talking to girls and I feel like helping them in any way, is a good thing, you want guys like that to someday get it together enough to have a girlfriend, or fall in love, and get to experience those things. But in terms of what’s going on now with feminism, we’re in a really bad spot. I feel like this is a critical mass we’re getting to. A lot of people think that Generation Z will react against this and become very traditional. But what if they don’t, and it just keeps going as it is? You know bad blood between the sexes, no trust, no responsibility, single moms, broken homes, fatherless boys … it’s just not healthy.

Counter Culture: Can I just play Devil’s Advocate here? You reference the 1950s and I’ve had a discussion before with people in America who see the 50s as a golden era because there was economic prosperity but obviously, the 50s for some people were not necessarily that good and you reference also returning to a kind of traditional way of looking at things. Is that what we should be aiming at? Or do you think we should be recognizing that things in the past weren’t always good for everyone, particularly women who had very little control over their finances. Their autonomy was quite limited. Should we be aiming to return to that kind of patriarchal view or should we be both rejecting the interpretations of feminism that are anti-men, but saying we want to create something new? We don’t want to return to the past. We don’t necessarily want what’s being offered now, but we wanna create something that is beyond both.

Blake Nelson: My guess would be that you would eventually end up with some sort of blend. You’d get a new version of traditionalism that would have all sorts of new aspects to it, that maybe we can’t really imagine right now. That’s why it’s good that there’s always a new generation because these kids Generation Z, the Zoomers, I can’t imagine that they could look at my generation and see something that they would want in terms of how they’re going to live their lives. Just the amount of anger and resentment and defiance that permeates things now. And the level that it’s promoted in sitcoms and everywhere in the media. They pound on this in the media: men are oppressing you, men are taking advantage of you. Constantly sowing the seeds of dissatisfaction, nobody should be happy. They never stop. Women have to resist and fight and defy men at every turn. Are young people going to choose that? I hope not. But I guess they will if the media can control them. I do know some people who have resisted it. I know some women who became mothers and they are sometimes the rebels of their social groups. I have a friend who went to an Ivy League college and she’s very talented, and in the publishing world, and she was on the track to be a literary person at the highest levels of that world. But something happened to her, she was sort of miserable for a time and then she ended up having a couple kids and now she is incredibly happy and she doesn’t work very much, if at all, because the kids are still infants, but I’m sure when the time comes that she can go back into that world, if she wants. And I’m sure she will contribute but the idea that she won’t be at the very top because she stopped to have kids. Well, who cares? Why do you have to be at the very top? And what happens at the very top anyway? People stab each other in the back. Let the men do that.

Counter Culture: I’m a union representative. So I’m aware that if for instance, women take a break from their career in order to bring up children it can adversely affect them economically in terms of their pension. It’s difficult to go back in at the same level. Society really doesn’t support women in that way. I’d say that our society doesn’t seem to be geared towards supporting the family unit. I can quite understand why a lot of women will be worried about concentrating on their family under the kind of system that we’ve got.

Blake Nelson: Well that’s why you need marriage. That’s why you need people to trust in the institution of marriage. Right now, we tell women not to trust it. We put it into their minds when they’re in college that they have to be independent, they have to have their own jobs, their own apartments. They graduate and we distract them with all these options, grad school, travel, interning, working at a non-profit. We get them right on that career track. We feed them right into the consumer machine. Then they get into their late twenties, they’re paying those bills, paying off those student loans. And all the while, feminism is telling them they can’t trust men. They’re going to rape you or drug you at the bar, and when you get older they‘ll use you and leave you and they won’t marry you. You’ll end up destitute with your single child. This theme of you can’t trust men is incredibly damaging. Don’t trust your co-workers, don’t trust your boss, don’t trust your own father. It’s the best way to destroy a woman. Make her distrust all the people she will be dependent on for her entire life. And yes, she will be dependent on men. Women are dependent on men for certain things. Just like men are dependent on women to keep their genes going, to bring life into the world, to give them children. That’s how the whole thing works.

Counter Culture: The Martin character, in your book, is difficult to figure out because he seems quite diffident or uncertain. He doesn’t seem to be particularly passionate about his decisions. How far do you think he reflects the sort of strata of men these days? He doesn’t seem to know what he wants.

Blake Nelson: Yeah, I think he’s very typical. As a character, I made that decision early on. This guy believed all the stuff he heard in college. He is trying to be a feminist himself, an ally. Not like to a ridiculous degree, but just how most guys do. He’s a Gen Xer, forty, so he also has a little of that old fashioned chivalry-idea going too. He thinks being a good, decent person will get him, women. Being a solid guy. But those qualities don’t seem to be valued by anyone in present society, least of all women. It’s like nothing he does feels right. It’s like he’s superfluous like women really don’t have any need for him at all.

Counter Culture: Don’t you think with people who are less socially adept, they find it particularly difficult to know what to do? I’ll give you an example. I mean, we had a controversy recently about our prime minister 20 years ago when he was a journalist touching another (female) journalists thigh under the table, and this was big news in Britain Whether it’s true or not, I mean if it is true, it would seem a bit crude and socially inept to take that approach. A lot of people would know whether someone’s interested in them through visual cues and body language, eye contact and so forth. They wouldn’t need to be as crude as to use that approach. People don’t know how to pick up on that sort of thing are at a disadvantage and bewildered, confused and wondering what they did wrong. They’re looking around like Martin trying to understand what it is they should be doing.

Blake Nelson: Yes. Definitely. I think there’s a lot of people like that. On the other hand, once you’re in a relationship a lot of this stuff just goes away. We’re mostly talking about trying to start a relationship and often men really struggle with that. The question is, does the culture help us or hurt us as we try. Because when a culture wants you to be paired up, you most likely will be. And when it wants to keep you apart as ours does, just look at the growing numbers of single people, then it will influence you in that direction too.

Counter Culture: You do get the impression there’s a kind of bitterness on the part of a lot of the people writing and thinking about these issues.

Blake Nelson: I think people are bitter about it. People in my age group. The younger guys talk about stoicism a lot. They worry about the bitterness infecting them. Which makes sense. When I was first reading this manosphere stuff, it really brought home how bad it is for them. What a mess they’ve been born into. When else in history did the society seem so intent on destroying itself? At least at the level of family and relationships. And these young guys, they still want to do the classic male things. They want to meet a girl and start a family and be the provider, the dad, the hero. Which is now considered patriarchal and evil. What I saw was young men saying, “I want to live a good life, just tell me how to do it.” But nobody can tell them because everything is so upside down. Most of these young men want real relationships, and to be of service to their community or society or whatever. This sense of service was really strong. I was so shocked when I started reading this stuff because I have been indoctrinated too. That men are bad, and just want sex and don’t care about anything. That’s how I was during a lot of my younger life. But the guys on the manosphere do care. Here were these young guys saying, “I’m young. I’m full of life. I’m ready to go. But every direction I go in is perceived as bad. I want to do something good. I want to do what I’m supposed to do.”

Counter Culture: I’m surprised that there aren’t more books written for young men by women, books about dating.

Blake Nelson: Well there’s a lot of books like that and they’re really bad and it’s one of the strange phenomenons of the genders that women are not good at putting themselves in the shoes of men while men are often quite good at putting themselves in the place of women. My whole career was based on one book I wrote in the voice of a teenage girl and everybody was so amazed that I could understand a teenage girl, but I contend that men, in general, are very good at imagining life from a women’s perspective, but women seem to have a tin ear when it comes to the opposite. I don’t really know why that is. And when women write books about how men should act during courtship, they always go down the road of respect women, believe women, be kind, be a good listener, while the pickup guys contend that in fact women like assholes overall. And that nice guys finish last. So who knows?

Counter Culture: The book itself deals with a controversial subject. But when I read it I found it more observational than pushing a particular line or telling people what to think. I thought it was just observing the characters and the difficulties the central character is having. The controversy could be beneficial in that it will get people talking about these kinds of issues more. Do you think that by giving interviews and talking about your motives for writing the book you will get a different kind of debate going in certain areas?

Blake Nelson: Normally I don’t go crazy with the publicity. With my other books, I would think of what were the best couple places to publicize the book and do those and that’s it. Even in some of my book contracts, they force you to give them two weeks or four weeks where you will do any publicity they can dig up. With this book, I couldn’t get any publicity anywhere. I have my kind of dependable people that I call up when I have a new book, you know, could you write a little something? But nobody wanted to touch this book.

Counter Culture: People were shying away from the controversy?

Blake Nelson: They don’t want to get involved. They’re afraid. Why risk getting put on a list, or being the person who gave attention to the racist, sexist, homophobic book? It’s been a sad thing to see. This is an industry I’ve been in my whole life. It’s a very grim atmosphere in the United States. This is a novel we’re talking about. It’s not a book about politics. It’s a novel about dating. And it’s funny. But in a way, I understand people hesitating. When I was doing the final drafts, I thought, do I really want to make trouble for myself by doing this? But I felt like I had to do it. It’s my duty as a writer, as a cultural commentator. It’s my job. I made money during the easy times and I had a nice life, now it’s harder times, so what am I going to do, quit?

Counter Culture: After the Trump presidential victory there was a kind of denial on the part of the Democrats as to why they had lost and there didn’t seem to be very deep thinking about that. I see that in a lot of things in American politics. They seem to not want to understand the strengths of the opposition and not want to understand what might attract people to those candidates and what the problems are that those people are trying to answer. In the case of dating, there’s clearly something going on there. There’s a big demand for this kind of advice as people turn to gurus and say, you know, what am I meant to do. There doesn’t seem to be an attempt to understand that except in a dismissive or pejorative way. No one’s really analyzing what’s going on here and are we partly contributing to this or creating this? And so I guess one would hope that a book like this would create debate and that people would move beyond mere condemnation to trying to understand what’s going on.

Blake Nelson: Yeah, but in the United States there’s no effort to understand the other side.

Counter Culture: I suppose I’ll draw hope from that lady at the Bookshop who did actually bother to read the book and make up her own mind. I guess I would hope that there would be more people like her. I mean obviously, it’s a story, it’s a novel. It should be judged by is it a good story or a bad story? Is it interesting? Right? Does it have something to speak to us about? What does it tell us about the times we live in?

Blake Nelson: Yeah, I was trying to do something like that. I’m conservative myself politically, but I’ve spent my whole life in the realm of New York media, which is of course 90% Leftist. So when Trump got elected my Facebook feed which was all these writers and publishing people became a continuous stream of questions about who voted for Trump. Who are these monsters? Where did they come from? How can we stop them? And when I wrote the book I thought this is perfect. There’s this big question that everyone is asking and I have the answer. And I meant this in a sincere way. Who voted for Trump? I can answer that question. Because I grew up in that world, in semi-rural America. I know those people. I am one of those people. And here’s this novel, explaining it in a nice, calm way. No rants.  No diatribes. I’m just going to gently show you how Trump got elected, or how a Trump supporter might be formed. But no it turns out they don’t care about that. They just want Trump gone. And all his supporters erased from the country. Which wouldn’t leave you much of a country.

Counter Culture: If they refuse to even think about it, they might soon be asking the question: how did he get re-elected? Well, thanks very much Blake for that fascinating interview. That’s great.

You can read our review of  The Red Pill here.

Blake Nelson Bibliography

  • Girl, Simon & Schuster, 1994 (reissue 2007,2016)
  • Exile, Scribners, 1997 User, Versus Press, 2001
  • The New Rules of High School, Penguin, 2003
  • Rock Star Superstar, Penguin, 2005
  • Prom Anonymous, Penguin, 2006
  • Gender Blender, Random House, 2006
  • Paranoid Park, Penguin, 2006
  • They Came From Below, Tor Books, 2007
  • Destroy All Cars, Scholastic Books, 2009
  • Recovery Road, Scholastic Books, 2011
  • Dream School (GIRL #2),
  • Figment, 2011
  • The Prince of Venice Beach, Little Brown, 2014
  • The City Wants You Alone (GIRL #3), Amazon Kindle, 2015
  • Boy, Simon & Schuster, 2017
  • Phoebe Will Destroy You, Simon & Schuster, 2018
  • The Red Pill, Bombardier Books, 2019

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The Red Pill

theredpill

A controversial new work from Blake Nelson

Blake Nelson’s latest adult novel The Red Pill (2019) describes how a liberal advertising exec is slowly sucked into alt-right circles after accepting dating advice from his truck driving brother-in-law, Rob. Martin Harris, newly divorced at 40, is an advertising exec with roots in New York. However, hapless Martin has been out of the dating scene for a while and now has trouble meeting women in the current feminist ‘me too’ climate. Martin fumbles about the dating pool and when Tinder fails, he cautiously accepts advice from his Trump-supporting brother-in-law, Rob.  Martin is unconvinced by these ‘go-for-it’ dating strategies, however, he soon finds that his dating life is improving as he starts to utilize the techniques set out by Pick-up Artists in the ‘manosphere.’  Martin thrilled in his new successes, soon finds that Trump’s astounding victory in the elections is putting a damper on his newly found dating successes. The Red Pill addresses the chasm between feminism and the sexual revolution of the past.

Blake also addresses what it means to be ‘Red Pilled’.  Red Pillers prefer the gritty, painful, ugly truth; and a popular theme with this crowd is the idea that men who want sex should “just go for it” set against a world of resistance and ‘me-too’. The red pill sector tends to be more radically right.

So much for Martin’s clumsy attempts at dating. Martin himself is offended by the blogs as he begins to peruse these for dating techniques. The Red Pill term describes a loose group of political activities with extremist leanings that focus on men’s rights, and this is the world Martin stumbles into. This community feels oppressed by the left-liberal society and sees feminism as a myth. Sat at his desk at work, he quickly turns off the computer and clears the browser history, trying to make sure that all offensive material has been erased. Once he is sure it is clear, he feels he can safely leave the room and heads to the loo to wash the stench off. Martin’s social life then gets thrown a spanner in the works due to the recent conflict between Left-liberal feminism and Trump’s America, and it is this conflict that results in his world view becoming no longer sustainable in his own mind.

Martin falls deeper and deeper into the manosphere where he is making gains sexually by employing their techniques for dating and leans ever further toward right-wing views from this predominantly male blogging community. Juxtaposed with this is the radical left-liberal feminism of the young women, he is attempting to connect with, particularly predominant in a place like hipster Portland. Blake balances this dissonance, against the backdrop of the Trump Presidency, which threw a large proportion of the left feminists and other ultra-liberal groups into full panic mode, depression, anger, and shocked disbelief as they stood on the precipice of this disturbing abyss. It is this split that occurs very much down male/female lines, where the majority of women, angrily stand hand in hand, dead set against Trump’s misogynistic worldview.

While Nelson normally writes in the young adult genre, generally locating these stories in or near Portland, a city he is well acquainted with, this book is more focused on adult themes. It perceptively addresses dating in the current socio and political climate in a society that is very divided. This fiction is based on the hostile socio-political world of Trump vs the ‘Woke,’  which Martin is drawn into and affected by, ultimately to his cost.

You can buy The Red Pill here.

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Channel Islands Occupied – Unique Pictures Of The Nazi Rule 1940-1945

Channel Islands Occupied – Unique Pictures Of The Nazi Rule 1940-1945.  Richard Mayne.  Jarrold & Sons Limited, Norwich, Norfolk, England. 1978.  ISBN 978-0711702448 Card cover.  64 pages.  channelislenazirule

I LOVE READING and I also like to support different charities.  I’m able to combine both of these interests by purchasing books at various charity shops. The books are usually in reasonable nick and are a fraction of their original price.  Therefore, when I came across Channel Islands Occupied in a charity shop a while ago, I was more than happy to pay the princely sum of 50p for it.

Compiled, and with a commentary, by Richard Mayne, it relates to the occupation of the Channel Islands – made up of Alderney, Guernsey, Jersey and Sark, and some smaller islands – by National Socialist Germany during WWII.  At 64 pages, it’s not a huge book.  However, I liked its convenient size – it’s roughly the same as a large postcard so you can keep it in a jacket pocket.  My copy also had reasonably thick cardboard cover which wouldn’t bend too easily.

The Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied by German Armed Forces (around 20,000 troops held the islands) during WWII and this book is absolutely crammed full of evocative photographs of the period.  Reflecting the history and makeup of the islands themselves, all text and captions are in English and French – indeed, the French title of the book is Les Iles Anglo-Normandes Occupées.

The book is dedicated to ‘the memory of the known five hundred and fifty-seven ‘slave’ workers, mainly Russian and Spanish, who died in these islands between 1942 and 1944.’

Richard Mayne sets the scene in his dramatic Introduction:

‘In 1940 Hitler’s legions swept rapidly and violently through France, and on 12 June the swastika, that hated symbol of Nazi Germany, was flown from public buildings in Paris.  With the fall of the rest of France imminent, the German occupation of the Channel Islands also became inevitable. 

There was voluntary evacuation to Britain of the civilian population of the islands and about 34,500 people departed, leaving a population of some 64,000.  In Alderney, the evacuation was so thorough that only 7 people remained out of a population of 1,432.  At the same time, the British Government demilitarised the islands by withdrawing British troops.  The Jersey Militia subsequently became the 11th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment.  The Guernsey Militia had previously been disbanded to release hundreds of men to volunteer for H.M. forces.’

Channel Islands Occupied is conveniently and effectively set out in chronological order – before, during and after the occupation.  Headings like The calm before the storm, German Command, Fortification, Liberation are all accompanied by a commentary plus many photographs.  However, it’s still possible to dip in and out of it at your leisure – something I did many times.

The full colour cover is striking enough, but the hundred or so fascinating black & white photographs are the highlights of the book.  I’ve read a lot of history books, but I don’t really know too much about the occupation and I’ve never come across any of these photographs before.  They include images of bomb damage, the German military, fortifications, weapons, and the ‘slave’ workers.  Of particular note are photographs of various German proclamations and death warrants.

One photograph is a favourite of mine – it depicts a van belonging to the Jersey Gas Company which has been converted to run on gas.  A massive gas bag sits incongruously on top of the van – it’s truly a bizarre sight as it looks slightly larger than the van itself! – but apparently, there’s enough to fuel the van to cover a distance of 30 miles.

A fairly small photograph also caught my eye.  It depicted the words ‘British Victory Is Certain’ painted over a German language road sign in Jersey.  It made me wonder what the level and type of resistance to the occupation of the Channel Isles was like.  This interests me because I’m sure I’ve come across suggestions that some of the leading lights of island society didn’t exactly go out of their way to oppose the occupation.  I have a vague notion that one of the people who first mentioned this was, ironically, a former member of the British Free Corps, a volunteer unit of the Waffen SS made up of former British PoWs.  Hopefully, I’ll come across the source material again as I believe it’d make an interesting piece for this site.

I’ve wanted to visit the Channel Island for a long time now as a former workmate recommended the area years ago as an ideal holiday destination.  Like me, he was very interested in history – he was also a great fan of the TV programme Bergerac, which starred John Nettles and Louise Jameson, and which was filmed there.  In fact, he was the first person I’d ever come across who would go of his way to visit various TV and film locations – something that seems to be very common these days, given the success of films like Harry Potter and the TV series Game Of Thrones.

Channel Islands Occupied is a great introduction to this little known period of British and German military history.  It has certainly whetted my appetite for more information.  Needless to say, that reading it has deepened the desire to visit as I understand that it’s possible to visit some of the fortifications and associated museums.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to do that in the not too distant future and obviously produce a follow-up article for Counter Culture.

  • Reviewed by John Field

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Review: Tribal Criminal Law and Procedure

tribalcriminallawTribal Criminal Law and Procedure is the second book in a series of comprehensive studies of tribal law in the US. This book examines the complexities of tribal criminal law utilizing tribal statutory law, and case law, weaving into the narrative Native cultural values. The authors discuss histories and practices of tribal justice systems, comparing traditional tribal systems with Anglo-American law, with a focused discussion on the various aspects of jurisdiction. They examine the elements of criminal law and procedure and alternative sentencing vs traditional sanctions. A valuable resource for legal scholars, this book was published in cooperation with the Tribal Law and Policy institute at Turtle Mountain College and the Native Nations Law and Policy Center at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Comparing Tribal criminal law and American criminal law

Foundations of Traditional law is discussed in Chapter 2 discuss the differences in Native systems. Mainly, that these laws do not come from man, they come from the Creator and are belief-based. Understanding this is critical to understanding the complexities of Tribal law. Traditional Native law based on values, deities, and responsibilities, linked to spiritual beliefs. Belief that the Great Spirit is the Creator and protector, the source of earthly blessings. The Great Spirit is given thanks for all things including preservation of native lives, social privileges, and prosperity. There is also a belief in the Evil-minded who creates monsters and poisonous creatures and plants. Humans stand somewhere in-between and are free to control their own destiny.

The framework stemming from this system of beliefs responds to problem behavior and how the system is focused on personal responsibility rather than prohibited activities; which American law focuses on. Tribal law focuses on how social harm affects the community rather than the harm done to or by a single individual. For instance, the Haudenosaunee Great Law based on beliefs about the Creator defines that a person’s duties and responsibilities are more important than their individual rights and privileges. Indeed, the principles of the League of the Iroquois address a similar idea that a man’s rights and privileges never exceed his duties and responsibilities. (1)

Tribal conceptions of social harm are more broadly interpreted compared to the American legal system. An aspect of social harm within tribes rests on community-based rights or duties, while other tribes might focus more on the individual’s responsibilities. One reason for the focus on community is that traditional laws address the responsibility of each to their family, clan, and tribe, since the strength of these groups, depends on the survival of its members. Decisions come down to whether a community or the individual will respond to the problem.

Behaviors are addressed according to the customs and the beliefs of each Nation and this dictates which entity will perform enforcement functions. The Iroquois Confederacy used social or political entities to resolve wrongdoing; thus, crime was rare with their lives revolving around the clan. The council of clans addressed problem-solving; however, if this did not resolve the issue, it might go to the Nation’s council. Councils were not the only entity enforcing laws. Parents enforced laws regarding disciplining their children. Additionally, Keepers of the Faith could act as censors of the people and possessed the authority to report evil deeds.

The Menominee and other Algonquian developed formal three-party judicial proceedings to prosecute crimes. A mike-suk would act as investigator and prosecutor, while a pipe-holder or sukanahowao, or even a warrior chief might act as a defense attorney. Additionally, a go-between acted as a mediator to negotiate settlements.

Native cultures focus on rehabilitation and restoration of peace and harmony to both the individual and community. One method of restoration might be banishment to protect the community from harm or could include gifts from the individual’s family to restore peace. The main point here is the emphasis is on restoring harmony to the community and not on proving someone’s guilt or innocence.

Some tribes focus on healing the wrongdoer and the Ojibway is one of these. Their point of reference was if they could heal the individual, they could restore him and peace to the community. This way people can forgive the wrongdoing as their notions of blame differs to more Western thought.

The Cheyenne focus as well on restoration and rehabilitation. While banishing a person from the community might restore peace, the individual might be introduced back after rehabilitation. Stigma, used as an enforcement tool, as well as social control, since a community’s ridicule served as a strong deterrent to social harm.

An interesting element to this book is the author’s use of native anecdotes to show an example of how tribal law might have been decided. This book serves as not only a comparative analysis of the differences between Western legal practice and traditional Native applications of the law, but it also gives us more cultural insight into various tribal practices and historic parables used to show an example of thought and practice.

Using American criminal law to control Indian Nations

Conflicts over land and resources led the American legal system (and their Spanish, French and British predecessors) to use criminal law as a tool of destruction against Native peoples. Western criminal justice systems were used to not only outlaw cultural practice and tradition but to punish those who wished to continue practicing their Native spiritual beliefs. Federal officials attempted to control the Native people. Western legal systems imposed their values of punishment to outlaw tribal mechanisms used to address problem behavior within the Tribe. Additionally, Western criminal law was used by the Feds to confine native people to reservations, however, it did not protect them from harm and was rarely used to protect them from the criminal conduct of the settlers, this author states.

The American system of law worked as a method of indirect rule over Native nations, leading to massive distrust of modern criminal justice systems and even to distrust of their own tribal systems in some cases when funded by the Federal government. Culminating in the Office of Indian Affairs, which later became the Bureau of Indian Affairs; the OIA created Courts of Indian Offenses or CFR courts. (Courts of Federal Regulations) and it was this code of regulations that outlawed many cultural practices. At least twenty of these courts still exist today. The Courts of Indian Offenses imposed federal regulations to prohibit misdemeanour offenses, as well as cultural practices that they deemed immoral. The author cites a Congressional report which lists some of these types of offenses from 1892.

This author also references other texts detailing technology used by the OIA for controlling Indian behavior, such as Thomas Biolsi’s “Organizing the Lakota: The Political Economy of the New Deal on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations.” While this book reviews additional literature on the subject giving anyone with an interest in this topic more resources to investigate for further reading.

Ultimately, federal agents under the BIA wanted federal courts to have jurisdiction over Native people using American laws in criminal cases. A decision made by the US Supreme Court called Ex parte Crow Dog in an 1883 ruling resulted in tribal exclusive criminal jurisdiction over a murder case. This controversial decision brought about the BIA convincing Congress to enact the Major Crimes Act in 1885, which imposed federal criminal jurisdiction on Tribal nations without their consent. For further reading on the Crow Dog case, see Harring’s Crow Dog’s Case (2)

Traditional law today and Traditional criminal jurisdiction

Chapter 4 discusses how traditional tribal values and beliefs have been included in contemporary criminal law. Introducing coercive American law enforcement disrupted tribal governance. This resulted in the Tribes developing their own strong criminal justice system. The biggest challenge is how to incorporate traditional indigenous principles. Many are working to restore traditional practices in a modern context. The author gives many examples throughout this chapter, which makes for interesting reading.

Chapter 5 discusses various types of jurisdiction and goes into detail about different tribal criminal jurisdiction and specific criminal code used by Tribal courts. Chapter 6 discusses in detail traditional criminal jurisdiction.

  • Limitations on Tribal criminal jurisdiction imposed by the US
  • Exercising jurisdiction over crimes committed by non-Indians
  • Criminal jurisdiction as defined by Tribal Courts.
  • Tribal restorative justice

Each chapter contains a section on terms used and suggested further reading which I found very interesting and useful for anyone interested in studying the intricacies of Tribal Law. Jurisdiction is defined in the traditional sense before Europeans settled in America and is detailed with examples from various Tribal Laws. The Haudenosaunee Great Law is referenced as well as Osage practices by the leaders known as the Little Old

Men who developed their laws and decided jurisdiction. The Choctaw Nation developed a constitution in 1860 dividing its government into three branches. The Treaty of 1866 and the Treaty of Separation (1859) which further designated Choctaw law and jurisdiction over other tribes residing within including Chickasaws, Cherokees, Creeks, and Seminoles are discussed in detail. Many tribes had strict geographical boundaries, which they held jurisdiction over. So they did use and practice the concept of jurisdiction, which must have been problematic once the settlers and Federal government decided to impose their on jurisdictions both geographically and legally over the tribes.

Chapter 7 defines the limitation of tribal criminal jurisdiction as imposed by the United States, discussing ‘Indian Country’ as defined by Federal Law for the purposes of criminal jurisdiction; the General Crimes Act; the Major Crimes Act; Intrusion of State Jurisdiction in Indian Country: Public Law 280; upholding Tribal sovereignty with the United States v Wheeler435 US 313 (1978); Oliphant v Suquamish Indian Tribe et al 435 US 191 (1978); Duro v Reina 495 US 676 (1990) and the Congressional Duro-Fix.

Chapter 8 discusses jurisdiction over non-US citizens and Treaties as a basis for criminal authority, again using case examples, while Chapter 9 goes over jurisdictions as defined by tribal courts. Chapter 10 leads on from the two preceding chapters by detailing Tribal criminal jurisdiction reform citing The Tribal Law and Order Act and the Violence Against Women Act. Since 2006, the Federal law began to address criminal jurisdiction scheme in Indian country and the laws are changing slowly with tribal leaders pressing for inherent sovereignty. Chapter 11 builds on this topic discussing building collaborative bridges between States and Tribal courts. This only covers half of this comprehensive text, which spans 629 pages.

 

(1) Newell, W. B., 1965 Crime and Justice among the Iroquois Nations 47.

(2) Harring, S. L., 1994. Crow Dog’s Case: American Indian Sovereignty, Tribal Law, and United States Law in the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge University Press. 129 – 141.

 

Authors:

Author Sarah Deer is a lawyer and professor of law at William Mitchell College, and a 2014 MacArthur fellow. She advocates in Native American communities and has been credited for her instrumental role in the 2013 re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act and testified for the passage of the 2010 Tribal Law and Order Act. She received her BA and JD from the University of Kansas and is a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

Carrie E. Garrow is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Syracuse University College of Law. She is the Chief Appellate Judge for the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Court. Previously she served as the Executive Director for the Center for Indigenous Law, Governance & Citizenship at Syracuse University College of Law.

She received her undergrad degree from Dartmouth College and her law degree from Stanford Law School. She has a Master’s in Public Policy degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

She has worked as a deputy district attorney for Riverside County in Southern California, and a tribal justice consultant for several non-profit organizations, including the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, the Native Nations Institute, and the Tribal Law and Policy Institute.

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Peter, Paula and the Pelican

Peter, Paula and the Pelican.  Brent Cheetham.  Grosvenor House Publishing Ltd, Surrey, England.  ISBN 978-1-78623-019-5  Paperback. 41 pages.  Available from Amazon UK  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Peter-Paula-Pelican-Brent-Cheetham/dp/1786230194/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_3?crid=25VZW7VKTDDKZ&keywords=brent+cheetham&qid=1552144194&s=gateway&sprefix=brent+cheetham%2Caps%2C179&sr=8-3-fkmrnull

IT’S BEEN a long time since I’ve read a children’s publication.  I’ve never reviewed one before, so I didn’t know what to expect.  Therefore, Peter, Paula and the Pelican was a first for me.  If that wasn’t enough, the author is an old mucker of mine, Brent Cheetham!

Published towards the middle of 2016, Peter, Paula and the Pelican is the first of several booklets he has written.  The others include The Rake’s Regression (Nov 2016), Ecstatic Essays (Apr 2017), andCuffley Capers (Aug 2017).

Before delving into any publication I always like to look at both the authors and publishers notes to get an idea of what I’m about to read. Peter, Paula and the Pelican was no exception.  Here I got a hint of thewhimsical nature of the booklet and the sense of humour employed by the author.  We are told that the book is:

‘a romp of a story, combining humour, pathos and nonsense for the edification of the young and the not so young adults who are still young at heart.  The author confirms that he has not yet had a visit from the men in white coats.

The author is aged 60, lives in the village of Cuffley, Hertfordshire, and still is partial to the odd peanut butter sandwich although he says he prefers a nice strong cup of English breakfast tea over a glass of ginger beer’.

Peter, Paula and the Pelican is set in England in 1925 and tells the tale of brother and sister Peter and Paula Brown who live in a cottage in the village of Sleepy Hollow.  Like many children they are getting under their mother’s feet so she sends them out to play.

Making their way to the local woods they come across hole in the bottom of a hedge which in turn leads to a large oak door.  Peter, who is the oldest, is all for opening the door.  Paula, on the other hand, worries in case there are ‘monsters, lions or dragons’ on the other side.  However, Peter notes that the last dragon was “killed years ago by somebody called St. George.”  (I thought that this was a nice way of weaving a little heritage and tradition into the book).

Disaster strikes when the door slams behind them as they become stuck in this ‘strange land’ that boasts two suns in the sky.  However, this is relatively normal compared to the adventure that follows and the characters they meet!

First up is a talking Pelican who informs them that they’re in Back to Front Land.  The only way of getting back home is to see the Prime Minister, Herbert Spencer.  He can gain them an audience with King Lupin the Second so that they get the key to unlock the door.  The King lives ‘in a big house in the big city’ but is unlikely to see the children ‘on account of the Brent.’

So who or what is ‘the Brent’?  In the best traditions of any children’s publication he is some form of ogre.  He ‘is a great big ugly giant, with moles on his face, who goes to the big city every now and again and demands peanut butter sandwiches and often knocks off chimney pots from the roof of the city houses’.

The Pelican has offered to take them to the ‘big house’ and so the adventure begins.  As mentioned earlier they meet some very weird and wonderful characters.  They include talking chickens who are knitting square egg cosies for the square eggs that they lay.  There’s also atractor-driving talking monkey, ‘silly sheep’ who have a problem as they never tell lies, a talking tablecloth, peanut butter mines (for some reason Back to Front Land seems to thrive on peanut butter) and a sign that points in two opposite directions – but to the same location!

Two more amazing characters include an owl who has such bad eyesight he has to wear glasses.  Indeed, this owl defies convention by coming out during the day – yes, you’ve guessed it, he’s a day owl as opposed to a night owl!  There’s also a retired dancing horse called Brian who talks absolute nonsense.  For instance, when asked what are the ingredients to carrot soup he replies ‘carrots and soup of course.’

I laughed at the method of transport that was taken to see the Prime Minister and King Lupin in the ‘big city,’ for Peter and Paula sat on Brian’s back whilst the Pelican perched on his head.  This must have been a sight for sore eyes.  Needless to say, Brian the nonsense horse talked absolute nonsense during the journey.

At last they reach their destination and manage to sort out ‘the Brent’ problem.  I don’t want to go into any detail how they did this – I don’t know if I’m over-thinking this part of the booklet, but I think much of what’s wrong with modern Britain can be explained here.  Read it for yourself and see if you come to the same conclusion.  The only thing I will say is that Paula is the hero of the hour.

I hope I’m not spoiling things by saying that the children make it home ok.  However, they do get some help from the Pelican, ‘the Brent’ and a bi-plane made of wood and canvas!

I must admit I really enjoyed Peter, Paula and the Pelican.  I chuckled to myself as some of what was said (especially by Mrs. Brown) brought back memories from my own childhood, which admittedly wasn’t exactly yesterday.  Typical English eccentricity flows through it – Peanut Butter sandwiches and Ginger Beer feature heavily – and I wondered how Brent (the author as opposed to the ogre!) managed to dream up these characters.   Indeed, where did he get his inspiration from?  It’s also Politically Incorrect in parts and the gender stereotypes would give the Orwellian ’thought police’ many a sleepless night.

The only downside were a few spelling and grammatical errors, which the author has acknowledged.  Hopefully, they’ll be sorted out in any reprint. However, they don’t really spoil this booklet at all and I’d happily recommend it to anyone who reads to their children.

  • Reviewed by John Field.

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