Tag: History

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Communists? Red Scares, Then and Now

The left-wing campaigning organisation Momentum was established in late 2015, with the explicit purpose of ensuring the election – and subsequent re-election – of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Much of the mainstream media – in the form of the Sunday Times, Channel 4’s Dispatches and a legion of hangers-on – launched a carefully prepared and orchestrated ‘red scare’ campaign against the organisation and all who support it, painting Momentum as an incubator for ‘loony lefties’ and communists of all stripes. Some drew parallels with the infamous ‘Zinoviev Letter’, a fictional communist missive to discredit and undermine the first Labour government of 1924. What lessons can be drawn from this uncanny historical parallel?

How war dehumanises everyone it touches

All acts of mass murder are crimes against humanity, and require a gross debasing of other people.

On a recent visit to one of my favourite haunts in London, Gloucester Books, I flicked through the secondhand paperbacks and old magazines that were fading in the sun. The leading article in a National Geographic Magazine commemorated the crews of the US Eighth Army Air Force for their forbearance and sacrifice during WW2. Nothing unusual in that, but the honour extended to their bombing raids over German cities. The story focused mainly on the former pilots and had photos of young men running towards their planes, waves and smiles as they climbed in, each touching for luck an illustration painted on the side of some forties’ pin-up girl with red lips.

Thailand: The Truth Before the Storm

Thailand is a pivotal nation centered amid Southeast Asia and commanding a prominent economy with a large population. It played a pivotal role during the US war in Vietnam, but has since then incrementally diverged from serving US hegemony in Asia.

As of now, Thailand has clearly and decisively performed its own “pivot” away from Washington and toward a diverse portfolio of alternative ties, including with Beijing and Moscow. Its military inventory has been incrementally transformed from housing aging American hardware to Russian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and even Swedish weapon systems. It also is increasingly cooperating closer with China regarding economics and regional security, a role the US has presumed a monopoly over for decades.

Binational vigil at US-Mexico border protests US state violence

Over the weekend, while much of the country was preoccupied with the scandal-plagued state of electoral politics, hundreds of activists gathered at the U.S.-Mexico border for a demonstration of multilateral unity. Headed by the organization School of the Americas Watch, or SOA Watch, this convergence brought attention to the human rights dimension of immigration and foreign policy, taking aim at U.S. practices that contribute to displacement and violence in Latin America and beyond.

How the Alt Right is trying to create a ‘safe space’ for racism on college campuses

A murmur began in May around Berkeley and the surrounding Bay Area as posters appeared overnight on the sides of buildings and wrapped on poles. Adorned with images of statues of antiquity, these classical images of European men depicted as gods were intended to light a spark of memory in the mostly white faces that passed by them. With lines like “Let’s become great again” printed on them, the posters were blatant in their calls for European “pride,” clearly connecting romanticized European empires of the past to the populism of Donald Trump today.

The posters were put up by Identity Europa, one of the lesser-known organizations amid that esoteric constellation of reactionary groups and figures known as the “Alt Right.” They were part of a campaign around the country enticing college-age white people to join a new kind of white nationalist movement. While similar posters emerged elsewhere on the West Coast and Midwest, in central California they pointed toward a public event — one directed specifically toward the tradition of free speech at the University of California at Berkeley.

In Bulgaria, an Example of How Refugees Need Not Be a Problem, but a Solution

Refugees fleeing conflict and persecution in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere continue to follow the so-called Balkan Route from Turkey to Hungary in search of better life in Western Europe, and some European governments continue to greet them with hostility. Mainstream right-wing politicians use their presence to intimidate their constituencies, and in some countries the refugee crisis is used as an excuse for paramilitary activities.

If you happen to believe that this is the wrong approach, here’s one more reason to add to your arsenal.

The Deep Colonial Roots of France’s Unveiling of Muslim Women

If the burkini is incompatible with fundamental French values, it is those fundamental values that have to change.

Throughout the summer, as a growing number of southern French municipalities banned burkinis on their beaches, the measure was widely decried as Islamophobic, counter-productive and oppressive to women. While it would be easy to reduce it to a misled, demagogue measure by right-wing mayors attempting to appear ‘tough on extremism’ in the aftermath of the Nice attack and in a national climate of rising Islamophobia, the bans are only the latest development in a long history of state-led oppression of Muslim women. In fact, the French State has been unveiling Muslim women for decades.

Moscow, August 1991: a world-changing failure

25 years ago, an attempted takeover by communist hardliners led to the Soviet Union’s collapse. The reverberations still continue.

The death of the Soviet Union in 1991 was a reality, despite rumours that it didn’t happen at all. But it was a strange death, reflecting the strange life of the beast itself. A state that had survived the onslaught of Nazi armies and avoided overthrow by popular revolution ended as a result of the failure of the “State Committee for the State of Emergency” (GKChP in its Russian acronym), better known as “the failed coup in Moscow in August 1991”. A quarter of a century later, the aftershocks are still being felt, and by all of us.

It was a pathetic end for the former superpower. The coup was orchestrated by its top officials, the entire cast in power with one exception: the USSR’s first (and last) president, Mikhail Gorbachev, who was taking his summer vacation in Crimea. The “gang of eight” included Gennady Yanayev, the Soviet Union’s vice-president; Valentin Pavlov, its prime minister; Dmitri Yazov, defence minister; Boris Pugo, interior minister; Vladimir Kryuchkov, head of the KGB.

The June 1981 Coup: The Stolen Narrative of the Iranian Revolution

We can fundamentally transform our understanding of the Iranian revolution by letting the untold stories to be told.

DemilaRouseff calls her impeachment a coup d’état. Many academics and political experts agree that the old guard and corrupt capitalist elite in Brazil have overthrown the president, despite the fact that all the legal procedures for her impeachment have been observed. As one pro-Rouseff Brazilian protester remarked, this is a ‘civilian coup – capitalism doesn’t need guns and soldiers; it is enough to have an anti-democratic judicial system’.

Now go back 35 years to Iran. The 1979 Iranian Revolution is less than two-and-a-half years old. The clergy have, gradually, monopolized the state. The aim is, as the head of the Islamic Republic Party (Ayatollah Beheshti) has stated, to establish a ‘despotism of the pious’. The only remaining obstacle to the total monopolization of power is the office of the recently elected president, Abolhassan Banisadr. He insists upon defending the democratic goals of the revolution despite being offered increased powers to reject them, therefore he writes to Khomeini:

Taking Back Japan, One History Textbook at a Time?

After spending most of the past 20 years living in Japan, to me 2015 seemed like a turning point for the country. 70 years after the end of World War II, and despite massive demonstrations all over the country, in September 2015 Japan’s ruling coalition, led by Shinzo Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), used cloture to force the implementation of new security laws that will allow Japan to engage in military action outside of the country. Thanks to this new legislation, Japan effectively renounced 70 years of pacifism and can now go to war again.

For many of my friends—long-term “foreign” residents with deep connections to and equally deep knowledge of Japan—the Abe government’s relentless effort to “make Japan great again” was like a nightmare come true. The country we had all come to love seems like it might be disappearing, leading us to ask whether our children will have a future here.

The forced passage of the new security legislation was simply the most striking example of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s steady attempt, over the past three years, to incrementally shift Japan rightward. Abe is perhaps the first prime minister to directly and loudly criticize the media, and has been accused of trying to turn NHK, Japan’s nominally impartial national broadcaster, into a government mouthpiece that promotes the current Japanese position on regional territorial disputes with South Korea, Russia, China and Taiwan.