Charlottesville, Jerusalem flag day, Ulster Orange July and ultranationalist marches

Street marches are a public and powerful expression of one’s political and sociocultural beliefs. Like-minded people gathering together to express their collective will is an empowering experience. Does not everyone have the right to march peacefully in a democratic society? When the ultranationalist Right marches, they do so for the purpose of intimidation and exclusion, countering any notion of multiethnic or labour solidarity.

The 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia – bringing together numerous racist and neo-Confederate groups – was not just a jolly jamboree of recreation. It was an expression of a resurgent white nationalist movement, intended to intimidate minority communities. The demonstrators made clear their determination to reverse the gains made by the civil rights and antiracist movements.

Charlottesville was not the only, and certainly not the last example, of an intimidatory march by a racialised group. The Ulster Orange Order, the pro-British loyalists from the Northern Ireland statelet, stage provocative Protestant ascendancy marches in the Catholic communities of northern Irish towns. Commemorating the victory of Prince William of Orange – a Protestant – over the Catholic James II, the Ulster loyalists deliberately assert the Protestant ascendancy as a bastion of British rule.

The marches of the Orange Order are hardly a simple exercise in free speech and historical memory. They are a triumphalist and sectarian expression of pro-imperial sentiment. Catholic and Irish nationalist communities face the threat of sectarian violence and disruption whenever the Orange loyalist marching season takes place.

The sectarian character of the Orange Ulster marches are no accident. Based on a putative commemoration of the Battle of the Boyne, the Orange marches reinforce British imperial rule over the Northern Ireland statelet, and buttress the Protestant ascendancy in that artificially constructed entity.

Jerusalem flag day

On May 29 every year, thousands of ultrarightist Israeli settlers and extremists march through the streets of East Jerusalem. That date is Flag day, a holiday instituted by Israeli authorities as a triumphalist celebration of the capture of the West Bank and Jerusalem in the 1967 war. Intended as a provocative and sectarian march, the settlers – usually with the connivance of the police and military – chant genocidal slogans and attack the Palestinian residents.

Chanting ‘death to Arabs’, and ‘may your village burn’, the flag march is calculated to increase tensions, wave multiple Israeli flags in a sneering expression of contemptuous triumphalism, and remind the Palestinians of their status as second class citizens in the apartheid state. This year, a new chant was heard by the Palestinians – ‘there is no Shireen’. This is a reference to the targeted assassination of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh earlier this year.

Not only have Israeli ultranationalist settlers marched through the mainly Palestinian quarters of East Jerusalem. They have also staged numerous incursions into the Al Aqsa mosque and its territory. The mosque compound is regularly targeted by Zionist settlers in an attempt to inflame sectarian and religious tensions, with the goal of demolishing one of Islam’s holiest sites.

In a similar way to Ulster loyalism, the Israeli ultrarightist settlers believe they have biblical sanction to carry out their provocative activities against the minority groups. In fact, it is no exaggeration to state that Zionism is the equivalent of a Jewish Ulster in Palestine. Both ideologies, while claiming to be emancipatory projects, actually reinforce the imperatives of empire.

The Skokie case

Professor Joseph Massad, in an article for Middle East Eye, draws a direct and necessary comparison between the actions of the ultranationalist Israeli marchers and a historic case – the Skokie affair. The American neo-Nazi party – officially called the National Socialist Party of America – sought to march in Skokie, a mostly Jewish suburb of Illinois in 1977 – a place where numerous Holocaust survivors lived. How would the authorities react to white supremacists marching through a largely Jewish community?

A protracted legal battle ensued, after the local authorities used various means to stop the march. The American neo-Nazis posed as simple and aggrieved defenders of free speech. What is wrong with white Americans expressing their pride in their race? The litigants went all the way to the US Supreme Court. The latter decided to allow the march to continue, in defence of First Amendment rights.

After a sustained and large community outcry about the proposed march, the American neo-Nazi party marched – but not in Skokie, but downtown Chicago. Numbering about 25 in all, they were overwhelmed by thousands of anti-Nazi counter demonstrators. Jewish community groups established a Holocaust museum, providing an educational device for Americans to learn about the suffering of the Jewish people.

Free speech is a right to be treasured – but it is not a blanket licence to simply say whatever is on your mind. Every public utterance – on social media as well – has consequences and impacts the public discussion. The goal is not to make everyone ‘extra careful’ or jittery about what they say. The purpose is to expose those who hide hateful or exclusionary messages behind the seemingly mild disguise of free speech. In this era of increasing ultranationalist marches, it is high time to call them out as parades of hate.

Operation Paperclip, abandoned refugees, and the careers of ex-Nazis after the war

In a few of my previous articles, I mentioned Operation Paperclip, the secret US programme to bring Nazi scientists to America. Only cursory comments were made on this topic; it is time for a closer examination of this episode. Why? It contains relevant lessons for today, not only because of the rise of Eastern European ultranationalist politicians, but also because of what this historical undertaking indicates about the current nature of American society.

In brief, Operation Paperclip involved secretly capturing and bringing Nazi German scientists, engineers and technical experts to the United States. Their expertise in military and scientific matters was considered valuable to the political objectives of the US (and Britain), and they were put to use during the Cold War. In all, approximately 1600 personnel, and their families, were brought to the United States.

A project carried out by US Army intelligence services in conjunction with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) – the latter reorganised as the CIA in due course – the Nazi past of these scientists, and their involvement in the Nazi party, the SS, and complicity in war crimes – was overlooked or whitewashed.

The definitive account of this operation is the book Operation Paperclip: The secret intelligence program that brought Nazi scientists to America (2014) by Annie Jacobsen. Originally, the programme was called Overcast, it was renamed after the practice of denoting the files of these Nazi scientists with a paperclip. The culpability of the scientific personnel in war crimes was ignored.

A key goal of the American authorities was to ensure harnessing the vast knowledge capital of the Nazi German scientists. Capturing information about the development of German non-conventional weapons – biological, chemical, nuclear – was important, but not enough. What mattered was the acquisition of the scientists, engineers and technical people themselves.

Located near Nordhausen, Germany, the Mittelwerk-Dora concentration camp complex, was the site where thousands of slave labourers, working in atrocious conditions, provided materials for the Nazi rocketry programme. Many died of starvation, malnutrition and rampant disease. Those who were too slow were killed outright. Wernher von Braun, one of the main rocket scientists employed by the Americans after the war, visited Mittelwerk and oversaw the conditions of the forced labourers himself. The rocket factories were places of exhaustion by overwork and death.

One other person who witnessed the death and inhumanity of the rocket factory complex was American soldier John Risen Jones Jr, Private First Class and sharpshooter with the 104th infantry division. He was so traumatised by the sight of emaciated slave labourers, the stench of death and decaying bodies, and the depravity of condemning so many thousands to death through overwork, he could not talk about what he saw for 51 years. He was just one of thousands of American WW2 soldiers who witnessed first hand the horror of the concentration camps.

While Nazi scientists, engineers and technicians were being spirited away to safety in Britain and the United States, millions of the victims of the Holocaust and the concentration camps – slave labourers, displaced persons and their families – were struggling to rebuild their lives, languishing in makeshift camps across war-ravaged Europe. The testimonies of American war veterans – such as those of Risen Jones mentioned above – were dismissed in the interests of Cold War power politics.

Holocaust survivors and displaced persons were definitely not welcomed with open arms by Britain or the United States. The contrasting treatment of the Paperclip scientists, who were welcomed, and the plight of displaced persons (who were largely ignored) highlights the ethical bankruptcy of postwar American capitalism.

An opinion piece in the OpIndia publication is subtitled, How the USA helped Nazi criminals from WWII evade justice to advance its own military ambitions – not a bad summary. It is useful at this point to highlight that Operation Paperclip was not an exception or unusual undertaking by the United States. Read the account by journalist Eric Lichblau (2014) The Nazis Next Door: How America became a safe haven for Hitler’s men. Not only did Nazi aerospace engineers find sanctuary in the United States, but also former SS and Gestapo personnel, officers involved in the most atrocious war crimes.

Karl Wolff, former Nazi functionary and general, was a personal liaison to Hitler and Himmler. This SS general, considered a ‘moderate Nazi’, met with and was recruited by Allen Dulles, head of the OSS. The latter, morphing into the CIA, continued this practice of shielding former Nazi intelligence officers.

What kind of nation claims to be an exceptional country, priding itself on its democratic institutions, yet recruits white supremacists and murderers into its ranks? This is the ultimate act of disrespect not only to the millions of displaced persons in Europe after the conclusion of hostilities, but also to the American WW2 veterans themselves, who witnessed the degradation and inhumanity of what the Nazi regime and its practitioners established.

Solzhenitsyn, Russian nationalism and anti-Russian hysteria

If we are to believe that Moscow, in its invasion of Ukraine, is contemptuous towards Ukrainian statehood, then we should not be surprised. Anticommunist Russian nationalism has been dismissive of Ukrainian claims to nationhood for years. Russian anticommunist dissidents, feted for decades in the West, expounded Greater Russian ethnic chauvinism over the airwaves. Hostility to non-Russian ethnic groups, including Ukrainians, has been part and parcel of Russian nationalist dissenter ideology for years.

The racism of the anti-Soviet Russians did not impede their careers as celebrity dissident intellectuals in the American empire. Joseph Brodsky and Alexander Solzhenitsyn – two writers and essayists hailed as courageous heroes in the West for combating Soviet tyranny – expressed a vicious Russian ethnic chauvinism, which involved denying Ukraine its nationhood. Such sentiments are now considered repellent by the corporate media that once welcomed them.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Soviet-era dissident and internationally celebrated novelist (he won the Nobel prize for literature in 1970), expressed a Greater Russian chauvinism that corresponds to Moscow’s current thinking regarding Ukrainian sovereignty. Best known for his novels exposing the gulag system, the anticommunist Solzhenitsyn was a racist Greater Russian ultranationalist, driven by Orthodox beliefs. He advocated a resurgent Russian empire which would, among other things, combine the Crimean peninsula and the Donbas (Eastern Ukraine) under Russian control.

Solzhenitsyn, after returning to Russia in the 1990s, was quite forthright in praising the administration of Vladimir Putin. Uniting Russian ethnic chauvinism with social conservatism, Solzhenitsyn found common ground with Moscow. It is no secret that Solzhenitsyn was an antisemite, dabbling in preposterous ‘Judeo-Bolshevik’ conspiracy theories, which are the hallmarks of far right ideology. In 2007, as Solzhenitsyn was in ill-health, Putin awarded him with a state prize.

Solzhenitsyn never regarded the Ukrainians as a separate and distinct people, but simply ‘little Russians’, and proposed a Slavic union combining Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Interestingly, he cynically deployed Jewish commissar characters in his works, thus surreptitiously suggesting exclusive Jewish responsibility for the 1917 revolution and the doctrines of Bolshevism. This malignant slur has been recycled in different ways by far right movements around the world today.

Yasha Levin writes about usefully weaponised dissidents over at his blog. Weaponised dissidents are useful devices in the ideological arsenal of the American empire. Another example of a politically useful dissident which Levin raises is that of Joseph Brodsky, Russian-American poet and educator. Awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1987, Brodsky was hailed in the US as a courageous opponent of Soviet tyranny. Teaching courses at Yale, Columbia and other prestigious universities, Brodsky was given a platform to express his views.

His views involved, among other things, racist hostility to any notion of Ukrainian independence. A Greater Russian nationalist zealot – similar in outlook to Solzhenitsyn – Brodsky expressed open disdain for Ukrainian independence, especially in the early 1990s with the dissolution of the USSR. The very real possibility of Ukrainian statehood emerged at the time, and Brodsky made his views perfectly clear in a poem he wrote on the subject. Referring to Ukrainians with an ethnic slur, he denounced moves towards Ukrainian independence.

The current Russian constitution commits the government to policies which respect ethnic minorities in the Russian federation. Moscow officially supports the teaching and maintenance of non-Russian languages spoken by the numerous ethnic minority groups. This is the bare minimum expected of a government which claims to be a pluralist democracy.

In the current climate of Russophobia, with demands to ban everything Russian, it is instructive to examine how our own political climate changes with regard to the imperatives of the American military-industrial-financial complex. Calls for the banning of Tchaikovsky, Dostoevsky, vodka and Russian cigarettes is the height of juvenile puerility. When the United States invaded Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia – among other nations – there were no calls to ban Mark Twain, F Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Hemingway on account of their nationality.

Maligning an entire culture and civilisation because you oppose the actions of its political leaders is precisely the kind of creeping totalitarianism we claim to combat in the West. Should we ban the work of Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936), Russian psychologist whose findings are an integral part of every university level psychology course? In fact, we have only a limited understanding of Pavlov’s work in the West.

He was interested in more than just salivating dogs and ringing metronomes. He was aiming for a comprehensive understanding of the workings of consciousness – an appreciation of the subjective factor. While primarily a physiologist, he understood that the workings of the mind, while undergirded by physiological processes, could not be reduced to only those workings. His work on the mind-matter duality as a scientist overlapped with the corresponding discussion by philosophers on the subject.

Registering opposition to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine is one thing; promoting anti-Russian hysteria is quite another. A harmful and propagandistic preoccupation, let’s not give in to the blanket demonisation of an entire civilisation.

The Galileo gambit – the tactic that needs to be put to rest

We all know the story of Galileo’s persecution by the Catholic Church. Advocating a heliocentric model of the solar system – the Earth and planets revolve around the Sun, contradicting biblical literalism – the religious authorities censored Galileo and placed him under house arrest. Eventually, the maverick scientist, laughed at by the prevailing powers, was proven correct. An inspiring story to be sure – but this has given rise to the Galileo gambit.

Pseudo scientists and cranks of all kinds – from global warming deniers to creationists to Covid denialists – will at some point claim that when the scientific establishment rejects their ideas, they are in fact the equivalent of Galileo – unfairly maligned mavericks confronting a hostile and dogmatic orthodoxy.

This analogy with Galileo is a logical fallacy on a number of levels. Galileo was hardly an outsider from the scientific establishment of the time – at age 25, he was the chair of mathematics at the University of Pisa. Regarded as the father of observational astronomy, he settled at the University of Padua, and had powerful patrons – the Medici family, the latter supporting scientific investigations at the time.

When Galileo presented the results of his observations – the heliocentric model – he was building on the foundations of the Copernican revolution. The latter prompted the paradigmatic shift from the old Ptolemaic system – which regarded the Earth as stationary, occupying a central place in the universe – to the new heliocentrism. Observing the planets revolve around the Sun, Galileo was not on his own. He was cognisant of the fact that he, like Copernicus before him, was confronting the orthodox dogma of the church.

Today’s climate change deniers perversely claim that they are merely scientific mavericks challenging the status quo. However, upon closer inspection, it is the global warming deniers who are analogous to the Catholic Church; driven by a fanatical ideological commitment to the capitalist market. The billionaire corporations which pay for disseminating misinformation to undermine the scientific consensus regarding global warming are espousing a corporatist dogma flying in the face of the preponderance of evidence.

Steven Novella, writing about the Galileo syndrome, says that:

For every visionary scientist whose claims are initially rejected because they are so radical, only to be later confirmed and change our view of the universe, there are uncountable wannabes whose ideas are rejected because they are hopelessly flawed. Being rejected is not the best manner in which to be compared to Galileo, and in itself does not imply that one is a visionary or that one’s ideas are correct. Making the comparison, however, does imply a distorted self-view, and a certain lack of humility that if anything is predictive of being cranky rather than a visionary scientist.

Novella emphasises that Galileo was persecuted, and regarded as a heretic, by a church relying on divine revelation and scriptural authority, not scientific evidence. Albert Einstein, the typical outsider, rested his case on scientific evidence for his theories of special and general relativity, prior to their acceptance by the scientific community. He never promoted himself as a latter-day Galileo.

Being rejected by the scientific establishment is emotionally challenging, and throughout history, numerous scientists who were ridiculed were eventually proven correct. Alfred Wegener (1880-1930), German geologist, was laughed at by the scientific community when he first proposed the theory of continental drift, forming the basis of today’s plate tectonics.

He argued that Pangaea, a supercontinent, existed millions of years ago, which now widely accepted by the geological community. Only achieving vindication after his death, he never once compared himself to Galileo when debating the scientific establishment.

There are scientific disagreements all the time. Scientists debate issues in a wide range of areas. This is standard practice. They also reject quackery and pseudoscience. There is a long-standing tactic employed by those who are quick to wrap themselves in Galileo’s mantle – the magnified minority. The denial of human-induced global warming uses this tactic – elevate the contrarian view to convey the pretence of scientific disagreements among the experts.

Whether it is the proponents of intelligent design, or the now-forgotten HIV/AIDS deniers, posing as the wounded Galileos of our time is a cynical attempt to gain scientific legitimacy for the views of pseudoscience partisans. Back in the 1980s, with the AIDS epidemic, denial of the causal nature of HIV/AIDS, grew exponentially. Peter Duesberg, German-American biologist, still maintains that HIV is not the cause of AIDS. There were numerous declarations by dissenting scientists, pushing the case for HIV/AIDS denial.

By the early 1990s, evidence for the HIV/AIDS connection became overwhelming, but there are still holdouts until today, their hopes revived in part by the growth of Covid denialism. It is noteworthy to observe the interlapping commonalities between various forms of science denialism.

There are numerous examples of scientists, once considered absurdly mistaken, and mocked by the scientific establishment, proven correct by the weight of evidence. However, whenever the Galileo gambit is deployed, let’s remember the words of Stephen Lewandowsky; “Being dismissed by scientists doesn’t automatically entitle you to a Nobel Prize.” Being an aspirational Galileo is no guarantee that your ideas are correct.

The Great Replacement theory, eco-fascism and the Buffalo shooter

The Buffalo shooter, Payton Gendron, carried out his racially motivated hate crime – he drove hundreds of miles specifically to attack African Americans – on the basis of the Great Replacement conspiracy theory. The latter, which asserts that mysterious ‘global elites’ are intent on replacing white majority communities with nonwhite people through immigration and multiculturalism, was also cited by the El Paso gunman, the white supremacist who killed Jews in Pittsburgh, and Norwegian white terrorist Anders Breivik.

Why is it important to confront this malicious conspiracy theory? While Donald Trump, the previous president, was a white supremacist, the threat of ideologically motivated domestic terrorism goes deeper than just one politician. Its racially paranoid foundations of alleged white victimhood provides a political worldview capable of mobilising discontent.

The El Paso gunman, back in 2019, rationalised his lethal attack in eco-fascist terms; his motivation, according to his rambling manifesto, was concern about growing numbers of nonwhite immigrants on an already overburdened natural ecosystem. He also legitimised his actions in terms of the great replacement conspiracy theory.

Immigration and multiculturalism, long demonised by conservative politicians as the devious implementation of a demographic conspiracy by ‘global elites’ to replace white European communities, are regarded as threats to the white majority communities in the Anglocentric nations. It is not surprising to see that the Great Replacement conspiracy theory moving into the mainstream.

The US Republican Party, increasingly the home of fascistic and white supremacist elements, has a longstanding practice of citing the Great Replacement theory, with a view to winning over disaffected white voters. In an article for The Atlantic, Adam Serwer writes that the conservative side of politics has advocated a sanitised version of the Great Replacement theory for decades.

Demographic insecurities of the white majority community in settler colonial nations has been a device exploited by conservatives to bolster the exclusionary nature of the polity. Equality for all is the promise of American and European societies; but whom exactly can partake in that equality is up for debate. Serwer writes that in the immediate aftermath of World War 1, the pseudoscientific premises of race science and genetically-based intelligence was used to argue for an exclusion of so-called inferior races from American life.

Back in 1916, American psychologist Madison Grant argued, in his book The Passing of the Great Race, that the Anglo-Saxon Christian majority in America was under threat of being swamped by an influx of nonwhite migrants, particularly from Eastern Europe. Numerous restrictive immigration laws were passed by US authorities in the 1920s.

However, it was European thinkers, in particular the French theorist Renaud Camus, who were responsible for the modern incarnation of the racist and antisemitic package of tropes that make up the Great Replacement conspiracy theory. Camus can take credit for coining the term, alleging that sinister elites – replacist, to use his description – were implementing a plan through mass nonwhite immigration, to reduce the white population in the home nations.

Camus repackaged this notion of demographic replacement – genocide by substitution, he called it – to fit in with the growing Islamophobia enveloping the European and American worlds. Camus was hardly alone in his way of thinking. Former French President Charles De Gaulle commented that, while it was heartening to see Frenchmen of all different colours, too many of them would dilute the essential Frenchness of the host nation. De Gaulle complained about the Muslims, with their turbans and djellabahs, not being French.

When right wing commentators have accepted the reality of human-induced climate change, their solution is an authoritarian and homicidal one – reduce the numbers of people through violence. Usually, this exterminationist perspective is applied, not to themselves, but to nonwhite communities, even though the main drivers of climate change are wealthier white populations in Western nations.

Environmental concerns have long been used by the fanatical Right to advocate not only for control of land and resources, but also who gets to control that land and natural resources. Eco-fascism, the uniting of ecological and far right ideas, was reflected in the manifesto of the Buffalo shooter, which he had largely plagiarised from the Christchurch killer.

Blaming immigration for environmental problems is perversely false, but this has not stopped the far right from latching onto environmental concerns in an effort to greenwash their hate. Taking its roots in the German nationalist ‘blood and soil’ myth, the eco-fascist denounces the private takeover of nature, but turns their critique into an attack on ethnic minorities. After accepting climate change, the far right nationalist advocates a kind of lifeboat ethics; the white community will be saved, and the rest be damned.

There is an urgent requirement for a stronger labour movement, because it is in the inter ethnic solidarity of working class struggles where racism, and its far right advocates, can be defeated politically and ideologically. As long as there are economically insecure people, suffering under austerity and job cuts, there will be more recruits into the cesspit of the ultranationalist Right.

The Hollywood Arab stereotype, vilifying an ethnicity, and Orientalism

There is one character that has made an appearance in numerous Hollywood films, novels and writings – the hostile Arab. Negative stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims predates the September 11 attacks by decades. The villainous Arab/Muslim takes on multiple varieties – lecherous oil sheikh, fanatical bomb-throwing terrorist, or deceitful dodger. Let’s not forget Arab women, who make an appearance either as veiled and tragically oppressed, or sensuous belly dancers tempting lustful men.

The late Jack G Shaheen, Arab American scholar and consultant, pioneered research in this area. The Hollywood Arab is a pervasive character, polluting the minds of millions of movie goers and novel readers. He elaborated, in his books and documentaries, the vilification of the Arab and Muslim cultures in numerous films, novels and media depictions. These negative stereotypes do more than a thousand words to cement hostile images and malignant misunderstandings in the public consciousness.

The barbaric Arab terrorist is a recurring presence in Hollywood action dramas. From films such Delta Force (1986), to The Siege (1998), the Arab as terrorist is portrayed as fanatical, motivated by an irrational hatred of the West, cruel and vindictive. This notion of the barbaric Arab only serves to stigmatise an entire ethnicity. The 1970s and 80s witnessed a growing number of films where the Arab terrorist – usually a Palestinian – is the villainous enemy deserving of annihilation.

Edward Said, the late Palestinian intellectual, elaborated his crucial concept of Orientalism. Said suggested that the European colonial societies in their scholarship and writings produced a contemptuous and hostile view of the Arab and Islamic worlds. Such depictions, reinforced in literature and film, only serves to buttress an imperialist view of the outsider, demonise the oppressed, and obscure the crucial role of imperialist intervention in subduing the Arabic-speaking peoples.

Said lived in the United States, and he witnessed firsthand the demonisation of the East as the eternal enemy. He not only denounced the harmful impact of negative stereotyping, but also noted the strong linkage between centres of knowledge and political power. As a Palestinian living in America, he wrote the following observation:

The web of racism, cultural stereotypes, political imperialism, dehumanizing ideology holding in the Arab or the Muslim is very strong indeed, and it is this web which every Palestinian has come to feel as his uniquely punishing destiny…The nexus of knowledge and power creating ‘the oriental‘ and in a sense obliterating him as a human being is therefore not for me an exclusively academic matter. Yet it is an intellectual matter of some very obvious importance.

In this context, it is worthwhile to observe that the late Murray Bookchin, anarchist activist and mini-pop-star on the green ecological left, was a fervent Zionist who recycled tropes about the barbaric and backward Arabs in his writings. His work on democratic confederalism and ecological awareness is commendable; but he demolished his credibility as a social activist by condemning the Arab people as languishing in cultural regression and violent, irrational antisemitism.

Arab women are portrayed as either veiled, and subject to patriarchal oppression, or belly dancers, and subject to exotic sexualisation. Apparently the imperialist countries are highly advanced in women’s rights, while the Arab and Islamic nations need to ‘catch up’ to us in that regard. Patriarchy is a problem the world over, and Arab women have been fighting for their rights for decades, without any help from the purportedly enlightened West.

Indeed, the Arab regimes which we condemn for being culturally regressive – in particular the Gulf petro-monarchies – are the regimes most closely allied with the European powers. Imperial power, while projecting itself onto the rest of the world, uses negative stereotyping domestically to create pro-imperial constituencies, imbued with a racist outlook.

While the image of the billionaire oil sheikh buying up English football clubs abounds in the UK media, it is precisely the Gulf sheikhdoms – Saudi Arabia in particular, with its culturally regressive practices – that are staunch allies of Britain. The US has done its utmost to maintain the pipeline of armaments and financing to the Saudi regime, while the latter epitomises the oil-sheikh image in the western imagination.

There are numerous Arab writers and novelists articulating the struggles, trauma and aspirations of the Arab nations. We never hear about them in the Anglosphere, because they go against the grain of imperial power. They expose the falsity of the hostile stereotypes we have imbibed in the West.

Let’s put down Leon Uris’ Exodus, and pick up copies of books by Palestinian authors, so we can improve our understanding of the plight and resilience of the Palestinians. Let’s ditch the Orientalism of our predecessors for a more engaged examination of the Arab world.

Belonging in America, educating German and Mexican children, and racism

In an article for the Boston Review, Jonna Perrillo, associate professor at the University of Texas El Paso, writes that for some migrants and refugees, America has been very welcoming. However, for those from nonwhite backgrounds, getting to be accepted as American has been a difficult course filled with obstacles. Her observations have contemporary relevance for the Anglospheric world, as conversations about how we define ourselves have erupted in a series of culture wars.

In 1946, 144 German children were moved from war-torn Germany to El Paso, Texas. They were the children of Nazi scientists, captured in the waning days of World War 2, as part of a secret American government programme called Operation Paperclip. The latter involved taking Nazi scientists, especially those involved in designing the V2 rockets, to the US. These ex-Nazi scientists, including the most famous Wernher von Braun, were instrumental in launching the space missions of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The participation of these Nazi scientists in the German war machine was overlooked or whitewashed, as they and their families settled in the United States. The German children, attending school in El Paso, were welcomed and warmly integrated into the school community. In numerous press articles, the German students were described as smart, sociable and capable. Rewarded for speaking German, as well as learning English, there was never any question that these kids would grow up to be American citizens.

This educationally privileged experience contrasts sharply with that of the Mexican American children, who made up the vast majority of the El Paso student community. Pushed into underfunded and overcrowded public schools, these students were punished for speaking Spanish, the only language they had ever known. Condemned as antisocial, unintelligent and super sensitive, the Mexican children were viewed as the eternal outsiders, incapable of becoming a part of the American landscape, which was exclusively reserved for whiteness.

The Paperclip children, defined as white, held the key to access the best of American society. Never mixing with the Mexican children, the German kids were taught that American values of self-reliance, individual achievement and democratic tolerance were integral in becoming American. Paperclip children were viewed as basically white in the process of becoming American. If the German children could be integrated into US society, then maybe Operation Paperclip could be interpreted as something positive, or at least benevolently motivated.

As Jonna Perrillo notes:

German children were quickly embraced as “American” because they were white, whereas the Mexican American children were consistently treated as foreign despite being U.S. citizens by birth.

Mexican children, stigmatised as lazy and hypersensitive, were at the lower steps of the capitalist and racialised pyramid. It is relevant to observe here that while Paperclip children were warmly welcomed into American society, the US authorities had done everything they could to heavily restrict the numbers of European Jewish refugees attempting to enter the United States. While the most famous European Jewish refugee, Albert Einstein, did gain entry to the US, thousands of his fellow Jews were not so lucky.

It is also relevant to note that African American military veterans – who served their nation in both world wars – were rejected by the country for which they fought. Facing legalised discrimination at home, black American veterans found themselves at odds with a society for which they risked their lives.

The black Olympians who competed at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, found themselves equally ostracised when they returned home. We have all heard of the story, highly exaggerated, that Jesse Owens, gold-medal winning African American athlete, was reputedly snubbed by Hitler. That story is largely a myth; however, what is not in dispute is that successive US administrations ignored the contributions of the 18 black American Olympians.

In an irony not lost in the mists of history, the 18 African American athletes lived in a racially integrated Olympic village while in Berlin – something they could not experience in their own nation. Snubbed by the American authorities, they were eventually thanked for their sacrifices by former President Barack Obama.

We have come a long way since then, with the civil rights movement, and campaigns for racial and economic justice. However, it would be wrong to draw a false finish line underneath the issue of redressing racial inequities. There is no intention, as falsely claimed by conservative commentators, that white children will be saddened or feel guilty if we teach the history of racism and genocidal violence against the indigenous nations in our schools.

The Paperclip children were never taught about the history of systematic violence against the indigenous American nations – nor the conquest of Mexican territory in a series of predatory wars in the southwest. Removing the presence of – and crimes committed against – the indigenous nations, the Paperclip children were included in a narrative of whiteness. We can observe what a nation stands for by what it omits from its curriculum, as much as by what it includes.

This pedagogy of omission, as Perrillo calls it, can be rectified by a pedagogy of inclusion, filling in the gaps so to speak. Only then can we have an honest reckoning about ourselves.

The Britain-Rwanda refugee deal, sordid 21st century imperialism and economic coercion

The UK government announced, in April this year, an arrangement with the East African nation of Rwanda, to relocate asylum seekers to the latter nation. The UK’s Home Secretary Priti Patel, herself born to a family of Ugandan-Indian refugees, stated that this deal with Rwanda will deter people smugglers.

Asylum seekers, after being processed in the offshore detention facilities in Rwanda, will be required to stay in that nation for five years. It is unclear what will happen to those unsuccessful refugee applicants.

Rwanda, having recovered from the ravages of warfare and genocide in the early 1990s, still remains one of the poorest nations on earth. Its human rights record is questionable, to say the least. It is not clear, beyond changing a hostel into a detention camp, how relocated asylum seekers will be housed and treated. There is though, a deeper issue which needs to be examined – the coercion of poor nations by rich imperialist countries to act as border guards, taking unwanted arrivals.

Offshore processing – a euphemism for institutionalised people trafficking – is a new way that rich nations dump the problems of unwanted migrants onto the poorer nations. While the UK-Rwanda deal is framed as a partnership, the reality is quite different. The UK’s per capita GDP is immensely larger than that of Rwanda. The poor nations face unequal conditions in the international arena. The imperialist nations are in a position to make aid and financing conditional on the forcible relocation to poorer nations of asylum seekers.

This kind of arrangement could best be described as a form of imperialism, 21st century style. The UK-Rwanda arrangement is not the first of its kind. Indeed, the inspiration for outsourcing the refugee issue comes from the Australian government’s Pacific Solution. Bribing the poorer nations of the Asia-Pacific region, successive Australian governments have detained asylum seekers in offshore camps in Nauru and Manus Island. Alexander Downer, former foreign minister and advocate of offshore processing, is one of Priti Patel’s advisers.

Implemented by the Australian Tories – the ultra conservative Liberal party – the Pacific Solution was revived, after a brief suspension, by the conservative Labour party in 2012. Offshore processing doubly victimises the asylum seekers. The latter, fleeing wars and conflicts instigated by the imperialist states, are denied their fundamental human right to seek asylum under the International Refugee Convention.

The EU, for some time now, has been using the African nation of Niger as an outsourcing migration laboratory. Niger, another impoverished nation, accepted millions of euros in aid on the condition that asylum seekers – those from outside of Europe – would be housed and their applications processed there. Rich nations have transformed international aid from a policy of development into an instrument of short term geopolitical interests.

In fact, the EU-Niger refugee arrangement is a way for the EU nations to construct a border patrol in the Sahel; rather than wait for asylum seekers to approach the heavily patrolled and militarised Mediterranean Sea, the flow of non-European refugees is stemmed and controlled by the poorer nations themselves. Outsourcing border patrols and coercive migration controls is part of a wider strategy to gain economic footholds in the poorer but resource-rich nations.

The richer nations have had decades of toxic political debate about immigration, multiculturalism and asylum seekers. Demonising refugees and alleged ‘queue-jumpers’ has influenced election campaigns and outcomes. Throughout the prime ministership of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli politicians denounced African refugees as ‘infiltrators’, a ‘cancer’ in the society. Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers were relocated from Israel to Rwanda.

Priti Patel’s background, as the child of Ugandan Indian refugees, draws a spotlight on the issue of the 1970s Uganda Asian refugees. The latter – known as Asians back then – were persecuted by the regime of General Idi Amin. Britain, having originally backed Amin’s rise to power, condemned his government’s mistreatment of the Ugandan Asian community.

Britain, over the objections of racist and right wing politicians and pundits, accepted Ugandan Asians as refugees. It would be wrong however, to forget that the Ugandan refugee crisis was the result of cumulative and historical decisions by Imperial Britain to import and privilege one ethnic group over the majority Ugandan population. This is not to excuse the actions of the Amin regime. The purpose is to highlight the original criminal policy of the British empire; divide and rule.

The British empire implanted generations of economically driven imperial service communities; after decolonisation they become the acceptable refugees. The unrelenting hostility directed at non-European refugees contrasts sharply with the favourable and welcoming attitude towards the recent outflow of Ukrainian war refugees. Rather than pushing refugees onto someone else, there are practical solutions to the refugee outflows, addressing the wars and inequalities that produce them.

Holocaust denial has experienced a resurgence, and the fight against it must continue

Holocaust denial, based in antisemitic conspiratorial thinking, is the active attempt to create pseudoscientific materials denying the Nazi German programme to exterminate European Jewry. While old-school Holocaust denial has declined, obfuscation and distortion of the antisemitic killings in WW2 has increased, especially in Eastern Europe. This corresponds with the rise of ultranationalist and far right parties.

Professor Deborah Lipstadt, a Holocaust scholar, was sued by Nazi apologist and white supremacist writer David Irving in the late 1990s. Irving, a long time Holocaust denier, sued Lipstadt and Penguin Books for libel. Lipstadt wrote a comprehensive book – published back in 1993 – called Denying the Holocaust: the growing assault on truth and memory. In that book, Lipstadt traced the origins and trajectory of Holocaust denial from the ruins of WW2, through the works of white supremacists and Nazi apologists, including Irving.

The trial of Irving versus Lipstadt and Penguin Publishers, dramatised in the 2016 film Denial, was decided in 2000 in favour of Lipstadt and Penguin books. Irving was comprehensively defeated in a legal action he initiated. Holocaust denial suffered a terrible blow, but it was not defeated.

Irving was following in the footsteps of previous generations of Holocaust deniers, which Lipstadt detailed in her book. Intending to exculpate Nazi Germany and its collaborators of the main crime – the extermination of European Jewry – Holocaust deniers and ultranationalist writers of all stripes were keen on rehabilitating white supremacy.

German nationalists, American racists and white European Nazi apologists found Holocaust denial to be the ideological cement glueing together their respective parallel agendas. Deniers and antisemites cast doubt on the existence of the gas chambers, and produce pseudoscientific materials in order to gain academic respectability for their cause. For instance, the denialist 1974 pamphlet Did Six Million Really Die?, written by an English white supremacist and neo-Nazi, attacked the war crimes trials at Nuremberg, criticising the objectivity of the judges and the veracity of the evidence presented.

The Institute for Historical Review, a think tank established by Holocaust deniers and antisemites in 1978 in California, churns out racist materials with a veneer of academic credibility. While reaching a high point in the 1980s and 90s, its activities have declined somewhat since then. Hiding behind a facade of free speech and scholarly enquiry, the IHR’s mission is to promote an updated white supremacy and recycle Holocaust denial.

Numerous books have been written rebutting the nefarious claims of Holocaust deniers. Richard Evans’ book, Telling Lies About Hitler is one such book; Michael Shermer’s Denying History: Who says the Holocaust never happened and why do they say it? is another. These books, and other multimedia materials, are indispensable in combating Holocaust denial.

However, we cannot be complacent – with the growth of social media, Holocaust denial has found a new arena in which to grow. From the very first days of the internet, antisemites and racists have utilised the new technologies to disseminate their views far and wide. The old school denialism has been superseded in many ways; no longer is it necessary to submit paper manuscripts for publication. Irving and other Holocaust deniers have either grown old, reduced their activities or passed away.

Holocaust obfuscation received a boost from the early 1990s onwards, and the reasons for that can be found in the politically tectonic shifts which occurred in Eastern European nations in 1989-91. The dissolution of the Soviet Union and its allied Eastern bloc paved the way for a resurgence of pre-Communist era ultranationalism, particularly in the Baltic states. With Communist ideology now discarded, the Eastern European states harked back to the ostensibly ‘good old days’ of the 1920s-1940s.

Investigating the Soviet period, and examining Moscow’s crimes is one thing; downplaying the culpability of Baltic, Ukrainian and Eastern European ultranationalism is quite another. Baltic and Eastern European collaboration with Nazism, and the crucial role these ultrarightist ideologies played in helping to massacre Jewish populations, had to be obscured. Today’s Eastern European ultranationalist Right intends to obscure its antisemitic actions in the past.

The Baltic states, prior to their occupation by Soviet forces, enthusiastically collaborated in antisemitic purges; the Ukrainian nationalist army, while theoretically independent of Nazi Germany, recycled antisemitic conspiracy theories, blamed ‘Muscovy-Communism’ on the Jews, and massacred Jewish communities. The ‘double genocide’ theory, which explicitly ties Soviet conduct to Nazi war crimes, turns the Jews from victims into perpetrators.

These political developments have created a climate conducive to the spread of Holocaust obfuscation, intended to exculpate Baltic and Eastern European ultranationalist parties of the crimes of antisemitism and ethnic cleansing. No, David Irving is not gaining a wide audience in Eastern Europe, however, the denial of European Jewry’s suffering at the hands of Baltic and Ukrainian ultranationalism is gaining a hearing.

When Baltic Waffen SS veterans are honoured as heroes in public parades, the doctrines that motivated them to murder Jews also receive credibility. Holocaust deniers, longing for oxygen for their views, begin obtaining coverage in the mainstream. Each national ideology can remember history the way they like. But ultranationalism must not be allowed to get away with pseudoscientific attempts to minimise or escape the guilt of its crimes, or repudiate the suffering of its victims.

Let’s end the household analogy – government budgets, gaffes and electioneering

One of the most well-worn and yet incorrect analogies circulating – especially around electioneering times – is that a government budget can be managed just like a household budget. After all, we cannot afford to spend beyond our means, can we? Is not balancing the family chequebook a good idea? Unfortunately, this folksy homespun analogy is not only simplistic, but also misleading and contributes to the infantilisation of political debate in the Anglosphere nations.

In response to a query by a journalist, Australian Labour Party leader Anthony Albanese could not recall the official unemployment rate. This putative ‘gaffe’ by an aspiring prime ministerial candidate revealed the infantile character of what passes for journalism, rather than any shortcoming on Albanese’s part. This ridiculous gotcha reporting only contributes to the deterioration of political debate, and increases the apathy of the electorate towards the political process.

Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt, when asked a similar gotcha-type question, hit back with an eloquent response – let’s focus on the policies and ideas, let’s discuss how to improve the welfare of the society. If you want the latest statistics – google it.

Greg Jericho, economics columnist for the Guardian, wrote that it is more important to know the impact of your policies than recalling statistics offhand. Indeed, Jericho wrote that he frequently accesses statistics from Australian government websites, when writing his columns. Rather than rattling off stats from the top of his head, he verifies his articles through research.

The household comparison has been skilfully deployed to facilitate an austerity agenda. A household budget impacts only the occupants of that household – a government’s budget decisions impact millions of people and affects the direction of a national economy. Our economic reporting, and the way we think about government spending, has been gradually colonised by the financial/corporate sector. The effect of that is to obscure the fact that wealth is created by labour power, combined with capital spending and investment, to generate a healthy economy.

A government can levy taxes, implement and regulate a currency, invest in long-term infrastructure projects, and determine the standards of measurement used to impose a uniform currency – the dollar in Australia’s case. In fact, in the 1960s, the Australian ruling class changed currencies from the pound (tied to the English currency) to the Australian dollar – a measure no household can ever achieve. Changing currency is a tectonic shift in the nature and operation of a national economy.

The alleged suffering of multinational corporations under an uncompetitive and uncompromising tax structure is a conservative myth. In Australia, there are 722 major corporations, including 199 which reported more than one billion dollars in profits for fiscal year 2016-17 – and paid no taxes. If government deficit was such a series problem, this avoidance of corporate taxes should be urgently addressed.

The failure by the Australian government to establish a federal Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) may not seem like an economic issue. However, let’s consider the following – how much government money is lost or siphoned off due to corruption? Plugging that particular hole in the budget would certainly contribute significantly to reducing government debt.

The seeming inability of the federal government to investigate just how many billions of dollars transnational corporations have stashed away in offshore tax havens indicates a lack of political will. Reclaiming such money offers an opportunity to not only recoup truckloads of lost money, but also help compensate for the purportedly serious government deficit. These kind of political decisions are not in the interest of the financial/corporate elite; lectures about fiscal responsibility are reserved for public spending on health care and education.

The household-budget metaphor, deployed as a rhetorical device, is used to attack the suggestion of public spending, particularly as it relates to health care services, welfare, government schools, public transport and the like. Of course no government has infinite amounts of money. However, the way we think about deficit spending is influenced by those who intend to dismantle the public sector and hand over more money to private enterprise.

Former Australian prime minister and lodestar of today’s conservatives, Robert Menzies, ran budget deficits and invested government money in public infrastructure. Government spending as a share of GDP actually increased under Menzies – from 19.4% to 24.5%. No-one denounced his government as irresponsible or reckless. Menzies also kept watch on inflationary pressures, all the while maintaining a long term vision for the economy.

While noting the use of GDP growth as a metric of economic success, let’s suggest another metric to watch – lifting people out of poverty. How many millions, or hundreds, of previously unemployed and/or poor were lifted out of poverty by government policies? Surely improving the quality of life for its citizens is a major task of governments. Why don’t we report on poverty alleviation like we do on a daily basis on the stock market?

It is possible to focus on nation-building, constructing infrastructure vital to building a cohesive society, and keep an eye on deficits. This obsessive-compulsive disorder we have with reducing government deficit serves to blur our focus on economic activities that contribute to nation prosperity. Let’s have a national conversation about economic policies without recourse to trivial and infantile analogies which actually do harm to our political debate.