Tag Archives: slavery

Telegraph Comment of the Week (#26)

Every so often, the Lyin’ King produces a blog about the American Civil war in which he muses over what it would have been like if the war never happened. All of Hannan’s blogs on this subject are, more or less, grandiloquent attempts at historical revisionism: they tend to play to a particular constituency of reader who sees the Civil War as the end of a golden era and any attempt to say otherwise is part of an huge conspiracy by the “Feds” to deceive you.

Hannan’s view of the American Civil War is perfectly aligned with the neo-Confederalist movement in the United States. This movement is, as I have written elsewhere on this blog, intellectually supported by the Ludwig von Mises Institute, which produces all manner of revisionist stuff about the war and of the role it played in the abolition of slavery. On this latter point, the neo-Confederates can’t quite come to terms with the fact that slavery is, fundamentally, an evil enterprise. Instead, what we see from them is the continual production of articles that support and justify the institution of slavery as a noble enterprise that proceeds, albeit ahistorically, in a fine epoch’s old tradition.

Today Hannan asks “Could the American Civil War have been avoided”? The short answer to that question is: no, it was inevitable. Yet, we find with the Lyin’ King and the neo-Confederates that such things as historical materialism are despised and, in their eyes,  it is much better to fantasise about an alternate world in which the southern states are still practising slavery and the slave-owners are a uniquely noble form of human being who really care about their chattel. In this dystopian fantasy world, everyone knows their place.

This doesn’t stop Hannan from dreaming of what might have been:

Might slavery have been abolished without bloodshed? It’s hard to say. The ban on the import of new slaves would eventually have finished the institution, but at a price of decades of suffering for those already in bondage. Peaceful manumission, as had happened much earlier in Britain, was the obvious alternative, but the slave-owners were in no mood to sell. Then again, had they been able to foresee the future, they would surely have grabbed at compensated abolition.

Hannan claims that the import ban on slaves would have finished the institution. What he doesn’t dare mention are the slave-breeding farms of Virginia and Maryland, the internal slave trade in the Southern states, or the plan to seize Cuba from Spain and use that island as a slave state should the South be forced to relinquish slavery.  The capitalists, in this case the slave-owners, are compensated, but the victims – the slaves themselves – are considered unworthy of reparations; they’re just human capital in the minds of the hard-nosed, hard-faced capitalist, who only sees the world in terms of profit.

I’ve seen Hannan claim, like the LvMI claim that the American Civil War was a “tariff war”. It’s a feeble attempt at a economic rationalization of the war. The war and its causes were much more complex and a major part of the reason for war was the issue of slavery. Hannan would do well to read up on the slave revolts, John Brown, Bleeding Kansas and the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

Now to our comment of the week. “Jim Blane” has already graced this series and so, once again, we find he’s come to give us the benefit of his knowledge deficit. He justifies chattel slavery by claiming that “Slavery has been practiced for thousands of years by all races and civilizations”. All “races and civilizations”? Laughable. But because it existed in history is no excuse for it to exist today. Moreover, the kind of slavery that existed thousands of years ago was not based on what Fanon called “melanism”, it was predicated on the idea that the vanquished should be enslaved because they had been defeated in battle.

Dim Blame

Here “Dim Brain” claims that the first slave owner in “North America” was a “Black African”. This is fictitious. Notice how he doesn’t actually provide any evidence for this assertion. The right despises evidence as much as it despises the working class and they only accept history as long as it’s been airbrushed first.

The level of ignorance in this comment is shocking. Nowhere does our dim friend make a distinction between the nature of chattel slavery and the forms of slavery that were practised before its introduction by the Spanish and Portuguese. The entire point of this comment is to claim that white people are superior to other ‘races’. Notice how he begins his comment with “Educating White Guilt Ego Glow Peddlers”. What does that mean? If he’s setting himself up as an educator, then it’s no wonder these people are so dim. Then there’s his claim that “The White man was the first to ban slavery . and if he had not it would still be going on in Africa and Asian today” (sic). Nonsense. Slavery continues to this day in the so-called developed countries as well as parts of Africa and Asia.

“Dim Brain’s” last point is an exercise in how to write white nationalist drivel. He claims that ” Only the White race has served up an indictment for crimes against humanity upon all of it’s children’s children for all eternity as a way for White middle /upper class progressives to insaiate their insataible greed for moral supremacy” (sic).  Put down the crack pipe, matey.

Related blog

Life on Hannan World (Part 8)

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Life on Hannan World (Part 8)

On Sunday, the Lyin’ King claimed that it was right for British slaveowners to have been compensated millions of pounds for the loss of their slaves. Whereas the victims of this crime – the slaves themselves, got nothing. he admits this was bad but his admission is uttered through gritted teeth.

As one would expect for a Telegraph blog about ‘race’ and slavery, this piece prompts the usual chorus of racist voices to slap Hannan on the back and shout “Bravo”!

Was it immoral to compensate slave-owners at the time of emancipation? That is the implication of most of the media comment that has followed the publication of a study of the records by UCL, showing that several prominent British families received vast cash payments. The Independent on Sunday calls it ‘Britain’s colonial shame’. Trevor Philips thinks it ‘the most profound injustice that probably you can identify anywhere in this country’s history’.

The very mention of Trevor Philips is guaranteed to get his readers frothing at the mouth.  Hannan carries a torch for the British Empire and like so many of his fellow Tories and UKippers, he believes that the only way forward for Britain is to return to its brutal past. He continues,

I can’t for the life of me see why. The fact that people were prepared to pay to abolish the monstrosity of slavery is surely a cause for satisfaction rather than shame. It is one thing to say, in the abstract, ‘slavery is a bad idea’; quite another to say, ‘slavery is so wicked that I am prepared to make a personal sacrifice to help do away with it’.

Slave-owners were compensated because the government were members of the same social class. It had nothing to do with heading off a potential revolt. White slave-owners were seen as superior to black slaves. It’s as simple as that.

The general thrust of his argument is supportive of the Ludwig von Mises Institute’s (LvMI) and  Ron Paul’s claim that the US Civil War needn’t have happened if the Federal government had compensated slaveowners in the aftermath of emancipation.

Here he  sweeps aside the US’s unique brand of chattel slavery and tells us that,

Although slavery sometimes had an ethnic basis, it was no great respecter of race. Muslim slavers traded in Christians: Georgians, Circassians, Armenians and others. Christians, for their part, enslaved Moors: as late as the sixteenth century, hundreds of thousands of Muslim slaves toiled on Spanish plantations. On the eve of the American civil war, there were 3,000 black slave-owners in the United States.

Hannan forgets that slavery – as practised by other groups – did not use race as the basis for enslaving others. In many cases, people were enslaved by conquering armies: they were not seen as chattel. Chattel slavery was instituted in the late 17th century when the notion of race was first mooted and Africans were mainly seen as subhuman and only fit for manual labour. Indeed, this idea of racial supremacy was later given a Biblical justification in the shape of the so-called Curse of Ham.

Hannan mentions the “3,000 black slaveowners” in the United States but doesn’t explain why black people held slaves. Instead, he uses this fact as a deflectionary tactic that has it origins in the LvMI’s historical revisionism of the American Civil War.  Those “black slave-owners” that he talks about were mainly mixed race. Furthermore, the vast majority of those black slave-owners had purchased slaves with the intention of setting them free. But free blacks were also considered a threat to the socio-ethnic order and were often suspected of harbouring fugitive slaves – this gets no mention. We must also remember that the so-called “One-Drop Rule” posited that if anyone had any degree of mixed ancestry, they were considered to be black in the eyes of the law. While there were free blacks, these people did not enjoy the same rights as whites. There is no mention of this either, nor is there any mention of the Black Codes and Jim Crow laws that were passed in many states.

Robert Higgs of the LvMI attempts to defend the institution of slavery and tells us that slavery is “natural”.  Here’s a taste of his article,

Slavery is natural. People differ, and we must expect that those who are superior in a certain way — for example, in intelligence, morality, knowledge, technological prowess, or capacity for fighting — will make themselves the masters of those who are inferior in this regard.

The LvMI has been at the intellectual forefront of the neo-Confederate movement for a number of years. It denies that it is racist and revisionist. It tries to claim that the American Civil War was fought solely over the issue of tariffs and it defends the institution of slavery. Hannan’s speeches, blogs and articles are regularly featured on the LvMI website.

Hannan is a fan of self-styled libertarian, Ron Paul, who has previously been accused of racism and is a supporter of the neo-Confederate movement. Casey Gane-McCalla of Newsone  says,

Ron Paul is a neo-Confederate, and proud member of the Ludwig Von Mises Institute, which has been labeled as a neo-Confederate organization. In the video he claims that the North should have paid to buy slaves from southern slave owners to avoid the war, rather than the South renouncing slavery. Paul also fails to bring up the fact that it was the South that started the war by attacking the North in 1861.

Ron Paul was also was the only member of congress to vote against honoring the Civil Rights Act Of 1964 on its 40th anniversary in 2004. Paul would also claim that he wouldn’t have voted for it at the time, putting him on the side of the racists in both the fight against slavery and the fight against Jim Crow segregation, the two defining struggles of Black people in America.

Hannan describes Paul as “principled” but here’s a video of Paul speaking to the LvMI with the Stars and Bars draped in the background.

As if to echo Paul’s position, Hannan tells us,

Instead, a terrible war was fought, whose legacy of racial bitterness endured for another century and more. Yet, when Ron Paul suggested that it might have been better for everyone had the Americans adopted the British approach, buying out the slave-owners peacefully, he was pilloried.

Yet, there is no evidence to support the claim that there would have been a civil war in Britain had British slave-owners not been compensated for the loss of their ‘property’.  As is often the case with right-wing libertarians, racism is rationalized by using plausible-sounding economic terminology. This has the effect of masking the racism and making it more acceptable to those people who do not wish to be seen as racist. Now they can feel vindicated. They can tell all and sundry that the American Civil War was a “tariff war” and that Civil Rights legislation was wrong because it denied racist diner-owners of the right to refuse service to those whom they believed to be inferior. Remember, if you’re a ‘libertarian’ nothing must get in the way of making a profit.

Hannan may not consider himself to be a racist but he flirts with those whose ideas about difference mark them out as racist. Ron Paul may also deny that he is a racist and a homophobe but the evidence speaks for itself.

Meanwhile the practise of slavery continues in Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Chad. I wonder if Hannan and Paul would demand compensation for those slave-owners if they were forced to relinquish their slaves? I very much doubt it.

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Mali, Mauritania and slavery

Biram Dah Abeid. Picture courtesy of  babacarbaye.unblog.fr

One thing that hasn’t been mentioned about the current conflict in Mali (and neighbouring Mauritania) is slavery. For centuries Tauregs have kept slaves and I remember reading about this many years ago.

I found this article on the International Business Times website.

The practice of slavery long has been a cultural norm in many Malian communities. As in neighboring Mauritania, slaves and slave owners are often described in terms of “black” and “white,” since slave descendants tend to have black African roots and their masters are typically of lighter-skinned Berber ancestry. But in fact, members of both groups have varying skin tones, and ethnicities are sometimes mixed due to masters raping female slaves.

According to Temedt, a Mali-based advocacy program, about 200,000 people are currently enslaved in the country and about 600,000 more are slave descendants under some form of control even though they live separately from their masters. Temedt works with Anti-Slavery International, a London-based human rights organization, to help free victims of slavery and then assist them in the transition to independence.

This article by Mark Tran in The Guardian (dated 23/10/12) says,

“The slave population is already defenceless; it will become even more so as the conflict intensifies. We are like the straw that will be trampled underfoot when elephants fight,” said Ibrahim Ag Idbaltanat, an activist who received the Anti-Slavery International award in London last Wednesday.

Slavery was formally abolished in Mali in the 1960s, after the country gained independence from France. However, although slavery is not allowed under the constitution, there is no anti-slavery law and descent-based slavery through the maternal bloodline still exists in northern regions.

People descended from slaves remain the “property” of their “masters”, either living with them and serving them directly, or living separately but remaining under their control.

While slavery was abolished in the 1960s, the practice continues particularly in Mauritania where it is officially illegal.

This is from Anti-Slavery International.

Whilst there has been no definitive research on the extent of slavery in the country, SOS Esclaves estimate that approximately 18 per cent of Mauritania’s population (over half a million people) live in slavery today.

Slavery has existed in Mauritania for hundreds of years and is deeply rooted within society across the country. The Haratine are the group most affected by slavery practices and are traditionally owned by Bidane, or white moors, the minority ruling elite of Arab-Berber descent in Mauritania. Historically the white moors raided and enslaved people from the indigenous black population and today, all cases of slavery in Mauritania involve people whose ancestors were enslaved before them.

Slavery status is an inherited status. This age-old distinction underpins the very nature of slavery in Mauritania whereby individuals are assigned to a ‘slave caste’ which is ascribed at birth. Those in slavery are devoid of all their fundamental human rights, are owned and controlled by their masters, and are treated like their property. They are forced to work for their masters throughout their lives and are never paid for their work. They do what their masters tell them to do or they are threatened and abused.

A new law criminalising slavery was passed by the Mauritanian Parliament in 2007 but it is not clear how many people have been prosecuted for keeping slaves if, indeed, anyone has been prosecuted at all. It seems that slavery is still taking place in Mauritania in spite of the law.

In 2011,Biram Dah Abeid, a prominent anti-slavery activist, was arrested on trumped up charges. The Guardian reports,

Abeid originally went to a police station with two girls, aged nine and 13, who had been forced to work as servants for the family of the local police commissioner, according to the press release published by the NGOs. An argument took place, which allegedly ended with Abeid being injured. The “mistress” of the girls was charged but released on bail.

A 2007 law made slavery illegal in Mauritania. “But in fact no one has ever been sentenced. Charges are dropped because the courts are under constant pressure from traditional, religious and tribal forces, all of which tolerate this practice,” said Fatima Mbaye, head of the Mauritanian Human Rights League.

Abeid was eventually released on bail last September. The charges, as far as I know, have not been dropped. However he was granted freedom of movement and visited Europe to raise awareness of the issue of the continued practice of slavery in Mauritania.

According to this blog, Abeid narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott on 5 January.  Other anti-slavery activists have also been harassed.

While Cameron, Hollande and other Western leaders talk about “Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb” and “Jihadists”, they deliberately elide the region’s other problems. The situation is not as clear cut as “good guys versus evil terrorists”. Yet our media continues to ply us with this grog.

Slavery is still alive in the Sahel and thousands of French troops in the region will do nothing to end it.

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