London people drove away fascists in 1936


Plaque in Cable Street, London

From London daily The Guardian:

Day the East End said ‘No pasaran’ to Blackshirts

Audrey Gillan

Saturday September 30, 2006

They built barricades from paving stones, timber and overturned lorries.

Women threw the contents of chamber pots on to the heads of policemen and children hurled marbles under their horses and burst bags of pepper in front of their noses.

Next Wednesday marks the 70th anniversary of the day that Jews, communists, trade unionists, Labour party members, Irish Catholic dockers and the people of the East End of London united in defiance of Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists and refused to let them march through their streets.

Shouting the Spanish civil war slogan “No pasaran” – “They shall not pass” – more than 300,000 people turned back an army of Blackshirts.

Their victory over racism and anti-Semitism on Sunday October 4 1936 became known as the Battle of Cable Street and encapsulated the British fight against a fascism that was stomping across Europe.

Mosley planned to send columns of thousands of goose-stepping men throughout the impoverished East End dressed in uniforms that mimicked those of Hitler’s Nazis.

His target was the large Jewish community.

See also here.

And here.

And here.

And here.

And here.

The Battle of Cable Street, which took place 75 years ago this week, was a key moment in anti-fascist history when mass working class resistance stopped the Blackshirts: here.

From Cable Street to Oldham, book review: here.

The Netherlands: two new plant species found in marshes


Carex davalliana

From Alterra in The Netherlands:

While doing research on marsh plants, Alterra found two plant species new for The Netherlands.

In a calcineous wells area in South Limburg, Eddy Weeda found the Carex davalliana, a species of Central European calcineous marshes.

In England, Belgium and Northern Germany, this species has become extinct.

Next, in the Wieden in Overijssel province, they discovered the [moss] Pseudocalliergon trifarium, characteristic for non acidic bogs in the Arctic and in high mountains.

See also here.

Evolution of floral traits in Neotropical lianas: here.

Spain: millions of anchovies die on beach


European anchovy

Associated Press reports:

Millions of anchovies — a protected species in Europe — have died in northern Spain after an unexplained mass beaching, officials said Friday.

The fish, all juveniles, were found stranded along large stretches of Colunga beach, 35 miles east of the port city of Gijon, a normally pristine seaside landscape in the verdant province of Asturias.

See also here.

And here.

USA: Bush administration persecutes church for criticism of Iraq war


Bush on God, cartoonBy John Burton:

The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is threatening to revoke the tax-exempt status of Pasadena’s All Saints Church on the grounds that an antiwar sermon given in November 2004 violated the requirement that charitable organizations not endorse particular candidates.

The church is challenging in court the IRS’s demand that it turn over documents to investigators. …

The Internal Revenue Service’s probe to strip Pasadena’s All Saints Church of tax-exempt status is an act of political censorship aimed at intimidating and suppressing opposition to the war in Iraq and the policies of the Bush administration.

I call for an immediate end to the investigation.

There is no legitimate basis for the government’s demand that the church turn over documents to IRS investigators.

The IRS action is a transparently political and anti-democratic attack, coming as it does from an administration that has done more to eliminate the separation of church and state than any government in US history.

Right-wing Christian fundamentalists exercise an effective veto power over government policy on such issues as stem cell research, abortion and gay rights.

Bush repeatedly invokes God as a justification for his policies, including the war in Iraq.

The administration funnels millions of dollars to right-wing religious organizations in the name of Bush’s program of “faith-based” initiatives.

US soldiers’ blogs censored: here.

Japan: Korean opera canceled for political reasons.

US Bush administration and freedom; cartoon

Artists mocking princes: before Goya and Rembrandt, ancient Egypt?


Egypt, Ramesseum, head of Ramses IIMany (not all) art historians think that two hundred years ago, painter Francisco Goya mocked the Spanish royal family in his portrait painting of them.

Arguably, Rembrandt also did something similar, when painting a portrait of German-Dutch Princess Amalia van Solms.

Is this criticism by visual artists of their powerful patrons still even much older?

English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, a younger contemporary of Goya, and no admirer of potentates, said it was as old as ancient Egypt.

He said so in his sonnet Ozymandias.

About ancient Egypt, as reported by a contemporary Egyptian in conversation with Shelley, for the sake of the poem:

OZYMANDIAS of EGYPT

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said:—Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown

And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.

And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”

Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

The Wikipedia article on this poem says:

In line 7, the word “survive” is a transitive verb, with “hand” and “heart” as its direct objects.

Thus, the lines mean that those passions (arrogance and sneer) have survived (outlived) both the sculptor (whose hand mocked those passions by stamping them so well on the statue) and the pharaoh (whose heart fed those passions in the first place).

The verb “mock’d” originally meant “to create/fashion an imitation of reality” (as in “a mockup”) before meaning “to ridicule” (especially by mimicking).

In Shelley’s day, the latter meaning was predominant (as seen in the works of William Shakespeare or the King James Version of the Bible), but in the specific context of “the hand that mock’d them”, we can read both “the hand that crafted them” and “the hand that ridiculed them”.

So, in Shelley’s view, the ancient Egyptian sculptor ridiculed his royal patron Ramses II (more familiar name of ‘Ozymandias’).

Did he really, over 3000 years ago?

No, says the Wikipedia article:

The “wrinkled lip and sneer” are not actually found on any extant sculptures of Ramses II or any other Pharaoh.

Pharaonic faces always have a Buddha-like serenity in Egyptian art.

While this may be true in the case of Ramses II, it might not ‘always’ be true for other pharaohs.

A century before Ramses II, Pharaoh Akhenaten founded a new, monotheist, religion, and a new royal capital, Amarna.

Pharaoh Akenaten

Where a new style in art developed.

Another Wikipedia article says on it:

Sculptures from the Amarna period were a lot more relaxed and depicted people as they really were and not focusing on just some of their features.

Excellent examples of sculptures from the Amarna period can be found at the M.A. Mansoor Amarna Collection website.

Amarna visual artists are said to depict Pharaoh Akhenaten as too thin to look good, which might have an element of mockery.

Akhenaten’s wife, famously beautiful Queen Nefertiti, according to recent research, was depicted, though not mockingly, realistically: as a middle-aged beauty.

Back to Shelley: should we blame him for archaeological inaccuracy?

Not really, as when he wrote his poem, very little was known in Europe on ancient Egypt, especially on the content of hieroglyphic inscriptions.

French scholar Champollion would start the first decipherment of a hieroglyphic inscription, on the Rosetta Stone, only four years later, in 1822, the year when Shelley died.

Only in 1829, seven years after Shelley’s death, would Champollion decipher inscriptions at Ramses II’s Ramesseum, the inspiration for Shelley’s poem.

Finally, back to the Wikipedia article on Shelley’s poem:

The impact of the sonnet’s message comes from its double irony.

The tyrant declares, “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”

Yet nothing remains of Ozymandias’ works but the shattered fragments of his statue.

So “the mighty” should despair — not, as Ozymandias intended, because they can never hope to equal his achievements, but because they will share his fate of inevitable oblivion in the sands of time.

A second irony lies in the “survival” of the tyrant’s character in the fragments being due not to his own powers but to those of the artist.

Discussion on art and social change in the USA: here.

France: remembering anti-colonialist Frantz Fanon, and the World Social Forum in Kenya


This video from the USA is called Frantz Fanon Eulogy.

From French daily l’Humanité:

Figuring out the Mechanisms of Domination

Translated Tuesday 26 September 2006, by Henry Crapo

The thinking of Frantz Fanon, Carribean psychiatrist, will be highlighted at the World Social Forum in Nairobi.

It was to show the topicality of Frantz Fanon’s thinking on the mechanisms of colonial domination that the Espaces Marx organized a debate on this subject on Saturday, 17 September, at the Rhone regional stand at the Fête de l’Humanité.

It was to discover this man, who was born in Fort-de-France in 1925, died in 1961, and buried in Algeria – a psychiatrist, writer, and thinker, of whom Aimé Césaire said “He is a paraclet, one whose life has become a call to us to live.”

Alice Cherki, psychiatrist and author of the biography Frantz Fanon, a Portrait, described with emotion the man with whom she had worked, first in the psychiatric service in Blida, then in Tunisia, where that militant awakener of consciousness, fighting for the independence of Algeria, had to find refuge, having been expelled by the French government.

Britain: after Colin Powell, Jack Straw admits regrets on Iraq war


Pablo Picasso, Guernica

The BBC reports:

Mistakes made in Iraq, says Straw

Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has described the current situation in Iraq as “dire”.

Mr Straw, who held the job at the time the UK decided to take part in the 2003 war, said there were things he regretted about the campaign.

Speaking on BBC One’s Question Time, he said “mistakes” were made by the US following the invasion.

State department efforts to ensure a “proper civilian administration” were not followed through, he said.

“The current situation is dire,” he said.

“I think many mistakes were made after the military action – there is no question about it – by the United States administration.

Why? Because they failed to follow the lead of Secretary (of State, Colin) Powell.

Powell and GuernicaColin Powell has admitted his infamous speech in the United Nations on so called Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the official pretext for the war, were lies.

That he, and Jack Straw, now have second thoughts on the war, makes them at least somewhat better than Bush and Blair who are “staying the course” of bloodshed.

However, it is still regrettable that many politicians wait with coming back to their senses till after leaving office.

How much better would it have been if Colin Powell, when in the United Nations building the copy of Pablo Picasso’s famous anti war painting Guernica was covered, as the reality of war would contrast too much with his “WMD” speech, would have personally torn the cloth away to make Picasso’s truth visible again.

And would have ripped to little shreds his untruthful speech, and thrown his photoshopped “WMD” slides into the wastepaper basket.

Somewhat like the body double of the dictator, played by Charlie Chaplin, in the closing scene of Chaplin’s film, The Great Dictator.

Jack Straw against Muslim women: here.

And here.