British, Dutch banks, slave trade profiteers

This December 2014 video says about itself:

The Atlantic slave trade: What too few textbooks told you – Anthony Hazard

Slavery has occurred in many forms throughout the world, but the Atlantic slave trade — which forcibly brought more than 10 million Africans to the Americas — stands out for both its global scale and its lasting legacy. Anthony Hazard discusses the historical, economic and personal impact of this massive historical injustice.

Lesson by Anthony Hazard, animation by NEIGHBOR.

Translated from Maaike Schoon in Dutch Vrij Nederland magazine, 10 July 2020:

How Dutch bankers financed slavery

The UK financial sector is under attack for its involvement in slavery. Research by Vrij Nederland shows that predecessors of Dutch banks, and even former members of the management of De Nederlandsche Bank [central bank], were also involved in the slavery economy.

A series of films on the bank’s origins can be found on the international ING Group website. It begins in 1762, reports a cheerful female voice, with the founding of Baring Brothers, a British trading house owned by English bankers Frances and John Baring. The trading house grew into one of the largest investment banks in the world.

The international reputation of the bank does not die until the 1990s when the fraudulent merchant Nick Leeson gives the bank an unbelievably large loss of millions. Thanks to that loss of millions, ING is able to buy the chicest bank in the United Kingdom for the symbolic amount of £ 1, thus opening itself up to London City. And, as the video shows, also to the glorious past of the third oldest investment bank in the world. Even Napoleon was a customer, the woman says cheerfully.

This 2018 ING bank video says about itself:

Barings bank’s first big client was Napoleon. What did this British bank do for the French statesman in 1803 and how is ING related to what was once the UK’s most powerful investment bank?

The Vrij Nederland article continues:

What the video does not tell: Baring Brothers made big profits in the early years, thanks to large-scale investments in slavery. When slavery was abolished, Sir Alexander Baring, the founder’s son, had enslaved more than 2,000 humans as property in British Guiana (modern-day Guyana), and more than 1,000 on the island of Saint Kitts, totalling 3,400 people.

With the abolition of slavery, owners were compensated for the loss of their “possessions”. Sir Baring received compensation that would come to 1.2 million euros today.

Since June this year, a heated debate has raged in Britain about the slavery past of national business. Insurance corporation Lloyds Bank and brewer Greene King published press releases and apologies for the fact that the founders had enslaved people and had benefited financially. The numbers are a shadow of that of Barings: 162 and 231 persons respectively.

Directly related to slavery

ING is not the only Dutch bank that can be directly associated with slavery, or its financial derivatives, such as investments in plantations, through a legal predecessor. In the seventeenth but certainly also eighteenth and partly nineteenth centuries, the fine fleur of the Amsterdam financial world became involved in investing in ship insurance and plantation loans in Suriname and Guyana. It was mainly wealthy families who engaged in trade in the West Indies in search of returns.

According to research by historians Pepijn Brandon and Ulbe Bosma associated with Harvard, the trade in slave-produced goods accounted for forty per cent of economic growth in Holland in the second half of the eighteenth century. This growth again sparked a wave of speculation in plantation loans. Ultimately, this led to a major financial crisis in 1773, after which the investments declined again. But the trade did not stop.

Plantation loans are loans granted to plantation owners, both Dutch and foreign owners. The loans themselves were subsequently resold in pieces as bonds, says Brandon, who researched the subject. “You can compare the funds from then with private equity parties now; lenders provided capital to plantation owners, but then resold that debt to smaller traders. ”

In this way, the involvement in slavery was interwoven throughout the entire financial system: trading houses that did not immediately issue plantation loans often had to deal with it. Hedging was also not unusual for the eighteenth and nineteenth-century traders: hedging a financial risk should the slavery economy collapse. Thanks to the publication of these innovative financial products, Amsterdam – and to a lesser extent London – remained the financial nerve centres of Europe.


London City is currently in the spotlight because of that past. After all, legal predecessors of HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays, as revealed in June after a University College London database was published, also had ties to the slavery economy. It lists the individuals and firms that received compensation in 1836, as well as those who made a claim in vain.

The database provides insight into which political parties, country houses, museums and other institutions benefited from slavery. As an important financial centre, London was a prominent player in the slave trade: the database lists numerous bankers, trading houses and politicians who took advantage of the enslaved persons trade.

And after the death of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matters protests, this new June information hit the ground.

Even the Bank of England, founded in 1694, was forced to apologize. No fewer than 27 former bosses of the Bank were found to have invested in slavery or to have been compensated for its abolition. “As an institution, although the Bank of England itself was not directly involved in slavery, it is aware of and apologizes for some unforgivable ties to former governors and directors,” said the regulator’s official press release. Eleven portraits of former presidents associated with slavery have since been removed from their buildings by the Bank of England.

Ties to the slavery past

The Bank of England’s apologies are relevant to the Netherlands. Research by Vrij Nederland shows that De Nederlandsche Bank – founded in 1814 – also has ties to the history of slavery.

One of the sources for this is a thesis by historian J.P. van der Voort from 1973, in which all plantation loans are recorded between 1720 and 1795. It is the most direct proof of financial involvement of investors in slave plantations in the Netherlands, in addition to the archives of the Emancipation Act of 1863 (which abolished slavery).

Van der Voort’s list states that the family company of the second president of De Nederlandsche Bank (he was that from 1816 to 1827), Jan Hodshon, provided plantation loans – he would eventually work for the company Hodshon & Co. As late as 1789, the trading house Hodshon & Co issued a loan to a plantation in St. Eustatius.

The family firm of Paul Hogguer, the first president of De Nederlandsche Bank (the daily management has consisted of the president plus five directors since its foundation), is also on this list. Although it is not immediately possible to determine whether he actually traded in these loans: his archive has largely disappeared. He briefly served as President: from 1814 to 1817.

Hogguer is from an important noble Swiss family, who owned several plantations, Pippin Brandon and Sven Beckert, another Harvard historian, recently wrote in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. For example, his grandmother and father had the La Liberté plantation in Suriname, according to data from the Amsterdam City Archives.

Hogguer was no longer very active as a banker after 1790, suspects Professor of Economic and Social History Joost Jonker, who obtained his doctorate on the subject. “After the financial crisis in 1773, the market for plantation loans collapsed. Hogguer had already largely withdrawn from the markets at the end of the eighteenth century.”

Compensation schemes

Furthermore, data from the National Archives shows that during the official abolition of slavery in 1863, three directors of DNB were involved in the compensation scheme of the Dutch government for the freeing of slaves in Suriname. Owners received 300 guilders for each enslaved person – in 2020 this means around 7,000 euros, or parts thereof, if owners had shares in the plantations.

DNB director Ferdinand Rendorp represented the interests of shareholders in such a fund and, according to archivist and historian Okke ten Hove, also held shares himself. Secretary Herman Molkenboer is mentioned because his wife was compensated for shares in a plantation. Women only became legally competent in 1956, so the money fell to him.

At the time of the Emancipation in 1863, Jacobus Insinger owned several plantations and shares in plantations. For example, researcher Dienke Hondius previously reported that Insinger personally owned 214 people on the Surinamese Barbados plantation. During Emancipation, Insinger was a director at De Nederlandsche Bank.

In response to this, De Nederlandsche Bank states that it will approach an independent party to conduct historical research into the Bank’s initial period and into then presidents and board members.

Widow Borski

The woman who – according to the president of De Nederlandsche Bank Klaas Knot – is responsible for the existence of the Bank, widow Borski, also appears to have been involved in trade in the slave economy.

The Borski Fund, a fund for female investors, was established in October 2019. Named after perhaps the richest woman of the nineteenth century, and one of the few female investors of the time. Knot is a speaker at the presentation of the fund in Museum van Loon. They are “still grateful” to the widow, says the President of the Bank, because without the widow Borski it would have been questionable whether De Nederlandsche Bank could have existed at all.

De Nederlandsche Bank was founded in 1814 by King Willem I, on the advice of the aforementioned Paul Hogguer.

But that did not happen by itself: the existence of the Bank hung on a thread in 1814. Of the five thousand shares issued, only three thousand were sold; Amsterdam’s high finance had little confidence in the bank’s future. But one trading house dared to: Borski and sons, headed by the widow Borski. Thanks to a convenient deal with Willem I, she bought the remaining two thousand shares, thereby providing DNB with much-needed starting capital.

Thanks in part to her, the Bank got off the ground, says Frank Elderson in a broadcast of the VPRO series De IJzeren Eeuw. A replica of the portrait of the widow is still hanging in the DNB meeting room. Knot, in his speech: “(…) We still exist. Thanks to the shares that the widow Borski – probably largely in gold and silver coins – settled with King Willem I.”

This July 2016 VPRO TV video is about the widow Borski.

Purely out of self-interest

An extensive inventory from 1818 between the British and Dutch State, from the National Archives in London, shows that widow Borski had been investing in Demerary (present-day Guyana) since 1802: plantation loans with a current value of more than eight million euros.

It is remarkable that she still had it in 1818, says professor Jonker, because the trade in plantation loans had already largely dried up. “That the widow still has a mortgage of one hundred thousand guilders on plantations in Demerary at that time in history. She was of course very wealthy, but that is still a large amount. Incidentally, the widow acted with her deal with De Nederlandsche Bank purely for self-interest: she knew how to immediately sell those not yet issued shares to numerous traders in Amsterdam.”

In response to questions from Vrij Nederland, DNB states that it is aware of Borski’s investments. “The widow Borski, who co-financed DNB in ​​its founding years, is known to have used its capital to fund plantations in Suriname and elsewhere in the Caribbean.”

From a historical perspective, loans to plantations are so important because it was precisely this financial infrastructure that allowed the plantations in Suriname and other colonies to grow, says Karin Lurvink. On behalf of VU University Amsterdam, she conducted research into the involvement of bankers and insurers in the slave trade.

Lurvink: “Mortgages were placed on the lives of African slaves by plantation owners, with the intention of obtaining credit, so that they could, among other things, buy even more slaves.” The African slaves represented a third of the total value of the plantation. And based on that value, the loan was granted. This led to the cynical reality that the more enslaved people were owned by a plantation, the larger the loan that could be taken out. With which even more enslaved people could be bought.

Slavery downplay

In the past, the involvement of the Dutch in slavery was often dismissed; an activity that historian Matthias van Rossum describes as “slavery downplaying“. The Netherlands supposedly did not profit that much from slavery, was the idea. Moreover, the British transported many more enslaved people.

However, the Dutch bankers’ records have shown that the involvement of the Dutch is much greater than is often assumed. The inventory from the London archives that was drawn up in 1818 shows this. Not only do the Dutch control eleven percent of all British plantations, they also issue loans to foreign plantation owners. And the Dutch mortgages and slave owners together accounted for no less than a third of the total slave trade in the region west of Suriname, according to the accompanying document. Thanks to the financial elite in the Netherlands.

Not very keen

Dutch bankers also directly owned slaves, especially when the abolition of slavery was in sight. Some of the plantations went bankrupt before their abolition and fell into the hands of the creditors: the bankers.

The best-known example of this is the company Insinger & Co, the legal predecessor of the current InsingerGilisen. Research by Karin Lurvink, who previously wrote about it in OneWorld, shows that in 1863 the trading house Insinger & co-owned over 1,500 enslaved, more than any other Dutch company.

Moreover, the Dutch elite was not very keen on the abolition of slavery, says historian Pepijn Brandon. “People knew in the Netherlands that it would end, but have tried to stretch it until the very end. And then it became part of an economic rationale: in the final stages, it even became profitable to keep plantations, because the owners knew they would be compensated by the government anyway.”

Frits Insinger was particularly active in this: as a Member of the Dutch Parliament he postponed the abolition of slavery for years. “The government has no right to free slaves without compensation,” he said in 1854 (can be read in the historical documents of the Senate). In 1863 his company receives this compensation: 300 guilders per person, 350 thousand guilders in total. Converted to now, that is more than eight million euros.

Incidentally, the historical irony, according to professor of colonial and postcolonial history Gert Oostindie, in a radio conversation with VPRO, wants the abolition of slavery in the West to be funded by proceeds from unfree labour in the East. Thanks to the profits from the Dutch East Indies, the Dutch State had enough money to compensate plantation owners.

Double compensation

Dutch plantation owners were not only compensated by the Dutch state for their lost property, but also by the British. The British took out the largest loan in their history for this: £ 20 million – converted 2.5 billion euros. The British taxpayer has had to pay until 2015 to repay this loan.

If they abolish slavery in 1836, dozens of Dutch people still have plantations in British areas at the time. The University College of London dataset contains 31 Dutch people who received money from the British government in 1836. In total, the Dutch receive hundreds of thousands of pounds for many thousands of men, women and children that they counted as their personal property: converted to now that is tens of millions of euros.

One family, in particular, makes a fortune: the Secretary of the Demerary colony, Philip Tinne, a successful sugar merchant who also invested in coffee plantations. In 1813 he forms a partnership, Sandbach, Tinne & Company, which trades in, according to the archives: “prime Gold coast Negros”.

The company gets a windfall profit during the British abolition: converted to now it would receive more than 22 million euros for the enslaved people in various coffee and sugar plantations. Philip Tinne himself receives almost thirteen million from the British State. His fortune allows his wife and daughter Alexine to do whatever they want after his death. Years later, The Hague’s Alexine Tinne made waves as “the first female explorer.”

Past past

If Dutch ABN Amro bank wants to take over the US American bank LaSalle in 2006, one of the conditions for that takeover is that the bank investigates its own slavery past. The city council in Chicago, where LaSalle is based, already considers it fundamental in the context of corporate social responsibility that companies know whether they have ever made a profit by slave trade.

The investigation shows, among other things, that predecessor Mees & Zonen was actively involved in the transatlantic slave trade. Karin Lurvink previously concluded that the involvement of Hope & Co is not included in this, while ABN also refers to the past of this predecessor on its website.

Hope & Co is a renowned Dutch bank, and one of the private companies that maintained the transatlantic slave trade, says the Amsterdam City Archives.

In several cases, they work closely together with the Barings company. In Van der Voort’s thesis, Hope & Co is mentioned with seven credits: loans worth now just under thirty million euros. The Amsterdam archive also contains extensive lists and descriptions for the equipment of slave ships – which were necessary for the financing and insurance of the ships.

Called to account

In the meantime, the pressure on banks for their problematic past is growing in the United Kingdom. For example, Member of Parliament Layla Moran stated three weeks ago that she will write to all institutions that appear in the database, so that they can make apologies and donations, just like Lloyds and Greene King.

But “sorry” is not enough, says Hilary Beckles, president of the Caricom countries (the Caribbean islands plus Suriname and Guyana). Previously, these countries threatened to sue the British, Dutch and French states for their role in the slave trade and slavery, under the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Racial Discrimination. Martyn Day of the Leigh Day law firm at that time. The case has not yet been brought to court.

The question is whether ING Group, as the parent company of Barings, can thus face a claim for damages. Day: “There are banks and institutions – and Baring Brothers is one of them – that have profited enormously from slavery and its abolition. To be honest, I would be surprised if there are no legal consequences for this in the coming years. Exactly how things will take legal form differs per case, according to Day. But: “All these organizations are nervous now. The time has come for them to be held accountable.”

Anti-racist anti-colonialist Dutch demonstrations today

This 15 June 2020 video is about an anti-racist demonstration in Apeldoorn in Gelderland province in the Netherlands.

Today, there will be another anti-racist demonstration in Gelderland, in Zutphen town, at 5 pm. Report of the demonstration: here.

Today, there will also be an anti-racist demonstration in Hoorn in Noord-Holland province. 19.00-21.00, Pelmolenpad. It is against honouring 17th century Dutch East India Company Gornernor General Jan Pietersz. Coen.

This video says about itself:

On 11-01-2013 activists created a Monument of Lights around the statue of Jan Pieterszoon Coen in the city of Hoorn to commemorate the victims of four centuries of Dutch colonialism.

J.P. Coen founded Dutch colonialism in Indonesia. In 1619 he burnt down the city of Jakarta. In 1621 he depopulated the Indonesian islands of Banda and put robbed slaves to work at the nutmeg plantations.

The activists think it’s a bloody shame the city of Hoorn re-erected the fallen statue of Coen in 2011. The statue should have been permanently removed to a museum. In Holland perpetrator of genocide Jan Pieterszoon Coen is still being honoured as the founder of Batavia (Jakarta) and the Dutch rule in the East-Indies.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

In Hoorn tonight a protest will be held at the statue Jan Pieterszoon Coen. According to the protest organizers, “the Banda butcher” is wrongly worshipped as a hero. …

The statue of Jan Pieterszoon Coen was unveiled in May 1893. According to NH Nieuws, it was an idea of the then-mayor of Hoorn, who raised the money for the statue. …

But not all newspapers were positive. Two days before the statue was placed, the [socialist] newspaper Recht voor Allen drew attention to the ‘atrocities’ that Coen committed in the Dutch East Indies.

That Recht voor Allen article, by Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis, is here.

Coen had at least 15,000 inhabitants of the Banda islands massacred. Because they had sold spice to English traders. And Coen wanted a trade monopoly for the Dutch East India Company.

Peace movement history, 1815-1949

This 10 June 2020 video says about itself:

History of the Peace Movement Part 1: 1815 1949

IPB (International Peace Bureau) presents a two-part webinar series to explore the past two centuries of peace movement activities, including the role of the IPB, which was founded in 1891.

In the first session, speakers Guido Grünewald and David Cortright discuss the peace movement of the 19th century and early 20th century, leading up to the First World War. Special attention will be given to the role of the IPB prior to, during, and upon the conclusion of World War I. The presentation then turns to the interwar period, the Second World War, and the years immediately following the war.


Guido Grünewald, Author & Historian

David Cortright, Director of Policy Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies

Moderated by Amela Skiljan, IPB Coordinator

This video is the post-1949 sequel.

How Italian renaissance domes were built

This 2014 video says about itself:

How an Amateur Built the World’s Biggest Dome

In 1418, Filippo Brunelleschi was tasked with building the largest dome ever seen at the time. He had no formal architecture training. Yet experts still don’t fully understand the brilliant methods he used in contructing the dome, which tops the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral in Florence, Italy.

From Princeton University, Engineering School in the USA:

Double helix of masonry: Researchers discover the secret of Italian renaissance domes

May 18, 2020

Summary: Researchers found that the masonry of Italian renaissance domes, such as the duomo in Florence, use a double-helix structure that is self-supporting during and after construction. Their study is the first to quantitatively prove the forces at work in such masonry domes, which may lead to advances in modern drone construction techniques.

In a collaborative study in this month’s issue of Engineering Structures, researchers at Princeton University and the University of Bergamo revealed the engineering techniques behind self-supporting masonry domes inherent to the Italian renaissance. Researchers analyzed how cupolas like the famous duomo, part of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, were built as self-supporting, without the use of shoring or forms typically required.

Sigrid Adriaenssens, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Princeton, collaborated on the analysis with graduate student Vittorio Paris and Attilio Pizzigoni, professor engineering and applied sciences, both of the University of Bergamo. Their study is the first ever to quantitatively prove the physics at work in Italian renaissance domes and to explain the forces which allow such structures to have been built without formwork typically required, even for modern construction. Previously, there were only hypotheses in the field about how forces flowed through such edifices, and it was unknown how they were built without the use of temporary structures to hold them up during construction.

For Adriaenssens, the project advances two significant questions. “How can mankind construct such a large and beautiful structure without any formwork — mechanically, what’s the innovation?” she asked. Secondly, “What can we learn?” Is there some “forgotten technology that we can use today?”

The detailed computer analysis accounts for the forces at work down to the individual brick, explaining how equilibrium is leveraged. The technique called discrete element modelling (DEM) analyzed the structure at several layers and stages of construction. A limit state analysis determined the overall equilibrium state, or stability, of the completed structure. Not only do these tests verify the mechanics of the structures, but they also make it possible to recreate the techniques for modern construction.

Applying their findings to modern construction, the researchers anticipate that this study could have practical applications for developing construction techniques deploying aerial drones and robots. Using these unmanned machines for construction would increase worker safety, as well as enhance construction speed and reduce building costs.

Another advantage of unearthing new building techniques from ancient sources is that it can yield environmental benefits. “The construction industry is one of the most wasteful ones, so that means if we don’t change anything, there will be a lot more construction waste,” said Adriaenssens, who is interested in using drone techniques for building very large span roofs that are self-supporting and require no shoring or formwork.

“Overall, this project speaks to an ancient narrative that tells of stones finding their equilibrium in the wonder of reason,” said Pizzigoni, “from Brunelleschi’s dome to the mechanical arms of modern-day robotics where technology is performative of spaces and its social use.”

Donald Trump, the Rasputin of the USA?

This music video, recorded in Russia, is Boney M – Rasputin. It is about the faith healer and power behind the throne of Russian Czar Nicholas II, Grigori Rasputin.

Here is an article comparing United States President Donald Trump to Rasputin. At least one difference between them is that Trump is the United States head of state. While in czarist Russia, Nicholas II was autocratic and absolute head of state. Rasputin being an adviser to the head of state; so, in theory, just a subject.

By Eric London and David North in the USA:

Rasputin in the White House

25 April 2020

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the world has grown accustomed to the daily White House press briefings, in which a scowling Donald Trump parades his staggering ignorance and promotes quackery, as medical experts contradict his harebrained and antiscientific justifications for a rapid return to work.

But even these daily spectacles could not have prepared audiences for Trump’s performance Thursday, when the president urged Americans to inject themselves with disinfectant and insert ultraviolet lights into their bodies, measures which would kill those unfortunate enough to listen to the president’s advice.

“I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute,” Trump said. “And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets inside the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.”

Trump continued: “So supposing we hit the body with a tremendous—whether it’s ultraviolet or just a very powerful light—and I think you said that hasn’t been checked because of the testing. And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or some other way, and I think you said you’re going to test that, too.”

These statements provoked a flurry of denunciations by astounded medical professionals. The maker of Lysol disinfectant was forced to publicly rebuke the president by issuing a statement saying, “We must be clear that under no circumstances should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body.”

In recent weeks, Trump has pronounced that his “gut” instinct told him the pandemic would be over in April, that it was no worse than the flu, and that the medication hydroxychloroquine—produced by a friend who stood to profit from the president’s recommendation—could cure the virus, despite Food and Drug Administration warnings that it would lead to increased deaths.

It is easy enough to point out that these statements express Trump’s own stunning backwardness and callous indifference to human life.

But what remains to be explained is: How did this grotesque sociopath come to occupy the White House, and what does his sordid presidency reveal about the state of the American political system?

A characteristic of a doomed political system, often observed in history, is the elevation of an especially despicable and even depraved personality to a high position in the state, frequently as a key adviser to the ruler. Such individuals often become the focus of public outrage.

Among the most notorious examples of such a personality in the twentieth century was Grigori Rasputin, the “mad monk”, who exerted immense influence over the Russian Tsar Nicholas II and the Empress Alexandra. A horse thief and rapist, Rasputin became the trusted and indispensable adviser of the royal couple, partly on the basis of his claim that he could treat their hemophiliac son through a combination of religious incantations, the conjuring of spirits and his own frightening stare. The Tsar and Tsarina took no major decisions without consulting their corrupt and dissolute “friend”.

Fearful that the influence wielded by Rasputin was leading the regime to disaster, a group of disgruntled nobles carried out the “friend’s” gruesome assassination in December 1916. Their action failed to stave off the revolution, which began two months later.

“Rasputinism” entered into the vocabulary of politics as a word that denotes an obscene level of state corruption and decadence. In his History of the Russian Revolution, Leon Trotsky recalled that this bizarre episode, in the final years of the crisis-ridden Russian autocracy, “acquired the character of a disgusting nightmare overhanging the country.”

Trotsky continued: “If by the word hooliganism we understand the extreme expression of those antisocial parasite elements at the bottom of society, we may define Rasputinism as a crowned hooliganism at its very top.”

A century after the original version, a form of Rasputinism has emerged in the United States. But the American Rasputin is not the adviser to the president. He is the president—a vile scoundrel and social degenerate, incapable of formulating a coherent sentence, let alone a logical argument—positioned at the apex of the American state!

Trump epitomizes an oligarchy whose wealth is based on a level of parasitism that is hardly to be distinguished from criminality. His thuggishness, cultural backwardness and contempt for the common people embody the attitudes and practices of the swarms of banksters, billionaire investors, vulture capitalists, hedge fund managers, asset strippers, real estate swindlers and media moguls who run both political parties and all three branches of government.

The US presently finds itself in the midst of a crisis of unparalleled dimensions, with the government in the hands of a person who is telling the population to inject bleach into its veins.

In the period of its historic rise, the American bourgeoisie could produce Abraham Lincoln, who embodied the democratic ethos of the American Revolution and stewarded the country through the Civil War. In the next great crisis—the Great Depression—Franklin Delano Roosevelt was capable of speaking seriously about social issues—as “FDR” did in his “fireside chats”—and appealing to the democratic sentiments of the broad masses of people.

Today, decades of US economic decline have eliminated any basis within the ruling class for the defense of the country’s democratic traditions. American capitalism finds its quintessential expression in the persona of Trump. That does not mean that all American capitalists like what they see. But looking into the mirror is not always a pleasant experience. In the final analysis, Trump is “their man”. They must take him as he is.

Truth be told, what use would Wall Street have for a man of science and high culture in the White House? The interests of the banks and corporations are not served by a scientifically informed approach to the pandemic. The factories must be reopened. Profit must be squeezed out of the working class. Monthly mortgages, rents and interest payments are due and must be met. Dr. Anthony Fauci and his fellow epidemiologists, with their endless jeremiads on the danger posed by the current and a second wave of the pandemic, are getting on the nerves of corporate America.

Within 24 hours of Trump’s statement on injecting disinfectant and using ultraviolet light “inside the body”, the fifty thousandth person died of the virus in the US. As several states rushed back to work, April 23 almost set a record for new positive cases nationwide. The United Nations is preparing for famines that threaten to take the lives of hundreds of millions in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Though Trump says it more bluntly than his counterparts in Europe and across the world, the US president is expressing the viewpoint of the entire global ruling elite.

In Germany, Angela Merkel is opening the country by sending the working class back to their jobs, indifferent to evidence that this will lead to a new wave of deaths. The same is true in Spain, Britain, France and elsewhere. In Latin America, the position of the ruling class is summed up in the response of Brazil’s right-wing Jair Bolsonaro … who claimed that God will protect his populations from the virus.

If society were directed rationally and democratically, on the basis of socialist policies, a globally planned and scientifically guided mass intervention could conquer the pandemic and save millions of lives. The pandemic is a biological reality, but the response to this phenomenon is conditioned by the class interests that dominate society. The lethality of the pandemic is determined less by the RNA of the virus than by the economic and social priorities of the capitalist class.

In the final analysis, the fight against the pandemic is inextricably bound up with the fight for the transfer of power to the working class and the establishment of socialism.

Ritratto, premiere of opera on Luisa Casati

This 3 May 2020 Dutch video is about Ritratto, the premiere of an opera on Luisa Casati.

A March 2020 video from the Netherlands used to say about itself:

World premiere Ritratto (Full) – Dutch National Opera

Due to the measures against the spread of the Coronavirus, Ritratto never got its world premiere. Until now. You can enjoy this extravagant and beautiful opera from the comfort of your home. We hope you enjoy it. In case you want to support our house and the artists through these uncertain times you can make a donation via this ‘Tikkie’-link.

If you have bought a ticket for one of the cancelled performances, we will contact you with more information on this as soon as possible.

The libretto has been published and is availably by mailing

Can’t get enough of this production? Journalist Stef Visjager followed the creation process of this opera and the singers for a year and a half and made a podcast-series about it. You can find the series and more information about this production here.

Musical Director: Geoffrey Paterson
Stage Director: Marcel Sijm
Libretto: Frank Siera
Set Designer: Marc Warning
Costume Designer: Jan Taminiau
Lighting Designer: Alex Brok
Dramaturgy: Klaus Bertisch
Choreography: Zino Ainsly Schat

Luisa C.S. di Soncino: Verity Wingate – De Nationale Opera Studio
Romaine Brooks: Polly Leech – De Nationale Opera Studio
Gabriele D’Annunzio: Paride Cataldo – De Nationale Opera Studio
Garbi: Martin Mkhize – De Nationale Opera Studio
Sergei Diaghilev: Cameron Shahbazi – De Nationale Opera Studio
Man Ray: Lucas van Lierop – De Nationale Opera Studio
Jacob Epstein: Frederik Bergman – De Nationale Opera Studio
Kees van Dongen: Dominic Kraemer
Filippo Marinetti: Sam Carl – De Nationale Opera Studio

Soprano: Silvia Brizuela Meza, Stephanie Desjardins, Irene Hoogveld
Alto: Cameron Shahbazi, Joël Vuik, Maria Warenberg
Tenor: Lucas van Lierop, Zachery Vandermeulen, Milan de Korte
Bass: Frederik Bergman, Dominic Kraemer, Sam Carl

Amsterdam Sinfonietta

Ritratto – the Italian word for ‘portrait’ is the title of a new opera by Willem Jeths, first Nederlandse Componist des Vaderlands (2014-2016), who was fascinated by a painting depicting Luisa Casati.

The young orphaned and married, excessively wealthy Italian Marquesa Casati strove to be seen throughout her life. She was famous for the exuberant parties she organized. She allowed herself to be portrayed or photographed by numerous artists. With her black-rimmed eyes, her flaming red hair and eccentric behaviour she tried to gain a place in the art world.

Against the background of the war, librettist Frank Siera questions the importance of art. At a feast of Casati, Siera brings together all sorts of artists from the time of Casati. At the time, it was the Futurists who paved the way for fascism with their art. Casati does not engage with secular problems and focuses on her passion. In opera she goes even further than in real life; by not seeing, she tries to be seen herself.

This 20 March 2020 video from the Netherlands says about itself:

Verity Wingate announces online world premiere Ritratto

Soprano Verity Wingate invites you to the start of our online program: Ritratto!🎉 Tomorrow at 2pm (CET) we will stream the entire opera Ritratto, which was supposed to have its world premiere on the 13th of March, on our Youtube-channel Nationale Opera & Ballet. This way you can still enjoy all the labour, love and attention that has been put into this production by cast and crew. Will you tune in?

Botanical garden during coronavirus spring

This 8 April 2020 video from the Netherlands says about itself:

Now that we cannot enjoy the Hortus botanicus Leiden [because of coronavirus], we’d like to bring the Hortus to you. So enjoy the spring in the botanic garden with #hortusathome. Enjoy.

On 9 April, an exhibition starts in the Leiden botanical garden. Because of the coronavirus, visitors cannot go to it. So, now, the exhibition is online.

They say about the exhibition:

The Hortus botanicus Leiden will be highlighting the plants that made the Atlantic crossing in the exhibition From Columbus to the Mayflower: seeds over the sea, from 9 April to 26 November 2020.

In 2020 it will be 400 years since the voyage of the Mayflower, which sailed to America with a group of English separatists known as the ‘Pilgrim Fathers’ on board. Before the Pilgrim Fathers made the crossing and founded the Plymouth Colony in 1620, they lived and worked in Leiden, free of persecution for their faith by the English crown.

Four hundred years after this voyage, America, England, the Native Nations and the Netherlands will be cooperating in organizing commemorative activities. Not only the story of the Pilgrim Fathers will be spotlighted, but also the cultures and places with which they came into contact. The city of Leiden will join in with the international commemoration via the Leiden 400 theme, including a programme of events covering culture, science, education, heritage, heritage-tourism and society.

The Hortus botanicus Leiden will be highlighting the plants that made the Atlantic crossing in the exhibition From Columbus to the Mayflower: seeds over the sea, from 9 April to 26 November 2020. The herbarium compiled by the Flemish botanist Rembert Dodoens (1517-1585) will be used as a guide; the Pilgrim Fathers brought a copy of this book with them on their crossing and it already included a number of plants from the ‘New World’ such as maize, tomato, tobacco, pumpkin and the sunflower.

Ancient ship model in Dutch Rijksmuseum

This 27 March 2020 video from the Netherlands says about itself:

In the third episode of our series #Rijksmuseumfromhome 🏠 our Ship Model Conservator Tirza Mol talks about all the secrets of the William Rex, our biggest ship model on display. And she shows us how she cleans the majestic vessel! ⚓️⛵️

This 2013 video shows how the William Rex was moved to its exhibition hall.

Painter Jan Steen during coronavirus crisis

This 20 March 2020 video from the Netherlands says about itself:

Now that the [Rijks]museum is closed, our curators are working from home, just like the rest of us. 🏠 But we can’t stop them from sharing their knowledge! In our new series #Rijksmuseumfromhome our curators are shining their lights on our famous works from the comfort of their homes.

Pieter Roelofs, Head of Paintings and Sculpture, passionately tells us about Jan Steen’s The Merry Family. If his son isn’t distracting him that is… 😅

Plants and ancient art in coronavirus days

This 30 March 2019 video by an employee of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in the Netherlands says about itself:

#Rijksmuseumfromhome: Jane about nature’s little jokes

Head of the Print Room Jane Turner has a house in England with a beautiful garden. In the new episode of #Rijksmuseumfromhome 🏠 she shows us the snapdragon plant that grows there. She saw the plant on a print made by draughtsman Anselmus Boëtius de Boodt at the end of the 16th century and was intrigued by the little skulls on the drawing. 💀