In Safe Hands 898

I am in Tbilisi at the moment, where I spent this early morning drinking tea with some of the 2,000 strong Yazidi community. They see their religion as much more closely descended from Zoroastrianism than appears in most accounts I have read.

I very much enjoyed a visit to Tsinandali which was most useful for gaining a Russian perspective of the Great Game. I don’t have my books with me and am suffering a mental block as to whether it was Connoly, Abbott or Malcolm who visited Tsinandali. I had not realised that Griboyedov was married to a daughter of the house, Nina Chavchavadze. The murder of Griboyedov, Russian Ambassador in Tehran, by a mob rates little more than a footnote in British accounts of the Great Game, even though the British had bribed the religious authority to stir up the riots. What revisionist history there has been, has come from the Iranian side and falsely tried to obscure the fact that the refugees Griboyedov was sheltering were runaway slaves from harems.

This is a neglected recurring theme. When Shuja agreed the treaty already negotiated between Macnaghten and Ranjit Singh, the main stipulation he sought to add was that the British would return to him any runaway slave girls. The immediate motive for the ringleader of the attack on Alexander Burnes was that Burnes had refused to intervene to return a runaway slave girl who had sought the protection of another British officer. My fellow anti-imperialist historians have in general been guilty of emphasising rapaciousness by the British in these incidents and overlooking or excusing the slave status of the girls. Both aspects need to be faced squarely to write honestly the full facts of history. Tellingly, it is generally impossible to recover names of the girls involved.

Griboyedov deserves to be remembered for much more than his murder. An accomplished playwright and poet, he was a friend of Pushkin and had links to the dissident groups who attempted revolution in 1825. His murder left Nina a widow at either 17 or 19 by different accounts, and pregnant. She lost the child on hearing of her husband’s death, and never remarried. It is a tragic story which came alive to me in visiting the family home.

Griboyedov had fought Napoleon in the 1812 campaign, but had helped those Napoleonic adventurers Allard and Ventura evade a British blockade and go into service with Ranjit Singh. Griboyedov’s successor as Russian Ambassador to Tehran, Simonicz, had actually fought on the Napoleonic side against Russia, presumably in the Polish Legion. Nina’s sister was to marry a Murad nephew of Napoleon. The political elites of Europe melded quickly after the convulsion.

With which clumsy segue I shall note that the battle against the entrenched political elites of the UK appears to be going extremely well without me. I cannot express without a welling up of real emotion how happy I am that all I have been saying about the stultifying neo-liberal consensus and exclusion of dissent, and appalling burgeoning wealth gap between rich and poor, has found such massive traction between Jeremy Corbyn in England and the SNP in Scotland. I may have gone AWOL for a few days, but the cause of social justice appears in extremely safe hands.

898 thoughts on “In Safe Hands

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  • Resident Dissident

    Not even the SNP are daft enough to advocate the restoration of Clause IV are they?

  • craig Post author

    As I have pointed out frequently, renationalisation of rail and other natural monopolies enjoys high and constant public support. It is both popular and sensible.

  • Rose

    Thank you Craig. Connecting the dots eh? We live and learn – well at least I try to.

    It must be a fascinating job – and no doubt a welcome change – to research all this and unravel some of the tangled stuff that passes for history taught in our schools.

    Safe journeys.

  • Resident Dissident

    Corbyn is advocating a statement of values that involves “common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange” – not just some of them. Is this another “democratic” subterfuge, such as withdrawal from NATO and abolition of the monarchy that will only become apparent if and when independence is achieved?

  • fred

    “Not even the SNP are daft enough to advocate the restoration of Clause IV are they?”

    I’m not sure Brian would give them permission.

  • YouKnowMyName

    Hope you are enjoying also some შატო მუხრანისა Craig, as well as tea. Relatives recently brought me some Château Mukhrani, but the expectation was greater than the tasting.

    For UK politics, the voting will soon start, then a month of speculation and psychologically focused manipulation will happen, hopefully the result will be open & honest & better than our expectations!

  • craig Post author

    I had a Chateau Mukhrani Rkatisteli with lunch yesterday, and it was quite elegant. In general I have found Georgian wines a great deal better than expected. I haven’t found anyone with a good word to say about Sashkavili. the general view is that he started well but became extremely corrupt and dictatorial, not to mention an American puppet. You really couldn’t make up his going off to be an American puppet in Odessa now.

  • MJ

    “renationalisation of rail and other natural monopolies enjoys high and constant public support”

    But would it be legal under EU law? I thought everything had to be put out to tender.

  • Resident Dissident

    Just stay off the Khvanchkara – it results in a foul hangover, take it from someone who knows. Perphaps Craig might also mention how Georgians feel about Putin and his Soviet predecessors so as dispel any illusions.

  • Anon1

    I love the Khachapuri, and in particular Ajaran Khachapuri, though they are very filling!

  • craig Post author

    Certainly there is no fondness for Putin in Georgia. Slightly worrying ambivalence about Stalin in some places though.

  • Beth

    Is anyone else feeling despair at the thought that the destruction of Damascus is being planned right now ?
    I know someone who is on her own in Damascus with two young children who has not been able to get a visa to go to her married daughter in Sweden.
    She has just been getting on with life with her kids but now that it’s clear that the West are determined to ‘rescue’ them with their missiles she is about to undertake a hazardous journey out of Syria with two small children. People who have tried to apply for visas have found there are only illegal ways to get out. Cameron will be on TV soon speaking in his patronising voice pretending to care but instead of making sure that the UK takes its fair share of refugees , he is only interested in destruction and presenting the reasons for more war. After Libya he is as much a war criminal as Blair.

  • Anon1

    Yes it’s a potential faux pas to avoid, assuming Stalin is hated. You can cause massive offence in parts of Georgia, usually to older people, by saying anything negative about Uncle Joe. He industrialized the country and saved it from the Nazis, for which his crimes are sometimes overlooked.

  • Cornyishman

    Bah, here we are discussing khachapuri in a haze of khvanchkara with the resident evil, whilst JCPOA burns !!! Adelman clearly has little respect for the entire P5+1, in effect going much much further than the just “Fukc EU” nuland, its hubris is mind boggling. Surely a topical post by CM is merited,if only to delay the onset of WW3 by a few more days !

  • Resident Dissident

    As well as the khachapuri I would recommend the satsivi – and if Cornisshyman bothered to check he would find that I supported JCPOA and praised Obama for its achievement.

  • MJ

    “such massive traction between Jeremy Corbyn in England and the SNP in Scotland”

    A strange way of putting it. Corbyn is standing for leadership of the Labour Party throughout Great Britain. The votes of party members and affiliates in Scotland will count just the same as those cast in England or Wales. If elected Corbyn will probably win back Labour seats from the SNP.

  • Anon1

    Well observed, MJ.

    I think Craig is still struggling to reconcile a Corbyn victory with aspirations for Scottish independence, hence the rather strange wording you point out. I didn’t find his blog on the subject very convincing. Suppose Corbyn wins and – if we are to believe what is written here – that the country is pining for a left-wing government, then you have some of the most potent arguments for Scottish independence removed entirely. No one wants to say these things openly, so there seems to be an effort underway to pretend that Corbyn’s leadership bid is an English matter and won’t have any effect on the momentum of the SNP. But many must be secretly hoping that Corbyn loses.

  • johnstone

    Yes, Beth lets consider which of the two PMs is the worst war criminal and which of them should wear the crown …. at the end of the week of remembering one of the worst war crimes.

    Obliteration, annihilation – war – call it what you will.
    Fighting for glory – a barbed-wire crown?
    And yet – many have trod this path,
    Not knowing to what victory they aspired.
    Our song of triumph deadened in the lingering mists of battlefield agony.
    Never to be repeated?
    The Vision – The Angel of Mons by Peter Summers

  • johnstone

    The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking… the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker. ~Albert Einstein

  • bevin

    the movement against austerity just needed consistent advocacy to get started. The tactics of the caste which benefits from neo-liberalism, the consumers of cheap and biddable labour, were to smother the first signs of dissent before the masses could hear them. They knew that, once stated the argument was impossible to answer.

    Which is what the EU policy of prohibiting nationalisation is about: anyone who accepts the nonsense that “private” enterprise is more efficient than publicly managed utilities is ignoring the realities of what has happened in Britain and elsewhere in the past few years.

    The primary reason for opposing the EU and voting against it in any referendum is that it is not only undemocratic but actually opposed to democracy. It negates not just national sovereignty but popular sovereignty. As Jean-Claude Juncker said, four days after the Greek left’s electoral victory: “There can be no democratic choice that is counter to European treaties”. Which is to say that the treaties trump democracy.

    As to the matter of Clause IV section 4 of the old constitution of the Labour part,y it raised the crucial question of the viability of democracy and social equality in a society in which a small class monopolise wealth and power through their private control of the means of production and exchange. It has become fashionable, I sense, to sneer at clause IV because… that is what fashionable people, talking heads, careerist academics and conformist clowns do. Sneering is easy, what is difficult if not impossible, is for those who call themselves democrats to explain how there can possibly be democracy in a society in which the media, employment, the state and the academy are all controlled by a tiny and selfish minority.

    And such people do not have much time left: corporate control of society, of which making nationalisation illegal is symptomatic and of which the current raft of international trade agreements are an important part is proceeding rapidly. Together with total surveillance and the criminalising of thoughts we are rapidly approaching a totalitarianism compared to which 1930s fascism is tea on the vicarage lawn.

  • Anon1

    Get this — Jeremy Corbyn is the greatest threat to Scottish Independence. A cruel twist for the party that was clamouring for David Cameron.

    More fun scenarios:

    Will Craig back down from supporting independence if Corbyn becomes PM? If not then what will his argument be – that the Scotch wear kilts? That the Scotch prefer their Mars Bars fried? Perhaps your average Scot is simply a better form of human being?

  • Anon1

    Craig, Bevin etc

    There seems to be collective amnesia over just how bad British Rail was.

  • Resident Dissident


    It is possible to believe in a mixed economy in which there is both private ownership and social control/ownership where collective provision provides the better result and mitigates the worst excesses of free markets. Your Stalinist friends demonstrated all too well the sheer misery and inefficiency which resulted when the market mechanism, whereby ordinary consumers can indicate what they want by buying/not buying what is on offer, was replaced by central planners who thought they knew better. Only the truly simplistic of the far right and left believe that this is an either/or choice with no alternatives in between.

  • Mary

    Still wishing everyone ‘Happy Bomb Day’ Anon 1?

    ‘As the peace bell chimed, the people of Nagasaki stopped and bowed their heads remembering that moment 70 years ago when their city was destroyed in a blinding flash of white light.

    Nagasaki often gets forgotten as the world focuses on Hiroshima. But the bomb dropped here was made from plutonium and was even more powerful.

    Perhaps the most powerful moment in the ceremony came when survivor Sumiteru Taniguchi got up to speak. He described his own terrible injuries – of the skin hanging like rags from his arms and back.’

    by Rupert Wingfield Hayes who displays his humanity here.

  • Resident Dissident

    “There seems to be collective amnesia over just how bad British Rail was.”

    Just like there with regard to the safety record of Railtrack. Yes it may have been bad under British Rail – but as a daily victim of one of the current Rail Operating Companies it would be silly to say that no improvement is possible from the current shambles. Rather than wasting lots of public money in buying out the current operating companies – my vote will be for those he want to exercise proper control over the current arrangements and take a long hard look at how the present shambolic management arrangements can be changed. I would also look at making the City making a more direct contribution to the cost of getting its workers to work on time and efficiently – which is actually where a lot of the subsidy is going at present. The answer is less ideology and a lot more practical thinking I’m afraid – something that the extremists of either side are either scared and/or incapable of doing.

  • MJ

    “Together with total surveillance and the criminalising of thoughts we are rapidly approaching a totalitarianism compared to which 1930s fascism is tea on the vicarage lawn”

    You’d think people would have realised by now. History never smiles on governments that introduce this kind of stuff. Stalin’s Russia; Nazi Germany; Amin’s Uganda; apartheid South Africa: nice company. I’d like to include some jollier examples but I can’t think of any. It’s always brought in for the same reason too – to protect us from ruthless dark forces who wish to destroy everything we hold dear.

    Nevertheless, according to polls, the majority of people seem to support this stuff. They do fear the dark forces and they do think that if you’ve nothing to hide you’ve nothing to fear. There appears to be a genuine appetite for authoritarianism.

  • DoNNyDaRKo

    British Rail was run into the ground by the Mgmt that ended up picking it up for a song.It continues to be subsidised.The service is piss poor and tickets expensive.The country needs to take it back and bring it back into line with the rest of Europe.Going by train in most of the >>Eu is a very pleasant experience and fast.
    Conservatives are supposed to be the ones who are Business minded and they should be profitable too… which is why it defeats me why they sold BP when oil had been discovered in the North Sea.A lose lose situation for the tax payer.Osborne has just shown more of his <<<<biz accumen with RBS. The tax payers of other European nations own more of British Business than the Brits do. Insane.
    Privatising utilities is putting the power of life and death into private (foreign)hands.What's the point of an army to defend a nation when conservatives slowly pass the ownership of it onto someone else for a quick buck?

  • Jon

    Anon1 – I don’t share your glee that support for Corbyn could put a stop to Scottish independence – hopefully if the Scots achieve independence democratically then you will support them in their wishes. Nevertheless, part of your analysis is correct – support for independence in Scotland is tied to opposition to neoliberalism, so if Labour could recover in Scotland, the effect on the SNP will be very interesting.

    That said, Scots may wish to pursue their own path. If England moves to the left as a result of a Corbyn leadership win, the benefits may only be temporary, as the Right struggles to reassert control. Independence would be permanent.

    For what it’s worth, I think Corbyn is the only leadership candidate that could turn Labour’s fortunes around there. A win by Kendall – unlikely I believe – would just solidify the SNP’s reputation as opposing the damage of the neoliberalism that has hijacked the party. And Cooper/Burnham have too many links to the Blair-Brown era (anyone know if they’re especially popular north of the border?).

  • MJ

    “if the Scots achieve independence democratically”

    Only last September the Scots achieved the continuation of the union democratically. Did you miss it?

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