From the colonial context of the Paris attacks to radical Scotland in Australia, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.
It wasn’t just one of the attackers who vanished after the Paris massacre. Three nations whose history, action–and inaction–help to explain the slaughter by Isis have largely escaped attention in the near-hysterical response to the crimes against humanity in Paris: Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Syria.
The French-Algerian identity of one of the attackers demonstrates how France’s savage 1956-62 war in Algeria continues to infect today’s atrocities. The absolute refusal to contemplate Saudi Arabia’s role as a purveyor of the most extreme Wahabi-Sunni form of Islam, in which Isis believes, shows how our leaders still decline to recognise the links between the kingdom and the organisation which struck Paris. And our total unwillingness to accept that the only regular military force in constant combat with Isis is the Syrian army – which fights for the regime that France also wants to destroy – means we cannot liaise with the ruthless soldiers who are in action against Isis even more ferociously than the Kurds. Whenever the West is attacked and our innocents are killed, we usually wipe the memory bank. [continue reading]
“A communist must consider himself a dead man on leave,” Anton tells Martha in Doris Lessing’s 1958 autobiographical novel, A Ripple from the Storm. “A communist is hated, despised, feared and hunted by the capitalists of the world. A communist must be prepared to give up everything: his family, his wife, his children, at a word from the party.”