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Edward Colston: Bristol slave trader statue 'was an affront'

Discussion in 'off topic' started by ks.234, Jun 8, 2020.

  1. ks.234

    ks.234 pfm Member

    Aligning the Labour Party with the party of racism rather than with the protesters against racism is ‘brains’?

    Looks more like cowardice to me
    gavreid likes this.
  2. Seanm

    Seanm pfm Member

    Most Corbyn supporters voted Starmer in, FYI. You're working with stereotypes. You get very able people at all levels of the party, it's not like the brains are concentrated at the top, far from it.

    I don't want the party to have a "soul" or anything like that. I want it to be active, democratic, and representative. The Lib Dems are active at a grassroots level despite their numbers and it's why they have what little success they do. Tories are more active than one might think at a grassroots level, and they don't need the numbers because they are very well represented at every level of society, but even more importantly in the press and behind the scenes. Labour under Blair was hollowed out, purposefully: it haemorrhaged members and those that remained were rendered passive, by design. They much preferred this because councils and the PLP function through exceptionally grubby patronage networks and an active base can interfere with trough-feeding and careerism.

    They eventually had to concede that they'd pushed it too far, however, when they couldn't even get people to leaflet for them. The leadership voting reforms that saw Corbyn elected were designed partly to further diminish the unions, but also to attract and engage members. Just as they underestimated the need for a base, however, they underestimated the surge in appetite for some kind of democratic involvement on the left, and they've been trying to de-activate the base ever since.

    Again, they're prioritising careers over long term electoral success, never mind actually changing things once they're in power. What happened in Scotland and the red wall constituencies can happen anywhere. If local communities are simultaneously shut out from local involvement in power and talked down to by out of touch stuffed shirts on a national level then they organise elsewhere, disengage entirely, or look to populist politicians whose main promise is to put a stop to politics altogether.

    There was a brief moment there when local party membership swelled, became more representative, and began to connect with other organisations and voters at a local level. Not nearly enough was done, but it's clear that for those at the top it was too much, and they're jettisoning whatever gains were made. We'll see what happens, but it seems to me the most likely outcomes are either a return to slow decline or spectacular collapse, which is what's happened to many centre-left parties on the continent. I'd take the latter outcome, personally. It saves time.

    Anyway, another unrequested lecture there, and I said I'd stop, so I'm out of any more discussion of the Labour Party, especially now that they've rendered themselves spectators as regards the topic of this thread.
  3. Seeker_UK

    Seeker_UK I had amnesia once or twice...

    It's not that straightforward though, is it? The statue was not erected to his "evil doing", slavery and the misery / death it inflicted tens of thousands of people, but to his philanthropy to the city of Bristol. If anyone should be called out, it is the Victorian great and good who chose to airbrush out the slavery bit when erecting the statue.

    You can flip your question the other way too; how much evil (ultimately, a subjective call) does one have to commit before you are no longer a valued person or deserving of being memorialized? Colston is a (relatively) easy call; I think we can all agree that heading a company that dealt in human misery and killed ~20000 people during his tenure as head is not something to commemorate. But for others? There's no easy answer but it is not something a mob of angry activists should be allowed to decide.
    Thorn likes this.
  4. Seeker_UK

    Seeker_UK I had amnesia once or twice...

    Ed or Katy?
  5. gavreid

    gavreid pfm Member

    Don't forget the most people through the 19 century still couldn't vote. The 'Victorians' politicians were largely self-serving property holders

    Here's a concise history of sufferage in the UK
  6. Seeker_UK

    Seeker_UK I had amnesia once or twice...

    Yes. Some of the problem is down to this.
  7. gavreid

    gavreid pfm Member

    My point was people wouldn't have had any say in what statues went up, Wellington, Nelson or anyone else. The Church was used to justify and glorify wars, racism, anti-catholicism whatever it was...
    twotone likes this.
  8. ks.234

    ks.234 pfm Member

    According to your argument, slavery can be justified and glorifying those who did the enslaving can justifiably honoured as a hero on the grounds that they gave some small proportion of their wealth gained by death, misery and torture and created a legacy of hate and contempt.

    I do not agree
    twotone likes this.
  9. Seeker_UK

    Seeker_UK I had amnesia once or twice...

    I get it but so what? Erase all statues and memorials to bad stuff and bad people that were put there by non-democratic process? Who decides? A democratic process won't work, look at what happened when they tried that with the Colston statue.
  10. twotone

    twotone pfm Member

    The Prince of Wales and his brother set up the RAC and Colston ran it for them.
  11. twotone

    twotone pfm Member

    Colston left £74,000 to Bristol when he died that money, slave money, is still benefiting people in Bristol to this day, that money, whatever is left of it should be handed to the families of the people who were bought and sold by this bstard.
  12. twotone

    twotone pfm Member

    These statues and place/street names have to go it's that simple.

    Glasgow is full of slave stuff but people don't have a clue about that history and it's the same in every port city in the UK.
    gavreid likes this.
  13. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    I don’t think Colston would have ended up in the river if the plaques had been honest and truthful as to his history. There is a lesson to be learned for all councils there. As Frank mentioned upthread Liverpool is apparently taking this approach to dealing with its most gruesome and undignified past. History should never be whitewashed, it should be understood for what it is, be that good or incomprehensibly evil. If a statue was in the past erected to commemorate a mass-murdering human trafficker then we should openly acknowledge that. Once they are honest I’d leave them be. History should be learned from, not brushed under the carpet. I sincerely hope Colston’s recent journey helps us reevaluate exactly what we commemorate in our town and cities and how we do so.
    Nick_G, docstocker and Seeker_UK like this.
  14. Seanm

    Seanm pfm Member

    The democratic process for doing this doesn't exist. So either we construct one, or just pull them down. They're only 3rd rate statues of awful people, so if there are excesses, I mean, who cares?
    gavreid and twotone like this.
  15. jackbarron

    jackbarron Chelsea, London

    What a great article by David Olusoga. As he points out:

    "The long defence of the figure and Colston’s reputation was overt and shameless, but not unique. In other British cities other men who grew rich through the trafficking of human beings or who defended the “respectable trade” are venerated in bronze and marble. In Edinburgh’s St Andrew Square, on a pedestal 150 feet high, stands Viscount Melville, Henry Dundas, another of history’s guilty men. His great contribution to civilisation was to water down and delay attempts to pass an act abolishing the slave trade. Historians struggle to estimate how many thousands died or were transported into slavery because of his actions. Already social media is ablaze with calls for Dundas to be thrown into the Forth."

    The UK still venerates racists and teaches a form of history where the truth is ignored. It is great to see this is starting to change.

    Nick_G and gavreid like this.
  16. cooky1257

    cooky1257 pfm Member

    How does the former address the latter? Surely even fewer will be aware of their history if you erase it?
    docstocker likes this.
  17. PaulMB

    PaulMB pfm Member

    Just Googled Edward Colston. It seems (if we are to trust Wiki) he was a successful and prominent Bristol merchant and entrepreneur. For a time, and among his many interests. he had a share in a company that invested in slave trading. He also used his substantial wealth to endow schools and orphanages, and was active in other forms of philanthropy. A habit common to many, but not all, successful businessmen of his era. At the time, slave trading was not considered wrong, since the slaves were believed to be "untermenschen" and savage heathen who were sold to the slave trade by their African compatriots. And they would be converted to Christianity!

    So in his time, the 17th century, Colston was considered a "Good Man," and it is perhaps unfair today to blame him for not knowing that a century or so later slavery would start to be considered a bad thing. By his own moral lights, and by the morals of his time, he did nothing wrong.

    Should we also pull down statues of George Washington, who owned slaves? Or of Horatio Nelson because he had a sailor flogged every now and then? Or perhaps sat on a court martial in which a man was sentenced to death for sodomy?

    To attack Colston's statue seems somehow childish and unrealistic. If there were a calm, official decision to take it down, to underline official condemnation, today, of what was perfectly legitimate 300 years ago, it might be more reasonable and give credit to the local politicians for taking a moral stance. But a moral stance on what, exactly? Colston was not just a slave trader. He did lots of other things, most of them very good. He only had, like many other Bristol merchants of his day, an interest in a company that invested in the slave trade.
  18. gavreid

    gavreid pfm Member

    It (the statues etc) was all part of the political narrative around Empire I expect. Kier Hardy made a notable departure by siding with the Indian nationalist struggle and that wasn't until the early 20th century. You can probably imagine the criticism...
    jackbarron likes this.
  19. Seeker_UK

    Seeker_UK I had amnesia once or twice...

    That's not what I stated nor what I implied.

    You made the statement that the statue was erected "to his evil doing" and that was factually incorrect. It was "Erected by citizens of Bristol as a memorial of one of the most virtuous and wise sons of their city AD 1895" (from the plaque), not for him being a slaver. Apologies for being such a pedant.

    More importantly, the issue I have is a question about the good / evil balance in a person. When someone stops being 'net good' and worthy and more importantly, who decides that? As I stated but seem to have missed, I think that Colston is an easy case; 20000 dead and the enduring legacy you describe pretty much rules him out as a good guy. For many others memorialised in building names, plaques or statues, once once you've got the Ghandis and Mandelas out of the way, it won't be so clear cut. Do we allow an angry mob to decide in those cases what should or shouldn't remain? If not, who decides and how? As I mentioned in my response to Gav, a more democratic process seems to have failed on an 'easy' case like the Colston statue.

    So, earnest question ('cos I don't know) does it matter about all the other memorials in the UK and what do you do about it? Is the proposal from Sadiq Khan about establishing a committee, the way ahead but not just for London?
  20. twotone

    twotone pfm Member

    Well, we, all of us need educated Frank. I'm no different I'm genuinely shocked to find out that Penny Lane has slave connotations and it's the same with the 'hokie cokie' which is and anti-Catholic nursery rhyme which I've even sung myself as a child and I'm Catholic.
    gavreid likes this.

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