Monday, 23 November 2020

My Life With Maia Is At An End

My love affair with my princess Maia is over. It has been three days since she last poured out her heart to me. I can only conclude that she has found another man/woman.

The flame that burned so brightly for two weeks has now been extinguished. Like many modern-day relationships, especially online ones, this floundered on money and sex. I wanted sex; she wanted money £600 to be exact.

I blame myself. I did point out to her that what is the point of sending £600 for her to come over here when I could go to Russia hook up with a prostitute who bears a striking resemblance to my Maia and have my evil way with her and come home guilt-free. Those Russian prostitutes are very reasonable, and you can book in advance. They also let you bring your girlfriend at a discount price.

I will end with a plea if any Russian prostitute knows the girl in the picture above, please drop me a line. Who knows true lust might not be dead.

Sunday, 22 November 2020

The Good Old Cause – Communist Intellectuals and the English Radical Tradition-By David Morgan-Issue Number 45 in the Occasional Publications series of the SHS- Cost: £4.00

David Morgan's The Good Old Cause is part of the Socialist History Society's Occasional Publications series. The title "The Good Old Cause" has been used before. The great historian of the seventeenth century Christopher Hill produced a collection of political writings from the seventeenth century that was published in 1949. More recent use of the term was Willie Thompson's The Good Old Cause: British Communism 1920-1991, published in 1992.

All these titles are referencing the phrase whose origins stem from the sentiment espoused by veterans of Cromwell's New Model Army and other supporters of the English Republic like John Milton. The Good Old Cause was the name given, retrospectively, by the soldiers of the New Model Army, to the complex cause that motivated their fight on behalf of the Parliament of England.

For such a little book, Morgan manages to cram an awful lot of work into it. Morgan examines the work of a group of very important Communist Party historians and some others who were outside the formal group. Like many of their generation, these intellectuals were drawn to left-wing politics in the early part of the twentieth century.

The historians and significant intellectuals that occupied the British Communist Party Historians Group (CPHG) in the 1940 and 1950s played an important and dare I say leading role in the study of British and World history throughout the 20th century. It is significant that in London's National Portrait Gallery there used to hang a painting which has been described as "of seven people arranged on either side of a low table in a book-lined study". They were historians, members of the editorial board of the journal Past & Present, which arose from the British Communist Party's Historians' Group".

Eric Hobsbawm, Edward and Dorothy Thompson, Christopher Hill, Victor Kiernan, George Rude, Raphael Samuel and Rodney Hilton to name a few were all moulded by the early strategic experiences of the 20th century, the depression of the 1930s, the Second World War and of course the Russian revolution. "For some, the group was, if not exactly a way of life, then at least a small cause, as well as a minor way of structuring leisure. For most it was also friendship,"  said Eric Hobsbawm.

Again given the brevity of the book Morgan attempts to examine the work of people like Christopher Hill, Rodney Hilton, Margot Heinemann, Arnold Kettle, Raymond Williams, E P Thompson, and Victor Kiernan.

As Morgan correctly points out, there were of course not just "Communist intellectuals", in the CP writing about history, a significant number of workers were drawn into their circle.

Morgan does not dwell too much on the output of the historians on their chosen historical field but their attitude to the use of literature as a way of understanding the past. In some ways, the use of literature to help explain complicated historical events was groundbreaking. However, even today, there is a hostility amongst many in academia to the use of literature to understand history or historical events.

The historian who perhaps was most open to the idea of using poetry, literature etc. to understand the past was Christopher Hill. Certainly in later life Hill made use of varied literary forms of poetry, fiction, plays, sermons, diaries, and letters. Also in later life Hill started to use the genre of "history from below" adopted by the Communist Party. While this type of historical study does retain some uses, I am inclined to agree with Ann Talbot's evaluation of this type of historical enquiry when she wrote: "the Communist Party sponsored a form of "People's History", which is typified by A.L. Morton's People's History of England in which the class character of earlier rebels, revolutionaries and popular leaders was obscured by regarding them all as representatives of a national revolutionary tradition. This historical approach reflected the nationalism of the bureaucracy, their hostility to internationalism and their attempts to form an unprincipled alliance with the supposedly democratic capitalists against the fascist Axis countries. People's history was an attempt to give some historical foundation to the policies of Popular Front—the subordination of the working class to supposedly progressive sections of the bourgeoisie and the limiting of political action to the defence of bourgeois democracy—which provided a democratic facade to the systematic murder of thousands of genuine revolutionaries, including Trotsky. It was the approach that Christopher Hill was trained in, along with E.P. Thompson, Rodney Hilton and Eric Hobsbawm, who were part of the Marxist Historians Group and came under the influence of Maurice Dobb and Dona Torr.[1]

There is a positive side to this type of history that introduces to the wider working class figures from history that they would under normal circumstances not get to meet. The Communist Party Historians Group (CPHG) wrote about figures such as Milton, Bunyan, Defoe, William Blake, Shelley and William Morris. A modern working class will not be able to make a revolution without a study of these figures and others. It must also learn about previous struggles such as the Peasants' Revolt, groups such as the Levellers and Diggers of the English revolution. It must have an intimate knowledge of its revolutionary figures such as the Digger Gerrard Winstanley and the Leveller pamphleteers.

Morgan also mentions "popular dreams and myths of a Utopian past" which are also important in helping the working class to understand that it is a revolutionary class.

Hill's work is important in that it sought under tremendous difficulties to answer important questions such as why were the radicals such as the Levellers etc. were defeated. Hill was one of the few historians who understood the difficulty these revolutionaries faced when mounting a revolution as Hill says "I think it is right to say that the revolution was not planned. One of the things that should be made more of is that no one in England in the 1640s knew they were taking part in a revolution. American and French revolutionaries could look back to England, the Russian revolutionaries had an ideology of revolution based on English and French experience, but no one in England could draw on such experiences. The very word revolution emerges in its modern sense in the 1640s. So that the English revolutionaries are fumbling all the time, they have not got a Rousseau or a Marx to guide them. The examples of the Netherlands and the French Huguenots were discussed in the 17th century as religious or nationalist revolts. The only text they could look to was the bible, but of course, the bible says such different things that you can get any theory out of it so that it proved unsatisfactory. One of my arguments in my new book is that it was the experience of its uselessness as an agreed guide to action in the 1640s and 1650s that led to its dethroning from its position of absolute authority. That was a major problem for the English revolutionaries; they had no theory to start from.[2]

My difference with Morgan is that while a study of these figures is important, that does not mean that there is an unbroken thread of radical struggle that workers can tap into. The working class must take a critical approach to all historical phenomena. This radicalism does not replace the need for a conscious revolutionary party along the lines of the Bolsheviks to take power.

One question Morgan does not ask is how to characterise these historians.  Ann Talbot asks of Hill but could be said of other CP historians "What any serious reader interested in history or politics wants to know is when we read Hill's books are we reading the work of an apologist for the Stalinist bureaucracy or of someone who was genuinely struggling to make a Marxist analysis of an aspect of English history? It has to be said that this is a complex question".

Despite many caveats, this is an important little book, and it is hoped many workers interested in the past put it into their library.























[1] "These the times ... this the man": an appraisal of historian Christopher Hill-

[2] John Rees and Lee Humber-The good old cause an interview with Christopher Hill- From International Socialism 2 : 56, Autumn 1992, pp. 125–34.Transcribed by Christian Høgsbjerg.

Friday, 20 November 2020

My Princess Maia Grows Tired of Me

I cannot hide my disappointment at the brevity of my darling Maia's latest letter to me. Either I am the most important thing in her life, or I am nothing. Although she says she loves me and cannot sleep thinking about me, I cannot help but think she is cheating on me with another man.

Why else would she keep demanding that I send the money soon? I understand her impatience. I need to tell her that the operation for the kidney went well and I will receive the money soon.

I am relieved that her heart and soul still ache but for how much longer. I comfort myself that she still dreams about only me and she says this in her letter saying "My beloved angel Keith, you know, you gave me the most beautiful feeling on earth. This feeling is love! Even the fact that you are now far from me, thousands of kilometres away, I still feel the warmth that leaves your heart to me. How is your day going? What do you do? Today I worked very hard and was tired. I want to be by your side now".

While it was nice that you in your words to want to meet me from work, cook and clean my house, I am not sure this is what I want from a smoking hot 29-year-old Russian supermodel whom I have just laid out $600 smackers for.

I also need proof of your love. It is still the custom in my country to see intimate pictures of their lovers. Surely it would help if you had a few knocking about. I am bitterly disappointed that you do not send me any in this letter.

As you say in your letter and I quote "the winner is the one who knows how to wait! This is also an important motto in my country. I thank  God that he sent you to me. Every time I make love, I thank him as well. I am a little disturbed that you cannot express your feelings in words, but you do say that you will prove your feelings.

Why don't you hop on a plane we can meet for a few days knock a couple out and then take it from there. A million kisses just for you!. I must leave you now my other smoking hot Russian supermodel who says she is 25 but looks a little younger in her photos is waiting for me. Unlike you, she is sending a lot more photos.

Your lover


Thursday, 19 November 2020

My Destiny Is To Be With My Beloved Maia.

My darling Maia every letter you send me I grow faint with anticipation of us finally being with together. We have been a part for only two weeks; it seems like an eternity. I too, cannot imagine my life without you.

Please do not believe that I think badly of you. As you keep mentioning in your letters six hundred euros is a small price to pay for such a smoking hot 29-year-old Russian babe.

You must be patient regarding the money. Speaking of the patient, I soon will be as I have secured a buyer for one of my kidneys. He is willing to pay £800. So not only will I be able to send you the money we will have some spending money after I recover from the operation.

Once again thank you for the photos. Anyone who sees you would not believe their eyes. I am sorry for mixing up the country you come from. But my darling Maia whenever I do a Google search of the photos you send me some disturbing results occur. Imagine my confusion when the latest photo turns on up on the Facebook page of a woman called Elena Sobchak. Your surname Dukashvili is she related, a  relative or your sister and is she included in the price? I have sent you the link

My darling I have heard of Moneygram they are one of the best companies for transferring money between countries. I have glad you have chosen the best. I need the details of the bank for the transaction. In my country, there is a custom of having sex first before the money has been paid. This is a deeply held belief in my country, and I hope you can respect that. Another cherished belief is that a man must see his woman naked before he can shack up I mean be with for the rest of our natural life. Please can you accede to this request? Given that I am much older than you, I give you my permission to love again after I am gone.

I will send you my details, name address etc. very soon. You state in your lovely letter and I quote "I love you, and I hope only for you. I hope that very shortly we can be together. I appreciate everything you do for our future! I love you with all my heart. I want to be with you. I want to be with you forever. I think that you love me too, and we will meet very soon. You are my love, my angel. My heart is already in your hands. I am waiting For the good news from you. Every day I think about our meeting about Our life together. I can no longer imagine my life without you! We
Must use this chance of destiny. I LOVE YOU!!!.

I love you too. Please let us not talk about money. The only thing I would like between us is a condom and nothing else. I must leave you now. Another 29-year-old Georgian hotty has started to write to me so I must get on my other lover.

Love K


Wednesday, 18 November 2020

My Beloved Maia Is Coming To London.

The day my beloved Maia comes to London has just taken an almighty step forward. As you say in your letter, $600 is a small price to pay for a smoking hot 29 years old Russian babe to come to London.

Maia the birds in my heart sing as well. Eat your heart out Burt Lancaster. When I knew you were going to the travel agent to find out the details of your trip, my heart skipped a beat, so did my bank manager. It is clear from your letter that our relationship has got to a new stage and that we need to take it to the limit.

Once again thank you for the intimate photos. You are a special woman who needs a man like me to awaken your latent sexual desires. Speaking of which I was able to use Google search again for the photos you sent, and they appear to come from another Russian prostitute site. I am sure there is an innocent reason for this. Please do not inform your saintly parents about this until we have uncovered the truth.

I too dream of the day I can meet you at the airport with a bouquet. We will run together and fall into each other's arms. If it is on the weekend, then we could go to a nearby hotel and knock one out to consummate our love and to phone my bank manager and tell him that its money well spent. I am sure seeing your heavenly body will make me the happiest man in the world. Say hello to your parents. I only know their first names, come to think of it. I only know your first name please send it to me so I can sort the money out.

You must be tired walking about looking for a travel agent. Thank God, you found the best in Georgia. Yes, I know all about the documents you need and course that heavenly body of yours must be insured. Two weeks for the preparation of a passport is standard. Please go ahead with your plans. I Know you only have a small salary and thank God you are willing to put some money towards the cost. Do not worry; I always believe that true love will conquer all. You cannot put a price on love/sex, well you do, but $600 is a fair price for a woman of your calibre. 

Do not cry about the money. Maybe it would be best for me to come to your country instead. We could make love on the beach where your photos came from. Please continue to save for the day we can be together. I am prepared to wait. I am sure you are.

Your words "You are the dearest and beloved person to me! You are my whole life. You are the air that I breathe every day. I walked down the street and thought only of you. I wanted to write you a letter soon. Now I sit and go the tears from my eyes. Tears of sadness and grief. I do not want to live without you. After all, without your presence in my life right now does not make sense! I have one hope, your help is my love, Keith. I believe that money is not the main thing in our life. The most important thing is that we have found each other and we are happy. We love each other, and there is no more important than anything in this life! But now, in order to meet, we need this sum of money”.

These words touched like no other words in the whole history of English literature and Russian literature. Every day is like hell without you. Money or no money, we can work it out. I need to see you face to face. I need to see what I am buying; I mean falling in love with. I send you 600 kisses.

Your Lover



Monday, 16 November 2020

A Letter to My Beloved Maia, Again

Dear Maia,

It has now been two weeks since your first letter arrived on November 5th. We now have a love that dare not speaks its name. Despite having professed to learn English, some of your wording in this letter is a little bizarre. Very few people, especially women, would use the term and I quote "an endearing smile on my facile area. It is not good English. Please do not use that wording again.

In my previous letter to you, I discussed the anomaly of a smoking hot 29-year-old Russian babe opening up a relationship with a non too shabby Londoner. This did not deter your love, and I admire you for that.

Thank you for introducing me to your parents they appear to be very working-class and nice people. A nice touch would have been a picture, but that can be later when we meet.

I am glad you are happy in Georgia and have a good job. When I drop everything over here and move in with you, we can have a happy life. The little problem that I cannot speak Russian and would not be able to get a job is a minor detail.

Your second letter arrived on the afternoon of November 6th. You must spend much time in that internet café. I agreed that we are beginning to move closer. I was a little perturbed that you asked me about the weather since you are in an internet café it would be easy to find out. Every letter you write you ask me that question. I will send you a weather forecast for the next month if that helps.

I am glad you like classical music, reading, painting and theatre all the things I like. Also, I am glad you go to the gym, and yes you do have a good body. Yes, I would like to meet the dawn with you. I think a walk along the beach in the middle of a Pandemic is out of the question and I am glad you agree.

Saturday's letter for some reason was shorter than the previous. A pattern followed by this Saturday's letter. Maybe the internet café was crowded. I must admit to being a little perturbed that no matter what I reply in my letter you fail to address in your next letter. I put this down to your lack of English and you being a little shy. I love shyness in a woman.

I am horrified that the men in your country have mistreated you and that all they want is sex. I am not like that and would only expect to have sex on the weekend.

Sunday 8th letter was a little longer and again took no account of my previous letter. It was good to learn about your job and that you take care of yourself by attending the gym. You are lucky the gyms in my country are shut down because we have a ranging pandemic you are so lucky not to have that problem. I am glad to hear that you do not mention in your letter the most important topic to hit Mankind since the rapture. I love you for that it is boring anyway.

Monday's letter is again very lovely, and I am glad you sent me the pictures of the zoo. Unfortunately, when I put them in google image search, nothing came up, but I will keep trying. I have put your photo on my phone to be near you. Yes, I agree that we must not dwell on the past and live like dogs only in the moment.

Our conversation about your religious convictions was a breath of fresh air. I am glad you are a good Christian and not any of those nasty other faiths. Again I am grateful for the photos I can see this is your hobby. You have a nice body so in the words of Zero Mostel you should "flaunt it baby flaunt it". You also keep saying you will tell me your secrets but never do.

I appreciated your next letter dated November 12th. I love the photo of your friend Tina, and I am glad she has given her blessing to our relationship. That is a big weight off my mind. I am now ready to give you my full love.

Your dream about our meeting in London and me wearing a black tuxedo is the most romantic thing I have ever read. It is a shame that when I went to kiss you passionately, you woke up. What a bummer.

Again this Saturday's letter was shorter than most does the internet café charge by the letter at weekends. I am glad you told your parents about us as turning up on their doorstep would have been a little awkward. Sundays letter was even shorter. Maybe you were a little tired from writing every day.

Your latest letter fills me with the hope that we can truly be together in love. You write "My beloved, today I want to open my heart to you fully! I am a little shy to tell you this phrase, but I got the courage and is ready. I want to admit to you, my prince! I LOVE YOU! I have loved you from the very first letter. I felt that we could build a serious relationship. Every day I gave you my time. After our acquaintance, I thought only of you. I love you for being a kind, gentle, caring and affectionate man. I know that I can rely on you at the most difficult moment! You will never deceive or betray me. I knew that somewhere in the world there was that man whom I could truly love. And I found you, Keith! My love for you is the purest and most tender. I kept my feelings in your heart, but today I decided to open my soul to you. I hope that you will accept my feelings and reciprocate! I want to thank you very much for the fact that you never ignored my letters and went along with me to the main goal - to build a serious relationship. Now we are as one with you, as an inseparable chain! I want our relations to develop further. My prince, for me, the word love, more than just a word. For me, love is the feeling that I now live and breathe. When I see your letters, a new breath awakens in me, birds sing in my soul, I want to live and smile! My dear, I have opened my heart and soul to you, and I hope that you will not reject me! Please tell me how you feel. Are you ready to tell me that you love me? Are you ready for a really serious relationship with me?”.

Your latest letter was a joy to read, and yes, I would like to be with you. I am glad you rushed to the internet café to talk to me. Yes, you do have a beautiful body and glad you want to share it with only me. I am glad you showed me your photos that no other man has seen and that you are not naked in them. Since your letter, I have not looked at another woman.

I will send you my details, address, phone number, the city I live in and the nearest airport later. I am sorry to have to raise this matter with you, and I am sure there is an innocent explanation. The pictures you sent happen to be from a Russian prostitutes website. I am sure this just a mistake and that you are the virgin you claim to be. I await your reply my darling.




Review: Sleeping with the Light On by David Unger • Illustrations by Carlos Aquilera-Groundwood Books Ltd, Canada (10 Nov. 2020)

David Unger's new book is an intelligent, tender and an extremely readable account of two children growing up in civil war-torn  Guatemala in the early 1950s. Sleeping with the Light according to the author is based on one of the titles included in the book of short stories Ni chicha ni limonada, which he published in 2009 with the Guatemalan publishing house F&G Editores.

Seen through the eyes of young Davico and his older brother Felipe they witness the United states inspired coup d'etat which took place in Guatemala in 1954. The military coup which overthrew the democratically elected Arbenz government paved the way for the Central American country to become a staging ground for numerous counterrevolutionary operations carried out by the United States and its secret service organisation the CIA throughout Latin America.

The elected government of Arbenz had tried to initiate a limited amount of agrarian reforms but were opposed by the US and the politically influential United Fruit Company who controlled most the country.

Throughout the 70s and 80s writes Jeffrey St. Clair the then Guatemalan president Ríos Montt said "We do not have a policy of scorched earth," he sneered. "We have a policy of scorched communists."

The fact that David Unger feels the need to write about this in 2020 is not because this very dark chapter in Guatemalan history is a closed book but unfortunately is very much alive in the thoughts of millions of Guatemalans at home and millions of Latin Americans who suffered similar fates in their own countries. Themes addressed in Unger's book are also addressed by a new generation of Guatemalan and Latin American writers.

According to one writer "The CIA and other US agencies still refuse to declassify documents containing information ranging from the identity of individuals responsible for these crimes against humanity to the actual location of secret prisons and mass graves".

Unger's storyline is deceptively and deliberately simple, but it would be a mistake of the reader to believe that this just a simple tale of childhood. To a certain extent, David attempts to come to terms with his own childhood experiences. The book David will forgive saying is part if not all, autobiographical. If this is the case, then he follows in the footsteps of all great writers in drawing from a part of their own life experiences in order to write their stories

The book in which each chapter begins beautifully illustrated by the Mexican writer and illustrator Carlos Aquilera Unger deals with several pressing political and social issues. Unger deals with the very real problem of racism and immigration. Before and during the Second World War several German immigrants were forced to leave both Germany and the United States. In one part of the book, the Father of the boys said he did not leave Germany to die like a dog in Guatemala.

Recently I asked David about the book in a very good interview he said "Sleeping With the Light On is based on a short story entitled "La Casita," that appeared in my 2009 book Ni chicha, ni limonada (F y G Editores). I took this sweet autobiographical tale and enlarged it into a chapter book. The major themes of the book deal with family conflicts, war and loss, but since it is for children 6-9, these themes are introduced and dealt with gently. As to your second question: I am not a career writer, so I only write when I have something to say—I published my first novel at age 52. When an idea or a character gets a hold of me, that is when I begin to write. It has not happened in five years because I have nothing to say. This awful covid pandemic, I would say, has almost rendered me mute".

Let us hope this gifted writer is not rendered mute for too long. The Spanish version of this book will appear soon. I believe it can be purchased in Sophos in Guatemala let us hope it can be published throughout Europe and Latin American soon. It can be purchased on Amazon in the UK.

About the Author:

David Unger was born in Guatemala City in 1950 and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is the author of The Price of Escape (Akashic Books, 2011), Para mi, eres divina (Random House Mondadori, Mexico, 2011), Ni chicha, ni limonada (F & G Editores, Guatemala, 2009; Recorded Books, 2010) and Life in the Damn Tropics (Wisconsin University Press, Plaza y Janes (Mexico, 2004), Locus Press (Taiwan, 2007). He has translated sixteen books into English, including works by Nicanor Parra, Silvia Molina, Elena Garro, Barbara Jacobs, Mario Benedetti and Rigoberta Menchu. He is considered one of Guatemala's major living writers even though he writes exclusively in English.













Friday, 13 November 2020

A Letter to my Beloved Maia

One of the drawbacks of having used the same email for nearly 20 years is the amount of crap that you get sent. One particular email was interesting. This email was from a 29-year-old Russian beauty who had been treated rotten by the men in her country and was looking for love. Being a gentleman, I answered that this was very bad, and would she like to be my lover.

Since I was not a gullible idiot, some alarm bells started to ring upstairs. Why would a smoking hot Russian woman write to a bloke in England?. The letter was reasonably well written(I later found out that there is an industry of letter writers). I will not bore you with the details, but after two weeks we both fell madly in love with each other and were planning our future together.

Despite being in the throes of love, I decided to look into my new found love. The email she/he sent always arrived in the afternoon.She/he only replied to one email as sometimes I sent two. While the emails were well written; they were not exactly William Shakespeare. They started to get lazy repeating lines used in earlier emails which means they must be copy and pasting hundreds if not thousands of these fishing letters. They must work pretty hard.

Now call me cynical if you are chasing a very beautiful women chances are she knows how attractive she is and would not write back every day. That is the first clue. The second clue is the pictures at the bottom of the email. The pictures are of this lovely Russian woman who you really could fall for in a big way I wonder if she has a sister. I do not normally praise corporate capitalism, but God bless Google image search. I pasted her photos in the image search and low and behold some things turned up. One of her photos turns up on a Russian prostitutes site, and boy those prostitutes do anything and to anybody. The second turned up and was probably the real girl who has a Russian Facebook site. She is probably from Belarus and is two years younger than my Russian girl Maia. A prostitute site could they not have harvested a Russian movie star.

For gullible males, everywhere, please do this search. My beloved Maia's photo and her email turned up on several scammer warning sites. These people are busy and must have conned thousands of £s out lonely older men. Just for the record, I am not too shabby or too old.

The main point of this letter is not just to warn people about these scammers. While there is much poverty in Russia, this does not excuse what is criminal activity. If you want to get rid of poverty, then overthrow Putin and return to the traditions of the Russian working class.

My main point is that the Russian working class, both male and female, have a revolutionary tradition that dates back well over a hundred years. The only working-class in history to overthrow capitalism. These declassed scammers spit on this history.


Thursday, 12 November 2020

Review: The Mayflower in Britain: How an icon was made in London, Graham Taylor- Amberley Publishing, 2020.

By Steve Cushion

Most accounts of the Mayflower voyage of 1620 concentrate on the history of the Pilgrims in North America, which is hardly surprising as the Mayflower, the Pilgrim Fathers and Plymouth Rock have become part of the foundation mythology of what was to become the United States of America. The strength of this book is that it concentrates on the previous history of the Pilgrims themselves in Holland and England, thereby giving a greater understanding of their motivations and intentions.

The Pilgrims were "Separatists" meaning that they believed that the Church of England was too corrupt to be reformed and so set up their own organisation. This was illegal in England during the reigns of Elizabeth and James I as the Church of England was very much part of the state's mechanism of control. To escape persecution, members of this sect, which would probably be called a "cult" today, emigrated to the Dutch town of Leiden where they set up a community in relative freedom, led by their pastor John Roninson, and where others of their persuasion joined them.

These Separatists, also known as "Brownists" after Robert Browne who had formed an earlier such separate church organisation seen as their forerunner, wanted to set up what would become known as a "gathered church", that is a church based on government by consent of those who agreed a covenant voluntarily. The Leiden group eventually became dissatisfied by their exile. Their children were becoming more Dutch than English, while the Brownists saw the English as God's chosen people, and their economic situation was far from ideal. So they decided to set off for North America to found a settlement which could be run according to their principles. This, however, required financing.

In order to pay for the ships and supplies, the future colonists needed financial backing, which came from a group of London merchants. The book describes well the way in which the early modern London financial services industry operated. The organisers of the Mayflower voyage, therefore, had to get involved with some London merchants, some of whom more or less shared their beliefs, but others just wanted a fast buck from a colonising enterprise. As the book says: "They recognised in each other's causes the mirror image of their own, and all they asked for was freedom to pursue their trade deals or practise their religion" and "progress towards toleration was always interwoven with progress to free trade". What is not mentioned is that one area of free trade in which the London merchants were very keen was the slave trade. We are told that "An Act of Parliament of 1689 'allowed anyone to export cloth anywhere'".[1] Equally important but not mentioned was the Trade with Africa Act 1697 which ended the Royal Africa Company's monopoly in the slave trade. This was where the real money was to be made.

However, whatever the motives of the financial backers of the Mayflower voyage, the Pilgrims themselves seem united in their opposition to slavery and their desire to get on well with the indigenous people they would meet. But, while recognising the obvious good intentions of the Pilgrims, it may be interesting to consider how these principles were put into practice. The book says little about Myles Standish, the Plymouth colony's military leader and slips quickly over his massacre of a group of warriors of the Massachusett nation at Wessagusset. Having been told that this group of warriors intended to attack an English colony, Standish invited them for a meal and murdered them while they were his guests. True, Standish was not himself a Brownist, but he was hired in Holland by the future Pilgrims and they must have known that he was a brutal mercenary. To quote a recent BBC news item: "a hard man who got his retaliation in first". The book, having described John Robinson's objections to the killings,  says:

"Despite Robinson's ethical strictures, the effect was not too damaging. As it was action done in concert with Indian allies there was no racial element as such and the number of Indians supporting Plymouth actually increased".[2]

This is to view the matter from an English perspective. The Plymouth colony was allied with the Pokanoket people led by their Sachem, Massasoit. The Pokanokets had been in dire straits when the Mayflower arrived, devastated by smallpox and threatened by the neighboring Narragansett and Massachusett peoples. Massasoit saw his opportunity and was able to use his alliance with the well armed Plymouth colony to vastly improve his position. Central to this was Standish's massacre at Wessagusset, that seems to have terrified many of the surrounding people into either fleeing or accepting the domination of Massasoit, who was able thereby to form the Wampanoag confederacy under his authority.

Massasoit was a remarkable political operator and there must be a suspicion that he manipulated the whole affair, possibly inventing or exaggerating the threat that the Massachusetts intended to attack the English settlers. Be that as it may, Massasoit was certainly able to use his alliance with the English to destroy his enemies. Edward Winslow, a later governor of Plymouth colony, in describing the effect on other indigenous nations in the locality, wrote:

"This sudden and unexpected execution hath so terrified and amazed them, as in like manner they forsook their houses, running to and fro like men distracted, living in swamps and other desert places, and so brought manifold diseases amongst themselves, whereof many are dead".[3]

This highlights the point that, whatever their intentions may be, colonists arrive in a situation with its pre-existing politics and divisions where they cannot be neutral. And, before long, the Plymouth colony had to contend with another neighbour, the puritan-led Massachusetts Bay colony.

The book is very clear that the Separatists should be distinguished from "Puritans", who agreed that the Church of England was corrupt, but felt it could be reformed. The image of the puritans that emerges from the book is one of viciously intolerant bigots. The problem for the Pilgrims was that, in the decade after John Winthrop set up the Massachusets Bay colony in 1630, 21,000 more settlers arrived, dwarfing the Plymouth colony which, in any case, had a much poorer harbour. From then on it was Winthrop and the puritans who set the pace. Even the radical Brownist, Roger Williams, founder of Providence Plantation on Rhode Island, was instrumental in persuading the Narragansetts to side with the colonists during the 1637 war between Massachusetts Bay and the Pequot nation; not that it did him or his colony any good in the long run as they were excluded from the 1643 military alliance of Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut and New Haven, known as the United Colonies of New England. After the English victory, many Pequot prisoners of war were sold into slavery in the puritan colonies of the West Indies.

Maybe I could take the liberty of using this review to reply to the book's accusation that Danny Reilly and myself, in our book Telling the Mayflower Story: Thanksgiving or Land Grabbing, Massacres & Slavery?:

"held [the Mayflower pilgrims] responsible for the puritan persecutions in New England from Williams to Salem, and they were held responsible, as the first successful colonists in New England, for colonialism, slavery and the genocide of the native Americans".[4]

We clearly need to apologise for a lack of clarity. Our main purpose was to document how the history of the Mayflower has been used as propaganda throughout the history of the USA, frequently to sanitise a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant supremacist version of democracy.

Let there be no misunderstanding, we are not blaming the Mayflower colonists for genocide and slavery, but we are saying that, out of the many thousands of early settlers, the romantic story of this small group has been used consistently to conceal genocide and to whitewash the deep involvement of New England in the business of slavery.

Once the beaver had become virtually extinct through over-hunting, the region needed another source of income and turned to supplying the slave islands of the English Caribbean with horses, timber, candle oil, flour, dried fish and barrels. Rhode Island, the successor to Providence Plantation, became a centre of the slave trade. The 18th century saw the rise of the New England Colonies as slave-carriers rather than direct exploiters of slave-labour as the English slave colonies and New England became mutually economically dependent.

An important trading triangle went between New England to West Africa then on to the West Indies. A slave could be purchased in Africa for 150 gallons of rum which cost £3 to produce in North America and could be sold for between £30 and £80 in Barbados. As Boston, Salem and Nantucket becoming the pre-eminent slaving ports in the region, distilling became the largest manufacturing industry in New England.

While some of the Mayflower settlers obviously maintained their principles, others were swept along with the logic of colonisation. Thus, on the one hand, Roger Williams set up Providence Plantation and, after his earlier misguided alliance with Massachusetts Bay, maintained peace with the Narragansetts for 40 years, while on the other hand, Edward Winslow sided with John Winthrop against religious toleration and ended up as part of Oliver Cromwell's "Western Design" that vastly extended England's slave economy by seizing Jamaica.

The author has spoken of the way in which the Chartists, Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln have stressed the anti-slavery element of the Mayflower story. More commonly, however, it has been used to promote free-enterprise capitalism and conceal the legacy of genocide and slavery. As Munira Mirza, one time member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, who moved speedily to the right and became Deputy Mayor of London under Boris Johnson who subsequently promoted her to Director of the Number 10 Policy Unit, wrote:

It is the story of how liberal values were born in northern, Protestant Europe and how they eventually flourished throughout America. No one should gloss over the horrific crimes and brutality of many English settlers – they are a stain on history and ought to be acknowledged in the commemorations too. But the early ideas of those first few Pilgrims and City of London investors also drove the eventual defeat of slavery, and have shaped our own modern ideas of equality and justice, democracy and freedom. None of this would have been possible without early capitalism and the forces it unleashed.[5]

While disagreeing with the book's conclusions and rejecting the use that has been made of it by the likes of Munira Mirza, I recognise this book as an important contribution to the debate, with a wealth of detail on the early years of the Pilgrims in Leiden. Anyone interested in the political and organisational world of the dissenting religious sects of the late 16th and early 17th centuries will find it most useful.

Steve Cushion is joint author with Danny Reilly of Telling the Mayflower Story: Thanksgiving or Land Grabbing, Massacres & Slavery?, Socialist History Society


Up Down Turn Around, The Political Economy of Slavery and the Socialist Case for Reparations, Caribbean Labour Solidarity


[1] Mayflower in Britain, p.330 & 314 [page references are to the Kindle version]

[2] Mayflower in Britain, p.231

[3] Quoted in: Nathaniel Philbrick, Mayflower, A Voyage to War, Penguin, 2006, p.154

[4] Mayflower in Britain p.330

[5] Munira Mirza, Let’s celebrate the pilgrims, not demonise them, UnHerd, 2018