Death of David Levine

December 31, 2009 at 6:12 pm (Rosie B)

David Levine, caricaturist for the New York Review of Books, is dead.  

Video of Levine’s work here:-

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Face facts: the Islamicists are fascists and they want to kill us

December 31, 2009 at 12:51 am (Islam, islamism, Jim D, Middle East)

Before I go any further I must make one thing plain. It shouldn’t be necessary, but I’m afraid it is, given the political illiteracy now prevalent on much of the so-called “left” and the dishonesty prevalent on the Islamist religious right: Islamism (or Islamicism) is not the same as Islam …or being a Muslim, OK? Got that? Islamism is a political ideology – you’re allowed to criticise ideologies, OK? Islamism isn’t the same as being a Muslim, just like being a “patriotic” citizen of the UK doesn’t make you a member of the BNP or a supporter of the English National Movement, or whatever that lot of hooligans are called.

One of the greatest successes of the religious lobby (spearheaded by militant Islamicists, then backed up by opportunist Christians, including the official C of E), has been to get  religion the same protection in law that race is given. It’s a nonsense, but it’s now enshrined in law in Great Britain.

Anyway, my point is this: Islamicism (not Islam) is plainly a real threat to ordinary working class people of all races in Britain today; it’s also plainly a form of fascism.

A commentator on another site recently described me as a “supporter of the war on ‘terror'”. Now, I’m not entirely sure what he meant by that description: after all, I marched against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and I belong to an organisation (the AWL) that calls for the withdrawal of troops from both countries. 

I suspect that what’s meant by this person is that I and my comrades believe that there is such a thing as Islamicist terrorism (without  the scare-quotes round ‘terror’), that it’s a form of fascism, and that it must be fought –  even if the US and UK governments and military aren’t the best people to do that.

For some time, bien pensant  liberal/”left” opinion has been that there is no (or, at least, no significant) Islamicist terrorist threat: it’s all been got up by western politicians for their own nefarious purposes.  The award-winning British film-maker Adam Curtis, in his series ‘The Power of Nightmares” appeared to argue that position, as did the dishonest,  smug,   US film-maker Michael Moore, when he urged people to chant:

There is no terrorist threat.
You need to calm down, relax, listen very carefully, and repeat after me:
There is no terrorist threat.
There is no terrorist threat!
There… is… no… terrorist… threat!”

Those who don’t simply deny the reality of Islamicist terrorism, tend to then go on to sort-of-justify it on grounds of third -worldist economics…the problem with that semi-justification is that like Bin Laden and (now) Abdulmuttalab… most of these Islamicist terrorists are rich boys.

Well, I just hope that in the light of rich boy Farouk Abdulmuttalab’s nearly-successful Islamicist mass-murder of 278 passengers on the descent into Detroit,  not to mention those on the ground who would have been killed, the Graun‘s message will get through:

This latest rich-boy terrorist – echoes of Bin Laden – had been known to the authorities for two years. He is said to have been on a list of more than half a million people with links to radical Islamist terror groups. Yet none of these authorities had much clue how close Abdulmutallab’s links now were, let alone what he could come within seconds of accomplishing. With hindsight, the watchers were not sharp enough. Their databases were not good enough. This surveillance regime must be improved, where practicable and proportionate. But this is not the first time that a bomber has emerged out of left-field. The same thing happened in the 7/7 attacks in London, in the botched car bombings of 2007, and on 9/11 itself. The latest plot confirms there are more people out there trying to terrorise westerners than the strongest state in a free society can ever entirely predict or control.

“When he was overpowered, Abdulmutallab was said by witnesses to be “screaming about Afghanistan“. Yet it would be a too convenient simplification to see this attack as some sort of act of revenge for that war. Abdulmutallab’s life history, as it is now emerging, seems to be much more driven by exposure to manichean radical Islamism in Nigeria, Britain and, in particular, Yemen. The explosive chemicals and the syringe which he used on NW253 were sewn into his underclothing in Yemen. The methods used in Friday’s attempted attack have echoes of a failed Yemeni-based suicide attack on Prince Muhammad, the head of Saudi counterterrorism operations, in August. The Christmas airliner bomb plot did not take place because of western policy in Afghanistan. The west could withdraw tomorrow from Afghanistan and the continuing danger from jihadist terrorists would still be as great as it is today.”

Whilst it’s good to have the Graun recognise the threat of Islamicism, we do have to note that the self-same publication gives a column to a piece of scum (Seumas Milne) who wanks over Islamist “success”, and even gloats that 9/11  (when, let us remember,  thousands of working class Americans died) was a “success”:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/dec/29/decade-global-crimes-crucial-advances

…an object lesson in “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” determining a political stance, from a public-school-educated posh-boy who has the nerve to sneer at heroic Iranian protesters as “gilded youth”…”

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‘Here is your revolution!’

December 29, 2009 at 8:40 pm (anti-fascism, blogosphere, Iran, Max Dunbar, religion)

Now, a blog is not a rolling news service, and Socialist Unity can write about what it likes. And yet, like Gene, I find it curious that a blog dedicated to revolutionary socialism can’t find the space to offer support to what looks increasingly like an actual revolution, unfolding while the whole world watches.

You say you want a revolution, comrades? There it is, in the streets of Tehran and other cities throughout the country. This is, as regime apologist George Galloway might put it (in another context) ‘The real deal.’

I recall in late 2002/early 2003 listening to antiwar activists saying things like: ‘Of course Saddam is a psychotic dictator – but getting rid of him is a job for the Iraqi people, not the Americans.’ And, earlier on: ‘Of course the Taliban are fundamentalist killers and there is a good humanitarian case for their overthrow, but getting rid of them is a job for the Afghan people – not the Americans.’

Now, in 2009, people in Iran are doing their best to get rid of the theocratic oppressors, and with no real concrete help from cowardly Western governments. From a significant part of the antiwar left: just silence.

The regime cracks down. Image via the Guardian, which is also carrying out a project to identify the people – over 1,000 – who have been arrested or murdered by the Islamic Republic since the election of June 12.

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“Christian Zionism” comes to Britain

December 26, 2009 at 5:34 pm (israel, palestine, religious right, voltairespriest)

PhotobucketOne of the most generally accepted political “truths” here in the UK, is that there is a big difference between how we and people in the USA look at the Israel-Palestine issue. Whilst there are individual politicians here obviously do have pro-Israel views, and specific groups (Labour Friends of Israel being one) which lobby for pro-Israeli political positions, the broad mass of the UK population are taken to be broadly sympathetic to the Palestinians’ plight, whilst it is also taken as a given that US opinion tilts much further towards Israel. For instance, even during the 2008 Gaza attacks, polls such as this one from Rasmussen showed a plurality of Americans – or better – favouring Israel and blaming the Palestinians for the situation in which they found themselves. By contrast, most Britons were outraged by “Operation Cast Lead”, and viewed Israel as the aggressor. Media coverage of any conflict in Israel-Palestine also differs wildly between many outlets in the UK and others in the USA, as readers here will be aware.

There are many reasons for the disparity in views, not all of which have anything at all to do with the two protagonists in the conflict. Whilst it is true that US foreign policy is often craven towards Israel, and that US presidential candidates (including Barack Obama) appear to view the trip to AIPAC’s annual convention as though it were vital to their election prospects, the fact is that the “Israel Lobby” has very little to do with the views of Jewish people in the USA. US Jews not only represent a tiny fraction of the voting population, they have voted solidly Democratic throughout living electoral memory and, such that they have uniform views, are one of the most liberal communities in the United States. They are no more represented by AIPAC than are most people in the UK represented by UKIP.

However, there is another political force which aims to influence US policy towards Israel, which most certainly does represent a serious mass of people. That force is “Christian Zionism”, the product of US Evangelical churches and their rather eccentric (often unpleasant) theological roots. Christians United For Israel brings together a rogue’s gallery of the US religious right. This includes such luminaries as John Hagee, whose 2009 Presidential endorsement was rejected by Arizona Republican senator John McCain when it emerged that Hagee had said that Hitler was sent by God to help push history along towards the establishment of the state of Israel. Small wonder those Jews keep stubbornly voting Democrat. Another is Stephen Strang, owner of Charisma magazine. Still another is that ex-Reagan staffer and veteran of the religious right, Gary Bauer, the director of American Values, an organisation whose web page carries an exhortation to its readers to “defeat Islamofascism”. Articles throughout the site ring with paranoia about Islam and Muslims, along with the same old racially-tinted asides about how President Obama “says he’s a Christian”, but that there have been rumours to the contrary.

Suffice it to say that these people are not motivated to support Israel out of ecumenical or humanitarian concern for the welfare of the Jewish people living there. They support the mass migration of Jews to Israel (and indeed spend massive quantities of money on media supporting the idea) because they believe that the Jews have to return to Israel in order for the apocalypse to be fulfilled. There are various spins on this tale of the end of the world amongst US evangelical right-wingers, but essentially they believe that once this is done either they will be raptured to heaven whilst the Jews and the rest of us face the seven year rule of the Anti-Christ, or else they believe that non-Messianic Jews will be sent down along with the rest of us sinners (whose numbers include mainline Christians and non-wacko Evangelicals, incidentally), whilst they live with Jesus in the new Israel once he returns.

In short, these people are really, really nuts. What may surprise you though, is just how popular they are in certain Israeli government circles. Rachel Tabachnik of Talk2Action.org has an excellent article in the latest edition of the Public Eye magazine, entitled “The New Christian Zionism and the Jews: a love-hate relationship”. In the course of the incisive analysis of the US Christian Zionist movement – not least its similarities to the 19th and 20th century British-Israelite infestation of much US Protestant theology – she mentions CUFI on several occasions. Such is the organisation’s real-world sway now that the Israeli ambassador to the USA attended CUFI’s annual conference last July whilst rejecting an invitation to the annual conference of moderate Jewish lobbying group J Street in October. At the same CUFI event were Jewish Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman and Israeli ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman. Hagee in particular appears able to get audiences with very broad spectrums of the US and Israeli political classes, thus enabling him to reach beyond areas of the USA with large Evangelical populations.

All of this seems bizarre and possibly frightening to a public in the UK who are unused to such literal translation of religious belief into political reality, let alone on such a grand scale. We also tend to sneer, believing that somehow this shows up large numbers of Americans for the straw-chewing hilbillies that we always suspected they were (underneath all the being-a-superpower, the political behemoth stuff, etc). However perhaps we should not feel so secure in our contempt.

In the first instance, to view the phenomenon of Christian Zionism as being a creature of the US Bible Belt, is to lose one’s sense of history. In actual fact, Christian Zionism has its roots in the UK, with the Puritans who originally fled to the USA. It was their literalism and their eccentric interpretation of scripture (as against what they saw as the impurity of the Church of England), which gave rise to the fervour from which Christian Zionism and its specific manifestations such as Plymouth Bretheren founder John Nelson Darby’s Dispensationalism, could arise. To give an idea of the ideological coherence of a movement which can often appear bewilderingly diverse, contemporary and recent figures whose ideas could broadly be called Dispensationalist include Hagee, the late Jerry Falwell, and “Left Behind” author Tim LaHaye. Yes, it was a UK-rooted movement which gave them their ideological roots.

For the reason mentioned above, it may be that I have slightly mislead the reader by entitling this article “Christian Zionism comes to Britain” rather than “Christian Zionism returns home”, however I think it is the case that we are witnessing a re-importation of the contemporary US version of Christian Zionism to the UK, rather than an indigenous revival. This is not something which anyone who moves within any of the sorts of political or social circles familiar to much of the left-of-centre would have noticed. Christian Zionists are not much in evidence either at cheerful organic cafes in Hackney or Islington, at working men’s clubs and local pubs in my adopted home of Birmingham, or among the hustle and bustle of Manchester or Sheffield. They are there, though, and they are growing in number.

Next time you are passing a Christian bookshop, walk in and take a look at the magazine rack. Two magazines that you are virtually guaranteed to find, are Israel Today and Prophetic Witness. Both, as you would expect, show an obviously pro-Israel bias: the former is owned by billionaire Republican and neoconservative Sheldon Adelson who claims to have opposed a two-state solution for Israel-Palestine because it would be a “betrayal of principle”, and who it is claimed heavily supported Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party against previous prime minister (and two state supporter) Ehud Olmert’s Kadima administration. The latter is the organ of the Prophetic Witness Movement International, a dispensationalist movement begun in 1917 with branches in the UK, and whose website’s “what we believe” section says this:

“We believe that the signs of the time point exclusively toward the close of ‘the times of the Gentiles’, that the return of the Lord is imminent, that the completed Church will be translated to meet the Lord in the air to be ‘forever with the Lord’, that Israel will be restored to her own land in unbelief and will be afterwards converted as she repents, recognises Christ as Messiah, that the Lord Jesus Christ will reign for a thousand years upon the earth during which time there will be a further outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh, that the message of the imminent return of Christ is the greatest motivation to prayer, holiness of life and evangelism.”

The bold type is my emphasis.

These are just two of the most obvious manifestations of Christian Zionism in the UK. There are more, just as it’s the case that political religion in general is becoming more assertive in this country. The problem, of course, is that at the moment (as in the US) the main means via which this growth is facilitated is through the burgeoning networks of Evangelical churches. The only mainstream political party to have made a new attempt to engage with the Evangelical communities in recent years has been the Conservatives, and that was largely by way of ham-fisted attempts to play “bloc politics”, looking for cheap inner-city BME votes with which to offset Labour/Lib Dem dominance amongst Asian Muslims. Needless to say, the Caribbean and African Pentecostals who formed most of the target demographic still don’t vote Tory.  As for the unions or the left, forget it: the Labour Party gave up its historical roots in the non-conformist churches many years ago, and the unions steer clear of matters religious as a general rule. But of course, most people in contemporary Britain are not in contemporary political discourse, and the vast majority of workers are not in a union. This is happening under our radar.

PhotobucketChristian Friends of Israel is one such group. It has existed in the UK since 1985 and was founded by one Derek White (who still features on the CfI front page video), along with others. The organisation is very overtly friendly, saying it is seeking to build friendships and understanding between the UK and Israel, as well as seeking atonement for the anti-semitic histories of many churches. Of course, that isn’t the whole story.

CfI’s links page carries two links to contemporary Israeli print news media: the first is to the mainstream daily Ha’aretz, which it describes as having a “left of centre viewpoint, and wide coverage”. The other is to Sheldon Adelson’s Likudnik vehicle Israel Today, which the CfI site describes as “Latest news from israel, which aims to provide a truthful and balanced perspective on Israel”. I daresay Adelson is delighted with the accolade – Ha’aretz’ editorial and journalistic staff may not be quite so overwhelmed.

Another link from the site, incidentally, goes to the Zionist Federation.

Further, when you really dig around the site, you’ll see the following under CfI’s Foundation Principles document:

“3: We believe that the restoration of the Jewish people to the land of Israel is in accordance with the promises contained in the Old and New Testaments, and that God’s time to ‘Favour Zion’ has begun.” 

For all of White and his colleagues’ smiling and paternal demeanours, their politics and their theology has the same root as Hagee’s or Bauer’s. If they believe in all this, then they most certainly believe in furthering it in the real world, hence their formation of an organisation to actively further their goals.

Another obviously Christian Zionist organisation in the UK is Derek Prince Ministries whose late founder was known for (apart from being a Christian Zionist) suffering outright denunciation at the hands of that old hippy Pat Robertson after Prince signed up as a leader of the Shepherding Movement, a tremendously authoritarian and abusive movement within the Charismatic churches. Derek himself eventually repented from all this – but stuck with the Zionism – and retired to Israel where he continued to try to further the apocalypse.

All of these organisations are small at present: they have little traction on mainstream politics, and few politicians would individually pay them any heed. But look at the sheer numbers now teeming through the doors of Evangelical churches in this country, as against mainstream Anglican, non-conformist and Catholic churches. Just as mainstream evangelical Premier Christian Radio is now accessible to hundreds of thousands of households via digital TV, so you can fully expect Christian Zionist organisations to follow suit. After all, if Kenyan fruitbat Gilbert Deya (he of the multiple indictments for trafficking, after producing “miracle babies” that shared no DNA with their mothers) can have his own TV channel, then so can anyone. You can watch Gilbert on Sky, by way of an aside. Most amusing after an evening in the pub.

Don’t look over the Atlantic and mock too hard. The growing encroachment of religious lobbying upon the legislative political sphere is not likely to decrease over the next 10 years. Furthermore, as Evangelical churches boom, so you can expect their voices (and in many cases their US-backed cheque books) to dominate even the more traditional religious conservatives out of the discourse. Israel-Palestine policy is not the only issue where this is likely to happen, but it is certainly one such. It is time for progressives, religious and non-religious alike, to take note.

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Final Communication from the CEO for 2009

December 25, 2009 at 11:49 am (plutocrats)

Well, we have to admit it guys, this hasn’t been one of our great years.  The Elders and I know that most of you have made every effort to stretch the power of the Entity, but there have been set backs.  For instance, there is wild talk about controlling banking excesses.  It may just be talk, but it’s making us uneasy.  And what was that Copenhagen crap about?  We shafted it as best we could but the ugly monster of environmental responsibility is rearing its green head again.

Though we have firm footholds in most global organisations and our shills and stooges are in the highest places (as well as the lowest), there are complete blog  sites  which are holding out against our penetration.  Next year we expect that every one of you puppets will make inroads into those few remaining areas of defiance.

We are forced to give you today off but you’d better be back by tomorrow to take your part in the global domination of all finance and media.

Remember, in the words of that traditional Christmas song:-

The future’s ours,
We’ve only just begun

I’d write more but a rare reindeer – last of its kind I believe – is being roasted for me and the rest of the Elders.  

Happy Christmas, everyone.

Best wishes

Nathan Rothschild

Update:- Denham, Dunbar, Priest, Rosie B. –  that laughable request for a bonus or even a Boxing Day tip was evidently some joke you found in a cracker, and has gone the way of all post-Christmas debris

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Christmas night in Harlem with Louis

December 25, 2009 at 9:35 am (good people, Human rights, jazz, Jim D)

Here’s a wishing all (well, most…) readers a happy Christmas. And who better to accompany our good wishes than the ambassador of  bonhomie and  goodwill to “cats of every color”, Louis Armstrong?

Don’t forget that poor sod Akmal Shaikh at this time, and if you haven’t already done so, send an email to the Chinese Embassy (see post of Dec 23 on this). And if you’re thinking of making a seasonal donation to a good cause, may we suggest the Refugee Council’s Winter Appeal?

Blogging here is likely to be a bit thin on the ground (unlike the snow) for a few days, but we’ll be back to the fray in the New Year.

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Christmas Eve

December 24, 2009 at 5:56 pm (Rosie B)

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We must all plead for the life of Akmal Shaikh

December 23, 2009 at 7:38 pm (anonymous, China, Human rights, mental health)

“We are begging the Chinese authorities to show compassion…and mercy. Basically I’m here begging for his life to be spared” – Akbar Shaikh, brother of Akmal Shaikh.

A mentally ill man who first showed signs of probable bipolar disorder in 2001 when his marriage broke up and he moved from Britain to Poland, faces execution in China on 29 December.

His family have remained silent until now, in order not to antagonise the Chinese authorities. But Akmal Shaikh lost his appeal on Monday and now the family reckon the only hope lies with a last-minute public campaign.

What seems to have happened is that Polish drug traffickers identified Mr Shaikh as a vulnerable and gullible character who could be easily tricked into unwittingly carrying drugs into China. How they did this is heartbreaking: they told the delusional Mr Shaikh that a song he had written and believed could bring about world peace, ‘Come Little Rabbit’, would be recorded in China and turn Mr Shaikh into an international pop star, as well as ushering in world peace.

When Mr Shaikh arrived at the airport, expecting to be accompanied by his record-production team, a member of the gang gave him a briefcase, saying that there was only one seat available on the plane and that he should fly to China alone, and they would join him later.

He was arrested in September 2007, as he arrived in China.

China has signed the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which states: “Anyone sentenced to death penalty shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence.” Nevertheless, the Chinese court has not even carried out an examination of Mr Shaikh’s mental health.

The human rights organisation, Reprieve (which is best known for campaigning on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainees) is co-ordinating the campaign to save Mr Shaikh. They emphasise that provocative comments about China would be entirely counterproductive – especially in the aftermath of Copenhagen.

They ask people to contact Gordon Brown (who has issued a statement urging clemency) and the Chinese Ambassador to the UK, Madam Fu Ying, using the text below:

Dear Prime Minister Bown / Ambassador Fu Ying,

I write to express my deep concern for Akmal Shaikh, who faces execution in China on December 29.

Akmal’s family has pleaded for his life to be spared, and my heart is with them at this terrible time. Akmal’s death, particularly during the holiday season, would destroy his children, his brother and his elderly mother, and tear the family apart.

I know the Chinese people care deeply about family and I would join Akmal’s  children in begging for mercy for their father.

This unusual case is not about politics, but about humanity and compassion – values we share with the Chinese people. My plea to the Chinese authorities is based upon the greatest respect for Chinese culture and these shared values.

Yours sincerely…

Email your letter to the Prime Minister here, and to the Chinese Ambassador at secretary@chinese-embassy.org.uk

 Akmal Shaik’s song for world peace, ‘Come Little Rabbit’, can be seen and heard on Youtube but for some reason I have been unable to link to it here.

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Oral asshole: where’s Hitchens when we need him?

December 19, 2009 at 3:32 pm (Champagne Charlie, Christianity, religious right, secularism, United States, wild man)

“At the age of 29, he was a struggling part-time preacher with church pastorates in Oklahoma, and his college studies had not brought him a degree. He told the story of how he picked up his bible and it fell open at the Third Epistle of John. His eye caught verse two, which read: ‘I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.’

“He had not heard this verse before and neither had his schoolteacher wife Evelyn, though both were the offspring of preachers. Roberts decided immediately that it was all right to be rich. The next day he bought a Buick and God appeared, he said, telling him to heal people.” (from the Graun‘s obituary)

One of those right wing US religious crooks, the amusingly-named Oral Roberts, died a week or so ago. One of his best scams was to tell viewers of his TV channel that God would kill him unless they sent him 8 million dollars…and it worked! However, even the $8 million couldn’t buy this right wing con- man immortality. Pity there’s no hell for him to go to.

Which reminds me: Christopher Hitchens’ finest moment was his relaxed and well-oiled performance on the Fox Channel  immediately after the death of another US evangelical asshole, Jerry Falwell. I particularly like Hitch’s closing comment: “If he’d been given an enema, they could have buried him in a matchbox.” No doubt Seymour and Gameboy would agree with the interviewer who objects that it’s in bad taste and insensitive  towards the family to speak ill of the deceased so soon after his passing:

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doKkOSMaTk4]

To the best of my knowledge Hitchens has yet to comment on ol’ Oral: but I wish he would.

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The Queen of Spades

December 19, 2009 at 1:42 am (cinema, Jim D)

A week or so ago, I was enthusing about the re-release of Pressburger and Powell’s The Red Shoes and the forthcoming (on Boxing Day)  DVD release of Thorold Dickinson’s The Queen of Spades.

Dickinson is a “forgotten” British director to set alongside Pressburger and Powell, and – indeed – Alfred Hitchcock. The Queen of Spades is a faustian ghost story, based upon a Pushkin short story.

The Graun‘s Peter Bradshaw describes it thus:

“Thorold Dickinson’s gripping and intricately designed British classic from 1948, based on Pushkin’s short story, is now rereleased – preceded with an ebullient new on-screen introduction from Martin Scorsese. Anton Walbrook plays Captain Suvorin, an impoverished military captain in 19th-century Russia, resentfully out of his depth with the aristocrats of the officers’ mess and longing for the money to match his ambition. Like many of the time, he daringly admires the meritocratic genius of Russia’s great enemy, Napoleon, and is obsessed with gambling.

 “Suvorin is galvanised by the rumour that ugly old Countess Ranevskaya, played by Edith Evans, has sold her soul to the devil for the secret of winning at cards; he plans to offer her a chilling new Mephistophelean bargain: he will take her sin on his own soul, if she will only tell him how to make a fortune at the card-table. Dickinson’s film is full of shadows and mirror reflections: a self-doubting, self-lacerating world in which the horror of eternal damnation is counter-balanced by the thrill of instant riches. An exotic, fascinating film.”

When I wrote before about this “forgotten” masterpiece, there was no Youtube clip to be found. Since then, this trailer has appeared:

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