Dec 302022

Nazis were Nazis. But not infrequently online arguments will result in accusations along the lines of “Nazis were ${X} so ${X} are Nazis”. Which is incredibly shallow thinking of course. A Nazi could well be a stamp collector, but what made them a Nazi was membership of the NSDAP.

There are ‘interests’ that would be indicative of membership of the NSDAP – ‘racial purity’, anti-semiticsm, etc. but they are specific types of interests and something as innocuous as stamp collecting isn’t indivicative.

But concentrating on Socialism because Socialism appears in the name of the party.


The full name of the Nazis party was Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei[ (National Socialist German Workers’ Party). The “socialist” appears right there in the name of the party, so of course they were socialists.

Well, no. It isn’t quite that simple.

The first indication is that once the Nazis acquired power, they immediately started suppressing socialists of all varieties – the first imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp were Hitler’s political opponents. Including members of the SDP and KDP (see the list of those killed by the Nazis although not all of those killed were socialists).

There are those who will argue that socialists turn on each other. Certainly the authoritarian ones do have that tendency but not to the extreme that Nazis did. For example, members of the German SPD for forced to join the communist party in East Germany. Even Lenin’s Russia didn’t immediately suppress non-Bolsheviks (Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionary Party); they were finally suppressed after each was involved in separate uprisings.

The next indicator are economic policies. This is slightly harder to justify because some of the Nazi government spending during The Depression looks a bit like Keynesian but most of the government spending was very often aligned with Nazi military ambitions. Plus they were always very friendly with corporations and had abolished trade unions.

Finally, the Nazis were originally called Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (German Workers’ Party). After Hitler took over the party, it was renamed to Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei in a deliberate attempt to deceive working class voters. Hitler was initially opposed to the name, but he was persuaded to accept it

No serious historian is going to call the Nazis socialists and people who do usually turn out to be far-right idiots trying to demonise the left with quite possibly the silliest argument ever invented.

Peering At Each Other
Jun 022022

Captain Swing was a character that appeared in threatening letters during the Swing Riots. A series of riots across southern England numbering nearly 1,500 in number which in the end resulted in 19 executions (although nearly 250 had been sentenced to death). More people than were killed at the far more famous Peterloo Massacre, and who hasn’t heard of the infamous Luddites? Which went on longer and was perhaps more disruptive but less directly threatening to the land-owning ruling classes.

With the curious exception of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, a casual student of history could be forgiven for thinking that the South of England didn’t suffer any labour unrest or discontent during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Yet the ancestors of those Tolpuddle Martyrs had been effectively tenant farmers who had been reduced to day labourers within two short generations. To compare the English enclosures with the Scottish Highland clearances is ridiculous, but there is one common thing behind them – greed. And there is one common result – suffering.

“The law locks up the man or woman

Who steals the goose from off the common,

But lets the greater felon loose

Who steals the common from the goose.”

(Part of 18th century poem by Anon.)

Sometimes those on the left are accused of the “politics of envy” … perhaps. But it seems to me that historically it is often the rich who are guilty of the politics of envy – envious of what the poor have because they think they can make “better” use of it (in other words make more money).

Lighting The Sea
Feb 232022

The date of 1066 is often presented to us as the end of Anglo-Saxon rule and the start of (Anglo-)Norman rule. Well that’s not wrong as such, but there is another way of looking at it. If you look at the kings both before and after The Conquest, there were more similarities than you would expect.

Harold Godwinson (the last crowned Anglo-Saxon king of England) was the son of Godwin who had been made the Earl of Wessex by Cnut the Great (a Dane) and Gytha Thorkelsdóttir a Danish noblewoman related by marriage to Cnut the Great. So he was more than a little Danish.

And if you look at his predecessor – Edward the Confessor, he himself was the daughter of Emma of Normandy who herself was descended from Danes with a French accent (i.e. the Normans). And Emma was a relative of the conqueror William.

So whilst it is quite right that 1066 was regarded as a significant date for the country with some very significant changes to law and language, in terms of the monarchs it wasn’t much of a change at all – they were pretty much all related to each other.

King Alfred Looking Down At The Runners
Dec 182021

A while back something popped up on my Facebook stream claiming that Pushkin (Alexander Pushkin – the Russian poet) was black as a way of saying “look at all these incredible things blacks have done”. I don’t have a problem with that. I might just question the logic of classifying Pushkin as black.

Of course I also question the use of the colour of the dead stuff that keeps the squishy bits on the inside, to divide people into arbitrary categories. But we’ll gloss over that for now.

Pushkin was at least partially black because his great-grandfather (Abram Petrovich Gannibal) was black; that’s one sixteenth. So he was also 15/16ths white. Can someone be both black and white (presumably without stripes)? Of course the racists amongst us were the ones who set the standard for excluding people from the privilege of calling themselves “white”. And just to irritated the bigots, it pleases me to declare that Pushkin was white; and to avoid making those who look to trumpet the accomplishments of black people foolish., it also pleases me to declare that Pushkin was black.

Which is ridiculous of course, but that’s kind of what I feel about the whole obsession with skin colour anyway.

And finally, take a look at Abram’s bio – he’s probably more accomplished than his descendant Puskin.

King Alfred Looking Down At The Runners
Aug 142021

Today if you are a Linux user and fire up a terminal window to “do something” at the command-line, you are using a gooey program to emulate an old terminal which was separate to the computer.

Today you are almost always using a keyboard and screen connected directly to the computer you are using and the gooey program you fire up as a terminal is in fact originally called a terminal emulator. That is, it pretends to be a real terminal.

So what were these real terminals?

The earliest “terminals” were actually teletypes for communicating text messages over long distances (over wires!). Not only was there no digital computer involved, but they predate computers by quite a way – the earliest ones were used in the late 19th century. And of course printed the text onto paper directly. The earliest digital computers used these teletypes as input and output devices, so you could type in commands and see the result immediately (or as quickly as the result could be produced). These early days still leave some traces today :-

✓ mike@Lime» tty

The “tty” command commemorates those old printing terminals – the “tt” in “tty” is short for “teletype”.

The speed and wasted paper of those printing terminals was a bit tedious, so the 1970s saw them gradually replaced with glass teletypes – which were basically keyboards and CRT screens built into an enclosure that would attach to a central computer over a serial line.

binary comment

These terminals (and showing an ADM 3A here is a little unfair as it wasn’t quite this simple) were really simple – they had exactly the same capabilities as the printing terminals. No cursor control (meaning no full screen editing), plain text, no italics or bold, etc.

Over time, more and more features were added to the terminal allowing more usable software (in particular the learning curve was not quite as steep). These features grew to accommodate colour, graphics, the ability to load and save data locally, and even the ability to function as a microcomputer (the HP pictured below could run CP/M in certain configurations).

But where did they go?

The heyday of the terminal was in the 1980s when many office-based companies were busy trying to put something like a computer on every desk, and a terminal connected to a central computer was one way of doing that. But they compared rather poorly with microcomputers – typically very slow in comparison, less likely to offer any kind of graphics (graphics was an option but typically cost as much as a microcomputer), and just wasn’t very “cool”.

Despite several attempts at resurrecting them (they were popular amongst those who had to centrally support them), they never really returned.

But they do survive inside modern operating systems in terms of a terminal emulator (as mentioned previously) to access the operating system command line – all three main operating systems (Windows, macOS, and Linux) have a terminal emulator of sorts. And Microsoft is actually investing in re-engineering their terminal emulator.