Love, Janessa (BBC World Service) | BBC Sounds

 Love, Janessa is a BBC World Service and the CBC seven-part podcast investigating probably the biggest romance scam ever. At its height, over 100,000 people were being scammed out of millions of Pounds.

Journalist Hannah Ajala hosts the podcast. The podcast tells the story of a porn star, Janessa Brazil, whose photos have repeatedly been used to scam people. Ajala talks to numerous victims who have been conned out of hundreds of thousands of pounds/dollars. Many of these victims maintain they spoke to the real porn star

As the program states, there was not just a handful of scammers using Janessa’s picture but hundreds. Janessa’s images were readily available on the internet and on her private porn site. At no time did the people scammed out of large amounts of money do an image search that would have immediately told them they were being taken for a ride.

During the podcast, it becomes apparent that this is not a very sophisticated scam. There’s a bit of sweet talk, everyday flirtation followed by demands for money, mainly car repairs, to mend a broken phone or hospital costs. As the con develops, the amount of money demanded grows larger. To be fooled by this deception, you must be either stupid, gullible, or both. Unfortunately, thousands of men have been fooled by this low-brow scam.

Apart from the real Janessa, (see left) the show’s star is Roberto, an eco-entrepreneur from Sardinia who reportedly handed over $250,000 to various scammers in Ghana. He is treated with utmost sympathy by the show’s host. Not once was his staggering level of stupidity challenged. Not content with handing over large amounts of money to scammers, he traveled the world waiting at airports hoping to meet the real Janessa, who would never turn up. Again at no point was this high-level delusion challenged, let alone condemned. Roberto was not the only person scammed to hop on a plane to look for the love of his life. A Nova Scotian divorcee got on a plane to Ghana to meet the  man of her dreams,

Most scams connected to the porn star Janessa were based in either Nigeria or Ghana. The British journalist Hannah Ajala, currently based in Ghana, met and interviewed one of the many romance scammers, known locally as “Sakawa boys”.These scammers are professional criminals and are a major part of a billion-dollar industry. These Sakawa boys have multiple scams on the go at once, and they keep a spreadsheet to keep track of the lies he tells their victims. His wife and children know nothing of his work. Ajala treats these criminals with a courtesy they don’t deserve as if they were some kind of celebrity. The podcast’s conclusion is a bit of anti-climax as everybody lives happily ever after.  

Sweetheart Scams: Online Dating’s Billion-Dollar Swindle- by Clarence Jones Paperback – Oct. 15 2020

This is useful if a limited, guide to the massive growth of “romance scams”. They say love is blind, and scammers are cashing in on people’s stupidity and gullibility. According to data published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2016, scammers stole more than a billion dollars in the United States alone, which is a conservative estimate.

Clarence Jones’s book is a step-by-step guide on how scammers work and how to avoid getting caught. Jones is an investigative reporter and seems to be a one-man publishing industry. Jones spent years investigating online dating services. Much of what Jones found is not new. Online dating websites, since their inception, have been a haven for scammers and a clever way for escorts or prostitutes to ply their trade without prosecution. Specialized websites are helping husbands and wives cheat on their spouses. These websites are an online version of a pimp who manages escorts and prostitutes.

Most hookup sites are nothing more than a license to print money, and most sites are interactive pornography. Most, if not all, profiles are fake, and in reality, you are probably talking to another computer in the form of  “bots”, which generates massive profits for its owners.

In 2020 I wrote a series of articles on one aspect of this nasty scam which has conned many people out of millions. After two years of research, certain things can be said to warn others. The first job of a scammer who proliferates the various online dating sites is to get their prey off the original dating website and onto sites such as Gmail and WhatsApp. Gmail is a favorite hunting ground for your African scammers, and it is a simple scam.

They send you a picture of a gorgeous voluptuous woman, usually lifted from a porn site. Most men think, yum, I am in here. They don’t ask why this beautiful 25-year-old woman would have anything to do with a balding middle-aged man. Unperturbed most men would want to see this hot girl on video chat. This is the first part of the scam. To see this beautiful woman, you need to purchase an Amazon card or other such items for them to get an internet connection for the video call.

When they finally agree to your demand to see them in the flesh, you do not see the beautiful young thing in the flesh, but a rather clumsy video these amateurs have somehow managed to upload onto Gmail. On one occasion, I could see the real person behind the scam as his hand slipped, revealing his real identity, and he was not a gorgeous blonde woman.

Jones looks into Facebook’s role in allowing scammers to operate with impunity. Facebook launched their dating app in 2019. This free dating app was a means by which Facebook sought to promote the launch of its digital currency Meta. Facebook is riddled with fake profiles. In the first quarter of 2022, Facebook removed 1.6 billion fake accounts, down from 1.7 billion in the previous quarter. In 2019, 2.2 billion counterfeit accounts were removed in one quarter alone.

These gorgeous-looking Asian women were not interested in dating. They used Facebook to lure punters into a Cryptocurrency scam. They would take your money, saying they will invest it in Cryptocurrency. The reality is that they take the money and run along with their uncles. It was amazing that all these girls had fantastic relatives willing to help others get rich. When yours truly threatened to report these scammers, he received some very nasty death threats and one ugly video threatening DECAPITATION. Facebook turned a blind eye to the whole scam. After all, many of these Asian scammers were promoting Facebook’s digital currency, Meta.

The levels of criminality surrounding dating websites, an industry worth billions of dollars, are not separate from the criminality of the capitalist system itself. Scammers are not just a collection of random criminals; as Jones points out, they are well-organized and systematic, and it is big business.

Insolent proceedings-Rethinking public politics in the English Revolution-Editors: Peter Lake and Jason Peacey-Manchester University Press-2022

“The third part of Gangræna. Or, A new and higher discovery of the errors, heresies, blasphemies, and insolent proceedings of the sectaries of these times; with some animadversions by way of confutation upon many of the errors and heresies named. … Briefe animadversions on many of the sectaries late pamphlets, as Lilburnes and Overtons books against the House of Peeres”.

“Study the historian before you begin to study the facts”.

E H Carr

“Cromwell built not merely an army but also a party — his army was to some extent an armed party and herein precisely lay its strength. In 1644 Cromwell’s “holy” squadrons won a brilliant victory over the King’s horsemen and won the nickname of “Ironsides.” It is always useful for a revolution to have iron sides. On this score, British workers can learn much from Cromwell.” 

Leon Trotsky

“I do not care so much what I am to others as I care what I am to myself.”

Michel de Montaigne

Insolent proceedings is a collection of interdisciplinary essays by scholars examining the last fifty years of the historiography of the English revolution. The essays honour the work of Ann Hughes, who is, in the opinion of the editors of this book, a post-revisionist historian. The main bulk of the essays deals with revisionist and post-revisionist scholarship. It remains to be seen if the claims made by the scholars to be developing a new historiography away from the revisionist and post-revisionist historiography can be substantiated.

The opening chapter offers a substantial overview of the previous historiography of the English revolution. Although it reflects on the debates of the last fifty years, it steers clear of an evaluation of both Whig and Marxist historiography.

The great historian Edward Hallett Carr was fond of saying, “Study the historian before you begin to study the facts.”[1] In this case, it is important to understand the politics of the historian whose honour these essays are written.

It was recently announced that Hughes would be a Labour Party candidate in the next election. The Uk Labour Party’s latest purge has almost cleared out any nominally left-wing members and is now an openly right-wing bourgeois party. Hughes feels at home with this party. It is a complex process, the relationship between politics and history, and it is dialectical. While Hughes’s politics may have to a certain extent, coloured her historical writing, she is nonetheless a serious historian, and serious historians play an objectively significant role in social life as the embodiment of historical memory.

While it is not in the realm of possibility to examine every chapter in this book, some chapters are more important than others. Anatomy of the General Rising-Militancy and mobilisation in London, 1643 discusses the significant move to the left in both the New Model Army and the general London population to deal with the King once and for all and defeat the Presbyterians in Parliament, who were seeking to bring back the King to power and destroy the Independents. David Como examines the ‘General Rising’ using unknown manuscript accounts. His article examines what happened along with the class nature of the participants.

David Lowenstein’s chapter William Walwyn’s Montaigne and the struggle for toleration in the English Revolution is intriguing detective work. It examines why Montaigne, the great French Catholic writer and sceptic, appealed to the radical writer and Leveller leader William Walwyn.

As Lowenstein shows, Montaigne was an attractive figure for Walwyn, one of the left-wing leaders of the English bourgeois revolution. Montaigne writes, “I propose a life ordinary and without lustre: ’tis all one; all moral philosophy may as well be applied to a common and private life, as to one of richer composition: every man carries the entire form of the human condition. Authors communicate themselves to the people by some especial and extrinsic mark; I, the first of any, by my universal being, as Michel de Montaigne, not as a grammarian, a poet, or a lawyer. If the world find fault that I speak too much of myself, I find fault that they do not so much as think of themselves.”[2]

Walwyn wanted to assimilate all that was good about Michel de Montaigne. Many of the revolution’s ideologists, such as Walwyn, used the bible and read other writers, such as Michel de Montaigne, to half understand the historical precedent and for some theories to explain what they were doing.

Sean Kelsey’s essay Indemnity, sovereignty and justice in the army debates of 1647 is disappointing. Given the extraordinary amount of new material uncovered about the huge radicalisation of the New Model Army, it would appear that the revisionist and post-revisionist downplaying of the radical nature of the New Model Army has raised its ugly head. The important work by John Rees on the radicalisation of the New Model Army is ignored completely. The NMA was not just an army but was a political party in all but name as the Marxist writer Leon Trotsky once wrote, “In this way, Cromwell built not merely an army but also a party — his army was to some extent an armed party and herein precisely lay its strength. In 1644 Cromwell’s “holy” squadrons won a brilliant victory over the King’s horsemen and won the nickname of “Ironsides.” It is always useful for a revolution to have iron sides. On this score, British workers can learn much from Cromwell.” [3]

Thomas N Corns groundbreaking essay Milton and Winstanley A conversation reviews the possible but unproven interconnections between the giants of 17th-century literature and politics Milton and Winstanley.

‘Threshing among the people Ranters, Quakers and the revolutionary public sphere re-examines relations between Quakers and Ranters in the 1650s. J. C. Davis’ right-wing attack on the Ranters in the 1990s was largely discredited by the work of Christopher Hill and A L Morton, whose work is largely ignored in this book.

J  C Davis’s book Fear, Myth and History: The Ranters and the Historians was the right-wing Kenneth Baker (education secretary under Margaret Thatcher’s government) favourite book. According to Davis, the Ranters were impossible to define. What they believed in, he writes, “There was no recognised leader or theoretician and little, if any, organisation. The views of the principal figures were inconsistent with each other”.

Ann Hughes’s work has been important in re-establishing the importance of a systematic study of radical groups. But perhaps more importantly, she has fought to highlight the role of women in the English revolution, which has been largely ignored by most of her male counterparts.

After all, the world was turned upside down for women as much as men. As Alison Jones points out, “The Civil War of 1642-1646 and its aftermath constituted a time of great turmoil, turning people’s everyday lives upside down. It not only affected the men in the armies, but it also touched the lives of countless ordinary individuals. It is well known that women played a significant role in the Civil War, for example, defending their communities from attack and nursing wounded soldiers. What is often forgotten, however, is that some women took advantage of the havoc wrought by the conflict to dissent from conventional positions in society. The slightest deviation by women from their traditional roles as wives and mothers was condemned by this patriarchal society. Therefore dissent could take many forms that today do not appear particularly extreme – for example, choosing to participate in emerging radical religious sects, having greater sexual freedom, fighting as soldiers and practising witchcraft”.[4]

[1] What Is History.

[2] Michel de Montaigne, Selected Essays, ed. W. C. Hazlitt (New York: Dover, 2011), 172.

[3] Two traditions: the seventeenth-century revolution and Chartism-

[4] Dissent and Debauchery: Women and the English Civil War- Alison Jones

Terminal Boredom: Stories, Izumi Suzuki, Polly Barton (trans), Sam Bett (trans), David Boyd (trans), Daniel Joseph (trans) (Verso, April 2021)

” Men loom large in many of Suzuki’s stories as a potential threat. “Women and Women” is the most extreme example. Men once ruled society “through violence and cunning” but are now relegated to an exclusion zone where their only purpose is to help women conceive.

‘There is something wrong with our present society, and I can’t stand SF written by people who don’t understand that,’

Izumi Suzuki

“In every society the degree of female emancipation (freedom) is the natural measure of emancipation in general.”

Charles Fourier

“The followers of historical materialism reject the existence of a special woman question separate from the general social question of our day. Specific economic factors were behind the subordination of women; natural qualities have been a secondary factor in this process. Only the complete disappearance of these factors, only the evolution of those forces which at some point in the past gave rise to the subjection of women, is able in a fundamental way to influence and change their social position. In other words, women can become truly free and equal only in a world organised along new social and productive lines.”

Alexandra Kollontai

The stories collected in Terminal Boredom address many issues currently in vogue. Suzuki’s use of classifications, such as gender and identity politics rather than class, is music to the ears of the new #MeToo movement. This petty-bourgeois layer will no doubt receive her book with open arms. The movement must be running out of steam if it decides to resurrect an author who died more than three decades ago.

Rather than being translated by one person, her stories are done by six, Daniel Joseph, David Boyd, Sam Bett, Helen O’Horan, Aiko Masubuchi, and Polly Barton. It is above my pay grade to say whether this works, which seems fine.

Suzuki was active as a writer in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Although not a writer of the  “Lost Decade”,[1] Suzuki’s writing was deeply influenced by the Japan that emerged after the Second World War. As Peter Symonds writes, “The restabilisation of Japanese capitalism after World War II under the US occupation depended on the crushing of the resurgent working class, above all through the betrayals of the Japanese Communist Party (JCP). The post-war constitution drawn up by the American occupiers was designed to appease widespread public hostility to the wartime militarist regime and ensure Japan would not return to war against the US. But the LDP, which ruled Japan almost continuously from 1955 to 2009, never broke from the militarist past and has long harboured ambitions to restore wartime “traditions”.[2]

The suppression of the Japanese working class harmed Suzuki’s worldview. Rejecting the working class as an agent of revolutionary change, Suziki sought out middle-class forces to bring about change in Japanese society, saying, ‘There is something wrong with our present society, and I can’t stand SF written by people who don’t understand that”.

As Ian MacAllen writes, “Science fiction dystopias are often deployed as a means of examining politics, ideology, or technology, but for Izumi Suzuki, the medium serves as an intimate exploration of anxiety, pain, and sadness. The translated stories collected in Terminal Boredom depend on science fiction dystopias but focus on characters who are broken and seeking their own personal redemption rather than the expected grand narratives about society as a whole. Even though sometimes they are “out of this world” aliens or living in reimagined societies of the future, these are people struggling in the same ways we struggle today.”[3]

There is nothing progressive about her worldview. Her short story “Women and Women ” is about men confined to a concentration camp and used only for procreation and women’s satisfaction. Suzuki has been compared to writers like Phillip K Dick, who, according to James Brookfield, “was a prolific writer who completed 44 novels and roughly 121 short stories before his untimely death from a stroke in 1982 at age 53—was imaginatively gifted in posing large questions. What would people do if the fascists had prevailed? How would society be altered by the eventual development of robots sufficiently advanced to pass as humans? (The latter being the premise of his 1968 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which served as the basis for the 1982 Ridley Scott film Bladerunner). Other stories by Dick were adapted for the films Minority Report (2002) and The Adjustment Bureau (2011).[4] This comparison is a disservice to Dick, who compared Suzuki was a far more intelligent and progressive writer.

While all great writers draw upon personal experiences, Suzuki’s work is filled with deep melancholy and sadness, which is hardly surprising given her upbringing. Born in 1949, she took her own life at just thirty-six. She found fame as a model and actress before becoming a writer. she worked with the controversial photographer Nobuyoshi Araki and directors Shūji Terayama and Kōji Wakamatsu. In 1973 she married the jazz saxophonist Kaoru Abe, with whom she had a daughter. Ending in divorce in 1977. Her ex-husband died from an accidental overdose of Bromisoval in 1978. The relationship was stormy, and she cut off one of her toes in front of her husband.

While the Metoo movement has hailed her as one of her own, Suzuki was not completely defined by her sex. Her feminism was a complex phenomenon. As Daniel Joseph writes, “Suzuki’s relationship to gender and feminism is complex and nuanced, requiring the twenty-first-century reader to step outside of hard-line contemporary rhetoric. But while a contemporary mode of feminism may not be overtly apparent in her work, Suzuki often spoke out against the unrealistic feminine ideals imposed upon women by male SF authors in the form of beautiful, cookie-cutter female characters. She also dismissed essentialist stereotypes like ‘women’s intuition’ and demanded the right to be a real, flawed human being. Kotani again: ‘Suzuki’s texts defamiliarise the real world to demolish and reconstruct the “femininity” bound hand and foot by real-world power structures. Her works dismantle the power structures whereby women are marginalised through phrases like “only a woman would…” or “because she is a woman.” It is only through this process that one can begin to think about what constitutes “femininity.”‘ But even at her most political, Suzuki is never polemical. She approaches such questions obliquely, attacking imperialism (‘Forgotten’) and casually dismissing gender as a social construct (‘Night Picnic’, 1981) while depicting troubled romance and the absurdities of family life. Meaning flows through her stories like music, and despite the obvious complexities of her work, Suzuki described her writing in simple terms: ‘I turn my dreams into stories’.”[5]

I cannot bring myself to recommend this book. All one can hope for is that the next book of Suzuki’s work to be published by Verso will be a little better.


[2] The revival of Japanese


[4] If Nazism had prevailed: The Amazon series The Man in the High Castle-

[5] How Izumi Suzuki Broke Science Fiction’s Boys’ Club-

A Useful History of Britain-The Politics of Getting Things Done-Michael Braddick Oxford: University Press, 2021Hardback, 254 pp. ISBN 978-0198848301. £20

“But history is neither watchmaking nor cabinet construction. It is an endeavour toward better understanding.”

― Marc Bloch

Marx “Men make their history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.

Karl Marx

“There is an ancient, evolutionary-liberal epigram: Every people gets the government it deserves. History, however, shows that one and the same people may, in the course of a comparatively brief epoch, get very different governments. The secret is this, a people is comprised of hostile classes, and the classes themselves are comprised of different and, in part, antagonistic layers which fall under different leadership; furthermore, every people falls under the influence of other peoples who are likewise comprised of classes. Governments do not express the systematically growing “maturity” of a “people” but are the product of the struggle between different classes and the different layers within one and the same class, and, finally, the action of external forces – alliances, conflicts, wars and so on.”

Leon Trotsky

It is not an understatement to say that Mike Braddick’s latest book is not an easy read or, for that matter, easy to review. Written for an academic rather than general audience, Braddick appears to go out of his way to make his History of Britain difficult to read. The book is not set chronologically but jumps all over the place.  

As Simon Jenkins writes, “Braddick’s abandonment of chronological narrative and his academic abstractions can be hard to follow. He races back and forth from the Ice Age to gross domestic product and from the Vikings to Covid-19. We return to Stonehenge three times and the Roman empire at least four. Chapter headings such as “Organisational Capacity and the Changing Limits of the Possible” can make it hard to know quite where it is that we have dipped our toes. I like such sweeping generalisations that econometrics is “the new Christianity”, though I am not sure where it gets us.”

Braddick is a gifted historian, and his work is usually well worth reading, but this book is really hard work. From the first page, it is hard to gauge Braddick’s historiography, and the book’s title does not help. It appears far too much a concession to an empirical way of thinking and a philosophical outlook uniquely British. I doubt any European historian, male or female, would be caught dead with such a title to their books.

A major disappointment is Braddicks tackling of revolutions. Both bourgeois and proletarian hardly get a mention. The bourgeois revolution of the 17th century, Braddicks speciality, hardly warrants a mention.

Braddick appears to be heavily influenced by the French historian Fernand Braudel[1] who championed the idea of the longue durée. As “Simon Jenkins writes “, Michael Braddick is a true Braudelian. He is a historian not of who, what and when but of how and why. From Stonehenge to Brexit and Danegeld to coronavirus, his concern is for the setting of history, its intellectual and physical environment, and “the capacity of British people to use political power to get things done”.[2]

I am sure that Braddick would acknowledge that Braudel had strengths and very deep-seated weaknesses. As the Marxist writer Ann Talbot writes, “If Braudel’s approach to history has its strengths, it also has disadvantages. These relate to two areas-historical change and socio-political history. Braudel was a conservative historian who, although living in a country whose name was synonymous with revolution, was averse to change, particularly sudden changes of a revolutionary character. He attempted to develop a form of socio-economic history that did not rely on Marxist concepts and stressed continuity rather than change.”[3]

While raising his cap to certain Marxist concepts, Braddick is not Marxist. On page 10, he uses the following quote from Karl Marx “Men make their history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living. And just when they seem engaged in revolutionising themselves and things, in creating something that has never yet existed, precisely in such periods of revolutionary crisis, they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service and borrow from them names, battle cries and costumes to present the new scene of world history in this time-honoured disguise and this borrowed language. Thus Luther donned the mask of the Apostle Paul, the Revolution of 1789 to 1814 draped itself alternately as the Roman republic and the Roman empire, and the Revolution of 1848 knew nothing better to do than to parody, now 1789, now the revolutionary tradition of 1793 to 1795. In like manner, a beginner who has learnt a new language always translates it back into his mother tongue, but he has assimilated the spirit of the new language. He can freely express himself in it only when he finds his way in it without recalling the old and forgets his native tongue in using the new.”[4]

One would like to say that Braddick’s use of Marx guides the whole book, but that would be a lie. It is hard to understand why he used the quote in the first place because the historiography of this book is a million miles away from Marxism. While many reviewers have said that Braddick’s book opposes previous nationalist readings of British history, it appears to be a “deconstruction”, not just of British history but also of the discipline of history itself, as he seems to dispense with many historical concepts that historians have developed in the last three centuries.


[2] Ideas made us: The resilience, so far, of our political institutions. Aug. 20, 2021

TLS. Times Literary Supplement(Issue 6177-

[3] Europe Between the Oceans by Barry Cunliffe-

[4] The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte(Braddick uses only part of the quote I reprint it in full)

Some Thoughts on the Christopher Hill and the English Revolution: 50 years after TWTUD Conference

To what extent you could describe the conference as a success is hard to say. What is undoubtedly true is that it was a significant historical event drawing many historians of the Early Modern period and general members of the public. The conference was a counterblast at all the revisionist historians who not only attack Hill but believe his writings have no bearing on today’s historiography.

It is a regret that more young people did not turn up because Hill certainly had something to say to this generation. His insight into deep insight historical questions would help them navigate some very choppy seas.

It is not within the realm of this short article to review the contents of the conference. While I understand organising it was a logistical nightmare, perhaps given the importance of the subject, it should have been spread over two days. You would not have the embarrassing spectacle of the main speaker being told to cut it short because the hall was only booked till 5 pm. I am sure that the papers presented will end up in a book.

If Penguin, who have the rights to the book TWTUD had any sense, they would re-issue it with a new updated forward. Mike Braddick would be a good choice for an introduction. Braddick, as was mentioned in the meeting, is working on a biography of Christopher Hill. It is quite staggering that this will be the first biography of this great historian.

A personal highlight was finally meeting the superb historian Rachel Hammersley. It is the first time I have been able to offer my condolences over the loss of her husband, the equally magnificent historian John Gurney. As she mentioned to me, John would have been in his element. Before he passed on, John published a fantastic paper on Gerrard Winstanley. A nice touch would have been for Rachel to read and present the paper at the conference.[1]His death robbed the world of a very good historian who, in my mind, would have gone on to even great things.

It would have been interesting to know John’s thoughts on Michael Braddick’s assertion that Hill was a dialectical materialist. Perhaps a more pertinent question is the one posed by Ann Talbot her obituary of Christopher Hill[2] Talbot who asks, “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”. It is a deep regret that the subject was not mentioned at a conference of this importance. This is hardly surprising given that no orthodox Marxist historian or politician was invited to the conference, let alone asked to give a paper. A Marxist historian may be requested when the sixtieth anniversary of the TWTUD Conference is organised.

[1] Gerrard Winstanley and the Left -John Gurney-Past & Present, Volume 235, Issue 1, May 2017, Pages 179–206,

[2]“These the times … this the man”: an appraisal of historian Christopher Hill-

David de Jong, Nazi Billionaires: The Dark History of Germany’s Wealthiest Dynasties, Boston: Mariner Books, 2022, 400 pages.

“They ravage, they seize by false pretences, and all of this they hail as the construction of empire. And when in their wake nothing remains but a desert, they call that peace.” 

Tacitus’ Agricola

“We must first gain complete power if we want to crush the other side completely,”

Adolf Hitler

“When I recognised the Jew as the leader of the Social Democracy, the scales dropped from my eyes. A long soul struggle had reached its conclusion.”

(Mein Kampf).

“Fascism has opened up the depths of society for politics. Today, not only in peasant homes but also in city skyscrapers, there lives alongside of the twentieth century the tenth or the thirteenth. A hundred million people use electricity and still believe in the magic power of signs and exorcisms. The Pope of Rome broadcasts over the radio about the miraculous transformation of water into wine. Movie stars go to mediums. Aviators who pilot miraculous mechanisms created by man’s genius wear amulets on their sweaters. What inexhaustible reserves they possess of darkness, ignorance, and savagery! Despair has raised them to their feet; Fascism has given them a banner. Everything that should have been eliminated from the national organism in the form of cultural excrement in the course of the normal development of society has now come gushing out from the throat; capitalist society is puking up the undigested barbarism. Such is the physiology of National Socialism.”

From What Is National Socialism? by Leon Trotsky.

The publication of this book could not be more prescient as the possibility that once more German tanks could roll into Russian soil for a second time. A book that examines the bankrolling of the first fascist onslaught against the former Soviet Union, is very timely.

In Nazi Billionaires: The Dark History of Germany’s Wealthiest Dynasties, published in late May of this year by Dutch financial journalist David de Jong shows that the current German ruling class owes its power and wealth to the Fascists and their billionaire supporters during the rise of the Nazi era.

Adolf Hitler at a reception of the laureates of the national awards for science and art in 1938 Germany. To his left stands Ferdinand Porsche, one of the co-founders of the Porsche sports car company. (Ullstein Bild / Getty Images)

De Jong’s book differs from previous books on Nazi billionaires in that it examines five oligarch families unfamiliar to the general reader. Also, given that the book’s author is still relatively young, he may be forgiven for targeting his book at today’s generation who do not know about these Nazi billionaires. Many of whose Nazi past has only recently become public.

The book is a forensic study, densely researched, it took De Jong took four years to research. He carried out archival research throughout Germany, the EU, and the US using various primary sources – diaries, memories, newspapers – and academic studies on the families. The result is a  fast-paced and extremely readable book. De Jong’s book stands on the shoulders of other works such as the 1985 work, German Big Business and the Rise of Hitler, by professor Henry Ashby Turner Jr., whose book has been the standard text on Hitler’s early relationships with the German bourgeoisie.

De Jong is no Marxist, but it is hard not to draw the main thrust of his book that these  Nazi Billionaires financed Hitler’s dictatorship to prevent a revolutionary uprising of workers in Germany. These billionaires are as much responsible for the mass destruction and mass murder as the Nazi dictatorship. As Ela Maartens and Verena Nees point out, “Most survived the denazification process unscathed—or, as Ferdinand Porsche wrote to a friend, “I was entbräunt [denazified] free of charge.” Only a few, like Krupp and Flick, were convicted, albeit released a short time later. Friedrich Flick was convicted at Nuremberg of using forced and slave labour, bankrolling the SS and looting a steel factory. But he was released in 1960 and eventually became the controlling shareholder of Daimler-Benz, then Germany’s biggest car manufacturer. Deutsche Bank bought the Flick conglomerate in 1985, turning his descendants into billionaires. Even the old leadership personnel were reinstated despite their Nazi past. The Quandts family also survived denazification unscathed. Günther Quandt was classified as a “Mitläufer” (a passive follower) after one and a half years of captivity in American camps. Like the other Nazi-era corporate patriarchs listed by de Jong, except for Friedrich Flick, he was never brought to trial.”[1]

De Jong shows that even before the Nazis came to power, they cultivated a very intimate relationship with the growing number of billionaires who saw the Fascists as a bulwark against the revolutionary movement of the German working class. As early as 1931, they met with Nazi leaders at the Kaiserhof Hotel in Berlin. August von Finck, son of Wilhelm von Finck, a Bavarian banker, promised over five million Reichsmarks to arm the SA “as a stay against a putsch, which might devolve into civil war.”

While many thoughts go through the readers’ minds reading this book, one overriding thought is how the hell Germany’s richest business dynasties, which made fortunes by supporting Adolf Hitler’s Nazi dictatorship eight decades later, are still not being held accountable, let alone punished. German companies, such as  BMW and Porsche, and others that own US brands, such as Krispy Kreme and Pret A-Manger, have blood on their hands.

De Jong states, “What struck me was this is a country that’s so cognisant of its history in many ways, but seemingly the most economically powerful actors do not engage with that. That was why I wrote the book, and it’s an argument in favour of historical transparency. You have BMW and Porsche, particularly the families that control them, conduct this whitewashing or leaving out of history where they celebrate the business successes of their founders or saviours but leave out the fact that these men committed war crimes.”I never got an answer whether it’s because they are afraid it would hurt the bottom line or share prices of the companies to be fully transparent about the history or whether it’s just because they derive their entire identity from the successes that their fathers and grandfathers had and, by being transparent about them, it’s kind of disavowing their own identity. It’s probably a combination of both.”

From the standpoint of historiography, De jong’s book is a rebuff to the current wave of historical revisionism that has taken a very malignant form. Led by the right-wing political commentator and convicted criminal  Dinesh D’Souza, who stupidly wrote that Nazis were called  “National Socialists,” that the fascist movement was a left-wing movement and that Adolf Hitler was a product of “statism” gone wrong. Not only does De Jong’s book counteract this infantile historiography, his book, while not downplaying politics and ideology, concentrates on the importance of economics in the rise of German Fascism. For a long time, most historiography on the rise of German Fascism has focused on politics and ideology to the detriment of research into the significance of economic issues in the rise to political prominence and power on the part of the National Socialists.

Asa Adam Tooze writes, “The originality of National Socialism was that rather than meekly accepting a place for Germany within a global economic order dominated by the affluent English-speaking countries, Hitler sought to mobilise the pent-up frustrations of his population to mount an epic challenge to this order. Repeating what Europeans had done across the globe over the previous three centuries, Germany would carve out its imperial hinterland; by one last great land grab in the East, it would create the self-sufficient basis both for domestic affluence and the platform necessary to prevail in the coming superpower competition with the United States… The aggression of Hitler’s regime can thus be rationalised as an intelligible response to the tensions stirred up by the uneven development of global capitalism. These tensions are, of course, still with us today.”[2]

To Conclude De Jong has performed a vital public service with this book. He states “I think people should be more aware of these histories and history in general, particularly when it comes to consumption and the continuing whitewashing of history by these consumer brands and families that control them.”. I heartily recommend this book, and it continues to get a wide readership.

Further reading

1.    Why Are They Back? Historical Falsification, Political Conspiracy, and the Return of Fascism in Germany Paperback – March 31, 2019, by Christoph Vandreier

2.    The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany-Leon Trotsky  1st edition-3.    Paperback (December 31 1971)

[1] Nazi Billionaires by David de Jong: How Hitler’s financiers are still in business-

[2] Adam Tooze, The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy, Allen Lane: 2006, 832 pages, now available in German translation

Vasily Grossman: The People Immortal, translated by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler, New York Review Books Classics, 2022, 352 pages.

 “He had achieved nothing. He would leave behind him no books, no paintings, no discoveries. He had created no school of thought, political party, or disciples. Why had life been so hard? He had not preached, he had not taught; he had remained what he had been since birth – a human being.”

“let’s put God—and all these grand progressive ideas—to one side. Let’s begin with man; let’s be kind and attentive to the individual man—whether he’s a bishop, a peasant, an industrial magnate, a convict in the Sakhalin Islands or a waiter in a restaurant. Let’s begin with respect, compassion and love for the individual—or we’ll never get anywhere.

Anton Chekhov

“In those difficult days, people wanted only the truth, however difficult and cheerless it might be. And Bogariov told them this truth.” 

Vasily Grossman

A work not only of considerable literary significance but also an important historical document. As a new world war is brewing in Ukraine, and the vilest nationalism, xenophobia and historical lies are being promoted by the ruling classes everywhere, works like this will help reconnect the generations that have to wage the revolutionary battles of today with the socialist traditions of 1917.

—Clara Weiss, World Socialist Website

“There are also other aspects of Grossman’s work that are becoming important today. During the last 20 years, the Anglophone world has gradually recognised that the second world war was fought between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany and that the Western allies played a secondary role in it. There are many, many reasons why Grossman seems more relevant today than when I was first translating him over 40 years ago.”

Robert Chandler

In September 2022, The Immortal People, the Soviet author Vasily Grossman’s first of three superb novels chronicling the Second World War, was published with a new English translation by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler. The recent re-publication of the Soviet writer Vasily Grossman’s book reflects a renewed surge of interest in his books. Grossman has a journalist’s eye for detail coupled with a novelist’s empathy. His work has been compared to that of Erich Remarque and Stephen Crane.

Perhaps the most significant thing about this extraordinary new translation by Robert Chandler, who called Grossman’s political stance “revolutionary romanticism”, is that it contains never before-published passages from Grossman’s original manuscript. It, therefore, represents the complete edition of this work published so far in any language, including Grossman’s native Russian. As Claire Weiss correctly states, “The result is a work of considerable literary significance and an important historical document.” Weiss’s interview with Robert Chandler can be seen on the[1]

Grossman’s novel opens with the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. The fact that the Nazis could overrun large swathes of the Soviet Union was down to the fact that The Red Army and Soviet people had been left completely unprepared for the Nazi invasion. According to Weiss, Stalin had not only rejected dozens of warnings of the impending attack but had also murdered the leadership of the Red Army and large portions of its ranks in the Great Terror of 1936-1938.

Weiss states in her book review, “As a result, the Red Army of 1941 was poorly led militarily and politically, and vastly under-equipped to confront the highly sophisticated weaponry and mass assault of German imperialism. In the first months of the war, millions of Red Army soldiers were captured—about two million of them would be starved to death by spring 1942—and many more were killed and wounded on the battlefield”. [2]

The book is a fascinating look at the brutal nature of the Nazi invasion and the extraordinary sacrifice of The Red Army and the Russian Working Class. Grossman includes many important and politically fascinating characters. Such as the political commissar, Bogariov; the commander Babadjanian; and the soldier Ignatiev.

Bogariov doesn’t appear to be modelled on any particular individual but is probably an amalgam of many people met by Grossman. The Marx-Engels Institute mentioned in the book was a refuge for many oppositionists to the |Stalin regime. Mikhail Liftshitz and the Hungarian philosopher and literary critic György Lukács carried out work there. While Lukacs and Lifshitz managed to survive, many leading Bolsheviks, such as Isaak Rubin, were shot in 1937, and the leader of the Institute, Ryazanov, suffered the same fate. Grossman was aware of what was happening and added characters such as Bogariov, who opposed the Stalin regime.

As Clara Weiss writes, “Bogariov is a former employee of the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow, devoted to the legacy of Lenin and the early Russian socialists, who now take to the art of war as much as he did to the writings of Marx and Engels. Bogariov becomes the embodiment of what good political leadership means for Grossman. In what can only be read as a blatant rebuke of the Stalinist effort to dull the population and the soldiers into unconsciousness in the face of the immense dangers they were facing and of the bureaucracy’s constant lies during the war, Grossman writes, “In those difficult days, people wanted only the truth, however difficult and cheerless it might be. And Bogariov told them this truth.”  [3]

One might add that Grossman told the truth, and his novels, including Stalingrad and Life and Fate, were in opposition to the Stalinist falsifications of this history. As Weiss points out, the material also provides a sense of how the soviet bureaucracy’s constant political and historical lies impacted the cultural and socio-political climate at the time. To fully appreciate the book, the reader will need to familiarise themselves with what Weiss says was the “political and ideological crackdown by the Stalinist bureaucracy of the 1930s. “[4]

To conclude, Grossman’s books should be a must for every worker and young person and should be on every university reading list. Grossman, although long overdue, is correctly seen as one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century. His best works are regarded as masterpieces. Grossman states, “I wrote the book out of love and pity for ordinary people, and I still believe in them.” Despite living through what the poet Osip Mandelstam called the “wolfhound century”, Grossman retained this sentiment to his dying day.


[2]The People Immortal: Soviet writer Vasily Grossman’s first novel about World War

[3] The People Immortal: Soviet writer Vasily Grossman’s first novel about World War

[4] The People Immortal: Soviet writer Vasily Grossman’s first novel about World War

Diary Of A Nobody

The next article after this diary will bring up 400 articles on this website. I started this website in 2008 to post some of my essays from my degree at Birkbeck university. Still not sure how to celebrate. Either get drunk or write an article.

The Christopher Hill Conference is only a week away. One of many talking points will be Michael Sturza’s new book, The London Revolution 1640-1643: Class Struggles in 17th Century England[1]. Recently Sturza took to the pages of Academia.EU to attack, albeit mildly, my review of his book and to launch a far more nasty attack on Chris Thompson[2]. I will write a longer reply to Sturza in due course. I do not know Sturza personally, so he was within his right to attack my review in the public domain. Knowing what was “misleading” about the review would be nice. Most important is Sturza’s incapacity to understand why Hill could not tackle and oppose the onslaught of the Revisionists on anything that smacked Marxism.

The answer is to be found, not as Sturza suggests, because Hill “was unable to effectively defend the Marxist viewpoint due to the flaw in his analysis”. This is just not accurate. Firstly to tackle the Revisionists, you would have to expose their political outlook, something Hill could or would not do.

According to Norah Carlin, Hill and Manning must take some blame for the rise of revisionism. On the surface, it would seem that Carlin had a contradictory attitude towards Hill and Manning, which is not the case. Carlin praises Hill and Manning for their work on the English bourgeois revolution and says that any new historiography should incorporate much of their best writings.

However, their contribution does leave much to be desired when taking on the revisionists’ attack on Marxist historiography.  The SWP saw these two as bulwarks against the revisionist onslaught. At best, this was a lousy piece of judgement. At worse, they sacrificed a struggle against revisionism over a closer relationship with these two historians who were in one way or another closely tied to the apron strings of the Communist Party.

If you examine Hill’s role, to his credit, he did, albeit to a lesser extent, play a role in the “storm over the Gentry” debate. His defence of Tawney is still worth reading today. In many senses, this was a missed opportunity to do some severe damage to the anti-Marxists. The fact that Roper could walk away from this debate mostly unscathed merely emboldened further hostile attacks on Marxist historiography.

Gifted as a historian as Hill was, he did not understand the need for a consistent struggle against revisionism. This stems not from his understanding of history but his complete lack of Marxist political consciousness. When the SWP did try to prompt Hill into a more active role in the struggle, the results were not good. In an interview with John Rees and Lee Humber, this question was asked, How do you see the development of the debate around the English Revolution over recent years? Would you agree that the revisionists have taken some ground?

Hill’s answer was, “they have made a lot of useful points, but the younger generation of historians is now attacking their more extreme views. Although the revisionists had all sorts of useful ideas, they had a narrow political approach in that they tried to find the causes of the English Revolution solely in the years 1639–41. This assumes what you are setting out to prove. If you look just at those years, it’s a matter of political intrigue, not long-term causes. I think people are reacting against that now. The better of the revisionists are themselves switching around a bit. John Morrill, for instance, who thought everything depended on the county community and localism, is now taking a much broader point of view. And Conrad Russell has become aware that long-term factors must be considered – he doesn’t like it. Still, he recognises that religion has some long-term effects on what happened in 1640, a rather elementary point, but he left religion out altogether in the early days. Now he’s bought it in. He still leaves out the cultural breakdown in the society of that period, but he is moving a bit. I think a consensus will arise, and there will be another explosion in 20 years. These debates occur regularly –since 1640, people have been arguing about what it was all about”.

Some interesting new releases caught my eye this week.

Jonathan Healey’s new book The Blazing World has just been released and has received extensive reviews in the bourgeois media.

Lucy Hutchinson and the English Revolution was published in 2022. Having just been able to borrow a copy from the London Library, I will look to review it later.

I am currently working on a review of the excellent book by Vasily Grossman, The Immortal people.

Penguin’s republication of Eric Williams’s 1944 book Capitalism and Slavery is welcome. Another possible review in 2023.

[1] See my review-

[2] See last two articles on this website.

C Thompson’s Reply to Michael Sturza

First of all, let me make it clear that I am not now and never have been a “revisionist”. I am actually a critic of the work of Conrad Russell, work which I believe to be fundamentally wrong although not for the reasons Mr Sturza holds. Secondly, he will find in Valerie Pearl’s 1961 book on the City of London from 1625 to 1643 careful research that shows that the violence in the streets of London reported in Royalist news books was more carefully controlled and organised than figures like Brian Manning or Christopher Hill believed.

(The fall of the Bastille in Paris is irrelevant in this context.) I have indeed read Mr Sturza’s book which offers a commentary based on secondary works rather than original research into the sources for the early-1640s.   The protagonists on both sides in the events of the 1640s were drawn from all sections of English (and Welsh) society but this was not a “class-based” society in the Marxist sense at all. 

The English Civil Wars were ‘un grand soulevement’ – ‘a great uprising’ in English – more analogous to the revolt of the Low Countries post-1566/7, to the French Wars of Religion from 1562 to 1598 and the Frondes of 1648-1653 and the Revolt of the Catalans in 1640 rather than to any Marxist paradigm based on the Russian Revolution of 1917. Mr Sturza is perfectly entitled to elaborate his hypothesis but it has almost no credibility amongst contemporary academic historians. He may be surprised too to learn that I am not a reactionary in any sense.