1. The Sins of the Father…

My article from last week made it to India, where both the names of Cornwallis and Dalhousie rang with revulsion for the readers.

Charles Cornwallis, nephew of Edward Cornwallis, is perhaps best known in North America for surrendering Yorktown, ending (losing) the American War of Independence.

In India, however, he is best known as Governor-General of India (1786-93), the first under the new India Act of 1784, which separated ruling India from the trade of the East India Company. Cornwallis’ role in India marked the beginning of what is called the “Second British Empire,” the consolidation and expansion of the colonies in the East.

YouTube video

Cornwallis is credited with reducing the corruption of the mercenary reign of the East India Company, who had established a monopoly in India. He introduced “reforms,” including the creation of a salaried civil service, regulating land ownership, and introducing British elements to the legal system. These reforms in the legal system were known as the “Cornwallis Code.”

The Code, introduced in 1793, “instituted a type of racism, placing the British as an elite class on top of the complex hierarchy of caste and religion that existed in India at the time” (Will Slayter.) Slayter notes that Cornwallis’ racism also included a “paternalistic” benevolence towards the poor that led him to pass some policies to “improve their condition.”

Cornwallis, in a manner not uncommon at the time, believed that well-bred gentlemen of European extraction were superior to others, including those that were the product of mixed relationships in India. Of the latter, he wrote “as on account of their colour & extraction they are considered in this country as inferior to Europeans, I am of opinion that those of them who possess the best abilities could not command that authority and respect which is necessary in the due discharge of the duty of an officer.” In 1791 he issued an order that “No person, the son of a Native Indian, shall henceforward be appointed by this Court to Employment in the Civil, Military, or Marine Service of the Company.”

Under this code, the civil service was closed to non-whites except at the lowest levels. While the army was increasingly made up of Indians, it was officered by whites. Communal land use was discouraged in favour of private property, which would have devastating consequences in famines, cultural disruption, and poverty. Military garrisons and police forces were increased to repress the population and “enforce obedience,” as the local population curiously resisted all this British benevolence.

Andrew J. O’Shaughnessy notes that while white settler colonies like Canada (as in the Constitutional Act of 1791,) were extended elective legislatives, non-white colonies were denied the same autonomy and suffered “direct rule.” Shaughnessy disputes the myth that British rule was benevolent and enlightened, but rather “authoritarian, exploitive, and racist in nature.”

So basically, ugh, Cornwallises are the worst.

Aw, look how much the Indians love Cornwallis!

The Indian contempt for Cornwallis can be seen today at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Bombay. The museum was established in the 1960s, when colonial era statues were removed from public places and installed in the “junkyard of the raj.”

The article “Revenge of the Native” by Himanshu Bhagat tells us of the fate of the Indian Cornwallis statue:

“The damages perpetrated speak messages in themselves. Cornwallis lost his head while Dr Thomas Blaney kept his.” Blaney worked in the city for more than 50 years taking care of public health.

Queen Victoria sits, regally, next to the headed statue of Edwin Samuel Montague, once secretary of state for India, and two statues away from the headless Lord Wellesley, the sixth governor-general of India. Victoria’s head is intact—but has a thin line of cement at the throat where it was probably re-capitated by conservators.

Next to Wellesley is the headless statue of Lord Cornwallis. Severely damaged, Cornwallis also has to suffer the ignominy of a 4-inch long line in faint green permanent ink right across his crotch.

Shine on, Indian Cornwallis statue decapitators and crotch defacers!

(Note: India has already set a precedent for what a museum for removed statues of racists might look like. I’m just saying, Halifax.)

Meanwhile, the name of Dalhousie resonates in India because of a son of the founder of Dalhousie University, James Broun-Ramsay. This Lord Dalhousie, as another Governor-General of India, introduced the “Doctrine of Lapse,” a land annexation policy that decreed that any princely state or territory would be annexed if the ruler was deemed incompetent by the British or if he died without a male heir.

The Indians, obviously, viewed this land stealing grab as illegitimate, and widespread discontent over the policy was one of the “notorious causes” of the so-called “Indian Mutiny” (rebellion) of 1857.

In 1856, the British viceroy, Lord Dalhousie, deposed the allegedly corrupt ruler of Oudh (in north-central India), and annexed his kingdom even though he had legitimate heirs. That shift in British policy made every native Indian state vulnerable to annexation. The trends of cultural and territorial imperialism combined with other factors to produce a very tense situation by 1857.

The trigger for the rebellion was the rumor that a new type of paper cartridge was greased with animal fat, which was religiously offensive to Indian soldiers in the British armed forces. The cartridges had to be bitten before use, so grease from cattle would violate religious restrictions of the Hindus, and grease from swine, that of the Muslims.

The phrase “Black hole of Calcutta” comes from the rebellion (or First Indian War of Independence), for a prison where British officials were held, most of whom suffocated.

While colonial apologists have credited this Lord Dalhousie with “reform and improvements,” he motive behind Dalhousie’s land annexation was money. As Patrick McGinn points out, Dalhousie did “much to make India safe for British capital.”

Beginning with Punjab in 1849 and finally Awadh in 1856, Dalhousie’s administration witnessed one of the largest and most determined periods of territorial annexation since the early decades of British expansion. With these various territorial acquisitions Dalhousie calculated he had added roughly £4m to the revenue of India (Government of India, 1856, p. 7-9). Behind Dalhousie’s rhetoric of reform and modernisation lay the determined drive for revenue and markets for British capital. As he expanded the revenue base of the Raj with territorial acquisitions, Dalhousie began the task of financial and administrative reform designed to make India fit for capital. Dalhousie’s aim was to attract capital from the City of London by giving it the security it demanded.

McGinn argues that the financing of public works, championed in Dalhousie’s policies, “functioned almost exclusively to generate markets for British capital and deliver the necessary security for these investments.” In particular, canals were built under the guise of “preventing famine.” McGinn notes:

If there is any doubt about why canal irrigation was pursued in India we only have to look at how they worked in terms of famine prevention in practice. Over the decades in which canal construction was carried out, India was ravaged by several severe famines. Some of the worst ones were as follows. In 1860-61 famine mainly in UP, Punjab and Rajasthan, left 2 million dead. In the 1866-67 famine in Orissa, Bihar and South India about 1 million were killed. Between 1876 and 1878 five and a half million died in famines affecting UP, south and western India. In 1896-97 over 5 million died in famines affecting the UP, Delhi, Bengal and central India (Visaria and Visaria, 1983, p. 529). By the government’s own figures between 1860 and 1900 roughly 20 million Indians died from famine.

The government claimed that canals would help un-irrigated areas by increasing the yield of food crops and therefore prevent scarcity. But even areas directly irrigated by canal waters were not immune from famine. Baird Smith’s Report on the Famine of 1860-61 in UP showed that the Ganges canal failed to prevent famine. Canals depended on a steady water supply and successive seasons of drought led to the near exhaustion of the river on which the canal depended (Government of India, 1862, p.87-88). The Ganges Canal did not bring immunity from famine in UP as the famines in the Doab in 1860 and 1869 testified (Dacosta, 1877, p. 21). In Orissa in 1866-67 canal irrigation could not prevent famine (Visaria and Visaria, 1983, p. 528-31). A combination of famine and disease meant that India’s population growth rate slowed considerably in the decades in which the British were engaged in India’s ‘improvement’. At its worst point between 1911 and 1921 the total population of India rose only by one million from 298 to 299 million. 

Awesome. So, stole a bunch of land, caused a brutal uprising and subsequent crackdown leading to even more entrenched racism, and colluded to build useless canals to get money for rich people back in England, creating policies that would lead to millions of Indians dying.

No wonder these names resonate in India with disgust and horror.

I suppose you could say we continue to honour the descendants of Cornwallis and Dalhousie in our racist civil service and our greedy development policies that prioritize investors and capital over quality of life.

I’m so glad we have the mistakes of the past to guide us in these more enlightened times.

2. One Hundred Jobs

This week, Lunenburg rallied for businessman Farley Blackman, who threatened to pull his investments from the town due to the “toxic and obstructive” environment at City Hall.

Blackman claims that the “planned combination brewery, distillery, cidery and chocolate shop (…) would have brought 100 jobs to Lunenburg.”

Image from lighthouse now.ca

The thread on Facebook announcing the end of his investment in the town is overwhelmingly filled with indignant citizens denouncing the mayor and council and expressing disgust at the red tape that is slowing development and chasing away businesses.

One lone skeptic on the thread questions how a brewery could generate 100 jobs:

I’d love to know where the 100 jobs would come from.

A 100-person brewery and cidery (and chocolaterie) operation would involve 20,000 – 40,000 square feet of (factory) production space. If this would be proposed to be installed in historic Lunenburg then I can see why the town would balk.

Also, that many employees would make the operation bigger than Propeller, Garrison, Nine Locks and Boxing Rock combined. Can you sense the skepticism on the business plan here?

Let’s get the real facts before we go any further.

But there was little uptake of that line of inquiry.

Pardon me if years of experience on the internet have made me suspicious of internet flounces, but it seems unsurprising to me that after announcing he was over Lunenburg, now he might stay after all.

Here is a re-enactment via my experience of Grade 8 friendships:

FB: If you guys don’t stop being so mean to me I’m quitting the dance committee and I’m taking my decorations and going home. 

Grade 8 friends: Omg, Farley, don’t leave! You’re totally the prettiest girl in Grade 8 and those other mean girls are just super jealous of you!

FB: Ok, I’ll still plan the dance, but tell Rachel she’s totally being such a bitch. Everyone post on my social media and tell me how amazing I am and what a loser Rachel is, ok?

Grade 8 friends: This is going to be the BEST DANCE EVER. The whole class is going to come and we’ll raise SO MUCH MONEY for spirit day!

Dance happens and everyone stands in the corner staring awkwardly at each other just like the Grade 7 dance.

People in Lunenburg assure me that there are serious issues with City Hall and that the rally was less about Blackman himself and more about this frustration with bureaucracy and stagnation bubbling up. Blackman, they tell me, provided an outlet for those concerns to be voiced.

I defer to the expertise of those in the town, and I’m sympathetic to the difficulties small towns face in trying to boost their economies and preserve themselves, but pardon my skepticism that art galleries, breweries, and the like are going to be super profitable can’t-miss businesses. And, again, pardon this cynicism, but perhaps were these businesses projected to be as profitable to the investor and as wealth-generating for the town as suggested, Blackman would perhaps not be so eager to cease investment? I only raise those thoughts.

Returning to the issue of the promised jobs, Blackman’s resume offers some interesting food for thought.

Blackman’s area of expertise is “global sourcing.” As described on his resume, this means, for example:

Working with business leaders in India, Mexico and the Philippines to create what has become the standard Low Cost Country Sourcing model. Based in India, grew GE’s offshore software and engineering operations to a staff of more than 3,500 the largest of its kind at the time. The operation yielded 6 Sigma quality and ongoing annual savings in excess of $125 million.

In other words, slashing jobs in America and hiring lower paid workers in developing countries to save the corporation money.

GE CEO Jack Welch is often lauded as one of the greatest executives of the past 50 years for the “results” he achieved. However, those profits came at a severe cost to workers: 

While the auto industry experience dramatically documented the neo-liberal corporate assault on the organized working class, it’s very likely GE CEO Jack Welch made the most provocative and imperial expression of global restructuring. “Ideally,” he pronounced without a hint of uncertainty, “you would have every plant you own on a barge.” Welch did almost as much, shifting thousands of US jobs and billions of investment dollars out of the country. Under Welch’s direction capital and employment mobility was accelerated; the US exported skilled, high-wage union jobs to low-wage non-union periphery countries around the world. In 2001, the ratio of domestic GE employees to non-US workers had fallen to approximately 1.25:1 from more than 4:1 a mere decade earlier. Evading US union labour was an investment in profit taking. GE’s net profits by the start of the new century had climbed north of $11bn and over 40 percent of the company’s sales occurred outside the US. But if mobile workforces generated extreme wealth for investors and owners it was responsible for astonishing levels of exploitation. Meyer…points out that “each GE worker around the globe generates more in net profits per hour worked than the company pays, on average, in hourly wages and benefits — a rate of labour exploitation of more than 100 per cent.

During this time period, Blackman was in executive roles at GE in IT and Sourcing (1994-1999) and then ran his own company, StrategIM until 2001, a “respected boutique consultancy focused on global outsourcing. Served both Fortune 100 and smaller technology dependent organizations; StrategIM’s client list included AIG, Johnson & Johnson, GE and Burton Snowboards.”

In this 2000 interview about StrategIM, Blackman extols the superior qualifications of Indian IT professionals, the same workers who are being exploited and underpaid compared to the workers in the US:

For comparison purposes, the US has about 30,000 graduates a year in IT. India has about 160,000. It’s a tremendous number of people. The education system is fantastic. We find that our programmers in India, quite often, will have multiple undergrad degrees, multiple master’s degrees, and some even have degrees from the London School of Economics. These are well-spoken, well-educated individuals with a lot of energy and a lot of talent. It’s a numbers game.

It could be noted here that one of the factors attributed to the rise of Trump is this neoliberal approach to employment, as Americans who see their jobs disappearing fell for Trump’s promises to fight globalization and to restore jobs.

I might suggest that perhaps if you are responsible for slashing vast numbers of jobs and exploiting vast numbers of workers, that then accusing town officials of “bullying” for their practices might be interpreted as a case of the mote of dust in another’s eye, etc.

Blackman went on to similar roles at BP. Among the accomplishments listed on his resume are: “Created global sourcing model within BP for IT development and support, enabling access to hard-to-find resources at an annual average savings of 50%.” As Senior Vice President of Procurement and 6 Sigma, he lists among his highlights, “Created the world’s first Procurement BPO in India, reducing costs by 40% while raising productivity and improving access to skilled talent.”

Six Sigma is a “set of techniques and tools for process improvement.” It “seeks to improve the quality of the output of a process by identifying and removing the causes of defects and minimizing variability in manufacturing and business processes. It uses a set of quality management methods, mainly empirical, statistical methods, and creates a special infrastructure of people within the organization who are experts in these methods.”

“Controversies” surrounding Six Sigma include “employee dissatisfaction” as workers fear they will lose their jobs. It was parodied on 30 Rock: “The pillars of the Six Sigma business philosophy — teamwork, insight, brutality, male enhancement, hand shakefulness, and play hard.” (Tim wrote about Six Sigma coming to Halifax City Hall, here.)

Blackman was a senior Vice President at BP during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, considered the largest marine oil spill, that killed 11 people and discharged 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Image from The Guardian.

Toxic, indeed.

BP was criticized in the aftermath of the oil spill for exploiting prison workers in the clean up.

Remember how compassionate BP seemed when, in the first few days of the Gulf oil spill, they offered clean-up jobs to out of work fisherman and other locals affected by the crisis?

Slowly but surely, those residents in crisis have been edged out for cheaper labor options that are far less likely to ask questions and blow the whistle on dangerous clean-up practices.

As the video below describes, it has been discovered that BP is reaping thousands of dollars in tax credits by using mostly African-America prison laborers to pick up and dispose of oil deposits that have made it to shore.

These workers are forced to work 12 hours a day in dangerous conditions, and can lose “earned good time” if they refuse to accept BP’s offer for “employment.”

Blackman’s resume does not specify if any of the $1.5bn in profits he generated at this time resulted from the thousands of dollars in tax credits saved by the company for using Black prison labour.

In response to criticism about “modern day slavery” in the oil business, BP is compelled to release a yearly report addressing what they are doing to address “slavery and human trafficking.” I would suggest that things are quite extreme when a corporation is having to publicly acknowledge practices of slavery with the best spin possible.

In their paper, “The BP Gulf Oil Spill: Public and Corporate Governance Failures,” authors Carolyn Windsor and Patty McNicholas argue that:

…a major reason for BP’s vulnerability to major oil spills and accidents is linked to management’s chase for super growth and profits, boosted by severe cost cutting of maintenance and safety, initiated by the ambitious and ruthless Lord Browne, the then CEO (1998–2007). Accounting and BP’s accountants are also implicated as accounting numbers serve to justify decisions to pay excessive executive compensation, at the same time as firing thousands of workers, to achieve financial targets required by the Board and ultimately BP shareholders.

The authors also note BP’s greenwashing of its environmental practices during this time period:

Greenpeace recognized BP’s attempt to greenwash its brand by awarding the company the first annual Greenpeace ‘Emerald Paintbrush’ award in 2008. Greenpeace highlighted that under Tony Hayward GCE, BP had spent millions of dollars on an advertising campaign announcing its commitment to alternative energy sources, using slogans such as “from the earth to the sun, and everything in between” and “the best way out of the energy fix is an energy mix”. In reality however, the company had allocated 93 per cent, or $20 billion of its total investment fund for the development and extraction of oil, gas and other fossil fuels, while committing a mere 2.79 per cent to wind and 1.39 per cent to solar power. Greenpeace also argued that in reality BP is one of the world’s largest corporate emitters, with the company in 2007 releasing over 63 million tonnes of CO2 into the earth’s atmosphere, roughly the equivalent of Portugal (Greenpeace, 2008).

The website for FARBLACK lists under “philosophy” that “the world will be better, more fun and ultimately sustainable when…the Natural World is protected…”

As a side note, Blackman was reportedly fined for illegal dredging resulting in damage to a seagrass beds in Florida.

Farley Blackman has been given a great deal of sympathy and favourable coverage because of his promise to bring jobs to Nova Scotia. As a result of this vision, it is suggested that it is reasonable to cater to him, to relax policy and procedure, and to publicly and enthusiastically praise and rally for him to ensure he stays in the province. The mayor was compelled to publicly appear at the rally and apologize to him.

One might, reviewing his resume, wonder about how much faith we should put in him to sustain jobs and to prioritize people or his relationship with the local community over profits. He may well be a fine person and a lovely neighbour, but at the very least, it’s worth thinking about where the money for these investments came from, and whether his record as an executive perhaps suggest some moderation of adulation is in order. And that criticism of City Hall can also be met with equal critique of the promises of the rich.

Besides that, one might also suggest that his complaints about the injustice he is facing and taking to social media to garner sympathy about delays in getting electricity, etc. might perhaps pale beside the injustices faced by exploited Indian workers, by decimated unions, by prison labourers, by the environment itself.

Image from EcoWatch.

What do I know, though. I’m just some crackpot.

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A smiling young Black woman with long wavy hair

El Jones

El Jones is a poet, journalist, professor, community advocate, and activist. Her work focuses on social justice issues such as feminism, prison abolition, anti-racism, and decolonization.

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  1. Perhaps it is time to rename the Stanley Cup. The father of Lord Stanley was quite slow in supporting policies to combat slavery.
    Linking Mr Blackman to the oil spill is a classic example of a smear job, fact free and lazy.

    1. There is a justification to unperson just about every historical figure (white or not) for one violation of contemporary bourgeois cultural norms or another. Including many progressive heroes.

      1. Nick, not sure if this is in support of the expansion of understanding about historical figures, or not. But if by “contemporary bourgeois cultural norms” you mean a respect for equality, or an expanded understanding of history more broadly informed by different voices and experiences, sign me up!

    2. Well, maybe they SHOULD rename the Stanley Cup. I’m as big a hockey fan as anyone on this site and if they called it “The Supreme Silver Cereal Bowl, brought to you by John’s Fish and Chips,” I’ll still watch – and enjoy – the sport and ignore the branding.

      Frig, if the NHLs’ willing to give up on the Adams, Patrick, Norris and Smythe families to cater to an American audience, why should I give a rat’s ass about some 19th-century lord who donated a trophy?

      My Eurocentric upbringing created “histories” as close to mythology as it they are to truth. It’s long overdue for folks who’ve been venerated for centuries get the piss taken out of them. They’re dead. They truly don’t mind. There are living people affected by the ongoing “west is best” mindset embraced by the Proud Boys et al. We either address it or we keep on keepin’ on.

      1. Excellently put, Tim. We rename shit ALL the time (The Ivany Campus? Gimme a break). We tear stuff down ALLthe time, When the economics of it appeal to the folks with the purse strings, it just happens magically. When the ethics of it are at stake, the handwringing begins.

  2. Thank you El Jones for doing what every reporter working on the Blackman story should have done. And you have done it very well. When someone claims to invest millions, one should follow the money to find out where the millions came from.

    1. Where did the ‘millions’ come from ?
      Did Mr Blackman ever claim to be investing millions ?
      If Mr Blackman was a person of colour would El Jones write such a diatribe or would she fill space claiming the obstacles he has faced were examples of racism ?