Archive for May, 2017

“The period of 1940 to 1946 witnessed unprecedented solidarity between Arab and Jewish workers, not only among the railwaymen but in many other mixed enterprises as well. This may seem ironic in retrospect, since by the end of 1947 Palestine was engulfed in a full-scale civil war. But during the Second World War and immediately after it, a short-lived conjuncture created new possibilities for militant joint action, though they were eventually eclipsed by escalating political tensions.

The Palestinian working class, Arab and Jewish, expanded very dramatically during the war. Disruption of the usual sources of supply stimulated development of the country’s industrial base, as did the demand created by the enormously swollen British and Allied military presence. Military bases and related service enterprises proliferated, drawing tens of thousands of Arab peasants and townspeople into wage labor at work sites which also employed Jews.


Labor shortages in many sectors strengthened the workers’ bargaining position, while high inflation pushes them toward action. […] In these circumstances there ensued an unprecedented wave of unionization and militancy which affected Arab workers most dramatically because they had hitherto been less active and less organized. [redmensch: This is mostly because the Jews had been strongly influenced by working-class politics in the European diaspora already.] […] This upsurge was encouraged by, and in turn benefited, newly reinvigorated left-wing forces in both the Arab community and the Yishuv which implicitly challenged nationalist leaderships on both sides by advocating class solidarity and political compromise between Arabs and Jews.

During the war a new Arab left emerged in Palestine, organized in the communist-led National Liberation League (’Usbat al-Taharrur al-Watani’, NLL). […] In the Yishuv, the initially kibbutz-based socialist-Zionist Hashomer Hatza’ir (Young Guard) movement, which advocated a bi-national Palestine and Arab-Jewish class solidarity and was trying to extend its influence among Jewish urban workers … and it won significant support among militant Jewish workers, including railway workers in what had become known as Red Haifa. The Jewish communist movement also resurfaced during and after the war. […] It now sought to gain legitimacy and support from the wartime popularity of the Soviet Union, whose Red Army the Yishuv hailed as the main force fighting the Nazis, and by trying to ride of the wave of worker activism.


A series of job actions and short strikes culminated … in a three-day occupation of the Haifa workshops in February 1944. Unrest continued after the end of the war in Europe, manifested during 1945 in a number of brief wildcat strikes by railway and postal workers, now among the most militant and experienced (and of course most integrated) segments of the Palestinian working class. The NLL’s newspaper, al-Ittihad, hailed these incidents as “clear proof of the possibility of joint action in every workplace,” provided that the workers steered clear of interference by both Zionism and “Arab reaction.”

The Arab communists’ prescription seemed to find confirmation in April 1946 when a planned strike by Jewish and Arab postal workers in Tel Aviv spontaneously expanded to encompass some 13,000 Arab and Jewish postal, telegraph, railway, port and public workers department workers, along with 10,000 lower- and middle-level white-collar government employees. This general strike paralyzed the British colonial administration and won the support of much of Jewish and Arab public opinion. The Arab and Jewish communists naturally saw in it a wonderful manifestation of class solidarity, “a blow against the ‘divide and rule’ policy of imperialism, a slap in the face of those who chauvinist ideologies and propagate national division,” but warned the strikes against “defeatist and reactionary elements, Arab and Jewish.”


The strikers ultimately won many of their demands, and … the following year witnessed the rapid growth of unions and the spread of worker activism, especially in the army camps and at the oil refinery and the Iraq Petroleum Company’s pipeline terminal in Haifa. In these workplaces Arab and Jewish workers often cooperated in pursuit of higher wages and better conditions.”

– Zachary Lockman, “Railway workers and relational history: Arabs and Jews in British-ruled Palestine.” Comparative Studies in Society and History, Volume 35, Issue 3, July 1993. pp. 601-627

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Let us begin though by sketching very broadly the received wisdom and the
current state of the historiography on the Mughals. It is often stated that
modem studies of the Mughals are dominated by the ’Aligarh school’, a
statement that might itself be open to controversy. Is there an ’Aligarh
school’ in medieval Indian history? If so, what are the main propositions it
has put forward? A consideration of Medieval India-A Miscellany, an
occasional publication from the Centre for Advanced Study, Department
of History, Aligarh Muslim University, may leave the reader in doubt.’’ The Miscellany is precisely that, an eclectic collection of points of view; if

one thing dominates these essays, it is a basic reliance on Persian source
material, although even here there are some exceptions. And reliance on
sources in a particular language is scarcely enough to define a ’school’.

The ’Aligarh school’ may then partially be a misnomer (just like other
similar labels, such as the so-called ’Cambridge school’ of Indian history).
But what is normally meant when the term is used is something quite
precise, denoting an adherence to a particular set of propositions in relation
to the Mughal state and its interaction with the society of the time.
These propositions cannot be associated with all those who have contributed
to the Miscellany or who have been associated with Aligarh;
rather, the key writings are those of Irfan Habib, Athar Ali, Noman
Ahmad Siddiqi, Iqtidar Alam Khan, Shireen Moosvi, and–despite his
lack of formal attachment to Aligarh-Tapan Raychaudhuri. The writings
of K.A. Nizami or S.A.A. Rizvi cannot be seen as belonging to the same
approach as the above writers, nor can those of S. Nurul Hasan. In the
case of Satish Chandra, we must distinguish between his earlier writings
(which are of a piece with the views of Habib, Athar Ali et al.), and more
recent musings by him on the eighteenth century.

Having made this clear, let us examine the core propositions of the so-called
‘Aligarh school’. They, in my understanding, are as follows. 

1) On chronology: The main focus is on the period from Akbar to
Aurangzeb, which is to say 1556 to 1707. This is the period dealt with
for example in the major text produced by the ’school’; Irfan Habib’s
The Agrarian System of Mughal India [1556-1707} (Bombay, 1963). . Even within this period, the main focus is on the reigns of Akbar and
Aurangzeb themselves. This also means giving overwhelming importance to certain texts, of which the ’most favoured status’ is extended to the
A’in-i Akbari, of Abu’l Fazl, produced in the reign of Akbar. It is
argued moreover that the key Mughal institutions were put in place by
Akbar, and remained there under Jahangir and Shahjahan, only to
come under challenge during the reign of Aurangzeb. We note that

both the early period of Mughal rule (including both Babur’s and
Humayun’s reigns), and the post-Aurangzeb era, are given short shrift.’

2) The nature of power: The empire in the years under examination is
portrayed as a highly centralised and bureaucratised ’absolutism’. Such
however was apparently not the case under Babur and Humayun, nor
under Aurangzeb’s successors. Manifestations of this precocious
centralisation are in the Mughal revenue-system, mansabdari, the
coinage system, and the high degree of control exercised over society in
general, on which more below. 

3) Extractive character: The Mughal state is thought to have had a massive
impact on producers, extracting their surplus almost wholly. In
Raychaudhuri’s portrayal in The Cambridge Economic History of India,
the Mughal state was ’an insatiable Leviathan (with) … unlimited
appetite for resources’, which had the peasantry ’reduced to bare subsistence’.

4) Spendthrift elite: This extractive character implied in turn massive
concentration of resources in the hands of the elite. However, the
surplus extracted, it is argued, was used unproductively for conspicuous
consumption, including of imports. One of the reasons why technology
remained static was this elite attitude, which was lacking in scientific
curiosity and technological application.’ 

5) Irrelevance of ideology: ’Ideology’, usually read as ’religion’, may be
seen as largely irrelevant for purposes of historical analysis. The main
contradictions and tensions are to be viewed as structural, and flow
from the clash of interests rather than ideological perspectives. Even the
reasons for the curious elite ideology mentioned above (proposition 4) are not investigated, but treated as given. Part of the reason for this
appears to be the need to use certain selected texts quite literally, rather
than consider the possibility that they might be ideologically motivated.
The notion of the ’normative’ text thus does not feature in these
writings for the most part. 

6) Sterility of trade: This proposition appears to flow largely from (4).
Imports are seen as largely required to service elite consumption. Since
this position bears a close resemblance to the one espoused by eighteenthcentury
physiocratic literature, it is natural that the ’Aligarh school’
opposes its writings to those of ’bullionist’ historians, who it portrays as
praising trade because it brought precious metals into the economy. However, even for the ’Aligarh school’ trade may not be wholly irrelevant
in one specific sense. This is in terms of the potentially destabilising
effects of the bullion inflow through inflation in the seventeenth century,
the so-called ’Price Revolution’. 

7) Eighteenth-century decline: This proposition has, more than any other,
attracted attention, although not even all of the ’Aligarh school’ (as we
have defined it) have the same opinion on the question. Tapan Raychaudhuri,
for example, apparently does not subscribe to the view of
a decline in the economy in the eighteenth century, in his contributions
to the two volumes of the Cambridge Economic History of
.  Most fervently attached to the proposition are Athar Ali and
Irfan Habib, with the latter having first articulated his position in the
closing chapter of his Agrarian System. He argued there that the
system, whose very nature promoted short-term exploitation
of the peasantry, combined with other factors such as inflation to
provoke a ’crisis’, manifested in widespread peasant rebellions against
the Mughal state. This crisis came to a head already in the last years of
Aurangzeb’s reign, and continued through much of the eighteenth
century, leading to the generalised ’subversion of peasant agriculture’.
The eighteenth century was in his view a period when ’the gates were
opened to reckless rapine, anarchy and foreign conquest’.


Sanjay Subrahmanyam, “The Mughal state−−Structure or process? Reflections on recent western historiography.” Indian Economic Social History Review 29(3), 1992. pp. 293-296

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“Boys Break Away from Elgin Jail; Make Dash for Liberty When Taken Out To Work; Hide In Woods,” Toronto Globe. May 30, 1919. Page 03.

“St. Thomas, May 29. – A daring escape from the Elgin County jail was effected this evening by Harry Froome and John Munshone, two youthful prisoners.  the boys took French leave of Turnkey Mills as he was taking them out to work on the Court House lawn.  Turnkey Mills turned to bring out a third prisoner and as he did so Froome and Munshone bolted down the road and over into the Mill Creek ravine that adjoins the county buildings.  A sarching [sic.] party was immediately instituted, but up until a late hour this evening the boys had not been apprehended.  It is believed that they are hidung in the woods in the ravine.

Froome is a local youth who was convicted Wednesday of burglarizing a cigar store, and sentenced to two years in the Reformatory.  Munshone comes from Harrisburg, Pa., and was serving a month’s sentence on conviction of gaining entry into a bonded railway car.  He was the youth who fell asleep in the sugar car on the Pere Marquette Railway in Buffalo and was locked in by the unsuspecting car checker.  He spent two and one-half days in the car before he reached this city and was captured.

A negro prisoner at the jail told the guards after the boys’ escape that he had heard them plotting Wednesday evening but had refused to accompany them on their bid for freedom.”

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“…the Demon Statutes of Nüqing, once thought to be the earliest
juridical “demon statutes” (guiliu

规律) thus implying a netherworld
bureaucracy, in the Daoist Canon in existence no later than the end
of the fourth century A.D., is really a code of laws for the members
of the early Heavenly Master organization. As is well known, “demon
soldiers” (guizu 


or guibing

鬼兵) was a common title of neophytes
in the early Heavenly Master church. This observation calls for a
reconsideration of the purpose and real nature of the Demon Statutes
of Nüqing
in its religious context. 

The archaeological evidence of early Heavenly Master beliefs
concerning the mortuary journey as a bureaucratic affair consists of
five excavated Daoist tomb ordinances from the Southern Dynasties.
They span the period from early fifth to early sixth century A.D. Seidel and other scholars of Han tomb ordinances have seen in these
texts descendants of the religion of grave contracts of Han tombs. We find in them almost the same closing formula:

In accordance with the Statutes and Ordinances of the


Edicts [for the] subterranean
world by the Most High Lord of the Illimitable Great Dao of the
Upper Three Heavens of Grand Clarity, the Mysterious, and the Primordial.

In view of the identical form of the closing formula appearing in
Daoist grave contracts, Seidel claims that their language is close to
that of Han grave contracts of the second century A.D. In addition,
Nickerson points out that, “Even more striking is the large number
of [chthonian] spirits that are common to the proto-Taoist and the
Taoist ordinances.” Supported by the evidence of these identical
elements, Seidel states that the religion of Han tomb ordinances
“become(s) Taoism.” Following Seidel, Nickerson suggests that “the
proto-Taoist and the Taoist ordinances must have shared some

sources” and “medieval Taoist ordinances are their [the Han grave
writs] descendants.”‘ 

In order to advance her view that there is a direct connection
between the Statutes and Ordinances of the


Edicts of the fifth century
A.D. and the proto-Daoist tomb ordinances of the second century
A.D., Seidel “equates” the

Statutes and Ordinances of the Nüqing Edicts

with the Demon Statutes of

Nüqing, the earliest code of law in the
early Heavenly Master religion. She justifies the equation on the
ground of a similar use of the ruling formula in the

Demon Statutes of Nüqing

and the assumption of a conservative rate of change in funeral

In connection with the late Han tomb ordinances, the

Demon Statutes of Nüqing

is often interpreted in the context of funeral rites and beliefs
concerning the salvation of the dead. More importantly, it is used as
evidence for the development of a netherworld bureaucracy in early
Daoism. Its scriptural title, “Demon Statutes,” is usually taken to
refer to the existence of a code of laws for demon officials in the
netherworld. Thus Seidel states:

The Statutes of the Dead Souls of


[i.e., the Demon Statutes of

Nüqing] could
itself be the revised version of a superseded code of the Celestial Thearch
since it came to play, in Taoist funeral rites, the same role as the “Statutes
and Ordinances of the Celestial Thearch” in Han funeral texts.

There is no reason to doubt that the

Statutes and Ordinances of the Nüqing Edicts

is related to the mortuary journey of the dead and is
designed to ensure their redemption. It functions with the force of a
decree issued from the lofty celestial realm of the Upper Three Heavens
to bring the subterrestrial administration under control by promising
demon-officials advancement in the otherworldly bureaucracy should

they obey, or punishment according to the “code of laws for demons” (guiliu).  Master Red-Pine’s Almanac of Petition (

zi zhang li


愿) includes many examples of the use
of the

Statutes and Ordinances of the Nüqing Edicts

as Daoist death ritual
documents in the fifth century A.D. It is used to command the
underworld spirits and tomb demons and prevent them from causing
harm to the deceased, and to punish and eradicate the tomb demons
if they cause harmful anomalies and calamitous injuries to the living
by “infusing and suing” them.

It says:

If stale vapors of subordinate officials assume form and lead demon troops,
driving forth [the demons of wounding infusions among] the previously departed,
[forcing them] to return and arrive at the family’s gate [to intimidate
the living], rely on the

Statutes and Ordinances of the Nüqing Edicts

to control and
annihilate them all.

In the Scripture of Divine Spell (Shenzhou jing 


it is not so clear that the

Statutes and Ordinances of the Nüqing Edicts

used as a Daoist mortuary document ordering the secure passage of
the dead to the netherworld by controlling the underworld functionaries.
Nor is it placed in the ritual of sending petitions to the
Celestial Bureaus for releasing the living from demonic harassment
and noxious vapors. Nevertheless, the

Statutes and Ordinances of the Nüqing Edicts

as cited in the Scripture of Divine Spells continues to serve as a
celestial code of laws for netherworld demons, forbidding them to
harm people. It says:

If there are stale vapors in people’s households, causing them disaster and
death, all evil demons, mountain and forest demons, pond and lake demons,
let them all be seized and sent to the prison of three heavens in accordance
with the

Demon Statutes of the Nüqing Edicts

that commands them not to cause
kind and good people illnesses.

Thus, the

Statutes and Ordinances of the Nüqing Edicts

could itself be a
code of laws for demons used as a celestial edict from the Most High
Lord Lao addressed to an extensive pantheon of subterrestial spirits
and demons. It is employed in mortuary rites to command the tomb
spirits not to hinder the deceased from proceeding to his destination
in the afterworld, and in the ritual of sending petitions to celestial
deities as an edict to “arrest and disperse the tomb demons who inflict
harm on the living”.

In short, there is no doubt that the

Statutes and Ordinances of the Nüqing Edicts

provides concrete evidence of the mortuary beliefs and practices
of the early Medieval Heavenly Masters. It includes the idea of bureaucratic
hierarchies of the netherworld underlying the bureaucratized
Daoist death ritual. In addition, it consists of a soteriological conception
that is based upon a written code of laws sent to underworld spirits
and demons in order to keep them from harassing the deceased or
causing the living demonic harassment or demonic infusions. 

The overall goals underlying the

Statutes and Ordinances of the Nüqing Edicts

are absent from the

Demon Statutes of Nüqing. Indeed, closer
inspection shows that the

Statutes and Ordinances of the Nüqing Edicts

plainly not the

Demon Statutes of Nüqing

.’ The bureaucratic model of
religious logic expressed in the grave contracts found in Han tombs
and later in the mortuary beliefs and practices underlying early
medieval Daoist death rituals is not found in the

Demon Statutes of Nüqing. Instead, as we will see, it is a Daoist text that reveals the names
of baleful demons and netherworld spirits. Aside from the revelation
of the demons’ names, which allows the owner of the text to control
them, the

Demon Statutes of Nüqing contains precepts and taboos about
prohibited conduct together with statutes and punishment for transgressions,
and the text has been produced by the early Heavenly Master


Lai Chi-Tim, “The “Demon Statutes of Nüqing” and the Problem of the Bureaucratization of the
Netherworld in Early Heavenly Master Daoism.” T’oung Pao, Second Series, Vol. 88, Fasc. 4/5 (2002), pp. 254-258

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Ben Shahn, “Creole girls, Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.”

Gelatin silver print photograph, 1935. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Transfer from the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, 2011. #2.2002.3092.

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“Helen Hayes Helps Save The American Theatre from Censorship,” LIFE. May 31, 1937. Pages 17 to 21.

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‘Cyber’ parade in support of cybernetics which was formerly banned in the USSR (Moscow, 6 May 1960)
– The X-I Komsomol (conference) holiday was held by student physicists,
the parade day was named ‘Archimedes Day’ referencing the god who
brought forth the torch of knowledge. (image via Moscow State University, Dept. of Physics

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