Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A blogroll of honour

Hmm. Was having a think about what blogs I like to read, and skimming my links list. So, in light of the book thing, I thought I'd give some people a drumroll.

I've got pretty eclectic taste in political blogs, but I'd guess my top ten (in no particular order) goes something like this:

1) The legends that are Stroppy and Louise. Two feminists who truly understand the politics and ethics behind the word, and whose blog mixes wit, humour, light and heavy subject matter in a way that so many who take themselves more seriously fail to do. Diamonds, both of 'em.

2) One has to mention the one and only Mike and his little red page - if you ever wondered what a socialist novel in the Wodehousian style, co-written by Stephen Fry and David Lodge would look like, then give Mike's blog a look: he's living that dream. A top fellow, and one who's always welcome at mine and Denham's table for a few foaming pints of real ale.

3) Darren, the SPGB ingrate - how does one so young and possessed of such an acerbic wit, living the high life in New York, remain a member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain? Maybe he's a man of high principle, maybe he's just old before his time. Whichever, his blog is dead good, and you should have a gander at it.

4) The Grand Old Man of lefty independent-minded semi-trot types, Cap'n Dave Osler. Dave's a man who's forgotten more about the left than I will ever learn, and who writes about it in a pretty snappy way too. His blog is a mine of information about goings on in the labour movement and on the left, and one of the few genuinely non-sectarian forums for debate as well. Check it out.

5) The Daily Kos. Lamont 52%. Lieberman 48%. Need I give you further reason to read it?

6) Samizdata. Not a choice that exactly fits in with my other ones, but quite apart from being IMO the most achingly cool-looking site on the UK political scene, this right-libertarian blog actually contains some interesting debates, and does tackle issues that the left sometimes shies away from.

7) Broder. He writes some fascinating and deeply thought-out stuff, especially about Latin America, on which he's a great source of info and debate. And what's more he's only 12 years old. Scary intelligent AWL boy. And then of course there's the AWL blogger from the AWL site, the great Janine. She should post more often, because when she does it's wonderful stuff. But then she's usually far too busy fighting capitalism.

8) The New(ish) Labour bloggies, Tom and Adele - you two are nice folks; you should really get a bit more radical, but you'll do!

9) Renegade Eye and the Fiskers of Flirty Fisking both deserve a mention as well, because both do something a little differently. Renegade runs a great big networking hub of a Trotty, Jazzy blog, and conducts some fascinating debates along the way that are beyond the run of the mill. And the Fiskers are Eustonites who I'm not nasty about. Which means they gotta have something special.

10) Last, but by no means least, this list would not be complete without Harry's Eustonite Place and Lenny Lenin's Coffin. You may love one or the other, or hate both of them (a fair number of people do), and if you look at them sideways they do kinda look exactly the same, but either way the enlightenment stockbrokers and the SWP fratboys are essential reading.

OK so that was a bit more than ten blogs. So I cheated. Read 'em all anyway, when you've got a bit of time to kill. You won't regret it.

419 Scammer!

Someone kindly sent me a new 419 scam email today, which I felt compelled to share with the world:

Dear Friend,

How are you today and business in your country?

I am Mr. Kato Yoshida, Bank Manager of Tokyo Mitsubishi ufj Bank, Tokyo Branch.

I have a business proposal for you,if you are intrested,you can contact me through My Private E-mail Address katoyoshida1912@addressdeleted

Awaiting your urgent reply.

Yours Sincerely,

Mr. Kato Yoshida.

Yeah, and I'm really Leo DeCaprio in a fat suit.

(By the way, just in case anyone reading this is gullible beyond belief, this man is NOT the manager of any bank in Tokyo; he is an email scammer seeking to defraud you of money. I've deleted his email address to protect the vulnerable. So don't blame me if you're so bloody stupid as to try and contact him. You've been warned)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

OK, I've been tagged for the book thing...

... by Stroppy. So here goes:

1. One book that changed your life - Murray Bookchin "The Ecology of Freedom". I don't agree with all of the politics in it, but it's what convinced me that a thinking radicalism is possible without simply becoming right-wing.

2. One book that you've read more than once - Ken Macleod "The Star Fraction" - thoughtful and fun, a rare combination.

3. One book that you'd want on a desert island - the Dune books (all of them). Geeky but they'd keep me entertained.

4. One book that made you laugh - "Gerry Healy: A Revolutionary Life" - I never read the whole thing but the title alone had me rolling on the floor, howling with laughter until tears streamed from my eyes.

5. One book that made you cry - Donald Woods "Biko". With sadness, anger and joy at different places.

6. One book you wish you had written - Horkheimer and Adorno "The Dialectic of Enlightenment", if only to see my name on 10,000 undergraduate reading lists.

7. One book you wish had never been written - the entire Chick Lit genre. If I have to see another novel about a funny, middle class girl living in Hampstead who drinks chardonnay and falls over a lot but ends up marrying the handsome writer next door after a series of amusing japes, I may explode.

8. One book you're currently reading - James Carville and Mary Matalin "All's Fair"; what can I say, I'm a US politics junkie!

9. One book you have been meaning to read - James P Cannon "The Struggle for a Proletarian Party" - I actually bought a copy some years ago in a fit of revolutionary ardour, but have never yet mustered the will...

Right... Tags: Denham, Broder, Mike, Darren and Janine!

Monday, August 28, 2006

When left-wingers go bad

You hear a lot of talk at the moment from blogosphere right-wingers and some on the pro-war left, insinuating that groups on the left, particularly some of those groups within it that opposed the war in Iraq, are comparable with, or accusable of support for, fascism. Whilst I don't particularly want to get into that debate on this thread (we all know where we stand on it, and rehearsing old debate over again won't get us very far), it did raise one question in my mind, which was originally brought up by our occasional commenter Daggi, on a different thread.

One group that actually did go all the way from Trotskyism to fascism, was that led by Lyndon LaRouche, aka Lyn Marcus, formerly a member of the SWP-USA. A former leftist, he has now been denounced as a fascist by many people across the political spectrum, and his views (convincingly on my reading) deconstructed to that effect, in print and on the web. A particularly good, and devastating, historical critique of the LaRouche group was done by Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates, which as the name suggests is a liberal academic/political outfit based in the USA. "Fascism Wrapped in an American Flag" is probably the finest and most concise piece of work on the LaRouche group that I've ever read, and it should serve as a warning to those on the left who think that subsuming one's political principles to reaction in an effort to adapt to new political circumstances, does not eventually lead one to change beyond recognition. In LaRouche's case, his group seemingly quickly became something horrendous, taking increasingly bizarre political positions and being widely denounced as a right-wing political cult. It is to be hoped that history does not repeat itself, and that no more groups or individuals ever make the same political journey that LaRouche did.

Anyway, to return to Daggi's question. It's known that LaRouche operatives are around in Europe, in particular in Germany. But did they ever get to any meaningful level in Britain? I'd be delighted to hear that the answer is "no", by the way.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

George in Lebanon 2: the squib gets damper

As already promised, I had another listen to George Galloway broadcasting from Lebanon this evening, expecting that either he'd crack and say something offensive (he didn't, particularly, although he does apparently thinks the Israelis poisoned Yasser Arafat - which is weird, albeit not offensive per se), or that alternatively, he'd be more impressive than I had expected. The latter having been true yesterday, I was expecting the former today.

The reality was that neither happened.

He basically did a show that he could have done from London, only instead he was talking from Lebanon via the Talksport UK studios. He took a few calls from partisan pro-Israelis who called in with the same scripted questions as yesterday - "why don't you report from Haifa" being a favourite. He bashed them all, as you'd expect from the guy whose colleague in London controls the "mute" button. He took some more calls, from people who fulsomely agreed with him. He fulsomely agreed with them in return.

But so what?

Galloway could do the show that happened tonight in his sleep. The only thing differentiating it from the show he does every week, was that he happened to be doing it from Lebanon rather than London. The nuts and bolts of it were otherwise virtually identical. Basically, the substantive differences were that he got some notoriety for broadcasting it from Lebanon, and presumably also that it cost TalkSport the price of a plane ticket.

If this is ground breaking "free speech radio" (and incidentally, Galloway says he gets a fairer "crack of the whip" from commercial broadcasters than he does from the "Bush and Blair Corporation"), then I can quite happily give it a miss.

Our notoriety spreads. Maybe.

Apparently Shiraz Socialist is now showing up on pkblogs, a site that uses a nifty bit of code to by-pass state enforced blocks on websites. This possibly has something to do with blanket bans on Blogspot URLs by some ISPs in India, Iran, Pakistan and China, as these are the countries whose bans pkblogs gets around.

Unless of course we've really upset someone in high places in one of those four states, in which case I'm delighted. Furthermore, if you know that's the case then let me know more; my email contact address on this site is open to you.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Big George, Live from Beirut

George Galloway has just finished his first of two live shows from Beirut... and it was quite interesting. I'd have to say with all honesty that he was nowhere near as bad as I was expecting him to be - the usual demagogic manner of speaking aside, he was quite effective, and he made a few pertinent points. Some of which surprised me.

For instance, I never thought I would hear George Galloway come right out and say that "People born in Israel have rights there now". I'm glad he does think this, but it surprised me to hear him say it. It also suprised me to hear him appear to support the PLO position on a Palestinian state - which is for a state of Palestine on the 1967 borders, with its capital in East Jerusalem. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that too - although perhaps I'm not as surprised by it as Galloway's gofers in the SWP will have been.

He also thought that "Sky (News) in particular had a pretty good war". Which is interesting, given his recent encounters with them on the subject of Lebanon.

The main bum note was the ex-colonial wing commander who served as the "guest" on the show, hanging about in the studio with Galloway's pal James Whale and rambling on about how peaceful things were during "the mandate". What the point of him was, other than to go on about the Stern Gang (who, it should be fairly obvious, did not participate in the recent Lebanese conflict), is beyond me.

Whale also allowed on a fair number of anti-Galloway callers, including some who were possibly a bit over-virulent, for instance a chap called "David", who called Galloway a "Goebbels talking in an Arabic beer hall"... which just goes to show that sometimes it might be worth some of us remembering that not all fanatics are pro-Galloway.

Overall George, old man, it didn't have me swooning with admiration; it was never going to. But it was a lot better than I was expecting. I shall listen with interest to the second installment tomorrow.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Problems of "Multiculturalism" and Ruth Kelly...

What the hell is "Multiculturalism"? In my experience, the term simply means "willing to get along with your neighbours, regardless of where they come from". In which case, of course, every decent person should be in favour of "multiculturalism".

However, the term (I understand), also has another meaning: that no-one has the right to impose their social/cultural values upon anyone else. Simply because we in the West are (for intance) opposed to (say) female circumcision or in favour of one-person-one vote democracy, we have no right to impose those concepts upon peoples whose "culture" does not encompass such ideas. There are no" universal values"; Bollocks! socialists of the Marxists tradition are all in favour of "imposing" our "values" upon people. In general, we're in favour of doing so by persuasion, rather than by force. However, we *do* believe that our ideas are better than other peoples', and we* do* seek to win people over, especially from ignorent, reactionary religious ideas.

That's why Ruth Kelly's statement today, about Multiculturalism, (Ruth Kelly is the British "Communities Secretary"), gave me to pause for thought.

My first thought was, "this woman is a member of Opus Dei, the Catholic organisation that says all non-Catholics are doomed to an eternity in torment. She's also a member of a government that actively promotes religious schools: so what the hell is she doing lecturing the rest of us about "integration" and "cohesion"?

It is also, clearly, the case that the Blair government seeks to pander to white working class and middle class hostility to immigration in general. And, of course, their immigration policies remain a racist disgrace.

However, after all that has been said, the fact remains that "Multiculturalism" has been a disaster for working class people of all ethnic backgrounds in Britain: not least black and ethnic minority people. Funding (eg; SRB 6) for community projects actively promotes ethnic and religious *difference* between communities. The end result of this was seen earlier this year when Afro Caribbean and Asian people fought each other in Handsworth, Birmingham, earlier this year. If Trevor Phillips (of the Commission for Racial Equality) and ruth Kelly are now saying we need to re-evaluate "Multi-Culturalism", I think the serius left should agree with them: we need an approach that emphasises unity and human solidarity, rather than difference. but difference is what government policy has been emphasising up until now. Predictably, those who have a vested interest in promoting racial difference (like the "National Assembly Against Racism") , have objected to any re-assessment of "Multiculturalism". But socialists should do so: and just because the dreadful Ruth Kelly and the careerist Trevor Phillps now attack "Multiculturalism" doesn't mean that they're wrong. Socialists *should* emphasise unity over division.

When Eustonites Attack!

Having recently advertised the splendid article by a Blairite pensions minister which provides some of the theoretical backbone for Euston's new social-democratic political project, the heroes and heroines of the Eustonite Harry's Place site have now gone into full-throated war cries at the latest horrific enemy of enlightement progressivism.

Who are these barbarians that so rile our heroes? Why of course it's Greenpeace, who have committed the cardinal sin of taking the piss out of city bankers who drive 4 x 4s. According to HP posters and commenters, variously, this gross act of indecency makes our greenie chums "modern day misanthropes" and "fascists". These accusations, of course, coming from the people who brought you support for the war on Iraq, vitriolic attacks on the orthodox left as a daily obsession etc.

Any Eustonites who want to remind me why your project is a progressive one, the comments box is all yours.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

All Bosses Are Bastards

I must thank Will of "A General Theory of Rubbish", for drawing my attention to the following. And also for the above title, which I simply couldn't improve upon.

"The worst excuse for not paying the national minimum wage was 'He doesn't deserve it - he's a total waste of space'. This was followed by: 'She only wanted £3 per hour' and 'I didn't think the workers were worth te national minimum wage'. 'I didn't think it applied to small employers' was also on the list, and 'He's disabled'.

"Other excuses included 'They can't cope on their own and it's more than they would get in their own country', and 'The workers can't speak English'".

All the above comes from an official report by the Customs Service and Paymaster General Dawn Primarolo. And a hat-tip to Will, despite his continuing practice of calling my colleague the Priest a "wanker".

Monday, August 21, 2006

Islamophobia - a reality in today's world

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingFor those of you who don't read this blog very often (or hopefully to new visitors), I should make clear that I write as I speak, quite deliberately, very plainly. I also tend to drop a lot of jokes and one-liners into my posts, of variable wit. That does not, however, mean that I am in any way seeking to avoid taking a stance on hard political issues. I just think that it's important for arguments about complex issues to be expressed in the most accessible language possible, as opposed to the most obscure.

With that in mind, let's talk about Islamophobia. I'll explain my stance on the issue whilst discussing the use of the term on the political left. This is an issue that's been gone over many times before in the context of society as a whole (personally I'm a fan of Zia Sardar's short article "The Next Holocaust" in the 5th Dec 2005 New Statesman). However, it has rarely been tackled properly in the context of the left, other then by partisans seeking to score points from each other.

I think that, regardless of whether groups like the SWP and sites like "Islamophobia Watch" either deliberately or inadvertantly abuse the term in order to gain political traction, nonetheless Islamophobia is a very real issue across Europe and the USA today, and one that has become appreciably worse since 9/11. It is, or should be, the moral duty of every person in this country who calls themselves any sort of left-winger, progressive or liberal, to stand publicly against what is a form of racism directed specifically at people perceived as "Muslim" (by which is almost certainly meant "Arab" or "South Asian" in reality), and to acknowledge publicly that such racism is primarly directed at Muslims, as Muslims. I find it honestly amazing that such a facile and obvious point should even be a topic for debate on the left. And yet, in some quarters, it is.

Various arguments are made against the use of the term "Islamophobia". Most of these centre around the fact that Islam is a religion, not a race. This argument is often dismissed as simply stupid (or, in particularly moronic cases, as itself being "Islamophobic") by leftist advocates of the opposite view. In fact, in the literal sense, it is true - Islam is a universalist religion, to which people of any race can, and do, convert. But in terms of whether Islamophobia exists or not, and what the phenomenon precisely is, this argument is beside the point.

The first and most obvious point, is that sections of the left who don't acknowledge Islamophobia as a phenomenon, are ignoring the rise in racial prejudice directed against Arabs and Asians across Europe, as Muslims, since 9/11. Recent news stories especially show that this is not just a transient phenomenon. The second is a concomitant rise in a "Muslim" ethnic identity whereby people's prime ethnic identifier is their religion. These are facts, whether people on the left like them or not, and they will not simply go away if ignored. Similarly, left individuals and groups who make political decisions that do not take proper account of these facts, are simply being irresponsible. This is one of the reasons that I thought, and continue to think, that the AWL's decision to publish the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons was as politically ridiculous as it was (to me) personally appalling, driven as it was by macho posturing about publishing them "because we can", and paranoia about a threat from a nebulous and powerful body called "the Islamists", the precise identity of whom no-one ever did seem to be able to pin down. Aside from the old argument about whether the cartoons themselves were racist (I think it's clear that they were), there is the rather obvious point that one doesn't start a rational debate with someone of a religious persuasion by crapping on their doorstep.

This is not an argument for the sort of boneheaded treatment of organised religion as a primary point of engagement with communities, that the SWP seem to be practising (see the not-inaccurate satire of their article about the cricket, below). But it is an argument for acknowledging a very real phenomenon that afflicts some of the most vulnerable communities in the UK and across Europe. And on that basis to engage with those communities all the better.

So-called "Ball Tampering": No more than Islamophobia

A special report for Stupid Wanker:

The alleged "ball-tampering" at the Oval is no more and no less than the latest example in a long line of British state-sponsored Islamophobia. The supine parroting of so-called "information" deliberately fed by the International cricket Council's elitist and imperialist umpiring panel is now widely discredited, despite the ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed's attempts to smear the heroic Pakistanis. The fact that the instigator of this anti-Muslim outrage, Darrell Hair, is an Australian, is no coincidence: Australia is the only supporter of Bush and Blair's so-called "war on terror"in the whole of the rest of the world. No wonder Hair was determined to use all means at his disposal to humiliate and disqualify the heroic Islamic team from Pakistan: when you hear the totally biased British media uncritically repeating Hair's claims of " deadly ball tampering", just remember Blair's claims about so-called "weapons of mass destruction" and the so-called "Forrest Gate" shooting of Charles de Menezes within "45 minutes". No wonder no-one believes a word that the ICC have to say.

As renowned war reporter Claud Cockburn once said: "Believe nothing until it is officially denied". Why haven't more of the supine parrots of the British so-called "media" heard of that quote, and acted upon it.

The official persecution and trial by media of the totally innocent Inzamam-ul-Haq, is clearly because the British secret services suspect him of being the captain of the Pakistani cricket team -solely on the basis of his name and beard - and without a shred of evidence. The official so-called "media" therfore have already found him guilty of deadly ball-tampering and other (unnamed) so-called "offenses". With sinister intent, Blair's poodle Speed says "The umpires are meeting to this morning to consider whether there should be any further charges in relation to the refusal by pakistan to take the fiels that resulted in the forfeit of the match." Speed closed with a typically menacing imperialist threat: "It may be that there is more than one charge".

Behind this Islamophobic conspiracy lies the hand of Tony "Bliar" Blair and his master George "Bush" Bush - not to mention the Zionist leader of so-called "Isreal", Ehud "Eliar" Olmert: none of them can bear the prospect of a muslim team defeating them at their national game, so will resort to the foulest accusations of so-called "deadly tampering" to stop the heroic resistance fighters of Cricketballah, who they have been totally unable to defeat by fair play. "It's just not cricket" is the cry that has gone up from millions of Cricketballah supporters throughout the region.

George Galloway says: "This is a typical piece of Western hypocrisy: Bush and Blair are responsible for, literally, millions of balls. But when one is allegedly tampered with by a heroic fighter like Inzamam-ul-Haq, they cry "foul" and call in their poodles, the so-called "umpires". No doubt because the Zionists cannot bear the sight of Muslims actually defeating the so-called "West" at its own game! The Stop the War Coalition will be responding with a "cricket match" in Trafalger Square.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Dark, sinister conspiracies - preferably set in a dystopian near future - make great films, going right back to Fritz Lang's 1926 masterpiece Metropolis. The genre more or less disappeared in the 1940's and 50's, probably for the same reason that the gangster movie disappeared at the same time: the reality of Nazism and WW2 made such films seem trivial.

But in recent years the sci-fi conspiracy/dystopia picture has made a big comeback with Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall and -of course- the vacuous but highly enjoyable Matrix trilogy. Now we have A Scanner Darkly, based (like the first three in that list) on a novel by the late Philip K. Dick. It's received rave reviews, not least because unlike previous adaptions of Dick's work, this film apparently pays attention not just to the technological gimmickry that sci-fi always temps fil makers with, but also the "philosophical dimensions of his work", the end result being (in the words of the UK Daily Telegraph's film reviewer Sukhdev Sandhu) "an elegy to a lost generation of drug casualties, an elegy to questers and dreamers and refuseniks".

So far so good. And the film is, apparently, shot as a conventional movie and then transformed into an animation through a process called 'interpolated rotoscoping', that means the actors Robert Downey Jr, Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves "retain their voices, but (are) turned into cartoon figures clearly resembling themselves yet becoming somehow dreamlike and abstracted" (Philip French in the Observer - UK: 20/08/06).

Sounds very promising doesn't it? And it was definately down on my list of 'must see' films, until I read the following, quite casually mentioned almost as an aside in Philip French's review: "...Linklater (Director Richard Linklater) and his collaborator, Tommy Pallotta, apparently feel the picture is especially relevant to te current American war on terror and that the US government actually perpetrated 9/11 in order to create a police state".

Now, generally I take the view that art can transcend the formal politics and even the sanity of its creators, to take on an autonimous existence of its own. Wagner was a magnificent composer despite his 'blood and soil' nationalism and anti-semitism, Philip Larkin was a great poet despite his Thatcherism and drunken racism, John Ogdon was a wonderful classical pianist despite serious mental illness, etc; etc. But when I hear that someone - an apparently well-educated, articulate, talented and sane film director - and his "collaborator", believe in all seriousness that 9/11 was the work of the US government "in order to create a police state", I really have to ask myself whether anything these two fruitcakes put out is worth spending my valuable time looking at and my hard-earned money paying for. The answer is a resounding "no".

And I didn't know they still existed

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From the Class War Federation statement on the Lebanon War:

"The left have adopted two approaches.

Firstly, wholesale adoption of the Islamist agenda, cheerleading Hamas or Hezbollah without qualification or criticism. This 'Idiot anti-imperialism', the trademark of today's SWP, says my enemy's enemy is my friend and any criticism of them, no matter how mild, is 'racism, islamophobia, and Zionist pro American warmongering.'

The second approach is slightly more subtle - Hezbollah is fighting back, therefore we must support Hezbollah and the slogan 'we are all Hezbollah' is an act of basic solidarity with those who are fighting back against imperialism - the slogan is compared with the Parisian students who, when Danny Cohn-Bendit was attacked in the bourgeois press as a German Jew, marched through Paris chanting 'nous sommes tout les jiufs allemands!' (we are all German Jews).

This argument is crap - Hezbollah isn't a nationality or a racial epithet, it is a political party/militia, if the slogan really wanted to fit then the SWP should have handed out placards proclaiming 'WE ARE ALL SH'ITE'."

Well, there it is. And I bet you all thought they'd just disappear with the demise of the "hospitalised copper" column.

Actually I never really "got" Class War as an organisation - they never seemed quite to be part of the anarchist millieu proper, nor part of the wider left. And I really did think they'd vanished by the end of the 1990s - I was surprised to see the statement from which the above exerpt was taken.

The ropey "wit" is obviously at the same level it ever was (witness the oh-so-funny pun on "Shi'ite" at the end of the paragraph above), but my question to any sectariana hunters reading this is: are they actually still going or are they just a phantom web presence?

The Bush and Blair Corporation?

Here's a quickie - as ever, I was sitting by the wireless last night, listening to George Galloway in his twice weekly TalkSport slot, "The Mother of All Talk Shows". One caller in particular brought up the question of George's recent shouting match with a Sky News presenter. When the caller suggested that there might be issues with Sky's coverage, Galloway responded that he thought the BBC was "worse" and referred to it as the "Bush and Blair Corporation".

Now, I know the BBC is state-owned etc, but to suggest (as George seemed to be) that it has a right-wing bias worse than the UK TV news network owned by Rupert Murdoch, seems more than a little bizarre. Particularly given that the majority of negative views attributed to the BBC claim the opposite to what George says - ie that the BBC is hyper-critical of "Bush and Blair". For example, in a show of the Murdoch media's objectivity, bookers for presenter Bill O'Reilly on Murdoch's US network Fox News, tried to badger's Rory O'Connor into calling the BBC the "Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation" on-air. When O'Connor refused, he was promptly un-invited from the show. See, now that's fair and balanced.

I should just make clear that this blog is, of course, 100% certain that TalkSport's ongoing use of the Sky News service has had no impact at all on George's view.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Digital Dave?

OK. Someone (and I honestly have no idea who) has just emailed me a video, via the contact email on the side of this blog. I can't decide whether I think it's brilliantly avant-garde, or just a bit weird. Either way, I thought it was quite funny.

Have a look and see what you think:

From beyond the grave...

"The British are at the same time doing all in their power to foster the Moslem Brotherhood, a clerical-fascist organization in Egypt"

- Tony Cliff, 4th International, vol. 7 No. 9, Sept. 1946

Wow, that's harsher language than I would use about the Brotherhood. Any supporters of the "resistance" from a certain political organisation care to comment?

Or alternatively perhaps our Maddy of the Sorrows would like to say something?

(Quote shamelessly nicked from Tom at NewerLabour)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Prescott in "says something useful" shocker

Wow, that's the most on-the-ball the bungling fool's been in the past 9 years of Labour Government.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mezz, Trotsky and Others

As some of you will know, I am always on the lookout for obscure, (preferably) jazz-related pieces of historical trivia. I know, for instance, that the ghost-writer of clarinetist / dope-fiend Mezz Mezzrow's extraordinary jive-talk 'autobiography' (actually, a load of entertaining but self-serving garbage) "Really the Blues" was one Bernard Wolf, who's other main claim to fame was working with Leon Trotsky on *his* autobography, "My Life". Mezz and Trotsky: what a combination!

But can anyone explain this (from "Jazzbeat" magazine's "56th Anniversary Special Issue 2005 - but only just received by Yours Truly), in response to a letter about US (official) Communists' enthusiasm for George Lewis and Bunk Johnson in the 1940's and 50's?

A"Basically Starr's hypothesis was that the American communists felt that by embracing "folk music" they could attract new supporters. This began as early as the late 1930's when a communist front organisation , The New Masses, sponsored the Spirituals to Swing Concert after John Hammond failed to get the support he'd expected from the NACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored people - JD).

"Starr's theory also included early connections between Al Rose and Lary Borenstein and Leon Trotsky"

A "Google" search failed to come up with any information about Al Rose or Larry Borenstein: so I'm depending upon you lot.

Another little chunk of inspiration from Euston

In another step forward for the blinding re-foundation of the left that is the Euston Manifesto group, they've launched an initiative called "Social Democratic Futures", which is going to be "a vehicle for new left thinking" according to the preamble by ex-AWL/SWP Euston guru, Alan Johnson.

In a sign of things to come, things are kicked off with a rip-roaring article by that radical firebrand James Purnell, Minister of State for Pensions, proclaiming that "Choice and competition can help create self-reforming public services and secure traditional social-democratic values". Well, be still my throbbing loins...

What marvellous political thinkers can we look forward to next, contributing to this new dawn? Kenneth Clarke perhaps? Actually on second thoughts no, he was opposed to the Iraq war. Michael Gove, maybe? Margaret Beckett? David Miliband?

Only time will tell. Watch this space for more exciting developments.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Existentialism and Israel

Most serious commentators - whatever their political sympathies - seem to agree that Israel has "lost" the war against Hizbullah -at least for now. The Israelis may not have "lost" in the conventional military sense, but they lost because they did not win; they lost in terms of moral authority and military cudos. They also lost because their brutal indifference to Lebanese civilian lives has made the Hizbullah "resistance" heroes throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds , and because Israel's perceived role as ice-testers for a putative US offensive against Iran and/or Syria, has alienated European opinion, which was never very sympathetic to Israel in the first place.

Moshe Arens, in 'Haaretz', the liberal-left Israeli newspaper, commented (14th August 2006):

"...The long-term implications of an Israeli agreement to a UN brokered cease-fire at this time are obvious. Israel's enemies, and they are many, will conclude that Israel does not have the stamina for an extended encounter with terrorism. You do not need tanks and aircraft to defeat Israel - a few thousand rockets are enough. Katyushas today and Qassams tomorrow. Don't let Olmart, Peretz and Livni fool you: these rockets will keep coming after Israel is seen as not only punished but also defeated in this month-long war".

All of which brings me to the point that I have been pondering for many years: the perception amongst Israeli Jews, that they they are under what is often called "existential threat": the perception that they (the Jews) are fighting for their very existance against forces (surrounding Arab states and also Islamist forces like Hizbullah and Hammas), who want to drive / sweep all Jews "into the sea" (a quote that comes from Azzam Pasha, secretary of the Arab League, set up with British sponsorship in 1945); Pasha went on to describe (approvingly) the 1948 war by all the surrounding Arab states (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and a task force from Saudi Arabia and Yemen), as "a war of extermination and a momentous massacre", that would "sweep the Jews into the sea". The undeniable fact that the surrounding Arab nations have, inthe main, been pleged to the destruction of Israel has tended to be dismissed by informed commentators, on the grounds that Israel is clearly the military giant of the region, and inder no immediate or forseeable threat. Hizbullah's "victory" may not have changed the "facts on the ground2, but is will have changed perceptions (on both sides) about the possibility of a military defeat of Isreal...and therefore, about the poissibility of wiping out the "Zionist Entity".

The fact that the Israeli Jews (armed by Czechoslovakia and backed by Stalin's USSR) defeated the British-backed Arab attack in 1948, is rarely mentioned and comes as a real surprise to those brought up on the idea that Israel was "created" by "Western imperialism" in order to "hegemonise" the region against the Arabs (a theory put forward Martin Jacques in the 'Guardian' of 15/08/06). So does the fact that the US and Britain operated an arms embargo against Israel in 1948, forcing the new-born stae to turn to the Soviet empire of Stalin for support.

Isreal was under attack from its very birth in 1948. It was also attacked by Arab forces in 1967 (OK: I know that Isreal shot the first bullet, but it was a pre-emptive strike in the face of a very obvious coming attack from Egypt), and 1973.

The fact that Israel has been under "existental" threat from the bourgois leaders of Arab states, ever since its foundation in 1948, is a matter of record. The fact that the Palestinians have been cynically used by those bourgois arab leaders, in order to pursue their campaign for the destruction of israel, also seems to me to be beyond doubt.

But most people on the British "left" deny and refute the argument that Israel is under "existential" threat. They (the British lefties) say that Israel's massive military superiority (thanks to weaponry from the US), means that the idea that Israel is under any kind of "existential" threat is, simply, nonsense.

The same people will very go on to explain how, in their opinion, Israel has no right to exist, and ... how "Zionists" are responsible for all the world's wars, up to and including Iraq.

The argument that Israel is so strong militarily, that the "existential" threat from Arab states is of no consequence, is now much weaker. Even before Israel's "defeat" in Lebanon, people like the loathsome former Stalinist "Agent of influence" Richard Gott were looking forward to the destruction of Israel sometime in the present century; in a racially hate-filled statement worthy of the BNP, Gott says ( UK 'Guardian', July 22nd, 2006):

"Like the medieval crusaders, whose ruined castles dominate the landscape of the eastern Mediterranean, they will be lucky if their state lasts more than a century... many will surely abandon ship in despair".

A similar argumant was raised by another ex-Stalinist, also in the (UK) Guardian (15 August 2006), Martin Jacques;

"Whatever the rights and wrongs of the creation of the state of Israel, the reality today is that it is - by the manner of its creation, self-image and attitude towards its neighbours, and how it is regarded by the west - a western transplant sustained by an american life-support machine. Under such circumstances, the very idea that peacein the Middle east in any meaningful sense possible is illusiory. Israel has been the primary means by which the US has exercised its hegemony over te region"...

But you do not have to be filled full of Stalinist anti - semitism like Gott, or anti-Israeli false history like Jacques to be aware of the very serious trouble that the state of Israel is now in:

Lindsey Hilsum -no hater of Israel, she - writes in the present issue of the New Statesman (14 August 2006):

"Israel fell into an elephant trap when it hit Lebanon with disproportionate force after Hizbullah's capture of two Isaeli soldiers...Maybe Hizbullah simply struck lucky, or maybe Iran had managed to provoke the Israelis into fighting...on Monday, in a speech to the nation and to worldwide Jewry, a solomn-faced israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said the war in Lebanon is about Isreal's existance. It's the old cry - they hate us for what we are, not what we do.

" But this time, he could be right. Even if the Palestinians got their country, with Jerusalem
as its capital, and refugees were allowed to return home, many across the Muslim world would still want to fight the Jewish stae and its US backers. The summer of 2006 may be just the start of it".

So all the more reason to campaign now for: Justice for the Palestinians; Isreal Out of Lebanon; Two States for two Peoples; foe a Palestinian State alongside israel and with equal rights to Israel!.

Let me get this on record

Just to counter a scurrilous rumour, passed on to me via comments on the site belonging to this blog's newly acquired (but already very dear) friends Stroppy and Louise, I want to make something very clear in the public domain.

I am fucking well not Jim Denham's girlfriend.

This earth-shattering news will doubtless come as a terrific relief to him, his partner, my partner, and everyone who knows both of us (not least because of the truly grim images that any alternative scenario would conjure in the mind). So I just thought I'd put it down, firmly and finally.

Bloody internet. Some people will write any old crap. Jeeeeeeez....

Question for sectariana saddos

I was just wondering, does anyone know if the RCP (USA) has an English section? And if so, what are they called? I'm aware that they're affiliated to the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (the delightfully acronymed "RIM"). But I always thought that international's only presence in the UK was a couple of wacko Sendero Luminoso supporters in London, and various Naxalite emigres from India.

Am I wrong, and if so can anyone provide me with details? As usual, the reward for any useful info is a night of being verbally abused in a real ale bar with myself and Denham etc...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Uncle George on the wireless

Listening as I was to George Galloway's "Mother of all Talk Shows" on TalkSport last night (loyal fan that I am) two things struck me.

The first was that he clearly and definitively denounced 9/11 and 7/7 conspiracy theories, and in particular singled out the "4000 Jews didn't go to work on 9/11" conspiracy rumour as the racist lie that it is. Jolly good. Shame it was first broadcast on Al-Manar, TV station of Hizbollah, led by Hassan Nasrallah, the chap who George "glorified" in a speech on a recent demonstration. Perhaps that'll get mentioned in next week's show...

The second was that he kept name-checking Harry's Place, which rather suggests that not only does he read it, but that they're getting to him. Perchance those Eustonite bloggers are more effective than some of us had thought?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Wanna job with the North Korean Ministry of Propaganda?

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingIf you've got the slightest degree of talent at blogging, or indeed can write a coherent sentence that doesn't resemble self parody, then there's probably a job waiting for you in Pyongyang with the Ministry of Propaganda.

I only say this because the other day I happened across what must be the weirdest political blog I have ever seen. It's either peculiar satire, or the fruits of serious delusion - and I'm damned if I can tell where one begins and the other ends. And in the unlikely event that it really is DPRK propaganda, then get your CV in early because there may be a vacancy arising quite soon.

As sheer surreal entertainment, I hereby declare that nothing on the internet can touch Juche Girl. I reproduce here an entire post, untouched, for your love and delectation. And if you think I'm making it up, it's right here:

"Bush oppress the poor downtrodden people of the world for his own sick twisting pleasure. My brother who is very smart show me picture of Bush who pick up handicap people in wheelchair and toss them on the ground for laughing like maniac with the vampire Cheney.

Dear Leader never do that. Dear Leader make the handicap walk and the blind see. Dear Leader is always full of loving care for the people.

Once Dear Leader went for giving guidance to handicap hospital with one room full of people who had lost an arm or leg in accidents of construction sites building the great powerfull prosperous country. Dear Leader distributed arms and legs to who needed arms and legs and when Dear Leader had finished distributing arms and legs all the people who had missing arms and legs did not miss one arm or leg no longer! Bush can't do that but Dear Leader can.

I love Dear Leader very much. Dear Leader is best!"

Yes, and after he's done distributing arms and legs to the para/quadri-plegic, Dear Leader will then sprout wings, fly to the White House, and use his bionic death ray powers to blast the evil crusader-zionist-imperialists into the middle of next week.

Juche Girl, I don't care if you're a CIA agent, a DPRK secret policeman with peculiar ideas about what makes for good propaganda, or even if you're just a sad little man with a laptop in a Bognor basement. This blog raises a glass to your wonderful weirdness, and formally awards you the Tinfoil Hat of the Week.

And meanwhile we eagerly await the day when the SWP has a new political "turn", the keffiyehs all get sold on E-Bay and swapped for Kim glasses and boffin wigs, and marches through London are filled with chants of "We are all anti-war! We all Love the Dear Leader!".

Just kidding, SWP'ers. I think.

Now who was that at the back telling me not to be flippant lest I get my wish?

"Our Tommy"

Firstly a belated thank you to the Priest for a warm welcome, however I need to set a few facts straight.

I am an ex Millie but I am not a born again Christian. Why replace one set of mistaken beliefs for another and Icertainly wouldn't again join up to a club where I have to kow - tow to authority figures who interpret the gospel for me whether dressed in back to front collars or donkey jackets and Doc Martens.

I am also not "right wing" or a Eustonite fellow traveller. If I have to define myself I would probably say I am an independent left who has a horror of ever joining anything again.

I do however recognise that there is more to life than the material, but that's for another blog perhaps.

As an ex member of the Tendency, I have to chuck in my ten penny worth on Comrade Tommy. Firstly, Tommy is innocent. How do I know this ? Because he unlike me ,has remained true to the faith and as a loyal comrade he would have had all imagination severely beaten out of him, with several rolled up copies of the week's paper. So " Swinging", no chance !

It's sad to see the fall out from this whole debacle however, with the split in the SSP, who were I feel were giving Scottish voters an alternative to New Labour. But sadder (and apologies to Tommy if it's the evil capitalist press who are again maybe misrepresenting him) is seeing the Sheridans selling their story to that self same press, negotiating book deals and will be soon seen on "Richard and Judy".

Lets hope it's all going to the Fighting Fund (now where did that money go again ?)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

News of the World to appeal Sheridan verdict

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingIn news that's perhaps less than surprising, the News of the World is going to court in an attempt to have the verdict on the Tommy Sheridan case overturned.

The SSP website is saying nothing about the appeal at the time of writing, but the United Left (ex-Militant) majority on the executive clearly are gearing up for a fight over leadership of the SSP itself. In the Herald's article about the court appeal, McCombes is quoted as saying that a state of "total war" now exists between Sheridan and his old allies, and that:

"We are not going to be intimidated by thuggish insults or rants on the TV. We are not going to be silenced either. We are going to win this"

In the other corner, meanwhile, Sheridan is backed by a bizarre alliance of the SWP and CWI (Socialist Party) platforms.

This raises the obvious question as to who would be better for left politics? I'll freely concede that I don't find the prospect of a Sheridan-led SSP, where he acts as George Galloway figure to a bunch of SWP footsoldiers, with the CWI playing the role of left cover (much like the International Socialist Group do for the SWP in the UK), in the slightest bit appealing. It would effectively be a Scottish Respect, and would be very much led by a combination of Sheridan's public persona and the SWP's political model. I don't know what's going on in the CWI platform's heads, but how they can possibly think that such a model represents a step forward for progressive socialist politics in Scotland is just beyond me.

But then equally, suppose McCombes et al were to win. A United Left-led SSP where the SWP's coup attempt is crushed and its supporters forever marginalised, would be almost as unappealing as Scottish Respect, albeit for differerent reasons. Dominated even more than before by left nationalism, a UL-run SSP could well drift closer and closer to the SNP, to the point where the two need no longer be separate organisations.

So... what's a (Scottish Socialist) boy/girl to do? Sorry but on this one I really don't have much in the way of suggestions. Good luck, and it's very sad, is all I can say.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Bitter Fruit

Imagine that the plot to murder thousands of air passengers had succeeded; imagine that you are a journalist on a newspaper called Stupid Wanker, organ of the Stupid Wankers' Party: what would you write about the mass murder that has just taken place?

I invite readers to submit their articles for Stupid Wanker. The rules are as follows;

1/ The Headline must begin "Bitter fruit of..." (complete);

2/ The article must deal with the mass deaths as though they were a natural phenomenon, and not the deliberate work of human beings...and yet this must be squared with the following point...

3/ Bush and Blair must be blamed; but mainly Bush, rather than Blair, because the US and Israel are the main enemy, and we want to relate to Brits; nevertheless we have to lead off with an attack on Blair;

4/...But the real culprits must be identified as the Zionists and the state of Israel (anyone who mentions "Jews" will be disqualified);

5/ The attacks must be condemned sufficiently to satisfy Guardian-readers and HE lecturers, but not so sharply as to antagonise Muslim fundamentalists.

6/ Bonus pints will be given for the inclusion of a moronic Michael Rosen-type poem along the lines of "You bomb our country, and we'll bomb yours" - ignoring the fact that the bombers are British.

OK: understand the rules?

The prize for best entry will be an all-expenses-paid night out in Birmingham (UK)'s premier real-ale pub, in the company of me, the Priest and the Socialist Party's top real ale expert, raconteur and wit: Comrade Clive Walder!

Anyway, here's my offering (but I'm sure you can do a lot better) :

Bitter Fruit of Blair's Zionist War - Mongering

The full horror of the attacks on the airliners was breathtaking as Stupid Wanker went to press. Very many innocent people have been killed or injured.

Nobody knows for sure who is responsible. If it was opponents of British foreign policy in Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere, it will be because they believe, wrongly, that it is the only way to respond to the horrors they have suffered from the British, US and Israeli governments.. The tragic scenes over he Atlantic are the bitter fruits pursued by the British, US and Israeli states.

War criminal Bush spoke of "terrorist outrages". Yet the state he heads, together with Israel, has been responsible for burying men, women and children under piles of rubble. In Israel, the US and Britain support the war criminals who seek to destroy the heroic freedom-fighters of Hizbollah. Faced with the might of the Zionists and the US, some people can become so desperate that they try to fight back against this military giant with the limited weapons they have to hand.

They do not have Cruise missiles - so they take to turning a highjacked airliner into a suicide bomb instead. It is not a method that can break US / Zionist power and British compliance. many innocent civilians will have been killed. The suicide attacks were born out of desperation at the supreme arrogance and contempt of the rulers of the most powerful capitalist states on Earth.

After the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, the Us responded with attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq - supported by Britain and Israel. They will be looking for revenge now. That will drive more people to hate Britain.

It is the responsibility of everyone who is revolted at the lethal world order that the US and Isreal - supported by Blair -sit at the top of to offer a way forward. It needs to be based on the mass collective power of ordinary people across the world, and targetted precisely at our rulers".

Poem by Michael Tosser:

"You drop bombs on us

"And We'll drop bombs on you

"They fuck you up, your Bush and Blair

"They mean to, believe it, comrade!

"Can I have my cheque now?

"Actually, I'd prefer cash

"Zionists are the same as nazis".

Ya can't beat a bit 'o' Georgie

You've got to hand it to George Galloway. Whatever you may think of him, he's a blogger's wet dream, a never ending source of quotes, controversy and strange speeches, all delivered in that unmistakable rhetorical style that has served him so well over the years. That is of course when he's not working for that fine and progressive employer, TalkSport radio, the station that also brings you such anti-imperialist luminaries as Mickey "Celebrity Fat Club" Quinn, Charlie "Vote Bush" Wolf and soon, apparently, Terry "The Word" Christian. A more formidable line-up of talk radio talent there never was, I tell you.

Anyway, to continue the paean to George, here's a clip I recently saw. Recent I say, but one which shows all the signs of going down as yet another vintage performance. Not only do we get the line (which I'm fairly sure I've heard before) that two of the Arab world's "beautiful daughters, Jerusalem and Baghdad, are in the hands of these foreigners", presumably meaning the US/UK forces in Iraq in the latter case, and Israel in the former. He also goes on to tell us that nothing can be done about this by the Arab leaders, "because they are in bed, fornicating with the foreigners". Which conjures up all sorts of pictures of Dick Cheney and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, that you may not want to ponder too closely in the immediate aftermath of a decent lunch.

He says we need "a few drops of water" to change the political/media landscape in the UK. He urges people who want to help, to get in contact via email or via his website. Further, we are told about how the amount of money thrown on casino tables in London by Arabs could achieve that change. Apparently George has ideas about how to do this, but no money - after all, remember how he must struggle on his MP's salary, book revenues, appearance fees etc. It's a surprise that he manages to afford a decent dinner, really.

Anyway, I wonder what these "ideas" are? In fact, I'm so curious that I may just give him a call on Saturday and ask...

(Hat tip: My commenter Bruce, for the clip)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Chickens coming home to roost

Senator and former Vice-Presidential candidate, Joe Lieberman, has lost the Democratic primary in Connecticut to anti-war candidate Ned Lamont. Lamont won with just under 52% of the vote, in what amounts to a stunning victory for the party's liberal wing and the "netroots" such as the Daily Kos, who went in to bat hard, fundraising and campaigning on his behalf.

Lieberman had been a pro-Bush DINO (Democrat In Name Only), supporting the Iraq War and attacking Democratic critics of Bush, saying that:

"It is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be Commander-in-Chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war, we undermine Presidential credibility at our nation’s peril."

Well, now the Democratic voters of Connecticut have told him what they thought of that display of political bankruptcy.

I don't know anything much about Ned Lamont's views on matters other than the war, but his victory is a warning signal to the Democratic establishment that their grassroots supporters are no longer prepared to put up with cosy Beltway politicians who are serially returned to Congress without ever standing up for the issues that ordinary people care about.

There are more Democratic incumbents facing challengers over the coming months. Lamont's win shows that it's game on.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Well, they don't look like ringers...

I'm probably not the only person to have come away from the Tommy Sheridan trial with mixed feelings. On the one hand, like most people I was delighted to see the orange-tanned former Scottish Socialist Party leader give the tabloid press a good kicking in the courts. However, it was still tragic to see the SSP publicly tearing itself apart, particularly given the hope that it had inspired in so many of us, that the disparate strands of the left really could put their differences aside and fight for a real progressive political alternative nationwide.

Because of course, Tommy wasn't just fighting against tabloid hacks in the courts. He was also fighting several prominent members of his own party who testified against him, and who are now presumably tarred as perjurers. This video carries some testimony from people who seem remarkably confident that the Sheridan verdict is a travesty. I'm no expert on this case, and I'm certainly not qualified to offer a firm judgement on the allegations against Tommy, but it does seem to me that either they're part of an ongoing conspiracy against Sheridan, or else something went badly wrong in court. I'll leave it for you to decide.

(Hat tip: Darren at Inveresk Street, whose blog first brought the video to my attention)

Stop the War Demo, Saturday 5th August

Sorry for the delay with this folks, it was a product of taking some recovery time from a particularly athletic beer-and-argument session with some AWL members in the pub after the demo, and of my not being arsed yesterday.

Like I said, what I'm going to offer are a few thoughts rather than a report per se - after all, you probably got those from the news agencies already.

Look, it wasn't all bad. Nobody could reasonably say that this was just a bad demo. Firstly it was bigger - a lot bigger - either than I expected it to be, or than the reports about it claimed. To be honest I think that the STWC official estimate of 100-150,000 may even be a little on the low side, and not be taking into account the vast numbers of stragglers. There were already people leaving when my part of the demo (which was about half way through) arrived at Parliament Square. It wasn't as big as Feb 2003, but it was definitely the biggest since, and by some distance.

There were obviously a lot of people on it who were not part of the usual "march and meeting" circuit, which is another good thing. If all the left ever does is mobilise its own members and periphery, then it will never get anywhere. So it was good to see what I would guess were a lot of new faces.

On the anorak side, there was also a fair bit of train spotting fare on the left as well, with groups that I thought had wound up years ago (the CPGB-ML!) managing to turn out contingents. There was even a rather sad and forlorn contingent consisting of the remnants of Workers' Power, which as Larrycain and I remarked to each other at the time, was somehow just saddening.


It was politically just degenerate. I never thought I would go on an anti-war demo where people would be chanting slogans in support of theocratic militias who progressives ought not simply to be supporting anyway, and who they certainly wouldn't be supporting if they were not safely tucked half way around the world from said militias. And yet there it was, in Arabic or English (according to your taste) - slogans in support of Hizbollah, Hizbollah T-Shirts (I await the CD of Hassan Nasrallah's greatest hits), Hizbollah flags stuck to SWP placards, you name it. And it was down to the political leadership of the demo by the SWP, no mistake.

Let's get this clear - I usually castigate people on the left who gratuitously bash the SWP. It seems to me a cheap stunt by people who would do better to talk to the odd working class person. But the SWP's craven search for a short cut to progressive anti-imperialist politics, to replace the difficult spadework of actual internationalist class politics, has led them to support groups like Hizbollah. The sight of SWP members joining in stupid (and oxymoronic) chants like "We are all anti-war! We are all Hizbollah!" - whether one supports Hizbollah or not, "anti-war" they clearly ain't - was just nauseating.

And then came Galloway's speech, during which he lionised not only Hassan Nasrallah as "the real leader of the Arab people", which may come as a surprise to people from Morocco to Dubai, but also Nasser (who's dead) and Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro (who are both Latin American). I therefore proclaim myself, Stroppy and Dave Osler as the "true leaders" of Papua New Guinea. Congratulations, folks.

Here's a video of the speech, so you can see it for yourselves:

One other anecdote. I was also deeply unimpressed to see a middle aged male member of the SWP, fresh from yelling about how "Zionists" like the AWL students whom he was addressing should not have been on the demo, whereas Hizbollah should be, cutting down a 19-year old female AWL member by shouting "shut up" at her when she attempted to reply. Nice to see there's no thuggery and sectarianism in that organisation, then.

The demo overall? Physically big but politically so, so poor. Get your act together, STWC.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Well, I'm off to London for that demo...

... anyone who's going, I'll be there if you can work out who I am; I can usually be seen heading for the nearest pub after the interesting speakers are done. Which probably means after John McDonnell, looking at the list (unless I decide it's worth listening to Galloway for blogging purposes).

And if you're not going, well then you're a lazy tosser, but have a look at it on the telly anyway.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Union for the 21st Century?

Lorry- ('truck'- to you Yanks) driver, Wagner-lover and T&G (UK Transport and General Workers' Union) activist Rachael Webb has sent out the following email to fellow T&G members:

"After spending 4 or 5 years asking all the Officers and Committee members I can think of why it is that the T&G does not have the 30 or so non-English language translations of the standard "Join" leaflet on the public part of the (union's -JD) website I have at last got an intelligent answer!

"I forgot his name, but it is the person I was put through to at Transport House (T&G headquarters-JD), who deals with the Extranet on the T&G website (who) gave this simple explanation:

"'The public part of the website cannot have have pdf documents, it is all word or gif or jpg, so the 30 or so foreign language "Join" forms cannot go on the public access part of the T&G website.

"'The Extranet, which is only available to members/activists, can accomodate pdf documents.

"' There is already a a Word document to join which you can print off and send to the freepost address; there will shortly be a means of filling in the form and joining online. This cannot be done in Polish etc, as in each of the 30 languages we would need someone who speaks fluent Polish or Bulgarian or whatever as well as being able to use HTML "language". Most of us know bits of HTML but not Urdu or whatever".

Rachael closes by saying: "I think this is a pity, the IFTU (International Federation of Transport Unions) day of action in October being a case in point. Maybe we should press for either resources so we can put pdf documents on the public parts of the website or finance people who speak the 30 languages who can also use HTML".

As a Luddite, I don't understand quite a lot of the above: but it seems to amount to, "If you're foreign and can't read / write English, you can't join the union online, because we haven't worked out a way you can do it, and we also don't have people on our staff who speak Urdu, Polish or whatever".

If that's a fair reading of what's being said, then it should be major a cause for concern at Transport House - and especially for general secretary Tony Woodley, who is serious about this matter (though hamstrung to some extent by the fake-left bums who occupy the Regional positions within the union).

These pathetic shortcomings with regard to the recruitment of foreign workers were revealed on the same day that the T&G Deputy General Secretary Jack Dromey announced an excellent campaign - in conjuction with John Cruddas (Labour MP for Dagenham) and Keith Best (chief executive of the Immigration Advisory Service) - for an amnesty for 'illegal' immigrants. All credit to the T&G for taking up that issue: but why the the hell aren't you making a serious effort to recruit foriegn workers in Britain?

If you still need a reason to attend the demo on Saturday...

... then watch this.

I defy anyone to watch this and not feel a raw sense of anger at the injustice in the Israeli treatment of the innocent people of South Lebanon. I defy anyone to watch this and not feel that there needs to be a ceasefire, now. And I defy anyone to watch this and then try to tell me just how these pictures are the result of "surgical strikes" against "terrorist targets".

Be there on Saturday. Be there if you don't agree with the SWP, be there if you don't like George Galloway. We can all moan about the Swoppers in the pub afterwards; some things are more important.

Be there.

(Hat tips go to Tom from Newer Labour, at whose blog I first saw the video, and to the STWC supporters who produced it)

Emergency demo this Saturday

Another hot sunny day (probably), another march to look forward to in London. This is an emergency march called by Stop the War Coalition, regarding the crisis in the Middle East. A demo which deserves all the support possible - however I will be genuinely interested to see the leaflets and behaviour of groups like the SWP / PSC etc.
I have heard some SWP members talk quite openly about how Israeli workers have all been bought off by Zionism, inherently reactionary, all the usual kind of crap.
I find this utterley disgraceful. And with their recent turn in the last few years to the Mosques, it could get worse. We will wait and see,

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

At least he was shit-faced. And he apologised.

"Fucking Jews...the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world".

Well, at least Mel Gibson had the excuse of being shit-faced with booze And he later apologised. Speakers at "Stop the War Coalition" events who come out with similar statements (see the entry on this blog for July 19th, for instance) are usually stone-cold sober (usually tee-total, in fact). And neither they nor the Coalition ever apologise.

Admittedly, they do not, usually, threaten to have sex with police officers or refer to female officers as "sugar tits".

You can choose your friends, but...

It seems that ex-BNP councillor Sharon Ebanks (who was famously not-elected in Birmingham, in the May elections) has been having even more fun and games with her nemeses at the Birmingham Sunday Mercury. Having had previous stories run about her saying that her father was black, this crusader for the Aryan race has now had to face an invitation from a relative to "come and meet her black family". Needless to say, this has been gleefully reported by the Merc, who I must say really seem to have the bit between their teeth when it comes to the vile Ms Ebanks.

A chap named Lindbergh Williams, himself a scion of the family, has been doing the Ebanks family tree. Apparently it's not merely Sharon's dad who was black. According to Lindbergh:

"All of the Ebankses originate from Jamaica and are inter-related. Most of them are very light-skinned like Sharon."

Lindbergh certainly seems like a lovely fellow; according to the Merc's report, he feels that his fellow family members (many of whom apparently loathe the racist BNP member) should lighten up on Sharon:

"Some members of the family are angry that she is in the BNP. Others say she is an embarrassment. But I believe she is just a sad and mixed up person. She is a single mum who has had a tough upbringing and blames others for her present situation."

That's more charitable, for sure, than I would be about any member of my family who regularly denounced mixed marriage and ran as a BNP councillor.

Sharon herself apparently insists that Jamaican Radwell Ebanks was not her father, and that she was the product of an affair that her mother had with a white, Scottish alcoholic who has since died. Offered the chance by the Merc to produce a birth certificate to this effect, she has thus far declined. As ever, she had some touching and affectionate parting words for the Merc reporter:

"I know who my father was and you can speak to him if you can resurrect him. Now, p**s off."

Sharon, in the world of far-right politics there are scary thugs on the one hand, and saddos who need to get a life on the other. And you, it would seem, fall into the latter category.

Voters of Kingstanding, you got off lightly when the high court recount took away Sharon's seat. Next time when you go to vote, just remember how close you came to being stuck with her.