Saturday, September 30, 2006

Galloway: "I am not a believer in conspiracy theories"

This is just too good to be true: George Galloway has written this open letter to John Reid, complaining about a "well known and violent extremist" being "allowed within punching distance of the British Home Secretary".

Two points should be borne in mind before you recoil in disbelief (or collapse into laughter) at the thought that that Mr Galloway - usually an uncritical supporter of Islamic extremism in all its forms - should take such a stance:

1/ Reid is an old Stalinist buddy of Galloway's from the Scottish Labour Party, and our George clearly still has a lot of Stalinist respect for the senior man.

2/ The "well known and violent extremist" in question, Abu Izzadine, intimidated, terrified, and took hostage Mr Galloway and his daughter at a "Respect" election meeting last year: clearly, uncritical support for all anti-Zionists must have its limits.

Galloway complains that "either our police and security forces are so fantastically incompetent that Bin laden himself might have slipped in to beard you at your podium". Or "someone somewhere wanted to engineer precisely this confrontation".

Well, it's not George's usual complaint against the British state authorities that they're too lax in their dealings with radical Muslims. But George has an alternative explanation: that the entire confrontation *was* "engineered"..."to portray the Muslims of Britain in the most aggressive, violent and extreme way possible".

But George, who is willing to go along with the theory that Jews were tipped off about 9/11 and advised to stay away from the Twin Towers, assures his (ex-) comrade Reid that "...as you know I am not a believer in conspiracy theories (so) I am leaning towards the first explanation".

Good to hear that George old chum. Now, maybe, a clear-cut statement to the effect that the story about Jews knowing in advance about 9/11 is complete bollocks? Such an admission will not absolve you of all your many crimes against socialism, humanity and common decency: but it will prove that you are not a compulsive "believer in conspiracy theories"; just an opportunist who is willing to go along with them when it suits you.

This is random

Friday, September 29, 2006

Labour pains

As one who made the mistake of leaving the Labour party to join the Socialist Alliance, I followed this weeks Labour conference with interest. Believe it or not, I found a lot of it quite encouraging. The union leaders seem to have finally (and not before time) realised that Mr G. Brown is not a serious alternative to Blairism; the Blairites lost crucial votes on council housing, NHS privatisation and corporate manslaughter; and John McDonnell's leadership bid (essentially, an attempt to return to trad Labour principles) is beginning to look credible...so long as that mad, dishonest piece of shit Meacher doesn't wreck it by standing and splitting the trad Labour vote.

The Tory cuckoo Blair will be largely unlamented, but it would seem that his arrogance and hatred of social democracy may yet lead a "Blairite" candidate to stand agianst Brown. Given that there is not a fart's breath of difference, politically, between the Blair and Brown "camps", it is obvious that socialists (and social democrats) should not take sides between them. The only serious leadership bid is that of McDonnell, despite his unfortunate willingness to consort with the likes of the Stop The War Coalition: something that serious socialists will have to talk to him about.

Re: "Dr" John Reid: What a typically nasty example of an ex-Stalinist gone to the right, he is. His speech on Thusday was quite clearly an undeclared leadership bid, based upon crude, nationalist tub-thumping - typical of Stalinists everywhere. This man would be an horrific disaster, let anywhere near real power. But like many evil nutters, he has the occssional lucid moment, like this:

"You don't have to love everything George W. Bush stands for to hate everything that Osama bin Laden stands for".

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Feeling Blairy?

I bet you are. It occurred to me a couple of days ago that I know a disturbing number of people who have to go to Labour Party Conference as part of their job. Far from me to name and shame (?) but you know who you are, guys! Having no such obligation I've just been relaxing and watching proceedings on the telly. Normal service was of course resumed yesterday after Tuesday's emotional speech from the Dear Leader, with the predictable massive defeat of the Government on NHS "reform". (I confidently expect to see the following definition in the online OED: "reform vt to sell, give away, break up or discard. From Lat. reformare to talk cobblers while doing something appaling").

As for Blair's big speech itself, I was amazed at the media reaction. Quarter of an hour on the main news broadcasts, commentators saying it was a "tour de force", and so on. The main emotion I detected was relief, from Tony himself not least. Who, after all, would want to spend a decade as PM? Maggie Thatcher did it and look at her now...At any rate, one would have to have a heart of stone not to applaud Blair's last Conference speech, even - or rather especially - if one were mainly applauding the fact that it was the last one!

Another thing I noticed was the paucity of policy announcements. The terrible twins said so very little that all there was to talk about was whether Cherie really passed a snide remark abouit Gordon (well, wouldn't you?) What wonderful new New Labour radical visions of the future were proclaimed from the platform? Umm...more regulation of buses and...no more GCSE maths coursework. Amazing! Seriously, though, one no longer waits with bated breath for major policy commitments at Conference, simply because ministers no longer dare to tell Conference what they plan to do. Of course, one can guess - but Blairites and Brownites join forces to repeat "It's not about that". It's not surprising. Walter Wolfgang is a remarkably polite old gentleman, after all...

I did, however, go to the anti-war demo on Saturday (which had 10-15,000 people on it, whatever the Morning Star says). I won't say much about it, given that the splendid Volty, Jim and LaLaMiMi have posted copiously here already - indeed if Manchester Stop the War had been half as enthusiastic about organising it as people were about going on it (Comrade Denham always excepted!) it might have been a lot better! Perhaps I'm just a bit sour because I ended up next to the 9-11 Conspiracy Rapper for so long...Just one funny bit though - the British Muslim Initiative placards saying "Respect - The Palestinians' Choice!" Y'know, I thought that was Hamas. Or is there something we should know...?!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Time to Go Demo Pics





Here are some pics I had taken during Saturdays Demo.. I was only there for 4 hours - but I thought it was a good experience and did not regret the fact it took more than 12 hours of the day to get there and back (while also fasting).... I was not sure about the turn out.. I did not look huge from where I was sitting - but I heard reports that there was over 30,000 people being reported by Sky News. The reaction from the public was very interesting.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The disreputable in pursuit of the despicable

Saturday's truely horrible travesty of of a "left wing" demonstration was, let us never forget, called in the name of that SWP/Stalinist/Islamist rotten bloc, the so-called "Stop the War Coalition". This is an organisation that has never given a damn about the peoples of Afghanistan or Iraq, but only about the narrowist British self-interest. These nationalists were well on display on Saturday in Manchester, on a demo supposedly called about Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon: in fact it had fuck all to do with any of that. It was about British internal politics, and the majority voice on that horrible demo was that of isolationism and appeasement. Lindsay Hilsum, in the New Statesman of (how appropriate) 9/11/06, wrote:

"From the beginning, the debate in this country has been about British politics and prejudice, largely ignoring Iraqis, as if they were bit players in their own tragedy. The pro-war lobby-including the Euston Manifesto Group, heavily influenced by the Kurds, who have a different agenda from other Iraqis - refuses to acknowledge the disaster war has created. Even as Sunni insurgents slaughter Shias, and Shia ministry of interior thugs terrorise Sunnis, they claim that democracy is nascent. To them, anyone who states the obvious - that Iraq is a violent mess where life for ordinary people is worse than before - must be a covert apologist for Saddam. As Winston Churchill said during the Second Worls War: "However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results".

Their refusal to acknowledge the truth is as sickening as the cynical reasoning of the anti-war lobby, which opposed the war because its members hate America, not because they thought it would harm Iraqis. Most Iraqis I know agreed...that there was no other way to get ris of Saddam, and that however rough it was, war would in in the long run bring a better life. They have been proved wrong, but the anti-war mob infantalises, allowing them no responsibilty for their fate. Thwy blame the US for all killings in Iraq, as if the murderous bands who detonate car bombs in Baghdad and Baquba were not reponsible for their own actions".

Anyone who supports the so-called "resistance" in Iraq with the romantic idea that they are some sort of, recognisable, "national liberation movement" should read the above: and then, if they don't agree that this so-called "resistance" is a bunch of reactianary scum...they should go and...go...and..go...

Black, Brown and Beige

I was heartened to read that last week jazz musicians picketed the British 'Mobo' (Music of Black Origin) awards in protest at jazz being dropped as a 'catagory' .

I was even more pleased to note that the New Orleans-style protest band outside the ceremony included the brilliant young altoist Soweto Kinch (a previous winner of a 'Mobo' award) and trumpeter/vocalist Abram Wilson. According to the (UK) 'Times', Kinch said,

"I just think it's preposterous...it is ludicrous to have these pretensions to being a global and significant and world-class event and ignore a vibrant and healthy jazz scene, internationally and in the UK".

Hear, hear to that I say. And it's especially good to see young black players like Kinch and Wilson making their presence felt in British jazz: for much too long both the traditional and the modern jazz scenes have been dominated by white players and white fans, whilst black musicians and fans have been virtually non-existant - or, perhaps, excluded: even heavy metal rock seemed to have more black adherants than jazz.

Now, happily, things seem to be being (slowly) put right - not least by the efforts of the articulate and historically-aware Kinch. He is making an effort to draw our attention to neglected black musicians who worked in Britain in the 1930's. 40's , 50's and 60's: the likes of altoist Bertie King, trumpeter Leslie 'Jiver' Hutchinson, bandleader Ken "Snakehips" Jackson, clarinetist Carl Barriteau...and then, a little later, the very advanced altoist Joe Harriot and South African expatriates like saxist Dudu Pukwana and drummer Louis Maholo (both of whom made excellent music in Chris Mcgregor's Brotherhood of Breath). All credit to Kinch for drawing our attention to these unsung heroes.

My only - very minor carp- is with the very concept of "black music". Of course, jazz is a predominantly black art form. But, as a matter of straight fact, most of the early New Orleans musicians were "Creoles of Color", who most certainly did *not* regard themselves as "black", and rather looked down upon Afro-American 'negroes' like Joe Oliver and the young Louis Armstrong.

It was only when jazz escaped New Orleans and landed up in Chicago, and then, New York, that racial barriers came down.

But the point is, that jazz was the first manifestation of Western culture in which black people were afforded equal status to whites, and where they (the blacks) responded by proving themselves at least the equals - and very often the superiors - of whites.

None of which makes jazz "black music": Bix Beiderbecke, Jack Teagarden and Miff Mole have as much claim to be regarded as jazz pioneers as Louis Armstrong, Joe Oliver or Sidney Bechet. In fact, jazz's greatest achivement is to have broken down racial barriers first in the recording studio (Eddie Condon, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong), then on the bandstand (Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson and Lional Hampton), and finally in society (Martin Luther King, Malcolm 'X', Nat 'King' Cole, etc)...

Despite that quibble: congratualtions to Sowato Kinch.

Does anyone else ever wonder...

...why it is that leftish demonstrations across Europe are populated, more often than not, by tens of thousands of trade unionists, whilst in the UK anti-war demos seem to be dominated by students and, more crucially, loons, goons and buffoons? There's a place for all those I suppose, but really it would be nice to see something more substantive.

Looking around Saturday's gathering in Manchester, the people who immediately stood out were the 9/11 rapper guy who was going on across a sound system about Tony Blair receiving anal sex from members of staff, a supply teacher member of Socialist Resistance telling an anecdote about someone punching a Spart on a previous demo, some pillocks from the "Clown Army", dressed as... err... clowns in military uniform, some Maoists (with real Mao stuff!) and a woman with a placard saying "war kills animals too".

I mean really, I do know that it takes all sorts, you can't control who turns up on a demo, etcetera. However, when the right characterises the left as a gaggle of misfits who'd make a convention of Spock-ear-wearing Trekkies look politically credible, this is kinda what they're talking about.

Friday, September 22, 2006

A religion for onanistic celebrities?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
I was wandering down the high street recently, looking for something nice to have for lunch, when I passed by a sign for an exhbition called "PSYCHIATRY: AN INDUSTRY OF DEATH". How could I resist going in?

It's not something you're used to seeing as the title for an exhibition in the UK - even the political extremists usually come up with something topical. So, I didn't really know what to expect. As I trundled into the part of the hotel where the exhibition was being held, I saw a couple of men in white shirts power-walking around the room taking pictures, and other people holding a discussion in a corner.

And then, wow, what a treat. I sat down in front of an (immaculately well produced) video about how Psychiatrists were trying to form a world government via social control that they perform under the cover of their (false, of course) "science". I perumbulated around the room, and looked at displays about how Psychiatrists are responsible for racism, the decline of religion, the drugging of children, you name it. Wow, I never knew my local mental health team were actually the Empire from Star Wars, but there you have it.

At the end, I was accosted by an immaculately attired young woman who asked me to sign a petition "against drugging children". I made my excuses and left with a couple of their publications.

Who sponsored this event (which you can see at various tour stops in the UK)? Why, gentle reader, 'twas the Citizens' Commission on Human Rights. A fine, US-based organisation protecting us from the pathologisation of normal human conditions by a greedy clique? Well, probably not, eh. Their publications are sponsored by the "United States International Association of Scientologists Members' Trust".

Now, I don't really fret too much about mad religious cults. But I do when they're spreading crap about good mental health practice and picking on vulnerable people as a result. And not being candid about who they are, when they're doing it.

You fucking vultures. Carry on your parasitic relationship with celebrity wankers, and see how far it gets you.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The voice of Matgamna is heard in the land

Let me be quite frank: I am a member of a far-left organisation called the Alliance for Workers' Liberty (AWL). Like most far-left groups, we have some leading figures whose authority is not simply down to election, but is down to their records as founders of the organisation. The SWP had Tony Cliff, the "Militant"/RSG had Ted Grant and the SLL/WRP had (gawd help 'em) the rapist Gerry Healey. In the AWL, our leading figures are Sean Matgamna and Martin Thomas.

Neither of them are Popes. I, personally, have been involved in bitter diagreements with both of them: with Thomas over Gate Gourmet, and with Matgamna over the Good Friday Agreement.

But I was well pleased when I read Matgamna's statement on the Pope and Islam, here; and even more so when I saw it denounced by that asshole Bob Pitt on his scab "Islamophobia Watch" website. Sean was the person who convinced me that Trotskyism was the right path: he still stands for basic principles like secularism and rationality. And I'm still proud to be a "Matgamnaite".

I wrote what I wrote about the Pope's statement, not knowing what the AWL would have to say about the matter: but Matgamna has delivered the goods, and - once again - I'm reminded why I'm proud to be a member of the AWL.

"I do not have a life anymore"

Anyone who thinks Britain's treatment of asylum seekers is acceptable should read this . Further comment from me is, I think, superfluous.

A richly deserved kicking

Sometimes I wonder why I continue to read the Guardian: it infuriates me to the point that I seriously worry about my blood pressure. It's the columnists, in particular, that get to me. The smug reactionary Simon Jenkins, the friend of dictators Jonathan Steele, the Buntingesue god-botherer Karen Armstrong...and their Stalinist ringmaster Seamas Milne: what a fucking shower! Actually, by comparison Johnathan Freedland is usually only mildly irritating and occasionally even shows signs of rational thought. But his offering today ("the Pope should know than to endorse the idea of a war of faiths") is miserable, craven, relativist drivel. Freedland even claims that "religious groups begin to look like ethnic ones. Which means that a slur on religion is experienced much like a racist insult".

The best thing about the Guardian is it's "Comment is Free" readers' blog. And today the readers have rallied round to give Freedland a richly deserved kicking. It has warmed the cockles and you should take a look here.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Dumb-ass protest of the week

OK, so can anyone tell me how a general strike in Kashmir called by the Hurriyat, Daktar-e-Millat and others, is an effective protest over the Pope quoting Manuel Palaeologus in a speech? I guess it works like this:

"What? Quoting 14th-century Emperors is he? I'll show the bastard - honey, we're closing for the day! If he thinks he's gonna get a plane from the Vatican, come here and buy any household goods today, then he's got another thing coming!"

I think for the benefit of their future dignity, someone maybe should tell the Hurriyat that the point of a strike is to exercise traction (often economic, always political) over the body being protested against. And that shop owners in Kashmir don't have any traction over the Vatican.

This is a not dissimilar argument, by the way, to the one that says burning effigies in the street is not a good way to protest accusations that your faith was spread by the sword.

And yes, I know lots of Muslim leaders have come out and accepted the Vatican's apology, condemned violence, etcetera, before anyone decides to cite the obvious. And, just as obviously, that the majority of Muslims would be horrified by violence in the name of protest. Nevertheless, it seems to me that such protests as there have been range from from the bizarre to the vile.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Short:arse

How the hell can anyone take Clare Short seriously? This preposterous figure, who shed her "left-wing" pretentions just as soon as Blair gained the leadership of the Labour Party in 1993, and who sat mute in Blair's cabinet for six years, now cliams that she is "ashamed of the government" and wants to see a hung parliament - ie; Labour MP's in marginal seats losing to Tories or Lib Dems.

Blair came out as a Thatcherite long before he offered you a seat in the cabinet, Clare! And I note that, in the "Independent" of 14th September 2006, you refer to "the New Labour C0up" - the kind of language that a lot of us on the left were using at the time when you were backing Blair's attacks and witch-hunts against the left.

The fact that you have now - belatedly and in reaction to the Blair spin-machine's personal attacks upon you - come out against Blair and his government (in particular, his foreign policy), is not to your credit. Nor is the fact that you are now calling for the defaet of Labour at the next election: it just makes you look pathetic and stupid. Just as your appearances on platforms organised by the SWP and the "Stop the War Coalition" calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq reveal you -as a supporter of the declaration of war - as someone who cares not a jot for the well-being of the Iraqi people, but merely as a craven opportunist who seeks to use the Iraq war for domestic advantage. Short, you are now so eactionary, nationalist and debased that I wouldn't even rule out your supporting "Respect" at the next general election. After all, you already appear on the "Stop the War Coalition" platform, which is -in effect- a "Respect" platform. If they can tolerate you (as an ex-war monger) and you can tolerate them (as friends of misogynistic fascists in Iraq, Iran and the Taliban in Afghanistan)...then you people are obviously made for each other: as anti-working class scum.

Darfur: a coming genocide?

I understand that today was 'Darfur Awareness Day', with a demo outside the Sudanese embassy and a march on Downing Street (which Blair said he welcomed). There was also a concert and other events, supported by the Aegis Trust, the Darfur Union, Amnesty International, Service for peace, and a number of other organisations. I hope the day went well and will succeed, at least, in its aim of focusing attention upon what is going on there. Already, 300,000 people have died and 2 million are homeless.

I find it very difficult to know what to say about Darfur: the population there face a full-scale assault from the Janjaweed and also from the Sudanese regulars, once the African Union's 7,000 peacekeepers pull out in two weeks' time. It looks like being a terrible massacre -or even a genocide.

The best solution would be for a UN force to move in: but Sudan's leader, President Omar al Bashir, is refusing to accept the 20,000 replacement force mandated by the UN. He is backed in this by Russia and China (with the argument that "national sovereignty" must takes precedence over peoples' lives).

I generally oppose unilateral Western intervention - even when it's billed as "humanitarian". But I'm more concerned about preventing genocide, than about "anti-imperialist" posturing. If ever there was a case for unilateral humanitarian intervention, it's Darfur now. But it won't happen. And why not? Eustonites and other supporters of the war in Iraq (and the war in Afghanistan - though that's not as clear cut), may like to consider the words of Mary Riddell, writing in today's Observer:

"Blair wants, commendably, to be the custodian of hope. As plan A, he will urge world leaders to force Bashirto step back from the brink of genocide. Any Plan B got shredded and cast to the winds somewhere between Baghdad and Helmand province. What bitter irony it would be if the consequence of Bush and Blair's adventurism was an inability to mount a wholly legitimate war on terror".

Decline and fall

George Melly, in his seminal work 'Owning Up' (I have a rare unsigned edition) describes a colleague from the trad jazz scene of the 1950's, trombonist Frank Parr: "He passed through the classic stages of drunkenness in record time, wild humour, self-pity, and unconsciousness, all well-seasoned with the famous Parr grimaces. His actual fall had a monumental simplicity. One moment he was perpendicular, the next horizonal. The only warning we had of his collapse was that, just before it happened, Frank announced that he was 'only fit for the human scrap heap' and this allowed us time to move any glasses, tables, chairs or instruments out of the way".

Now, that account may be accurate with regard to Mr Parr. But I have long suspected that it is a gross over-simplification with regard to myself and most of the people I know. The trouble is that it is extraordinarily difficult to keep a detailed record under what might be called 'field conditions'. But last Thursday myself, the Priest and 'Wonderslore' (who is supposed to contribute to this blog but rarely does) met up for what I shall euphamistically call a wine-tasting. As a result of that particular event, I can confidently state that the classic stages of Shiraz drunkenness are as follows:
1/ Amiable good humour.
2/ Manic laughter and anecdote-telling.
3/ Self-righteous denunciation of enemies, opponents and fools - real and imagined.
4/ Maudlin self-pity.
5/ Collapse.

I do not think I am giving away any secrets when I reveal that I observed both my colleagues passing through all five of these stages last Thursday night. Which accounts for the brief but regrettable hiatus that has occurred here between Thursday and tonight.

Those unfortunate Papal remarks - the responsible approach

I find it extraordinary that the liberal press and media in Britain have published the full details of the Pope's remarks about Islam, inluding the words that gave such offence ("evil and inhuman" ), and the original source of those words: Manual II Palaeologus (1350-1425). Going into such detail and - indeed - repeating the offensive words themselves can, surley, only inflame the situation and add to the hurt and distress that these crude and provocative words have already caused.

Surely the correct approach would be something like the following:

"We defend free speech in principle. But that does not mean that we defend the right to cause gratuitous offence. In that sense the Pope's words were an abuse of free speech and we will not, therefore, be publishing what he said. But we can assure our readers that it was highly offensive, and should not have been said. While we condemn some of the excessive, and possibly even cynically orchestrated reaction to these words, the fact remains that they were provative and irresponsible words. And not even very well-delivered or learned. Tou will have to take our word for that, of course, but we can assure you that we have read and it is much too offensive for you to read it and make up your own minds. So just trust us, the fearless liberal media of Britain."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

You know you're a wanker when... (an ode to the Euston crew)

First off, much applause to David T from Harry's, for this post. Dave, you are truly a decent "decent". But my God, some of your pals, mentioning no names (*cough* *Brownie and Mike C* *cough*) are fucking fools.

I never thought I would see any person on HP defend an act of political manipulation by a Prime Minister as though it were his simple right, because of his job title. But people manage it on that thread. Jeeeeeeeez.

Right: So you think it's ok to be a Blairite school headteacher, who invites the leader of the Labour Party (that is the crucial title here) along so that he can make a partisan announcement about his leadership in front of an audience of applauding 11 year olds (as against, ya know, questioning journalists). Whereas being a classroom assistant who organises a protest against that should be a sacking offence, huh?

And you're on the left, are you? And they looked from man to wanker...

Robin Sivapalan Rocks!!!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The racism of the anti-EU campaign exposed

The 'Morning Star' is the daily publication of the British Stalinist 'left'. Prior to the collapse of the USSR and the Stalinist empire in 1989/90, it was subsidised by 'Moscow gold'. Since then it's been subsidised by the dues of rank-and-file union members, most of whom are completely unaware that their hard-earned wages are being used to finance the last gasp of Stalinism in Britain.

Today's 'Star' (September 13th 2006) carries an article on the subject of the European Union and migrant workers, entitled "Don't be fooled by the EU Trojan horse", written by one Doug Nicholls, "secretary of Trade Unionists Against the European Constitution and general secretary of the CYWU (Community and Youth Workers' Union - JD).

Mr Nichols, a Maoid Stalinist himself, espouses some interesting opinions on the question of immigration, in the course of his anti- European Union (EU) tirade:

"...the EU itself has already shown on a mass scale that it considers it legal for migrant labour to create skills gaps in the country of origin and lower wages and worse conditions in the countries of destination.

"There has also been a a huge influx of other migrant labour which is sharply undercutting wages in many areas and putting new strains on public services, to a point where local government is having to consider high local taxes.

"The government has lost count of legal and illegal immigrants. recent research has indicated the full scale of the problem and capitalist spokespersons have revelled at the resulting suppression of wage levels".

This racist outburst from a so-called "left-winger" (and, I should point out in fairness to the 'Morning Star', not necessarily a reflection of their 'line'), contrasts with the article from the right-wing, class-collaborationist general secreatry of the TUC, Brendan Barber, in the previous day's (September 12th) Guardian, under the heading "Stop blaming migrants - exploitation is the problem"; the article began:

"The past few weeks have seen a most unedifying spectacle-liberal people trying desperately to justify illiberal attitudes...Employers have bemoaned the pressures on public services, which they more often advocate cutting and privatising. Economic liberals who insist that there must be no barriers to free trade have argued that free movement of workers is globalisation gone mad. And social liberals have argued that they are acting selflessly on behalf of 'white van man' in calling for restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian workers when their countries join the EU".

It comes to something, doesn't it, when the General Secretary of the TUC has a more internationalist - and less racist - view of the working class, tan a so-called "left-winger2, published in the 'Morning Star'?

"

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Support Robin Sivapalan

Got this via email yesterday. Some of you will be aware of Tony Blair's school visit the other day, on which he happened to make the non-announcement about his departure as premier. There were some people protesting there that day as well, and the guy that organised it is facing disciplinary action for encouraging people to express their views to the Prime Minister. Below is the text of a petition in his defence. If you'd like to sign it, let me know and I'll pass your details on to the campaign.

Support Robin Sivapalan - defend workers' right to protest

On 7 September, Tony Blair and Education Secretary Alan Johnson visited Quintin Kynaston school in north London to announce the first wave of 28 "trust schools" run by business, charitable and religious organisations - of which QK will be one of two in London. They were met by a demonstration, supported by Unison and NUT locally and School Students Against the War, and composed mainly of students from the school, expressing opposition to government policy on trust schools, privatisation and the wars in Iraq and Lebanon. The initiator of this demonstration, QK classroom assistant Robin Sivapalan, has now been suspended from his job for "insubordination" and "breaching confidentiality" by informing people of Blairs visit.The attempt to victimise Robin is an attack on freedom of speech and the right to protest. We are not prepared to see public service trade unionists silenced when they dare to express opposition to government policy.

We the undersigned call on the management of Quintin Kynaston to immediately reinstate Robin Sivapalan and drop all disciplinary charges against him.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Open letter to an SWP'er on "terrorism"

The mass-murder on September 11th 2001 was a turning point for me: not because of the atrocity itself (vile as it was) but because of the reaction of the SWP and SWP-inluenced "left". I am willing to concede that some of the reaction in the West may have been hypocritical - as though Western lives count for more than 'third world' lives. But, equally, there was a strong sense on sections of the "far-left" that because the victims were American, their lives didn't matter, either.The scarcely-concealed gloating, the disgusting "Bitter Fruits" headline of Socialist Worker (a publication I have never purchased since then)...and a prominant SWP'er trying to persuade a firefighter delegate at Birmingham Trades Council, to boycott fundraising for New York firefighters: I realised then , that the SWP and people like them were not just "misguided comrades", they were the enemy. But, being in the Socialist Alliance, I had to carry on working with them, much as it turned my guts. By 2004, I was involved in an extended e-mail bunfight (nothing changes, does it?) with an SWP'er, one John Game who I understand is some sort of academic at SOAS: gawd help his students. The man had clearly read much too much Foucault, and too little Marx, Engles, Lenin or Trotsky. Still 'an all, at least he'd read something, unlike most SWP'ers. Anyway, I got into a row with him on the Socialist Alliance e-mail list in 2004.

Game seemed to be attempting to deny that the term "terrorism" had any meaning and arguing that socialist shouldn't even use the term. In the aftermath of the Madrid bombings, I sent him the following missive. It's not great but I think it still stands up. I've tidied up the grammer and spelling a little bit, but otherwise it's as sent on 17 March 2004:

"John,

"I've been off the air for a day or so, and I see from my in-tray that the debate has moved on since your first reply to me, but I'd like to comment on what seem to me to be your main points...

"1/ Terrorism and 'terrorism'.

"The point about the quotes (what I somewhat misleadingly called 'scare quotes') is that they suggest either that the writer doesn't accept that there *is* a terrorist threat at all, or that they think it shouldn't be called "terrorist". I suspect that you fall into the second catagory, and I'll take that up next. But just for now, it's worth noting the (until recently) widely-held view that terrorism is somehow not real, that it's all been got up by the government as an excuse to attack civil liberties or a justification for war. This denial of reality is not unique to the 'left' - it's widely held by liberals (read the Guardian letters page or Michael "Repeat after me: 'there is no terrorist threat' Moore's latest book) and, indeed, Tories like Simon Jenkins. Read Jenkins' piece in the present issue of the Spectator, published on the same day as the Madrid bombings: 'Daily life offers many risks but that from terrorist attack is extemely slight'.

"I would like to think that the Madrid tragedy has finally demolished that argument, but it's amazing how impervious to fact and reason the deniars can be. It's an important matter because (as you seem to acknowledge from the glance I've so far taken of a later posting from yourself) if and when an attack happens in Britain, we need to have prepared our political response. Clearly, we can't do that if we refuse to believe that it could happen at all.

"2/ The Marxist tradition.

"As you say, the word 'terrorism' has a meaning within the Marxist tradition. It also has a meaning (or rather, meanings) in everyday parlance and meanings for people of different classes and different politics. I would put it to you that events like Madrid (and 9/11) meet any criteria for the meaning of the word. You seem to think otherwise, for reasons that I'm not quite clear about but that seem to involve the fact that western governments often use the term selectively and hypocritically.

"As you are probably aware, the Marxist who wrote extensively and authoritatively on the subject was our old friend Leon Trotsky. Two points strike me about Trotsky's writings on terrorism : firstly that he recognises that 'our class enemies', for all their hypocricy, are often right (or nearly right) about what constitutes terrorism:

"'However, when they reproach us with terrorism, they are trying - although not always consciously - to give the word a narrower, less indirect meaning. The damaging of machines by workers, for example, is terrorism in this strict sense of the word. The killing of an employer, a threat to set fire to a factory or a death threat to its owner, an assasination attempt, with revolver in hand, against a government minister - all these are terrorist acts in the full and authentic sense'.

"Secondly (I think): that throughout his writings on the subject, Trotsky is invariably referring to acts carried out by progressive individuals and groups against the class enemy. The perpetrators are, to paraphrase him, 'misguided comrades'.

"In his famous, and very moving, article 'For Grynszpan', Trotsky is outspokenly sympathetic towards the young Jew who shot a Nazi official in 1938, calling him (Grynszpan) 'the precious flower of mankind'. Indeed (argues Trotsky) it is only our sympathy and unequivocal solidarity with the young comrade that gives us the right to criticise him: 'All our emotions and sympathies are with the self-sacrificing avengers even though they are unable to discover the correct road'.

"Can you imagine Trotsky writing anything similar about the perpetrators of 9/11 or Madrid? Is there any meaningful comparison? I should have thought that to ask the question is to answer it. The kind of terrorism that Trotsky (and all classical Marxists) criticised - assasination of individual Tsarist and military officials, capitalists and (later) Nazis, by revolutionary socialists and democrats, had neither means nor ends in common with al-Qaeda-type attacks.

"The murder of hundreds (on 9/11, thousands) of civilians, most of them workers, is not 'individual terrorism' in the sense that Trotsky used the term. It is more properly compared to the atrocities of imperialism. And the political and social goals for which Islamic fundamentalists fight (in so far as we can deduce them) can be fairly compared with classic European fascism.

"Al-Qaeda and their followers are not misguided leftwingers or 'anti-imperialists' (in any prgressive sense) but fanatical reactionaries whose aim is the destruction of any and all forms of democracy, the labour movement and all the most prgressive aspects of modern society. There can be no backhanded support, sympathy or equivocation about these forces. And to build an anti-war movement upon any degree of evasion or ambiguity about them is to build on sand.

"3/ Condemnation

"I guess my (and the AWL's) attitude to condemnation pretty much follows from the above. As you rightly note, this is not primarily because of 'abstract moralism' (though I do think that a moral objection to 9/11 and Madrid is perfectly proper for Marxists), but a matter of political programme. We're in the business of telling workers where we stand on all aspects of day-to-day life, all matters of concern and interest to them. We are also in the business of indicating our picture of an alternative society and world - albeit of necessity a sketchy, broad-brush picture.

"That's why I disagree so strongly with your argument that there's no point in condemnation because others are doing it and we 'would (not) be adding much'. So if people are already saying something we agree with, we should stop saying it? Your argument is not even logical. But it's also not honest: the reason you and the SWP refuse to condemn is because you don't want to; because you think it's wrong to do so. And, privately, you wish that others weren't doing so. Your US comrades (more consistent and honest that the British SWP), said after 9/11: "Don't condemn, don't mourn". This stance has nothing to do with Marxism, but everything to do with western liberal self-hatred and relativism.

"Much the same applies to your strange argument that 'there is a common sense understanding that we are responsible for what our government does' ('common sense'? Whose 'common sense'?) and that therefore we can condemn 'our' government's actions (and the actions of its allies) but not al-Qaeda because we are not responsible for it. Again, this is gibberish, even in terms of formal logic: are you and I responsible (I presume you mean direct, personal responsibilty, rather than some sort of collective, historic, metaphysical 'responsibility') for fascism? For slavery? Or, come to it, for what Bush and Blair do? Does that influence whether or not we condemn them?

"No, your real argument reduces socialist politics to slogans designed to go down well with a particular 'market' - an advertising agency approach. Albeit an ad agency with an unusual target audience.

"As for your objecting to the suggestion that the SWP and some others inside the anti-war movement have 'illusions in the progressive politics of bin Laden': well, can't you see that if you if you refuse to condemn, then the question will inevitably arise. As a matter of fact, I don't think that the SWP leadership have illusions in bin Laden. Which makes their studied silence on the matter all the more cynical and contemptible. It's not even comparable with those socialists (and I most certainly don't mean the forerunners of the SWP!) in the 1970's who refused to condemn the Birmingham pub bombings, out of a sense of solidarity with the PIRA: at least that stance took some real courage in the face of overwhelming, and often physically violent, public opinion. At the moment there is no such hysteria surrounding al-Qaeda and bin Laden. In fact a certain grudging sympathy for Islamism seems to be de rigeur in Guardian-reading circles these days.

"4/ Western responsibility

"Actually, while writing that last section, it dawned on me that an awful lot of your argument comes down to the proposition that (in the words of 'Private Eye''s trendy vicar/bishop, "We are all guilty". All guilty, that is, of what the 'western powers' do (the quotes are simply to indicate that the terminology is yours, not mine). Therefore, morally and politically, we have no right to condemn what what the Islamist enemy of those powers does, even if we don't agree with what that Islamist enemy stands for in any positive sense whatsoever. Once again, pure relativism, laced with moralism, self-hatred and the old 'my enemy's enemy is my friend' riff. I'm sorry if that seems harsh, but I really cannot work out any other coherant explanation for what you are saying.

"You ask what I think is the connection between 'what the western powers do and horrible things that happen'. Well, I'm quite prepared to agree that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have inflamed the sensibilities of Muslims throughout the world, and have undoubtably recruited a lot of angry young men to bin Laden's cause. Those wars are probably the direct and immediate cause of this latest (ie: Madrid) attack. I am also willing to agree that US / British policy in the Middle East generally, and Israel / Palestine specifically, is the cause of much justified resentment and bitterness amongst Muslims and others throughout the world. Some of that anger is no doubt a factor in creating the environment in which al-Qaeda and its local offshoots can recruit and operate. But that's not all there is to it: remember, 9/11 happened before the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; and all the evidence suggests that bin Laden's primary grievance concerned the role of the Saudi royal family in allowing US forces on sacred land and had little or nothing to do with Isreal / Palestine. Anyway, what concievable 'solution' to Isreal / Palestine that socialists could put forward would satisfy bin Laden? Clearly not 'two states', as that would leave the 'Zionist entity' in place. And (for equally obvious reasons) not a single 'democratic secular state' as, in theory, is still advocated by the SWP.

"faceit, John: al-Qaedais driven by ideological hatred for all things 'western', including socialism, the labour movement, democracy, womens' equality, gay rights, etc; etc. It is not, primarily, driven by poverty, inequality or westrn aggression / exploitation of the 'third world'. If that was the cause, then why have not similar movements arisen in, say, Vietnam, ot anywhere in Africa except Muslim North Africa?

"There's a lot more I wanted to write in response to your mailing (in particular about the real democratic content of the KLA's demands and role), but that will have to wait for another day.

"Once again, apologies if the debate has, by now, moved on.

"Yours,

"Jim Denham."

And the prize for "evocative post of the day" goes to...

...Denham for his talk of aborted babies below. Conjures all manner of images ya just don't wanna think about before breakfast.

Still, we all love him 'cos he kicked George Galloway's butt on live radio. And besides, he's right about needing to drum up some more posts from our other contributors.

Bring it on, folks!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Priest killed the babies!

Who was it said that to be a good writer you had to be prepared to "kill your babies"?

Anyway, the Priest has certainly aborted a lot of lovely little cuddly foetuses, when he unililaterally switched us over to 'HaloScan' - whatever the bloody hell that is. So many witty and wise comments have now been lost forever. However, I hope that contributors like the Stroppies, Boogski, Bruce, Dave and Clive will continue to give us the benefit of their wisdom. And I shouldn't really complain about the Priest, as he's the one who keeps this here blog going. I'm just a dilettante, really: but at least I have a go occasionally, unlike my colleagues, who really must pull their fingers out! Bloody poor show, chaps (and chapesses)!

Galloway's mini-bio, an excerpt

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting'Twas fascinating to see George Galloway's presenter bio on the TalkSport Website. Read the rest here, but is it not interesting what Galloway will allow some people to say about him:

Castro is not the only controversial political figure George has shared company with either. ‘Gorgeous’ George has also shared tea and biscuits with now displaced-despot and all round bad guy that is former president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, and his sons Uday and Qusay, who were known to be fond of torturing footballers that couldn’t beat Barcelona blindfolded.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

RIP Charlie Williams

I always admired Charlie Williams. As a comedian he wasn't in the same league as, say, Tommy Cooper. But he had at least one thing in common with Cooper: the moment you saw him, you knew you'd like him.

It has been fashionable for some time to denigrate Williams. I haven't seen the term 'Uncle Tom' used about him, but that's what most of the criticism amounts to. A particularly churlish - and hypocritical - condemnation came from Lennie Henry (quoted in the Guardian's obituary of Williams, September 4 2006):

"Charlie told a lot of 'darkie jokes'. 'I've been left in the oven too long' or 'I'm perspiring a lot, I'm leaking chocolate' - which were very immature. I remember doing a show in Hull and a guy shouting out 'Oi! You've got to do jokes like Charlie Williams. That's the kind of thing we expect from black comedians up here'.

"I would go to see Charlie pulling the house down doing stuff about 'darkies' and I thought 'this is obviously what you've got to do if it's a predominantly white audience - you've got to put yourself, and other people, down'."

Henry omits to mention that he, himself, started his career as a Charlie Williams imitator - and continued using Williams-type material into the 1980's, until his missus, Dawn French, told him it was Not OK. And, of course, by the 1980's it wasn't "OK" to tell those sort of jokes (actually, these days, it probably would be: so long as the sophisticated audince understood that you were being 'ironic', in the way that Matt Lucas takes the piss out of gays or Meera Syal ridicules Asian women; Jewish comics have been mocking Jews since Abraham told the one about Adam's shlong and the chopped liver).

What Henry, and the others who decry Williams, also leave out of account, is any sense of historic context: Williams came up as a comedian in the late 1960's and early '70's: the high water mark of the National Front, Enoch Powell and routine police harassment of black people. The BBC was still running the bizarre 'Black and White Minstrel Show' (to large audiences), while over at ITV the most popular sitcom was 'Love Thy Neighbour' - probably the most racially offensive show ever aired on British television.

Williams himself made his TV debut on Granada's 'The Comedians', which put clubland stand-up comics on the telly, doing their routines more or less as they would be seen in a CIU club. Stereotyping was an essentail part of the formula: there was Frank Carson (Northern Irish), Mike Reid (Cockney)...and Bernard Manning (Yorkshire). Manning was the most openly racist comedian ever to appear on British TV. Unfortunately, he was also very talented (as Darcus Howe, who interviewed him a couple of years ago, acknowledged).

What was Williams, in this environment, supposed to do? Denounce the racism of mainstream light entertainment - the very world in which he was trying to make a living? Of course not! What he did (though I doubt that he would have described it thus) was to subvert the genre, using its conventions and stereotypes to establish himself as a black man who happened to be very funny and to have a Yorkshire accent every bit as strong as Bernard Manning's.

The other factor in all of this was that Williams (I'm guessing now, but I'm pretty sure) saw himself first and foremost as working class. His Barbadian dad had come to Britain in 1914, and served in WWI before finding work as a coal miner. He married a Yorkshire girl and their son, Charlie, followed his father into the pits. It was while he was a Yorkshire miner that Charlie started playing football and was spotted by a Doncaster Rovers scout. I didn't know, until I read the obituaries, that long before he emerged as a comic, Williams had been a professional soccer player. And it just so happens that a work colleague of mine, Ian Nannested, moonlights as obituarist for the Professional Footballers' Association: here's what Ian wrote about Williams. Being a black professional footballer in the 1950's took some guts: racist chants and bananas thrown onto the pitch were commonplace until quite recently. As Ian writes, Williams "will be remembered for his unique role as a pioneer for black people in his two very different careers as a footballer and a comedian".

He was no Uncle Tom. Like many other pioneering black entertainers (Louis Armstrong springs immediately to mind) he had to work in circumstances not of his own making: and he did so with the material that seemed appropriate at the time. It is not for us to sneer at him; rather we should applaud him for breaking down barriers that allow other black entertainers to follow in his footsteps. And he embued material that now seems demeaning, with a certain dignity.

So long, "me old flower".

Iraqi oil workers win strike

This news is a few days old now, but apparently the workers of the General Company for Oil Lines and Pipes, based in Basra and Nassiriyah, have won their recent strike action. They demanded:

1. Wages must be paid in due time

2. Overtime work must be paid

3. Increase workers' allowances

4. Provide ambulances at working places to transfer sick workers to hospital when needed

In this day and age it's disgusting that people are still having to go on strike to achieve simple, basic standards such as these. But at the end of the day, people acted and they won.

Congratulations to the General Union of Oil Employees in Basra, which led the strike. And let this be a lesson to all of those who take the bi-polar "anti-imperialism means you agree with absolutely anyone who's opposed the the USA" attitude to leftist politics that seems to dominate some sections of the UK anti-war movement. Independent, positive demands which progress the interests of working people are possible, anywhere in the world.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Denham floors Galloway - Your Soaraway Shiraz Socialist got there first!

The mother of all congratulations to mi compadre Jim Denham, who has just been the first, and best, critical caller to rattle George Galloway on his "playing host to the SWP'ers and their mates" show which he shared with the two Mikes, Lavalette and Rosen. The topics were Anti-Semitism and Palestine.

Galloway claimed Jim had "libelled" him by saying that Galloway had not denounced a particular conspiracist speaker at a previous Birmingham Trades Council meeting, where Big George had been a guest speaker. Well first, George, even if you were right it would be slander and not libel (spoken, see?), but I rather doubt whether even that is the case.

Also, Jim managed to get a name-check on the Galloway show for the Alliance for Workers' Liberty, which will surely have Sean Matgamna and Martin Thomas laughing long and hard into the night.

E viva Denham! E viva Shiraz Socialist!

If you really have nothing better to do tonight

This just arrived in my new Haloscan comments - the sort of spam one would normally delete, except it's an invitation that's too good to miss:

George Galloway will be presenting a special, extra three hours of his phone in show on TalkSport – Available on 1089/1053 AM, Sky Digital 0108, Freeview 723, Digital Cable, DAB Digital and at www.talkSPORT.net – on Friday 8 September from 10pm. He'll be joined by broadcaster and writer Michael Rosen to discuss the fallout in Britain from the conflict in the Middle East. Is anti-Semitism on the rise, as an unofficial committee of MPs claims this week? When does legitimate criticism of Israel cross over into anti-Jewish prejudice? Phone 08704 20 20 20 or text in via 81089 or email via the website – www.talksport.net – to join the discussion.

You heard the man. 08704 20 20 20 or email via the TalkSport website. For any US based people who might be reading and fancy letting George know their views on this issue, that's 5pm Miami/New York time.

Enjoy.
commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Just GO already!

Apparently Tony Blair is due later today to announce his "timetable" for departure as Labour leader. Man, some people just don't know when it's over, do they?

Tony. Look, I know I'm no friend of yours, but it's perfectly clear that even your most supple-spined MPs have now decided that it's not in their political interests to offer you backing any more. Several members of the government resigned just yesterday, and it's hardly as though they were Nye Bevan types, is it?

What's more, I wouldn't bet against more going today; is anyone else wondering where Jack Straw's been over the past couple of days?

Let's just face it, you're the failed Prime Minister of failing Government, and if your party is to revive itself before the next general election, then now's the time for a change. If there is an ounce of decency left under the mass of spin, messianic delusions and ego that now seem to form your persona, then you will just go. And go now, not after a delay set out in some "timetable".

Then maybe, just maybe, you can take the rest of your life to seek the personal redemption that you seem to want so desperately. And try to wash that Iraqi, Afghan and Lebanese blood from your hands.

Good luck with that.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

And you thought Feminism had disappeared?

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingIt's been a long time since I saw an event organised specifically around socialist feminist politics. So it was refreshing to receive details about this one, and I'm more than happy to give it a plug. It looks very good indeed; I'm given to understand both that men can attend, and that it's not meant to be a specifically student thing (although students are welcome!). The first part of this post is the details for the conference itself, and the second is some information about the organisation that has called it, and its supporters.

FIGHT BACK FOR WOMEN'S LIBERATION

Feminist Fightback is a conference for feminist activists, which will beheld on Saturday 21 October at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.

The conference will include a variety of speakers, discussion and activisttraining workshops on themes including sexual liberation, international solidarity and women's struggles as workers.

Planned sessions include:

- Pornography, objectification and freedom of speech- Equal pay, low pay and workers' struggle

- Prostitutes: workers or victims?

- The fight for abortion rights

- planning actions for the next year

- Building campaigning women's groups

- Men's role in anti-sexist struggles

- Against war, against theocracy

- Iranian women fight back

Feminist Fightback is free and open to all, whatever sort of feminist you are or whether you are just interested. We are particularly encouraging trade union and student activists to get involved. The agenda is a work in progress - please give us suggestions!

For more information visit our website, http://www.fightback.org.uk/ or email us on sofie.buckland@nus.org.uk

LAUNCH STATEMENT - FEMINISTS FIGHT BACK

Discrimination and exploitation at work, unequal pay, domestic violence,sexual objectification, denial of reproductive rights, rape, racism, war,poverty and religious fundamentalism... The fight for womens liberation has not yet been won. Womens rights are everywhere under attack, and yetall over the world women are at the forefront of some of the most inspiring struggles for freedom, equality and social justice - as womens' rights campaigners, as community activists and as workers.

Despite our continued desire for freedom and equality, too many women today feel that feminism doesnt speak to them.

Too many people think that feminism is about being made to feel guilty for what we do with our bodies or how we express our sexuality; about a group of experts telling other women how to live; or about a handful of rich and powerful women getting to the top. We think feminism is about ordinary women coming together to challenge sexism in their own lives, and to support women around the world demanding their rights.

We want a feminism that fights. A womens movement that is about activism, not just talk; about grassroots campaigning, not just lobbying; about politics, not just about lifestyle choices; and about liberation for all,not just equality for a privileged few.

The Feminist Fightback conference aims to empower women of all ages tofight back against oppression and exploitation. It is a one day event where women can debate the issues which affect their lives, share their experiences, and, most importantly, develop practical ways in which they can turn feminism into activism.

Feminist Fightback is open to all. Whether you want to share your experiences and ideas as an activist, debate with us about how to end oppression, or just find out more about what feminism means - come and get angry, come and get active, come and help us change the world!

Supporting individuals include:

Prof. Susie Orbach - London School of Economics, author of 'Fat is a Feminist Issue'

Debbie Hollingsworth - Ruskin College students' union women's officer

Rachael Ferguson - Sussex University women's officer

Petra Urwin - SOAS Women's Society president

Teodora Todorova - Nottingham University women's officer

Vicki Ward - University of Wales Lampeter women's officer (Swyddog Merched)

Sofie Buckland - National Union of Students national executive committee

Janine Booth - Hackney TUC president (pc)

Kate Ahrens - Leicester Health Unison (pc)

Camila Bassi - Sheffield Hallam University UCU

Beth Aze - Salford Unison

Faz Velmi - Battersea & Wandsworth Trades Council (pc)

Houzan Mahmoud - Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq (UK)

Surma Hamid - London Metropolitan University

Louise Gold - Sheffield University, NUS Women's Committee 2004-6

Laura Sterry - Nottingham University

Laura Schwartz - University of East London

Jo Read - NUS Women's Campaign steering committee

Mary Partington - Education Not For Sale Women

Maddy Evans - Essex University People & Planet

Anna Wolmuth - Oxford University People & Planet

Ruth Cashman - Newcastle University

Ann Marie O'Reilly - People and Planet Steering committee

Charlynne Pullen - Access and Academic Affairs Sabbatical Officer, Oxford University Student Union 2005-6

Louise McMullen - Amicus

Prof. Barbara Taylor - University of East London

Dr. Amrit Wilson - London Metropolitian University

Pauline Bradley - Shop Steward, West Dunbartonshire Unison Scotland

Hannah Roe - Co-Chair of Women's Campaign, Oxford University

Marsha-Jane Thompson - London Unison Young Members' Convenor

Darcy Leigh - Edinburgh University

Sitara Amin Tilly - Alexandra Park Sixth Form, London

Supporting organisations:

Education Not for Sale Women

LRC Socialist Youth Network

Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq (UK)

Please add your or your group's name to the statement by emailing team@fightback.org.uk

Is anyone taking bets

... on who wins the war between the Scottish Socialist Party and the Tommy Sheridan Party?

It seems to me that whilst Tommy has the celebrity factor and the media pull, I think his backers will probably let him down. It's hard to see how an organisation that seems to be composed of Tommy, a small circle of his friends, and the mutually antagonistic SWP and CWI, will cement itself for the long term. Presumably the SWP is relying on playing its familiar role as gofers for a leader to whose politics they will accomodate themselves, whilst relying on their numbers to squeeze out any opposition. This will of course be all the easier now that they have simply left the SSP organisation where the ISM used to counter-balance their weight. Scottish Respect, here we come.

The ones whose motives are harder to work out, are the CWI (the Scottish section of the Socialist Party). Vastly outnumbered in the new organisation by the SWP, they presumably are hoping that Sheridan retains enough of his old politics in order to build an organisation of which they would approve. Or was it simply that they were so bitter towards their former comrades in the ISM that they would take any opportunity to split with them?

In terms of who wins the inevitable slugging match, it will be interesting to see just how much of the SSP's electoral support is due to Sheridan's orange-tanned charisma, and how much is actual loyalty to the party. How much is due to which, will probably determine the outcome. Although of course, even if the Tommy Party comes out on top, it hardly bodes well for a new political project if its support is purely a personal vote for its leader.

Either way, it's very sad to see what was once a promising left-of-labour movement in Scotland destroying itself, with its two successor organisations sinking into the pit of sectarian mutually assured destruction.

Monday, September 04, 2006

I was thinking of a theme tune...

On tuning in last night for my regular Sunday evening listen to Radio Galloway, I was surprised to hear his Georgeness asking for suggestions for a new theme song for his show: he may possibly be looking to replace the current theme, the entirely appropriate "Top Cat".

Anyway, I restrained myself from ringing in and suggesting the Syrian national anthem. But it got me to thinking about whether other prominent lefties (I use the term in the broadest sense, before anyone whinges) shouldn't have a theme song. So I took it upon myself to come up with some suggestions.

Yvonne "Party Gal" Ridley - Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Cyndi Lauper - or Legs, ZZ Top

John Rees - I Wanna Be Elected, Alice Cooper - or To Win Just Once, The Saw Doctors

Lindsey German - Losing My Religion, REM

Sean Matgamna - Overload, Zappacosta

Peter Taaffe - Macarena, Los Del Rio (just because the picture it conjures is sooo funny)

The Spartacist League - Maniac in the Brainiac, Mack 10 and Ice Cube

The CPGB - Weirdo, The Charlatans

Oh, we could go on and on...

Perhaps a few suggestions for the blog types as well?

Stroppy and Louise - Sin Wagon, The Dixie Chicks

Mike - The Theme from Inspector Morse

Janine - Children of the Revolution, Kirsty MacColl

Osler - Teenage Kicks, The Undertones

Broder - also Teenage Kicks, The Undertones

And for mi compadre, the one and only Denham? It has to be Red Ingle's classic version of Cigarettes, Whusky and Wild, Wild Women - or else of course anything by John Coltrane!

Any further suggestions welcome; the comments box is all yours.

Please support this campaign

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingI got this information from Samina's campaign via email. It seems to me that this is an important issue, where almost everyone of decent and progressive politics can agree. So please give Samina, and her campaign, all the support that you can.

Samina Altaf and her two children Aqsa and Sumama fled Pakistan in May 2004 to escape domestic abuse. All three are disabled with severe rickets and are receiving medical support in this country. Nonetheless the Home Office want to deport the family. Their Home Office reference number is A1233290.

Their case has already received local and national press coverage in the Salford Advertiser, the Manchester Evening News, the Guardian, BBC Radio and Granada TV.

The disabilities

Hazel Blears is the family’s MP. Having personally met with Samina and Aqsa she is in no doubt as to the severity of their disabilities. Aqsa in particular has severe difficulties and uses a wheelchair to get around school. She has transport provided by Salford Education Authority to get her to school and back. Social Services assessment reports states that ‘Aqsa is quite severely disabled with rickets and requires a disability social worker to assess her and the family’s needs’. Both children are receiving treatment through Booth Hall Children’s Hospital and Aqsa is waiting to hear about her admission for major surgery.

Many people have pledged their support for the family and include her lawyer David Pountney at Bury Law Centre, the Headteacher of St Sebastians school where Sumama is a pupil, Pamela Thompson, Aqsa’s teacher at Abraham Moss, the doctors at Booth Hall, and members of the local community in Salford. Julie Hesmondhalgh (Haley from Coronation Street) is one of the main supporters of Samina’s campaign and has spoken at public meetings in support of the families right to remain in this country.

Samina Altaf and her children have just received a letter from the Home Office turning down their application to remain in this country. They repeat the adjudicators claim that Aqsa is not ‘completely disabled’ and that this is “an attempt to embellish her claim and it does not reflect the true situation.”

The true situation is that the Home Office have not conducted one medical examination of their own. On the other hand the family’s representatives have submitted numerous medical reports to substantiate the claim. If returned to Pakistan the family would suffer violence because of their disability.

Who would you believe?

The Home Office or the doctors and social workers at Booth Hall Children’s Hospital, Bury Social Services, Salford Social Services, and Community Paediatricians, who have all written reports that have been sent to the Home Office.

Hazel Blears, who has met Samina and the children and knows her situation, represents a government that says it is committed to tackling disability discrimination and yet discriminates against the disabled.

What does ‘completely disabled’ mean?
What kind of prejudice is the Home Office guilty of?
A wrong is being committed here against Samina and her family.

For more information contact the campaign, care of Bury Law Centre, 0161 272 0666. Postal address: Samina Will Stay Campaign, c/o Bury Law Centre , 8 Bank Street, Bury BL9 0DL

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Faking it...

You may recall the recent "interview" of Hassan Nasrallah by Turkish newspaper Evrensel. you may even have have heard some people (well, OK, Lenny Lenin) raving about how "fascinating" it was - once you've "gone beyond that bollocks" about the American media being controlled by Jewish capitalists of course. First time I've heard a self-professed lefty argue that such anti-semitic comments are what you need to "go beyond" in order to really appreciate a "fascinating interview", but that's a whole other debate.

Others, of course, got themselves all worked up about it in a different way.

But gentle reader, what you may not have realised was that it wasn't an interview at all; in fact it was a fake. What's more, both Evrensel and Hezbollah say so. There was some speculation about this before - a possibility even acknowledged, bizarrely, by some who nevertheless reproduced the interview on the net, but it's now out there in the open.

So, really, it was all a big fuss about nothing. Ah well, such is the stuff of internet politics.

(Hat tip: Harry's Place, who have posted the news)

Saturday, September 02, 2006

How many times can you say "Zionist" in one article?

I don't know if there's a world record for how many times one can mention the word "Zionist" in a single piece of writing, but it looks like the ever-hilarious Yvonne "party gal" Ridley is giving it a good go.

Apparently, Yvonne is fed up with "Zionists" accusing her of being anti-semitic. Well, actually she puts it more poetically than I:

This column today is aimed directly at those nauseating little Zionists who accuse me of being an anti-semite. You see they don't like me using the Z word to describe my pure, unadulterated disdain and contempt of their extremist beliefs.

Uh huh. I see. So what are these dastardly "nauseating little Zionists" doing in order to expedite this defamatory plot, Yvonne?

So now that we've cleared that up, how can some of these Z people (four of whom are fanatical about distorting and guarding the content of my Wikipedia entry) call me anti-semitic?

Distorting your Wikipedia entry? The bastards! Some lines should never be crossed. Clearly the perpetrators of this and other vicious libels must be stopped. But how to do it?

However if any of those Zionist idiots continue to try and paint me as an anti-semite I must warn you ... one of my closest friends is one of Britain's best defamation lawyers. Oh, and she happens to be Jewish (for some reason most of the best lawyers and hairdressers are).

Lawyers and hairdressers. Yes.

Congratulations, Yvonne. You have just become the first two-time winner of the Shiraz Socialist Tinfoil Hat of the Week. Go get 'em, kiddo.

Well, I'm off for now. Gotta ring my Mossad handlers.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Hehehehe....

Oh, poor David Miliband and his use of Wiki software to mediate his online DEFRA "Environment Contract" discussions. For those who don't know, a Wiki is a site which has stakeholders who can edit it, which is in theory a self-regulating thing that encourages participation. Of course, it doesn't always work that way. The upshot of which is that this is very funny.

Good to know that New Labour is at the cutting edge of New Media, innit?

(Hat tip: David T at Harry's Place)

Pilger Goes Mad

As a young leftie, I had a number of heroes: George Orwell, Paul Foot, and John Pilger. Pilger, in particular, I admired as an incorruptible reporter, exposing the crimes of British, American, and Australian racism and imperialism... there came a point (a few years ago), when I decided that my hero was...a prat.

It came, I think, when he started to praise for the "resistance" in Iraq: I thought, "these people are Islamo-fascists", gynophobes, homophobes, anti-semites, and inter-Islamic sectarians: yet Pilger supports them? I couldn't believe it! This man, who - for me- had always stood for human decency, now seemed to be backing Islamofascism? Unbelievable! Yet it seems he does. Including the vicious anti-semites Hesbullah. much the same can be said about a once-respect-worthy leftist, Tony Benn; - who now does the rounds of the "Stop the War Coalition" meetings, claiming that Osama Bin Ladin is "comparable" with Nelson Mandella . And now that once-great journalist John Pilger, now seems to be on the side of then Islamo-Fascists!


This jerk's anti-American / anti Israeli racism is now even so all-pervasive that he mistakes a British middle class pensioner, who went to the bourgeois courts regarding the withdrawal of GP services, and won her case - Pat Smith- for an anti-imperialist "freedom fighter":

"There is no difference in principle between Pat Smith's campaign of resistance and that of of the people of Cochabamba who refuse to pay almost half their income to an American company for their water. There is no difference in principle between the people's movement that saw off the Israeli invaders and the strirring of people everywhere as they become aware of the real meaning of the ambitions and hypocrisy of Bush and his vassal, who want us to to be ever fearful of and cowed by "terrorism" (note the scare quotes: presumably, there's no such thing as "terrorism" -JD) when, in truth, the greatest terrorists, are all of them.

And if you want to read and hear more such utter bollocks, then attend the "John Pilger Film Festival" at the Barbican, London, from 14-21 September.