Archive for the ‘Coal’ Category

Riley Claims Rowling Abused for Opposition to Anti-Semitism, Not Trans

May 23, 2022

I really do wonder what goes on in the mind of Countdown numbers person Rachel Riley. Yes, she’s another fanatical supporter of Israel who can’t tell the difference between anti-Zionism – which is opposition to an ideology – and anti-Semitism, which is simply racial hatred of Jews. But her hatred of anti-Zionists, or indeed, of any critic of Israel’s barbarous treatment of the Palestinians, has now grown so fervent that sometimes she speaks utter nonsense. As when she accused the Durham Miner’s band of being some kind of SS Nazi organisation because they played Hava Nagila at the close of the miners’ gala, just as they did every year. Even a brief knowledge of real Fascism and Nazism is enough to dispel that. One of the first things Hitler did was smash the trade unions, replacing them with a much weaker, pro-management substitute, the Deutsche Arbeitsfront. Mussolini tried to win over the established socialist trade unions after banning the socialist parties. When he couldn’t, he banned them and made it compulsory for Italian workers to join the Fascist trade unions. The black trade unions which formed part of the MSI, the Italian neo-Fascist party after the war, were anti-socialist and supplied blackleg labour during strikes. In Britain, the opposition to Oswald Mosley and the BUF included the Communists and trade unions, as well, of course, of self-respecting Jews and Irish. And Ken Livingstone, in his 1987 Livingstone’s Labour, describes how bog-standard, ordinary mineworkers and the unions objected to the employment of former Nazis by the Coal Board after they offered their services to British intelligence.

Examining some of her statements, I find myself using the same advice Private Eye gave its readers when reviewing the books written by Jacob Rees-Mogg’s esteemed pater. You read it very carefully, and then turned it round 180o, and bingo! You’d reached the right conclusion.

Last week Riley raised her head to claim that J.K. Rowling had suffered horrendous abuse and vilification, not because she didn’t believe that transwomen were women, but because she was opposed to ‘Corbyn and anti-Semitism’. Well, it’s true that she did issue various statements over the net attacking Corbyn as an anti-Semite. She also accused Mike of being an anti-Semite and a Holocaust denier. All this told me is that, whatever her strengths as a novelist, she was credulous in this regard and believed everything she read in the papers.

Rowling has come under fire for many of her views. The anti-immigration Alex Belfield types attacked her for defending asylum-seekers and the channel migrants. They demanded that if she was that in favour of them, she should put a few up in her multi-million pound mansion. They can’t make the same accusation of Benedict Cumberbatch, of course, because he has indeed taken one of them in.

But most of the abuse Rowling’s suffered came from a tweet she made a few years ago, in which she told her trans readers that they should dress how they want, sleep with whoever would have them, live their best lives, but that transwomen weren’t women. Not a hateful statement at all, as far as I can see. But because of this she was immediately accused of hating transpeople and wanting to kill them. Since then there were moves to exclude her from the documentary marking 20 years since the Harry Potter movies, and trans activists telling the world to read her books but ignore the fact that she wrote them. In all of this, I haven’t seen any evidence of anti-Semitism from her trans critics and opponents. In fact, I don’t recall seeing any evidence of anti-Semitism from trans rights activists at all. Rather the opposite. Maria MacLachlan, who posts her gender critical videos on the Peak Trans channel on YouTube, has one in which she refutes the accusation that ‘TERFs’ – Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists – are right-wing. Among the tweets she shows which make this accusation is one that says that ‘Terfs are Nazis, literal Nazis’. Which is utter nonsense. Many, if not most, gender critical feminists come from the radical left and are utterly opposed to racism, which includes anti-Semitism and Jew hatred. As for the trans rights activists, in all of their abuse I don’t think I’ve seen one that mentions Jews, let alone expresses anti-Semitism views. As far as I can make out, Rowling’s trans opponents are simply opposed to her refusal to accept their dogma that transwomen are women. And I have to say that her criticisms of Corbyn and the Labour were so long ago that I’d forgotten them until Riley reminded me of them.

Riley’s talking nonsense. I don’t know if she made this ridiculous accusation because her hatred of Corbyn has now become so intense and obsessive that he’s living rent-free in her head, or whether Starmer’s position as head of the Labour party is now so shaky that she’s somehow afraid Corbyn will come back. But she’s talking arrant bilge regardless, bilge which deserves to be refuted along with her other prejudiced statements about the Labour left.

The Privatisation of Channel 4 Is Another Assault on Journalistic Independence

April 5, 2022

I gather from today’s headlines that the Tories are going ahead with their wretched plan to privatise Channel 4. Well, they’ve wanted to do it for a long time, ever since Maggie Thatcher set it up in the 1980s. It was meant to be an alternative to BBC 2, and so was naturally going to have low ratings. But it also had some excellent programming and did much to offer the British public genuine alternatives to the mainstream medial

It’s director-general in that decade, Jeremy Isaacs, believed that people had latent tastes they didn’t know they had, and it was the channel’s task to offer material that they otherwise wouldn’t know they liked. He talked in his autobiography about giving the public a range of minority interests like miners’ oral history. Reviewing it, Private Eye got very huffy, accusing Isaacs of thinking that he knew better than the rest of us. But Isaacs was quite right. For example, Quentin Letts, former Daily Mail and now Times parliamentary sketch writer, who is very definitely a man of the right, praised Isaacs’ Channel 4 in one of his books because it opened up opera to a mass audience. Absolutely correct – my family’s working class, but Dad used to put Channel 4’s opera on occasionally. I remember coming back from seeing the western Silverado at the flicks to find Dad had on the box a big opera event being broadcast across Europe. And there were obviously a sizable number of ordinary, working people like Dad across the country, years before Pavarotti caused a storm at the World Cup.

But the channel also offered a range of other content, often of a multicultural flavour. There was an adaptation of the Indian epic, the Mahabharata, a season of films by the great Indian director, Satyajit Ray, as well as more popular Indian cinema with ‘All India Goldies’. It also gave a platform to the new, emerging alternative comedy scene with The Comic Strip, starring Rik Mayall, French and Saunders, Alexei Sayle and so on, and the group of Black comics, the Family. They had a series set in a Black barbershop. I only saw bits and pieces of it, but it was genuinely funny. In one episode, one of the characters finds out that he is the governor of a Caribbean island nation right at the same time they’re having revolution. He phones up his government on the island just in time to hear gunfire and one them report that ‘Such-and-such island has fallen’. Wearing his ceremonial uniform, the man then stands in a wastepaper bin and tears off his epaulettes. More seriously, the channel also presented a history of the world intended to challenge the Eurocentric bias of traditional history programmes. There was also news and documentary series about Africa, with Black presenters and a history of the continent presented by the White afrocentrist, Basil Davidson. I’ve been criticised here for describing Davidson as an afrocentrist in a previous post. But that is how Davidson, a respected historian, described himself in one of his books. Davidson is an afrocentrist in the sense that he believes that ancient Egypt is the ultimate source of western science and culture. He states that he has this view, because it’s what the ancient Romans and Greeks believed. While this is a very controversial view, he’s very far from the bizarre fantasies and pseudo-history of many on the Afrocentric fringe, like the notion that the ancient Egyptians somehow had quantum mechanics and advanced physics long before the 20th century.

To balance this, the channel also had more popular entertainment like Tell the Truth, a panel show that was ‘Would I Lie to You’ in all but name, the pop music programme, The Tube and the computer generated vid-jockey Max Headroom as well as the soap, Brookside. It also upset right-wing sentiments with sexually explicit movies and programmes, to the point where the Heil branded Michael Grade, the channel’s next director-general, ‘Britain’s pornographer in chief’. This was just when the channel had announced it was launching a season of gay and lesbian programmes and films. The best response to this came from the Archdeacon of York. The Mail’s journos had been contacting various people to ask what they thought about this latest assault on traditional British morality. The good clergyman replied, ‘Do you think anybody’s going to watch it if there’s Clint Eastwood on the other’. A common sense reaction against the Mail’s hysterical fearmongering.

The Tories seem to have hated all of this at the time, even if its programming was applauded by the critics. As I remember, they were particularly impressed by the Mahabharata, the Tube and the Family. Channel 4 was also set up to specialise in high quality news coverage. And it’s this which I think really annoyed the Tories. Channel 4 News had a reputation for being particularly good, and the channel also broadcast the current affairs documentary series Dispatches and The Bandung Files. The last I believe uncovered some of the dirty dealing by western politicos and multinationals in the Developing World. The channel became much more mainstream in the 90s under Bazalguette, who got rid of much of the alternative material. It still managed to annoy the Tories though with ‘yoof’ shows like The Word and The Girlie Show, both of which had reputation for being spectacularly bad in terms of content and taste.

But I think it’s the persistent, in depth coverage and incisive questioning of government policies by the news programmes that has particularly brought down Tory spite. Channel 4 News has done too good a job of holding the government to account. When anchorman John Snow announced he was retiring a few months ago, the Lotus Eaters put up a video celebrating it and calling him a ‘snowflake’. Hardly. Snow was just determined not to take BS from officialdom. During the bombardment of Gaza he called Israeli ambassador Mark Regev a liar to his face when Regev tried telling the British people that if they sent their aid packages to Israel, the Israelis would pass it on to Gaza’s besieged people. It was a complete lie, and Snow did his job as a decent journalist and didn’t put up with it.

The Tories loathe anyone questioning them. They hated Paxo on Newsnight when he regularly tore Tory politicos like Michaels Heseltine and Howard into raw, bloody chunks. Hence all the rubbish about the Beeb’s left-wing bias and the campaign to end the license fee. And they clearly also hate Channel 4 with a passion for the same reason. And so they’re determined to privatise it.

The hope is clearly that without state support, both the Beeb and Channel 4 will dwindle into insignificance. Genuine public service broadcasting, with the duty to be impartial, will die out to be replaced by a Murdoch-owned right-wing propaganda outlet, like Fox or GB News.

I’ve no doubt that this is all being presented as saving the taxpayer money for broadcasting material nobody watches – which was one of the arguments the Tories made against the channel back in the 80s when they part privatised it the first time. There’s almost certainly going to be talk about how it’s ‘woke’ bias is unrepresentative of British views, just like they ranted about it being ‘pc’ in 80s and 90s. But the real reason is that they despise its journalistic independence.

The privatisation of Channel 4 is yet another despicable assault on genuine, quality journalism in favour of right-wing propaganda pumped out by Murdoch. They want to destroy any journalistic independence so that right across the news media, only the right will be heard.

Farage Wonders Why We Don’t Mine Our Own Coal – We Did Until Thatcher

February 9, 2022

Mad right-wing YouTuber Alex Belfield has put up a clip from GB News of Nigel Farage wondering why we don’t mine our own coal. Instead of importing it, suggests Nige, we should reopen that mine in Cumbria which has a large amount of it. Well, this might come as a surprise to Farage and Belfield, we did mine our own coal. However, this stopped, and the industry was first privatised and then decimated because Maggie decided that imported coal was cheaper and she wanted to break the unions. The NUM had humiliated Ted Heath when he tried to break them in the 1970s. The result was the three day week and power cuts, a clear demonstration of the union’s power. So Thatcher privatised it, and then broke the NUM with militarised, highly politicised policing backed with obedient TV propaganda with the miners’ strike. And after that was over, the Tories went ahead and did everything that Arthur Scargill warned about and closed down nearly all the pits. The result was the demise of an entire industry and the destruction of whole towns.

Belfield states that he’s a working class lad from a pit village, and rants about how the White working class are neglected and attention paid instead to ‘box tickers’ from ethnic minorities. But there’s an answer to that, and I correspondent Yasmin Alibhai-Brown gave it a few years ago when she appeared on TV with Rod Liddle. Liddle also complains about the marginalisation and official neglect of the White working class. Alibhai-Brown told him that she wasn’t responsible for that. Indeed, she’d actually worked with White, working class pupils. It wasn’t people of colour who destroyed working class communities and self-respect, but Margaret Thatcher.

Dam’ right!

We should be mining our own coal, provided it isn’t too harmful to the planet and we can make a transition to cleaner, greener energy in the long run. But a revived coal industry would need significant government investment to guarantee it, as private industry hasn’t resulted in greater investment in the utilities. Such a coal company might have to be nationalised.

Which would destroy a central plank of Thatcherism.

Oh dear. How sad. Never mind!

Mad YouTuber Alex Belfield due in Court on 12 Counts of Stalking

February 5, 2022

Yesterday I put up a piece laughing at Alex Belfield for denying that he was bothered by having his channel factchecked by the internet companies, while appearing to be extremely bothered. More seriously, I criticised him for putting up a piece demanding the privatisation of the NHS. In reply, Gillyflowerblog, one of the great commenters here, posted this piece:

“This might bother him
https://www.nottinghampost.com/news/local-news/alex-belfield-trial-date-set-6597015.amp

Indeed it might. If you click on the link, it reports that Belfield was up before the beak on a pre-trial hearing on 12 charges of stalking on February 3, to which he pleads not guilty. The trial has been set for July 4th this year.

Belfield maintains that this is all part of a vendetta against him by the cops acting on behalf of various people at the BBC, who are jealous of his success as a working class White lad from a pit village and not a Guardian-reading, champagne-sipping, university-educated middle class Naga Manchushi type. But this suggests that there’s something deeper going on. If you only watch Belfield’s videos, you are only getting his side of the story in which he naturally presents himself as the victimised party.

Mad Right-Wing YouTube Alex Belfield Is Fact-Checked. But Is He Bovvered?

February 4, 2022

Actually, despite his denials, I think Belfield, the self-proclaimed ‘Voice Of Reason’ was extremely bothered. I know some of you are sick of me giving him and his YouTube channel publicity, but this is hilarious. But there’s also a very serious point to be made here as well.

A few days ago Belfield put up a video about how he was fact-checked by Google or another group concerned with what it is acceptable to say on YouTube. They challenged him on his estimate of the number of deaths from Covid. Belfield consistently and loudly opposes the lockdown, arguing that’s it’s unnecessary and harming industry, children’s schooling and people’s mental and physical health, among other issues. The stats he cited, which he claimed came from the Office of National Statistics, were part of this argument. He then declared that this showed the ‘lefties’ devouring each other.

He then stated, firmly and loudly, that he was not bothered about it while, like Catherine Tate’s petulant schoolgirl, sounding increasingly extremely bovvered. It was doing him good, because all the people that hate watch him were nevertheless making him rich by clicking on his channel. He then began yet another rant about Guardian-reading, champagne-sipping, oyster-eating ‘Naga Manchushi’ types. And to show how not bovvered he is, he put up another video for days ago on ‘the factchecking scam’. Well, he’s certainly shown he’s not bothered as so far he hasn’t joined Alex Jones in ranting about the globalists. But it’s a moot point how far Jones himself believed the rubbish he spouted.

Now I’ll get to the serious point. On the same day that he posted this, Belfield posted yet another video calling for the NHS to be privatised because of Boris giving PPE contracts to his chums. They supplied duff equipment at well over-the-odds prices. If they were able to fulfil the orders at all. Belfield wants you to believe that it’s the fault of having a nationalised National Health Service.

He’s talking nonsense, malign, dangerous nonsense. The poor performance of the NHS comes from decades of Tory cuts and the piecemeal privatisation that sees NHS contracts given to private healthcare companies, who are less efficient and provide a poorer service. But hey, it’s all done for the profit-motive, so it must be better. NHS Test Trace, and which has also performed spectacularly badly, was NHS in name only. It was completely private, though the Tories didn’t want you to know that. But Belfield doesn’t want you to know how badly NHS Privatisation is failing and how badly we need it renationalised.

Now Belfield is, as far as I can make out, a lone YouTuber broadcasting by himself or with a bare minimum of people helping him. He’s not Fox News, GB News or whatever. But he has 300,000 viewers, which is, as he points out, larger than some of the news broadcasters he tackles and sneers at. He is therefore not without influence, and therefore deserves to be criticised. Even if that runs the risk of being counterproductive.

Much of Belfield’s output could be called ‘tabloid TV’. It consists of a fair amount of celeb gossip, much of it directed at the antics of Katie Price and her continuing attempts to make money from her body and her disabled son, Harvey. There are loud denunciations of woke ideology, as he attacks the TV companies for throwing experienced, quality, but White broadcasters of more mature years off in favour of minority ‘box tickers’. He also strong criticises some of the mad results of the transgender ideology, as when a Scottish law student was accused of transphobia and investigated by her university simply for saying that women have vaginas. And then there are his rants against the channel migrants or the ‘dinghy divers’ as he calls them, who he claims are being treated better than Britain’s own poor and homeless. Well if they are, it’s because of the Tory policies Belfield so loudly supports.

His audience appear to be the same demographic as those attracted to UKIP: older, socially conservative White people who fear immigration and the new morality. This isn’t exclusively so – when he came down to visit Bristol, among the people he met was a woman of east Asian ancestry. I don'[t doubt that some Blacks also watch his channel. There are Black Conservatives and not all of them by any means are supporters of Black Lives Matter, as you can see from the videos by Black American right-wingers making some very acute criticisms of the movement. And it’s these, largely older people Belfield is catering and lying to.

He’s lying when he gives the impression that everything would be better off if the NHS was handed over to private industry. It won’t. It will be worse run and the British public will have to pay for it through private health insurance. That includes Belfield’s audience, the working class people he appeals to with all the guff about being a working-class boy from a pit estate, sneered at and passed over by the BBC Guardian-reading etc middle class people. These are the people, who will find it especially difficult to get healthcare if the NHS was privatised.

And this is why I call out Belfield on this issue.

And I’ve no qualms about admitting that when it comes to NHS privatisation, I am very bovvered.

Email from We Own It Opposing Tory Privatisation of Channel 4

January 28, 2022

This morning I received this email from the anti-privatisation organisation, We Own It, about the open letter they have written as well as their blog posts and a tweet opposing the privatisation of Channel 4. As they state in their message, We Own It had also appeared at Nadine Dorries’ office to express their opinions against it, joined by trade unionists. The message runs

Today We Own It supporters showed up at Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries’ office to send her a clear message: stop the privatisation of Channel 4

We were joined by members of Equity and BECTU trade unions as we launched our open letter to Nadine Dorries. We are still collecting signatures, but already top trade unionists, the West of England and West Yorkshire Mayors and independent production companies have signed.

The letter lays out our case against Channel 4 privatisation. You can read the letter and see who’s signed it below!

READ THE OPEN LETTER

The action was full of surprises…

Including Boris Johnson fancy dress, an unexpected appearance from Margaret Thatcher in support of our campaign, and a sudden outburst in which Boris Johnson literally tore up job opportunities in the nations and regions! 

You can read all about it and see pictures from the day on our blog.

READ THE BLOG

This fight is not over and there will be more campaign actions to come.

But today we want to say thank you to everyone who came along!

And even if you couldn’t make it, you can show your opposition to Channel 4 privatisation by sharing our tweet far and wide.

SHARE THE TWEET

We know that when you come together with other We Own It supporters we can achieve big wins.

You and supporters like you have also been making your opposition to the privatisation of Channel 4 heard loud and clear. You’ve sent letters to your MPs. And you’ve shared YOUR reasons why Channel 4 needs to stay in public ownership. Including! 

Caroline: If we allow this Government to get their hands on Channel 4, it will have far-reaching consequences for many and will join the growing list of treasures we as a nation value but are in danger of losing.

Irena: I totally object to Channel 4 being removed from public ownership. It creates thousands of jobs for our economy.

Jon: Channel 4 produces brilliant work, excellent documentaries and independent news – what’s not to like?

We saved Channel 4 before. Let’s do it again! 

Solidarity, 

Cat, Zana, Jack, Johnbosco, Alice, Matthew, Tom – The We Own It team

P.S. We are still collecting signatures to our open letter. If your organisation would like to sign or you can share it with someone who you think would you can email info@weownit’ 

I fully support their campaign to save Channel 4 from privatisation and was one of those who wrote to my local MP, Karen Smyth, about it. She sent me a very kind reply stating that she was also opposed to it and would vote against it in parliament. I’ve noted that the West of England Metro mayor, Dan Norris, is also one of the signatories to the open letter.

This isn’t about saving money or opening up broadcasting to private competition, although that’s certainly part of the reason. It’s because the Tories hate public service broadcasting. Channel 4 was set up in the 1980s to be an alternative to BBC 2. Hence it was supposed to include programming that would appeal to ethnic minorities, such a season of Indian films, ‘All India Goldies’, as well as the organised working class. Jeremy Isaacs in his book about his career with the broadcaster also included miners’ oral history as one of the kinds of programmes he wanted to include in the station’s repertoire. The broadcaster was also intended to be particularly strong on news. Much of this was dropped in the 1990s when the channel became much more mainstream. Which is a shame, because they did produce some excellent programmes which introduced high art to a mass audience. I particularly remember some of the operatic events broadcast, which really did much to make it more accessible to a mass audience.

But I suspect it’s the news coverage that the Tories hate. Veteran news anchors and reporters like John Snow do hold the government to account. When Snow resigned, right-wing Tory sites and blogs celebrated it as the end of a ‘liar’ or ‘SJW’. The Tories want it gone for the same reason they want the Beeb gone, so it can all be replaced by reliably right-wing broadcasters like GB News and anything set up and owned by Rupert Murdoch.

I wish We Own It every success in opposing the Tories’ grotty privatisation and in saving this vitally important British broadcaster.

Loach’s Documentary Shows Why We Still Need the Attlee Government

October 4, 2021

The Spirit of ’45, director Ken Loach, Dogwoof, Sixteenfly Limited, British Film Institute & Channel 4.. Running time 92 minutes, with 420 minutes of extras, 2013 release.

This superb documentary provides great evidence for one of the real reasons Keef Stalin has purged Loach from the Labour party. Quite apart from being a staunch critic of Israeli barbarism, Loach is a socialist whose films show the misery, poverty and degradation inflicted by capitalism. This documentary shows not just the great achievements of Attlee’s reforming government of 1945, but why we still need these reforms today. Why, indeed, we do need to turn the clock back against the Thatcherites to 1945 again. And as an ardent Thatcherite, that’s something Keef and his cohorts really can’t tolerate.

The film consists of interviews with ordinary men and women, former workers in the affected industries, doctors, nurses and other medical professionals as well as academics, along with interviews and footage from the period. These include tales of real struggle and hardship, often moving, and sometimes inspiring anger. It begins by describing the horrendous conditions people lived in before the foundation of the welfare state. One man describes how, as a child, he and his four siblings lived in a slum crawling with vermin. They had to sleep in the same bed, infested with lice and fleas. This is accompanied by footage showing a hand turning over blankets in a bed in which just about every inch was alive with such parasites. And the man recalls that after a night of this, he was beaten at school for having dirty knees.

The film states that the welfare state and its founders were determined not to repeat the situation following the First World War, where demobbed troops returned to unemployment, depression and poverty. The film is divided into sections for each part of the economy that was nationalised – coal, the Railways, the NHS, housing and electricity.

There had been demands for the nationalisation of the coal industry for decades. It was divided between various coal companies, some of which were extremely small. These companies were individually too poor to pay the miners a decent, living wage. Former miners describe how hard and dangerous conditions were. Miners were paid according to the amount of coal they hewed. They weren’t paid for putting up the props that stopped the mine shafts collapsing. As a result, not enough props were put up and terrible accidents followed. One man recalled seeing one his workmates killed in just such a rock fall because not enough props were put up. Nationalisation resulted in much better conditions, but disappointed many of the miners. They were hoping for something like workers’ control. Instead the same people were left in charge, including one manager, who was appointed leader of the industry, who had written extensively against nationalisation. Naturally this left many miners angry and disappointed.

Medicine before the NHS for working people was poor and expensive. Some workers were covered by insurance schemes for their industries, allowing them to see panel doctors. This did not, however, according to the film, cover their families. I’m not sure about this, because my mother remembers cases in Bristol where family members were seen by the panel doctor, but this may have been the exception. You had to pay to see a doctor, and they weren’t cheap. Very low paid workers, like farm labourers, were paid six shillings a week, and seeing the doctor could cost one of those. Patients were very often in debt to their doctors, who employed debt collectors. Death from disease was common. One man angrily recalls how he became an atheist after the death of his mother, who died following complications in childbirth because she could not afford proper treatment or an abortion. One former GP tells how he went round to call on a family of his patients the very day after the foundation of the NHS. When he inquired after the boy he’d been treating, the mother informed him he was well. But the man could hear coughing, and so continued to ask. The mother replied that the coughing was his brother, who was recovering because they’d given him half of the bottle of cough medicine he’d given to the other boy. When the doctor said he could still hear coughing, the woman replied that it was her mother. When the doctor offered to treat her, she refused, saying they couldn’t afford him. The doctor replied that this morning they could. This part of the documentary includes comments from Jacky Davis, a great campaigner for the NHS and one of the editors, with Ray Tallis, of the excellent book, NHS – SOS.

The railways before nationalisation were in a comparable state as the mines. The rail network was divided between different companies, who also owned their own track. As a result, services by the different railway companies frequently interfered with each other. One old railways worker recalls how one train going to Exeter was held up for half an hour by a train from another company. And the system was incredibly bureaucratic. The first thing to go at nationalisation was the clearing house. This was a massive office of 50+ clerks just passing chits to each other as the various companies billed each other for the use of their services. I suspect something similar goes on in the privatised railways when you buy a ticket that involves more than one network.

The film also describes the massive improvement in housing that came with the government’s programme of building council houses. There were queues to get into these, with many workers amazed that they would live in such massively improved conditions.

The film also covers the nationalisation of the electricity network, with an historian stating that it was generally agreed that it made more sense to nationalise it and amalgamate it into one company than leave it in the hands of a multitude of competing small companies.

The film moves on to the destruction of the welfare state following the election of St. Margaret of Monetarism. All of these have been disastrous. The spit up of the railways led to a series of terrible train disasters, with the companies involved refusing to accept responsibility and blaming each other. It was so appalling that the track had to be renationalised in 2002.

As for the NHS, service is becoming worse as the government has privatised more of it. NHS workers and ordinary folk made it very clear how much they hate its privatisation. One gentleman says that those who want to see it sold off should be put in a bottomless boat, sent out in the North Sea, and told to swim back. I quite agree. Jacky Davis makes it clear that this isn’t making the service cheaper or more economical. Under the NHS, administration costs were 6 per cent. A little while ago they were 12 per cent. Now they’re heading up to American levels of 18-24 per cent.

The NHS has become less efficient because of four decades of Thatcherite privatisation, all for the profit of private healthcare companies.

The film is a superb piece of social history and documentation, directed by one of the masters of British cinema. And makes a very strong case for socialism. Attlee and his government weren’t without their faults, but they created the modern welfare state following the Beveridge Report. This shaped British society for more than three decades afterwards, and which still demands our support against the attacks of the likes of Blair, Starmer and Boris.

Brexit Britain’s Collapse also Reveals Failure of Free Market Capitalism

September 26, 2021

I wonder sometimes if the Communists and Trotskyites didn’t throw in the towel too soon. They were always looking for the collapse of capitalism, and while that didn’t happen and probably won’t, they would have realised that Thatcherism, at least, isn’t working and made real efforts to make the British public realise it. Communism collapsed with the velvet revolution in eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s as the countries of the former Soviet bloc threw off their chains and embraced democracy and free market capitalism. Francis Fukuyama declared that it was ‘the end of history’. Liberalism in the broad sense of the mixture of liberal democracy and capitalism, had seen off its rivals and would now reign supreme and unchallenged as the global ideology bringing peace, freedom – both political and economic – and prosperity to everyone.

But it hasn’t worked out like that.

Thatcher’s privatisation of the public utilities here in Britain haven’t brought the necessary investment these sectors needed. As Ken Loach’s superb documentary, The Spirit of 45, makes very clear, the power, water and railway industries are natural monopolies that need national planning and support. This has been particularly shown time and again in the management of the railways. Major’s privatisation of British Rail in the 1990s and its breakup into separate companies resulted in a spate of horrendous train crashes. Insult was added to injury by the rail companies passing the buck and accusing each other of responsibility for the disasters. As a result, the company owning the railway network itself, Railtrack, had to be renationalised in 2002. Privatisation did not work. And it has continued to fail with the private railways companies. Several have had to be taken back into state administration after providing poor service. However, this has always been excused as a temporary measure and the government has insisted on finding some other private company to run those services afterwards. After a series of such failures, this strategy now looks more than a little desperate. It’s an attempt to fend off the obvious: that private enterprise isn’t providing a proper, decent rail service and the only way to run it properly is to renationalise it.

It is very much the same with the government’s part-privatisation of Britain’s schools. Declining standards in state schools led Thatcher to experiment with privately-run schools outside the control of Local Education Authorities. These were then called ‘city academies’. They were another failure, and her education secretary, Norman Fowler, was forced to wind them up quietly. Unfortunately, Tony Blair thought it was a wizard idea and it became a major part of New Labour education policy. Simply called ‘academies’, these schools would be run by private companies. Some of these would specialise in particularly subjects, such as Maths and science. Expertise from private industry would ensure that standards would be high, and they would provide a powerful incentive through their competition for the remaining state schools to improve their performance. Except that didn’t happen either. The academies don’t perform any better than ordinary state schools once the massive difference in funding is taken into account. An academy may receive tens of millions of funding compared to a fraction of million that the Local Education Authority receives to spend on all the schools it runs. Furthermore, many of the academies have only been able to maintain their high standards through being highly selective about their intakes. Pupils that may not reach the marks demanded by the schools, including those with behavioural problems or who come from poorer families, are often excluded and expelled. Educational performance and standards in many academies has been so abysmal that the chains managing them have collapsed and the schools once again taken into public administration. But private enterprise under the Tories cannot be allowed to fail, and so we had the grim spectacle a few years ago of Nicky Morgan, the Tory education secretary, repeatedly not answering the questions on the Andrew Marr show why the government was pushing ahead with turning schools into academies when just a little while ago 25 academies had had to be taken over by the government again.

Now, thanks to a mixture of Brexit and global problems elsewhere, the gas industry is in crisis. There are shortages of gas, a number of the smaller companies have already collapsed and customers are being faced with sharp price rises. Novara Media have even said that the government has admitted that if there are severe problems with the major gas suppliers, then they will have to be nationalised.

Gas, like electricity, should never have been privatised in the first place. When it was initially privatised, the company was not split up into separate, competing companies and so it was able to dominate the market as a private monopoly. Now some of those companies are suffering because they are unable to cope with free market conditions. This says to me very much that Jeremy Corbyn was right – that the public utilities need to be publicly owned and rationally managed as part of an integrated system. This is another point that Ken Loach’s documentary makes very well.

And Brexit has created further problems. The establishment of a customs border with Eire overturns one of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and so threatens to return Northern Ireland to sectarian violence and chaos. There is a shortage of CO2 as a result of which some foods and other goods may suffer shortages. And there may be further shortages, including petrol and other fuels, because Brexit has also resulted in fewer haulage drivers. Some are even now predicting a new ‘Winter of Discontent’, like that in 1979 that resulted in the defeat of the-then Labour government and the election of Maggie Thatcher.

I remember the petrol crisis of the ’70s, when OPEC suddenly raised oil prices and there were queues at petrol pumps. Just as I remember how Ted Heath’s dispute with the coal miners resulted their strike, the three-day week and power cuts. It got to the point that by the middle of the decade the right were expecting a Communist takeover and the end of civilisation as we know it. There were supposedly private militias being formed by bonkers right-wingers while parts of the establishment wanted to overthrow the minority Labour government in a coup to be replaced by a kind of coalition government composed of representatives from all the parties. Well, that was what the Times discussed in its articles. The security services, however, were forming plans to round up trade unionists and left-wing politicians and activists and intern them on a Scottish island somewhere. The editor of the Mirror went to Sandhurst to interest them in overthrowing the government but was met with a no doubt polite refusal. I think he, or one of the other plotters, even went as far as Paris to see if that old Fascist, Oswald Mosley, would be interested in leading the new government.

All that has been used in the Tory myth that socialism doesn’t work, and only creates the economic and political chaos that helped bring Britain to its knees. Chaos that was only ended by the glorious reign of Maggie.

Except that these problems look like they’re coming back, and this time the fault is Brexit and the free market.

I think Boris will be able to find temporary solutions to alleviate, but not cure, some of these problems. He has, for example, introduced new legislation to encourage lorry drivers from the continent to come over here. But the underlying structural problems remain. The only way to solve them is through nationalisation.

The Labour party is in an excellent position to drive this home, at least in the case of gas. Even if it doesn’t go that far, it should still be landing hard blows on Johnson and the Tories because of Brexit’s massive failures. But Starmer isn’t doing that. Instead, as Zelo Street pointed out in a piece published a day or so ago, the Labour leader is more intent instead on destroying democracy in his party as part of his war on the left.

Which is why I’m almost nostalgic for the old Socialist Workers’ Party. They’re still around, rebranded as ‘the Socialist Party’, but they’re nowhere near as active as they were. Whenever there was any kind of crisis or major issue you could count on them turning up with their megaphones and copies of their newspaper to harangue the masses and demand further action against the problem. Unfortunately, in many cases the Socialist Workers’ Party were the problem. They colonised left-wing issues in an attempt to turn protest groups into front organisations, which they could then use to produce further discontent. Rock Against Racism collapsed when the SWP took over the leadership of that organisation, formed to protest against the rise of Fascism. They were also busy infiltrating the Labour party and other left-wing parties here and abroad with the intention of radicalising them. I think the eventual hope was to create some kind of mass revolutionary movement. It didn’t work, and has only resulted in purges, such as that of Militant Tendency by Kinnock in the 1980s. In fact, the policy has helped strengthen the right in the Labour party, as they smeared Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters as Trotskyite infiltrators as the pretext for their continue purge.

The Trotskyites lived, however, in the firm belief that capitalism would eventually fail. Well, it isn’t doing that now, but it should be abundantly clear that Thatcherite free market capitalism isn’t working. The SWP would have realised that and tried to get the message across. The Labour left, which isn’t remotely Trotskyite, realises too that Thatcherism isn’t working. Their solution is simply a return to the mixed economy of the social democratic consensus. This wasn’t perfect, but it operated far better than the free market shambles we have now. And no, mixed economies are not ‘Communist’, ‘Trotskyist’ or ‘far left’. The real Communists and Trotskyists hated it as a form of capitalism, just as they hated reformist socialist parties like Labour.

But Starmer’s leadership is pledged to propping up the same wretched free market capitalism. Which is why I really feel there should be a mass movement driving home the point, again and again, that Thatcherism is ideologically and economically bankrupt. It is doing nothing but producing chaos in the economy and industry, and poverty and starvation to Britain’s working people. And this poverty will get worse. This is why I’m almost nostalgic for the wretched SWP, as they would have been determined to drive this home. And who knows? Perhaps if they behaved like a reasonable party, they might have gained further support and forced the Labour party to rediscover its socialist heritage in order to head off a challenge from real Communists.

Congratulations! Mike Is Asked to Speak at a Workshop on ‘Resisting Lawfare’

September 18, 2021

Kudos and respect to Mike on Vox Political. Nottingham is hosting a ‘Festival of Resistance’ on October 16th and 17th, and Mike has been invited to speak at a workshop on ‘Resisting Lawfare’. Lawfare is the term used to describe the use of the law by political organisations to penalise and silence their opponents. The Israel lobby is currently using this tactic to criminalise the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement in America. Various states and other areas have passed legislation outlawing the BDS movement as anti-Semitic, with Zionist groups pushing for the prosecution of people and organisations that adopt and promote it. The BDS movement, in my view, is very far from anti-Semitic, though I can well see how its opponents believe and make the claim that it is. Real anti-Semites have organised boycotts against Jewish firms, the most infamous being the Nazis’ though they weren’t remotely alone. Right-wing Polish nationalists demanding independence from the Russian empire also saw Jews as their enemy and organised boycotts against them. But the BDS movement isn’t against the Jews, or even Israel as a whole. It is just against trading with Israeli businesses in the occupied territories. It is not anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, but pro-Palestinian. And it is backed by a number of Jewish Americans, who despise the Israeli government’s persecution of the indigenous Arabs.

Rachel Riley has risibly accused Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters of anti-Semitism, even going so far as compare the band at the Durham Miners’ Gala to the SS because they dared to play ‘Hava Nagila’ at their annual gala as they do every year. It’s a ridiculous, deeply insulting claim particularly as it was the trade unions and the Communists who joined their Jewish brothers and sisters and resisted real Fascists in the shape of Oswald Mosley and his storm troopers when they came goose-stepping down the East End. Riley has also threatened anyone who dares to contradict her with legal action, and her prosecution of Mike for libel may, I feel, be reasonably seen as lawfare.

Mike, I can state with utter honesty, is very firmly anti-racist and definitely far from an anti-Semite. Genuine Jew-haters and Holocaust-deniers will get short shrift from him, as will other bigots and racists. Mike will not be giving details of the Riley case, but he does intend to talk about what it feels like to be on the end of such SLAPP suits. He makes the point that the bullies behind them are trying to make their victims feel helpless, but that hasn’t been the case with him because of the donations he has received from his supporters. He is very grateful, but asks people to continue giving. He also hope some of the people, who have supported him against Riley, will come to the Festival as he’d really like to meet them.

I think it’s great that Nottingham is hosting such as Festival, as we need to resist the Tories even more now as they pursue their policies of attacking the welfare state, privatising the NHS and driving more and more working people into poverty while promoting racism and bigotry. The Labour left has organised Zoom rallies for such resistance as part of the Arise festival of left-wing ideas. I’m pleased that Mike has joined what I’ve no doubt are a number of other great people to speak. I regret, however, that at the moment my illness prevents me from travelling anywhere outside Bristol, and so I shan’t be able to go and see him and the others. I hope some of his supporters will be able to go and meet him, as they’re great people doing a great job.

And solidarity to our left-wing brothers and sisters in Nottingham and to every socialist and critic of Israel who has or is being threatened with prosecution or expulsion from the Labour party simply for criticising Israel and its barbarous ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

As the late Bobby Ball, of comedy double act Cannon and Ball, used to say, ‘Rock on!’

My Sketch of Clement Atlee

August 29, 2021

One of the things I’ve been doing to amuse myself this week is sketching, and one of the people I’ve sketched is Clement Atlee. In my opinion after Churchill – and I choose him solely because he saw us through the War and helped defeat Nazism – Atlee was the greatest Prime Minister of the 20th century. His government created the welfare state and NHS following the recommendations of the Beveridge report, nationalised the utilities and created the mixed economy that gave Britain unparalleled growth and rising standards of living until the crisis of the ’70s and the election of Thatcher in 1979. He also prepared the way for the dismantling of the British empire with the granting of independence to India followed by a succession of other former colonies, and its transformation into the Commonwealth. It says much about his impact on British culture that even though the Tories hate the welfare state – and under Thatcher they were extremely vocal about ending it – they haven’t been able to do it openly. They have just lied about making cuts so that the money will go where it’s needed. Which it never does. Just as they lie about the privatisation of the NHS. Oh no, they’re not selling it off, they’re just opening it up to superior private expertise and investment. Which doesn’t work and is actually worse than state management. Anyway, here is my portrait of the great man. I hope you like it.