Archive for the ‘communism’ Category

Mike Smeared as Anti-Semite by Contemptible Israel Lobby Group

April 26, 2017

Yesterday I got a phone call from Mike, my brother, from Vox Political. Mike’s standing in the local council elections as a Labour candidate in Powys. He told me that he had been contacted by the local newspaper, the Powys County Times, who told him that they had been contacted by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, who are calling for Mike to be deselected because he’s an anti-Semite, as well as a conspiracy theorist and Holocaust denier.

Saaaaay whaaaaat?

Mike’s none of those things, obviously. He really doesn’t distinguish or discriminate against people according to the race or religion, or, come to that, their sexual orientation.

I can remember Mike telling me very proudly when he was at College, how one of his female friends had asked him to be a reader in an event she was putting on to commemorate the victims of the Shoah. Mike was one of those reading some of the names of those who had been murdered by the Nazis simply because they were Jews.

Also during his time at College, Mike and some of the other students went on trip to Berlin. One of the history courses I took for my undergraduate degree was on the rise of Communist and Fascist regimes in Europe. Mike brought back for me a book the-then West German government had published to accompany an exhibition on part of the SS headquarters that was being redeveloped. The book was on the SS, Gestapo and the Reichssicherheitsdienst, and their role as the Nazi state’s murderous organs of repression and genocide. The book and the exhibition not only described their place and function in the mechanism as terror, it also gave proper place to the Jews and others, who were murdered by the regime. It gave the precise figures, and even photographs and brief biographies of some of those, both Jewish and gentile, who had been killed by these thugs.

The very accusation that Mike is in anyway an anti-Semite is ridiculous. The accusation has been levelled at Mike because he’s defended Ken Livingstone, and several of the other members of the Labour party, who were unfairly accused of anti-Semitism last year as part of the machinations of the Blairites and their associates in the Israel Lobby to hold on to power. Apart from anti-Semitism, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism has also moaned that Mike called Blair and his coterie ‘neoliberals’. As Tony Blair was a fan of Thatcher’s, and believed in privatisation and deregulation and the cutting of the welfare state, that’s exactly what Tory Tony was.

Mike’s now posted up a piece about this vile slur on his blog, followed by a point for point rebuttal of their smears. He writes

Today I received a telephone call from a newspaper reporter, saying the paper had been contacted by an organisation calling itself the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, which had claimed that I (Mike Sivier) should be deselected as a council candidate because I’m an anti-Semite and hate Jews.

For the record, I’m not, and I don’t. Obviously.

Admittedly, the story seems likely to run only in a local(ish) newspaper, the Powys County Times, but the timing is significant as, if a negative story about me goes to press in this weekend’s edition (the paper is a weekly), there will be no time for corrections before people go to the polls on May 4. I believe this is intentional on the part of these Campaign Against Anti-Semitism people.

The organisation seems to be more concerned with defending the reputation of the state of Israel than anything else – according to Powerbase, the “online guide to networks of power, lobbying… deceptive … public relations and the communications activities of governments and other interests”, member (or former member, it’s hard to tell) Joseph Cohen founded the Israel Advocacy Movement – which concerns itself with countering “the increasing hostility Israel suffers at the hands of the British public, caused by huge volumes disinformation circulated by Israel’s enemies”.

For the record, I’m not one of Israel’s enemies. I have no objection to there being a state of Israel. I do, however, object to hostile activities authorised and enacted by its government, where Israel is the aggressor. I would object to those activities if they were carried out by any country or government, and I would hope that you would feel the same.

For information, the Israel Advocacy Movement has “campaigns” against the UK charity War on Want, singling out its support for the boycott movement against Israel, and the pro-Palestinian Palestine Return Centre. And a local newspaper in Kent reported that Kent Anti-Racism Network accused the IAM of having a hand in the controversial suspension by the Labour Party of longstanding anti-racist activist Jackie Walker, for allegedly anti-Semitic comments.

According to the Charity Commission, Campaign Against Anti-Semitism is a “volunteer-led charity dedicated to exposing and countering antisemitism through education and zero-tolerance enforcement of the law.” This seems to mean that it is an organisation dedicated to bringing private prosecutions against individuals it accuses of anti-Semitic activity, claiming that the Crown Prosecution Service “has failed to take action, so now we must act instead”.

An alternative interpretation, of course, as used by one blogger currently being prosecuted by this organisation, is that the CAA attempts “to use the law to silence dissenters”.

No trustees are listed on the Charity Commission’s website. Why not? What reason do they have for secrecy?

The organisation’s website is registered at 167-169 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5PF. It must be pretty cramped as apparently Companies House has 1,109 firms registered there, all on the 2nd floor.

Is anything about this starting to seem a little suspicious to you?

This is, unfortunately, par for the course for anyone, who criticises Israel for its barbarous history of terrorism, murder and expulsion against the indigenous Palestinians, or defends those who have. The Zionist lobby has tried to stop justified criticism of Israel by extending the definition of anti-Semitism to include criticism of the state of Israel. As Mike has pointed out time and again, this is a highly contentious and discredited definition of anti-Semitism. It is not how Wilhelm Marr, the founder of the Bund der Antisemiten – League of Anti-Semites – in 19th century Germany defined ‘anti-Semitism’, which he himself coined. The League defined anti-Semitism as hatred of Jews simply as Jews, as regardless of Judaism as a religion. Or as they put it

“Was er glaubt, ist einerlei
in der Rasse liegt die Schweinerei”.

Which roughly translates as ‘What he believes is beside the point, the swinishness lies in the race’. (See the extract ‘Der Politische Antisemitismus’ in the book Das Deutsche Kaiserreich 1871-1914: Ein historisches Lesebuch, edited and with an introduction by Gerhard A. Ritter (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1981) 131. In case you’re worried, it’s a entirely respectable, mainstream German history textbook, and certainly not the product of some diseased far right publishing house.

In some ways, it’s almost a badge of honour for Mike to be smeared by these people, as he joins a long line of decent people, who have been so libelled. These include not only gentiles, but also proud Jews, who are active members of their community. Those Mike has defended are people, who are genuinely anti-racist and have campaigned against anti-Semitism. Many of them are Jews, who have personally suffered real anti-Semitic attacks and abuse from the Nazi right. Mike also makes the point that he has no animus towards Israel. He is simply acting to defend those, who have been unfairly and maliciously smeared.
Critics of Israel’s brutalisation of the Palestinians, like Professor Finkelstein in America, and Ilan Pappe over here, have pointed out that the Israel lobby exists to manufacture anti-Semites, by which they mean it operates by smearing the country’s critics as such. The American radical magazine, Counterpunch, has published a series of articles about the way the Zionist lobby in America has done this. And one of the complaints about the Israel lobby is that it is itself viciously anti-Semitic. It particularly seems to single out Jewish critics for the worst vilification.

What makes this accusation particularly offensive, is that these libels against Mike and many others like him in the Labour party have been made when real anti-Semitism is on the rise around the world. Yesterday, Counterpunch’s Robert K. Tan published a piece commenting on the rise of militarism in Japan, following the Japanese government allowing the Japanese Fascist-era Imperial Rescript on Education to be read again in schools and the approval of Hitler’s Mein Kampf as teaching material. Although the legislation for the latter states that it may not be used to teach theories of racial supremacy. See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/25/abe-is-taking-japan-back-to-the-bad-old-fascism/
The British anti-racism/ anti-religious extremism organisation, Hope Not Hate, has also noted the rise in real, blatant anti-Semitism amongst the Fascist far right over here. The banned Nazi youth gang, National Action made very explicit anti-Semitic speeches repeating the old conspiracist libels that the Jews were trying to undermine and destroy the White race. The real anti-Semites deserve nothing but contempt and continual opposition and resistance. It is disgusting that Mike, and other decent people like him, are smeared as Jew-hating bigots by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and its shadowy paymasters in the Israel Advocacy Movement.

For Mike’s own account of this sordid accusation, and his point-by-point rebuttal of their smears, go to: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/04/25/scurrilous-smear-campaign-against-vox-political-writer-is-worthy-only-of-contempt/

The Influence of Metal Hurlant on Science Fiction Cinema

April 25, 2017

Yesterday I put up a piece I found on YouTube about the influence French Science Fiction comics had on Star Wars. This short video by the same poster, Abstract Looper, explores the profound influence the artists of the French adult SF comic, Metal Hurlant, known to the Anglophone world as Heavy Metal, has had on modern Science Fiction cinema. Metal Hurlant was founded in 1974 by Les Humanoides Associees Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, Dionnet and Philippe Druillet. The video shows the striking visual similarities between scenes and designs in the comic’s various strips, and the films Mad Max, Alien, Blade Runner, Nausicaa – Valley of the Wind, Avatar, the original 70s Battlestar Galactica TV series, Hellboy, Prometheus and the Matrix. There’s a clip of Ridley Scott saying that when he made Alien, he was influenced by the visual material produced by Moebius and the French magazine. Guillermo del Toro also confessed that he was influenced by Richard Corben, another of the magazine’s artists. Terry Gilliam also states that the magazine was an influence on him. As does James Cameron. Rutgar Hauer, who played Roy Batty in Blade Runner also appears, telling how the producers visualised the future as already old. In fact, the producers of Blade Runner based their vision of Los Angeles on the towering cityscapes of Philippe Druillet. As well as Druillet, Dionnet, Corben and Moebius, another of the comic’s creators, the Franco-Yugoslavian artist Enki Bilal, was also influential. Also making the point are the similarities between the comics’ art and the concept drawings produced for the Alien and Matrix movies.

You could also add the Judge Dredd movies to this list as well. 2000 AD’s creator, Pat Mills, hates superhero comics. When he launched the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic way back in the 1970s, he was influenced by the French SF comics. Which naturally includes Metal Hurlant. Judge Dredd’s look was created by Carlos Ezquerra, a Spanish artist living in London, who has an artistic style very similar to Moebius.

As an aside, I was also pleased that the interview with Ridley Scott also had Russian subtitles. This shows how much the world has changed since I was at school. This was the years of the new Cold War, created by Thatcher and Reagan, when there were real fears of nuclear Armageddon. I felt profoundly optimistic when the Berlin Wall fell, along with Communism. There seemed at last a real possibility of a genuine, lasting peace between eastern and western Europe. I believe very strongly that it has been a massive improvement in world affairs that the peoples of the former eastern bloc can come to Britain to live, work and raise families.

And I am appalled and angry that Trump and the Democrats are pushing a new Cold War with Putin, and thus endangering the world all over again.

Warning: Heavy Metal was an ‘adult’ comic, which means that there’s some cartoon nudity. This was the magazine that was filmed as The Heavy Metal Movie, and which became notorious for the female nudity of the ‘Taarna’ sequence, which in turn inspired the episode ‘Major B***age’ in South Park. This may have changed, however. In an interview in the comics press a few years ago, its British editor stated that the magazine was dropping the nudity, because it was irrelevant given the amount of real nudity on the Web. He promised that the magazine would still be sexy, however.

Hope Not Hate Relaunches Home Page

April 22, 2017

Thursday evening I hate an email from Nick Lowles, the head of the anti-racist, anti-religious extremist organisation Hope Not Hate, announcing the relaunch of the organisation’s website. They’ve gone for a new, younger look. The new-look site has a two-minute introductory video, showing people of all races, Black, White, Asian, mixed race, in our proud country coming together to write ‘Hope’ in order to overcome the forces of ‘Hate’. Among those producing the video were the actor John Simm and the band Coldplay. Dr. Who fans will particularly remember Simm as the Master, before he became a she, and reappeared again as ‘Missy’.

The email said

Today, we’ve launched the new HOPE not hate website – and with it, a revamped feel for our brand.

You’ll see our famous ‘sun’ and the HOPE not hate yellow still present, but we’re embracing a slightly younger look. We have a long and proud tradition of anti-fascism and anti-racism. But, like everyone, we must move with the times.

Now more than ever, we feel the message of HOPE – not hate – is needed.

To coincide with the launch, we’re unveiling a new video that tells our story with the help of actor John Simm (you may recognise the song too!)

***

This site will enhance our ability to produce unparalleled research on far-right movements, build national, impactful campaigns, spread the word about our community work, and offer our supporters ways to get involved with and support our work.

Our mission remains steadfast – we will fight alongside the weakest in society, for the common good of all, and strive to oppose and expose those who would foster hatred and division.

Amongst the news on their front page is the fact that a man, who carried out an attack with bus in Dortmund in Germany actually wasn’t an Islamist, but had rather more secular motives – financial problems – behind his actions. They also have a report on a far right thug, who was stalking Jeremy Corbyn.

The organisation is also appealing for people to help with its campaign against the various far right candidates that are being fielded in the coming council and national elections. Lowles also states in his ‘welcome’ article that they are worried about the rise in racial incidents and crime since Brexit.

I think these are very probably the reasons why they’ve decided on a new look for their website. I don’t think they have to be worried about the younger generation. Various social studies have shown that, in general, they tend to be less racist and more tolerant of gays than their elders. Which, of course, does not mean that everyone over 30 or whatever is a racist bigot by any means, especially as it was the older generation, who fought so hard from the 1950s onwards to challenge racism and bigotry in this country. As for the NF, BNP and the other storm troopers running around the country trying to drag us all back to the days of ‘No dogs, no Blacks, no Irish’, the actual numbers of people in them is trivial, and getting smaller all the time. Way back in the 1990s Larry O’Hara, in one of his pieces on the NF and far right in Lobster, estimated that the National Front had a permanent core of only 200 members. This was when it had, in theory, 2000 members. O’Hara believed that the organisation had a very high membership turnover, and that most of those would leave and be replaced by another bunch within two years.

It seems to me that the rise in racism is not due to it becoming more popular, but simply through existing racists becoming emboldened thanks to Brexit. It’s still a problem, as these people are desperate to spread their message of hate, and they do have the power to do immense harm. As Neoliberal ideology promises nothing but more job losses, privatisation and the contraction of the welfare state, some people, particularly in deprived areas, may well be swayed to turn against people of different races or religions, and immigrants, as the scapegoat for the poverty that Thatcherism has and is creating. As for the far right parties, as their membership has contracted, they’ve become increasingly, nakedly vicious. The banned Nazi youth group, National Action, didn’t bother to hide their anti-Semitism. Hope Not Hate had footage, if I remember correctly, of them holding aloft their Nazi-inspired regalia, to spout horrific conspiracist bilge about the ‘Jews’ plotting to destroy the White race, that could have come straight from Hitler. Or the send-up of the Nazis in the classic film, The Blues Brothers. These groups are extremely violent, ever since one of their leaders said they were looking for ‘robust young men’ to ‘defend the country against Communism’. They may only be small in number, but they – and people, who share their hatred, but aren’t a part of them – still have the capacity to seriously hurt people.

I’m confident that the majority of decent people in this country will defeat the bigots and thugs, but it might take a lot of effort to make sure of this.

In the meantime, if you want to have a look at the new site, it’s at:
http://hopenothate.org.uk/?source=170420_welcome&subsource=HOPEnothate_email&utm_medium=email&utm_source=HOPEnothate&utm_campaign=170420_welcome&utm_content=4+-+Visit+the+new+wwwhopenothateorguk

Despite the Jokes, HIGNFY Is Fake News

April 20, 2017

Okay, the BBC have started running trailers for the new series of Have I Got News For You that’s due to begin on Friday. The trailer jokes about how the programme won’t be dominated by fake news, before going into a series of clips in which the panellists are dubbed over by a voice with a Russian accent, going on about how wonderful Putin’s Russia is.

Ho ho! We all know how corrupt the Russian media is, ever since the days of the Soviet Union, if not the Tsar. So all good fun and fair comment, eh?

Well, no. I stopped watching the show last year, because I got sick and tired of the way it retailed fake news, cleverly masked as fair comment on the news stories of the week, and wrote a post about it. Jokes like that are dangerous, because they promote a very false image of what Russia is doing in Ukraine, as well as ramping up international tensions, which could all too easily lead to war. Remember, last year a NATO general wrote a whole book about how, by next month, we would be at war with Russia. Considering the stupid actions of Trump and the American military-industrial complex and its poodles in the media, I don’t know if that was a genuine prediction or a prepared script that has been laid down for NATO to follow.

But let’s take the connection between Russia and ‘fake news’. This has been heavily promoted by the Democrats to excuse their defeat in the American presidential elections. They lost, not because they had no policies that would really benefit the poor, not because Hillary Clinton is a corporatist hawk, who has been paid obscene amounts by the Wall Street banks for making sure they can get away with wrecking the economy and impoverishing the country’s working people. Or the way she sneered at implementing single-payer healthcare, and has worked for companies like Wallmart, which stamped on trade unions. No! It was all because the Russians hacked into the Democrats’ computer and handed all the incriminating evidence of their crooked deals with industry and to rig the nominations to keep Bernie Sanders out, and then gave it to WikiLeaks. Except that there’s no evidence of this, and WikiLeaks itself has denied this, saying instead that they were given the material in a Chicago park by a Democratic insider, who was annoyed at the way the party was being run.

And there’s more, much more. Since then the Democrats and their corporate shills, like Rachel Maddow, have been not only banging on about this, but also about how they supposedly hacked into Trump, and have some kind of hold over him, blackmailing him to support their interests. There’s no evidence for that, but nevertheless, that’s what’s being sold the American public. There are two videos from the Jimmy Dore show where he reports on the finding by an American media monitoring organisation that stories about Russian hacking now comprise over 50 per cent of the stories covered by Maddow on her show. Despite the fact that figures from the FBI and CIA have said that it’s all rubbish.

Dore points out how McCarthyite this all is, and how it is dangerously ratcheting up tensions with Putin in a new ‘Red Scare’.

Added to this already volatile situation is the current war in Ukraine. If you believe the media, including Private Eye, Putin doing the same thing as Hitler did to Czechoslovakia. He using the supposed persecution of his people in that country to invade and overthrow its democratically elected government and annex the entire nation.

Except that Putin isn’t. He is in Ukraine to protect the ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking Ukrainian population, who are genuinely being persecuted by the Ukrainian government. However, Crimea was never historically part of Ukraine, is overwhelmingly Russian, and was only given to Ukraine in 1950 or so. And its people voted, perfectly constitutionally, to leave Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.

As for the current Ukrainian government, they are anything but nice, western-style democrats. The Orange Revolution was not a spontaneous revolution at all, but a carefully funded astroturf coup staged by George Soros and the National Endowment for Democracy, which is the American government’s quango in charge of fomenting coups against governments the American state doesn’t like. Which means, in practice, those countries that try to stop American corporations exploiting them and treating their people as slaves.

The Ukrainian government also contains genuine Nazis from the Pravy – ‘Right’ – Sektor. These organisations dress in the costume and use the regalia – the flags, signs and insignia – of the Ukrainian SS auxiliaries during the Second World War. These organisations, and the leaders they revere, where responsible for some of the pogroms and actively aided the Holocaust during the Nazi invasion. And they are still bitterly anti-Semitic today.

But from Reagan onwards, the American government has supported elements of the Ukrainian far right, and its leaders, like Vladimir Stetso, as freedom fighters.

None of this is being reported in Private Eye, or mentioned on the BBC, not even on Have I Got News For You. Indeed, Private Eye, in their ‘Letter from Ukraine’, actively retailed the narrative that democratic Ukraine is under attack from Putin’s Russia. This is all to serve British, and indeed, western, corporate and military interests.

And so Have I Got News For You, and its hosts, are actively feeding us fake news, all the while pretending to be acting as a kind of humorous check, holding politicians accountable through satire and humour. But there are limits to the joking, beyond which they clearly don’t want to go. And the jolly irreverence then becomes actively dangerous, as it adds an entirely spurious verisimilitude to the lies they are telling about Russia, Ukraine and the former eastern bloc.

I had enough of this a couple of years ago, and have stopped watching it. I am not saying it doesn’t do some good, and that the team and panellists don’t genuinely hold some politicos to account. I’m just saying that it’s also peddling fake news, and that, if you watch it, you need to be very careful about what Hislop, Merton and the guest presenter for that week say.

Soviet Space Art and Music

April 19, 2017

This is another fascinating space video I found on YouTube. Russia had a very strong space culture, possibly because it was the one area where they were undoubtedly in front of the Americans and the rest of the world for so long, arguably right up to the Moon landings. At one point there was a regular spot on Soviet television, where schoolchildren spoke to the cosmonauts on board the Salyut space stations.

The paintings in the video come from a magazine called Tekhnika-Molodezhi, which I think translates into English as ‘Technical Youth’. It shows how the Soviets imagined a future in which the Soviet Union, and by implication, the rest of the Communist bloc, were conquering space, landing on the Moon and colonising Mars. Back on Earth, they were pioneering new forms of transport technology, including giant walking robots, trains powered by magnetic levitation and futuristic cars. Many of these illustrations seem to have come from the 1950s. This was an optimistic decade for the Soviet Union. Stalin was dead, and Khrushchev had pledged himself to destroying the old b*stard’s ‘cult of personality’ in his 1953 Secret Speech. Living standards were rising, and consumer products were being developed and becoming more widespread. Something like an ‘affluent society’ was developing in the Soviet Union. At one point it looked like the Soviet Union was going to realise its potential and overtake the West as the most developed, progressive economy, a prospect that terrified the Americans. For more information on this, see the book Red Plenty.

The music’s electronica from 1984, according to the website. It’s interesting looking through some of the videos on the site, which also show that Russia produced some very interesting electronic/ synthesizer ‘pop’ music. The impression we always had when I was at school was that in popular music, the Russians were way behind us in the West. It’s fair to say that the Soviet authorities did distrust ‘decadent’ western music – Boney M’s ‘Ra-Ra Rasputin’ was banned because it was all about the Mad Monk, who was a non-person to the Soviet censor and official history. But it also shows that there was also a thriving youth musical culture as well, something I only found about at College.

Secular Talk on Lack of Media Outrage for Syrian Rebels Massacring 126 Civilians

April 18, 2017

In this video from Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski reports and comments on the news that Syrian rebels massacred 126 people trying to leave the besieged government-held villages of Foah and Kfreyah. Those killed included 68 children. The Islamists threw food onto the ground, so that starving children ran out and gathered around it, scrambling for the food. They then bombed the buses which were set to take the children and the other civilians away to safety. Kulinski compares the massive lack of outrage over this atrocity in American media, with the posturing over the supposed gas attack by Assad. And from Assad’s point of view, the attack made no sense, as Assad is actually winning. He has nothing to lose, and everything to gain from such an assault. But while this resulted in calls for Assad’s removal, the American media, when it did condescend to cover this, just called it a ‘hiccup’. This is, Kulinski points out, because the American government is run by the Neo-cons, who want regime change, because Assad is allied with Putin. The Syrian rebels, who committed this carnage, are allied to the American government, just like the US government armed the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviets. The American government wants to install instead of Assad a dictator, backed by their corporations. Kulinski also makes the point that while he doesn’t know what kind of government would be in power should Assad fall, it would probably be a Salafist-Wahhabist theocracy like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This is a government that would deprive women of their rights, executes young boys on roundabouts, and would institute the death penalty for crimes like apostasy and witchcraft.

Andre Vltchek’s Pictures and Plea for Understanding for Syria

April 13, 2017

On Wednesday, Counterpunch contributor Andre Vltchek published some of the pictures and comments about Syria from Yayoi Segi, a foreigner, who has been living and working there for three years, and is passionate about the country and its people. Segi states

“Syria is not what the mainstream media wants us to believe it is. One has to see it, to understand. Seeing is believing! It is an extraordinarily exceptional country. All that we have been told about Syria and its people is a lie.”

She talks about how the Syrian people are decent, warm people trying to get on with their lives despite the horrors and inconveniences of the war. She is also impressed by their manners and respect for education and culture.

“Syrians are the most hospitable, gentle people. When we meet, we never talk about the war, the conflict. It is a tremendous civilization… They always talk about their life, the future. They discuss their poets and their thinkers. People in Syria are very well educated. They know what is going on, on our Planet. Despite what some parts of the world have done to them, they are extremely respectful and polite to everybody. I never heard them speaking ill of others. They appreciate that you come and work with them, and they are confident.”

She also remarks that all of the international conferences and debates about the situation in Syria have carried on without reference to the wishes or ideas of the Syrians themselves.

“There have been so many seminars, conferences and meetings on Syria, yet the Syrian people are very rarely invited. All these events are ‘about them’ but without even inviting them, and without listening to them.”

Segi works for the national education system, and describes the system’s resilience and high quality compared to other nations.

“On the education front, the system was one of the best in the region, before the crisis began. Now, despite more than 6 years of horrendous war, the system is still standing and strong. Syrians know exactly what they want, and they have the capacity to implement their aspirations. Like in Aleppo; after the victory, the government immediately moved in and began opening schools.”

Her photographs show the devastation caused by war. But they also show people enjoying themselves in cafes and restaurants, as well as one of the great medieval fortresses and a sculpture, which looks like it may well come from the ancient past. Several of the photos are of schoolchildren. These show a mixed class of little boys and girls, smiling and dressed in western style clothing. There’s also what looks like a crowd of sports fans – football? – heading towards a match, and a sign with spells out in coloured letters ‘I heart Damascus’.

There is much that Vltchek writes with which I disagree. He’s of Czech-Russian ancestry, and is a film maker specialising in the Developing World. His fierce attacks on western exploitation of the undeveloped world is well meant, but sometimes he goes too far in attacking the Developed World and the needs and desires of its ordinary citizens. It’s also struck me several times that he has a far too optimistic view of the Soviet past. Russia and the eastern bloc did make some truly vast, impressive achievements under Communism, but this was at the cost of a vicious political repression which under Stalin resulted in deportations, massacres and a system of forced labour, which claimed tens of millions of lives. The Soviet Union also dominated and exploited the satellite countries conquered by Stalin from the Nazis during World War II.

But Vltchek’s article is in this case exactly right, necessary and welcome. Syria is a repressive state. Even in the 1980s it had something like eight different secret police agencies. But under the Ba’ath party it is a modern, secular state, where Christians and Muslims live in peace. As for its education system, a few years ago the BBC screened a documentary about the Syrian school system, following the pupils in one particular school through a school day. At the end of the documentary the Beeb informed viewers how they could join a scheme that would link schools in this country with those in Syria.

As for the high regard for its poets and intellectuals, several of the books I’ve read on Islam and the Arabs have said that poetry has a very high status in the Arab world, to the point where newspapers may be written in a distinct, half-poetic style. As for its antiquities, you can still walk down the Street called Straight, mentioned in St. Paul’s Epistles in the Bible. The country has monuments from a succession of ancient civilisations, such as Palmyra, going all the way back to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. The tombs of some of the kings mentioned in the Bible have even been found.

It’s people are not monsters, and while Assad is a dictator, his government is surely better than the Islamist regime, which the rebels – al-Qaeda and ISIS – hope to impose. This would mean the destruction of ancient monuments, as has happened in Iraq and those parts of Syria, which fell under ISIS’ rule. Women’s rights would be attacked and withdrawn, the secular education system and rule of law swiftly dismantled. The country isn’t quite as tolerant in the religious sphere as it could be. From what I’ve heard on programmes about the country and its history on the Beeb, the Sunni Muslim majority is oppressed. But the Ba’ath party in Syria was founded as a secular, Arab nationalist party, which included both Christians and Muslims. If it is overthrown, the country’s tolerance of peoples of different sects and religions will also go, to be replaced by the type of vicious, genocidal persecution ISIS carried out in Iraq. Dan Snow’s programme on the country, broadcast by the Beeb, featured chilling footage of a foaming rant by an Islamist mullah calling for the genocide of the Alawis, the ruling Muslim sect. And as we’ve seen in Iraq, the Islamists not only persecute non-Muslims, they also viciously terrorise and butcher other Muslims for their religious beliefs. Historic mosques as well as Christian churches were destroyed and desecrated by ISIS in Iraq, and ordinary Muslims, whose only desire was to live in peace with their fellow Iraqis, were also murdered for not being what the Islamists considered proper Muslims.

I and many other bloggers have said repeatedly that the American regime and its western allies and lackeys aren’t interested in punishing Assad for his war crimes. This is all about geopolitics. It’s about making sure a Qatari oil pipeline goes through Syria, not one built by the Russians, and about removing a key ally of Russia and Iran. The American military-industrial complex has done its level best to overthrow secular Arab nationalist governments in the Middle East from the 1950s, as they were seen as being too close to Communism. Quite apart from the challenge they posed to western imperialism and its attempts to dominate and exploit the Middle East and its oil.

I therefore urge anyone, who has doubts about the justice of Trump’s attack on Syria, and the sabre-rattling of the western political class demanding regime change, to go and read Vltchek’s article and look at the pictures of Syria and its people. And look at the faces of the people, who will suffer if the oil lobby and the military-industrial complex have their way, and send American troops in. These are ordinary, decent people, who will be massacred by the hundreds of thousands, just like the people of Iraq.

The article’s at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/12/reflecting-on-syria/

Jewish Labour Party Members Attack the Suspension of Ken Livingstone

April 5, 2017

Mike has put up several articles today about the suspension of Ken Livingstone from the Labour party for bringing the party into disrepute with his remarks stating that Hitler initially collaborated with the Zionists in order to send Jews out of Germany and into Palestine. This has been viciously denounced as anti-Semitic by the Chief Rabbi of the British Empire and a range of other Jewish leaders.

It is rubbish. As I have said on this blog time and again, Livingstone for all his faults is not remotely anti-Semitic. He has always stood up for persecuted minorities against racism and Fascism, whether those picked on are Blacks, Asians, Jews or Irish. His book, Livingstone’s Labour, published in 1987 makes this very clear, and he devotes several chapters to revealing Britain’s shameful actions in recruiting Nazi thugs and collaborators to assist the British intelligence services in the war against Communism.

A letter criticising the old Leninist newt-fancier’s suspension, signed by 30 Jewish members of the Labour party has been sent to the NCC in advance of Livingstone’s hearing. Mike has also posted up on his blog not only the collective statement of the Jewish Labour members against this injustice. He has also put up statements from five Jewish Labour members, who personally appeared to present their views. They are Walter Wolfgang, Jonathan Rosenhead, Noami Wimborne-Idrissi, Diana Neslen and Jenny Manson. Several of these have personal and family experiences of real, genuine anti-Semitism. Mr Wolfgang, 93, was one of those, who found sanctuary in this country from persecution from the Nazis. Jenny Manson’s mother was forced to leave Ukraine in 1919 because of the pogroms there. (You can find a description of the outbreak of violent anti-Semitic persecution and the lynching of Jews simply for being Jews during the Russian Civil War, in Bulgakov’s novel The White Guard.) Jonathan Rosenhead and Jenny Manson also come from very Zionist backgrounds. Manson’s mother lived for ten years in Palestine, and her father’s mother was also active in Zionism in Britain. One other lady, Diana Neslen, is a Labour councillor and an active anti-racism campaigner. She has been chair of the Redbridge Race Equality and Community Council. Her family has also suffered anti-Semitic abuse, but in this country. Her son was beaten up by one of the British Nazi groups. After this vile individual was jailed, her family suffered a torrent of anti-Semitic phone calls.

The five have been members of the party for a very long time. They are not complacent about anti-Semitism. Indeed, it is because they take it so seriously, that they make it very clear that accusations of it should not be devalued simply to make a political point. They state very clearly that Livingstone was historically correct about the Transfer Agreement between the Nazis and the Zionists in Palestine. They point out that the definition of anti-Semitism that has been used against Livingstone is one that specifically equates includes criticism of Israel. This definition is discredited. The real definition of anti-Semitism is hatred of Jews for simply being Jews. This is the definition Marr, the founder of the League of Anti-Semites used for his organisation in the 19th century. They make the point that Ken Livingstone’s defence of Naz Shah was not anti-Semitic, nor were his historically accurate comments about the Transfer Agreement. They also state very clearly that these accusations come from Zionist organisations. However, not all Jews are Zionists, and those that are include many, who believe that the movement should be open to historical criticism.

Diana Neslen also points out that when, four years ago, the Daily Mail used dog whistle anti-Semitic insinuations against Ed Miliband – stating that his father ‘hated Britain’ and was a ‘Marxist’ – standard accusations from the Nazi playbook, the Board of Deputies of British Jews kept their mouths firmly shut. She also asks the Labour party to pay no heed to organisations that have been openly hostile to the Labour party, pointing out that the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews called on the Jewish community to vote Tory in the 2015 election.

Their testimony is powerful, and their knowledge of the subject is clearly very extensive. Please read it. It’s on Mike’s blog at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/04/05/jewish-labour-party-members-slam-decision-to-suspend-ken-livingstone/

Go there, and follow the links to more material from the people at their own websites.

Incidentally, I think Walter Wolfgang may have been the elderly gentleman, who was forcibly bundled out of a Labour conference by two goons simply for making a statement from the floor that embarrassed Blair. Mr Wolfgang was entirely correct, and it shows the authoritarianism and bullying contempt for grassroots democracy at the heart of the New Labour project. Just as this shabby pronouncement against Ken Livingstone does.

Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics

April 5, 2017

by Richard Seymour (London: Verso 2016).

I bought this last Friday, as I wanted something that would help me refute the continuing lies about the Labour leader: that he is a Trotskyite, his supporters have infiltrated the party, and that he is too left-wing to lead the Labour party to victory in 2020. The book does indeed provide plenty of information to refute these accusations, though I’m not convinced of its over all thesis. The book’s blurb states that Corbyn’s election as leader is just the latest phase in the party’s degeneration. Flicking through the book, it appears that his main point is that the Labour party has never really been a Socialist party, and that apart from the great victories of Clement Atlee’s administration, it’s record has been largely one of failure as it compromised its radical programme and adopted conventional, right-wing policies once in office. At one point Seymour describes the idea of Labour as a Socialist party as a ‘myth’.

I was taught by historians, who did believe, as Seymour does, that the British Labour party was influenced far more by 19th century Nonconformist Liberalism than by continental Socialism. And certainly when Labour took power in the 1930s, it did disappoint many of its voters by following the-then economic orthodoxy. There is a difference between Labourism and Socialism. However, the party included amongst its constituent groups both trade unions and Socialists, and stated so. However, I haven’t read the sections of the book where Seymour lays out the arguments for his view that the Labour party is degenerating – along with, he says, western democracy. But he does have some very interesting things to say about Corbyn’s supposedly ‘Trotskyite’ views, and the whole nonsense about Far Left infiltration of the party.

Corbyn’s parents were middle class radicals, who met when they were campaigning for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. Growing up in rural Shropshire, he worked on farms. He was radicalised while working as a volunteer for Voluntary Service Overseas in Jamaica, where he became aware and appalled by ‘imperialist attitudes, social division, and economic exploitation.’ He was a trade union organisers for the National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers, and then the National Union of Public Employees. He’s teetotal, and did not take part in the ‘hedonistic pleasures of the counterculture’. He is a member of the Bennite wing of the Labour party, the Socialist Campaign Group, which Seymour states has consistently opposed the government regardless of whichever party is in office.

His former partner Jane Chapman states that he is ‘very principled, very honest … a genuinely nice guy.’ Since 1983 he has been the MP for Islington North. Seymour notes that even his most ‘sceptical’ biographer, the Torygraph’s Rosa Prince, acknowledges that he ‘is known as a “good constituency MP”‘. He takes great pains to help his constituents, and is ‘universally considered to do an exemplary job’.

Apart from being anti-austerity, he has also actively campaigned against attempts to limit immigration, and rejects the New Labour tactic of trying to take on board some of UKIP’s militant nationalism. His first move as the new Labour leader was to attend a pro-refugee rally in London.

His other policies are left-wing, but not extreme Left by a very long way. Seymour writes

The agenda on which Corbyn was elected is not, however, the stuff of which revolutions are made. he has pledged to end austerity, and in its stead implement a People’s Quantitative Easing programme, with money invested in infrastructural development, job-creation and high-technology industries. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won office on an agenda like this. Even the OECD is anti-austerity these days. He promises to address the housing crisis through extensive home-building, to fully nationalise the railways, and to bring all academies back under local democratic control. These objectives are to be funded, not so much by squeezing the rich like a sponge to water the gardens of the poor, as by closing tax loopholes, stimulating growth, and spending less on controversial programmes like Trident.

This is in most ways a classic social-democratic remedy, which could easily have come with some Wilsonian vocables about ‘the white heat of technological revolution’. The problem for the establishment is not necessarily Corbyn’s agenda. It may be too radical for today’s Labour party, today’s media and today’s parliamentary spectrum, but business could live with it, and the consensus would shift if Corbyn gained popular support. (pp. 8-9)

So where did this bilge that he was a Trot come from? Some of it came from the fact that his rallies were partly organised an attended by ‘accredited helpers’, people who were not Labour members, but who gave their time and effort alongside those who were. The only evidence that there was a ‘far left plot’ was the call by a tiny Marxist grouplet, the Communist Party of Great Britain. This has only 24 members, at the most, and whose weekly news-sheet is regarded as the Heat magazine of the Far Left. (P. 30).

So where do the new members comes? Many of them are simply Labour members, who drifted away or became inactive thanks to the managerial, autocratic attitude of the New Labour leadership. They were tired of being ignored, and regarded only as useful for leafletting and so on. And what really annoyed many grassroots members was the scripts the leadership insisted that canvassers should follow when talking to people on doorsteps. A significant number are also young people, who have joined the Labour party because for the first in a very long time there is actually a leader, who means what he says and talks straight in language ordinary people can understand, rather than the waffle and management-speak that constitutes the rhetoric of his right-wing opponents.

Much of the hostility against him in the press and the New Labour coterie comes from his support from two of the largest trade unions, Unite and Unison, which has had the Sunday Times and other rags screaming hysterically about the threat of renewed union militancy.

But what really terrifies the Right – including the Blairites – and the media-industrial complex, is his style of campaigning. Blair and the other parties adopted a style of government based on industrial management, using focus groups, and with news and the party’s statements all carefully marketised and timed according to the news cycles. Corbyn doesn’t do this. He actually turns up at rallies and events up and down the country, and speaks to the people. Corbyn himself said that he went to 100 meetings during his leadership campaign, and by the end of that year would have gone to 400-500. (P. 7). Seymour states that on one Saturday in August, Corbyn spoke to 1,800 people in Manchester, 1,000 people in Derby, 1,700 in Sheffield’s Crucible and a further 800 outside. By the end of the month 13,000 people had signed to volunteer for his campaign. 100,000 people signed up as registered supporters, and 183,658 as active members of the Labour party.

Like his American counterpart, Bernie Sanders, Corbyn is also massively popular on social media. Marsha-Jane Thompson states that within four weeks of setting up his Facebook page, they went to 2.5 million people. The page reached 11 million people every day. As a result of this, when they announced a meeting in Colchester on Facebook, all the thousand tickets were gone within 45 minutes. Seymour also notes the deference given to the traditional media has broken. over half of Corbyn’s supporters received most their information about his leadership campaign from social media. And the attacks on him in the mainstream press and news have compounded a sense among his supporters that not only is Corbyn genuine, but the traditional media is untrustworthy. (p.23).

This is important. It isn’t just that Corbyn and his supporters represent a challenge to the neoliberal consensus that private industry is automatically good, and those on welfare have to be ground into the dirt, starved and humiliated in order to please bilious Thatcherites and their vile rags like the Scum, Mail, Express, Torygraph and Times. It’s because he’s actually going back to doing the traditional hard work of political oratory and speaking to crowds. Not just relying on his spin doctors to produce nicely crafted, bland statements which the party masses are expected to follow uncritically.

And the newspapers, TV and radio companies don’t like him, because his success challenges their status as the approved architects of consensus politics. When 57 per cent of his supporters get their information about him from social media, it means that the grip of the Beeb, ITV, Channel 4 and Murdoch to tell people what to believe, what to think and what counts as real news is loosening drastically. And if no one takes them seriously, then their ability to act as the spokesman for business and politics is severely damaged, as is the ability of the commercial companies to take money from advertising. What company is going to want to spend money on ads following ITV and Channel 4 news, if nobody’s watching. And the businesses spending so much on advertising to take over the functions of the welfare state, like private hospitals and health insurance, are going to demand lower rates for their custom if fewer people are watching them and the mood is turning away from the Thatcherite and Blairite programme of NHS privatisation.

Bernie Sanders: Our Revolution – A Future to Believe In

April 2, 2017

London: Profile Books 2016

Bernie Sanders is the ‘democratic socialist’ senator for Vermont, who ran against Hillary Clinton last year for the Democratic presidential nomination. He didn’t get it. Although he had more grass roots support than Killary, he was cheated of the nomination through the intervention of the Democrat superdelegates, who massively favoured her. He is the man, who should now be occupying the White House, rather than the gurning orange lump of narcissistic Fascism now doing his best to drag the country back to before the Civil War. The polls show that Bernie could have beaten Trump. But he wasn’t elected, as Bernie’s far too radical for the corporate state created by the Republican and mainstream, Clintonite Dems.

How radical can be seen from this book. It’s part autobiography, part manifesto. In the first part, Sanders talks about his youth growing up in Brooklyn, how he first became interested and aware of politics as a student at Chicago University, his political career in Vermont, and his decision to run for as a presidential candidate. This part of the book also describes his campaigning, as he crisscrossed America holding rallies, talking at town hall and union meetings, appearing on TV and social media trying to get votes. A strong feature of the book is Bernie’s emphasis on his background as one of the country’s now threatened lower middle class. His father was a Jewish immigrant from Poland, who worked as paint salesman. He and his family lived in a rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn, where conditions were cramped so that they often slept on couches. He freely admits that his parents were also relatively affluent and had more disposable income than others.

After having left uni, he began his political career in Vermont in 1971 when he joined and campaigned for the senate in the Liberty Union party, a small third party in the state. During the same period he also ran a small company producing educational films on the history of Vermont and other states in New England. Finding out that none of the college students he spoke to had ever heard of Eugene Victor Debs, he went and brought one out on the great American labour leader and socialist politician. On the advice of a friend and college professor, Richard Sugarman, Sanders ran for election as mayor of Burlington. He won, introducing a number of important welfare, educational and municipal reforms he called ‘socialism in one city’, a play on Stalin’s slogan of ‘Socialism in One Country’. He was strongly opposed by the Democrats. A few years afterwards, however, he was elected to Congress as an Independent, where, despite some resistance from the Democrats, he was finally admitted to the Democratic Caucus. In 2006 he ran for senator, contested the seat vacated by the Republican, Jim Jeffords, who had retired. By 2013 he was being urged by his supporters to campaign for the presidential nomination. To gauge for himself how much support he was likely to receive, Sanders went across America talking to ordinary folks across the country. After this convinced him that he had a chance, he began to campaign in earnest.

At the beginning of his campaign for the nomination, Sanders was very much the outsider, getting 15 per cent of the votes polled to Clinton’s 60 per cent. Then he started winning, climbing up the ladder as he took something like seven out of eight states in a row. The corporatist wing of the Democrats did everything they could to block his rise, culminating in the theft of the nomination through the intervention of the superdelegates.

Sanders is a champion of the underdog. He garnered much support by going to communities, speaking to the poor and excluded, often in very underprivileged neighbourhoods where the police and security guards were worried about his safety. He spoke in a poor, multiracial community in New York’s South Bronx, and to poor Whites in rural Mississippi. The latter were a part of the American demographic that the Democrats traditionally believed were impossible to win. Sanders states that actually speaking to them convinced him that they were way more liberal than the political class actually believe. During a talk to a group of local trade unionists, Sanders asked why people in such a poor area voted Republican against their interests. This was one of a number of counties in the state, that was so poor that they didn’t even have a doctor. The union leader told him: racism. The Republicans played on Whites’ hatred of Blacks, to divide and rule the state’s working people.

Sanders makes very clear his admiration for trade unions and their members, and how frequently they know far better than the politicians what is not only good for their members, but also good for the industry, their customers, and their country. He praises the nurses’ unions, who have endorsed his campaign and backed his demand for a Medicaid for all. He similarly praises the workers and professionals maintaining America’s infrastructure. This is massively decaying. 25 per cent of American bridges are, according to surveyors, functionally obsolete. Towns all over America, like Flint in Michigan, have had their water poisoned by negligent water companies. The electricity grid is also unspeakably poor. It’s ranked 35th worst in the world, behind that of Barbados. Yep! If you want to go to a country with a better electricity network, then go to that poor Caribbean country.

He describes how the poor in today’s America pay more for less. Drug prices are kept artificially high by pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer, so that many poor Americans can’t afford them. In one of the early chapter, he describes leading a group of women from Vermont over the Canadian border, so that they could buy prescription drugs cheaper. These same companies, like the rest of the big corporations, do everything they can to avoid paying tax. In some cases, these big corporations pay absolutely none. This is because of the corruption of American politics by donations from big business. As a result, the country’s politicians don’t represent the ordinary voters. They represent big business. He makes it clear he respects Hillary Clinton, but ran against her because you can’t combine representing ordinary people with taking money from the corporate rich. And at the heart of this corruption is the Koch brothers, oil magnates with a personal wealth of $82 billion and a corporate wealth of $115. They are not, explains Bernie, small government conservatives, but right-wing extremists. Their goal is to dismantle taxation completely, along with Medicaid and what little the country has of a welfare state. All so that the 1 per cent, who own as much as the poorest 90 per cent of the American population, can get even richer.

Sanders goes further to describe the massive inequalities that are now dividing American society, including the racism and sexism that ensures that women, Blacks and Latinos are paid less than White men. The notorious drug laws that have ensured that more Blacks are jailed for marijuana and other drugs than Whites. The crippling debt that faces more and more Americans. 48 million Americans are in poverty. 24 million have no health insurance. Many of these are people, who are in work, and frequently working their rear ends off just to make ends meet. He describes talking to a charity worker, who purchases just out of date food to give to the local food bank. According to the young man he spoke to, 90 per cent of the people using the bank are working Americans, whose jobs pay so little that they literally can’t afford to eat. In this section of the book he quotes a letter from a woman, who states that she and her husband are work 2 and 3 jobs each, but still can’t make a living. As a result, the young can’t afford to buy their houses, or go to university. He contrasts this with the situation in the 1950s. It wasn’t utopia, and there was still massive inequalities in wealth according to race and gender. But the economy was expanding, more people had the prospect of good, well-paying jobs, owning their own homes, and sending their children to college. This America is disappearing. Fast.

Sanders has given his support to women’s groups, and is a very staunch anti-racism campaigner. Amongst those who backed his campaign were Harry Belafonte and Dr. Cornel West, among other Afro-American intellectuals, performers and politicians. He also received the support of a number of Hollywood celebrities, including Seth MacFarlane and Danny DeVito. And comic book fans everywhere with genuinely progressive values will be delighted to here that his campaign manager ran a comic book store in Vermont. Presumably this guy is completely different from the owner of the Android’s Dungeon in The Simpsons. Sanders talks about his support for the Civil Rights movement, and Selma march, paying due tribute to its heroes and heroines, including Dr. Martin Luther King. He’s also a keen supporter of Black Lives Matter, the Black movement to stop cops getting away with the murder of Black people. As part of his campaign against racism, he also actively supports the campaign against the demonization of Muslims and rising tide of Islamophobia in America. When he was asked whether he would support this by a Muslim American, Sanders replied that he would, as his own father’s family were Jewish refugees from Poland.

Sanders is also strongly opposed to the current wars in the Middle East. He was not in favour of Gulf War 1 in the 1990s, and has attacked the invasion of Iraq under Bush for destabilising the country and region, and causing massive carnage. But he was no supporter of Saddam Hussein, and is also a staunch supporter of veterans, adding his political clout to their campaigns to stop the government cutting their benefits. He points out that the blame for these wars lie with the politicos, not the soldiers who had fight.

Bernie also takes worker ownership very seriously. Among the policies that he recommends for saving and expanding the American middle class are strengthening workers’ cooperatives and allowing workers to purchase their companies. One of the measures he states he will introduce will be to establish a bank to lend funds to American workers so that they can buy their own companies. He also wants to end the ‘too big to fail’ attitude to the big banks and start regulating them again. And as part of his campaign to strengthen and expand American democracy, he is a very harsh critic of the various laws the Republicans have introduced in states across America to stop Blacks, Latinos, the poor and students from voting. He also asks why it is that European countries can afford free medical care, but America can’t. And why Germany can provide college education free to its students, while Americans are faced with a mountain of debt.

Sanders is a genuine American radical in the tradition of Eugene Debs. It’s no wonder that the rich and the powerful now trying to pull the country back into the colonial era, when it was ruled by coterie of rich White men. He states that his country is now an oligarchy, and even a ‘banana republic’. He’s right, and right about the ways these issues can and should be tackled.

The Republicans have also tried to deter people from voting for him based on his apparent lack of interest in religion. They couldn’t attack him for being Jewish – although with those monsters Spencer and Gorka in the White House, I don’t know how long that will hold – so insinuated that he was an atheist. Well perhaps. But Sanders does have religious supporters. His friend and support Richard Sugarman is an Hasidic Jew and Sanders himself several times states how impressed he is with Pope Francis’ support for the global poor. He also made it clear in a speech he gave to the very Conservative Liberty University that he was impressed with the good in all religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, whatever. So he’s secular, but not anti-religious. Just anti-bigotry, and the way the right is trying to use religion to divide America.

It’s also remarkable that Sanders was the focus of a popular phenomenon far beyond his own campaign team. He states in the book that he wanted to control the campaign, and not have a SuperPAC telling people what he didn’t or didn’t believe. But he also found that up and down America, people at the grassroots were organising independently of his campaign team to support him. Unlike the astroturf fake populist campaign the Republicans and Libertarians have set up, Bernie’s genuinely popular with a growing number of American working people.

America desperately needs him. And so do we in Britain. The predatory, parasitical capitalism at the heart of American society has also been exported over here by the Conservatives. Just like the Americans need Bernie, we need Corbyn. And we need the two together, because if Bernie can do anything to stop the current political degeneration in America, it will also help stop the process over here.

Incidentally, Bernie has a personal connection with Britain. His brother is a member of the Green party in Oxfordshire, and campaigns against the privatisation of the NHS. Sanders also has a strong interest in protecting the environment and promoting renewable energy.

I also recommend this book to aspiring young politicos because of the chapters in which he talks about running a campaign, funded by your own supporters, not corporate backers, and what you need to do when running about the country. Like making sure you can get there in time and aren’t double-booked. It’s good advice, and although the latter seems obvious, he talks about a number of incidents in which he disastrously failed to follow it.

Sanders talks about the way people are being turned off politics in America, thanks to the massive corporate corruption. This also reaches into corporate media. Sanders also has a few ideas how they can be reformed. He himself was the subject of a media blackout, as the TV and news companies definitely did not want to cover him, and very much favoured Killary. Hopefully Bernie’s book will reach more of the alienated folk now being excluded from American politics, and show them that there is someone actively fighting for them. And so encourage them to get involved for themselves.