Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Yay! Online Rally from the Labour Left Demanding Public Ownership

June 24, 2022

Gawd bless those evil Corbynite commies and trotskyites! I got this email yesterday from the organisers of the Arise Festival of left-wing ideas telling me and the world that they’re organising an online rally demanding public ownership, along with general details of the Arise Festival this year. Here’s the bit about the nationalisation event.

Public Ownership Now!

Online. Wednesday July 6, 19.00. Register here // Retweet here // Get ticket for the whole festival here.

With: Ian Lavery MP // Kevin Courtney, NEU General Secretary // Nadia Jama, Labour NEC // We Own It Speaker // Fraser McGuire, candidate on Socialist Future slate in Young Labour // Dr. Sonia Adesara, Keep Our NHS Public & more tbc.

Join the discussion on how public ownership, stopping the privatisation scandal & public control are essential to tackling the crises facing Britain. From addressing the cost-of-living crisis, to the climate emergency, to the urgent need for more resources for public services, extending public ownership across the economy is key.

An online event as part of Arise 2022 – A Festival of Left Ideas.


Privatisation hasn’t worked. It hasn’t made anything more efficient, or provided value for money, or any of the other supposed benefits Thatcher was raving about in her 13 years in power. It’s just been destructive, giving us poorer services in return for higher prices on everything – gas, electricity, the railways, water, you name it. And it is absolutely destructive in the NHS where the piecemeal privatisation will eventually lead to a fully private healthcare system, funded by private health insurance, like the American system. The Guardian today has put up an article stating that the Tory experiment has failed. In fact it failed a long, long time ago, and it’s long past time that the Tories’ free market bilge was consigned to the dustbin along von Hayek, von Mises, Milton Friedman and the rest who promoted it.

Stop the War Coalition Organises Protest Against Blair’s Knighthood

June 5, 2022

Yesterday I got the latest email newsletter from the Stop the War Coalition, detailing their forthcoming protests against the war in Ukraine, the government’s increased funding for the British military, which is particularly noxious given the government’s lukewarm response to the cost of living crisis, and their protest against Blair being granted a knighthood. The Coalition’s assembling a demonstration at Windsor on the 13th, when Blair is due to join the others being inducted into the Order of the Garter. Blair’s a war criminal through his illegal invasion of Iraq, which killed 100,000 people and displaced a further two million. The same invasion wrecked the country, destroying its relatively secular, welfare state. This was replaced by sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shias, women may no longer work outside the home as they formerly could under Saddam Hussein’s regime, and the mercenary troops brought in as part of the occupation amused and enriched themselves through running drugs and prostitution rings and shooting innocent Iraqis for sport. Not all of this carnage is Blair’s responsibility. A large part of it is his mate’s George W. Bush. But he was actively complicit, and, as books have argued, deserves to be up before the Court of International Human Rights or whatever on charges of war crimes. And this is quite apart from his role in the similar destruction of Libya, which has resulted in the Islamist nutters there opening slave markets again. They are also calling on their supporters to organise protests in their local community on the 25th of this month. I won’t be able to attend any of these demonstrations, but I’m putting up notice of them for those who may.

Protest: No Knighthood for Tony Blair – 13 June

Tony Blair should be heading to The Hague. Instead, on 13th June he will be heading to the castle at Windsor where he will be knighted by the Queen.

Despite the disastrous legacy of Blair’s foreign policy the British establishment has learnt few lessons. Blair has blood on his hands and is personally responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians as well as servicemen and women in Afganistan and Iraq. He is the least deserving person of any public honour.

Join the Stop the War protest at the annual Garter Day procession in Windsor and let the world know there is only one court that Blair should be attending, and it’s not the royal one.

We’re assembling at 1pm at the Queen Victoria Statue on Castle Hill, Windsor, SL4 1PD to say ‘Jail Blair! No knighthoods for war criminals’.

For those traveling from London we will be meeting at Paddington Station at midday for the 12:20 train. Changing at Slough at 12:36.

Yes, I’ll be there

18 June: Peace & Anti-War Bloc – TUC ‘We Demand Better!’ March

Boris Johnson is set to announce further unprecedented increases in the UK’s military budget despite his woefully inadequate response to the biggest cost of living crisis in our lifetime. We believe that taxpayer’s money should be prioritised for our public services and protecting people’s livelihoods rather than new technologies of mass killing.

Stop the War is supporting the TUC’s ‘We Demand Better’ demonstration against the soaring costs of living on June 18th to say ‘Cut War Not Welfare’. Let’s get on the streets and make our voices heard.

I’m Joining the Anti-War Bloc on 18 June

International Day of Action – 25 June

We are asking all our groups to organise a local protest on the International Day of Action on 25 June. In the run up this we need to be broadening and deepening the movement everywhere. We ask every group to put together an action plan including:
– Stalls every weekend to build for 25 June, leafletting, collecting signatures and building a local base of activists.

– A public meeting/rally if you haven’t held one, a follow up meeting if you have.

– A systematic campaign to get our resolution passed in trades councils and trade union branches.

– Banner drops and stunts.

– Cultural events – music nights, spoken word events, film screenings etc.


There is a wide range of people and organisations who can help build a Stop the War group, including trade unionists and trades councils, peace movement activists, local churches and mosques, Labour Party activists, Momentum groups, environmental campaigners etc. Please make sure you approach all of these as you organise the campaign.

I’m Organising An Event on 25 June

Left Labour Seminar on the Lessons to Be Learned from Welsh Labour

May 28, 2022

I also got this interesting piece of information yesterday from a message about their forthcoming events from the Labour Assembly against Austerity. The Socialist Campaign Group are organising a seminar on June 20th about what British socialists can learn from the successful, socialist policies of the Welsh Labour party. The snippet says

SCG SEMINAR: Learning from Welsh Labour’s Radical Agenda


Monday 20 June 2022, 7pm. Register here.


Beth Winter MP // Mick Antoniw MS, Welsh Government Counsel-General // Jack Sargeant MS, Chair, Senedd Petitions Committee // Sophie Howe, Welsh Future Generations Commissioner // Darren Williams, Welsh Labour Grassroots

The next SCG online Socialist Policy Forum will look at the lessons we can learn from Welsh Labour’s new radical plan for government – which is helping to build a country that serves the many, not the few. This radical agenda includes: setting up a publicly owned energy company ■ a free National Care Service ■ free school meals for all primary school pupils ■ plans for Net Zero by 2025 – 15 years ahead of the UK-wide 2050 target ■ a national construction company to increase the numbers of social housing ■ and a Basic Income pilot scheme for care leavers.

Come along and learn about these progressive polices and how they can help the wider Labour movement win enough support to kick the Tories out of Downing Street.

This meeting is part of a series of socialist policy events organised by the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs in partnership with the Labour Assembly Against Austerity and Momentum.

I’m fully behind this. Welsh Labour are doing – and doing very successfully – what the Labour party in the rest of this great nation should be doing, but isn’t. Because Starmer is too in love with Blair and his legacy. And I expect as a result conditions for ordinary people will improve as they worsen in England. So you can expect the Tories to start complaining about something or other in Wales, which is terribly unfair, in order to divert attention from the failures of Tory laissez-faire capitalism. That’s if Starmer doesn’t help them by finding some way to close Welsh Labour down.
 

A History of Racism in the Islamic Middle East

May 27, 2022

Bernard Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry (Oxford: OUP 1990).

Bernard Lewis is a veteran scholar of Islam, and this book is an examination of the emergence and development of predominantly Muslim Arab racism in the Middle East. The book is a reworking of two previous studies from the 1970s, one of which was first published in French. It started off as part of an academic examination of intolerance, concentrating on religious bigotry. Lewis, however, believed that issue had been solved and so moved on to racial intolerance. Unfortunately, as the past fifty years have unfortunately shown, religious hatred and bigotry has certainly not died out, as shown here in Britain with the sectarian violence in Ulster.

Arab Ethnic Identity Before Colour Prejudice

Islam is viewed as an anti-racist religion, and the Qur’an states categorically that Blacks and Whites are both equal and should be treated as such. This admirable attitude was maintained by its theologians and jurists. However, with the emergence and expansion of the Islamic empires this began to change and prejudice and racism, based initially in ethnic differences and then on skin colour, emerged. The book argues that the pre-Islamic and early Islamic Arabs, like the other nations around them, had a strong sense of their own superiority against those of the surrounding peoples. This was based on ethnicity, not colour. A variety of colours were used to describe the variations in human complexion, and were used in relative rather than absolute terms. Thus the Arabs saw themselves as black compared to the ‘red’ Persians, but white compared to the Black peoples of Africa. As the new Arab ruling class intermarried with the peoples they had conquered, so there developed an attitude which saw Arabs of mixed descent as inferior, leading to dynastic conflicts between those of pure and mixed race. Muslim Arabs also saw themselves as superior to converts to Islam from the indigenous peoples of the Islamic empire, and a set of rules developed to enforce the converts’ inferior social status. At the same time, the Arabs formed various explanations based on the environment for the ethnic differences they observed among different peoples. An Iraqi writer believed that Whites had been undercooked in the womb due to the coldness of the environment they occupied. Blacks, on the other hand, were overcooked. The Iraqi people, however, were brown and mentally and physically superior to the other two races.

Development of Anti-Black Prejudice

As Islam expanded into sub-Saharan Africa anti-Black racism developed. This did not initially exist, not least because Ethiopia had been one of the major superpowers in the Arabian peninsula with a superior culture. Muslims also respected the Abyssinians for giving sanctuary to many of Mohammed’s followers during their persecution by the Meccan pagans. Over time, however, an attitude of contempt and racial superiority emerged towards Blacks. This racism even extended towards highly regarded Black Arabic poets and the governors of provinces, who were reproached and vilified for their colour by their enemies. Here Arab racist views of Blacks is nearly identical to those of White European racists. They were seen as lazy, ugly, stupid and lustful. The prurient view of Black women as boiling with sexual desire mirrors the racist attitude towards Jewish women amongst western anti-Semites. On the other hand, Blacks were also seen as strong, loyal, generous and merry. They also had excellent rhythm. Although both Whites and Blacks were enslaved, White slaves had a higher status and different terms were used to describe them. White slaves were mawlana, literally, ‘owned’. Only Black slaves were described as slaves, abid, a term that is still used to mean Black people in parts of the Arab world today.

The expansion of the European states and empires effectively cut off or severely diminished the supply of White slaves, and as a consequence the value of Black slaves began to rise. Unable to afford White slaves and concubines from Europe and the Caucasus, the peoples of the Middle East turned instead to Abyssinians and the Zanj, Black Africans from further south. Abyssinians in particular were prized for their beauty and other qualities, and its from this period that the Arab taste for the beauty of Black Africans rather than Whites developed. And as anti-Black racism developed, so Muslims scholars and authors wrote pieces defending Blacks from racism, not least because many of Mohammed’s Companions had been Black and the emergence of powerful Muslim kingdoms in Africa.

Islamic Slavery and Slave Armies

Islamic slavery was comparatively milder and more enlightened than western slavery. Although technically slaves could not own property and were disbarred from giving evidence in court, there was limitations on the punishments that could be inflicted on them. Muslims were urged to treat their slaves humanely and manumission was praised as a noble act. It was particularly recommended for the expiation of particular sins. At the same time Islam permitted contracts to be made between master and slave allowing the slave to save enough money to purchase his freedom at an agreed date. There were stories of particular Muslims who freed their slaves even in circumstances where punishment would have been expected. One master freed a female slave after she asked him why he was still alive, as she had been trying to poison him for a year. Slaves could rise to high office. The viziers and other chief dignitaries of the Ottoman empire were slaves. Slaves were used to staff Muslim armies, and there were separate regiments for White and Blacks slaves. Sometimes this resulted in battles between the two, as during the dynastic battles where one side used Black soldiers and the other White. The mamlukes, the Egyptian warriors who ruled Egypt and who expelled the Crusaders and stopped the Mongols conquering the Middle East, were White slaves. They were freed after completing their military training and their leaders preferred to purchase other slaves for training as their successors rather than pass on their position to their own children.

Islam’s acceptance and regulation of slavery, like Judaism, Christianity and other religions, as well as the views of ancient philosophers like Aristotle, also meant that there was opposition to its abolition. Muslim defenders of slavery produced the same arguments as their Christian counterparts, including the argument that Blacks and other infidels were better off enslaved as it introduced them to a superior civilisation. When a 19th century British consul inquired of the king of Morocco what steps he was taking regarding slavery and the slave trade, he was politely informed that all the legislation was based on the Qur’an and sharia and that there was no intention of banning slavery as it was permitted by Islam. Indeed, the Ottoman province of the Hijaz, the area around the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, was exempt from the Ottoman ban on slavery and the slave trade after the ulema and nobles declared it to be an attack on Islam, along with legislation allowing women to go in public without the veil. The Turks were declared to be apostates, who could be killed and their children enslaved. Many of the pilgrims to Mecca came with a number of slaves, who acted as living sources of funding. When the pilgrim needed more money, he sold one or two of them.

The Myth of Muslim Non-Racism

In the last two chapters, Lewis discusses the emergence of the view of Islam as completely non-racist and that its slavery was benign. He argues that this was largely the creation of western scholars reacting to the horrors of New World slavery during the American Civil War. Christian missionaries also contributed to this myth. They attempted to explain their failure to make converts by arguing that it was due to Black African revulsion against harsh western slavery. In fact it was due to differences of colour. Islam spread because it was promoted by Black African preachers, rather than White westerners. Particularly influential in the creation of this myth was Edward Blydon, a Black West Indian who was educated in Liberia by the missionaries. He became convinced that Islam was more suited to the needs of Black people, and his books also stressed White guilt, contrasting it with Muslim tolerance. Lewis also believes that the myth is also due to a widespread feeling of guilt among western Whites, which he sees as the modern counterpart to Kipling’s White man’s burden.

Along with the text of the book itself are extensive notes and a documentary appendix containing texts including a Muslim discussion on national character, the rights of slaves and diplomatic correspondence and observations on the 19th century slave trade.

Race and Slavery Compared with Brown’s Slavery & Islam

This book should ideally be read alongside Jonathan A.C. Brown’s Slavery & Islam, as the two present contrasting views of slavery and racism in Islam. Brown is a White, American academic and convert to Islam. While he condemns slavery totally, his book presents a much more positive view of Islamic slavery compared with western servitude and even the conditions endured by 19th century free European workers. He also extensively discusses Islamic abolition and the voices for it, while Lewis lays more stress on Muslim opposition. Brown recognises the existence of racism in the Islamic world, but also emphasises Muslim anti-racist texts like The Excellence of the Negroes. But as Lewis points out, these texts also show the opposite, that there was racism and bigotry in the Muslim world.

Lewis also recognises that Muslim slaves generally enjoyed good conditions and were treated well. However, the real brutality was inflicted on them during the journey from their place of capture to the Islamic heartlands. He also suggests that this relatively benign image may be due to bias in the information available. Most Muslim slaves were domestic servants, unlike the mass of slave labouring on the plantations in America. There were gangs of slaves working cotton plantations and employed in mining and public works, and these laboured in appalling conditions. It may also be that there were more slaves working in agriculture than recognised, because the majority of the information available comes from the towns, and so ignore what may have been the harsher treatment in the countryside.

He also discusses the absence of descendants of the Black slaves, except for a few pockets, in the modern Middle East. David Starkey in an interview for GB News claimed it was because the Muslim slave masters killed any babies born by their slaves. I don’t know where he got this idea. Lewis doesn’t mention such atrocities. He instead suggests that it may have been due to the castration of large numbers of boys to serve as eunuchs in the harems. The other slaves were forbidden to marry and have sex, except for female slaves purchased for that purpose. Slaves were also particularly vulnerable to disease, and so an epidemic lasting five years could carry off an entire generation.

Importance of the Book for an Examination of Contemporary Racial Politics

I was interested in reading this book because of the comparative lack of information on slavery and racism in Islam, despite the existence of books like Islam’s Black Slaves. Lewis in his introduction states that researching the issue may be difficult and dangerous, as it can be interpreted as hostility rather than a genuinely disinterested investigation. I think there needs to be more awareness of the history of Muslim slavery and Islam. For one reason, it explains the emergence of the slave markets in that part of Libya now occupied by the Islamists. It also needs to be more widely known because, I believe, the emphasis on western historic slavery and racism can present a distorted image in which the west is held to be uniquely responsible for these evils.

The 19th Century Social Catholic Warning Against Bozo

May 10, 2022

This morning I had the misfortune to hear the Queen’s Speech, actually given in her absence by Prince Charles. This obviously lays out the intentions of Johnson’s wretched government, and how nauseating they were. I’m still very weak with a dodgy stomach from the Covid booster, and this announcement of Bozo’s policies didn’t improve my condition. Johnson has pledged to remove the legislation he claims is restricting industry and so hindering economic growth, will repeal EU-inspired human rights legislation, and pass further law allowing the state to clamp down on ‘disruptive’ protests such as Extinction Rebellion’s.,

We all know where this is going. The removal of more workers’ right so that they can be hired and fired at will, as well as restrictions on planning permission and other laws preventing companies from trashing the environment. Meanwhile, the Tories will take away the right to protest for everybody on the grounds that it’s causing a nuisance.

One of the books I’ve been reading is Aidan Nichol’s Catholic Thought Since The Enlightenment (Pretoria: University of South Africa 1998). This is a short guide to the rich intellectual history of the Roman Catholic Church since the 17th century as it attempted to tackle issues such as the rise of atheism and scepticism, the competing claims of the national churches against the papacy, historical scepticism, the conflict between French Revolutionary attempts to destroy Christianity and particularly the Roman Church, as well as purely metaphysical issues. These latter, which involve complex arguments about ontology, epistemology – the theory of knowledge – and psychology rather go over my head. But I’ve been very interested indeed in the chapter on Social Catholicism. Social Catholicism is that branch of Roman Catholic theology and pastoral care directed at social issues, such as alleviating poverty, questions of political pluralism, protecting the rights of Roman Catholics in non-Catholic societies, and combating the poverty created amongst working people through modern industrial capitalism.

One of the founders of the Social Catholic tradition was Adam Heinrich Muller (1779-1829), a north German convert to the faith. Muller defended the family, respect for the traditional institutions that had developed under Christianity, such as the estates and corporations that focussed loyalties, duties and organised decision-making. Here he was influenced by Burke, the founder of modern Conservatism. From one perspective he’s a conservative. But he gave a speech to the Saxonian diplomatic corps warning against the dangers of liberal economics and absolutist government.

Liberal economics and absolutist government sounds precisely like Johnson’s dream.

I realise that what he was talking about then isn’t going to be the same as the current political situation. He was speaking at a time when democracy largely didn’t exist anywhere in Europe except Switzerland, and was feared by many, Roman Catholic and Protestant, because of the carnage caused by the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. But nevertheless, there’s still a point here for contemporary politics.

Johnson is the type of politician Muller warned us about.

Bristol and Labour’s Elected Mayor, and the Arguments Against

April 26, 2022

On the fourth of May parts of the country are due to go to the polls again. These are mostly council elections, but down here in Bristol it’ll be for a referendum on the system of elected mayors the city has had for the past few years. At the moment the elected mayor is Marvin Rees for Labour. His predecessor, Ferguson, was supposedly an Independent, but he had been a Lib Dem. He personally promoted himself by wearing red trousers, even at funerals when he toned the colour down to dark claret. His first act was to change the name of the Council House to City Hall for no real reason. His administration was responsible for running through a programme of immense cuts. He intended to make £90 million of them, but told Bristolians that they shouldn’t be afraid. He also turned down grant money from central government to which the city was qualified and untitled. I heard at a meeting of the local Labour party that he left the city’s finances in a colossal mess, and it has taken a great effort for Marvin’s administration to sort them out.

The local Labour party has thrown itself four-square behind the elected mayoralty. It’s being promoted in the election literature from the party, boasting about how, under Rees, 9,000 new homes have been built, green power and other initiatives invested in. The opposition parties, by contrast, have wasted council taxpayers’ hard earned money on trivialities.

I think the party is also holding an on-line meeting tonight to convince members that the system of elected mayors is a positive benefit. Speakers include Andy Burnham amongst other prominent politicos. One of the claims being made is that elected mayors are democratic and transparent, whereas the previous committee system meant that decisions were taken behind closed doors.

But I am not convinced by any means that the elected mayoralty is a benefit.

Bristol South Labour MP Karin Smyth has stated that she is also no fan of the system. She has made it plain that she is not criticising Marvin’s administration, and is very diplomatic in her comments about his predecessor. But she has described the system as ‘too male’ and believes that the city should go back to being run by the council, whose members were elected and in touch by their local communities. The anti-male sexism aside, I agree with her. There have been studies done of business decision-making that show that while a strong chairman is admired for leadership, collective decision-making by the board actually results in better decisions. And one criticism of Rees’s government in Bristol is that he is not accountable to local representatives and has zero qualms about overruling local communities.

Here’s a few examples: a few years ago there were plans to build a new entertainment stadium in Bristol. This was due to be situated just behind Temple Meads station in an area that is currently being re-developed. It’s a superb site with excellent communications. Not only would it be bang right next to the train station, but it’s also not very far from the motorway. All you have to do if your coming down the M32 is turn left at the appropriate junction and carry on driving and your at Temple Meads in hardly any time at all. But Marvin disagreed, and it wanted it instead located in Filton, miles away in north Bristol.

Then there’s the matter of the house building at Hengrove Park. This is another issue in which Rees deliberately overruled the wishes of local people and the council itself. Rees decided that he wanted so many houses built on the site. The local people objected that not only was it too many, but that his plans made no provision for necessary amenities like banks, shops, doctors’ surgeries, pharmacies and so on. They submitted their own, revised plans, which went before the council, who approved them. If I remember correctly, the local plans actually conformed to existing planning law, which Marvin’s didn’t. But this didn’t matter. Rees overruled it. And I gather that he has also done the same regarding housing and redevelopment in other parts of south Bristol, like nearby Brislington.

Rees definitely seems to favour the north and more multicultural parts of the city over the south. And I’m afraid his attitude comes across as somewhat racist. South Bristol is largely White, though not exclusively. There are Black and Asian residents, and have been so for at least the past forty years. Rees is mixed race, but his own authoritarian attitude to decision making and the reply I got a few years ago from Asher Craig, his deputy-mayor and head of equalities, suggests that he has little or no connection to White Bristolians. When I wrote to Asher Craig criticising her for repeating the claim that Bristol was covering up its involvement in the slave trade, despite numerous publications about the city and the slave trade going all the way back to the ’70s, in an interview on Radio 4, she replied by telling me that I wouldn’t have said that if I’d heard all the interview. She then went on about the ‘One Bristol’ school curriculum she had planned and how that would promote Blacks. It would be diverse and inclusive, which she declared was unfortunately not always true about White men. This is a racial jibe. She may not have meant it as such, but if the roles were reversed, I’m sure it would count as a micro-aggression. And when I wrote to her and Cleo Lake, the Green councillor from Cotham, laying out my criticisms of her motion for Bristol to pay reparations for slavery, I got no reply at all.

A few years ago I also came across a statement from a Labour group elsewhere in the city, stating that Blacks should ally themselves with the White working class, because they did not profit from or support the slave trade. This is probably true historically, but it also reveals some very disturbing attitudes. Support for slavery has become something of a ‘mark of Cain’. If you have an ancestor who supported, you are forever tainted, even if you are the most convinced and active anti-racist. And Critical Race Theory and the current craze for seeking out monuments to anyone with connections to the slave trade, no matter how tenuous, is part of an attitude that suspects all Whites of racism and tainted with complicity in the trade, except for particular groups or individuals. It disregards general issues that affect both Black and White Bristolians, such as the cost of living crisis and the grinding poverty the Tories are inflicting on working people. These problems may be more acute for Black Bristolians, but they’re not unique to them. Working people of all colours and faiths or none should unite together to oppose them as fellow citizens, without qualification. But it seems in some parts of the Labour party in the city, this is not the attitude.

Rees’ overruling of local people in south Bristol does seem to me to come from a certain racial resentment. It seems like it’s motivated by a determination to show White Bristolians that their boss is a man of colour, who can very firmly put them in their place. I may be misreading it, but that’s how it seems to myself and a few other people.

Now I believe that, these criticisms aside, Rees has been good for the city. He was very diplomatic and adroit in his handling of the controversy over the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue, despite the obvious disgust at it he felt as a descendant of West Indian slaves. But Rees ain’t gonna be mayor forever. Indeed, he has said that he isn’t going to run again. There is therefore the distinct possibility that his successor won’t be Labour. And then there’ll be the problem of opposing someone, who always has the deciding vote and can overrule the decisions of the council and the rest of his cabinet.

The people of Bristol voted for the system following a series of deals between different parties to get control of the council, where the individual parties by themselves had no clear majority. It convinced many people that the system allowed them to get into power over the heads of the real wishes of Bristol’s citizens. Now the Lib Dems and the Tories are demanding an end to the system. It’s clearly a matter of self-interest on their part, as obviously they are trying to abolish a Labour administration and the system that supports it.

But I believe that on simple democratic principles the elected mayoralty should go and the city return to government by the council.

Oh yes, and they should start calling it the Council House once again, instead of continuing with Ferguson’s egotistic name for it.

Petition from Avaaz against War and Nuclear Weapons

April 1, 2022

I got the internet petition below from Avaaz last Tuesday. It’s on behalf of a number of world figures, including the Dalai Lama, various winners of the Nobel Peace Prize and an organisation of medical doctors against nuclear weapons, and it’s against the war in Ukraine and the threat of nuclear war. I’ve had absolutely no hesitation in signing it, and if you feel the same way I do, perhaps you will too. The petition runs

‘Dear friends,

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and other Nobel Peace Prize Laureates have launched a historic call to reject war and nuclear weapons. Now they are asking Avaaz and citizens around the world to join them in protecting our planet.

Let’s all sign with one click and share now — when it’s huge, they will deliver our voices for peace to key leaders from the Russian Federation, NATO, and the media:

ADD YOUR NAME

Open Letter From Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and Citizens of the World Against War and Nuclear Weapons

We reject war and nuclear weapons . We call on all our fellow citizens of the world to join us in protecting our planet, home for all of us, from those who threaten to destroy it.

The invasion of Ukraine has created a humanitarian disaster for its people. The entire world is facing the greatest threat in history: a large-scale nuclear war, capable of destroying our civilization and causing vast ecological damage across the Earth.

We call for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of all Russian military forces from Ukraine, and for all possible efforts at dialogue to prevent this ultimate disaster.

We call on Russia and NATO to explicitly renounce any use of nuclear weapons in this conflict, and we call on all countries to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to ensure that we never again face a similar moment of nuclear danger.

The time to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons is now. It is the only way to guarantee that the inhabitants of the planet will be safe from this existential threat. 

It is either the end of nuclear weapons, or the end of us. 

We reject governance through imposition and threats, and we advocate for dialogue, coexistence and justice. 

A world without nuclear weapons is necessary and possible, and together we will build it. It is urgent that we give peace a chance.

ADD YOUR NAME

Signatories list of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates:

His Holiness The Dalai Lama (1989)
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (1985)
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (2017)
Juan Manuel Santos (2016)
Kailash Satyarthi (2014)
Leymah Gbowee (2011)
Tawakkul Karman (2011)
Muhammad Yunus (2006)
David Trimble (1998)
Jody Williams (1997)
Jose Ramos-Horta (1996)
Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs (1995)
Óscar Arias Sánchez (1987)
Lech Walesa (1983)
American Friends Service Committee (1947)
International Peace Bureau (1910)

This campaign is launched in collaboration with  IPPNW. Avaaz members have joined forces with many movements and activists to fight for difficult challenges in our time. IPPNW is a non-partisan federation of national medical groups in 55 countries, representing tens of thousands of doctors, medical students, other health workers, and has dedicated decades of time and energy to creating a more peaceful and secure world freed from the threat of nuclear annihilation and armed violence. Please join us today!

With hope and determination,

Michael, Chuck, Molly, Carlos, Huiting, Nax, Luis and the rest of the IPPNW and Avaaz team

More information:

Ukraine and the Threat of Nuclear War (The Nation)
As Russia struggles in Ukraine, will Putin break the nuclear taboo? (The Guardian)
Russian Forces Take Control of Europe’s Biggest Nuclear Plant After Shelling It (TIME)
Why the world should not underestimate Vladimir Putin ‘going nuclear’ (Herald Sun)
What the Cuban Missile Crisis can teach us about today’s Ukraine crisis (IPPNW)

Sting Reprises 80s Anti-Nuclear Song against War in Ukraine

March 14, 2022

A few days ago I put up the YouTube video of Punk legends Toyah Wilcox’s and Robert Fripp’s song of support for Ukraine against Putin’s invasion. Sting has also posted on YouTube a version of his 80s hit ‘Russians’ as a protest against Putin’s bloody invasion of ‘a peaceful and unthreatening neighbour’. It’s dedicated not just to the Ukrainians but also to the many Russians protesting against the war, and is once again a plea for our children and our common humanity.

Sting released ‘Russians’ right in the middle of the new Cold War under Thatcher and Reagan, when it seemed all too possible that a nuclear war would erupt to end humanity and destroy our lovely and beautiful planet. It was partly based on a theme from Prokofiev and urged everyone to protect their children against the nuclear threat. One of its lines is ‘How can I protect my little boy/ From Oppenheimer’s deadly toy?’ with the refrain ‘Believe me when I say to you, do the Russians love their children too?’ It also reminded both sides that ‘We share the same biology regardless of ideology’. It was a powerful, heartfelt song that reflected the deep fears and hopes of millions across the world at the time.

Sting states that he hasn’t really played it since because it wasn’t really relevant. Horrifically, it is now, with Putin threatening to launch nukes if NATO gets involved. I find Sting’s piece profoundly moving, but I’m also furious with the way geopolitics has gone in eastern Europe in the forty or so years since this was written. Reagan was an arch-reactionary who supported every bloody Fascist dictator that disgraced Latin America in his campaign against Communism. But together he and Mikhail Gorbachev ended the Cold War. Communism fell and the former Soviet satellites went their own way. And in the former Soviet Union, Gorbachev did his best to transform the Stalinist Communism of the Soviet state into something genuinely good and progressive. He wanted to introduce democracy and multiparty elections, ended the persecution of religion, and wished to create a mixed economy in which state and private enterprise existed alongside each other. But he also wished to create a new class of genuine cooperatives, where the workers would hire and fire management. He wanted Russia to join the rest of the world in the Green movement and tackling environmental issues as well fully support human rights. And as the Berlin Wall came down, thousands of people from the former eastern bloc came over here to work and run businesses.

Terrible things were still being done across the world, including the first Gulf War, which was also really about oil rather than freeing Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. But the Fall of Communism and the end of the Cold War made it that bit better. For all the claims that socialism was dead and that free market capitalism would now reign unchallenged at the ‘end of history’, it was still an optimistic time. It looked like the world had finally put that part of the nuclear threat behind us and that we could look forward to a future without any more fears of another Cuban missile crisis or similar armaggeddon.

And now I feel that all that hope and promise has been squandered through great power interference and Putin’s warmongering. Well, damn this! I want the world to go back to how it was before all this erupted.

Bring back Gorbachev!

Love and peace to everyone protesting against the war, and especially to those in Russia. May peace come soon.

Arise Festival Announce Line-Up and Agenda for Zoom Rally Today

March 5, 2022

I got an email yesterday from Arise, the festival of Labour left ideas, announcing their agenda and the speakers for their Zoom meeting this afternoon, ‘Making Another World Possible’. The email runs

Making Another World Possible – Agenda announced.

Register here // Share & invite here // Retweet here to spread the word.
Online event. Saturday March 5, 13.00-16.30.

Hello David

We are writing to announce the agenda for the major Making Another World Possible: An Internationalist Agenda for the Left & Labour event taking place this Saturday, which can be found below, with sessions on The Global Struggle for Climate & Vaccine Justice; Build voices for peace : No to war – no to nuclear weapons – refugees welcome here + a Women for peace, global justice & socialist change closing rally.

In the context of the increasingly dangerous times we live in, the whole event on March 5 (full details below) will be a key point to organise for an international agenda for justice and equality. Be there!

Yours in solidarity,
The Arise Festival volunteers.

EVENT AGENDA:

1pm-2.05pm
The Global Struggle for Climate & Vaccine Justice 

Diane Abbott MP
Jon Trickett MP
Gyekye Tanoh, Third World Solidarity Network, Ghana 
Nick Dearden, Global Justice Now
Asad Rehman, War on Want 
Chair: Mish Rahman, NEC & Momentum

2.15pm-3.20pm
Build voices for peace : No to war – no to nuclear weapons – refugees welcome here

Jeremy Corbyn MP
Richard Burgon MP
Jess Barnard, Young Labour Chair
Sophie Bolt, CND
Murad Qureshi, Stop the War Coalition
Sabby Dhalu, Stand Up to Racism
Chair: Matt Willgress, Labour Outlook

3.30-4.15pm
Closing Rally – Women for peace, global justice & socialist change #IWD2022

Jeremy Corbyn MP
Richard Burgon MP
Jess Barnard, Young Labour Chair
Sophie Bolt, CND
Murad Qureshi, Stop the War Coalition
Sabby Dhalu, Stand Up to Racism
Chair: Matt Willgress, Labour Outlook

A Black Conservative’s Demand for the Return of Traditional Morality and against the Condescencion of Affirmative Action

February 27, 2022

Shelby Steele, White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era (New York: HarperCollins 2006).

Shelby Steele is a Black American literature professor. A conservative, the blurb states that he is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and Stanford University and contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine as well as a multiple aware winner. This is his view of the failure of the movement for Black uplift, ultimately caused by the loss of traditional, conservative values through their association with White supremacy after the ending of segregation. It’s also an account of his journey from childhood growing up in the south under segregation, to angry student radical, disaffected employee, and finally conservative intellectual. During his time he also worked on the Great Society programmes initiated by Lyndon Johnson in some of the worst Black communities and become increasingly disillusioned with them and succeeding programmes as they failed. This last week we had a mixed-race footballer demanding the inclusion of ethnic minority culture and history in the British school curriculum. But Steele rejects this and another initiatives, arguing that despite the implementation of such policies in America, Blacks are still performing poorly at school and elsewhere. Worse, the American public school system, which he boasts was the greatest in the world, has been destroyed by them. What Black America needs, according to Steele, is a return to the traditional capitalist, bourgeois virtues, such as entrepreneurialism, as well as stable two-parent families and a genuine meritocracy, where people are rewarded according to their talent rather than the colour of their skin. In short, he wants Blacks to stand on their own two feet and argues persuasively this is possible. Black children perform badly at school, despite affirmative action programmes to help them and the lowering of academic standards in their favour. But they excel in sport, music, literature and entertainment, where there are no such programmes and only the best is required of them. Thus, leading Black sportsmen emerge through long, demanding practise on the baseball pitch, for example. Great Black musicians come about through kids practicing long and hard on cheap keyboards in their rooms, demanding the best of themselves. But the Black community has been deprived of this spirit of initiative and excellence when it turned away from the liberalism of rights and personal freedom to demand positive measures by the state through exploiting the guilty feelings and loss of moral authority experienced by Whites as they ended segregation and came to terms with the history of racism and Black oppression.

But this has not just damaged Blacks. It has also damaged general American moral authority. White guilt helped the 60s counterculture to emerge and flourish, as well as the new feminist and environmental movements. He states at various times that the attitude now is that if you fail to be properly environmentally concerned, you must be some kind of racist. He’s fully behind the Iraq invasion, which he genuinely believes was an attempt to liberate the country and create a genuine, liberal, democratic order. But it has been hamstrung through comparisons to past American imperialism and exploitation. He celebrates George W. Bush and the new American conservatives, who at one level seem liberal. Bush is comfortable with ethnic minorities and has appointed a number to positions of power. But they are not encumbered by White guilt, and so can exert the traditional moral authority America needs and used to have when White supremacy was unchallenged. As for the inclusion of Black writers on school syllabuses, he feels that the current policy of promoting them simply because they are Black is damaging. It means that genuinely talented writers are put in the same category as the mediocre and so discredited by association, simply because they’re Black. He also condemns a system that imposes higher standards on poor White university applicants simply because of their colour in favour of children from rich Black families. And throughout the book there is a feeling of outrage at such affirmative action measures because of their patronising attitude and apparent condescension.

He also argues that Black anger and militancy was due to the collapse of White confidence and authority due to the end of segregation. During segregation peaceful protests, intended to show Black moral superiority, such as the civil rights demonstrations led by Martin Luther King were the only way to stand up against it. And in cases where nothing could be done, because that was just the way society was, the only things Blacks could do was move on. Such as when he tried to get a job when he was a youngster for an all-White baseball team as their batboy. He was eventually dropped because he couldn’t travel with them to segregated matches. But, as disappointed as he was, by the next day he had moved on to other things as there was absolutely nothing he could do. This is contrasted with the situation a few years later when he led an angry delegation of Black students into his college principal’s office to make what he now regards as outrageous demands. He showed his own personal disrespect by dropping cigarette ash onto the principal’s carpet. The principal received them graciously and gave in, despite appearing initially shocked an angry. This happened because he had lost his moral authority along with the rest of the traditional American order, tarnished by its link with White supremacy.

There’s a wealth of information on the lives of ordinary Blacks under segregation and how, despite its constraints some of them where able to achieve a modicum of prosperity. His father was caught between the unions and his employer. The unions wouldn’t accept him because of his colour, while he had to keep from his employer the fact that he owned his own house. But his father, clearly a man of great entrepreneurial talent, was able to purchase three houses, which he renovated using slightly worn, but still perfectly serviceable furnishings. His parents also set up a free mother and baby clinic. When it came to their son’s schooling, they moved heaven and earth, practically setting up their own civil rights movement, to get him into an all-White school. Unfortunately the area declined due to ‘ghetto blight’ and his father was glad to sell the last one. He describes how, when Blacks travelled to other towns the first thing they had to do was a find another Black to inform them what hotels and shops they could use. This also gave them a kind of secret knowledge and collective identity against that of White America. Some Blacks miss this sense of community and solidarity, hence the proliferation of all-Black groups, societies and professional associations. He talks about working on the Great Society programmes in a truly horrendous town. One morning he woke up to hear the sound of his neighbour trying to shoot his own son in the stomach. Fortunately the man just grazed him. The bookish, nerdy kid, who should have done well at school, and whose mother attempted to protect him from the horror and violence around him by keeping him heavily involved at church, was shot dead in a drive-by gang shooting. The homecoming king at the local school was arrested as a violent thug. His job was to improve this community with the funding they had, but they had no idea what they were doing. They experimented and made stuff up, like the line that Blacks differ from Whites in learning experientially.

But as the years rolled on he became inwardly more conservative while maintaining an outward appearance of left-wing radicalism. Finally this became too much, and he came out as a conservative at a faculty meeting where they were discussing setting up a course on ‘ethnic literature’. Steele, who had already been teaching a course on Black literature, objected. He asks what the label would mean – would it include Philip Roth as well as V.S. Naipaul? He was also angry at being taken for granted when it came to voting, as the proposer of the motion stated she didn’t need to ask him, because she knew he’d vote with her. But he didn’t. He objected, shed his left-wing mask, and came out as a conservative. He now gets abuse as an ‘uncle Tom’ but says he feels better.

In an interview in the back, Steele talks about what got him interested in literature. At his new, all-White school, the English teacher gave him a copy of Kit Carson and the Indians. He was practical illiterate after the appalling education at his former all-Black school. But he so wanted to read the book he spent the next 9 months teaching himself to read. He then moved on to other children’s books, sports stories before tackling Dickens and Somerset Maugham.

Steele is wrong about American conservatism having abandoned imperialism. Bush’s invasion of Iraq was definitely a piece of imperialist conquest, designed to rob the Iraqi people of their oil and state industries. The only difference was the presentation. It was disguised as a war of liberation. But that ruse is almost as old as civilisation itself. When Alexander the Great took a town, he didn’t exact tribute from its ruler. No, what he demanded was ‘contributions to the army of liberation.’ Because he had liberated them from a tyrant. Steele states that the campaigns against sexism and the environmentalist movement are right, but he does have a point when he states that they were also enabled by a reaction against traditional White authority. Some radical writers and activists I’ve come across do seem to present them as in opposition to the White social and economic order carried to the New World by the first European colonists. And I agree with him about the breakdown of the traditional family that came as a result of the sexual revolution of the 60s. This affects Whites as well as Blacks, but is particularly acute among the latter community. 70 per cent of Black American children are born out of wedlock, 90 per cent in the cities. Studies have shown that children from stable families where both parents live together perform far better at school and work. As for education, one of his ideas for Blacks in areas with failing public schools is to open their own in a church or community centre.

I think he’s right about the value of what can also be termed old-fashioned respectability and bourgeois family life. However individual initiative is inadequate to solve all forms of poverty. State action and welfare programmes are still badly needed. But this needn’t be a choice between two alternatives. It means mixing appropriate state support while encouraging people to develop and use their talents. And his examples of Black excellence in sport, music, literature and entertainment do indicate that Blacks can excel by themselves. I found this particularly reassuring after listening to the claims about supposed Black intellectual inferior made by Simon Webb on History Debunked as his preferred explanation for the lack of Black progress.

The book comes from across the other side of the political aisle, but it’s well worth reading and intensely thought-provoking about the continuing, very pertinent problem of Black failure as a consequence of the general failure of traditional morality post-segregation.