Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Bristol’s Labour Mayor Marvin Rees on What His Party Has Done for the City

August 3, 2021

As a member of the local Labour party, I got this general email from Bristol’s elected mayor, Marvin Rees, explaining what his administration has done to improve conditions in Bristol. I’ve mixed feelings about Rees. He can be stubborn and obstinate, insisting on what he wants against the wishes of local people. He did this in the case of the housing development now being built in Hengrove park. His plans for the development were opposed by local people, who wanted fewer houses and more amenities, like shops, to be built on the site. But despite the fact that Rees’ own plans for the area were also criticised by the planning authorities for exactly the same reasons, Rees overruled the suggestions of the locals and went ahead with his own plans. There has also been a similar controversy over his scheme for a new arena for the city. Common sense would say that it should be built nearer to the city’s centre, where communications are excellent and visitors from outside the city could easily get to it via the motorway. However, for some reason best known to himself, Mayor Marv has decided instead that he wants it built in Filton, a suburb some distance away from the centre in the north of the city. Which is far more difficult to get to.

On the other hand, I was very impressed by his handling of the pulling down of Colston’s statue by Black Lives Matter. There have been demands from Bristol’s Black community for the statue to be taken down for decades, and so the assault on it probably shouldn’t have been surprising. After all, it followed similar attacks on Confederate statues across the Pond in America. Despite loud criticism from people of the right, like Alex Belfield, I think Bristol’s police did exactly the right thing in not trying to defend it when it was attacked. It was the only monument affected. The other statues nearby, such as one to Bristol’s sailors, and of the 18th century politician, Edmund Burke, and Queen Victoria (Gawd bless ‘er) weren’t touched. Neither were the surrounding shops and offices. But I think there would have been a full scale riot if the cops had tried to defend it. And I think it’s extremely likely that some in the mob that attacked the statue were hoping for a chance to fight the police as symbols of racist authority. The police didn’t give them the opportunity, and saved the people and property in the area from harm. As for Marvin himself, while he has made it very plain that, as a man of colour, he personally loathes the statue, he has been extremely diplomatic and careful in his handling of the controversy.

Here’s what he says in his email:

“Dear member,

I am writing to you to thank you for your support in the recent elections and to let you know how your Labour administration is repaying your trust in us. 

I want to start by reiterating how grateful I am; for everyone that voted for me and for the activists who knocked on doors, called voters, and spread our message of hope on social media. It’s been an enormously difficult year – which makes me even more appreciative for the support – but we still managed to adapt to the circumstances and get Labour’s message out to the voters. Our activists are the cornerstone of our movement – we wouldn’t have won the mayoral elections if it weren’t for the strength of our members. 

However, despite winning the Mayoralty and gaining a Labour Metromayor in the West of England Combined Authority, we lost a number of excellent councillors and had hard-working, dedicated candidates miss out on their seats. I know how talented our candidates were and how much they cared about their communities, so these results were hard to take. 

Despite the disappointment, we’ve regrouped and have been working to put Labour values into action and to continue delivering on your priorities. I want the next three years to be defined by inclusivity, sustainability, and delivery – everything we do will be defined by those three principles. 

At the first Full Council since the election, we put forward a motion that forbids the Council or its partners from following Home Office guidance that uses rough sleeping as a reason to cancel someone’s leave to remain, resulting in their eventual deportation from the UK. It should go without saying that we found this guidance deplorable – it shows how out-of-step Priti Patel and the Home Office is with Bristol’s collective conscience. Read more on Cllr Tom Renhard’s Blog. 

This announcement follows a recent further £4m investment to help tackle rough sleeping and the setting up of Bristol Street Outreach, a new service to support rough sleepers. Since 2019, we’ve reduced the levels of people rough-sleeping by 80% – this new service will focus on on-street engagements, particularly with those who have been sleeping rough for a long time, to help enable them to move off the streets and live independently.

As well as this we’ve:

Won Gold Food Sustainable City Status – only the second city in the UK to do so – for excellence in tackling food waste, urban food growing, and action to address food inequality. Awarded by the independent, Sustainable Food Places Board, the accolade recognises the work of Bristol’s good food movement and the city’s work to tackle the impacts of food on public health, nature, and climate change. More information here. 

• Offered residency to a number of Afghan interpreters who worked with the British Army, as they were at risk of persecution by the Taliban. 

• Moved forward building a 17,000 seater arena and its surrounding district – which now includes a 15 acre public park, £3.1m for transport infrastructure, 2,600 news homes, employment space, up to three new schools, a health centre and retail and leisure facilities – with it now set to open by the end of 2023.

• Allocated £34m in funding to help businesses in the city centre upgrade to cleaner vehicles, so they can avoid fines when the Clean Air Zone is implemented.  Despite pushing back the implementation date for the Clean Air Zone, by giving people and businesses time to adapt we will still have cleaner air by 2023 – the same time as we would if it had been implemented this October. 

• Painted a trans-inclusive rainbow crossing on Wine Street to as part of our celebrations for Pride Month. As well as this, we passed a motion that will strengthen mental health provision for LGBT+ people within the Council, and to work with our partners to improve services across the city.

Built the largest water-source heat pump in the UK, bringing zero-carbon energy to 5,000 homes in central Bristol. This comes after we built the largest land wind turbine in the country in Avonmouth. We’re also pushing ahead with finding a partner for the City Leap Programme, which will see us invest £1bn in decarbonising Bristol’s energy systems. 

• Started work to transform the Bear Pit into a haven for bees and butterflies. We declared an ecological emergency last year and are working to turn make our built environment more ecology-friendly – We’re investing in green structures and bright native flowers in the bearpit to attract pollinators and make it a thoroughfare the city can be proud of. 

• Invested £4.7m to rejuvenate our high streets, including Bristol city centre, East Street, Church Road, Shirehampton, Filwood Broadway, Stapleton Road, Brislington Hill, Filton Avenue, Two Mile Hill and Stockwood. The funding will help develop a support programme for existing and new high street businesses, while funding improvements to the streets in a bid to boost footfall through them. Financial support will also be offered to new or expanding businesses, such as pop-up stores or galleries, to reduce the number of vacant premises on the streets.

This is just a small selection of the work we’ve been doing for you. As this next term is only three years rather than four, we wanted to hit the ground running, but we have much, much more in the pipeline that will be ready for announcement in the near future.

If you would like to find out more about the work we’ve been doing, have questions over specific policy, or just want a general chat, then please feel free to ask your constituency executive to invite myself or a Cabinet member to one of your party meetings. 

I hope everyone has an enjoyable summer – I look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Best wishes, 

Marvin Rees”

The various green projects Labour has introduced shows the administration is taking ecological issues seriously and shows that the Labour party in the city would be behind the Green New Deal proposed by the left, which would not only help the planet, but also create jobs and new industries. I’m also particularly impressed by the investment in local high streets and their businesses, and the offer of residency to the Afghan interpreters who worked for the British army. With the Taliban now advancing in Afghanistan, these people’s lives would very much be at risk if they remained there, and they undoubtedly deserve to be given sanctuary here in the UK, no matter what Priti Patel may think.

Despite my strong criticisms of some of Rees’ policies, I think overall he has been good for the city, and hope his administration will continue to do its best for Bristol and its great people.

Book on the Global Environmental Crisis

July 9, 2021

Yesterday I got through the post this month’s Postscript catalogue. Postscript are a mail-order booksellers. Flicking through it, one of the items I found on sale was The Climate Emergency Atlas, by Dan Hooke, published by Dorling Kindersley. The catalogue’s brief description of the book runs

Dan Hooke offers a clear explanation of the science behind climate change, with concise text supported by numerous diagrams. World maps show the environmental impact of different countries, detailing issues such as their population growth, consumption and deforestation, as well as how they have been affected by the rise in global temperatures. A final section describes the actions being taken in response to the crisis, and the part individuals can play. Age 10+.

The normal retail price is £12.99, but Postscript are offering it for £6.99.

I can’t say I want to buy the book, but I think it is needed. The Republicans in America, backed by generous donations from big oil magnates like the Koch brothers, deny that climate change exists. Trump when he got into the White House passed orders and legislation effectively silencing the Environmental Protection Agency, forbidding them from publishing anything showing the existence of climate change or environmental damage. There are also videos from the American right by people like Alex Jones ranting about how climate change is really some kind of ruse or hoax by ‘leftists’ to end free enterprise and create a socialised economy and society. Which is pretty much the kind of paranoid nonsense you’d expect from a conspiracy theorist like Jones. When Barack Obama was in power, Jones was telling the world and his uncle that Obama was going to declare a climate state of emergency in order to force Americans into refugee camps and so enslave them. Well, Obama’s been and gone, as has Trump and we’ve now got Joe Biden. And there has been no declaration of a state of emergency with Obama now seizing power as Maoist dictator. One could almost think that Jones spouted fear-mongering nonsense.

The Tories over here share a similar scepticism towards climate change. The Heil has run repeated articles against it. This is when they aren’t simply playing lip-service to it. Cameron declared that his would be the ‘greenest government ever’ and stuck a windmill on his house to show how serious he was. That was before he got elected PM. After he put his foot across the threshold of No. 10, it was a different story. He took the windmill down and set about supporting and promoting all the environmental harmful policies he could, such as fracking. While this isn’t a book I intend to buy, I do think it’s needed considering the attacks on environmentalism from the Tories and their media, such as Spiked and the mad right-winger, Alex Belfield.

Trailer for Film of Isaac Asimov’s ‘Foundation’

July 3, 2021

I found this trailer for a forthcoming film of Asimov’s Foundation on the Moviegasm channel on YouTube. Foundation is, like Dune, one of the great classics of Science Fiction. It’s the story of the decline and fall of a sprawling galactic empire against the rise of chaos and barbarism, and of one scientist’s attempt to prepare for the return of civilisation and hold back this new dark age. It’s the story of Hari Seldon, the inventor of the science of psychohistory, which allows him to predict the fall of what seems a stable and prosperous interstellar society. Seldon therefore sets up two Foundations, one secret, to preserve the empire’s science and culture. There were originally two novels, Foundation, published in 1955 under the title, The 1,000 Year Plan, and its sequel, Foundation and Empire, published that same decade as The Man Who Upset the Universe. It was clearly an influence on Star Wars and Dune, which similarly tell epic tales of intrigue and warfare in sprawling galactic empires. I don’t think it’s ever been filmed, possibly due to the expense and difficulty of bringing such a complex novel spanning centuries to life. I do remember, however, that there was an LP of it read by William Shatner.

There has been a previous trailer for the film, released a few months or so ago. It looks fascinating and visually extremely impressive, but fans of the book are concerned if the film will do justice to Asimov’s views on history and politics, which are at the core of the book. There’s been the same problem with the adaptations of Frank Herbert’s Dune to the large and small screens. Dune is similarly a book of ideas, containing Herbert’s speculations and views on ecology, politics and the dangers of charismatic leaders. Film and TV are, however, visual mediums, and so the intellectual depth of the book has largely been left behind as the screen adaptations concentrate on visual spectacle. Whether this will happen with Foundation remains to be seen. Looking through the comments about the trailer on YouTube, people are also concerned that it’s produced by Steve Jobs’ old outfit, Apple, and so may be pushing computers and AI as the salvation of humanity. It also seems to contain cloning, which apparently isn’t in the book and suggests that certain liberties have been taken with Asimov’s classic text.

Still, like the trailers for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, it looks awesome and I certainly want to see it, always assuming it’s going to be on at the cinemas rather than streamed online. But there doesn’t seem to be any date for its release. Dune’s release has been postponed yet again in order to avoid clashes with other big budget movies, so I wonder if we’ll ever see it. Let’s hope so, as it promises to be a true SF epic. It remains to be seen whether it can live up to it.

Bristol South Labour Party’s Motion Demanding Action and Leadership from Starmer and Dodds

June 19, 2021

Mike has put up a chilling post this morning revealing a hidden truth about the recent Lib Dem by-election victory in Amersham and Chesham. They won not because there is actually a revival in that awful party’s fortunes, but because of tactical voting and the almost complete collapse of the Labour vote. Labour got only 622 votes, 1.6 per cent of the total, and lost their deposit. And I don’t doubt for a single minute that it’s because of Keir Starmer’s abysmal leadership. He has spent all his time and energy as leader persecuting the left, all under the specious pretence of fighting anti-Semitism. He has broken every one of the promises he made to support Labour’s genuinely popular manifesto commitments. These were for nationalised utilities, a renationalised NHS, a proper welfare state, and strong unions and workers’ rights. He showed his contempt to the party’s Black members through his offhand, lacklustre support for Black Lives Matter and by refusing to investigate or punish the bullies responsible for the racist abuse and treatment of Diane Abbott and other Black MPs and activists. And more significantly, he has done precious little to attack the Tories and hold Boris Johnson accountable for the deaths resulting from his bungled Covid policy, the corruption which has seen the Etonian fraud grant government contracts to his friends’ companies, the continuing assaults on democracy and free speech, the absence of any genuinely beneficial trade deals for Britain as a result of Brexit, and the descent into rioting and unrest in Ireland.

All of these issues are open goals. But I’ve seen precious little comment from Starmer on any of them. One internet commenter has already posted that Cummings seems to be doing more damage to the Tories than him. And I agree.

As a result, Bristol South Labour party passed a motion Thursday night to invite Anneliese Dodds down to the constituency to hear our concerns about the lack of leadership. It’s an amended motion. The original explicitly called upon Starmer to make his presence felt and start showing that Labour had good, viable policies. This was altered because some members felt that Starmer was already doing something towards this with his policy review.

“Social Change Motion

The dark days of WW2 exposed a desperate need for radical social change in Britain.  The Labour Party took on the challenge and delivered the miracle of our Welfare State.

Most of the years since then have seen a Tory hegemony; the last decade in particular has brought about a devastating erosion of all our public services; the crisis today is scarcely less urgent than that of 1945. Just as during the war, the Covid pandemic has thrown into harsh light how grievous the levels of need have become – in health, education, housing, social care and now, of course, climate change.  The whole country is witnessing this and is desperate for signs of future hope and change.

Hope can come only from a Labour Government in power with a bold and radical agenda for change.  We know, however, that to achieve this will require extraordinary action – not only an inspired and inspiring manifesto but an imaginative co-operation within the parties of the Left.  Clearly. some form of PR will be necessary if the Tories are to be held in check in the long term.  Equally clear is the need for Labour to stop its factional infighting and concentrate on winning the next election.  

Our Leadership’s current policy of holding the Government to account for its handling of Covid and for its many other failings is right and necessary but it is nowhere near sufficient to the country’s needs.  The time for radical change is now.  The country is ready to listen now and it is high time for it to hear what the Labour Party stands for.

The path to victory in 2024 must be opened up without delay.  This branch therefore calls upon our Leadership to set aside their present caution – and reliance on focus groups -and respond to the country’s urgent needs.

Action: to invite Annelise Dodds** in her role in co-ordinating the NPF consultation to a Bristol South CLP meeting to hear and address the concerns expressed above.

Amendment to add: Action: Invite Annelise Dodds** in her role in co-ordinating the NPF consultation to a Bristol South CLP meeting to hear and address the concerns expressed above.”

The motion shows the depth of concern Bristol South CLP has with the lack of action and leadership on Starmer’s part. Some of those who actively campaigned during the council elections said they were told by people on the doorsteps that they were voting Green, because they didn’t know what Labour stood for. The party has some excellent Green policies, but these haven’t been sufficiently communicated to the public.

I honestly don’t know what would come of inviting Dodds down to hear the concerns of the constituency party. Given the highly authoritarian and dictatorial leadership style, precious little. It seems that Starmer’s and the party bureaucracy’s response to criticism is to suspend the critics. But they and Starmer are leading the party to disaster. He can’t blame Corbyn, or the continuing power of the left. Labour’s poor showing in the elections is due to him and him alone.

He should now either start showing real leadership and demonstrably oppose Johnson, or he should leave and make way for those who will.

Labour suffers worst by-election result in party’s history. Will Starmer accept the blame? | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Yes, Young Radicals Really Are Leaving Labour for the Greens

June 13, 2021

Yesterday Mike put up a piece about the shift in voting intention among the young. Many of them are choosing to support the Greens rather than the Labour party. According to stats from the Tory-owned YouGov, 27 per of young people intend to vote Green, as against 35 per cent for Labour and 21 per cent Conservative. Mike and the peeps on Twitter were in no doubt that it was because of Starmer’s miserable leadership. If you punish the previous leader of the party by suspending him, ‘throw the Palestinians under the bus and give in to flag-shaggers’, as Frank Owen’s Legendary Paintbrush said, ‘you lose the youth vote’. Not only that, but if you go back on your election promises to renationalise the NHS and the utilities, strengthen the welfare state and restore the trade unions and workers’ rights, and start giving people a decent living wage, you will lose voters, and not just the young ones. These were all extremely popular policies, but they’re anathema to the Tory Labour right. Hence Starmer has broken all of these promises. They are also not going to support a leadership that seems more determined to purge the Labour left – which is really just traditional, centrist Labour – than fight the Tories.

As it stands, Starmer doesn’t represent anything. He’s an opportunist, as shown the other day when he pledged to back Trans self-ID after people have started questioning it and the danger it represents to women. Most supporters of the trans ideology undoubtedly do so out of conviction, but this looked like a cynical attempt to garner support from the gay and trans communities.

Young people tend to be more radical than their elders, and this generation are particularly worried about the environment. It can be seen in the rise of Extinction Rebellion, who are damned nuisance in my opinion, but I don’t doubt they’re right about the environment. I don’t have the stats available at the moment, but the YouGov figures certainly tally with the results in Bristol at the council elections. Many wards elected Green councillors, particularly in the more radical areas of the city.

Britain’s young people are suffering. Their education has suffered because of the Coronavirus lockdown, their job prospects are also in doubt because of the effect the lockdown has had on the economy, they’re mired in debt thanks to the massive hike in tuition fees brought about by the Tories’ Lib Dem collaborators and the welfare state no longer exists to support them, or anybody else. And they are worried about possible irreversible damage to the Earth’s ecosystem and the final extinction of life, including humanity, on our beautiful world.

They and the rest of the British people need and deserve better. The Tories will always be the Tories, the Lib Dems have no principles when it comes to power, and under Starmer Labour has been hollowed out and turned into a vestigial, sham opposition. So they’re going to the Greens. I don’t this will trouble Starmer, as the attitude among the Blairites seems to be that so long as the party is kept out of the hands of its traditional supporters, the socialists and working class, then everything’s great. Even if the party goes under or loses its place as the main opposition party.

But the party’s real supporters and activists demand better. They want a proper Labour party that stands up for working people. And that means

Starmer must go!

Labour is losing young voters to the Greens – because of Starmer | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Lobster Book Review on Corporate and Governmental Corruption in America

June 11, 2021

One of the fascinating book reviews Lobster has published recently is John Newsinger’s review of Sarah Chayes’ Everybody Knows: Corruption in America (London: Hurst 2020). Chayes worked for the western army of occupation in Afghanistan, during which time she came to realise that the American forces weren’t their to free the Afghans, secure democracy and defend women from a vicious and repressive theocracy. No, they were there to prop up Hamid Karzai’s massively corrupt government, whose members and clients were doing everything they could to screw whatever they could get out of Agha and Khanum Ordinary Afghan. This formed the subject of his first book, Thieves of State. In Everybody Knows, she turns to the subject of the massive corruption in America, most especially in Donald Trump’s administration.

The companies participating in this corporate looting of America and the rest of the world include the Koch companies, Goldman Sachs, one of whose former inmates is our own Rishi Sunak, the connections between Trump and Jeffrey Epstein, and the connections between the mercenary outfit Frontier Services Group and Cambridge Analytica. The politicos involved include Mitch McConnell and Steve Mnuchin. McConnell was active trying to hold up increased funding for health-care and pension funds for retired miners, many of whom were his own constituents. He also managed to redirect $4 million of a grant intended to pay for the clean-up of a heavily polluted industrial so that instead it helped to pay for a new, $200 million steel plant ready for its Russian owners, whom McConnell also helped get sanctions lifted on the Russian company, Rusal.

These networks don’t just infect the Republicans, as you’d expect. They’re also heavily interlinked with Democrat politicos and Clinton’s and Obama’s governments. One passage of the review which I found particularly interesting described Madeleine Albright’s corporate looting of Africa. She owns a company that specialises in buying up Third World debt and then forcing those nations to pay it. Of course it comes out their hard-pressed budgets for healthcare, clean drinking water and education. Her hedge fund, Albright Capital Management, bought out a company specialising in pop-up electricity plants in developing African nations. These benefit the countries’ kleptocratic leaders at the expense of local people, who remain ‘mired in pollution and conflict’. It was Madeleine Albright, if I remember correctly, who told American women that there was a special place in hell for them if they didn’t vote for Killary. I’d say there was a special place in hell reserved for someone who enriches herself and her already overprivileged friends and partners stealing badly needed money from the world’s very poorest.

How to tackle this corporate corruption and exploitation? Chayes and Newsinger make it clear that the corporate elites have been able to get away with this because of the massive transfer of wealth and power away from the working class. The book describes how the corruption of the American Gilded Age of the 19th century was successfully fought and broken by a militant and powerful working class. Newsinger’s review concludes

Chayes celebrates struggle through to the great class battles of the 1930s. She clearly recognises that the kleptocracy that is swallowing the world will only be beaten back if there is a shift in the balance of class forces; and will require, needs to be based on, struggle in the
workplace. What is needed, therefore, is the revival of a militant labour movement. And this is absolutely urgent because ‘the Midas disease’ threatens environmental catastrophe on an unprecedented scale. (pp. 283-284) She has come a long way since Afghanistan.

How this can be done with corporatist like Biden in charge of the Democrat party and the country, and the nullity Keir Starmer as head of the Labour party, remains a very good question. But this book review, and the light it sheds on the military-industrial complex in America and its looting of the Third World, is particularly relevant now that we have Biden and the other G7 leaders meeting in Cornwall.

If you want to read it, the reviews at: Everybody Knows (Book Review) (Summer 2021) (lobster-magazine.co.uk)

My Letter of Complaint about Anti-White Racism at the Left Labour Webinar ‘Why Socialists Are Anti-Imperialists’

June 8, 2021

Okay, it’s taken me several months to do it, but I also sent an email to the peeps at the Arise Festival of Left Labour Ideas about what I firmly see as anti-White racism. This was in a webinar ‘Why Socialists Are Anti-Imperialists’. As you can read from the email, I largely agreed wholeheartedly with what was being said, especially when some of the speakers, like Murad Qureshi of the Stop the War Coalition, warned against the return of the Neocons and their ideology of imperial conquest and the plundering of nations. It’s destroyed Iraq and its destroyed Libya, and the scumbags want to destroy Iran.

But I also have a few quibbles here. They saw the rise in Islamophobia as being a product of these interventions, but I think it predates them. It was on the rise in the west with the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the murder in the Netherlands of Theo van Gogh, a film-maker, by a Moroccan who was offended at his film attacking traditional Islamic attitudes to women.

But what angered me was the speech by Barbara Barnaby, the head of the Black Liberation Movement. She was firmly anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist, but some of her attitudes themselves seem colonialist to me. She stated that Britain and Europe should take in migrants, ‘because you oppressed us under colonialism’. This might be putting it too strongly, but it does seem to be a form of Black and Asian colonisation in revenge for the European conquest of Africa. She holds Britain and the rest responsible for the return of slavery in Libya, which is reasonable, but has nothing to say about its return in Black Africa in Uganda. I know this is outside the subject, but it’s important. It suggests that she considers slavery and other atrocities acceptable if they’re done by Blacks, and that their discussion and criticism by Whites is somehow an assault on African dignity. Here’s my letter. Unfortunately, I call Barbara Barnaby Barbara Biti throughout, as I forgot her surname.

Dear Sir,

Thank you for inviting me to the various online events organised by the Labour Assembly Against Austerity as part of the Arise Festival of Left Labour ideas. I have found them extremely necessary and stimulating. This country needs real socialism and action for its working people of all colours and creeds, as well as real international solidarity and action against the multinational capitalism that is ruining our planet, despoiling the nations of the Developing World, and exploiting working people across the globe.

However, I have several very grave objections to some of the opinions presented at the webinar, ‘Why Socialists Are Anti-Imperialists’ presented on the 24th April of this year. I am sorry it has taken me so long to communicate them.

I should first say that I strongly agree that socialists should be anti-imperialists. I agree wholehearted with Murad Qureshi about the dangers of a renewed neo-Conservative right demanding further invasions. I am very much afraid that the warmongers in the government and international capitalism are preparing for an offensive war against Iran, and dread the consequences for the Iranian people and the Middle East.

But I also disagree that these attacks on the peoples of the Middle East alone are responsible for rising prejudice against Muslims in Britain and abroad. I believe a critical moment in this was the fatwa the Ayatollah Khomeini placed upon Salman Rushdie. This, in my experience, turned many western intellectuals, who may otherwise have had a positive view of Islam and Muslims, against the religion. Another was the murder in the first years of this century of the Dutch film-maker, Theo van Gogh. Van Gogh had offended Muslim sentiment through his film, ‘Submission’, criticising the traditional Islamic attitude towards women. In retaliation for this movie, shown on Dutch TV, he was attacked and beheaded in the street by a Moroccan immigrant. And I also believe that what is driving much anti-Muslim prejudice in this country is the continuing scandal of the Muslim grooming gangs. These gangs were covered up and allowed to operate unchecked and unpunished for 20 years because the authorities were afraid of creating race riots. But it has taught a large section of the British electorate that Whites have less protection against racial violence and sexual exploitation in their own country, and that Muslim criminality goes unpunished I realise that this is not the message the authorities mean to give, but it is nevertheless the one that is being received. And I do feel that this scandal has helped to win a section of the White working class electorate in the North to the Tories.

I am also concerned about the underlying anti-White tone of the talk given by Barbara Biti, the head of the Black Liberation Movement. I do not dispute that the global south is exploited and that Black people in Britain are marginalised and suffer from high unemployment, poor education and career opportunities. And I think that she is correct when she says we have a duty to take in the refugees caused by our imperialist wars.

However, she also betrays a set of double standards towards White and Black atrocities as well as what can be seen as a colonialist mentality herself. She stated that we should take in migrants from the south, because ‘you oppressed us under colonialism’. As an argument, this doesn’t work. The peoples of our former colonies were given their independence as they demanded, and this was supposed to solve some of the problems of colonialism. If it hasn’t, then the fault lies primarily with those states and peoples themselves. But they no longer wanted us, and so I believe our obligations in that direction ended at independence. If we are to take in refugees, then it should be for reasons of common humanity and the long-standing connections that were forged with these nations during colonialism.

I also noted that while she was quick to condemn the west for the resurgence of slavery in Libya and north Africa, she said nothing about its revival in sub-Saharan Africa, in countries such as Uganda. Slavery existed in Africa for centuries before the emergence of the transatlantic slave trade, and pirates from north Africa also carried off White slaves from Europe. But Biti seems to regard this as an embarrassment that should be hushed up. And while Africans certainly were exploited during colonialism, part of the rationale for the European invasion of the continent was to put an end to it. But Biti clearly feels that this should not be mentioned, let alone criticised. This seems to be part of a general campaign by Black activists to put the blame for slavery solely on White Europeans in contradiction to history.

This shows a further racist attitude in Biti’s speech. While I am sure she has White friends and supporters, her refusal to acknowledge any criticism or failing of the Developing World and its people, and her placing the blame firmly on the West, suggests that she sees White people as a terrible, exploitative other, in line with current far left theories of Whiteness like Critical Race Theory. While Black activists have made it very clear in this country that they do not promote racial violence, I am afraid that this attitude legitimises it. You may remember that 20 years ago, I report came out revealing that the majority of victims of racist crime in this country were White. This pattern seems to be recurring, as it has been claimed that recent government statistic by the Hate Crimes Unit show that 41 per cent of a reported hate crimes are against Whites.

Finally, Biti’s demand that Britain accept non-White immigration as a kind of reparation for colonialism sounds itself like a form of colonialism. Her hostile tone suggests that she has the attitude that just as we colonised the world, so we should accept being colonised in turn as non-White immigration. It looks very much like a form of ‘reverse colonialism’ I can remember the FT talking about in a review of a book on the British empire also nearly 20 years ago. Again, it’s another flawed argument, as the peoples of Africa and elsewhere fought against the European invasion and occupations of their countries and demanded their independence. But there is a set of double standards here in that Biti, and activists like her, deny White Europeans the right to protest or legislate against mass non-White immigration.

 I regret that these criticisms need to be made, as I do share the speakers’ concerns about the rise in imperialist ideologies. I also strongly believe that the White working class, Blacks and Asians need to unite to topple the Tories as well as combat the real structural racism that exists. But I am afraid that identity politics that see racism as solely something done by Whites and which does not recognise the complex reality is merely creating more alienation, division and racial hatred.

I would be very grateful for a response to this letter, as I intend to put it up on my blog.

Thank you and solidarity.

Yours faithfully,

I haven’t received a reply, but they’re still sending me material about future events so they obviously haven’t decided I’m an evil Fascist or White supremacist just yet.

Book on Anti-Capitalism

May 29, 2021

Simon Tormey, Anti-Capitalism: A Beginner’s Guide (London: One World, revised edition 2013).

Like many people, I’ve been doing some reading during the lockdown. I found this in one of the mail order book catalogues I get, and ordered it as it looked interesting. I got through the post the other day. It was first published in 2004 and was republished in a revised edition nine years later. The blurb for it on the back runs

The financial crisis, bank bailouts, and the dash to austerity have breathed new life into protest movements across the globe, and brought anti-capitalist ideas into the mainstream. But what does it mean to be anti-capitalist? And where is anti-capitalism going – if anywhere?

Simon Tormey explores these questions and more in the only accessible introduction to the full spectrum of anti-capitalist ideas and politics. With nuance and verve, he introduces the reader to the wide variety of positions and groups that make up the movement, including anarchists, Marxists, autonomists, environmentalists, and more. Providing essential global and historical context, Tormey takes us from the 1968 upsurge of radical politics to the 1994 Zapatista insurrection, the 1999 Seattle protests, and right up to Occupy and the uprisings across the Eurozone.

This is a fascinating and bold exploration of how to understand the world – and how to change it.

A biographical note states that Tormey is a political theorist based in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Sydney. He was the founding director of the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice at the University of Nottingham.

The book has an introduction and the following chapters:

  1. The Hows and Whys of Capitalism
  2. Anti-Capitalism after the ‘End of History’
  3. A ‘movement of movements’1: ‘reformism’, or ‘globalisation with a human face’
  4. A ‘movement of movements’ II: renegades, radicals and revolutionaries
  5. The Future(s) of Anti-Capitalism: Problems and Perspectives

There is a timeline of contemporary anti-capitalism, a glossary of key terms, thinkers and movements, and a list of resources.

Although the book was published eight years ago, I think it’s still going to be very relevant. The world may have been in lockdown for the past year with governments supporting their economies, but the Tories have neither gone away nor changed their stripes. It’s been pointed out that they never let a crisis go to waste. Once the lockdown is lifted, they’ll revert back to cutting the welfare state, privatising the NHS and with further attacks on workers’ rights, increasing job insecurity and lowering wages. We will need to organise again and resist them. The book’s short at 181 pages, excluding the index, but it looks like a very useful and necessary contribution to combating neoliberalism and the poverty and misery it is inflicting on working people across the globe.

Election Promises of Labour and TUSC Candidates in Bristol Mayoral Elections

April 23, 2021

Down here in Bristol we not only have elections for the city council looming, but also for the elected mayor and police and crime commissioner. Because of health issues, not just my own but also other members of my family, we’ve arranged to have postal votes. The ballot papers arrived the other day, and enclosed with them were booklets produced by the local authority explaining the voting procedure, answering various FAQs and giving policy statements and promises from the candidates. Not only does Bristol have a Labour candidate, the present elected mayor Marvin Rees, but there’s also one from the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, Tom Baldwin. Here’s their election promises from the booklet for the mayoral election.

Mayor Marvin’s runs

Delivering for Bristol

Building a City of Hope

It is an honour to serve as Mayor of Bristol, the city I am proud to be from and where I am bringing up my family.

Together we have led Bristol in the face of the pandemic, economic downturn, social change and instability, and climate change, with the added uncertainty of Brexit. Many of us have experienced real loss this year, as people have come together like never before to support each other.

Working with partners all over Bristol, we are building a city where nobody is left behind underpinning our ambition with compassion and our commitment to sustainability. We are focused on protecting and creating jobs, and delivering for residents, we are creating jobs by bringing employers like Channel 4 to our city, bringing hundreds of millions of pounds worth of investment into Bristol, and delivering our mass transit system.

Together, against the odds, we are making a difference.

On 6 May, we are proudly standing on our record of delivery – including all our 2016 pledges and more. With your support, we can all keep building a more sustainable, inclusive, and ambitious Bristol: our City of Hope.”

There then follows a list of what Labour has already achieved.

“9,000 new homes, tripling affordable house-building, rough sleeping down 80%

12,000 work experiences and £9m for south Bristol construction skills centre.

99 new biogas buses, RPZ fees frozen, 75 miles of segregated cycleways

Kept all our libraries and children’s centres open

Building new schools, creating mental health training and free breakfast clubs

Best core city for recycling, deep-cleaned 700 streets, planted 60,000 trees

Won Channel 4 relocation, invested in sport and leisure centres – giving control to communities”

This is followed by his promises for the future

“Building our underground, with free travel for apprentices and students

Protecting jobs and building a living wage city

Investing £1 billion in clean energy and doubling our trees

Investing in more schools and quality work experience

Building 2,000 new homes a year – 1,000 affordable

Investing in social care, helping older people stay in their homes.”

The pages for Tom Baldwin of the TUSC state has the statement ‘TUSC Against Cuts’, and then proceeds as follows:

“Tom says: “The pandemic has exposed the huge injustices and the divide between workers and big business. We’ve had to fight for our safety as the bosses and government put profits first. Now we have to fight to protect jobs and services as they try to make us pay for the crisis.

Bristol needs a mayor who will stand up for ordinary people. I stand for a socialist society run for people not profit.”

‘The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition organises to give a voice to working-class people who have been abandoned by the main parties. It includes the RMT union and the Socialist Party, of which Tom is a member.

Tom is 37 and lives in Aston. He is an active trade unionist and campaigner.

Bristol needs a fightback

Defend jobs and services – Vote Tom Baldwin

A Socialist mayor for the millions, not the millionaires

If elected Tom will…

  • Build a mass united struggle of workers and young people to win back the council funding taken by the government.
  • Reverse all cuts to council jobs and services, move budgets based on Bristol’s needs.
  • Oppose and reverse outsourcing and privatisation.
  • Never increase council tax, rents and charges faster than wages rise
  • Push for a publicly owned, top quality and affordable public transport network, run for need not profit
  • Address the housing crisis by building thousands of council homes and capping private rents
  • Defend the right to peaceful protest
  • Fight for decent jobs. Support all campaigns to protect safety, jobs, pay and conditions, including strike action by workers
  • Stand for jobs and homes for all. Oppose racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and all other forms of oppression and division.
  • Only take the average wage of a worker in the city, not the inflated £79,000 mayoral salary.’

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As you know, I despise Keir Starmer and his continuing destruction of the Labour party, including the purge of left-wingers and socialists, in order to turn it into a Blairite neoliberal party. I’ve also got criticisms of the way Marvin Rees has run the city, but in general I think he’s done a good job and has been a far better mayor than his predecessor, ‘Red Trousers’ Ferguson.

I’ve been told by some of the great peeps on this blog that the TUSC were formed by the people in the Labour party, who were thrown out for opposing Blair’s cuts and policy changes, though I’ve also heard that the Socialist Party is the former Militant Tendency, a group that infiltrated and tried to take over the Labour party in the 1980s. But their policies are what the Labour party should be standing for. The mayoral elections are run according to proportional representation. I would therefore urge people to consider giving the TUSC their second vote.

If more people vote for them, to the point where it’s a significant number, perhaps the leaders of the Labour party will take note, and move the party further to the left. Or it will encourage the present Labour left to continue the struggle against the Blairites by showing them that real, socialist policies are popular and can win.