Archive for the ‘Languages’ Category

Karen Davies on Feminist Article Debunking Claims that Africans and Other Non-White Peoples Didn’t Know about Biological Sex before European Colonisation

June 14, 2022

I felt I had to put this up, because the fact that activists and feminist scholars like Karen Davies and Jennifer Seiland, the author of magazine article Davies discusses, have to refute this nonsense show how far the ideological fantasies of Queer Theory have poisoned genuine political, feminist and ethnological discourse. Davies is a Black American lady, who’s a sharp, trenchant critic of the transgender ideology and its supporters. She’s a musician, schoolteacher teaching young children, and has also worked in the care sector with the mentally ill. She has very strong, uncompromising views on both the transgender ideology and transwomen which has led to disputes with other gender critical campaigners, like Graham Linehan. However, her views and criticisms are informed by medical scholarship, and she cites the appropriate medical and psychiatric literature to support her case.

In this video she approvingly discusses a piece in the feminist magazine Reduxx by Jennifer Seiland ‘Black Women Are Women. Men Are Not’, concentrating particularly on Seiland’s attack on a frankly weird and bonkers idea going around Trans supporters and ideologues. This is that Africans did not understand biological sex and the gender binary before it was imposed on them by White, Christian Europeans. Davies herself makes good, and sometimes glaringly obvious points against this nonsense. Like Africans obviously knew about the gender binary and the biological differences between the sexes, like everyone else. It would have partly been a survival issue. You wouldn’t let heavily pregnant women go hunting where they were particularly vulnerable to animal attack. Rather, you’d give them other, lighter work to do and leave them with other people in attendance to help them when the baby arrived. She points to great African civilisations like ancient Egypt and asks how anybody could build such a great culture and its monuments, if they were too thick to know the difference between men and women. She also raises the point that people in the ancient world travelled widely long before European colonisation, and that the Vikings probably got to Africa. She also makes the feminist point that not only were Black women frequently denied their humanity, but so were women generally. She compares the attitude that African’s didn’t understand the difference between men and women to nonsense she was taught at Roman Catholic school that Africans didn’t have language until the Europeans arrived.

This all seems to be a development of one of the arguments used by the supporters of the transgender ideology that non-western cultures have a third gender, and that White westerners, as racist colonialists, have imposed their narrow view that there are only two sexes on them. Now some cultures do have a third gender category for people, usually gay men, who are seen as somehow neither male nor female. A few years ago the Indian hijras – eunuchs – were campaigning for official recognition as a third gender. One book I read years ago about Polynesian society described the gay men in those societies, who grew their hair long, dressed as women and took up feminine occupations like laundry. Going further back, Herodotus in his Histories describes how the men of the Scythian aristocracy often dressed as women and did feminine tasks.

Not all cultures outside Europe have such ideas, however, and in many African cultures the sex roles can be very marked. For example, among the Dowayo of Cameroon the smiths are men but their wives are potters. Basket-weaving is also feminine occupation,. The British anthropologist, Dr. Nigel Barley, in his book The Innocent Anthropologist, describes the general hilarity he caused among his hosts when he tried his hand at basked making. To me the statement that Africans didn’t know about biological sex seems to be a new mutation of the old, and thoroughly discredited anthropological belief that primitive peoples, like those of Papua New Guinea, didn’t understand the father’s role in conception. They believed instead that a god or spirit had entered the woman’s womb. In fact later research showed that primitive peoples know very well that you need a biological man as well as a women to make the next generation.

I also wonder how anyone can make such a ludicrous statement that it needs to be refuted by a feminist scholar like Seiland, when there’s a wealth of popular literature about Africa and its peoples that would easily show otherwise. All you have to do is look for the books on Africa in the local library or good bookstore. And there’s some excellent LGBTQ+ literature which discusses homosexuality and related issues around the world. One of these is A Gay History of the World. This describes the case of an African queen, who overthrew her husband, took on male dress and ruled as king. She also had a harem of male wives, who wore women’s clothes. It’s definitely queer, but it seems to me to be a result of very strong traditional ideas about the sex roles. Only men can rule as kings. Therefore, any woman that tries to rule, has to make herself culturally a man, which means dressing in masculine clothes and having a harem of wives. Though as it seems the queen was heterosexual, these were men rather than women.

As for what Davies was taught in Catholic school about Africans not possessing language until it was brought to them by Whites, I honestly have no idea where that notion came from. It’s the kind of rubbish Fascist groups like the National Front used to say. But European explorers and linguists from the 19th century, and no doubt well before, knew that Africans had their own tongues. The Victorian explorer Richard Burton gives a complete description of the language of the east African city of Harar with grammar and extensive vocabulary in his account of his journeys in that part of the continent. In Wanderings in West Africa he talks approvingly of the Mandinko people and the language of the Kru, asking why Brits dealing with them can’t use their own, perfectly good indigenous names rather than give them nicknames like ‘Three-Fingered Jack’. I’m not saying such attitudes towards African languages is common in the church. I know it isn’t. One of the other voluntary workers at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum told me once how he’d heard mass in Swahili when in Africa. It seems pretty clear that this bizarre idea that African’s didn’t have their own languages isn’t general to Roman Catholics, but just held by those particular teachers in Davies’ old school.

I do wonder at the intellectual damage assertions like the idea that Africans had no notion of biological sex are doing. At the moment they’re held by a small, highly ideologically driven elite, but it seems to be an attempt to deny biological reality for ideological reasons. And I fear that it will be enforced by the same people that protest against and sack academics like Kathleen Stock, who simply assert that sex and gender are based in biological reality, rather than mental or cultural constructs.

New Politics’ Review of Frank Wolff’s History of the Russian/Polish Jewish Bund

May 11, 2022

I went on Google the other night to see if there were any books available on the history of the Bund, the majority Jewish socialist party of the former Russian empire and later Poland. I doubt very many people know about it apart from historians of the Jewish communities in those countries. I was therefore surprised to find that there are quite a few, in both English and Yiddish. However, one of the most informative and concise summaries of the Bund’s history is in Marvin S. Zuckerman’s review, ‘The Soul of the Bund’, of Frank Wolff’s Yiddish Revolutionaries in Migration: The Transnational History of the Jewish Labour Bund  translated by Loren Balhorn and Jan-Peter Herrmann, Haymarket Books, Chicago, 2022, paperback, 532 pp in New Politics, a magazine for the democratic Left. The review begins with a quote from Wolff’s book from Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who describes how the discovered the history of the Bund through a book about Marek Edelman, a member of the Bund and hero of the Warsaw uprising. In the book, Edelman talks about the Bund, and Cohn-Bendit states that both the Stalinists and Zionists have tried to erase it from memory. Then the review continues thus:

‘Books and monographs have been published about the Bund, in Yiddish and English, German and Polish, and in other languages. Nevertheless, Cohn-Bendit’s remarks remain relevant. To fill the still-existing broad gap in  knowledge of the Bund, before describing Frank Wolff’s book about the Bund, here are some facts that will give some notion of the “forgotten history” of the Bund.

The Bund was the first modern Jewish political party in the Russian Empire, as well as the largest social democratic movement in the entire empire. On the eve of the Second World War, it was also the strongest Jewish party in Poland.

In its early years (it was founded in 1897) the Bund achieved considerable success, attracting 40,000 supporters by 1906, making it the largest socialist group in the Russian Empire. From mid-1903 to mid-1904 the Bund held 429 political meetings, 45 demonstrations, and 41 political strikes; it issued 305 pamphlets, of which 23 dealt with the pogroms and self-defense. In 1904 the number of Bundist political prisoners reached 4,500.

In the 1930s, one hundred thousand Jewish workers belonged to Bundist unions, meaning that one-quarter of all unionized workers in Poland were led by the Bund, giving them enormous power. The Bund held the overwhelming majority in the national council of Jewish Trade Unions, which, at the end of 1921, comprised seven unions with 205 branches, and 46,000 members, and, in 1939, 14 unions with 498 branches and approximately 99,000 members.

Together with the left Labor Zionists, the Bund administered a network of secular Yiddish schools. At its peak, in the late 1920s, its TSYSHO (Tsentrale Yidishe Shul Organizatsye or Central Yiddish School Organization) maintained 219 institutions with 24,000 students, spread across 100 locations, including 467 kindergartens, 114 elementary schools, 6 high schools, 52 evening schools, and a pedagogical institute in Vilnius.

The Bund also maintained a youth organization, Tsukunft, which numbered 15,000 members on the eve of WW II, and a children’s organization, SKIF, blending scout activities, sports events, and politics; a women’s organization, YAF; and a sports organization, Morgnshtern, the largest such organization in all of Poland, Jewish or Polish.

In 1938, in the municipal elections in 89 Polish cities and towns, the Bund won 55% of the votes cast, more than all the other Jewish parties put together. The Bund thus became communal spokesmen and aggressive advocates of financial aid to all Jewish institutions, including yeshivas and religious institutions.

Most importantly, and as it relates to Frank Wolff’s book, being a member of the Bund meant you lived your life through the Bund—it was your union, your education, your church.’

The review then goes on to describe how the Bund was at the forefront of resistance to the Holocaust, and as Social Democrats, who believed in establishing socialism democratically, they were firmly opposed to the Communists. It also describes their attitude and struggle with the Zionists:

‘The Bund struggled with the Zionist movement for the hearts and minds of the Polish Jews. Looking back, one wonders how the Bund could have maintained that “There where we live (and have lived for hundreds of years), that is our country.” One forgets how chimerical the Zionist dream of a Jewish state in Palestine was. Herzl’s dictum that Palestine was “A land without people for a people without a land” was simply not true. Palestine was peopled by over 1 million Palestinians. In 1914, for example, Palestine’s non-Jews outnumbered Jews by 8 to 1.

The Bund argued that 3.2 million Polish Jews, and the other millions in Eastern Europe, would not pull up and move to Palestine. In any case, the Turks, and later the British, were not permitting Jews to enter. The practical and immediate thing to do was for the Jews in their millions to fight for their civil rights and for social democracy in the lands in which they were living, not dream of emigrating to Palestine.

It is tragically true that annihilation was the fate that befell the Polish and other East European Jews, but that same fate would have befallen the Jews of Palestine if the British army had not stopped the advance eastward of the German army with the British victory at El Alamein, Egypt. The Yishuv in Palestine would have been exterminated and with it would have perished the dream of a Jewish state in Palestine.’

The review describes the book as a social and cultural history, describing the Bund’s tactics in reaching the Jewish masses on one hand and fighting for their civil rights, against their exploitation and attacks on them by real anti-Semites. After the party’s suppression in Poland, the book follows its members as they emigrated abroad to New York and Buenos Aires.

But the Bund, although now long gone as an organisation, still exerts a powerful influence. There’s a quote from the book about Daniel Katz’s analysis of Bernie Sanders first run for the Democratic presidential nomination. Katz believed that Bernie was motivated not just by socialism – he was a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, but specifically Yiddish socialism and its tradition of fighting oppression, and especially Bund’s transnational appeal. It was this tradition that was able to enthuse and inspire millions of young Americans. The quote concludes

‘The history of the Bund as a party may have come to an end, but the effects of it cultural and political work and their unifying humanitarian yet activist spirit described here continue to matter today.’

The full review can be read at: https://newpol.org/review_of_yiddish_revolutionaries_in_migration/?msclkid=37292abbd14d11ecacf172187342a816

Bernie would have been an awesome president, and broken the mould of American politics. He genuinely seemed to understand and care about the real problems of American working people. During one of his campaign rallies in a southern community, he was approached by a woman in tears wondering how she was going to support her family. Bernie comforted her as she poured our her concerns. One supportive commenter pointed out how amazing it was that a secular Jew from the north could reach out and appeal to a southern Christian. But that’s because he genuinely championed them against the corporatist political establishment.

It’s a massive shame that Bernie didn’t win, just like Jeremy Corbyn lost over here. Because the two of them in power together would have transformed British and American politics for the better.

YouTube Video of 1 Hour of Music from the Israeli Communist Party

May 11, 2022

Okay, I’ve put up a number of videos over the past few days as well as articles about songs in Yiddish from the Polish and Russian Jewish Bund, the mass socialist party for Jews in those countries. This was to make the point that it was the Bund that had the majority support of those nation’s Jewish populations, not the Zionists, contrary to the claims of today’s Israel lobby. And as the song in ‘In Zaltsikn Yam’ makes very clear, the Bund did indeed very powerfully reject Zionism in favour winning equal rights for Jews in the countries of their birth and fighting for the emancipation of Jewish working people as part of the international workers’ movement.

Going through YouTube the other day I found a video of an hour of Israeli Communist anthems in Hebrew. This is another video I’m not going to put up, because I think an hour of Communist music, whether in English, Hebrew, or whatever would be too much for most people. But the thumbnail to the video’s interesting because of what it shows of the party’s attitude to the Israeli state’s treatment of the Palestinians. It has the slogan ‘Stop the War: End the Occupation’ and the comments are from both Israelis and Arabs who are united in opposing the Israeli state’s decades-long programme of ethnic cleansing. Among the comments there’s this remark from JCSurge that makes the Jewish rejection of the anti-Arab persecution very clear: ‘

We, the Jewish people, did not toil, and suffer oppression for thousands of years to become the oppressor! We did not work so hard to establish a state that keeps our brothers [Palestinians] occupied in second-class conditions. This is not the work of which millions of Jews have died in vain for. Hativah L-Komunitzim b-Israel!’

And a gent from Lebanon, whose monicker is in the Arabic script so I can’t read it, posted:

‘As a Lebanese Arab im happy to see some Israelis wanting to unite with palestinian arabs under socialist rule’.

If you can speak Hebrew and want to watch it, or simply want to do so anyway, the video’s title is One Hour of Hebrew Communist Music, and it’s on the GETchan channel on YouTube.

On the 120th Anniversary Performance of the Bundist Song ‘In Zaltsikn Yam’

May 10, 2022

There’s a fascinating video on YouTube of the performance by Jewish radical musicians Daniel Kahn and Psoy Korolenko of the Bundist song ‘In Zaltsikn Yam’. It was sent over the internet to the Melbourne Bund as part of the 120th anniversary celebrations of the foundation of the Bund, the mass Russian and Polish Jewish socialist party in 1897. Korolenko sings it in three languages, Yiddish, English and Russian. It’s militantly socialist and stridently attacks the rich and Zionism in no uncertain terms.

It begins with the tears of the Jews running into the sea, but the tears of the rich are clear, while those of the poor are bloody. It also sings about Jews and gentiles marching together are comrades in their shared homelands. As for Zionism, it says that the call for Jews to return to Israel is what they’ve heard from the priests. It’s just putting Jews back into another ghetto. The Zionists are concerned with the Jewish people’s fathers in their grave, but have no concerns for the present generation. But there’s a new messiah – the working man, who will transform the world.

It’s a great song which makes the Bund’s anti-Zionism very clear, preformed by too excellent musicians. It also adds further weight to the amount of historical scholarship showing that it was the secular Bund that represented the majority Jewish opinion in Poland and eastern Europe before the Second World War, and not Zionism. That said, I have issues with it that prevent me from putting the video up on this blog. I’m an Anglican Christian, but I found the rejection of the Jewish hope for the Messiah actually shocking and blasphemous. And if it shocks a gentile like me, I wonder how offensive it must be to religious Jews. I also realise that many religious Jews, even some Israelis, are critical of Israel or just disgusted at its treatment of the Palestinians. I’ve blogged before now of Haredi and other very Orthodox Jews, who believe their religious duty is remain in the countries to which Jews have been scattered, until Israel is redeemed by the Messiah. I understand from one of the Jewish anti-Zionist bloggers that one former Chief Rabbi held that view. When he was asked whether the redemption of Israel then would have the same result in the removal of the Palestinians, he replied that under the Messiah it would be done peacefully through negotiation. There are Israeli human rights groups like B’Tselem that are under attack from the right-wing Israeli establishment because they criticise their country for its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. I also remember the way Israeli nationalists attacked and vilified a group of liberal Israelis because they said the kadish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, over a dying Palestinian who’d been shot by the IDF. The song interests me as a historical artefact and as part of an alternative tradition of Jewish radicalism that still holds a place in current Jewish society.

But I don’t feel I can put it up on this blog because I genuinely don’t want to offend anyone’s religious beliefs.

My issue is with the Israel lobby and Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, and with the way Zionist groups are trying to rewrite history so that only they appear as the true champions and expression of Jewish political aspirations, and definitely not with Jews or Judaism.

If you want to see the video for yourself, it’s on the Bund Melbourne channel on YouTube, and has the Yiddish title of ‘In Zaltsikn Yam – Bund 120 Yoyvl 2017’.

The Anthems of the Bund and their Youth Section

May 9, 2022

Sorry I haven’t posted anything over the last day or so. I had the fourth covid booster jab on Saturday and it’s left me very weak and more than a bit fluey. But I am reading the very relevant discussion in the comments section about getting rid of the Tories and whether that would achieve anything, when Starmer’s Labour is doing its level best to be exactly the same or worse.

Now more music from the Bund, the Russian/Polish Jewish socialist party that strenuously rejected Zionism in favour of the emancipation of Jewish working people in their present homelands. I found this version of Di Shvue – the Oath – on the Towarzsyszsekretarz channel on YouTube. The blurb for the song says that it was written by S. An-sky in 1902, and performed by Zahava Seewald. It also has the song’s lyrics in Yiddish and English. The English translation goes

The Oath

Brothers and sisters in toil and struggle

All who are dispersed far and wide

Come together, the flag is ready

It waves in anger, it is red with blood!

Swear an oath of life and death!

Heaven and earth will hear us,

The light stars will bear witness.

An oath of blood, an oath of tears,

We swear, we swear, we swear!

We swear an endless loyalty to the Bund.

Only it can free the slaves now.

The red flag is high and wide.

It waves in anger,

it is red with blood!

Swear an oath of life and death!

The Bund and its anthem, although long gone, evidently have real meaning for many Jews, as shown by the comments. Adam13weishaupt posted ‘As a young girl in tsarist Russia, in Smorgon (near the Lithuanian-Belarus border), my late grandmother sang this song at Bund gatherings held secretly at night in the forest.’ And Cisza01 said ‘We should never forget about Jewish socialists from BUND’

The Youth Anthem was posted by Jack Ross on his channel on YouTube. The blurb for it simply reads ‘Performed by the Workmen’s Circle chorus, a tribute to past and future radical Jewish youth.’ Ross himself is an historian of the Bund, having written a book on its history between the First and Second World Wars. The final image shows Jewish gay rights marchers waving a flag containing the rainbow and the Star of David. I think Miriam Margolyes would approve, as she’s gay and supports a Jewish organisation, Gay Y*ds, set up to tackle homophobia in the Jewish community.

Yiddish Revolutionary Song – ‘In Ale Gasn’

May 6, 2022

I’ve also put up one or two videos of left-wing Jewish songs in English and Yiddish, like ‘The March of the Jobless Corps’. That song reflects the reality of unemployment in Britain and America today, as well as recalling the National Union of the Unemployed, set up by the Communists in Britain during the great recession of the ’30s. But these songs are also a challenge to the Blairites in the Labour party. They show that contrary to Starmer’s attitude to Jews and socialists in the party and that of the various Zionist organisations and the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Chief Rabbinate, Jewish working people formed a strong part of the international working class movement, including anarchism, socialism and Marxism. But their modern left-wing and genuinely socialist counterparts are ‘the wrong kind of Jews’ for the current wretched Labour leadership. And so we’ve had the nasty spectacle of the genuinely anti-racist Jeremy Corbyn smeared as an anti-Semite, and also his Jewish and gentile followers. And part of this is because he was supported by left-wing Jewish organisations and people, critical of Israel and its persecution of the Palestinians. And so there have been attacks on Jewish Voice for Labour and its leader, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, while Corbyn was attacked for spending a Passover Seder with Jewdas at their invitation. These people are ‘the wrong kind of Jews’, and as a result, 4/5 of the people smeared and expelled from the party for such ideological deviation are Jewish. Which very clearly shows that all these claims of combating anti-Semitism are pure, malignant nonsense.

This song celebrates the overthrow of the Tsar, and is from Jack Ross’ channel on YouTube. The description accompanying the piece states that it was attributed to the anarchists, but was also popular in the Bund, the main eastern European Jewish socialist party in the Russian Empire. It’s almost entirely in Yiddish, but there is a chorus in English.

Many of the Bolsheviks and other Russian revolutionaries were Jews, as well as members of other nationalities in the Russian empire. They were oppressed by the tsarist state. Jewish settlement was limited to ‘the pale’ and there were restrictions on what jobs they could do. The tsars also used conscription into the army as a form of forced conversion. Nicholas II was particularly anti-Semitic, and believed firmly in the old, vile myth of the blood libel. He tried, unsuccessfully, to prosecute a young lad, Bielis, for it, which was so bonkers it actually embarrassed the secret police. It’s therefore not remotely surprising that socialist Jews would celebrate the tsar’s fall and give their loud support to the Revolution.

Venceremos – Chilean Socialist Song against Fascism

May 4, 2022

Here’s another piece of socialist music I really had to put up. It’s Quilapayun – Venceremos on the Commieball channel on YouTube. The images accompanying the song simply show the late, democratically elected Marxist president, Salvador Allende, who was overthrown in the CIA-backed coup that ushered in the bloody reign of Maggie’s friend General Pinochet.

‘Veneremos’ is Spanish for ‘We shall prevail’, and the song is about how the Chilean people – peasants, soldiers, miners, women, students, employees, workers’ will prevail over fascism and sow a new land, ending with pledges to ‘fulfil’. It’s a stirring tune with overtones of Andean indigenous melodies on the panpipes. The American right and the secret state regarded Allende as a threat not only because he was a Marxist, but because he was a democratically elected Marxist. His election showed that Marxism could be genuinely popular and not imposed by force or gerrymandering, as with the Bolshevik coup that inaugurated Communist rule in Russia and the way Stalin rigged the elections and political systems in eastern Europe to foist Communist regimes on its peoples. Allende’s election threatened the image of Marxism as a threat to democracy, and so Allende had to go.

The blurb for the song on the YouTube mentions Allende’s overthrow in Pinochet’s coup that outlawed all political parties, but especially the socialist and communist ones, and gives the Spanish lyrics.

Jewish Left-Wing Song – March of the Jobless Corps/ Arbetslozer Marsh

May 4, 2022

More Jewish music from the left. This comes from the Klezmer group of Daniel Kahn and the Painted Bird, one the Oriente Musik YouTube channel. It bitterly attacks the corporate rich and the culpability for mass unemployment in America. It talks about how the factories have been closed down, ‘there’s no manufacturing in the land’, workers are being made made hungry and homeless, living in tents and subsisting on bread and water while lazy CEOs guzzle fine wine. It also attacks useless unions, for taking the dues from the workers but not standing up for them, so all their work goes in making goods for the rich. This is repeated in Yiddish, and the final verse ends with an optimistic look for a new, just land where everyone has work.

The video shows the band marching and dancing through abandoned factories, meeting solitary workers doing carpentry or working at a sewing machine, before people finally come together for a stately traditional Jewish dance.

It’s an excellent riposte to the racist nonsense that Jews are all rich businessmen, somehow responsible for the evils of modern capitalism. This is the real, murderous anti-Semitic conspiracy theory pushed by Hitler and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Unfortunately, the Blairites in the Labour party didn’t get the message. Remember a few years back when Jezza was leading the party, and one of the female MPs appeared on Radio 4 to blithely declare that socialism was anti-Semitic because it attacked capitalism, which was somehow synonymous with Judaism? That was torn to shreds by the Corbynist left, as it should have been by any decent person who knows their history. Because Hitler and the wretched Protocols also claimed that ‘Marxist socialism’ was also controlled by Jews to enslave Aryans. And Corbyn was supported in the party by a strong Jewish contingent, like Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi and Jewish Voice for Labour, who stood for Jewish working people, who like their gentile comrades were worried about deteriorating working conditions, the destruction of the welfare state, cuts to public services and the privatisation of the NHS. Who wondered how they would pay for the social care their elderly parents and relatives needed, and support their families with the wage freeze.

But there also was in Britain are real ‘Jobless Corps’ – the National Union of the Unemployed, which I think was set up by the Communist Party. As part of their protest, they staged a kind of invasion of the Ritz hotel in London. They went in and ordered a meal. Of course, as working people they weren’t welcome in such an exclusive establishment. They replied by pointing out that plenty of the rich also went down and had their meals in cafes in the working class parts of the capital. They called this ‘slumming it’, but the protesters said they were perfectly welcome there, just as they should be in the Ritz.

We’re supposed to have the lowest unemployment rate for years, but I don’t trust official figures. They’ve been fiddle too often. One of the problems is that they only count people receiving benefit. This obviously doesn’t include the masses who’ve been thrown off thanks to the sanctions system. And it doesn’t count the underemployed, like the poor souls on zero hours contracts, who are effectively unemployed when their employers don’t need ’em.

Perhaps we need a revival of the idea of unemployed workers’ unions, that will attack current neoliberal capitalism and the Thatcherites and Reaganites who are doing their best to prop it up to deprive ordinary people of properly paying work for their own profits.

Oh, You Foolish Zionists! – Yiddish Anti-Zionist Song

May 4, 2022

Here’s another little ditty I found on YouTube that’ll really, really get up the noses of Keir Starmer and the Jewish Labour Movement (formerly Paole Zion – Workers of Zion’ and the other Zionist organisations that have smeared good, decent, anti-racist people as anti-Semites and had them thrown out of the Labour party. So I’ve definitely got to put it up. Jewish critics of Zionism like David Rosenberg, Ilan Pappe and the mighty Tony Greenstein have amply demonstrated that, contrary to what the Zionists would have us all believe, Zionism was actually a minority political movement before the Second World War. Mainstream European Jews wanted to remain in their own countries, working to be accepted as equal fellow citizens with their gentile friends, neighbours and comrades. This was the policy of the Bund, the mass Jewish socialist party of the Russian empire. And this piece of music from the GetChan channel on YouTube goes further supports it.

The piece is trilingual, first in Yiddish, then English and finally Russian. The English lyrics attack the Zionists as Utopians for wanting to take them to Israel where they can ‘die as a nation’. Instead it urges them to go into the factories and see how the workers live. It states that they want to stay in the diaspora where they’ll work for their liberation. I think in the Yiddish and Russian lyrics this is altered to Russia, reflecting the writers’ origins.

The thumbnail to the video is a photograph showing a Jewish workers’ demonstration. There’s placard with the legend ‘May the First 1947’ and ‘the Redemption of Israel, but it also promotes the Brotherhood of nations and solidarity between the workers of the world and Jews and Palestinians.

The song’s short, with a good, jaunty melody which sounds like it’s played on the accordion. It’s therefore excellent for playing at socialist and trade unionist rallies to defy any suggestion that criticism of Israel make you automatically an anti-Semite.

One Third of Teachers Planning to Leave Over Next Five Years

April 19, 2022

I hope everyone had a great Easter bank holiday weekend. I said I wouldn’t post anything then, partly because a few days earlier I felt too ill but mostly because it was just such a beautiful spring weekend that I didn’t want to spoil it by putting up material that would get me angry and depressed. The weekend has passed, and I’m now ready to tackle the serious issues. But it’s still a beautiful day, or at least it is in Bristol. So if it gets too much, there’s always the sunny spring weather to enjoy for a breather.

One of the headlines I caught a few days ago was that a third of British teachers apparently are planning to leave in the next five years. I’m honestly not surprised. My mother was a junior school teacher and I did my first degree at a teacher training college. And despite what the right-wing press would have us all believe, teachers don’t have it easy.

One of the issues is that both Labour and the Tories have used education as a political football, demanding every more additions to the curriculum and increasing responsibility for teachers while at the same time cutting wages and funding for schools. Teachers don’t just stand in front of whiteboards talking to their pupils about algebra, poetry or whatever the subject is. They also have to mark the students work, as well as run various extracurricular activities like the school sports teams. And the responsibility and the workload seems to have increased during the Covid crisis, as pupils still have to receive an education. And then there’s the appalling fact that, because of the grinding poverty Johnson and the Tories have inflicted on working people, they’ve had to supply free school meals to kids in the summer holidays because otherwise the kids’ families would be able to afford to feed them.

As for the messing around with the curriculum, some of us can still remember when Dave Cameron’s government added so many extra subjects that they couldn’t fit into the school day. Add to this the constant requirement for testing school children and the immense pressure this places on the children as well as the school. I said on this blog a few years ago that there seems to be something in the Tory psyche that wants to crush all the joy out of education. Yes, children should work hard, but they should also be allowed to enjoy school and childhood. The Tory vision of education seems to want to make it just one long round of joyless drudgery. And there are also issues with the league tables the Tories set up to monitor the school performance. Some schools are left near the bottom for no fault of their own. I’m thinking here of those schools serving areas with large immigrant populations, where English isn’t the first language of many of the pupils. These pupils may struggle initially, but then make huge improvements. However, it may still be because of linguistic difficulties and so on that these schools are still below the national average, despite the immense improvement those children may have achieved in the few years they’re there. Improvements that aren’t reflected in the league tables.

And then there’s the problem of pupil behaviour. Depending on the school and the area, this can extremely disruptive and even dangerous. Back in the ’90s, when Private Eye was still worth reading, they did a supplement on teaching reflecting the views and concerns of teachers themselves. Some of them said that they seemed to spend most their lessons simply trying to keep order and they felt they’d achieved something when they actually got around to teaching something. One teacher described meeting parents for a talk about their child coming to school without the proper equipment. The father immediately blamed the mother, who shuddered. Which definitely suggests domestic violence back home. Now there’s the problem of children bringing knives to school and the threat of lethal violence. I remember the case a few years ago when a gang stabbed a headmaster to death outside the school gates after he came to confront them when they turned up looking for one of the pupils. It also seems that female teachers are also at risk from sexist remarks and treatment by pupils. There was a report in the Groan that 70 per cent of teachers had experienced misogyny at work. The feeling among many teachers as reported by the Private Eye article was that they were overworked, harassed and underappreciated. They complained that they received little help for difficult situations with problem pupils from their headmasters. Given all this, I’m not remotely surprised many teachers want to leave.

And if that happens, it’ll take more than trying to turn even more schools into academies or screaming about bringing back grammar schools to restore the education system.

The Republican right in America keep pushing for more state schools to be transformed to charter schools, which I gather is the American equivalent of the academies over here. They also advocated home schooling children. There’s a real, ideological hatred of state education. And the Tories certainly share it, to the point where I’m starting to wonder if the threats of a mass exodus of teachers is all being engineered by them to harm state education over here.