Posts Tagged ‘Belfast’

After Israeli Lobbying Exposes, Time to Expose those Behind the Anti-Semitism Smears

January 18, 2017

Mike also put up another excellent piece today, pointing out that Al-Jazeera’s investigation into the nefarious attempts by the Israeli embassy to interfere with democracy in this country has resulted in this all starting to fall apart. The lobbyists thought that they could simply manipulate everything covertly from the shadows. Now they find instead that they’ve been pulled into the light. The Mondoweiss article Mike’s piece quotes and is based on states that the author found it clear that the purpose of Labour Friends of Israel was simply to smear Palestinians and their supporters with spurious charges of anti-Semitism. The programme showed a number of Zionist activists, including Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador, Jennifer Gerber, the director of the Labour Friends of Israel, and Ella Rose all advising the pro-Israel wing to smear their opponents with this accusation, and stating that it is now the ‘dominant narrative’. And if their victims hit back, they respond by acting the victim, like Michael Foster, a Jewish donor, who started screaming that his accusers were acting like Nazi stormtroopers.

That’s a truly vile accusation, especially as many of the people smeared were Jewish, or of Jewish heritage, and so very likely had lost family members to the real Nazi stormtroopers. Quite apart from gentile Brits, whose parents and grandparents did their bit to keep Europe free from Hitler’s hordes.

Mike wonders if this conspiracy wouldn’t have been uncovered if he and others hadn’t objected and questioned the smearing of Jackie Walker, Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone. Mike says he was advised not too, as the people he was taking on were too powerful.

Mike makes it clear that now is the time to pull in and start questioning the very people behind these disgraceful smears and libels. Like John Mann, Jonathan Arkush, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jackie Walker’s accusers in the Jewish Labour Movement and even in Momentum, as well as all the newspaper editors and proprietors, who thought fit to publicise the smears.

He concludes

The list of possible suspects gets ever-larger, and is likely to grow even further, if these people are contacted and questioned in a thorough manner.

The issues here are serious. We are being told that agents of a foreign country have infiltrated our institutions and undermined our foreign policy with false accusations against our politicians and political figures.

As the extract below shows, the trail leads back at least as far as Mark Regev – and he is Israel’s ambassador to the UK.

At the very least, this is a major diplomatic incident.

So why is the Conservative Government refusing to take the necessary investigative steps?

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/18/accusation-games-its-all-falling-apart-for-the-knee-jerk-anti-semitism-accusers/

Mike’s calling this nasty little piece of clandestine plotting a conspiracy – which is exactly what it is. There are dangers to doing so, as in the past when someone has discussed the pernicious influence of Zionist lobby, like the authors of the book of the same name did a few years ago in their treatment of the funding of US politicos by Zionist and pro-Israeli firms and individuals, they were accused of anti-Semitism. Their accusers stated that by claiming that there was covert influence – a conspiracy – they were repeating the stereotypical lies that Jews are engaged in monstrous conspiracies against gentiles, like the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In fact the authors weren’t. One of them was even Jewish. I’ve got a feeling it may well have been that long-term anti-Zionist dissident, Norman Finkelstein.

It was the same when it was revealed that Likud had laid out plans with the Republicans for the invasion of Iraq twenty years before 9/11 gave them the pretext that Saddam Hussein was conspiring with Osama bin Laden. As soon as that came out, the Republicans and the Israeli lobby starting shouting very loudly that this was ‘conspiracy theory’, and so anti-Semitic. They’ve had to stop, since it’s become very clear that this was one conspiracy that was absolutely true.

As many conspiracies are. Not the stupid, poisonous theories about the Jews being engaged in some vast, worldwide plot to destroy or enslave the White race. Or the same paranoia about Freemasons, reptoid aliens, or little Grey creatures from Zeta Reticuli.

The real conspiracies have been plots by the intelligence agencies or private interests to manipulate public opinion. Such as the CIA covertly funding arts and literature, setting up various front groups and campaigns, and infiltrating and manipulating the trade unions and internationalist Socialist movement as part of the campaign against Communism during the Cold War. Or the way the same intelligence agencies, government think tanks, and right-wing pressure groups and big business arranged coups against left-wing regimes around the world, and conspired to bring down left-wing leaders and movements at home. The parapolitics magazine, Lobster, has been documenting and discussing these ever since it was founded in the 1980s. As has Counterpunch, and Larry O’Hara’s Notes from the Borderland.

Mike also asks why Al-Jazeera had to investigate the connections between the Israelis, the Zionist lobby and the anti-Semitism smears. Why not, he asks, the Beeb, ITV, Channel 4 or the mainstream British print media?

Robin Ramsay, in one of his pieces in Lobster, remarked that the Beeb frequently ties itself in knots trying to claim that it isn’t biased towards Israel when it blatantly is. And some of that bias is very subtle indeed. For example, you may remember the Adam Curtis documentary a few years ago that took apart the Neocons. Curtis is a great film-maker, and I highly recommend his series The Century of the Self, The Power of Nightmares, All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace. His demolition of the Neoconservatives was effective and very welcome. But he omitted one fact. The Neoconservative programme was launched in the pages of an American Jewish magazine in the late ’60s explicitly as a way of drumming up public support for Israel.

Now I can appreciate why some people might be reluctant to include that fact for entirely decent reasons. Many people would be afraid to include it because it might be seized upon by real anti-Semites to provide a specious justification for their racist nonsense. But that doesn’t stop it being true that Neoconservatism has always been about promoting and defending Israel.

I also wonder if part of the silence from the mainstream media in this country is because so many of their management have links to Israel. Danny Cohen, who was a senior manager with the Beeb, emigrated to Israel a year or so ago, loudly declaring that this country, and Europe, was becoming unbearably anti-Semitic. Barbara Amiel, the wife of Conrad Black, the convicted fraudster who used to own the Torygraph, used to write for the Jerusalem Post, urging the Israeli political leaders to be even more right-wing than they already were. Though it also has to be said that Channel 4 has stood up to the Israelis. There was a nice exchange between Jon Snow and Mark Regev when the Israelis were pummeling Gaza three years ago, when Snow got fed up with Regev’s lies and told him that he was a liar.

My guess is that a large measure of the support the British mainstream media gives Israel may well be a hangover from the Cold War and British colonialism. The founders saw themselves as a western country, not part of the Middle East, and far superior to its indigenous peoples. There were accusations during the British mandate that the British government wanted to encourage Jewish colonisation in order to create a pro-British enclave within a potentially hostile indigenous population, like Protestant Belfast amongst the Nationalist, Roman Catholic parts of Ulster.

The country also became a vital part of the Global war against Communism. The surrounding Arab nationalist regimes, such as the Ba’ath regimes in Syria and Iraq, and Nasser’s Egypt, were Socialist, and pro-Communist, though their ruling parties weren’t Marxists. Israel, and the ghastly theocracies in the Gulf, like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the rest, provided extremely useful pro-western bulwarks against Communist influence in the region.

I also believe that American influence here has also been decisive. Since the Second World War, Britain has tried to maintain itself as a world power through supporting the Americans. This became particularly necessary after the Suez Crisis. Our attempt to take back the Suez Canal, which had been nationalised by Nasser, collapsed when the Americans said they weren’t going to support us. America has staunchly supported Israel, and so, I believe, Britain has fallen in line. And much of the EU’s support for Israel has also been dictated by the Americans.

And in this instance, the British establishment were also all too keen to promote any lie to smear Corbyn and his followers, because it fears the end of Neoliberalism. Hence the repeated lie that he’s a Trotskyite, and he and his followers are ‘far left’.

This has all come together so that the neoliberal political establishment and the mainstream media have been all too eager to promote the lies and smears that Momentum and the Labour left were anti-Semites.

Now, thanks to an Arab news broadcaster, this web of lies and smears has been exposed. It has also shown, through their silence, the complicity in these smears of the mainstream news outlets. It’s shown why we need alternative news sources like Al-Jazeera and RT, which is owned by the Russians, and other internet news shows like The Young Turks, Sam Seder’s Majority Report and Secular Talk. I don’t agree with the show’s anti-religious viewpoint, but on non-religious issues it provides a very good, left-wing analysis of news and events on the other side Pond.

It’s why the corporatist wing of the Democrats and the Beeb are all screaming about the threat of ‘fake news’.

Well, we’ve had ‘fake news’ for decades till we’re sick of it. And much of it comes from the mainstream news sources, including the Beeb, which haven’t been doing their job, and just fed us lie after lie after lie.

It’s time this stopped, and they were made accountable to the public they’ve kept ignorant and misinformed. They need to be questioned over this issue along with politicos like John Mann. But it shouldn’t be forgotten that this is just one, albeit very significant episode, in a long history of bias and lies.

The Break-Up of American Zionism and the Anti-Semitism Allegations

May 28, 2016

I’m aware that I’m in serious risk of doing this subject to death, but this needs to be said. I’ve put up several blogs featuring the videos of talks and interviews given by Israeli and American Jewish activists and historians – Ilan Pappe, Elizabeth Baltzer and Norman Finkelstein, laying bare the terrible history of Israel’s persecution and systematic ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian population. As I’ve repeatedly said, this is because of the smears against leading figures in the Labour party that they are anti-Semites, when they are nothing of the sort, and demonstrably nothing of the sort. Ken Leninspart, when he was leader of the GLC, was notorious and reviled for his anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia stance. And if you want to read what he has to say about anti-Semitism, it’s written down in his book, Livingstone’s Labour. He decries it as one of the worst forms of reaction, along with all other forms of racism, whether it be against Blacks, Jews and Irish. Naz Shah has the backing of her local synagogue. And Jackie Walker is the daughter of a Russian Jew and Black civil rights activist, deported from America as one of the ‘Reds under the Bed’ McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover were so scared of. Her other half is also Jewish. It’s truly grotesque that she should be slandered as an anti-Semite when it is clearly not the case.

Jimmy Carter

These slanders have not been confined to Britain. They were made against the Jewish Outreach Officer of one of the Democratic presidential candidates. The lady was forced to resign, despite the fact that she was not only Jewish, but a very active member of her community dedicated to their welfare. They even tried it on with Jimmy Carter, who was just about called everything bar a card-carrying member of the American Nazi party and supporter of Stormfront. Again, dead wrong. I can remember way back in the 1970s when old peanut teeth hosted the Camp David peace negotiations between Israel and Egypt. In his own state, he was instrumental in removing the colour bar and segregation laws against people of colour. He is not, and never has been an anti-Semite or a Nazi, whatever his failings as president were. And he certainly doesn’t have the sheer amount of blood on his hands that his successor, Reagan, had through his sponsorship of real Fascists in South and Central America.

And Carter showed that he wasn’t afraid to prove he was innocent of all charges, guv. He went in front of the students at Brandeis University, the biggest secular Jewish university in the US to debate one of the author of the smears, Alan Dershowitz. He got three or four standing ovations simply for appearing on stage. And when it came to Dershowitz’s time to speak, 2/3 of the audience walked out even before the old Neo-Con warmonger had opened his mouth.

Jewish Americans Liberal

American Jews are overwhelmingly liberal. Most of them want a two-state solution – for the Palestinians to have their own state. By and large they despise George Dubya Bush and 70 per cent of them are opposed to the war in Iraq. And despite the move of the majority of Israeli voters to the right, Ilan Pappe stated in his video that Israelis were decent people. He stated that going around, talking to people, especially small businessmen and farmers, who knew what it was like to have to struggle to make something for yourself, won people over to the Palestinian cause.

Livingstone, Shah and Walker Historically Correct

Nothing Leninspart, Shah or Walker said should be remotely interpreted as racist. Red Ken was factually correct: Hitler did briefly support Zionism and the emigration or deportation of the Jews to Israel. Walker was smeared because she compared the treatment of Black Africans under slavery to the Holocaust, and the persecution of the Palestinians in Israel. Now, I can understand historians picking at this to see if they really are equivalent. Africans were captured and worked to death simply as instruments of labour, rather than because there was a conscious desire to exterminate Black Africans, as in the Holocaust. Though against that was the gradual erection of the whole intellectual edifice trying to justify their enslavement as racially inferior, just as the Nazis used twisted biological theory to justify their extermination of the Jews. It’s reasonable for historians and political scholars to debate the similarities and dissimilarities between them. But I don’t think many genuine scholars, certainly not of the slave trade or the Holocaust, would dispute that these are terrible crimes against humanity. And the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians should be no different. There is a real debate on the legal definitions of genocide, because there are so many of them. So many, in fact, that I’ve heard an academic of the subject state that these definitions should be dropped simply in favour of ordinary, common sense. When states, or their majority populations start persecuting an ethnic group or trying to suppress their identity through force, then it’s genocide.

What also comes out is that the views of Livingstone et al by and large are supported by historical scholarship, including those of mainstream historians. Finkelstein states that there’s little difference between Israeli school textbooks and dissident, left-wing scholars on the origins of Israel. It is known that Israel had a programme of ethnic cleansing from the very first. It is incontrovertible that Israel is engaged in mass torture and human rights violations. And Finkelstein himself states that it is the Israelis, not the Palestinians, who consistently failed to ‘give piece a chance’ in the words of Lennon and Ono.

Denial of Palestinian’s History ‘Historicide’

As for the view produced by the historian, Peters, that there were no Arabs until the Jews settled in Israel, bringing development and jobs, this has been comprehensively disproven. Finkelstein or Pappe, I can’t remember which, describe it as ‘historicide’, the deliberate destruction of a people’s historical reality.

Jewish and Israeli Opposition to Persecution of Palestinians

There is absolutely no question that the facts are on the side of the accused. And I honestly believe that if Leninspart, Shah and certainly Walker were given the chance to rebut their enemies in debate at a university, they would do so in the same way Carter and his supporters vociferously routed Dershowitz. 72 per cent of British Jews say that Israel is important to them, compared to only 50 per cent of American Jews under 35. But that does not mean that British Jews do not want to see an end to their country’s persecution of the Palestinians. There are Jewish organisations in Israel helping the Palestinians defend their homes, families and livelihoods. You can find pictures of Orthodox rabbis in the long, black coats and broad-brimmed hats, forming cordons and lying down in front of bulldozers. University anti-racism and Palestinian solidarity groups have invited members of these organisations to speak. It would surprise me not one whit if many of those Brits reaching out to Palestine were Jews, and active members of their universities’ Jewsocs.

Political Motives behind Accusations

This isn’t about historical truth, however. This is about the Israel lobby trying to derail any criticism of the state and its persecution of the indigenous Arabs with accusations of anti-Semitism. It’s about the Blairites trying to hang on to power in Labour party by playing the race card against Jeremy Corbyn. But those accused have no real case against them. In any just court of law, they would be declared innocent, with damages found against their accusers.

Libel and Establishment Lies and Smears

Unfortunately, when it comes to libel, there is no justice in Britain. You are guilty until proven rich. And the accusations suit the British establishment very well. The Tories love it, because it harms Labour. And the Beeb’s Newsnight programme with Evan Davis uncritically swallowed all the guff from the guests that Labour had an ‘anti-Semitism problem’. One of the guests on RT’s Going Underground, with Afshid Rattansi, stated that the smears looked like the establishment coup against a leftwing British prime minister, as described in the novel and Channel 4 TV series, A Very British Coup. Listening to Finkelstein, I think that’s entirely plausible. There were smears by the establishment against Harold Wilson, which accused him of being a Communist spy. Many of them seemed to come from MI5. Finkelstein states that American funds Israel far and beyond the amount it gives to other nations, because it sees it as defending its interests in the Middle East.

Britain and America Supporting Israel to Retain Power in Region

I believe that this, or something like it, explains the British establishment’s attitude to the allegations. I can remember reading years ago a discussion on a right-wing American website about Israel, the Arabs and Britain under the Mandate. The site took the bog-standard right-wing American view that Brits must be anti-Semites, ’cause all Europeans hate Jews, as shown by the Holocaust and the increasingly secular nature of European society. The participants in the debate argued that the British deliberately set the Jews and Arabs at each other’s throats in order to maintain their control over the region. They quote the correspondence between one of the British officers involved in the Mandate, on this point. The quote was merely his own conclusion after studying the situation, and did not conclusively prove that it was so. They also quoted other correspondence, in which one British politician accused another wishing to establish a Jewish presence in the region as a kind of outpost of British influence, similar to Protestant Belfast amidst Roman Catholic Ireland.

It would not surprise me if something like that were the case. It may simply be that Britain gives unconditional support to Israel, because the Americans also give Israel their unconditional, or nearly unconditional support, in order to retain influence in the region. And since we declined as a world power, we’ve been acting as the American Empire’s junior partner and lickspittle. One former British ambassador to the US even went on Radio 4 and said that he was told by the Mandarins in London that his job was to go to Washington and ‘get up the American’s arse and stay there’.

The Beeb is the voice of the British establishment. It’s news programmes consistently support the Conservatives and industry, especially finance industry, against Labour and the trade unions. The establishment undoubtedly identifies British interests with those of Israel, though Robin Ramsey, the editor of Lobster, has said that the Beeb ties itself in knots trying to deny that it is pro-Zionist. So it is, unfortunately, a foregone conclusion that the Beeb and the establishment won’t give the accused a fair hearing. Not if there’s even more millions to be made from another bloody war.

Fighting Back against the Lies

Which doesn’t mean that the accused can’t win. The mainstream American media is also very staunchly pro-Israel and rabidly demonises the Arabs and the Muslim world. Despite this, in the polls Israel is just one point more popular amongst Americans than Iran. And you consider the massive negative campaign and image of that country in American media. The Israel Lobby – AIPAC and the leadership of J Street in America, the Labour Friends of Israel and BICOM over here, know that they’re losing the public’s hearts and minds. Hence the smears. I think the best course would be for Livingstone, Shah and Walker to stand up to them, call them out on their lies. Don’t expect any honesty from the press, ’cause that went long ago. But do it in the court of popular opinion – at public meetings, university seminars and talks, at literary events. Adam Shatz, of the London Review of Books, introduced Finkelstein and Baltzer when they spoke in New York. Perhaps the LRB can be relied on to give an unbiased platform. They should, at least regarding Jackie Walker. I can remember way back in the 1990s they published a piece on slavery at the time it was once again coming back into national consciousness. The treatment of Black people, and their abuse and discrimination, is of obvious acute interest to Jackie Walker, and so I think that more than some of the other media, they could be more inclined to give a sympathetic hearing.

This ain’t just about defending a group of accused Labour MPs. This is also about defending free speech and historical scholarship against the personal smears and gross historical distortions of a mendacious and deceitful establishment. An establishment that is prepared to grind down and destroy Jews, as well as Muslims, Christians, and those with no religion, in its campaign to preserve a monstrously racist order.

Vox Political: Jeremy Corbyn Considering Prosecuting Blair for War Crimes

May 23, 2016

Mike today has put up a piece reporting that Jeremy Corbyn has not pulled back from his previous demands that Tony Blair should be prosecuted for war crimes. The Torygraph considers that Bliar will be heavily damaged by the Chilcot Inquiry’s report. The Labour leader has said that he believes the Iraq War was illegal, following UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s statement that it was. If so, Mr Cobyn believes Blair should indeed be prosecuted.

Mike in his comment says that if Blair is guilty of war crimes, then Corbyn is absolutely right to demand his prosecution. And this marks Labour out from the Conservatives. When Labour politicos commit wrongdoing, they’re prosecuted. Unlike the Tories, who have let Zac Goldsmith get away with his vile Islamophobic smears against Sadiq Khan.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/23/is-jeremy-corbyn-ready-to-call-for-tony-blair-to-be-investigated-for-war-crimes/

In my view, there is no question whatsoever that Bliar was the instigator of an illegal war. Saddam Hussein had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. Greg Palast, an American journalist formerly with the Groaniad shows this at length his fascinating book, Armed Madhouse. The Iraq invasion was primarily launched to allow the Saudis and the Americans to grab the Iraqi oil industry and its vast oil reserves, which are the second largest after Saudi Arabia. The Neocons in the Bush administration backed it, because they saw it is as their chance to get their mitts on the state’s nationalised industries, which could be privatised and sold off to the profit of American multinationals. They also fancied using it as a lab rat in a massive experiment at creating the kind of low tax, free market utopia demanded by Reaganomics and Libertarian frauds and nutters like Milton Friedman and von Hayek.

And back in 1995, the Likud party of Israel and the Republicans in America jointly produced a plan to invade Iraq, ’cause Saddam Hussein was sending arms to the Palestinians.

The result of the invasion for the Iraqis has been nothing but chaos and death. The privatisation of Iraq’s state enterprises and the lowering of it trade tariffs has meant that every country in the world dumped their goods on Iraq. The result has been that unemployment rocketed to 60 per cent.

Hussein was a brutal dictator, who cracked down ruthlessly on some of the country’s ethnic and religious groups. His gassing of the Kurds and massacre of Shi’as in the aftermath of Gulf War I (also illegal, in my view) is notorious. But the divisions in Iraqi society have only got worse, much worse, since the invasion. The country was relatively integrated before the invasion, and in the major cities like Baghdad the different quarters occupied by the different tribes and sects weren’t barricaded. That has now changed. The Shi’a and Sunni Muslim areas are now walled off from each other, in which reminds me of the ‘peace barriers’ put up between Nationalist and Loyalist areas in Belfast and other cities in Northern Ireland.

And it is not just a question of the justification for the invasion that may be considered a war crime. Other crimes have been committed, real crimes against humanity. Apart from the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the mercenaries sent in as part of the invasion force have run amok. There are reports of them abusing and raping civilians. One report described how cars of them would casually shoot Iraqi civilians driving along the country’s streets and roads. I’ve put up here a piece from either The Young Turks or Secular Talk about an American diplomat, who was sent to Iraq, who returned to America shocked by the casual brutality of the American troops towards the people they were supposed to have freed. He stated that the attitude was that ‘they were there to kill the N*ggers’. And leading American generals are involved in the state terror against minorities carried out by the post-war Iraqi government. One of them helped direct the death Shi’a death squads that massacred Iraqi civilians.

If the Chilcot does conclude that Bliar is a war criminal, as I believe it should, then I’ve no doubt Blair and the rest of his cabinet will fight like rats in a trap to avoid prosecution any way they can. If Blair goes down, it leaves the rest of the cabinet similarly open to corruption, or at least the other leading members of New Labour. And it may also serve as a precedent for prosecutions against Bush and elements in the Obama administration, including Shrillary, for their part in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Not to mention the complicity of Likud and large sectors of the American military-industrial complex.

Expect more accusations of anti-Semitism. When the Likud-Republican plans for the Iraq invasion were revealed almost a decade ago, it was very loudly denounced by the Zionist Right as another anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. This is, of course, rubbish. No-one was accusing the Jewish people of responsibility, or even necessarily the Israeli people. They had simply unearthed an historic fact: that Likud, an Israeli party, was partly responsible for the illegal invasion. Espionage agencies, industrial cartels and political groups engage in clandestine conspiracies, as Robin Ramsay in Lobster has been showing since the 1980s. The grand conspiracies involving global secret plots by the Freemasons, the Jews and Reptoid aliens are all rubbish, but smaller plots, concocted by the intelligence agencies, and leading figures in business and politics certainly did and do. The Iraq invasion is the product of several of them.

Corbyn will be absolutely right to demand Blair’s prosecution, but I’ve no doubt that there will be a lot of pressure for the Chilcot inquiry to find Blair either not guilty, or to discredit its findings and Corbyn himself. Too much of the British, American and Israeli establishment is implicated to allow Blair to be prosecuted.

Ulster to Launch Beer Celebrating Local Heroes Who Fought Against Franco

April 19, 2016

Here’s a bit of good news from the Northern Irish paper, The Sunday World, via the anti-racist, anti-religious extremism site, Hope Not Hate. A new beer is going to be launched in the UK in the next few months to celebrate the heroes of the International Brigades who fought against General Franco during the Spanish Civil War. The booze naturally has the name, Brigadista, and apparently is the brainchild of Matthew Collins, who was in the National Front and BNP before turning informer. The article notes that 320 volunteers from Ireland fought against the Fascists in Spain. 48 of these brave men came from Belfast, and were drawn from both the Shankill Road and the Falls area.

The article begins:

A NEW beer to be launched dedicated to the memory of those who fought against fascism in the Spanish Civil War is hoping to be sold in Ulster pubs.

Brigadista Ale is currently being brewed and is launching across the UK over the next couple of months.

Profits from the beer will go into keeping the memory alive of those who fought and died in what many believe has become a forgotten war.

Working-class people from both communities in Northern Ireland travelled to Spain to join what became known as the International Brigade to fight rightwing dictator General Francisco Franco between 1936-39.

The beer is the brainchild of Hope Not Hate’s Matthew Collins, a former National Front member who now campaigns against the far-right in the UK.
“People from both the Shankill and the Falls went to Spain to take on the forces of fascism,” says Collins.

I’ve mixed feelings about booze. I gave up drinking myself years ago after one night too many, and am acutely aware of the immense damage it can do to people’s health. But it’s great that the memory of the courageous people, who fought and died in the hope that they would keep Spain and Europe free, is being kept alive and that this unites people from across the political/sectarian divide.

Go and read the full article at: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/news/home/article/3882/cheers-to-spanish-civil-war-heroes

Spain itself is going through a painful period of rediscovering the suppressed history and legacy of the Franco’s tyranny and the Spanish Civil War. I went to an archaeological seminar by a Spanish archaeologist a few years ago, who described how there are, or were, a number of archaeological digs excavating the mass graves of those massacred by Franco’s forces. It’s intensely controversial, as there are many in Spain, particularly on the Right, who would like to forget the butchery, torture and repression of the dictator’s forty-year rule. Also controversial is the grandiose mausoleum and war monument the squeaky-voiced little Nazi put up to his fallen comrades. Franco claimed it was to the memory of all who fell in the Civil War, but in practice all the statuary and monuments are about him and his stormtroopers.

Beer and alcohol aren’t to everyone’s taste, but it’s undoubtedly better for the volunteer fighters of the International Brigades to be celebrated, than Franco’s thugs. And for those, who don’t drink, the article also mentions that last November Lord Mayor Carson unveiled a stained glass window to the memories of Ulster’s fallen in Spain in the town’s city hall.

Kipper Bill Etheridge Wants Return of Caning in Schools

March 20, 2015

This is another meme from the Hope Not Hate Facebook page, The Real UKIP, I found over at the SlatUKIP site.

Etheridge Corporal Punishment

UKIP’s candidate for the West Midlands, Bill Etheridge, amongst his other bizarre and reactionary views, wishes to see the return of corporal punishment in schools.

He isn’t the only one. A lot of people of a certain age get misty-eyed and nostalgic for the old days of corporal punishment. ‘I got the cane’, they say, ‘and it never did me any harm.’ In their view, only the threat of corporal punishment will solve the problem of the lack of discipline, disruptive and even violent behaviour in schools.

This is a real problem, and you can hear some horrifying stories of teachers that have been physically attacked, sometimes suffering serious injury, by aggressive and violent pupils. There have even been notorious cases where a teacher has been murdered by one of their pupils.

To add insult to injury, teachers are further demoralised by the lack of support given by their headmasters and politicians. One teacher, who wrote about his experiences spending a year as a supply teacher in some of the poorest performing schools, described how demoralising it was, when, after complaining about a violent or aggressive pupil, the headmaster called them into examine the situation. Rather than disciplining the pupil, the head teacher simply took the approach that the teacher must some how have been also wrong.

And when the authorities have been asked how teachers are supposed to deal with disruptive pupils when the only sanctions they have against them are suspension and expulsion, their response has simply been to say something on the lines of ‘Be better teachers.’

This is simply not good enough.

Corporal punishment, however, probably isn’t the answer. If you also talk to member of the older generation, you can also hear some grim stories about what it was like at school in the mid-twentieth century, when teachers had the power to strike and beat their charges. My father went to one of the better schools in Somerset, and he describes some of the teaching staff there as violent sadists. Apart from caning and blows for even the most minor infraction, he also describes how one teacher, exasperated by one pupil’s lack of understanding in the French class, threw the lad out of a window.

The great Irish comedian, Dave Allen, was an atheist, who was very critical at times of the Roman Catholic church. He once explained his dislike of the Church came from his experience of the extremely strict discipline he’d endured as a pupil at one of the Church’s schools in Ireland. Hence remarks like, ‘The nuns – God’s stormtroopers.’

Other TV personalities have had the same experience. Terry Wogan, one of Britain’s favourite broadcasters, was on cable/ satellite TV this week in a half-hour programme about his home country. He was touring the land of Ireland, from Eire to Ulster, in a taxi, taking in Dublin, Limerick, Galway, Londonderry/Derry, and Belfast. In one episode, he returned to his old school, meeting up with his old school friends, and chewing the fat about their experiences. Like Dave Allen, he described how the school, in the person of Fr. McGlochglan, tried to put the fear of God into their students. He stated that, rather than strengthening his faith, it left him with no great love for the Church and its teachings. Later, talking to a priest, who he used to have on his radio show in Ireland, El Tel said he was an atheist.

I’ve heard much the same from members of my own family. One of my uncles was lapsed Roman Catholic. Although technically a member of the Church, he never practised because he had been put off by the viciousness of the monks, who taught him at school.

And it wasn’t just the Roman Catholic church. One of my friends had the dubious benefit of being privately educated. I can remember being surprised by his views on corporal punishment when I was talking about the issue one day at College. My friend is certainly no rebellious firebrand by any stretch of the imagination, yet he was firmly against the return of corporal punishment because of the sadistic behaviour of his headmaster. The man would can children for even the slightest fault, such as having a tie that wasn’t straight.

There is a problem with disruptive behaviour and violence in schools, but the solution isn’t corporal punishment. There’s a lot of pressure on schoolchildren already, with the requirement to do well at their sats and the other tests, which successive governments have seen fit to burden them. But apart from teaching them to pass exams, the goal of education should be to develop their talents. Stephen Fry attacking the Tories’ education policies under Maggie or John Major cited the Latin root of the word e-ducere: to lead out. The aim of education should be to lead out and develop the child and his or her talents and interests. Every good teacher not only wants to teach their subject, but to see their pupils actively enjoy it.

Corporal punishment and the vicious, sadistic discipline inflicted on past generations of children doesn’t do this. It has made too many children hate school, and the teachers and institutions that inflicted it. Bill Etheridge is simply wrong. On the other hand, if you want a new generation of beaten, brutalised, twitching and resentful ex-school kids, then he’s clearly the man for the job.

Radical Voices from History to Today

December 18, 2013

People Speak

The People Speak: Democracy Is Not A Spectator Sport (Colin Firth and Anthony Arnove with David Horspool (Edinburgh: Canongate 2012) is a collection of radical and anti-authoritarian texts from British history from 1066 to the present, collected and edited by the actor, Colin Firth, and Anthony Arnove. It was partly inspired by Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. Arnove had worked with Zinn translating the book into a series of stage readings of American radical and democratic texts, which toured the US. Realising that Firth was one of the book’s fans, Arnove approached him to do a British version. Firth, Arnove, and a number of their friends and other performers they admired did indeed stage a reading of some of the texts collected in The People Speak in 2010. This was filmed and broadcast by the History Channel. The two authors state that they hope a DVD of this reading will eventually be released to accompany the film of the same name made the year previously (2010) by Zinn and Arnove, with Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and Chris Moore. Firth and Arnove rejected any claim that this was the ‘actorly activism’ attacked by critics such as Marina Hyde. Rather, they were simply doing what actors are paid to do – to act, and interpret other’s voices.

Firth states that the book is not an attack on history teachers or the history curriculum, noting that his own father is a history teacher. It comes from his feeling, dating from when he was studying history at school, that the kind of history we are taught is incomplete. It concentrates on kings and queens and politicians to the exclusion of everyone else, who are presented as a faceless, homogenous mass. This is his and Arnove’s attempt to put back into history the voice of the excluded, the Socialists, Anarchists, agitators, Chartists, suffragists, Lollards, Levellers, in short, the trouble-makers, like Zinn himself. Firth makes the point that democracy works from the bottom up, and that it’s protagonists are real trouble-makers. He also makes the point that the rights we now take for granted and accept as civilised and decent were at one point considered treason. The people, who fought for and won them were those without political power, and were hanged, transported, tortured and imprisoned, until their ideas were eventually adopted and adapted. Their continued existence is, however, precarious, and we need to defend them. ‘These freedoms are now in our care. And unless we act on them and continue to fight for them, they will be lost more easily that they were won.’

Firth and Arnove freely acknowledge that in covering two millennia, they have let much important material out. They hope, however, that their readers will feel rightly indignant about that, and be compelled to point it out, or, even better, write another the book, which will be the first of many. Firth hopes most of all it will inspire their readers to speak out, and make their voice heard on the issues they feel is important, ‘As Howard reminds us, democracy is not a spectator sport, and history is not something on a library shelf, but something in which each of us has a potentially critical role’.

Chronologically, the book has divided into five chapters, ‘1066-1450: Commoners and Kings’, ‘1642-1789: Representing the People’, ‘1790-1860: One Man, One Vote’, 1890-1945: Equal Rights’, and ‘1945-2012: Battling the State’ collecting some of the radical texts from these periods. Between these are other chapters covering particular political, constitutional, religious, national and economic issues and struggles. These include:

‘Disunited Kingdoms: ‘Our English Enemies’,
‘Freedom of Worship: ‘Touching our Faith’,
‘Land and Liberty: ‘The Earth is a Common Treasury’,
‘Empire and Race: All Slaves Want to Be Free’,,
‘Money and Class: ‘The Rank is But the Guinea’s Stamp’,
‘Workers United: Labour’s “No” into Action’,
‘War and Peace: ‘What People Have Your Battles Slain?’,
‘Gender and Sexual Equality: ‘A Human Being, Regardless of the Distinction of Sex’.

The chapter on the 400 or so years from 1066 to 1450 contains the following texts:

Ordericus Vitalis on the Norman Conquest of 1066,
The Liber Eliensis on Hereward the Wake,
Extracts from the Magna Carta,
Extracts from the Song of Lewes; written by a Franciscan monk in 1264, this sets out some early examples of the doctrine of resistance and popular rights.
It also contains a section devoted to the voice of the Peasant’s Revolt, including
Wat Tyler’s address to Richard II,
John Ball, ‘Until Everything Shall Be in Common’ (1381),
and William Grindcobbe, ‘I shall die in the Cause of Gaining our Liberty’.

The chapter on ‘Disunited Kingdoms – Our English Enemies’, includes the following pieces:
The declaration of Scottish independence at Arbroath, 6th April 1320,
Owain Glyn Dwr’s letter to another Welsh noble, Henry Don,
The Complaynt of Scotland of 1549,
Jonathan Swift’s bitterly satirical ‘A Modest Proposal’ of 1729,
The Speech from the Dock of the Irish Nationalist leader, Theobald Wolfe Tone,
The Speech from the Dock of Tone’s successor in the United Irishmen, Robert Emmet,
Rev. John Blackwell’s Eisteddfod Address in Beaumaris in 1832, stressing the importance of literature in Welsh,
Letters from the Rebecca Riots’,
The Letter from Nicholas M. Cummins to the Times attacking the English for refusing to supply the Irish with food during the Potato Famine,
The Speech from the Dock of the Irish American Fenian Leader, Captain John McClure, of 1867,
Padraig Pearse’s Eulogy for the Fenian Leader Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa of 1915,
An extract from the Scots writer Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Sunset Song of 1932,
Bernadette Devlin’s Speech in Draperstown when she stood as the candidate for the Nationalist Independent Unity Party in Northern Ireland,
Silvester Gordon Boswell’s Address to Travellers on Appleby Hill of 1967, and Boswell’s The Book of Boswell: Autobiography of a Gypsy of 1970,
The Dubliners’ Luke Kelly’s lyric, ‘For What died the Sons of Roisin?’ of 1970,
Pauline M.’s description of the events of Bloody Sunday,
An editorial on the Tax-Dodgers on the Isle of Man by the Manx Marxist group, Fo Halloo,
Bobby Sands’ prison diary for 1-2 March 1981,
and an extract from Gwyn Alf Williams’ history of the Welsh, ‘The Dragon Has Two Tongues’ from 1985.

The section on Freedom of Worship, begins with a section on the Pilgrimage of Grace, which includes
The examination of Nicholas Leche of 1536,
The Pontefract Articles of 2-4 December 1536,
The Examination of Robert Aske, 1537,
John Foxe, ‘The Mart6yrdom and Suffering of Cicelie Ormes, Burnt at Norwich the Testimonie and Witnes of Christes Gospell’ of 1557,
Matthew Hamont’s Trial for Heresy,
John Mush, the Life of Margaret Clitherow, 1586,
Daniel Defoe’s satirical ‘The Shortest Way with Dissenters:, Or, Proposals for the Establishment of the Church of 1702,
Ignatius Samcho’s Letter on the Gordon Riots of 1780,
William Blake’s ‘America’ of 1793, his Preface to Milton of (1804) and Preface to Book Two of ‘Jerusalem’ of the same year.
Grace Aguilar’s History of the Jews in England of 1847,
George Jacob Holyoake, Exchange with his Caplain on Atheism (1850),
An anonymous account of the Basingstoke Riots against the Salvation Army of 1881,
and Victoria Brittain’s ‘The Meaning of Waiting’, using the words of eight Muslim women married to prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.

The section on the period 1642-1749 contains
Elizabeth Lilburne’s Appeal against the arrest of her husband, the leveller leader John Lilburne,
Richard Overton’s An Arrow Against All Tyrants of 1646,
The Putney Debates of 1647,
John Lilburne’s Appeal to Cromwellian Soldiers of 1649,
The last speech of Richard Rumbold at the Market Cross in Edinburgh,
Reports of torture in prison from 1721,
The frontispiece to the anonymous pamphlet ‘Idol Worship, Or, the Way to Preferment, showing that the way to political power to was kiss your superiors’ rear ends,
Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, 1776,
The American Declaration of Independence,
Paine’s Rights of Man, 1791,
Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘Destruction of the Bastille’,
An Advertisement for Commemoration of the French Revolution by Dissenters in Birmingham in 1791,
and An Anonymous Birmingham handbill to Commemorate the French Revolution, 1791.

The section ‘Land and Liberty’ contains
Robert Kett, ‘Kett’s Demands Being in Rebellion’, 1549, against the Enclosures in Kent,
Gerard Winstanley, ‘A Declaration from the Poor Oppressed People of England’, 1649,
The 1650 Declaration of the Wellingborough Diggers,
The ballad ‘Bonny Portmore’ of 1690, lamenting the destruction of the forest around Lough Beg,
Thomas Spence’s ‘Spence’s Plan for Parochial Partnerships in the Land of 1816), an early Utopian Socialist precursor,
John Clare, ‘The mores’, c. 1821-4,
W.G. Ward’s ‘The Battle, the Struggle and the Victory’ of 1873, on a battle between the National Agricultural Labourers’ Union and the employers and landowners, who refused to employ their members,
Richard Barlow-Kennett’s ‘Address to the Working Classes’ on Vivisection of 1883,
Henry S. Salts’ Animal Rights Considered in Relation to Social Progress (1892),
Ernest a Baker, The Forbidden Land of 1924 on the landowners’ denial of the right of access to land around the Peak District and the Yorkshire moors due to grouse shooting,
Benny Rothman on the Kinder Trespass in 1932 by ramblers,
and Voices from the Kingsnorth 6 Greenpeace protesters of 2007.

The section on Empire and Race has the above extracts,
William Cecil’s Speech in Parliament of 1588, against a bill against Strangers and Aliens Selling Wares by Retail, 1588,
William Shakespeare’s Sir Thomas More, Act II, Scene 4, c. 1593,
Anna Barbauld, Sins of Government, Sins of of the Nation; Or, A Discourse for the Fast, of 1793, against imperialism and war with revolutionary France,
Robert Wedderbu5rn’s The Axe Laid to the Root or A Fatal Blow to Oppressors, Being an Address to the Planters and Negroes of the Island of Jamaica, 1817,
Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave, 1831,
Louis Asa-Asa, ‘How Cruelly We Are Used’, 1831,
Joseph Sturge, Speech at the Baptist Missionary Society of Birmingham, 1836,
An Anonymous Member of the Walthamstow Free Produce or Anti-Slavery Association, Conscience Versus Cotton: Or, the Preference of Free Labour Produce, 1851,
Ernest Jones’, ‘The Indian Struggle’, 1857, supporting Indian independence during the Mutiny,
Richard Cobden’s Letter to John Bright on Indian independence, 1857,
Celestine Edwards, a Black Methodist preacher from Dominica, The British Empire, attacking imperialism,
‘A Voice from the Aliens about the Anti-Alien Resolution of the Cardiff Trades Union Congress of 1893, by Jewish worker protesting at a motion by William Inskip and Charles Freak to ban immigrant workers from joining trades unions,
Henry Woodd Nevinson, ‘The Slave Trade of Today’, 1906, against the cultivation of cocoa by Angolan slaves,
The Indian nationalist Ghadar Movement’s ‘An Open letter to the People of India’, 1913,
The satirical, ‘In Praise of the Empire’ by the Irish nationalist and founder of the Independent Labour Party of Ireland, James Connolly,
B.R. Ambedkar’s ‘India on the Eve of the Crown Government’, 1915,
John Archer’s Presidential Address to the Inaugural Meeting of the African Progress Union, 1918,
Manifesto of Bhagwati Charan Vohra, a Punjabi revolutionary Indian nationalist, 1928,
Gandhi’s Quit India Speech of 1942,
C.L.R. James’ Beyond a Boundary, on cricket and his experiences growing up in Trinidad, 1963,
Peter Hain, Defence in Trial from Picketing Apartheid South African Cricket and Rugby, 1972,
Linton Kwesi Johnson, ‘Inglan Is a Bitch’, 1980,
Sinead O’Connor, ‘Black Boys on Mopeds’, 1990,
The account of his own incarceration by an anonymous Tanzanian Asylum Seeker, 2000,
Benjuamin Zephaniah, ‘What Stephen Lawrence has Taught Us’, 2001,
Roger Huddle and Lee Billingham’s Reflections on Rock against Racism and Love Music Hate Racism, 2004,
The People’s Navy Protest on the eviction of the indigenous islanders from the islands, 2008,
and Mark Steel’s ‘The Poles Might be Leaving but the Prejudice Remains’, 2009.

The section on the period 1790-1860 has the following extracts and pieces
An Account of the Seizure of Citizen Thomas Hardy, Secretary to the London Corresponding Society, 1794,
‘Rules and Resolutions of the Political Protestants’, 1818. Political Protestants was the name adopted by a number of northern working class radical organisations demanding universal suffrage.
There is a subsection devoted to the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, in which the local militia and then a detachment of Hussars attacked and broke up a peaceful meeting in Manchester of protesters campaigning for an extension of the franchise. This section has
The Letter from Mr W.R. Hay to Lord Sidmouth regarding Peterloo, 1819,
extracts from Shelley’s The Masque of Anarchy
and William Hone’s The Political House that Jack Built.

The chapter also has following pieces
William Davidson, Speech to the Court in the Cato Street Conspiracy Trial, 1820,
and Mr Crawshay Recounts the Merthyr Uprising, 1831.
This is followed by a section on Chartism, including
Henry Vincent, Chartists in Wales, 1839,
Edward Hamer, ‘The Chartist Outbreak in Llanidloes, 1839,
and Chartist Protests in Newcastle, 1839.
Charles Dickens,’The Fine Old English Gentleman: New Version’, 1841, bitterly attack Tory feudalism and massacres of radicals,
and the Bilston, South Staffordshire Chartist Rally.

The section on money and class has a piece on the rebellion of William Fitz-Osbert against the way the Anglo-Normans barons shifted their tax burden onto the poor,
George Manley’s speech from the gallows at Wicklow, where he was hanged for murder, against the murder and plunder of the rich and general such as Marlborough,
Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in Country Churchyard,
Robert Burns’ A Man’s A Man for A’ That,
and John Grimswaw’s ‘The Handloom Weaver’s Lament’.
This is followed by a section on Luddism, which contains
John Sykes’ account of machine-breaking at Linthwaite, Yorkshire, 1812,
An Anonymous ‘Address to Cotton Weavers and Others’, 1812,
The poem ‘Hunting a Loaf’,
The poet Byron’s speech on the Frame-Work Bill in the House of Lords, and his ‘Ode to the Framers of the Frame Bill’,
The ballad, ‘The Tradesman’s Complaint’,
An extract from Carlisle’s Past and Present in which he questioned the benefits of unrestrained economic growth,
Frederick Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England,
An extract from Marx and Engels’ The Communist Manifesto,
Henry Mayhew’s ‘Labour and the Poor’,
‘The Last Sark’ by the radical working class poet, Ellen Johnston,
Thomas Hardy’s ‘To An Unborn Pauper Child’,
The Invasion of the Ritz Hotel in 1938, by Jack Dash, a Member of the National Unemployed Workers’ Union,
George Orwell’s ‘England, Your England’,
John Lennon’s ‘Working Class Hero’,
Jimmy Reid’s Inaugural Speech as Rector of Glasgow University in 1972,
and Dick Gaughan’s ‘Call It Freedom’.

The section ‘Workers United’ contains the following

An Address to the Inhabitants of Great Britain and Ireland by the Glasgow Weavers, 1820,
Richard Oastler’s Letter to the Leeds Mercury on Slavery, denouncing the harsh conditions endured by children working in the factories and mines,
George Loveless, the Tolpuddle Martyr,
Patience Kerr’s Testimony before the Children’s Employment Commission, 1842,
Thomas Kerr’s ‘Aw’s Glad the Strike’s Duin’, 1880,
William Morris’ The Depression of Trade and Socialism: Ends and Means, 1886,
Annie Besant on White Slavery in London,
Samuel Webber’s Memories of the Matchgirl’s Strike,
Ben Tillett on the Dock Strike, 1911,
The Speech, ‘I am here as the Accuser’ by John Maclean, a Revolutionary Glaswegian Socialist tried for sedition for trying to dissuade soldiers from fighting in the First World War,
An account of the General Strike of 1926 by an Ashton Sheet Metal Worker,
Hamish Henderson’s ‘The John Maclean March’,
Frank Higgins’ ‘The Testimony of Patience Kershaw’,
An account of the Miners’ Strike by Bobby Girvan and Christine Mahoney,
And Mark Serwotka’s ‘Imagine Not Only Marching Together, but Striking Together’, of 2011 against the Coalition.

The section on Equal Rights has an extract from Oscar Wilde’s The Soul of Man under Socialism,
Emmeline Pankhursts’ Kill Me or Give Me My Freedom,
George Orwell’s ‘A Hanging’,
and a section for the voices of those involved in the Battle of Cable Street against Mosely’s Blackshirts.
This section includes the testimony of William J. Fishman, a Stepney Labour activist, the then secretary of the Communist Party, Phil Piratin, Joe Jacobs, another member of the Communist Party, also from Stepney, Julie Gershon, a Stepney resident, Mr Ginsburg, from Cable Street, and Mrs Beresford, of Lascombe’s fish and chip shop.
These are followed by an extract from Aneurin Bevan’s ‘In Place of Fear’.

The section and war and piece begins with Thomas Hoccleve’s An Appeal for Peace with France of 1412,
a Handbill from the Weavers of Royton, 1808,
John Bright’s Speech against the Crimean War,
Bertrand Russell’s Letter to the Nation, 1914,
Siegfried Sassoon’s Declaration against War, 1917,
Wilfred Owen’s ‘Disabled’,
The section answering the question, ‘How Should War be Prevented?’ from Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas,
James Maxton’s Speech Against War,
Charlie Chaplin’s Final Speech from The Great Dictator,
Phil Piratin on the Invasion of the Savoy Hotel, 1940,
Denis Knight, The Aldermaston Anti-Nuclear March, 1958,
Hamish Henderson’s ‘Freedom Come-All-Ye’, dedicated to Scots anti-Nuclear marchers,
and Adrian Mitchell’s ‘To Whom It May Concern (Tell Me Lies about Vietnam)’, 1964.

There is also a section of voices from the women involved in the Greenham Common Peace Protest, containing testimony and memories from Kim Besly, Sarah Hipperson,Ann Pettitt, and Thalia Campbell.
This is followed by Mary Compton’s speech at the Stop the War Coalition, and Robin Cook’s resignation speech to parliament against the invasion of Iraq.

The section and gender and sexual equality begins with an anonymous sixteenth century Song on the Labour of Women,
The Petition of Divers Well-Affected Women, 1649, against the imprisonment of four of the Levellers,
An anonymous article from the Saint James Chronicle from 1790, recording the ‘Extraordinary Female Affection’ between the ‘Ladies of Llangollen, Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby,
Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792,
Anna Wheeler and William Thompson’s ‘Address to Women’, an extract from their pamphlet, Appeal of One Half of the Human Race, Women, against the Pretensions of the Other Half, Men, to Retain them in Political, and thence in Civil and Domestic Slavery, 1825,
A letter by an anonymous prostitute from the Times, 1858,
Josephine Butler’s An Appeal to the People of England, on the Recognition and Superintendence of Prostitution by Governments,
Edmund Kell, ‘Effects of the Acts Upon the ‘Subjected’ Women, against the humiliation endured by women through the examinations under the Contagious Diseases Act,
Oscar Wilde’s Second Trial for ‘Gross Indecency’,
Helen Gordon Liddle’s The Prisoner, an account of the force-feeding of the Suffragettes under the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act,
Two passages from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own,
Against the Law, by Peter Wildeblood, a journalist and TV producer arrested for conspiracy to incite acts of gross indecency,
The memories of Vicky and Janice of Lesbian Life in Brighton in the 1950s and ’60s,
Selma James and the Women’s Liberation Workshop, ‘Women against the Industrial Relations Act’, 1971,
Tom Robinson’s ‘Glad to be Gay’,
Quentin Crisp’s How to Become a Virgin,
and Ian McKellen’s Keynote Speech at the 2008 Stonewall Equality Dinner.

The section, ‘Battling the State’, has pieces and extracts from
Tariq Ali’s ‘The Street is Our Medium’, from Black Dwarf, the newspaper of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign, with a copy of Mick Jagger’s handwritten lyrics to Street Fighting Man.
Paul Foot’s Speech on the Murder of Blair Peach, 1979,
The Clash, ‘Know Your Rights’, 1982,
Elvis Costello, ‘Shipbuilding’, against the Falkland’s War,
Pensioner Nellie discussing the Poll Tax revolt,
Jeremy Hardy, ‘How to Be Truly Free’, 1993,
‘Catching Buses’ by the Bristolian disabled rights activist, Liz Crow,
Harold Pinter’s ‘Art, Truth and Politics’, 2005,
Mark Thomas’ ‘Put People First G20 Protest of 2009,
Euan Booth’s ‘Subversively Move Tony Blair’s Memoirs to the Crime Section in Bookshops’,
The Speech on Student Protests by the fifteen-year old schoolboy, Barnaby Raine, to the Coalition of Resistance Conference.
The book ends with Zadie Smith’s piece attacking library closures in 2011.

As well as notes and a normal index, the book also has a chronological index, placing the pieces in order according to the dates they were written.

The book is indeed encyclopaedic and comprehensive in the range of its selected texts through two millennia of history. Firth is quite right when he says that much has been necessarily left out. Whole can and have been written about some of the subjects he has touched on, such as popular protest in history, the Enclosures, Chartism, the development of British Socialism, Irish, Scots and Welsh history and nationalism, Socialism in Britain, opposition to the workhouse, to name but a few. There are a number of works on gay, gender and women’s history. E.P. Thompson himself wrote a history of the English working class, which remains one of the standard texts on the subject. Labour history-writing goes further back than Thompson, however. The Fabians, Sidney and Beatrice Webb wrote two books on the country and town labourers respectively. A number of the first Labour MPs to be voted into parliament have also left their autobiographies, describing their rise from manual labourer to Member of Parliament.

The book does an important service by showing just how old some of the issues and techniques raised and used by today’s protesters actually are. Hoccleve’s appeal for peace with France shows that peace protests go right back to the Middle Ages. Indeed, in the Tenth Century the Church led a peace movement to establish God’s Truce. This was the ban on fighting by the knights and the aristocracy on certain days of the week, so that the peasants, their crops and livestock were harmed as little as possible. And some of the 19th century popular protests are surprisingly modern in flavour. I was struck in the 1980s by how similar Cobden and Bright’s peace meetings demanding an end to the Crimean War were to contemporary anti-Nuclear peace marches and protests. An earlier generation would doubtless be struck by the similarity to the anti-Vietnam protests. The various articles, pamphlets, books and letters written attacking British imperialism are a reminder that, even during the intensely patriotic Victorian age imperialism and colonial expansion were the subjects of criticism. One of Gladstone’s ministers was privately strongly anti-imperial, and wrote articles for the Liberal press denouncing imperialism. ‘A love of empire’, he wrote, ‘is the love of war’. It’s as true now as it was then.

The Anti-Saccherist League is another example of a startlingly modern Victorian protest. It was an early example of ethical consumption. It aimed to attack slavery by destroying the profits from sugar produced by slaves. Instead of buying sugar from the Caribbean, it instead promoted Indian sugar, which it believed was produced by free people. The book doesn’t mention it, but there were also feminist campaigns to end slavery. One of the petitions against slavery compiled by anti-Slavery activists, was by women, attacking the brutality experienced by enslaved women, and addressed to the Queen herself, Victoria. It was felt that she, as a woman, would have more sympathy to the sufferings of the other members of her gender in slavery than men. Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman is justly famous, and has been published in Penguin Classics. It, and the 19th century pamphlet similarly protesting women’s subordination and exploitation are a reminder that feminism did not begin with the suffragettes or was a product of ’60s radicalism.

Some of the older, more ancient texts from the book could easily be reprinted today as an indictment of modern conditions and attitudes under the Coalition. The descriptions of the government and employers’ opposition to the dock and matchgirls’ strikes sound very modern indeed, and Annie Besant’s denunciation of white slavery in London – the gruelling work performed in factories by poorly paid and exploited workers, sounds exactly like the world Cameron, Clegg and the rest of the whole foul crew would like to drag us back to.

I do, however, have problems with some of the material included in the book. It’s true that the United Kingdom was largely created through military expansion and conquest, as the Anglo-Norman barons first took Wales, and then established the English pale and suzerainty over the Gaelic clans in Ireland. They tried to conquer Scotland, but England and Scotland were only politically united after the failure of the Darien colony in the early 18th century. The history of the British control of Ireland is one of repeated misgovernment and oppression, as well as missed opportunities for reform and improvement. If some of George III’s ministers had succeeded in enfranchising Roman Catholics, so that they had at least some of the same rights as Protestants, or Gladstone, himself very much a member of the Anglican Church, had succeeded in granting ‘Home Rule all round’ to the ‘Celtic Fringe’, then some of the sectarian and political violence could possibly have been avoided. Discrimination against Roman Catholics was widespread and resulted in the Civil Rights demonstrations by Ulster Catholics in the 1960s. It also produced the Nationalist terrorist groups, who, like the Loyalist terrorists, which opposed them, have been responsible for some truly horrific atrocities, including the mass murder of civilians. I do have strong reservations of parts of the Irish folk scene, because of the way folk songs describing and denouncing historic atrocities by the British, were used by Nationalist paramilitaries to drum up hatred and support for their murderous campaigns. I am certainly not accusing any of the modern folk groups included in the book, whose lyrics denounce what they see as the continuing oppression of the Irish people, of supporting terrorism. Firth and Arnove appear to have deliberately avoided choosing the contemporary folk songs that do glamorise terrorism. Nevertheless, there is a problem in that some of the Irish folk songs about the suffering of their country and its people can be so abused. I am also definitely not impressed with Protestant, Loyalist sectarianism and its vilification of and celebration of violence against Roman Catholics.

It’s also the case that historically at least, many Protestants did support the aspirations of their Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen for freedom and emancipation. A few years ago Mapping the Town, BBC Radio 4’s urban history programme, broadcast an edition from Belfast. This noted that one of the first Roman Catholic churches built in the town in the late 18th or early 19th century was half funded by the town’s Protestants. Although there denominations were recognised and permitted by the Anglican establishment, unlike Roman Catholicism, which was rigorously prohibited, they also suffered serious legal disabilities and were prevented from holding political office. They shared the resentment their Roman Catholic friends and fellow Irishmen felt, and so sometimes, as here, made common cause with them. The book does include some of the speeches from Wolfe Tone’s United Irishmen, the 18th century militant Nationalist organisation that included both Roman Catholics and Protestants. This makes the point that the struggle for an independent Ireland has historically included Protestants as well as Roman Catholics. Nevertheless, possibly some further Irish Protestant texts supporting independence or Roman Catholic emancipation would have been useful, to show such issues can and did transcend the religious divide.

Another problem with the section on Ireland is that in Northern Ireland the majority of the inhabitants were Protestants, who wished to remain part of the United Kingdom. Indeed, the province was created through an uprising against the possibility that it would become part of Eire. While the oppression of Roman Catholics in Ulster is definitely undemocratic, it also has to be recognised that Ulster has remained part of the UK through the wishes of a majority of its people. This has been implemented through democratic politics, which is something that needs to be recognised. Unfortunately, the exclusive focus on Irish nationalism in the book obscures the fact that the province’s inclusion in the UK does have a popular democratic mandate.

A further issue is the exclusion of a modern, working class Ulster Protestant voice. Nearly a decade ago now the Independent reviewed a play by a working class Ulster Protestant playwright about the Troubles. The play was about a family reacting to the rioting occurring outside. I’ve unfortunately forgotten, who the playwright was. What I do remember was his comment that working class Protestants in Ulster were disenfranchised, as there were no organisations representing them. It’s a controversial claim, but there’s more than a little truth in it. Many of the working class political parties in Northern Ireland, such as the SDLP, are more or less Nationalist. The Unionist party, on the other hand, was formed from the merger of the Conservative and right-wing parts of the Liberal party. There has therefore been little in the way of working-class Protestant political parties, although some of the militant Protestant paramilitaries did adopt a radical Socialist agenda in the 1970s. Again, it would have been good to have a text or so examining this aspect of Northern Irish politics, though one which would not support the Protestant paramilitaries and their violence.

Equally problematic is the inclusion in the book of the voices of the womenfolk of the men imprisoned in Guatanamo Bay, collected by Victoria Brittain. Now Gitmo is indeed a human rights abuse. The prisoners there are held without trial or sentencing. The reasoning behind this is that, while they are guilty of terrorism offences, wartime conditions and the pressures of battle mean that it has been impossible to obtain the level of evidence required to secure a conviction under civilian law. If they were tried, they would be acquitted, and disappear to continue their terrorist campaigns against the US. Hence, for national security they must be detained outside the law. It’s a dangerous argument, as it sets up a precedent for the kind of ‘Nacht und Nebel’ disappearances and incarceration without trial of domestic opponents that was ruthlessly used by the Nazis on their political opponents in Germany.

This does not mean that the men held without trial in Gitmo are democrats. Far from it. Those that fought for the Taliban supported a vehemently anti-democratic regime. It was a violently repressive theocracy, which rejected ‘man-made law’ in favour of the Sharia. Under the Taliban, no forms of religious belief or unbelief were tolerated apart from Islam. Women were prevented from going out in public except when clad in the chador. As they were supposed to be silent and not draw attention to themselves when in public, they were beaten if they made a sound. This included the noises made by the artificial limbs of women, who had been mutilated by the mines and ordnance used in the fighting. There was also an active campaign against female education. This situation has been challenged by the presence of the Coalition forces in Afghanistan. Jeremy Hardy in the News Quiz derided this as ‘collateral feminism’. He has a point. The war was not fought to liberate or improve the conditions of Afghan women. This is very much a side effect. However, if the Western occupation of Afghanistan does raise their status and give them more freedom, then it will have done some good.

As for the occupation of Afghanistan itself, I’ve read material that has argued that the real reason the Western forces are there is to secure access to and appropriate the country’s oil pipelines. There’s possibly something in that. However, the immediate reason for the invasion was al-Qaeda’s attack on the US on 9/11. The destruction of the Twin Towers and parallel attacks on the Pentagon and the White House were acts of war. There is simply no two ways about this, and the West’s counter-attack and invasion of Afghanistan was an entirely appropriate response. It is therefore somewhat disingenuous to include the piece of on the suffering of the wives of the men imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, when the men themselves were the militant, murderous supporters of an oppressive regime that itself had absolute contempt for democracy and Western notions of human rights.

If many of the texts in this volume seem surprisingly modern, the extracts on the Ladies of Llangollen can be somewhat misleading in that historically British society has recognised a number of intense same-sex relationships, that were not at the time regarded as homosexual, or which included a homosexual element that was nevertheless seen in context as part of a wider relationship. There has been a book published within the last year or so on the homosocial relationship between medieval knights, which examined the all-male camaraderie and loyalty between them. The chivalrous concept of campiognage, which was the extreme friendship and loyalty between two knights, could be described in homosexual terms, even when one knight was helping his comrade in arms to escape with his lady love. In the 19th century there was the ‘romantic friendship’. This was a devoted friendship between two members of the same sex. These now can strike us as definitely gay, but at the time these were not seen as being necessarily homosexual or particularly extraordinary. Cardinal Newman’s request to be buried next to another priest, with whom he shared a profound friendship, was almost certainly such a Victorian romantic friendship, rather than a straightforward gay relationship. Although the ladies of Llangollen described themselves as having eloped, they always maintained that they devoted themselves to artistic and intellectual pursuits. They were celebrated at the time for their devotion to each other, and visitors to their home included many of the 19th century’s great and good, including the Duke of Wellington. It seems to me therefore that there relationship was seen as another romantic friendship, rather than a lesbian relationship.

It is also the case that the Victorians were aware of the existence of lesbianism. The story that when they were formulating the laws against homosexuality, Queen Victoria and her ministers did not outlaw female homosexuality because they didn’t believe it existed is a myth. They knew that it did. They just didn’t see it as a particular threat. The historian Martin Pugh makes this point in his book, British Fascism between the Wars. He argues that lesbianism was only perceived as a threat to British society after the First World War, when there was a ‘crisis of masculinity’. It was widely believed that the cream of British manhood had all been carried off by the War, and that only inferior men had been left behind. This created the atmosphere of sexual panic in which arose Pemberton Billing and his notorious black book. Billing was an extreme Right-wing Tory MP, who believed that the Germans were blackmailing British homosexuals into betraying their country. He claimed to have a little book containing the names of 50,000 ‘devotees of Sodom and Lesbia’, and regularly attacked other public figures with accusations that they were gay. At least one of his victims sued for libel, but the trial was called off when Billing accused the presiding judge of being another gay, whose name was in his book. I’m no legal expert, but it has struck me that the judge would have grounds for jailing him for contempt. Moral fears and legislation against gay women arguably date from this period, rather than the Victorian age.

These reservations aside, this is a powerful, inspiring book, that should encourage and empower anyone with an interest in radical history and who is determined to defend freedom and dignity today from the increasing attacks on it by the Coalition, the most reactionary regime this country has endured since the election of Mrs Thatcher in 1979.