Posts Tagged ‘Blacklegs’

The Anti-Semitism Smears and the Tories’ Long History of Racism

March 29, 2018

On Monday, the Jonathan Goldstein of the Jewish Leadership Council and the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush, wrote a letter complaining that Corbyn had done nothing to tackle what they claimed was the rampant anti-Semitism in the Labour party, and that Corbyn had consistently sided with anti-Semites against Jews. This was accompanied of a mass demonstration outside parliament organised by the two organisations.

Arkush and Goldstein’s claims are frankly lies. Jeremy Corbyn has consistently opposed all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. He is the only MP, for example, who has been arrested for protesting against apartheid in South Africa. He also has the support of very many Jews, and Jewish organisations, who rallied to support him on social media.

The real issue here, which Arkush and Goldstein’s smears of anti-Semitism are meant to cover up, is Corbyn’s attitude towards Israel. They claim he’s anti-Israel and anti-Zionist. He isn’t, but he is pro-Palestinian. But this is too much for the Israel lobby, who smear anyone, who wants justice and dignity for the Palestinians as anti-Semite. Even if they are proud, self-respecting Jews, who have suffered real anti-Semitic assault and abuse. Or decent, anti-racist gentiles, who have also been the subject of vilification and assault by Nazis.

Arkush is a true-blue Tory, as well as a massive hypocrite. He himself has been very keen to meet racists and anti-Semites, when it suits his agenda. Tony Greenstein on his site has a picture of him enthusiastically greeting Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, one of the anti-Semitic fixtures of the White Supremacist Alt Right. As for the Board of Deputies of British Jews fighting anti-Semitism, Greenstein also points out that when Oswald Mosley was goose stepping about the East End of London with his Blackshirts, the Zionists were telling Jews to keep out of the way and stay indoors. I don’t blame them for it, as Fascism has always been violent and brutal, and they would no doubt have attacked and beaten Jews they found on the street. But Fascists won’t go away if you hide from them. They’ll simply carry on. Fortunately, a number of Jews, trade unionists, and Communists weren’t prepared to leave the streets to them, and fought them head on. The result was the ‘battle of Cable Street’, which ended with Mosley and his squadristi routed from the East End. I am not recommending violence. I don’t approve of it. But sometimes, it’s inevitable. And for all the claim that Mosley wasn’t originally anti-Semitic and was genuinely perplexed at Jewish opposition, he and his wretched party were. And if the Nazis had invaded, or the BUF somehow gained power, it’s very highly likely that he would have aided the Holocaust and the extermination of Jewish Brits.

The Tories have, of course, taken all this as an opportunity to claim that Labour is riddle with anti-Semitism, unlike them. This covers up the fact that the Tory party has a very long history of racism and anti-Semitism going right back to the Die-Hards of the First World War. One of the other left-wing bloggers put up a very extensive list of Tory racist and anti-Semitic organisations, or racist organisations, whose membership was drawn from the Tories.

Like the British Fascists. They were a bunch of right-wingers, founded by a middle-class lady, who’d been emancipated by the Women’s Suffrage Act but had a hatred of organised labour. They modus operandi was to supply blackleg labour during strikes, disrupt socialist meetings and attack left-wingers and trade unionists. They once attacked a van belonging to the Daily Herald. They weren’t really Fascists, but Conservatives, and Mosley called them what they were. He declared they were ‘Conservatives with knobs on’. He asked their leaderene what she thought of the corporate state. Faced with the notion of an industrial parliament which included trade unionists as well as management and capital, she vehemently rejected it as ‘socialism’. Which confirms how little she knew about either Fascism or socialism.

The there’s the various Tory pro-Nazi groups founded in the 1930s – the Anglo-German Fellowship, the Link and a number of others, and on and on. One of the nutters involved in these groups wanted to found a group to purge the Tories of Jews. The Monday Club was riddled with anti-Semites until there was purge in 1970. But as the blogger showed, the anti-Semites were still there, still active.

And while we’re on the subject of racism, why didn’t Arkush and his fellows on the Board protest against the appointment of Toby Young to May’s universities watchdog. I am not accusing Young of anti-Semitism. But he is a eugenics fanatic, and attended a eugenics conference at University College London, which certainly did include real racists and White Supremacists. Eugenics was an integral part of Nazi ideology. Quite often when Nazis and other racists talked about the ‘biologically unfit’ as well as the poor and disabled in general, they also meant non-whites and Jews. But I don’t recall Arkush and the Board making any letters of complaint or raising any natural concerns about Young’s appointment.

And then there’s this election poster from 1902.

Okay, so the foreign master sacking his British worker to make way for his fellow foreigner isn’t explicitly described as a Jew. But the anti-Semitism is very definitely there. It was put up at a time when the Conservatives were worried about the mass immigration of eastern European Jews. They spoke Yiddish, a language descended from the medieval German middle Franconian dialect. Hence the foreign master speaks with a very middle-European accent. And while the term ‘alien’ simply means ‘foreigner’, in the language of the 19th and early 20th centuries it was very often used to mean Jews. The anti-Semitic nature of the poster is very blatant.

As you’d probably expect it to be. This was the era of the British Brothers’ League and other Conservative anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic organisations.

But the Tories want people to forget all this, and just see Labour as a hotbed of anti-Semitism. Despite many Jews in the party having said and written that they have personally never experienced it in the Labour party.

But it’s a good smear against Labour, and Corbyn, and everything he has done for Jewish Brits as well as his desire for a just treatment of the Palestinians. And that’s what Arkush, Goldstein and their friends in the Tories are really afraid of.

Advertisements

Strikes and Industrial Protest in an Anti-Union State: Pre-Revolutionary Russia

February 20, 2016

Like just about all its predecessors, Cameron’s government is doing its level best to emasculate and destroy the trade unions. Thatcher did it back in the 1980s with her union-busting legislation, and then the highly militarised use of the police during the Miners’ strike. Cameron’s trying to destroy them and their political representation in the Labour party through attacks on the union levy, further legal limits on the right to strike, and the legalisation of the use of blackleg labour from agencies to stop strikes being anything but cosmetic. The International Labour Organisation in the UN have denounced this last piece of legislation. And David Davies, one of the most right-wing of the Tory MPs, called Cameron’s plan to force stikers on pickets to giver their names to the police as ‘Francoist’.

Dave Cameron hopes this legislation will leave the unions powerless, and the workforce cowed, willing to accept the very worst wages and conditions. In the short term, he’s probably right, but in the long term, probably not. Not from the example of pre-Revolutionary Russia. The lesson there is quite the opposite: if you grind people down into the dirt for long enough, and deprive them of the right to strike and form unions, they will nevertheless strike and form unions, and the strikes and unrest will get more severe the worse conditions gets and the more force is deployed.

Lionel Kochan, in his Russia in Revolution (London: Paladin 1970) notes that in 19th century Russia it was illegal to form trade unions, go on strike or form any kind of collective organisation for the workers. (p. 42). There were no friendly societies or strike funds to support striking workers. Nevertheless, strikes became a feature of Russian industrial life. To be sure, not all workers went on strike. He states that between 1895 and 1904, only half the workers in factories tended to go on strike, most of which didn’t last very long. The average strike lasted about ten days. (p. 44).

Nevertheless, industrial unrest became so chronic that the government was forced to increase the police and the armed forces to put down strikes. The number of policemen was raised to 1 to 250 workers, and there was one factory inspector, whose duties included warning workers that they could not legally strike, and what would happen to them if they did, for every 3,000 workers. The army was called in to suppress strike action and workers’ demonstrations 19 times in 1893, 50 in 1899, 53 in 1900, 271 in 1901 and 522 in 1902. (p. 47). And the number of those on strike could be huge. During the revolutionary agitation of 1905, 111,000 people had gone on strike by 8th January. (P.88). At its height, there were 125,000 people on strike in the Russian capital. (p.94). In 1907, 740,000 people went on strike. (p. 160).

Most of these strikes were for purely economic reasons – an increase in wages and the betterment of working conditions, rather than for political reforms such as the establishment of a parliament and the right to vote. Nevertheless, the number of political strikes increased as the new century progressed. And this was despite some minimal concessions to modern representative politics, such as the establishment of a parliament – the Duma – albeit on a very restricted franchise by Nicholas II. In 1910 there were 222 strikes involving 46,000 workers. The following year, 1911, there were 466, with 105,110 workers. And the number of political strikes went up from eight in 1910 to twenty four in 1911. (p. 161). In 1912 the number of political strikes rocketed to 1,300. (P.162). And then in 1914, the year the War broke out, the number of strikes as a whole shot up to 3,466, of which 2,500 were politically motivated.(p. 164).

In many ways, this is to be expected. If you drive people down to the point where they have absolutely nothing to lose, they will revolt, and revolt violently. At one point wages were so low -just 40 kopeks – that they were insufficient for a worker to support a family. You can compare that to the in-work poverty today, where most welfare recipients are people working, often very long hours, but not earning enough to support themselves or their families.

Despite the glowing picture of the Developing World by the Tory writers of Britannia Unchained, which urged Brits to work harder for less money, ’cause that’s what workers outside the West are doing, parts of India is currently riven by Maoist rebels. I’ve mentioned the Naxites before, radical Marxists in the poorest states in Indian waging a guerrilla war on behalf of the peasants and Dalits. And much of the radical Muslim unrest and terrorism in India has concrete social and economic motives. In many areas, Muslims are treated as second-class citizens, given the worst jobs and with an unemployment rate higher than their Hindu compatriots. In fact, most of the Islamic unrest throughout the world probably has its origins less in religious doctrine and more in conditions of high unemployment, low pay, poor opportunities and political sclerosis.

By making democracy a sham, and repressing unions and other organisations trying to work for better wages and working conditions, Cameron is storing up problems for the future. The Fascist dictatorships of Salazar in Portugal and Franco in Spain collapsed, partly through workers’ strikes. As did the Communist dictatorships at the opposite end of Europe.

Now Cameron needs to maintain the illusion of democracy, and some minimal welfare state in order to deceive people that his government is actually democratic, and he is doing something to help them. After all, Bismarck said

Give the workman the right to work as long as he is healthy, assure him care when he is sick, assure him maintenance when he is old … If you do that … then I believe the gentlemen of the Social-Democratic programme will sound their bird-calls in vain. (Cited in Koch, p. 48).

Of course, Cameron is doing his best to make sure people don’t have the right to work, or are cared for and maintained in sickness and old age. He wants to pass welfare provision on to private industry, who will provide a much poorer service. But he needs to give the illusion that he is doing all the above. And it’ll probably work – for a time. Possibly even decades. But at the end there will be an explosion. And it may be all the more bloody, because of the way he has reduced democracy to a sham, so that people will just discard it in favour of authoritarianism, just as after the Wall Street Crash of 1929 millions of Germans were convinced that democracy had failed.

But what does Cameron care? He probably banks on being long dead by then, if he gives it any thought at all. Or perhaps he dreams of fleeing somewhere else, when the conflagration finally comes. To Switzerland, perhaps. Or the Cayman Islands. South America. Perhaps, America itself, always assuming Sanders doesn’t get in. And if it all kicks off before then, he, or Bojo, or some other Tory pratt, will indulge their stupid fantasy of being a great war leader, bravely reconquering the cities from Communist militants.

And we’re back to Orwell’s description of the future: a boot stamping on a human face. Forever.

Vox Political: UN Criticises Tory Scheme to Legalise Scab Labour

February 17, 2016

Fascist Book Cover pic

Cover of Adrian Lyttleton’s book, The Seizure of Power: Fascism in Italy 1919-1929, showing triumphant Fascists returning from raid on trade union headquarters.

Mike over at Vox Political has posted this piece from The Canary, reporting that the UN’s International Labour Organisation has criticised the Tories’ Trade Union Bill. The bill would legalise the use of workers from agencies to supply labour during strikes. The ILO points out that this would effectively undermine the right to strike, by allowing employers to disregard strike action.

Now cue right-wing ranting in the Daily Heil and the Express about evil foreigners hypocritically attacking noble Britain. No doubt they’ll also rant about how the unions cripple British business, and hold British workers to ransom, forcing them to pay the levy to the Labour party, etc. ad nauseam.

The Tories have always hated organised labour and the trade unions, and have tried to get rid of them since the 19th century, when they passed laws against the as illegal ‘combinations’. Then there was the Taff Vale judgement, which ruled that trade union funds had no protection under law, and so could be pilfered with impunity.

And then there’s the use of scab and blackleg labour by the employers themselves. I can remember hearing from older man I once did voluntary work with, who told me about the way union meetings had to be guarded from infiltration by the bosses’ spies.

And now here comes Godwin’s Law again. With this piece of legislation, we’re back once again with Fascism. The Fascist parties all over Europe hated independent trade unions with a passion, and did their best to destroy them. In Nazi Germany trade unions were banned, for pretty much the same reasons the Daily Heil and the Express spews: they’re evil ‘Marxist’ organisations that exploit workers. In Italy, Mussolini’s Fascists formed their own trade unions to supply blackleg labour and break strikes. Unable to convince the mainstream, Socialist trade unions to join them after the Seizure of Power, they banned them and made it compulsory for workers to join the Fascist unions.

And in Britain the copycat British Fascist groups that sprang up in imitation of Musso’s squadristi had much the same tactics. They included the British Fascisti, who used to career about in vans trying to break up strikes and workers’ demonstrations. Such organisations were extreme Right-wing Tories, rather than independent Fascists. When Oswald Mosley asked one of them what they would do about the corporate state, in which trade unions and the employers’ organisations were amalgamated into giant industrial bodies based roughly on the medieval guilds, their leaders promptly had a fit of the vapours and declared that it was ‘Socialism’. Nevertheless, the Tories continued trying to found alternative trade union organisations to break the traditional Social Democrat organisations. These included a Conservative trade union body, which was dissolved in the 1990s. Its leader then complained that the Tories were doing the work of the bosses. Well, duh! You only just noticed? And then there was the right-wing electricians union, which did the Tories’ work in the TUC and during the miners’ strike.

And if we’re really going to go to the ultimate origins of Nazism, some historians of the Third Reich have traced it to ‘Yellow’ trade unions, set up by the employers for the benefit of their ethnic German employees, and to protect them from competition from Czech and other ‘Slav’ workers.

No doubt we’ll hear a lot of Tory noise about how they’re protecting businesses and the public from the disruption of public services by wicked trade unionists and Socialists. And how they’re freeing the workers from having to enrol in trade unions, though that went long ago when they outlawed the closed shop, or having to abide by trade union decisions.

It’s just more excused to break the unions through scab labour. It also reveals how much the Tories hate the working people of this country, and how close they are to the Black Shirts, Fascists and Nazis.