Posts Tagged ‘Bradford’

Scientists Demand Outlawing Teaching of Creationism in Wales

September 6, 2019

Here’s a different issue to Brexit and the Tories, but one which, I think, also raises profound questions and dangers. According to today’s I for 6th September 2019, David Attenborough has joined a number of other scientists backing a campaign to ban the teaching of Creationism as science in Welsh schools. The campaign was started by Humanists UK. The article, titled ‘Attenborough calls for creationism teaching ban’, by Will Hazell, on page 22, runs

Sir David Attenborough is backing a campaign urging the Welsh Government to outlaw the teaching of creationism as science from its new curriculum.

The broadcaster is one of dozens of leading scientists to sign a letter calling for evolution to be taught at primary level as well as an explicit ban on teaching creationism as science.

Humanists UK, which organised the letter, claims the draft national curriculum does not teach evolution until ages 14 to 15.

The letter reads: “Pupils should be introduced to [evolution] early – certainly at primary level – as it underpins so much else.

“Without an explicit ban on teaching creationism and other pseudoscientific theories as evidence-based, such teaching may begin to creep into the school curriculum.”

In 2015, the Scottish Government made clear that creationism should not be taught in state schools, while in England, state schools – including primaries – have to teach evolution as a “comprehensive, coherent and extensively evidence-based theory”.

The new Welsh curriculum, due to be rolled out in 2022, set out six “areas of learning and experience”, including science and technology.

A spokeswoman for Wales Humanists said it “could allow schools much more flexibility over what they teach”. “This is very worrying, as it could make it much easier for a school to openly teach creationism as science,” she added.

But a spokesman for the Welsh Government denied the claims, saying: “It is wholly incorrect to claim that evolution will only be introduced at 14 to 16.

“We believe that providing children with an understanding of evolution at an early age will help lay foundations for a better understanding of wider scientific concepts later on.”

Both Mike and I went to an Anglican comprehensive school, which certainly did teach evolution before 14 or 15 years of age. In the first year I can remember learning about the geological history of the Earth and the formation of the continents. We were also taught evolution, as illustrated by the development of the modern horse from ancestral species such as Eohippus.

Theories of Evolution before Darwin

I am also very much aware that the history of religious attitudes towards evolution is much more complex than the accepted view that Christians and other people of faith are uniformly opposed to it. One of the first books promoting the evolution of organisms from simpler ancestral forms was written by Erasmus Darwin, Charles Darwin’s grandfather. Erasmus Darwin was part of the late 18th century scientific group, the Lunar Society, who were the subject of book, The Lunar Men, published a few years ago by the British writer and academic, Jenny Uglow. I think Erasmus was a Quaker, rather than a member of a more mainstream Christian denomination, but he was a religious believer. In his book he argued that the evolution of different organisms made the existence of a Creator ‘mathematically certain’. Erasmus Darwin was followed in turn by the great French scientist, Lamarck, who published his own theory of evolution. This was highly influential, and when Darwin was a student in Scotland, one of the lecturers used to take him and the other students to a beach to show them the shells and other fossils showing the evolution of life. And one of the reasons why Darwin himself put off publishing his magnum opus, The Origin of Species for so long was because of the reception of another, preceding book on evolution, Joseph Chambers’ Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. Chambers’ book had caused a sensation, but its arguments had been attacked and refuted on scientific grounds. Darwin was afraid this would happen to his own work unless he made the argument as secure as possible with supporting facts. And he himself admitted when it finally was published that even then, the evidence for it was insufficient.

The Other Reasons for Darwin’s Loss of Faith

Darwin certainly lost his faith and it’s a complete myth that he recanted on his deathbed. But I think the reasons for his loss of faith were far more complex than that they were undermined by his own theory, although that may very well have also played a part. Rather, he was disturbed by the suffering in nature. How could a good God allow animals to become sick, prey on each other, and die? I might also be wrong here, but I think one of his daughters died, and that also contributed to his growing atheism. As you can understand.

Christian Acceptance and Formulation of Theories of Evolution

At the same time, although Darwin’s theory did cause shock and outrage, some Christians were prepared to accept it. Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, when he debated T.H. Huxley on Darwin’s theory, opened the debate by stating that no matter how uncomfortable it was, Christians should nevertheless accept the theory if it were true. And after about two decades, the majority of Christians in Britain had largely accepted it. One of the reasons they did so was theological. Some of the other theories of evolution proposed at the same time suggested that evolution was driven by vital, supernatural energies without the direction of a creator. The mechanistic nature of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection rebutted the existence of these non-materialistic forces, so that Christians could still believe that God was in charge of the overall process.

In the 1840s in Britain, Samuel Baden-Powell, a professor of Mathematics at Oxford, proposed a view of evolution that attempted to prove that it was driven by the Almighty, by comparing it to the manufacturing process in factories. In 1844 the Polish writer, Juliusz Towianski, published his Genezis z ducha – ‘Creation through the Spirit), an explicitly religious theory of evolution. He believed that God had created the world at the request of disembodied spirits. However, these were given imperfect forms, and since that time have been striving to ascend the evolutionary ladder back to God through a process of transformation and catastrophe. By the 1900s in many Christians eye evolution had become an accepted theory which posed no obstacle to religious faith. The term ‘fundamentalism’ is derived from a series of tracts, Fundamentals of Christianity, published in America in the early 20th century. This was published as a response to the growth in religious scepticism. However, it fully accepts evolution.

Scientists Against Evolution

The Intelligent Design crowd have also pointed out that rather than being the sole province of churchmen and people of faith, many of Darwin’s critics were scientists, like Mivart. They objected to his theory purely on scientific grounds.

Creationism, Christianity and Islam

If the history of the reaction to Darwin’s theory is rather different than the simplistic view that it was all just ignorant religious people versus rational scientists, I also believe the situation today is also much more complex. A decade ago, around 2009 when Britain celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Origin of the Species, there was a determined attack on Creationism, particularly by the militant New Atheists. Some of this was driven by anxiety over the growth of Creationism and the spread of Intelligent Design. This was framed very much as combating it within Christianity. The problem with that is that I understand that most Creationists in Britain are Muslims, rather than Christians. There was an incident reported in the press in which one Oxford biologist was astonished when a group of Muslims walked out of his lecture. This was Steve Jones, who presented the excellent Beeb science series about genetics and heredity, In the Blood back in the 1990s. One male student told him frankly that this conflicted with their religion, and walked out of the lecture hall, leaving Jones nonplussed. The far right Christian Libertarian, Theodore Beale, alias Vox Day, who really has some vile views about race and gender, caustically remarked on his blog that this showed the powerlessness of the scientific establishment to opposition from Islam. They were so used to Christians giving into them, that they didn’t know what to do when Muslims refused to cave. That said, I would not like to say that all Muslims were Creationists by any means. Akhtar, who led the demonstrations against the Satanic Verses in Bradford in the late ’80s and early ’90s, angrily declared in one of his books that Salafism – Islamic fundamentalism – did not mean rejecting evolution, and he could point to Muslims who believed in it.

Scepticism Towards Evolution Not Confined to the Religious

Another problem with the assumption that Creationism is leading to increasing scepticism towards evolution is that the statistics seem to show the opposite. Back around 2009 there was a report claiming that 7 out of 10 Brits didn’t believe in evolution. One evolutionary biologist was quoted as saying that this was due to the marginalisation of the teaching of evolution in British schools, and demanded that there should be more of it. Now it might be right that people don’t believe in evolution because of its teaching or lack therefore in British education. But this was the same time that the New Atheism was on the march, led by Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion. This was supported by statistics showing that Christianity and church attendance was well in decline in this country. According to the stats, although many people identified as Christians and about 70 per cent at the time declared they believed in God, the actual number who go to church is far smaller. Only a few years ago further polls revealed that for the first, atheists were in the majority in this country. The growth of disbelief in evolution can’t simply be explained as the product of Creationism, whether Christian, Muslim or whatever.

Atheists and the Problem of Persuading Creationists to Accept Evolution

There’s also the problem here in that, however, well meant Humanists UK’s campaign may actually be, at one level they and Richard Attenborough are the last people, who should be leading it. They’re atheists. A few years ago Attenborough was the subject of an interview in the Radio Times, in which he photographed chatting with Dawkins. He was also quoted as saying that he had stopped believing in God when he was child, and at school he used to wonder during services how anybody could believe in such rubbish. He’s not the first or last schoolkid to have felt that. But it does mean that he has a very weak personal position when dealing with Creationists. Many Creationists object to the teaching of evolution because not just because they think it’s unscientific, but because they also believe that its a vehicle for a vehemently hostile, anti-Christian or simply irreligious and atheist political and intellectual establishment to foist their views on everyone else. A campaign insisting on the teaching of evolution by an atheist organisation like Humanists UK will only confirm this in their eyes.

Anti-Creationist Campaigns also Attacking Reasoned Critique of Materialist Views of Evolution

Another problem with the campaign against Creationism is that is leading scientists to attack any critique of the contemporary neo-Darwinian theory or materialist views of evolutionary. Gordon Rattray Taylor, a former Chief Science Advisor to the Beeb and editor of the Horizon science series, himself published a detailed critique of conventional evolutionary theory, The Great Evolution Mystery, shortly before his death in 1981. He states in it that he doesn’t want to denigrate Darwin, but he concludes that it is not so much a theory, as a subset of greater theory that has yet to be formulated. He also quotes another evolutionary biologist, von Bertalanffy, who said

‘I think the fact that a theory so vague, so insufficiently verifiable … has become a dogma can only be explained on sociological grounds’.

Rattray Taylor himself concludes

Actually, the origin of the phyla is not be any means the weakest point in the Darwinian position. Many facts remain inexplicable, as we have seen. Modern biology is challenged by ‘a whole group of problems’ as Riedl remarks. Now, however, the attempt to present Darwinism as an established dogma, immune from criticism, is disintegrating. At last the intellectual log-jam is breaking up. So we may be on the verge of major advances. The years ahead could be exciting. Many of these advances, I confidently predict, will be concerned with form.

It is unfortunate that the Creationists are exploiting this new atmosphere by pressing their position; this naturally drives the biologists into defensive attitudes and discourages them from making any admissions.

Evolutionists have been blinkered by a too narrowly materialist and reductionist approach to their problems. But the trend of the times is away from Victorian certainties and Edwardian rigidities. In the world as a whole, there is growing recognition that life is more complex, even more mysterious, than we supposed. The probability that some things will never be understood no longer seems so frightening as it did. The probability that there are forces at work in the universes of which we have scarcely yet an inkling is not too bizarre to entertain. This is a step towards the freeing of the human mind which is pregnant with promise.

Conclusion

This is an effective rebuttal to the charge that challenges to materialist conceptions of evolution are a science-stopper, or that they will close minds. Rattray Taylor’s book was published in 1983, 36 years ago. I have no doubt that it’s dated, and that scientific advances have explained some of the mysteries he describes in the book. But I believe he still has a point. And I am afraid that however genuinely Humanists UK, Attenborough and the scientists, who put their name to the letter, are about making sure Welsh schoolchildren are scientifically literate, that their efforts are also part of a wider campaign to make sure materialist views of evolution are not challenged elsewhere in society and academia.

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Private Eye’s Ian Hislop Pushes the Anti-Semitism Smears on Have I Got News For You

June 2, 2019

This is another issue that I couldn’t let pass without comment. On Friday on the Beeb’s satirical news quiz show, Have I Got News For You, Ian Hislop took it upon himself once more to push the establishment smear that anti-Semitism is rife in Labour. The editor of Private Eye was responding to a question about the expulsion of Alistair Campbell, Blair’s former spin doctor, by the party for saying he voted Lib Dem in the elections. As Mike and Martin Odoni have shown on their blogs, Labour has Campbell bang to rights. What he’s done is very much against Labour party regulations. And Martin has further pointed out that there is no hypocrisy on Jeremy Corbyn’s part for his congratulation of George Galloway when he won Bradford West for the Respect Party. He was only doing what other Labour leaders have done before, such as Neil Kinnock when he congratulated John Major on becoming leader of the Tories. There really isn’t any comparison of the two cases. See

https://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2019/05/29/reaction-to-alastair-campbells-expulsion-from-labour-demonstrates-how-pathetically-easily-led-centrists-are/

Campbell whined about how there was a difference between his case and those of members accused of anti-Semitism. Mike pointed out that Campbell’s whinge was a case of sour grapes, and there were differences between his and other Labour party members. Like Kerry-Ann Mendoza, the mighty chief of The Canary, had been thrown out of the party for admitting she voted Green before she joined the Labour party. As for those accuse of anti-Semitism, if they are high-up in the Labour party, and aren’t supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, an excuse will be found not to investigate them and exonerate them. If they’re high-profile supporters of Corbyn, any excuse will be found to expel them. As happened to Mike, who didn’t get any right to appeal.

Alastair Campbell expelled from Labour – but he thinks HE has been mistreated

Hislop, however, is ignorant of all of this, and followed Campbell’s line, ranting that no-one had been expelled for anti-Semitism with a sneer at Ken Livingstone. Livingstone, he claimed, was particularly foul because he had said that Hitler was ‘a little bit Zionist’. 

This comes just after the Equalities and Human Rights Commission announced it was investigating Labour for anti-Semitism, and the MP, Peter Willsman, was suspended on anti-Semitism charges. Why? He claimed quite reasonably that the Israeli embassy may be interfering in the internal politics of the Labour Party. It is an entirely reasonable question, given that Shai Masot, the Israeli embassy official guilty of plotting to decide with British civil servants which Tories would serve in May’s cabinet, offered Joan Ryan of Labour Friends of Israel £1 million in funding at a Labour conference. See

The Peter Willsman debate is a parade of ignorance

As for the assertion that Livingstone was somehow lying about Hitler’s support for Zionism, no, it’s historical fact. Mike, Tony Greenstein, myself and many, many other bloggers have made it very clear that this is so, quoting chapter and verse from the relevant sources. As has John Newsinger, a historian at one Bath’s excellent universities, who is a regular contributor to the conspiracy magazine, Lobster. Hitler and the Nazis did indeed initially support the Zionists from the cynical motive of simply wishing to get the Jews out of Germany. It’s called the Ha’avara Agreement, and there’s even a page about it on the website of the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem, in Israel.

But history, genuine history, in this case, rather than establishment smears, appears to be utterly foreign to Hislop in this issue.

Just as it is to his magazine, Private Eye. I still read it, and it contains much excellent material, but it has consistently smeared Corbyn and his supporters as anti-Semites. These have included smear pieces from its correspondent ‘Ratbiter’, alias the Groaniad’s Nick Cohen. Like the rest of the lamestream media, it completely accepts the anti-Semitism smear unquestioningly. And it has never, ever interviewed anyone on the receiving end of those smears, like Mike, Martin, Tony, Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, Cyril Chilson and on and on.

If you’re falsely smeared as an anti-Semite, Ian Hislop and his magazine were support the smear and the smearers, not you.

Which gives the lie to his claim that his magazine is somehow anti-establishment and brings you the stories the other parts of the media won’t touch. Admittedly, this is often true, but on certain issues Hislop, Private Eye and Have I Got News For You solidly toe the establishment line. The anti-Semitism smears about the Labour party is one case. The claim that Putin is the aggressor in the Ukraine and a threat to the freedom of the eastern European states is another.

I’ve been tempted many times to write a letter of complaint to Private Eye about their promotion of the anti-Semitism smears, but I’m afraid it would do no good. They either wouldn’t publish it, or would publish it in a very carefully edited form that would deliberately weaken my argument and allow them to publish a reply that appeared to refute it completely. Or else I’d find that my details had been passed on to the CAA or other Zionist smear merchants and trolls, and I’d be accused in turn of being an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier like Mike. Are Hislop and his crew at Private Eye that nasty? I hope not, but as they are part of the media establishment, and the media establishment is that vicious, I’d rather not find out.

As for Have I Got News For You, Hislop and the Beeb were boasting a few months ago that people trust it more than the ordinary newspapers, especially asylum seekers, who come from countries where the state heavily controls and censors the news. This is dangerous, because the BBC itself is very heavily biased against Labour, and consistently follows the Tory, government line. Which is unsurprising, given the number of Beeb newsroom staff, who left to find jobs working as the Tories’ spin doctors. Have I Got News For You appears to be impartial, but it also follows the government line in pushing certain interpretations of news stories. The fact that the Maidan Revolution in the Ukraine in 2012 was carefully orchestrated by the American State Department and the National Endowment for Democracy, will definitely not be covered, either by the mainstream British news or by Have I Got News For You and Hislop’s mighty organ, Private Eye. And neither will they ever publish the truth behind the anti-Semitism smears.

Hislop once again ignores history to smear Livingstone, the Labour Party, and everyone, who has been false accused of anti-Semitism. And despite the satire, Have I Got News For You is, like much of the Beeb’s news coverage when it comes to Labour, fake news.

Outrage at Sun and Israel Lobby After Jackie Walker Film Cancelled due to Bomb Hoax

September 28, 2018

Earlier this week, on Tuesday, 25th September 2018, a film about the vicious smearing and attacks on the former vice-chair of Momentum, Jackie Walker, was due to have its premier at Blackburne House, Liverpool. It was to be shown as a fringe event of the Labour conference then being held in that fair city. Directed by Jon Pullman, it took its title, The Political Lynching of Jackie Walker, from a blog post written by the redoubtable critic of Zionism, Tony Greenstein, The Jewish Labour Movement and its Political Lynching of Jackie Walker. There has also been a play about her mistreatment, The Lynching.

The film was shot in Britain and Europe, and followed Walker’s activities for over a year, as she worked, performed and interviewed her across her kitchen table, including comments from her friends and enemies, in order to get the real issue behind the headlines, and show the woman behind the activist.

Walker, you will remember, was smeared as an anti-Semite because members of the Jewish Labour Movement hacked into a private conversation she was having on Facebook about Jewish involvement in the slave trade. They took her words out of context and passed them on to that libelous rag, the Jewish Chronicle. They claimed that she had said that Jews were responsible for the slave trade. Walker has made it very clear that this is absolutely untrue.

She said

Yes, I wrote “many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade”. These words, taken out of context in the way the media did, of course do not reflect my position. I was writing to someone who knew the context of my comments. Had he felt the need to pick me up on what I had written I would have rephrased – perhaps to “Jews (my ancestors too) were among those who financed the sugar and slave trade and at the particular time/in the particular area I’m talking about they played an important part.”

For the record, my claim, as opposed to those made for me by the Jewish Chronicle, has never been that Jews played a disproportionate role in the Atlantic Slave Trade, merely that, as historians such as Arnold Wiznitzer noted, at a certain economic point, in specific regions where my ancestors lived, Jews played a dominant role “as financiers of the sugar industry, as brokers and exporters of sugar, and as suppliers of Negro slaves on credit, accepting payment of capital and interest in sugar.”

The producers had hoped that it would be shown as part of Momentum’s The World Transformed event, but Momentum refused, banning not just the film but also Free Speech on Israel and Labour Against the Witch-Hunt. The film was cancelled in its new venue after the organisers received an anonymous call claiming that there was a bomb in the building.

Mike, Tony Greenstein and Martin Odoni have all written pieces about this. Mike believes that the hoaxer may have been inspired by a piece in the Scum by one Hugo Gye. The Scum had been outraged by Momentum’s refusal to allow their journalists into their event, and bitterly complained. Then Gye wrote his piece in the rag describing the film and play. He called Walker herself a ‘far-left activist who was kicked out of Labour for making anti-Semitic slurs’, and quoted the Labour MP and member of the Israel lobby, Louise Ellman, as saying that it was ‘disgraceful’ for other party members to tolerate banned activists. This nasty piece of character assassination masquerading as journalism also included an image of a flier for the event, giving its date and venue.

See Mike’s article at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/09/25/did-walker-movie-bomb-threat-arise-from-bitchiness-by-the-sun-over-momentum-ban/

Martin has cautiously suggested that the hoaxer may well have been a Zionist, noting that there have been a number of attempts by Zionists to disrupt meetings of left-wing Jews over the past couple of years, including one of Jewish Voice for Labour this same week. Martin goes to ask

Perhaps Labour right-wingers like Margaret Hodge and Luciana Berger, with their ridiculous histrionics-for-the-cameras with needless bodyguards, and comparisons to the Holocaust, would like to consider that a real threat is being aimed at the very people by whom they claim to be threatened? There is every chance that this threat was made by one of Hodge’s/Berger’s allies. If that is the case, what will they have to say about that?

See: https://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/breaking-news-bomb-threat-against-jackie-walker/

Greenstein, however, believes very strongly that the hoaxer was probably inspired by Marie van der Zyle (pictured below) and the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

Yes, the joke’s getting old now, but it’s still funny.

Zyle and the Board have done their level best over these past few years to stop Walker speaking. When Walker and Greenstein spoke in Brighton and Nottingham, the Board phoned the venues beforehand and tried to get them to cancel them. They did the same in 2016, when Walker was due to speak at a church in Bradford, slandering her as ‘an unapologetic Jew-baiter’. They also tried the same stunt to stop her appearing at the Edinburgh Festival.

Greenstein writes

Even if the hoax bomb caller was unknown there can be no doubt that he was doing the work that Marie van der Zyl, Jonathan Arkush and the Board of Deputies have been doing these past two years.

Even if their methods were slightly different the objective was the same. To prevent Jackie Walker exercising her right of free speech. Defence of the pernicious and racist Israeli state was the aim of both Marie Van Der Zyle and the hoax bomb caller. Whereas Ms Zyle merely threatened, cajoled and lied to the owners of venues which she contacted, the anonymous person who phoned on Tuesday simply promised to blow people up Israeli style.

Both Martin and Greenstein also describe the immense hypocrisy of the Board and the Groaniad, who have tried to make political capital out of the incident by describing it as ‘anti-Semitic’. The Groan’s headline about the incident was so misleading that one Peter C. Burns, tweeting about it, apparently believed that it was the Zionists, who had been threatened.

Greenstein points out in his article that the hoaxer did call it a ‘Jewish event’ in his phone call, even though it wasn’t. And it’s rich that the Board has used it to tweet a message about how we must all stand together against anti-Semitism, when they themselves have been whipping up hatred against Walker, libeling her as an anti-Semite. This has resulted in Walker being sent vicious abuse, expressed in foul and anti-Semitic language from other Jews. Because, as Greenstein himself has experienced, Zionist Jews hated Jewish critics of Israel more than gentile anti-Semites.

Greenstein also notes the monumental lack of interest in this by the media, with the exception of the Guardian. He observes that if this had happened at a Zionist event, then Luciana Berger, Ellman and Margaret Hodge would all be shouting about how they were being victimized and needed protection.

Both Mike and Greenstein write in their articles that far from shutting down interest in the film, this will only make more people interested in it. And Mike asks if her accusers’ case is so fragile, their only answer to Walker and her film is to try to stop it being thrown through bomb threats.

Greenstein’s article is at: http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2018/09/bomb-hoax-in-liverpool-we-shall-not-be.html

It also includes some prize examples of the abuse Walker has received. It’s nasty, racist and viciously misogynist stuff. ‘Lying sack of excrement’ is one of the least foul terms her abusers use. So decent, sensitive souls be warned.

On a more positive note, he also includes a brief trailer for the film, which is very much worth watching.

The Racists and Reactionaries Who Are the ‘Honorary Patrons’ of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism

May 11, 2018

On Wednesday, Tony Greenstein also put up a very revealing post discussing some of the honorary patrons of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. This is the organisation responsible for many of the anti-Semitism smears and libels, including that of Mike. Greenstein notes that it’s suspected of being funded by the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs as part of their campaign of dirty tricks against the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement. And the CAA’s patrons are a grim lot of reactionaries, racists and islamophobes. They include the former archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, Eric Pickles, Bob Blackman, Matthew Offord, Mike Freer, and Richard Kemp.

Carey got himself into trouble with Britain’s Muslim community in 2004 with a tactless comment about Islam, which included the words ‘During the past 500 years, critical scholarship has declined, leading to strong resistance to modernity’. It’s a very simplified version of Islamic history, which leaves out Modernists like Mohammed Abduh, the Egyptian ulema, who began the process of modernisation in their country before its conquest by the British and French, and secularist radicals like Turkey’s Kemal Ataturk.

Eric Pickles, whom Buddy Hell at Guy Debord’s Cat has nicknamed ‘the Sontaran’ because of his striking resemblance to those aliens from Dr. Who, used to be progressive and anti-racist. That is before he and Maggie’s Tory cabinet decided to back Ray Honeyford, the headmaster of a Middle School in Bradford. Honeyford had written a piece in the right-wing Salisbury Review, claiming that there was a link between race and intelligence. The local authority wanted to sack him, but he was supported by the Daily Heil and Thatcher. And so Pickles also decided to throw in his lot behind Honeyford. And he’s been a populist ever since.

Blackman, Offord and Freer all put their weight behind the campaign ‘Operation Dharmic Vote’ by the National Council of Hindu Temples back in 2017. This looks like an attempt to copy David Lammy’s Operation Black Vote earlier this century, which was a campaign to get more Black people to vote so that more would be done for them by a more diverse parliament. ‘Operation Dharmic Vote’ sounds similar, but was definitely not as benign. The National Council of Hindu Temples were annoyed that British parties, like Labour, were trying to outlaw caste discrimination, especially against the Dalits. This is the term now used for the Untouchables, the people of the lowest caste, who are given the dirtiest, lowest paid and most demeaning jobs. Indian Dalit activists and writers have described their conditions as ‘slavery’. There are reports in this country of Dalits being refused medical treatment by their doctors. It’s disgraceful, but Blackman, Offord and Freer decided to back the campaign to get the votes of the most reactionary elements of British Hinduism.

Blackman also went further, also hosted a meeting in parliament, at which one of the speakers was Tapan Ghosh, an Indian islamophobe and christophobe. Claiming to be defending human rights, Ghosh talked about ‘800 years of Arab Islamic’ aggression, and ‘200 years of European Christian aggression’. He also described the Rohingyas, now being butchered in Myanmar, as ‘violent’.

Both Islam and Christianity largely entered India through military conquest, though India also has a community of indigenous Syriac Christians in Kerala, who entered the country as refugees from persecution in the Persian Empire. The Hindu Nationalist right bitterly hate Christianity and Islam, as neither religion has a formal caste system like Hinduism. There is a kind of caste system in Indian Islam, but it’s less severe than Hinduism. As a result, many Dalits have converted to Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. The Hindu nationalists have reacted by organising pogroms against Christians and Muslims, as well as Sikhs and extreme right-wing Hindus have carried out forced conversions of Christians. This seems to be the type of Hinduism Ghosh seems to represent, and it’s as racist and intolerant as the militantly extremist forms of the two religions Ghosh denounces.

Then there’s Colonel Richard Kemp, who was successfully sued by Baroness Warsi after he wrote a column in the Jewish News claiming that she was trying to excuse the horror committed by Daesh.

For further details, see Tony Greenstein’s article at http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2018/05/the-campaign-against-anti-semitism_9.html

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism is the group that’s claiming that since Jeremy Corbyn became head of the Labour party, it’s been infested with anti-Semites. Perhaps there should be an outcry instead on the way it’s supported by very real racists and islamophobes.

Lib Dem Deselected due to Anti-Semitism Allegations

May 6, 2017

Mike has also put up today a piece reporting that the national Labour party has suspended him following the smears that he is an anti-Semite propagated by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, as reported in the local Welsh press. This is not only libel, but an infringement of the Local Government Act. Any attempt to influence a local election through the publications of smears and libels against a candidate is a criminal offence, as I understand it. Also guilty of libel is the local Tory MP, who voiced his opinion on Mike’s character after he was asked about the allegations without really knowing anything about them or their background. Mike has therefore asked the Dyfed-Powys police to investigate the organisations and people involved.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/06/no-council-seat-for-vox-political-writer-because-of-politically-motivated-interference/

He wasn’t the only person, who saw their political ambitions derailed due to allegations of anti-Semitism. This week the I newspaper reported that a Lib Dem MP, David Ward had been deselected by Tim Farron as the candidate for Bradford East, following similar allegations. These were brought up in the House by Eric Pickles and then echoed by Theresa May.

Andrew Neil picked over the issue last Sunday on his show with Baroness Warsi and Joe Sorene. From what I gather from their comments and the brief report about it in the I newspaper, this involved comments about the brutality of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Warsi and Sorene got very offended about Ward’s statement that Israel is an apartheid state. They claimed that this was nasty and anti-Semitic, and there were other ways to talk about this issue. The I also reported that he had said that he would have fired rockets into Israel. Neil also said that, going through Ward’s comments, there was only one which he thought was anti-Semitic. This was when Ward stopped referring to the Israel and blamed the Jews.

I don’t really know the background to this, but this is how it very much appears to me at the moment. The comments about firing rockets into Israel sounds like a reference to the Israelis’ bombardment of Gaza. As Counterpunch pointed out, the Israelis deliberately attacked Gaza, or a Palestinian terrorist resident there, I’m not sure which, in order to provoke a retaliation. They then screamed very loudly that the Palestinians had broken the truce, and started shelling.

This reminds me very strongly of the kind cowardly bullying that many people have suffered in school. You know – the school bully punches you when the teacher’s not looking. You hit them back, and he or she starts wailing ‘You hit me – it’s your fault’, while cheered on by his gang of snitches. Only in the case of Israel and the Palestinians, it’s being done with bombs and guns. And teacher is the court of international opinion. The tactics and mentality behind it remain the same, however.

As for Israel being an apartheid state, it might offend the Israelis and their supporters to hear it, but that’s exactly what it is. Palestinians are being forced off their ancestral land and into small, increasingly squalid and cramped enclaves, just like the White settlers in apartheid South Africa also forced the indigenous Black peoples off their ancestral lands and into the Bantustans, the squalid ‘homelands’ situated in areas of poor soil that the Whites did not want. Palestinians have to go through checkpoint after checkpoint, enduring harsh security simply to move around as they pass from ‘Palestine’ to Israel. Israel similarly has pursued a decades-long policy of ethnic cleansing, forcing the Palestinians out of their lands as part of their policy of expansion. Finally, like the Blacks under apartheid, there is a separate pay scale for Jewish and Arab Israelis under the Hayadoth system.

Despite the declarations of Warsi and Sorene that there are ways of talking about these issues, that don’t involve the comparisons with South Africa, the whole point of these allegations is to close down the debate. Warsi and Sorene did not say what these ways of discussing the situation were. And it seems to me that the attacks on critics of Israel is to limit discussion in such a way to rule out any criticism of Israeli expansionism, or that the Palestinians may have just cause for resisting their brutalisation and dispossession.

As for Ward’s comments about ‘the Jews’, if he’s stating that Jewry as a whole is responsible for the atrocities against the Palestinians, he’s clearly wrong. However, the fault is not entirely his own. The Israeli government and the pro-Zionist establishment in Britain is also partly responsible. Netanyahu has tried to deflect criticism of his government’s treatment of the Palestinians by passing a law that officially designates Jews everywhere as Israelis. Thus, any criticism of Israel becomes an attack on the Jewish people as a whole. Of course, the very many Jewish opponents of Netanyahu and his thugs reject this straightforward identification. One Jewish anti-Zionist, who writes for Counterpunch stated that he found it ridiculous that the Israeli Law of Return allows him to ‘return’ to Israel despite the fact that he was born in Anchorage in Alaska, while Palestinians, who have been born in what is now Israel, are being expelled and deported as foreigners.

Even the Israeli government doesn’t, it seems, really believe that all Jews are equally Israelis. A month or so ago Counterpunch also put up another reporting on the many Jewish critics of Israel’s treatment of its indigenous Arabs, who have been stopped from entering the country when they tried to go there. So much for Israel as a pluralist state which respects freedom of opinion. All Jews are citizens of Israel … except those that aren’t.

This problem is compounded by the fact that the Zionist organisations seem to present themselves as the official voice of the Jewish people. If all a non-Jewish person hears is the Zionists loudly justifying their attacks on innocents in the name of Jews worldwide, then it probably isn’t surprising when they also confuse ‘Israel’ and ‘Zionist’ with ‘Jews’. That’s the whole point of the rhetoric.

It’s disgusting. Jews aren’t responsible for the brutalities inflicted on the Palestinians. Nor even the Israeli people, many of whom also question and oppose their government over this. The Israeli state is. But the Israeli state and its supporters abroad are trying to destroy this distinction, so that they can hide behind accusations of anti-Semitism directed at their critics.

And as we’ve seen, these critics include very many sincere, anti-racist campaigners and activists, both gentile and Jewish. Many of Israel’s Jewish critics have suffered real assault and abuse because of their ethnic and religious heritage. And I’ve no doubt whatsoever that many of their gentile comrades have also suffered abuse and intimidation because of their opposition to anti-Semitism and friendship with Jews.

Mike’s been a victim of the policy, as have so many other decent people. It looks like David Ward may have been another one. The real thugs and bullies in this case are the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, and mendacious politicians like the Blairites in Labour, and Eric Pickles and Theresa May in the Tories. These politicos are simply opportunists, caring nothing for the truth and merely wanting to make political capital from the smears and libels inflicted on women and men, who are their moral superiors in every sense.

CounterPunch on British Spies’ Recruitment of Islamist Fighters against Syria

May 7, 2016

On April 5 CounterPunch posted an article on their blog examining the number of Islamist extremists, who the British intelligence agencies had tried to recruit, including a number, who had then been caught travelling to Syria. They concluded that there are very strong reasons for believing that the spooks are trying to recruitment them as part of a strategy to overturn Assad’s regime.

The article begins by noting that British intelligence was responsible for the ‘dodgy dossier’, the spurious intelligence document claiming that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, which provided the pretext for Blair to join Bush’s invasion. They then note that 500 British citizens have gone to Syria, 50 of whom have subsequently been killed in fighting. They then discuss the individual cases of those who have been approached by the spooks. These include:

Michael Adebolajo, one of the killers of Lee Rigby;

Three sisters from Bradford, who decamped to Syria. It seems they had been contacted by NECTU, the North East Counter Terrorism Unit, who had actively encouraged them to go to Syria to contact their brother, who was already there;

Mozzam Begg, who claimed MI5 had given him permission to train recruits for Syria;

Aimen Dean, who in Radio 4 interview claimed he had been recruited by MI6. Part of his duties included training impressionable Muslims to fight in Syria;

Bherlin Gildo, who had been intercepted travelling from Copenhagen to Manila to attend a terrorist training camp. His trial at the Old Bailey collapsed when it became apparent that if it carried on, it would lead to embarrassing revelations about Britain’s spies;

Siddharta Dhar, who was caught trying to travel to Syria for the sixth time. The intelligence services had also attempted to recruit him;

And the original ‘Jihadi John’, Mohammed Emwazi, was also known to the British intelligence service, who had also tried to recruit him.

They conclude:

These cases demonstrate a couple of irrefutable points. Firstly, the claim that the security services would have needed more power and resources to have prevented these abscondances is clearly not true. Since 1995, the Home Office has operated what it calls a ‘Warnings Index’: a list of people ‘of interest’ to any branch of government, who will then be ‘flagged up’ should they attempt to leave the country. Given that every single one of these cases was well known to the authorities, the Home Office had, for whatever reason, decided either not to put them on the Warnings Index, or to ignore their attempts to leave the country when they were duly flagged up. That is, the government decided not to use the powers already at its disposal to prevent those at the most extreme risk of joining the Syrian insurgency from doing so.

Secondly, these cases show that British intelligence and security clearly prioritise recruitment of violent so-called Islamists over disruption of their activities. The question is – what exactly are they recruiting them for?

At his trial, Bherlin Gildo’s lawyers provided detailed evidence that the British government itself had been arming and training the very groups that Gildo was being prosecuted for supporting. Indeed, Britain has been one of the most active and vocal supporters of the anti-government insurgency in Syria since its inception, support which continued undiminished even after the sectarian leadership and direction of the insurgency was privately admitted by Western intelligence agencies in 2012. Even today, with ISIS clearly the main beneficiaries of the country’s destabilization, and Al Qaeda increasingly hegemonic over the other anti-government forces, David Cameron continues to openly ally himself with the insurgency.

Is it really such a far-fetched idea that the British state, openly supporting a sectarian war against the Ba’athist government in Syria, might also be willfully facilitating the flow of British fighters to join this war? Britain’s long history of collusion with sectarian paramilitaries as a tool of foreign policy – in Ireland, Afghanistan and throughout the Gulf – certainly suggests this may be so.

Go to their article at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/04/05/british-collusion-with-sectarian-violence-in-syria/ for further information.

As for the reasons why the British government should want to overthrow Assad, my guess is that a number of them are about the geopolitics of the Middle East, as well as the Neo-Con, Neo-Lib urge to get their hands on the Syrian state’s assets and then sell them off, just as they did to Iraq. Assad’s regime is Ba’ath, which is secular, Arab nationalist and Socialist. They’re allied with the Russians and, although the country has not been in military conflict with Israel for some time, technically it is still at war. And oil may still be a priority, due to the proximity to several pipelines. On several of the American Conservative blogs after the Iraq invasion there were demands for the war to be expanded to oust Assad. My guess is that Britain is covertly following this policy by arming and supporting Islamist fighters.

If this is the case, then there’s a huge irony here. Islamists bitterly hate the state of Israel, and yet if they are being recruited by the West to overthrow Assad, they are being so as part of a strategy to defend Israel from a nation that has supported the Palestinians. Which should be a good reason for any prospective jihadi to think better of it and stay at home. As well as not becoming a murderous thug, whose organisations have done nothing but spread brutality, chaos and murder amongst the already beleaguered and suffering people of the Arab and Muslim world.

Hope Not Hate on UKIP’s Non-Breakthrough at the Elections

May 7, 2016

Yesterday I got this message from Nick Lowles and his team at the anti-racist, anti-religious extremism organisation, Hope Not Hate, putting UKIP’s performance at the council elections into perspective and showing that, whatever UKIP claim, it definitely was not an electoral breakthrough.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has taken to the airwaves over the last 15 hours to declare that these elections have been a great “breakthrough” for his party. The media, by and large, has accepted and run with this narrative.

The only problem is that the 2016 elections have not been the breakthrough that Farage had confidently announced. Sure, UKIP won seven seats on the Welsh Assembly (out of 60) and became the equal largest party on Thurrock council – but beyond that UKIP’s results were underwhelming.

In fact, nationally, UKIP only won 55 council wards and given the fact that it was defending some seats, this meant a net gain of just 26.

This compares with 140 council gains in 2013, 163 in 2014 and 202 in 2015.

UKIP did not breakthrough in any new areas and in almost all of the local authorities it won seats, it did far less well than in previous years.

While there is no room for complacency and there is still a huge amount of work to do, let’s not allow Farage to talk up UKIP’s limited success.

We have produced a map to show UKIP’s limited gains.

Even in Wales, where UKIP gained seven seats on the Welsh Assembly, this was below expectations.

And hopefully our own campaign had an impact. In Wales alone, our supporters put out almost 500,000 leaflets, knocked on thousands of doors and had hundreds of conversations with people keen to help.

In Rotherham, we worked intensively in the five highest risk wards in the last couple of weeks. In Oldham, Hyndburn and Bradford we helped ensure that UKIP candidates failed in seats they had been widely expected to win.

While Thurrock was clearly a set-back, our local HOPE not hate teams played their part in ensuring UKIP had its worst election in Essex in since 2012.

Over the next few days we will be analysing the results in more detail and sketching out a plan to continue our work in these communities, but for now I just want to say thank you. Thank you to the hundreds of people who came out campaigning the 2,136 people whose donations made it all possible.

And thank you to you – our supporters – without whom HOPE not hate would not be what it is.

The message is also repeated on Nick’s blog, which has the maps and stats of UKIP’s performance over the past few years, so see

http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/nick/the-breakthrough-that-wasn-t-4879

for full information.

BNP No Longer Registered as Political Party

January 9, 2016

And now a piece of good news. Thanks to them not getting round to registering with the Electoral Commission, the BNP no longer officially exists as a political party. Like Mike over at Vox Political, I got this message about it from Nick Lowles of Hope Not Hate yesterday:

Just heard some fantastic news that I wanted to share with you. The Electoral Commission have today announced that the British National Party has been struck off as a political party after it failed to renew its registration.

That means that it cannot stand candidates in elections or be considered a political party any more. This is a huge humiliation for the fascist party and reflects its demise in recent years.

Much of this has happened because of us. HOPE not hate was set up to provide a positive antidote to the BNP, which at one time had 2 MEPs, 67 councillors and one person on the London Assembly. In 2009 over 800,000 people voted for them.

Slowly but surely HOPE not hate activists began pushing them back. We stopped them in Oldham and reversed the tide in Burnley, Stoke, Sandwell and Bradford. We did it street by street, community by community.

And then, in 2010, there was Barking and Dagenham. BNP leader Nick Griffin thought he could become an MP, the party thought it could win the council. Over 1,500 HOPE not hate activists delivered 355,000 newspapers, leaflets and letters. And the BNP ended up with nothing and its defeat signalled the beginning of its downwards spiral.

You can read the full story of our campaign against the BNP here.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said Britain was a “little better off today because of this news”.

“Today is a victory for the thousands of people and organisations like Hope Not Hate who worked to make the case for an inclusive, welcoming and outward-looking nation.”

While we celebrate the BNP’s de-registration our work is not done. Britain First, with its one million Facebook supporters, will be standing in elections this year. UKIP whip up fear and hatred of immigrants. And next month Stephen Lennon, the former leader of the EDL, takes to the streets once again with his new anti-Muslim organisation Pegida.

HOPE not hate will continue to challenge hatred and extremism in our communities, but today, let’s celebrate the demise of the BNP.

This is a great step forward in combating Fascism in Britain, though the other far-right parties and groups are still active and still a problem. But it’s very good that there’s now one less.

Miliband, Blair, the Financial Sector and Labour’s Rejection of the Working Class

March 27, 2014

Eye Miliband pic

Private Eye’s satirical view of Labour leader Ed Miliband from the cover of their edition for 5th -18th October 2012.

There has been increased criticism of Ed Miliband this week after an open letter signed by 28 left-wing activists was published in the Guardian criticising Miliband’s electoral strategy. Many traditional Labour supporters and voters have been increasingly alienated by Labour’s move to the Right and its policy of adopting harsh Tory policies and attitudes towards the poor. Miliband has stated that he wants to reach out to the middle classes, and this week ordered the parliamentary Labour party to vote with the government for the imposition of an overall benefit cap. Although Labour would be better by far than another Tory government after 2015, Miliband’s leadership seems to demonstrate many of the problems and attitudes of the modern political elite: very middle class, with little awareness of or sympathy for the problems and hardship experienced by the poor, the working class, the disabled, and unemployed.

Tony Blair and the Neglect of the Working Class

Much of this attitude began under New Labour with Tony Blair. Own Jones in chavs describes how the political elite have played down the existence of class in order to ignore the working class to concentrate on gaining middle class votes, quoting the politicians Jon Cruddas and Matthew Taylor, one of Blair’s aides.

Jon Cruddas is in no doubt that politicians of all colours have a vested interest in denying the existence of class. It has proved an effective way of avoiding having to address working-class concerns in favour of a small, privileged layer of the middle classes. “They devise ever more scientific methods of camping out on a very small slice of the electorate … those who are constituted as marginal voters in marginal seats.’ Working class voters were taken for granted as the ‘core vote’ who had nowhere else to go, allowing New Labour politicians to tailor their policies to privileged voters.

No New Labour politician personified this attitude more than Tony Blair. Matthew Taylor offers an interesting insight into Blair’s political approach. ‘I worked for Tony Blair, and the point about Tony is that Tony would always say when I would say to him, or other people would say to him: “What about a bit more kind of leftism in all this? What about a bit more about poverty and justice and blah blah blah? …”‘ Blair’s response was blunt, to say the least:

Tony would always say, fine, but I don’t need to worry about that, because that’s what everybody else in the Labour Party wants, and that’s what everybody else in the Cabinet wants, and that’s what Gordon [Brown] wants, and that’s kind of fine. And I’ll leave them to do that, because I know that’s how they’ll spend all their time. They don’t want to do public service reform, they don’t want to wealth creation, they’re not interested in any of that, they’ll just kind of hammer away at that agenda. My job is to appeal to the great mass of people on issues that the Labour Party generally speaking is just not interested in.

The near-obsession with ignoring working-class voters meant inflating the importance of a very small tranche of wealthy voters who were misleadingly construed as Middle England. After all, an individual in the very middle of the nation’s income scale only earns around £21,000. ‘You’re probably right that we did misportray Middle England,’ admits Matthew Taylor, ‘But that again, I’m afraid, is not just a Labour characteristic. It’s characteristic of the middle classes as a whole.’

Chavs, 100-101.

Lobster on Kinnock and the Development of New Labour

The parapolitical magazine, Lobster, has printed a number of articles analysing and critiquing Blair, New Labour and their policies. One of the most important accounts of the origins of the New Labour project is the article, ‘Contamination, The Labour Party, Nationalism and the Blairites’ by the editor, Robin Ramsay, in no. 33, Summer 1997, pp. 2-9. Ramsay views the emergence of what later become known as New Labour in Neil Kinnock’s change of policies following their 1987 election defeat. Kinnock had previously been very left-wing. In his book Making Our Way, according to Ramsay ‘had come close to a radical, anti-finance capital, anti-overseas lobby, pro-domestic economic policy’. This changed after the election defeat, when Kinnock and his economic advisor, John Eatwell, enthusiastically embraced the free market and EEC. He notes that when a group under Bryan Gould produced the report, Meet the Challenge, Make the Change, Eatwell, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair objected to the sections recommending a return to national ownership.

An Economic Secretariat was created under John Smith, including advisors from the City of London. Kinnock and Smith became pro-EEC and were convinced that Britain should join the Exchange Rate Mechanism. At a Shadow Cabinet meeting on the 16th November 1989, the Labour leadership followed Smith’s advice that the state could not stimulate the economy, either through the nationalised industries or local councils, because this was prohibited under the rules of the ERM. The Labour Party thus launched the ‘prawn cocktail offensive’ to win over the City of London, in which John Smith and Mo Mowlam assured the bankers that they would not attempt to limit their profits any more than Thatcher had. This resulted in the establishment and expansion of a series of groups creating links between the Labour party and the financial sector. These included the Smithfield discussion group, the Labour Finance and Industry Group, and the Industry Forum. The Labour Finance and Industry group represented the interests of the domestic sector, while the Industry Forum and the Norton group presented the interests of the overseas lobby – the City of London and the multi-nationals.

Transatlantic Background of New Labour Leadership

Blair, Brown, Balls, David Miliband and the rest of ‘New Labour’ all had extensive links to America and American interests. Gordon Brown, for example, used to spend his summer holidays in the library of Harvard University. Blair went on a trip to America, which was part of a scheme sponsored by the US government to aspiring young British MPs. David Miliband, took an MA at MIT, Ed Balls studied at Harvard and, before he joined Brown, was about the join the World Bank. As for Mandelson, in his final year at Oxford University he became Chair of the British Youth Council, which had originally been set up in the 1950s by the CIA and SIS as the World Assembly of Youth in order to combat the Soviet youth fronts. Ramsay states

In short, the people round Blair are all linked to the United States, or the British foreign policy establishment, whose chief aim, since the end of the Second World War, has been to preserve the Anglo-American ‘special relationship’ to compensate for long-term economic decline. The Blair’ group’s orientation is overseas: this is the territory of the Foreign Office and its think tank satellites like the Royal Institute of International Affairs – the political and propaganda apparatus of the overseas lobby. (p.7).

New Labour and the City of London and Overseas Lobby

Blair himself also announced before the annual conference of Murdoch’s News Corp that the Americans had also insisted that Britain should adopt a more pro-European policy. Due to the massive expansion in overseas investment under Thatcher, Britain was second only to America in this regard and so looked to American political and military power and influence to protect those interests. The result was an increase in support for Labour over the Tories in the London establishment over the Conservatives. The result was a complete reversal of attitude towards the City of London. Whereas the Labour report, Meet the Challenge Make the Change: A New Agenda for Britain had been highly critical of the influence of City of London, the latter was held up as a great success seven years later by Mandelson and Roger Liddle, in their book, The Blair Revolution. Liddle, incidentally, now writes for the Spectator.

Under Bryan Gould, the Labour report had stated of the City’s destructive dominance over the British economy that

‘The concentration of power and wealth in the city of London is the major cause of Britain’s economic problems’… and that Britain’s economic policy had for too long been dominated by City values and run in the interests of those who have assets rather than those who produce.

The Blair Revolution, however, described the City of London and the new, de-industrialised British economy in glowing terms.

Britain can boast of some notable economic strengths – for example, the resilience and high internationalisation of our top companies, our strong industries like pharmaceuticals, aerospace, retailing and media; the pre-eminence of the City of London.

Consequence of City Influence: Everywhere else in Britain Suffers

Ramsay goes on to describe what this change of attitude actually means for everyone else in Britain outside the elite financial circle of the metropolis.

That the British economy policy is ‘outward-looking, internationalist and committed to free and open trade’, in Blair’s words, is precisely the problem from which non-metropolitan Britain has suffered. These are the values of the overseas lobby, the Home Counties financial elite, people for whom Bradford or Norwich, let alone Glasgow and Cardiff, are far away places about which they know nothing – and care about as much.

British politics has been stood on its head. The Conservative Party, traditionally the party of financial and overseas interests, has been replaced in that role by Labour. Instructed by its new friends in the City, Labour has become the party of financial- that is pre-Keynsian – orthodoxy. Gordon Brown looks determined to re-enact the role of Philip Snowden in 1931. The last three years of the Major regime saw Chancellor Kenneth Clarke running the kind of orthodox Keynesian policy – increasing government deficits in response to the recession – which Labour, under Wilson or Callaghan, would have run, but which is anathema to ‘Iron Chancellor’ Brown. (p. 8).

Miliband’s Apparent Lack of Interest in Poverty and Working Class due to New Labour

Ramsay notes the way Labour adopted the rhetoric of ‘One Nation’ Toryism and appeals to British patriotism. This was to disguise their promotion of the overseas economy at the expense of domestic industry. He concludes

The Blair faction will fail. ‘One nation’ rhetoric, continuing membership of the institutions of the New World Order – which is essentially the same old American post-war order minus the Soviet challenge – and leaving economic policy to the overseas sector won’t affect the real structural problems of the British economy. When it does finally dawn on the Parliamentary Labour Party that it won’t work, they will have to look elsewhere. The wrong turning was taken at the point when Bryan Gould was defeated by John Smith and the party leadership decided to surrender to the overseas lobby. To that disjunction it will have to return. (p. 9).

This is the origin of New Labour and the background to Miliband’s continuing attempts to appeal to the Middle Class and the financial elite at the expense of the poor and working class. And it needs to change urgently. Even so, a Labour government would be far preferable to another Tory government. If nothing else, Labour have said that they will stop the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS. But for Labour truly to start tackling poverty and unemployment in this country, it will have to jettison much of the New Labour project and start returning to its working class roots.

Georg Weerth’s The Song of Hunger

March 18, 2014

Georg Weerth Pic

Georg Weerth: 19th century Communist poet and journalist

I found this piece of poetry by the 19th century German writer, Georg Weerth, in an anthology of 19th century German prose and poetry dealing with the 19th century revolutionary period. This was the age when German Liberals campaigned for a united, democratic Germany, and Socialist and working class movements arose to protest against the poverty and starvation they experience in the new, industrial society.

Weerth himself was the son of a Prussian official, a Generalsuperintendent. After studying to be a merchant, he became a radical journalist, member of the Communist League and friend of Marx and Engels. In 1843 his close friendship with Engels took him to Bradford in Yorkshire, where Engels’ father had mills. The Song of Hunter was written during this period in England, during which time he met the Chartist leaders. His own literary style used simple, colloquial speech, and was influenced by Chartist working class literature. He was imprisoned by the German authorities in 1949, and was exiled in 1950. He then made a series of business trips to Spain, the West Indies and South America before dying in Havana in 1856.

The Song of Hunger describes, day by day, a week of mounting starvation culminating in an attack on the monarchy itself. It describes the terrible poverty of so many of the working class in mid-19th century Germany and England. It’s also highly relevant to contemporary Britain, where 38,000 people a year may have been killed due to poverty and starvation through benefit sanctions and cuts to the welfare system.

The Song of Hunger

Honoured lord and king,
Do you know the bad story?
On Monday we ate little
And on Tuesday we ate nothing.

And on Wednesday we had to starve,
And Thursday we suffered famine,
And O, on Friday we
Nearly died the death of hunger.

So let us bake on Saturday,
Bread, fine, carefully,
But we will on Sunday seize,
And eat you up, O King!