Posts Tagged ‘Dennis Skinner’

Dennis Skinner Challenges Theresa May to Call Another General Election

July 3, 2017

Here’s a great clip of Dennis Skinner, the Old Labour ‘Beast of Bolsover’ tearing into Theresa May. Skinner begins by asking her if she’s aware that the result of her election has been to complicate the precarious situation in Northern Ireland. The government has become involved in laundering £1 billion of terrorist money from protection rackets. He’s clearly referring to the £1 billion May’s government has given away to the DUP in order to gain their support for her minority government. The DUP has very strong links with Loyalist terror groups in Ulster, several members of which were sent down for racketeering.

He goes on to ask why she doesn’t call a general election to solve this mess. He states clearly that it is because she is afraid that Labour would win, and that a Labour government would end the money from terrorist protection rackets in Northern Ireland.

He demands that she should call a general election, and ends, ‘Now get on with it.’

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Mike Smeared as Anti-Semite by Campaigners against Nazism

May 6, 2017

Mike over at Vox Political has suffered another smear, this time from Gareth Davies of Anti-Nazis United. His article purports to be a rebuttal of Mike’s own refutation of the original smears and libels published by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. Actually, I think their name is somewhat of a misnomer. From what I’ve seen of them, they don’t seem to have any real interest in combatting genuine anti-Semitism, only in using it as a tool to smear decent critics of Israel, and in scaring European Jews to emigrate there. Perhaps a better name would be the Campaign for Anti-Semitic Libel? That would seem to be a far better description of this organisation’s real aims and methods.

I’ve blogged before about how Mike is very definitely anti-racist and most definitely not anti-Semitic. He talks with obvious pride about the invitation by one of his Jewish friends to be one of the readers in a Holocaust memorial event she was staging when he was at college. Mike was one of those, who read out a few of the names of the millions murdered by the Nazis. The young lady told him afterwards that she found his performance deeply moving. He’s had friends of all races, and doesn’t judge people according to their ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Nor, as I said, has he ever denied or tried to falsify the numbers of the Nazis’ victims in the Holocaust. I’ve described in a previous article how he gave me a book on the Nazis’ bureaucracy of terror which accompanied an exhibition about it in Berlin. The exhibition was also put on by the federal government, and gave the facts and figures of the Holocaust and the associated pogroms carried out by the Nazis. It also had a gallery and brief biography of a few of the Nazis’ victims.

Mike has always had a horror of Nazism. It’s part of his strong feelings for justice and deep hatred of other forms racism and prejudice.

Mr Davies has been unable to rebut Mike’s refutation of the smears against himself through anything Mike has written, and so has tried to smear Mike based on some of the comments left by his readers. Mike has written a robust rebuttal of this latest smear in turn, going point by point through Davies’ article, tackling and refuting each in turn.

His article stands by itself, but there are a few more things that could be added to a couple of his points. The only criticism of Mike Davies makes based on Mike’s own writings, is about Mike’s remark about Liam Byrne’s suitability as a Labour politicians, based on his previous employment with Accenture and Rothschild’s. Mike writes

Next complaint: This indicates that Mr Davies has trawled back through my articles, looking for anti-Semitic language he can use against me. It appears he found only one example that comes even remotely close, in 8,705 published pieces. This was in a reference to Liam Byrne’s employment history: “Work for a multinational consulting firm (Accenture) and then the Rothschild merchant bankers(!)” commenting on my “strange use of an exclamation mark”.

Of course the point I was making was that it seemed odd for a Labour politician to be working for a firm as closely associated with capitalism as the Rothschild company, and that I doubted it was what many people would call a “proper job” – contrast with Alan Johnson, for example, who was a postman, or Dennis Skinner, who was a miner. My guess is that the accusation is about the Rothschilds being Jewish but that had nothing to do with the point I was making.

The Rothschilds do loom large in the demonology of the Nazi right. They’re at the centre of various stupid and potentially murderous conspiracy theories about international Jewish bankers that have been around since the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. However, there are very good reasons why genuinely anti-racist Socialists should also be suspicious of this firm and the others in financial sector, regardless of the racial origins of their founders.

The working people of Britain and America have been sacrificed to the interests of the financial sector. One of the tenets of neoliberal policy has been to let manufacturing industry decline as the West was supposed to be moving into a post-industrial society. Furthermore, the Pound was kept high by Maggie Thatcher, who was unable to realise that this made British exports uncompetitive through increasing their prices on the international market. The financial sector also insisted on the loosening of regulations that resulted in the massive crash of 2008, brought about by extremely reckless speculation by Goldman Sachs, Lehmann Brothers and others in Wall Street.

In fact, manufacturing industry is still vital for Britain and America’s prosperity, as Ha-Joon Chang shows in his books. And the bankers that caused the crash have rightly earned the contempt and disgust given them by the rest of the public. Even after wrecking the global economy and encouraging right-wing governments to pursue austerity policies that have caused immense suffering to ordinary men and women, these people have insisted on billion dollar bail-outs, and are continuing to award grossly inflated pay increases and bonuses to each other.

The reaction of the Republicans in America was to try to equate criticism of bankers as Nazi anti-Semitic attacks, on the basis that the Nazis ranted about Jewish bankers, and so banker = Jew. But these criticisms weren’t being made on the basis of the bankers’ race or religious beliefs. They were simply about avaricious, destructive bankers, full stop. Race had nothing to do with it. And the banking elite attacked also includes gentiles.

And Rothschilds also has an unpleasant history of collaboration with the Nazis. They were one of the American banks, who gave credit and financial support to the Nazi regime in the 1930s. This when the Nazis were carrying out their horrific persecution of German and then Austrian Jews after the Anschluss. This was reported in the western press at the time. Certainly, this fact has also been incorporated into some of the stupid anti-Semitic conspiracy theories to make them seem less racist. I’ve come across books that have distinguished between ‘good’ Jews, the victims of the Nazis, and the ‘Zionist’ Jews, like the Rothschilds and others, who were determined to enslave Whites. Despite these careful revisions, they’re still dangerous, racist nonsense.

But that doesn’t change what the Rothschilds did. And it has understandably a legacy of bitterness. I came across an entirely respectable history book in the 1990s on the shelves of Waterstone’s in Bath about Wall Streets murky dealings with Hitler and his squad of butchers.

And the Rothschilds sadly weren’t the only company to provide material aid and assistance to the Nazi tyranny. So did American companies like IBM, a fact that provided the inspiration for one of the bitterly funny episodes of the anti-superhero comic, Marshal Law, a comic with a clear social conscience that attacked right-wing American politics through very dark, violent satire.

Earlier in his article, Mike rebuts the claim that he’s anti-Semitic, because he liked a Tweet urging him to ‘stay strong against the cabal’. Mike writes

He writes

Look up “cabal” in a dictionary and it is described as “a secret political clique or faction”. Perhaps that does not quite describe the CAA, because its political motive in trying to stop me from being elected to Powys County Council is clear and not secret, but the intention of the person who made that tweet was clearly to support me in resisting the CAA’s lies. Why should I not be grateful?

This criticism might be partly based on one of the etymologies constructed for the word, which is supposedly derived from Qabbala/ cabbala and other versions of the word spelt with a single ‘B’. This is a form of Jewish mysticism, which also became popular amongst Christian occultists in the 17th century as Aristotelian natural philosophy crumbled. There was so much demand for it, that one Italian rabbi complained that he and other savants couldn’t go anywhere without a Christian clutching them by the sleeve and saying, ‘Be my master in this!’

Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable mentions this origin of the term, but states that it came to be applied to English politics from the machinations of one of Charles II’s court factions. It says

A JUNTO, a council of intriguers. The famous cabal (1687-1673) of Charles II’s reign, the group of five ministers, the initial letters of whose name (Clifford, Ashley, Buckingham, Arlington, Lauderdale) by coincidence spelt this word, did not give rise to the usage. It was often applied in the 17th century to the king’s inner group of advisers. See CABBALA.

This was the sense in which it was being used by the Tweeter, which doesn’t seem to have mentioned the bizarre conspiracy theories about supposed Jewish occultism.

For the rest of the article, see: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/04/another-week-another-attack-by-the-anti-semitism-smear-campaigners/#comments

Now I don’t know anything about Mr Davies or the group, Anti-Nazis United. There is a need to be vigilant against Nazism, as the real thing has returned in force since Brexit. This Wednesday, the I columnist, Yasmin Alibhai-Browne, wrote an op-ed piece about the disastrous effect this was having on the lives of the new immigrants from eastern Europe, as well as the native-born children and grandchildren of earlier migrants to this country. This came after the suicide a week or so ago, of a Polish girl because of the bullying she’d experienced at her school in Cornwall. Browne herself has suffered racist abuse, despite the fact that she’s married to a White British husband, and has been here since her family arrived from Uganda in the 1970s.

And real anti-Semitism has come back, most nakedly in the form of the banned Nazi youth group, National Action, who openly goose-stepped in the streets in cod-Nazi uniforms. Their speeches were vile rants about the supposed international Jewish conspiracy to enslave and destroy the White race through encouraging non-White immigration and racial intermixing. The classic Nazi bilge you can find amongst some of the Alt-Right maniacs infesting Trump’s cabinet.

We do need to combat this. But I see absolutely no desire by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism to do that. Rather, they seem determined to exaggerate the real threat of Nazism and racism in this country simply as a way to smear genuinely principled critics of Israel. As I’ve said, time and again, the people Mike’s defended are genuinely anti-racist Jews and gentiles, many of whom have suffered genuine persecution for their ethnicity and anti-racist activism. I have felt myself moved when reading about how they, or close members of their families, have been assaulted, or how their parents or grandparents were driven out of their homelands in Germany or eastern Europe.

It is, quite simply, utterly monstrous that these people should feel afraid once again because of their race, and vilified as the very people, who have persecuted them, because they see the same hate that motivated the Nazis in the Likudniks persecution of the Palestinians.

And I am afraid that Mr Davies and his fellow activists are being manipulated in this, to serve as the useful fools for bigots and racists, who hide behind the Jewish people’s history of terrible persecution in order to smear critics of their own, decades-long campaign of massacre and ethnic cleansing against the indigenous Arab people of Palestine.

Five Reasons Why the Tories Should Never See Power Ever Again

May 2, 2017

This excellent video was posted on YouTube by Scot TV. I’ve no doubt he’s a Scots Nationalist, but it also holds true for the rest of Britain. He states in his explanation that an extra zero could be added to the five, but for the sake of brevity he’s leaving it to the lower number. Those five reasons are:

1. Tory election overspending. He notes that the charges have now been dropped, but about 20 or so Tory MPs are still being investigated.

2. The NHS. This is being starved of cash, so that patients are suffering appalling delays and a consequent disastrous decline in the quality of care. The NHS is at breaking point. Meanwhile, the Tories are privatising it by the back door. This part of the video shows headlines from various papers about the government selling off and handing over NHS hospitals and services to the usual private healthcare companies and outsourcing giants, like Circle Health and SERCO. There is also another funny segment from Jeremy Pie in which the comic reporter rants about how it isn’t outsourcing, it is straightforward privatisation. Pie makes the point that if the NHS needs money, then why can’t it simply be given it.

3. Benefit Cuts. This part of the video documents the terrible effect benefit cuts and sanctions are having on disabled people. It gives the facts and figures on the effects it has had on them. One of the clips is of an MP asking questions in the House about why disabled people are required to go through the Work Capability Tests, when so many – he gives the appropriate figures – die before, during and after the tests. He also shows the complete contempt the Tories have for those forced into misery by the tests, when Ian Duncan Smith didn’t have time to respond to questions about them, but very much did have the time to have his portrait painted. The video also correctly says that the attacks on the poor and disabled were so severe, that the UN was forced to intervene. He also give the sneering response from the Tories, where one snotty MP remarked that the UN rapporteur should mind her own business, just like he didn’t know about poverty in Costa Rica or wherever she came from. The video praises Dennis Skinner’s pointed remarks in parliament, where he called Cameron ‘Dodgy Dave’, and took him to task for having his mortgage paid for by the state while denying state help to others. The video calls this ‘a welcome poke in the eye’ for the Tories.

4. The Panama Papers. This was the scandal that erupted a few years ago when documents came to light showing how the Conservatives had moved their business dealings into offshore accounts in the Caribbean in order to avoid paying tax in the UK. As usual, this was mixed with contempt and sneering towards ordinary people. The clip shows the Tory MP, Alan Duncan, standing up on his hind legs in the House to attack their critics. They are, he claimed, moved solely by hatred of anybody who’s wealthy, and if people like them had their way, the House of Commons would be stuffed full of incompetents and mediocrities, who had never run a business.

5. Tory behaviour during the referendums. Here the video includes clips of the Tories, including David Cameron, once again scaremongering, with ‘Project Fear’ directed at the Scottish Nationalists in the referendum over Scottish independence, and then more of the same in the referendum over whether to leave the EU, with the Tories trying to scare people into voting Remain.

While I am a Unionist, who voted to Remain in Europe, I wholeheartedly agree with the rest of Scot TV’s reasons for kicking out the Tories and keeping them out. They did break the rules on electoral spending. They are deliberately running down the NHS so that they can privatise it by the back door. They are killing the disabled and the poor through benefit cuts. They do add insult to injury by sneering at those concerned with the poverty and suffering they inflict, at ordinary working people. And Ian Duncan Smith was vain. He was also cruel and cowardly, surrounding himself with armed guards when required to give his testimony to the parliamentary committee investigating his conduct. That was when he finally deigned to appear before them. And as Mike showed on his blog, Smith did his level best to stop the mortality figures ever getting out.

They are corrupt, with one set of standards for themselves and another for the poor. They see themselves as a favoured elite, who should be allowed to dodge as much tax as they can, while shifting the tax burden onto those who can least afford it. Half of all millionaires have actually done nothing to deserve their money, as it’s inherited. But they still see a system, that so massively rewards them while penalising the poor simply for being poor as just, and themselves as uniquely deserving their position and power. Hence Alan Duncan’s sneer about their critics being just jealous of the rich, and wanting to have parliament stuffed with mediocrities. It was the sneer of the Tory right in the 19th and 20th centuries, when they wanted to stop the working class getting the vote at all costs.

And even though I wish Scotland to stay in the Union, Scot TV is correct about the Tories running a dirty campaign of fearmongering during the independence referendum. They also ran a Project Fear campaign to get us out of Europe. The impetus for Brexit comes from the Tory right and UKIP, whose leadership are right-wing Tories. They want us to leave because they hate, loathe and detest the minimal rights granted to workers under the Social Charter.

The Tories are vile. They should be voted out and kept out. I urge people to vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party to preserve what remains of the British welfare state, and renationalise the NHS.

Tory MP Wants to Unseat John Bercow for Attacking Trump

February 10, 2017

Kudos and respect this week to the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow. The honourable gentleman spoke this week about banning Trump from addressing parliament if he ever came to this country on a state visit. He stated, quite correctly, that addressing parliament is not a right – it is a reward that has to be earned. He also stated that he would have wanted to have Trump prevented from addressing the lower house even without his ban on Muslims travelling to the US. Millions of ordinary Brits share Bercow’s opinions.

Trump has shown himself repeatedly to be a vulgar egomaniac with a despicable attitude to sexual assault and ethnic minority communities, such as Latinos, Blacks and Muslims. While he may have tried to distance himself from them somewhat, his most vocal supporters and some of his closest advisors are anti-Semites, White Supremacists and just plain neo-Nazis. Richard Spencer and his followers screaming ‘Hail Victory! Hail Trump! Hail our race!’ while raising their right hands in the Fascist salute was a clear demonstration of their real vile political views, despite Spencer’s later attempts to claim that he was ‘being ironic’.

For many millions of people, Trump and his supporters represent a horrible return of some of the Fascism and racist persecution of the 1920s and ’30s. To Brits, Trump and his supporters recall the 1930s when Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists goose-stepped up and down Britain and marched into the East End of London in an attempt to bully and beat Jews, Communists, trade unionists and members of the Labour party.

There is such a thing as the ‘dignity of parliament’, regardless of the less than sterling character or views of individual MPs. Bercow was right to want to have Trump stopped from addressing it.

Unfortunately, many Tories do not share Mr Bercow’s views. Earlier this week Mike posted a piece reporting that, despite earning the praise and support of long term Labour MP, Dennis Skinner, members of Bercow’s own party, the Tories, sat in stony silence.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/07/the-house-of-commons-should-be-proud-of-its-speaker-some-conservatives-seem-to-disagree/

Now one of the Tory MPs, James Duddridge, has tabled a vote of ‘No Confidence’ in the Speaker. Yesterday he wrote to Theresa May asking her not to impose the whip on her top team if the commons did hold a vote of ‘no confidence’. Now he claims that an increasing number of MPs share his anger, and that Bercow could be deposed before parliament resumes the Monday after next.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/10/tory-mp-tables-vote-of-no-confidence-in-john-bercow-after-donald-trump-attack/

This is disgusting, but it doesn’t surprise in the least. The Tories have for a very long time hated Bercow with a passion. They didn’t want him becoming Speaker, as they moaned that he was biased against them. Which probably means that he was trying to be fair and do his job impartially. It also wouldn’t help that he is literally sleeping with the enemy. His wife, Sally, is a Labour MP.

Bercow in his speech denouncing Trump stated that Trump should be prevented from speaking, if the House was serious about combatting racism, sexism and supporting equality. This proposal by Duddridge shows precisely what he, and many other Tories, really think about these issues. Despite Cameron’s attempt to rebrand the party as non-racist, embracing ethnic minorities, gays and promoting women, there is still a large number of Conservatives who clearly don’t share these views. The Daily Mail has consistently attacked immigration, gay rights and feminism, despite the fact that it was originally founded to appeal to a largely female readership. The same kind of attitudes permeate the Express, the Scum and the other Tory rags to a greater or lesser degree. And there have repeatedly been instances where Tory MPs have been caught making extremely derogatory remarks about Blacks, Asians or women.

Parliament is under pressure to reform itself so that it does become more representative of Britain’s diverse society, with more Black and Asian MPs and more women. It is therefore contradictory, at the very least, to give the privilege of addressing it to someone like Trump, with his racist and misogynist views.

Bercow’s principled statement of his intention of blocking Trump from speaking has shown the real nature of the Conservative party as it has brought out their support for Trump, and by implication the grotesque policies and attitudes he represents.

Bercow is to be applauded. Duddridge and his supporters are a disgrace to the dignity of House in which they sit, and their views are an insult to anyone worried about the growth of Fascism and the extreme right.

Dennis Skinner Calls Trump a Fascist

February 3, 2017

Here’s a bit of real, Old Labour Socialism coming through. In this clip, the veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner, the ‘Beast of Bolsover’, invites the Foreign Secretary to go back with him to the time when he was hiding under the stairs as Britain was being bombed by two Fascist dictators, Mussolini and Hitler. Now May is walking hand in hand with another Fascist, Donald Trump. He calls on the Foreign Secretary to condemn Trump’s visit and states that the Orange Dictator isn’t fit to walk in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela.

There’s another clip of this speech, which shows BoJo rising up to respond to Skinner, saying that he is mistaken about Mussolini bombing Britain, but he hears his criticism. He then tries to answer it by saying that the government rejects the recommendation to cancel Trump’s visit, and instead will work to get the best deal for British citizens.

I left that out because, quite honestly, it’s more infuriating Tory lies. May and the Conservatives made the same claim about working to get the best deal for Britain with Brexit. And what they’ve actually managed to get is quite the opposite: a very bad deal for Britain, which has left millions of people worried about their jobs and how they’ll manage with the expected rise in prices now we’re outside the EU tariff wall.

And Mike this week put up a piece, which made it very plain that what limited criticism the Tories have made about Trump was motivated by their desire to defend a Muslim Tory MP from being stopped if he goes to America.

In fact, it seems to me that vast parts of the Tory party and press are solidly behind the ban. The Daily Mail, the Express and the Torygraph have for years attacked non-White immigration. I remember a number of articles from these papers in the 1980s where they talked about the growth of ‘unassimilable’ immigrants. As for the Scum, way back in the 1990s when the Sun was very loudly trying to tell the world that it was somehow non- or even anti-racist, Private Eye reminded its readers that the paper had been convicted something like 19 or 21 times by the Press Complaints Commission of racism. In one of the most repellent of the cases, the Scum ran a cartoon showing pigs marching in protest with banners. The caption read, ‘Even now the pigs are complaining about being compared to Arabs’. Or if not those precise words, then something very similar.

The party that was appealing for illegal immigrants to hand themselves in so they could be deported, amongst other anti-immigrant policies is not going to condemn Trump for his hardline stance against Muslim immigration. However much David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith may have tried to present the Tory party as now entirely anti-racist and comfortable with multiculturalism.

Private Eye on Corbyn and Trotskyite Anti-Parliamentarianism

August 20, 2016

Private Eye was running the old Blairite line yesterday that under Corbyn, Labour was being infiltrated by Trotksyites from the Socialist Worker’s Party. In the ‘Focus on Fact’ strip, which seems to be just the Blairites trying to have their revenge against the old Labour left for slights and incidents in the 1980s, they quoted the Socialist Workers’ a saying that all Momentum events were open to them. As proof of this, they further cited the SWP as saying that they’d managed to sell 127 copies of their paper at Momentum rally Newcastle, and about 20 or 30 odd in one of the southern towns.

Now I might be missing something, but this seems less than conclusive proof that they’ve infiltrated the Labour party. The fact that they are not thrown out of Momentum might show that there is some sympathy for them in Momentum, but it does not show that they have infiltrated it. Look at what was not said: the Socialist Workers did not say that they had infiltrated Momentum, only that they weren’t kicked out of Momentum’s rallies.

As for selling newspapers, at one time all Labour party or trade union events attracted people from the extreme left-wing parties. Way back in the 1980s a friend of mine went to a demonstration in Cheltenham against the banning of trade unions at GCHQ. He came back with a stack of papers being sold by people from the Communist party, including a copy of Worker’s Dreadnought, which was the paper of the ILP, still just about hanging on at that stage. And the Anarchist Ian Bone on his website talked about heckling Ed Miliband when Not So Red Ed came to speak out at an anti-austerity rally.

All this piece really showed is that there were some in Momentum, who weren’t completely hostile to the SWPs attending. But that’s quite different from infiltrating Momentum. If the story is true, of course. And given the fact that the Blairites have lied and lied again as if it’s going out of fashion, there’s no reason to believe that it is.

Elsewhere, the Eye also saw fit to mention that the SWP was against parliamentary democracy. This was to frighten us all again with the spectre of Trotskyites worming their way into Momentum to seize control of the Labour party, win power, and turn this country into Marxist dictatorship. It’s the kind of stupid, paranoid conspiracy theory that the Scum ran in the 1987 General Election, Frederick Forsythe turned into a thriller, and Maggie read and approved. It’s classic Thatcherite scaremongering. But it perversely had the effect of making me actually think higher of the SWP for a moment.

I don’t have much sympathy for the Socialist Workers’ Party. Their leader, Dave Renton, has written some excellent articles for Lobster, but the part itself is a threat and a nuisance because it does try to infiltrate and take over other left-wing protest groups and organisations. I’ve mentioned before how they broke up Rock Against Racism by infiltrating it and turning it into front organisation. There was also trouble on campus in Cheltenham in the 1990s when some of the students organised a demonstration against student fees. Unfortunately, someone also naively invited the Socialist Workers, who turned up with their megaphones haranguing the students, before being chased off by College and NUS staff.

Despite their stupid and destructive tactics, they’re right about parliamentary democracy. The corporate domination of parliament has shown it to be increasingly corrupt. 78 per cent of MPs are millionaires, holding between them 2,800 directorships in 2,400 companies, with a combined workforce of 1.2 million people and £220 billion. The laws passed by parliament reflect this corporate dominance – pro-free trade, anti-welfare, with a concern for ‘flexible labour markets’ through zero-hours and short term contracts. This bears out the Marxist idea that the state is an institution of class oppression.

As for the horrors of soviet-style government, Trotsky and Lenin were champions of the workers, soldiers’ and peasants soviets set up spontaneously by Russia’s working people during the first phase of the 1917 Revolution. Before the Bolshevik coup, these were genuinely democratic institutions. Apart from the Bolsheviks, there were other Socialist parties elected to them, including the Mensheviks, Socialist Revolutionaries and Trudoviks, parties later dissolved and purged by the Bolsheviks. Now I think we need a genuinely democratic system of workers’ assemblies and a workers’ chamber in parliament in this country, because of the overwhelming upper class bias of existing parliamentary institutions. And it isn’t just the Trotskyites in the SWP, who want a system of worker’s soviets. I think Dennis Skinner says something positive about them in his autobiography. And I have the impression that the Tribune group within the Labour party also support this form of government. On their books website they offer a documentary history of the Council Revolution in Germany. This is interesting, because one of the major supporters of the council system, the Bavarian premier Kurt Eisner, did so not because he wanted to destroy democracy, but augment and buttress it using the workers’ and peasants’ soviets.

The Bolsheviks effectively neutered the workers’ council in Russia by taking them over and turning them into the instruments for exclusive Bolshevik government. But this doesn’t mean that they originally weren’t a good idea. And the Eye’s denunciation of the anti-parliamentary attitude of the Socialist Workers to my mind actually makes them look good when parliament is so corrupt, unrepresentative and increasingly hostile to working class representation and policies.

The Blairites and Middle Class Entitlement

August 14, 2016

Mike today put up a couple of pieces on the latest plans by the Blairites to hold on to power against Jeremy Corbyn and the majority of Labour members. One was to try and resurrect David Miliband as a challenger to Corbyn’s leadership. This is a sick joke, considering how unpopular Miliband was before under the old rules. He’d fare even worse now. And it shows how utterly cynical and manipulative they are about trying to insert him in Jo Cox’s vacant seat as the PLP’s preferred candidate, over the wishes of her constituency.

The other plan is a new, internal Labour party group, called Tomorrow’s Labour, which intends to set up an astroturf – fake grassroots movement – against Corbyn using spambots. This is pretty much against the rules of the internet as it is, and make a mockery of their claim to be fully transparent, and compliant with all existing rules.

I wonder how far the Blairites’ determination to hang on to power, no matter what the cost, is due to their sociological origins. I was talking to a friend of mine the other week, who remarked on the very middle class backgrounds of the Blairite politicians. Old Labour was largely, though not exclusively, working class. Many of its politicians had come into politics as members of their trades unions. These were people like Ernest Bevan, Nye Bevan, and the veteran Labour left-winger, Dennis Skinner. Obviously, there were even then members of the middle class involved in Socialist politics, like Clement Atlee, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, and the Fabians. This began to change in the 1960s, as the Labour party deliberately set out to attract a more middle class membership, as advocated by Tony Crosland. In order to attract them, it played down and minimised its advocacy of nationalisation. The Labour leader at the time, Hugh Gaitskell, wanted to drop Clause 4, the section of the Labour party’s constitution which advocated nationalisation. He failed. Despite this move to the Right, the Labour party still remained committed to the national ownership of the utilities and certain other important industries, such as mining and steel. Crosland himself was responsible for the introduction of comprehensive schools. Although this has been very loudly decried, the old system of schooling did reinforce class divisions and prevent children from working class backgrounds rising upwards. The party was also committed to a planned economy, something that also went very much against the principles of free marketeers like Milton Friedman and von Hayek.

All this went out the window with the 1979 election victory of Thatcher and the continued electoral success of the Conservatives. This convinced the Labour Right to adopt all of her policies – privatisation, the destruction of the NHS as a public service, the dismantlement of the welfare state and increasing criminalisation of the poor. They also turned away from the working class, and concentrated on trying to win votes from middle class voters in marginal constituencies.

And the party’s demographics also changed. Many of the New Labour MPs were like Harriet Harman. She’s a millionaire. They tend to be very middle class boys and girls, privately educated, with the advantages that accrue to the members of those classes. They sit on the boards of companies, various quangos and are active in the charities. This is all very well, but it makes me wonder how far the Blairites are motivated by purely ideological convictions, and how much of it comes from instinctive class loyalty? These are people, who have never had to work hard to get into their current position of power. They don’t have much contact with the working class, and apparently share the middle classes’ hatred and fear of them. You can see it in their determination to cut down on welfare benefits for the unemployed and for their support for workfare, as well as the unchallenged belief in the sociological myth of mass pockets of unemployment where nobody in a family has worked for generations. And there’s the instinctive hatred of the privately educated businesspeople for the trade unions.

As a rule, the middle classes uncritically accept that they have a privileged place in society, which is theirs by right. A little while ago Secular Talk did a piece, reporting on a study that found that the richer you are, the more likely you are to believe that the existing state of society was just. I don’t doubt that. Now I don’t deny that some of them are genuinely concerned with enlarging democracy through campaigns against racism and for female empowerment. They may also sincerely believe in Thatcher’s twaddle about making conditions worse for people in order to encourage them to try to rise above their station. But they do so through the middle class assumptions they have inherited as part of their background, including their belief that they have an innate right to rule. This might not be articulated or even conscious, but it seems to be there.

Hence the determination to hang on to power whatever the cost, the wild, stupid denunciations of Corbyn’s supporters as hippy Trots wearing donkey jackets. The great unwashed are trying to take their party back after good, Blairite middle class types have tried to make it respectable. How dare they! And so we come to their attempts to clean out Corbyn’s supporters through denying them a voice, in order to retain their middle class supporters and appeal to a middle class electorate.

Shavanah Taj Speaking at Corbyn Rally in Merthyr Tydvil

August 11, 2016

This is another great video of a pro-Corbyn rally, this time in Merthyr Tydvil. It doesn’t show the great man himself, but instead is of a speech in support of him by Shavanah Taj from the PCS Union. She states that clearly that the Labour party is not the party of the PLP and the Labour rebels, but of the ordinary members, and says that it’s about time that the party changed to reflect this. The talks about how Corbyn has been blamed for not doing enough to stop Brexit. She then says that ‘they have called us racists’, presumably meaning people who backed the Leave campaign. She says very firmly that as a ‘woman of colour’ it’s a load of rubbish. She then goes on to attack the economic devastation of Wales, with cuts to government funding, the loss of jobs, and the savage cuts to welfare spending, which is also damaging the local economy. She makes the point that Owen Smith wants to have the Leave Referendum taken again, which she clearly views as undemocratic. But she makes the point that Smith was nowhere to be seen campaigning for the ‘Remain’ vote. She also attacks the bankers, who have stashed their money away in secret offshore accounts, but when things go wrong go crawling back to the government, demanding bail outs and further cuts for the poor, pleading that ‘we’re all in it together’ as they do. She is rightly bitterly critical of the decision of David Cameron to take a holiday during the campaign.

She also explains why her union, PCS, has come out in support of Jeremy Corbyn. She states that the union is not affiliated to the Labour party, but its general secretary has decided to support him because of all the help and support Corbyn has given them. She gives the example of a dispute the union waged over the treatment of the low paid workers at the National Museum of Wales, which the union won with Corbyn’s support. She says this happened in Carwen Jones’ backyard, but he took little interest in the dispute. She also makes it very clearly that at the current level, the minimum wage is not a living wage. She also makes the point that, when people ask what Corbyn has done, he was instrumental in making the government drop the academisation of all the schools. And he will do much more, if he becomes Prime Minister. She makes the point that after years of abuse, Jeremy Corbyn is at last returning the party to what it was, a Socialist party for Britain’s working class. She makes the point that a year ago, the party’s membership was 250,000. Now it’s 600,000. ‘You can’t tell me that they all joined because of Owen Smith!’ Corbyn is not only the popular choice of the ordinary members of the Labour party, but she is convinced that he will also be prime minister.

I sincerely wish she’s right, as another Tory victory will destroy this country completely. I don’t agree with her apparent backing of the Brexit campaign. It has massively hurt the British economy, and led to a massive rise in racism. That said, there are very many left-wing, anti-racist opponents of the European Union, such as Dennis Skinner, Robin Ramsay, the editor of Lobster, and the crew over at the American left-wing magazine, Counterpunch. They’re against the European Union because of the way neoliberal economics and the power of international capital are an intrinsic part of its political and economic structure, and have been so ever since it was established in the 1950s. The result of this has been the collapse of the Eurozone and the pillaging of the Greek economy for the profit of the big EU banks in Germany, a pillaging that has seen the Greek people themselves forced into massive poverty and social deprivation comparable to the Developing World. In this instance, it is no wonder that so many Brits voted to Leave.

I will, however, make the point that I was not one of them, and that the margin of victory so low – 52% of the vote – and the effect this is having on Britain so enormous – that I do support Smith’s campaign to have the referendum taken again. But that’s the only part of his campaign I do support.

Other than this, it’s a great speech from an inspired Labour party activist and trade unionist, which states very clearly why so many people in Wales support Corbyn against nearly four decades of neoliberalism carried out by the Tories and New Labour.

Smith Snipes at Corbyn from the Last Refuge of the Scoundrel

July 27, 2016

Smudger must be on the rocks, and seriously rattled. Mike today posted up a piece reporting that the Pontypridd Pratt was in the Mirror, claiming that Corbyn did not understand British, that is, Scots, Welsh and English patriotism. Instead, he claimed that he had a ‘liberal’, left-wing, ‘metropolitan’ perspective that is not part of the Labour tradition. By which Smiffy means that ‘nationhood, nationalism and patriotism aren’t really part of his makeup.’

Someone once said that patriotism was the last refuge of the scoundrel. And someone else declared that patriotism was the position of the man, who had nothing else to say. Corbyn is massively more popular than Smudger, and so Smiffy is revealed for what he is – an empty politico sniping at his rival from a last, desperate fallback position, trying to bang the nationalist drum to oust someone, who is both more popular and who has much more substance politically.

Corbyn’s Genuinely Patriotic Policies

Mike also points out that it’s not fair on Corbyn to claim that he’s unpatriotic, and includes a meme to show how patriotic he is. This is through real, substantial policies that will make a positive difference to the welfare of the country and its great peoples. It is not through empty gestures, like grovelling deference to the monarchy, or standing with your shoulders back, and your tie straight to sing the national anthem, as the departing, unlamented former occupant of No 10 told him.

Corbyn wants UK utilities to be owned by the British people through the British state. This is patriotic. Profits made in the UK, should be taxed for the benefit of the British people. Patriotic. British men and women should not be sent to fight in illegal wars. Hence his opposition to the bombing of Syria. This is, again, patriotic. It shows a concern for Britain’s children, her sons and daughters, who have to do the duty of fighting and dying. It is also patriotic in the sense that it is concerned with upholding morality and the British tradition of fair play. He believes in protecting British Steel. Patriotic. He does not want British companies to be taken over by US or other foreign firms. Patriotic. He wants to stop the privatisation of the NHS, so that it is run for the benefit of British patients, not US corporations. Very patriotic. And lastly, he feels that British trade should benefit us Brits, so he will veto the TTIP. Again, patriotic.

See Mike’s article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/27/on-jeremy-corbyns-patriotism-owen-smith-has-given-himself-another-shot-in-the-foot/

Tories and the Right Unpatriotic in Selling Off Britain

Jeremy Corbyn is thus, in terms of policy, far more patriotic than the Right. Thanks to Thatcherite neoliberalism and the craze for foreign investment, our utilities are in the hands of foreign countries, as is much of our industry, including the City of London, so dear to the heart of Thatcher, Cameron and the rest of the Tories, including Tony Blair and New Labour. Cameron wanted British nuclear power stations built by the Chinese, as well as new roads. The privatisation of the health service carried out by Blair and Cameron has been at the behest and benefit of American firms such as Unum and Kaiser Medical. Atos, who administered the work capability assessment, was French. Maximus, who have replaced them, are American. And the mega rich, who make their profits over here, are squirreling them all away offshore in places like the Cayman Islands or Luxemburg.

By this standard, the neoliberal administrations Smiffy admires – Thatcher, Major, Blair and Cameron, are definitely unpatriotic. In fact, downright treasonous. But they got away with it because, following Thatcher, the Tory party became the Patriotic Party. You couldn’t get away from her and her chorus of sycophants yakking about patriotism. She was bolstered in this through her use of the symbolism surrounding Winston Churchill, the Second World War, and indeed through her unrestrained militarism. She had to be patriotic, ’cause we won the Falklands War. Well, just about, thanks to the Americans and Chileans. See, there’s another invocation of Winston Churchill, the great war leader and iconographic figure of British patriotism and pluck under foreign aggression. And then there was all the images of Spitfires racing across the skies in the 1987 general election. This was so blatant that Alan Coren dubbed it ‘the Royal Conservative Airforce’ on the News Quiz on Radio 4.

And even there, Thatcher’s patriotism was much less than it seemed. She sold off Westland Helicopters here in the West Country to the Americans. She made massive cuts to the armed forces. The Falklands War was partly caused by the ship defending the islands being recalled by her defence minister, John Nott. The Argentinians seized their chance, and invaded. Then there were the celebrations in the Tory right over 1992, and the closer integration with Europe that came about in that year. That was being celebrated and anticipated even under Thatcher. I can remember that in the late 1980s, a wine bar opened on the Promenade in Cheltenham with that very date as its name: 1992. Denis Skinner in his autobiography makes the point that Thatcher was far less Eurosceptic than she appeared to be. Skinner also supports us leaving the European Union, but for left-wing reasons, rather than those of the ‘turbo-charged’ Tories, Nigel Farage and the rest of UKIP. He points out that while she constantly wrangled with them over our contribution to the EU budget, she never actually threatened to leave. And it was Ted Heath, who took us in. And then in the 1990s there was all the fuss about ‘globalisation’, which meant that capital became international, and the nation state was to be gradually dissolved as more companies established themselves around the world.

So by the standards of economic policies and the practical effects of their ideologies, the Tories weren’t patriots. They advocated selling Britain and its people off to whoever would give them money. They convinced millions of impressionable voters that they were doing the opposite through manipulating the pageantry of the monarchy and the iconography of the Second World War.

Why Socialists Distrust Patriotism

But let’s examine the wider problems of Smiffy’s criticism of Corbyn’s alleged indifference to ‘patriotism’.

Firstly, a supposed ‘liberal’, ‘left-wing’ indifference to patriotism and nationalism is very much a part of the Labour tradition. Or at least, parts of it. In line with the rest of the European Socialist parties, many members of the Labour party opposed the wars between European powers in the 19th century, because it was felt – and not just by Marxists – that the working class of all nations had more in common with each other than with their rulers in the middle and upper classes. Socialists from all over Europe objected to the prospect of a war in Europe, because they felt that it would be carried out for the profit of the industrialists and the feudal aristocracy. This was shattered when the First World War broke out, and most of the Socialist parties showed themselves only too eager to vote war credits in support of the conflagration. But individual Socialists, including members of the Labour party, did protest against it, along with their counterparts in France and the German SPD.

Looking along the magazine racks in the newsagents in Bristol’s Temple Meads Station last Friday, I found among the current affairs magazines the New Internationalist. I can remember copies of that lying around my sixth form common room when I was at school. From what I remember, it’s another left-liberal magazine devoted to international social justice, particularly in the Developing Nations. Back in the 1980s, it was firmly behind the Greenham Women. I also seem to recall one of Paul Weller’s songs having the refrain, ‘Internationalists’, although I can’t remember which one.

British patriotism has also been intimately connected to imperialism. From the 19th century one of the holidays celebrated was ‘Empire Day’. David Dimbleby in one edition of his art history series, The Seven Ages of Britain, dug out a Victorian children’s book called, The ABC for Baby Patriots. Under ‘E’, the book had ‘Empire’, for wherever the British citizen went, they would be safe and free. Except for the indigenes, who were expected to work for us. While that book expressed the attitude of the imperialists, the Labour Party in the 1920s passed resolutions committing itself to giving the colonies their independence. I even found it discussed in the autobiography of another Labour politician from that period, called Benn, though I don’t know if there was a connection to Tony. This particular Benn made it very clear he stood for granting the peoples of the British Empire the right to run their own countries. And George Orwell came to Socialism through his hatred of imperialism.

Smiffy also claims that working class patriotism is often socially conservative. He’s right, which is why so many left-wingers have been intensely suspicious of it. The national symbols it embraces are those of the ruling classes, such as the monarchy, the stately homes of the rich and powerful, and so forth. In the 1960s there was considerable controversy over a history programme called The World We Have Lost. Or rather, over its title. Some historians objected to it because it expressed a nostalgic support for the good old days of aristocratic rule, when proles and tradesmen knew their place. This kind of patriotism is bound up with Michael Gove’s view of history – that it should all be very Conservative, patriotic, and reinforce Tory values.

And what really worries left-wingers is the racism that can lurk underneath this kind of patriotism. Alf Garnett was a parody of working class Conservatives, people with dirty, broken windows, living in poverty, for whom the Tories had done absolutely nothing, but nevertheless doggedly supported them. As well as generally reactionary and ignorant, Garnett was virulently racist. Johnny Speight, the writer, intended the character to show up and lampoon that aspect of Conservativism. But he was dismayed by the failure of many viewers to see the joke, and there were all too many ready to agree with him about non-White immigration.

London is a multicultural world city, far more so than much of the rest of the country, although many cities nevertheless may have sizable populations of ethnic minorities. I feel uneasy when Smudger attacks Corbyn for being ‘too metropolitan’, because it suggests that he thinks Labour should reflect the growing racism and xenophobia of the Brexit campaign. One of the criticisms the political scientist Guy Standing makes of New Labour in his book, A Precariat Charter, is that they did try to harness the growing resentment of immigrants by pushing policies that increasingly denied them their rights, such as to welfare benefits and employment legislation. Smudger’s a New Labour neoliberal, and it seems to me that with his attack on Corbyn for his ‘metropolitan’ attitudes to patriotism, there’s a concealed racism and determinism to inflict more precarity on refugees and asylum seekers, the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.

Patriotism and Working Class Culture

But patriotism can also include left-wing elements, which would no doubt also horrify Smiff. If you think of Wales, for example, there’s not only Owen Glendower, and medieval Welsh kings like Hywel Dda, there’s also the images of working class radicalism – the Welsh miners, and their leaders like Nye Bevan. Scotland has Red Clydeside, Devon in England the Tolpuddle Martyrs, without forgetting the Yorkshire Miners. These are also part of British nationalism and national identity, along with heroes like Tom Paine, Thomas Spence, Keir Hardie, Feargus O’Connor and the Chartists, and other heroes and heroines of working and lower middle class history. The British folk revival of the 1950s was inspired by Black American blues music, much of which had been collected by researchers as part of F.D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. British musicians and musicologists began exploring their own traditional music, to find the traditional British counterparts to this American working class music. And it exists. Paine’s The Rights of Man was celebrated in song in the 18th century, and it can be found in sheet music even now. Thomas Spence and the Chartists also composed songs to put their message across. Chumbawumba did a version of at least one of these songs a little while ago. It’s on the Net, if you care to look. This is all part of our national identity and culture, but one which I suspect Smiffy isn’t easy with, and which Thatcher and the Tories positively wanted to suppress or dismiss. But these heroes and heroines did inspire Clement Atlee’s Labour party, when they one the 1945 election, and introduced the welfare state.

Conclusion

Smith’s comments about Jeremy Corbyn and patriotism are therefore both wrong, and potentially dangerous. Corbyn is patriotic in the matter that counts – doing your political duty to improve the lives of one’s fellow citizens. Thatcher and the neoliberals betrayed the British people, plunging them into poverty and selling off Britain, all while maintaining the illusion of British imperial power, and maintaining and expanding their class privileges. And Britain also has a rich, working class traditional culture, that also forms part of our national identity, in opposition to the approved culture promoted by Gove. And when Labour members and supporters were critical and uncomfortable with nationalism and patriotism, it’s because it all too often leads to imperialism and racism. A racism that it seems Smudger would like to harness once again, as part of New Labour policy.

A few years ago, Lobster published a unique and fascinating article by a southern Irish Roman Catholic Ulster Unionist. This particular contributor wanted working class radicals from both the Roman Catholic and Protestant communities to unite to do something positive for the working people of Northern Ireland as a whole, regardless of their faith or national loyalties. The piece also criticised Tony Blair for embracing the politics of culture. The author explained that this was dangerous, because in Ireland it usually meant there was a man with a gun behind it. It was a danger then, and I don’t think the danger has disappeared in the decade or so since that piece was written. And it shows how dangerous nationalism and patriotism can be at their most extreme.

Vox Political on the Workers’ Rights at Risk if Britain Leaves Europe

June 22, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political put up an interesting piece today, reporting the findings of an employment silk, Michael Ford, QC, to the TUC on the employees’ rights that could be lost if Britain leaves the European Union. These include regulations on working time, the rights that can be transferred from one employer to another if an organisation is taken over or outsourced; protection for agency workers; the current levels of compensation paid to the victims of discrimination; and the rights of the workers’ representatives to be consulted in the case of major changes to a company, such as in the recent negotiations over the fate of British steel.

And these are not the only rights that are at risk. Other rights are also, and that those that remain may only be enforced by British courts if Britain decides to leave.

Mike also points out that depending on the British courts to help you in a legal battle over your rights with an employer won’t be much help, as Michael Gove has cut legal aid.

#EUref: Forty years of progress on rights at risk for workers if Britain Brexits

Let’s be clear about this: while many people are worried about immigration, it’s employment rights that are really at the heart of this move. The Conservatives have always hated Brussels primarily because of the social charter and the protection it gives European workers, not just because, or even necessarily primarily because they consider it a threat to British sovereignty, as expressed in books like ‘The Abolition of Britain’ and similar scaremongering nonsense. Dennis Skinner in his autobiography makes the point that there isn’t any real freedom of movement within the EU. This is shown by the imprisonment of the refugees and other unfortunates in the migrant camp at Calais. Those foreign workers, who come to Britain are brought in by the big companies through gang masters. This is an important point. Skinner makes no secret in his book that he would like Britain to leave the EU, but not because of UKIP, whom he aptly describes as ‘turbo-charged Tories’. Skinner makes a good point. However, at the moment the only people behind the campaign to take Britain out of the EU are extreme right-wing Tories like Boris, Gove and Priti Patel. All of them wish to strip British workers of the rights to have them labouring like their counterparts in the sweatshops of the Developing World. All for the profits of big business. Patel and her fellow Tories made that very clear in the book Britannia Unchained.

Don’t be taken in. Immigration is actually an irrelevant diversion to the real issues driving the Tory Brexit campaign. It’s what Farage and the rest of this gang want people to think it’s all about, while the real reason they’re promoting Brexit is to deprive us all, whether we’re Black, White, Asian, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Atheist, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish or whatever, of our employment rights under European law.