Posts Tagged ‘Falklands War’

Disgraceful! Starmer Caves in to Board’s Racist Demands over Black Women MPs

May 4, 2020

Mike put up a piece on Saturday reporting that Labour leader Keir Starmer had caved in to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and reprimanded two leading and highly respected Black women MPs, Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy.

These two ladies offended the Board because they appeared in a conference on Zoom, whose audience included Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein, who asked questions. The Board objected, as Jackie and Tony were two of the many people smeared as anti-Semites and expelled from the party. One of the noxious Ten Pledges that the Board persuaded Starmer and the other leadership contenders to sign was that no Labour member would share a platform with someone expelled for anti-Semitism. Hence Marie van der Zyl, the Board’s current president, sent in a complaint about the incident to Starmer calling for him to deal with them.

However, the Board’s complaint is wrong for a series of reasons. Firstly, Jackie and Tony weren’t actually expelled from the party for anti-Semitism. And as Mike says, saying that they’re anti-Semites simply because the Labour party said so has less weight than gossip.

Secondly, the two women weren’t sharing a platform with the two accused. They were merely in the audience. The fact that the van der Zyl and the Board chose to attack the two women anyway not only shows their determination to attack them, but also their failure to understand how Zoom works. Perhaps they’re like the American congressman, who was so ignorant about the internet when it first emerged in the ’90s that he asked if you needed a driver’s licence to go on the information superhighway as it then was.

Thirdly, while Starmer and the others are free to sign anything they wish, decisions affecting the party as a whole have to be ratified by conference. And the Ten Pledges weren’t. Starmer’s disciplining of the two women is therefore constitutional.

The Board’s complaint also looks more than a little racist itself. Zionism has a long history of collaborating with real anti-Semites and Fascists so long as its purposes are served. And these are frequently against the safety and wellbeing of the Jewish people as a whole. The Zionists in Nazi Germany supported the Nuremberg Laws, which defined Jews as racially distinct and incompatible with gentile Germans and signed the infamous Ha’avara Agreement in which the Nazis sent Jewish emigrants to Israel. During the War, the head of the Zionists in Hungary, Rudolf Kasztner, also made a pact with the Nazis to send tens of thousands of Jews to Auschwitz just so that a few could be sent to Israel. Israel has also supplied weapons and expertise to a string of Latin American dictatorships, including Guatemala when that nation’s government was exterminating the Mayans. When a neo-Nazi government took power in Argentina in the mid-70s and began persecuting Jews there, the Israeli government did not scruple to supply them with arms. Arms that were used against us during the Falklands War.

The Board defines itself as a Zionist organisation. It’s also politically right-wing, although perhaps not all its members are members and supporters of the Tories. And the Tories have hated Diane Abbott ever since she entered parliament in the 1980s. She was a left-wing firebrand, one of the first Black women MPs, who was determined to attack anti-Black racism. Over half of all the abusive messages sent to MPs go to her. She was one of those racially bullied by the Blairite plotters, according to the leaked anti-Semitism report. Not only did the scumbags reduce her to tears, but they told journalists where she was crying. This is in stark contrast to the treatment of Black anti-racist activist Marc Wadsworth, who was accused of anti-Semitism and reducing a Jewish woman to tears after he caught her passing information on to a Telegraph journo at a meeting at which he was speaking. Yet instead of suspending the plotters, Starmer instead has disciplined Abbott and Ribeiro-Addy.

The Board’s record when it comes to defending Britain’s Jews against Fascism is blotchy. In the 1930s when Mosley’s British Union of Fascists was marching through the East End of London in order to intimidate the Jewish inhabitants, instead of standing up to them the Board advised Jews to stay indoors out of the way. Fortunately many courageous people ignored it, and joined Irish people, trade unionists and Communists in blocking Mosley’s march and giving his storm troops a well-deserved hiding.

The Board also showed the same twisted mentality forty years later in the 1970s when the National Front was on the rise and trying the same tactics. Instead of attacking them, the Board turned its fire on their opponents, the Anti-Nazi League. Jews were forbidden to join the organisation or allow it to hold meetings in synagogues. This was ostensibly because its founder was an anti-Zionist, and they were afraid of Jews hearing anti-Zionist propaganda. But others suspect that it was because the Board itself had White supremacist views.

Tony Greenstein has written a piece on his blog taking the Board and Starmer to task for their treatment of Abbott and Ribeiro-Addy. He discusses the shameful behaviour of the Board towards British Fascism, and quotes Maurice Ludmer, the Jewish founder of the anti-Nazi magazine, Searchlight.  Ludmer wrote in issue 41 of the magazine

“In the face of mounting attacks against the Jewish community both ideologically and physically, we have the amazing sight of the Jewish Board of Deputies launching an attack on the Anti Nazi League with all the fervour of Kamikaze pilots… It was as though they were watching a time capsule rerun of the 1930’s, in the form of a flickering old movie, with a grim determination to repeat every mistake of that era. “

The-then secretary of the Anti-Nazi League, Paul Holborrow, also wrote that they were under attack from the Board. Tony is annoyed that genuine anti-racists like himself are smeared as anti-Semites for opposing and criticising Israel, while genuine racists, like Katie Hopkins, were given an invitation by the Zionist Federation to attend their gala dinner and meet the Israeli ambassador, Mark Regev. As for the Board, its previous head, Jonathan Arkush, welcomed the election of Donald Trump. Trump’s a racist, and his cabinet included real anti-Semites. However, he got a pass because he supports Israel.

Abbott and Ribeiro-Addy issued an apology for their actions. They had no call to do so, being blameless and actually the real injured parties in this sordid case. Greenstein in his piece advises them to stand firm and act like two of the heroes of the civil rights struggle in America, Paul Robeson and Angela Davies.

Robeson was a member of the Communist Party, and was thus hauled before the House Inquiry on Un-American Activities. When McCarthy asked him if he was a Communist, Robeson refused to answer, challenging the senator instead to stand behind him the next time he voted and fish his voting paper out of the ballot box to see. Greenstein also doesn’t mention it, but it is a significant fact here that Robeson was also an opponent of anti-Semitism. He gave a concert in Moscow after the War at the end of which he sang a Yiddish song by the Jewish resistance fighters against Nazism. This was not just to celebrate the millions of Jews killed by the Nazis, but also the millions of Soviet citizens murdered by Stalin.

Angela Davies is a Black American civil rights activist, who last year, 2019, was given the Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award by the Civil Rights Institute of Birmingham, Alabama. However, the Alabama equivalent of the Board got mightily offended and complained, because Davies is a critic of Israel and its persecution of the Palestinians, which she compares to the police’s maltreatment of Black Americans. The Alabama Board complained, and then issued an embarrassed retraction and apology for their own racism when Davies stood her ground and called them out instead.

And the British Board deserves to be called out on its racism. It includes as deputies individuals like Robert Festenstein, an islamophobe who appeared in a Rebel Media video with Tommy Robinson, the founder of the English Defence League and Pegida UK. Arkush and van der Zyl have also appeared at meetings in which members of the audience sported Jewish Defence League T-shirts. The JDL is a Judaeo-Nazi organisation, whose predecessor, Kach, is banned as a terrorist group in Israel. Unlike the majority of modern Jews, who strongly reject any idea that their religion makes them superior to anyone else, Kach was founded by Meir Kahane, an extreme right-wing rabbi. He really did believe that Jews are superior to gentiles, and urged Jews to arm themselves. He also absolutely believed that the Holy Land belonged solely to the Jews, and demanded the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous people.

There’s a connection here to the militia movement that emerged in America during the ’90s. These were the successors to the Survivalists of the 1980s. They were arming themselves against the American government, which they believed had been corrupted by liberalism and was about to establish a murderous totalitarian dictatorship. According to their critics, such as the Southern Poverty Law Centre, the militias were White Supremacists with close connections to American Nazism and the Klan. However, according to Adam Palfrey’s Cult Rapture, an examination of American fringe culture in the aftermath of the Oklahoma bombing, there was also Jewish militia. This group also based their ideology on that of Kahane’s. Palfrey sees them, as well as the fact that the leader of one of the other militias was Black, that the movement as a whole wasn’t White Supremacist. I think he’s wrong, and it’s just that some parts of the movement were less strict in their racism than others, and were prepared to include Jews as fellow White Supremacists.

Now Arkush and Zyl did not meet the American Kahanists. But by speaking at meetings attended by their British cousins they have shown a culpable willingness to tolerate real Islamophobes with paramilitary sympathies. They deserve to be called out on this, as should the Zionist Federation for its endorsement of Hatey Katie.

Starmer should not be kowtowing to the Board and punishing real anti-racists like Abbott and Ribeiro-Addy. He should be backing them instead and holding the Board to account for their racism. As Angela Davies’ case shows, it can be done.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/05/02/keir-starmer-has-turned-labour-into-the-party-of-hypocrisy-and-racism/

https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/05/the-new-mccarthyism-zionist-board-of.html

 

Tony Greenstein on Anti-Semitic and Fascist Support for Zionism

May 1, 2020

In my last piece, I discussed Tony Greenstein’s examination of the leaked report into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Greenstein shows that report still uncritically accepts the existence of mass Jew hatred in the party, and the necessity of conducting a purge of members accused of it. But he shows that these allegations and the witch-hunt were entirely motivated by a corrupt political establishment, including and especially that of Britain’s Jewish community, which simply wanted to oust Corbyn and protect Israel and its decades-long ethnic cleansing of the country’s indigenous people. His article is an effective expose of the witch-hunt, its smears against decent, anti-racist people, like Tony himself, and the absolute stupidity of Corbyn and his team in complying with the smear merchants’ demands. As part of his case, Tony shows how real anti-Semites, far from fighting Zionism as Zionist propaganda claims, actively supported and promoted it. Tony writes

‘Zionism has never fought anti-Semitism just anti-Zionism 

One thing missing from any discussion of the ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign is that Zionism has no interest in opposing anti-Semitism.

 ‘Maybe there was some kind of fiddling of the figures by the oligarchs who ran the TV stations (and who were mainly, as some lost no time in pointing out, of Jewish origin)

The above quote is from Boris Johnson’s book 72 Virgins published in 2004. As The Independent notes it depicted Jews as controlling the media, amidst a torrent of racial slurs and stereotypes. Yet the Board of Deputies and the Zionists said nothing. If their real concerns were about anti-Semitism then they would surely have said something?

Indeed when  Boris Johnson became Prime Minister  they fell over themselves to congratulate him. Johnson’s previous record as a racist, anti-Semitism included, was ignored. He was, after all, a strong supporter of Israel.

Imagine if Corbyn had penned such a book? Corbyn was criticised by the Zionists for not mentioning anti-Semitism when reviewing Imperialism by John Hobson, a standard academic textbook, because he didn’t mention that a few lines out of 334 pages were anti-Semitic. The hypocrisy of the anti-Semitism mongers is breathtaking but the authors of the Report never seemed to notice these double standards.

When Theodor Herzl, the founder of Political Zionism, wanted to hold the First Zionist Congress in 1897 his choice of venue was Munich. The Jewish population promptly rose up in protest and accused the authorities of anti-Semitism. Why? Because the Zionist proposition that Jews formed a separate nation from other Germans meant that they were therefore aliens. This was exactly what the anti-Semites were saying.

Alfred Rosenberg, Minister for Ostland and the Nazi Party’s main theoretician, who was hanged at Nuremburg in 1946, wrote that

 ‘‘Zionism must be vigorously supported in order to encourage a significant number of German Jews to leave for Palestine or other destinations.’[Francis Nicosia, Third Reich and the Palestine Question, p.25]

As author Francis Nicosia noted, Rosenberg

‘intended to use Zionism as a legal justification for depriving German Jews of their civil rights’ and he ‘sanctioned the use of the Zionist movement in the future drive to eliminate Jewish rights, Jewish influence and eventually the Jewish presence in Germany.’ [TRPQ, pp. 25-26]

Francis Nicosia, the Raul Hilberg Professor of Holocaust Studies at Vermont University and himself a Zionist wrote that:

whereas today non-Jewish criticism of Zionism or the State of Israel are often dismissed as motivated by a deeper anti-Semitism, in Herzl’s day an opposite non-Jewish reaction, one of support for the Zionist idea, might have resulted in a similar reaction. [Zionism and Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany p.7]

When Herzl sought the support of the Grand Duke of Baden, the uncle of Kaiser Wilhelm II, for Zionism the Duke’s

‘chief misgiving was that if he supported the [Zionist] cause, people would misinterpret this as anti-Semitism on his part.’ (Diaries of Herzl]

Zionism was unique as a movement amongst Jews because it accepted that anti-Semitism was the natural biological reaction of non-Jews to the Jews in their midst. As Herzl wrote in his Diaries:

“In Paris… I achieved a freer attitude towards anti-Semitism, which I now began to understand historically and to pardon. Above all, I recognized the emptiness and futility of trying to ‘combat’ anti-Semitism.” [The Diaries of Theodor Herzl, London: Gollancz, 1958, p.6]

This was in the middle of the Dreyfus Affair which culminated in the triumph of Emile Zola and the Republicans and a defeat for the clerical and military caste that wanted to restore the monarchy.

It was the Zionist acceptance of anti-Semitism as something that was natural, which could not be fought and only utilised, that was the basis of the collaboration between the Nazis and the Zionists. When German Jews and world Jewry were aghast at the assumption of power by the Nazis in January 1933 and instituted a boycott, the Zionists only saw a golden opportunity. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister saw Hitler’s rise as:

a rare opportunity to achieve the “Zionist solution”, the only true solution to the problem of the Jewish people.’ [Yechiam Weitz, Jewish Refugees and Zionist Policy during the Holocaust, p.355, Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Volume 30, 1994 – Issue 2]

Dr Noah Lucas, a critical Zionist historian wrote that:

 ‘As the European Holocaust erupted, Ben Gurion saw it as a decisive opportunity for Zionism… Ben Gurion above all others sensed the tremendous possibilities inherent in the dynamic of the chaos and carnage in Europe… In conditions of peace,… Zionism could not move the masses of world Jewry. The forces unleashed by Hitler in all their horror must be harnessed to the advantage of Zionism. … (The Modern History of Israel, pp. 187/8)

Ben Gurion’s deputy, Berl Katznelson was even more explicit. The rise of Hitler was

an opportunity to build and flourish like none we have ever had or ever will have [Nicosia, ZANG, p.91]

Nor was this attitude to anti-Semitism confined to the pre-State days. When there arose in Argentina in 1976 a neo-Nazi Junta, the first in the post-war era, it targeted Jews. The most famous victim was Jacobo Timmerman, Editor of La Opinion. He was released and deported to Israel after having been savagely tortured. With the advent of the Lebanon War, Timmerman fell out of love with Israel.

The Argentina Junta murdered up to 3,000 Jews. According to Juan Pablo Jaroslavsky of the Barcelona-based Commission of Solidarity with Relatives of the Disappeared

“Jews represented more than 12 per cent of the victims of the military regime while constituting under 1 per cent of Argentina’s population,” See Jews targeted in Argentina’s dirty war,

What was Israel’s reaction? There wasn’t one. Instead it took the opportunity of the United States’s decision to cut off arms sales to this vile regime to increase its own arms sales. During the Falklands/ Malvinas war Israel became the Junta’s main arms supplier.

retired Argentine pilots and military figures who testified that in 1982 they secretly flew to Israel, where they met with representatives from the military and defense manufacturers and returned with their plane loaded with light arms, mortars, air-to-air missiles and anti-tank weapons.

Not once did Israel condemn the anti-Semitism of the Junta. Zionist organisations in the United States instead defended the Junta, minimising its atrocities. The Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires refused to help or grant visas to Jews that the Junta declared were subversives. The Knesset refused to discuss what was happening in Argentina during the 7 year life of the Junta.

An article in Ha’aretz, Argentine-Israelis Urge Israel to Disclose Past Junta Ties describes how Wanda Clara and Marcus Weinstein appealed to Israel concerning the arrest and disappearance of their son Mauricio. Weinstein said he felt the Israeli diplomatic representatives

“cared little interest about the disappeared Jews, including his son and a second Israeli citizen.”

This is the bastard ‘Jewish’ state that Lansman and the Momentum authors of this Report defend with the sterile accusation of ‘anti-Semitism’.’

http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/04/pt-2-labours-leaked-report-sad-sorry.html

This is a lengthy passage, which I’ve reproduced in full because it is such a comprehensive refutation of a central ultra-Zionist claim. Ken Livingstone was smeared as an anti-Semite and suspended from the party because he correctly stated that Hitler supported Zionism. Which the Fuhrer did, initially, through the Ha’avara agreement. And my brother, Mike, was accused of anti-Semitism in turn because he wrote a piece, The Livingstone Delusion, showing that the Spartacist newt-fancier was correct. Mike is currently suing the party for breach of contract for their treatment of him.

And the Israel lobby and its supporters are still making the grotesque claim that somehow Zionism = Judaism and Zionists are the Jews’ friends. In her response to  the decision of a judge in her ongoing case against Laura Murray that Murray had made a factual statement, which had a tendency to be defamatory – but crucially did not rule that it was – Rachel Riley claimed that he had ruled in her favour. She concluded her tweet by thanking all her supporters, whom she claimed were opponents of anti-Semitism and the friends of Jews.

While Riley has been the target of real anti-Semitic abuse, I believe, many of the people she has accused of anti-Semitism were simply supporters of Jeremy Corbyn. She accused them, and Corbyn himself, of being anti-Semitic, because he was a critic of Israel. And it seems that she also subscribes to the absolutely false belief that Zionism = Judaism, and Zionists are the most ardent defenders of Jews against prejudice and hatred.

But they aren’t. Time and again Zionists have been supported by real, genocidal anti-Semites and Fascists, to the point where they have actively colluded in the murderous persecution and genocide of Jews, so long as Israel’s interests are served.

It has frequently been the case that the Jewish peoples’ real defenders – and their greatest heroes – have been anti-Zionists. And it is these people, that the self-appointed witch-hunters have smeared and libeled, and twisted history through lies and propaganda to misrepresent themselves as the real protectors of the Jews.

http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/04/pt-2-labours-leaked-report-sad-sorry.html

BBC Replaces Footage of Boris at Cenotaph with Ceremony from 2016 to Avoid Embarrassing Him?

November 11, 2019

Here’s another reason not to trust the BBC’s news coverage. Boris Johnson’s performance at the Cenotaph yesterday, when he formally laid the wreath to commemorate all those, who lost their lives fighting for this country, was shambolic. Our clown Prime Minister was caught looking around during the Two Minutes’ silence. He then walked out to the monument two earlier, and laid the wreath upside down. This was picked up by Royal Central and the Mail Online yesterday, which both commented on it, according to Zelo Street. But you could be fooled into believing that it didn’t happen by the media coverage. There’s no mention of it on the front pages of the papers. Instead, the rags concentrate on trying to claim that our economy is thriving under BoJob’s wise leadership and there is absolutely no mention of it in the Scum, which is just wall to wall Tory propaganda. Zelo Street comments

The Bozo Cenotaph shambles encapsulates the sheer venality of our free and fearless press. It is airbrushing of reality that would have made the editors of Pravda and Isvestiya blush. And it demonstrates the challenge for Labour in the upcoming General Election.

We have a press desperate to put an inept, philandering, mendacious, bigoted, uncaring clown into Downing Street. Because he’s one of theirs. I’ll just leave that one there.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/press-cenotaph-hypocrisy.html

The comparison with the Soviet manipulation of the news is also appropriate when it comes to our state broadcaster. Mike posted up a piece earlier today about how the Beeb had decided to replace the real footage of BoJob laying the wreath with a clip from 2016. This was discovered very quickly by the good folks on Twitter, who were rightly massively unimpressed and wanted to know why the Beeb had done it. The Corporation tried to wriggle out of it by saying that it was a production error, for which they apologised. This, as our parents used to say, is a likely story. The peeps commenting on the switch weren’t convinced, and neither am I. Simon Maginn, who has put in an official complaint about the Jewish Chronicle’s latest smear of Corbyn being in breach of electoral law, spoke for very many when he said

You’re liars and we know you are. You lie about things big and small, but always to Tories’ advantage.
We don’t believe a word you broadcast, because we have no reason to.
You’re corrupt, rotten and dishonest, and everyone knows that now.
Labour will reform you.
Bring it on.

Others, who didn’t believe it either included the author and scriptwriter Stephen Gallagher, and the ex-Beeb/Sky/Reuters/ PA journo Julian Shea. Evolve Politics stated that it was very unlikely that it could have been a genuine mistake, as the Beeb would have had to look through their archives to find footage from that far back. They also pointed out that the 2016 footage had obviously been substituted, because it included appearances from politicos, who have since left government. Like the former Prime Minister, Tweezer.

One viewer, Gayle Letherby, sent a written complaint to the Beeb. This ran

“I cannot accept that this was a ‘production mistake’ not least because it is clear in the 2016 footage that Theresa May and not Boris Johnson was the Prime Minister. Additionally, it surely takes some ‘skill’ to mix up footage from yesterday with footage from three years ago. I, and I know many others, can only conclude that your intention was to present the PM as more statesmanlike, more respectful, than yesterday’s performance showed him to be.

“Bias.”

Mike comments that he hopes everyone sending complaints to the Beeb like this will also post them to Ofcom, which is still investigating whether the Beeb breached its own rules on impartial coverage. He also watched Politics Live to see if they would cover this story and issue an apology. They didn’t, so he sent them this tweet to the editor, Rob Burl.

@RobBurl I was looking for the apology for BBC Remembrance Day coverage showing images from 2016 rather than yesterday, which someone clearly had to go and find, to use it instead of the shots of @BorisJohnson showing contempt for our veterans. Where is it please?

So far, he has received no reply, and thus concludes

The BBC has outed itself as a propaganda arm of the Conservative Party. Its election coverage – and other news output – should therefore be avoided on the basis of prejudice, and should be reported to Ofcom.

BBC digs out Remembrance Day clip from 2016 to avoid showing up Boris Johnson. What happened to impartiality?

Both Mike and Zelo Street compare this with the outrage the media tried to work up against Corbyn’s appearance at the Cenotaph, when they falsely accused him of wearing a blue coat to the ceremony.

But what makes this very obvious media bias to BoJob and the Tories is the complete lack of care he and they have for the real veterans. The Mirror covered the story of the death of  an 82-year old veteran, who had been evicted from his squat in Manchester along with 12 other ex-squaddies. Mike reports that they were just 13 out of the 13,000 former servicemen and women, who are now living on the streets. Mike points out that almost all of them suffer from PTSD, which often leads to drug and alcohol addiction. They receive no help from the government, which means that the Armed Forces Covenant – that those who serve or have served in the armed forces are treated fairly, which became law in 2011, is a sick joke. He quotes Chris Barwood, of the Salford Armed Forces Veterans Network, who said

 “We are turning our backs on our troops who have taken the Queen’s shilling, sworn the oath of allegiance and offered up their lives to keep us safe and yet in return we do nothing to ensure that they have a roof over their heads and food in their bellies for their remaining years.”

The only help these courageous people receive comes from charities.

Mike concludes

The crowning irony is that most members of the Armed Forces are ardent Conservatives.

I hope they reconsider that position.

Why should they vote for a party that throws them into pointless conflicts, then throws them onto the streets when they get PTSD, and whose leader shows nothing but contempt for those of their comrades who have died defending their country?

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/11/10/boris-johnsons-contempt-for-the-forces-goes-much-further-than-laying-a-wreath-wrongly/

This problem comes round regularly, whenever the Tories get into government. I remember how, nearly 30 years ago, there were reports of homelessness, unemployment and poverty amongst ex-service personnel during John Major’s government following the first Gulf War. The army was being cut, and so thousands of squaddies were turned out onto the streets with no preparation or support for civilian life. Just as Maggie inflicted drastic cuts on the armed forces after the Falklands War. Spitting Image/Private Eye made a very bitter comment on the cynical use of British servicemen and women in their book Thatcha! The Real Maggie Memoirs, which spoofed the former Prime Minister’s own when they were published. This featured a parody of a boy’s war comic, whose hero is a Falklands veteran. Proud of serving his country until he’s shown the door, the strip ends with him gunning down a bus queue in rage and despair. This was also, obviously, a comment on the mass shootings that were just then appearing across the Atlantic and elsewhere.

I don’t know of any shootings like that, which have been done over here by former servicemen and women. I hope there hasn’t and will never be one.

But the Tories’ treatment of men and women, who have served their country with pride, honour and courage is utterly, utterly disgraceful. And Mike is quite right to ask members of the forces to reconsider their allegiance to a party that treats them so cynically. 

 

Ian Hislop Presents Beeb Programme on Fake News

October 6, 2019

According to this week’s Radio Times, Private Eye’s editor, Ian Hislop, is going to present a programme tomorrow at 9.00 pm on BBC 4 on fake news. The programme’s titled ‘Ian Hislop’s Fake News: A True Story’. The blurb for it on page 75 of the Radio Times runs

The concept of “fake news” may seem like a recent, politically motivated invention, but Ian Hislop takes a long view and finds that fake news was found to be profitable long before the uncertain times of internet trolls and echo chambers. He recounts the story of the 1835 New York Sun “scoops”, which told its readers there was evidence of flying man-bats on the Moon. He also learns how fake news caused a real war between America and Spain.

An additional article about the programme, written by the Radio Times’ editor, Alison Graham, on page 73, runs

Ian Hislop looks sceptically at Christopher Blair, an unapologetic purveyor of fake news, or rather, made-up nonsense that’s simply designed,  claims Blair, to provoke the American alt-right into a frothing frenzy. It’s all done,m he says, in the name of satire.

Of course, Hislop knows a thing or two about satire, and he is unconvinced, worrying that sending such pap into the universe means even sensible people doubt the truth of real and actual news stories.

In a jolly, occasionally serious history of fake news, which of course didn’t begin with Donald Trump, Hislop goes back to 1835 and an American newspaper’s pile of piffle about telescopes trained on the Moon spotting herds of bison and “flying man-bats”. It was a sensation as crowds thronged the street outside the paper’s offices, demanding more. Thus an important lesson was learnt: fake news sells.

The Origin of the Press in 17th Century Wars of Religion

The 1835 Moon hoax is notorious. It was based on Britain sending a real astronomer to oversee the construction of a telescope and astronomical observations in South Africa. The editor of the New York Sun used this as the occasion to run a spectacular story about this astronomer having discovered, through his telescope, life on the Moon. But fake news also long predates that incident as well. The ultimate origin of the news media lies in the 17th century and the 30 Years’ War in Germany and British Civil War. The first newspapers were written to inform merchants around Europe about evens in Germany, during a conflict which ended with 1/5 of the population dead of starvation. During the British Civil War supporters of both sides wrote news sheets not just to inform people of events, but also as propaganda. And some of it was very definitely fake news. This was a deeply religious age, and the wars were religious conflicts between Roman Catholics and Protestants in Germany, and the monarchy and Anglican church on one side against parliament and the Puritans and other, more radical Protestant groups on the other. Visions, omens and miracles were widely publicised, as it was believed that these showed God’s anger or favour towards the different factions. And some of these look very, very much like fake news. Such as the supposed encounter by a British ship out in the English channel with a merman, bearing a scroll in his hand. This fishy fellow told the astonished sailors that he was heading up the Thames to present the scroll to Crown and parliament in order to get them to desist. Or something like it. Whatever happened, it all seems very dubious to me, and looks very much as though the story ultimately had its origins in a tavern somewhere, written by the kind of hack, who used to write for the Scum and the Sport. Back in 1983 the Scum ran a story in which a medium supposedly contacted the spirits of dead British heroes and heroines to see which politicians they backed. Boadicea, apparently, gave her support to Maggie Thatcher and the warriors of Goose Green. While the Sport told us all how a B52 bomber had supposedly been found on the Moon.

The Sport and the Weekly World News

The Sport always struck me as an attempt to imitate the American Weekly World News and other tabloid newspapers. It was the Weekly World News that gave the world very obviously fake stories about aliens giving their vote to Bill Clinton and interviews with a man, who claimed his mother was the yeti. Quite. This all looked like harmless fun, a bit of sensationalism that despite academic fears, no-one ever really believed. But there are allegations that there was a much more serious, even sinister side to this. According to former tabloid reporter in his book about this side of the press, Grossed-Out Surgeon Vomits Inside Patient, the American intelligence agencies were planting false stories in them as deliberate disinformation.

The British State and Official Fake News

And it isn’t just the tabloid press that published disinformation and black propaganda on behalf of the government. Over here, the IRD – a department of the British secret state – used to plant fake stories in the newspapers as part of a propaganda battle with the Communist bloc. They also concocted fake stories to destabilise the IRA and other Republican groups in Northern Ireland, and to smear the Labour party as having connections with Communism or Irish nationalist terrorism. Indeed the amount of lies put out by the IRA and other terror groups and the British government was so bad, that academics trying to make sense of what was going on in Ulster stated that they had no idea what was going on. And we’ve seen a resurgence of the British government’s black propaganda against Corbyn and the Labour party with the tweets and fake news sent out across social media by the Institute for Statecraft, which has extensive links with British intelligence and the cyberwarfare section of the SAS.

BBC’s and Private Eye’s Lies about Labour Anti-Semitism

It is also richly hypocritical of the Beeb, and Ian Hislop, to produce a programme on fake news too, because of the role they have both played in promoting fake news against the Labour party. The BBC news team are incapable of opening their mouths about the Labour party without lying. This has become so bad and egregious that there is now a group appealing for funding to produce their own film refuting the lies about anti-Semitism in the Labour party put out in a recent, much criticised edition of Panorama. see, for example, Mike’s article at https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/10/03/leading-labour-figure-joins-documentary-to-counter-biased-bbc-panorama/

And Private Eye have been exactly the same in this regard. There is much excellent material in it, but it has shown itself as frantic as the rest of the lamestream press in denouncing Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters as anti-Semites, simply because they are critical of Israel, or have pointed out that those who are, are historically correct. As Mike did when he wrote a piece stating that Ken Livingstone was right about Hitler initially supporting Zionism. That was the piece that got Mike attacked as an anti-Semite, and libeled as such in a series of articles in the press. These also claimed that he was a Holocaust denier. They were all flat-out lies, and the newspapers retracted them after Mike complained to IPSO. Nevertheless, Private Eye and the rest of the press are still pushing their lies about Corbyn and the Labour party, just as Mike, and others like him, like Jackie Walker, are still receiving foul abuse from ignorant fanatics.

And the Beeb’s history of right-wing lies doesn’t stop there. There’s also the infamous case where they put the footage of the police attack on the Miners during the Miners’ Strike the wrong was round. It was reversed, so it appeared to show the miners attacking the police. And I’ve no doubt there are many, many other incidents like this.

BBC Trying to Regain Loss Credibility with this Programme?

It’ll be interesting to see if the programme has anything to say about these incidents. But I’m not holding my breath. This looks very much like the Beeb tackling this subject partly as a way of trying to burnish its own squalid image. The BBC and the rest of the lamestream media are rapidly losing credibility in a digital age, when you can go on the Net and find out what’s really been said and done. Along with real fake news, it has to be said. This is frightening them, as the younger generation are turning away from the Beeb’s news output altogether. The Beeb is also frightened by the fact that they are increasingly unable to shape consensus opinion, and express this in statements that claim that as a society we are in danger of becoming more fragmented as people stick to the media niches they like, which may be very different from everyone else’s. Cut through this verbiage about fears about a more ideological fragmented society, and the real fear is that of the Beeb’s management and news hierarchy that they are no longer as credible or as influential as they were, and thus are increasingly irrelevant. As shown by the fact that BoJob has tried to make the internet work for him by circumventing the Beeb and holding some kind of ‘people’s Prime Minister’s Questions’ on the Net.

The Beeb has rightly become notorious for its fake news against the left, and this programme looks like an attempt by the Corporation to try to reclaim some of its loss credibility. By presenting a programme on fake news, it tries to show that it doesn’t do anything of the sort itself. And you can trust it, because the editor of Private Eye, which did prick the establishment, is presenting it. But Private Eye was set up by people, who were very much part of the establishment. John Wells was the headmaster at Eton, for example. And Ian Hislop is very much part of the same, privately educated, Oxbridge set.

It will therefore be very interesting to see if the programme has anything to say about the Corporation’s role in peddling fake news. But I very much doubt it will.

Reviewing the ‘I’s’ Review of Ian McEwan’s ‘Machines Like Me’

April 21, 2019

George Barr’s cover illo for Lloyd Biggle’s The Metallic Muse. From David Kyle, the Illustrated Book of Science Fiction Ideas & Dreams (London: Hamlyn 1977).

The book’s pages of last Friday’s I , for 19th April 2019, carried a review by Jude Cook of Ian McEwan’s latest literary offering, a tale of a love triangle between a man, the male robot he has purchased, and his wife, a plot summed up in the review’s title, ‘Boy meets robot, robot falls for girl’. I’d already written a piece in anticipation of its publication on Thursday, based on a little snippet in Private Eye’s literary column that McEwan, Jeanette Winterson and Kazuo Ishiguro were all now turning to robots and AI for their subject matter, and the Eye expected other literary authors, like Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie, to follow. My objection to this is that it appeared to be another instance of the literary elite taking their ideas from Science Fiction, while looking down on the genre and its writers. The literary establishment has moved on considerably, but I can still remember the late, and very talented Terry Pratchett complaining at the Cheltenham Literary Festival that the organisers had looked at him as if he was about to talk to all his waiting fans crammed into the room about motorcycle maintenance.

Cook’s review gave an outline of the plot and some of the philosophical issues discussed in the novel. Like the Eye’s piece, it also noted the plot’s similarity to that of the Channel 4 series, Humans. The book is set in an alternative 1982 in which the Beatles are still around and recording, Tony Benn is Prime Minister, but Britain has lost the Falklands War. It’s a world where Alan Turing is still alive, and has perfected machine consciousness. The book’s hero, Charlie, purchases one of the only 25 androids that have been manufactured, Adam. This is not a sex robot, but described as ‘capable of sex’, and which has an affair with the hero’s wife, Miranda. Adam is an increasing threat to Charlie, refusing to all his master to power him down. There’s also a subplot about a criminal coming forward to avenge the rape Miranda has suffered in the past, and a four year old boy about to be placed in the care system.

Cook states that McEwan discusses the philosophical issue of the Cartesian duality between mind and brain when Charlie makes contact with Turing, and that Charlie has to decide whether Adam is too dangerous to be allowed to continue among his flesh and blood counterparts, because

A Manichean machine-mind that can’t distinguish between a white lie and a harmful lie, or understand that revenge can sometimes be justified, is potentially lethal.

Cook declares that while this passage threatens to turn the book into a dry cerebral exercise, its engagement with the big questions is its strength, concluding

The novel’s presiding Prospero is Turing himself, who observes that AI is fatally flawed because life is “an open system… full of tricks and feints and ambiguities”. His great hope is that by its existence “we might be shocked in doing something about ourselves.”

Robots and the Edisonade

It’s an interesting review, but what it does not do is mention the vast amount of genre Science Fiction that has used robots to explore the human condition, the limits or otherwise of machine intelligence and the relationship between such machines and their creators, since Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. There clearly seems to be a nod to Shelley with the name of this android, as the monster in her work, I think, is also called Adam. But Eando Binder – the nom de plume of the brothers Earl and Otto Binder, also wrote a series of stories in the 1930s and ’40s about a robot, Adam Link, one of which was entitled I, Robot, which was later used as the title of one of Asimov’s stories. And although the term ‘robot’ was first used of such machines by the Czech writer Karel Capek in his 1920s play, RUR, or Rossum’s Universal Robots, they first appeared in the 19th century. One of these was Villier de l’Isle-Adam, L’Eve Futur of 1884. This was about a robot woman invented by Thomas Edison. As one of the 19th centuries foremost inventors, Edison was the subject of a series of proto-SF novels, the Edisonades, in which his genius allowed him to create all manner of advanced machines. In another such tale, Edison invents a spaceship and weapons that allow humanity to travel to the planets and conquer Mars. McEwan’s book with its inclusion of Alan Turing is basically a modern Edisonade, but with the great computer pioneer rather than the 19th century electrician as its presiding scientific genius. Possibly later generations will have novels set in an alternative late 20th century where Stephen Hawking has invented warp drive, time travel or a device to take us into alternative realities via artificial Black Holes.

Robot Romances

As I said in my original article, there are any number of SF books about humans having affairs with robots, like Tanith Lee’s The Silver Metal Lover, Lester del Rey’s Helen O’Loy and Asimov’s Satisfaction Guaranteed. The genre literature has also explored the moral and philosophical issues raised by the creation of intelligent machines. In much of this literature, robots are a threat, eventually turning on their masters, from Capek’s R.U.R. through to The Terminator and beyond. But some writers, like Asimov, have had a more optimistic view. In his 1950 I, Robot, a robot psychologist, Dr. Susan Calvin, describes them in a news interview as ‘a cleaner, better breed than we are’.

Lem’s Robots and Descartes

As for the philosophical issues, the Polish SF writer, Stanislaw Lem, explored them in some of his novels and short stories. One of these deals with the old problem, also dating back to Descartes, about whether we can truly know that there is an external world. The story’s hero, the space pilot Pirx, visits a leading cybernetician in his laboratory. This scientist has developed a series of computer minds. These exist, however, without robot bodies, but the minds themselves are being fed programmes which make them believe that they are real, embodied people living in the real world. One of these minds is of a beautiful woman with a scar on her shoulder from a previous love affair. Sometimes the recorded programmes jump a groove, creating instances of precognition or deja vu. But ultimately, all these minds are, no matter how human or how how real they believe themselves to be, are brains in vats. Just like Descartes speculated that a demon could stop people from believing in a real world by casting the illusion of a completely false one on the person they’ve possessed.

Morality and Tragedy in The ABC Warriors 

Some of these complex moral and personal issues have also been explored by comics, until recently viewed as one of the lowest forms of literature. In a 1980s ‘ABC Warriors’ story in 2000AD, Hammerstein, the leader of a band of heroic robot soldiers, remembers his earliest days. He was the third prototype of a series of robot soldiers. The first was an efficient killer, patriotically killing Communists, but exceeded its function. It couldn’t tell civilians from combatants, and so committed war crimes. The next was programmed with a set of morals, which causes it to become a pacifist. It is killed trying to persuade the enemy – the Volgans – to lay down their arms. Hammerstein is its successor. He has been given morals, but not to the depth that they impinge on his ability to kill. For example, enemy soldiers are ‘terrorists’. But those on our side are ‘freedom fighters’. When the enemy murders civilians, it’s an atrocity. When we kill civilians, it’s unavoidable casualties. As you can see, the writer and creator of the strip, Pat Mills, has very strong left-wing opinions.

Hammerstein’s programming is in conflict, so his female programmer takes him to a male robot psychiatrist, a man who definitely has romantic intentions towards her. They try to get Hammerstein to come out of his catatonic reverie by trying to provoke a genuine emotional reaction. So he’s exposed to all manner of stimuli, including great works of classical music, a documentary about Belsen, and the novels of Barbara Cartland. But the breakthrough finally comes when the psychiatrist tries to kiss his programmer. This provokes Hammerstein into a frenzied attack, in which he accidentally kills both. Trying to repair the damage he’s done, Hammerstein says plaintively ‘I tried to replace his head, but it wouldn’t screw back on.’

It’s a genuinely adult tale within the overall, action-oriented story in which the robots are sent to prevent a demon from Earth’s far future from destroying the Galaxy by destabilising the artificial Black and White Holes at the centre of Earth’s underground civilisation, which have been constructed as express routes to the stars. It’s an example of how the comics culture of the time was becoming more adult, and tackling rather more sophisticated themes.

Conclusion: Give Genre Authors Their Place at Literary Fiction Awards

It might seem a bit mean-spirited to compare McEwan’s latest book to its genre predecessors. After all, in most reviews of fiction all that is required is a brief description of the plot and the reviewer’s own feelings about the work, whether it’s done well or badly. But there is a point to this. As I’ve said, McEwan, Winterson, Ishiguro and the others, who may well follow their lead, are literary authors, whose work regularly wins the big literary prizes. They’re not genre authors, and the type of novels they write are arguably seen by the literary establishment as superior to that of genre Science Fiction. But here they’re taking over proper Science Fiction subjects – robots and parallel worlds – whose authors have extensively explored their moral and philosophical implications. This is a literature that can’t and shouldn’t be dismissed as trash, as Stanislaw Lem has done, and which the judges and critics of mainstream literary fiction still seem to do. McEwan’s work deserves to be put into the context of genre Science Fiction. The literary community may feel that it’s somehow superior, but it is very much of the same type as its genre predecessors, who did the themes first and, in my opinion, better.

There is absolutely no reason, given the quality of much SF literature, why this tale by McEwan should be entered for a literary award or reviewed by the kind of literary journals that wouldn’t touch genre science fiction with a barge pole, while genre SF writers are excluded. It’s high time that highbrow literary culture recognised and accepted works and writers of genre SF as equally worthy of respect and inclusion.

John Quiggin on the Failure of Thatcher’s New Classical Economics

January 9, 2019

Very many Libertarians describe themselves as ‘classical liberals’, meaning they support the theories of the classical economists of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This rejects state intervention and the welfare state in favour of free markets and privatization. This theory was the basis of Thatcher’s economic policy before the Falklands War, as well as those of other countries like Australia and New Zealand. In all of these countries where it was adopted it was a massive failure, like trickle-down economics and austerity.

Quiggin describes how Thatcher’s New Classical Economic policy was a failure, but she was saved from electoral defeat, partly by the Falkland War on page 113. He writes

The only requirement for the New Classical prescription to work was the credibility of the government’s commitment. Thatcher had credible commitment in bucketloads: indeed, even more than an ideological commitment to free-market ideas, credible commitment was the defining feature of her approach to politics. Aphorisms like “the lady’s not for turning” and “there is no alternative” (which produced the acronymic nickname TINA) were characteristics of Thatcher’s “conviction” politics. The slogan “No U-turns” could be regarded as independent of the particular direction in which she was driving. In a real sense, Thatcher’s ultimate political commitment was to commitment itself.

So, if New Classical economics was ever going to work it should have done so in Thatcher’s Britain. In fact, however, unemployment rose sharply, reaching 3 million and remained high for years, just as both Keynesians and monetarists expected. New Classical economics, having failed its first big policy test, dropped out of sight, reviving only in opposition to the stimulus proposals of the Obama administration.

However, Thatcher did not pay a political price for this policy failure, either at the time of (the Falklands war diverted attention from the economy) or, so far in retrospective assessments. The only alternative to the “short sharp Shock” was a long, grinding process of reducing inflation rates slowly through years of restrictive fiscal and monetary policy. While it can be argued that the resulting social and economic costs would have been significantly lower, political perceptions were very different. The mass unemployment of Thatcher’s early years was either blamed directly on her predecessors or seen as the necessary price of reversing chronic decline.

New Classical Economics was a colossal failure. In fact Thatcherism, whether implemented by the Tories or New Labour, has been a failure, though New Labour was better at managing the economy than the Tories. The only reason it has not been abandoned is because of the charisma surrounding Thatcher herself and the fact that it gives even more wealth and power to the upper classes and the business elite while keeping working people poor and unable to resist the exploitative demands of their employers. And its given a spurious credibility to ordinary people through its promotion by the media.

Two Books By Tony Benn

January 4, 2019

I hope everyone’s had a great Christmas and their New Year is off to a good start. May the shadow of Theresa May and her wretched Brexit be very far from you!

Yesterday I got through the post two secondhand books I’d ordered from Amazon by that redoubtable warrior for socialism and working people, Tony Benn. These were Arguments for Socialism, edited by Chris Mullin (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1979) and Fighting Back: Speaking Out For Socialism in the Eighties (London: Hutchinson 1988).

The two books differ slightly in that one is written from Benn’s perspective at the end of the ’70s, while the other was written nine years later at the end of the 1980s. In both Benn tackles the problems of the day, and lays out his radical, democratic socialist plans to revitalise the British economy and industry, strengthen and broaden democracy, and empower working people.

The blurb of Arguments for Socialism simply runs

Tony Benn, the most controversial figure in British politics, outlines a strong democratic-socialist approach to the most crucial issues in our political life over the next decade.

It has an introduction, and the following chapters, subdivided into smaller sections on particularly topics. These are

Section 1., ‘The Inheritance’, is composed of the following
The Inheritance of the Labour Movement
Christianity and Socialism
The Bridge between Christianity and Socialism
The Levellers and the English Democratic Tradition
Marxism and the Labour Party
Clause IV
The Labour Movement.

Section 2. ‘Issues of the 1970s’
Labour’s Industrial Programme
The Case for Change
Opening the Books
Planning Agreements and the NEB
Public Ownership
Industrial Democracy
The Upper Clyde Work-In
The Worker’s Co-ops
The Lessons of the Workers’ Co-ops
Democracy in the Public Sector

3. ‘Energy’
North Sea Oil
The Debate over Nuclear Energy
Windscale
The Fast Breeder
A Future for Coal
Alternative Sources of Energy
Conclusion

4 ‘The EEC’
Loss of Political Self-Determination
Loss of Control over the United Kingdom’s Industry and Trade
Unemployment and the EEC
After the Referendum

5. ‘Democracy’
Technology and Democracy
The Case for Open Government
How Secrecy Is Maintained at Present
Leaks and How They Occur
Conclusion

6. ‘Issues for the 1980s’
The Arguments
The Argument in Outline
The Present Crisis of Unemployment
Adam Smith and the Birth Capitalism
Lessons from the Pre-War Slump
Three Remedies on Offer
1. Monetarism
2. Corporatism
3. Democratic Socialism

7. ‘Jobs’
The Pension Funds
New Technology
Growth
The Trade Union Role in Planning
Workers’ Co-ops
A New Relationship between Labour and Capital

8. ‘The Common Market’
Three Criticisms of the EEC

9. Democracy
Open Government
The Unions
The Armed Forces
The Media
A New Role for Political Leaders.

Fighting Back’s blurb runs

With crisis after crisis rocking the country throughout the Eighties, the formation of new parties, divisions with in the old, mergers, reconciliations – British political life is at a watershed.

Tony Benn, in speeches on picket lines, at Conferences at home and abroad, in broadcasts, in the House of Commons, has been a consistently radical campaigning voice: for equal rights, for democracy and for peace against the increasingly brutal politics of monetarism, militarism and self-interest.

Fighting Back brings together for the first time in one volume the best of Tony Benn’s speeches from 1980 to 1988. Few poeple will have heard more than brief snippets of proceedings in the House of Commons given by television, radio and the press, so the most important debates are included here – the Falklands War, Westland helicopters, Fortress Wapping, Zircon and Spycatcher – as well as some lesser known concerns, from the ordination of women, to the politics of singer Paul Robeson.

Throughout the difficult years in Opposition, Tony Benn has played a leading role in defending and regenerating the socialist tradition. But Fighting Back is more than simply a personal testament: it is also an exciting and accessible handbook to the turbulent Eighties, whatever one’s political convictions.

After the introduction, it has the following chapters and subsections:

1. The Stalemate in British Politics
-Fifty Years of Consensus Rule
-The Party and the Government
-From Defeat to Victory
-Parliamentary Democracy and the Labour Movement

2. Prophetic Voices
-Positive Dissent
-Thomas Paine
-Karl Marx
-Paul Robeson
-R.H. Tawney
In Defence of British Dissidents

3. Fighting Back
-The Falklands War (April 1982)
-The Falklands War (April 1982)
-The Falklands War (May 1982)
-The Falklands War (December 1982)
-The Miners’ Strike (June 1984)
-The Miners’ Strike (September 1984)
-The Miners’ Strike (February 1985)
-Gay Rights
-Fortress Wapping (May 1986)
-Fortress Wapping (January 1987)
-The Irish Struggle for Freedom
-After Eniskillen
-Privatisation of Gas
-Legal Reform

4. British Foreign and Defence Policy
-The Case for Non-Alignment
-Who is Our Enemy?
-A New Agenda for the International Labour and Socialist Movements
-Some Facts about Defence
-Towards a Permanent New Forum
-Paying for Apartheid

5. Work and Health in a Green and Pleasant Land
-The Unemployment Tragedy
-Trade Unionism in the Eighties
-Full Employment: the Priority
-The Common Ownership of Land
-The Case Against Nuclear Power
-Nuclear Accidents
-The Nuclear Lobby
-Evidence Against Sizewell B

6. The Arrogance of Power
-The Case of Sir Anthony Blunt
-The Belgrano-Ponting Debate
-Westland Helicopters
-Surcharge and Disqualification of Councillors
-The Ordination of Women
-The Zircon Affair
-Spycatcher
-Protection of Official Information

7. Disestablishing the Establishment
-Power, Parliament and the People
-The Civil Service
-The Crown, the Church and Democratic Politics
-A Moral Crisis
-The Disestablishment of the Church of England
-Television in a Democracy
-Televising the House

8. Light at the End of the Tunnel
-The Radical Tradition: Past, Present and Future
-Staying True to the Workers
-Aims and Objectives of the Labour Party.

The Books and their Times

Arguments for Socialism comes from a time when this country had nationalised industries, strong trade unions and an efficient and effective planning apparatus. It was also when unemployment and discontent were rising, and the country was facing the threat of Thatcher and her monetarist agenda. The speeches and articles in Fighting Back come from when Thatcher had seized power, was busy privatising everything not nailed down, smashing the unions and trying to silence any dissent. This included attempts to prosecute civil servant Clive Ponting for leaking documents showing that the Argentinian warship, the General Belgrano, was actually leaving the Falklands warzone when it was attacked and sunk. Thatcher also banned the publication of Peter Wright’s Spycatcher over here, because of the embarrassing things it had to say about MI5. This turned into a massive farce as the book was widely published elsewhere, like New Zealand, meaning that foreign readers had a better understanding of the British secret state than we Brits did. It was such a ridiculous situation that Private Eye’s Willie Rushton sent it up in a book, Spythatcher.

Benn’s Beliefs on Socialism and Democracy

Benn was genuinely radical. He believed that British socialism was in danger not because it had been too radical, but because it had not been radical enough. He wished to extend nationalisation beyond the utilities that had been taken into public ownership by Attlee, and give working people a real voice in their management through the trade unions. He also fully supported the workers of three firms, who had taken over the running of their companies when management wanted to close them down, and run them as co-ops. On matters of the constitution, he wished to expand democracy by bringing in a Freedom of Information Act, strip the Crown of its remaining constitutional powers and have them invested in parliament instead, and disestablish the Church of England. He also wanted to strip the office of Prime Minister of its powers of patronage and give more to MPs. He was also firmly against the EEC and for CND. Socially, he was on the side of grassroots movements outside parliament, fully embraced gay rights and the ordination of women within the Anglican Church.

Not the Maniac He was Portrayed by the Press

He was and still is vilified for these radical views. The press, including Ian Hislop’s mighty organ, Private Eye, presented him as a ‘swivel-eyed loon’, at best a mad visionary of hopelessly unrealistic ideals. At worst he was a Communist agent of Moscow ready to destroy this country’s ability to defend itself and hand it over to rule by the Soviets.

He was, it won’t surprise you to learn, anything like that.

He was very well respected by his constituents in my part of Bristol as a very good MP and brilliant orator, and was respected even by his opponents in the city. One of the leaders of Bristol’s chamber of commerce said that he was always rational and his opinions clearly thought out. I’m a monarchist and a member of the Anglican church, and so don’t share his views on the disestablishment of the Church of England. But his arguments there are interesting.

Disestablishment of the Anglican Church

Recent calls for disestablishment have come from atheists and secularists, and Benn does use the secularist argument that privileged position of various Anglican bishops to sit in the House of Lords is unfair to those of other faiths, Roman Catholics, Protestant Nonconformists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists. But this argument actually comes at the end of the main body of his pieces. His main points are that the bishops shouldn’t be there, because they’re unelected, and that parliament and the prime minister, who may not be Anglicans or even Christians, have no business appointing the denomination’s clergy or deciding doctrine. It’s an argument primarily from within the Anglican church, not from someone outside, jealous of its position.

The Prime Minister against the Church and Its Members

One example of how the Prime Minister abused their position to override or impose their views against the wishes of the Church itself was when Thatcher got stroppy with the-then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Robert Runcie. After the Falklands War, Runcie had preached a sermon saying that we should now meet the Argentinians in a spirit of reconciliation. This is what a Christian leader should say. It comes from the Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the peacemakers, and all that. We’ve heard it several times since by great leaders like Nelson Mandela and South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But Thatcher didn’t like it because she wanted something a bit more triumphalist. This section is also interesting because it has an interesting snippet you and I south of the Border have never heard of, except if you’re a member of the Church of Scotland. That august body at its synod overwhelmingly voted in favour of nuclear disarmament. I hadn’t heard anything about that before, and I doubt many other people outside Scotland had. And it obviously wasn’t an accident. The Tory media really didn’t want anyone else in Britain to know about it, in case they thought it might be a good idea.

It wasn’t just the Church of Scotland that were against nuclear weapons. So was a leading Roman Catholic prelate, Monsigner Bruce Kent, now, I believe, no longer a member of the priesthood. One of my aunts was a very Roman Catholic lady, who was also a member of CND. She found herself on one march next to a group of Franciscan friars. So kudos and respect to all the churches for their Christian witness on this issue.

CND, the Unions and Media Bias

On the subject of CND, Benn talks about the blatant bias of the press. All kinds of people were members of the Campaign, but when it was covered on television, what you got were a few shots of clergy like Monsignor Kent, before the camera zoomed in on the banner of the Revolutionary Communist party. CND were part of Russkie commie subversion! Except as I remember, they weren’t. The Russians didn’t like them either after they criticised their maneoevres in eastern Europe.

Benn states that the media’s bias is peculiar – its somewhere to the right of the Guardian, but slightly to the left of Thatcher. This was the attitude of the establishment generally. And it was extremely biased against the trade unions. He cites the work of Glasgow Media Studies unit, who looked at the language they used to describe industrial disputes. The language used of the trade unions always presented them as the aggressor. They ‘demanded’ and ‘threatened’, while management ‘offered’ and ‘pleaded’. He then asked hsi readers to turn the rhetoric around, so that a union asking for a pay rise of 8 per cent when inflation in 10 per cent is ‘pleading’.

The Ordination of Women

His stance on the ordination of women is equally interesting. He was obviously for it, but his arguments as you might expect were very well informed. He pointed out that women had been campaigning to be ordained in the Church since the 1920s, and that other Christian denominations, like the Congregationalists, already had women ministers. As did other Anglican churches abroad, like the Episcopalians in America. It was blocked here by the Anglo-Catholics, who fear it would stop re-union with Rome. But even here, he noted, this may not be an obstacle, citing movements for the ordination of women within Catholicism. Again, it’s an argument from within the Church, or from someone genuinely sympathetic to it, than from an outsider frustrated with the Church’s stubborn refusal to abide by secular social values, although that is also in there.

Government Secrecy

And back on the subject of government secrecy, the Zircon Affair was when Thatcher banned the transmission of an edition of the documentary programme, Secret State. I’ve put up that documentary series a few years ago on this blog, because it showed the extent to which Thatcher and others had been using the Official Secrets Act to suppress information that was embarrassing or uncomfortable. Like the fact that in a nuclear war, this country would suffer massive casualties and the obliteration of its major population centres.

The book actually contains any number of interesting snippets that definitely weren’t reported, or else were only given very tiny coverage, in the mainstream press. Like details of various incidents at nuclear plants that could have led to serious accidents. He also talks about the ‘Atoms for Peace’ programme. In this international project, we sent our nuclear material over to America, where, we were told, it would be used for peaceful purposes generating power in American reactors. Well, it was used in American reactors. They refined it into the plutonium, that was then put in American nuclear warheads and sent back over here to the US nuclear bases on British soil. He also pointed out that the agreements covering the use of Britain as a base by US forces in the event of a nuclear war also contravened our sovereignty.

Ted Heath and the EU

Loss of sovereignty was also a major part of his opposition to the EU. But he also makes the point that our entry into the Common Market was also undemocratic. Ted Heath simply decided the country was going in. Parliament was not consulted and did not vote on the issue. I do remember that there was a referendum afterwards, however.

Intelligence Agencies Smearing Labour MPs

The intelligence agencies are another threat to British democracy. He cites Peter Wright’s Spycatcher memoir on how MI5 was spreading rumours smearing the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, as a KGB spy. This, like much of the rest of the material in the books, has not dated. The problem of the security services smearing left-wing politicians is still very much with us, as we’ve seen from the Integrity Initiative. They’ve smeared Jeremy Corbyn as a Russian spy.

Books Still Relevant in 21st Century

I’ve only really skimmed the books so far, just reading the odd chapter, but so much of it is directly relevant now. I think if he were alive today, Benn probably would have voted ‘Leave’, but his arrangements for leaving the EU would have been far more sensible and beneficial to this country’s ordinary folk than that of Tweezer and her band of profiteers. And he is absolutely right when he writes about expanding democracy in industry. He states that the workers’ co-ops on the Clydeside and elsewhere were attacked in the press, because suddenly the British capitalist establishment were terrified because it showed that there was a genuine alternative to capitalism, and that workers could run companies.

The individual sections in these books chapters are short, and the arguments clear. He also gives point by point party programmes on particular issues, such as making this country more democratic.

Benn Democrat, Not Authoritarian Communist

And it’s this concern for democracy that most definitely marks Benn out as being a democratic socialist, not a Trotskyite or Communist. Those parties and their various sects were run according to Lenin’s principle of ‘democratic centralism’. Put simply, this meant that the party would hold some kind of open debate on issues until a decision was made. After that, the issue was closed. Anybody still holding or promoting their own opinions faced official censure or expulsion. And the Communist parties of eastern Europe would have been as frightened of Benn’s championing of democracy as the British establishment.

Conclusion

As I said, I take issue with Benn on certain issues. But his reasoning is always clear and rational, his points well argued and based in fact. Furthermore, he is impressed with the British radical tradition and how much British socialism is squarely based within it. We lost one of our greatest parliamentarians with his death.

His ideas, however, are still very relevant, and have been vindicated with time. He was right about monetarism and corporatism, about unemployment, about the need for unions, about media bias. His support of women priests and gay rights were ahead of their time, and have now become almost a commonplace, accepted by all except a few die-hard reactionaries. And he’s right about nationalisation and worker empowerment.

These are books I intend to use for my blog and its attack on Tweezer and the Tories. And I won’t be short of useful material.

Afshin Rattansi Asks What Boris Johnson Is Doing in South America

May 24, 2018

In this short clip from RT’s ‘Going Underground’, host Afshin Rattani raises the question of what Boris Johnson is doing in Chile, Argentina and Peru, and reminds his viewers of the atrocities committed by Chile’s bloody dictator, General Pinochet. Johnson began a tour of these countries yesterday. Rattansi describes all of these countries as allegedly America’s proxies, but particularly Chile. He tells how Pinochet was warmly supported by Johnson’s heroine, Margaret Thatcher. Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected Socialist president, Salvador Allende, in a CIA-backed coup. The dictator was responsible for the murder and disappearance of 40,000 people. There is a sequence, in which Raymond Peredes, the son of the head of the Chilean army under president Allende, describes what happened to his father. He had every bone in his body broken, and was burned with a flame thrower before finally being shot with 20 bullets. His killers, however, did not touch his head, because they wanted him to remain conscious.

Pinochet was arrested by the Labour government after he came to London, following a warrant put out by a Spanish examining magistrate, judge Baltazar Garzon, who charged him with genocide. There is also a clip of Jeremy Corbyn stating that Pinochet does not enjoy diplomatic immunity from the charges, which including hostage-taking, genocide and extraterritorial murder.

But the old brute was defended by Maggie Thatcher, here looking even more aged, decrepit and malignly insane than ever. Thatcher stated that he’d been a good friend and ally of Britain, but now, thanks to his arrest, his health had been broken and the esteem of Britain’s courts around the world damage. So, as you might expect from a Tory premier, who backed Fascists and Fascist death squads throughout Latin America, there’s plenty of sympathy for him and none whatsoever for the tens of thousands he tortured and murdered. After his arrest, he was released by Tony Blair’s government. Rattansi continues that today the country is in the grip of more neoliberal change, which the opposition claims will cause further poverty.

Rattansi goes on to cover Argentina, where he says that Margaret Thatcher arguably helped end one American proxy dictator after she won the Malvinas/Falklands War. However, he states that ‘the bad old days’ could be returning, because the country’s president, Macri, has just taken out a loan with the IMF. Rattansi goes on to report how the president of Peru, Martin Vizcarra, hasn’t been elected yet. He only took power after his predecessor was forced to resign in a corruption scandal. But he was first to welcome US vice-president, when he touched down last week. The clip ends with Pence stating that all Latin America’s problems are due to the president of Venezuela, Maduro.

From this it seems that Boris has gone to these countries, to wee what Britain can pick up once neoliberalism hits these nations once again. In return for loans, the IMF insists that countries approaching it for aid scale down their welfare spending and privatise their state industries, usually by selling them to the Americans. It’s been described as part of the international network of American corporate imperialism. My guess is that Johnson is hoping that we might be able to buy some of the privatised industries in Argentina and also Chile and Peru. And it’s always good to remind people just how nasty Pinochet was, as well as Thatcher’s deep affection for the butcher. This tells you exactly what kind of person Thatcher was, and what kinds of people those who continue to idolise her, like BoJo, are.

As for Blair’s arrest of Pinochet, that was hopelessly bungled. There was a question about it at the time on the Beeb’s News Quiz on Radio 4. Clive Anderson, who is a lawyer as well as comedian and broadcaster, stated that in situations like that, nations are supposed to issue warning notices that particular individuals will not be welcome in their countries and would be subject to arrest before they arrived there. Blair didn’t. Chile did help us during the Falklands War, which is partly why Thatcher defended him. But he was still a brutal dictator, responsible for horrific and indescribable crimes.

The Corporate, Geopolitical Reasons Dragging Us to War in Syria

April 12, 2018

Now May and the other western leaders are clamouring for air strikes against Assad in Syria following a chemical weapons attack in Douma, which has been blamed on the Syrian president. The dangers of such strikes are immense. Russia has said it will shoot down any American missiles launched against its military. There’s a very real danger that this could flare up into a full-scale confrontation with Russia.

Which may be what our leaders want. After all, various NATO generals were predicting that by May last year, we’d be at war with Russia. One even wrote a book about it with that as the title.

I’m not even sure Assad was responsible for the poison gas attack. I don’t doubt he’s capable of it – he is a thug, and ruthless dictator. But I’ve written several times about false flag attacks involving chemical weapons, which have been staged by the Syrian rebels in order to bring America into the war on their side. And let’s not forget who the Syrian rebels are: the al-Nusra Front, which is the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, and ISIS. They aren’t democrats, or people who have any respect for western notions like ‘human rights’. They’re Islamists, of the type responsible for 9/11 and who have, with western armed forces, turned Iraq into a bloodbath.

And whatever humanitarian reasons are being piously spouted by May, Boris, Trump and the others, the real motives are very definitely coldly economic and geopolitical. The Neocons and Israelis have wanted Assad’s overthrow since the beginning of this century. They put together a list of the countries they wanted to invade, which included Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Iran. The Israelis hate Syria because they see it as a threat to their national security, while the Neocons want to do the same to the country as they did to Iraq – seize its oilfields and loot its state industries for the benefit of American multinationals.

And then there’s the Arabs. There’s a coalition of Arab states, led by Qatar, who want to build a gas pipeline up from the Arabian peninsula, through Syria and into Turkey. But Assad’s an ally of Russia, and this would hurt their oil pipeline coming from the east. And so Assad has blocked it. Hence the Arab states have demanded Assad’s overthrow. They even offered to pay the Americans the expenses of going in.

This is a confrontation purely for corporate profit. It has nothing to do with humanitarianism, especially as the rebels have shown themselves more than capable of butchering civilians themselves.

And it is already becoming a real threat to domestic democracy. Theresa May has declared that she wants to declare war unilaterally, without consulting parliament. Mike and the Tweeters, whose opinions he reblogs, have already discussed this and made the obvious point. Kanjin Tor has made a graphic, reblogged by Mike, stating that if May succeeds, then it will be the end of British democracy. We will then become an authoritarian dictatorship exactly like every other.

And I have no illusion that some in the British military will be highly delighted. Going through the history and politics shelves in the Cheltenham branch of Waterstone’s a year or so ago, I found a book by another British general arguing that we needed to give our prime ministers the authority to launch an immediate military response without being burdened with the need for parliamentary debate and scrutiny. Because, you know, national security, and the need for swift action to protect Britain. And so on.

Which, in these circumstances, starts to sound like the kind of things the Nazis said following the Reichstag Fire and Hitler’s declaration of a state of emergency.

Which also raises the awkward question: if she does unilaterally declare war, does that mean that, like the Nazis, she’s going to round up and have protesters interned, as a threat to ‘national security?’

This is all about corporate profit, and in May’s case, trying to turn her into a great warleader like Thatcher and the Falklands. She’s risking a global nuclear holocaust purely for her own electoral advantage and the profits of the multinationals. She’s also a menace to British democracy.

Stop the war, before May and the corporatists kill us all.

The Salisbury Poisoning: A Pretext for War with Russia?

March 21, 2018

This alarming idea occurred to me yesterday, when I started wondering just how far the Tories are prepared to push their allegations that Russia is responsible for the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. So far, there’s precious little evidence that the Russians are responsible. Skripal had many enemies, and the Novichoks nerve agent used was created by the Russians, but the international chemical weapons authorities confirmed that they destroyed their stocks years ago. The poison wasn’t manufactured in Russia, but in Khazakstan, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union the ability to use and produce it spread to any number of other states. Including America and Israel. The government has so far refused to hand over a sample of the toxin over to the UN authority, so they can independently verify whether it is Novichoks, and Porton Down refused to follow the Tory line that the poison was definitely Russian, insisting instead that it was of a type developed by Russia. This last episode is very much like the way Tony Blair and New Labour ‘sexed up’ the MI6 report about Saddam Hussein and his non-existent weapons of mass destruction, so they could have the pretext they needed for the planned invasion of Iraq. Which makes you wonder how far the Tories are prepared to push this.

National security doesn’t seem to come into it. This seems to me to be just part of the new Cold War, started by Killary and the Democrats in America to take attention away from the fact that Clinton and her corporatist friends are horrible candidates that the American public didn’t like, and largely didn’t want in power. Ramping up tensions with Russia is useful to the Tories on this side of the Pond, as so many people have pointed out, because too many people are sick and tired of them, their cuts and their lies. And so it looks like they’re deliberately manipulating the crisis, so they can present themselves as the true, patriotic defenders of Britain, standing up to evil foreign dictators. Just like Maggie during the Falklands War.

And all the while smearing Corbyn as an evil Commie traitor in league with the Czechs and Russians. Cue the BBC and its carefully altered imagery on Newsnight to show Corbyn looking as sinister as possible.

I’m starting to worry how far the Tories are going to be prepared to push this. A couple of years ago there were NATO generals confidently predicting that by May last year, this country would be at war with Russia. Indeed, one of them even published a book about it with that as the very title. The idea was that the Russians would invade one of the Baltic States – I think it was Latvia. Mercifully, that never happened. But I am worried in case the same people on our side of the geopolitical divide nevertheless still think that a genuine, hot war will be a good idea.

Putin is a thug, and I don’t doubt for a single minute that he was behind the Litvinenko poisoning, and probably the murders of the 14 other Russians, who have died over here in suspicious circumstances. But there are very good reasons for remaining sceptical about their responsibility for the attack in Salisbury. And I don’t think ‘national security’ is the prime reason why they are blaming Russia. I read elsewhere that much of the hostility towards Russia comes from American multinationals. These poured hundreds of millions into Russia under Boris Yeltsin, when he was trying to transform it into a western-style democracy, and privatising anything that wasn’t nailed down. The Americans expected that they would be able to dominate the Russian economy. Putin stopped that, and kept Russia firmly out of America’s economic claws. Hence the massive resentment of the Russian president in American business and political circles.

It looks to me very much like the Tories and transatlantic multinationals are trying to force a confrontation with Putin, but not necessarily a war, simply for their own political and economic advantage. National security, and the poisoning and contamination of Salisbury, is just an excuse, a convenient pretext for this. Quite apart from NATO’s determination to prop up an increasingly blatant Nazi government in Ukraine, all the while keeping its true nature hidden from the rest of us. ‘Cause after all, the vast majority of severely normal Brits, Europeans and Americans very definitely would not want to back a bunch of genuine Nazis, goose-stepping around in the very uniforms their predecessors in the SS wore during World War II when they were murdering Jews and anybody else they decided was ‘subhuman’.

There’s a lot of very squalid politics going on here, and I do wonder how far the Tories and their allies are prepared to push this so they can weaken the Russian president.