Posts Tagged ‘Homelessness’

Muslims Come to the Aid of Vandalised Jewish Cemetery

February 23, 2017

The election of Donald Trump in America and the Brexit vote in Britain last year has led to a massive growth in racial bigotry and intolerance in both countries. Mike has put up on his blog today a critique of the government’s statement that migration to the UK has gone down. He points out that this is hardly surprising, given that hate crime has risen by 41 per cent. This includes assaults, arson attacks and canine excrement thrown at doors or shoved through letter boxes. He wonders if any of the Tory and UKIP politicos – David Cameron, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson or Michael Gove are really worried about this. It is, after all, not them or their class that’s being attacked, but Johnny Foreigner. Mike reminds us that Jo Cox, a politician, was murdered in a racist attack by Thomas Mair, and notes that the Commons yesterday cheered a move to commemorate the anniversary of her murder with the Great Get-Together, an initiative intended to bring communities together.

But he also remarks that there’s a bit of hypocrisy in their support for it, saying that

It would be hypocritical for them to applaud a drop in net migration fuelled by the same hate that ended Mrs Cox’s life.

The fact that violence is the real reason net migration has fallen means this is not a success for the United Kingdom and Theresa May.

As a nation, we should be ashamed.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/23/of-course-immigration-fell-after-the-brexit-vote-hate-crime-has-increased-dramatically/

The Young Turks on Tuesday reported the anti-Semitic desecration of about 200 graves in a Jewish cemetery in University City near St. Louis. One elderly lady from the community states that she no longer feels safe after the attack. This is not the only Jewish community has been attacked. So far 54 Jewish community centres have been threatened this year, including 11 in the past week. Discussing the incident, the two presenters, Ben Mankiewicz and Ana Kasparian, make the point that this hate has partly been unleashed by Donald Trump and his rhetoric and campaigns against Muslims and other groups, with Kasparian mentioning the misogyny in his speeches. They make the point that it is no accident that Trump’s cabinet includes Breitbart’s Steve Bannon, an anti-Semite and White supremacist, and his supporters include Richard Spencer, the leader of the Alt-Right. Spencer was interviewed by the left-wing news host, David Pakman, on his show. While Spencer denies being a Nazi, he refused to denounce Adolf Hitler. He said instead that he wasn’t ‘going to play those games’. He did state that the Third Reich was a failure. Which is something, but not the same as condemning it or Nazism. They also note that in his speech for Holocaust Remembrance Day, Trump somehow forgot to mention the Jews. Despite his own denial that he is anti-Semitic, Trump was very reluctant to disavow the support of David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Mankiewicz and Kasparian make the point that the people listening to Trump’s hate, and who feel emboldened and encouraged by it, aren’t going to limit their own hatred and attacks merely to the groups he’s selected. So even though Trump has denied that he is anti-Semitic, pointing out that his son-in-law is Jewish, and his daughter converted to Judaism to marry him, Trump’s own racist campaigning is responsible for encouraging these attacks on Jewish communities.

Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, has drawn fire for her father’s opponents, as she has tweeted a statement condemning the attack, which points out, quite rightly, that America was founded on religious toleration, and that we need to defend each others houses of worship.

There have also been an attempt by one right-wing journalist to blame the Left for the attack. Wolf Blitzer claimed that the cemetery was desecrated by Progressives. This seems to me to be complete and utter bilge. The Left, by and large, is very anti-racist. This accusation just seems to me to come from that part of the Republican and Libertarian ideologies that think that the Nazis were Socialists, ’cause Hitler put ‘Socialism’ in their name. He did, but only to draw some supporters away from the parties of the Left, such as the Social Democrats, the German equivalent of the Labour party, by making it appear that they were socialists. See the appropriate page in Joachim C. Fest’s biography of the nauseating little man, Hitler. And Hitler had to overcome the resistance of the other, founding members of the Nazi party, who bitterly despised Socialism and very definitely did not want their party to be associated with it. It also seems to me that the smear also owes something to continuing attempts to attack the BDS campaign against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This is an anti-racist campaign, supported by very many Jews as well as gentiles. But the Zionist lobby have always responded to criticism of Israeli imperialism and racism by smearing their opponents as anti-Semites. Many progressives as doubtless involved in the BDS movement as part of their general campaign against all forms of racism. But for the Israel lobby and their journalistic supporters, the progressives involved in the BDS campaign and similar movements must be anti-Semites. And from their it’s only a short leap to claiming that Progressives must somehow be responsible for this and similar attacks.

More positively, a Muslim organisation has come forward and raised money for the cemetery’s repair. Linda Sarsour, a Muslim activist, and one of the four principal organisers of the Women’s March on Washington, set up a website to raise the money. She wanted to get $20,000. Instead she raised $71,000. This is more than is needed for the cemetery in St. Louis, so the money will also be used to help other Jewish communities that have suffered attacks. The website states that it was set up to send a clear message from the Muslim and Jewish communities against such intolerance.

The programme’s hosts, Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian state that this shows the best of America, and that people are coming together to defend other victims of intolerance, whether it is over skin colour or religion. Kasparian states that she feels that there isn’t enough coverage of movements and events like this, as quite often the focus is dominated by the negative things now happening. But this makes her feel more positive and hopeful.

I don’t think this is the only incident in which the members of one religion have reached out to aid those from others, which are in need. There have been cases like it in this country, one of the most recent examples being the decision of some Asian restaurants and takeaways in Britain to stay open on Christmas Day to supply meals for the homeless. The Get-Together campaign cheered in the Commons yesterday is only the latest and most prominent of these events and movements. And there will undoubtedly be more of them, as more people come together to tackle the intolerance and Fascism unleashed by Trump and Brexit.

Westminster Council Goes 16th Century on the Homeless

January 15, 2017

Mike also put up a post yesterday reporting that Westminster council has decided on another authoritarian way of dealing with homelessness. They’re going to round them up and send them to other councils outside the borough from January 30th. The council’s excuse for this disgraceful policy is that it’s to combat the high cost of temporary accommodation. Mike points out that the reality is that it’s simply more social cleansing from a Tory-run council, whose leaders want to take as much as possible for themselves while giving little to others. Mike also makes the point that the real way to tackle homelessness is to make sure people are able to keep their homes, and states that it’s a miracle that anyone is there to do the cooking, cleaning and other menial work for the borough’s rich electors.

He concludes

This is truly disgusting behaviour by some of the most vile dregs of humanity, all dressed up as respectable people in the same way their activities are decorated with a veneer of respectability.

Scratch it and see the corruption.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/14/homeless-people-are-to-be-hidden-not-helped-according-to-britains-most-tory-council/

Johnny Void has been covering policies like this for a very long time. He has a particular interest in homelessness, and has put up countless posts about how Tory policies, and those of New Labour, actually create homelessness and make life worse for homeless people. He has also covered the social cleansing policies of the various councils in London and elsewhere, whose solution to the problem of rough sleepers is to make sure they are not seen on the streets, and so drive them out of town centres or the area altogether. This is part of the same mindset that seems very happy with putting house prices well out of the ability of working people to afford them, forcing them to commute from the poorer boroughs where they live into the exorbitantly expensive areas where they work further into London.

And the council has plenty of previous in its exploitative and abysmal treatment of its poorer residents. In the 1980s or ’90s there was the ‘homes for votes’ scandal, in which the council leaders, Dame Shirley Porter, and her minions deliberately put working class, Labour voters in sub-standard property with dangerous levels of asbestos as part of a strategy to engineer a cosy victory for the Tories.

Thatcher famously used to bang on about ‘Victorian values’, by which she meant making welfare as uncomfortable and difficult for the poor as possible, in order to deter them from using. Like the architects of the workhouse. This policy, however, goes further back.

Right back to the 16th century.

It’s a return of the old Elizabethan legislation in which the homeless in search of work were, unless they had a permit, to be whipped and sent out of the borough. Except that they haven’t got round to flogging them yet. However, as Mike put up a couple of posts just before Christmas of incidents where people thought that beating and urinating on the homeless and their bedding was a great joke, this probably won’t be long.

This shows the disgusting medieval attitude of the rich lords and ladies of Westminster council, and how they view us serfs, even if we are fortunate enough not to have to live on the streets.

Chief of Charity Mind to Head Government Mental Health Review with Chief of HBOS

January 14, 2017

Mike has also posted up today another story, reporting that Paul Farmer, the head of the mental health charity, MIND, has caused further anger among mental health workers and activists by agreeing to head a government review of mental health in the workplace. This review would also be headed by Lord Dennis Stevenson, the head of the banking conglomerate HBOS. May has stated that this is part of her government’s decision to looking into the ‘burning injustice’ of mental health. Among the issues it will examine is that of discrimination for jobs.

Farmer upset mental health activists at the end of October, when he claimed that his charity had no contracts with the government. A disgruntled employee then leaked documents showing that despite his denial that it would ever do so, the charity was in fact joining a government framework which would allow it to later obtain them.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/14/fresh-anger-over-minds-government-links-as-farmer-heads-new-review/

This, sadly, won’t come as a surprise to many left-wing bloggers. Johnny Void in particular has covered case after nauseating case where the very charities, who should be protecting the poor, the sick, the homeless and the vulnerable, have instead decided to throw in their lot with the government and become part of the nexus of private firms and non-profit organisations now doing the job of state welfare agencies. And in the cases Mr Void has examined, one after another of the heads of these charities also decide that the punitive legislation inflicted on those unable to work is badly needed to encourage them to get back on their feet. The most notorious of these are the private firms and initiatives seeking to profit from exploiting the unemployed under the workfare schemes. This is also pointed out by Florence, in her comment to Mike’s article above.

Perhaps I’m being too cynical here, but I predict that the review will conclude, following the pseudoscientific bilge spouted by the welfare to work industry, that work is good for those with mental health problems. They will then argue that existing legislation needs to be relaxed, and those with depression, anxiety and other disorders need to get off their rear ends and be forced into work through the workfare schemes.

I can even remember the head of one of these charities running an advert promoting this line. This showed a drawing of a young woman in bed, and the quotes ‘I didn’t get up for work today. I don’t think I’ll get up for work tomorrow’. This was supposed to be an example of the negative attitude that prevents people with mental illness getting jobs, which the charity was determined to combat.

I’ve got news for them. They really obviously don’t know what they’re talking about. One of the things I’ve learned from my own experience after a nervous breakdown years ago from talking to others like myself is that those with mental illness do not just arbitrarily decide they don’t really feel like working. It’s the opposite. They cannot face work and its stresses. And accompanying the depression itself, is further feelings of depression and guilt over the fact that they have not been able to ‘pull themselves together’. Many of them may even have been working for several weeks or months before it all becomes far too much.

And quite often, they may have been driven to their depression by the job itself, through pressure of work, vindictive or poor management, or simply mind-numbing, soul-destroying boredom.

And you can see how this review is going to be slanted by the appointment of Lord Stevens. Is he a mental health professional, say, a psychologist, psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse, or neurologist? No, he’s a banker. I dare say his appointment will be defended on the grounds that he understands the needs of business, but the reality is that he’s there to make sure that anything done in the name of the mentally ill will benefit private business. So you can bet that both he and Farmer will recommend that some part of the welfare state that actually protects and defends the mentally ill should be sold off or abolished on some spurious pretext.

Theresa May has no interest in removing or combating the ‘burning injustice’ of mental illness, as her party’s policies have created so much of it. She is merely interested in seeming to do something, and by allowing the further exploitation of her party’s victims.

Vox Political: Public Sides with Archbishop of Canterbury against Scrooge Farage

December 29, 2016

This story adds one piece more to the pile of evidence screaming out how thoroughly, grottily mean-spirited Nigel Farage is. On Christmas Day, Rev. Justin Welby, the current archbishop of Canterbury, tweeted the following message:

“Jesus came to us homeless and in a manger. This Christmas, please pray with me for the poor, hungry and homeless, here and abroad.”

This was too much for Farage, who tweeted back

“Merry Christmas! Ignore all negative messages from the Archbishop of Canterbury and have a great day!”

As a result, a social media campaign has been launched, where users of the site have been posting messages supporting the Archbishop under the hashtag #ImWithJustinWelby”.

Mike speculates that this may be part of a sea change against the various rightwing windbags like Farage and, indeed, the entire Tory cabinet, who have been promoted by their parties far beyond their meagre abilities, and have been responsible for making 2016 the dire mess it has been.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/29/imwithjustinwelby-and-against-nigel-farage-who-in-their-right-mind-wouldnt-be/

You actually begin to wonder what kind of society the Tories and ultra-Tories like UKIP have created, when a politico like Farage finds the Archbishop’s message offensive or controversial. Christian religious leaders and laypeople have been exhorting their co-religionists to remember the poor at this time of year since, well, actually since Charles Dickens first invented the modern Christmas way back in the 19th century with A Christmas Carol. The story was a piece of deliberate social engineering by the great novelist. Dickens was appalled by the poverty he saw in the Britain of his time – hence the term ‘Dickensian’, because of the care he took to describe it. Dickens felt that part of the solution to this problem would be to re-awaken the Christian conscience through stressing the spirit of generous charity at this festival. It was his rebuttal to the sentiments he puts in Scrooge’s mouth, about the poor finding relief from starvation through prison or the workhouse.

But this very traditional Christmas message – which has been repeated just about every year since Dickens effectively revived and reinvented its celebration in Britain – is now seen by the Fuhrage as some kind of dangerous moralistic ploy to spoil everyone’s fun. It isn’t. It’s inclusive. It’s about sharing the fun around, to combat poverty and social alienation.

And Britain might now be a largely secular society, but many atheists and secular people would agree with central point of the Archbishop’s message: that as the nation settles down to enjoy itself, it should also remember those less fortunate than themselves.

Farage’s reaction to the Archbishop’s message also shows how used the Tories are to automatically attacking any comment about social conditions from the Church. Ever since the Anglican church issued the first of a series of reports in the 1970s condemning the Tory party for increasing poverty in Britain, the Tories have been sneering and attacking them in their turn. There’s even a wretched blog, Cranmer, which states that it has been set up to support all rightwing Christians, particularly Anglicans, now that the Anglican clergy are turning to politics. The Tories’ reaction to such comments has now become instinctive. As soon as a senior clergyman dares to point out that poverty still haunts Britain, even in such a mild, inoffensive and entirely non-controversial form as the Archbishop’s Christmas tweet, someone like Farage has to stand up and denounce it.

And so, in the spirit of selfish greed and indulgence, we have Farage demanding that everyone should ignore the poor and homeless, and concentrate on stuffing themselves.

His statement also shows up another glaring moral fault in UKIP in the party’s attitude to immigration and non-Whites. Despite what the Fuhrage has said, his party is full of racist bigots, Islamophobes and White supremacists, who see Blacks and Asians as a dangerous threat to the British way of life and morality. But over Christmas, a number of Asian take-aways and restaurants have shown far more of the Christmas spirit than Farage. Mike put up a story about a fish and chip shop in Brum, run by two Asian brothers, which was going to supply free meals to the homeless and elderly on Christmas Day. I also heard that some of the Asian restaurants were also going to do likewise in Cheltenham. This spirit wasn’t confined to the Asian community – other hostelries, like a pub in Glastonbury, were also doing the same. I’m not here claiming that Blacks or Asians are any more virtuous than Whites. But the simple fact that so many Asian restaurants were doing so amply demonstrates that the obvious isn’t automatically true either. It shows how bigoted UKIP are, and their lack of compassion for society as a whole.

A few years ago one of the TV companies ran a show which adopted an interesting take on the issue of immigration. The show worked on the principle of ‘one in, one out’. Every week, the presenters gave the case for letting a particular person into the country, and canvased their viewers on who they’d like to see deported. One of those the great British public wanted to see thrown out of the country by a very long margin, according to Private Eye, was the editor of rabidly xenophobic Daily Mail, Paul Dacre. I think we should adopt the same attitude here. The Archbishop should be fully supported, and everyone who gave their time, money or other help to the poor and homeless at Christmas needs to stay, regardless of their ethnic or religious origins. Nigel Farage, however, must go.

Farage is Scrooge. Deport him now!

Trump and Putin Revive Nuclear Arms Race

December 24, 2016

Yesterday, Mike put up another piece commenting on statements by the American president-elect and Vladimir Putin that they want to strengthen their countries’ nuclear arsenals. Trump had made a tweet on Thursday saying “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

Trump did so the same day that Putin issued his own statement, declaring that “We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defence systems.”

Mike makes the point that the threat of nuclear Armageddon will not make the world more secure. It will not make rogue states like North Korea abandon their nuclear programmes. Instead, Mike urged us to listen to George Takei, whose family personally experienced the horror of the atomic bomb in Japan in World War II.

Star Trek’s Mr Sulu tweeted “Trump wants to expand our nuclear arsenal. I think of my aunt and baby cousin, found burnt in a ditch in Hiroshima. These weapons must go.”

Absolutely. I can remember the very large, and vocal demonstrations against nuclear weapons in Japan during the new Cold War of the 1980s. The Japanese had every good reason to demand the reduction and abandonment of the world’s nuclear arsenals: their country had experienced the terrible carnage produced by these horrific weapons.

Mike also reports that back in May, Trump also stated that he would support South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia acquiring nuclear weapons for their own protection.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/23/why-are-trump-and-putin-suddenly-keen-to-revive-the-cold-war/

Mike’s also reported that Trump has followed up his idiotic tweet by making his intentions clear in an interview with Mika Brzezinski, one of the presenters on MSNBC’s Morning Joe programme. He said, ‘Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all’.

Mike makes the point that his comments risk needlessly inflaming tensions with Russia, pointing out that what is currently repeated in the western media about eastern Europe and the Middle East is propaganda designed to manipulate public opinion. He also argues that Putin could adopt the opposite approach, and concentrate on saving precious money and resources through the same policy, that has been considered by Labour Jeremy Corbyn. This means killing or otherwise neutralising terrorists’ leaders through surgical strikes, leaving them without effective military direction.

He also points out that technological weapons are also increasingly susceptible to infiltration and sabotage.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/24/while-trump-spends-all-his-money-on-nuclear-weapons-what-will-the-russians-do/

Trump’s determination to ramp up America’s nuclear arsenal is bizarre, given his previous statements during his presidential campaign in which he deliberately gave the impression that he would be scaling down America’s military intervention around the globe. However, on examination this does seem very much in line with Trump’s determination to go back on every single one of his election promises, with the exception of repealing Obamacare.

Remember the noise he was making about going to Washington to ‘drain the swamp’, and would stop the corporate domination and corruption of Congress? That’s gone. After attacking Hillary for being a fully paid-up stooge for Wall Street, Trump has himself gone and appointed Wall Street bankers – including one from Goldman Sachs – to his cabinet. In fact, if anything, he’s increased the amount of corporate corruption. He’s allowed his daughter, Ivanka, to stay with him during negotiations with heads of government in either Japan or China, despite the fact that Ivanka Trump is also a businesswoman, who could use the information from these interviews to gain a clear economic advantage. And his sons have been raising money for their father by selling tickets to the extremely and not-quite-so filthy rich for them to attend dinners with him and go on hunting trips. All Trump’s talk about tackling corporate power has been a lie. Instead, it’s very much business as usual.

And it appears to be very much the same here. Counterpunch has published several articles over the past couple of months discussing how Barack Obama has been talking to senior military staff in Washington. He has already started to expand America’s stockpiles of nuclear weapons. He has also considered the possible use of low-megaton ‘battle field’ nukes in a limited nuclear war in Europe. The American comedian Jimmy Dore has several times ripped into Obama on his internet show, bitterly attacking the false image of the soon to be ex-president as some kind of dove and peacemaker. Far from stopping wars, Obama has carried on George Dubya’s brutal military policies in the Middle East, from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, as well as Libya and Somalia. And so this new policy, announced by Trump, really isn’t new at all. It is, as Max Headroom used to say, merely ‘more… of the same’. The difference here is that Max was a fictional character with a satirical edge talking about pop music. The pilot for his series, 20 Minutes into the Future, showed a decaying Britain with massive poverty and homelessness, dominated by ruthless and unscrupulous media corporations. It’s a dystopian vision that is still very relevant today, even if the human brain is far too complicated to be successfully mapped and modelled electronically to produce an AI like Max.

As for the reason behind this dangerous policy, Counterpunch also published a piece describing Hillary Clinton’s vision of America’s role in the world. She seemed to be intent on expanding America’s military power to the utmost. She and the rest of the hawks talked about ‘full spectrum domination’, which means that America is the superior, dominant military superpower with the ability to bomb everyone else back into submission. At the same time, her domestic policies were aimed at keeping the working class as poor and as desperate as possible, so that she could sell American products cheaply to the emerging east Asian market.

It’s also been argued that America spends so much on the military because it is the only way that the American state can stimulate the country’s economy. Leftwing commenters and political analysts have argued that the experience of the Second World War after the Great Depression taught the American industrial and political class that America needed state intervention to create prosperity. This is, however, the Keynsian economic position, which is vehemently rejected by the Republicans and Libertarians as ‘socialism’ or even ‘Communism’. The only way the American state can effectively intervene in the American economy in a manner that is ideologically acceptable, is by doing what the Nazis and Fascists did in Germany and Italy, and invest massively in a re-armament programme. And like the Fascist states, the state has to use its armed forces to maintain its investments and public support for the rearmament programme. This was part of the reason for the outbreak of the Second World War.

As for Trump’s statement that he is prepared to allow South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia to acquire nuclear weapons, this is grossly irresponsible. Especially in the case of Saudi Arabia. In the case of Japan, it unacceptable for the same reason that the country has difficulty launching its own spacecraft. In the 1980s Japan developed its own rocket launcher to carry its satellites and probes into space. One of these probes was amongst the small flotilla of spacecraft that met Halley’s Comet in 1986. From what I’ve read, the country has only used its launcher a few times because of fears that it would be taken as a missile attack by the Chinese. The same would be true of South Korea. Political scientists and foreign policy analysts have argued very strongly against threatening China, as they respond by passing on nuclear technology and armaments to other nations, such as Pakistan.

And I cannot imagine anything more stupid, more calculated to result a nuclear holocaust, than giving atomic weapons to Saudi Arabia. This is a militant theocracy that has sponsored horrific terror campaigns throughout the Middle East and against America itself. Elements within the Saudi aristocracy and political elite, including its intelligence minister and possibly, if I remember correctly, the current king, sponsored al-Qaeda and ISIS. Terrorist organisations like them, who use suicide bombers and deliberately target civilians, simply cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. But that is what would happen if Trump allowed Saudi Arabia to acquire them.

Trump’s renewal of the nuclear arms race is therefore simply a continuation of Bush’s, Obama’s and Hillary’s arms policies. And it’s insane. During the Cold War of the last century, there were at least three instances where NATO and the former Warsaw Pact were on the edge of full-scale nuclear war. We escaped some of these by the skin of our teeth. This time, we may not be so lucky.

Chip Shops and Pubs Offering Meals to the Homeless at Christmas

December 24, 2016

Yesterday, Mike over at Vox Political put up a piece commenting on the decision by two brothers in Brum, Hamid and Asef Faqiri, who own the Classic Fish Bar, to open on Christmas Day between 13.00 and 16.00 to give free turkey dinners to the elderly and the homeless. They state that they want to help those in need and make the community happy. One of the brothers, Asef, remarked that he had seen a lot of homeless people, and always wanted to help.

While Mike welcomed the twos generosity, he also pointed out the obvious danger. That by doing something to help the poor, this would be used by the Tories to justify the government doing nothing. They’d try to argue that this is David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ at work, where private charity picks up the slack from government.

Mike makes the argument instead that we pay our taxes on the understanding that the government does everything in its power to make sure that citizens aren’t homeless and starving.

He concludes:

We don’t make that argument often enough and, in the Season of Goodwill, it might be more appropriate than ever to point out that very little goodwill is coming from Westminster.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/22/free-christmas-fish-and-chips-for-the-homeless-gives-tories-a-chance-to-justify-their-apathy/

I think there are a number of places doing this up and down the country. I heard that some of the Asian restaurants and take-aways in Cheltenham will also be doing the same, as will the Market Inn pub in Glastonbury, according to today’s Western Daily Press.

I completely share Mike’s views on this issue. What these places and the people who run them are doing is very commendable, but it runs into the trap of appearing to validate the Tories’ cuts and dismantlement of the welfare state. Maggie Thatcher began her attack on it back in the 1980s with the deliberate goal of reducing the tax burden and forcing people back on to private charity to support them. She believed it would strengthen religion, and particularly the churches, if people had to come to them for aid, rather than the state. Hence the eagerness of the Salvation Army to acquire government contracts for dealing with poverty, as well as the desire of so many of the corporate management types now running very many charities likewise to do so, while at the same time demanding that the government enact even more stringent policies against the poor, the unemployed and the homeless. For the grim details, go to Johnny Void’s blog and look up his entries on these issues.

It’s a nasty, cynical attitude to bringing people back to religion, and it many Christians believe it runs contrary to the teachings of the Bible and the Gospels. In the last of the series of Advent talks held at our local church on Thursday, the minister made precisely this point. Not that this would have had any effect on Maggie. When she gave a talk to the ruling body of the Church of Scotland back in the 1980s, expounding her view that people who didn’t work, shouldn’t get something for nothing, the guid ministers and layfolk greeted what she said with frowns and silence. It was obvious that they were very unimpressed. But it didn’t stop Maggie cutting welfare provision left and right.

So I heartily endorse Mike’s point. It needs to be repeated over and again, until someone in Westminster either gets the point, or is unable to drown it out and stop others from hearing it. If you want to see the drawbacks of this attitude, look at America. Americans are extremely generous in charitable giving. But there is a massive problem with extreme poverty in America, and one that is growing thanks to Reagan and corporatist Democrats like Obama and Killary. Private charity cannot adequately tackle poverty, no matter what Thatcher, Cameron, May and Iain Duncan Smith and Damian Green want us to believe. And this message needs to be hammered home, until the public very obviously turns away from the Tories and their lies.

Comics and Political Satire: Diceman’s ‘You Are Ronald Reagan’

October 13, 2016

diceman-reagan-cover

I’ve written a several pieces about comics and political satire and comment. The 1960s counterculture produced underground comics, which dealt with taboo subjects. These included sex, and issues of sexual orientation, such as homosexuality, as well as explicit political commentary and satire. These continued well into the 1980s and 1990s. Over here, adult strips with a strong political content included Crisis, many of the Knockabout stable of comics, and Pete Loveday’s Russell: The Saga of a Peaceful Man. Mainstream comics, such as 2000 AD, also contained elements of satire and political comment, particularly in the strips created and written by veteran recidivist and script droid Pat Mills.

Way back in the 1980s, 2000 AD also launched a spin-off, aimed at the RPG crowd. This followed adventure game books, like the Wizard of Firetop Mountain, in which the reader also played the central character in the adventure, and their decisions reading the book/game determined how it ended for them. 2000 AD’s Diceman was similar, but the games were in comic strip form, rather than simple, unillustrated text. Most of the games were straightforward strips using 2000 AD characters like Slaine, Nemesis the Warlock and Rogue Trooper. There was also the ‘Diceman’ strip of the title, which was about a 1930s occult private eye in America, hunting down weirdness and assorted monsters and human villains assisted by his own occult monster, Astragal, the demon of the dice. The strip was set amongst the grim tenements of Depression era New York, though it could go further afield into Nazi Germany, and so also had more than a little similarity to the Indian Jones films then playing in cinemas. It was based on the writings and life of Charles Hoy Fort, the writer and researcher of the bizarre and weird, such as falls of frogs and other strange events. Fort was the inspiration for the magazine The Fortean Times, which continued Fort’s work of documenting the bizarre and the scientifically ‘damned’. The Fortean inspiration behind Diceman probably came from the fact that many of those involved in the British comics scene, like the late Steve Moore, were also contributors to the FT.

Most of the strips seem to have been written by Pat Mills, and the readership seems to have been somewhat more mature than that of the parent magazine, 2000 AD. So in a couple of them, Pat Mills let rip and dealt explicitly with two of the politicos then running amok on the world stage. These were Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Illustrated by the great underground comic artist, Hunt Emerson, these were ‘Maggie Thatcher: A Dole-Playing Game’, and ‘You Are Ronald Reagan’. I found the issue with the latter yesterday looking through a pile of old magazines. Published in issue 5 of the magazine in 1986, the game had the reader take over the brain of the American president and journey back in time to avert an impending nuclear war. During the game you were faced with such tasks as deciding whether to send the troops into Nicaragua, negotiating arms reductions with the Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, researching your family tree to boost your popularity with the American electorate, and trying to prevent a full scale nuclear war with Russia. While also trying to sort out what to do about Britain and Maggie’s plea to turn it into America’s 51st State. The reader also had to successfully maintain the illusion that they were indeed the real Ronald Reagan. If they didn’t, they were fried in the electric chair as a Commie infiltrator. Along with Maggie and various aides, one of the whom looked like an American eagle, was Reagan’s buddy, Bonzo the Superchimp, named after Reagan’s co-star in the film Bedtime for Bonzo.

Some idea of the style – both visual and narrative – of the strip can be seen in the sample page below.

diceman-reagan-1

The strip mostly has a light touch, even when Reagan fails to avert World War 3 and civilisation is ended in a nuclear holocaust. But it dealt with extremely serious issues. For example, nearly all of the options for solving the crisis in Nicaragua involved military force to a greater or lesser extent, and all of them would result in misery for the people of that nation. Which were illustrated with the same depiction of starving peasants and crying children for all of the choices. As with many of Mills’ strips, it was based on solid research, with some of the books consulted listed at the end of the strip, along with the terrifying real incidents where the world had come close to nuclear war through mistakes and stupidity.

The strip was also similar to some of the computer games then being created for the new generation of home computers, like the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum. Some of these also had a satirical slant, including one called The Tebbitt. This followed the Tolkienesque adventure game format, but you played a politician running around Whitehall trying to solve political issues. Hence the title, in which the name of one of Thatcher’s cabinet thugs, Norman Tebbitt, was substituted for The Hobbit.

Sadly, Diceman didn’t last long. There are still underground comic strips and graphic novels with a strong political content. Counterpunch a few weeks ago carried an article about one attacking the current situation in America. And two years ago Mills announced another graphic novel containing an anthology of strips to counter the establishment propaganda about the First World War. Role-Playing Games like Dungeons and Dragons and various others based on H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos are still played, despite being overtaken by video and computer games. And Judge Dredd and 2000 AD and its other characters, like Slaine and the A.B.C. Warriors have survived into the 21st Century. Unfortunately, so have the Conservatives, Neoliberal economics, a political cult based around Reagan and Thatcher as visionary politicians, for whom it is tantamount to horrible blasphemy to criticise. And Obama and the Conservatives in this country also seem to want to pitch the world into another nuclear confrontation with Russia, this time over the Middle East.

Perhaps it’s time for a few more politically orientated satirical strips. Maybe one in which you play David Cameron, and have to avoid destroying the economy, making millions homeless and starving, and trying not to break up the UK while fighting the EU. All the while breaking trade unions, protecting the rich and powerful, and keeping the population as poor and desperate as possible. With the option of doing it all again as Theresa May.

DPAC Demonstration Outside Bromley Jobcentre Yesterday

September 24, 2016

I found this short video on YouTube of the demonstration held by DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) outside Bromley Jobcentre yester, the 23rd September 2016. The speakers talked about the rise in the numbers of homeless in London – about 200 children – due to the government’s welfare reforms and closure of crisis centres. They denounced the sanctions system as against human rights, and pointed out that people with disabilities and learning difficulties were being denied benefits and the means to live due to these. They also pointed out that able-bodied people in employment, but on low wages, would also be subject to the sanctions system when they are placed on Universal Credit. They will then be required to raise their income through finding another job or getting more hours. If they can’t, they’ll lose their benefits. There is also a man talking about the deaths resulting from the Canadian government’s cuts to its social assistance programmes and aid for the homeless. This has led to people dying of cold in the streets because of the extreme arctic climate, or else have been crammed, shorn of their dignity, in warming centres. The man states that he has joined the campaign, as OPAC has strong links with DPAC, and this needs to be a movement of working class people across borders.

As well as the people speaking, other demonstrators are seen holding up a long banner displaying the number of people – 7,524 or thereabouts – who have been sanctioned by the Jobcentre.

DPAC have been protesting up and down the country against the cuts, and they are very clear, including in this video, about the suffering and deaths from despair and starvation the benefit cuts have caused. Their demos have also regularly received the support they deserve from local trade unions. This demonstration is no exception. One of the speakers is a young woman from the local trades council.

The campaign against austerity is indeed truly international. I’ve blogged here about how anarchists have launched opposition strategies against the cuts to get badly needed help to the poor and homeless, based on similar campaigns in Canada. In Germany too there have also been campaigns against similar sanctions systems imposed in some German laender. The movement against austerity is international, and its growing.

The Demands of the Independent Social Democrats during the 1919 German Council Revolution

August 20, 2016

I found this statement of the political demands of the Independent Social Democratic Party in J.W. Hiden’s The Weimar Republic (Harlow: Longman 1974), pp. 78-9. The Independent Social Democratic Party – USPD – were the left-wing of the main German Socialist party, the SPD, which split in 1919 over the issue of the workers’ councils. These had sprung up across Germany following the defeat in the First World War, and were modelled on the workers’, soldiers’ and peasants’ councils that had been set up in 1917 during the first phase of the Revolution, which eventually ended in the Bolshevik coup. Hiden in his comments notes that at the time the USPD issued their demands, there was actually no chance of it being implemented. The elections to the National Assembly had already been held, and the Spartacist Uprising, which was intended to establish Germany as a Communist state, had been quelled. Nevertheless, he considers it important as the kind of state that the Revolution could have created.

The immediate demands of the USPD are:

1. Inclusion of the Councils system in the constitutions. Decisive participation of the Councils in legislation, state and municipal government and in industry.

2. Complete dissolution of the old army. Immediate dissolution of the mercenary army made up of volunteer corps (Freikorps). Disarming of the bourgeoisie. The setting up of a people’s army from the ranks of the class conscious working sector. Self-government for the people’s army and election of officers by the ranks. The lifting of military jurisdiction.

3. The nationalist of capitalist undertakings is to begin at once. It is to be executed immediately in the sphere of mining, and of energy production (coal, water-power, electricity), of concentrated iron and steel production as well as insurance. Landed property and great forests are to be transferred to the community at once. Society has the task of bringing the whole economy to its highest degree of efficiency by making available all technical and economic aids as well as promoting co-operative organisations. In the towns all private property is to pass to the municipality and sufficient dwellings are to be made available by the municipality on its own account.

4. Election of authorities and judges by the people. Immediate setting up of a Supreme Court of Judicature which is to bring to account those responsible for the world war and the prevention of a more timely peace.

5. Any growth of wealth achieved during the war is to be removed by taxation. A portion of all larger fort8unes is to be given to the state. In addition, public expenditure is to be covered by a sliding scale of income, wealth and inheritance taxes.

6. Extension of social welfare. Protection for mother and child. War widows, orphans and wounded are to be assured a trouble-free existence. Homeless are to be given the use of the spare rooms of owners. Fundamental reorganisation of public health system.

7. Separation of state and church and of church and school. Public, standardised schools with secular character, to be developed according to socialist educational principles. The right of every child to an education corresponding to his ability and availability of the means necessary for this end…

The programme’s clearly a production of the revolutionary ferment at the end of the First World War. But much of it remains acutely relevant for today. For example, we do need the nationalisation of public utilities – electricity, gas and water – as millions are being overcharged and exploited by these companies. The railways are notoriously expensive and inefficient. Under private management they consume three times more money from subsidies than they did when it was a nationalised industry as British rail. At the same time, Britain’s forests are being privatised, to the public’s disadvantage, by the Tories.

Similarly, there does need to be increased taxation of the super-rich. Under Blair and the Tories the rich have benefited from massive tax cuts, and the tax burden has been unfairly passed to the poor. Inequality has massively increased, so that a vanishingly small minority of people own far more than the rest of us combined. This was shown very clearly last week when the Duke of Westminster died, leaving £9 billion to his son.

Social welfare certainly needs to be extended. Blair and the Conservatives have consistently cut benefits for and demonised the poor, disabled and unemployed as ‘scroungers’. The result is that some 4.7 million are living in ‘food poverty’, and hundreds of thousands are only kept from starving by food banks. As for the war wounded, and the widows and orphans produced by Blair’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I wonder how much help they are receiving, despite charities like Help For Heroes. Many of the squaddies that fought for their country during Gulf War I were left homeless. I have a strong feeling that many of their comrades in these wars have also been left, discarded by the state, in similar poverty and destitution. We also need a profound reorganisation of the public health services, as these are being privatised by Blair and the Tories.

There’s an irony here in that USPD wanted homeowners to have to take in the homeless. This is the precise opposite of what the Tories have been trying to do to those in council houses with the ‘Bedroom tax’. Millions are being left without homes, not just because they aren’t being built, but because many properties were bought as part of the buy-to-let market. Rents have risen, so that many people can no longer afford them, let alone think of owning their own home. But the Tories are the party of business and property, and something like this measure would fill them with panic. After all, it’s why they have a fit of the vapours every time someone talks about the ‘Bedroom tax’. They definitely don’t want to give the rest of the population the terrible impression that they are going to tax everyone’s bedroom. But doing it to the very poorest is perfectly acceptable.

I went to a church school, and don’t agree with the complete separation of church and state or absolutely secular schools, although I understand the reasons why many do. But I do support their statement that every child has right to the education that corresponds to his ability, and the means necessary for that end. It should be an automatic right. Unfortunately, this is also being undermined by the academies, that were brought in by Blair and which the Tories want to expand. They’d also like to bring back grammar schools, which were abandoned in favour of comprehensives because they did discriminate against working class children achieving a high education. And the introduction of tuition fees by New Labour and then increased by the Tories is leaving students with crippling debts, which are actively leading a quarter of graduates to stick to low paid jobs in order to avoid the extra burden of paying them off.

As for the most radical proposal, the inclusion of workers’ council in the political system – there’s a very, very strong argument for that too. The massive corporate corruption of parliament has shown that it increasingly does not represent the working class or their interests. It represents the power of big business, and their campaign to have a poor, desperate, poverty-stricken working class willing to be exploited through workfare, zero-hours and short-term contracts and the like.

Chunky Mark Asks What Cameron’s Legacy Will Be

July 14, 2016

This is another rant by the Artist Taxi Driver, in which he asks the question, what David Cameron’s legacy will be. He asks will it be the way he has given a banquet for the rich, and more poverty and misery for the poor, and then goes on to list nearly every wretched policy Cameron has passed, such as:

Shaming the poor on benefits, like the wretched TV show, Benefits Street, cutting services, selling off the libraries, parts of the fire service; the privatisation and marketization of the NHS; the academisation of our schools, tripling tuition fees, cutting benefits for the disabled; the work capability test, workfare, zero hours contracts, his shameless tax evasion and tax cuts for the rich, the Panama papers, the ability to lie without blinking, fracking, the Katie Hopkins-style demonization of refugees fleeing war in their homelands, including the vilification of those poor souls, who didn’t make it, and now lie dead at the bottom of the sea; state surveillance, selling people’s data, workers’ rights, the abandoning of human rights, Brexit and the consequent small-minded racist isolationism, knocking down social housing, a ‘home-owning democracy’, in which few, in fact, can afford their own homes; the sale of the land registry, and the land itself, to billionaires resident in the Cayman Islands; his relationship with Rupert Murdoch, Rebecca Brooks and Andy Coulson; a man sent to jail for stealing a Toblerone; another man dying of exposure after being evicted for squatting; being part of that whole Eton, Bullingdon-boy culture, and wandering around during the 2012 riots wearing loafers.

This is just about everything, absolutely everything Cameron has done and stands for. It’s a catalogue of just how much Cameron has brought down the country, although in fairness, it’s not all his fault. He’s just continued with the privatisation of the NHS, following on from Tony Blair, who followed on from Major, who took up where Thatcher left off. The work capability assessment was also another idea taken over from New Labour. And all the administrations since Thatcher, with the exception of John Major, were all over Rupert Murdoch. Major would have liked to have been too, but Murdoch switched his loyalty to the Warmonger of Islington.

What, therefore, is going to be David Cameron’s legacy? After this long, list of evil and iniquity, the Chunky One concludes that it’ll be Cameron inserting his private member into the mouth of a dead pig.