Posts Tagged ‘House of Commons’

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.

Jeremy Corbyn Calls for ‘No Confidence’ Vote on Tweezer

December 17, 2018

So it’s finally happened. Despite the SNP telling the world that Corbyn is content to leave Theresa May in power for now, the Labour leader has done precisely the opposite: he’s tabled a motion of ‘No Confidence’ in May. This video from RT shows him announcing that he is doing so, and was posted c. 6.45 pm, today, Monday 17th December 2018. Mr. Corbyn says

The Prime Minister has obdurately refused to ensure that a vote took place on the date she agreed, she refuses to allow a vote to take place this week and is now, I assume, thinking the vote will be on the 14th January, almost a month away. This is unacceptable in any way whatsoever. So, Mr speaker, as the only way I can think of ensuring a vote takes place this week, I am about to table a motion which says the following:

That this House has no confidence in the Prime Minister, due to her failure to allow the House of Commons to have a meaningful vote straight away on the withdrawal agreement and framework for future relationships between the UK and European Union, and that will be tabled immediately, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.

John Bercow replies with “I think the honourable gentleman for what he said. It requires no response from me, but it’s on the record.”

May listens quietly throughout Corbyn’s speech with that silly smile on her face, before leaving the debating chamber in silence.

Corbyn’s finally done something to force May to call a vote on the Brexit deal, as well as striking a blow at May herself. I was hoping for something like this, along with many others. I was furious at May’s decision last week to travel again to the EU to seek yet more concessions, and the results of her bungling. As Mike showed on his blog, she achieved nothing except to make things worse as the EU removed some of the clauses which would have worked in our favour.

May is an absolute liability to this country and the welfare, health and livelihood of its citizens. Thatcher had the good grace to leave when the Tories held a ‘No Confidence’ vote against her, and she actually had more votes than May. But then, there were also riots breaking out all over the country protesting against her iniquitous poll tax.

Does that mean that the people of this country have to do the same to get rid of her? I sincerely hope not, but this is what it looks like. And despite all her verbiage about people coming back together to get the best deal for Brexit, she has done nothing of the kind to do this. The country is still as divided as ever, and the pundits in the papers over the past month have been worrying about this almost as if a civil war was about to break out. Which it isn’t, thank heaven, and the newspaper’s predictions and alarms just show how hysterical and alarmist they are.

I hope this vote succeeds. I hope that it forces the vote on the Brexit deal to be held this week, before Tweezer can postpone it further into Never-Never Land. And I hope she goes. Now.

Jeremy Corbyn Calls on MPs to Reject Tweezer’s Brexit

November 27, 2018

Mike’s put up several articles pointing out that Tweezer’s Brexit deal is incredibly desperate. No-one wants it, whether they’re extreme-right Leave supporters, or left-wing Remainers. Or even left-wing Leave supporters, who certainly exist and were one element in the vote to Leave last year. Tweezer has thus been running around trying to get the British public to support it, and has appealed to the Labour party to do so as well. 26 Labour party MPs turned up to the Tory briefing, and at present they’re undecided. Only half of them will vote for it, if that. And if they do, then they will earn the hatred and resentment of the voters, who put them in parliament for their betrayal of ordinary working people to the Tories.

Here’s a video RT put up showing Jeremy Corbyn’s speech in which he urged the House to reject it. Corbyn says

(The) Prime Minister says that if we reject this deal, it will take us back to square one. The truth is, Mr Speaker, under this government we’ve never got beyond square one, the botched deal is a bad deal for this country, and all yesterday did is mark the end of this government’s failed and miserable negotiations, there can be no doubt that this deal would leave us with the worst of all worlds, no say over future rules and no certainty for the future.

Ploughing on is not stoic, it’s an act of national self-harm. The Prime Minister may have achieved agreement across 27 heads of state, but she’s lost support of the country. This deal is not a plan for the future of Britain, so for the good of the nation, the House has very little choice but to reject this deal.

Massive applause and uproar.

I hope the whole deal collapses, along with May’s government, they have to call a new election and Corbyn wins. If Tweezer gets kicked out tomorrow, it won’t be too soon.

Rees Mogg Senior’s Support of Pinochet’s Fascist Coup in Chile

June 4, 2018

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the rising Tory star and archaic ‘minister for the 18th century’, as he’s been dubbed, last week seemed to show very clearly the extent of his ambitions. He bought a townhouse overlooking Downing Street. Despite his denials that this showed his intention of occupying No. 10, everyone else took it as a clear sign that he very definitely does have his sights on becoming Prime Minister.

Rees-Mogg is a true-blue Tory aristo, who began his career by campaigning to keep the unreformed, and unelected House of Lords. He has consistently voted to increase spending, tax cuts and other privileges for the rich, and to cut and deny state aid, welfare benefits and spending on the poor, the unemployed and the disabled. He has a vast income provided by his investment firms. And he’s also the son of William Rees-Mogg, the former editor of the Times and later columnist for the Independent.

I found this passage quoting and commenting on a piece Rees-Mogg senior wrote at the time, welcoming the Fascist coup by General Pinochet which overthrew Salvador Allende, in Colin Sparks’ article, ‘The Media and the State’ in James Curran, Jake Ecclestone, Giles Oakley and Alan Richardson, eds., Bending Reality: The State of the Media (London: Pluto Press 1986). Allende was a democratically elected Marxist, who enraged his country’s ruling elite by wishing to expropriate land from their estates to give to the peasants. He was also a danger to the American-led global campaign against Communism, simply because his regime had taken power through popular elections. It contradicted the view that Communism could only gain power through very undemocratic means, like revolutions and coups. And so the CIA backed Pinochet’s coup against Allende, which plunged the country into a brutal Fascist dictatorship that lasted from c. 1974 to the early 1990s.

Before quoting Rees-Mogg senior, Sparks also describes how the elite will try to bring down any government genuinely trying to create a more democratic, equal society, and eliminate poverty using ideological as well as other weapons, one of which will be the establishment press. He writes

Any government which seeks to get rid of poverty and inequality will come up against the opposition of those whose life has been built upon the fruits of poverty and inequality. Any government which seeks to establish democracy as the common norm for the conduct of human affairs will come up against the opposition of those whose whole life has been built upon the exercise of irresponsible and unaccountable power. The people who run the state, the media, industry and the banks will not just let us get on with changing the world because a temporary majority in the House of Commons tells them to. They will fight us with ideas and with weapons. It was, after all, that organ of ruling class opinion, the Times, then edited by the shameless Rees Mogg, that welcomed the bloody overthrow of Salvador Allende and the Chilean government with the words:

The failure of the Presidency of Allende was also a tragedy for Chile herself, not because the coup put an end to a government which never had a majority either in the country or in congress, but because it marks the end of a long period during which Chile’s peaceful and democratic political traditions were the envy of her neighbours. To apportion blame for this is no easy matter. Many Chileans will argue that the Unidad Popular government had itself made the coup inevitable by its hopeless mismanagement of the economy leading to a breakdown in public order, and at the same time had provided justification for it by its own unconstitutional acts. On the whole this would be our judgement; there is a limit to the ruin a country can be expected to tolerate…
At this state what a foreign commentator can say is that, whether or not the armed forces were right to do what they have done, the circumstances were such that a reasonable man could in good faith have thought it his constitutional duty to intervene.

No doubt Rees Mogg had discussed just such ‘circumstances’ with ‘reasonable military men’ at Pirbright and Aldershot. (Pp. 94-5).

The last sentence presumably refers to the attempts various members of the elite, including the Times and the then editor of the Mirror, to organise a coup in Britain against Harold Wilson’s minority Labour government in 1975. If this had gone ahead, the result would have been the mass internment, not just of MPs, but also of other political activists and journalists. The proposed location for their imprisonment was either in the Shetland Isles or the Hebrides. Ken Livingstone discusses this in his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour, as does Francis Wheen in his book about 70’s paranoia, Strange Days. As for Pinochet’s coup, this resulted in the mass imprisonment, rape, torture and execution of 40,000-60,000 people. Parents imprisoned and murdered by the Fascists had their children taken away, to be raised instead by members of Pinochet’s Fascists, who were childless.

And Sparks is absolutely right when he states that those, whose power and social position is built on poverty and inequality will try to bring down those governments trying to end it. The Conservatives’ entire economic strategy, and that of the ruling elites they represent, is based on increasing poverty through austerity, welfare cuts, the privatisation of the NHS, and the creation of insecure, low paid work with little, if anything, in the way of workers’ rights like pensions or sick pay. And he’s also right about the way the same elite uses the press in this. We’ve seen the way the British press and media has consistently vilified Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters as everything from Trotskyites and misogynists to anti-Semites, in order to prevent a genuinely reforming Labour government coming to power.

And the quotation from Rees-Mogg senior also shows how Jacob Rees-Mogg turned out the way he is. He’s the child of privilege, whose family owed its position to inherited wealth and inequality, and whose father dutifully supported the same establishment elite with his ideas and editorship of the Times. And Rees-Mogg senior’s approving comments about Pinochet’s coup also shows how easily other parts of the Tory party supported other Fascist thugs in Latin America. Like the Libertarian group, of which one Paul Staines, now Guido Fawkes, was a member, which invited the leader of one Central American death squad to be their guest of honour at their annual dinner.

Jeremy Corbyn Demands Abolition of the House of Lords

May 27, 2018

Last week I put up a post about the internet petition demanding a referendum on the House of Lords. In this report from RT, Polly Boiko discusses the statement from Jeremy Corbyn that he wants to abolish the House and replace it with a democratically elected upper chamber. She states that this is an issue that comes up every so many years. Corbyn’s spokesman, Seamus Milne, states that the House of Lords is an anachronism, and that Labour means to carry out its pledge to abolish it. In the meantime, the Labour leader has said that he will only appoint Labour politicians to the House if the promise to support its abolition, which Boiko rightly describes as them voting themselves out of a job. She points out that people have accused the Lords of being unrepresentative. The average age of its members is 69, and they collected £300 in expenses from the state per day, sometimes for not doing very much. She also discusses how, in its 700 years of existence, the Lords has also had its fair share of scandals and sleep. This is followed by a clip of one of the Lords disturbing the Lady sitting next to him by telling the rest of the House that she is one of the very few still alive from the time of the Second World War. A second clip shows another member of the Lords apologising for not being in his place to answer a question, and announcing that he intends to tender his resignation.

Boiko goes on to discuss how the government is also attacking the House of Lords after they rejected its Brexit legislation. This has been thrown back at the government by the peers 15 times in the last two weeks. She points out that there has always been tension about the Lords and its role. Its opponents claim that it is undemocratic and blocks legislation from the elected lower House. It’s supporters maintain that it does its job of holding the government to account.

She goes on to add that this time there is the internet petition about the House of Lords, which has reached 150,000 signatures. This means that it has passed the threshold for discussion in parliament, and is due to be debated on June 18th.

I can remember when this issue was raised way back in 1986, when the Labour party recommended the abolition of the House of Lords and its transformation into an elected senate. Or something like it. It is an anachronism of feudal, hereditary privilege, and has far too many members. There are about 900 of them, which is more than the members of the Chinese parliament. It’s one advantage, from what I’ve heard, is that it’s cheap, while Private Eye considered that an elected senate lacks any popular enthusiasm and would only attract second-rate politicians.

I think that the continued existence of the House of Lords will become increasingly controversial as prime ministers continue to stuff it with their cronies and supporters, as Tweezer wants to do to push through her Brexit legislation. The House of Lords desperately needs to be properly reformed and for its membership to be considerably reduced, if it is not to fall into further disrepute.

Jorian Jenks and the Fascist Arguments for a Jewish Homeland

March 21, 2018

On Sunday night, Lobster put up my review for them of Philip M. Coupland’s Farming, Fascism and Ecology: A Life of Jorian Jenks (Abingdon: Routledge 2017). Jenks was the son of a Liberal lawyer, but from childhood he always wanted to be a farmer. After studying at agricultural college in Britain, he then went to New Zealand to seek his fortune there. He couldn’t acquire a farm, and so worked as an agricultural official for the New Zealand government. He returned to Britain to begin an agricultural career over here, becoming one of the pioneers of the nascent Green and organic movements.

Jenks was convinced that laissez faire economics was creating massive soil erosion and infertility. If this was not checked, mass starvation and famine would result. He believed that Britain should concentrate on developing its own agriculture to the fullest extent possible, and not live ‘parasitically’ from the produce of its colonies. This was disastrous for them, and forced the peoples of those colonies into poverty as they were forced to subsidise the production of the goods they exported to the motherland. Jenks wished to see a return to an organic, agricultural society to replace the passive proletariat into which working people had been depressed. He was bitterly critical of the influence of finance capitalism, which he believed manipulated politics from behind the scenes. Due to its covert influence, democracy was a sham.

Jenks was sincere in his desire to improve conditions for farmers and farm workers, and was part of a series of non-party political organisations which worked to accomplish this, whose members also included socialists. He joined the BUF and wrote several articles for their magazine, and drafted their agricultural policy, because he found that Mosley’s ideas for the regeneration of British agriculture were very much in line with his own. Mosley’s went much further, however, and demanded the establishment of an agricultural corporation which would include representatives of the farmers, farm workers’ union, and consumers, as part of a Fascist corporative state.

Jenks was a founder member of the Soil Association, but because of his Fascist politics, he’s obviously an extremely controversial figure. Coupland’s book notes how Jenks has been used by figures on both the Left and Right to discredit the Green movement, and how he was denounced by the present head of the Soil Association, Jonathan Dimbleby.

Jenks is therefore interesting as the subject of a biography, not just in himself, but also in the wider context of British politics, Fascism and the emergence of the British and global Green movement. He was in contact with the leaders of similar movements around the world, including America and New Zealand, where the heads of these organisations were Jewish, as well as Germany. There much of the early Green movement disgustingly appears to have been founded by Nazis like Walter Darre, the head of Hitler’s agricultural department and ‘Reich Peasant Leader’.

Jenks was also a vicious anti-Semite. He actually didn’t write or say much about the Jews. However, some of the passages where he does talk about them are chilling, as the language used is very close to genocidal, if not actually well into it. Coupland writes

Several times Jenks also paralleled the issue of agricultural vermin to the ‘Jewish problem’. On one occasion, he compared these two issues, writing that: ‘There can be no truce with Brer Rabbit any more than there can be with the undesirable alien. If he is tolerated, he takes possession. He gives no quarter and should be given none. Of the rabbit, Jenks wrote:

[s]o long as you don’t have to foot the bill it’s easy to be sentimental about him as it is to be sentimental about the Jews. But the result in each case is that the poor defenceless creature ultimately takes possession. Any sensible person will agree that the best way to stop cruelty to rabbits is to abolish them, and if modern methods could be systematically applied, abolition is by no means impossible.

A year or so later, Jenks commended Colonel Leonard Ropner, MP for his denunciation in the House of Commons of rabbits as ‘a plague’ and for his statement that ‘If virtual extermination cannot be obtained, the next best thing is to provide effective control.’ In a scarcely veiled reference to the Jews, he continued that [t]he attitude of British Union towards the rabbits is similar to its attitude towards the two-legged plague – Britons First.

Given the shadow cast over history by the German programme to exterminate the Jews during the Second World War, it is difficult to read these lines without imputing to Jenks a desire that Jews and rabbits should share the same fate. However, even in Nazi Germany in the 1930s, this was not the objective of policy, no matter how cruel and unjust the treatment of the Jewish people there, systematic murder only replaced the policy of forced emigration in the particular conjunction of circumstances from 1941 onwards. Jenks was clear about what was required for the Jews:

There is then but one solution; to remove anti-Semitism by removing the Semite, to relieve irritation by removing the irritant,, to end the circumstances which have made the Jew a parasite by bringing about the re-integration of the Jewish nation.

He suggested this might be achieved in one of the ‘sparsely-populated but fertile areas in Africa, in South America, in Asiatic Russia, in which a re-united Jewish race could create anew its nationality and establish a new home.’ This echoed BUF policy, as detailed in Mosley’s Tomorrow We Live, which demanded the compulsory resettlement of Jews in Britain to a territory other than Palestine. Jenks’ prescription for the Jewish future was additionally connected to his central assumption that a healthy national society was one rooted in the soil:

In regaining contact with the soil, it would set the Jewish character on a broader basis; in regaining national dignity, it would triumphantly fulfil its racial destiny. In withdrawing its disturbing influence from other nations, it would obtain peace and goodwill in place of strife and animosity. (Pp. 103-4).

I’m writing about his vile views of the Jews, and recommendations that they be expelled and given a homeland elsewhere, in order to criticise and attack one of the other arguments used to smear Mike and very many other, decent people as anti-Semites because they had the temerity to mention the Ha’avara Agreement. This was the brief pact Hitler made with the Zionists to send Jews to Palestine, then under the British Mandate, before the Nazis decided on their vile ‘Final Solution’ in 1942. But according to the Blairites and the Israel lobby, if you mention this, as Ken Livingstone did, you’re an anti-Semite. Mike did, as part of his defence of Livingstone in his ‘The Livingstone Presumption’, and like Red Ken, he was duly smeared.

It is an historical fact, however, that many of the people, who demanded a separate homeland for the Jews were anti-Semites and Fascists. They wanted them to be given a homeland elsewhere as a way of removing them from their real homelands in Europe. And the last paragraph, in which Jenks describes how the Jewish people would benefit from having a homeland of their own, is actually very close indeed, if not identical, to the aspirations of the Zionists themselves. They too hoped that anti-Semitism would cease if Jews became like other peoples and had a homeland of their own. And Mike, Red Ken and the others, who discussed this, were not anti-Semites for doing so. The smears against them were a vicious attempt by the Israel lobby to suppress and rewrite history in order to deal with their opponents in the Labour party.

It’s time Mike and the other decent people, who’ve been libelled and smeared, had justice and were reinstated. And for those, who libelled them instead to be investigated and brought to account for their libels.

My review is at Lobster 76. Go over to the Lobster site, click on ’76’, and then click on article when it appears on the contents.

May Massively Defeated in Commons Vote to Pause Universal Credit

October 19, 2017

Another video from RT, which as all good, patriotic, freedom-loving Brits and Americans know, is a terrible, Russian-owned plot to allow Putin to overturn western democracy and turn us into satellites of Russia.

This covers the massive defeat May suffered in the Commons vote, when Labour proposed that the roll-out of Universal Credit should be paused. And it was massive: 299 votes for Corbyn’s motion, zero against. One of the government’s spokesmen tried to put a positive spin on their defeat by claiming that as the government hadn’t voted, they couldn’t be said to have lost the debate.

John Bercow put them right on that one, stating that as MPs, they were elected to the chamber to debate and vote. It was all right not to vote, to abstain, but what they could not do is claim that they hadn’t lost because they hadn’t voted. They manifestly had.

One of RT’s reporters then gives a short explanation of the reasons why people are demanding a pause and opposing Universal Credit. He states that critics of the system are afraid that the long waiting times for claims to be processed will mean that people are left with no money, and so exposed to ‘predatory so-called ‘pay-day lenders”. He also states that the food banks are so worried about the increase in poverty and starvation caused by the implementation of the system, that they are appealing for 15 more tons of food.

The only Tory to break ranks and vote with Labour was Jo Wollaston, the MP for Totnes, who made a speech explaining her decision. She stated that it was difficult for her, as she supported the basic principle of Universal Credit. However, its problems meant that she could not go back to her constituents in Totnes having voted for it.

As for May, one of the female Labour MPs states very clearly that the extent of her defeat on this issue means that she’s effectively lost control, and is a government without majority support.

I’m left wondering how the Beeb and the lamestream media will try to spin this. It seems the only news they really want to cover is that which they can spin to smear and cast doubt on Labour and Corbyn’s ability to form a government. As this vote shows that we have a government in profound crisis, when a few more votes like this could hopefully bring it all crashing down, you wonder how Laura ‘Arnalda Mussolini’ Kuenssberg and Nick ‘Macclesfield Goebbels’ Robinson will try to spin it. Or perhaps, like the news of the big demonstrations against austerity that took place outside the Beeb’s gates, they’ll all but ignore it, consigning it to a small piece on the Net.

The Euthanasia of the Elderly in Stephen Baxter’s ‘Titan’

July 18, 2017

A few days ago I put up a post about the nightmare, alternative future described by the British SF novelist Stephen Baxter in his novel, Titan. Baxter’s a writer of hard SF, a subgenre in which the fiction is nevertheless grounded in solid, known science fact, though often with an element of artistic license. Titan was written in 1995, and is partly set in the decaying America of the first decades of the 21st century. A militantly anti-science president, Maclachlan, has been elected with the support of the Ku Klux Klan and Christian fundamentalists. Maclachlan shuts down NASA for good after a shuttle disaster. The launch complexes are closed down. Those that aren’t demolished become simply tourist attractions, as do the agency’s headquarters and mission control. One of these, a museum to the Apollo moon landings, is altered so that it promotes instead the spiritual experiences many of the astronauts did have during their missions. Maclachlan also introduces legislation demanding that only the Aristotelian cosmology of Thomas Aquinas, with its crystal spheres, is taught in schools. What is left of the agency is given over to the USAF under the paranoid and nationalistic General Hartle, who is very much like the rogue American General Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s classic nuclear black comedy, Doctor Strangelove.

Against this, the agency attempts to launch one last, great space mission, a crewed voyage to Titan, where the Cassini probe has found evidence of active biological chemistry.

I commented in my post on the remarkable similarity between the policies of the fictional Maclachlan and Donald Trump. Maclachlan is fiercely nationalistic, and withdraws American peacekeepers from their stations around the globe, as well as pulling America out of NAFTA and the various other free trade agreements. America also pulls out of the World Bank and the IMF, and the UN is kicked out of New York. Like the real anti-Semites of the America Far Right, Maclachlan believes that the US is under ‘Israeli occupation’. Maclachlan also dismantles the country’s welfare programmes, especially those benefiting Blacks and other minorities, and starts building a wall with Mexico.

He also devises a policy to deal with America’s increasingly aging society: euthanasia chambers for the unwanted or neglected elderly. These are euphemistically called ‘Happy Booths’. There’s a very touching scene in which the last, fictitious surviving Apollo spaceman, Marcus White, is gassed to death in one of these chambers by a couple of nurses, who are every bit as malign as Nurse Ratchet in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. By this time, however, White is so confused with dementia, that he is lost in the delusion that he is back as a middle-aged man at NASA in his prime, suiting up and breathing the pure oxygen in preparation for another flight to the Moon.

This is interesting, as it completely turns on its head one of the truly despicable pieces of propaganda the Republicans were running ten years ago to make sure the American public didn’t get single-payer healthcare. Instead, we had Sarah Palin and the rest of the maniacs screaming that the introduction of single-payer healthcare, where all Americans would have free medical treatment financed by the state, would lead to ‘death panels’. Palin herself made a speech about how she didn’t want her children facing them. The idea was under a socialist system, medical care would be rationed. Those individuals deemed to be a waste of state money and resources, such as the elderly, would thus be humanely killed.

It was a disgusting piece of propaganda, based partly on the murder of the disabled in Nazi Germany. The Nazis were also pro-euthanasia, producing propaganda forms with titles such as I Don’t Want to Be Born. It was also based partly on the vile views of some of the founders of the Fabian Society, particularly H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, who were very much in favour of eugenics and the sterilization of the biologically unfit.

Unfortunately, many Americans were taken in by this bilge. There was a BBC report on the truly horrific state of American healthcare, in which a clinic offering free treatment in California immediately attracted 50,000 + prospective patients. These are the 20 per cent of Americans, who couldn’t afford their private healthcare before the introduction of Obamacare. The Beeb’s reported also attracted the attention of Republican supporters, who’d believed all the rubbish they’d been fed by Palin and her stormtroopers. One of these was an elderly man, who rushed up to the Beeb’s crew and shouted ‘Your healthcare system stinks!’ When they politely asked him how so, he looked confused, and began to mutter about ‘death panels’.

There are no death panels in Britain, or anywhere else with a socialized, or state-funded medical system. As for Germany, state financing of medical treatment for the workers was introduced by Bismarck in the 1870s, nearly fifty years before the Nazis seized power. There is a problem, where dying individuals may be refused treatment of expensive and/or experimental drugs or other procedures on the NHS because the costs far exceed any chance of success. This is very much a controversial issue, as we’ve seen the past week with the parents fighting to send their dying son over to America for treatment. However, there are no death panels.

The ‘Happy Booths’ described in the book are a piece of artistic invention by Baxter. Conventional Christian morality rejects euthanasia for the same reasons it has traditionally ruled out abortion, except in certain very restricted circumstances. This is because both judge that there are certain forms of human beings, such as the unborn and the disabled, who are held not to have the same rights to life. If it is permitted to kill the disabled and the unborn, it is argued, there is a danger that the same attitude will spread to other groups also considered inferior, like the Jews and other ‘untermenschen’ in Nazi Germany. And Baxter is aware of this, as elsewhere in the book he describes how the British relative of one of the astronauts, stricken by CJD or ‘Mad Cow Disease’, is going to a euthanasia clinic even though their parents consider it unchristian.

A president dependent on the support of right-wing Christian fundamentalists would alienate a sizable part of his constituency if he did. What happens instead is that, through its hostility to state medicine and the welfare state, Republican politicians of Maclachlan’s type make it impossible for the poor, severely ill to support themselves. Hence Bernie Sanders’ chilling statistic that 50,000 Americans die each year because they cannot afford private medical treatment.

This is basically the same attitude of Tory party under David Cameron and Theresa May. They have extended the sanctions system and the Work Capability Tests to make it as difficult as possible for the unemployed and the disabled to quality for state support. The result of that has been that researchers at Oxford University found that in 2015 alone, 30,000 people died through the Tories’ austerity policies. And Mike over at Vox Political reported yesterday that, according to the Skwawkbox, there’s a nasty clause in Universal Credit, which means that the claimant has to find a job in two years, or they lose their benefit.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/17/uc-gives-disabled-people-just-two-years-to-find-a-job-or-lose-everything/

This is a right-wing ‘genocide of the disabled’, as Mike, Johnny Void, Stilloaks, Tom Pride and the Angry Yorkshireman have said on their blogs, and Jeffrey, one of the great commenters here, has said on this. But it’s carefully hidden. The victims aren’t actually killed, they’re simply left to die. And the few politicos, who dare to call it what it is, are denied their ability to sit in parliament.

On Friday Mike commented on a piece in the Disability News Service about Mr. Jared O’Mara, a disabled Lib Dem MP, who has called the Tories’ policies towards the disabled ‘eugenics’, and stated that they want disabled people to ‘suffer and die’. Mr. O’Mara is to be commended for the way he tried to tackle Iain Duncan Smith, the former head of the DWP and therefore the government’s chief minister responsible for implementing this policy. However, Mr. O’Mara finds it impossible to find anywhere in the House of Commons to sit during debates. There is insufficient seating for all 650 MPs, and there is no form available for disabled MPs to fill in stating that they have particular seating needs. As Mike says, this is all very suspicious.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/07/disabled-mp-accuses-tories-of-eugenics-is-that-why-they-wont-let-him-take-a-seat/

As a religious person, I can’t say I’m happy about the anti-religious stance of Titan. I went to a Christian college for my undergraduate degree, and some of the students were Creationists. I am not saying that their literalist reading of the creation story in Genesis is correct, but I have to say that they were, by and large, decent people. Those I met weren’t racists or political extremists, and I know that one or two were actually left-wing. I also can’t say that they were anti-science, outside of the very specific field of evolution. Moreover, since the election of Donald Trump there has been the emergence of a religious Left in America, something which couldn’t have been predicted when Baxter wrote the book back in the 1990s. One of the authors of the collection of articles attacking the Neo-Cons, Confronting the New Conservatism, pointed out that the Neo-Cons were not necessarily going to be politically dominant for ever. Kansas, and many of the other mid-western Republican states, had in the 1920s been centres of the Social Gospel movement, which combined Christianity and Socialism. It’s possible that as more Americans recognize how truly disgusting Trump and his party are, Christians over the other side of the Pond may return to it.

However, Trump and his administration are anti-science. The Republican party is strongly opposed to climate change, and so there has been a concerted attack on environmentalism since Trump took office. Legislation protecting America’s glorious natural heritage has been repealed, and federal scientists responsible for monitoring the environment have been effectively gagged. They may not publish any scientific papers supporting climate change, and the federal agency itself has been effectively gutted.

Titan also portrays a future suffering from global warming and catastrophic climate change, as do very many of the SF novels written during the same decade, such as Bruce Sterling’s Heavy Weather. So far Trump hasn’t wound up NASA, though I don’t doubt that the agency is still under considerable pressure to keep expenses under control. But the real harm is being done by Trump’s deliberate rejection of climate change to appease powerful donors from industry, particularly the Kochs in big oil. This denial of climate change, and that of the other world leaders, will lead to the deaths of millions worldwide. If it hasn’t already.

The ‘I’: Dimbleby States Media Treating Corbyn Unfairly

May 31, 2017

Also in yesterday’s I newspaper was a piece by Adam Burnett, ‘Corbyn Is Not Treated Fairly, Says Dimbleby’, in which the host of the Beeb’s Question Time attacked the media’s bias against the Labour leader and said it would be wrong to rule him out of winning the next election. The article reads

Veteran BBC host David Dimbleby has blasted the “lazy pessimism” of the media’s election coverage, saying Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has not been given a “fair deal” by the press.

The Question Time chairman, who will host the BBC’s election night coverage, said Mr Corbyn has “a lot of support in the country”, and given the “political somersaults of recent years, it would be a mistake to count Labour out.

“It’s a very odd election”, said Mr Dimbleby, speaking to the Radio Times. “The interesting thing is that a lot of Labour supporters really like and believe in the messages that Jeremy Corbyn is bringing across.

“It’s not his MPs in the House of Commons necessarily, but there is a lot of support in the country.

“And I don’t think anyone could say that Corbyn has had a fair deal at the hands of the press, in a way that the Labour party did when it was more to the centre – but then, we generally have a right-wing press.”

He added: “My own prediction is that, contrary to the scepticism and lazy pessimism of the newspapers and British media, it’s going to be a really fascinating night, and it will drive home some messages about our political system and the political appeal of different parties that no amount of polling or reading the papers will tell us.”

Of course, Question Time has also shown it’s own bias at times against Corbyn and the Labour party. And under Blair, New Labour was not a centrist party. It was, in its determination to privatise the NHS, the education system, and throw millions off welfare benefits, a right-wing party, just as the Tories are now. And the Tories in their determination to destroy the welfare state, which began in earnest under Thatcher, are far right when compared to the post-War consensus in all parties to support the NHS and welfare state, and maintain full employment.

Dimbleby’s right to attack the media’s bias against Corbyn, even if some of it seems like he’s trying to whip up interest in his own election night programme by saying that the outcome isn’t a foregone conclusion. But he’s wrong about it being ‘lazy pessimism’. It’s deliberate lies and fabrications, by a media and political class that are desperately afraid that Corbyn will succeed in undoing forty years of Thatcherism, and create a genuinely fairer and stronger Britain.

The right-wing media, including Beeb, and its paymasters come from the upper middle class, which have done very well thank you under Thatcherism. They have profited from the tax cuts and massive expansion in power and wealth achieved by grinding the other 75 per cent of the population down with increased taxation, the destruction of the welfare states, the privatisation of state industries, including the NHS, stagnant wages and zero-hours contracts. They, and the businesses they head and manage, have profited immensely from a cowed workforce, who are forced to work for poverty pay.

It is because Labour under Corbyn threatens this, that they have responded with lies and smears.

Don’t believe the media.
Vote Labour on June 8th.

Lib Dem Deselected due to Anti-Semitism Allegations

May 6, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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