Posts Tagged ‘Intelligence Services’

William Blum on the Economic Reasons behind the New Cold War

December 8, 2017

William Blum, the veteran and very highly informed critic of American imperialism, has put up a new edition of his Anti-Empire Report. This is, as usual, well worth reading. In it he attacks the new Cold War being fought with Russia, and reminds us of the stupidity and hysteria of the first.

Blum does a great job of critiquing the claim that the Russians interfered in the American election. He points out that the American intelligence services actually know how to disguise the true origins of Tweets, and questions the motives imputed to the Russians. He states that the Russians presumably don’t think that America is a banana republic, which can be easily influenced and its government overthrown by an outside power. He also questions the veracity of the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. Clapper is one of those claiming that the Russians did influence the election. But as Blum reminds us, Clapper himself is a liar. He lied to Congress when he was asked if the American intelligence apparatus was spying on its citizens. He said ‘No’. The answer, as revealed by Edward Snowden, was very definitely ‘Yes’.

He then gives a long list of instances from the First Cold War where people were unfairly accused of Communism and persecuted. For example, in 1948 the Pittsburgh Press published the names, addresses and places of work of 1,000 people, who had signed the form backing the former vice-president, Henry Wallace’s campaign for the presidency, as Wallace was running for the Progressive Party.

Then there’s the case of the member of a local school board, who decided that the tale of Robin Hood should be banned, because he was a ‘Communist’. Which is good going, considering that the tales of Robin Hood date from the 14th/15th centuries and are about a hero who lived in the 13th – six centuries before Karl Marx. However, this woman wasn’t the only one to dislike the tales for political reasons. The compiler of a children’s book of stories about heroes deliberately left him out in favour of Clym of Clough, a similar archer outlaw, but from ‘Bonnie Carlisle’, partly because Hood was too well-known, but also because he thought there was something ‘political’ about the stories.

Blum also covers the way Conservatives claimed that the USSR was responsible for the rise in drug abuse in America, and was deliberately creating it in order to undermine American society. He also states that the Russians were also trying to destroy America through fluoridation of the water. As General Jack D. Ripper says in Dr. Strangelove: ‘We must keep our bodily fluids pure.’

Then there are the pronouncements that American universities were all under Communist influence, and the reason why American sports teams were also failing was because of Communist influence.

The anti-Communist hysteria was also used to denounce and vilify the United Nations. Blum writes

1952: A campaign against the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) because it was tainted with “atheism and communism”, and was “subversive” because it preached internationalism. Any attempt to introduce an international point of view in the schools was seen as undermining patriotism and loyalty to the United States. A bill in the US Senate, clearly aimed at UNESCO, called for a ban on the funding of “any international agency that directly or indirectly promoted one-world government or world citizenship.” There was also opposition to UNESCO’s association with the UN Declaration of Human Rights on the grounds that it was trying to replace the American Bill of Rights with a less liberty-giving covenant of human rights.

Oh yes, and rock and roll, pop music and the Beatles were also seen as part of a Communist plot to destroy American moral fibre. A few decades later, in the 1980s, the same right-wing pastors were saying the same thing, though this time the tendency was to blame Satanists rather than Commies.

And the list goes on, including instances from the 1980s when visiting Russians were subjected hostility and abuse because they were perceived as a danger to the US, thanks to films like Rambo and Red Dawn.

The report ends with Blum discussing Al Franken, a Democrat politician and broadcaster, who is now accused of sexual assault. Blum argues that the real issue that should get people angry at Franken is the fact that he backed the Iraq War, and went out there to entertain the troops, showing that he was perfectly happy with the illegal and bloody invasion of another country.

He also reveals that the list of people, who have been on RT, was compiled by a Czech organisation with the name European Values, which produced the report
The Kremlin’s Platform for ‘Useful Idiots’ in the West: An Overview of RT’s Editorial Strategy and Evidence of Impact. Blum states that it’s not exhaustive, as he’s been on it five times, and they haven’t mentioned him.

He also notes the RT’s Facebook page has four million followers and that it claims to be ‘the most watched news network’. It’s YouTube channel has two million likes. And so is this the reason why the American authorities have thrown away freedom of the press and forced it to register as a foreign agent.

He also comments on the way Theresa May has also got in on the act of blaming the Russians for everything, and is accusing them of interfering in Brexit.

But what I found interesting was this piece, where quotes another writer on the real reason the Americans are stoking another Cold War:

Writer John Wight has described the new Cold War as being “in response to Russia’s recovery from the demise of the Soviet Union and the failed attempt to turn the country into a wholly owned subsidiary of Washington via the imposition of free market economic shock treatment thereafter.”

https://williamblum.org/aer/read/153

This makes sense of a lot of murky episodes from the Cold War. I think Lobster has also commented several times on the way Conservative have accused the USSR of causing the drug crisis. I distinctly remember one of the columnist for Reader’s Digest, Clare Somebody, running this story in the 1980s. If memory serves me right, she also claimed that the Russians were doing so in cahoots with Iran. The Iranian theocracy are a bunch of thugs, but somehow I don’t think they can be accused of causing mass drug addiction in the West. They’re too busy fighting their own. I can’t remember the woman’s surname, but I do remember that she turned up later as one of the neocons frantically backing George W. Bush.

As for the campaign against the United Nations on the grounds that internationalism is unpatriotic, that’s still very much the stance of the Republicans in America. It’s part and parcel of the culture of American exceptionalism, which angrily denounces and rejects any attempt to hold America accountable to international justice, while upholding America’s right to interfere in everybody else’s affairs and overthrow their governments. ‘Cause America is a ‘shining city on a hill’ etc.

As for wishing to bring down Putin, because he’s shaken off the chains of American economic imperialism, that’s more than plausible. American big business and the state poured tens of millions into Yeltsin’s election campaign back in the 1990s, including his crash privatisation of the Russian economy. Which just about destroyed it. In which case, it shows that Lenin was right all those decades ago, when he described how pre-Revolutionary Russia was enchained by western economic imperialism. And perhaps the world, or at least, anybody who does not want their country to be bought up by American capitalism, should be grateful to the Archiplut for showing that a nation can defy American capitalism.

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Moronic Tory Thug Declares that ‘Torture Works’

January 30, 2017

On Friday Mike put up a piece reporting that the Tory MP Bob Stewart, a former army officer, had declared that ‘torture works’. Mike’s short piece commented that this was because Stewart clearly didn’t know the difference between right and wrong, and that they didn’t teach morality at Sandhurst.

He also included a Tweet by Laurie Penny, stating that the same could be said for chemical weapons, cluster bombs and genocide. But that wasn’t the issue.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/27/tory-mp-says-torture-works-because-he-doesnt-know-the-difference-between-right-and-wrong/

Indeed not. The issue is whether they are at all moral, and whether a nation that considers itself civilised should be using them. In all of the above, the answer is clearly ‘No’.

I think Mike is, however, wrong about morality not being taught at Sandhurst. A few years ago one of the alternative BBC channels ran a series following a group of cadets at the training academy. This showed them being taught and discussing the issue of morality in war. I got the impression that this is a major part of the course, and that much more could have been shown.

That does not mean that British officers are morally unimpeachable boy scouts. Unfortunately, the army has more committed atrocities. But it has also been trying to rebut any reputation it might have acquired for cruelty and incompetence. Remember a little while ago, when the recruitment films being run on Channel 4 and the commercial channels showed British squaddies nobly helping to police the distribution of food aid? Or showing tough but caring female squaddies looking after traumatised women, who’d had their menfolk butchered before being raped themselves? That was the image the British army wanted then.

Torture doesn’t work. Members of the intelligence services have said that it doesn’t provide any usable information. Which shouldn’t really surprise anyone, as people in extreme pain will say whatever they can to make it stop.

Instead, it lowers us to the same level as the thugs who use it, like al-Qaeda and ISIS, and acts to further radicalise our opponents against us. If we are known to brutalise and torture our enemies and suspects, this will be used against us by the terrorists, who will claim that this justifies their campaigns against us. If we espouse torture, then we’re handing our enemies a major propaganda weapon.

But clearly Bob Stewart doesn’t understand that. Probably because he’s a Tory, and the whole party’s platform seems to consist on inflicting pain and degradation to those they consider inferior, including the poor and helpless in British society.

Vox Political Launches New Book Against the Anti-Semitism Smears

September 28, 2016

Mike yesterday announced the publication of his latest book, The Livingstone Presumption. This is written to refute the anti-Semitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters in the Labour party, along with other MPs, councillors and activists such as Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone. It was the allegation against Ken Livingstone that the book’s title alludes to. It’s available now as an e-book, and will shortly appear in print.

I’ve no doubt it provides an excellent deconstruction of the real reasons for these slanders. Of course, I’m Mike’s brother, so naturally I support it’s publication. But more than that, I’m confident that Mike, as an excellent journalist, has got the facts absolutely right, and shows the real reason for these disgraceful smears. As I’ve pointed out, these have been made against decent people, many of whom have dedicated their lives and political careers to fighting anti-Semitism and racism, and which include Jews, and people of Jewish heritage.

Michael Segalov on the Left against Real Nazis

Mike announced the book was out in an article he wrote yesterday commenting on a piece by Michael Segalov in an article in the Independent. Segalov stated in the Independent that Corbyn’s supporters weren’t anti-Semitic. Far from it. In his experience, they were the people, who were most active combating the real, and openly Nazi, anti-Semitic far right. Mike quotes him writing

For years now I’ve travelled across the UK to report from far-right, fascist and neo-Nazi rallies, and the counter-demonstrations that take place alongside. I’ve seen the real threat that faces Jews in the country, those who profess hatred for Jews and our religion, who wear swastikas as badges of honour, who’ll salute like a Nazi in front of your face… It’s the left, and Corbyn’s supporters, who’ve put their bodies on the line time and time again to protect us from these racist organisations.

That’s why these cries of anti-Semitism make a mockery of a real and present danger. Corbyn’s commitment to fighting discrimination and prejudice has been well documented for decades. His supporters are those who’ve stood alongside him. Accusing these people now of peddling prejudice is nothing but political point-scoring at its worst. It undermines real hatred, and waters down the impact of calling out anti-Semitism when it rears its ugly head.

Unfortunately, Mr Segalov still believes that Ms Shah and Red Ken are anti-Semites, but states that they are not supporters of Corbyn. Ken’s a very long-standing member of the party, while Shah supported Yvette Cooper against Corbyn in the Labour elections.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/27/new-book-highlights-the-real-reasons-for-anti-semitism-allegations-in-the-labour-party/

Naz Shah and Livingstone Not Anti-Semites

Segalov’s wrong about Shah and Red Ken. Mike’s pointed out that Naz Shah has good relations with her local synagogue, something I’m very sure she wouldn’t enjoy if she were any kind of anti-Semite. As for Red Ken, I’ve pointed out time and again the stance he has always taken against racism, whether against Blacks, Jews, the Irish or whoever, to the point where he and the GLC in the 1980s became ridiculed and reviled for it. The Leninist Newt-Fancier devoted several chapters in his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour not just to arguing that the Labour party should pay far more attention to empowering the Black community and combatting racism against them, but also to denouncing the recruitment of real Nazis by the secret state after the Second World War. These had been given sanctuary in Britain, as the authorities believed they could be useful in the struggle against Communism. Those recruited included people, who had participated in the most disgusting crimes perpetrated against the Jews by the Third Reich, including pogroms and the Holocaust.

The Zionists Relationship with the Nazis vs. Jewish German Patriots

Red Ken is not an anti-Semite. But he is a critic of Israel, a committed the terrible offence of being absolutely factually correct when he stated that Hitler had supported Zionism. He and the Nazis had, briefly, at the beginning of the regime, as a tactic for removing Jews from the Reich. This is documented history. As is the Zionists’ own cynical, utilitarian attitude to the butchery of the Jewish people by the Nazis. They were in favour of it, as they believed this would encourage more Jews to emigrate to Israel. They bitterly resented Jewish German patriots, like the Jewish Servicemens’ League, which not only fought ardently against the persecution of the Jews in Germany, but was also an acutely uncomfortable reminder that Jews had loyally served their country in the carnage of the First World War, and were no more treacherous than any other German. It’s another documented historical fact that German Jews had responded with a wave of patriotism in the 19th century when the restrictions against them serving in the armed forces were lifted. They volunteered along with their gentile comrades for service in the Great War. It’s one of the supreme, tragic ironies that Hitler’s captain, the commanding officer, who recommended him for the Iron Cross, was Jewish.

The British Left against Fascism

But Mr Segalov is entirely correct when he states that it’s the left, and Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters, who will put their bodies on the line to fight to protect Jews and others from the real racists. It was my experience growing up in the 1980s that the people, who joined Rock Against Racism, marched against the BNP, and fought in gang battles in the street against them, were exactly the same types Tom Watson sneered at when he described Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters as ‘hippy Trotskyite rabble’. Or whatever it was. It was the same type of people, who joined CND and joined groups and wore the T-shirts demanding ‘Justice for Nicaragua’, when that country was being ravaged by the Contras. It was the same type of people that published leaflets and flyers pointing out Thatcher’s support for the Far Right, and real Fascists like Pinochet and lesser known butchers in Latin America.

The Far Right and Nazism

Unfortunately, Mr Segalov is not exaggerating when he says that the real Nazis will openly make the Nazi salute in front of you, and who do wear swastikas as badges of honour. Way back in the 1960s and ’70s the National Front indeed strutted about in Nazi uniform. Andrew Brons, one of the fixtures of the Far Right for all these decades, was arrested in the 1970s, according to Private Eye, for screaming Nazi slogans at frightened elderly ladies in Birmingham. He was then apprehended by a policeman, who had a very Asian surname. According to the Eye, Brons patronised him with a lecture about how he was allowed to do all this because of the fine British tradition of freedom of speech. Obviously, he ignored the hypocrisy of using that argument when, as a Nazi, he clearly didn’t believe in it. He then further insulted said copper by telling him that he wouldn’t understand such elevated concepts as he was racially inferior. This is clearly not the kind of thing to say to someone, who has the power to arrest you. I have the feeling that Brons spent the rest of the conversation trying to explain himself down at the police station.

For a moment in the 1990s and 2000s the BNP dropped the costumes and tried to present themselves as a mainstream party, oriented towards community politics. They were still racist and anti-Semitic, but they tried to disguise it. Now that the BNP has all but collapsed, parts of the Far Right in this country have gone back to open Nazism. The most blatant of these groups is National Action, formerly the youth wing of one of the Far Right parties. If memory serves me right, it was either the BNP or National Front. Michelle, one of the commenters on this blog, sent a link in her comment to an earlier piece I wrote, to a discussion of the Far Right in one of the left-wing political meet up groups. This was a talk, followed by a question-and-answer session, presented by Matthew Feldman, a university lecturer specialising in the study of Fascism. Dr Feldman illustrated his lecture with numerous videos, one of which was truly chilling. It showed National Action at one of their demos quite openly shouting anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi nonsense. They were spouting the old conspiracist canard about the Jews using Blacks to destroy White racial purity in order to further the Marxist agenda of overthrowing White civilisation. Herbert Marcuse and the Frankfurt school were also thrown in as example of ‘cultural Marxism’.

Marxism Not Anti-White Racism

It’s all nonsense. Marx never wrote anything about destroying White civilisation. He and his collaborator, Engels, were interested solely in examining the class nature of history and modern capitalism as part of their programme of liberating the working class. They also had some disgusting racist ideas themselves. Marx hated the Slavonic peoples, as he believed that their economic and social ‘backwardness’, as he saw it, would make them a dangerous counterrevolutionary force, and looked forward to the day when they, and other similar ‘backwards’ peoples, like the Celts and Basques, would die out. He also sneered at his German rival, Lassalles, as ‘the Jewish n*gger’.

No Anti-White Jewish Conspiracy

There has never been any kind of Jewish conspiracy to destroy White civilisation. This is just a vile product of the diseased imagination of the Nazis, and their successors in the American right-wing conspiracy culture. Jews were part of the campaign to gain civil rights for Blacks in America, as many Jews had strong connections with Black communities through their jobs, such as teachers in Black majority schools and neighbourhoods.

Gramsci and Cultural Hegemony

As for ‘cultural Marxism’ and the Frankfurt school, this is also a confusion of them and the ideas of cultural hegemony by Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci was an Italian Communist, who attempted to explain the persistence of capitalism and its support amongst the working class, by suggesting that this was due to the basis of modern culture in the ideology and values of upper and middle classes. This was so pervasive, that it was automatically seen as natural by the workers, despite the fact that it directly went against their interests. Marx himself had already argued much of this in his theory of ‘false consciousness’. Gramsci turned Marxist tactics on its head by arguing that what was needed to liberate the workers was to challenge capitalist culture, rather than the traditional Marxist tactic of changing capitalist culture by attacking its basis in the economic structure of society.

The Frankfurt School and the Origins of Fascism in Mass Culture

There’s a section on the Frankfurt School by Jean Seaton in her chapter ‘The Sociology of the Mass Media’ in the book on the British media which she co-authored with James Curran, Power Without Responsibility: The Press and Broadcasting in Britain (London: Routledge 1988) pp. 221-7. She points out that the Frankfurt School were left-wing German emigres, who had been forced to leave Germany through the rise of the Nazis. They believed that Fascism had its origins in modern mass culture, and applied this analysis to modern American society. Rather than being left-wing ideologues dedicated to the destruction of traditional, White, Christian society, she points out that actually their views weren’t that far from those of British critics of modern mass society, whose views were based in a far more traditional, British, non-Marxist set of cultural values.

Cultural Marxism: What It’s Really About

As for the term ‘cultural Marxism’, this is also the boneheaded product of more confused thinking. It seems to be a garbled notion of the distinction many academic Marxists drew in the 1980s between what was ‘Marxist’ and ‘Marxian’ in order to keep their jobs. Thatcher passed a law making it illegal for Marxists to hold posts at the universities. They responded by denying that they were Marxists, but held ‘Marxian’ cultural views. It was a fine, and actually rather artificial distinction, but it nevertheless allowed them to keep their jobs. However, this has been taken over by the radical right, who have thrown it into their scrambled notion of Gramsci’s hegemony.

National Action also make their Nazism very clear in their costume and conduct. As well as shouting Nazi ideology in the streets, they also openly wear Nazi-style clothes and regalia. In the video Dr Feldman showed as part of his presentation, they did indeed openly make the Nazi salute, shouting ‘Sieg heil!’ as they did so. National Action aren’t the only openly Nazi group on the Far Right. There’s even a small, National Socialist party, whose members include the infamous racist responsible for killing and mutilating innocent people in a series of three nail bomb attacks on Black, Asian and Gay pubs and cafes in London. His victims included a bride and an unborn child. The members of this minuscule party do turn up and parade around in Nazi uniforms and insignia.

The Left Not Anti-Semitic, But Anti-Racist

While Mr Segalov is wrong about Ken Livingstone and Naz Shah being anti-Semites, he is certainly right about the openly Nazi character of part of the Far Right, and about the way the Left, including supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, have attempted to right them, including physical assault. Matthew Collins in his book, Hate, about his own career in the BNP and NF, states at one point that the Communist Party used to provide its members with self-defence training so that they could attack any Nazis they encountered on building sites. Mr Segalov is right to point out how wrong and damaging it is in the struggle against real racism and anti-Semitism to malign Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters so. Mike book also puts the record straight on this, and about the smears against Naz Shah and Livingstone.

Pride’s Purge: Same Production Company Behind BBC and Channel 4 Anti-Corbyn Documentaries

September 20, 2016

Yesterday, Tom Pride at Pride’s Purge put up a piece pointing out that the same production company was behind two documentaries attacking Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in the Labour party, one made for the BBC last year for Panorama, and the other broadcast this week on Channel 4’s Dispatches. The company behind both is Films of Record, whose managing director and executive producer is Neil Grant. Grant is a former chair of Brent East Labour party, who has had a feud going back twenty years with Ken Livingstone.

Mr Pride also concludes this piece with the news that it is cases like this

which have prompted the idea for a new investigative organisation – TORCHLIGHT UK – which will be shining a light into the dark corners of the UK establishment, revealing hidden connections between UK politicians, the media and big business. Keep an eye out in the next few weeks on how you can help. We will be naming names.

See: https://tompride.wordpress.com/2016/09/19/hidden-britain-same-private-production-company-behind-both-bbc-and-ch4-anti-corbyn-programmes/

Of course, none of this exonerates either the Beeb or Channel 4 of breaking rules on broadcasting impartiality. The commissioning editors at both broadcasters presumably knew the company, and who Neil Grant was and his political history. They would also have made the decision whether or not to broadcast the programmes when they were finally made and submitted. The fact that they did, despite these films’ bias, shows that they are fully complicit. They wanted the programme to smear Corbyn and his supporters, and that’s precisely what they got.

I look forward to hearing more from Tom about TORCHLIGHT UK. This sounds like the kind of thing Lobster has been doing in the field of parapolitics for years now, connecting the dots between big business, the spooks and their influence on the parties and the trade unions. Robin Ramsay’s complaint was that there wasn’t enough of this kind of research being done by the Left any more. This was because the far right had started doing it, and so the Left had dropped it in order to avoid becoming discredited by association. The announcement of the forthcoming appearance of TORCHLIGHT looks like reversing that, and so shining some light into some very murky, grubby little places.

William Blum on the Naïve Trust of Countries Invaded by US

September 14, 2016

William Blum, in issue 4 of his Anti-Empire Report, published in December 2003, discussed how the Iraqis tried to prevent the US invasion of their country by offering to let American troops enter and show them that they very definitely didn’t have Weapons of Mass Distraction. Blum notes that the Iraqis weren’t the only country, who trusted America, and believed that if they simply gave in and acceded to the US’ demands, or demonstrated their good faith in another way, the US wouldn’t invade or try to overthrow the government. There’s a long list of such nations, which then also included Syria. Blum writes

We now know that Iraq tried to negotiate a peace deal with the United States to avoid the American invasion in March. Iraqi officials, including the chief of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, wanted Washington to know that Iraq no longer had weapons of mass destruction and offered to allow American troops and experts to conduct a search; full support for any US plan in the Arab-Israeli peace process, and handing over a man accused of being involved in the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 were also offered. If this is about oil, they said, they would also talk about US oil concessions.

What is most surprising about this is not the offers per se, but the naivete – undoubtedly fueled by desperation – on the part of the Iraqis that apparently led them to believe that the Americans were open to negotiation, to discussion, to being somewhat reasonable. The Iraqis apparently were sufficiently innocent about the fanaticism of the Bush administration that at one point they pledged to hold UN-supervised free elections. Surely free elections is something the United States believes in, the Iraqis reasoned, and will be moved by.

Other countries have harbored similar illusions about American leaders. Over the years, a number of Third-World leaders, under imminent military and/or political threat by the United States, have made appeals to Washington officials, even to the president in person, under the apparently hopeful belief that it was all a misunderstanding, that America was not really intent upon crushing them and their movements for social change. Amongst others, the Guatemalan foreign minister in 1954, Cheddi Jagan of British Guiana in 1961, and Maurice Bishop of Grenada in 1983 all made their appeals. All were crushed. In 1961, Che Guevara offered a Kennedy aide several important Cuban concessions if Washington would call off the dogs of war. To no avail. In 1994, it was reported that the leader of the Zapatista rebels in Mexico, Subcommander Marcos said that “he expects the United States to support the Zapatistas once US intelligence agencies are convinced the movement is not influenced by Cubans or Russians.” “Finally,” Marcos said, “they are going to conclude that this is a Mexican problem, with just and true causes.” Yet for many years, the United States has been providing the Mexican military with all the training and tools needed to kill Marcos’ followers and, most likely, before long, Marcos himself.

Syria today appears to be the latest example of this belief that somewhere in Washington, somehow, there is a vestige of human-like reasonableness that can be tapped. The Syrians turn over suspected terrorists to the United States and other countries and accept prisoners delivered to them by the US for the clear purpose of them being tortured to elicit information. The Syrians make it clear that they do these things in the hope of appeasing the American beast; this while the United States continues speaking openly of overthrowing the Syrian government and imposes strict sanctions against the country.

The “mystique” of America lives on.

This can be read on the Report’s site at https://williamblum.org/aer/read/4

I wonder how long it will be before the nations of the world decide that America and its allies, including Britain, are irredeemably treacherous, and that no deal can be made with us. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq is a case in point. Hussein at one point was an assassin for America, who tried to kill one of Iraq’s leading politicians after a coup in the 1950s overthrew the Iraqi prime minister installed by us. He was also armed and funded by us during the Iran-Iraq War, as part of our attack on the Islamic Republic. Then, having served his purpose, and with Big Oil demanding the Iraqi oil reserves, and Israel demanding his overthrow because he was funnelling arms to Palestinians – he was discarded and his country invaded and looted. The attacks on Iraq have been responsible for some of the radicalisation of Muslims in this country. Other Black and Asian groups have become disaffected because of the treatment of their peoples and nations by Britain, America and the West. And unfortunately, they’ve got a point. And as long as America goes on leading its allies cynically to break treaties as soon as they see the least advantage, the more this radicalisation will continue.

Jeremy Corbyn on the Chilcot Report in Counterpart

July 7, 2016

Counterpunch, the American radical Left magazine, has published a transcript of Jeremy Corbyn’s remarks to parliament on the Chilcot report yesterday. Mr Corbyn duly pays tribute to the hundreds of British servicemen and women, who have been killed in Iraq, as well as the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. He states the war was not, as Chilcot has concluded a last resort, and it has vindicated the 1.5 million people across the whole spectrum of British society and politics, who marched against the war. He mentions specifically in this the late Labour politician, Robin Cook. He describes the way the war destroyed Iraq, and the lethal sectarianism that it has provoked. He also reminds parliament that those who marched against the war knew how terrible Saddam Hussein’s regime was, and had protested against it, when Thatcher’s government had been supporting it. They protested against the war because they knew that Hussein’s Iraq was not a threat and the pretexts offered in the report were ‘flimsy’. He states that the principle cause of the war was the desire to follow the Americans into a conflict that was both unprovoked and colonial, and cites the general Major General Michael Laurie, who said that the army knew at the time that the dossier was to make the case for war, rather to produce unbiased evidence. Corbyn also makes several recommendations to prevent such a situation occurring again. This include great supervision of the security and intelligence services, strengthening the position of the cabinet, and giving parliament the ultimate power over the decision to go to war. He also wants greater legal controls and supervision over drone strikes.

Corbyn in his statement before the House mentioned that he had been meeting the families of some of the British servicemen and women killed during the War, as well as Iraqis, and was going on afterwards to meet more of them. He also announced his intention to consult the British public and Iraqis about the decision to send this country to war.

The article is at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/07/06/the-iraq-war-was-an-act-of-military-aggression-launched-on-a-false-pretext-on-the-chilcot-inquiry-report/ It deserves to be read.

Corbyn is, of course, entirely right, though his remarks are likely to provoke opposition. Lobster, the parapolitics magazine, has argued from its very beginning that the intelligence services, including British, are out of control. In the case of Britain, they are at best incompetent, at worst, murderous, as shown by their collusion in a ‘dirty war’ of assassination and extra-judicial execution of Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland.

As for strengthening parliament and the cabinet, the Tories themselves complained at the way Tony Blair was intent on reducing the powers of both, to create a powerful, centralised ‘presidential’ post of Prime Minister. Nevertheless, they will oppose his demands to make parliament, not the prime minister, responsible for the decision to go to war. I’ve already found a book written by a Tory MP against such a proposition in Waterstones. I can’t remember the title, nor the author, but its argument was that taking the decision away from the Prime Minister would weaken the country’s ability to defend itself. I can see the logic behind it, but I think it comes from that part of the Tory party that still hankers after imperial glory, when Britain’s armies conquered one sixth of the world’s land area. I also think that while it might slow down decisions to go to war, it would make such decisions much more democratic and, more importantly, correct, both morally and for reasons of national security. After all, Blair’s invasion of Iraq demonstrates the powerful reasons for this. It was undemocratic, and not justified either morally or for reasons of national security. Hussein was a thug, but he was not a threat. Other Middle Eastern nations regarded his regime as a joke. The decision to go to war was made purely on cynical, economic and political grounds, in which plundering the country of its oil and profitable state industries figured largely.

A stronger parliament and cabinet may not prevent such unjust wars happening again, but they will be another constitutional check in the British system of constitutional checks, to make such arbitrary and bloody decisions less likely.

Owen Jones on the Chilcot Report, the Iraq War and Tony Blair

July 6, 2016

The news today has been dominated by the Chilcot report, and its findings about the launch of the Iraq War by Tony Blair. In this video from Owen Jones, the author of Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, gives his view on the moral and possible legal culpable of Blair for starting a war that has killed hundreds of thousands, destroyed an entire nation, and caused the entire Middle East to descend further into chaos and carnage.

He states that the report’s publication and its conclusions gives him no satisfaction, but it does vindicate what opponents of the war had said. He quotes a Labour MP, Simpson, who used to be his boss, who stated that Blair was desperate to join Bush in a war regardless of the cause; that the country was being pushed to war. He notes that Chilcot has also confirmed that the intelligence reports, which formed the basis for Blair’s decision to go to war, were ‘flawed’. He quotes Christian Aid, a charity, not a political organisation, who also opposed the war because they believed it would lead to further internal violence in Iraq, and that Iran would seek its own advantages. Jones notes that at the time the anti-War protesters were attacked and vilified by a press determined to promote the war. He also urges his viewers not to be taken in by Blair, when the man the Italians dubbed ‘The Scrounger’ (but in Italian, obviously) says that it’s all obvious in hindsight, but couldn’t be known at the time. Jones makes it very clear from all the above that it was very clearly understood by the war’s opponents at the time how dreadful it would be and the terrible consequences.

Jones states that the report doesn’t conclude whether there is a legal base for prosecuting Blair. He hopes that is the case, and that there will now be moves to see if such a trial is possible. But even if he isn’t legally liable, he is morally culpable. He, and the media that enabled and promoted the war, have to live with that. And the consequences of this conflict will be with us for decades to come.

Jones is correct, and his video is cut with shots of anti-war protests and demonstrators. It’s refreshing to see on this video quotations from the Labour and Left-wing protesters against the war, like Jones’ old boss, Simpson, and the late Robin Cook. Cook resigned because of the war, and was arguable the man, who should have led the Labour party. I can remember seeing Simon Hoggart, the journalist and compere of the News Quiz on Radio 4, Giles Brandreth, a former Tory cabinet minister, before he became one of the faces on The One Show, and Brandreth’s Labour opposite number, talking about political diaries at the Cheltenham Literary Festival one year. Brandreth said that Cook was the man the Tories were dreading would lead Labour, because of his incisive, forensic intelligence. At the time, here in my part of the West Country, most of the voices raised in protest were Tories. On the local news this evening the Bridgwater MP, Tom King, and two other Tories have appeared commenting on the Report and how they were against the war at the time. This is true. Peter Hitchens, the former Marxist, now right-wing journo, has always made it very clear that he despises Blair for starting wars that have sent good men and women to deaths for absolutely no good reason. And while I don’t like Hitchen’s views on the return of the death penalty, or his tough stance on law ‘n’ order, I respect him for his views on Blair. I am much more suspicious about other members of the Tory party, because of the way they threw their weight behind Maggie’s and Major’s wars – the Falklands and then Gulf War I. I wondered at the time how much of their opposition was due principle, and how much was simply because Blair had stolen their mantle as the ‘war party’, just like he stole so much of Conservatism. Their opposition to the war did have some effect. One of my friends, who’s actually very left-wing, started reading the Spectator for a time, because it ran articles by a leading Tory – possibly Matthew Parris, but I couldn’t swear to it – attacking the war. It’s good to be reminded that there were those on the Left as well, who marched and protested against it. And not just the supporters of George Galloway.

As for the intelligence that Blair used to take us to war, Chilcot is too kind, or perhaps just understandably cautious, when he refers to it as ‘flawed’. It wasn’t. It was deliberately doctored. And from what I understand from Lobster – which is a vociferous opponent of British intelligence services – the pressure to inflate and distort the evidence came, not from the intelligence services, but from Blair and his cabinet.

Jeremy Corbyn has made it very clear that he wishes to prosecute Bliar for war crimes. I don’t know if that will ever happen, as I can imagine the political and media class closing ranks very quickly to shut down that possibility. But the Chilcot report does show that Bliar is morally, if not legally culpable, as Jones points out. The rhyme was right:

Blair lied:
People died.

And the tragedy and injustice is that people have gone on and will go on dying, long after Blair has receded from public life.

Benn, Livingstone, Tatchell and Scargill, Popular Socialists Not Communist Dictators

June 5, 2016

One of the aspects of press policy that comes across most strongly in Mark Hollingworth’s book on the hounding and vilification of left-wing politicians, the Greenham women and the miners in the 1980sThe Press and Political Dissent: A Question of Censorship, is the repeated tactic of concentrating on a particular politician, and trying to present them as crazed and dictatorial. I’ve described in a previous post yesterday how Tony Benn was compared to Adolf Hitler, complete with a retouched photo to show him with Adolf’s toothbrush moustache. This was very much despite the fact that Tony Benn had served as an RAF pilot during the War. The same tactic of smearing a brave man, who had fought for his country as a traitor was repeated a few years ago by the Daily Heil on Ed Miliband’s father, Ralph. They ran an article denouncing Ralph Miliband as ‘the man who hated Britain’. Miliband was indeed a Marxist intellectual, who hated the capitalist system and therefore much of the class-based structure and institutions of British society. But he also fought in the British army against Fascism during the Second World War.

Scargill and the Miners

Arthur Scargill was another working-class political figure the press smeared with comparisons to Hitler, and claimed was a dictatorial monster during the Miner’s Strike.

Maggie Thatcher in one of her rants had described Scargill and the NUM as ‘Red Fascists’, and so the press followed suit. On 19th April 1984 the Daily Express ran a piece by Prof. Hans Eysenck comparing Scargill and the striking miner’s to Hitler and the Nazis, entitled ‘Scargill and the Fascists of the Left – from the Man who Witnessed the Rise of Hitler: A Warning We Must Not Ignore’. The Sunday Express under its editor, John Junor, ran a similar piece.

Mr Arthur Scargill has clearly been flicked in the raw by suggestions that he has been acting like Hitler. But isn’t he? Hitler used his thugs to terrorise into submission people disagreed with him. Isn’t that precisely what is happening now at night in Nottinghamshire mining villages? Hitler had an utter contempt for the ballot box. By refusing the miners a right to vote, hasn’t Mr Scargill against invited comparison? There the serious similarity ends. For although Mr Scargill may be a stupid man, I do not think he is an evil one.
(pp. 275-6).

Peregrine Worsthorne, the editor of the Torygraph, compared Scargill to Oswald Mosley of the British Union of Fascists. The Daily Heil on the 1st April 1984 ran a piece with the headline, ‘Coal Boss Hits Out at Union ‘Nazis”. But it was the Scum that really went overboard with the accusations of Nazism. It ran headlines like, ‘Mods in Fury at “Adolf” Arthur’, showed a photo of Scargill with his right arm raised, greeting other miners, with the headline, ‘Mine Fuhrer’, and then ran another piece comparing Scargill’s determination to fight to the bitter end with Adolf Hitler in his bunker.

But Scargill personally was far from a dictator. Hollingworth points out that Scargill did not start the strike, but was simply following the directions of the union’s members quite democratically. Hollingworth writes

In fact, the dispute began in Yorkshire when mass pithead meetings were held at every colliery to decide whether to support the fight to oppose the closure of Cottonwood. A Yorkshire NUM Area Council meeting was then arranged which took the decision to sanction all-out industrial action. Scargill didn’t attend or speak at any of these meetings. Nor does he have a vote on the miners’ National Executive Committee. (pp. 272-3).

The miners themselves repeatedly told the press that they weren’t blindly following Scargill, and that the situation was in fact the reverse: he was doing what they told him. This was repeated by the Coal Board’s Industrial Relations director general, Ned Smith, stated ‘I don’t think Scargill has kept them out. That is nonsense. A lot of the areas have a great deal of autonomy. It’s simply not true to say it’s Scargill’s strike.’ (p. 273).

Hollingworth also notes that the press had a personal obsession with Red Ken. When he took over the GLC, the Scum declared ‘Red Ken Crowned King of London’. Hollingworth, however, describes how Leninspart was again, very far from a bullying egotist monopolising power. Bob Quaif in a published letter to the Evening Standard stated that he was a Liberal/SDP, supporter, but he was impressed with the pluralist and democratic terms in which Livingstone expressed his opinions. Moreover, the Labour group when it took power removed some of the patronage powers from the leader, and gave them to elected committees. Ken controlled overall policy, but real power was held by the Labour group which met every Monday. Livingstone himself said of his role

I act more like a chief whip, co-ordinator and publicist of the group. I go out and try to sell the message and to hold the group together… people really only come to me when there is a problem. I never know anything that’s going right. I only get involved in all the things that are going wrong. Committees run into problems with the bureaucracy and I come along and stamp on it. (p. 84).

Hollingworth goes to state that if Livingstone had been personally ousted from power in the Autumn of 1981, the council would still have had much the same policies under the leadership of Andy Harris or John McDonnell.

Livingstone, Scargill and Tatchell Smeared as Communists

Throughout all this, Livingstone, Arthur Scargill and Peter Tatchell were all smeared as Marxists and Communists. The Sunset Times described the miner’s strike as ‘Marxist inspired’, with Hugo Young declaring ‘Call Scargill a Marxist, and correctly identify members of the NUM executive as Communists, and you seem to have solved the entire analytical problem’. The Daily Express even published a piece entitled ‘Scargill’s Red Army Moves In’, ranting about the miner’s had been infiltrated by militant Marxists, determined to prevent changes to union rules which would make striking more difficult. The piece, written by Michael Brown, stated

The militant Red Guards responsible for most of the pit strike violence will attack against today when Arthur Scargill attempts to rewrite his union’s rules. A rabble of political activists plan to invade the streets of Sheffield to browbeat any opposition to a delegates conference designed to reduce the majority needed for strike action … It will be orchestrated by a ‘5th Column’ of political activists who have taken over the running of the miners’ strike. All are handpicked men, some with university training who have Communist, Marxist or Trotskyist backgrounds. They run the flying pickets and handle funds for paying them. (p. 266). There was absolutely no evidence for this, and the papers didn’t provide any.

The Sunday Express and the Scum also claimed that Livingstone was a Marxist, an accusation that lives on in Private Eye’s nickname for him as ‘Leninspart’. But again, Hollingworth states that there’s no evidence that he is either a Communist or Trotskyite. Roy Shaw, the moderate Labour leader of Camden council, who did not share Ken’s left-wing views and opposed him on many issues, stated of ‘Red’ Ken ‘He embraces Marxism if he thinks it will be of advantage to him. But he is certainly not a Marxist. He plays along with them and uses a lot of their methods, but he certainly is not one of them.’

The press also claimed that Peter Tatchell was a member of Militant Tendency, the Marxist group was that was allegedly trying to take over the Labour party. The Daily Mirror claimed Tatchell was linked to Militant and Tariq Ali. The Torygraph also claimed he was a member, as did the Daily Star, while the BBC on 2nd August 1982 on a late-night news bulletin called him ‘the Militant Tendency candidate for Bermondsey’. To their credit, both the Graun and the Absurder published interviews with members of the local Labour party, who said that Tatchell was most definitely not a member of Militant.

Hollingworth describes Tatchell’s politics views and how they differed, at times very dramatically from Militant, and states that he was merely part of the Bennite Left of the Labour party. Indeed, Militant itself did not like Tatchell, and backed him only reluctantly. Hollingworth writes

But Militant’s stance towards Tatchell’s candidature was based on clear ideological differences. On many issues, the two were diametrically opposed. Broadly speaking, Tatchell belonged to the radical Left of the Labour party which rallied round Tony Benn’s banner during the 1981 deputy leadership campaign. According to Michael Crick’s excellent book on Militant. The ‘Bennite Left’ are often described as ‘petty bourgeois reformists by Militant supporters. For Tatchell one of the major differences was on the structure of a socialist society:

I see socialism as being essentially about the extension and enhancement of democracy, particularly in the economic realm. Militant have a very centralised vision of command socialism. Mine is more decentralised and concerned with empowerment. In other words, giving people the power to do things for themselves. Militant take a Leninist view based on a vanguard centre.

On specific policies the discrepancies between Tatchell and Militant are also stark. For several years the Alternative Economic Strategy (AES) was Labour Party and TUC policy and Tatchell supported it fully. Import controls, one of the main proposals of the AES, was seen by Militant as ‘nationalistic’ and ‘exporting unemployment’. Other policies on wealth tax, planning agreements and industrial democracy are rejected by Militant as not going far enough.

When it came to social issues, Tatchell and Militant may as well have been in different parties. Tatchell supports ‘Troops Out’ of Northern Ireland, while Militant is against withdrawal. Positive action for women and ethnic minorities, backed by Tatchell, are seen as ‘bourgeois deviations from the class struggle’ by Militant. The issue of gay rights has only one been raised at the Labour Party Young Socialists conference since Militant took over Labour’s youth section in 1970. According to Michael Crick, Militant supporters are often hostile to gay Party members. (pp.158-9).

So while Scargill, Livingstone and Tatchell were certainly left-wing Labour, they weren’t dictators and definitely not Communists. It was all a smear. But it shows how the press and political establishment were convinced that any serious left-wing Socialist attack on the establishment had to be connected to Moscow. Hence Frederick Forsythe’s wretched little book, which has the British intelligence services battling a Communist plot to infiltrate the Labour party, ready to turn Britain into a Soviet satellite when Labour win the election. It’s says everything about Thatcher that she declared he was her favourite writer.

And Now Corbyn

And this type of abuse hasn’t stopped, either. The most recent victim is Jeremy Corbyn, who is again being smeared as a Communist. Hollingworth writes that it is an old tactic used against the radical Left – to single out a leader, and then go for the jugular. They couldn’t use it against the Greenham women, as they had a very decentralised and non-hierarchical ideology. There were no leaders, and those women, who did speak to the press, made it clear they were only articulating their own views. If they spoke to the press more than a certain number of times, they then refused to speak any more and directed the press to talk to someone else. In extreme cases they even left the camp.

They are, however, determined to use again and again. I found a book on Militant in the politics section of Waterstones recently, and on the back, with the usual approving quotes, was someone stating that the lessons from Militant were relevant once again with the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour party. This is just a smear, along with all the baseless smears against Livingstone, Scargill and Tatchell before him. It shows how little the tactics of the Tory press change in their campaign to discredit genuinely principled and democratic radicals.

Private Eye on the Blacklisting of Trade Unionists in the Construction Industry

March 12, 2016

I found this article in the 23rd August – 5th September 2013 issue of Private Eye.

Blacklisting
Blame Game

No honour among thieves in the construction industry. Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd (SRM) has decided that if it is to go down for illegally blacklisting trade unionists and other “troublesome” workers, it will take its competitors with it.

SRM is being sued in the high court by more than 100 workers who claim their lives and careers were blighted by being placed on a blacklist operated on behalf of the construction trade by the Consulting Association (
Eyes passim). Last month the company decided to dish the dirt and name nine other major contractors, responsible for 34 companies, as co-defendants to the action. It alleges that two of the giants – Balfour Beatty and Skanska – adopted a particularly hardline approach when it came to refusing to employ people who found themselves on the Consulting Association list, often for simply raising safety issues.

SRM says that if it were to be found guilty of a conspiracy to put together a blacklist aimed at preventing people from earning a living-an allegation it denies – the others were, too. As well as Balfour Beatty and Skanska, it has added Amec, Bam, Carillion, Costains, Laing O’Rourke, Kier and Vinci Skanska to the legal action. With individual claims running from £10,000 up to around £300,000, it could see the workers win millions in damages between them, with others to follow if the case is successful.

SRM claims the named companies were all paid-up members of the Consulting Association, which was closed after it was raided by the Information Commissioner’s Office in 2009. The ICO) uncovered details of around 3,000 workers, many of whom, it is claimed, were effectively banned from using their skills.

The original action brought by the workers, all part of the Blacklist Support Group (BSG), targeted SRM because it was believed to have the worst record of blacklisting. SRM even paid legal and other costs for Ian Kerr, who ran the Consulting Association and was fined £5,000 for holding the illegal database.

SRM says that some of the other signed-up members of the Consulting Association, who paid hundreds of thousands of pounds for membership fees and “usage” charges, were “more inclined than the others” to refuse to give work to individuals on its books. “It appears that the Balfour Beatty companies were particularly ‘hard-nosed’ and took a particularly hard line in this regard compared to other members,” SRM alleges.

It says the evidence unearthed by the ICO suggests Balfour Beatty refused workers on it various sites around 187 times. It also handed information on workers to the Consulting Association on more than 300 occasions.

Of the Laing group, SRM alleges that the 85 times its companies provided information to the Consulting Association and the 87 times it refused work “are high compared to other members”. And it accuses Skanska of refusing to permit workers on its sites on approximately 103 of the 127 times it had made enquiries to the Consulting Association.

SRM denies the workers’ claims of conspiracy and breaches of the Data Protection Act, and is contesting the action. However, it says that should it fail, the other companies should pay a contribution to any damages and costs awarded to the workers in proportions to be decided by the court. Watch this space.

This has been going on for a very long time. One of my cousins was turned down for a job years ago, because his father was a Communist. This was also a major issue back in the 1990s, when Panorama or one of the other documentary programmes ran an edition on the Economic League. This was set up as another trade organisation to compile blacklists of trade unionists and other bolshie workers back in the 1920s, when it was founded as the Economic League against Industrial Subversion. Then it was succeeded by another blacklisting organisation, Hakluyt. Both organisations have appeared in Lobster at various times. They had links to the Tory party, and, I believe, British intelligence.

Private from 2000 on MI6 and the Observer

March 8, 2016

This is another ominous piece from Private Eye for Friday, 16th June 2000.

Two years ago, a dozen hacks from the Observer sent an indignant letter to the Eye protesting at our suggestion that the paper’s foreign editor, Len Doyle, was “rather too close to British intelligence for comfort.”

Doyle, they insisted, “is a respected friend and highly regarded journalist and innuendo about his lack of impartiality does him a grave injustice”.

Lo and behold, in this Monday’s Guardian, ex-Observer hack David Leigh belatedly confirmed that Doyle was indeed “in contact with MI6”, and encouraged his staff to pursue leads provided by “the men in shiny suits”, as he called them. “We … had ended up, in effect, acting as government agents,” Leigh concluded, though he hastily added that Doyle always “behaved scrupulously”.

This doesn’t quite tally with the experience of the Observer’s former diplomatic editor, shyam Bhatia, who on 24 September 1997 was taken to lunch by Doyle with one of the shiny-suit brigade, a senior MI6 officer called Peter Noonan. They had barely ordered their drinks before Noonan revealed that MI6 boss Sir David Sedding was furious at a piece about him in that day’s Grauniad by Francis Wheen. Noonan was determined to find out everything he could about the wretched Wheen. Where did he live? Was he married? Did he have children?

To Bhatia’s astonishment and dismay, Doyle did his best to provide the information required. It may or may not be coincidence that Bhatia left the Observer soon afterwards.

Meanwhile Doyle is now foreign editor of the Independent (sic). Do the paper’s editor and directors share his apparent view that journalists should inform on their colleagues to the spooks of Vauxhall Cross?

Now British intelligence has long had connections in Fleet Street. Ken Livingstone mentions in his book, Livingstone’s Labour, that a former head of the Mirror was one. I’ve also read rumours, but no actual proof, that Andrew ‘Brillo Pad’ Neil, now of the Daily Politics, also had intelligence connections when he was at the Sunday Times.

The piece was sinister enough when it was published, with the implication that the heads of the intelligence services would devote resources and manpower into monitoring and manipulating the press, and pursuing personal vendettas against journalists, who they considered troublesome. It’s even more sinister when you take into account the revelations that MI5 at one point in the 1970s were looking at opening an internment camp for subversives, including ’50 MPs, not all Labour’, in Shetland or one of the other Scots Islands.

It is even more troubling sixteen years later, after governments have passed successive acts vastly expanding the powers of the surveillance state and providing for a system of secret courts, in which you can be tried without the public and your family knowing your location, and from which the press and public are excluded. These courts also allow witnesses to present their evidence anonymously, and that evidence itself may not be disclosed to you. All in the name of national security and combating terrorism. All this makes you wonder how free the press truly is, and for how long.