Posts Tagged ‘Libraries’

Gay Pride and Socialist Solidarity Event at the Arise Festival of Left-Wing Ideas

June 26, 2022

I go this email below from the organisers of the forthcoming Arise Festival about an online event next Sunday celebrating and promoting gay and socialist solidarity.

LGBTQ+ Liberation – Pride, solidarity and socialism – Tune in at Arise Festival 

Premieres, Sunday July 3, 19.00. Register here // Retweet here // Get ticket for the whole festival here.

As the government turns to reactionary divide and rule politics in the face of a cost of living crisis, and as violent attacks on LGBTQ+ increase at an alarming rate, Amy Smith of Arise Festival meets in conversation with Mike Jackson (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) and Katherine Harlow (LGBTQ+ candidate on Young Labour’s Socialist Future slate) to discuss the way forward for LGBTQ+ liberation.

LGSM were at the forefront of providing solidarity to striking miners throughout the 84/85 strike. The NUM then led the 1985 Pride March and moved the motion supporting LGBT rights at Labour’s conference in the same year. We’ll be discussing what we can learn from that experience, the importance of Pride, and why solidarity and socialism must be at the heart of fighting for LGBTQ+ liberation.

An online event as part of Arise 2022 – A Festival of Left Ideas.

They’re absolutely right about the gay movement’s support for the miners. It’s the subject of a British film, Pride, which is set during the miners’ strike and is about gays and the striking miners coming together. I’m not aware that homophobic violence has increased, but it wouldn’t surprise me. There have been polls showing that for the first time, the present younger generation is less tolerant in this direction than its elders.

Some of this hatred might come from recent controversies from over the other side of the Pond. There has been considerable discussion and opposition to the nudity and kink at Pride marches over in America, as well as drag clubs hosting shows for children and the inclusion of LGBTQ* teaching to young children of nine and below in schools. There’s also increasing opposition to the drag queen story time events for children in public libraries. I gather that British Pride marches are somewhat different, but concerns about nudity and kink in public at an event which is promoted as child-friendly and suitable for children do seem to me to be entirely justified given some of the behaviour displayed by the marchers. This doesn’t mean banning the marches, though, or using it to promote homophobia. It should just mean getting the organisers and participants to clean up their act if they really want to be seen as suitable for children. Otherwise, regardless of the marches’ best intentions to promote tolerance across all ages, they should really be seen as for adults only.

I’ve also read criticism of Pride marches by gays, who say they’ve been put off them by the atmosphere that’s appeared there in recent years. They’ve written in various comments about Pride on right-leaning video channels discussing them that the marches have changed and aren’t what they once were. Some of these gay commenters find them now rather intimidating and corporate, as companies boast how they’re sponsoring them as a public relations exercise to show how tolerant and inclusive they are. They contrast this with the genuinely celebratory and subversive feeling there were about such marches back in the 80s and so on, when gays didn’t have the right to marry, were widely hated despite decriminalisation, and Thatcher wanted to ban the promotion of homosexuality in schools. As Thatcher was friends with Fascist monsters like Pinochet, it seemed all too credible that this would result in real, vicious persecution against gays that could see a return to them being imprisoned and worse.

Under Cameron, the Tories reversed their public stance against homosexuality and promoted openly gay candidates. But it does seem from the above message that they are trying to find ways to break the connection between the gay movement and the organised working class through stirring up anti-gay hatred.

Karen Davies on Feminist Article Debunking Claims that Africans and Other Non-White Peoples Didn’t Know about Biological Sex before European Colonisation

June 14, 2022

I felt I had to put this up, because the fact that activists and feminist scholars like Karen Davies and Jennifer Seiland, the author of magazine article Davies discusses, have to refute this nonsense show how far the ideological fantasies of Queer Theory have poisoned genuine political, feminist and ethnological discourse. Davies is a Black American lady, who’s a sharp, trenchant critic of the transgender ideology and its supporters. She’s a musician, schoolteacher teaching young children, and has also worked in the care sector with the mentally ill. She has very strong, uncompromising views on both the transgender ideology and transwomen which has led to disputes with other gender critical campaigners, like Graham Linehan. However, her views and criticisms are informed by medical scholarship, and she cites the appropriate medical and psychiatric literature to support her case.

In this video she approvingly discusses a piece in the feminist magazine Reduxx by Jennifer Seiland ‘Black Women Are Women. Men Are Not’, concentrating particularly on Seiland’s attack on a frankly weird and bonkers idea going around Trans supporters and ideologues. This is that Africans did not understand biological sex and the gender binary before it was imposed on them by White, Christian Europeans. Davies herself makes good, and sometimes glaringly obvious points against this nonsense. Like Africans obviously knew about the gender binary and the biological differences between the sexes, like everyone else. It would have partly been a survival issue. You wouldn’t let heavily pregnant women go hunting where they were particularly vulnerable to animal attack. Rather, you’d give them other, lighter work to do and leave them with other people in attendance to help them when the baby arrived. She points to great African civilisations like ancient Egypt and asks how anybody could build such a great culture and its monuments, if they were too thick to know the difference between men and women. She also raises the point that people in the ancient world travelled widely long before European colonisation, and that the Vikings probably got to Africa. She also makes the feminist point that not only were Black women frequently denied their humanity, but so were women generally. She compares the attitude that African’s didn’t understand the difference between men and women to nonsense she was taught at Roman Catholic school that Africans didn’t have language until the Europeans arrived.

This all seems to be a development of one of the arguments used by the supporters of the transgender ideology that non-western cultures have a third gender, and that White westerners, as racist colonialists, have imposed their narrow view that there are only two sexes on them. Now some cultures do have a third gender category for people, usually gay men, who are seen as somehow neither male nor female. A few years ago the Indian hijras – eunuchs – were campaigning for official recognition as a third gender. One book I read years ago about Polynesian society described the gay men in those societies, who grew their hair long, dressed as women and took up feminine occupations like laundry. Going further back, Herodotus in his Histories describes how the men of the Scythian aristocracy often dressed as women and did feminine tasks.

Not all cultures outside Europe have such ideas, however, and in many African cultures the sex roles can be very marked. For example, among the Dowayo of Cameroon the smiths are men but their wives are potters. Basket-weaving is also feminine occupation,. The British anthropologist, Dr. Nigel Barley, in his book The Innocent Anthropologist, describes the general hilarity he caused among his hosts when he tried his hand at basked making. To me the statement that Africans didn’t know about biological sex seems to be a new mutation of the old, and thoroughly discredited anthropological belief that primitive peoples, like those of Papua New Guinea, didn’t understand the father’s role in conception. They believed instead that a god or spirit had entered the woman’s womb. In fact later research showed that primitive peoples know very well that you need a biological man as well as a women to make the next generation.

I also wonder how anyone can make such a ludicrous statement that it needs to be refuted by a feminist scholar like Seiland, when there’s a wealth of popular literature about Africa and its peoples that would easily show otherwise. All you have to do is look for the books on Africa in the local library or good bookstore. And there’s some excellent LGBTQ+ literature which discusses homosexuality and related issues around the world. One of these is A Gay History of the World. This describes the case of an African queen, who overthrew her husband, took on male dress and ruled as king. She also had a harem of male wives, who wore women’s clothes. It’s definitely queer, but it seems to me to be a result of very strong traditional ideas about the sex roles. Only men can rule as kings. Therefore, any woman that tries to rule, has to make herself culturally a man, which means dressing in masculine clothes and having a harem of wives. Though as it seems the queen was heterosexual, these were men rather than women.

As for what Davies was taught in Catholic school about Africans not possessing language until it was brought to them by Whites, I honestly have no idea where that notion came from. It’s the kind of rubbish Fascist groups like the National Front used to say. But European explorers and linguists from the 19th century, and no doubt well before, knew that Africans had their own tongues. The Victorian explorer Richard Burton gives a complete description of the language of the east African city of Harar with grammar and extensive vocabulary in his account of his journeys in that part of the continent. In Wanderings in West Africa he talks approvingly of the Mandinko people and the language of the Kru, asking why Brits dealing with them can’t use their own, perfectly good indigenous names rather than give them nicknames like ‘Three-Fingered Jack’. I’m not saying such attitudes towards African languages is common in the church. I know it isn’t. One of the other voluntary workers at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum told me once how he’d heard mass in Swahili when in Africa. It seems pretty clear that this bizarre idea that African’s didn’t have their own languages isn’t general to Roman Catholics, but just held by those particular teachers in Davies’ old school.

I do wonder at the intellectual damage assertions like the idea that Africans had no notion of biological sex are doing. At the moment they’re held by a small, highly ideologically driven elite, but it seems to be an attempt to deny biological reality for ideological reasons. And I fear that it will be enforced by the same people that protest against and sack academics like Kathleen Stock, who simply assert that sex and gender are based in biological reality, rather than mental or cultural constructs.

Banned by Brent/Lambeth – Willard Price’s Cannibal Adventure

February 12, 2022

Published by Hodder & Stoughton at Sevenoaks, Kent, in 1974, Cannibal Adventure was one of a series of children’s adventure books by Willard Price. It’s heroes were a pair of boys, who sailed around the world on a Yacht visiting exotic places like Africa, Polynesia and South America. The blurb for the book runs

‘A Willard Price Adventure story, about Hal and Roger and their amazing adventures in search of wild animals for the world’s zoos.

Hal and Roger themselves in a village of cannibals in New Guinea, but the native tribes and the animals the brothers want to catch are less dangerous than an old enemy who arrives secretly and is bent on revenge.’

I read it when I was at junior school, way back in the 1970s when one of the children’s shows on TV during the summer holidays was Daktari, about a vet treating animals in Africa. One of these poor afflicted creatures was Clarence, the cross-eyed lion. It was based on, or inspired by, an earlier film about a White doctor or anthropologist working with an African people and learning to respect their ways and he and his son make friends with the locals. I read a number of the Willard Price books, as did some of my friends at school. We liked the exotic locations, the animals and the different peoples the heroes encountered on their journeys.

But Cannibal Adventure was one of the many books that earned the ire of Bernie Grant in his crusade against anything he thought was even vaguely racist. And so it was put on their Index Librorum Prohibitorum, declared to be racist, and removed from the local libraries.

The 70s were a much more racist, or openly racist time than today, and I can understand why Grant and his minions would be sensitive about it. One of the nasty stereotypes about Blacks is that they are all cannibals living in mud huts, wearing grass skirts and with bones through their noses. Another children’s book from the same period on making costumes for parties includes a page or two on how to make just such a costume, along with others for less controversial figures like Frankenstein, Dracula and the man with another face on the back of his head and entirely different outfit pointing the same way on the rear half of his body. Some of the racist abuse Blacks have suffered has been based very much on the Cannibal stereotype.

But I read the book and didn’t think it was at all racist. Some indigenous Papuan tribes were cannibals, eating the flesh of their enemies. One tribe suffered from a degenerative neurological disease, Koro, related to Creuzfeld-Jacob and Mad Cow Disease because of their traditional custom of eating human brains. There were also at the time tribes that had still not been contacted by the outside world, while many Papuans still wore their traditional tribal costume. When the Papuan parliament was opened in the early 1980s by Prince Charles, the chiefs attending the ceremony flew in wearing pretty much the outfit sported by the Black gent on the cover.

The book was also careful to present the indigenous friends of the two lads as intelligent, dignified people despite their Stone Age lifestyle. They had a skull hut, where they kept the revered skulls of their ancestors. Again, this is based on fact, and I’m not going to sneer at it because the ancient Celts were also head-hunters. French archaeologists in Lyon, the ancient Lugdonensis, found a skull temple. It’s the carving of a monster, between whose front paws are a couple of circular indentations to hold human heads. On Anglesey in the 1980s British archaeologists also found the remains of a human skull in what was also probably a ritual site or temple. Cuts on the bone showed that the face had been cut off, probably for the priest or shaman to wear. Despite this, Price stated that the local people weren’t superstitious savages. They didn’t know what glass was, but they knew it wasn’t spirits, and so called it something like ‘transparent stone’. If I remember correctly, they were presented in a positive light, at least relatively for the time.

Lambeth and Brent’s zeal for banning books enraged some on the left as well as the right. Martin Barker, the author of Comics: Ideology and Power, which defends comics from attacks from both the left and right, rails in his final chapter against the new censorship, all the more so because it’s being done by the left and he was a man of the left. It was this bigotry and intolerance by those London councils that partly influenced my decision not to vote for Dawn Butler as deputy leader of the Labour party when a hustings was held here in Bristol. She made it clear she was going to come down hard on racism. I thought of some of the stupid things Lambeth and Brent got up to, and wondered if she was going to follow the same pattern of hurling specious accusations of racism against anyone who didn’t follow her definition of it.

Now, nearly fifty years after the book’s publication, there are the same kind of people demanding the censorship and cancellation of others for what they see as racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and so on. Sometimes they’re right, but sometimes it’s the accusers themselves who are narrow and bigoted. And I firmly believe that children should have their imaginations stimulated through literature, escapism and the exotic as well as the real and the socially conscious. On a related topic, I notice that American Evangelical Christians are also screaming about the Harry Potter books’ promoting the occult again, despite the fact that they are very definitely well within the tradition of children’s fantasy.

Thomas – or was it Heinrich? – Mann said about the Nazi book burnings ‘When you burn books, you also burn people’. Well, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to burn some books, like those advocating paedophilia. And some books are definitely evil works of genuine racist propaganda, like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Others are just innocent, but express the attitudes of their time. Or don’t find the very narrow ideological parameters of the censors. Of these, I strongly urge you to use your own judgement.

And don’t let anti-racist fanatics ban ordinary, decent books like those of the fanatics on the extreme right.

Labour Elected Mayor Marvin Rees’ Policies for Bristol

January 28, 2022

I got this newsletter from Bristol’s elected mayor, Marvin Rees, via email yesterday. In it he lays out his policies for Bristol and how his administration is working to stamp out housing discrimination against people on benefits. He also promotes the Labour candidate for the Southmead ward in the forthcoming council by-election, Kye Dudd. The mayor writes

‘I hope you’re keeping well.

I’m writing to you regarding the Council’s budget – including our plan for homes – and the upcoming election. If you have any questions, then please do get in touch.

On Tuesday, our budget came to Cabinet for sign-off. Drafting this budget was always going to be difficult. The circumstances are challenging: a decade of Government austerity and the pandemic which has simultaneously reduced council revenues and increased the need for council services. This has resulted in us needing to find £19m worth of savings in the General Fund. 

These are challenges facing councils across the country. Across Britains major cities budget gaps average £30m and range from £7m to £79m. In Bristol we’ve worked hard to protect our frontline services by delivering these savings by reducing the Council’s internal expenses, such as through selling off buildings and leaving unfilled posts vacant.  As a result, we remain the only Core City to still maintain the 100% Council Tax Reduction Scheme, which means Bristol’s most vulnerable don’t have to pay any Council Tax. We have protected all of our libraries and children’s centres, our parks, and our social care plans that enable people to stay in their homes for longer. Budget decisions are never easy, but I’m proud that we have managed to find a way to prioritise helping the worst-off and our transition to net-zero.

It’s important that our General Fund is not taken in isolation, because it is only part of the budget. We have also set the Housing Revenue Account which commits £1.8bn of investment in housing delivery, and a separate investment budget for social housing. This is one of the most ambitious plans in the country and will enable the Council to:

  • Build over 2,000 council homes by 2028, and 300 more every year after
  • Invest an additional £80m in to retrofitting (making council homes more energy efficient, saving them money and reducing Co2 output) bringing funding to a total of £97m.
  • £12.5m to upgrade council tenants’ bathrooms improving quality of life and improving water efficiency in thousands of homes
  • £8.7m investment into communal areas
  • £350k for council tenants’ in financial difficulties
  • £13.5m funding to adapt homes to make them more accessible

Building affordable, quality homes is one of the single most significant policy tools we have for shaping life chances and the carbon and ecological cost the planet will pay for meeting our population’s needs. Housing remains at the forefront of our priorities. 

Benefits discrimination

Cllr Tom Renhard, Cabinet Members Homes and Housing Delivery, recently put forward a motion to stamp out anti-benefits discrimination in Bristol. If you have tried to rent a home in Bristol, you will be familiar with seeing advertisements listed as ‘working professionals only’, meaning people on benefits aren’t allowed to rent the property. This is discrimination – plain and simple – and we’re committed to eradicating this practice from Bristol.

In the past few years, we’ve been expanding our Landlord Licensing scheme, meaning rogue and slum landlords are no longer allowed to rent out properties in Bristol. This has driven up standards where it’s been in place and we intend to expand the scheme to cover the whole of Bristol.  This, combined with our anti-discrimination motion, means that landlords who discriminate against people on benefits won’t be allowed to let properties in Bristol.

It will take some time to expand the licensing scheme citywide so in the meantime, we will be carrying out other policies to help renters. The Council will now assist tenants’ efforts to take discriminatory landlords to the appropriate authorities, will run a public awareness campaign on tenants’ rights, and will create a local action plan to formulate policies to build on these in future – among other things.

Southmead by-election

As former councillor Helen Godwin stood down in the new year, a by-election has been called to fill her vacant seat in Southmead. I am delighted that Kye Dudd has been selected as our candidate for the seat. Kye has been a stalwart of the trade union movement, working for the Communication Workers’ Union for fifteen years, and has served as the Cabinet Member for Transport, Energy, and Connectivity – leading our work to expand our bus and active travel infrastructure, develop our work on mass transit, and decarbonise our energy systems. More recently, he has been working with Empire Fighting Chance, a boxing charity who work with some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable young people in our city.

He will be running on a campaign of:

  • ·        Investing in Southmead’s youth services
  • ·        Investing in Council homes
  • ·        Protecting local green spaces
  • ·        Making Southmead safer for all
  • ·        Supporting the community-led regeneration of Arnside’

It ends with the statement that it is vitally important to get Mr Dudd elected and the email address Southmead Labour party if I wanted to be involved.

I broadly support mayor Marvin, as I think he has done a good overall governing the city. He has tried to remain impartial about the controversy over the wretched statue of Edward Colston, despite his justifiable hatred of it as a man of colour. I believe the policies outlined here are excellent. My problem is with the Labour party as it stands under the leadership of Keef Stalin. Starmer has done everything he can to purge the left and turn it into another version of the Tories. One of his favoured MPs, the vile Rachel Reeves, added insult to injury a few days ago when she described those who have left the party in disgust at Starmer’s factionalism and treachery as ‘anti-Semites’. As I’m sick of saying, the people Starmer and his collaborators in the NEC have smeared and purged are most definitely not Jew-haters. They are decent people, many of them with proud records of fighting racism and anti-Semitism. About four-fifths of those he’s thrown out are actually Jewish, decent, self-respecting people, often the victims of real anti-Semitic abuse and vilification. They are not ‘self-hating’. But then, truth means nothing to the liars of the right, the British media and political establishment, and the Israel lobby.

I had a series of emails from the Labour party over the past week or so asking me if I would care to campaign for Mr. Dudd and help get Boris out, and Starmer in. Well, my health at the moment prevents me from getting out much. Southmead isn’t my ward, and the buses from where I live have become very unreliable, so I simply won’t be able to join them. And obviously I do want to get Bozo out.

But I don’t want Starmer in.

I see no difference whatsoever between him and Johnson. Both are lying, treacherous right-wingers with precious little real ability to govern and an intense contempt for the working class. They both want to privatise whatever has been left, including the NHS. I don’t trust him to restore the welfare state to anything like the level that’s needed, nor to strengthen the trade unions. He won’t give workers much needed rights at work. And he definitely won’t do anything to improve public services by nationalising them, despite the obvious fact that they’re decaying as we look under private ownership.

And the voting public aren’t enamoured of Starmer either. I’ve got the impression that at the moment Labour’s haemorrhaged support to the Greens so that they’re almost neck and neck with Labour on the local council.

Now I do support Marvin and hope Mr. Dudd wins the council election when it comes.

But I very much do not want Starmer to get anywhere near No. 10 and definitely want him out as leader of the Labour party.

Dido Harding Didn’t Realise Viruses Mutate – How Did She Get Her Job Again?

February 7, 2021

I realise that it’s an old story, but it’s worth repeating as it shows the level of corruption and plain incompetence surrounding Boris Johnson and his appointments to official post. Mike posted up a piece a little while ago commenting on a statement by Dido Harding, the head of NHS Test and Trace, that no-one could have predicted that the virus would mutate. Really? Doctors and scientists have known for a very long time that viruses mutate. It’s why there are different varieties of the flu vaccine and they haven’t yet been able to find one that will absolutely eradicate it, as they have with smallpox. The disease mutates too rapidly, so that as soon as an effective vaccine against one strain is found, a new variety, immune to it, emerges. It’s also why the world’s scientists are worried about the declining effectiveness of penicillin, as new strains of bacteria are emerging that are immune to it. I also believe that malaria is also changing so that quinine is becoming less effective.

This isn’t some deep medical secret, hidden by the scientific establishment for some nefarious purpose of its own, along with alien bases on the Moon, the Greys, the Face on Mars and the location of Atlantis. It’s widely known, well-publicised fact. One of the peeps on Twitter, Kit Yates, showed that it was actually taught in his seven year old’s science textbook. Which looks a lot more fun and exciting than some of the textbooks we used when I was at school. And scientific concerns about viral immunity to penicillin and quinine has been discussed on several programmes on Radio 4. This is the public service broadcaster the Tories want to defund and abolish in favour of something far more right-wing and owned by Rupert Murdoch or another millionaire like him. The fact that Tory official Harding doesn’t know a fairly basic fact about disease clearly demonstrates that if the Tories have their way, the abolition of the Beeb will leave Britain dumber and much less informed. But that’s obviously the only way the Tories feel they can win in the long term.

Fortunately for Britain, as Dr Julia Grace Patterson pointed out, doctors had been tracking different strains of Covid since last Spring. She also pointed out that viruses mutate, which was why the flu vaccine changed annually, and concluded that Harding’s remark was ‘awful’. This shows that we can count on our scientists diligently researching and doing everything they can to combat the disease. We just can’t count on their bosses knowing much about it.

If Harding was an ordinary member of the public, her ignorance would be excusable. You don’t expect ordinary people to know everything. They don’t have the time, the energy nor often the education. But Harding’s different. She’s in charge of the government body set to monitor and combat the spread of the disease from person to person. Her ignorance says much not just about her suitability for her position, but also about the cavalier attitude Boris’ government seemingly has to putting the right people in charge of such vital work. It has always looked as though Harding got the job, not through any real skill, knowledge or ability on her part, but because she was a friend of Boris and his wretched coterie. She was put in purely because of personal loyalty, as well as an attitude on Johnson’s part that no particular expertise was needed in this area. Anyone could do it, so it was important that that anyone was a personal friend or supporter of his.

This attitude seems to go back to the 90s. Private Eye in its literary column lamented the emergence of an attitude to bookselling and libraries, which saw them as just another product to be marketed. Managing directors were being appointed to publishers, booksellers and libraries, who had no experience of that sector, from industries like catering. One of them was the head of a sandwich firm. The attitude seemed to be that in the new commercial environment, industries, no matter how different, were somehow at some basic level identical. A man, who knew nothing about books or literature but made great sandwiches was just as good a choice as someone who had been in the book trade all his or her life, and appreciated that books were a social good with a distinct ethos and societal and ethical function far beyond their value as a material ‘product’.

And the same cavalier ignorance pertains here. BoJo and his fellow morons clearly regard NHS Test and Trace as just another business. Anyone from any business can therefore run it. They don’t have to have any personal expertise themselves, as they’ve got scientists below them to do that. But virology is not any kind of business, and while you wouldn’t expect Harding to have the same level of expertise as the scientists underneath, you do want her to have a basic understand of the nature of disease and the way its fought. Even if that comes from seven year old’s science text books.

Harding’s ignorance is amusing at one level, as the jokes about her on Twitter have shown. But it’s also dangerous. The Tories have absolute contempt for experts. Boris, Cummings and the rest of the ratbags supported ‘herd immunity’ against the advice of the overwhelming majority of doctors and scientists, because it fitted their prejudices of letting the poor die to protect the rich. I think it was one of them, rather than an American Republican, who said that people are sick of experts. Even if it was a Conservative from across the Pond rather than our own, homegrown rightists, the Tories certainly share that determined, anti-intellectual attitude.

Tory medical ignorance and negligence has cost something like 50,000 lives. And it’s still going on. Harding’s lack of a basic fact about viruses is symptomatic of a wider cavalier attitude to science and protecting people’s health and lives. They’re a disgrace. It’s time Harding was sacked and Johnson and his fellow cronies also forced out of office in favour of people better qualified to run the country and preserve its people.

Anyone got any ideas who that might be, as it surely isn’t Tory Starmer!

For further information, see: ANYBODY could have predicted that Dido Harding would be wrong on Covid-19 mutation. Here are some of the funniest responses | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Russell Howard Stops Show Because of Audience Filming, But Alex Bellfield Blames Dawn Butler

August 15, 2020

This is in itself an inconsequential story, but I’m putting it up here because it shows how desperate the Tory media and their baying public are to smear Dawn Butler. Alex Bellfield is the host of some kind of small, independent radio show, ‘Celebrity Radio’, and puts videos of some of them and his rants up on YouTube. It’s bog-standard, Tory right-wing stuff – disabled people are scrounging off the state, Cressida Dick and Sadiq Khan are personally responsible for the crime wave in London because they’re too soft on Blacks because of fears of racism, Labour did nothing about the Asian sweatshops in Bradford and the rest. The other day he took it upon himself to post up a 2-3 minute long opinion piece linking Russell Howard stopping a show with Dawn Butler filming the police as she was stopped while driving.

I can’t say that Russell Howard is one of my favourite TV comedians, despite the fact that he comes from Keynsham. It’s a small town between Bristol and Bath, just down the road from me in south Bristol. Some of its simply because I don’t find some of the jokes funny, and some of its because, as someone from Bristol, I’m not so keen on some of jokes about people from my fair city. But I don’t hate him or his show. It’s just not something I’m particularly keen on.

According to Bellfield, Howard had stopped one of his gigs that week and walked off stage after an audience member stood up and started filming him on their mobile or whatever. Bellfield didn’t blame Howard for doing this, and went after millennials instead. More Tory rubbish – they hate millennials because they’re all left-wing, entitled, SJW ‘snowflakes’. But this time it was because, he decided, millennials can’t simply enjoy actually being present in the moment at a gig or an event. They have to film it to show they were there. And so the audience member showed their ignorance, and Howard walked out.

This is actually fair comment on the attitude of a number of people, but it began long before the millennials. At the Cheltenham Literary Festival back in the 1990s I remember the organisers telling the audience that they were not allowed to film. I think some venues actually check your bags to make sure that you aren’t carrying filming or recording equipment. This was slightly before mobile phones, when it was digital cameras. I think it’s not just a case of bad manners, but there are also copyright issues involved.

Bellfield didn’t blame Howard for stopping his show, because, as he went on, it was somehow Dawn Butler’s fault. She was encouraging and enabling all these rude millennials filming where they shouldn’t, because she had filmed the cops as they stopped her on a ‘stop and search’. And it’s a good job she did, because the Tory lies about her have been coming thick and fast. You only have to look at some of the rumours Zelo Street has dispatched in his articles debunking them. Like she had a White passenger with her – she didn’t – or she deliberately flipped the video to make the police look bad, which she didn’t either.

Dawn Butler is another politico about whom I have strong reservations. She’s intelligent, passionate and a good speaker. I saw her at the hustings for the Labour party deputy leadership. As a woman of colour, she’s obviously very keen on stamping out racism. My problem was that she might be too keen. We’ve already had a witch hunt in the Labour party using anti-Semitism as a purge against the left and critics of Israel. There was Rebecca Long-Bailey demanding similar action against critics of the radical Trans movement. And I remember some of the antics of Bernie Grant down at Brent council in the 1980s. Grant had a rigidly inflexible attitude to racism, which he found everywhere. Decent people, who weren’t racist at all were accused, and books purged from schools and libraries which he and coterie considered racist, but which it could be argued were no such thing. This angered other members of the left, and Martin Barks made a sharp attack on this censorship in his book Comics: Ideology, Power and the Critics, which takes a sharp aim at the way critics of the funny papers have attacked them from both the left and right. I was afraid Butler would start something similar in the Labour party.

Now it’s clear that she’s right about the rampant racism. It’s by the Blairites, who were bullying Black MPs and activists, including – no surprise! – Diane Abbott. And they’re determined not to go the way they treated those they’ve falsely smeared, because they’re being vilely smeared themselves and have expensive lawyers. As Mike and the others have said, if they’re so sure they’re being misquoted, then they should release the full text of what they said to show otherwise. And definitely not try to have any investigation into them suppressed.

And Butler was right to film the police. Excessively forceful and violent routine searches of Black people, who are guilty of simply driving about in expensive cars, have been going on for years. I found one such example in an old copy of Private Eye from around 20 years ago. And the cops in demonstrations in London have also used dirty tricks to seize and hold members of the protesting crowd in order to disrupt them. I therefore don’t blame anyone for filming the rozzers. They aren’t the Klan, as Sasha Johnson, the leader of the mighty Black Lives Matter LARPer army in Brixton has declared. But, unfortunately, there are some forces that definitely need watching and, if you’re innocent, you do need to have evidence in your defence. Especially if you’re Black.

But this is obviously too much for Bellfield and his Tory cohorts. Unable to smear Butler, he had to fall back on trying to blame her for something, even when she wasn’t responsible and was taking reasonable steps to protect herself against possible falsehood. But she’s a left-wing Black woman, and so has to go.

It was a desperate smear, and shows how low the Tories will go in smearing their opponents. Well, I’m also sorry that Howard stopped his gig. I hope his others are going better, and if it’s a choice between seeing him and Bellfield, you’re far better off laughing with the funny man from Keynsham.

Just as you are believing Butler against the lies of a viciously racist Tory pack and media.

See also: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/08/dawn-butler-enter-racist-liars.html

MP stopped by police in London for ‘driving around whilst black’

Senior Labour staff urged to publish WhatsApp messages IN CONTEXT if they think #LabourLeaks report misrepresented them

 

Where’s Starmer? Labour Should Be Leading the Fight against Racism, Not Johnson

June 15, 2020

I just caught on the lunchtime news today the announcement that Boris Johnson is going to set up a commission to examine the knotty question of racism in the UK. He said something about how this had to be done because of the way people up and down the country had gathered in mass meetings to protest against it. While it showed that Johnson had been paying attention to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations here, America and across the world, not everyone was convinced that Johnson was entirely serious about his proposal. The Beeb’s report said that he’d been criticised already, as there were existing recommendations made in previous reports which hadn’t been acted upon. The Labour MP David Lammy also appeared to give his tuppence worth. He began by noting that Johnson had provided any specifics about this proposed commission. To me, it looks very much like another typical Tory dodge. Johnson will set up this commission to make it look like he’s really bothered about the issue and understands public concern, while making sure that it doesn’t actually do anything and hope that the matter will go away. I do know some genuinely anti-racist Tories. But the Tory party itself has consistently opposed non-White immigration and parts of it are viciously racist. Like the members of the Tory youth movements, who used to sing ‘We Don’t Want No Blacks and Asians’ to the tune of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, or ‘Hang Nelson Mandela’. The people that Jacobsmates exposed posting violently racist messages on the internet sites for supporters of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg. The people that formulated and backed the Tories ‘hostile environment’ policy, which saw hundreds of people illegally deported. People, who had been granted citizenship and then suddenly found it stripped from them by a racist, duplicitous government.

And you have to wonder where Starmer and Angela Rayner are in all this. So far their response has been very muted. After the protests at George Floyd’s murder broke out, Starmer and Rayner issued a statement last week declaring that they were shocked and angered at the killing. Rayner tweeted that ‘We stand in complete solidarity with those standing up against police brutality towards Black people and systemic racism and oppression across the United States, here in the United Kingdom and across the world.’ But actions speak louder than words, and no, they don’t. The suppressed report into the conspiracies by members of the Blairite faction within the party to unseat Corbyn and his supporters and actually make the party lose elections also revealed how these same plotters racially abused the Black MPs and activists Diane Abbott, Dawn Butler and Clive Lewis. It showed that there was a poisonous culture of anti-Black racism, dubbed Afriphobia, in the party that wasn’t being addressed. As a result, according to the Huffington Post, the Labour Party is haemorrhaging Black members, who say they feel politically homeless.

If Black Lives Matter to Keir Starmer, why hasn’t he acted against Labour’s racists?

Starmer’s response to the toppling of the statue of slaver Edward Colston in Bristol has also been muted. When he was asked by caller Barry Gardiner on LBC radio what his views on it were, Starmer simply replied that it shouldn’t have been done that way, and that he didn’t condone lawlessness. This cut no ice with the mighty Kerry-Ann Mendoza of The Canary, who tweeted that they’d been trying to have it removed legally for the past forty years. As for the Labour party’s attitude to ethnic minorities, she tweeted

The Labour Party is not a safe place for Black people
The Labour Party is not a safe place for Muslims
The Labour Party is not a safe place for anti-zionist Jews
The Labour Party is not a safe place for anti-zionists period
The Labour Party is not a safe place for socialists

Starmer on THAT statue: he thinks there’s a heirarchy of racism, with black people very low down it

Mike in the article above argues quite correctly, in my opinion, that Starmer believes in a hierarchy of racism. He was quick to give his full support to the Zionist Jewish establishment, but has done nothing about the racists persecuting Blacks in the party. This is almost certainly because the persecutors were Blairites like himself, and he doesn’t want to alienate his supporters. At the same time, he is also using the fast-track expulsion process that has been set up to deal with alleged anti-Semites to start throwing out members. This is a real kangaroo court, as those accused are not giving a hearing and have no opportunity to defend themselves. And those expelled naturally include socialists and followers of Jeremy Corbyn, and especially anti-Zionist Jews. Tony Greenstein has written a couple of articles about this already. In an article posted yesterday, Tony describes how Starmer was handed a list in March of the people the woefully misnamed Jewish Labour Movement wanted purged. As the Director of Public Prosecutions, Starmer refused to prosecute the coppers who shot Jean Charles de Menezes, whom they mistook for an Islamist terrorist. He was also not in the least interested in the deaths of Blacks in police custody. His expressed support for Black Lives Matter is hypocritical, as the Zionist movement in America has been doing its level best to destroy and discredit it because BLM has declared that Israel is an apartheid state, and supports the Palestinians. It considers that their condition in Israel is comparable to that of Blacks in America.

https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/06/you-cant-be-anti-racist-if-you-are-not.html

Tony has also posted this article about the mass expulsion of anti-Zionist Jews from the Labour party, as well as other, self-respecting anti-racist members.

https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/06/starmers-war-on-jews-in-labours.html

Starmer’s reticence on anti-Black racism contrasts very strongly with the party’s direction over the previous forty years. After Thatcher’s election victory in 1979 or so, Labour strongly supported the aspirations of Britain’s Blacks and Asians for equality. The party put forward a new generation of ethnic minority MPs, who strongly articulated the desire for real change. This was extremely controversial – the Tory press blamed the 1981/2 race riots on Black racism and viciously attacked the new Black MPs, like Diane Abbott and Bernie Grant. And, in my opinion, some of them didn’t help. Brent council under Grant was particularly zealous in its determination to root out racism, to the point where it pursued a vigorous policy of censorship from its libraries. A policy that appalled others in the party, who were equally left-wing but less inflexible and intolerant. I’ve heard stories from people, who grew up in the area how extreme Grant could be in his accusations of racism. One of those he accused was the head of a local school, whose wife was Black and who was supposedly a member of the Communist party. In Bristol the five members of Labour’s ‘unofficial’ Black section went off on a trip to Ulster to support the Roman Catholics. They believed that Ulster’s Catholics were a colonised minority like Blacks. They had a point, but this allowed the Tories to paint the party as ‘loony Labour’, inhabited by embittered Communists, who hated Britain and supported the IRA. Nevertheless, it was this period that led to the vital implementation of policies, like ‘positive discrimination’ to improve conditions for Blacks and ethnic minorities. And Labour continued to include anti-racism, or at least anti-racist rhetoric, under Blair. Some Black activists did feel excluded and that Blair was less than serious about these issues. But I can remember Blair praising the example of America’s General Colin Powell, and wishing that Britain could also be a place where Blacks could rise to the highest ranks of the military.

But Starmer seems to be turning his back on all this in his determination to return Labour to the Thatcherite, neoliberal centre ground. It’s the inevitable result of Blairite triangulation. Blair studied what the Tories were doing, and then adopted it and tried to go further. He began in the 1990s by taking over scrapped recommendations for the restructuring of the civil service by Anderson Consulting. He continued the Tory policies of privatisation, including that of the NHS, and the destruction of the welfare state. And some Blairite MPs even began to make the same type of racist recommendations as the Tories. It’s also dangerous, as under Cameron the Tories did try to gain ethnic minority support by embracing Black and Asian community leaders.

Black Lives Matter and the anti-racism movement shouldn’t be above criticism. But Labour should be taking the lead in the debate. Instead, Starmer seems determined to alienate some of the party’s staunchest supporters.

All in the hope of appealing to the Thatcherites and neoliberals.

Rachel Riley Fans Bully Ken Loach into Resigning as Anti-Racism Judge

March 25, 2020

Okay, we’re in the middle of an unprecedented public health emergency, a global pandemic that is forcing country after country across the world to go into lockdown. The French passed legislation a week or so ago stipulating that citizens had to have documented permission in order to leave the homes. Earlier this week our clown of a Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, appeared on television to tell us that he was ordering us, with certain exception, to stay in our homes. The exceptions are key workers and people caring for the sick. You are allowed to leave home to get food and other necessary visits. But that’s it. Shops, businesses and libraries are closing, and there are to be no public gatherings of more than two people.

The crisis has brought out the very best and worse of people. People are going round to check on and run errands for neighbours in high-risk categories, such as those over 70, and those with pre-existing conditions that make them more vulnerable, like cancer patients. On the other hand, we’ve also seen mobs clearing the shelves of food and toilet paper in supermarkets and stores, hoarding them and so preventing others, like the elderly, sick and healthcare workers, from acquiring them. One of my neighbours was so upset when she personally saw this happening when she went shopping that she burst into tears in her car.

But one person the crisis hasn’t affected is Rachel Riley. She appears to be as squalid, mean-spirited, spiteful and bigoted as ever. She, Oberman and a female hack had tried to get Ken Loach and Michael Rosen dropped from judging a competition organised by the anti-racist organisation, Show Racism the Red Card, because she decided they were anti-Semites. The accusation’s risible. Ken Loach is a left-wing film auteur, who is passionately anti-racist. And that includes fighting anti-Semitism. Of course the Thatcherites inside and outside the Labour party and the Israel lobby tried to smear him as anti-Semite a year or so ago because he has directed a film attacking Israel’s barbarous treatment of the Palestinians. But he enjoys the support of very many anti-racist, self-respecting Jews in the Labour Party. When he appeared at a meeting of Jewish Voice for Labour, he was given a standing ovation.

As for Michael Rosen, not only is the accusation risible, it’s also personally offensive. Rosen’s Jewish, though this doesn’t bother the smear merchants. They seem to especially delight in smearing Jews, who dare to have the temerity to demonstrate that Judaism does not equal Zionism. Indeed, there is, or was, a bit of graffiti on a wall in Jerusalem stating ‘Judaism and Zionism are diametrically opposed’. This is an attitude completely alien to the Jewish establishment. As Tony Greenstein has pointed out time and again, the current Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis grew up in apartheid South Africa and a right-wing settlement on land stolen from the Palestinians, and led a British contingent on the March of the Flags. This is the annual event when Israeli bovver-boys goose step through the Muslim sector of Jerusalem, vandalising property and trying to intimidate the locals. Rosen is an author, poet and broadcaster. He was the Children’s Poet Laureate. I believe he has, like so many other Jewish Brits, lost relatives in the Shoah. He is a Holocaust educator, and appeared before parliament to testify about it. Like Loach, he is very, very definitely no kind of anti-Semite or Nazi. But because he dared to support Jeremy Corbyn, Riley and the other smear merchants attacked him.

Show Racism the Red Card defied the smear campaign of Riley and her fans. The organisation had received statements from people from all walks of life supporting Loach and Rosen. It therefore announced that they were delighted to have them as judges. That should have been it. But it wasn’t. Riley issued another Tweet claiming that Loach is a Holocaust denier. This was because Loach had initially supported another person, whom he believed had been unfairly accused of anti-Semitism. When he found out that the woman really was an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier, he cut off all further communication. Riley deleted this Tweet, but the damage was done. Her fans and others, who had been taken in by her lie bombarded Loach and his family with abuse and threats. He has now been forced to withdraw as a judge.

Mike put up a piece commenting on this vile behaviour. He pointed out that Riley will continue bullying and smearing people until she’s stopped. He’s currently fighting a libel case brought by her, despite Riley not challenging the facts on which Mike based his statement that Riley had bullied a schoolgirl for being anti-Semitic, simply because she supported Corbyn. Mike appealed once again for donations, as justice is expensive. If he wins his case, it just might stop her trying to use the law to smear, bully and silence others. See his article at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/03/18/sickening-bullying-of-innocents-shows-riley-wont-stop-until-she-is-made-to/

Riley’s tactic of posting and then deleting a Tweet that could be considered libelous and an incitement to intimidation is shared by another noxious character: Tommy Robinson. The arch-islamophobe with convictions for assault and contempt of court has a habit of turning up on the doorsteps of his critics, or their elderly parents, with a couple of mates, demanding a word at all hours of the day and night. He’s also handy at dishing out smears. Mike Stuchbery, one of his most persistent critics, has been forced out of his job as a teacher and live abroad, after Robinson and his crew turned up late one night at his house, banging on the walls and windows and accusing him of being paedophile. It wasn’t remotely true, but then, as Boy George sang so long ago, ‘truth means nothing in some strange quarters’. Robinson also gets his followers to persecute and intimidate his critics, and then also denies he has deliberately provoked them. He denounces and doxes them on the Net, posting details of their home addresses, which he then deletes. No, he wasn’t sending his followers round to threaten them. It was all a mistake, and he took the offending Tweet or post off the Net as soon as possible. It’s all ‘plausible deniability’.

And Riley seems to have adopted the same tactic.

Which shouldn’t surprise anybody, considering how closely linked the Israel lobby is with the EDL. Tony Greenstein, in particularly, has documented and photographed various occasions in which pro-Israel, anti-Palestine protesters have turned up virtually arm in arm with the EDL’s squadristi. I am not accusing Riley of being an islamophobe, but she’s adopting their tactics.

She’s disgusting, and it’s long past time when anyone stopped believing her lies and abuse. I hope Mike will be able to do this when he finally has his day against her in court. Not just for Mike, but for everyone else she’s threatened, bullied and smeared.

Manifesto for a Truly Democratic, Socialist America

January 23, 2020

Bhaskar Sunkara, The Socialist Manifesto: The Case for Radical Politics in an Era of Extreme Inequality (London: Verso 2019).

Introduction

This is a superb book, though conditions have changed since the book was published last year through Labour’s election defeat and the fall of Corbyn, that the new age of socialist activism and success Sunkara looks forward to is now far more doubtful. Sunkara is an American radical journalist, and the founder and editor of the left-wing magazine, Jacobin. Originally from Trinidade, he immigrated to the USA with his family when he was young. Growing up in New York, he read extensively in the Big Apple’s public library, where he came to realise the country’s dependence on services provided by the state. He immersed himself in the history and literature of socialism, finally joining the Democratic Socialists of America. He is also a registered Democrat.

The book comes praised by Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept, Naomi Klein and Owen Jones. The book was partly inspired by the success of Jeremy Corbyn over here and Bernie Sanders in America in bringing socialism back into the political arena after decades of neoliberalism. This is made clear by the blurb on the dust jacket’s inside flap. This states

Socialism was pronounced dead when the Soviet Union collapsed. But with the success of Jeremy Corbyn’s left-led Labour party and increasing economic inequality, the politics of class struggle and wealth redistribution is back on the agenda. In The Socialist Manifesto Bhaskar Sunkara offers a primer on socialism for the twenty-first century, outlining where it came from, what it is, and what a socialist political system might look like.

Tracing the history of some of socialism’s highs and lows – from the creation of Germany’s Social Democratic Party through bloody communist revolutions to the predicaments of midcentury social democracy – Sunkara contends that, in our global age, socialism is still the only way forward. Drawing on history and his own experience in left-wing activism, Sunkara explains how socialists can win better wages and housing and create democratic institutions in workplaces and communities.

In showing how and why socialism can work today, The Socialist Manifesto is for anyone seeking a real solution to the vast inequalities of our age.

The Way to Socialism in America

The book begins with a ‘Day in the Life of a Socialist Citizen’, which maps out one possible path for the transformation of America into a socialist state. Sunkara asks the reader to imagine himself as a worker at Jon Bongiovi’s pasta sauce business in Texas to show that, even under a benign and paternalistic employer, the capitalist system still leaves the workers poor and powerless. In order to compete, the firm must not only make a profit, but invest in machinery while at the same time either cutting wages or laying people off. However, the workers are empowered by a new wave of strikes and left-wing activism that sees the election of President Springsteen. Springsteen establishes a welfare state, which allows the workers to devote more of their time and energy to pressing for their demands without having to fear for their livelihood. The worker’s movement continues making gains until the economy has become nationalised. Individual firms still exist, and are run by the workers themselves rather than the state. Some of them fail. But there are also government banking schemes to help workers set up their own businesses, though still state-owned and collectively managed, when they have a good idea and are fed up with their present job. Like bottling pasta sauce. America is still a vibrant democracy, and there are a number of other parties, including a capitalist party, though that is waning in popularity. It’s not utopia, but it is a system where workers are genuinely valued.

The Rise and Transformation of Socialism from Marxism to Reformism

The socialism, whose history the book tells and advocates, is that the Marxist and Marxist derived parties, Communism and social democracy, rather than the Utopian socialism of the generation before Marx and the more extreme versions of anarchist communism and syndicalism. The book naturally describes the career of Marx and Engels, and the formation of the German SDP. This moved away from revolutionary Marxism to reformism under the influences of Eduard Bernstein and Karl Kautsky, who believed that capitalism’s survival and the growing prosperity of industrial workers had disproven crucial aspects of Marxist doctrine. Initially pacifist, like the other European socialist parties, the SDP voted for war credits at the outbreak of the First World War. This caused a split, with a minority forming the Independent Socialists (USPD) and the Communist Party. When the 1919 revolution broke out, the majority SDP under President Ebert moved to crush it using right-wing Freikorps brigades. Although the SDP was one prop of the Weimar coalition, it was never able to establish socialism in Germany, and so fell with the other parties in the collapse of the Republic to the Nazis.

Russian Communism

Sunkara’s account of the rise of Russian communism is interesting for his argument that the Bolsheviks originally weren’t any more dictatorial than their rivals, the Mensheviks. Even Kautsky recognised the need for a strong, centralised party. But Lenin originally was no dictator. Pravda rejected 44 of his articles, and the were other voices as strong or stronger within the party. What pushed it towards first authoritarianism and then totalitarianism was the stubborn opposition of the rival socialist parties, the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries. They were invited to join a government coalition with the Bolsheviks, but walked out and began active opposition. The Revolution was then threatened by the revolt of the Whites, leading to the Civil War, in which Britain and other western countries sent troops in order to overthrow the Bolshevik regime. This, and the chaotic conditions created by the Revolution itself led to the Bolshevik party assuming a monopoly of state power, partly as the only means available of restoring order. This began the party’s journey towards the murderously repressive state it became, though interparty democracy was still alive in the 1920s before the rise of Stalin.

Mao and China

The emergence of communism in China, its seizure of power and the reign of Chairman Mao is also covered as an example of socialism in the Third World. The nations of the Developing World, like China, took over revolutionary socialism – communism – rather than reformism, because conditions in Russia more closely resembled those in their nations. Russian had been a largely agricultural country, in which the majority of its citizens were peasants. Industrial workers’ similarly represented only a minuscule fraction of the Chinese population, and so Mao turned to the peasants instead as a revolutionary force. This chapter concludes that Chinese communism was less about empowering and liberating the workers than as a movement for national modernisation.

Sweden and the Rise and Fall of Social Democracy

The book also examines the rise and progress of Swedish social democracy. The Swedish socialist party took power early through alliances with the Agrarians and the Liberals. This allowed them to introduce generous welfare legislation and transform the country from one of the most socially backward, feudal and patriarchal states in Europe to the progressive nation it is today. But there were also losses as well as gains. The Swedes compromised their commitment to all-out socialism by preserving private industry – only 5 per cent of the Swedish economy was nationalised – and acting to regulate the economy in alliance with the trade unions and industrialists. This corporative system collapsed during the oil crisis of the 1970s. This caused inflation. The government tried to resist wage rises, which the unions resisted. The industrialists resented the growth of working class activism and began measures to counteract them. Olof Palme, the country’s prime minister, then moved in a left-ward direction through establishing funds that would allow the trade unions gradually to buy up companies. The industrialists recognised an existential threat, and succeeded in overthrowing the government.

The Swedish model, meanwhile, had been highly influential through Labour party MP Anthony Crosland’s The Future of Socialism, which in turn led to Tony Blair’s ‘Third Way’ as the Labour government in Britain moved from social democracy to a more left-wing alternative to neoliberalism. Other European socialist parties followed, such as the German SDP. France’s President Mitterand in the 1980s tried to break this pattern in the 1980s, but his government was also overthrown through capital flight, the industrialists taking their money out of the French economy. Mitterand tried to hang on by promising to safeguard industry and govern responsibly, but it was no use.

Socialism and America

The chapter on socialism in America is particularly interesting, as it shows, contrary to the impression given by America’s two-party system, that the country has a very strong history and tradition of working class parties and socialism, from combative unions like the IWW to organised parties like the Knights of Labor, Democratic Socialists of America, and the Socialist Labor, Populist, Progressive and Communist Parties. However, socialism has never gained power there, as it has in Britain and Europe, because of a variety of factors. These include the extreme violence of the state and private industry, the latter hiring gunmen, to put down strikes; factional infighting between socialist groups, partly caused by the extreme range of socialist opinions and the restriction of some socialist groups to particular ethnicities, and the anti-Communist hysteria of the Cold War.

A strategy for Success

Thechapter ‘How We Win’ contains Sunakara’s own observations and recommendations for socialist campaigning and the construction of genuine socialism in America. These are

1. Class-struggle social democracy does not close down avenues for radicals; it opens them.

2. Class-struggle social democracy has the potential to win a major national election today.

3. Winning an election isn’t the same as winning power.

4. They’ll do everything to stop us.

5. Our immediate demands are very much achievable.

6. We must move quickly from social democracy to democratic socialism.

7. We need socialists.

8. The working class had changed over the past hundred and fifty years, but not as much we think.

9. Socialists must embed themselves in working class struggles.

10. It is not enough to work with unions for progressive change. We must wage democratic battles within them.

11. A loose network of leftists and rank-and-file activists isn’t enough. We need a political party.

12. We need to take into account American particularities.

13. We need to democratise our political institutions.

14. Our politics must be universalist.

15. History matters.

Conclusion

This is the clarion call for genuinely radical activism. It will almost certainly start right-wing alarm bells ringing, as Sunkara calls for left-wing activists to join main parties like the Democrats in the US and Labour in Britain. They are not to be infiltrators, but as people genuinely committed to these parties and working peoples’ causes and issues. The claims that the working class has somehow died out or no longer has radical potential is overstated. It has changed, but 60 per cent of the population are still employees drawing wages or a salary, and who have no money of their own. And the book shows very clearly that the transformation to a genuinely socialist economy is needed. Social democracy has won considerable gains for working people, gains that still persist despite constant right-wing attack. But these aren’t enough, and if left unchallenged, capital will always try to destroy them.

The book’s angled towards the US, but its lessons and many of its recommendations still apply of this side of the pond. The resurgence of genuine socialist activism in Britain is now far less certain in Britain. But hopefully this book will help show to more people why it’s still possible and needed. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of Course the Tories Are Privatising the NHS

November 29, 2019

More lies from the party of smear and bully: they’re denying they’re selling off the NHS. At around 10.00 O’Clock on Wednesday Jeremy Corbyn appeared, brandishing a copy of the documents of the negotiations between Donald Trump and his British counterpart, Boris. And two minutes after he made his speech, the Tory spin machine trundled into action using what Peter Oborne has called its paramilitary wing, Guido Fawkes. The site stated that they had all six of the documents Corbyn had seen, and one didn’t mention the NHS at all. And the second, he declared, showed that Britain was heading for cheaper drugs through the deal with the Americans.

The Torygraph’s Christopher Hope then claimed that Corbyn was a threat to national security, as those documents had been marked secret. Zelo Street has pointed out how hypocritical this is, coming from the man or the paper that leaked ambassador Kim Darroch’s confidential views on what a massive imbecile Trump is. Tory chairman James Cleverly decided to add his tuppence worth’s, a declared that this breach of confidentiality by Corbyn showed his wasn’t fit to be Prime Minister. This was then refuted by Aaron Bastani of Novara Media, who pointed out that if that was true, then what about Fawkes, which had uploaded the documents with the civil servants’ names attached. Which Corbyn hadn’t done. And Pete tweeted that the documents actually showed that NHS access to generic drugs is an issue for the US.

This was confirmed by Steve Peers, who cited the relevant texts to disprove the Fawkes’ lies utterly. Peers tweeted

This is either ignorant or dishonest about Trump’s trade policy on drug pricing. It’s the other way around – Trump’s policy is to *increase* the prices paid for drugs outside the US … Here’s Trump’s policy on drug pricing in his own words, objecting to ‘unreasonably low prices’ outside the US – from the House of Lords library briefing on ‘the NHS and future trade deals’, 4 July 2019.

Some have objected to Corbyn saying that Trump seeks ‘full market access’ for medical products. But this phrase is found in the Trump administration’s own public document setting out its objectives in the US/UK talks … this falls short of the claim that “the NHS is for sale” in the trade talks with Trump. But we do know: a) patents/NHS drug pricing is under discussion (although we can’t be certain what final FTA would say on this) … b) Trump’s objective is NHS paying *more*, not less.

Zelo Street concluded its coverage of this with the comment

‘Labour’s revelation has cut through. The Tory boot boys have confirmed it. Game changer.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/labour-nhs-leak-validated-by-tory-spin.html

But the Tories are still pursuing a policy of NHS privatisation even without the wretched trade negotiation with Trump.

They and the Blairites have been doing it for forty years, ever since Thatcher got into power in 1979. She really did want to privatise the NHS completely, but was only prevented by a cabinet revolt. So she contented herself with privatising the ancillary services by opening them up to private tender, and trying to encourage a target of 15 per cent of the British population to take out private health insurance instead.

This piecemeal privatisation continued under John Major, who introduced the private finance initiative, in which private firms would cooperate with the government to build hospitals. A few years ago Private Eye published a piece on this, revealing that its architect, Peter Lilly, saw it as an opportunity to open up the NHS to private enterprise.

Then in 1997 Blair’s new Labour came to power, and the process of privatisation was ramped up. Blair was no kind of socialist. He was an ardent Thatcherite, who the Leaderene in her turn hailed as her greatest success. He immediately pushed through a series of reforms in which the management of hospitals would be opened up to private healthcare companies. At the same time, the NHS could also contract in private healthcare providers like hospitals. The new polyclinics or health centres that the Blair regime established were also to be privately managed by companies like BUPA, Circle Health and Virgin Healthcare. And the Community Care Groups of doctors, which were supposed to be responsible for allowing doctors to manage their own funds, were part of this policy. They could raise money through private enterprise and contract in private healthcare companies.

One of Blair’s Health Secretaries wished to reduce the NHS to nothing more than a kitemark on services provided by private companies.

And this policy was continued and expanded in turn by the Tories.

They have done nothing to repeal any of this legislation. Instead they have taken it further. Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill is particularly obnoxious as underneath its convoluted verbiage it absolves the Health Secretary from the responsibility of ensuring that everyone in the UK has access to proper healthcare. This overturns one of the core principles of the NHS that has been there ever since it was set up by Nye Bevan and the Labour Party in 1948.

And it has gone on. The Tories wanted to give whole regions over to private healthcare providers, which would have brought the NHS’ complete privatisation that much closer. At the moment the majority of medical contracts have been given to private healthcare providers. Mike revealed on his blog that about 309 contracts had been given out, thus refuting the Tory claim that they aren’t selling the Health Service off.

Let’s be clear: Corbyn is not wrong and the Tories ARE selling the NHS – now

This is a process that has been going for decades. But it is extensively covered by books like Raymond Tallis’ and Jackie Davis’ NHS – SOS. I’ve also written pamphlets on it, one of which is still available from Lulu. See my publications’ page on this site. And there are other books. Many others.

The Tories are selling off the NHS, and it is only Corbyn and his team that oppose it. The Blairites in Labour and the Lib Dems are utterly complicit in it.

If you still value the NHS, vote Labour.