Posts Tagged ‘Mumbai’

Presenters of Sam Seder’s Majority Report Defend Themselves against Accusations of Anti-Semitism

August 15, 2017

Readers of this blog will know very well that the Zionist lobby in Britain and America has repeatedly smeared decent, anti-racist people with the accusation that they are anti-Semites, when their only offence is that they have dared to hold Israel to the same moral standards as the rest of the world.

Israel is a racist state, which occupies the Palestinian territories on the West Bank, and which has engaged in a decades long campaign of brutalization and ethnic cleansing towards the indigenous Arabs population.

Those, who oppose this policy of massacre, persecution and expulsion include Torah-observant, and secular Jews as well as decent, anti-racist gentiles. Despite the fact that very many anti-Zionists and supporters of Palestinian rights are self-respecting Jews, who may be active members of their community, they are vilified as anti-Semitic, or self-hating, every bit as much as the non-Jewish opponents of the Israeli state. Indeed, some are subject to worse abuse.

Sam Seder’s Majority Report is a left-wing internet news programme. Mr. Seder and at least one other of his fellow presenters and staffers on the show is Jewish. In 2014 they made a series of videos reporting the carnage in Gaza, and fiercely criticized the Israeli state’s oppression of the Palestinian people. They also attacked and mocked a Republican mouthpiece, Ben Shapiro, for his stupid accusations about Obama’s administration similarly being anti-Semitic.

So, inevitably, the show received a message from a viewer accusing them of anti-Semitism. In this clip below, the presenters Michael Brooks and Matt Binder, defend themselves and the show from these accusations and make the point that criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitism. The presenter begins by stating that he reported the numbers of Palestinian and Israeli casualties, 500 Palestinians to 15 or 16 Israelis, not because he believed that they should be higher or more equal, but because he felt that there should be none at all. No-one should have died, regardless of whether they were Israeli or Palestinian. He also makes the point that his Jewish identity, which is specifically a German Jewish identity, is very important to him.

He states that the use of the accusation of anti-Semitism to close down a conversation about the systemic abuse of human rights by Israel, a sovereign state, is cynical and cheapens anti-Semitism. He states that he doesn’t often read the comments on YouTube. Sometimes the comments are anti-Semitic. Sometimes, after condemning actions by Hamas, and then offering an objective assessment condemning occupation, bombardment and civilians (by Israel), they have been called anti-Semitic. He states that he cannot understand the mindset, but believes some of those, who make the accusation are too caught up emotionally to make a rational judgement.

But with others, it is just a cynical ploy to stop criticism. And one which he states insults the long history of genocide, exodus, expulsion, torture and persecution that the Jewish people have suffered down the centuries. It cheapens also the Jews, who have been tortured and killed simply because of their Jewish identity by terrorists and suicide bombers. It’s a cheap, disgusting parlour trick. He states very clearly that Israel needs to be held to the same moral standards as a normal nation state, not criticized because it is Jewish, nor excused for its wrongful actions for the same reasons either.

The Israeli government and those before it have a policy of expanding Israeli settlement and limiting those of Palestinians. This is a vital issue, and using the accusation of anti-Semitism to stop it is disgusting and disingenuous.

Sam Seder is attacked because he mocked Ben Shapiro, who called Obama’s government one of the most anti-Semitic administrations. The presenter states that this is stupid, and calling Seder himself anti-Semitic is moronic. Seder, he states, is one of the most Jewish people around, outside the Ultra-Orthodox Jews, who live in Crown Heights. Many of whom, he says, are lovely people, as he used to live around there. If you’re going to describe him as ‘anti-Semitic’, at least say he’s self-hating instead.

As for Ben Shapiro, the presenter describes him as ‘a prepubescent little schmuck’ whose statement was too much even for Trump’s spokeswoman, Megyn Kelly. To call them, the producers of the show, anti-Semitic because they spent three minutes mocking him, shows how stupid the caller is, and they have to have compassion on that. But he also makes the point that it’s clearly wrong to call this mockery anti-Semitic, and claim it comes from the same motives as the Holocaust and the murder and torture of Jewish people, such as those, who were killed by the terrorists in Mumbai.

He and the producer then make a few sarcastic, but very accurate points about being called ‘anti-Semitic’ and accused of denying the Holocaust in their turn, simply because they have told their accusers that they’re morons and made even more comments mocking Shapiro.

I’ve put this up as this response to the accusations of anti-Semitism by Sam Seder’s fellow broadcasters – Seder himself goes on to rebut it himself in a later video – because it’s also an excellent response to the smears made by the Zionist lobby over here against Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker and the many other decent people, who were targeted simply because they supported Jeremy Corbyn, as well as people like Mike, who was smeared simply because he dared to defend Livingstone, Walker and several of the others on grounds of historical accuracy.

Many of those smeared and suspended from the party were Jews, or of Jewish heritage, and had suffered genuine anti-Semitic abuse. One person had had her son attacked by a British Nazi. As for the non-Jews smeared as anti-Semites, like Mike, these were anti-racists, and many of whom similarly had a proud personal history of attacking anti-Semitism. Like Red Ken, who attacks it, along with anti-Black racism, and the British state’s recruitment of real Nazis in their battle with Communism during the Cold War, in his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour. These were real Nazis, who had committed horrific crimes against Jews during the Holocaust.

For the non-Jewish people smeared as anti-Semites, the other point the presenter raised remains valid: the accusation of anti-Semitism is a cheap, disgusting rhetorical smear to try to shut down their pertinent criticism of the state of Israel for its crimes. And by using anti-Semitism in this way to deflect criticism of a sovereign nation – Israel- for its disgusting human rights abuses on the same grounds as other nations are attacked and criticized, grotesquely cheapens and insults the real history of Jewish persecution and the memory of those, who suffered.

Critics of Israel, who have suffered these smears, like Norman Finkelstein, have made the same point again and again. But the Zionist lobby carries on with the same vile libels. And the point needs to be made: as well as being a cheap response in itself, it’s also a case of crying wolf. As we’ve seen from the events in Charlottesville several days ago, there are now real Nazis on the march, killing people. These are the real anti-Semites, and if that accusation has to retain its power to shock and reveal just how vile the real Nazis are, then it should not be squandered on vilifying decent people, just for the benefits of the supporters of a vile, racist state, who can only defend their country by smearing decent people as the type of goose-stepping, chanting thugs, who killed an innocent woman and injured 19 others in Charlottesville.

Vox Political: Brexit and Tories Damaging EU Protection for British Steel Industry

June 1, 2016

Mike yesterday put up a fascinating piece discussing and reproducing Stephen Kinnock’s detailed statements on the way the Tories’ commitment to free market Neoliberalism and the Brexit campaign are actively damaging the British steel industry. Kinnock was one of those sent to negotiate with Tata Steel about the closure of the plant in Port Talbot, and wrote the article after he returned from meeting the company’s directors in Mumbai.

He states that the Conservatives are actually planning to pass legislation to allow China to continue dumping its steel without any protective tariff blocks. They are trying to get China granted Market Economy Status. If granted, this would mean that neither the EU nor anyone else could raise tariffs to stop them wrecking their domestic steel industries by dumping their steel. As for the status itself, that’s highly questionable, considering that China’s steel industry is 80 per cent owned by the state. The Tories have also turned down the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, which gives money to states so that they can re-train workers thrown out of work through globalisation.

As for the two models for our future relationship with the EU outside it, the Canada model would result in our losing much of our industry, as it is hit by the loss of the vast market and 53 individual states that constitute the European Union. The Norway model would continue to allow us to trade with the EU, but it would force us to accept EU legislation without debate or participation, as a condition for continuing trading. And, it could be added, it still wouldn’t stop the mass migration across the continent, which has generated so much fear and support for Brexit and the Tories. Norway has been forced to accept EU levels of immigration as part of the deal for their continued trade links to Europe.

This argument against Brexit is stronger now than when it was written

This is the complete and opposite of what Cameron and Osborne want to tell us. They are not defending Britain nor making us more competitive. They are destroying British industry in favour of the Chinese. But this is quite acceptable. To Conservatives, only organised labour, like Socialists and trade unionists, are ever considered traitors and a threat to this country’s economy and industry.

India’s Present – Britain’s Future under the Conservatives?

February 23, 2016

I’ve been reading John Kampfner’s book, Freedom for Sale: How We Made Money and Lost Our Liberty, which describes the process around the world in which nations are becoming more authoritarian, more dictatorial, as the rich and middle classes retreat from any kind of political involvement and simply concentrate on making money, blind to, or unconcerned with the political corruption, poor public services and glaring poverty and inequality around them.

One of the nations he discusses is India, where talks to a number of activists, journalists and radical politicians about this process of political stagnation. He describes the fury of the rich after the Mumbai terrorist atrocities in 2002 at the politicians’ failure to protect them, despite the fact that for many poorer Indians, political violence and its consequences are much more common. The country is considered safe, and compared with Pakistan, which is widely considered a failed state. Yet India has three times as many terrorist attacks as their neighbour to the West. He writes

The fury of wealthy Indians at the Mumbai bombings arose from the realisation that their pact had been broken. They had enjoyed a comfortable relationship with politicians and the state. They would finance political parties and line the pockets of their elected representatives. They would privately connive in corruption, while berating its existence in public. They would demand little from the state and receive little in return, except the right to avoid taxation. They would not have to rely on lamentable public services. Their air-conditioned 4X4s would glide over uneven roads; their diesel-fed generators would smooth over the cracks in the energy supply (in some cities power can go off for up to twelve hours at a time); their private tanks would ensure a constant supply of clean water. The elite had seceded from active politics and had been happy to do so. They never asked questions of the security forces when violence was meted out to the less fortunate. But what they did not expect, or take kindly to, was that their lives would be put at risk by incompetents at the Home Ministry, police departments, army or intelligence services. (p. 157)

This doesn’t quite describe the attitude of the Tories over here, as they are all too keen to exploit terrorism atrocities on the general public to extend the power of the coercive surveillance state. But in other aspects, it’s very true. There is corruption, and the rich are paying what are effectively legal bribes in the form of donations to the Tories and other parties. For all their professed concern over public services, the actual quality of service has declined as a result of privatisation and cuts. But they are unconcerned at this, because the sales of these public enterprises directly enriches them. Furthermore, they don’t use the same public services we do. I’ve got a feeling one of the Tories involved either in the rail network or bus services was caught making a disparaging remark about having to use them. He didn’t. He moved around the country in his chauffeur driven limo. And there may well be power outages. Private Eye has been forecasting that unless new power stations are built quickly, next year or at least a mere few years into the future, Britain will suffer blackouts and power cuts. And the rich over here, as in India, are completely indifferent to the grinding poverty outside their own small circle.

Remember: India and Developing Nations like it are the model held up for British workers to emulate by Priti Patel and the others behind Britannia Unchained. In order to compete with the Tiger economies, British workers should worker harder, for less pay and with fewer welfare benefits. Kampfner gives this description of the appalling plight of Indian’s masses:

In the twenty years of liberalisation, the poor, the 75 per cent of the population living on less than $2 a day, have lived a parallel existence. Their plight is as acute now as it’s ever been, inextricably twinned with malnourishment and illiteracy. The grinding routine of India’s downtrodden, and the humiliations they endure, has been documented in trenchant critiques by Pankaj Mishra, Arundhati Roy and others. Books and films have described the deals between the slumlords, the police and the politicians, the extortion and protections rackets, the beatings, the constant threats of relocation and demolition, the particularly misery the monsoons bring. Research academies provide a welter of statistics, charting levels of inequality. For all the economic growth, less than 1 per cent of the budget goes on public health. Child malnutrition levels remain higher than much of sub-Saharan Africa. UNICEF studies have shown that more than half of all women and three-quarters of all children below the age of three in India are anaemic. The problem is not lack of information or transparency, but a lack of will.

Let’s see, growing starvation and malnutrition? Yep, that’s over here, due to cut welfare benefits and low wages, people are being driven to use food banks simply to survive.

Slum landlords and demolition. Well, there was Peter Rachman in the 1950s, and then Nicholas van Hoogstraten in the 1990s, who were two of the most notorious. The Tories housing policy is pushing housing beyond the reach of all but a dwindling number of the rich, and the poor are being pushed out of their homes as they’re bought up and gentrified. And people have been forced on to the streets by the bedroom tax.

Of course, the problems faced by contemporary India are far vaster than those in Britain. At the moment. But India, and nations like it, are the Tory model, regardless of what they spout about ‘One Nation’ Toryism and helping the poor. This is what we’ve got to look forward to for our country, if they remain in power.

Cameron Demands Return of Chinese Slavery

October 10, 2015

David Cameron, or one his underlings at the Tory party conference this week declared that British workers should work like the Chinese in order for Britain to compete in the global marketplace. This comment, coming from a party intent on destroying workers’ rights and the last vestiges of the welfare state, as well as forcing the unemployed to labour for zero pay under workfare schemes, has sinister overtones of the ‘Chinese slavery’ denounced by British working class organisations at the beginning of the last century.

The term refers to harsh conditions forced on immigrant indentured Chinese labourers in South Africa, which became a symbol for the employers’ oppression and exploitation of the working class. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable describes it thus in this entry:

Chinese slavery. Virtual slavery; excessively hard graft for negligible rewards. The phrase became widely used as a political slogan by the LIBERALS from 1903, when Balfour’s CONSERVATIVE government (1902-1905) introduced indentured coolies from China to combat the shortage of Kaffir labour in the Rand gold mines after the dislocation caused by the South African War. They were kept in compounds and only allowed out under permit. (p. 229).

I apologise for the use of the word ‘Kaffir’.

Unfortunately, resentment about the way the Conservatives and their moneyed paymasters were trying to force British workers into the same highly exploitative conditions quickly spilled over into bitter racist hostility to Chinese immigrants in Britain. These were believed to be imported as a deliberate ploy to take jobs away from British workers and keep wages law. In 1909 a series of anti-Chinese riots broke out after a firm in one of the northern towns sacked its British employees en masse and replaced them with Chinese.

This fear has also returned with the controversy over mass immigration. Theresa May herself played on it in her speech when she demanded an end to it, stating that the importation of foreign labour had been used to drive down wages. Owen Jones in his book, Chavs, has pointed out that despite attempts to portray the White British working class has racist in recent strikes caused by the importation of low-paid workers, the strikes themselves were directed against their exploitation. The unions that called the strikes did so because these workers were being exploited, and demanded that they should enjoy the same conditions as their British co-workers.

As for China itself, it’s fair to say that the workers there are exploited. They are low paid, often toiling under extremely exploitative conditions. There has been controversy surrounding the appalling conditions workers manufacturing merchandising for the immensely rich Disney corporation. Workers employed by other firms in China have thrown themselves off roofs to end it all in despair at their exploitation.

And real slavery also exists, in the prisons and archipelago of gulags and ‘re-education’ camps to which the Communist government sends political prisoners, there to work for the state’s further profit. Just as the inmates of the German concentration camps and Stalin’s gulags were used as slave labour.

The Chinese themselves are beginning to revolt against this. There have been mass labour protests by disabled workers, discarded after industrial injuries or illnesses made them too sick to work, and by veterans of the Red Army, who were conscripted to build the vast, skyscraper megacities that now characterise modern China. They’re joined and aided by crusading civil rights lawyers, trying to use the law to get them justice.

In other words, the Chinese are doing the very things that the Tories would like to stop over here: grass-roots labour protest and the use of legal challenges to exploitation.

We should join them. Cameron, Osborne and the rest of their vile crew aren’t acting alone. They’re part of a global elite that is impoverishing workers and their families all over the world under the guise of globalisation and free market economics. We need to challenge them on this end of the Eurasian landmass, just like the Chinese are challenging them at their end. The slogan ‘Think globally, act locally’ isn’t just an empty catchphrase, but a genuine insight into the tactics that have to be adopted to stop them forcing workers around the world, whether in London, Mumbai, Beijing, or wherever, into a 21st century ‘Chinese’ slavery.

Karl Marx and the Wage Slavery of Call Centre Workers

March 15, 2014

Call Centre Pic

One of the main features of the modern, post-Thatcher economy is the rapid explosion in call centres. These seem to have taken over from manufacturing as one of the leading employment sectors. One cannot walk past the various employment bureaux without seeing jobs in them advertised. On the other side of the picture, ordinary domestic life is now punctuated by regular phone calls during the day from someone in Birmingham, Glasgow, or even Mumbai phoning you up to ask if you want to change your energy provider, telephone company or are aware that you might get some kind of refund on your insurance. If you phone up a company, you are automatically put through to their call centre somewhere else, frequently half way round the planet. They’re often in one of the developing nations, like India, which has a large reservoir of skilled workers, who can be paid very poorly compared to their fellows in Britain. British call centre workers are, however, joining them as extremely low paid employees working in dehumanising and exploitative conditions. I heard a long time ago from a friend that call centre work is one of the most miserable experiences people go through to earn a living.

Owen Jones on Degrading Conditions in Call Centres

Just how depressing and degrading they are is also described by Owen Jones in Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class. He writes

If you think shop workers have it bad, consider now the call centre worker. There are now nearly a million people working in call centres, and the number is going up every year. To put that in perspective, there were a million men down the pits at the peak of mining in the 1940s. If the miner was one of the iconic jobs of post-war Britain, then today, surely, the call centre worker is as good a symbol of the working class as any.

‘Call centres are a very regimented environment,’ says John McInally, a trade unionist leading efforts by the PCS to unionize call centre workers. ‘It’s rows of desks with people sitting with headphones. There’s load of people in the room, but they’re separate units. They’re encouraged not to talk, share experiences and so on … The minute you get in the door, your movements are regulated by the computer.’ Here is the lack of worker’s autonomy in the workplace take to extremes.

In some call centres he has dealt with, a worker in Bristol or Glasgow who wants to leave fifteen minutes early has to go through head office in Sheffield to be cleared. ‘We’ve likened conditions to those you’d have seen in mills or factories at the end of the nineteenth century.’ Think that’s an exaggeration? Then consider the fact that, in some call centres, workers have to put their hands up to go to the toilet. Computers dictate the time and duration of breaks, with no flexibility whatsoever. Employees are under constant monitoring and surveillance, driving up stress levels.

Many call centre workers have told McInally that the whole experience is ‘very dehumanizing. People talk abaout being treated like robots. Everything is regulated by machines.’ The working lives of many operators consist of reading through the same script over and over again. According to the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, increasing numbers of call centre workers are being referred to speech therapists because they are losing their voices. The cause? Working long hours with little opportunity to even have a drink of water.

That’s one reason why the sickness rate in call centres is nearly twice the national average. The other is deep alienation from the work. In once call centre McInally dealt with in Northern England, sickness rates had reached nearly 30 per cent. ‘That’s a sign of low morale’, he says – as I the fact that annual staff turnover is around a quarter of the workforce. And, like so much of the new working class, the salaries of call centre workers are poor. A trainee can expect £12,500, while the higher-grade operators are on an average of just £16,000.

The dehumanising regimentation and micro-managing of call centre staff by computer reminded me of some of the dystopian SF that appeared in the 1970s, speculating on the type of future if computers suddenly took over the world and humanity was reduced to their slaves, watched and controlled totally by omniscient machines. The intrepid crew of the Enterprise encountered one such society in the Classic Star Trek episode ‘Return of the Archons’. The crew of the Liberator, the Dirty Just-Over-Half-A-Dozen of BBC’s Blake’s 7, also encountered an alien civilisation under the totalitarian control of central computer, though were able to bring it down and break free to continue their campaign against the Fascistic Federation through the superiority brain-power of their own machine, Orac. Sadly, contemporary call centre workers trapped in their totalitarian, micro-managed environment, can’t look forward to being similarly freed.

Marx pic

Karl Marx on Wage Slavery

As for the similarity between the conditions suffered by modern call centre workers and those of 19th century mill workers, it is striking just how similar t6he former are to Marx’s classic description of wage slavery in the 19th century.

Masses of labourers, crowded into the factory, are organized like soldiers. As privates of the industrial army they are placed under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers and sergeants. Not only are they slaves of the bourgeois state; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the foreman, and, above all, by the individual manufacturers himself. (pp. 1467-8).

Marx was wrong about many things, but here he is absolutely correct. What we need is are renewed campaigns to improve conditions for the working class, to give people a better future than simply functioning as another human cog being ground down by the inhuman and dehumanizing machines of big business.