Posts Tagged ‘Protests’

Explanation for the Survival of Marxism after the Fall of Communism

October 8, 2021

I think there’s a lot of confusion among people over the reappearance of Marxism in recent social activism. People are wondering how it has managed to survive and revive now after Communism fell so spectacularly around the world in the ’80s and ’90s. I found this interesting explanation in Simon Tormey’s Anti-Capitalism (London: Oneworld Revised Edition 2014). The answer is that there are any number of competing strands of Marxism and Marxist organisations, and the groups that survived had nothing to do with the official communism of the Soviet bloc. In fact they were opposed to it. Tormey writes

‘It may come as a surprise after all we have said about the death of Marxism or communism in chapter 2 to begin a consideration of the radical wing of anti-capitalism with Marxist groups. If Marxism is ‘dead’, then why are we looking at it? Attentive readers of the relevant chapter will have noted that one of the key distinctions drawn in the exposition was between ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ politics, that is between national politics , the politics of electioneering, political parties and voting, and the subterranean politics that began to proliferate after 1968. What we noted there was that official Marxism – the Marxism of the Communist Bloc – went into decline after that point and eventually succumbed in all but a handful of countries after the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. China, the most powerful of the remaining communist regimes, appears increasingly embarrassed about its Marxist-Leninist heritage , and rightly so given its enthusiasm for capitalism. On the other hand, unofficial Marxism -the Marxism that vehemently criticised the Soviet Union, the Communist Bloc as well as the West – has never gone away. Indeed as is evident, Marxist groups have been amongst the most important and most visible at anti-capitalist protests, particularly in Europe. Marxist writers such as Alex Callinicos, Slavoj Zizek, David Harvey and John Holloway have offered compelling analysis of contemporary society as well as prescribing programmes and strategies for an anti-capitalist resistance. Many Marxist groups are well organised and well-furnished with the means of making their presence felt, whether it be in the preparation of banners and placards, in the printing of posters, leaflets and newspapers, or in organising carnivals, festivals, summer schools and teach-ins. Marxists have been prominent in organising anti-capitalist protests and initiatives’. (p. 103).

The following passages also explain that Marxism’s survival isn’t just due to these groups’ organisational abilities, but to Marxism’s considerable intellectual power as a system of thought explaining and opposing capitalism.

There seems to be a suspicion on the right that the appearance of radical ideologies, such as that supporting Black Lives Matter and the trans movement, are somehow a foreign plot to weaken the West in preparation for an invasion. The right-wing YouTuber Ex-Army Paz 49 says in one of his videos that the trans ideology is being promoted precisely as such a strategy, but we don’t know by whom. China, as one of the last remaining Communist nations and rising global superpower, is a frequent target of some of these suspicions.

But I doubt this is true for the above reason. The Marxism that has survived would be as opposed to China’s weird mixture of Maoism and capitalism and the other former communist regimes as it is to western capitalism. And while Putin certainly has no qualms about funding and encouraging other political movements, even including domestic Fascists, if it will advance his aims, I doubt he would want to encourage the trans ideology. Post-Communist society in eastern Europe is very traditional regarding gender roles, despite the official insistence on sexual equality under Communism. The problem for anyone like Putin or the Chinese using the trans and gay movement to weaken their enemies’ masculinity and military strength, is that these ideologies cross political borders. And as Putin’s government has for decades been very intolerant towards gays, Hungary has passed increasingly stringent legislation against the teaching of homosexuality and the other week the Chinese government ruled that they didn’t want ‘sissy’ men on television, it would be dangerous for these regimes to encourage it in the West. Quite apart from the fact that gay rights and the transgender ideology can be shown to be homegrown western intellectual products, with no input, as far as I’m aware, from the former Soviet bloc and the regimes which have succeeded it.

The fear about foreign powers conspiring to bring about a Communist revolution or foreign takeover of the West is just Cold War paranoia, persisting long after the Cold War should have gone.

Man Arrested Outside Conference for Placard Denouncing Priti Patel – A Sign of Real Fascism to Come?

October 6, 2021

Mike’s just put up a short piece this afternoon commenting on the fact that a protester was arrested by the rozzers for holding a placard up outside the Tory party conference calling Priti Patel and nasty name. No, it wasn’t anything racist or personally vicious. It was just a comment on her politics. The placard just said ‘Priti Fascist’. Nadia Whittome has posted this Tweet aptly summing up Patel’s policies:

To summarise her conference speech, Priti Patel wants to:

– push back boats of refugees, risking lives

– make our asylum system even harsher

– further criminalise peaceful protesters

– penalise people with drug addiction issues.

A brutal, authoritarian vision for our country.

As Mike says, the demonstrator was right. Patel is a Fascist. Quite so, but she’s not as far down the line to real goose-stepping Nazism as some would like. Yesterday mad right-wing YouTube Alex Belfield in one of his videos reported that the French cops had shot at the channel migrants with rubber bullets. He felt we should be doing the same, and mocked the lefty snowflakes who would complain if we did. Simon Webb of History Debunked put up a piece stating that the Polish army had been stationed at their border to repel unwanted migrants after 1,000 had tried to enter the country illegally. Why can’t we do the same, he opined.

I think there are a number of reasons why such highly authoritarian behaviour is more acceptable in Poland but not over here. England hasn’t been conquered since William the Conqueror and the Normans in 1066. Britain went on from the sixteenth century onwards to conquer an empire in the Americas, Africa and Asia. Even after decolonisation, we see ourselves as historically the conquerors and imperial rulers, not as the subjects. It’s because of this history that demands for action against racism and the remains of colonialist attitudes have been successful.

Poland doesn’t have that history. Following the reign of Jan Sobieski, who defeated the Turks at the siege of Vienna in the 17th century, Poland was conquered and divided between Prussia, Austria and Russia. The Russians had a policy of russification. Polish was not taught in schools. If it was, it was taught as a foreign language. The country only gained its independence following the First World War. It was conquered again by the Nazis during the Second World and its people subjected to horrific atrocities. Poles, like all Slavs, were regarded as subhuman. They were rounded up to be used as slave labourers and racist laws put in place to prevent them marrying or having sexual relations with Aryan Germans. At the same time, the SS looked for Aryan bloodlines in the Polish population. Children with blonde hair were stolen and given to German Nazis to raise because of their assumed Aryan racial heritage. Polish villages were razed ready for German occupation and settlement. After the war Hitler planned to destroy their educational system and professional and intellectual classes and reduce them, along with the other Slavonic peoples like Russians, Ukrainians and Belorussians, to peasant farmers producing agricultural goods for the German settlers and overlords. After the Jews, the Poles formed the largest proportion of Nazi victims in the concentration camps.

After the War Poland was again under Russian domination as a satellite of the USSR. Stalin was brutal in his treatment of them and the other subjects of his new empire. Anyone who had been to the West was rounded up and massacred or sent to the gulags. There is also the infamous Katyn massacre. Initially blamed on the Nazis, this was the slaughter of Polish troopers by the KGB preparatory to the Soviet conquest. Stalin also deliberately held his troops back from liberating Warsaw so that the Nazis could finish putting down the uprising there.

Given this experience of foreign rule and conquest, I’m not surprised that the Polish government, which is extremely right-wing, reacted with such intolerance towards illegal immigration. Which, of course, doesn’t make it right.

My fear is that, with everything else the Tories are doing to erode and destroy British democracy, the approval of the use of such military force will lead, but by bit, to the establishment of real Fascism in Britain.

As for the arrest of someone simply for holding up a placard calling her one, I fail to see how that constitutes any kind of offence. He wasn’t violent nor did the placard incite anyone to violence. I don’t even think you can call it libellous, as people with intolerant, authoritarian personalities are called Fascists and Nazis all the time. This is shown very well in Godwin’s Law, the saying that every debate on the internet will always end with someone from one side or the other comparing their opponent to the Nazis. Unless someone made a serious claim that someone was a real member of a Nazi group, like the NF, BNP, British Movement, Column 88 or such like, I really wouldn’t have thought it qualifies as libel. And I certainly concur with Mike. In the case of Priti Patel it’s fair comment.

It seems to me that the arrest of this man for nothing more than expressing a reasonable opinion on a viciously intolerant Tory minister is itself an act of Fascism.

We Own It Rally for NHS This Saturday in London

September 2, 2021

‘We Own It’ are a pro-NHS group fighting the health service’s deliberate underfunding by the Tories and its piecemeal privatisation. I got this email from them yesterday telling me that they’re launching a press campaign and organising a rally. They’re encouraging people with experiences of waiting lists or having to pay for private treatment to share their stories with them. They will put them up on their website and intend to share those stories with the press. Their rally is set for midday Saturday opposite Old Palace Yard near parliament. The email runs

“Dear David,

Since we first got in touch with you about the launch of our waiting list campaign nearly a month ago, waiting list figures in England have already increased by 200,000. 

5.5 million patients in England alone are currently waiting for treatment. And the figure is also rising across the UK. The number of people on waiting lists is increasing in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, reaching record levels in some places.

We know you love our NHS – it’s one of the best things humans have ever created. And our NHS staff are phenomenal. They’ve worked tirelessly to carry us through the pandemic. 

But they’re also working flat out to tackle waiting list numbers that were already too high even before Covid. 

Because the government has been cutting the vital funding our NHS needs for 10 years – while handing over ever more cash to the private sector.

So together it’s time we raise the alarm! We need to ramp up the pressure on the government and call on them to give our NHS all the funding and extra capacity it needs to care for people urgently and rebuild for the longer term. 

We can do this by sharing your stories with the press to show the human impact of being on a waiting list to access care or being forced to spend savings to go private.

Your story could have the power to make the government change their minds and give the NHS the funding it needs.

We’re talking to journalists right now who want to give you a voice by publishing your experience in the national press. If you have a story to tell, you can follow this link for more information on how to share it with us.

Many of you have already shared your experiences of being on a waiting list or paying for private treatment – thank you. We’ll be putting your stories up on our website soon. If you’re also happy to have your first and last name and a photo of yourself passed over to journalists, we’d love it if you could give us permission to share your details.  

We’re also hosting a rally on Saturday, September 4th in London to launch our campaign for the funding our NHS needs to tackle waiting lists and we’d love if you could join us:

12-1pm, Saturday 4th September – Opposite Old Palace Yard, Parliament, Westminster, SW1A 0AA 

If you’re based in London or able to travel there, and would like to share your story of being on a waiting list or having to pay for private care on the day, let us know by replying to this email – we’d love you to be able to tell your story at the campaign launch.

We’ve also got an action planned in Edinburgh – if you’d like to join it, let us know by replying to this email. 

If you’re not able to attend an action in person you can find out how you can get involved wherever you are in the UK here

Solidarity, 

Cat, Alice, Johnbosco, Matthew, Anna and Zana – the We Own It team”

If you’re able and willing to help with this campaign, I’d encourage you to do so. One of the reasons our response to Covid has been so disastrous is because the cuts to NHS funding have left a shortage of acute care beds compared to other countries, such as Germany. I also noted an article that appeared in the press a few months ago reporting that the NHS was no longer the 1# health service in the world, but had dropped to 4#. This is no accident. As Mike has said time and again, the Tories are deliberately underfunding the NHS in order to transform it into a second class service, hoping that anybody who can will go privately. The contrived failure of NHS care also provides them with a convenient excuse to hand over more of it to the private sector, the same private sector that is responsible for the shortages and substandard care.

And Tory propagandists are already pushing for its privatisation. The mad right-wing radio host, Alex Belfield, has put up another video demanding the privatisation of the NHS following a radio he took from a listener who had suffered through being put on a waiting list. I have every sympathy for that listener, but privatisation is making waiting lists far worse. That is something Belfield definitely is not going to tell his fans as he rants against woke lefties and entitled, university educated whippersnappers. He makes much of being a working class lad from a pit town, standing against the middle class, Guardian-reading left-wing elite. But it’s only the left that’s fighting for the NHS against the middle- and upper class parasites urging its privatisation, a privatisation that will be disastrous for working class people.

And despite the cuts, Tory propagandists are still complaining about waste in the NHS. Earlier this week Sargon’s little chum on the Lotus Eaters channel, Callum, moaned about ‘state-mandated healthcare’ and waste in the NHS because the health service or one of the trusts was advertising for a diversity officer on a salary amounting to tens of thousands. They’d obviously like to get rid of such posts, and see it as an example of where money is being misspent in the health service. I can’t say I’m happy that there are such posts with such inflated salaries, but there are good reasons why they’re needed. This year there have been complaints that Blacks and ethnic minorities have received substandard service from the NHS, especially regarding pregnancy and maternity care. There have also been complaints that ethnic minorities don’t receive promotion as much as Whites, and that they have suffered through being deliberately placed in the frontline of fighting the Coronavirus without the support given to Whites. Furthermore, I doubt any private enterprise would react any differently to such complaints. Indeed, in contrast to the propaganda that private healthcare companies are lean, mean and efficient compared to the NHS, they actually have a bigger bureaucracy, partly to deal with such issues.

The Tories are using their underfunding to push through the privatisation of the NHS. We need to support groups like We Own It who are fighting against them.

Keef Stalin Purges Ken Loach from Labour Party as Part of anti-Corbynite Witch Hunt

August 14, 2021

This shows you how utterly contemptible, treacherous and unprincipled Keir Starmer is, and how he is completely unfit to lead the Labour party. Mike has put up a piece today reporting that Starmer has purged Loach from the party, because the great cineaste has refused to dissociate himself from others purged from the party without evidence. This is in accordance, as I recall, of one of the demands Starmer pledged himself to from the Board of Deputies of British Jews: that anyone in the Labour party who still retained contact with someone thrown out due to anti-Semitism would themselves be thrown out. Stalin used exactly the same approach to his victims during the Soviet purges of the 1930s. If you continued to remember or make inquiries about anyone ‘disappeared’ by the KGB, let alone dared to defend anyone who had been accused of anti-Soviet propaganda or being a capitalist agent or saboteur, you would also be arrested, tortured and shot or sent to the camps. The accused become, in Orwell’s phrase, ‘unpersons’, erased from history.

I think Loach has probably been in Starmer’s and the Board’s firing line for a very long time. He was a prominent supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, and decades previously had produced a film or play about the Israeli occupation of Palestine. For which he was accused of anti-Semitism by, among others, the leading synagogue in Belgium. He was also warmly welcomed as a very honoured guest when he attended a gathering of Jewish Voice for Labour. I’ve no doubt they’re also set to be purged along with the various other left-wing groups, like Labour Marxists and Socialist Appeal, because, according to Blairite Neil Coyle, they’re ‘Commies’. I doubt Coyle would know a true Communist if one came up and bit him. It’s just a term of abuse the neoliberals have taken to using to smear anyone who wants a return to the social democratic consensus of the period from 1948 to 1979. And the ultra-Zionists of the Board of Deputies no doubt hate them because they’re Jews, who’re critical of Israel and its barbarous ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. The Board can’t tolerate alternative forms of Judaism that criticise and reject Zionism, and Jewish Voice for Labour very definitely shows that by no means all Jews automatically and uncritically support the Israeli state. Simply by existing, they’re a challenge to the Board’s claim to represent all British Jews, when in fact the Board only represents the United Synagogue. And so I’ve no doubt that the Blairites will try to thrown them out next.

Loach himself is a very well respected film-maker. A few years ago when Cameron was infesting Downing Street, he made I, Daniel Blake, about how the DWP persecuted and maltreats the unemployed. Before then, he made Dirty, Pretty Things, about the despised underclass of immigrants who do the dirty jobs we don’t want, like office cleaners. But he’s best known for his film Kes, about a lad from a deprived northern working class community and his relationship with a kestrel. There has been a storm of protest against Loach’s purge on Twitter, and one of those posting was a teacher in a comprehensive school in one of the towns devastated by Thatcher’s pit closures. He describes the electrifying effect it had when it was shown to the schoolkids. Kes is one of the classics of British cinema. It has been shown on Channel 4, when that channel still took seriously its original founding mission of providing alternative programming. I think the DVD of the film is released by the British Film Institute.

Loach’s social realism isn’t to everyone’s taste, and I can’t say that his films really appeal to me. But he is a major figure in British cinema, and his purging by Starmer shows the latter’s utter contempt for the cultural sector. It seems intended to show that it doesn’t matter who the victim is, nor how important or respected they are in the arts, Starmer will throw them out. This will be taken as a threat by other left-wing film makers, theatre producers and directors. Who will be very justified in asking

“Is Starmer a fit person to run the country?”

Back in the 1980s there was an episode of Yes, Prime Minister, in which Hacker is irritated when the National Theatre, or a fictional version thereof, stages a play lampooning his administration. In revenge, and in order to secure their compliance, he threatens to close their premises down, turning them once again into ‘strolling players’ as in Shakespeare’s time. People in the arts may well be wondering if this is how Starmer intends to treat any dissent on their part, by closing them down or depriving them of funding or finding some other way to discredit and silence them.

This is not just an attack on one man. It is a symbolic warning to other major figures in the arts.

Free speech is under attack in the UK from the Tories, who wish to ban all forms of public protest if they get the chance.

And Starmer seems determined to extend this silencing to movies and the arts.

Ex-Army YouTuber Supports Le Pen and French Generals in Calls for Tougher Action against Islamists

August 5, 2021

This is a piece I drafted a few months ago when a group of French generals and troopers wrote a letter to Macron demanding tougher action against Islamist, or else they’d be forced to take matters into their own hands. However, I don’t seem to have posted it. Although it’s now been overtaken by other matters, I’m posting it now because of what it says about one of the virulently right-wing YouTubers and the support he showed for the letter and its extreme right-wing authors. Here it is.

‘I put up a piece a few days ago commenting on a letter sent to a right-wing French newspaper by a group of former generals and squaddies demanding tougher action from President Macron against Muslim militants. They claimed that Islamists were taking over parts of France, detaching them from the nation, and that these areas were then ruled by doctrines which were incompatible with the constitution. Which looks very much like a reference to sharia law, which conflicts with the doctrine of secularism, laicisme, as enshrined in the French constitution. Since I put up the post, a number of right-wing youtubers have posted pieces on the story, including one Ex-Army Paz 49.

Paz is rather typical of a certain type of militant right-winger – super patriotic, adamantly pro-Brexit, anti-immigrant and with a massively simplified view of socialism and communism. According to him, socialism = communism, which has never worked anywhere, and British society is under threat from ‘cultural Marxism’. And three days ago, on the 29th April 2021, he put up a piece declaring his support for the retired French generals, ‘I Stand With the French Soldiers’. His piece is interesting for a couple of reasons. One is that he quotes the rather more of the letter the former soldiers sent to Valeurs Actuelles. The piece I drew on for my piece about the letter said that it had been signed by 20 retired generals. Which is true, but it had also been signed by 1,000 other soldiers. And the text of the letter made it very clear that it was a reaction to the same fears that have been felt by the extreme right over this side of the Channel, that Muslims are taking over the country and creating no-go zones where non-Muslims dare not enter and are not welcome. The letter reads

The hour is serious. France is in peril, mortal dangers are threatening our country with destruction.

Destruction through a certain ‘anti-racism’, whose hateful supporters are sowing the seeds of racial war. They despise our country, its traditions, its culture, and want to see it dissolve by tearing away its past and its history. Thus they attack our statues, these statues of our historical glories…

Destruction because of Islamism and the (immigrant) hordes of the no-go-zones, which are taking possession of multiple parcels of the French territory to submit it to a law contrary to our Constitution.

Destruction, because everywhere hatred takes precedence over fraternity : as when the government has used the (anti-riot) forces as mercenaries to crush French people who had put on their yellow vests to express their suffering. And this while the same government is ordering to do nothing against hooded individuals (like the Antifa), thus letting them spread chaos.

Dark times are coming. Violence is increasing day by day.

We, the nation’s servants, have always been ready to put our skins on the line – we cannot be passive spectators to such action.

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, enough procrastination, the hour is serious, the work is colossal: we are ready to support the men who will take into consideration the safeguarding of our nation.

On the other hand, if nothing is undertaken, the final explosion will take place … and it is the army that will have to intervene to protect the national territory and the French people.

There is no time to wait, otherwise tomorrow the civil war will come to crown the current chaos, and the deaths, for which you will carry the responsibility, will be counted by the thousands.

Looking at the text, it seems that it’s not only a reaction to recent Islamist terrorist atrocities and fears of the growth of Muslim no-go zones, but also to Black Lives Matter or the French equivalent, and the destruction of their statues. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French far right National Rally, formerly the Front National, declared her support for the letter and its signatories. She said, ‘I invite you to join the coming battle, which is the battle of France.’ She didn’t, however, support the idea of military coup, saying, that France’s problems, which included lawless areas, crime, self-hatred and our leaders’ rejection of patriotism, could only be solved by politics.

Nevertheless, the letter, rather a warning of civil war rather than a call for military dictatorship, as I previously thought it was, is an ominous step. A few years ago a found a film on YouTube, clearly put up by some extreme right-wing group of individual, claiming that this decade would see a war break out between the European left and Muslim immigrants on the one side, and patriots on the other. This letter looks very much like a step in that direction.

And its support by ‘Ex-Army Paz’ shows that at least one British ex-soldier unfortunately supports it.

I am not going to link to Paz’s article. If you want to find it, simply tap in his name and the title of the post as given above. ‘

Protests Planned Saturday against the Privatisation of the NHS

June 29, 2021

I went to an amazingly great pro-NHS zoom meeting last night organised, I think, by the anti-NHS privatisation organisations We Own It and/or Keep Our NHS Public. The speakers included Dr. Louise Irvine and Antonio Perez-Iranzo, a Spanish doctor working in the NHS, who described how Centene, the private health care company that’s being given positions on NHS boards and allowed to take over doctors’ surgeries, has managed to wreck healthcare in his home country. They were so terrible that eventually the Valencian government was forced to take the service back inhouse and kick them out. Rabina Khan, a Lib Dem councillor in Tower Hamlets, talked about her experience of the poor service they delivered when they took over the traditional GP’s surgery at which she was a patient. She was particularly concerned about the effect of privatisation on the elderly, and on Black and Bangladeshi women. Another speaker told of the vastly poorer service they gave when they were given NHS contracts and acquired GPs’ surgeries in Nottingham. The final speaker was Jeremy Corbyn, introduced as the ‘best Prime Minister this country never had’. Absolutely. He provided more details on the continuing NHS privatisation, showing his absolutely and unfailing commitment to the great institution created by Nye Bevan. He reminded everyone that one he waved the documents showing this was going to happen in parliament and asked Johnson about it, prime ministerial liar called him a liar. But he was right, and if, anything, understated the case. There was also time given for ordinary folks to ask their questions and give their experiences of the destruction of the NHS by these parasites.

In every case, the story was the same. Centene are given the contracts without warning, over the heads of local people, patients and even other doctors. Notification of the change comes from a bland, corporate letter and people are urged to get on Zoom for further information. This is a problem for older people, those not on the internet or who have problems using it, and people for whom English is not their primary language. Centene is a for-profit American health insurance company. Already big, it became massive in America with the introduction of Obamacare. It states in its corporate literature that it is only interested in making a profit, and that if this doesn’t happen, it will divest itself of those loss-making interests. Louise Irvine stated that, as a doctor, you don’t think of making a profit, even though since the inception of the NHS doctors are actually private businessmen, who contract in to the NHS. The only way to make a profit is to reduce costs. Which means sacking people and actually providing a worse service by reducing the amount of care given. In Nottingham, when Centene took over the service, they dispersed 3,000 of the 11,000 patients in their newly acquired GPs’ surgeries to others.

They are purely in it for the money, the profits of which go outside this country to their American shareholders.

Keep Our NHS Public is planning a demonstration against the privatisation of the NHS In London on Saturday, 3rd July 2021. This also includes issues like patient safety, and pay justice. They are going to assemble outside UCH on Euston Road, NWI at 12.00 before marching to parliament square. There are other protests also planned elsewhere in the country for the same day. Details of them can be found at their website https://keepournhspublic.com/ They also recommended people looking at an essay on this privatisation by a member of the Socialist Health Alliance, whose website is https://sochealth.co.uk.

They are naturally extremely keen for people to join their organisation or set up their own. Whatever we do, we have to organise to show the strength of opposition to this privatisation. They state it will be a long struggle, but people have succeeded in getting contracts taken away from the profiteers Serco, Circle Health and others.

The message is clear: Get rid of Centene and the other private companies profiting from the NHS. Get Boris out, and a proper government in, one committed to ending NHS privatisation.

And that does not include the Labour Blairites, who were as keen to privatise the NHS as their Tory heroes.

Email from We Own It for Writing Campaign against Private Healthcare Companies on NHS Boards

June 18, 2021

I had another email on Wednesday from the anti-privatisation, pro-NHS organisation We Own It about their efforts to block the further privatisation of the NHS. They’d sent me an email previously explaining that our criminally useless health secretary, Matt Hancock, wants to put private healthcare companies in charge of NHS boards and official bodies. This has already been done in the NHS organisation(s) in charge of Bath and North East Somerset and Swindon and Wiltshire.

This follow-up letter explains the issues, and takes matter further. There are links which take you to a page where you can add your name and create a form letter to be sent to the NHS organisations, who have appointed Virgin to their board, protesting against it. This is in addition to the tug of wars We Own It hoped to organise up and down the country in Friday also as a symbolic protest against this privatisation. They were to feature people pulling against private healthcare companies on the other side. I haven’t seen anything about such protests in the news, so I guess there weren’t many of them. Or perhaps the lamestream media have blocked the coverage. That’s happened with protests before, so I really wouldn’t put it past them. Here’s the email, plus links.

“Virgin Care Ltd has been given a seat on the TOP NHS decision-making body in the region covering Bath and NE Somerset, Swindon AND Wiltshire.

This means it will make decisions about what NHS care is provided locally (and what ISN’T provided). 

If this is allowed in that region, it endangers all of us and sets a precedent for other regional NHS boards – we can’t let this go ahead. WHEREVER you are, email the top local boards now to get Virgin kicked OUT of decisions on your NHS.

Write to demand Virgin are kicked out of our NHS

Matt Hancock’s legislation plans to let private companies on to decision-making boards and we’re seeing this creep in already.

If this is allowed to go ahead in Bath, North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire, it’s a really worrying precedent for the new set up of our NHS.

Stop this now by writing to both the new ‘partnership’ board and the old CCG board – the two most important local NHS bodies – to say NO – now.

To say that you don’t want Virgin making decisions about our health service.

That your NHS was founded based on solidarity and a shared want for universal care at the point of need. 

Virgin Care Ltd want profit. Can you join the call that they are kicked off this top regional board, to stop these private companies taking hold of our NHS nationally?

I believe in an NHS run for people not profit

What about the rest of the UK? This decision only affects this region, and this bill will mean disintegration of our NHS in England. Luckily the rest of the UK is not going ahead with these plans YET.

But it is not a good sign for the direction of our NHS. So please write to demand Virgin are kicked off this key regional body in the Bath and North East Somerset area.

Your voice is crucial to winning this fight against privatisation. Thank you.

In solidarity,

Cat, Zana, Johnbosco, Chris, Alice and Pascale – the We Own It team”

I’ve joined their campaign and sent a letter of protest against the inclusion of Virgin Care in NHS decision-making in those areas. It is a form letter, and the process is very simple. It really is just a case of following the link and adding your name and email address, etc. But I hope it has some effect and demonstrates to the authorities that we really don’t want beardie Branson and his ilk destroying the NHS and our health for their profit.

Please feel free to do the same if you feel the same way too. 

‘We Own It’ Planning Day of Protest Against Hancock’s NHS Privatisation

June 11, 2021

It seems Matt Hancock and the Tories haven’t given up on their wretched plans to privatise the NHS. The Health Secretary is planning to introduce legislation that will allow private healthcare companies on to the management of NHS organisations. Apparently, this has already happened with Virgin sitting on the board of the NHS in Bath And North-East Somerset. The anti-privatisation organisation We Own It is planning a day of protest against this latest move to break up the health service next Thursday, with symbolic tugs of war taking place between the public and private healthcare companies up and down the country. I got this email from them yesterday.

“Matt Hancock is planning legislation that will let private companies make decisions about our NHS care.

It’s already starting to creep in – Virgin were given a seat on the new NHS body in Bath and Somerset.

You can help to stop this in its tracks by making an impression all across the country with a clear image: this is a TUG OF WAR between you and private companies. 

Will you join in the National Day of Action on July 17th and organise a local ‘tug of war’ stunt to say NO to the private takeover of our NHS?

I will join in the National Day of Action

We think this legislation is coming to parliament quite soon.

So NOW is the time to get organised.

By organising an eye-catching ‘tug of war’ stunt, with private companies on one side ❌and US on the other ✊, you’ll be helping to get the news out and show our collective outrage.

Don’t worry if you’ve never organised an action like this before, we’ve got you covered!

If you want, you can come to a training session and there’s a step by stepp here.

The stunt doesn’t need to be big. It just needs you, a few friends and a rope!

Will you be part in the National Day of Action on July 17th to stop Virgin making decisions about our health and our NHS?

I’ll take part in the Day of Action

The government is trying to put on a spin on this bill, saying it will end privatisation, because they know privatisation of our NHS goes down like a lead balloon.

So it’s VITAL that together we get a huge amount of coverage for the Day of Action.

Find out more about organising for the day, with our handy step by step!

We can support you every step of the way.

What about the rest of the UK? This bill will mean disintegration of our NHS in England. Luckily the rest of the UK is not going ahead with these plans yet.

But it is not a good sign for the direction of our NHS as a whole, long term.

We’ll have action for everyone take on July 17th to say no to this private takeover.

Thank you for being part of this fight. You’re not alone in fighting for our NHS.

In solidarity,

Cat, Zana, Johnbosco, Chris, Alice and Pascale – the We Own It team”

I’m afraid I’m too ill at the moment to take part in this myself, but I’m putting it up in case anyone else wants to get involved.

This is extremely ominous, as it definitely won’t be the end of the privatisation of the NHS, whatever lies Hancock spouts. After it’s gone through, the Tories will find yet another pretext to hand it over to private healthcare companies until it is totally transformed into a fully private, for-profit system like America’s. It has to be fought every step of the way.

Starmer should be doing this, but like the good Blairite he is, when it come to tackling capitalism he’s nowhere to be seen.

BBC Documentary Next Thursday on the Tearing Down of Colston’s Statue

June 2, 2021

According to the Radio Times, next Thursday, 10th June 2021, BBC 2 is showing a documentary about the tearing down last summer of the statue of the slaver and philanthropist, Edward Colston, by Black Lives Matter protesters and the ensuing controversy. The blurb for the programme, Statue Wars: One Summer in Bristol, on page 104, runs

On 7 June 2020, in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, protesters marching through Bristol to support the Black Lives Matter movement tore down the statue of slave trader Edward Colston and threw it into the harbour. This action put the city at the forefront of the culture wars of last summer. How would Bristol’s mayor, Marvin Rees, himself a descendent of enslaved people, hold the city together in the face of tensions that threatened to explode.

An additional piece on page 102 says

As an elected politician, letting a film crew follow you at work is always high-risk. And more so in the case of Bristol’s mayor, Marvin Rees, who let the cameras in just days after protesters toppled the statue of 17th-century merchant Edward Colston, known to have been involved in the slave trade, and threw it in the city’s harbour last summer.

Rees was in the eye of the storm that followed as Bristol became the focus of culture-war salvoes over history and heritage and the council had to deal with counter-protests from biker gangs and the arrival of a new statue – of a Black woman protester – planted on the empty plinth by a London sculptor.

It all makes for a sharp and thought-provoking film and Rees emerges welll, calm and shrewd in the heat of the crossfire and amid some impossibly hard decisions. Meanwhile, we also hear from other Bristolians with conflicting, heartfelt views on its history, and realise Rees has his work cut out looking for common ground.

The documentary’s on at 9.00 pm.

Book Setting British Empire and the Debate in Its Historical Context

May 31, 2021

Jeremy Black, The British Empire: A History and a Debate (Farnham: Ashgate 2015)

This is another book I got through the post the other day after ordering it from a catalogue. Jeremy Black is, according to the book’s potted biography, Professor of History at Exeter University, and the author of over 100 books. He’s also written for the Journal of Military History, RUSI, which is the journal of the Royal United Services Institute and History Today. The list of other publications about the British Empire lists another book edited by him, The Tory World: Deep History and the Tory Theme in British Foreign Policy, 1679-2014. From this, it might be fair to conclude that Black’s a man of the right.

I read his book, Slavery: A Global History a few years ago when I was writing my own book on the British Empire and slavery a few years ago, and really enjoyed it. Instead of dealing with the British transatlantic slave trade in isolation, it showed how slavery was widespread right across the world and described how the British imperialists tried to end it in their subject territories. I bought this because, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, British imperialism has once again become a matter for heated debate and violent denunciation. The motives of the people behind some of these denunciations and demands for justice seem more than a little suspect to me. For example, a month or so ago one of the speakers in an Arise Festival online meeting was the head of the Black Liberation Movement, the British branch of Black Lives Matter. In her speech she declared that Britain should take asylum seekers ‘because you oppressed us under colonialism’. The short answer to that is that this was supposed to be corrected when the former colonies were granted their independence. Instead, many of them very swiftly degenerated in horrific, murderous dictatorships, like Idi Amin’s Uganda and Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. There was a very deliberate decision in her speech to ignore and gloss over post-colonial misgovernment and oppression, no doubt because it doesn’t fit the narrative she wants to present of Britain being responsible for all her former colonies’ woes.

I am also not impressed by the very loud demands for Oxford University to remove Cecil Rhode’s statue. Don’t get me wrong, he was a blackguard. He’s supposed to have said that the people he liked to employ were greedy sycophants, or something like that. Some critics have also said that his imposition of the colour bar in Rhodesia was particularly hypocritical, as he didn’t personally believe in it. But pre-colonial east Africa was hardly some idyllic Wakanda. Many of the indigenous peoples practised slavery themselves, and were preyed on by Arab, Swahili, Marganja and Yao slavers. And you can argue that, as horrendous as White rule was, it was far better than Mugabe’s genocidal dictatorship. The people calling for the statue’s removal seem to me to be Black African nationalists, butthurt over what they see as a slight to their racial and national dignity. But I also wonder if some of its also motivated by a consciousness of their nations’ failures post-independence.

I bought the book as it promised to discuss the debate surrounding the British Empire as telling its history. Black states that it needs to be seen in its historical context and not judged by the standards of the present day. This is actually what I was taught in my first year of studying history at College. You’re not supposed to create ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ of history, because if things had turned out differently, our standards and culture would have been different.

The blurb for the book runs

What was the course and consequence of the British Empire? The rights and wrongs, strengths and weaknesses of empire are a major topic in global history, and deservedly so. Focusing on the most prominent and wide-ranging empire in world history, the British Empire, Jeremy Black provides not only a history of that empire, but also a perspective from which to consider the issues of its strengths and weaknesses, and right and wrongs. In short, this is a history both of the past, and of the present-day discussion of the past, that recognises that discussion over historical empires is in part a reflection of the consideration of contemporary states.

In this book Professor Black weaves together an overview of the British Empire across the centuries, with a considered commentary on both the public historiography of empire and the politically-charged character of much discussion of it. There is a coverage here of social as well as political and economic dimensions of empire, and both the British perspective and that of the colonies is considered. The chronological dimension is set by the need to consider not only imperial expansion by the British state, but also the history of Britain within an imperial context. As such, this is a story of empires within the British Isles, Europe, and, later, world-wide. The book addresses global decline, decolonisation, and the complex nature of post-colonialism and different imperial activity in modern and contemporary history. Taking a revisionist approach, there is no automatic assumption that imperialism, empire, and colonialism were ‘bad’ things. Instead, there is a dispassionate and evidence-based evaluation of the British Empire as a form of government, an economic system, and a method of engagement with the world, one with both faults and benefits for the metropole and the colony.

Black states that criticism of British imperialism is also a criticism of capitalism, which in many cases is very definitely and obviously true. However, he also criticises Kwesi Kwarteng’s history of the British empire for its denunciations of British colonial oppression in some of the colonies, like Nigeria. And while British imperialism may well have brought some benefits, much of it is still indefensible by modern standards. Like the plantations in Ireland, the genocide and dispossession of indigenous peoples, like aboriginal Australians and the American Indians, the seizure of native land in Africa and so on. He notes that the most successful colonies are White settler nations like Australia, Canada and New Zealand, but this hardly outweighs the disastrous consequences of the White invasion for the indigenous peoples.

I haven’t read it yet – I’m still making my way through a number of other books – but I hope to do so, and will probably blog about it in the future to give my views and conclusions about what looks like a timely and provocative book.