Posts Tagged ‘Protests’

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.

No, Blair – Wokeness Didn’t Cost Labour the Elections, You Did

May 12, 2021

The recriminations from last week’s elections continue. Unindicted war criminal Tony Blair crawled out from whichever stone he’s been hiding under since leaving office to give his tuppence worth on the reasons Labour did so badly. The headline from one of the papers says that he blames ‘wokeness’ and warns that Labour could ‘cease to exist’. Well, many people are saying the latter. And one of the reasons for its poor performance and disengagement with the working class isn’t ‘wokeness’, the new term that’s overtaken ‘political correctness’ to describe anti-racism, feminism, and an attitude against forms of prejudice, but Blair himself.

Let’s start with an obvious issue that united people across the political spectrum. Blair launched an illegal war against Iraq as part of George W. Bush’s ‘War on Terror’. Saddam Hussein was supposed to have aided Osama bin Laden. He hadn’t, but Blair put pressure on the intelligence services and falsified evidence – he ‘sexed up’ the ‘dodgy dossier’ – to show that Hussein had. Hussein was a monster who butchered his own people, but he hadn’t moved out of Iraq since his failed invasion of Kuwait. Experts on the Middle East said that there he was regarded as a joke. The real reason for Bush and Blair’s invasion was partly to defend Israel, because Hussein occasionally funnelled aid to the Palestinians whenever he felt like it, but mostly to grab the Iraqi oil reserves. They’re the biggest in the Middle East outside Saudi Arabia. They also wanted to steal Iraqi state enterprises, while the Neocons were keen on turning the country into the low-tax, free trade state they wanted to create in America. The result has been chaos, sectarian bloodshed, war crimes, and the destruction of the Iraqi economy and secular society.

Despite the loud backing of hacks from the Groaniad, millions of ordinary Brits knew better. Two million people, including one of the priests at my local church, marched in protest. Blair shrugged it off and the invasion went ahead. It was contrary to international law, and there have been abortive efforts to have Blair and Bush arrested for their crimes and tried in the Hague. The Tory party opposed the war, as did the Spectator. I think in many cases this was just simple opportunism and opposition for the sake of being seen to oppose, as when they’re actually in power, there doesn’t seem to be a war the Tories don’t like. But some Tories, to be fair, were serious. The right-wing journalist Peter Hitchens honestly despises the ‘Blair creature’ for the way he sent our courageous young men and women to their deaths for no reason. People chanted ‘Blair lied, people died’. Absolutely. But somehow he’s being treated as some kind of respectable statesman.

And it was Blair who started the British working class’ disillusionment with Labour. He was far more interested in capturing Tory votes and those of swing voters. Under him, the party became pro-private enterprise, including the privatisation of the NHS, and continued Thatcher’s dismantlement of the welfare state. It was Blair who introduced the ‘work capability tests’ for the disabled and continued Thatcher’s programme of making the process of claiming unemployment benefit as humiliating and degrading as possible in order to deter people from signing on. But he retained the party’s commitment to anti-racism and feminism as some kind of vestige of the party’s liberalism. The result has been that large sections of the White working class felt that they were being deliberately ignored and abandoned in favour of Blacks and ethnic minorities. This is the constituency that then voted for UKIP, and which I dare say has now gone over to supporting Boris Johnson’s Tories.

As far as ‘wokeness’ goes, yes, the shrill, intolerant anti-racism and feminism is off-putting. I am definitely no fan of Black Lives Matter, but it has immense support amongst British Blacks and Asians because of the deprivation of certain parts of those communities. Labour BAME supporters also felt abandoned because of Starmer’s tepid, offhand support for it, and his protection of those credibly accused of racist bullying. They started leaving the party as well.

The Labour party did badly at the elections not because of the lingering influence of Jeremy Corbyn, but because of Blair’s abandonment of the White working class, and Starmer’s contemptuous attitude towards the party’s non-White supporters.

Labour may well be on the verge of ceasing to exist, but it won’t start winning in England again unless to rejects Blairism and returns to proper, traditional Labour values and policies.

Israeli Police Clash with Palestinian Protesters at al-Aqsa Mosque

May 8, 2021

Mike put up a piece this morning asking what the Israeli cops were doing shooting rubber bullets at and firing tear gas canisters at Palestinians inside the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. This is Islam’s third holiest shrine and occupies part of the site of Solomon’s Temple. According to today’s Independent, the clashes have been provoked by the possible eviction of Palestinians from their homes in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in east Jerusalem and the land and homes given to Israeli settlers. Crowds had gone to the mosque for Friday prayers to celebrate the end of Ramadan, and protests against the possible evictions began after the service ended. Members of the crowd threw rocks at the police, injuring 17, but over 100 Palestinians have been hurt.

More than 200 Palestianians injured after clashes with Israeli police at mosque (msn.com)

Mike begins his article on the violence by asking

Would the Israel apologists – preferably those who scream “anti-Semitism” at every criticism of that country’s appalling government – please explain this shocking act of brutality in one of Islam’s most holy places of worship?

It’s a good question, and no doubt the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and all the other frantically pro-Israel smear merchants are working on their mealy-mouthed apologies, just as they managed to excuse the IDF for the shooting of unarmed civilians, including a young nurse, when they broke through the Gaza fence a year or so ago. That was a disgrace, but the present violence is potentially explosive.

The al-Aqsa mosque is so revered that even secular Muslims will flinch in shock and outrage at the idea of any assault on it. Way back in the 1980s the Israeli government was forced to crack down on a militant Jewish extremist organisation, Gush Emunim, after they caught a group of its members trying to bomb the shrine. They wanted to destroy it so that Solomon’s Temple could be rebuilt. If they’d succeeded, I think it would have resulted in an apocalyptic war as every Muslim nation would have wanted to avenge the attack. I think Gush Emunim were banned, but not before they spawned Kach, another extreme Israeli nationalist organisation which openly wants all Palestinians expelled from eretz Israel. I’ve got a feeling that Kach, or an organisation derived from it, merged with another extreme nationalist party, and that party that resulted from the merger is now a partner in Netanyahu’s governing coalition. And unfortunately, Kach also has sympathisers in Britain. Tony Greenstein has put up photos of various Zionist demonstrators from some of the protests against pro-Palestinian meetings and the mass rallies held against Jeremy Corbyn a few years ago. One of those attending them is seen sporting a Kach T-shirt.

A few years ago one of the liberal papers – I think it was the Independent – carried a piece by a liberal Israeli journo, who was shocked at the growing racial and religious intolerance by Israelis against the Palestinian inhabitants of Jerusalem. He described meeting a group of Jewish schoolgirls, who blithely told him that Jerusalem had to be purged of Palestinians so that the Messiah would arrive. The impression I’ve got from reading Tony’s blog and other materials elsewhere is that the Israeli settlers are extremely right-wing and bitterly intolerant, with a number expressing similar views about the necessity of expelling the Palestinians and/or other non-Jews from Israel.

This is the government British Jewish official organisations like the Board of Deputies have been defending and smeared its critics as anti-Semites, even when they are staunch anti-racists and proud, self-respecting Jews. This is the Israeli government, which was greatly aided in its aims last year when Trump’s government moved the American embassy to Jerusalem. Trump’s Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner, dealt in land seized from the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. There has been international condemnation of the land seizures by the United Nations, but such disapproval is just brushed aside by the Israeli state. That’s why Boycot, Divest and Sanction movement was founded to persuade shoppers not to buy Israeli goods produced in the Occupied Territories. However, they’re under legal attack in America and elsewhere as a supposed anti-Semitic organisation, despite considerable Jewish support.

It’s very ominous indeed that the Israeli police feel they can fire on people in the al-Aqsa mosque. It looks to me that the support for Netanyahu’s fascistic government by Trump and other world leaders has emboldened the Israeli authorities to take such violent action. And it’s action that could very well produce terrible conflict in turn from justifiably outraged Muslims around the world.

Israel’s actions aren’t unprovoked, but they seem massively disproportionate and a real threat to world peace.

One Struggle: The People Oppressing the Indian Farmers Are Also Donors to the British Tories

May 5, 2021

As I’ve mentioned previously, last Friday I went to a Virtual pre-May Day rally on Zoom, put on as part of the Arise festival of left Labour ideas. It lasted for nearly an hour and a half, and featured great speakers from across the world, including our own Jeremy Corbyn. The international guests included Daniele Obono, a Black socialist politician from across the Channel in France, and peeps from Ghana, India and Latin America. They spoke about how people everywhere had to fight against exploitation from their own national elites, as well as combating racism, colonialism and the legacy of slavery. One of the speakers graphically showed how the poor African countries are very much at the mercy of the big multinationals with a story about Kenya and Vodaphone. The Kenyan government had asked the phone company not to give its shareholders their dividends this year, because the pay out would bankrupt the African nation.

I was also very much interested in the talk by an Indian lady about the appalling policies of Modi’s Hindu Supremacist government. This is the Indian nationalist BJP, which is extremely right-wing and bitterly intolerant of Islam, Christianity and Sikhism, as well as liberal Hindus, who believe in a secular, tolerant, pluralist India. The BJP are trying to privatise the state purchasing mechanism for the agricultural sectors. This was set up to guarantee a fair price to India’s farmers. However, the BJP are neoliberals and so want to hand it over to private entrepreneurs. This will force down prices, sending millions of farmers into abject poverty. There have been mass demonstrations and strikes against it right across India. She said that it’s the biggest protest movement in the world, number 250 million people. And Modi and his crew have reacted brutally, sending the police in to break up the protests, beat demonstrators and arrest the journalists covering them.

And guess what? Some of the businessmen backing Modi’s privatisation are also donors to the Tories over here.

This also shows how multinational capital is operating across the globe to impoverish and exploit working people.

A few months ago we had as guest speaker at a Virtual meeting of my local Labour party here in Bristol a member of Sikh community to talk about Modi’s attacks on the Indian farmers. Most of the farmers affected are Sikh, and so there are Sikh charities in this country which are giving aid to their coreligionists in India.

But it’s also very clear that working people across the world also need to unite to tackle the poverty and oppression created by capitalism because of the impact of globalisation. I am very definitely not a Communist, but Marx made this very clear in the slogan on the Communist Manifesto.

We really do need the workers of the world to unite. Because if we don’t, we will be in chains.

Retired Generals Call for Military Dictatorship to Save France from Islamist Terrorism

April 28, 2021

Here’s another landmark on the march of militant populism across Europe and the ominous threat of the return of real Fascism. Mahyar Tousi is a right-wing, pro-Brexit YouTube, who regularly denounces the left. Normally I wouldn’t watch his videos, but last night he posted a grim one which reported that a group of twenty former French generals had signed a letter, published in the right-wing news magazine, Valeurs Actuelles, calling for a military coup if President Macron failed to stop the disintegration of France by Islamists. The first signature was that of Christian Piquemal, a former head of the French foreign legion. Macron’s government condemned the wretched letter and compared it to the failed military coup which tried to topple President de Gaulle during the Algerian war of independence sixty years ago.

The letter declared that France ‘is in danger. Several mortal perils threaten her. Even in retirement we remain soldiers of France and cannot in the present circumstances remain indifferent to the fate of our beautiful country.’ According to its signatories, the country was disintegrating with the Islamists of the hordes of suburbs – banlieus – who were detaching large parts of the nation and turning them into territory subject to dogmas contrary to the constitution’. They accused the government of sparking hatred because of the brutal police treatment of the Yellow Vest protesters two years ago. They warned that if nothing was done, there would be an explosion and then intervention by our comrades on active service in the dangerous mission of protecting our civilised values and the safety of our compatriots.’

Marine le Pen, the head of the National Rally party, has come out in support of a coup. Tousi calls this ‘a bit crazy, because France is still a democracy at this point’, and he doesn’t know why people are getting so emotional. His video also show a graph of the various parties’ support according to the opinion polls. These show Macron and Le Pen neck and neck at 26 per cent, Xavier Bertrand, an Independent centre-right candidate at 15 per cent, Jean Melenchon of the Far Left at 11 per cent, and Anne Hidalgo of the centre left at 6 per cent. The report on which Tousi draws for his coverage of the issue states that the generals’ letter has especial resonance following the murder a few days ago of a woman working in a Limousin police station by a Tunisian Islamist.

There are several remarks to be made here. There’s been much anti-Arab racism in France for sometime now, just as there’s racism here across the pond. About twenty or so years ago the Independent’s and I’s Yasmin Alibhai-Brown complained about the racism her family experienced when on holiday in south of France. However, she subsequently wrote an article several years later about how the situation had changed for the better when her family went back there on holiday. And a few years ago there was a series of mass protests under a slogan that translates into English as ‘Don’t Touch My Mate’ of White French young people attacking this racism in solidarity with their Arab friends.

I think the racial situation on the other side of the Channel has got worse due to recent Islamist atrocities, such as the attack in Marseilles a few years ago and the mass murder of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists. The spectre of this attack returned a few weeks ago when a French schoolteacher, Thomas Paty, was murdered by an enraged Muslim for showing a classroom of children one of the blasphemous cartoons from Hebdo which provoked the attack. Paty was teaching a lesson about freedom of speech, and had warned his Muslim students that he was going to show the cartoon. If they were going to be offended, then they were allowed to leave the room. Some of them stayed, told their parents, and someone at the local mosque then put Paty’s details up on the Net. This prompted a raft of legislation against Islamist terrorism, and I’ve seen videos on YouTube claiming that, to show his defiance of the Islamists, Macron not only gave Paty a state funeral, but he had the cartoon displayed on public buildings. According to Sargon of Gasbag, the man who broke UKIP, and his mates over at the Lotus Eaters YouTube panel, the legislation provides for the deportation of the foreign-born parents of any child who protests over cartoons. If this is correct, then the French government is coming down very hard, and because of this there have been counterdemonstrations against the new laws by Muslims.

Many of the Islamist terrorists came from the banlieus. Muslims are generally underprivileged across Europe, and from what I was taught in geography while I was at school, the banlieus are grim places of tower blocks, unemployment, despair and nothing else. They don’t, or at least didn’t, have any basic services because their planners believed they weren’t necessary. Their residents could simply travel into the centre of town for whatever they needed.

The rhetoric about parts of France being detached and governed by dogmas against the constitution clearly mirrors the concern here in Britain and the rhetoric about the growth of parallel societies and Muslim ‘no-go areas’ governed by sharia law. Laicisme – secularism – is the official stance of the French state towards religion. It’s why the authorities there tried to ban the wearing of the hijab in school by Muslim schoolgirls. There are real issues about the rejection of French secular values in Arab and Muslim areas. A little while ago French television screened a documentary about the very strong pressure in these areas against women appearing in public and going to cafes. This disapproval even extended to western women living in those areas. The documentary followed the efforts of a group of female protesters to assert their right to go about in public and visit the cafes.

As for Marine le Pen coming out in favour of a dictatorship, she has just shown her true colours. the National Rally was originally the Front National, an avowed Fascist organisation, and her father, le Pen senior, made his living selling Nazi memorabilia. Marine Le Pen managed to win massive support for her party by dropping some of the Fascist symbolism and giving a more moderate, centre-right image. It was still anti-immigration, but a Black female rapper performed at one of their rallies on the grounds that she was still a patriotic French woman. And like UKIP and the former Brexit party over here, now Reform, it’s very much against the EU. It’s picked up much of its support from the elements of the French White working class, who’ve been left behind by neoliberalism and ‘centrist’ welfare cuts, and who also feel threatened by immigration and the European Union. The poor performance of the centre left in the polls also appears to bear out what I’ve heard and read elsewhere about the collapse of the centre left across Europe due to their embrace of neoliberalism. This could very well happen in Britain if Starmer and the Blairites keep their grip on the Labour party. The extreme right – the BNP, National Front and similar organisations – have all collapsed in Britain, or been banned as terrorist groups like National Action, although tiny little Fascist grouplets still remain. Nevertheless, the rise of National Rally in France does indicate that there could be space for a similar populist right-wing party over here.

Tousi in his video says that the generals’ letter is strange and wonders if Marine le Pen will lose or gain support by backing it. It’s a good question. Tousi says that Macron’s government has come under criticism from both the left and the right, and the generals’ complaint is that while Macron talks tough, and he hasn’t followed this up with action. As for supporting any kind of Fascist dictatorship, the village of Oradour-Sur-Glane in the Haute Vienne department of the Limousin provides a very stark, grim reminder of why no-one should. This was a village where all but 18 of its 660 inhabitants were butchered by the Waffen SS in June 1944 as a reprisals for kidnappings, attacks and sabotage by the resistance. It’s been preserved as a memorial. It’s a graphic reminder of the utterly horrific nature of Fascism – torture, mass murder and butchery on an industrial scale. Given the atrocities committed by the Nazis across Europe, and particularly in France and Poland, it astonishes me that any self-respecting French person or Pole could ever vote for or support such a party.

Hopefully no-one will take this call for a coup seriously and France will remain a democracy. But it does indicate that democracy is very fragile. And we have absolutely no reason to feel complacent over this side of the Channel. In the mid-1970s groups of politicians and industrialists, including the editors of the Times and the Mirror, wanted to overthrow Harold Wilson’s government and replace it with an emergency government or military dictatorship, to save Britain from the left and the trade unions.

We have to fight Fascism wherever we find it. And we need to take seriously the fact that it always presents itself as defending society from the absolute forces of evil.

If it rises again in France, how long before the sound of jackboots marching will be heard in Britain.

Oradour-Sur-Glane as it is today following the Nazi Massacre of its people. From Richard Harper, Abandoned Places – 60 Stories of Places Where Time Has Stopped ( Glasgow: Collins 2014) 68-71.

I’m not going to link to Tousi’s video, as he is a man of the right, but if you want to see it on YouTube, it’s title is ‘Retired Generals Call For Military Takeover In France’

Election Promises of Labour and TUSC Candidates in Bristol Mayoral Elections

April 23, 2021

Down here in Bristol we not only have elections for the city council looming, but also for the elected mayor and police and crime commissioner. Because of health issues, not just my own but also other members of my family, we’ve arranged to have postal votes. The ballot papers arrived the other day, and enclosed with them were booklets produced by the local authority explaining the voting procedure, answering various FAQs and giving policy statements and promises from the candidates. Not only does Bristol have a Labour candidate, the present elected mayor Marvin Rees, but there’s also one from the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, Tom Baldwin. Here’s their election promises from the booklet for the mayoral election.

Mayor Marvin’s runs

Delivering for Bristol

Building a City of Hope

It is an honour to serve as Mayor of Bristol, the city I am proud to be from and where I am bringing up my family.

Together we have led Bristol in the face of the pandemic, economic downturn, social change and instability, and climate change, with the added uncertainty of Brexit. Many of us have experienced real loss this year, as people have come together like never before to support each other.

Working with partners all over Bristol, we are building a city where nobody is left behind underpinning our ambition with compassion and our commitment to sustainability. We are focused on protecting and creating jobs, and delivering for residents, we are creating jobs by bringing employers like Channel 4 to our city, bringing hundreds of millions of pounds worth of investment into Bristol, and delivering our mass transit system.

Together, against the odds, we are making a difference.

On 6 May, we are proudly standing on our record of delivery – including all our 2016 pledges and more. With your support, we can all keep building a more sustainable, inclusive, and ambitious Bristol: our City of Hope.”

There then follows a list of what Labour has already achieved.

“9,000 new homes, tripling affordable house-building, rough sleeping down 80%

12,000 work experiences and £9m for south Bristol construction skills centre.

99 new biogas buses, RPZ fees frozen, 75 miles of segregated cycleways

Kept all our libraries and children’s centres open

Building new schools, creating mental health training and free breakfast clubs

Best core city for recycling, deep-cleaned 700 streets, planted 60,000 trees

Won Channel 4 relocation, invested in sport and leisure centres – giving control to communities”

This is followed by his promises for the future

“Building our underground, with free travel for apprentices and students

Protecting jobs and building a living wage city

Investing £1 billion in clean energy and doubling our trees

Investing in more schools and quality work experience

Building 2,000 new homes a year – 1,000 affordable

Investing in social care, helping older people stay in their homes.”

The pages for Tom Baldwin of the TUSC state has the statement ‘TUSC Against Cuts’, and then proceeds as follows:

“Tom says: “The pandemic has exposed the huge injustices and the divide between workers and big business. We’ve had to fight for our safety as the bosses and government put profits first. Now we have to fight to protect jobs and services as they try to make us pay for the crisis.

Bristol needs a mayor who will stand up for ordinary people. I stand for a socialist society run for people not profit.”

‘The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition organises to give a voice to working-class people who have been abandoned by the main parties. It includes the RMT union and the Socialist Party, of which Tom is a member.

Tom is 37 and lives in Aston. He is an active trade unionist and campaigner.

Bristol needs a fightback

Defend jobs and services – Vote Tom Baldwin

A Socialist mayor for the millions, not the millionaires

If elected Tom will…

  • Build a mass united struggle of workers and young people to win back the council funding taken by the government.
  • Reverse all cuts to council jobs and services, move budgets based on Bristol’s needs.
  • Oppose and reverse outsourcing and privatisation.
  • Never increase council tax, rents and charges faster than wages rise
  • Push for a publicly owned, top quality and affordable public transport network, run for need not profit
  • Address the housing crisis by building thousands of council homes and capping private rents
  • Defend the right to peaceful protest
  • Fight for decent jobs. Support all campaigns to protect safety, jobs, pay and conditions, including strike action by workers
  • Stand for jobs and homes for all. Oppose racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and all other forms of oppression and division.
  • Only take the average wage of a worker in the city, not the inflated £79,000 mayoral salary.’

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

As you know, I despise Keir Starmer and his continuing destruction of the Labour party, including the purge of left-wingers and socialists, in order to turn it into a Blairite neoliberal party. I’ve also got criticisms of the way Marvin Rees has run the city, but in general I think he’s done a good job and has been a far better mayor than his predecessor, ‘Red Trousers’ Ferguson.

I’ve been told by some of the great peeps on this blog that the TUSC were formed by the people in the Labour party, who were thrown out for opposing Blair’s cuts and policy changes, though I’ve also heard that the Socialist Party is the former Militant Tendency, a group that infiltrated and tried to take over the Labour party in the 1980s. But their policies are what the Labour party should be standing for. The mayoral elections are run according to proportional representation. I would therefore urge people to consider giving the TUSC their second vote.

If more people vote for them, to the point where it’s a significant number, perhaps the leaders of the Labour party will take note, and move the party further to the left. Or it will encourage the present Labour left to continue the struggle against the Blairites by showing them that real, socialist policies are popular and can win.