Posts Tagged ‘Ralph Miliband’

Mike’s List of Corbyn’s Proud Record of Tackling Anti-Semitism

April 7, 2019

Hey-ho, another day, another anti-Semitism smear. It’s almost like the stereotypical opening of a Blues song ‘Woke up this mornin’, and what did I see?’ It was another smear piece against the Labour party being discussed on the Beeb. And imagine my surprise (sarcasm) when I found out that it was published in the Sunday Times, and written by Gabriel Pogrund and his mate, Richard Kerbaj. Whose name is nearly ‘garbage’, which is what he writes. Followers of Mike’s and this blog will remember that it was the Pogrund, writing in the Sunset Times two years, that published the article smearing Mike as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. Mike isn’t. Never was, never will be, and like just about everyone else smeared as an anti-Semite by that vile rag and the sordid excuses for journalism that followed it, like the Scum and the Jewish Chronicle, he’s a resolute opponent of all forms of racism. His real crime was that he stood up for Ken Livingstone, writing the Livingstone Delusion against the smear that Red Ken’s an anti-Semite. Just as Livingstone himself, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Martin Odoni, Cyril Chilson, Marc Wadsworth and so many, many others have been smeared. They’re members of the Labour Left, who have criticised Israel and the Israel lobby. Because Israel’s a fascistic, apartheid state, no difference from the other repulsive Fascist states around the world. The right, both within and outside the Labour party hates and fears Corbyn because he’s undo the corrupt and decaying neoliberalism that’s wrecking this country and impoverishing and literally killing it’s people. And the Israel lobby fear him because they hate and fear anyone, who seriously wants to do something for the Palestinians. And so the Right and the Israel lobby have swung into action and tried to discredit Corbyn and his supporters by smearing them as anti-Semites.

It looks to me from here that it’s the standard hatchet job. It’s supposedly based on leaked emails and texts, and the Labour Party has already attacked the article as biased and untrue, and for taking the quotes used out of context. Mike in one of the two article’s he’s put up today has pointed out that this is precisely what the Sunset Times did to him, and no-one from the Party came to his defence. Instead they put him through a kangaroo court, of the same type that summarily found Greenstein, Walker, Wadsworth and the rest guilty, against the evidence. Mike’s also pointed out that despite the headline declaring the alleged anti-Semites to be ‘Corbyn’s army’, there’s no connection to the Labour leader. And Zelo Street has pointed out that only five cases are discussed, despite the article’s hype about an army of anti-Semites and having a disc full of this stuff.

We’ve seen all this claptrap before. It’s the standard modus operandi of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and its appendages, David ‘Gnasherjew’ Collier and his chums, who pore over the email and social media records of the people they want to smear, pulling quotes and comments out of context. Which they then present as absolute proof that the person concerned is indeed the evil spawn of Hitler. They did this to Jackie Walker, a very principled woman of colour, who’s also Jewish by birth and religion. Walker’s an anti-Zionist, as many Jews are, because she was a member of the movement against apartheid in Namibia. She found she could not campaign against the state racism there while supporting Israel, which discriminates against and persecutes the Palestinians. The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Labour Movement smeared her by taking a sloppily worded statement she made about the chief’s being the chief financiers of the slave trade – she should have said that they were among the chief financiers of the slave trade – out of context, and secretly recorded her objecting to the definition of anti-Semitism the JLM was using at a workshop on the commemoration of the Holocaust to portray her as an anti-Semite. The Labour party documents she obtained for her trial acknowledged that the case against her was weak. But nevertheless, she was summarily found guilty, and expelled. And she has been viciously demonised. She has received messages telling her that she’s a fake Jew, or not really Black, but a White women in dreadlocks – she’s mixed race – that she should be lynched, cut up and put in bin bags, or should have been killed in the Holocaust. It’s vile, ugly stuff, and she’s had to tell her children not to read messages on social media about her, because of what they’re see being said about their mother.

This is how nasty the JLM, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, Collier and the rest of the Israel lobby and the rags, who repeat their lies and smears are. They’re out to destroy utterly anyone, who stands up against the racism of the Israeli and supports Jeremy Corbyn, who is their ultimate target.

Despite their lies and smears, Corbyn has always been a determined opponent of racism and anti-Semitism. Mike in his article about the latest sorry attempt to smear Labour has put up on his blog a timeline of the Labour leaders’ actions against anti-Semitism, defending Jewish people from real attacks, and those of the Labour party under his leadership. These are:

1. In October 1936, Jeremy Corbyn’s mother participated in the battle of Cable Street in defence of British Jews after British fascists had staged an assault on the area. Corbyn was raised in a household passionately opposed to antisemitism in all its forms.

2. In 23rd April 1977, Corbyn organised a counter-demonstration to protect Wood Green from a neo-nazi march through the district. The area had a significant Jewish population.

3. On 7 November 1990, Corbyn signed a motion condemning the rise of antisemitism in the UK

4. In 2002 Jeremy Corbyn led a clean-up and vigil at Finsbury Park Synagogue which had been vandalised in an anti-Semitic attack

5. On 30 April 2002, Corbyn tabled a motion in the House of Commons condemning an anti-Semitic attack on a London Synagogue

6. On 26 November 2003, Jeremy Corbyn signed a Parliamentary motion condemning terrorist attacks on two synagogues

7. In February 2009, Jeremy Corbyn signed a parliamentary motion condemning a fascist for establishing a website to host antisemitic materials

8. On 24th March 2009, Corbyn signed a Parliamentary motion praising British Jews who resisted the Holocaust by risking their lives to save potential victims

9. Nine years ago, Corbyn signed a Parliamentary motion praising “Jewish News”for its pioneering investigation into the spread of antisemitism on Facebook

10. On 9 February 2010, Corbyn signed a Parliamentary motion calling for an investigation into Facebook and its failure to prevent the spread of antisemitic materials on its site.

11. On 27 October 2010, Corbyn signed a Parliamentary motion praising the late Israeli Prime Minister for pursuing a two state solution to the Israel/Palestine question.

12. On 13 June 2012, Corbyn sponsored and signed a motion condemning the BBC for cutting a Jewish Community television programme from its schedule.

13. 1 October 2013, Corbyn appeared on the BBC to defend Ralph Miliband against vile antisemitic attacks by the UK press.

14. Five years ago Corbyn signed a Parliamentary motion condemning antisemitism in sport.

15. On 1 March 2013, Corbyn signed a Parliamentary motion condemning and expressing concern at growing levels of antisemitism in European football.

16. On 9 January 2014, Jeremy Corbyn signed a Parliamentary motion praising Holocaust education programmes that had taken 20,000 British students to Auschwitz.

17. On 22 June 2015, Corbyn signed a Parliamentary motion expressing concern at the neo-nazi march being planned for an area of London with a significant Jewish population.

18. On 9 October 2016, Corbyn, close to tears, commemorated the 1936 Battle of Cable Street and recalled the role his mother played in defending London’s Jewish community.

19. On 3 December 2016, Corbyn made a visit to Terezin Concentration Camp where Jewish people were murdered by the Nazis. It was Jeremy’s third visit to such a camp, all of which were largely unreported in the most read UK papers.

20. Last year, a widely-endorsed 2018 academic report found ninety-five serious reporting failures in the reporting of the Labour antisemitism story with the worst offenders The Sun, the Mail & the BBC.

21. On 28 February 2016, five months after becoming leader, Jeremy Corbyn appointed Baroness Royall to investigate antisemitism at Oxford University Labour Club.

22. On 27 April 2016 Corbyn suspended an MP pending an investigation into antisemitism.

23. A day later, Corbyn suspended the three times Mayor of London after complaints of antisemitic comments.

24. On 29 April 2016, Corbyn launched an inquiry into the prevalence of antisemitism in the Labour Party. In spite of later changes in how the inquiry was reported, it was initially praised by Jewish community organisations.

25. In Corbyn’s first seven months as leader of the Labour Party, just ten complaints were received about antisemitism. 90% of those were suspended from the Labour Party within 24 hours.

26. In September 2017, Corbyn backed a motion at Labour’s annual conference introducing a new set of rules regarding antisemitism.

27. In the six months that followed the introduction of the new code of conduct, to March 2018, 94% of the fifty-four people accused of antisemitism remained suspended or barred from Labour Party membership. Three of the fifty-four were exonerated.

28. When Jennie Formby became general secretary of the party last year, she appointed a highly-qualified in-house Counsel, as recommended in the Chakrabarti Report.

29. In 2018, Labour almost doubled the size of its staff team handling investigations and dispute processes.

30. Last year, to speed up the handling of antisemitism cases, smaller panels of 3-5 NEC members were established to enable cases to be heard more quickly.

31. Since 2018, every complaint made about antisemitism is allocated its own independent specialist barrister to ensure due process is followed.

32. The entire backlog of cases outstanding upon Jennie Formby becoming General Secretary of the Labour Party was cleared within 6 months of Jennie taking up her post.

33. Since September 2018, Labour has doubled the size of its National Constitutional Committee (NCC) – its senior disciplinary panel – from 11 to 25 members to enable it to process cases more quickly.

34. Under Formby and Labour’s left-run NEC, NCC arranged elections at short notice to ensure the NCC reached its new full capacity without delay.

35. Since later 2018, the NCC routinely convenes a greater number of hearing panels to allow cases to be heard and finalised without delay.

36. In 2018, the NEC established a ‘Procedures Working Group’ to lead reforms in the way disciplinary cases are handled.

37. The NEC adopted the IHRA working definition of antisemitism and all eleven examples of antisemitism attached to it.

38. A rule change agreed at Conference in 2018 means that all serious complaints, including antisemitism, are dealt with nationally to ensure consistency.

39. Last year, Jennie Formby wrote to the admins and moderators of Facebook groups about how they can effectively moderate online spaces and requested that any discriminatory content be reported to the Labour Party for investigation.

40. Since last year, no one outside Labour’s Governance and Legal Unit can be involved in decision-making on antisemitism investigations. This independence allows decisions free from political influence to be taken.

This is a very, very long list. And actions speak louder than words, so Mike’s quite right when he asks at the end of his article if this is clear enough to everybody. It certainly should be. Except, perhaps, to those taken so far in by the media nonsense that the still believe that the Sunset Times is any kind of reputable newspaper.

For more information, see:

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/04/07/was-sunday-times-smear-timed-to-influence-jewish-labour-movement-confidence-vote-on-corbyn/

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/04/labour-anti-semitism-claims-repeat.html

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Adolf Hitler on Lord Rothermere’s Support

December 16, 2018

Here’s another interesting snippet from Hitler’s Table-Talk (Oxford: OUP 1988). The Daily Mail is rightly notorious for having supported the Nazis and Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists in the period before the Second World War. It’s why it’s got the unaffectionate nickname the Heil, from the Nazi salute.

And every so often that past comes back to bite them. Several times over the past few years the peeps on the internet have dug out articles from the rag from the 1930s supporting the Fascists to show what a vile newspaper it is. They did when the paper tried to attack the former Labour leader Ed Miliband, by running an article smearing his father, the respected Marxist intellectual Ralph Miliband, as ‘the Man Who Hated Britain’. Miliband was a Jewish refugee from Belgium, who fled here from the Nazis. And while he hated British capitalism, its class system and the public schools, he joined the army and fought bravely to defend this country against Nazi tyranny. Unlike the father or grandfather of former Mail editor, Paul Dacre, who was well out of the line of fire as a domestic showbiz correspondent.

The Mail also got sharply reminded of its anti-Semitic past when it again tried smearing another Labour leader, Miliband’s successor, Jeremy Corbyn, as an anti-Semite. And then two months ago Private Eye had fun when it revealed that the newspaper had spiked an article on a 1930s German tennis star, who had opposed the Nazis. This courageous athlete had been blackballed by the Wimbledon tennis club because he was gay. And the people, who led the campaign included Dacre’s father and Geordie Greig, the present editor of the paper. It also revealed that Greig’s father or grandfather was also a member of one of Oswald Mosley’s wretched think tanks, founded to spread Fascist and corporate state thought.

Hitler had personally met the Heil’s notorious owner, Lord Rothermere, several times, and mentions the support the newspaper magnate had given him in his after dinner conversation, which was recorded in the pages of the Table-Talk. The Fuhrer said

The first time the Princess ___ visited me, she brought a letter from Rothermere. I asked Neurath if he considered it advisable for me to receive her. His reply was that, if we could get Rothermere on our side, it would be a terrific accomplishment; and that, at all costs, I must hear what she had to say. When the scarecrow appeared, I muttered “For God and Fatherland” and braced myself to receive her.

In his letter Rothermere said he would gladly use his Press to further a rapprochement between Britain and Germany. We subsequently exchanged a series of letter, one of which was very important. I had written to Rothermere to say that I had no grounds for hostility towards Italy, and that I considered Mussolini to be an outstanding personality; that if the British thought they could ride roughshod over a man like Mussolini, they were greatly mistaken; that he was the incarnation of the spirit of the Italian people (in those days I still had illusions about the Italians); that attempts to strangle Italy were futile; and that Italy, as Germany had done before her, would look after herself, and finally, that Germany could be no party to any action directed against Italy or Italian interests.

Thereupon Rothermere came over to see me, and the Princess accompanied him. I must admit I prefer a friendly little kitchen wench to a politically minded lady! Nevertheless, the fact remains-the attitude of the Daily Mail at the time of our re-occupation of the Rhineland was of great assistance to us, as it was also over the question of our naval programme. All the British of the Beaverbrook-Rothermere circle came to me and said: “in the last war we were on the wrong side.” Rothermere told me that he and Beaverbrook were in complete agreement that never again should there be war between Britain and Germany. (p. 685).

The Heil always has been a viciously right-wing, racist rag, and Hitler appreciated the support it, and the press barons Beaverbrook and Rothermere had given him. Its claims to support this country against immigrants and the Left are grotesque and disgusting. In the 1970s various Tories, including the Times, were considering launching a coup to overthrow the minority Labour government of time. I’ve no doubt that if Corbyn did get into power, the Mail would also enthusiastically support anyone who would try to overthrow him. They’d smear him as a Communist and Trotskyite to justify the coup, of course, just as the Americans have smeared as Communists the democratically elected Socialist and left-wing leaders of the foreign governments they’ve toppled. And the Tory BBC would be willingly complicit.

Mail Spikes Story about German Anti-Nazi Tennis Champ to Save Embarrassing Its Chiefs’ Grandfathers

June 14, 2018

This is another piece from Private Eye, which shows you once again how grotty the Daily Mail and its sister paper, the Mail on Sunday are, and their historic links with Fascism and anti-Semitism.

Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail, resigned last week to start a new job elsewhere in the company. He was succeeded by Geordie Grieg, who was previously the editor of the Mail on Sunday. This fortnight’s Private Eye for 15th-28th June 2018 therefore carried a special, two-page article paying suitable tribute to him and his editorship of the rag, on pages 8 and 9. On page 9, in the section ‘Good Sports Finally Agree’, the Eye describes how both Dacre and Grieg spiked a story about a 1930s German tennis player, Baron Gottfried von Cramm. Von Cramm was an opponent of the Nazis, and was imprisoned by them for having a gay affair. The Mail was considering running a story about this courageous and principled man, up to the point when one of its staff noticed a few lines in the article describing how he had been banned from participating in the 1939 Wimbledon tournament by the All England Club. One of those pushing for the ban was Harold, the first Viscount Rothermere. And so to avoid embarrassing the current Viscount Rothermre, the piece was spiked.

The story was then picked up the Mail on Sunday, which was also considering publishing it, until a hack dug up another connection between events then and the MoS’ editor. It turns out that the president of the All-England Club at the time von Cramm was banned was one Louis Grieg, Geordie Grieg’s grandfather. Who was also a member of Oswald Mosley’s January Club. And so the story was spiked again. This sorry tale was revealed, according to the Eye, in the ‘Mandrake’ column of the New European.

The Mail is infamous for the backing it gave Oswald Mosley’s legions with the headline ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’. One of the great left-wing bloggers, I think it was Tom Pride at Pride’s Purge, a few years ago posted up the various headlines and articles the paper had run in the 1930s raving about Adolf Hitler, the Nazis, Mosley and fulminating against Jewish immigration. This was after the Mail did a hatchet piece on Ed Miliband, the then head of the Labour party, which attacked him through his father. The article was headlined ‘The Man Who Hated Britain’, and sought to portray Ralph Miliband, a Jewish Belgian immigrant and an important Marxist thinker, as someone who despised his adopted country. Well, he certainly despised its class institutions, like the public schools and monarchy, but as Tom Pride’s piece revealed, Miliband senior did his patriotic duty like millions of other people, and served in the army fighting the Nazis.

This was in sharp contrast to Dacre’s father or grandfather, I can’t remember which, who spent the war as a showbiz or society correspondent. So, more hypocrisy from the Mail. This won’t surprise anyone, as the Mail’s always been hypocritical in its nasty attitudes.

With all these murky little family secrets about their predecessors’ extreme right-wing views, the editors of the Mail and Mail on Sunday have got no business libelling anyone on the Left as anti-Semites or Holocaust Deniers.

Gideon Falter’s Lies and Smears at CAA Rally Against Corbyn

April 11, 2018

On Sunday, the deliberately misnamed Campaign Against Anti-Semitism held a rally outside the Labour Party’s HQ, protesting against the party’s anti-Semitism and demanding the removal of Jeremy Corbyn. The CAA’s leader, Gideon Falter, declared that Corbyn had made the party a haven for anti-Semites and Holocaust Deniers.

As Falter knows, or should know, this is a flat-out lie. Corbyn has always campaigned against all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. And the stats from his own wretched organisation show that under Corbyn’s leadership, anti-Semitism in the Labour party has actually fallen. It’s now lower than in other parties, such as the Tories, and wider British society, where it has actually risen.

But the CAA aren’t worried about such inconvenient things as facts. They’re true-blue Tories to a man and woman, and the organisation’s real purpose has absolutely nothing to do with combating anti-Semitism. They’re a pro-Israel outfit, who use the standard Zionist tactic of smearing the country’s critics as anti-Semites when they make awkward criticisms of it and its barbarous treatment of the Palestinians. This treatment includes apartheid, massacre and ethnic cleansing. But any mention of this, even by respected journalists, is rigorously policed and suppressed by the Israel lobby, who accuse those reporting it or commenting on it as anti-Semites. In the past, those reporters, who have been so attacked have included the Beeb’s Jeremy Bowen and Orla Guerin. And also Jonathan Dimbleby, when he made a comment objecting to the smears against his colleagues.

This alone shows how the anti-Semitism smears are a real, political witch-hunt, of the type Arthur Miller described in his classic play, The Crucible. This used the 17th century Salem witch hunt as a metaphor for the McCarthy witch hunts against suspected Communists in ’50s America. Which is also appropriate, given the way various speakers at the CAA rally seemed to be convinced that he was another Marxist.

In fact, the numbers who turned up for the CAA’s rally were small. There were no more than 250 of them, which is about the entire membership of the CAA plus a few of their mates. So, hardly a mass movement showing widespread discontent against the Labour leader.

And Falter also crossed the line when he demanded Corbyn’s removal. The CAA is registered as a charity. Under the rules of the Charity Commission, registered organisations have to be non-political. But the CAA has clearly broken this regulation by demanding the Labour leader’s removal. As a result, Tony Greenstein, a long-time critic of Israel, who has also been smeared as an anti-Semite by the Israel lobby, posted up on his website yesterday a new post about the internet petition requesting the Charity Commission to remove it as a registered charity. 5,000 people had signed it so far. Mr Greenstein was hoping this would double by the end of this week.

The CAA’s pro-Israel, anti-Palestinian agenda was inadvertently demonstrated by comic actress Maureen Lipman, who spread her own lies and falsehoods at the rally. Lipman turned up with a placard saying ‘Corbyn Made Me a Tory’, and made a speech in which she claimed that she had left the Labour party because of Jeremy Corbyn. Whoops! No, she didn’t!. She left the Labour party in 2014 after the election of Ed Miliband as leader. This was because ‘Red’ Ed had also proposed some pro-Palestinian policies. She was complaining then about how his election showed that Labour was anti-Semitic. Hardly. Most people would probably argue otherwise, as Miliband is of Jewish heritage. For some people, some of the attacks on him and his father, Ralph, such as those of the Daily Mail, also had very nasty anti-Semitic overtones. As Mike’s article on this shows, the internet has been having immense fun with Lipman’s selective memory. Jokes about her include the suggestion that she has a time machine to go back to Ed Miliband’s election, so she could resign then in protest against Corbyn’s election.

Lipman also let the cat out of the bag about the real, underlying reason for the protests against Corbyn. She attacked him for always criticising Israel, and sticking up for the Palestinians. This is exactly the reason behind these allegations, and the pressure on the Labour party to adopt a definition of anti-Semitism that defines as including criticism of Israel. This is despite the fact that Wilhelm Marr, the noxious German politico, who founded modern anti-Semitism in the 19th century and who coined the term, defined it solely as hatred of Jews as Jews.

I’m not surprised Lipman turned up at the rally. She has appeared in the press making noises about how Corbyn is a supporter of ‘terrorism’. She said it a month or so ago in an interview in the pages of the Radio Times. At the rally, she also claimed that Corbyn was a Marxist, who was trying to bring it back because it had worked so well in the rest of the world.

As so many people have pointed out, including Mike over at Vox Political and this blog, Corbyn isn’t a Marxist. He’s actually centre left, closer to the social democratic consensus which advocated a mixed economy, strong trade unions and social mobility. George Galloway despatched the accusation that Corbyn was a Marxist a year or so ago. The Scots political maverick stated that he’d known Corbyn for a very long time, and he wasn’t. But why let inconvenient facts get in the way of a good, Tory and Blairites smear?

The accusation that Corbyn’s a Marxist says nothing about him, but it says plenty about Lipman and her supporters. Rather than being a ‘disenfranchised socialist’ as she claimed, she comes across as another Blairite, worried that Blair’s policy of handing large sections of the state over to private industry is now going to be stopped by Corbyn. Communism didn’t work, although the capitalism that succeeded it in Russia hasn’t made things any better for ordinary people over there either. And neoliberal capitalism is failing here. It has brought ordinary working people in Britain and across the world nothing but poverty, starvation and hardship, all for the profit of big business and the immensely rich. Corbyn’s right to end it.

The CAA’s rally on Sunday was a pathetic affair, at which they just spewed the usual accusations against the Labour leader, all in support of the real reason for wanting his removal: to continue the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians without criticism, and keep the Blairite neoliberals in control of the Labour party. It’s depressing to see Maureen Lipman supporting them, as normally I have a lot of respect for her. But all too often you find that people you respect have monstrous or repulsive views in some area or another, and Lipman is no different.

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

June 5, 2016

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

Scargill and the Miners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Livingstone, Scargill and Tatchell Smeared as Communists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Now Corbyn

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

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

Book Review: The Press and Political Dissent: A Question of Censorship

June 4, 2016

By Mark Hollingsworth (London: Pluto Press Ltd 1986).

Press Dissent Pic

I found this in one of the second-hand bookshops in Cheltenham. Although it came out thirty years ago, and covers the major issues of that decade, it’s still acutely relevant. The press and media is still overwhelmingly right-wing, and bitterly hostile to anything like genuine Socialism. This is shown by their refusal to cover Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party, the uncritical support given to farcical and frankly libellous accusations of anti-Semitism, and its complete and utter failure to give to proper coverage to protests and demonstrations against the government’s austerity programme. One of the most flagrantly biased in this campaign is the Beeb’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, who has been booed and hissed by audiences at speaking events because of her blatant Tory bias, as recently covered in several of Mike’s posts over at Vox Political.

Individual chapters deal with the press’ attacks on and vilification of Tony Benn, Ken Livingstone and the GLC, press racism, Peter Tatchell and the Bermondsey bye-election, the Greenham women’s peace camp, the 1983 General Election, and the miner’s strike. The conclusion considers what may be done to alter this terrible situation. There are also four appendices. The first gives the commercial interests of the companies owning the British press. The second give the circulation figures for the national papers. The third lists the Fleet Street editors, and the fourth gives the NUJ code of professional conduct.

I remember many of these controversies from when I was growing up in the 1980s, but reading through the book I was shocked and amazed at the sheer venom and bile poured out on the people and causes featured in the book. Many of the ad hominem attacks sound like the kind of personal vilification Stalin meted out to his political opponents just before sending them to the gulags. It also shows how times have changed that the homophobia that was so prevalent in the 1980s, and which comes out particularly strongly in the press’ attacks on Peter Tatchell, is probably even more shocking now. And then there’s the attempts by the press to play down and demonise the women’s peace camp at Greenham common, which is shocking in its bias and repeated spiking of any positive articles or discussions of what they were doing. And if the press couldn’t simply distort the truth, they made it up, as shown in their articles about Black criminality and racist aggression against Whites, and the Miner’s Strike. There they fabricated a story about how the miners were all Communists – a standard line of attack on most of the left-wingers featured in the book – but were also being given paramilitary training by the IRA in Ireland.

Tony Benn

The book states that the businessmen, who worked with Benn had a high opinion of him. They found him clear and rational. John Shore, the chief executive of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, who dealt with Benn as the local MP for 14 years, says of him ‘I certainly never found him bonkers. He always presented in all his dealings with us a well-reasoned response to anything that we put to him.’ The Evening News, however, discussing Benn’s supposed political ambitions at the time of the EEC referendum in 1975, screamed that ‘Benn has gone too far to be treated as a joke… now he is seen in some quarters as a vampire, a fanatic and a bully.’ (p. 47). The Sunday Express ran a photograph of Benn, adding a Hitler moustache under the headline ‘Frightening Sketch of Wedgie’. It then went on to portray him very much as a traitor. It said, ‘In 1940 we knew we had no enemies within our own shores, that we were all united against Hitler. Can we say the same thing now? Could you, for example, be absolutely positively sure on whose side you would find people like Anthony Wedgwood Benn?’ Benn, the book notes, had volunteered and served as an RAF pilot during the War.

Ralph Miliband

This kind of smear was repeated a few years ago against Ed Miliband’s father, Ralph. Ralph Miliband was a Jewish immigrant from Belgium, and a committed and respected Marxist intellectual. He also fought for Britain in the Second World War. Nevertheless, the Mail denounced him in a long, ranting column as ‘The Man Who Hated Britain’.

Ken Livingstone

On the 27th September 1981, the Sunday Express denounced Red Ken as ‘The IRA-loving, poof-loving, Marxist leader of the GLC Mr Ken Livingstone’. The papers hated him for subsidizing gay and feminist organisations, and for championing the Nationalist cause in Northern Ireland. In their attacks, they published a series of articles by psychiatrists and psychologists supposedly diagnosing Leninspart as a clinical maniac. This was a gross misrepresentation of what the doctors had actually said. They made clear that they were discussing a type of personality, and not specific individuals, and duly complained.

Peter Tatchell

As for Peter Tatchell, not only did he suffer because of his sexuality, they also tried linking, spuriously and unfairly, with Militant Tendency. One reported told Tatchell that ‘We’re going to dig up everything you have ever said or done from the day you were born’. Questions were asked whether he ever visited gay brothels. They also turned up outside one of his neighbours, claiming to be officers from Southwark Council, claiming that they were investigating complaints that he had been holding loud, all-male parties during the night. They went away disappointed when the neighbour told them otherwise.

Fleet Street Racism

The book also shows how prevalent and pernicious was the racism in Fleet Street. Newspaper editors frankly said that aspiring Black journos shouldn’t try getting into journalism, because they wouldn’t be valued and would find their careers blocked, no matter how good or respected they were in their countries of origin. A Sun editor, discussing what kind of image they should put on the front page to show happy folk winning the Scum lottery, said that they should put ‘darkies’ on it, as no-one wanted to see that. And the Dirty Digger, Rupert Murdoch, himself said to Harold Evans, the editor of the Times, regarding a Black protest march, that there was nothing that couldn’t be solved by a crack over the head with a police baton. Asians were more than 50 times likely to suffer a racial attack than Whites, and Blacks more than 35 times. But there was absolutely no interest in reporting these racist attacks. One journo said that the newspapers were not interested in crimes and tragedies where the victims were either working class or Black. And while they claimed that Whites were being racially attacked by Blacks at every opportunity, they were keen to do the complete opposite involving racial attacks on Blacks and Asians. This was shown in the press’ treatment of an arson attack on a Black household, that killed 13 people. The press described it merely as arson, and did not interview any of the grieving relatives, even when it was clear that it was a racial attack, and members of the British Movement were jailed for violence and making firebombs. The statistics were also flagrantly manipulated, with non-violent crimes included with violent robberies to produce a grossly inflated picture of violent Black criminality responsible for drug-dealing and mugging, and ample space given to extreme right-wingers like Harvey Proctor and Enoch Powell demanding their repatriation.

Greenham Common Women

The Greenham women were repeatedly ignored. One female editor on the Times, responsible for ‘Look’, the newspaper’s women’s supplement, tried to have a sympathetic article on them published. Despite having successfully edited the women’s sections for the Grauniad and Observer, she was sacked. There were repeated attempts to uncover violent incidents committed by them, and they were accused of being agents of Moscow and supporters of the IRA.

The Miners

This was also one of the accusations aimed at the miners. One of their organisers had gone to Dublin seeking funding from sympathetic trade unionists in Eire. The papers claimed he had gone off to get the IRA to train them in paramilitary tactics they could use against the police. Someone, however, took the trouble of actually interviewing the Irish mining union, which had given its support to the British miners. They stated very clearly that they weren’t connected to the IRA, and not only weren’t providing any kind of ‘paramilitary training’, they didn’t even know how.

Dealing with the Press in the Age of the Internet

The picture given is of a frankly out of control press, that lies as easily as most people breathe. It is corrupt and deeply mendacious. But the book also gives clues on how it can be dealt with. Apart from its own suggestions in the final chapter, Hollingsworth notes that at one point the coverage of Tony Benn became markedly less hysterical, more level and less biased, because Benn took control of the situation. Instead of letting the mainstream press set the agenda, Benn was refusing to give interviews to them, preferring instead to talk to other magazines and journals.

This might give a clue on how to handle the latest biased reporting by the Beeb and the press, including not just right-wing papers, but also the Graon and Indie. The net now provides an alternative outlet for news, one that is actually preferred by the younger generation. The old, lamestream media like the Beeb are under threat, and they know it. Hence the rants by Beeb hacks in the Radio Times lamenting the fact that the political consensus previously created through everyone in the nation getting their news from the same sources, is vanishing. There are, of course, negative aspects to this. Mike says one of the problems is the decline in investigative reporting. But people are turning to the alternative media – the internet with its blogs and vlogs, because the mainstream press and the BBC have shown themselves consistently uninterested in anything like objective, unbiased reporting.

This is a crisis in journalism, but it also presents new opportunities for better reporting from a media not quite so dominated by the old media giants. And if people are abandoning the Beeb and the dead tree press, then they can only blame themselves. More and more people are sick and tired of their bias, and their hounding and vilification of those they despise as enemies of capitalism and the Tory party. If they want to regain some of the public trust they’ve lost, they can do so by redressing the issue of balance. In fact, as their readerships decline despite them becoming more extreme and opinionated, their survival depends on it.

Quentin Letts on the Special Advisors

March 19, 2014

Quentin Letts pic

Quentin Letts on what looks suspiciously like Have I Got News For You.

Mike in his piece over at Vox Political on Osborne’s budget reported on the Chancellor’s double standards regarding public sector pay. This was to be kept low, while at the same time the government’s Special Advisors were to be given a 40 per cent pay rise. The Daily Fail’s parliamentary sketch writer, Quentin Letts, has a few things to say about them in his book, 50 People Who Buggered Up Britain (London: Constable & Robinson 2009). And none of them are complimentary.

They’re in chapter 55 on Harold Wilson, who’s in there for the reason that he created them. Letts says

Wilson was disinclined to do much heavy policy thinking himself. He darkly suspected the civil service of being a Tory conspiracy. He therefore hired others to do his thinkin’ for him. Worse, he had their wages drawn from public funds. Harold Wilson was in some ways a good Prime Minister. He kept us out of the Vietnam War, not least. He was in at least one respect, however, a very bad premier: he created state-paid Special Advisors. (p. 271).

These he describes thus

The Special Advisor is an appointed stooge, an outsider brought into Whitehall by a minister or political party. He or she normally lasts only as long in that department as the minister. Special Advisors are, by their very nature, short-termists. They tend to take decisions which help a minister avoid blame or trouble, usually at the expense of another minister, sometimes merely because the extent of a problem has been temporarily concealed. Special Advisors are antipathetic to openness. Secrecy gives them power. (p. 272).

He notes that under Wilson, Heath and Margaret Thatcher their numbers were low. He states that Maggie

with her keen suspicion of civil service obstinacy, created something of a praetorian guard of policy-thinkers at No. 10 but was never particularly keen on Special Advisors sprouting uncontrolled throughout Whitehall. She preferred her junior ministers to use their brains. She was never quite sure if Special Advisors were ‘one of us’, either. So little time. So many colleagues to monitor for signs of disloyalty. What an exhausting life she must have led. (ibid)

It was under John Major, who gave Cabinet Ministers rather more departmental freedom to form governmental policy with a greater degree of success, that the ‘Spads’ came into their own. And one of them is the honourable gentleman (and I use the term loosely) now running the country.

140117democracy

David Cameron: a former government Special Advisor, of the type who were given a 40 per cent pay rise today. AS they aren’t actually Civil Servants, this is another example of the government paying massive subsidies to the government contracted private sector.

Special advisors became more self-confident. Arrogant youths, many of them, they would strut into newspaper offices a pace or two to the side of their bosses, dispensing business cards and massaging their own reputations. One of them, you will recall, was called David Cameron. Special Advisors started to become more prominent socially. They became better known as sources of press stories. They overtook backbenches MPs in the unspoken table of political importance. (pp. 272-3)

He then attacks the way the number of Special Advisors massively expanded under Tony Blair, so that by 2002 there were 81 of them. His ire is not so much about the money spent paying them, but on their corruption of the governmental system.

The many millions spent on their salaries may be irksome – a symbol of the waste and the stroking of the political cadre – but it was wee buns compared to the billions blown on other inessential parts of the public sector, often on the say of, yes, Special Advisors. And even more damaging was the way these Special Advisors corrupted our political system. Since the later years of the nineteenth century the British Civil Service had been a professional body. That is to say, it offered recruits a career of serious service. Entrance to the profession was possible only after rigorous examination and interview procedures. Civil servants were schooled to regard the nation as their employer. They worked for the long-term good of the country, the community, not for the good of whichever politician happened to be in power at any one time. G.M. Trevelyan, historian, wrote that the merit-baed entrance procedures to the civil service removed it ‘from the field of political jobbery’. Favouritism, nepotism and nudge-nudge-wink-winkism were trumped by measurable ability. These values slowly percolated to other parts of society. It wasn’t a bad way to run a country, you know. (p. 274).

He is particularly incensed at the way the were used by Tony Blair as part of his carefully stage-managed events, and that two of them, Jonathan Powell and Alistair Campbell, were given executive rights over permanent secretaries.

Letts has a particularly rosy view of the impartiality and efficiency of the British civil service. Sadly, experience has not always backed this up. Civil Servants are indeed required, under their terms of service, to provide ministers with impartial advice. I’ve no doubt that in many cases this is true. But not nearly in as many cases as we’d like. One of the reasons the railways are in the horrendous state they are in today, is because one particular senior civil servant, who was named in Private Eye, was a passionate enthusiast of free-market capitalism, with the result that they were privatised. The result is poor service, increasingly bloated subsidies for the rail companies, and the administrative chaos that led to several serious disasters like Potter’s Bar. These were particularly reprehensible because of the way the victims were denied justice and compensation for years afterwards as each company passed the buck from one to the other.

As a Daily Mail journo, Letts is, of course, a man of the Right, and has cause his fair share of offense writing for an offensive newspaper. He appeared a little while ago defending their attack on Ralph Milliband, Ed Milliband’s father, a Jewish refugee, who fought courageously for this country against Nazi Germany while Lord Rothermere wrote admiring pieces about how wonderful Adolf was. Still, Letts does have a point. The civil service is still required in theory to give impartial advice. The Special Advisors, with which the government has surrounded itself are under no obligation to do so. Indeed, quite the opposite. The government’s policy are all drawn from various loony right-wing think tanks, who tell the government exactly the type of Neoliberal rubbish they want to hear. The result is policies like today’s budget: cuts and privatisation for the poor, tax cuts for the rich. And 40 per cent pay rises for the Spads. Well, David Cameron was one of them, and so it really is a case of Osborne giving money to people exactly like himself. It demonstrates the very narrow class loyalties of the Coalition exactly.