Posts Tagged ‘Richard Burgon’

Posted Copies of Book ‘For A Workers’ Chamber’ to Labour Party

September 18, 2020

This afternoon I posted two copies of my self-published book, For A Workers’ Chamber, off to the Labour Party with appropriate covering letters. As I’ve explained in previous posts, the book argues that as parliament is now dominated by the millionaire heads and senior executives of big business, the working class has been excluded. It therefore needs a separate parliamentary chamber, composed of working people, elected by working people, to represent them.

I’ve also explained in the covering letters that it draws on arguments for such working class assemblies going as far back as Robert Owen’s Grand Consolidated Trades Union, the Chartists’ parliament of trades and the Guild Socialist strand within the early Labour party. I also state that it also draws on the post-war corporatist system in Britain, in which economic and industrial affairs were decided through negotiations and organisations that brought together government, industry and trade unionists. It also discusses too the producers’ chambers, which formed part of the governmental system of Tito’s Yugoslavia under the workers’ self-management system.

I have also said in the letter that the domination of parliament by employers supports the Marxist argument that the state is the instrument of class rule. Sidney and Beatrice Webb also felt that the parliamentary system could not cope with the demands of the expansion of parliamentary business into the social and economic spheres, and so recommended the establishment of a social parliament as well as a political parliament in their 1920 book, A Constitution for the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain. Another Fabian, Herman Finer, also recommended that Britain should copy the industrial chamber the Germans had set up, which contained representatives of industry and the trade unions to decide questions of industry.

We already have part of that through parliament’s domination by industrialists. We just need to include the working class. Of course, this could also be corrected if the Labour party turns away from the disastrous policies of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, which have done so much to ruin our country and impoverish its people. We need a Labour party that properly supports its traditional policies – a strong welfare state and unions able to defend working people, a properly funded and nationalised NHS and public utilities, run for the benefit of the community and not private profit, and a mixed economy. But there is a real danger that the Labour party is returning to the failed policies of Thatcherism. If that is the case, then the working class needs its own parliamentary chamber to defend its interests.

The Labour Party is holding a national policy review and has asked for suggestions by email. So I’ve sent them my book and its suggestions instead to the party’s National Policy Commission. I’ve also sent a copy to Richard Burgon in appreciation of his great efforts on behalf of the Labour left and the Labour Grassroots Alliance in supporting traditional Labour party policies and working people.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get a reply. Given the rabidly right-wing politics of the Blairite Labour party bureaucracy I have wondered if I might find myself smeared and accused of being a Trotskyite or Communist infiltrator or other slur after sending a copy of my book to the National Policy Commission. After all, they suspended and smeared Mike as an anti-Semite and Holocaust-denier simply because he had the temerity to send them a document defending Ken Livingstone against the charges of anti-Semitism they had leveled against him. I hope nothing like that happens to me, but I’m still left wondering.

Hooray! Copies of My Book Demanding Workers’ Parliamentary Chamber Have Arrived!

September 16, 2020

I got the two copies of my self-published book For A Workers’ Chamber, published with the print on demand service Lulu through the post today. I wrote the book way back in 2018. It argues that as parliament is dominated by millionaire company directors and senior management, working people have been effectively excluded. Blairite Labour is no help, as it has enthusiastically embraced this policy. I therefore argue that what is needed to correct this is a parliamentary chamber composed of working people, elected by working people, following ideas and demands going back as Robert Owen’s Grand Consolidated Trade Union and the Chartist’s assembly of a parliament of trades in the 19th century. The book’s blurb runs

For a Worker’s Chamber argues that a special representative chamber of composed of representatives of the working class, elected by the working class, is necessary to counter the domination of parliament by millionaires and the heads of industries.

It traces the idea of worker’s special legislative assemblies from Robert Owen’s Grand Consolidated Trade Union, anarchism, syndicalism, Guild Socialism, the workers’, soldiers’ and peasants’ councils in Revolutionary Russia, Germany and Austria, the Utopian Socialism of Saint-Simon and the Corporativism of Fascist Italy. It also discusses the liberal forms of corporativism which emerged in Britain during the First and Second World Wars, as well as the system of workers’ control and producer’s chambers in Tito’s Yugoslavia.

It argues that parliamentary democracy should not be abandoned, but needs to be expanded in include a worker’s chamber to make it more representative.

I ordered two copies of my book as I want to send one to the Labour Party. It’s now holding a policy review, and they’ve been asking members to send in suggestions for a policy. I really this idea is quite extreme and Utopian, but I want to send a copy of it to them to remind them just who they were set up to represent and where their priorities should lie. And they definitely do not lie with chasing Tory votes, taking over Thatcher’s policies and dismantling the welfare state, privatising the NHS and enrolling rich businessmen in parliament.

I’d like to send the second copy to any Labour MP or senior figure in the movement, who might be interested in it. Ken Livingstone would be the obvious choice, as he was a strong supporter of workers’ rights and industrial democracy when he was head of the GLC. Unfortunately, he has been forced out of the party due to being smeared as an anti-Semite, simply because he correctly pointed out that Hitler initially supported Zionism and sending Jews to Israel. The German Zionists signed a pact with him, the Ha’avara Agreement, which is documented on the website of the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.

I’m also thinking of sending it Richard Burgon, who is now one of the leading figures in left-wing Labour politics. I realise that it is probably too extreme for him, as he’s traditional centrist Labour, wanting the return of nationalisation for the NHS and utilities and a state managed but mixed economy. You know, the standard post-war social democratic consensus until Thatcher’s election in 1979. But I’m also worried about sending it to him in case his enemies in the party use it to smear him as a Commie or Trotskyite, just as they did with Corbyn.

The book is only one of a number of pamphlets and books I’ve self-published. I tried sending copies of them to the press, but didn’t get any interest. If you have any suggestions for any senior Labour figure, or simply ordinary MP or official, who would enjoy reading a copy, please let me know.

Fighting Racism Means Restoring the Welfare State

July 17, 2020

One of the most important things I learned when I was studying Geography for ‘A’ level nearly forty years ago was that poverty leads to political extremism. Part of the course was on the Third World, although I now gather that term, coined by Gandhi, is now out of favour. It was fascinating. We were taught that the countries of the Developing World varied in their levels of economic development and that many of their problems stemmed from the neocolonial system put in place when the European imperial power granted their independence. In return for their political freedom, the former colonies were required to confine themselves to primary industry – mining and agriculture. They were forced into a relationship with their former masters in which they were to trade their agricultural and mineral products for finished European goods. Punitive tariffs were imposed on industrial goods produced by these nations. They are therefore prevented from developing their own manufacturing industries and diversifying their economies. And as the primary resources they export to the global north are produced by a large number of countries, competition works against them. If one country tries to raise the price of copra, for example, the developed countries can simply find another nation willing to supply it at a lower cost. And so the Developing World is kept poor. And that poverty will drive people to political extremism – Communism and Fascism.

Poverty, Economic and Political Crisis and the Rise of Fascism

The same forces were at work behind the rise of Fascism in Europe. Part of the impetus behind the formation of Italian Fascism and German Nazism was frustration at the international settlement at the end of the First World War. Italy was angered by the great powers’ refusal to grant it the territories it claimed, like the Yugoslavian island of Fiume. Germany was humiliated by the Treaty of Versailles and the imposition of crippling reparations. The new democratic system in both countries was unstable. The Nazis made their first electoral breakthrough as the champions of the small farmers of Schleswig-Holstein in the 1920s. But arguable what gave them the greatest spur to power was the 1929 Wall Street crash and the massive global recession this caused. Combined with the breakdown of the ruling Weimar coalition between the Catholic Centre Party, the German  Social Democrats – the rough equivalent of the British Labour Party and the two Liberal parties – the crisis boosted Nazism as a mass movement and allowed President Hindenberg, then ruling by decree, to consider giving them a place in power in order to break the political deadlock. He did, and the result was the twelve years of horror of the Third Reich. Faced with rising unemployment, national humiliation and social and political chaos, millions of people were attracted by the Nazis denunciation of international capitalism and Marxist Communism and Socialism, which they blamed on the Jews.

The Collapse of Louisiana Oil Industry and the Witchcraft Scare

Sociologists and folklorists critically examining the witchcraft scare of the 1990s also noticed the role poverty and wealth inequalities have in creating social panics and the persecution of outsider groups. From the ’70s onwards a myth had developed that there existed in society multigenerational Satanic groups practising child abuse and infant sacrifice. A critical investigation by the British government over here – the Fontaine Report – and the FBI over the Pond found absolutely no evidence that these sects ever existed. But large numbers of people uncritically believed in them. As this belief spread, innocent people were accused of membership of such cults and their mythical atrocities. As the American folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand pointed out, this witch hunt emerged and spread at a time when the gap between rich and poor in America was increasing. One of the places hit by the scare was Louisiana. Louisiana had a strong oil industry, and the state levied a tax on its profits to subsidize local housing. This was fine until the industry went into recession. Suddenly ordinary, hard-working Louisianans found they could no longer afford their mortgages. There were cases where the banks were simply posted the keys to properties as their former owners fled elsewhere. With poverty and insecurity rising, people started looking round for a scapegoat. And they found it in these mythical Satanic conspiracies and in real, New Age neo-Pagan religions, which they identified with them.

1990s Prosperity and Positive Challenges to Affirmative Action

It’s a truism that poverty creates social and racial conflict, as different groups fight over scarce resources. There was a period in the 1990s when it looked like racism was well on the wane in America, Britain and Europe. Blacks were still at the bottom of American society, but some Blacks were doing well, and challenging stereotypes and the need for affirmative action. The Financial Times approvingly reported a self-portrait by a Black American artist, in which he pointedly exaggerated his ‘negrotic’ features in order to make the point that these didn’t define him. There were cases of Black college professors turning down promotion to senior, prestigious positions at their seats of learning because they didn’t want people to think that they hadn’t earned them through their own merits. They hated the idea that they were just being given these places because of their colour. Whites further down the social scale were also challenging the need for affirmative action in a different way, which didn’t involve racist abuse and violence. The FT reported that four American firemen had changed their names to Hispanic monickers, as this was the only way they believed they could get promotion under a system designed to give preference to ethnic minorities. Back in Blighty, some TV critics naively applauded the lack of racism in a series of Celebrity Big Brother, before that all shattered as Jade Goody and one of her friends racially bullied Indian supermodel and film star Shilpa Shetty. Sociological studies revealed that people’s accent was more important than their race in terms of social identity and acceptance. And then when Barack Obama won the American election in 2008, the chattering classes around the world hailed this as the inauguration of a new, post-racial America. But wiser voices reminded the world that the terrible racial inequalities remained.

Austerity, Poverty, and the Destruction of the Welfare State Behind Growth in Racism

All this has been shattered with the imposition of austerity following the banking crash, and the increasing impoverishment of working people across the world. The crash has allowed Conservative government to cut spending on welfare programmes, force through even more privatisations and cuts, and freeze and slash workers’ pay. At the same time, the top 1 per cent has become even more incredibly wealth through massively increased profits and tax cuts.

One of the many great speakers at last Saturday’s Arise Festival on Zoom – I think it was Richard Burgon, but I’m not sure – remarked that talking to people in the north, he found that they weren’t racist. They didn’t hate Blacks and ethnic minorities. But they were worried about access to jobs, opportunities and housing. He made the point that we need to restore these, to fight for all working people and not allow the Tories to divide us. He’s right. If you read rags like the Scum, the Heil and the Depress, the line they take is of virtuous Whites being deprived of employment and housing by undeserving immigrants. Who also sponge off the state on benefits, like the White unemployed the Tories also despise. But they’re obviously not going to tell the world that they are responsible for the shortage of jobs, the insecure conditions for those, who are lucky to have them, and that the shortage of affordable housing is due to them selling off the council houses and defining ‘affordable’ in such a way that such homes are still out of the pocket of many ordinary people. Even if enough of them are built by companies eager to serve the wealthy.

Austerity and Black Lives Matter

It’s austerity that has given urgency to the Black Lives Matter movement. Blacks and some other ethnic minorities have been acutely affected by austerity, as they were already at the bottom of society. If prosperity had continued, if the banking crash had not happened and austerity not imposed, I don’t believe that BLM would have received the wave of global support it has. Blacks would still have occupied the lowest rung of the social hierarchy, but conditions would not have been so bad that they have become a crisis.

White Trump Voters Whites Disadvantaged by Affirmative Action

At the same time, some disadvantaged Whites would not have given their votes to Donald Trump. While Trump is a grotty racist himself, who has surrounded himself with White supremacists and members of the Alt Right, some sociologists have counselled against accusing all of his supporters as such. Years ago Democracy Now’s anchorwoman, Amy Goodman, interviewed a female academic who had done a sociological survey of Conservative White Trump supporters. She found that they weren’t racist. But they did feel that they were being denied the jobs and opportunities they deserved through unfair preference given to other ethnic groups. She likened their mentality to people in a queue for something. Waiting at their place in line, they were annoyed by others pushing in ahead of them. And this was made worse when the queue jumpers responded to their complaints by accusing them of racism. I think the sociologist herself was politically liberal, but she stated that the Conservatives Whites she’d studied should not automatically be called racist and it was dangerous to do so.

Conclusion

It’s clear from all this that if we really want to tackle racism, we need to restore jobs, proper wages, trade union power, real affordable and council housing, and a proper welfare state. These are desperately needed by all members of the working class. I’ve no doubt that they’re most acutely needed by Blacks, but this certainly isn’t confined to them. Restoring prosperity would bring all the different racial groups that make up the working class together, and it would stop the resentment that leads to racial conflict by one group feeling disadvantaged for the benefit of the others.

 

Angela Rayner Urges People to Join A Union

May 12, 2020

This morning I, along with countless thousands of other Labour party members, got an email from Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner. I have to say that I didn’t vote for her in the leadership elections – I voted for Richard Burgon instead as a left-wing, genuinely Labour candidate. But Rayner’s message is one that I can totally get behind. She was urging me, and others like me, to join a union. She wrote

(L)ast night I sat shocked on my sofa as Boris Johnson spoke to our country.

Workers who can’t work from home were encouraged to go back to work – but given no guidance on how to stay safe.

Millions of jobs are impossible to do while 2 metres apart. Millions of us have been given no protective equipment. But David, we don’t have to sit on our sofas and take this.

When I was a care worker on a zero hour contract and poverty pay, I joined a trade union. With my union, alongside my work mates, I won better working conditions. Labour MPs will always fight for workers’ interests, and you can do the same by joining a union. Are you a trade union member?

This crisis has proved the strength of workers when we unite – whether you’re a construction worker or a care giver. It’s proved the power of having a trade union membership card in your pocket.

Trade unions fought for and won the furlough scheme. It’s trade unions who are making sure thousands of workers don’t get laid off during this crisis. In retail, healthcare, catering, building and beyond, union representatives are sorting safety measures like protective equipment, hand washing facilities and enough space to social distance. ​But we can’t rest until every worker does their job in safe and fair conditions.

The Labour Party was founded when working people came together to win. As one movement, we won a 5 day week, equal pay for women and a minimum wage. Together, we will win again.

Angela Rayner

Deputy Leader and Chair of The Labour Party

The question ‘Are you a trade union member?’ was followed by two answers,  ‘No, tell me how’ and ‘Yes – give me advice’. These were linked to the relevant TUC pages. The ‘No’ answer takes you to the TUC page on joining at union at

https://www.tuc.org.uk/join-union?source=20200511_UnionLab&subsource=bsd_email&utm_campaign=UnionLab&utm_medium=email&utm_source=bsd

This doesn’t apply to me, as I’m still off work because of the cancer treatment. But it very much applies to everyone fortunate to be employed. Whatever side of the Labour party you’re on, whether you’re left, right, centre or undecided, if you’re a working person you need to join a union. The unions have been there since the late 18th century, when they first appeared in the industrial north, to defend working people’s rights at work and fight for higher wages and better conditions.  The wage freezes and declining working conditions that have produced poverty, job insecurity and starvation in this country are a result of over four decades of right-wing governments doing their best to destroy the unions. And the situation for all too many millions is desperate.

We need to give working people back prosperity, job security and dignity, and that means strong unions. And they can only be made strong by people joining them.

So I urge everyone who can to join a union, because working people need their protection.

Deputy Leadership Contender Richard Burgon Warns Abandoning Corbynism Could Destroy Labour

March 13, 2020

Monday’s I, for 9th March 2020, carried a piece by Hugo Gye, reporting that Richard Burgon, one of the contenders for the deputy Labour leadership, had warned that the party could be destroyed if it abandons Corbynism. The piece ran

Labour could stop existing altogether if the party abandons the “pillars of Corbynism”, the deputy leadership contender Richard Burgon has warned.

He claimed the party risks being wiped off the electoral map unless it continues to embrace an “anti-establishments” stance. He suggested that Jeremy Corbyn lost the election because his team ran a campaign which was too conventional, with mass rallies replaced by press conferences.

Mr Burgon has been endorsed by allies of the leader including John McDonnell and Diane Abbott, is trailing far behind Angela Rayner in the most recent poll. In an interview with I, he insisted he had a chance of victory: “I think we can still win. The poll at the beginning of the contest shows a very different picture from the most recent opinion poll.”

The Leeds East MP promised to uphold “the three pillars of Corbynism” with pledges to expand internal democracy, commit to public ownership of industry and give members a veto over military action.

He said: “If Labour departs from being anti-establishment, I think the Labour Party could die.”

“There is no reason for any party to think it has an automatic right to exist and be successful. The only party in a way that has that right it the Conservative Party because the Conservative Party is attached to the ruling elite, the establishment.

“It could be the case that the devastating defeat that we suffered in 2019 is the start of something worse if we don’t draw the correct lessons from the election… What happened in Scotland in 2015 could happen in other parts of the country as well.”

Aksed what Mr Corbyn did wrong in the election campaign, Mr Burgon said: “We allowed the imagery of a our party in the 2019 election to become more conventional and less anti-establishment. In 2017 there were plenty of images of Jeremy speaking to big crowds outside, and that seemed to be replaced in 2019 more by images of Jeremy announcing policies in front of red screens to rooms of journalists.”

In fact the Tories were on the verge of breaking up after they suffered a series of election defeats by Blair. There was even talk of rebranding the party as ‘The English Nationalists’. Blair was successful in defeating them, but the cost was the loss of Labour’s traditional membership.

Regarding the reasons for the election defeat, I think the single strongest reason was Brexit. There were other factors – the message was confused and Labour weren’t successful putting it across, and the smears against Corbyn personally were extremely successful.

But Labour’s policies were popular. And despite the vicious Tory smears, they weren’t Communist or Trotskyite, just traditional, centre-left Labour policies before Blair decided that Thatcherism was the way forward. And Corbyn’s policies – for a strong welfare state, strong unions and workplace rights, a nationalised NHS and utility industries – are the only things that can restore this country and give back its working people their dignity and prosperity.

Anything else will just lead to more grinding poverty and disaster. Except for the Tory rich.

History Book on Why Israel’s Military Elite Can’t Make Peace

March 3, 2020

Postscript are a mail order company specialising in bargain books. I got their latest catalogue through the post today, and looking through it I found a book arguing that the country’s military leaders and the militaristic nature of Israeli society makes it impossible for the country to make peace. This is Fortress Israel – The Inside Story of the Military Elite Who Run the Country – and Why They Can’t Make Peace by Patrick Tyler, published by Farrrar Straus Giroux. The blurb for it in the catalogue runs

Since its foundation in 1948 Israel has been torn between its ambition to be ‘a light unto nations’ and its desire to expand its borders. Drawing on declassified documents, personal archives and interviews, this epic history demonstrates how military service binds Israelis to lifelong loyalty and secrecy, making a democracy a hostage to the armed forces. A compelling study of character, rivalry, conflict and the competing impulses for war and peace in the Middle East.

This has direct relevance to a recent attempt by the Israel lobby to smear yet another left-wing Labour MP as an anti-Semite. If I recall correctly, it was Richard Burgon, who said that ‘Zionism was the enemy of peace’. This was too much for the Israel lobby, despite the fact that Burgon was not speaking about Jews, but about Zionism. As any fule kno, Zionism is political doctrine, not a race, religion or ethnic group. The largest Zionist organisation in America, for example, is Ted Hagee’s Christians United for Israel And anti-Zionist and Israel-critical Jewish bloggers like Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, David Rosenberg and Martin Odoni, as well as anti-Zionist Jewish denominations and groups such as the Haredi and True Torah Jews, show that Judaism and Jewish identity most definitely is not synonymous with Israel, no matter how many laws Netanyahu passes declaring that Jews across the world are its citizens.

Burgon’s comment wasn’t a statement of anti-Semitic prejudice at all, but a perfectly reasonable opinion. The Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe, who now teaches at Exeter University here in the UK, has argued in his books, such as Ten Myths About Israel, that Zionism always implied the removal of the indigenous Arab people. And it also presented very strong evidence that Israel, contrary to its propaganda, was a reluctant participant in its various wars. Rather the Israeli leadership actively sought war, manipulating the Arab nations into striking first through military incursions and the denial of vital water supplies in order to give a false impression of its Israeli peacefulness and non-aggression. Tyler’s book adds yet more support to the view that Israel is indeed the enemy of peace.

It also shows another danger of the Israel lobby’s campaign to silence the country’s critics as anti-Semites. Not only has this led to the appalling smearing of perfectly decent, anti-racist people – one of whom recently died of the shock at her expulsion from the Labour Party, but it is also a danger to proper historical discussion, research and argument. The Israel lobby would like to substitute pro-Israel lies and propaganda for proper, objective history.

They aren’t just an attempt to affect political decisions and opinions, but also an attack on historical fact itself.

Tony Benn’s Suggestions for Media Reform

February 10, 2020

One of the other books I picked up going through the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham last Friday was Tony Benn: Arguments for Democracy, edited by Chris Mullins and published in 1981. Based on Benn’s speeches, articles and lectures over the previous two years, the book was Benn’s observation on the profoundly undemocratic nature of British society, and his suggestions for reform. He wanted to create a more democratic society that would empower ordinary people and move towards the establishment of socialism.

Although it was written forty years ago, the book and its arguments are still tremendously relevant. One of the chapters is on media bias against the working class and the Labour party. As we’ve seen over the past five years and particularly during the last election in December, this is very much a live issue because of the unrelenting hostility by nearly all of the media, including and especially the Beeb, against Jeremy Corbyn, his supporters and the Labour party as a whole. Benn discusses right-wing media bias in the chapter, ‘The Case for a Free Press’, and on pages 118 to 120 he makes his suggestions for its reform.  Benn wrote

‘Some Proposals for Reform

Reform of the media has only recently come to be taken seriously. The Glasgow University Media Group, the Campaign for Press Freedom, the Minority Press Group and academics such as James Curran at the Polytechnic of Central London have produced a wealth of carefully researched analysis and proposals for reform which would reward seriously study. At the time of writing the Labour Party National Executive Committee has a working party considering what must be done to obtain a media responsive to the needs of a twentieth-century democracy rather than an arm of the British establishment. I do not wish to anticipate the proposals of the working party, but in the interests of stimulating debate on this important subject I set out below some of the possibilities for reform which are now being discussed in the Labour Party and elsewhere.

  1. An Open Press Authority

This has been suggested by James Curran and Jean Seaton in their book Power Without Responsibility. This would be a public agency accountable to Parliament and it would aim to extend the freedom to publish. The OPA objectives would include the following:

i Provision off a launch fund, raised partly from a tax on media advertising expenditure, to assist new publications.

ii Grants to assist publications that have failed to attract significant advertising.

iii A National Print Corporation to extend modern printing facilities to a wide range of publications.

iv A guarantee of distribution for minority publications through a new wholesale organisation.

2. Anti-Monopoly Legislation

Considerations will have to be given to legislation to break up the huge newspaper monopolies; existing monopoly legislation has proved wholly ineffective for this purpose. Such legislation should also prohibit or severely limit investment by newspaper chains in television and commercial radio.

3. Reform of the Wholesale Trade

Wholesale and retail distribution of British newspapers and magazines in dominated by just three companies: W.H. Smith, John Menzies and Surridge Dawson. In many areas one or other of these companies has a complete monopoly. The result is that non-consensus publications have great difficulty in reaching the news stands. The French have solved this problem by imposing a legal obligation on wholesalers and retailers to carry, on request, all lawful publications excluding pornography. Publishers have to pay a handling charge on all returns. As a result the French public have access to a far more diverse range of political views than we do in Britain. The French example should be studied.

4 The Right of Reply

Where a newspaper or magazine has published a report about an individual or group which seriously distorts the truth, the person or organisation offended should have the right to set the record straight in the columns of that newspaper. The reply should be allotted adequate space and prominence and it should appear as soon as possible after the original story. It should be made legally enforceable. The Campaign for Press Freedom has set out the case for a right of reply in an excellent pamphlet.

5 Broadcasting

i Instead of being composed of the ‘great and the good’, worthy citizens chosen for their alleged impartiality, the boards of the BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority should contain representatives of a wide spectrum of opinion and interest groups.

ii The proceedings of the two boards of governors and all internal directives on policy should be publicly available.

iii The IBA should be given a legal obligation when awarding franchises, to give preference to non-profit-making applications such as cooperatives; at present most franchises got to companies more concerned with profits than quality.

iv The BBC is too big. It should be broken up into separate independent units for television, radio and the overseas service.

v The BBC licence fee, which places the Corporation at the mercy of the government, should be abolished and replaced by a grant awarded by Parliament five years in advance.

vi The Fourth Channel, as presently constituted, is controlled by the IBA and will buy in programmes from commercial companies. It should be reconstituted as a separate, publicly financed cooperative which would act as a ‘publisher’ of programmes made by freelance and independent production groups.

6 Satellite Broadcasting

By the mid-1980s satellite communication systems will make it feasible for American or European commercial television to be relayed into Britain. The result could be a diversion of advertising revenue away from existing publicly regulated services and an end of any chance of creating and maintaining public service broadcasting. As a matter of urgency Britain must contact other European governments with a view to placing under international control all companies using satellites for this purpose.’

He concludes the chapter with this:

These are some of the ways in which the British media could be developed to serve democracy rather than a consensus which has long been overtaken by events. I list these suggestions simply as a basis for consideration in an area where, until recently, there has been very little positive discussion. The free flow of information is the life blood of democracy and the present ownership structure and organisation of our media is incompatible with democracy. At a time of crisis, such as we now face, itis important that people should be able to choose freely between the various alternatives that political parties are seeking to put before them. To do that they need to be properly informed. That should be the role of the media in a democracy.

I’m not sure how many of these suggestions are relevant today, given the expansion of satellite and cable broadcasting,  the establishment of Channel 5 and the rise of the Net. My guess is that much of it is still acutely relevant, and the situation regarding the press monopolies has got worse since Benn wrote this. Murdoch now has an even firmer grip on the press and his own satellite channel, Sky, which he’d like to replace the Beeb. The Beeb has shown itself craven and massively biased towards the Tories, but they’re going to break it up and sell it off if they can in order to please Murdoch and the other commercial broadcasters. I think most of these reforms are still very much needed, but can’t see them ever being put in place given the massive opposition they provoke among the press and media barons, who control public opinion.

Corbyn’s supporters found a way round that with the internet, and Richard Burgon at the recent Labour deputy leadership hustings in Bristol suggested that Labour supporters should look to this and other alternative media rather than the old media. There are problems with this too, as the right have also latched on to the power of the Net. But it might just be the best, or only, way to move forward.

 

Flyers For Deputy Leadership Candidates Dawn Butler and Rosena Allin-Khan

February 3, 2020

I went to the hustings for the Labour deputy leadership in Bristol on Saturday. It was held in afternoon at a hall in Bristol City football ground in Ashton Gate. The hustings for leadership itself was in the morning, but unfortunately I couldn’t get tickets for that. They’d gone almost as soon as the news of them and how to apply for them appeared on line.

It was a really great afternoon, and very good indeed to see the five candidates appear and speak in person. They were Dr. Rosena Allin-Khan, Dawn Butler, Angela Rayner, Richard Burgon and Ian McCulloch. They spoke with passion, energy and intelligence, answering a series of questions that had been submitted by members of the local party. These covered issues like the NHS, mental health, racism, women and minorities, and even the role of cooperatives and the third sector. It was very clear that, whatever their differences, all of them were committed to getting Labour back into power and defending Britain’s working people from the Tories and their cuts. Angela Rayner, one of the centrists, went up in my estimation when she announced how much she despised the academies. I was also immensely impressed by Richard Burgon’s ringing denunciation of neoliberalism and his statement that he wanted to see Clause IV – the statement that the Labour party stands for the nationalisation of industry – back into the party’s constitution. It should never have been removed.

I’d like to blog further about the hustings in general, but in this post I simply want to talk about the flyers for two of the candidates I picked up. These were for Dr. Rosena Allin-Khan and Dawn Butler.

Here’s Dr. Allin-Khan’s.

Dr. Allin-Khan explained that she’s the daughter of a Polish mother and an Asian father, and made it very clear that she owed her success to the Labour giving her the opportunity to study medicine at Cambridge and become a doctor. She was very passionate about defending the health service, and mental health issues. She mentioned that her father was suffering from dementia, and she was extremely concerned about the children and young people she saw as doctor who were self-harming.

I think the front of the flyer is clear enough, but in case you can’t read the rear, it runs:

Why I’m standing

Growing up on the breadline, as a mixed race child, with a single mum, under Margaret Thatcher’s Government of the 80s, meant that the odds were stacked against my brother and I.

Constantly told that there was a ceiling on what I could achieve, when I failed my exams, my dreams of serving my community looked to be over.

A Labour Government transformed me life and enabled me to go to medical school and become an A&E doctor, where I still do frontline shifts. I am determined that no person should have a limit placed on them by this Conservative Government. As an MP, I’ve taken my passion for Labour values across the world in humanitarian crises, working with the most vulnerable. Only when we give a voice to the voiceless, can we create a more equal society.

We face a huge challenge ahead and we need to prove to the country that we can deliver on our promises.

As Deputy, I will lead from the grassroots, working hard across the UK. I will listen to members and together evaluate why we lost the last four general elections, then move forwards, starting by winning the elections in May.

I would give our emergency service workers a voice on shaping their future by offering them a reduced rate to join our party – we will fight to save our NHS from the Tory sell-off.

My aim is clear: to take Labour forward together and win the next General Election -join me.

Doctor Rosena Allin-Khan,

MP for Tooting.

And this is Dawn Butler’s.

In addition to the four points of Campaign, organise, Recruit and Educate, Butler added a fifth on the podium – Discipline. The party has to be united in order to defeat the Tories.

I hope you can read the five points of her plan as itemised on the card. If you can’t, they are:

  1. Unite our party and bring the party together, harnessing the talents of all, to take on the Tories.
  2. Invest in campaigning infrastructure in the regions, towns and cities and embed professional Organisers in more seats.
  3. Continue to champion great policies like the Green New Deal, equalities and strengthening employment rights.
  4. Work loyally with the Leader to elect a Labour government.
  5. As I have done throughout my role as Shadow Equalities Minister, I will fight bullying of all minorities to ensure we are an open and accepting society.

Like Dr. Allin-Khan, Butler has also had to fight to get to her current position. She says that when she was at school she was told she’d never make anything of herself, and that she should stick to running. She also said that even after she became an MP, she was so out of place as a Black woman, that when she entered a lift reserved for MPs, one of the others pointed this out to her and told her it wasn’t for cleaners. She is, as you might expect, very passionate on the subject of minority rights.

I’m afraid I can only put up flyers for Dr. Allin-Khan and Dawn Butler, as they’re the only flyers I was personally handed. I hope they help people in the Labour party wondering what the candidates stand for, and who they should back for this crucially important role.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Labour MP Richard Burgon Warns that War with Iran Could be Worse than Iraq

July 23, 2019

Yesterday’s I, for Monday, 22nd July 2019, also carried a very important piece by Chris Green, ‘Iran conflict could become ‘worse than Iraq war”, reporting the views of Labour’s shadow justice secretary, Richard Burgon, on the consequences of war with Iran. The article, on page 6, ran

A full-blown conflict between the US and Iran with Donald Trump in charge as President could prove to be worse than the war in Iraq, a senior Labour MP has warned.

Richard Burgon, the shadow Justice Secretary, said the UK risked being drawn into a conflict between Iran and the US as Mr Trump’s “sidekick”.

Comparing the deteriorating political situation to the build-up to the Iraq war, he said Boris Johnson and Mr Trump could act in concert in the same way as Tony Blair and George W. Bush did.

He called for the next prime minister to focus on “de-escalation” and “conflict resolution” rather than allowing the UK to become “messengers” for the US administration.

“If we end up in a conflict backed by Donald Trump then I think it would not only be comparable with Iraq, in fact it could be even worse than Iraq, and that should really scare everybody,” Mr Burgon told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.

He added: “We need sensible negotiations. We’ve got a really important part of play diplomatically in this. We can use our negotiating weight.

“I think that our government has international respect and this country has international respect in a way that Donald Trump doesn’t.

“I think we need to use that for the purposes of conflict resolution and for the purposes of making sure this doesn’t escalate out of control.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also spoke out about the crisis over the weekend, accusing the US President of fuelling the confrontation by “tearing up” the Iran nuclear deal.

Burgon and Corbyn are exactly right, as I’ve said many times before in posts about the possibility of war with Iran. Iran is like Iraq in that it’s a mosaic of different peoples. Just over 51 per cent of the population are speakers of Farsi, the ancient language of the poet Saadi and the Iranian national epic, the Shah-Nama. But the country is also home to Kurds, Arabs, Baluchis, Reshtis, Luris, Bakhtiaris and various Turkic-speaking tribes. Some of these peoples have very strong nationalist aspirations for an independent homeland. The Kurds have been fighting for theirs since before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, while there was also a series of jihads by some of the Turkic nomad peoples, after the Iranian government confiscated part of their tribal lands for settlement by Farsi speakers. The Arabic-speaking province of Khuzestan is also under very strict military control, and conditions in the camps for the oil workers there are similar to those concentration camps. In addition to a very strong military presence, the inmates are kept docile by drugs supplied by the Pasdaran, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. While the majority of the population are Twelver Shi’a, there are other religions. Three per cent of the population are Armenian Christians, and there are also communities of Jews and Zoroastrians, the followers of the ancient Persian monotheist religion founded by the prophet Zoroaster/Zarathustra. Tehran also has a church and community of Anglican Christians.

If, God forbid, the US and Britain do invade Iran, the country will descend into a chaos of ethnic violence and carnage exactly like Iraq. But perhaps, due to the country’s diverse ethnic mix, it could even be worse. The Anglican Church in Iran has, naturally, been under great pressure. If we do invade, I’ve no doubt that they will be targeted for persecution, as will the Armenian Christians, simply because their religion, Christianity, will be taken to be that of our forces. They’ll be killed, tortured or imprisoned as suspected sympathisers.

And any war we might fight won’t be for any good reason. It won’t be to liberate the Iranian people from a theocratic dictatorship or promote democracy. It will be for precisely the same reasons the US and Europe invaded Iraq: to seize that country’s oil industry and reserves, privatise and sell to multinationals its state enterprises, and create some free trade, low tax economy in accordance with Neocon ideology. And as with Iraq, it will also be done partly for the benefit of Israel. The Israelis hated Saddam Hussein because he sided with the Palestinians. And they hate Iran precisely for the same reason.

If I recall correctly, Burgon was one of those accused of anti-Semitism, because he said that Israel was the enemy of peace, or some such. It’s a controversial statement, but it’s reasonable and definitely not anti-Semitic. Israel is the enemy of peace. The expatriate Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe, very clearly and persuasively argues in his book, Ten Myths about Israel, that throughout its 70 year history Israel has manufactured causes to go to war with its Arab neighbours. It has never been serious about peace. And that’s particularly true about Iran. Netanyahu was chewing the scenery in front of the UN a little while ago, arguing that the Iranians were only a short time away from developing nuclear weapons. It was rubbish, as Netanyahu’s own armed forces and the head of the Shin Bet, their security ministry, told him. In fact, the evidence is that Iran kept to the nuclear treaty Trump accuses them of violating. They weren’t developing nuclear weapons, and commenters on Iran have said that when the Iranians said they wanted nuclear energy to generate power, they meant it. Iran’s main product is oil, and developing nuclear power for domestic use would mean that they have more to sell abroad, thus bringing in foreign cash and keeping what’s left of their economy afloat. And if we are going to discuss countries illegally possessing nuclear weapons, there’s Israel, which has had them since the 1980s. But as they’re the West’s proxies in the Gulf, nobody talks about it or censures them for it. Presumably it’s anti-Semitic to do so, just like it’s anti-Semitic to criticise or mention their ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

I think Burgon, or someone else like him also said that conquering Iran would not be as easy as defeating the Iraqis. The Iranian economy is stronger and more developed – it was under the Shah the most westernised and industrialised national in the Middle East. And its armed forces are better equipped.

I am not impressed by their seizure of our tanker, but I think it’s simply a case of tit-for-tat after we seized theirs off Gibraltar. And despite the noise from the Tories about calming the situation down, there are strong forces in the Trump’s government and the general Republican party agitating for war. Just as I’ve no doubt there is also in the Iranian government.

Such a war would be disastrous, and the looting of the nation’s industries, resources and archaeological heritage would be simply massive theft. And the destruction of the country’s people and their monuments, as happened in Iraq, would be a monstrous war crime.

The warmongers in the Republicans and Tories must be strongly resisted, and thrown out of office. Before the world is thrown into further chaos and horror.

Tony Greenstein on Israel’s Support for Murderous, Fascist Regimes

May 4, 2019

On Wednesday Tony Greenstein put up a piece on his blog, once against criticism the fake campaign against anti-Semitism against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party. This has zero to do with really defending Jews from abuse and assault from genuine anti-Semites and Nazis, like those of the youth terror group, National Action. No, it’s really purpose is to unseat Jeremy Corbyn because he stands up for the rights of the Palestinians against Israeli oppression, and because he threatens to destroy the forty-year reign of neoliberalism that has wrecked this country’s economy, made its working people paupers dependent on food banks, and killed the disabled.

In his piece, Greenstein described how the Labour party had gone along with British imperialism, which disguised its exploitation of its subject nations by presenting it as for their benefit. Hence the Labour party’s support in turn for Zionism, which was similarly presented as beneficial. He makes it clear that Richard Burgon, who was forced to apologise and recant his statement that Zionism was the enemy of peace, was actually quite right. And he gives a list of the viciously repressive, murderous regimes Israel has supported. Greenstein wrote

But it’s not only within the Middle East that Israel has been a threat to peace. It has consistently supported the most repressive and genocidal regimes abroad. It actively aided the genocide in Guatemala where up to 200,000 Mayan Indians were slaughtered. It supported the death squad regime in El Salvador. Shipped weapons to the Nicaraguan Contras when the US Congress cut them off. It supported Pinochet in Chile (Israel’s Supreme Court recently refused to allow the files to be opened on ‘national security’ grounds). It armed the neo-Nazi Junta of Argentina between 1976-1983 when it murdered up to 3,000 Jews and of course more recently it armed the Burmese regime as it committed genocide. Israel was also of course the main arms supplier to the Apartheid regime in South Africa, including nuclear weapons.

See: http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2019/05/how-to-create-anti-semitism-in-2-easy.html

These are horrific regimes. The atrocities committed by the Fascist death squads in Latin America, which involved not only mass murder, but torture, rape and sexual mutilation, are so horrific that I cannot decently describe them in this blog. By supporting these regimes, Israel was complicit in acts of genocide and crimes against humanity.

It also isn’t just Greenstein, who has argued that Burgon was right in his initial comment about Zionism. The Israeli expatriate historian Ilan Pappe says the same in his book, Ten Myths about Israel. Pappe argues very persuasively that Israel and its politicians have never been serious about making peace with the Palestinians, and have instead sought ways of provoking conflict while at the same time making it look as if they are the victims, not the aggressors. This is also argued by another book I’ve read, which stated that the real danger to Jews was Zionism.

Richard Burgon was absolutely right in his view that Zionism is a threat to peace. And it is absolutely disgusting that the Israeli state has supported utterly monstrous regimes across the world, which have tortured and murdered innocents in the tens and hundreds of thousands. And that any criticism of it for this is immediately condemned by the British establishment, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews, as ‘anti-Semitic’.