Posts Tagged ‘Strikes’

Farmer Jim Callaghan: A Missed Opportunity to Get the Rural Vote?

August 23, 2022

One of the pieces of news that came up on the internet news feed last week was that bug-eyed Liz Truss had been empty-chaired by farmers at a political meeting. Truss had either been due to speak or had been invited to speak at a rural hustings and had not appeared. So the farmers had their revenge by having her represented by an empty chair. Well, it could have been worse. When Roy Hattersley didn’t show as promised for an edition of Have I Got News For You in the ’90s, they simply replaced him with a tub of lard. Now what could have replaced Truss, I wonder? Possibly a lump of all that cheese she’s told us we’re going to sell to the Japanese, the majority of whom are lactose intolerant.

Most of England’s rural constituencies seem to be dominated either by the Tories or the Lib Dems, but I think Labour has missed an opportunity there. Firstly, one of the books I was reading about the origins of the welfare state said that the system of subsidies Attlee’s government introduced to support the farmers after the War actually saved them from bankruptcy, thus allowing them to pay their subscriptions to the Conservatives. Which sounds unkind, but is probably true. But it also shows that the Labour party isn’t just an urban party hostile to the countryside, as some have claimed.

Former MP Jim Callaghan is an example. Although he represented an urban constituency, he liked the countryside. He became a partner in a farm, finally taking full ownership. When he wasn’t in parliament or active in his constituency he was down working on his farm. This is in the book I got through the post the other day on the former Prime Minister. The writer of that particular chapter lamented that this enthusiasm for the countryside didn’t allow Labour to challenge the Conservatives on the image of the countryside as a rural idyll. Perhaps it didn’t. But I also feel that there was a lost opportunity to challenge the Tories in the countryside. Having a prime minister who actually worked as a farmer could have shown rural voters that far from removed, indifferent or hostile to rural Britain, Labour was actively involved out there and understand the concerns of farmers and the countryside. Of course, Callaghan had other issues on his plate, not least industrial unrest and the Winter of Discontent that finally brought him down. The Swedish socialist party were able to get the support of their country’s peasant farmers by taking their side during an agricultural crisis in the ’30s. They would turn up en masse to protest against farm repossessions. Perhaps this is a tactic Labour over here should consider when our farmers start going bankrupt thanks to the Brexit deal Johnson and his cronies have pushed through, which will damage our agriculture.

Oh no, that’s it! We’ve no need to worry, ’cause Truss has negotiated the cheese deal with Japan, and a pork deal with China.

New Advert for British Rail Nationalisation Shows Europeans Laughing at Britain for Allowing Them to Buy It Up

August 19, 2022

The Mirror has published a very incisive piece about an advert calling for the renationalisation of the railways, in which Europeans laughs at us for allowing their state owned railways to buy up ours. The article by Mike Boyd, ‘Europe mercilessly mocks UK government for allowing British rail to fund their rail systems’ begins

‘The British rail system has been mocked by Europeans appearing in an advert pushing for the network to be made public.

In the viral video produced by the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) – whose members are striking across the UK today – the franchised structure of the UK’s rail network is mercilessly ridiculed.

In the clip representatives of “the people” of France, Netherlands and Germany “thank the British people” allowing their “publicly owned rail networks” to “buy up your rail network”.

In one brutal moment the cast explain: “So when you buy a ticket on Thameslink, Gatwick Express, Grand Central, Chiltern Railways, Merseyside Rail, Scotrail, Greater Anglia, London Midland, DLR, Northern Rail, London Overground, Cross Country, Southern and South Eastern, the profits go to making our railways cheaper.”

They add: “In 2012 we got £3million just from Greater Anglia. Not only that, the British taxpayers pay our franchises massive subsidies, without which we could never make a profit.

“So even if you never catch a train, you’re still sending us money. But before you say, ‘ah, we’ve left the EU’, that doesn’t make a difference.

“In fact, the Tory government want to privatise even more, which means we can take over even more.

“So to the British people we want to say, thank you.”‘

The advert, the article says, was first made in 2017, and has resurfaced as the rail workers launch industrial action.

See: https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/europe-mercilessly-mocks-uk-government-for-allowing-british-rail-to-fund-their-rail-systems/ar-AA10Nk81?ocid=msedgdhp&pc=U531&cvid=9fa61476fe6f474a9295c590d336f5f1

This is precisely correct, and there was criticism a few years ago of the Dutch railway company’s management of one of the rail franchises a few years ago, though the company responded with a statement that they were actually investing millions into it. But this problem isn’t just confined to the railway networks – it’s also in the electricity and water companies. I’ve got a feeling that the local water company for Bristol is owned by the Indonesians, and at least one of the electricity companies owned by the French. This is all a product of Thatcher’s privatisation. These companies have no interest in giving the privatised utilities the investment they need, only in using the profits to give dividends to their shareholders and bonuses to their chief executives. There are state owned electricity companies in the US, and I understand that those that aren’t owned by the state are protected by law from foreign companies owning a controlling stake in them. The same is true of the press, which is why Dirty Rupe Murdoch abandoned Australia to become an American citizen.

The railways, electricity and water need to be renationalised now. However much the Heil, Torygraph, Financial Times and GB News may scream against it.

Petition from Mish Rahman against Starmer’s ban on Labour MPs Joining Striking Workers

August 11, 2022

I’ve just got this email through from Mish Rahman, a left-wing Labour MP, opposing Starmer’s diktat against Labour MPs joining picket lines and the sacking of Sam Tarry for doing so.

Tell Keir Starmer – Back Workers Taking Action!


Get involved: sign here / share here / retweet me here.

Hello David
 
The recent sacking of Sam Tarry for joining an RMT picket line was a low point for Keir Starmer’s time as Labour Leader, but it’s clear that the majority of Labour members, affiliates & supporters stand with those workers taking action during the deepening cost-of-living crisis.

I’m writing to ask you to join me and over 5000 others in clearly saying that all Labour MPs must back our unions and that Sam Tarry’s sacking should be reversed. Please take 30 seconds to:

  1. Sign and tell us why here.
  2. Share here on Facebook
  3. Retweet my message here.

Yours in solidarity, 
Mish Rahman, Labour NEC member on behalf of the Labour Assembly Against Austerity.

PS: Thank you to everyone who has backed my campaign to be re-elected to Labour’s NEC. You can read my launch article here.’

Well, I’ve done so, giving as my reason the fact that the Labour party was partly founded by the unions to defend trade unions and strikes, and that the first working people elected to parliament were the Lib-Labs. They were members of the Liberal party representing the trade unions. Banning MPs from joining picket lines betrays this working class activism.

If you feel the same way, perhaps you’d also like to sign the petition.

Letter from Local MP Karin Smyth Supporting the Railway Workers’ Strike

July 25, 2022

A few weeks ago I had an email from one of the left wing organisations asking me to write to my local MP to get them to support the railway workers strike. It was part of a national campaign, and they had already created a form letter you could use so that all you really needed to do is add your name and address. I was very happy to do this, as the railway workers’ strike isn’t just about the pay and conditions for the train drivers, but for all the railway workers, some of whom are going to be paid much less than them. And there are important questions regarding public safety, as well as the fundamental issue of the right to strike. Which the Tories would dearly love to strip from working people.

On Friday I was delighted to receive this reply from my local Labour MP for Bristol south, Karin Smyth, in which she gave her full support to the RMT strikers.

The letter reads:

‘Dear David

Thank you for contacting me about the industrial action on pay and conditions for rail workers

I appreciate the concerns you raise. Rail workers showed real bravery to keep the country going during the pandemic and were promised a high-wage economy by the Government as we emerged from it. Yet since then we have seen the biggest fall; in living standards since records began. I believe the Transport Secretary owes it to those rail workers, as well as the millions of people who rely on them, to help reach a deal.

However the Government’s legislation this week shows that rather than negotiating they are seeking to make the situation worse.

I agree the issues involved in this dispute are very serious, involving pay and cuts in safety and maintenance staff. The only way it can be resolved is with a deal on pay and job security, as it has been in Wales, where the devolved Government came together with employers and unions to manage change and avoid a strike. Employees have every right to fight for fair pay. I and my Opposition colleagues with always defend the right to strike.

The Transport Secretary has said these negotiations are a matter between the employer and the union. However, independent legal advice commissioned by the TUC found train operators “are not free to agree terms and conditions” with their employees without the involvement of the Secretary of State. It also found that he possesses “very significant contractual power to direct how industrial action such as the current strike is handled”.

I strongly believe helping resolve industrial disputes within and between publicly owned bodies like Network Rail is absolutely the Government’s duty, especially when rail is so key for our economy. My concern is that without a mandate to negotiate, talks between rail operators and unions are condemned to failure.

I am also alarmed by the Government’s plans to replace picketing workers with agency staff, which has been condemned by some of the biggest employment agencies in the country. In my opinion, it is unworkable, unsafe and goes against good employment practices and I will be working with colleagues to oppose the legislation on all counts.

Thank you again for contacting me.

Yours sincerely,

Karin Smyth

Labour MP for Bristol South.’

I am delighted that Karin is supporting the railway worker’s strike and opposing the government’s attempts to deny them the wages and conditions they deserve, but also to jeopardise public safety on this vital piece of our economy.

Blairites Clearly Worried that Strikes May Be Popular

July 1, 2022

Bravo to the RMT’s Mike Lynch, who’s been humiliating various journos on the right-wing news programmes by ably answering some of their stupid and very leading questions. Momentum put up a three minute video the other day of him being interviewed by Kaye Burleigh on Sky News.
She asked him what he was doing picketing. He casually turned part way round to indicate the picket line behind her, telling her that they were there and would try to persuade workers not to cross it. But what if they tried? asked Burleigh. Then we’d try to persuade them not to, replied Lynch. At which point she got a bit huffy. The miners’ strike was mentioned, with Lynch wondering if she was old enough to remember it. She said huffily that she was, and she knew what picketing was. She was clearly desperate to get him to say something incriminating, like violence might happen, but Lynch would not be baited. And he’s been causing panic with his calm, reasoned answered right across the news programmes. I went to a left-Labour Zoom meeting on Wednesday. It was a conversation between the mighty Richard Burgon and Jess Barnard, the awesome head of Young Labour. During their conversation they said that public support for the train workers – not just the drivers, but also the signalmen and the people who work to maintain it all – had gone up. Several Labour MPs have even defied Starmer to express their support and solidarity with the union and its strike.

This has clearly put the wind not just up Starmer, but up the Blairites as a whole. And as Corporal Jones used to say in Dad’s Army, ‘they do not like it up ’em. They do not!’ For some reason I’ve had a short, 1 1/2 minute video from New Labour appear on my mobile this afternoon of Tony Blair telling anyone who’ll listen why we shouldn’t support public sector strikes.

Rubbish! As Burgon and Barnard said, Labour was founded by the unions to defend union rights. And that also means public sector unions. I see absolutely no reason why anyone, who wishes to remain true to the party and its great traditions, should listen to either Starmer or Blair. When Blair took over the Labour party, he threatened to cut its ties with the unions if he didn’t get his way on reducing their voting powers in the party. This would effectively have torn the heart out of the party as a genuinely working class organisation. The subtitle for this wretched video described Blair as Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007. So he was, during which time the number of people voting Labour actually went down along with the party’s membership. The number of people voting for Blair was actually less than those voting for Jez Corbyn. Blair only won because the Tories were even worse.

Why did the Labour vote and membership decline? That’s not a difficult question! It might have something to do with Blair carrying on Thatcher’s programme of privatisation, including that of the NHS, the further destruction of the welfare state and lying about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction which he could launch within forty minutes to take us into an illegal war. A war which wrecked a country and destabilised the entire Middle East, leaving it vulnerable to the horrible predations of ISIS. Hussein was a monster, but by the time he invaded he was not a threat to the other countries and something of a joke in the Arab world. He was certainly no threat to Britain. We sent our brave lads and lasses into Iraq not to defend Blighty, not to give the Iraqis democracy, but simply so that the oil companies and multinationals could steal Iraq’s oil and its state industries.

Blair’s a war criminal who should have been put on trial at the Hague alongside other monsters like Slobodan Milosevic. But somehow New Labour, now looking very shabby and shop-soiled, expect us to hang on his words like an elder statesman, like some latter day Pericles or Solon, but from Islington rather than Athens.

Bilge! Blair should shut up and keep silent. He had his time and it was over 15 years ago. As for Starmer, he’s a disgrace. They’re probably arguing that supporting public sector strikes will make the party unpopular. But I think they’re really scared that the RMT strike is proving all too popular, and that other unions are joining in to demand better wages for their workers.

And hooray for them, and yay for Mike Lynch!

Here’s the video Momentum put up of Lynch very capably rebutting Kaye Burleigh’s questions.

Megaphone Petition Against Government Plans to Allow the Hiring of Agency Strike Breakers

June 24, 2022

I’ve also received this email from Megaphone urging people to sign their petition about the government’s proposal to undermine the unions by allowing companies to hire agency staff to break the strike. I’ve signed it, as strikes, or the threat of strike action, is the major weapon for unions to protect the rights of their members and workers as a whole.

‘David —

This week has been huge for the trade union movement. The TUC Join a Union website is seeing record traffic, with visits this week up 800%. 

As RMT members stand up for their jobs, pay and our services, they are giving hope and confidence to millions of workers. The last few weeks has clearly shown that if you want a pay rise, a secure job and a decent life, you need to be in a union.

So what has the governments response to this been? To propose laws that would undermine the most powerful tactic working people have: strike action.

The Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, is proposing to change the law to allow companies to replace striking workers, with inexperienced agency workers. 

The government will try to sneak these changes through so people don’t notice, so we must get the word out far and wide. We will not let them undermine our right to strike.

Will you add your name to the petition to stop plans to undermine unions by allowing companies to hire temporary staff during strike action?

Sign the petition

We cannot let this happen.

Allowing agency staff to replace striking workers would undermine the right to strike and create genuine safety risks for the public and workers.

Please sign and share the petition now.

In Unity,

Anthony,

Megaphone UK

Email from the Megaphone Urging Support for the Railway Strike

June 21, 2022

I also got this email from the left-wing campaigning organisation the Megaphone urging people to write to their MPs making it plain they support the RMT and the railway strike. As the email points out it’s not just about the train drivers’ pay, but about all the other rail workers and opposing the devastating cuts to public services.

‘David,

It’s the biggest show of industrial power in a generation.

Rail unions are running three days of national strike action to put a stop to devastating cuts to services, staff and conditions proposed by company bosses on million-pound salaries.

When jobs are on the chopping block and livelihoods are at stake, union members stand together to defend each other.

And 50,000 rail workers from mechanics to depot workers, ticket officers and many more need our solidarity tomorrow:

In just a few hours, rail workers across the UK will take to the picket lines for the fight of their lives. Can you write to your MP and show you stand with them?

WRITE TO YOUR MP

We have the resources and the funding to build a world-class rail system in the UK.

But for two years, this government and the Transport Minister have chosen confrontation over negotiation.

They choose to bail out private companies, while workers in safety-critical jobs face the sack.

They choose to condemn rail unions, when train bosses make millions in profits and cut corners on pay.

They even want to ban the right to strike, removing our most powerful bargaining tool when we have no other means to act.

Everyone deserves better pay, jobs and services. And rail workers are standing up for our safety.

A win for rail workers this week is a win for all of us in the UK who believe in our collective power to organise, demonstrate and win a better future.

Defend our rail service and defend people’s jobs — email your MP and ask them to write to the Transport Minister today.

In solidarity with tomorrow’s strikers,

Anthony,

Megaphone UK’

I’ve had absolutely no problem writing to my local MP to say that I do, and I support not only the union’s strike, but the fundamental right to strike, which the Tories have always hated and always tried to curb and ban anyway they can.

Privatisation has been a disaster. The rail network needs to be taken back into public ownership and properly funded and maintained, without the profits being siphoned off into shareholder’s dividends and the bloated salaries of the management.

Rightwingers Outraged at Acquittal of the Four Who Toppled Colston’s Statue

January 7, 2022

As a Bristolian with long personal roots in the city, I feel I’ve got to tackle this. The four people responsible for pulling the down the statue of the 18th century slave trader and philanthropist in a massive Black Lives Matter protest last year were on trial for it this week. They were charged with criminal damage, and yesterday were found ‘not guilty’ by the jury. And the right has been predictably incensed. The story’s on the front page of the Daily Mail, which reports that the jury may have been placed under pressure to acquit by the defence, which urged them ‘not to be on the wrong side of history’. The prosecution is therefore planning to appeal the decision. Nigel Farage has released a video on YouTube about it. Mixed-race Tory commenter Calvin Robinson has appeared on GB News talking about it. And inevitably the Lotus Eaters have also released a video about it, with Callum and one of Sargon’s other mates expressing their poor opinion of the whole thing. The message from the right has been the same: this decision imperils every statue in Britain, because it legitimises attacks on them through an appeal to the emotions of the attacker regardless of the letter of the law. Calvin Robinson in his interview on GB News agreed with the two journalists, one Black, one White, that you had to be very careful about limiting people’s freedom of expression. However the decision to acquit was, he explained, based on a legal loophole in the criminal damage law. This permits such damage, if the property damaged or destroyed itself serves to promote a crime. The argument made by the accused in a feature about them in the Groan was that the statue constituted a hate crime against Black Bristolians. The right-wing critics of the decision have therefore argued that this makes every statue unsafe, as an emotional reason could be found for any attack on them. The person, who vandalised Churchill’s statue last year could get off because, despite defeating Fascism, Churchill was a racist and imperialist. They have also made the point that the decision also means that Conservatives also have a right to tear down Marx’s bust in London, as he was also racist and anti-Semitic, quite apart from the millions murdered under Communism. Darren Grimes, the repulsive spawn of the Guido Fawkes site, said that he could also therefore tear down the statue of Friedrich Engels in Manchester.

Jury Freedom and the Historic Acquittal of Guilty Murderers

Yesterday Simon Webb of History Debunked also joined the debate, comparing the decision to the jury’s acquittal of the attackers of three policemen during a riot in 1820s London. The cops had been stabbed, and one killed, but the jury acquitted their attackers because the cops had attacked in a particularly aggressive and provocative manner. Webb stated that back in the 17th and 18th centuries judges could and did send juries back to reconsider their verdict, and even imprison them if they didn’t give the right verdict as directed. It was, of course, a great improvement to allow the juries the freedom to judge themselves rather than according to the opinion of the beak. But this did raise problems in cases like this. Indeed. Juries won the right to judge freely according to their own judgement following arguments for such free trials by the Levellers and particularly when William Penn, a Quaker and the founder of Pennsylvania, was put on trial for preaching his radical views in Bristol. The jury repeatedly refused the judge’s order to find guilty, and were even imprisoned. They eventually won out, and the trial helped established true British justice.

Allegations of Bias against Witness David Olasuga

One of the other objections to the trial was that one of the witnesses was the historian, David Olasuga. whom the Lotus Eaters describe as a Black activist and who admitted that, had he been able, he would have joined the mob in toppling the status. There is indeed a problem with Olasuga as some of his historical interpretations are questionable. For example, he and Reni Edo-Lodge turned up in video by the Beeb laying a plaque in Liverpool to a victim of racist lynching. Except that Wootton, the lynched man, had been part of a gang of West Indians, who had launched an attack on a group of Swedes and Russians. When a cop intervened, the West Indians repeated stabbed and tried to slash his throat. They retreated to a house where someone, probably Wootton, shot three policemen, before he was chased down to the docks trying to escape. He was hardly an innocent victim. Olasuga has been one of the Black historians claiming that historically, Britain had a much larger Black community than it probably did. He claims that there were Blacks in Roman Britain. History Debunked has shown that this largely comes from one of the legions at Hadrian’s Wall coming from the Roman province of Mauretania. This has been confused with the present day country in West Africa. However, the Roman province of Mauretania was further north in Morocco. I think there are perfectly reasonable questions of bias in Olasuga’s testimony.

Political Bias in Prosecution of Vandals

And then have come the various commenters sneering and deriding Bristol. I’ve seen the usual rants about how it’s a ‘Communist’ or ‘left-wing’ shithole; it’s a lefty university town, and as terrible as Liverpool or London. Rather more interesting was one comment from a working class Bristolian, who had been having a meal at a cafe in the city, whose customers were largely Black West Indians. These people had all been solidly against the decision. I can well believe it. I don’t think the Black community Bristol or elsewhere in our great nation is a monolithic bloc. Just like other racial groups, like Whites, Asians or Jews aren’t either. As for the four defendants, they were White middle class liberal kids, who most likely didn’t come from Bristol. There was also speculation about what would happen if someone vandalised a statue to a Black personality, like Nelson Mandela. Would this be treated the same way? Not if the example of the vandalism done to a mural of Marcus Rashford was an example. Although the messages sprayed on it weren’t racist, it was nevertheless treated as a racist hate crime. Actually, you don’t have to look that far for a similar example. After Colston’s statue was torn down, a bust in one of Bristol’s parks of a Black writer and dramatist was vandalised and the cops were after those responsible.

Some Black Bristolians Genuinely Upset at Statue

As for the feelings of fear or outrage that the defendants claimed justified the attack, the Black interviewer on GB News and Robinson both questioned whether Black people are so emotional fragile that they would be upset simply walking past Colston’s statue. Some may well not be, but others definitely were. Asher Craig, Bristol’s deputy elected mayor, head of equalities and city councillor for St. George’s, was on Radio 4 last year giving her opinion about the statue and Bristol’s historic connection to the slave trade. The programme also talked to others about it, including one ordinary Black woman. She said that she felt physically sick having to walk past it on the way to work every morning. I understand and sympathise. I think her example was far better and more persuasive than the various political activists angrily demanding that it should be torn down. It was the voice of an ordinary, working-class woman, about how the statue affected her.

Arguments for the Preservation of the Statue

It also has to be stated that Black Lives Matter’s attack was deliberately against the wishes of Bristolians themselves. There had been several polls in the past about whether the statue should be taken down or not. The majority of people voted against it. Paul Stephenson, one of the organisers of the Bristol bus boycott in the 1960s against the bus company’s refusal to employ Blacks, gave his opinion on the issue in an interview with Philippa Gregory in the 1990s. Gregory had just had her novel, A Respectable Trade, about the Bristol slave trade adapted for television and there was an exhibition about the city and slavery then at the City Museum and Art Gallery. It has since been moved and is now on display, sans title, at the city’s excellent M Shed Museum. Stephenson has something of a mixed reputation. To some he’s a respected civil rights activists, while others regard him more a deliberate troublemaker. He declared to Gregory that Colston was a bloody mass murderer responsible for a ‘Holocaust in Africa’. This follows the statement of W.E.B. DuBois, the pioneering American Black rights activist, that slavery and the slave trade were a Black Holocaust. It sounds like hyperbole, a deliberately emotional exaggeration, but I believe it’s based on the accounts of 19th century anti-slavery activists about the fierce tribal violence generated by the slave trade, and the devastation of whole regions as a result. But Stephenson also said that he didn’t think the statue should be torn down. He believed it should remain standing with an additional note to remind people of his crimes. A similar argument was made by the Lotus Eaters, who felt that statues should be left standing, even though they may be to terrible people, because they’re history. And we need to learn from history if we are to move on.

It’s a perfectly good argument, and one advanced in the ’90s by radical anarchist band The Levellers. They took their name from the radical, proto-democrat, proto-socialist sect during the British Civil War. They also believed in ‘Godly reformation’ and so, along with the other merchandising at their concerts were copies of the Bible and Christopher Hill’s Marxist study of the British Civil War, The World Turned Upside Down. I particularly remember one of their songs that had the lines ‘I believe in justice, I believe in vengeance, I believe in getting the bastard’. But they also released a song protesting about the decision by Manchester’s Labour council to rename the town’s historic Free Trade Hall. They objected to it because it was the destruction of history and an attempt to rewrite the past. It’s strange and rather disconcerting that they should have the same view on this issue from a libertarian left perspective, as the Tories.

Lastly, it needs to be remembered that Colston was not honoured for enslaving Blacks. The statue was put up long after that was over. Rather it was because he was a great philanthropist, who gave much of his fortune away in charity. There were schools named after him and funded by his largesse. My old school used to celebrate Colston Day in his honour, when the children were given a few days off. A few were specially honoured and went to a special service at Redcliffe Church, where they were given a Colston bun.

Bristol Great City

Now for a few remarks on the decision and the views of the various right-winger, who have sounded off about it. Firstly, Bristol isn’t a shithole. It’s a large, great city with a proud history of trade, exploration, industry and invention with excellent museums and theatres. The Bristol Old Vic and its theatre school have a particularly excellent reputation and have produced some of the country’s great thesps. It has it’s problems. I believe that the Bristol’s Black community is one of the three largest in the country, along with Birmingham and London. It has its problems with marginalisation, lack of educational achievement, unemployment, drugs and violent crime, though this is by no means confined simply to Blacks. But it’s not particularly left-wing. Some areas, like Stokes Croft, have a reputation for radical politics. I’ve heard local people refer to it as ‘the people’s republic of Stokes Croft’. Other areas are Conservative, and all the shades of political opinion in between.

Academic Freedom and Marxist Indoctrination at Universities

As for the universities, the comment blaming them for the decision comes from the standard right-wing attitude that the unis are full of Marxists indoctrinating students. In fact, universities, courses and individual lecturers vary immensely. Some universities had a reputation, even in my day, for being hotbeds of left-wing activism, others were more Conservative. It also varies with the course you’re on. There hasn’t, traditionally, been much opportunity for far left-wing indoctrination in maths, science, medicine and engineering courses because of the nature of those subjects. Although it’s creeping in now in the form of ethnomathematics and the demands that the achievements of Black scientists and mathematicians should be particularly taught, it’s mostly been confined to the humanities. There have always been Marxist historians. These include the very well respected Christopher Hill, Eric Hobsbawm and E.P. Saunders, and there is a specific Marxist view of history. You are taught about this on the historiography courses in history at University, along with other forms of history, such as women’s history, social history, what Butterfield called the ‘Whig view of history’ and more conservative and Conservative views. I’ve been taught by lecturers with feminist or left-wing views. I’ve also been taught by people with far more traditional views. I also know lecturer who determined to keep their political views out of the classroom. University is supposed to be a place of free speech and debate, and it’s important that this is maintained. Students should be encouraged to read sources and the historical literature critically, and make up their own views. This means an engagement with Marxism as well as other ideologies. I think Bristol university has particularly come under fire because it’s rather more conservative and traditional compared to the newer universities. It received funding from the Colston charities when it was established early in the last century. Hence I believe the granting of a chair in the history of slavery to a Black woman. It also has relatively few Black students, which contrasts with the population of the city as a whole. This is partly because it has very high standards, and as a rule Blacks generally have poorer grades than other racial groups. It is also no doubt because when I was young, going away was seen as part of university education and so you were discouraged from applying to the local university. Hence the university is now trying to give greater opportunities to study to more Blacks and ethnic minorities.

Queer Theory, Critical Race Theory and the Marxist Attack on Western Culture

Now I largely agree that the acquittal of the four defendants has set a dangerous precedent because it allows people to attack public monuments they dislike or which are controversial. James Lindsay, one of the group with Peter Boghossian and Helen Pluckrose that has attacked postmodernist Critical Theory, has argued that ideologies like Queer Theory and Critical Race Theory are deliberate attacks on traditional western culture and Enlightenment values. They are aimed at destroying the past to create a Marxist future, just as Chairman Mao did during the horrors of the Cultural Revolution. One of the ancient monuments the Red cadres smashed as part of the campaign against the ‘Four Olds’ was the tomb of Confucius! This sounds like an idea straight out of loony right-wing paranoids and conspiracists like Alex Jones and the John Birch Society, until he backs it up by reading chapter and verse from the founders of such postmodernist Marxism, like Marcuse, Horkheimer and others. And yes, I can quite believe that vandalism to a monument to a Black politico or celebrity, like Nelson Mandela, would be treated far differently and as a terrible hate crime than the attack on Colston.

But regardless of the defence’s plea to the jury to ‘be on the right side of history’, I think there would always have been pressure on the jury to acquit. Colston was a slave trader and had been controversial for decades. They naturally wouldn’t have wanted to acquit people who attacked a monument on that score, rather than the philanthropy the statue commemorated. And the defendants make a good point when they say that ‘he no longer speaks for Bristol’. There were others in the city who opposed the slave trade. As well as the slavers and the West Indian planters, Bristol also had a large abolitionist movement. If you go a little way from the centre of Bristol into Redcliffe, you’ll find the Georgian church where Jeremiah Clarkson, one of the leading 18th century abolitionists, collected the testimony of Bristol’s slavers as part of his evidence against the trade.

Other Statues Not Vandalised

As for other statues, none of those in the surrounding area were touched. Not the statue to Edmund Burke, the politician and founder of modern Conservatism through his book, Reflections on the Revolution in France. The Lotus Eaters are offering it, or reading through it, as their ‘book of the month’. I wonder if they’ll mention that Burke’s statue was signally left untouched by the rioters. As was the statue of a monk in Lewin’s Mead, which had before the Reformation been a monastic complex. They also failed to destroy the statue of Neptune and a sailor on the docks. Queen Victoria was left untouched on nearby College Green. They also didn’t destroy the statue of John Cabot outside the Council House, sorry, ‘City Hall’ and the Central Library. This was despite various ‘spokesmen’ for the Black community claiming that the City’s celebration of his discovery of Newfoundland and America, following Columbus, was a celebration of slavery. There may well be similar defences used on similar attacks on other statues, but I think such attacks will be far more difficult to defend. Churchill was indeed a racist and an imperialist, as well as personally responsible for sending troops to gun down striking miners in Wales. But to the vast majority of severely normal Brits he was also the man, who helped save Europe and the world from Nazism and the Axis. And that would also count powerfully in the case against anyone who vandalised his monument.

Historians also Successfully Defend Controversial Statues

As for testimony from historians, this can work against the iconoclasts. The BLM fanatics trying to get the statue of Cecil Rhodes torn down at Oxford university claimed that he was somehow ‘South Africa’s Adolf Hitler’. Now Rhodes was a grotty character and an imperialist, but this goes too far. Rhodes’ biographer tackled this claim on social media, at which the BLM protesters making it went quiet. They couldn’t refute it, and so went silent.

I therefore do not feel that other statues are necessarily in a greater danger than previously because of the acquittal.

Then there’s the question of any possible statue to replace it. There are rumours that it could be a Black person. Well, if there is, it should be of a Black person, who actually had contact and lived in the city. One of Bristol’s sporting heroes way back was a Black boxer. One of my aunts was friends with his daughter. I’d say this gentleman would be a good candidate for such a statue, because as a sports hero he united everyone from left and right, as well as being a citizen of Bristol.

Nigel Farage has suggested a memorial to the British navy. Absolutely. The British West India squadron did excellent work patrolling the seas for slavers. And they were by no means all racist. Captain Denman, giving evidence on a massacre of 300 unsold slaves by one of the West African slaving states to parliament, made the point that ‘it is remarkable given the advances they have made in the arts of civilisation’. He clearly believe European civilisation was superior, but had been particularly shocked because the African peoples responsible for the massacre were also comparatively civilised. Africans serving or aiding the British navy were also given the compensation payments awarded to British tars when they suffered injury and loss of limbs.

We also patrolled the waters between east Africa and India to stop western and Arab slavers, and one antipodean historian has written that in the Pacific, the royal navy was the chief protector of its indigenous peoples against enslavement.

It also needs to be remembered that one of the reasons for the British invasion of Africa was to stamp out slavery and the slave trade. I’ve no doubt that the main, if not the real reasons were simple hunger for territory and resources, and to stop those areas falling into the hands of our European imperial rivals – France, Germany, Italy and Portugal. But some of the officer involved took their duty extremely serious, such as Samuel Baker and Gordon of Khartoum. The Mahdi, against whom Gordon fought, and his followers were slavers outraged at the British government’s ban on it and the enslavement of Black Sudanese. There are therefore excellent reasons for putting up a memorial to the British navy and armed forces.

And I would also support a statue to Jeremiah Clarkson for his work in the city bringing the horrors of the trade to light.

In the meantime, despite the right-wing outrage at this act of vandalism, I think we should view the attack on Colston’s statue as a special case.

Claims of a general threat to British history because of it may well be exaggerated.

Alex Belfield Attacks Rishi Sunak Cutting Miners’ Pensions

July 5, 2021

More from the person Gillyflowerblog, one of the great commenters here, has described as my favourite right-winger. Belfield is definitely a man of the right with some appalling views, and many of my commenters understandably can’t stand him. But here he says something that should be coming from the left. Rishi Sunak has decided that he’s going to cut miners’ pensions by £14 per week in order to save £1 billion. And Belfield begins his video by saying he’s never been so appalled. He attacks Hancock for channelling government money and support to his friends in the hospitality industry, but the government is now saying that they can’t afford to support the people who did one of the most dangerous jobs on Earth.

Belfield makes much of the fact that he grew up in a pit village. He remembers the ’80s and ’90s and how those years tore communities apart, between scabs and strikers, people who did one thing and those who did another, simply to put food on the table. That’s why he’s a fan of the film Brassed Off, because it feels so raw and captures that period so well. Miners were killed not just by accidents but also through the stuff they inhaled that damaged their lungs. Many of those, whose pensions will be cut have already died. He makes it very clear that he despise this move to cut the pensions of men, who worked extremely hard and suffered much to feed and light this country.

This, however, is what corporatist capitalism is. It’s been described as ‘socialism for the rich’, as government aid is removed from the poor and needy, and given instead to the rich and greedy in the form of subsidies, tax breaks and so on. And the government is four-square behind it. I can also remember the miners’ strike, and my mother told me today of something her mother said about remembering the miners in the Bristol area marching through town begging when they were striking, because they were so poorly paid. Yes, Belfield is an appalling right-winger, but when he attacks the government for their attacks on working people, I’ll put it up regardless. It doesn’t matter if it comes from left or right, within reason. If it’s correct, I’ll reblog it.

But if Belfield’s correct this time, then I do wonder what Starmer’s position on this is. He should be condemning it, but he’s a Blairite, who’s afraid of offending all those middle class people on the right he wants to appeal to. So will keep silent, and once again betray the working class by not speaking up?

Radio 4 Programme on Friday on the History of British Fascism

February 17, 2021

Radio 4 on Friday, 19th February 2021 begins a new, three part series on the history of British Fascism, Britain’s Fascist Thread. The blurb for the programme in the Radio Times, which is on at 11 O’clock in the morning, runs

Historian Camilla Schofield explores a century of British fascism, from the formation of the British Fascisti in 1923, arguing that it is a central and ongoing part of the British story. The first programme takes the rally staged by the British Union of Fascists at Olympia in June 1934 as a keyhole through which to look in order to understand fascism in the years before the Second World War.

The additional piece by David Crawford about the series on the facing page, 132, reads

There have been fascist movements in Britain for almost a century now and, with the recent news of young teenagers being arrested for being a part of neo-Nazi groups, it seems as if this stain on our national character is not fading away. Historian Camilla Schofield, who has published a book on Enoch Powell and Britain’s race relations, argues that fascism shouldn’t be seen as something alien imported from abroad but a central and, yes, ongoing part of the British story. This three part survey of British Fascism begins at the rally by Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists at Olympia in 1934 then rewinds to 1923 when the androgynous, upper-middle class Rotha Lintorn-Orman formed the British Fascisti, supposedly after an epiphany while digging her garden. A warning from history not to take our precious democracy for granted.

Martin Pugh also argues that British Fascism wasn’t an import from abroad but a continuation of certain strands in British political history in his book on British Fascism between the Wars. This is based on the British Fascists’ own contention that their movement had its basis in Queen Elizabeth’s enfranchisement of certain towns in the 16th century. This formed a native corporatist tradition like the corporate state Mussolini was creating in Fascist Italy.

As for Rotha Lintorn-Orman, I think this very middle class lady was an alcoholic, who thought that she was in astral contact with the spirit of the Duc d’Orleans, a nobleman from the time of the French Revolution. This aristo’s ghost told her that all revolutions from the French to the Russian were the work of the Jews, who were trying to destroy European, Christian civilisation.

The British Fascisti were really extreme right-wing Tories rather than Fascists proper. They specialised in disrupting socialist meetings and supplying blackleg labour during strikes. In one confrontation with the left, they managed to force a van supplying copies of the Daily Herald, a Labour paper, off the road. I think Oswald Mosley described their leadership as consisting of middle class women and retired colonels. They were in talks to merge their organisation with Mosley’s until Britain’s greatest wannabe dictator asked them about the corporate state. I don’t think they knew what it was. When he explained, they decried it as ‘socialism’ and Mosley decided that they weren’t worth bothering with.

Pugh’s book also argues that the British idea that our nation is intrinsically democratic is very much a product of hindsight. He points out that there was considerable opposition to democracy amongst the upper classes, especially the Indian office. British ideas about the franchise were tied to notions of property and the ability to pay rates. The French notion that the vote was an inalienable right was rejected as too abstract.

British fascism is also shares with its counterparts on the continent an origin in the concerns of the 19th century agricultural elite with the declining health and fitness of their nations. The upper classes were appalled at the poor physiques of men recruited by the army to fight the Boer War from the new, industrial towns. There was an obvious fear that this was going to leave Britain very weak militarily.

It’s also struck me that with her background in race relations, Schofield will also argue that British fascism also has its roots in native British racism and imperialism, citing organisations such as the anti-Semitic British Brothers League, which was formed to stop continental Jewish immigration to Britain.

Oswald Mosley also tried telling the world that British fascism wasn’t an import, but then, he also tried telling everyone that the Fasces – the bundle of rods with an axe – was an ancient British symbol. It wasn’t. It was a Roman symbol, and represented the power of the lictor, a type of magistrate, to beat and execute Roman citizens. It was adopted by Mussolini as the symbol of his movement, Fascism, which actually takes its name from the Italian word fascio, which means a bundle or group. I think that Pugh’s right in that there certainly is a native tradition of racism and extreme nationalism in Britain, and that the British self-image of themselves as an innately democratic nation is a product of Churchill’s propaganda during the Second World War. However, Fascism proper with its black shirts and corporative state is very much an import from Mussolini’s Italy. But then, Mosley also claimed that socialism and liberalism were also imports. It will, however, be interesting to hear what Schofield has to say, especially with the really bonkers parts of British fascism, like Lintorn-Orman and her spiritual conversations with French aristocratic Jew-haters from the Other Side.