Posts Tagged ‘Strikes’

RT Video of Teachers’ Demonstration in Washington against Betsy DeVos

October 17, 2017

Betsy DeVos is Trump’s education secretary. She’s a multimillionaire member of the family behind the Amway pyramid scheme, who has never attended a public, that is, state school in her life, and as a bright red corporate Republican, hates them with a passion. She, like her master, Trump, wants to privatise them, and turn them into charter schools. This means that they will be able to circumvent the state legislation regulating teaching standards, the pay and conditions of teaching staff, just like Academies in the UK. And in the case of America, they will also be outside the legislation outlawing the teaching of religion in schools.

Teachers in America, like those in Britain, are extremely worried and angry. This is a video by RT America of a demonstration by public school teachers outside the Hyatt Regency Bellevue Hotel in the state of Washington last Friday, 13th October 2017. The assembled educators have placards proclaiming ‘Stop Fascism’, protesting the privatisation of the American school system, and demanding an end to the road from school to prison. I don’t know the particular symbolism, but some of the female demonstrators lined up to wear 17th/18th century dress with red capes, holding placards, which read out ‘This nightmare will end’.

Mike and I both went to Anglican church school in Bristol, and I have absolutely nothing against the teaching of religion in schools nor the state supporting faith schools. I’m not a secularist. Religious education in British schools hasn’t prevented the increasing secularisation of society. Religion, and more recently the attempts of secular philosophy to grasp with the deep issues of humanity’s existence, morality and meaning, have been part of human culture and identity for centuries, if not millennia. It can also be argued that we need proper teaching about each others’ religious beliefs as society has become more plural and multicultural, so that children do not get distorted or bigoted pictures of our fellow citizens and their religious beliefs or secular philosophies.

But I’m also aware that American society and educational tradition is different, and that there are quite legitimate concerns that what these schools will push is not education, but indoctrination. Just as there are concerns over here about the extremist agenda pursued by some of the new faith schools established in the UK.

Mine and Mike’s mother was a junior school teacher for many years, and I did my first degree at an Anglican teacher training college, and so have some understanding from the inside of what teachers face. Contrary to what the Republicans and Conservatives would have us all believe, teachers as a rule don’t want to indoctrinate children with lesbian feminist cultural Marxist propaganda, although they do want to make sure that girls as well as boys reach their academic potential, and they do have a statutory duty tackle prejudice, including homophobia. But most of all, teachers want to stand in front of a White board and teach. And those I know, who’ve done it state that it’s immensely rewarding. They want to see their pupils do well, and become bright, inquiring members of society. They want to pass on the interest and passion they have for the subjects they teach, whether English, maths, science, history, whatever to the children in their care.

I’m perfectly aware that there are some terrible teachers. But the good far outnumber the bad. Teachers in this country have been appallingly treated by successive governments ever since Margaret Thatcher, and the attempts to privatise, or part-privatise schools through their transformation into academies and charter schools threaten educational standards, as well as the pay and conditions of the teaching staff themselves. This country has suffered from wave after wave of qualified teachers leaving the profession as conditions have become worse, demands increased, and in some cases even dangerous. There have been cases where teachers are assaulted. At the same time, like other public sectors workers, pay has been cut or frozen. They have not been given the support they need by the authorities, and in the case of the Republicans in America and Conservatives over here, they’ve actually been demonised and vilified. Over the decades newspapers like the Scum, the Heil and even the Torygraph have run article after article trying to scare the British public with stories about how left-wing teachers are indoctrinating Britain’s children. Under Cameron, we had Michael Gove whining about history wasn’t being taught properly. It should be more patriotic, with children taught the approved Tory version of the First World War, rather than Blackadder. As Mike pointed out in a series of articles he put up about it, this would be to distort history for the Tories’ own benefit. As well as mistaking a comedy, based on history, with history itself.

In the 1980s, my mother felt so strongly about the threat to British education that she and the other teachers in her union took industrial action. As did very many others. This was not done selfishly to maintain their own privileges at the expense of their children. It was also because they were very much concerned that unless strike action was taken, the Tories would continue to run down the British education system. As they have, and Blairite New Labour as well.

The transformation of America’s public schools into charter schools is undemocratic, and hasn’t just been done by the Republicans. Obama also pushed for it. And like Blair in England, schools were often taken out of the state sector and made charter schools against the wishes of the community, parents, teachers, community groups, pastors and clergy. The Black community in particular has been threatened by the fall in educational standards that they represent. A year or so ago the veteran civil rights organisation, the NAACP, came out against them. There are books over here about the failings of academy schools. One of the pamphlets I’ve written is against them. If you want a copy, just let me know in the comments and I’ll get back to you.

But DeVos and the corporatists want a privatised school system both as a source of profit and because they would transform the school system from proper education, to a system of creating a passive workforce, who have enough knowledge to work for their corporate masters, but not enough to question, think for themselves, or even to be able to participate fully in art and culture. Art and music along with other humanities are being dropped from the curriculum in Britain as schools concentrate on the STEM subjects. And this is harming our children’s education.

C.P. Snow talked of the ‘two cultures’. He felt that there was a real gap between the arts and the sciences, so that the two formed distinct, separate cultures with little contact between each other. I think his fears, however true they were when he was writing, are somewhat exaggerated now. Science and mathematics has inspired much art down the centuries, as you can see from the weird paradoxes of Max Escher or the new scientific experiments that were painted during the 18th century by Wright of Derby. And scientists and science educators like the late Carl Sagan and even Richard Dawkins have expressed an extensive knowledge and keen appreciation of art.

This is why teachers are protesting against academies and charter schools: they want to preserve proper educational standards. They want to make sure that the poorest children have the same opportunity to achieve as the wealthiest. They want education to receive its proper status as a public good, not the preserve of the affluent, or simply another revenue stream for a grotty multinational like Murdoch’s. And although in Britain religion is taught, or supposed to be taught, in schools, there are safeguards and legislation against indoctrination. And teachers wish to preserve those as well.

So stand with your community teachers and teaching unions, and don’t let the Republicans in America or the Tories in Britain turn your school into an academy.

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Does May’s Gibe about ‘Planet Venezuela’ Indicate She Wants Economic Warfare Against Corbyn Government?

October 15, 2017

Last week at Prime Minister’s Questions, Jeremy Corbyn asked Theresa May what planet she was on. Quick as flash, she came out with an answer ten minutes later, as Ian Hislop joked on Friday’s Have I Got News For You. She struck back at Corbyn, claiming he and John McDonnell were on ‘Planet Venezuela’.

Maduro’s socialist government in the South American country is in crisis, as there are severe shortages of food and other goods in the shops, and rising discontent. Protests are breaking out all over the country. In the face of this unrest, the government has become increasingly authoritarian, redrafting the constitution in order to give itself new power to suppress the opposition.

The crisis hitting the country shows very much the attitude of May and her wretched party towards socialism. Creating any kind of welfare state, including state healthcare for the poor, is uneconomic and unsustainable. Only free market capitalism in a low wage economy brings prosperity. Well, it does to the upper 25 per cent of the population. The rest of the country is much worse, but a bit of tinkering with the statistics usually works to give the impression the Tories want us all to believe that everyone’s more prosperous and doing well, even when it’s very obvious they aren’t. And if that fails, you can always demonise the poor themselves as feckless, lazy, wasteful and so on.

In fact, the argument ad Venezuelam isn’t a good one, and there are already videos up on YouTube attacking it. Bad Mouse productions has one up, though I haven’t looked at it.

But there’s another dimension to the Venezuelan crisis. I’ve read elsewhere – possibly on William Blum’s blog, but may be also on Counterpunch – that the Venezuelan government is the target of a concerted campaign by the Americans and the multinationals to overthrow it. The American government has traditionally hated and sought to overthrow every liberal or left-wing government in Central and South America as a threat to American hegemony – the infamous Monroe Doctrine – and the corporate interests of the American big businesses that have dominated the continent’s economy. Two of the most notable instances were the coups against Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1958, and the 1975 coup against Salvador Allende in Chile. Both were democratically elected socialist politicians, overthrown with American aid and replaced with brutal Fascist dictators.

America has been trying to overthrow the Venezuelan government for some time, not least because Venezuela last week came of the petrodollar. If more countries do this, it will make it impossible for America to service its national debt, and the economic crisis hitting the country will get much worse.
And aiding the American government are the multinationals, which are deliberately withholding food and other goods in order to drive prices up.

And Venezuela may not be the only country to suffer such economic warfare by big business. Britain under a Corbyn government may be next. Also last week, at the Tory conference, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, urged business leaders to do everything they could ‘to resist’ a Labour government. Mike reported this on his blog, and commented that Hammond should be sacked for ‘unparliamentary conduct’. He had urged proprietors and managers to break the fiduciary trust between themselves, their shareholders, and the companies they run. Instead of managing them in the interests of the firms themselves, he was asking them to manage them for the political benefit of the Tories.

I commented on Hammond’s remarks that it also shows the hypocrisy by the Tories towards political activism. When the unions do it, and go on strike against a Tory government, or simply to protect the interests of their members, the Tories and big business start screaming that it’s ‘subversion’. When they do it, it’s all right. It’s simply the captains of industry working to save capitalism. Except in this case, capitalism isn’t under threat. Corbyn is simply advocating a mixed economy and a stronger welfare state. This is very far from the total nationalisation demanded by the Communist and Trotskyist parties. And business would prosper through greater state investment stimulating the economy, and the poor being given higher wages to purchase their goods.

But this isn’t what big business wants. It wants a workforce of crushed, low wage workers kept in something close to debt peonage, which they can exploit and discard at whim. Which is very much the policy of the Tory party under Cameron and May.

Hammond wanted industry to work towards overthrowing a Corbyn government. And big business is very definitely trying to overthrow Venezuela’s socialist government. May’s comment about Corbyn and McDonnell living on Planet Venezuela might be an innocent reply, or it could indicate that she’s also very aware of the real situation over there. And like her chancellor, she wants it done to Britain if Labour gets in.

Philip Hammond Urges Economic Sabotage to Stop Labour Coming to Power

October 7, 2017

On Thursday Mike put up another article, which also shows the Tories’ massive contempt for British parliamentary democracy. Paul Mason of the Politico website revealed that Hammond had told an assembled audience of CEOs and other industrialists at a £400 a head dinner that they should

“back the Tories. “I know you don’t engage in party political activity but I expect you to face up to when the principles that undermine our economic structure and your business are placed at risk,” Hammond said. “You have to decide to combat this menace or collaborate with it and let it get into power.”

Mr. Mason goes on to state that in private, Hammond’s language is even more extreme, presenting Labour under Jeremy Corbyn as a threat to capitalism. As Mike points out, it isn’t. It’s a Social Democratic party. This means it promotes a mixed economy along with a welfare state and government spending in the economy as a means of stimulating economic growth and development. It has not advocated total nationalization since the Second World War. And in the governments it formed before then, in practice its economic policies were entirely orthodox. This undoubtedly contributed to the party’s defeat as voters were disappointed by its failure to pursue a more radical programme to tackle poverty and unemployment.

Mason makes the point that Hammond risks being sacked for ‘unparliamentary conduct’, as his speech has urged captains of industry to break their bond of fiduciary trust. This is notion that they will act for the benefit of their companies and shareholders, regardless of their own personal politics.

Mike makes the point that it’s moot whether the issue of fiduciary trust has ever carried much weight amongst business management. Certainly sections of industry, particularly the financial sector, have been hostile to Labour and sought to undermine Labour governments.

Mr. Mason and Mike also point out that historically the economy has always benefited under Labour. Mason states that Labour will stabilize and re-invigorate the private sector. And Mike says, quite rightly, that the Labour government of 1945-51 led to over three decades of economic growth and prosperity in the UK. A period that only came to an end when Thatcher became PM in 1979.

And Mason also warns that Hammond may have made even more extreme claims in private to MI5.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/10/05/now-philip-hammond-is-bidding-to-be-sacked-for-unparliamentary-behaviour/

You therefore start to wonder if Hammond is a serious, democratic politician, or a barking mad Fascist sympathizer, who’s read too much Ayn Rand. He clearly thinks of himself as John Galt, the hero of her novel, Atlas Shrugs, who joins a strike by senior management to bring down a despotic socialist government. By implication, this also shows Hammond’s complete support for the poor and those on welfare. For Ayn Rand, only business leaders, artists and intellectuals matters. Ordinary working people, including and especially those supported by welfare, were just ‘moochers’ and ‘takers’. Which is ironic, because Rand was one of them. She spent some time living on social security.

As for Hammon, he has the same attitude as the industrialists and upper classes of the various South American and other developing nations, who as soon as a vaguely left-wing government came to power immediately yelled ‘Communism!’ as fast and as hard as they could, and then started plotting how they could overthrow it. This included backing military coups, supported by the Americans.

And you can guess the kind of extremism he may have been preaching to MI5 and the security services by reading Ken Livingstone’s book, Livingstone’s Labour, and Francis Wheen’s book on the 1970s, Strange Days. During the crisis hit period of the Labour minority government of 1975-6, various businessmen, and even the Times, were urging the army to organize a coup to overthrow the government. Livingstone describes how there were plans in place to intern left-wing activists, including journos, in political camps in places like the Hebrides.

It also shows the Tories’ own immense hypocrisy. They and their lickspittles in the press have been the first to denounce working class unrest as a threat to democracy, including strike action by trade unionists. You can find a video on YouTube by one person, who clearly takes John McDonnell’s demand for coordinated strike action and protests as a literal threat to democracy. McDonnell states that this type of activism has previously been called ‘insurrection’, a term he prefers. Which for that YouTuber makes McDonnell and Corbyn members of the revolutionary left.

McDonnell’s language is extreme, but it isn’t quite the language of revolution. He has not called for people to take up arms against their government. And when you think how this government is treating the poor, the unemployed and the ordinary working people of this country, you can see McDonnell’s point, even if you don’t agree with it.

And right-wing organisations have done their best to stamp out trade unions and bar the members from proper employment as true subversives. Way back in the 1990s there was a documentary uncovering the sordid history and activities of the Economic League. This was an organization that compiled and circulated blacklists of trade union members and those of left-wing organisations to employers. It’s full name was the ‘Economic League against Industrial Subversion’. It was started in the 1930s or so. It suffered a crisis after it was exposed, and found itself fending off awkward questions by people asking if they were on its lists after they were repeatedly turned down for work. In the 1990s it was succeeded by another bunch, Hakluyt, who, along with their predecessor, appeared in Lobster.

This shows very clearly the hypocrisy of the Tories and the businessmen, who support them. When it’s the left and trade unionists planning strikes and protests against them, it’s a horrendous plot to overthrow capitalism and little short of treason. But it’s fine and dandy when they’re planning to subvert democracy by overthrowing an elected social democratic government.

Hammond’s a danger to democracy. His ideal would be for Britain to be a banana republic, in which the peons have no rights, and the government is either dominated by a single party, or at best the political system as a number, none of which represents real hope or radical change for its working people.

He should not be in government. Get him out.

Wartime Conference on Science, Philosophy, Religion and Democracy

March 12, 2017

I found a copy of the 1942 book, Science, Philosophy and Religion: Second Symposium, over a decade ago now in a secondhand bookshop in Totnes in Devon. As the above title page states, this comes from a conference on science, philosophy and religion and their relation to the democratic way of life, held in New York in 1942. The conference was held at Columbia University and was the successor to the first symposium, held a year earlier. The book was a collection of papers by leading members of the above disciplines, edited by Lyman Bryson and Louis Finkelstein. These were intended to show how these areas of research and experience supported democracy against the advance of the totalitarian regimes in Europe.

The volume has the following contents

I Democracy’s Challenge to the Scientist, by Caryl P. Haskins;
II Democracy and the Natural Science, Karl F. Herzfeld;
III Some Comments on Science and Faith, Hudson Hoagland;
IV The Comparative Study of Culture of the Purposive Cultivation of Democratic Values, by Margaret Mead;
V The Basis for Faith in Democracy, Max Schoen.
VI Pragmatism, Religion and Education, John L. Childs;
VII Liberal Education and Democracy;
VIII A Philosophy of Democratic Defense, Charles Hartshorne;
IX The Role of Law in a Democracy, Frank E. Horack, Jr.
X Pluralism and Intellectual Democracy;
XI, Empiricism, Religion and Democracy, Charles W. Morris;
XII Philosophical Implications of the Prevalent Conception of Democracy;
XIII The Spiritual Basis of Democracy, by the Princeton Group;
XIV Thomism and Democracy, by Yves R. Simon.
XV Democracy and the Rights of Man, Paul Weiss.
XVI The Stake of Art in the Present Crisis, George Boas.
XVIII An Approach to the Study of History, William G. Constable;
XIX Literature and the Present Crisis, Joseph Wood Krutch.
XX How Long is the Emergency, Mark Van Doren.
XXI Democratic Culture in the Light of Modern Poetry.
XXII Democratic Aspirations in Talmudic Judaism, Ben Zion Bokser.
XXIII Democracy in the Hebrew-Christian Tradition; Old and New Testaments, Millar Burrows;
XXIV Christianity and Democracy from the Point of View of Systematic Christian Theology, Nels F.S. Ferre;
XXV Philosophical Foundations of Religion and Democracy, Willliam O’Meara;
XXVI The Patristic Christian Ethos and Democracy, Albert C. Outler.

There is also a section of addresses. These are

I The Faith and Philosophy of Democratic Government, A.A. Berle, Jr.
II The Function of Law in a Democratic Society, Charles E. Clark.
III The Artist and the Democratic Way of Life, Walter Pach.
IV Democracy in Our Times, M.L. Wilson.
V The Religious Background of Democratic Ideas, Simon Greenberg, Clarence Mannion, Luther A. Weigle.

I’ve dug it out again as I believe very strongly that this symposium and its wisdom is needed again with the current stagnation of democracy and the rise of Trump in America, UKIP in Britain and the parties of the extreme right in Europe. The basis of democracy in the West has been gradually undermined over the last 30-odd years, ever since the election of Thatcher and Reagan. Successive governments in Britain and America have been determined to work for the benefit of rich, corporate paymasters against the poor and middle class. There has been a massive redistribution of wealth upwards, as welfare services have been slashed and outsourced, industries privatised and closed down, and public utilities sold off. As wages have stagnated, the corporate elite have seen their pay grossly inflated. Their taxes have been cut, while those for the poor have actually been increased.

As a result of this concentration on the demands of corporate political donors, recent studies by Harvard University and the Economist have concluded that America is no longer a full democracy. It is a ‘flawed democracy’, or even oligarchy.

At the same time governments in Britain and America have also supported the massive expansion of the surveillance state under the pretext of countering terrorism. At the same time, the rights of workers to strike, and ordinary people to protest, have been curtailed. David Cameron’s Tory administration tried to introduce a series of reforms to block street demonstrations and protests under the guise of preventing residents for suffering the nuisance caused by them.

We also have Tory and Republican administrations that insist that only their view of history should be taught in schools. Michael Gove a few years ago made a ridiculous speech complaining about the ‘Blackadder’ view of the First World War taught in schools, while the educational authorities in Arizona withdrew studies of slavery and the civil rights movement from the school syllabus. Instead, pupils in that state were to be taught the speeches of Ronald Reagan.

Donald Trump’s administration is overtly anti-immigration, particularly of Latinos and Muslims. It includes members of the Alt Right, like Steve Bannon and Curtis Ellis, who hold bitterly racist views. Many of Trump’s supporters are White supremacists and Nazis. UKIP and Brexit in Britain have also led to an increase in racism and racist violence against ethnic minorities. At the same time, these movements have also promoted hatred towards gays and the transgendered. And similar movements are attempting to take power or increase their gains across Europe, from Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France, the Alternative Fuer Deutschland in Germany, Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement in Italy, Jobbik in Hungary, and other extreme right-wing parties in Switzerland, Austria and Scandinavia.

Democracy, tolerance, pluralism and the rights of the poor are under threat. The threat in America and western Europe isn’t as overt and violent as it was when the Fascists seized power from the 1920s onwards. But it is there, and desperately needs to be resisted.

The Empire Files on the Foundation of Israel and Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinians

November 21, 2016

This is part of a longer piece from The Empire Files, no. 37, presented by Abby Martin, formerly of RT and now, I think, a presenter with Telesur English. This tells the story of the shrinking of Palestine from the foundation of the early Zionist settlements to the carnage of the foundation of Israel in 1948. It’s a grim, ugly picture of organised, imperialist brutality, meted out by people Albert Einstein and other western Jewish critics compared to the Nazis and the Fascists, a view also held by one of the Israelis’ own army officers.

It’s entitled The Untold History of Palestine and Israel, and Martin states that this is the history that is not taught in schools. She and her team had been there filming the Israeli occupation of the West Bank for two weeks. It’s a brutal occupation that is funded by the US taxpayer to the tune of $30 billion in aid. But Israel is presented to Americans through the images of ‘Birthright Tours’, which show Israel as a fun-loving, peaceful land threatened by militant Muslims.

Palestine was originally a province of the Ottoman Empire. During Ottoman rule, it had a population of 500,000 people. 75 per cent of these were Muslims, 20 per cent Christian, and 5 per cent Jewish. Nearly all of them were Arabs. Its cities were centres of intellectual culture and art, drawing visitors and scholars from across the Middle East. Even before it had borders, Palestine constituted a distinct, recognisable nation through its peoples shared customs and culture.

Martin explains that the Zionist movement began in the late 19th century as a reaction to the anti-Semitic violence and pogroms, which broke out in eastern Europe. She correctly states that Zionism was the belief in an exclusively Jewish state. I make this point here, because Nazis used the term incorrectly to mean their stupid and imaginary Jewish conspiracies to enslave gentiles. The Zionists were at this point only a small minority within the Jewish people. Most Jews wanted to stop to anti-Semitism in their own countries. This is illustrated with an article from the New York Times about Jewish Ukrainians organising to stop anti-Semitism in Ukraine. Many Jews resisted leaving Europe on the grounds that this would be giving in to the anti-Semites.

Zionism became a fervent movement under its Theodor Herzl, who claimed to be its father. Herzl was an Austrian atheist. He first considered homelands in Argentina and Uganda, before finally deciding on creating a Greater Israel in the Middle East. As shown on a map, this would include not just Palestine, but also the whole of Jordan and Lebanon, and parts of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and a tiny section of Turkey. Herzl spent his time travelling around the West trying to gather support and sponsorship for his scheme. He wrote to the Duke of Baden, for his aid, saying

If it is God’s will that we return to our historic fatherland, we should like to do so as representatives of western civilisation and bring cleanliness, order and well-established customs, … to this plague-ridden, blighted corner of the Orient.

The Zionists promised to make Palestine a vanguard against barbarism, which meant that it would be an extension of western military power, and ‘build highways of the civilised peoples’, which meant trade for western millionaires. Their slogan was ‘A land without a people for a people without a land’. But the Zionists were all too aware that the land already had a people, and were determined to cleanse them. Another Zionist leader, Israel Zangwill, said

Palestine is not so much occupied by Arabs as overrun by them.

From the first the Zionists planned on the expulsion of the indigenous peoples. Much of the country was semi-feudal, with tenant farmers labouring for absentee landlords away in the cities of Jordan or Syria. From 1892 onwards the Zionists began purchasing this land. In many cases the new, Jewish owners evicted the original inhabitants. Jews, Christians and Muslims had lived in peace and harmony in the region for thousands of years, but these purchases and expulsions resulted in immediate conflict.

New opportunities for the further expansion of the Jewish settlements arose during World War I. The Zionists were aware that the Russians, British and French were planning to carve up the region. The infamous Syke-Picot agreement divided the Middle East between the French and British. Britain was given control of Palestine by the League of Nations. The British government, composed of lords, then issued the Balfour Declaration, which pronounced the British government’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The British Mandate resulted in riots in Jerusalem by the indigenous Palestinians, who naturally resented having their homeland given away without their consultation.

Again, the Zionist settlers were planning the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. In 1924 the US envoy stated

The Zionists look forward to a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine.

At this point, settlers comprised 10 per cent of the population. But this was already producing a refugee crisis. This section of the film shows a picture of rally of Palestinian refugees in Syria from 1929. Already there were 50,000 of such people, thrown out of their homes. As more land was purchased, and people evicted, David Ben Gurion, the future prime minister and mascot of Ben Gurion airport, declared

We were not just working. We were conquering, conquering, conquering land. We were conquistadors.

From 1920 to 1939 the settler population rose from ten to thirty per cent. Ben Gurion himself laid out the settlers’ plans for ethnic cleansing:

We must expel the Arabs and take their places.

This policy naturally produced a rise in clashes between the Palestinians and the Zionist settlers. In 1936 the Palestinians launched a general strike against British rule. This was initially peaceful, until the British declared martial law, and recruited Zionist settlers to attack dissidents and Arab villages. This provoked the strike to become an armed uprising. The British in response embarked on a policy of blowing up Arab homes. 200 were destroyed in the Arab village of Yaffa. The rebellion was eventually crushed three years later in 1939. The death toll was 5,000 Palestinians against 300 settlers and 250 British soldiers. The Zionists formed their own armed forces, which were later used in the war of independence. These comprised the Hagana, the official force recognised by the British authorities, and various unofficial militias, the largest of which was the Irgun. These militias began by attacking the Palestinians, before moving on to British soldiers. It was the Irgun which bombed the Kind David Hotel, killing 91 people, including 17 Jews. This was so popular that one of the militias’ leaders, Menachem Begin, later became president of Israel.

Abroad, many Jews were far less impressed. Albert Einstein and a group of other Jews wrote a letter to the New York Times condemning Begin’s movement. They wrote that it was

A political party closely akin in its organisation, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.

But the Zionists continued with their plans for the country’s ethnic cleansing. Joseph Weitz, the head of the Jewish National Fund, wrote in 1940

There is no room for both people in this country … and there is no way besides transferring the Arabs from here to neighbouring countries, to transfer them all.

… We must not leave a single village, a single tribe.

The terror created by the Holocaust with its six million Jewish dead, along with the mass murder of other peoples, political prisoners and gays, propelled Zionism from the political fringe to a mass movement. In 1947 the British turned Mandated Palestine over to the UN. This finally gave in to 70 years of Zionist campaigning, creating the state of Israel. The new state was given 70 per cent of the area’s land. Palestine was divided into three zones. However, the new Israel still had a population that was forty per cent Arab. This was a situation that the Israeli founders and leaders were determined to remove. Ben Gurion announced that

There can be no stable and strong Jewish state so long as it has a Jewish majority of 60 per cent.

In 1948 the tensions culminated in a full-blown war, during which the Israelis launched Plan Dalet for the mass terrorisation, murder and expulsion of the Palestinian people. This was the Nakba, the Palestinian term for the destruction of their homeland, a word which means, ‘disaster’ or ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic.

This section of the film describes some of the massacres that were committed, and the atrocities perpetrated against innocent civilians. One of the villages targeted for extermination was Deir Yassin, where there had been no terrorist attacks committed against the settlers. Israeli soldiers murdered nearly the entire population, raping the women before butchering them. One survivor described seeing his entire family lined up to be shot, including his mother, who was breastfeeding a baby. 200 people were murdered. A Red Cross official stated

Here the cleaning up had been done with machine guns, then hand grenades. It had been finished with knives.

!2 days after this, the Zionists attacked and massacred the people of Haifa. At the same time the Israelis broadcast radio messages intended to terrorise the Arabs. These included recordings of women wailing, and the message ‘Flee for your lives. The Jews are using poison gas and nuclear weapons.’ In Abu Shusha, the Palestinians who remained in their homes were raped, then hacked to death with axes. Those who tried to flee were shot on sight. 110 people were killed. At al-Dawayima 450 were killed, with a further 250 missing. In another village, the mosque was bombed, killing the 80 people, who had sought refuge within it. The remaining villagers were rounded up in the town square and shot, leaving a further 70 dead. In Lydda the Zionists massacred around 250-500 people, 250 of which were killed in about half an hour. This was supposedly in response to gun shots being fired from the local mosque. John Bagehot-Howe, a British army officer, commented

It would be an exaggeration to claim that great numbers were massacred. But just enough were killed, or roughly handled, to make sure all the civilian population took flight.

A senior Zionist officer, Joseph Imani, saw Palestinians shot after they came out of their homes waving white flags and carrying food. He said

Where did they come by such a measure of cruelty, like Nazis. Is there no more humane way of expelling the inhabitants than such methods?

During this period 800,000 Palestinians fled their homes, comprising 80 per cent of the Palestinian population of Israel. 500 villages were razed to the ground.

This is the history that you will mostly definitely not find taught in schools, as Abby Martin says. Nor will you see it covered on the mainstream news, whether in the US or over here, by the BBC. Lobster has remarked on the way the Beeb ‘ties itself in knots’ trying to tell itself that it is not biased towards Israel, while being biased towards Israel. And that monster and apologist for mass murder, Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador, would scream blue murder if anyone in the mainstream media dared to do so, or called those responsible for these atrocities what they are – butchers and mass murderers. As Einstein and the other Jewish critics said, the Zionists responsible for such atrocities and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians are very much like the Nazis and Fascists. But Regev will scream that you’re an anti-Semite or ‘self-hating’, if you’re Jewish, if you dare to mention this.

But we do need to be aware of these atrocities, if we are to understand the paranoid mindset of the Muslim radicals in Britain today. Kalim Saddiqui, a vile bigot, who was one of those responsible for the hate campaign against Salman Rushdie in the 1980s and 1990s, was filmed at his mosque by the Beeb telling his congregation that

British society is a monstrous killing machine, and killing Muslims comes very easily to them.

When the documentary team challenged him on this, he tried to bluff his way out of it by blustering about how Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses had been published as part of a propaganda campaign to prepare for a ‘holocaust of Muslims’. It’s a risible, stupid slander. But to some Muslims, it has a terrible verisimilitude. Many mosques do cover the atrocities committed against Muslims in Palestine and elsewhere around the world in their equivalent of Christian parish magazines. They’re acutely aware of campaigns of terror against their co-religionists. Hence such hysterical claims over here. But these atrocities are deliberately kept hidden from us, so that Islamic terrorism can appear as completely irrational, and Muslims presented as violent terrorists and butchers, killing for the sake of it. That is, admittedly, true to a certain extent of Daesh and al-Qaeda, though even with these cases there is more to it than simply that. If there is ever to be a just peace in the Middle East, we need to know about the real history of the region, how it has been conquered and its people brutalised by western imperialism and the rapacity of multinational corporations. Not only do we need to defeat the Islamists, we also need to defeat the thugs, genocides and corporate despoilers in our own societies.

Lobster Article on British Prime Ministers and the Secret State

October 13, 2016

The Winter 2016 issue of Lobster also has a very disquieting review by John Newsinger of a book on the relationship between British Ministers and the intelligence services, The Black Door: Spies, Secret Intelligence and British Prime Ministers by Richard Aldrich and Rory Cormac. This discusses not only the way British prime ministers have co-operated with the secret services in the bugging and surveillance of the Left, and how they used the services in a series of foreign operations, including Iraq, but also how the same intelligence services also worked against them, including interventions by foreign espionage services in Britain. In doing so, several reputations are left tarnished and some convenient myths destroyed.

One of the keenest supporters of British intelligence against his domestic opponents was Harold Wilson. When he was in office in the 1960s, Wilson had had leftwing trade unionists put under surveillance, taps placed on their phones, and bugged. This included the participants in the 1966 strike by British merchant seamen. Others kept under very close watch included, naturally, the Communist party. He also encouraged other rightwing union leaders to cooperate with MI5. Those, who did so included Harry Crane, the head of the GMWU, who passed information onto Sarah Barker, the Labour Party’s national agent, who in turn passed it on to the spooks.

Wilson also continued the secret wars the Tories had begun in Yemen and Indonesia. The British, Saudis and Israeli secret services provided aid and assistance to rebels, who perpetrated the same kind of atrocities as ISIS. Unlike ISIS, they didn’t cause a scandal and international terror by posting them online. Newsinger notes that Aldrich and Cormac state that the extent of the British involvement in the 1965 massacre of the Left in Indonesia is a mystery. As this also involved the commission of atrocities, besides which those of ISIS seem pale by comparison, this is a very convenient mystery. It’s widely believed that Wilson kept Britain out of the Vietnam War, but this is not the case. Wilson actually wanted to send a token force, but was prevented from doing so because of the extent of British public opinion against the War and the opposition of the left wing within the Labour party itself. This did not prevent him from providing the Americans with intelligence support. This involved not only GCHQ, but also MI6, who provided reports on the effect of American bombing campaigns from the British embassy in Hanoi. The Americans were also allowed to operate their biggest CIA station in that part of Asia from Hong Kong. In addition to this, Wilson also wanted MI6 to assassinate Idi Amin, but they refused. Considering the carnage wrought by this monster, it’s a pity that they didn’t.

Wilson himself was the subject of various intelligence plots and smears against him, despite his collaboration with the intelligence services. This involved not only MI5, but also the South African intelligence service, BOSS. This got to the point where it was literally spies watching other spies, with BOSS spying on the anti-apartheid campaign, while themselves being spied on by MI5. BOSS were allowed to get away with their espionage, however, as it was claimed that they had a film of MPs taking part in an orgy and a dossier on a sex scandal that was far more shocking and compromising than Christine Keeler.

Ted Heath in the 1970s had Jack Jones, the leader of the TGWU put under surveillance. Joe Gormley, the head of the NUM, was also an informant for special branch throughout the decade. The usual practice at MI5 when a company requested assistance monitoring radical trade unionist was to pass the case on to the Economic League, a private outfit specialising in blacklisting trade unionists. But Ford also demanded that Special Branch vet their workforce, to which Heath agreed. This led to more firms demanding information on trade unionists, including Massey Ferguson. Not only was the British government under Heath actively compiling blacklists of trade unionists, Heath himself demanded that MI5 should have some of the militant activists ‘done’.

Under Thatcher the number of private intelligence agencies tackling her domestic enemies, like CND, increased. But Newsinger observes that the book does not cover at all the involvement of this agencies in the machinations against the NUM in the Miners’ Strike, and the establishment of the scab Union of Democratic Mineworkers. Newsinger comments

Perhaps the official material is not available, but not to have any discussion of the great miners’ strike at all is a serious shortcoming. The very absence of material, if this was indeed the case, is tremendously significant and deserved discussion. This was, after all, the decisive engagement that shifted the balance of class forces and made everything that has followed possible.

The book also covers Blair’s wars, which Newsinger does not cover in his review, finding the book’s revelations about Cameron’s own warmongering in Libya and Syria more interesting. MI6 and the Defence chiefs advised Cameron not to try to bring down Gaddafi. This didn’t stop him, and Cameron had the agency and SAS give the rebels training, arms and body armour. MI6 wanted the Libyan dictator sent into exile into Equatorial Guinea, where his own links to them would not be placed in any danger by him having to appear before an international human rights court. But this problem was, as Newsinger notes, solved by his death.

The book also reveals that a number of people within MI6 and the CIA did not believe that Assad’s regime in Syria was responsible for the Sarin attack in Ghoutta. They believed that the real perpetrators were the al-Nusra Front, backed by Turkey, which hoped to provoke the US into starting a bombing campaign. The US was ready with a fleet of aircraft, which Britain was also set to join, but the operation was cancelled due to the disagreements over responsibility for the atrocity within the US secret services.

The authors also report that Mossad has also been responsible for kidnappings and murders in London, but give no further information.

Newsinger concludes that ‘after reading this book we not only know more than we
did, but also how much more we need to know and unfortunately how much we are likely to never know….’

What is also clear from reading this is not only the extent of the involvement of British prime ministers in covert operations, against left-wingers and trade unionists in Britain and a series of foreign regimes abroad, but also the weakness of parliament in restraining them. British involvement in the bombing of Syria was stopped because of dissension within the American intelligence community, not because of opposition from parliament. As for Heath targeting British trade unionists for surveillance and possible assassination, Newsinger remarks on how this is ‘dynamite’, which should be investigated by the Commons Intelligence Select Committee. There is not the most remote chance of this happening, however, as the Commons Intelligence Select Committee is really
just a parliamentary spittoon into which the intelligence agencies occasionally feel obliged to gob.

Lobster’s entire raison d’etre is the belief that western, and particularly the British intelligence services are out of control and responsible for immense crimes that otherwise go undocumented and unpunished. Newsinger’s review of this book and its potentially explosive contents bear out this belief. It also hints by its omissions that there is more buried yet deeper, which may never be brought to light.

The article’s at: http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster72/lob72-black-door.pdf

The Skwawkbox: Racist Times Cartoon attacking Jeremy Corbyn

October 1, 2016

This is yet another story about racism, though this time it’s about the deeply entrenched racism of the Murdoch press, and how they’re now trying to play it against Jeremy Corbyn.

Yesterday, Mike over at Vox Political put up a piece from the Skwawkbox commenting on a racist cartoon in the Times. The Skwawkbox discussed the way the ‘Leave’ campaigners had started backtracking on their slogans about Britain taking back control of immigration within hours of winning the Brexit vote. All the rubbish they were promoting about a ‘Leave’ victory allowing Britain to cut back or end immigration has been gradually whittled down to nothing, or almost nothing, if we want to maintain trade links.

After Jeremy Corbyn on Wednesday made a speech in the Commons stating that he would not make any false promises on immigration, the Times published a cartoon of the Labour leader at the helm of a ship with the name ‘Corbyn Cruises’, stuffed with generic foreign types. The cartoon has the caption ‘Migrant Ferry Across the Mersey’, a reference to the Labour party holding its conference in Liverpool.

The Skwawkbox rightly attacks this as racist and xenophobic, and notes that it shows the Establishment’s terror at Jeremy Corbyn’s authenticity. He refuses to treat the British public as fools, to be manipulated by mendacious sloganeering and lies, that are discarded as soon as they have served their purpose.

See Mike’s post at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/30/astonishingly-racist-times-cartoon-shows-terror-of-corbyns-authenticity-the-skwawkbox-blog/ and follow the link to the original piece.

The Skwawkbox makes the point that the Times is a Murdoch rag, but still purports to have the same gravitas as a serious broadsheet. Well, it lost some of that same gravitas about four decades or so ago when the Dirty Digger was allowed to buy it by Maggie Thatcher. When it was edited by Harold Evans, there was a serious attempt to make the paper impartial. It was sceptical of the unions, yes, but Evans also stated that he wanted to make the paper sceptical of the powerful in general, including in business and government. This policy was seriously harmed by Murdoch’s take-over, and it became as shrilly right-wing in its attacks on Michael Foot and the Labour party as the other right-wing rags.

And it continued to make stupid decisions that harmed the paper’s reputation. Remember the scandal about the ‘Hitler Diaries’. These were forgeries, written in modern ink in a modern exercise book. Nevertheless, they briefly took in Hugh Trevor-Roper, Lord Dacre, a historian, who has written the introduction to the OUP edition of Hitler’s Table-Talk. After initially endorsing them, Trevor-Roper began having doubts about their authenticity. So the Times editor rang up Murdoch. Who then decided to maintain his reputation for high journalistic standards with the reply, ‘I don’t want to hear about that’, and commanded the Times editor to publish Trevor-Roper’s initial decision that the diaries were genuine. The result: Murdoch shifted more copies of the Times, at the expense of Trevor-Roper unfairly looking stupid.

Then in the 1990s the Times’ editor, David Leppard, decided to publish the allegations of the Soviet defector and notorious liar, Oleg Gordievsky, that Michael Foot was a KGB agent, codenamed ‘Boot’. This was all lies, but it followed the Tory line in the 1980s that Labour had been infiltrated by Communists, all set on taking over Britain. Foot was too left-wing to win an election, but he was certainly no traitor. Foot sued, and Murdoch had to pay damages for libel. And the Times was left looking untrustworthy yet again. In fact, according to the accounts of people who’ve worked in Murdoch’s libel department, the Disgrace to Australian Journalism has little qualms about libelling people. He’s not worried about losing so much as how much he has to pay out in damages afterwards. If the amount he stands to lose in a libel case is less than the profits he’ll make on a story, he decides it’s worth it and publishes. Even though he and his lawyers know the story’s a lie.

As for racism, the Murdoch press also has a very long, and ignominious tradition of this, though usually it’s confined to the Scum. I also remember reading a story in Private Eye in the 1990s or early part of this century that reported yet another case brought against the Scum for racism before the Press Complaints Commission. This stated that up to that time, the alleged ‘newspaper’ had had 19 judgements for racism against it by the Council. This followed a Scum cartoon showing a line of pigs demonstrating against racist slander, observed by two men, with the caption, ‘Now pigs complain about being compared to Arabs.’ This is the type of journalism, that provoked the journos on Murdoch’s papers in Oz and New York to go on strike in the 1970s and ’80s. They complained that, thanks to the Digger’s highly populist attitude to journalism, he’d turned them and their papers into a laughing stock. Most journalists, at least at that time, took their profession very seriously, and wanted to do the best job they could. And this was being frustrated by Murdoch and his very low sensibilities.

So now the Times, like the Scum, is playing up racism and xenophobia again to promote its Conservative stance against the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn. And the Skwawkbox is entirely right: it does show the establishment’s fear of Corbyn’s authenticity. Mike has blogged time and again about the repeated failure of the Tories to carry out their promise to cut down on immigration. And he rightly reported that Brexit also wouldn’t cut down on immigration either, because of the economics involved, and the number of foreign workers and students required by industry and the university sector. Mike was proved right. The Tories and ‘Leave’ campaign were liars.

But Corbyn isn’t. He’s been honest and stated he is not going to make false promises. It’s a refreshing attitude from a politician, a profession that is generally distrusted and viewed with increasing contempt and derision by the British public, precisely because of all the lies and PR spin. The Tories are past masters of this. David Cameron was a former PR man, and the Tories arguably started the professionalization of political lying when Margaret Thatcher made Bernard Ingham her press secretary.

Corbyn told the truth, and in a political culture poisoned by mendacity, this makes him dangerous. Especially when it’s about immigration, which has always been used as a propaganda tool by the Tories and their lackeys in the press. And so the Times has once again lived down to Rupert Murdoch’s journalistic standards, and attacked Corbyn in a racist and xenophobic cartoon. Which itself shows how right Murdoch’s critics were when they opposed his acquisition of the paper. Maggie was told fairly and squarely that he was not a fit or proper person to own the newspaper. And as this cartoon shows, they were right.

Solidarity Pamphlet on Bolsheviks’ Destruction of Workers’ Control in Russian Revolution

September 24, 2016

bolsheviks-workers-control

Maurice Brinton, The Bolsheviks and Workers’ Control/ 1917-1921/ The State and Counter-Revolution (London: Solidarity 1970).

I picked this short book – 89 pages – in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham. Solidarity were a libertarian Communist group that believed that the workers should operate and manage the means of production. In their statement of beliefs at the back of the book, they state in point 9 ‘We do not accept the view that by itself the working class can only achieve a trade union consciousness.’ (p. 89). This is a direct contradiction of Lenin’s belief, firmly expressed in his 1905 pamphlet, What Is To Be Done?, that the workers could only achieve trade union consciousness, and needed to be led to Socialism by a group of dedicated revolutionaries. The book itself states that it is a work of history, which intends to show how the Bolsheviks betrayed the revolution of 1917 by suppressing the movement for workers’ control in the factories and the workers’, soldiers’ and peasants’ soviets.

The Revolution had begun when Russia’s working people rose up against Tsarism and the Kerensky government that replaced it. They formed factory committees which took over the management of the factories to various degrees in industry, and formed the soviets – councils – of working people across Russia, which formed a parallel system of popular government to that of the duma, the Russian parliament. Communist historiography has presented Lenin as fully behind these developments. He passed a decree stating that ‘workers’ control is established in the factories’ and praised the soviets, proclaiming the slogan, ‘All Power to the Workers’ Soviets’. The conventional historical view states that the workers were in fact unable to run industry, and so the government was forced to reintroduce the entrepreneurs, managers and technicians that the workers had previously turfed out of the factory gates in wheelbarrows.

This pamphlet shows that the opposite was true. From initially supporting them as a bulwark against the return of capitalism, and a necessary precondition for the nationalisation of industry, Lenin turned to active dislike and opposition, but was forced to support them for reasons of expediency. Lenin, Trotsky and their faction in the Bolsheviks really wanted Russian industry to be managed by a state bureaucracy, with a single person in command of individual factories and enterprises. Lenin adopted the slogan to present himself and his faction as fully behind the soviet revolution, while doing everything he could behind the scenes to reduce this to a mere slogan. Their practical strategy for destroying the factory committees involved incorporating them into the trade unions. These had always been under political control in Russia, partly through necessity as for most of the time they were illegal. The Bolsheviks in turn transformed these from popular organisations to campaign for better wages and conditions, to instruments of the Bolshevik party to discipline and organise Russian labour, so that it obeyed the state and the managers. It was the trade unions that set wages and determined working conditions. At the same time as they were being absorbed by the unions, the committees were gradually stripped over their powers until they were finally dissolved following the Kronstadt rebellion, which was intended to restore democracy to the Revolution by overthrowing Bolshevik rule. The Bolsheviks were also actively destroying democracy throughout the system of government and industrial management by gradually removing elections and replacing them with political appointments. As part of this, the trade unions could elect their members to the various Bolshevik political organs, but this became subject to the party’s veto. Candidates elected by the unions not approved by Lenin and his faction could be blocked.

This resulted in the construction of the totalitarian, monolithic Soviet state, while industry saw the removal of workers’ power and the return of the very industrialists and entrepreneurs, who had been overthrown. Indeed, after the failure of authoritarian ‘war communism’, with its forced requisitions of food from the peasantry during the Civil War, 1921 saw the limited return of capitalism itself in the establishment of a private sector as part of the New Economic Policy.

Not all of the Bolsheviks were in favour of this policy, and Lenin, Trotsky and their faction faced bitter opposition from a series of groups and individuals within the party, including Preobrazhensky, Osinsky, Bukharin and Alexandra Kollontai, in the ‘Democratic Centralists’ and ‘Left Communists’. Despite their efforts, theirs was a losing battle and in the end they were fighting a series of rearguard actions to preserve the last vestiges of the factory committees and the autonomy of the trade unions.

Outside the party, the Bolsheviks also faced opposition from anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists, who also wished to preserve the factory committees from attacks from the party and the trade unions. The booklet discusses the increasing mass arrests of these, and the closure of a range of anarchist newspapers and magazines, such as Burevestnik, Anarkhia and Golos Truda (Workers’ Voice). The final demands of the Left Communists for trade union autonomy and its management of industry was also denounced by Lenin as ‘anarcho-syndicalist deviation’.

Apart from its description of the way the Bolsheviks overturned the founding principles of the revolution, supplanting control and management by the workers themselves, with a system of control and management by the party, its functionaries, and returned capitalist businessmen in the name of the workers, the pamphlet’s also interesting for discussing the various literature produced by the revolutionaries and their plans for instituting practical system of workers’ control. For example, the Exploratory Conference of Factory Committees of Petrograd War Industries, convened on April 2nd, 1917, issued the proclamations that

From the Factory Committee should emanate all instructions concerning internal factory organisation (i.e. instructions concerning such mattes as hours of work, wages, hiring and firing, holidays, etc.) The factory manager to be kept notified…

The whole administrative personnel (management at all levels and technicians) is taken on with the consent of the Factory Committee which has to notify the workers of its decisions at mass meetings of the whole factory or through shop committees…

The Factory committee controls managerial activity in the administrative, economic and technical fields … representatives of the Factory Committee must be provided, for information, with all official documents of the management, production budgets and details of all times entering or leaving the factory … (p.2).

The Kharkov Conference of Factory Committees, held on May 29th that same year, declared that the committees should become

organs of the Revolution… aiming at consolidating its victories. The Factory Committees must take over production, protect it, develop it. They must fix wages, look after hygiene, control the technical quality of products, decree all internal factory regulations and determine solutions all conflicts. (p.4).

The Second Conference of Factory Committees of Petrograd, held at the Smolny Institute from the 7th-12th August, also stipulated that

‘All decrees of Factory Committees’ were compulsory ‘for the factory administration as well as for the workers and employees – until such time as those decrees were abolished by the Committee itself, or by the Central Soviet of Factory Committees’. The pamphlet states that

the committees were to meet regularly during working working hours. Meetings were to be held on days designated by the Committees themselves. Members of the Committees were to receive full pay – from the employers – while on Committee business. Notice to the appropriate administrative personnel was to be deemed sufficient to free a member of the Factory Committee from work so that he might fulfil his obligations to the Committee. In the periods between meetings, selected members of the Factory Committees were to occupy premises, within the factory, at which they could receive information from the workers and employees. Factory administrations were to provide funds ‘for the maintenance of the Committees and the conduct of their affairs’. Factory Committees were to have ‘control over the composition of the administration and the right to dismiss all those who could not guarantee normal relations with the workers or who were incompetent for other reasons’. ‘All administrative factory personnel can only into service with the consent of the Factory Committee, which must declare its (sic!) hirings at a General Meeting of all the factory or through departmental or workshop committees. The ‘internal organisation’ of the factory (working time, wages, holidays, etc.) was also to be determined by the Factory Committees. Factory Committees were to have their own press and were ‘to inform the workers and employees of the enterprise concerning their resolutions by posting an announcement in conspicuous place’. (pp. 8-9).

The Wikipedia entry on Solidarity states that the group was always small, but played a disproportionately large role in the industrial disputes of the 1970s and the campaign for workers’ control and management in industry. The system of complete workers’ control set up during the Russian Revolution is far too extreme to be popular in Britain, at least at present and the foreseeable future. Worker’s involvement in management has still been put back on the agenda, even if in a half-hearted way by Theresa May, no doubt as a calculated deception. The pamphlet itself remains a fascinating description of this optimistic movement in Russian revolutionary history, and its betrayal by the Communist party, and is an important corrective to the standard view that workers’ control was fully supported by them.

Jess Phillips, Racism, Misogyny, and the Public School Feminism of New Labour

September 18, 2016

Oh, the irony! Jess Phillips, who regularly accuses her critics of misogyny and claimed she was building a Safe Room because of the abuse levelled against her, has now herself been accused of racism and misogyny. One of her victims was Mike, over at Vox Political, because he dared to suggest that misogynistic abuse perhaps wasn’t the real reason she was having it built. Now Mike has put up a piece from EvolvePolitics about Phillips herself being accused of misogyny and racism, after it was revealed that she played a leading role in having Dawn Butler replaced as chair of the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party. Phillips disliked her holding the post, because she wasn’t an opponent of Corbyn. But Phillips has form in trying to get the few women of colour to hold posts in the Labour party removed from their positions. Last year she also had a row with Diane Abbott, in which she told the Shadow Health Secretary to ‘F*ck off’.

Jess Phillips’s feminism called into question – why is it all right for HER to target women?

I can’t say I’m surprised at her attitude. This seems to follow the sociological origins of many of the New Labour female MPs. Most of these seem to come from the upper and upper middle classes. They’re public school girls, who like the idea of expanding democracy, greater representation and rights for women and ethnic minorities, while at the same time supporting all the policies that keep the working and lower middle classes down: cuts to welfare benefits, job precarity, and the privatisation of essential services. This all follows Tony Blair’s copying of Bill Clinton’s ‘New Democrats’, who also talked about doing more for women and minorities, while at the same time supporting Reagan’s economic and welfare policies. The sociological origins of the journalism staff in the Groaniad, who have also been pushing the New Labour line against Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum in recent weeks. After they published various pieces lamenting that so few people from working class backgrounds were rising up to higher positions in society, in management and so forth, Private Eye published a little piece about the backgrounds of the paper’s own managers and journos. They were all, or nearly all, very middle class, and privately educated. This isn’t really surprising. Gladstone way back in the 19th century was very relaxed about the press not stirring up revolution in Britain, because most journalists back then were from propertied backgrounds. The book, Confronting the New Conservatism, attacking the Neocons and their pernicious influence on politics, noted that part of the problem was a broad consensus across the American ‘Left’ and ‘Right’, in support of deregulation, welfare cuts and privatisation, along with admiration for Britain, and a support by the middle class elites for affirmative action programmes as long as they didn’t affect their own children.

In short, they like the idea of equality, except when it challenges their own privileged position. As for Phillips’ racism, real or perceived, that’s also similar to the attitude adopted by one of the architects of the ‘New Democrats’, Hillary Clinton. Clinton for some reason is extraordinary popular amongst Black Americans. As part of her presidential campaign, she met a group of Black celebs, in which she tried to impress them by mentioning how much she liked hot sauce. Apparently, this condiment is a stereotypical favourite of Black folks. A lot of people weren’t impressed, and found her attitude distinctly patronising. There were sarcastic comments asking why she didn’t also say she liked fried chicken and watermelons. More serious, however, is the fact that Clinton was the architect of the punitive anti-drugs legislation, that has resulted in a much higher incarceration rate for Blacks, despite drugs being used by the same proportion of Blacks and Whites. She also made a speech about the threat of urban ‘superpredators’, when that term was almost exclusively used for Black gangs.

The sociological origin of New Labour female MPs also explains the accusations of misogyny aimed at Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. The basic line seems to be that ‘Old’ Labour, based in the male-dominated heavy industries, was nasty, patriarchal and therefore sexist. There’s an element of truth in it, in that traditional gender roles were much stronger generally, and women very definitely had an inferior position. However, this was changing in the 1980s. John Kelly, in his book Trade Unions and Socialist Politics (London: Verso 1988), has a section, ‘Still a Men’s Movement?’ discussing the growing presence of women in the trade unions and the way these were adopting an increasing number of feminist policies as a result. For example, in 1985 32 per cent of TUC members were women. In some unions, the majority of members were female, such as COHSE, 78 per cent; NUPE, 67 per cent; and NALGO, 52 per cent. He notes how a number of unions ran women-only courses, and were adopting policies on sexual harassment, low pay, shorter working time, equal opportunities and equal work for equal pay. He notes that sex bias in job evaluation and sexual discrimination were still not receiving the attention they should, but nevertheless the unions were moving in the right direction. (pp. 134-6). Of course, the occupations in which women are strongest are most likely to be white collar, administrative and clerical jobs, rather than manufacturing. But nevertheless, these stats show how the trade unions, and therefore the organised working class, were responding positively to the rise of women in the work force. If you want a further example of that, think of Ken Livingstone and the GLC. Livingstone’s administration was known for its ‘politically correct’ stance against racism, sexism and discrimination against gays. Red Ken devotes an entire chapter in his book, Livingstone’s Labour, to feminist issues, including his proposal to set up a nationwide network of bureaux to deal with them, ‘Sons of the Footbinder’, pp. 90-111. Among the pro-women policies he recommends the Labour party should adopt were

* A universal scheme of pre-school childcare for all parents who would wish to use it.
* Equal pay for work of equal value.
* A properly funded national network of women’s centres.
* A properly funded national scheme for the remuneration of carers.
*Full equality before the law.

Livingstone was one of the most left-wing of Labour politicians. So much so that he was accused of being a Communist. Hence Private Eye’s nickname for him, ‘Ken Leninspart’. Now the Blairites are trying to twist this image, so that they stand for women’s equality and dignity, against the return of Old Labour in the face of Jeremy Corbyn and his misogynist followers. This could be seen the in a bizarre letter published in either the Graun or the Independent, in which Bernie Saunders, the left-wing Democratic contender for the presidential nomination, and Jeremy Corbyn were both accused of being sexists, because they wore baggy, more masculine clothes, suggesting their ideological roots in the masculine blue-collar milieu of the 1950s, before women and gay men started affecting fashion. Private Eye put it in their ‘Pseud’s Corner’ column, but it reflects the attitude of the middle class feminists given space in those newspapers to attack Jeremy Corbyn and genuine traditional Labour.

The fear, of course, is not that Corbyn or his supporters are misogynists. That’s a convenient lie that was copied from Hillary Clinton, who made the accusation against Bernie’s supporters after they correctly identified her as a corporate whore. She is. She takes money from the corporations, in return for which she passes policies in their favour. Just like the majority of American politicians, male and female. In fact the fear of Clinton and the rest of the Democratic party machine, and New Labour over here, is that the corporatist system they are partly responsible for creating, and their own privileged position as members of the upper classes, are under threat from a resurgence of working class power and discontent from the Left. And despite the growing presence of women in the unions, Blair and New Labour despised them. It was Blair, remember, who threatened to cut their ties to the party, and was responsible for passing further legislation on top of the Tories to limit strikes, and deprive working people of further employment rights.

When Blairite MPs like Phillips make their accusations of sexism at Corbyn and his followers, they are expressing the fears of the middle classes at losing their privileged position, as members of that class, and its control over the economy and society. It’s made somewhat plausible to many women, because as a rule women were much less unionised than men, and the most prominent union leaders have tended to be men. But it’s a distortion of history to hide their own concerns to hang on to their class power. When Phillips and female Blairites like her talk about feminism and female empowerment, they’re expressing the same point of view as Theresa May. It’s all about greater empowerment for middle and upper class women like themselves, not for the poor, Black, Asian or working class.

The Young Turks on Slave Labour in the American Prison System

September 16, 2016

I’ve already put up several pieces about how a wave of strikes are spreading across the American prison system by convicts fed up of being used as cheap, slave labour for big business. In this short piece by The Young Turks’ Hassan Piker, he begins with a quotation from Dostoevsky that a country’s state of civilisation can be gauged from its prisons. And Dostoevsky had personal experience of which he spoke. He was sent to a Siberian prison in which he was bound hand and foot. Piker gives the statistics on the immense size of the American prison population, and how the number of convicts on work programmes for outside corporations. Those companies involved include McDonald’s, Victoria’s Secret and Walmart. Defenders of the programme say it teaches the cons valuable skills. But Piker points out that they have no union representation, and are paid 23 cents a day, much less than the minimum wage. Piker points out that the prisoner making shirts for McDonald’s is making even less than the person wearing it. Freedom for Alabama, one of the groups involved in the protests, states that this is a form of slavery, as defined and protected in the American Constitution. This outlaws slavery and forced labour, except for the convicted of a crime. Despite the abolition of slavery, this still effectively exists in American prisons, with inmates subjected to various degrading and painful punishments, including the investigation of their bodies ‘as if we are animals’. He points out that the whip has been replaced by pepper spray, but apart from that nothing has changed. The strikes are taking place nearly 35 years after a similar strike by prison workers in 1971. The strikers are aiming not just to improve their conditions, but also to bring down the entire corporate system that has massive boosted the American prison system. Piker comes down firmly on the side of the strikers, but states that many people may not listen to them because of who they are.

The size of the corporate prison system and its corruption of American justice is a major problem over there, and is also an increasing problem on this side of the Atlantic. At the heart of it is the private management of prisons. The companies running them frequently have contacts with politicians and judges in their states. They donate to politicians’ election funds, and put pressure on them to pass harsher legislation on crime. At the same time, the may also have judges on their payroll, whom they also persuade to pass tougher sentences on criminals to send them to prison. Where they can be used as cheap labour for the corporate profit of the prison and the contracting outside company. Michael Moore, the Capped Crusader, in his film, Capitalism: A Love Story, covers the case of a young girl, who was given a custodial sentence to an adult prison for truanting from school. The presiding judge in her case was on the payroll of the local prison company.

Private prisons have been introduced over here. I think they might have been introduced under John Major’s Conservative administration. They certainly were under Tony Blair’s, who was very cosy with Wackenhut, one of the leading American private prison firms. Mike ran an article a few weeks ago pointing out that British prisons were also using convicts as slave labour for their firms’ profits, and that this was perverting British justice in exactly the same way the system was over the other side of the Pond. The strikes are led by the syndicalist union, the Industrial Workers of the World, and have spread to 40 prisons in 25 states. The incarcerated workers have a point, despite the crimes for they personally have been committed. The system should be stopped, both in America and over here.