Posts Tagged ‘University of London’

Israel Graffiti Demanding the Genocide of the Palestinians

September 27, 2019

A few days ago I put up a piece reporting and commenting on the attempt by right-wing Zionist thugs to shut down a book launch in Brighton. The book in question was Bad News for Labour: Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief, by a group of respectable, mainstream academics, Greg Philo, Mike Berry, Justin Schlosberg, Antony Lerman and David Miller. Greg Philo is Professor of Communications and Social Change at the University of Glasgow, and Director of the Glasgow University Media Unit. Mike Berry is a lecturer in the Journalism School at Cardiff University. Justin Schlosberg is a media activist, researcher and lecturer in Journalism and Media at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is a former Chair of the Media Reform Coalition and Edmund J Safra Network Fellow at Harvard University. Antony Lerman is Senior Fellow at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue in Vienna and Honorary Fellow of the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations at Southampton University. He has written on multiculturalism, racism, antisemitism, and Israel/Palestine for the Guardian, Independent, New York Times, Haaretz, Prospect, Jewish Chronicle and London Review of Books. And David Miller is Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Bristol. He is a founder director of Public Interest Investigations and a director of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies.

What sent the Israel lobby berserk was that the book critically examines, and takes apart their claims that under Jeremy Corbyn the Labour party is institutionally racist and a threat to British Jews, showing that the party has been the subject of ‘shocking misinformation spread by the press, including the supposedly impartial BBC, and the liberal Guardian.’ The launch was due to be held at the Brighton branch of Waterstones, but they pulled out and cancelled the even following threats and intimidation made against their staff. The launch was then moved to the Rialto, also in Brighton, where it opened an hour later at 8.30. One members of Waterstone’s staff was so troubled by the threats they faced that they were unable to return to work.

What is particularly disturbing, though unsurprising, is that this display of very aggressive bullying was not only supported by the usual horde of bigots and trolls online, but also the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Sussex Jewish Representatives Council.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/24/bullying-bigots-tried-to-stop-book-launch-when-will-they-be-arrested/

In fact, as Tony Greenstein has repeatedly described in his blogs, the pro-Israel right have used abuse, threats and intimidation to try and close down any criticism of Israel for a very long time. And 11 years ago Peter Oborne, a journalist who formerly wrote for the Torygraph, presented a documentary on the Israel lobby for Channel 4’s Despatches. The programme described how respectable journalists, such as Alan Rusbridger, the-then editor of the Groaniad, and the BBC’s foreign correspondent, Jeremy Bowen, had all faced false and malicious accusations of anti-Semitism by the Israel lobby when they correctly reported atrocities by Israeli forces during the war in Lebanon. Rusbridger stated that when he printed accounts of massacres and other human rights abuses by the Israelis or their Lebanese Christian allies, the Phalange, the head of the Board of Deputies would visit his office, complete with his pet lawyer in tow, demanding that these stories be pulled. His argument was that they would lead to anti-Semitism and attacks on British Jews.

On the 28th January 2009, that indefatiguable opponent of all forms of racism, including Anti-Semitism and Zionism, Tony Greenstein, published a piece on his blog. Tony was attacking the clause in the I.H.R.C. definition of anti-Semitism, which forbids comparing Jews to Nazis. Tony stated, as he has done many times since, that it is hypocritical, as Israeli politicians frequently call each other Nazis. He also supported his argument with photographs of Israeli graffiti which was bitterly hostile to Arabs to the point of demanding their death and extermination.

 

This is ugly, horrific stuff, and the people that scrawled these messages of hate are Nazis. There is no other way to describe them. These pictures also show why an increasing number of Jewish young people over in America no longer want to have anything to do with Israel. American Jews are banding together in groups to attack Israel and its genocidal policies towards the indigenous Palestinians. Take up of places on the heritage tours Israel runs to encourage American Jews to visit Israel and identify with it have fallen by half. American Jews tend to be politically liberal, and have traditionally been determined to enjoy the comfortable lives they have in the Land of the Free as American citizens, than move to Israel. As a result, mass support for Israel in America has shifted from Jews to right-wing evangelical Christians, like Ted Hagee’s Christians United for Israel.

In Israel there are also a number of courageous people and organisations challenging the government and its gross intolerance and inhumanity. These include the human rights organisation B’Tselem and the veterans organisation, Breaking the Silence. But Netanyahu is doing his best to silence them, and indeed anyone who photographs a human rights abuse by the country’s armed forces. And in Britain, America and Israel Jewish opponents of Israeli apartheid and genocide are particularly abused and smeared as anti-Semites. Decent men and women like Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Martin Odoni, Cyril Chilson and so many others. They are accused of being self-hating and ‘traitors’ – even though the I.H.R.C. definition of anti-Semitism states that it is anti-Semitic to accuse a Jew of being more loyal to a foreign country than his homeland. They receive vile threats and even assault. Tony was physically attacked by an American Jew. Jackie has been told she should be lynched, burnt and her body dumped in bin bags.

But despite the statement by the Israel lobby that comparisons with the Nazis are offensive, Israeli policy towards the Arabs not only resembles that of apartheid South Africa, but also Fascist Italy in its attempts to colonise Africa and the Nazi invasion of Poland and eastern Europe. The Nazis attempted the ethnic cleansing of a stretch of territory stretching across Poland into the Ukraine and beyond of their Slavic population in order to transform it into a German colony. Tony has also repeatedly compared Israeli ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians to the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews pre-1942, before the implementation of the ‘Final Solution’.

But these pieces of graffiti show that there is a section of Israeli society – the Fascists and Settlers supporting Netanyahu and his wretched coalition – who would like to see a real programme of organised genocide implemented similar to the Nazi death camps, but for Arabs.

And this raises a very, very disturbing question. If Netanyahu or someone worse did start organising the systematic massacre of Palestinians, would the Board of Deputies, Sussex Jewish Representatives Council and other Zionist organisations, both Jewish and non-Jewish, cover it up and silence those who did tried to report it, just as the Nazis tried to hide the horrors of Auschwitz and the rest of the Shoah?

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Israel Lobby Thugs Try to Close Down Book Launch with Threats and Intimidation

September 25, 2019

This can’t be left unchallenged. Yesterday a group of thugs from the Israel lobby, egged on by their fellows and supporters on social media, forced Waterstones in Brighton to abandon a book launch. When the event was moved to the Rialto, they tried the same tactics there, only for the management of that venue to stand firm.

The book in question was Bad News for Labour: Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief by Greg Philo, Mike Berry, Justin Schlosberg, Antony Lerman and David Miller. This is a critical examination of the anti-Semitism crisis in the Labour party, particularly the denunciations of the party last summer that claimed it was institutionally racist and an existential threat to Britain’s Jews. The promotional material about the book, published by Pluto Press, however, states that

This book clears the confusion by drawing on deep and original research on public beliefs and media representation of antisemitism and the Labour Party, revealing shocking findings of misinformation spread by the press, including the supposedly impartial BBC, and the liberal Guardian.

Bringing in discussions around the IHRA definition, anti-Zionism and Israel/Palestine, as well as including a clear chronology of events, this book is a must for anyone wanting to find out the reality behind the headlines.

The authors are mainstream academics specialising in media studies, Jewish/Gentile relations and anti-Semitism. Mike, in his excellent article on the issue, gives their academic fields and qualifications. They are

Greg Philo is Professor of Communications and Social Change at the University of Glasgow, and Director of the Glasgow University Media Unit. Mike Berry is a lecturer in the Journalism School at Cardiff University. Justin Schlosberg is a media activist, researcher and lecturer in Journalism and Media at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is a former Chair of the Media Reform Coalition and Edmund J Safra Network Fellow at Harvard University. Antony Lerman is Senior Fellow at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue in Vienna and Honorary Fellow of the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations at Southampton University. He has written on multiculturalism, racism, antisemitism, and Israel/Palestine for the Guardian, Independent, New York Times, Haaretz, Prospect, Jewish Chronicle and London Review of Books. And David Miller is Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Bristol. He is a founder director of Public Interest Investigations and a director of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies. 

As Mike points out, they are academics, not anti-Semites. The two don’t go together, except in the pseudo-academia set up to provide a spurious intellectual veneer for the real hard right. Which these professors certainly don’t represent.

But this hasn’t stopped the Israel lobby and its supporters, both institutional and individual, going berserk and throwing around gross accusations of – what else! – anti-Semitism. The event was supposed to begin at 7.30, and would feature a panel discussion with the authors and Ken Loach. Two venues were forced to cancel it through intimidation and bullying that was so intense, an employee at one of the venues could not return to work.

The organisations supporting the bullying, and claiming the event was anti-Semitic were the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Sussex Jewish Representative Council. The individuals giving their support to it included one charmer giving his Twitter handle as #JC4 and then an icon of a toilet, Neil Barstow, Natalia Sloam, Nobody Norman Esq, Heidi Bachram, Ian Mackintosh, Jane Habib, Curry Fleur and Fiona Sharpe.

Mike states that he would like to see all the above interviewed by the rozzers about the threats suffered by the staff at Waterstone’s and the Rialto. He states it is especially abhorrent coming from those, who claim the moral high ground, and are using threats of violence to silence those they have smeared as anti-Semites and prevent them from exonerating themselves. He also points to a Tweet by one Gary Spedding, a venomous individual, who wrote an on-line article smearing Mike as an anti-Semite, which he refused to take down when Mike contacted him to show it was wrong. Spedding also added a few more ad homs against him on the way. It is to be hoped that Spedding also gets his collar felt about this.

Mike goes on to state that he does acknowledge that there is anti-Semitism in the Labour party. It just doesn’t exist in the book the Zionist fanatics were attacking, nor amongst the staff at Waterstones or the Rialto.

He concludes

These aren’t campaigners fighting prejudice against Jews.

They are vicious, hate-filled bigots.

And they need to be stopped before they seriously harm somebody.

One more thing – they did get an aspect of their campaign right: the slogan “Don’t host hate”. That’s a good slogan, and it can very clearly be applied to these bigots.

So I’m having it. If you see these people, or anyone else pushing their message, then flag it up with #DontHostHate

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/24/bullying-bigots-tried-to-stop-book-launch-when-will-they-be-arrested/

Tony Greenstein, another victim of the anti-Semitism smear campaign, and a self-respecting Jew, who has always campaigned against racism and anti-Semitism as well as Zionism, has more information on this disgraceful thuggery on his blog at:

http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2019/09/book-burners-r-us-waterstones-shameful.html

Tony begins his article by describing the way the Israel lobby tried to prevent the performance of the play, Sedition, by the socialist playwright Jim Allen, 25 years ago. This drew the Israel lobby’s ire because it was about the 1944 trial in Jerusalem of the Zionist leader, Erich Kasztner, who had made a deal with Adolf Eichmann which sent half a million Hungarian Jews to death in Auschwitz. The play was due to be staged at the Royal Court. It was taken off, but so great was the public indignation against the attack on it, that it was performed instead at London’s Conway Hall and became the subject of a book, Dramas Played Off Stage.

Tony continues

That is what we need to see happen with Bad News for Labour. The Zionists know that their anti-Semitism smear campaign in the Labour Party is fraudulent and that they have cowed and coerced timid Corbyn into going along with the nonsense that the Labour Party is full of anti-Semites including himself. We must ensure that this book is publicised because it contains all the ammunition and evidence we need to demonstrate that the ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign has nothing to do with antisemitism and has no evidential basis. 

It is shocking enough that the supporters of Israeli Apartheid have been able to ‘persuade’ through threats and abuse, venues like the Holiday Inn, Jury’s Inn and Friends Meeting House into cancelling meetings with Chris Williamson. The cancellation on Monday night of a book by 5 academics of Bad News for Labour – Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief takes this one step further. It is an attack on freedom of thought and inquiry and demonstrates the police state mentality of Zionism’s rabid supporters.

He goes on to quote the great German Jewish poet, Heinrich Heine, “Where books are burned, in the end, people will be burned” – which prophesied the mass book-burnings and murder of the Nazis. Justin Scholsberg, one of the authors, said last night that it was worse than McCarthyism and approached the book-burnings of the Nazis. Tony states

Cancelling a book launch and threatening to boycott Waterstones for holding the event is a Nazi tactic. It demonstrates just how far along the road to destroying our civil liberties and freedom of speech the Zionists have travelled. Literally Zionism is the enemy of a free society, not only in Israel/Palestine but in Britain, Europe and the United States.

He then goes on to discuss the culpable silence of the so-called liberal press about this incident, except for The Canary and the Skwawkbox, and calls upon his readers to imagine the outrage the Right would go into if the Left had done something similar against the genuinely racist books some of them have produced, like Douglas Murray’s racist Strange Death of Europe – Immigration, Identity and Islam.

And there’s much more in his very full article about the incident and the excuses made by Waterstone’s CEO for pulling the book launch from his store.

Tony and other Jewish anti-Zionists have long provided very detailed descriptions of just how violent and threatening the militant Zionists are, and their determination to shut down any criticism of their favourite apartheid state. They smear their opponents as anti-Semites – decent people like Mike, Martin Odoni, Tony Greenstein himself, Jackie Walker, Cyril Chilson, and Chris Williamson, so that they receive vile abuse. Some, like Walker and Williamson, have been sent death threats. Greenstein has also been assaulted by Jewish American Zionists. And a little while ago Tony also put up a piece describing how the CST – the paramilitary Community Security Trust – which is supposed to defend Jews, acts like Fascist stormtroopers when stewarding pro-Israel events. This includes beating up Muslims and anti-apartheid Jews. One rabbi was even hit in the face by these squadristi.

The people organising this campaign of abuse and intimidation should be called to account. And this includes the Board of Deputies. They are not above the law, and they are repeatedly demonstrating glaringly clearly that they do not represent the Jewish community of this country as a whole. They only represent the United Synagogue, and the pro-Israel branch of that. They are a viciously sectarian organisation, who actively support those who raise their fists at the people they consider the ‘wrong sort of Jew’. 

Trailer for ‘Witchhunt’ Movie about the Persecution of Jackie Walker

February 28, 2019

This is the video for Jon Pullman’s movie, Witchhunt, about the persecution of former Momentum vice-chair, Jackie Walker, on the completely risible and mendacious charge of anti-Semitism. As I’ve said many times before, Walker is a Jewish lady of colour. Her mother was a Black civil rights activist and her father a Russian Jew. They met on a civil rights demo. She is also a Jew by faith, her partner is also Jewish, and she sends her daughter to a Jewish school. All her life she has campaigned against racism, including anti-Semitism. But she does not agree with the I.H.R.A.’s definition of anti-Semitism or the Jewish Labour Movement’s handling of Holocaust Memorial Day. And so a trumped up charge of anti-Semitism was brought against her on the basis of a sloppily worded statement about Jewish involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, a trade that was initiated and very largely in the hands of Christians. As she has pointed out.

The video begins with the overwhelming election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. It then moves to Evan Davies and Rabbi Julia Neuberger claiming that there is an anti-Semitism problem in the Labour party. A man, speaking outside the Department of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London stating that the establishment will do anything they can to rubbish Corbyn and anyone close to him. It then goes on to show the various news presenters stating that Walker had been suspended. Then Walker appears to state that what was happening to the Palestinians was unspeakable, and you couldn’t ignore it. Followed by footage the Israelis sending planes to bomb and strafe Gaza, and an injured Arab child being taken out of an ambulance. Walker states that, for her, Gaza was the last straw. Corbyn is shown speaking at a pro-Gaza demonstration. Erdan, an Israeli apparatchik, speaks of economic and political warfare.

The great Israeli mathematician and supporter of Palestinian rights, Moshe Machover, who was also thrown out of the Labour party for anti-Semitism, before being readmitted because of public outcry, appears to describe the appoint of Erdan as the ‘head of this ministry’, which appears to be the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy. There’s a headline from the Electronic Intifada talking about the Anti-Semitism smear campaign. Walker quotes her mother, who said, ‘You can make anyone look a devil if you want to.’ There is then a map showing the links between the various anti-Zionist organisation from what appears to be pro-Israeli propaganda. Machover appears again to state that the goal of the Zionists is to make anyone who is non-Zionist or anti-Zionist appear anti-Semitic. This is followed by footage of a baying mob of Zionists all claiming to be demonstrating against anti-Semitism.

Jewish Voice for Labour’s Naomi Winborne-Idrissi appears, stating that this is all taking place during a shift to the right, in this country as well as others, and that Jeremy Corbyn is a threat. A young man says that what we find is an overwhelming emphasis on sources mobilising against Corbyn with a particular agenda. There is a shot of page from the Media Reform Coalition on the anti-Semitism smear against Corbyn, which they state is a disinformation campaign. A Black man says that people want moral slurs. They don’t want balanced stories. They want black and white stories. Walker says that what they are seeing with anti-Semitism, they have seen with McCarthyism. She is followed by Machover again saying that Walker was selected as a test case. Walker herself says that someone in the Compliance Unit said that the case against her was ‘pretty weak’. But this pretty weak case has smashed her reputation. A white-haired man says the pressure and attacks on Walker, with her lifetime of fighting racism, is to send a message ‘we can get you’.

The video ends with the film’s title fading out against a black background.

This is the trailer for a movie, that frightened Luciana Berger so much that she complained to the Labour party about its screening, and had it cancelled. And I don’t doubt that she was also one of the snitches claiming that Chris Williamson, the MP who booked the room for it, is a terrible anti-Semite who should be suspended.

And no wonder. It looks like cinematic dynamite that could well blow more than ‘the bloody doors off’ the whole revolting anti-Semitsm smear charade. It seems very clear from this that Corbyn, his associates and in this instance, Walker herself, are very much the targets of a very coordinated and orchestrated Israeli and establishment smear campaign. And it obviously is going to get both very worried. To use a turn of phrase from the SF movie Aliens, it’s going to make them stop their grinning and drop their linen’.

The film is due to be released March 17th, and will tour various British cities with its director, including Brighton and Derry in NI. I will be delighted if it comes to Bristol or anywhere nearby where I can catch it.

My very best wishes to Jackie, and to all involved in this movie. May you prevail, and the hatemongers, smear-artists and spineless moral cowards, who support them be swept away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book on the Problem of Evil and Suffering

March 22, 2018

Peter Vardy, The Puzzle of Evil (HarperCollins 1992)

Back at the weekend I put up a piece about some of the books I’d read about God and religion, which might be useful to anyone wishing to explore these issues for themselves. This was in response to a request from Jo, one of the great commenters on this blog, who asked me a couple of questions about them. This is another book, which I think might help people with one of the most difficult problems in theology: the problem of evil. To put it simply, this is the question how a God, such as the one Jews, Christians and Muslims worship, who is wholly good and omnipotent, can allow evil and suffering. The counterargument frequently made is that as evil exists, God is either not all-powerful, or not good.

Peter Vardy is the lecturer in Philosophy of Religion at Heythrop College, University of London, and the book is written from a Christian perspective. It has the following chapters

Part 1 – The Problem of Evil

1. The Problem Stated
2 A God’s Eye View
3 the Free Will Defence
(i) The Free Will Defence Outlined
(ii) The nature of freedom
(iii) The utopia thesis
(iv) The FWD defended
4 Natural Evil
(I) The Devil and natural evil
(ii) Its this the best of all possible worlds?
(iii) Matter as evil
5 Is it all worth it?
6 Conclusion to the Problem of Evil

Part II – The Mystery of Evil
7 Introduction
8 The Euthyphro Problem
9 Albrecht Ritschl – Absolute Value Judgements
10 God Almighty
11 Can God Act in the World?
12 Animal Suffering and Physical Evil
13 Moral Evil – Job and Ivan
14 The Devil and All His Works
15 The Challenge of Freedom
16 Conclusion.

Vardy goes through and analyses and critiques arguments and attempted solutions to the problem of evil from Irenaeus, St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas to modern theologians and philosophers. He finds many of them inadequate, but in his conclusion fully asserts the Christian response to suffering. This is that meaning and purpose for human beings can only be found in the love and fellowship of God, that God does indeed act in the world and answer people’s prayers, but that such actions are rare and sparingly used, and that a world with less suffering could not have been created. This last is qualified with the statement that this is a matter of belief, and cannot be justified. He also states that there are forces of evil deep in the human psyche, and may be a real, independent force of evil outside of us. Which sounds very much like the Devil to me. However, that force cannot do more than persuade. It cannot take away human’s freedom. He also states ‘I am convinced that the power of evil is very real and that it needs to be fought both within us and in the world around us.’ On human free will, he states

Human beings are free to take responsibility for themselves as individuals, no matter what their circumstances, and to respond to God or not. I accept that the price for doing this will be high and that the road may be one that few will be willing to follow.

This last statement of what he considers should be the Christian attitude to evil concludes with

I accept that I could be wrong about all the above statements but am ready to stake my life on the “if” that I am right. I cannot do more. (pp. 203-4)

He also makes it very clear that Christians have a moral duty to fight evil. He writes

Augustine’s position, “I believe in order that I may understand”, rests on an opening judgement which cannot be proved, but once this is accepted then many things make sense which would not otherwise do so. The faith position is an altogether more positive and optimistic one than the assertion of meaninglessness. It maintains that although evil is a terrible reality 9it can be overcome and one of our main tasks as human individuals is to fight against it. Indeed the problem of evil is not at heart an intellectual one so much as an existential one – the presence of evil should call us to engage with it and to fight against it. As soon as we are overawed by evil’s power and allow it to have mastery we will cower beneath it in fear and trembling. We may have many excuses for doing this, we may hold that it is none of our business, or consider ourselves too weak or think that as we are not too badly affected it does not matter. Evil, however, spreads and unless it is combated its power will grow. We cannot stand idle and watch it increase – we have to face it now no matter how great the personal cost may be. Some may consider us foolish and certainly fighting evil wherever we find it (particularly in ourselves) can be a lonely and heartbreaking business. However the choice is simple: submit and be overcome or stand and fight and find freedom. This is a choice that needs to be lived out and so this book is, at the end of the day, a call to action. (Pp. 202-3)

Warning: in some places, this is not an easy book to read, as Vardy illustrates how pressing the problem is, and the terrible power of evil, with examples from ordinary life, such as the accidental death of children, to the sadistic acts of vile regimes. This includes the guards in the Nazi death camps throwing Jewish children alive into the quicklime that was used to destroy the bodies after death. He doesn’t dwell on these examples, but uses them to show that this is far more than an academic exercise.

On the other hand, he also uses the works of Tolstoy, and in particular The Brothers Karamazov, to explore the problem of evil, as well as the Book of Job in the Bible. Regarding the chapters on ‘natural’ and ‘moral’ evil, this is a distinction theologians and philosophers make between humans and the natural world. ‘Natural evil’ are disasters like earthquakes, plagues and so on, which bring terrible suffering, but the forces themselves don’t actually have free will. ‘Moral evil’ refers to humans, who do have free will, and are free to choose whether they pursue a particular course of action, or commit a crime or an atrocity, or not.

I’m very much aware that not all the readers of this blog are Christians by any means. I hope, however, that this might help those wishing to explore the problem of evil from the Christian tradition, and am aware that other religions have their own.

But I also hope that whatever our personal religious or philosophical views, we can all agree that, as human being, we do have freedom and a moral duty to fight evil and suffering.

Next Week’s Episodes on the Radio 4 Series on the History of British Socialism

February 25, 2018

The BBC Radio 4 series, British Socialism: The Grand Tour, continues on its usual timeslot of 1.40 pm on weekdays next week, beginning with a programme on Sidney and Beatrice Webb. Here’s the programmes due to be transmitted, with the brief descriptions of them from the Radio Times.

Monday
Sidney and Beatrice Webb and the Fabian Society

Michael Ward, Dianne Hayter and Steven Fielding join Anne McElvoy to explain how Beatrice and Sidney Webb contributed to the development of the modern welfare state.

Tuesday
Ernest Bevin vs. Stafford Cripps

McElvoy traces the battle between rival traditions of British socialism amid the crises of the 1930s.

Wednesday
1945

Anne McElvoy examines how Ellen Wilkinson went from the Communist Party to the Jarrow March, and to a seat in the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Education.

Thursday
Socialist Feminism and 1968

Anne McElvoy explores how the women’s liberation movement and the politics of 1968 changed the language of socialism in Britain. With contributions from Sally Alexander of Goldsmiths, University of London; Barbara Taylor of Queen Mary, University of London; and Jon Lawrence of the University of Exeter.

Friday
Tony Benn

Amid the crises of 1970s, competing strands of British socialism struggled for dominance. There were the statist technocrats, who looked back to Labour’s 1945 victory and the building of the Welfare State; the post-1968 generation who had revived the tradition of a socialism focused more on radical self-realization. Meanwhile, the shop stewards forged a new approach to trade unionism. So when Tony Benn moved from a mild, modernising emphasis on the possibilities of technology, and started marching alongside workers who had occupied their factories, it was a significant turn. Present by Anne McElvoy.

And there’s an omnibus edition of that week’s programmes on the same channel at 9.00 pm in the evening that same day.

Professor Sarah Churchwell on Boris Johnson and his Deceit and Offensiveness

November 15, 2017

This is another short video I came across on Imajsa Claimant’s Channel on YouTube. It’s from the Beeb’s Question Time, when one of the panellists, Professor Sarah Churchwell, the professor of American Literature at the University of London, really decided to lay into Boris Johnson. She attacked him for his opportunism, his duplicity, his lack of any political scruples, and his callous indifference to the carnage in Libya that he expressed in his ‘joke’.

She states that Boris is not the lovable clown, which he tries to present himself as, and she’s sick of people trying to say that all this is ‘just Boris’. She finds it incomprehensible how anyone could possibly think that he’s amusing She describes how he wrote one piece promoting Brexit, and then wrote another piece about it, just in case he lost. When it came to standing up for Theresa May, he only did so when made to by Amber Rudd. As for his comment about Libya, in which he declared that the country had some nice beaches and would be worth investing in, as soon as they’ve cleared the bodies away, she states that it wasn’t a joke and wasn’t funny. This was about a country ‘mired in civil war’. She concludes that he should not be in government. And the fact that Theresa May has not sacked him shows that she’s a follower, not a leader.

Corruption and the Sale of Tory Seats in the Early 20th Century

February 27, 2016

From contemporary political corruption in America, to political corruption here in Britain. In the early 20th century parts of the Conservative party were scandalised by the cynical way safe seats were sold to the highest bidder by the local Conservative associations. These charged for the time exorbitant fees to prospective candidates. ‘Gracchus’, the pseudonymus author of the anti-Tory book, Your MP, devotes a whole chapter to the corrupt sale of seats, and the massive preponderance of the rich in the Tory and National Liberal parties. However, this passage in particular on pages 27 to 28 makes the point.

Now we go deeper still: we find one of our witnesses, one of Major Patriot’s Tory colleagues, saying that “it is lamentable that Tory seats should be sold to the richest candidate.”

And, turning back, we find a reference to a “financial burden not within the capacity of all” potential candidates (East Toxteth), and another M.P. complaining that “a married man with an income of £2,000 a year” cannot afford to be an M.P. (Spelthorne).

There is plenty of evidence on this. P.W. Donner (Basingstoke) was reported by the Morning Post, 28.6.35, to have said that he “had been forced to leave Islington, his present constituency, on the grounds of health and economy. The Hampshire Executive (of the Tory Party) had asked him for a subscription less than half what he was now paying in Islington.”

The Hon. Quintin Hogg (Oxford) wrote in the Nineteenth Century, January, 1934, that “the local Tory associations are rotten to the core”. In one agricultural constituency, he wrote, prospective Tory candidates have been informed they need not apply unless they can subscribe to the organisation the fantastic sum of £3,000 per annum.

In a northern industrial city, £600 a year is the least annual subscription that the Association will consider.

According to the a valuable study recently published, Parliamentary Representation, by J.F.S. Ross, the average amounts of election expenses for contested elections in 1935 were in round figures:

Conservative candidates……£780
Liberal candidates. ………£520
Labour candidates…………£360

One Conservative candidate, Mr. Ian Harvey, published in January, 1939, a memorandum headed “A Plutocratic System,” which goes so far as to state that “in nearly every case” (when candidates for Tory seats are chosen) “the question of finance is of primary importance.” He estimated that men “have always an excellent chance of being adopted “if they are willing “to pay all their elections expenses (anything between £400 and £1,200) and to subscribe between £500 and £1,000 (a year) to the local Association.”

The Federation of University Conservative Associations, meeting in London as Mr Ian Harvey’s memo was published, passed unanimously a resolution deploring the influence on the choice of candidates of “considerations of personal fortune”.

In the book by Mr Ross there are further examples, from Frome in Somerset, Hendon, and the University of London Conservative Association. Mr Ross calculates that only one person out of each 1,150 of the adult population has the income necessary to have “an excellent chance” in Mr Harvey’s phrase, of being adopted as a Tory M.P.

When Mr R.A. Brabner, (Hythe) was chosen as candidate, it was stated in the London Press that he “will pay £500 a year to the Conservative Association, and his election expenses. That is a fairly moderate contribution for a safe seat near London” (Evening Standard, 27.6.39).

The same inquisitive newspaper noted, about Lt.-Col. F.G. Doland (Balham and Tooting(, that his is “an expensive seat to fight. The Conservative candidate’s election expenses are between £700 and £700 … I understand that the Conservatives expect their candidates to find this money out of their own pockets, and, in addition, to provide a ‘subsidy’ of about £600 a year” (13.7.36).

Sir Derek Gunston (Thornbury), one of the very few Tory M.P. on the Executive of the League of Nations Union, spoke more recently on the subject of “purchasable seats’:

“Rich, safe seats, with ample resources that could be tapped, are too lazy to make the effort so long as they can find rich men who, while willing to go through the mill of fighting an election, are nevertheless prepared to pay for a safe seat. In practice you find the able but less well-off candidates fighting the hopeless seats. It is the rich, safe seats which demand the highest contributions (Evening Standard, 2.10.41).

Let us try to be clear what all this evidence amounts to. it does not mean that every Tory buys his seat. It means that enough of them do so to matter a great deal – to matter so much that very many other Tories protest, are uneasy, try to get the matter altered. (But do not succeed in doing so).
(My emphasis).

It therefore comes as no surprise that 95% of MPs are millionaires. Nor is it surprising that contemporary grass roots Tories complain about being sidelined in favour of rich donors. This type of corruption also became endemic in New Labour, when various businessmen ostentatiously switched from the Tories to Labour, and then were parachuted into safe Labour seats in preference to the local parties’ preferred candidates. And there has always been an element of corporate corruption in politics, where Corporations have bought influence by contributing to party coffers. It’s rife within the modern parties, and particularly the Conservatives, where the Tory party conference was largely funded through sponsorship and donations by rich corporations seeking a slice of public contracts. For example, Jeremy Hunt last year moderated a discussion about the future of the NHS in a talk sponsored by a private healthcare firm.

While the effective sale of Tory safe seats may not exist, or proceed in quite the same form, this passage shows how cynical the Tories were in choosing the richest as their preferred candidates, and the influence money could get you in the party.