Posts Tagged ‘Willie Rushton’

Frustration and Dismay at Private Eye Pushing the Anti-Semitism Smears

October 19, 2019

This kind of follows on from the post I put up on Thursday, criticising a piece in Private Eye by their correspondent ‘Ratbiter’ celebrating Stop Funding Fake News and its attempts to cut off funding from what it considers to be extremist websites. Stop Funding Fake News has been the subject of a series of posts by Zelo Street, which has shown how the organisation is itself deeply suspect. For all its avowed concern to stop fake news, SFFN itself is less than transparent. It won’t tell you who its members are for one thing. And while it has attacked right-wing sites, like Breitbart and Tommy Robinson’s wretched website, as described in Ratbiter’s article, it’s also gone after those on the Left, like the Canary.  They’re also supposed to be extremists sites peddling fake news, but as I pointed out, the Canary’s politics are those of the old social democratic consensus. The consensus that Corbyn wishes to bring back, of a mixed economy, strong welfare state, proper, effective trade unions, a nationalised and properly funded NHS, and proper rights for working people. You know, proper, constructive policies that will save this country and its people from poverty, starvation and exploitation. But Thatcherites, whether in the Tory party, or the Lib Dems and Blairites in Labour, can’t stand any of this. They can’t bear the thought that Thatcher is a goddess who failed, and that neoliberalism has run its course and been found threadbare. So Corbyn and his supporters have been accused of being Trots, Commies, Stalinists and other epithets by the papers and right-wing Labour MPs like Jess Philips.

Israel Lobby Using Anti-Semitism Smears to Suppress Criticism

But these policies are actually popular with the British public, and so the Right has taken to trying to discredit Corbyn and his followers, and more broadly the Labour party, with accusations of anti-Semitism. As I’ve blogged about endlessly, the actual incidence of genuine anti-Semitism in the Labour party is low. Very low. What riles the witch hunters is that Corbyn and his supporters are critics of Israel’s policy of oppression, apartheid and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. The Israel lobby’s only defence against these entirely justifiable criticisms is to scream ‘anti-Semitism!’ and demand that their critics should be removed from office, silenced and even prosecuted for hate crimes. And ‘Ratbiter’ and Private Eye itself has been pushing this as strenuously as the rest of the media. In his article about Stop Funding Fake News, ‘Ratbiter’s’ praise for SFFN’s attack on the Canary claimed that not only was the Canary pushing fake news, but it was also anti-Semitic and pushing conspiracy theories about Jews. None of which is true. There is a concerted campaign by the Conservative Jewish establishment in this country to close down debate about Israel in line with the demands of the Israeli government. The Israeli state even as a special government office for promoting this hasbara. This is substantiated fact. But it’s suppressed by the British establishment and media, which wants you to believe that when the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council scream at Corbyn for supporting speeches by Holocaust survivors and anti-Nazi activists, like Hajo Meyer, attacking the maltreatment of the Palestinians, these right-wing organisations speak for all British Jews. They don’t, as is very clear by the number of Jews involved in the Palestinian rights movement, the BDS campaign and who support Corbyn in the Labour party. Still, why bother about awkward facts when you’re the media, eh?

Private Eye Part of Press Smears of Anti-Semitism

I’m particular dismayed and frustrated that Private Eye has joined in with this vilification and smearing. I’m not surprised by the right-wing press – the Fail, Scum, Depress, Times and Sunset Times, as they’ve always lied about and slandered the Labour party and left-wing activists. You only have to go back two years to when the Sunset Times smeared Mike as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. Or how it tried to tell the world that Michael Foot was a KGB agent, against all evidence. I’m disappointed that the Absurder, Groaniad and the Mirror have joined in with these accusation. But the Groan is in dire financial straits and has supported the Liberals in several elections. Kath Viner, the new editor, would like to make it a general political newspaper, not tied to the Left. And the Absurder and Mirror look like they’re run by Blairites.

Private Eye’s Liberal Stance and Challenge to Authority

But Private Eye’s support for the smears I find more puzzling and exasperating. OK, I realise that despite its attacks on NHS privatisation, Tory housing policy, the attacks on the disabled, the failings of the privatised water companies, probation service, and outsourcing companies like Capita and Serco, the magazine’s not actually left-wing. Its founders – Peter Cook, Richard Ingrams, Willie Rushton and Auberon Waugh were all thoroughly middle class public school boys. John Wells was the headmaster at Eton. But the magazine does have a proud tradition of standing up for those wrongly accused and questioning the actions of the security services. Paul Foot was a staunch advocate for people he believed were wrongly accused of murder. The magazine is still covering the Deepcut scandal, and what looks very much like an attempt to hide the evidence and protect the guilty by the army and the police. They’ve also covered deaths in police custody and other cases of official incompetence, corruption and wrongdoing. They even published several pieces and then a final report in the mid-90s questioning the official assertion that the Libyans were responsible for the Lockerbie bombing. They believed instead that Syria was responsible, and that blame was placed on the Libyans for political reasons: Major and George Bush senior needed Syria to join their coalition against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. It has also defended asylum seekers, both collectively and individually, from racist discrimination, incarceration, beatings and abuse, and the threat of deportation. It is because the magazine has this proud tradition of questioning authority that I find its current support for the anti-Semitism smears infuriating.

Private Eye also Repeating British Intelligence Propaganda?

I am also aware that, as well as probing some of the actions of the British intelligence agencies, like when they have leaned on journalists to reveal their sources, they’ve also acted to promote them. There is ample evidence that the Maidan Revolution in Ukraine in 2012, which overthrew the pro-Russian president, was anything but popular. It was instead a staged coup overseen by the US statement and the National Endowment for Democracy. But from reading the ‘Letter from…’ column in Private Eye dealing with events in that country, you are told that it is all the fault of the Russians and their supporters. It also appears that the magazine does, or at least, did, have connections to MI5. Auberon Waugh was related to one of its directors or senior officials, and Lobster a decade or so ago ran a piece, ‘5 at Eye’, speculating the magazine and particularly Waugh were responsible for running the smear stories about Harold Wilson being a KGB spy. I am also aware that as a magazine that is unaligned to any political party, and which criticises and satirises all of them, it’s going to attack Labour. Corbyn, as head of the party, is fair game. And those attacks are going to come from his opponents. Which include ‘Ratbiter’, real name Nick Cohen, and whichever Blairites used to run the ‘Focus on Fact’ cartoon attacking the Labour leader.

Private Eye Shares Journalists with Other Papers

But nevertheless, I am extremely annoyed at the way it has joined in with the smearing of decent, anti-racist, Jewish and gentile people as anti-Semites. Like the rest of the press and media, they largely haven’t contacted them for their opinion, or given them space to explain how they were smeared. When a letter has been published in Private Eye rebutting their claim that anti-Semitism is rife in Labour, they’ve replied by quoting Jon Lansman, the founder of Momentum, who believes it is. And who has been roundly criticised for this by Tony Greenstein. Part of this might just be standard press groupthink. Private Eye, for all its attacks on the press and media in its ‘Street of Shame’ and television columns, is part of it, and some of its anonymous correspondents are no doubt journalists working for other papers. Nick ‘Ratbiter’ Cohen is a hack for the Graon and Absurder, while one of the editors and probably a reviewer for their books page was Francis Wheen, another Guardian journo. The press seem to have decided en masse that Corbyn is an anti-Semite, and for all its professed independence and criticism of the fourth estate, the Eye really doesn’t seem to want to break ranks with them in that regard.

And I also suspect that they don’t want to counter that narrative for geopolitical reasons. Israel’s one of the pillars of our foreign policy in the Middle East, and although the paper has criticised it for its treatment of the Palestinians, its attack on Corbyn and his supporters as anti-Semites show that there are limits to how far the magazine will go in challenging foreign policy.

Private Eye also Afraid of Being Smeared as Anti-Semitic?

I also wonder if there are more selfish reasons. As Peter Oborne showed in his documentary on the Israel Lobby for Channel 4’s Despatches eleven years ago, the Conservative Jewish establishment and the Israel lobby will smear any and all newspapers and media organisations as anti-Semitic if they criticise Israel. Even, and perhaps especially, when that criticism is justified, as when the Guardian and BBC reported on the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon by the Christian Phalange, who were allied to Israel. The Groan’s former editor, Alan Rusbridger, described how the president of the Board used to troop into his office, with his pet lawyer, demanding the withdrawal of articles critical of Israel on the grounds that they would incite the general public to hate Jews.

The Beeb’s respected Middle East correspondents Jeremy Bowen and Orla Guerin were also accused of anti-Semitism when they covered the above massacres. When senior Beeb officials like Sir David Attenborough defended them, they too were ridiculously accused. That should have destroyed the Board’s credibility. Instead it seems to have succeeded in emboldening the Israel lobby. Since then Israel has also denounced and lied about the Beeb’s coverage of the blockade of Gaza and the bombing campaign against Palestinians, claiming that journalists were anti-Semitic and expelling them. This does seem to have had a chilling effect at the Beeb. And not just at the Beeb – the Groan and the Absurder have also fallen in line. And I think Private Eye’s determined promotion of the anti-Semitism smears may also be part of this. They’re also, I suspect, afraid of the Board turning up in their offices to accuse them of anti-Semitism. Back in the ’60s and ’70s when the magazine appeared more louche and subversive than it is now, some newsagents refused to stock it. In the 1990s WH Smith withdrew one edition from its shelves because of a joke on the cover about the prurient public interest in the death of Princess Di. I think the magazine is still terrified of some kind of boycott by distributors, which may well be the result if the Board did decide to start accusations of anti-Semitism against them.

What Can Be Done?

So there are a variety of reasons why Private Eye is pushing the anti-Semitism smears. But speculating on their motives doesn’t make it any less infuriating that they’re doing it. I’ve thought in the past of writing letters of complaint to the Eye, explaining that the accused aren’t anti-Semites, and asking for an explanation. But what’s the point? The letter would either be ignored, or a short, edited version would appear in the magazine, which would allow them to reply quoting Lansman or someone else that anti-Semitism is rife, etc. And I might be unfair here to the magazine, but I don’t want to find myself smeared as an anti-Semite in turn and have my name or address passed onto the trolls that appear online to howl abuse at Mike, Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein.

And so there doesn’t seem to be much hope of challenging the Eye in its pages. The only option left is to carry on critiquing its lies and those of the rest of the media in the hope that more and more people will realise that it and they are smearing decent people simply for political advantage and to keep a vicious, corrupt government installed.

Two Books By Tony Benn

January 4, 2019

I hope everyone’s had a great Christmas and their New Year is off to a good start. May the shadow of Theresa May and her wretched Brexit be very far from you!

Yesterday I got through the post two secondhand books I’d ordered from Amazon by that redoubtable warrior for socialism and working people, Tony Benn. These were Arguments for Socialism, edited by Chris Mullin (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1979) and Fighting Back: Speaking Out For Socialism in the Eighties (London: Hutchinson 1988).

The two books differ slightly in that one is written from Benn’s perspective at the end of the ’70s, while the other was written nine years later at the end of the 1980s. In both Benn tackles the problems of the day, and lays out his radical, democratic socialist plans to revitalise the British economy and industry, strengthen and broaden democracy, and empower working people.

The blurb of Arguments for Socialism simply runs

Tony Benn, the most controversial figure in British politics, outlines a strong democratic-socialist approach to the most crucial issues in our political life over the next decade.

It has an introduction, and the following chapters, subdivided into smaller sections on particularly topics. These are

Section 1., ‘The Inheritance’, is composed of the following
The Inheritance of the Labour Movement
Christianity and Socialism
The Bridge between Christianity and Socialism
The Levellers and the English Democratic Tradition
Marxism and the Labour Party
Clause IV
The Labour Movement.

Section 2. ‘Issues of the 1970s’
Labour’s Industrial Programme
The Case for Change
Opening the Books
Planning Agreements and the NEB
Public Ownership
Industrial Democracy
The Upper Clyde Work-In
The Worker’s Co-ops
The Lessons of the Workers’ Co-ops
Democracy in the Public Sector

3. ‘Energy’
North Sea Oil
The Debate over Nuclear Energy
Windscale
The Fast Breeder
A Future for Coal
Alternative Sources of Energy
Conclusion

4 ‘The EEC’
Loss of Political Self-Determination
Loss of Control over the United Kingdom’s Industry and Trade
Unemployment and the EEC
After the Referendum

5. ‘Democracy’
Technology and Democracy
The Case for Open Government
How Secrecy Is Maintained at Present
Leaks and How They Occur
Conclusion

6. ‘Issues for the 1980s’
The Arguments
The Argument in Outline
The Present Crisis of Unemployment
Adam Smith and the Birth Capitalism
Lessons from the Pre-War Slump
Three Remedies on Offer
1. Monetarism
2. Corporatism
3. Democratic Socialism

7. ‘Jobs’
The Pension Funds
New Technology
Growth
The Trade Union Role in Planning
Workers’ Co-ops
A New Relationship between Labour and Capital

8. ‘The Common Market’
Three Criticisms of the EEC

9. Democracy
Open Government
The Unions
The Armed Forces
The Media
A New Role for Political Leaders.

Fighting Back’s blurb runs

With crisis after crisis rocking the country throughout the Eighties, the formation of new parties, divisions with in the old, mergers, reconciliations – British political life is at a watershed.

Tony Benn, in speeches on picket lines, at Conferences at home and abroad, in broadcasts, in the House of Commons, has been a consistently radical campaigning voice: for equal rights, for democracy and for peace against the increasingly brutal politics of monetarism, militarism and self-interest.

Fighting Back brings together for the first time in one volume the best of Tony Benn’s speeches from 1980 to 1988. Few poeple will have heard more than brief snippets of proceedings in the House of Commons given by television, radio and the press, so the most important debates are included here – the Falklands War, Westland helicopters, Fortress Wapping, Zircon and Spycatcher – as well as some lesser known concerns, from the ordination of women, to the politics of singer Paul Robeson.

Throughout the difficult years in Opposition, Tony Benn has played a leading role in defending and regenerating the socialist tradition. But Fighting Back is more than simply a personal testament: it is also an exciting and accessible handbook to the turbulent Eighties, whatever one’s political convictions.

After the introduction, it has the following chapters and subsections:

1. The Stalemate in British Politics
-Fifty Years of Consensus Rule
-The Party and the Government
-From Defeat to Victory
-Parliamentary Democracy and the Labour Movement

2. Prophetic Voices
-Positive Dissent
-Thomas Paine
-Karl Marx
-Paul Robeson
-R.H. Tawney
In Defence of British Dissidents

3. Fighting Back
-The Falklands War (April 1982)
-The Falklands War (April 1982)
-The Falklands War (May 1982)
-The Falklands War (December 1982)
-The Miners’ Strike (June 1984)
-The Miners’ Strike (September 1984)
-The Miners’ Strike (February 1985)
-Gay Rights
-Fortress Wapping (May 1986)
-Fortress Wapping (January 1987)
-The Irish Struggle for Freedom
-After Eniskillen
-Privatisation of Gas
-Legal Reform

4. British Foreign and Defence Policy
-The Case for Non-Alignment
-Who is Our Enemy?
-A New Agenda for the International Labour and Socialist Movements
-Some Facts about Defence
-Towards a Permanent New Forum
-Paying for Apartheid

5. Work and Health in a Green and Pleasant Land
-The Unemployment Tragedy
-Trade Unionism in the Eighties
-Full Employment: the Priority
-The Common Ownership of Land
-The Case Against Nuclear Power
-Nuclear Accidents
-The Nuclear Lobby
-Evidence Against Sizewell B

6. The Arrogance of Power
-The Case of Sir Anthony Blunt
-The Belgrano-Ponting Debate
-Westland Helicopters
-Surcharge and Disqualification of Councillors
-The Ordination of Women
-The Zircon Affair
-Spycatcher
-Protection of Official Information

7. Disestablishing the Establishment
-Power, Parliament and the People
-The Civil Service
-The Crown, the Church and Democratic Politics
-A Moral Crisis
-The Disestablishment of the Church of England
-Television in a Democracy
-Televising the House

8. Light at the End of the Tunnel
-The Radical Tradition: Past, Present and Future
-Staying True to the Workers
-Aims and Objectives of the Labour Party.

The Books and their Times

Arguments for Socialism comes from a time when this country had nationalised industries, strong trade unions and an efficient and effective planning apparatus. It was also when unemployment and discontent were rising, and the country was facing the threat of Thatcher and her monetarist agenda. The speeches and articles in Fighting Back come from when Thatcher had seized power, was busy privatising everything not nailed down, smashing the unions and trying to silence any dissent. This included attempts to prosecute civil servant Clive Ponting for leaking documents showing that the Argentinian warship, the General Belgrano, was actually leaving the Falklands warzone when it was attacked and sunk. Thatcher also banned the publication of Peter Wright’s Spycatcher over here, because of the embarrassing things it had to say about MI5. This turned into a massive farce as the book was widely published elsewhere, like New Zealand, meaning that foreign readers had a better understanding of the British secret state than we Brits did. It was such a ridiculous situation that Private Eye’s Willie Rushton sent it up in a book, Spythatcher.

Benn’s Beliefs on Socialism and Democracy

Benn was genuinely radical. He believed that British socialism was in danger not because it had been too radical, but because it had not been radical enough. He wished to extend nationalisation beyond the utilities that had been taken into public ownership by Attlee, and give working people a real voice in their management through the trade unions. He also fully supported the workers of three firms, who had taken over the running of their companies when management wanted to close them down, and run them as co-ops. On matters of the constitution, he wished to expand democracy by bringing in a Freedom of Information Act, strip the Crown of its remaining constitutional powers and have them invested in parliament instead, and disestablish the Church of England. He also wanted to strip the office of Prime Minister of its powers of patronage and give more to MPs. He was also firmly against the EEC and for CND. Socially, he was on the side of grassroots movements outside parliament, fully embraced gay rights and the ordination of women within the Anglican Church.

Not the Maniac He was Portrayed by the Press

He was and still is vilified for these radical views. The press, including Ian Hislop’s mighty organ, Private Eye, presented him as a ‘swivel-eyed loon’, at best a mad visionary of hopelessly unrealistic ideals. At worst he was a Communist agent of Moscow ready to destroy this country’s ability to defend itself and hand it over to rule by the Soviets.

He was, it won’t surprise you to learn, anything like that.

He was very well respected by his constituents in my part of Bristol as a very good MP and brilliant orator, and was respected even by his opponents in the city. One of the leaders of Bristol’s chamber of commerce said that he was always rational and his opinions clearly thought out. I’m a monarchist and a member of the Anglican church, and so don’t share his views on the disestablishment of the Church of England. But his arguments there are interesting.

Disestablishment of the Anglican Church

Recent calls for disestablishment have come from atheists and secularists, and Benn does use the secularist argument that privileged position of various Anglican bishops to sit in the House of Lords is unfair to those of other faiths, Roman Catholics, Protestant Nonconformists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists. But this argument actually comes at the end of the main body of his pieces. His main points are that the bishops shouldn’t be there, because they’re unelected, and that parliament and the prime minister, who may not be Anglicans or even Christians, have no business appointing the denomination’s clergy or deciding doctrine. It’s an argument primarily from within the Anglican church, not from someone outside, jealous of its position.

The Prime Minister against the Church and Its Members

One example of how the Prime Minister abused their position to override or impose their views against the wishes of the Church itself was when Thatcher got stroppy with the-then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Robert Runcie. After the Falklands War, Runcie had preached a sermon saying that we should now meet the Argentinians in a spirit of reconciliation. This is what a Christian leader should say. It comes from the Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the peacemakers, and all that. We’ve heard it several times since by great leaders like Nelson Mandela and South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But Thatcher didn’t like it because she wanted something a bit more triumphalist. This section is also interesting because it has an interesting snippet you and I south of the Border have never heard of, except if you’re a member of the Church of Scotland. That august body at its synod overwhelmingly voted in favour of nuclear disarmament. I hadn’t heard anything about that before, and I doubt many other people outside Scotland had. And it obviously wasn’t an accident. The Tory media really didn’t want anyone else in Britain to know about it, in case they thought it might be a good idea.

It wasn’t just the Church of Scotland that were against nuclear weapons. So was a leading Roman Catholic prelate, Monsigner Bruce Kent, now, I believe, no longer a member of the priesthood. One of my aunts was a very Roman Catholic lady, who was also a member of CND. She found herself on one march next to a group of Franciscan friars. So kudos and respect to all the churches for their Christian witness on this issue.

CND, the Unions and Media Bias

On the subject of CND, Benn talks about the blatant bias of the press. All kinds of people were members of the Campaign, but when it was covered on television, what you got were a few shots of clergy like Monsignor Kent, before the camera zoomed in on the banner of the Revolutionary Communist party. CND were part of Russkie commie subversion! Except as I remember, they weren’t. The Russians didn’t like them either after they criticised their maneoevres in eastern Europe.

Benn states that the media’s bias is peculiar – its somewhere to the right of the Guardian, but slightly to the left of Thatcher. This was the attitude of the establishment generally. And it was extremely biased against the trade unions. He cites the work of Glasgow Media Studies unit, who looked at the language they used to describe industrial disputes. The language used of the trade unions always presented them as the aggressor. They ‘demanded’ and ‘threatened’, while management ‘offered’ and ‘pleaded’. He then asked hsi readers to turn the rhetoric around, so that a union asking for a pay rise of 8 per cent when inflation in 10 per cent is ‘pleading’.

The Ordination of Women

His stance on the ordination of women is equally interesting. He was obviously for it, but his arguments as you might expect were very well informed. He pointed out that women had been campaigning to be ordained in the Church since the 1920s, and that other Christian denominations, like the Congregationalists, already had women ministers. As did other Anglican churches abroad, like the Episcopalians in America. It was blocked here by the Anglo-Catholics, who fear it would stop re-union with Rome. But even here, he noted, this may not be an obstacle, citing movements for the ordination of women within Catholicism. Again, it’s an argument from within the Church, or from someone genuinely sympathetic to it, than from an outsider frustrated with the Church’s stubborn refusal to abide by secular social values, although that is also in there.

Government Secrecy

And back on the subject of government secrecy, the Zircon Affair was when Thatcher banned the transmission of an edition of the documentary programme, Secret State. I’ve put up that documentary series a few years ago on this blog, because it showed the extent to which Thatcher and others had been using the Official Secrets Act to suppress information that was embarrassing or uncomfortable. Like the fact that in a nuclear war, this country would suffer massive casualties and the obliteration of its major population centres.

The book actually contains any number of interesting snippets that definitely weren’t reported, or else were only given very tiny coverage, in the mainstream press. Like details of various incidents at nuclear plants that could have led to serious accidents. He also talks about the ‘Atoms for Peace’ programme. In this international project, we sent our nuclear material over to America, where, we were told, it would be used for peaceful purposes generating power in American reactors. Well, it was used in American reactors. They refined it into the plutonium, that was then put in American nuclear warheads and sent back over here to the US nuclear bases on British soil. He also pointed out that the agreements covering the use of Britain as a base by US forces in the event of a nuclear war also contravened our sovereignty.

Ted Heath and the EU

Loss of sovereignty was also a major part of his opposition to the EU. But he also makes the point that our entry into the Common Market was also undemocratic. Ted Heath simply decided the country was going in. Parliament was not consulted and did not vote on the issue. I do remember that there was a referendum afterwards, however.

Intelligence Agencies Smearing Labour MPs

The intelligence agencies are another threat to British democracy. He cites Peter Wright’s Spycatcher memoir on how MI5 was spreading rumours smearing the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, as a KGB spy. This, like much of the rest of the material in the books, has not dated. The problem of the security services smearing left-wing politicians is still very much with us, as we’ve seen from the Integrity Initiative. They’ve smeared Jeremy Corbyn as a Russian spy.

Books Still Relevant in 21st Century

I’ve only really skimmed the books so far, just reading the odd chapter, but so much of it is directly relevant now. I think if he were alive today, Benn probably would have voted ‘Leave’, but his arrangements for leaving the EU would have been far more sensible and beneficial to this country’s ordinary folk than that of Tweezer and her band of profiteers. And he is absolutely right when he writes about expanding democracy in industry. He states that the workers’ co-ops on the Clydeside and elsewhere were attacked in the press, because suddenly the British capitalist establishment were terrified because it showed that there was a genuine alternative to capitalism, and that workers could run companies.

The individual sections in these books chapters are short, and the arguments clear. He also gives point by point party programmes on particular issues, such as making this country more democratic.

Benn Democrat, Not Authoritarian Communist

And it’s this concern for democracy that most definitely marks Benn out as being a democratic socialist, not a Trotskyite or Communist. Those parties and their various sects were run according to Lenin’s principle of ‘democratic centralism’. Put simply, this meant that the party would hold some kind of open debate on issues until a decision was made. After that, the issue was closed. Anybody still holding or promoting their own opinions faced official censure or expulsion. And the Communist parties of eastern Europe would have been as frightened of Benn’s championing of democracy as the British establishment.

Conclusion

As I said, I take issue with Benn on certain issues. But his reasoning is always clear and rational, his points well argued and based in fact. Furthermore, he is impressed with the British radical tradition and how much British socialism is squarely based within it. We lost one of our greatest parliamentarians with his death.

His ideas, however, are still very relevant, and have been vindicated with time. He was right about monetarism and corporatism, about unemployment, about the need for unions, about media bias. His support of women priests and gay rights were ahead of their time, and have now become almost a commonplace, accepted by all except a few die-hard reactionaries. And he’s right about nationalisation and worker empowerment.

These are books I intend to use for my blog and its attack on Tweezer and the Tories. And I won’t be short of useful material.

Press TV: Palestinian Authority Calls on Britain to Apologise for Balfour Declaration, Recognise Palestinian State

November 17, 2017

This is a very short video from the Iranian state news service, Press TV. It’s about a couple of minutes long. It was put up on the 2nd of November 2017, just a couple of weeks ago, and reports the call by the Palestinian authority for Britain to apologise for the Balfour Declaration, and recognise an independent Palestinian state.

It was the Balfour Declaration that pledged Britain to support the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine ‘without prejudice to the Arabs’. This part of the Declaration was soon broken, and while Britain tried to give at least the appearance that it was maintaining an even hand between the Jewish settlers and indigenous Arabs, in fact it favoured the European Jewish colonialists.

In fact the British government has refused to apologise for the Declaration, and said that it was ‘proud of it’. This little bit is accompanied by everyone’s favourite braggart, Old Etonian, and lethally incompetent ego maniac, Boris Johnson. He’s shown chuntering away, but it’s silent so normal folks don’t have to put up with his god-awful braying, blustering voice.

The clip also includes a brief interview with Richard Silverstein in Seattle, who notes how the Declaration led to the disinheritance of the Palestinians, and describes the recognition of an independent Palestine as ‘a no-brainer’. He believes that the importance of the Balfour Declaration was overstated, and says that there isn’t much of a case for paying reparations to the Palestinians, as Britain didn’t pay the Israelis for what they had suffered under the Mandate either. He also puts Palestine into the wider context of colonial politics and oppression, saying that Britain treated the Arabs in Palestine the same way it treated its other colonial possessions in India, across the Middle East and Africa.



Political and Corporate Corruption in Iran

I’ve previously refrained from putting material up from Press TV, because I heartily despise the Iranian government. It’s an extremely authoritarian state, which oppresses ordinary working people and its constituent ethnic minorities for the benefit of the mullah-merchant princes. These are members of the ulema, who also have extensive links to the merchants of Tehran bazaar and their own business interests. There’s a special term in Farsi, the ancient language of Persia, for the merchant-mullahs, and the ulema currently running the country definitely don’t like. I think they had the last journo or political dissident jailed for using it. There is also a massive underground Christian church in Iran, which, unlike its Chinese counterpart, is very much unknown in the West. It’s very heavily persecuted, contrary to various Hadith and passages in the Qu’ran, where Islam’s Prophet states that ‘there should be no compulsion in religion’. And I shall blog about that little injustice further, as it says as much about the cynical use of religion by the American military-industrial complex to advance their interests.

Iran Diverse and More Tolerant than Expected

I am also very much aware of the bloodcurdling nature of the Iranian rhetoric about Israel, and how former president Ahmedinejad’s speeches have been very plausibly interpreted as advocating the complete destruction of the state of Israel. However, Iran’s remaining Jewish community is quite well treated. I also understand that the country’s ancient Zoroastrian community, who were the country’s official religion under the Persian Empire, is also tolerated and respected. About three per cent of the Iranian population are Armenian Christians, who historically took refuge in Iran to escape persecution elsewhere in the Middle East.

It’s a very diverse country ethnically. Only 51 per cent of the country speaks the official language, Farsi. Other ethnic groups include Kurds, Baluchis, Arabs, Reshtchis and various tribes speaking languages related to Turkish. The Iranians I’ve met have been very relaxed and matter of fact about the different religious monuments and places of worship that are scattered across their ancient nation. I was asked a few years ago by a Shi’a Muslim Iranian friend if I’d ever seen the Christian churches, that had been built around the Black Sea. There is an Anglican church, whose membership is composed of indigenous Iranians in Tehran, and I personally know people, who have been sent Christmas by Muslim friends, which they purchased in this church.

In short, whatever I think of the mullocracy, the country itself has always struck me as modern, tolerant and cultured. The last should come as no surprise. This is the nation that produced the great poets Firdowsi, who composed the epic history of the Iranian nation, the Shah-Name, and Saadi. Looking through the library, I found an English translation of the latter illustrated by none other than Private Eye’s Willie Rushton. Iran’s government are not its people.

The Balfour Declaration against Wishes Diaspora Jews

But I’ve decided to reblog this piece, because what it has to say about the Balfour Declaration is important. With the Declaration, Britain gave away land, which was not ours to give, and which we had absolutely no right to give away. I’ve already blogged about the way the majority of Britain’s Jewish community at the time were dead against the Declaration. They had absolutely no wish to move once again to another foreign country. They wanted to be accepted for what they were – Brits, like everyone else. The only difference is that they were of a different religion, Judaism.

I’ve also read the same thing about Hungarian Jewry, in a book I borrowed on the history of Judaism a couple of decades ago from one of my aunts. The book’s author, if I recall correctly, was a Christian priest, who admired the Jews and hated anti-Semitism. It stated there that most Hungarian Jews in the late 19th and early 20th century considered themselves ‘Magyars of the Israelitish religion’. You can see that by the way Stephen Fry talks about his Jewish grandfather. He was a Hungarian Jew, but Fry always talks about him as a ‘Magyar’ – the ethnic Hungarians’ term for themselves. Georgy Ligeti, the avant-garde composer, whose weird pieces Lux Aeterna and Atmospheres formed part of the sound track to Stanley Kubrick’s epic 2001: A Space Odyssey, is also of Hungarian Jewish heritage. He has said in an interview that his family’s surname was originally something very German or Yiddish, but that they changed it to a Hungarian equivalent out of patriotism and national pride. Which disproves so much of that awful, vile bilge Viktor Orban and his wretched Fidesz party are either claiming or insinuating about the country’s remaining Jewish population.

And I’ve blogged before about how Tony Greenstein, one of Zionism’s greatest critics, has pointed out that the Yiddish-speaking Jewish masses in pre-War Poland supported the Socialist Bund, and wanted to be accepted as equal citizens with the same rights as their gentile Polish compatriots. Britain’s Jews were not isolated in wishing to remain in their ancestral European countries. They were part of the mainstream. A mainstream that the Israel lobby in the Tories, the mainstream media, and spurious anti-racism groups like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the squalid, malicious libellers of the Jewish Labour Movement in the Labour Party, are desperately trying to conceal and obscure. Heaven forfend if you try to mention this, or that the Zionists occasionally collaborated with Nazis and their fellow-travellers to persecute diaspora Jewry. They get terribly upset and start ranting that you’re an anti-Semite.

Suppression of Alternative Media by Western Neoliberal Elite

I also reblogged this because it was from Press TV. I despise the Iranian government, but I also heartily despise the way the American political-military-industrial caste is now trying to suppress alternative news sources. This means going after RT, because, er, they actually do their job as journos and cover issues like racism, growing poverty, the crimes of empire and the exploitative nature of capitalism. And so they’ve created another Red Scare, in which RT is the secret hand of Vladimir Putin corrupting American politics. And the Tories over here are doing exactly the same.

The Censorship of Alex Salmond by the Beeb

Alex Salmond now has his own show on RT in Britain. I can’t think of a single reason why he shouldn’t, and at least one good reason why he should: the Beeb heavily censored and deliberately misquoted and then edited out his own words at the Scots independence referendum t’other year. Nick ‘Macclesfield Goebbels’ Robinson asked Salmond if he was worried that the big financial houses would leave Edinburgh for London if Scotland got its independence. Salmond gave him a full answer, stating that he was not worried, and was confident that this would not happen. He quoted various sources from within the financial sector.

Oops! Salmond wasn’t supposed to do that. So over the course of the day, the footage was carefully edited down so that it first appeared that Salmond gave only a cursory reply without much substance. Then it was edited out completely, and ‘Goebbels’ Robinson blithely told the camera that Salmond had not answered his question.

Which was a sheer, blatant, unashamed lie.

Apart from this, Salmond as the former leader of the Scots Nats is in a particularly good position to take up a job for RT. Scotland has always had particularly strong links with Russia. I can remember attending an academic seminar on this when I was hoping to do a degree in Russian at one of the unis in Birmingham. That went by ’cause I didn’t get the grades. I can also remember being told by an aunt, whose husband was Scottish, and who had very pro-Soviet opinions, that the Russians were particularly keen on the works of Rabbie Burns. It was part of the curriculum when they learned English.

This has not stopped Theresa May urging Salmond not to take up the job. Which just follows all the Tories, like Boris Johnson’s equally demented father, who criticised the Labour party because some of their MPs and activists appeared on RT. While conveniently ignoring the various Tories, who had.

So more hypocrisy and scaremongering. No change, there then!

Galloway and Press TV

George Galloway also has, or had, his own show in Press TV, and is an outspoken supporter of Palestinian rights. I’ve been wary about him ever since he launched the Respect party, and the way the media monstered him when he saluted Saddam Hussein for his indefatigueability. But I’ve developed a considerable respect for him since then, because so much of what I’ve heard him say about the neoliberal elites and their warmongering attempts to start a conflict with Russia is absolutely correct.

The Anti-Muslim Right and al-Jazeera

The Republicans in America and the anti-Islamic right also hated Al-Jazeera. The Qatar-based broadcaster is supposed to be another source of evil propaganda and disinformation, this time covering for ‘radical Islam’. I think this might be because Al-Jazeera, like RT and Press TV, are showing us in the West what we are doing in the Middle East. Like the hundreds of thousands our bombs are killing, and the millions, who are being thrown out of their homes and forced into refugee camps and exile. The masses, who don’t have food, water, electricity and medical care, because the secular welfare states that have provided this have been destroyed in pursuit of big profits by the multinationals. Just like their people are being persecuted and butchered by sectarian killers, and their women and children enslaved by those savages in ISIS as Daesh tries to roll back the gains they have made. And yes, there has been a Muslim Feminist movement. Just like there has been one in Christianity and Judaism. But you count on Tommy Robinson and the English Defence League not to tell you that. Just as you can count on ISIS, with the backing of the Saudis, in trying to destroy it. Or at least leave it severely restricted.

The War on Domestic Alternative News

And once the elite have finished with the alternative news networks, they’ll try and finish off domestic American and British alternative news sources. Like The Young Turks, the Jimmy Dore Show, the David Pakman Show, Sam Seder’s Minority Report and Democracy Now! in the US. As well as the alternative, left-wing bloggers and vloggers, Google and Facebook are trying to marginalise as ‘fake news’. They’ve even developed algorithms to take traffic away from these sites. I’ve a very strong suspicious Mike’s been hit with it over here, as have several other bloggers. If I remember correctly, they’ve even tried to censor Tom Pride of Pride’s Purge, claiming he wasn’t suitable for children as his material was ‘adult’. It was, but only in the sense that you had to be a mature adult, who actually thought about the issues, to read it.

And once the people at the margins are suppressed, the elite are going to go for the mainstream.

And all we can expect from the mainstream broadcasters is more propaganda denying the reality of poverty, of climate change, of the misery created by the destruction of the welfare, the privatisation of the NHS over here and the refusal to implement single-payer in America, and the sheer, catastrophic lies about how climate change isn’t really occurring.

And as the media gets censored, the brutality of the police and the military will get worse. Black Lives Matter has raised the issue of the cavalier way some cops kill Blacks for the slightest of reasons. But recent arrests and brutalisation of White protesters have also demonstrated that this casual thuggery is also moving towards the White population as well. Counterpunch a few weeks ago put up a piece about a secret US forces report, which predicted that in the next couple of decades, US policing would become more militarised. The army would be used to quell the riots and disturbance that would break out thanks to poverty and increased racial friction.

Orwell’s going to be proved right. In 1984 he asks what the future will be like. The chilling, famous reply is: a jackboot stamping on a human face. Forever.

Without any alternative media to protest, because they’re all in jail or hiding on trumped up charges of treason.

Instead, we’re going to be treated to the lies of shills and hacks like ‘Goebbels’ Robinson and ‘Arnalda Mussolini’ Kuenssberg. And fed racist, Tory drivel by the Murdoch media, the Weirdo Barclay Twins and Paul Dacre.

The Flippant Jokes about Sexual Harassment – Partly Due to Public School Education?

November 4, 2017

Earlier this week, Mike put up a post commenting on this week’s cover of Private Eye and an off-colour joke about sexual harassment by Michael Gove and a letter Labour’s Dawn Butler had written to Theresa May, condemning not only the culture that turns a blind eye to the sexual harassment of female staff at best, and at worst actively condones it, but also finds the whole subject hilariously funny.

Private Eye’s cover is a joke about the venue for the next meeting of the Tory party: it’s a sex shop. And Gove’s joke was about how an interview on the radio was like entering Harvey Weinstein’s bedroom. In both cases you weren’t likely to emerge with your dignity.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/11/01/why-are-people-turning-the-tory-sexual-harassment-allegations-into-a-joke/

Last night, the BBC news comedy show, Have I Got News For You, made the same joke as the Eye, with the same picture. This week’s host, Jo Brand, got an enthusiastic round of applause, however, when she rightly pointed out that to the women, who had suffered such harassment, it wasn’t a joke but a very unpleasant experience.

So why turn it into a joke? Why dismiss it so flippantly? I’m aware that some of it probably goes back to the old double standard, where men are expected to be sexually active and predatory, while women are condemned as whores if they behave the same way. I’m also aware that attitudes may be better or worse towards it amongst different societies. For example, a book I read on Japan in the 1990s said that the Japanese didn’t take the issue seriously at all. There was even a nightclub in Tokyo called Seku Hara, or something like that, which is the Japanese for ‘sexual harassment’. And in parts of the Islamic world, it’s also regarded with amusement as ‘Eve teasing’.

I’m also very much aware that people will make jokes about all kinds of things, no matter how dark or tasteless, such as sexual abuse, disability, murder, rape, and so on. In these instances sexual abuse is just another subject amongst these to make tasteless jokes about.

I am also very much aware that there is, or there was until very recently, an attitude that those subjected to such abuse should just grow a thick skin and endure it. I can remember reading one piece by a female journo in one of the right-wing papers, possibly the Mail, back in the 1990s. She said that when she started working in journalism, female hacks regularly had to deal with lewd comments and jokes, and wandering hands. Women just had to endure it and get used to it. It was even beneficial in that it spurred them on to become better journalists.

You can see there the ‘macho management’ attitude that was common in the Thatcherite ’80s. I’ve heard tales of how the hacks working in various papers were called into the office every morning by their editors to be insulted and belittled on the grounds that this would make them better journalists. I think it was abandoned long ago in the 1990s. Though the attitude just seems to have shifted to the unemployed, who are insulted and belittled at Jobcentre interviews, while their ‘job coaches’ ring them up at odd hours to insult them further, all on the spurious grounds that they are ‘motivating’ them.

But I also wonder how much of this attitude goes back to the public schools. I’ve blogged before about how bullying, and sexual abuse including rape, was common amongst the feral children of the rich. A number of readers commented on this piece, and wrote about the stories they’d heard from their friends of horrific abuse in the schools for the British elite. You can read some of these tales in Danny Danziger’s book, Eton Voices, reviewed in Private Eye when it came out in the 1980s, and reprinted in Lord Gnome’s Literary Companion, edited by Francis Wheen. Punch also reviewed the book shortly before it folded, commenting that the abuse described was so horrific that if Eton had been an ordinary state school, it would have been very loudly denounced by the Tories as part of a failing and brutally neglectful state school system.

The younger boys in public schools were subjected to all manner of physical and sexual abuse by the older boys. But the public school ethos seems to be that they were expected to take it, and not blub. They were to ‘play up, and play the game’. Now this is part of the ‘rules of the schoolyard’, as Homer Simpson put it in an episode of the cartoon comedy back in the 1990s. Bullying goes on, but you don’t break ranks and tell the teacher, or else you’re a sneak. But it is slightly different in British state schools over here. Bullying goes on, but it is not supposed to be tolerated. Whether it is in fact depends very much on the individual head master/mistress/principal. I’ve known headmasters, who were very definitely strongly against it. Others much less so.

Public schools are supposed to be the same, but the attitude revealed in Danzier’s book suggested that Eton, and presumably the others, in fact tolerated it. The reviews almost gave the impression that despite the disgust by many of the interviewees about how they had been mistreated, the dominant attitude was almost that it was just jolly schoolboy japes. Nothing more. Don’t worry, they’ll get over it. One ex-public schoolboy told me that the attitude is that after you’ve been bullied, you go on to bully the younger boys in your turn as you go up the school.

And power is very much involved. I’ve also been told by those, who have gone through the system that the elite send their children to the public schools not because they necessarily give them a better education – and indeed, stats show that actually state school kids do better at Uni than public schoolchildren – but because it gives them access to the same kind of people, who can help their careers.

It’s about the old boy’s club, and the old school tie.

Which, together with the abuse, means that the boys preyed upon are expected to take it, because one day their abuser will be able to do something for them in turn, in politics, finance, business, whatever.

Which sounds exactly like the mindset behind the abuse here. Powerful men, who tell those they’re preying on that they’ll help them out if they just submit to their advances. But if they don’t, they’ll never work again.

Private Eye, in itself, isn’t a radical magazine. it’s founders – Peter Cook, Willie Rushton, Richard Ingrams and co. were all solidly middle class, ex-public schoolboys. As is Ian Hislop. With a few possible exceptions, the Tory cabinet is solidly aristo and upper-middle class, as is the senior management at the Beeb.

Which probably explains why the Eye and Have I Got News For You yesterday night decided to treat the subject of sexual harassment as a joke, even if Jo Brand, as a feminist comedian, made it very clear that to many women it wasn’t funny.

Vox Political on Ian Hislop and the Beeb’s Anti-Corbyn Bias

December 17, 2016

Mike early today put up a post commenting on another example of the Beeb’s bias against Jeremy Corbyn, this time on last night’s Have I Got News For You. Hislop had made the comment, When you find yourself agreeing with Jeremy Corbyn, you know the country is in a mess.’

Mike states

If the BBC had any real interest in its stated commitment to political impartiality, one of the other panel members, or guest host Gary Lineker, would have jumped in to say that agreeing with Theresa May and the Tories is what put the country in a mess in the first place. But that didn’t happen.

And concludes

This man is the editor of Private Eye. Do you think he bothers to keep his political bias out of the magazine? Neither do I.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/17/hislops-jeremy-corbyn-jibe-what-happened-to-bbc-impartiality/

I don’t have to speculate if Hislop is keeping his own personal political bias out of Private Eye. I’ve stopped reading it because he blatantly hasn’t. There are plenty of stories attacking Corbyn and the ‘click-bait’ web site that supports him, The Canary, but absolutely none supporting the Labour leader. The satirical magazine has been running a feature, Focus on Fact, which is devoted to attacking him. This seems to come from embittered Blairites, as many of the stories in there seem to be about internal party disputes from the 1980s.

I’ve blogged before about how I’ve stopped reading the Eye because of this consistent bias against Corbyn, despite the excellent work the magazine has also done attacking privatisation, including that of the NHS. But it needs to remembered that Private Eye and its founders were very much part of the establishment. Richard Ingrams, Willie Rushton, Auberon Waugh, Peter Cook and Ian Hislop himself are all very middle class, ex-public schoolboys. Auberon Waugh was notorious for his own extremely Tory and reactionary views, writing columns for the Torygraph sneering at the Greenham women and teachers, for example. His family were also connected to MI5, and he may have been one of the conduits for the intelligence agency’s attempt to smear Harold Wilson as a KGB agent in the 1970s, according to Lobster.

The Eye is not just biased about domestic politics. It has frequently run pieces about the Ukraine in its Letter from… column, which has unwaveringly presented the line that the current vile regime in Kyiv is entirely democratic and is under threat from Putin, the new Grand Duke of Moscow, who is trying to set himself up as the next Tsar of all the Russias and the true heir to Ivan the Terrible. There is no mention that the current Ukrainian regime includes neo-Nazis, determined to persecute genuinely independent journalists, and who have beaten and brutalised members of the Ukrainian left, just as the regime is genuinely responsible for persecuting ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

As for the BBC, I recently posted a piece about a book I found in Waterstones, The BBC and the Myth of Public Broadcasting, which makes the case that the BBC is extremely biased towards the corporate establishment and the Conservatives. This should surprise no-one on the left. Mike and several other left-wing blogs have published articles about the finding by academics at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff Universities that the Beeb is more likely to favour Conservative MPs and managing directors and spokespeople for the stock exchange over Labour MPs and trade unionists. And the Corporation is also very culpably silent about the privatisation of the NHS.

Hislop’s comment last night is another example of this bias. It’s also the reason why I don’t buy Private Eye, and indeed, can no longer stand watching Have I Got News For You.

Harry Ryder on Why He Also Doesn’t Buy Private Eye

September 6, 2016

On Saturday I put up piece about how I hadn’t bought Private Eye last Friday, because once again it was bashing Corbyn for the Blairites. The Eye has published a lot of excellent pieces attacking the privatisation of the NHS, workfare, benefit sanctions and the work capability test, policies that ultimately have their origins in Thatcherism, and which have been supported, if not actually introduced by Tony Blair and New Labour. But the magazine, like the rest of the media, is determined to attack Corbyn and anyone who supports him. Which suggests that Corbyn might just be a bit too serious about reversing Thatcher’s legacy of misery and impoverishment for the magazine’s corporate backers and the comfort of its editor, Ian Hislop.

The post clearly resonated with a lot of people. Ulysses, one of the regular commenters, remarked that it was part of the reason he hadn’t bought a paper for years, preferring to rely on bloggers like Mike over at Vox Political, Johnny Void and myself. Thanks, Ulysses!

Another commenter, Harry Ryder, also posted this comment about his own dissatisfaction with the magazine.

I just can’t buy Private Eye since their attacks on Corbyn. Before that it was my favourite magazine and I’d really look forward to buying it every other Wednesday. Never thought that would come to an end, or that the Eye would take such a stance on the Establishment’s corrupt attempt to remove Corbyn. I mean sure, I would expect them to take the piss out of him, not expecting it to act as a fan sheet, but they seem to be actually waging a campaign against him. They exhibit exactly the same level of indignation against Corbyn as they did against Blair, which is weird because Blair was a corrupt, dodgy, unscrupulous right winger and Corbyn isn’t. All the stunts being pulled by the PLP and NEC at the moment are exactly the sort of things that the Eye used to expose amongst Local Councils and Local Party Organisations writ on a National Scale. Yet for some reason they’re ignoring it, sometimes even cheerleading it.

I always had a strong personal identification with this magazine and so feel kind of personally betrayed by their stance on Corbyn. And yes I am guessing I am far from unique in this so hopefully The Eye will start to feel some pain in their back pocket because of this.

It’s not that I have stopped buying it as a protest. It’s just that I don’t identify with its values any more.

Very many people are feeling the same. I don’t know why the Eye should be so biased against Corbyn, but I can make a few guesses. Firstly, the magazine’s founders were all very establishment. Peter Cook, Willie Rushton, Richard Ingrams and Auberon Waugh were all very middle class and privately educated. So’s Ian Hislop. Waugh had extensive connections to MI5, which may play a part in it as Corbyn was sceptical of British policy in Northern Ireland, and doesn’t share the raging eagerness of the establishment to start a war with Russia, as predicted by a former NATO general in book about how by May next year Putin will have invaded Latvia and we’ll be at war. Having lived through the fear of nuclear Armageddon in the ‘new cold war’ begun in the 1980s by Thatcher and Reagan, I can say categorically that this is an insanely stupid idea. The apparent eagerness of the establishment to start a war can be gauged from the way one of the journos deliberately misreported Corbyn’s comments about the possibility. He stated that Corbyn had said that he wouldn’t defend a NATO ally if it were attacked by Russia. He said no such thing. He made it plain he would defend a fellow NATO country, but would do everything he could to stop it coming to armed conflict first. But clearly, that wasn’t good enough for the journo, who had to lie to give the story the anti-Corbyn spin his corporate masters and editors clearly wanted.

I also suspect that part of this desperation to smear Corbyn is motivated by the need to find advertising revenue. The Observer, which is nominally a left-wing paper, actually has a very wealthy readership, and this was one of the reasons it was so hostile to the Labour Party under Michael Foot in the 1980s. My guess is that the Eye’s readership is similarly better educated and rather more affluent than other groups. All the newspapers are taking hits from the internet and the rise of alternative news sources online, and I think the same might be happening to the Eye. In which case, they’re going to be under the same pressure as other newspapers and magazines to maintain their appeal to advertisers. Following the Second World War, many of the left-wing or radical British papers folded, or became more right-wing, as the cost of running a paper increased, coupled with the difficulty they faced finding advertising. With a few notable exceptions, advertisers didn’t want to appeal to the working class, preferring the social classes with higher disposable income. I think the same process is going on here, including with Private Eye.

The result is that the Eye, which should be treating Corbyn no better or worse than other politicos, has firmly joined the rest of the press in attacking him. And so it’s effectively turn to defending Thatcherism against the politician most determined to overturn it.

Lobster on Private Eye’s Smearing of Harold Wilson

August 13, 2016

Private Eye’s continued attacks and smears against Jeremy Corbyn on behalf of the New Labour establishment aren’t the first time they’ve run smears against a Labour leader. Of course, the Eye’s business is mocking just about every public figure, including and especially politicians. But sometimes this becomes something much more sinister: deliberate disinformation on behalf of the Secret State.

In the 1970s the British and American secret services were convinced that Harold Wilson was a KGB agent, including the head of the CIA, James Jesus Angleton. Various individuals connected with MI5 discussed overthrowing him in a coup, and imprisoning radical journalists, along with other subversives, in an internment camp in the Outer Hebrides. I’ve blogged about this before. It’s in ‘Red’ Ken’s 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour. Francis Wheen, a Guardian journalist and frequent guest on BBC Radio Four’s topical comedy quiz, The News Quiz, also discusses the paranoia about Wilson and the plots to unseat him, including the formation of private armies and articles by the Times demanding that he be replaced by a coalition government. One of those, who also believed Wilson was a Soviet agent was a junior Conservative politician, Margaret Hilda Thatcher. Many of these conspiracy theories were based on forged documents circulating in the media, which look very much like they were concocted by MI5 as a deliberate attempt to spread dissatisfaction. And one of the magazines that ran this disinformation was Private Eye.

Lobster, in issue 17 for November 1988 ran an article by Steven Dorril, then the magazine’s co-editor with Robin Ramsay. Entitled ‘Five at Eye’, this reported and commented on a piece published the year previously by the Guardian that the Eye may have been used to spread this deliberate black propaganda. Much of the material was published in the Eye by Auberon Waugh, who predictably denied any secret service involvement. In fact, Waugh had extensive connections to MI5 and also the extreme Right. He tried to join the Foreign Office, being recommended by MI5’s head, Roger Hollis. Hollis’ brother, Christopher, was his godfather. Christopher Hollis had been a member of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists, was a contributor to various far right periodicals like Action and the World Review. During the War Waugh’s family had connections to those working in Middle East intelligence including Tom Driberg, the Labour politician, who also contributed to the Eye and MI5. Another colleague was Roger Fulford, who had also worked with Hollis. Auberon Waugh’s first job was at the Torygraph, and Dorril comments that it looked very much like an internal MI5 posting. In the 1970s the Washington Post claimed that the London papers were ‘flooded’ with intelligence assets, specifically referring to the Torygraph. One of Waugh’s closest collaborators at the Eye was Patrick Marnham, a contributor to the magazine’s ‘Grovel’ column.

When Wilson was re-elected in 1974, Marnham started receiving information packs from MI5 through a colleague on the Times. This material discussed Wilson’s position at the Board of Trade issuing import licences to a group of import-export dealers, known as the ‘East-West Traders’, who did business with the Soviet Union. Martin Tomkinson, another Eye journalist, stated he had a contact with the intelligence agencies, who believed that Wilson was too concerned with promoting Anglo-Soviet trade. The traders, who included Sir Rudy Sternberg, Lord Plurenden and Lady Beattie Plummer, were suspected by MI5 of being Soviet agents. In fact, Wilson discovered that Sternberg was a spy, but for MI6. Dorril’s article also contains a selection of pieces from the Spectator and the Eye, and the MI5 documents leaked to Marnham, with appropriate comments. The article also contains snippets from Dr Kitty Little’s pamphlet, Treason at Westminster, which was similarly paranoid about the East-West Traders, and by Peter Dally, who wrote for Asian Outlook. Both Dally and Birdwood were British representatives to the World Anti-Communist League, a far-Right organisation that included extreme Conservatives and outright Fascists and Nazis.

Reading between the lines, my guess is that there still is a link to MI5 at the Eye, despite the fact that it has, on occasion, been quite prepared to challenge the official line, such as over the Lockerbie bombing. All of the Eye’s founders – Richard Ingrams, Peter Cook, Willie Rushton, Auberon Waugh were British public school establishment. One other frequent contributor was John Wells, who was the French teacher and headmaster at Eton. Its present editor, Ian Hislop, comes from the same background. The real radical at the Eye was Paul Foot, of the ‘Footnotes’ column, which has continued after his death as ‘In the Back’. Foot was accepted, however, because he also came from the same middle class, public school background, and shared their tastes.

If the intelligence services are involved, it’s probably because Corbyn and the Labour left threaten the dominance of the Israel lobby within the Labour party. Blair was very close to the Zionists through Lord Levy, and the accusations of anti-Semitism directed against Jeremy Corbyn and members of the Labour left stem from the fact that they have criticised Israel for its persecution and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The Zionists have become particularly shrill and defensive because the BDS campaign is having an effect in forcing Israeli businesses out of the occupied territories on the West Bank. Despite the inquiry and its finding that Blair was what his opponents had told the world all along – a warmonger – this is all about protecting Israel and maintaining the neocon policies in the Middle East.

Losing Patience with the Anti-Corbyn Bias in Private Eye

August 7, 2016

I’ve finally lost patience with the persistent bias against Jeremy Corbyn in Private Eye. I read the magazine regularly, and much of it I agree with and admire. It has over the years published some superb pieces attacking privatisation, the dismantling of the welfare state, the privatisation of the NHS, and the persecution of the severely disabled by Atos and its successor Maximus. It has also shown itself quite willing to challenge British foreign policy. For example, it has published numerous pieces rebutting official claims that the Libyans were responsible for the Lockerbie bombing, and instead pointed the finger at Syria, who were not accused as George Bush senior needed their help during the first Gulf War. It has also done admirable work defending the bereaved relatives in the Deepcut inquiry, challenging the official story that all of the victims committed suicide and attacking the Army’s and police’s apparent cover-up of what looks very much like murder on an army base that was out of control, with rampant bullying and the sexual abuse of female squaddies.

And yet, despite all this, the magazine has joined the rest of the press pack in attacking Corbyn as ‘unelectable’, mocking, smearing and denigrating his leadership at every turn. For the past few weeks, it has been running a strip, ‘Focus on Fact’, which appears to have been written by the Blairites, and mostly revisits spats with Jeremy Corbyn and the extreme Left back in the 1980s. They’ve also published other pieces firmly showing their pro-Blairite bias. For instance, in this fortnight’s issue, there’s a piece defending Angela Eagle’s claim that Corbynistas threw a brick through her window, and attacking the good folks on the internet that have attempted to refute it as ‘conspiracy theorists’. They’ve also decided to criticise Corbyn because – gasp – he’s dared to appear on RT and Press TV. I intend to blog more deeply about both these issues. However, for now I’ll just say that the story about the brick thrown at Eagle’s office is false. It didn’t come through her window, and the area is marked by vandalism. There’s no evidence linking it to the Corbynites, and the entire accusation just comes from Eagle. As for RT and PressTV, this is more or less a return to the ‘red baiting’ of the Thatcherites in the 1980s, when they attacked Ken Livingstone and his group as Communists. This included members of the left-wing Tribune group, who had written articles for Soviet and Marxist magazines, but were themselves not Communists. RT stands for Russia Today, and is the Russian state broadcaster, while PressTV is run by the Iranian state. Both of these are extremely authoritarian countries which are notorious for their persecution of independent journalists. But I’ve used material from RT, because it gives a genuinely left-wing perspective on politics and events in America and the West, such as American imperialism and the exclusion of radical voices from official American politics. Very few others broadcasters are going to discuss these issues, with the noble exceptions of internet programmes like The Young Turks and Democracy Now. They put on the stuff that you won’t read about in our papers, or see on BBC TV, and increasingly not on Channel 4.

So what has prompted the Eye to attack Corbyn? I can’t be sure, but it strikes me that it’s probably due to the very upper middle class background of the magazine itself, and the fact that, despite its excellent record in many areas, none of its founders were in any sense radicals. Peter Cook, Willie Rushton, Richard Ingrams and John Wells were all stout fellows, but they were very ‘establishment’. They were public schoolboys, a point I can remember being made by the panel at an event on the late Peter Cook one year at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. John Wells, who in my opinion was one of the funniest of British comedians and comic actors, was the former French teacher and headmaster of Eton. You don’t get much more establishment than that. I once heard Humphrey Carpenter describe Auberon Waugh as a ‘Tory anarchist’, presumably meaning he that he was instinctively a man of the Right, but was also acutely aware of their stupidities and failings as well. I think this characterisation probably applies much more to Peter Cook. Cook seemed to me to be resolutely cynical in his politics. When he was at university, he joined all three mainstream political parties so he could laugh at them equally. By contrast, Waugh, who also wrote columns for Private Eye, always struck me as just a sarcastic right-winger sneering at the Left. Ingrams was notorious for having a bitter hatred of gays. After leaving the editorship of Private Eye, he founded the Oldie, a magazine for the elderly. I asked my mother once if she’d read it. She had, but didn’t like it, declaring it to be ‘snobby’. The only genuine left-winger on the team was Paul Foot, and he fitted in because he came from the same privileged background, and had the same very upper-middle class tastes in food and drink as the rest of them.

Ian Hislop, the current editor, is no different. He’s very public school, and his father was some kind of army officer or colonial administrator in Nigeria. And he also shares other parts of the accepted political wisdom. A few years ago on Have I Got News For You he declared that, regardless of the attacks the Tories were getting for their austerity policies, Labour would also be required to cut spending on the welfare state. This is very much the standard view, which is also followed slavishly by Beeb broadcasters. The Kushners attacked it, and the media consensus surrounding it, in their book Who Needs the Cuts?, which contains numerous examples of BBC broadcasters and journos uncritically repeating what is basically Neoliberal propaganda. Hislop wasn’t mentioned, but he was clearly another who had uncritically accepted this view.

And Corbyn isn’t the only Left-wing politician to be have been unfairly attacked by the Eye. Tony Benn was regularly pilloried as a ‘swivel-eyed loon’, despite the fact that the people, who knew him said that he wasn’t a fanatic, but a thoughtful man who carefully considered what the people around him were saying and consulted their opinions before reaching a decision. But the received, Fleet Street wisdom in the 1970s and ’80s was that Benn was a fanatic and a madman.

As was ‘Red’ Ken Livingstone. Livingstone was also attacked as a ‘Communist’, despite the fact that he wasn’t. He used them, and occasionally used the same type of language, but wasn’t, in fact, a Marxist. But hasn’t stopped the Eye from calling him Ken Leninspart. And most of what Livingstone talked about in his interviews with the press when he was head of the GLC was boringly mundane. However, this was routinely ignored, and the only parts of the conversation – which in actual fact were only very small parts of what he said – which were printed and repeated were those which presented him as an extremist – profoundly anti-racist, pro-feminist and pro-gay. Which was too much for a Britain that was much more traditional and conservative in its attitudes towards race and gender than today. This was a time when the Black and White Minstrels were mainstream TV with a mass audience, despite being based on 19ith century parodies of Black, slave entertainment.

Benn and Livingstone were both attacked by the media because they were left-wing Socialists. Benn advocated extending nationalisation to a further 25 companies, as recommended in a report by his own party. One journo for the Sunday Times said that this was probably the reason why the press hated him, because editors and proprietors feared that eventually he would nationalise them. And ‘Red’ Ken was similarly reviled because he was in favour of industrial democracy and worker’s control, which shocked and outraged the media. The press did not, however, try to refute their ideas, and so took the tactics of sheer ad hominem abuse. My guess they were afraid to, because either they couldn’t, or they were afraid that simply discussing them would make them popular with the proles.

And I think this is true of the press today and its attacks on Corbyn. They’re motivated by the same fear of genuine Socialism after the neoliberalism and privatisation of the Blairites. And this terror is shared by Hislop and Private Eye, which despite its subversive tradition of satire and exposing abuse of power, isn’t really a radical magazine. Hislop and no doubt many of his contributors come from the upper middle classes, which own industry and continue to expect to take a leading role in British government and society. Jeremy Corbyn threatens them, just as Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone did before him. And so Private Eye joins in the abuse sneering and smearing him.

Adam Curtis’ Bugger: A Century of Paranoia, Incompetence, Failure and Smears in MI 5

January 11, 2015

Gerbil

Agent ‘Whisters’ of the elite Gerbil Squadron. Danger Mouse and Penfold were unavailable for comment.

As the Human Rights Blog has warned, this week the government is trying to rush through further legislation that will diminish traditional British freedoms as part of its anti-terror campaign. These measure are ill thought out, and represent potentially serious breaches of human rights and justice. Yet they have apparently support from both sides of the House, and criticism has been extremely muted. Anyone who genuinely believes that these measures will be administered by a sober, professional intelligence service, concerned for justice and with a clear and objective view of the threats to Britain from without and within should read the post on Adam Curtis’ blog ‘Bugger’ on the BBC site at http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/entries/3662a707-0af9-3149-963f-47bea720b460. It has the slogan ‘Maybe the real state secret is that spies aren’t very good at their job, and don’t know very much about the world’.

MI5’s Real History: Incompetence and Paranoia

Curtis’ point is that MI5’s history from its inception at the First World to the end of the Cold War in the 1980s is largely one of incompetence and abject failure. It’s few successes were either the result of accidents, or actually due to efforts by outside agencies, like the police. Some of them have even fabrications by the agency itself, designed to promote itself. The image of cold efficiency promoted in John Le Carre’s novels, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley’s People are completely opposite to the reality. In reality the agency has been riddled with failure and incompetence and torn by factionalism. And rather than having a clear, objective view of the world, the spies have been massively paranoid to the point where they suspected Prime Minister Harold Wilson of being a KGB agent, and did not actually believe that Communism had fallen.

William LeQueux, The 1906 Invasion Scare and the Foundations of MI5

Curtis’ post includes the story of how William LeQueux, who feared a coming war with Germany, offered his 1906 book The Invasion of Britain to the Daily Mail. The book was set in 1910, and designed to warn the British of the dangers of a possible German invasion. Lord Northcliffe accepted the book, but changed the German invasion route through East Anglia and the east coast, so that the Germans conquered towns, where there were actually Daily Mail readers. The result was a runaway success for the book, and an invasion scare, which saw people writing into the Mail informing on neighbours they suspected – falsely- of being German spies.

The scare led, however, to the creation of MI5. In 1914, the agency boasted that it had successfully broken a German spy ring, and imprisoned the captured agents. But as recent historians have uncovered, this was completely false. It was a lie designed to promote the new agency.

Cecil Day-Lewis and the Magnetic Mountain

During the 1930s, when the Agency was determined to guard Britain against the threat of revolutionary Communism, they placed Cecil Day-Lewis, Damian Day-Lewis’ father, under surveillance as a suspected Communist. This was because he had made a £5 donation to the British Communist party. However, they failed to find any further evidence that he was a revolutionary Marxist, despite the fact that he was the author of the poem, The Magnetic Mountain, hailed as the most revolutionary poem by an Englishman, which actually called for Communist revolution.

Factionalism and Percy Sillitoe

In the 1940s the agency had real success in turning German agents against their masters and sending them false information. But this success was offset by the development of vicious factionalism within the spy agencies. Curtis quote the journalist Philip Knightley on the atmosphere of failure and nepotism within the organisations. After the War, the new Labour government tried to clean the mess up by placing in charge Percy Sillitoe. Sillitoe had had great success before the War when, as Chief Constable of Glasgow, he cracked down on the razor gangs in the city. Sillitoe was treated with contempt and insubordination by the spies, he had been brought in to sort out. He was eventually forced out after a string of traitors were found, like Klaus Fuchs, who had passed nuclear secrets to the Russians. None of these had been unmasked by MI5, however.

Anthony Blunt

And the situation got worse with the scandal around Philby, Maclean, Burgess and co. When the agency was told that Anthony Blunt was a Communist mole in 1965, they were so embarrassed that they gave him immunity from prosecution, and he carried on with his job as the ‘surveyor’ of the Queen’s art collection. In fact the Queen Mother had known he was a Communist as far back as 1948.

Oleg Lyalin

The agency suffered a further setback in 1971 by one of its few real successes. This was the success of the Soviet agent Oleg Lyalin for drunk driving. Lyalin wanted to stay in Britain with his British mistress, and in exchange for this he named 105 Soviet spies, who were then deported. This effectively broke the Soviet spy network in Britain, and left the agency with very little to do. The British government and the civil service were extremely suspicious about the agency’s claims that there was a continuing Soviet threat in the UK. Ted Heath, the Tory Prime Minister, also had a low view of them. He stated they talked the most dreadful nonsense, and were even paranoid of about Mirror readers they saw on the underground as a threat to British security.

The Hunt for the ‘Fifth Man’

Curtis also discusses the agency’s hunt for the ‘fifth man’ in Burgess and Maclean case. This was prompted by the fact that MI5 actually couldn’t accept the fact that the reason they hadn’t uncovered the moles was simply their own incompetence. No, there were further moles, secretly helping the Soviet spies, further up in the organisation. And so they accused a string of highly placed figures, including the head of MI5, Roger Hollis, the Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson and Sir Andrew Cohen, the former governor of Uganda.

Chapman Pincher, Nigel West and Peter Wright

Chief among those publishing these stories and accusations in the press were Chapman Pincher in the Daily Express, and Nigel West. I remember both of these journalists from their columns in those newspapers, and how they were promoted as almost infallible experts in the weird world of the spies. It’s interesting and amusing to find how misguided they were, and says much about the paranoid mindset of both those newspapers. One of the main people behind the accusation that Wilson was a spy was Peter Wright, the author of Spycatcher, whose publication also upset Maggie. Wright revealed one too many official secrets in the book, and so it was duly banned in Britain. But it remained freely available in the rest of the world, and so people in this country simply took the step of ordering it from America, Australia and New Zealand instead. The result was a farce, which Private Eye’s cartoonist, the humourist Willie Rushton, sent up in his book, Spythatcher.

And what was Wright’s reason for suspecting that Wilson was a spy? He had made a series of business trips to the USSR before becoming Prime Minister. And, er, that’s it. and he surrounded himself with people the agency didn’t like and didn’t trust. He did. Yes, really.

It got to the point where Maggie herself accused Lord Rothschild of being the ‘fifth man’, to the incredulity of both Labour and Tories. In 1986 the deputy leader of the Labour party, Roy Hattersley, backed by some of the Prime Minister’s own party, called in parliament for her to retract this spurious accusation.

Graham Mitchell and the Chess Conspiracy

The paranoia continued, however, with MI5 suspecting the international chess expert, Graham Mitchell, of passing on British secrets in the letters describing the chess moves he was playing by correspondence with other chess players in the USSR. The journalist James Rusbridger attempted to end all this by making clear that he believed the accusations were false, and journalists and the government misled by right-wing loonies in MI5. Unfortunately, he was found dead from a bizarre game of auto-erotic asphyxiation, and so the paranoia continued. Curtis quotes John Le Carre on the reality behind his novels about MI5. Rather than being cold professionals, they were really mediocre failures.

Michael Bettaney and Geoffrey Prime

The revelation of further moles in MI5 continued with the cases of Michael Bettaney and Geoffrey Prime. Bettaney was a former University Nazi, who admired Adolf and sang the Nazi party anthem in pubs. Despite this, he was recruited into MI5. After being posted to Northern Ireland, where he witnessed some of the horrors of the terrorist campaign first hand, he announced that was now a Communist. He was caught, because he began taking secrets home. He stuffed some of these into the letterbox of Arkady Gouk, the deputy head of the Russian embassy. Gouk didn’t know anything about Bettaney, however, and thought MI5 were trying to frame him. He thus took the secrets back to MI5 and informed on Bettaney.

Geoffrey Prime was a former RAF officer and a member of staff at GCHQ in Cheltenham. He left to work as a taxi driver, while also passing official secrets onto the Russians. He was caught as he was vicious paedophile, and his car was spotted in the area of one of the girls he assaulted. After the police came round to interview him about it, he confessed to his wife, who then, three weeks later, informed the cops.

Percy Craddock and the End of Communism

What finally discredited MI5 and the spies was their utter failure to predict the end of Communism, or even to accept that it had actually occurred when it had. The head of MI5, Percy Craddock, believed that the apparent collapse of the USSR and the Soviet bloc was a ruse, and that the USSR still remained, poised for world domination.

This was precisely the same attitude as various far-right conspiracy nutters in the American mid-West in the 1990s. They too didn’t accept that the USSR had collapsed, and so devised elaborated conspiracy theories in which it was still covertly existing. Among some of the more bizarre of these theories was that the Russians had secretly established bases just across the border in Canada and Mexico. On a given, tanks would pour out of these bases in preparation for the invasion of the Land of the Free. I don’t think Craddock was as far gone as to believe that, but from the sound of it he was still very far from reality.

Failure to Predict Fall of Shah in Iran

Faced with this manifest failure to accept facts, even Thatcher lost patience with them. The parapolitical magazine, Lobster, has been saying since the 1980s that the British intelligence agencies were corrupt, out of control and incompetent. They point out that the only Prime Minister in the ’70s and ’80s who actually bothered to read their reports was Maggie Thatcher. All the others thought they were rubbish. And on the international scene, none of the intelligence agencies predicted the fall of the Shah and the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The closest they came was the CIA’s prediction that the Ayatollah Khomeini would return to Iran to act as a Gandhi-like figure of peaceful protest.

If only.

The Gerbil Counterspies

One of the weirder schemes of the spooks at MI5 was to use gerbils to identify spies and terrorists. The idea was that they would identify them from the smell of their extra sweat they produced from fear. This had to be abandoned, as the gerbils couldn’t tell the extra sweat from terrorists on airplanes from that of people who were simply scared of flying. Hence the photo at the top of the post.

How Competent are the Spies Now?

Curtis makes the serious point that the spies are in control of vast budgets, and claim that they have reformed. The mistakes of the past could not be made today. But we, the public, cannot be sure, because the agencies are secret, and we can’t be informed how they’ve changed for security reasons.

Wrongful Internment Iraqi Students

This has very serious implications for human rights abuses in this country. Curtis begins his piece with the story of 33 Iraqi Ph.D. students, who were interned as potential terrorists and spies in 1991 during the War with Iraq. The students were all listed in a letter the Iraqi embassy had sent to the Bank of England, requesting that their student grants should not be frozen. The letter had been signed by the Iraqi deputy military attaché. MI5 considered this clear evidence that they were spies, and so they were interned at Rollestone Camp in Salisbury Plain. IN fact the military attaché was also the official in charge of administering the grants.

The students were later released after MI5 was challenged to produce the evidence showing that they were spies. They hadn’t any.

In the meantime, the students had been detained without either they or their lawyers knowing the reasons for it.

Threat from Secret Courts and the New Anti-Terrorism Act

The Human Rights Blog, in their post about the new anti-terror legislation, has raised its concerns that these measures are a further attack on British freedom, and that the potential for terrible miscarriages of justice is great.

The Angry Yorkshireman over at Another Angry Voice, Tom Pride, Johnny Void, and Mike over at Vox Political, have also raised their concerns about the secret courts planned by the Tories and Lib Dems. These courts will examine the cases of suspected terrorists in closed session, so that the accused and their lawyers may not know what they evidence against them is.

The danger that British citizens will be either exiled or interned as terrorists without an open trial, on the flimsiest evidence, is thus very real. So real it cannot be ignored.

The Tories, Lib Dems and the supporters of this bill across the House have shown that they fear British freedom as much as they fear the terrorists. They are knee-jerk authoritarians, and this bill should be stopped immediately.