Friday, 21 October 2016

'I was so much older then,I'm younger than that now '

A short wallow in nostalgia, with all the appropriate cheesy cliches to record the latest Nobel Literature laureate.The fact that Bob Dylan,who  was awarded the prize last week has been the recipient of so much abuse and rancour is good reason to celebrate his award.
Indeed if Bob had been of a nervous disposition, or a shy retiring Labour MP he would have probably reported the critics to the National Executive and sold his story to 'The Sun'
Crowds of mournful critics have bleated out of every orifice that Bob is no poet ot writer and should never be allowed into the world portals of 'literature'
Most prominent amongst the arbiters of literary taste has been the Scots born novelist Irvine Walsh- whose claim to fame is the semi-literate novel 'Trainspotters' or some such tome.
Well,can you remember a single word the numpty has ever written ?
If he is the measurement of modern literature then indeed we've need for the zeitgeist !

I can measure my cultural awakening (classy huh!) to my early encounters with Dylan.The cliche 'soundtrack of my life' is something more than another banality.
I grew up in London in a Scots working class Communist household.The earliest 'soundtrack of my life ' was the curious eclectic discordance of Paul Robeson,the Red Army Choir, Jimmy Shand and his band and because my Mum liked his voice Jim Reeves.
It was ever so ,there is a curious bit of the psyche of all Scots  that they appear to have an unhealthy affection for country and western music.
Now it could of course be the simple affinity between Celtic fiddle music and the tunes and stories that the early settlers took across to the mining communities in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Kentucky,a style we romantically describe as 'blue grass'.
Or of course it could just be an attachment to slushy sentimental pap,after all.Consider the stirring airs of Irish popular music and what passes for the same in Scotland.How can you compare 'A Soldiers Song with Andy Stewart singing 'A Scottish Soldier' -FFS! 

But as I grew older whilst still enjoying Paul Robeson I was moving into political activity,and that meant going to YCL socials where everything was sedate and almost genteel-a scratched recording of the Red Army Choir was often on offer or a visit to a smoky back room in a North London pub where bawdy folk songs were wailed by bearded blokes with their fingers stuck in their lugs in the style of Ewan McColl or American union songs in the style of Pete Seeger.
Interesting how smoky back rooms are often depicted as the backdrop to revolutionary conspiracies-we know Uncle Joe liked his pipe-but did old LD Trotsky puff away on a cheroot ?

Of course in my more proletarian incarnations a tacky scout hut on the Holloway Road was a venue where we swirled around like demented hornets singing 'I'm 'enery the eighth I am,'enery the eighth ...' whilst a mediocre four piece played out of tune.
Around the age of fifteen or so I forsook much of my musical heritage when I found Dylan.My Saturday job was in Islington Central Library, a much coveted Saturday number where we were paid handsomely-35/6 a day,a rate for schoolkids that the union Nalgo negotiated for us (in those days unions even protected part time schoolkids and we weren't even members)
The average Saturday wage at the time in grim North London was £1.00 a day so my  £1.75 was a cut above.
I also learned how to carry an armload of books that went over my head and found out the hard way what it was to be bawled at by a head Librarian (to this day I can remember Bob Crumpton's unique command of the English language)
Across the road was a record shop, and with my first 35/6 in a wee brown envelope I went in and invested in my first wholly owned LP of my own choice , and for 15/6 I possessed Dylan's second album 'Freewheelin' Bob Dylan'.
The soundtrack of my generation.
I suspect there are few of my age who are unaware of so much of his repertoire and who cannot forget the inspiration that Bob gave us, through the civil rights fight,the Vietnam war,the fight against apartheid and all the domestic and international struggles we lived through and fought through.
Of course there were others that followed,Phil Ochs,Joan Baez,Tom Paxton  McColl and Seeger and then the generations that followed.
There were other styles and genres that followed and arguably have also changed people's lives.
But like Bob:
"I was so much older then,I'm younger than that now."

Perhaps 70 is the new 25!
And Irving, if you think your a writer......up yours!   

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Agitate,educate and organise!

When we left beautiful Dubrovnik on Saturday morning we were fairly sure what the result would be from the conference in Liverpool.
we were not disappointed and I suppose we have to thank Owen Smith for confirming what many of us knew, that the Labour Party is no longer a snivelling collection of careerists and policy light clones but is emerging as a Socialist party, indeed now the largest one in all of Europe,and is becoming less and less the 'hollowed out shell' that Jason Cowley described last week in the New Statesman.
That's a bit ironic really given that the NS, along with it whinge-mate Progress  and all those other New Labour types has been the cheerleaders for 'moderate' politics, or to be more precise 'do as little as possible to rock the boat' politics of the last three decades.
However there is still a great deal to do if the Party is to be turned into one that can give leadership and hope to millions who are being crushed on a daily basis by austerity and the laughable pretensions of the so called 'political class'.
There is no such thing as a political class, it is a creation of wishful thinkers who believe if they say it often enough then we will get used to the perpetual rule of an elite.The one that the NS called the 'golden generation'-you will of course remember them, Douglas Alexander,James Purnell, the Miliband Brothers and of course the all dancing Ed Balls.
it is now up to all those thousands of new members to move on from hoping for change to creating change.
But some stable cleaning has to take place.The first and most important is that the witch hunt against members by the Party officials must end.It cannot be right that the thousands of new members subscriptions are being used by officials to trawl facebook and twitter and websites to find something someone once wrote eons ago and rehash it as being evidence of 'bullying' or 'deviation' or somesuch old tosh.
I guess when the thought police come to look at my scribblings over the years there is enough to cast me into the outer darkness several times over.(I forgot they already did that,at my last appeal they found stuff I had written ages ago on this blog-strangely enough it was a comment I made about Dennis Skinner becoming a parliamentary character-I'm glad by the way I got that wrong!)
However if these latter day heresy hunters had been around a few decades ago, well old Nye would have been slung out for calling tories 'vermin' .
So the first thing that happens must be the muzzling of the heresy hounds.
Then the Party needs to understand that endless bleating about unity means nothing other than offering a cover for plotting and scheming to go on with endless pious references to 'taking on the Tories'.
You don't take them on by wagging a petulant digit and then having a pop at JC.Neither does it mean stuffing inane leaflets in letterboxes,asking people what they want or offering to collect their litter or empty their dustbins.
In every area people have issues that confront them daily, some are small irritants, others are major problems,caused either by austerity or lousy Tory administrations.
What is required is for Labour Party branches to get involved in local struggles,to play a leading role, ina word to AGITATE.
There are many good examples, the best and most obvious one in Northampton at the moment is the plans by local Tories and big business to construct a highly dangerous and polluting incinerator in the St  James area.All the sophistry and preachy resolutions about creating business plans or understanding the problems of waste disposal and blah blah will not help the people living in the potential shadow of the monster.
I am delighted to see some Borough Councillors notably Gareth Eales taking a lead in the campaign, but it i9s just the sort of campaign that the Party should be organising townwide-that is real leadership within the community.
Which leads on to the second strand of what the Party needs to do-EDUCATE.
Every campaign that the Party participates in,if not leads should be about explaining in clear terms what is happening and why.Far too often, Councillors and indeed MP's get caught up in the management speak so beloved by bureaucrats at every level.If you want to know why people are turned off by politicians, can I suggest to those who are the public face of the Labour Party listen to themselves sometime, instead of preening in front of a camera,listen to what you are saying.
The reason why JC so resonates with so many people is that he speaks people-not jargon!

Lastly, if the Party is agitating and educating it needs to ORGANISE.That is the first lesson of the history of our movement.Even those farm labourers in Dorset understood that they needed to organise their workmates in the village-of course they got deported to Van Diemen's Land for their trouble, but at least they knew what had to be done.
Everyone talks about winning the next election, but to put it simply,stuffing semi literate leaflets in letterboxes is not organising, it's political drudgery at it's lowest level.The trade union movement learned what to do 150 odd years ago.
If Labour is to win council or parliamentary seats it won't be achieved by having a top heavy bureaucracy that spends its time sifting through members Facebooks and studying rule books like racing form books.As a simple suggestion with all the new money in the party,why not deploy Regional staff and indeed head office grand poohbahs into local constituencies, not simply to prepare for elections and design leaflets but get out into neighbourhoods and act as political organisers throughout the year.As a matter of fact as well as union officials on picket lines,LP organisers should be there too, offering to workers in struggle facilities to support their actions.
Labour Party organisers,activating and education within the communities,supporting members actions, supporting trade unionists,supporting tenants ,supporting claimants at the Job Centre.
"Where workers strike and organise,it's there you'll find......"  
Now wouldn't that be grand.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Farce repeats itself,first as farce and then as farce

Regular readers of my ramblings will be aware that I have a deep affection for the party of my youth-no not the Communist Party,or more precisely the Young Communist league) but rather that old warhorse of democratic socialism,the Labour Party.
One of the reasons the YCL threw me out,well amongst many, was that I found the notion of 'democratic centralism' irksome.
I could well understand in times of revolution and violent upheaval the need to maintain what leading party cadres used to call iron discipline.I understood why for instance during the Spanish Civil War each batallion needed a Political Commissar, after all in those times every comrade needed to trust each other,their lives depended on that trust.
That I understood, I knew instinctively that in a revolutionary situation discipline was everything, and each unit of the party was responsible to the one above, from the branch to the district to the Central Committee to the Political Committee.

But I found it difficult to relate that to the task of selling copies of 'Challenge' on a Saturday at the Nags Head.Would the revolution falter if I missed selling my quota ? Would those capitalist exploiters rub their fat hands together and polish their top hat if I failed to turn out on a demo. ?
Democratic Centralism was a futile activity in nineteen sixties North Islington, the proletarian masses of the Holloway Road were not buying into revolutionary change, indeed they were not even buying 'Challenge', and it was only a tanner!

Of course I might have got myself expelled even quicker if I had known that I shared my revolutionary aspirations with Peter Mandelson and David Aaronovitch !

So for a few years I pottered around left politics of sorts, whilst some movements held my attention and enthusiasm, like the Yellow Star Movement, CND,Anti-Apartheid and of course the huge anti-Vietnam War campaign, I was for much of the time a sort of political dilettante. 
For a time I thought I was possibly a Maoist,and whilst a student was almost 25% of the total membership of the Sussex Communist Caucus (M-L) Apropos of nothing in particular it was during that time I made a brief acquaintance with a very sharp guy called Alan Woods, who was a founder of what we now know as 'Militant'
But then he was a 'trot',the mortal enemies of us 'Stalinist' Maoist.
this by the way has all been a bit of a preamble to my main point.By the time I got to Northampton I had done the whole gamut, from the street newspaper of the 'Stoke Newington Peoples paper' to the intense study group of 'Theoretical Practice'-an Althussarian sect.
in Northampton there was very little left political activity, a few members of the old SLL,a smattering of anarcho-syndicalists and a tichy branch of the CPGB.
It was our next door neighbour,the redoubtable Doll Pickering who heard us ranting a bit in the garden and invited us both the the Castle Ward labour Party.
Now Doll was what you might describe as one to the right of the party.He was a great admirer of Reg Paget the then Labour MP (frequently described as being to the right of Attila the Hun)
But our fierce leftism did not phase Doll and she and the other older members made us welcome.
It was then a party in transition, and meetings at Charles Street were to say the least rumbustious.Every month branches and unions submitted resolutions and the debate was fierce and partisan.Ideas were explored,positions taken and defended and everyone was encouraged to engage and participate.
Of course there was endless plotting and counter plotting,voices were raised and tempers frayed.But as far as I can recall nobody burst into tears if the temperature got too high, and strangely enough everybody came back the next month.

It was as far as a party could get from the authoritarian discipline of a democratic centralist's true that Northampton got a bit of a reputation with the Regional Office,we were the District Party that was frequently on the naughty step, Yet when that happened it wasn't about personalities but about principle.When the SDP was created we were almost suspended because we refused to endorse as candidates people who were involved in defecting to the SDP.
The NEC were furious with us and even sent no less a figure than the late and very left wing MP Eric Heffer to reason with us.
Didn't work, and we would have been locked out of the party had a general election not intervened.

what is happening now is too tragic for words.Jeremy Corbyn was elected last year with a huge popular vote of party members.He was elected,we are now told he is unelectable !At the next General election it will not be those 170 odd MP's, or those geriatric time served peers or even the wealthy donors who will win the election, it will be the hundreds of thousands of party members who will go out in their communities and persuade their neighbours that the Labour Party is not 'New Labour' but the sort of party that Doll and her democratic socialists fought for all those years ago.

Sharp suits and soundbites don't win elections, surely Jim Murphy and his mates in Scotland proved that-what wins elections is sincerity and a programme that resonates.Clement Attlee was a PR disaster on legs-and yet....
What worries me most is the dubious behaviour of so many, the labelling of thousands as 'trots' the influence of large financial backers,the hysteria about intimidation and bullying,and the description of thousands of young and new party members as followers of a 'cult'

even here in sleepy old Northampton things don't look too good, former PPC's write a letter,using party membership lists to members urging them to support that Welsh bloke.The nomination of JC by the two parties by 78 to 13 strangely doesn't reach the Party nationally, three members are still suspended,with no charge brought against them for almost a year,some members are told of meetings,others are not.

There is as far as I can see an atmosphere if mistrust and suspicion,why has it changed ? Thirty years ago we would argue and disagree upstairs in Charles Street, in that big smoky room for hours, then we go for a drink together afterwards and plan what Tory ward we were going to hit at the weekend.There are big campaigns waiting for Labour party leadership in this town, and I don't mean collecting litter.
we have two Tory Councils whose incompetence and arrogance is exposed every day, Northampton Labour Party I am told has thousands of members.
Where are they ? maybe their not getting the e-mails ? Who knows ?

Saturday, 6 August 2016

When is a movement not a party ?

I'm getting a little concerned about the state of mind of some leading figures in the Parliamentary Labour Party.
Only yesterday it was announced that Shami Chakrabarti, the distinguished civil rights advocate and long time leader of Liberty,the international human rights organisation( that the Labour Party has been associated with for many years, and indeed some of its leading members like Harriet Harman worked with) has been nominated by Jeremy Corbyn for a peerage.
She was the only Labour nomination in Cameron's retirement honours-and you would have thought the roof had fallen in!
Dear old Tom Watson got himself in a right two and eight.Whilst admitting that she was a superb candidate and would make a distinguished contribution to the Lords he bleated about the timing,the fact that it was Cameron's list and that JC had not told him!
then there was a flurry of criticism, the Chief Rabbi complained that her report on anti-semitism in the Labour Party  was not sufficiently robust, that is to say she didn't find hordes of anti-semites lurking in the shadows.
And of course St.Keith Vaz complained that he didn't know what day JC first told  Shami she was being considered.
This by the way is the same sainted Vaz who agreed to a new Zealand judge copping £500,000 a year for working three quarters of a year and then quitting on the child abuse enquiry.
Motes and beams seem to be the appropriate comment! 
But it seems at the moment elements of the PLP are trying to find,quite unsuccessfully to find any crime,real or imagined ,to nail on Jeremy Corbyn,to persuade Party members to vote for the immensely popular and well liked MP-Owen....?
What i find so difficult to comprehend,and maybe amongst me readership at the Labour Party Regional Office is why, if JC is so hopeless,the big beasts of the PLP were not queuing up to take him on ?Why was the challenge left to two middle ranking members of the PLP,one slightly better known than the other and she dropped out, leaving the Welsh bloke to campaign on a platform a pale shadow of Jeremy's!
What can you say about a Labour candidate who proposes a minimum wage Lower than the one the Tories are proposing !
I  feel a bout of Kinnock coming on, remember his outrage at Militant in Liverpool:
'A Labour Council (voice rising dramatically) a Labour Council scuttling round Liverpool and blah blah blah...'

however the strangest critique going round at the moment is the view that mass meetings are somehow not part of the project anymore.
A handful of people mincing around an ice cream van is somehow OK. but thousands standing in a square listening to a political speech:
'Well it's not cricket !'
Now I guess those right on Blairites (sorry that word may now be illegal) have never seen those old photographs of an earlier beared Labour leader haranguing a huge 'crowd' in Trafalgar Square objecting to a war (WW1 as it happens)
But then J Keir Hardie was always a bit of a dangerous subversive old premature hippie wasn't he.
then on top of hating mass meetings there is a resentment that such activities may just be part of a #movement', whilst so many of the PLP do not want a movement, they want a number of well behaved leaflet distributors who don't raise difficult questions, don't want a conference that might ask those difficult questions.Indeed it would appear that most of those distinguished Members would rather not bother with a party structure at all.Better not to have CLP meetings other than to reselect the sitting member.
Although to be fair when you see Westminster on TV there are few of them sitting there anyway.
All my life I have wanted a mass party, half a million members of a left wing political party.I'm so bloody excited.
But we need much more than a party that responds to parliamentary dog whistles.We need a party of the streets,of the workplaces,of the housing estates.We need a party of tenants and residents,patients groups,youth activists,anti-racist activists,anti-semitic activists,refugee supporters,disabled rights activists- you name the progressive cause then Labour Party activists should be taking the political initiative.
And that in turn will build the community activists,who will become the local councillors and the local MP's.
In building such a movement we expect it to work in parallel with building a trade union  movement.That means agitating, organising and educating (sorry for the old proletarian slogan there-it slipped in)
We need to see the union movement organising where unionism is weak,with the unemployed,the young,migrant workers.As part of that movement we need to see bigger unions, that elect their leadership and end the nonsense of small unions with big numbers of full tim staff.
As an aside the Labour Party also needs tom elect its full time staff too,no more 'appointments' for life.
Such a strategy will not just be for the next General Election,although of course you never know in these strange times.
Remember Socialism is not just for the next election or even Christmas- it's for ever! 

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Is Trump really that bad ?

There is a sort of louche acceptance,particularly in the British press that despite the fact that Trump has captured the Republican Party that it's not really that bad.
Already clever pundits are making asinine comparisons with earlier presidents and are generally saying that he will probably grow into the job, and really he'll just be in the mold of Nixon and Reagan,and after all the world survived them didn't it.

Trump claims that Nixon was his hero, well i guess they share the same venal political outlook, Like Nixon Trump thinks he's above the law,and like Nixon he uses every evil device he can find to gain power.
Nixon is frequently given credit for starting to open dialogue with China,and I guess it can be argued that during his administration something moved-but it was all too little too late and all his life he remained what he started he political life as-another stooge of McCarthy,as well of course the state security machinery,and the powerful military-industrial complex that protected him and prevented him standing trial for crimes against the American people and indeed the people of the world.
When Trump forgets that Nixon was his great hero he always claims that Ronald Reagan was really his great hero.
In that respect he reminds me of Bruce Forsyth on 'Strictly Come Dancing' who told every couple that they were his favourite.
There is a habit amongst liberals the world over of thinking of the faded movie actor as some sort of genial chuckling uncle figure, the sort of dude who would appear in a check shirt,astride a horse saying:
"Aw sucks !"
Nothing could be further from the truth, he was an egomaniac, determined to develop the 'Star Wars'  first strike nuclear 'defence' system that would target anyone and anywhere he didn't like.
No wonder Thatcher thought he was her soul-mate.
You sense that she didn't send the whole paraphernalia of war to the Falklands to save a few hundred people and a load more sheep-it was a sort of love offering to 'Dear Ronnie'

Trump is of course not a new sort of politician as the press are trying to spin, a rough uncut diamond of a guy, an unspun 'good old boy' from the rocky canyons of Old Manhattan.
Trump is a cynical product of clever product placement, he is in a direct line of cheap and nasty populism ,the sort you see all over the world, Le Pen,Farage,Wildeers,and all the rest Their mood music is all the same, that the old politics are dead,centre left or centre right are all the same,and of course their solution is the same.It's not monopoly capitalism or global capitalism or any of the characteristics of the capitalist mode of production.
Oh no, that's all fine, what is the problem is poor people,lots of them and they come in many guises-there are those who seek to avoid bombs and desperation in their home countries,to break away from the causes of poverty, low wages,poor education,inequality and exploitation and all that stuff.

The message is the same,and it's repeated on a daily basis in our media -you stupid people are to blame,all you need is to elect strong,charismatic ,media-savvy leaders and with them you can follow them:
"Right into hell"
Trump is not the answer,he is the problem,just as all the soothsayers argue that the answer is a slow moderate road to hell rather than a fast track to far right oblivion.

just think,there is a solution staring us straight in the face,in America it's going to take longer,we will have to bite our tongues and put up with the Clinton years,but there is an anger starting to roar on the horizon and it's Bernie shaped.
And here in Britain there is also an anger building, and sure as hell it ain't May shaped,or Farage shaped or even Smith shaped.
You know what I mean.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Another week,more conspiracies threats and skullduggery.

It's hard to know what will happen to the Labour party next. This morning someone called Stephen Kinnock claimed he was already in discussions with Lord Ashdown of Failure about the possibility of creating a new centrist part called hilariously 'Continuity Labour'.
Given I read that in the 'Mail on Sunday' ,rapidly becoming the house journal of the terminally frustrated middle ground it of course must be true.
Now where have I heard the name Kinnock before ?wasn't he that brilliantly successful bloke who led the Labour Party to a stunning victory-or maybe he didn't !

I understand we have another leadership election in the Labour Party for those grand men and women in Westminster to get the result that they want.I think I've quoted Brecht's lines before when the German people didn't quite do what the ruling Politburo wanted them to do.
Brecht suggested that maybe it was time to dissolve the people and elect a new one.

So despite the wishes of hundreds of thousands of people ten months ago, it's time to reshuffle them and try to get a different electorate.
Interestingly when asked what their new policies will be to contrast with Jeremy Corbyn the two 'Unity' candidates are remarkably vague.Smith the Welsh bloke talks about £300 billion investment in infrastructure and oh yes,probably Wales, and that seems to be it.
Eagle on the other hand promises that she will reveal her policy strategies in speeches,sometime soon.
However both have one USP-they are not Jeremy. 
But the over riding core of the analysis from everyone on the right is that what this is all about is bullying and intimidation and the tactics of those hundreds of thousands of Trotskyites who joined the Labour Party to get Jeremy elected.
I bet the late Tony Cliff didn't know the SWP was so big and influential-Cliff passed on without knowing his real strength.

For the next two months it will be all about 'intimidation'.Strangely enough I had a taste of what this intimidation is all about.A couple of months ago I reapplied to join the Party.I was quite rightly expelled in 2007 -it was called auto-exclusion for supporting an independent candidate in the local elections.The fact that the candidate was Tony Clarke,former Labour MP and his selection had been unanimously endorsed by the ward party cut no ice with the Regional masters.
Fine,that was history, but I appealed and had an interview.The refusal to allow me back in was a decision of the local executive committee,not the local party, and the letter opposing my membership came from the chair of the party who I don't think I had ever met but she knew I was 'divisive'
What was interesting was that my 'trial' was conducted by the Regional Chairman, a supporter of Labour First called Andy Furlong And the appeal panel were three other members of the regional executive.

I use the word trial very deliberately, because the event had a lot in common with McCarthy's House of Un-American Activities hearings.

At one point I was shown a photograph of me with comrades from Left Unity, and Furlong had circled the tree women in the photograph and demanded their names.
Intimidating or what !
Then he went on to claim that when I was Council Leader I had 'bullied group members and officers'-of course he offered no evidence, no names,nothing! I have since spoken to one of the two Councillor still on NBC and he denied any bullying, thr other colleague was a group whip.As to the officers,well the Borough Solicitor confirmed there had never been any complaints against me,and Mr Furlong had not contacted them.
So my conclusion of this rambling anecdote =that there was no evidence of bullying and Mr Furlong lied.
(I now there are some in Nottingham who are avid readers of this blog, so Mr Furlong,feel free to refute my comments)
So in essence we already know the strategy that is going to be employed over the next months.Now let me make it clear that I do not endorse intimidation of bullying of any sort, I know what it feels like, over the years we've had a brick through our window and burning paper through the letter box, death threats and nasty phone calls, even photographs of Marie and I getting into an official car.
But that's what happens in public life.Of the recent incidents two stand out as curious.Kevin McKeever got a beautifully typed death threat, unpleasant certainly, but as a result of that he claimed the Police advised him to keep a low profile.That was perhaps convenient as he was facing difficult questions from 'The Canary' website about his activities as an employee of Portland Communications.
Then of course the notorious 'Wallasey Brick' handily coming just as Eagle was starting her campaign.Leaving aside the office window in Sherlock House where six organisations operate out of,and that 'office' window was in fact on a communal stairwell  what surprises me that if the perpetrators were local left wing activists wouldn't they have known that her office was round the back with a Labour sticker in the window !
Of course we know they were left wing activists, Sally Keeble the local authoritative  voice on all things trotskyite,commented that CCTV cameras caught the perpetrators Momentum t shirts.  
Bloody obvious really, so when you see a bloke passing your window in a striped shirt and a bag with swag written on it-you know whats happening.

What is so sad about all this is that for the first time in my life the Labour Party is growing thousands of new members, young people who will knock doors,canvass,enthuse others,become candidates,work in their communities.They will create a Party that can take power and will make real changes.
The Labour Party is on the cusp of getting it's mojo back.Yet all some want is to keep power in a small number of paws and rely on a smaller bunch of rich donors to fund them

many of Jeremy Corbyns' critics say he not a charismatic performer with sharp sound bites and clever PR men. You know, just like that other bloke......Clement Attlee! 

Thursday, 30 June 2016

The politics of fidget !

Do you remember back in the days of primary school when your teacher,usually a tall lady with grey hair,glasses and a smile,used to fix her icy glare on you and very loudly tell you:
"Stop fidgeting !"
Whatever you were doing, usually moving about ,you looked up guiltily and stopped whatever it was you were doing.
I've never really been clear what fidgeting was all about, and it came in a variety of guises and sometimes you didn't even know you were fidgeting, but you stopped whatever you were doing,or thought you were doing until it was safe.
Perhaps it was just doing wee things to keep yourself occupied during a dull story,or waiting, for your milk,or a bit of plasticine or trying to take your mind off needing to pee- whatever!
'Doing we things to keep yourself occupied', that seems to be at the core of the modern political system these days, governments have little to do of any significance so they fiddle about with small things to give the illusion of being busy.
It was not always so.
The Attlee government of 1945 did not fidget around trying to find something to do, they had big plans,big ideas and a lot to do.They built a welfare state,a national health service,rebuilt a destroyed infrastructure,took failing industries into public ownership,built thousands of houses,schools,hospitals and did it all in six years!
Everything after that seems to have been downhill.The boldness of that government has been replaced with a lot of tinkering round the edges, a little tweak here a little fidget there.It has for most of my life seemed as if governments just didn't want to frighten the horses.
Now for the sake of brevity, and to save your eyes from drooping and you starting to fidget uncontrollably,I will miss the Tory years,they all appeared to do a great deal of nothing-well apart from the Thatcher years, when they did a great deal of wrecking and turning clocks into sun dials,so a quick canter through the Labour years.
The Wilson years were as about as interesting as watching paint dry, the only thing they may have taken into public ownership may have been bits of the car industry and bits of the ship building industry,but that was generally under pressure from the unions, and was frequently short lived.
They did introduce comprehensive education, but that was in a half hearted way, a sort of fidget round the edges again, and the system started under resourced and of course the private sector was allowed to flourish.
It's true Jennie Lee created the Open University, and they did build a few new universities, but it was all a bit patchy.
To his great credit Wilson did keep this country out of the Vietnam War, but as the nuclear submarines lurking in Holy Loch remind us-there was a price to pay.

But most people will rememver with a degree of nausea the glories of Blair.Lets get the significant fidgets out of the way first, a national minimum wage(tichy but something) Sure Start (tiny but something) and a few other things around the edges, worthy no doubt but not the sort of thing you put in your memoirs.
Then there are the other features of the era, Foundation schools, Foundation hospitals,probably Foundation prisons too. PFI initiatives that saddled local authorities and health authorities withy debts far into the future.
And the endless need to measure and report and tick boxes and report again and when all else failed re-organise.
The politics of fidget is the politics of re-organisation.When your civil servants have nothing much to do,appoint a Tsar and get on with another restructuring.
A party that once had a great vision for a new sort of world  was reduced to cheering to the rafters the arrival of civil partnerships, a desirable advance in human relations, but hardly on the same scale as nationalising the railways.
And of course there was always the Iraq war.

I suppose we have reached the apex of fidgeting with the Cameron years, andv the one big idea,:
"Lets have a referendum on our membership of the EU"
To be honest it was never the biggest issue in the world, but Cameron needed to keep his right wing happy and the further right fidgeting away on the margins.
The big deal was his 'negotiations',which were about as significant as a cold sore on a giraffes' lip.
He even managed to lose that, but it will allow an entire ministry of civil servants to fidget around for five or six years at about 20 billion a year unravelling tons of legislation and agreements that may or may not have been any use.
While all this fidgeting is going on, austerity,growing inequality,growing poverty,a housing crisis,a crisis in training and a failure to create real jobs is going on.

This is the moment that the Labour Party should be recreating the big ideas that made 1945 such a success.
What is it doing ?
The numpties are fidgeting about trying to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn,the only leader for decades who sees the big picure and knows what has to done.
Oh for that grey haired old teacher with the icy glare to yell quietly at the fidgeting PLP! 

Sunday, 26 June 2016

There are elites,and then there are other elites....

One of the big concerns of Brexit (and that's the last time it gets a capital) was that it was against non-elected elites.Now leaving aside the Commissioners were appointed by their governments) we are now faced with the extraordinary spectacle of a bunch of Tory MP's an elite if you will,selecting two candidates to be offered to their membership and then appointed Prime Minister.
A hideous spectacle of a power elite at work.
Not to be outdone, 200 odd Labour MP's (an elite if you will) will attempt over the next few hours to remove a Leader elected by hundreds of thousands of members and he/she will be offered to the members who voted for Jeremy Corbyn less than a year ago!

Is it possible that the Labour Party, or rather a section of the Labour party has not learnt the lesson of Scotland.Remind me how many MP the party has in Scotland now ?
There is of course a reason for that abysmal failure, the first is that the SNP,despite losing the referendum was seen by most Scots to have more progressive policies than the Labour Party.Secondly the Scottish labour Party had become moribund and had taken its electorate for granted for too long and frequently parachuting candidates in regardless of local feeling.In the backwoods where I come from that's called elitism.
Of course that feeling of alienation was enhanced during the independence referendum when all over Scotland people saw Cameron and Brown and Murphy and Alexander all sharing platforms.
Even if they didn't vote for independence, the sight of them all being big mates had an effect.
"What's the difference ?" was the view of many.
Fast forward to the brexit debacle.When Scots voters in the old Labour heartlands saw austerity,poor housing,poor health care,and all the rest,and saw at least an alternative on offer-what else could they do ?

Now the North East of England is not much different from industrial Scotland,as well as austerity,poverty,unemployment and all the other features of deindustrialisation they had for decades the experience of a Labour Party taking their votes for granted.Think of the seats where Labour grandees with homes in London and second constituency pied-a-terres in places,oh at random, Hartlepool,Doncaster,South Shields and that old mining town whose name I've forgotten-probably as has its once illustrious member-a bloke called Blair.
it all adds up to a picture of neglect and ,a strong word,betrayal.The parachutists were of course supported by a party machine that was weak and timid.
So when the dreadful UKIP came knocking, it was hardly surprising that many workers felt
"What has the Labour Party done for us!"
I believe the message Jeremy Corbyn has be giving has been principled and correct.The EU is not the biggest issue in the world,it needs reforming, and we need to defend workers' rights across Europe.And importantly it was a distinctly Labour message,no shared platforms with the Tories Labour was supposed to be fighting every day in Westminster.
In order to appease his right and the further right Cameron tried to divert attention with a referendum stunt.For weeks the far right have taken the initiative with Farage lying on TV every night and the focus of the brexit lot moved from 'getting back our sovereignty to blame it all on foreigners.
I'm sick of hearing brexiters bleating about how the really,really like foreigners and blah blah..
I understand how some on the left believed that it should have been an all encompassing fight against neo-liberalism and the free market.I really do get that, but sadly Socialist Revolution was not the third option on the ballot paper,and we had to operate within the parameters we were given.
"Concrete analysis of concrete situations"
I know pragmatism sucks, but sometime we have to opt for the lesser of two evils.

What is interesting is that the people of Scotland,Ulster and London all saw through the bluster and lies,and given that the people of the North East are not that different from the people in those other areas-what went wrong ?
One thing is sure, it wasn't the realistic politics of Jeremy Corbyn,they were not fawning around the joint platforms of Tories and Lib-dems, it was those on the right of the Party, the elitists who cannot bear the idea that the Labour Party has become a mass party once again with a popular left wing leadership.
If the wreckers get their way, and Dan Jarvis or Andy Burnham or Hilary Benn take the leadership, several things will happen.
The Tories will call a snap election, and all those thousands of activists will not just knuckle down and work for Blair Mark 2 or Mark 6 ,they will feel cheated,as indeed will all those who have been beyrayed for decades.The Blairites are right that Labour will lose hundreds of seats,but it won't be the leadership that has offered hope and a better way forward who will have destryed the party, it will be those who want to go back to the future.
remember when Cameron said of Blair:
"You were the future once !"

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

An open letter to Norman Adams and a PS to David Huffadine-Smith

Dear Norman. We have been acquaintances for many decades.I remember you as a fierce AEU member forever agitating and organising.I salute the work you have done in Northampton in Defending Council House tenants and as part of SOS.
Yet just lately you appear to have lost your mojo-has the gargle finally got to you,or are you an impostor masquerading as the Norman Adams we know and love ?

On the aborted visit of Nigel Farage you wrote on Facebook:
"UKIP are bigoted,nasty and slightly eccentric but not fascist" and then went on to say:
"Hope nor Hate and its supporters should stick to its valuable work fighting the real thing."
Now I realise that you,along with a small section of the British Left think that Brexit is a solution,I get that although I think a grouping made up of the CP,SWP,and george Galloway, along with Kate Hoey,Frank Field and Gisela Stuart makes for an unusual set of left travelling companions.I know that RMT are on board,but I suspect that is more a romantic gesture to the memory of Bob Crow  than anything else.,and of course even Bob could be wrong sometimes.
As I have written elsewhere I am no fan of the EU, and indeed in 1975 I suspect like you voted not to join the EEC.We understood quite clearly then what was happening, it was a European Employers Confederation that would not help organised labour.
It still has the characteristics of a bosses conspiracy,but of course times have changed.The union movement is far weaker,the Labour Party has been systematically weakened from within, and the media has dismantled step by step,day by day, the confidence of working people to defend their rights.
Every fight is harder and every step we take is slower and more painful than before.
However as capital has become more transnational,what remains of the labour movement has to operate in the same way.
We have to be pragmatic and at the same time look for optimism and hope where we can find it.I believe for instance that at last the Labour Party may be moving back towards an internationalist agenda that seeks to build on what solidarity that now exists.
That's why the in/out battle is largely irrelevant and the battles ahead will not really matter in or out.However what will matter is who else is on the road with us.
You are in my view profoundly wrong about UKIP. It is not a one issue outfit with a charismatic leader and a populist appeal,well it is populist and it has a leader,but it is far more than a single issue campaign.
It is as you rightly point out,bigoted and nasty, but slightly eccentric it is not.
it is unashamedly of the far right,it works in the European Parliament with some of the most dangerous parties in Europe.It is admired bt Le Pen and Donald Trump, and is seen by people like them as part of an axis of right wing xenophobia and racism.
It is no coincidence that as it has risen with it populist anti-immigration,little englander,patriotic flag-waving nostalgia for the Empire,so the BNP and EDL and others have declined.
But of course their views haven't declined or vanished,they have been subsumed into the ranks of UKIP.
UKIP are not dotty eccentrics who yearn for a quieter,peaceful,all white England ,with church bells and tea on the lawn.
They are fiercely anti-trade union,passionately pro-free enterprise,austerity,the breaking down of the welfare state-in fact they are Tories with knobs on!
Of course they will sell the single issue,because anti-Europe is easier to sell than unadulterated full blooded fascism,But think of the history of fascist movements throughout the last century.
Some even came with the added ingredient of pretending to have a socialist message,Mussolini came from the Socialist Party, Mosley and his wife were Labour MP's.

UKIP have latched on to fears about the economy,healthcare,housing and employment and have found a convenient scapegoat-Europe,Europeans, Johnny Foreigner.
Hope not Hate are absolutely right to point out on a daily basis the danger of allowing your 'slightly eccentric' any space to develop.
Finally a short paragraph on David Huffadine-Smith and his increasingly shrill outbursts.David ,your quite a nice man,and after several conversations it would seem that politically you fit nicely into Norman's 'slightly eccentric' category.Not that I'm saying you are UKIP,you've made that clear that your not.However a few days ago you published a checklist about all the reasons you gave for Brexit, and it all added up to a pile of jingoist rhetoric with a pinch of piety thrown in.
You endlessly plead for democratic debate-yes you can have democratic debate with anyone who is willing to debate.But did you really think Farage was coming here to 'debate'?
No he was here to rant at his faithful,trot out his usual tropes and get some media coverage.If you've bothered to read this far you will see that I consider UKIP, a self acknowledged far right party,to be the base of an embryonic fascist movement of the sort we are seeing in many places.
You know my background,I've written about it endlessly, and you know I believe that fascism could have been stopped in 1936 if the world had rallied behind the democratically elected government of Spain.
And what was the slogan in the defence of Madrid ?
Non Paseran- they shall not pass!-later adopted in the East End of London when Mosley tried to intimidate the Jewish community.
They shall not pass has a long and honourable part of the Socialist response to the emergence of the fascist hydra.had the world listened then, maybe 20 million lives could have been saved.
I'm happy to debate anywhere,anytime with people who want a genuine debate,why I'll argue with Tories,Liberals,anarcho-syndicalists,why even Evangelicals like you David....well maybe I have to draw the line somewhere!  

Saturday, 21 May 2016

I've tried to refrain....

When this whole sorry and dreary business of the EU referendum started  I promised myself I would say nothing about it,indeed I have tried not even to think about it.
But it is everywhere, and as a blog or erratic record(as opposed to one of erotic record) I probably should record my view,for what it's worth.
My first thought,and almost my only thought on the issue is that it's an enormous sideshow and irrelevance to real life and to the lives of real people.
It is happening because Cameron had to appease the most reactionary elements of his party,and those clever strategists (commonly known as PR hacks) thought the offer of a referendum would keep the nasties at bay and even put a spoke in the hardline nasties that inhabit the depths of tory pond life-you know, the ones called UKIP.

There has always been a strain of national chauvinism at the heart of British conservative thinking (please ignore the word thinking) that has been predicated on a dislike of foreigners,especially if they have dark skins and don't speak english.On top of that undisguised racism there is the overlay of Empire and the assumption that the English ruling class were creatures with the divine right to rule.
just think of all those jingoist songs and stories,of gallant adventurers who captured great swathes of the world and brought 'civilisation' to millions.By 'civilisation' of course tey meant pestilance and disease,cruelty and slavery,exploitation and expropriation,a monarchy and of course the usual old bollocks-a religion.
There is an interesting comparison you can make between Nigel Farage and Oswald Mosley, both old etonians, from the landed gentry,active Tory Party members (it's true Oswald spent some time in the Labour Party too) combined a populist message about helping working people with blatant racism-and of course they both went off and formed a new party.
Enough of the comparisons ?
Back to Europe.In 1975 I voted against joining what was then the EEC on the perfectly sound grounds that it was the European Employers Club.
Of course in truth not a lot has changed, it still represents the multi-national corporations and has done little to advance workers rights since day one. 
However the simple truth is that as capital has grown more powerful and become more trans-national  then the only way for working people to challenge it's power is to combine.
To ignore national boundaries and artificial state lines and to work not in national interests but in class interests.
Ron Todd the great General Secretary of the TGWU understood perfectly the power of international capital.He knew that when representing workers at Fords of Dagenham the management decisions were not taken there,but in Detroit.

If ever there was a case for internationalism that goes beyond the slogans and the rhetoric then the time is now.When the Greek government were coming under the cosh from the EU and the World Bank and the IMF what could have helped the people there defeat the imposition of austerity the like of which we have never known?
Concerted action by the people of Europe.Practical solidarity of the kind the world has never seen before.
we are a long way off achieving such solidarity,but we have to start somewhere,and the worst thing for the working people of this country is for it's government to drag it into a laager of xenophobia and isolationism.
I do not believe that the EU is a solution, or even part of the route to a solution, but as sure as hell the other way is the road to perdition.
I shall vote Remain with a heavy heart because there are too many other important things we need to be doing collectively before this government destroys even the last vestige of social democratic values,but we need to win this needless vote.
And if you are ofv the left and think that there is a socialist case for exiting-just look at whowill be in that lobby with you!    

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Labour and anti-Semitism revisited

Since my last post the issue of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party has reached a level of hysteria that clearly is no longer an issue of Oxford University Labour Club and a few slightly unhinged individuals.
It has become a full scale attempt to destabilise the leadership and to force a crisis in the party and to try and topple the first Party Leader elected by a huge landslide on an avowedly socialist platform.
Without going over my last blog,where my views are as clear as I can possibly make them,it is time for socialists to take stock of what is happening and understand that this is no existential crisis of a handful of disgruntled,'grunts' but rather a concerted effort to break the will of the majority of Party members and go back to the past and restore a modified Blair-lite Labour party.
Lets get the anti-Semitism out of the way first.
There have been rumblings going on for weeks, the nonsense,largely unproven about in a university Labour Club became the catalyst of something allegedly  dark and sinister in the undergrowth of the Party.
Then there was the constant sniping by MP's and others of Jeremy sharing platforms with unsavoury elements.Whilst of course all this guilt by association has been going on nobody much noticed some Labour MP's happily sharing platforms with Farage and others of the far right.
Nor was much said about Blair and others sharing friendly little tete-a-tetes  with people like Rupert Murdoch and other enemies of the people (or do we politely forget Rupe's newspaper 'the Sun' and the vile comments about Liverpool and Hillsborough ?)
I may not be a sophisticated worldly wide statesman like Blair,but I'd rather share a platform with an elected leader of Sinn Fein than a seriously corrupt newspaper billionaire or his monstrous lackeys.
But no matter.
Then of course there was the stream of rich men,'donors' to the Labour party who promised never to open their bulging wallets again until Jeremy was gone and a cute pro-business leader was installed.
Well bye-bye Lord Sugar,you won't be missed and can we have our peerage back and give it to someone more deserving,like a junior doctor or a hospital porter.
In case you haven't noticed,Bernie Saunders is doing just fine with contributions from millions of ordinary citizens-no fat cats thee to call the tune.
So the story rolled on, and someone unearthed a facebook post by Naz Shah,the young bradford MP that she posted a couple of years ago,at the height of the last bombing campaign against Gaza by the Israeli government.At the time she was not an MP.
But that was enough, and all hell broke out ,she had to resign an unpaid PPS job with the shadow chancellor and was subsequently suspended from the Party.

In hindsight as a post it was a bit daft, but it was NOT anti-Semitic, it was a reference to the Israeli government and at a stretch Zionism.It was aimed at a political target, not a racial,religious or any other target.
She is the sort of young woman the Labour Party should be rejoicing in having as an MP, a fiesty woman who stood against patriarchy in her Muslim community and is brave and outspoken, in my view a bit like Mairi Black of the SNP-the future of British politics, not a time serving Party hack.

And then we have ken Livingstone.I had hoped that he would use his ability to mount a serious defence of Naz, however as so often happens with people like Ken, the ego got in the way.Astonishingly  even George Galloway sounded more diplomatic and stuck to the point.
But of course ken's shorthand of history,and somewhat confused at that,played into the hands of every Blairite that ever there was.
As an aside,if ken has been suspended for bringing the party into disrepute, how come John Mann, hurling public abuse at a fellow Party member with carefully orchestrated TV crews in tow,has got away with a knuckle slap.
it does appear there are two parties at work at the moment,and the slogan appears to be right-right,left-wrong !

I know many comrades feel that the creation of Israel was a mistake back in 1948.That might well be true,and the then Labour Government didn't exactly cover itself in glory,of course when you had a dubious anti-Semitic Foreign Secretary in Ernie Bevin chaos was bound to be the order of the day.But that was then,
There can only be one solution left and that is the two nation solution.As a Scot I find it hard not to support the right of small nations to self-determination, and it would be hypocritical if I argued that for Scotland and Palestine and not for Israel.The state exists-end of!
And it is wrong for the left to see Zionism as one homogenous block,one ideology,one size fits all solution.Right from the start of the Zionist movement there was a progressive wing as well as a reactionary religious wing.many European socialist and trade unionists who were Jewish believed in a national homeland, and were also happy to work and live with their Arab neighbours,and of course there is a sizeable number of Arabic Jews -after all they are all Semitic people.
So forget the hysteria,ignore the siren voices who are using this narrative to undermine the leadership of the Labour Party.There is far too much feigned outrage and far to little comradeship on display.

just in case you forget what it's all about listen to Ruthie Gorton's song on YouTube'To Understand Oppression is to be a Jew-so Free Palestine Now'.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

The Labour Party and anti-semitism

The 'Mail on Sunday' is a newspaper,no,it is not a 'newspaper' it is at best a comic and at worst a salacious journal of misrepresentation and outright abuse.
It has of course a long history of misrepresentation,lies and campaigning for the wrong cause at the wrong time.
Lest we ever forget, Lord Rothermere's paper in the 1930's was first to proclaim 'Hurrah for the Blackshirts' and gave away free tickets for Mosley's rallies in London .
It was of course the principal cheerleader for Hitler and appeasement.
Find a reactionary cause,and I can guarantee you'll find 'The Mail' standing four square behind it.
I can only assume that those who work for it are either paid outlandishly large sums or actually share the reactionary tosh that they write.
I find that a pity as they have had,and still do,have some talented journalists,so unless they are out and out xenophobes,mini-Farages,crypto fascists or simply bonkers then the only judgement that can be made is that they write only for the money and therefore are prostituting what talent they have.
So when a Rotheremere hack has a belt at junior doctors for letting down their profession,or teachers for selling out the youngsters they teach or social workers for failing the vulnerable-just remember who is voicing the garbage and why they are doing it!

They have always hated the Labour Party and the Labour movement and progressive thought generally.
The Mail,and indeed papers like it (that is most of the British press) would of course all prefer to exist in a world of Tories and Whigs when there was deference to authority,the crown,the military our betters and even the Church of England !
many of their views are so pre-enlightenment that they would have fitted in well  in Tudor England (of course that tiresome old radical Wm. Shakespeare would have been stuck writing comedies and little else)
But we are stuck where we are,and almost implausibly the Mail and the Mail on Sunday are determined to tell the Labour Party to be responsible and be a grown up opposition and do the right thing (right being the operative word)  and exile all those in the Labour Party that sound like socialists=the only surprise is that there are no longer any 'Get back to Russia' headlines,so they make do with 'Get back to North Korea' and stuff like that.
The real implausibility of all this is the campaign they are running about alleged 'anti-Semitism' in the Labour Party.Despite the fact that Jeremy Corbyn has indicated that there is no place for anti-Semitism or racialism in the Labour Party and never will be, and this has resulted already in suspensions of people accused of writing apparently anti Semitic provocations.
And so it should be and so it always will be.
When I was a fourteen year old boy in London the first movement I joined,even before CND and CARD, was the Yellow Star Movement.It began in the East End of London just as Mosely's Union Movement was starting to stir again(remember who was Oswald's biggest backer!) and what Yellow Star did was pursued a policy of 'No  Platform for Fascists'.This was not done in the quiet surroundings of university common rooms but rather on the streets of Hackney and Islington, in street markets and on street corners.
And Yellow Star didn't go in for polite heckling or holding carefully worded placards.
When we said no platform,.that was quite simply what we did.We cut the wires on their microphones and trashed their platforms.
Crude but effective.many of our supporters were ex-army,many were Communist Party members,many were Jewish lads,many were local trade unionists.
We were ferried round to the fascists meetings in black cabs,driven by sympathetic Jewish cabbies,and all good trade unionists too.

Like so many on the left what weakens our cause is attempts to whip up hate against anyone because of their race,colour,belief or indeed anything that sets one group against another.
I can't deny that within some sections of the'left' there is an element of anti-Semitism.Some of the small Trotskyite sects have we know relied in the past for funding from some dubious Arab governments.They have conflated support for Palestine with a militant anti-Zionism and that has in some cases transmuted into so meting that can be seen as anti-Jewish.
Similarly some of the Arab groups have done the same, and as long as some on the outer fringes of Arab nationalism believe that the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion' was a real document,then there will always be battles to be fought ideologically.
Yet as I like to quote a song by Ruthie Gorton I heard over 40 years ago:
"To understand oppression is to be a Jew,
  So free Palestine Now!"
is a good guiding principle.

So if there are a small number of misguided people in the Labour Party who are anti-Semitic, then they must go.However the Labour Party must always be striving for unity amongst all people,and we are where we are,and so sometime there must be a settlement in the Middle East that frees the Palestinian people from the incarceration of refugee camps for generations, and there must in return be a recognition that Israel exists and a two,three ,however many it takes,state solution must be found.
You know the oddest part of the whole story is that Arabs and Jews are both Semitic people and lived together harmoniously for centuries!
And one last point, it's time that some Labour MP's and 'donors' stopped their drip drip campaign against the Labour Party leadership-and stopped taking the Rotheremere shilling!
Now that would be progress.  

Sunday, 20 March 2016

The silent man-for six long years.

There is a danger as the Tory party collapses into a heap of nothingness that some are tempted to see Ian Duncan Smith as some sort of martyr,almost heroic in standing up to the Cameron hegemony and destroying the legend that is Osborne's financial probity.
Piffle, utter piffle.
IDS is a totally unreconstructed Thatcherite who has long preached the creed iof austerity and blamed poverty on ,well to put it simply, the poor.
Smith stands for the old Samuel Smiles vision of the poor standing on their own two feet, of putting up with hardship with gritted teeth and determination to drag themselves up by their bootstraps, or die in the process.
I do not believe that he had a Damascusene  conversion after visiting Easterhouse in Glasgow any more than I believe in fairies or indeed that Donald Trump is the answer to any question that mankind faces.
Indeed if Trump is the answer then it's a fucking stupid question!
I digress.
IDS has been pushing his solution to poverty ever since he supped at the feet of his heroine and replaced Tebbitt as the MP for Chingford and Central Nurenberg.

What we are watching is the falling out amongst thieves, it reminds me very much of the 'council meetings' in Ragged Trousered Philanthropists when the elite of Mugsborough got together to divide out the spoils.
The Tory Party are not really a party in any obvious sense, they are a band of opportunist chancers, self interested  gangsters,xenophobes,who combine for only one purpose-to steal the roof while the sun shines!
That's not to say that over the last century or so there haven't been Tories with something that approaches principle, indeed I have met some in local government who have a genuine concern for the people they represent and have a sort of guiding philosophy that has even a little logic behind it.
Few and far between are such Tories, and fewer by the day, and sadly even the logic is a little (no actually quite a lot) flawed.
But there are I'm sure some decent people who really believed that'we're all in this together'.Why there might even be some misguided people in the Labour Party and the Lib-Dems who believed that 'we're all in this together'
IDS has blown that idea right out of the water, along with the mantra of 'austerity now' or what they really meant was 'austerity for you lot-for ever and ever !
We are not all in anything together and never have been, and austerity simply is not the answer to the question- I refer back to my judgement on Trump earlier if you want a reason.

And I say very clearly to my loyal readership in the East Midlands Labour Party, who I understand pore over my blogs to find heresies and examples of deviation and divisiveness:
"Listen to the Leader of the Labour Party"
While you have been wringing your hands and whittling on about how Jeremy is not the leader you wanted, why low and behold, the hostile media have noted at last that austerity is not the answer (because of course IDS,one of the architects of austerity now thinks its gone too far) and indeed as Jeremy has been saying since the day he was first elected -worrying about the national debt and clearing the historic deficit  is not as important as ending poverty and building a fair and just society,based not on fiscal policy but on human values.

And surprise,surprise, it would appear that it's not just young radicals who are listening to him either.I don't for one second believe that the media will stop demonising the Labour Leader, but millions of people,unconcerned about Brexit or 'Stronger together' or whatever the chosen slogan will begin to recognise that the last decade has been one of mounting inequality and stultifying greed.
Time to tear up the slick PR spin sheet and look to something better.
IDS is already part of a history that the people can do without.Time to see that we don't need a handful of Tory MP's shuffling for advancement in Westminster, thee is a movement growing, in thiscountry,over Europe and further afield.
As I approach my seventieth summer I have never been more optimistic.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Time for the people to sing

There appears to be a debate developing about national anthems in this land of ours.It would appear that the main concern is what the people sing at sporting events,and I understand that, but songs mean different things to different people at different times.
A good martial bellow,full of patriotic fervour may be pretty good standing on the terraces, but I think it's time we reflected on songs that reflected what really matters.
So I present my readers some alternatives, and I hope my avid readers up in the East Midlands Labour party bunker will enjoy my choices,why they may even wish to sing along-if that's not too divisive!
All the songs can be found on YouTube.
So firstly i want to get rid of that dreary loathsome peon of praise to Mrs.Windsor,if your a religious royalist,it may well float your boat, but as a republican atheist of long standing-'God save the Queen'is not anywhere in my songbook!
I believe there is a much better national anthem,and I will come to that later,but first my suggestions for the four nations that make up the British Isles.
First, the Principality of Wales.A land with so many fine songs it is a difficult,nay impossible task, 'Cwm Rhondda' would be popular, but in my view it's far too religious- so that's out.'Men of Harlech ' is great to bellow out at the Arms Park, but it a little too jingoistic for me, and always in my mind associated with bloody Michael Caine in 'Zulu'
So may i suggest 'The Bells of Rhymney' a beautiful lament that reminds us of the struggles in the mining industry, and written by an American-the late Pete Seeger.
Ireland. Well of course Ireland already has a fine anthem in 'The Soldiers' Song', but sadly we will have to wait until there is once again a united Ireland,and the gerrymandered sic counties are part of the Republic.
In the meantime however , what about Tommy Makem's ballad 'Four Green Fields' it's certainly better than the sentimentality of 'Danny Boy',which is fine in the boozer or the boxing match, but nowhere else in my mind.
As an alternative there is always Phil Coulter's 'The town I loved so well',especially poignant when sung by the late Luke Kelly,but a song that brings Derry alive.
Scotland, again like both Wales and Ireland a land with masses of rousing songs which are frequently about our past glories especially when we gave the English a good kicking- well not that often since Bannockburn and after the 'Butcher' Cumberland did fearsome damage at Culloden.
I can't advocate too many Jacobite songs for obvious reasons, although 'Parcel of Rogues in a nation' has its charms.
There is of course always the supreme song and poem by Burns 'A man's a man for a' that' that should be the real national song of socialism throughout the Isles, but that may just be too much for others to thole.
So I'll content with either version of 'The Ballad of John McLean' or my favourite 'The March of John McLean'
"The Gorbals are oot the day,ah Glesca belangs tae him'
I'm sure to my enlightened readership, especially to those in Nottingham, you don't need telling who McLean was,and if you need a clue,he wasn't Jim Murphy !
Now on to England, the largest of the four nations, and sadly the one with the fewest alternatives, oh I know that many favour Blakes 'Jerusalem',especially the Rugby fraternity, but it's a bit churchy for me,although a fine song none the less. Others have suggested 'Land of Hope and Glory' which has amazing music.but sadly in my view has a dreadful imperialist tinge.
No there is only one song for England.Edward Carpenter's 'England Arise'
Who can resist a song  with the final verse:
"Forth then ye heroes,patriots and lovers
Comrades of danger,poverty and scorn,
Mighty in faith of Freedom  your great Mother
Giants refreshed in the emerging dawn."
(You may note I've forgotten one word in the stanza, that's your test for the day!)
And so finally to what should replace 'God save....'
I did thing of course that 'The Red Flag' was a good candidate for a socialist song book, but only if sung to the original  to Jim Connell's chosen air 'The White Cockade' rather than the dirge we usually hear,based on the German hymn 'Der Tannenbaum'
So we need something else, and oddly it is to Germany I looked.Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' is a majestic awe inspiring piece,but I think it's already used elsewhere, my final choice is in fact a 15th c folk song,sung by the peasantry who were revolting against some Swabian princes,banned until 1848, banned again by the Nazi's and sung in the concentration camps of the third Reich.
'Die Gedanken Sind Frei'
"I think as I please and this gives me pleasure
My conscience decrees this right I must treasure
My thoughts will not cater to duke or dictator
No man can deny,die gedanken sind frei'
Wouldn't that sound awesome belted out at the end of every Labour Party conference

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Nothing changes-everything stays the same

It is all to common for commentators and spin doctors and those clever people who are now called 'moderates' in the Labour Party to run down and write off Marx as a failed prophet from a time when capitalism had a cruel and ruthless tint.
When it was red in tooth and claw,but of course we now have compassionate capitalism and everything is different and we march to a different tune.

We have the usual silver tongued rhetoric from the 'we're all in it together' win g of the cruel party, we have David Cameron telling the world that we all love the welfare state and we all want to help the poor and we all want a fair and just and equal society and blah blah blah.
Not for nothing was Cameron a spin doctor whose role model was the 'straight kinda' guy' who snuggled up to the banks and suckled the great big American corporate tit that was George Bush.

The mask has slipped.For decades the mean spirited free traders came after organised labour.One after another the weakened and divided the trade union movement.Thirty years ago they used their attack dogs in the media to howl abuse at trade unions,we call all remember what they said about the miners and the transport workers and the fire-fighters-all those brutes who held the country to ransom, who wouldn't bury the dead or empty the dustbins or force poor commuters to freeze on draughty stations Remember the feeding frenzy when they declared that they had broken the miners.How the Murdoch press rejoiced as coalfield after coalfield was closed and communities decimated.
Remember the joy in the boardrooms,not to mention the newsrooms and almost certainly the cabinet room.
And as that was happening,most people in work nodded wisely over their cornflakes and agreed with the squalid hacks who wrote the sort of lies about Arthur Scargill that they now write about Jeremy Corbyn.Marx a century before pointed out in much more measured  tones and with sound economic logic the nature of the free market and monopoly capitalism.
When they have weaken,cowed and broken the strongest opponents, they come after the rest,and so today we see swathes of the middle class,once secure in their professionalism facing the same brutality that industrial workers have gone through.
They have systematically weakened teachers,with their regime change,the creation of 'free schhols',the privatisation of education in the academy chains and the endless control freakery within the classroom.
They didn't stop there,endless experts and financial geniuses were rolled out to show how by selling essential services to the private sector everything would be better.Railways,local government,water,power,you name it-they've sold it to their mates,and not only in the city,but in the global marketplace that is known as the free market.
So now they are after the biggest prize.break the 'junior' doctors, then they can go after the nurses and the other hospital workers,and then the big prize-the consultants.

Jeremy Hunt is everything we think he is, and more, He's only the knob on the front of the packet and will be discarded like a used condom when he's done the damage(he's the one in the packet with the small prick in it!)

For capitalism to work it has only one strategy, it will never cut profit because that is its only purpose,so it will cut costs and tell us its in our best interests-we need austerity,we need lower pensions,we need lower pay,we need less services,we need to work harder and above all we need to keep our mouths shut and our heads down.
Having written a few hundred words of unrestrained gloom and misery I see some good signs.I see a trade union movement that is starting to see the danger,a bit late but better than never.If the BMA can see the writing on the wall, then maybe others will too.It's time for union members to recognise that nothing was ever won without a fight-so goodbye to 'Sir'Paul Kenny and his ilk and lets get union leaders elected who will represent their members.
The same is true of the Party of Labour.For years it has been on its knees,fawning before the big banks and the hedge fund owners and the press barons.
There is still a long way to go, as worldwide workers start to remember whose side they're on,the spectre of fascism looms once again.
Trump and all those like him are ugly and dangerous,but they can be defeated.Bernie Saunders may indeed face insurmountable odds this time, but over three million Americans have funded his campaign and that's a lot more than the few hundred billionaires and zillionaires who fund all the others.
The biggest threat we face is racism.Once you can get people divided,on race,religion,whatever,then you can beat them.
There is no refugee crisis,any more than there is a crisis in the NHS or there is a crisis in Eastenders.If you tell people often enough there is a crisis looming they will believe it-tell them every guy with a beard is a possible terrorist then most football teams would be down to three or four players.

The Doctors must win,if they lose,then the free marketeers will have won and the next set of victims will be lined up.

Is that the lawyers and judges I see getting a bit itsy ?

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

It's a lesson too late for the learning ?

A curious mixture of melancholy and excitement fills my sleeping hours and most of my waking ones too.
last night instead of counting sheep I lay awake thinking of old the comrades who have passed away,when I first became a Labour Councillor way back in 1973 I was trying to count the number who have died-I lost count in the forties!
this was prompted by the sad death of an old comrade Tony Deasy just before Christmas.Tony represented all that was good about the Labour Party and his death also reminded me of the excitement and exhilaration of those times  when to be young and idealistic and effortlessly looking to the future.
it seems to me that spirit of change in how we do politics is alive again in the huge support Jeremy Corbyn has created-a sense that together 'we can make it happen'.So how do we rebuild what was once a large social democratic party with a pronounced list to socialism,before the pragmatists and naysayers once again get their paws on the structure and the power.
The left has a small window-it must use it wisely.
Here comes the nostalgia bit.
I've just finished reading David Aaronvitch's autobiography 'Party Animals' and it staggers me how only a few years apart we have lived parallel lives.His parents knew people my parents knew,we lived in the same part of North London,went to the same 'Daily Worker' bazaars,why we even went to the same school!
Like him I was called a 'red diaper' baby by American Communists who visited our flat.Like him I was wrapped in the cosy certainty that when we talked about 'The Party' we only meant one party- the Communist Party.
There by the way the parallel lives end,he went over to the dark side and writes a column for 'The Times',I only write for the 'Chronicle & Echo-a part of Johnston Group newspapers !
Coming to Northampton was a real culture shock, from the frantic politics of the Stoke Newington Peoples Paper' and the 'Theoretical Practice' study group (don't ask!) the pace was very different and the rhythm,shall we say,somnambulist provincial.

One neighbour in Western View was a remarkable woman, 'Doll' Pickering. Her husband had been a local Labour Councillor and she was a widow, but very active in the community-in her local church at Castle Hill, local charities and Castle Ward Labour Party.
She heard us bitching about the government in our garden, invited us to a ward meeting and the rest is history.
Now Doll was no fierce revolutionary,far from it,she worked hard for Reggie Paget the right wing Labour MP, but she recognised that the Party needed young blood,renewal and above all a shift in enthusiasm.
It was people like Doll that were the glue that held the party together.Rooted in the community,rooted in her neighbourhood and understanding what they were talking about.
Which brings me back to Tony Deasy. He was a tall kindly man who would talk to anyone,and talk and talk....
He lived in Thorplands and for a number of years represented that ward on NBC.He didn't need to run surgeries because everyone knew where he lived,he didn't need to knock on doors to 'listen' to people because he knew them and heard them everyday and he didn't need to organise litter picks to get his photo in the paper-he would argue with the Council officers that they had to do their job properly and not rely on volunteers.

Since the 1970's the party has changed.When we first joined the newly created Northampton South CLP there were dozens of union branches affiliated, there were I think 5 TGWU branches,2 NUBSO (boot and shoe workers) several AEU branches,several NUPE branches and so on.
Wards sent delegates as did the unions andthe organisation was both welcoming and relatively efficient.we also had our own building at 97 Charles Street, once the NUBSO offices but bought I think by Paget for Labour Party use.
Later we converted the ground floor into a club with Party rooms above.Every night there were meetings and any party or Union member visiting Northampton knew that there at least like minded companions could be found.
There were often fierce arguments and passionate debate,both upstairs and in the bar sometimes,
factions met,plotted,dissolved and re-formed.The party was alive to all sorts of currents in the broader movement.
It was a time when Local government was central to party strategy, when the GLC, the London Boroughs,Liverpool,Sheffield,Edinborough and dozens of other places were the centres of resistance to central government.
Even wee Clay Cross in Derbyshire played a part in the resistance.
My point is that there was a coherence within the movement and the party, a comradeship and a vitality.members were not simply used as leaflet deliverers and door knockers.The battle in the aprty during the 70-80's was to wrest power from the parliamentary elite,or even the council elite and bring it back to the wards and branches.
There is a new enthusiasm abroad in the movement that needs to be brought out before frustration sets in.There are only so many litter picks you can support before you think maybe joining a Keep Britain Tidy group might have been a better option.
So what must the local Labour Party do ?
First it must create real meaningful branches throughout the town that have autonomy to do more than leaflet but be able to initiate campaigns.
It must ensure that as many members as possible are encouraged to get involved,not just in ward activities but in broader community activities too.How many are members of local tenant or resident groups for instance ?
There must be an opportunity at ward level to discus ideas,and not just await the word from on high.The Labour Party is not organised obn democratic centralist lines (at least not when I last looked)
And above all else wards must attempt where possible to select local candidates from their community.that may mean training,not simply in how to canvass or how to fold leaflets, but how to speak in public, how to deal with council officers,how to write leaflets and use social media.
I am very optimistic that the party can move forward, as part of a broader movement.But it needs to be brave and it needs to learn from its history,from its mistakes and its successes.
But already time is short and there are too many unleashed dogs of war, and they all seem to be in the party.

Monday, 11 January 2016

A wind of change blows up from St.James

Who would have believed it ? On a damp Saturday afternoon in January in downtown St James Northampton over 200 folk gathered to hear a Labour Party shadow cabinet MP.
There was a time not so long ago when a real labour Party cabinet minister couldn't attract an audience of much more than a few loyalist hacks and the odd passing dog.
Yet times have changed, and the crowd from Northampton and other parts of the County turned up at the Rodber suite at Franklins gardens to hear a range of speakers culminating in the shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.
And unlike many such meetings in the past the crowd stayed on because he was delayed on his journey down from another meeting in Derby, and the meeting over ran my a good half hour.
Such is the pulling power of the new leadership of the Labour party these days.
There were other quite inspirational speakers there too, top of the platform was young Richard and his Mum.He is a very brave young disabled man who spoke movingly and with a sly sense of humour about the plight of young people with disabilities.He spoke as the Youth Ambassador of the Ron Todd Trust and a damn fine ambassador he is too.
It was therefore a pity that a local self-styled anarchist,writing on Facebook chose to describe Richard's presence as being an example of patronisation,as some sort of cynical manipulation on behalf of the organisers,perhaps even emotional blackmail.
However it would appear that the anarchist who left in protest-he thinks of himself as an eagle amongst a flock of pigeons-didn't really listen to what was being said, that solidarity is starting to mean something once again.
He demonstrated all the political skills and nuanced analysis of those Labour shadow cabinet ministers who are leaving the shadow cabinet with great purpose and no effect!
Yes,I've never heard of them either and I didn't notice them leaving!
Most of the speakers were drawing attention to two areas -Dave Ward the General Secretary of the CWU and Lee Barron the Regional Secretary of the TUC were laying great emphasis on the need to build and organise the trade union movement.
In times of great difficulty,indeed growing difficulty,it's not the Parliamentary Labour Party that will make the difference to peoples lives-that may come later,but it is organised labour that will hold the ring.
One small observation is that both Trade Union speakers came from the CWU-is there something about postmen and women that is breeding a new militancy and a new desire for change?
Speaking on behalf of the Unison members employed by Northamptonshire County Council their secretary made it clear that the biggest danger in the immediate future is the wholesale privatisation of the County Council.
Northamptonshire is being used as a blue print(in every sense of the word) for the future of public services in this country.If the Tories have their way,then there will be less than 200 people working for the County Council (and they will all probably be senior managers!) whilst all other jobs and services-those that haven't already been decimated,will be in the private sector.
What we see happening in the public sector is nothing less than what the last Tory government did to the mining and steel industries-no if's and no but's.
John McDonnell despite arriving late and not hearing the other contributions brought together the strands quite effectively, which I must say suggests that at last the Labour movement is singing off the same songsheet.
Nobody at Franklins Gardens that afternoon underestimates the scale of the problem facing the Labour movement today.But the reality at last that we are talking about a movement, that is parliamentary and extra-parliamentary, that brings together all sections of the community and understands instinctively that an injury to one is an injury to all.
The labour party grew out of mass movements, it didn't emerge a fully fledged parliamentary group that understood the archaic traditions of the Palace of Westminster, that didn't really give a monkeys about the gibberish and gentleman's club rules of the Commons, and more important than anything realised that all struggles are interconnected.The fight against austerity is not simply an economic argument, but is a social and an equality issue too, that involves healthcare,education,housing,military spending,overseas aid-everything in the end is political.
Yet the solution is not simply 'political'that is a catch all word that is about as meaningless as the Liberal-Democrats and the Progress group in Parliament.
What is changing in Europe,and indeed all over the world is that people are starting to see that there is a common interest that transcends nation states historic game playing.
Capital is global,our response must be international too.I see that there is a new grouping,or grouplet in the Labour Party called 'International Labour'.I gather they want to replace Trident and keep bombing other bits of the globe.
I expect they are called 'International Labour' because they couldn't quite get their collective heads around the idea of 'International Socialists'-hey ho!
And finally to the young Northamptonian who left in protest to continue his lonely fight as an anarchist can I remind him that the most effective strain of his particular ideology can be found in the Anarcho-syndicalist movement, that understood the need to combine and work together-in solidarity!