The district where I work was crawling with cops as I arrived this morning. Streets were sealed off with that ‘scene of crime’ tape you see on the telly. I had no idea what was going on, but it all seemed very exciting.
I later discovered – from workmates – that this was all part of a “swoop” by police, who had reason to believe that a major terror plot was nearing fruition. The plan, apparently, was to kidnap either a random member of the public or a British Muslim soldier, and to behead him/her, film the ‘execution’, and post it on the internet.
The alleged plot, is said (by the cops) to have “been in the later stages of development”, and would have mirrored the kidnappings and ‘executions’ of people like Margaret Hassan, Ken Bigley and lots of trade unionists, by “insurgents” in Iraq.
Now, bearing in mind the cock-up at Forest Gate , no-one in their right mind would give the cops carte blanche in “anti-terrorism” operations. But I’ve got an admission to make: when I heard about the alleged “plot” on my doorstep, I was quite shocked and I was also glad that the cops were in attendance.
But the real admission is this: I didn’t immediately parade up and down the Stratford Road with a placard proclaiming “Cops Out Of Sparkhill Now”. Why not? After all, most of the cops were from outside Sparkhill. And everybody knows that the cops are the enforcers of capitalism and imperialism. So my failure to demand “Cops Out Now” is clear evidence of my support for capitalism, imperialism and general repression. I admit it: you’ve got me bang to rights, guv.
From today’s (UK) Times:
“7/7 victim wins cash over unfair dismissal
“A traumatised victim of the 7/7 bombings who was dismissed after taking two days’ sick leave has been given a substantial out-of-court settlement by her former bosses.
“Nattashar Gittens, 30, of Hackney, East London, was dismissed by James Harvard, a company of recruitment consultants, after she went home in distress last April over the death of a friend’s mother.
“Ms Gittens was also in great pain from a back injury and suffering nightmares and flashbacks after being blown off her feetby the Tavistock Square bus bomb in July 2005.
“She was dismissed from her £19,000-a-year job as a receptionist a week before she would have had one year’s service and legal protection against unfair dismissal. Her employers sought to have the case thrown out on the ground that she had started as a ‘temp’ and so had not been employed for a year.
“But the panel at the Central London Employment Tribunal ruled that including the three weeks she was a ‘temp’ and the week’s notice she was denied, her employment amounted to one year and a day and so her claim could proceed”.
But note that Ms Gittens was only allowed to proceed with her case because the Tribunal decided that her first three weeks, as a ‘temp’, plus the week’s notice she wasn’t given, but should have been, should be included in her length of service. Had it not been for these technicalities (which might not apply in other, similar, cases), she would not have been allowed to pursue her Unfair Dismissal claim, because she would not have had twelve months service. That is clearly what her employers thought when they sacked her a week before her twelve months were up.
Prior to the 1997 general election, Blair and New Labour had promised to abolish the service requirement (then 24 months) for Unfair Dismissal and other employment rights, arguing , quite logically, that an Unfair Dismissal is unfair, regardless of service. Under pressure from the CBI, they backed down and merely reduced it from 24 months to twelve.
Employment Tribunals will never be a substitute for effective union organisation, but we must re-affirm the demand for full legal protection at work from day one, regardless of service.
Ex-’Respect’ member Andy Newman brings news that the SWP have expelled Ger Francis, once their Birmingham organiser. Mr Francis is, I can safely state, the most backward and obnoxious asshole I have ever met on the ‘left’. The fact that, at one time, this loathsome character was considered fit to be the SWP’s Birmingham organiser speaks volumes about the calibre of that degenerate organisation. Still, credit where it’s due: having sacked him as their Birmingham organiser a couple of years ago (though he hung around to undermine his successors), they have now expelled him altogether from the Party. According to Newman, the reason was his support for an all-male, all-Muslim slate of ‘Respect’ candidates for the May local elections in Birmingham.
Back in December, I wrote a piece on this blog suggesting that some very dodgy deals seemed to have been going on over the selection of ‘Respect’ candidates in Birmingham, and that it was strange that a well-known and quite successful female candidate, Salma Iqbal, had been dropped in the Springfield ward. I may have got some of the details wrong, but it seems I was on the right track. I like to think that I may have contributed to the downfall of Mr Francis.
Meanwhile, those with an unhealthy interest in the strange, reactionary phenomenon that is ‘Respect’, are recommended to visit Dave Osler’s blog (see the sidebar on the right), where SWP’er ‘Snowball’ vainly attempts to defend this fast-collapsing organisation. The ‘comments’ are particularly good, as Andy Newman and other ex-’Respect’ members take poor ‘Snowball’ apart over lack of internal democracy, lack of class orientation and the antics of ‘Respect”s Member of Parliament.
The tide has turned in the US antiwar movement. Having been a participant in this movement since the bombing of Afghanistan in 2001 when it was very small indeed, the protests yesterday which drew tens of thousands of people to Washington DC, Los Angeles and San Francisco were a very positive development.
It hasn’t been a steady line of ascent since that time and I distinctly remember standing at a vigil of ten people in Washington Square Park in New York when Falluja was getting bombed to shreds with the occasional cabbie honking in support. I too remember being pressured to wear a red, white and blue ribbon in my office, ostensibly to support the war, and refusing but wearing my peace sign instead. Given that a number of us in the office, including myself, had lived through the horror of 9-11 only five blocks away, this wasn’t an easy thing to do.
However, the difference now is that the opposition has been growing steadily and is reaching new heights. While the AP and other news organisations often make comparisons with the anti-Vietnam war movement and claim that the numbers are small, in reality they are not comparing like with like. What they neglect to mention is that this many years into the conflict in Vietnam, the anti-war movement was nowhere near as large as it is in the current stage of this war.
Further, the opposition to the war began in the places which were directly affected by 9-11 and grew weary rather quickly of having their pain and memories dragged through the mud and abused by the US government to justify its every action – but it has now extended to large swathes of the rest of the country. I noted with interest upon visiting my home state of Utah the plethora of yellow ribbons, bumper stickers on cars saying “Never forget” with images of the twin towers – all of which were largely absent in New York a few years after 9-11 – though of course the occasional mural of a local firefighter remained on the sides of bodegas in working class areas of Brooklyn and the Bronx.
But the yellow ribbons in the rest of the country are coming off because it is largely the sons and daughters of those folks who are being sent off to die in an un-winnable war. This is precisely why the Democratic Party, who have a miserable record on the war, are scrambling to be the new “doves” even though their desire for blood and their hawkish jingoism has been clear to anyone who has been paying attention. They’ve started to join in the protests and even Hillary “Hawk” Clinton has come out saying that she takes “responsibility” for allowing the war to happen.
Along with Democrats joining the protests, one thing that became clear on looking at the photos is the increase in veterans and active duty soldiers participating. When the antiwar movement started, and before 9-11, the anti-capitalist movement was rolling along. In my view, 9-11 resulted in the death of the anti-capitalist movement which has never recovered. The reason I mention this is that the early antiwar movement was largely made up of those of us who had been on these demos – who tended to be concentrated in large cities and largely white, in a lot of cases middle class with a heavy anarchist influence.
The addition to this original core of Iraq war veterans and people from across the country is a massive shot in the arm and will help the movement to grow. This doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone protesting is against the war for “left” reasons – a number of those joining see the war as “un-winnable” in a nationalist sense instead of morally wrong – hardly an indication of leftism. However, the make-up of many of these veterans and active servicemen and women is very working class and largely Black and Latino. There have been large groups of Latinos protesting over the last few years for citizenship rights for immigrants and many of these demos were awash with the Stars and Stripes. The nationalist righteous indignation felt by them and many others who are sending their sons and daughters to die will have a massive effect on the current movement but the increase in participation shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as an increase in the US left, which remains very small indeed.
I was flicking through the MPAC UK website today – something I do every now and then, largely as a hangover from when as an undergraduate I used to regularly object to the National Union of Students ban on that organisation. I’d always found MPAC a fairly weird bunch, and sometimes what they said wasn’t the nicest to hear, but being weird and unpleasant just didn’t strike me as grounds for banning someone from a national organisation like NUS.
Anyway, for those of you who don’t know (and there can’t be that many of you), MPAC stands for “Muslim Public Affairs Committee”, although rather like many self-appointed community representative organisations, the grandiose title doesn’t quite match the organisation itself. It’s in the habit of issuing ranting proclamations on various subjects, which apparently UK Muslims are then supposed to take as guides to action. Some of the on-the-button bulletins in the past year, have included a roar of righteous indignation at Blairite minister Phil Woolas for using the word “crap” to describe the anonymous author’s views expressed at a meeting. I’d hazard a guess that the author in question is MPAC front man Asghar Bukhari. He’s the guy who gave money to David Irving once upon a time, albeit that he claims not to have known that Irving was a Holocaust denier. More recently, we have a mixture of news/opinion articles with a heavy slant on how if you stand up for the human rights of Palestininans, “The Zionists” will call you anti-semitic. And of course an article telling people that they need to prepare for the “student jihad” by getting elected to this year’s NUS conference, by which “jihad” MPAC presumably means voting to end the ban on MPAC. So, nothing remotely wacky about this organisation, as you can see. Which neatly brings me on to my main point.
On the same site is an audiocast about Holocaust Memorial Day. I was in two minds about whether to bother listening to it, but eventually decided to do so, if only to find out whether MPAC would repeat the tired old MCB line about how they weren’t attending because genocides happen to many peoples, this shouldn’t be exclusive to one event, etc. Or indeed, given MPAC’s predeliction for hysterical theatrics as outlined above, possibly worse. In fact, this is what I was expecting to hear. But for 75% of the audiocast, I was pleasantly surprised.
The recording takes the form of an interview by a young man, of a young Muslim woman (and presumably MPAC supporter), who has recently been to Auschwitz. She recounts the horrors that she saw, and gives a good idea of the sheer scale of that particular camp’s part in the genocide. She does this by summing up her own journey around the camp, and also by adding facts that give an idea of the magnitiude of what happened there; her description of the thousands of kilos of human hair found at the camp when it was finally taken by Allied troops at the end of World War Two is particularly horrifying and poignant. She also makes clear that she regards the Holocaust as both true in historical fact and staggering in its magnitude, and the the interviewer does not dissent from this.
By this point I was pretty impressed. But then came the downer.
Asked to describe MPAC’s position on Holocaust Memorial Day in light of her journey, the woman reverts to that same tired formula that I was expecting in the first place. MPAC will not be attending the Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony, because it’s exclusive, many peoples have been subject to genocides, the Palestinians in particular have suffered… all the usual lines that whilst true and and of themselves, don’t actually add up to a reason for boycotting Holocaust Memorial Day. In other words, she just doesn’t get that attending Holocaust Memorial Day in no way precludes other memorials being set up for other genocides. She and MPAC also don’t get that the Armenian community in the UK, who also represent a people who have suffered genocide, have never opposed having a day specifically to commemorate the Holocaust. She also doesn’t get just how obnoxious (and for that matter counter-productive) it is therefore, for organisations such as MPAC to make nasty little gestures like this boycott of the commemoration of those who died in one of the most tragic genocides in human history.
To sum it up, MPAC just doesn’t get it. Disappointing, but not surprising.
Many of you will be aware that Will Rubbish and I disagree about a lot of stuff. In particular we disagree over his support for the Iraq war, which I understand was a decision he took for honourable reasons, even if he is still completely wrong.
But fucking hell, he just might have a point about Grayham from Harry’s Place, who appears to believe that not only was the Iraq War the right thing to do, but that it has been won, and that the war going on in Iraq now is different from the one that began in September 2003. I quote Grayham himself, from the comments on this post:
“1) The war we supported has ended and the commander in chief of the opposition has been executed.
2) Several progressive leftist organisations supported itand
3) Despite support from both the BNP and paleo-conservatives such as antiwar.com :not to mention initial support from many ordinary people, the supposedly ‘progressive left’ organisations who opposed the war failed to either stop it or even to keep a tiny fraction of the supporters they had to begin with. Their stand was (in anyones book) an enormous failure and has led to massive dissapointment and the embracing of right-wing ideas.
So, I’m quite happy with where support for this war has brought me personally, as I have not been forced to sell my beliefs cheaply.
What about you? Still think you are ‘on the left?’
Despite the evidence?”
Now Will, at least tell me that you don’t share that position?
Further, when challenged about this by my good self, Grayham’s response was even better:
“Unfortunately it is the same one as eight weeks ago. It is not however, the same one as three years ago.
Only a lunatic could try and sell the idea that an entity is fighting the same war against a different enemy – and it just goes to show how deluded some anti-war people have become in the face of the massive failure which was their ‘mass movement.’
Face it. You NEED it to be the same war don’t you?”
Err ok, Mr Ham. It’s me who’s the nutter, obviously…
I’m not sure whether I’d fully agree with Will’s conclusions about linking to Harry’s Place; he thinks that any leftist who still links to them should “have their fucking head examined”. I can certainly see where he’s coming from though. And as for Grayham, if he really believes all that crap about there having been two Iraq wars since 2003, then maybe he’s the one who needs the head examination.
We’ve all been a bit serious lately. I just thought I’d attempt to lighten the tone a tad, by reproducing the text of a poster that has appeared in my local boozer; I realise that given my near-slapping at the hand of Stroppy Bird recently, I may not be considered best placed to pronounce upon sexism, or to accuse anyone of being a “patronising swine”. But here it is, anyway (I don’t understand all of it, by the way):
“Top professional pool entertainer David “JELLY BABY” Holt -as seen on TV- presents an evening of entertainment…(here)…”Jelly Baby” is so confident he is offering a four shot start (carry on rule) from the break for £10 per game upwards
“50 shot start for the ladies !
“Including trick shot exhibition.
“‘I’ve seen the rest, but Jelly’s the best’ – Jimmy White”.
Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. The Scottish Palestininan Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) are marking the occasion by staging readings in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee, of the late Jim Allen’s play ‘Perdition‘.
The SPSC have advertised their readings thus: “Jim Allen’s acclaimed play Perdition: a devastating work which reveals the extent of of the collaboration between the victims and the perpetrators of the Holocaust in Hungary towards the end of the ‘Final Solution’ has been hounded and suppressed for for over 20 years”.
Well, the SPSC are simply wrong about the play having been “hounded and suppressed for over 20 years”: although it was cancelled at the (London) Royal Court Theatre before its first scheduled performance in 1987, it was performed in Edinburgh later that year; in 1999 a “significantly rewritten version” (Allen participated in the re-writing) was performed by the Gate Theatre, London; In 2004, it was again performed in Edinburgh.
So this play has not been “hounded and suppressed for over 20 years”. So why are the SPSC so keen to promote the idea that it has been?
Maybe because the play is an avowedly “anti Zionist” work, and -as we all know – the international Zionist conspiracy not only controls the foreign policies of the USA and the UK , but it also controls the media and the arts, and will suppress any anti-Zionist journalism, academic research or art as when it pleases. Actually, the fact that the Zionist illuminati have allowed the showing of Allen’s “devastating” work is merely proof of their fiendish cunning: they realised that outright suppression of the play would be counter-productive, and expose the extent of their power and influence; so better to allow it to be performed occassionally, whilst continuing to denounce and vilify it (OK: I got carried away in that paragraph: to the best of my knowledge, no-one from the SPSC has put forward such an argument; but such is their “anti Zionist” hysteria and hatred that you can well imagine them coming out with that sort of argument. And, anyway, it’s as good an argument as any to explain the failure of the all-powerful “Zionist Lobby” to suppress Allen’s play).
What, then, does this “devastating” play depict? It is based upon a real-life libel case that took place in Israel in the 1950′s, in which Rudolph Kastner, a Zionist leader in Hungary during WW2, had been accused by another Zionist, Malchiel Grunwald, of collaboration with the Nazis. Note that Grunwald, the accusor, was himself a Zionist – a point conveniently omitted from Allen’s play, presumably because to acknowledge that fact would be to fatally undermine the central thesis of the play.
Allen himself said the play was “the most lethal attack on Zionism ever written, because it touches at the heart of the most abiding myth of modern history, the Holocaust. Because it says quite plainly that privileged Jewish leaders collaborated in the extermination of their own kind in order to help bring about a Zionist state, Israel, a state which is itself racist”.
This ignorant, ahistoric theme derives from Stalinist anti-semitism of the 1960′s, and can also be found in the writings of Lenni Brenner and Norman Finkelstein. At one level, it is not surprising that Allen, a leftist who gained his political education in the 1960′s, was infected by Stalinist anti-semitism (even though his own political allegiance was to Gerry Healy’s nominally “Trotskyist” SLL); but even so, was it really necessary for him to pepper the play with such blatant anti-semitic imagary as “all-poweful American Jewery”, “Jews in fur-lined bunkers hurling money” and references to Golgotha and the crucifixion?
When the play was first due to appear at the Royal Court (and the script published), the historian Martin Gilbert (not known for Zionist sympathies) identified 60 factual inaccuracies. And the fact that in 1999 Allen himself agreed to have the play “significantly rewritten”, suggests that the original version was far from the incisive critique of Zionism that Allen and his supporters had claimed it to be. Apparently, the re-written version has excised some of the worst overt anti-semitic language. But the anti-semitic theme remains. The fact that the SPSC are performing readings from this disreputable, misguided little play, is a scandal and a disgrace.
It’s also, as a matter of fact, a sad memorial to Jim Allen, who at his best (eg: “Days of Hope“) was a magnificent socialist playwright and (especially), screen-writer. I prefer to forget about his miserable anti-semitic error. But the SPSC clearly want to glory in it, to bait Jews and sneer at Holocaust Memorial Day.
NB: Much of the material, and all the quotes, for the above, come from Stan Crooke’s article ‘Not the way to mark Holocaust Memorial Day’ in the present issue of the AWL’s ‘Solidarity’ paper, and the slightly longer piece by Crooke here.
Once again slightly belatedly, I was planning to write a post about the pathetic display from senior members of the Turkish government, who “did a Gordon” by conveniently disappearing from view on the day of assassinated Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink’s funeral. But unsurprisingly it seems that Mehmet Ali Birand’s beaten me to it, with this article published on Wednesday by the Turkish Daily News. I’d strongly recommend the article, which lacerates the leaders of the ruling, nominally Islamist Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (Justice and Development Party), and the leaders of the other mainstream parties, for their failure to stand up to the ultra-nationalist sentiment that is creeping over Turkey and benefitting the far right. That far right is represented by the Milliyetci Hareket Partisi (Nationalist Movement Party), who are the heirs of the fascist Grey Wolf movement, and who are likely to form the next government in Turkey. Over to you, Mr Birand:
“It was a great opportunity. Remember those slogans they keep repeating about our unity and brotherhood? Those about being against armed groups and the importance of democracy and freedom of expression. Do you remember those politicians who constantly criticized the groups that raid exhibitions, courtrooms and attack people in the name of ‘patriotism?’ These people are the ones who failed the test. Our leaders just failed.”
I couldn’t have put it better myself.
The Weekly Worker (not a publication I generally recommend), carries two excellent letters in its current edition (No 656) – both on the sex industry. One, from T&G member John Perry argues for a class approach to sex workers and for unionisation and protective legislation for all “vulnerable workers”, regardless of their legality.
The other letter might, at first glance, seem slightly less serious, but is actually very much to the point (and quite amusing, I think, into the bargain):
“According to the Weekly Worker, George Galloway objects to having strip clubs and lap dancing establishments close to places of worship (‘SWP puritanism’, January 11).
“In a way I can understand why some customers of these entertainments may not like having worship going on nearby. Worship is a deliberate degradation of the human spirit, by people who imagine there are tyrannical intelligences with power over human beings that people have to grovel to and appease.
“Although it is right that we should campaign to prevent children from being exposed to this “iniquity”, in reality worship only damages the people who engage in it, and does not affect others in adjacent buildings. Therefore, customers of lap dancing and strip clubs should be more tolerant of religion going on nearby, however perverted it may seem to them.