Goodbye Porkpie Hat (and smoking)

June 30, 2007 at 10:39 am (Civil liberties, Jim D)

From six am tomorrow life will never be the same.

No-one caught the wonder of smoke like Herman Leonard

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An empty gesture: but still a nasty one

June 29, 2007 at 11:17 pm (Jim D, left, national liberation, politics, Racism, stalinism, SWP, unions)

The victory of the anti-semitic “left” at Unison’s conference the week before last, is important. Not because it will have any effect whatsoever on events in the Middle East, but because of what it tells us about the tactics of the “boycott Israel” racists: primarily the SWP/Respect, a section (but not all) of the “Morning Star“/CPB, and most of the  activists of the  Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

At the Unison conference they carefully used two-state people, rather than admitting to their true anti-semitic agenda – the total destruction of Israel. Their argument was “something has to be done” and they succeeded in portraying the AWL, the Socialist Party and other anti-boycotters as wishy-washy, abstract supporters of working class unity, where none is possible. Helen Jenner, on behalf of the union’s executive (which supported the ‘boycott’ motion), stated that she did not interpret the motion as mandating Unison itself to operate a boycott (so what, exactly did  it commit the union to?) The AWL account of the debate at Unison conference is here.

We can expect something fairly similar to take place at next week’s T&G Biennial Delegate Conference, where there is a resolution (#170) from the Birmingham Vehicle Builders’ District Committee, calling for “a boycott of Israeli products and goods”.

Usually I preface my remarks about such boycott calls by stating that the people making them are well-meaning. But I know the bunch of vicious, superannuated old Stalinists who passed that motion. Several of them, at least, are nasty anti-semites. One of their chums calls people who won’t buy a round “Jews”, and when challenged will justify his racism by ranting on about Israel. Morning Star readers, of course.

This is not a T&G Broad Left supported motion, but the worrying fact is that the union’s Broad Left will probably (in its majority) support it: the Broad Left convenor, when questioned about this, said “we support all the international motions – they’re all progressive” That is what were’re up against.

The vital issue at the BDC, is to prevent the “boycott” motion being composited in with the only other motion on the Middle East: motion 169, which supports the ‘Enough’ campaign, but does not call for a boycott. If we can keep the two motions seperate, we can have a debate which the anti-racist left can win. If the two are composited together, then this shameful little piece of anti-semitism will very likely go through on the nod.

The AWL are holding a fringe meeting during the BDC: Solidarity yes, boycott no! It’s at the Friends Meeting House (Room 3), Ship Street, Brighton, on Wednesday 4 July at 5.30 pm. T&G delegates: forego your piss-ups and attend!  The AWL leaflet for the meeting is here.

Download Eric Lee’s anti-racist poster here

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A newsreader with standards

June 29, 2007 at 5:08 pm (Jim D, Uncategorized)

Well done Mika Brzezinski!

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Haslam on Brown

June 29, 2007 at 1:07 am (Jim D, labour party, unions)

(NB: This article is by Jack Haslam, emailed to me. We hope to add Jack to our roster of contributors in due course).

You can’t say you were haven’t been warned. Last December, during the row about the Hayden Phillips report on state funding of political parties we warned…that Gordon Brown was telling trade union leaders that he wanted an end to the situation where trade union votes defeated the leadership at Labour Party conference.

 Brown now wants to turn that wish into a reality.

Last Sunday afternoon, just before he was crowned leader, Brown put what was presented as a non controversial document on ‘improving’ the policy forum process to the Labour Party NEC. Inquisitive NEC members were reassured by Brown aides that the proposals had been cleared with the leaderships of the major unions via the Trade Union Liaison Organisation. Whether or not that is the case is a moot point; but it has not taken long for the  full and radical significance of Brown’s  plans to become apparent. By all accounts the NEC did not study the document properly.

In Brown’s speech to the Labour conference that afternoon there was just one main  reference to the document. In it Brown said  that he wanted labour’s programme to be decided by an OMOV ballot.

By Monday morning the spin doctors had been at work  and what was being presented to the media was somewhat different from what the NEC had been told less than 24 hours earlier.

The Today   programme on Radio 4 was reporting that the BBC had learnt that ‘Gordon Brown planned proposals that would stop unions shaping policy at Labour’s annual conference’.

The details of the proposal are this: Brown wants to remove the right of both Constituency Labour Parties and Trade Unions to put contemporary motions to Labour conference. Instead, he wants to allow only ‘deliberative debates’, with no votes being taken. The aim of this is to stop trade unions or CLP’s  putting up motions which oppose government policy or call for major changes on issues like the trade union laws or privatisation. Brown is in a rush to get these proposals through. A timetable has been been put forward which would mean the changes get put to this year’s conference.

Brown has said he wants to convince the trade unions about these proposals which means he wants to convince the trade union leaders.

But why on earth would the trade union leaders, never mind the trade union rank and file or the Labour activists in the CLP’s, support these proposals?

The Brown camp are presenting the argument that some trade union leaders could be persuaded that the changes would make it politically easier for for Brown to make behind the scenes concessions to them.  The argument being that without the media attention on votes at Labour Party conference Brown would’nt have to make a point of facing down trade union ‘demands’. None of the union leaders  can possibly for one moment actaually believe that line. The issue is : are they so demoralised, lacking in political  self belief and plain desperate that they will do anything for Brown in the hope of getting a few crumbs in return? Maybe, but whether or not they can take their unions with them – and in particular the union delegations to the Labour Party conference is another matter.

UNISON is a cause for worry. The existing paper policy of the UNISON Labour Link rules out any possibility of the union supporting Brown. However, the top levels of the UNISON political structure are “rotten to the core”, and “completely  New Labour”, as one UNISON einsider put it.   This makes the elections that are taking place now in the Labour link organisation more important than ever.

It is difficult to assess what will happen in the AMICUS section of UNITE , and it is even harder to identify what mechanisms of rank and file control could be brought into play in the timescale available, either. But the key to UNITE – and almost certainly to what the other major unions do, is the TGWU section. The union is due to hold its Biennial Delegate Conference next week and a clear lead from the union in opposition to Brown’s plans would help galvanise trade union opposition.

The Communication Workers Union could also provide a vital impetus to the struggle against Brown’s plans to abolish Labour Conference. This year’s conference could become a vitally important platform for demonstrating  movement’s  support for the postal workers in their struggle against Royal Mail. Taking the strike into the Labour Party will certainly help make it more difficult for brown to get his way on constitutional changes.

It is also vitally important to get over the idea that that this is an attack on the rights of the constituencies as well as the trade unions. The unions are the target of Brown’s  campaign in the press, but the CLP’s too would be denied the right to put motions to conference. It is the rights of both that are in the firing line.

We need to build a broad campaign of labour movement opposition to these proposals in both the unions and the CLP’s . John McDonnell MP has talked of the need to immediately launch such a campaign. He is dead right.

But it is  important that the campaign is not simply defensive. We need to raise the right of conference to win back a say over policy, by pressing for the right of CLP’s and affiliates to sunmit motions to amend Policy Forum documents and other proposals from the NEC, and for contemporary motions to be taken as amending Policy Forum documents. If we campaign about what is wrong with the policy Forum process and the sham of OMOV ‘take it or leave it’ ballots and to reverse the criminal damage that ‘New’ Labour has done to the political labour movement, we will be in a better place to make sure Brown  does not get any of his anti-working class proposals through, if he is forced back on the issue of motions to conference. Just as importantly, unless the unions and CLP’s fight to regain their rights (and to reassert the rights of conference). Just as importantly, the unions and CLP’s must fight to regain their rights and to reassert the sovereignty of Conference: otherwise Brown will be able to press forward with undermining conference and increasing the use  of OMV (“One Member One Vote”) plebicides, as are already allowed for under the existing rules.     

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“Zionists called people fascists”

June 28, 2007 at 11:23 pm (Free Speech, Jim D, Uncategorized)

The ‘Socialist Unity’ site (to which we link – on the right), has just closed down its comments facility. They say it is because the comments from Gilad Atzmon and his supporter, Mary (“The Cutter”) Rizzo  are libellous. They probably are: they are certainly anti-semitic.

But the authors of the “Socialist Unity” blog go on: because, they claim, in the past, and on other blogs,  “AWL members and other Zionists used abusive language, including calling people fascists and very offensive swear words”…this, apparently diverted the debate from “how we can show solidarity with the Palestinians”,  into “instead being about Israeli security and allegations of anti-semitism”.

I have only one thing to say to the author of that load of rubbish: Tell me where I (or anyone else in the AWL) have EVER called a pro-Palestinian a “fascist”, simply for being pro-Palestinian, and I’ll donate £100 to your favourite cause.

I wanted to issue this challenge on your own blog, Andy, but you’ve closed down the comments.

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Order of the Brown Nose

June 28, 2007 at 9:24 pm (Jim D, labour party)

It’s the end of an era…blah, blah, blah…

We’ll not see his like again…blah, blah, blah…

The master politician of his day…blah, blah blah…

I most certainly wouldn’t join with the likes of the increasingly preposterous ‘Stop the War Coalition’ and that all-time reactionary shit Richard ‘treat the Falklanders like the people of Diego Garcia’ Gott in shouting “Good riddance!” in Downing Street yesterday. But it was, indeed, good riddance, as far as anyone with a socialist bone in their body was concerned. You didn’t have to agree with the pro-fascists of the  SWP/ Respect/STWC to feel that way.

The question is: will the Dour Scotsman be any improvement? It amazes me how many would-be lefties in local Labour Parties think so. And how many “serious” columnists are almost breathless with enthusiasm for the Son of the Manse and his school motto (“I will try my utmost”): Harriet’s friend, for one; but the numero uno fan must be Jackie. Let us hope they’re not disappointed.

Meanwhile, any idea that Broon might prove to be just a wee, teensie-weensie bit more pro-union and less in love with business than his predecessor, has already taken a hammer-blow.

He’s announced his intention to end the Labour Party conference’s role as the policy-making body of the Party, thus virtually ending the role of trade unions in Labour policy-making.

And he’s created a new “Business Council for Britain”, headed by Permira private equity chief Damon Buffini, and including the likes of Alan Sugar and Tesco’s Terry Leahy: none of them exactly famous  for their fondness for trade unionism, are they? (T.Woodley, A. Simpson: please take note).

Broon may not grovel, cavort and free-load in the presence of  the rich and famous in the demeaning manner of his predecessor; but he every bit as much in thrall to big business.

The Pink ‘Un”‘s Andrew Hill (“Lombard”)  imagines this letter arriving in six months’ time:

“Dear Damon – Good to see you and ‘the gang’ at Chequers. Alan’s ‘You’re fired’ skit on the last days of the Blair premiership was spot on and I thought Terry’s joke about the farmer, the wellington boots and the organically-reared lambs was priceless.

“I’m immensely grateful  for your help with the Business Council. I know that the news got up the noses of the unions at first, but I promised a government of all the talents and without your wise counsel, I’m sure we’d still be agonising about whether to sell off, gear up and slim down the Royal Mail. Thank goodness Harman pipped the postman to the deputy leadership.

“That’s why I wanted you to be the first to know – well, the first after Ed, obviously – that we’re planning to tweak taper relief on capital gains so that private equity partners pay more tax. I know you’ll say we had a ‘deal’ not to touch this one but if there’s one thing I learnt from Tony, it’s that deals don’t last. With a snap election coming up, I need to win back some grass-roots support and this seems the least painfull way to do it. Think of it as my ‘management fee’  for looking after your interests until now.

“I do hope you won’t kick up a fuss. Leaving the council after only six months would be bound to attract accusations of, well, short-termism. It’s up yo you, of course. If you feel like protesting, I believe the GMB can lay their hands on a camel, and you know where I live – All the best, Gordon.” 

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New Blogs…

June 27, 2007 at 10:38 pm (blogging, blogosphere, geeks, voltairespriest)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThose of you with altogether too much on your hands may have noticed Southpawpunch’s new companion to his main blog, which tells you all about his comments on other blogs. As all of our regular readers will know, ex-member of Socialist Organiser and current rrrevolutionary PR executive Southpaw is a regular of the UK left-wing blogging scene, and universally popular with all of the figures on it. Although of course, he’s always welcome here as a welcome diversion from my, Jim and TWP’s  usual troupe. As long as he rings ahead to make sure we’re not busy. And as long as we’re not working late and we don’t have to look after the kids. Or go to the pub. Or whatever.

Well, for all you Punchie fans out there, there’s a new show in town. It appears that not everyone has yet seen the light, and some people appear (shockingly) to think he’s a “fucking wanker”. What can I say? The culprits should be hanged.

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Labour Deputy Leader: Ho hum. It’s Harman.

June 24, 2007 at 4:12 pm (labour party, left, Respect, socialism, Socialist Party, SWP, unions, voltairespriest)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketOh, good God. Well, she has the advantage of being the Crudmeister’s second favourite candidate, and being “sorry” about her vote on the Iraq war. Oh yes, and her other major selling point: she’s a woman. Which apparently means she therefore represents the sisterhood. Don’t blame me; that really is pretty much the sales pitch she used.

And her other achievements that demonstrate how she merits the job? Errm… kinda hard to think of any at the mo. I wondered initially, if I tried hard, whether something would spring to mind which demonstrates somehow that Harman isn’t quite the walking bag of mediocrity that she appears to be at first glance. And second glance. And third. But of course it didn’t, because Harman really is the wishy-washy liberal and third-rate Blairite minister that she always seemed to be.

No, the real saving grace is that the job to which she has been elected, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, is utterly meaningless. It matters no more that Harriet Harman is Deputy Leader of the Labour Party than that someone has been hired to wear a chicken suit to advertise your local takeaway. Gordon Brown will continue to enact the same neoliberal agenda that he always had in mind, the same Thatcherism-on-cocaine economic policies, the same slow erosion and abolition of any public service ethos in the state sector. And Harriet will continue to bleat on like the Hampstead liberal she always was, offering him southern, London-friendly cover for his hair-shirted politics. At least the chicken suit guy really is offering you some meat.

And you can always comfort yourself that the other candidates were either just as crap as she is, or even worse. I didn’t vote for any of them, and I stand by that decision.

At least now that farce is over, we can stop pretending that the election for Deputy Leader had any relevance whatsoever to the future of progressive politics in the UK. It’s time to have a discussion, to reflect on the failures both of the extra-Labour challenges from Respect and the Socialist Party, and on the equal failure of the Labour Left via the McDonnell campaign to mount a challenge from within. Time to drop preconceptions and old feuds. Time to talk.

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There again…

June 24, 2007 at 9:45 am (hell, insanity, perversity, religion, voltairespriest)

… these two don’t seem to take the evangelical movement entirely seriously. Shame on them. May their tongues cleave to the roofs of their mouths.

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Tomorrow’s World…

June 24, 2007 at 12:36 am (insanity, religion, voltairespriest)

… presented for your love and enjoyment. Just remember, you saw it here first. Shhpooky.

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