20 years on: My Poll Tax Shame

March 31, 2010 at 7:13 pm (anarchism, anonymous, beer, Galloway, hell, history, Jim D, libertarianism, Socialist Party)

Exactly 20 years ago today,  an estimated 200,000 -to-300,000 demonstrators converged on London in what was probably (then) the biggest protest march in Britain since the war. Their target was Thatcher’s hated Community Charge (aka The “Poll Tax”), a viciously regressive local tax that required (as someone put it) the duke to pay the same as the dustman, penalising the poor while massively reducing the annual rate bills of those with the most valuable properties. It had been introduced in Scotland the year before and resulted in mass protests, non-payment and jailings. Now it was to be introduced in England and Wales.

Anti-Poll Tax groups had been organised throughout the country, with the Militant Tendency generally taking the lead (the rest of the far left, including the SWP, had been a bit slow to register the level of anti-Poll Tax hatred that existed amongst the public) and it was these local groups who provided the mass support for the demo, organised by Militant wearing its hat as the “All Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation” . But the mobilisation of London-based activists (especially anarchists) was decisive in what eventually happened.

Let me set the scene: a lovely hot sunny day, a magnificent turnout in a popular cause, everyone (so it seemed) in good spirits, the various factions of the left (relatively) united, and a good-natured march from Kennington (where the Chartists had gathered in 1848) to Trafalgar Square, accompanied by bands, drummers and other miscellaneous noise-makers. Even the cops seemed friendly and some made little secret of their personal sympathy with the cause. 

So when we arrived at Trafalgar Square, I and a number of other comrades felt our job was done for that day at least, and having no particular desire to hang about for the speeches, headed off to a well-known nearby apres demo watering-hole.

 The official plan was -as ever – to have just “a quick one” and then return to the rally. But, of course, that didn’t happen. We stayed in the pub all afternoon and – as I recall – had a very agreeable booze-up, our enjoyment enhanced by the knowledge that we’d all played a crucial and irreplaceable role in the historic events of a few hours before.

Amazing as it may seem, we were completely oblivious to the events unfolding outside. When we eventually emerged unsteadily into the early evening, we were astonished to be confronted by by a hellish scene of fire and smoke, people running and screaming, mounted, baton-wielding police and helmeted riot cops attacking demonstrators and cowering figures in doorways, while mobs of anarchists smashed shop windows and looted. It was like something out of Dante.

I’d like to be able to say that I joined in with the anarchists, but the truth is that I was in no fit state for a punch-up with the cops and just wanted to get away and onto the train for home without being batoned or arrested – which I managed to do by a combination of  cowardice, stealth and sheer good luck.

It was obvious – even at the time – that the anarchists had carefully planned and deliberately provoked the confrontation.  The Militant Tendency / All Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation were not happy about the riot and came close to publicly denouncing it. But it has to be said that the riot brought the campaign unprecedented media coverage, proved a tremendous boost to the anti-Poll Tax cause, eventually led to the downfall of Thatcher and surely contributed to the defeat of the Tory government itself seven years later.

My role that day was far from heroic. But at least I wasn’t amongst those contemptible fake-“left”‘s who said things like:

“These lunatics, anarchists and other extremists, principally from the Socialist Workers Party, were out for a rumble the whole time, and now they’ve got it. If they didn’t exist, the Tories would need to invent them” (G. Galloway MP).

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How Fairy Tales End

March 31, 2010 at 2:23 pm (Feminism, Rosie B, women)

Someone sent me some pictures entitled How Fairy Tales End:-

Snowwhite

Snow White

Cinderella
Cinderella

Beautybeast

Beauty and the Beast

Littlemermaid
The Little Mermaid

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Rees and German: ex-Trots for hire!

March 28, 2010 at 11:03 pm (Champagne Charlie, comedy, John Rees, Lindsey German, SWP, wankers)

Ian Bone, who takes more of an interest in this sort of thing than I do these days, reports on the latest career moves of Comrades Rees and German:

Comrade German

REES, GERMAN AND THE RCP MARK2

Many comrades ask me ‘ Comrade Bone, what has become of the great helmsman JOHN REES since he was thrown off the SWP CC? Is he alright? Well I can report that Comrade Rees is completing his PHD on The Levellers at Goldsmiths University, is setting up a Levellers Society with Tony Benn and writing  a book called ‘Radical London’ to be published by Verso in 2012.But we all know the crafty little schemer won’t be happy with that. ‘What is he really up to?’ they ask.  Well after a brief sojourn in Bedlam Lunatic Asylum Rees has decided to form a sort of RCP Mark2 modelled on their long march through the institutions of Furedi’s ‘Institute of Ideas’ whizz. So Rees has set up COUNTERFIRE  which wil pass itself off as some kind of think tank and get REES/GERMAN on telly all the time and columns in newspapers like Mick Hume/Keenan Malik and the RCP ers do:

‘The Left Platform comrades grouped around John Rees and Lindsey German have now decamped to Counterfire, where the SWP in exile hope to ‘do an RCP’ and erect a big, inviting tent from which they can systematically infiltrate and inveigle themselves into the bourgeois media – maybe even make a modest career from being “available for interviews, commissions and quotes” and generally being “sensitive to the needs of 24-hour news’

So there you have it – while the rest of us sleep at 4am John Rees will be whisked off to SKY rolling news to give his opinion on the Tamil Tigers/BA strikers/May Hobbs/Black Power/ Feminism/ Climate Change and the Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm.

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The Catholic Church is now beyond the pale

March 28, 2010 at 8:15 pm (Catholicism, Champagne Charlie, Christianity, Human rights, religion, thuggery, youth)

Arthur Budzinski (circled left) at a Church service with Fr Murphy (right)

Above: Fr Murphy (on the right -protected by the Vatican) and one of his victims (not protected)

The present Pope covered this up: the sexual abuse of 200 deaf  kids (see above).

I was going to write a piece denouncing the Catholic Church as one of the most reactionary institutions in present-day society, and unfit to be allowed anywhere near kids or educational establishments. I was also going to excoriate New Labour (and of course, the left-footer Blair) for encouraging the view that religion must be “respected” and bringing in legislation to protect religious people from discrimination, and giving them protection from normal scrutiny and judgement.

I stand by all of that, and especially  my opposition to any special legal protection for religion and religious belief: I want to be able to discriminate against religious people, as I do (in practice) virtually every day.

But I’ve decided to simply hand the prosecution over to a victim, Colm O’ Gorman:

“It was not being raped by a priest at the age of 14 that shattered my faith; it was the horrifying realisation that the Catholic Church had wilfully, knowingly abandoned me to it, the knowledge that they had ordained the priest who abused me despite knowing he was a paedophile and set him free to abuse with near impunity, ignoring all complaints.

 ” And so it is difficult not to be cynical about the likely merit of the pastoral letter that Pope Benedict XVI will publish today (20 March 2010).

 “For a start the letter is intended for the “Irish faithful”. The Pope will write not to those who have left or fled his Church traumatised or outraged by acts of depravity and cover-up, but to those who somehow hold faith despite it.

“For my part I know what fractured my faith in the institutions of the Roman Catholic Church. I was a faithful Catholic, born into a society where to be Irish meant being Catholic. As a child, I knelt with my family in the evenings to say the rosary and I became an altar boy, finding great meaning as a child in the idea of serving the God my elders spoke of. My faith mattered to me; it had come to me across the generations and gave me a powerful sense of myself and my place in the world.

 “That faith was strong enough not to be shattered by the abuse. Father Sean Fortune used my fidelity to lure me to his rural parish and sexually assault me. But my faith was so strong, and my need to believe in the goodness of the Church and its priests so powerful, that I blamed myself for his crimes, turning my hatred of the act of his abuse inwards where, for decades, it poisoned my sense of myself. My faith in myself was gone, but not my faith in my church. Over the years I drifted from regular Mass attendance, but I still held the Church in esteem – until that painful realisation of the extent of the cover-up, of my abuse and that of countless others.

 “If today’s letter is to represent a real and meaningful change in how the Vatican deals with abuse, it will have to be a radical departure from previous papal statements.

 “Firstly, it must not make any attempt to blame anyone else for Church failures. Pope Benedict must not suggest the revelations of clerical crime and cover-up are part of a global media conspiracy as he has previously done. He must not seek to blame the decadence of Western society, the sexual revolution, gays, secularisation or even the Devil, as senior church leaders have asserted over the years.

 “He must also move beyond bland statements expressing his shock and dismay at the revelations of recent years. As head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, he was the man charged with the management of cases of child sexual abuse on a global scale for more than two decades. He, more than anyone, knows about the scale of abuse across the Catholic Church.

“He must not patronise us by telling us what any person with basic reason knows, that child abuse is a “heinous crime”. He must not express his regret at the actions of some, or a few, or even many priests. Neither he, nor his institution, can be held responsible for the actions of any individual priest, which has never been the charge levelled against him.

 “He must end the denial and deceit typified by his constant refusal to properly engage with the charge of cover-up, never mind admit it. In the face of findings of fact in Ireland, the US, Australia and Canada which have detailed the institutional corruption at the heart of these scandals, to do otherwise would be to continue to cover up by a wilful denial to address the issue.

“He must take responsibility for the cover-up, and apologise for it. As supreme head of the Catholic Church he must use his power to enforce proper child protection across the global Church. He must also make it clear that those who fail to act to protect children will be properly held to account.

 “When I was a child I was taught truth and justice mattered. I was taught that I should have the courage to take responsibility for any wrong that I might do others. I was taught that the first step in doing so was to confess my failings. I expect no less from the head of the Church that preached those values to me.”

 The writer campaigns for justice for clerical sexual abuse victims and is the author of ‘Beyond Belief’, the story of the boy who sued the Pope (www.colmogorman.com)

For superb commentary on Catholic  lying, denial and excuse of child abuse, read Christopher Hitchens on “the stench of evil”,  here and here.

h/t: Will

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“The racism of the anti-racists.”

March 28, 2010 at 4:38 am (africa, Free Speech, Human rights, immigration, islamism, Jim D, religion, secularism, women)

If you don’t read anything else this week, read this:

http://www.slate.com/id/2248809/

Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: heroine…and standing rebuke to the white, western liberal/”left.”

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Eddie Lang: jazz guitar pioneer

March 27, 2010 at 8:49 pm (jazz, Jim D, modernism)

Eddie Lang (b. Philadelphia 25 Oct 1902; d. New York 26 Mar 1933)

Eddie’s real name was Salvatore Massaro, and he virtually invented  the jazz guitar single-handed in the twenties. Without him, there would have been no Django and no Charlie Christian – at least not as we know them. 

Lang was also one of the first “studio” musicians, accompanying the pop singers of the twenties and early thirties like Ruth Etting, Bing Crosby and Annette Hanshaw. He also accompanied black artists like Louis Armstrong (“Knockin’ A Jug“), Bessie Smith (“You’ve Got To Give Me Some“) and Lonnie Johnson (with whom he played guitar duets under the name of “Blind Willie Dunn”):

Here he is with Joe Venuti, Jimmy Dorsey and Adrian Rollini:

Marty Grosz wrote (about one Lang performance, ‘There’ll Be Some Changes Made);

(NB: the Youtube clip I’ve linked to above, erroneously attributes “Changes” to Lonnie Johnson: wrong! It’s  Eddie Lang!):

Changes is a journey from Naples to Lonnie Johnsonville (New Orleans, Nastchez, South Side Chicago) in two and a half minutes. After a cadenza right out of the pagnios of old Italy and a few Scott Fitzgerald chords from pianist Signorelli, Lang proceeds to play a slower than expected Changes, in the simplest and yet most eloquent manner…blue and melancholy as hell. It is a very difficult matter to play the lead as simply and directly as that and to make it come to life, especially on guitar. Here is the real genius of Sal Massaro. This is the honest broad stick. How Eddie Lang found out I don’t know.”

He died on 26 March 1933 having his tonsils out.

 Here’s the only known recording of him talking.

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Mail red-baiting: let’s hope it’s true

March 26, 2010 at 10:03 pm (Champagne Charlie, elections, labour party, politics, red-baiting, unions, workers)

Unite assistant general secretary Len McCluskey, pictured speaking to BA strike supporters this week, has promised to 'reconstruct' the Labour Party if elected as leader of the union
Len McClusky
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The loathsome Daily Mail (together with the Murdoch press) is gearing up for the general election with lurid red-baiting about Unite taking over the Labour Party. I do hope it’s true.
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The gist of the Mail’s articles can be summed up by their headline this Wednesday: “BA MILITANTS AND A PLOT TO CONTROL LABOUR.”
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According to the Mail , “The hard-left clique which runs the giant Unite union plans to ‘reclaim or refound’ Labour, dumping the policies in favour of old-style socialism.”
 
The Mail’s evidence seems to be a series of leaked private emails from Graham Stevenson, Unite’s Passenger Transport national secretary, to a historian called Pavel Stroilov, who contacted Stevenson via his (Stevenson’s) website, which is largely devoted to British Labour movement and Communist Party of Britain history.
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Stevenson’s emails (the authenticity of which have not, as far as I know, been challenged) include the following shock-horror observations:
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* The Labour Party is broke. As millionaires desert them, it has been forced to go back to the unions for funding. We will have a huge number of MPs who are members…in the past both unions that formed Unite had large parliamentary groups but few actually bothered to take account of our policies. This will change!
 
* There is a plan to restore a more rigorous control in the next parliament. Much of the rest of our strategy will also come into play then. It will be in that period that unions will have to make a judgement about Labour – whether to give up on the reclaiming approach or to simply refound it.
 
* There’s now a struggle going on (in Unite), with an entirely new General Secretary elected this year. We’re backing McClusky, a left Labour man from the T&G, who is strongly allied to us. It’s no accident that McC is leading the BA strike. We are very confident he will win the election.
 
* The trade union leadership looks to the (Communist) Party for strategic direction and much of the left is prepared to accept the Party’s proposals for policy.
 
That last point aside (I’ll come back to it in a moment), what’s wrong with most of that? Unite and its predecessor unions Amicus and T&G,  have pumped millions of their members’ subs into the Labour Party through thick and thin, but have (up until now) never flexed their muscles within the Party, sought to discipline sponsored MPs or even mandated their representatives on the Labour Party NEC to vote in line with union policy. Meanwhile New Labour has maintained the anti-union laws and done the bosses’ bidding while treating the unions with disdain. Stevenson is simply saying that all that should change and the likely victory of Len McClusky (backed by the union’s United Left) will help bring that change about. Then the union movemnent as a whole will have to take stock of its relationship with the Party and decide whether Labour is “reclaimable.” Sounds pretty sensible to me – as I’m sure it does to millions of working class people in Britain today.
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Where Stevenson’s analysis becomes considerably more dubious are the exaggerated claims about the influence of the Communist Party of Britain (of which he’s a member – albeit part of the saner, more labour movement-orientated wing), which are frankly nonsense. The CP does wield some ideological influence on the left (and, indeed, the not-so-“left”) of Unite, but it does not control the United Left and is not running McClusky’s campaign. Unlike some Labour-lefts in the past, McClusky is not a CP fellow-traveller  and most certainly not  (as Jack Dromey was at one time) a secret member. McClusky’s background is in the Trotskyist ‘Militant’ tendency rather than the CP.
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But apart from that little bit of wishful thinking, Stevenson’s analysis of where we’re at and what needs to be done in Unite, the trade unions generally and the Labour Party, seems to me to be pretty much spot-on. Thanks must go to the Daily Mail for publicising such sensible policies and for giving Len McClusky’s campaign a big boost.
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More good stuff in today’s edition.

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Hurrah for Socialised Medicine!

March 23, 2010 at 6:50 pm (Anti-Racism, Democratic Party, Max Dunbar, Obama, United States)

So, it has happened. Obama has got his healthcare bill through against heavy odds.

This isn’t as good as our NHS. It is flawed. But it is a start.

The subsidies and mandates take effect in 2014, but insurance regulations and some other provisions kick in right away. Immediately, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to people on the basis of pre-existing conditions. They’ll no longer be able to drop sick people from their policies. They’ll no longer be able to set lifetime caps on payouts. Young adults will be allowed to remain on their parents’ plans until they’re 26. Small businesses will receive tax incentives to provide healthcare to their employees.

It is projected to bring healthcare to 31 million people, covering a total of 95% of Americans, while reducing the deficit by over $100bn over a decade. At its core, the 2,400-page package comprises tough insurance regulations to protect consumers, subsidies to extend coverage to low-income individuals, and mandates to broaden the risk pool and contain the rise of costs.

This legislation was enacted despite the presence of a noisy Palinite rabble on Capitol Hill, waving their placards and shouting bigoted epithets at congressmen as they walked into the building.

Preceding the president’s speech to a gathering of House Democrats, thousands of protesters descended around the Capitol to protest the passage of health care reform. The gathering quickly turned into abusive heckling, as members of Congress passing through Longworth House office building were subjected to epithets and even mild physical abuse.

A staffer for Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told reporters that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) had been spat on by a protestor. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a hero of the civil rights movement, was called a ‘ni–er.’ And Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was called a ‘faggot,’ as protestors shouted at him with deliberately lisp-y screams. Frank, approached in the halls after the president’s speech, shrugged off the incident.

But Clyburn was downright incredulous, saying he had not witnessed such treatment since he was leading civil rights protests in South Carolina in the 1960s.

‘It was absolutely shocking to me,’ Clyburn said, in response to a question from the Huffington Post. ‘Last Monday, this past Monday, I stayed home to meet on the campus of Claflin University where fifty years ago as of last Monday… I led the first demonstrations in South Carolina, the sit ins… And quite frankly I heard some things today I have not heard since that day. I heard people saying things that I have not heard since March 15, 1960 when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus.’

‘It doesn’t make me nervous as all,’ the congressman said, when asked how the mob-like atmosphere made him feel. ‘In fact, as I said to one heckler, I am the hardest person in the world to intimidate, so they better go somewhere else.’

It’s not that hard to work out whose side you’re on, is it?

Some racist losers yesterday

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Blairite scum for sale

March 22, 2010 at 3:09 pm (Champagne Charlie, labour party, parasites, Tony Blair, wankers)

Stephen Byers: “I’m a bit like a sort of cab for hire…usually between £3,000 and £5,000 per day”

Patricia Hewitt: (for £,300 per day, she can help) “a client who needs a particulat regulation removed, then we can often package that up.”

Geoff Hoon (for £3,000 per day) “looking forward to… something that, frankly, makes money.”

Not just craven, shameless, greedy wretches and human detritus, but stupid too. Even Tory Julie Kirkbride saw through the Sunday Times / Channel 4 trap and pulled out of her appointment, warning the Tory whips of what was happening. These miserable New Labour reptiles, in their averice and arrogance, didn’t even see the set-up and fell straight in.

It’s hard enough to muster any enthusiam for a Labour vote at the election, without these loathsome scumbags dragging the Party’s name even further into the mire.

Words fucking fail me. Will Rubbish: where are you now that we need you?

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Anti-semitism in its chemically pure form

March 21, 2010 at 10:02 pm (anti-semitism, israel, Jim D, mental health, Middle East)

 “9/11 was a Mossad operation”…

This must be music to the ears of Jew haters (and “absolute anti-Zionists“) everywhere:

h/t: Habibi at That Place

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