THURS 30th JUNE – rallies and marches

June 29, 2011 at 6:13 pm (Cuts, Johnny Lewis, solidarity, unions, workers)

Just a few of the
rallies & marches on the strike day:

Aberystwyth Rally 12 Morian Centre, Queens Road
Bangor 2 Meifod Hotel

Members of University and College Union campaigns team get ready for Thursday's strike

Barnsley 9.45 March to Parkway Cinema.
Birmingham at 12 Victoria Square
Bedford 10 Civic Centre
Bradford 10 Valley Parad Ground
Brighton 10.30 The level (oppositeopen market)
Bristol 11 College Green
Calderdale 10 Arden Rd, Social Club
Canterbury 10-2 Abbots Barton Hotel
Camberley 1pm Camberley station,  march. 2pm Rally@Theatre
Cambridge 12 Parkers pierce
Carlisle 12.30 Old  Town Hall
Cardiff 11 Cathays Park & 12.15 Canton Bridge
Ceredigion 12  Morian Centre
Chatham 12.30 Command House, ME4
Chelmsford 11 High  St
Chester 12.30 town hall
Chippenham 11 Town Hall
Colchester 12.30  Town Hall
Derbyshire 10.30 Market Hall Chesterfield
Doncaster 9.30 Council House, College Road
Dorchester 9.30 County hall
Dover 12 St Mary’s  Church
Exeter 11 Corn Exchange
Glasgow 12 George Sq
Gloucester 10.30  Gloucester Park
Gravesham 9.30 Three Daws Pub DA11
Gwynedd Mefild 2 Hotel, Bontnewydd
Halifax 10 Arden Social Club
Hastings 10.30 White Rock Hotel
Hertfordshire 10.30 Campus West, Uni
Huddersfield 10 St Pats Irish Centre 12-12.30 rally Market X, HD1
Hull 10am Royal Hotel
Isle of Wight 10  St Georges Football PO30
Ipswich 10.45 Giles Circus, Princes Circus
Kirklees 10 St Patricks Centre
Lancaster 11 Market Sq
Llandrindod Wells 11am Pavilion, Spa Rd
Lincoln 1 Stags Head
Liverpool 11.30 William Brown St
Leicester 12 Victoria Park
Leeds  12 City Square
London 11 Lincoln Fields
Luton 12 Market Hill
Manchester 11 All Saints
Maidenhead 11-2 Walnut Tree & 4pm Outside County Hall
Maidstone 11 Village Hotel, ME14
Merthyr Tydfil 12.30 Civic Centre
Middleborough 4.30 Bottle sculpture
Milton Keynes 12 Campbell Park
Newcastle 12 Life Centre
Newbury 10 St Nicholas Church Hall
Newport 12 John Forest Sq
Norfolk 12 Outside Forum NR2
Norwich 12 Forum Amphitheatre
Northampton 12.30 Guildhall
Nottingham 11 Forest  Recreation March to Albert Hall for rally
Oxford Noon Bonn Square 1.30
Peterborough 10am
Plymouth 10.30 Albion Rugby Club
Portsmouth 12 Guildhall, PO1
Preston 12 Flag Market
Powys 10.30 The Pavilion
Reading 11am RISC, London St, RG1
Rotherham 11am All Saints Sq
Sheffield 12 Barker’s Pool to City Hall
Sheffield 11 Peace Gardens to City Hall
Sittingbourne 11 Phoenix house, Central Av
Slough Queensmere  Centre
Somerset 10 Taunton Rugby Club
Southampton 11 Guildhall
Southend 12.30 Victoria Circus
Staffordshire 11.30 Reardons, Adventure Place ST1
Swansea 11.30 Castle Sq
Swindon 10 Outside Swindon Library
Taunton 11 Rugby club
Telford 12 Southgate
Truro 1-1pm Lemon Quay
Wakefield 10  Outside Cathedral
Welwyn 10.30 Campus West, Roller City
Wembley 10 Torch Pub
Wigan 11-1 Market Place
Wolverhampton 10.45 Metro One
Worcester 11  St Peters Baptist Centre
Worthing 11 Steyne Gdns, BN11
Wrexham 11.30 Queens Sq
York 11.30 Parliament St & 4pm lobby Council

The above details are from the National Shop Stewards Network; with all due respect to the comrades, I’d advise anyone intending to turn up to try to check details in advance. I notice, for instance that the Somerset/Taunton event appears to be scheduled for both 10am and 11am…

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‘They Will Be Moving In Force, And Bringing A Grand Piano’

June 29, 2011 at 5:33 pm (Cuts, homelessness, Max Dunbar, protest, strange situations)

Over the last year or so, I’ve developed an acute awareness of how important it is to have somewhere decent to live.

Seems an obvious thing I know, but part of growing up is learning to appreciate the obvious. I walk home every day reflecting on how lucky I am that I don’t have to share a room with three brothers, that I don’t share a bed with an elderly relative, that I can heat my home and cook and wash, that I have a place to go if I do ever lose the home I rent now.

Many, many people are not in that fortunate position, thanks to the property bubble and a chronic underbuild of affordable housing. There are millions in overcrowded properties, another million homeless or sofa surfing. Waiting lists are now so long that even the Tory-led National Government has had to pledge a token number of new social homes. Unfortunately, its plans have been condemned not just by housing charities but also the construction and landlord industries as being both inadequate and unrealistic.

More and more political debate comes back to housing allocation. Labour leader Ed Miliband, under the evil thrall of Lord ‘Blue Labour’ Glasman, appeared to reject the need-based model of allocation when he praised a project in Manchester that prioritised ‘those who are giving something back to their communities – for example, people who volunteer or who work.’ The subtext here is: ‘Let’s provide homes for Those Who Are Deserving, and not large workless families on housing benefit.’

Here is Ed’s problem. True, people do have children that they can’t support. But that won’t guarantee state help. There was a recent case in Manchester where a woman with six children in a three-bed house had been on the transfer list for eleven years. She won’t get a move because only twelve four-bed homes became available last year and there are nine thousand people on Manchester’s list. There are four and a half million on lists nationwide and there will be another million or so as spending cuts hit.

We need around 240,000 new homes per year to meet demand and are building about half that. Whether we allocate by need or virtue, millions of people are losing out. It is a futile game of musical chairs. And it has become a G-spot issue for people who argue over the few remaining seats without stopping to think who’s playing the music.

If David Cameron cared about this issue, he would go to the IMF and say something like: ‘Look, chaps, here’s the thing. We are a country that cannot afford to house its citizens. I know, I know. It’s simply mortifying. Could we have a development grant or something?’

Maybe there’s another choice. The squatters’ movement had a resurgence in the 2000s when the boom drove up city rents. Perversely, there is a chronic housing shortage plus almost a million void properties. They are empty because owners can’t be bothered to do them up, or are waiting until they can sell them on in a recovered market. Recent reports say that squatters now include families who couldn’t make mortgage payments in the recession.

People invested unhealthy amounts of money and emotion in home ownership only to see dreams crash with the crash. This will become mainstream. Many squatters work on and improve properties they inhabit. It’s not just middle-class hipsterism. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The squat in Guy Ritchie’s Fitzrovia place, the HSBC rave, these were great protests and should be celebrated. While the LSE’s religious/totalitarian sympathisers bowed to Gaddafi, the real radical left invaded his mansion and opened it to Libyan refugees. An occupier told Laurie Penny that ‘We are not here to cause any damage… Why would we? It’s our house! It belongs to the Libyan people. We’re here to make sure it isn’t sold to finance more killing.’

Naturally, the government is trying to criminalise it. Cameron has thrown an anti-squatting law into the compromised mess of Ken Clarke’s criminal justice bill. As squat campaigner Paul Reynolds points out, this is essentially the criminalisation of homelessness at a time of housing crisis. I have no idea how this law would be enforced or even if it would be enforced. I think that like so many of this government’s policies, it will be counterproductive, and it will hit them hard.

Housing is where politics becomes real. The British public will put up with just about anything. But I can’t help think that there will be bad consequences for this government if it closes off more housing options for people who have very few options anyway.

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Spanish Civil War: British volunteers lists available for the first time

June 29, 2011 at 1:08 am (anti-fascism, democracy, history, internationalism, Jim D, socialism, spain, thuggery, workers)

An important new resource

Above: Anglo-American Lincoln Brigade volunteers

Introduction

The Spanish Civil War (1936-39) was a brutal conflict in which more than 500,000 people lost their lives. It was in many respects a dress rehearsal for the far larger confrontation which was to envelop the world soon afterwards. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the military uprising which started the war. Despite the British government’s official policy of non-intervention, thousands of British and Irish volunteers travelled to Spain to join the International Brigades which were formed in defence of the elected government of the Spanish Second Republic. The brigades were involved in some of the war’s most critical engagements, including the Battle of Jarama in February 1937, but were eventually sent home in October of the following year. General Francisco Franco, with the support of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, eventually led the Nationalist forces to victory and remained leader of Spain until his death in 1975.  Journalists and writers such as George Orwell brought news of the conflict to the outside world and, partly as a result of books like Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, the International Brigaders have lived on in the popular imagination.  The surviving veterans have since been conferred with honorary Spanish citizenship.

What are the Spanish Civil War British volunteers lists?

The British Security Service, sometimes known as MI5, was interested in which British volunteers were fighting in Spain, particularly as many of them were also members of the Communist Party. KV5/112 contains an alphabetical list of more than 4,000 British and Irish International Brigaders compiled by the Security Service between January 1936 and December 1954. The file also contains a roll of honour (incomplete*) of those killed in action while fighting in Spain. A selection of index cards(KV5/117-131) relating to some of the more prominent volunteers has also been digitised.

*The file was closed in 1954 and was not updated to take new information into account.  A more complete list of those killed is available through the International Brigade Memorial Trust website.

Searching the records

You may wish to browse details of the whole collection.

Using quick search

The quick search box is near the top left of the page. To search by catalogue reference type the complete catalogue reference into the quick search box. Remember to leave a space between ‘KV’ and the numeric reference, for example, KV 5/125.

Searching within a download

The names in these records have not been individually indexed,  and the lists of names are not in alphabetical order under each letter index, so you will need to scroll through the pdfs to locate the name you are interested in.

What could these records help me to discover?

Browsing the collection may help you to discover or confirm whether one of your ancestors fought with the International Brigades in Spain. The files will also be useful for researchers and academics seeking primary source material from the era and may act as a signpost to further records in our collection. KV5/112 contains basic information collected by the Security Service on men and women it believed to be travelling to Spain to fight with the International Brigades, including the date and place of departure, the brigade to which they were attached, and the date of their return to the UK. Other files in the KV5 series provide further details of their activities in support of the International Brigades.

What do the records look like?

The documents are scanned images of pages copied from records kept by the Security Service (KV). They include a complete list of names and dates of British International Brigade volunteers arranged alphabetically (KV5/112) as well as selected copies of index cards on individuals deemed to be of interest. These list names, dates and places of birth, addresses, occupations and dates of departure and arrival in Spain, as well as some information about their post-war activities.

Index cards

A selection of index cards (KV5/117-131) relating to some of the more prominent volunteers has also been digitised. See the list below for what is available.

Valentine Ackland KV5/117

Valentine Ackland was an author whose work saw a resurgence of interest in the 1980s. It is understood that she volunteered for the Red Cross during the Spanish Civil War, although the Security Service note that her time in Spain was limited to ten days.

Eric Blair (aka George Orwell) KV5/118

Eric Blair is better known as George Orwell, author and journalist. Orwell’s work includes 1984, Animal Farm and Homage to Catalonia, his personal account of his experiences during the Spanish Civil War.

Clive Branson KV5/118

Clive Branson was an English artist and poet  best known for his paintings depicting life during the Blitz. Branson began by recruiting for the International Brigade before taking up the fight himself. He was captured in April 1938 and was held as a prisoner of war until he was repatriated that November. His wife Noreen shares an index card with him.

Paddy Cochrane KV5/119

Dublin–born Patrick Vincent Cochrane, who died on 31 March 2011, volunteered to join the International Brigades as an ambulance driver. He was badly wounded at the Battle of Belchite in September 1937 and on his return from Spain he set himself up in London as a toolmaker and spectacle frame designer. He returned to Belchite in 2007 and was granted Spanish citizenship two years later.

Sidney Cole KV5/119

Sidney Cole was a film and television producer. He was involved in making documentary films about the Spanish Civil War including Behind The Spanish Lines (1938) and Spanish ABC (1938).

Fred Copeman KV5/119

Frederick Bayes Copeman, OBE, started his career in the Royal Navy but was laid off during the reductions in 1931. He joined the International Brigades and became the Commander of the British Battalion. He was wounded in December 1937 and returned to England the following April. During the Second World War he helped to co–ordinate air raid protection in London, for which he received the OBE.

John Cornford KV5/119

John Cornford was a Cambridge–educated poet. He fought initially with the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM) and saw action at Perdiguera and Aragon in 1936 before falling ill and returning to England. He quickly returned, having recruited several friends, to join the English Battalion of the International Brigades, and was badly wounded at the Battle of Madrid in November 1936. He was killed at the battle of Lopera on 27 December 1936, shortly after returning to the front.

Robert ‘Bob’ Doyle KV5/120

Bob Doyle was an Irish member of the International Brigades. He was captured in 1938 at Calaceite, near the Aragon front, along with Irish Brigade leader Frank Ryan. After spending 11 months in a concentration camp he was among those exchanged for Italian prisoners of war. He died at the age of 92 on 22 January 2009.

John ‘Jack’ Edwards KV5/121

Liverpudlian Jack Edwards died in 2011 at the age of 97. He was a veteran of the Battles of Jarama, Teruel and Ebro and later joined the RAF during the Second World War.

Les Gibson KV5/123

Les Gibson, who fought with the International Brigades and served as a stretcher bearer at the Battle of Ebro, died in 2009 at the age of 96.

Bernard Knox KV5/125

The Cambridge–educated classicist Bernard Knox was wounded while fighting with the International Brigades. A respected author, Knox went on to take American citizenship and fought with the US Army in the Second World War. He died in July 2010 at the age of 95.

John Langdon–Davies KV5/126

Journalist John Langdon–Davies covered the Spanish Civil War for the News Chronicle. He went on to write several books about the war and was founder of the international children’s charity, Plan.

Mannassah ‘Sam’ Lesser KV5/126

Sam Lesser was one of the first group of British volunteers to travel to Spain and was one of the last surviving veterans of the Spanish Civil War when he died in 2010. He was wounded in action and when he was unable to return to the front, he began a career in journalism as a correspondent for the Daily Worker.

Wogan Philipps KV5/129

Wogan Philipps, the 2nd Baron Milford, was an ambulance driver for the Republican side during the war. He later became the only member of the Communist Party to sit in the House of Lords.

Frank Ryan KV5/130

Frank Ryan, a prominent member of the IRA, led a group of Irish volunteers to fight with the International Brigades in Spain. He fought at the Battle of Jarama and was seriously wounded in March 1937. He was later captured and imprisoned by Nationalist forces before being released to the Germans in 1940.

Further research

KV5/113-116 The International Brigade Association and Friends of Republican Spain: list of persons who fought in Spain, 1936-1939, by nationality. 1934 Jan 01 – 1954 Dec 31.

KV5/117-131 The International Brigade Association and Friends of Republican Spain: list of persons who fought in Spain; card index of members and supporters of the International Brigade who came to MI5’s notice; Reconstituted from the microfilm of a card index. Each card generally gives name, date / place of birth, address and occupation as well as dates of departure to Spain and return 1934 Jan 01 – 1954 Dec 31

Access the full archive here

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Zizek: “antisemitism alive and kicking in Europe”

June 28, 2011 at 10:28 am (anti-semitism, intellectuals, israel, Middle East, palestine)

From +972: independent reporting and commentary from Israel & the Palestinian territories

By Mairav Zonszein, Saturday 25 June 2011

On Friday evening, Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek gave a lecture in a bookstore in Central Tel Aviv teeming with familiar faces of leftwing activists. It was hosted by Udi Aloni, an Israeli-American artist and BDS activist, who just completed a book entitled What Does a Jew Want, which is edited by Zizek.

The bookstore called Tola’at Sfarim (Bookworm), which is also a small publisher of books mostly on psychology, was packed with people, young and old, very eager to hear Zizek speak, just as I was.

Many seem to have come with the expectation to hear Zizek rip into Israel and use his wry wit and charisma in such a bourgeoises Tel Aviv setting to endorse the BDS Movement. Indeed when Udi Aloni introduced Zizek, he identified himself as an activist on behalf of BDS and said he chose the bookstore as a venue in order to not cooperate with any formal Israeli institution.

However, Zizek did not officially endorse or even talk much about BDS – and when he did it was because he was prompted to during Q&A. His two clear statements about BDS were that a) he is not 100% behind it and b) he supports a movement that is initiated jointly by Palestinians and Israeli here in the region.

Rather, Zizek spent almost two hours with the crowd’s undivided attention talking about antisemitism, capitalism and the place of the Jew in the world. He warned that antisemitism is “alive and kicking” in Europe and America and asserted that the State of Israel should worry more about Christian right antisemitism  rather than wasting its energy on self-proclaimed Jewish anti-Zionists. He said that the Christian Zionists in America are inherently antisemitic and that Israel’s willingness to embrace their support is baffling.

He started his talk by saying that when he was invited to speak in Tel Aviv (most of his trip was spent in Ramallah with Udi Aloni), people reassured him there are still some “good Israelis” left that would love to hear him, as if trying to convince him of why he should bother to step foot inside Israel. Zizek said he doesn’t like this approach.

Being “Anti” Anything is Trendy

This statement set the tone for his entire talk, which was firmly framed in the notion that most people are too easily caught up in trends and sound bytes that do not actually identify the root of the problem. He talked about how easy and fashionable it is to be, for example, “anti-Capitalist” today, because you can just direct blame at a specific bank or a specific person as the evil culprit and think that you have done your part in condemning it. He mentioned Bernie Madoff in this respect, as a scapegoat who was easy to blame, when in fact the real problem is the system that allowed and even pushed Madoff to commit his crimes.

He traced antisemitism through history, from when Jews were expected to convert, to the era of Enlightenment and French Revolution, when it became clear that no conversion or amount of assimilation could do anything to change their eternal Jewishness. Jews went from being too distinct and particular to being too universal and cosmopolitan, which paved the way for the Holocaust.

After establishing the deep-rooted vitality of antisemitism, he mentioned that he has no patience for those who excuse Arab antisemitism; that even the most oppressed and poor Palestinian should not be tolerated for being antisemitic. He also spoke about his well-known argument regarding Zionist antisemitism, whereby Zionists use antisemitic language towards fellows Jews in accusing them of not being Zionist enough. This was his main critique of Israel – its witch hunt against those Jews it finds not “Zionist enough.”

Sitting in a room full of Israeli activists, some of whom consider themselves on the forefront of the fight against Israeli occupation and apartheid; who devote much of their time going out to the West Bank in solidarity with Palestinians, in confrontation with Israeli military and who favor a total boycott of the country, I could feel the disappointment in the room from certain people that Zizek was not speaking more critically and disapprovingly of Israel. He barely said the word occupation, did not mention the word apartheid even once.  He did not directly speak that much about Israel itself or what should be done.

This was a bold move with such an audience – and I’m not sure if people got it or not, but in many ways, I think that Zizek was actually levying criticism against the very activists sitting in that room. They are so caught up with the “evils” of Israel that they have lost perspective on what is going on in the rest of the world, and may have lost sight of the very real dangers of continued antisemism, which has all sorts of consequences.

As someone familiar with Zizek’s ideas and who is well acquainted with his poignant criticism of Israel, I was quite pleased, because I didn’t need to hear over again from him how Israel is occupying the Palestinians. And really, as a philosopher who spends his time in Europe, what could he renew for us on that? But of course, an activist in the audience was not happy that he did not devote enough time to criticizing Zionism, so she asked him why that is.

He proceeded to say that Zionism is not the worst evil in the world. He mentioned the strangling of the West Bank by Israel as a colonization project and said that there should be maps everywhere hanging of what belongs to whom in the West Bank so people who  can really see Israel’s domination.

But he also stated that someone from the Democratic Republic of Congo would sell his mother into slavery in a heartbeat for the chance to move to the West Bank.
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By coming to Tel Aviv and speaking to a group of Israelis, not about the ills of Israel, but rather the deep and perverse ways in which antisemitism persists in Europe and America today and pervades Zionism and Israel as well, Zizek expressed for me the very real frustration with a certain trend of radical leftwing activism today, in which Israel’s wrongdoings seem to completely overlook, discount or negate very real issues pertaining to Jewish existence and identity, as it plays out in global politics.
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I believe Zizek’s point is that antisemitism not only continues to exist, but is reincarnating itself in different forms that Israelis need to pay more attention to – and that this is highly detrimental, not just to Israel — but in the larger scope of racism and violence, and how we deal with global problems — is something that is detrimental to everyone.
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H/t: Will
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See also what the raincoat optimist has to say on the same subject

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Councillors support 30th June strikes

June 28, 2011 at 8:35 am (Cuts, Johnny Lewis, labour party, solidarity, unions, workers)

Here’s something to demand  from your local Labour councillors:

I had a chase round the local Labour
Party councillors and got them to sign the following. Not the most radical
document but at least it puts them on the right side:

Mark Catterall

Todmorden

Dear Editor (Local Newspapers)

We the undersigned local Labour
Party councillors are writing in support of the strike action being taken (30
June) by tens of thousands of public sector workers in defence of their
pensions. It has been said that public sector pensions are gold plated. The
truth is very different; the average public sector pension paid is between
£3000pa and £4000pa.

The strike has been called because
the government proposals mean; employee pension contributions will increase by
at least 50% and that the normal retirement age for occupational pensions will
increase from 65 to 68.

Already £4.8 billion has been taken
out of public sector pension schemes to bail out the Banks during the banking
crisis. In addition since April the basis on how pensions are paid and uprated
for inflation has been changed, from using the “Retail Price Index” to “Consumer
Price Index”, after maybe 20 years of retirement, this will add up to at least
15% less.

These changes mean that public
sector workers will pay more, get less, and work longer.

In solidarity Councillors:

(All in a personal capacity)

Jayne Booth (Todmorden Ward
Calderdale Council and Todmorden Town Council)

Dave Young (Calder Ward Calderdale
Council and Hebden Royd Town Council)

Mo Brown (Todmorden Town
Council)

Mark Catterall (Todmorden Town
Council)

Frank McManus (Todmorden Town
Council)

James Fearon (Hebden Royd Town
Council

Susan Press (Hebden Royd Town
Council)

Richard Scorer (Hebden Royd Town
Council)

Steve Sweeney (Hebden Royd Town
Council)

Emma Tsoneva (Hebden Royd Town
Council)

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Wen’s visit: Tories grovel and the “left” is silent

June 27, 2011 at 8:06 pm (apologists and collaborators, capitalism, China, Human rights, Jim D, stalinism, strange situations, Tory scum)

“There is no trade-off in our relationship. It is not about either discussing trade or human rights. Britain and China have such a strong and developed relationship We have a dialogue that covers all these issues and nothing is off limits in the discussion we have…we are different countries, we have different histories, different stages of development. We should show each other respect. But we’re very clear that political and economic development should go hand in hand, one supports the other.”

-David Cameron.

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao with British Prime Minister David Cameron where they are attending a summit meeting, London: David Cameron 'to raise human rights' with China

Cameron, it seems, did very politely raise the unfortunate little issue of so-called “human rights” with Mr Wen during the Chinese premier’s visit to these shores. But, naturally, he didn’t want to make too much of a fuss, what with £1.4 million worth of trade agreements on the table and the prospect of doubling two-way trade between the UK and China by 2015. Not to mention the prospect of the British poultry market being allowed to export to China and a deal for the supply of UK pigs for China being agreed.
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Meanwhile in my home town of Brummagem, Mr Wen visited the MG plant at Longbridge and unveiled the new MG6C Magnette model at the factory that is now owned by the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation – the only business he visited during his stay in the UK. Brum Council’s (Lib Dem) deputy leader Paul Tilsely could scarcely contain himself: “The Chinese Premier flew into Birmingham Airport, he stayed at the Hyatt hotel in the city and he visited the MG plant which is a great coup for Birmingham.”
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Former CBI boss and ex-trade minister Digby Jones put things more bluntly: “What we must do is accentuate [sic] to China and its different companies over the next 25 years that if it wants to invest in Europe, it should invest in Britain, and if it wants to invest in Britain, it should invest in Birmingham and the wider West Midlands. It means that we must ensure  that the Chinese premier understands that our communications are good in Birmingham, and also understands we have a stable political environment, and that we have a tradition of making things, which is something that nthe Chinese can dip into”, he told the Birmingham Post.
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Well, that’s all hunky-dory, then, isn’t it? You’d never guess that Wen Jiabao is the leader of a country that for years has consistently been in the bottom dozen or so states when it comes to human rights, as monitored by NGO’s and human rights organisations. Political, religious and trade union rights are all viciously restricted (at least 14 workers at the Foxconn plant have commited suicide due to conditions there) , there is no free press, physical violence by the state towards journalists and bloggers is harsh and seems to be getting worse. Ethnic minorities are persecuted: Uigar bloggers and journalists were, in 2010, sentenced to long prison terms after unfair trials and, of course, Tibet is still denied independence or even any degree of devolution. Freedom of movement is heavily restricted under the Hukou system that has been compared to ‘apartheid’ in its effects on rural workers, while the One-Child policy (though releaxed in 2002) continues to lead to forced abortions, female infanticide and forced sterilisations. China executes more people each year than the rest of the world combined.
So although the Tories and the capitalists were brown-nosing Mr Wen, naturally the Left and the Anti-War movement were out protesting?
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Were they, fuck!
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The only protests were small events at Longbridge and in London organised by the Falun Gong religious sect and the Free Tibet campaign. No-one from the organised left attended.
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How different it would have been if instead of Mr Wen, the visitor had been, say, Benjamin Netanyahu.

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This Record is not to be Broadcast

June 26, 2011 at 2:27 am (BBC, drugs, gin, history, jazz, Jim D, music)

75 records banned by the BBC 1931-57

Acrobat Records: ACTRCD9015 (3xCD)

This latest CD set from Acrobat introduces us to the BBC’s policy 1931-57 to ban any record which trespassed their headings of:

Sexual and drug innuendo: George Formby With My Little Ukelele In My Hand; Cab Calloway Minnie The Moocher; Johnny Messner She Had To Go And Lose It At The Astor; Andrews Sisters Rum And Coca Cola; Kitty Wells It Wasn’t God Who Made Honkey Tonk Angels; Johnny Ray Such A Night; Billy May Main Title; Stan Freberg John And Marsha

Anti-religion: Arthur Askey The Christening

Bogus religiosity: Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra Light A Candle In The Chaple; Frankie Laine Answer Me

Religion in popular songs: Billie Holiday God Bless The Child

Promoting suicide: Billie Holiday Gloomy Sunday

Advertising: Henry Hall Radio Times

Anti-BBC censorship: Norman Long We Can’t Let You Broadcast That

Classical music rehashed as jazz or pop: Tommy Dorsey Song Of India (Rimsky-Korsakov); Spike Jones Blue Danube (Strauss); Glenn Miller The Story Of A Starry Night(Tchaikovsky)

Nostalgia and Infidelity for troops: Mills Brothers Paper Doll; Bing Crosby I’ll Be Home For Christmas

Other: Bing Crosby Deep In The Heart Of Texas (so factory workers did not bang their tools in time!); Benjamin Brittain The Foggy, Foggy Dew (too tragic); George Melly Send Me To The ‘Lectric Chair (tasteless); Spike Jones I Went To Your Wedding (vulgar, ugly)

Poor Dennis Lotis, with the Ted Heath Orchestra, had 3 tracks banned by the BBC committees. Who were these people? There are far more tracks on the CDs than mentioned above. In fact, there are 75 tracks. All of them are fascinating in their own way. Great memories for me – and for you! Oh, I must not forget two more which were banned, that may surprise you: Jo Stafford It Is No Secret; Beverley Sisters Greensleeves.

Just buy it – to take you back to when you were – ‘Young and easy under the apple boughs’ (Dylan Thomas).

[This review is by Edward Black in the July edition of Just Jazz magazine].

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Good blogging tonight. But not here…

June 25, 2011 at 11:23 pm (AWL, blogging, Jim D, religion)

Someone recently told me that in the circles he moves in, ‘Shiraz Socialist’ is not well thought of. I asked him to elucidate and he’s what he said:

“I think the point that people generally make is why is there this knockabout
blog/chat site where the politics of the AWL or similar get batted around quite
robustly and somewhat crudely.  I think also someone said that some of the more
extreme points of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse- Gamna thought get aired in a
blatantly and deliberately provocative way that possibly not all adherents of
the AWL and MLM-Gamna thought would be comfortable with.  I’ve only looked at it
a couple of times and found it boring.  Nothing at all about why real socialists
are in favour of the death penalty or the right to carry firearms, why women’s
periods are an implicitly revolutionary act.  That sort of thing.”

Well, I’m so upset by this scathing put-down that I have lost all confidence and have developed writer’s block. Fortunately, there are three really good pieces of blogging I can recommend to you while I rebuild my morale:

* Dave on why the IMF likes Ahmadinejad

* Coatesy on how secularists got lost

* Simon on why Ed Miliband’s “reforms” are wrong

Hopefully, by tomorrow I’ll have recovered sufficiently to continue boring you all.

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Goodbye, Columbo…

June 24, 2011 at 7:29 pm (crime, drama, good people, Jim D, TV)

…aka Peter Falk (RIP)

Thanks, Lieutenant, for showing us that little scruffy guys can outsmart rich, arrogant smoothies. Thanks, Peter Falk, for making UK daytime TV tolerable for many years – a signal service to the unemployed.

Thanks, too, for keeping alive  the humble yet tenacious spirits of both Porfiry Petrovich and Father Brown

Oh, just one more thing:  how come if you and Lieutenant Kojak were on the same grade, he managed to dress so well, while you dressed so badly?

Telegraph obit here

The Graun’s here

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The Times on Unite’s fall in income and members

June 24, 2011 at 6:41 pm (Johnny Lewis, unions, Unite the union)

As everyone knows, The Times is a vicious anti-union rag which has in the past been used by the right wing of Unite to attack the soft-left leadership of the union. Nevertheless, today’s front page lead on Unite is factually accurate (if rather strangely written in parts) and based upon a genuine internal presentation leaked to the paper.

The authors of the article (Sam Coates and Jill Sherman) could, however, do with a crash-course in British labour movement history: June 30th to be “the biggest co-ordinated strike for 100 years“? Would it were so! Have Coates and Sherman never heard of the events of 1926?

As Times articles cannot be read online without a subsciption, we are republishing it here as a service to Unite activists and others who take an interest in the British labour movement.

Concerned: Ex-Unite leader Tony Woodley is worried about the union's membership numbers

Above: Tony Woodley, who prepared the presentation

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Union power hit by fall in income and members

Leadership urged to tackle ‘unsustainable losses’

Britain’s biggest union has lost its way and is making unsustainable financial and membership losses, according to a private internal presentation passed to The Times.

The outgoing head of Unite warned his successors to “stop the rot”, in a frank assessment, days before the biggest co-ordinated strike for 100 years.

The document acknowledges that some members have lost confidence in the union while falling membership is depriving it of income and relevance.

Other unions, including the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and the Communications Workers Union, are also suffering membership losses, although Unite has shown the biggest drop.

The six-page presentation made last month suggests that the membership situation is much worse than previously admitted, with Unite ending 2010 with 76,000 fewer members. Between 2007 and 2010, the union lost 262,740 of its 1.44 million members. “This is unsustainable,” it concludes.

Unite is one of several unions preparing to take strike action in the autumn over pensions if talks with the Government break down. It signed an agreement this year with PCS, which represents civil servants, making clear that the two unions would jointly co-ordinate any action wherever possible. Both unions have lost income this year, which will eat into their strike funds.

Unite is not taking part in next Thursday’s strike over pensions, when PCS and two teaching unions will walk out for 24 hours, but has agreed to show its support by encouraging members to visit picket lines. Jobcentres, customs offices, driving centres and coastguard stations are set to close alongside hundreds of schools over the Government’s plan for public service workers to pay more into their pensions.

The Unite presentation was prepared by Tony Woodley, who left his position as joint general secretary in January. Mr Woodley told The Times yesterday: “We’re not a business so we’re not out to make a profit but it’s no good kidding yourself either. The upshot is that union membership is declining.”

The plan to revive the union’s fortunes includes an attempt to “restore workplace power and influence” and “rebuild workplace organisation”. Mr Woodley added: “I’ve made it very clear that we’re not going to war with employers.

“Its about convincing current members and non-members that being inside the union will be beneficial. If a workplace only has 12 per cent recognition, why would an employer listen?”

He said that Tony Blair pressed union leaders repeatedly to build support, but infighting at Unite, which was formed from the merger of his T&G union and Amicus, held them back.

The presentation says: “In recent years, our paying membership has declined by over 260,000, equivalent to the loss of 65 Regional Officers and 130 staff…a loss of revenue of £26 million, 15 per cent of our annual income.” This suggests that the union’s public accounts overestimate the true number of Unite members. According to official documents, there were 1,572,995 members in 2009, and its website boasts 1.5 million members, while the leaked document suggests there were 1.18 million members.

The Labour Party has received £5.3 million [from Unite - JL] since the election, although more than half of this came soon after the poll in order to pay campaigning bills. Ed Milliband accepted £100, 000 in August for his leadership campaign.

In its accounts for 2009, the last year publicly available. Unite received £132 million from members in contributions and subscriptions. Of this, £111 million was spent on administration. The union’s reserves of £162 million at the start of the year, were more than halved as £90 million was put into the pension scheme.

The PCS has also seen its membership decline, partly blaming it on job losses as a result of spending cuts.

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NB: a lazy, disloyal bureaucrat’s reaction to Woodley’s presentation, here.

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