No to an English parliament

September 19, 2014 at 10:04 pm (democracy, Jim D, London)

I am and always have been for re-organising Britain as a federal republic. However, I am not for an English parliament. England seems to me far too big to be a sensible unit for regional government. Calls for an English parliament are nothing to do with democracy and everything to do with:

a) nationalist rubbish about “a voice for England,” and

b) the Tories getting one over on Labour.

I support regional government in England, including a much bigger and much stronger London Assembly … and the abolition of the office of mayor.


H/t: Sasha

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A ‘Yes’ campaigner answers Dale Street – and he answers back

September 8, 2014 at 7:21 pm (class, democracy, posted by JD, scotland)

bag piper in kilt with rippled Scottish flag Illustration Stock Photo - 3474908

A fascinating exchange over at Socialism First (“The real alternative to Scottish independence”), following their publication of Dale Street’s critique of George Monbiot’s pro-independence article in the Guardian (DS’s critique also published here at Shiraz, three posts ago): fascinating because of what it tells you about the irrationality, dishonesty and near-hysteria that seems to characterise much of the pro-independence ‘left':

    1. September 4, 2014  Bob Carey-Grieve

      “Monbiot also overlooks the fact that the Scottish Parliament which legislated for the referendum on 18th September owes rather a lot to the “no brigade” (i.e. its creation by the last Labour government) and was created by the very British state…” A truly horrible article, but this last point reveals the author’s true intention. That Scots should be for ever grateful to the generosity of the British State. It’s a very them and us scenario, we give and you receive, which is why so many Scots want to leave the Union. We don’t receive, we give a lot more than we get back. We have nothing to thank the UK or Labour Party for, the Scottish people created their Parliament, Labour and the UK merely granted us a concession. This article thinks we are subservient, and should remain subservient to UK rule, to parties not elected by us. I’d consider myself an internationalist, but given thats not an option on the table, all socialists should want to see power devolved to local people, should want to see a written constitution enshrining the protection of the NHS, should want to see the decommissioning of nuclear weapons. This article offers no hope for the future. It just wants Scots to go back, cap in hand to their overlords and thank them for everything they give us.

      September 5, 2014 Dale street

      Why do so many ‘yes’ advocates have such a problem understanding the simplest of arguments and plain statements of fact?
      It is no more than a statement of fact that the last (thoroughly right-wing) Labour government introduced legislation to stage a referendum in Scotland, and that this subsequently resulted in the creation of a Scottish Parliament.
      The only reason this is mentioned in the article is to counter Monbiot’s simplistic (not to say ignorant) attempts to portray ‘no’ supporters as the forces of darkness and ‘yes’ supporters as the forces of sweetness and light.
      But Bob knows better!
      The sentence, he writes, “reveals the author’s true intention. That Scots should be forever grateful to the generosity of the British state.”
      (Isn’t it amazing how many ‘yes’ advocates are able to uncover the hidden, inner, deeper, subterranean and subconscious meanings of words and actions? Indeed, the ‘yes’ campaign has created a veritable cottage industry of cod-psychology. It could be called: Monbiot Mindreaders Inc.)
      Having read something into the article that simply isn’t there, Bob can then retreat further into a parallel universe of his own creation: “The article thinks we are subservient, and should remain subservient to UK rule. … It (the article) just wants Scots to go back, cap in hand, to their overlords and thank them for everything they give us.”
      This is obviously contradicted by the paragraph in the article which states the exact opposite:
      “Broken, corrupt, dysfunctional, retentive: you want to be part of this? asks Monbiot with a rhetorical flourish. No, socialists don’t want to be part of it.”
      But then we get to Bob’s own politics, encapsulated in the sentence: “We don’t receive, we give a lot more than we get back.”
      Let’s not quibble about figures. For the sake of argument, let’s just accept this as a statement of fact. Because the conclusion which Bob draws from it (vote ‘yes’) sums up the difference between nationalism and socialism.
      Socialism is, in part, about the redistribution of wealth between rich and poor. That’s why socialists support progressive taxation. That’s why socialists support rich EU states paying money into the EU, for example, so that the EU can then pay grants to poor EU states and regions. (It’s the strings we’re against, not the redistributive grants themselves.)
      Nationalism and nationalist/regionalist separatism are about something different. Their basic approach is: “We are rich here. We don’t receive, we give a lot more than we get back. Let’s go our own way.”
      Bob’s statement could just as easily have emanated from a member of the Lega Nord. It is, after all, exactly what they say. (And at one time their battlecry was “Roma ladrona” – “Rome: big thief”. The SNP and their supporters have simply replaced “Rome” by “Westminster”.)
      Or, in relation to the European Union, Bob’s statement could have been uttered by a member of UKIP: “We don’t receive, we give a lot more than we get back.”
      But if Scotland were independent, runs the obvious counter-argument, then within its borders Scotland could carry out progressive policies to reduce inequalities. The problem with that counter-argument is:
      – A promise to cut corporation tax and a refusal to raise income tax (remind me again: which party is it that opposes a top tax-rate of even 50p?) is not a promising start to reducing inequalities.
      – Socialists are generally in favour of ‘bigger units’ (i.e. the creation of states covering a greater area) because the bigger the state, the greater the resources which can be redistributed to challenge inequalities.
      – Capitalism is an economic and social system which, by its very nature, generates inequality. Attacking inequality means attacking the rule of capital – not creating yet another border in the world.
      – The agency of any such attack on the rule of capital is the working class organized as the labour movement. But the pro-independence campaign replaces a political discourse based on class by one based on national identity: “We (Scots) don’t receive, we give a lot more than we get back.” It therefore weakens the only agency capable of challenging the rule of capital.
      Bob writes that he considers himself an internationalist but that that is not an option on the table.
      In fact, being an internationalist is an option every day of the week. And on 18th September there’s certainly nothing internationalist about adding another border to the world.

        • September 6, 2014 Bob Carey-Grieve

          The point about giving more than we receive was to counter the idea that runs through the original article and the entire British media, that Scots should be thankful for all the concessions bestowed upon them by the British State and Labour Party. It is not England’s gifts to give, and those who think like that have misunderstood the whole point of what the union was supposed to be, equal partners. Scots have been repeatedly told that they owe everything to England, including even devolution according to the author. Devolution was not some great generosity bestowed upon us by lovely Labour. It was a cynical attempt to quash the West Lothian Question once and for all.

          The Labour Party are not the magnanimous agents of change here, they are not the answer to Scotland’s social issues, they are the problem. They’re failure to deliver social equality is the driver behind Scottish nationalism. And incidentally, the SNP are not the progressive party who have designs on cutting corporate tax to woo business. As I said, given that we are not in the throes of a worldwide socialist revolution, Scottish people deserve the opportunity to build a society on social democratic principals, rather than the neoliberal values of Westminster. Asking them to submit to more austerity (promised by both Labour and the Conservatives), the bedroom tax (unopposed by Labour), and divert money from social services to fund redundant nuclear weapons (again Labour Policy), complemented by the occasional foray into an illegal war (Labour Labour Labour), is not Socialism by any stretch of the imagination, it’s asking them to prop up a system based on elitism, privilege and cronyism – House of Lords anyone? Should we have opposed the self determination of all the former colonies of The British Empire for some misplaced sentiment about borders? Should we be trying to bring Australia, Jamaica, Fiji, Kenya et al back into the fold since the author so opposes any form of self determination for anyone? Like the rest of the BT campaign, this author offers no hope for the future, only more of the same bleak misery. Maybe he should go and talk to some people queuing at a Foodbank, or the terminally ill forced back into work, or the disabled who have lost their homes due to the bedroom tax all about Milliblands plans to continue austerity, about the Conservatives promising to make Scotland pay, about the probability of being pulled out of Europe by a UKIP campaign. Maybe he should talk to the parents of any soldier who died in Blair’s war. Now compare that to the idea of paying for a childcare revolution on the back of weapons of mass destruction. There is hope one way, there is only misery the other.

    1. September 8, 2014 Dale Street

      Yawn.

      Empty tedious bombast. (From beginning to end)

      Cheap and transparent attempts at emotional blackmail. (“Why don’t you go and talk to …”)

      Factual inaccuracies (“the bedroom tax (unopposed by Labour”))

      Total misrepresentation of what is being argued. (“The author so opposes any form of self determination for anyone.”)

      Logical incoherence. (Socialism is not on the agenda. So let’s collapse into Scottish nationalism. As if the latter could ever be some kind of surrogate for the former.)

      The case for a ‘yes’ vote on 18th September in a nutshell.

      Bob’s latest contribution sums up what’s wrong with the case for ‘yes’ better than I ever could.

  1. September 8, 2014 Bob Carey-Grieve

    I could say your arrogant replies are typical of the way Better Together debates. Typical Labour apologist, refuses to contemplate that Labour could have defeated the Bedroom Tax but decided not to bother showing up on the day. But what really speaks volumes is how you haven’t put forward one single positive idea, dismissing the Tory agenda, your campaign partners, with a wave of your hand. You won’t discuss the Tories because it’s emotional blackmail? Disgraceful

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Radio 4 gives Gramsci a (reasonably) fair hearing

September 2, 2014 at 4:49 pm (AWL, BBC, capitalism, class, democracy, Disability, history, intellectuals, Italy, Jim D, literature, Marxism, modernism, socialism)

It’s not often that the bourgeois media gives an anti-Stalinist communist leader and thinker a fair hearing – or, at least, allows that person’s thought and record to be presented in a balanced and objective manner.

But today’s ‘Great Lives’ on BBC Radio 4, introduced by the former Tory MP Matthew Parris (a good broadcaster, despite his politics) gave the life and thought of Antonio Gramsci affair hearing.

Dr Tom Shakespeare, a disability activist and former Euro-Communist, supported by Professor Anne Sassoon (‘expert witness’) presented a sympathetic and generally fair profile of Gramsci that is well worth listening to, here.

Naturally, I don’t agree with the Euro-Communist slant of the presentation, but that doesn’t detract (much) from the quality of the case put forward by Shakespeare and Sassoon, which will, hopefully, introduce a lot of new people to the ideas of this heroic figure and giant socialist intellect.

Once you’ve listened, you could do a lot worse than move on to this…

Antonio Gramsci

Gramsci
A collection of articles discussing the life and ideas of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci

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Why the f*** is Labour backing Cameron’s EU posturing?

June 24, 2014 at 2:29 pm (David Cameron, democracy, elections, Europe, internationalism, Jim D, labour party, populism, reformism, stalinism, Tory scum)

EU Flag

Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski sums up Cameron’s attempts to undo European integration:

“It’s either a very badly thought-through move or, not for the first time, a kind of  incompetence in European affairs. Remember? He fucked up the fiscal pact. He fucked it up – simple as that. He is not interested. He does not get it. He believes in stupid propaganda. He stupidly tries to play the system …

“His whole strategy of feeding [the Eurosceptics] scraps to satisfy them is, just as I predicted, turning against him; he should have said fuck off … But he ceded the field to them that are now embarrassing him.”

Sikorski is, believe it or not, considered a political ally of Cameron’s and (like the Tories’ bête noir, Jean-Claude Junker) a thoroughgoing reactionary. But, of course, that’s not the reason for the rift between Cameron and the Euro-Tories of the centre-right EPP. They agree on most aspects of economic policy.

Nor is it – despite Tory demagogy –  anything to do with the elitism, bureaucratism and lack of democracy of EU institutions.

In fact David Cameron’s attempt to veto the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker to head the European Commission is no stance against elitism, nor an attempt to make EU institutions more democratic. Within the highly-limited standards of EU democracy it is the exact opposite.

Juncker is the preferred candidate of the conservative political bloc which won the largest chunk of popular votes in May’s European election. But Cameron isn’t bothered by the tally of the popular vote. He prefers bureaucratic manoeuvring and nationalistic special pleading. Cameron, with an eye on his UKIP rivals, wants to be seen to be “fighting for Britain”. No matter that there is no great difference on economic policies between Juncker and the British Tory party.

It would be a whole lot better if the political semi-union of Europe, which Cameron choses out of political expediency to object to, were more democratic, more transparent and were not tied to a drive to make workers pay for the crisis.

But it is still a big step forward for working-class people around Europe that barriers between nations have been drastically reduced.

At a time when migrants are being scapegoated we need those barriers to stay down.

The semi-dissolution of the barriers has made it easier to fight the class struggle across Europe. If the labour movement leaders of Europe had any imagination they could run powerful Europe-wide campaigns. For instance they could organise a Europe-wide struggle for a decent Living Wage, one which would could generalise much needed solidarity to existing struggles of low-paid workers.

Unfortunately there are a few on the left in Europe (but notably not  the Greek radical-left party Syriza) who oppose the existence of the political union of the EU: in the UK it is the No2EU campaign. The logic of their campaign is to advocate the resurrection of national barriers. In this way they add to the increasing toxic nationalism of UKIP and Cameron. But No2EU are, in the main, a bunch of brain-dead Stalinists whose fanatical little-Englandism stems from a visceral hatred of Germany and a bizarre, anachronistic perception of the EU as a threat to the USSR (by means of a time-warp, presumably). The derisory number of votes they picked up in the last Euro-elections means we don’t have to take them seriously – though RMT members may well be wondering what the hell their leadership was doing throwing away the union’s money on this reactionary irrelevance.

Much more serious – and worrying – is the present stance of the Labour Party. That pompous prat of a shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander, has instructed Labour MEPs not to support Junker. If that was because Junker is an anti-working class, pro-austerity right-winger, then we’d agree. But no;  the wretched Alexander has made it clear that the Labour leadership supports Cameron’s quest for a less “federalist” (ie: more right-wing) candidate: “There can be no excuses. David Cameron has a clear mandate from political parties here in the UK – including Labour – to build consensus across Europe for an alternative candidate for president of the commission.”

What a disgrace! Or, as Mr Sikorski might say, what an incompetent, badly thought-through, fucking fuck-up.

 

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Solidarity with imprisoned Al Jazeera journalists

June 23, 2014 at 9:48 pm (Civil liberties, democracy, Egypt, Free Speech, Human rights, media, posted by JD)

We must all register our protests, as best we can. Staff at Channel 4 (including Jon Snow, below) made their feelings known this evening:

Pete Radcliff's photo.

Excerpted from Press Gazette:
National Union of Journalists’ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet described the sentences as “outrageous” and called for the British Government to condemn the verdicts.”The NUJ condemns in the strongest terms these sentences meted on journalists who were merely doing their job,” she said. “This is an outrageous decision and travesty of justice made by a kangaroo court.”Al Jazeera has rejected the charges against its journalists and maintains their innocence. This is a brutal regime which is attacking and arresting many journalists to attempt to silence them and prevent them from reporting events.

“The British Government must immediately signal its opposition to this verdict and do all it can to have the sentences overturned. The NUJ is calling on all media organisations to register their protest in support of colleagues at Al Jazeera and all the Egyptian journalists who have been attacked and arrested by their country’s authorities.

“Governments must not be allowed to deny journalists, wherever they are, the right to be able to report independently and in safety. The freedom of journalists is an integral part of any democratic process.”

Free speech campaign group Index on Censorship said the verdicts sent a message that journalists “simply doing their job” was considered a crime in Egypt.

Chief executive Jodie Ginsberg condemned the verdicts as “disgraceful” adding: “We call on the international community to join us in condemning this verdict and ask governments to apply political and financial pressure on a country that is rapidly unwinding recently won freedoms, including freedom of the press.

“The government of newly elected president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi must build on the country’s democratic aspirations and halt curbs on the media and the silencing of voices of dissent.”

Ginsberg said at least 14 journalists remained in detention in Egypt and some 200 members of the press were in jails around the world, and that concerns are growing over the safety of media representatives across the globe.

“Index is deeply concerned at the growing number of imprisoned journalists in Egypt and around the world,” she said. “We reiterate our support to journalists to report freely and safely and call on Egyptian authorities to drop charges against journalists and ensure they are set free from jail.

“And we ask governments to maintain pressure on Egypt to ensure freedom of expression and other fundamental human rights are protected. Index joined the global #FreeAJStaff campaign along with other human rights, press freedom groups and journalists.”

The hashtags #journalismisnotacrime and #FreeAJStaff were trending on Twitter this morning after the verdicts came through.

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Brave Afghans shame (some on) the Western “left”

June 16, 2014 at 6:50 pm (Afghanistan, anti-fascism, Civil liberties, democracy, elections, ex-SWP, Guardian, Human rights, islamism, Jim D, liberation, reactionay "anti-imperialism", relativism, SWP)

The picture below should shame anyone and everyone in Britain (and the rest of the West) who doesn’t bother to vote …

Image: Men show their fingers after the ink-stained part of their fingers were cut off by the Taliban after they took part in the presidential election Men show their fingers after the ink-stained part of their fingers were cut off by the Taliban after they took part in the presidential election, in Herat province June 14, 2014.

…but even more, it should shame those on the so-called “left” who have ever expressed (publicly or privately) any degree of sympathy for the rural fascists of the Taliban. You know who you are (and so do we), you scum.

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Support Iranian trade unionist Shahrokh Zamani!

April 7, 2014 at 8:32 pm (Civil liberties, democracy, Human rights, internationalism, Middle East, posted by JD, solidarity, unions, workers)

By Andy Forse

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) has reported that the imprisoned Iranian trade unionist Shahrokh Zamani (above) has just entered his 30th day of a hunger strike.

The agency reports that his initial 3 day strike which was made in solidarity with imprisoned and persecuted Gonabadi Dervishes was extended after being exiled to the infamous Ghezel Hesar prison, a jail notorious for abysmal conditions, torture and executions. Shahrokh was jailed in 2011 for his organising of the painters and decorating union.

Another political prisoner – the student Arash Mohammadi, has joined Shahrokh’s hunger strike in solidarity.

Socialists must use this urgent time to bring the awareness of Shahrokh’s imprisonment to the attention of the wider public to gather solidarity.

There has been a petition campaign to Free Shahrokh Zamani since 2013. It can be signed online at Change.org here, and paper copies of the petition can be printed from here, as well as leaflets, from here.

Press release from Iran Workers’ Solidarity Movement here

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Victory to the Afghan people!

April 5, 2014 at 10:53 am (Afghanistan, anti-fascism, democracy, elections, posted by JD)

Terry Glavin (at Faccebook) writes:

The polls have been open only for a few hours now but the verdict is in, barring some practically unimaginable eventuality: Afghanistan has won the election. The Afghan people are triumphant. Congratulations are owed to the resilient, courageous, long-suffering people of Afghanistan. Hambestagi!

‎روزنامه هشت صبح‎'s photo.
.
…and below:

This image seems to be picking up speed all over Afghanistan. A message to the Taliban and to all the enemies of a sovereign and democratic Afghan republic. The universal gesture of defiance:

This image seems to be picking up speed all over Afghanistan. A message to the Taliban and to all the enemies of a sovereign and democratic Afghan republic. The universal gesture of defiance:
.
…and, finally (for now) this:
.
Photo: ‎این ملت دیگر اسیر نمی شود. چشم دشمنان کور!‎
 

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Amnesty marks International Women’s Day

March 8, 2014 at 8:45 am (Civil liberties, democracy, homophobia, Human rights, misogyny, posted by JD, rights, sexism, women)

My body my rights

Being able to make our own decisions about our health, body and sexual life is a basic human right. Yet all over the world, many of us are persecuted for making these choices – or prevented from doing so at all.

A woman is refused contraception because she doesn’t have her husband’s permission. A man is harassed by police because he’s gay. A teenager is denied a life-saving termination because abortion is illegal in her country. Whoever you are, wherever you live, you have the right to live without fear, violence or discrimination. It’s your body. Know your rights. Act now.

                                        

Unnecessary burden

Stand with Nepali women and girls to defend their rights.

                                                                                  

Tell world leaders: protect sexual and reproductive rights now and for the next generation!

Around 1.8 billion young people worldwide are at risk of having their sexual and reproductive rights ignored. Call on world leaders today.

                                                   

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At last! A voice from the Ukrainain left

March 7, 2014 at 9:03 pm (anti-fascism, democracy, Europe, Human rights, internationalism, posted by JD, solidarity, stalinism)

Author:   Volodymyr Ischenko

Ukrainian leftist Volodymyr Ishchenko has written a blast against Russia’s military intervention in his country and against the new government there.


I hate! On war in Ukraine

http://www.criticatac.ro/lefteast/i-hate-on-war-in-ukraine/

Writing from a critical position is not something to be widely appreciated in turmoil times. For some hysterical idiots I’ve succumbed to the fascists, for others–betrayed the Fatherland. Time is now precious and to be used efficiently. This is why I respond to all in a single post.

I hate the Euroidiots who started all this because of their little ticks and cultural chauvinism.

I hate the bastard who clung to power despite dozens of deaths and who now wants to return to the country on foreign tanks.

I hate the former opposition, who became today’s authorities, and who found nothing better than to “save the Ukrainian language” [by restricting Russian], populate the government with fascists, and promise unpopular social measures.

I hate Crimean authorities, who are so afraid for their places that they would happily serve as the doormat of an occupying administration.

I hate the tyrant in the Kremlin, who needs a little victorious war to strengthen the rouble and his own, almost unlimited power.

I hate all these “deeply concerned” EU and US bureaucrats, which introduce sanctions only when the government is all but toppled and give aid under conditions resembling daylight robbery.

I hate Ukrainian and Russian fascists, who cannot get used to the reality of a multicultural and multilingual country, and are ready to destroy it.

I hate those “liberals,” who were ready to cover for and never distanced themselves from the the fascists present on the Maidan to give a chance for truly all-Ukrainian democratic movement rather than pushing the country to a Civil War.

I hate myself and other leftists for spending most of our time in mutual recriminations rather than the building of a powerful political organization. Divided, we could influence little the Maidan or the anti-Maidan. Part of the blame lies with us.

But I am for the world peace. I send these flowers from Wallonia. Snowdrops against the background of green leaves from last year. I hope this is not the last time we see them. I just returned to my divided country and pray that all it will all end with a Second Crimean rather than Third World War. Because this war won’t grow into a world revolution (the chances for that are much less than 100 years ago) but in a nuclear holocaust.

Russian comrades, go to the central squares of your cities so that you could stop the intervention into Ukraine.

Ukrainian comrades, let’s think what we could do. It’s clear that signing up in the Right Sector [which has issued a call for mobilization] is not an option.

Ischenko also wrote in the Guardian on 28 February 2014: click here to read his article.

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