Steve Hedley is the London Regional Organiser of the RMT and, by all accounts, a good left wing militant who in the past has been victimised (and denounced by the Daily Mail ) for union activity. For the record, I do not agree with the label “hideous racist thug” on the clip below.
However, in October 2011 he was accused of antisemitism as a result of what he said to a Jew in the audience (who’d heckled him) at an RMT public meeting entitled ‘Palestine’s fight for Freedom.’ That is where the clip above was filmed (by the heckler, who is also responsible for the label above the clip).
This is a transcript of what was said on that occasion:
SH: We oppose the Israeli government because of the racist policies they are carrying out on the Palestinian people. You can cover it up for so long with your friends in the media but the attack on the Mavi Marmara and the attacks on those innocent women and children have turned into the biggest concentration camp on the earth. This is the reality. You’re an absolute disgrace to the Jewish people. You are a modern-day fascist, you are a modern-day Nazi, by supporting those policies that oppress [inaudible] minority in your own state. No wonder the EDL are flying the flag of Israel. The modern-day Nazi EDL are flying the flag of Israel because it’s the state that they associate with. What the Nazis did to you, you’re doing to the Palestinians.
[Chair calls next speaker who begins]
Heckler: Feel better?
SH: Better than you obviously. But then again you’re the chosen people so you might feel better than me, huh?
Heckler: So its about being Jewish?
SH: It’s about being Zionist.
Most of the left, at the time, ignored this incident, perhaps because the heckler (one Richard Millett) is, supposedly, a “right winger” and because there seems little doubt that Hedley was, to some extent, provoked. On the organised left, only the AWL criticised Hedley, and that was in a very mild and low-key statement.
Now Hedley has involved himself in a further row over “Zionism” and related matters. This time, however, Hedley’s targets are leftists, including well-known and outspoken anti Zionist Jews, several of whom are associated with the extreme (“absolute“) anti Zionist and anti Israel blog Jews sans frontiers.
The row took place on facebook and began when Toby Abse commented on former SWP leader Martin Smith’s association with the notorious antisemite and jazz musician Gilad Atzmon:
Tobias Abse Interesting reminder of the close friendship between Martin Smith and Gilad Atzmon, the notorious proponent of rabidly anti-semitic world Jewish conspiracy theories. During Smith’s leadership of the party Atzmon, a jazz musician, often did gigs for the party or its front organisations. Readers of the article below will note Atzmon’s aggressively sexist and anti-feminist views ( not I think coincidental).
Jews sans frontieres: Bookmark this!
Steve Hedley offs the closet Zionists are now attacking Martin smith,any diversion to stop people condemning the Israeli states atrocities,Abse your politics are lower than a snakes belly you opportunist runt.
Tobias Abse Did the Christian Brothers teach you antisemitism at school – yes, we are all Christ killers aren’t we?
Charlie Pottins Steve, these comrades were fighting Zionism before you had even heard of it. And quite frankly the way you go off like a Pavlov’s dog I think you have a problem. PS, Toby, wrong stereotype, Steve is from a proddy background. But did have a strong Stalinist injection if that is any relevance. Still, he has now uncovered the conspiracy hatched no doubt in the old cemetery at Prague behind the SWP’s little difficulty. I’m surprised the plotters took their time, mind, it would have been more effective if they had gone for Martin Smith while he was still SWP national secretary, rather than giving Smith’s comrades the chance to take their distance from him. I blame that Yigal Gluckstein myself, he was obviously sent over here with a long-term plan.
Steve Hedley You are the one with the problem Charlie i suppose coming from the wrp who were accused of being anti semetic(not that i agree with that by the way) yoy may feel that you need to prove a point by jumping to the closet Zionists defence.I have really not been following the internal rift in the SWP and have little knowledge of how the accusations made were handled and no comment other than to say that they should be investigated by an appropriate outside body.I do feel though that it is very wrong for people who call themselves socialists to gloat over these issues.To top it all
closet Zionists like Tobias Abase are now attacking Martin smith for his alleged links with a Jazz musician(who he claims is anti Semitic),.Smith has an impeccable record of anti racist anti fascist campaigning but this doesn’t seem to matter to Abase and his ilk who it seems will use any diversion to stop people condemning the Israeli states atrocities,Abse your politics are lower than a snakes belly you opportunist runt.
Roland Rance Steve Hedley: You’re not seriously arguing that JsF is a Zionist blog, are you? The SWP, under the leadership of Martin Smith, promoted the antisemitic chauvinist Atzmon long after nearly else on the left had rumbled him. When we picketed Bookmarks because of Atzmon’s lecture there, it was not because of the SWP’s (correct) position on Zionism and Palestine; it was because of their unconscionable support for and promotion of this charlatan.
Luke Cooper That is the most hideous piece of anti-semitism I’ve seen on the left. Ok, I have seen much of it but it is shocking and appalling coming from a leader of a progressive trade union.
Steve Hedley im objecting to guilt by association of an anti racist/anti fascist campaigner by a load of zionist charlatans if the cap fits wear it
Steve Hedley luke who?
Steve Hedley And just how are my comments anti semitic
Roland Rance Steve Hedley:
> how are my comments anti semiticBy your assumption that anyone who objects to Atzmon’s antisemitism is ipso facto a Zionist. In fact, by equating “Jewish” with “Zionist”, you are echoing both antisemites and Zionists. Enjoy your company!
Steve Hedley No Roland you made that assumption not me and by your own reasoning your an anti semite now
Roland Rance Where did I make that assumption? JsF exposed (many years ago) Atzmon, and protested at the SWP’s links with him. You describe them as “closet Zionists” (one of Atzmon’s pet phrases) for this. They are not Zionists, and unlike you I know very well the distinction between the two.
Steve Hedley You see you Zionists deliberately misconstrue any attack on the Israeli state as anti semetic Margaret Thatcher is a Christian Zionist so is George Bush enjoy your illustrious bedfellows.You really have to come up with better tactics to defend the murderous Israeli stae these ones frankly make you look daft.You made the assumption in your last post obviously the memory od a goldfish and the same debating skills.
Roland Rance The claim that I am a Zionist is false. Either you know this, and are delibarately lying in order to smear me, or you do not know this, which means that you have not been involved in Palestine Solidarity work for the past thirty years and have no idea what you are talking about. In either case, I demand that you retract and apologise for this defamatory statement.
Steve Hedley As i said if the cap fits wear it im retracting nothing ,ive posted here in an individual capacity but feel free to run to the bourgeois courts if you like.You on the other hand have labelled me anti simetic which im clearly not.Unlike you ive fought fascists politically and physically just where were you when AFA was fighting the BNP ,i don’t remember you ever putting your welfare on the line ,could it be your just another keyboard warrior?
Tami Peterson @ Steve – Roland and I certainly have our differences but to call him a Zionist and ‘keyboard warrior’ is ludicrous! In my time in politics in the UK Roland was one of the most consistently active and outspoken anti-Zionist activists that I met. You have no idea who you are talking about or you wouldn’t be making such ridiculous statements.
Roland Rance I was in AFA, Steve. In fact, I organised the first AFA conference in Bradford thirty years ago. We had stewards around the town to prevent a possible fascist attack, but had to call them back to conference in order to protect members of the local Asian Youth Movement from physical attacks by members of Red Action. I know all-too-well about racism masquerading as leftist anti-fascism.
Steve Hedley Tami I dont know either of you from Adam and Eve but anyone who throws the Label anti semite at me or inded Martin Smith is not in my opinion a laudable individual anyway your entitled to your opinion ,Roland Rat are you really calling AFA racist youve really lost the plot,
Steve Hedley That should have been Rance not rat
Roland Rance No, I’m not calling AFA racist. Learn to read.
Steve Hedley Your obviously just a middle class patronizing prat there will be no retraction and if the cap fits wear it . I’ve wasted enough time talking to you but feel free to run to the bourgeois courts like the other toy town revolutionaries Rat
Steve Hedley oh dear predictive text again Roland Rance
Tami Peterson Well Steve I personally met Roland, Charlie and the others you are attacking here on many anti-fascist demos. I never, however, had the pleasure of meeting you.
Steve Hedley Same here Tami ive never met you and AFA in which i served ten years didn’t hide behind police lines having demos
“A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” -Second Amendment, the U.S. Constitution
Whatever the merits of such notions about personal and national security (they are, to say the least, highly questionable in this day and age), it is important to note that the only kind of militia the Second Amendment expressly regards as consistent with security is a “well-regulated” militia. One may rationally and reasonably conclude that this applies both to an organized militia and an unorganized one. Otherwise, an armed citizenry consisting of men and women using guns for presumed high purpose according to their respective dictates of personal whim and political fancy is the stuff from which anarchy could result, and in turn the tyranny against which the private possession of guns is supposed to protect Americans.
The right to keep and bear arms (a term that connotes a military purpose) stems from the English common law right of self-defense. However, the possession of guns in the mother country of the common law was never an absolute right. Various conditions were imposed. Britain today has one of the strictest gun laws in the world.
There is nothing absolute about the freedoms in our own Bill of Rights. Freedom of speech is not freedom to shout “fire” in a crowded theater. Freedom of religion is not freedom to have multiple spouses, or sacrifice a lamb in the local park, as religiously sanctioned practices. Similarly, whatever right the Second Amendment protects regarding the private possession of guns, for whatever definition of “militia,” is not an absolute right. It must serve the overall public interest, including (from the preamble of the US Constitution) the need to “insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare.” Whatever right there is to possess firearms is no less important than the right of every American, gun owners included, to protection against the possession of guns by persons who by any reasonable standard lack the crucial credentials for responsible gun ownership.
- From a 1977 article by David J.Steinberg, Executive Director, National Council for a Responsible Firearms Policy: “Does The Second Amendment Mean What It Says?”
- Socialists debate gun control here: http://www.workersliberty.org/node/4681
The ‘United Left’ (UL) grouping within Unite the Union meets tomorrow (Saturday 8th December) to discuss the proposal to hold an early election for General Secretary. This has been agreed in principle at the union’s EC last week, but unless the UL support it, Len McCluskey’s bid for early re-election will be in difficulty. McCluskey’s enemies within the union have already denounced the EC’s decision. The reasoning behind going for an early election has not, so far, been widely publicised within the union, so as a service to Unite members we’re publishing the case that will be put to the UL tomorrow:
WHY THIS ELECTION?
Unite is – at last – making a difference. As the GS told the Policy Cnference this year, for too long Unite was just a promise, a hope. In the last two years that promise has started turning into a reality.
A FIGHTING BACK UNION: Leading from the front and standing shoulder to shoulder with our members, Unite has shown that it is possible to fight and win, in both the private and public sectors. Pioneering a new and developing leverage strategy we have won a series of major disputes over recent months, including those on London buses, the electrical contractor and wider construction industry and in manufacturing at Honda. We have also given a lead in the public sector, particularly in the fight for pension justice.
AN ORGANISING UNION: the 100 per cent campaign has been an outstanding success, already bringing in more than 45,000 new members in Unite-organised workplaces. No other union is attempting anything like this, let alone succeeding at it. While our organising strategies aimed at presently unorganised sectors of the economy continue to bring not only new members to our union, but a new confidence and developing strength to union organisation across the economy.
A PROGRESSIVE UNION: with our new political strategy we are at last starting on the hard work of making Labour a vehicle for working people’s aspirations once again. Working systematically across our regions to identify constituencies where we can take positive actions to ensure our values of solidarity, dignity, respect and fairness are once again at the heart of our party. Further, Unite has led in setting up the new think-tank CLASS which has received a broad welcome for its project of reviving radical thinking.
A DEMOCRATIC, TOLERANT UNION: Unite is at ease with itself – united, without the factional politics of the past; but also open and democratic, a union run by its members where fear and intolerance play no part. A union without the excesses and abuse at the top of the recent past.
A UNION IN THE COMMUNITY: We have launched our community membership plan to great enthusiasm. Reconnecting with our communities and offering a home in Unite to all those not in paid employment. Our community strategy is developing a new confidence and a collective voice that will only strengthen our organisation over the coming years; in addition we have extended our structures for retired members and youing npeople.
A CAMPAIGNING UNION: Unite is leading the way in its campaigns for justice and fairness for all. We are the leading voice in thew labour movement fighting austerity and the attacks on our NHS, Welfare State and Public Services. To support this we are developing a sweeping new e-communications strategy which will tap into the campaigning energies of our members.
IN ADDITION: Unite has completed its constitutional integration, bedding in a structure of around 400 constitutional committees and reorganising our branches to root them more firmly in the workplace.
As a result, Unite is now playing the leading role in the entire labour movement. It is pioneering the revival of the organised working class at a time of great economic and political difficulty. No other trade union is even attempting the range of initiatives Unite is undertaking.
THIS WORK IS UNFINISHED: Indeed, in some respects we have only just begun. Many of these initiatives are still in their early stages. In some – like our political work – final achievement of our objectives is till uncertain. All depend for their success on a continuation of the leadership that has been given over the last two years.
That leadership has embraced activists at all levels of Unite, but above all it has come from the Executive Council and the General Secretary. Without that united, collective leadership, it would be easy for our union to to lose momentum and fall back into the easy routines of managing decline.
That is why the issue of renewing the General Secretary’s mandate should now be considered.
As things stand, the next General Secretary election would take place in 2015. That means that in 12-18 months in jockeying for succession would start. The authority of the present General Secretary would inevitably start to erode as officers and activists look to the future beyond.
Under normal circumstances that would not be the end of the world, it is an unavoidable price of democracy. But these are not normal circumstances. For all the reasons stated, Unite’s potential still hangs in the balance, and it is no exaggeration to say that the future of our movement depends on the continuation and extension of our leadership.
SO THERE ARE TWO PATHS:
1. WE STICK TO THE EXISTING ELECTORAL SCHEDULE
This means that Unite will start to drift in a relatively short period of time. Probably the first casualty would be a loss of impetus in the 100 per cent campaign, which has required a big culture shift for many officers. Our united impact into the Labour Party in a crucial time leading up to the next General Election would also be disrupted and diluted.
It is also important to note that the existing schedule means a General Secretary election more-or-less simultaneously with the next General Election. Whatever the outcome of the General Election, this is bound to be a particularly demanding time for Unite’s political work. Either we will (as we hope and believe) be dealing with a new Labour government which we will be seeking to hold to an agenda of working people’s interests, or we will have to deal with the fall-out of a defeat which might raise the most profound questions about the future of the Labour-union relationship. Either way, it will be no time for a leadership vacuum or instability at the top of Unite.
2. WE SEEK A REFRESHED MANDATE FOR THE GENERAL SECRETARY NOW, ASSURING THE CONTINUITY OF UNITE’S LEADERSHIP FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS
It is now possible, because of legal changes, for the General Secretary to serve past the the previous limit of sixty-five years of age. If re-elected, Len McCluskey’s new term would end while he is sicty-seven.
In the future, serving slightly past 65 will surely come to seem a normal, unexceptional, situation. However, today this inevitably gives rise to comparisons with the recent past, when various General Secretaries in Unite’s predecessor unions tried to extend their terms past the age of 65.
There are two significant differences today. First, Ken Jackson, Roger Lyons and Derek Simpson all sought to extend their terms without consulting the membership (Derek it must be said, with some justification because of merger arrangements). That is not the case here – we are talking about asking the membership to renew Len’s mandate in a democratic election.
Second, this is about ensuring the continuity of left progressive leadership in the labour movement’s leading organisation. This decision is not about Len: it’s a much bigger decision you are being asked to make, about the wider interests of the left in our movement. If elected Len would remain as General Secretary of Unite and the leading voice for working people across the labour movement for two years beyond his current term. Importantly, Len has pledged that if elected, his extended term to 67 will be at no additional cost to the union beyond him reaching the age of 65.
It could also be argued that an early election constitutes an unnecessary expense for the union. That is not the case except in the very short term – any money spent on a GS election in 2013 will be money saved by not having one in 2015.
In summary, this is an opportunity for Unite to reaffirm its present dynamic, progressive course, and settle its leadership for a vital five years ahead. That is why the Left is asking Len to stay on for another five years (two more than originally envisaged), and why the Left should be asking the Executive Council to sanction a General Secretary election early in 2013. This move will no doubt be attcked by our enemies among the Tories and the employers and most likely within “New Labour” too. But it should be welcomed by everyone with our union and our movement’s best interests at heart.
McCluskey’s own statement, here
Above: Len McCluskey
Jerry Hicks, the unsuccessful (and somewhat eccentric) candidate who stood against Len McCluskey for general secretary of Unite in 2010, has put out this press release:
Instead of the Tories’ little-Englandism and Miliband’s shameful opportunism, let’s have a working class response to the present European crisis:
14 November: European unions to strike together (adapted from Workers Liberty)
By Ruben Lomas
Trade union federations in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Malta, and Cyprus have called general strikes for Wednesday 14 November.
Unions in France and Italy are also said to be considering calling mass strikes.
The Spanish union federation CCOO aid: “Unemployment, cuts, the impoverishment of the majority and deterioration of public services justify a general strike.”
The CCOO and UGT, Spain’s two main union federations, held a “social summit” with working-class community organisations, students’ unions and smaller trade unions to launch the strike call. Unemployment in Spain has reached 25%.
The European TUC has called for a “day of action and solidarity on 14 November, including strikes, demonstrations, rallies and other actions.”
The 14 November will be the 21st day of general strike action in Geece since 2009. Most general strikes have been for a single day, although some have lasted 24 hours.
This strike call is important. The European-wide natue of the crisis and the capitalists’ austerity agenda cannot be effectively answered by national action . A European workers’ response is necessary.
A day of coordinated strike action will help shift the struggle away from national movements trying to find solutions to “their” national economic crises, and towards a European working class response to a European bosses’ offensive.
14 November wil not be a magic bullet. As the Greek experience shows, even a series of general strikes do not necessarily topple governments or force them to change course. What they can be is a focal point and a platform for coordinating resistance.
In each European country, scialists must organise for the maximum possible rank-and-file control over the strikes. The direction of the action must be decided by the requirements of workers themselves, not some schema of the union bureacrats. Anti-EU posturing, letting national ruling classes off the hook (a favourite activity of Stalinist and nationalist anti-EU fanatics), must be avoided at all costs.
A European general strike as a one day spectacular, an excercise in letting off steam, will be a futile and counter-productive excercise.
In Britain, socialists and serious trade unionists should fight for our unions to be involved. Where possible, existing disputes should schedule action for 14 November.
If it’s not logistically possible, or doesn’t make industrial sense, to strike on that day, other actions should be organised.
Stewards should call workplace (or after work) meetings to discuss potential disputes and, in the public sector, a fightback against the pay freeze.
Lobbying the TUC to call a general strike on 14 November is unrealistic and counter-productive. All serious militants know that even a freak “general strike” call from the TUC would not, presently, get a response from the rank and file.
Instead, 14 November should be the focus for action that can be achieved around existing disputes, with socialists emphasing the European-wide nature of the crisis that we all face.
Calls for withdrawal from the EU can only be a nationalist distraction from what we need to say and do within the working class and society as a whole at the moment.
As the British National Party teeters on the brink of financial collapse, it is a good time for us to look at where the HOPE not hate campaign is going. Have we succeeded in what we set out to do, or is there still more to be done? I’ve written a short essay on what I think the HOPE not hate campaign should do now, but I want to hear your views.
The HOPE not hate campaign was set up in 2004 to provide a positive antidote to the BNP’s politics of hate – and I think we have achieved our goal. The BNP is now down to just a handful of councillors, it is deeply divided between warring factions and it has such crippling debts that it is hard to see how it can continue.
Against that we have developed one of the most successful political action campaigns in this country. Over 165,000 people have supported our campaigns. We have over 50,000 supporters on facebook and 8,000 followers on twitter. Thousands of you have taken to the streets, campaigning in the very communities which the BNP once viewed as their own. It is our political victories that have led the BNP to its current crisis.
Where now for HOPE not hate? http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/beyond-the-bnp/
The BNP might be in trouble but the conditions for racism continue to exist and will grow as the economic crisis really starts to bite. Our Fear and HOPE survey showed that there is a correlation between negative attitudes towards immigrants and economic insecurity and pessimism and there is plenty of both going around at the moment. Religious extremism and intolerance is growing and a Scottish vote for independence could lead to an explosion in aggressive English nationalism.
Should HOPE not hate meet these new challenges? http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/beyond-the-bnp/
I think the HOPE not hate campaign should be about more than just dealing with the consequences of hate. Bringing communities together against the EDL shows what positive work we can do and we should expand this. Next summer’s Olympics gives us a perfect opportunity to celebrate our modern society and develop shared local identities.
We have achieved so much because of your support. Now I want to hear what you think of our plans for HOPE not hate. Over the coming weeks we will give you the chance to choose the name of a new HOPE not hate publication, get involved in online debates and become more involved in HOPE not hate.
|To follow the HOPE not hate campaign, visit www.hopenothate.org.uk: Click here to unsubscribe http://action.hopenothate.org.uk/unsubscribe|
Both Unison and the GMB have called upon local labour parties to support the 30th November public sector pensions strike, and produced model motions (see below). The GMB has also produced a booklet.
Both only talk about ‘encouraging’ party members and councillors to support strike and noticeably leave out any call on MPs and Milliband. Readers may wish to amend accordingly.
Public Services – Pensions
This CLP notes the TUC resolution on 14 September to defend public sector pensions and campaign for decent pensions for all recognising everyone deserves dignity in retirement.
Government Ministers have launched an unprecedented attack on public service pensions. This is not only unjust but could undermine the viability of some schemes if members start to leave because of massive increases in contributions by up to 50% and could lead to more people on means tested benefits, at a higher cost to the tax payer in the longer term. Pensions are not ‘gold plated’. The local government scheme has many low paid women staff and on average women’s pensions are around £2500 per year while in the NHS the average pension a woman gets is £3500.
Wild claims are being peddled by the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and large sections of the media that the schemes are unfair and unaffordable. These claims are wrong.
This CLP notes that following detailed negotiations with the last Labour government, public service pension schemes were systematically revised to ensure they were sustainable, open to ongoing negotiation and revision and that future costs to the taxpayer would be limited.
Current proposals are not a genuine attempt to make the schemes more sustainable, they are a cash grab by the Treasury, imposing an additional tax on workers already facing a pay freeze. The increased contributions are not being used to strengthen the schemes but are going to the Treasury to pay debts caused by the banking crisis. Public service workers are being asked to pay more and work longer for a pension that will be much less than originally promised. This is exactly the race to the bottom the government claims it wants to avoid. All working people, in both the public and private sectors should have decent and fair pensions.
Despite lengthy negotiations the Ministers have refused to listen or alter their proposals leading to union members being balloted on taking strike action as a last resort to show their opposition.
This CLP notes that the trade unions and community groups have agreed to organise local and national protests in support of public services, jobs and pensions. This CLP encourages Labour party members and councillors to support these protests against the attack on public services and public service workers that will damage communities and social cohesion.
This CLP calls on the Labour Party at all levels, councillors, labour groups and MPs to press the government to have meaningful negotiations on pensions to reach an agreement and avoid more strikes
UNISON East Midlands
Everyone deserves a fair pension, and is entitled to security and dignity in retirement.
If the government get their way, public sector workers, struggling to alance the books after a pay freeze and with the cost of living rising, will have to pay more and work longer for pensions that are worth less. That is not a fair deal.
Everyone should be able to pay into a fair pension for their retirement.
There should be a fair deal on pensions for public sector workers, and the Labour Party should develop policies to make pensions better and fairer in the private sector too.
To back public sector workers in their campaign against the government’s unfair triple attack on public sector pensions, and to support the day of action on November 30th.
To add our CLP’s name to the statement of support on the unions together website, and to encourage the CLP’s members and elected representatives to do the same.
To write to local union branches to notify them of our support, and to ask them to get involved with the CLP.
To attend a campaign rally on 30th November, and take the CLP banner to show our support.
By Will Stone, in today’s Morning Star:
A HACKNEY woman watched online by almost a million nationwide after she was videoed denouncing the riots spoke exclusively to the Morning Star on Monday following her speech.
Dalston resident Pauline Pearce gathered a crowd in Hackney’s Clarence Road shortly before 9.30pm on Monday night as rioters and stragglers hung about in the street among burnt out cars, vans, bicycles and motorbikes.
Masked youths threw stones and bricks at riot police while others continued to loot an off license that was broken into earlier in the day.
Glass bottles were lobbed at newly arriving riot police vans entering Clarence Road to provide back-up to the handful of officers trying in vein to keep the road under control.
Holding a walking stick and standing in front of a graffitied was, Ms Pearce bravely addressed rioters holding bricks and stones who had stopped to listen to her.
She told onlookers: “Go home. People need to get back to reality not blowing up people’s property or burning up people’s shops when they’ve worked so hard to start their own business.
“The woman up the street, she’s working hard to make her business work and you lot want to go and burn it up for what? Just to say that you’re warring and you’re ‘bad man.’
“This is about a man who got shot in Tottenham, not about having fun and busting up the place. Get real.
“You should be doing it for a cause. If we’re fighting for a cause, let’s fight for a cause. You lot piss me off. I’m ashamed to be a Hackney person.
“We’re not all gathering together and fighting for a cause.
“We’re running down Foot Locker to get new shoes.”
Moments later she told the Morning Star: “I feel hurt by what I’m seeing. This is not what I’ve lived here for decades to witness.
“This is a riot for rioting’s sake. It’s not about fighting for a cause or against injustice. That’s what real protesting should be about.
“Instead I’m seeing my local community being smashed up around me, young children crying, innocent people’s cars and bikes being destroyed and families being terrorised by threat of being burned alive.”
Non-intervention had been proposed in a joint diplomatic initiative by the governments of France and the United Kingdom. It was part of a policy of appeasement, aimed at preventing a proxy war, and escalation of the war into a major pan-European conflict.
On 3 August 1936, Charles de Chambrun presented the French government’s non-intervention plan; Galeazzo Ciano promised to study it. The British, however, accepted the plan in principle immediately. The following day, it was put to Nazi Germany by André François-Poncet. The German position was that such a declaration wasn’t needed. A similar approach was made to Russia. On 6 August, Ciano confirmed Italian support in principle. The Soviet government similarly agreed in principle, so long as Portugal was included, and that Germany and Italy stop aid immediately. On 7 August, France unilaterally declared non-intervention. Draft declarations had been put to German and Italian governments. Such a declaration had already been accepted by Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Russia, renouncing all traffic in war material, direct or indirect. The Portuguese Foreign Minister, Armindo Monteiro, was also asked to accept, but held his hand. On 9 August, French exports were suspended. Portugal accepted the pact on 13 August, unless her border was threatened by the war.
On 15 August, the United Kingdom banned exports of war material to Spain. Italy agreed to the pact, signing on 21 August. Although a surprising reversal of views, it has been put down to the growing belief that countries could not abide by the agreement anyway. On the 24th, Germany signed. The Soviet Union was keen not to be left out. On 23 August, it agreed to the Non-Intervention Agreement, and this was followed by a decree from Stalin banning exports of war material to Spain, thereby bringing the USSR into line with the Western Powers.
It was at this point that the Non-Intervention Committee was created to uphold the agreement, but the double-dealing of the USSR and Germany had already become apparent. The ostensible purpose of the committee was to prevent personnel and matériel reaching the warring parties of the Spanish Civil War, as with the Non-Intervention Agreement. The Committee first met in London on 9 September 1936.[nb 2] It was chaired by the British W. S. Morrison. Charles Corbin represented the French, Italy by Dino Grandi, and the Soviets by Ivan Maisky. Germany was represented by Ribbentrop; Portugal, whose presence had been a Soviet requirement, was not represented. The second meeting took place on 14 September. It established a subcommittee to be attended by representatives of Belgium, Britain, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Italy, the Soviet Union, Sweden, to deal with the day-to-day running of non-intervention. Among them, though, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy dominated, perhaps worryingly so. Soviet non-military aid was revived, but not military aid. Meanwhile, the 1936 meeting of the League of Nations began. There, Anthony Eden convinced Monteiro to have Portugal join the Non-Intervention Committee. Álvarez del Vayo spoke out against the Non-Intervention Agreement, claiming it put the rebel Nationalists on the same footing as the Republican government.0 The Earl of Plymouth replaced W.S. Morrison as British representative. Conservative, he often adjourned meetings – to the benefit of the Italians and Germans – and the Committee was accused of an anti-Soviet bias.
On 12 November, plans to post observers to Spanish frontiers and ports to prevent breaches of the agreement were ratified. France and Britain became split on whether to recognise Franco’s forces as a belligerent as the British wanted, or to fail to do as the French wanted.This was subsumed by the news that the Italian and German governments had recognised the Nationalists as the true government of Spain. The League of Nations condemned intervention, urged its council’s members to support non-intervention, and commended mediation. It then closed discussion on Spain, leaving it to the Committee. A mediation plan, however, was soon dropped.
The Soviets met the request to ban volunteers on 27 December, Portugal on 5 January, and Germany and Italy on 7 January. On 20 January, Italy put a moratorium on volunteers believing that supplies to the Nationalists were now sufficient. Non-intervention would have left both sides with the possibility of defeat, which Germany, Italy and Russia in particular were keen to avoid.
Observers were posted to Spanish ports and borders, and both Ribbentrop and Grandi were told to agree to the plan, significant shipments already having taken place. Portugal would not accept observers, although it did agree to personnel attached to the British Embassy in Lisbon. Zones of patrol were assigned to each of the four nations; an International Board was set up to administer the scheme. There were Italian assurances that Italy would not break up non-intervention.
In May, the Committee noted two attacks on the patrol’s ships by Republican aircraft. It reiterated calls for the withdrawal of volunteers from Spain, condemned the bombing of open towns, and showed approval of humanitarian work. Germany and Italy said they would withdrawn from the Committee, and from the patrols, unless it could be guaranteed there would be no further attacks. Early June saw the return of Germany and Italy to the committee and patrols. Following attacks on the German cruiser Leipzig on 15 and 18 June, Germany and Italy once again withdrew from patrols, but not from the Committee. This prompted the Portuguese government to remove British observers on the Spain–Portugal border. Britain and France offered to replace Germany and Italy, but the latter powers believed these patrols would be too partial. Germany and Italy requested that land controls be kept, and belligerent rights be given to the Nationalists, so that rights of search could be used by both the Republicans and Nationalists to replace naval patrols. A British plan suggested that naval patrols would be replaced by observers in ports and ships, land control measures would be resumed. Belligerent rights would only be granted when substantial progress was made on volunteer withdrawal.
It culminated in a period during 1937 when all the powers where prepared to give up on non-intervention. By the end of July, the Committee was in deadlock, and the aims of a successful outcome to the Spanish Civil War was looking unlikely. Unrestricted Italian submarine warfare began on 12 August. The British Admiralty believed that a significant control effort was the best solution to attacks on British shipping. It was decided by the Committee that naval patrols did not justify their expense and would be replaced with observers at ports.
The Conference of Nyon was arranged for all parties with a Mediterranean coastline by the British, despite appeals by Italy and Germany that the Committee handle the piracy and other issues the conference was to discuss. It decided that French and British fleets patrol the areas of sea west of Malta, and attack any suspicious submarines. Warships that attacked neutral shipping would be attacked. Eden claimed that non-intervention had stopped European war. The League of Nations did report on the Spanish situation, noting the ‘failure of non-intervention’. On 6 November, the plan to recognise the Nationalists as belligerents once significant progress had been made was finally accepted. The Nationalists accepted on 20 November, the Republicans on 1 December. On 27 June, Maisky agreed to the sending of two commissions to Spain, to enumerate foreign volunteer forces, and to bring about their withdrawal. The Nationalists wished to prevent the fall of the favourable Chamberlain government in the United Kingdom, and so were seen to accept the plan.
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